13 Jul 2013

If The Government Can't Allow Failure Then We Are Indeed Close To Collapse: Klarman

One of the most insightful comments explaining what happened last night, when Bernanke just killed all credibility that the economy may soon be able to stand up on its own two legs, comes from Seth Klarman who crushed the logic (or lack thereof) behind proclaiming any recovery in a world in which the only marginal factor preventing an all out collapse in the stock market and thus economy is, and continues, to be the Federal Reserve which has not only destroyed the market's discounting function, but with every passing day is taking over both the entire US economy (the Fed's balance sheet is now 25% of US GDP) and the US bond market (currently in possession of 30% of all 10 Year equivalents).
To wit:
If the economy is so fragile that the government cannot allow failure, then we are indeed close to collapse
And the rest of Klarman's sermon, serving as the perfect counter to the voodoo shamans operating their Keynesian religion in the Marriner Eccles building. From Seth Klarman of Baupost:
Is it possible that the average citizen understands our country's fiscal situation better than many of our politicians or prominent economists?

Most people seem to viscerally recognize that the absence of an immediate crisis does not mean we will not eventually face one. They are wary of believing promises by those who failed to predict previous crises in housing and in highly leveraged financial institutions.

They regard with skepticism those who don't accept that we have a debt problem, or insist that inflation will remain under control. (Indeed,they know inflation is not well under control, for they know how far the purchasing power of a dollar has dropped when they go to the supermarket or service station.)

They are pretty sure they are not getting reasonable value from the taxes they pay.

When an economist tells them that growing the nation's debt over the past 12 years from $6 trillion to $16 trillion is not a problem, and that doubling it again will still not be a problem, this simply does not compute. They know the trajectory we are on.

When politicians claim that this tax increase or that spending cut will generate trillions over the next decade, they are properly skeptical over whether anyone can truly know what will happen next year, let alone a decade or more from now.

They are wary of grand bargains that kick in years down the road, knowing that the failure to make hard decisions is how we got into today's mess. They remember that one of the basic principles of economics is scarcity, which is a powerful force in their own lives.

They know that a society's wealth is not unlimited, and that if the economy is so fragile that the government cannot allow failure, then we are indeed close to collapse. For if you must rescue everything, then ultimately you will be able to rescue nothing.

They also know that the only reason paper money, backed not by anything tangible but only a promise, has any value at all is because it is scarce. With all the printing, the credibility of our entire trust-based monetary system will be increasingly called into question.

And when you tell the populace that we can all enjoy a free lunch of extremely low interest rates, massive Fed purchases of mounting treasury issuance, trillions of dollars of expansion in the Fed's balance sheet, and huge deficits far into the future, they are highly skeptical not because they know precisely what will happen but because they are sure that no one else--even, or perhaps especially, the  policymakers—does either.


12 Jul 2013

How does the Federal Reserve benefit from printing money?

People are confused about the Fed, and I think it would be better if everybody had a clear understanding of what the Federal Reserve is and what it is not. First of all, the Federal government thinks of the Federal Reserve as a service bureau, whose function it is to print money that the government can spend. As long as the Federal Reserve performs that function--reliably printing, let's say, a trillion or more each year to top off the Federal budget--then Congress will be happy with the Federal Reserve (their rainmaker) and will follow its advice and try to keep it happy. 

It should be emphasized here that the whole Keynesian smokescreen and sideshow has very little to do with the reality of the relationship here. The Federal Reserve's job is not just to lend Uncle Sam some money during a recession so as to provide temporary stimulus. The Fed is a milk cow for Uncle Sam. Its job is to give milk all the time.
So to summarize this first point, the Fed is a service bureau for the Federal government whose job it is to provide the government with freshly printed fiat every year. This job has very little to do with the Keynesian prescription of how to deal with a recession.
The Fed is also a service bureau to the big banks that own it. Its job is to give unfair advantage to those banks, either by granting them low-interest loans that can be rolled over into infinity, or by buying their bad debts and disposing of them properly, or by doing any number of other special favors for them that increase their profits and executive bonuses. The Fed is not independent in the sense that it is self-governing. It must provide service to the banks who own it and to the Federal government, which controls its legal environment. Big banks have owned and controlled the Fed since its inception in 1913. 

Summary: The Fed is also a service bureau to the big banks. It is not as independent as it proclaims itself to be; it provides services for its owners. Its owners have a profit motive.

