Scandal after scandal – but the Fed just doesn’t want to be audited. Period.
Alas, the devil is in the details for Europe’s latest attempt at financial alchemy. Much to the investment world’s apparent dismay yesterday, it turned out that the ECB’s Draghi had nothing very specific in mind when he pledged last week to defend Europe’s monetary union by any means necessary. In theory, and most immediately, such a rescue would entail using printing-press money to mop up Spain’s leprous bonds, lest rates push above 7%.
When we started reading the LA Times article reporting that "the federal government has quietly been completing an audit of U.S. gold stored at the New York Fed" we couldn't help but wonder when the gotcha moment would appear. It was about 15 paragraphs in that we stumbled upon what we were waiting for: "The process involved about half a dozen employees of the Mint, the Treasury inspector general's office and the New York Fed. It was monitored by employees of the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm." In other words the Fed's gold is being audited... by the Treasury. Now our history may be a little rusty, but as far as we can remember, the last time the Fed was actually independent of the Treasury then-president Harry Truman fired not one but two Fed Chairmen including both Thomas McCabe as well as the man after whom the Fed's current residence is named: Marriner Eccles, culminating with the Fed-Treasury "Accord" of March 3, 1951 which effectively fused the two entities into one - a quasi independent branch of the US government, which would do the bidding of its "political", who in turn has always been merely a proxy for wherever the money came from (historically, and primarily, from Wall Street), which can pretend it is a "private bank" yet which is entirely subjugated to the crony interests funding US politicians (more on that below). But in a nutshell, the irony of the Treasury auditing the fed is like asking Libor Trade A to confirm that Libor Trader B was not only "fixing" the Libor rate correctly and accurately, but that there is no champagne involved for anyone who could misrepresent it the best within the cabal of manipulation in which the Nash Equilibrium was for everyone to commit fraud.
Ron Paul’s signature Audit the Fed legislation finally passed the House; on July 25, the House bill was passed 327 to 98. But the chances of a comprehensive audit of monetary policy — including the specifics of the 2008 bailouts — remain distant. All that the current state of secrecy does is encourage conspiracy theories. What is the FOMC trying to hide? Are they making decisions that they think would prove unpopular or inexplicable? We can’t have a real debate about policy unless we have access to all the data about decisions. Those who believe the Fed’s monetary policy has worked should welcome transparency just as much as those who believe the Fed’s monetary policy has not worked. If the Fed’s actions have been beneficial, then transparency will shine kindly on it. If not, then transparency will help us have a better debate about the road forward.
What Would Jesus – Or the Rabbis of Old – Do?
As markets continue to yo-yo and commentators deliver mixed forecasts, investors are faced with some tough decisions and have a number of important questions that need answering. On a daily basis we are asked what’s happening with oil prices alongside questions on China’s slowdown, why global trade will collapse if Romney wins, why investors should get out of stocks, why the Eurozone is doomed, and why we need to get rid of fractional reserve lending. Answering these and more, Mike Shedlock's in-depth interview concludes: "The gold standard did one thing for sure. It limited trade imbalances. Once Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, the U.S. trade deficit soared (along with the exportation of manufacturing jobs). To fix the problems of the U.S. losing jobs to China, to South Korea, to India, and other places, we need to put a gold standard back in place, not enact tariffs."
To some, Paul’s stubborn persistence in the campaign has been just that: a stubborn unwillingness to lie down and die despite evidence of sure defeat. But what they have missed is a common misperception of a subtle yet powerful age-old strategy at play - the archetypal shi (pronounced “sure”) strategy expounded and employed by Chinese philosophers and military strategists for thousands of years. More than anything else, we can see Paul’s greatest shi advantage in his outsized support among the young. In this society of immediate gratification and winning right now at all cost we need to ask ourselves: why should future elections and platforms matter so much less than the current ones? There are powerful cognitive biases at work - among them the temporal myopia of hyperbolic discounting, or excessively undervaluing the future, while focusing on the nearer term - which make fuzzy in our minds the importance of victories in the years ahead (a view that is promulgated by the media). The ultimate war is against intrusive, burgeoning government, in the ongoing insurgencies of the battles yet to come—Ron Paul’s grand shi strategy.
There are only three words that send a chill down the spine of Ben Bernanke - Ron, Paul, and Deflation. His life's work is devoted to the avoidance-at-all-costs of the latter (and probably the former in reality). As we discussed here two weeks ago, his actions in extreme monetary policy have all occurred at periods when the market's expectations of future rapid de- or dis-inflation have increased rapidly. As we noted then: without inflation break-evens dropping, the Bernanke put will not arrive; but the market in its infinitely efficient wisdom has created a self-defeating spiral of BTFD reflexive front-running on any rapid spike down in future inflation expectations - which implicitly sparks a non-dis-inflationary reaction and removes Bernanke's punchbowl for another day. This has occurred 4 times this year - with this week's early plunge being caught by Draghi and Hilsenrath - and with inflation break-evens almost at their highest in 10 months, it would appear the 'desperate-not-to-miss-the-life-giving-rally' market just removed its own blood supply.
