Chautauqua Notes | Ethical Challenges of Finally Fixing the Financial Crisis: Fair Deals vs. New DealsSubmitted by rcwhalen on 08/09/2012 07:48 -0400
From the perspective of ethics, the fiscal profligacy of the US government and related behavior in the private sector is the cause of the financial crisis
Emotion, while an important element in man’s array of mental tools, can unfortunately triumph over reason in crucial matters. In the context of simple economic reasoning, today’s intellectual establishment often disregards common sense in favor of emotional-tinged policy proposals that rely on feelings of jealously, envy, and blind patriotism for validation rather than logical deduction. “Eat the rich” schemes such as progressive taxation and income redistribution are used by leftists who style themselves as champions of the poor. Plucking on the emotional strings of envy makes it easier to arouse widespread support for economic intervention via the state. Printed money is not the same as accumulated savings which would otherwise fund sustainable lines of investment. The truth is that capital is always scarce; there is never enough of it. Krugman and Stiglitz believe, as most do, that Americans should be born with the opportunity to succeed. What they fail to see (or refuse to acknowledge) is that the free market provides the best opportunities for someone to make a decent living by providing goods and services.
Human nature hasn’t changed in centuries. We have faith that humanity has progressed, but the facts prove otherwise. We are a species susceptible to the passions of power, greed, delusion, and an inflated sense of our own intellectual superiority. And we still like to kill each other in the name of country and honor. There is nothing progressive about crashing the worldwide economic system and invading countries for “our” oil. History has taught that there will forever be manias, bubbles and the subsequent busts, but how those in power deal with these episodes has been and will be the determining factor in the future of our economic system and country. Humanity is deeply flawed; the average human life is around 80 years; men of stature, wealth, over-confidence in their superior intellect, and egotistical desire to leave their mark on history, always rise to power in government and the business world; this is why history follows a cyclical path and the myth of human progress is just a fallacy.
Some odds and ends, plus a very scary report on China
If the political tsunami underway in Maine is any indicator, the November 2012 election will be fascinating and unpredictable
Every summer, my colleagues and I invite young people from all over the world for an intensive 4-day workshop about freedom and entrepreneurship. This year’s workshop just concluded yesterday afternoon, and it was, without doubt, the best one ever. For the past several years, we have been conducting this event at a lovely resort in the Lithuanian countryside. It’s a pretty place– a nice, comfortable, relaxing environment away from all the noise and distraction of daily life. Now, I pay for the whole thing myself. I rent out the entire resort and pick up the total cost of food, lodging, entertainment, etc. For this year’s event, my staff was able to negotiate the same price as last year, and I was happy about this. But after the first two days, we began to notice something different: the resort was actually skimping out on our food portions! In other words, they kept the price the same as last year… but they were delivering less value than before. In this case, it was in the form of food portions that were at least 10% smaller!
While some have talked of the 'credit-easing' possibility a la Bank of England (which Goldman notes is unlikely due to low costs of funding for banks already, significant current backing for mortgage lending, and bank aversion to holding hands with the government again), there remains a plethora of options available for the Fed. From ZIRP extensions, lower IOER, direct monetization of fiscal policy needs, all the way to explicit USD devaluation (relative to Gold); BofAML lays out the choices, impacts, and probabilities in this handy pocket-size cheat-sheet that every FOMC member will be carrying with them next week.
As the flow of subsidies from Washington slowly ebbs, the TBTF banks will begin to feed upon one another...
Too Big Leads To Destruction of the Rule of Law
I am fairly certain the answer to why Bernanke isn’t increasing inflation when his former self and former colleagues say he should be is actually nothing to do with domestic politics, and everything to do with international politics. Most of the pro-Fed blogosphere seems to live in denial of the fact that America is massively in debt to external creditors — all of whom are frustrated at getting near-zero yields (they can’t just flip bonds to the Fed balance sheet like the hedge funds) — and their views matter, very simply because the reality of China and other creditors ceasing to buy debt would be untenable. Why else would the Treasury have thrown a carrot by upgrading the Chinese government to primary dealer status (the first such deal in history), cutting Wall Street’s bond flippers out of the deal?
So the end stage of neoliberalism threatens a Dark Age of poverty/immiseration – most characteristically, one of debt peonage. ~ Michael Hudson
This Is The Government: Your Legal Right To Redeem Your Money Market Account Has Been Denied - The SequelSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/19/2012 19:05 -0400
Two years ago, in January 2010, Zero Hedge wrote "This Is The Government: Your Legal Right To Redeem Your Money Market Account Has Been Denied" which became one of our most read stories of the year. The reason? Perhaps something to do with an implicit attempt at capital controls by the government on one of the primary forms of cash aggregation available: $2.7 trillion in US money market funds. The proximal catalyst back then were new proposed regulations seeking to pull one of these three core pillars (these being no volatility, instantaneous liquidity, and redeemability) from the foundation of the entire money market industry, by changing the primary assumptions of the key Money Market Rule 2a-7. A key proposal would give money market fund managers the option to "suspend redemptions to allow for the orderly liquidation of fund assets." In other words: an attempt to prevent money market runs (the same thing that crushed Lehman when the Reserve Fund broke the buck). This idea, which previously had been implicitly backed by the all important Group of 30 which is basically the shadow central planners of the world (don't believe us? check out the roster of current members), did not get too far, and was quickly forgotten. Until today, when the New York Fed decided to bring it back from the dead by publishing "The Minimum Balance At Risk: A Proposal to Mitigate the Systemic Risks Posed by Money Market FUnds". Now it is well known that any attempt to prevent a bank runs achieves nothing but merely accelerating just that (as Europe recently learned). But this coming from central planners - who never can accurately predict a rational response - is not surprising. What is surprising is that this proposal is reincarnated now. The question becomes: why now? What does the Fed know about market liquidity conditions that it does not want to share, and more importantly, is the Fed seeing a rapid deterioration in liquidity conditions in the future, that may and/or will prompt retail investors to pull their money in another Lehman-like bank run repeat?
The Fed is caught between a rock and a hard place. If they inflate, they risk the danger of initiating a damaging and deleterious trade war with creditors who do not want to take an inflationary haircut. If they don’t inflate, they remain stuck in a deleveraging trap resulting in weak fundamentals, and large increases in government debt, also rattling creditors. The likeliest route from here remains that the Fed will continue to baffle the Krugmanites by pursuing relatively restrained inflationism (i.e. Operation Twist, restrained QE, no NGDP targeting, no debt jubilee, etc) to keep the economy ticking along while minimising creditor irritation. The problem with this is that the economy remains caught in the deleveraging trap. And while the economy is depressed tax revenues remain depressed, meaning that deficits will grow, further irritating creditors (who unlike bond-flipping hedge funds must eat the very low yields instead of passing off treasuries to a greater fool for a profit), who may pursue trade war and currency war strategies and gradually (or suddenly) desert US treasuries and dollars. Geopolitical tension would spike commodity prices. And as more dollars end up back in the United States (there are currently $5+ trillion floating around Asia), there will be more inflation still. The reduced global demand for dollar-denominated assets would put pressure on the Fed to print to buy more treasuries.
If Krugman is to be believed, the state of global sovereign nation balance sheets must be excellent as there are now 12 major nations with 2Y interest rates below 1.00% with 4 of those nations having joined the Negative-Interest-Rate-Policy (NIRP) club. Canada, Sweden, USA, UK, Japan, France, Austria, and Finland are all currently below 1.00%. Holland, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland are all currently negative.
The health of the economy is driven by after tax income. We need a big tax increase that does not reduce current income. My plan.