In the final section of this five-part series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4) on the dismal reality behind the non-recovery, David Stockman explains what lies ahead. He details in his new book 'The Great Deformation', that the mainstream notion that there is a choice between fiscal austerity and fiscal stimulus is wishful thinking. It does not recognize that owing to the triumph of crony capitalism and printing-press money America has become a failed state fiscally. What lies ahead is a continuous, mad-cap cycling back and forth - virtually on an odd-even day basis - between deficit cutting and fiscal stimulus to the GDP. As Stockman notes, the proximate cause of this recession waiting to happen is the federal government’s unfolding encounter with Peak Debt. The latter is not a magical statistical point such as a federal debt ratio of 100 percent of GDP, but a condition of permanent crisis - "no viable economy can survive on chronic fiscal deficits nor can it fail to save at a sufficient rate to fund a healthy level of investment in productive capital assets. The blithe assumption to the contrary which animates current policy rests on self-serving clichés such as “deficits don’t matter” and the Chinese savings glut." So the American economy faces a long twilight of no growth, rising taxes, and brutally intensifying fiscal conflict. These are the wages of five decades of Keynesian sin - the price of abandoning financial discipline.
With the meaningless focus on such distracting noise as daily POMOs, will/won't the Fed taper, how many shorts will the Fed's Markets desk squeeze today, and how massive will the second Fed housing bubble be, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture, namely just where is the debt juggernaut that is the US, heading? Conveniently, the US debt clock has a "time machine" function that extrapolates, at current rates of change, what the key metrics behind the US economic facade will look like.
There is no way the pensions and benefits promised in an era of financialized abundance can be paid once the wheels of financialization fall off. During the past 30 years of financialized abundance, the benefits and pensions promised to public employees were increased substantially. Public unions are a powerful political force in many states, and in eras of rising tax revenues, it's an easy political decision to increase public employee benefits and pension payouts. The rising stock and bond markets generated huge profits for the public-employee pension funds, enabling them to grow without taxpayer contributions. Alas, the 8+% annual growth rate of the boom era is now structurally unrealistic. The New Normal is bond yields of 2% or 3% at best, and equities markets that are increasingly at risk of significant sell-offs. The endgame of promises made in an era of illusory, financialized abundance will be hurried along by a collapse in the equities and bond markets.
There's never enough information to be absolutely safe. I know you're going to help us protect America, because I already know you so well. Thank you for your cooperation.
In the 15th century, the highest standard of living in the world belonged to China. Places like Nanjing had reached the pinnacle of civilization with incredibly modern infrastructure, robust economies, substantial international trade, great healthcare, and a rising middle class. If you had told a Chinese merchant at the time that, over the course of the next several hundred years, global primacy would shift to Europe (and a relatively unknown American continent), you would have been laughed at. It was simply unthinkable given how advanced China was over the west. And yet, it happened. Ironically, the tables are turning yet again; in total objectivity, the patient is beyond cure at this point… and the math is quite simple. Nations typically enter this vicious cycle once they start having to borrow money just to pay interest on what they already owe. The US is already way past this point.
Confused why AAPL is opting for the dividend recap route (as we predicted it would in January )? Simple: as the first chart below reminds us, as of December 31, nearly 70% of the company's total cash, which has grown to a record $145 billion in the current quarter, was held offshore. This means that if AAPL wanted to repatriate this $100 billion or so in cash, it would have to pay Federal tax on it, amounting to dozens of billions in remittances to Uncle Sam as this is cash which AAPL does not have full access to for US based operations. Hence: it has opted to raise cash by issuing debt instead of repatriating its cash.
- Turn to Religion Split Bomb Suspects' Home (WSJ)
- The propaganda is back for the 4th year in a row: Spring Swoon Sequel No Reason for Economic Growth Scare in U.S. (BBG)
- Bernanke Jackson Hole Absence Contrasts With Greenspan Adulation (BBG)
- Large economies promise to boost growth (FT)
- Tata Faces Crisis as $20 Billion Spent on Water (BBG)
- U.S. Eyes Pushback On China Hacking (WSJ)
- Fed's Bernanke sees no U.S. inflation risks: Nowotny (Reuters)
- Austerity on Trial With U.S. Versus Europe Amid New Evidence (BBG)
- Eurozone anti-austerity camp on the rise (FT)
- Spain Aims to Soften Budget Cuts (WSJ)
- Japan's Aso Calls Recovery 'Few Years' Away (WSJ)
- BOJ Said to Consider Price Forecast Upgrade (WSJ)
Did you know that the greatest period of economic growth in American history was during a time when there was absolutely no federal income tax? Between the end of the Civil War and 1913, there was an explosion of economic activity in the United States unlike anything ever seen before or since. Unfortunately, a federal income tax was instituted in 1913, and this year it turned 100 years old. But there was no fanfare, was there? There was no celebration because the federal income tax is universally hated. This year, the American people will shell out approximately $4.22 trillion in state and federal income taxes. That amount is equivalent to approximately 29.4 percent of all income that Americans will bring in this year, and that does not even take into account the dozens of other taxes that Americans pay each year. At this point, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long, and those that are honest and pay their taxes every year are being absolutely shredded by this system.
