Three More Things that Don’t Work

Telemarketing do-not-call lists. I just verified that three telephone numbers are indeed still marked as being not-callable. One of the annoying techniques in some calls is, after you answer, long pause followed by recorded voice: Good Bye. Another annoying technique is, no call-display number, or 0123456789.

Needless to say, these three phones are ringing at inconvenient times with telemarketing calls. Frequently.

Fining large corporations. If the profit is more than the fine, the company (actually its executives) made a good business decision. You will find here a news item about how GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is to pay $3bn (£1.9bn) in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. Shed no crocodile tears. Farther down in the same report these words appear: “GSK said in a statement it would pay the fines through existing cash resources.”

Amazingly, (read the article, eh?) GSK agrees to be monitored for five years. I find this fascinating. First, one implication is that normal legal oversight is insufficient. Second, the implication is, they must be more careful .. for five years.

Austerity. Slowly, world leaders and economists are expressing the blunt fact that an economy hit by reduced government spending, reduced social assistance, and increased taxation (only of the poor, not the rich nor the corporations) – that such an economy will not recover in anything like a decade, a decade of misery.

Why everyone (OK, David Olive, Paul Krugman, and the current head of France seem to get it, perhaps a few others) thinks we can grind the poor into the dirt to make payments to foreign banks, is beyond me. Social unrest is the certain outcome.

Common Currency. An excellent article in the Star over the long weekend (front page as I recall) explained what is going on with Germany. In the last seven years or so, German workers have not made any economic progress. German manufacturing has done very well, but by selling outside of Germany. To do this, German banks lent southern Euro countries lots of money. Germany’s trade surplus is apparently $200 billion a year now.

Normally, this would raise the German mark, making exports more expensive, and giving Germans more purchasing power. This could ease the trade deficit of the debtor countries. Instead, the Euro is the same in Germany and Greece. I am indebted to this article’s author for explaining that the trade deficit of the southern countries is the flip side of Germany’s trade surplus. Telling them to fix it is a bit high handed, since it was created and funded by Germany.

Naturally, Angela Merkel will try to stiff the debtor countries for every concession she can get. But she is not working for ordinary Germans. The citizenry aren’t getting much benefit from the current trade imbalance. Instead, the central banks are afraid they won’t get all of their marbles back. Perhaps they shouldn’t: when you got those interest rates, you must have guessed they weren’t T Bills. Meanwhile the corporations exporting all those very good products will lobby to help the banks get paid back.


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