While the official number from the FMS is not out yet, according to an advance look by the CBO, the August deficit soared from a modest $70 billion to a whopping $192 billion, the highest August deficit in history, and coming at a time when traditionally the US Treasury does not generate substantial deficits. It also means that "that" $59 billion budget surplus in April, coming after 42 straight months of deficits, and which surprised so many, was just as we suspected, nothing but a play on the temporal mismatch between treasury receipts and outlays. Most importantly, with one month left in the fiscal year, a month which, too, will likely come well above last year's $63 billion, the US has now spent $1.165 trillion more than it has received via various taxes. Finally so much for the year over year improvement: at $1.23 trillion deficit in the LTM period, this is only 3.2% less than the August 2011 LTM deficit which was $1.27 trillion, despite nearly 2 million more workers employed (at least according to the BLS) and generating tax revenue. Expect the US to end Fiscal 2012 with a total deficit of well over $1.2 trillion, which in turn means that the average burn rate of $100 billion in new debt issuance each month, will continue into the indefinite future.
As President Obama doubles down on federal spending, he tells us these aren't the droids we're looking for
Bernanke knows this. I wish he would admit to it.
If you haven't heard yet, the United States of America just hit $16 trillion in debt yesterday. On a gross, nominal basis, this makes the US, by far, the greatest debtor in the history of the world. It took the United States government over 200 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of debt. It took only 286 days to accumulate the most recent trillion dollars of debt. 200 years vs. 286 days. This portends two key points:
- Anyone who thinks that inflation doesn't exist is a complete idiot;
- To say that the trend is unsustainable is a massive understatement.
This is banana republic stuff, plain and simple... and smart, thinking people ought to be planning on capital controls, wage and price controls, pension confiscation, and selective default. Because the next trillion will be here before you know it.
Over the weekend, we pointed out that the old mechanism for the People’s Bank of China to expand its balance sheet and create base money has been broken by new funds flow pattern, and it will sooner or later require some sort of large scale asset purchases programme a.k.a. quantitative easing to offset the impact of the broken mechanism (after other tools such as cutting RRR reach their limits). However, we also mentioned that as the private sector is currently quite overstretched and will start the deleveraging process (if they have not already started), and that would render traditional monetary tools useless, and quantitative easing ineffective. And that would necessitate deficit spending at both local and central government levels. If we have read the social mood correctly that China might be more pro-austerity than pro-Keynesian, and if policymakers indeed share that view, then the consequence in the near term could be rather grim. The delay in stimulus as well as the small size of it so far has already done damage, if you like. The economy is already on course to a hard landing.
A key sticking point in the ongoing presidential debate is what happens to US tax rates, either for just those making over an arbitrary $250,000/year, aka "the rich", or for everyone. To put this debate into perspective, here is a chart that shows how over the past 20 years the US funding needs (demonstrated previously here), have been met in terms of the only two components of US funding - tax revenue and debt issuance.
GROSS: Do bond markets take heart from Ryan selection? Not me. He talks lower deficits but really believes in lower taxes – exact opposite.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) August 13, 2012
Last week we presented the aftermath of the very much unannounced "Conference of Beijing" as a result of which Africa has been slowly but surely converting to a continent controlled almost exclusively by China. However, there was one thing missing: even as China has been virtually the sole source of infrastructure funding in Africa, the continent has long been a legacy dollar preserve, which obviously means renminbi penetration and replacement would be problematic to say the least. As it turns out, this too is rapidly changing: as the WSJ reports, Africa is increasingly just saying "nein" to the USD. "African countries are trying to shoo the U.S. dollar away, even if it means threatening to throw people who use greenbacks in jail. Starting next year, Angola will require oil and gas companies to pay tax revenue and local contracts in kwanza, its currency, rather than dollars. Mozambique wants companies to exchange half of their export earnings for meticais, hoping to pull more of the wealth in vast coal and natural-gas deposits into the domestic economy. And Ghana is seeking similar ways to reinforce "the primacy of the domestic currency," after the cedi plummeted more than 17% against the dollar in the first six months of this year. The sternest steps come from Zambia, a copper-rich country in southern Africa where the central bank has banned dollar-denominated transactions. Offenders who are "quoting, paying or demanding to be paid or receiving foreign currency" can face a maximum 10 years in prison, the central bank said in a two-page directive in May." Is it time to dump the EUR in hopes of a short covering rally that continues to be elusive (just as Germany wants) and buy Zambian Kwachas instead? We will wait for Tom Stolper to advise Goldman clients to sell the Zambian currency first, but at this rate the USDZMK may well be the most profitable currency pair of the next 3-6 months.
The Obama campaign has amplified its push on increasing taxes on the wealthy and has painted Mitt Romney as a Robin-hood in reverse saying that he wants to take from the poor and give to the rich. The attack on Romney is incorrect as the real truth is that it is the current Administration that is failing, once again, to recognize that the problems facing the economy has nothing to do with the current tax rate structure. It is election season, however, and the Obama campaign's "eat the rich" rhetoric will play well with the 22% of the population that is either unemployed, discouraged, working part-time for economic reasons or have just given up looking for work. It will also play well with the rest of the country that are living paycheck to paycheck as real wages have been on the decline over the last couple of years while the cost of living has risen. While the speeches, finger pointing and podium pounding will certainly tug at the heart strings of those living in a recessionary economy - it only serves to deflect attention from where it should be directed - employment.
