Obama To Demand $1.6 Trillion In Tax Hikes Over Ten Years, Double Previously Expected

If the Fiscal Cliff negotiations are supposed to result in a bipartisan compromise, it is safe that the initial shots fired so far are about as extreme as can possibly be. As per our previous assessment of the status quo, with the GOP firmly against any tax hike, many were expecting the first olive branch to come from the generous victor - Barack Obama. Yet on the contrary, the WSJ reports, Obama's gambit will be to ask for double what the preliminary negotiations from the "debt deficit" summer of 2011 indicated would be the Democrats demand for tax revenue increase. To wit: "President Barack Obama will begin budget negotiations with congressional leaders Friday by calling for $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenue over the next decade, far more than Republicans are likely to accept and double the $800 billion discussed in talks with GOP leaders during the summer of 2011. Mr. Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with union leaders and other liberal activists, also pledged to hang tough in seeking tax increases on wealthy Americans." Granted, there was a tiny conciliation loophole still open, after he made no specific commitment to leave unscathed domestic programs such as Medicare, yet this is one program that the GOP will likely not find much solace in cutting. In other words, all the preliminary talk of one party being open to this or that, was, naturally, just that, with a whole lot of theatrics, politics and teleprompting thrown into the mix. The one hope is that the initial demands are so ludicrous on both sides, that some leeway may be seen as a victory by a given party's constituents. Yet that is unlikely: as we have noted on many occasions in the past, any compromise will result in swift condemnation in a congress that has never been as more polarized in history.

Summing It All Up...

We are at an historic point of convergence. Firstly, we have reached the limit in the credit backing of our financial, monetary and banking system. We are at the same time hitting profoundly destabilizing ecological limits preeminent at this time is that we are almost certainly at the peak of global oil and food production. Put another way, we are at the limits of the system of trust and solvency that underpins the trade upon which we depend. We are at the limits of the least substitutable energy source that, by the laws of physics, is necessary for economic maintenance and growth. We are at the limits of our most fundamental human sustenance. They are the three most critical structural pillars of the globalized economy. Like a three-legged stool, the whole system can become destabilized by the buckling of just one. Must Read!

You've Only Got Yourself To Blame

The questions of who are the 1% and what level of income demarcates the fat cats from the rest of Americans are likely to become more and more polarizing in the coming weeks. What is perhaps the most intriguing is the apparent dichotomy between the demographics (youth - who face considerably worse employment trends) and state-wealth who voted for Obama. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, of all the U.S. states with an above-average incidence of their citizens earning over $200,000 (14 in total), all but one (Alaska) went for President Obama in last week’s election.  At the other end of the income spectrum, only 2 states in the bottom 10 for +$200K earners (Maine and Iowa) had a majority of voters who sided with the President. The central irony of this straightforward math is that any increase in income taxes on the “Wealthy” will be disproportionately borne by the states which secured the President’s reelection. Perhaps, just an intriguing is the fact that - if you look at the GINI Index – a measure of income inequality – Republican leaning states enjoy more equality on these terms than the citizens of traditionally Democratic areas of the country.

Ron Paul: "0% Chance Of 'Grand Bargain' Over Fiscal Cliff"

Shining a little reality light on the otherwise pollyanna-like dearth of pragmatism that is the mainstream media's guest-list, Ron Paul provided Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan a little more than we suspect she bargained for when asked if he had any hope that we avoid the fiscal cliff. The constant "delaying-of-the-inevitable" enables our politicians to avoid facing up to the serious consequences of our reality and as Representative Paul notes the chances of a grand bargain are "probably zero... that's why I think we're over the cliff [already]." Just like the handling of the debt ceiling debacle, Paul notes they will "pretend they are going to do it" until we get a total crash of the dollar and the entire financial system (which he notes is what will occur if we continue the status quo). "We are at a point of no return" unless certain things change, since "we are not the productive nation we used to be."

Guest Post: 1000% Inflation?

