A Fed President says there is no Inflation while the Price of the Big Mac says Otherwise

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 13th, 2014

Week in Review

Inflation is bad according to Rep. Chris Van Hollen.  And, therefore, we need baseline budgeting (taking last years’ spending and automatically adding more to it to arrive at the budget for the following year) to overcome the corrosive effect of inflation on government spending.  And he illustrated this by showing how inflation has increased the price of a Big Mac over the years (see Members of Congress debate budget with Big Macs by Eric Pfeiffer posted 4/8/2014 on Yahoo! News).

On Tuesday, two members of Congress got into a detailed discussion over inflation, with Rep. Chris Van Hollen using pictures of hamburgers  to argue that inflation estimates are necessary to undercut future budgets.

Holding up a chart that showed the average cost of a McDonald’s Big Mac in 2004 ($2.71) compared with its cost today ($4.62), Maryland Democrat Van Hollen argued that not adjusting budget numbers for inflation equates to a net cut.

But while arguing that we need baseline budgeting to counter rampant inflation we have someone whose job is to keep inflation from rearing its ugly head in the economy saying quite another thing (see Fed’s Evans ‘exasperated’ by inflation warnings by Greg Robb posted 4/9/2014 on MarketWatch).

Many people who argue that inflation is just around the corner have been repeating the same warning for the past five years, said Charles Evans, the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank, on Wednesday. “I confess that I am somewhat exasperated by these repeated warnings given our current environment of very low inflation,” Evan said in a speech at an economic policy conference in Washington D.C. Evans said he still sees the economic environment pointing to below-target inflation “for several years.” Evans debunked current arguments that inflation is just over the horizon. He said that there is “substantial room” for stronger wage growth without inflation pressures building and added the Fed’s large balance sheet is not a “classic warning sign” of inflation. Commodity prices also seem to be an unlikely propellent of inflation at the moment, he said.

So while Rep. Chris Van Hollen is wringing his hands over the rampant inflation everywhere that we can only counter with baseline budgeting the president of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank gets exasperated by people like Rep. Chris Van Hollen.  Because there is no inflation that he can see.  And it’s his job to find inflation.  So he can stop it.  So who’s right?  They can’t both be right.  Of course, the price of the Big Mac has gone up through the years.  But there is only one problem with Rep. Chris Van Hollen presentation in Congress (see the Yahoo! News article linked to previously).

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, there was one falsehood on display at the House committee hearing on Tuesday. As The Washington Post noted, those hamburgers used in Van Hollen’s charts weren’t actually Big Macs.

That’s right.  With all the resources our representatives have at their disposal they could not even take the time to get a picture of the right hamburger.  Perhaps because the only beef our representatives eat is the tenderloin and wouldn’t be caught dead ‘slumming’ it at a McDonald’s.  Food the vast majority of Americans find delicious.  But then again, we’re not a bunch of pompous, arrogant, condescending prima donnas like our representatives, are we?



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Obama’s myRAs are just another way to Transfer Money from the Private Sector to the Government

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 2nd, 2014

Week in Review

Social Security has failed to provide for our retirement.  So President Obama wants another government retirement program.  So it, too, can fail the American people (see What Americans think about Obama’s myRA retirement accounts by Melanie Hicken posted 1/31/2014 on CNNMoney).

Obama’s new ‘myRA’ retirement accounts aim to help millions of workers begin saving for retirement. The accounts will be backed by the government, charge no fees and you’ll be able to contribute directly from each paycheck…

“Why would anyone consider giving a broke and bankrupt government any more of your money? That’s foolish,” said 62-year-old reader Steve Keller…

[Kathryn Riss] and her husband keep the modest savings they do have in money market accounts, which earn less than 1%. The myRA, on the other hand, will invest in government savings bonds and provide returns of around 2% to 3%, depending on interest rates.

Why can’t people earn more than 1% on their retirement savings in a bank?  Because of the Federal Reserve.  And Keynesian economics.  That focuses on consumer spending with tunnel vision.  It’s the only thing that counts as far as they are concerned.  And keeping interest rates near zero is supposed to encourage people to borrow and spend money.  For they will only lose purchasing power if they don’t.  What with banks only offering something less than 1% interest.  Thanks to the Federal Reserve printing money.  Making it so plentiful that people can borrow it practically for free.  And if they are paying the banks practically nothing to borrow it that’s all the banks can afford to pay their depositors.  Practically nothing.

The government will invest those myRAs into government savings bonds?  Yeah, right.  The government is going to take that money and spend it.  Because they have a voracious appetite to spend.  Which is why the Social Security Trust Fund has nothing but IOUs in it.  Government bonds that the government can’t afford to redeem without printing more money.  The Keynesian source of all our woes to begin with.  Which will only get worse the more ways the government thinks of to transfer money from the private sector to the government.  Taxes.  Service charges, surcharges, fees, etc.  Regulatory fines and penalties.  Treasury bonds and bills.  Medicaid.  Medicare.  Obamacare.  And now myRAs.



