Federal Reserve

Inside The Fed – What Janet Yellen Won’t Tell You

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

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Inside The Fed – What Janet Yellen Won’t Tell You

 

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What is Janet Yellen, new Fed chairman, really worried about?

 

Is it that reported unemployment will stay high, that the economic recovery will never get off the ground, that we will fall back into recession, or that consumer prices will fall, thereby further endangering the huge debts that already zombify the economy? These are big concerns, no doubt, but not her largest worry. Her largest worry has to be that foreigners will stop buying U.S. bonds.

This is far from a needless worry. Recent events, events of just the past few months and weeks, including the Russian invasion of Crimea, make it even more of a threat to the U.S. government. But, first, some background.

Foreign individuals and businesses cut back on their purchases of U.S. bonds years ago. Their place was taken by foreign central banks. The central banks simply created money in their own currency and used it to buy our bonds.

Why did they do this? The Japanese may have done this because they rely on us for defense and want to help support our economy. But most of the central banks did it to keep their own currencies from appreciating against the dollar.

The more dollars they bought, the less their own currencies appreciated against the dollar. In this way, they kept their export prices down and protected their export related jobs.

This was not unlike the trade wars of the 1930’s, conducted with tariffs, but this time the trade wars were conducted with currency manipulations.

The Federal Reserve always knew that we couldn’t rely on foreign central banks to buy our bonds forever. That is probably the main reason it began the program called quantitative easing, in which the Fed created money out of thin air specifically to buy back U.S. debt.

Quantitative easing was a kind of insurance policy. If foreign central bank buying of U.S. bonds collapsed, the Fed would already have a program in place to buy them back itself.

The Fed always said that quantitative easing was meant to create U.S. jobs. But this never made much sense. Even a hard core proponent of QE, Fed official William Dudley ( formerly of Goldman Sachs), admitted that the Fed’s own economic models could not explain how creating money out of thin air and using it to buy U.S. bonds would increase employment. Some link to rising stock prices could be demonstrated, but then rising stock prices could not be shown to create jobs either.

One inference from this was that chairman Ben Bernanke, and now new chairman Janet Yellen, were just taking wild stabs in the dark. A more reasonable inference is that they had another reason for QE, one which they did not want to acknowledge.

Viewed in this way, it becomes clear that the 2008 bail-out was not so much a bail-out of Wall Street as a bail-out of Washington. The Federal Reserve feared that the market for government bonds was about to collapse, which would lead to soaring interest rates, and a complete collapse of our bubble financed government.

The Fed did not have the option of creating money and buying debt directly from the Treasury. That would be illegal. The Treasury must first sell its bonds to Wall Street, after which the Fed can then use its newly created money to buy them back. Hence, in order to rescue the Treasury, the Fed felt it had to rescue Wall Street.

This is a simplification of what happened, and only part of the story, but it is the untold part of the story, and in all likelihood the most important part. The Fed was in a panic in 2008, but not primarily about what might happen to Wall Street, and certainly not about what might happen to Main Street. It was in a panic over what might happen to government finance.

This interpretation is strengthened by new information contained in former Treasury secretary Hank Paulson’s recent book. He revealed that Russia tried in 2008 to persuade China to join in a collaborative effort to dump U.S. bonds in order to bring down the U.S. financial system. Although China refused to do so at the time, it is clear that China regards us as a geo-political foe, would like to end dollar dominance, and has itself been paring U.S. bond purchases.

The end result of the Fed’s panic during the Crash was over $3 trillion worth of Fed purchases of U.S. or what became U.S. backed bonds. In only a few years, the Fed became the largest single owner of U.S. bonds, even larger than Japan or China. The total U.S. debt held by the Fed today equals the entire U.S. debt at the end of the Clinton administration. It is of course completely nonsensical that the U.S. government is borrowing such large sums from itself.

At the moment, Janet Yellen’s worries about finding buyers of government bonds can only be getting worse. For much of last year, foreign central bank purchases of U.S. bonds fell. As of October of 2013, they had been negative for three and six months. Then they turned up a smidge, only to fall again, so that the last three months show a decrease of over 5%.

It is known that Russia has withdrawn its U.S. bonds from custody of the Fed after the Crimea invasion, and has either been selling or could sell at any time. It will no doubt try again to persuade other countries to join in undermining the U.S. bond market and replacing the dollar as the mainstay of world trade.

Under these circumstances, it should not be surprising that the Fed is today taking only baby steps to reduce its program of creating new money to buy U.S. bonds. This program is not just meant to revive the economy, which it has not done and cannot do. It is more likely designed as a desperate and in the long run counterproductive effort to finance the U.S. government and save today’s dollar dominated financial system.

Most recent book by Hunter Lewis:

Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

 


Hunter Lewis
About Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. He is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, LLC and author of 8 books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times) He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washing­ton Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as Breitbart.com, Forbes.com, Fox.com, and RealClearMarkets.com. His most recent books are Crony Capitalism in America: 2008–2012, Free Prices Now! Fixing the Economy by Abolishing the Fed, and Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural and global development organizations, as well as the World Bank.

