The 17th of February, 2014, marked the annual observation of George Washington's birthday and the 5th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. At a cost of $19.90 for each dollar of economic growth, almost $8 million for each job created and a loss of nearly $600,000 of fixed investment, it is hard to suggest that the government interventions have been successful. The WSJ sums it up succinctly, "The failure of the stimulus was a failure of the neo-Keynesian belief that economies can be jolted into action by a wave of government spending... The way to jolt an economy to life and to sustain long-term growth is to create more incentives for people to work, save and invest." Of course, 5 years on, the Keynesian argument remains "fool proof." The only reason that the economy is not growing faster is because the government is not doing enough. However, if the economy slips back into a recession, it will simply be because the government did not do enough. You simply can't argue against logic like that.
We at the Fed are the platonic guardians of the global financial system. And our logic is undeniable….
Just as in the 1930s the Fed fueled deflation by not making credit available, today the opposite seems to be the case – low rates are fueling deflation and preventing markets from clearing.
We have seen a confluence of events that suggests we may be reaching the terminal point of the financial markets merry-go-round – that point just before the ride stops suddenly and unexpectedly and the passengers are thrown from their seats. Having waited with increasing concern to see what might transpire from the gridlocked US political system, the market was rewarded with a few more months’ grace before the next agonising debate about raising the US debt ceiling. There was widespread relief, if not outright jubilation. Stock markets rose, in some cases to all-time highs. But let there be no misunderstanding on this point: the US administration is hopelessly bankrupt. (As are those of the UK, most of western Europe, and Japan.) The market preferred to sit tight on the ride, for the time being.
Are we all wealthier because the Dow is at ~ 15,000? Should Katee Sackhoff be the next Fed Chairman?
"There is nothing safe anymore, because the money-printing distorts all asset prices," is the uncomfortable response Marc Faber gives to Thai TV during this interview when asked for investment ideas. Faber explains how we got here "massive money-printing and ZIRP creates a huge pool of liquidity that does not flow evenly," as it washes from Nasdaq stocks to real estate to emerging markets and so on. Each time, "the bubble inflates and then is deflated as the capital (liquidity) floods out." The Fed, based on the doubling of interest rates since they began QE3 "has lost control of the bond market," Faber warns; adding that while he expects some "cosmetic tapering," the Fed members and other neo-Keynesian clowns will react to a "weakening US and global economy," and we will be a $150 billion QE by the end of next year, as the world is held hostage to US monetary policy.
Back in 2002 Warren Buffet famously proclaimed that derivatives were ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ (FWMDs). Time has proven this view to be correct. As The Amphora Report's John Butler notes, it is difficult to imagine that the US housing and general global credit bubble of 2004-07 could have formed without the widespread use of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and various other products of early 21st century financial engineering. But to paraphrase those who oppose gun control, "FWMDs don’t cause crises, people do." But then who, exactly, does? And why? And can so-called 'liquidity regulation' prevent the next crisis? To answer these questions, John takes a closer look at proposed liquidity regulation as a response to the growing use of 'collateral transformation' (a topic often discussed here): the latest, greatest FWMD in the arsenal.
The Fed has created a Doomsday Machine. The Fed has nurtured moral hazard in every sector of the economy by unleashing an abundance of cheap credit and low interest mortgages; the implicit promise of "you can't lose because we have your back" has been extended from stocks to bonds (i.e. the explicit promise the Fed will keep rates near-zero forever) and real estate. An abundance based on the central bank spewing trillions of dollars of cheap credit and free money (quantitative easing) is artificial, and it has generated systemic moral hazard. This is a Doomsday Machine because the Fed cannot possibly backstop tens of trillions of dollars of bad bets on stocks, bonds and real estate. Its power is as illusory as the abundance it conjured. This loss of faith in key institutions cannot be fixed with more cheap credit or subsidized mortgages; delegitimization triggers a fatal decoherence in the entire Status Quo.
The imperial tree falls not because the challenges are too great but because the core of the tree has been weakened by the gradual loss of surplus, purpose, institutional effectiveness, intellectual vigor and productive investment. Comparing the American Empire with the Roman Empire in its terminal decline is a popular intellectual parlor game. The comparison is inexact on a number of fronts but despite the apparent difference, the two empires share the key characteristic of all enduring empires: they extract the cost of maintaining the empire from client states and/or allies. The mechanisms differ, but the results are the same: the empire's cost is distributed to those who benefit from its secure trade routes.
The overtly inflationary policy stance of the FOMC is especially significant when you consider that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is no longer in control of monetary policy.
Two of the key characteristics of an empire in terminal decline are complacency and intellectual sclerosis, what we have termed a failure of imagination. (The others are military over-reach, chronic deficits, a parasitic Elite that is immune to what's left of the rule of law, weak leadership, mass dependence on the Central State and excessive consumption.) It is important to discuss alternatives before the Status Quo devolves and collapses, so we have an intellectual framework to guide healthier, more sustainable alternatives once the current system implodes.
I argue that Abe is lucky, but now needs to be smart. I made a proposal a few years ago that Japan should return a quarter of its reserves to the Japanese people. The proposal is more compelling now than then. The objections by BOJ officials can be overcome by the Abe government. Reserves are for a rainy day and it is continuing to rain in Tokyo.
“Those are my principles,” Marx said. “And if you don't like them... well, I have others.”
Two fundamental beliefs have driven economic policy around the world in recent years. The first is that the world suffers from a shortage of aggregate demand relative to supply; the second is that monetary and fiscal stimulus will close the gap. Is it possible that the diagnosis is right, but that the remedy is wrong? That would explain why we have made little headway so far in restoring growth to pre-crisis levels. And it would also indicate that we must rethink our remedies. Policymakers initially resorted to government spending and low interest rates to boost demand. As government debt has ballooned and policy interest rates have hit rock bottom, central banks have focused on increasingly innovative policy to boost demand. Yet growth continues to be painfully slow. Why? What if the problem is the assumption that all demand is created equal? Put differently, the bust that follows years of a debt-fueled boom leaves behind an economy that supplies too much of the wrong kind of good relative to the changed demand.
Will Congress go over the fiscal cliff? Yes, we've been going for decades, really since the social unrest of the 1970s.