When Bad Government Policy Leads to Bad Results, the Government Manipulates the Data … Instead of Changing PolicySubmitted by George Washington on 07/30/2013 14:09 -0500
Problem ... What Problem?
The following story from Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil should be familiar to anyone who i) wanted to get rich quick; ii) wasn't too willing to read the small print, and iii) put their faith in a TBTF bank. Or simply watches South Park. Jon recounts the story of "Philip L. Ramatlhware, an immigrant from Botswana who went to a Citigroup branch in downtown Philadelphia one day five years ago to open a regular bank account. He was 48 years old at the time and disabled, after being hurt in an accident as a passenger on a Greyhound bus. In April 2008, he received $225,000 in a settlement for his injuries, part of which went to pay legal fees. He was holding the settlement check when he walked into the branch. Immediately he was referred to a broker for a “financial consultation,” according to an arbitration claim he filed against Citigroup. The broker assured him the money would be invested in “guaranteed” funds and that he could have access to them whenever the need arose, the complaint said. Ramatlhware gave him $150,000 to invest. The broker put $5,000 into a bank certificate of deposit, bought a $133,000 variable annuity and invested the rest in a series of mutual funds. Less than six months later, Ramatlhware had lost $40,000, according to the complaint."
Last week: “A culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world.” Now: a quixotic moment for those senators from both sides of the aisle
After every non-farm payroll report we provide our own breakdown of what the real unemployment rate is in a country in which the labor force participation rate has not been adjusted to normalize for the Second Great Depression. In the most recent such endeavor we found the "Real Unemployment Rate" to be 11.3%. Today, courtesy of the Post's John Crudele we find that our estimate was spot on not just from anyone, but the former head of the BLS himself: Keith Hall.
"Perhaps the success that central bankers had in preventing the collapse of the financial system after the crisis secured them the public's trust to go further into the deeper waters of quantitative easing. Could success at rescuing the banks have also mislead some central bankers into thinking they had the Midas touch? So a combination of public confidence, tinged with central-banker hubris could explain the foray into quantitative easing. Yet this too seems only a partial explanation. For few amongst the lay public were happy that the bankers were rescued, and many on Main Street did not understand why the financial system had to be saved when their own employers were laying off workers or closing down." - Raghuram Rajan
A quick look at job creation on a state by state basis shows some very distinct losers, and one very obvious winner: Texas.
In the years 2006 and 2007, the underlying stability of the global economy and the U.S. credit base in particular was experiencing intense scrutiny by alternative economic analysts. A crash was coming, it was coming soon, and most of our society was either too stupid to recognize the problem or too frightened to accept the reality they knew was just over the horizon. Why did 2008 creep up on so many people? Weren’t there plenty of economists out there “preaching to the choir” at that time? Weren’t there plenty of signals? Weren’t there plenty of practical conclusions being made about the future? And yet, the world was left stunned. The truth is, human beings have a nasty habit of ignoring the cold hard facts of the present in the hopes of using apathy as a magical elixir for future prosperity. They want to believe that disaster is a mindset, that it is a boogeyman under their bed that can be defeated through blind optimism. Collapse, from a historical perspective, seems to occur when the searchlights of the individual mind are dimmest, when the threat is the greatest, and when we are most comfortable in our ignorance.
We are confident the following amusing bill titled grandiosely enough "A 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act" (the Bill text here) by Elizabeth Warren, John McCain et al, to pretend Congress is not a bought and paid for by Wall Street marionette, will have a last minute rider that says "Compliance with any or all of the above provisions is purely voluntary."
Bernanke's comments give market cause to re-think its outlook for tapering and eventaul rate hike. Here's why and what it means.
We live in a money paradigm. All things are delivered for money (trade). All goods are compared to money (prices). Then we live and die by our trade and the money-signals that prices give us. Stop trade, wobble the prices around, and we starve by millions. We also swim in a consumer paradigm. We work to get people halfway around the world buy our stuff so that we can buy stuff back from them. Why? If you want an apple, which is easier: to work, trade that work for money through the online banking system, have money load that apple on a tractor in New Zealand, ship it to a warehouse, a cargo ship, a truck, a store, your car, then your mouth? Or is it easier just to go in the back yard and pick one? Worried about prices? All those middle men must be paid, from New Zealand to New Hampshire. Which do you think is cheaper? Which do you think is more reliable? Which do you think tastes better?
It can't happen... It can't happen...It can't happen... It just happened.
In principle, holding gold is a form of insurance against war, financial Armageddon, and wholesale currency debasement. And, from the onset of the global financial crisis, the price of gold has often been portrayed as a barometer of global economic insecurity. In fact, the case for or against gold has not changed all that much since 2010 - it makes perfect sense to hold a small percentage of your assets in gold as a hedge against extreme events. As Ken Rogoff explains, the recent collapse of gold prices has not really changed the case for investing in it one way or the other. Yes, prices could easily fall below $1,000; but, then again, they might rise; but he warns, policymakers should be cautious in interpreting the plunge in gold prices as a vote of confidence in their performance.
If there is one equivalent to Goldman's FX "strategist" Tom Stolper in the macroeconomic arena when it comes to perpetually inaccurate, flawed and flat out wrong predictions about the future, it is the IMF. Previously we compiled a brief history of their consistently overoptimistic, (downward) revisionistic forecasts based on their semi-annual reports which can only be summarized as "laughable." And, sure enough, we just learned that the IMF is about to trim its unrealistic optimism some more.
Benjamin Strong was near the end of a long stint as head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank (he passed away in October 1928), where he enjoyed the same immense power that Ben Bernanke has today. The economy had just begun to recover from a recession in December 1927, and there was much unemployment and spare capacity.... Agriculture was booming during and immediately after World War I, based on thriving exports to Europe. Overinvestment during the boom then gave way to stagnation in the 1920s. Europe was in a bad state in the late 1920s, just as it is now. What’s more, two of the world’s three largest economies are now in Asia, and these economies face similar challenges to those of 1920s Europe. While analogies are never perfect, the parallels with early 1928 are troubling. When the world slipped into depression in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was on the back of imbalances and debt overhangs that are oddly similar to those that we face today.
"In this respect the Gini coefficient had apparently reached in 2006 the previous high seen in 1929, prior to the Great Depression. This is a reminder that capitalism’s natural way of dealing with excesses is via business failure and liquidation; which is why wealth distribution would have become much less extreme as a consequence of the 2008 crisis if losses had been imposed on creditors to bust financial institutions, for example owners of bank bonds, in line with capitalist principles; as opposed to the favoured ‘bailout’ approach pursued for the most part by Washington. This means, unfortunately, not that the problem has been avoided but that the ‘great reckoning’ has been deferred to another day as the speculative classes have continued to game the system by resort to carry trades actively encouraged by the Fed and other central bankers, which is why fixed income markets freak out when they see signs of an exit."