Over the weekend I finally relented and read schmuck “journalist” Matt Taibbi’s most recent allegations against Goldman “Vampire Squid” Sachs. The plan is to write a longer, more formal response, but in the interim I just want to take a few minutes to address the primary shortcoming of Taibbi’s “work,” namely, that he has no fucking clue what he’s talking about.
UPDATED (see bottom): On Tuesday, Ford released Q1 results. Here is the New York Times’ take, emphasis mine:
Ford earned $2.55 billion in the quarter, a 22 percent increase from the period a year ago and the strongest evidence yet of its transformation from a company dependent on big trucks into one that can generate significant profit selling cars of all sizes.
The old Ford lost money on many of its cars, counting on sales of more expensive trucks to stay in the black. Today’s Ford, however, is able to persuade many of the drivers who buy its subcompact, the Fiesta, to save on gasoline to also spend thousands of dollars on amenities like heated leather seats.
I pulled up Ford’s 8-k that corresponds with this earnings release. The word “small” is mentioned exactly once, in the “first quarter highlights,” in the bullet point “Unveiled Ford B-MAX small car and Ranger Wildtrak pickup at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.” Neither amenities nor heated leather seats are mentioned at all. “Fiesta” is mentioned only thrice (and only in that same section):
- Posted 16% increase in U.S. sales due to strong demand for fuel-efficient products such as Fiesta, Fusion, Edge, Escape, Explorer and F-Series.
- Increased Asia Pacific Africa share to 2.4%, fueled by Fiesta, Focus, Figo and Ranger; China sales increased 18%, India up 115%
- Fiesta became the first in its segment to earn top safety ratings in the world’s largest markets — the U.S., Europe, and China
Obama just claimed in his speech at GW University that “tax cuts” somehow “cost” us $500 billion/year for the next decade. I’m not sure how a lack of revenue can somehow be semantically transformed into an expense (cost), but putting logic, reason, facts, and basic accounting aside for a second, I’d just like to peel-back some of Obama’s baseless rhetoric and look at some cursory facts I was able to confirm in literally under 2 minutes.
In this same speech, Barry discussed how we need to return to the fiscal discipline of the 1990’s, you know, when we ran a balanced if not surplus budget. Last I checked we’ve spent the past ~10 years involved in at least two wars (or “wars” depending on your definition), whereas in the 1990s, once we left the Gulf after Desert Storm, we really didn’t have any major large-scale war efforts (I don’t think Bosnia or Kosovo compare to our current wars by any financial metric).
So, two these two Obama-isms, I present the following easily-obtainable data and chart:
Clearly, around the turn of the century, our Defense budget was around $350 million/year. By 2010, that had more than doubled to $800 million/year, no thanks to the ongoing and of questionably sane military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At this rate, our 2012 Defense budget is going to be ~3 times what it was in 2000!
And Obama is blaming our current budget deficit on tax cuts?
**This is not intended to be an in-depth examination of Government spending, but simply instructive as to the sort of bogus rhetoric our Government feeds us every day. Such rhetoric is rife with cognitive bias (quite intentionally), in this case, among others, seriously framing error.
I don’t care whether the data if from the National Retail Federation, the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Home Builders or, my personal favorite, the National Association of Realtors or any other industry group. It’s ALL garbage! DO.NOT.TRUST.THEM! They exist for the singular and sole purpose of drumming-up business for their members; retailers, mortgage brokers, home builders, and realtors, respectively. Their “data” and “analysis” will, with almost 100% certainty, grossly overstate any realistic projections and even worse, produce misleading historical “data” to boot!
Compare Recent data from the National Association of Realtors (pdf) with the data from analytics company Corelogic (CoreLogic_December_2010_HPI, I have the Excel file but can’t upload to WordPress). NAR says the price on existing home sales increased 0.5% in 2010, while the price on new homes increased 2.2%. Corelogic’s national single-family combined home price index shows a -5.46% change.
Who do you believe? The industry group that represents people who make money when houses are bought/sold for the most amount of money, or an independent analytical shop that uses a pretty robust methodology (reproduced below)?
The CoreLogic HPI incorporates more than 30 years worth of repeat sales transactions, representing more than 55 million observations sourced from CoreLogic industry-leading property information and its securities and servicing databases. The CoreLogic HPI provides a multi-tier market evaluation based on price, time between sales, property type, loan type (conforming vs. nonconforming), and distressed sales. The CoreLogic HPI is a repeat-sales index that tracks increases and decreases in sales prices for the same homes over time, which provides a more accurate “constant-quality” view of pricing trends than basing analysis on all home sales. The CoreLogic HPI provides the most comprehensive set of monthly home
price indices and median sales prices available covering 6,208 ZIP codes (58 percent of total U.S. population), 572 Core Based Statistical Areas (85 percent of total U.S. population) and 1,027 counties (82 percent of total U.S. population) located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Not only does the National Association of Realtors (and really, ALL trade groups) issue over-optimistic future predictions (to get people to buy/sell houses), but they misrepresent historical data! That should be a crime (if it isn’t already)!
I’m not saying Corelogic’s data is 100% accurate, but I will take their #’s over a trade group’s every.single.time.
UPDATE: Jonathan Miller of Miller/Samuel has a good post about this as well, and includes the NAR’s explanation of their bogus methodology. Highly recommended read!
I’ve been awaiting this story for some time now (being formerly one of those about whom it speaks), and awaiting this opportunity to say, from personal experience, I think it’s still just too soon, with some exceptions of course.
Employers who snapped up top talent on the cheap in the depth of the recession should start worrying about defections, recruiters and management watchers say.
Companies that continued to hire during the slump found they were able to nab talented but recently laid-off workers at bargain salaries, or into jobs for which they were overqualified. Now, as the job market slowly loosens up—and those overqualified hires become more frustrated—some of them are considering greener pastures.
Indeed, it wasn’t rocket science to foresee such a trend eventually coming to pass, however, as the article mentions, it seems the vast majority of firms who hired overqualified candidates over the past 2-3 years largely haven’t done much, if anything, to address the inevitable talent exodus if/when(ever) the job market picks up.
I’d be remiss were I not to take this opportunity to point out that many of the “experts” cited in the aforecited WSJ article are inherently biased due to what should be obvious limits on their objectivity, namely recruiters, who get paid alot of money connecting people with jobs. I think to a greater degree than they’ll let-on, its still more the exception than the rule, and if my experiences/conversations over the past few years are any indication, there are still ALOT of overqualified people all over Wall Street (metaphorically, not geographically) in every capacity and at every level. There’s still plenty of people with years of experience, their CFA, MS or MBA working in retail brokerage or operations and at smaller, less-prestigious shops because they can’t get another gig on a trading desk or other front-office spot. Unfortunately, I fear many of them will be stuck there for quite some time as alot of the job losses on Wall Street simply just won’t be coming back, at least not any time soon if ever as far as I can tell.
What have you seen/heard? Do you know any overqualified people currently or who have been sweating it out until they can get back to their previous station?
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Stone Street Advisors: The Team
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