The similarities between 2007 and 2014 continue to pile up. And you know what they say - if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Just like seven years ago, the stock market has soared to all-time high after all-time high. Just like seven years ago, the authorities are telling us that there is nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, just like seven years ago, a housing bubble is imploding and another great economic crisis is rapidly approaching.
This 42 year economist from French academe has written a hot new book which, as one review puts it, "exposed capitalism’s fatal flaw." One can see why the White House likes Piketty. He supports their narrative that government is the cure for inequality when in reality government has been the principal cause of growing inequality. The White House and IMF also love Piketty’s proposal, not only for high income taxes, but also for substantial wealth taxes. The IMF in particular has been beating a drum for wealth taxes as a way to restore government finances around the world and also reduce economic inequality. Expect to hear more and more about wealth taxes. Expect to hear that they will be a “one time” event that won’t be repeated, but that will actually help economic growth by reducing economic inequality. If the Obama White House, the IMF, and people like Piketty would just let the economy alone, it could recover. As it is, they keep inventing new ways to destroy it.
So far we have experienced 7 million foreclosures. Beyond that there are still 9 million homeowners seriously underwater on their mortgages and there are millions more who are stranded in place because they don’t have enough positive equity to cover transactions costs and more stringent down payment requirements. And that’s before the next down-turn in housing prices - a development which will show-up any day. In short, the socio-economic mayhem implicit in the graph below is not the end of the line or a one-time nightmare that has subsided and is now working its way out of the system as the Kool-Aid drinkers would have you believe based on the “incoming data” conveyed in the chart. Instead, the serial bubble makers in the Eccles Building have already laid the ground-work for the next up-welling of busted mortgages, home foreclosures and the related wave of disposed families and social distress.
With all that has been written in respect to Thomas Piketty's new book "Capital", you would think someone would remark on the odd coincidence of timing of the rapid rise in inequality that the Professor is so upset about. It’s the issue of the hour. Yet when it comes to the timing at which this phenomenon presented itself, nada. Omerta from the liberal intelligentsia. What could have marked 1971 as the year the picture began to change in respect of inequality in America? It turns out that was the year America defaulted on its obligation under Bretton Woods to redeem in gold dollars held by foreign governments and the era of fiat money began.
The following is a new ad campaign in Britain. As we have warned numerous times - muddle-thruugh has failed; Martin Armstrong notes, the politicians have squandered everything and now they are hunting down capital everywhere and the view is people have to pay whatever they demand or you are just a criminal. Nobody even bothers to look at what they are doing to the world economy. These advertisements are appearing everywhere and they will only succeed in created the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents' homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Many more young adults live with their parents than those in their 50s and early 60s live with theirs. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 1.6 million Californians have taken up residence in their childhood bedrooms, according to the data. Though that's a 33% jump from 2006, the pace is half that of the 50 to 64 age group.
There’s been some buzz recently about a pick-up in business lending. Unlike some pundits, though, we’re not convinced that a surge in business credit is such a good thing. We don’t doubt that more lending to small businesses, in particular, might do some good if it doesn’t go too far. Lending to large corporations, on the other hand, is a different story. Corporations are already borrowing at a pace that’s only before been seen near cyclical peaks...
Ultimately, I think the problem for HFT liquidity providers is not that they are skinning investors, but that they are outsiders. They're doing what the keepers of the market infrastructure keys have always done - skin investors, retail and institutional alike, to the outer limits of what technology and the law allows. But while their outward behavior and appearance may be familiar, they are clearly an alien species on the inside, without so much as a microgram of Wall Street DNA. They are Rakshasa's. HFT liquidity providers are technology companies disguised as financial intermediaries. They hijacked the market infrastructure in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stealing it away from under the noses of the big financial firms who had come to see control over market structure as their birthright, and they had a good run. But now the big boys want their market infrastructure back, and they're going to get it.
Keep interest rates at zero, whilst printing trillions of dollars, pounds and yen out of thin air, and you can make investors do some pretty extraordinary things. "Central bankers control the price of money and therefore indirectly influence every market in the world. Given this immense power, the ideal central banker would be humble, cautious and deferential to market signals. Instead, modern central bankers are both bold and arrogant in their efforts to bend markets to their will. Top-down central planning, dictating resource allocation and industrial output based on supposedly superior knowledge of needs and wants, is an impulse that has infected political players throughout history." The result was always a conspicuous and dismal failure. Today’s central planners, especially the Federal Reserve, will encounter the same failure in time. The open issues are, when and at what cost to society?
Distilling an economy's success in delivering "prosperity" to a single number has outlived its purpose. Political authorities knew exactly what was happening: they realized that their own credibility could be boosted by a rigged GDP number. Thus we have the central government of China issuing blatantly bogus claims of 7+% annual GDP, as anything less will severely erode their claim of managerial brilliance. In our own propaganda-dependent state, GDP is almost always positive, much like corporate earnings always beat expectations by a penny. But we should be paying attention to an even deeper critique of GDP: that prosperity no longer depends of the "growth" of consumption, financialization, etc. but on the Degrowth of narcissistic consumerism and more efficient use of resources and capital.
The conventional view of deflation is that if it sets in, “the banking industry, the financial markets, and much of the rest of the economy will be wiped out in a bottomless deflationary spiral.” But, such a spiral would not prove fatal to the lives and welfare of the general population. Rather, it would destroy “essentially those companies and industries that live a parasitical existence at the expense of the rest of the economy, and which owe their existence to our present money system.” Let us be more explicit. Severe deflation threatens at an existential level bankrupt banks and the bankrupt governments that perpetuate their existence. Deflation is a mortal enemy to the heavily indebted state and its embedded parasites, but it is a friend to the saver and to anyone with a positive net worth.
A mix of military reluctance and willingness to use financial weapons was evident before the First World War, as it is now in Ukraine. Countries' efforts to protect their financial systems often centred on increased banking supervision and, in many cases, enlarging the central bank's authority to include the provision of emergency liquidity to domestic institutions. But this belief fuelled excessive confidence among those responsible for the reforms, preventing them from anticipating that military measures would soon be needed to protect the economy. Instead of being an alternative to war, the financial arms race made war more likely – as it may well be doing with Russia today.
Krugman: "There's zero evidence that the kind of extreme inequality that we have is good for economic growth. In fact, there's a lot of evidence that it is actually bad for economic growth. Nobody wants us to become Cuba." Ah yes, inequality, the same inequality that the Fed - Krugman's favorite monetary stimulus machine - has been creating at an unprecedented pace since it launched QE. Just recall: "The "Massive Gift" That Keeps On Giving: How QE Boosted Inequality To Levels Surpassing The Great Depression." So while Krugman is right in lamenting the record surge in class divide between the 1% haves and the 99% have nots, you certainly won't find him touching with a ten foot pole the root cause of America's current surge in inequality. And, tangentially, another thing you won't find him touching, is yesterday's revelation by Gawker that the Nobel laureate is the proud recipient of $25,000 per month from CUNY to... study inequality.
"Only through a historical perspective can we fully understand the profound developments of our time and glean, perhaps only dimly, where they are taking us. One thing is clear: they are taking us into a new era. The only question is how much disruption, chaos and bloodshed will attend the transition from the Old Order to whatever emerges to replace it."