Carnegie conversations: Democracy under siege

What happens when a Professor of Economics gets his hands on the economic levers of a country in the eye of the financial storm? Yanis Varoufakis’ seven month stint as Greece’s Minister of Finance took him into the heart of the Eurogroup, the IMF, and the continent’s top decision-making bodies. With bluntness and force, he put the case for a different solution to Greece’s ills and accused the country’s creditors of terrorism. Telling Bloomberf “I wouldprefer to cut my arm off” rather than accept a bailout that did not involve debt restructuring, Varoufakis did not make friends among the Eurocrats. Sharing his first-hand view of the global financial system and what is means for ordinary citizens and governments when things go wrong, Yanis Varoufakis discusses his experience at the intersection of politics and economics in theory and practice. Here is a direct video link.

The formal speech lasts for about 20 minutes. The discussion afterwards is also worthwhile.

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Excessive calories compounding inequality and disadvantage for kids

A comprehensive UK government report on Childhood obesity was released yesterday. The issues and findings are virtually the same in the UK as in North America.

The bottom line is that kids are being set up for potentially lasting disadvantage and inequality by being fed excessive caloric intake by the adults in their lives.  Too many calories, is the primary contributor to obesity today and this is virtually impossible to counter through treatments and physical activity alone.  The costs of not ensuring a healthy level of daily intake are exponential.  Read Childhood obesity–brave and bold action:

“One fifth of children are overweight or obese when they begin school, and this figure increases to one third by the time they leave primary school. Furthermore, the most deprived children are twice as likely to be obese both at Reception and at Year 6 than the least deprived children. Obesity is not only a serious and growing problem for individual children and the wider population, it is also a significant contributor to health inequality.

…Few effective interventions are in place to help those children identified as overweight or obese, making it all the more important to focus on prevention. The recommendations we make in this report have a strong focus on changing the food environment, reflecting the evidence we have heard. The evidence shows that information campaigns aimed at promoting healthier choices generally tend to help those who are already engaged with health, and may therefore only serve to widen health inequalities. Similarly, although physical activity has enormous benefits, regardless of weight, encouraging people to increase their physical activity levels alone is unlikely to have an impact on the obesity crisis. The Government should not lose sight of the clear evidence that measures to improve the food environment to reduce calorie intake must lie at the heart of a successful strategy.”

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Paris climate conference big picture

Good summary…

World leaders are descending on Paris for the COP 21 climate conference. What are they trying to accomplish? Here is a direct video link.

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Words to the wise on money decisions

Something we should always keep in mind when considering spending and investment options:  bad financial choices are often motivated by ego rather than common sense.

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Holiday debt: the gift that keeps taking

With all the bright lights and cheer of the holidays we can lose track of what’s really important – our money.

No one wants to be a killjoy, but runaway debt can really kill the joy when bills start rolling in come January.

As it stands, the average Canadian household owes $1.65 for every dollar it brings in each year. That’s way up from 20 years ago when we owed less than we made.

Sure, the high cost of housing accounts for most of the gain through mortgage debt, but according to credit rating agency TransUnion the average consumer owes $21,247 in non-mortgage debt.

And that debt can add up at a meteoric pace – especially on credit card balances. Here is a direct video link.

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Some history on realty busts: Canada not immune

I still recall in 1980, when my middle class parents bought three rental houses in one weekend because the values had fallen 50% and the rental income generously covered the maintenance costs. At that point, there were few buyers willing and able to purchase because most went into the downturn unprepared and heavily levered.  It doesn’t have to be that way when we plan for the mean reversion phase in advance.

Edward Saxe experienced Toronto’s last housing boom and bust cycle.

During the housing boom of the late eighties the veteran Toronto real estate appraiser worked around the clock. When the founder of Edjline Appraisal Services bought a family home in North Toronto in 1989, he experienced the bust.

“I bought my property in October, moved in in May and between the time I purchased and the time I closed it had probably dropped 25-to-30 percent in value,” Saxe told BNN.

It turned into one of the most severe housing busts in recent memory. Between 1989 and 1996 prices in the Greater Toronto Area collapsed. In some neighborhoods, prices for some homes were cut in half. It would be more than a decade before they returned to their peak.  Here is a direct video link.

See also Fort Mcmurray’s fall: A housing bust hits Canada’s energy boom town.

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