 

The Federal Reserve Seems Quite Serious About Tapering – So What Comes Next?

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Source: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

By Michael Snyder

The Federal Reserve Seems Quite Serious About Tapering – So What Comes Next?

 

Dollars-300x300Will this be the year when the Fed’s quantitative easing program finally ends?  For a long time, many analysts were proclaiming that the Fed would never taper.  But then it started happening.  Then a lot of them started talking about how “the untaper” was right around the corner.  That hasn’t happened either.  It looks like that under Janet Yellen the Fed is quite determined to bring the quantitative easing program to a close by the end of this year.  Up until now, the financial markets have been slow to react because there has been a belief that the Fed would reverse course on tapering the moment that the U.S. economy started to slow down again.  But even though the U.S. middle class is in horrible shape, and even though there are lots of signs that we are heading into another recession, the Fed has continued tapering.

Of course it is important to note that the Fed is still absolutely flooding the financial system with money even after the announcement of more tapering on Wednesday.  When you are talking about $55,000,000,000 a month, you are talking about a massive amount of money.  So the Fed is not exactly being hawkish.

But when Yellen told the press that quantitative easing could end completely this fall and that the Fed could actually start raising interest rates about six months after that, it really spooked the markets.

The Dow was down 114 points on Wednesday, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up to 2.77%.  The following is how CNBC described the reaction of the markets on Wednesday…

Despite a seemingly dovish tone, markets recoiled at remarks from Yellen, who said interest rate increases likely would start six months after the monthly bond-buying program ends. If the program winds down in the fall, that would put a rate hike in the spring of 2015, earlier than market expectations for the second half of the year.
 
Stocks tumbled as Yellen spoke at her initial post-meeting news conference, with the Dow industrials at one point sliding more than 200 points before shaving those losses nearly in half. Short-term interest rates rose appreciably, with the five-year note moving up 0.135 percentage points. The seven-year note tumbled more than one point in price.

But this is just the beginning.  When it finally starts sinking in, and investors finally start realizing that the Fed is 100% serious about ending the flow of easy money, that is when things will start getting really interesting.

Can the financial markets stand on their own without massive Fed intervention?

We shall see.  Even now there are lots of signs that a market crash could be coming up in the not too distant future.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Is ‘Dr. Copper’ Foreshadowing A Stock Market Crash Just Like It Did In 2008?

And what is going to happen to the market for U.S. Treasuries once the Fed stops gobbling them up?

Where is the demand going to come from?

In recent months, foreign demand for U.S. debt has really started to dry up.  Considering recent developments in Ukraine, it is quite certain that Russia will not be accumulating any more U.S. debt, and China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves” and China actually dumped about 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December alone.

Collectively, Russia and China account for about a quarter of all foreign-owned U.S. debt.  If you take them out of the equation, foreign demand for U.S. debt is not nearly as strong.

Will domestic sources be enough to pick up the slack?  Or will we see rates really start to rise once the Fed steps to the sidelines?

And of course rates on U.S. government debt should actually be much higher than they are right now.  It simply does not make sense to loan the U.S. government massive amounts of money at interest rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.

If free market forces are allowed to prevail, it is inevitable that interest rates on U.S. debt will go up substantially, and that will mean higher interest rates on mortgages, cars, and just about everything else.

Of course the central planners at the Federal Reserve could choose to reverse course at any time and start pumping again.  This is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t have a true free market system.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic and financial problems of this country.  When the Fed intervenes and purposely distorts the operation of free markets, the Fed creates economic and financial bubbles which inevitably burst later on.  We saw this happen during the great financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.

This is what happens when you allow an unelected, unaccountable group of central planners to have far more power over our economy than anyone else in our society does.

Most people don’t realize this, but the greatest period of economic growth in all of U.S. history was when there was no central bank.

We don’t need a Federal Reserve.  In fact, the performance of the Federal Reserve has been absolutely disastrous.

Since the Fed was created just over 100 years ago, the U.S. dollar has lost more than 96 percent of its value, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.  The Fed is at the very center of a debt-based financial system that has trapped us, our children and our grandchildren in an endless spiral of debt slavery.

And now we are on the verge of the greatest financial crisis that the United States has ever seen.  The economic and financial storm that is about to unfold is ultimately going to be even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Things did not have to turn out this way.

Congress could have shut down the Federal Reserve long ago.

But our “leaders” never seriously considered doing such a thing, and the mainstream media kept telling all of us how much we desperately needed central planners to run our financial system.

Well, now those central planners have brought us to the brink of utter ruin, and yet only a small minority of Americans are calling for change.

