And we’re still at risk of it happening all over againby Adam Taggart Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:42 PM
Then, when the Fed’s fire hoses started spraying an elephant soup of liquidity injections in every direction and its balance sheet grew by $1.3 trillion in just thirteen weeks compared to $850 billion during its first ninety-four years, I became convinced that the Fed was flying by the seat of its pants, making it up as it went along. It was evident that its aim was to stop the hissy fit on Wall Street and that the thread of a Great Depression 2.0 was just a cover story for a panicked spree of money printing that exceeded any other episode in recorded human history.
David Stockman, The Great Deformation
David Stockman, former director of the OMB under President Reagan, former US Representative, and veteran financier is an insider’s insider. Few people understand the ways in which both Washington DC and Wall Street work and intersect better than he does.
In his upcoming book, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America, Stockman lays out how we have devolved from a free market economy into a managed one that operates for the benefit of a privileged few. And when trouble arises, these few are bailed out at the expense of the public good.
By manipulating the price of money through sustained and historically low interest rates, Greenspan and Bernanke created an era of asset mis-pricing that inevitably would need to correct. And when market forces attempted to do so in 2008, Paulson et al hoodwinked the world into believing the repercussions would be so calamitous for all that the institutions responsible for the bad actions that instigated the problem needed to be rescued — in full — at all costs.
Of course, history shows that our markets and economy would have been better off had the system been allowed to correct. Most of the “too big to fail” institutions would have survived or been broken into smaller, more resilient, entities. For those that would have failed, smaller, more responsible banks would have stepped up to replace them – as happens as part of the natural course of a free market system:
Essentially there was a cleansing run on the wholesale funding market in the canyons of Wall Street going on. It would have worked its will, just like JP Morgan allowed it to happen in 1907 when we did not have the Fed getting in the way. Because they stopped it in its tracks after the AIG bailout and then all the alphabet soup of different lines that the Fed threw out, and then the enactment of TARP, the last two investment banks standing were rescued, Goldman and Morgan [Stanley], and they should not have been. As a result of being rescued and having the cleansing liquidation of rotten balance sheets stopped, within a few weeks and certainly months they were back to the same old games, such that Goldman Sachs got $10 billion dollars for the fiscal year that started three months later after that check went out, which was October 2008. For the fiscal 2009 year, Goldman Sachs generated what I call a $29 billion surplus – $13 billion of net income after tax, and on top of that $16 billion of salaries and bonuses, 95% of it which was bonuses.
Therefore, the idea that they were on death’s door does not stack up. Even if they had been, it would not make any difference to the health of the financial system. These firms are supposed to come and go, and if people make really bad bets, if they have a trillion dollar balance sheet with six, seven, eight hundred billion dollars worth of hot-money short-term funding, then they ought to take their just reward, because it would create lessons, it would create discipline. So all the new firms that would have been formed out of the remnants of Goldman Sachs where everybody lost their stock values – which for most of these partners is tens of millions, hundreds of millions – when they formed a new firm, I doubt whether they would have gone back to the old game. What happened was the Fed stopped everything in its tracks, kept Goldman Sachs intact, the reckless Goldman Sachs and the reckless Morgan Stanley, everyone quickly recovered their stock value and the game continues. This is one of the evils that comes from this kind of deep intervention in the capital and money markets.
Stockman’s anger at the unnecessary and unfair capital transfer from taxpayer to TBTF bank is matched only by his concern that, even with those bailouts, the banking system is still unacceptably vulnerable to a repeat of the same crime:
The banks quickly worked out their solvency issues because the Fed basically took it out of the hides of Main Street savers and depositors throughout America. When the Fed panicked, it basically destroyed the free-market interest rate – you cannot have capitalism, you cannot have healthy financial markets without an interest rate, which is the price of money, the price of capital that can freely measure and reflect risk and true economic prospects.
Well, once you basically unplug the pricing mechanism of a capital market and make it entirely an administered rate by the Fed, you are going to cause all kinds of deformations as I call them, or mal-investments as some of the Austrians used to call them, that basically pollutes and corrupts the system. Look at the deposit rate right now, it is 50 basis points, maybe 40, for six months. As a result of that, probably $400-500 billion a year is being transferred as a fiscal maneuver by the Fed from savers to the banks. They are collecting the spread, they’ve then booked the profits, they’ve rebuilt their book net worth, and they paid back the TARP basically out of what was thieved from the savers of America.
Now they go down and pound the table and whine and pout like JP Morgan and the rest of them, you have to let us do stock buy backs, you have to let us pay out dividends so we can ramp our stock and collect our stock option winnings. It is outrageous that the authorities, after the so-called “near death experience” of 2008 and this massive fiscal safety net and monetary safety net was put out there, is allowing them to pay dividends and to go into the market and buy back their stock. They should be under house arrest in a sense that every dime they are making from this artificial yield group being delivered by the Fed out of the hides of savers should be put on their balance sheet to build up retained earnings, to build up a cushion. I do not care whether it is fifteen or twenty or twenty-five percent common equity and retained earnings-to-assets or not, that is what we should be doing if we are going to protect the system from another raid by these people the next time we get a meltdown, which can happen at any time.
