Breakfast inflation

One of the least discussed and at the same time most important aspects of this economic crisis is the discrepancy between official inflation measures used by the FED, the Consumer Price Index( CPI) and, specially, Personal Consumer Expenditures (PCE), and the real inflation experienced by real people. One example of this last real inflation is the cost of a breakfast as measured by the Breakfast Beverage Index, that is at its highest level in 2 years. If you want to learn more about how inflation is mismeasured and misrepresented in the USA, visit Shadowstats.

Source: Bloomberg

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TYReads “One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed”

On the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Federal Reserve (FED), designed in secrecy by a group of Wall Street bankers and voted into existence by the American Congress on december 23 1913, Ron Paul publishes this article arguing that its creators have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and that the FED has taken total control of the american economy, and not for the good.

To illustrate Ron Paul’s message we include 2 charts. In the first one we can see the loss in purchasing power of the US Dollar from around 1900 until today. In the second one we can see the percentage silver content in the Roman Denarius from around 180 AD to 280 AD, after the government of the Antonines, when Rome went into rapid decline.

devaluation_dollar1

devaluation_denarius

The article:

After 100 Years Of Failure, It’s Time To End The Fed!

A week from now, the Federal Reserve System will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding. Resulting from secret negotiations between bankers and politicians at Jekyll Island, the Fed’s creation established a banking cartel and a board of government overseers that has grown ever stronger through the years. One would think this anniversary would elicit some sort of public recognition of the Fed’s growth from a quasi-agent of the Treasury Department intended to provide an elastic currency, to a de facto independent institution that has taken complete control of the economy through its central monetary planning. But just like the Fed’s creation, its 100th anniversary may come and go with only a few passing mentions.

Like many other horrible and unconstitutional pieces of legislation, the bill which created the Fed, the Federal Reserve Act, was passed under great pressure on December 23, 1913, in the waning moments before Congress recessed for Christmas with many Members already absent from those final votes. This underhanded method of pressuring Congress with such a deadline to pass the Federal Reserve Act would provide a foreshadowing of the Fed’s insidious effects on the US economy—with actions performed without transparency.

Ostensibly formed with the goal of preventing financial crises such as the Panic of 1907, the Fed has become increasingly powerful over the years. Rather than preventing financial crises, however, the Fed has constantly caused new ones. Barely a few years after its inception, the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy to help fund World War I led to the Depression of 1920. After the economy bounced back from that episode, a further injection of easy money and credit by the Fed led to the Roaring Twenties and to the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in American history.

But even though the Fed continued to make the same mistakes over and over again, no one in Washington ever questioned the wisdom of having a central bank. Instead, after each episode the Fed was given more and more power over the economy. Even though the Fed had brought about the stagflation of the 1970s, Congress decided to formally task the Federal Reserve in 1978 with maintaining full employment and stable prices, combined with constantly adding horrendously harmful regulations. Talk about putting the inmates in charge of the asylum!

Now we are reaping the noxious effects of a century of loose monetary policy, as our economy remains mired in mediocrity and utterly dependent on a stream of easy money from the central bank. A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. The government’s growing monopoly on money creation, high barriers to entry into banking to protect politically favored incumbents, and favored treatment for government debt combined to create a rickety, panic-prone banking system. Had legislators known then what we know now, we could hope that they never would have established the Federal Reserve System.

Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.

TYReads The End Of German Hyperinflation

Today 90 years ago, on the 15 of November 1923, by fixing the value of the recently created Rentenmark at a rate of 1 trillion (1.000.000.000.000) Papermark per 1 Rentenmark, and one month later, by setting the rate of the Rentenrmark against the US Dollar at a rate of 4,2 Rentenmark per 1 US Dollar, the exchange rate that had prevailed between the Reichsmark and the US dollar before World War I, Hjalmar Schacht, the then new president of the Reichsbank, ended the German Hyperinflation of 1922-1923, a monetary phenomenon that it is often argued paved the way for the later onset of Nazism. Thorsten Polliet of The Ludwig von Mises Institute has written this article about it.

90 Years Ago: The End Of German Hyperinflation by Thorsten Polleit @ The Ludwig von Mises Institute

On 15 November 1923 decisive steps were taken to end the nightmare of hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic: The Reichsbank, the German central bank, stopped monetizing government debt, and a new means of exchange, the Rentenmark, was issued next to the Papermark (in German: Papiermark). These measures succeeded in halting hyperinflation, but the purchasing power of the Papermark was completely ruined. To understand how and why this could happen, one has to take a look at the time shortly before the outbreak of World War I.

