Abenomics didn’t work because Keynesian Economics doesn’t Work

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 16th, 2014

Week in Review

If President Obama and the Democrats had their way do you know what they would do?  All out Keynesian economics.  To the max.  Huge government stimulus upon huge government stimulus.  Keeping interest rates at or below zero so they can borrow as much as they’d like to pay for their deficit spending.  Or just printing the money to spend.  That’s what they’d love to do.  Because they don’t understand economics.  All they know is the politics of Keynesian economics.  Power.  It allows the government to spend far more than any other economic system.  And that lets them buy a lot of votes.

President Obama and the Democrats look at the Chinese with awe and reverence.  They would love to have the power the Chinese communists have.  So they could do whatever they wanted to do.  Just like the Chinese communists do.  And when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed his three arrows of Abenomics the left was impressed.  Large-scale government spending.  Aggressive monetary easing (like all that quantitative easing Ben Bernanke was doing with the Federal Reserve).  And structural reforms.  Government just taking over the economy to fix it and correct all the failings of the free market.  This is what the Democrats want to do in the United States.  Because they are so conceited that only they are smart enough to fix the problems in the economy.  So how has this Keynesian assault worked in Japan?  Not so good (see Blow for Abenomics as Japan’s economy grows less than expected by Rebecca Clancy posted 3/10/2014 on The Telegraph).

Revised data from the government showed that gross domestic product growth was 0.2pc in the three months to December 31 and 1.5pc for 2013…

While the data still marked Japan’s best annual performance in three years, attention will now turn to the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy statement on Tuesday, as weakening growth before next month’s tax hike may push the central bank into a fresh batch of monetary easing measures.

“With Japanese data weaker than expected and their April consumption tax hike imminent, the state of the Japanese economy is cause for significant concern,” said Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor…

Mr Abe swept into power in 2012 on a promise to catapult the Japanese economy out of a decades-long slump, but his policies have met with mixed success.

The weak data hit markets in Asia, with Japan’s Nikkei closing down 1pc at 15,120.14, while China’s Shanghai Composite plunged 2.9pc and the Hang Seng dropped 1.8pc…

While authorities blame the country’s holiday season for the weak results, they add to growing worries about the Chinese economy, with the latest surveys on its key manufacturing sector showing weakness.

Abenomics didn’t work.  Because Keynesian economics doesn’t work.  Government spending and artificially low interest rates just don’t create robust economic activity.  All they create are cronyism.  Malinvestments.  Asset bubbles.  And more painful and longer lasting recessions.  As history has shown.  Especially the deflationary spiral of Japan’s Lost Decade that they’re still trying to recover from.  And the Chinese may follow suit.  For they have nothing but exports.  And you cannot build robust economic activity on exports alone.  You need a thriving middle class.  Which China doesn’t have.

History has shown over and over never to vote for Keynesians.  For their policies never help the people.  They only help those in power.  And their crony friends.  Who get richer while the people get poorer.  The ruling Chinese communists are doing well but the majority of Chinese are still impoverished rural peasants living on subsistence farming.  And President Obama and his crony friends (especially those on Wall Street) have all been doing very well thanks to a booming stock market.  While median family income has fallen during his presidency.  Proving yet again the mistake it is to vote for a Keynesian.



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Asset Bubbles and Deflationary Spirals in Japan, the United States and China

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 25th, 2010

The Japanese Asset Bubble and their Lost Decade

During the eighties the Japanese government worked with Japanese business.  And the eighties in Japan were booming.  The Japanese went on an American buying spree.  They gobbled up American landmark buildings and business.  It was an economic Pearl Harbor.  Some people wringed their hands in distress, fearing the Japanese ascendancy.  Presidential candidates said we were fools for not following the Japanese model.

Easy money created excess liquidity.  Which created inflationary pressure on prices.  Real estate values soared.  And irrational exuberance bid up prices further, creating an asset bubble.  Times were good while they lasted.  But the bubble popped.  Real estate values tumbled.  And the Japanese suffered a deflationary spiral that would last a decade.  They call their 1990s the ‘lost decade’.  They still haven’t fully recovered.  And this was a direct consequence of government working with business.

The Subprime Mortgage Crisis and the Beginning of our Lost Decade

Totally ignoring the lessons of the Japanese, the Americans went down the same road.  Easy money created excess liquidity.  And like in Japan, this created inflationary pressure on prices.  And like the Japanese, real estate values soared.  Alan Greenspan warned us about our irrational exuberance.  But we didn’t listen.  We bid prices higher still.  Created the mother of all asset bubbles.  Times were good in the 1990s.  But the bubble popped.  As history has shown bubbles to do.  And real estate values tumbled.  But with a twist.

