The Austrian School of Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 3rd, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published February 27th, 2012)

Because of the Unpredictable Human Element in all Economic Exchanges the Austrian School is more Laissez-Faire

Name some of the great inventions economists gave us.  The computer?  The Internet?  The cell phone?  The car?  The jumbo jet?  Television?  Air conditioning?  The automatic dishwasher?  No.  Amazingly, economists did not invent any of these brilliant inventions.  And economists didn’t predict any of these inventions.  Not a one.  Despite how brilliant they are.  Well, brilliant by their standard.  In their particular field.  For economists really aren’t that smart.  Their ‘expertise’ is in the realm of the social sciences.  The faux sciences where people try to quantify the unquantifiable.  Using mathematical equations to explain and predict human behavior.  Which is what economists do.  Especially Keynesian economists.  Who think they are smarter than people.  And markets.

But there is a school of economic thought that doesn’t believe we can quantify human activity.  The Austrian school.  Where Austrian economics began.  In Vienna.  Where the great Austrian economists gathered.  Carl Menger.  Ludwig von Mises.  And Friedrich Hayek.  To name a few.  Who understood that economics is the sum total of millions of people making individual human decisions.  Human being key.  And why we can’t reduce economics down to a set of mathematical equations.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.  Contrary to what the Keynesians believe.  Which is why these two schools are at odds with each other.  With people even donning the personas of Keynes and Hayek to engage in economic debate.

Keynesian economics is more mainstream than the Austrian school.  Because it calls for the government to interfere with market forces.  To manipulate them.  To make markets produce different results from those they would have if left alone.  Something governments love to do.  Especially if it calls for taxing and spending.  Which Keynesian economics highly encourage.  To fix market ‘failures’.  And recessions.  By contrast, because of the unpredictable human element in all economic exchanges, the Austrian school is more laissez-faire.  They believe more in the separation of the government from things economic.  Economic exchanges are best left to the invisible hand.  What Adam Smith called the sum total of the millions of human decisions made by millions of people.  Who are maximizing their own economic well being.  And when we do we maximize the economic well being of the economy as a whole.  For the Austrian economist does not believe he or she is smarter than people.  Or markets.  Which is why an economist never gave us any brilliant invention.  Nor did their equations predict any inventor inventing a great invention.  And why economists have day jobs.  For if they were as brilliant and prophetic as they claim to be they could see into the future and know which stocks to buy to get rich so they could give up their day jobs.  When they’re able to do that we should start listening to them.  But not before.

Low Interest Rates cause Malinvestment and Speculation which puts Banks in Danger of Financial Collapse

Keynesian economics really took off with central banking.  And fractional reserve banking.  Monetary tools to control the money supply.  That in the Keynesian world was supposed to end business cycles and recessions as we knew them.  The Austrian school argues that using these monetary tools only distorts the business cycle.  And makes recessions worse.  Here’s how it works.  The central bank lowers interest rates by increasing the money supply (via open market transactions, lowering reserve requirements in fractional reserve banking or by printing money).  Lower interest rates encourage people to borrow money to buy houses, cars, kitchen appliances, home theater systems, etc.  This new economic activity encourages businesses to hire new workers to meet the new demand.  Ergo, recession over.  Simple math, right?  Only there’s a bit of a problem.  Some of our worst recessions have come during the era of Keynesian economics.  Including the worst recession of all time.  The Great Depression.  Which proves the Austrian point that the use of Keynesian policies to end recessions only makes recessions worse.  (Economists debate the causes of the Great Depression to this day.  Understanding the causes is not the point here.  The point is that it happened.  When recessions were supposed to be a thing of the past when using Keynesian policies.)

The problem is that these are not real economic expansions.  They’re artificial ones.  Created by cheap credit.  Which the central bank creates by forcing interest rates below actual market interest rates.  Which causes a whole host of problems.  In particular corrupting the banking system.  Banks offer interest rates to encourage people to save their money for future use (like retirement) instead of spending it in the here and now.  This is where savings (or investment capital) come from.  Banks pay depositors interest on their deposits.  And then loan out this money to others who need investment capital to start businesses.  To expand businesses.  To buy businesses.  Whatever.  They borrow money to invest so they can expand economic activity.  And make more profits.

But investment capital from savings is different from investment capital from an expansion of the money supply.  Because businesses will act as if the trend has shifted from consumption (spending now) to investment (spending later).  So they borrow to expand operations.  All because of the false signal of the artificially low interest rates.  They borrow money.  Over-invest.  And make bad investments.  Even speculate.  What Austrians call malinvestments.  But there was no shift from consumption to investment.  Savings haven’t increased.  In fact, with all those new loans on the books the banks see a shift in the other direction.  Because they have loaned out more money while the savings rate of their depositors did not change.  Which produced on their books a reduction in the net savings rate.  Leaving them more dangerously leveraged than before the credit expansion.  Also, those lower interest rates also decrease the interest rate on savings accounts.  Discouraging people from saving their money.  Which further reduces the savings rate of depositors.  Finally, those lower interest rates reduce the income stream on their loans.  Leaving them even more dangerously leveraged.  Putting them at risk of financial collapse should many of their loans go bad.