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The Minimum Wage isn’t a Living Wage because the Federal Reserve devalued the Dollar

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 1st, 2014

Week in Review

The Democrats like to talk about income inequality.  Which they say isn’t good.  So they want to raise the minimum wage.  To reduce income inequality.  Even President Obama said during the State of the Union address that he wanted to raise the minimum wage.  To $10.10.  To give them a living wage.  Because they can’t make it on the current minimum wage.  Of course, there’s a reason for this.   And it’s not because of the wage rate.  It’s about the depreciation of the dollar (see Hiking wages with worthless dollars by Seth Lipsky posted 1/29/2014 on the New York Post).

The most startling thing about President Obama’s State of the Union message is what he failed to say about the minimum wage. “Today the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here,” he declared Tuesday night.

But wait, wasn’t the minimum wage $3.35 an hour throughout Reagan’s two terms? Isn’t it now $7.25 an hour? How does that add up to a drop in value by 20 percent? The president glided right past that point. Maybe he thought nobody would notice.

It strikes me that the president owed the country more of an explanation. After all, he spoke exactly on the 100th anniversary of the start of the Federal Reserve System. The central bank is about to begin its second century. Obama made no reference to any of that history.

Yet a century ago Congress refused to agree to a Federal Reserve until there was a promise about the value of the dollar: It insisted on having the Federal Reserve Act state that it would not lead to an end of the convertibility of the dollar into gold.

That legislative promise came to an end in a series of defaults that started in the Great Depression and ended under President Richard Nixon. By the mid-1970s, America had moved to a fiat currency, meaning a dollar that is not redeemable by law in anything of value. Only what one critic calls “irredeemable electronic paper ticket money.”

The minimum-wage crisis is a sign that fiat money is not working. It’s not, after all, that the nominal minimum wage has failed to go up (it’s been raised seven times since Reagan). It’s that the value of the dollar has collapsed. Today it has a value of only a 1,250th of an ounce of gold, a staggering plunge from an 853rd of an ounce on the day Obama took office.

Back in 1907 some people tried to manipulate the stock price of a copper company and long story short the Knickerbocker Trust Company collapsed and caused a panic in the banking system.  Enter the Federal Reserve System (the Fed).  A central bank that can inject liquidity during a banking crisis.  And forever eliminate these banking crises.  Or so went the theory.  But central banks have a nasty habit of devaluing their currency.  Because they can print money.  Fiat currency.  Well, the deal with the Fed was that they would not succumb to the central bank disease.  But, alas, they did.  Which is why minimum wage workers have less purchasing power today than they did during the Reagan administration.  Even though they are paid more dollars.



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President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 30th, 2014

Politics 101

Democrats offered Enthusiastic Applause for Unsound Policy Proposals that have no Basis in Reality

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address was a little longer than an hour.  But if you didn’t look at a clock it felt a lot longer.  For it was the same tripe you hear all the time from this administration.  And the political left.  It was full of misleading statements.  Inaccurate facts and figures.  And some lies.  The usual stuff you expect from the liberal left.  But what was really disturbing was the enthusiastic applause for some really unsound policy proposals that have no basis in reality.  Showing either how clueless these enthusiastic Democrats are about economics, business, national security, etc.  Or how amoral they are in their quest for power.  As they judge and implement policy not by how it will improve the lives of Americans.  But how it will improve their lives in government.

Some Big Reasons why Businesses export Jobs are Taxes, Regulations and Labor Costs

If there was ever an example of what people not to have in power this state of the union theater was it.  Following are excerpts from President Obama’s speech (see FULL TRANSCRIPT: Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address posted 1/28/2014 on The Washington Post).  Comments and analysis follow each excerpt.

And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market — (applause) — a manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s — (applause) — more oil produced — more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years — (applause) — our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time — (applause) — for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

The total number of people who left the civilian labor force since President Obama took office is 11,301,000 (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted 1/13/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which means the unemployment rate is meaningless.  The only reason why it’s falling is that the BLS doesn’t count unemployed people who gave up looking for jobs that just aren’t there.  Oil production on private land may be up.  While overall oil consumption is down because of the Great Recession that just won’t end.  Which is helping to keep gas prices down.  Unemployed people just don’t have the money to buy gas.  So they don’t.  Greatly reducing the demand for gas.  Thus reducing gas prices and oil imports.  George W. Bush’s last deficit was $498.37 billion.  President Obama’s first deficit was $1,539.22 billion.  And it was over $1 trillion in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  It fell to $680 billion in 2013 thanks to the sequester.  But the deficit is larger now than when President Obama assumed office.  The only reduction in the deficit is a reduction in the amount he increased it.

Now, as president, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here.

Really?  You’re committed to rebuilding the trust of the people?  Mr. “If you like your health insurance you can keep your health insurance.  Period.”  Otherwise known as the lie of the year.  You’re going to rebuild the trust of the people?  Good luck with that.  What with your pants on fire and all.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Well, finally something Republicans can agree with the president about.  Yes, his economic policies have benefitted Wall Street.  While hurting Main Street.  Finally some bipartisan agreement.

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home. (Cheers, applause.)

There are only a few reasons why businesses export jobs.  And the big three are taxes, regulations and labor costs.  The Obama administration wants to raise taxes.  They’ve increased regulatory costs.  And they support costly union labor.  So everything they stand for encourages businesses to export jobs.

But — but I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible. (Applause.)

