The Obama Recovery is Good for Wall Street but Bad for Main Street

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2014

Week in Review

The December jobs report was pretty bleak.  It showed that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% and that the economy added 74,000 jobs.  Not great but good enough for some who say that President Obama’s policies are finally working after 5 some years of trying.  Which is ridiculous.  Because that unemployment rate doesn’t tell you how many people lost their jobs.  And how many people disappeared from the civilian labor force as they gave up trying to find work that just isn’t there.  Which hides the number of people who lost their jobs.  Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t count anyone as unemployed if they are no longer looking for work.  But if you dig down into the jobs report you’ll find this data.  And see that for every person that entered the labor force about seven people left it in December (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted January 13th, 2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which is anything but an economic recovery.

All during the Obama presidency the Federal Reserve has been stimulating the economy.  Right out of the Keynesian handbook.  By keeping interest rates near zero to encourage people to borrow money to buy things they don’t need.  But few have.  No.  The only people borrowing that money are rich investors.  Who are borrowing this ‘free’ money to spend in the stock market.  Helping Wall Street to do very well during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  While Main Street sees their median family income fall.  Still the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, thinks he did a heck of a job (see Bernanke Says QE Effective While Posing No Immediate Bubble Risk by Jeff Kearns and Joshua Zumbrun posted 1/16/2014 on Bloomberg).

Bernanke is seeking to define his legacy before stepping down on Jan. 31. During his eight-year tenure as leader of the Fed he piloted the economy through a financial crisis that led to the longest recession since the 1930s. He has tried to bolster growth by holding the target interest rate near zero and pushing forward with unprecedented bond buying known as QE.

“Those who have been saying for the last five years that we’re just on the brink of hyperinflation, I think I would just point them to this morning’s CPI number and suggest that inflation is not really a significant risk of this policy,” Bernanke said, referring to a Labor Department report showing the consumer price index rose 1.5 percent in the past year. The Fed has set an inflation target of 2 percent…

The Federal Open Market Committee (FDTR) announced plans last month to reduce monthly purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the labor market. The jobless rate last month fell to 6.7 percent, a five-year low.

The only reason why we don’t have hyperinflation is that everyone has depreciated their currency so much to boost exports and pay for bloated welfare states that all currencies are losing value.  And of all these bad currencies the American currency is the least bad of the lot.  Which is why some foreign nationals will pay to park their money in American banks.  Because the risk of it losing its value is so much greater in their home country.

But that doesn’t mean inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head in the US economy.  Just go to a grocery store and look at a bag of chips.  Or a box of cookies.  Or any packaged item that didn’t seem to get overly expensive during the Obama recession. A bag of chips may be the same $3-4 it was before the recession.  But notice the size of the bag.  It’s gotten smaller.  So, yes, consumer prices have not shown great inflation.  But packaging has gotten smaller.  So instead of paying more for the same quantity we are paying the same price for a lesser quantity.  Which means we may be buying 4 of something in a month instead of 3 of something.  It adds up.  Which is why there are so many more people on food stamps.  The Bernanke inflation is taking more of our paycheck to buy what it once did.

The economy is horrible.  Fewer people are in the labor force with each jobs report.  Our grocery packaging is shrinking.  And once the Fed stops its bond buying the stock market is going to fall.  A lot.  For every time rich investors think the economic data will show solid economic activity what do they do?  They sell their stocks.  Causing a stock market fall.  Why?  Why would investors leave the stock market when the data say the economy is getting stronger?  Which seems to go against common sense?  Because they know there’s been only one thing helping them get rich during the Obama presidency.  That ‘free’ money.  Once that source of cheap money goes away they will sell before those inflated stock prices fall back to earth.

The Obama recovery.  Good for Wall Street.  Bad for Main Street.

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The Fed keeps Printing Money and People keep Leaving the Labor Force

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

The Federal Reserve has failed to bring down the unemployment rate.  So the Fed will continue to devalue the dollar.  In their fervent Keynesian hope that it will actually do good.  While it continues to do a whole lot of bad (see STOCKS EXPLODE, RATES COLLAPSE AFTER FED SHOCKER: Here’s What You Need To Know by Sam Ro posted 9/18/2013 on Business Insider).

No taper. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) shocked the markets by announcing that it would continue its monthly purchases of $85 billion worth of Treasury Securities and mortgage bonds. Most economists were looking for a reduction, or tapering, of around $5 to $10 billion dollars…

Markets went nuts. The Dow and S&P 500 surged to new all-time highs. Interest rates collapsed, the dollar tanked, and gold surged.

During the press conference, Bernanke said that the tightening of monetary policy (i.e. raising the Fed’s benchmark rate) may not begin until the unemployment rate is considerably below 6.5%. He also said that an inflation rate floor could be a sensible modification to its forward guidance policy.

The only thing lowering the unemployment rate is people leaving the labor force.  The labor force participation rate is at record lows.  Which means more and more people who can’t find work have just given up trying.  And because they have the labor department doesn’t count them anymore as unemployed.  Which brings down the unemployment rate.

So for the Obama economic policies to lower the unemployment rate below 6.5% will require bringing the labor force participation rate lower still.  Because the Obama economy is not growing.  Obama’s policies, especially Obamacare, are the greatest job killers to ever come down the pike.  If the unemployment rate drops below 6.5% in this jobless ‘recovery’ we’ll have Great Depression unemployment.  Tens of millions of real people out of a job despite what the official unemployment rate says.

