Keynesian Economists are Narcissists who don’t know the First Thing about Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

There was a sketch on the Benny Hill Show that reminds me of Keynesian economists.  Benny was singing a song and they were showing the unrequited love around him.  They showed one woman who loved a man.  But that man loved another woman.  Who loved Benny.  And who did Benny love?  The camera remained on Benny.  Because that’s who he loved.

Keynesian economists are a lot like that.  They like to sound erudite.  They like to write things with impressive economic jargon in it.  The layman can’t understand a thing they say or write.  But that’s okay.  As they are writing to impress their peers.  People who are as narcissistic as they are.  And they tell each other how brilliant they are with all of their demand-side pontificating.  Pinching each other’s cheeks and saying, “Who’s a good economist?  You are.  You’re a good economist.  Yes you are.”  Even though they are always wrong.  Reminding me of another television show.  Hogan’s Heroes.  Where Colonel Hogan and Colonel Klink were disarming a bomb in the compound.  They’re down to two wires.  One disarms the bomb.  The other detonates it.  Colonel Hogan asks Colonel Klink which wire to cut.  He picks one.  And just as he’s about to cut it Colonel Hogan changes his mind and cuts the other wire.  Disarming the bomb.  Colonel Klink asks him if he knew which wire to cut why did he ask him.  And he replied that he wasn’t sure but he knew for sure that Colonel Klink would pick the wrong wire.

This is just like a Keynesian economist.  Ask them what to do to help the economy and you can be sure they’ll pick the wrong thing to do.  Because they love their demand-side economics with all their charts and graphs and equations.  For it feeds into their superiority complex.  As they can baffle people with their bull s***.  Well, the truth is that the economic data doesn’t support demand-side economics.  For all of the stimulus spending Keynesians have encouraged governments to do have never pulled an economy out of a recession.  It has only extended a recession.  And made it more painful.  For if you want to help the economy you have to work on the supply side.  Make it easier for people to be creative and bring things to market.  Things people will buy.  Even if they had no idea that they existed before seeing them in the market (see How Taco Bell’s Lead Innovator Created The Most Successful Menu Item Of All Time by Ashley Lutz posted 2/26/2014 on Business Insider).

The Doritos Locos Taco is one of the most successful fast food innovations of all time.

Taco Bell released the product in 2012 and sold more than a billion units in the first year. The fast food company had to hire an estimated 15,000 workers to keep up with demand…

The team went through more than 40 recipes, and Gomez told Business Insider he sometimes felt like the idea would never come to fruition.

“Execution was so difficult,” he said.

Gomez was eventually able to perfect the shell by using the same corn masa found in Doritos. He also discovered a process that would evenly distribute the seasoning on the shells. And the company found a way to contain the cheese dust in the production process.

Even after Gomez created the ultimate shell, he still had to design production facilities that would make millions of them.

But for Gomez, the years of effort was worth it.

“When we shared the idea with our consumers, they loved it,” Gomez said. “I was blown away with how immediately popular Doritos Locos Tacos became.”

The taco is the most popular menu item in the fast food chain’s 50-year history.

This wasn’t demand-driven.  As Keynesians believe everything is.  Get more money into the hands of consumers and they will demand things.  Thus increasing economic activity.  But not a single consumer was demanding the Doritos Locos Taco.  As there was no such thing to demand.  And giving them more money wasn’t going to bring it to market.  Only creative people with an idea and an indefatigable passion brought this to market.  Spending a lot of years and lots of money to bring to market something people weren’t demanding.  And might not even like.  But they did.  And it was a big success.  This is how you create economic activity.  On the supply side.  Cut tax rates and costly regulations.  Like Obamacare.  So other people are encouraged to be creative and use their indefatigable passion to bring other things to market.  Creating a whole lot more economic activity than just giving people a stimulus check and telling them to go out and create economic activity.  Because once that Keynesian stimulus is spent it cannot create any more economic activity.  Unlike all of the economic activity it takes to sell a billion or more Doritos Locos Tacos a year.


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Microeconomics and Macroeconomics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 10th, 2012

Economics 101

Keynesians cannot connect their Macroeconomic Policies to the Microeconomic World

Economics can be confusing.  As there are actually two genres of economics.  There’s microeconomics.  The kind of stuff most people are familiar with.  And is more common sense.  This is more of the family budget variety.  And small business budget.  Where if costs go up (gasoline, commodities, food, insurance, etc.) families and businesses make cuts elsewhere in their budget.  When revenue falls (a decline in sales revenue or a husband/wife loses their job) people cut back on expenses.  They cancel the family vacation.  Or cancel Christmas bonuses.  Straight forward stuff of living within your means.

Then there’s macroeconomics.  The big economic picture.  This is the stuff about the national economy.  GDP, inflation, recession, taxes, etc.  Things that are more abstract.  Unfamiliar.  And often defy common sense.  Where living beyond your means is not only accepted.  But it’s national policy.  And when some policies fail repeatedly those in government keep trying those same policies expecting a different outcome eventually.  Such as using Keynesian economic policies (stimulus packages, deficit spending, printing money, etc.) to get an economy out of recession that never quite works.  And then the supporters of those policies always say the same thing.  Their policies only failed because they didn’t spend enough money to make them work.

Keynesian economics focuses on macroeconomics.  And cannot connect their macro policies to the micro world.  There is a large gap between the two.  Which is why Keynesians fail.  Because they look at the macro picture to try and effect change in the micro world.  To get businesses to create jobs.  To hire people.  And to reduce unemployment.  But the politicians executing Keynesian policy don’t understand things in the micro world.  Or anything about running a business.  All they understand, or all they care to try to understand, are the Keynesian basics.  That focus on the demand side of economics.  While ignoring everything on the supply side.

