html> Financial Skeptic Bulletin, 2015

Softpanorama

Home Switchboard Unix Administration Red Hat TCP/IP Networks Neoliberalism Toxic Managers
May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better

Financial Skeptic Bulletin, 2015

Prev | Contents | Next

2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008

In top top news we present selected items which demonstrated superior level of their insight (and, unfortunately, to judge that is possible only in retrospect). In 2013 for Jan-May those would be people who understood that bond bubble is about to unwind (can be counted on one hand :-( ).


Top Visited
Switchboard
Latest
Past week
Past month

NEWS CONTENTS

Old News ;-)

[Dec 19, 2017] Do not Underestimate the Power of Microfoundations

Highly recommended!
Nice illustration of ideologically based ostrakism as practiced in Academia: "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."
Notable quotes:
"... A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned. ..."
"... The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for ..."
"... Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR. With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities. ..."
"... To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell. ..."
"... Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys. ..."
"... "Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders." ..."
Apr 04, 2015 | Economist's View

Darryl FKA Ron -> pgl...

At the risk of oversimplifying might it not be as simple as stronger leanings towards IS-LM and kind are indicative of a bias towards full employment and stronger leanings towards DSGE, microfoundations, and kind are indicative of a bias towards low inflation?

IN general I consider over-simplification a fault, if and only if, it is a rigidly adhered to final position. This is to say that over-simplification is always a good starting point and never a good ending point. If in the end your problem was simple to begin with, then the simplified answer would not be OVER-simplified anyway. It is just as bad to over-complicate a simple problem as it is to over-simplify a complex problem. It is easier to build complexity on top of a simple foundation than it is to extract simplicity from a complex foundation.

A lot of the Chicago School initiative into microfoundations and DSGE may have been motivated by a desire to bind Keynes in a NAIRU straight-jacket. Even though economic policy making is largely done just one step at a time then that is still one step too much if it might violate rentier interests.

Darryl FKA Ron -> Barry...

There are two possible (but unlikely) schools of (generously attributed to as) thought for which internal consistency might take precedence over external consistency. One such school wants to consider what would be best in a perfect world full of perfect people and then just assume that is best for the real world just to let the chips fall where they may according to the faults and imperfections of the real world. The second such school is the one whose eyes just glaze over mesmerized by how over their heads they are and remain affraid to ask any question lest they appear stupid.

A more probable school of thought is that this game was created as a con and a cover for the status quo capitalist establishment to indulge themselves in their hard money and liquidity fetishes, consequences be damned.

Richard H. Serlin

Consistency sounds so good, Oh, of course we want consistency, who wouldn't?! But consistent in what way? What exactly do you mean? Consistent with reality, or consistent with people all being superhumans? Which concept is usually more useful, or more useful for the task at hand?

Essentially, they want models that are consistent with only certain things, and often because this makes their preferred ideology look far better. They want models, typically, that are consistent with everyone in the world having perfect expertise in every subject there is, from finance to medicine to engineering, perfect public information, and perfect self-discipline, and usually on top, frictionless and perfectly complete markets, often perfectly competitive too.

But a big thing to note is that perfectly consistent people means a level of perfection in expertise, public information, self-discipline, and "rationality", that's extremely at odds with how people actually are. And as a result, this can make the model extremely misleading if it's interpreted very literally (as so often it is, especially by freshwater economists), or taken as The Truth, as Paul Krugman puts it.

You get things like the equity premium "puzzle", which involves why people don't invest more in stocks when the risk-adjusted return appears to usually be so abnormally good, and this "puzzle" can only be answered with "consistency", that people are all perfectly expert in finance, with perfect information, so they must have some mysterious hidden good reason. It can't be at all that it's because 65% of people answered incorrectly when asked how many reindeer would remain if Santa had to lay off 25% of his eight reindeer ( http://richardhserlin.blogspot.com/2013/12/surveys-showing-massive-ignorance-and.html ).

Yes, these perfect optimizer consistency models can give useful insights, and help to see what is best, what we can do better, and they can, in some cases, be good as approximations. But to say they should be used only, and interpreted literally, is, well, inconsistent with optimal, rational behavior -- of the economist using them.

Richard H. Serlin -> Richard H. Serlin...
Of course, unless the economist using them is doing so to mislead people into supporting his libertarian/plutocratic ideology.

dilbert dogbert

As an old broken down mech engineer, I wonder why all the pissing and moaning about micro foundations vs aggregation. In strength of materials equations that aggregate properties work quite well within the boundaries of the questions to be answered. We all know that at the level of crystals, materials have much complexity. Even within crystals there is deeper complexities down to the molecular levels. However, the addition of quantum mechanics adds no usable information about what materials to build a bridge with.

But, when working at the scale of the most advanced computer chips quantum mechanics is required. WTF! I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories.

Poor economists, doomed to argue, forever, over how many micro foundations can dance on the head of a pin.

RGC -> dilbert dogbert...

Endless discussions about how quantum effects aggregate to produce a material suitable for bridge building crowd out discussions about where and when to build bridges. And if plutocrats fund the endless discussions, we get the prominent economists we have today.

Darryl FKA Ron -> dilbert dogbert...

"...I guess in economics there is no quantum mechanics theories or even reliable aggregation theories..."

[I guess it depends upon what your acceptable confidence interval on reliability is. Most important difference that controls all the domain differences between physical science and economics is that underlying physical sciences there is a deterministic methodology for which probable error is merely a function of the inaccuracy in input metrics WHEREAS economics models are incomplete probabilistic estimating models with no ability to provide a complete system model in a full range of circumstances.

YOu can design and build a bridge to your load and span requirements with alternative models for various designs with confidence and highly effective accuracy repeatedly. No ecomomic theory, model, or combination of models and theories was ever intended to be used as the blueprint for building an economy from the foundation up.

With all the formal trappings of economics the only effective usage is to decide what should be done in a given set of predetermined circumstance to reach some modest desired effect. Even that modest goal is exposed to all kinds of risks inherent in assumptions, incomplete information, externalities, and so on that can produce errors of uncertain potential bounds.

Nonetheless, well done economics can greatly reduce the risks encountered in the random walk of economics policy making. So much so is this true, that the bigger questions in macro-economics policy making is what one is willing to risk and for whom.

The arguments over internal and external consistency of models is just a convenient misdirection from what policy makers are willing to risk and whose interests they are willing to risk policy decisions for.]

Darryl FKA Ron -> Peter K....

unless you have a model which maps the real world fairly closely like quantum mechanics.

[You set a bar too high. Macro models at best will tell you what to do to move the economy in the direction that you seek to go. They do not even ocme close to the notion of a theory of everything that you have in physics, even the theory of every little thing that is provided by quantum mechanics. Physics is an empty metaphor for economics. Step one is to forgo physics envy in pursuit of understanding suitable applications and domain constraints for economics models.

THe point is to reach a decision and to understand cause and effect directions. All precision is in the past and present. The future is both imprecise and all that there is that is available to change.

For the most part an ounce of common sense and some simple narrative models are all that are essential for making those policy decisions in and of themselves. HOWEVER, nation states are not ruled by economist philosopher kings and in the process of concensus decision making by (little r)republican governments then human language is a very imprecise vehicle for communicating logic and reason with respect to the management of complex systems. OTOH, mathematics has given us a universal language for communicating logic and reason that is understood the same by everyone that really understands that language at all. Hence mathematical models were born for the economists to write down their own thinking in clear precise terms and check their own work first and then share it with others so equipped to understand the language of mathematics. Krugman has said as much many times and so has any and every economist worth their salt.]

likbez -> Syaloch...

I agree with Pgl and PeterK. Certain commenters like Darryl seem convinced that the Chicago School (if not all of econ) is driven by sinister, class-based motives to come up justifications for favoring the power elite over the masses. But based on what I've read, it seems pretty obvious that the microfoundation guys just got caught up in their fancy math and their desire to produce more elegant, internally consistent models and lost sight of the fact that their models didn't track reality.

That's completely wrong line of thinking, IMHO.

Mathematical masturbations are just a smoke screen used to conceal a simple fact that those "economists" are simply banking oligarchy stooges. Hired for the specific purpose to provide a theoretical foundation for revanschism of financial oligarchy after New Deal run into problems. Revanschism that occurred in a form of installing neoliberal ideology in the USA in exactly the same role which Marxism was installed in the USSR.
With "iron hand in velvet gloves" type of repressive apparatus to enforce it on each and every university student and thus to ensure the continues, recurrent brainwashing much like with Marxism on the USSR universities.

To ensure continuation of power of "nomenklatura" in the first case and banking oligarchy in the second. Connections with reality be damned. Money does not smell.

Economic departments fifth column of neoliberal stooges is paid very good money for their service of promoting and sustaining this edifice of neoliberal propaganda. Just look at Greg Mankiw and Rubin's boys.

But the key problem with neoliberalism is that the cure is worse then disease. And here mathematical masturbations are very handy as a smoke screen to hide this simple fact.

likbez -> likbez...

Here is how Rubin's neoliberal boy Larry explained the situation to Elizabeth Warren:

"Larry [Summers] leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice. I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People - powerful people - listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: they don't criticize other insiders."

Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance

Syaloch -> likbez...

Yeah, case in point.

[Dec 03, 2017] How Complex Systems Fail

Notable quotes:
"... complex systems are prone to catastrophic failure, how that possibility is held at bay through a combination of redundancies and ongoing vigilance, but how, due to the impractical cost of keeping all possible points of failure fully (and even identifying them all) protected, complex systems "always run in degraded mode". Think of the human body. No one is in perfect health. At a minimum, people are growing cancers all the time, virtually all of which recede for reasons not well understood. ..."
"... every major investment leads to further investments (no matter how dumb or large) to protect the value of past investments. ..."
"... Tainter argues that the energy cost (defined broadly) of maintaining the dysfunction eventually overwhelms the ability of the system to generate surpluses to meet the rising needs of maintenance. ..."
"... a combination of shrinking revenue base and the subordination of all systemic needs to the needs of individual emperors to stay in power and therefore stay alive. ..."
"... In each case, some elite individual or grouping sees throwing good money after bad as necessary to keeping their power and their positions. Our current sclerotic system seems to fit this description nicely. ..."
"... One point that Tainter made is that collapse is not all bad. He presents evidence that the average well being of people in Italy was probably higher in the sixth century than in the fifth century as the Western Roman Empire died. Somewhat like death being necessary for biological evolution collapse may be the only solution to the problem of excessive complexity. ..."
"... Good-For-Me-Who-Effing-Cares-If-It's-Bad-For-You-And-Everyone-Else ..."
"... The Iron Law of Institutions (agents act in ways that benefit themselves in the context of the institution [system], regardless of the effect those actions have on the larger system) would seem to mitigate against any attempts to correct our many, quickly failing complex social and technological systems. ..."
"... It is that cumulative concentration of wealth and power over time which is ultimately destabilizing, producing accepted social norms and customs that lead to fragility in the face of both expected and unexpected shocks. This fragility comes from all sorts of specific consequences of that inequality, from secrecy to group think to brain drain to two-tiered justice to ignoring incompetence and negligence to protecting incumbents necessary to maintain such an unnatural order. ..."
"... The problem arises with any societal order over time in that corrosive elements in the form of corruptive behavior (not principle based) by decision makers are institutionalized. I may not like Trump as a person but the fact that he seems to unravel and shake the present arrangement and serves as an indicator that the people begin to realize what game is being played, makes me like him in that specific function. ..."
"... However, the failure was made immeasurably worse due to the fact that Exxon had failed to supply that pump-station with a safety manual, so when the alarms started going off the guy in the station had to call around to a bunch of people to figure out what was going on. So while it's possible that the failure would have occurred no matter what, the failure of the management to implement even the most basic of safety procedures made the failure much worse than it otherwise would have been. ..."
"... . . .but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary , as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety. ..."
"... In Claus Jensen's fascinating account of the Challenger disaster, NO DOWNLINK, he describes how the managers overrode the engineers' warnings not to fly under existing weather conditions. We all know the result. ..."
"... Globalization factors in maximizing the impact of Murphy's Law: ..."
"... Where one can only say: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do" ..."
"... Subsumption architecture ..."
"... The inverted pendulum ..."
"... Emergent behavior of swarms ..."
"... negative selection ..."
Aug 21, 2015 | naked capitalism

Lambert found a short article by Richard Cook that I've embedded at the end of the post. I strongly urge you to read it in full. It discusses how complex systems are prone to catastrophic failure, how that possibility is held at bay through a combination of redundancies and ongoing vigilance, but how, due to the impractical cost of keeping all possible points of failure fully (and even identifying them all) protected, complex systems "always run in degraded mode". Think of the human body. No one is in perfect health. At a minimum, people are growing cancers all the time, virtually all of which recede for reasons not well understood.

