Why the Stock Market is so Good when the Economy is so Bad

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 31st, 2014

Economics 101

No One is going to get Rich by Buying and Selling only one Share of Stock

It takes money to make money.  I’m sure we all heard that before.  If you want to ‘flip’ a house you need money for a down payment to get a mortgage first.  If you want to start a business you need to save up some money first.  Or borrow it from a family member.  And if you want to get rich by playing the stock market you need money.  A lot of money.  Because you only make money by selling stocks.  And before you can sell them you have to buy them.

Stock prices may go up and down a lot.  But over a period of time the average stock price may only increase a little bit.  So if you bought one share of stock at, say, $35 and sold it later at, say, $37.50 that’s a gain of 7.14%.  Which is pretty impressive.  Just try to earn that with a savings account at a bank.  Of course, you only made a whopping $2.50.  So no one is going to get rich by buying and selling only one share of stock.

However, if you bought 10,000 shares of a stock at $35/share and then sold it later at $37.50 that’s a whole other story.  Your initial stock purchase will cost you $350,000.  And that stock will sell for $375,000 at $37.50/share.  Giving you a gain of $25,000.  Let’s say you make 6 buys and sells in a year like this with the same money.  You buy some stock, hold it a month or so and then sell it.  Then you use that money to buy some more stock, hold it for a month or so and then sell it.  Assuming you replicate the same 7.14% stock gain through all of these transactions the total gain will come to $150,000.  And if you used no more than your original investment of $350,000 during that year that $350,000 will have given you a return on investment of 42.9%.  This is why the rich get richer.  Because they have the money to make money.  Of course, if stock prices move the other way investors can have losses as big as these gains.

Rich Investors benefit most from the Fed’s Quantitative Easing that gives us Near-Zero Interest Rates

Rich investors can make an even higher return on investment by borrowing from a brokerage house.  He or she can open a margin account.  Deposit something of value in it (money, stocks, option, etc.) and use that value as collateral.  This isn’t exactly how it works but it will serve as an illustration.  In our example an investor could open a margin account with a value of $175,000.  So instead of spending $350,000 the investor can borrow $175,000 from the broker and add it to his or her $175,000.  Bringing the total stock investment to $350,000.  Earning that $25,000 by risking half of the previous amount.  Bringing the return on investment to 116.7%.  But these big returns come with even bigger risks.  For if your stock loses value it can make your losses as big as those gains.

Some investors borrow money entirely to make money.  Such as carry trades.  Where an investor will borrow a currency from a low-interest rate country to invest in the currency of a higher-interest rate country.  For example, they could borrow a foreign currency at a near zero interest rate (like the Japanese yen).  Convert that money into U.S. dollars.  And then use that money to buy an American treasury bond paying, say, 2%.  So they basically borrow money for free to invest.  Making a return on investment without using any of his or her money.  However, these carry trades can be very risky.  For if the yen gains value against the U.S. dollar the investor will have to pay back more yen than they borrowed.  Wiping out any gain they made.  Perhaps even turning that gain into a loss.  And a small swing in the exchange rate can create a huge loss.

So there is big money to make in the stock market.  Making money with money.  And investors can make even more money when they borrow money.  Making money with other people’s money.  Something rich investors like doing.  Something rich investors can do because they are rich.  For having money means you don’t have to use your money to make money.  Because having money gives you collateral.  The ability to use other people’s money.  At very attractive interest rates.  In fact, it’s these rich investors that benefit most from the Fed’s quantitative easing that is giving us near-zero interest rates.

People on Wall Street are having the Time of their Lives during the Obama Administration

We are in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Yet the stock market is doing very well.  Investors are making a lot of money.  At a time when businesses are not hiring.  The labor force participation rate has fallen to levels not seen since the Seventies.  People can’t find full-time jobs.  Some are working a part-time job because that’s all they can find.  Some are working 2 part-time jobs.  Or more.  Others have just given up trying to find a full-time job.  People the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) no longer counts when calculating the unemployment rate.

This is the only reason why the unemployment rate has fallen.  If you add the number of people who have left the labor force since President Obama took office to the number the BLS reports as unemployed it would bring the unemployment rate up to 13.7% ((10,459,000 + 10,854,000)/155,724,000) at the end of February.  So the economy is still horrible.  No secret to those struggling in it.  And the median family who has seen their income fall.  So why is the stock market doing so well when businesses are not?  When profitable businesses operations typically drive the stock market?  For when businesses do well they grow and hire more people.  But businesses aren’t growing and hiring more people.  So if it’s not profitable businesses operations raising stock prices what is?  Just how are the rich getting richer when the economy as a whole is stuck in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression?

Because of near zero interest rates.  The Fed has lowered interest rates to near zero to purportedly stimulate the economy.  Which it hasn’t.  When they could lower interest rates no more they started their quantitative easing.  Printing money to buy bonds on the open market.  Flooding the economy with cheap money.  But people aren’t borrowing it.  Because the employment picture is so poor that they just aren’t spending money.  Either because they don’t have a job.  Only have a part time job.  Or are terrified they may lose their job.  And if they do lose their job the last thing they want when unemployed is a lot of debt they can’t service.  And then there’s Obamacare.  Forcing people to buy costly insurance.  Leaving them less to spend on other things.  And increasing the cost of doing business.  Another reason not to hire people.