When the Economy goes into Recession the Fed Expands the Money Supply to Lower Interest Rates

Keynesians have a few fundamental beliefs.  And one of the big ones is the relationship between interest rates and GDP.  In fact, it’s the center of their world.  High interest rates discourage people from borrowing money.  When people don’t borrow money they don’t build things (like factories).  And if they don’t build things they won’t create jobs and hire people.  So the higher the interest rates the lower the economic output of the nation (GDP).

Low interest rates, on the other hand, encourage people to borrow money.  So they can build things and create jobs.  The lower the interest rates the more people will borrow.  And the greater the economic output of the nation will be.  This was the driving factor that caused the Great Recession.  The central bank (the Fed) kept interest rates so low for so long that people bought a lot of houses.  A lot of expensive houses.  The demand for housing was so great that buyers bid up prices.  Because at low interest rates there was no limit to how much house you could buy.  All this building and buying of houses, though, oversupplied the market with houses.  As home builders rushed in to fill that demand.  They built so many houses that there were just so many houses available to buy that buyers had a lot of choice.  Making it a buyers’ market.  So much so that people had to slash their asking price to sell their house.  Which popped the great housing bubble.

The Fed lowers interest rates by increasing the money supply.  They create new money and inject it into the economy.  By giving it to bankers.  Banks have more money to lend.  So more people can borrow money.  This is what lowers interest rates.  Things that are less scarce cost less.  More money to borrow means it’s less scarce.  And the price to borrow it (i.e., the interest rate) falls.  If the Fed wants to increase interest rates they pull money out of the economy.  Which makes it a little harder to borrow money.  Because more people are trying to borrow the limited amount of funds available to borrow.  And this is the basics of monetary policy.  Whenever the country enters a recession and unemployment rises the Fed expands the money supply to encourage businesses to borrow money to expand their businesses and create jobs that will lower unemployment.

Keynesian Economic Policies hurt the Higher Stages of Production where we Create Real Economic Activity

If low interest rates create greater economic activity why in the world would the Fed ever want to raise interest rates?  Because of the dark side of printing money.  Inflation.  Increasing the money supply gives people more money.  And when they have more money they try to buy what everyone else is buying.  As the money supply grows greater than the amount of economic output there is more money trying to buy fewer goods and services.  Which raises prices.  Just like those low interest rates did in the housing market.  The fear is that if this goes on too long there will be an economic crash.  Just like after the housing bubble burst.  From boom to bust.  Higher prices reduce consumer spending.  Because people can’t buy as much when prices are high.  As consumers stop spending businesses stop selling.  Faced with overcapacity in a period of falling demand they start cutting costs.  Laying off people.  People without jobs can buy even less at high prices.  And so on as the economy settles into recession.  This is why central bankers raise interest rates.  Because those good times are temporary.  And the longer they let it go on the more painful the economic correction will be.

This is why Keynesian stimulus spending fails to pull economies out of recession.  Because Keynesians focus only on the demand curve.  Consumption.  Consumer spending.  Not supply.  They ignore all that economic activity in the higher stages of productions.  That activity that precedes retail consumer sales.  The wholesale stage (the stage above retail).  The manufacturing stage (above the wholesale stage).  And the furthest out in time, the raw commodities stage (above the manufacturing stage).  As economic activity slows inventories build up.  Creating a bulge in the middle of the stages of production.  So manufacturing cuts back.  And because they do raw commodities cut back.  These are the first to suffer in an economic downturn.  And they are the last to recover.  Because of all that inventory in the pipeline.  When Keynesians get more money into consumers’ pockets they will increase their consumer spending.  For awhile.  Until that extra money is gone.  Which provided an economic boost at the retail level.  And a little at the wholesale level as they drew down those inventories.  But it did little at the higher stages of production.  Above inventories.  Manufacturing and raw material extraction.  Who don’t expand their production or hire new workers.  Because they know this economic activity is temporary.  And because they know all that new money will eventually create inflation.  Which will increase prices.  Throughout the stages of production.

The Keynesian approach focuses on the macro.  By playing with monetary policy.  Policies that ultimately hurt the higher stages of production.  At the micro level.  Where we create real economic activity.  If they’re not hiring then no amount of stimulus spending at the retail level will get them to hire.  Because giving the same amount of workers (i.e., consumers) more money to chase the same amount of goods and services only causes higher prices in the long run.  And it’s the long run that raw commodities and manufacturing look at.  They are not going to invest to expand their businesses unless they expect improving economic conditions in the long run.  All the way up the stages of production to where they are.  When new economic activity reaches them then they will expand and hire people.  And when they do they will add a lot of new consumers with real wages to go out and spend at the retail level.

One of the most efficient ways to achieve this is with tax cuts.  Because cuts in tax rates shape economic activity in the long run.  Across the board.  Unlike stimulus spending.  Which is short term.  And very selective.  Some benefit.  Typically political cronies.  But most see no benefit.  Just higher prices.  And continued unemployment.  Which is why Keynesian policies fail to pull economies out of recessions.  Because politicians use them for political purposes.  Not economic purposes.


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Demand-Side Slump or Government caused Supply-Side Recession?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 4th, 2011

The Arrogance and Condescension of Liberal Elite Academics

The problem with liberal academics running the country is that they think like liberal academics.  They have no business experience.  But they know how to run businesses better than business owners who’ve been running businesses for years.  It’s the height of arrogance and condescension.  But these liberal elite academics don’t see people.  They see charts and grafts.  Which are religious icons to them.  Holy.  They accept them on faith.  They never question them.  And always make excuses for them when the policies they beget fail.  While pointing at successful policies with successful track records and calling them failures.  Because these policies are heretical.  And conservative.

