Canaries in the Coal Mine

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Or, for the more morbidly minded, perhaps I should title this post Diane’s Depression Reading. (Now who’s become the hostile pessimist? Bwaa-aa-aaaa…) Brand it what you will, the Great Depression took four long years to progress from the Crash of 1929 to the depths of despair. We are well along that path and perhaps moving to even greater depths as the credit-crises, inflationary-government-intervention, corporate-corruption, banker-bailout-by-the-unwitting-American-taxpayer bloodbath continues…

Maybe it Really is a Depression: Though no one wants to admit it, the signs are pointing that way.

Scenes from the Recession: If you still insist on calling it that. Check out this chilling slideshow.

There’s No Pill for This Kind of Depression: A pervasive sense of anxiety grips the American people.

Escalator of Life: America is Going Down. Suckling on the teat of the government… is that what we really want?

Economy in the Eye of the Hurricane: $20 trillion in America wealth up in smoke while savers stuck with the bill.

Is this the End of America? Or simply Canadian pundits gone wild?

What Demographics Tell Us About the Economy: The cards are stacked against consumer spending, economy should focus on exporting to countries with 46-50 year old spending populations, and homeowners should plan to stay in their homes for the next decade or so.

Beijing isn’t Washington’s Banker; Try its Grocer: Think the Chinese won’t bail on US Treasury Bonds? Some food for thought.

Soon There May Be Nobody Left to Lend to America: The Chinese may not be as beholden to us as everyone would like to think.

Obama Should Beware the Growing Anger in America: Handing hard-earned taxpayer dollars over to corporate villains isn’t that funny.

The Collapse of the Next Economic Bubble: US Treasury Bills. Yeah, seriously.

Owners Skulking Away from Underwater US Homes: More and more people can’t wait for government bailouts they may not qualify for anyway.

Pay or Go? An impartial calculator to help you decide whether or not it’s worth it to stay in your underwater home.

Wayne County, Michigan, Foreclosures November 2008: Unbelievable video. As goes Detroit, so goes the rest of the nation?

Detroit: Living in Fear, Third World America: The lifestyle we can all look forward to when a community is completely bankrupt.

Abandoned Detroit Skyscrapers: The future of downtown Reno? America was built on the auto industry. As it fails, the ripples move outward.

Surviving Inflationary Depression: Wow. Think of the possibilities.

The Big Takeover: It’s over. We’re officially, royally fucked. (Thanks to billthedrummer for the link):

"The people who have spent their lives cloistered in this Wall Street community aren’t much for sharing information with the great unwashed. Because all of this shit is complicated, because most of us mortals don’t know what the hell LIBOR is or how a REIT works or how to use the word ‘zero coupon bond’ in a sentence without sounding stupid — well, then, the people who do speak this idiotic language cannot under any circumstances be bothered to explain it to us and instead spend a lot of time rolling their eyes and asking us to trust them.

"That roll of the eyes is a key part of the psychology of Paulsonism. The state is now being asked not just to call off its regulators or give tax breaks or funnel a few contracts to connected companies; it is intervening directly in the economy, for the sole purpose of preserving the influence of the megafirms. In essence, Paulson used the bailout to transform the government into a giant bureaucracy of entitled assholedom, one that would socialize ‘toxic’ risks but keep both the profits and the management of the bailed-out firms in private hands. Moreover, this whole process would be done in secret, away from the prying eyes of NASCAR dads, broke-ass liberals who read translations of French novels, subprime mortgage holders and other such financial losers."

What more can be said? This is not the America our founding fathers envisioned. The Chinese are right. We are the Decadent West.

“When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion — when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see money flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (1957)

The Greater Depression: Opportunities Amid Crises. Sure, things look bad, but there’s opportunity in every market, including this one.

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38 Responses to Canaries in the Coal Mine

  1. ursulas says:

    I often wonder what John McCain would be doing today if he had won the presidency. Probably the same or more of it. Hillary? Probably the same or more of it.

    I’m still waiting for someone to come up with a magic solution for all of this mess that would be fair and equitable. There are so many critics, one would think we’d have an alternate solution by now that was better than “let them fail!” No one ever offers a solution that does not harm or attack the innocent.

