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A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged
The official blurb runs something like this: A group of young, liberal graduate students in Iowa have a formal, sit down dinner once a week, to which they like to invite a stranger – to spice up conversation. Their ivory tower serenity is disturbed, however, when their latest guest, Zach (played in the 1995 movie by Bill Paxton!), turns out to be a redneck, pedophilic, murderous, Holocaust denier. Zach taunts the tolerant liberals, saying that they don’t have the balls to stand up for themselves, and pulls a knife on Marc, the resident Jewish artist. Zach is distracted for a moment while breaking the arm of Peter, another sissy liberal, and Marc seizes the opportunity to stab Zach in the back with his own knife. Existential angst ensues as the “liberals” try to justify their aggression. They rationalize it so well that they decide to recreate the scenario every week with a new flavor of conservative crazy. Their preferred method of execution? Poison in the chardonnay.
You may not guess it from the picture of the handsome man above, but Lefty is a leftist, a commie, a red — and not in the Texas “Red Meat” way. You might think of this guy as a Lefty for The Great Recession — cool, hip, possibly living in a palatial squat in Buffalo, refusing to use currency or pay for food.
And yet, it was not always thus.
The enduring strength of Clifford Odets’s play Waiting for Lefty is its focus on character rather than identity. That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one that traces the success and failure of the labor movement in the USA from Odets’s time to ours. Odets’s characters are honest, working people who strive for a measure of human dignity and are systematically deprived of it by the Bosses, the Owners, and the unsympathetic, pampered, and callous Elites. Odets builds his characters through their struggles: they are dynamic, not static. But in the intervening three quarters of a century since this play was first produced “identity” as a pillar of capitalist ideology has dominated and marginalized character so thoroughly that the didactic purpose of this play, what Brecht would have called a lehrstück, is easy to miss. Waiting for Lefty is the greatest work of American agitprop theater because it attempts to dramatize how a person learns courage in an act of character building, rather than appealing to the audience’s fear and pity.
What’s the news on NYC’s slice of the stimulus money? I hear complaints from conservatives that the money isn’t going to “shovel ready projects,” and then I hear complaints from liberals that the money that IS going to “shovel ready projects” is paying for thousands of miles of new highway in the fly-over. Ahem, but, NYC has billions of dollars of shovel ready projects ready to go. Second avenue subway anyone?
Paul Krugman hit the nail on the head today with his Op-Ed. It reminds me why I like him in the first place. For those of you too lazy to click through to the essay and read it, I’ll give you a summary. Krugman says that our policy makers continue to be blinded by the mythology developed by Milton Friedman and others and popularized by Reagan. They think the financial system is fundamentally sound, and the recent collapse is wholly due to public misperception. That is why the Summers/Geithner plan rings hollow in a progressive’s ears. A progressive knows we have to move past the culture of greed and bonus, of growing wealth disparity and opt-out attitudes, but Summers and Geithner don’t get it.
Jake Desantis’s (public) letter to Edward Liddy in today’s New York Times is just one more attempt by the the real media elites — the conservatives of both parties — to quash public outcry over the legacy and abuses of Reaganomics.
UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!!!
I know the readers of Cultural Capitol are probably sick of hearing me rant on this subject, and for your sake this will be my last post on the topic. The Editor has counseled moderation, and I know in my heart of hearts he’s right. But I can’t leave it without saying just this one more thing about the “popular” reaction to A. I. G.’s bonuses.
The story in the Times today trying to defend Geitner puts the blame for his bad judgment (really, a complete lack of political common sense) on faceless “government lawyers” who told the Treasury secretary exactly what he wanted to hear:
On Tuesday last week, as he prepared for a meeting in London of the finance ministers of the Group of 20 nations, Mr. Geithner learned that A.I.G. by Sunday would send out the bonuses to employees at its financial products unit, which developed the risky derivatives now blamed for the global credit crisis.
With few senior political appointees on hand, the word came from one of the numerous career civil servants who keep the Treasury functioning through changes of administration, according to an official.
Mr. Geithner consulted lawyers. They told him the government could not override the contracts that the insurance conglomerate had signed in early 2008, when its financial products unit was fast losing money.
