The most profitable business of the future will be producing Space Available and For Lease signs. Betting on the intelligence of the American consumer has been a losing bet for decades. They will continue to swipe that credit card at the local 7-11 to buy those Funions, jalapeno cheese stuffed pretzels with a side of cheese dipping sauce, cartons of smokes, and 32 ounce Big Gulps of Mountain Dew until the message on the credit card machine comes back DENIED. There will be crescendo of consequences as these stores are closed down. The rotting hulks of thousands of Sears and Kmarts will slowly decay; blighting the suburban landscape and beckoning criminals and the homeless. Retailers will be forced to lay-off hundreds of thousands of workers. Property taxes paid to local governments will dry up, resulting in worsening budget deficits. Sales taxes paid to state governments will plummet, forcing more government cutbacks and higher taxes. Mall owners and real estate developers will see their rental income dissipate. They will then proceed to default on their loans. Bankers will be stuck with billions in loan losses, at least until they are able to shift them to the American taxpayer – again.
Social Security might be an issue for the election after all.
Picture a fireside, stone around the hearth, Christmas logs of sometime past, a blazing fire and embers glowing beneath them. Imagine a simple room, wood panels and the glow that is reflected from the light that danced upon their lacquered finish. There sat a man next to the fire who was not the Pastor of some church nor some litigator stirring the listeners for re-election but a man speaking to the country and for the betterment of the nation. This man was neither a saint nor a person enshrined with excessive humility and while an American, he stood for those higher principles upon which the foundation of this country rested. He had been elected and while it can honestly be said that he inherited the problems and was not their creator; he knew that the task at hand would be his greatest accomplishment or his worst failure. Yet he was not afraid; he hearkened to the task because he would give his hallowed spirit to overcome what must be defeated. He knew he would persevere because he must and that the demands of this nation’s forefathers had called him to the task at hand.
The record volatility, and 400 point up and down days in the DJIA of last summer seem like a lifetime ago, having been replaced by a smooth, unperturbed, 45 degree-inclined see of stock market appreciation, rising purely on the $2 trillion or so in liquidity pumped into global markets by the central printers, ever since Italy threatened to blow up the Ponzi last fall. In short - we have once again hit peak complacency. Yet with crude now matching every liquidity injection tick for tick (and then some: Crude's WTI return is now higher than that of stocks), there is absolutely no more space for the world central banks to inject any more stock appreciation without blowing up Obama's reelection chances (and you can be sure they know it). Suddenly the market finds itself without an explicit backstop. So what are some of the "realizations" that can pop the complacency bubble leading to a stock market plunge, and filling the liquidity-filled gap? Here are, courtesy of David Rosenberg, six distinct hurdles that loom ever closer on the horizon, and having been ignored for too long, courtesy of Bernanke et cie, will almost certainly become the market's preoccupation all too soon.
While nothing is more certain than death and taxes (and central bank largesse), David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff uncovers The Unlucky Seven major tax-related uncertainties facing households and businesses that will likely lead to multiple compression in markets (rather than the much-heralded multiple expansion 'story' which appears to have topped the talking-head charts - just above 'money on the sidelines' and 'wall of worry', as 'earnings-driven' arguments are failing on the back of this quarter). As he notes the radically changed taxation climate in 2013 and beyond will have an impact on all economic participants as they will probably opt to bolster their cash reserves in the second half of the year in preparation for the proverbial rainy day.
Stepping softly onto a slippery slope...
In a 60-36 vote, Senate just passed the payroll tax extension, previously voted through by Congress. From Reuters: "The U.S. Senate on Friday passed legislation extending a tax cut for 160 million workers and long-term jobless benefits through December, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign the measure into law. The Senate approval by a simple majority vote followed the House of Representatives' approval earlier on Friday. The legislation, which also extends current payment rates to doctors through the Medicare health care program for older Americans, will add $100 billion to the U.S. deficit and is aimed at further stimulating the economy." As a reminder, all this means is that a repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco is now virtually assured before the presidential election as discussed here, which explains the GOP's willingness to pass this through as fast as possible with no offsetting spending cuts. As for the benefits of $1000/taxpaying household, the recent rise in gasoline prices has already offset those. One can only hope that crude prices are as susceptible to successful central planning intervention as all other assets, or else many more extensions will be needed before the year is over.
It was a bad week for freedom loving people, but I believe there are enough patriots left in this country to change our course. We are being buried under a blizzard of lies on a daily basis. We have a choice. We can support the existing corrupt crony capitalist establishment (Obama & Romney) or we can declare war on lies, deceit and misinformation by rallying behind the only person who would truly attempt to reverse decades of corruption, sleaze, incompetence, bloat, debt accumulation, and a warped version of free market capitalism – Ron Paul. He is the only public figure willing to level with the American people and tell them the truth. Will we let the concept of truth fade out of the world? The choice is ours.
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.” – George Orwell
While headlines yesterday crowed and complained of the small rise in the budget and the focus on taxing the wealthy - which admittedly given the peak polarization in political parties is unlikely to actually move into legislation anytime soon - JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest finds perhaps the most controversial part of the proposal hidden deep in the report. While the JPM CIO notes the CBO baseline and alternative scenarios, it is the difference between the $293bn benefit (CBO estimate from last year) and the Administration's new estimate of $584bn that caught his eye as buried on Page 73 of the Green Book were three new taxes on existing tax-efficient 'benefits'. Tax the mass-affluent (>$250k) seems indeed the new motto of this presidency.
