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Bruce Enberg's Commentary

There's no bread, but we have circuses

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The corporate media is talking constantly about the lottery, and the potential 2/3 of a billion dollar prize tonight. To their credit they do point out the 176,000,000 to 1 odds and how absurd that is, all the while showing the people lined up for blocks certain they can beat the odds. The people they interview in these lines are all gambling to have the American dream: to pay the bills, send the kids to college, buy a house, help their friends or stray cats, or maybe get their teeth fixed.

A lottery like this is harmless fun in itself, but the tragedy isn’t just the occasional person who spends his or her life savings to buy tickets convinced of the possibility of winning. It’s what our society has come to: that these people are increasingly seen as normal, hopeful people, and not as pathetic. Really, they are the tragic victims of 30 years of Republican economic thinking. For the bottom 80% of Americans, the lottery is their one shot at economic freedom.

When these lotteries started you heard lots of stories about people who spent their life saving because they were sure they could win. You do increase your odds by buying more than one ticket, but not enough to matter. There were even companies formed to buy out all the tickets when the odds were only 50 million to one. It’s physically impossible to do this with the new higher odds.

I’m surprised they don’t raise the odds so high that nobody would ever be likely to win, - they’d still sell tickets. In fact, the states play the lottery too, - the state with the winner gets a nice windfall from the income tax of close to a billion dollars. The state might fill some potholes, but more likely give another tax break to individuals who by themselves make a billion dollars a year, or more, and typically pay no significant taxes.

What to do with that much money if you win? I’ve been giving it some thought, people are always wanting investment advice. The thing is, there is no safe place to put money. Besides the fundamental instability of the crazy situation we find ourselves in, there is a realistic level of paranoia to consider. If you have lots of money you aren’t suddenly allowed past the velvet rope by the one percent’s bouncer.

Having a real money makes you a target for those who make their money by looting and pillaging, they don‘t just go after the middleclass. Even if you invest conservatively, you could wake up one morning and find your investment is now worthless, since most investments today are just paper. Buying hard assets is no guarantee of safety as their value is set by markets that are inflated and then collapse to far lower levels than is realistic.

To be safe with your money, you really need to be in the “too big to fail” class, the people who just “create” money out of thin air, and they don’t let riff-raff like you and me in, no matter how much money we have for now. You weren’t a legacy admission to Yale? Forget about it.

With a couple of hundred million, leaving the country is an option, but you are kidding yourself that you’re really safe. Safety is in numbers, but not the kind on your bank account.

www.prairie2.com

 

Last Updated on Friday, 30 March 2012 21:30

Obama - Rubber Stamp this before lunch

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Initial jobless claims dropped again last week to a four year low, taking us back to the early days of Bush meltdown. We really can’t begin sing “Happy days are here again” until claims drop from the current 348,000/week to under 300,000, but we are moving in the right direction. The survey of economists had predicted a sharp rise in claims, but these are the same economists that are almost always wrong. Why do reporters quote them? You would get a better prediction by flipping a coin.

Monthly home sales numbers are up 9% over last year, but down one percent from the previous month. The number of houses currently on the market is actually down to a four month supply, which is good news for the economy. This allows people who want to move, or build their dream house sell their current home, and this should build a reinforcing cycle.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 21:55 Read more...

Youse girl friend could be bacon real easy

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The President signed a new law this week overturning a right-wing court ruling banning the Obama Adm from bringing trade cases. At the ceremony he announced an official action before the WTO to force China to resume the sale of rare earth metals. These exotic metals are required to produce anything more advanced than what might be made by a 18th century blacksmith. The US was a major producer of rare earths until the Bush Administration allowed China to purchase, close and strip all the mining and refining facilities in America. China did this worldwide and now controls 97% of the supply.

Obama did slap China with 99% tariffs on tires and steel pipe early in his administration. He’s been blocked from similar actions since then by the corporate dominated courts. Enough Republicans were publicly shamed during this election year into supporting today’s law allowing Obama to resume these trade actions.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 22:33 Read more...

Coloring between the lines, and only using the red crayon

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The stock markets in the US dropped 1.5% today from the renewed sturm und drang over the potential Greek bond default. The Euro zone is trying to force a 50% haircut on the holders of Greek bonds in order to avoid their default, but the catch is that it has to be “voluntary”. If it’s not, it becomes an “actual” default and those CDOs (credit default swaps) start kicking in.

The problem with these insane contract arrangements is that they can be triggered by any significant down turn, not just by a major default. A down grade in a credit agency’s rating of a bank or a nation state will do it. They’re all done in secret, so we have no real idea what the risk really is It was a cascade of derivative failures tied to consumer debt, mostly home mortgages, that brought us within a hair’s breadth of ending civilization in 2008.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 22:45 Read more...

Everything you wanted to know about sex, at the gas pump

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Gasoline began its career as a leftover waste product from the refining of crude oil to get kerosene for lamps. A hundred years ago, refiners still burned most gasoline just to get rid of it. Today, things really haven’t changed that much, except that we now have the perception that gasoline is something precious. In a barrel of sweet crude, the gasoline content is on average about 51%, and that‘s a lot of waste to get rid of every day.

Demand for gasoline has dropped sharply in the last few years to the point where we export 117,000,000 gallons of gasoline and other fuels every day. Actually, this was the 2011 average, the surplus is still going up. In dollar value, this is now our largest manufactured export.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 22:30 Read more...

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