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.
You may find what is happening at one Wal-Mart in Ohio very hard to believe. At the Wal-mart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio employees are being asked to donate food items so that other employees that cannot afford to buy Thanksgiving dinner will be able to enjoy one too. On the one hand, it is commendable that someone at that Wal-Mart is deeply concerned about the employees that are so poor that they cannot afford to buy the food that they need for Thanksgiving. On the other hand, this is a perfect example that shows how the quality of the jobs in this country has gone down the toilet.
Pushing the neo-liberal argument further than it wants to go, with interesting results.
Much is made of the expected hockey-stick - any quarter now - in US GDP growth (whether it's a lower fiscal drag or rise in CAPEX or any range of miracle-driven hope factors). Credit Suisse is not so sure; not just in the short-term, but in the long-term of the potential for US GDP growth. They note that basic growth accounting provides links between potential GDP to the size of the labor force, its productivity, and the capital assets – both public and private – it has available to work with. The problem - longer-term for the US, is, as CS notes, the following four exhibits collectively speak to the recent slowdown in potential, and do not augur positively for future growth.
The Senate Banking Committee’s confirmation hearing for current Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve began with Janet Yellen delivering prepared remarks. Most observers likely tuned out well before the completion of the 2 ½ hours meeting to decide whether Yellen was worthy to succeed outgoing Chair Ben Bernanke and ascend to the top spot at the Fed. With the ongoing debacle of the Affordable Health Care website handcuffing Democrats, tough questions about QE, ZIRP, the oft talked about Taper and the possibility of reducing the Fed’s gargantuan $4 trillion balance sheet were verboten. That left Republicans to address the elephant(s) in the room. Predictably, it took nearly the entire hearing until a Senator from Nebraska offered his views about the damage being done by the various fiscal and monetary machinations undertaken to combat the Great Recession. What happened, beginning just after the 2 hour point of the meeting, was both remarkable and revealing...
Somehow, Fed head Bill Dudley has managed to encompass the entire "we must keep the foot to the floor" premise of the Fed in one mind-bending sentence:
- *DUDLEY SEES 'POSSIBILITY OF SOME UNFORESEEN SHOCK'
So - based on an "unforeseen" shock - which he "sees", and while there are "nascent signs the economy may be doing better", the Fed should remain as exceptionally easy just in case... (asteroid? alien invasion? West Coast quake?)
While the domestic euphoria in the stock market bubble has succeeded to sucker in everyone into the biggest multiple expansion rally in 15 years (as was noted earlier today, 75% of the S&P's YTD return has come from its trailing PE expanding to 16.5x now from 13.7x in 2012 - the largest increase since 1998), foreigners continue to vote with their feet. In fact, as today's August TIC data report showed, in August - perhaps due to Tapering fears - foreigners sold $16.9 billion in US equities. This was the fourth largest equity outflow in history. Transactions in other securities were mixed, with $10.8 billion in long-term Treasury sales offset by $16.8 billion in MBS/agency purchases, as well as $2.3 bilion in Corporate Bond buys.
"Every American family deserves a false sense of security," said Chris Reppto, a risk analyst for Citigroup in New York. "Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal." Despite the overwhelming support for a new bubble among investors, some in Washington are critical of the idea, calling continued reliance on bubble-based economics a mistake. Regardless of the outcome of this week's congressional hearings, however, one thing will remain certain: The calls for a new bubble are only going to get louder. "America needs another bubble," said Chicago investor Bob Taiken. "At this point, bubbles are the only thing keeping us afloat."
Dispassionate discussion of the investment climate.
Economic data can be and is commonly used as a political tool. The EU is just the latest example of this. In the US we’ve seen this same game played out using GDP numbers.
Not only is there a positive relationship between stronger public finances during the crisis and faster post-GFC growth, but the relationship holds both within and outside Europe. We have two observations. First, the results may help explain why Keynesian pundits resort to nonsensical arguments. They often claim that poor performance in countries attempting to contain public debt proves austerity doesn’t work, which is like deciding your months in rehab stunk, and therefore, rehab is bad and heroin is good. A more honest approach is to compare fiscal actions in one time period with results in later periods, after the obvious short-term effects have played out. But if Keynesians did that, they would reveal that their own advice has failed. Second, the effects discussed by Aslund don’t receive enough attention. As Tyler Cowen (who gets credit for the pointer) wrote, Aslund’s perspective “is underrepresented in the economics blogosphere.”... Until now, we haven’t offered research on intermediate-term effects – horizons of 2-5 years as in the charts above.
The third stage of bull markets, the mania phase, can last longer and go farther that logic would dictate. However, the data suggests that the risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle.
According to the popular way of thinking, bubbles are an important cause of economic recessions. The main question posed by experts is how one knows when a bubble is forming. It is held that if the central bankers knew the answer to this question they might be able to prevent bubble formations and thus prevent recessions. Contrary to Shiller, in order to establish that a bubble is forming we don’t need to apply the same methodology employed by psychologists. What we require is the establishment of a correct definition of what bubbles are all about. Once it is done, one discovers that bubbles have nothing to do with some kind psychological malfunction of individuals – they are the result of loose monetary policies of the central bank.
It seems, as Jim Quinn notes, the 99% are not cooperating with the 1% plan for economic recovery. As Gallup reports, average Americans plan on spending 10% less for Christmas gifts this year than last year. Not only that, but they are spending 19% less than they spent in 2007 and 18% less than they spent in 1999. The average American is spending less because they have less as the talking heads on CNBC and the rest of the MSM tell me that things are great. Opening stores on Thanksgiving will not save anyone and perhaps more critically, the last 2 times the November forecast for holiday spending slumped - the US entered recession!
Maybe 2015 will be the year of the collapse. Our entire economy runs on debt creations, vis-a-vis financialization, since we import $500 billion a year more than we export. 2015 is the year when increasing debt results in ZERO GDP growth. The end of the line. But that won’t stop the Federal Reserve and the criminals in Washington. Enjoy what time we have left before it all collapses. The Keynesians that are busy trying to turn the magic levers in our economy right now still aren’t getting the message, more than two years later: government spending can’t make the economy grow. Until they stop trying (and racking up immense, almost unfathomable amounts of debt), things are likely to continue to get worse.