We discussed the new skirmishes this weekend in the very public debate about Carmen Reinhart’s and Kenneth Rogoff’s (RR) government debt research as they fought back against Paul Krugman's smear campaign. Krugman, of course, is one of the pundits who last month published “incomplete, exaggerated, erroneous and misleading” reports about RR’s research, as we explained at the time. We still haven’t found an RR critic who’s made a genuine effort to estimate how much debt is too much and in an effort to, we read Krugman's book (cover-to-cover) to see if there was anything more to Krugman’s positions than über-Keynesianism and boasts that his adversaries were proven wrong. Krugman's logic is full of holes. Near-term inflation and interest rate predictions have little to do with one’s beliefs about the mostly long-term risks of excessive debt. Krugman’s use of decidedly non-Keynesian episodes of debt reduction to justify his Keynesian beliefs reminds me of the many times (too many) that I’ve encountered 'circular reference' errors in Excel. His logic is no less flawed or 'circular.' But since there’s no spreadsheet involved, we’ll call it an error of induction. We think it’s time to change focus and consider the questionable thresholds, selective data use and induction error in Krugman’s work.
The wild ride in Japan's bond market is a prelude to what will happen in other developed markets.
The periodic Munk debate spectacle out of Canada is memorable for bringing together very flamboyant personalities, discussing very germane topics. The one that has just started has a topic of whether the rich should be taxed. More. Surely an issue that has seen its share of discussion in the US in the past year, so we hardly expect to learn anything new. What is most amusing, however, is that the debate tonight pits none other than Paul Krugman (and former Greek socialist leader and economic destructor extraordinaire George Papandreou, whose family incidentally was found with tax-evading Swiss accounts so brownie points for extra hypocricy) defending more tax hikes, and pitting Newt Gingrich and Arthur Laffer on the "don't tax me bro" side. The result should be quite a memorable catfight.
Abenomics is riddled with inconsistencies. He wants the world's biggest bond market to sit still while he tells them they are going to lose money year-after-year (if his inflation goals are met). He wants to spark a renaissance by lowering the JPY and creating inflation but he doesn't want real wages to drop. Of course, the CNBC anchor's ironic perspective that the 80% domestic bond holdings of JGBs will 'patriotically sit back and take the loss' is in jest but it suggests something has to give in the nation so troubled. In fact, as Diapason's Sean Corrigan notes, that is not what has been happening, "every time the BoJ is in, the institutional investors are very happy to dump their holdings to them." On the bright side, another CNBC apparatchik offers, this institutional selling will lead to buying other more productive assets to which Corrigan slams "great, so we have yet another mispriced set of capital in the world, that'll help won't it!" The discussion, summarized perfectly in this brief clip, extends from the rate rise implications on bank capital to the effect on the deficit, and from the circular failure of the competitive devaluation argument.
Just when you thought the R&R debate was finished, it seems Paul Krugman's latest "spectacularly uncivil behavior" pushed Reinhart and Rogoff too far. In what can only be described as the most eruditely worded of "fuck you"s, the pair go on the offensive at Krugman's ongoing tete-a-tete. "You have attacked us in very personal terms, virtually non-stop... Your characterization of our work and of our policy impact is selective and shallow. It is deeply misleading about where we stand on the issues. And we would respectfully submit, your logic and evidence on the policy substance is not nearly as compelling as you imply... That you disagree with our interpretation of the results is your prerogative. Your thoroughly ignoring the subsequent literature... is troubling. Perhaps, acknowledging the updated literature on drawbacks to high debt-would inconveniently undermine your attempt to make us a scapegoat for austerity."
In a masterclass of what is 'really' going on in the world (as opposed to what we are told/spoon-fed on a daily basis), Grant Williams (of Things That Make You Go Hhhmm infamy) provides a must-watch presentation. Starting from the premise (unusual in this day and age) that the laws of mathematics are inviolable ("if it makes no sense, it is nonsense"), the Aussie investment manager sets out his own set of philosophical 'problems' that the world of 'markets' seems incapable of grasping. In a chart-filled extravaganza, Williams ranges from "Problem 1: If the global economy is stalling, Europe is in recession, China is slowing and growth is seemingly impossible to generate, what are equity markets doing at all-time highs?" to "Problem 7: The Gold Price and The Price of Gold are mutually exclusive" leaving the participant questioning everything Bob Pisani would have us believe warning in conclusion that gold is critical and "beware suppressed volatility."
Through most of the 20th century, America led something of a charmed life, at least when compared with the disasters endured by almost every other major country. We became the richest and most powerful nation on earth, partly due to our own achievements and partly due to the mistakes of others. The public interpreted these decades of American power and prosperity as validation of our system of government and national leadership, and the technological effectiveness of our domestic propaganda machinery - our own American Pravda - has heightened this effect. Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.
