Three times more Americans gave up on America in 2013 than in 2012. As The WSJ reports, last year saw a record number of US taxpayer expatriations. While "exceptionalism" and living the American Dream remain cornerstones of maintaining the US citizenry's view of the world, it seems everything from tax-code changes to spying drove 2,999 people to hand in their passports last year, "above all, fear seems to be driving this increase."
While everyone focuses on the turmoiling in Emerging Markets, a good, old standby is back - the periodic "debt ceiling" IMAX tragicomedy. Recall that the debt limit, which has been suspended since October 17, is scheduled to be reinstated on February 8. At that time, the nation will be operating right at the debt limit, and the Treasury Department will use extraordinary measures to temporarily issue additional public debt to meet federal financial obligations as it always does during episodes of political posturing that without fail take place until the 11th hour, 59th minute, and 59th second. However, unlike last year when there was a 5 month interval between hitting the debt ceiling, and the day the Treasury's funds fully ran out - the infamous X Date - this time the emergency measures will only last a limited time. What this means when looking at a calendar, is that the Treasury may not have sufficient cash-on-hand to cover all obligations due as soon as February 28.
You didn't think the US could at first slowly, and then all of a sudden, expropriate retirement accounts and invest them in the "no risk, guaranteed return" MyRA Ponzi scheme introduced by Obama during the State of the Union address without lots of behavior-modifying indoctrination in the "friendly press" first now did you? Sure enough, here is the first major propaganda salvo, coming from none other than the US Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, which will be published tomorrow across the McClatchy media empire.
The 1,582-page (apparently bipartisan) omnibus spending bill announced last night adds up to a cool $1.1 trillion. As Bloomberg reports, lawmakers notes "not everyone will like everything in this bill," and we can see why. There is no IMF funding, nothing that "blocks Obamacare," the IRS gets a reprimand - barring them from targetng groups based on their ideological beliefs, preserves language that blocks Federal funding for abortions and spending any money to legalize marijuana. But, perhaps the most critical aspect of the bill is the NSA is required to give Congress number of phone records collected, reviewed during last 5 yrs, including estimate for records of U.S. citizens (among other things). Will that be one step too far for the administration?
It has been commonplace to speak of central bank independence - as if it were both a reality and a necessity. Discussions of the Fed invariably refer to legislated independence and often to the famous 1951 Accord that apparently settled the matter.  While everyone recognizes the Congressionally-imposed dual mandate, the Fed has substantial discretion in its interpretation of the vague call for high employment and low inflation. It is, then, perhaps a good time to reexamine the thinking behind central bank independence. There are several related issues.
- First, can a central bank really be independent? In what sense? Political? Operational? Policy formation?
- Second, should a central bank be independent? In a democracy should monetary policy—purportedly as important as or even more important than fiscal policy—be unaccountable? Why?
- Finally, what are the potential problems faced if a central bank is not independent? Inflation? Insolvency?
It’s NEVER to Protect Us From Bad Guys
Below is a recent correspondence from our friend Lars Schall, an independent financial journalist, and the German Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, regarding the exact whereabouts and specifications of Germany’s national gold reserve.
Even Before 9/11, NSA Knew In Real-Time Which Countries Both Parties to Phone Calls Were In
While one may criticize now-ex CFTC commissioner Bart Chilton for years and years of sound and fury signifying nothing, countless promises of regulatory enforcement (all of which fell short of the target) and finally putting an end to precious metals manipulation only for the world to discover that while every other asset class is manipulated (involving such individuals as JPM's chief currency dealer), gold and silver are exempt, one must admit the former regulator does have a way wtih words (and of course haircuts). Sure enough, Chilton's most memorable parting gift will not be something he did, but rather what he said. William Cohan memorializes his parting message: "As we long suspected, Wall Street continues to use every trick in its playbook to do whatever it can to eviscerate numerous post-financial-crisis rules. The arsenal includes high-powered lobbyists who outnumber lawmakers 10-to-1; $1,000-an-hour letter-writing lawyers who gain strength from negotiating over arcana; and the occasional hoodwinking of a president whose knowledge of the ways of finance are close to nil." Chilton's take home message: “The lesson for me is: The financial sector is so powerful that they will roll things back over time,” Chilton says. “The Wall Street firms have tremendous influence, and they can impact policy to a greater degree than any one regulator or a small group of regulators can.”
December 23rd, 1913 is a date which will live in infamy. That was the day when the Federal Reserve Act was pushed through Congress. Many members of Congress were absent that day, and the general public was distracted with holiday preparations. Now we have reached the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, and most Americans still don't know what it actually is or how it functions. But understanding the Federal Reserve is absolutely critical, because the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 recessions or depressions, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by 98 percent, and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. This insidious debt-based financial system has literally made debt slaves out of all of us, and it is systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. The truth is that we do not have to have a Federal Reserve. The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when we did not have a central bank. If we are ever going to turn this nation around economically, we are going to have to get rid of this debt-based financial system that is centered around the Federal Reserve. On the path that we are on now, there is no hope.
A month ago, the press was aflutter with rumors that NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, spurned by mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, would join JPMorgan in a "top security" position. The rumor was since denied and the fate of Kelly was unclear, until today, when the Council on Foreign Relations announced that the NYPD top man would join the CFR as a "distinguished visiting fellow" in turn opening the doors wide for a world of financial opportunities to Kelly. Considering his tenure, where Kelly served as senior managing director of global corporate security at Bear, Stearns & Co. Inc. from 2000 to 2001, he seems like a perfect fit for the CFR.
A century ago, politicians failed to understand that the financial panics of the 19th century were caused by collusion between government and the banking sector. Today, however, we do know better. We know that the Federal Reserve continues to strengthen the collusion between banks and politicians. We know that the Fed’s inflationary monetary policy continues to reap profits for Wall Street while impoverishing Main Street. And we know that the current monetary regime is teetering on a precipice. One hundred years is long enough. End the Fed.
HSBC is back in the news. This time it relates to their transferring funds on the behalf of financiers for the militant group Hezbollah. If transactions such as these had even the slightest link to Bitcoin, there would be endless uproar, calls for countless Congressional hearings and demands to stop the currency at all costs. But when HSBC is caught doing it, what happens? A $32,400 settlement.
• the risk of runs and asset fire sales in repurchase (repo) markets;
• excessive credit risk-taking and weaker underwriting standards;
• exposure to duration risk in the event of a sudden, unanticipated rise in interest rates;
• exposure to shocks from greater risk-taking when volatility is low;
• the risk of impaired trading liquidity;
• spillovers to and from emerging markets;
• operational risk from automated trading systems, including high-frequency trading; and
• unresolved risks associated with uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal outlook.
If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
So the question is simple: If there is a recession in 2014, and policymakers are out of bullets, how will it play out across the American economy?