Keynesian Economics is more about Power whereas the Austrian School is more about Economics

These artificially low interest rates fuel malinvestment and speculation.  Cheap credit has everyone, flush with borrowed funds, bidding up prices (real estate, construction, machinery, raw material, etc.).  This alters the natural order of things.  The automatic pricing mechanism of the free market.  And reallocates resources to these higher prices.  Away from where the market would have otherwise directed them.  Creating great shortages and high prices in some areas.  And great surpluses of stuff no one wants to buy at any price in other areas.  Sort of like those Soviet stores full of stuff no one wanted to buy while people stood in lines for hours to buy toilet paper and soap.  (But not quite that bad.)  Then comes the day when all those investments don’t produce any returns.  Which leaves these businesses, investors and speculators with a lot of debt with no income stream to pay for it.  They drove up prices.  Created great asset bubbles.  Overbuilt their capacity.  Bought assets at such high prices that they’ll never realize a gain from them.  They know what’s coming next.  And in some darkened office someone pours a glass of scotch and murmurs, “My God, what have we done?”

The central bank may try to delay this day of reckoning.  By keeping interest rates low.  But that only allows asset bubbles to get bigger.  Making the inevitable correction more painful.  But eventually the central bank has to step in and raise interest rates.  Because all of that ‘bidding up of prices’ finally makes its way down to the consumer level.  And sparks off some nasty inflation.  So rates go up.  Credit becomes more expensive.  Often leaving businesses and speculators to try and refinance bad debt at higher rates.  Debt that has no income stream to pay for it.  Either forcing business to cut costs elsewhere.  Or file bankruptcy.  Which ripples through the banking system.  Causing a lot of those highly leveraged banks to fail with them.  Thus making the resulting recession far more painful and more long-lasting than necessary.  Thanks to Keynesian economics.  At least, according to the Austrian school.  And much of the last century of history.

The Austrian school believes the market should determine interest rates.  Not central bankers.  They’re not big fans of fractional reserve banking, either.  Which only empowers central bankers to cause all of their mischief.  Which is why Keynesians don’t like Austrians.  Because Keynesians, and politicians, like that power.  For they believe that they are smarter than the people making economic exchanges.  Smarter than the market.  And they just love having control over all of that money.  Which comes in pretty handy when playing politics.  Which is ultimately the goal of Keynesian economics.  Whereas the Austrian school is more about economics.

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Spain’s Massive Investment in Solar Power has Greatly increased the Cost of their Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2013

Week in Review

People think renewable energy is the answer to all our energy problems.  But that isn’t quite so.  In fact, all it does is increase the cost of our electric power.  For sunshine and wind may be free.  But the equipment to harness the energy in sunshine and wind is not free.  It is very, very expensive.  And you need a lot of it.  You will not see one wind turbine service the power needs of one metropolitan area.  You may see a wind farm providing a small percentage of the electric power needs of a large metropolitan area.  And only when the wind blows.

Wind can blow day or night.  But it can also NOT blow day and night.  While solar panels will not work at all at night.  So you have massive investments to install renewable energy generation capacity.  And there will be times when they will provide no power.  So what do you do?  What do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?  You turn to old reliable.  The electric grid.

This is why renewable energy is so costly.  It cannot replace our fossil-fuel power plants that can provide reliable power day or night in any type of weather.  It can only supplement what we call our baseload power.  Like our beloved coal-fired power plants.  One of the most cost-efficient ways to produce reliable electric power.  Which the power companies have to still run and maintain day and night.  For those who don’t have a wind turbine or a solar array providing their electric power.  And to light up the night.  So instead of one cost-efficient power generation system we have two systems.  One cost-efficient and one cost-inefficient.  And those who invested heavily into renewable energy are now having to deal with these very real problems (see Out Of Ideas And In Debt, Spain Sets Sights On Taxing The Sun by Kelly Phillips Erb posted 8/19/2013 on Forbes).

With so much sunshine at its disposal, Spain has aggressively pursued the development of solar energy: over the past ten years, the government has made significant advances in pressing solar energy and is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.

It might, however, be too much of a good thing. Spain is generating so much solar power, according to its government, that production capacity exceeds demand by more than 60%. That imbalance has created a problem for the government which now finds itself in debt to producers. And not by a little bit. The debt is said to have grown to nearly 26 billion euros ($34.73 billion U.S.).

So how do you get out of that kind of debt? You propose incredibly onerous taxes and fines, of course. And you do it on exactly the behavior that you encouraged in the first place: the use of solar energy panels. That’s right. Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels…

…many residents in Spain generate enough electricity from solar that they get paid to selling the excess energy back to producers. This, it turns out, is a problem. The government is putting a stop to that, too: as part of the reform efforts (read: desperate measures), there will be a prohibition on selling extra energy.

If the power companies are providing all the power at night they have to maintain their power plants.  And their power distribution system.  Which means they even have to trim the trees away from their overhead power lines from people who use solar power during the day.  Nothing changes for the power companies.  Except that they can’t sell as much power as they once did.  So their costs of producing power remain the same.  But their revenue has fallen.  Forcing them to operate at a loss.  Or find other ways to replace their lost revenue.  Which they have to.  Because they must have the same capacity available during the day that they have at night.  Even if they aren’t selling as much power during the day as they are at night.  And the last thing they want to do is buy excess power back from homeowners with solar panels on their house when they’re producing their own power that they can’t sell.

