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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The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Labor Force Participation Rate from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 10th, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published May 21st, 2013)

The DJIA and the Labor Force Participation Rate tell us how both Wall Street and Main Street are Doing

Rich people don’t need jobs.  They can make money with money.  Investing in the stock market.  When you see the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) increasing you know rich people are getting richer.  Whereas the middle class, the working people, aren’t getting rich.  But they may be building a retirement nest egg.  Which is good.  So they benefit, too, from a rising DJIA.  But that’s for later.  What they need now is a job.  Unlike rich people.  The middle class typically lives from paycheck to paycheck.  So more important to them is a growing job market.  Not so much a growing stock market.  For the middle class needs a day job to be able to invest in the stock market.  Whereas rich people don’t.  For a rich person’s money works enough for the both of them.

So the Dow Jones Industrial Average shows how well rich people are doing.   And how well the working class’ retirement nest eggs are growing for their retirement.  But it doesn’t really show how well the middle class is living.  For they need a job to pay their bills.  To put food on their tables.  And to raise their families.  So the DJIA doesn’t necessarily show how well the middle class is doing.  But there is an economic indicator that does.  The labor force participation rate.  Which shows the percentage of people who could be working that are working.  So if the labor force participation rate (LFPR) is increasing it means more people looking for a job can find a job.  Allowing more people to be able to pay their bills, put food on their tables and raise their families.

These two economic indicators (the DJIA and the LFPR) can give us an idea of how both Wall Street and Main Street are doing.  Ideally you’d want to see both increasing.  A rising DJIA shows businesses are growing.  Allowing Wall Street to profit from rising stock prices.  While those growing businesses create jobs for Main Street.   If we look at these economic indicators over time we can even see which ‘street’ an administration’s policies favor.   Interestingly, it’s not the one you would think based on the political rhetoric.

Wall Street grew 75% Richer under Clinton than it did under Reagan while Main Street grew 65% Poorer

Those going through our public schools and universities are taught that capitalism is unfair.  Corporations are evil.  And government is good.  The Democrats favor a growing welfare state.  Funded by a highly progressive tax code.  That taxes rich people at higher tax rates.  While Republicans favor a limited government.  A minimum of government spending and regulation.  And lower tax rates.  Therefore the Republicans are for rich people and evil corporations.  While the Democrats are for the working man.  Our schools and universities teach our kids this.  The mainstream media reinforces this view.  As does Hollywood, television and the music industry.  But one thing doesn’t.  The historical record (see Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate and Recessions 1950-Present and Dow Jones Industrial Average Index: Historical Data).

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Reagan

The Democrats hated Ronald Reagan.  Because he believed in classical economics.  Which is what made this country great.  Before Keynesian economics came along in the early 20th Century.  And ushered in the era of Big Government.  Reagan reversed a lot of the damage the Keynesians caused.  He tamed inflation.  Cut taxes.  Reduced regulation.  And made a business-friendly environment.  Where the government intervened little into the private sector economy.  And during his 8 years in office we see that BOTH Wall Street (the Dow Jones Industrial Average) and Main Street (the labor force participation rate) did well.  Contrary to everything the left says.  The DJIA increased about 129%.  And the LFPR increased about 3.4%.  Indicating a huge increase of jobs for the working class.  Showing that it wasn’t only the rich doing well under Reaganomics.  The policies of his successor, though, changed that.  As Wall Street did better under Bill Clinton than Main Street.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Clinton

Despite the Democrats being for the working man and Bill Clinton’s numerous statements about going back to work to help the middle class (especially during his impeachment) Wall Street clearly did better than Main Street under Bill Clinton.  During his 8 years in office the LFPR increased 1.2%.  While the DJIA increased 226%.  Which means Wall Street grew 75% richer under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  While Main Street grew 65% poorer under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  Which means the gap between the rich and the middle class grew greater under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  Clearly showing that Reagan’s policies favored the Middle Class more than Clinton’s policies did.  And that Clinton’s policies favored Wall Street more than Regan’s did.  Which is the complete opposite of the Democrat narrative.  But it gets worse.

