Travel back with me to those wonder years of the late 1990s. It was a time of strong productivity growth. It was also a time of sham companies thinking that page hits would translate into sales, but let's focus on the positives for the moment.
"There was a general belief in the late 1990s that the U.S. had entered a permanent phase of higher productivity growth," said Michael Shaoul, chairman and CEO of Marketfield Asset Management. "Of course, it was illusory" -- just as illusory as the current belief that the U.S. has entered a permanent state of low productivity growth, recently identified as "secular stagnation" by economist Larry Summers.Read more »
It wasn't long after three former General Electric Co. executives were convicted of rigging auctions for municipal-bond investment contracts that they received the ultimate sendoff: A 7,400-word torching in Rolling Stone magazine by Matt Taibbi, the writer who branded Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with the nickname "vampire squid."
"Someday, it will go down in history as the first trial of the modern American mafia," Taibbi began his June 2012 opus about Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm. "Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street."Read more »
In my previous post, I explained why Justice Department lawyers believe the Dodd-Frank Act gives them an extra year -- until about the summer of 2014 -- to bring criminal cases against banks and senior bankers involved in the financial crisis.
Assuming prosecutors can clear legal challenges against applying retroactively the law's longer statute of limitations -- from five years to six -- the next step will be deciding whether to reopen the investigative files of top banking executives.Read more »
As the world takes stock of why Shinzo Abe's drive to revitalize Japan is flailing one year on, companies are an easy culprit. Japan Inc. just isn't raising wages or spending the way Abenomics envisioned.
But in other ways some corporate executives are proving to be gutsier than a prime minister who talks much of change but has delivered little thus far. Softbank's Masayoshi Son is expanding abroad with a bold acquisition of U.S. wireless provider Sprint. Rakuten's Hiroshi Mikitani has taken on the fossilized ideas of Japan's biggest business lobby and the nuclear industry. Fast Retailing's Tadashi Yanai is plotting world domination for Uniqlo clothing brand. Honda's Takanobu Ito has made English the company's official language.Read more »
A likely congressional budget deal will be small-bore fiscally, but will have important political implications and benefits for both parties.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, returned to the capital yesterday and plans to meet today with her House counterpart, Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. By the end of this week, there could be an agreement that replaces part of the automatic across-the-board spending reductions under the so-called sequestration with a combination of less unpopular spending reductions and increased revenue.Read more »
In foreign policy as in life, budgets generally say more than speeches. You wouldn't know that from the recent 14-page special report on U.S. foreign policy in the Economist, which doesn't even mention the State Department's budget.
Yes, we get the obligatory chart showing the U.S.'s military spending outstripping that of its rivals and partners. But that's only a small part of the U.S. foreign-policy story. On most days, and in most places, the U.S. is not launching drone strikes or streaming B-52s through the skies. Instead, at more than 300 U.S. diplomatic facilities in more than 190 countries, 11,000-plus U.S. foreign-service employees (not including local hires) are issuing visas, hosting delegations, delivering diplomatic bouquets or brickbats, arranging cultural exchanges, or reporting on everything from business conditions to religious freedom. You'd think that where and how the U.S. spends its diplomatic dollars would be of interest to readers interested in this general topic.Read more »