You can see why I talk about corruption, why crony capitalism is so bad. I mean, the Basel capital standards, they are a joke. We are just allowing the banks to go back into the same old game they were playing before. Everybody said the banks in late 2007 were the greatest thing since sliced bread. The market cap of the ten largest banks in America, including from Bear Stearns all the way to Citibank and JP Morgan and Goldman and so forth, was $1.25 trillion. That was up thirty times from where the predecessors of those institutions had been. Only in 1987, when Greenspan took over and began the era of bubble finance – slowly at first then rapidly, eventually, to have the market cap grow thirty times – and then on the eve of the great meltdown see the $1.25 trillion to market cap disappear, vanish, vaporize in panic in September 2008. Only a few months later, $1 trillion of that market cap disappeared in to the abyss and panic, and Bear Stearns is going down, and all the rest.
This tells you the system is dramatically unstable. In a healthy financial system and a free capital market, if I can put it that way, you are not going to have stuff going from nowhere to @1.2 trillion and then back to a trillion practically at the drop of a hat. That is instability; that is a case of a medicated market that is essentially very dangerous and is one of the many adverse consequences and deformations that result from the central-bank dominated, corrupt monetary system that has slowly built up ever since Nixon closed the gold window, but really as I say in my book, going back to 1933 in April when Roosevelt took all the private gold. So we are in a big dead-end trap, and they are digging deeper every time you get a new maneuver.
21 May, 2012, 14:52 Posted by Zarathustra
The events in Europe right now is essentially a slow-motion bank run (or “bank jog”) on various European banks in the periphery. Greece, for instance, have been losing deposits in their banks, while Spanish bank Bankia was rumoured to have massive among of deposits being withdrawn. And of course, in the days of modern banking with internet and other stuff, you don’t even need to see a massive queue outside a bank to know that there’s a bank run.
Disturbingly, what’s happening today in Europe reminds me of something happening more than 80 years ago, when bank failures triggered bank runs virtually in the whole of Europe, later bank holidays in hope to stop bank runs, capital control, and countries going off gold standard. Sure enough, by thinking about the event in 1931 by no means suggest that I think what happened then will surely happen in 2012. It is always, however, good to look at the history and see what we can learn from it.
We all knew that the Great Depression started in 1929. Perhaps lesser known is that one of the more dangerous legs of the slump during the the Great Depression did not start until 1931 when an Austrian Bank Credit Anstalt went bust.
At the time, it was the biggest bank of Austria. Its failure triggered a European banking crisis, with bank runs started first with Austrian banks, then with German banks.
In Liaquat Ahamed’s wonderful book Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, he wrote that while Austria was a small country with the GDP about one tenth of Germany’s, remarkably the failing on its biggest bank sent a massive shockwave to the whole of Europe, an ultimately to the world economy. While the big central bankers were trying to come up with rescue packages, without the experience of modern central banking, they came in too late, with too little money.
During the time of the Great Depression, it was the French which had the biggest gold reserve after the United States. At the time of Credit Anstalt’s failure, the French was apparently faring relatively well among European countries. And not surprisingly, politics was in play in their attempt to save themselves. France, although financially stronger among European great powers, they were not keen at all to save the Germans and Austrians (perhaps still quite keen to punish them for starting World War One). When the United States unilaterally forgo war debts from Europe for a year, which included German’s reparation, France was furious. Liaquat Ahamed quoted that the British Prime Minister at the time Ramsay MacDonald saying that “France has been playing its usual small minded and selfish fame over Hoover proposal…”, while the Bank of England Governor’s Montagu Norman said, according to Ahamed, that “Berlin was being ‘bled to death’ while the French and the Americans were busy arguing” (p. 413). And sure enough, when the German’s central bank Reichsbank asked Banque de France and the French government for help, that didn’t work. The French government offered some loan with conditions, which the Germans thought of that as “political blackmail”.
As the crisis worsened, Danatbank, at the time the second biggest bank in Germany, went bust some two months later after Credit Anstalt failed. On 13 July, it failed to open for business, triggering yet another wave of massive bank runs on every other German banks. With the banking crisis at its worst, a two-day bank holiday was imposed in German to prevent further drain in deposits. Later, banks in virtually the whole of Europe are closed.
