24 January 2013 TYR reads: Apparitions in the Fog

Apparitions in the Fog @ The Burning Platform In this apocalyptic article, Jim Quinn exposes the foundations of the present economic “system”. With the assistance of a series of charts, it is convincingly argued that: the economic recovery is a mirage, that the middle class is being destroyed in the USA, and by extension in the western world, and that a bigger crisis, not only economic but social also, is unavoidable. From this, he draws apocalyptic conclusions that might or might not come to happen. Actually, one could think of apocalyptic scenarios quite different from Quinn’s. Think “1984” squared. If you concentrate on the charts and what they mean though, you’ll not go wrong as to the nature of the present economic and social situation. Some excerpts and many charts:

“Real GDP, using a dramatically understated inflation rate, has barely grown by 1% in 2012. Using a true measure of inflation, the GDP was -2% during 2012.”

“The number of people who have left the workforce since last December (2.2 million) almost matched the number of newly employed (2.4 million), as the labor participation rate has collapsed to a three decade low of 63.6%. The propagandists attempt to peddle this dreadful condition as a function of Baby Boomers retiring. This is obliterated by the fact the 55 to 69 age bracket has added 4 million jobs since Obama became president, while the younger age brackets have lost 3 million jobs. The working age population has grown by 13 million since 2007 and there are 4 million less people employed.”

“Another 1.5 million Americans were forced onto food stamps during 2012, bringing the total increase to 17 million since Obama assumed office.”

“Real average hourly earnings were flat in 2012, and have fallen 1.5% since Obama became president. The average middle class worker is making less than they were forty years ago.”

Jan2_Real Wages

“The reason Bernanke, Geithner, Obama, Wall Street, corporate titans, and media pundits focus their attention on the stock market is because they are looking out for their fellow 1%ers. The working middle class, once the backbone of this country, own virtually no stocks.”

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“The storyline of austerity and deleveraging perpetuated through the mainstream media mouthpieces is unequivocally false, as consumer debt has reached an all-time high of $2.77 trillion, driven by a surge in subprime auto loans and subprime student loans.”

The enslavement of our children in student loan debt and handing them the bill for $200 trillion of unfunded entitlement liabilities will be the spark that ignites the worst part of this Crisis.

Student Loan Projections

“Those in power realized very quickly that without continued credit growth, their entire corrupt, repugnant, fiat currency based debt system would implode and they would lose all of their fraudulently acquired wealth. That is why total credit market debt is at an all-time high of $56 trillion, and 350% of GDP. The National Debt of $16.5 trillion is now 103% of GDP, well beyond the Rogoff & Reinhart level of 90% that always leads to economic crisis and turmoil.”

“A critical thinking human being (this rules out 95% of the adult population) might question how corporate profits could surpass pre-collapse levels when the economy has remained stagnant.”

“Shockingly, the entire profit surge was driven by Wall Street.”

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TYR 14 January 2013 reads: The Neoliberal Financial Skim

The Neoliberal Financial Skim @ Of Two Minds describes in 5 simple graphs how “the perfection of the Neoliberal order is a parasitic financial sector protected by the Central Bank and State”.

And how “the Central Bank and State protect the financial sector’s vast skim of the national income with a combination of toothless regulations and regulations that are only enforced for purposes of percetpion management”.

And how “when the aforementioned benign neglect is insufficient to divert the national income to the parasitic finance-rentier sector, then the Central Bank and State actively transfer taxpayer monies to the financial sector via tax breaks, loopholes, and massive direct and indirect subsidies.”

Dont’ miss the graphs, courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

TYR 10 January 2013 reads

Is American Justice Dead? @ Casey Research American justice on a slippery slope.

“Few recent cases make the contention clearer than the announcement last week by the US Justice Department that it had settled its case against HSBC for acting as the bag men for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. The fine, $1.9 billion, amounts to about five weeks of revenue for the bank.”

“The basic setup is that for years, at the highest levels of HSBC, the bank worked hand in glove with the drug cartels to launder their money. So smooth was their relationship that the drug gangs used special cardboard boxes for them to fill with cash – boxes that were designed to fit easily through the teller windows of the HSBC branches in Mexico”

“the US has the highest prison population in the world, and by a wide margin: on a per-capita basis, it is 33% higher than the closest contender, Russia.”

“If you take into account everyone under “correctional supervision,” 3.1% of the US population is either in jail or on probation (for blacks, it’s a stunning 9.2%).”

