Let’s be blunt here. The Fed has engaged in the single largest monetary experiment in history, betting the US economy and banking system on misguided theories that have little to no evidence of success.
Now that Q2 is not shaping up to be much better than Q1, other, mostly climatic, excuses have arisen: such as El Nino, the California drought, and even suggestions that, gasp, as a result of the Fed's endless meddling in the economy, the terminal growth rate of the world has been permanently lowered to 2% or lower. What is sadder for economists, even formerly respectable ones, is that overnight it was none other than Tyler Cowen who, writing in the New York Times, came up with yet another theory to explain the "continuing slowness of economic growth in high-income economies." In his own words: "An additional explanation of slow growth is now receiving attention, however. It is the persistence and expectation of peace." That's right - blame it on the lack of war!
If you had fallen asleep at your desk recently due to the absolute lack of anything noteworthy happening, this past week should have woken you up. A massive upset in the Virginia primary dethroned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor which sent moderate Republicans scurrying to shore up their voting bases. Al-Queda backed forces, ISIS, have advanced through Iraq and are not closing in on Baghdad which has sent oil prices rocketing higher this past week. Lastly, the mainstream media was completely baffled by the "sea of red" on their monitors which caused one anchor to quip: "Wow...stocks really can go down."
Have you heard the one about the “economic recovery” in the United States? It’s quite funny, but it is not actually true. Every day, the establishment media points to the fact that global stock markets have soared to unprecedented heights as evidence that the economy is improving. But just because a bunch of wealthy people have gotten temporarily even richer on paper does not mean that the real economy is in good shape. In fact, as you will see below, things just continue to get even tougher for the poor and the middle class.
For all those analysts who thought the debt binge of the previous decade marked end of the Age of Leverage, well, not so fast. It turns out that memories are short and government printing presses are powerful, and this combination has turned the “Great Deleveraging” into a minor speed bump on the road to something even more extreme. It was just six years ago that soaring consumer spending, massive trade deficits and generally excessive debt caused the biggest crisis since the Great Depression, and here we are back at it. The details are slightly different but the net effect is the same: inflated asset prices, growing instability and rising risk of a systemic failure capable of pulling down pretty much the whole show.
We have had The Great Depression, The Great Moderation, and The Great Recession... but now, thanks to central banks around the world, we have The Great Insanity. Nowhere is the disconnect between market rates and fundamental realities more evident than in European peripheral bond yields. While it is easy to look at the last decade and wonder how it is possible that such heavily indebted (and increasingly indebted) nations could have seen bond yields collapse... but as Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid explains, a glance at France, Italy, and Spain bond yields over the last 200 years shows that this really is a unique time in history (and not in a good way).
Economic science has long shown that labor is not magically exempted from the laws of supply and demand. Therefore, minimum wage laws hurt rather than help workers, especially those with few skills or those just starting out, who are on the lowest rungs of the ladder. If one wants to raise youth unemployment and price unskilled workers out of the market, there is no surer way than introducing a minimum wage – especially one that is far higher than what the market can bear. Seattle is one of the few municipalities in the US boasting of an openly socialist council member, Ksahma Sawant. One of her central demands was the introduction of a $15/hr minimum wage in Seattle. The city council has now bowed to this demand, a decision that is likely to prove extremely destructive, especially to small businesses. Seattle seems eager to become the next Detroit.
Paul Volcker Proposes A New Bretton Woods System To Prevent "Frequent, Destructive" Financial CrisesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/01/2014 19:32 -0400
We found it surprising that it was none other than Paul Volcker himself who, on May 21 at the annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Committee, said that "by now I think we can agree that the absence of an official, rules-based cooperatively managed, monetary system has not been a great success. In fact, international financial crises seem at least as frequent and more destructive in impeding economic stability and growth." We can, indeed, agree. However, we certainly disagree with Volcker's proposal for a solution to this far more brittle monetary system: a new Bretton Woods.
Has the next major economic downturn already started? The way that you would answer that question would probably depend on where you live. If you live in New York City, or the suburbs of Washington D.C., or you work for one of the big tech firms in the San Francisco area, you would probably respond to such a question by saying of course not. In those areas, the economy is doing great and prices for high end homes are still booming. But in most of the rest of the nation, evidence continues to mount that the next recession has already begun for the poor and the middle class.
When American explorers first traveled through north Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, they referred to it as "the Great American Desert" and they doubted that anyone would ever be able to farm it. But as history has shown, when that area gets plenty of precipitation the farming is actually quite good. Unfortunately, the region is now in the midst of a devastating multi-year drought which never seems to end. Right now, 56 percent of Texas, 64 percent of Oklahoma and 80 percent of Kansas are experiencing "severe drought", and the long range forecast for this upcoming summer is not good. In fact, some areas in the region are already drier than they were during the worst times of the 1930s.
Hurricane season is nearly upon us, and every time a hurricane strikes, television and radio commentators and would-be economists are quick to proclaim the growth-boosting consequences of the vicissitudes of nature. Of course, if this were true, why wait for the next calamity? Let’s create one by bulldozing New York City and marvel at the growth-boosting activity engendered. Destroying homes, buildings, and capital equipment will undoubtedly help parts of the construction industry and possibly regional economies, but it is a mistake to conclude it will boost overall growth.
When investors hear "bull markets are bull markets until they aren't," their initial response is "no, duh!." However, if that statement is so obvious, why do we spend so much time in trying to predict the future? It is interesting that we are extremely skeptical of fortune tellers, palm readers and psychics but flock to Wall Street analysts and economists that are nothing more than "fortune tellers" in suits. The reality is that no one is actually prescient. It is all a "best guess" with nothing assured except what "is." Currently, the bull market cycle that began in 2009 remains intact. It is, what "is." The hypnotic chant of the "bullish mantra" will lull individuals from a momentary state of consciousness back into the dream world of complacency. It is from that place that investors have typically harbored the worst outcomes.
Banking didn’t start out as a reckless, parasitical plaything of a moneyed and politically-connected aristocracy.
During the bubblicious years from 2000 through 2014, while Wall Street used control fraud and virtually free money provided by the Fed to siphon off hundreds of billions of ill-gotten profits from the economy, the average middle class family saw their income drop and their debt load soar. This is crony capitalism success at its finest. The oligarchs count on the fact math challenged, iGadget distracted, Facebook focused, public school educated morons will never understand the impact of inflation on their daily lives. The pliant co-conspirators in the dying legacy media regurgitate nominal government reported income figures which show median household income growing by 30% over the last fourteen years. In reality, the real median household income has FALLEN by 7% since 2000 and 7.5% since its 2008 peak. Again, using a true inflation figure would yield declines exceeding 15%.
Four years and three prime ministers after Greece’s then premier, George Papandreou, requested an international bailout that slammed his nation with painful austerity (but saved the EU banks), Bloomberg notes that political instability still haunts Greece. Despite issuing bonds and GDP coming in slightly better than expected (still in recession/depression), former Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Pasok admits "The euro crisis seems to be over but its causes have not withered away," and if election polls are anything to go by, the fragile fraud that is a Greek recovery is set for problems Samaras' governing coalition as Syriza (the opposition that rejected the bailout terms) support soars and Pasok plunged to sixth place with just 5.5% support. In addition, retroactive taxes on gains are weighing on European bond markets (and Greek stocks).