The Petulant President scolds Republicans, Conservatives and Anyone Else who dares to Oppose Obamaism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 17th, 2013

Politics 101

The government shutdown is over. And we avoided defaulting on the national debt  Or so they say.  So who won and who lost?  Well, at this point in time it looks like the Democrats lost less than the Republicans.  But it is the American people who lost.  For they are stuck with Obamacare for the time being.  And President Obama can raise the national debt to a new record high.  But it gets worse.  This morning the president gave a petulant, God-awful speech scolding the Republicans, the Tea Party, talk radio, the blogosphere and pretty much anyone else who dares to oppose Obamaism (see Transcript of Obama Remarks on End of Standoff posted 10/17/2013 on The Wall Street Journal).

Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

Well, last night, I signed legislation to reopen our government and pay America’s bills.  Because Democrats and responsible Republicans came together, the first government shutdown in 17 years is now over.  The first default in more than 200 years will not happen.  These twin threats to our economy have now been lifted.  And I want to thank those Democrats and Republicans for getting together and ultimately getting this job done.

There was never a risk of default.  With $2.45 trillion in annual revenue coming into the treasury from the taxpayers there was never a risk of the $415.7 billion annual interest payment on the debt going unpaid.  Lying about it just helped a petulant child get his way.  Waaa.

Now, there’s been a lot of discussion lately of the politics of this shutdown.  But let’s be clear:  There are no winners here.  These last few weeks have inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy.  We don’t know yet the full scope of the damage, but every analyst out there believes it slowed our growth.

What growth?  Since coming to office the president’s policies have lost approximately 9,966,000 jobs through the September jobs report.  That’s just shy of 10 million jobs he’s lost.  So what recovery?  Or is he just setting the stage to blame the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression on this 16 day shutdown?  And not the lost economic activity from those 10 million or so lost jobs?  Of course he is.  Because what are 10 million jobs when he can stick it to the Republicans?

We know that families have gone without paychecks or services they depend on.  We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold.  We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and that half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months.  We know that just the threat of default — of America not paying all the bills that we owe on time — increased our borrowing costs, which adds to our deficit.

Yes, pity the government bureaucrats who had to go 16 days without reporting to work.  Even though they will be paid for those 16 days they missed.  Yes, pity the government bureaucrats.  And not the 10 million who have disappeared from the labor force since President Obama assumed office.  I mean, what are 5 years without a paycheck compared to missing 16 days of work?  Which the taxpayers will still pay them for?

Businesses cut back on spending and hiring because of the great uncertainty of a 16-day shutdown?  Are you sure it wasn’t the regulatory requirements of Obamacare that is forcing employers with close to 30 ‘full time’ employees (30 hours or more per week) to not hire any more workers?  Even pushing full-time workers to part time?  Are you sure this isn’t the reason why they’re not hiring?  Especially with the cost of health insurance going through the roof now that it must cover everything under the sun (such as pediatric care for a couple whose children are now grown adults) as well as pre-existing conditions?  Where someone can walk in off the street who was just diagnosed with cancer and buy an insurance policy for the first time in their life?  Are you absolutely sure it’s the 16-day shutdown and not Obamacare?   If so someone needs to attend a high school economics class to learn the first thing about economics.

And, of course, we know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington.  At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back.  And for what?

Again, are you sure it was the 16-day shutdown and not the 4 years or so of Obamacare?

There was no economic rationale for all of this.  Over the past four years, our economy has been growing, our businesses have been creating jobs, and our deficits have been cut in half. We hear some members who pushed for the shutdown say they were doing it to save the American economy — but nothing has done more to undermine our economy these past three years than the kind of tactics that create these manufactured crises.

The last fiscal year ending deficit while George W. Bush was president was $498.37 billion (adjusted for inflation).  At the end of the first fiscal year with President Obama in office the deficit soared to $1.539.22 trillion.  An increase of 208.9%.  It is this deficit number that he cut in half.  The one he exploded with his near trillion dollar stimulus that did not stimulate anything but unions and the president’s cronies on Wall Street and in Big Business.  Especially Big Green Business.

And the president had something else preventing him from spending as much as he did during his first term.  Sequestration.  Which the Democrats hate with a passion and want to get rid of.  So they can turn on the spending spigot once again.  Like they did during his first term.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.  The agency that put America’s credit rating on watch the other day explicitly cited all of this, saying that our economy “remains more dynamic and resilient” than other advanced economies, and that the only thing putting us at risk is — and I’m quoting here — “repeated brinksmanship.”  That’s what the credit rating agency said.  That wasn’t a political statement; that was an analysis of what’s hurting our economy by people whose job it is to analyze these things.

Really?  Brinkmanship?  You don’t think adding $6.2 trillion to the national debt during your presidency had anything to do with the credit rating agency’s concern about our debt paying ability?  A high school economics student can understand that the greater your debt is the greater your debt-paying problem.  Funny how you don’t, Mr. President.

That also happens to be the view of our diplomats who’ve been hearing from their counterparts internationally.  Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claim their actions were needed to get America back on the right track, to make sure we’re strong.  But probably nothing has done more damage to America’s credibility in the world, our standing with other countries, than the spectacle that we’ve seen these past several weeks.  It’s encouraged our enemies.  It’s emboldened our competitors.  And it’s depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.

I thought it would have been your bad foreign policy that did all those things.  Starting with the Green Revolution in Iran.  An uprising of the people against the Islamist and oppressive government of Iran.  The precursor to the Arab Spring.  Where you did nothing.  Leaving the good Iranian people with that oppressive Islamist government.  Which is currently working to produce a nuclear bomb.  Then there was the Arab Spring and you telling our friend and ally and anchor to peace and stability in the Middle East, Hosni Mubarak, that he had to go.  Turning Egypt over to the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood.  And then there was Libya.  Another ally in the War on Terror, Muammar Gaddafi (who joined the fight against terrorism after our invasion of Iraq), that he had to go.  Turning Libya over to radical Islamists.  Who killed four Americans in Benghazi.  Then there was the red line fiasco with Syria.  If you cross that red line I will hem and haw and stammer.  Then I might say something else.  Then Vladimir Putin steps in and saves the day for their Syrian ally.  Russia.  Who suspended all adoptions to Americans to spite America.  Who are also helping the Iranians with their nuclear program.  All the while laughing at President Obama who they see as weak.  Who couldn’t get one nation to join him for military strikes against Syria.  If you want to talk about our prestige on the world stage you gave that up long ago.  For today no one fears the wrath of the United States these days.  With some nations seeing the United States becoming irrelevant in the world.  Especially Russia and China.  As well as radical Islam.

Now, the good news is we’ll bounce back from this.  We always do.  America is the bedrock of the global economy for a reason.  We are the indispensable nation that the rest of the world looks to as the safest and most reliable place to invest — something that’s made it easier for generations of Americans to invest in their own futures.  We have earned that responsibility over more than two centuries because of the dynamism of our economy and our entrepreneurs, the productivity of our workers, but also because we keep our word and we meet our obligations.  That’s what full faith and credit means — you can count on us.

And today, I want our people and our businesses and the rest of the world to know that the full faith and credit of the United States remains unquestioned.

There is a difference between economic investment and buying our bonds.  Any money that buys government bonds is money pulled out of the economy.  Investing in government bonds doesn’t create economic activity.  It actually destroys economic activity.  And the only worry the rest of the world had was what you were going to do, Mr. President.  Would you not pay the interest on the national debt out of spite to attack the Republicans?  That’s what they were worried about.  For even they knew we had the money to pay our debt without new borrowing.  They just don’t trust you.

But to all my friends in Congress, understand that how business is done in this town has to change.  Because we’ve all got a lot of work to do on behalf of the American people — and that includes the hard work of regaining their trust.  Our system of self-government doesn’t function without it.  And now that the government is reopened, and this threat to our economy is removed, all of us need to stop focusing on the lobbyists and the bloggers and the talking heads on radio and the professional activists who profit from conflict, and focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do, and that’s grow this economy; create good jobs; strengthen the middle class; educate our kids; lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul.  That’s why we’re here.  That should be our focus.

Strong words coming from a professional activist.  For he was a community organizer.  And taught activism.  Funny how there are two types of activism.  The good kind in his world.  When it advances a liberal agenda.  And the bad kind in his world.  The kind based in conservatism.  The president hates conservative activism, otherwise known as a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and believes it should be silenced and replaced with one-party rule.

