The blinding nominal light of a Dow Jones Industrial Index near pre-crisis highs is enough provocation for most of the well-assuming US citizenry to 'believe'. Ahead of the third and final Presidential debate this evening, QBAMCO's Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance distill the listening audience into Realists and Nominalists. The critical difference between the two, which is described below, is hidden notably from view as the rhetoric within the institutionalized process of vetting and voting for our next President is narrowly focused, intentionally avoiding any major sticking points that will really bring change. As a result, they note, public policy and the people picked to craft and execute it have become anodyne; further implying that regardless of the outcome of the election, inflation will be the accepted manner of de-leveraging to be pursued; but the re-awakening of the so-called 'Chicago Plan' does acknowledge that significant monetary change is likely (for better or worse). Our leaders are dividing us with idealism and conquering us with vote counting. And yet... we all know it’s fake.
Although we showed these earlier, we believe the charts showing the trendlines in the two most critical components of US household purchasing power deserve to be shown again, without much if any commentary necessary. Just because.
Readers may recall that Ron Paul once surprised everyone with a seemingly very elegant proposal to bring the debt ceiling wrangle to a close. If you're all so worried about the federal deficit and the debt ceiling, so Paul asked, then why doesn't the treasury simply cancel the treasury bonds held by the Fed? After all, the Fed is a government organization as well, so it could well be argued that the government literally owes the money to itself. He even introduced a bill which if adopted, would have led to the cancellation of $1.6 trillion in federal debt held by the Fed. Of course the proposal was not really meant to be taken serious: rather, it was meant to highlight the absurdities of the modern-day monetary system. In a way, we would actually not necessarily be entirely inimical to the idea, for similar reasons Ron Paul had in mind: it would no doubt speed up the inevitable demise of the fiat money system. Control can be lost, and it usually happens only after a considerable period of time during which their interventions appear to have no ill effects if looked at only superficially: “Thus we learn….to be ignorant of political economy is to allow ourselves to be dazzled by the immediate effect of a phenomenon."
Spain Is Losing Its People, Catalonia Fights For Independence, And The EU Gets Pushed Into The ConflictSubmitted by testosteronepit on 10/15/2012 21:40 -0500
Catalonia’s independence “would do away with Spain” - Justice Minister
This summer Roger Bootle won Lord Wolfson's £250,000 prize for the best advice for a country leaving the European Monetary Union (one may assume that this advice is aimed at Greece). Despite his lengthy and repetitive prize submission, Mr. Bootle's recommendations can be summarized in this one sentence: In complete secrecy and with no prior discussion, redenominate all Greek euro-denominated bank accounts into drachma-denominated accounts and devalue the drachma. That's it! There is no need to cut public spending. Quite the contrary, because public spending adds to the Keynesian concept of aggregate demand, and aggregate demand cannot be allowed to fall. Dr. Philipp Bagus offered the truly liberal alternative. He proposed a long period of public discussion about alternatives to leaving the euro, which would allow ample time for Greeks to move their property out of the greedy reach of their own government, should they decide to do so. The currency crisis might be solved in this manner as Greek banks closed and the Greek government shut down its welfare and regulatory system for lack of funds. The Greek government could repeal legal-tender laws, which currently require Greek citizens to transact business in one currency only — always that issued by the state itself. Concomitantly it could reinstate the drachma as a strong currency backed by gold. Then good money would drive out bad, as people freely chose which currency to use.
One place where the S&P level still does have a modest influence is the number of shorts in the market, which are strategically used by repo desks and custodians (State Street and BoNY), to force wholesale short squeezes at given inflection points, usually just when the bottom is about to drop out. The problem is that even short squeezes are increasingly becoming fewer and far between, for the simple reason that the Fed has managed to nearly anihilate shorters as a trading class with its policy of Dow 36,000 uber alles. This was demonstrated with the latest NYSE Group short interest data, which tumbled to 13.6 billion shares short as of the end of September, or the lowest since early May, just as the market was swooning to its lowest level of 2012 to date.
A few weeks ago we noted Bundesbank president and ECB governing council member Jens Weidmann's analogy between the Faustian bargain offered by a money-printing Mephistopheles in Goethe's classic prose and today's ubiquitous oh-so-tempting short-term solution to everyone's pain. His full speech (below), while a little dramatic, should indeed strike fear into many with its clarity. The financial power of a central bank is unlimited in principle; it does not have to acquire beforehand the money it lends or uses for payments. Many believe Goethe was portraying the modern economy with its creation of paper money as a continuation of alchemy by other means. While traditional alchemists attempted to turn lead into gold, in the modern economy, paper was made into money. Indeed, the fact that central banks can create money out of thin air, so to speak, is something that many observers are likely to find surprising and strange, perhaps mystical and dreamlike, too – or even nightmarish. Of course, Weidmann concludes, it is important that central bankers, who are in charge of a public good – in this case, stable money – bolster public confidence by explaining their policies. The best protection against temptation in monetary policy is an enlightened and stability-oriented society. [and Gold!]
Economists, market analysts, journalists and investors alike are all talking about it quite openly, generally in a calm and reserved tone that suggests that - to borrow a phrase from Bill Gross – it represents the 'new normal'. Something that simply needs to be acknowledged and analyzed in the same way we e.g. analyze the supply/demand balance of the copper market. It is the new buzzword du jour: 'Financial Repression'. The term certainly sounds ominous, but it is always mentioned in an off-hand manner that seems to say: 'yes, it is bad, but what can you do? We've got to live with it.' But what does it actually mean? The simplest, most encompassing explanation is this: it describes various insidious and underhanded methods by which the State intends to rob its citizens of their wealth and income over the coming years (and perhaps even decades) above and beyond the already onerous burden of taxation and regulatory costs that is crushing them at present. One cannot possibly "print one's way to prosperity". The exact opposite is in fact true: the policy diminishes the economy's ability to generate true wealth. If anything, “we” are printing ourselves into the poorhouse.
