Former Federal Reserve
Chairman Alan Greenspan said that
the financial crisis that triggered our current recession was "by far the greatest financial crisis, globally, ever." That's
right, even worse that the collapse of the stock market in 1929, because for the first time short-term credit was "literally
withdrawn." And with housing starts and car sales till "dead in the water," Greenspan said, we may not see a real recovery
any time soon.
Greenspan is not alone in
his dire pronouncements. Naked Capitalism has a long
economists and bankers who think our current economic crisis could compare to the Great Depression, including current Federal
Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz,
and billionaire investor George Soros. While this downturn has not been as painful as the Great Depression, in part because
we avoided some of the policy mistakes we made after the 1929 crash, this economic crisis itself may have been more severe.
And it may take a long time for us to recover.
A large part of the problem is that, as Greenspan says—putting it
mildly—the economic recovery is "extremely unbalanced."
o - the Commerce Department reportedthat January new-home sales dropped 11.2 percent from December,
plunging to their lowest level in nearly 50 years.
o - the Conference Board reported that February consumer confidence fell sharply from January, driven down by the survey's "present situation
index" -- how confident consumers feel right now -- which hit its lowest mark since the 1983 recession...the Reuters/University
of Michigan consumer sentiment survey also showed a falloff from January to February.
o -the Reuters/University
of Michigan consumer sentiment survey also showed a falloff from January to February...the government's report on new jobless claims filed during the previous week shot up 22,000, which was exactly opposite of what economists predicted. Forecasters
expected new jobless claims to drop by about 20,000.
Strauss-Kahn said such an asset could be similar to but distinctly different from the IMF's
special drawing rights, or SDRs, the accounting unit that countries use to hold funds within the IMF. It is based on a basket
of major currencies.
He said having other alternatives to the dollar "would limit the extent to which the international
monetary system as a whole depends on the policies and conditions of a single, albeit dominant, country."
Strauss-Kahn, a former finance minister of France, said that during the recent global financial
crisis, the dollar "played its role as a safe haven" asset, and the current international monetary system demonstrated resilience...
Several countries, including China and Russia, have called for an alternative
to the dollar as a reserve currency and have suggested using the IMF's internal accounting unit.
A secretive group of Wall Street hedge fund bosses are said to be behind
a plot to cash in on the decline of the euro.
Representatives of George Soros's investment business were among an all-star
line up of Wall Street investors at an 'ideas dinner' at a private townhouse in Manhattan, according to reports.
A spokesman for Soros Fund Management said the legendary investor did not
attend the dinner on February 8, but did not deny that his firm was represented.
At the dinner, the speculators are said to have argued that the euro is
likely to plunge in value to parity with the dollar.
The single currency has been under enormous pressure because of Greece's
debt crisis, plus financial worries in Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland.
But, it has also struggled because hedge funds have been placing huge bets
on the currency's decline, which could make the speculators hundreds of millions of pounds.
The euro traded at $1.51 in December, but has since fallen to $1.34. Details
of the secretive dinner emerged days after Mr Soros, chairman of Soros
Fund Management, warned in a newspaper article that the euro could 'fall
apart' even if the European Union can agree a deal to shore up support for stricken Greece.
Mr Soros, who made more than $1billion by currency speculation when the pound was ejected from
the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday in 1992, believes the structure of the euro is 'patently flawed'.
The mainstream economics profession is guilty of dereliction of duty. They should be telling
people that this ‘recovery’ is a scam. They should be warning investors that the markets could fall apart any
day. They should be buying gold and selling US Treasuries…and explaining to the politicians that you can’t buy
your way out of a depression with phony dollars squandered on wasteful projects!
Instead, the dopes are patting each other on the back…praising themselves for saving the
planet from destruction...
Prices are vulnerable to sharp, unannounced drops until they finally get down to real depression
levels. Since that hasn’t quite happened yet…we figure it’s still to come.
On the employment front,
this depression has put more than 6 million people out of work. And every month, more people join the unemployment ranks...the
worst thing about a depression is that it holds jobless people prisoner for so long. Many of them will become lifers…they’ll
never work again...
Bank credit is still falling. Households cut back because
they need to get out of debt…and save money for retirement. Businesses cut back too. New projects typically don’t
do well in a depression. Small businesses struggle…and fail. Big businesses get bailouts and subsidies. Depressions
are times to neither a borrower nor a lender be. Debt is only increasing at the government level.
The US is heading for a debt-driven “financial meltdown”
within five to seven years, according to Judd Gregg, the outgoing Republican senator for New Hampshire...Mr
Gregg also complimented China for showing rising alarm about the US’s mounting levels of public debt...“We have had China say that they are looking for other places to put their reservesand
that is probably a smart decision on their part,” said Mr Gregg, who will not seek re-election in November. “So
the warning signs are pretty clear and the path is unsustainable and, at this point, unless we take different actions, unavoidable.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said
"outrageous" advice from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan helped create record U.S. budget deficits that put
national security at risk.
Appearing before congressional panels to defend
the State Department's $52.8 billion budget request for 2011, Clinton said the massive U.S. foreign debt had sapped U.S. strength
around the world.
"It breaks my heart that 10 years ago we had a balanced
budget, that we were on the way of paying down the debt of the United States of America," Clinton said.
"I served on the budget committee in the Senate,
and I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday when we had a hearing in which Alan Greenspan came and justified increasing
spending and cutting taxes, saying that we didn't really need to pay down the debt -- outrageous in my view," she said...
Clinton urged lawmakers to tackle the federal budget
deficit, which reached a record $1.4 trillion for the fiscal year that ended last September.
"We have to address this deficit and the debt of
the United States as a matter of national security not only as a matter of economics," Clinton said. "I do not like to be
in a position where the United States is a debtor nation to the extent that we are."
Having to rely on foreign creditors hit "our ability
to protect our security, to manage difficult problems and to show the leadership that we deserve," she said.
who looks carefully at the world economy will recognise that a degree of monetary and fiscal stimulus unprecedented in peacetime
is all that is prodding it along, not only in high-income countries, but also in big emerging ones. The conventional wisdom
is that it will also be possible to manage a smooth exit. Nothing seems less likely...
what happens next? We can identify two alternatives: success and failure. By “success”, I mean reignition of the
credit engine in high-income deficit countries. So private sector spending surges anew, fiscal deficits shrink and the economy
appears to being going back to normal, at last. By “failure” I mean that the deleveraging continues, private spending
fails to pick up with any real vigour and fiscal deficits remain far bigger, for far longer, than almost anybody now dares
to imagine. This would be post-bubble Japan on a far wider scale.
the result of what I call success would probably be a still biggerfinancial crisisin future, while
the results of what I call failure would be that the fiscal rope would run out, even though reaching the end might take longer
than worrywarts fear. Yet the big point is that either outcome ultimately leads us to a sovereign debt crisis. This, in turn,
would surely result in defaults, probably via inflation. In essence, stretched balance sheets threaten mass private sector
bankruptcy and a depression, or sovereign bankruptcy and inflation, or some combination of the two....
people hope...that the world will go back to being the way it was. It will not and should not. The essential ingredient of
a successful exit is, instead, to use the huge surpluses of the private sector to fund higher investment, both public and
private, across the world...
With uncharacteristic bluntness, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
warned Congress on Wednesday that the United States could soon face a debt crisis like the one in Greece, and declared that
the central bank will not help legislators by printing money to pay for the ballooning federal debt.
Recent events in Europe, where Greece and
other nations with large, unsustainable deficits like the United States are having increasing trouble selling their debt to
investors, show that the U.S. is vulnerable to a sudden reversal of fortunes that would force taxpayers to pay higher interest
rates on the debt, Mr. Bernanke said.
"It's not something that is 10 years away. It affects the markets currently," he told the House
Financial Services Committee. "It is possible that bond markets will become worried about the sustainability [of yearly deficits
over $1 trillion], and we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates even today."
It was some of the toughest rhetoric to date about the nation's fiscal
and budgetary woes from the Fed chief, who faces a second round of questioning Thursday before a Senate panel.
"Now, our first
and most immediate task is to complete the economic recovery by taking additional steps to bolster demand and keep credit
flowing. Along with our efforts to unfreeze credit and stabilize the housing market, the Recovery Act helped to do this, and
it's one of the main reasons our economy has gone from shrinking by 6 percent to growing by nearly 6 percent. But
we need to do more. We should make it easier for small businesses to get loans, and give them a tax credit for hiring new
workers or raising wages.We should invest in infrastructure projects that lead to new jobs in the construction industry and
other hard-hit businesses. And we should provide a tax incentive for large businesses like yours to invest in new plants and
equipment.That would make a difference now. And we need businesses
to support these efforts. ..
At a time of such economic anxiety, it's tempting, and maybe it's easier,
to turn against one another and to find scapegoats to blame. So politicians can rail against Wall Street or against each other,
and businesses can fault Capitol Hill, and all of it makes for easy talking points and good political theater. But it doesn't
solve our problems. It doesn't move us forward. It just traps us in the same debates and divides that have held us back for
a very long time and forced us to keep on punting down the road the same problems we've been facing for decades. And
I believe we can't afford that kind of politics anymore. Not now. But we know the way forward, and we know what the future
can be. And I am confident we can get there. And I'm confident because we have the hardest-working, most productive
citizens in the world. I'm confident because our universities and research facilities are second to none. And I'm confident
because of the caliber of the leaders and businesses represented in this room. We're
not going to agree on every single issue, we're not going to support the same policies every time, but I promise I will never
stop listening to your concerns and your ideas, and I will never stop rooting for your success -- because we are in this together.
And whether we rise or fall as a nation doesn't depend on some economic forces that are beyond our control. It depends on
us -- on the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, the determination of our workers, and the strength of our people."
Administration officials, independent government analysts and
private forecasters have said the fiscal measures put in place by Democrats have boosted the overall economic growth of the
country and added jobs to the economy.
Still, the need to show economic gains by November is palpable
among Democrats, who are racing to pass additional fiscal measures. The $15 billion package passed in the Senate on Wednesday
would be a modest measure following the $787 billion stimulus package enacted in early 2009.
“We have much more to do to boost employment and put Americans
back to work,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, said this week.
The economic risks span the labor market, housing, bank lending
and general concerns about deficits and uncertainty surrounding future regulations.
proposal, dubbed the "Volcker rule" after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, would have essentially prevented any
commercial bank with federally insured deposits from owning a division that makes speculative bets with its own capital.
Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, left, with Mr. Obama last month.
after resistance from lawmakers from both parties, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) and other
legislators are expected to introduce a plan next week that would give regulators more discretion to limit and potentially
ban risky trading at banks, especially if it poses a risk to the broader economy. The measure would stop short of banning
such trading outright.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
the financial crisis was “by far” the worst in history and called the recovery from the global recession “extremely
The world economy has undergone “by far the greatest
financial crisis globally ever,” Greenspan said today in a speech to the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental
Affairs Conference in Washington.
Greenspan said that while the economy was in worse shape
in the Great Depression, the recent financial crisis was potentially more harmful than that in the 1930s because “never
had short-term credit literally withdrawn.”
said that the gross domestic product may recover to the level of previous peaks earlier this year, even though traditional
drivers of growth such as housing starts and motor vehicles were “dead in the water.” He also said small businesses
show few signs of improving because lenders are struggling with commercial real estate mortgages.
Gradually, people are coming to two contradictory realizations. On the one hand, there really does
seem to be a kind of economic renaissance going on…or, at least that is what you might think if you read the business
and investment news.
On the other hand, people are also coming to realize that we’re in a depression.
...a depression is not just a time when people stand in line to get bowls of soup or sell apples
on street corners. It’s a time of adjustment…when mistakes of the previous boom are corrected…and a new
economic model is found for going forward. This doesn’t happen overnight, no matter how much federal money is put to
work helping it. In fact, the government money just gets in the way…distorting the picture and delaying the necessary
changes. Those black-and-white depression days of the ’30s are gone. Now, we have a depression in full Technicolor…with
plenty of shades of gray, too.
A strengthened U.S. central bank offers the best chance for the U.S. to avoid a future financial crisis, St.
Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said Tuesday. "As the lender of last resort, the Fed will be at the
center of any future financial crisis," Bullard said in remarks prepared for delivery to the CFA Virginia Society. He said
that argues for the Fed to play a lead role in financial oversight, reasoning that "provides the nation with the best chance
of avoiding a future crisis."
Bullard criticized financial
overhaul bills drafted in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, both for what they contain and what they omit,
and urged lawmakers to consider changes to give the Fed more information and more authority.
For instance, Bullard questioned whether creation of a financial services oversight council would stave off a
future market meltdown. The idea, contained in the House bill, calls for the Fed to be one of several members of the council,
an approach Bullard said might not work well at a time of crisis when decisions "need to be made quickly, not subjected to
long committee debates."
"The Fed would be better at navigating
this type of decision-making," because of its monetary policy expertise and its political independence, Bullard said.
TheInternational Monetary Fundhas long preached
the virtues of keeping inflation low and allowing money to flow freely across international boundaries. But two recent research
papers by economists at the fund have questioned the soundness of that advice, arguing that slightly higher inflation and
restrictions on capital flows can sometimes help buffer countries from financial turmoil.
1 central banks should set target inflation rate much higher — at 4 percent, rather than the 2 percent standard.
“reconsidering the view that unfettered capital flows are a fundamentally benign phenomenon.”
we come to the big dilemma: what if private deleveraging and fiscal deficits continue in the US and elsewhere for years, as
they did in Japan? Then triple A-rated countries, including even the US, might lose all fiscal headroom. This has not yet
happened to Japan. It might well not happen to the US. But it could.
yes, high-income countries face huge fiscal challenges. And yes, the crisis-hit countries start from grossly unsustainable
fiscal positions. But the US is not Greece. Moreover, a massive fiscal tightening today would be a grave error.
There is a huge risk – in my view, a certainty – that this would tip much of the world back into recession. The
private sector must heal. That, not fiscal retrenchment, is the priority.
Even if it handles the current crisis, what about the next one?
It is clear what is needed: more intrusive monitoring and institutional arrangements for conditional assistance. A well-organised
eurobond market would be desirable. The question is whether the political will for these steps can be generated
“Those who argued for deregulation—and
continue to do so in spite of the evident consequences—contend that the costs of regulation exceed the benefits. With
the global budgetary and real costs of this crisis mounting into the trillions of dollars, it’s hard to see how its
advocates can still maintain that position. They argue, however, that the real cost of regulation is the stifling of innovation.
The sad truth is that in America’s financial markets, innovations were directed at circumventing regulations, accounting
standards, and taxation … No wonder then that it is impossible to trace any sustained increase in economic growth (beyond
the bubble to which they contributed) to these financial innovations” - Joseph Stiglitz
First-hand Perspectives on the Global Economy
In this special report, students from the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies analyze some
of the most exciting economic, business and technology developments helping to shape today's world.
The articles offer new perspectives on the ever-changing global economy, including the growth
of consumer markets in Brazil, Egypt and China, and the impact of the crisis on French luxury goods. The green economy’s
growth worldwide is captured in articles on organic products in Germany, solar energy in Senegal and Japan’s eco-tech
industry. The rise of the Russian gambling industry, sustainable tourism in Egypt and high-end gastronomy in Spain illustrate
new frontiers in the leisure business. China’s coming of age is captured in articles on the development of its venture
capital and mutual fund industries, enhanced awareness of social corporate responsibility, and the growth of second- and third-tier
cities. New developments in infrastructure and financial services are reflected in pieces on the mobile Internet in Latin
America, the rise to prominence of Spanish infrastructure management companies, and a new form of transparent, customer-driven
Taken together, the 16 articles offer perspectives on a range of dynamic economies and identify
existing opportunities for conducting business within specific cultural, political and institutional contexts. The articles
are part of the Lauder Global Business Insight program.
Fears are growing that the United States will once again resort to printing money and ginning up inflation to resolve its
While accelerating the
printing presses could do irreversible damage to the dollar's international reputation and the U.S. economy, history suggests
that this is the way Washington will go to avoid the political pain of having to raise taxes and cut spending on popular programs
such as Social Security, defense and Medicare.
Some notable economists
argue that such a move would avert a debt crisis like the one confronting Greece and other European countries that have been
unable to reduce spending because of strong public resistance.
Political leaders and
the Federal Reserve, which is charged with printing and circulating U.S. dollars, strenuously deny that they have any intent
to "inflate" out of the debt...
some resistance and wariness at the Fed, a growing number of Wall Street gurus expect the U.S. to adopt at least an unofficial
policy of growing or "inflating" out of the debt in light of Congress' unwillingness to tackle budget deficits running at
more than $1 trillion for the foreseeable future.
Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing
to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.
Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying
on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.
Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will
lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to
extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.
States have $18.8 billion of budget gaps yet to
be closed in fiscal 2010. This comes after they have already imposed measures to eliminate budget imbalances totaling $87
billion in the fiscal year, which for most started last summer.
In the budgets they are drafting for fiscal 2011,
states foresee shortfalls of $53.6 billion and for fiscal 2012 $61.6 billion.
The job market isn't improving
as fast as some analysts had expected.
That was the message Thursday in
a government report that the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week.
Jobless claims rose by 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000.
That followed a drop of 41,000
in the previous week. The earlier figure had raised hopes that the job market was improving steadily.
The four-week average for claims
dipped 1,500 to 467,500, near the lows at the end of last year. The average smooths out week-to-week volatility. But many
economists say the four-week average would need to fall consistently below 425,000 to signal that the economy is close to
generating net job gains. The economy has lost 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, indicated last
week that the central bank might increase its emergency lending rate to banks to widen the spread between that and the main
policy rate. Still, markets were caught off guard Thursday when the Fed raised the discount rate, prompting officials to say
borrowing costs will remain low. "The modifications are not expected to lead to tighter financial conditions for households
and businesses and do not signal any change in the outlook for the economy or for monetary policy," the Fed said
A mortgage crisis like the one that has devastated homeowners is enveloping
the nation's office and retail buildings, and few places are likely to be hit as hard as Washington.
The foreclosure wave is likely to swamp many smaller community
banks across the country, and many well-known properties, including Washington's Mayflower Hotel and the Boulevard at the
Capital Centre in Largo, are at risk, industry analysts say.
The new round of financial pain, which some had anticipated but
hoped to avoid, now seems all but certain. "There's been an enormous bubble in commercial real estate, and it has to come
down," said Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the Congressional Oversight Panel, the watchdog created by Congress to monitor the
financial bailout. "There will be significant bankruptcies among developers and significant failures among community banks."
Bond buyers are thinking about the odds of Greece's debt crisis
spreading to Portugal, Ireland and Spain, then eventually to Britain and the U.S., according to The Economist. While the possibility
of U.S. Treasuries losing their "risk-free" image cannot be rejected, a more likely outcome is higher interest rates on U.K.
and U.S. government debt. "That demands a credible medium-term plan to cut deficits," The Economist notes. "Otherwise Greece's
problems could be the start of something much bigger."
David Rosenberg from Gluskin Sheff
said lending has fallen by over $100bn (£63.8bn) since January, plummeting at an annual rate of 16pc. "Since the credit crisis
began, $740bn of bank credit has evaporated. This is a record 10pc decline," he said. Mr Rosenberg said it is tempting fate
for the Fed to turn off the monetary spigot in such circumstances. "The shrinking in banking sector balance sheets renders
any talk of an exit strategy premature," he said
Paul Ashworth, US economist forCapital Economics,
said that certain Fed officials are clearly worried about lending since they slipped in a warning that bank credit "continues
to contract" in their latest statement..."The reason the Great Depression became 'great'
was the contraction of credit. You would have thought that a student of the Depression like Bernanke would be alarmed by this,"
The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance
unexpectedly surged last week, while producer prices increased sharply in January, raising potential hurdles for the economic
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased
31,000 to 473,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. That compared to market expectations for 430,000.
Another report from the department showed prices
paid at the farm and factory gate rose a faster than expected 1.4 percent from December after a 0.4 percent gain in December,
as higher gasoline prices and unusually cold temperatures helped boost energy costs.
bailout of one (nation) will produce the same outcome as the rescue of Bear Stearns did; moral hazard will kick in, and instead
of allowing economic Darwinism to cleanse the gene pool, the weaker nations will lose any incentive to cut spending and trim
their swollen deficits.
Welcome to “Credit Crunch II.”By stuffing billions
of dollars of taxpayers’ money into the balance-sheet holes of the banking industry, governments have transmogrified
private risk into public liabilities.The
“too-big-to-fail” label just reattaches itself to governments from financial companies.
sequel, if the European Union or its members are suckered into some kind of Greek rescue package by buying, guaranteeing or
even repaying its bonds, could end up featuringPortugalas Lehman Brothers
Holdings Inc. andSpainas American International Group Inc.