Treasury Admits It Underestimated Debt Needs, Predicts Ceiling Breach In 2012; $600 Billion More Debt In Second HalfSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/30/2012 16:15 -0400
Back on April 30, when the US Treasury, together with the TBAC chaired by Matt Zames (who as everyone knows is being groomed to take over JPMorgan after Jamie gracefully steps down) sat down put together its latest debt funding needs projection, we openly mocked the numbers when we said "Now obviously we are all for the US needing less debt, however we wonder: did the US discover some magical source of tax revenue: last we checked the companies with $100+ billion in cash were paying virtually zero taxes, and US workers were making less and less courtesy of more and more jobs being converted into temp jobs with lower wages, and less withheld tax as a result." Sure enough, minutes ago the Treasury just admitted what we and our readers knew all along: in its quarterly Treasury refunding appetizer, it noted that during the "September 2012 quarter, Treasury expects to issue $276 billion in net marketable debt, assuming an end-of-September cash balance of $60 billion. This borrowing estimate is $12 billion higher than announced in April 2012. The increase is primarily due to lower receipts, higher outlays, redemptions of portfolio holdings by the Federal Reserve System, and higher issuances of State and Local Government securities." In other words: if only it wasn't for that pesky lack of revenue and excess spending our mocking would have been for nothing. Alas, it was spot on, and as a result instead of needing $253 billion in fiscal Q4, the US will need $272 billion (after having a $5 greater financing need in Q3 as also expected).
Economic and business growth is a complex and multi-dimensional thing, driven by the complex relationship between both supply and demand. To claim that those who put the legwork into building a business - whether that is the owners, or workers - “didn’t build” the business is totally false and absurd. And even if Obama was talking about infrastructure and the wider economic system (which I suspect was the case) it is taxpayers who fund infrastructure creation, and the overwhelming majority of businesses and business owners (other than the bailed-out financial institutions and similar) contribute heavily to tax revenue.
"This market isn't real. The two percent on the ten-year, the ninety basis points on the five-year, thirty basis points on a one-year – those are medicated, pegged rates created by the Fed and which fast-money traders trade against as long as they are confident the Fed can keep the whole market rigged. Nobody in their right mind wants to own the ten-year bond at a two percent interest rate. But they're doing it because they can borrow overnight money for free, ten basis points, put it on repo, collect 190 basis points a spread, and laugh all the way to the bank. And they will keep laughing all the way to the bank on Wall Street until they lose confidence in the Fed's ability to keep the yield curve pegged where it is today. If the bond ever starts falling in price, they unwind the carry trade. Then you get a message, "Do not pass go." Sell your bonds, unwind your overnight debt, your repo positions. And the system then begins to contract... The Fed has destroyed the money market. It has destroyed the capital markets. They have something that you can see on the screen called an "interest rate." That isn't a market price of money or a market price of five-year debt capital. That is an administered price that the Fed has set and that every trader watches by the minute to make sure that he's still in a positive spread. And you can't have capitalism if the capital markets are dead, if the capital markets are simply a branch office – branch casino – of the central bank. That's essentially what we have today."
In a first for Moody's, the rating agency, traditionally about a month after Egan Jones (whose rationale and burdensharing text was virtually copied by Moody's: here and here), has decided to cut Europe's untouchable core, while still at Aaa, to Outlook negative, in the process implicitly downgrading Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg, and putting them in line with Austria and France which have been on a negative outlook since February 13, 2012.The only good news goes to Finland, whose outlook is kept at stable for one simple reason: the country's attempts to collateralize its European bailout exposure, a move which will now be copied by all the suddenly more precarious core European countries.
The effect on the USA of its casually wandering over the Fiscal Cliff will be catastrophic; adding approximately $607bln to the US deficit which in turn would sap anywhere up to 4% (according to the CBO) or possibly even 5% (if Chairman Bernanke—in full-on ‘scare Congress’ mode—is to be believed) from US GDP and send the country crashing into outright recession (or further into recession depending on how things continue to deteriorate in the coming months). “That we cannot have” was the opinion of Erskine Bowles who, along with former Sen. Alan Simpson, devised a debt reduction plan last year to prevent this doomsday scenario.... According to the OMB estimates, any attempt to do something remotely meaningful will result in at least a percentage point reduction in US GDP, which is fine in a world of 3% growth, but today that 1% is not something these guys have to play around with. In the run-up to December 31, you can guarantee that the issue of the US Fiscal Cliff will replace Europe as the major concern facing the world in general and the US in particular and, if things continue to deteriorate at their current pace, anything that will lead to even a 0.5% cut inGDP will be seen as a disaster.
There are a number of cultural and governmental impediments to prosecuting WCCs. One of which is the corrupting influence of money to neuter regulations and to co-opt politically appointed regulators and prosecutors. Another is perception. Wealth in our country is equated with royalty or a high station in society, so people have a hard time seeing the white collar criminal as the deviant that he is. People have a hard time wanting to punish someone who looks nice, has nice clothes, drives a nice car, lives in a good neighborhood, went to a prestigious school, belongs to exclusive clubs, etc. vs. someone who does not have those things. If you're poor in this country, that's almost a crime in and of itself to some people. Conversely, rich people have all sorts of credibility, whether its deserved or not. Why should I listen to an actor about a topic that's not related to acting? Sure, he may have some interesting things to say, but he shouldn't be given automatic credibility on the subject and yet many people do just that. Romney became rich bankrupting companies and selling their assets and yet people look to him to "run our economy"? What politician can ever say that they can run an economy? The Soviets tried to do just that and look what happened to them.
Another reason WCCs may not be prosecuted is that individuals, organizations, governments, and even society at large may be vested in the criminal activity either wittingly or unwittingly.