Is the United States turning into a giant prison camp?
9 Torture Myths DeBUNKED
In perhaps the most courageous (and now must-read) speech ever given inside the New York Fed's shallowed hallowed walls, Economic Policy Journal's Robert Wenzel delivered the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the monetary priesthood. Gracious from the start, Wenzel takes the Keynesian clap-trappers to task on almost every nonsensical and oblivious decision they have made in recent years. "My views, I suspect, differ from beginning to end... I stand here confused as to how you see the world so differently than I do. I simply do not understand most of the thinking that goes on here at the Fed and I do not understand how this thinking can go on when in my view it smacks up against reality." And further..."I scratch my head that somehow your conclusions about unemployment are so different than mine and that you call for the printing of money to boost 'demand'. A call, I add, that since the founding of the Federal Reserve has resulted in an increase of the money supply by 12,230%." But his closing was tremendous: "Let’s have one good meal here. Let’s make it a feast. Then I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you all, walk out of here with me, never to come back. It’s the moral and ethical thing to do. Nothing good goes on in this place. Let’s lock the doors and leave the building to the spiders, moths and four-legged rats."
The balance sheet recession diagnosis of many of the world's developed nations remains among the clearest explanation linking the failure of textbook monetary policy to the dismal multipliers, transmission mechanism breakages, and sad reality of a recovery-less recovery. Whether you agree with Richard Koo's traditional but massive Keynesian fiscal stimulus medicinal choice is a different matter but the Nomura economist delineates the three problems (two macroeconomic and one capital flow) exacerbating the eurozone crisis and notes that "bulls have gotten ahead of themselves". Noting that the central bank supply of funds may help address financial crises but cannot resolve problems at borrowers, and that authorities have never admitted they were wrong, Koo stresses the three key reasons that bullish speculation on eurozone is premature - monetary accommodation's ineffectiveness when the private sector is deleveraging, active fiscal retrenchment by the core when fiscal stimulus is the only plus for aggregate demand, and Japanese and US lagged-examples of that dash any short-term hope that structural reforms will lead to growth. Even his solution to the European debacle - one of financial repression limiting the sale of government bonds to each nation's own citizens - while retroactively limiting a nation's largesse seems to only lead to the inevitable Japanification we have discussed at length. In the meantime, Koo appears far less sanguine than the markets about the prospects for anything but further demise in Europe (and the US).
It is three and a half years since the Great Recession hit in 2008 with the collapse of our financial system caused by the Wall Street banks and their captured politician cronies in Washington D.C. Their mouthpieces in the mainstream media have been telling the American sheeple that we have been out of recession and in recovery since the 4th quarter of 2009. It truly has been a recovery for the Wall Street bankers and the mega-corporations that have laid off millions and opened new factories in the Far East while generating record profits and rewarding their executives with millions in bonuses. The stock market has doubled from its 2009 lows. All is well on Wall Street – not so much on Main Street. The compliant non-questioning MSM reported that GDP in the 1st quarter rose 2.2%, less than expected. This pitiful government manipulated result confirms that we are back in recession. The first quarter had the huge benefit of fantastic weather, an extra day, and a supposed surge in jobs. And this is all we got? Take a good long hard look at this chart.
Whatever one thinks of the practical implications of the Kalecki equation (and as we pointed out a month ago, GMO's James Montier sure doesn't think much particularly when one accounts for the ever critical issue of asset depreciation), it intuitively has one important implication: every incremental dollar of debt created at the public level during a time of stagnant growth (such as Q1 2012 as already shown earlier) should offset one dollar of deleveraging in the private sector. In turn, this should facilitate the growth of private America so it can eventually take back the reins of debt creation back from the public sector (and ostensibly help it delever, although that would mean running a surplus - something America has done only once in the post-war period). This growth would manifest itself directly by the hiring of Americans by US corporations, small, medium and large, who in turn, courtesy of their newly found job safety, would proceed to spend, and slowly but surely restart the frozen velocity of money which would then spur inflation, growth, public sector deleveraging, and all those other things we learn about in Econ 101. All of the above works... in theory. In practice, not so much. Because as the WSJ demonstrates, in the period 2009-2011, America's largest multinational companies: those who benefit the most from the public sector increasing its debt/GDP to the most since WWII, or just over 100% and rapidly rising, and thus those who should return the favor by hiring American workers, have instead hired three times as many foreigners as they have hired US workers. Those among us cynically inclined could say, correctly, that the US is incurring record levels of leverage to fund foreign leverage, foreign employment, and, most importantly, foreign leverage.