As the global equity and bond markets grind ever higher, abundant signs exist that we are once again living through an asset bubble – or rather a whole series of bubbles in a variety of markets. This makes this period quite interesting, but also quite dangerous. This can be summarized in one sentence: How could this be happening again so soon?
What happens to everyone in the ruling Elites and those desperately trying to join the ruling Elites when the debt-serfs stop paying and the tax donkeys drift away to lower-cost, lower-income lifestyles? If you think Tune In, Turn On, Opt Out sounds ludicrous, check back in four years (2017) and eight years (2021) and see how many of your fellow debt-serfs and tax donkeys have quietly abandoned the bloated cost-structure, debt and derangement of the Neofeudal Debtocracy's twisted consumerist dream.
The words "Shit Heel" come to mind.
Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke is a Reverse Robin Hood, robbing from the lower 95% and giving to the financier class. It's worth understanding the mechanisms of this wealth transfer: in essence, the Fed extends low-cost credit (i.e. "free money") to the financier class which then uses this free money to buy rentier assets, that is, assets that generate economic rents for the owners, who add no value and create no wealth. This is of course the neofeudal model. Goebbels would approve of the Fed's masterful propaganda campaign: rob the bottom 95% to benefit the financier class, all the while piously proclaiming that its policies were aimed at increasing employment for the bottom 95%. In terms of propagandistic chutzpah, it doesn't get any better than this. Congratulations, Bernanke, Yellen, et al.
While Harvard historian Niall Ferguson's off-the-cuff remarks during the Q&A were in his words "as stupid as they were insensitive", the core message of his presentation was clear: the party of the last 20 years is now over and the longer we fail to address the real issues the bigger the hangover will be in the future. The central question Ferguson asks is whether our institutions, corporations and governments, are degenerating. As Lance Roberts of Street Talk Live notes Ferguson believes that without addressing the structural problems that plague the economy from production to employment – stimulus will fail. The reality is that the 'punch bowl' won't fix employment growth, economic growth or the rule of law.
One year after the infamous Jamie Dimon "tempest in a teapot" fiasco, which promptly turned out to be the biggest TBTF prop-trading desk debacle in history, things were going well for JPMorgan. On one hand, the chairman of the TBAC (and thus US Treasury advisor and policy administrator), and former LTCM trader, Matt Zames, was just recently promoted to the sole second in command post at the biggest US bank (and 2nd biggest in the world) by assets, and first in line to take over from Jamie Dimon. On the other hand, one of Mary Jo White's former co-workers, and a JPM defense attorney from Debevoise just became head of the SEC's enforcement division, in theory guaranteeing that the US government would never do more than slap the wrist of JPM in perpetuity. And then, when everything seemed like smooth sailing ahead, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) showed up on March 13, the day before Carl Levin's committee released its latest report on JPM's prop trading blunder, and according to the NYT, alleged that JPM in the past several years, quietly became nothing short than the next Enron. ... But what is worst for JPM, and its brilliant (abovementioned) employee, often times credited with creating the Credit Default Swap product and market (simply an instrument to trade credit with negligible upfront collateral and thus allow equity option-like speculation in the credit realm), is that FERC may be seeking to throw the book at none other than Blythe Masters.
The Baltic States are unique in Europe in that they went through an austerity crash program a while ago already (beginning right after the 2008 crisis) and have in the meantime recovered strongly. Der Spiegel has an interesting interview with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, in which she explains her views on the topic. It can obviously be done successfully. And while we are aware that every case is unique - the problems are not the same in every country, and due to cultural norms and traditions, it may be easier to enact reform in certain countries than others; it seems that no matter how many times Paul Krugman insists that no Baltic nation can possibly be held up as an example, the fact remains that they have imposed fiscal austerity and implemented wide-ranging reform measures and have succeeded.
We recently asked:"are there really unpredictable market shocks or are investors paid not to care? To us, all signs point towards the next currency reset. We think monetary authorities are compulsively destroying the current global monetary system; they simply have no choice if they are to keep it afloat in the short term." With Bernanke not attending Jackson Hole, we think the choice for next Fed Chair may have profound economic implications, and that it would not require expertise in econometric modeling, credit policy management, and maintaining the public perception of economic stability. We think the next Fed Chairman will oversee a conversion of the global monetary regime. Neither growth nor austerity nor gloom of night will stay these currencies from their appointed devaluations. Bank balance sheets must be preserved; ergo sufficient inflation must be manufactured. We think the dull but persistent economic malaise amid increasingly aggressive monetary intervention policies will soon engender fear among the not-so-great washed – net savers. We think all should question whether we are 100% wrong. If not, then prudence dictates some allocation to properly held precious metals. (Presently, it is less than 1% of all global pensions.)