Meanwhile, in London, the government is considering measures to reduce budget deficits even as the banking crisis hit Britain, partly because of UK’s banks exposure to Germany and other countries in the continental Europe, and the Bank of England was losing gold reserve, forcing the Bank to raise interest rate when it should not. The military’s salary would be cut in hope to plug the budget gap, but the some sailors in the Royal Navy became (predictably) very angry and essentially went on strike, an event which is now known as the Invergordon Mutiny. Not a particularly huge event, but enough to send a shockwave to the City of London with stock market crashed and a sterling crisis. In about a week after the Mutiny, Britain was forced out of the gold standard.
- European Banks Are Getting Pounded (mb50.wordpress.com)
- As First Greek CDS “Anstalt” Appears, A Question Emerges: Did Banks Not Square Off Margins? (zerohedge.com)
- Chinese Defaulting on Commodity Contracts (ritholtz.com)
- 18 Signs That The Banking Crisis In Europe Has Just Gone From Bad To Worse (raptureimminent.wordpress.com)
End of the Euro?: The IMF warns that one country leaving the single currency could force its entire collapseBy Hugo Duncan PUBLISHED: 12:45 EST, 17 April 2012 UPDATED: 04:28 EST, 18 April 2012
In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out.
It was the first time the Washington-based institution has accepted the prospect of the eurozone splitting up and follows fears over the health of the Spanish economy.
The IMF predicted a return to recession in the eurozone this year but upgraded its growth forecasts for Britain.
However, it warned that the world remains at risk of collapsing into a slump that would rival the Great Depression – with ‘acute risks in Europe’ the major threat.
‘Things have quietened down but there is a very uneasy calm,’ said IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. ‘I have a feeling that at any moment things could get very bad again.’
Speaking at the launch of the half-yearly report in Washington, Mr Blanchard said there was ‘no plan’ in place to deal with a country leaving the euro.
However Greece is widely expected to default on its crippling debts and quit the doomed single currency.
‘If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies would come under severe pressure as well, with a full-blown panic in financial markets,’ the IMF report said.
‘Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out. This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse.’
U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers imploded in September 2008 – plunging the world economy into the worst recession since the 1930s. The IMF said that although ‘the outlook for the global economy is slowly improving again’ it is ‘still very fragile’.
It warned of the ‘possibility that several adverse shocks could interact to produce a major slump reminiscent of the 1930s’.
The IMF forecast growth of 0.8 per cent in Britain this year – more than the 0.6 per cent it predicted in January, but less than last September’s target of 1.6 per cent. Its 2013 forecast was unchanged at 2 per cent.
Asked about the IMF’s comments on the eurozone, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The eurozone still needs to get its house in order. Those issues still exist and no doubt will be a focus of discussions at the coming meeting of the IMF towards the end of the week, which the Chancellor will be attending.’
The IMF said Britain will outperform Germany and France this year – their economies are expected to grow by just 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.
The Italian and Spanish economies are forecast to decline by 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent, while a slump of 4.7 per cent is expected in Greece following a 6.9 per cent drop in 2011.
But the report warned that output in the eurozone could fall by 3.5 per cent over the next two years if the debt crisis escalates.
This would knock 2 per cent off the world economy, said the IMF, while a 50 per cent rise in the oil price would lower output by a further 1.25 per cent.
In the absence of such ‘shocks’ the global economy is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent this year, down from 3.9 per cent in 2011, with the U.S., Canada and Japan leading the way in the developed world.
‘Because of the problems in Europe, activity will continue to disappoint in the advanced economies as a group, expanding by only about 1.5 per cent in 2012 and by 2 per cent in 2013,’ said the report.
- Euro meltdown will be a bigger disaster than the credit crunch’ (express.co.uk)
- IMF: Euro Break-up Cannot Be Ruled Out (news.sky.com)
- IMF Exploits Euro-Crisis to Create Global Money Power (mb50.wordpress.com)
Are George Soros, The IMF And The World Bank Purposely Trying To Scare The Living Daylights Out Of Us?
Over the past couple of weeks, George Soros, the IMF and the World Bank have all issued incredibly chilling warnings about the possibility of an impending economic collapse. Considering the power and the influence that Soros, the IMF and the World Bank all have over the global financial system, this is very alarming. So are they purposely trying to scare the living daylights out of us? Soros is even warning of riots in the streets of America. Unfortunately, way too often top global leaders say something in public because they want to “push” events in a certain direction. Do George Soros and officials at the IMF and World Bank hope to prevent a worldwide financial collapse by making these statements, or are other agendas at work? We may never know. But one thing is for sure – many of the top financial officials in the world are using language that is downright “apocalyptic”, and that is not a good sign for the rest of 2012.
Right now, George Soros is saying things that he has never said before. Just check out what George Soros recently told Newsweek….
“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tells Newsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”
Later on in that same article, Soros is quoted as saying that we could soon see the U.S. government using “strong-arm tactics” to crack down on rioting in the streets of major U.S. cities….
