Interesting visa program I didn’t know existed:

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing to save the EB-5 visa program, scheduled to expire at the end of September. The program grants temporary visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in distressed areas. If an investment creates at least 10 jobs for American workers, the temporary visa can become a permanent green card. Last year, 945 EB-5 immigrants invested more than $400 million in U.S. ventures.

Some examples

No, not Obama, not Baucus, not Grassley.  It’s Doug Elmendorf, CBO director.

Not once, or twice, but three times he has scored Congress proposals’ cost way higher than expected, which has resulted on damaging headlines. His rationale is that he is being conservative, and he will not credit any cost savings from changes and programs that aren’t proven.

Unfortunately there is little his predecessor Peter Orzag, now Obama’s OMB director, can do about it.

Krugman is crying foul, but a lot more pressure needs to be applied.

Misleading layoff news

July 27, 2009

Verizon reported weak Q2 results today due to shrinkage in their wireline unit.  So of course they announced more layoffs, which is just standard operating procedure for a CFO wanting to reassure The Street that costs are being contained and profitability is being restored next quarter.  Whether those cuts actually materialize no one ever checks.

So you end up with a scary “Verizon to Cut 8,000 More Jobs” headline on the Journal‘s and other front pages.

Meanwhile we learn that they are aggressively adding FiOS TV and broadband customers, and the rumor is they are hurrying to launch their LTE network in early 2010, perhaps for Apple’s tablet, which you would think requires serious capital investments and manpower for deployment.  So you have to wonder what the net effect is on jobs.  Definitely not 8,000 fewer.

And of course Microsoft is opening dozens of stores, and 7-Eleven is planning a major expansion this year, including 600 stores in Southern California alone.  But you would never see this headline on the front pages: “7-Eleven adding 5,000 jobs”.

Roubini for Bernanke

July 26, 2009

Dr. Doom praises the chairman, in no uncertain terms:

Mr. Bernanke deserves to be reappointed. Both the conventional and unconventional decisions made by this scholar of the Great Depression prevented the Great Recession of 2008-2009 from turning into the Great Depression 2.0.

Excellent!

HuffPo reports Treasury has allowed three more banks (including Goldman) to pay back warrants, before Congress has had a chance to force them to setup an auction system.

BUT

They also report that GS paid full price for theirs (using professor Wilson’s models).  Wilson speculated that “Goldman Sachs decided to pay fair price to avoid more of the bad press that’s been coming its way the last several months”.

The chairman’s reviews start coming in.

For the record, as I told my friend George back in early ’08, the only good thing Bush ever did was to appoint him.

Throwing money from a helicopter is exactly what we needed, and noone except professor Bernanke could have come up with as many ways to do it that quickly.  This also gives me great confidence he will find the ways to sop up the liquidity as needed.

I have no doubt without his actions we would still be shrinking, everyone freaking out, and unemployment at 15%+

Ritholtz has some good news

Good news today. Some of you have noted that it is somewhat outrageous for the Treasury to privately price and sell warrants back to the banks that got TARP money instead of doing an open auction that will fetch the best price for the taxpayer. The Congressional Oversight Panel claims that the currently used secret process returns only 66 cents on the dollar to the taxpayer.

Mary Jo Kilroy, a freshman Democrat from Ohio, introduced a bill (HR 3232) to compel an open auction of these warrants with six cosponsors: Brad Sherman, John Boccieri, Betty Sutton, Jackie Speier, Marcia Fudge and Alan Grayson.

All of these members except Brad Sherman are in their first or second term in Congress, and all are Democrats. Sherman was the leader of the little noted but important ‘skeptics caucus’ that attempted to stop the $700B bailout in September.

There is also a hearing on the TARP warrant repayments on Wednesday. Many of you don’t have faith in Congress, but there are lots of crosscurrents and sometimes people here do show leadership.

Does your company need capital but banks won’t lend in a recession? How much are your servers worth?

Get on the cloud and sell your equipment!  No credit checks, no commitments.  Just pay as you go.

It’s not just a matter of lowering your capital structure but rather monetizing what you have at a time when money is tight.  Do it quick, before eBay is loaded with used gear and prices crash.

Utility computing makes sense long term, but even more so in the current environment.

It’s reminiscent of how the dot-com bust and 9/11 both benefitted Open Source, as many IT departments, their budgets slashed, started adopting Linux and even OSS databases and application servers.

Rents going down too

July 9, 2009

As I suspected, rents are going down, same as home prices, although at a slower rate.

The Fed is right to worry about deflation.

I argued three months ago that China couldn’t possibly dump their treasuries, even as pundits and analysts in the financial channels kept scaring the bejesus out of everyone.

So I was very happy to hear Roger Altman last night say that:

CHARLIE ROSE: Pete Peterson … also talked about the fact that the Chinese hold so much of our debt. Is that going to change, and are they going to change it?

ROGER ALTMAN: A, they’re clearly concerned about it, about the
concentration risk that they have. B, their options for changing it are relatively few, and there’s no scenario in which they can change it quickly. There just isn’t.

CHARLIE ROSE: They’d have to take that money and find another place
to invest it as well, without destroying the American economy.

ROGER ALTMAN: It would be self-defeating to act quickly. Therefore,
any diversification which the Chinese pursue — and they will — will be
slow and gradual. And the risk that so many people talk about, I think
very loosely, you know, the Chinese may, quote, dump the dollar or flee the
dollar. That’s misguided, I think.

CHARLIE ROSE: Because it’s not in their interest.

ROGER ALTMAN: It’s not in their interest and it’s not possible to do
it. So, it’s not a good thing for over the long term, as President Obama
himself said, for China to be — for us to be the consumer and China to be
the lender and have it exponentially grow as it’s been. We have to stop
that. But China’s not going to make — take self-destructive action, and
dumping the dollar or quickly trying to exit the dollar would be very self-
destructive, and they’re way too smart for that.