Money in the news and how you are going to pay and pay and pay
THE big crunch day on this Greek thing is March 20. That’s the day that they’ve got to pay back squiddely billions (erm, about £12 billion or so) of money they borrowed years ago.
Normally, governments don’t ever in fact pay back such money: what they do is issue new bonds to that amount, collect the money, then give it to the people with the old bonds. But there’s no one sane out there willing to buy more new Greek bonds, quite understandably, so they can’t do that.
So, they’ve got to agree a deal then borrow the money off the IMF and the EU so that they can pay these bonds back. Or, if they don’t make the deal, they can’t pay the bonds back and they’re in default. At which point half the European banking system starts looking very dodgy indeed and we get perhaps a replay of 2007/2008 all over again.
IT’S one of those things in the air, you’ve noticed I hope? All these pieces floating around saying that as Germany has low unemployment then we should obviously be doing what Germany has done in order to have low unemployment.
And yes, seems fair enough really. Thing is, you’ve got to work out what it is that Germany has done before you can copy it. And it isn’t as simple as seeing that Germany has apprenticeships so we should, or that Germany has manufacturing, so we should have manufacturing. These are like noting that Germany speaks German so we should speak German.
The big influence upon unemployment is the price of labour. No, not wages paid, but wages paid as compared to what is produced with that labour. In the jargon of economics, the unit labour cost.
You can see from IMF data that the silent coup took place in the fat years of the global boom when Germany forced down unit labour costs; -1.7pc in 2003, -4.0pc in 2004, -3.3pc in 2005, -1.8pc in 2006.
THERE’S a certain loigical problem floating around about what economists can and cannot do. This idea that if they’re all so smart then why can’t they predict what is going to happen? How did we end up with the financial crash if all those clever highly paid people couldn’t see it coming: or perhaps are these people clever and why are they highly paid because they didn’t see it coming?
And the answer there is actually that in most of the things that people want economists to predict economics itself insists that economics cannot predict them.
Oh, there’s some things that are easy enough. If you tax all of the money off all of the rich people then you’re not going to have any rich people and so you’ll not collect any tax. That sort of stuff is simple enough. But if you want to know what inflation is going to be next year, or the price of oil, or the level of the stock market, well, it’s only possible to make accurate predictions about these things as long as everbody doesn’t believe the prediction:
But one of the conclusions of economics is that prediction is literally impossible. At least public prediction. If I publicly announce a policy of inflation, to increase growth, and people believe me, then the inflation is anticipated and the real growth effects are just about zero.
NICE little twist on the scourging of Fred “The Shred” Goodwin, former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland comes in Scotland on Sunday today.
It seems gagger Fred (super injunction on the fact he was bumping the uglies with a senior staff member, female, while helping preside over the collapse of his empire) was an adviser to the Queen AND Prince Charles long after he was forced to resign when the UK government took over 80 per cent of the RBS. The full tale is there if you follow the link above.
The in-joke is he was an adviser on risk management…the one thing analysts of the RBS banking disaster say was the bank’s worst failure..risk recognition. It was alleged at a Treasury meeting, as the banking situation reached crisis point, the then Sir Fred was locked out of the meeting on what to do because he had no idea how much money was urgently needed to stop his bank foundering.
GINA Rinehart is Australia’s richest woman. She is richer than Dame Edna and has her own indoor dunny. Rinehart is a billionaire iron ore magnate (worth: £13.5 billion and predicted to rise very fast – she may yet soon be the world’s richest person) whose daughter Hope Rinehart Welker, 26, emails that she is “down to my last $60,000″. She needs help. For a “birthday present” Hope wants a cook, housekeeper and security guard. No, not Lego ones. Actual people.
Hope Rinehart Welker lives in the US with her husband Ryan Welker and their daughters. She’s 26. She told her mother:
“I need a few things for my birthday (cook so you can be sure April [her daughter] is fed right, bodyguard so the kids are safe and housekeeper that is good w kids so if I need to go out I can … I would buy them myself but I’m down to my last $60,000 and your (sic) only paying my husband $1 a year …”
Hope calculates that the cook cost up to $225,000 a year, a bodyguard $100,000 and a housekeeper $55,000.
HOW to save tax at the Student Loan Company… This does all look rather odd but I’m afraid that the investigation doesn’t actually understand the way that tax works.
The Treasury has asked Whitehall to review all the tax affairs of top civil servants after it emerged that the head of the Student Loans Company (SLC) is paid via a company without tax being deducted.
The SLC’s chief executive Ed Lester has his £182,000 salary paid gross to his private service company, potentially saving him tens of thousands of pounds in tax.
As I say, that’s an odd way to do it. But this is wrong:
The payment method allows Lester to pay corporation tax of 21%, rather than up to 50% income tax on his earnings.