The article contends that failures therefore are not the result of single causes. As Clive points out:

This is really a profound observation – things rarely fail in an out-the-blue, unimaginable, catastrophic way. Very often just such as in the MIT article the fault or faults in the system are tolerated. But if they get incrementally worse, then the ad-hoc fixes become the risk (i.e. the real risk isn't the original fault condition, but the application of the fixes). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windscale_fire#Wigner_energy documents how a problem of core instability was a snag, but the disaster was caused by what was done to try to fix it. The plant operators kept applying the fix in ever more extreme does until the bloody thing blew up.

But I wonder about the validity of one of the hidden assumptions of this article. There is a lack of agency in terms of who is responsible for the care and feeding of complex systems (the article eventually identifies "practitioners" but even then, that's comfortably vague). The assumption is that the parties who have influence and responsibility want to preserve the system, and have incentives to do at least an adequate job of that.

There are reasons to doubt that now. Economics has promoted ways of looking at commercial entities that encourage "practitioners" to compromise on safety measures. Mainstream economics has as a core belief that economies have a propensity to equilibrium, and that equilibrium is at full employment. That assumption has served as a wide-spread justification for encouraging businesses and governments to curtail or end pro-stability measures like regulation as unnecessary costs.

To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize activity for efficiency. But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Highly efficient systems also are more likely to suffer from what Richard Bookstaber called "tight coupling." A tightly coupled system in one in which events occur in a sequence that cannot be interrupted. A way to re-characterize a tightly coupled system is a complex system that has been in part re-optimized for efficiency, maybe by accident, maybe at a local level. That strips out some of the redundancies that serve as safeties to prevent positive feedback loops from having things spin out of control.

To use Bookstaber's nomenclature, as opposed to this paper's, in a tightly coupled system, measures to reduce risk directly make things worse. You need to reduce the tight coupling first.

A second way that the economic thinking has arguably increased the propensity of complex systems of all sorts to fail is by encouraging people to see themselves as atomized agents operating in markets. And that's not just an ideology; it's reflected in low attachment to institutions of all sorts, ranging from local communities to employers (yes, employers may insist on all sorts of extreme shows of fealty, but they are ready to throw anyone in the dust bin at a moment's notice). The reality of weak institutional attachments and the societal inculcation of selfish viewpoints means that more and more people regard complex systems as vehicles for personal advancement. And if they see those relationships as short-term or unstable, they don't have much reason to invest in helping to preserving the soundness of that entity. Hence the attitude called "IBY/YBG" ("I'll Be Gone, You'll Be Gone") appears to be becoming more widespread.

I've left comments open because I'd very much enjoy getting reader reactions to this article. Thanks!

James Levy August 21, 2015 at 6:35 am

So many ideas . Mike Davis argues that in the case of Los Angeles, the key to understanding the city's dysfunction is in the idea of sunk capital – every major investment leads to further investments (no matter how dumb or large) to protect the value of past investments.

Tainter argues that the energy cost (defined broadly) of maintaining the dysfunction eventually overwhelms the ability of the system to generate surpluses to meet the rising needs of maintenance.

Goldsworthy has argued powerfully and persuasively that the Roman Empire in the West was done in by a combination of shrinking revenue base and the subordination of all systemic needs to the needs of individual emperors to stay in power and therefore stay alive. Their answer was endlessly subdividing power and authority below them and using massive bribes to the bureaucrats and the military to try to keep them loyal.

In each case, some elite individual or grouping sees throwing good money after bad as necessary to keeping their power and their positions. Our current sclerotic system seems to fit this description nicely.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 8:15 am

I immediately thought of Tainter's "The Complex of Complex Cultures" when I starting reading this. One point that Tainter made is that collapse is not all bad. He presents evidence that the average well being of people in Italy was probably higher in the sixth century than in the fifth century as the Western Roman Empire died. Somewhat like death being necessary for biological evolution collapse may be the only solution to the problem of excessive complexity.

xxx August 22, 2015 at 4:39 am

Tainter insists culture has nothing to do with collapse, and therefore refuses to consider it, but he then acknowledges that the elites in some societies were able to pull them out of a collapse trajectory. And from the inside, it sure as hell looks like culture, as in a big decay in what is considered to be acceptable conduct by our leaders, and what interests they should be serving (historically, at least the appearance of the greater good, now unabashedly their own ends) sure looks to be playing a big, and arguably the defining role, in the rapid rise of open corruption and related social and political dysfunction.

Praedor August 21, 2015 at 9:19 am

That also sounds like the EU and even Greece's extreme actions to stay in the EU.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 7:44 am

Then I'll add my two cents: you've left out that when systems scale linearly, the amount of complexity, and points for failure, and therefore instability, that they contain scale exponentially–that is according to the analysis of James Rickards, and supported by the work of people like Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond.

Ever complex problem that arises in a complex system is fixed with an even more complex "solution" which requires ever more energy to maintain, and eventually the inevitably growing complexity of the system causes the complex system to collapse in on itself. This process requires no malignant agency by humans, only time.

nowhere August 21, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Sounds a lot like JMG and catabolic collapse.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Well, he got his stuff from somewhere too.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:26 pm

There are no linear systems. They are all non-linear because the include a random, non-linear element – people.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Long before there were people the Earth's eco-system was highly complex and highly unstable.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm

The presumption that fixes increase complexity may be incorrect.

Fixes should include awareness of complexity.

That was the beauty of Freedom Club by Kaczinsky, T.

JTMcPhee August 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Maybe call the larger entity "meta-stable?" Astro and geo inputs seem to have been big perturbers. Lots of genera were around a very long time before naked apes set off on their romp. But then folks, even these hot, increasingly dry days, brag on their ability to anticipate, and profit from, and even cause, with enough leverage, de- stability. Good thing the macrocosms of our frail, violent, kindly, destructive bodies are blessed with the mechanisms of homeostasis.

Too bad our "higher" functions are not similarly gifted But that's what we get to chat about, here and in similar meta-spaces

MikeW August 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

Agree, positive density of ideas, thoughts and implications.

I wonder if the reason that humans don't appreciate the failure of complex systems is that (a) complex systems are constantly trying to correct, or cure as in your cancer example, themselves all the time until they can't at which point they collapse, (b) that things, like cancer leading to death, are not commonly viewed as a complex system failure when in fact that is what it is. Thus, while on a certain scale we do experience complex system failure on one level on a daily basis because we don't interpret it as such, and given that we are hardwired for pattern recognition, we don't address complex systems in the right ways.

This, to my mind, has to be extended to the environment and the likely disaster we are currently trying to instigate. While the system is collapsing at one level, massive species extinctions, while we have experienced record temperatures, while the experts keep warning us, etc., most people to date have experienced climate change as an inconvenience - not the early stages of systemwide failure.

Civilization collapses have been regular, albeit spaced out, occurrences. We seem to think we are immune to them happening again. Yet, it isn't hard to list the near catastrophic system failures that have occurred or are currently occurring (famines, financial markets, genocides, etc.).

And, in most systems that relate to humans with an emphasis on short term gain how does one address system failures?

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 9:21 am

Good-For-Me-Who-Effing-Cares-If-It's-Bad-For-You-And-Everyone-Else

would be a GREAT category heading though it's perhaps a little close to "Imperial Collapse"

Whine Country August 21, 2015 at 9:52 am

To paraphrase President Bill Clinton, who I would argue was one of the major inputs that caused the catastrophic failure of our banking system (through the repeal of Glass-Steagall), it all depends on what the definition of WE is.

jrs August 21, 2015 at 10:12 pm

And all that just a 21st century version of "apres moi le deluge", which sounds very likely to be the case.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

JT – just go to the Archdruid site. They link it regularly, I suppose for this purpose.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 8:42 am

Civilizational collapse is extremely common in history when one takes a long term view. I'm not sure though that I would describe it as having that much "regularity" and while internal factors are no doubt often important external factors like the Mongol Onslaught are also important. It's usually very hard to know exactly what happened since historical documentation tends to disappear in periods of collapse. In the case of Mycenae the archaeological evidence indicates a near total population decline of 99% in less than a hundred years together with an enormous cultural decline but we don't know what caused it.

As for long term considerations the further one tries to project into the future the more uncertain such projections become so that long term planning far into the future is not likely to be evolutionarily stable. Because much more information is available about present conditions than future conditions organisms are probably selected much more to optimize for the short term rather than for the largely unpredicatble long term.

Gio Bruno August 21, 2015 at 1:51 pm

it's not in question. Evolution is about responding to the immediate environment. Producing survivable offspring (which requires finding a niche). If the environment changes (Climate?) faster than the production of survivable offspring then extinction (for that specie) ensues.

Now, Homo sapien is supposedly "different" in some respects, but I don't think so.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm

I agree. There's nothing uniquely special about our species. Of course species can often respond to gradual change by migration. The really dangerous things are global catastrophes such as the asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous or whatever happened at the Permian-Triassic boundary (gamma ray burst maybe?).

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Interesting that you sit there and type on a world-spanning network batting around ideas from five thousand years ago, or yesterday, and then use your fingers to type that the human species isn't special.

Do you really think humans are unable to think about the future, like a bear hibernating, or perhaps the human mind, and its offspring, human culture and history, can't see ahead?

Why is "Learn the past, or repeat it!" such a popular saying, then?

diptherio August 21, 2015 at 9:24 am

The Iron Law of Institutions (agents act in ways that benefit themselves in the context of the institution [system], regardless of the effect those actions have on the larger system) would seem to mitigate against any attempts to correct our many, quickly failing complex social and technological systems.

jgordon August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

This would tend to imply that attempts to organize large scale social structures is temporary at best, and largely futile. I agree. The real key is to embrace and ride the wave as it crests and callapses so its possible to manage the fall–not to try to stand against so you get knocked down and drowned. Focus your efforts on something useful instead of wasting them on a hopeless, and worthless, cause.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Civilization is obviously highly unstabe. However it should remembered that even Neolithic cultures are almost all less than 10,000 years old. So there has been little time for evolutionary adaptations to living in complex cultures (although there is evidence that the last 10,000 years has seen very rapid genetic changes in human populations). If civilization can continue indefinitely which of course is not very clear then it would be expected that evolutionary selection would produce humans much better adapted to living in complex cultures so they might become more stable in the distant future. At present mean time to collapse is probably a few hundred years.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm

But perhaps you're not contemplating that too much individual freedom can destabilize society. Is that a part of your vast psychohistorical equation?

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

Well said, but something I find intriguing is that the author isn't talking so much about civilizational collapse. The focus is more on various subsystems of civilization (transportation, energy, healthcare, etc.).

These individual components are not inherently particularly dangerous (at a systemic/civilizational level). They have been made that way by purposeful public policy choices, from allowing enormous compensation packages in healthcare to dismantling our passenger rail system to subsidizing fossil fuel energy over wind and solar to creating tax incentives that distort community development. These things are not done for efficiency. They are done to promote inequality, to allow connected insiders and technocratic gatekeepers to expropriate the productive wealth of society. Complexity isn't a byproduct; it is the mechanism of the looting. If MDs in hospital management made similar wages as home health aides, then how would they get rich off the labor of others? And if they couldn't get rich, what would be the point of managing the hospital in the first place? They're not actually trying to provide quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.

It is that cumulative concentration of wealth and power over time which is ultimately destabilizing, producing accepted social norms and customs that lead to fragility in the face of both expected and unexpected shocks. This fragility comes from all sorts of specific consequences of that inequality, from secrecy to group think to brain drain to two-tiered justice to ignoring incompetence and negligence to protecting incumbents necessary to maintain such an unnatural order.

Linus Huber August 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I tend to agree with your point of view.