Soon, we will all get to pay a great price for this foolishness.  A great financial storm is fast approaching, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

 

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Image credit: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

 

More High Stakes Appointments to the Federal Reserve

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

By

More High Stakes Appointments to the Federal Reserve

 

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It will still be the Obama Fed long after this president has gone.

 

The Obama administration has repeatedly complained about Republican blocking tactics in the Senate. In this context, it is worth remembering that the Democrats blocked President’s Bush’s last three nominees to the Federal Reserve Board. The Democrats calculated that a member of their party might win the White House in 2008 and why not wait in the hopes that a Democrat could shape the Federal Reserve for a generation to come.

This bet paid off, in that the seven member board is now comprised entirely of Obama appointees. Moreover Fed member terms are for 14 years, so a president’s choices may influence monetary policy long after he has left office.

Does any of this matter? Yes, the Federal Reserve has more power over the economy than the president himself. But isn’t monetary policy a non-partisan affair? Surely Fed members don’t operate with R’s or D’s on their backs.

Actually the idea of appointing non-partisan Fed members is even more of a fairy tale than the similar idea of appointing non-partisan judges. No one doubts anymore that the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is about politics. The illusion has persisted a little longer that we just need “good people” at the Fed, regardless of political and economic orientation, but illusion it is. As in the rest of politics, the Fed represents a battle between ideas and special interests.

The pretense of non-partisanship lasted longer at the Fed because until recently both Republicans and Democrats largely agreed about what they wanted from it. With the exception of Ronald Reagan, they were Keynesians who wanted more dollars printed and lower interest rates, because that was seen as the route to getting elected or re-elected, and why worry about the long run consequences, since as Keynes pointed out “in the long run we are all dead.”

This is now changing. Republicans succeeded in blocking Obama’s nomination of radical economist Peter Diamond to the Fed in 2011. After Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” of restricting the filibuster, Republicans could no longer repeat this performance. But 28 of them voted against Obama’s nomination of Janet Yellen to be the new Fed chairman. Only 11 of them voted to confirm: Flake (Ariz.); Kirk (Ill.); Corker (Tenn.); Coburn (Okla.); Collins (Maine); Coats (In.); Chambliss (Ga.); Burr (N.C.); Alexander (Tenn.); Ayotte (N.H.); and Murkowski (Alaska).

Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) exemplifies the confused Republican of today. He grasps that current monetary policy favors endless expansion of government control over the economy, with huge pay-offs to Wall Street and other special interests along the way, but falls for the circular argument that Fed members are “well qualified” precisely because they come from Keynesian university economics departments, government, or Wall Street.

In retrospect, there was something notable about George W. Bush’s last three appointees to the Fed board—the ones that were blocked by the Democrats. None of them had advanced degrees in economics. This was a throw-back to the old days when Fed appointees were rarely academic economists, but a sharp departure from current practice, when most are.

Respected financial writer Jim Grant jokes that today’s Fed has replaced the gold standard with the “Phd standard.” The problem, of course, is not Phds, but the economics departments they are coming from, and the lack of common sense in those departments. The Phd standard has given us the likes of the last Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, who bet the future of the US and indeed the world on a completely unproven and untested economic theory while literally smirking at those few unintimidated souls who, like Congressman Ron Paul, dared question him.

President Obama has now given us three more nominees to the Fed and the Senate has had a chance to interview them. The first and most important is Stanley Fischer, aged 70, nominee for vice chairman as well as a regular member.

The most curious thing about Fischer’s resume is that, having been born in Zambia, and naturalized as an American in 1976, he accepted Israeli citizenship in 2005 in order to become head of Israel’s central bank. Today he holds dual citizenship. Prior to living in Israel, he worked as a vice chairman of Citigroup from 2002-5, the years leading to the bank’s bail-out, and prior to that was deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, chief economist of the World Bank, and professor at MIT, where he taught Ben Bernanke among others. Somewhere along the way, he acquired a personal fortune of between $14 and $56mm.

We are thus to understand that President Obama, having searched the entire length and breadth of our land, could find nobody better than a 70 year old with Wall St. and International Monetary Fund baggage who had most recently worked for a foreign government.

The second nominee after Fischer is Lael Brainard, who has recently worked at the Treasury as an undersecretary. Ms. Brainard told senators that the Fed should protect “the savings of retirees.” She did not bother to explain how refusing to allow interest to be paid on savings, or seeking to foster inflation higher than interest would do so.

The final nominee, Jerome Powell, would be a reappointment. Although not a Phd economist and nominally a Republican from the George H. W. Bush administration, he fits the Obama mold in other ways, notably by being from Wall Street, and by being willing to keep quiet and go along. His most daring moment came when he called the Fed’s money creation machine under Bernanke and now under Janet Yellen “innovative and unconventional” and added that “likely benefits may be accompanied by costs and risks.” He has been a reliable vote for Bernanke and likely will be for the Yellen/Fischer regime as well.

Senator Corker waxed enthusiastic about this group of three, saying “I’m impressed,” and leading bond manager Mohamed El-Erian describes them as a “dream team” together with Yellen.