Last year, Russia's economic performance was the worst among the BRIC economies
by a large measure: For the whole of 2009, its real GDP is expected to have declined by at least 8% and some quarters by more
than 10%. That compares to Brazil's smaller real GDP decline of 5.5%, while China's and India's GDPs grew by 8.3% and 6.5%,
respectively. Russia's performance is even worse when compared to 2008, which takes into account the bursting of the oil-price
bubble in the middle of that year.
Over the past
year alone, the amount the U.S. government owes its lenders has grown to more than half the country's entire economic output,
or gross domestic product.
alarming, experts say, is that those figures will climb to an unprecedented 200 percent of GDP by 2038 without a dramatic
shift in course...
"Within 12 years…the
largest item in the federal budget will be interest payments on the national debt," said former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker. "[They are] payments for which we get nothing."
forecasters say future generations of Americans could have a substantially lower standard of living than their predecessors'
for the first time in the country's history if the debt is not brought under control.
Government debt, which fuels the risk of inflation, could make everyday Americans'
savings worth less. Higher interest rates would make it harder for consumers and businesses to borrow. Wages would remain
stagnant and fewer jobs would be created. The government's ability to cut taxes or provide a safety net would also be weakened,
Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, warned:
rising debt...infringing on...central bank’s ability to fulfil...goals
of maintaining pricestability and long-term economic growth.
deficit projections...putting political
pressure on...Fed to keep interest rates low, infringing on its independence at...risk of inflation
pre-emptive action, the US risks its next crisis”
worst option for the US...a scenario where the government “knocks on the central bank’s door” and asks it
to print more money. Instead, the administration must find ways to cut spending and generate revenue.
succumbed to pressure to increase the money supply...inflation would lead to a loss of confidence in the dollar and in the
economy. Meanwhile, a potential stalemate between the fiscal and monetary authorities that govern the economy could allow
growing imbalances to go unchecked, thus raising the costs of borrowing and of capital for the US.
consequences of the central bank prolonging its holdings of mortgage-backed securities, which it purchased in an effort to
prop up the US housing market.
The ongoing Greek financial crisis is the kind of crisis the United States
might face in a few years, if we continue to make the kinds of mistakes that the Greeks have made over the past decade...
aside from our very large budget deficit --9.9 percent of GDP and climbing-- we also have
liabilities that are rarely acknowledged. The costs of Medicare and Medicaid are rising, as is the cost of veterans' care.
Markets assume that the vast debts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are underwritten by the government, and someday the government
might be called upon to pay them. No one is lying about these things, but no one is doing very much about them either.
The good news is that the American government's bankruptcy is not
on the front pages, and it will not be for many years: Our sheer size, our entrepreneurship and our relatively open business
culture will keep us going for a long time. But the Greek crisis shows that the combination of debt and political deadlock
can be deadly.
After decades of warnings that budgetary profligacy, escalating health
care costs and an aging population would lead to a day of fiscal reckoning, economists and the nation’s foreign creditors
say that moment is approaching faster than expected, hastened by a deep recession that cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenues and higher spending
for safety-net programs...
As debt rises, so do interest costs; by 2014, at a projected $516 billion,
they will exceed the budget for annual appropriations for domestic programs. The government will be competing with the private
sector for credit, forcing interest rates higher and imperiling future prosperity.
Foreign investors now own more than half of the publicly held debt, and
officials for the largest creditor, China, have fretted publicly about the fiscal course of the United States. While few expect
foreigners to dump their assets, since the resulting plunge in values would hurt them as well as everyone else, the fear is
that investors will demand higher interest payments and reduce or stop future debt purchases, threatening the government’s
ability to finance its borrowing.
Lesser financial and fiscal crises have brought the two parties together
to compromise on tough choices about taxes and spending.
new joint report from the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration offersU.S.leaders
ways to address the nation's fiscal problems and confront its rapidly growing debt -- a burden that if unchecked will inevitably
limit the nation's future wealth and risk a disruptive fiscal crisis that could lead to a severe recession. The report offers tax and spending options
that would stabilize the debt relative to the size of the economy within a decade.The
report also provides a set of simple tests to determine whether any proposed federal budget would lead to long-term fiscal
stability...The nation's rapidly growing debt now totals more than $12 trillion -- of which
$7.5 trillion is publicly held, about half of it by investors abroad.As
the publicly held debt rises, so does the amount of federal revenue that must be spent on interest payments, leaving less
money for other services and programs.The amount
the government spent on interest was more than $800 per person in 2008 and would roughly double by 2020, even if interest
rates remain at their current low levels.As the debt grows unchecked, so too does the risk
of a crisis; if a loss of investor confidence led interest rates to climb suddenly, the government may be forced into a rushed,
ill-considered response that could deprive people of needed services and hobble the economy for years, the report says.
Marking the anniversary of the $787 billion American Economic Recovery and
Investment Act, Obama aimed his message at people skeptical about the expensive relief measure...
Christina Romer,who heads theWhite House Council of Economic Advisers,said in a separate
interview that one component of the stimulus program had worked especially well. "State fiscal relief really has kept hundreds
of thousands of teachers and firefighters and first responders on the job," she said. "We have seen productivity surge," Romer
said. "And that, at one level, is a good sign out the economy. But absolutely, we've got to translateGDP growthinto employment
growth. Right now, the employmentnumbers look basically stable.
We think we're going to see positivejob growthby spring."
The administration's inspector general: Twenty community agencies that
are slated to receive $45 million are "at risk for fraud, waste and abuse." One example -- Illinois received $242 million
to weatherize 27,000 homes, but the Department of Energy found "significant internal control deficiencies," including one
instance with a "furnace gas leak that could have resulted in serious injury to the occupants."
Investigators at ProPublica, which launched a new "Stimulus Investigations"
page, found that billions in stimulus money could be lost to fraud.
"The biggest problem we're seeing is with questionable contractors who
are receiving stimulus funds despite being under criminal investigation. We've seen several examples of this where a contractor
may be banned from getting federal contracts but still is finding a way to get stimulus money."
problems faced by the eurozone have cast a long shadow over the markets over the last two weeks. The prospect of a potential sovereign debt default within the single currency area have concentrated
on Greece, but the prospect of similar dangers in Portugal, Ireland and even Spain have rattled investors around the world.
How real is this perceived danger of a sovereign
debt default? What would the consequences be if occurred, and what would be the implication of any EU-sponsored rescue to
avoid one? How should investors position themselves in the face of these risks?
The European Union has
asked Greece to explain reports that it engaged in derivatives trades with US investment banks that may have allowed it to
mask the size of its debt and deficit from EU authorities.Goldman Sachs made up an exchange rate that allowed the Greeks to
look as though they were only engaging in a currency swap when, in effect, they were getting more than a billion more than
they should have from the trades in credit.
The Federal Reserve is scheduled at the end of March to halt its
purchases of mortgage-backed securities, a move that could drive up the low interest rates that have helped the housing market
show new signs of life. The Fed is gambling that private investors will step in to buy the securities, helping to keep rates
from spiking. Senior officials in the Obama administration and at the Fed say they are counting in part on foreigners to keep
the housing market funded.
But financial analysts and advisers familiar with foreign government
funds, known as sovereign wealth funds, predicted that the United States will get limited relief from abroad.
to assume that there will be some kind of steps taken after the Chinese New Year to revalue the currency higher. That is probably
at least a few percentage point revaluation of the rate higher against the dollar.
Currency pressure is undermining Chinese influence with it's neighbors
as many struggle to find an export market against a currency undervalued by as much as 40%.
sorpresivo aumento de la inflación a través de Latinoamérica en enero generó expectativas de mayores presiones de precios
y puso en evidencia que la era de las tasas históricamente bajas podría terminar antes de lo esperado.
Chile, Colombia y México informaron en las últimas semanas cifras de inflación más sólidas de lo anticipado para enero. En
particular, los analistas sugieren que muchos de los repuntes no son hechos aislados, ya que las cifras de inflación básica
New York Times revealed that Wall Street’s elaborate financial schemes made Greece escalating debt reach today’s
breaking point by allowing the Greek government to borrow above its means since 2001. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped
hide billions in debts contracted by Greece from the EU budget authorities in Brussels...
The New York Times’ report is confirmed, firms such as Goldman Sachs, which has offices in London, will be in the cross
air of the EU for running financial practices which amount to nothing less than a global elaborate Ponzi scheme, not very
different in nature from the one which got Bernard Madoff behind bars. If the paper’s report is corroborated
by other sources, it is likely that international prosecutions will follow soon against Goldman Sachs’ top executives.
Consumers within the euro zone are not spending enough and the strong
currency is making it hard to tap demand in the rest of the world. The best hope for a home-grown stimulus is Germany, where
firms and consumers had practised thrift when the rest of the world indulged in a spending boom. Sadly Germany still relies
too heavily on exports.
Once a small membership organization
comprisingFannie MaeandFreddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, and the occasional
troubled auto company, the Future Bailouts of America Club now includes a long list largely populated by financial institutions.
We can’t be sure who the specific members
of this club are — regulators simply say they know ’em when they see ’em. But this much is certain: They’ve
seen a lot of them lately...
“If we are extending
the safety net, extending the implied guarantee to the debts of a lot of other financial institutions, and we know those guarantees
are valuable and costly, then we ought to start budgeting for it. We can’t reduce the costs of these subsidies if we
can’t recognize them.”
Rich countries saw FDI inflows plunge by 41%, and foreign investment
into developing countries fell by more than a third...Despite FDI plunging by 57% last year, America remained the world’s
top investment destination.
The business cycle is composed
of events and processes. Some descriptions of the business cycle confuse these two things...The business cycle could be much better defined if the recovery and expansion
phases were identified as two individual steps...
They are linked
by an event, the surpassing of the prior peak. The expansion does not begin until new highs are achieved; gains from the trough
simply recover what had been produced in the previous expansion until the prior peak is equaled. The following table shows
The following graph shows the type of illustration that would give a better
representation of the business cycle.
una década, con sus conocimientos de sofisticados de productos financieros y operaciones con derivados, Wall Street -encabezado
por el mega banco de inversiones estadounidense Goldman Sachs- ayudó a gobiernos europeos como Grecia e Italia a aprovechar
la "contabilidad creativa" con el fin de cumplir con los criterios de convergencia y entrar en la Unión Monetaria Europa.