So the economy is going nowhere.  And because of the bad economy businesses have no intentions of spending or expanding.  So they don’t need any of that cheap money.  So where is it going?  Wall Street.  The only people who are borrowing and spending money.  They’re taking that super cheap money and they’re using it to buy and sell stocks.  They’re buying and selling like never before.  Making huge profits.  Thanks to other people’s money.  This is what is raising stock prices.  Not profitable businesses operations.  But investors bidding up stock prices with borrowed money.  The people on Wall Street are having the time of their lives during the Obama administration.  Because the Obama administration’s policies favor the rich on Wall Street.  Whose only worry these days is if the Fed stops printing money.  Which will raise interest rates.  And end the drunken orgy on Wall Street.  Which is why whenever it appears the Fed will taper (i.e., print less money each month) their quantitative easing because the economy is ‘showing signs of improvement’ investors panic and start selling.  In a rush to lock in their earnings before the stock prices they inflated come crashing down to reality.  For without that ‘free’ money from the Fed the orgy of buying will come to an end.  And no one wants to be the one holding on to those inflated stocks when the bubble bursts.  When there will be no more buyers.  At least, when there will be no more buyers willing to buy at those inflated stock prices.  Which is why investors today hate good economic news.  For there is nothing worse for an investor in the Obama economy than a good economy.

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Scotland wants to Keep the Pound in a (somewhat) Independent Scotland

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2014

Week in Review

The Greek crisis happened because there was a currency union without a political union.  The Eurozone set some pretty strict limits on deficits and debt to join.  Why?  Because people in the Eurozone would all be using the same Euro.  So they didn’t want one country running up deficits or their debt.  Because if they did they wouldn’t just be messing with their economy.  They would be messing with the entire Eurozone economy.

Well, that’s what Greece did.  They were spending so much money that they had large deficits that added to a large debt.  A euro-denominated debt.  Which meant a default would raise borrowing costs for other euro-denominated debt.  Raising the borrowing costs for the Eurozone.  So to avoid that required other Eurozone nations to help Greece with their debt.  Requiring higher taxes in the more responsible countries of the Eurozone to pay for the irresponsible spending of Greece.  Neither option (default or rescue package) being a popular option.  Especially for the Greek people.  For the rescue package came with strings.  And the big one was austerity.  They had to stop spending so much.  Which meant a lot of people lost some of their government benefits.  Making them very unhappy.  Leading to some rioting in the streets.

Had there been a political union this would not have happened.  For there would have been only one entity borrowing and spending Euros.  One entity taxing the Eurozone nations.  And one entity printing money.  Much like the federal government in the United States.  And London in the United Kingdom (see Scotland’s referendum: Salmond says independence will benefit whole UK posted 3/4/2014 on BBC News Scotland Politics).

An independent Scotland with a strong economy would benefit the whole of the UK, First Minister Alex Salmond has told a gathering in London…

“I believe George Osborne’s speech on sterling three weeks ago – his ‘sermon on the pound’ – will come to be seen as a monumental error.

“It encapsulates the diktats from on high which are not the strength of the Westminster elite, but rather their fundamental weakness.

“In contrast, we will seek to engage with the people of England on the case for progressive reform.”

But Tory MP Mr Mundell said that Mr Salmond was saying that a choice to leave the UK and become independent “means staying exactly the same as we are now”.

He added: “By definition, that simply cannot happen.

“No one should be under any illusion that voting for independence means getting independence, which means becoming a new country outside the UK.

If the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has taught us anything it’s that a currency union without a political union is not a good thing.  An independent Scotland would eliminate the political union there is now.  And the reason why England does not want a currency union with an independent Scotland is because of what happened in the Eurozone.  It doesn’t work.  At least, it doesn’t work well.  Which begs the question why do they want independence but not complete independence (keeping the pound)?

One can only surmise so they can have more autonomy over their taxing, borrowing and, of course, spending.  Perhaps to spend more.  Creating larger deficits.  And a greater pound-denominated debt.  Which would be of great concern to other holders of pound-denominated debt.  The rest of the United Kingdom.

It is unlikely that independence would lead to a stronger Scottish economy.  Or a stronger UK economy.  If it did then the whole point of the Eurozone would be a lie.  To create a larger economic zone to compete with the large economic zone that is the United States.  Because bigger is better.  At least in terms of GDP.  The British Empire was bigger than the United Kingdom is now.  And the United Kingdom is bigger than a United Kingdom without Scotland.  And an independent Scotland would be smaller than all of the above.  So if you want to maximize GDP you would want to maximize the size of your economy.  Not shrink it.  Which leads one to believe that the reason for independence is something other than economic.  Because the UK is too English?  Perhaps.  Whatever the reason let’s just hope everything works out for the best.  For the United Kingdom did make the world a better place.  With great people like Adam Smith from Scotland.  And John Locke from England.  To name only two of the greats to come from the United Kingdom.