So how’s that approval for the Keystone XL pipeline coming along?  That thing you’ve been studying since 2010?  Which by the laws of arithmetic is approximately 4 years ago.  Is this slashing bureaucracy and streamlining the permitting process?  At this rate it would probably be quicker to elect a Republican president in 2016.  You know, someone who, when it comes to economic activity, walks it while the Democrats only talk it.

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. And my administration’s launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Youngstown, Ohio, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies.

Universities are in the grant business.  They want as many grants as they can get to help bring money into the university.  And to do so they will study anything the government wants them to.  No matter how wasteful it is.  While some of the biggest high-tech companies started in garages.  Apple, Google, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.  To name a few.  Yes, there is a lot of university-driven research.  But the big innovation is more entrepreneurial.  Created by people thinking up new stuff no one thought of yet.  Which is the last thing you want government involved in.  That same government that can’t build a website using 1990s technology.

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” (Applause.)

You want to help entrepreneurs and small business?  Get rid of Obamacare.  And slash tax rates.  This will provide incentive.  And allow them to reinvest more of their earnings to grow their business.  Allowing them to create those jobs.

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.)

‘All of the above’ as long as it isn’t coal, oil or nuclear.  But if it’s solar power and wind power they are committed to giving more tax dollars to their friends and bundlers in the green energy industry.

Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations. (Applause.)

You can’t sustain production and jobs growth by strengthening protection of our air, water and pristine federal lands.  That’s just more regulatory costs.  And raising energy costs by not allowing any oil or natural gas production on those pristine federal lands.  Raising energy costs by restricting supply.  Which raises business costs.  In addition to those new regulatory costs.

Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do. (Cheers, applause.)

That says it all.  Fossil fuels don’t need subsidies because their costs are affordable.  While solar (and wind power) are so costly that they are unaffordable.  Unless government heavily subsidizes them.

But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. (Applause.) And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. (Cheers, applause.)

There is no such thing as settled science.  Only science that has yet to be disproved.  Besides, once upon a time glaciers stretched down from the poles to near the equator.  And then receded back to where they are now.  All without any manmade carbon in the atmosphere to warm the planet.  As we were still simple hunter and gatherers then.  So if the glaciers moved more before there was manmade global warming they’ll move again regardless of what man is doing to warm the planet.

Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system. (Cheers, applause.) Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted, and I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year. (Cheers, applause.) Let’s get it done. It’s time.

Funny how that argument doesn’t apply to birth control and abortion.  The reason we need to “fix our broken immigration system.”  For if we were having babies at the rate when government created the welfare state we could pay for that welfare state today.  But thanks to the Sixties, birth control, abortion and feminism women stopped having babies.  Which is fine if a woman doesn’t want to.  But the progressives designed the welfare state based on them being baby machines.  Creating a greater number of taxpayers with each generation.  So more people pay into the welfare state than collect from it.  The way it must be for a Ponzi scheme to work.

That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families. And in fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that commitment real.

When you raise the cost of labor (union labor, Obamacare, etc.) businesses tend to look at automating production instead of hiring that costly labor.  They may not be able to do anything about the higher regulatory costs but they can do something about higher labor costs.  Use more machines than people.  If you want CEOs to create new jobs stop making labor so costly.  And you can start with getting rid of Obamacare.

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education. (Applause.)…

Five years ago we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy — problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.

Yes, more kids are going to college than ever before.  But they’re going there to have fun.  And to facilitate their fun many are getting easy, worthless degrees in the social sciences and humanities.  Costly degrees that universities sold them promising them future riches.  Enriching the university.  While impoverishing their graduates.  For a high-tech company has no use for these degrees.  Which is why a lot of these people end up in jobs they didn’t need that costly degree to do.  And our high-tech companies are using the visa program to get foreigners who have the skills they want.  Problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and math.

It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it is worth it — and it is working.

If you want kids to do better we need to champion marriage and family more.  And they should embrace religion a little more.  Instead of encouraging our young women to use birth control and abortion to avoid marriage and family.  And pulling every last vestige of religion from our lives.  Kids growing up in a household with a mother and a father who go to church do far better on average than kids growing up in a single-parent household and don’t go to church (see Strong families steeped in Conservative Values and Traditions do Well in America posted 1/11/2014 on PITHOCRATES).

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. (Applause.) Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old. And as a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight.

Actually, research doesn’t show that.  Yet they keep saying that.  For it’s like that line in the musical Evita, “Get them while they’re young, Evita.  Get them while they’re young.”  The sooner they can take them away from their parents the sooner they can start turning them into Democrat voters.  Such as teaching them to blame their parents for the manmade global warming that is killing the polar bears as they have no ice to rest on while eating their baby seals.

You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work. (Cheers, applause.)

Actually, it’s closer to 91 cents (see The White House’s use of data on the gender wage gap by Glenn Kessler posted 6/5/2012 on The Washington Post).  And the small difference is not due to discrimination but personal choice.  When you look at aggregate wages women will make less than men.  Because more women are teachers (with 3 month off without pay) than men are.  Some women work fewer hours at work to spend more time with their children. While men tend to work more overtime.  Men also work the more dangerous and higher paying jobs.  And are more likely to belong to a union.  When you compare childless, single men and women with a college degree some women are actually earning more than men.  Figures don’t lie but liars figure.  And for the contortions the Obama administration did here The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker gave the president one Pinocchio.