The Fed also has its own institutional agenda. It wants to expand and increase its own power. It wants to operate in a safe and predictable environment. It wants to eliminate threats. The Fed advances its own agenda by printing or withholding money. As time goes on, the Fed has asserted more and more control over government. The Federal government is now addicted to freshly printed debt-money. This gives the Fed enormous power over the government. 

The big banks who own the Fed also dominate Congress and the Obama administration due to the massive bribes they deliver each year. Thus over time the Federal Reserve has become more and more the master: what it wants it gets, what it doesn't want doesn't happen.
Summary: The Fed is also a selfish, power-seeking institution. It is not an organization of scientists (even though it does employ a small army of Economics Ph.D.'s) whose sole concern is to manage the economy scientifically for the benefit of all.

Some people think the Fed prints money, but when you ask Ben B. about it, he says, "The Fed does not print money. We lend money." Printing money is easy to visualize and understand. Lending money is also easy to understand; it's what banks do. But what the Fed does is somewhat more difficult to understand. To put it into one phrase, "they print debt-money." They print money, but each dollar they print has the chains of debt attached to it. Each dollar they print represents a debt that somebody owes.
A Federal Reserve note is an IOU from the Fed that says "we owe you one dollar." There does exist in the world paper money that is not debt-money, but the Fed does not traffic in that. As the Fed prints more debt-money, they tighten the chains of debt enslaving the government and the people.
A national debt of $1 trillion is manageable. It might be paid off in a few years. But a debt of $17 trillion is permanently enslaving (unless it is defaulted upon). Ben's printing press, then, is also an enslaving press. If Americans were to try to default on $17 trillion of debt, The Powers That Be would unleash their full wrath on the American people. 

Summary: Ben B. runs a printing press that is also a debt-enslaving press. We are wrong to focus just on the inflationary effects of his money printing. We should also be alarmed by the enslaving effects.
The Fed has infinite fiat, though they try to disguise that fact. It takes no more effort for them to loan a trillion dollars than a million dollars. They will never run out of zeros in their computer system. The zero keys on their keyboards will always function. No matter how much they can print, they always have available an infinitely greater amount of fiat that they can still print. Printing money requires nearly zero effort and zero cost on their part. They don't get worn out from printing money. 

This whole concept of infinite fiat is hard for people to grasp; it is something outside of their experience. People's lifelong experience with money is that it is a limited resource. It is hard to conceive of a group of people who have unlimited, infinite money. Yet the Federal Reserve has just that. The Fed is not like a doctor who prescribes a short-term stimulus for a patient who is feeling run down. The Fed is not like a parent who temporarily puts training wheels on a bike until the kid learns how to ride it. These metaphors make people think that the Fed's fiat printing is temporary and limited. It is not.
Its money printing abilities are permanent and unlimited. The Fed also puts on a show about agonizing over the decision of whether to print money. That make it seem like they are agonizing over whether to pull a sum of carefully saved cash out of their vault. But when they lend to Uncle Sam, they do not pull cash out of a vault that has a finite amount of cash in it. They instead get it from a computer that has the capability of printing unlimited zeros. 

Summary: The Fed has infinite fiat. It is not limited by any conceivable shortage, or because of Keynesian stimulus theory, or because the Fed has the role of a doctor, or because the Fed's role is to put training wheels on the economy from time to time, or because it is hard for it to print fiat and there are only so many hours in a day. They have infinite fiat. Their printing is limited only by how much they think they can get away with and their calculations of how they will benefit from it.
So that brings up the final question I shall deal with today. That is, “How does printing money benefit the Fed? Is it better from their point of view to print or not to print?”
The first point in response to this is that they want the government hooked on their printing. They want to be indispensable to the government. A government that balances it budget or reduces the national debt to zero (as the Jackson administration did) is the opposite of what they want. 

The Fed's power over government is similar to the power a drug pusher has over a junkie. As long as the junkie is doing what the pusher wants, the supply of drugs is uninterrupted. If the junkie does not pay, the supply is cut off. If the pusher wants to jack up the price at any time, he can do so. If the junkie objects, his supply is cut off. So here we see it is in the Fed's interest usually to maintain the supply, but the supply may also be cut off from time to time in order to ratchet up its power over its victim.

The big banks always benefit from more printing. They profit from it. To the extent that they are cut off from it, they lose money. So from the standpoint of the big banks, the bias is always to print. Note that the Fed can maintain its supply to the banks while cutting off the government. The Fed's owners must always be served; the government is instead to be manipulated, enslaved and controlled under the guise of serving.
Any active defiance of the Fed is a danger signal for investors. The Fed can cut off the government at any time, thus precipitating economic chaos so as to quash rebellion. At present I do not see any serious defiance of the Fed anywhere.

The Fed's main goal is to increase the profits of the big banks. That goal is consistent with increased profits for all firms and prosperity in general, so long as the banks and the elites grab the largest share of the profits. 

But that goal is also served in the long run by boom-and-bust cycles that have a ratcheting effect of concentrating wealth in the hands of the wealthy. The clued-in super-wealthy can profit both as bulls and as bears, and can purchase prized assets cheaply at the bottom of the cycle (on easy credit from their friends at the Fed).

It is a Clausewitzian principle that individuals, organizations and nations will expand their power until some superior or equal power effectively opposes them and stops them. Because the Fed's power has no equal, we can expect the Fed's power to continue to increase indefinitely.
At some point, however, history shows that the slaves and victims of oppressors gain strength and confidence when they feel a desperate determination to live.
But that point is still far off. The numbers of the righteous are far exceeded by those who want freshly printed debt-money from Ben Bernanke. Things have not yet reached the desperate, life-threatening stage which is when most revolutions occur.

Thank you, Jeff W. for a clear, concise description of the Fed and its role in the American economy. I would add two clarifications: 1. The U.S. Treasury issues currency (paper money, i.e. Federal Reserve Notes) and sells Treasury bonds to fund Federal deficits, but it does not "print money" in the sense of adding money to the nation's money supply. It borrows money by selling newly issued U.S. Treasury bonds.
2. Technically speaking, the Fed does not give or loan the Federal government money. However, it creates money and pumps it into the economy in a number of ways, enabling large institutions such as banks and insurance companies to buy newly issued Treasury bonds. The Fed also uses its freshly created money to buy Treasury bonds directly. Lastly, the Fed can manipulate the interest rate in a variety of ways, making Treasury bonds attractive to institutional and global buyers.
So even though the Fed doesn't give or loan money directly to the government, it facilitates the sale of Treasury bonds to fund the government in a variety of ways, including direct purchase of government bonds for its own account.
These complexities act as a complexity moat that protects the Fed from inquiry and resistance, as few people understand what the Fed is or what it does.
Correspondent Doug W. recently submitted this excerpt from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison on the issue of debt as serfdom:
Writing from Paris, in his letter to James Madison dated September 6, 1789, Thomas Jefferson opened with these words:
"The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government."

After elaborating on what he thought should be among "the fundamental principles of every government," Jefferson closed with this impassioned request to Madison:

"Turn this subject in your mind, my Dear Sir, and particularly as to the power of contracting debts, and develop it with that perspicuity and cogent logic which is so peculiarly yours. Your station in the councils of our country gives you an opportunity of producing it to public consideration, of forcing it into discussion. At first blush it may be rallied as a theoretical speculation; but examination will prove it to be solid and salutary. It would furnish matter for a fine preamble to our first law for appropriating the public revenue; and it will exclude, at the threshold of our new government the contagious and ruinous errors of this quarter of the globe, which have armed despots with means not sanctioned by nature for binding in chains their fellow-men."


10 Jul 2013

Things You Need To Know About Silver Right NOW

19 Reasons To Be Deeply Concerned About The Global Economy As We Enter The 2nd Half Of 2013

Is the global economic downturn going to accelerate as we roll into the second half of this year?  There is turmoil in the Middle East, we are seeing things happen in the bond markets that we have not seen happen in more than 30 years, and much of Europe has already plunged into a full-blown economic depression.  
Sadly, most Americans will never understand what is happening until financial disaster strikes them personally.  As long as they can go to work during the day and eat frozen pizza and watch reality television at night, most of them will consider everything to be just fine.  Unfortunately, the truth is that everything is not fine.  
The world is becoming increasingly unstable, we are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet and the global financial system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008. 
 Unfortunately, most people seem to only have a 48 hour attention span at best these days.  They don't have the patience to watch long-term trends develop.  And the coming economic collapse is not going to happen all at once.  Rather, it is like watching a very, very slow-motion train wreck happen.  

The coming economic nightmare is going to unfold over a number of years.  