Now, that won’t be easy.  We all know that we have divided government right now.  There’s a lot of noise out there, and the pressure from the extremes affect how a lot of members of Congress see the day-to-day work that’s supposed to be done here. And let’s face it, the American people don’t see every issue the same way.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t make progress.  And when we disagree, we don’t have to suggest that the other side doesn’t love this country or believe in free enterprise, or all the other rhetoric that seems to get worse every single year.  If we disagree on something, we can move on and focus on the things we agree on, and get some stuff done.

And the Democrats calling the political opposition terrorists, arsonists, hostage takers, the Taliban, etc., how is that coming together to focus on the things we agree on?  To get some stuff done?  Well, Mr. President, it is obvious you believe compromise is the Republicans caving and becoming your bitch.  This is not a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  This is a government of, by and for you.

Let me be specific about three places where I believe we can make progress right now.  First, in the coming days and weeks, we should sit down and pursue a balanced approach to a responsible budget, a budget that grows our economy faster and shrinks our long-term deficits further.

At the beginning of this year, that’s what both Democrats and Republicans committed to doing.  The Senate passed a budget; House passed a budget; they were supposed to come together and negotiate.  And had one side not decided to pursue a strategy of brinksmanship, each side could have gotten together and figured out, how do we shape a budget that provides certainty to businesses and people who rely on government, provides certainty to investors in our economy, and we’d be growing faster right now.

The last time we did this little dance it was the same.  You want to raise taxes and cut no spending.  That’s your idea of a balanced approach.  Oh, you’ll promise spending cuts after we raise some taxes.  But those spending cuts will never come.  Democrats just don’t cut spending.  Unless they get themselves stuck in a sequester.  And that’s not even real spending cuts.  It’s only smaller increases in future spending.

Now, the good news is the legislation I signed yesterday now requires Congress to do exactly that — what it could have been doing all along.

And we shouldn’t approach this process of creating a budget as an ideological exercise — just cutting for the sake of cutting.  The issue is not growth versus fiscal responsibility — we need both.  We need a budget that deals with the issues that most Americans are focused on:  creating more good jobs that pay better wages.

Can the nation afford anymore of your job creation?  After losing some 10 million jobs we should just cut our losses.  And refuse anymore of your ‘help’ with the economy.

Cutting for the sake of cutting?  What, we don’t have a debt crisis that requires our debt ceiling to be raised again and again?  We’re spending too much.  Hence the need to keep raising our debt ceiling.  And Obamacare only makes this worse.  A lot worse.  Hence that 16-day government shutdown.  Or did he miss that?

And remember, the deficit is getting smaller, not bigger.  It’s going down faster than it has in the last 50 years. The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations that we have around things like Medicare and Social Security.  We want to make sure those are there for future generations.

Oh, you are devious, Mr. President.  The deficit is going down faster than in the last 50 years only because you raised it to record highs in your first year in office.  Your smallest deficit is still larger than George W. Bush’s last deficit.

Medicare?  You cut Medicare spending so you can spend that money on Obamacare.  And Social Security?  The Social Security Trust Fund has no cash in it.  It’s stuffed with government IOUs.  Because the government is spending so much money that they have to raid the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for it.  And even that’s not enough to prevent deficit spending.  So they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.  This out of control spending is why Medicare and Social Security may not be there for future generations.

So the key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don’t help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research.  And these things historically have not been partisan.  And this shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago.  Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.  The debt problems we have now are long term, and we can address them without shortchanging our kids, or shortchanging our grandkids, or weakening the security that current generations have earned from their hard work.

More on education?  That’s to shore up the teachers’ underfunded pensions.  Infrastructure?  That’s just pork-barrel spending.  Building airports where no one wants to fly.  Or high-speed rail that requires constant government subsidies.  Money that buys votes in Congress to pass huge spending bills.  Like Obamacare.  Which passed only by buying off Democrats with the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, the Florida Flim Flam, etc.

So that’s number one.  Number two, we should finish fixing the job of — let me say that again.  Number two, we should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system.

There’s already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement.  In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support that would make the biggest commitment to border security in our history; would modernize our legal immigration system; make sure everyone plays by the same rules, makes sure that folks who came here illegally have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, meet their responsibilities.  That bill has already passed the Senate. And economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now.  That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth.

There’s a reason why people hire illegal aliens.  So they can pay them less than legal citizens.  So once these illegals become legal they’re not going to work for illegal wages anymore.  So it will raise labor costs.  Forcing businesses to lay off some workers.  Creating no net economic benefit.  But the Democrats don’t care.  Because it’s not about the economy.  It’s about all those new Democrat voters.  To turn the nation, like they turned California, Democrat.

The majority of Americans think this is the right thing to do.  And it’s sitting there waiting for the House to pass it.  Now, if the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them.  Let’s start the negotiations.  But let’s not leave this problem to keep festering for another year, or two years, or three years.  This can and should get done by the end of this year.

Really?  A majority of people want immigration reform?  And because of that we should pass it?  Well, the majority of people want to repeal Obamacare.  So perhaps this is a negotiation the Republicans and Democrats can agree on.  To please the majority of people.  Exchange immigration reform for the repealing of Obamacare.

Number three, we should pass a farm bill, one that American farmers and ranchers can depend on; one that protects vulnerable children and adults in times of need; one that gives rural communities opportunities to grow and the long-term certainty that they deserve.

You know, it was a farm bill that helped precipitate the Great Depression.  Price parity.  Increasing the price of farm goods so they were closer to the price of nonfarm goods.  In response to their increased productivity due to the mechanization of the farm that produced bumper crops.  Increasing supply beyond demand.  Causing the price of farm goods to fall.  So Hoover passed legislation raising the price of food.  Making it harder to put food on the table for the average American.  An example of the unintended consequences of government intervention.  Such as requiring gasoline to include a portion of the corn crop.  Thus raising the price of corn.  And everything in the food chain downstream from corn.  Like beef, chicken, milk, eggs, etc.  No, the last thing consumers need who are trying to put food on the table is another farm bill.

Again, the Senate has already passed a solid bipartisan bill.  It’s got support from Democrats and Republicans.  It’s sitting in the House waiting for passage.  If House Republicans have ideas that they think would improve the farm bill, let’s see them.  Let’s negotiate.  What are we waiting for?  Let’s get this done.

So, passing a budget; immigration reform; farm bill.  Those are three specific things that would make a huge difference in our economy right now.  And we could get them done by the end of the year if our focus is on what’s good for the American people. And that’s just the big stuff.  There are all kinds of other things that we could be doing that don’t get as much attention.

I understand we will not suddenly agree on everything now that the cloud of crisis has passed.  Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a lot of issues.  And I recognize there are folks on the other side who think that my policies are misguided — that’s putting it mildly.  That’s okay.  That’s democracy.  That’s how it works.  We can debate those differences vigorously, passionately, in good faith, through the normal democratic process.

And sometimes, we’ll be just too far apart to forge an agreement.  But that should not hold back our efforts in areas where we do agree.  We shouldn’t fail to act on areas that we do agree or could agree just because we don’t think it’s good politics; just because the extremes in our party don’t like the word “compromise.”

When the Republicans wanted to add tax breaks for small business in the stimulus bill President Obama refused to listen.  Because he won the election.  And elections have consequences, he said.  And to the winner goes the spoils.  When the Democrats had the House, Senate and the White House they had no interest in compromise.  And didn’t.  But when they don’t have all the power they expect the other side to compromise.  And give them what they want.  That’s their idea of compromise.  Unconditional surrender.

I will look for willing partners wherever I can to get important work done.  And there’s no good reason why we can’t govern responsibly, despite our differences, without lurching from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis.  In fact, one of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important.  It matters.  I think the American people during this shutdown had a chance to get some idea of all the things, large and small, that government does that make a difference in people’s lives.

We hear all the time about how government is the problem.  Well, it turns out we rely on it in a whole lot of ways.  Not only does it keep us strong through our military and our law enforcement, it plays a vital role in caring for our seniors and our veterans, educating our kids, making sure our workers are trained for the jobs that are being created, arming our businesses with the best science and technology so they can compete with companies from other countries.  It plays a key role in keeping our food and our toys and our workplaces safe.  It helps folks rebuild after a storm.  It conserves our natural resources.  It finances startups.  It helps to sell our products overseas.  It provides security to our diplomats abroad.