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. That’s what America’s all about. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty. (Applause.)

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.

You’re not going to have a lot of upward mobility when you pay people more to remain in the jobs they hate.  All the talk about making college more affordable and bringing employers and community colleges together to help give people the skills they need to fill the jobs employers have is all for nothing if they just pay people more for doing an entry-level job.

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k)s. That’s why tomorrow I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a — it’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.

Once upon a time people opened a savings account at their local bank and they saved to buy a house.  And they saved for their retirement.  That’s how people saved when they didn’t have a pension or a 401(k).  They can’t do that today because of the Federal Reserve destroying the banking industry by keeping interest rates at zero.  If the Fed stopped printing money and let investment capital come from our savings like they did before the Keynesians gave us the Federal Reserve people would be saving like we once did.  And we’d stop having Great Depressions, stagflation and Great Recessions.  Created by their prolonging the growth side of the business cycle.  Which raises prices higher than they normally would go.  Making the contraction side of the business cycle that much more painful.  As those prices have a much longer way to fall than they normally would.  Thanks to the Fed’s meddling with interest rates.

MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody in this chamber can.

You know why they want these MyRAs?  Because they can’t stand people saving money.  They love Social Security.  Because they can borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund.  Which is what they will do with these MyRAs.  They will take this money and spend it.  Filling the MyRA Trust Fund with a bunch of IOUs.  Just like they do with the Social Security Trust Fund.  And then provide a retirement benefit like Social Security.  That is too small to live on.  Whereas if we saved the money ourselves our retirement nest-egg will be much larger.  And it will provide for our retirement.  Unlike Social Security.

And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations. (Applause.)

It was Bill Clinton that set the stage for the subprime mortgage crisis with his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending (see Bill Clinton created the subprime mortgage crisis with his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending posted 11/6/2011 on PITHOCRATES).  Using the heavy hand of government to get lenders to qualify the unqualified.  Then the Fed’s artificially low interest rates were the bait for the trap.  Enticing people to borrow huge sums of money because those interest rates were just too good to pass up.  Even if they weren’t planning to buy a house to begin with. The subprime mortgage crisis and the resulting Great Recession were government made.  If we want to prevent the taxpayers from footing the bill for another housing crisis we need to get the Keynesians out of government.

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans. (Applause.)

More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage — 9 million. (Applause.)

The Washington Post gave this lie three Pinocchios (see Warning: Ignore claims that 3.9 million people signed up for Medicaid because of Obamacare by Glenn Kessler posted 1/16/2014 on The Washington Post).  For they’re counting some 3.9 million who would have signed up anyway for Medicaid regardless of the Affordable Care Act.  Also, the government was counting people who put a health care plan into their shopping cart as if they signed up for it.  Which many couldn’t.  As they haven’t programmed the back end of the health care website yet to actually accept payment or to pass that information on to the insurers.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American, none, zero, can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a pre-existing condition like asthma or back pain or cancer. (Cheers, applause.) No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. (Cheers, applause.) And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

That’s right.  Women with reproductive systems that men don’t have won’t pay more for their health insurance than men pay for theirs.  How can they do that?  Simple.  They just are charging men more.  To cover the cost of a reproductive system they don’t have.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook. (Applause.)

If you take away guns from law-abiding gun owners that won’t keep dangerous people with mental health issues that want to harm people out of our movie theaters, our shopping malls or schools like Sandy Hook.  For there are other ways to harm people.  Just look at the Boston Marathon bombers.  The people he’s talking about not only had mental health issues but they were also smart.  Many were even college students.  Who probably could think of other ways to hurt people.  And you just can’t take away everything they might use to harm people.  But you can place these people somewhere where they can’t harm anyone.

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power — including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles.

Since President Obama assumed office he did nothing to support the Green Revolution in Iran.  Which kept the hard-line Islamists in power there.  He gave Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood by telling Hosni Mubarak that he had to go.  Removing the stable anchor of the Middle East.  And moved Egypt closer to Iran.  (The Egyptian people eventually rose up to overthrow the oppressive Muslim Brotherhood).  He went to war in Libya and helped to overthrow Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.  Who at the time was a quasi ally in the War on Terror.  After the Iraq invasion frightened him into believing he may be next.  President Obama was thanked for his Libyan war by al Qaeda with 4 dead Americans in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11.  He waited too long to act in the Syrian civil war.  Which only brought al Qaeda into the conflict.  He failed to attain a status of forces agreement in Iraq.  So he pulled all U.S. forces out of Iraq which has only invited al Qaeda in.  And it looks like this will be repeated in Afghanistan.  He blamed George W. Bush’s wars as recruitment tools for al Qaeda.  While his extensive drone use is doing the same thing.  Especially in Yemen.  The hotbed of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  All that his diplomacy and leadership has done was to make the world a more dangerous place.

American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated. (Applause.) And we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve — a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.

His diplomacy with Bashar al-Assad in Syria only gave his oppressive regime legitimacy in the civil war he was raging against his people.  Making it easier for Assad to kill Syrians with conventional arms while he gives up a token amount of his chemical weapons.  While also making Russia who brokered the deal the dominate player in the region.