Ahora, -según se puede desprender de investigaciones en elNew York Times yDer Spiegel- en la primera grave crisis de la zona euro, Wall Street ofrece otros
instrumentos financieros para posponer el coste disparado de la deuda hasta otro dia. Los bancos saben de eso porque es precisamente
la clase de producto financiero de elevada innovación que provocó la primera fase de la crisis global de capitalismo financiero,
el colapso de los mercados de crédito bancario debido a la imposibilidad de medir el riesgo de productos esotéricos financieros
y derivados que nadie entendía. Año y medio después, se transforma en una crisis de deuda soberana.
With theanniversary of the stimulus upon us, politicians are likely tobombard us with numbers: 1.5 million to 2 million jobs created or saved, $272 billion out thedoor,
another $333 billion in the pipeline. The Democratic Policy Committee keeps alist of success storieswhile Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has publishedtworeportsof 100 “wasteful” projects.
One number that’s been especially hard to pin down: the cost of waste, fraud and abuse.
Already there have been scattered reports about stimulus contractors that are under investigation
or that have had serious violations in their past. Using estimates from fraud experts, the government’s stimulus watchdog,
Earl Devaney, has said as much as $55 billion could be lost.
But no one knows for sure. So to get at the big picture, we at ProPublica decided tostart trackinginspector general reports, auditor
investigations and news accounts about questionable contractors. We’ll be updating our stimulus investigations list
regularly—so if you have new information about a case or one we should add, e-mail it firstname.lastname@example.org.
VIDEO: Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on the Obama administration's economic policies in the midst
of a "sick" economy.
UK Campaign video by Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy,
about the Robin Hood Tax, a tiny tax on bank transactions that could raise hundreds of billions for public services and to
tackle poverty and climate change at home and around the world
BOOKS ON THE CRISIS
The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown -
By far the most powerful book on the crisis because it was written before the real meltdowns rushed to market.
This book should be required reading for every man and woman on Capitol Hill and in the White House for current proposals
on bank reform do nothing to stop the next trillion dollar meltdown - problems in the financial system are very obvious but
are also hidden from most due to their ideological biases and optimism. The author, Charles Morris, is a successful, award
winning financial writer and he outdid himself with a brief book that, among other things, de-mystifies derivatives and their
impact on the financial system. This is the must-read book about the underlying foundation of the crisis.
Too Big To Fail -Almost too big too read, this will probably be viewed as the standard treatment of the crisis due to the clarity
of the writing and the objective stance of the writer, New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin. Mr. Sorkin does a terrific
job pacing inside the board rooms and with the major players as the crisis unfolds; parts of it almost read like a novel,
but do not let this undermine the credibility of the author or the material. This is a fine overview of who did what and when
to whom. If you have the patience, it is quite good - and if you read multiple books, read it last and you will be able to
skip over some paragraphs here and there.
House of Cards -On one hand, the book is uneven, clearly written in two parts - a contemporary, blow by blow account of the
failure of Bear Stearns and another, the history of the firm. This gives the book an uneven quality that many readers do not
like. So what? The book's mastery of the ten days leading up to J.P. Morgan's (JPM) acquisition of Bear is all you need to read - it is more compelling than many novels I have read and
depicts the behavior of senior executives beyond surreal; for example, during the last week before the fall, the Chairman
refuses to come back to New York because he is playing in a bridge tournament. The book also peeks behind J.P. Morgan's curtain
and that of the New York Fed (Tim Geithner was head of that bank at the time) to show their view of the deal - and better
than anything, shows, day to day, the impact of the derivatives market on share prices and the ability of Bear to borrow money
overnight and continue its operations. A wonderful read, if perhaps too long.
Fool's Gold -Gillian
Tett, a brilliant columnist with the Financial Times, wrote this book on the financial engineers who blew up the financial
world with their invention, the CDO or credit derivative obligation and what we now call credit default swaps. This financial
invention re-defined leverage and when applied to poorly rated RMBS - residential mortgage back securities - well, the world
went boom. Her narrative goes back to the early 1990s and walks the reader through the evolution of the product - explaining
their utility when invented and their decreasing relationship to anything understandable over time as they became more and
more complex and fed the greed of all the players. A wonderful read that, with a little help, could be a novel or a movie.
In Fed We Trust -The second best or must-read by a Wall Street Journal reporter, David Wessel, focuses on Bernanke and the Fed
and how their role unfolded during the crisis. The book has been overlooked - maybe it came out too early - but it is the
best treatment of how various agencies and individuals evolved their thinking and actions during the crisis. What I remember
most from the book is the recurring mantra presented by the author about the actions of the Fed - "whatever it takes" - and
if you accept the facts as presented, as I do, Ben Bernanke will someday be the first face on Mt. Rushmore Two.
On the Brink -Hank Paulson is what the nation now lacks - a hard nosed, savvy, center right Republican leader who views ideology
as an impediment to getting things done. And when in office, understanding the responsibility to get things done, not work
from a playbook. This is a great read - it was the last book I read and it greatly changed my view of Paulson as a man, not
as a Treasury Secretary; if you want one historical treatment of the crisis on your bookshelf, this is it (sorry Mr. Sorkin).
It simply is better at pushing day to day details of the crisis into perspective, juxtaposing them against government policy,
attitudes on Wall Street and so on. And, since I believe what Mr. Paulson wrote, I find him a very appealing public figure,
a leader unlike anyone else in the Bush cabinet, and the right man in the right place at, well, the wrong time for all of
Chain of Blame -This was the most fun book - an inside look at the birth through death of the subprime mortgage industry. The
authors, Paul Muolo and Mathew Padilla, do a great job showing how the mortgage industry ran out of customers so created subprime
mortgages just as Wall Street needed new mortgages to bundle, slice, dice and re-sell. This book brings the reader closest
to how Main Street and Wall Street contributed to the crisis -- Main Street mortgage brokers prompting customers, creating
customers to feed Wall Street's need for products and, alas, commission. An interesting twist in the book is the very positive
treatment of industry poster boy Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Mortgage (now Bank of America (BAC)). He hated the thought of lending to subprime customers because of the lack of historical data to properly
gauge risk - smart man - but hated giving up market share even worse. The rest is history.
A Colossal Failure of Common Sense -Authors Lawrence G. McDonald and Patrick Robinson do to a bang up job describing the almost surreal behavior
of Lehman Brothers executives as the firm melted down. McDonald is a former Lehman vice president and he focuses on a small
group of executives who pushed Lehman further and further, with leverage, into higher and higher risk positions to generate
profits. The book has prompted some nasty responses - check out some customer reviews on Amazon.com - for it is forceful and
pulls no punches on assigning blame, most it going to Dick Fuld, the CEO of Lehman who comes off poorly in virtually everything
written about the crisis. The value of the book is its ability to portray the gambling mentality that dominated Lehman - a
mentality that led to too much leverage everywhere and is at the very center of the crisis. A very good read, but the book
does not approach the crisis as a whole and is a secondary read if you are trying to get a handle on other things going on
during the crisis apart from Lehman.
It's bad enough that Greece's
debt problems have rattled global financial markets. In the world's largest economic and military power, there's a far more
serious debt dilemma.
For the U.S., the crushing
weight of its debt threatens to overwhelm everything the federal government does, even in the short-term, best-case financial
scenario -- a full recovery and a return to prerecession employment levels..
The U.S. debt crisis also
raises the question of how long the world's leading power can remain its largest borrower.
Moody's Investors Service
recently warned that Washington's credit rating could be in jeopardy if the nation's finances didn't improve.
Despite election-year political
pressure from voters for lawmakers to restrain spending, some recent votes suggests that Congress, left to its own devices,
probably isn't up to the task of trimming deficits.
Claims that the euro could be headed for total collapse are particularly
striking when they come from one of the oldest and largest banks in France - a core founder-member...
In a note to investors, SocGen strategist Albert Edwards said: 'My own view is that there is
little "help" that can be offered by the other eurozone nations other than temporary, confidence-giving "sticking plasters"
before the ultimate denouement: the break-up of the eurozone.'
He added: 'Any "help" given to Greece merely delays the inevitable break-up
of the eurozone.'
The alarming claim came a day after European Union leaders promised 'determined
and co-ordinated' action to shore up Greece's tattered public finances, but disappointed traders by failing to provide specifics...
The French bank's warning was echoed by Mats Persson, Director of the Open
Europe think-tank, which campaigns for reforms in Brussels.
He said: 'The eurozone is facing a fully-fledged crisis. The Greece episode
has made it painfully clear how flawed the euro project was from the very beginning.
'Even if Greece receives a one-off bailout it would not solve the
real problem, which is the huge differences in competitiveness between the eurozone's richest and poorest members. 'If these differences are to be evened out, the EU would need a single budget andcommon taxes so it can redistribute resources...
Harvard University Professor Martin Feldstein, a long-standing sceptic on
the euro, yesterday said the single currency 'isn't working' because member governments have no incentive to keep their public
debts under control. 'There's too much incentive for countries to run up big deficits as there's no feedback until a crisis,'
EU back towards recession - The eurozone faces
the danger of a 'doubledip' recession after Germany's economy retreated into stagnation.
"If a big non-bank institution gets in trouble and
threatens the whole system, there ought to be some authority that can step in, take over that organization and liquidate it
or merge it -- not save it," Volcker said on CNN.
"It's called euthanasia, not a rescue."
As Congress debates financial reform in the wake
of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, Volcker has argued for fencing off investment firms primarily engaged in market
speculation from commercial, deposit-taking banks.
With Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long
effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created byGoldman Sachshelped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.
Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching
for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning.
The U.S. economy is now expected to grow 3% this year and next
-- more than expected a month ago, according to the median estimate of 62 economists polled this month by Bloomberg News. Equally important, those same
economists now expect the U.S. unemployment rate to fall to 9.5% by the end of 2010. The significance of this news? If the
economists surveyed by Bloomberg are accurate about a 3% GDP growth, that would lend credence to Obama administration Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer's
forecast that the U.S. economy will average monthly job growth of 116,000
jobs per month, or about 1.4 million jobs created in 2010.
Further, if the 1.4 million job forecast
pans out, this will be, arguably, the best economic news Americans have heard in a long time...
Annual investment in public and quasi-public infrastructure systems of 4 to 6 per cent of GDP ($500 - $700 Billion)
will probably be necessary for the foreseeable future but in an era of trillion dollar deficits, no funding source is projected
to have the capacity to generate funds sufficient for infrastructure investment at these levels. At the same time, there is
a clear and immediate need for public and institutional pension funds to invest in instruments that can generate stable, long-term
and low-risk returns on equity.
