If we look at the foundations of retirement--Social Security, stocks, bonds and real estate--it seems we may have reached Peak Retirement.
There is no way an economy that grows by 75% every 25 years can fund entitlement programs expanding by 500% or more over the same time period. If we are not yet at Peak Entitlements, we are getting close. Short of the Federal Reserve printing $1 trillion a year and distributing it to entitlement beneficiaries directly (with all the unintended consequences of such blatant money-printing), there is no way an economy with stagnant employment and modest productivity growth (roughly 60% in 25 years) can fund entitlement programs expanding by 500% or more over the same time period.
The popular take on the current debt ceiling stand-off is that the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party has a delusional belief that it can hit the brakes on new debt creation without bringing on an economic catastrophe. While Republicans are indeed kidding themselves if they believe that their actions will not unleash deep economic turmoil, there are much deeper and more significant delusions on the other side of the aisle. Democrats, and the President in particular, believe that continually taking on more debt to pay existing debt is a more responsible course of action. Even worse, they appear to believe that debt accumulation is the equivalent of economic growth.
Contrary to the all "rose-colored glasses" reports by the Fed released in the past year, which constantly talked up the "economic recovery" only to punk everyone - economists and market participants alike - when it stunned markets with its no taper announcement in September, over fears what this would do to the economy, the Federal Advisory Council's view on things is decidedly less "rosy."
We strongly suspect that both government debt growth and money supply inflation will continue unabated – any pause will immediately bring about the kind of short term economic pain these policies have explicitly sought to prevent and will therefore be quickly reversed. It is not unlike the situation the revolutionary assembly of France found itself in during the late 18th century: when it issued new money, industry seemed to revive. As soon as it stopped, industry slumped again. And so it was decided to issue ever more money, until the entire scheme blew up. There can be little doubt that modern-day governments are on the road to a similar date with destiny – and lately the speed at which they travel toward it has increased markedly.
In and of itself, the government shutdown appears to be a limited market event. The indirect effect, however, is on the other main risk scenario for markets – the deal on the debt ceiling (which will need to be in place before October 17). An increase in the probability of breaching the debt ceiling would likely be destabilizing for the market. For one, the effect on growth will be far larger – our economists estimate that it would imply an immediate cut in spending equal to 4.2% of GDP (4Q average of the fiscal deficit). Second, it would raise the risk of a US sovereign default because the Treasury does not believe it has the authority to prioritize interest payments above other obligations. As such, with markets firmly focused on US fiscal matters - so where to from here?
There is a considerable amount of debate in alternative economic circles as to whether a federal government shutdown would be a “good thing” or a “bad thing”. Sadly, a government shutdown is sizable threat to the American financial system, and few people seem to get it. Perhaps because the expectation is that any shutdown would only be a short term concern. And, this assumption might be correct. But, if a shutdown takes place, and, if “gridlock” continues for an extended period of time, We have little doubt that the U.S economy will experience renewed crisis. Here's why...
With enough real and electronic ink spilled over the past two weeks to describe every nuance of the Lehman crisis (as if anyone can ever forget those vivid days) that nearly 3 months worth of Treasury issuance could be monetized, we decided to go further back, some 140 years back in fact, to this day in 1873 which just happens to be day the first Great market Panic gripped the US, and resulted in the first ever shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange. Granted, these days the NYSE or N-ICE as it is currently known, and the NASDARK shut down on a daily basis courtesy of a billion collocated vacuum tubes and the rigged casino formerly known as the stock market, on a virtually daily basis. But back then, when the general population was still largely clueless just how broken and corrupt the ideal of market efficiency would become when commingled with political and corporate interests, it was quite a shock.
For the right answer, we look to the past....
There is also consensus among the people inhabiting the real world -the one that is found outside the ivory towers of the economics departments of all US and global Tier 1, 2 and 3 universities - that the only reason the world is currently in its sad, deplorable and deteriorating economic state (which however keeps making the rich richer), is precisely due to these same economists, whose tinkering and experimentation with DSGE models, differential equations, curved lines, and all such things all of which have no real world equivalent, and specifically due to economists like Greenspan and Bernanke. These two men, both of whom barely have seen the real world for what it is or held a real job outside of their academic outposts, who surround themselves with brownnosing sycophants and who do the bidding of Wall Street, are the primary reason for the current centrally-planned quagmire. Which is why we wonder: is the fact that some 313 economists (and counting) have signed a petition pushing for Janet Yellen (aka Freudian slip "he" if you are the president), and against Larry Summers, sufficient grounds to actually like the outspoken former Harvard head?
As Western economies start to regress in earnest following decades of failed and destructive monetary inflation and debt accumulation, yield-starved investors are allocating real capital to the one industrially untapped continent in the world: Africa. However, we’re not seeing industry moving to Africa to set up shop. Rather, politically-directed capital flowing into the African resources sector is fueling and financing the strongest consumer boom in the world. It’s a vendor financing model for Asia, and it portends a major boom and bust cycle for the African continental economy.
BREAKING. @CBSNews has learned that the Pentagon is making the initial preparations for a Cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces
— Charlie Kaye (@CharlieKayeCBS) August 23, 2013
What are the consequences of a central bank creating trillions of dollars for speculation and a central state borrowing trillions of dollars on a permanent basis? As noted before, risk cannot be extinguished, it can only be offloaded onto someone else or masked for a short time. The consequences of this sleight-of-hand (the Fed creates money to buy Federal bonds so the government can borrow and blow trillions of dollars) are not yet visible, but there will be consequences at some point; the risks have only been temporarily cloaked.Borrowing and printing $10 trillion hasn't fixed anything; it has only raised the reservoir of risk to the top of the dam. Cracks are opening as the pressure builds, and we should not be surprised when risk and consequence reconnect and the dam gives way.
Those damn Egyptians are so inconsiderate: first they non-coup just when John Kerry is busy honing his sailing skills. Now, the non-coupy country breaks out in civil war just as Obama is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Well, Egypt may be important enough to serve as a middleman when the US pays Lockheed Martin using Egypt as a dumb intermediary, but is obviously not important enough for Obama to cancel his vacation. Moments ago in an audio-only presentation (couldn't russle enough Martha's Vineyardians for the podium behind him? Were his sleeves rolled up? Was he reading from paper or a teleprompter? The people demand to know), Obama joined Kerry in "strongly condemning" the violence that according to some has already spilled over into all out civil war.
“For my own part I did not see and did not appreciate what the risks were with securitization, the credit ratings agencies, the shadow banking system, the S.I.V.’s — I didn’t see any of that coming until it happened.” - Janet Yellen, 2010