Long time readers of Thoughts from the Frontline will be familiar with the name The Liscio Report. It is one of my "secret" sources of high quality analysis on a wide range of topics including taxes, employment and the underpinnings of the economic headlines that we read which can be so distorted. I say secret because they get nowhere near the attention their work deserves. Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood, authors of The Liscio Report, do actual on the phone conversations with each of the various states on their tax collections, employment and so on. I find their primary research to be invaluable. Their real time proprietary research based on state withholding and sales tax receipts gives their clients a unique insight into the state of the US economy.
I have talked them into letting me send out their most recent letter, which I found very informative. While their work is not inexpensive ($7,500 annually), for hedge funds, banks, proprietary trading desks and those who need to know what is actually happening as opposed to whatever spin is being put out in the press, you should check them out at www.theliscioreport.com.
And before we jump into their report, I feel the need to comment on the revelations this last week about Lehman and what looks like can only be called fraud. How much more of this is going on? Regulators now have a road map to know what to look for. Auditors are now on notice that this lack of transparency and cooking the books at quarter's end must not be condoned.
And while we re on the topic of transparency, for God's sake, can't we get credit default swaps on an exchange before they blow us all up again? Please? Someone? Anyone? It's been two years. It's what brought Bear and Lehman down. Bluntly, the reason the banks oppose this is that the commissions for an OTC credit default swap are astronomical when compared to what will become a $10 commission on an exchange.
OK, I'll now stop my rant, and allow you to enjoy The Liscio Report. Have a great week.
One of the best gauges of an economy is tax collections. No one pays taxes unless they have to, so collections are a real-world, real-time analysis of the US economy. And the best source I know of for tracking taxes is The Liscio Report, by Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood.
Tax collections are down. Philippa and Doug give us the actual numbers, which are not pretty. Bottom line? "What does this all mean? It suggests that the consumer retrenchment in this recession will be deep and long, and will probably continue into any recovery. The American consumer is no longer the world consumer of last resort, and that's an enormous change for both this country and the rest of the world to get used to."
You can learn more about the Liscio Report at www.theliscioreport.com. Enjoy your week.
Do government bailouts in times of banking crises work? Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood of The Liscio Report highlight a major study of 42 fairly recent banking crises around the world. Result? Some types of government intervention works and some don't. One characteristic that is needed though is speed. Dithering, a la Japan, is a recipe for disaster. This is a brief summary of the report (to which they provide a link) and their conclusions as to the basic outlines of what the US should do. Given that Europe is already in the throws of its own bank crisis, and the rest of the world could experience problems, this should be useful reading. They also provide graphs of banking crises and comparisons with developed countries and the resulting market experience.
One major point? This is like the old Fram oil filter commercial line "Pay me now or pay me later." As this study points out, the tax payers and citizens of the US (and the world) are going to pay for this crisis in one way or another. Either a major recession (with high and persistent unemployment), reduced incomes and tax collections or a collective efforts to stabilize the banking system. The costs of inaction are much higher. It is not a matter of cost or no cost. We are going to have to pay in one form or another.
We cannot avoid the costs given where we are today. The time to avoid cost was years ago reigning in Freddie and Fannie and proper oversight of the mortgage industry. We (Congress) missed that opportunity. (Sadly, we are going to re-elect the very leadership to both parties largely responsible for the neglect. There is plenty of blame to go around. No amount of partisan finger pointing by Speaker Pelosi shifts that blame.) However, we can choose the form of the cost will be paid in. Personally, I prefer collective efforts to 10% or more unemployment and the risk of an extended recession and its costs. I know this is not pure free market theory, and sticks in the craw of many of my readers, but when many of my neighbors and friends will be unemployed and businesses are suffering theory will not make a very good meal. Congress must act now. This report is a good reminder of what has worked in the past.
My thanks to Philippa and Doug for allowing me to send this as a Special Outside the Box. You can see their work and blog at http://www.theliscioreport.com.