While all the focus has been on Greece in recent days, the global nature of the debt crisis came to the fore yesterday and overnight. This was seen in the further desperate measures by the BOJ and Moodys warning that the UK could lose its AAA rating. Some of us have been saying for some years that this was inevitable but markets remain myopic of the risks posed by this. Possibly the greatest risk is that of the appalling US fiscal situation which continues to be downplayed and not analysed appropriately. President Obama unveiled a massive $3.8 trillion budget yesterday and he is to increase Federal spending by 53% to $5.820 trillion by 2022. The US government is projected to spend over $6 trillion a year by 2022. Still bizarrely unaccounted for is the ticking time bomb of unfunded entitlement liabilities - Social Security and Medicare, which Washington continues to deal with by completely ignoring them. While Washington and markets are for now ignoring the fiscal train wreck that is the US. This will change with inevitable and likely extremely negative consequences for markets – particularly US bond markets and for the dollar.
Even Greek politicians scored higher.
Two weeks ago when discussing the latest lunacy surrounding America's exponential curve #1 also known as its debt balance, we suggested what the GOP election strategy should be: "[if] the debt ceiling becomes a sticking point at the election, Obama's chances of reelection plunge. Which makes us wonder - will Republicans grasp that the paradox of defeating Obama is precisely in giving him a carte blanche on all the stimulus programs he wants? Because if Congress approves another $200, 300 or even $400 billion in stimulus pork (the only thing better than one Solyndra? One thousand Solyndras!) the Treasury will drown in the need to raise hundreds of billions more, and will in fact hit the ceiling well in advance of the elections. As for the stimulus projects themselves, they will crash and burn just like all centrally planned endeavors, and actually result in a far worse outcome than if they had never been attempted. [Because] the best way to finally get back to a fiscally prudent regime? Why go to town, of course." We were delighted to discover that our policy anti-recommendation has finally been adopted. Because as the WSJ reports when it comes to the latest payroll tax extension we find something quite stunning: "House Republican leaders said Monday they would introduce a bill extending the payroll-tax break for the rest of the year without finding spending cuts to offset the program's cost. The proposal marks a major shift for Republicans, who previously had insisted that the costs of extending a trio of provisions expiring at the end of the month be offset with spending cuts." That's right - no offsetting spending cuts. Which means one thing - much more debt. How much more? At least $160 billion much. Which means that the debt ceiling discussion will hit not in November as we speculated previously, but potentially as soon as September.
Earlier today, Obama formally proposed his 2013 budget (link) which sees a $1.33 trn budget deficit in the 2013 fiscal year - more than the $1.296 trillion 2011 budget deficit, which unfortunately indicates that even with rather rosy assumptions, the deficit hole continues to grow, which also means that the debt plug will be higher in the next year compared to the prior, which in turn lends even more credibility to the US debt clock analysis which assumes a nearly 140% debt/GDP ratio by the end of a potential second Obama term. While that will likely end up being an optimistic estimate, for near-term discussion purposes, the probability of even this particular budget passing is slim to none as the GOP reaction in the republican controlled Congress has been swift and brutal. Per the WSJ: "Republicans moved quickly to denounce Mr. Obama's budget plan. "This proposal isn't really a budget at all. It's a campaign document," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said... Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said, "Again the president has ducked responsibility, he has punted again, he has failed to take any notable action on this crisis." "All we're getting here is more spending, more borrowing and more debt that will lead to slower economic growth," Mr. Ryan said on a conference call with reporters. Republicans are expected to offer their own budget plan in the next month. The president's populist message is weaved throughout his proposal. "For many Americans, the basic bargain at the heart of the American dream has eroded," the president said while reiterating a call for nearly $1.5 trillion in tax increases on higher-income Americans over 10 years. He added he is seeing "signs that our economy is on the mend" and that this is a "make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get there." So while this "budget" is not even worth the paper it is printed on (unlike reserves, they actually still use paper for these things) here per the WSJ, are the key charts that form the foundation of the budget forecast.
On Friday, we gave the skinny on some of the more amusing and/or aggressive key assumptions in the president's 2013 budget. Now hear the TOTUS, as presented via the president.
Greece is the epicenter of a drama that threatens to unwind with all the intrigue and subterfuge of ancient Greek myths and tragedies. As with the legend of Icarus, big, and now bigger, transnational banks provoked the gods with their wax-and-feather financial fabrications to create the appearance of soaring wealth. Now that they have flown too close to the sun and their wings have melted, these banks are being brought to earth by the obligations and consequences imposed by their fabrications. Rather than take responsibility, these banks seek to appease the gods by sacrificing taxpayers. In fact, if one looks closely, these banks aspire to be gods themselves. They clothe themselves in their indispensability and shield themselves from accountability with tales about how many innocent citizens will be hurt if they don’t get their next bailout. It is as if they say, “We are above the law… We are the law.” Mathematics, legal enforcement, restraint, humility all must fall under the sword of their hubris. In the end, just as with a Greek tragedy or a Yeats poem, this center cannot hold and things fall apart.