The problem arises with any societal order over time in that corrosive elements in the form of corruptive behavior (not principle based) by decision makers are institutionalized. I may not like Trump as a person but the fact that he seems to unravel and shake the present arrangement and serves as an indicator that the people begin to realize what game is being played, makes me like him in that specific function. There may be some truth in Thomas Jefferson's quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Those presently benefiting greatly from the present arrangement are fighting with all means to retain their position, whether successfully or not, we will see.

animalogic August 22, 2015 at 2:18 am

Well said, washunate. I think an argument could be run that outside economic areas, the has been a drive to de-complexity.
Non economic institutions, bodies which exist for non market/profit reasons are or have been either hollowed out, or co-opted to market purposes. Charities as vast engines of self enrichment for a chain of insiders. Community groups, defunded, or shriveled to an appendix by "market forces". The list goes on and on.
Reducing the "not-market" to the status of sliced-white-bread makes us all the more dependant on the machinated complexities of "the market" .god help us .

Jay Jay August 21, 2015 at 8:00 am

Joseph Tainter's thesis, set out in "The Collapse of Complex Societies" is simple: as a civilization ages its use of energy becomes less efficient and more costly, until the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in, generates its own momentum and the system grinds to a halt. Perhaps this article describes a late stage of that process. However, it is worth noting that, for the societies Tainter studied, the process was ineluctable. Not so for our society: we have the ability -- and the opportunity -- to switch energy sources.

Moneta August 21, 2015 at 5:48 pm

In my grandmother's youth, they did not burn wood for nothing. Splitting wood was hard work that required calories.

Today, we heat up our patios at night with gas heaters The amount of economic activity based on burning energy not related to survival is astounding.

A huge percentage of our GDP is based on economies of scale and economic efficiencies but are completely disconnected from environmental efficiencies.

This total loss is control between nature and our lifestyles will be our waterloo .

TG August 21, 2015 at 8:20 am

An interesting article as usual, but here is another take.

Indeed, sometimes complex systems can collapse under the weight of their own complexity (Think: credit default swaps). But sometimes there is a single simple thing that is crushing the system, and the complexity is a desperate attempt to patch things up that is eventually destroyed by brute force.

Consider a forced population explosion: the people are multiplied exponentially. This reduces per capita physical resources, tends to reduce per-capita capital, and limits the amount of time available to adapt: a rapidly growing population puts an economy on a treadmill that gets faster and faster and steeper and steeper until it takes superhuman effort just to maintain the status quo. There is a reason why, for societies without an open frontier, essentially no nation has ever become prosperous with out first moderating the fertility rate.

However, you can adapt. New technologies can be developed. New regulations written to coordinate an ever more complex system. Instead of just pumping water from a reservoir, you need networks of desalinization plants – with their own vast networks of power plants and maintenance supply chains – and recycling plans, and monitors and laws governing water use, and more efficient appliances, etc.etc.

As an extreme, consider how much effort and complexity it takes to keep a single person alive in the space station.

That's why in California cars need to be emissions tested, but in Alabama they don't – and the air is cleaner in Alabama. More people needs more controls and more exotic technology and more rules.

Eventually the whole thing starts to fall apart. But to blame complexity itself, is possibly missing the point.

Steve H. August 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

No system is ever 'the'.

Jim Haygood August 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

Two words, Steve: Soviet Union.

It's gone now. But we're rebuilding it, bigger and better.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

If, of course, bigger is better.

Facts not in evidence.

Ulysses August 21, 2015 at 8:40 am

"But because system operations are never trouble free, human practitioner adaptations to changing conditions actually create safety from moment to moment. These adaptations often amount to just the selection of a well-rehearsed routine from a store of available responses; sometimes, however, the adaptations are novel combinations or de novo creations of new approaches."

This may just be a rationalization, on my part, for having devoted so much time to historical studies– but it seems to me that historians help civilizations prevent collapse, by preserving for them the largest possible "store of available responses."

aronj August 21, 2015 at 8:41 am

Yves,

Thanks for posting this very interesting piece! As you know, I am a fan Bookstaber's concept of tight coupling. Interestingly, Bookstaber (2007) does not reference Cook's significant work on complex systems.

Before reading this article, I considered the most preventable accidents involve a sequence of events uninterrupted by human intelligence. This needs to be modified by Cook's points 8, 9. 10 and 12.

In using the aircraft landing in the New York river as an example of interrupting a sequence of events, the inevitable accident occurred but no lives were lost. Thus the human intervention was made possible by the unknowable probability of coupling the cause with a possible alternative landing site. A number of aircraft accidents involve failed attempts to find a possible landing site, even though Cook's point #12 was in play.

Thanks for the post!!!!!

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

A possible issue with or a misunderstanding of #7. Catastrophic failure can be made up of small failures that tend to follow a critical path or multiple critical paths. While a single point of origin for catastrophic failure may rarely if ever occur in a complex system, it is possible and likely in such a system to have collections of small failures that occur or tend to occur in specific sequences of order. Population explosion (as TG points out) would be a good example of a failure in a complex social system that is part of a critical path to catastrophic failure.

Such sequences, characterized by orders of precedence, are more likely in tightly coupled systems (which as Yves points out can be any system pushed to the max). The point is, they can be identified and isolated at least in situations where a complex system is not being misused or pushed to it's limits or created due to human corruption where such sequences of likelihood may be viewed or baked into the system (such as by propaganda->ideology) as features and not bugs.

Spring Texan August 21, 2015 at 8:53 am

I agree completely that maximum efficiency comes with horrible costs. When hospitals are staffed so that people are normally busy every minute, patients routinely suffer more as often no one has time to treat them like a human being, and when things deviate from the routine, people have injuries and deaths. Same is true in other contexts.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

Agreed, but that's not caused by efficiency. That's caused by inequality. Healthcare has huge dispariaties in wages and working conditions. The point of keeping things tightly staffed is to allow big bucks for the top doctors and administrators.

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Yes. When one efficiency conflicts with and destroys another efficiency. Eq. Your mother juggled a job and a family and ran around in turbo mode but she dropped everything when her kids were in trouble. That is an example of an efficiency that can juggle contradictions and still not fail.

JTMcPhee August 21, 2015 at 11:38 am

Might this nurse observe that in hospitals, there isn't and can't be a "routine" to deviate from, no matter how fondly "managers" wish to try to make it and how happy they may be to take advantage of the decent, empathic impulses of many nurses and/or the need to work to eat of those that are just doing a job. Hence the kindly (sic) practice of "calling nurses off" or sending them home if "the census is down," which always runs aground against a sudden influx of billable bodies or medical crises that the residual staff is expected to just somehow cope with caring for or at least processing, until the idiot frictions in the staffing machinery add a few more person-hours of labor to the mix. The larger the institution, the greater the magnitude and impact (pain, and dead or sicker patients and staff too) of the "excursions from the norm."

It's all about the ruling decisions on what are deemed (as valued by where the money goes) appropriate outcomes of the micro-political economy In the absence of an organizing principle that values decency and stability and sustainability rather than upward wealth transfer.

Will August 21, 2015 at 8:54 am

I'll join the choir recommending Tainter as a critical source for anybody interested in this stuff.

IBG/YBG is a new concept for me, with at least one famous antecedent. "Après moi, le déluge."

diptherio August 21, 2015 at 9:17 am

The author presents the best-case scenario for complex systems: one in which the practitioners involved are actually concerned with maintaining system integrity. However, as Yves points out, that is far from being case in many of our most complex systems.

For instance, the Silvertip pipeline spill near Billings, MT a few years ago may indeed have been a case of multiple causes leading to unforeseen/unforeseeable failure of an oil pipeline as it crossed the Yellowstone river. However, the failure was made immeasurably worse due to the fact that Exxon had failed to supply that pump-station with a safety manual, so when the alarms started going off the guy in the station had to call around to a bunch of people to figure out what was going on. So while it's possible that the failure would have occurred no matter what, the failure of the management to implement even the most basic of safety procedures made the failure much worse than it otherwise would have been.

And this is a point that the oil company apologists are all too keen to obscure. The argument gets trotted out with some regularity that because these oil/gas transmission systems are so complex, some accidents and mishaps are bound to occur. This is true–but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety.

Complex systems have their own built-in instabilities, as the author points out; but we've added a system of un-accountability and irresponsibility on top of our complex systems which ensures that failures will occur more often and with greater fall-out than the best-case scenario imagined by the author.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 9:42 am

As Yves pointed out, there is a lack of agency in the article. A corrupt society will tend to generate corrupt systems just as it tends to generate corrupt technology and corrupt ideology. For instance, we get lots of little cars driving themselves about, profitably to the ideology of consumption, but also with an invisible thumb of control, rather than a useful system of public transportation. We get "abstenence only" population explosion because "groath" rather than any rational assessment of obvious future catastrophe.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:06 am

Right on. The primary issue of our time is a failure of management. Complexity is an excuse more often than an explanatory variable.

abynormal August 21, 2015 at 3:28 pm

abynormal
August 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Am I the only hearing 9″Nails, March of the Pigs

Aug. 21, 2015 1:54 a.m. ET

A Carlyle Group LP hedge fund that anticipated a sudden currency-policy shift in China gained roughly $100 million in two days last week, a sign of how some bearish bets on the world's second-largest economy are starting to pay off.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/hedge-fund-gains-100-million-in-two-days-on-bearish-china-bet-1440136499?mod=e2tw

oink oink is the sound of system fail

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

A very important principle:

All systems have a failure rate, including people. We don't get to live in a world where we don't need to lock our doors and banks don't need vaults. (If you find it, be sure to radio back.)

The article is about how we deal with that failure rate. Pointing out that there are failures misses the point.

cnchal August 21, 2015 at 5:05 pm

. . .but it is also true that the incentives of the capitalist system ensure that there will be more and worse accidents than necessary, as the agents involved in maintaining the system pursue their own personal interests which often conflict with the interests of system stability and safety.

How true. A Chinese city exploded. Talk about a black swan. I wonder what the next disaster will be?

hemeantwell August 21, 2015 at 9:32 am

After a skimmy read of the post and reading James' lead-off comment re emperors (Brooklin Bridge comment re misuse is somewhat resonant) it seems to me that a distinguishing feature of systems is not being addressed and therefore being treated as though it's irrelevant.

What about the mandate for a system to have an overarching, empowered regulatory agent, one that could presumably learn from the reflections contained in this post? In much of what is posted here at NC writers give due emphasis to the absence/failure of a range of regulatory functions relevant to this stage of capitalism. These run from SEC corruption to the uncontrolled movement of massive amount of questionably valuable value in off the books transactions between banks, hedge funds etc. This system intentionally has a deliberately weakened control/monitoring function, ideologically rationalized as freedom but practically justified as maximizing accumulation possibilities for the powerful. It is self-lobotomizing, a condition exacerbated by national economic territories (to some degree). I'm not going to now jump up with 3 cheers for socialism as capable of resolving problems posed by capitalism. But, to stay closer to the level of abstraction of the article, doesn't the distinction between distributed opacity + unregulated concentrations of power vs. transparency + some kind of central governing authority matter? Maybe my Enlightenment hubris is riding high after the morning coffee, but this is a kind of self-awareness that assumes its range is limited, even as it posits that limit. Hegel was all over this, which isn't to say he resolved the conundrum, but it's not even identified here.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Think of Trump as the pimple finally coming to a head: he's making the greed so obvious, and pissing off so many people that some useful regulation might occur.

Another thought about world social collapse: if such a thing is likely, (and I'm sure the PTB know if it is, judging from the reports from the Pentagon about how Global Warming being a national security concern) wouldn't it be a good idea to have a huge ability to overpower the rest of the world?

We might be the only nation that survives as a nation, and we might actually have an Empire of the World, previously unattainable. Maybe SkyNet is really USANet. It wouldn't require any real change in the national majority of creepy grabby people.

Jim August 21, 2015 at 9:43 am

Government bureaucrats and politicians pursue their own interests just as businessmen do. Pollution was much worst in the non-capitalist Soviet Union, East Germany and Eastern Europe than it was in the Capitalist West. Chernobyl happened under socialism not capitalism. The present system in China, although not exactly "socialism", certainly involves a massively powerful govenment but a glance at the current news shows that massive governmental power does not necessarily prevent accidents. The agency problem is not unique to or worse in capitalism than in other systems.