Baseload power plants like coal and nuclear take time to bring on line.  They have to produce the heat that boils water into steam.  Then superheat the steam to remove all water from it.  So the steam can spin the generator turbines without damaging the vanes on the turbine.  And once they start these plants up they run these systems at full capacity where they produce power most cost-efficiently.  During peak demand they may bring on some gas-fired turbines that can start and produce power quickly.  And add them to the grid.  When the peak subsides they can shut down these gas-fired turbines and let the baseload generation carry the remaining load.

The Spanish government invested heavily into solar power for whatever reason.  It’s ‘free’ power.  It’s ‘clean’ power.  Or it was just a good way to create a lot of jobs.  But what Spain has now is a surplus of peak power generation during the day that doesn’t eliminate the need to maintain baseload power generation during the day.  Creating a surplus of electric power during the day no one wants.  While requiring power companies to maintain their baseload power during the day so they can provide power at night.  Incurring great costs on the power companies.  Which must be passed on to the same people who paid for the renewable energies subsidies.  The electric power consumer.

This is a classic example of a Hayekian malinvestment.  Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school of economics said this is what happens when governments interfere with free markets.  They make investments to produce what they think is best while the market demands something else.  The market demanded low-cost electric power.  Which baseload power plants (coal and nuclear) provided.  But the government intervened and subsidized the more costly solar power.  This bad investment—or malinvestment—has only increased the cost of electric power for the Spanish consumer.  And now the Spanish have a big problem on their hands.  What to do with this surplus of peak power no one wants to pay for?  And how to replace the lost revenue of the power companies so they can cover their costs?  Two problems they didn’t have until the government intervened into the free market.

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President Obama and his Keynesian Policies are Working on a Lost Decade just like Japan’s

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 19th, 2013

Week in Review

In the Eighties Japan Inc. was going strong.  The Japanese economy roared.  And the Nikkei soared.  The Japanese had more money than they knew what to do with it.  So they started buying U.S. assets.  People feared that Japan would one day own America.  And urged that we had to follow their lead before it was too late.  The American government should partner with business like in Japan.  So smart bureaucrats could maximize economic output.  Instead of leaving it to inefficient market forces.

But Japan Inc. was state capitalism at its worse.  Instead of letting the market determine the allocations of scarce resources that have alternate uses the government stepped in with their crony capitalist friends.  Leading to corruption.  And a lot of malinvestments.  Money invested poorly.  Causing great asset bubbles.  That burst in the Nineties.  Where Japan Inc. was replaced by the Lost Decade.  A decade or more of deflation.  To wring out all the inflation the government fueled with their artificially low interest rates that caused all of that malinvestment.  And those asset bubbles.  If you’re too young to have lived during this you can still see it in action.  This time in the United States (see The U.S. looks like Japan: Investors rejoice by Paul R. La Monica posted 5/16/2013 on CNNMoney).

The U.S. economy is still not close to being fully recovered from the Great Recession, but investors could give a mouse’s posterior about this sad fact…

…Consumer prices fell for the second straight month. The absence of runaway inflation is of course a good thing, especially when you consider that the Federal Reserve has pumped an inordinate amount of money into the system with its asset purchase programs. But if prices continue to dip, that’s a big problem. Deflation is much worse than mild inflation. Just ask Japan.

Ah yes, Japan! It has taken steps to combat deflation with a vengeance this year. The Bank of Japan’s stimulus, dubbed Abenomics in honor of the country’s prime minister, is like the Fed’s quantitative easing…on steroids.

There’s the rub. The longer that the U.S. stays in tepid growth mode — what I’ve been calling the “low and slow barbecue recovery” since 2010 — the comparisons to Japan will only increase. After all, the U.S. also has an aging population and a large government debt load. The Great Recession ended in June 2009 and here we are in May 2013 still with a lackluster recovery. So we’re almost halfway to our own Lost Decade…

The problem here is Keynesian economics.  It was Keynesian economics that got Japan into the mess they’re in by playing with interest rates to stimulate artificial economic activity.  But Keynesians are like drunks.  They think a little hair of the dog can cure their hangover.  So they binge again on artificially low interest rates to create more artificial economic activity.  Which will end the same way.  As it ended in the Nineties.  A long painful deflation to wring out all of that inflation they pumped into the economy.  Just as the Americans will go through.  Because Keynesians dominate their monetary policy, too.

Even though there are many smart people, including members of the Fed, who are worried that QE ∞ will eventually cause a huge inflation headache and create more nasty asset bubbles down the road, the market doesn’t expect the Fed to pull back on its easing anytime soon…

That’s why stocks could keep climbing. It doesn’t matter that the economy is not healthy enough to make most average consumers feel better. Wall Street only cares about the Fed.

This can’t last forever, of course. Sooner or later, the economy is either going to slow so much that we have to start worrying about another recession (and no amount of stimulus will help prevent a market pullback if that happens) or the economy will start showing signs of a legitimate, sustainable and robust recovery. In that latter case, the Fed will have no choice but to end QE and start raising interest rates.

But for now, at least, investors can enjoy the fact that the United States is basically morphing into Japan Lite. Who cares about the health of the economy as long as central banks keep those printing presses running 24/7/365? Joy.