Theideais that a US
sovereign wealth* fund would dip into public and private pension savings and invest the money in much-needed infrastructure.
If it worked, the economy would benefit, infrastructure would benefit, pensions would receive a healthy return and savings
would be made for the next generation.
core idea of the proposal is to utilize a combination of public and institutional pension funds, individual retirement accounts,
and other private investment capital, together with Social Security Trust Funds to capitalize a National Infrastructure Bank
(NIB) that would provide senior debt to fund projects and programs supported by user fees or other reliable and sustainable
Richard G. Little of the University
of Southern California’s School of Policy Planning and Development has an interestingnew paper outentitled,
“Towards a New Federal Role in Infrastructure Investment: Using U.S. Sovereign Wealth to Rebuild America.” The paper’s premise is that the US has to address
years of chronic under-investment in infrastructure. In order to do this, Little want’s to tap into the public
pension and social security savings in order to match long-term investment capital with long-term investments in infrastructure.
So long as this new entity remains commercially oriented, it’s a reasonable
idea; public pension funds have indeed been moving into infrastructure at an increasing rate, driven in large part by the
desire to find assets that better match their long-term liabilities.
Our government has taken extraordinary
steps to head off a feared depression and to stimulate a deflating economy. All well and good. But who has seriously weighed
the unintended consequences of such actions? Where are the long-term forecasts that reflect the consequences of our short-term
remedies? You won't hear answers from the politicians and bureaucrats mainly concerned with staying in office.
A research report by Blanchard and associates at the IMF said policymakers became too complacent during the period
of expansion known as "the Great Moderation" about issues such as inflation and debt. He said that while the financial sector was the source of the recent crisis, "large adverse shocks" could come from
elsewhere in the future such as a pandemic or major terrorist attack. Against
this backdrop, he said aiming for a higher inflation rate could provide more room for policymakers to grapple with crises.
"Maybe policymakers should therefore aim for a higher target inflation
rate in normal times, in order to increase the room for monetary policy to react to such shocks," Blanchard said in a report
"Rethinking Macroeconomic Policy."
In China, the problem isan economy that could be overstimulated. In Europe, it's an economy that could be falling back to sleep.
After expanding at a 0.4% rate in the third quarter of 2009, GDP in the 16-country eurozonegrew by only 0.1%in the year's
last three months. Germany -- the group's largest exporter and biggest economy -- showed zero growth. Economists had been
forecasting a 0.4% fourth-quarter increase, so the drop in growth is fueling speculation that Europe is headed for a double-dip
European leaders grapple with ways to force Greece and other EU debtor nations to live within their economic means, the most
common view among Australian economists is that the debt crisis is not a serious threat to recovery.
however, say worldwide stimulus measures have simply shifted the private debt problem to government balance sheets, and more
pain is on the way. EU leaders yesterday offered rhetorical support to Greece but no specific aid measures. Prices for equities
and base metals jumped, but markets remain nervous about sovereign debt.
International Monetary Fund said this week that the G7 nations owed a combined $US30 trillion ($33.7 trillion).
managing director Dominique Strauss-Khan said state debt could become the world's "biggest problem for the coming . . . several
Bill Gross, who runs Pimco, one of the world's biggest
bond managers, recently said that he thinks Canada is the best bet for investment among developed nations. "It moved toward
and stayed closer to fiscal balance than any other country," said Gross.
In addition, the Canadian economy, the world's 10th
biggest, is endowed with natural resources increasingly valuable in this century--like potash and uranium. New technologies
allow for the vast development of the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, helping make Canada's oil reserves the world's second
largest. Yes, there are environmental implications, but Canada is now the biggest supplier of crude oil to the U.S., a lucrative--and
enviable--position for any country.
The population of the People's Republic will be
considerably older than the U.S.' by 2050. It also has far more boys than girls--a rather insidious problem. Among the younger
generation there are already an estimated 24 million more men of marrying age than women. This is not going to end well--except
perhaps for investors in prostitution and pornography.
In the longer term demographic trends actually place
the U.S. in a relatively strong position. By the end of the first half of the 21st century, the American population aged 15
to 64--essentially your economically active cohort--are projected to grow by 42%; China's will shrink by 10%. Comparisons
with other competitors are even larger, with the E.U. shrinking by 25%, Korea by 30% and Japan by a remarkable 44%.
Few thought the second rise would come so soon. Markets were
rattled by fears that the pace of monetary tightening in China would be more aggressive than had been reckoned on, potentially
denting global growth.
“The next five years will see us face another
crunch--the oil crunch. This time, we do have the chance to prepare. The challenge is to use that time well… Our message
to government and businesses is clear: act. Don't let the oil crunch catch us out in the way that the credit crunch did.”
So wrote the CEOs and Chairmen of the companies
involved in the U.K. Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy
of public debt hurt economies in the following way, as numerous empirical studies have shown. By raising fears of default
and/or currency depreciation ahead of actual inflation, they push up real interest rates. Higher real rates, in turn, act
as drag on growth, especially when the private sector is also heavily indebted – as is the case in most western economies,
not least the US.
the US household savings rate has risen since the Great Recession began, it has not risen enough to absorb a trillion dollars
of net Treasury issuance a year.
"The only thing that reliably
grows in our economy is the public debt," Jeffrey D. Sachs writes in a TIME magazine commentary. The government is "utterly
paralyzed" in addressing the issue, Sachs writes, and escalation of the national deficit is leaving the country in a "first-rate
mess." Homeland security, unemployment compensation, and support for state and local governments are only some of the programs
being funded by debt...
When the New Deal deployed deficit spending from 1933 to '36,
the deficits were around 5% of GDP, compared with around 10% today. The publicly held debt was rather stable, around 40% of
GDP then, but it will soon reach 60% of GDP in 2010, and on the Administration's budget plans will rise above 70% by 2012.
What's more, in the 1930s the debt was financed domestically — by Americans. Today about half of public debt is held
by the rest of the world, much of it by China and Japan. In the New Deal era, taxes could easily rise to cover the increased
cost of servicing interest on the debt. Today we have no agreement on how such debt servicing will be paid for. And we face
another unprecedented challenge: large increases in entitlement spending as a share of GDP are likely to continue into the
2020s and '30s as the population ages and health care costs mount...here are the key questions. Will we kill our economic
future by shortchanging the public on investments needed to modernize the economy and train the workforce? Will we borrow
heavily from China and other countries to cover today's spending while racking up massive bills for our children? Or might
we just decide to protect the future of our country through a judicious mix of tax increases and spending cuts that will bring
honor to this generation and prosperity to the next?
More shocking is that banks and their auditors are typically
well aware of the problem, but have not written down the value of property as prices have fallen. Instead they are “extending
and pretending” - or “delaying and praying”: holding property values steady and assisting the borrowers
where possible. They need to. If banks were accurately to record property values, they would write down assets on their own
balance sheets and jeopardise their business...
A very thoroughreportjust released
from the Congressional Oversight Panel expects many banks to go under when the pretence comes to an end. The report concludes:
“There is a commercial real estate crisis on the horizon, and there are no easy solutions to the risks commercial real
estate may pose to the financial system and the public.”
The Fed's strategy hinges on a major shift in its monetary policymaking.
For decades, the central bank has used the federal funds rate as its primary tool for controlling the money supply. Under
the approach outlined by Bernanke, the Fed would take advantage of a relatively new power to pay interest on the funds that
banks keep on reserve with the central bank.
In effect, if banks increase their lending so much that too much
money starts swirling through the economy, raising the risk of inflation, the Fed can increase the interest rate that banks
receive to keep money locked up at the central bank above its current 0.25 percent. That would slow bank lending, keep the
supply of money in check and, Bernanke argued, lead to higher interest rates for all sorts of loans.
Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office,
is regarded as an unbiased voice amid partisan budget battles, but the rulings issued by his office often draw ire from lawmakers
on both sides of the aisle. Elmendorf's CBO currently is forecasting big budget deficit increases based on the Obama administration's
proposals...Elmendorf's CBO forecasts that the federal deficit will reach $1.35 trillion this year — $4,400 for every
American. All that red ink means the overall debt will rise to $8.8 trillion by the end of 2010, or about 60% of gross domestic
product — the highest level of public debt since 1952...Now, with the health care plan in deep political trouble, the
focus for both Congress and the White House is shifting from expanding government to shrinking it.
The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before
it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint
on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many
inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character
of our society for years to come.
in five housing markets entered a second leg of home price declines in late 2009, after showing price increases for nearly
half of last year. In 29 of the 143 markets tracked by the site -- including Boston, Atlanta and San Diego -- prices flattened
or began to decrease again in the second part of last year, after five or more months of consecutive monthly increases, according
to the site's fourth quarter real-estate market report...Nationwide, home values fell 5% in
the fourth quarter compared with the fourth quarter a year earlier. Values fell 0.5% from the third quarter of 2009.
While far from representing fixed government
policy, the open demands for retaliation by the PLA officers underscored the domestic pressures on Beijing to deliver on its
threats to punish the Obama administration over the arms sales.
"Our retaliation should not be restricted to
merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counter-punches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy
and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease," said Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Academy of Military
The warnings from the PLA come
after weeks of strains between Washington and Beijing, who have also been at odds over Internet controls and hacking, trade
and currency quarrels, and President Barack Obama's planned meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader reviled
by China as a "separatist."
The U.S. financial system is
in "much better shape," although small and medium-sized financial institutions are under pressure, which will put a damper
on credit availability in the U.S. economy..."The capital markets are generally open for business--with the important exception
of some securitization markets--and the major securities dealers that survived the crisis have seen a sharp recovery in profitability."
But, "many smaller and medium-sized banks remain under significant pressure," he noted. "Loan losses in commercial real estate
and consumer and mortgage loans seem likely to continue to pressure smaller banks for some time to come," which means "credit
availability to households and small businesses will still be curtailed."
The central bank could keep short-term interest
rates low until 2012 to encourage economic growth, but that it also could use some of its newer monetary tools to check excessive
inflation if it materializes in the current economic recovery...
Federal Open Market Committee, which faces tough, unprecedented policy decisions this year as the central bank unwinds first-time
programs it launched during the financial crisis to prevent a second Great Depression.
The programs include “quantitative easing”
measures designed to help keep interest rates low and to pump ready cash – liquidity – into the financial system.
The “QE” supplemented the FOMC’s principal policy mechanism: setting the Federal Funds rate, the short-term
benchmark interest rate banks charge each other for overnight borrowing.