The Historical Record shows the Rich do Better under Democrats and the Middle Class does Better under Republicans

The great economy of the Nineties the Democrats love to talk about was nothing more than a bubble.  A bubble of irrational exuberance.  As investors borrowed boatloads of cheap money thanks to artificially low interest rates.  And poured it into dot-com companies that had nothing to sell.  After these dot-coms spent that start-up capital they had no revenue to replace it.  And went belly-up in droves.  Giving George W. Bush a nasty recession at the beginning of his presidency.  Compounded by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Bush

The LFPR fell throughout Bush’s first term as all those dot-com jobs went away in the dot-com crash.  Made worse by the 9/11 attacks.  As all the malinvestments of the Clinton presidency were wrung out of the economy things started to get better.  The LFPR leveled off and the DJIA began to rise.  But then the specter of Bill Clinton cast another pall over the Bush presidency.  Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending forced lenders to lower their lending standards to qualify more of the unqualified.  Which they did under fear of the full force and fury of the federal government.  Using the subprime mortgage to put the unqualified into homes they couldn’t afford.  This policy also pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy these toxic subprime mortgages from these lenders.  Freeing them up to make more toxic loans.  This house of cards came crashing down at the end of the Bush presidency.  Which is why the DJIA fell 19.4%.  And the LFPR fell 2.1%.  Even though the economy tanked thanks to those artificially low interest rates that brought on the subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession both Wall Street and Main Street took this rocky ride together.  They fell together in his first term.  Rose then fell together in his second term.  Something that didn’t happen in the Obama presidency.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Obama

During the Obama presidency Wall Street has done better over time.  Just as Main Street has done worse over time.  This despite hearing nothing about how President Obama cares for the middle class.  When it is clear he doesn’t.  As his policies have clearly benefited rich people.  Wall Street.  While Main Street suffers the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  So far during his presidency the LFPR has fallen 3.7%.  While the DJIA has risen by 86%.  Creating one of the largest gaps between the rich and the middle class.  This despite President Obama being the champion of the middle class.  Which he isn’t.  In fact, one should always be suspect about anyone claiming to be the champion of the middle class.  As the middle class always suffers more than the rich when these people come to power.  Just look at Venezuela under Hugo Chaves.  Where the rich got richer.  And the middle class today can’t find any toilet paper to buy.  This is what the historical record tells us.  The rich do better under Democrats.  And the middle class does better under Republicans.  Despite what our schools and universities teach our kids.  Or what they say in movies and television.

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Henry Ford built a Strong Middle Class with Nonunion Labor

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2014

Week in Review

President Obama’s new message is the horror of income inequality.  As his friends on Wall Street and in Hollywood make so much more money than the ‘folks’ do.  Of course, if it weren’t for his abysmal economic policies the ‘folks’ would be able to get a better-paying job.  Since he’s been president his policies have destroyed some 11,301,000 jobs (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted 1/13/2014 on PITHOCRATES).  The Affordable Care Act, new taxation, costly regulatory policies and his support for union labor all help to kill jobs.  Forcing a lot of people to work a couple of low-paying part-time jobs to pay the bills.  While his friends on Wall Street and in Hollywood have never been richer.

The economy wouldn’t as bad as it is if President Obama didn’t attack business so much.  And, instead, embraced it.  Like Henry Ford (see The Internet Is the Greatest Legal Facilitator of Inequality in Human History by Bill Davidow posted 1/28/2014 on The Atlantic).

In the past, the most efficient businesses created lots of middle class jobs. In 1914, Henry Ford shocked the industrial world by doubling the pay of assembly line workers to $5 a day. Ford wasn’t merely being generous. He helped to create the middle class, by reasoning that a higher paid workforce would be able them to buy more cars and thus would grow his business.

Yes, Henry Ford did want to pay people enough so they could afford to buy his cars.  But this did something else.  It attracted the best workers to his company.  Because of the incentive of the higher pay.  And if they were lucky enough to have gotten hired in they busted their butts so they could keep those high-paying jobs.  It was a meritocracy.  If a worker wasn’t performing they got rid of that worker.  And offered that job to another person willing to bust their butt to keep that job.

Of course, the unions changed all of that.  The Keynesians will point to Ford to justify their consumption policies (putting more money into consumers’ pockets as the be-all and end-all of their economic policies).  And NOT on how attracting the best workers with the best pay helped make Ford the most efficient.  Allowing Ford to produce cars at prices working people could afford.  Once the unions came in they decreased efficiencies.  Slowed down those assembly lines.  And raised the cost of cars.  So only unionized working people could afford them.  While most other working people had to settle on used cars.  Unless they had a relative that worked for one of the automotive companies that could give them a car at an automotive worker’s discounted price.