UBS’ Larry Hatheway — who once issued some fairly sane advice when he recommended the purchase of tinned goods and small calibre firearms in the case of a Euro collapse — thinks 1000% inflation could be beneficial. This is fairly typical mistake for an economist. In an imaginary economic model, it is possible to assume that inflation is stable, and that it is predictable, and to draw conclusions based on those (absurd) assumptions. There are no empirical examples of such high rates of inflation being tolerated, because at every stage in history such effects have been intolerable... Getting to a 1000% inflation rate is an inherently volatile path, historically one which has resulted in panics, crashes and breakdowns.

Greece Renegs On Troika Terms Hours After Getting Bailout Extension

Earmuffs time for Europe's carefully sculpted theater of goodwill, solidarity and cohesion. Because this has to be some sort of record. Hours after Greece got its much desired two year bailout extension of Deutsche Bank from Germany Europe, Greece is already in breach of the terms it, and Europe, all "fought so hard" for. From Kathimerini: "A planned 25 percent increase in the price of public transport tickets next March is to be postponed until October, the general secretary of the Development Ministry, Nikos Stathopoulos, said on Tuesday. The increase originally demanded by the troika would have pushed the price of a ticket for all modes of public transport to 1.75 euros from 1.40." Instead the Troika's demand is overruled, and in its place is a promise that some efficiency has been extracted elsewhere, until of course, said promise is probed and uncovered to have also been a lie.

In Rare Loss, Seth Klarman Dumps Nearly Half Hewlett Packard Holdings

The first 13-Fs are rolling in and among them, that of iconic hedge fund Baupost and its legendary head Seth Klarman. Legendary because until now he was largely percevied as unable to lose on a trade. Ever. And then Hewlett Packard came: Klarman decided the stock was a value play just over a year ago, when he disclosed that as of September 30, 2011 he had accumulated an over 20 million share position when the HPQ price was over $20/share. The holding had gradually declined until Q1 2012, then hear nearly doubled down to a total of 27 million shares. Then the stock collapsed. And like not only a good investor, but trader, Klarman decided to book a loss and dump nearly half his HPQ position, holding just over 14 million shares as of September 30, a stake we are confident is likely zero by now. There goes the bull "alphaclone" case for the company that is not "off its lows."

A Game Of Two Halves As Equities Tumble To Risk Reality

Leveraging EUR strength (USD weakness) in the US-open-to-EU-close to ramp stocks to highs was rapidly followed by a collapse back to reality in US equities from EU-close-to-US-close. Just remarkable. Treasuries and FX markets were much less exuberant over the entire lack of news that drive the S&P up over 20 points from open to EU close and sure enough - helped by the obvious desperation of a 'failed' Yellen-threat - equities retraced it all; ending the day back near the recent lows. Stocks once again tested the bottom of Draghi's Dream and rejected it; commodities were mixed and very dispersed with Copper and Silver swinging wildly (up on the day) even as the USD ended the day practically unchanged. Tech and financials are the losers still on the week as AAPL clawed its way back to marginally green by the close with the magical $545 level now critical four days in a row.

Remember When A Fed Permadove Promising Perpa-ZIRP Sent Stocks Higher?

There was a time when bears looked on with dread as a Fed Permadove and vice chair Janet Yellen cleared her throat in advance of delivering prepared remarks, knowing well the algos would go full liftathon retard as soon as the flashing red highlights hit the screen. Well, Yellen did just that in a speech titled "Revolution and Evolution in Central Bank Communications" (link here). Some of the highlights:


And... nothing. In fact, worse than nothing - selloff! We have now gotten to a point where the Fed implicitly promising it may keep ZIRP until even longer than previously promised, or 2016, results in a coordinated dump.

