Thursday, May 06, 2010

C.ollectively O.verpaid - are P.eople S.urprised?

Interesting story today on one of the last growth industries in our paranoid country - law enforcement.

From Boston - $250k cops.

"Robert Ciccolo earned almost $237,000 as a police captain in the hackney unit — $37,000 of it attributed largely to staying late, doing paperwork.

His cousin, Steven Ciccolo, a lieutenant in South Boston, took in nearly $248,000, a salary made larger by almost $54,000 for patrolling parades, filling in for other officers, and testifying in court.

And James Claiborne, a popular captain who retired last year, made about $248,000, boosting his annual salary by almost $44,000, largely by going to community meetings and events in a high-crime district that covers Mattapan and North Dorchester.

These three officers were among the department’s top 10 earners in 2009. The highest-paid officer took home $272,000, and another earned $265,000; the other eight earned between $237,000 and $248,000."

There should be a cap on these salaries to prevent overtime abuse. Once you hit $125k or some other number that seems appropriate you should become a salaried employee and not subject to overtime pay. Watch how fast that paperwork gets done when there's no overtime pay.

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Just for laughs you have to check out the Chinglish slideshow at NY Times.com

I saw a number of these signs around the time of the Beijing Olympics, but it doesn't make them any less funny now :)

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A couple of thoughts on the market: it's starting to gain a little steam to the downside and some pretty powerful investors have indicated they are bailing and looking for short opportunities. I think we'll get another relief rally at some point but then the big money might get REALLY short.

Europe doesn't seem to be able to get out of it's own way. China's stock market has fallen to 8 mth lows and no one seems to notice. Remember China, Australia, and Canada (both Canada and Australia are likely to experience their bubble bursts in coming years, but that's another story for another day) are the global bright spots thanks to their commodity exposure. However, there seems to be some increased fear gripping the globe and this is leading to a strengthening US $ which does a few things - it should ultimately cut commodity prices, lighten our debt load a bit, and hurts US corporations selling abroad. One of the untold stories of the boom in earnings is that it's been largely due to weakness in the US dollar. That could reverse fairly quickly.

Freddie came back to Washington with their hat in hand asking for another $10 billion. Since Freddie/Fannie and Ginnie Mae are the only game in the mortgage market I'm not sure what to recommend. Since we decided that housing is an industry that must be saved we have to keep propping these zombie lenders up. Without additional funding the mortgage market could further shrink and the housing market could wither on the vine. I'm particularly troubled by the surge in "For sale" signs locally.

Maybe it's normal activity, but it certainly feels like there is an uptick in listings (however pricing remains laughable IMO). As one realtor told me recently "I didn't set the price. It's a crazy price and I'll tell them to jump on any offer that was 50% of the list because it will probably be the only offer they'll see."

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Update: The power of the technicians to run the market right now is startling. This morning someone said 1150 would be a line in the sand for the S&p500. The market ran right to that level. Crazy stuff.

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