When Paul first introduced his bill a decade ago, it was written off as another piece of his far-flung libertarian worldview is how Politico juxtaposes today's (now successful) vote on Ron Paul's Fed Transparency Bill. "I want to appreciate and congratulate Dr. Ron Paul for his tireless pursuit of openness and transparency," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). "Without his leadership, we wouldn’t be at this point today." Via Bloomberg:
- *FED AUDIT BILL OPPOSED BY BERNANKE GAINS APPROVAL BY U.S. HOUSE
- *FED AUDIT BILL NEEDS SENATE APPROVAL, PRESIDENT'S SIGNATURE
- *FED AUDIT BILL SPONSORED BY REPRESENTATIVE RON PAUL OF TEXAS
"I’m pleased. It’s something I’ve worked on for a long time, and it’s a good first step," Paul told POLITICO. "It’s coming to the floor as a response to the American people, because I don’t have a whole lot of clout around here." Never mind that the Fed audit is dead in the Senate — Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office has said he won’t bring it up.
Independent from Congress … or from the American People?
The World Gold Council have just published their commentary on gold’s price performance in various currencies, its volatility statistics and correlation to other assets in the quarter - Gold Q2, 2012 - Investment Statistics and Commentary. It provides macroeconomic context to the investment statistics published at the end of each quarter and highlights emerging themes relevant to gold’s future development. One of their key findings is that gold will act as hedge against possible coming dollar weakness and gold will act as a "currency hedge in the international monetary system." The key findings of the World Gold Council’s report are presented inside.
What's Ben gonna do?
Josh Barro of Bloomberg has an interesting theory. According to him, conservatives in modern day America have become so infatuated with the school of Austrian economics that they no longer listen to reason. It is because of this diehard obsession that they reject all empirical evidence and refuse to change their favorable views of laissez faire capitalism following the financial crisis. Basically, because the conservative movement is so smitten with the works of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, they see no need to pose any intellectual challenge to the idea that the economy desperately needs to be guided along by an “always knows best” government; much like a parent to a child. CNN and Newsweek contributor David Frum has jumped on board with Barro and levels the same critique of conservatives while complaining that not enough of them follow Milton Friedman anymore.
To put this as nicely as possible, Barro and Frum aren’t just incorrect; they have put their embarrassingly ignorant understandings of Austrian economics on full display for all to see.
This scathing assessment of Obama’s economic policies is by no means an endorsement of Mitt Romney or his economic plan, since he has never provided a detailed economic plan. After four years of a Romney presidency, the national debt will also be $20 trillion as his war with Iran and handouts to his Wall Street brethren replace Obama’s food stamps and entitlement pork. There was only one presidential candidate whose proposals would have placed this country back on a sustainable path. The plutocracy controlled corporate mainstream media did their part in ignoring and then scorning Ron Paul during his truth telling campaign. The plutocracy wants to retain their wealth and power, while the willfully ignorant masses don’t want to think. The words of Ron Paul sum up what will occur over the coming years as the interchangeable pieces of this corporate fascist farce drive the country to ruin. The politicians, bankers and corporate titans running this country are too corrupt and cowardly to reverse the course on our path to destruction. The debt will continue to accumulate until our Minsky Moment. At that point the U.S. dollar will be rejected and chaos will reign. The Great American Empire will be no more. At that time sides will need to be chosen and blood will begin to spill. Decades of bad decisions, corruption, cowardice, ignorance, greed and sloth will come to a head.
The verdict of history will not be kind to the once great American Empire.
Brad DeLong makes an odd claim:
So the big lesson is simple: trust those who work in the tradition of Walter Bagehot, Hyman Minsky, and Charles Kindleberger. That means trusting economists like Paul Krugman, Paul Romer, Gary Gorton, Carmen Reinhart, Ken Rogoff, Raghuram Rajan, Larry Summers, Barry Eichengreen, Olivier Blanchard, and their peers. Just as they got the recent past right, so they are the ones most likely to get the distribution of possible futures right.
Larry Summers? If we’re going to base our economic policy on trusting in Larry Summers, should we not reappoint Greenspan as Fed Chairman? Or — better yet — appoint Charles Ponzi as head of the SEC? Or a fox to guard the henhouse? Or a tax cheat as Treasury Secretary? Or a war criminal as a peace ambassador? (Yes — reality is more surreal than anything I could imagine).