Category Archives: Inflation

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).”

If you’d like to feature this column, WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, in or on your publication (paper or pixels), contact ilana@ilanamercer.com.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

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UPDATED: John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius? (Part 1)

Capitalism, Celebrity, Classical Liberalism, Communism, Debt, Economy, History, Inflation, Intellectualism, Left-Liberalism, libertarianism, Media

“John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius?! (Part 1)” is the first part of my conversation with Benn Steil. 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”:

1) ILANA MERCER: Congratulations on a beautifully written book, so carefully researched, with both archival and secondary material. Followers of the Austrian School of economics, as I believe we both are, have a reflexive disdain for John Maynard Keynes. Nevertheless, the portrait you drew of him was powerful and persuasive. For example, it is easy to sympathize with Keynes’ frustration with the American mind—so prosaic and anti-intellectual—during the critical Bretton-Woods negotiations. There is much to admire too about Keynes’ “unrelenting nationalism.” I had never before thought of Keynes as an English patriot, first. You, a Hayekian thinker, managed to humanize J. M. Keynes. How did that happen?

BENN STEIL: Thanks Ilana. I’m a great admirer of Hayek’s writing, as you know, but I’ve never been one to wear the Austrian (or any other) label. More importantly, “The Battle of Bretton Woods” is in large measure a parallel biography of Keynes and Harry Dexter White, and no biographer succeeds in engaging readers of any stripe without empathy towards his subjects. In the case of Keynes, I may not sympathize with his economics in the way that his greatest biographer, Robert Skidelsky, does, but I found it not in the least bit difficult to admire him as a gifted public intellectual and to warm to him as a human being, with all his obvious flaws and foibles. One aspect of Keynes that I tried to bring out is how fundamental his English upbringing and nationalism were to shaping both his economic and political thinking. He was a defective diplomat, no doubt, but he took to the role with ease and enthusiasm.

2) MERCER: My mistake. You were awarded the 2010 Hayek Book Prize, so I presumed you favored Austrian economics. But back to Keynes. As you reveal, he “never bothered with a [doctorate]; he hadn’t even a degree in economics,” and “he formally studied economics for a brief period” only. (page 61) His election to “a life fellowship at Kings College, Cambridge, at twenty-six” seemed to rely on familial membership in Britain’s intellectual peerage. Yet, as you contend, he amalgamated the qualities of “mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher” “with a genius that no economist has ever matched.” (page 62) Guide the perplexed, please.

STEIL: It’s important to understand that in Keynes’s day, …”

Read the rest of the conversation, “John Maynard Keynes: Where’s The Genius?! (Part 1),” on WND. Stay tuned for the conclusion, next week, of the Steil-Mercer conversation about Keynes.

If you’d like to feature this column, WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, in or on your publication (paper or pixels), contact ilana@ilanamercer.com.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:

At the WND Comments Section. Scroll down and “Say it.”

On my Facebook page.

By clicking to “Like,” “Tweet” and “Share” this week’s “Return To Reason” column.

UPDATE (8/15): I forewarned Benn Steil, who is the nicest gentleman—and, unlike J. M. Keynes, a jolly good sport—that our readers are hard-core. If only these readers used respectful language, but there is nothing I can do about the conduct of others.

It has to be obvious from my questions to Dr. Steil (part 2 is still to come) that I have the utmost respect for his scholarship and that I enjoyed what was an impressively researched, beautifully written book. I am not one of those tinny ideologues who’d rather miss out on an important intellectual contribution just because it doesn’t comport 100% with my philosophy. I’m too curious for that.

Benn Steil and I began communicating when I penned an irate blog about a negative review of his book in The Times Literary Supplement.


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Indian Savings Grace

Capitalism, Debt, Economy, Inflation, Morality

I watched Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s interview, some months back, on the Charlie Rose Show. Mr. Rose scolded Chidambaram for his countrymen’s high savings rate, mouthing the Keynesian mantra about the need for non-stop spending so as to keep demand from falling. I recall thinking how morally bankrupt was Mr. Rose’s advocacy of micro-bankruptcy, in the face of the Indian minister’s savings grace.

I have been unable to locate the transcripts for the segment (help?), but in The Hindu (a newspaper), Mr. Chidambaram is quoted as proudly talking up the thing Keynesians shun: savings.

“See, our savings rate in the worst year was 30 percent. In the best year, was 36 percent of GDP. Pick any number between 30 and 36 for incremental capital output ratio, what economists call ICOR, is about 4. Our potential growth rate is about 8 percent.”

The above excerpt is from the Charlies-Rose interview mentioned. The minister did look flabbergast at Rose’s suggestion that savings were a bad thing, explaining ever-so politely that this was a tradition in India.

Rose had smiled patronizingly, as liberals like him do about ethnic exotica.


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