Science has determined that people need to know 7.5 things per day, on average, about the world of business. You can't argue with science. Lucky for you, the Huffington Post has an email newsletter, delivered first thing every weekday morning, boiling down the day's biggest business news into the 7.5 things you absolutely need to know. And we're giving it away free, because we love you, and also science. Here you go:
Thing One: Trilateral Bildergerg Grove: They meet in secret to hatch their plans. They speak in a language all their own. The fate of the entire world is at their command. They are ... the MIT-educated central bankers.
The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath and Brian Blackstone gave conspiracy theorists the heebie-jeebies this morning with a story about how the world's top central bankers meet in secret regularly to talk about their crazy experiment of pumping money into the global economy to see what happens. The three leaders of this cabal -- the Federal Reserve's Ben Bernanke, the European Central Bank's Mario Draghi and the Bank of England's Mervyn King -- all have spent time at MIT. This thing goes deeper than you can imagine, obviously. We're through the looking glass, man!
Actually, it's not all that surprising that our economies are run by econo-nerds, nor is it all that surprising that they'd talk once in a while. It's also sadly not all that surprising that they are flooding the global economy with cash, taking all sorts of risks, because their politically elected counterparts are so busy working against the global economy, by ratcheting up austerity measures in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. Somebody's got to do something, and that somebody is the econo-nerds.
The leader of this secretive pack, Bernanke's Federal Reserve, ends its two-day policy meeting today. Bernanke will give another of his uncomfortable press conferences later this afternoon, where he will try very hard to explain to mortals what the Fed is doing without saying too much. The Fed is widely expected to add billions more to its latest bond-buying, cash-pumping scheme, despite the fact that most economists want it to stop, according to a WSJ poll.
The economics profession, another secretive cabal, worries about all of the imaginary inflation that the Fed is theoretically creating. But the bond market sees absolutely no sign of it, points out Bloomberg. As another secretive central banker, the Bank of Japan's Masaaki Shirakawa (Universities of Tokyo, Chicago and Kyoto) can tell you, inflation can stay gone for a long, long time, if you're not careful.
Thing Two: Cliff Watch! Twenty-four hours ago, the press was full of hope about fiscal cliff talks. Now, all hope is lost. President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner exchanged offers yesterday, but they did little to advance the discussions, according to the Washington Post. The White House wonders if Boehner can even get the votes to approve any deal, The New York Times frets. Meanwhile, small businesses are FREAKING THE HELL OUT over the fiscal cliff, according to a survey by the not-at-all politically hacky National Federation of Independent Business, or NAMBLA for short. Probably because they watch too much CNBC, or spend too much time listening to the NFIB.
Meanwhile, the cliff-deal table is groaning with all the concessions that are being piled up on it. Corporate tax rates are on the table, says the WSJ. Municipal-bond tax breaks are also on the table. A bunch of CEOs walked in yesterday and dropped tax hikes for the wealthy on the table. Not yet on that table are the last-ditch economic-stimulus measures the White House hopes to get passed as part of a deal, report Ryan Grim and Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.
Thing Three: Et Tu, Michigan? The Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan, long a bastion of organized labor in this country, yesterday voted to weaken the power of unions in the state. Though Democrats and unions vowed to strike back in the next election, it was another in a series of blows dealt to organized labor in recent decades, blows that of course have nothing at all to do with this country's stagnant wages and widening income inequality. Nothing at all. Wages are 10 percent lower in right-to-work states, a WSJ story begins -- before quoting some economists, including "an antiunion research group," who shoot holes in that observation. Meanwhile, Rhode Island is now fighting over curbs to public-employee retiree benefits.
Thing Four: The Fed Doesn't Let Banks Have Any Fun: When it's not busy running the world, the Fed is infringing on banks' God-given right to buy other banks, the WSJ writes. Several times this year, the Fed has nixed too-big-to-fail banks' plans to buy other big banks and thus get even bigger and failier, according to the WSJ.
Thing Five: Too Big To Jail: Maybe the Fed is skittish because the banks we already have are not only too big to fail, but also too big to jail, as the government's dainty, kid-glove treatment of HSBC demonstrates. The Justice Department yesterday detailed how HSBC let drug lords and other bad guys launder billions through its branches, but then gave the bank a wrist slap because they were afraid doing more would wreck the global economy. HSBC will spend $700 million to make sure its customers aren't drug lords, though, the Financial Times writes, so that's something.
Thing Six: Small Stakes: While trumpeting its sort-of-profitable exit from American International Group as loudly as possible, the Treasury Department is being more quiet about its not-so-profitable exit from a bunch of smaller banks, the WSJ writes. Treasury still has post-bailout stakes in 229 banks, owing the government about $8 billion, according to the WSJ.
Thing Seven: Big Lots Executives Awesome At Stock-Market Timing: It turns out that all the executives at Big Lots have uncanny timing when selling Big Lots stock, the WSJ reports. Ten of them managed to dump $23 million in stock just ahead of bad news that crushed the company's share price, the WSJ says. This comes after Big Lots CEO Steven Fishman announced his abrupt retirement just before Big Lots announced a government investigation of his trades in Big Lots shares. Some people are just lucky, I guess.
Thing Seven And One Half: Viva Hate: Here is a list of 22 really stupid things that happened in 2012 that absolutely must end in 2013, via Gawker. I can't say I disagree with any of them, particularly the Twitter stuff. And the Instagram stuff. And the toe shoes. Et cetera.
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Calendar Du Jour:
12:30 p.m. ET: Federal Reserve interest-rate decision
2:15 p.m. ET: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke press conference and tractor pull
Heard On The Tweets:
Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.
— Benedict XVI (@Pontifex) December 12, 2012
I almost wrote "newshounds" instead of "boozehounds," but you know, potato, potahto.
â�� Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) December 10, 2012
We get it, it's 12/12/12 tomorrow. This is the only tweet on the internet that should mention it. Bye.
â�� Dr. Jeff Baker (@nerdfaced) December 11, 2012
If you're BORED of hearing about a monkey in shearling coat running around a furniture store then I just feel sorry for you.
â�� Mike Scollins (@mikescollins) December 11, 2012
I like getting recognized in public, but I hate when it's for that one time I projectile vomited on my friend's living room wall at party.
â�� Pauly Casillas (@PaulyPeligroso) December 11, 2012
#MyFavoriteMovieQuote"love is like chocolate, dogs cant eat it" forest gump
â�� Brendans Tender Nips (@80want) December 11, 2012
-- Tweets and calendar rounded up by Alexis Kleinman.
And you can follow me on Twitter, too: @markgongloff