As anger rises, riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says, almost gleefully. The response to the unrest could be more damaging than the violence itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.”
It almost sounds like George Soros is anticipating the same kind of a breakdown of society that many survivalists and preppers are getting ready for.
So how bad are things going to get?
Well, George Soros is publicly warning that the coming financial crisis could end up being even worse than 2008. Just check out the following quotes from him that appeared in a recent Businessweek article….
“We have a more dangerous situation now than in 2008,” Soros, 81, said in response to a question at an event in the southern Indian city of Bangalore today. “The crisis in Europe is more serious than the crash of 2008.”
But George Soros is not the only one issuing these kinds of warnings.
Once again, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has made a speech in which she openly warned that we are heading for a repeat of the “1930s”.
She told an audience in Berlin on Monday that the globe is facing “a 1930s moment, in which inaction, insularity and rigid ideology combine to cause a collapse in global demand”.
During the speech she called for a trillion more dollars to support financially troubled governments, and she made the following statement….
“It is not about saving any one country or region. It is about saving the world from a downward economic spiral.”
As I wrote about the other day, the World Bank has also been using apocalyptic language about the global financial situation. In a shocking new report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, it warned that Europe could be facing financial collapse at any time, and it instructed the rest of the world to “prepare for the worst.”
The lead author of the report, Andrew Burns, said that the “importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough” and that if there is a major financial crisis in Europe the entire globe will be deeply affected….
“An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09.”
So should we be alarmed that George Soros, the IMF and the World Bank are all proclaiming that a financial nightmare could be just around the corner?
Of course we should be.
Whether their motives are pure or not, they are telling the truth about the global financial situation in this case. As I have written about so frequently, there are a whole host of signs that indicate that we could be on the verge of a major global recession.
A lot of folks in the investment world are warning that hard times are about to hit us as well. For example, the following is what legendary investor Joseph Granville recently told Bloomberg Television….
Joseph Granville, whose “sell everything” call in 1981 sparked a decline in U.S. stocks, said the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDU) will drop toward 8,000 this year because of waning momentum and volume.
“Volume precedes prices,” Granville, 88, a technical analyst who has been publishing the Granville Market Letter from Kansas City, Missouri for about 50 years, said in an interview on “Street Smart” on Bloomberg Television. “You are seeing much lower volume. That tells you that prices are going to go much lower, much lower than most people think possible and very few people have projected.”
Considering all of the warnings out there, it only seems prudent to prepare for the worst.
But unfortunately, a lot of people are just going to leave their holdings sitting out there like a dead duck, and they are going to be absolutely devastated by the coming financial tsunami.
Those that believe that the United States can somehow escape the coming financial storm don’t really know what they are talking about.
In fact, there was very troubling news for the U.S. dollar just the other day. It was announced that India will start paying for its oil from Iran in a currency other than U.S. dollars.
But this is just another sign that the rest of the world is starting to reject the U.S. dollar. For decades, the U.S. dollar has been the reserve currency of the world and this has given us a tremendous advantage. Unfortunately for us, that is now changing.
U.S. newspapers are not talking about what is going on, but mainstream newspapers in Europe are. Right now, some of the biggest countries in the world are working on plans to quit using U.S. dollars for the buying and selling of oil.
The following comes from a recent article in The Independent….
In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.
Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.
The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.
This is a very big deal, and if this gets pulled off it is going to have devastating consequences for the U.S. dollar and for the U.S. economy.
But of course when it comes to troubles for the U.S. financial system, there are a whole host of issues that could be talked about.
An environment for a “perfect storm” is developing, and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is about to happen.
Fortunately, there are some researchers out there that are working hard to sound the alarm bells. For example, the following quote comes from a recent interview with Gerald Celente….
I believe that we have to watch out for something along the lines of an economic martial law. The European system is in collapse. The financial system in the United States is just as tenuous, if not more, and I believe they will not admit there will be a financial crash but rather they will use a geo-political issue to get the people in a state of fear and hysteria whereby they’ll then call a bank holiday or devaluation of the currency, or a hyperinflation of the currency, and blame it on somebody else.
It would be wise to listen to what experts such as Gerald Celente are saying.
Now is the time to take stock of where you are at and to make plans for the coming year.
Just because things have “always” been a certain way does not mean that they will continue to be that way.
Just because certain things have “always” worked in the past does not mean that they will continue to work in the future.
Our world is experiencing fundamental changes. It is changing at a faster pace than we have ever seen before. The way that we all live our lives five or ten years from now will be vastly different from how we live our lives today.
This will be a very challenging time to be alive, but it is also going to be a very exciting time to be alive.
So what do all of you think is going to happen in 2012?
