Something funny is happening with inflation… or isn’t happening: Despite more than two years of interest rates near zero percent and vast amounts of “liquidity” being pumped into the system, consumer prices are falling.
On Wednesday the Labor Department reported an unexpected -0.1% drop in April, the first decline since March 2001. So-called “core inflation,” considered a better long-term indicator because it excludes volatile food and fuel costs, is also grinding lower. It increased just 1% from a year earlier, the lowest reading since May 1963.
This phenomenon raises some major question for people who worried that all of the Fed’s “easy money” and “low interest rates” would cause an inflationary spiral. Instead the opposite thing seems to be underway, and is remarkably similar to what started in Japan 20 years ago. In both countries, debt-fueled bubbles collapsed and central bankers responded by attempting to prop up asset prices by “increasing the money supply.”
Given that “monetary conditions” are now much more “accommodative” than they were in the 1980s or even 1990s when inflation was higher, it’s becoming clear that these policies are an utter failure. However that shouldn’t surprise anyone because they’re actually based on the philosophy of the welfare state and the Democrat party.
Most people are still trapped in the intellectual paradigm of Milton Friedman, who famously said “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” While this may be inherently true, the problem is that most observers — including economists — don’t really think about what money is.
The conventional wisdom is that central banks such as the Federal Reserve “create” money, either by printing paper or by allowing the accumulation of bank reserves. But this view assumes that a government agency can, in fact, create money. In this belief, allegedly free-market economists such as Friedman and countless others place unlimited confidence in the authoritarian power of the state. While they might argue against any government fiat in areas such as education, agriculture and housing, they unthinkingly accept the idea that the government can create, with the stroke of a pen, not only something of value, but the very essence of value.
Consider the case of prisoner camps during WWII, where cigarettes were used as money. In a famous article from 1945, economist R.A. Radford describes cycles of inflation and deflation fluctuating along with the supply of Red Cross packages. Even prisoners who hated smoking started accumulating Camels and Lucky Strikes as a means of savings and to exchange for goods and services.
Where was the Fed? Where was the Open Market Committee? Where were Ben Bernanke and his wise beard? How about Alan Greenspan and his famous stack of papers?
They were nowhere to be seen. Money in prisoner camps came into existence like language or culture. People needed to express value, and they found a medium to do so.
Let’s take it one step further: If money can exist without a central bank, it’s logical that a central bank can exist without money.
Once economists accept this basic, indisputable fact, they need to refine Friedman’s problematic dictum. The consequences are scarier than most mainstream analysts are willing to accept.
Friedman’s may have been right. But his error could be in assuming that the central bank creates money. In reality, central banks create currency. What’s the difference?
Money has two essential characteristics: It must be interchangeable and wanted (or scarce). Take away either attribute, and it’s no longer money. For instance land is wanted but cannot serve as money because it isn’t easily interchangeable. And cigarettes today are still interchangeable, but many fewer people want them, so they no longer serve as money. (Plus dollar bills are much more convenient and the bank will take them.)
Fiat currency by definition will always be interchangeable. The question is whether it’s wanted or scarce?
There was a time when people did want dollars, for instance in the 1980-2000 period, when you could often earn more than 5% after inflation just by keeping money in the bank. Now, however, interest rates are essentially zero and central bankers are comfortable creating trillions of dollars out of thin air to help ailing banks.
Of course, there will always be plenty of need for greenbacks because it’s legal tender. The same thing can be said for the yen, the Venezuela Bolivar and the Zimbabwean dollar. But in the end the only thing backing them up is the force of law: government fiat and the tax code.
Most economists, including Friedman, would agree that government fiat cannot spur real investment, innovation or economic growth. Conservatives already know that government crushes human genius when it tries to run industry and or tells people how to live their lives. Why then do we accept the government setting the price of our money?
Just as government bureaucrats ruin every other business they touch, the Fed is destroying the U.S. dollar’s ability to serve as money. They are destroying its scarcity and its dearness – one of the two key things it needs to be money.
This isn’t hurting ordinary consumption — or at least not yet. The real danger is that it prevents people from saving and kills capital formation. That means less investment, less income growth and less demand. Japan-style deflation, here we come.
Most conventional economists have no paradigm to deal with this process because they simply assume that entrepreneurs will start companies. What they fail to understand is that capital must first accumulate in large pools risk-free before being deployed. If you don’t create a hospitable environment, this simply won’t happen. Capital is like fish eggs: If the water isn’t the right temperature or doesn’t have the right pH balance, the fish don’t hatch and then migrate elsewhere. They’re simply never born.
The other thing most economists fail to appreciate is that the collapse of bad companies creates opportunities for good ones. Failure imposes discipline by teaching people what works and what doesn’t. Higher rates would cause many banks to implode and force the liquidation of their real-estate assets. This would trigger wholesale foreclosures and bankruptcies across the country. Entire towns would be wiped off the map and the people who move elsewhere. Their schools and government offices would close.
That isn’t as bad as it sounds because hundreds, if not thousands, of towns emptied of people and faded into the frontier in the 19th century (ghost towns). It didn’t keep us from going on to win two World Wars, splitting the atom, inventing rock and roll and becoming a global superpower in the following century.
So why don’t we raise interest rates now? Because we are afraid, that’s why. We’re afraid banks will fail and people will lose their jobs. We’re afraid government workers and their unions will be unemployed. We’re afraid of recession. We’re afraid of higher interest payments.
One political party in this country has always survived by pandering to people’s fears: fear of Wild Indians, fear of free blacks, fear of foreigners, fear of Catholics, fear of economic reality, fear of weather, fear of war, and — most importantly — fear of failure.
With leaders such as Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Fernando Wood, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Robert Byrd, Al Gore Sr., Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, it’s not hard to guess which party I’m talking about.
The truth is that the country would benefit from many government employees losing their jobs and their pensions. Instead of sitting around and literally “doing time” until they collect their retirement money, those people would be forced to learn new skills, invent new products and grow as human beings. Now they are being coddled in the prime of their lives, so how will they ever achieve greatness and help society progress?
None of these issues can be separated, but it all starts with money. It’s time to stop sucking our thumbs with low interest rates and to stop embracing the mentality of the welfare state in our financial system. Americans don’t cower in fear when faced with adversity. Only Democrats do.
Success or failure?
Our federal gov’t has been subsidizing the residential mortgage business to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, possibly trillions depend on how you count it (that is, if you can count it). One such program, Term Asset-Backed Securities Lending Facility (TALF). This March 25, 2010 CNN report announced the end of this $100 billion program, and noted that it was extraordinarily successful. The CBO estimates that the total cost to bail out mortgage originators Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be $381 billion. All these efforts and more were designed to stop the crisis experienced by the real estate market.
Were they successful? MarketWatch reports today that 14% of residential mortgages are “delinquent or in foreclosure.”
The percentage of loans in foreclosure or with at least one payment past due was a non-seasonally-adjusted 14.01% in the first quarter, down from 15.02% in the fourth quarter of 2009, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday. But the seasonally adjusted delinquency rate for mortgages on one- to four-unit residential properties, which includes mortgages at least one payment past due but doesn’t include those in foreclosure, rose to 10.06%, from 9.47%.
This news comes with the recent phenomenon of increasing numbers of “strategic defaults.” A strategic default is when a homeowner decides to foreclose, not out of financial insolvency necessarily, but because the property they have the mortgage on is for significantly more than the underlying value of the property. In other words, bad business.
All of this is bad news, at best. It should be clear that the government can do nothing effective to stop this slide. It’s over 2 years since the collapse of Bear Stearns, and markets should be functioning properly again. Evidently they are not.
Recently “crowned” Miss USA Rima Fakih from Michigan is embroiled in a mini-scandal, as pictures of her pole dancing at a Detroit “gentleman’s club” emerged shortly after winning the pageant.
In this day and age, when pole dancing is offered at “fitness centers” for women (and certainly some men) to keep in shape, this story is hardly that surprising. What is slightly more surprising is how mainstream journalism treats the subject. Writing on MSNBC.com, Mike Celizic seems baffled that anybody might view this behavior as less than acceptable for a national beauty queen:
They show Fakih doing a playful grind with her back to a stripper’s pole and her hands over her head. She’s dressed in a blue tank top with a relatively high neckline, red shorts and high heels. She did not remove any clothing at the women-only event; in fact, she barely shows her midriff, let alone anything else.
Barack Obama has been President of the United States for 16 months. The American people have learned a lot about President Obama and what he wants to do for America. President Obama has learned nothing about the American people. This is why on Thursday, April 15…tax day…thousands upon thousands of Americans took time out of their busy lives to send a sour note to the current administration in the White House. These Americans were fed up with the elitism and arrogance being displayed in the oval office and wanted their voices heard. The tea party is portrayed by the mainstream media as a fringe movement of angry activists that are not in touch with reality. However, what really is a fringe movement is the Mainstream Media, who’s influence over the American people drops faster each day than President Obama’s approval ratings. So, what we have here is a misconception of the political reality facing Democrats in November. It is a very similar climate to 1994, when Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America swept Republicans to a massive victory that gave them control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It is also a similar climate to 1980, when Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter by 10 points….5o-4o…to win the presidency. Both times the “dinosaur media” was shocked by the results and had trouble explaining to the public what had occurred. This is because the Mainstream Media was out of touch with American people then and they are even more out of touch today. A silent majority is ready to take back control of Washington D.C. and bring real “change” to American politics.
During the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the federal government has expanded astronomically and has left the the United States more than a trillion dollars in debt. This number scares the American people as they see a government that has grown too fast, and will provide a burden on the liberty of future generations who will have to pay it off. This irresponsibility of both administrations has led people to identify with a Tea Party movement that is not led by a charismatic leader like Obama, but rather by the idea that government needs to go back to its roots…the Constitution…where its main job to is to protect the liberty of its citizens and not take it away with massive entitlement programs. This is why the Democrats won back Congress in 2006 and Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 . I know that statement might be confusing to you, so let me explain.
When Newt Gingrich led the GOP to control of the House, the main element of the Contract with America that they were looking to enact was a balanced budget. After the failure of Hillarycare and corruption of Congressional Democrats led to a massive GOP win in 1994, Bill Clinton was in danger of being thrown out of office in 1996. Bill Clinton, being a smart and saavy politician, decided it was best to work with Gingrich in cutting the federal budget. This decision led to Clinton being reelected in 1996, as he signed into law courageous centrist policies such as welfare reform and reduced the size of the federal government. Most Americas were thrilled with the results of his presidency and were hoping for similar governing from his successor George W. Bush. However, President Bush started his presidency by creating two large government programs that led to increased federal spending. They were the No Child Left Behind education program and the prescription drug benefits program for Seniors. This two measures among others caused Bush to rack up the largest amount of entitlement spending since LBJ and the Great Society. Also, after 9-11, President Bush got America embroiled in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were very costly to operate and maintain during his presidency. The governing of George W. Bush led the United States to take a surplus from Clinton administration and turn it into a multi-billion dollar deficit. Bush’s running up of a large deficit and failure to manage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, led to the Democrats taking over Congress in 2006. During the two years before the 2008 election, the partisan rancor in Washington was at an all time high and Americans were looking for a centrist and practical President that would provide a new style of politics in Washington D.C. In that door stepped Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Barack Obama presented himself during the 2008 presidential campaign as a centrist Democrat who would build broad coalitions to achieve policy goals. He talked of the fact that we are not “red states” or “blue states,” but the United States of America. He spoke of bringing “change” to Washington and a new, open style of politics to the nation’s capital. After living through the nasty divisiveness of the Bush presidency, the American people longed for a president that could bring the country together and make America respected again in the world. During the campaign, President Obama sounded like a moderate Democrat in vowing to cut taxes for 95% of Americans and go through budget items line by line to make sure that there was no government waste. Obama came off as a sensible politician that would be very strategic and measured in making policy decisions. Even though Barack Obama had very radical friends during his time as a community organizer in Chicago and was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, many people looked past his associations and voting record. They didn’t believe his background was a good guide in deciding his future as president. Instead, the focused on Obama’s soaring rhetoric and can-do-attitude regarding the future of America and voted him into the White House as the 44th President of the United States. 16 months later, many Americans who voted for Barack Obama look at their selection as a major mistake. The reason for their rejection of President Obama stems from America’s rightward turn in political ideology since the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.
With the election of Ronald Reagan, America finally saw that conservatism was the answer to providing wealth and prosperity in the United States. After the Great Depression, America was very hesitant conservatism and thought its tight connection with the free market is what led to the collapse of the stock market in 1929. That is why from 1928-1980, the only Republicans who made it to the White House were moderates Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. Eisenhower believed in the effectiveness of government , which led to him developing the interstate highway system. Also, Eisenhower believe in balanced budgets and not tax cuts like his successor John F. Kennedy. Richard Nixon was also a big government liberal Republican that often gets swept into the conservative movement by the media in attempt to demonize it. Nixon believed in expanded powers of the federal government, including support of increased welfare and health care spending. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, was pro-choice, which puts him at odds with many conservatives. The previous three Republican administrations is why the election of Ronald Reagan was monumental and earth shattering. Reagan believed in cutting taxes, cutting spending, increasing the defense budget, protecting the sanctity of life, and renewing American patriotism and pride. His can do attitude and belief in the American middle class worker led to the longest peace time growth in nation’s history. After the divisive year’s of George W. Bush, where America took a step back abroad and suffered a financial meltdown at the end of Bush’s second term, Americans reserved the same optimism for Barack Obama. However, they have been extremely disappointed in their new president.
President Barack Obama has been the anti-Reagan, proving that his campaign speeches simply meant that government, rather than the people, would be at the forefront of his “CHANGE” agenda. President Obama has taken drastic steps in increasing the size and scope of the federal budget, even after the hundreds of billions of dollars of debt he inherited from George W. Bush. President Obama has tripled the deficit to $1.8 trillion since being in office by passing a huge stimulus package and a massive health care entitlement. The stimulus package hasn’t provided many jobs to middle class Americans, but rather has caused unemployment to rise to10%. The health care bill signed into law this past March is expected to raise insurance premiums and increase taxes on middle class families. Unlike Reagan, Obama’s governing has led to a shrinking of the economy rather than its expansion. Businesses are afraid to invest in workers, since they are unsure what additional costs would come with each new hiring. They are unsure how the government plans to reduce the deficit and what impact the new health care plan will have on their bottom line. Also, Wall Street and other major businesses in the United States have been berated by the Obama administration for the financial collapse and now are afraid to spend any money on private jets, entertainment, sports, business meetings, etc. This stranglehold on big business has hurt small businesses that rely on their clientele. Unlike Reagan, who brought all Americans together with his colloquial speaking style and optimistic view of what was possible for all Americans, Obama speaks with a petulant tone and is dismissive of those who dare to question his motives. Reagan welcomed a debate of ideas and had his back and forth on issues with House speaker Tip O’Neil. No matter how heated their exchanges would become during the day, at the close of business, Reagan and O’Neil would end the day with a drink and a conservation. That civility has been absent in Obama’s Washington, where he famously told House Republicans in their first meeting together, “We won, we write the bill.” This arrogance and dismissive attitude towards the opposition has also extended to ordinary American citizens who joined the “Tea Party Movement” to protest Obama’s spending policies and show their concern for the nation’s debt crisis. Obama denounced this group of Americans as “teabaggers”, a term describing a sexual act that should be clearly be beneath the office of the presidency. The president has shown during his time in office that if you disagree with what he believes that he will call you out publicly rather than have a civil dialogue with you behind closed doors. Just ask Officer Crowley and the Supreme Court. President Obama has proved to be a liberal ideologue in his governing and he has tried to jam his views and beliefs down the American people’s throats, rather than look to compromise with them and congressional Republicans who think problems can be addressed differently. Lastly, unlike Reagan, Obama has not employed a foreign policy of “Peace through Strength” that helped to end the Cold War, but rather has weakened our national defense. Ronald Reagan used a strong ally in U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to put pressure on the communist Soviet Union with tough rhetoric and increased missile defense. President Obama has mistreated our ally Israel and diminished their confidence in us, while Iran continues to progress on their nuclear program with no actions or harsh rhetoric by the administration. Rather, the president has reserves his tough rhetoric to criticize United States foreign policy, demeaning measures that helped our country defeat Nazism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism during World War II as well as put an end to Soviet communism in the 1980s. Also, instead of increasing our weaponry and missile defense as a strong deterrent for Iran to go forward with their nuclear program, President Obama instead signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, that lays out no strict conditions for Russian disarmament. So, clearly President Obama’s arrogance, partisanship, and weakness has caused him to lose favor with the American people.