Since 1871, the mark had been the official money in the Deutsches Reich. With the outbreak of World War I, the gold redeemability of the Reichsmark was suspended on 4 August 1914. The gold-backed Reichsmark (or “Goldmark,” as it was referred to from 1914) became the unbacked Papermark. Initially, the Reich financed its war outlays in large part through issuing debt. Total public debt rose from 5.2bn Papermark in 1914 to 105.3bn in 1918. In 1914, the quantity of Papermark was 5.9 billion, in 1918 it stood at 32.9 billion. From August 1914 to November 1918, wholesale prices in the Reich had risen 115 percent, and the purchasing power of the Papermark had fallen by more than half. In the same period, the exchange rate of the Papermark depreciated 84 percent against the US dollar.

The new Weimar Republic faced tremendous economic and political challenges. In 1920, industrial production was 61 percent of the level seen in 1913, and in 1923 it had fallen further to 54 percent. The land losses following the Versailles Treaty had weakened the Reich’s productive capacity substantially: the Reich lost around 13 percent of its former land mass, and around 10 percent of the German population was now living outside its borders. In addition, Germany had to make reparation payments. Most important, however, the new and fledgling democratic governments wanted to cater as best as possible to the wishes of their voters. As tax revenues were insufficient to finance these outlays, the Reichsbank started running the printing press.

From April 1920 to March 1921, the ratio of tax revenues to spending amounted to just 37 percent. Thereafter, the situation improved somewhat and in June 1922, taxes relative to total spending even reached 75 percent. Then things turned ugly. Toward the end of 1922, Germany was accused of having failed to deliver its reparation payments on time. To back their claim, French and Belgian troops invaded and occupied the Ruhrgebiet, the Reich’s industrial heartland, at the beginning of January 1923. The German government under chancellor Wilhelm Kuno called upon Ruhrgebiet workers to resist any orders from the invaders, promising the Reich would keep paying their wages. The Reichsbank began printing up new money by monetizing debt to keep the government liquid for making up tax-shortfalls and paying wages, social transfers, and subsidies.

From May 1923 on, the quantity of Papermark started spinning out of control. It rose from 8.610 billion in May to 17.340 billion in April, and further to 669.703 billion in August, reaching 400 quintillion (that is 400 x 1018) in November 1923.[2] Wholesale prices skyrocketed to astronomical levels, by rising by 1.813 percent from the end of 1919 to November 1923. At the end of World War I in 1918 you could have bought 500 billion eggs for the same money you would have to spend five years later for just one egg. Through November 1923, the price of the US dollar in terms of Papermark had risen by 8.912  percent. The Papermark had actually sunken to scrap value.

With the collapse of the currency, unemployment was on the rise. Since the end of the war, unemployment had remained fairly low — given that the Weimar governments had kept the economy going by vigorous deficit spending and money printing. At the end of 1919, the unemployment rate stood at 2.9 percent, in 1920 at 4.1 percent, 1921 at 1.6 percent and 1922 at 2.8 percent. With the dying of the Papermark, though, the unemployment rate reached 19.1 percent in October, 23.4 percent in November, and 28.2 percent in December. Hyperinflation had impoverished the great majority of the German population, especially the middle class. People suffered from food shortages and cold. Political extremism was on the rise.

The central problem for sorting out the monetary mess was the Reichsbank itself. The term of its president, Rudolf E. A. Havenstein, was for life, and he was literally unstoppable: under Havenstein, the Reichsbank kept issuing ever greater amounts of Papiermark for keeping the Reich financially afloat. Then, on 15 November 1923, the Reichsbank was made to stop monetizing government debt and issuing new money. At the same time, it was decided to make one trillion Papermark (a number with twelve zeros: 1,000,000,000,000) equal to one Rentenmark. On 20 November 1923, Havenstein died, all of a sudden, through a heart attack. That same day, Hjalmar Schacht, who would become Reichsbank president in December, took action and stabilized the Papermark against the US dollar: the Reichsbank, and through foreign exchange market interventions, made 4.2 trillion Papermark equal to one US Dollar. And as one trillion Papermark was equal to one Rentenmark, the exchange rate was 4.2 Rentenmark for one US dollar. This was exactly the exchange rate that had prevailed between the Reichsmark and the US dollar before World War I. The “miracle of the Rentenmark” marked the end of hyperinflation.