Holly August 21, 2015 at 9:51 am

I'd throw in the theory of cognitive dissonance as an integral part of the failure of complex systems. (Example Tarvis and Aronon's recent book: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by me))

We are more apt to justify bad decisions, with bizarre stories, than to accept our own errors (or mistakes of people important to us). It explains (but doesn't make it easier to accept) the complete disconnect between accepted facts and fanciful justifications people use to support their ideas/organization/behavior.

craazymann August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am

I think this one suffers "Metaphysical Foo Foo Syndrome" MFFS. That means use of words to reference realities that are inherently ill-defined and often unobservable leading to untestable theories and deeply personal approaches to epistemological reasoning.

just what is a 'complex system"? A system implies a boundary - there are things part of the system and things outside the system. That's a hard concept to identify - just where the system ends and something else begins. So when 'the system' breaks down, it's hard to tell with any degree of testable objectivity whether the breakdown resulted from "the system" or from something outside the system and the rest was just "an accident that could have happened to anybody'"

maybe the idea is; '"if something breaks down at the worst possible time and in a way that fkks everything up, then it must have been a complex system". But it could also have been a simple system that ran into bad luck. Consider your toilet. Maybe you put too much toilet paper in it, and it clogged. Then it overflowed and ran out into your hallway with your shit everywhere. Then you realized you had an expensive Chinese rug on the floor. oh no! That was bad. you were gonna put tthat rug away as soon as you had a chance to admire it unrolled. Why did you do that? Big fckk up. But it wasn't a complex system. It was just one of those things.

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 12:14 pm

thanks for that, I think

Gio Bruno August 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Actually, it was a system too complex for this individual. S(He) became convinced the plumbing would work as it had previously. But doo to poor maintenance, too much paper, or a stiff BM the "system" didn't work properly. There must have been opportunity to notice something anomalous, but appropriate oversight wasn't applied.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

You mean the BM was too tightly coupled?

craazyman August 21, 2015 at 4:22 pm

It coould happen to anybody after enough pizza and red wine

people weren't meant to be efficient. paper towels and duct tape can somettmes help

This ocurred to me: The entire 1960s music revolution would't have happened if anybody had to be efficient about hanging out and jamming. You really have to lay around and do nothing if you want to achieve great things. You need many opportunities to fail and learn before the genius flies. That's why tightly coupled systems are self-defeating. Because they wipe too many people out before they've had a chance to figure out the universe.

JustAnObserver August 21, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Excellent example of tight coupling: Toilet -> Floor -> Hallway -> $$$ Rug

Fix: Apply Break coupling procedure #1: Shut toilet door.
Then: Procedure #2 Jam inexpensive old towels in gap at the bottom.

As with all such measures this buys the most important thing of all – time. In this case to get the $$$Rug out of the way.

IIRC one of Bookstaber's points was that that, in the extreme, tight coupling allows problems to propagate through the system so fast and so widely that we have no chance to mitigate before they escalate to disaster.

washunate August 21, 2015 at 10:03 am

To put it more simply, the drift of both economic and business thinking has been to optimize activity for efficiency.

I think that's an interesting framework. I would say effeciency is achieving the goal in the most effective manner possible. Perhaps that's measured in energy, perhaps labor, perhaps currency units, but whatever the unit of measure, you are minimizing that input cost.

What our economics and business thinking (and most importantly, political thinking) has primarily been doing, I would say, is not optimizing for efficiency. Rather, they are changing the goal being optimized. The will to power has replaced efficiency as the actual outcome.

Unchecked theft, looting, predation, is not efficient. Complexity and its associated secrecy is used to hide the inefficiency, to justify and promote that which would not otherwise stand scrutiny in the light of day.

BigEd August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

What nonsense. All around us 'complex systems' (airliners, pipelines, coal mines, space stations, etc.) have become steadily LESS prone to failure/disaster over the decades. We are near the stage where the only remaining danger in air travel is human error. We will soon see driverless cars & trucks, and you can be sure accident rates will decline as the human element is taken out of their operation.

tegnost August 21, 2015 at 12:23 pm

see fukushima, lithium batteries spontaneously catching fire, financial engineering leading to collapse unless vast energy is invested in them to re stabilize Driverless cars and trucks are not that soon, tech buddies say ten years I say malarkey based on several points made in the article, while as brooklyn bridge points out public transit languishes, and washunate points out that trains and other more efficient means of locomotion are starved while more complex methods have more energy thrown at them which could be better applied elsewhere. I think you're missing the point by saying look at all our complex systems, they work fine and then you ramble off a list of things with high failure potential and say look they haven't broken yet, while things that have broken and don't support your view are left out. By this mechanism safety protocols are eroded (that accident you keep avoiding hasn't happened, which means you're being too cautious so your efficiency can be enhanced by not worrying about it until it happens then you can fix it but as pointed out above tightly coupled systems can't react fast enough at which point we all have to hear the whocoodanode justification )

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm

And the new points of failure will be what?

susan the other August 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

So here's a question. What is the failure heirarchy. And why don't those crucial nodes of failsafe protect the system. Could it be that we don't know what they are?

Moneta August 22, 2015 at 8:09 am

While 90% of people were producing food a few decades ago, I think a large percentage will be producing energy in a few decades right now we are still propping up our golf courses and avoiding investing in pipelines and refineries. We are still exploiting the assets of the 50s and 60s to live our hyper material lives. Those investments are what gave us a few decades of consumerism.

Now everyone wants government to spend on infra without even knowing what needs to go and what needs to stay. Maybe half of Californians need to get out of there and forget about building more infra there just a thought.

America still has a frontier ethos how in the world can the right investments in infra be made with a collection of such values?

We're going to get city after city imploding. More workers producing energy and less leisure over the next few decades. That's what breakdown is going to look like.

Moneta August 22, 2015 at 8:22 am

Flying might get safer and safer while we get more and more cities imploding.

Just like statues on Easter Island were getting increasingly elaborate as trees were disappearing.

ian August 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm

What you say is true, but only if you have a sufficient number of failures to learn from. A lot of planes had to crash for air travel to be as safe as it is today.

wm.annis August 21, 2015 at 10:19 am

I am surprised to see no reference to John Gall's General Systematics in this discussion, an entire study of systems and how they misbehave. I tend to read it from the standpoint of managing a complex IT infrastructure, but his work starts from human systems (organizations).

The work is organized around aphorisms - Systems tend to oppose their own proper function - The real world is what it is reported to the system - but one or two from this paper should be added to that repertoire. Point 7 seems especially important. From Gall, I have come to especially appreciate the Fail-Safe Theorem: "when a Fail-Safe system fails, it fails by failing to fail safe."

flora August 21, 2015 at 10:32 am

Instead of writing something long and rambling about complex systems being aggregates of smaller, discrete systems, each depending on a functioning and accurate information processing/feedback (not IT) system to maintain its coherence; and upon equally well functioning feedback systems between the parts and the whole - instead of that I'll quote a poem.

" Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; "

-Yates, "The Second Coming"

flora August 21, 2015 at 10:46 am

erm make that "Yeats", as in W.B.

Steve H. August 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.

– Swift

LifelongLib August 21, 2015 at 7:38 pm

IIRC in Robert A. Heinlein's "The Puppet Masters" there's a different version:

Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so, ad infinitum.

Since the story is about humans being parasitized and controlled by alien "slugs" that sit on their backs, and the slugs in turn being destroyed by an epidemic disease started by the surviving humans, the verse has a macabre appropriateness.

LifelongLib August 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Original reply got eaten, so I hope not double post. Robert A. Heinlein's (and others?) version:

Big fleas have little fleas
Upon their backs to bite 'em
And little fleas have lesser fleas
And so ad infinitum!

Lambert Strether August 21, 2015 at 10:26 pm

The order Siphonoptera .

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"

I can't leave that poem without its ending – especially as it becomes ever more relevant.

Oldeguy August 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

Terrific post- just the sort of thing that has made me a NC fan for years.
I'm a bit surprised that the commentators ( thus far ) have not referred to the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession as being an excellent example of Cook's failure analysis.

Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera's

All The Devils Are Here www.amazon.com/All-Devils-Are-Here-Financial/dp/159184438X/

describes beautifully how the erosion of the protective mechanisms in the U.S. financial system, no single one of which would have of itself been deadly in its absence ( Cook's Point 3 ) combined to produce the Perfect Storm.

It brought to mind Garett Hardin's The Tragedy Of The Commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons . While the explosive growth of debt ( and therefore risk ) obviously jeopardized the entire system, it was very much within the narrow self interest of individual players to keep the growth ( and therefore the danger ) increasing.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Bingo. Failure of the culture to properly train its members. Not so much a lack of morality as a failure to point out that when the temple falls, it falls on Samson.

The next big fix is to use the US military to wall off our entire country, maybe include Canada (language is important in alliances) during the Interregnum.

Why is no one mentioning the Foundation Trilogy and Hari Seldon here?

Deloss August 21, 2015 at 11:29 am

My only personal experience with the crash of a complex, tightly-coupled system was the crash of the trading floor of a very big stock exchange in the early part of this century. The developers were in the computer room, telling the operators NOT to roll back to the previous release, and the operators ignored them and did so anyway. Crash!

In Claus Jensen's fascinating account of the Challenger disaster, NO DOWNLINK, he describes how the managers overrode the engineers' warnings not to fly under existing weather conditions. We all know the result.

Human error was the final cause in both cases.

Now we are undergoing the terrible phenomenon of global warming, which everybody but Republicans, candidates and elected, seems to understand is real and catastrophic. The Republicans have a majority in Congress, and refuse–for ideological and monetary reasons–to admit that the problem exists. I think this is another unfolding disaster that we can ascribe to human error.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:17 pm

"Human error" needs unpacking here. In this discussion, it's become a Deus ex Humanitas. Humans do what they do because their cultural experiences impel them to do so. Human plus culture is not the same as human. That's why capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society.

Oldeguy August 21, 2015 at 5:52 pm

" capitalism doesn't work in a selfish society "
Very true, not nearly so widely realized as it should be, and the Irony of Ironies .

BayesianGame August 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

But highly efficient systems are fragile. Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Another problem with obsessing about (productive or technical) efficiency is that it usually means a narrow focus on the most measured or measurable inputs and outputs, to the detriment of less measurable but no less important aspects. Wages are easier to measure than the costs of turnover, including changes in morale, loss of knowledge and skill, and regard for the organization vs. regard for the individual. You want low cost fish? Well, it might be caught by slaves. Squeeze the measurable margins, and the hidden margins will move.

Donw August 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm

You hint at a couple fallacies.

1) Measuring what is easy instead of what is important.
2) Measuring many things and then optimizing all of them optimizes the whole.

Then, have some linear thinker try to optimize those in a complex system (like any organization involving humans) with multiple hidden and delayed feedback loops, and the result will certainly be unexpected. Whether for good or ill is going to be fairly unpredictable unless someone has actually looked for the feedback loops.

IsabelPS August 21, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Very good.

It's nice to see well spelled out a couple of intuitions I've had for a long time. For example, that we are going in the wrong direction when we try to streamline instead of following the path of biology: redundancies, "dirtiness" and, of course, the king of mechanisms, negative feedback (am I wrong in thinking that the main failure of finance, as opposed to economy, is that it has inbuilt positive feedback instead of negative?). And yes, my professional experience has taught me that when things go really wrong it was never just one mistake, it is a cluster of those.

downunderer August 22, 2015 at 3:52 am

Yes, as you hint here, and I would make forcefully explicit: COMPLEX vs NOT-COMPLEX is a false dichotomy that is misleading from the start.

We ourselves, and all the organisms we must interact with in order to stay alive, are individually among the most complex systems that we know of. And the interactions of all of us that add up to Gaia are yet more complex. And still it moves.

Natural selection built the necessary stability features into our bodily complexity. We even have a word for it: homeostasis. Based on negative feedback loops that can keep the balancing act going. And our bodies are vastly more complex than our societies.

Society's problem right now is not complexity per se, but the exploitation of complexity by system components that want to hog the resources and to hell with the whole, quite exactly parallel to the behavior of cancer cells in our bodies when regulatory systems fail.