Yes, there will be moments of great panic, but mostly it will be a steady decline into economic oblivion.  And there are a lot of indications that the second half of this year is not going to be as good as the first half was.  The following are 19 reasons to be deeply concerned about the global economy as we head into the second half of 2013...
#1 The velocity of money in the United States has plunged to an all-time low.  It is extremely difficult to have an "economic recovery" if banks arenot lending money and people are not spending it...
Velocity Of Money
#2 The fall of the Egyptian government threatens to bring even more instability to the Middle East.  In response to the events in Egypt, the price of oil rose to more than 101 dollars a barrel on Wednesday.
#3 Every time the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen over $3.80 in the past three years, a stock market decline has always followed.
#4 As the world becomes increasingly unstable, massive citizen protest movements have been rising all over the globe...
The protests have many different origins. In Brazil people rose up against bus fares, in Turkey against a building project. Indonesians have rejected higher fuel prices, Bulgarians the government’s cronyism.
In the euro zone they march against austerity, and the Arab spring has become a perma-protest against pretty much everything. Each angry demonstration is angry in its own way.
#5 The European sovereign debt crisis is flaring up once again.  This time it is Portugal's turn to take center stage...
From Greece to Cyprus, Slovenia to Spain and Italy, and now most pressingly Portugal, where the finance and foreign ministers resigned in the space of two days, a host of problems is stirring after 10 months of relative calm imposed by the European Central Bank.
Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho told the nation in an address late on Tuesday that he did not accept the foreign minister's resignation and would try to go on governing.
If his government does end up collapsing, as is now more likely, it will raise immediate questions about Lisbon's ability to meet the terms of the 78-billion-euro bailout it agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund in 2011.
#6 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.
#7 Bond investors are starting to panic.  In fact, even prominent firmssuch as Pimco are seeing investors pull massive amounts of money out right now...
In June, investors pulled $9.6bn from Bill Gross’s flagship fund at Pimco, the largest single month of outflows at the fund since Morningstar records began in 1993, the investment research firm said.
The outflows came after investors pulled $1.3bn from the fund in May, which marked the first outflows since December 2011.
Overall, a whopping 80 billion dollars was pulled out of bond funds during June.
#8 Central banks are selling off staggering amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds right now.
#9 U.S. mortgage bonds just suffered their largest quarterly declinein nearly 20 years.
#10 We continue to buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  The U.S. trade deficit for the month of May was 45.0 billion dollars.
#11 The severe drought that the western half of the United States is suffering never seems to end.  What will it do to food prices if ranchers and farmers out west have to go through another summer like they did last year?
#12 European car sales have fallen to a 20 year low.
#13 Unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time high.
#14 Could the paper gold Ponzi scheme be on the verge of crumbling?  There are reports that there is now a 100 day delay for gold owners to take physical delivery of their gold from some warehouses owned by the London Metal Exchange...
We’re told that bullion-buyers in London must now wait more than 100 days to take delivery of the bullion for which they have already paid.
The comedic drones at Bloomberg, and officials of the London Metal Exchange itself would have us believe this is due to “warehouse queues.” While precious metals bulls undoubtedly appreciate the imagery implied of a 100-day line-up of armored cars waiting to load their bullion – in the middle of this “bear market” – the implication is fallacious.
In an era of just-in-time inventories; the notion that there can be a 100-day backlog to load bullion into armored cars with the metal already sitting in the warehouse is ludicrous. Clearly what the LME is really reporting here is a greater-than-three-month delay to refine the gold (or silver) being purchased here – and then ship it to their warehouse.
In other words, the “bullion” which traders believe they are purchasing today is in fact merely ore which hasn’t even been dug out of the ground yet.
#15 The number of mortgage applications in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 3 years.
#16 Real disposable income in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 4 years.
#17 The percentage of companies issuing negative earnings guidance for this quarter is at a level that we have never seen before.
#18 Is the dark side of derivatives trading about to be exposed?  EU officials claim that 13 major international banks have been colluding to control the trading of derivatives...
The European Commission says many of the world's largest investment banks appear to have colluded to block attempts by exchanges to trade and offer more transparent prices for financial products known as credit derivatives.
The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said Monday it has informed 13 banks — including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley — as well as the industry association for derivatives itself, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, ISDA, of the preliminary conclusions of an investigation that began in March.
#19 There are 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there and interest rates have risen rapidly over the past few weeks.  What is going to happen to those derivatives if interest rates keep going higher?