Surprisingly, the much-vilified Walmart probably does more to help middle class families raise their median income than the more productive Amazon. Walmart hires about one employee for every $200,000 in sales, which translates to roughly three times more jobs per dollar of sales than Amazon.

Why do some vilify Wal-Mart?  Because like Henry Ford was in the beginning they are nonunion.  Helping them not only to hire the best workers but to provide goods at a lower price so those not in a union can afford to buy them.  So Wal-Mart helps middle class families in two ways.  They help to raise the median family income.  And they allow that median family income go further.  Perhaps the greatest weapon in the arsenal to fight income inequality.  As they help those not in privileged jobs (such as a UAW job or a government job) to live as well as someone in those privileged jobs.

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The Obama Recovery is Good for Wall Street but Bad for Main Street

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2014

Week in Review

The December jobs report was pretty bleak.  It showed that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% and that the economy added 74,000 jobs.  Not great but good enough for some who say that President Obama’s policies are finally working after 5 some years of trying.  Which is ridiculous.  Because that unemployment rate doesn’t tell you how many people lost their jobs.  And how many people disappeared from the civilian labor force as they gave up trying to find work that just isn’t there.  Which hides the number of people who lost their jobs.  Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t count anyone as unemployed if they are no longer looking for work.  But if you dig down into the jobs report you’ll find this data.  And see that for every person that entered the labor force about seven people left it in December (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted January 13th, 2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which is anything but an economic recovery.

All during the Obama presidency the Federal Reserve has been stimulating the economy.  Right out of the Keynesian handbook.  By keeping interest rates near zero to encourage people to borrow money to buy things they don’t need.  But few have.  No.  The only people borrowing that money are rich investors.  Who are borrowing this ‘free’ money to spend in the stock market.  Helping Wall Street to do very well during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  While Main Street sees their median family income fall.  Still the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, thinks he did a heck of a job (see Bernanke Says QE Effective While Posing No Immediate Bubble Risk by Jeff Kearns and Joshua Zumbrun posted 1/16/2014 on Bloomberg).

Bernanke is seeking to define his legacy before stepping down on Jan. 31. During his eight-year tenure as leader of the Fed he piloted the economy through a financial crisis that led to the longest recession since the 1930s. He has tried to bolster growth by holding the target interest rate near zero and pushing forward with unprecedented bond buying known as QE.

“Those who have been saying for the last five years that we’re just on the brink of hyperinflation, I think I would just point them to this morning’s CPI number and suggest that inflation is not really a significant risk of this policy,” Bernanke said, referring to a Labor Department report showing the consumer price index rose 1.5 percent in the past year. The Fed has set an inflation target of 2 percent…

The Federal Open Market Committee (FDTR) announced plans last month to reduce monthly purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the labor market. The jobless rate last month fell to 6.7 percent, a five-year low.

The only reason why we don’t have hyperinflation is that everyone has depreciated their currency so much to boost exports and pay for bloated welfare states that all currencies are losing value.  And of all these bad currencies the American currency is the least bad of the lot.  Which is why some foreign nationals will pay to park their money in American banks.  Because the risk of it losing its value is so much greater in their home country.

But that doesn’t mean inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head in the US economy.  Just go to a grocery store and look at a bag of chips.  Or a box of cookies.  Or any packaged item that didn’t seem to get overly expensive during the Obama recession. A bag of chips may be the same $3-4 it was before the recession.  But notice the size of the bag.  It’s gotten smaller.  So, yes, consumer prices have not shown great inflation.  But packaging has gotten smaller.  So instead of paying more for the same quantity we are paying the same price for a lesser quantity.  Which means we may be buying 4 of something in a month instead of 3 of something.  It adds up.  Which is why there are so many more people on food stamps.  The Bernanke inflation is taking more of our paycheck to buy what it once did.

The economy is horrible.  Fewer people are in the labor force with each jobs report.  Our grocery packaging is shrinking.  And once the Fed stops its bond buying the stock market is going to fall.  A lot.  For every time rich investors think the economic data will show solid economic activity what do they do?  They sell their stocks.  Causing a stock market fall.  Why?  Why would investors leave the stock market when the data say the economy is getting stronger?  Which seems to go against common sense?  Because they know there’s been only one thing helping them get rich during the Obama presidency.  That ‘free’ money.  Once that source of cheap money goes away they will sell before those inflated stock prices fall back to earth.

