Marketplace Scratch Pad

Morning Reading

Scott Jagow Jun 15, 2009

Young people are having to make some tough choices in this economy. That’s the focus of a reporting collaboration between NPR’s Morning Edition and PBS’s Newshour. It’s called Generation Next, and it’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed reading this morning:

Today on Morning Edition, Judy Woodruff talked to Quentin Johnson of Oklahoma. He used to work in the oil business but hopes to get into wind power instead. Only, he can’t get a job yet. Recently, his former boss offered him his old oil gig back, and he turned it down:

“It was $2,000 for every two weeks. That’s pretty tough for anyone to turn down,” Johnson says. “But I knew it might not be a long-term job. They might drill one hole with that rig and stack it back out, and I’d be out of a job again. So the more I thought about it, the better off I knew I’d be if I just tough it out and go with the wind.”

The Globe and Mail has a neat story about how Halifax, Nova Scotia is trying to capitalize on the economic downturn. They’re aggressively recruiting former Wall Streeters:

More than 500 financial professionals, many of them junior analysts, traders, and sales people, crowded into a Manhattan wine bar to network, sip cocktails, and swap business cards. Those looking for work wore fluorescent pink bracelets; those looking to hire, like Mr. Lund, wore green ones.

“For us, its exposure in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s really creating awareness. We’re positioning [Halifax] as a world financial centre.”

Plenty of cities have made that boast, but few have actually backed it up. And while it might be fanciful to think Halifax could become a world-class financial hub, it is making encouraging strides.

The Times of London has a searing column that puts a lot of blame for the financial crisis on former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The Times says Paulson’s misuse of mark-to-market accounting rules was a complete disaster:

Anyone who doubts the importance of individuals in economic history should recall that the single worst day of last autumn’s entire financial crisis, as measured by the widening of risk spreads on interbank credit, was September 23. That was the day Mr Paulson appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to explain what he wanted to do with the $700 billion he had requested from Congress. This was the moment when everyone realised the world’s most powerful economic official did not know what he was doing.

Once the key role of personalities and financial policies is recognised, it is hardly surprising that things began to improve almost as soon as Mr Paulson was replaced by a competent Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.

In the Washington Post, Charles Lane questions whether the GM and Chrysler bailouts were even constitutional:

If Congress meant TARP for the auto companies, then why did it leave them off the law’s list of “financial institutions”? Why did it spend much of December trying — and failing — to pass a separate auto bailout? In its court filing, the Obama administration insists that Treasury’s interpretation of the law’s “ambiguous” definition is “entitled to judicial deference.” In other words, if Treasury wants to call a car company a bank for the sake of the economy, the courts should let it.

John Tamny writes for Forbes about the flipside of the recession — it’s a time of great opportunity:

In that sense, the answer to our sagging economy today is not more government intervention, but instead a humble federal government that will sit back and let the economy heal itself. The flipside of economic failure is economic opportunity, and it’s time for Washington to get out of the way so that individuals can turn misfortune into opportunity.

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