Really?  You want to go there?  Security of our diplomats?  The administration that let 4 Americans die in Benghazi on its watch?  Despite ample warnings?  Warnings so serious that the British pulled out of Benghazi?  Before our four diplomats were killed?  But there was an election, wasn’t there?  And we just couldn’t have trouble with terrorists during an election, could we?  Not for the president that won the War on Terror with the killing of Osama bin Laden.

So let’s work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse.  That’s not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government.  You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position.  Go out there and win an election.  Push to change it. But don’t break it.  Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building.  That’s not being faithful to what this country is about.

The Founding Fathers created LIMITED government.  What we have today is far from limited.  The progressives/liberals have destroyed what the Founding Fathers gave us.  Today we have a big, fat, bloated bureaucracy.  And the Republicans would like to change it by winning elections.  Which isn’t that easy when the Obama administration suppresses the vote by turning the IRS loose on the Tea Party.  Limiting their fundraising ability.  Causing their turnout to be less than it was in the 2010 midterm election.  When the Tea Party stirred the people to vote the House of Representatives back to the Republicans.  Which they weren’t going to let happen in 2012.  Hence using the IRS to suppress the Republican vote.

And that brings me to one last point.  I’ve got a simple message for all the dedicated and patriotic federal workers who’ve either worked without pay or been forced off the job without pay these past few weeks, including most of my own staff: Thank you.  Thanks for your service.  Welcome back.  What you do is important.  It matters.

You defend our country overseas.  You deliver benefits to our troops who’ve earned them when they come home.  You guard our borders.  You protect our civil rights.  You help businesses grow and gain footholds in overseas markets.  You protect the air we breathe and the water our children drink.  And you push the boundaries of science and space, and you guide hundreds of thousands of people each day through the glories of this country. Thank you.  What you do is important.  And don’t let anybody else tell you different.  Especially the young people who come to this city to serve — believe that it matters.  Well, you know what, you’re right.  It does.

And those of us who have the privilege to serve this country have an obligation to do our job as best we can.  We come from different parties, but we are Americans first.  And that’s why disagreement cannot mean dysfunction.  It can’t degenerate into hatred.  The American people’s hopes and dreams are what matters, not ours.  Our obligations are to them.  Our regard for them compels us all, Democrats and Republicans, to cooperate, and compromise, and act in the best interests of our nation –- one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.

Thanks very much.

The majority of people want to repeal Obamacare.  But the president doesn’t care about these American people.  Because they don’t share his vision of expanding government power in our lives.  People who would prefer to keep the health insurance they have.  And the doctors they have.  As well as not paying more for their health insurance.  But what they want isn’t as important to President Obama as what he wants.  So there is no compromise.  No cooperation.  Or acting in the best interest of the United States.  For this may be one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.  Where all Americans are equal.  Only some are more equal than others.  Like those who share President Obama’s vision.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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The City of Detroit Bankruptcy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2013

Economics 101

There is nothing more Dangerous to a City’s Finances than a Shrinking Tax Base

The federal debt is at record levels.  Because federal spending is at record levels.  But those on the left say there’s nothing to worry about.  And try to expand federal spending further.  With more government benefits to hand out to the people.  And an ever growing federal bureaucracy.  Full of new jobs with generous pay and benefits.  All funded by the taxpayer.

Businesses in the private sector cannot operate like this.  Because businesses have to pay their costs with the things and/or services they sell.  That people willingly buy.  So there is a limit on the costs a business can incur.  But not so with government.  For the government has the power to tax.  To forcibly take more money from the people against their will.  Something businesses just can’t do.  And when that fails they can borrow money by issuing bonds.  Which are generally easy to sell.  Because governments have the power to tax.  All but guaranteeing that they will repay those bonds.  And when that’s not enough the federal government has one other benefit businesses don’t have.  They can print money.  Further guaranteeing that they will be able to redeem their bonds.  Making them that much easier to sell.

Government below the federal level, though, doesn’t have that last option.  So when they want to spend more money than they have they have no choice but to borrow.  And hope that their tax base doesn’t erode over time.  For there is nothing more dangerous to a city’s finances than a shrinking tax base.  Especially when the city has a huge and growing public sector.  Enjoying generous pay and benefits.  Especially pension and health care benefits for retirees.  Where promises made must be kept decades into the future.  During which time a lot of things can happen.  Such as that tax base shrinking.

Detroit’s Tax Base plummeted while the Size of the Public Sector did not for Government Never grows Smaller

This is the problem the City of Detroit has.  And it is why they filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  Thanks to the automotive industry and World War II destroying most of the industrial economies of the world, Detroit became an economic power house.  And one of America’s grandest cities in the 1950s.  Paris of the Midwest they called Detroit.  Automotive capital of the world.  The Motor City.  The mecca of American manufacturing.  Having one of the richest middle class.  And one of the largest black middle classes.  Everyone was doing well in Detroit.  So the City of Detroit did the only rational thing a city could do with a swelling tax base.  They exploded the public sector.  All paid for with higher taxes.  Including a new city income tax.

But that growing public sector soon turned Detroit into a business unfriendly city.  With more red tape, regulatory costs and a corporate income tax.  And rising union demands during contract negotiations made it even less business friendly.  So businesses started leaving the city.  Taking their jobs with them.  And people followed.  Then the race riots hit in 1967.  Five days of unprecedented violence.  Thus beginning the great white flight from the city.  And the great population decline of the City of Detroit.  Culminating in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

At Detroit’s peak her population topped out at about 1.8 million people.  Today there are but 680,000 people remaining.  A loss of 1.12 million people.  About 62% of her peak population.  So Detroit’s tax base plummeted.  But the size of the public sector didn’t.  For government never grows smaller.  So Detroit continued on with the overhead expenses of a city with a population of 1.8 million people.  With the tax revenue of a city with a population of 680,000 people.  Making bankruptcy inevitable.

The Problems of the City of Detroit are the Problems of the Nation Writ Large

At the height of Detroit’s industrial might there were approximately 300,000 automotive or manufacturing jobs in the city.  Today there are a mere 27,000.  That’s a loss of 273,000 jobs.  That’s 273,000 breadwinners whose families are no longer in the city.  If each of them had on average 2.5 children who remained in the city with their parents that would have added about 1.2 million to the city’s population.  Which corresponds pretty closely to the 1.12 million the city actually lost.  So we can see how the loss of the jobs devastated the population.  But we can also see what it did to the city’s finances.

Let’s assume these breadwinners had their children when they were in their 20s.  So the breadwinner was still in the workforce when their children were 20 and had entered the workforce.  Let’s say this happened over a 40-year period.  So, on average during that 40-year period, there were an additional 136,500 jobs per year.  Let’s say they each owned a house and paid property tax of $750.  Over 40 years that’s about $4.1 billion in lost property tax revenue.  If each of these workers earned $35,000 on average over those 40 years and paid a 3% city income tax that’s about $9.8 billion in lost personal income tax revenue.  Finally, if we figure a 50-50 split between labor and material, a 15% overhead and a 2% net profit we can extrapolate that $35,000 average personal income into approximately $448 billion in lost corporate revenue over those 40 years.  At a city corporate income tax rate of 2% that’s about $9 billion in lost corporate income tax revenue.  Adding these all together we see a total loss of tax revenue to the city of approximately $18.8 billion due to the loss of 273,000 jobs.  Plus or minus.

This is a crude guesstimate with an emphasis on crude but it could be close enough to explain what happened in Detroit.  For with the falling tax base Detroit turned to borrowing more and more money to pay for an oversized public sector.  To service a disappearing population.  With those pension and retiree health care benefits being especially burdensome.  Which forced the city to borrow so much it left them with a debt of $18.5 billion (very close to the $18.8 billion in our little exercise above) that they don’t have a chance in hell of ever repaying.  Leaving bankruptcy as the only option.  Unless the federal government steps in.  Which probably won’t happen.  And shouldn’t happen.  For Detroit is not the only government suffering under the weight of unfunded pension obligations and retiree health care benefits.  If they bail out Detroit then they’ll have to bail out all other states and municipalities.  Which they can’t afford to do.  For the federal government has its own problems with pensions (Social Security) and retiree health care benefits (Medicare).  And they’ve just added a new government benefit that will dwarf the costs of Social Security and Medicare.  Obamacare.  All while burdening the economy with a slew of anti-business regulations that has chased jobs out of the economy.  And out of the country.