The Obama recovery.  Good for Wall Street.  Bad for Main Street.

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President Obama is Good for Wall Street but Bad for Main Street.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 8th, 2013

Week in Review

The unemployment rate fell from 7.3 to 7.0 in November (see Table A-1. Employment status of the civilian population by sex and age).  With the government reporting 203,000 jobs created.  The economy must be turning around.  Things are getting better.  Especially for rich people (see Not fully inflated posted 12/7/2013 on The Economist).

TALK of bubbles is in the air again. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit an all-time high. A loss-making technology firm (Twitter) has floated its shares on a flood of investor demand. Private-equity groups are buying companies using amounts of debt not seen since 2008. A record price (more than $50m) has just been set for a penthouse in Manhattan. A triptych by Francis Bacon became the most expensive piece of art sold at an auction when Christie’s flogged it for $142.4m last month. Robert Shiller of Yale University, who correctly identified bubbles in tech stocks in the late 1990s and in property in the 2000s, has expressed unease about giddy American share valuations.

All this suggests that wealthy investors have become increasingly confident.

The rich sure are getting richer under President Obama.  But that’s Wall Street.  Where if you have friends in Washington you do well.  And Wall Street has a lot of friends in the Obama administration.  But what about Main Street?  How are the rest of us doing?  Who don’t have friends in Washington looking out for us?  Well, when President Obama took office there were 80,507,000 that were NOT in the labor force.  Under the economic policies of President Obama this number rose to 91,273,000.  Meaning that President Obama has destroyed 10,766,000 jobs since he became president.  It will take another 53 months at this pace to replace the jobs President Obama’s policies destroyed.  Or 4.42 years.

This is how Main Street is doing.  Not good.   Unlike the rich.  Who are doing very well buying and selling assets by borrowing cheap money.  Courtesy of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.  Basically printing money.  Making more of it available to borrow.  And because there is so much available to borrow interest rates are near zero.  Allowing the rich to borrow all the money they need to buy and sell assets with.  And as the Fed devalues the dollar it takes more of them to buy those assets.  Allowing the rich to reap huge profits when they sell.  Following the simple strategy of ‘buy low’ and ‘sell high’.  But that inflation also raises the prices of our groceries.  Which consume a larger portion of our paychecks.  Which makes us, those on Main Street, poorer.

President Obama.  Good for Wall Street.  Bad for Main Street.

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The August Jobs Report, Stuck between a Lie and a Hard Place

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 8th, 2013

Week in Review

The left has been lauding the good economic news jobs report after jobs report.  Always talking about all those new jobs created.  And the falling unemployment rate.  While not talking at all about the falling labor force participation rate.  For good reason.  For while new jobs and a falling unemployment rate are good people leaving the labor force is not.  And, sadly, the only thing making the jobs report look good is that people are simply disappearing from the labor force (see 169K New Jobs Last Month, 7.3% Unemployment: Conflicting Signals For The Fed by Abram Brown posted 9/6/2013 on Forbes).

Unemployment continues to fall, with joblessness reaching a 4-and-a-half-year low in August at 7.3%. Troublingly, the drop in unemployment comes from fewer people looking for jobs rather than a robust economy adding workers to open positions. The number of Americans participating in the labor market is at the lower [sic]point since August 1978.

Going forward, the Fed will need to decide how much stock to put in the unemployment number. It threatens to continue to fall while job creation stays meager–setting up a situation when the Fed could reduce its stimulus at a time when the recovery still isn’t firmly rooted. “People were not supposed to be dropping from the labor force this year,” says FTN Financial’s Chris Low. “While the Fed wrestles with this quandary, we’ll wait to see if it really meant what it said about the quality of improvement in the unemployment rate…At the Fed, there is a tendency to fall back on the unemployment rate as the best gauge of labor market health.” And he warns, “Markets will be unsettled.”