And you know it’s bad when “interest rates collapsed, the dollar tanked, and gold surged.”  They’re printing so much money ($85 billion each month) that massive inflationary pressures are building up in the pipeline.  There’s so much money out there that there is more than people (other than Wall Street investors) want to borrow.  Hence the low interest rates.  Because they’re printing so much money each dollar is worth less and less.  Which is why the dollar tanked.  Because the Fed is going to continue to devalue it.  And when inflationary pressures are building and are just waiting to explode people want to protect their assets with gold.  So when inflation explodes and our money becomes worthless gold will hold its value.  Why?  Because you can’t print gold.  That’s why Keynesian economists hate it.  It forces governments to be responsible.  Something anathema to a Keynesian.

The economy under the Obama policies is now just a train wreck waiting to happen.  And when it does the fallout will be Great Depression bad.  Because of Keynesian economics.  The worst and most destructive theories ever to be implemented by government.  In fact, everything wrong in government finances today can be traced to Keynesian policies.  Expanding the money supply to stimulate the economy has only made recessions worse.  And increasing government spending (to replace private spending during recessions) has burdened governments so much that they are flirting with bankruptcy throughout the world.  Even a city in the United States.  The City of Detroit.  A harbinger of what is to come.

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Quantitative Easing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2013

Economics 101

The Gold Standard prevented Nations from Devaluing their Currency to Keep Trade Fair

You may have heard of the great gamble the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has been making.  Quantitative easing (QE).  The current program being QE3.  The third round since the subprime mortgage crisis.  It’s stimulus.  Of the Keynesian variety.  And in QE3 the Federal Reserve has been ‘printing’ $85 billion each month and using it to buy financial assets on the open market.  Greatly increasing the money supply.  But why?  And how exactly is this supposed to stimulate the economy?  To understand this we need to understand monetary policy.

Keynesians hate the gold standard.  They do not like any restrictions on the government’s central bank’s ability to print money.  Which the gold standard did.  The gold standard pegged the U.S. dollar to gold.  Other central banks could exchange their dollars for gold at the exchange rate of $40/ounce.  This made international trade fair by keeping countries from devaluing their currency to gain a trade advantage.  A devalued U.S. dollar gives the purchaser a lot more weaker dollars when they exchange their stronger currency for them.  Allowing them to buy more U.S. goods than they can when they exchange their currency with a nation that has a stronger currency.  So a nation with a strong export economy would like to weaken their currency to entice the buyers of exports to their export market.  Giving them a trade advantage over countries that have stronger currencies.

The gold standard prevented nations from devaluing their currency and kept trade fair.  In the 20th century the U.S. was the world’s reserve currency.  And it was pegged to gold.  Making the U.S. dollar as good as gold.  But due to excessive government spending through the Sixties and into the Seventies the American central bank, the Federal Reserve, began to print money to pay for their ever growing spending obligations.  Thus devaluing their currency.  Giving them a trade advantage.  But because of that convertibility of dollars into gold nations began to do just that.  Exchange their U.S. dollars for gold.  Because the dollar was no longer as good as gold.  So nations opted to hold gold instead.  Instead of the U.S. dollar as their reserve currency.  Causing a great outflow of gold from the U.S. central bank.

Going off of the Gold Standard made the Seventies the Golden Age of Keynesian Economics

This gave President Richard Nixon quite the contrary.  For no nation wants to lose all of their gold reserves.  So what to do?  Make the dollar stronger?  By not only stopping the printing of new money but pulling existing money out of circulation.  Raising interest rates.  And forcing the government to make REAL spending cuts.  Not cuts in future increases in spending.  But REAL cuts in current spending.  Something anathema to Big Government.  So President Nixon chose another option.  He slammed the gold window shut.  Decoupling the dollar from gold.  No longer exchanging gold for dollars.  Known forever after as the Nixon Shock.  Making a Keynesian dream come true.  Finally giving the central bank the ability to print money at will.

The Keynesians said they could make recessions a thing of the past with their ability to control the size of the money supply.  Because everything comes down to consumer spending.  When the consumers spend the economy does well.  When they don’t spend the economy goes into recession.  So when the consumers don’t spend the government will print money (and borrow money) to spend to replace that lost consumer spending.  And increase the amount of money in circulation to make more available to borrow.  Which will lower interest rates.  Encouraging people to borrow money to buy big ticket items.  Like cars.  And houses.  Thus stimulating the economy out of recession.

The Seventies was the golden age of Keynesian economics.  Freed from the responsible restraints of the gold standard the Keynesians could prove all their theories by creating robust economic activity with their control over the money supply.  But it didn’t work.  Their expansionary policies unleashed near hyperinflation.  Destroying consumers’ purchasing power.  As the greatly devalued dollar raised prices everywhere.  As it took more of them to buy the things they once did before that massive inflation.

The only People Borrowing that QE Money are Very Rich People making Wall Street Investments

The Seventies proved that Keynesian stimulus did not work.  But central bankers throughout the world still embrace it.  For it allows them to spend money they don’t have.  And governments, especially governments with large welfare states, love to spend money.  So they keep playing their monetary policy games.  And when recessions come they expand the money supply.  Making it easy to borrow.  Thus lowering interest rates.  To stimulate those big ticket purchases.  But following the subprime
mortgage crisis those near-zero interest rates did not spur the economic activity the Keynesians thought it would.  People weren’t borrowing that money to buy new houses.  Because of the collapse of the housing market leaving more houses on the market than people wanted to buy.  So there was no need to build new houses.  And, therefore, no need to borrow money.