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program — and rolled back parts of that program — for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.

It’s not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)

All Iran is doing is pausing their program.  And chemically altering some of their enriched uranium to meet the requirements of this diplomatic deal.  But this chemical process is reversible.  And they will reverse it once they get what they want.  This deal makes the world no safer.  If anything it makes it more dangerous.  For it does not diminish the Iranian nuclear program in the least.  But gives them more time to work on it as they prop up their regime with much needed supplies thanks to a relaxation of the sanctions against them.

These negotiations will be difficult; they may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and we’re clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away. But these negotiations don’t rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today. (Applause.)

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. (Applause.) For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.

The Soviet Union never attacked U.S. soil.  And there was a reason they didn’t.  They were rational.  And knew they would lose a great deal in a war with America.  Especially a nuclear one.  Which is why they never used their nuclear weapons.  But Iran giving a nuclear weapon to a shadowy group that is not a state?  With little to lose in using a nuclear weapon?  If it’s not a nuclear missile there will be no way in knowing where the nuclear bomb came from.  We can have our suspicions that Iran made it and gave it to someone.  But do we nuke Iran over that?  What if there are more nukes in the hands of al Qaeda, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, etc.?  You could nuke Iran back to the Stone Age but it won’t stop those others being used.  The president insists this will not happen as Iran signed an agreement.  The only problem with that is the Iranians are liars.  And they call the United States the Great Satan.   These two facts suggest that replacing those sanctions with a promise not to build nuclear bombs was probably not a wise trade.

But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress: to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice and fairness and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.

Use our collective shoulder to expand individual achievement?  The president believes in the former more than the latter.  He didn’t help the Iranians get free from tyranny when he had the chance.  And he turned the Egyptian people over to tyranny.  The Muslim Brotherhood.  Who were oppressing women and Christians.  Fairness and equality under the law?  Ask those Tea Party groups who were targeted by the IRS about fairness and equality under the law.  The Constitution?  That document of negative rights?  The left hates it.  And insists it’s a living document that can evolve over time to suit the needs of an expanding government.  So they can do exactly what the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to prevent from happening.

The Left endorses Unsound Policy Proposals with no Basis in Reality to improve their Chances of Winning Elections

The country is more conservative than liberal (see Liberal Self-Identification Edges Up to New High in 2013 by Jeffrey M. Jones posted 1/10/2014 on Gallup).  Which is why liberals want state-funded pre-K to start indoctrinating our children as soon as possible.  To get them away from their parents so they can begin the process of turning them into Democrat voters.  It’s why kids are getting worthless social science and humanities degrees.  To further indoctrinate them.  Because their views are minority views.  So they need to play loose with the facts.  And lie.  Which is easier to do with indoctrinated kids than educated adults.  You’ll even hear Democrats talk about lowering the voting age.  To get a few more years of voting out of these kids before they grow old and wise.  And begin voting conservative.  So they do what they can to dumb down education.  Lie.  Cheat.  And buy as many votes as they can by giving away free stuff.  And the thing they really want to give away is citizenship for illegal aliens.  Who they are sure will be forever grateful.  And show it by voting Democrat.

This explains the enthusiastic applause for unsound policy proposals that have no basis in reality.  For the left is not interested in improving the lives of Americans.  They just want to improve their chances of winning elections.



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The Fed’s Quantitative Easing keeps the Big Three Building Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2013

Week in Review

Governments love it when people buy houses and cars.  Because building houses and cars generates a lot of economic activity.  So much economic activity that central banks will flood their economies with money to keep interest rates artificially low.  To encourage people to go into great debt and buy these things.  Even if they don’t want them.  Especially if they don’t want them.  Because if you add in people buying things who don’t want them with the people who do that’s a lot of economic activity.  Which is why central banks keep interest rates artificially low.  To get people to buy things even when they don’t want them.  But do because those low interest rates are just too good to pass up.

Automotive jobs are union jobs.  At least with the Big Three.  Which is another reason why the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) keeps interest rates artificially low.  To save union jobs.  Because they support Democrats.  And the Democrats take care of them.  By enacting legislation that favors union-built cars.  Placing tariffs and quotas on imports.  And doing whatever they can to encourage the Fed to keep interest rates artificially low.  So the Big Three keep building cars with union labor.  Even if they’re not selling the cars they build (see Spending on new cars may break record in December by Joseph Szczesny posted 12/25/2013 on CNBC).

Total vehicle sales are expected to be up at least 4 percent year over year, with the industry anticipating all-time record consumer spending on new vehicles, according to a forecast.

While new car sales started the month slowly, they are expected to finish strong, according to a monthly sales forecast developed jointly by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. That would be a welcome development for industry planners concerned about a recent bulge in dealer inventories, which has led several manufacturers to trim production…

Vehicle production in North America through November is up 5 percent from the same time frame last year, with nearly 700,000 additional units. Even as inventory has increased, production volume remained strong last month, at 1.4 million units—a 4 percent increase from November 2012.

