Nike recently published a series of ads declaring “winning takes care of everything,” in reference to Tiger Woods’ recapture of the world #1 golfer ranking. The slogan went over with certain critics like an illegal ball drop. Many economists insist that “economic growth takes care of everything,” and the related debate is no less contentious than the Nike ad kerfuffle. Listening to some pundits, you would think there’s one group that appreciates economic growth while everyone else wants to see the economy crumble. It seems to me, though, that growth is just like winning – there’s no such thing as an anti-winning camp, nor is there an anti-growth camp. More fairly, much of the growth debate boils down to those who think mostly about long-run sustainable growth and those who advocate damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead growth. I’ll break off one piece of this and consider: How much of everything does growth take care of?
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
What you hear is a giant hissing sound. And what you get is capital destruction and wealth transfer.
There's no way to sugarcoat the dismal performance of the precious metals in recent months. But a revisitation of the reasons for owning them reveals no cracks in the underlying thesis for doing so. In fact, there are a number of new compelling developments arguing that the long heartbreak for gold and silver holders will soon be over.
Over the weekend we pointed out one of the more disturbing facets of the Snowden espionage affair: the covert, if massive (and very lucrative) symbiosis between private companies, who have explicitly opened up all private client data contrary to privacy disclosures, and a secretly uber-inquisitive government. We asked: "The reality is that while the NSA, which is a public entity through and through, is allowed and expected to do whatever its superiors tell it (i.e., the White House), how does one justify the complete betrayal of their customers by private corporations such as Verizon and AT&T? This may be the most insidious and toxic symbiosis between the public and private sector in the recent past." But while the quid was finally made public (if known by many long ago), the quo wasn't quite clear. It now is - the answer, as as always, is money. And not just any money, but in this specific case taxpayer money paid to either Google or Amazon by none other than the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA for short. Lots of it.
"I think we are going to go through the ringer... It is bad enough already, but there is no way that we can step back."
"I think monetizing debt and spending and deficit is going to get much, much worse until the world rejects the dollar."
"when people become frightened, they look for things of real value, and I don't think they can repeal the laws of economics that says that for 6,000 years metals have been beneficial. They will go to monetary metals, gold and silver"
"...if we have an authoritarian government, that is our greatest threat. So, I would like to think that there is no perfect protection, other than shrinking the size and scope and power of government, so that we can be left alone and take care of ourselves."
We discussed the new skirmishes this weekend in the very public debate about Carmen Reinhart’s and Kenneth Rogoff’s (RR) government debt research as they fought back against Paul Krugman's smear campaign. Krugman, of course, is one of the pundits who last month published “incomplete, exaggerated, erroneous and misleading” reports about RR’s research, as we explained at the time. We still haven’t found an RR critic who’s made a genuine effort to estimate how much debt is too much and in an effort to, we read Krugman's book (cover-to-cover) to see if there was anything more to Krugman’s positions than über-Keynesianism and boasts that his adversaries were proven wrong. Krugman's logic is full of holes. Near-term inflation and interest rate predictions have little to do with one’s beliefs about the mostly long-term risks of excessive debt. Krugman’s use of decidedly non-Keynesian episodes of debt reduction to justify his Keynesian beliefs reminds me of the many times (too many) that I’ve encountered 'circular reference' errors in Excel. His logic is no less flawed or 'circular.' But since there’s no spreadsheet involved, we’ll call it an error of induction. We think it’s time to change focus and consider the questionable thresholds, selective data use and induction error in Krugman’s work.
Remember the face on the left: it belongs to Mike Hedlund, and it will become much more popular in the coming months and years, because following a historic court decision, Mike just saw the bulk of his student loans discharged following a 10 year battle with the US legal system and his student loan lenders. A decision that will open the floodgates for countless cases just like his, leading to yet another taxpayer funded bailout amounting to hundreds of billions in deferred dollars (read government debt that has to be inflated away) and for which the final bill will again be footed by... you dear US taxpayer.
Our country has entered a period of Crisis. We may or may not successfully navigate our way through the visible icebergs and more dangerous icebergs just below the surface. The similarities between the course of our country and the maiden voyage of the Titanic are eerily allegorical...
