Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We will now begin our descent. Fasten your seatbelts.

I don't think I'm a genius for predicting interest rates were due to rise, but apparently many people were surprised by this sudden turn of events, and are responding to the change by.... er, assuming a mountain of debt while they're still allowed to. But don't worry - this couple won't spend more than they can afford. They're both personal fitness trainers! I gather that's a lucrative career.

So, today. A day later. The Conference Board of Canada says that twenty percent of Canadians can't afford their housing. But instead of laying the responsibility on the shoulders of housing inflation completely disconnected from the rest of the economy, "The report found that private-sector developers have tended to focus on building homes that are aimed at higher income Canadians." Just to be clear, one builder in Edmonton will sell you a 1200 square foot house in Leduc for $320K. Going by a standard affordability calculation, which says that historically a house should cost about three times the family's annual income, this would be aimed at higher income Edmontonians, the average family earning just over $90K/year. But I don't think anyone is mistaking 1200 sq. ft. as a mansion, nor Leduc as a lucrative location. In other words, I think the Conference Board of Canada is smoking crack.

The easy money has been flowing, and it's kept housing prices hyperinflated. But this isn't the tulip bubble - the Conference Board's report makes clear that overpriced homes have real consequences for real people. The piper will have to be paid. The day will arrive sooner than anyone seems to think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

International news

So the United States finally has public health insurance.

What? Really?

Okay, so the United States finally has universal health coverage.

No! Really?

So, I'm led to believe that the United States finally has health coverage extended to many more people. Yes? Whew!

Anyway, David Frum explains the difference in the interests of the Republican Party and the Conservative Entertainment Industry, and how the health care bill illustrates that the former is paying the price for the selfish interests of the latter. Gosh, that's too bad, Republicans! Boo hoo hoo! Maybe if you'd call out Glenn Beck's bullshit or quit apologising to Rush Limbaugh, this wouldn't have happened! But you didn't! Boo hoo hoo!

Friday, March 19, 2010

And now, Inflation

Just a week ago, analysts were expressing concern about the rising dollar and inproved job situation, and hoping for an interest rate increase much sooner than September, Mark Carney's hoped-for date of moving from zero. Those analysts are worried that, while we all want the economy to recover from recession (and for jobs to appear in greater numbers), if we overshoot, we can move into an inflationary spiral.

Well, this morning, StatsCan reported 2.1% inflation for February, much higher than expected. The Bank of Canada really only has one lever to pull, and so I expect interest rates must start upward sooner than Carney wanted. If the supply of essentially free money in the economy isn't choked off, too many dollars will continue to compete for too few goods and services, and inflation goes much higher than anyone wants.

The only good news in this situation is that after Carney's extensive promises of holding the rate through the summer, it won't take much of an interest rate hike to have an overcompensating psychological effect. This good news is its own bad news as well, though - the recovery is still fragile enough that even a shot across the bow could shatter it. What's a Governor of the Bank of Canada to do?

I think, in having to choose between a little medicine now or a lot later, the correct choice is obvious.

Either way, we're rapidly reaching the end of fire sale interest rates. This will have an obvious cooling effect on the housing market. And since I think the housing market is already hyper-inflated (Follow the full story here, here, here, here, and here), this is another reason why a little medicine now beats requiring a lot later.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Generational theft

In the face of a growing deficit and lower oil and gas prices, the provincial government has elected to return to the sort of fire-sale royalty rates we charged for our oil and gas before Ed Stelmach was elected leader of his party on the promise of a review of those rates.

So, unlike other jurisdictions that have responded to major recessions with one-time infusions of cash into their economies, Alberta is responding to an oil-price-related slowdown of our overheated economy with a price cut on our resources that will forgo $363 million in revenue for each of the next two years, and unknown amounts beyond that, while hoping to deplete our finite resources more quickly. In fact, if they don't, this policy will be called a failure.

Because the only thing better than leaving our children with a debt burden is making sure they don't have the natural resources to sell in order to help pay for our greed. Hilarious!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Another reason I preferred Stephane Dion

POGGe has been pointing out occasions when Israeli Apartheid Week, described as a "pro-Palestinian teach-in" on university campuses across the country and indeed around the world, has exposed several of our nation's leaders as anywhere between timid mouthers of platitudes to rabidly pro-Likud and pro-occupation and expansion.

Among the first set are people who are frightened by the use of the word "apartheid". Ontario legislators unanimously passed a resolution condemning IAW, claiming among other things that
The term "Israeli Apartheid Week" incites "hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and the use of the word 'apartheid' in this context diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa," said [Ontario Tory MPP and resolution mover, Peter] Shurman.
Compare this to Desmond Tutu, who aparently is willing to diminish his own suffering, because he compares Israeli government policies to apartheid, arguing that they neither respect human rights nor the rule of law in their relationship with the Palestinian people, whatever the Ontario Legislature might say.

Which brings me to the title of my post. Micheal Ignatieff has condemned IAW, implying it is anti-Semetic, racist, and intolerant. Never mind that his earlier descriptions suggest he understands the situation on the ground just fine; this most recent statement regarding IAW shows he is willing to be cowed by a sufficiently strong lobby. At least our current government is honestly taking a side in the conflict, even if it is the side of the oppressing government.

Calling Israel's policy in the occupied territories "apartheid" is certainly tough language. But condemning that language serves to stifle the debate, to stifle criticism, not the other way around as Ignatieff claims.