After Gov. Christie told the conservative Manhattan Institute Tuesday that cash-poor New Jersey is moving toward "becoming Greece," the analogy grew legs and ran away.
Comparisons may be odious, as Franklin Roosevelt is supposed to have been fond of saying, but they're apparently irresistible to those who watch the people's money flow in and out of public accounts.
A Philadelphia money manager sent a clip of Christie's statement, with a comparative list of U.S. state and foreign economies by gross national product, to his staffers and asked for their insights.
"New Jersey is more like Russia" than Greece, one replied. "They have about the same GDP, and they're both run by the mob."
"Alabama's about the same size as Iran," said another. "We hope Alabama doesn't get the bomb, either."
Sweating the swings
"Fear and volatility are back. There'll be a lot of triple-digit days," with stock prices falling, recovering, and falling again, predicted Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Management, as stock prices plunged, then bounced most of the way back Tuesday.
"It's not just the stock market," he said. "Look at spreads on junk bonds. Look at credit-default swaps. A lot of data points" show investors are worried again.
Macey's been preaching a "slow, fragile" economic recovery since after the 2008 collapse. Investors got more excited when first-quarter corporate earnings came in strong. "But we weren't out of the woods. There's still a lot of foreclosures, there's still severe delinquencies in housing," he told me.
Then came the Greek crisis, and the weaker euro. DuPont Co. and other big multinationals haven't been trimming their foreign-sales projections. Still, last month Wilmington Trust reduced its foreign-stock investments, to clients' relief, Macey said.
"We were in a very stimulative environment. Now, we're seeing the federal government sort of slowing down. We're seeing the state and local governments contract. . . . We're seeing Europe constrict. We're seeing China and Australia putting on the breaks. This is contraction."
And yet: "We still think there's a recovery. A fragile recovery, and a slow-growth environment."
Will Americans have to get used to doing with less? Will New Jersey really go the way of Greece, with public payroll cuts and permanent trims in benefit programs?
"Western Europe's model social safety net appears unsustainable," but U.S. "property taxes should recover," Macey said. "Employment will recover. Tax revenue will go up again."
For now, that leaves Americans struggling over the basic question: "How much social safety net can we afford?"
Insight Venture Partners, a New York investment firm, and Citrix Systems, a publicly traded, Fort Lauderdale-based software service company, say they've made new investment agreements with Philadelphia-based PHD Virtual Technologies, a backup provider for virtual-machine software systems.
Insight and Citrix won't say how much they're investing. "We do several deals a quarter," Citrix spokesman Eduardo Fleites told me. Insight builds backup systems for Citrix servers.
PHD boss Thomas Charlton told me his firm employed 20 when he joined last winter and plans to hire "at least" 20 more, mostly salespeople, this year. PHD competitors include Veeam Software of Columbus, Ohio, and VMWare, Palo Alto. The company's name traces to founder Ron McKelvey and his colleagues: It's an in-joke that there were more self-taught veteran coders than doctorate-level software developers on staff when they started the firm in 2006.
It's the second Insight-backed firm Charlton has moved to Philadelphia, not just, he insists, because he's raising his own family here, but because "it's East Coast, it's attractive for family people, it's affordable."
Among other firms, Charlton once headed network-emulation provider Shunra Software, backed by Insight and Carmel Ventures of Israel.