The US Federal Reserve orchestrated an artificial boom from 2001 to 2007 through artificially low interest rates and has resumed doing so once again. Entrepreneurs operating under faulty market signals created by the Federal Reserve malinvested hundreds of billions of dollars into capital intensive projects primarily in the housing sector. We paid for our boom with millions of destroyed jobs, wasted labor, and wasted resources. The Chinese Central Bank learned nothing from the Fed’s catastrophic experiment. They will reap the same rewards.
Assuming that after being wrong for 7 years about everything, economists are actually right about the market still having some discounting abilities left, what then is the market telegraphing? The answer, according to the Bank of America: the biggest surge in recessionary odds since 2011, which over the past few days have nearly hit a 50% probability of an economic slowdown.
At some point in the middle of the last century, economics of money shifted to economics of psychology. Abenomics is the perfect example of this faith-based policy. The Japanese economy, to any clear mind, took a huge turn for the worst under Abenomics yet its practitioners are still, somehow, given the final word on judging its performance, meaning that the mainstream still, somehow, subscribes to the religion.
Centrally issued money centralizes wealth and generates systemic inequality. This is equally true of all centrally issued currencies. But the inequity that is intrinsic to this system is politically, socially and financially destabilizing, and so this system is unsustainable.
And the answer is...
If Americans were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that the Republic is no more. We now live in a police state. If we do not recognize and resist this development, freedom and prosperity for all Americans will continue to deteriorate. All liberties in America today are under siege. Reality is now setting in for America and for that matter for most of the world. We should not be discouraged. Enlightenment is not nearly as difficult to achieve as it was before the breakthrough with Internet communications occurred. I smell progress.
As a new year begins, it is easy to consider that the prospects for freedom in America and in many other parts of the world to seem dim. After all, government continues to grow bigger and more intrusive, along with tax burdens that siphon off vast amounts of private wealth. Extrapolating these trends out for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the chances for winning liberty are highly unlikely. There is only one problem with this pessimistic forecast: the future is unpredictable and apparent trends do change.
Since this is the season for giving thanks in the US, we might give some consideration to the unsung heroes who have been underwriting a big chunk of our economic recovery of late. Actually, we literally owe our future to them - in more ways than one. Since there are no free lunches in economics (that we all must agree on), somebody has to pay for this. And it should be obvious by now who that will be: our children and grandchildren (and at this rate, probably their children and grandchildren too).
Financial markets are broken. Fundamental analysis and Modern Portfolio Theory are relics of the past. Investors used to care about maximizing a portfolio’s expected return for a given amount of targeted risk. Fed policies have led to (investor) herd behavior that has plunged market volatilities and manipulated asset prices and correlations to lofty levels. The allure of the Fed’s magic spell has lapsed investors into a soporific state of cognitive dissonance, with them focusing more on trying to justify valuations, rather than on the Upside Downside Capture Ratio. Markets have thus mutated into one of two possible combustible states. Either financial assets have all transcended into prodigious bubbles, or stocks and bonds are signifying two completely separate outcomes. Either possibility will have dangerous repercussions for the economy, and for portfolios and investors.
Most market pundits have predicted higher bond yields (for months), yet unloved global fixed income securities have traded well all year. Even after the dovish FOMC reiterated its intent to maintain a highly-accommodative stance, bonds have stayed resilient. The main cause of market jitteriness might be that investors are beginning to sense the ‘time-inconsistency’ aspects of Fed policy.
Anyone reading the regular Federal Open Market Committee press releases can easily envision Chairman Yellen and the Federal Reserve team at the economic controls, carefully adjusting the economy’s price level and employment numbers. The dashboard of macroeconomic data is vigilantly monitored while the monetary switches, accelerators, and other devices are constantly tweaked, all in order to “foster maximum employment and price stability." The Federal Reserve believes increasing the money supply spurs economic growth, and that such growth, if too strong, will in turn cause price inflation. But if the monetary expansion slows, economic growth may stall and unemployment will rise. So the dilemma can only be solved with a constant iterative process: monetary growth is continuously adjusted until a delicate balance exists between price inflation and unemployment. This faulty reasoning finds its empirical justification in the Phillips curve. Like many Keynesian artifacts, its legacy governs policy long after it has been rendered defunct.
Economics is all about making rational decisions given some set of likes and dislikes. It doesn’t presume to tell you what you should like or dislike, and it assumes that you do in fact know what you like or dislike. Or at least that’s what economic theory used to proclaim. Today economic theory is used as the intellectual foundation for a political stratagem that goes something like this: you do not know what you truly like, and in particular you do not know your economic self-interest, but luckily for you we are here to fix that. This is the common strand between QE and Obamacare. The former says that you are wrong to prefer safety to risk in your investments, and so we will fix that misconception of yours by making it extremely painful for you not to take greater investment risks than you would otherwise prefer. The latter says that you are wrong to prefer no health insurance or a certain type of health insurance to another type of health insurance, and so we will make it illegal for you to do anything but purchase a policy that we are certain you would prefer if only you were thinking more clearly about all this.
Pushing the neo-liberal argument further than it wants to go, with interesting results.
The New Deal social insurance philosophers thus struck a Faustian bargain... To get government funded pensions and unemployment benefits for the most needy, they eschewed a means test and, instead, agreed to generous wage replacement on a universal basis. To fund the massive cost of these universal benefits they agreed to a regressive payroll tax by disguising it as an insurance premium. Yet the long run results could not have been more perverse. The payroll tax has become an anti-jobs monster, but under the banner of a universal entitlement organized labor tenaciously defends what should be its nemesis. The puzzling thing is that 75 years later - with all the terrible facts fully known - the doctrinaire conviction abides on the Left that social insurance is the New Deal’s crowning achievement. In fact, it is its costliest mistake.
Whether or not you believe it would have made a difference to 'know' or not, the facts are that over the course of US economic history, you rarely know you're in a recession until long after it starts. Would you still chase day after day? Could you stand to watch the greater fools buying in the belief they are not the patsy? The following six facts might put things into perspective...