This does indeed seem to be a “dream team” for Wall Street, for corporations boosting profits to record levels with the help of government deficits, for other special interests feeding off the stimulus trough, and for government employees. For everyone else, it just promises more and eventually even worse economic misery.

 

Most recent book by Hunter Lewis:

Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

 


Hunter Lewis
About Hunter Lewis

Hunter Lewis is co-founder of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. He is co-founder and former CEO of global investment firm Cambridge Associates, LLC and author of 8 books on moral philosophy, psychology, and economics, including the widely acclaimed Are the Rich Necessary? (“Highly provocative and highly pleasurable.”—New York Times) He has contributed to the New York Times, the Times of London, the Washing­ton Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as numerous websites such as Breitbart.com, Forbes.com, Fox.com, and RealClearMarkets.com. His most recent books are Crony Capitalism in America: 2008–2012, Free Prices Now! Fixing the Economy by Abolishing the Fed, and Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles, and Busts. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen leading not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural and global development organizations, as well as the World Bank.

 

At the Fed, The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

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Source: http://ronpaulinstitute.org

By Ron Paul

At the Fed, The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

 

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Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen testified before Congress for the first time since replacing Ben Bernanke at the beginning of the month. Her testimony confirmed what many of us suspected, that interventionist Keynesian policies at the Federal Reserve are well-entrenched and far from over. Mrs. Yellen practically bent over backwards to reassure Wall Street that the Fed would continue its accommodative monetary policy well into any new economic recovery. The same monetary policy that got us into this mess will remain in place until the next crisis hits.

Isn’t it amazing that the same people who failed to see the real estate bubble developing, the same people who were so confident about economic recovery that they were talking about “green shoots” five years ago, the same people who have presided over the continued destruction of the dollar’s purchasing power never suffer any repercussions for the failures they have caused? They treat the people of the United States as though we were pawns in a giant chess game, one in which they always win and we the people always lose. No matter how badly they fail, they always get a blank check to do more of the same.

It is about time that the power brokers in Washington paid attention to what the Austrian economists have been saying for decades. Our economic crises are caused by central bank infusions of easy money into the banking system. This easy money distorts the structure of production and results in malinvested resources, an allocation of resources into economic bubbles and away from sectors that actually serve consumers’ needs. The only true solution to these burst bubbles is to allow the malinvested resources to be liquidated and put to use in other areas. Yet the Federal Reserve’s solution has always been to pump more money and credit into the financial system in order to keep the boom period going, and Mrs. Yellen’s proposals are no exception.

Every time the Fed engages in this loose monetary policy, it just sows the seeds for the next crisis, making the next crash even worse. Look at charts of the federal funds rate to see how the Fed has had to lower interest rates further and longer with each successive crisis. From six percent, to three percent, to one percent, and now the Fed is at zero. Some Keynesian economists have even urged central banks to drop interest rates below zero, which would mean charging people to keep money in bank accounts.

Chairman Yellen understands how ludicrous negative interest rates are, and she said as much in her question and answer period last week. But that zero lower rate means the Fed has had to resort to unusual and extraordinary measures: quantitative easing. As a result, the Fed now sits on a balance sheet equivalent to nearly 25 percent of US GDP, and is committing to continuing to purchase tens of billions more dollars of assets each month.

When will this madness stop? Sound economic growth is based on savings and investment, deferring consumption today in order to consume more in the future. Everything the Fed is doing is exactly the opposite, engaging in short-sighted policies in an attempt to spur consumption today, which will lead to a depletion of capital, a crippling of the economy, and the impoverishment of future generations. We owe it not only to ourselves, but to our children and our grandchildren, to rein in the Federal Reserve and end once and for all its misguided and destructive monetary policy.

 

No Janet Yellen, The Economy Is NOT “Getting Better”

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Source: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com

By Michael Snyder

No Janet Yellen, The Economy Is NOT “Getting Better”

 

Janet-Yellen1-300x300On Tuesday, new Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen went before Congress and confidently declared that “the economic recovery gained greater traction in the second half of last year” and that “substantial progress has been made in restoring the economy to health”.  This resulted in glowing headlines throughout the mainstream media such as this one from USA Today: “Yellen: Economy is improving at moderate pace“.  Sadly, tens of millions of Americans are going to believe what the mainstream media is telling them.  But it isn’t the truth.  As you will see below, there are all sorts of signs that the economy is taking a turn for the worse.  And when the next great economic crisis does strike, most Americans will be completely and totally unprepared because they trusted our “leaders” when they told us that everything would be just fine.

It is amazing how deceived people can be.  Just consider the case of 56-year-old Brian Perry.  He is a former law clerk that has applied for nearly 1,500 jobs since 2008 without any success.  But he says that he is “optimistic” that he will get another job soon because he believes that the economy is recovering

By his own count, Brian Perry has applied for nearly 1,500 jobs since being let go as a law clerk in 2008. The 56-year old Perry lives in Rhode Island, where the 9.1 percent unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points above the national average.
 