In our society's case, it is the intelligent teamwork of the stupidly selfish that has destroyed the regulatory systems. Instead of negative feedback keeping deviations from optimum within tolerable limits, we now have positive feedback so obvious it is trite: the rich get richer.

We not only don't need to de-complexify, we don't dare to. We really need to foster the intelligent teamwork that our society is capable of, or we will fail to survive challenges like climate change and the need to sensibly control the population. The alternative is to let natural selection do the job for us, using the old reliable four horsemen.

We are unlikely to change our own evolved selfishness, and probably shouldn't. But we need to control the monsters that we have created within our society. These monsters have all the selfishness of a human at his worst, plus several natural large advantages, including size, longevity, and the ability to metamorphose and regenerate. And as powerful as they already were, they have recently been granted all the legal rights of human citizens, without appropriate negative feedback controls. Everyone here will already know what I'm talking about, so I'll stop.

Peter Pan August 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Formula One cars are optimized for speed and can only run one race.

Actually I believe F1 has rules regarding the number of changes that can be made to a car during the season. This is typically four or five changes (replacements or rebuilds), so a F1 car has to be able to run more than one race or otherwise face penalties.

jo6pac August 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Yes, F-1 allows four power planets per-season it has been up dated lately to 5. There isn't anything in the air or ground as complex as a F-1 car power planet. The cars are feeding 30 or more engineers at the track and back home normal in England millions of bit of info per second and no micro-soft is not used but very complex programs watching every system in the car. A pit stop in F-1 is 2.7 seconds anything above 3.5 and your not trying hard enough.

Honda who pride themselves in Engineering has struggled in power planet design this year and admit they have but have put more engineers on the case. The beginning of this Tech engine design the big teams hired over 100 more engineers to solve the problems. Ferrari throw out the first design and did a total rebuild and it working.

This is how the world of F-1 has moved into other designs, long but a fun read.
http://www.wired.com/2015/08/mclaren-applied-technologies-f1/

I'm sure those in F-1 system designs would look at stories like this and would come to the conclusion that these nice people are the gate keepers and not the future. Yes, I'm a long time fan of F-1. Then again what do I know.

The sad thing in F-1 the gate keepers are the owners CVC.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Interesting comment! One has to wonder why every complex system can't be treated as the be-all. Damn the torpedos. Spare no expense! Maybe if we just admitted we are all doing absolutely nothing but going around in a big circle at an ever increasing speed, we could get a near perfect complex system to help us along.

Ormond Otvos August 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm

If the human race were as important as auto racing, maybe. But we know that's not true ;->

jo6pac August 21, 2015 at 5:51 pm

In the link it's the humans of McLaren that make all the decisions on the car and the race on hand. The link is about humans working together either in real race time or designing out problems created by others.

Marsha August 21, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Globalization factors in maximizing the impact of Murphy's Law:

  1. Meltdown potential of a globalized 'too big to fail' financial system associated with trade imbalances and international capital flows, and boom and bust impact of volatile "hot money".
  2. Environmental damage associated with inefficiency of excessive long long supply chains seeking cheap commodities and dirty polluting manufacturing zones.
  3. Military vulnerability of same long tightly coupled 'just in time" supply chains across vast oceans, war zones, choke points that are very easy to attack and nearly impossible to defend.
  4. Consumer product safety threat of manufacturing somewhere offshore out of sight out of mind outside the jurisdiction of the domestic regulatory system.
  5. Geographic concentration and contagion of risk of all kinds – fragile pattern of horizontal integration – manufacturing in China, finance in New York and London, industrialized mono culture agriculture lacking biodiversity (Iowa feeds the world). If all the bulbs on the Christmas tree are wired in series, it takes only one to fail and they all go out.

Globalization is not a weather event, not a thermodynamic process of atoms and molecules, not a principle of Newtonian physics, not water running downhill, but a hyper aggressive top down policy agenda by power hungry politicians and reckless bean counter economists. An agenda hell bent on creating a tightly coupled globally integrated unstable house of cards with a proven capacity for catastrophic (trade) imbalance, global financial meltdown, contagion of bad debt, susceptibility to physical threats of all kinds.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Any complex system contains non-linear feedback. Management presumes it is their skill that keeps the system working over some limited range, where the behavior approximates linear. Outside those limits, the system can fail catastrophically. What is perceived as operating or management skill is either because the system is kept in "safe" limits, or just happenstance. See chaos theory.

Operators or engineers controlling or modifying the system are providing feedback. Feedback can push the system past "safe" limits. Once past safe limits, the system can fail catastrophically Such failure happen very quickly, and are always "a surprise".

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

All complex system contain non-linear feedback, and all appear manageable over a small rage of operation, under specific conditions.

These are the systems' safe working limits, and sometimes the limits are known, but in many case the safe working limits are unknown (See Stock Markets).

All systems with non-linear feedback can and will fail, catastrophically.

All predicted by Chaos Theory. Best mathematical filed applicable to the real world of systems.

So I'll repeat. All complex system will fail when operating outside safe limits, change in the system, management induced and stimulus induced, can and will redefine those limits, with spectacular results.

We hope and pray system will remain within safe limits, but greed and complacency lead us humans to test those limits (loosen the controls), or enable greater levels of feedback (increase volumes of transactions). See Crash of 2007, following repeal of Glass-Stegal, etc.

Brooklin Bridge August 21, 2015 at 4:05 pm

It's Ronnie Ray Gun. He redefined it as, "Safe for me but not for thee." Who says you can't isolate the root?

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Ronnie Ray Gun was the classic example of a Manager.

Where one can only say: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do"

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Three quite different thoughts:

First, I don't think the use of "practitioner" is an evasion of agency. Instead, it reflects the very high level of generality inherent in systems theory. The pitfall is that generality is very close to vagueness. However, the piece does contain an argument against the importance of agency; it argues that the system is more important than the individual practitioners, that since catastrophic failures have multiple causes, individual agency is unimportant. That might not apply to practitioners with overall responsibility or who intentionally wrecked the system; there's a naive assumption that everyone's doing their best. I think the author would argue that control fraud is also a system failure, that there are supposed to be safeguards against malicious operators. Bill Black would probably agree. (Note that I dropped off the high level of generality to a particular example.)

Second, this appears to defy the truism from ecology that more complex systems are more stable. I think that's because ecologies generally are not tightly coupled. There are not only many parts but many pathways (and no "practitioners"). So "coupling" is a key concept not much dealt with in the article. It's about HUMAN systems, even though the concept should apply more widely than that.

Third, Yves mentioned the economists' use of "equilibrium." This keeps coming up; the way the word is used seems to me to badly need definition. It comes from chemistry, where it's used to calculate the production from a reaction. The ideal case is a closed system: for instance, the production of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen in a closed pressure chamber. You can calculate the proportion of ammonia produced from the temperature and pressure of the vessel. It's a fairly fast reaction, so time isn't a big factor.

The Earth is not a closed system, nor are economies. Life is driven by the flow of energy from the Sun (and various other factors, like the steady rain of material from space). In open systems, "equilibrium" is a constantly moving target. In principle, you could calculate the results at any given condition , given long enough for the many reactions to finish. It's as if the potential equilibrium drives the process (actually, the inputs do).

Not only is the target moving, but the whole system is chaotic in the sense that it's highly dependent on variables we can't really measure, like people, so the outcomes aren't actually predictable. That doesn't really mean you can't use the concept of equilibrium, but it has to be used very carefully. Unfortunately, most economists are pretty ignorant of physical science, so ignorant they insistently defy the laws of thermodynamics ("groaf"), so there's a lot of magical thinking going on. It's really ideology, so the misuse of "equilibrium" is just one aspect of the system failure.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Really?

"equilibrium from chemistry, where it's used to calculate the production from a reaction"

That is certainly a definition in one scientific field.

There is another definition from physics.

When all the forces that act upon an object are balanced, then the object is said to be in a state of equilibrium.

However objects on a table are considered in equilibrium, until one considers an earthquake.

The condition for an equilibrium need to be carefully defined, and there are few cases, if any, of equilibrium "under all conditions."

nat scientist August 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out, dear Physicist.

Synoia August 21, 2015 at 10:19 pm

Equilibrium ceases when Chemistry breaks out

This is only a subset.

Oregoncharles August 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

I avoided physics, being not so very mathematical, so learned the chemistry version – but I do think it's the one the economists are thinking of.

What I neglected to say: it's an analogy, hence potentially useful but never literally true – especially since there's no actual stopping point, like your table.

John Merryman August 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

There is much simpler way to look at it, in terms of natural cycles, because the alternative is that at the other extreme, a happy medium is also a flatline on the big heart monitor. So the bigger it builds, the more tension and pressure accumulates. The issue then becomes as to how to leverage the consequences. As they say, a crisis should never be wasted. At its heart, there are two issues, economic overuse of resources and a financial medium in which the rent extraction has overwhelmed its benefits. These actually serve as some sort of balance, in that we are in the process of an economic heart attack, due to the clogging of this monetary circulation system, that will seriously slow economic momentum.

The need then is to reformulate how these relationships function, in order to direct and locate our economic activities within the planetary resources. One idea to take into consideration being that money functions as a social contract, though we treat it as a commodity. So recognizing it is not property to be collected, rather contracts exchanged, then there wouldn't be the logic of basing the entire economy around the creation and accumulation of notational value, to the detriment of actual value. Treating money as a public utility seems like socialism, but it is just an understanding of how it functions. Like a voucher system, simply creating excess notes to keep everyone happy is really, really stupid, big picture wise.

Obviously some parts of the system need more than others, but not simply for ego gratification. Like a truck needs more road than a car, but an expensive car only needs as much road as an economy car. The brain needs more blood than the feet, but it doesn't want the feet rotting off due to poor circulation either.
So basically, yes, complex systems are finite, but we need to recognize and address the particular issues of the system in question.

Bob Stapp August 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Perhaps in a too-quick scan of the comments, I overlooked any mention of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book, Antifragile. If so, my apologies. If not, it's a serious omission from this discussion.

Local to Oakland August 21, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Thank you for this.

I first wondered about something related to this theme when I first heard about just in time sourcing of inventory. (Now also staff.) I wondered then whether this was possible because we (middle and upper class US citizens) had been shielded from war and other catastrophic events. We can plan based on everything going right because most of us don't know in our gut that things can always go wrong.

I'm genX, but 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were born during or just after WWI. Their generation built for redundancy, safety, stability. Our generation, well. We take risks and I'm not sure the decision makers have a clue that any of it can bite them.

Jeremy Grimm August 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm

The just-in-time supply of components for manufacturing was described in Barry Lynn's book "Cornered" and identified as creating extreme fragility in the American production system. There have already been natural disasters that shutdown American automobile production in our recent past.

Everything going right wasn't part of the thinking that went into just-in-time parts. Everything going right - long enough - to steal away market share on price-point was the thinking. Decision makers don't worry about any of this biting them. Passing the blame down and golden parachutes assure that.

flora August 21, 2015 at 7:44 pm

This is really a very good paper. My direct comments are:

point 2: yes. provided the safety shields are not discarded for bad reasons like expedience or ignorance or avarice. See Glass-Steagall Act, for example.

point 4: yes. true of all dynamic systems.

point 7: 'root cause' is not the same as 'key factors'. ( And here the doctor's sensitivity to malpractice suits may be guiding his language.) It is important to determine key factors in order to devise better safety shields for the system. Think airplane black boxes and the 1932 Pecora Commission after the 1929 stock market crash.

Jay M August 21, 2015 at 9:01 pm

It's easy, complexity became too complex. And I can't read the small print. We are devolving into a world of happy people with gardens full of flowers that they live in on their cell phones.

Ancaeus August 22, 2015 at 5:22 am

There are a number of counter-examples; engineered and natural systems with a high degree of complexity that are inherently stable and fault-tolerant, nonetheless.

1. Subsumption architecture is a method of controlling robots, invented by Rodney Brooks in the 1980s. This scheme is modeled on the way the nervous systems of animals work. In particular, the parts of the robot exist in a hierarchy of subsystems, e.g., foot, leg, torso, etc. Each of these subsystems is autonomously controlled. Each of the subsystems can override the autonomous control of its constituent subsystems. So, the leg controller can directly control the leg muscle, and can override the foot subsystem. This method of control was remarkably successful at producing walking robots which were not sensitive to unevenness of the surface. In other words, the were not brittle in the sense of Dr. Cook. Of course, subsumption architecture is not a panacea. But it is a demonstrated way to produce very complex engineered systems consisting of many interacting parts that are very stable.