- Soros Warns of ‘Riots,’ ‘Brutal’ Clampdowns & Possible Total Economic Collapse (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Soros Mouthpiece Calls On Google To Police “Conspiracy Theories” (mb50.wordpress.com)
- George Soros Says … (tarpon.wordpress.com)
- George Soros on the Coming U.S. Class War – The Daily Beast (tribuneofthepeople.com)
“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.” – John Maynard Keynes – The Economic Consequences of the Peace
Written by: Jim Quinn
While Barack Obama vacations on Martha’s Vineyard this week he’ll be thinking about his grand vision to save America – again. There is one thing you can say about Obama – he’s predictable. He promises to unveil his “new” plan for America in early September. The White House said Obama will give a speech after the September 5 Labor Day holiday to outline measures to boost hiring and find budget savings that surpass the $1.5 trillion goal of a new congressional deficit-cutting committee. It is heartening to see that Barack has turned into a cost cutter extraordinaire. He should be an inspiration to the Tea Party, except for one little problem. The plan he unveils in a few weeks will increase spending now and fret about spending cuts at some future unspecified date.
I can reveal his plan today because the White House has already leaked the major aspects of his plan. He will call for an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut of 2% for all working Americans. This was supposed to give a dramatic boost to GDP in 2011. Maybe it will work next time. He will demand that extended unemployment benefits be renewed. Somehow providing 99 weeks of unemployment benefits is supposed to create jobs. It’s done wonders thus far. He will propose some semblance of an infrastructure bank or tax cuts to spur infrastructure spending. It will include a proposal for training and education to help unemployed people switch careers. He will attempt to steal the thunder from the SUPER COMMITTEE of 12 by coming up with $2 trillion of budget savings by insisting the Lear jet flying rich fork over an extra $500 billion.
You may have noticed that followers of Keynesian dogma like Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Brad Delong, Richard Koo, John Galbraith, every Democrat in Congress, and every liberal pundit and columnist have been shrieking about the Tea Party terrorists and their ghastly budget cuts that are destroying our economy. They contend the stock market is tanking and the economy is heading into recession due to the brutal austerity measures being imposed by the extremists in the Republican Party. There is just one small issue with their argument. It is completely false. It is a bold faced lie. This is 2011. The economy has been in freefall since January 1. No spending cuts have occurred. Nada!!! As the CBO chart below reveals, the horrendous slashing of government will amount to $21 billion in 2012 and $42 billion in 2013. Of course, those aren’t even cuts in spending. They are reductions in the projected increases in spending. Politicians must be very secure in the knowledge that Americans are completely ignorant when it comes to anything other than the details of Kim Kardashian’s wedding and who Snooki is banging on Jersey Shore.
I’d like to remind the Harvard educated Keynesian economists that Federal government spending is currently chiming in at $3.8 trillion per year. Federal spending was $2.7 trillion in 2007 and $3.0 trillion in 2008. Keynesians believe government spending fills the gap when private companies are contracting. Obama has taken Keynesianism to a new level. Federal spending will total $10.8 trillion in Obama’s 1st three years, versus $8.4 trillion in the previous three years. Even a Harvard economist can figure out this is a 29% increase in Federal spending. What has it accomplished? We are back in recession, unemployment is rising, forty six million Americans are on food stamps, food and energy prices are soaring, and the middle class is being annihilated. The standard Keynesian response is we would have lost 3 million more jobs, we were saved from a 2nd Great Depression and the stimulus was too little. It would have worked if it had just been twice as large.
The 2nd Great Depression was not avoided, it was delayed. Our two decade long delusional credit boom could have been voluntarily abandoned in 2008. The banks at fault could have been liquidated in an orderly bankruptcy with stockholders and bondholders accepting the consequences of their foolishness. Unemployment would have soared to 12%, GDP would have collapsed, and the stock market would have fallen to 5,000. The bad debt would have been flushed from the system. Instead our Wall Street beholden leaders chose to save their banker friends, cover-up the bad debt, shift private debt to taxpayer debt, print trillions of new dollars in an effort to inflate away the debt, and implemented every wacky Keynesian stimulus idea Larry Summers could dream up. These strokes of genius have failed miserably. Bernanke, Paulson, Geithner and Obama have set in motion a series of events that will ultimately lead to a catastrophic currency collapse. We have entered the 2nd phase of the Greater Depression and there are no monetary or fiscal bullets left in the gun. Further expansion of debt will lead to a hyperinflationary collapse as the remaining confidence in the U.S. dollar is exhausted. We are one failed Treasury auction away from a currency crisis.
John Maynard Keynes argued the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy through some combination of two approaches: a reduction in interest rates and government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.