Perry remains optimistic that a job is forthcoming. He thinks a more robust economy would create better opportunities for the long-term unemployed like him.

Let us certainly hope that Perry does find a new job soon.  But if he does, it won’t be because we are experiencing an “economic recovery”.  Just consider the following facts…

-In January, we were told that the U.S. economy “created” 113,000 new jobs.  But that figure was arrived at only after adding a massive seasonal adjustment.  In reality, the U.S. economy actually lost 2.87 million jobs in January.  During the past decade, the only time the U.S. economy has lost more jobs in January was during 2009.  At that time, the U.S. economy was suffering through the peak of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

-Prominent retailers are closing hundreds of stores all over the United States.  Things have gotten so bad that some are calling this a “retail apocalypse“…

  • JC Penney, which lost $586 million in three months in 2013, is planning to close 33 stores in 19 states and lay off 2,000 people. JC Penney’s stock has lost 84 percent of its value since February 2012.
  • Sears has decided to shut down its flagship store in Downtown Chicago, and it has closed 300 stores in the United States since 2010. Stock analyst Brian Sozzi noted that Sear’s inventory levels have fallen by 23.7 percent since 2006. He also noted that Sears had $4.4 billion in cash and equivalents in 2005 but $609 million in cash and equivalents in 2012. Sozzi, who calls himself a guerrilla analyst, has a blog full of disturbing pictures of empty Sears stores.
  • Macy’s, one of the few retail success stories, is planning to close five stores and eliminate 2,500 jobs.
  • Radio Shack is preparing to close 500 stores, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Best Buy recently closed 50 stores and eliminated 950 jobs at stores in Canada.
  • Target announced plans to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 empty positions to reduce costs.
  • Aeropostale is planning to close 175 stores.
  • Blockbuster has closed down all of its stores.

-McDonald’s is reporting that sales at established U.S. locations were down 3.3 percent in January.

-In January, real disposable income in the U.S. experienced the largest year over year decline that we have seen since 1974.

-As I wrote about the other day, the number of “planned job cuts” in January was 12 percent higher than 12 months earlier, and it was actually 47 percent higher than in December.

-Only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

-What is happening to the U.S. stock market right now very closely resembles what happened to the U.S. stock market just before the horrific stock market crash of 1929.  Just check out the chart in this article.

For dozens more statistics that show that the U.S. economy is not improving, please see this article and this article.

Meanwhile, things continue to unravel all around the rest of the globe as well.

In previous articles, I have detailed how the reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve has inflated massive financial bubbles in emerging markets all over the planet.  Now that the Fed is “tapering”, those bubbles are starting to burst and we are witnessing a tremendous amount of economic chaos.  Here are three more examples…

#1 Ghana:

Ghanaian Economist Dr. Theo Richardson says Ghana’s economy will crash by June this year if the Bank of Ghana continues with its kneejerk measures to rescue the cedi.
 
“The government is facing liquidity problems and if we don’t get the appropriate remedies to address the issues at hand the situation may worsen and by June the economy may crash,” Dr. Richardson said.

#2 Kazakhstan:

With only $24.5 billion left in FX reserves after valiantly defending major capital outflows since the Fed’s Taper announcement, the Kazakhstan central bank has devalued the currency (Tenge) by 19% – its largest adjustment since 2009. At 185 KZT to the USD, this is the weakest the currency has ever been as the central bank cites weakness in the Russian Ruble and “speculation” against its currency as drivers of the outflows (which will be “exhausted” by this devaluation according to the bank). The new level will improve the country’s competitiveness (they are potassium heavy) but one wonders whether, unless Yellen folds whether it will help the outflows at all.

#3 India:

In the wake of a global stock market sell-off driven by worries over slower growth in emerging markets, the head of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, criticized the U.S. Federal Reserve as it pressed on with plans to dial back its monthly bond purchases: “International monetary co-operation has broken down,” said Rajan, who added that “the U.S. should worry about the effects of its polices on the rest of the world.”

We have reached a “turning point” for the global financial system.  Things are beginning to fall apart both in the United States and all around the world.

But at least the dogs at the White House are eating well.  Just consider the following photo that was recently tweeted by Michelle Obama

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This article first appeared here at the Economic Collapse Blog.  Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

 

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Austrian Economics with Glenn Jacobs

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Glenn Jacobs spoke to a group regarding Austian Economics several months back in the video shown below which I had intended to share.  Today I realize that despite the best of intentions and saving the video I had not yet posted the presentation by Glenn Jacobs, published by messengersforliberty, which I would encourage all to watch.  Should you have the opportunity to attend a meeting featuring Glenn Jacobs as speaker I would recommend attending, as you will find him to be a highly personable and intelligent individual, and that you will find your time very well spent.

