David Perell's 13,000 word essay, "What the Hell is Going On?" presents a reassuring -- and contrarian -- view on how our current dysfunction in politics, media, and business has come to pass, drawing on orthodox economic theories about "information asymmetry" in a way that makes the whole thing seem like a kind of adjustment period between a middling old world and a fine new one.
Read the rest “What's wrong with blaming "information" for political chaos”
In reports of China's looming debt crisis, it's common to see references to the "shadow finance" or "shadow banking" system, but it's not always clear what these terms mean.
Read the rest “China's "pawn shops" have loaned $43B, mostly secured by real-estate”
On the eve of Apple issuing a credit card (and following Carl Icahn's 2013 advice that "Apple should be a bank"), we seem to be reaching the end of financialization's dominance over the economy, a trend that started in the 1970s and has risen ever since -- but the tricks are wearing thin. See for example, the notorious Brazilian corporate raiders 3G bought out Kraft-Heinz and tried its usual MO of goosing profits by squeezing suppliers, paying its bills late, and cutting costs at the expense of growth -- only to have Kraft-Heinz's value drop by more than 50% in less than three years.
Read the rest “Financialization is wearing out its welcome”
After 20 years of unprecedented lows, Canada's central bank is gradually raising rates; this, combined with strict rules on new loans, empty house taxes in overheated cities like Vancouver, and mandatory ownership disclosures (which keep money launderers out of the market) are depressing the Canadian housing market, and the prognosis is not good.
Read the rest “Canada's housing market is slowly but surely imploding, and Canadians are more exposed than the US was in 2008”
Fracking is grossly unprofitable: the fracking industry is losing hundreds of millions of dollars, but it claims to be profitable and august publications like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters repeat these claims as though they were true. How can this be?
Read the rest “Inside the funny accounting that lets the money-losing fracking industry claim to be profitable”
In 1991, Vicky Jo Metz borrowed $16,613 to pay for tuition; now she's 59, and has paid back 90% of that money -- and she still owes $67,277.
Read the rest “Kansas judge tells government debt collectors they can't hound a broke 58-year-old woman until her 84th birthday”
New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood has concluded that seven New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, at least 200 times, for sums ranging from $46 to $3,000, and then sent collections agents after survivors who could not pay.
Read the rest “New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, then sent debt-collectors after them”
New York City's "marshal" service is a throwback to the Dutch colonial days; the 35 marshals are appointed by the mayor, draw no salary, and earn their livings by skimming a percentage off of the debts they collect, operating with impunity and reaching around the world.
Read the rest “New York City's municipal debt collectors have forged an unholy alliance with sleazy subprime lenders”
The era of finance capitalism is marked by a curious shift in the desire of the business world: to get out of the business of making things people use, and into the business of getting money for owning, extracting and/or liquidating things.
Read the rest “Ford CEO frankly admits that the car of the future is a surveillance device that you pay to spy on you”
When I was a kid, we used to sing Merle Travis's Sixteen Tons in the car on long trips: it's a poetic masterpiece, capturing the clash between a worker's proud and indomitable spirit and his impossible, inescapable poverty trap (chances are you've heard Tennessee Ernie Ford or Johnny Cash perform it).
Read the rest “"Sixteen Tons": the student debt edition”
The roster of people carrying student debt is really just "a list of people liable to additional taxation after graduation"; in 2007, GW Bush signed into law the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that would allow debt-haunted grads to earn loan forgiveness by foregoing the private sector and working for lower wages in public service for a decade.
Read the rest “Since 2007, debt-haunted grads have been doing public service to earn loan forgiveness, which they won't get”
From its founding in 1912 until 1965, Houston's Rice University was free to attend; but today, Rice has joined other US universities in saddling its students with ghastly, inescapable mountains of debt, with annual attendance costing $61,350, $40,000 of which is tuition.
Read the rest “Rice University eliminates tuition for all but wealthiest students, makes housing free for poorest”
Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner is carrying $42,000 in student debt; heiress Betsy "Marie Antoinette" DeVos is the anti-public-school advocate whom Donald Trump put in charge of the nation's public schools, and one of her first official acts was to end the rules limiting sleazy student debt-collection tactics, even as Trump was ending debt relief for students defrauded by diploma mills (like, say, Trump University).
Read the rest “Betsy DeVos's summer monstrosity is pure McMansion Hell”
Normally, economic expansion is driven by more spending by the wealthy, and you'd think that 2018 America, where the wealthy are wealthier than they've ever been, would be dependent on the few people with ready cash as engines of economic growth.
Read the rest “America's economic growth has come from subprime borrowing by the poorest 60%”
It's fascinating to read Dan King writing in The American Conservative to decry "Dickensian debtors' prisons" in the USA -- the practice of judges locking up poor people who can't pay fines for petty infractions like traffic tickets.
Read the rest “The American Conservative: "The Dickensian Return of Debtors’ Prisons"”
There's a long history of TV programs that exploit the personal struggles of individuals for ratings. Now there's a new game show that tackles the student loan crisis. Like its predecessors in this genre, it's bad. Read the rest “New game show pays off winner's student loans”