Guest Post: Real Danger Of “Obamacare”: Insurance Company Takeover Of Health Care

Now that The Show is over, we are left with the equivalent of a Sunday morning hangover following a binge of promises and lies. After the Supreme Court upheld the PPACA, a spate of mergers rippled through the managed health care realm, to ostensibly cope with smaller profit margins and  ‘compliance costs.’  But really, it’s because each firm wants to corner as much as possible of the market, in as many states as it can, to garner more premiums and control more disbursements and prices at the upcoming insurance ‘exchanges.’ Meanwhile the more hospitals are viewed as profit centers, the more their Chairmen will cut costs to maximize returns, and not care quality. They will seeks ways to sell underperforming assets, programs or services and reduce the number of nonessential employees, burdening those that remain. And if insurance companies can manage doctors directly, they can control not just costs, but treatment – our treatment. It’s not an imaginary government takeover anyone should fear; but a very real, here-and-now insurance company takeover, to which no one in Washington is paying attention.

US Budget Deficit Soars In October As Government Spends Over $300 Billion In One Month

Moments ago the MTS released the final October budget report. It was not pretty, although those who read our report on how much debt was added - $195 billion to be precise - in the first month of the 2013 Fiscal Year will know where this is going. The US budget deficit was expected to soar after the September surplus of $75 billion, driven entirely by calendar shifts and pre-election propaganda, to -$113 billion. That was optimistic: the total amount of overspending in October was $120 billion. What is distressing is that this was well above the $98.5 billion deficit from a year ago, and confirms that the long-term trendline of ever greater spending continues. This was also the fourth largest October deficit in history. And looking merely at the spending side of the ledger, the US government's outlays in October alone were $304 billion. This is the third biggest October monthly spend for the government ever, and just why of the all time high $320.4 billion record in October 2008, when everything imploded after Lehman failure and Hank Paulson was literally dousing the monetary flames with brand new Benjamins.

Guest Post: Gold & The Dollar Are Less Correlated Than Everyone Thinks

Whenever the case is made for a stronger U.S. dollar (USD), the feedback can be sorted into three basic reasons why the dollar will continue declining in value:

  1. The USD may gain relative to other currencies, but since all fiat currencies are declining against gold, it doesn’t mean that the USD is actually gaining value; in fact, all paper money is losing value.
  2. When the global financial system finally crashes, won’t that include the dollar?
  3. The Federal Reserve is “printing” (creating) money, and that will continue eroding the purchasing power of the USD. Lowering interest rates to zero has dropped the yield paid on Treasury bonds, which also weakens the dollar.

All of these objections are well-grounded. However, the price of gold is not consistently correlated to the monetary base, the trade-weighted dollar, or interest rates. We have seen interest rates leap to 16% and fall to near-zero; gold collapse, stagnate, and then quadruple; and the dollar gain and lose 30% of its trade-weighted value in a few years. None of these huge swings had any correlation to broad measures of domestic activity such as GDP. Clearly, interest rates occasionally (but not always) affect the value of the trade-weighted dollar, and the monetary base occasionally (but not always) affects the price of gold, but these appear to have little correlation to productivity, earnings, etc., or to each other. Gold appears to march to an independent drummer.

Goodbye Japan, Hello Korea

As the government and Bank of Japan constantly survey the marketplace for speculation while intervening en masse with ever-decreasing levels of effectiveness, we thought the following charts would highlight the impact of the relative strength of the JPY. Of course, in the past, at least the trade surplus (thanks to these legacy companies) used to provide incremental capital into the country but now even that is gone. As Credit Suisse notes, "the TWI of the JPY has appreciated by more than 40% post crisis – even more than the CHF! But it is the relative strength versus the KRW that is really hurting Japanese firms. The Won plummeted sharply post crisis and has recovered nowhere near pre-crisis levels. Some of this shift in relative competitiveness may be reflected in the market cap of Samsung versus that of major Japanese tech firms. Samsung is more than three times the size of Japan’s top technology firms."