2. The inverted pendulum Suppose you wanted to build a device to balance a pencil on its point. You could imagine a sensor to detect the angle of the pencil, an actuator to move the balance point, and a controller to link the two in a feedback loop. Indeed, this is, very roughly, how a Segway remains upright. However, there is a simpler way to do it, without a sensor or a feedback controller. It turns out that if your device just moves the balance point sinusoidaly (e.g., in a small circle) and if the size of the circle and the rate are within certain ranges, then the pencil will be stable. This is a well-known consequence of the Mathieu equation. The lesson here is that stability (i.e., safety) can be inherent in systems for subtle reasons that defy a straightforward fault/response feedback.

3. Emergent behavior of swarms Large numbers of very simple agents interacting with one another can sometimes exhibit complex, even "intelligent" behavior. Ants are a good example. Each ant has only simple behavior. However, the entire ant colony can act in complex and effective ways that would be hard to predict from the individual ant behaviors. A typical ant colony is highly resistant to disturbances in spite of the primitiveness of its constituent ants.

4. Another example is the mammalian immune system that uses negative selection as one mechanism to avoid attacking the organism itself. Immature B cells are generated in large numbers at random, each one with receptors for specifically configured antigens. During maturation, if they encounter a matching antigen (likely a protein of the organism) then the B cell either dies, or is inactivated. At maturity, what is left is a highly redundant cohort of B cells that only recognize (and neutralize) foreign antigens.

Well, these are just a few examples of systems that exhibit stability (or fault-tolerance) that defies the kind of Cartesian analysis in Dr. Cook's article.

Marsha August 22, 2015 at 11:42 am

Glass-Steagall Act: interactions between unrelated functionality is something to be avoided. Auto recall: honking the horn could stall the engine by shorting out the ignition system. Simple fix is is a bit of insulation.

ADA software language: Former DOD standard for large scale safety critical software development: encapsulation, data hiding, strong typing of data, minimization of dependencies between parts to minimize impact of fixes and changes. Has safety critical software gone the way of the Glass-Steagall Act? Now it is buffer overflows, security holes, and internet protocol in hardware control "critical infrastructure" that can blow things up.

[Dec 03, 2017] Brood of Vipers

May 07, 2015 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"The power and influence of the financial sector threatens a continuation of the regulatory capture that contributed to the financial crisis. Financial firms, too often, have significant say in the appointment of high regulatory officials.

The tendency of some former government officials to obtain highly lucrative positions in the financial sector after leaving government may well act as an inducement to those remaining in government to serve the interest of the financial sector rather than those of the public."

Brooksley Born, Finance & Society Conference, May 5, 2015


The Western Banks are all over these markets, from commodities to equities. They are creating huge amounts of money debt, and providing it to the financial industry as top down stimulus. What results is little aggregate or 'organic' growth and a series of paper asset bubbles. They should be ashamed but they are too busy plundering to feel any twinge of conscience. They are like a herd of swine, racing for the abyss.

I had to chuckle when the pampered princesses and giggling jackals were talking about the jobs report tomorrow, and said that the ideal situation would be 'a strong jobs number with no wage growth,' a true 'goldilocks' scenario.

I have given up any expectation of reform from within. There will have to be some eye-opening incidents to shake the complacency of the fortunate few.

Non-Farm Payrolls tomorrow.

Have a pleasant evening.

[Nov 30, 2017] Will Robots Kill the Asian Century

This aritcle is two years old and not much happned during those two years. But still there is a chance that highly authomated factories can make manufacturing in the USA again profitable. the problme is that they will be even more profible in East Asia;-)
Notable quotes:
"... The National Interest ..."
The National Interest

The rise of technologies such as 3-D printing and advanced robotics means that the next few decades for Asia's economies will not be as easy or promising as the previous five.

OWEN HARRIES, the first editor, together with Robert Tucker, of The National Interest, once reminded me that experts-economists, strategists, business leaders and academics alike-tend to be relentless followers of intellectual fashion, and the learned, as Harold Rosenberg famously put it, a "herd of independent minds." Nowhere is this observation more apparent than in the prediction that we are already into the second decade of what will inevitably be an "Asian Century"-a widely held but rarely examined view that Asia's continued economic rise will decisively shift global power from the Atlantic to the western Pacific Ocean.

No doubt the numbers appear quite compelling. In 1960, East Asia accounted for a mere 14 percent of global GDP; today that figure is about 27 percent. If linear trends continue, the region could account for about 36 percent of global GDP by 2030 and over half of all output by the middle of the century. As if symbolic of a handover of economic preeminence, China, which only accounted for about 5 percent of global GDP in 1960, will likely surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world over the next decade. If past record is an indicator of future performance, then the "Asian Century" prediction is close to a sure thing.

[Nov 29, 2017] Debt: War and Empire By Other Means

This is an old article by Jesse, but today it sound even more pertinent then two years ago, before Trump ascendance to power.
"... Corrupt officials burden taxpayers with unsustainable amounts of debt for unproductive, grossly overpriced projects. "
.
"...would be wrong in these instances to blame the whole country, the whole government, or all corporations, except perhaps for sleepwalking, and sometimes willfully, towards the abyss. For the most part a relatively small band of scheming and devious fellows abuse and corrupt every form of government and organization and law in order to achieve their private ambitions, often using various forms of intimidation and reward."
.
"...The TPP and TTIP are integral initiatives in this effort of extending financial obligations, debt, and control."
.
"... "Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain. As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of the deified market, which becomes the only rule." Francis I, Laudato Si "
Jun 19, 2015 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com

This video below may help one to understand some of the seemingly obtuse demands from the Troika with regard to Greece.

The video is a bit dated, but the debt scheme it describes remains largely unchanged. The primary development has been the creation of an experiment called the European Union and the character of the targets. One might also look to the wars of 'preventative intervention' and 'colour revolutions' that raise up puppet regimes for examples of more contemporary economic spoliation. From largely small and Third World countries, the candidates for debt peonage have become the smaller amongst the developed Western countries, the most vulnerable on the periphery. And even the domestic populations of the monetary powers, the US, Germany, and the UK, are now feeling the sting of financialisation, debt imposition through crises, and austerity. What used to only take place in South America and Africa has now taken place in Jefferson County Alabama. Corrupt officials burden taxpayers with unsustainable amounts of debt for unproductive, grossly overpriced projects.

It would be wrong in these instances to blame the whole country, the whole government, or all corporations, except perhaps for sleepwalking, and sometimes willfully, towards the abyss. For the most part a relatively small band of scheming and devious fellows abuse and corrupt every form of government and organization and law in order to achieve their private ambitions, often using various forms of intimidation and reward. It is an old, old story. And then there is the mass looting enable by the most recent financial crisis and Bank bailouts. If the people will not take on the chains of debt willingly, you impose them indirectly, while giving the funds to your cronies who will use them against the very people who are bearing the burdens, while lecturing them on moral values and thrift. It is an exceptionally diabolical con game.

The TPP and TTIP are integral initiatives in this effort of extending financial obligations, debt, and control. You might ask yourself why the House Republicans, who have fought the current President at every turn, blocking nominees and even stages many mock votes to repeatedly denounce a healthcare plan that originated in their own think tank and first implemented by their own presidential candidate, are suddenly championing that President's highest profile legislation, and against the opposition of his own party? The next step, after Greece is subdued, will be to extend that model to other, larger countries. And to redouble the austerity at home under cover of the next financial crisis by eliminating cash as a safe haven, and to begin the steady stream of digital 'bailing-in.'

This is why these corporatists and statists hate gold and silver, by the way. And why it is at the focal point of a currency war. It provides a counterweight to their monetary power. It speaks unpleasant truths. It is a safe haven and alternative, along with other attempts to supplant the IMF and the World Bank, for the rest of the world. So when you say, the Philippines deserved it, Iceland deserved it, Ireland deserved it, Africa deserves it, Jefferson County deserved it, Detroit deserved it, and now Greece deserves it, just keep in mind that some day soon they will be saying that you deserve it, because you stood by and did nothing.

Because when they are done with all the others, for whom do you think they come next? If you wish to see injustice stopped, if you wish to live up to the pledge of 'never again,' then you must stand for your fellows who are vulnerable. The economic hitmen have honed their skills among the poor and relatively defenseless, and have been coming closer to home in search of new hunting grounds and fatter spoils.

There is nothing 'new' or 'modern' about this. This is as old as Babylon, and evil as sin. It is the power of darkness of the world, and of spiritual wickedness in high places. The only difference is that it is not happening in the past or in a book, it is happening here and now.

"Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain. As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of the deified market, which becomes the only rule." Francis I, Laudato Si

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7gxkgssngU

You may also find some information about the contemporary applications of these methods in The IMF's 'Tough Choices' On Greece by Jamie Galbraith.

"Plunderers of the world, when nothing remains on the lands to which they have laid waste by wanton thievery, they search out across the seas. The wealth of another region excites their greed; and if it is weak, their lust for power as well. Nothing from the rising to the setting of the sun is enough for them. Among all others only they are compelled to attack the poor as well as the rich. Robbery, rape, and slaughter they falsely call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace."

Tacitus, Agricola Posted by Jesse at 11:46 AM Email This BlogThis! Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Pinterest

Category: currency war, debt peonage, debt slavery, neo-colonialism, new world order

[Sep 13, 2017] The Rape of the American Mind

Notable quotes:
"... Repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity for communicating dissent and opposition. This is the formula for political conditioning of the masses. ..."
"... I-dont-care reaction ..."
"... Confusing a targeted audience is one of the necessary ingredients for effective mind control." ..."
"... Ennui of the bureaucrat, entropy of an inability to change, and the credibility trap of failed ideologies in a failing empire. ..."
"... Not so for the financiers and their minions. They will not be quiet, alas. The more badly they behave, the louder they seem to become. ..."
"... Although a child is limited by lack of faculty and experience, the speculator is hampered by vanity, a self-imposed lack of human development, and an almost obsessive preoccupation with drinking, favorite objects, and teats. ..."
jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"He who dictates and formulates the words and phrases we use, he who is master of the press and radio, is master of the mind. Repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity for communicating dissent and opposition. This is the formula for political conditioning of the masses.

The big lie and monotonously repeated nonsense have more emotional appeal in a cold war than logic and reason.

The continual intrusion into our minds of the hammering noises of arguments and propaganda can lead to two kinds of reactions. It may lead to apathy and indifference, the I-dont-care reaction, or to a more intensified desire to study and to understand. Unfortunately, the first reaction is the more popular one. Confusing a targeted audience is one of the necessary ingredients for effective mind control."

Joost Meerloo, The Rape of the Mind

There is going to be another financial crisis within the next two years, and it will be global, and it may be much more consequential than the other two or three we have seen since the Fed embarked on this course of its long and checkered career.

It is also avoidable, and in their quiet, private moments the really good economists can see it coming. Why don't they say anything? Ennui of the bureaucrat, entropy of an inability to change, and the credibility trap of failed ideologies in a failing empire.

They did not get to where they are by 'rocking the boat.' And so they will be quiet, unless they see some advantage in it for them, most ordinarily in a pay for say.

Not so for the financiers and their minions. They will not be quiet, alas. The more badly they behave, the louder they seem to become.

They are short term, and almost infantile in the self-centered reasoning. Although a child is limited by lack of faculty and experience, the speculator is hampered by vanity, a self-imposed lack of human development, and an almost obsessive preoccupation with drinking, favorite objects, and teats.

They see something and they want it, they know only what they can feel in the desire of the moment, morally they are undeveloped, and when they make a mess they cry loudly, until an adult comes to clean it up for them. But unlike a child they have no gratitude, no sense of their own dependency, or natural affection for others.

Have a pleasant evening

[Dec 04, 2016] The myth of Ronald Reagan: pragmatic moderate or radical conservative?