Now, as 2010 approaches, its time for the American people to give a strong message to President Obama and congressional Democrats, that government entitlement programs and destruction of American Exceptionalism will not be tolerated by our leaders. Americans believe in an individual and collectivist society, but they don’t believe in bureaucracy, inefficient management, and Chicago thug-style politics. Americans believe that “individuals” working together as a “collective” unit is what makes our country most successful. For instance, the “rich” use their capital to invest in businesses or products, which allow middle-class people to obtain jobs and accumulate their own wealth working for the private venture. With their accumulated wealth, Americans take care of those less fortunate by donating a portion of their wealth to those less fortunate. Most Americans don’t believe that they can sit on the sidelines, and let government take care of the poor. Rather they believe it is THERE responsibility to lift up those who are in need by offering them a hand up. Through their own individual hard work and effort, people create a better life for themselves and their family. They also contribute what they can to helping out citizens who have fallen on hard times. In the cases of human despair, such as Hurricane Katrina, Americans time and again show their compassion for their fellow citizens and contribute substantial resources to get them back on their feet. In 2010, Americans will send the Democrats a message that government is supposed to protect the people from all enemies, foreign and domestic, not redistribute their resources. Government needs to make sure that people are not being exploited by the private sector, not run the private sector. Government is supposed to regulate health insurance companies, not put bureaucratic red tape between patients and their doctors. The American people will send a message in November, that limited government is what’s best for America. A nation of 300 million people can make better decisions for themselves and this country, then a few hundred bureaucrats in Washington, DC. 2010 is the year that the people take back their government.
NYYRC 98th Annual Alumni Dinner
Location: Manhattan Penthouse: 80 Fifth Avenue
Description: NYYRC ANNUAL DINNER
SAVE THE DATE JUNE 23rd, 2010
Full Open Bar, 3 Course Dinner with amazing views of Manhattan. Amazing Silent Auction and Raffle Prizes (CPAC Diamond Package, Cruise for 2 on a private Yacht, Free County Club Round of Golf, Autographed copies of Karl Rove’s book Courage and Consequence, Subscriptions of the National Review, LA Sports Club Memberships and more). Cocktail Attire
Keynote Speaker and Recipient of The New York Young Republican Award Peggy Noonan, Columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Author of 7 books on American Politics, Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan and Chief Speechwriter for George Bush during his presidential campaign.
Recipient of the Margaret Jean McKee Award KT McFarland, Fox News National Security Analyst, columnist, and commentator, former Reagan Administration Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and staff member on Kissinger’s National Security Council
Recipient of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Memorial Award Bob Williams, Chairman of the National Black United Fund, former President and CEO of the Bronx Strategic Alliance of Settlement House, and Chairman of the National Associations of Black Athletes
Recipient of the Candidate of the Year Award Dan Donovan, Richmond County District Attorney, Republican, Conservative, and Independence Parties nominee for New York Attorney General
NYYRC Member Rate: Dinner Only $150, Dinner & and Photo Opp $175
NYYRC Non Member Rate: Dinner Only $175, Dinner & and Photo Opp $200
Title: NYYRC 98th Annual Alumni Dinner
Location: Manhattan Penthouse: 80 Fifth Avenue
Description: NYYRC ANNUAL DINNER
SAVE THE DATE JUNE 23rd
Full Open Bar, 3 Course Dinner with amazing views of Manhattan.