So what is a lying government to do?  After all of those years, and all those jobs reports, trumpeting the success of their economic policies based on the fall in the official unemployment rate, what do they say about the Fed who may raise interest rates because the official unemployment rate says the economy has recovered while the labor force participation rate says it’s still in the toilet?  When the only economic activity has been their friends on Wall Street taking the money the Fed was making and investing it?  Making money with money?  But making no jobs?  That’s something a Democrat administration is not supposed to do.  Helping rich people at the expense of the middle class.  So what is a lying government to do?

Tell the truth and admit that their economic policies have all failed?  To keep that cheap money tap open for their friends on Wall Street?  Or lie?  And say their economic policies have been successful?  And offer no rationale to keep the easy money tap open?  And let them close that tap?  Killing the only economic recovery?  That was enjoyed only by their friends on Wall Street?  Thus exposing the lie that their economic policies created any kind of economic recovery?

Quite the quandary for the Obama administration.

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If you’re Rich you’re doing well during the Obama Presidency

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 9th, 2013

Week in Review

The rich continue to get richer in the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  And it’s a Democrat in the White House.  Who said he was the champion of the middle class.  But the facts sure don’t bear that out (see Tim Carney: Conservative reformers should fix the rigged game by Timothy P. Carney posted 6/4/2013 on The Examiner).

The game is rigged against the regular guy in America today. And it’s rigged in favor of big business, the politically connected, and the wealthy…

Corporate profits soared to a record $1.73 trillion annualized rate in the first quarter of 2013, more than triple what they were in 2001, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Banks made a record $40.1 billion in profits in the first quarter, 16 percent higher than a year before, according to FDIC data…

And how’s the regular guy doing?

New business formation continues to fall to record lows. In 1980, nearly half of all firms were less than five years old. The latest data from the Kaufmann Foundation puts that number at about one-third.

And the working man isn’t faring better. Unemployment, while improving, is still high. Maybe worse is the collapse of median household income — down more than 7 percent since 2008, and it is not noticeably climbing.

Wait a minute, did I miss something?  I thought President Obama won the 2012 election.  Not that rich guy with Wall Street friends.  Mitt Romney.  For this is exactly what President Obama warned us would happen if we elected Mitt Romney.  The rich would get richer.  And the poor would get poorer.  And here that is happening under the Obama presidency.  Guess Mitt Romney isn’t the only rich guy with friends on Wall Street.

Meanwhile, federal spending hit a record 26.9 percent of GDP in 2010. While it dropped a bit to 24.8 percent in 2012, that is still higher than any year between World War II and 2009 and 18 percent higher than the average year from the previous five decades.

So it’s no surprise that seven of the 10 richest counties in the United States are in the Washington, D.C., area. Revolving-door lobbyists and government contractors are living the high life in McLean, Georgetown, and Great Falls.

The game is rigged, and conservatives can point out that the chief game rigger is government. The tax code is convoluted, regulations are terrifying, big businesses that fail get bailed out while small entrepreneurs get crushed by bureaucracy…

Republicans ought to abolish corporate welfare, including subsidies for exports and green-energy projects. Break up the big banks. Get rid of corporate tax credits.

Politically, these policies checkmate Democrats because corporatism is at the heart of President Obama’s economic agenda. Subsidies for Boeing, Chrysler and General Electric are the building blocks of Obama’s “New Economic Patriotism.” Obamacare was built in collusion with drugmakers and the hospital lobby.

So big government policies help, surprise, surprise, big government.  Where we are but pawns in their game of ruthless power acquisition (as in the IRS harassing those Tea Party members).  And accumulation of wealth.  For it’s all about them.  Those in government.  And those connected to those in government.  Sure, they’ll throw a few alms out to the poor.  Some free birth control to young voters.  Not enough of anything to improve their lives.  But enough to keep them happy.  And voting Democrat.  While they laugh.  All the way to the bank.  And then back to their plush estates in McLean, Georgetown, and Great Falls.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Labor Force Participation Rate from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 21st, 2013

History 101

The DJIA and the Labor Force Participation Rate tell us how both Wall Street and Main Street are Doing

Rich people don’t need jobs.  They can make money with money.  Investing in the stock market.  When you see the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) increasing you know rich people are getting richer.  Whereas the middle class, the working people, aren’t getting rich.  But they may be building a retirement nest egg.  Which is good.  So they benefit, too, from a rising DJIA.  But that’s for later.  What they need now is a job.  Unlike rich people.  The middle class typically lives from paycheck to paycheck.  So more important to them is a growing job market.  Not so much a growing stock market.  For the middle class needs a day job to be able to invest in the stock market.  Whereas rich people don’t.  For a rich person’s money works enough for the both of them.