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FT211: “Criticizing a woman’s policies doesn’t mean you’re a sexist or are afraid of strong women.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 28th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

You can call a Man Fatso but not a Woman because of the Double Standard when it comes to being Fat

Back when David Letterman was on NBC and the show was called Late Night with David Lettermen they had an old football player on one night.  I think he was a defensive linesman or a linebacker.  Who played football before there was money in playing football.  Back then it was just guys playing a game hard and then getting drunk afterwards.

On this episode of Late Night this football player was telling a story about one game.  It was late in the fourth quarter.  The score was already decided.  Nothing could happen to change who was going to win the game.  But the other team was still playing hard.  Trying to win.  So after one play he wandered over and entered the other team’s huddle and said something like, “Come on, guys.  Let’s just wrap this up and go get some beers already.”  At which point one of his teammates yelled over to him from the other huddle, “Hey fatso!  You’re in the wrong huddle.”

“Hey fatso!  You’re in the wrong huddle.”  It’s funny.  For that’s the way guys are.  They hurl insults at each other.  And if you were a heavy guy there was nothing wrong with calling you ‘fatso’.  It’s the way men joke around.  It doesn’t work with women, though.  If you have an overweight female coworker and you address her as fatso you’ll find yourself in sensitivity awareness training.  Or fired.  Because there is a double standard when it comes to being fat.  You can call a man fatso.  But not a woman.

Anyone espousing Keynesian Policies should be Criticized for they are doing Harm to the Economy

The political opposition and the main stream media treat President Obama with kid gloves.  They will not attack him.  Or even criticize his policies.  Because President Obama is the first black president.  And the political opposition and the mainstream media are terrified that someone will call them racist if they do.  They fear that so much they’d rather see the economy collapse from his Keynesian economic policies than risk being called a racist.

President Obama is a Keynesian.  Like most people in Washington making policy are.  Which is a shame.  As the historical record clearly shows these policies fail.  But our politicians still manipulate interest rates.  And spend money.  Believing in the fallacy of demand-side economics.  Which didn’t work to end the Great Depression.  It only made the stagflation of the Seventies worse.  It created a dot-com bubble and a dot-com recession.  And it created a housing bubble and a subprime mortgage crisis.  Giving us the Great Recession.  And further Keynesian policies on top of these past failed policies have given us the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.

So anyone espousing Keynesian policies should be attacked and criticized.  For they are doing harm to the economy.  And the country.  Which is why the Democrats love President Obama.  (Well, at least before Obamacare threatened their reelection chances).  Because they can have him do all the things they want to do.  Manipulate interest rates.  Keep them near zero.  By printing money.  And then borrow even more money at those near-zero interest rates.  Allowing the government to go on an orgy of spending.  That’s why they love President Obama.  (Well, at least before Obamacare threatened their reelection chances).  For if anyone criticizes this reckless and irresponsible policy they can just label them a racist.  And they immediately shut up.  Just knowing this keeps people from speaking up in the first place.

It’s easier to Lie when you can Scare away Criticism with Charges of Racism or Sexism

But the political opposition and the mainstream media have no problem calling Governor Christie a fat man.  Christie is not black.  A woman.  Or a Democrat.  So he’s fair game.  They can make the most vile fat slurs with him and it’s okay.  Fatso.  Fat-ass.  Whatever.  They don’t call it hateful.  They just laugh.  And pile on.  They’ll even go so far as to call him a fat elephant on the cover of Time Magazine.  Putting a very large profile of him that takes up most of the cover and call him the elephant in the room (a GOP reference).  Because it’s okay to call him fat-ass and every other possible fat slur you can think of.  But do you know who you can’t call fat?  Hillary Clinton.

Should Hillary Clinton run for president again the political opposition and the mainstream media will treat her with kid gloves.  They won’t call her fatso.  Or fat-ass.  Because that wouldn’t be nice.  It’s okay to use those invectives against Governor Christie.  (Just take the Christie fat slurs and replace his name with hers and see the kind of reactions you get).  But if you dare use that tone with Hillary Clinton they will label you a sexist.  Accuse you of being afraid of strong women (but not so strong as to be able to put up with fat jokes like Governor Christie).  Proof that there is a Republican war on women.  And should she win the presidency there will be little criticism of her policies.  Because no one wants to be labeled a sexist.  Or be accused of being afraid of strong women.  Especially with the first female president.  So she will get a pass on most everything she does.  Like President Obama.  Despite being as deserving of attacks and criticism.  For she is a Keynesian, too.

With only 23% of the nation identifying as liberal the left has trouble passing their liberal policies.  So they lie, of course.  A lot.  And it’s easier to lie when you can scare away criticism with charges of racism.  Or sexism.  Which is why they like President Obama so much.  (Well, at least before Obamacare threatened their reelection chances).  He was the first black president.  Which made it harder for some to criticize him.  Which helped make the lying easier.  So they will most likely try to follow this strategy.  Perhaps with Hillary Clinton.  Who may be the first female president.  Following that with other ‘firsts’.  Until the opposition and the mainstream media learn that criticizing a woman’s policies doesn’t make you a sexist.  Or afraid of strong women.  It just means you’re criticizing a person with bad policies who happens to be a woman.  Just as they will be able to criticize a black president one day.