So this is the problem Ben Bernanke faced.  His expansionary monetary policy (increasing the money supply to lower interest rates) was not stimulating any economic activity.  And with interest rates virtually at 0% there was little liquidity Bernanke could add to the economy.  Resulting in a Keynesian liquidity trap.  Interest rates so close to zero that they could not lower them any more to create economic activity.  So they had to find another way.  Some other way to stimulate economic activity.  And that something else was quantitative easing.  The buying of financial assets in the market place by the Federal Reserve.  Pumping enormous amounts of money into the economy.  In the hopes someone would use that money to buy something.  To create that ever elusive economic activity that their previous monetary efforts failed to produce.

But just like their previous monetary efforts failed so has QE failed.  For the only people borrowing that money were very rich people making Wall Street investments.  Making rich people richer.  While doing nothing (so far) for the working class.  Which is why when Bernanke recently said they may start throttling back on that easy money (i.e., tapering) the stock market fell.  As rich people anticipated a coming rise in interest rates.  A rise in business costs.  A fall in business profits.  And a fall in stock prices.  So they were getting out with their profits while the getting was good.  But it gets worse.

The economy is not improving because of a host of other bad policy decisions.  Higher taxes, more regulations on business, Obamacare, etc.  And a massive devaluation of the dollar (by ‘printing’ all of that new money) just hasn’t overcome the current anti-business climate.  But the potential inflation it may unleash worries some.  A lot.  For having a far greater amount of dollars chasing the same amount of goods can unleash the kind of inflation that we had in the Seventies.  Or worse.  And the way they got rid of the Seventies’ near hyperinflation was with a long, painful recession in the Eighties.  This time, though, things can be worse.  For we still haven’t really pulled out of the Great Recession.  So we’ll be pretty much going from one recession into an even worse recession.  Giving the expression ‘the worst recession since the Great Depression’ new meaning.

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Ben Bernanke defends QE3 before Congress even while Admitting it won’t Create any New Jobs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 6th, 2012

Week in Review

Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, is a student of the Great Depression.  And of Milton Friedman.  Who he cited often to support his policies when speaking before Congress.  Insisting that their expansionary monetary policy will only stimulate growth.  Not inflation.  Of course, he has already tried quantitative easing one and two and they failed.  As demonstrated by the need of QE3.  Yet these Keynesians always go back to the tried and failed Keynesian policies.  Increase the money supply to lower interest rates.  To encourage people to build and sell new housing while the market is still flooded with homes left over when the housing bubble burst back in 2008.

Economics is not like trying to cure a hangover.  A little hair of the dog (drinking more alcohol to mitigate the effects of a hangover) doesn’t work in economics.  More bad monetary policy does not cure previous bad monetary policy.  At least, it hasn’t yet.  Nor does it appear that it ever will (see Bernanke presses Congress to support US economy by AFP posted 10/2/2012 on Channel News Asia).

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday he is confident the US economy will continue to expand, but he urged the US Congress and the White House to act to support stronger growth…

However, he said the economy is growing at a weak 1.5-2 percent rate, not fast enough to lower the employment rate, and that the Fed’s stimulus efforts need to be backed up by action from the rest of the government…

“Many other steps could be taken to strengthen our economy over time, such as putting the federal budget on a sustainable path, reforming the tax code, improving our educational system, supporting technological innovation, and expanding international trade,” Bernanke said.

“In particular, the Congress and the administration will soon have to address the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of sharply higher taxes and reduced spending that is set to happen at the beginning of the year.

“According to the Congressional Budget Office and virtually all other experts, if that were allowed to occur, it would likely throw the economy back into recession,” he warned.

Bernanke is on to something here.  He acknowledges that the new taxes of the fiscal cliff could throw the economy back into recession.  So if more taxes will prolong or deepen the recession what can we infer from this?  Would not fewer taxes have the opposite effect?

This is the frustrating thing about all of these students of the Great Depression.  They only look at what the Fed did when they were contracting the money supply.  And nothing else.  They don’t talk about a massive increase in tariffs (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930) in Congressional committee during 1929.  Before the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  Nor do they discuss the progressive policies of Republican Herbert Hoover.  And his interference into market forces.  Trying to raise prices everywhere to help farmers earn more and allow employers to pay their employees more.  And the near doubling of federal income tax rates.  Talk about your economic cold shower.

This was a 180-degree turn from the pro-business polices of the Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge administrations.  That let the Twenties roar with solid economic growth.  Yes, there were some inflationary monetary policies.  The Fed was no angel.  But the growth was strong even after the effects of inflation were factored in.  It was all those tax and tariff increases that turned a recession into a depression.  And then the bad Fed policy destroyed the banking industry on top of it.  Unfortunately, that’s the only part that any Keynesian ever sees.  What the Fed did.  Not the solid economic growth generated by low tax rates and a business-friendly environment.

The Fed’s artificially low interest rates pushed house prices into the stratosphere.  And because they were so high in 2008 they had a very long way to fall.  Which is why the Great Recession has been so painful and so prolonged.  Now they’re trying to stimulate the housing market again.  The very thing that got us into this mess in the first place.  Here’s another lesson the Keynesians need to learn.  Their expansionary policies make recessions longer and more painful.  And there is more to the economy than low interest rates.  For no matter how low they are if the environment is too business-unfriendly they won’t stimulate economic activity.  Lower tax rates and deregulation will.  But not lower interest rates.  That’s what Warren Harding/Calvin Coolidge did.  What JFK did.  What Ronald Reagan did.  What George W. Bush did.  Who all had much faster recoveries following bad recessions than President Obama is having under his Keynesian policies.