One element of the President's budget is a sham.
The money printing of the Federal Reserve with no anchor to gold has allowed the welfare state to grow to immense proportions. It has allowed politicians to buy votes by spending taxpayer dollars on multi-million dollar Keynesian zero return albatrosses. It has allowed politicians to enslave black people on a welfare plantation of entitlements. Bernanke and his cronies reward mal-investment through their policies. They reward bad behavior (borrowing & spending), while punishing good behavior (saving and investing). West Philly is a testament to failed economic policies, government waste, lack of personal responsibility, corrupt politicians, excessive union costs, and the delusional belief that government can create economic growth. The 30 Blocks of Squalor is descending further into squalor and it will accelerate as Bernanke’s policies further destroy what remains of capitalism in this country.
Hauser's law contends that Federal tax revenues rarely rise above 20% of GDP, regardless of where nominal tax rates are set. The implicit dynamic here is that when taxes exceed 20% of GDP, participants modify their behavior to lower their taxes. Corporations will shift operations overseas. Some high-wage earners will simply work less, reducing their income to lower tax brackets. Small business owners will decrease their compensation, cut back their workload, or simply bail out. Others will leave the high-tax market and slip into the cash/informal economy where the tax rate is zero. In a $15 trillion economy, this suggests the maximum Federal tax revenue that can realistically be collected is around $3 trillion. Currently, Federal tax revenues are around $2.5 trillion, and Federal spending is about $3.8 trillion. That leaves a $1.3 trillion deficit that is filled with borrowed money. Tradeoffs will have to be made. That is the essence of adulthood. Too bad we've become a nation of spoiled adolescents.
To the Execs at Walmart, and all of those other retailers that are feeling the SS pinch, I say "Welcome to the club".
Timing is a bit inconvenient, however.
The European Commission formally endorsed the financial transaction tax agreed to by eleven of the 27 members. The tax will be set at 0.1% for stocks and bonds and 0.01% for derivatives. The tax will go into effect at the start of 2014, by which time the participating countries will give it formal approval.
There seems to be two purposes of the tax. The first is to raise revenue. The EC projects the tax will raise 30-35 bln euros annually where ever and whenever an instrument from eleven is traded. This would seem to block the ability to avoid the tax by moving transactions out of the eleven countries. It reinforces the "residence principle". This essentially means that if some one is a resident of the eleven countries, or acting on behalf of a resident, the transaction will be taxed anywhere it takes place. The other purpose is to deter the high frequency trading, which some officials see as largely unnecessary and potentially destabilizing.
Everyone knows that for the better part of the past year Apple was the world's biggest company by market cap. Most also know that AAPL aggressively uses all legal tax loopholes to pay as little State and Federal tax as possible, despite being one of the world's most profitable companies. Many know, courtesy of our exclusive from September, that Apple also is the holding company for Braeburn Capital: a firm which with a few exceptions, also happens to be among the world's largest hedge funds, whose function is to manage Apple's massive cash hoard with virtually zero reporting requirements, and whose obligation is to make sure that AAPL's cash gets laundered legally and efficiently in a way that complies with prerogative #1: avoid paying taxes. What few if any know, is that as part of its cash management obligations, Braeburn, and AAPL by extension, has conducted a mindboggling $600 billion worth of gross notional trades in just the past four years, consisting of buying and selling assorted unknown securities, or some $250 billion in 2012 alone: a grand total which represents some $1 billion per working day on average, and which puts the net turnover of some 99% of all hedge funds to shame! Finally, what nobody knows, except for the recipients of course, is just how much in trade commissions AAPL has paid on these hundreds of billions in trades to the brokering banks, many (or maybe all) of which may have found this commission revenue facilitating AAPL having a "Buy" recommendation: a rating shared by 52, or 83% of the raters, despite the company's wiping out of one year in capital gains in a few short months.