THE UK does not make anything any more. This isn’t, in fact, quite true. UK manufacturing output peaked in 2005: yes, really, manufacturing output was higher whan Maggie left office than when she entered, when Major left office than he entered.
What has fallen is manufacturing employment and this is a good thing. It’s happening because of rising productivity: we can now make more things with less labour.
So, what then happens? Well, that labour is then free to go off and do other things. This makes us richer because we now have both the manufacturing and whatever it is that is created by that newly freed labour.
WANT to know which University degrees pay the best salaries? Well, the New York Times looked at US census data. It focused on the 1% and what they studied at university.
Law wins big. One lawyer in eight makes it to the 1% – its 1 in three if they work on Wall Street firm.
And then there was art history. Who knew that art historians earned such big money? Well, most likely their mums and dads did – the minted f**kers whose wealth enabled their progeny to look at old pictures for three years.
The top earning degrees are:
WHY did Sir Fred Goodwin have his knighthood removed? Was it for being greedy and doing anything to make money and get rich? Was Sir Fred Goodwin stripped of his knightood for the same reason he got it in the first place? And how did the Queen feel when she stripped him of it – this being the leader of the Royal Family who pays no inheritance tax?
As for Fred, well, he can get his knighthood back if he does one of the following – that is if being richer than most of us and not having to work ever again is not reward enough:
Lyonswood Investigations and Forensic Group in Sydney is advertising for a “Brothel Buster Investigator”.
Says Lyonswood operations manager Lachlan Jarvis:
“Some [jobs] require the offering of sexual services, some actually require the partaking of sexual services … because it is considered the most convincing evidence,” he said. Lyonswood, which is based in the Sydney suburb of Drummoyne, conducts about 10 to 20 brothel investigations each year, and the job often puts investigators in situations most people only see in movies.
“We have a filing cabinet of cases that would blow you away.”
SIR Fred Goodwin is now plain Fred Goodwin. The Government has decided to change the name of the man portrayed as the epitome of City greed.
Goodwin, the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief, has been told by a clutch / smudge / cloud of senior civil servants that the “scale and severity” of his actions and their affect on the economy are an “exceptional case”.
Fred may wonder why he has been singled out and the likes of, say, Paul Edward Winston White, a man jailed for defrauding the taxpayer by dishonestly claiming £14,000 from the House of Lords continues to be known as Lord Hanningfield? Prince Charles may one day score the title Defender of the Faith – you know, the Christian Church that says adultery is wrong.
AS if it wasn’t bad enough with every Sloane who couldn’t scrape three GCSE’s together riving around in bloody Minis, it looks like the London estate ageny game is going to get yet another boost thanks to France and Sarkozy.
France has added some more rocket fuel to Monday’s already volatile summit of EU leaders by pledging to introduce a 0.1pc tax on financial transactions in August.
They’re only going to add it in France though so what will happen is that all wholesale banking that currently takes place in France will take place in London from about, oooooh, 1 September I should think.
Leave aside whether the FTT is a bloody stupid idea or not (it is a bloody stupid idea, it won’t raise any cash and it will shrink the economy) and concentrate just on the idea of bringing it in in one country only.
THE Daily Mail nails Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester with a caption that show how spite and bile and sniping can if designed with skill hit the target smack between the eyes. Our writers take a view here and here…
Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Heston will nto accept his million pound share bonus.
IT was only a couple of years ago you know, that there was a great outcry about bankers getting huge cash bonuses. The analysis was that if they just got paid out in cash then they wouldn’t be tied to the organisation. Instead the bonuses should be paid in shares that could not be sold for a few years: that would tie everyone in to the long term interests of the company. No doing a deal that makes a good bonus this year but then bankrupts the bank next.
This year we’ve got a banker being paid a bonus entirely in shares. Shares that he cannot sell for several years. Shares that tie him in to the long term prospects of the company, make sure he won’t be tempted to do something stupid for the short term.
The reaction from the adenoidal Miliband that runs the Labour Party? The Adenoid who sat in the Cabinet that approved the damn contract for Stephen Hester in the first place?
THE usual Guardianista rant about how lovely Germany is with its apprentice schemes and low youth unemployment:
In the battle between rival systems, “Rhineland capitalism” appears to be winning hands down. In the two years since the global economic downturn in 2009, Germany has expanded employment by 1.8m, while the UK, US, France, Italy and Spain have shed 7m jobs. In 2007, when most other countries were nearing the end of a boom driven by excess credit, Germany had the highest unemployment rate (8.7% of the workforce on a harmonised basis) of the group of seven leading industrialised countries. Yet in late 2011, according to OECD figures, German unemployment, at 5.2%, was the lowest in the G7 apart from Japan.
Note that very interesting comparison there between the countries with near 500 million people and one with 80 million odd. You can prove almost anything you like if you’re willing to switch denominators like that.
But much more important than that sort of statistical game is the thing that they’re not telling us about that German system.