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We are in the Worst Economic Recovery since that following the Great Depression because of Keynesian Economics

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

We are in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  Why?  Because of Democrats.  Who are all Keynesians.  And that’s a big problem as all of our worst economic times were given to us by those who adhere dogmatically to Keynesian economics.  That school of economics that gave us the Great Depression.  The stagflation of the Seventies.  The dot-com bubble.  The bursting of the dot-com bubble.  And the dot-com recession.  As well as the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession.  In all of these events the Keynesians in power followed Keynesian economic policies to avoid recessions.  And then to pull us out of recessions when their avoidance didn’t work.  Then doubling down on the things that didn’t work previously.  In particular artificially low interest rates.  Which have been around zero for the last 5 years.  And massive federal spending to stimulate the economy when the private sector wasn’t spending.  Two pillars of Keynesian economics.  Neither of which have done anything to help improve the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.

This is the problem with all the ‘noted’ economists the government likes to cite.  They embrace poor economic principles.  Proven wrong over and over again.  They can come up with some impressive looking charts and graphs but their analysis is all wrong.  And the fact that we’re in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression proves it better than any chart and graph.  They’re wrong.  And continue to be wrong.  Yet they provide the economic policies for our country.  Some of the greatest nonsense you will ever hear.  Things you wouldn’t do in your business.  Or in your personal life (see Student Loans Are A Drag On The Economy And Society by Josh Freedman posted 2/11/2014 on Forbes).

While loans are intended to expand college access to a broader population, the nature of risk that they entail also produces the opposite result. Low- and middle-income students worried about the consequences of taking out a loan will be more likely to decide that college attendance is not worth the risk…

Studies have found that high debt levels not only deter access at the beginning, but can also drive students away from completing college once they have already started… students who start college but do not graduate are stuck with loan repayments and no college degree. They still have to repay their loans but do not have the economic boost of a college degree to help them have enough income to cover this cost.

First of all, why is it when it comes to a college education no one ever demands that we lower the cost.  Like we do with greedy oil executives who keep the price of gasoline high.  Why is it no one attacks the greedy people in higher education that keep education so costly?

The problem is too many people are going to college for the wrong reason.  There is a reason why there is a list of the best party colleges every year.  Because a lot of these kids want to go to these schools.  Which explains why colleges in Colorado are seeing a spike in out-of-state applications.  Because these kids want to go to a college where they can party with legal marijuana.  And to make that partying easier they’re majoring in easier degree programs that the college assured these kids would provide them a comfortable living after graduation.  So they can get that profitable tuition out of these kids.  Often times paid for by these kids’ student loan borrowings.  So the colleges are misleading a lot of these kids to make a buck.  Leaving them saddled with a lot of student loan debt if they quit.  Or even more student loan debt if they stay in until graduation.  While getting a degree that can’t get them a job.

A second issue with increasing levels of student loan debt is the effect on the economy… Individuals with more student loan debt were less likely than individuals without student loan debt to purchase homes or cars.

Yes, having too much debt is a bad thing.  It reduces your disposable income.  Preventing you from purchasing a house or a car.  Yet these same economic advisors have no problem with raising taxes and devaluing the currency (i.e., printing money) to pay for all of the government’s stimulus spending.  Higher taxes reduce our paychecks.  And devaluing the currency raises real prices.  Reducing what we can buy with our smaller paychecks.  No, a Keynesian has no problem with debt at the federal level that affects everyone.  But student loan debt is just a terrible thing for those kids who dropped out of college or who didn’t get a degree that an employer could use.

In the wake of the financial crash, households have been trying to deleverage, or pay down their debt so they can have a healthier financial outlook, reduce the amount of their income that they use to service their debt, and begin investing and consuming again…

A look at the data suggests that student loans have slowed down households in the process of paying down debt. Since 2008 — the peak level of household debt — households lowered their levels every type of debt except student loan debt. Student loans have continued to grow throughout this process of deleveraging.

Of course the one thing missing from this analysis is the horrible economy President Obama’s Keynesian policies have given us.  Since he became president he has destroyed some 10,948,000 jobs.  Based on the number that were out of the labor force in the January 2014 BLS jobs report (91,455,000) and how many were out of the labor force when he entered office (80,507,000).  This is why people are struggling with debt levels.  There are no jobs.  If there was a robust economy flush with jobs people wouldn’t worry about taking on debt to invest in the future.  As long as they got a useful college degree in a high-tech economy.  And not something useless like women’s studies or poetry.

But aren’t people facing poor job prospects just taking out more loans to avoid working as baristas at coffee shops that drip the coffee super slowly for no apparent reason? This does not appear to be the case from the debt data. Student loan debt has grown at almost exactly the same rate since the crash as it had been the previous five years — i.e. steadily and without fail.

Student loan credit level has been steadily rising because the cost of a college education has been steadily rising.  Again, where is the outrage at our greedy educators getting rich by loading up these kids with student loan debt for a degree they can’t use in a high-tech economy?

…the loan system allows colleges to raise prices, which causes more students to take out loans. States, facing budget pressures, have also pulled back on investment, putting even more risk on students and further increasing the need for loans.

Again, where is the outrage at our greedy educators who keep raising tuition, forcing these kids to take out more and more student loan debt?