How could such a monetary disaster happen in a civilized and advanced society, leading to the total destruction of the currency? Many explanations have been put forward. It has been argued that, for instance, that reparation payments, chronic balance of payment deficits, and even the depreciation of the Papermark in the foreign exchange markets had actually caused the demise of the German currency. However, these explanations are not convincing, as the German economist Hans F. Sennholz explains: “[E]very mark was printed by Germans and issued by a central bank that was governed by Germans under a government that was purely German. It was German political parties, such as the Socialists, the Catholic Centre Party, and the Democrats, forming various coalition governments that were solely responsible for the policies they conducted. Of course, admission of responsibility for any calamity cannot be expected from any political party.” Indeed, the German hyperinflation was manmade, it was the result of a deliberate political decision to increase the quantity of money de facto without any limit.

What are the lessons to be learned from the German hyperinflation? The first lesson is that even a politically independent central bank does not provide a reliable protection against the destruction of (paper) money. The Reichsbank had been made politically independent as early as 1922; actually on behalf of the allied forces, as a service rendered in return for a temporary deferment of reparation payments. Still, the Reichsbank council decided for hyperinflating the currency. Seeing that the Reich had to increasingly rely on Reichsbank credit to stay afloat, the council of the Reichsbank decided to provide unlimited amounts of money in such an “existential political crisis.” Of course, the credit appetite of the Weimar politicians turned out to be unlimited.

The second lesson is that fiat paper money won’t work. Hjalmar Schacht, in his 1953 biography, noted: “The introduction of the banknote of state paper money was only possible as the state or the central bank promised to redeem the paper money note at any one time in gold. Ensuring the possibility for redeeming in gold at any one time must be the endeavor of all issuers of paper money.” Schacht’s words harbor a central economic insight: Unbacked paper money is political money and as such it is a disruptive element in a system of free markets. The representatives of the Austrian School of economics pointed this out a long time ago.

Paper money, produced “ex nihilo” and injected into the economy through bank credit, is not only chronically inflationary, it also causes malinvestment, “boom-and-bust” cycles, and brings about a situation of over-indebtedness. Once governments and banks in particular start faltering under their debt load and, as a result, the economy is in danger of contracting, the printing up of additional money appears all too easily to be a policy of choosing the lesser evil to escape the problems that have been caused by credit-produced paper money in the first place. Looking at the world today — in which many economies have been using credit-produced paper monies for decades and where debt loads are overwhelmingly high, the current challenges are in a sense quite similar to those prevailing in the Weimar Republic more than 90 years ago. Now as then, a reform of the monetary order is badly needed; and the sooner the challenge of monetary reform is taken on, the smaller will be the costs of adjustment.

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

Guild Navigator - Dune (1984)

If you are a science fiction fan you’ll probably remember Dune, the excellent novel (a series of them actually) by Frank Herbert, and the film by David Lynch based on the same book. In it, one of the villains, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, utters “He who controls the spice controls the universe”, the spice being a rare substance harvested in desert and desolate planet Arrakis and without which the universe would would grind to a halt (if you want to know why and have not read the book or seen the movie…just do it!). Instead of “spice” use “credit” and you’d have an adept metaphor of our universe, our western societies.

This week Spiegel Online interviewed Carmen Reinhart, an american economist known for being the co-author, with Kenneth Rogoff, of the book This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, in which they study debt crisis and their aftermaths in the last 800 years.

In this interview Ms. Reinhart gives very clear hints as to what the aftermath of the present debt crisis in western societies might be: inflation and impoverishment of savers and the general population. She also mentions the methods by which such an outcome will be achieved: financial repression and monetization of debt (aka Quantitative Easing aka QE).

Ms. Reinhart holds the thesis that governments have forced Central Banks to relinquish their independence in order to finance government deficits that can no longer be addressed via fiscal policies. What she does not say, be it because she does not believe it or because she does not dare, is that governments are themselves subservient to financial markets, an issue that we addressed in TYR reads “… a de facto coup d’état by Wall Street”. Ms. Reinhart utters some truths and chooses to ignore some other ones. The interview is both illuminating and mystifying, but well worth reading.

At the end of the interview…

…Spiegel asks “That sounds like a perpetual motion…”

…and Ms. Reinhart answers…”Of course it is!”.