So the federal government can’t step in to save Detroit.  For the federal government is working to ‘out Detroit’ Detroit.  As the problems of Detroit are the problems of the nation writ large.  What’s happening in Detroit will happen in other states and cities across the country.  That are spending more money than they have to support an oversized public sector.  And in time what’s happening in Detroit will happen to the federal government.  Bailing out these states and cities will only hasten the downfall of the federal government.  Which the federal government will do whatever it can to prevent.  For while the nation can survive a city like Detroit going bankrupt the nation cannot survive a federal bankruptcy.  Because the numbers are just too big at the federal level.

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Public Sector Costs are Bankrupting Detroit and Illinois

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2013

Week in Review

Public sector pay and benefits are crushing state governments and cities.  The City of Detroit is probably going to file bankruptcy.  And the State of Illinois just saw its bond rating cut (see Illinois Bond Grade Cut as Lawmakers Can’t Fix Pensions by Tim Jones & Brian Chappatta posted 6/3/2013 on Bloomberg).

Illinois had its credit rating cut one level after lawmakers failed to restructure state pensions saddled with almost $100 billion in unfunded liabilities…

The retirement systems cover state workers, teachers, university employees, judges and lawmakers…

“It is disgraceful that this year’s legislative session ended without a new pension plan,” Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a 58-year-old Republican who is running for governor in 2014, said in a statement. The failure “costs the state millions of dollars each day, plus these downgrades could continue to make borrowing additional funds even more expensive…”

Illinois’s growing pension deficit is “unsustainable,” Fitch analysts led by Karen Krop, a senior director in New York, said in a statement. The inaction by lawmakers raises questions about the state’s ability to deal with “numerous fiscal challenges.” They also cited a growing backlog of unpaid bills and borrowing to cover operational costs, indicating another cut may be forthcoming.

These public sector workers have pay and benefit packages unlike those in the private sector.  Which has to pay for the pay and benefits of both the private and public sectors.  So they keep raising taxes on individuals and businesses.  And our politicians never worry about the long-term consequences.  But they can only tax so much.  People can only pay so much in taxes before they can no longer pay their own bills.  So they start borrowing.  And the more they borrow the more risky they are to loan money to.  The more in debt they go and the greater their spending obligations the higher the interest rates they have to pay to get investors to take a chance on buying their bonds.  Because there’s a very good chance something like this will happen (see Detroit to offer creditors less than 10 percent of what city owes -report by Steve Neavling posted 6/7/2013 on Reuters).

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr plans to deliver grim news to the city’s creditors next week: Take less than 10 percent of what the city owes or risk losing it all in a bankruptcy proceeding, the Detroit Free Press reported on Friday…

In his report, Orr stated that the city has run annual deficits of $100 million and more since 2008. Detroit is believed to owe about $17 billion in debts and liabilities.

So on the one hand they beg and plead for investors to loan them money.  So they can pay the overwhelming costs of their public sector in the face of a shrinking tax base.  And then when their finances get so bad that they can’t even service their debt any more they say, “Thank you for your money when we could not raise any ourselves.  And because you took that great risk for us we will reward you by screwing you out of 90 cents of every dollar you loaned us.  But stick around after the bankruptcy.  For once we shed this debt we will need to borrow more to pay for the overwhelming costs of our public sector.”

Detroit had annual deficits of $100 million.  Illinois has $100 billion in unfunded liabilities.  Is it any wonder Fitch lowered their bond rating?  For the state of Illinois has a greater financial problem than the City of Detroit has.  The State of Michigan gave Detroit an emergency manager to fix their problems.  They even offered to buy a city park.  Belle Isle.  To help Detroit get out of the mess they put themselves into.  But Illinois cannot help Illinois.  Only the federal government can.  But will they?  If they do you know California will demand a bailout, too.  As will every other state and city with a crushing public sector cost will.  But the federal government can’t bail out everyone.  Not when they have their own trillion dollar deficit problem to fix.

No.  There is only one way to fix the problems these cities and states are having.  They have to cut their public sector costs.  Which means someone else besides the bondholders will have to take a haircut to put these states and cities back into the black.  Meaning the public sector can no longer enjoy the kind of benefits people in the private sector haven’t enjoyed in decades.

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Capital Markets, IPO, Bubbles and Stock Market Crashes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 22nd, 2013

Economics 101

Entrepreneurs turn to Venture Capitalists because they Need a Lot of Money Fast

It takes money to make money.  Anyone who ever started a business knows this only too well.  For starting a money-making business takes money.  A lot of it.  New business owners will use their lifesavings.  Mortgage their home.  Borrow from their parents.  Or if they have a really good business plan and own a house with a lot of equity built up in it they may be able to get a loan from a bank.  Or find a cosigner who is willing to pledge some collateral to secure a loan.

Once the business is up and running they depend on business profits to pay the bills.  And service their debt.  If the business struggles they turn to other sources of financing.  They pay their bills slower.  They use credit cards.  They draw down their line of credit at their bank.  They go back to a parent and borrow more money.  A lot of businesses fail at this point.  But some survive.  And their profits not only pay their bills and service their debt.  But these profits can sustain growth.

This is one path.  Entrepreneurs with a brilliant new invention may need a lot of money fast.  To pay for land, a large building for manufacturing, equipment and tooling, energy, waste disposal, packaging, distribution and sales.  And all the people in production and management.  This is just too much money for someone’s lifesavings or a home mortgage to pay for.  So they turn to venture capital.  Investors who will take a huge risk and pay these costs in return for a share of the profits.  And the huge windfall when taking the company public.  If the company doesn’t fail before going public.

The Common Stockholders take the Biggest Risk of All who Finance a Business

As a company grows they need more financing.  And they turn to the capital markets.  To issue bonds.  A large loan broken up into smaller pieces that many bond purchasers can buy.  Each bond paying a fixed interest rate in return for these buyers (i.e., creditors) taking a risk.  Businesses have to redeem their bonds one day (i.e., repay this loan).  Which they don’t have to do with stocks.  The other way businesses raise money in the capital markets.   When owners take their business public they are selling it to investors.  This initial public offering (IPO) of stock brings in money to the business that they don’t have to pay back.  What they give up for this wealth of funding is some control of their business.  The investors who buy this stock get dividends (similar to interest) and voting rights in exchange for taking this risk.  And the chance to reap huge capital gains.

The common stockholders take the biggest risk in financing a business.  (Preferred stockholders fall between bondholders and common stockholders in terms of risk, get a fixed dividend but no voting rights.)  In exchange for that risk they get voting rights.  They elect the board of directors.  Who hire the company’s officers.  So they have the largest say in how the business does its business.  Because they have the largest stake in the company.  After all, they own it.  Which is why businesses work hard to please their common stockholders.  For if they don’t they can lose their job.

During profitable times the board of directors may vote to increase the dividend on the common stock.  But if the business is not doing well they may vote to reduce the dividend.  Or suspend it entirely.  What will worry stockholders, though, more than a reduced dividend is a falling stock price.  For stockholders make a lot of money by buying and selling their shares of stock.  And if the price of their stock falls while they’re holding it they will not be able to sell it without taking a loss on their investment.  So a reduced dividend may be the least of their worries.  As they are far more concerned about what is causing the value of their stock to fall.

Investors make Money by Buying and Selling Stocks based on this Simple Adage, “Buy Low, Sell High.”

A business only gets money from investors from the IPO.  Once investors buy this stock they can sell it in the secondary market.  This is what drives the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  This buying and selling of stocks between investors on the secondary market.  A business gets no additional funding from these transactions.  But they watch the price of their stock very closely.  For it can affect their ability to get new financing.  Creditors don’t want to take all of the risk.  Neither do investors. They want to see a mix of debt (bonds) and equity (stocks).  And if the stock price falls it will be difficult for them to raise money by issuing more stock.  Forcing them to issue more bonds.  Increasing the risk of the creditors.  Which raises the bond interest rate they must pay to attract creditors.  Which makes it hard for the business to raise money to finance operations when their stock price falls.  Not to mention putting the jobs of executive management at risk.

Why?  Because this is not why venture capitalists risk their money.  It is not why investors buy stock in an IPO.  They take these great risks to make money.  Not to lose money.  And the way they expect to get rich is with a rising stock price.  Business owners and their early financers get a share of the stock at the IPO.  For their risk-taking.  And the higher the stock trades for after the IPO the richer they get.  When the stock price settles down after a meteoric rise following the IPO the entrepreneurs and their venture capitalists can sell their stock at the prevailing market price and become incredibly rich.  Thanks to a huge capital gain in the price of the stock.  At least, that is the plan.

