Thursday, July 03, 2003

OK, we laid off for a couple of days. Now we're going to give you a few more Vangua translations in the interests of cross-Atlantic harmony. Here's Barcelona Badboy Balt Porcel from last Sunday's edition:

The sales sector and the financiers are beginning to feel the economic recession and Wall Street has not believed in the new cut in interest rates decreed by the Federal Reserve and which is the lowest in the last half-century; the economy needs more consumption in order to catch a breath, that is, people need to go into debt in order to spend the money right away. But the successive recent cutbacks in the said bank rate don't seem to be helping and unemployment is up. Like the number of beggars and marginalized. And prices. And the bad quality of products.

A symptom: the number of bank robberies has tripled. But not assaults with machine guns and all the rest, now they are very discreet people who approach the window of a small bank branch, carry a revolver hidden in a newspaper, and demand the money in the drawer, 100 or 1000 dollars, and then immediately disappear. Are these family men for whom this works out better than getting a loan? Mayor Bloomberg is getting worried. His predecessor, Giuliani, became famous precisely for getting rid of crime by repressing, with wildly exaggerated force, petty crime, which he considered to be the source of hard-core crime. So, it was necessary to cut off any tolerance at the root. Is the old spiral beginning?

Oh, God. Help us all, please. Rule Number One of Punditry: Do not write about economics without ever a) having taken a university course in Econ and b) looking up a fact or two. Check out these facts: In the first quarter of 2003 American GDP increased by 1.9%. Therefore, Balt, THERE IS NOT A RECESSION. I think they teach you this on the first day of Econ 101. Balt must have skipped that class because he didn't have his textbook yet. Consumer spending was up 2.0% and several continuing studies (by the likes of the University of Michigan) consider US consumer confidence to be high. As for inflation, the Consumer Price Index was down 0.3% in April after increasing by 0.3% in March. The Producer Price Index was down 1.9%, indicating low inflation or maybe even mild deflation for summer 2003. Retail sales dropped 0.1% in April, mostly because gasoline sales dropped 5.9%, of course because of higher gas prices. Meanwhile, Balt, interest rates are low in order to further devalue the dollar and thereby increase US exports by lowering their price. As the dollar drops, the euro rises, and the euro rather than the dollar is now the currency that's overvalued; European exports are in decline (Europe's running a trade deficit of 19.4 billion euros), and if anybody's going to go into recession it's going to be Europe, which is a lot more dependent on foreign trade than the US. As for unemployment in the US, I haven't bothered to look it up because I'm almost as lazy a blogger as Porcel is a columnist, but it's either in the 5s or the low 6s. In the Eurozone it's 8.7% and Spain it's 11.5%. Also, by the way, President Bush is concerned about the United States' low business investment rate, which was down an unpleasant 4.8% in the first quarter. That is one reason he wants to reduce taxes on investment income. See, if taxes on investment income are lower, more people will want to invest more money. We need to promote not only consumption but also investment. Got that or is it too simple for you to understand, porridge-head?

Has anyone else besides Balt noticed that beggars are teeming in the streets of New York due to the nonexistent recession, or is it just the same old homeless bums as always? Has anyone else noticed skyrocketing prices? Are any of you folks out there in the Great Satan suffering through an epidemic of bad product quality? I don't went to be a jerk, but product quality is generally a good deal higher in the US than Spain, except for food products, which are better over here; especially so when you consider the comparative quality-price ratios.

Bank robberies have tripled? According to whose statistics? Source, please. The modus operandi of bank robbers, Balt, has always been what you describe. The guys with the machine guns were in something they call "movies". And, no, nobody's dad is robbing banks because he doesn't want to get a loan. That is just completely ludicrous. And what's this Giuliani police-state crap? We had that debate in the States about fifteen years ago, Balt, and it was conclusively determined (to my mind, anyway, and to James Q. Wilson's, too) that tolerated petty crime produces an atmosphere in which serious crime flourishes. You get the petty criminals (who are often also wanted serious criminals) off the streets and you produce an atmosphere in which social norms are upheld and in which hassling passers-by and picking their pockets and mugging them and painting crap on the walls and stealing motorbikes and usurping property are not tolerated. Unlike in certain Catalan cities I can name.

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