Guest Post: The New Drug of Choice In The White House, Federal Reserve and Treasury: Delusionol (tm)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/27/2012 11:45 -0400
Inside sources are reporting that there's a new drug of choice circulating in the hallways of power--the White House, Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department--and it's a perfectly legal prescription psychotropic: Delusionol (tm). Delusionol works by activating the parts of the brain that replace cognition and reasoning with positive fantasies. For example, a driver on Delusionol might run over a person in a wheelchair, bounce off a fire hydrant and send a baby carriage hurtling into a brick wall, and they would be happily convinced that they were an excellent driver. Now you understand why Delusionol is being gulped in vast quantities in the halls of power: the guys (and yes, it's mostly guys) really want to believe the "economic recovery" they've been hyping, and since it's rationally preposterous, they need a drug to suppress recognition that their policies have only made the financial disease worse and stimulate a delusional belief in the fantasy of "recovery."
... but not from us: after all we are known for being biased, which in the mainstream media parlance means calling it like it is. No - instead we leave it to none other than Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil who does as good a job of being "biased" as we ever could: "Egan-Jones, which has been in business since 1992, could have continued operating as an independent publisher of ratings and analysis, not subject to government oversight or control. Instead it chose to play within the Big Three’s system, exposing itself to regulation and the whims of the SEC in exchange for the government’s imprimatur. Now it’s paying the price." And not only that: as the most recent example of Spain just shows, where Egan Jones downgraded Spain 9 days ago and was ignored, but well ahead of everyone else, only to be piggybacked by S&P, and the whole world flipping out, it has become clear: calling out reality, and the fools that populate it, is becoming not only a dangerous game, but increasingly more illegal. Then again - this is not the first time we have seen just this happen in broad daylight, with nobody daring to say anything about it. In fact, this phenomenon tends to be a rather traditional side-effect of every declining superpower. Such as the case is right now...
Between credible and non-credible political and fiscal policies and a reflationary or deflationary monetary policy aimed at the financial system, Morgan Stanley provides a quick-and-dirty 'map' of where Europe finds itself and the four different scenarios that await this troubled region. The 'Quantum Leap' of credible fiscal integration with term liquidity support and even easier monetary policy is where everyone hoped we would be by now (especially post the October 26th Grand Plan decisions). However, the sad truth in reality is the drop in credibility of political will (or direct nationalism emerging) combined with some concerns over inflation and the dramatic fading of the liquidity impact of the ECB's latest actions means we are drifting rapidly towards 'Debt Crisis Derailment' as the elite continue to confuse insolvency and illiquidity and stick their heads in the sand with regard the reality they face under the restrictions of Maastricht. With implicit monetary conditions dramatically easy and peripheral banks over-stuffed with sovereign debt, there is little room for anything but more encumbrance or ECB-Treaty-busting direct printing (which is the rumor floating all boats this morning).
While Europe is still keeping up a facade that all is well in the aftermath of the Spanish downgrade, but far more importantly its sheer economic collapse as noted earlier, just so Italy could price €4.916 billion in two On The Run 5 and 10 year bond issues (compared to a target of €5 billion), the tension is there, as can be seen in a decidedly week Italian bond auction, which saw yields soar, Bids to Cover slide, and tails spike. Italy also sold less than the maximum in off the run 2016 and 2019 bonds. All in all, while the market may experience a brief recovery rally that Italy managed to sell anything at all (that was not a Bill of course - that gimmick always does the trick), the reality that these yields are not sustainable will slowly seep in within a few hours.