But what causes this huge capital gain?  The expectations of future profitability of the new public company.  It’s not about what it is doing today.  But what investors think they will be doing tomorrow.  If they believe that their new product will be the next thing everyone must have investors will want to own that stock before everyone starts buying those things.  So they can take that meteoric rise along with the stock price.  As this new product produces record profits for this business.  So everyone will bid up the price because the investors must have this stock.  Just as they are sure consumers will feel they must have what this business sells.  When there are a lot of companies competing in the same technology market all of these tech stock prices can rise to great heights.  As everyone is taking a big bet that the company they’re buying into will make that next big thing everyone must have.  Causing these stocks to become overvalued.  As these investors’ enthusiasm gets the better of them.  And when reality sets in it can be devastating.

Investors make money by buying and selling stocks.  The key to making wealth is this simple adage, “Buy low, sell high.”  Which means you don’t want to be holding a stock when its price is falling.  So what is an investor to do?  Sell when it could only be a momentary correction before continuing its meteoric rise?  Missing out on a huge capital gain?  Or hold on to it waiting for it to continue its meteoric rise?  Only to see the bottom fall out causing a great financial loss?  The kind of loss that has made investors jump out of a window?  Tough decision.  With painful consequences if an investor decides wrong.  Sometimes it’s just not one individual investor.  If a group of stocks are overvalued.  If there is a bubble in the stock market.  And it bursts.  Look out.  The losses will be huge as many overvalued stocks come crashing down.  Causing a stock market crash.  A recession.  A Great Recession.  Even a Great Depression.

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The European Central Bank taking Steps to make the Eurozone Crisis Worse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

To increase the money supply central banks can do a few different things.  To stimulate economic activity.  They can lower reserve requirements to stimulate money creation via fractional reserve banking.  They can print money.  And they can buy bonds with money they create that they inject into the economy with their bond purchases.  These actions will put more money into the economy.  In hopes people will use it to generate economic activity.  Of course there is a tradeoff.  Increasing the money supply can also create inflation.  And often does.  Unless the economy is so far into the toilet that no one spends any money even with all of this new money in the economy (see ECB in ‘panic’, say former chief economist Juergen Stark posted 9/22/2002 on The Telegraph).

“The break came in 2010. Until then everything went well,” Juergen Stark, the German who resigned from the ECB in late 2011 after criticising its earlier round of buying up of sovereign debt, told Austrian daily Die Presse in an interview.

“Then the ECB began to take on a new role, to fall into panic. It gave in to outside pressure … pressure from outside Europe.”

Mr Stark said the ECB’s new plan to buy up unlimited amounts of eurozone states’ bonds, announced on September 6, on the secondary market to bring down their borrowing rates was misguided.

“Together with other central banks, the ECB is flooding the market, posing the question not only about how the ECB will get its money back, but also how the excess liquidity created can be absorbed globally,” Mr Stark said.

“It can’t be solved by pressing a button. If the global economy stabilises, the potential for inflation has grown enormously.”

The European Central Bank (ECB) wasn’t trying to stimulate economic activity with these bond purchases.  What they were trying to do was throw a lifeline to those nations in the Eurozone about to go belly up because no one will buy their bonds.  Because the chances of them ever repaying their enormous debts are slim to none.  Because of this these indebted countries have to offer very high interest rates to entice anyone to take a chance buying their risky bonds.  These high interest rates, though, were hurting these countries.  Increasing their financial woes.  And pushing them ever closer to bankruptcy.  So the ECB caved.  And bought their worthless bonds.  By doing something only a central bank can do.  Create money out of thin air.

These additional Euros thrown into the money supply could very well end up depreciating the Euro.  And sparking off inflation.  Which monetary expansion ultimately does.  Unless an economy is so far into the toilet that no one will spend this additional money.  And it just sits in the bank.  But if the economy does turn around there will be a lot more money available to borrow.  At exceptionally low interest rates.  So low that some will borrow it because of those low interest rates.  Which could spark off inflation.  Helping the Eurozone to settle back into recession.

This is not going to help anyone in the Eurozone.  Especially those staring down bankruptcy.  Because this won’t cut spending.  This won’t reduce any deficits.  And this won’t lower any debt.  All of the old problems that caused their problems will still be there.  Along with a new problem.  Inflation.  Guaranteeing that things will get worse in the Eurozone before they get better.

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Revolutionary War, Sovereign Debt, Report on Public Credit, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Assumption and Residency Act

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 16th, 2012

Politics 101

In 1792 the Outstanding Debt at all Levels of Government was 45% of GDP

Wars aren’t cheap.  Especially if they last awhile.  The American Revolutionary War lasted some 8 years until the British and Americans signed the Treaty of Paris (1782) officially ending all hostilities.  So the Revolutionary War was a very costly war.  The ‘national’ government (the Continental Congress) owed about $70 million.  The states owed another $25 million or so.  And the Continental Army had issued about $7 million in IOUs during the war.  Added up that comes to $102 million the new nation owed.  About 45% of GDP.  (Or about 35% without the state debt added in.)

To put that in perspective consider that the Civil War raised the debt to about 32% of GDP.  World War I raised it to about 35%.  World War II raised it to about 122%.  Following the war the debt fell to about 32% at its lowest point until it started rising again.  And quickly.  In large part due to the cost of the Vietnam War and LBJ’s Great Society.  Government spending being so great Nixon turned to printing money.  Depreciating the dollar’s purchasing power in every commodity but one.  Gold.  Which was pegged at $35/ounce.  Losing faith in our currency foreign governments traded their U.S. dollars for gold.  Until Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971.  Ushering in the era of Keynesian economics, deficit spending and growing national debts.  Because of increased spending for social programs governments everywhere now have debts approaching 100% of GDP.  And higher.  But I digress.

So 45% of GDP was huge in 1792.  And it continued to be huge.  Taking a devastating civil war and a devastating world war to even approach it.  It took an even more devastating world war to exceed it.  And now we’ve blown by that debt level in the era of Keynesian economics.  Without the devastation of another World War II.  This debt level has grown so great that for the first time ever in U.S. history Standard and Poor’s recently lowered the United States’ impeccable sovereign debt rating.  And restoring that debt rating at today’s spending levels will be a daunting task.  But imagine trying to establish a sovereign debt rating after just becoming a nation.  Already with a massive debt of 45% of GDP.

In Hamilton’s Report on Public Credit the New Government would Assume Outstanding Debt at all Levels of Government

There was only one choice for America’s first president.  The indispensible one.  George Washington.  Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 who were skeptical of the new Constitution only supported it because they had someone they could trust to be America’s first president.  George Washington.  Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were indispensible at times.  But not as indispensible as Washington.  For without him the Continental Army would have ceased to exist after that winter at Valley Forge.  That same army would have mutinied (for back pay and promised pensions) after the war if he didn’t step in.  Our experiment in self-government would have ended if he did not relinquish his power after the war.  We wouldn’t have ratified the Constitution without having Washington to be America’s first president.  And our experiment in self-government would have ended if he did not relinquish his power.  Again.  After his second term as president.

With the state of the government’s finances after the war there was another Founding Father that was indispensible.  Not as indispensible as Washington.  But close.  For without him the Washington presidency may have failed.  As well as the new nation.  Because of that convoluted financial mess.  The Continental Congress borrowed money.  The states borrowed money.  Some of which went to the Continental Congress.  The army took stuff they needed to survive in exchange for IOUs.  There were bonds, loans and IOUs at every level of government in every state.  Complicating the matter is that most of the instruments they sold ended up in the hands of speculators who bought them for pennies on the dollar.  As the original holders of these instruments needed money.  And did not believe the Continental Congress would honor any of these obligations.  For before the Constitution the government was weak and had no taxing authority.  And no way to raise the funds to redeem these debt obligations.

A few tried to get their arms around this financial mess.  But couldn’t.  It was too great a task.  Until America’s first secretary of the treasury came along.  Alexander Hamilton.  Who could bring order to the chaos.  As well as fund the new federal government.  He submitted his plan in his Report on Public Credit (January 1790).  And the big thing in it was assumption.  The federal government would assume outstanding debt at all levels of government.  Including those IOUs.  At face value.  One hundred pennies on the dollar.  To whoever held these instruments.  Regardless of who bought them first.  “Unfair!” some said.  But what else could they do?  This was the 1700s.  There weren’t detailed computer records of bondholders.  Besides, this was a nation that, like the British, protected property rights.  These speculators took a risk buying these instruments.  Even if at pennies on the dollar.  They bought them for a price the seller thought was fair or else they wouldn’t have sold them.  So these bonds were now the property of the speculators.

