Keynesian stimulus policies (deficit spending and low-interest easy money) create speculative credit bubbles. The U.S. economy is a neofeudal debt-serf wasteland with few opportunities for organic (non-Central Planning) expansion. The velocity of money is in free-fall, and borrowing, squandering and printing trillions of dollars to prop up a diminishing-return Status Quo won't reverse that historic collapse. Put another way: we've run out of speculative credit bubbles to exploit.
Keynesian policy requires an expansionist Central State and Bank bent on imposing central planning on every level of the economy. Keynesians are natural partners with the neofeudal financial Aristocracy which benefits so enormously from Keynesian print-borrow-blow policies. The standard Keynesian cargo-cult analysis of our economic woes: 1. The problem is a lack of aggregate demand, i.e. people buying stuff and services; 2. As a result, the economy is running below capacity, i.e. economic output is below potential; 3. The solution is fiscal and monetary stimulus, i.e. the Central State borrowing and spending trillions on politically directed programs and the Federal Reserve printing and injecting trillions of "free money" dollars into the financial sector to boost borrowing and lending. The cargo-cult program has failed for a number of fundamental reasons. Let's illuminate these reasons with a few thought experiments.
Earlier today, in what can only be summarized as an epic meltdown, NJ governor Chris Christie proceeded with an even more epic rant against House speaker John Boehner, in narrow terms, and House Republicans in broader, for killing the $60 billion Sandy Assistance bill, whose funding would have offset one full year of the just legislated tax hikes on the rich which would add $62 billion annually to the Treasury (or alternatively would have been unfundable for the next 2 months while the US struggles to pay its mandatory bills courtesy of having breached the debt ceiling). Alternatively, all Americans could just agree to accept less welfare and entitlement benefits to show their solidarity for New Jersey and fund the recovery of the Tristate area by a "shared sacrifice" instead of going the default route and demanding even more deficit spending - something that would naturally saddle the next generation with even more pain, not the current, far more entitled one - but in this country that is an absolutely ludicrous proposition. Below is a clip of the entire Christie performance which is a must see for sheer indignation entertainment value alone.
The problem with democracy.
To understand this endgame, we need to start with the financial and political basics of wealth and power in the U.S. Put these nine structural dynamics together and the endgame becomes clearly visible: Politically, a Tyranny of the Majority comprised of those who draw direct transfers/benefits from the Federal government, is ruled by the top half-of-1% financial aristocracy who own the majority of income-generating assets. The minority, who pay most of the taxes (the 24.5% between the majority and aristocracy), will see their taxes rise as the aristocracy buys loopholes and exclusions while the bottom 50% pay no income tax. Financially, the Federal government’s spending has outrun the tax revenues being collected. Structurally, Federal expenditures for entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Veterans Administration, etc.) will rise as Baby Boomers retire en masse over the next 15 years, while tax revenues will stagnate along with earned income. There is no way to square these circles. What few dare admit, much less state publicly, is that the Constitutional limits on the financial Aristocracy and the Tyranny of the Majority have failed.
An abysmal indicator for Europe
Okay, the Fed's recent decision to boost its monetary stimulus (a.k.a. "money printing," "quantitative easing," or simply "QE") by another $45 billion a month to a combined $85 billion per month demonstrates an almost complete departure from what a normal person might consider sensible.
To borrow a phrase from Joel Salatin: Folks, this ain't normal. To this I will add ...and it will end badly.
- Our markets are now truly broken; they don't send accurate price signals anymore
- Markets are now just a giant and rigged casino, where a relative handful of big firms and other tightly coupled players are gaming their orders to take advantage of this flood of money
- Expect the Fed balance sheet to quickly expand by an additional $3-4 trillion, resulting in runaway inflation and a possible currency crisis
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.
Behold the fund-tastic four: Ireland, Greece, Spain and... the US? These are the four countries that in the past four years have accumulated the greatest deficit as a % of GDP (and yes, at just under 50%, the US is worse than Spain whose cumulative deficit has been over 40% of GDP), which in turn they have had to fund with what else: new debt.
Amidst all the "fiscal cliff" talk of raising tax rates, few dare to ask: have tax revenues topped out? How could tax revenues decline as rates go up? Easy: people modify their behavior in response to whatever incentives and disincentives are present. Make mortgage interest deductible and people will rack up huge mortgages. Reduce the yield on savings to near-zero (thank you, Federal Reserve) and people will save less. Raise tax rates and people will lower their income or move to low-tax locales. As the saying has it, "Money goes where it is treated well." Supporters of higher rates tout studies that find upper-income taxpayers shrug off higher rates, staying put in high-tax states: Do High Taxes Chase Out The Rich? and Superrich stay put in high-tax states like California. On the other side of the ledger is this study from Britain: Two-thirds of millionaires left Britain to avoid 50% tax rate. Which view is correct? Both, as a result of different dynamics. There are at least four separate dynamics in play.
The Great Depression brought about the Keynesian Revolution, complete with new analytical tools and economic programs that have been relied upon for decades. In dampening each successive downturn, authorities accumulated increasingly larger deficits and brought about a debt supercycle that lasted in excess of half a century. The efficacy of these tools and programs has slowly been eroded over the years as the accumulation of policy actions has reduced the flexibility to deal with crises as we reach budget constraints and stretch the Fed’s balance sheet beyond anything previously imagined. Some have referred to this as reaching the Keynesian endpoint. Keynes would barely recognize where we now find ourselves. In this ultra loose policy environment we are limited by our Keynesian toolkit. Without a new economic paradigm, the deleterious consequences of the current misguided policies are a foregone conclusion.
Salma Hayek is beautiful, rich and famous. Friedrich Hayek is a deceased Austrian economist. He wasn’t very good looking, certainly not wealthy but he did become famous – but only 20 years after his death and then only within the make believe world of nerdy economists. Fortunately for the World today, if we are lucky, Friedrich Hayek may become the most famous Hayek of them all. Until then, the World remains firmly trapped in an economic hell created by Friedrich’s (and therefore Salma’s) arch enemy – John Maynard Keynes. IceCap's Keith Dicker points out that, as most politicians and central bankers view the World in very short time frames, to truly understand the devastation wreaked by Keynesian economics, one has to take a step back and see how the financial destruction accumulated over time. It is true that these policies initially provided sugar highs for the economy – but the 3 step cycle of cutting interest rates, cutting taxes and borrowing money to create growth has finally reached its end point. If Mr. Keynes was alive today, we are confident he would be embarrassed that his lifelong work had been so severely distorted.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
Have you ever wondered what the typical Chinese gold investor thinks about our Western ideas of gold? We read month after month about demand hitting record after record in their country – how do they view our buying habits? Since 2007, China's demand for gold has risen 27% per year. Its share of global demand doubled in the same time frame, from 10% to 21%. And this occurred while prices were rising. Americans are buying precious metals, no doubt. But let's put the differences into perspective.
There are many questions on the minds of weary precious metals investors after enduring the volatile yet range-bound price action of gold and silver over the past year:
- Have the fundamentals for owning gold & silver changed over the past year? No
- What are they? currency devaluation/crisis, supply-chain risk, ore grade depletion
- How should retail investors own gold? Mostly physical metal, some quality mining majors (avoid the indices), and ETFs only for trading
- Is gold in a bubble? No
- Could gold get re-monetized? Quite possibly
- Where is gold flowing? From the West to the East. At some point, capital controls will be put in place
Jeff Clark and Chris Martenson believe everyone should have exposure to gold and silver as a defense for preserving the purchasing power of their weath. The key question is: how much exposure?