Category Archives: Inflation

#PabloPicasso’s Sublime Art And #Inflation

Art, Debt, Economy, Inflation

Picasso’s “Les femmes d’Alger” in French, “The women of Algiers” in English, and “Women of Aljeers” [sic] in CNN “English,” is a sublime piece of art. But as heavenly as this painting is, there is more to the price it fetched this month in auction than the power of Picasso at his best (although I still adore the master’s blue period. See “Blue Nude, 1902 by Pablo Picasso” below). It’s what happens when lots of money chases a one-of-a-kind asset, against the backdrop of low to no interest rates …

The Babbling Brooke (BB), aka Brooke Baldwin of CNN, did a frivolous segment on the work of art that commanded “a cool $179 million.” For information, BB turned to Manhattan art dealer Richard Pleitgen, who has been “in the art business for 57 years.”

The transcription, however, appears inexact. I heard live the explanation given by Pleitgen for the painting’s price. He explained that interest rates were such (so low) that unfathomably wealthy individuals needed to park their money some place.

True to type, Babbling Brooke giggled during what I thought was a lesson—Pleitgen’s—on inflation. Here she was doing a “fun” segment on a Picasso masterpiece and her guest was talking low- to no interest rates (as set by the Fed).

Pleitgen was on the money. If anyone can locate the TV segment, please send it along.

[11:45:06] BALDWIN: Could you be interested in owning an incomparable piece of art? I’m certainly a Picasso fan. I don’t know if I could shell out a cool $179 million, though. This painting by the iconic artist sold for a record-breaking amount at an auction here in New York City. Pablo Picasso’s 1955 canvas, “Women of Aljeers,” part of the series. It was snapped up by an anonymous buyer and was the centerpiece of the event. Last time at auction, it sold for a merely $31.9 million, that was in 1997.

Let me bring in Manhattan art dealer, Richard Pleitgen.

Richard, you were telling me you have been in the art business for 57 years. RICHARD PLEITGEN, MANHATTAN ART DEALER: Yes.

BALDWIN: You were there.

PLEITGEN: Yes.

BALDWIN: Five people were ultimately, over the phone, fighting over this beautiful art, going up incrementally, going up by a million, starting at $120 million. Take me in the room and tell me what it was like.

PLEITGEN: You sort of get hardened to these numbers.

BALDWIN: Did you blink at that amount of money?

PLEITGEN: I didn’t expect to bring that much, but I didn’t blink at it. I was this also when it sold for $32 million in 1997.

BALDWIN: Who was buying — listen, I studied Spanish, loved Picasso, cubism. The idea of spending that kind of money — who has that kind of money? Are we talking actors, celebrities, investment bankers, Warren Buffetts of the world?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, frankly, to spend that kind of money, $179 million on a painting — imagine what kind of wealth you’ve got to have. A billion dollars would never do it. You’re not going to spend 17 percent of your wealth on a painting. You’re talking about really vast narns are prepared to spend that kind of money. I don’t even know who would spend $105 million on an important on central park that you’re never going to live in. The kind of money that exists out there is prodigious.

BALDWIN: If you were there when it went for $30 million something in the late ’90s and it’s $179 million today, in 50 years, is what will it be worth? He laughs at me. He laughs. He scoffs. Make a guess. Let’s be crazy. Make a wild guess.

PLEITGEN: I don’t know because, you know, if interest rates rise, so people have an alternate place to put money, some of these prices may drop —

BALDWIN: You could get a sale on a Picasso. I was kidding. I was kidding. OK. We’ll see, so in 50 years, if any of us are around to potentially bid on it.

Richard, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Manhattan art dealer on the Picasso that went for just about $180 million.

Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

PLEITGEN: You’re welcome.

[SNIP]
Again, I believe the transcript is inexact here.


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‘Economic Circus’

Debt, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation

Operating on a fractional reserve basis, the Federal Reserve Bank is empowered to create money on its own credit. Or, out of thin air.

Janet Yellen, the woman in charge of the larder and the laundering, has opted to keep “its interest-rate guidance intact on Wednesday, passing up an opportunity to inch closer to exiting its ultra easy monetary policy,” reported the Wall Street Journal.

“An economic circus,” counters Ron Paul: one person determines the money supply and the interests rates which affect us all in what is a crisis of debt.