The Times piece tries hard to justify Geiter’s naivete, blaming his lapse on his “crushing workload,” and telling us he is “shouldering more crises on his slight frame than most Treasury secretaries ever have.” But that’s no excuse — either for him or for Obama. Geitner, whose instincts as the Times says “are that government should not dictate compensation issues to businesses,” suffers from the same free market fundamentalist dementia as a recent respondent to my earlier post. Let’s look at this pathology more closely in order to better understand it.
The New York Times is reporting that some banks are balking over the strings attached to their bailout cash.
Good! That is the right response, and it shows that the Obama policies are right on. This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue — it’s a good government issue. If the banks are willing to take on the risk of failure in order to maintain the possibility of future, outsized profits, let them do it. If they fail, they do so on their own merits. On the other hand, if a bank wants money to stay alive, they have to know they are entering a period of indentured servitude to the American people. They will not be free until they have paid their debt to society, and in this case that debt comes in an easily recognizable dollar amount.
Hypocrites like John Boehner and Richard Shelby argue that some banks should fail because that’s good fiscal discipline, confusing once again the role of markets and the role of government. Markets reflect the sentiment of its local population (i.e. whoever comes to the market). Government has the power to coerce or incentivize behavior when necessary. In times of crisis markets should not be allowed to make decisions because they will make panic driven, emotional decisions. In those cases it is the government’s job to set parameters for acceptible behavior. In this case it means righting financial malfeasance while containing the damage inflicted on the innocent by the crime. No-government Republicans would have the innocent pay along with the guilty. Strings on a bank bailout make sure that the innocent are protected while the guilty work off their guilt.
As any of you who are my consistent readers know, I think Paul Farrell over at Marketwatch.com is a hoot. His recent essay on the 13 tipping points that will lead to Great Depression II is a fun read.
When the economy was on the way up, up, up! we couldn’t get enough stories about how technology was going to change our lives for the better, and Utopia was finally just around the corner. Think of Francis Fukuyama’s neo-Hegelian “End of History” thesis, free market globalizers from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, and lefty internet entrepreneurs who assured us hyperlinks would cure cancer. (Ok, I exaggerated that one a bit.) My favorite send up of this idealistic nonsense is from that gem of a movie Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby (played by Will Farrell) is reprimanded by Lucius, his crew chief, for criminally reckless driving:
Lucius: Ricky Bobby! You can’t drive like that! You’re not going to live forever you know.
Ricky Bobby: I know. But with the way medical science is going, and my level of income … I figure three, four hundred years.
The DJIA dropped perilously close to 7,000 this afternoon after Chris Dodd said the government might have to nationalize the banks. David Brooks wrote in his NY Times editorial today what is probably the Obama administration line, that we might have to bite the bullet and give the idiots who got us into this mess lots of money to get us out again. He says:
…sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize.
I suppose that’s all good and well, though if you happen to live in the same place as “the idiots” (i.e. New York City), and you see them holding their heads up high, riding in new cars with new wives who are wearing massive sparkly rocks on their fingers because the bankers got their bonuses in January, you might worry more about political stabilization than economic stabilization.
The markets took a dive because Dodd raised the specter of state control over the financial industry. But isn’t that exactly what’s called for in this situation? The culture of free markets failed, and now the culture of civic responsibility — which can only be manifested through the institution of government — has to pick up the slack.
Obama’s men — Geithner and Summers — are freemarketeers and have good reason to be scared out of their wits by populist posturing from Dodd and others. But is Obama a freemarketeer? Is he a populist?
My first instinct is to say he’s a savvy operator who knows the congressional Dems are right (and that the right needs to be ideologically disillusioned). The Obama of my imagination will play the aloof leader and let the Dems do the necessary dirty work that undoes the damage of anti-social freemarket puritanism inflicted on us since Reagan.
My fear is that he has no convictions outside of a personal messianic conviction, and that he thinks economic justice is no more or less important that religiously unfettered economic activity.
The markets bounced back because they think Obama’s a covert freemarketeer. I hope they’re wrong. I hope Obama is willing to split the issue with the congressional Dems, and let leaders like Dodd do the work of justice while Obama tells us all not to panic.
This was taken last week downtown. Where is the New Depression is headed?!