So the Dow Jones Industrial Average shows how well rich people are doing.   And how well the working class’ retirement nest eggs are growing for their retirement.  But it doesn’t really show how well the middle class is living.  For they need a job to pay their bills.  To put food on their tables.  And to raise their families.  So the DJIA doesn’t necessarily show how well the middle class is doing.  But there is an economic indicator that does.  The labor force participation rate.  Which shows the percentage of people who could be working that are working.  So if the labor force participation rate (LFPR) is increasing it means more people looking for a job can find a job.  Allowing more people to be able to pay their bills, put food on their tables and raise their families.

These two economic indicators (the DJIA and the LFPR) can give us an idea of how both Wall Street and Main Street are doing.  Ideally you’d want to see both increasing.  A rising DJIA shows businesses are growing.  Allowing Wall Street to profit from rising stock prices.  While those growing businesses create jobs for Main Street.   If we look at these economic indicators over time we can even see which ‘street’ an administration’s policies favor.   Interestingly, it’s not the one you would think based on the political rhetoric.

Wall Street grew 75% Richer under Clinton than it did under Reagan while Main Street grew 65% Poorer

Those going through our public schools and universities are taught that capitalism is unfair.  Corporations are evil.  And government is good.  The Democrats favor a growing welfare state.  Funded by a highly progressive tax code.  That taxes rich people at higher tax rates.  While Republicans favor a limited government.  A minimum of government spending and regulation.  And lower tax rates.  Therefore the Republicans are for rich people and evil corporations.  While the Democrats are for the working man.  Our schools and universities teach our kids this.  The mainstream media reinforces this view.  As does Hollywood, television and the music industry.  But one thing doesn’t.  The historical record (see Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate and Recessions 1950-Present and Dow Jones Industrial Average Index: Historical Data).

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Reagan

The Democrats hated Ronald Reagan.  Because he believed in classical economics.  Which is what made this country great.  Before Keynesian economics came along in the early 20th Century.  And ushered in the era of Big Government.  Reagan reversed a lot of the damage the Keynesians caused.  He tamed inflation.  Cut taxes.  Reduced regulation.  And made a business-friendly environment.  Where the government intervened little into the private sector economy.  And during his 8 years in office we see that BOTH Wall Street (the Dow Jones Industrial Average) and Main Street (the labor force participation rate) did well.  Contrary to everything the left says.  The DJIA increased about 129%.  And the LFPR increased about 3.4%.  Indicating a huge increase of jobs for the working class.  Showing that it wasn’t only the rich doing well under Reaganomics.  The policies of his successor, though, changed that.  As Wall Street did better under Bill Clinton than Main Street.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Clinton

Despite the Democrats being for the working man and Bill Clinton’s numerous statements about going back to work to help the middle class (especially during his impeachment) Wall Street clearly did better than Main Street under Bill Clinton.  During his 8 years in office the LFPR increased 1.2%.  While the DJIA increased 226%.  Which means Wall Street grew 75% richer under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  While Main Street grew 65% poorer under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  Which means the gap between the rich and the middle class grew greater under Clinton than it did under Reagan.  Clearly showing that Reagan’s policies favored the Middle Class more than Clinton’s policies did.  And that Clinton’s policies favored Wall Street more than Regan’s did.  Which is the complete opposite of the Democrat narrative.  But it gets worse.

The Historical Record shows the Rich do Better under Democrats and the Middle Class does Better under Republicans

The great economy of the Nineties the Democrats love to talk about was nothing more than a bubble.  A bubble of irrational exuberance.  As investors borrowed boatloads of cheap money thanks to artificially low interest rates.  And poured it into dot-com companies that had nothing to sell.  After these dot-coms spent that start-up capital they had no revenue to replace it.  And went belly-up in droves.  Giving George W. Bush a nasty recession at the beginning of his presidency.  Compounded by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Bush