Audit the Fed, a Paul initiative, has just passed in Congress, but other than shine some light on the “shenanigans”—the monkeying with the money done by the Fed—any initiative by a corrupt legislature is likely futile in the long run.

Abolish both Fed and Congress.


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Orwellian Labor Day

Economy, Inflation, Labor

Even when America’s official cognoscenti—those who see to the dissemination of information—finally report reality as it is, they will typically obfuscate it by cleaving to the truth as they see it. What do I mean? The title of a PBS news story covered on Labor Day is “U.S. optimism lags behind economic gains, study finds.” The subterranean message PBS is transmitting with the title is that Americans have failed to notice the “steady economic recovery” afoot. Too dense, perhaps? In fact, the headline twists the researcher’s finding, as he states them, for he did not make any mention of these so-called “economic gains.”

Smart.

The fact “that more people feel there’s been permanent damage [to the economy] now …” tells me that the cohort questioned is cognizant that something in the (inflationary) policies pursued by DC, irrespective of who’s in power, is “damaging” their prospects for good, and that whatever the stock exchange is doing; this has no bearing on their financial well-being.

… 42 percent say they have less in savings and salary now than they did five years ago.

And they say that their current economic status for three out of five of them is either fair or poor. And so they have had some diminution of the quality of life. We asked two questions that allow us to try and frame this, whether they have had a major or minor change in the quality of their life and whether it’s been temporary or permanent.

And we have one-third in the country — so that’s 80 million people — who say there has been a permanent impact or their quality of life, either major or minor. So whatever has happened in the stock market and other indicators is not getting through to Main Street at all. People are struggling, and there’s been no letup really in the last five years. …

… We asked them how much confidence they had in Washington’s ability to solve problems. Just 2 percent said a lot. Another 20 percent said some.

If they had to choose between President Obama or the Republicans in Congress to handle the economy, they said neither of the above at 40 percent. And they don’t think unemployment is going to get better even if the Republicans take both houses of Congress in the fall.

MORE.


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Stock Exchange A Laughing Stock

Debt, Economy, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation

“An increase in the price of an item is not the same as an appreciation in its value.” Consequently, it’s hard to understand the happy hyperventilating over the Dow having broken through 17,000 for the first time. Keeping the printing presses roaring, as the Federal Reserve has done, will result in a rise in prices, stocks included. Homes too.

A cleareyed look ahead to “a very serious bond-market crisis” is more appropriate.

Warns David Stockman, author The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America:

If you allow a $17 trillion debt to be financed at $250 billion a year when it really should be $700 billion or $800 billion under normal interest rates, then politicians are gonna take the easy way out. They’re not going to fall on the sword. They’re not going to lay out the real painful choices to the public. They’re not going to vote against the squeaky wheels and the powerful constituents when the Fed is printing the money and doing the job of financing the debt for them.
So I think that’s where the crisis comes. When the Fed finally reaches the point where the entire monetary system is threatened – and I think it would be if it had continued at $85 billion a month – we come to the juncture where the Fed can no longer keep its big fat thumb in the market buying up the monthly and weekly issue of Treasury debt. At that point, we are going to see the rubber meet the road, so to speak. We’re gonna have the day of reckoning, because there isn’t demand out in the real marketplace among real investors for massive amounts of additional Treasury debt at these sub-economic interest rates. And when interest rates normalize, Katy, bar the door, because the carry cost on the federal debt— which will by then be $20 trillion— will soar by half a trillion a year. The politicians will finally panic, but I’m afraid by then it might be too late—- that we’ll be in a very serious bond-market crisis.


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UPDATED: No Tapering Off For Fed Tapeworm (GOLD SOARS)

Debt, Economy, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation, Ron Paul

The markets like that the Federal Reserve will not follow through on its promise to stop buying government bonds at a pace of $85 billion a month. But what right does the Fed have to steal percentages off our income via this form of inflation? asks the Only Moral Congressman to have served in recent years. Why punish savers, especially poor pensioners, by eroding their purchasing power?

Ron Paul predicts a collapse of the bond market and the further weakening of the dollar.

As if Quantitative Easing were not deceptive enough a term, now we have “tapering.”

The money mafia had been “easing” to the tune of $85 billion in monthly bond purchases. If they’ve admitted to this much, you can be sure it’s much more.

The consequence of Ben Bernanke’s non-stop monetary stimulus, of course, is a rise in prices, stocks included. Homes too. It should be obvious too that an increase in the price of an item is not the same as an appreciation in it value.

