England is a winter wonderland this morning… everything covered in white. The trains are late and traffic is halted in some areas.
Yesterday, it was the financial markets that were frozen. Not much movement. But investors still aren’t coming in from the cold.
Uh oh… we get bad news from Reuters. You know that U.S. budget surplus you were counting on? You know… that $61 billion that was supposed to show up in 2012? (After a long string of deficits, of course).
Well… don’t count on it. It may vanish, say the experts, long before it was scheduled to appear – lost to over-runs… mistakes… and just plain incompetence.
The Financial Times reminds us who is handling the cash:
“The Bush administration went on a $5 [billion] spending spree in Iraq in 2004 just six weeks before returning control of the government to Iraqis, according to a Democratic lawmaker investigating the payments.
“Huge sums were doled out, sometimes in dollar bills from the back of pick-up trucks, it was alleged.”
Mr. Paul Bremer who was on watch in Iraq at the time, admitted that there may have been a few errors:
“I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently. But on the whole, we made great progress under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.”
What progress he is talking about is difficult to see. Apparently, the money was so sloppily redistributed that much of it ended up in the enemy’s hands, whoever the enemy may be.
And we’re not talking peanuts. The amount at issue is $20 billion, of which $12 billion was in cash. How can you distribute $12 billion in cash? That’s 120 million hundred-dollar bills. Even if you gave out one of them every second, every eight-hour working day…it will still take more than three years to get rid of it all.
According to the report, the United States actually took 360 tons of cash into Iraq. Who would do such a stupid thing? Rep. Henry Waxman wanted to know.
We assume Waxman was merely grandstanding for the voters; he’s been in Washington long enough to know the answer.
Meanwhile, more bad news comes from the housing market. In Orange County, CA, tax officials are having a hard time collecting. Property tax payments are getting later and later, says the local paper.
And poor Motown…U.S. automakers are taking record losses. They no longer dominate; neither the world…nor even the U.S. auto market. And the city they once made famous they now make miserable.
“Near where Piquette Avenue meets John R. Street,” reports the London Telegraph, “there is still a plaque paying tribute to the former Model T factory that once pumped out more than 1,000 vehicles a day…[now] empty runs and grass growing through the cracks in the pavement add a post-Apocalyptic grimness to this once bustling area upon which the American Century was made…”
Now the city that gave the world tail fins has lost more than half its population…and the half that is left is not the best half. More than 15% of residents are unemployed…and half are functionally illiterate, according to the National Institute of Literacy.