The selling point of Keynesian economics was eliminating the recessionary side of the business cycle.  So it is interesting that some of our worse recessions have been in the era of Keynesian economics.  I mean, that’s what the New Deal was.  Keynesian.  And what did it give us?  The Great Depression.  Why?  Why are the recessions so painful in the era when they were supposed to be less painful?  Because all Keynesian economics does is to delay economic corrections.  By delaying the onset of recessions.  And because it delays the correction it allows a bubble to grow greater.  So when the correction comes prices have farther to fall.  Which makes a recovery in the Keynesian era more drawn out.  And more painful.  Unless you like your recessions to last a decade.  Or more.

So while Main Street America continues to suffer under President Obama’s Keynesian policies Wall Street is doing just fine.  As rich people always do when partnering with government.  Only Main Street suffers the fallout of their Lost Decades.

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The Austrian School of Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 27th, 2012

Economics 101

Because of the Unpredictable Human Element in all Economic Exchanges the Austrian School is more Laissez-Faire

Name some of the great inventions economists gave us.  The computer?  The Internet?  The cell phone?  The car?  The jumbo jet?  Television?  Air conditioning?  The automatic dishwasher?  No.  Amazingly, economists did not invent any of these brilliant inventions.  And economists didn’t predict any of these inventions.  Not a one.  Despite how brilliant they are.  Well, brilliant by their standard.  In their particular field.  For economists really aren’t that smart.  Their ‘expertise’ is in the realm of the social sciences.  The faux sciences where people try to quantify the unquantifiable.  Using mathematical equations to explain and predict human behavior.  Which is what economists do.  Especially Keynesian economists.  Who think they are smarter than people.  And markets.

But there is a school of economic thought that doesn’t believe we can quantify human activity.  The Austrian school.  Where Austrian economics began.  In Vienna.  Where the great Austrian economists gathered.  Carl Menger.  Ludwig von Mises.  And Friedrich Hayek.  To name a few.  Who understood that economics is the sum total of millions of people making individual human decisions.  Human being key.  And why we can’t reduce economics down to a set of mathematical equations.  Because you can’t quantify human behavior.  Contrary to what the Keynesians believe.  Which is why these two schools are at odds with each other.  With people even donning the personas of Keynes and Hayek to engage in economic debate.

Keynesian economics is more mainstream than the Austrian school.  Because it calls for the government to interfere with market forces.  To manipulate them.  To make markets produce different results from those they would have if left alone.  Something governments love to do.  Especially if it calls for taxing and spending.  Which Keynesian economics highly encourage.  To fix market ‘failures’.  And recessions.  By contrast, because of the unpredictable human element in all economic exchanges, the Austrian school is more laissez-faire.  They believe more in the separation of the government from things economic.  Economic exchanges are best left to the invisible hand.  What Adam Smith called the sum total of the millions of human decisions made by millions of people.  Who are maximizing their own economic well being.  And when we do we maximize the economic well being of the economy as a whole.  For the Austrian economist does not believe he or she is smarter than people.  Or markets.  Which is why an economist never gave us any brilliant invention.  Nor did their equations predict any inventor inventing a great invention.  And why economists have day jobs.  For if they were as brilliant and prophetic as they claim to be they could see into the future and know which stocks to buy to get rich so they could give up their day jobs.  When they’re able to do that we should start listening to them.  But not before.

Low Interest Rates cause Malinvestment and Speculation which puts Banks in Danger of Financial Collapse

Keynesian economics really took off with central banking.  And fractional reserve banking.  Monetary tools to control the money supply.  That in the Keynesian world was supposed to end business cycles and recessions as we knew them.  The Austrian school argues that using these monetary tools only distorts the business cycle.  And makes recessions worse.  Here’s how it works.  The central bank lowers interest rates by increasing the money supply (via open market transactions, lowering reserve requirements in fractional reserve banking or by printing money).  Lower interest rates encourage people to borrow money to buy houses, cars, kitchen appliances, home theater systems, etc.  This new economic activity encourages businesses to hire new workers to meet the new demand.  Ergo, recession over.  Simple math, right?  Only there’s a bit of a problem.  Some of our worst recessions have come during the era of Keynesian economics.  Including the worst recession of all time.  The Great Depression.  Which proves the Austrian point that the use of Keynesian policies to end recessions only makes recessions worse.  (Economists debate the causes of the Great Depression to this day.  Understanding the causes is not the point here.  The point is that it happened.  When recessions were supposed to be a thing of the past when using Keynesian policies.)

The problem is that these are not real economic expansions.  They’re artificial ones.  Created by cheap credit.  Which the central bank creates by forcing interest rates below actual market interest rates.  Which causes a whole host of problems.  In particular corrupting the banking system.  Banks offer interest rates to encourage people to save their money for future use (like retirement) instead of spending it in the here and now.  This is where savings (or investment capital) come from.  Banks pay depositors interest on their deposits.  And then loan out this money to others who need investment capital to start businesses.  To expand businesses.  To buy businesses.  Whatever.  They borrow money to invest so they can expand economic activity.  And make more profits.

But investment capital from savings is different from investment capital from an expansion of the money supply.  Because businesses will act as if the trend has shifted from consumption (spending now) to investment (spending later).  So they borrow to expand operations.  All because of the false signal of the artificially low interest rates.  They borrow money.  Over-invest.  And make bad investments.  Even speculate.  What Austrians call malinvestments.  But there was no shift from consumption to investment.  Savings haven’t increased.  In fact, with all those new loans on the books the banks see a shift in the other direction.  Because they have loaned out more money while the savings rate of their depositors did not change.  Which produced on their books a reduction in the net savings rate.  Leaving them more dangerously leveraged than before the credit expansion.  Also, those lower interest rates also decrease the interest rate on savings accounts.  Discouraging people from saving their money.  Which further reduces the savings rate of depositors.  Finally, those lower interest rates reduce the income stream on their loans.  Leaving them even more dangerously leveraged.  Putting them at risk of financial collapse should many of their loans go bad.