  2. smarten says:

    Just food for thought. I heard Secretary Geitner’s new plan to encourage private investors [aka hedge funds] to purchase bank “toxic assets” using massive financing supplied by you and I. But what exactly are we talking about when it comes to a bank’s “toxic assets?” I submit it’s not mortgages [given the vast majority have been sold in the secondary market to non-banks] unless we’re talking about HELOCs. And if that’s what we’re talking about, this blog has demonstrated that in many instances, they’re worth about zero.

    So what’s left? Fractionalized interests in pools of securitized [sub-prime] mortgages? Credit default swaps? Honestly, I don’t know how any of this can be valued. Can you imagine attempting to do due diligence on a pool of a thousand or more mortgages located in many different geographical locations? And even if you could, the banks are reluctant to sell at a steep discount because then they will be under capitalized [a nice word for insolvent]. Hedge funds are reluctant to buy because if they screw the banks as they screwed you and I, some senator in Iowa or North Dakota is going to push legislation to tax the gains at a 90% rate [taking all the incentive out of investing].

    What a mess.

  3. Grand Wazoo says:

    Jesus Diane – don’t hit the panic button. Detroit has been like that for THIRTY YEARS – these horrific visions are nothing new at all. I oughta know – I was born there. Detroit in particular and Michigan in general have been on a precipitous decline since the early 1970’s.

    My impression of my fellow Nevada citizens is most of you simply haven’t personally experienced a significant economic downtown before – certainly if you had, there would have been a little less enthusiasm for the housing bubble. Life, and with it the economy, is cyclical by nature. Things will get worse, and over time they will improve. Most of us will survive this current trauma eventually.

    So sack up, pour yourself a stiff adult beverage, and ride this out with the rest of us without having a terminal panic attack. This is my strong advice to you.

  4. Reno Ignoramus says:

    “I swear-by my life and my love it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

    I have always wondered when we would finally hear from John Galt on this blog. I just never figured it would be from Diane.

  5. Martin says:

    So, when Mike said in a thread a couple of months ago that Diane was too depressed to post he wasn’t just using a figure of speech?

  6. BanteringBear says:

    Some great links, Diane.

    If we continue on this dangerous path of bailing out wealthy bankers and friends all the while ignoring the plight of the masses, this country will fail in spectacular fashion. We do not need healthier banks- we need fewer banks, and better paying jobs. Credit was the problem. No junkie has ever recovered through hair of the dog treatment. It’s a death sentence.

  7. Ralston says:

    Be careful about holding up Ayn Rand as an ideological pillar. It was one of her most enthuiastic students, Allen Greenspan, who played no small role in bringing us to where we are today. In his ideological allegiance to “free markets” Mr. Greenspan may have paid worship to the mythical John Galt, while inflating, and then maintaining, the biggest worldwide bubble in the history of mankind. Yes, cheap credit was the problem, and Mr. Greenspan, worshipper of Rand, was the biggest easy money pusher of all time.

  8. Land Guy says:

    Hey Diane, from one real estate professional to another: You want some of my Xanax?

  9. Phil says:

    Now I am depressed. I feel I need a tea party.

    How many more tillions of debt will the government take on before they are done? Who is benifiting from all this? Certainly not most the people who voted for our president. We got change all right, just not the direction people where hoping for.

    We haven’t heard too much about nationalized health care in a while. Wonder who will pay for this?

    I want to see some failures! It is called capitalism.

    Pass the Xanax over here!

  10. 3niner says:

    Diane,

    We are not in a depression yet, but our leaders are doing their best to give us one. Hopefully, there’s still time to stop them.

  11. 3niner says:

    Ralston,

    Allen Greenspan was not following Rand, or supporting free markets, when he maintained artificially low interest rates for a long time. He was “stimulating” the economy, ala Keynes.

    Many people say they are following a particular philosophy, then take actions inconsistent with it.

  12. billddrummer says:

    Diane,

    Great links!!