Tim Geithner — Really? I mean, is it really possible to live in this country after 8 years of Bush, 6 months of financial apocalypse, and still not have the smallest clue? Macroeconomics as a discipline developed in the 30s because that global financial meltdown was precipitating a global political meltdown. Doesn’t anyone remember Nazis vs. Commies in the streets of Berlin and Munich? No, not in this country. If you want a perfect example of the triumphalist myopia of the free market fundamentalists take a look at the documentary The Commanding Heights by Greg Barker and William Cran. The one good observation made in the documentary is that both J. M. Keynes and Friedrich Von Hayek thought economic collapse would lead to political anarchy.
Now these yahoos working from a mix of free market fundamentalist ideology and naked, corporate self-interest, are opening up a political firestorm by crippling a real fiscial stimulus package with useless tax breaks and spending cuts for states while at the same time handing over hefty cash gifts to their friends the oligarchs on Wall St. (For my personal experience of the humiliation of this see my earlier post.) In the words of Stephen Labaton and Edmund Andrews:
Mr. Geithner, who will announce the broad outlines of the plan on Tuesday, successfully fought against more severe limits on executive pay for companies receiving government aid.
He resisted those who wanted to dictate how banks would spend their rescue money. And he prevailed over top administration aides who wanted to replace bank executives and wipe out shareholders at institutions receiving aid.
Obama is spending his good name out in America to enable a couple of bumbling, Ivy educated fools to destroy any trust Americans have left in their government.
I work downtown, near Wall Street. It’s cold today, somewhere in the mid-twenties, and I decided to get some soup from the Hale and Hearty Soup place over on Beaver. The soup place is close enough to the NYSE to hear the moans of traders still recovering from yesterday’s bloodletting.
Over the last week we have discovered that the banks are in worse shape than ever, and the government doesn’t have much of a clue about how to fix it. The New York Times is reporting that even the Obama people, who we hope are smarter than the newly ousted Bush people, aren’t sure about what to do. I think the market fell yesterday – led by bank stocks – because it knows banks are still hiding losses. If they’re hiding something it’s because they want to secure their own fortunes before the shareholders – and the country – figure out they’re bankrupt. Or as the last sentence in the times piece says, “Banks may not want that kind of openness, because accurately valuing the toxic assets could force many to book big losses, admit their insolvency and shut down.”
What kind of kool-aid is Nancy Pelosi drinking? CNN reports that Pelosi has said she thinks the Bush tax cuts should be repealed immediately, and that Congress should press forward with an investigation over whether Bush et al. pressured their people at the Justice Department to make illegal hiring decisions based on politics and ideology. President Obama — of course — wants to take a middle road, let the tax cuts expire on their own, and is against any investigation of the Bush administration.
In the first place, we know that the imperative to hire RTAs (right thinking Americans) at the Justice Dept. came from the highest levels of the Bush government. <cough, Dick Cheney, cough> It’s not a matter for investigation. In the second place, there are a lot more important crimes to investigate, like the illegal wiretapping program, the infiltration of protest groups by government spies, no bid contracts to war profiteers, and the lies (told with malicious intent and knowledge of wrong doing) that led us to wage war in Iraq. Finally, raising taxes on the obscenely wealthy isn’t nearly as important as stripping out the ridiculous and worthless tax breaks to businesses included in the Obama plan. Paul Krugman puts the case as succinctly as possible here and here.
You may have thought the kool-aid I referred to in the title of this post is the kool-aid of liberal revenge. Oh no! This country swung so far to the right at the end of the 20th century that to get back to the middle we’re going to go pretty far left. Militarism, free market fundamentalism, and the cult of the individual (with its attendant cult of personality) reached a fever pitch under Bush, and the residual effects of that “conservative” kool-aid are obviously still infecting Obama and the Congressional Democrats. Disaffected whites and greedy globalizers united to turn this country into a banana republic — and not the good kind where you can find urban professional clothing at reasonable prices. No, they wanted a country where the rich are a law to themselves, the Constitution has been replaced by the Articles of Confederation, and the Southern Gentleman planter (complete with an economy run on the brown backs of a institutionalized underclass) replaces the middle class citizen.