If only we could learn the objective lessons of history.  For as George Santayana (1905) said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.”

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Bernanke can’t Help this Bad Economy and Washington only Exasperates our Problems with their Regulatory Zeal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 26th, 2011

Congressional Action thus far has Scared the Bejesus out of Households and Businesses

All eyes were on Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Ben Bernanke was giving a much anticipated speech.  And the markets waited with bated breath.  They’re not bated anymore (see Bernanke pledges Fed support, but notes limits by Chris Isidore posted 8/26/2011 on CNNMoney).

“Most of the economic policies that support robust economic growth in the long run are outside the province of the central bank,” he said.

And he warned that when Congress weighs future deficit reduction plans, it should be careful to not hurt the economy in the short-term. They “should not…disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery.”

He said there needs to be a better way of Congress making decisions on taxes and spending. And he said a repeat of the this summer’s contentious debate over raising the debt ceiling would likely hurt the economy.

“It is difficult to judge by how much these developments have affected economic activity thus far,” he said about the threat of default and the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. “But there seems little doubt that they have hurt household and business confidence and that they pose ongoing risks to growth.”

The economy has big problems.  Problems, though, that will take more than monetary policy to fix.  But when Congress addresses these fiscal issues they should be very careful not to damage the fragile economic recovery.  Because thus far their words and actions have only been scaring the bejesus out of households and businesses.

Businesses Prefer Stability and Responsible Government that doesn’t Govern Against their Interests

Households and businesses are so frightened of what the future holds that they are sitting on their money (see Key Passages From Bernanke’s Jackson Hole Remark by David Wessel posted 8/26/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

“Financial stress has been and continues to be a significant drag on the recovery, both here and abroad. Bouts of sharp volatility and risk aversion in markets have recently re-emerged in reaction to concerns about both European sovereign debts and developments related to the U.S. fiscal situation…. It is difficult to judge by how much these developments have affected economic activity thus far, but there seems little doubt that they have hurt household and business confidence and that they pose ongoing risks to growth.”

Uncertainty.  The greatest fear of business.  Because you can’t plan uncertainty.  Because it is uncertain.  Businesses prefer stability.  Households, too.  That, and responsible government.  One that doesn’t govern against their interests.

The Department of Energy is going to raise our Electric Bills by 35%  

And so far government hasn’t been delivering what the households and businesses want (see US breaks ground on first industrial-scale carbon capture project by staff of Business Green, part of the Guardian Environment Network guardian.co.uk, posted 8/26/2011 on the Guardian).

The US government’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) efforts stepped up a gear this week, with the start of construction on the government’s first industrial-scale scheme and funds worth $41m set aside for another 16 research projects.

Work on the plant in Decatur, Illinois, which received $141m of public money and another $66.5m from private sector sources, started just a few weeks after American Electric Power abandoned plans to build its $668m CCS facility.

Is this responsible government?  After record deficits caused the first downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt ever should the government still be spending money on bad green investments?  How do I know this is a bad green investment?  Simple.  The private sector will only invest 32% of its total costs.  The taxpayers are picking up the other 68%.

The DoE said its selection yesterday of 16 projects across 13 states to share $41m funding over three years would further the aim.

Each project will focus on developing technologies capable of capturing at least 90% of CO2 produced, as well as reducing the added costs at power plants to no more than a 35% increase in the cost of electricity produced.

Oh, and the Department of Energy is only going to raise our electric bills by 35%.  So not only do the taxpayers have to pay for the construction of this plant, our electric bills will increase afterwards.  For both households.  And businesses.  Which will be a further drag on the economy.  Which won’t make Ben Bernanke happy.

Killing Businesses with Regulatory Compliance Costs

But it gets worse.  The EPA is causing uncertainty for American businesses.  And killing them with compliance costs.  So much so that John Boehner wrote a letter to President Obama demanding a tally of his punishing regulations (see Five EPA rules that will cost more than $1 billion by Conn Carroll posted 8/26/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

Boehner specifically mentions one regulation that “will cost our economy as much as $90 billion per year. That rule, titled “Reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone Primary and Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards” (aka “The Ozone Rule), is the biggest drag on growth that the EPA has formally proposed so far. The EPA is also working on global warming regulations that are sure to cost much more, but those proposals have not been published yet.

The EPA has published at least four other proposed regulations, however, that would inflict costs on the U.S. economy over or near $1 billion a year. These cost estimates are all from the EPA’s own numbers…

Here’s a chart summarizing the 5 regulations in this article:

 

And this is only 5 of them.  Imagine if you add them up in total.  Could it be holding back businesses?  Perhaps.  I mean, would you invest in anything new knowing billions of dollars of compliance costs were coming your way?  I wouldn’t.

Perhaps the Problem with the Bad Economy is the People trying to Fix It

Bernanke is right.  You can’t fix this stuff with monetary policy.  When you’re attacking American households and businesses like this, no one is going to borrow any money to invest.  No matter how cheap it is.

Furthermore, all of these costs are going to be passed onto the American consumer.  They always are.  So this means consumers will have less disposable income.  Which means this will be a further drag on the economy.  And less economic activity means less tax revenue.  Which takes us back to those growing deficits.  They ain’t going away.

Perhaps the problem with the bad economy isn’t due to a lack of demand as the Keynesians say.  Perhaps the problem is with the people trying to fix it.  And there is no quick solution to that problem.  As the 2012 election is still more than a year away.