Jefferson and Madison traded Hamilton’s Assumption for the Nation’s Capital

Of course to do this you needed money.  Which Hamilton wanted to raise by issuing new bonds.  To retire the old.  And to service the new.  Thus establishing good credit.  In fact, he wanted a permanent national debt.  For he said, “A national debt, if not excessive, is a national blessing.”  Because good credit would allow a nation to borrow money for economic expansion.  And it would tie the people with the money to the government.  Where the risk of a government default would harm both the nation and their creditors.  Making their interests one and the same.

That’s not how Thomas Jefferson saw it, though.  He had just returned from France where he witnessed the beginning of the French Revolution.  Brought upon by a crushing national debt.  And he didn’t want to tie the people with the money to the government.  For when they do they tend to exert influence over the government.  But Hamilton said debt was a blessing if not excessive.  He did not believe in excessive government debt.  And he wanted to pay that debt off.  As his plan called for a sinking fund to retire that debt.  Still, the Jefferson and Hamilton feud began here.  For Hamilton’s vision of the new federal government was just too big.  And too British.  Madison would join Jefferson to lead an opposition party.  Primarily in opposition to anything Hamilton.  Who used the Constitution to support his other plan.  A national bank.  Just like the British had.  Based on the “necessary and proper” clause in Article I, Section 8.  Setting a precedent that government would use again and again to expand its powers.

At the time the nation’s capital was temporarily in New York.  A final home for it, though, was a contentious issue.  Everyone wanted it in their state so they could greatly influence the national government.  Hamilton’s struggle for assumption was getting nowhere.  Until the horse-trading at the Jefferson dinner party with Hamilton and Madison.  To get the nation’s capital close to Virginia (where it is now) Jefferson offered a deal to Hamilton.  Jefferson and Madison were Virginians.  Give them the capital and they would help pass assumption.  They all agreed to the deal (though Jefferson would later regret it).  Congress passed the Residency Act putting the capital on the Potomac.  And all the good that Hamilton promised happened.  America established good credit.  Allowing it to borrow money at home and abroad.  And a decade of prosperity followed.  Hamilton even paid down the federal debt to about 17.5% of GDP near the end of America’s second president’s (John Adams) term in office (1800).  Making Hamilton indispensible in sustaining this experiment in self-government.  Keeping government small even though it was more powerful than it was ever before.  Of course his using that “necessary and proper” argument really came back to bite him in the ass.  Figuratively, of course.  As government used it time and again to expand its role into areas even Hamilton would have fought to prevent.  While Jefferson no doubt would have said with haughty contempt, “I told you so.  This is what happens when you bring money and government together.  But would you listen to me?  No.  How I hate you, Mr. Hamilton.”

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The Keynesian Contagion in the Eurozone is so Bad Investors are Paying People to hold their Money Elsewhere

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 11th, 2012

Week in Review

The Keynesian answer to everything is more spending.  By any means possible.  By taxes.  By borrowing.  Or by printing.  Despite Jimmy Carter’s stagflation of the Seventies.  Japan’s Lost Decade in the Nineties.  And the current sovereign debt crisis in Europe.  All Keynesian failures.  And the Keynesian answer to why they all failed.  Because they didn’t spend enough.  It’s amazing.  No matter how wrong they are they keep insisting that they are right.  And now things are so bad in the Eurozone that investors are paying people to hold their money until the current Keynesian contagion spreading through Europe dies out (see Negative interest rates spell final defeat for beleaguered savers by Jeremy Warner posted 8/6/2012 on The Telegraph).

Ignore, for the moment, what has happened to bond yields in the troubled eurozone periphery. That is an unnecessary tragedy unique to certain members of the euro. The bigger story is that across large parts of Europe, nominal interest rates are turning negative. Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland are already there, and now there is even some possibility of the UK joining them.

Last week, the yield on two-year gilts reached a record low, and though it has come back a bit since – boosted by the possibly mistaken belief that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, is about to come riding to the rescue in the eurozone debt crisis – it still hovers at an almost unbelievable 0.05pc. Real yields on index-linked gilts have been negative for some years now, but this is the first time that nominal yields have looked like joining them.

The way things are going, investors will soon be forced to pay to lend the Government their money, a topsy-turvy, Through the Looking Glass world where the lender pays the borrower a rate of interest, rather than the other way around. The profligacy of government is rewarded, the thrift of its citizens is punished. For long something of a mug’s game, saving for the future becomes completely pointless, while pension funds, forced into gilts by solvency regulation, are further crucified.

As governments lower interest rates to try and stimulate economic activity that isn’t there (and won’t appear even with these low rates as proven by the fact that these low rates haven’t stimulated economic activity yet) this also lowers the interest rate on savings accounts.  So as the government pursues reckless Keynesian policies (lowering interest rates to stimulate the economy) those who live responsibly and save for their retirement see their savings shrink instead of grow.  Though this destroys lives it doesn’t necessarily bother Keynesians.  Who hate people who save their money instead of spending it.  Because in the Keynesian view savings reduce economic activity by pulling cash out of the economy.  Of course savings have typically been the source of investment capital that actually generates economic activity.  But the Keynesians ignore this fact.  As well as the one about destroying people’s retirement.  Which is why their policies destroy economies.

Ultra-low bond yields are a sign not so much of international confidence in the UK’s credit worthiness, but of a seriously impaired economy…

In the meantime, fear of a disorderly break-up continues to drive investors into safe-haven assets, which, in practice, means any half-way credit-worthy alternative to the eurozone periphery…

When a country’s bond interest rate falls it is typically a sign of a strong and healthy economy.  Things are going so well that people have little fear in loaning money to them.  And therefore the country doesn’t have to pay high interest rates to attract buyers for their bonds.  This is not what is happening now, though.  Money is flowing to Britain and the United States not because their economies are strong and robust (they’re not) but because their economies aren’t as horrible as in other countries.  Especially in the Eurozone.  Where interest rates are high because of the high risk of default.  Which drives investors to countries not with better and more robust economies.  But where the risk of default is lower.  The investors are basically saying that, yes, the economies of Britain and the United States are bad.  But they are not ‘Eurozone’ bad.  So they will park their money there.  And even pay (with negative bond yields) these countries to hold their money until some better investing opportunity comes along.  You see, it’s not about earning profits now.  It’s about trying to save what money they have until this current Keynesian contagion dies out.

Banks struggle to fund themselves at the same low rates as the Government because investors fear that a eurozone break-up would further undermine their solvency. Even in Britain, banks are once again seen as fundamentally unsafe…

When the economy is growing strongly, money changes hands with high velocity, creating a consequent demand for cash. To satisfy this demand, money is withdrawn from bonds, causing interest rates to rise. But with conditions as they are now, the reverse takes place. Low economic activity causes cash to flow back the other way and into bonds, driving yields into negative territory.

In such circumstances the Bank of England has little option but to carry on with quantitative easing, even though this has become something of a circular process. The Bank buys gilts to pump prime the economy with cash and investors use the cash to buy still more gilts…

Eventually, the Bank will need to go rapidly into reverse to prevent more serious inflation, a la 1970s. The velocity of money will rise, and all that freshly minted cash will suddenly start chasing goods, wages, assets and commodities, instead of sitting in bonds.

Before there was a large government debt market rich people invested in businesses.  Small business with venture capital.  And large businesses with corporate stocks and bonds.  Rich people got richer by investing in businesses that created jobs.  Increasing economic activity throughout the country.  They made greater profits.  And took greater risks.  With a large government debt market, though, they have another alternative.  Rich people can buy government bonds instead.  They don’t make as much but they don’t take anywhere near the same risk.  Unless they’re investing in the Eurozone.  Which they appear not to be doing these days.  In fact, with these bargain basement interest rates some are even borrowing money to invest in higher interest bonds of other countries.  We call this trading on the interest.  Or carry trading.  Borrow at low interest rates.  And using that money to buy investments with high interest rates.

This is the price we pay with high government debt.  It pulls capital out of the private sector.  Provides a safer, non-job-creating option for rich investors.  And all of this extra money in the economy will sooner or later ignite inflation.  As well as threaten the solvency of the banking sector when some of these bets on carry trades go bad.  As a lot of these investors borrow money to make these trades leaving the banking sector exposed to huge risks when things go bad.  And they often do.

