Sunday, February 28, 2010

China $125 Billion Health Spending Spurs GE, Philips Sales Boon

China's not waiting on healthcare. They're already kickstarting it with a $125 billion investment. Here in the U.S. we are doing nothing.

General Electric and other U.S. multinationals will benefit from China's investment. They will build the high tech, lifesaving medical equipment that could have gone for the benefit of Americans, had we made the investment here. Now, however, those life saving machines will go to benefit the Chinese.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Hawkeye's are Going to Need Deprogramming

One of the most visible nationwide organizations that disseminates what I believe to be false information and perspective concerning the fiscal operations of the US Treasury is The Concord Coalition. They have been around since the early 1990's and advocate for "generationally responsible fiscal policy". Their ideas probably inspire the 'leaving our debt to our grandchildren' crowd. This is a picture of their logo:

This looks like a picture of a noble Revolutionary era soldier or Minuteman gripping the barrel of a musket and standing in defense over a small child that is looking up to him; congruent with their inter-generational "fiscal responsibility" dogma.
They seem to be well funded and organized. Their website identifies many of their activities that take place across the nation. This one caught my attention:

Date and Time: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - 10:30am - 11:30am

Attendance for this event is by invitation only. (OF COURSE!)

Summary: Midwest Regional Director to provide chart talk and possibly updated 30-minute "I.O.U.S.A." video (OH BOY!) to 700+ undergraduates taking a macroeconomics course at the University of Iowa. This lecture also sets the students to participate in the P&P interactive exercise the following week during 30+ lab sessions.

I fear for the futures of the 700+ students if they buy into the propaganda that will be presented in this movie and seminar. This is one class I would recommend that they skip if they can!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jim Bunning Repeatedly Blocks Unemployment Benefits Extension, Tells Dem 'Tough Shit'

When this ongoing economic crisis leads to a collapse in social order; when there are riots, an explosion in the crime rate and spread of general chaos, which there will be if it continues as it is going, then I hope guys like Senator Bunning are the first who are strung up by the mob.

Read his comments below:

Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month.

As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along.

And when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: "Tough shit."

Bunning says he doesn't oppose extending benefits -- he just doesn't want the money that's required added to the deficit. He proposes paying for the 30-day extension with stimulus funds. The Senate's GOP leadership did not support him in his objections.

And at one point during the debate, which dragged on till nearly midnight, Bunning complained of missing a basketball game.

"I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9:00," he said,
"and it's the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina since they're the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.

The unemployment rate in Kentucky is 10.7 percent.

Don't think they're better than you. They're not! Hedge fund firm being probed on kickbacks: report

When you read about rich hedge fund managers don't get the idea that they're better than you when it comes to investing or trading. They're not. Most of them are mediocre at best and the ones who seem to make the most money are often cheats or doing something illegal.

Such is the case of NIR Group, a hedge fund run by some guy named Corey Ribotsky, who paid off outsiders to inflate the value of his holdings, thus defrauding investors.

If hedge fund operators are geniuses at anything it is getting wealthy people to fork over a lot of dough so that they can gamble and rake in huge fees.

Banks Bet Greece Defaults on Debt They Helped Hide

"Bets by some of the same banks that helped Greece shroud its mounting debts may actually now be pushing the nation closer to the brink of financial ruin."

Today's financial sector is like a cancer to the real economy. It must be shrunk significantly and the most rapacious institutions like Goldman Sachs and other investment banks, large commercial banks that have become speculative entities, etc, must be shut down or broken up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lending falls at an epic pace

"U.S. banks posted last year their sharpest decline in lending since 1942, suggesting the industry's continued slide is impeding economic recovery..." -WSJ

Unequivocal evidence that the Fed is NOT printing money. In fact it has been the opposite case: money is being destroyed as lending collapses. Furthermore, it shows the idiocy of current Administration policy; its belief that gov't money to banks has anything to do with loan creation. It doesn't. There is one, simple way to restore lending and that is, enact policy that boosts demand and puts people back to work. NO ONE in the Administration seems to understand this!!!

Geithner overrules the Volker rule

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is quietly blocking a provision in the proposed financial reform legislation that would have ended banks' ability to speculate for their own accounts.