    I’m planning on writing a book about things, and one of the chapter titles is “Cul de Sacked,” set in the R & B subdivision that’s near the new ballpark. The one that had 4 unfinished houses and 117 total lots.

    I don’t know what the status of that parcel is now (don’t get out to that neighborhood), but the pictures from the NYT were sobering, to say the least.

    And the worst part of it is that this is a global phenomenon, not local, not regional, not national. Newspapers closing, car dealerships shuttered, unsold cars piling up on docks all over the country, bread lines, evictions (from a weekly motel, no less!), unemployed people standing in line for any sort of job–meanwhile, we wonder–Is this the end of our way of life?

    I’d like to think it’s not, but I don’t know.

  13. billddrummer says:

    And as far as my drug of choice, I’ll take Jack Daniels + ice.

  14. TKO says:

    How in the world can you expect this administration to fix 8 years of failed policies in 2.5 months. Typical Americans. No patience and want it done yesterday. That same attitude will never get us anywhere. Most wounds heal with time and care….Give it some time and CARE. Stop bickering and offer some solutions.

  15. Lorraine says:

    Spot on TKO. President Obama inherited the worse economic mess since FDR. He has been in office all of 60 days. He is taking action, and people criticize him for the action he takes. If he did nothing, people would criticize him for inaction.

    It’s pretty damn easy to be an expert on an internet blog. Especially so if you keep your identity secret.

  16. BanteringBear says:

    TKO and Lorraine-

    I don’t know that anyone has expected that he should fix the mess in “2.5 months”. But, is it wrong to scream before someone packs an open wound with rock salt and alcohol? Or, should we just wait to “make sure” it’s not the appropriate measure? I do not blame Barrack Obama, and believe he is trying his best to do the right thing with the pile of dog sh!t he inherited. The problem is, he’s getting bad advice from the people around him. I think Bernanke and Geithner need to go. Paulson, Bush, and Co, set a bad precedent with the bailouts, and to continue on with those failed policies is a mistake. I think it’s important and very effective when people express their outrage at wealthy bankers getting billions of dollars of operating capital and bonus money from the taxpayers while the masses are falling apart. It’s beyond wrong- it’s criminal.

  17. RenoRetiree says:

    I do all my investing in stocks and bonds, and am solely interested in buying real-estate in Reno as a owner-occupant (I rent currently). But if I were a RE investor, Diane is sounding like the sort of contrary indicator I look for in stocks and bonds to tell me when it’s a good time to buy. In other words, all this depression talk tells me we’re hitting a bottom somehwere related to real-estate, given that Diane is a realtor. My guess is the sub-100K market. SFR’s on roomy lots in stable working class neighborhoods in close-in northeast or southeast Reno. Neighborhoods that are hurting badly because of the construction slowdown and unemployment, but which will rebound when the economy eventually recovers, because there will eventually be plenty of jobs for the sort of people who live in those neighborhoods, such as in light industry and warehousing.

    California is very expensive for businesses in so many ways (taxes, regulations, labor costs, land costs, etc, etc) that a mass exodus of businesses is inevitable (and already in progress). Some of that exodus has already taken place to Arizona or Texas, but I see no reason why Reno shouldn’t pick up quite a bit. When it does, those working class neighborhoods will do quite nicely. Suppose you can buy a solid house for under $100K (and I’ve heard of REOs going for $80K), that would rent (under good economy conditions, when those times return) for $1000/month. In 5 years or so, you should be able to sell for at least $150K, or you can keep renting the thing, since it will cash-flow at $100K. So there’s a good opportunity for investors out there. The next year or two will be difficult as a landlord, but the long-term potential is there. The United States is undergoing a transition, since too many people were living beyond their means, but this doesn’t mean the end of the world. The Fed and the rest of the government is printing money and deficit spending like crazy, and everything I know about economics tells me this will eventually get the economy moving again. (Whether all this spending raises our standard of living, as opposed to merely putting people to work doing makework, is another story.) I don’t get the feel that Reno real-estate is hitting a bottom other than for the sector just described, however.

  18. Grand Wazoo says:

    I’m in with TKO – well put.