Greece Comes Up With Collateral Loophole, Has Enough Cash To Roll €5 Billion Bill Maturity

Over the past several days there had been concerns that even if Greece managed to roll its maturing €5 billion in Bills with a new Bill issuance (which it did earlier today), it would be unable to actually obtain cash for this worthless paper, through a repo with the European Central Bank. The reason being that last week the ECB allowed a temporary extension in Greek ELA collateral eligibility to expire, enacted on August 2, which in turn reduced the amount of repoable T-Bills from €7 billion to just €3.5 billion, in the process reducing the amount of cash Greece can obtain in half from the Bill roll. And while there had been lots of speculation and rumors that the ECB would, as in the case of Spain, either make a "mistake" or extend the collateral pool exemption once more, this did not occur. Instead, as we have just learned, the ECB has allowed Greek banks to use "asset-backed" securities to plug the collateral gap. Needless to say, one can only conceive just what unencumbered assets still can be found on Greek bank balance sheets (here is one artist's impression) but it was largely expected that in the race to debase its currency, the ECB would once again admit that when it comes to perpetuating the Ponzi, especially at a marginal cost of a token €3.5 billion, anything goes (just don't tell Germany). And so, Greece kicks the can once again.

Guest Post: Welcome To The Nuthouse: How Private Financial Fiat Creates A Public Farce

Farce #1: “Market value” and “free markets” have become a joke.

Farce #2: Private, self-assigned, fake value is being traded for public money at 100 cents on the dollar.

Farce #3: Printed money is backed by nothing.

Farce #4: We have a “free” enterprise system dominated by monopolies that force people to buy inferior goods and services at exorbitant rates.

Farce #5: High-level financial crimes, no matter how egregious or widespread, are not being prosecuted.

Farce #6: Risk is gone. Now there is only liability borne by citizens.

Farce #7: Productivity has been supplanted by parasitism.

On The Sheer Bullishness Of An Open US Market

It would appear, given today's remarkable moves across every risk-asset in Europe and the US, that all that is required to fix Europe's broken transmission channels and undercapitalized banks and to "remediate" the US fiscal cliff is that the US equity market be open... It seems our earlier tweet was spot on!

Degrees For Dollars: Students Petition Uncle Sam To Refund Student Loans For Worthless Diplomas

Student debt has seemingly been the transmission channel of choice for pumping credit into the US economy for the last few years as the government addition of $1 trillion has done nothing but leave those under-55 with fewer and fewer jobs (especially above-minimum-wage jobs) while saddled with non-extinguishable debt. Of course, this 'pump' of credit has had the usual unintended 'inflationary' consequence of raising tuition prices (which as we noted this morning was the main driver of inflation in the UK overnight). So what would be fair? Cue: A Petition to "Provide University graduates the ability to trade their Diplomas back for 100% tuition refunds" The hope-driven (or hopelessness) push into higher education (and implicitly higher debt), in a nation where the marginal benefit of Calculus 101 over a strong right 'burger-flipping / coffee-machine-pressing' wrist is falling by the day, seems to warrant further societal protection. All that's needed is 25,000 signatures to move this forward.

Q2 Total Gross Notional Derivatives Outstanding: $639 Trillion

Earlier today, the BIS, which has been doing everything in its power today to defend the 1.27 support in the EURUSD since the market open this morning, released its H1 OTC derivatives presentation update. There was little of material note: total OTC derivatives were virtually unchanged at $639 trillion gross, representing $25 trillion in net outstanding (market value), and $3.7 trillion in gross credit exposure. Here the PhD theorists will say gross is irrelevant because Finance 101 said so, while the market practitioners will point to Lehman, counterparty risk, and less than infinite collateral to fund sudden implosions of weakest links in counterparty chains, and say that it is gross (which until a recent revision of BIS data had been documented at over $1 quadrillion) that mattered, gross which matters, and gross which will always matter until finally everything inevitably collapses in a house of missing deliverable cards. Because not even the most generous sovereigns and central banks can halt the Tsunami once there is a failure of a major OTC Interest Rate swap counterparty. And whereas Basel III had some hopes it would be able to bring down the total notional in derivative notionals slowly over the next few years with a gradual deleveraging across all financial firms, the bankers fought, and the bankers won, because the last thing the current batch of TBTFs can afford it admit there is any hope they can ever slim down. The will... but never voluntarily.