Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
The party’s over in China. The 18th congress of China’s Communist Party concludes today, with a formal vote for members of the Central Committee, which will then select the Politburo and its top decision-making cabal, the Standing Committee (due to be unveiled tomorrow). In an embarrassment to the party’s attempts at a show of internal democracy, there were only 9% more nominees for the Central Committee than seats available, a scant improvement from the 5% margin when voting was introduced 25 years ago.
Obama hears from the 1% on how much tax they want to pay. The president will meet with chief executives from a dozen top American companies including General Electric, Honeywell and Wal-Mart, as part of his negotiations on averting the upcoming “fiscal cliff”. Some have noted the conspicuous absence of financiers from the group, after Wall Street’s big bet on the failed Romney campaign. Expect more clues as to the line the administration will take on taxes and spending when Obama holds a press conference today.
News from the euro zone, probably dismal. The 17 nations sharing the common currency will likely show a decline in September industrial production, as the continent continues to struggle with impact of the debt crisis on the real economy. Recent brinksmanship on striking a deal with heavily indebted countries such as Greece could produce a more severe recession than European officials have been expecting.
While you were sleeping
Greece bought itself a few more days. It sold €4.06 billion of treasury bills yesterday so it could roll over a €5 billion bond payment due the day after tomorrow while it waits for a €31.5 billion tranche of aid so that it can stay afloat long enough to start paying off its €300 billion or so in total government debt. This is what it’s like living on the edge.
BNY Mellon settles New York state lawsuit over Madoff. The bank’s Ivy Asset Management arm agreed to cough up $210 million to settle charges that it misled clients who put their money with the imprisoned Ponzi schemer.
Quartz obsession interlude
Matt Phillips on how the current fiscal cliff debate is only the latest chapter in a US debt saga going back over 200 years. “The US was born in debt. The earliest full reckoning of US national debt was compiled by Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary… The analysis dates to 1790 and puts the newborn US at around a 30% debt-to-GDP ratio, with the debt a bit higher than $75 million… All in, the US owed about $11.7 million to foreigners, mostly to Dutch bankers and the French government, and about $42 million to domestic creditors. The states also had a ton of debt (about $25 million, Hamilton reckoned), which the Federal Government assumed—take a hint, euro zone!—in 1790.”
Matters of debate
German officials should stop worrying about the US fiscal crisis and start worrying about the fiscal crisis in their own back yard.
After the US election, it’s only a matter of time before a schism emerges in the Republican party between extremists and “pragmatic conservative problem solvers.“
China’s next president has a much tougher job than President Obama. Compared with Communist-Party-style collective decision-making, facing down the Republicans in Congress is apparently a cakewalk.
The amazing story of how an aristocratic French family was swindled. Thierry Tilly was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday, after using his Rasputin-like attachment to an aristocratic French family to convince 11 people—age 16 to 89—that their lives were in danger. “The family was in hiding for nearly a decade before two of the adult children realized Tilly wasn’t what he appeared.”
British police want to know how somebody stole the keys to the Tower of London, where the crown jewels are kept.
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