Here is a liberal academic talking down to the American people with all-knowing condescension.  And if you want to know how the current administration thinks, all you have to do is read this arrogance and condescension (see Fatal Fatalism by Paul Krugman posted 6/4/2011 on The New York Times).

We are not, after all, suffering from supply-side problems…This is a demand-side slump; all we need to do is create more demand.

So why is this slump, like most slumps following financial crises, so protracted? Because the usual tools for pumping up demand have reached their limits. Normally we respond to demand-side slumps by cutting short-term nominal interest rates, which the Fed can move through open-market operations. But we now have severely depressed private demand thanks to the housing bust and the overhang of consumer debt, so even a zero rate isn’t low enough…

The answer seems obvious. We should be using fiscal stimulus; we should be using unconventional monetary policy, including raising the inflation target; we should be pursuing aggressive measures to reduce mortgage debt. Not doing these things means accepting huge waste and hardship.

But, say the serious people, there are risks to doing any of these things. Well, life is full of risks. But it’s simply crazy to put a higher weight on the possibility that the invisible bond vigilantes might manifest themselves, or the inflation monster emerge from its secret cave, over the continuing reality of enormous human and economic damage from doing nothing.

The housing bubble was created by too much unconventional monetary policy.  Money was dirt cheap to borrow.  And people borrowed.  To buy houses they couldn’t afford.  With subprime mortgages.  That they defaulted on when interest rates went up.  Causing the subprime mortgage crisis.  Which happens when you stimulate demand beyond normal market demand.  Why?  Because you don’t create healthy economic growth with easy money.  You create bubbles.

The Fed has done too much.  All their easy monetary policy to stimulate the economy has only devalued the dollar.  Making an important and scarce commodity more costly.  Because the world prices this most important of all commodities in U.S. dollars.  Oil.  Which makes diesel and gasoline.  The energy we use to bring food to market.  Which is why prices are up.  Across the board.  Especially food and energy.  That hit consumers the hardest.  Because of inflation.  Caused by monetary policy.  Which has failed to produce jobs.  Lower the misery index.  Or end the recession.

Their answer?  More of the same.  It’s always more of the same.  Jimmy Carter‘s ‘more of the same’ did not end the malaise of his stagflationRonald Reagan‘s economic policies did.  His conservative, supply-side economic policies.  That created real economic growth.  And doubled tax receipts to boot.  But his policies were heretical.  They went against everything liberals hold sacred.  Their Keynesian charts and graphs.  That look at business activity as an aggregate thing.  And not as people.  So liberals attack the success of Reaganomics.  Despite its soaring success.

You see, Reaganomics created jobs.  It made a favorable business climate.  So business people could do what they know how to do.  Create business. Expand business.  Make more things.  And create jobs.  Which drives all consumer spending.  Which makes up over 70% of the economy.  Because a consumer needs a job to spend.  And this kind of spending will sustain itself.  Unlike Keynesian tweaking.  Which is by definition only temporary.  To fill the gap until the private market restores itself.  Which makes Keynesian economics itself a paradox.  Using policies that hinder the private market to stimulate the private market.

The Inflation Monster is out and Squeezing Consumers

And while some will mock conservatives about letting loose the inflation monster from its secret cave, the inflation monster is already out.  And wreaking consumer havoc (see Tightening our belts: Americans lower income expectations by John Melloy, CNBC, posted 6/4/2011 on USA Today).

With consumers squeezed on both sides by stagnant wages and rising prices, the number who believe they will bring home more money one year from now is at its lowest in 25 years, according to analysis of survey data by Goldman Sachs.

The inflation monster has devalued the dollar.  And when you devalue the dollar you need more of them to buy the same amount of things you did before.  Because, thanks to inflation, those things have higher prices.  Consumers have to pay these higher prices.  Leaving them less money to spend.  And their employers have to pay them.  Leaving them less money to spend on wages.  So few people think they will bring more money home next year.  Because things are so bad this year.

A typical recovery pattern goes like this: stock market bottoms, economic growth bottoms and then hiring and wage increases return. What’s unique and scary about this recovery is that the last piece of the recovery is not there.

For a simple reason.  Intervention.  It’s all that Keynesian tweaking.  Like that trillion dollar stimulus bill.  If it wasn’t for all that government spending the economy may have actually recovered by now.  Now we have recession and inflation.  Thanks, liberal elite academics.

In the 2001 recession, the country lost 2 percent of jobs from peak employment and then made that back in a 48- month cycle, according to data from money management firm Trutina Financial. In 1990, the jobs lost during the recession were recovered in 30 months.

Right now, about 38 months from peak employment during the housing boom, there are still six percent fewer jobs out there. Making up that amount of jobs in 10 months or less would be unprecedented, if not impossible.

“The crawl out of this economic ditch is going to be long and slow,” said Patty Edwards, chief investment officer at Trutina. “Even if they’re employed, many consumers aren’t earnings what they were two years ago, either because they’re in lower-paying jobs or not getting as many hours.”

Jobs are everything.  And to create jobs you have to understand people.  Not look at sacred charts and graphs.  You have to understand what motivates the individual.  Not hypothesize about what will move aggregate curves on a graph.  Of course, liberal elite academics chose not to do this.  Because they are gods.  Infallible.  Who live in a world where paradoxes exist.  And can deny reality at will.

Small Business sees the Government as Adversarial

If jobs are everything, then why won’t there just be more jobs?  You’d think the gods could make them.  And no doubt are wrathful and miffed that their policies haven’t made them.  All because of those dirty, greedy, little business owners.  Heretics.  Sitting on cash instead of using it to hire people. 