This is what Keynesian economics does.  Has done.  And always will do.  Yet governments still play their Keynesian games with interest rates.  And their interventions into the economy.  So why do governments keep going down this same destructive road?  Because they can.  And they just love spending other people’s money.

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Keynesians, Gold Standard, Consumer Price Index, Money Stock, Nixon Shock, 1973 Oil Crisis, Gasoline Prices, Hidden Tax and Wealth Transfer

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2012

History 101

With the Increase in the Money Supply came the Permanent Increase in Consumer Prices that Continues to this Date

Keynesians hate the gold standard.  Because it puts a limit on how much money a government can print.  Keynesians believe in the power of government to eliminate recessions.  And their cure for recession?  Inflation.  The government prints money to spend in the private economy.  To make up for the decline in consumer spending.  But it turned out this didn’t work.  As the Seventies showed.  They printed a lot of money.  But it didn’t end the recession.  It just raised consumer prices.  Because there is a direct correlation between the amount of money in circulation and consumer prices.  As you can see in the following graph. 

 Source: M2, CPI

 The consumer price index (CPI) data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The data is at 5 year intervals.  The CPI is a ‘basket’ of prices for a selection of representative goods and services divided by another ‘basket’ of prices from a fixed date.  The resulting number is a price index.  If you plot these for a period of time you can see inflation (a rising graph) or deflation (a falling graph).  M2 is the money stock (seasonally unadjusted).  M2 includes currency, traveler’s checks, demand deposits, other checkable deposits, retail MMMFs, savings and small time deposits.

The Breton Woods system established fixed exchange rates for international trade.  It also pegged the U.S. dollar to gold.  The U.S. government promised to exchange U.S. dollars for gold at a rate of $35/ounce.  Making the U.S. dollar as good as gold.  This set the rules for international trade.  Made it fair.  And prevented anyone from cheating by devaluing their currency to make their exports cheaper to gain an economical advantage in international trade.  The system worked well.  Until the Sixties.  Because of the Vietnam War.  And LBJ’s Great Society.  These increased government spending so much that the U.S. government turned to printing money to pay for these.  Which depreciated the dollar.  Making it not as good as gold anymore.  So our trading partners began dumping their devalued dollars.  Exchanging them for gold at $35/ounce.  Which was a problem for the Nixon administration.  For that gold was far more valuable than the U.S. dollar.  They could print more dollars.  But once that gold was gone it was gone.  So Nixon acted to keep that gold in the U.S.

On August 15, 1971 Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold.  Known as the Nixon Shock.  Reneging on the solemn promise to exchange U.S. dollars for gold.  And ramped up the printing presses.  Which you can see in the graph.  After August 15 the money supply began growing.  And continues to this date.  With the increase in the money supply came the permanent increase in consumer prices that, also, continues to this date.  In lockstep with the growth of the money supply.

Prior to the Nixon Shock Gasoline Prices were Falling at a Greater Rate than the Rate Consumer Prices were Rising 

Since August of 1971 the U.S. has maintained a policy of permanent inflation.  Which caused a policy of permanently increasing consumer prices.  Those high prices we complain about, then, are not the fault of greedy businesses.  They’re the fault of government.  And their easy monetary policy.  In fact, if it was not for government’s irresponsible monetary policy the high price we hate most would not be as high as it is today.  In fact, because of the efficiency of the industry bringing us this one product its price has not followed the general upward trend in consumer prices.  And what is this product?  Gasoline.  Which, apart from two spikes in the last 60 years or so has either been falling or holding steady in comparison to consumer prices.

 Source: CPI, Gas $/Gal

 These prices are from DaveManual.com.  And reflect generally the price at the pump over this time period.  Using at first leaded gasoline.  Then unleaded gasoline.  Using inflation adjusted average prices.  Then chained 2005 dollars.  These prices are not exactly apples-to-apples.  But the trending information they provide illustrates two major points.  The two spikes in gas prices were due to demand greatly outpacing supply.  And that even with these two spikes gasoline prices would be far lower today if it wasn’t for the government’s policy of permanent inflation.

Note that prior to the Nixon Shock gasoline prices were falling at a greater rate than the rate consumer prices were rising.  These trends stopped in the Seventies for two reasons.  The Nixon Shock.  And the 1973 oil crisis.  When OPEC punished the U.S. for their support of Israel in the Yom Kippur war by cutting our oil supply.  These two events caused gasoline prices to spike.  But then something interesting happened with these high prices.  It brought a lot of oil producers into the market to cash in on those high prices.  This surge in production coupled with a falling demand due to the U.S. recession in the Seventies caused an oil glut in the Eighties.  Bringing prices back down.  Where they flat-lined for a decade or so while all other consumer prices continued their march upward.  Until two of the most populous countries in the world modernized their economies.  India and China.  Causing a spike in demand.  And a spike in prices.  For it was like adding another United States or two to the world gasoline market.

Inflation is a Hidden Tax that Transfers Wealth from the Private Sector to the Public Sector

Keynesians love to talk about how great the economy was during the Fifties when the high marginal tax rate was 91-92%.  “See?” they say.  “The economy was robust and growing during the Fifties even with these high marginal tax rates.  So high marginal tax rates are good for the economy.”  But they will never comment on how instrumental the gold standard was in keeping government spending within responsible limits.  How that responsible monetary policy kept inflation and consumer prices under control.  No.  They don’t see that part of the Fifties.  Only the high marginal tax rates.  Because they don’t want to return to the gold standard.  Or have any restrictions on their irresponsible ways.

Keynesians believe in the power of government to manage the economy.  And they really like to tax and spend.  A lot.  But taxing too much has consequences.  People don’t like paying taxes.  And don’t tend to vote for people who tax them a lot.  Which is why Keynesians love inflation.  Because it’s a hidden tax.  The higher the inflation rate the higher the tax.  Because government also borrows money.  They sell bonds.  That we buy as a retirement investment.  But if there’s been a good amount of inflation between the selling and redemption of those bonds it makes it a lot easier to redeem those bonds.  Because thanks to inflation those bonds are worth far less than they were when the government issued them.  Even Keynes noted that inflation was a way to transfer a lot of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Without many people understanding that it was even happening.

If you ever wondered why it takes two incomes to do what your father did with one income this is why.  Inflation.  This never ending transfer of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Leaving us less to retire on.  Making it harder to save for our children’s college education.  Not to mention the higher cost of living that shrinks our real wages.  While they tax our higher nominal wages at ever higher income tax rates (income tax bracket creep is another inflation phenomenon).  Everywhere we turn the government takes more and more of our wealth.  All thanks to LBJ increasing the government spending (for his Vietnam War and his Great Society).  And Richard Nixon decoupling the U.S. dollar from gold.  Instead of doing the responsible thing.  And cutting spending.  But much like high taxes you don’t win any friends at the voting booth by cutting spending.  So thanks to them we’ve had permanent and significant rising inflation and consumer prices ever since.  And as a result a flat to a falling standard of living.  Where soon our children may not have a better life than their parents.  Thank you LBJ and Richard Nixon.  And thank you Keynesian economics.

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Consumption, Savings, Fractional Reserve Banking, Interest Rates and Capital Markets

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 23rd, 2012

Economics 101

Keynesians Prefer Consumption over Savings because Everyone Eventually Dies

Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of total economic activity.  This consumption drives the economy.  In fact, someone built a school of economics around consumption.  Keynesian economics.  And he loved consumption.  John Maynard Keynes even created a formula for it.  The consumption function.  Which basically says the more income a person has the more that person will consume.  Even created a mathematical formula for it.  No doubt about it, Keynesians are just gaga for consumption.

Of course, Keynesians don’t love everything.  They aren’t all that fond of saving.  Which they see as a drain on economic activity.  Because if people are saving their money they aren’t doing as much consuming as they could.  In fact, their greatest fear when they propose stimulus spending (by giving people more money to spend) to jump-start an economy out of a recession is that people may take that money and save it.  Or, worse yet, pay down their credit card balances.  Which is something most responsible people do during bad economic times.  To lower their monthly bills so they can still pay them if they find themselves living on a reduced income.  Of course, being responsible doesn’t increase consumption.  Nor does it make Keynesians happy.

Keynesians don’t like people behaving responsibly.  They want everyone to live beyond their means.  To borrow money to buy a house.  To buy a car.  Or two.  To use their credit cards.  To keep shopping.  Above and beyond the limits of their income.  To spend.  And to keep spending.  Always consuming.  Creating endless economic activity.  And never worry about saving.  Because everyone eventually dies.  And what good will all that saving be then?