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Debt Ceiling Debate is Masking the Horrific Economic News

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2011

The Meaning of Bipartisan Depends on your Point of View; on the Right it means Compromise whereas on the Left it means Unconditional Surrender.

In the budget debate to raise the debt ceiling, both sides have dug in.  The Left says the Right is being intransigent.  Saying they are unwilling to compromise.  Even though they have done far less in the compromise department themselves.  They want to raise taxes.  They want to borrow more.  And they will not compromise on these positions.  They refuse to pass any Republican bill in the Senate (and President Obama says he will veto any bill that makes it through the Senate) unless it completely gives way to the Democrat position. 

All the while this theatre is playing out credit rating agencies are lining up to downgrade U.S. sovereign debt due to excessive deficits, debt and out of control government spending.  Unless they see at least $4 trillion in real spending cuts (not promised cuts that never happen or baseline ‘spending cuts’ that still increase spending), the downgrades are a fait accompli.  At least according to an S&P report.

If they’re that Bad at Analyzing Data do we really want them Tweaking the Economy?

As cheerful as all that is at least we can look forward to some upbeat economic news.  Just like Obama, Biden, Bernanke, Geithner, et al have been promising with all their economic tweaks to win the future.  And the result of all that vey extensive and very expensive tweaking?  Hmm.  What would be a good choice of words?  How about abject failure (see Economy in U.S. Grows Less Than Forecast After Almost Stalling by Shobhana Chandra posted 7/29/2011 on Bloomberg)? 

Revisions to GDP figures going back to 2003 showed that the 2007-2009 recession took a bigger bite out of the economy than previously estimated and the recovery lost momentum throughout 2010. The world’s largest economy shrank 5.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009, compared with the previously reported 4.1 percent drop. The second-worst contraction in the post-World War II era was a 3.7 percent decline in 1957-58.

The Fed’s preferred price gauge, which is tied to consumer spending and strips out food and energy costs, climbed at a 2.1 percent pace, the most since the last three months of 2009, compared with 1.6 percent in the first quarter, as higher oil and food costs pushed up the prices of other goods and services. The central bank’s longer-term projection is a range of 1.7 percent to 2 percent.

“This is the worst of all worlds for investors, certainly the worst of all worlds for the Fed,” John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “A little too much inflation, not enough growth, that is a tough scenario in the U.S.”

Of course, they’ll say it was even worse than they thought.  Again.  Blame George W. Bush.  Again.  Which doesn’t fill one with a lot of confidence.  For if they’re that bad at analyzing data, do we really want them tweaking the economy?

Still, they keep telling us how bad things would have been if they didn’t act?  Why, there’d be dingoes running in the streets eating our babies.  To be honest, we’re tired of hearing about how many jobs they created and saved.  We’d probably be further ahead today if we’d taken the chance with the dingoes and they left the economy alone.

The Obama Social Engineering is giving us Carter Stagflation

Inflation.  And low GDP growth.  That is a horrible combination.  But it’s what you get when you try to use monetary policy to fix fiscal problems (see Forget About The Debt Ceiling Debate, Where’s The Economic Growth? by Kevin Mahin posted 7/29/2011 on Forbes). 

I recognize that the debt ceiling debate may make for interesting political theatre for some.  I also recognize that the spending and revenue issues underlying the debate need to be addressed sooner than later.  However,  the heightened threat of stagflation*, now present in the system, is of paramount concern to me.

*Stagflation is a financial term often used to describe an environment where inflation (i.e. prices) is high and economic growth is low.  Periods of stagflation have historically been accompanied by high unemployment as well.

We are fast approaching the malaise of the Carter stagflation.  We need fiscal policy that is conducive to creating jobs.  Instead, this administration is more concerned about social engineering at the expense of job creation.

Killing the American Automotive Industry and Killing Americans

For all the talk about the auto bailouts to save American jobs, the latest policy appears to want to kill American jobs.  When the auto industry is suffering anemic growth, the Obama administration just made it harder to be in the auto industry by raising fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (see Obama to unveil auto fuel rule deal by David Shepardson posted 7/29/2011 on The Detroit News). 

The deal would extend a May 2009 agreement that boosted fuel efficiency standards to 34.1 mpg by 2016, costing the auto industry $51.5 billion over five years.

In the current budget debates, Obama keeps saying that because of the slow economic recovery we shouldn’t go on a cost cutting spree.  That would only pull consumer spending out of the economy.  Of course he has no such empathy for the struggling auto industry.  He’s more than willing to raise their cost of doing business.  Killing jobs in the process.

Incidentally, there are only two ways to squeeze this kind of mileage out of a car.  Making it so light that it (and its passengers) would probably not survive most accidents.  Or being unable to build a car to meet this standard.

Gas Prices must Rise to between $4.50-$5.50 for the Electric Car to Succeed

But what on earth would be the reason to enact standards that automakers can’t meet?  Well, how about this (see Gas must hit $4.50 to make electric cars cost-effective by Joel Gehrke posted 7/29/2011 on the Washington Examiner)? 

Gas prices must rise to between $4.50-$5.50, the study authors suggest, for electric vehicles to become less expensive to own than gas-powered vehicles…

Of course, this omits the other method of making electric cars competitive — enact fuel efficiency standards that make gas-powered vehicles illegal to make or impossibly expensive. Given President Obama’s announcement today that fuel economy standards are set to rise to 54.5 mpg between 2017 and 2025, it seems that the electric vehicle industry is getting the government props necessary to make consumers buy the cars.