Of course, the greatest job creators out there are small business owners.  Who don’t have big legal staffs or legions of tax accountants.  And these Keynesian polices are just overwhelming them.  As related in a conversation on a plane with a Yale law professor.  Who asked point blank why this small business owner didn’t hire more people (see Carter: Economic Stagnation Explained, at 30,000 Feet by Stephen L. Carter posted 5/26/2011 on Bloomberg).

“Because I don’t know how much it will cost,” he explains. “How can I hire new workers today, when I don’t know how much they will cost me tomorrow?”

He’s referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business, although it covers several states, operates on low margins. He can’t afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he’s hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.

It’s interesting listening to a person.  Because you learn something different than you do from moving a curve on a graph.

“I don’t understand why Washington does this to us,” he resumes. By “us,” he means people who run businesses of less- than-Fortune-500 size. He tells me that it doesn’t much matter which party is in office. Every change of power means a whole new set of rules to which he and those like him must respond. ‘‘I don’t understand,” he continues, “why Washington won’t just get out of our way and let us hire.”

Get out of our way?  And let us hire?  You mean they would be hiring more people if it wasn’t for all the policies encouraging them to hire more people?  Interesting.  So what should government do?  How should they be in this business-government relationship?

“Invisible,” he says. “I know there are things the government has to do. But they need to find a way to do them without people like me having to bump into a new regulation every time we turn a corner.” He reflects for a moment, then finds the analogy he seeks. “Government should act like my assistant, not my boss.”

In other words, government shouldn’t tell business owners how to better run their businesses.  Because few in government have ever run a business.  They need to stop acting as the authority on something when those they try to help know more than they do.  This conversation gave this Yale law professor some food for thought.

On the way to my connection, I ponder. As an academic with an interest in policy, I tend to see businesses as abstractions, fitting into a theory or a data set. Most policy makers do the same. We rarely encounter the simple human face of the less- than-giant businesses we constantly extol. And when they refuse to hire, we would often rather go on television and call them greedy than sit and talk to them about their challenges.

Recessions have complex causes, but, as the man on the aisle reminded me, we do nothing to make things better when the companies on which we rely see Washington as adversary rather than partner.

And there it is.  Small business sees the government as adversarial.  And there is only one reason why they do.  Because it’s true.

Fiscal Stimulus is the Problem

This is not a demand-side slump.  It’s a supply-side problem.  Caused by the adversarial relationship between business and government.  Otherwise a trillion dollar in stimulus spending would have done something.  Other than give us inflation. 

Fiscal stimulus isn’t the solution.  It’s the problem.  And we need to stop trying to fix this problem with what gave us the problem.  Because they aren’t gods.  And we are individuals.  Not an aggregate to hypothesize about for fun and games.


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We have a Spending Problem, not a Debt Ceiling Problem

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 14th, 2011

A Special Bond between the UK and the USA despite a Tea Party

A small group of protestors gathered outside the House of Parliament to protest excessive spending and debt.  It was only a small group that numbered in the hundreds.  A fraction of the thousands that protested the UK’s austerity cuts earlier.  Interestingly, they have been described as ‘Tea Party’ protesters.  Like in the USA.  Interesting because the original Tea Party protests kicked off the American Revolution.  Which ended in American independence from Great Britain. 

A lot has changed since then.  The UK kicked off the Industrial Revolution and created an empire that lasted a hundred years or so.  Then the Americans came into their own and became the world’s greatest economic power.  Took the baton, if you will, from the British Empire.  First the costs of World War I ended the British Empire.  Then the era of Keynesian economics began.  Government grew.  Government spending grew.  First in the UK.  Then in the USA.  And their economies tanked in the Seventies.  High debt.  High inflation.  High unemployment.  Then Margaret Thatcher started fixing things in the UK.  As Ronald Reagan did in the USA.  Things got better.  But old habits are hard to break. 

And here we are in 2011.  Both great nations suffering under unsustainable deficits and debt.  Austerity is now the name of the game.  Some understand this.  Like those few hundred across from the House of Parliament (see ‘Rally against debt’ activists call for more cuts in Westminster protest by David Batty and agencies posted 5/14/2011 on the Guardian).

Hundreds of pro-cuts activists have taken part in a “rally against debt” opposite the Houses of Parliament, in the first Tea Party-style protest to challenge the anti-cuts lobby…

Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “There have been lots of chances for other groups to register their protest, and we want to give a voice to people who represent quite a heavy majority who think spending cuts are right and necessary.

The tax consumers protested the austerity cuts.  The taxpayers, on the other hand, are protesting the deficit spending.  For they are thinking long-term.  And know someone eventually has to pay back this debt.  Or someone will at least have to service the debt.  And if it keeps growing, these interest payments are going to become a major budget item.  Requiring cuts in programs today to pay the interest on what they borrowed to pay for programs years ago.

Priti Patel, Conservative MP for Witham, said: “This government is all about deficit reduction. I don’t think enough people realise the extent of the debt facing this country. It is totally unsustainable…

Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs, told the rally: “We won’t put up with this. We are the selfless movement. We’re not asking for money, we’re asking for cuts to make sure our children and grandchildren don’t have to foot the bill.”

It is interesting the use of the term ‘Tea Party’ given our common history.  They don’t recall the Boston Tea Party as fondly in the UK.  No, they don’t celebrate it like they do in the US.  So no doubt it’s the similarities of the movements (protesting out of control government spending) and not the name.  They probably even don’t call themselves a ‘tea party’.

Electoral commission records show that in March, Ukip activists registered the name Tea Party as a political party. It is not yet active, but they said they could field candidates in general elections, byelections and local elections.