 

Austrian Economics with Glenn Jacobs

 

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Published by messengersforliberty

This economic presentation with Glenn Jacobs, aka Kane, was documented on September 5, 2013.

“It really ticks me off when I hear leftists and statists talk about how the free market causes wealth inequality, the free market doesn’t. The free market though out history has allowed poor people to pull themselves up and has given people more socio economic ability to move up and down the socio economic ladder, up, than anything else in history.
Paul Krugman, who is a keynesian economist par excellence, just wants to inflate like crazy, but yet he writes a column for the New York Times and it’s called ‘Conscience of a Liberal’, because he loves poor people despite the fact that he’s the guy that’s killing them, but then he’ll look at someone like me and say you hate the poor. I don’t hate the poor, I hate the fact that they’re poor.”
—Glenn Jacobs

Follow Glenn Jacobs on Twitter: @JacobsReport

 

Jim Grant: Fed Insists On Saving Us From ‘Every Day Low Prices’ (Video)

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Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org

By

Jim Grant: Fed Insists On Saving Us From ‘Every Day Low Prices’ (Video)

 

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Why are falling prices bad? The Fed does everything it can to avoid “deflation.” But we have “deflation” in electronics every year, every month, and this increases our general quality of life. Why can’t this happen in other goods?

 

Prices don’t have to increase. They can stay steady. They can fall. In a healthy economy prices move.

Thing is, the banks don’t like falling prices because falling prices generally mean a reduced need/desire for credit. Can’t have that.

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How Central Banks Cause Income Inequality

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Source: https://mises.org

By

How Central Banks Cause Income Inequality

 

6653The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. The wealthiest 1 percent held 8 percent of the economic pie in 1975 but now hold over 20 percent. This is a striking change from the 1950s and 1960s when their share of all incomes was slightly over 10 percent. A study by Emmanuel Saez found that between 2009 and 2012 the real incomes of the top 1 percent jumped 31.4 percent. The richest 10 percent now receive 50.5 percent of all incomes, the largest share since data was first recorded in 1917. The wealthiest are becoming disproportionally wealthier at an ever increasing rate.

Most of the literature on income inequalities is written by professors from the sociology departments of universities. They have identified factors such as technology, the reduced role of labor unions, the decline in the real value of the minimum wage, and, everyone’s favorite scapegoat, the growing importance of China.

Those factors may have played a role, but there are really two overriding factors that are the real cause of income differentials. One is desirable and justified while the other is the exact opposite.

In a capitalist economy, prices and profit play a critical role in ensuring resources are allocated where they are most needed and used to produce goods and services that best meets society’s needs. When Apple took the risk of producing the iPad, many commentators expected it to flop. Its success brought profits while at the same time sent a signal to all other producers that society wanted more of this product. The profits were a reward for the risks taken. It is the profit motive that has given us a multitude of new products and an ever-increasing standard of living. Yet, profits and income inequalities go hand in hand. We cannot have one without the other, and if we try to eliminate one, we will eliminate, or significantly reduce, the other. Income inequalities are an integral outcome of the profit-and-loss characteristic of capitalism; they cannot be divorced.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher understood this inseparability well. She once said it is better to have large income inequalities and have everyone near the top of the ladder, than have little income differences and have everyone closer to the bottom of the ladder.

Yet, the middle class has been sinking toward poverty: that is not climbing the ladder. Over the period between 1979 and 2007, incomes for the middle 60 percent increased less than 40 percent while inflation was 186 percent. According to the Saez study, the remaining 99 percent saw their real incomes increase a mere .4 percent between 2009 and 2012. However, this does not come close to recovering the loss of 11.6 percent suffered between 2007 and 2009, the largest two-year decline since the Great Depression. When adjusted for inflation, low-wage workers are actually making less now than they did 50 years ago.

This brings us to the second undesirable and unjustified source of income inequalities, i.e., the creation of money out of thin air, or legal counterfeiting, by central banks. It should be no surprise the growing gap in income inequalities has coincided with the adoption of fiat currencies worldwide. Every dollar the central bank creates benefits the early recipients of the money—the government and the banking sector — at the expense of the late recipients of the money, the wage earners, and the poor. Since the creation of a fiat currency system in 1971, the dollar has lost 82 percent of its value while the banking sector has gone from 4 percent of GDP to well over 10 percent today.

The central bank does not create anything real; neither resources nor goods and services. When it creates money it causes the price of transactions to increase. The original quantity theory of money clearly related money to the price of anything money can buy, including assets. When the central bank creates money, traders, hedge funds and banks — being first in line — benefit from the increased variability and upward trend in asset prices. Also, future contracts and other derivative products on exchange rates or interest rates were unnecessary prior to 1971, since hedging activity was mostly unnecessary. The central bank is responsible for this added risk, variability, and surge in asset prices unjustified by fundamentals.