The risk and burdens that come from forcing students to take out debt up front and pay it back later is problematic from head to toe (tassel to hem, one might say). To create a better system of higher education, we need to look at alternatives to the current debt-financed model.

So the solution is for the taxpayer to foot the bill for these useless college degrees at these party colleges?  How is that going to solve any problem?  All that will do is allow more people to go to a college in Denver where they can get high for 4 years.  And then go to work as a barista at a coffee shop that requires no 4-year degree.  How does that make anything better?  Other than get more young people to vote Democrat.  Then again, perhaps that is the only objective of Keynesian economics.  Which is why those on the left embrace these failed policies with a religious fervor.  Because it helps them win elections.  Even while they’re destroying the economy.

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Is Chicago the Next Detroit?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

Another big American city is having ‘Detroit’ problems.  And may soon follow Detroit down the Road to Serfdom.  The warning signs are all there.  But will this big American city—Chicago—listen?  Well, Chicago like Detroit is a big Democrat city.  So, no.  They will not heed the warning signs.  And will make things even worse by going more ‘Detroit’ (see Chicago Votes to Go the Way of Detroit by Michael Auslin posted 2/6/2014 on National Review).

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is increasingly a textbook example of how far the Democratic party has moved to the left since Bill Clinton’s day.

Emanuel, who cut his teeth in Clinton’s administration, just presided over a $1.9 billion increase in Chicago’s debt, only months after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond ratings three notches based on its growing and unsustainable spending and debt obligations…

Old-line Democratic cities, it seems, have learned nothing from Detroit’s collapse. Wishful thinking, ignorance of the parallels, and misleading excuses are the common defenses trotted out by city administrators who have no intention of having to deal with the mess they have either made or worsened. Indeed, Emanuel explicitly rejected the Detroit comparison, arguing that, unlike the Motor City, which was fatally dependent on the auto industry, Chicago has “an extremely diverse economy where no one sector is more than 13 percent of the employment.”

That may be true now, but surely Emanuel knows that Illinois’s and Chicago’s high tax rates are causing a business exodus. The Chicago Tribune recently highlighted ten major companies threatening to leave Illinois and the Chicago area, including the Chicago Board of Trade, U.S. Cellular, and CME Group, the world’s biggest futures exchange company. Part of Chicago’s problem is being stuck in Illinois, which has the country’s third-highest unemployment rate, a dysfunctional state government, and crippling taxes that have led over 30 companies to cross over the state line to Indiana recently. But Chicago’s own borrowing and profligate pension promises will continue to eat away at its credit rating and desirability of doing business there. All this will help hollow out the city and its tax base, and eventually could lead to an all-too-familiar downward spiral once the productive elements of the city decide the benefits of staying don’t outweigh the costs of moving.

Of course the reason why Emanuel is throwing Chicago into this black hole of debt is because he is a Democrat.  And that’s how Democrats win elections.  By buying votes.  With a lot of good-paying jobs in the public sector.  Jobs with generous benefits.  Especially in retirement.  Thanks to profligate pension promises.  Requiring a large portion of city taxes to go to pay these underfunded pension obligations.  That are so underfunded they need to borrow money in addition to those high taxes to meet those pension obligations.

This is exactly what happened in Detroit.  The massive cost of their public sector became harder and harder to pay for.  So they began to fleece businesses as much as they could.  With higher taxes, fines, fees, regulations, etc.  Which only chased businesses out.  Making their problem worse.  For they never cut their spending.  Even though half of their tax base had disappeared they still tried to spend as if their tax base never shrunk from its high in the Sixties.  And we see where that led to.  Bankruptcy.  Something Chicago is now flirting with.  And a fate they will share if they don’t cut back their spending to what they can support without fleecing businesses out of the city.

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Obamacare will require more Tax Revenue just as it Shrinks the Tax Base

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

President Obama’s economic policies have given us the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  With some of the greatest economic carnage coming from the Affordable Care Act.  Obamacare.  The great hiring dissuader.  Because of the high cost of compliance for employers.  And now people will even be choosing to leave the labor force.  For it will be less costly for them not to work and collect subsidies for their costly Obamacare (see Obamacare will push 2 million workers out of labor market: CBO by Stephen Dinan posted 2/4/2014 on The Washington Times).

Obamacare will push the equivalent of about 2 million workers out of the labor market by 2017 as employees decide either to work fewer hours or drop out of the job market altogether, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

The analysis set off a furious debate in Washington. The White House argued that the reduction is positive because it means Americans will forgo jobs or extra work to stay home with their children or strike out on their own as entrepreneurs…

“This is one of the perverse incentives in this terrible law. It actually encourages able-bodied people to not work,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican. “We should be doing all that we can to increase labor force participation. The health care law actually pushes it in the opposite direction.”

Taking the budget as a whole, the CBO said Congress has made substantial headway on cutting spending and raising taxes, which will reduce the deficit to $514 billion this year and $478 billion in 2015.

But it will rise by 2016 and steadily grow to more than $1 trillion in 2022.

If these people choose not to work and become entrepreneurs who will they hire if others like them choose to leave the labor force?