Or perhaps they do.  Wow.  They’ve sure come a long way since 1773.  That’s nice.  For as George Bernard Shaw said, England and America are two countries separated by a common language.  There is a special bond between these two nations.  And always will be.  We love each other unconditionally.  Despite the US giving them Madonna.  And the UK giving the world John Maynard Keynes.

The Keynesians versus the Austrians

Governments everywhere love John Maynard Keynes.  Because he empowered governments to spend money.  So ‘borrow and spend’ governments everywhere embrace Keynesian economics.  As do Ivy League intellectuals.  Who tend to have high positions in the US government.  Because they just sound so darn smart.  Who are, at heart, anti-capitalists.   

The Austrian school of economics runs contrary to the Keynesian school.  The only thing the Keynesians learned from the Great Depression was that the Federal Reserve caused bank failures by not printing money soon enough.  And that a selloff of assets started a deflationary spiral.  Austrians, on the other hand, say deflationary spirals are good when they correct bad investment by popping asset bubbles.  Because bubbles have to pop.  Eventually.  And the longer you try to sustain these bubbles the more painful the pop will be.  Whereas Keynesians say double down.  When Wall Street was overvalued they pumped bailout dollars into Wall Street firms buying worthless paper assets to sustain their over-priced values (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, etc.).  Didn’t work.  And the nation added a trillion to the debt in the process (see The End of Bernanke’s “End Game” by William L. Anderson posted 5/13/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

Thus, Bernanke’s minions entered the financial marketplace with a bottomless checkbook, purchasing assets that had lost value (like mortgage securities, AIG stock, and the like) in the marketplace. However, in order to make it look as though the markets were fine, the Fed purchased these securities at prices close to their precollapse worth; Bernanke and company were playing the let’s-pretend-this-worthless-paper-is-valuable game…

In the Keynesian analysis, assets are held to be homogeneous, and the economy is believed to be a bland mixture of those assets that are fully employed when the amount of consumer and investment spending is high enough to continue to give the economy “traction.”

When consumer and investment spending flag, however, Keynesians hold that the government must step in by borrowing and printing money in order to revive the spending circle. If the government spends enough, then the economy can move on its own to the point where consumers and investors keep it going — at least until the next crisis. Keynesians call this movement the “circular flow,” although it is more like circular logic, in which the premise is the conclusion and the conclusion is the premise.

What must never happen is a large-scale liquidation of assets, because that would trigger deflation, which would be accompanied by an endless downward spiral and an economy stuck in a “liquidity trap” with falling prices and high unemployment. Thus, in the Keynesian view, the Fed was justified in purchasing these worthless assets, because it prevented their liquidation and preserved at least their “paper” values.

They spent money like no other administration did and it did nothing.  The unemployment rate went up.  And now inflation is starting to tick up.  Not to mention a trillion dollar deficit adding to an already record debt.  A debt so great that they have to raise the debt ceiling to fund it.

Austrians, however, take a much different view. What Keynesians call idle resources, which need only an injection of spending to be reemployed, Austrians call malinvested resources. The different is crucial, because Keynesians believe that the Fed’s actions prevent an economic downward spiral, while Austrians hold that what the Fed has done furthers the economic downturn.

The difference in opinion centers on causality. Keynesians believe that the downturn is created simply by a reduction in spending, while Austrians hold that the recession is caused by the fact that the series of malinvestments created during the previous boom cannot be sustained. The drop in spending is the result of the downturn, not its cause. The difference in beliefs is crucial: in the Austrian paradigm, trying to sustain the boom conditions by injecting new government spending will always end in disaster.

Keynesian economics are demand-side.  People cause recessions by not spending enough.  So government steps in, borrows (and prints) money and spends in place of consumers.  In the hopes this spending will create jobs.  Austrian economics are supply-side.  Because we are, when it comes down to it, traders.  We trade things.  Or services.  So jobs come first.  Then consumer spending.  So the Austrians would rather create an economic environment that will encourage businesses to create jobs.  And see the market direct resources to the best investments.  Not have the government prop up investments that should fail.

The problem with temporary injections of cash is that they are temporary.  Whereas new jobs will be recurring cash injections.  The Keynesian solution is temporary.  The Austrian solution is sustainable.  It’s sort of like Granny Clampett’s cure for the common cold.  You take it and a week or so later the cold is gone.  Of course, the body just healed itself.  Which is how Keynesian economics works.  If the economy recovers in a year or so the Keynesians will take credit.  When it was just the business cycle finally coming around.  Despite being delayed by Keynesian policies.

The Size of the Debt is a Bigger Problem than a Technical Default

All this Keynesian economics has added greatly to government budgets everywhere.  The UK.  The social democracies of Europe.  And the US.  And it’s reaching critical mass.  Hence the protest outside the House of Parliament.  And the Tea Party protests in the US.  Debts are rising to dangerous levels. 

Now in the US the Keynesians are threatening doom and gloom if we don’t raise the debt limit.  Because that’s the problem.  Not the spending.  Which they don’t see as a problem (see What If the U.S. Treasury Defaults? by James Freeman posted 5/14/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

Mr. Druckenmiller says that markets know the difference between a default in which a country will not repay its debts and a technical default, in which investors may have to wait a short period for a particular interest payment. Under the second scenario, he doubts that investors such as the Chinese government would sell their Treasury debt and take losses on the way out—”because I’ll guarantee you people like me will buy it immediately.”

Mr. Druckenmiller was once a fund manager for George Soros.  And he helped Soros short the British pound in 1992.  So he knows a thing or two about government finance.  And he’s more worried about the high debt level than a technical default.