Keynesian Economics is more about Power whereas the Austrian School is more about Economics

These artificially low interest rates fuel malinvestment and speculation.  Cheap credit has everyone, flush with borrowed funds, bidding up prices (real estate, construction, machinery, raw material, etc.).  This alters the natural order of things.  The automatic pricing mechanism of the free market.  And reallocates resources to these higher prices.  Away from where the market would have otherwise directed them.  Creating great shortages and high prices in some areas.  And great surpluses of stuff no one wants to buy at any price in other areas.  Sort of like those Soviet stores full of stuff no one wanted to buy while people stood in lines for hours to buy toilet paper and soap.  (But not quite that bad.)  Then comes the day when all those investments don’t produce any returns.  Which leaves these businesses, investors and speculators with a lot of debt with no income stream to pay for it.  They drove up prices.  Created great asset bubbles.  Overbuilt their capacity.  Bought assets at such high prices that they’ll never realize a gain from them.  They know what’s coming next.  And in some darkened office someone pours a glass of scotch and murmurs, “My God, what have we done?”

The central bank may try to delay this day of reckoning.  By keeping interest rates low.  But that only allows asset bubbles to get bigger.  Making the inevitable correction more painful.  But eventually the central bank has to step in and raise interest rates.  Because all of that ‘bidding up of prices’ finally makes its way down to the consumer level.  And sparks off some nasty inflation.  So rates go up.  Credit becomes more expensive.  Often leaving businesses and speculators to try and refinance bad debt at higher rates.  Debt that has no income stream to pay for it.  Either forcing business to cut costs elsewhere.  Or file bankruptcy.  Which ripples through the banking system.  Causing a lot of those highly leveraged banks to fail with them.  Thus making the resulting recession far more painful and more long-lasting than necessary.  Thanks to Keynesian economics.  At least, according to the Austrian school.  And much of the last century of history.

The Austrian school believes the market should determine interest rates.  Not central bankers.  They’re not big fans of fractional reserve banking, either.  Which only empowers central bankers to cause all of their mischief.  Which is why Keynesians don’t like Austrians.  Because Keynesians, and politicians, like that power.  For they believe that they are smarter than the people making economic exchanges.  Smarter than the market.  And they just love having control over all of that money.  Which comes in pretty handy when playing politics.  Which is ultimately the goal of Keynesian economics.  Whereas the Austrian school is more about economics.

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First the Obama Misery Tour, then on to Martha’s Vineyard with the other Millionaires and Billionaires

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 15th, 2011

Raising Taxes on the ‘Rich’ to Close the Deficit will put the Country into a Depression

Roll up, roll up for the misery tour.  Roll up, roll up for the misery tour.  The Obama Misery Tour is waiting to take you away.  Waiting to take you away (see Obama kicks off Midwest bus tour with harsh words on the economy by Zachary A. Goldfarb posted 8/15/2011 on The Washington Post).

Obama, who kicked off a three-day Midwest bus tour Monday focused on the economy, cited comments made by Republican presidential hopefuls at a GOP debate last week.

“I know it’s not election season yet, but I just have to mention the debate,” where Republicans said they would not increase taxes under virtually any circumstance, Obama said at a town hall. “Think about that. That’s just not common sense.”

Neither did raising the deficit from $455 billion to $1.65 trillion, Mr. President.  In fact this spending was downright irresponsible.  Your administration spent an additional $1.195 trillion we didn’t have.  And you’re planning to spend more.  We have a deficit problem because we have a spending problem.  Not because people aren’t paying enough taxes.

“You’ve got to send a message to Washington that it’s time for the games to stop. It’s time to put country first,” Obama said, his voice rising. “Some folks in Congress … would rather see their opponents lose, than America win.”

Mr. President, you increased the deficit by 263%.  That is not good for the country.  In fact, one could say that you are the ‘some folks’ you refer to who would rather see their opponents lose than America win.

He called on Congress to pass measures to hire construction workers, a trio of trade bills, an overhaul of patent laws and new tax credits to spur new jobs for veterans.

You had supermajorities during your first two years in office.  You could have passed any legislation you wanted to spur new jobs.  Instead, you made your priority the passing of Obamacare.  Something that did not spur any jobs.  And only will increase the deficit. 

And hire construction workers?  Wasn’t your Keynesian stimulus bill supposed to do that?  Create some $800 billion in shovel-ready projects?  Of course that’s hard to do when 88% of that bill was pork and earmarks.  Sort of a Democrat wish list to satisfy some 40 years of wants and desires. 

Speaking about the national debt, Obama called for an overhaul of the tax code that would force the wealthy to pay more taxes and an overhaul of entitlement programs…

“I’d like to see the ultra-rich pay their fair share,” said…a nurse from Rochester. “He’s got to be a politician, but I’d like to see a bit more push.”

