The too big to fail banks have a larger share of the U.S. banking industry than they have ever had before. So if having banks that were too big to fail was a "problem" back in 2008, what is it today? The total number of banks in the United States has fallen to a brand new all-time record low and that means that the health of the too big to fail banks is now more critical to our economy than ever. In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States. Today, there are only 6,891 left, and that number continues to drop every single year. That means that more than 10,000 U.S. banks have gone out of existence since 1985. Meanwhile, the too big to fail banks just keep on getting even bigger.
- With website improved, Obama to pitch health plan (Reuters)
- Joe Biden condemns China over air defence zone (FT)
- Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low (WSJ)
- Black Friday Weekend Spending Drop Pressures U.S. Stores (BBG)
- Cyber Monday Sales Hit Record as Amazon to EBay Win Shoppers (BBG)
- Ukraine's Pivot to Moscow Leaves West Out in the Cold (WSJ)
- Investment banks set to cut pay again despite rise in profits (FT)
- Worst Raw-Material Slump Since ’08 Seen Deepening (BBG)
- Democrats Face Battles in South to Hold the Senate (WSJ)
- Hong Kong reports 1st case of H7N9 bird flu (AP)
- In Fracking, Sand Is the New Gold (WSJ)
After studying and teaching Keynesian economics for 30 years, it is clear that the “sophisticated” Keynesians really do believe in magic and fairy dust. Lots of fairy dust. Austrians such as Mises and Rothbard have well understood what Keynesians do not: the structures of production within an economy are heterogeneous and can be distorted by government intervention through inflation and massive borrowing. Far from being creatures that can “save” an economy, the Debt Fairy and the Inflation Fairy are the architects of economic disaster. Despite Keynesian protestations that the U.S. and European governments are engaged in “austerity,” the twin fairies are active on both continents. The fairy dust they are sprinkling on the economy, however, is more akin to sprinkling ricin on humans. In the end, the good fairies turn into witches.
Think of it this way: You’re a baseball player trying to break into the majors despite mediocre fielding skills, no foot speed, and a batting average that hovers around 250. Egged on by your friend, A-Rod, you think you can make it by using steroids and turning yourself into a power hitter. But it doesn’t work out as planned. After a year, you’re losing hair, your skull’s gotten bigger, there’s fatty tissue on your chest that wasn’t there before, and you’ve still only managed 18 home runs in a season. You finally accept that it’s not going to happen for you. In the baseball scenario, steroids didn’t show enough payoff before the side effects told you enough was enough. And you can say pretty much the same thing about our economic scenario and monetary steroids. We’re seeing dubious benefits and fast developing side effects from the Fed’s actions, causing many observers to recommend a rethink of the Big Experiment. Yet, the experiment continues...
You can’t overstate the baleful effects for Americans of living in the tortured landscapes and townscapes we created for ourselves in the past century. This fiasco of cartoon suburbia, overgrown metroplexes, trashed small cities and abandoned small towns, and the gruesome connective tissue of roadways, commercial smarm, and free parking is the toxic medium of everyday life in this country. Its corrosive omnipresence induces a general failure of conscious awareness that it works implacably at every moment to diminish our lives. It is both the expression of our collapsed values and a self-reinforcing malady collapsing our values further. The worse it gets, the worse we become. The citizens who do recognize their own discomfort in this geography of nowhere generally articulate it as a response to “ugliness.” This is only part of the story. The effects actually run much deeper.
A zombie government armed with accounting tricks has bailed out a zombie banking industry using even more financial phoniness. A few numbers pushed here and there, and the industry is earning record profits. But out in the real world where people live and work, things aren't so rosy. Zombies make negligent landlords and dangerous neighbors.
"Black Friday is America's most honest holiday. It is immediately preceded by Thanksgiving, which is when Americans of all races, except the native kind, get together and exchange a mutual wink and a nod that they're giving thanks for the majestic land that God inexplicably bestowed upon them and then have a turkey dinner. But Black Friday actually embodies the pioneer spirit that carried smallpox riddled settlers from one coast to the other. Like raiders in the night, shoppers drunk on red wine and diabetes crouch before the gates of the enemy's castle, or Best Buy, waiting to storm through the breach and rape and pillage and ask if this can be returned if it turns out your sister already has one..."
A decision by the FHFA requiring the GSEs to finally release detailed information on loans they acquired and guaranteed uncovers an ugly truth about the GSEs that many should be aware of (as we noted the exuberance here). The release was only required on 35 million fully-amortizing, full documentation, 30-year fixed rate mortgages, which means as JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest notes the underwriting histories on another 20-30 million loans (e.g., the riskier ones) remain a mystery (and likely will forever). As Cembalest concludes, some people made up their minds on all the factors causing the housing crisis in 2009, and others in 2011. As long as new information keeps coming out, it seems premature to close the book on it, he adds, first, the private sector descent into underwriting hell took place well after the multi-trillion dollar GSE balance sheets had gone there first; and second, there are many reasons to wonder how bad the former would have been had the latter not preceded it.
