Congressional Budget Office
The major headline of the day is the pending government shutdown in the Land of the Free. This is nothing more than an obvious symptom that they have passed the point of no return. As we have routinely discussed, the US government now fails to collect enough tax revenue to pay interest on the debt and cover mandatory entitlement spending. They’re already in the hole before they write a single check for anything we consider ‘government’, from national parks to the Internal Revenue Service. Basically all the stuff that will be shut down now. Unless you missed your IRS agent today, it should be clear that all this stuff they waste money on is completely... unnecessary. Or can/should be privatized.
There may be temporary 'benefits in terms of employment gains' if the Fed creates an even more gigantic echo bubble than it has already done. We are willing to grant that much. The Fed apparently believes these days that there should be no limits whatsoever to the Fed's monetary pumping. 'Inflation' targets? Forget about it! Asset bubbles? Who cares! It is as if the past 20 years had not happened – as if they had simply erased the whole period from his memory. Do they really believe that pumping up another giant bubble will have more benefits than drawbacks? Where does it all end? However, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there cannot be an 'eternal boom' by simply continuing to print, as once envisaged by Keynes. All that will happen is that the ultimate disaster will be even greater. In fact, is seems ever more likely that the next disaster will be the last one of the current monetary system.
With a government's October 1 shut down - temporary of course - now seemingly inevitable, and more importantly with the peak debt ceiling negotiations due in just about a week after which point the Treasury will run out of money, many wonder what comes next. That this is happening just two short years after the dramatic August 2011 debt ceiling impasse, when the market tumbled 20% and likely slowed economic growth is still fresh in everyone's mind, is hardly helping matters. Add a potential political crisis in Greece and Italy, and suddenly a whole lot of unexpected variables have to be "priced in."
Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and when it comes to health care he has definitely kept his promise. As a result of Obamacare, health care spending is up, health insurance premiums are up, the number of hours Americans are working is down and employer-based health insurance is becoming an endangered species. Of course employer-based health insurance will not disappear completely any time soon, but it has been steadily shrinking for over a decade, and Obamacare will greatly accelerate that decline. So Americans are going to pay more, get worse care, have more paperwork and a more complicated system, and they are likely to die younger too? Wow, that sounds like a great deal.
In a tight 217-210 vote, The House voted this evening to 'taper' food stamps by $39 billion over the next decade. This bill - setting up a showdown with Senate Democrats - cuts nearly twice as much as a bill that was rejected in June, and, as USA Today reports, dramatically larger than the $4.5 billion 'trim' that was passed by the Senate earlier in the year. The bill would cause 3 million people to lose benefits while another 850,000 would see their benefits cut, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Republicans argued that the bill would restore the program's original eligibility limits and preserve the safety net for the truly needy. The White House threatened Wednesday to veto the bill, calling food stamps one of the "nation's strongest defenses against hunger and poverty." Of course, as long as the Dow is trading at all-time highs, it doesn't really matter... since the number of people on Food stamps in the US is already greater than the population of Spain!
In light of this morning's Obama-Boehner volleys, we thought a reflection on the facts was useful. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook yesterday morning, and its government debt projections are dismal... But the CBO’s featured chart only tells a small part of the story. The baseline scenario happens to be bogus. Even as it shows our addiction to debt worsening, it doesn’t do justice to the severity of that addiction. (You may want to show the chart to your children. After all, they’ll be the ones who’ll have to deal with the debt we’re piling on today.)
- Fed likely to reduce bond buying, pass policy milestone (Reuters)
- Fall in Home Loans Pushing Fed Away From Taper in Mortgage Bonds (BBG)
- Russia says U.N. report on Syria attack preconceived, political (Reuters)
- China House Price Surge Raises Prospect of Steps to Cool Market (FT)
- Cyprus Plans to Complete End of All Capital Controls... some time in 2014 (FT)
- GOP Reworks Budget Terms (WSJ)
- U.S. Navy was warned that Washington shooter 'heard voices' (Reuters)
- Berlusconi Impeachment Vote Looms (WSJ)
- Ageing could weaken central banks, spur rate volatility (Reuters)
This chart seems to sum up our fiscal challenges as well as anything else...
