“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
From Bernanke's infamous 2008 "not forecasting a recession" call to Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines 2004 "subprime assets are riskless" commentary, the following 10 "predictions" - as opposed to Wien "surprises" - will go down in infamy for their degree of errant-ness...
The spin does not get any better than this... As they reported they would,
- *LEW SAYS U.S. SOLD ALL REMAINING SHARES OF GENERAL MOTORS RECOUPING $39 BLN OF ORIGINAL GM INVESTMENT
That is a $10.5 Billion loss! But, The Center for Automotive Research, a Michigan nonprofit organization that analyzes auto industry issues, those funds “saved or avoided the loss of $105.3 billion in transfer payments and the loss of personal and social insurance tax collections -- or 768% of the net investment.” We can't wait to hear how much Bill Ackman made or saved on his Herbalife investment...
The United States’ reputation for sound economic policymaking took a beating in 2013. Some of this was warranted; some of it was not. And now a related distorted narrative – one that in 2014 could needlessly undermine policies that are key to improving America’s economic recovery – is gaining traction... to the danger of "government failure."
They say those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. We’ve seen that maxim made true time and again. The cycle swings fear back to greed. The overcautious become the overzealous. And at the top, the story is always the same: Too much credit, too much speculation, the suspension of disbelief, and the spread of the idea that this time is different. The weaknesses of the human heart and mind means the swings will always exist. Our rudimentary understanding of the forces of economics, which in turn, reflect ultimately reflect the fallacies of people making investing, purchasing, and saving decisions, means policymakers will never defeat the vagaries of the business cycle. So no, this time isn’t different. The specifics may have changed, but the themes remain the same.
End America’s central bank because it caused the crashes of 2008, 1987, and 1929 and will blunder again. That’s what many critics are saying about the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), which turns 100 on December 23. They note that on the Fed’s watch America has endured numerous bubbles, crashes, and inflationary cycles that have greatly devalued the dollar. The Fed, they say, has caused or aggravated several crashes. “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein. “History and current experience,” Joe Salerno adds, “reveal to us that groups endowed with a legal monopoly over any area of the economy are prone to use it to the hilt to enrich themselves, their friends and allies.”
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.