“Yet, the money men for the murderous cartels that supply the stuff – the sort of fat-cat villains that serve as the centerpiece of every James Bond movie – get off with a hand slap.”

“How is this possible?”

“just like the much-maligned “banana republic,” the judicial system in the Anglo-Saxon world has been bifurcated into two systems – one for the politically favored and the other for the rest of us”

“Another recent case is that of the LIBOR fixing scandal.

“As you know, in this case a group of banks clearly conspired to rig the rates on the interest-rate index used to underpin over $300 trillion in loans. As the scandal was revealed, it was also revealed that top tax dodger and now US Treasury Secretary Tim “Timmy” Geithner was aware of the rigging as far back as at least 2007 when operating the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

“Yet Geithner’s elevated position in the Obama administration meant that this inconvenient revelation quietly faded into nothingness. As did the clear implication that if Geithner knew about it, so did untold scores of others at the Fed and other institutions at the time.”

“There is little question that the vast majority of the public is ignorant or apathetic, or both, to the pervasive corruption of the political classes and their financiers.”

America Meet Your New Slumlord: Wall Street @ A Lighting War for Liberty “because financiers are now the main players in the real estate market and are buying all the homes ordinary citizens were kicked out of over the past few years.  Yep, we bailed out the financial system so that financiers with access to cheap credit can buy up all of America’s real estate so that they can then rent it back to you later.”

Lascia ch’io pianga

Let me weep
my cruel fate,
and sigh for liberty.
May sorrow break these chains
Of my sufferings, for pity’s sake

Sung here by Patricia Petibon

Lascia ch’io pianga is a soprano aria by composer George Frideric Handel which has become a popular concert piece. The melody for the song began its life as an Asian dance in his 1705 opera Almira. As an aria the piece was first used in Handel’s 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno; albeit with a different text and name, “Lascia la spina”. Handel later recycled the work for his 1711 opera Rinaldo, giving the aria to the character Almirena (portrayed by soprano Isabella Girardeau in the opera’s premiere) in Act II. Rinaldo was a major triumph for Handel, and it is with this work that the aria is chiefly associated. The aria has been recorded by numerous artists on record and CD, and is featured in several films including FarinelliAll Things Fair by Bo WiderbergL.I.E. by Michael Cuesta and Antichrist by Lars von Trier.

Make nominal spending the new target? We hope not.

In the January 2 2013 edition of the Financial Times Mr. Scott Summer, economics professor at Bentley University, publishes an article titled Make nominal spending the new target, where he argues for the revolutionary, and increasingly MSM-pushed idea of making Nominal GDP Targeting (NGDPT) the official policy of central banks in most western countries. This policy was already hinted last December at a conference in Toronto by the present governor of the Bank of Canada (BoC), and future governor of the Bank of England (BoE), Mark Carney.

This in an article fraught with ideas that, if implemented, will permanently transform the nature of western economies and pave the way for structurally high inflation, potential hyperinflation, economic misallocation of resources, moral hazard (savers, wage earners and pensioners being punished), and general impoverishment of the population except for the few taking advantage of it thru their access to cheap financing: financial institutions and überwealthy individuals.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “Once a central bank sets an inflation target, they have essentially set a path for aggregate demand. In that case, what possible role can there be for fiscal stimulus? But as the past few years have shown, stimulus advocates and opponents are as vociferous as ever. And despite a widespread perception that most developed economies would benefit from more demand, central bankers seem unwilling or unable to deliver that growth.”

TYR states: This paragraph foreshadows the huge amounts of half-truths and outright lies that conform the article. It sets the stage for the assertion that a central bank’s main role is to foster “demand”, foster growth. This has never been the role assigned to monetary policy, whose main aim is, and should be, to preserve the purchasing value of the currency, that is , to keep inflation low. By positing that central banks should aim at fostering demand, the author conveniently ignores the fact that nominal GDP growth comes at the expense of inflation, that by debasing the currency in order to reach a theoretical NGDP target, no real growth is achieved, only the appearance of it, since that growth is basically inflation. This has been well-known since roman emperors clipped their silver coins. A not so obvious harm that such a policy would cause is a further misallocation of resources in the economy. By artificially fostering some sectors of the economy that depend on cheap financing (finance, housing) thru monetary policy, the same misallocation that was an important cause of the 2008 crisis is being perpetuated.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “Inflation targeting failed in two ways. First, it was a poor indicator of the adequacy of aggregate demand. Second, it is susceptible to “liquidity traps”, a period of near zero interest rates where central banks’ favourite tool – interest rate targeting – is rendered ineffective”.