This means more Americans will have to pay higher prices for food and fuel, even though they are already stretched to the max without jobs.

Geithner is an agent of Wall Street banks and their should be a citizen uprising that sends a clear message to Obama to remove him immediately!

Read story here.

Clashes break out at Greek crisis protests

I have said many times that the United States is not like Greece (despite the often misguided comparisons) because we have the power at our fingertips to fix our problems, whereas Greece doesn't, due to the fact that it is no longer a currency issuer.

However, we face the same social unrest that is now breaking out on the streets of Greece if we don't act to restore economic demand and create jobs.

My guess is that we won't do what is necessary and as more and more Americans become desperate you will see protests, sometimes violent, rising crime rates and the situation will become ugly very quickly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Did Goldman perpetrate one of the largest frauds in U.S. history?

Read this brilliant article by Professor Randall Wray on how Goldman not only bet against the junk it packaged and sold, but how it possibly perpetuated the greatest fraud in the history of American finance.

Please send this story to as many people as possible, including your Congressional representatives. Goldman MUST be shut down!! Obama MUST fire Tim Geithner!!

Worst Revelation Yet in the On-going Goldman-AIG-NYFed ScandalShare
By L. Randall Wray

Richard Teitelbaum reported today (here) that Timothy Geitner's New York Fed hid the smoking gun that proves Goldman played the key role in bringing down AIG. The only plausible explanation for hiding the document is that Geithner were protecting Goldman. Is this the worst scandal in US history? To ask the question is to answer it.

In brief, here is the story. Recall that securitization of mortgages was supposed to be a risk-reducing innovation that would move mortgages off the books of banks and into well-diversified portfolios of those better able to absorb risks. Mortgage originators would do the underwriting (verify credit-worthiness), securitizers would do the packaging, credit raters would do the rating, and investors would buy the securities and take the risks. Ah, but Wall Street was too clever for all that. So here is how it really worked. Banks owned mortgage lenders who made NINJA loans (no income, no job, no assets), then worked with credit raters to get the ratings desired. The raters did not actually examine any of the loans because the banks bought Credit Default Swap (CDS) "insurance" from AIG to guarantee safety of the Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) issued against the mortgages. Goldman and other banks would then either sell the CDO while using a CDS to bet on default; or they would hold the CDO and use the CDS bet against it to hedge risk. Of course, since Goldman had securitized toxic waste, the bet was not a gamble at all. It knew the CDOs would fail. But meanwhile, it got to book all sorts of fees and income so that it could reward its management with outsized bonuses.

As the subprime market began to crater—due to "unexpected" delinquencies and defaults on mortgages—AIG's own financial situation was down-graded. This led Goldman and other banks to demand collateral from AIG against their CDS bets. Goldman, in particular, played hardball with AIG—ensuring it would fail.

Here is how bad those CDOs were: losses are running as high as 78% on the toxic waste underwritten by Goldman. No wonder the firm bet against it! Yet, when Geithner's NYFed intervened to rescue AIG, it demanded that AIG pay Goldman 100 cents on the dollar—for the "insurance" AIG provided on the toxic waste created by—you betcha—Goldman. Timmy's office then ordered AIG to engage in a cover-up—telling it in November and in December 2008 to keep bank names out of documents filed. As late as January 27 2010 "the New York Fed was still arguing that the contents of Schedule A shouldn't be fully disclosed", Teitelbaum reports. Schedule A is the damning document that not only names names but also details the CDO deals.

It shows that Goldman underwrote $17.2 billion of the $62.1 billion in CDOs that AIG "insured"—the most of any bank. Goldman, in turn, received $14 billion from AIG as its share of the settlement (second only to Societe Generale, which got $16.5 billion). If you do the math, Goldman was paid over 80 cents for every dollar of CDO it wrote that got AIG insurance ($14B/$17.2B). The government has poured $182 billion into the rescue to date and now holds much of the toxic waste created by Goldman and others.

Why did Timmy do it? Why does the NY Fed still insist on secrecy? "They must have been trying to shield Goldman" says Professor James Cox of Duke.

