Opinion

The Great Debate

Fed’s wondrous printing press profits

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– James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are is own. –

Now finally we see what it takes to be a profitable bank with no capital worries and secure funding: own a printing press.

Sadly, since it is the Federal Reserve showing record $46 billion profits last year we have to conclude that, though it is a fool-proof plan, it’s not really scalable.

Combine news of the Fed’s biggest profit in its 95-year history with a report from the Troubled Asset Relief Program that its investments in banks are now showing a $7 billion gain and you’d be forgiven for concluding that this whole bailout malarkey is the next best thing to striking oil.

The two notional profits are of course related and prove little more than that if you have bottomless pockets you can make the price of a given asset rise. And while the trick for the Fed will be in how it exits its currently profitable positions, the real costs are more complicated and potentially much greater.

American intelligence and fortune-telling

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– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own —

Hot on the heels of  what President Barack Obama called a potentially disastrous “screw-up” by the civilian intelligence community, here comes a devastating report on shortcomings of military intelligence in Afghanistan, by the officer in charge of it. He likens the work of analysts to fortune-telling.

The report is highly unusual both because of its almost brutal candor and the way it was published, outside military channels. Even more unusual: the three authors hold out journalistic skills as models to emulate for gathering and putting together intelligence.

The Underwear Bomber and the war of ideas

- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Who is winning the war of ideas between the West and al Qaeda’s hate-driven version of  Islam?

It is a question that merits asking again after a  23-year-old Western-educated Nigerian of privileged background, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to murder almost 300 people by bringing down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day with  explosives sewn into the crotch of his underpants.

The administration of President Barack Obama, averse to the bellicose language of George W. Bush, has virtually dropped the  phrase “war of ideas.” But that doesn’t mean it has ended. Or that Obama’s plea, in his Cairo speech this summer, for a new  beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world  has swayed the disciples of Osama bin Laden, whose 1998 fatwa  (religious ruling) against “Jews and Crusaders” remains the  extremists’ guiding principle.

Obama, drugs and common sense

bernddebusmann.jpg– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed  are his own –

Barack Obama, January 21, 2004: “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws…we need to rethink how we’re operating in the drug war. Currently, we are not doing a good job.”

Amen to that!

Since President Richard Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1969, seven successive administrations have spent billions upon billions on eradicating drug crops abroad, blocking shipments at the country’s borders, and enforcing tough drug laws at home. They failed to curb demand or throttle supplies.

Burning borrowed money in America’s wars

— Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. —

The Pentagon has an evocative term for the level of spending on a war: burn rate. In Afghanistan, it has been running at around $5 million every hour for much of the year. The burn rate will begin going up next week when the first of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops arrive.

Once they are all in place, the burn rate is estimated to exceed $10 million an hour, or more than $8 billion a month. Much of that is literally burned — in the engines of American jeeps, trucks, tanks, aircraft and power generators. On average, each of the 183,000 soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq requires 22 gallons of fuel a day, according to a study by the international accounting firm Deloitte.

Unemployment to stay above 10 percent in 2010

morici– Peter Morici is a Professor at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland, and former Chief Economist at the United States International Trade Commission. The views –

The economy continues to bleed jobs, even as GDP rebounds. Employment may be a lagging indicator, but job losses should have abated by now even if a lot of new jobs are not being added.

Coming off a deep recession, GDP growth should have been much stronger than the 2.8 percent recorded in the third quarter. A poorly conceived and badly executed stimulus package and the failure to correct structural problems that caused the Great Recession are holding down growth.

War and Peace, by Barack Obama

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

It is a timeline rich in irony. On Dec. 10, Barack Obama will star at a glittering ceremony in Oslo to receive the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. That’s just nine days after he ordered 30,000 additional American troops into a war many of his fellow citizens think the U.S. can neither win nor afford.

Whether the sharp escalation of the war in Afghanistan he ordered on December 1 will achieve its stated aim – disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: more troops equals more fighting equals more deaths — of soldiers, insurgents and the hapless civilians caught in the middle. Not exactly a scenario of peace.

America’s perennial Vietnam syndrome

cfcd208495d565ef66e7dff9f98764da.jpg –  Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Prophetic words they were not. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all…The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Thus spoke a euphoric President George H.W.Bush early in March, 1991, shortly after the 100-hour ground war that chased Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the oil-rich U.S. ally they had invaded and occupied in the summer of 1990.

Obama fails small businesses

georgecloutier1 George A. Cloutier, a graduate of Harvard Business School, is the founder and CEO of American Management Services, one of the nation’s largest turnaround and management services firms specializing in small and mid-size companies. The opinions of George Cloutier are his own and do not represent those of the United States Conference of Mayors or Partner America. –

President Obama gets an “F” for his small business program. The SBA has guaranteed a paltry 50,000 loans  to the nation’s 29 million small businesses – that’s .0017. Loan volume is down 36 percent from 2008 and 50 percent from 2007. Obama and his advisers have actually done the unimaginable; they have reduced the flow of aid to small businesses in the face of a deep recession. The program’s bank lenders have left $15 billion on the table due to “regulatory problems.” Even an administration plan to provide lending to 70,000 vehicle dealers has no takers and failed.

Administration “experts” allocated less than 1 percent of the stimulus bill to small business. It’s mind-boggling that Washington ignores the biggest economic sector in the country employing 60 million people, producing 50 percent of GDP, and creating 70 percent of new jobs.

Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies: you’ve got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not “a lovey-dovey kind of guy”.

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

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