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Good News, April 1-16, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

4/15-16/2001  weekend glimmers -

  1. 4/16  Use of English as world tongue is booming..., by Diana Schemo, NYT, front page.
    ...English [is] increasingly becoming the world's lingua franca....
    [See also "Conquering Europe, word for word," by Peter Schneider, 5/01/2001 NYT, A27.]

  2. 4/16   France's Prime Minister battles post-election blues: strikes, squabbling and floods, by Suzanne Daley, NYT, A10.
    [In short, business as usual in France. But let's not miss these little gems of economic design -]
    ...Mr. Jospin also announced he was considering measures ranging from a law that would make it harder for companies [in profit] to lay off workers to an increase in the tax rebate for the lowest-paid employees....
    [Both good ideas, from the viewpoint of strengthening the weak centrifugal force on income and dynamizing the economy.]

  3. 4/15  Relief from the 'pre-death tax,' op ed by Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe, D7.
    The Bush administration has made a big deal about repealing what it calls the "death tax" - the tax paid by large estates [of] only about 2% of Americans. [But] there is another tax that...harm[s] the estates of moderate income people [who are much much more numerous.  It] is really outrageous..\.. This is the provision of the Medicaid law requiring middle class people to "spend down" their net worth to almost nothing before they can qualify for nursing home care, as paupers....
    Middle income people work a lifetime and accumulate savings, often from the sale of a home. They may have total savings worth $2-300,000 or less. [They] keep this money for retirement income to supplement Social Security, for the contingencies of old age, and hope to leave a little to their children. [It's] not subject to the current estate tax, which has an exemption of $675,000...soon [to] rise to $1m...but if you or a loved one has a medical condition that requires long-term nursing care, that estate is simply wiped out....
    [So the children of the middle class who actually use money and spend it get zero while the children of the rich get mind-bending, life-twisting, astronomical hoards of money at market-depressing, unspendable levels. This is what comes of forcing capitalism to run under a chronic shortage of job and business opportunity, by cutting jobs instead of work hours as technology pours in. Seventy years ago, Arthur Dahlberg (see bibliography re Jobs, Machines & Capitalism, xii) described the cure - switch to forcing capitalism to run a chronic "shortage" of labor. This is what happens in wartime (and during plagues and mass emigrations) and its centrifuging, dynamizing effect on money is responsible for the famous economic prosperity of war, which mainstream economists don't like to talk about. The truth is, it's usually not a "shortage" of labor even during war - it's simply an appropriate balance of labor and employment, of jobseekers and jobs, at last. And the intelligent way to achieve it is not war or plague or emigration or genocide, but the way France is demonstrating - and some of America's most competitive corporations (such as Nucor Steel and Lincoln Electric) - namely, cut the workweek, not the workforce.]

4/14/2001  glimmers of hope - 4/12/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. [1 UPsizing]
    E*Trade will place shops and ATM's in Target stores, Reuters via NYT, C4.
    ...An Internet brokerage company...agreed to put 20...shops and more than 1,000 ATMs into Target Corp...and Target Greatland stores in the United States.... E*Trade currently has ATMs in 110 Target stores.

  2. Economic scene - A history lesson: Don't count on stocks to lead the way out of a downturn, by Jeff Madrick, NYT, C1.
    [Here we have a backhanded admission that the so-called "wealth effect" is bogus - the idea that some significant degree of consumer spending is based on the stock market. In fact, quite the contrary is true. Astronomical stock bubbles like the last decade's is a pretty good indication that money which should be going into the consumer base isn't. Instead, it's getting waylaid in the labyrinthine byways of the financial markets and starving the consumer base. The idea that the majority of Americans own stocks is ridiculous. Push the data and you can occasionally get it to say that over 50% of households have at least one person who owns at least one stock, but the vast majority of people who own stocks have them tied up in 401K's and other pension schemes, unavailable for spending now or any bolstering effect on the consumer base. The stock market is the locus of the consumption-strangling concentration and hibernation of spending power, not the seat of its consumption-spurring centrifugation and activation. To centrifuge spending power, you need to engineer what employers perceive as an intense shortage of labor, by cutting the workweek.]

  3. Texas takes first step toward death penalty referendum - Support for a moratorium while capital punishment is examined, by Jim Yardley, NYT, A22.
    HOUSTON...- In a surprising vote in the state that leads the nation in putting inmates to death...the Senate Criminal Justice Committee..\..in the Texas Legislature [yester]day endorsed a resolution that would allow voters to decide whether to impose a two-year moratorium on executions while an independent commission examined the fairness of the capital punishment system....
    [More power to the referendum movement and to direct democracy! With the dilatory progress on campaign finance reform, it is the major hope of a return to democracy in this self disintegrating and impoverishing plutocracy.]

  4. DaimlerChrysler's shareholders vent anger at acquisitions, AP via Boston Globe, E2.
    [At last stockholders are starting to wake up to the generally negative effects of acquisitions.]

