Peso: 1, Trump: 0; Trump Gets Shut Down – Just Not the Right One; How Nobel! Contract Theory Gets Props

Adios…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The peso is rising and ironically, Mexico has Donald Trump to thank. Who would have thunk it? The more Donald’s chances for the presidency dwindle, the higher the peso goes.  There is an O’Henry novel in there somewhere. The peso, in fact, had hit a record low just hours before the first debate on September 26 after falling 9% against the dollar this year.  Then this weird thing happened: the Mexican currency rebounded when Hilary Clinton went into full-court debate/attack-mode; or maybe from the negative momentum spewing from Donald’s Trump’s mouth – you decide. However, the peso did lose some of its gains when Trump began attacking Clinton’s use of her private e-mail server and all of her own shifty activities. But over the weekend the peso has been enjoying some new impressive gains and even surged to a one-month high, at least in part owing to Trump’s 2005 “Locker Room Talk” video which viscerally offended…everyone. Of course, we mustn’t rule out his performance at Sunday night’s debate. His showmanship seemed to just about clinch the demise of his presidential aspirations and also presumably helped the peso gain some much needed mojo. I guess that’s what they call karma. After all, he did say that if he wins, he’s going to slap some hard-core tariffs on Mexican imports and that’s a scary thought for a country who sees 80% of its exports going to the U.S. Trump wants to chuck NAFTA, or at the very least, renegotiate the terms so that they are more favorable to the U.S. That’s besides having our neighbor to the south foot the bill for a wall to keep out immigrants.

Loser…

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Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In other Trump news, the Trump Taj Mahal closed its doors…for good. Wish you could say the same of the candidate with the same name, huh? Trump opened the Trump Taj Mahal in 1990, and billed it as “The eighth wonder of the world.” Try not to throw up in your mouth. It was one of the largest casinos in the world and held the dubious distinction of having gone through multiple bankruptcies. Talk about the Trump theme song. In case you were hoping this closure puts a ding in Trump’s armor, don’t bother. He hasn’t owned it for years. He lost his share to bondholders and then resigned as chairmen. The property belongs to activist-investor Carl Icahn, and after massive losses and a breakdown in negotiations with unions, 3,000 employees now find themselves out of work.  Not that the news came as any great shock seeing as how the closure was announced in July. A thousand union members went on strike back then, in part angered that they only saw 80 cents per hour in raises for the last twelve years. Believe it or not Trump hadn’t even owned the casino for much of that time. So we don’t get to completely blame him. Meanwhile, the cost of living in the A.C. went up 25% for the same period so things weren’t adding up for all the casino’s employees. Union members wanted healthcare and pension benefits. Icahn said his last bid offered medical benefits, though the union still didn’t bite. Keeping the casino open would have meant more than $100 million in losses, that would have been in addition to the $350 million that the casino lost in the last few years. And nobody I know likes to lose money. Especially when there are so many commas involved.

Winner winner…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now let’s move on to two people who actually make the world a better place. Too bad neither one of them is running for President. Oh well. But I guess winning the Nobel Economics Prize probably means you’re over-qualified for the position anyway. In any case, congrats are in order for MIT’s Bengt Holmstrom and Harvard University’s Oliver Hart. Their work on “contract theory” is so impressive that it seems only fair to hand them the prestigious award, which also comes with a $928,000 cash prize. As for contract theory, it deals with how to best design contracts, taking into consideration human behaviors in business. Whether you like it or not, contract theory has played a big part in executive pay. It helps out in all kinds of situations like how to effectively run corporations, dole out corporate compensation and even formulate bankruptcy legislation. It also studies the implications of workplace pay, like whether managers should get bonuses or stock options, or if teachers and healthcare workers should be paid a fixed rate or a salary that is performance-based. Contract theory also examines whether certain institutions, like schools hospitals and prisons, would fare better if they were privatized. Although, I find it somewhat disconcerting that prisons were lumped with hospitals and schools. Just saying.

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Twitter Gets Schooled at MIT; Warren Buffet, Car Salesman?!; Hooray for Shorter Lines at the Unemployment Office

Twi-gifted…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

MIT got a nice little gift from Twitter recently. Well, maybe little isn’t the right word for the $10 million dollars that the social media company is giving to one of the world’s most important academic institutions. The money is to be used for the advancement of…wait for it…social network research. The Laboratory for Social Machines, or LSM for those in the know, housed at MIT’s Media Lab, will seek to explore how people use social media networks and figure out new beneficial ways to use these tools. The researchers will have access and get to slog through every single archived tweet and real-time tweets too. Lucky them. The research should take about five years and will be headed by Twitter’s very own media scientist, Deb Roy, who also conveniently happens to be an associate professor at this extremely distinguished media lab. Roy hopes to, among other things, find ways to “…act on pressing societal problems.” How very useful.

Vroom vroom…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Oracle of Omaha has welcomed yet another new company into the exclusive and pricey Berkshire Hathaway fold. This time, the lucky seller is the Van Tuyl Group. In case you were wondering, because I know you were, the Van Tuyl group just happens to be the largest privately-owned auto-dealership in all the land, with 78 locations and revenues in the $8 billion range. No word yet on how much Warren Buffet paid for his latest acquisition. Naturally, shares of Berkshire Hathaway went up on the news (seriously, do they ever go down?) of the purchase. By the way, if you’d care to purchase some Berkshire Hathaway stock, it’ll only set you back about $206,000 – per share.

Stake your claim…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And in keeping with the spirit of yesterday’s exciting and gripping news from ADP about all that job growth, the Labor Department came out with its latest report that the number of people filing for unemployment benefits dropped by 8,000. Which is just what I (and by “I,” I do mean those very intelligent economic experts) suspected would happen. Oh, wait a minute…our very intelligent experts actually predicted that the number of applicants for jobless claims would rise. Whoops. Whatever. The number of claims being filed haven’t been this low since June of 2006, way before that odious Great Recession began to wreak havoc on our fiscal sensibilities. By the way, expect President Obama to take some (maybe more) credit for those promising numbers (whether you agree with that assessment, or not).