At the height of the crisis, the FOMC cut the
Fed Funds rate to about zero, where they remain today; a reversal now could rattle fragile financial markets still on the
What you’re not hearing from the politicians and the talking
heads is that the joblessness and underemployment in America’s low-income households rival their heights in the Great
Depression of the 1930s — and in some instances are worse. The same holds true for some categories of blue-collar workers.
Anyone who thinks this devastating problem is going away soon, or that the economy can be put back on track without addressing
it, is deluded.
There has been talk about income inequality over the past several
years, but what is happening now is catastrophic...the lowest group, which had annual household incomes of $12,499 or less...unemployment rate during the fourth
quarter of last year was a staggering 30.8 percent. That’s more than five points higher than the overall jobless rate
at the height of the Depression.
The next lowest group, with incomes of $12,500 to $20,000, had
an unemployment rate of 19.1 percent.
These are the kinds of jobless rates that push families already
struggling on meager incomes into destitution. And such gruesome gaps in the condition of groups at the top and bottom of
the economic ladder are unmistakable signs of impending societal instability.
Greenspan added that, as many economists agree, the economic
recovery will have to continue for some time to absorb the slack in the labor force to lower the U.S. unemployment rate significantly.
Greenspan then agreed with co-guest former U.S.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that one key to job growth would be a longstanding characteristic of the historically adaptable,
resilient U.S. economy: innovation. That's the rate at which new businesses are formed, and existing businesses deploy new
technologies/products/services, and find ways to operate more efficiently.
The $2.8 trillion municipal bond market is likely to crash in
the same way as the markets for housing and technology, said Michael Aronstein of Marketfield Fund. Politicians have taken
advantage of the low cost of credit to pile up an unsustainable level of debt, Aronstein said. "I think we're getting quite
close," Aronstein said. "You'll see people trying to withdraw money from the municipal bond funds. The big risk comes when
you start seeing the tightening credit cycle."
As the United States and Europe deal with economic contraction resulting from excessive credit expansion that
many believe has lead to another Great Depression, China’s future remains hazy. Some argue that China has replaced the
US as the global engine of growth because of increased internal consumption, export capacity and massive reserves. And for
these reasons, China will avoid the same fate as the US and Europe.
Not everyone is convinced, however.
Trend ForecasterGerald Celente believes that the depression is globaland a contraction
across the entire planet cannot be avoided, and that includes China. EconomistHarry Dent holds a similar view, recently saying that, “China will see their bubble collapse
strongly when the U.S.-led stimulus program fails due to rising defaults and foreclosures later in 2010, at the same time
that the world is looking for China to pull it out of this global downturn.”
Michael Pettis, ofChina Financial Markets, says that the conditions in China are eerily similar to conditions
in the United States right before the 1930’s Great Depression and Japan’s depression which started in the 1990’s
and continues even today. According to Pettis, there are a multitude of reasons why China’s massive $2 trillion plus
in reserve may not save them from an economic collapse...
Twice before in history a country has, under
similar circumstances, run up foreign reserves of the same magnitude...
1. Remove all limits on the immigration of highly skilled workers, or persons of wealth. (This
should be done gradually, so as not to increase unemployment while the unemployment rate remains very high.)
2. Decriminalize most drug offenses in order to reduce the prison population, perhaps by as
much as a half, which will both economize on government expenditures and increase the number of workers. (Again and for the
same reason, phase in gradually.)
3. Curtail medical malpractice liability, which increases medical costs gratuitously (because the
courts are very poor at identifying actual malpractice) and, more important, engenders a great deal of very costly, and largely
worthless, "defensive medicine."
4. Augment the admirable efforts being made by the Obama administration to improve public education.
5. Increase investment in the treatment of mental illness, which disables people during their productive
El aumento de la deuda pública para paliar los costos
de la crisis financiera y los recortes presupuestarios que se imponen para afrontar el déficit aparecen así como dos fuerzas
Lo que los mercados y las sociedades están demandando son
los mecanismos de coordinación y regulación prometidos para prevenir nuevas crisis financieras, las reformas que permitan
sanear las finanzas públicas y los incentivos y políticas que permitan amortiguar sus efectos sociales.
La economía europea sigue sufriendo
el impacto de la crisis, especialmente en sus eslabones más débiles, como España, Grecia y Portugal.
Robert E. Litan, co-autor del libro “Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and
Prosperity”, realizado bajo los auspicios de The Kauffman Foundation, presenta un resumen de esa publicación.
Reitera que el crecimiento económico es el única forma en que los países pueden mejorar el nivel de vida de
su población. Pero recuerda que a la base de la producción nacional está el crecimiento de cada empresa, que es donde reside
el factor clave.
Litan dice que el capitalismo no es algo monolítico. Los 188 países que reconocen la propiedad privada (sólo
2 no lo hacen, Cuba y Corea del Norte) son muy diferentes entre si.
Sugiere que una forma de ordenarlos es considerando las características de sus economías según las siguientes
Capitalismo oligárquico: Los recursos y el control de la economía están concentrados en las manos de
unos pocos poderosos. Estos no maximizan el crecimiento, sino su bienestar propio, y es frecuente que sus ganancias las saquen
hacia paraísos fiscales.
Capitalismo guíado por el Estado: El Estado tiene una influencia significativa en las empresas, dirigiendo
su curso a través, por ejemplo, del control de los bancos, la protección arancelaria, subsidios, incentivos regulatorios y
Capitalismo de las grandes corporaciones: Tiene como beneficios las economías de escala, recursos para
investigación y desarrollo y capital para invertir. Aún así no invierten en nuevos productos o servicios que puedan volver
obsoletos sus actuales centros de ganancia; es decir que no práctican las innovaciones radicales.
Capitalismo de emprendedores: La economía está dominada por nuevas corporaciones que son independientes,
y por tanto no están interesadas en mantener el status quo. Abren oportunidades de innovación y nuevos mercados.
Las categorías son conceptuales. En realidad en cada país se presentan estos diferentes tipos de capitalismo simultaneamente,
pero en diferente grado, destacando una categoría más que los otras.
Litan sostiene que el capitalismo de emprendedores es el que de forma más efectiva conduce el crecimiento económico. Entre
los datos que cita menciona que entre 1980 y 2005 la cantidad neta de empleos creados en Estados Unidos correspondieron a
corporaciones con menos de cinco años de existencia.
The global banking industry
was thrown into turmoil in January when President Barack Obama proposed the most far-reaching overhaul of Wall Street since
the 1930s. The reforms, which could force the restructuring of some of the biggest
names in US finance, were seen as a response to public rage over the financial crisis. Mr Obama promised that never again
would the American taxpayer be held hostage by a bank that is “too big to fail”.
For decades —
through political upheaval and wars and wild bouts of deficits or inflation — the debt of the United States has always
been rated AAA, the gold standard of creditworthiness by which all nations are compared....
explains this oddity? Why is the world betting that the United States will overcome its political deadlock and solve its problems
— believing, it seems, in the truth of Churchill’s biting quip that America will always do the right thing, after
exhausting every other alternative? And how long can this aura of invincibility last?
a long, long time. One of the many things that makes the United States different is that it prints the world’s most
important currency and can always print more — one reason investors in government debt remain confident they will be
repaid, even if in dollars devalued by inflation or by changing exchange rates. There is also value in being the one nation
on which the world still depends for security...
Fourth quarter growth
came in stronger than expected >>> Here's how the new forecast looks:
The dark blue columns
are actual data (though subject to revision by the government), and the light blue columns are my forecast growth rates. The
red line is the average growth rate of all the post-World War II recoveries. I've posted information showing that typically,
more severe recessions result instronger economic recoveries. So any forecast underneath that red line is being very conservative.
Over the past decade, Greece took full
advantage of a strong euro and rock-bottom interest rates to fuel a debt binge by the country’s consumers and its government.
Now, if Greece can’t persuade investors to buy 53 billion euros of its government debt this year, it may have to seek
a bailout from itsEuropean Unionbrethren or theInternational Monetary Fund— or, worse,
YOU know we’re in trouble when we’re told that
the economic problems in Greece, Portugal and Spain, the most indebted countries inthe eurozone, are likely
to remain safely contained in those nations. After
all, we heard the same nonsense in 2007 from United States financial leaders talking about the subprime mortgage mess.
A record 38.2 million Americans were enrolled in the food stamp
program at latest count, up 246,000 from the previous month and the latest in record-high monthly tallies that began in December
Food stamps are the primary federal anti-hunger program, helping
poor people buy groceries...USDA estimates up to $58
billion will be spent on food stamps this fiscal year...with average enrollment of 40.5 million people...Participation has surged since the financial-market turmoil of late 2008
and has set records each month since December 2008, when it reached 31.78 million. Enrollment is highest during times of economic
Governments in the 16 countries that use the euro must now confront
a new and disturbing reality: The deal they struck more than a decade ago to create a common currency area, hoping that a
single central bank could manage to paper over the divergent economic and financial conditions of its members, is finally
being challenged. “This is the first big test for the European monetary system,”
people are paid for government employment in the military, or supported through government programs. If added to the jobless
numbers, it equals about 58 million people. Conditions,
meanwhile, continue to worsen for many. On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 480,000 additional people
filed for unemployment insurance last week. That’s 10.4 million people now on unemployment, up from
7.2 million in December 2008.
what you often hear, the large deficit the federal government is running right now isn’t the result of runaway spending
growth. Instead, well more than half of the deficit was caused by the ongoing economic crisis, which has led to a plunge in
tax receipts, required federal bailouts of financial institutions, and been met — appropriately — with temporary
measures to stimulate growth and support employment.
The point is that running big deficits in the face of the worst
economic slump since the 1930s is actually the right thing to do. If anything, deficits should be bigger than they are because
the government should be doing more than it is to create jobs.
Despite encouraging indications for the future,
the government’s monthly snapshot of the labor market revealed that last year’s collapse was considerably more
severe than previously recorded. And the report came wrapped in substantial statistical uncertainty, intensifying debate about
the staying power and vigor of the apparent recovery.
I'm giving a 70 percent probability to the
happy scenario -- that economic growth continues better than expected, unemployment subsides and inflation remains subdued
as the dollar rallies and stocks and corporate profits are stronger than expected.
Ahora que la
atención del mundo se desvía del rescate financiero hacia la reforma financiera, las discretas historias de éxito merecen
al menos la misma atención que los fracasos espectaculares. Tenemos que aprender de esos países que, evidentemente, lo han
hecho bien. Y encabezando esa lista está nuestro vecino del norte. Ahora mismo, Canadá es un modelo de conducta muy importante.