TYR states: Inflation targeting was never intended to be an indicator of aggregate demand, but a (bad) tool to control inflation, the main aim of the guardians of the currency, central banks. Liquidity traps, a Keynesian and non-scientific term, is not caused by inflation targeting, but by debt overhangs, resulting in crisis, like the one in 2008, originated in  previous monetary laxity, precisely what the author recommends as future policy.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “This problem occurs because when the economy is very weak, even a 2 per cent inflation target might not be high enough to generate the sort of bullish expectations needed to stimulate demand. There’s already plenty of money in the system – we need higher spending growth expectations to push that money into circulation.”

TYR states: The author ignores the reasons behind the weakness in the economy, too much debt and misallocation of resources in the economy with some sectors overrepresented, housing and finance.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “Mark Carney’s speech on December 11 in Toronto demonstrated the growing interest in replacing inflation targeting with nominal gross domestic product level targeting, even among central bankers. The central bank would set a growth path for nominal GDP of perhaps 4 per cent or 5 per cent per year, and commit to return to that trend line when spending falls short or overshoots. Nominal GDP targeting would moderate the business cycle by being more contractionary than inflation targeting during a boom and more expansionary during a recession. And NGDP could do this while still delivering roughly the same long-run rate of inflation.”

TYR states: It is a huge mistake to assume that there is a “natural” nominal GDP growth rate, where is the scientific proof for this assumption? For centuries, GDP growth was very low, until the First Industrial Revolution speeded it up. What does that have to do with monetary policy? GDP growth depends basically on population growth and productivity, and productivity depends on availability of resources, capital and technological innovation, none of which are by any means affected by monetary policy.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “And there are many other advantages. If investors had known in 2008 that any declines in NGDP would be quickly made up, then asset prices would have fallen much less sharply, and demand would also have been more stable. The current prices of stocks, commodities and property are strongly influenced by their expected prices several years out. The severe asset price decline of late 2008 reflected the belief that central banks would fail to take decisive action to restore NGDP to the trend line.”

TYR states: Do we have to conclude that the inflated asset prices of 2008 should have been allowed to remain inflated for the sake of mantaining an arbitrarily determined nominal GDP level? In what way is this different from a centrally planned, fascist-soviet economy? What role does the cleansing mechanishm of failure have under such an economic system? This is certainly not capitalism.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “Some fear that inflation will become unanchored if we move to NGDP targeting. In fact, most of the problems that people associate with inflation are more closely linked to high and unstable NGDP growth. Wages tend to follow growth in national income. As long as NGDP growth is low and stable, wages and core inflation will remain well anchored.”

TYR states: Wages do not necessarily follow growth in national income. This has not been the fact in the last 40 years where wages have reduced their share as a percentage of GDP from 53% to 44%. It is corporate profits that have benefited the most from the covert inflation we’ve had since the USA dollar was unlinked from gold in 1971. But even if the author was right in this assumption, assume for example that we have a NGDP growth rate of 5%, an inflation rate of 5% and a wage growth of 5%…do we have any real GDP or income growth at all? No.

Mr. Scott Summer states: “A stable path for NGDP growth will also produce better policy decisions in other areas. Fiscal spending will have to be justified on a cost-benefit basis, once it is no longer expected to boost nominal demand. The cost of bailing out failed companies will be more transparent, as it will be obvious that more jobs in the rescued company are offset by fewer jobs elsewhere. Those claiming that Chinese exports cost jobs will have to provide a mechanism other than “less demand”, and won’t be able to do so. And, most importantly, countries will be able to address the public debt problem, as they should, without fear that austerity will cost jobs.”

TYR states: Here the author assumes that failed companies will be bailed out (moral hazard and misallocation of resources again) and that there will be fiscal prudence just because some mumbo-jumbo cost benefit analysis will conclude that any further spending does not contribute to nominal GDP growth. Central planning, covert economic fascism again. Finally, the author seems to assume that by central banks financing government deficits “countries will be able to address the public debt problem, as they should, without fear that austerity will cost jobs.”. Does anybody believe that by making deficits immune to their collateral negative effects, increase in interest rates and the associated recession, government deficits will be tackled?

Make nominal spending the new target? We hope not.