The banking sector has been able to significantly increase its profits or claims on goods and services. However, more claims held by one sector, which essentially does not create anything of real value, means less claims on real goods and services for everyone else. This is why counterfeiting is illegal. Hence, the central bank has been playing a central role as a “reverse Robin Hood” by increasing the economic pie going to the rich and by slowly sinking the middle class toward poverty.

Janet Yellen recently said “I am hopeful that … inflation will move back toward our longer-run goal of 2 percent, demonstrating her commitment to an institutionalized policy of theft and wealth redistribution.” The European central bank is no better. Its LTRO strategy was to give longer term loans to banks on dodgy collateral to buy government bonds which they promptly turned around and deposited with the central bank for more cheap loans for more government bonds. This has nothing to do with liquidity and everything to do with boosting bank profits. Yet, every euro the central bank creates is a tax on everyone that uses the euro. It is a tax on cash balances. It is taking from the working man to give to the rich European bankers. This is clearly a back door monetization of the debt with the banking sector acting as a middle man and taking a nice juicy cut. The same logic applies to the redistribution created by paying interest on reserves to U.S. banks.

Concerned with income inequalities, President Obama and democrats have suggested even higher taxes on the rich and boosting the minimum wage. They are wrongly focusing on the results instead of the causes of income inequalities. If they succeed, they will be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If they are serious about reducing income inequalities, they should focus on its main cause, the central bank.

In 1923, Germany returned to its pre-war currency and the gold standard with essentially no gold. It did it by pledging never to print again. We should do the same.

 


About the Author

Frank Hollenbeck

Frank Hollenbeck teaches finance and economics at the International University of Geneva. He has previously held positions as a Senior Economist at the State Department, Chief Economist at Caterpillar Overseas, and as an Associate Director of a Swiss private bank. 

 

Image credit: https://mises.org

 

Okay Mr. President, you want to talk about “inequality”? Let’s talk about it.

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Okay Mr. President, you want to talk about “inequality”? Let’s talk about it.

 

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I woke up this morning to Steve Liesman on CNBC explaining the theme of tonight’s State of the Union Address. You see, since 1980 middle class wages have only gone up only 50% in inflation adjusted terms whereas for the top 1% of earners income has gone up by 210%. Something clearly must be done. How can such a disparity be? This is unfair. Can’t the government “solve” this?

The new narrative which has likely been crafted by John Podesta super crony capitalist extraordinaire, is that Congress (specifically the Republican controlled House) isn’t letting the president address the issue of income inequality.

“It’s those old guys who don’t care about you who are holding back the manna from heaven aka Washington DC. It’s their fault not mine. I’m not incompetent and way out of my league even after 5 years in the White House. Not my fault. It’s the selfish and rich Republicans. They want you to remain poor.”

Rally the base when times are bad is the old political wisdom, and they are very bad for this president. Shore up the folks who will defend you no matter what and change the conversation from Obamacare. Anything but Obamacare.

Given that the ACA is Obama’s chief “achievement” to date this is a particularly sad state of affairs. The president’s “pivot” (the word is right up there with “optics” in my book) toward income inequality is a cynical political move. The White House is desperate to regain at least some momentum in the face of a 2013 which was one failure after another.

But since Mr. Obama seems keen on bringing it up, let’s talk about inequality.

Despite what the establishment #oldmedia always say, the increased income inequality that we see is not the result of the “rich” taking advantage of unfettered markets and then making a mint at the expense of everyone else. Capitalism, free markets, free thinking, entrepreneurship, innovation, is not the problem. Capitalism is in most respects the cure. No, the problem is that business and government have increasingly partnered with one another to make some very rich and to shut out others. It’s too little capitalism which is the problem.

Let’s take a look at the most obvious example, Wall Street.

Has Wall Street reaped the windfall it has over the past 5 years because of the free market, because of capitalism?

Absolutely not. Had the free market been allowed to work in 2008 Goldman Sachs, AIG, Citi, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley would probably be history. These banks leveraged themselves out too far and got caught exposed. Their greed did them in. Mr Market made a margin call and many “masters of the universe” turned out to have feet of clay after all. The banks should have been allowed to collapse so that better managed banks could fill in the space.

The banks weren’t too big to fail. They could have failed and life would have gone on. ATMs would have kept working. The sun would have still risen in the east. The economy after a period of adjustment would have righted itself and emerged much healthier for having jettisoned the poorly managed firms. Lloyd Blankfein would have been out of a job, but he’d have survived somehow in the Hamptons.

But that isn’t what happened as we know. The managers of these institutions knew how to manipulate the levers of power. They were able to engineer a massive bailout, which started at $700 billion and just grew from there. In the years after the bailout bonuses were paid out at the big banks with abandon. These bonuses were for the most part paid for by the American taxpayer. No wonder people are angry.

But the bailouts weren’t capitalism. The bonuses which were paid to Jamie Dimon and friends weren’t a result of “free markets.” They weren’t the just rewards of building a better mousetrap, or even building a better derivative algorithm. They were the result of crony capitalism, a soft form of fascism, which is of course a form of socialism. The bankers made millions because the state redistributed the income of everyday Americans and gave it to Wall Street.