I think there may be one bright spot in the disturbing political timidity shown so far by both the Congressional leadership and Obama. If Obama choses to be the uniter we didn’t get eight years ago, counseling peace and reconciliation, the Congressional Dems might be given the opportunity to play the bad cops and put the nastiest Bush aparatchiks into jail. And if that plays well (as it might if the recession gets really bad) hopefully Congress will remember that it does not have to be the political punching bag it has become in recent years. It might grow a pair and become what it was intended to be — the primary branch of government; the voice of the people; the genius of democracy. Only when Congress asserts its constitutional rights will we get the government Lincoln promised us: of the people, for the people, and by the people.
I can hear the hater chorus already saying that Congress under Gingrich asserted itself, and look where that got us. To you I say this: Gingrich was (like Cheney) a member of Congress but not of it. He asserted the power of Congress because Clinton as president was too weak for his taste. He was really paving the way for Bush’s “unitary executive”, a.k.a. king. A representative legislature is the soul of liberal democracy. Let the new Congress take up the mantle of freedom, and prove their mettle. In the process they just might save the Union.
Dubai is a palace of excess and contradition. It is a mushroom that paradoxically bloomed under the whithering rays of the sun. But the leadership of the UAE is a lot smarter than anyone in America today. From today’s New York Times:
[The UAE's] new investment [in renewable energy] aims to maintain the gulf’s dominant position as a global energy supplier, gaining patents from the new technologies and promoting green manufacturing. But if the United States and the European Union have set energy independence from the gulf states as a goal of new renewable energy efforts, they may find they are arriving late at the party.
The irony that the most wasteful and oil dependent part of the globe should be on the cutting edge of green energy is unremarkable next to the ambition — characteristic of the Gulf states — to go all the way all at once. Consider Masdar City, a planned community outside of Abu Dhabi that claims it will have a zero-carbon footprint. Even though skeptics doubt this claim, it is notable not for its complete success in execution, but for its audacity.
According to the Times article, Qatar has invested $225 million into a British research fund, and Saudi Arabia has invested untold millions into American universities, including $25 million for Michael McGehee an associate professor at Stanford, to develop cutting edge technologies. That is fifty times the amount invested by Western governments or industry.
Finally, the Times tells us Masdar City “goes beyond creating new materials and is in fact exploring a new model for urban life.” To wit: “The city will have no cars; people will move around using driverless electric vehicles that move on a subterranean level. The air-conditioning will be solar powered.” As a New Yorker I take exception to this. After all, we also have subterranean electric cars that move people around. It’s called the subway. If only the city, state, and federal government could get their posteriors and capitals wired together they could see that a massive investment in the New York City subway is a necessary good faith effort to putting America into the 21st century.
We all knew Obama was no Nader when we voted for him. But it still comes as a shock to this New Yorker to be reminded of exactly how conservative the traditional “Liberal” media is. And it is disappointing to see Obama waste his political capital and his mandate by falling into bad old Democrat habits. How many times do we have to say it? Do not pander to self-identifying conservatives!
From the CNN news desk:
“As a public official, I expect criticism and I expect to be held accountable for how I govern,” Palin said in a statement released by her office Friday. “But the personal, salacious nature of recent reporting, and often the refusal of the media to correct obvious mistakes, unfortunately discredits too many in journalism today, making it difficult for many Americans to believe what they see in the media” (emphasis mine). Yeah! Salacious! When did she pick that one up? Surely not studying for the SATs. I’m glad she’s gone to the trouble to hire a vocabulary coach. Sadly, she’s about twenty years too late.
Mama Grizzly also said she got up on her hind legs when Tina Fey made a crack on her daughter. I say amen. Tina Fey almost single-handedly saved the republic by exposing Palin’s idiocy — and in the process the idiocy of American conservatives.
Speaking of which, check out Sam’s comment on this CNN blog post: “Why do we need Congress anyway? When the Constitution was written, people needed others to represent them in making policy decisions. Now we have the technology to vote and represent ourselves directly.”
