We have been warning for years that as a result of the Fed's disastrous policies, America's middle class is being disintegrated and US adults are surviving only thanks to insurmountable debtloads. But not even we had an appreciation of how serious the problem truly was. We now know, and it is a shocker: according to new research by the Urban Institute, about 77 million Americans have a debt in collections.
The attached Barron’s article appeared in December 2007 as an outlook for the year ahead, and Wall Street strategists were waxing bullish. Notwithstanding the advanced state of disarray in the housing and mortgage markets, soaring global oil prices and a domestic economic expansion cycle that was faltering and getting long in the tooth, Wall Street strategists were still hitting the “buy” key. In fact, the Great Recession had already started but they didn’t have a clue: "Against this troubling backdrop, it’s no wonder investors are worried that the bull market might end in 2008. But Wall Street’s top equity strategists are quick to dismiss such fears."
If one wants to identify bubbles, one must perforce study monetary conditions. The comparison of historical data on valuations and other ancillary factors can only take one so far. The problem is that in times of strongly inflationary policy, the economy's price structure becomes thoroughly distorted, and that therefore a great many “data” can no longer be regarded as reliable... Most of the time, it's the eventual slowdown of money supply growth that brings a bubble to its knees.
Central Banks, Bank CEOs, politicians… all of these people are focused primarily on maintaining CONFIDENCE in the system, NOT on fixing the system’s problems. Indeed, they cannot even openly discuss the system’s problems because it would quickly reveal that they are a primary cause of them.
One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...
In the Golden Age of the Central Banker it is impossible to distinguish fundamental economic reasons for asset class price movements from politically-driven strategic reasons. When words are used for strategic effect rather than a genuine transmission of information you create a virtual stalking horse. It’s a focus on how something is said as opposed to what is described. It’s a focus on form rather than content, on truthiness rather than truth. It’s why authenticity is as rare as a unicorn in the public world today.
It is quite clear that Bernanke achieved his goal of inflating asset prices by expanding the Federal Reserve's balance sheet by 371.64% since the end of the financial crisis. However, was he as successful in fulfilling his other objectives? The following charts perform the same cost/benefit analysis on real economic health... Did the Fed's monetary intervention programs keep the economy from sliding into a much deeper recession? Probably. Have the programs been effective in achieving Bernanke's stated goals? Not really.
What if Janet Yellen is wrong?
Exactly 50 years ago last month the US Supreme Court ruled on the now famous case of Jacobellis v. Ohio. At stake was whether a French movie with graphic sexual content could be outlawed by the state via its obscenity laws. The court ruled that it could not because the film wasn’t hardcore pornography. How could they tell? In an explanation that has now turned into one of the most famous quotes in court history, Justice Potter Stewart explained that although he could not define exactly what hardcore porn was, “I know it when I see it” Like porn, asset bubbles are also hard to define, but given our economic history, and especially our recent economic history, we know it when we see it, and now we see it everywhere. We all see it. Apparently the only people that don’t see the bubbles are the people creating them.
The continuity bias is astounding as many with assets address this as an “extra rough patch” to get through rather than the clear paradigm shift it has been telegraphed to be.
The Fed and its policies have warped the culture of capitalism to the point that we now exist in a Centrally-Planned nightmare in which a handful of academics influence the economy and world reserve currency with every speech and verbal statement.
FDIC: “the largest positive contribution to the year-over-year change in earnings came from reduced loan-loss provisions..."
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." Mahatma Gandhi
"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics... but it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." - Murray Rothbard
Opinions about the U.S. economy boil down to two views: 1) the recovery is now self-sustaining, meaning that the Federal Reserve can taper and end its unprecedented interventions without hurting growth, or 2) the current uptick in auto sales, new jobs, housing sales, etc. is as good as it gets, and the weak recovery unravels from here. The reality is that nothing has been done to address the structural rot at the heart of the U.S. economy. You keep shoving in the same inputs, and you guarantee the same output: another crash of credit bubbles and all the malinvestments enabled by monetary heroin.
It appears it's one of those nights. In a fit of confusion, Australia's Central Bank head Glenn Stevens declared "investors are under-estimating the chance of an AUD decline" only to follow that 'jawboning' up with an explanation that he is trying "to avoid shifting language or jawboning." But then he broke the cardinal rule of central-banking - he told the truth:
*STEVENS: PEOPLE SHOULDN'T ASSUME HOUSE PRICES ALWAYS RISE
But.. but.. but... Ben Bernanke said... The AUD plunged over 50 pips on the news (but like any good central bank non-jawbone is suffering from a short half-life).