No matter how hard the Washington crowd tries to sell an economic recovery, inconvenient and contrary facts keep rearing up to shatter their mythmaking. Few people any longer believe the claims of declining unemployment or low inflation at least based on purchases they make. The fable of a housing recovery is now crumbling. The recession, declared over in June 2009, never ended. Some wonder how bad the recession/depression might have been had government not acted. Others worry that we will find out when the Fed tapers. For lack of a better term, the process the entire country is headed for is “Detroitification.” At this stage, the damage is done and cannot be undone quickly enough to avoid this crisis. Even if there were time, there is no way that politicians would willingly address the problem.
After 2000 years, why do we not know which economic theory is correct: Keynesian, Marxism, or Hayek-Friedman? Surely, there is a demonstrably, statistically correct answer. It appears not. Then why do we have cargo-cult faiths (Keynesianism) instead of demonstrably correct models of economic behavior.
While we know that the Fed will be forced to taper in the short-term as it desperately avoids the 'appearance' of outright monetization that a falling deficit will create, Marc Faber sums up the endgame perfectly in this clip: "I don’t think they will come to their senses for the simple reason that insane people don't realize that they are insane." Faber adds, "they think they’re doing a great job," and in fact they believe - in general - that "if anything, we need to do more, not less." The 'forced-taper-to-plunge-to-untaper' progression means it's going to get worse; as Faber notes, QE/printing will continued indefinitely "until the system breaks down." Having printed this much money with such dismal results, Faber concludes, "the Fed is completely clueless."
It wouldn't be the new normal if the collapse in Q2 US GDP to sub-1% wasn't met by a new record high in the Dow Jones. And it certainly wouldn't be the new abnormal if a day of resplendent green in European bourses didn't have some "matching" economic news out of that perpetual reminder that Keynesianism in the end always fails: Greece. Luckily, validating that all is unwell and stocks can proceed to soar to record highs unbothered, on one hand the Greek Statistics Office reported that Greek unemployment in April just rose to a new all time high of 26.9%, up from 26.8% in March, and up from 23.1% a year ago, while Kathimerini reports that Non-performing loans: those perpetual thorns of insolvency in bank balance sheets, just surged to €66 billion, amounting to a whopping 29% at the end of March from a "manageable" 24.2% at end-December. That's a ridiculous 20% increase in total NPLs in three months that was only exposed due to the Troika's stress testing! Just how atrocious is the reality on European bank books anyway?
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
Since Mr. Krugman tells us all this spending and debt issuance/guarantees are not only good and necessary but in the long run, painless, why are we bothering with personal income taxes?
The US government will collect approximately $2.0bn this year in Personal Income and Payroll taxes. But why? Why are we even bothering with this when today’s leading economists and politicians are telling us that debts/deficits don’t matter and running up astronomical debts is a long-term painless process? It’s practically patriotic. So why shouldn’t we just add our tax burden to the list of items the Fed should be monetizing? Seriously. Why not relieve the burden on every tax paying citizen in the United States (about 53% of us according to Mitt Romney)? You want an economic recovery? Reduce my taxes to zero and see how fast I go out and start spending some of that extra income.
Even if the monetary fuel for this whirl of self-reinforcement is not lacking, the market still needs a narrative around which it can cluster psychologically. It needs a canon of shared myth about which the bard can weave a reassuringly familiar refrain so as to reinforce the sense of community when the members of the clan gather to listen to his warblings amid the flickering fires and guttering torchlight of the Great Hall at night. Despite the bubbles everywhere, hastily shrugged off by the Chairman-in-chief we must add, we are still all suckers for a good saga. As far as we can see, the current narrative contains several key themes... What could possibly go wrong?
The anti-consumerism Degrowth movement is gaining visibility and adherents in Europe. Degrowth (French: décroissance, Spanish: decrecimiento, Italian: decrescita) recognizes that the mindless expansion of mindless consumption fueled by credit and financialization is qualitatively and quantitatively different from positive growth. In a very real way, Degrowth embraces the devolution of paid work and wealth that cannot be reversed. Growth and consumption based on financialization, expanding credit and phantom collateral is unsustainable and will devolve or implode. Rather than pine for what cannot be, it's far healthier to embrace using less of everything and increasing well-being by leveraging the web, the commons and what cannot be commoditized or financialized.
The policy approach that no one dares to question - "In the long-term, we need to fix our public finances. We’re on an unsustainable path that needs to be corrected to protect younger and future generations. But in the short-term, we need to focus on growth. The economy stinks and people are suffering. Any attempt to lower debt in these conditions would be folly. On the contrary, the government needs to provide more stimulus to promote growth" has no support to its key premise in business cycle history, the idea that the economy will return to full employment and stick there, allowing ample time for debt reduction. Once stimulus is removed, expansions often struggle to continue for much longer. And if the stimulus is replaced with restraint, it seems logical that the expansion’s expected life shortens further. In other words, there is no Magic Pendulum. What’s the typical life of an unassisted expansion? Based on the data presented here, I’ll call it two years.
A Roundup of Opinions
Now is the time to think about how you would live your life if your real value was appreciated and fairly compensated.
There is "not a chance," that the Fed will be able to unwind its balance sheet in an orderly manner, "because everybody is front-running [them]," as the Fed is creating "serial bubbles," that are increasingly hard to manage since "we're getting in deeper and deeper every time." David Stockman has been vociferously honest in the last few days and his Bloomberg Radio interview with Tom Keene was extremely so. While Keene tries his best to remain upbeat and his permabullish self, Stockman just keeps coming with body blow after body blow to the thesis that this 'recovery' is sustainable. "They are using a rosy scenario forecast for the next ten years that would make the rosy scenario of the 1981 Reagan administration look like an ugly duckling," he exclaims, adding that the Keynesian Krugmanites' confidence is "disingenuous" - "the elephant in the room - the Fed," that are for now enabling rates to stay where they are. The full transcript below provides much food for thought but he warns, if the Fed ever pulled back, even modestly, "there would be a tremendous panic sell off in the bond market because it is entirely propped up... It's to late to go cold turkey."
Our April Fool's wish: someone in the inner circle of power would finally tell the truth. In an unprecedented abandonment of his carefully scripted responses to Congressional questions, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke unleashed what appeared to be a heart-felt and spontaneous disavowal of the financial and political systems of the United States.
The below article, recreated in its grotesque entirety, is a real, serious Op-Ed written by a supposedly real, non page-view trolling, Nobel-prize winning economist, in a serious paper, the New York Times. It can be classified with one word: jaw-dropping:"We’re not going to resolve our long-run fiscal issues any time soon, which is O.K. — not ideal, but nothing terrible will happen if we don’t fix everything this year. Meanwhile, we face the imminent threat of severe economic damage from short-term spending cuts. So we should avoid that damage by kicking the can down the road. It’s the responsible thing to do."
Unfortunately, the spectacular rise of Wall Street’s securitization machine will likely forever frustrate attempts to ascertain the extent to which the Fed is responsible for what happened to the U.S. housing market and financial system in 2008. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to short sell (no pun intended) all the Special Purpose Vehicle sponsors, CDO asset managers, investors, and ratings agencies who, for at least five years, worked so hard to collapse the system.