But there are some concerns that the industry may be turning up production faster than the market can handle. General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler continued to build inventories last month, and their combined supply climbed from 87 days at the beginning of November to 93 days by the end…

Some of the buildup can be traced to dealers’ ordering pickup trucks and utility vehicles before the planned shutdowns for model changes at GM and Ford. But those two makers also have decided to take more downtime at some of their plants this month in an effort to reduce excess stock.

Automotive news is often contradictory.  Sales are up they tell us.  Even when inventories are growing.  A sign that sales are not growing.  Because when people buy more cars than they build inventories fall.  But when people buy fewer cars than they build inventories rise.  So when inventories are rising typically that means sales are falling.  So this isn’t a sign of a booming economy.  But one that is likely to slip into recession.  Especially when the Fed finally begins their tapering of their bond buying (i.e., quantitative easing).  The thing that is keeping interest rates artificially low.  And once they do those inventories will really bulge.  As they do during the onset of a recession.



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The BLS Employment Situation Summary for November 2013

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 9th, 2013

Economics 101

There was Much Spending in November where People Gathered to Celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday

The Bureau of Labor Statistics November’s Employment Situation Summary is out.  The government is trumpeting the 203,000 jobs created and the fall in the unemployment rate from 7.3% in October to 7.0%.  Proof they say that the economy is turning around.  And that their economic policies are working.  So everything is coming up roses.  If you stop reading the Employment Situation Summary there, that is.  For if you read further the economy is still horrible.

A big part of this improvement was the furloughed federal workers returning to work after the government shutdown.  And the Thanksgiving Holiday.  With retail hiring seasonal employees and stocking their shelves for the kick off of the Christmas shopping season.  This year starting on Thanksgiving Day for many retailers.  So you would expect a gain in employment connected to the Christmas shopping season.  Which there has been.  Retail trade employment added 22,000 jobs.  And leisure and hospitality, employment in food services and drinking places added 18,000 jobs.  And air transportation added 3,000 jobs.  Thanks to the biggest travel day of the year falling in November.

So there was much spending where people gathered with friends and family to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  And the mad rush to the stores to begin their Christmas shopping.  There was much traveling, shopping and dining in November.  As there always is.  Though some years are better than others.  There was also new hiring in the automobile and construction industries.  Probably more due to the near-zero interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.  Basically printing money to drive down interest rates.  To encourage people to buy big ticket items like cars and houses.  Even though they had no plans to do so.

It is only the Decline in the Number of People in the Labor Force that gives us an Improving Unemployment Rate

So new jobs in these areas don’t reflect on the overall economic climate.  Because once Christmas is over business will lay off those they hired for those seasonal jobs.  And once the Federal Reserve stops ‘printing money’ those interest rates will rise.  Perhaps compounded by runaway inflation from so much printing.  So these aren’t good indicators of the economy.  We can gain a better understanding by looking at the higher stages of production.  Where there are large capital outlays required to hire and expand business.  Industries that look at the long-term.  So if they’re not hiring they’re not optimistic about the long-term economic picture.

A lot of economic activity has to happen before a retail store can sell anything.  Raw material industries have to pull resources out of the environment.  Industrial processors have to transform these raw materials so manufacturers can use them.  And once manufacturers build things wholesalers buy them and resell them to retailers.  That’s a lot of costs these industries have to incur to produce things that may sell 6-9 months later.  Or longer.  And if the economy is looking anemic to them they are not going to incur these costs.  Which is what happened in November with some of these higher stages of production.  Mining, logging and wholesale trade showed little to no change.

The civilian labor force declined by 720,000 in October.  With the government shutdown blamed for a lot of these lost jobs.  So when the government opened for business again in November we should have seen a large increase in the civilian labor force.  But we didn’t.  The civilian labor force only increased by 455,000 in November.  Which means that if you factor out the government shutdown there was still a decline in the number of jobs.  And it is only this decline in the number of people in the labor force that gives us an improving unemployment rate.  For once people give up and quit looking for a job because the economy is so bad the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stops counting them.  Skewing the real unemployment rate.

The Current Economic Recovery is a False One created with the Smoke and Mirrors of Low Interest Rates

This gets to the crux of the Obama economic recovery.  Or, rather, the absence of any recovery.  The government trumpets the creation of 195,000 new jobs per month this year.  But they don’t tell us how many jobs we lost per month this year.  Which we can calculate.  In January of this year there were 89,009,000 people not in the labor force.  In November that number rose to 91,273,000.  A total loss of 2,265,000 jobs this year.  Or a loss of 205,909 each month.  So while they cheerfully report the creation of 195,000 new jobs per month we actually lost 205,909 jobs each month.  If you count those people who left the labor force the BLS doesn’t count when calculating the unemployment rate.  In fact, if you look at the trends this year you can see the trends are going in the wrong direction.

Those in Labor Force vs Unemployment Rate thru November 2013 R1

The most shocking thing about this chart is that there are over 91 million people not in the labor force.  The labor force is the sum of the employed and unemployed persons.  So these are people who could be in the labor force but aren’t.  Because they don’t have a job.  For whatever reason.  On welfare, collecting disability, early retirement, just can’t get a job because the economy is so bad, etc.  So there will always be people out of the labor force.  And a large number is bad.  Because these people aren’t helping to create economic activity.  Which is why the Obama recovery is so anemic.

