So far, Cyprus has not been able to pass a direct tax against depositors and has gone to Russia for a helping hand (and failed). However, the question of whether such an event could happen in the U.S. is a much more interesting point of discussion. While to most onlookers the idea of a direct deposit tax instituted by domestic US banks remains far off - the issue of the Fed's monetary policies, particularly since the last recession, has had a significant impact on "savers." While the individuals in Cyprus have been faced with an outright extraction of capital from their accounts - U.S. savers have had their savings negatively impacted much more surreptitiously. The continued drive by the Fed's monetary policies to artificially suppress interest rates to create a negative interest rate environment for savers is a defacto "tax" on savings. The destruction of principal since the turn of the century, which is far more disastrous than it appears when adjusted for inflation, has ended the dream of retirement for many individuals. So, can the U.S. potentially have a direct tax on savings? It's already happened.
While Cyprus grabs the headlines, there are stirrings in Spain, New Zealand, and the UK with regard to how depositor funds (and their apparent insurance) is considered in the new normal banking system. As John Aziz notes, essentially, if there is to be any confidence in the banking system, the possibility of depleting liquidity insurance funds to bail out banks needs to be taken off the table completely. The possibility of insured depositor haircuts needs to be taken off the table completely. If banks need bailing out, the money must not come from insured depositors, or funds designed to compensate insured depositors. If banks fail, the losers should be the uninsured creditors.
There are two articles of faith in the central-bank religion: 1) We can keep interest rates near-zero for as long as we deem necessary, and 2) We can suppress inflation at will, too. The question is: can they do both at the same time for as long as they wish? If either interest rates or inflation (and they are correlated) start rising, the central banks' claims of control evaporate. There is an interesting paradox at work here: Since there is an unlimited buyer for low-yield bonds (the central banks), there is no market pressure for higher rates. Why raise yields when you can sell trillions of dollars of low-yield bonds to the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, etc.? By buying the new debt with newly created money, the central banks have marginalized the market's ability to transparently price risk and credit: the bond market has in effect been captured by the central banks, who can counter any reduction in demand with newly created money. But the central banks don't control where all this newly issued money goes. If it goes into the real economy, it triggers inflation; if it goes into assets, it inflates asset bubbles. Inflation and bubbles have consequences.
February marks the first three-months of consecutive declines in restaurant sales in almost three years as Bloomberg reports consumers caught in "an emotional moment" spooked by higher payroll taxes, surging healthcare premia, and spiking energy costs. "February was pretty ugly" for many chains after January delivered an initial blow." Malcolm Knapp notes that "it's important to keep in mind that companies also are facing unusually tough comparable sales because of favorable weather in 2012," so the result is an industry that’s been "a lot softer so far this year." "People are acting fearfully, or you could almost say rationally in a way,” because it’s not surprising they change their dining habits when they feel less confident; as once again it's the middle class that appears under pressure. Casual dining is "definitely being squeezed" because "it's not food on-the-go and it's not high-end food for people trying to treat themselves."
In 1729, that Jonathan Swift (of Gulliver's Travels fame) penned a famous satirical essay from England entitled "A Modest Proposal." It's still famous to this day as mandatory reading in many a high school literature class. As you may recall, Swift addresses the problem of the ultra-depressed Irish economy and mockingly advocates that the Irish should sell their children for rich Englishmen to eat. Lovely thought. I thought about the essay this morning when one of our Liberty Alert Service researchers alerted me to a new bill just introduced in the Land of the Free, HR 1160. The bill aims "to set the retirement benefits age for today's six-year-olds at age 70." Maybe Swift wasn't so far-fetched. Screw the kids. No doubt, governments are adroit at finding ways to steal from people.
If you don’t collapse the system, the system will collapse you.
These photos illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of fiat (paper) money. Why do we prefer the $100 greenback over the $100 trillion note issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe? The purchasing power of the Benjamin far exceeds the purchasing power of the $100 trillion bill. But the Benjamin is not immune to inflation; the dollar has lost about 95% of its 1900 purchasing power. If 95% of households are experiencing a loss of purchasing power and most of the new money and credit are flowing to the top 5%, you get asset bubbles, not demand-driven inflation. When 95% of the households are poorer in terms of purchasing power and financial wealth, where can demand-driven inflation arise in a global economy of massive manufacturing and labor over-capacity? The rise in costs within industries controlled by cartels (healthcare, higher education, defense, etc.) may look like demand-driven inflation, but are actually transfers of wealth and purchasing power from households to the government-protected cartels.
