Felix Salmon

The Fed’s earnings

January 12, 2010

Neil Irwin has worked out that the Federal Reserve earned $45 billion in 2009, thanks to the steep yield curve that it engineered and its move into higher-risk, higher return securities. This is good news: all that money is being dividended back to the public fisc, keeping the deficit that little bit lower.

Healthcare scatterchart of the day

January 11, 2010

Frank Hansen has put together this chart from OECD data:


(Via Gelman, who earlier found something similar putting life expectancy on the y-axis.)

How to get our money back from the banks

January 11, 2010

Of course it would be great if the big banks, currently making outsize profits thanks to the Fed’s zero interest-rate policy, had to pay back some of the enormous fiscal cost of the financial crisis they were largely responsible for causing.

Citi’s US branch network: Doomed to mediocrity

January 11, 2010

The departure of Terri Dial from Citibank only serves to underline how dysfunctional Citigroup remains, long after Vikram Pandit was meant to have created small-enough-to-manage Citicorp within the larger behemoth. Tellingly, Dial is being replaced by Manuel Medina-Mora, a manager who has succeeded within Citigroup largely by having enough power from day one to do what he wanted, rather than having to navigate Citi’s labyrinthine bureaucracy. Medina-Mora, for instance, flat-out refused to rebrand Banamex as Citibank, and so Banamex it remains to this day.

Another proposed deaccessioning rule

January 11, 2010

Judith Dobrzynski has come up with her own version of the Ellis rule when it comes to museums selling off their art. Adrian Ellis’s rule is quite elegant:

Why Apple shouldn’t pay a dividend

January 11, 2010

Brett Arends — journalist and published author — is a real thinker, not a blogger.

Sovereign default of the day: Foxwoods

January 11, 2010

Peter Applebome notes that dire financial situation at Foxwoods casino looks much more like a sovereign default than a run-of-the-mill commercial real-estate deal gone sour:


January 9, 2010

Neutra Face. Quite possibly the greatest YouTube video of all time. — YouTube

Why cheap Chianti is often better than the expensive stuff — Slate

“If you really want to know what a person thinks, ask for advice and he or she will open up.” — Marginal Revolution

Social cohesion and sovereign default

January 8, 2010

Gillian Tett has an interesting column today on the degree to which “social cohesion” determines whether or not a country in fiscal difficulties will end up defaulting on its debts. The Japanese, she says, are used to the idea of sharing the pain, and would probably not tear themselves apart should the country have to make painful fiscal cuts in order to remain current on its obligations. (Besides, given that 95% of Japanese government bonds are held domestically, a default would probably cause even more pain among the population as a whole.)