In America, government pressured bankers to approve mortgages for people who couldn’t qualify for a mortgage.  So bankers had to come up with some creative ways to make the unqualified qualified.  The weapon of choice was the subprime mortgage.  And everything worked as plan.  Until interest rates went up.  And then the whole deck of cards came crashing down. 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government sponsored enterprises) guaranteed those risky loans.  Then, to encourage bankers to make more of these risky loans, they bought them from the banks.  They chopped them up and created investment instruments.  We called them derivatives.  High yield (because of the ‘subprime’ in subprime mortgage).  And safe (because of the ‘mortgage’ in subprime mortgage).  So when interest rates rose and the unqualified couldn’t pay their mortgage payments anymore, we got the subprime mortgage crisis that reverberated throughout the world thanks to those derivatives.  All because government worked with business.

The Chinese are Working on an Asset Bubble of their Own

In the 2000s, it’s the Chinese that everyone fears.  Economically speaking.  (For now at least.)  Over the past decade or two, China has become more capitalistic than communist.  It’s not pure capitalism.  It’s more government partnering with business.  Sort of a throwback to mercantilism.  They have tariffs and monetary policies to protect their domestic industries.  And they subsidize their export industries in an export-driven economy.  And it’s been working.  So far.

It worked in Japan for awhile.  But we saw what happened there.  It worked in the United States for awhile.  But we saw what happened there.  Government partnering with business has, historically, been a train wreck.  Now China is trying her hand.  Will history repeat itself there?  Perhaps (see China Raises Interest Rates Again to Cool Inflation by Edward Wong posted 12/25/2010 on The New York Times).

China’s central bank announced on Saturday that it was raising interest rates for the second time in about two months in what appears to be a long-term campaign to suppress inflation as many ordinary Chinese express discontent with rising consumer prices.

Oh my.  Inflationary pressures are raising prices.  And to tamp those prices back down, they raised interest rates.  This is giving me a strange feeling of déjà vu.    

The Chinese economy has been awash in liquidity due to government stimulus money and generous lending by state banks. Chinese officials are now concerned about an overheated economy and the inflationary pressures that come with that.

Awash in liquidity?  Government stimulus money?  Generous state bank lending?  It feels like we went through this before.  Odd.  This feeling of déjà vu.

But investment in large capital-intensive projects has also been fueling the economic engine and driving up prices.

Capital-intensive projects?  That requires financing.  Lots of it.  Lots of bank loans.  Lots of liquidity.  And a lot of liability on bank’s balance sheets.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  As long as those are safe loans.  Backed by safe assets.  Just like in the United States.  Before we started putting people into houses who couldn’t afford to buy a house.

Officials have signaled throughout the month that moves will be taken to better control spending across the country. China announced on Dec. 3 that it would tighten monetary policy next year, shifting it from “relatively loose to prudent.” That was a clear sign that Chinese officials were intensely concerned about inflation.

The Chinese get a little Alan Greenspan.  They’re getting a little nervous about their irrational exuberance.

The property market in China has been booming. Rising property prices, along with the government stimulus money and loose bank lending, have spurred new developments across the country. Even long-term residents on the tropical southern island of Hainan have had to grapple with soaring real estate prices from outsiders coming in to buy up land.

Some analysts say this growth has resulted in a gargantuan bubble in the real estate market, while others argue that the capacity will be put to good use.

And for good reason.  Real estate bubbles aren’t good.  Things can get really ugly when they burst.  If you doubt me, ask the Japanese.  Or the Americans.

Until now, low wages have helped to hold down inflation and keep China’s export industry competitive. But those wages in the context of soaring real estate prices mean that migrant workers from the interior of China are becoming less tolerant of poor work conditions on the coasts, where many of China’s export manufacturing factories are located. Many workers are now choosing to stay closer to home in the interior provinces, and some companies are moving their manufacturing centers inland.

They took our jobs.  But now they don’t want them.  Those people who worked dirt cheap (by our standards, not theirs) have learned from the West.  They want more.  And, in a booming economy, they probably have choices out there.  It could add huge inflationary pressures on wages.  Or force a government crackdown on individual liberty.  Neither will probably be good for the economy.  Or those balance sheets.  At the banks financing those capital-intensive projects.

History Repeats – Ignore her at your Own Risk

One thing history shows us over and over is that free markets work.  Managed markets don’t.  Government partnering with business doesn’t work.  It didn’t work for the Japanese.  And it didn’t work for the United States.  When you intervene into market forces you disrupt market forces.  And often have unintended consequences.  Such as runaway inflation.  Asset bubbles.  And deflationary spirals.

The Japanese lost a decade.  The United States is looking like they will lose a decade.  Will the Chinese be next?  If history repeats, as history has a penchant for doing, they may be the next to lose a decade.  Of course, that could be a bit of a problem for us.  They hold a lot of our debt.  And if they want their money back to save themselves, guess what that will do to us.  Suffice it to say that the historians will then be able to write about the rise and fall of the United States.

History can be such a bitch when we ignore her.




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