IS the Labour Party so very stupid? Something I simply could not believe in Polly Toynbee’s column today. And believe me, I’ve seen an awful lot in that column over the years but nothing to quite match this:
But Labour will adopt one good policy. They will bring back rent controls.
Which blithering idiot is proposing this? Which flapheaded addlepate is suggesting that we currently have too much housing and that therefore we should have less?
THE scrap metal is cashless. Yes, there has been a rising problem with the theft of scrap metal, yes, banning people paying cash for it will help, at least at the margins.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will ban cash transactions and and introduce unlimited fines for people caught trading stolen scrap metal.
Ministers have agreed to act after public outrage at the activities of criminals who have pillaged churches, stripped war memorials, stolen valuable sculptures, plunged villages into darkness and wrought havoc on the rail industry.
Metal theft is estimated to cost the country £1 billion a year, with more than 1,000 offences taking place every week.
However, it’s worth recalling the most basic point that economics has to teach us. Which is that there is no such thing as a solution: there are only trade offs.
PETROPLUS has gone bust. The media chatter is of fuel shortages. This does rather amuse:
The UK government moved to calm fears of a fuel shortage on forecourts in London and the South East after the Coryton refinery, which supplies 20pc of fuel for the region, stopped sales with immediate effect on Monday afternoon.
Ministers said they were “confident” that motorists would not face disruption to forecourt supplies as petrol retailers found alternative sources of fuel.
Well of course there’s not going to be any shortage of fuel. For two reasons:
1) The refinery is still running. The administrators aren’t going to leave it cold and dead, they’re going to keep running it until a buyer can be found.
2) Why did the refinery go bust? Because there is excess capacity in the system. We have too many refineries, not just in the UK, but in Northern Europe. Thus no one is making any money as there’s lots of competition.
GARETH and Catherine Bull win £40,627,241 on Euromillions. He wants to buy a box at Manchester United. For that money he can have shin pads, as well…
DID you know that the Metropolitan Police Force spent £35,000 on the Speaking Clock in the past two years? It’s true. You can ask a policeman the time secure in the knowledge that he will check his sources and deliver the truth.
Londonist reports that “by May 2012 there are predicted to be 32,510 officers on the Met’s payroll“. There are also over 14,00o other staff on the books. That’s 46,000 people spending £35,000 on the Speaking Clock over two years. These workers between them made 110,000 calls to the Speaking Clock. That works out between one and two calls per worker per year.
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said this was “incredible”.
The reason being that the eurozone just doesn’t have enough money to keep Italy’s borrowing costs down. So everyone needs to know that Italy isn’t going to increase the debt they’ve already got. However, obviously, in a recession, this isn’t possible, debt is going to increase.
So, recession in Italy means that whatever people try and cobble together to keep Italian borrowing rates down won’t work: at which point Italy goes bust like Greece.
WHAT’S the problem with Ikea? Should it be broken up? And why does it prove that Marx was wrong?
Anders Dahlvig, the flat-pack pioneer’s boss from 1999 until 2009, said IKEA faced the prospect of slowing growth and rising costs. He said the chain had struggled under his watch to come to terms with its scale and develop the processes required to manage a company with £20bn of revenue and operating in 41 countries.
Mr Dahlvig said it had taken his 10 years at the helm to introduce benchmarking disciplines but that he had underestimated the “forces” within IKEA opposed to the changes and had left with the job “only 50pc there”. Instead, he argued that IKEA’s octogenarian founder Ingvar Kamprad and his three sons, who own the company through a Dutch foundation, should consider splitting the business in three.
“Let’s say we cut Ikea in three pieces – one in North America, one in Europe and one in Asia – everyone do their own product development; their own supply chain. Their own thing,” said Mr Dahlvig.
THE Government was right to force Ms. Cait Reilly, the University of Birmingham geology graduate, and you to work at Poundland. This is aimed directly at you, Reilly:
“Forcing young people like me into unpaid work is wrong – and evidence shows it won’t solve the unemployment crisis.”
GOOD news for anyone looking for a Spanish sparrow. One’s been spotted in Calshot Close in Calshot near Southampton. It’s an adult male Spanish sparrow thought to be from Spain, Turkey or North Africa.
Background checks are being run on the foreign invader. Says one Cockney Sparrow: “I had 27 of them in the back of my hedgerow once…”
WE normally rather like it when banks are accurate. You know, count our money correctly, manage to send the new credit card to the right address, that sort of thing. But it is possible for them to perhaps be just a little bit over-enthusiastic.
Measuring from my parent’s house to the nearest HSBC branch it tells me that it is 0.5320458941752867 miles.
This is perhaps rather more accuracy that we really need:
17 decimal places represents atomic-scale accuracy. This means we now know just how far it is to our handiest HSBC to within a few electrons, which is extremely useful.