“I think he’s doing a good job. He inherited a very big deficit,” said…a financial planner from Rochester. “He and Michelle are the first residents of the White House to be familiar with both organic food and leftovers.”

The wealthy just aren’t wealthy enough to pay down the deficit.  If you crunch the numbers, and define anyone who earns $159,619 or more as wealthy, you’ll have to raise the federal income tax to an effective rate of 87.6% (see You can’t Reduce the Debt $4 Trillion by Raising Taxes, at least not Mathematically).  That means the government would have to take 87.6% of everything they earn.  That includes the billionaires and the millionaires.  And everyone earning $159,619 or more. 

Is this possible?  Well, if you earn $159,619 annually, that’s $13,301.58 gross pay each month.  After your federal income taxes are withheld, that leaves a whopping $1,649.40 to pay your state taxes, your mortgage, your car payment, your groceries, health insurance, car insurance, gasoline for your car, etc.  Of course, they won’t be able to have these things at this high tax rate.  In fact, they won’t have any money left to spend.  Consumer spending over all would nosedive us into a full blown depression.  Making things even worse than they are now. 

So what is Obama going to do next?

Obama is scheduled to go on a 10-day family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday after completing the economic tour.

While many Americans can no longer afford to take the family on a vacation, he will be spending 10 days in the very swanky Martha’s Vineyards.  Where billionaires and millionaires like to vacation.  And get away from the rabble.  Us.

Politicians are Whores who sell themselves to the Highest Bidder 

The johns threaten to withhold their money from the prostitutes in Washington (see Starbucks CEO urges halt to U.S. political donations by Lisa Baertlein posted 8/15/2011 on Reuters).

In his letter on Monday, Schultz [Starbucks Corp. CEO] invited executives to join him in a “pledge to withhold any further campaign contributions to the President and all members of Congress until a fair, bipartisan deal is reached that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing.”

Men are interested in one thing.  According to all the stereotypes.  And when women want something, they can simply withhold this one thing.  Again, according to the stereotypes.  Eventually the man caves because he can’t live without that one thing.  What a great analogy.  Because all politicians are whores who sell themselves to the highest bidder.  And those buying political favors can simply withhold their money to get what they want.  Which is how government works.  Sadly.

Schultz also urged fellow CEOs to invest in projects or new products that will perk up the economy at a time when fear and uncertainty have made businesses unwilling to invest, consumers unwilling to spend and banks unwilling to lend.

Expand supply in the face of a shrinking demand?  Not a good idea.  Austrian economists call this malinvestment.  This kind of thinking didn’t help ward off the Great Depression.  And it won’t work here.  You create real demand by cutting taxes.  Giving people more money to spend now.  Next week.  Next month.  And next year.  This creates confidence.  Not a one-time stimulus that provides consumers with money to spend one time.  A tax cut will increase demand.  And once consumers are demanding more business will start hiring more. 

I guess a guy who has convinced people to buy over-priced coffee just assumes businesses can make consumers do anything.  But would he open a new Starbucks next to an existing one?  No.  Why?  Because what would probably happen is that each store will have half the business of the first store.  While doubling the overall costs for that business.  So that would be a malinvestment.  So he wouldn’t do it.  Yet he is asking his fellow CEOs to do just that.

Obamanomics has Failed so let’s Return to the Successful Policies of Reaganomics

It’s been about three years.  Record government spending hasn’t done anything but increased the deficit.  And get U.S. credit downgraded.  You can make all the excuses you want.  But eventually you have to answer for your policies.  Obama’s policies have failed.  And left us worse off than we were.

The Keynesian way has once again failed.  Perhaps we should give the Austrian way another try.  Because when Reagan did, those policies worked. 

We tried Obamanomics.  It failed.  So let’s go back to Reaganomics.  At least it has a track record of success.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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President Obama: Worse President than George W. Bush? Or Worst President Ever?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 8th, 2011

Obama Rolling up his Sleeves and Wagging his Finger

President Obama has taken out his wagging finger.  And he has wagged it.  Scolding Republicans to grow up and be like his daughters.  It is interesting he referred his daughters for an example of responsible behavior.  And not himself.  Because his track record on acting responsibly hasn’t been all that good as Charles Krauthammer points out and lists some of his failings (see The Elmendorf Rule by Charles Krauthammer posted 7/8/2011 on The Washington Post).

• Ignored the debt problem for two years by kicking the can to a commission.

• Promptly ignored the commission’s December 2010 report.

• Delivered a State of the Union address in January that didn’t even mention the word “debt” until 35 minutes in.

• Delivered in February a budget so embarrassing — it actually increased the deficit — that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it 97 to 0.

• Took a budget mulligan with his April 13 debt-plan speech. Asked in Congress how this new “budget framework” would affect the actual federal budget, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf replied with a devastating “We don’t estimate speeches.” You can’t assign numbers to air.

Not even a modicum of responsibility there.  So he’s rather like the pot calling the kettle black.  He should perhaps have said “do as I say and not as I do even though I do not do as I say you should do but that’s okay because I’m smarter than you so there.  When will all of you finally get this?”

But the Republicans, insolent as they are, refuse to budge.  So Obama had to bring out the wagging finger to discipline these insolent children.  Advising them to be more like his own children.  Who do their homework in a timely manner.