Political activity related to reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has picked up over the last few months and additional legislative activity is expected this fall. As Goldman notes, while there is still substantial political disagreement, a loose consensus has begun to emerge on some issues. However, despite somewhat greater agreement on certain aspects of GSE reform, lawmakers still face a basic dilemma. Housing finance reform has languished in large part because of the disagreement over the appropriate federal role, as well as a concern that reform would ultimately lead to an increase in borrowing costs. Recent GSE reform proposals such as Corker-Warner appear to have attracted support by calling for high levels of private capital. However, such high levels of capital would require a return to investors, increasing borrowing costs. Overall, Goldman's expectation continues to be that GSE reform is unlikely to be enacted this year or next.
Sovereign debt is the bonds that are issued by national governments in foreign currencies with the intent to finance a country’s growth. The risk involved is determined by whether that country is a developed or a developing country, whether that country has a stable government or not and the sovereign-credit ratings that are attributed by agencies to that country’s economy.
When every indicator of stress is screaming 'bubble' in the student loan debacle, it would make perfect sense for the government to ignore it and maintain the status quo. As the WSJ reports, the never-ending federal effort to "make college affordable" simply provides the resources to sustain higher prices - especially as an increasing amount of the rising subsidies are pocketed by universities. This policy disaster which results in rising costs, taxpayer losses and over-strapped borrowers is now manifest. So naturally this week Senate liberals will bring to the floor a plan to ensure that the policy continues unchanged (and the CBO-estimated $95 billion losses) - and dismisses a coalition plan that ties student loan rates to 10Y Treasuries, providing some marginal encouragement to students to decide whether their chosen course of study is worth the money.
Confused by last night's bombshell white flag of defeat by the Obama administration which delayed the implementation of the employer mandate, aka the "shared-responsibility rules" by one year until 2015 derailing the public education campaign that the rollout of Obamacare was set to take place in October? Then the following list of 6 questions and answers from Politico analyzing the ins and out of the decision is for you.
Richmond Fed's Lacker: "Falling Markets Should Not Be Too Surprising... Further Volatility Seems Likely"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/28/2013 08:24 -0500
"Bond and stock markets fell sharply in response, but that should not be too surprising. The Chairman’s statement forced financial market participants to re-evaluate the likely total amount of securities the Fed would buy under this open-ended purchase plan — in other words, how much liquor would ultimately be poured into the punch bowl. Market participants also had to reconsider their estimate of when the Federal Reserve would begin to remove the punch bowl by raising interest rates. These reassessments appear to have warranted price changes across an array of financial assets. As market participants gain additional insight from the words of Federal Reserve officials or by policy actions in coming quarters, further asset price volatility seems likely." - Richmond Fed's Jeffrey Lacker
Not so long ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it expected the U.S. government to register a budget deficit in the current fiscal year of $642 billion. But hold on a minute... The budget deficit so far (as of May 31, 2013) has already hit $626.3 billion, and we still have four more months to go in the government’s current fiscal year! The U.S. has been the family that spends more than it earns for many years now. In the short term, spending more than one takes in can work (especially if the Fed just prints new money and gives it to the government to pay its bills). But in the long term, if fundamental changes are not made to the government’s spending habits, financial chaos just starts all over again. Posting a budget deficit year after year is not sustainable. The debt-infested eurozone nations did very much the same; they borrowed to spend. Look where they are now.
"I'm terrified about what will happen to interest rates once financial markets wake up to the implications of skyrocketing budget deficits.... The accident -- the fiscal train wreck -- is already under way.... How will the train wreck play itself out? Maybe a future administration will use butterfly ballots to disenfranchise retirees, making it possible to slash Social Security and Medicare. Or maybe a repentant Rush Limbaugh will lead the drive to raise taxes on the rich. But my prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt.... And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar. It won't happen right away. With the economy stalling and the stock market plunging, short-term rates are probably headed down, not up, in the next few months, and mortgage rates may not have hit bottom yet. But unless we slide into Japanese-style deflation, there are much higher interest rates in our future.... I think that the main thing keeping long-term interest rates low right now is cognitive dissonance."