Two mainstream articles and then a couple of articles recommended by commenter Dave Narby.
1. Reuters – Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said on Friday the Chinese economy would experience stable growth and avoid a hard landing this year, discounting a scenario economists fear may upset the global economy.
A study for the Small Business Administration, a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee.
Sarbanes-Oxley, a law aimed at preventing Enron-style frauds, has made it so difficult to list shares on an American stockmarket that firms increasingly look elsewhere or stay private. America’s share of initial public offerings fell from 67% in 2002 (when Sarbox passed) to 16% last year, despite some benign tweaks to the law.
Dodd-Frank is far too complex, and becoming more so. At 848 pages, it is 23 times longer than Glass-Steagall, the reform that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929. Worse, every other page demands that regulators fill in further detail. Some of these clarifications are hundreds of pages long. Just one bit, the “Volcker rule”, which aims to curb risky proprietary trading by banks, includes 383 questions that break down into 1,420 subquestions.
Hardly anyone has actually read Dodd-Frank, besides the Chinese government and our correspondent in New York. Those who have struggle to make sense of it, not least because so much detail has yet to be filled in: of the 400 rules it mandates, only 93 have been finalised. So financial firms in America must prepare to comply with a law that is partly unintelligible and partly unknowable.
Barack Obama’s health-care reform of 2010 had many virtues, especially its attempt to make health insurance universal. But it does little to reduce the system’s staggering and increasing complexity. Every hour spent treating a patient in America creates at least 30 minutes of paperwork, and often a whole hour. Next year the number of federally mandated categories of illness and injury for which hospitals may claim reimbursement will rise from 18,000 to 140,000. There are nine codes relating to injuries caused by parrots, and three relating to burns from flaming water-skis.
Believing it is so will make it so. That is the essence of the campaign to stimulate “animal spirits” confidence: though the economy is actually tanking, if they can only convince us the Dow is moving to 15,000 and then on to 20,000, jobs are being created left and right and things are looking up everywhere, then the resulting piranha-like shopping-feeding-frenzy will create the expansion that is currently chimerical.
So believe the smooth talk about Dow 15,000, strong job growth and rising GDP at your own peril. Ignore declining income, empty storefronts, lower energy consumption and all the other real-world evidence of a contracting, enfeebled, precarious economy if it boosts your all-important “consumer confidence,” but make sure you don’t confuse the con with confidence: the Mercedes is leased, the office a front, the resume a fraud, and the smooth sales pitch a clever fabrication.
4. If the conventional econometric model based on metrics like forward price-earnings ratios and a declining unemployment rate is so accurate, then why did it fail so completely, totally and utterly in predicting the 2008 meltdown?