Department of the Treasury
"A money-financed tax cut is essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter drop" of money."
"Beyond Silk Road: Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies" is the title of today's Senate hearing (from Homeland Security) on th eperils of Bitcoin. We are sure the exaggeration and exasperation will run high as Government offers up its Financial Crimes (and missing and exploited children) directors, and the de-centralized unregulated crypto-currency faces them down...
Everyone knows that one of the immediate catalysts of the near systemic collapse in the aftermath of the Lehman bankruptcy, one which set in motion the sequence of events that led to Bernanke increasing the Fed's balance sheet fourfold, was when the Reserve Primary Money Market Fund announced on September 16 that the value of its shares had dropped to 97, sparking an epic run on money market funds, and requiring an immediate bailout first from its sponsor, and then the Federal Reserve and US government. What is far less known is that the Reserve Primary Fund was just one of many money market funds that got locked out and was in danger of collapse following the decision to let Dick Fuld hang. How many? According to a research note released by the NY Fed itself, at least 28 more!
Here's a new and very bizarre entry for the annals of "the dog ate it" excuses. According to Reuters, Montana man Wayne Klinkel, who last year pieced together the remnants of five $100 bills eaten by his one-eyed golden retriever, Sundance, is sporting a $500 check he says he received this week from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to replace the digested funds. Sundance sniffed the wad of bills out of a car cubby space while waiting for Klinkel and his wife to return from lunch, and the canine made the currency his lunch.
Outside the fetid terrarium where US economists live, like skinks kept as pets by bankers, other forces are in motion. For instance, there’s the non-theoretical, non-financial economy, which is now apparently based on the trade in tattoos, and the journey by automobile from the nearly foreclosed home to the tattoo studio, and to the hamburgers, pizzas, and fried chicken thighs consumed on each end of the journey. It seems, based on the latest odds, that Larry Summers will be entering the scene the way Vincent Price used to enter a Hammer Studio horror film - reliably delivering some deadly unpleasantness. We don’t think a more perfect figure might be found for piloting the garbage barge of American finance over a Niagara Falls of consequence.
If there was any doubt that the Fed would proceed with tapering its monthly deficit monetization (i.e., $85 billion in POMO/S&P500 flow injection) over the next few months, those were just laid to rest courtesy of the Treasury's quarterly refunding statement which was filed moments ago, and specifically its Marketable Borrowing Estimates.
Or why we must delay it, to find what's in it...
Not so long ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it expected the U.S. government to register a budget deficit in the current fiscal year of $642 billion. But hold on a minute... The budget deficit so far (as of May 31, 2013) has already hit $626.3 billion, and we still have four more months to go in the government’s current fiscal year! The U.S. has been the family that spends more than it earns for many years now. In the short term, spending more than one takes in can work (especially if the Fed just prints new money and gives it to the government to pay its bills). But in the long term, if fundamental changes are not made to the government’s spending habits, financial chaos just starts all over again. Posting a budget deficit year after year is not sustainable. The debt-infested eurozone nations did very much the same; they borrowed to spend. Look where they are now.
Yesterday we opined on the deteriorating situation surrounding the much anticipated government scramble to collect perfectly legal offshored capital, initially focusing on Apple (which having now entered the focus of the US government will be nothing but an "negative externality" free utility going forward or as long as Uncle Sam wishes it to be) but soon to turn to virtually every other multinational corporation with a hugh cash hoard and a low effective US tax rate. Today, it is Tim Cook's turn to explain why the firm is merely following clearly laid out rules and tax regulations as encoded by none other than the same people who are bringing you today's particular episode of "distract them with witchhunts."
He's back to reprise his role as stoic 'I know nuffin' scapegoat. Former IRS boss Steve Miller faces a second round of truth-seeking, grand-standing, and extended questioning at today's Senate hearing on the IRS debacle. Scheduled to start at 10ET, Miller will be joined by Russell George (the IRS IG - full report here) and former IRS commissioner Doug Shulman. Grab the popcorn...
The pattern is obvious. The dollar is going up. The question is why. In one word, the answer is arbitrage.
In the marked absence of JPM CEO Jamie Dimon who will sadly not be present to explain to Senate why he is richer than (most) of the people present while wearing his signature presidential cufflinks, Carl "Shitty Deal" Levin will be the main highlight in today's Senate hearing "JPMorgan Chase Whale Trades: A Case History of Derivatives Risks and Abuses" which as reported previously found that JPM "lied" and "deceived" regulators. As the Seante's report concludes, "The bank’s initial claims that its risk managers and regulators were fully informed and engaged, and that the SCP was invested in long-term, risk-reducing hedges allowed by the Volcker Rule, were fictions irreconcilable with the bank’s obligation to provide material information to its investors in an accurate manner." Today, those fictions will attempt to be reconciled, primarily with the help of the "voluntarily retired" former CIO Ina Drew, as well as JPM's vice Chairman Doug Braunstein and IB Co-CEO Michael Cavanagh. Will anything change as a result of today's hearing? Will JPM be broken down? Will the DOJ begin an inquiry into JPM? Of course not. But it makes for a good 3 hours of theater.
I think that FERS and MRS are adding to the Debt Owed to the Public in a significant way.
The purpose of asset purchases by the Fed might no longer be improvements in the real economy, but rather a more subtle financing of U.S. government deficits. However, in the long run, expanding the money supply inevitably leads to inflationary pressures. Luckily for the Fed and the U.S. government, there is so much slack in the labour market that inflation might be years away. And, if we are right about the long run unemployment rate being structurally higher, then the Fed has all the room it needs to continue Quantitative Easing (QE) to infinity. This might allow them to continue to hide the true financial position of the government for many years to come. Nonetheless, the rising GAAP deficit and the sheer size of the U.S. Federal Government’s liabilities to its citizens makes it clear that one day or another, services (health care, social security) will have to be cut. Financial alchemy can hide reality, but it does not provide any tangible services. Europe’s (unresolved) experience with its debt crisis provides an insightful window into the future. Austerity measures in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece have caused tremendous pain to their citizens (25% unemployment rates) and wreaked havoc in their economies (double digit retail sales declines). Are we going to ignore the obvious?
A few days after divesting its stake in the firm that started it all, AIG, and at a profit at that (ignoring that the risk has merely been onboarded by the Fed whose DV01 is now $2+ billion as a result), the US Treasury continues to divest of all its bailout stake, this time proceeding to GM, where the channel stuffing firm just announced it would buyback 200MM shares from the US government at a price of $27.50. More importantly, the "Treasury said it intends to sell its other remaining 300.1 million shares through various means in an orderly fashion within the next 12-15 months, subject to market conditions. Treasury intends to begin its disposition of those 300.1 million common shares as soon as January 2013 pursuant to a pre-arranged written trading plan. The manner, amount, and timing of the sales under the plan are dependent upon a number of factors." Assuming a price in the $27.50 range, this implies a nearly 50% loss on the government's breakeven price of $54. So much for the "profit" spin. One hopes all those Union votes were well worth the now booked $40+ billion cost to all taxpayers.