Notable quotes:
"... he changed American politics forever by demonstrating that style was more important than substance. In fact, he showed that style was everything and substance utterly unimportant. ..."
"... Conservatives used "bracket creep" to convince the middle class that reducing marginal rates on the top tax brackets along with their own would be a good idea, then with the assistance of Democrats replaced the revenue with a huge increase in FICA so that the Social Security Trust Fund could finance the deficit in the rest of the budget. The result was a huge boon to the richest, little difference for the middle class, and a far greater burden for the working poor. ..."
"... Any conversation about who the fantasy-projection "Reagan" was, misses an important reality: He was a hologram, fabricated by a kaleidoscope of various sorts of so-called "conservative" handlers and puppeteers. It was those "puppeteers" who ranged from heartlessly, stunningly "conservative" (destroya-tive), all the way further right to the kind of militaristic, macho, crackpots who have finally emerged from under their rocks at this year's "candidates." ..."
The Guardian


cgoodwood 19 Sep 2015 11:40

Do not contradict the memories of all the old teabaggers who desperately need the myth of Saint Ronnie to justify their Greed is Good declining mentality and years.

When Reagan cut-and-ran on Lebanon he showed rare discretion. A lot of the puffery stuff was B-Movie grade, but there was a lot of cross-the-aisle ventures, too.

He was a politician. The current GOP is just a bunch of white Fundie bullies, actually and metaphorically (e.g., Carson).

Zepp -> thedono 19 Sep 2015 11:37

Well, compared to Cruz, or Santorum, or Huckabee, he's a moderate. Of course, compared to the right people, you can describe Mussolini or Khruschev as moderates...

mastermisanthrope 19 Sep 2015 11:37

Lifelong shill

LostintheUS -> William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 11:36

Reagan underwent a political conversion when Nancy broke up his marriage with Jane Wyman and married him.

LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 11:33

Here is the Reagan administration in a five second video clip:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR3RqMMIwD4

LostintheUS -> inchoateruffian 19 Sep 2015 11:32

Here is the video clip where Don Regan (former CEO of Merrill Lynch) tells PRESIDENT Reagan to "speed it up".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NR3RqMMIwD4

RightSaid -> ID3732233 19 Sep 2015 11:31

The cold war ended while Reagan was president, but he did not win the cold war. His rhetoric and strategy was wishful thinking - there's no way he could have had the definitive intelligence about the entire military-political-economic that would have justified the confidence he projected. He merely lucked out, significantly damaging the US economy by trying (and luckily succeeding) to out-militarize the soviets.

pretzelattack -> kattw 19 Sep 2015 11:31

both clinton and obama have showed a willingness to "reform social security". try naked capitalism, there are probably a number of articles in the archives.

LostintheUS -> piethein 19 Sep 2015 11:29

And that the emergency room federally funded program that saved his life was soon after defunded...by him.

LostintheUS -> pretzelattack 19 Sep 2015 11:28

Many of us saw through him...I noted the senility during his speeches during his first campaign...as did many people I knew.

pretzelattack -> 4Queeen4country 19 Sep 2015 11:27

thatcher said of reagan "bit of a dim bulb..."

Jim Loftus 19 Sep 2015 11:26

Dementia masquerading as politics.
But you can't say anything negative about Saint Ronald!

Peter Davis -> Peter Davis 19 Sep 2015 11:22

I believe Reagan also is responsible for creating the Hollywood notion in American politics and political thinking that life works just like a movie--with good guys and bad guys. And all one needs is a gun and you can save the world. That sort of delusional thinking has been at the heart of the modern GOP ever since.

loljahlol -> ID3732233 19 Sep 2015 11:21

Reagan did not end the Cold War. Brezhnev rule solidified the Soviet death. Their corrupt, inefficient form of capitalism could not compete with the globalization of Western capitalism.

John78745 19 Sep 2015 11:21

There's not much nuance to Reagan. He was a coward, a bully and a loser. He got hundreds of U.S. Marines killed then he ran from the terrorists in Beirut and on the Archille Lauro personally creating the seeds of the morass of terrorists we now live with. He fostered the republican traditions of sending U.S. jobs overseas at the expense of U.S. taxpayers and of invading helpless, hapless nations, a tradition so adeptly followed by Bush I & II. He also promised that there would never be a need for another amnesty.

I guess it's true that he talked mean to the Russians, broke unions, and helped make the military industrial complex into the insatiable war machine that it is today. Remember murderous Iran-Contra (a real) scandal where he and his minions worked in secret without congressional authorization to overthrow a democratically elected government while conspiring to supply arms to the dastardly Iranians!

We could also say that he bravely fought to save the U.S. from socialized medicine and to expunge the tradition of free tuition for California students. Whatta hero!

thankgodimanatheist 19 Sep 2015 11:19

Reagan, the acting President, was the worst President since WWII until the Cheney/Bush debacle.

Most of the problems we face today can be directly traced to his voodoo economics, huge deficit spending, deregulation, and in retrospect disastrous foreign policies.


LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 11:17

"these days everyone seems to love Ronald."

Absolutely, not true. The farther along we go in time, the more Americans realize the damage this man and his backers did to America and the world. The inversion of the tax tables, the undoing of union laws, the polarization of Americans against each other so the plutocrats had no real opposition and on and on. His camp stole the election in 1980 through making a back door deal with the Iranian government to hold onto the American hostages until the election when Jimmy Carter had negotiated an end to the hostage crisis, which was the undoing of Jimmy Carter's administration.

"Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran's radical faction - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini - to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 Presidential election." This is, unquestionably, treason. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/20287-without-reagans-treason-iran-would-not-be-a-problem

No, Reagan marks the downward turn for our country and has resulted in the economic and social mess we still have not clawed our way back out of. No, Reagan is no hero, he is an American nemesis and a traitor. Reagan raised taxes three times while slashing the tax rate of the super rich...starting the downward spiral of the middle-class and the funneling of money toward the 1%. Thus his reputation as a "tax cutter", yeah, if you were a multi-millionaire.

Check this out for a synopsis of the damage: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/10/942453/-How-Ronald-Reagan-s-Policies-Destroyed-the-United-States#

namora -> nogapsallowed 19 Sep 2015 11:15

Never thought of Reagan as the first Shrub but it fits. I wonder if future pundits will sing the Dub's praises as well. I think I'm gonna be sick for a bit.

kattw -> namora 19 Sep 2015 11:10

Pretzel is maybe talking about the 'strengthen SS' bandwagon? Perhaps? Not entirely sure myself, but yeah - one of the major democrat platform planks is that SS should NOT be privatized, and that if people want to invest in stocks, they can do that on their own. The whole point of SS is to be a mattress full of cash that is NOT vulnerable to the vagaries of the market, and will always have some cash in it to be used as needed.

SS would be totally secure, too, if congress would stop robbing it for other projects, or pay back all they've borrowed. As it is, I wish *I* was as broke as republicans claim SS is - I wouldn't mind having a few billion in the bank.

William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 11:08

Reagan was former president of the Screen Actors' Guild. Obviously, he thought unions for highly educated workers were great. Meatpackers? Not so much.

RealSoothsayer 19 Sep 2015 11:04

This article does not mention the fact that in his last couple of years as President at least, his mental state had seriously deteriorated. He could not remember his own policies, names, etc. CBS' Leslie Stahl should be prosecuted for not being honest with her everyone when she found out.

Peter Davis 19 Sep 2015 11:04

Reagan was a failed president who nonetheless managed to convince people that he was great. He was a professional actor, after all. And he acted his way into the White House. Most importantly, he changed American politics forever by demonstrating that style was more important than substance. In fact, he showed that style was everything and substance utterly unimportant. He was the figurehead while his handlers did the dirty work of Iran-Contra, ballooning deficits, and tanking unemployment.

nishville 19 Sep 2015 11:03

For me, he was a pioneer. He was the first sock-puppet president, starting a noble tradition that reached its climax with W.

mbidding -> hackerkat 19 Sep 2015 11:03

In addition to:

Treasonous traitor when, as a presidential candidate, he negotiated with Khomeini to hold the hostages till after the election.

Subverter of the Constitution via the Iran-Contra scandal.

Destroyer of social cohesion by turning JFK's famous admonishment of "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" on its head with his meme that all evil emanates from the government and taxation represents stealing rather than a social obligation for any civilized society that wishes to continue to develop in a sound fashion that lifts all boats.

Incarcerator in Chief through his tough on crime and war on drugs policies, not to mention defunding mental health care.

Pisser in Chief through his successful efforts to imbed trickle down economics as the economic thought du jour which even its original architects, notably Stockman, now confirm is a failed theory that we nonetheless cling to to this day.

Ignoramus in Chief by gutting real federal financial aid for higher education leading to the obscene amounts of student debt our college students now incur.

Terrorist creator extraordinaire not only with the creation of the Latin American death squads you note, but the creation, support, trading, and funding of the mujahedin and Bin Laden himself, now known as the Taliban, Al Qa'ida, and ISIS, only the most notable among others.

namora -> trholland1 19 Sep 2015 10:59

That is not taking into account his greatest role for which he was ignored for a much deserved Oscar, Golden Globe or any of the other awards passed out by the entertainment industry, President of The United States of America. He absolutely nailed that one.

William J Rood 19 Sep 2015 10:58

Conservatives used "bracket creep" to convince the middle class that reducing marginal rates on the top tax brackets along with their own would be a good idea, then with the assistance of Democrats replaced the revenue with a huge increase in FICA so that the Social Security Trust Fund could finance the deficit in the rest of the budget. The result was a huge boon to the richest, little difference for the middle class, and a far greater burden for the working poor.

Tax brackets could have been indexed to inflation, but that wouldn't have been so great for Reagans real supporters.

Doueman 19 Sep 2015 10:55

What sad comments by these armchair experts.

They don't gel with my experiences in North America during this period at all. When Reagan ran for the presidency he was generally ridiculed by much of the press in the US and just about all of the press in the UK for being a right wing fanatic, a lightweight, too old, uninformed and even worse an actor. I found this rather curious and watched him specifically on TV in unscripted scenarios to form my own impression as to how such a person, with supposedly limited abilities, could possibly run for President of the US. I get a bit suspicious when organisations and individuals protest and ridicule too much.

My reaction was that he handled himself well and gradually concluded that the mainly Eastern liberal press in the US couldn't really stomach a California actor since they themselves were meant to know everything. He actually was pretty well read ( visitors were later astonished to read his multiple annotations in heavy weight books in his library). He was a clever and astute union negotiator dealing with some of the toughest Hollywood moguls who would eat most negotiators for dinner. He had become Governor of California and had done a fine job. I thought it was unlikely he was the simpleton many portrayed. He couldn't be easily categorised as he embraced many good aspects of the Democrats and the Republicans. Life wasn't so polarised then.

The US had left leaning Republicans and right wing Democrats. A political party as Churchill noted was simply a charger to ride into action.

In my view, his presidential record was pretty remarkable. A charming, fair minded charismatic man without the advantage of a wealthy background or influential family. The world was lucky to have him.

raffine -> particle 19 Sep 2015 10:50

Reagan's second term was a disaster. But as someone below mentioned, conservative pundits and their financers engaged in a campaign to make Reagan into a right-wing FDR. The most effective, albeit bogus, claim on Reagan's behalf was that he had ended the Cold War.

jpsartreny 19 Sep 2015 14:22

Reagan is the shadow governments greatest triumph. After the adolescent Kennedy, egomaniacs Johnson and Nixon , they needed front guys who followed orders instead .

The experiment with the peanut farmer from Georgia provided disastrous to Zebrew Brzezinski and the liberals. The conservatives had better luck with a B- movie actor with an great talent to read of the teleprompter.

RealSoothsayer -> semper12 19 Sep 2015 14:19

How? By talking? Gobachev brought down the USSR with his 'Glasnost' and 'Perestroika' policies. His vision was what communist China later on achieved: mixed economy that flies a red flag. Reagan was just an observer, absolutely nothing more. Tito of Yugoslavia was even more instrumental.

Marc Herlands 19 Sep 2015 14:17

IMHO Reagan was the second most successful president, behind FDR and ahead of LBJ. Not that I liked anything about him, but he moved this country to the right and set the play book. He lowered taxes on the wealthy, the corporations, capital gains, and estate taxes. He reduced growth in programs for the poor, and made it impossible to increase their funding after his presidency because of he left huge federal deficits caused by lowering taxes and increasing outlays on the military. This Republican playbook still is their way of making sure that the Democrats can't give the poor more money after they lose power. Also, he enlarged the program for deregulating industries, doing away with antitrust laws, hindering labor laws, encouraged anti-union behavior, and did nothing for AIDS research. He was a scoundrel who did a deal with Iran to prevent Carter from being re-elected. He directly disobeyed Congressional laws not to intervene in Nicaragua. He set the tone for US interventions after him.


bloggod 19 Sep 2015 14:17

Obama, Clinton, and the Bushes all hope to be forgiven for their unpardonable crimes.

