From the 2008 financial crisis to Bernie Madoff, federal regulators have consistency proven too incompetent or too in-the-pocket to actually catch big disasters before they happen. Their interests, like all government employees, are politically based. State bureaucracies seek more funding no matter performance because their success is impossible to determine without having to account for profit. There is never an objective way to determine if the public sector uses its resources effectively. The news of JP Morgan’s loss has reignited the discussion over whether the financial sector is regulated enough. The answer is that regulation and the moral hazard-ridden business environment it produces is the sole reason why a bank’s loss is a hot topic of discussion to begin with. Without the Fed, the FDIC, and the government’s nasty history of bailing out its top campaign contributors, JP Morgan would be just another bank beholden to market forces. Instead it, along with most of Wall Street, has become, to use former Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig’s label, a virtual “public utility.” Take away the implied safety net and “too big to fail” disappears. It’s as simple that.
As either taxpayers or long-term JPM investors, we should be more grateful than sorry about the JPM CIO Ina Drew.
Explaining why and how the global monetary system is failing, why it is too late to stop, what will come next, and why the crisis is only financial – not commercial.
Anyone who worked in finance in the decade before Glass-Steagall was repealed knows that prior to Gramm-Leach-Bliley the megabanks just took their hyper-leveraged activities offshore (primarily to London where no such regulations existed). The big problem (at least in my mind) with Glass-Steagall is that it didn’t prevent the financial-industrial complex from gaining the power to loophole and lobby Glass-Steagall out of existence, and incorporate a new regime of hyper-leverage, convoluted shadow banking intermediation, and a multi-quadrillion-dollar derivatives web (and more importantly a taxpayer-funded safety net for when it all goes wrong: heads I win, tails you lose). I fear that the only answer to the dastardly combination of hyper-risk and huge bailouts is to let the junkies eat dirt the next time the system comes crashing down. You can’t keep bailing out hyper-fragile systems and expect them to just fix themselves. The answer to stupidity is not the moral hazard of bailouts, it is the educational lesson of failure. You screw up, you take more care next time. If you’re bailed out, you just don’t care. Corzine affirms it; Iksil affrims it; Adoboli affirms it. And there will be more names. Which chump is next?
By mainstream media accounts, the presidential election in France and parliamentary elections in Greece on May 6 were overwhelming verdicts against “austerity” measures being implemented in Europe. There is only one problem. It is a lie. First off, austerity was never really tried. Not really. In France for example, according to Eurostat, annual expenditures have actually increased from €1.095 trillion to €1.118 trillion in 2011. In fact spending has increased every single year for the past decade. The debt there increased too from €1.932 trillion €1.987 trillion last year, just as it did every year before. Real “austere”. The French spent more, and they borrowed more. The deficit in France did decrease by about €34 billion in 2011, but that was largely because of a €56.6 billion surge in tax revenues. Again, there were no spending cuts. Zero. Yet incoming socialist president François Hollande claimed after his victory over Nicolas Sarkozy that he would bring an end to this mythical austerity: “We will bring back Europe on a track for jobs, growth and the future… We’re no longer doomed to austerity.” This is just a willful, purposeful distortion. What the heck is he talking about? Certainly not France.
The entire bogus recovery is again being driven by subprime auto loans being doled out by Ally Financial (85% owned by the U.S. government) and the other criminal Wall Street banks. The Federal Reserve and our government leaders will continue to steer the country on the same course of encouraging rampant speculation, deterring savings and investment, rewarding outrageous criminal behavior, purposefully generating inflation, and lying to the average American. It will work until we reach a tipping point. Dr. Krugman thinks another $4 trillion of debt and a debt to GDP ratio of 130% should get our economy back on track. When this charade is revealed to be the greatest fraud and theft in the history of mankind, Ben and Paul better have a backup plan, because there are going to be a few angry men looking for them.
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Europe’s doomed experiment with the politics of austerity went down in flames over the weekend as voters across the region veered sharply to the left in savaging incumbents. Elections in six European nations on Sunday promised to end any pretense of fiscal sanity. However, it remains to be seen how quickly and drastically the new leaders will act to further unbalance their nations’ books, ostensibly in the name of economic growth.