The numeric implications as well as the magnitude of the student loan bubble have been discussed extensively before. Yet just like most people's eyes gloss over when they hear billions, trillions or quadrillions, so seeing the exponential chart of Federal Student debt merely brings up memories of a math lesson from high school, or at best, makes one think of statistics. And as we all know statistics are faceless, nameless and can never apply to anyone else. It is the individual case studies that have the most impact. Which is why we would like to introduce you to Devin and Sarah Stang - student loan debt slaves in perpetuity.
Suddenly, everywhere you look, “austerity” has become a 4 letter word. Clearly it wasn’t excessive spending that caused too much debt. Surely we didn’t hit a financial crisis in spite of excessive spending, nope, it is all the fault of austerity. In the rush to avoid supporting anything that could be viewed as “austerity” we have lost sight of what austerity is, and how it can impact the economy. Let’s not let politicians get away with claiming everything that is “austerity” is bad. We too often confused “conjecture” with “fact”. Lately I have seen a lot written about how much better the job situation is today than it would have been without all the policies of Obama, Geithner, and Bernanke. It is treated as fact, yet it is merely conjecture.
There is no shortage of money in the world. Thanks to global Central Banks' extreme activism money supply has exploded. Since August 2011, the Fed has been less of a full-time player in this effort but in passing the baton, the rest of the world did not let them down with most notably the ECB having taken over with its own version of free-money printing for much of the first quarter - driving the ratio of outside (central-bank-driven) money relative to inside (the bank themselves creating money via credit) to record highs as a stealth nationalization of credit is underway (though as we noted earlier this morning - the transmission mechanism is not working). So where oh where is all that hard-earned free-money going? The story bifurcates here. In the US, non-financial corporates have grown their war-chests as high as they have ever been (and continue to do so) after being burned by short-term financing stresses and knowing (despite all outward media appearances) that the next abyss is potentially around the corner (given real-life growth estimates becoming more and more binary/extreme as opposed to normalized with a range). In Europe, the 'excess' has flowed to the core driving, as Sean Corrigan notes, what some surveys suggest is a consumer and housing boom (read mal-allocation of capital once again) in the decade-long stagnant German real-estate market. All that extra cash, however, while helping revenues and margins for non-financial corporates in the US has left wage growth languishing. So the sad reality of the Keynesian 'multiplier' dogma is that rather than garbage-in, garbage-out - it is freshly printed money-in, nothing-out-to-the-real-economy as each actor in the game becomes increasingly driven by a sense of self-preservation. Is it any wonder that energy/raw materials prices (as evidenced most recently by Whirlpool's comments this morning) are rising when firms are awash in cash? But of course, as the old-saying goes, a-biflation-a-day-keeps-the-Fed-hawks-at-bay.
H.L. Mencken was a renowned newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Sun from 1906 until 1948. His biting sarcasm seems to fit perfectly in today’s world. His acerbic satirical writings on government, democracy, politicians and the ignorant masses are as true today as they were then. I believe the reason his words hit home is because he was writing during the last Unraveling and Crisis periods in America. The similarities cannot be denied. There are no journalists of his stature working in the mainstream media today. His acerbic wit is nowhere to be found among the lightweight shills that parrot their corporate masters’ propaganda on a daily basis and unquestioningly report the fabrications spewed by our government. Mencken’s skepticism of all institutions is an unknown quality in the vapid world of present day journalism.
H.L. Mencken understood the false promises of democracy 80 years ago:
“Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. It is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
We deserve to get it good and hard, and we will.
While the LTRO was heralded as a success for a month or so with the implicit money-printing-and-sovereign-reacharounds involved at the cost of senior unsecured bondholders, the sad reality is that not only are the effects of LTRO now almost entirely gone in both sovereign and financial funding costs but the massive 'injection' of freshly printed encumbrance did nothing for the real economy. In fact, as Barclays notes in these charts from the ECB bank lending survey, not only is demand weaker for credit (i.e. the consumer is pulling back in classic balance sheet recessionary style) but the banks themselves are tightening credit conditions (reducing supply) - the exact opposite of what the ECB had in mind. There is one exception to this vicious cycle - German real estate loan demand picked up modestly - we assume reflecting their flat housing market for the last 15 years and extremely low rates). Oh well, we are sure the next ECB action will be different in its banking reaction.