OMG. I know that some secretly bad stuff lurks in the hearts of men, but I didn’t think anyone would have the bad judgment to expose himself in public as a monarchist. That’s right people. If you enjoy your liberty, you better stand up with Harry Reid and the Congress, and say we want government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Congress — a legislature — is the only way to have such a government. If Sam’s plan were implemented, and we all voted individually for every piece of legislation that was proposed (by whom?) — as if government were like American Idol — first there would be deadlock, then there would be a breakdown of government, then the executive would assert him/herself to become a king.
I blame the miserable state of American education for comments like this. No one who has studied history, government, or politics would say such a perniciously stupid thing.
Dubai, unlike it’s neighbor Abu Dhabi, does not have oil riches. Though oil and gas were discovered in the 1960s, the Al Maktoum Emirs of Dubai knew early on they had to capitalize on oil money in the 80s, 90s, and 00s before the gravy train ran out of steam. Dubai creek was dredged several times over those decades so that today Dubai is the largest deep water port in the region.
Dubai’s rulers have also worked hard to make their town a financial center, giving sweetheart deals to major western financial houses to locate offices there. With finance comes real estate, which, according to Wikipedia, accounted for 22% of Dubai’s GDP before the housing bubble of started to inflate in 2004. It is difficult to find up-to-date figures on the financial situation in Dubai, probably for two reasons: first, if its economy was driven by a bubble, those interested in it do not want to spread the news it has popped and cause a panic; second, the government of Dubai and the UAE does not seem to be particularly transparent, at least if you are looking at the official website. (This article is indicative.) That said, my eyeball estimate of the economy in Dubai shows three salient categories of economic activity: commerce, service and tourism, and finance, under which I include real estate. (If you don’t like my categories, go talk to a professional economist.)
1) Kelly McEvers of Marketplace reported a couple of months ago that confidence in the Dubai’s real estate market has evaporated. 2) If players like Morgan Stanley are in trouble here, then you can be sure they’re in trouble at the Dubai satellite office. 3) And news that China is rethinking its investment in USD bonds should make any country with its currency pegged to the dollar (like the UAE) think twice about its future purchasing power. That leaves us with the service and tourism sector.
It’s true, everyone loves kareoke. And in the Mall of the Emirates you can record yourself in sound and vision doing a cover of Bowie to send to your friends back home.
I was particularly thrilled to know I could leave cold, rainy New York to go to the warm, sunny desert, and not have to miss a day of skiing. Not that it was so cold in New York. On the day we left for Dubai a friend who lives near Whiteface ski resort upstate lamented in a Facebook status update that it was unnatural to have 60 degree days at the end of December. But that makes indoor skiing in the desert all the more desirable.
When they close down mountain resorts in the US for lack of snow all the ski bums will be able to get jobs at the Mall in Dubai. The Dubai Mall also has ice skating and hockey…
… and a massive indoor aquarium.
Cool huh?! Notice all the folks in Western dress. That’s because most of the people in the malls were either Indian/Pakistani or European. I saw a few Emiratis, but not enough to keep these massive emporia open. Most of the shops are Western too, from Hardee’s and KFC (the writing is Arabic)…
… to lingerie.
This may be what Emirati women wear under their black robes, but I wouldn’t know.
The malls all have a space for “local” stuff, either tourist kitch or jewelry that is dressed up in a faux souk.
If you have any problems shopping, any disgruntled counter help or problems with your credit card, you can appeal either to the mall management or to God.
In sum, as long as tourists can afford to spend money, as long as novelty and kitch can last, as long as a flower can grow in the desert, Dubai will have a future.
The Burj Dubai is the tallest building in the world and holds records for many “biggest” and “most” categories including tallest structure, tallest freestanding structure, building with the most floors, and highest vertical concrete pumping for any structure. The picture above was taken (by me) from the roof of Al Ghaya Residence on Sheik Zayed road, a pitiful 30+ story building. In the foreground you can see several other buildings in various stages of construction.
This is the building next door to Al Ghaya Residence, some 80+ stories tall. It has been under construction for more than a year, and it looks complete from the outside. It is empty, however, and the entrances are sealed. This building became emblematic, for me, of our unique historical moment.