To Help Create more Capital from a Low Savings Rate we use Fractional Reserve Banking

Intriguing argument.  But too much consuming and not enough saving can be a problem, though.  Because before we consume we must produce.  And those producing the things we consume need capital.  Large sums of money businesses use to pay for buildings, equipment, tools and supplies.  To make the things consumers consume.  And where does that capital come from?  Savings.

A low savings rate raises the cost of borrowing.  Because businesses are competing for a smaller pool of capital.  Which raises interest rates.  Because capital is an economic commodity, subject to the law of supply and demand.  Also, with people living beyond their means by consuming far more than they are saving has caused other problems.  Borrowing to buy houses and cars and using credit cards to consume more has led to dangerous levels of personal debt.  Resulting in record personal bankruptcies.  Further raising the cost of borrowing.  As these banks have to increase their interest rates to make up for the losses they incur from those personal bankruptcies.

To help create more capital from a low savings rate we use fractional reserve banking.  Here’s how it works.  If you deposit $100 into your bank the bank keeps a fraction of that in their vault.  Their cash reserve.  And loan out the rest of the money.  When lots of people do this the banks have lots of money to loan.  Which people and businesses borrow.  Who borrow to buy things.  And when buyers buy things sellers will then take their money and deposit it into their banks.  The buyer’s borrowed funds become the seller’s deposited funds.  These banks will keep a fraction of these new deposits in their vaults.  And loan out the rest.  Etc.  As this happens over and over banks will create money out of thin air.  Providing ever more capital for businesses to borrow.  Which all works well.  Unless depositors all try to withdraw their deposits at the same time.  Exceeding the cash reserve locked up in a bank’s vault.   Creating a run on the bank.  Causing it to fail.  Which can also raise the cost of borrowing.  Or just make it difficult to find a bank willing to loan.  Because banks not only loan to consumers and businesses.  They loan to other banks.  And when one bank fails it could very well cause problems for other banks.  So banks get nervous and are reluctant to lend until they think this danger has passed.

A Keynesian Stimulus Check may Momentarily Substitute for a Paycheck but it can’t Create Capital

Consumption, savings, investment and production are linked.  Consumption needs production.  Production needs investment.  And investment needs savings.  Whether it is someone depositing their paycheck into a bank that lends it to others.  Or rich investors who amassed and saved great wealth.  Who invest directly into a corporation by buying new shares of their stock (from an underwriter, not in the secondary stock market).  Or by buying their bonds.

Collectively we call these capital markets.  Where businesses go when they need capital.  If interest rates are low they may borrow from a bank.  Or sell bonds.  If interest rates are high they may issue stock.  Generally they have a mix of financing that best fits the investing climate in the capital markets.  To protect them from volatile movements in interest rates.  And from competition from other corporations issuing new stock that could draw investors (and capital) away from their new stock issue.  Even to secure capital when no one is lending.  By going contrary to Keynesian policy and saving for a rainy day.  By buying liquid investments that earn a small return on investment and carrying them on their balance sheet.  They don’t earn much but can be sold quickly and converted into cash when no one is lending.

A lot must happen before consumers can consume.  In fact, high consumption can pull capital away from those who make the things they consume.  Because without capital businesses can’t expand production or hire more workers.  And no amount of Keynesian stimulus can change that.  Because there are two things necessary for consumption.  A paycheck.  And consumer goods produced with capital.  A stimulus check may momentarily substitute for a paycheck.  But it can’t create capital.  Only savings can do that.

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Classical Greece, Persian Empire, Hellenistic Period, Roman Empire, Italian Renaissance, Venice, Florence and Government Bonds

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 17th, 2012

History 101

The High Cost of Mercenary Soldiers and a Bloated Bureaucracy brought down the Western Roman Empire

Classical Greece dates back to the 5th century BC.  Lasted about 200 years.  And was the seed for Western Civilization.  Classical Greece was a collection of Greek city-states.  There was no Greek nation-state like the nation of Greece today.  The city-states were independent.  And often waged war against each other.  Especially Sparta and Athens.  Athens is where we see the beginnings of Western Civilization.  Sparta was a city-state of warriors.  While Athens kicked off science, math and democracy, Sparta bred warriors.  And boys trained from an early age.  Or were abandoned to die in the wilderness.

Adjacent to Classical Greece was the great Achaemenid Empire.  The First Persian Empire.  The empire of Cyrus the Great.  Which extended from the eastern Mediterranean all the way to India.  Some of those Greek city-states were on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean.  Did not like Persian rule.  And the Ionians revolted.  Supported by Athens.  The Ionian Revolt (499 BC) was the first in a series of Greco-Persian Wars.  Persia’s Darius the Great was tiring of the Greek’s insolence.  And set out to conquer the Greek mainland.  Only to get turned back at the Battle of Marathon.  His son Xerxes returned to Greece to complete the work his dad started.  King Leonidas of Sparta delayed him at the Battle of Thermopylae for three days.  But he defeated the vastly outnumbered Spartans and marched on to Athens.  Where he sacked the abandoned city.  But he would lose the subsequent Battle of Salamis naval engagement.  Losing his navy.  Forcing Xerxes to retreat.

The Greek city-states united to fight their common enemy.  And won.  With the common enemy defeated, Sparta and Athens returned to fighting each other.  In the Peloponnesian War.  Where Sparta emerged the dominant power.  But the constant fighting weakened and impoverished the region.  Making it ripe for conquest.  And that’s exactly what Phillip of Macedon did.  He conquered the great Greek city-states.  And Phillip’s son, Alexander the Great, succeeded his father and went on to conquer the Persian Empire.  Creating the great Hellenistic Period.  Where the known world became Greek.  Then Alexander died.  And his empire broke up.  Then the Romans rose and pretty much conquered everyone.  And the known world became Romanized.  Built upon a Greek foundation.  Until the western part of that empire fell in 476 AD.  Due in large part to the high cost of mercenary soldiers.  And a bloated bureaucracy.  That was so costly the Romans began to debase their silver coin with lead.  To inflate their currency to help them pay their staggering bills.

In Exchange for these Forced Loans the City-States Promised to Pay Interest

The history of the world is a history of its wars.  People fought to conquer new territory so they could bring riches back to their capital.  Or to defend against someone trying to conquer their territory.  And take their riches.  Taking riches through conquest proved to be a reliable system of public finance.  For the spoils of war financed many a growing empire.  It financed the Roman Empire.  And when they stopped pushing out their borders they lost a huge source of revenue.  Which is when they turned to other means of financing.  Higher taxes.  And inflation.  Which didn’t end well for them.

With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the world took a step backwards.  And Europe went through the Dark Ages.  To subsistence farming on small manors.  The age of feudalism.  Serfs.  Wealthy landowners.  And, of course, war.  As the Dark Ages drew to a close something happened in Italy.  At the end of the 13th century.  The Italian Renaissance.  And the rise of independent Italian city-states.  Florence.  Siena.  Venice.  Genoa.  Pisa.  Much like the Greek city-states, these Italian city-states were in a state of near constant war with each other.  Expensive wars.  That they farmed out to mercenaries.  To expand their territory.  And, of course, to collect the resulting spoils of war.  These constant wars cost a pretty penny, though.  And built mountains of debt.  Which they turned to an ingenious way of financing.

These Italian city-states could not pay for these wars with taxes alone.  For the cost of these wars was greater than their tax revenue.  Leading to some very large deficits.  Which they financed in a new way.  They forced wealthy people to loan them money.  In exchange for these loans these city-states promised to pay interest.

Renaissance Italy gave us Government Bonds and a new way for a State to Live Beyond its Means

The vehicle they used for these forced loans was the government bond.  Used first by the Italian city-states of Venice and Florence.  Which were very similar to today’s government bonds.  Other than the being forced to buy them part.  The bond had a face value.  An interest payment.  And the bondholders could then buy and sell them on a secondary market.   The market set interest rates then as they do now.  The market determined the likelihood of the city-state being able to pay the interest.  And whether they would be able to redeem their bonds.

When there was excessive outstanding debt and/or war threatening a city-state’s ability to service their debt interest rates rose.  And the face value of existing bonds fell.  Because if the state fell these bonds would become worthless.  When state coffers were full and peace rang out interest rates fell.  And bond prices rose.  Because with a stable state their existing bonds would still be good.  Just like today.  So if you’re into government bonds you can thank Renaissance Italy.  And their wars.  Which gave birth to a whole new way for a state to live beyond its means.

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