It seems our recent re-introduction of the world to Robert Triffin has struck a note among a number of market participants. The gold-convertible U.S. dollar became the global reserve currency under the Bretton Woods monetary system, which lasted from 1944-1971. This arrangement ended because foreign central banks accumulated unsustainably large reserves of U.S. Treasuries, threatening price stability and the purchasing power of the dollar. Today, central banks are once again stockpiling massive Treasury reserves in an attempt to manage their currency values and gain advantages in export markets. We have, effectively, returned to Bretton Woods. The trouble is, as Guggenheim's Scott Minerd notes, that the arrangement is as unsustainable today as it was during the middle of the last century. None of this should come as a surprise given the unorthodox growth of central bank balance sheets around the world. The collapse of Bretton Woods in 1971 caused a decade of economic malaise and negative real returns for financial assets. Can anyone afford to wait to find out whether this time will be different?
It takes all of three seconds on the ground in Spain to realize that this country is hurting. Big time. It’s amazing what the combination of debt, deceit, and a bona fide banking collapse can do to a nation. Consequently, depositors are moving money out of the country en masse, often to the tiny principality of Andorra next door - a highly capitalized, low tax banking jurisdiction. This leaves the already thinly-capitalized Spanish banks in an even weaker position. As we have painstakingly pointed out a number of times, the way the banking system works in most of the world is a complete fraud since most banks only hold a tiny percentage of their customers’ deposits in cash. The moment there are more than a handful of depositors wanting their money back, the bank has a big problem. This is happening nationwide in Spain. As such, the IMF is now recommending that Spain (and other nations in the eurozone periphery) take action “at the national level” to stem this flight of funds and prevent people from moving money abroad. Capital controls by any other name should smell so foul.
As we all know, what matters isn't our nominal earnings, it's what our earnings can buy that counts. If it takes an hour of labor to buy four gallons of gasoline, it doesn't really matter if we're paid $1.60 an hour and gasoline costs 40 cents a gallon or we're paid $16 an hour and gasoline costs $4 per gallon. Ditto $16,000 an hour and $4,000 per gallon. What matters is if our hourly wage once bought eight gallons of gasoline and now it buys only four gallons. This is called purchasing power, and rather naturally the Status Quo has worked mightily to cloak the reality that our purchasing power of the bottom 95% of wage earners has been declining for decades. Until oil no longer matters, our real earnings and our economy remain hostages to the cost of oil.
The other day the Huffington Post ran an article by a Bonnie Kavoussi called “11 Lies About the Federal Reserve.” And you’ll never guess: these aren’t lies or myths spread in the financial press by Fed apologists. These are “lies” being told by you and me, opponents of the Fed. Bonnie Kavoussi calls us “Fed-haters.” So she, a Fed-lover, is at pains to correct these alleged misconceptions. She must stop us stupid ingrates from poisoning our countrymen’s minds against this benevolent array of experts innocently pursuing economic stability. Here are the 11 so-called lies (she calls them “myths” in the actual rendering), and Tom Woods and Bob Murphy's responses.
We have lately noticed that there is an ongoing debate on whether (or not) the world can again embrace the gold standard. We join the debate today, with an historical as well as technical perspective. The gold standard will be the last option: If adopted, it will be out of necessity and in desperation. We are not historians. In our limited knowledge, we note however that historically, the experiment of adopting a gold standard –or a currency board system- was usually preceded by extremely trying moments, including the loss by a government of its legal tender amidst hyperinflation. The change to a commodity standard has often been then out of necessity. In summary, the Argentine case and the Dutch Golden Age suggest that the elimination of the credit multiplier (i.e. extinction of shadow banking) is more important than the asset backing a currency.
If interest income as a percentage of total personal income had remained at its 2008 level, the total would now be over $1.5 trillion. It is this $550 billion annual delta that the Fed has directly, though its policies, taken away from US consumers in terms of purchasing power. So while the Fed has taken away the bond market as a venue in which to generate current income, it is the structural failures of equities in a post-HFT world (stories of mini, amd maxi, Flash Crashes are now a daily occurrence) that prevent investors from having the same confidence about current income in a market in which terminal and fatal capital loss are all too real fears. And there are those who still wonder why the US consumer is withering away, and absent such crutches as soaring Federal non-revolving debt, used for anything but its designated purposes, would have less purchasing power now than before the crisis as a result of the Fed's failed policies. As George Magnus so peotically summarizes it "What the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away."
The essence of money-laundering is that fraudulent or illegally derived assets and income are recycled into legitimate enterprises. That is the entire Federal Reserve project in a nutshell. Dodgy mortgages, phantom claims and phantom assets, are recycled via Fed purchase and "retired" to its opaque balance sheet. In exchange, the Fed gives cash to the owners of the phantom assets, cash which is fundamentally a claim on the future earnings and productivity of American citizens. Some might argue that the global drug mafia are the largest money-launderers in the world, and this might be correct. But $1.1 trillion is seriously monumental laundering, and now the Fed will be laundering another $480 billion a year in perpetuity, until it has laundered the entire portfolio of phantom mortgages and claims. The rule of law is dead in the U.S. It "cost too much" to the financial sector that rules the State, the Central Bank and thus the nation. Once the Fed has laundered all the phantom assets into cash assets and driven wages down another notch, then the process of transforming a nation of owners into a nation of serfs can be completed.
Here's the Fed's policy in plain English: Debt-serfdom is good because it enriches the banks. All hail debt-serfdom, our goal and our god!