The LFPR fell throughout Bush’s first term as all those dot-com jobs went away in the dot-com crash.  Made worse by the 9/11 attacks.  As all the malinvestments of the Clinton presidency were wrung out of the economy things started to get better.  The LFPR leveled off and the DJIA began to rise.  But then the specter of Bill Clinton cast another pall over the Bush presidency.  Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending forced lenders to lower their lending standards to qualify more of the unqualified.  Which they did under fear of the full force and fury of the federal government.  Using the subprime mortgage to put the unqualified into homes they couldn’t afford.  This policy also pressured Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy these toxic subprime mortgages from these lenders.  Freeing them up to make more toxic loans.  This house of cards came crashing down at the end of the Bush presidency.  Which is why the DJIA fell 19.4%.  And the LFPR fell 2.1%.  Even though the economy tanked thanks to those artificially low interest rates that brought on the subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession both Wall Street and Main Street took this rocky ride together.  They fell together in his first term.  Rose then fell together in his second term.  Something that didn’t happen in the Obama presidency.

DJIA vs Labor Force Participation Rate - Obama

During the Obama presidency Wall Street has done better over time.  Just as Main Street has done worse over time.  This despite hearing nothing about how President Obama cares for the middle class.  When it is clear he doesn’t.  As his policies have clearly benefited rich people.  Wall Street.  While Main Street suffers the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  So far during his presidency the LFPR has fallen 3.7%.  While the DJIA has risen by 86%.  Creating one of the largest gaps between the rich and the middle class.  This despite President Obama being the champion of the middle class.  Which he isn’t.  In fact, one should always be suspect about anyone claiming to be the champion of the middle class.  As the middle class always suffers more than the rich when these people come to power.  Just look at Venezuela under Hugo Chaves.  Where the rich got richer.  And the middle class today can’t find any toilet paper to buy.  This is what the historical record tells us.  The rich do better under Democrats.  And the middle class does better under Republicans.  Despite what our schools and universities teach our kids.  Or what they say in movies and television.

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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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Wall Street doing Very Well under President Obama while Main Street Continues to Suffer

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 18th, 2013

Week in Review

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at a record high.  The unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percentage point in April.  Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 165,000 in April.  And interest rates are still so low that they are almost negative.  Good news for Wall Street.  And rich investors (see Revised Wall Street Forecast: We’re All Going to Be Rich by Kyle Stock posted 5/13/2013 on BloombergBusinessweek).

Whether, the country’s 500 biggest companies are collectively worth that much is another question. Goldman says most of its own valuation engines show the market is currently at or above where it should be trading. In other words, eager buyers are keeping it high. Low interest rates are spurring things along, as investors borrow increasingly large sums to place bigger bets.

That’s not to say some people aren’t nervous about the recent gains. “It’s one big carry trade, and all it’s doing is setting us up for a bigger correction,” says Joseph Saluzzi, partner and co-founder of Themis Trading, an institutional brokerage firm that specializes in equities. “Whether it’s going to be a week from now or a year from now, I don’t know; but it’s going to be ugly.”

President Obama has been saying for years now that the economy has turned around and things are getting better.  But better for who?  Wall Street.  Not Main Street.  The 1%.  Not the 99%.   Things are still pretty horrible for the 99%.  The unemployment rate may have fallen in April but the labor force participation rate hasn’t budged from March.  It’s still at record lows.  You have to go all the way back to President Carter’s Seventies to find so many people unable to find full time work.  That’s right, even George W. Bush had better economic numbers throughout his presidency.  And he suffered through a couple of recessions.  And the greatest terrorist attack on American soil.  So things aren’t getting better.  They’re only getting better for the 1%.  Who are borrowing that cheap money the government is printing to make more money.  While the general economy languishes in the worst recovery since that following the Great Depression.

And it gets worse.  Once the markets correct all of that irrational exuberance the economy is going to crash.  Hard.  Just as it always does after artificially low interest rates push stock prices into the stratosphere.  And “it’s going to be ugly.”  As it always is.  And the longer they keep those interest rates artificially low the uglier the inevitable correction will be.  When the correction comes it will be the 99% that will suffer the most.  As they always do.  As even more people will be unable to find a full time job.  Pushing the labor force participation rate even lower than it ever was in the Seventies.  This is what President Obama is doing to the 99%.  While he and his 1% friends are living large.  And will continue to live large after the crash.  Just as Hugo Chavez was able to live large in a country that couldn’t even make enough toilet paper for its people.  Because rich people and those in government always do well.  No matter what they do to the people.

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