Congressional Budget Office
When it comes to US austerity, a very sensitive topic as framed best by the "spending cuts" portion in the Fiscal Cliff debate, the ideas range from the surreal to the outright idiotic: as an example in the most recent Obama proposal spending would be "reduced" in the form of $290 billion in interest savings - not an actual spending reduction, but a hope and a prayer that because rates are lower, the government will "save" money with rates continuing to be lower (something which immediately causes a #Ref! explosion for anyone not using government math), $130 billion in savings that would come from once again rejiggering the definition of 'inflation', as well as "savings" from not funding extra defense spending because the US is not engaged in a pro forma war. Like we said: surreal and idiotic, or in other words, no actual real cuts to spending. Yet even as the nation is gripped by the melodrama of fake spending cuts offset by the threat to tax millionaires more (all of whom will merely find more creative and effective ways to hide their wealth and income offshore), spending increases are all too real, such as last night's order by Obama's just issued an executive order to end the pay freeze for federal employees, which is the equivalent of a wage increase. A truly deserved rise in wages for a job well done by the most dysfunctional Congress America has ever seen.
The beginning of the year has traditionally been a time of optimism when we all look forward to the exciting things that are going to happen over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of things about 2013 that we already know are going to stink. Taxes are going to go up, good paying jobs will continue to leave the country, small businesses will continue to be destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty will continue to soar, our infrastructure will continue to decay, global food supplies will likely continue to dwindle and the U.S. national debt will continue to explode. Our politicians continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess, and yet they continue to expect things to magically turn around. But that is not the way that things work in the real world. Bad decisions lead to bad outcomes. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything will be “okay” somehow is not going to help anyone.
The tactic of quoting CBO predictions was a constant during the Presidential campaign and now the Fiscal Cliff debacle. But the CBO’s long-term track record of constantly missing the mark seems pretty obvious to anyone paying attention. It’s like a weatherman in Seattle who tells you that every day is going to be sunny. At some point, a reasonable person just stops listening. The problem is that people have been deluded for so long into believing that economics is an actual science... and so it must be true. Well, for a time, so was bloodletting. Or the ‘ethnic sciences’. The whole argument is a clever deception, all to conceal a simple truth: that the US has long since passed the point of no return where they’re borrowing more money just to pay interest on money they’ve already borrowed. There is no victor in the debate. Only an entire nation of losers, and a tiny handful of people who see the writing on the wall and take steps now to prepare. Which are you?
Denial doesn't change reality. It only cripples our response to reality. Psychologists and behavioral economists have found that we deceive ourselves (conceal the truth) to serve our own interests. Perhaps this is why the mainstream ignores the Id Monsters in the shadows: shadow banking, shadow housing inventory and shadow liabilities.
Who knows? I might even become an EE'er. This joke is on me.
At the end of October, as the Tristate Area was being flooded by Hurricane Sandy, one after another Wall Street firm tried to position Sandy virtually as a non-event, with total damage "forecasts" by such "reputable" firms as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America forecasting a total bill between $10 and $20 billion (as anything above that and the Q3 damage to GDP would be far more substantial than their recently bullish forecasts had accounted for, and would also imply a substantial spillover effect into Q1 2013), the same as various insurance companies who had other far more obvious reasons to undershoot on the total damages. We said the opposite, and based on historic damage forecasts, predicted the damage would likely be between $50 and $100 billion. Once again the sellside consensus was wrong and a fringe blog was accurate, as the CBO has just released the Obama administration's full aid request. Bottom line: $60.4 billion, or roughly what one year of what the ultimate tax hike compromise will bring into the government's treasury. Furthermore, if fully funded by debt today, this amount would send the US (which has a $57 billion debt buffer as of this moment) over the debt ceiling immediately.
It’s as if they are trying to poison the well.
US leaders see that this strategy has worked for EU leaders (those who went along with it are still in office, those who didn’t have been kicked out). And so they are now adopting a similar strategy with discussions on the fiscal cliff.
Obamacare - There was a significant “drafting” mistake in the original legislation.
Tim Geithner's time is almost done, but the former NY Fed head is only one of very many whose position is expected to be replaced in Obama's second term (just so there is a non-continuous chain of command if and when the time comes for the people to demand an explanation for the state of the US economy from the talented Mr. Geithner). Who else is out and who is expected to be in? The following list attempts to cover all upcoming rotations at the top of the US cabinet. What is not attempted is a prediction of where in the private sector people such as Geithner will end up: that is considered largely self-explanatory.
In the recent past we noted the somewhat startling reality that "the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045." While mathematics is our tool - as opposed to the mathemagics of some of the more politically biased media who did not like our message - the painful reality in America is that: for increasingly more Americans it is now more lucrative - in the form of actual disposable income - to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work. This is such an important topic that we felt it necessary to warrant a second look. The graphic below quite clearly, and very painfully, confirms that there is an earnings vacuum of around $40k in which US workers are perfectly ambivalent toward inputting more effort since it does not result in any additional incremental disposable income. With the ongoing 'fiscal cliff' battles over taxes and entitlements, this is a problematic finding, since - as a result - it is the US government that will have to keep funding indirectly this lost productivity and worker output (via wealth redistribution).
There was some confusion as to why yesterday various Eurozone consumer confidence indices posted a surprising jump and beat expectations virtually across the board: turns out Europeans had an advance warning of today's horrendous economic data among which we learned that Eurozone October unemployment just hit a record 11.7%, up 0.1% from September (we are trying to get data if the Eurozone is gaming its unemployment number the way the US does by collapsing its labor participation rate), with Italy unemployment surging to 11.1% from 10.8%, on expectations of a 10.9% print, French consumer spending in October was down 0.2%, compared to an unchanged reading in September, but far more troubling was that German retail sales imploded at a rate of 2.8%, the biggest monthly collapse in 4 years, and worse than even the most bearish forecast. Do we hear "Sandy's fault."
Exactly two years ago, some of the more politically biased progressive media outlets (who are quite adept at creating and taking down their own strawmen arguments, if not quite as adept at using an abacus, let alone a calculator) took offense at our article "In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year." In it we merely explained what has become the painful reality in America: for increasingly more it is now more lucrative - in the form of actual disposable income - to sit, do nothing, and collect various welfare entitlements, than to work. This is graphically, and very painfully confirmed, in the below chart from Gary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (a state best known for its broke capital Harrisburg). As quantitied, and explained by Alexander, "the single mom is better off earnings gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045."
The week's most anticipated speech (given Obama's absence from DC) is here. Bernanke's Economic Club of New York extravaganza - where he has previously hinted at new or further policy - is upon us. Sure enough, it's a smorgasbord of we'll do whatever-it-takes (but won't bailout Congress) easing-to-infinity, housing's recovering but we want moar, simply re-iterating his comments from last week...
- *BERNANKE SAYS FISCAL CLIFF WOULD POSE `SUBSTANTIAL THREAT'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CONGRESS, WHITE HOUSE NEED TO AVERT FISCAL CLIFF
- *BERNANKE SAYS FED TO ENSURE RECOVERY IS SECURE BEFORE RATE RISE
- *BERNANKE SAYS HOUSING RECOVERY `LIKELY TO REMAIN MODERATE'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CRISIS REDUCED ECONOMY'S POTENTIAL GROWTH RATE
However, as we have noted previously, once you've gone QE-Eternity, you never go back... and we would this is the 3rd time in a row that someone from the Fed has spoken and stocks have sold off.
Will Congress go over the fiscal cliff? Yes, we've been going for decades, really since the social unrest of the 1970s.