Do you need a break from public policy buzzwords? Are you happy to go back to the days when cliffs were discussed occasionally on the National Geographic channel but not analyzed ad nauseum on CNBC? Are you tired of reading about austerity, austerians, anti-austerians and austeresis? You’ve come to the right place. “How long have we been deleveraging?” – I’ll answer “zero years.” As in, what deleveraging? We haven’t even gotten started yet.
It’s painfully clear for all to see that the majestic United States is now firmly caught in the rapacious stranglehold of financial elites which have completely captured it in a grotesque gamed monetary process. Our country’s once idealistic and industrious free market economy has been hijacked and is undeniably being fraudulently and overtly financialized by the craven clutches and maniacal machinations of a contemptible self-seeking banking class. They have become nothing more than avaricious parasites disgustingly feeding from the grand trough of our treasured human ingenuity and self-respecting industry.
The policy approach that no one dares to question - "In the long-term, we need to fix our public finances. We’re on an unsustainable path that needs to be corrected to protect younger and future generations. But in the short-term, we need to focus on growth. The economy stinks and people are suffering. Any attempt to lower debt in these conditions would be folly. On the contrary, the government needs to provide more stimulus to promote growth" has no support to its key premise in business cycle history, the idea that the economy will return to full employment and stick there, allowing ample time for debt reduction. Once stimulus is removed, expansions often struggle to continue for much longer. And if the stimulus is replaced with restraint, it seems logical that the expansion’s expected life shortens further. In other words, there is no Magic Pendulum. What’s the typical life of an unassisted expansion? Based on the data presented here, I’ll call it two years.
For 727 editions, and nearly 30 years, Bill Buckler, the "captain" of the free market-praising Privateer newsletter provided a welcome escape from a world overrun with "free-lunch" economists, "for-hire" politicians, "crony-capitalist" oligarchs, "heroin-addict" bankers, "the-solution-to-record-debt-is-more-record-debt" Keynesians, and all those other subclasses of that species which Einstein, or whoever, described so aptly in saying that they all expect a different, and happy, outcome when applying the same flawed methods over and over. And for 30 years, Buckler's steadfast determination and adherence to his arguments, beliefs, reasoning and ironclad logic brought him countless followers, all of whom are now able to see past the bread and circus facade of a world every day on the edge of political and social collapse. Sadly, all good things come to an end, and so does The Privateer. We are delighted to celebrate its illustrious memory by presenting to our readers the final, must read, issue of the newsletter which encapsulates the philosophy and ideology of its author - a man much respected and admired in the free market circles - and thirty years of objective, unbiased market and economic commentary, best of all.
Nomura's Richard Koo destroys the backbone of the modern central bankers only tool in the tool-box in his latest paper. "As more and more people began to realize that increases in monetary base via QE during balance sheet recessions do not mean equivalent increases in money supply, the hype over QEs in the FX market is likely to calm down ...The only way quantitative easing can have a positive impact on economic activity is if the authorities’ purchase of assets from the private sector boosts asset prices, making people feel wealthier and thereby encouraging them to consume more. This is the wealth effect, often referred to by the Fed chairman Bernanke as the portfolio rebalancing effect, but even he has acknowledged that it has a very limitmed impact... In a sense, quantitative easing is meant to benefit the wealthy. After all, it can contribute to GDP only by making those with assets feel wealthier and encouraging them to consume more."
We are a long way from really resolving the argument between the Keynesian and Austrian economic theories, despite some so-called experts proclaiming Krugman's victory this week. The discovery of the calculation error in the Reinhart/Rogoff study does little to change the overall premise that excessive debt levels impede economic growth and have, historically, led to the fall of economic empires. All one really has to do is pick up a history book and read of the Greeks, Romans, British, French, Russians and many others. Does fiscal responsibility lead to short term economic pain? Absolutely. Why would anyone ever imagine that cutting spending and reducing budgets would be pain free? However, what we do know is that the path of fiscal irresponsibility has long term negative consequences for the economy. In the meantime we can continue to ignore the long term conseqences in exchange for short term bliss.