  5. ["good but..."]
    Biggest drop in prices of imports since 1992, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
    [Good that we can get foreign stuff cheaper, but bad because (A) in the context of braindead free trade it will further decimate American manufacturing, good jobs, active spending power and resistance to recession, and (B) it indicates that overseas sources of imports are already in a deflationary spiral, ever more desperate to sell at any price to preserve what's left of their own good jobs.]

4/11/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. [1 UPsizing]
    Scana Corp., NYT, C4.
    ...Columbia, SC, owner of a SC utility, plans to build a natural gas-fueled power plant in Jasper County for as much as $300m to meet electricity demand by customers in the southern part of the state....
    [Unspecified new jobs.]

  2. [1 UNbankruptcy]
    London Fog [Industries] to emerge from bankruptcy, lawyer says, Bloomberg via NT, C4.
    ...the maker of raincoats and outerwear...next week after shedding more than $100m in debt.... London Fog...based in Seattle [at least that gets the "Fog" right] \filed\ in September 1999 after an aggressive plan to open retail stores hurt its profits....

  3. Dutch upper house backs aided suicide, Reuters via NYT, A3.
    The Netherlands became the first country to legalize allowing doctors to help end the lives of seriously ill patients,
    [This makes the Dutch the world leaders in social evolution and the bravest pioneers in converting humanity from quantity to quality of human life, as we tax the environmental limits of our planet by almost every measure. So France leads the world in economic progress with its 35-hour statutory workweek, and the Netherlands lead the world in social progress.]
    ...despite a protest by thousands of demonstrators.
    [There are still plenty of people who can't let go of the past, who can't let go of our childlike simplicity in wanting to spawn and stay alive regardless of the pain. Americans have a particularly hard time saying goodbye. But the mark of a truly grownup, graceful and elegant person is their ability, their smoothness, their skill, in departures, including The Big Departure. Only when we master that will we have the flexibility to achieve the "voluntary mortality" prophesied by our science fiction writers.]
    The 75-seat Senate voted 46 to 28 [4+6= 10 vs. 2+8= 10, a perfect vote] in favor of the law, recognizing a practice that has already been tolerated in the Netherlands for more than two decades....

  4. ["good, but..."]
    Gillette lowers its sales for the last 2 years, Bloomberg via NT, C4.
    ...Last year, the Financial Accounting Standards Board mandated that companies [could] no longer include coupons, rebates and free products as part of sales.
    [Wha-a-at?! You mean all those years they could give away free products and count them as sales? Truly, human capacity for self-deception, specifically CEOs' capacity for self-deception, is infinite.]

  5. Click here for today's timesizing stories - 4/11/2001.

4/10/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. 2 UPsizings, totaling 3 + unspecified new jobs -
    1. ...As another [agency] expands, by Stuart Elliott, NYT, C8.
      ...Starr Seigle Communications in Honolulu is opening an office for the New York area to offer services like public relations and consumer promotions. The office, to be called StarrPR/New York, is in Upper Montclair, NJ and has three employees....
    2. An agency opens..., by Stuart Elliott, NYT, C8.
      An ad agency...McCarthy Mambro Bertino is being opened in Boston by three executives [with] two clients...Boston Beer [and] Tellium....

  2. Click here for today's timesizing stories - 4/10/2001.

4/08/2001  tiny weekend glimmers of hope - 4/05/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. Canada: Protecting the spirit bear, by Anthony DePalma, NYT, A6.
    British Columbia [provincial] officials banned logging in 1.5 million acres of coastal rain forest, which includes the habitat of the rare white bear called the spirit bear. About 400 of the bears, also known as the Kermode bear, inhabit islands off the coast about 300 miles north of Vancouver. Environmentalists in the U.S. and Canada had organized boycotts of wood cut from trees in the area.
    [Thank God there are still some respecters of the environment in power somewhere in North America!]

  2. Click here for today's timesizing stories - 4/05/2001.

4/03/2001  glimmers of hope -
  1. Campaign finance bill passes in Senate, 59-41; House foes vow a fight - A McCain victory - Long-debated measure would ban the use of soft money, by Alison Mitchell, NYT, front page.

  2. 2 UNtakeovers, totaling $9.55B -
    1. FPL cancels its acquisition of Entergy, Bloomberg via NYT, C4.
      The FPL Group canceled a $15.8B acquisition of the Entergy Corp. after the two utilities fought over who would lead the combined company, and FPL said Entergy gave conflicting earnings forecasts....
      [This undoes the takeover of 8/01/2000, worth only $7B at that time.]
    2. Ariba, software maker, reports loss and plans cuts, AP via NYT, C4.
      ...Ariba also said it was scrapping its acquisition of the Agile Software Corp.
      [This undoes the $2.55B takeover of 1/30/2001.]

  3. Click here for today's timesizing stories - 4/03/2001.

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