My compliments. But the Republican House did do its homework. It’s called a budget. It passed the House on April 15. The Democratic Senate has produced no budget. Not just this year, but for two years running. As for the schoolmaster in chief, he produced two 2012 budget facsimiles: The first (February) was a farce and the second (April) was empty, dismissed by the CBO as nothing but words untethered to real numbers.

Obama has run disastrous annual deficits of around $1.5 trillion while insisting for months on a “clean” debt-ceiling increase, i.e., with no budget cuts at all. Yet suddenly he now rises to champion major long-term debt reduction, scorning any suggestions of a short-term debt-limit deal as can-kicking.

That’s right, neither the Democrats nor Obama has done any responsible fiscal legislating/governing for the past two years.  Looks like the responsible shoe is on the other foot.  And those deficits?  They’re records.  Over 5 times larger than those world-ending Reagan deficits.  Yet he has the audacity to wag that finger at the Republicans for not being responsible?  Perhaps he should be wagging that finger at himself. 

And what have been Obama’s own debt-reduction ideas? In last week’s news conference, he railed against the tax break for corporate jet owners — six times.

I did the math. If you collect that tax for the next 5,000 years — that is not a typo — it would equal the new debt Obama racked up last year alone. To put it another way, if we had levied this tax at the time of John the Baptist and collected it every year since — first in shekels, then in dollars — we would have 500 years to go before we could offset half of the debt added by Obama last year alone.

Obama’s other favorite debt-reduction refrain is canceling an oil-company tax break. Well, if you collect that oil tax and the corporate jet tax for the next 50 years — you will not yet have offset Obama’s deficit spending for February 2011.

It is clear the president is in reelection mode.  Because he’s stoking the fires of class warfare.  Rich people fly jets.  And own oil companies.  Rich people are getting sweetheart tax deals.  Saving them billions.  And he wants to put a stop to this unfairness.  And make it fair.  It won’t help to erase the deficit at all.  But it gives you something to campaign on.  Which he needs.  Because his policies have been an economic train wreck. 

The June Jobs Report is worse than May’s

How bad have those policies been?  The June jobs report is in.  And it’s worse than May’s (see June Jobs Report Lands With A Thud: Up Just 18,000 by Steve Schaefer posted 7/8/2011 on Forbes).

In a stark reminder that the U.S. economy has been mired in slow growth, the Labor Department reported Friday that nonfarm payrolls added just 18,000 jobs in June and unemployment came in at 9.2%…

The stunning lack of improvement in June’s report – April’s payrolls figure was revised to 217,000 from 232,000 and May’s cut by more than half to 25,000 from 54,000 – rocked Wall Street Friday morning, as index futures sharply reversed after indicating small opening gains earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were all signaling a red start to the trading session after solid gains Thursday.

And as bad as the May report was, the current report revises the May numbers down.  Fewer jobs were added than originally reported.  April’s, too.  It’s a trend.  Both a downward trend in job creation.  And the revising of previous reports.  Which means the anemic 18,000 jobs reported in June will likely be revised down in the July report.  There’s no good economic news out there.  The stimulus spending failed in a big way.  Which is why Obama is resorting to class warfare.  Because economically he has been an utter and absolute failure.

The June Jobs Report is even worse than it Says

And as bad as the June report was, it’s worse (see Without Dropouts, Jobless Rate Would Be Over 11% by Phil Izzo posted 7/8/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

The share of the population in the jobs market, called the labor-force participation rate, fell to 64.1% last month — the lowest level since 1984 when women were still just beginning to enter in full force… The participation rate was 66% at the start of the recession and 65.7% when the recovery started in June 2009. If the participation rate were still at that level, the unemployment rate would be more than 11% right now…

There’s also a problem of underemployment. A comprehensive gauge of labor underutilization, known as the “U-6″ for its data classification by the Labor Department, accounts for people who have stopped looking for work or who can’t find full-time jobs. That number shot up in June to 16.2% from 15.8% a month earlier.

If we count the people who have given up looking for a job the actual unemployment rate would be as a high as 11%.  If you add in all those only working part-time because they can’t find a full-time job the unemployment rate jumps up to 16.2%.  These are horrible numbers.  How horrible?  These are more Great Depression numbers than George W. Bush numbers.

The Green Energy Bubble

America became the world’s largest economy thanks to the innovation of the private sector.  Great entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford took risks.  The government didn’t have to tell them how to make steel better, more plentiful and cheaper.  Or how to make gasoline better, more plentiful and cheaper.  Or how to make automobiles better, more plentiful and cheaper.  That’s capitalism in the free market.  The private sector takes risks in pursuit of profits.  And when it does it makes things better, more plentiful and cheaper.  When people like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford are left alone to do what they know how to do best.  Create wealth.  And jobs.

Obama, on the other hand, believes he knows best.  That he’s smarter than these entrepreneurs.  And that he can direct the private sector to do his bidding.  Which, of course, in his Ivy League world, should result with economic activity.  And jobs.  Even if you’re telling people to build stuff the market doesn’t want (see The Coming Clean Tech Crash by Devon Swezey posted 7/7/2011 on Forbes).

The global clean energy industry is set for a major crash. The reason is simple. Clean energy is still much more expensive and less reliable than coal or gas, and in an era of heightened budget austerity the subsidies required to make clean energy artificially cheaper are becoming unsustainable.

