Gongol.com Archives: March 2012
Brian Gongol

March 2, 2012

Business and Finance Foreigners have shoveled $2 trillion into American investments in the last year
The Treasury Department says foreign holders held $12.5 trillion in American stocks and bonds as of June 30th. Some of the increase over the previous year's total, $10.6 trillion, was probably due to rising stock prices. But it also means that the money is staying here, rather than being pulled out in a wave of profit-taking. No country is more heavily-invested in American securities than China, which has $1.7 trillion invested here. But the UK, Canada, and Japan hold more American stock than any other countries by far. (It's probably safe to assume that the huge Cayman Islands account is due to a wide range of Americans and others avoiding tax laws.) This kind of investment is enormously important for three reasons, at least: (1) Foreign interest in American securities props up prices, which is probably of great interest right now as a huge demographic wave cruises toward liquidating its investments during retirement; (2) It subsidizes Federal spending and pushes down interest rates for households, the government, and businesses; and (3) It introduces very, very interesting issues when it comes to international relations. For a long time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was mass panic that Japan was going to take over America, one huge buyout at a time. It fizzled. Now, we worry that we owe so much to China that they can tell us what to do. It's probably an overstatement, but there's no escaping the fact that we are the debtors in the relationship.

Business and Finance US personal-savings rates are at 4.5%
Much higher than the long-term average of the last ten or fifteen years, but the number appears to be drifting downwards. Even 5% is not enough; it really should be closer to 9% or 10% for households to have long-term security (and freedom from future government dependency). But it's definitely better than the zero rate of savings that prevailed a short while ago.

Business and Finance Is Wall Street filled with psychopaths?
A study supposedly finds that 10% of the people working in Manhattan finance are psychopathic. That may or may not be true. But it is certainly true that the public is being fleeced by the hyperactivity of the financial markets. Too many traders are making fortunes by taking a commission off rapid-fire buying and selling, which neither does any good for society, nor enriches the people investing for the long term. Smart long-term investing is patient and deliberate; most people would be best-served by investing mainly in broad-based index funds and just reinvesting the dividends.

Computers and the Internet Twitter and Facebook may let you, but you shouldn't just say anything you want online
Free speech is constrained by certain boundaries -- like the prohibition on libel. The whole point of a ban on libel is that you shouldn't be able to destroy another person's ability to earn a living by spreading lies and rumors about them. One person being able to eat is a superior good to another person being able to vent their spleen with lies and falsehoods.

Socialism Doesn't Work If your only other choice was Putin, would you vote for a Communist?

Socialism Doesn't Work Iowa City "Occupists" turn deadbeat
They refuse to pay for the $2,300 in damage they did to the grass in a city park

Iowa The future of Walnut Street
The City of Des Moines is hiring a consultant to help with a project to do a major makeover for Walnut Street between 4th and 10th

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