  19. BanteringBear says:

    RenoRetiree posted:

    “In other words, all this depression talk tells me we’re hitting a bottom somehwere related to real-estate, given that Diane is a realtor.”

    The flaw in your logic is that you’re assuming Diane is just another realtor, and ignoring the fact that she’s been telling it like it is this whole time. She’s way ahead of the trend, and quite sharp. To lump her into the same group as her industry peers is quite a mistake on your part. If you want to use that sort of logic, go search for a Kool-Aid swilling dope, and don’t insult the person who started the blog that gave your little plan airtime. Rant off.

  20. RenoRetiree says:

    Sorry if I sounded disrespectful, and I’m well aware that Diane was way out in front of other people in the RE business in calling the housing bubble just that. Which is precisely why I think this is a contrary indicator. When someone who is intelligent and savvy starts talking about the end of the world, it’s a sign that the fear is overwhelming and the psychological bottom is near. Not that I would advise buying anything based on pure psychology. But when the psychology is backed up by hard numbers (and it pretty clear to me that these sub-100K SFR REOs have the numbers in their favor), that’s the time when the smart investors pull out their wallets.

  21. Martin says:

    A “mass exodus” of businesses to Reno?

    Oh, are we going to trot that one out again?
    I’ve been hearing about that for over 25 years, and it hasn’t happened yet. Oh sure, every now and then EDAWN puts out a press release about how some company has relocated to Reno from California. It is usually a company that employs 14 people. Hardly a “mass exodus”. And EDAWN somehow never seems to comment on the businesses that leave town.

    And are you saying that one could buy an REO today for $80K and sell it
    “in 5 years or so” for “at least $150K”? Really? Are you suggesting that an $80K house is going to appreciate 80% over a 5 year period??

    What are you suggesting here? That we are going to hit bottom, and then go right into a V shaped recovery where houses appreciate 15% a year?

    Your’e not really saying that are you?

  22. DownButNotOut says:

    BB- you’re insulting and FOS.

    ‘The flaw in your logic is that you’re assuming Diane is just another realtor, and ignoring the fact that she’s been telling it like it is this whole time.’

    BTW – Realtor s/b capitalized.

    I’m not going to personalize Diane’s situation, but can’t you let another view go without having to kiss someone else’s butt that the writer wasn’t even insulting?

    Many new people that write in to this blog are often derided by many regulars that feel they own the site. IMO it’s sad as there is a lot of fresh thoughts that get stifled by the mob mentality.

  23. RenoRetiree says:

    I’m saying that a SFR that rents for $1000/month should sell for $150K to an owner occupant, based on historical norms. If you can buy that same SFR for $80K now, you’re getting it below its intrinsic value. When you buy something below its intrinsic value, the upside can be tremendous. For example, I’m up over 20% on the stocks I bought back on March 6 and 9, and that’s less than 3 weeks, for an annualized gain of something north of 2000%. So yes, if you can buy RE cheap, 15%/year gains, before leverage, are definitely possible. The really big money is usually commercial RE, but I don’t have any information about the local situation there.

    I’m a not currently a landlord of sub-100K SFR’s nor do I want to be such. But based on the numbers being thrown around, there is good money to be made here by someone with some cash on hand, some RE know-how and the willingness to put up with the hassles of being a landlord for a few years. I was a housing bear myself for a long-time, and I’m still a bear with regards to the high-end. But I smell blood down at the low-end. There’s a time to switch from bear to bull.

    Also, there is definitely an ongoing mass exodus of businesses from California. Whether those refugees have been or will be ending up in Reno is another story. The US and world economies WILL eventually recover from the current crisis, but the days of easy money (based on borrowing from the Chinese) are over. The name of the game in the future is keeping costs down and one way to do that is to relocate to a cheaper locale. Reno/Sparks has significant cost advantages over California, so I would expect it to benefit from this trend, especially for distribution/warehousing businesses.

  24. BanteringBear says:

    My apologies, Downer, I didn’t know you were a spelling Nazi in addition to the resident whiner. I think it’s actually like this:

    Realtor®

  25. DownButNotOut says:

    BB- those who can – do, those who can’t – teach, and those that can’t do either – demean their critics.

