Tuesday, August 24, 2010

While Wall Street "struggles," Fed and other bankers prepare to struggle at Jackson Hole

Peeps, really. I mean, really. I used to go to these NAEHCY (National Association for Education of Homeless Children and Youth) conferences every year with Jane, my immediate supervisor, when I worked as an Education Specialist with homeless and at-rick youth in Burlington, VT. One year I remember being in a huge room in a conference hotel in Detroit, at the keynote lunch; this guy walked in, clearly not "one of us," and started railing at us for being in a fancy hotel eating a fancy lunch, purportedly caring about the homeless people of the country, while he and others were right there practically in our faces, homeless, and would we let them into our fancy luncheon to eat? Or would we eat a less expensive meal at a less expensive place and maybe understand a little bit better what it was like to be him or countless others in his shoes?

He was escorted out. The situation caused quite a stir, as might be expected, and as I am sure he hoped. Embarrassment, hushed exclamations, shifting in seats. I thought, "Hell, let this guy stay. Sit him down, feed him lunch and ask him some questions. Get him to talk instead of yell. Have a conversation. You know, maybe not all his buddies would get a decent meal, but he showed the nerve to come out; give him some respect for that." Nah. How could that happen? Get him out and get back to "normal" as quickly as possible.

Seriously, though. I wasn't at that point, hadn't been before, and likely never will be, in a position to sit in a fancy room like that and have a fancy lunch on a regular basis. This was a kind of special occasion, but I surely would not have been disappointed if my place of employment had paid less money to send us to a less chi chi oua joint for our conference and we had dined on PBJs, or preferably baloney sandwiches, and those little bags of chips- as long as they were Lay's and not Doritos. Whatever. The ostentatious nature of the conference did feel to me a little out of whack, considering our cause.

I just thought of that when I read this article that just came in via the NYT, about how Wall Street... stocks are down, people worried about the huger drop in housing purchases last month, lowered Asian markets and so on. And then that a "gathering of Federal Reserve officials at the end of the week was also generating some apprehension, especially after the central bank’s decision to buy government debt. “There is almost a fear of what they are going to try,” Mr. Colas said.

"The Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, will address the annual symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday."

Come on, people: Jackson Hole! Every year the Kansas City Fed-sponsored event takes place here, no longer in Kansas City or even Denver. And this year the guys are going to be rafting, hanging out with a horse whisperer and other fun stuff in between their debates about economic research and crisis. At least they pay their own fees. But hellz, really, how many of these attendees know anything about what it's like to be a regular person who works for a living and maybe has to worry about losing his or her job or being able to pay rent or go to the doctor, say nothing about buying stocks? In 2007, 1% of the American population owned essentially half (49.7%) of the total investment assets in this country. (http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html)

Jackson Hole... Better them than me.

Wall Street Hit Again, This Time by Housing Data

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index ended lower Tuesday for a fourth consecutive day, unable to rebound from a disappointing report on existing-home sales.

The Nasdaq closed lower for a second day, missing a four-day losing streak by rising less than a point on Friday.

“There is basically a bubble of negativity right now,” William Smith, the president of Smith Asset Management, said. “The market has got a very short memory. It is day to day. Today it is terrible housing numbers, which were anticipated.”

The National Association of Realtors said in its latest report that existing home sales in July were at their lowest level in more than a decade. The purchases of existing homes declined 27.2 percent last month to a 3.83 million annual rate. Analysts had expected a 13.4 percent decline.

The rest at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/25/business/25markets.html?nl=&emc=aua21

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