This is not how you increase domestic auto output.  Or create jobs.  This is how you change human behavior.  By forcing people to act against their will.  And in the process making us all poorer by increasing the cost of food.  How?  Gasoline and diesel are a big component of food costs.  For it takes fuel to grow food.  And to bring it to market.

The One Thing the Obama Administration is Good At

It makes you think.  Is all of this debt ceiling debate pure theatre to distract us from the destruction of the economy?  Because this destruction is pretty good as far as destruction goes.  You probably couldn’t have done a better job if you tried.  Which begs the question was this all planned?  A social reengineering of the United States brought about by the destruction of the U.S. economy? 

If so, at least you can say there was one thing the Obama administration was good at.

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Deficits, Debt and Inflation Concern Everyone in the World but the Obama Administration

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 7th, 2011

Chicago Cuts their Public Sector Budget

Scott Walker in Wisconsin is taking a lot of heat for trying to cut the costs of the public sector.  But he’s not alone.  Even Chicago is trying to cut the cost of its public sector.  By buying bigger, high-tech, trash cans for the central business district (see Chicago trash cans go solar-powered posted 3/7/2011 on UPI).  They’re going to spend $2.5 million for this capital investment to reduce their operating costs (i.e., the cost of people). 

If you use some of the numbers bandied about for public sector pay and benefits in the news today, that $2.5 million could pay for some 25 public sector workers (or more) per year (including health care and pensions).  Now here’s the punch line.  Chicago will uses some federal stimulus funds for this investment.  In other words, money sent to Chicago by Washington to create jobs is being used to cut jobs.  Funny, isn’t it?

This is what you do during bad economic times.  Replace people with technology.  Because people are so expensive.  It’s because of people, after all, that all these states and cities are facing budget crises due to the crushing costs of their public sector health care and pension benefits.  So when times are bad, you make capital investments to increase productivity.  You don’t hire more people.  Even Chicago understands this.

India has a Booming Economy, high Inflation and plans to Increase Social Spending

Once again prosperity leads a nation into dangerous economic waters (see Calling on the gods posted 3/3/2011 on The Economist).

It is tempting to expect the gods to keep smiling. Only China, among big economies, has pipped India’s 8.6% growth in the past year. Mr Mukherjee foresees a rosy period of easing inflation, reviving foreign investment and robust public finances. He may be in for a shock.

Inflation is still a pressing problem. High food prices hurt the urban poor. In December street protests over the price of onions led the government to ban their export. Onion prices have since collapsed, but other causes of inflation remain.

First there’s robust economic growth.  Then inflation.  Then the food riots.  It’s what triggered the French Revolution.  As well as the recent uprisings in the Middle East.  Economic growth is like a drug.  And it’s a good high.  While it lasts.  People are working.  The government is collecting lots of money.  And they can spend it on social programs.  Keeps everyone happy.  And voting for those in power.  Again, for awhile.  It’s when things become rights the trouble starts.  Because people don’t give up their ‘rights’ easily.  Even when the state can’t afford them anymore.  (Incidentally, a true right has no cost.  Freedom of speech is a right.  And no one has to pay for it.  Fat government benefits aren’t rights.  They’re just ways to make people vote for you).

Social spending is set to leap by 17% next year, as the government attempts to encourage “inclusive” growth. Congress’s chief, Sonia Gandhi, next wants a law embodying a universal “right” to food. How this might work (if at all) is unclear. Again, technocrats favour transfers of cash or vouchers over dishing out food through a vast and corrupt state bureaucracy. Either way, the subsidies mean demand for food will soar.

No matter, says Mr Mukherjee breezily. By spending on agriculture, giving farmers credit, easing transport bottlenecks and getting better cold-storage distribution, supply will rise, too. As for other causes of inflation, seven interest-rate rises by the central bank have removed monetary excess, he says. Little can be done about painful world prices for oil and other commodities, but, barring a big shock, Mr Mukherjee guesses annualised inflation will drift down to about 6% in a year’s time, from nearly 10% today.

Chicago as well as other states and cities may be cutting their social spending (i.e., public sector spending), but not India.  Even with 10% inflation.  That’s pretty gutsy.  Or delusional.  And those painful world oil prices?  I think they’re being a little optimistic about peace returning to the Middle East any time soon.  It may very well get worse before it gets better.  However, India has raised interest rates seven times to rein in inflation.  Other than that increase in social spending, India is doing a lot of the right things.  And her economic growth shows it.

China trying to curb Inflation to keep their Economy Booming

Even the IMF think the rise in oil prices is only temporary (see IMF: Signs of overheating in emerging markets by Lesley Wroughton and Chrystia Freeland posted 3/7/2011 on Reuters).

After the global economic slump of 2008 and 2009, the recovery took divergent paths, with emerging markets powering ahead while advanced economies merely trudged along. With growth and interest rates remaining unusually low across the developed world, investors have flocked to emerging markets, bringing much-needed capital but also a risk of inflation.

Rising oil prices have compounded the inflation problem, but Lipsky [the Fund’s first deputy managing director] said the IMF has not cut its growth forecast because it thinks the oil price spike will prove temporary.

All right, let’s say that peace does indeed break out throughout the Middle East.  Will that keep oil prices down?  Well, it didn’t during the last years of the Bush presidency.  The only reason why they fell was due to the worst recession since the Great Depression.  China and India are building cars.  Cars that run on gasoline.  This is what pushed up gas prices before.  And it will push them up again.  Because more and more people are driving cars in those countries.  Even when there was peace in the Middle East.  And when gas goes up everything goes up.  Even food.  Because food has to be transported.