Bloomberg viewers estimate that Ron Paul was the winner of the clash of the Pauls. But that is very much beside the point. This wasn’t really a debate. Other than the fascinating moment where Krugman denied defending the economic policies of Diocletian, very little new was said, and the two combatants mainly talked past each other. The real debate happened early last decade.
Nut cases. That’s what they are. And if you take an interest in them, you are a nut case, too. That’s the consensus among credentialed economists who describe advocates of a return to the monetary regime known as the gold standard. In fact, the economic pack will marginalize you as a weirdo faster than you can say "Jacques Rueff," if you even raise the topic of monetary policy in relation to gold. If we are going to speak of consensus, let’s not forget one that is truly universal: Our economic system stands a good chance of breakdown in coming years. The only way to limit damage from such a breakdown is to ready ourselves to choose other models by learning about them now. Not to do so would be nuts.
Likely glowing from his glorious victory (h/t Trish Regan) over Krugman in Bloomberg's recent Paul vs Paul debate, Rep. Ron Paul destroys the central-planning arrogance of Bernanke and his ilk in an Op-Ed released by the FT today.
Control of the world’s economy has been placed in the hands of a banking cartel, which holds great danger for all of us. True prosperity requires sound money, increased productivity, and increased savings and investment. The world is awash in US dollars, and a currency crisis involving the world’s reserve currency would be an unprecedented catastrophe. No amount of monetary expansion can solve our current financial problems, but it can make those problems much worse.
Those calling for taxing the richest more are not doing the same cost-benefit analysis I am doing that suggests that raising taxes won’t raise more revenue. But they’re not unfairly looking for a scapegoat, either. While probably the greatest culprits for the problems of recent are in government (Bush, Greenspan, Obama, Bernanke) Americans are right to be mad at the rich.
This isn’t about tax. This is about jobs, and growth. The rich, above and beyond any other group have the ability to ameliorate the economic malaise by spending and creating jobs, creating new products and new wealth. The top 1% control 42% of all financial wealth. But that money isn’t moving very much at all— the velocity of money is at historic lows. It should not be surprising that growth remains depressed and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
There are deepening concerns in Switzerland about the debasement of the Swiss franc. The SNB has pegged the franc to the euro and is engaged in the same ultra loose monetary policies as the Federal Reserve, BOE and the ECB. The SNB won't allow the franc to rise above an arbitrary “ceiling” against the euro Walter Meier himself said on April 5 that the SNB is ready to buy foreign currencies in "unlimited quantities." Meier’s comments regarding the vastly depleted Swiss gold reserves came after Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, called on the SNB to disclose where its gold is stored, in a letter published in the respected Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Meier said that the SNB holds its physical gold reserves “domestically and internationally, with provisions for a crisis scenario being a main factor in the decision for this decentralized storage”. “The criteria for the storage countries are: appropriate regional diversification, exceptionally stable economic and political environments, immunity for central bank investments, access to a gold market where stocks could be liquidated if necessary,” he continued. He concluded by saying that “such a decentralized storage is still preferable to an exclusive storage in Switzerland. The listed factors can change over time and that’s why the central bank is reviewing and adapting the storage locations periodically.” The SNB’s monetary policies have been imprudent in recent years and their gold sales have lost the Swiss people a lot of money.
Bernanke’s legacy is still to be made. But he has put the US economy in a position from which it can succeed. If Europe falls apart, it will be more difficult. If we fall of the fiscal cliff we will have our own Thelma and Louise moment. The Fed Chairman has already said he can’t save us from that shock. It’s really time for fiscal policy makers to step up. As long as they refuse it makes Bernanke’s job all the harder. And the pressure on him is intense.
Bernanke is under a lot of pressure and is given little credit for what have been remarkable achievements. Do risks remain? They sure do. But that result is yet to be decided. Meanwhile risks elsewhere are at least as pressing. Look at his successes...