At the risk of sounding like a broken record we'd like to say a bit more about economists' tendency to get their monetary history wrong; in particular, the common myths about the gold standard. If there's one monetary history topic that tends to get handled especially sloppily by monetary economists, not to mention other sorts, this is it. Sure, the gold standard was hardly perfect, and gold bugs themselves sometimes make silly claims about their favorite former monetary standard. But these things don't excuse the errors many economists commit in their eagerness to find fault with that "barbarous relic." The point, in other words, isn't to make a pitch for gold. It's to make a pitch for something - anything - that's better than our present, lousy money.
Friday's latest resignation of yet another former Obama administration faithful - that of White House press secretary Jay Carney - got us thinking: how many people have jumped off the USS Obamic? The answer is, in short, a lot. Below is a list (by no means complete) of the most prominent officials and advisors who have quietly exited the Obama administration stage left over the past 6 years.
As we explained over two months ago, and as the Fed is no doubt contemplating currently, the primary topic on the agenda of central bankers everywhere and certainly in the Marriner Eccles building, is how to boost inflation expectations as much as possible, preferably without doing a thing and merely jawboning "forward expectations" (or more explicitly through the much discussed nominal GDP targeting) in order to slowly but surely or very rapidly and even more surely, get to the core problem facing the developed world: an untenable mountain of debt, and specifically, inflating it away. Of course, higher rates without a concurrent pick up in economic activity means a stock market tumble, both in developed and emerging countries, as the Taper experiment over the summer showed so vividly, which in turn would crush what many agree is the Fed's only achievement over the past 5 years - creating and nurturing the "wealth effect" resulting from record high asset prices, which provides lubrication for financial conditions and permits the proper functioning of capital markets. Perhaps this is the main concern voiced by JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli who today has issued an interesting piece titled simply enough: "Raising inflation expectations: a bad idea." Is this the first shot across the bow of a Fed which may announce its first taper as soon as two weeks from today, in order to gradually start pushing inflation expectations higher?
With the "inmates in charge of the asylum" during this holiday shortened trading week it seemed to be an apropriate opportunity to share a virtual cornucopia of topics to consider while enjoying the delicious delicacies, and subsequent tryptophan induced comas, of a traditional Thanksgiving.
Putting today's 7.2% unemployment rate (which is actually over 11% if using an accurate labor participation rate), here is the chart that puts it into perspective courtesy of the an "analysis" by Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein titled "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" from January 10, 2009. Oh yes, the ARRA did pass...
It's been a long time since Hilsenrath actually reported news instead of serve as a leak dissemination service for the New York Fed. Today was one of those time with news from the WSJ that the Obama administration, and specifically Jack Lew, has begun assembling a short list of candidates for the Federal Reserve chairmanship, in the expectation that Ben Bernanke won't seek reappointment when his second term ends in January. According to Hilsenrath, since the decision on whether the Chairsatan stays or goes is all his, Bernanke may decide to stay for a few more years of QEasing, however he won't: "many of Mr. Bernanke's friends and associates believe he wants to step down when his term expires, after nearly eight years overseeing the central bank's response to the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression."
Bloomberg reported recently that Russia is now the world's biggest gold buyer, its central bank having added 570 tonnes (18.3 million troy ounces) over the past decade. At $1,650/ounce, that's $30.1 billion worth of gold. Russia isn't alone, of course. Central banks as a group have been net buyers for at least two years now. But the 2012 data trickling out shows that the amount of tonnage being added is breaking records. Based on current data, the net increase in central bank gold buying for 2012 was 14.8 million troy ounces – and that's before the final 2012 figures are in for all countries. This is a dramatic increase, one bigger than most investors probably realize. To put it in perspective, on a net basis, central banks added more to their reserves last year than since 1964. The net increase – so far – is 17% greater than what was added in 2011, which was itself a year of record buying. The message from central banks is clear: they expect the dollar to move inexorably lower. It doesn't matter that it's been holding up against other currencies or that the economy might be getting better. They're buying gold in record amounts because they see a significant shift coming with the status of the dollar, and they need to protect themselves against that risk. Embrace the messages central bankers are telling us – the ones they tell with their actions, not their words.
You've probably noticed the cookie-cutter format of most financial media "news": a few key "buzz words" (fiscal cliff, Bush tax cuts, etc.) are inserted into conventional contexts, and this is passed off as either "reporting" or "commentary" depending on the number of pundits sourced. Correspondent Frank M. kindly passed along a template that is "officially deny its existence" secret within the mainstream media. With this template, you could launch your own financial media channel, ready to compete with the big boys. Heck, you could hire some cheap overseas labor to make a few Skype calls to "the usual suspects," for-hire academics, hedge fund gurus, etc. and actually attribute the fluff to a real person.
The other day the Huffington Post ran an article by a Bonnie Kavoussi called “11 Lies About the Federal Reserve.” And you’ll never guess: these aren’t lies or myths spread in the financial press by Fed apologists. These are “lies” being told by you and me, opponents of the Fed. Bonnie Kavoussi calls us “Fed-haters.” So she, a Fed-lover, is at pains to correct these alleged misconceptions. She must stop us stupid ingrates from poisoning our countrymen’s minds against this benevolent array of experts innocently pursuing economic stability. Here are the 11 so-called lies (she calls them “myths” in the actual rendering), and Tom Woods and Bob Murphy's responses.
Ratigan Grills Propaganda Queen Christina Romer, Demands Windfall Profit Tax Clarity, Gets Blank Stare ResponseSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/04/2009 13:32 -0400
Ratigan cuts to the chase, bypassing the hollow rhetoric by Administration propaganda queen Christina Romer, who can't beat enough drums on today's pathologically ludicrous BLS numbers, yet is completely unwilling to discuss how the White House will proceed to recoup any of the taxpayer-subsidized windfalls at Wall Street firms. Any considerations of windfall tax, be they in the form of a Tobin tax, now openly supported by such people as Warren Buffett and John Bogle, or directly imposed, seems to not be on the White House's agenda currently or any time in the future. How is it so difficult for Obama to understand that Main Street is demanding some quid-pro-quo of firms like Goldman, whose employees are covertly purchasing Ferraris even as excess bank reserves hit another all time record yesterday, and instead of lending money out the banks continue to collect a risk-free 0.25% on these excess reserves, thereby once again picking taxpayers' pockets.