    Way to pick out the one part of my statement you can respond to.

  26. BanteringBear says:

    Downer-

    A fine study in hypocrisy you are. FYI- if you want to try to appear intelligent, at least come up with something original rather than butchering an old H.L Mencken quote. Funny, but pathetic.

  27. diablo says:

    Bantering Bear has successfully taken what little excitement, or curiosity that this blog offers. From reading many of his posts I often wonder if he ever makes a mistake? He intentionally pulls bits and pieces out of peoples posts only to belittle or demoralize them.
    This must make him feel better about himself?

    When in reality all this does is ruin the blogs ability to communicate more clearly. His antics remind me more of the kid in grade school who could never shut up while the teacher was speaking. He is probably the same type of guy who wouldn’t let a senior citizen go ahead of him at the grocery line, when all she has is a gallon of milk.

    A true scumbag in every sense.
    Like another poster mentioned.. It’s the Mob mentality..
    And it’s really quite pathetic.

  28. Move to Reno says:

    What the heck, this is the internet. BB has done a good job in the prediction department.

    Did we hit the stock market low earlier this month? I doubt it since the predictions are for 10% national unemployment at the end of this year and the banking mess is not yet resolved.

  29. Phil says:

    The big takeover was a very intersting read. To TKO – this has been going on for more than 8 years!

    Just remember Clinton was the president when the Glass-Steagall act was watered down to make this mess worse, and I beleive Graham was only a cosponser of the bill.

    Also the democrates where the majority in Congress for the last two years. This administration got a great running start when Bush asked Obahma if he wanted the other 350 billion released.

    Geithner was involved in this mess at the beginning as well. I think both him and Paulson where more interested in helping thier buddies than helping the public. I still think this is a huge issue. How the Democratic congress wrote a check to Paulson with no real direction is a mystery to me.

    Lets be real here the real estate bubble has been talked about for years, just no one did anything while the good times where rolling.

    Both parties are to blame and I am not blaming any one party more than the other. But when I hear people say have patience when this has been going on for years is a bit strange.

    BB has an opinion that he believes the direction they are taking is wrong. One I happen to agree with. So he raises flags and debates points. Funny but when name calling starts it usually doesn’t start with him.

  30. BanteringBear says:

    “BB has an opinion that he believes the direction they are taking is wrong. One I happen to agree with. So he raises flags and debates points. Funny but when name calling starts it usually doesn’t start with him.”

    Thank you, Phil, for recognizing this fact. A lot of my haters like to resort to name-calling rather than debate my message. While I admit I can be surly, I can take everything I dish out, and don’t disappear into hiding when proven wrong. The whiners try to run me off, failing to realize that my posts, all posts, contribute to the success of Diane’s blog, whether they like it or not. The more hits and comments, the better- something lost on them.

  31. diablo says:

    wrong BB your posts have contributed to the demise of this blog..

  32. Phil says:

    Here is a clue – if you do not like reading someones entries, don’t read them.

    Good grief. How in the hell did I get into this?

  33. DownButNot Out says:

    Phil, nice try. You wrote ‘Funny but when name calling starts it usually doesn’t start with him'(BB) Read back a little, or a lot. He just wrote ‘all my little haters’in his last entry, talking about his thin skinned critics. So when you write ‘Here is a clue – if you do not like reading someones entries, don’t read them’ that might cut both ways. Said another way it takes two. Said a third way why don’t you follow your advice?

    With that I’m done here.

  34. Phil says:

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. *chuckle* I never said you are contributing to the demise of the blog. So I’ll continue reading them.

    Don’t look to far up, you might read the first personal insult for the thread “BB- you’re insulting and FOS.”

    BTW, somehow I doubt BB ever felt like he was part of the mob.

    I almost came out and said something like if you argue with an idiot it will only make you look like one. But I took a deep breath, and it is obvious you are not an idiot. And this would only distract further from the topic.

    So let me close with something on topic.

    Wall street loves inflation. And I see a bunch of it comming. The current rise in Wall street may be more due to this then a solution being near.