China has made curbing inflation its top policy priority this year. Its finance minister said earlier on Monday China will ensure that spending on social priorities does not fan inflationary fires.

Separately, Zhu Min, special adviser to the IMF’s managing director, said China’s loan growth was too strong and addressing that was key to safely slowing down the economy…

Brazil and some other emerging markets have increased taxes on foreign investors or raised banks’ reserve requirements to try to slow inflows of investment money and ward off inflationary pressures.

China is worried about inflation.  So is Brazil.  And other emerging markets.  Because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  If their economies overheat they will create bubbles.  And when bubbles pop they become recessions.  So they’re concerned.  Besides, they have enough on their minds to worry about.  One of their biggest export markets, the United States, is having their own financial problems.  And if they lose their biggest customer, that bubble will come sooner rather than later.

The United States has no Booming Economy but Spends like it Does

So what’s the problem in America?  Well, right now, it’s social spending.  It is out of control.  And there appears little incentive to do anything about it because, unlike Chicago or the other states and cities with financial crises, the federal government can print money.  But when they do they inflate the money supply.  We call this inflation.  And they’re inflating the hell out of the money supply these days.  To pay for record deficits.

So how bad is it?  Pretty bad.  We’ve set a new record.  The largest monthly deficit in history.  A staggering figure of $223 billion (see U.S. sets $223B deficit record by Stephen Dinan posted 3/7/2011 on The Washington Times).  That’s in one month.   That’s about how much the annual deficits were under Ronald Reagan.  And the Democrats pilloried Reagan for his ‘irresponsible’ deficits.  But now?  $223 billion a month ain’t so bad.  Go figure.

Unlike India and China, America has high unemployment.  But like India and China, America has some inflation concerns.  Well, those outside the current administration do.  The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve aren’t all that worried about inflation.  Because they’re Keynesians.  Rational people, though, are very concerned.  And for good reason.  Because when you add unemployment and inflation together do you know what you get?  Stagflation.  And stagflation sucks.  People have less money and everything costs more.  Stagflation made Jimmy Carter a one-term president.  Yeah, it’s that bad.  So knowing our history we must be doing everything within our power to avoid a repeat of the malaise of the Jimmy Carter years, right?  Well, not exactly.

Have Printing Press will Ease

The Fed is planning to print more money (see Oil Shock=More Fed Shock by Douglas French posted 3/7/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told a group at that National Association of Business Economics in Arlington, Va. that if the price of oil keeps climbing, the Fed will need to purchase more assets, or QE3.

Of course the men at the Fed don’t believe all of this new liquidity they are creating has anything to do with the prices of oil or food. Oil over a $100 a barrel is an external shock you see. A bolt of lightening out of nowhere. Those crazy kids in Cairo twittering and whatnot.

Ben Bernanke testified last week that inflation will remain tame. And when pressed about oil and food prices, he said “My sense is that the increases we’ve seen so far — while tough for many people — do not yet pose a significant risk to the overall recovery.”

Quantitative Easing 3.  As if QE 1 and 2 wasn’t bad enough.  Neither has helped.  And the inflation lurks out there.  Building.  Just waiting to explode oil and food prices.

The problem with Bernanke is he studied the Great Depression.  But the only thing he apparently learned from it is how the Fed caused the bank runs by tightening the money supply when they should have been helping the banks to stay solvent.  He does not grasp this fundamental: businesses don’t need to borrow money today.  They’re sitting on piles of it.  Why?  Because no one is buying anything.  So they’re not going to hire people and add capacity.  Even if they can borrow money at 0%.

Jimmy Carter’s Second Term

If you weren’t around for the Jimmy Carter years here’s your chance to live history.  While Chicago, India, China and other emerging markets are being responsible, the Obama administration is finally answering that age-old question.  What would a second term of Jimmy Carter have been like?  The answer?  As bad as the first.  Perhaps even worse.  Because we should know better now.  It’s no secret what happened during his presidency.  So there’s no excuse for repeating his mistakes.  And yet we seem to be hell-bent to do exactly that.  Amazing.

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H.R. 2 “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2011

Real Deficit Reduction Starts with the Repeal of Obamacare

The rallying cry last year was ‘repeal Obamacare’.  Those who promised to make that a priority are now sitting in Congress.  Some of those who voted for Obamacare are not.  The people have spoken.  The candidates have promised.  And now they are going to deliver.  At least they’re going to try.

The Republicans new and old are getting down to do the people’s business.  H.R. 2, aptly titled “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” will try to do just that.  But the Left is digging in their heels.   First of all, they aren’t all that keen on the title of H.R. 2 (see Health repeal message-war ramps up by Brett Coughlin posted 1/7/2011 on the Politicol).

The White House released talking points and a “fact sheet” about the law, leading with how it creates jobs — a rebuttal to the title of the bill, “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

But they’re only getting started.  They then step it up.  And do what they do best.  Be disingenuous.

The White House stays on message about the law saving money, citing the Congressional Budget Office official estimate that the reform law reduces the federal deficit by $124 billion over 10 years. By contrast, the CBO said the House Republican package that repeals the law costs $230 billion.

So repealing a law that will extend benefits to every man, woman and child will add to the deficit?  Funny.  When I buy more stuff I pay more.  Because more stuff costs more money.  Doesn’t it?  If I buy an iPhone for my kid I pay for one iPhone.  If I buy an iPhone for everyone’s kids, I pay more.  So I’m pretty sure about this.  More stuff costs more.

