Monday, February 23, 2009

It's All Relative

It may come as a surprise, but the economic news isn't all bad. It happens that as bad as it seems here in the U.S. it's considerably worse everywhere else. Floyd Norris explains why in a New York Times article:

In the fourth quarter of last year, the American economy shrank at a 3.8 percent annual rate, the worst such performance in a quarter-century. They are envious in Japan, where this week the comparable figure came in at negative 12.7 percent - three times as bad.

Industrial production in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in three decades. But the 10 percent year-over-year plunge reported this week for January looks good in comparison to the declines in countries like Germany, off almost 13 percent in its most recently reported month, and South Korea, down about 21 percent.

Even in the area of exploding mortgages, the United States has done better than some countries, particularly in Eastern Europe. There it is possible now to owe twice what a house is worth - even if the house has not lost much of its value.

Well, what about the stock market? We're doing very well there, too. We've only lost about 50% of our investment value. For most countries it's worse: Consider how much money you would have left if you had put $100 into the stocks in the leading market indexes of major countries at the end of 2007, less than 14 months ago.

In the United States, you would now have about $53. That fact - coupled with the reality that more Americans than ever are depending on the stock market to pay for their retirement - has severely depressed sentiment and spending.

But it merits one of the top grades in this world. Among major markets, only Japan, at $59, has done better. In Britain, France, Spain and Germany, the figure would be around $45. In Italy, it would be $37. About a quarter of the money would still be there in countries like Ireland, Greece and Poland.

Remember the BRIC countries, where growth possibilities seemed limitless not long ago? The stars there are Brazil and China, where about $46 or $47 remains. In India, the figure is $35, and in Russia it is $23. At least they have all done a lot better than Iceland, where you would have just $3 left of your hypothetical $100.

Now don't you feel better?


Where's the Change?

Imagine the distress on the left. First came word that a study commissioned by President Obama has found that detainees in Guantanamo receive treatment that satisfies the standards of the Geneva Conventions. This means there really isn't much reason to shut the base down except that Obama promised the lefties during the campaign that he would without really knowing why, except that they wanted it.

Now we learn that the Obama Justice Department has ruled that detainees held in Afghanistan do not have rights under the United States Constitution. Wasn't President Bush declared a war criminal for holding essentially this same position?

There are two kinds of Americans: Those who hoped Obama's policies vis a vis terrorists would be a radical departure from those of President Bush and those who feared they would be. The first group has reason to wonder what happened to the Obama they campaigned for. The second has reason to think that the president, at least with regard to the handling of terrorists, might not be a complete disappointment after all.

Add to this President Obama's backtracking on an Iraq pullout, his planned surge of troops into Afghanistan, and his expanded use of predator drones to attack terrorist targets in Pakistan, and the left must be beside themselves. This is not what they thought Obama was going to do.

Maybe they'll soon start superimposing Obama's face on all those "General Betray-Us" posters they have left over from a year or so ago. Or maybe they'll just start telling us that they're cool with whatever Obama does to keep this country safe. After all, it's not like he's "BushHitler" or anything.

Thanks to Hot Air for a couple of the above links.


Information Overload

Useless, perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless: