Cheap money feels good initially. Nearly everyone is happy when central banks open the floodgates (or helicopter doors) and cash spills into the economy. Hooray! Money! Why is it here now instead of yesterday? Who knows? Get while the getting’s good. Look, the stock market’s rising – whoopee! Monetary tequila. Bottoms up!
But the morning, the aching, head thumping morning always comes after such a binge.
“All I know is Ben Bernanke was tending bar. Goldman Sachs was buying me drinks. Everyone was having a great time. (Except those teetotalers the Austrian economists sitting in the back. They’re never any fun.) But everything after that is hazy. Where am I?”
“Son, you’re smack dab in the middle of an economic depression.”
“Oh man, really? Who are you?”
“I’m the Austrian economist who was sitting in the back of the bar. Get your hat. I’ll drive you home Mr. Keynes.”
“No, no. What I need – what we all need is more tequila.”
“Suit yourself.” Said the Austrian economist as he walked out level headed and sober into the blinding summer sun.
Mr Reich generally needs to be taken with a grain of salt. He has been, and as far as I know, continues to be fundamentally wrong on the most important economic questions. Saying that, he has flashes of insight on political issues, and here’s one.
Of course we issue the standard disclaimers with this piece that we do with many of the folks we choose to feature here who we feel are too enamored with the state.
That he still can’t grasp (or is frankly willing to admit) that for the most part this country should thank its lucky stars for the TEA Party and the mini-revolt of 2009 is a big flaw in his argument. Another one is that he says that the TEA Party promoted “outright racism.” (I almost didn’t run his piece because of this chunk of baloney. A few memes promoted in the Huffington Post don’t count. I was there. I never saw it. Ever. I’m betting Reich didn’t attend many rallies.)
And yet another myth he promotes is the idea of some kind of post-World War 2 golden age of government. That is just a flat out misunderstanding of the situation.
In 1964, Americans agreed by 64% to 29% that government was run for the benefit of all the people. By 2012, the response had reversed, with voters saying by 79% to 19% that government was “run by a few big interests looking after themselves.”
This may be true but this is because before the information revolution the average person didn’t understand how the game, the government game, was played. It is, and has always been played for powerful interests. It’s just that we know it now. It was because Americans were basically ignorant (through no fault of their own) that 64% of people thought government was run for the benefit of the people.
They may have THOUGHT it was. But it wasn’t.
We woke up. Mr. Reich hasn’t. At least on this very important point.
So why run his piece?
Michael Bloomberg said this recently and he is right. If one had assets prior to 2008, particularly of the stock variety, there is a very good chance that your portfolio is looking pretty good these days. The Fed through various means has inflated markets artificially.
If however one had no assets prior to 2008, or went bust during the chaos of the Crash one is probably still struggling.
The Fed, the central planners, have made the rich much richer. (For the time being.) It wasn’t free market capitalism which did this.
Caterpillar sales have been declining for over 2 years. Latin American sales have fallen off a cliff. Caterpillar makes heavy industry construction equipment. Draw your own conclusions.
It is interesting to note that the decline is not as sharp as during the “Great Recession,” it’s more stretched out and has been shallower. However it has been steady and steady declines are the thing of maturing depressions.
If you really want to understand why the crony capitalist system is so insidious as well as ubiquitous I highly recommend listening to this bit from the master Murray Rothbard. If you really want to get what is so messed up about government and the “privavte sector” partnering up, one must know at least a little bit of his work.
Warning though. Rothbard can rattle one’s whole understanding of politics and economics.
OK, so Greece is messed up. We know that. It’s not a surprise. The call for a referendum from Athens was a surprise but not the end of the world.
The reason we had the Crash in 2008 was because the Fed kept rates too low for too long. In response to the tech implosion and then the 9-11 attacks Allan Greenspan and the FOMC panicked and ended up inflating a worldwide housing boom which morphed into the disaster (to put it mildly) which is the Great Recession. There’s more to it than that but that’s basically what happened.
Consider now that Ben Bernanke (and Janet Yellen) have kept interest rates much lower for even longer than Greenspan did.
The principal author of our current economic ills doesn’t seem to know history any better than monetary policy.
When the Obama administration announced that it was planning to replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten dollar bill with an unspecified woman, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke leapt into the fray. He said he was “appalled” by the decision since Hamilton “was without doubt the best and most foresighted economic policy maker in US history.” He proposed that Andrew Jackson be removed from the twenty dollar bill instead.
A New York Sun editorial on June 23 dryly noted that Hamilton was the author of the Coinage Act of 1792, which represents the very sound money that Bernanke has done everything in his power to destroy. The Sun, however, tempered its criticism with the following comment: “We understand that there are serious persons who reckon Hamilton, who was notoriously partial to federal power, would not have opposed the idea of fiat paper money. This point has been marked for us by no less a scholar than the journalist and historian Myron Magnet…. Let us stipulate Mr. Magnet’s point.”
Let us not stipulate Magnet’s point, because it is incorrect. Hamilton condemned paper money not backed by gold or silver as an evil. Here is what Hamilton actually said: “The emitting of paper money by the authority of Government is wisely prohibited….Though paper emissions, under a general authority, might have some advantage…, yet they are of a nature so liable to abuse—and it may even be affirmed, so certain of being abused—that the wisdom of the Government will be shown in never trusting itself with the use of so seducing and dangerous an expedient…. The stamping of paper is an operation so much easier than the laying of taxes, that a government, in the practice of paper emissions, would rarely fail…to indulge itself too far in the employment of that resource…even to [ the point of creating]…an absolute bubble.” [ Report to the House of Representatives, Dec 13, 1790]
Congressman Hensarling deserves some praise. He has spearheaded the effort to kill the Export-Import Bank (let’s hope that thing gets put in the grave) in the face of massive lobbyist firepower and now he’s putting the Fed squarely in his sights.
Hensarling’s area of interest with regard to the Fed is the 2012 leak of Fed Minutes to prominent insiders 19 hours before the the public got to see the information. This is important, market moving information which if gotten early could have been very “helpful” to traders. (We’d love to know if any of the banks involved moved on the early information.) This is what Bloomberg had to say about the incident in 2013.
The Fed initially said recipients were primarily congressional staffers and trade organizations. A list of 154 recipients released later by the Fed show that banks also were among them. The list included Barclays Plc, BB&T Corp., BNP Paribas SA, Capital One Financial Corp., Citigroup Inc. (C), Fifth Third Bancorp, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nomura Holdings Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., Regions Financial Corp., U.S. Bancorp, UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co.
Other financial firms included IntercontinentalExchange Inc., the Atlanta-based owner of the world’s largest credit- default swap clearinghouse that has agreed to buy NYSE Euronext for $8.2 billion; buyout firm Carlyle Group LP (CG), and financial- market data provider Standard & Poor’s.
You can read the entire article HERE.
This supposedly was an accident. Boy, what an accident. I sure think the American people deserve to know the details of this accident. So does Congressman Hensarling. But the Federal Reserve is fighting to keep things secret. Why?
The key drivers for the increased inequality (as we have said many times before) are the financialization of the economy and the emergence of a truly crony capitalist system. The two are of course entwined. The cronies enjoy bailouts and bonuses from banks which get bailed out. The unconnected get to do the bailing. (In various ways.) That’s basically the gist.
Ole’ Helicopter Ben put this long emerging trend into overdrive. But don’t blame him for inflating the assets of the already wealthy while the rest of the country was left behind. And don’t blame him for waging a war on savers. (Basically the prudent middle class.) Nope, he’s not to blame at all for the gulf in the economy. That just happened. Ben explains that over the long term monetary policy is neutral.
Man, if only.
Stan Humphries – the author of the attached article – and I agree that home ownership often is not such a good deal. For many it is a downright terrible investment. More people are awakening to this fact, and that is a good thing.
But we differ on why it is such a bad deal for some.
I remember sitting in my car in college listening to Howard Stern on the radio before class sometime in 2000. Howard and his crew were talking about the stock market which was roaring. The Tech Bubble was in full effect. The sky was the limit. If you weren’t in the market you were losing out. It was a similar vibe to the Housing Bubble which would emerge only a few years later.
Stern took a call from a listener.
The caller, who sounded like he might have been on the tail end of a serious bender explained in candid terms that he was affiliated with some unsavory characters and that he and his unsavory friends were manipulating the market up. He said there was little under the prices of many of the stocks which were rising at breakneck speed.
In a few months we would see how right that caller was.
Has this guy not done enough damage? Is he bored? Yes, let’s let the president declare economic martial law. I don’t see how that could be a disaster at all. No way that would be abused. Why bother with even involving Congress at all? It only has the power of the purse after all. (The president by design does not have this power.)
Shoot, why don’t we declare presidents to be kings and just get it all over with. Enough of this Constitution thing.