There once was a time when it was fair to say that Alan Greenspan was the biggest living contrary indicator of all time. Long before he became known to a wider audience, in early January of 1973, he famously pronounced (paraphrasing) that 'there is no reason to be anything but bullish now'. The stock market topped out two days later and subsequently suffered what was then its biggest collapse since the 1929-1932 bear market. That was a first hint that stock market traders should pay heed to the mutterings of the later Fed chairman when they concerned market forecasts: whatever he says, make sure you do the exact opposite. The reason why we feel he must be relegated to third place is that since then, arguably two even bigger living contrary indicators have entered the scene: Ben 'the sub-prime crisis is well contained' Bernanke, and Olli 'the euro crisis is over' Rehn. Admittedly it is not yet certain who will be judged the most reliable of them by history, but in any case, when Greenspan speaks, we should definitely still pay heed...
This is the third and last of three articles we are posting on the price suppression of gold. In the first article we showed that, under mainstream economic theory, the suppression of the gold market is not a conspiracy theory, but a logical necessity, a logical outcome. Mainstream economics, framed by the Walras’ Law, believes in global monetary coordination which, to be achieved, necessitates that gold, if considered money, be oversupplied. The second article showed, at a very high (not exhaustive) level, how that suppression takes place and how to hedge it (if my thesis is correct, of course). Today’s article will examine the systemic impact of this suppression and test the claim of the gold bugs, namely that physical gold will trade at a premium over fiat/paper gold, commensurate with the credit multiplier created by the bullion banks. (Hint - it is)
The markets have begun to wonder whether the Fed (and other central banks) will ever be able to exit from its Quantitative Easing policy. We believe there is only one reasonable exit the Fed can take. Rather than sell its portfolio of bonds or allow them to mature naturally, we believe the Fed’s only practical exit will be to increase the size of all other balance sheets in relation to its own. This “exit” will be part of a larger three-part strategy for resetting the over-leveraged global economy, already underway...
The American spirit is rooted in the belief of a better tomorrow. Its success has been due to generations of men and women who toiled, through both hardship and boom times, to make that dream a reality. But at some point over the past several decades, that hope for a better tomorrow became an expectation. Or perhaps a perceived entitlement is more accurate. It became assumed that the future would be more prosperous than today, irrespective of the actual steps being taken in the here and now. And for a prolonged time – characterized by plentiful and cheap energy, accelerating globalization, technical innovation, and the financialization of the economy – it seemed like this assumption was a certain bet. But these wonderful tailwinds that America has been enjoying for so many decades are sputtering out. The forces of resource scarcity, debt saturation, price inflation, and physical limits will impact our way of life dramatically more going forward than living generations have experienced to date. And Americans, who had the luxury of abandoning savings and sacrifice for consumerism and credit financing, are on a collision course with that reality.
The Status Quo is shameless when it comes to hyping the recovery by whatever metric is most positive. Recently, that has been the stock market, but if GDP rises significantly (and recall GDP increases if the government borrows and blows money), then that number is duly trotted out by politicos and Mainstream Media toadies. If we scrape away this ceaseless perception management, we find that legitimate broadbased prosperity is always based on rising employment and increased purchasing power of wages. The phantom wealth that is conjured by asset bubbles vanishes when the bubbles inevitably pop, leaving all those who borrowed against their ephemeral bubble wealth hapless debt-serfs. If prosperity ultimately depends on employment and earned income (wages), how are we doing as a nation? Unfortunately, the answer is "terrible." As a percentage of the population, full-time employment is down. Only 36% of the population has a full-time job.
The current globally-coordinated central bank ZIRP/bailout policies are destroying the world's saving class. As Jim Rogers notes, "For the first time in recorded history, we have nearly every central bank printing money and trying to debase their currency. This has never happened before. How it’s going to work out, I don't know." The bigger danger that concerns him is the "hollowing out of the 'saving class'" resulting from this situation. Central planners' policies are "punishing the prudent in favor of rescuing the irresponsible." Rogers owns gold, silver, and other precious metals and commodities - as a better way to play the debasement of currencies - and concludes rather ominously that, "this has happened before in world history, and the aftermath has always had grievous economic, social - and often human - costs."
Bulls remain in control of the tape even if there are only a few of them. There is better economic data in the U.S. as the Employment Report indicates (236K vs 171K expected & prior 151K) while the headline unemployment rate dropped (7.7% vs &.7.8% expected & prior 7.9%). The latter is the headline number HFT & algo traders jump on and “away we go!” Jackie Gleason would shout. Inside the numbers there is less cheerful data but “da boyz” running the programs never pay attention to these like: “4.8 million unemployed greater than 27 weeks and only 63.5% of the workforce engaged in work”. The latter numbers haven’t changed much.
There is a delicate balance between supply and demand in silver. At a recent conference, Jeff Clark concluded that there would be insufficient metal to meet a major spike in investment demand if it were to occur, leading to all kinds of negative consequences for those who don't own silver (and lots of wonderful rewards for those who do). He had plenty of compelling charts and convincing data. But here's the rub: he doesn't believe that what's ahead for the price of silver (and gold) will have anything to do with that data. After all, there are articles from researchers and analysts that use similar data to paint a bearish outlook for the metal. Instead, his reasoning is based on psychology. Here's a good example...