People choosing not to work is a very bad thing for a big-spending government.  Because government taxes workers to pay for all of that spending.  And if people are leaving the workforce leaving fewer workers in the workforce to pay the taxes government needs that can mean only one thing.  Higher taxes on those with jobs.  To help offset the loss in tax revenue as people leave the labor force to spend time with their kids.  Or become entrepreneurs.

Of course anyone becoming an entrepreneur in this economic climate is a glutton for punishment.  For President Obama has created a very anti-business environment.  Higher taxes, more costly regulatory policies and lest we forget, the Affordable Care Act.  To quote Jed Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies when he asked cousin Pearle if he should move to Beverly Hills after discovering oil on his property.

COUSIN PEARL BODINE

Jed, how can you even ask? Look around you. You live eight miles from your nearest neighbor. You’re overrun with skunks, possums, coyotes, and bobcats. You use kerosene lamps for light. You cook on a wood stove, summer and winter. You’re drinkin’ homemade moonshine, and washin’ with homemade lye soap. And your bathroom is fifty feet from the house. And you ask should you move!?

JED CLAMPETT

Yeah, I reckon you’re right. Man’d be a dang fool to leave all this.

This is how a lot of people feel today about the Obama economy.  “Man’d be a dang fool to” try and be an entrepreneur in this economy.  Especially with the Obamacare Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.  So those 2 million people plus leaving the economy is not a good thing.  It is a very bad thing.  Which will require some large tax increases.  Or massive cuts in government benefits.  Because federal tax revenue will fall if people leave the tax base.  It’s just that simple.

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Bretton Woods System, Quasi Gold Standard, Inflation, Savings, Nixon Shock and Monetizing the Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 4th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published 2/5/2013)

The Bretton Woods System was a quasi Gold Standard where the U.S. Dollar replaced Gold

Government grew in the Sixties.  LBJ’s Great Society increased government spending.  Adding it on top of spending for the Vietnam War.  The Apollo Moon Program.  As well as the Cold War.  The government was spending a lot of money.  More money than it had.  So they started increasing the money supply (i.e., printing money).  But when they did they unleashed inflation.  Which devalued the dollar.  And eroded savings.  Also, because the U.S. was still on a quasi gold standard this also created a problem with their trade partners.

At the time the United States was still in the Bretton Woods System.  Along with her trade partners.  These nations adopted the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency to facilitate international trade.  Which kept trade fair.  By preventing anyone from devaluing their currency to give them an unfair trade advantage.  They would adjust their monetary policy to maintain a fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.  While the U.S. coupled the U.S. dollar to gold at $35/ounce.  Which created a quasi gold standard.  Where the U.S. dollar replaced gold.

So the U.S. had a problem when they started printing money.  They were devaluing the dollar.  So those nations holding it as a reserve currency decided to hold gold instead.  And exchanged their dollars for gold at $35/ounce.  Causing a great outflow of gold from the U.S.  Giving the U.S. a choice.  Either become responsible and stop printing money.  Or decouple the dollar from gold.  And no longer exchange gold for dollars.  President Nixon chose the latter.  And on August 15, 1971, he surprised the world.  Without any warning he decoupled the dollar from gold.  It was a shock.  So much so they call it the Nixon Shock.

To earn a Real 2% Return the Interest Rate would have to be 2% plus the Loss due to Inflation

Once they removed gold from the equation there was nothing stopping them from printing money.  The already growing money supply (M2) grew at a greater rate after the Nixon Shock (see M2 Money Stock).  The rate of increase (i.e., the inflation rate) declined for a brief period around 1973.  Then resumed its sharp rate of growth around 1975.  Which you can see in the following chart.  Where the increasing graph represents the rising level of M2.

M2 versus Retirement Savings

Also plotted on this graph is the effect of this growth in the money supply on retirement savings.  In 1966 the U.S. was still on a quasi gold standard.  So assume the money supply equaled the gold on deposit in 1966.  And as they increased the money supply over the years the amount of gold on deposit remained the same.  So if we divide M2 in 1966 by M2 in each year following 1966 we get a declining percentage.  M2 in 1966 was only 96% of M2 in 1967.  M2 in 1966 was only 88% of M2 in 1968.  And so on.  Now if we start off with a retirement savings of $750,000 in 1966 we can see the effect of inflation has by multiplying that declining percentage by $750,000.  When we do we get the declining graph in the above chart.  To offset this decline in the value of retirement savings due to inflation requires those savings to earn a very high interest rate.

Interest Rate - Real plus Inflation

This chart starts in 1967 as we’re looking at year-to-year growth in M2.  Inflation eroded 4.07% of savings between 1966 and 1967.   So to earn a real 2% return the interest rate would have to be 2% plus the loss due to inflation (4.07%).  Or a nominal interest rate of 6.07%.  The year-to-year loss in 1968 was 8.68%.  So the nominal interest rate for a 2% real return would be 10.68% (2% + 8.68%).  And so on as summarized in the above chart.  Because we’re discussing year-to-year changes on retirement savings we can consider these long-term nominal interest rates.