It sounds so good in theory, but it didn’t work in the Depression and it hasn’t worked today. It is a doctrine taught in every business school in America with no actual results to support it. Who needs facts and actual results when a good story believed and perpetuated by non-thinking pundits will do? Every Keynesian play in the playbook has been used since 2008. The American people were told by Obama and his Keynesian trained advisors that if we implemented his $862 billion shovel ready stimulus package, unemployment would peak at 7.9% and would decline to 6.5% by today. The cascade of recovery was going to be jump started by a stimulus package that equaled 27% of the previous year’s entire spending. Obama’s complete package was implemented. The outcome was an eye opener. If you show a Keynesian this chart, their response would be: “Imagine how bad it would have been if we didn’t spend the $862 billion.”
John Maynard Obama got everything he asked for in January 2009. He had both houses in Congress and did not need to consult Republicans to pass his Keynesian $862 billion porkulus bill. It seems that $252 billion, or 29% of the package was nothing more than transfer payments. Of course, according to Keynesians, the $252 billion should have had a multiplier effect when it was handed out. I think they were right. Obama was able to multiply the number of people on food stamps in January 2009 from 32 million to the current tally of 45.8 million. The monthly food stamp transfer payment has gone from $3.6 billion to $6.1 billion. Keynesians should be thrilled by this success story.
Obama’s Keynesian dream bill included:
- $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn’t turned a profit in 40 years.
- $2 billion for child-care subsidies.
- $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts.
- $400 million for global-warming research.
- $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects.
- $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
- $8 billion for renewable energy funding.
- $6 billion for mass transit that had a low or negative return on investment.
- $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles.
- Congress earmarked $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities.
- The Smithsonian received $150 million.
- The Department of Education got $66 billion, more than the entire Education Department spent a just 10 years ago. $6 billion of this subsidized university building projects.
Obama declared in December 2008 there were shovel ready projects across the land that would create immediate jobs. Too bad he didn’t tell the American public only $30 billion of the $862 billion mountain of pork was earmarked for highways and bridges. Obama declared his stimulus would create 3.5 million jobs, later changed to “create or save”. There were 144 million Americans employed in January 2009. Today, there are 139 million Americans employed. Obama gives the term “success story” a new meaning. The Keynesians had their chance and now they want a do-over. Sorry, that isn’t how it works in the real world. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, “We won the election. We wrote the bill.” No truer words have ever been spoken.
As we know, that was only the beginning of our Keynesian debt nightmare. Let’s do some critical thinking and assess the results of Obama’s other Keynesian solutions:
- The Homebuyer Tax Credit cost taxpayers $27 billion or $43,000 per additional house sold. The Keynesians handed 3.9 million people $7,000 to do something they were going to do anyway. They lured first time home buyers into the market. Since the credit expired, median home prices have fallen $15,000 and continue to fall. This wonderful government program has created more underwater homeowners and did nothing to stabilize the housing market or home prices.
- Cash for Clunkers cost taxpayers $3 billion. An incremental 125,000 cars were sold at a cost of $24,000 per car. This Keynesian dream program lured more people into debt and warped the used car market by destroying used cars and driving up prices for poor people who couldn’t afford a new car. There were no carryover benefits except for government controlled union car makers.
- Obama’s HAMP program allocated $11 billion to supposedly allow 4 million homeowners to modify their mortgages, reduce their monthly mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure. HAMP has proven a colossal failure that has done more to harm than help debt-laden homeowners. It has achieved slightly more than 500,000 permanent modifications, 40% of which the Treasury expects to default. Far more borrowers have dropped out of the program than successfully achieved permanent loan modification. These borrowers, along with those who later default, will often be left with larger outstanding debt, worse credit scores, and less home equity.
- Obama even handed $30 billion to the largest homebuilder corporations in the country, run by billionaires like Bob Toll, by allowing them to carry back their losses and wipe out tax liabilities in prior years. This did wonders for the housing market. It did stimulate bonus payments for the CEOs of these companies.
- Billions of tax revenue was lost by handing out $1,500 tax credits for people to buy new windows, doors, and appliances they were going to buy anyway. We are still waiting for that multiplier effect.
The usual suspects are now declaring that we can’t make the same mistakes FDR made in 1937 resulting in a dramatic downturn in 1938. As usual, the Keynesian storyline about the Great Depression is false.
Depression Keynesian Fallacy
One thing to remember is that while the depression that started in 1929 may have come to a bottom in 1933, it took a long time to recover. There was a cyclical recovery in 1937, and why was that? Roosevelt had the good luck to have been elected dead flat at the bottom. So it wasn’t his policies that cured the last depression, it was luck and good timing, combined with the fact that they were creating a lot of money after Roosevelt took the dollar off the gold standard. That resulted in a false recovery, from 1933 to 1937, and it went downhill again. – Doug Casey
Keynes′ theory suggested that active government policy could be effective in managing the economy. Rather than seeing unbalanced government budgets as wrong, Keynes advocated what has been called countercyclical fiscal policies, that is, policies that acted against the tide of the business cycle: deficit spending when a nation’s economy suffers from recession or when recovery is long-delayed and unemployment is persistently high—and the suppression of inflation in boom times by either increasing taxes or cutting back on government outlays. He argued that governments should solve problems in the short run rather than waiting for market forces to do it in the long run. Keynes had too much faith in the wisdom of politicians and Federal Reserve bankers. They mastered the art of deficit spending, but fell a little short on paying off the debts during boom times. About $14.6 trillion short so far.
