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Easy Street

Easy Street: Pension troubles, why we need Fed presidents, and the stock market as Charlie Sheen

Heidi Moore May 3, 2011
Easy Street

Easy Street: Pension troubles, why we need Fed presidents, and the stock market as Charlie Sheen

Heidi Moore May 3, 2011

Easy Street is Marketplace’s daily roundup of the most interesting news stories and commentary about Wall Street, Washington and the curious world of finance. You can see more of what Marketplace thinks are the biggest stories of the day on our News in Brief page. Every day, you can download Marketplace’s daily show on iTunes and follow us at twitter.com/mktplaceradio.


At least two more years of Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs, reports the New York Post. As some tweeters suggest, he either saw his shadow or his bonus.

Superman, tax dodger.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which backstops the pensions of 44 million Americans, is having financial problems and looking to raise premiums on corporations who are making a lot more money but not necessarily contributing more money to their pension funds.

Bank lending: Are banks lending? Are they not? Don’t ask the Fed, because its recent survey doesn’t say anything definitive. But it seems banks are finally loosening the spigot faster than ever – and sadly, even that is not enough.

Treasury bonds: Government bonds have a new savings rate: 4.6%. That’s a heck of a lot better than the current rate, .74%. And it means that people buying government bonds (at least, between now and Halloween) might actually make some respectable interest on them.

Related: Bill Gross is the CEO of PIMCO, a powerful bond fund. He is currently best known for betting against U.S. Treasury bonds. He also sleeps in a t-shirt and jockey shorts while his wife favors a closetful of fluffy, snowy white robes. Read his latest, entertaining investor letter just like the pros do.

The curse of the rising stock market: It may seem like a good thing that stocks only go up – but it’s not. For one thing, when all stocks go up – both good and bad – it makes it more confusing for professional investors. For another thing, it hurts a key investing strategy: short-selling, or betting against certain companies. For instance, David Einhorn, the famous short-seller who correctly persecuted Lehman Brothers, is now shutting down some of his investments because the market is too positive.

Related: In Einhorn’s investor letter, he compares the stock market to Charlie Sheen.

The Washington Matrix

Fed games: Barney Frank is suggesting a new law that the Fed eliminate five of its regional presidents. He’s upset because they don’t require Congressional confirmation. But that’s exactly the point. These are exactly the people who make sure that the Fed is not beholden to the Washington bubble.

Related: My article last year for Slate on why we need Fed presidents. The short answer: because it’s their job to listen to the rest of the country, outside of New York and Washington. They are also smart, entertaining instigators of disagreement over Fed policy.

Related: “People attracted to the Federal Reserve tend to like bankers and their banks.”

The debt ceiling: Geithner heaves a heavy sigh and says, fine, he’ll play some accounting tricks to keep the U.S. from default. While questionable in its implications (do we want the Treasury Secretary openly playing games with the U.S.’s bills?), this seems to suit Washington just fine.

Recreational reading

Torture: It didn’t wring any confessions that led to Bin Laden’s capture.

Bin Laden and his household consumed Pepsi and Coca-Cola in equal amounts. They also favored high-end milk, soap and shampoo.

The Bronx Zoo, fresh from the escape and re-capture of a teenaged Egyptian cobra, has a new, adorable baby zebra. Those wacky animal kids.

Is a college education essentially worthless?

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