Recession has eliminated 8.4 million jobs...the most of any recession since World War II as a proportion of total payrolls.
Aside from November's gain, January's job losses were the smallest since the recession began...The report included more good
news from the manufacturing sector, which is a key factor in the recovery. Manufacturers gained 11,000 jobs, its largest increase
since April 2006. Retailers added 42,100 jobs, the most since November 2007, before the recession began. Temporary help services
gained 52,000 jobs, the fourth month of gains in that category.
Just as America’s recessionbegins
to ebb, trouble is brewing in Europe that may prolong a downturn on the Continent and ricochet through the global economy
as it struggles toward a recovery...
Like the United States, Europe has been slow to exit recession.
France and Germany — the biggest of the 16 countries that use the euro as their currency — have tried to put their
financial houses back in order quickly. But countries on the fringe, including Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland, are having
trouble paying for years of debt-driven expansion. Now the bill is coming due. In the worst case, they could default on their
debts, prolonging the economic downturn.
Rarely does financial history offer a living, breathing voice of reason in crucial times, but listening to
Paul Volcker spell out his plan for reform was such an event. Too bad for all of us, his prescription for reform will be discarded
like loan underwriting standards for a multi-family home near Las Vegas.
The former chairman of the Federal Reserve hit the committee like a ghost of banking past -- and future --
leaving the rule that bears his name on the doorstep of Capitol Hill. His plan is not a pure return to the dreaded Glass-Steagall
days, but to those in Congress who are lining up to kill the plan, it may just as well have been that and more.
Mr. Volcker's testimony was at once a brilliant articulation of the structural dangers of Wall Street as it
stands and a forceful warning. He clarified the most controversial part of the rule, the ban on proprietary trading for commercial
the Obama administration of recklessly reinflating the real estate bubble in an attempt to keep the housing market going and
prevent the collapse of financial institutions.
special inspector general
troubled asset relief program
quarterly report to congress
january 30, 2010 5
…Many of TARP’s stated goals, however, have simply not been met. Despite
the fact that the explicit goal of the Capital Purchase
Program (“CPP”) was to increase financing
to U.S. businesses and consumers, lending continues to decrease, month
after month, and the TARP program designed specifically to
address small-business lending — announced in March 2009 — has still not been implemented byTreasury. Notwithstanding the fact that preserving homeownership and promoting
jobs were explicit purposes of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (“EESA”), the statute that created TARP, nearly 16 months later, home foreclosures remain at record levels, the TARP foreclosure prevention program
permanently modified a small fraction of eligible mortgages, and unemployment
highest it has been in a generation…in the final analysis, TARP can truly only be a success if TARP is both managed well and
its positive effects are enduring. The substantial costs of TARP — in money, moral hazardeffects on the market,
and Government credibility — will have been for naught if we do nothing to correct the fundamental problems in our financial system
and end up in a similar or even greater crisis in two, or five, or ten years’ time. It is hard to see how any of the fundamental problems
in the system have been
addressed to date.
• To the extent that huge, interconnected, “too
big to fail” institutions contributed to the crisis,
those institutions are now even larger, in part because of
the substantial subsidies provided by TARP and other
• To the extent that institutions were previously incentivized to take reckless risks through a “heads, I win; tails, the Government will bail me out” mentality, the market is more convinced than ever that the Government will step in as necessary
to save systemically significant institutions…
• To the extent that large institutions’ risky behavior resulted from the desire to justify ever-greater bonuses — and indeed, the race appears to be on for TARP recipients to exit the program in order to avoid its pay restrictions — the current bonus season
demonstrates that although there have been some improvements in the form that bonus compensation takes for some executives, there
has been little
fundamental change in the excessive compensation culture on Wall Street.
• To the extent that the crisis was fueled by a “bubble” in the housing market, the Federal Government’s concerted efforts to support home prices...risk re-inflating
that bubble in light of
the Government’s effective takeover of the housing market through
guarantees, either direct or implicit, of nearly all of the residential mortgage market.
Stated another way, even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008,
absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same
mountain road, but this time in a faster car…
a move that follows intensifying concern among investors over the US deficit, Moody’s said the country faced a trajectory
of debt growth that was“clearly continuously upward”...“Unless
further measures are taken to reduce the budget deficit further or the economy rebounds more vigorously than expected, the
federal financial picture as presented in the projections for the next decade will at some point put pressure on the triple
A government bond rating,” the rating agency added...
projections of the overall debt-to-GDP ratio for the US are seen rising from 53 per cent in 2009 to 73 per cent in 2015 and
77 per cent by 2020. Moody’s, however, says
this understates the overall US debt level. “Using
the general government measure, including state and local governments as well as the federal government, which is used internationally,
this ratio would be well over 100 per cent in 2020.”
Neil Barofsky, the special inspector
general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, issued a report to Congress that said the rescue plan has not addressed the
underlying causes of the financial meltdown, and as such, the U.S. could face an even bigger crisis in the future. "Even if
TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the
same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car," Barofsky writes. Herenewed a call for Treasury to enact clearer walls so that such apparent conflicts of
interest are less likely.
GDP may not be the best way of gauging an economy's health, Judith
D. Schwartz writes in a Time analysis. GDP rose 5.7% in the fourth quarter, even as unemployment hung at record-high levels
and foreclosures continued at a steady clip. "I don't think there's ever been such a large disconnect between the GDP and
what ordinary people are experiencing," said Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media.
Despite a slowly improving economic picture, latest
projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that serious fiscal challenges remain that will, within 10 years,
compromise the ability of the federal government to address important public needs. With a growing share of the overall budget
devoted to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, net interest, and national defense, fewer and fewer resources will be left
for other federal programs such as education, research and development, and investments in physical infrastructure that could
strengthen our future economy.
The structural imbalances within the budget –
largely stemming from rising health care costs as well as growing number of beneficiaries for the largest federal entitlement
programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) together with a lack of appetite for tax increases—remain unchanged,
even after the economy recovers.
Another huge bailout is starting, this time for
the Social Security system.
A report from the Congressional Budget Office shows
that for the first time in 25 years, Social Security is taking in less in taxes than it is spending on benefits.
Instead of helping to finance the rest of the government,
as it has done for decades, our nation's biggest social program needs help from the Treasury to keep benefit checks from bouncing
-- in other words, a taxpayer bailout...
Security currently provides more than half the income for a majority of retirees. Given the declines in stock prices and home
values that have whacked millions of people, the program seems likely to become more important in the future as a source of
retirement income, rather than less important.
China’s currency reserves grew by more than the gross domestic
product of Norway in 2009. Its $2.4 trillion of reserves is a bubble all its own, one growing before our eyes with nary a
peep out of those searching for the next big one.
The reserve bubble is actually an Asia-wide phenomenon. And we
should stop viewing this monetary arms race as a source of strength. Here are three reasons why it’s fast becoming a
bigger liability than policy makers say publicly...
One, it’s a massive and growing pyramid scheme... Two, reserves
are dead money...Three, reserves add to overheating risks.
China should let the yuan strengthen before raising interest
rates, to avoid fueling inflows of capital that may stoke inflation, government economist Zuo Chuanchang said.
“Raising interest rates while keeping the yuan’s exchange-
rate fixed would only attract more capital,” Zuo, of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research, said in a Feb. 2 interview
in Beijing. Separately, state researcher Zhang Ming wrote in the China Securities Journal today that appreciation may resume
as early as March.
Chinese officials aim to limit price surges that could undermine
the recovery of the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The People’s Bank of China said last week that accelerating
inflation will complicate policies in 2010 and central bank adviser Fan Gang said Feb. 1 that asset bubbles are “the
.Unless miraculous growth,
or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new
domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors. Beyond that lies the possibility that the United States could begin
to suffer the same disease that has afflicted Japan over the past decade. As debt grew more rapidly than income, that country’s
influence around the world eroded.
Obama's new budget blueprint preaches the need to make tough choices to
restrain run-away deficits, but not before attacking what the administration sees as the more immediate challenge of lifting
the country out of a deep recession that has cost 7.2 million jobs over the past two years.
The result is a budget plan that would give the country trillion-dollar-plus
deficits for three consecutive years. Obama's new budget projects a spending increase of 5.7 percent for the current budget
year and forecasts that spending would rise another 3 percent in 2011 to $3.83 trillion.
By Paul Craig Roberts, exAssistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s
first term, exAssociate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, exSenior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University,
awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand.
ask if the financial crisis is over, if the recovery is for real and, if not, what are Americans’ prospects. The short
answer is that the financial crisis is not over, the recovery is not real, and the U.S.faces
a far worse crisis than the financial one.
Here is the situation as I understand it: The global
crisis is understood as a banking crisis brought on by the mindless deregulation of the U.S. financial arena. Investment banks
leveraged assets to highly irresponsible levels, issued questionable financial instruments with fraudulent investment grade
ratings, and issued the instruments through direct sales to customers rather than through markets.
The crisis was initiated when the U.S. allowedLehman Brothers to fail, thus threatening money market funds everywhere. The crisis was used
by the investment banks, which controlled U.S. economic policy, to secure massive subsidies to their profits from a taxpayer
bailout and from the Federal Reserve. How much of the crisis was real and how much was hype is not known at this time.
As most of the derivative instruments had never
been priced in the market, and as their exact composition between good and bad loans was unknown (the instruments are based
onpackages of securitized loans), the mark-to-market rule drove the values very low, thus threatening
the solvency of many financial institutions. Also, the rule prohibiting continuous shorting had been removed, making it possible
for hedge funds and speculators to destroy the market capitalization of targeted firms by driving down their share prices.
The obvious solution was to suspend the mark-to-market
rule until some better idea of the values of the derivative instruments could be established and to prevent the abuse of shorting
that was destroying market capitalization. Instead, the Goldman Sachs people in charge of the U.S. Treasury and, perhaps,
the Federal Reserve as well, used the crisis to secure subsidies for the banks from U.S. taxpayers and from the Federal Reserve.
It looks like a manipulated crisis as well as a real one due to greed unleashed by financial deregulation.
The crisis will not be over until financial
regulation is restored, butWall Streethas been able
to block re-regulation. Moreover, the response to the crisis has planted seeds for new crises. Government budget deficits
have exploded. In the U.S., the fiscal year 2009 federal budget deficit was $1.4 trillion, three times higher than the 2008
deficit. President Obama’s budget deficits for 2010 and 2011, according to the latest report, will total $2.9 trillion,
and this estimate is based on the assumption that the Great Recession is over. Where is the U.S. Treasury to borrow $4.3 trillion
in three years?