Or take for example the sell off of the taxpayer’s (forced) position in GM at a loss last year. In addition to losing $10 billion on the deal for the taxpayers, the deal done by Treasury unleashes the executives which so long as money was still owed to the taxpayer couldn’t go nuts with executive compensation. Now, after the $10 billion taxpayer loss they and the GM board are free to do as they wish in the pay department.

Or what about the huge percentage of so called “green” energy initiative grants and loans which went to politically connected people in 2009. Folks made millions, in wind, solar, algae, and who knows what else, all again courtesy of the US tax payer. Almost none of the ventures were economically viable. But lots of people got paid that is for sure.

There are probably thousands of other examples over the last 10 years or so (and many more going back way before the past decade,) ranging from war profiteering of all sorts, to cronyism in the new healthcare law, to draconian copyright laws which are a subsidy to Hollywood, to, well, there are many other examples which we have chronicled at Against Crony Capitalism.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that there is so much income inequality. Business and government in this country have partnered up. Sometimes the government has the upper hand. Sometimes business does. But both parties engage in the crony capitalism waltz to enrich themselves, to the exclusion of a large part of the American population.

And at the heart of it all, is the Federal Reserve.

Nothing creates illegitimate inequality (there is legitimate income inequality which exists in a free price system) like the Federal Reserve.

0% interest rates are for the most part pretty good for rich people. Money which is super cheap can be used to speculate and invest at almost no cost. In theory such low rates are also good for home buyers. Low rates keep monthly payments lower. More people buying homes (with lower payments) spurs the economy and then the economy roars back to life as we all buy Sub Zero freezers and SUVs. This was the logic behind the housing boom in the mid 2000s and it is the same logic the Fed is using now (with less success.)

But 0% rates also means that savers are hung out to dry. The prudent middle class is hammered. Those who have a nice nest egg built up over a lifetime of hard work and thrift find that unless they take on significant risk there is no return for their money. $500,000 in a CD not so long ago yielded an yearly payout of $25,000. Now because of the Fed keeping money cheap artificially that same $500,000 might yield $5,000 on an annualized basis if one is lucky.

Over time granny finds that $5000 per year isn’t enough to get by on even though her house is paid off. She finds she must dip into her nest egg a little more each year, which also in turn lowers her already modest yield. Soon the nest egg is gone.

Of course she can always seek increased yield in other places like the stock market, (which though they won’t say it is exactly where the Fed wants granny to put her money) but widows and orphans really have no business there. It’s bad enough for granny to lose her pool of wealth over years. Losing much of it in an afternoon is tougher to take. But that is what our current monetary policy encourages.

Not so long ago granny could keep up. She could beat inflation and pay her living expenses. When she died her wealth was passed on to the next generation.

But now, thanks to the Fed and it’s policies which benefit the hedge fund guys instead of the average saver it is unlikely that much of granny’s wealth will be passed on. Wealth has been pulled from the middle class.

“Inequality” has been exacerbated by a government which is too large. The only way to get the economy on track is to lessen the footprint of government. Free prices. Free markets. Let people create. Make it easier to start businesses

But tonight Obama is unlikely to talk about how after years and years of failure government must now get out of the way. (Boy how great would that be?) Or how government sponsored public/private partnerships steal money from the average American. Or how the government enabled the biggest bonus binge Wall Street has ever seen. Or how granny is getting clobbered because of loose monetary policy.

No, my bet is that he will talk about how the economy has worked for the “rich” while others have fallen behind. But he won’t call for freer markets and an end to price fixing at the Federal Reserve. He will instead insist that government “do something.” What that something is I’m not sure but the term “shovel ready” will likely make an appearance tonight along with its old buddy “infrastructure improvement.”

The president will probably wag his finger at the House GOP a bit and threaten to use executive actions to go around them. He’ll try to look like he means business.

Obama will also talk about the need to raise the minimum wage, which is basically economic suicide but makes for good sound bites. He will give hope to people who are hurting but who unfortunately may not understand that if the minimum wage is raised they may soon be out of a job.

In short Obama will be long on proposals, long on rhetoric, but woefully short on understanding. Pretty much the to story of his presidency.

Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org


Nick Sorrentino
About Nick Sorrentino

Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.

 

 

Monetary Cocaine: How The Fed Steals America’s Savings (Video from David Stockman)

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Monetary Cocaine: How The Fed Steals America’s Savings (Video from David Stockman)

 

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There was a time when saving, being prudent, delaying gratification, and being modest was rewarded in this country. That is much less the case now under a Federal Reserve which manipulates interest rates down for the benefit of the Wall Street class.

A few more kilos of fiat blow ought to keep the boys happy until the next FOMC meeting.

David Stockman sums it up nicely.

 

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