What’s also shocking about this chart are the trends.  The official unemployment rate has been falling.  Good news, yes?  Well, as it turns out, no.  Because the number of people not in the labor force has been rising during the decline in the unemployment rate.  Making the unemployment numbers questionable at best.  For you can’t have less unemployment if people continue to leave the workforce because they can’t get a job.  And the employment picture isn’t getting better.  It’s getting worse.  And it’s going to keep getting worse until those higher stages of production start hiring.  Which they won’t do until they see a real economic recovery.  And not a false one created with the smoke and mirrors of low interest rates.



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Alan Greenspan blames Irrational Risk-Taking and not his Keynesian Policies for the Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 26th, 2013

Week in Review

Since the Keynesians took over monetary policy we’ve had the Great Depression, the inflation racked Seventies, the dot-com bubble/recession of the late 1990s/early 2000s and the subprime mortgage crisis.  It’s also given Japan their Lost Decade, a deflationary spiral that started in the late Eighties that they are still fighting today.  As well as the sovereign debt crisis still ongoing in Europe.  So Keynesian economics has a record of failure.  Yet governments everywhere embrace it.  Why?  Because they love having the power to create money.  Especially when it’s ostensibly for helping the economy.  Which it never does.  As efforts to do so resulted in the carnage noted above.  But it always gives a good excuse for another surge in government spending.  And Keynesians love government spending.

Why does Keynesian economics fail?  Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve whose policies helped create some of this carnage (dot-com bubble and subprime mortgage crisis), explains (see Greenspan ponders the roots of a financial crisis he failed to foresee by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press, posted 10/21/2013 on The Star).

Now, Alan Greenspan has struck back at any notion that he — or anyone — could have known how or when to defuse the threats that triggered the crisis. He argues in a new book, The Map and the Territory, that traditional economic forecasting is no match for the irrational risk-taking that can inflate catastrophic price bubbles in assets like homes or tech stocks.

This is why the Soviet Union lost the Cold War.  Because their managed economy failed.  As all managed economies fail.  Because it is impossible to know the decisions of hundreds of million people in the market.  These people making decisions for themselves result in economic activity.  But when governments try to decide for them you get Great Depressions, debilitating inflation, bubbles and nasty recessions.  As well as the collapse of the Soviet Union.

People only took irrational risks when the Federal Reserve (the Fed)/government interfered with market forces.  The dot-com bubble grew because the Fed kept interest rates artificially low.  So was it irrational for people to take advantage of those artificially low interest rates and make risky investments they otherwise wouldn’t have made?  Yes.  But if the Fed didn’t keep them artificially low in the first place there would have been no dot-com bubble in the second place.

Was it irrational for people to buy houses they couldn’t afford when the Clinton administration forced lenders to qualify the unqualified for mortgages they couldn’t afford?  Was it irrational behavior for people to buy houses they couldn’t afford because of artificially low interest rates, ‘cheap’ adjustable rate mortgages, zero-down mortgages, interest only mortgages and no-documentation mortgages?  Yes.  But if the Fed/government did not interfere with market forces in the first place to increase home ownership (especially among those who couldn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage) there would have been no subprime housing bubble in the second place.

The problem with Keynesians is they call anyone who doesn’t behave as they hope to make people behave with their policies irrational.  That is, people are irrational if they don’t think like a Keynesian and therefore cause Keynesian policies to fail.  But before there could be irrational exuberance there has to be a climate that encourages irrational exuberance first.  For if we went back to the banking system where our savings rate determined our interest rates as well as the investment capital available there would be no bubbles.  And no irrational exuberance.  What kind of a banking system would that be?  The kind that vaulted the United States from their Founding to the number one economic power in the world in about one hundred years.  And they did that without making money.  Unlike today.

Q: The size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet stands at a record $3.7 trillion, reflecting all the Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities the Fed has bought to push long-term interest rates down. You have expressed concerns about this size, which is more than four times where the balance sheet stood before the start of the financial crisis. What are your worries?

A: My basic concern is that we have to rein this thing in well before the demand for funds picks up and makes it very difficult to rein in. (Inflation) is not immediate. It is down the road. But historically, there are no cases where central banks blow up their balance sheets or where countries print money which doesn’t hit (with higher inflation).

The balance sheet is four times what it was before the Great Recession?  That’s an enormous amount of new money created to stimulate the economy.  And yet we’re still wallowing in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  I don’t know how much more you can prove the failure of Keynesian economics than this.  About five years of priming the economic pump with stimulus stimulated little.  Other than rich Wall Street investors who are using this easy money to make more money.  While the median household income falls.

Keynesian economics attacks the middle class.  While enriching the ruling class.  And their crony friends on Wall Street.  These policies further the divide between the rich and everyone else.  Yet they continually say these same policies are the only way to reduce the divide between the rich and everyone else.  The historical record doesn’t prove this.  And those familiar with the historical record know this.  Which is why the left controls public education.  So people don’t learn the historical record.  Because once they do it becomes harder to win elections when you’re constantly lying to the American people.