Just as Inflation can erode someone’s Retirement Savings it can erode the National Debt

To see how this drives interest rates we can overlay some average monthly interest rates for 6 Month CDs (see Historical CD Interest Rate).  Which are often a part of someone’s retirement nest egg.  The advantage of a CD is that they are short-term.  So as interest rates rise they can roll over these short-term instruments and enjoy the rising rates.  Of course that advantage is also a disadvantage.  For if rates fall they will roll over into a lower rate.  Short-term interest rates tend to be volatile.  Rising and falling in response to anything that affects the supply and demand of money.  Such as the rate of growth of the money supply.  As we can see in the following chart.

Interest Rate - Real plus Inflation and 6 Month CD

The average monthly interest rates for 6 Month CDs tracked the long-term nominal interest rates.  As the inflationary component of the nominal interest rate soared in 1968 and 1969 the short-term rate trended up.  When the long-term rate fell in 1970 the short-term rate peaked and fell in the following year.  After the Nixon Shock long-term rates increased in 1971.  And soared in 1972 and 1973.  The short-term rate trended up during these years.  And peaked when the long-term rate fell.  The short term rate trended down in 1974 and 1975 as the long-term rate fell.  It bottomed out in 1977 in the second year of soaring long-term rates.  Where it then trended up at a steeper rate all the way through 1980.  Sending short-term rates even higher than long-term rates.  As the risk on short-term savings can exceed that on long-term savings.  Due to the volatility of short-term interest rates and wild swings in the inflation rate.  Things that smooth out over longer periods of time.

Governments like inflationary monetary policies.  For it lets them spend more money.  But it also erodes savings.  Which they like, too.  Especially when those savings are invested in the sovereign debt of the government.  For just as inflation can erode someone’s retirement savings it can erode the national debt.  What we call monetizing the debt.  For as you expand the money supply you depreciate the dollar.  Making dollars worth less.  And when the national debt is made up of depreciated dollars it’s easier to pay it off.  But it’s a dangerous game to play.  For if they do monetize the debt it will be very difficult to sell new government debt.  For investors will demand interest rates with an even larger inflationary component to protect them from further irresponsible monetary policies.  Greatly increasing the interest payment on the debt.  Forcing spending cuts elsewhere in the budget as those interest payments consume an ever larger chunk of the total budget.  Which governments are incapable of doing.  Because they love spending too much.

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Governments turn People into Addicts to generate Tax Revenue

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 4th, 2014

Week in Review

During the days of the British Empire Great Britain had a problem.  They loved Chinese tea.  But the British had nothing the Chinese wanted in trade.  Except for one thing.  Silver.  Hard money.  Which was a problem for Britain.  They were running out of hard money.  So they came up with an ingenious way to solve that problem.  By getting as many Chinese hooked on opium as possible.  So they could trade Indian grown opium for Chinese tea.  It worked out great for the British.  But the Chinese didn’t like it.  And fought two opium wars with the British.  Which did not end well for them.

North Korea has a hard money problem, too.  And they, too, turned to drugs.  Crystal meth.  Which North Korea manufactured in state-run labs.  Destined for China.  Where they tried to get as many people addicted to crystal meth as possible.  So they can sell it in exchange for Chinese currency.  Which they could use to buy Chinese food.  To help ward off famine in North Korea.  This worked pretty well for North Korea.  But only gave China another addiction problem.

In the United States the government found other ways to raise revenue.  The first two big sources of addiction-revenue were cigarette and alcohol taxes.  But it soon proved not enough.  They then got people addicted to playing the lottery.  When that revenue proved to be insufficient they then got people addicted to casino gambling.  But government spending had grown so great that this revenue was still not enough.  So the government is looking at other things to get people addicted to (see Why Legalizing Marijuana Is a Smart Fiscal Move by Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times, posted 1/3/2014 on Yahoo! News).

Perhaps the dominant factor driving marijuana legalization is the desperate search for new revenue by cash-strapped state governments. The opportunity to tax marijuana is potentially a significant source of new revenue, as well as a way of cutting spending on prisons and law enforcement. The California Secretary of State’s office, for example, estimates savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars from both factors. The following summary is from a proposed state ballot initiative in California (No. 1617)…

It is not surprising that revenue considerations should be critical in the marijuana legalization movement. That was previously the reason why cigarettes were not banned until the 1920s despite a strong nationwide movement to do so. In the wake of Prohibition, governments simply needed cigarette tax revenue too badly. And when Prohibition ended, the need for new revenue after the Great Depression decimated government budgets was a driving force.

Indeed, according to author Daniel Okrent, expectations of the revenue from taxing legal liquor were so great in 1932 that some people thought it might permit the repeal of income taxes. It’s worth remembering that in 1900, taxes on alcohol and cigarettes constituted half of all federal revenues. Indeed, the only reason Prohibition was possible in the first place was that the income tax established in 1913, which was greatly expanded by World War I, would replace the revenue lost from the liquor tax after Prohibition.