It is perpetual motion because credit is the spice of our financial universe, a spice created by Central Banks, where decisions are taken by unelected officials, that channel it, at a very low or no cost, thru the private banking system, that multiplies and redistributes it, at a cost, to the rest of the economy. Ms. Reinhart tries to convince us that it is governments that control money, credit. No, Frank Herbert knew better. It is the Guild, the banking industry and their owners, who control the spice…credit…Central Banks…and in the end governments. How do we know?…ask yourself…Cui Bono? “He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

Some excerpts from the interview:

“So what happens is that money is transferred from savers to borrowers via negative interest rates.”

“If central banks try to accommodate and buy debt, there are risks associated with it. Somewhere down the road you are going to wind up with higher inflation.”

No doubt, pensions are screwed. Governments have a lot of leverage on what kinds of assets pension funds hold.”

“…after World War II austerity was easier to pursue, because you had a younger population and therefore less entitlements. Furthermore, military expenditure was easier to reduce. So, the build-up in debt we have seen since the crisis is very rare. Usually you get that kind of build-up when there is a war.”

4 April 2013 TYR reads

Helicopter QE will never be reversed @ The Telegraph Ambrose Evans-Pritchard hints at what the nature of the end-game of this monetary era might be…and it is printing money…forever. With an apparently neutral style and quoting potentially apocalyptic outcomes if permanent money printing by Central Banks is not considered ( “A breakdown of the global trading system might be one, armed conquest or Fascism may be others – or all together, as in the 1930s.”), the idea of a radical change of the monetary and economic system, without democratic consent, is being gradually introduced to a public opinion that is largely unable to understand the consequences of such monetary policies. He concludes: “Bondholders across the world may suspect that Britain, the US and other deadbeat states are engineering a stealth default on sovereign debts, and they may be right in a sense. But they are warned. This is the next shoe to drop in the temples of central banking.”

97% Of Spanish Social Security Pension Fund In Domestic Bonds @ Zerohedge “It appears, since the Spanish government does not explicitly have its own Fed to monetize debt, that it has merely plundered another quasi-governmental entity to do the bond-buying reach-around.”

Bank of Japan unveils aggressive easing @ Financial Times “The BoJ said it would double Japan’s monetary base from Y135tn ($1.43tn) to Y270tn by March 2015, mainly by buying more long-term government bonds.”. “We can’t escape deflation with the incremental approach that’s been taken until now,” Mr Kuroda said after the announcement. “We need to use every means available.”.

As Mr. Evans-Pritchard mentions in his article, “There were two extreme episodes of money printing in the inter-war years. The Reichsbank’s financing of Weimar deficits from 1922 to 1924 – like lesser variants in France, Belgium and Poland – is well known. The result was hyperinflation. Clever people made hay. The slow-witted – or the patriotic – lost their savings.”. The policies and situations described in the articles above suggest that it might happen, again.

TYR watches “Jim Rogers: We’re Wiping Out The Savings Class Globally, To Terrible Consequence”

Jim Rogers: We’re Wiping Out The Savings Class Globally, To Terrible Consequence @ Peak Prosperity

Chris Martenson interviews Jim Rogersan American investor and author. Rogers is the Chairman of Rogers Holdings and Beeland Interests, Inc. He was the co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI). In the interview Jim Rogers draws attention on this unique moment in financial history where most central banks engage in “money printing”, wiping out the western world’s saving class, and creating the foundations for a potentially devastating future.

“For the first time in recorded history, we have nearly every central bank printing money and trying to debase their currency. This has never happened before. How it’s going to work out, I don’t know.”

“Throughout our history – any country’s history – the people who save their money and invest for their future are the ones that you build an economy, a society, and a nation on.”

“In America, many people saved their money, put it aside, and didn’t buy four or five houses with no job and no money down. They did what most people would consider the right thing, and what historically has been the right thing. But now, unfortunately, those people are being wiped out, because they are getting 0% return, or virtually no return, on their savings and their investments. We’re wiping them out at the expense of people who went deeply into debt, people who did what most people would consider the wrong thing at the expense of people who did the right thing. This, long-term, has terrible consequences for any nation, any society, any economy.”

Bernanke & Hockey Stick Inflation

Yesterday, in his biannual testimony to the USA Congress, the president of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, asserted that inflation under his and Mr. Greenspan’s mandate was no more than 2% a year. While this might be “true” using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, please check ShadowStats for a true picture of inflation in the USA. Even using BLS data, it is very informative to check a chart of inflation of the USA from 1775 until 2012. Please note 2 dates: the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and the decoupling of the US Dollar from gold under the Nixon administration in 1971.

Inflation under 2% per year? Look again

InflationChart