And here is the most outrageous part of the story. As Marshall Auerback and I wrote (here) Goldman's top management was not only betting against the toxic waste they created, they also bet against Goldman:

top management unloaded their Goldman stocks in March 2008 when Bear crashed, and again when Lehman collapsed in September 2008. Why? Quite simple: they knew the firm was full of toxic waste that it would not be able to continue to unload on suckers—and the only protection it had came from AIG, which it knew to be a bad counterparty. Hence on March 19, Jack Levy (co-chair of M&As) sold over $5 million of Goldman's stock and bet against 60,000 more shares; Gerald Corrigan (former head of the NY Fed who was rewarded for that tenure with a position as managing director of Goldman) sold 15,000 shares in March; Jon Winkelried (Goldman's co-president) sold 20,000 shares. After the Lehman fiasco, Levy sold over $6 million of Goldman shares and Masanori Mochida (head of Goldman in Japan) sold $56 million worth. The bloodletting by top management only stopped when Goldman got Geithner's NYFed to produce a bail-out for AIG, which of course turned around and funneled government money to Goldman. With the government rescue, the control frauds decided it was safe to stop betting against their firm.

Goldman appears to be the classic case of what my colleague Bill Black calls a "control fraud". But the NY Fed and by implication the US Treasury (which is also captured by Goldman) is involved in the cover-up of the frauds perpetrated by Goldman's top executives—those "savvy businessmen" President Obama has praised. And that, dear reader, is what makes this rank among the worst scandals in US history.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learn to trade Forex with Mike Norman

Hello everyone! I will be giving an online Forex trading course from March 6 - March 10. This is intensive instruction in how to daytrade the Forex markets for steady consistent profits.

In this course you will learn:

How the forex markets work
How to take steady, consistent, profits daytrading these markets
How to easily sell high and buy low
How to put the odds on your side
How to limit risk
Which currency pairs deliver the best trading opportunities
How to trade the news
Carefree yet highly effective order entry
When to take profits

In addition I will show you

How to eliminate fear and stress and trade with absolute confidence
Why the most popular trading systems don't work
The truth about why everything you've ever been taught about trading is wrong!
My four point system of successful trading psychology

The course will be taught on the Oanda platform, the most powerful and sophisticated online Forex platform in existence today.

The course tuition is $2500. Space is limited so hurry. If you sign up you will also receive a 1-year subscription to my Fiscal Trend Digest, which is an additional $2500 value!

Go to the link for more info or to sign up!

Fed MBS Purchases at $1.195T

As of last week, the current total of Agency MBS purchases by the NY Fed is at $1.195T. The Fed has stated that they will stop purchases at $1.250T and they are $55B away from that. Last week the FRBNY net purchased $11B of MBS so at that weekly rate, they will hit the $1.250T ceiling exactly in 5 more weeks (including this week).

At that point we may be entering into a brave new world, much different than the last 15 months, without the Fed purchasing on average $20B of financial assets per week using newly created reserve balances.

Below is a graph of the NY Fed's progress in this regard over the last 14 months.

A scathing PBS documentary investigates the role of Rubin, Summers and Greenspan in what ended up to be America's worst financial crisis

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

"I didn't know Brooksley Born," says former SEC Chairman Arthur Levitt, a member of President Clinton's powerful Working Group on Financial Markets. "I was told that she was irascible, difficult, stubborn, unreasonable." Levitt explains how the other principals of the Working Group -- former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- convinced him that Born's attempt to regulate the risky derivatives market could lead to financial turmoil, a conclusion he now believes was "clearly a mistake."

Born's battle behind closed doors was epic, Kirk finds. The members of the President's Working Group vehemently opposed regulation -- especially when proposed by a Washington outsider like Born.

"I walk into Brooksley's office one day; the blood has drained from her face," says Michael Greenberger, a former top official at the CFTC who worked closely with Born. "She's hanging up the telephone; she says to me: 'That was [former Assistant Treasury Secretary] Larry Summers. He says, "You're going to cause the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II."... [He says he has] 13 bankers in his office who informed him of this. Stop, right away. No more.'"

Please go to this link and read the commentary and watch the entire documentary. The worst thing of all is that Summers and Rubin (via his agents) are still at the controls!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

"...the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits."

This is a humanitarian disaster in the making, far bigger than Haiti or anywhere else. And the response: Spending freezes and fiscal conservatism!

It's primarily been an economic story unitl now, but it will soon affect the very fabric of our society. It will lead to higher crime rates and significantly higher levels of disorder.