Mr. Druckenmiller had already recognized that the government had embarked on a long-term march to financial ruin. So he publicly opposed the hysterical warnings from financial eminences, similar to those we hear today. He recalls that then-Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin warned that if the political stand-off forced the government to delay a debt payment, the Treasury bond market would be impaired for 20 years…

Mr. Druckenmiller notes that from the time he started saying that markets would welcome a technical default in exchange for fundamental reform, in September 1995, “the bond market rallied throughout the period of the so-called train wreck . . . and, by the way, continued to rally. Interest rates went down the whole time, past the government-shutdown deadline, and really interest rates never went back up again until the Republicans caved and . . . supposedly the catastrophic problem was solved.”

Back during the government shutdown in 1995, the bond market actually rallied.  Why?  Because investors are worried about being paid back.  High and growing debt levels decrease those chances.  Serious debt reduction talk increases those chances.  Ergo, the technical shutdown lets investors know that someone is serious about the nation’s long term debt paying ability.  Hence the bond market rally. 

He’s particularly puzzled that Mr. Geithner and others keep arguing that spending shouldn’t be cut, and yet the White House has ruled out reform of future entitlement liabilities—the one spending category Mr. Druckenmiller says you can cut without any near-term impact on the economy.

One reason Mr. Druckenmiller says he spoke up in 1995 was his recognition that the first baby boomers would turn 65 in 2010, so taxpayers would soon have to start supporting a much larger population of retirees. “Well,” he says today, “the last time I checked, it’s 2011. We don’t have another 16 years this time. We’re there. I don’t know whether the markets give us three years or four years or five years, but we’re there. We’re not going to be having this conversation in 16 years. We’re either going to solve it or we’re going to find ourselves being Greece somewhere down the road.”

Some have argued that since investors are still willing to lend to the Treasury at very low rates, the government’s financial future can’t really be that bad. “Complete nonsense,” Mr. Druckenmiller responds. “It’s not a free market. It’s not a clean market.” The Federal Reserve is doing much of the buying of Treasury bonds lately through its “quantitative easing” (QE) program, he points out. “The market isn’t saying anything about the future. It’s saying there’s a phony buyer of $19 billion of Treasurys a week.”

It’s all smoke and mirrors.  Once the quantitative easing ends in June, interest rates will go up.  Adding to the interest on the debt.  Which will only get greater should they increase the debt ceiling.  And refuse to cut spending.  As in commit to entitlement reform.  Their future, in a word, is Greece.  Only without anyone being big enough to bail them out.

QE3, Anyone?

Some people get it.  The responsible ones.  The ones paying the taxes.  And the ones buying the bonds.  The debt is the problem.  Which means any deficit is a problem, let alone a trillion dollar deficit.  And there is really only one option that is doable to fix these problems.  Entitlement reform.  There will be no economic repercussions.  Other than a riot or two.  Perhaps.  Which is not that big of a concern for the politicians.  Their greatest fear is the next election.  Because there are so many people collecting these entitlements, cutting them will have an effect in the voting booth in the next election.

So the Keynesians will no doubt say, “QE3, anyone?”  And fiddle while the US economy burns down.  Rather that than admit that they are not important.  Or needed.


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A Liberal Opines on things Economic, Confirms why they Suck at Creating Jobs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 16th, 2011

Liberals don’t know Business or Jobs but they have their Big Keynesian Words

If you want to know why liberals are so bad at stimulating economic activity just read Paul Krugman’s Wages and Employment, Again (Wonkish) posted 1/16/2011 on The New York Times.  He pontificates with an erudite air of all-knowing condescension.  He’s smart.  And he wants to make sure you get this.  So he writes with big words and references big demand-side macroeconomic theories that he and his kind accept as undisputed fact.  Despite what the lessons of history say. 

Krugman is a Keynesian.  So, as a Keynesian, he knows nothing about business.  But, like a Keynesian, that doesn’t stop him from opining on the subject of business.

Here’s a fundamental truth (FT) about business.  FT 1:  If you make the cost of doing business high, you will reduce the amount of business a business does.  Here’s another.  FT 2:  If the people are NOT buying whatever they’re selling, this will also reduce the amount of business a business does.  A couple of key things a business needs here.  To have the cost of doing business kept low enough so they can sell at a price that makes them competitive in the market place.  And they need people to have jobs so they can buy their competitively priced goods or services they place into the market place.

Liberals never seem to get either of these points.

High Wages have never Stimulated Economic Activity

Keynesians believe if you give money to people that fixes everything.  When Krugman says:

…I’ve also argued a number of times that cutting wages now would probably make the slump worse, not better.

That’s Keynesian.  You cut wages and the people have less money spend.  So that’s why Keynesians are all about high wages.  Of course, they miss the other side of high wages.  High wages mean fewer jobs.  Because high wages limit the number of employees a business can hire and still sell at prices that are competitive in the market place.

High wages have never stimulated economic activity.  They just raise costs.  This let the Japanese take huge chunks of market share away from the Big Three.  And it’s bankrupting our big blue cities and states that are drowning in debt because of their public sector union contracts.  If Krugman was right, these cities would be booming in economic activity because of those fat public sector pay and benefits.  But they’re not.  The only thing those high wages are doing is bankrupting these cities and states.

Liberals never seem to get this point.  So they trade off economic activity for votes, blissfully unaware of the extent of economic damage they’re doing.  Or they’re aware and they just don’t care.

Easy Money begets Irrational Exuberance which begets Asset Bubbles which begets Recessions

Another favorite of the Keynesians is manipulating interest rates.

…a rise in the real money supply reduces interest rates, leading to a rise in demand.