UPDATE: “Gold prices soar after Fed fails to taper stimulus”:

… gold prices are suddenly soaring, following the Federal Open Market Committee saying Wednesday it will continue its push to buy $85 billion of debt securities a month.
Investors poured into gold between late 2008 and mid 2011 as the Fed injected trillions of dollars into the economy. Gold investors speculated the government’s intervention and stimulus would spark inflation, which is bullish for the yellow metal.
Gold set a record of $1,921 an ounce on Sept. 6, 2011, and jumped more than 70% between December 2008 and June 2011, Bloomberg News says. But gold prices have slipped this year as investors expected the Fed to pull back on stimulus.


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John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius?! (Part 2)

Britain, Capitalism, Celebrity, Debt, Economy, Federal Reserve Bank, History, Inflation

The following is an excerpt from “John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius?! (Part 2),” the conclusion of my conversation with Benn Steil. (Read part 1. ) Dr. Steil is senior fellow and director of international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. His latest book is “The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order.”

ILANA MERCER: After reading a negative review of your book in The Times Literary Supplement, I decided to go cold turkey on what had been a guilty pleasure for over a decade. I did not renew my TLS subscription. The TLS had stupidly assigned the review to one Eric Rauchway, a left-coast history teacher. Rauchway would not let an argument favorable to the gold standard—yours—stand. Your case against the Bretton Woods system of “managed currencies” he turned on its head. Rauchway credited Harry Dexter White, one of Bretton Woods’ architects, with helping to lift the “cross of gold” from the shoulders of the world’s working classes. Since White was also a Soviet spy, Rauchway quickly concluded that the Soviets saved capitalism (an “unknown ideal” for a very long time). Sound money is suspect, but a Soviet spy is capitalism’s savior. How do you unpack that!?

BENN STEIL: You can’t get blood from a stone, and you can’t get logic from Rauchway’s review, just gobs of nonsense and libel (as I documented on on my blog ). The review’s title, “How the Soviets saved capitalism,” is so inane that the only explanation for it is that Rauchway, or his TLS editors, fell in love with the sheer childish cheekiness of it. It certainly bears no relation to Rauchway’s account of Bretton Woods, nor that of anyone who can actually claim to know anything about it.
Rauchway would no doubt mock the economist who wrote the following of the 19th century classical gold standard: “[t]he various currencies, which were all maintained on a stable basis in relation to gold and to one another, facilitated the easy flow of capital and of trade to an extent the full value of which we only realize now, when we are deprived of its advantages.”

Unless, that is, Rauchway knew who it was – none other than J. M. Keynes.

MERCER: We can both agree that John Maynard Keynes’ opposition to WWI and his “bitterness over the terms of the peace” were admirable. Priceless too was John Maynard Keynes description of President Woodrow Wilson as “slowminded and bewildered”; a “blind and deaf Don Quixote.” (pages 70-71) On the other hand, also quite admirable was the following unflattering description of Keynes’ “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.” It comes courtesy not of Keynes, but of our author: “It is only slightly outlandish to liken the book to the Bible: powerful in its message, full of memorable, mellifluous passages; at times obscure, tedious, tendentious, and contradictory; a work of passion driven by intuition, with tenuous logic and observation offered as placeholders until disciples could be summoned to supply the proofs.” (page 88) Have Keynes’ disciples really delivered? It would appear that the Keynesian faithful have foisted on free-market capitalists an unfalsifiable theory. Evidence that contradicts it, Keynesian kooks enlist as evidence for the correctness of their theory.

STEIL: Yes, if the economy sinks, then Paul Krugman was right about the need for massive stimulus; if it recovers in the face of plunging deficits, from spending cuts and tax increases, then Krugman was right that deficits were not a problem. Heads he wins, tails you lose.

MERCER: Keynes assessed Karl Marx’s “economic value” as “nil… apart from occasional flashes of insight.” (page 87) I would venture that in the United States, Marxism has been far less destructive to free-market capitalism than Keynesianism. Marxists honestly wish for capitalism’s demise and say as much. We can fight such an enemy. Conversely, Keynesians have redefined capitalism and banished our definition therefrom. The Keynesians then proceeded to cripple capitalism so as to ostensibly save it. Positively Orwellian.

STEIL:

The conclusion of the Steil-Mercer conversation about Keynes is now on WND. Read “John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius?! (Part 2).”

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