This is the result of the sick, destructive, neo-liberal, free market fundamentalism that hss gripped our country and already destroyed many of the smaller economies in the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama the wimp

Obama is so fearful of offending China, it seems, that he sends his guest, the Dalai Lama, out the back door of the White House past a pile of garbage.

Look at this unbelievable picture of this old man, being hustled away next to a mound of trash bags. Is that any way to treat a guest???

Obama is so conflicted in everything he does. Why did he invite the Dalai Lama in the first place if he ends up treating him like that in the end?

His insecurity shows in everything he does.

The discount rate should be zero!

There's no reason to have a penalty attached to the discount rate if its intended function is to ensure the integrity of the payments system at the margin. Banks are quasi-public entities that fund themselves with taxpayer guaranteed deposits and their assets are regulated. Penalizing banks for borrowing at the discount window under that institutional structure makes no sense.

The only reason the Fed moved the rate up is because it caved in to the pressure of critics who say that it needs to "exit" from all the "stimulus" it has provided. What a joke.

I don't know who is more wimpy...Obama or Bernanke.

Wimps at the controls.

Dick Cheney for president! "Deficits don't matter!" You go, Dick!

How to raise the cost of health care: fashion policy so that the gov't saves money

Obama's forced spending cuts for Medicare are causing health care premiums to rise for individuals.

This is all being driven by the false notion that the government has to "make or save money."

It's very simple: for the government to "make or save money," the private sector must lose money by definition.

If Obama wanted to lower the cost of health care for millions of Americans, he'd make the government the "single payer". That would inject a huge amount of competition into the health care system and prices for all services would fall across the board.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

January PPI

BLS has the January PPI data out today. Link here.

The Producer Price Index for Finished Goods rose 1.4 percent in January, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This increase followed a 0.4-percent advance in December and a 1.5-percent rise in November. In January, at the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods climbed 1.7 percent, and the crude goods index jumped 9.6 percent. On an unadjusted basis, prices for finished goods moved up 4.6 percent for the 12 months ended January 2010, their third consecutive 12-month increase. About three-fourths of the broad-based January advance in the finished goods index can be traced to higher prices for energy goods, which jumped 5.1 percent.

Expect the Monetarists to call for higher mortgage payments now that the global oil cartel has achieved some recent success with implementing higher prices.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

South Carolina Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Federal Currency

"South Carolina Rep. Mike Pitts has introduced legislation that would mandate that gold and silver coins replace federal currency as legal tender in his state."

This guy's got the right idea, but what he should be doing is advocating for South Carolina to issue its own currency and not be held hostage to a Federal Gov't that is not issuing enough of the nation's unit of account.d This way South Carolina could deficit spend until its economy has achieved full output and employment.

Instead, this idiot is advocating putting his state on a gold standard. I don't know about these South Carolinians??? Calling Mike Pitts stupid would be an insult to stupid people.

Federal deficit at $430.69 billion through January

Annualized this will come in about $100 billion below last year's deficit. This does not auger for higher levels of GDP.

Obama to create fiscal commission to consider debt solutions

President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday to set up a bipartisan fiscal commission to weigh proposals to rein in the soaring federal debt, according to a White House official.

Yes, he'll use his executive powers to set up this ridiculous fiscal commission on debt, but he won't use his executive powers to help the millions of Americans who are suffering without jobs or whose homes are faced with foreclosure.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let's Get This National Debate Started

In segment 1 Warren Mosler presents a too brief but rational and accurate picture of our Country's Treasury and Central Bank Operations, and a specific proposal (Payroll Tax Holiday) for solving our nation's economic problems of inadequate output and employment. The CNBC anchors specifically prevent any mention of his book.

In segment 2, David Walker presents a demagogue's view of our Country's finances with inappropriate comparisons and non-specific remedies to his view of our nation's economic problems. He accuses the US authorities of "creative accounting practices", he cautions that the U.S. "could end up like Greece", we are borrowing from "foreign lenders", and that the Fed is "buying our debt at record rates to hold down interest rates" all of these claims are counter to any evidence. The CNBC anchors mention the title and wish him well with his new book, how nice.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

President Obama Signs Law Raising Public Debt Limit from $12.4 Trillion to $14.3 Trillion

The bill also establishes a statutory Pay-As-You-Go procedure requiring that new non-emergency legislation affecting tax revenue or mandatory spending not increase the Federal deficit – in other words, that any new spending or tax cuts be paid for with new taxes or spending cuts.

That's it...imposing a fixed quantity of money in an economy that is suffering from a massive lack of aggregate demand and high unemployment. Quasi gold standard. Welcome to "the new normal."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

CYTD Non-Discretionary Trends

Below is a table of the Calendar Year To Date (CYTD) fiscal data in the "big three" non-discretionary Treasury spending line items of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

I've looked at the CYTD data over the last three calendar years (calendar years are analysed here due to the fact that Social Security COLAs are effective over calendar years vice fiscal years). There may be a calendar quirk in the January 2010 Social Security data, but nonetheless, fiscal transfers in these three areas are down YoY in 2010 from 2009 CYTD.

I'll report on these areas as the year progresses.

PS: $M

Saturday Morning Cartoons

The "Inflation Monster"

At the ECB, you're never too young to start to be indoctrina educated to guard against Inflation and about the virtues of Price Stability.

Here's a link to a cartoon produced by the ECB intended for younger audiences that features time travel and a tormentor called "The Inflation Monster".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fed should crush speculators who threaten U.S. credit rating

The U.S. can't default. It's impossible. As a currency issuer it can just "print" money to pay debts. Yes, you can have a discussion as to whether or not that will create inflation, but default is out of the realm of possibilty. It's impossible.

However, that does not prevent clueless speculators from betting that it can and driving up the spreads on Credit Default Swaps.

The Fed needs to put an end to this now.

What it should do is be an open-ended seller of CDS in unlimited size. Take the opposite side of these guys' trades and crush them. The U.S. is not going to default and the Fed can write the check so it wouldn't be a problem, but it would eliminate any possibility of CDS market manipulation being a factor in the ratings agencies' decision making of whether or not to downgrade. I know in the past they have used CDS market behavior to change credit ratings. Specs are aware of this and routinely manipulate the CDS market to achieve their malevolent acts.

UK Television Show: Greece Situation & Roundtable

To follow up Mike's previous post on the situation in Greece, here's a youtube video excerpt from what looks like a UK based television program. The program features three panelists in an entertaining exchange about the situation in Greece and some potential workouts. The panel includes Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

For now, we will have to settle for clips of foreign programming of this type, as our TV executives on this side of the Atlantic would prefer to present shows of less intellectual and entertainment value.

America is not Greece!

The other day on Fox Business, Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) was being interviewed and he said that the situtaion in Greece foreshadows what could possibly happen here in the U.S.

Demint's assertion went completely unchallenged by host Brian Sullivan, wno could have easily pointed out a very important distinction: that countries in the eurozone are functionally like states in the United States. They no longer issue currency and, therefore, do not have the ability to simply credit bank accounts like the Federal Government can.

Demint went on to use all the debt terrorist catch phrases such as "unsustainable debt," "drowning in debt," "need to balance the budget and cut spending," etc.

Demint is one of a group of Senators who are pushing for a balanced budget ammendment, which if it passes, would put this country into long-lasting austerity and widespread poverty for generations to come. In fact, America would never recover from that--ever!

The senator also used the Greece sitatuion to point out how workers there are protesting against the layoffs and budget cuts (how dare they complain when their livelihood is threatened!!) that may be imposed under austerity.

He was quick to add that those workers were all "unionized" (his observation) and that we shouldn't waste any time in going after the unions here in our own country lest they start screaming and protesting when his desired, forced spending cuts threaten their livelihoods.

Demint's rant against the unions was a thinly veiled attempt to use junk economic arguments to hide his disdain and hatred of workers and his love of greedy corporations. His design for America is to crush the earnings potential of the working class so that big companies with their lobbyists and fat-cat exectuvies can make even more money, perhaps to then go play golf down in Hilton Head, in his home state of South Carolina.

Senator Demint should know a little bit about income destruction: his state ranks among the lowest in the nation in per capita income. Curioulsy, though, it ranks among the top when it comes to receiving aid from the Federal Gov't: for every dollar that South Carolinians send to Washington, they get more than a dollar back. It's a far better deal than the folks in Michigan. You don't hear the senator complaining about that.

Fed in Talks With Money Market Funds to Help Drain $1 Trillion

Here he goes again! Time Mag's "Man of the Year" who seems more confused on a daily basis. His new "big idea" is to consider allowing money market mutual funds to enter into some kind of direct relationship with the Fed, like primary dealers, in order to help "drain all the liquidity pumped in during the financial crisis." The idea being, that primary dealers' capacity to buy securities is limited and more buying power is needed?

Wait...I'm confused.

So far this fiscal year (that's four months) the Treasury has sold $2.7T worth of securities (see data here). That's nearly THREE TIMES AS MANY RESERVES AS ARE CURRENTLY IN THE SYSTEM!

In other words, the Treasury debt sales would have drained Bernanke's worrisome reserves three times over in a mere four-month period had the Fed not been there to BUY an equal or greater amount of those securities to keep interest rates at zero.

What I'm saying is, by simply doing nothing all the reserves go away automatically. You don't have to call in the money market mutual fund cavalry!!

How can we ever hope to get out of this mess when the highest policy makers in the land don't understand basic concepts and principles? We are surely doomed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

More trouble ahead...

Bernanke outlines plan for pulling in stimulus aid

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke began Wednesday to outline the central bank's strategy for reeling in stimulus money once the U.S. economic recovery is more firmly rooted...

This is why Bernanke should not have been reappointed. His remarks are ridiculous.

Bernanke still thinks there is some direct transition mechanisim from reserves to loans? The data shows clearly that despite the Fed's unprecedented level of reserves that total loans outstanding have collapsed! (See chart.)

Reserves are up something like 15,000% in the past year and a half and loans have gone down nearly $800 billion!

He's allowed inflation hawks and deficit terrorists to convince him that we need higher rates.

The main asset of households--their homes--are falling in value and 15 million people have lost their jobs. Meanwhile, gold, stocks, commodities are falling and the dollar is going up and they're still talking about inflation.

U.S. debt fears make Germany a safer haven, Pimco bond director says

This is an amazing statement coming from the CEO of the world's largest bond fund.

Mohammed El-Erian said, "German bonds were likely to outperform given Washington's government debt to gross domestic product ratio of more than 60%. As we stand today, we prefer to take interest rate risk like government bonds in Germany, which has much better conditions than in the United States."

El-Erian seems completely clueless when it comes to understanding the distinction between the United States--a currency issuing nation--and Germany, which is no longer a currency issuer and therefore runs a risk of default, however small that may be. The U.S. has no risk of that happening, meaning that German bonds are infinite times more risky than Treasuries. He simply doesn't understand that!!! It is unbelievable!!!

Watch credit default swaps on Germany now that they are thinking about bailing out Greece. These are likely to get hit pretty hard.

It is truly amazing to see the level of economic ignorance coming from some of the highest regarded financial people in this country. No wonder we are in such a mess!

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Accounting Numbers

The Federal "debt" demagoguery, to me, is at it's highest levels ever. Perhaps because it is an election year with both major political parties simultaneously trying to position themselves as the more fiscally "responsible" leading up to this November's mid-term elections. Even the Nashville "Teaparty" event that took place over the weekend featured former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin providing a keynote address and Q&A that of course contained the now required statements that we're drowning in "debt" and borrowing from the Chinese, and on, and on.

Mike has often explained here on his blog and in the comments that Treasury Security issuance would best be thought of as an interest rate maintenance operation, and that now that the Fed has the ability to pay interest on reserve balances, Treasury issuance is now only required due to a self-imposed Government prohibition on running a negative balance in the Treasury's account at the Fed. Warren Molser recently addressed this in a comment on his blog:

" if tsy spends without selling tsy secs when it uses up its balances at the fed the additional spending will be booked as an overdraft at the fed, which is not allowed. so the no overdraft rules and the debt ceiling rules combine to force the tsy to issue secs first and then spend. operationally this is entirely unnecessary and at the macro level these self imposed constraints serve no purpose apart from being potentially disruptive and counter to public purpose."

So all of the debt demagoguery is just the ignorant rantings of politicians or economists that should know better. They are for some reason incapable of understanding simple accounting. Perhaps some pictures will help:

A positive number here

Would be the same as a negative number here:

Yes, it's that simple.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interest on the debt equates to income to people

Interest paid by the government equates to income to people who own gov't securites.

When Ronald Reagan took office, interest income comprised 11.8% of personal income, but by the time his deficit peaked in 1984, it comprised 16.2% of people's income or a gain of about $300 billion.

In contrast, private wages and salaries went from 49% of personal income to 45% of personal income or a gain of about $430 billion.

So, interest on the debt was a huge part of personal income gains under Reagan. (More than 15 times dividends even though we had a huge stock boom!)

Today, even though the government is paying a record amount of (nominal) interest, it is only 10% of overall personal income, meaning that if we were to get back to the level that we saw under Reagan, the interest payments on the debt would have to go up by 60%. We're nowhere near that and won't be if interest rates stay this low and deficit reduction remains the policy focus.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Super-Bowl! Why not Super-Economy? It's all in The Rules

I can't wait for "The Big Game" this weekend. I'm not a true fan of either team, but I'm hoping for a game that is competitive right to the end, as we have been treated to over the last few years. In fact, if the game goes into overtime, that's just fine with me, as I know eventually one team will score in sudden death overtime and will become the champions. A clear winner is the truly successful outcome of any sporting contest.

Fortunately, the NFL is run by people who realize that the fans deserve a successful outcome. This wasn't always the case, the NFL changed the rules in 1974 to extend the games by one extra 15 minute period (overtime), and the first team to score during this period is instantly declared the winner. This has been, almost, the perfect amount of additional time to result in a true winning team, as there still have been 4 ties since 1989.

The most recent tie came in the 2008 season in a game between the Eagles and the Bengals. I remember that game as there was some controversy at the end of the game as Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb apparently did not realize that the rules allowed only one overtime period, and a regular season game could indeed end in a tie.

Here's McNabb commenting on this: "I've never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book," McNabb said after the game. "It's part of the rules, and we have to go with it. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately, with the rules, we settled with a tie."

The mainstream press of course went myopic and focused on the disclosure that McNabb apparently was ignorant of the rules, but I think they as usual missed the real story. If you read between the lines of McNabb's statement, you can sense his incredulity at "the rules" that for no good reason only allow one overtime period. To him, a competitor, a participant, he cannot understand why such an unacceptable outcome is allowed by the rules.

He goes on further: ""I guess we're aware of it now," McNabb said. "In college, there are multiple overtimes, and in high school and Pop Warner. I never knew in the professional ranks it would end that way. I hate to see what would happen in the Super Bowl and in the playoffs."

Well, Donovan, of course, the NFL just changes the rules in the post-season, to allow as many overtimes as necessary to result in a successful outcome. This is because the NFL is run by rational people who understand that they owe the best outcome possible to those that they are ultimately responsible to: The Fans. The NFL management knows that all they have to do is to direct the timekeeper to just get on his terminal and key in: 1 5 : 0 0 [Enter] and voila, they have created the additional playing time to allow the game participants to play on to a successful outcome. It costs the NFL nothing and they don't have to "borrow" the time from the NBA or NHL.

It is a shame that our Federal Government is not run by people with an analogous understanding of their role in managing the economy and with the common sense to arrange the rules to provide for successful economic outcomes as well.

Just as the NFL establishes the extra time period necessary to break a tie, Federal policymakers can currently use fiscal policy to provide the non-government sector the balances necessary to restore demand within the economy, thus increasing output and employment. It won't cost them anything either, and they don't have to borrow the balances from the Chinese or anyone else.

Message to the rule-makers: Let the U.S. economy play on!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Treasury Hits New Low!

Of course I'm not talking about the U.S. Treasury Bond, I'm talking about the actual U.S. Department of the Treasury. Just when I thought my opinion of current policy couldn't get any lower, I came across this at Treasury's website: ""!

The Treasury actually operates an e-commerce portal to receive transfers "to help reduce the public debt". This is another outrage.

This service provided by The Treasury to the public under a free-floating, non-convertible monetary system is literally the moral equivalent of the Nigerian Email and Fax Scam.

Any debt-phobes who beg to differ: feel free to contribute away, Treasury does direct debits as well as credit cards!