Read ‘a rise in real money supply‘ as printing money.  The idea here is to make money cheap and plentiful so people will borrow it to buy things.  Like houses.  Like they did during Bill Clinton’s and George W Bush’s presidencies.  And, boy, did they.  Times were good.  Real good.  Only one problem.  Irrational exuberance.

Clinton and Bush thought they found the magical economic elixir.  Home ownership.  So they did everything in their power to extend homeownership.  Even to the people who couldn’t afford it.

Easy money.  Monetary policy that keeps money cheap and plentiful.  To entice people to borrow.  And they were.  Borrowing.  And buying houses.  So much so that they bid up the prices into a huge asset bubble.  Meanwhile, people who couldn’t afford to buy a house were buying houses, too.  The federal government pushed lenders to lend. Or face the consequences.  Be investigated for discriminatory lending.  Or, worse, suffer the public spectacle of having Jesse Jackson or an Al Sharpton publically calling them racist (a lot of the inner city poor were black).  So they came up with some creative ways to qualify unqualified people for mortgages.  We call them subprime mortgages.  And we know how those came back to bite us in the ass.

The problem with bubbles is that they burst.  And when they do, the life blows out of the economy like the air out of a popped balloon.  Deflationary spirals often follow.  And nasty, horrible and painfully long recessions.

Liberals never seem to get this point, either.  You’d think that they would as it has happened so often.

For Narcissists, it’s not the economy.  It’s their Egos, Stupid.

Krugman’s column really shows the problems with liberals.  They’re a bunch of narcissists.  Who love their superior minds.  They love to hear themselves talk.  And love to read what they write.  They write to impress.  And to stimulate themselves.  If you know what I mean.  Only those in his elite circle can understand what the hell he is writing about.  Not us.  The sloped-brow, knuckle-dragging, Neanderthals who didn’t go to the Ivy League schools.  We just work and live in the real world.  Raise our families.  And pay our taxes.

Liberals like to complicate things.  And to try to control the complex.  The economy will work fine on its own.  And when it does we experience some of the greatest economic expansions.   But when they tinker with their Ivy League knowledge, bad things typically happen.  Such as the subprime mortgage crisis.  The Great Recession.  Even the Great Depression.  All of which resulted from liberal tinkering.


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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #27: “Yes, it’s the economy, but the economy is not JUST monetary policy, stupid.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2010

DURING UNCERTAIN ECONOMIC times, people act differently.  If business is down where you work, your company may start laying off people.  Your friends and co-workers.  Even you.  If there is a round of layoffs and you survive, you should feel good but don’t.  Because it could have been you.  And very well can be you.  Next time.  Within a year.  In the next few months.  Any time.  You just don’t know.  And it isn’t a good feeling.

So, should this be you, what do you do?  Run up those credit cards?  By a new car?  Go on a vacation?  Take out a home equity loan to pay for new windows?  To remodel the kitchen?  Buy a hot tub?  Or do you cut back on your spending and start hoarding cash?  Just in case.  Because those unemployment payments may not be enough to pay for your house payment, your property taxes, your car payment, your insurances, your utilities, your groceries, your cable bill, etc.  And another loan payment won’t help.  So, no.  You don’t run up those credit cards.  Buy that car.  You don’t go on vacation.  And you don’t take that home equity loan.  Instead, you hunker down.  Sacrifice.  Ride it out.  Prepare for the worse.  Hoard your cash.  Enough to carry you through a few months of unemployment.  And shred those pre-approved credit card offers.  Even at those ridiculously low, introductory interest rates.

To help hammer home this point, you think of your friends who lost their jobs.  Who are behind on their mortgages.  Who are in foreclosure.  Whose financial hardships are stressing them out to no ends.  Suffering depression.  Harassed by collection agencies.  Feeling helpless.  Not knowing what to do because their financial problems are just so great.  About to lose everything they’ve worked for.  No.  You will not be in their position.  If you can help it.  If it’s not already too late.

AND SO IT is with businesses.  People who run businesses are, after all, people.  Just like you.  During uncertain economic times, they, too, hunker down.  When sales go down, they have less cash to pay for the cost of those sales.  As well as the overhead.  And their customers are having the same problems.  So they pay their bills slower.  Trying to hoard cash.  Receivables grow from 30 to 45 to 90 days.  So you delay paying as many of your bills as possible.  Trying to hoard cash.  But try as you might, your working capital is rapidly disappearing.  Manufacturers see their inventories swell.  And storing and protecting these inventories costs money.  Soon they must cut back on production.  Lay off people.  Idle machinery.  Most of which was financed by debt.  Which you still have to service.  Or you sell some of those now nonproductive assets.  So you can retire some of that debt.  But cost cutting can only take you so far.  And if you cut too much, what are you going to do when the economy turns around?  If it turns around?

You can borrow money.  But what good is that going to do?  Add debt, for one.  Which won’t help much.  You might be able to pay some bills, but you still have to pay back that borrowed money.  And you need sales revenue for that.  If you think this is only a momentary downturn and sales will return, you could borrow and feel somewhat confidant that you’ll be able to repay your loan.  But you don’t have the sales now.  And the future doesn’t look bright.  Your customers are all going through what you’re going through.  Not a confidence builder.  So you’re reluctant to borrow.  Unless you really, really have to.  And if you really, really have to, it’s probably because you’re in some really, really bad financial trouble.  Just what a banker wants to see in a prospective borrower.