The Great Depression had the same origins as our current Greater Depression. The three Republican administrations of the 1920s practiced laissez-faire economics, starting by cutting top tax rates from 77% to 25% by 1925. Non-intervention into business and banking became government policy. These policies led to overconfidence on the part of investors and a classic credit-induced speculative boom. Gambling in the markets by the wealthy increased. While the haves got richer, millions of have-nots lived below the household poverty line of $2,000 per year. The rip roaring party came to an abrupt end in October 1929, with the Great Stock Market Crash.
Between 1929 and 1932, the market fell 89% from its high. The Keynesian storyline is that Herbert Hoover’s administration did nothing to try and revive the economy. It took Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal Keynesian policies to save the country. It’s a nice story, but entirely phony. Between 1929 and 1933 the Hoover administration increased real per-capita federal expenditures by 88%, not exactly the austerity measures described in fantasy stories concocted by the mainstream media.
Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts Table
Table 1.1.6A. Real Gross Domestic Product, Chained (1937) Dollars [Billions of chained (1937) dollars]
The Great Depression officially lasted from 1929 until 1940. What is not well known is that real GDP was at the same level in 1936 as it had been in 1929. In no small part because real GDP soared by 37% between 1933 and 1936. The unemployment rate in 1929 was 5%. In 1936, even after real GDP had recovered to pre-depression levels, the unemployment rate was still 15%. It spiked back to 18% in 1938 and stayed above 15% until World War II. Tellingly, in 1936, private domestic investment was 21% below the level of 1929.
By contrast, government expenditures surged by 46% between 1929 and 1936. With the government creating new agencies and employing people in make-work projects, private industry was crowded out. The extensive governmental economic planning and intervention that began during the Hoover administration swelled drastically under Roosevelt. The bolstering of wage rates and prices, expansion of credit, propping up of weak firms, and increased government spending on public works prolonged the Great Depression.
The facts powerfully contradict the notion endorsed by Krugman and other Keynesian devotees that the supposed 1937-38 Depression within the Great Depression was caused by Roosevelt slashing spending. In fact, real GDP only dropped by 3.5% in 1938 and rebounded by 8.1% in 1939. What actually collapsed in 1938 was private investment, which fell 34%. By contrast, government spending declined by only 4.5% in 1938, proving that Roosevelt did not drastically cut spending. To the extent that he eased up on the accelerator, it was by cutting back on useless jobs programs like those provided by the Works Progress Administration and the Public Works Administration. Austerity did not derail the recovery.
The reason private investment collapsed in 1938 was Roosevelt’s anti-business crusade. He denounced big business as the cause of the Depression. In March 1938, FDR appointed Yale University law professor Thurman Arnold to head the antitrust division of the Justice Department. Arnold soon hired some 300 lawyers to file antitrust lawsuits against businesses. Arnold launched cases against entire industries, with lawsuits against the milk, oil, tobacco, shoe machinery, tires, fertilizer, railroad, pharmaceuticals, school supplies, billboards, fire insurance, liquor, typewriter, and movie industries.
Paul Krugman’s recent veiled yearning for a war or staged crisis to revive the economy through spending to fight the war is another Keynesian fallacy perpetuated by the mainstream media. These mindless non-critical thinking talking heads actually believe World War II ended the Great Depression. Doug Casey obliterates their fantasy:
“People say that World War II cured the Depression, but in fact, it made it worse. As bad as things were in the ‘30s, they were worse during the war in the ‘40s. You couldn’t get shoes. You couldn’t get gasoline. You couldn’t get tires. You couldn’t get just about anything that was being used for the war. The war prolonged and deepened the Depression. The thing that ended the Depression was not the war but the fact that since people could not consume, they were forced to save. That delayed consumption resulted in a huge amount of savings, and that’s what caused the recovery in the late 1940s.”
The fact that the entire world was left in smoldering ruins after World War II, except for the United States, may have contributed slightly to our recovery from the Great Depression.
