Goldman’s Response

I find Goldman’s response to Friday’s nuclear attack from the SEC instructive because it reveals just how out of touch those of us who work in the financial industry are with the average person and the politicians on both sides of the aisle now trying to court their visceral anger.  Essentially Goldman’s defense will be “this is our business and everyone in it knew what they were getting into.”  It recalls Hyman Roth’s line in The Godfather II, “So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen; I didn’t ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!”

To which I can see the Obama administration replying “Exactly, and your way of doing business stinks.’

Whatever the lawyers at the Enforcement Division think of the merits of their case, every press release like this one makes it more and more likely that Goldman, and the rest of us, will have to drastically change our attitudes.  The game has changed and I fear the people who  matter in the financial industry continue to have their heads in the sand.

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Tax Complexity Marches On

The gist of this post is so obvious, it’s hardly worth writing.  But I sometimes find myself unable to remember specific examples of April income tax silliness when I’m discussing the need for fundamental tax reform at election time.  So here are some of my favorites from this year’s Maryland return. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Friday in the Poetry Corner

Last year, we went to the Poetry Corner for Palm Sunday.  This year, our visit falls on Good Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Call a Bluff

It’s hard to imagine any long-term improvement in the public schools that does not involve some combination of encouraging good teachers to teach and encouraging bad teachers to do something else. This is all the more important in light of the difficulty of predicting someone’s teaching ability before he or she is hired.

Fortunately, once we get a look at them in the classroom and we can distinguish the good from the bad, there is no mystery about how to retain the former and eliminate the latter.  If we pay good teachers more, we’ll attract and retain at least some good teachers who would otherwise do something else.  If we pay bad teachers less (all the way down to zero in the cases of teachers who should be fired), we’ll induce them to pursue other opportunities.

Read the rest of this entry »

A New Gold Standard?

This occurred to me last year, but I didn’t write anything about it because it’s the sort of thing about which I don’t know enough to have an intelligent opinion.  The question is this:  If people around the world buy and sell gold and quote its price in paper currency, how different is this from a de facto gold standard?  Now along comes Dr. Marc Faber and says,

“I think we already have now a gold standard . . . created by the market place.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Census

I received my census form the other day, and fortunately it was the short form.  That spared me from a lot of questions I wouldn’t dream of answering.  Unfortunately, it didn’t get me completely out of the woods.

As most readers probably know by now, Question 8 asks whether we are “of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?”  If we are, then we are invited to be more specific, distinguishing Mexican ancestry from Puerto Rican, Cuban, etc.  Question 9 then asks for each person’s race, offering us 14 specific options followed by “Some other race.”

I hate these questions.  For one thing, it seems to me there are now large numbers of people who have parents or grandparents in at least two of the Census Bureau’s 14 “race” boxes. What box are they supposed to check?  What box is President Obama going to check?  During the campaign, people used to write a lot of nonsense about whether he was too black, hardly black at all, not black enough, etc.  It was somewhere between unseemly and repugnant then, but now it seems the Census Bureau really wants an answer. Read the rest of this entry »

A thought for the day, or maybe the decade

The following is from a copyrighted newsletter by Bill Bonner.  I find it so insightful that I have to pass it on.  I sure hope it’s “fair use” under the copyright laws:

Neither limits nor adversity are what ruin men. Under pressure, they handle themselves pretty well. It’s the lack of limits they can’t handle. That’s when they run amok. So, if you really want to see what a man is made of let him think he can get away with something.

How true!  And how much of our recent past this explains.  Perhaps such reflections will make it easier to embrace the coming adversity.