Clean tech crashes are nothing new. The U.S. wind energy industry has collapsed three times before, first in the mid 1990s and most recently in 2002 and 2004 when Congress failed to extend the tax credit that made it profitable. But the impact and magnitude of the coming clean tech crash will far outstrip those of past years.

After one of the worst housing bubbles in U.S. history we now have a green energy bubble.  That’s about to pop.  And you know what happens when a bubble pops?  You get a recession.  To correct for all that malinvestment (to borrow a little Austrian School vernacular).  Which is pretty bad considering we’re still trying to recover from the first bubble.  And may very well still be in a recession despite all the massaging of economic data to say otherwise.  So if we’re still in a recession perhaps the pop of this bubble will push us into depression.  If we’re not in one already.  Based on those god-awful employment numbers.

As part of its effort to combat the economic recession, the federal government pumped nearly $80 billion in direct investment and tax credits into the clean energy sector, catalyzing an unprecedented industry expansion. Solar energy, for example, grew 67% in the United States in 2010. The U.S. wind energy industry also experienced unprecedented growth as a result of the generous Section 1603 clean energy stimulus program. The industry grew by 40% and added 10 GW of new turbines in 2009. Yet many of the federal subsidies that have driven such rapid growth are set to expire in the next few years, and clean energy remains unable to compete without them.

The crash won’t be limited to the United States. In many European countries, clean energy subsidies have become budget casualties as governments attempt to curb mounting deficits. Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced cuts to clean energy subsidies.

Can’t compete without them?  So what was the point in giving them all of those subsidies in the first place?  Were we forever going to pay for a more costly energy while less costly energy (i.e., fossil fuel) was available?  Apparently so.   Being that the life-blood of an economy is energy that would have just raised the cost of all businesses.  And the price of all consumer goods.  Less disposable income means less demand.  Less demand means fewer jobs.  Not a good plan, really.  Unless your goal is to put the country into a depression.

And the problem is global.  So the coming economic crisis will be global.  As if the European Union didn’t have enough financial crises on their hands already.  This could even hurt those emerging markets of China, India and Brazil.  Who depend on these export markets.  As we depend on them.  To buy our debt.

The U.S. has tried this clean energy before.  And all of these attempts ended in failure.  For the reasons already noted.  But if we’ve tried this so many times before, why haven’t we figured out how to do it right?  To find that innovation that makes it cost-competitive with fossil fuels?

Why is the United States still locked in this self-perpetuating boom-bust cycle in clean energy? The problem, according to a new essay by energy experts David Victor and Kassia Yanosek in this week’s Foreign Affairs, is that our system of clean energy subsidization is jury-rigged to support the deployment of only the least-risky and most mature clean energy technologies, while lacking clear incentives for continual innovation that could make clean energy competitive on cost with conventional energy sources. Rather, we should “invest in more innovative technologies that stand a better chance of competing with conventional energy sources over the long haul.” According to Victor and Yanosek, nearly seven-eighths of global clean energy investment goes toward deploying existing technologies that aren’t competitive without subsidy, while only a small share goes to encouraging innovation in existing technologies or developing new ones.

Oh, that’s why.  Because the government is in the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the lottery of free government money.  Which is par for the course.  For government spending is about political cronyism.  That money is spent based on political forces.  Not market forces.  Which is a shame.  Because spending that money isn’t necessary.  Because there is an incentive to create cost-competitive green energy.  Unfortunately, that incentive is being distorted by the government subsidies.

It is clear that the current budgetary environment in the United States presents challenges to the viability of the fast-growing clean energy industry. But it also presents an opportunity. By repurposing existing clean energy policies and investing in clean energy innovation, the United States can be the first country to make clean energy cheap and reliable, a distinction that is sure to bring major economic benefits in a multi-trillion dollar energy market.

Get rid of all that malinvestment and that multi-trillion dollar energy market will provide the necessary incentive for the private sector to solve the green energy problem. Making it cost competitive with fossil fuels.  For whoever cracks that nut will be the next Carnegie.  The next Rockefeller.  The next Ford. 

You want to create a green energy market?  Okay, I’ll tell you how to do it.  Step one, get government the hell out of the way.  Step two, eliminate the capital gains tax.  That will motivate people to spend money on solving the problem because if they’re successful they’ll be richer than the Kennedys.  Step three, enjoy your green energy.

Barack Obama and his Keynesian Economics have Failed

President Obama has no chance of reelection if he has to run on his economic record.  Because his economic record may prove to be the worst of all time.  And he knows it.  Hence the finger wagging.  And the class warfare.  He has spent more than any other president.  And not just a little more.  A lot more.  Before him the worst post-war federal deficits were around $200-400 billion.  Since Obama they’re around $1.5 trillion.  And yet he scolds Republicans for being irresponsible because they refuse to raise the debt limit without getting real spending cuts.  As if the Republicans spent all of that money.  Not him.  Or his Democrats.  If he was so worried about defaulting on American debt obligations he shouldn’t have spent money his administration didn’t have.  But he did.  And now he’s wagging his finger at Republicans.

And what did we get for all that spending?  Further proof that he and his administration are economically incompetent.  Government spending doesn’t create jobs.  And government doesn’t know better than the private sector.  He can talk with all the righteous indignation and all-knowing condescension he wants but it doesn’t change that fact.  America’s greatest economic achievements and innovation was done without Government butting into the private sector.

Barack Obama and his Keynesian economics have failed.  Time to try something new.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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