More Details to come and Amazing Guest Speakers to be announced soon!
Early Bird Rate – Pay Now
Member Dinner Ticket $125, Dinner & Photo Opp $150
Non Member Dinner Ticket $150, Dinner & Photo Opp $175
Start Time: 18:30
End Time: 22:00
I’m sitting here this morning, unable to do much work, stunned by the Euro bailout. What we’ve done is invest in a state of perpetual financial crisis. I think of it like this:
1) Greenspan/Bernanke drop our interest rates to 1% for something like 1 or 2 years
2) The real estate boom ensues, distorting industry globally
3) The mortgage industry defaults, destroying balance sheets and blowing up all derivatives
4) The Fed/Fed gov’t bail out the banks of America, creating a nearly 0% interest rate environment, and no incentive to invest
5) Debt is added to debt, and the value of each dollar is diluted through inflation
6) Who knows what’s next for America, but Greece is a good archetype
1) Europe is running a transnational welfare state with no fiscal discipline
2) The smaller, louder, less robust nations experienced a boom when they joined the Euro and reaped a higher purchasing power than they would have otherwise received on the market (Greece added high-end boutiques, strip malls, and funded an over-the-top Olympics)
3) Their spendthrift habits are catching up with them, slowly but surely
4) One by one, they are imploding. Greece was first, and cost nearly $1 tril to keep “afloat”
5) Portugal, Spain, Italy are next. They make Greece look small (because it is)
6) The citizens of Europe who live in relatively stable economies are about to get fleeced, as the bureaucrats begin diluting their currency and transferring wealth to keep unhealthy economies churning
7) They’re all managed by Euro bureaucrats, who answer to the elected politicians, who have as constituents a bunch of socialist voters
Both situations, in which authorities are rushing from one fire to the next to prevent outbreak/collapse, remind me of the readings I’ve done on the Soviet economy:
People: We have a shortage in bread.
Government: Increase bread production by 25%!
P: But now we have a shortage in flour?!
G: Ah! Well increase flour production by 50%!
P: Now we have a shortage of corn?? And people are beginning to starve!
G: We must increase food production by 20% in 9 months, so long as it does not interfere with our GREAT military expansion!
P: The famine has gotten worse… the machines we use to farm have been neglected for too long. You put the machine workers into the fields to grow more crops, but they stopped repairing the tools!
G: We will shift all available production from food to machines that make food!
P: But we’ll starve if you do that!
G: Good point. We will shift all production into military efforts to prevent you, our slave population, from fleeing over the border!
G (alternate): We will import a quasi-legal underclass to support the scheme a little longer. We will call it free immigration, open borders, comprehensive immigration reform. When they riot, as they did in France, we will placate them, too.
And that’s about how it goes when you try to “manage” an economy, so it seems.
There have been some enthused debates from conservatives about the liberal media coverage of the NYC Times Square bomber–his life, times, and the analysis of what lead him to attempt such a horrid thing. The media’s reporting of this I do not find atypical at all. It is a story…and a perfect opportunity to infuse art into reporting and journalism. A good story must tug at the emotions somehow. That is what ultimately sells. To expect the media to put aside artistic flavors and focus on real world issues is really too much to ask. Emotions, not rationality, is the medium they work in.
Bernanke recently reiterated what ages of research have apparently shown–that yes money does not necessarily lead to more happiness. Of course nothing in itself leads to happiness, it’s what you do with it that matters. And some people sadly just don’t know how to spend wisely.
Dow down nearly 1,000 points earlier today. The Obama recovery is in full swing now…
See every other thing I’ve written, here.
Wonder what Stimulus 3 will look like? 4? 5?