Economics is all about making rational decisions given some set of likes and dislikes. It doesn’t presume to tell you what you should like or dislike, and it assumes that you do in fact know what you like or dislike. Or at least that’s what economic theory used to proclaim. Today economic theory is used as the intellectual foundation for a political stratagem that goes something like this: you do not know what you truly like, and in particular you do not know your economic self-interest, but luckily for you we are here to fix that. This is the common strand between QE and Obamacare. The former says that you are wrong to prefer safety to risk in your investments, and so we will fix that misconception of yours by making it extremely painful for you not to take greater investment risks than you would otherwise prefer. The latter says that you are wrong to prefer no health insurance or a certain type of health insurance to another type of health insurance, and so we will make it illegal for you to do anything but purchase a policy that we are certain you would prefer if only you were thinking more clearly about all this.
Maybe 2015 will be the year of the collapse. Our entire economy runs on debt creations, vis-a-vis financialization, since we import $500 billion a year more than we export. 2015 is the year when increasing debt results in ZERO GDP growth. The end of the line. But that won’t stop the Federal Reserve and the criminals in Washington. Enjoy what time we have left before it all collapses. The Keynesians that are busy trying to turn the magic levers in our economy right now still aren’t getting the message, more than two years later: government spending can’t make the economy grow. Until they stop trying (and racking up immense, almost unfathomable amounts of debt), things are likely to continue to get worse.
On December 23, 2013, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) will celebrate its 100th birthday, so we thought it was time to take a look at the Fed’s real accomplishment, and the practices and policies it has employed during this time to rob the public of its wealth. The criticism is directed not only at the world’s most powerful central bank - the Fed - but also at the concept of central banks in general, because they are the antithesis of fiscal responsibility and financial constraint as represented by gold and a gold standard. The Fed was sold to the public in much the same way as the Patriot Act was sold after 9/11 - as a sacrifice of personal freedom for the promise of greater government protection. Instead of providing protection, the Fed has robbed the public through the hidden tax of inflation brought about by currency devaluation.
The woman who is set to become one of the most powerful people in the world begins her confirmation hearing today. And few people have ever even heard of her. A tiny elite orchestrates the whole system. And one of the most influential conductors is the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a post about to be taken over by Janet Yellen. Since most people have no idea how central banking really works, her confirmation hearing today is just a footnote. Even people who are otherwise financially sophisticated simply trust that the men behind the curtain know what they’re doing. This is quite strange when you consider that central bankers have nearly total control over the economy. Kyle Reese from the first Terminator movie sums this up rather succinctly...
Just as the market was expecting, and may have been leaked once again, Janet didn't let anyone down. Today's exuberance in stocks matched only by confirmation that Janet Yellen has gained her helicopter pilot's license and is ready to take over the reigns of printer-in-chief from Bernanke. Key extracts: "Unemployment is down from a peak of 10 percent, but at 7.3 percent in October, it is still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential... I believe the Federal Reserve has made significant progress toward its goals but has more work to do." In short: Get to work Mr. Chairwoman, and allow Congress to keep doing more of what they have been doing under the Fed's central planning: nothing.
Investors who believe that history has lessons to teach should take our present concerns with significant weight, but should also recognize that tendencies that repeatedly prove reliable over complete market cycles are sometimes defied over portions of those cycles. Meanwhile, investors who are convinced that this time is different can ignore what follows. The primary reason not to listen to a word of it is that similar concerns, particularly since late-2011, have been followed by yet further market gains. If one places full weight on this recent period, and no weight on history, it follows that stocks can only advance forever. What seems different this time, enough to revive the conclusion that “this time is different,” is faith in the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak...
History is full of people and institutions that rose to positions of supremacy only to come crashing down. In most cases, hubris – a sense of invincibility fed by uncontested power – was their undoing. In other cases, however, both the rise and the fall stemmed more from the unwarranted expectations of those around them. The more responsibilities central banks have acquired, the greater the expectations for what they can achieve, especially with regard to the much-sought-after trifecta of greater financial stability, faster economic growth, and more buoyant job creation. And governments that once resented central banks’ power are now happy to have them compensate for their own economic-governance shortfalls – so much so that some legislatures seem to feel empowered to lapse repeatedly into irresponsible behavior. The trouble is that few outsiders seem to be listening, much less preparing to confront the eventual limits of central-bank effectiveness. As a result, they risk aggravating the potential challenges.