"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.
The lesson from the events of 2007-2008 should have been clear: Boosting GDP with loose money can only lead to short term booms followed by severe busts. A policy of artificially cheapened credit cannot but cause mispricing of risk, misallocation of capital and a deeply dislocated financial infrastructure, all of which will ultimately conspire to bring the fake boom to a screeching halt. The ‘good times’ of the cheap money expansion, largely characterized by windfall profits for the financial industry and the faux prosperity of propped-up financial assets and real estate (largely to be enjoyed by the ‘1 percent’), necessarily end in an almighty hangover. The crisis that commenced in 2007 was therefore a massive opportunity: An opportunity to allow the market to liquidate the accumulated dislocations and to bring the economy back into balance. That opportunity was not taken and is now lost – maybe until the next crisis comes along, which won’t be long. It has become clear in recent years – and even more so in recent months and weeks – that we are moving with increasing speed in the opposite direction: ever more money, cheaper credit, and manipulated markets (there is one notable exception to which I come later). Policy makers have learned nothing. The same mistakes are being repeated and the consequences are going to make 2007/8 look like a picnic.
Mike believes that the monetary system will collapse under the weight of too many claims on a limited pool of sound money; and that we will witness the birth of a new monetary regime within the next ten years. What makes this moment in history unique is that all past monetary regime collapses have happened regionally. This is the first time in human history in which all the world's major currencies are collapsing together. Which is why he is so passionate about owning gold and silver. In his opinion, we will soon witness the greatest transfer of wealth ever seen, as countries worldwide realize they need to revert to monetary systems backed by sound money (i.e., the precious metals). Those acquiring gold and silver beforehand will not only preserve their wealth as existing fiat currencies are extinguished, but will see staggering increases in their purchasing power.
Despite the mainstream analysts' calls for a "great rotation" by investors from bonds to stocks - the reality has been quite the opposite. While the 10-year treasury rate rose from the recessionary lows signaling some economic recovery in 2009; the decline in rates coincided with the evident peak in economic growth for the current cycle that begin in earnest in 2012 - "With rates plunging in recent weeks the indictment from the bond market concurs with the longer term data that the economy remains at risk." Despite the calls for the end of the "bond bubble" the current decline in interest rates are suggesting that the real risk is to the economy. The aggressive monetary intervention programs by the Federal Reserve, along with the ECB and BOJ, continue to support the financial markets but are gaining little traction within the real economy. Of course, this is likely why the current quantitative easing program is "open-ended" because the Fed has finally realized that there is no escape. The next economic crisis is coming - the only questions are "when" and "what causes it?" The problem is that next time - monetary policy might not save investors.
Though Australia’s national balance sheet is comparatively quite strong, the government has been running at a net deficit for years... and they’re under intense pressure to balance the budget. The good news is that Australia now has a goodly number of investor-friendly immigration programs designed to bring productive foreigners into the country, similar to the trend we’re seeing across Europe. On the flip side, though, the Australian government has just announced new rules which penalize citizens who have responsibly set aside savings for their own retirement. If the Australian government can unilaterally change the rules and start double-taxing retirement accounts, so can the US. And the trillions of dollars in retirement savings in the Land of the Free is far too irresistible for them to ignore.
Société Générale (“SocGen”) recently published a special report entitled “The end of the gold era” that garnered far more attention than we think it deserved. The majority of the report focused on SocGen’s “crash scenario” for gold wherein they suggest that gold could fall well below their 2013 target of US$1,375/oz. It also included a classic criticism that we’ve heard so many times before: that the gold price is in “bubble territory”. We have problems with both suggestions.