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

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 22nd, 2013

Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Banks, Keynes, Subprime Mortgage Crisis and Great Recession

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 17th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published June 11th, 2013)

Bringing Borrowers and Lenders Together is a very Important Function of our Banks

Borrowers like low interest rates.  Savers (i.e., lenders) like high interest rates.  People who put money into the bank want to earn a high interest rate.  People who want to buy a house want a low interest rate.  As the interest rate will determine the price of the house they can buy.  Borrowers and lenders meet at banks.  Bankers offer a high enough interest rate to attract lenders (i.e., depositors).  But not too high to discourage borrowers.

This is the essence of the banking system.  And capital formation.  Alexander Hamilton said that money in people’s pockets was just money.  But when the people came together and deposited their money into a bank that money became capital.  Large sums of money a business could borrow to build a factory.  Which creates economic activity.  And jobs.  The United States became the world’s number one economic power with the capital formation of its banking system.  For a sound banking system is required for any advanced economy.  As it allows the rise of a middle class.  By providing investment capital for entrepreneurs.  And middle class jobs in the businesses they build.

So bringing borrowers and lenders together is a very important function of our banks.  And bankers have the heavy burden of determining saving rates.  And lending rates.  As well as determining the credit risk of potential borrowers.  Savers deposit their money to earn one rate.  So the bank can loan it out at another rate.  A rate that will pay depositors interest.  As well as cover the few loans that borrowers can’t pay back.  Which is why bankers have to be very careful to who they loan money to.

Keynesians make Recessions worse by Keeping Interest Rates low, Preventing a Correction from Happening

John Maynard Keynes changed this system of banking that made the United States the world’s number one economic power.  We call his economic theories Keynesian economics.  One of the changes from the classical school of economics we used to make the United States the world’s number one economic power was the manipulation of interest rates.  Instead of leaving this to free market forces in the banking system Keynesians said government should have that power.  And they took it.  Printing money to make more available to lend.  Thus bringing down interest rates.

And why did they want to bring down interest rates?  To stimulate economic activity.  At least, that was their goal.  To stimulate economic activity to pull us out of a recession.  To even eliminate recessions all together.  To eliminate the normal expansion and contraction of the economy.  By manipulating interest rates to continually expand the economy.  To accept a small amount of permanent inflation.  In exchange for a constantly expanding economy.  And permanent job creation.  That was the Keynesian intention.  But did it work?

No.  Since the Keynesians took over the economy we’ve had the Great Depression, the stagflation and misery of the Seventies, the savings and loans crisis of the Eighties, the irrational exuberance and the dot-com bubble crash of the Nineties, the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession.  All of these were caused by the Keynesian manipulation of interest rates.  And the resulting recessions were made worse by trying to keep interest rates low to pull the economy out of recession.  Preventing the correction from happening.  Allowing these artificially low interest rates to cause even more damage.

The Government’s manipulation of Interest Rates gave us the Subprime Mortgage Crisis and the Great Recession

My friend’s father complained about the low interest rates during the Clinton administration.  For the savings rate offered by banks was next to nothing.  With the Federal Reserve printing so much money the banks didn’t need to attract depositors with high savings rates.  Worse for these savers was the inflation caused by printing all of this money eroded the purchasing power of their savings.  So they couldn’t earn anything on their savings.  And what savings they had bought less and less over time.  But mortgages were cheap.  And people were rushing to the banks to get a mortgage before those rates started rising again.

This was an interruption of normal market forces.  It changed people’s behavior.  People who were not even planning to buy a house were moved by those low interest rates to enter the housing market.  Then President Clinton pushed other people into the housing market with his Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.  Getting people who were not even planning to buy a house AND who could not even afford to buy a house to enter the housing market.  Those artificially low interest rates pulled so many people into the housing market that this increased demand for houses started raising house prices.  A lot.  But it didn’t matter.  Not with those low interest rates.  Subprime lending.  Pressure by the Clinton administration to qualify the unqualified for mortgages.  And Fannie May and Freddie Mac buying those risky subprime mortgages from the banks, freeing them up to make more risky mortgages.  This scorching demand pushed housing prices into the stratosphere.

A correction was long overdue.  But the Federal Reserve kept pushing that correction off by keeping interest rates artificially low.  But eventually inflation started to appear from all that money creation.  And the Federal Reserve had no choice but to raise interest rates to tamp out that inflation.  But when they did it caused a big problem for those with subprime mortgages.  Those who had adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).  For when interest rates went up so did their mortgage payments.  Beyond their ability to pay them.  So they defaulted on their mortgages.  A lot of them.  Which caused an even bigger problem.  All those mortgages Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bought?  They sold them to Wall Street.  Who chopped them up into collateralized debt obligations.  Financial instruments backed by historically the safest of all investments.  The home mortgage.  Only these weren’t your father’s mortgage.  These were risky subprime mortgages.  But they sold them to unsuspecting investors as high yield and low-risk investments.  And when people started defaulting on their mortgages these investments became worthless.  Which spread the financial crisis around the world.  On top of all of this the housing bubble burst.  And those house prices fell back down from the stratosphere.  Leaving many homeowners with mortgages greater than the corrected value of their house.

It was the government’s manipulation of interest rates that gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.  The Great Recession.  And the worst recovery since that following the Great Depression.  All the result of Keynesian economics.  And the foolhardy belief that you can make recessions a thing of the past.



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Quantitative Easing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 24th, 2013

Economics 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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