There have been no great cuts to revenue like that following Prohibition.  Government spending has just grown so great that it far exceeds the nation’s ability to pay for it with current taxes and borrowing.  So they are looking to make people addicted to marijuana to help pay for their large public sectors.  As well as their vote-buying welfare state.  And when this proves insufficient they can turn to other sources of revenue.  Such as decriminalizing and taxing heroin.  Cocaine.  Crack.  Crystal meth.  Opium.  Even prostitution.  People are already doing these things.  So they can’t be any worse than marijuana.  As long as only responsible adults indulge in these activities.  Just as only responsible adults will smoke marijuana in Colorado.  For think of the tax revenue heroin, cocaine, crack, crystal meth and opium could generate.  For those drugs are really addictive.  And just think how much old rich men would enjoy 18 year old prostitutes.  Prostitution would be a booming business to tax.  These young women could generate great tax revenue for the government by just doing what consenting adults want to do.

We could do these things to find new sources of revenue.  Or we could NOT make people addicts.  Or NOT sell women into prostitution.  Instead we could cut the size of the public sector and the welfare state.  So we can cut spending.  Which would eliminate the need to produce new tax revenue in the first place.  Allowing people to keep their hard-earned money instead of handing it over to the government.  To pay for generous pensions and retiree health care for others.

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President Obama and the Democrats lied about how Affordable the Affordable Care Act Is

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2013

Week in Review

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was to make health care affordable.  In fact, it was going to be free.  Sort of.  Not health care per se.  But the Affordable Care Act.  For it was going to take the $1 trillion over 10 years the U.S. was spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and use it to pay for Obamacare.  So as far as the American people were concerned who had grown accustomed to the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Obamacare would be free.  That is, all the wonderful free stuff included in Obamacare would come without a single dime of new federal taxes or spending.  Of course, President Obama and the Democrats were lying to the American people (see New ObamaCare fees coming in 2014 by S.A. Miller and Geoff Earle posted 12/25/2013 on the New York Post).

Here comes the ObamaCare tax bill…

Most insurers aren’t advertising the ObamaCare taxes that are added on to premiums, opting instead to discretely pass them on to customers while quietly lobbying lawmakers for a break.

But one insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, laid bare the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.

The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan, which is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.

There’s also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Insurers pay a 3.5 percent user fee to sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov Web site…

Americans also will pay hidden taxes, such as the 2.3 percent medical-device tax that will inflate the cost of items such as pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs.

Those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses also will get smaller income-tax deductions.

Americans are currently allowed to deduct expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their annual income. The threshold jumps to 10 percent under ObamaCare, costing taxpayers about $15 billion over 10 years…

Under ObamaCare, individual tax filers earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 will pay an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains.

They’re adding an Obamacare tax/fee/levy to all health insurance policies we buy.  And a $2 fee per policy in addition to the others taxes/fees/levies.  Insurers have to pay a 3.5% user fee for the privilege of selling their policies on the health care exchanges.  Which, of course, they will recover by increasing the price of their polices that the government is forcing us to buy.  There’s a medical-device tax.  And a Medicare surtax.  As well as an extra 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, on top of all of these new taxes, fees, levies, user fees, surtaxes, etc., taking more money out of our pockets they’ve also reduced the amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses we can claim as a tax deduction.  Meaning we will pay more of our income as income taxes.  Making the Affordable Care Act anything but affordable.

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Democrat Policies are forcing Young Couples back home with Mom and Dad

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 28th, 2013

Week in Review

Since the Keynesians took over government we said goodbye to the classical economics that made America the number one economic power in the world.  Free market capitalism.  Based on a strong banking system.  And a sound currency.  People saved as much as they could.  Banks converted their savings into investment capital.  And investors and entrepreneurs built the world’s number one economy.  Because people worked hard and saved for their future.  While raising their families.  In their houses.  Without Mommy and Daddy helping them.  Unlike people do today (see Young Couples Moving Back Home To Save Money For Baby posted 12/22/2013 on CBS Miami).

“Young couples, when they have a child or when they’re planning to have a child, are moving back in with their parents,” said Carmen Wong Ulrich, BabyCenter Financial expert,. “Ten percent of young women are staying, living at home with their parents to save money to have children. This is a new trend.”

Alexis Kort, her husband Josh and their baby Charlotte moved in with Alexis’ parents when they relocated to their hometown.

“You don’t necessarily think about it before you have a kid and then all of a sudden you’re like ‘Wait a second, how do we make this work financially?’,” said Kort…

This trend extends beyond housing. A survey found that nearly 30 percent of new parents get financial assistance from their parents. Ulrich points out that parents who support their children who have children have less time to save for their retirement.

“Supporting grown children is a strain and it can be a strain on your own financial future,” said Ulrich.

You can blame the Democrats for this.  They’re all Keynesians.  And believe in printing (and devaluing) money to keep interest rates artificially low.  So low that you actually lose money now if you put it into a savings account.  So people spend it before it loses its purchasing power.

And Keynesians believe in government spending.  To stimulate the economy.  Which they pay for with taxes.  Lots of taxes.  Between the devaluation of the dollar (which raises prices) and the rising tax bite there’s less money to save.  And with the Keynesians pushing for more consumption and less savings (to stimulate the economy) kids aren’t saving.  They’re spending.  Living in the now.  Without a care in the world about tomorrow.  Which is why kids today are moving back in with their parents.  Because they’d rather pay a cellular bill the size of a car payment than save for their future.

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