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  • Unintended Consequences

    For every government law hurriedly passed in response to a current or recent crisis, there will be two or more unintended consequences, which will have equal or greater negative effects then the problem it was designed to fix. A corollary is that unelected institutions are at least as bad and possibly worse than elected governments. A further corollary is that laws passed to appease a particular group, whether voters or a particular industry, will have at least three unintended consequences, most of which will eventually have the opposite effect than the intended outcomes and transfer costs to innocent bystanders.

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  • An Irish Haircut

    Just as only four short years ago it was All Subprime, All the Time, and then it was the Credit Crisis, now it is Europe. (When) will Greece default and which banks will implode as a result? Is there another banking crisis in our future? I just came back from a whirlwind four-country visit to Europe, and I will try to offer a few insights. This week we start with Ireland, move to the problem of Europe at large and, if we're not out of space (and your patience!), we'll visit some last-minute data points. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump right in.

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  • Tough Choices, Big Opportunities

    This week I am in Ireland and going from meeting to meeting with a wide variety of people. And this week's letter is a wide-ranging interview with me, conducted by that doyen of financial-world interviews, Kate Welling. She really is one of the best, and she has graciously given me permission to share the interview with you this week, while I am researching next week's letter on Ireland and Europe. I hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I did recording it.

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  • Kicking the Can to the End of the Road

    In This Issue:

    The Biggest Bubble of Them All
    Ireland is a Different Story
    Kicking the Can to the End of the Road
    Philly, Boston, Trequanda, Kiev, Geneva and London

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  • Thinking the Unthinkable

    Last week, in the first part of my annual forecast, I suggested that 2011 would be better than Muddle Through, with GDP growth in the US north of 2.5%. World GDP growth should be even better. This week we look at what I see as the real downside risks to that prediction. Oddly enough, the risks are not in the US but on the other side of both our oceans, in Europe and China. Plus, we will visit a few other items, assuming we have space (Bernanke’s recent speech just screams for some comments).

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  • Kicking the Can Down the Road

    How often did we as young kids go down the street kicking a can? 'Kicking the can down the road' is a universally understood metaphor that has come to mean not dealing with the problem but putting a band-aid on it, knowing we will have to deal with something maybe even worse in the future.

    While the US Congress is certainly an adept player at that game, I think the world champions at the present time have to be the political and economic leaders of Europe. Today we look at the extent of the problem and how it could affect every corner of the world, if not played to perfection. Everything must go mostly right or the recent credit crisis will look like a walk in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris in April compared to what could ensue.

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  • Texas, Ireland and Ten Little Indians

    Why is it that the Irish must take upon themselves the debts of their banks, which in reality are debts owed to German and French banks? Why should the Germans bail out the Greeks and the Spanish? Is the spread of 'contagion' starting to taint the debt of Italy and even Belgium, the home of the EU? This week we look over the pond (of the Atlantic) and wonder how all these things will end. As I noted last week, we are getting a string of not so bad news out of the US, so now there are really just two things in the short term to worry about (at least in terms of a positive US GDP): will Congress extend the Bush tax cuts and will Europe sort itself out?

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  • First, Let's Lower the Bar

    China's currency is rising ever so slowly against the dollar. But is that hurting China? We will look at a very interesting chart and some research. And then we'll gain some more insight into why the employment numbers seemed to surprise. I guess if you lower the bar, it's easier to jump over. I also deal with the pushback from last week's Outside the Box! And Ireland is on my radar. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump in.

    I start this week's letter on a flight from Cleveland (where I was at the Cleveland Clinic meeting with my good friend and doctor Mike Roizen (of Oprah and the various 'YOU' books with Mehmet Oz) on some non-health-related business, and we talked last night about the state of health care. Mike keeps pointing out that much of our health-care cost comes from chronic diseases that are either directly or partially lifestyle choices. And he is right. The data shows it. Smoking, overeating, lack of exercise - all contribute to our health-care bills. And health care was on my mind.

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