According to Murray Rothbard, in his book America’s Great Depression, the artificial meddling in the economy was a disaster prior to the Great Depression, and government efforts to prop up the economy after the crash of 1929 only made things far worse. Government intrusion delayed the market’s correction and made the road to complete recovery more difficult. Today’s myopic politicians, captured monetary authorities and Harvard trained Keynesian economists have learned the wrong lessons from the Great Depression. The upshot will be a second Greater Depression and further impoverishment of the dwindling middle class. The implications of more wasteful government stimulus programs, more quantitative easing and more debt are: further debasement of the currency and ultimately a hyperinflationary collapse. The great economist John Maynard Keynes understood currency debasement:
“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”
How to Cut Spending While Actually Increasing Spending
“Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.” – John Maynard Keynes – The Economic Consequences of the Peace
Obama’s plan to revive America will be announced with great fanfare in two weeks. We know for sure he will propose these two brilliant ideas:
- Extending unemployment compensation again at a total 2012 cost of $65 billion. Because we know that paying people to not work creates millions of jobs. The multiplier effect is off the charts. Why work when you can watch The View and chow down on cheese doodles purchased with your SNAP card for 99 weeks?
- Extending the payroll tax cut at a total 2012 cost of $100 billion. This was supposed to give a dramatic boost to the economy in FY11. Have you noticed any boost? A Keynesian will argue, “Imagine if we hadn’t done it.” A critical thinker might ask: Is it prudent to increase the unfunded Social Security liability by another $100 billion and hand the bill to future unborn generations, so we can buy a new IPod 2 today?
It is a certainty that Obama will announce an infrastructure bank or some variation to spur investment in our national infrastructure that is crumbling by the day. Top Keynesian, and architect of the Obama stimulus plan, Larry Summers has been blathering about this for months. Even though the first stimulus plan was sold as an infrastructure plan, they mean it this time. As usual, the storyline is false. You can’t drive anywhere in this country and not be inconvenienced by road widening, bridge building, and repaving projects. The Keynesians act like infrastructure projects are highly unusual and need new Federal dollars to jump start the engine. The fact is that every Federal, State and municipal government has a capital fund that is budgeted every year. Most of the projects have multiple year lead times. They require planning and coordination. The reason we have 160,000 structurally deficient or obsolete bridges and thousands of miles of crumbling underground pipes is because politicians decided to spend their budgets on something more useful like train museums, murals, turtle crossings, and studies on the mating habits of ferrets.
The country has lost approximately seven million jobs since 2007. Five million of the jobs were lost in sales industries and manufacturing industries. There are 139 million jobs in America today and only seven million, or 5% of all jobs, in the construction industry. How do Keynesians expect to revive the job market with an infrastructure bank that will benefit, at most, 5% of the U.S. workforce? Let me guess. They will propose billions of new spending on education so they can retrain sales clerks from Wal-Mart into architects for designing 160,000 new bridges.
Barack Obama will stand in front of the American people and lie. He is a born again cost cutter, who will propose new spending. As anyone with a calculator can figure out, the two guaranteed proposals from his upcoming speech will increase spending by $165 million in 2012. If you go back to the handy dandy chart from the CBO showing the “horrific spending cuts” from the recent debt ceiling deal you will see these “cuts” total $122 billion between 2012 and 2014. Barack will wipe out all of the supposed savings through mid 2015 with his new Keynesian plan. But don’t worry. His plan will have huge spending cuts in 2017 after his hoped for 2nd term is finished. Keynesians always promise to cut spending once their current emergency ends.
The Keynesians had their chance. They controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress. A Keynesian runs the Federal Reserve. They implemented everything they proposed. The $862 billion porkulus program, the $700 billion TARP program, home buyer tax credits, energy efficiency credits, loan modification programs, zero interest rates, QE1 and QE2. They increased social welfare transfers for Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans by $600 billion since 2007, a 35% increase in four years. No one has foiled their plans. The Tea Party didn’t really exist until 2010. They didn’t lose the House until November 2010. They cannot blame the Tea Party extremists, but they do.
The Keynesians have successfully increased Federal spending by $1.1 trillion, or 41% since 2007, and are running deficits exceeding 10% of GDP, but they call the Tea Party extremists. Domestic investment is still 9% below 2008 levels as the Federal government has crowded out the small businesses that create the jobs in this country. And now the Keynesians declare we need more stimulus, more programs, more debt, more quantitative easing and lower interest rates. It just wasn’t enough the first time. You have to give the Keynesians credit. Despite the utter absolute failure of every scheme they have implemented, they will worship their models and theories until they successfully collapse our economic system. Then they’ll blame the Tea Party terrorists who foiled their plans.
None of the Keynesian solutions worked during this crisis, just as they didn’t work during the Great Depression. The solution was simple, yet painful. The banking system needed to be saved, not the banks. The bad debt needed to be purged from the system. Wall Street criminals needed to be prosecuted. Bondholders and stockholders needed bear the losses from their foolish investments. Saving and investment in the country needed to be encouraged, while borrowing and consuming needed to be discouraged. Our leaders have failed to lead. The American people have failed to accept the consequences of their actions. And now we are going to pay a heavy price as Ludwig von Mises predicted:
“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit (debt) expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit (debt) expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”