Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Timing is everything

Abramoff will also agree to cooperate in any ongoing federal investigations in Washington, said his Miami attorney Neal Sonnett. Prosecutors there are investigating several members of Congress who allegedly received favors from Abramoff or his clients. AP

Back in the '92 election campaign, Bill Clinton's team came up with the slogan, "it's the economy stupid", the sense of which was that as the economy went so did the fortunes of those in Washington. For Clinton, emphasizing economic woes was his ticket to the White House, while an aversion to any noticeably meaningful deterioration allowed him to maintain control. This articulation though overstates the degree of control I believe the powers that be have over the economy. Clinton found himself in an economic sweet spot.

The Bush team has not been so lucky. All the spin in the world is not going to do much good when gas prices double, heating oil prices triple and natural gas prices...ouch!. Yes, Clinton's 92 election slogan still seems apt.

Recalling my days in corporate land, the lesson that timing is everything comes to mind. If, as a trader, you are on a roll, raking in profits, you can do (almost) anything and management will look away. But, if you are losing, you had better get to work early, leave late and be helpful. You could likely crash your car into the Sr. VP's car in a drunken stupor and have him ask you, with all the feigned concern he could muster, if you are OK after posting a few million $s of profit in the past month but get fired for merely parking in his spot after losing US$100k.

As the winter begins to bear down on the US, while crude oil, it's products and natural gas prices begin to rise again I listen the drumbeat of scandal out of Washington DC with interest. There are good times and bad times to get caught bribing, perjuring, outing and obstructing and this winter may be one of those bad times.

I dwell on this issue for the 40% of my 3 readers (yes I know, just go with it) who come here for financial opinions. The world of fractional reserve banking is built on faith and unfortunately for those in charge, it isn't faith in the afterlife, but faith in something quite tangible, material well being. I know it's an opinion I've given before but perhaps now it seems a bit more possible, a bit closer to reality. I suggested the Watergate scandal as possible model for current times but things seem much more dire now than then, at least to me if for no other reason than that we have, in a sense, already sold many of the family jewels. In the 70s the US still had a positive net investment position.

My next post will focus on the paradigm problem, i.e. how do you speak of a collapsing paradigm using the lexicon developed therein? It is in response to Brad Setser's post, What I got wrong in 2005. I think Mr. Setser got far less wrong than he thinks.