This sum greatly exceeds the combined trade surpluses
of America’s trading partners, the recycling of which has financed past U.S. budget deficits, and perhaps exceeds total
It is unclear how the 2009 budget deficit was financed.
A likely source was the bank reserves created for financial institutions by the Federal Reserve when it purchased their toxic
financial instruments. These reserves were then used to purchase the new Treasury debt. In other words, the budget deficit
was financed by deterioration in the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve. How long can such an exchange of assets continue
before the Federal Reserve has to finance the government’s deficit by creating new money?
Similar deficits and financing problems have affected
the EU, particularly its financially weaker members. To conclude, the initial crisis has planted seeds for two new crises:
rising government debt and inflation.
A third crisis is also in place. This crisis will
occur when confidence is lost in the U.S. dollar as world reserve currency. This crisis will disrupt the international payments
mechanism. It will be especially difficult for the U.S. as the country will lose the ability to pay for its imports with its
own currency. U.S. living standards will decline as the ability to import declines.
The financial crisis is essentially a U.S.
crisis, spread abroad by the sale of toxic financial instruments. The rest of the world got into trouble by trusting Wall
Street. The real American crisis is much worse than the financial crisis. The real American crisis is theoffshoringof U.S. manufacturing,
industrial, and professional service jobs, such as software engineering and information technology.
Jobs offshoring was initiated by Wall Street pressures
on corporations for higher earnings and by performance-related bonuses becoming the main form of managerial compensation.
Corporate executives increased profits and obtained bonuses by substituting cheaper foreign labor for U.S. labor in the production
of goods and services marketed in the U.S.
Jobs offshoring is destroying the ladders
of upward mobility that made the U.S. an opportunity society and is eroding the value of a university education. For the first
decade of the 21st century, the U.S. economy has been able to create net new jobs only indomestic nontradable services, such as waitresses, bartenders, sales, health and social assistance
and, prior to the real estate collapse, construction. These jobs are lower paid than the jobs were that have been offshored,
and these jobs do not produce goods and services for export.
Jobs offshoring has increased the U.S. trade deficit,
putting more pressure on the dollar’s role as reserve currency. When offshored goods and services return to the U.S.,
they add to imports, thus worsening the trade imbalance.
The policy of jobs offshoring is insane.
It is shifting U.S. GDP growth to the offshored locations, such asChina, thus halting growth in U.S. consumer incomes. For the past decade,
U.S. households substituted an increase in indebtedness for the lack of growth in income in order to continue increasing their
consumption. With their home equity refinanced and spent, real estate values down, and credit card debt at unsustainable levels,
it is no longer possible for the U.S. economy to base its growth on a rise in consumer debt. This fact is a brake on U.S.
Stimulus packages cannot substitute for the growth
in real income. As so many high value-added, high productivity U.S. jobs have been offshored, there is no way to achieve real
growth in U.S. personal incomes. Stimulus spending simply adds to government debt and pressure on the dollar, and sows seeds
for high inflation.
The U.S. dollar survives as reserve currency
because there is no apparent substitute. The euro has its own problems. Moreover, theeurois the currency
of a non-existent political entity. National sovereignty continues despite the existence of a common currency on the continent
(but not in Great Britain). If the dollar is abandoned, then the result is likely to be bilateral settlements in countries’
own currencies, as Brazil and China now are doing. Alternatively, John Maynard Keynes’bancor schemecould be implemented,
as it does not require a reserve currency country. Keynes’ plan is designed to maintain a country’s trade balance.
Only a reserve currency country can get its trade and budget deficits so out of balance as the U.S. has done. The prospect
of U.S. default and/or inflation and decline in the dollar’s exchange value is a threat to the reserve system.
The threats to the U.S. economy are extreme. Yet,
neither the Obama administration, the Republican opposition, economists, Wall Street, nor the media show any awareness. Instead,
the public is provided with spin about recovery and with higher spending on pointless wars that are hastening America’s
economic and financial ruin.
...ignite Great Depression II
...wipe out your retirement
VIDEO >>>WSJ's Jerry Seib: The federal
deficit has become so large, it's
it a natural-security threat
1.Federal Budget Deficit Bomb.The Bush/Cheney wars pushed America deep into a debt hole. Federal debt limit was
just raised almost 100% with Obama's 2010 budget, to $14.3 trillion vs. $7.8 trillion in 2005. The Congressional Budget Office
predicts future deficits around 4% through 2020. Get it? America's debt at 84% of GDP will soon pass that toxic 90% trigger
2.U.S. Foreign Trade Bomb.Monthly deficits actually dropped from $50 billion per month to roughly $35 billion.
But the total continues climbing as $400 billion is added each year. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America, with China
holding over $1.3 trillion in Treasury debt.
3.Weakening U.S. Dollar as
Foreign Reserve Currency Bomb.Fear China and other currencies will
replace dollar as main foreign reserves. The dollar's fallen: The main index measuring dollar strength has gone from 120 at
the Clinton-to-Bush handoff to below 80 today.
4.Cheap Money Bomb:
Credit Ratings Down, Rates Up.Economists at S&P, Fitch and Moody's were
totally co-conspirators of Fat Cat Bankers, misleading investors before meltdown: Soon, debt up, ratings down, interest rates
5.Global Real Estate Bomb.Dubai Tower, new "world's tallest building" is empty. BusinessWeek warns that China's
housing collapse could be worse than America's. Plus the U.S. commercial real estate bubble is now $1.7 trillion, a "ticking
time bomb" bloating 25% of bank balance sheets.
6.Peak Oil and the Population
Bomb.China and India each need 500 new cities. The United Nations
estimates world population exploding 50% from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050: Three billion more humans demanding more automobiles,
exhausting more resources to feed their version of the gas-guzzling "America Dream."
7.Social Security Bomb.We have no choice; eventually we must either cut benefits or raise taxes. Politicians
hate both, so they'll do nothing. Delays worsen solutions. Without action, by 2035 Social Security and Medicare benefits will
eat up the entire federal budget other than defense.
Nuclear Bomb.Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription
drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. In 5 years estimates rose from about $35 trillion to over $60 trillion now.
9.Health-care Insurance Bomb.Burden increasingly shifted to employees. Costs rising faster than inflation. Recent
Obamacare plan would have cost $90 billion annually, paid to Big Pharma and insurers.
10.State and Local Government
Budget Bombs.Deficits of $110 billion in 2010, $178 billion in
2011on top of more that $450 billion in underfunded state and municipal employee pension funds.
11.Underfunded Corporate Pensions
Bomb.From $60 billion surplus in 2007 to $409 billion deficit in
2009. And a whopping 92% of the pension plans of companies are now underfunded. Defaults are guaranteed by taxpayers.
12.Consumer Debt Bomb.Americans are still living beyond their means. Even with a downturn, consumer debt
rose from about $2.3 to $2.5 trillion. Fat Cat Bankers love it -- yes love making matters worse by gouging cardholders and
mortgagees, blocking help in foreclosures and bankruptcies.
13.Personal Savings Bomb.Before the 2008 meltdown savings rate dropped from about 10% in the early 1980s to
below zero. Now it's increasing, slowing retail recovery. Today, government's the big "unsaver."
14.War and Military Defense
Deficits.Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- $200+ billion annually,
$3 trillion minimum, with massive long-term costs for veteran medical care, equipment renewal, recruitment.
15.Homeland Insecurity Bomb.Security at airports, seaports, borders, vulnerable chemical plants all increase
16.Fed/Treasury Bailout Bombs.Tax credits, loans, cash and purchase of toxic assets from Wall Street banks estimated
at $23.7 trillion as new debt was shifted from too-big-to-fail Fat-Cat banks to taxpayers.
17.Insatiable Washington Lobbyists
Bombs.Paulson, Goldman, Geithner, Morgan and Wall Street banks,
through their lobbyists and former employees working inside now have absolute power over government spending. Democracy and
voters are now irrelevant in America's new corporate-socialism.
18.Shadow Banking: The Derivatives
Bomb.Wall Street wants no regulation of this $670 trillion, high-risk,
out-of-control casino that's highly leveraged versus the $50 trillion total GDP of all nations. We forget that derivatives
almost destroyed global economies in 2008-09, finally will by 2012.
Political Bomb.Polarized partisanship increasing: Every day both
parties show zero interest in cooperating for the public good. Instead they fight viciously, resisting everything and anything
proposed by opponents. Only goal: Score political points, make the other side look bad.
20.The Coming Populous Rebellion
Bombs.Nobody trusts anyone in authority. For good reason. So immediate
gratification, short-term betting and a lack of long-term perspective wins for individual investors, consumers and taxpayers
as well as Washington, Wall Street and Corporate America CEOs. Today: "Doing what's right for the common good and country"
is just empty political rhetoric.
"Wendy (Paulson's wife) had just returned from church. I told her about Lehman's unavoidable bankruptcy and
the looming problems with AIG. "What if the system
collapses?" I asked her. "Everybody is looking to me, and I don't have the answer. I am really scared." I asked her to pray for me, and for the country, and to help me cope
with this sudden onslaught of fear. She immediately quoted from the Second Book of Timothy, verse 1:7—"For God hath
not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."- Former
USTreasury SecretaryHenry M. Paulson Jr.
of Obama's budget proposals are sound policy, but congressional gridlock and
faster economic reforms in China and Europe could jeopardize U.S.
competitiveness, says Economist.com editor Ryan Avent. Read more
The Federal Reserve plans to stop buying securities issued by government
housing loan agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by the end of the first quarter. This is not only likely to push up mortgage
rates; Treasury rates should rise as well. Throughout 2009, the private sector sold a portion of their agency holdings to
the Fed and used those funds to buy Treasurys. Once the Fed’s agency purchases stop, this private sector portfolio shift
will end, removing a major source of demand in the Treasury market. As the chart shows, since the start of 2009 the Fed has
bought or financed the entire increase in Treasury issuance. As Fed purchases slow and Treasury issuance continues at a high
level, interest rates will have to move up to attract new buyers.
Whenever you find you
are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect
--- Mark Twain
We have never observed
a great civilization with a population as old as the United States will have in the twenty-first century; we have never observed
a great civilization that is as secular as we are apparently going to become; and we have had only half a century of experience
with advanced welfare states...Charles Murray
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