The Baharain Tribune noted on October 2nd 2008 that Dubai’s growth is “founded to some extent on a burgeoning property market heavily dependent on borrowed money”, and Norton Rose, a corporate law firm specializing in investing, said on its “credit crisis blog” that “there are rumors that some large projects will be placed on hold.” The analyst at Norton Rose is optimistic, if not in the near term, at least in the medium term:
The “real” market, that is where construction has commenced (and therefore finance is in place to complete the project) or the property has been completed, is suffering a short term state of confusion although the medium term view is that the market will bounce back particularly in quality sectors in quality locations.
But this may be a species of optimism ridiculed by Paul Farrell (my new favorite Wall St. contrarian) in his Marketwatch.com editorial today. Norton Rose thinks the fundamentals of Dubai’s growth are strong, and that the financial problems of the last year will clear up soon, but one could also make the case that demand in Dubai has always been artificial, and that its incredible ten (really five) year growth spurt is an effect of the global bubble that has driven over-production in all sectors to astonishing, never-before-seen levels. As the New York Times reported recently, globalization led to global growth, and now it is leading to a global contraction. Is it implausible to postulate that globalization, growth, and blowing bubbles were interconnected, self-reinforcing phenomena?
But beyond a global contraction, Dubai has other worries. Norton Rose again spins the situation in positive terms:
Dubai has built itself as a trading hub, financial centre, tourist resort and is an attractive and exciting place to live. The number of expatriates moving to Dubai from throughout the world is staggering; all of these people will need a home. Office space still remains in very short supply with heavy demand. Rents in all sectors have continued to increase and demand remains strong, however owner occupiers are struggling to find lenders to accommodate them.
On one hand, many of the immigrants to Dubai are from India and Pakistan, and those people are definitely not the people Dubai wants filling up its empty towers. Certainly, Dubai’s planners have gone to great lengths to lure Western investment. Investment banks are able to run by Western laws — within the walls of their own buildings.
But outside the walls Dubai is still a theocratic state run under Sharia law. The world chuckles at Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer who were caught having sex on the beach and sentenced to three months in prison. The situation is made human and poignant, however, by the case of Marnie Pearce who was accused of adultery by her estranged husband and consequently convicted and sentenced to six months in prison. As a result she may lose custody of her two children entirely. In the print version of the article from January 5th, Ms. Pearce tells the reporter for the Telegraph with obvious passion that Westerners need to remember that Dubai is not a liberal state. A woman — any woman — can be punished for being alone in the company of a man who is not her husband or kinsman. And that is a kink in Norton Rose’s projection of continued demand for Dubai properties.
The Nobel commission announced that Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics. Krugman won for his work on “the effects of free trade and globalisation and the driving force behind worldwide urbanization” as reported by the BBC.
On this side of the Pond we know and love Krugman for being one of the only public figures with the courage to stand up to Bush, Cheney, and Rove’s palpable lies when they were selling us the Iraq War and selling us (and our children and grandchildren) into debt.
Congratulations professor Krugman!
No, the picture above isn’t the Old West, or Kansas in the 1930s, or a movie set. This ruined house is in urban Buffalo, 2008.
Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame asks the question: why is it that major macroeconomics texts books gloss over the fact that periodical economic crises are endemic to capitalist accumulation? The discipline of macroeconomics came into being as a reaction to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Its purpose as an academic endeavor was to minimize or eliminate the business cycle. The promise of macroeconomics tells us, if we’re smart enough we can think our way out of what looks like a permanent feature of capitalism.
The financial crisis of the last month has given the ultimate lie to the thought that economies can grow without also shrinking. (With two small exceptions in 1990 and 2002 the US has had sustained growth for 25 years. The unwinding of the current asset bubble in housing is the final end of that growth period.) Conservatives fear the business cycle because in a crisis the people look to the government to keep them from starving, and that, they feel, is socialism. This essay by Murray Rothbard puts the free market fundamentalist case eloquently. Liberals are hoping Obama can turn disaffection over jobs into votes, though liberals also are wary of being too gleeful about the impending crisis.
(For mah peeps living the bohemian novelist’s dream.)
A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of life for the young ex-pats who enjoyed the first blush of American global economic dominance in France after the end of the First World War. Though he and Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and John Dos Passos complained about being poor and put on a show of living a bohemian lifestyle, they were all supported by the strength of the US economy and money sent to them from the states. The fact that the French franc was close to trash compared to the dollar supported their artistic ambitions.