    The EU president indicated we are on ‘a way to hell’. Somehow I don’t think we are getting his respect.

  35. Diane Cohn says:

    Boyz, stop bickering. Though we appreciate your passion, the name calling and crap has to stop. It degrades the discussion and cheapens our blog, which is really a non-profit, good-karma offering at this point.

    All, political party is irrelevant. It’s a mess no matter who the figurehead du jour is. Dealing with all the same banker buddies/fat-boy corporate political donors, the government simply can’t just sit back and let the market do what it needs to (puke and purge these poisons like a drunken frat boy on liver overload)… No, it has to intervene, or else what else is its point? Its raison d’être? What are we paying for, says Boobus Americanus, who expects the government to create jobs, fix wages, provide health coverage, and save us all? This is not the country our forefathers envisioned.

    RenoRetiree, thanks for the compliment, but I doubt my validity as an economic indicator. And if I were, I argue you’d be reading me wrong. Most REALTORS (yeah, all caps… weird, but it’s their thing) think we’re approaching bottom, near the bottom, are bouncing along the bottom, bottoming maybe this year, and that there are great deals out there (true, there are some) and that now’s the time to buy. I think a better indicator will be when NAR gets depressed, despondent and thinks the misery will never end… that’s the real bottom. The contributors on this blog are far superior leading indicators than I. And the presence of what are now becoming regular bank auctions in our market is also a good indicator. But I personally believe that there’s far more to our mess than just housing. We’re at the beginning of a global, first-world, economic meltdown, IMHO.

    Grand Wazoo, thanks. I promise not to slit my wrists out back. And you’re right. The worst thing I ever lived through was the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989… nothing compared to war, starvation or the collapse of an entire economy.

    Land Guy, thanks. Xanax? Yeah, mail that to my office please. I promise to share with Phil… 😉

    3Niner, I wish it were so, but I don’t think anyone can stop the momentum this about-to-be-train-wreck has built up. It’s a force of nature at this point. Like trying to stop a hurricane. Can’t happen. Just have to be educated, aware, move, adapt.

    Diablo, you post like a troll. I question your participation here. If all you want to do is brag about your stock picks and attack other contributors, this is not the appropriate forum.

  36. Back2Basics says:

    Interesting predictions in this article:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Financial-experts-say-apf-14734171.html

    I just don’t know if I believe these “experts”. Especially this:

    “Home sales will turn around by midyear and home prices will begin recovering by the end of this year after bottoming out at 35 percent of their value from peak to trough. Home prices won’t return to their values of a few years ago during the boom, but will recover from current lows, he said.”

  37. BanteringBear says:

    Thanks for the link, Back2Basics. If anybody is looking for a hearty laugh, I highly recommend this comedy piece. Pollyana is an understatement. From the article:

    “The good news is there’s an end in sight.

    The economy will pull out of the recession at the end of this year, marking a duration of 24 months, about twice as long as the average post-World War II recession, Faucher said.

    The unemployment rate is expected to peak at nearly 10 percent in the first half of 2010. Without the $787 billion government stimulus package, he estimated job losses would have continued into the second half of the year and peaked at about 12 percent.

    “That would take what is now a severe recession and actually turn it into a deep depression,” he said. “We think the fiscal stimulus package is vital in turning around attitudes toward the economy.””

    I fail to see how an economy, which is almost completely dependent upon consumer spending, will magically turn around in the face of snowballing job losses and asset price destruction. This comedy piece completely avoids the issue of a tsunami of Alt-A and Prime resets coming in the next two years (though some are already defaulting). The idea that the banking sector is shored up is so delusional it defies credulity. We haven’t even seen the brunt of it. Like Diane said, “you can’t stop a hurricane”. The PTB are trying to put out a forest fire one thimble full of water at a time. Good luck.

  38. NVMojo says:

    the one thing Americans do not like is “consequences” or “paying the piper”.

    We are free-falling from a gluttonous era and there are consequences all the way around.

    So much for zombie banks, quacky loans, dishonest values, homes as ATMs.

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