Well, not really.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  A banker will want to avoid you as if you had the plague.  Besides, the banks are in the same economy as you are.  They have their finger on the pulse of the economy.  They know how bad things really are.  Some of their customers are paying slowly.  A bad omen of things to come.  Which is making them really, really nervous.  And really, really reluctant to make new loans.  They, too, want to hoard cash.  Because in bad economic times, people default on loans.  Enough of them default and the bank will have to scramble to sell securities, recall loans and/or borrow money themselves to meet the demands of their depositors.  And if their timing is off, if the depositors demand more of their money then they have on hand, the bank will fail.  And all the money they created via fractional reserve banking will disappear.  Making money even scarcer and harder to borrow.  You see, banking people are, after all, just people.  And like you, and the business people they serve, they, too, hunker down during bad economic times.  Hoping to ride out the bad times.  And to survive.  With a minimum of carnage. 

For these reasons, businesses and bankers hoard cash during uncertain economic times.  For if there is one thing that spooks businesses and banks more than too much debt it’s uncertainty.  Uncertainty about when a recession will end.  Uncertainty about the cost of healthcare.  Uncertainty about changes to the tax code.  Uncertainty about new government regulations.  Uncertainty about new government mandates.  Uncertainty about retroactive tax changes.  Uncertainty about previous tax cuts that they may repeal.  Uncertainty about monetary policy.  Uncertainty about fiscal policy.  All these uncertainties can result with large, unexpected cash expenditures at some time in the not so distant future.  Or severely reduce the purchasing power of their customers.  When this uncertainty is high during bad economic times, businesses typically circle the wagons.  Hoard more cash.  Go into survival mode.  Hold the line.  And one thing they do NOT do is add additional debt.

DEBT IS A funny thing.  You can lay off people.  You can cut benefits.  You can sell assets for cash.  You can sell assets and lease them back (to get rid of the debt while keeping the use of the asset).  You can factor your receivables (sell your receivables at a discount to a 3rd party to collect).  You can do a lot of things with your assets and costs.  But that debt is still there.  As are those interest payments.  Until you pay it off.  Or file bankruptcy.  And if you default on that debt, good luck.  Because you’ll need it.  You may be dependent on profitable operations for the indefinite future as few will want to loan to a debt defaulter.

Profitable operations.  Yes, that’s the key to success.  So how do you get it?  Profitable operations?  From sales revenue.  Sales are everything.  Have enough of them and there’s no problem you can’t solve.  Cash may be king, but sales are the life blood pumping through the king’s body.  Sales give business life.  Cash is important but it is finite.  You spend it and it’s gone.  If you don’t replenish it, you can’t spend anymore.  And that’s what sales do.  It gets you profitable operations.  Which replenishes your cash.  Which lets you pay your bills.  And service your debt.

And this is what government doesn’t understand.  When it comes to business and the economy, they think it’s all about the cash.  That it doesn’t have anything to do with the horrible things they’re doing with fiscal policy.  The tax and spend stuff.  When they kill an economy with their oppressive tax and regulatory policies, they think “Hmmm.  Interest rates must be too high.”  Because their tax and spending sure couldn’t have crashed the economy.  That stuff is stimulative.  Because their god said so.  And that god is, of course, John Maynard Keynes.  And his demand-side Keynesian economic policies.  If it were possible, those in government would have sex with these economic policies.  Why?   Because they empower government.  It gives government control over the economy.  And us.

And that control extends to monetary policy.  Control of the money supply and interest rates.  The theory goes that you stimulate economic activity by making money easier to borrow.  So businesses borrow more.  Create more jobs.  Which creates more tax receipts.  Which the government can spend.  It’s like a magical elixir.  Interest rates.  Cheap money.  Just keep interest rates low and money cheap and plentiful and business will do what it is that they do.  They don’t understand that part.  And they don’t care.  They just know that it brings in more tax money for them to spend.  And they really like that part.  The spending.  Sure, it can be inflationary, but what’s a little inflation in the quest for ‘full employment’?  Especially when it gives you money and power?  And a permanent underclass who is now dependent on your spending.  Whose vote you can always count on.  And when the economy tanks a little, all you need is a little more of that magical elixir.  And it will make everything all better.  So you can spend some more.

But it doesn’t work in practice.  At least, it hasn’t yet.  Because the economy is more than monetary policy.  Yes, cash is important.  But making money cheaper to borrow doesn’t mean people will borrow money.  Homeowners may borrow ‘cheap’ money to refinance higher-interest mortgages, but they aren’t going to take on additional debt to spend more.  Not until they feel secure in their jobs.  Likewise, businesses may borrow ‘cheap’ money to refinance higher-interest debt.  But they are not going to add additional debt to expand production.  Not until they see some stability in the market and stronger sales.  A more favorable tax and regulatory environment.  That is, a favorable business climate.  And until they do, they won’t create new jobs.  No matter how cheap money is to borrow.  They’ll dig in.  Hold the line.  And try to survive until better times.

NOT ONLY WILL people and businesses be reluctant to borrow, so will banks be reluctant to lend.  Especially with a lot of businesses out there looking a little ‘iffy’ who may still default on their loans.  Instead, they’ll beef up their reserves.  Instead of lending, they’ll buy liquid financial assets.  Sit on cash.  Earn less.  Just in case.  Dig in.  Hold the line.  And try to survive until better times.

Of course, the Keynesians don’t factor these things into their little formulae and models.  They just stamp their feet and pout.  They’ve done their part.  Now it’s up to the greedy bankers and businessmen to do theirs.  To engage in lending.  To create jobs.  To build things.  That no one is buying.  Because no one is confident in keeping their job.  Because the business climate is still poor.  Despite there being cheap money to borrow.

The problem with Keynesians, of course, is that they don’t understand business.  They’re macroeconomists.  They trade in theory.  Not reality.  When their theory fails, it’s not the theory.  It’s the application of the theory.  Or a greedy businessman.  Or banker.  It’s never their own stupidity.  No matter how many times they get it wrong.


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