Thing One: Truth-Telling: A night after Chris Christie promised America that his party would tell hard truths about the economy, his party's vice-presidential nominee hit the stage and told truths so damn hard you couldn't even find them.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had his Sarah Palin moment last night, in a good way, lighting up the Republican National Convention with startling charisma and energy, and a love of classic rock, cementing his position as the right's new superstar maybe forever. Ryan used his superhuman charisma powers as a force for truth, telling Americans stuff they didn't want to hear, like how President Obama closed a GM plant in Wisconsin, how Obama wants to sneak into old people's houses at night and take their Medicare, how Obama got the U.S. credit rating downgraded, how Obama strangled the Bowles-Simpson debt-reduction plan in the bathtub, how Obama's stimulus plan did nothing for the country. Nobody wants to hear that stuff, but Paul Ryan is not afraid to say it.
Except, as The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim -- and pretty much every other political commentator in America, including one employed by Fox News -- points out, these claims stretch the truth, or in some cases drive the truth out to the pine barrens and shoot it in the head. Ryan voted against the Bowles-Simpson debt-reduction plan. The U.S. credit rating got downgraded because of the debt-ceiling crisis deliberately caused by House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan's famous budget plan only "works," to the extent it actually works, if you cut the same amount of money from Medicare that Obama took -- from providers, not from benefits, notes Brian Beutler of TalkingPointsMemo. Paul Ryan requested some of those same worthless stimulus funds, points out New York magazine's Dan Amira.
And the biggest whopper of all is that story about the GM plant. Turns out it closed in 2008, before Obama was even in office. Why does Obama have a time machine that allows him to retroactively destroy America? For his next trick, one can only assume that he will next go back and slap George Washington in the mouth with his Kenyan birth certificate. All this comes at a convention obsessively focused on two other falsehoods, the "We Built It" meme and the idea that Obama has gutted welfare reform. Look, sure, fact-checkers are for wimps. But maybe we should start to get concerned that a political party could very soon take control of the U.S. economy, not as a result of offering any concrete plan for fixing it, but after being as misleading as it possibly can about it.
Thing Two: Citi Settles CDO Suits Down By The Seashore: Citigroup agreed to pay $590 million to settle a lawsuit brought by investors who claimed the bank gambled recklessly with collateralized debt obligations and then was slow to realize they'd put their money in a giant blender and then tried to hide how much money they were losing. The bank denied any wrongdoing, but still agreed to pay one of the larger settlements coming out of the financial crisis (though still arguably not large enough).
Thing Three: The China-Iran Connection: Federal prosecutors are giving the stinkeye to some Chinese banks, after finding evidence they may have funneled money through their American branches to Iran and other nations non grata, The New York Times reports. This comes after settlements by Standard Chartered and HSBC of charges they turned a blind eye to money laundering by Iranians and other undesirables.
Thing Four: Fifteen Days In September: September is almost here, and you know what that means: It's financial crisis season! The likeliest source of a financial crisis this year is, once again, Europe. Bloomberg writes that European policy makers have just 15 days from the start of the month to get the crisis solved, or all hell will break loose in the bond markets. Of course, we've heard these threats before. But given the time of year and how unusually quiet Europe has been lately, we shouldn't ignore the warning. Fortunately, China says it will maybe come to the rescue and buy European bonds.
Thing Five: Banks Reluctant To Help Homeowners: In news that may well blow your mind, it turns out that the banks who agreed to help underwater homeowners as part of a settlement of charges that they had abused the mortgage-foreclosure system are not exactly rushing to help underwater homeowners. The Huffington Post's Ben Hallman looks through an early report on the progress of the much-ballyhooed settlement and finds that just about 7,000 borrowers have been helped, with another 28,000 or so applications being processed. That's still a long way away from the 1 million that HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said will eventually get help.
Thing Six: Bernanke's Tough Job: The Commerce Department yesterday revised up slightly its estimate of economic growth in the second quarter, to a 1.7 percent annualized rate from 1.5 percent before. Both numbers suck! And so a nation turns its lonely eyes to Ben Bernanke, who will speak at a Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, tomorrow. The market kinda-sorta hopes that he'll promise another round of quantitative easing to help the lousy economy, although that seems unlikely. The Washington Post suggests Bernanke is running out of firepower anyway. That may not be true, but Bernanke is probably reluctant to use whatever ammo he does have.
Thing Seven: Least-Loved Credit Rating Agent Departs: Mark Adelson, who pushed Standard & Poor's to use tougher credit-rating standards, which contributed to its downgrade of the US credit rating, has left the company, the WSJ writes. A big guy who pounded tables and played with knives during meetings, he was not exactly beloved at the company or in the markets, the WSJ writes.
Thing Seven And One Half: Eat Up! Go ahead and have that order of fries -- eating less isn't going to help you live any longer. That is the good news from a new study that contradicts a bunch of other studies that have suggested that restricting caloric intake could extend your lifespan.
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Calendar Du Jour:
8:30 a.m. ET: Weekly jobless claims for 8/25
8:30 a.m. ET: Personal income and spending for July
Heard On The Tweets:
@davidmwessel: Attn Paul Ryan: Jack Kemp was no fan of cutting spending. Tax cuts, yes. Spending cuts, no. #gop2012
@ritholtz: INCOME is the economy; GDP is a crafted political metric, like CPI + the NFP (income fell from 3.8% in Q1 to 0.6% in Q2) $$
And you can follow me on Twitter, too: @markgongloff
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