Category Archives: Inflation

Some Economic Fundamentals

Barack Obama, Business, Debt, Economy, Inflation

Against the backdrop of the White House’s budget, a “$3.778 trillion spending plan for the year that begins in October, which called for about $1 trillion in tax increases over 10 years and higher spending on programs such as education, transportation and mental-health services” (WSJ), consider the following:

* “The top 1 percent of Americans in income pays 37 percent of all income taxes. The top half of wage earners pays 98 percent of all income taxes” (Pat Buchanan).

* “9 million Americans ages 20 to 64 years old – nearly 5 percent of the working-age population – is receiving disability pay (Pat Buchanan). 81,000 Americans went on disability just last month. The government is spending $260 billion a year on disability programs, more than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined (Lou Dobbs).

* 47.8 million Americans receive food stamps, “at a cost of $80 billion” (Pat Buchanan). The percentage of Americans on food stamps has risen by 70 percent since 2008.

* 90 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force (Here).

* 50 million Americans are living below the poverty line (Lou Dobbs).

* And who can forget the national debt? It’s $16.8 trillion.


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Happy Days Are Here Again In … La-La Land

Britain, Debt, Economy, Government, Inflation

Across the pond, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is singing from the Bush and Obama hymn sheet. A neo- Keynesian naturally, Osborne is intent on excessive spending as a model of economic growth. What better way than a housing bubble to bring about that brief burst of spending before the bust?

Tightening credit conditions and foreclosures signal to this man (counter-intuitively, of course) that it is time for the debt-laden borrower to borrow more money he can’t repay; that it is time for those who do not spend money they don’t have, to subsidize those who do.

It’s all good, promises Bloomberg.com:

Osborne yesterday pledged 3.5 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) to help buyers of new homes with loans of as much as 20 percent of the property’s value, broadening an existing program beyond first-time purchasers. He also announced a plan to guarantee as much as 130 billion pounds of new mortgages to fuel demand from purchasers with limited cash for a deposit.

At least the chancellor delivered a 2013 budget. At a glance, here are “the key points of Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget,” via BBC News (a doff of the hat to our friend in the UK):

FUEL, ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES
September’s 3p fuel duty rise scrapped
April’s 3p rise in beer duty scrapped. Instead, beer duty to be cut by 1p
Annual inflation +2% rise in beer duty to be ended but “duty escalator” to remain in place for wine, cider and spirits
Cigarette duties unchanged – continuing to rise by inflation +5%

INCOME TAX
Limit at which people start paying tax to be raised to £10,000 in 2014 – a year earlier than planned

HOUSING
Shared equity schemes extended, with interest-free loans for homebuyers up to 20% of value of new-build properties
Bank guarantees to underpin £130bn of new mortgage lending for three years from 2014

STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Growth forecast for 2013 halved to 0.6% from 1.2% in December
Office for Budget Responsibility watchdog predicts UK will escape recession this year
Growth predicted to be 1.8% in 2014; 2.3% in 2015; 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017.

BORROWING
Borrowing of £114bn this year, up from previous £108bn forecast
Borrowing set to fall to £108bn, £97bn and £87bn, £61bn and £42bn in subsequent years
Borrowing as share of GDP to fall from 7.4% in 2013-14 to 5% in 2015-16
Debt as a share of GDP to increase from 75.9% in 2012-13 to 85.6% in 2016-17

SPENDING AND PAY
Most government departments to see budgets cut by 1% in each of next two years
Schools and NHS will be protected
£11.5bn in further cuts earmarked in 2015-16 Spending Review, up from £10bn
1% cap on public sector pay extended to 2015-16 and limits on “progression” pay rises in the sector
Military to be exempt from “progression” pay limits.
Proceeds of Libor banking fines to be given to good military causes, including Combat Stress charity

JOBS
600,000 more jobs expected this year than at same time last year
Claimant count to fall by 60,000

TRANSPORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE
An extra £15bn for new road, rail and construction projects by 2020, starting with £3bn in 2015-16

HELP FOR BUSINESS
Corporation tax to be cut by 1% to 20% in 2015
New employment allowance to cut National Insurance bills cut by £2,000 for every firm
450,000 small firms will pay no employer National Insurance
Government procurement from small firms to rise fivefold
Tax relief for investment in social enterprises
Stamp duty axed on shares traded on growth markets like Aim.
Tax avoidance and evasion measures, including agreements with Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, aimed at recouping £3bn in unpaid taxes

ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Tax incentives for ultra low-emission cars
Pottery industry in Midlands to be exempt from climate change levy
Tax allowances for investment in shale gas

INFLATION
2% Bank of England inflation target to stay in place
Bank remit to be changed to focus on growth as well as inflation

PENSIONERS
Single flat-rate pension of £144 a week brought forward a year to 2016
Cap on social care costs confirmed

FAMILIES
20% tax relief on childcare up to £6,000 per child from 2015
£5,000 payments for those who lost money on Equitable Life policies bought before 1992. Extra money for those on low incomes


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US Already Inflicts ‘Deposit Taxes In Disguise’

Business, Debt, Democracy, Economy, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation

“Savers Pay for Spenders,” our March 19 BAB post on Cyprus, asked:

WHY is state-sanctioned theft from Cypriot savers any different to your paycheck being docked for statutory payroll tax deductions?
WHY is state-sanctioned theft from Cypriot savers any different in principle to the statutory theft called the income tax; and, in particular, from the progressive income tax, where the rich (“savers”) are penalized for the sins of the rest?
As to taxes on assets: Property taxes, taxes on investments—why are these seizures of private property any different in principle to the lunge on Cypriot savings accounts the bankers and bureaucrats of Europe have made?
You’d think the US doesn’t tax assets. It does. And how are the taxes above different in principle from a bank deposit levy?

Today comes the news, (via Forbes), that Cyprus and its puppet masters have agreed that, “the Popular Bank of Cyprus (Laiki Bank) will wind down” [presumably this is journo babble for "close"].

Laiki Bank deposits above 100,000 euros—which aren’t protected by EU law—will be frozen and used to pay for the deal. The frozen accounts are expected to yield 4.2 billion euros ($5.5 billion), and account holders will see an estimated 30% to 40% haircut on assets. Far greater than the original 9.9% levy.

“Haircut” is yet more journo mumbo-jumbo. The correct word is “theft.” Large-scale robbery of private property.

Financier Peter Schiff completes the thought expressed in this post’s lede, above—and shared by every clear thinking libertarian. This is all a formality—a more in-your-face lunge for private property :

…isn’t inflation, which allows governments to pay off debt through the creation of new money that transfers purchasing power from savers to borrowers, just a deposit tax in disguise? (Read more about Japan’s plan to do just that). British citizens of all means have been living with such a three percent stealth tax for the past three years, and it is expected to stay that high for at least two more years. Yet a one-time tax of 6.75% in Cyprus is seen as the ultimate act of betrayal?
Many are lamenting that Cyprus’ membership in the EU prevents it from devaluing its own currency to get out of the jam. How would such a course be morally superior? Taking actual losses on deposits is no different than taking losses through devaluation and inflation. Both result in the loss of purchasing power. Asking for a depositor haircut at least deals with the problem honestly and immediately. Although it’s not quite as honest, devaluation can also be effective.


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A Confetti Of Funny-Money & Confidence In Confidence Men

Business, Debt, Economy, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation

Big media (BM) is making a big noise about the stock-market rally, which the same BM attribute to King Tut’s animal spirits. Reports Bloomberg.com: “U.S. stocks rallied, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 14,000 for the first time in five years, as data on the labor market and manufacturing boosted confidence in the world’s biggest economy.”

The “market’s” confidence in confidence men, notwithstanding, how are these “Big Gains” possible in “a debt-fueled economy”?

Easily: The consequence of Ben Bernanke’s non-stop monetary stimulus is a rise in prices, stocks included. Homes too. But an increase in the price of an item is not the same as an appreciation in it value.

“Markets are now driven by stimulus, not fundamentals,” notes investor Peter Schiff, who also expects “deficits to approach $2 trillion annually before Obama leaves office.” (His is a reasonable assumption based in evidence.)

“Monetary and fiscal stimulus [are] pushing up stock and bond prices.”

…it is important to look at the nature of the rally. Most significantly we would bring investors’ attention to the increase in gold and oil and other assets that are expected to outperform in an inflationary economy.


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The Signature Of A Shyster (On An Already Debased Dollar)

Barack Obama, Debt, Fascism, Federal Reserve Bank, Inflation

The Ass With Ears (President Barack Obama) took a facetious swipe at the squiggly signature of one of his Ali Baba thieves-in-waiting. The shyster whose signature was the object of Obama’s joke was Chief of Staff Jack Lew, who has been nominated for Treasury Secretary.

“I had never noticed Jack’s signature,” the president quipped. “And when this was highlighted yesterday in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him. … [But] Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not debase our currency should he be confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury.”

As I say, an ass with ears. Not even A-Jad (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) is as callous about American monetary policy.

Deficits and debt, and the manipulation of the money supply to support state expansion and spending: these are what debase the dollar.

Mr. president, the manipulation of the quantity of money and its price (interest rates) are what devalue American assets. It is your infinite Quantitative Easing (QEn, where “n” stands for an indefinite number).

The president obviously doesn’t think that a signature is what debases a country’s coin. But having done his “fair share” to diminish the worth of the currency, he is nevertheless audacious enough to joke about a debased dollar to a crowd as stupid and as privileged as he. (After all, who gets the funny-money first? Rome and its armies of sycophants and servants, for by the time the new money reaches the Provinces, it has lost a chunk of its purchasing power.)

****

Personal: My WND column will return next week.


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Storms Create Jobs (And Stupidity Springs Eternal)

Debt, Government, Inflation, Labor, Political Economy

You won’t hear Shepard Smith of Fox News suggest that, in order to create jobs in their own communities, people should set fire to their homes, and so help spur economic activity among local builders, landscapers, plumbers, and electricians.

But there the anchor was today, in Studio B, touting the economic benefits that would accrue from natural destruction.

The scale of Sandy the Storm guaranteed that it was a matter of time before John Maynard Keynes’ central stupidity would surface in the media. The stupidity Mr. Smith was giving voice to today is that out of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction will come jobs to revive the stricken region.

Residence along the battered eastern seaboard should hang tough, said Shep. Federal aid was on the way. Think about all the jobs that will be created in rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

As this thinking goes, war too is good for the economy, even though war always destroys individually owned real assets and capital.

The same goes for a storm such as Sandy.

For every dollar the government will spend, a dollar will be siphoned from you and me.

Like any committed statist, Shep sees big government—huge public works—and big deficits (especially during depressions), not as a bane but as a blessing, to be embraced as the key to economic boom.

In the short term, destruction will benefit some at the expense of others. The government will confiscate private property in the form of taxes (or steal wealth by stealth through its inflationary monetary policy) so as to create Shep’s imagined industries. These jobs will by short lived and unsustainable. For every government job generated, a real job will be lost in the private economy.


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