When Eric Holder announced his resignation, many breathed a sigh of relief thinking it can’t get much worse, but not so fast. The authoritarian streak and rampant cronyism of the Obama administration is a well oiled machine. You didn’t think you’d get off that easily did you? Enter Loretta Lynch.
Yesterday, to much fanfare, the White House blasted that it was Obama's desire to appoint Allan R. Landon, a Hawaiian community banker, to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. To wit: "President Obama said, “Allan Landon has the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy. He brings decades of leadership and expertise from various roles, particularly as a community banker.” Apparently what he also brings as Bloomberg's Dawn Kopecki reminds us, is the usual near-criminal cronyism and corruption that we have all grown to love and expect from every single Fed governor in recent history. It turns out in 2005 Landon agreed to step down as SFHLB board member due to the "appearance of impropriety" when he "failed to comply with a rule requiring the disclosure of conflicts of interest by a director."
That markets are rigged, at both the macro level, through central banks, and micro, through HFTs, dark pools and purposeful market fragmentation, should be painfully obvious to everyone by now. But when even the regulators engage in "jury rigging", or in this case blocking prominent HFT-critic Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel prize winning economist (a prize which doesn't count for much on these pages but should - at least on paper - impress such statist cronies as the SEC), has been blocked from a government panel that will advise regulators on issues facing U.S. equity markets, it becomes clear as day that the rigging is not just in the markets: worse, it is openly involves the market's "regulator" and "enforcer."
Many people have noted that the more insidious or corrupt a law or agency, the more positive sounding its name. The most egregious example during my lifetime, was naming legislation that stripped Americans of most of their civil liberties the “Patriot” Act. In a similar vein, which red-blooded American could ever be opposed to something called the Small Business Administration (SBA). As such, the SBA is the perfect vehicle for cronyism, corruption and corporate welfare, which indeed appears to be its primary reason for existence.
What was truly notable in Weidmann's statement is his open jab at the stupidity of Keynesian economics itself. To wit from Bloomberg: ECB Governing Council member Jens Weidmann says at event in Berlin that consumer prices in euro area “are strongly influenced by the energy prices, which are at the moment experiencing a positive supply shock.” The punchline: "There’s a stimulant effect coming from the energy prices - it’s like a mini stimulus package." But wait a minute, isn't deflation under Keynesian voodoonomics, the biggest bogeyman imaginable? It turns out deflation is only bad when it impacts... the S&P 500.
"In a tense confrontation with President Obama’s closest adviser on Thursday, a group of Senate Democrats accused the White House of trying to censor significant details in a voluminous report on the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency."
A losing bet for the rest of us...
"Capitalism is a system according to which capital is owned by private citizens, who in turn determine its price and flow by interacting with one another. Capitalism implies that private citizens get to keep most of the fruits of their labor or the profitability of their capital. Capitalism is neither a “state of nature” nor a primitive scrum. It can work (i.e., create value for owners and for society while being acceptable to the citizenry, including those without capital) only with appropriate rules of fairness and honesty, and workable standards of disclosure. To these factors must be added the ability for people, in a meritocratic way, to have a chance to participate in capitalism. The proper combination leads society to buy into the concept that the individual freedom to own property leads to the most efficient allocation of resources, which in turn results in the highest economic growth and prosperity. Capitalism is never perfect, but the closer society adheres to its general principles, the better it is for the population at large."
The sickening transformation of these United States into an authoritarian police state with an incarceration rate that would make Joseph Stalin blush, has been a common theme here. But now, as a result of our insane societal obsession with authority and disproportionate punishment, the WSJ reports that “nearly one out of every three American adults are on file in the FBI’s master criminal database.”
One systemic source of rising inequality is crony-capitalism/crony socialism: the vast array of insider deals, collusion, winners being picked by the central state, too big to fail banks bailed out with taxpayer money, etc. People are increasingly aware the Status Quo is rigged, and the playing field is tilted to favor the few inside the crony-capitalist castle (what we call the New Nobility in a Neofeudal economy). As a society, we will have to deal with the reality that the nature of work is fundamentally changing, and wages are no longer an adequate means of distributing the surplus of an economy.
Any time you feel like all the endless crime, rigging and cronyism on Wall Street and its lobbied puppets in the Capitol is something new, look at these cartoons from about 100 years ago. You will feel better that this time is not different... and much worse that in 100 years absolutely nothing has changed.
What can popular television programs tell us about the zeitgeist (spirit of the age) of our culture and economy? It’s an interesting question, as all mass media both responds to and shapes our interpretations and explanations of changing times. It’s also an important question, as mass media trends crystallize and express new ways of understanding our era. Those who shape our interpretation of events also shape our responses. This of course is the goal of propaganda: Shape the interpretation, and the response predictably follows.
Back in 1930, Keynes looked out into the future and saw that with the proper management of the economy, monetary policy and the like, the world could attain a type of utopian stasis: Keynes expected growth to come to an end within two to three generations, and the economy to plateau. He referred to this imaginary state of equilibrium as "bliss," noting “thus for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem - how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well." However, Keynes did say this would happen if mankind avoided any calamitous wars and if there was no appreciable increase in population. Two more flawed base assumptions there could not have been.
The more the Status Quo pursues the same old Keynesian Cargo Cult script of central planning and free money for financiers, the more self-liquidating the system becomes.
Mark Spitznagel: "Mises will ultimately be right yet again about the inevitable final collapse of the current asset boom brought about by credit expansion. The term “black swan” (the surprising, unforeseen event) used for bursting financial bubbles has been and will remain a misnomer - we can and, indeed, should expect such tumults to occur at some point as a consequence of massive central bank intervention and economic distortion."
Ron Paul: "As to the unwinding of this mess, I’m convinced that when the current expansion ends it will be abrupt, gigantic, and worldwide. The 43-year expansion of Fed credit and debt, delivered to us by a fiat dollar standard, and held together artificially by an undeserved trust will end badly."