So what kind of math is CBO using?

Robbing Medicare to Pay for Obamacare

Well, it ain’t calculus.  It’s just a variation on their old go-to formula.  Tax and spend.  With a twist.  They actually include spending cuts (see BREAKING: CBO Says Repealing ObamaCare Would Reduce Net Spending by $540 Billion by Philip Klein posted 1/7/2011 on The American Spectator).

The Congressional Budget Office, in an email to Capitol Hill staffers obtained by the Spectator, has said that repealing the national health care law would reduce net spending by $540 billion in the ten year period from 2012 through 2021. That number represents the cost of the new provisions, minus Medicare cuts. Repealing the bill would also eliminate $770 billion in taxes. It’s the tax hikes in the health care law (along with the Medicare cuts) which accounts for the $230 billion in deficit reduction.

So, yes, more stuff does cost more.  $770 billion in new taxes.  And $540 billion pulled out of Medicare.  (Which puts the cost of Obamacare at $1.31 trillion dollars).  Do the math ($770 – $540 = $230) and you get your $230 billion in deficit reduction.  A combination of one big-ass tax and a gutting of Medicare.  Now I understand their math.  They just told a bunch of lies.

AARP’s Backroom Deal to Endorse Obamacare

But didn’t the seniors oppose Obamacare?  I remember them fuming at the town hall meetings during the run up to Obamacare.  They were spitting mad, telling their representatives to keep their hands off of their Medicare.  To which their representatives replied not to worry.  Look, they said, AARP supports Obamacare.  And they only support things that are good for you old coots.  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

Well, AARP did endorse Obamacare.  And it does gut Medicare.  So why would they do this to the old coots?  Well, a good place to start would be to follow the money (see ObamaCare endorsements: What the bribe was by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann posted 11/6/2010 on The Hill).

The AARP got a financial windfall in return for its support of the healthcare bill. Over the past decade, the AARP has morphed from an advocacy group to an insurance company (through its subsidiary company). It is one of the main suppliers of Medi-gap insurance, a high-cost, privately purchased coverage that picks up where Medicare leaves off. But President Bush-43 passed the Medicare Advantage program, which offered a subsidized, lower-cost alternative to Medi-gap. Under Medicare Advantage, the elderly get all the extra coverage they need plus coordinated, well-managed care, usually by the same physician. So more than 10 million seniors went with Medicare Advantage, cutting into AARP Medi-gap revenues.

Presto! Obama solved their problem. He eliminates subsidies for Medicare Advantage. The elderly will have to pay more for coverage under Medigap, but the AARP — which supposedly represents them — will make more money. (If this galls you, join the American Seniors Association, the alternative group; contact sbarton@americanseniors.org.)

So that’s why.  They screwed their dues paying members so they can extort higher insurance premiums from them.  Boy, I’d hate to see what a group that isn’t paid to protect them would do to them.  Then again, I guess we’re going to see that real soon as Obamacare kicks in.  If it kicks in.

Obamacare Result in Higher Unemployment and a Longer Recession?

So they’ve been lying through their teeth and making backroom deals.  Tax and spend as usual.  Well, not quite as usual.  Because they have taken the spending thing a bit too far (see Deficit must fall to prevent economic crisis, Bernanke warns by Neil Irwin posted 1/7/2011 on The Washington Post).

If federal debt were to rise at the pace assumed in a plausible scenario analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office – such as extending most of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as spending rises at a steady rate – “diminishing confidence on the part of investors that deficits will be brought under control would likely lead to sharply rising interest rates on government debt and, potentially, to broader financial turmoil,” Bernanke said. He added that the high borrowing rate would limit private investment and push up the nation’s foreign debt, hurting U.S. incomes and standards of living.

There won’t be any income or standards of living if there are no jobs.  And just how is the jobs front after the stimulus they passed to keep unemployment under 8%?  It’s dropped unemployment all the way down to 9.4%.  But the drop probably has less to do with new jobs than it does with people just throwing in the towel in their job search.  So what’s the forecast?  According to Bernanke, bad.

“With output growth likely to be moderate in the next few quarters and employers reportedly reluctant to add to payrolls,” it will take five years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level, he said.

Lovely.

Repeal Obamacare:  Real Deficit Reduction

It would appear that Obama, Pelosi and Reid are trying their all to destroy this country.  The economy is still in the toilet.  And, according to Bernanke, it’s going to stay in the toilet for another 5 years.  Or more.  And it will only be 5 years if we reduce our deficit.  If we don’t do that, all bets are off.  According to Bernanke.

Hmmm, deficit reduction.  If I’m not mistaken, there are two ways to cut a deficit.  I believe you can raise taxes.  Or cut spending.  One is good for the economy.  And one is bad for the economy.  So what to do?  Umm.  Of course, when you’re trying to revive an economy to pull it out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, you’re not going to do that by raising taxes.  No.  That doesn’t work.  Which leaves only one choice.  You have to cut spending.

Someone needs to knock the Left upside the head (figuratively, of course) and tell them to stop with the raising of the taxes already.  And the lying.  Yes, the deficit is too high.  But it didn’t get too high because of tax cuts.  It got too high because of spending.  I mean, if they didn’t spend so damn much all this talk about raising taxes would be a moot point.  Taxes are a function of spending.  Spend more; tax more.  Spend less; tax less.  More stuff costs more.  Less stuff costs less.  You know, that really is a difficult concept to grasp.  Unless you’re a Congress person, I guess.

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