Popularity is created. It is not populism, or informed consent of the pubic as approval for more of the same collusion.

It is a One Party hoe down.

bloggod -> SigmetSue 19 Sep 2015 14:12

"they"

the indicted Sec of Defense Weinberger; the indicted head of the CIA Casey who "died" as he was due to testify: Mcfarlane, Abrams, Clair George, Oilyver North, Richard Secord, Albert Hakim

Reagan had no genius, he had Bush-CIA and the Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and the "immoral majority" of anti-abortion war profiteers.


Marios Antoniou Lattimore 19 Sep 2015 13:52

I agree with everything you mentioned, and I intensely dislike Reagan YET the point of the article wasn't that Reagan was good, it rather points to the fact that Republicans have shifted so far to the right that Reagan would appear moderate compared to the current batch.

Rainer Jansohn pretzelattack 19 Sep 2015 13:52

Interesting had been his speeches during the Cold War.Scientists have subsumed it under "Social Religion",a special form of political theology.Simple dialectical:UDSSR the incarnation of the evil/hell on the other side USA :the country of God himself.A tradition in USA working until now.There is no separation between government and church as in good old centuries sincetwo centuries resulting from enlightening per Philosophie/Voltaire/Kant/Hume/Descartes and so on.Look at Obamas speeches/God is always mixed in!

talenttruth 19 Sep 2015 13:49

Any conversation about who the fantasy-projection "Reagan" was, misses an important reality: He was a hologram, fabricated by a kaleidoscope of various sorts of so-called "conservative" handlers and puppeteers. It was those "puppeteers" who ranged from heartlessly, stunningly "conservative" (destroya-tive), all the way further right to the kind of militaristic, macho, crackpots who have finally emerged from under their rocks at this year's "candidates."

The fact that Reagan was going ga-ga – definitely in his second term, and likely for part of the first – was entirely convenient for his Non-Human-Based-Crackpot-Right-Holographers, since he had was not actually "driven" to vacuousness by a tragic mental condition (dementia) – THAT change was merely a "short putt" – from his entire previous life.

Regarding his Great Achievement, the collapse of the Soviet Union? After decades of monstrous over-spending by the USA's Military-Industrial-Complex, the bogus and equally insane USSR finally bankrupted itself trying to "compete" and fell. Reagan (and his puppeteer handlers), always excellent at Taking Credit for anything, showed up with exquisite cynical timing, and indeed Took Credit.

Lest anyone forget, Reagan got elected in 1980, via a totally illegal and stunningly immoral "side deal" with the Iranians, in which they agreed to not release our hostages to make Carter look like a feeble old man. Then we got Reagan who WAS a "feeble old man" (ESPECIALLY intellectually and morally). Reagan "won," the hostages were "released" and he of course took credit for that too.

So all these so-called "candidates" ARE the heirs of all the very worst of Ronald Reagan: they are all simpleminded, they are totally beholden to Hidden Sociopathic Billionaires hiding behind various curtains, and they all have NO CLUE what the word "ethics" means. Vacuous, anti-intellectual, scheming, appealing only to morons, and puppets all. Perfect "Reaganites."

Bill Ehrhorn -> semper12 19 Sep 2015 13:32

It seems that the teabaggers and their ilk give only Reagan credit.

SigmetSue 19 Sep 2015 13:16

They called him the Teflon President because nothing ever stuck. It still doesn't. That was his genius -- and I'm no fan.


Lattimore 19 Sep 2015 13:13

The article seems to present Reagan as an theatrical figure. I disagree. Reagan, President of the United States, was a criminal; as such, he was among the most corrupt and anti democratic person to hold the office POTUS. The fact that he tripled the national debt, raised taxes and skewed the tax schedules to benifit the wealthy, are comparitively minor.
,,,
Reagan's crimes and anti democratic acts:
1. POTUS: CIA smuggling cocaine into the U.S., passing the drug to wholesalers, who then processed the drug and distributed crack to Black communities. At the same time Reagan's "War on Crime" insured that the Black youth who bought "Central Intelligenc Agencie's" cocaine were criminalized and handed lengthy prison sentences.
2. POTUS supported SOUTH AMERICAN terrorist, and the genocidal atrocities commited by terrorist in Chili, Guatamala, El Mazote, etc.
3. POTUS supported SOUTH AFRICAN apartheid, and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela as well. Vetoing a bill that would express condemnation of South Africa.
4. POTUS sold Arms to Iran.
5. POTUS used taxpayer dollars to influence election outcomes.
6. POTUS rigged government grants to enrich his cronies.
7. POTUS thew mental patients onto the streets.
8. POTUS supported McCarthyism, witch hunts, etc.
9. POTUS created and supported Islamic terrorist--fore runners of al Queada, ISIS, etc.

Niko2 LostintheUS 19 Sep 2015 13:12

I don't have much love for Nancy, but she did not break up this marriage, to be fair. And she actually got rid off the extreme right wingers in Reagan's administration, like Haig and Regan, whom she called "extra chromosome republicans". Surely she was a vain and greedy flotus with no empathy whatsoever for people not in her Bel Air circles (I can easily imagine her, "Do I really have to go and see these Aids-Babies, I'd rather shop at Rodeo Drive, lose the scheduler") but she realized at an early stage that hubbies shtick-it-to-the-commies policies would do him no favour. Maybe she's the unsung heroine of his presidency.

tommydog -> MtnClimber 19 Sep 2015 13:04

The principle subsidies to big oil are probably the strategic oil reserve and subsidies to low income people for winter heating oil. You can choose which of those you'd like to cut. After that you're arguing about whether exploration costs should be expensed in the year incurred or capitalized and amortized over time.

WilliamK 19 Sep 2015 13:03

He was one of J Edgar Hoover's red baiting fascist admiring boys along with Richard Nixon and Walt Disney used to destroy the labor unions, control the propaganda machine of Hollywood and used to knuckle under the television networks and undermine as much as possible the New Deal polices of Franklin Roosevelt. An actor groomed by the General Electric Corporation and their fellow travelers. "Living better through electricity" was his mantra and he played the role of President to push forward their right wing agenda. Now we are in new stage in our "political development" in America. The era of the "reality television star" with Hollywood in bed with the military industrial complex, selling guns, violence and sex to the fool hardy and their children and prime time television ads push pharmaceutical drugs, children hear warnings of four hour erections, pop-stars flash their tits and asses and a billionaire takes center stage as the media cashes in and goes along for the ride. Yeah Ronnie was a second tier film star and with his little starlet Nancy by his side become one of America's greatest salesman.


Backbutton 19 Sep 2015 12:57

LOL! Reagan was a walking script renderer, with lines written by others, and a phony because he was just acting the part of POTUS. His speeches were all crafted, and he had good writers.

He was no Abraham Lincoln.

And now these morons running for office all want to rub off his "great communicator" fix.

Good help America!

Milwaukee Broad 19 Sep 2015 12:49

Ronald Reagan was an actor whom the depressingly overwhelming majority of American voters thought was a messiah. They so believed in him that they re-elected him to a second term. Nothing positive whatsoever became of his administration, yet he is still worshiped by millions of lost souls (conservatives).

Have a nice day.


Michael Williams 19 Sep 2015 12:48

The US was the world's leading creditor when Reagan took office. The US was the world's leading debtor by the time Bush 1 was tossed out of office.

This is what Republicans cannot seem to remember.

All of the other scandals pale in comparison, even as we deal with the blowback from most of these original, idiotic policies.

Reagan was an actor, mouthing words he barely understood, especially as his dementia progressed.

This is the exact reason the history is so poorly taught in the US.
People might make connections....

Jessica Roth 19 Sep 2015 12:46

Oh, he had holes in his brain long before the dementia. "Facts are stupid things", trees cause pollution, and so on.

A pathetic turncoat who sold out his original party (the one that kept his dad in work throughout the Great Depression via a series of WPA jobs) because Nancy allegedly "gave the best head in Hollywood" and who believed that only 144,000 people were going to Heaven, presumably accounting for his uncaring treatment of the less-well-off.

His administration was full of corruption, from Richard Allen's $1000 in an envelope (and three wristwatches) that he claimed was an inappropriate gift for Mrs. Reagan he had "intercepted" and then "forgotten" to report to William Casey trading over $3,000,000 worth of stocks while CIA director. (Knowing about changes in the oil market ahead of time sure came in handy.) You had an attorney general who took a $50,000 "severance payment" (never done before) from the board of a corporation he resigned from to avoid conflict of interest charges and this was William French Smith; his successor, Edwin Meese, was the one with real scandals (about the sale of his home).

Hell, Reagan himself put his ranch hand (Dennis LeBlanc) on the federal payroll as an "advisor" to the Commerce Department. I didn't know the Commerce Dept needed "advice" on clearing wood from St. Ronnie's ranch, but LeBlanc got a $58,500 salary out of the deal. (Roughly £98,000 at today's prices.) Nice work if you can get it.

Meanwhile, RR "talked tough" at the Soviets (resulting in the world nearly ending in 1983 due to a false alarm about a US nuclear attack) while propping up any rightwing dictator they could find, from the South African racists to Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (after they had Aquino assassinated at the airport) to Roberto "Death Squad" D'Aubuisson in El Salvador (the man who masterminded the assassination of Archbishop Romero while he was performing Mass).

Oh, and while Carter did a nice job of shooting himself in the foot, Reagan benefited in the election not only from his treasonous dealings with the Iranian hostage-takers (shades of Nixon making a deal with North Viet Nam to stall the peace talks until after the 1968 elections, promising them better terms) but through more pedestrian means such as his campaign's stealing of Carter's briefing book for the campaign's only debate, Reagan being coached for the debate by a supposedly neutral journalist (George Will, of ABC and The Washington Post), who then went on television afterwards (in the days when there were only three commercial channels) and "analysed" how successful Reagan had been in executing his "game plan" and seeming "Presidential" without either Will or ABC bothering to mention that Will had coached Reagan and designed the "game plan" in question. The "liberal bias" in the media, no doubt.

Always a joke, only looking slightly better by the dross that has followed him. (Including Bill "Third Way" Clinton and his over-£50,000,000 in post-Presidential "speaking fees" graft, and Barack Obama, drone-murderer of children in over a dozen countries and serial-summary-executioner of U.S. citizens. When Gordon-effing-Brown is the best that's held office on either side of the Atlantic since 1979, you can see how this planet is in the state it's in.)

pretzelattack DukeofMelbourne 19 Sep 2015 12:45

his stand on russia was inconsistent, and he didn't cause it to collapse. his economic programs were a failure. his foreign policy generally a disaster. he set the blueprint for the current mess.


pretzelattack semper12 19 Sep 2015 12:38

a total crock. reagan let murdering thugs run rampant as long as they paid lip service to democracy, the world over from africa to central america. the ussr watched this coward put 240 marines to die in lebanon, and then cut and run, exactly the pattern he was so ready to condemn as treason in others, and was so ready to portray as showing weakness, and you think the ussr was terrified of him. he was a hollywood actor playing a role, and you bought it.


Tycho1961 19 Sep 2015 12:13

No President exists in a political vacuum. While he was in office, Reagan had a large Democrat majority in the House of Representatives and a small Republican majority in the Senate. The Supreme Court was firmly liberal. Whatever his political agenda Reagan knew he had to constructively engage with people of both parties that were in opposition to him. If he didn't he would suffer the same fate as Carter, marginalized by even his own party. His greatest strength was as a negotiator. Reagan's greatest failures were when he tried to be clever and he and his advisors were found to be rather ham handed about it.


RichardNYC 19 Sep 2015 11:57

The principal legacy of Ronald Reagan is the still prevalent view that corporate interests supersede individual interests.


Harry Haff 19 Sep 2015 11:45

Reagan did many horrible things while in office, committed felonies and supported murderous regimes in Central America that murdered tens of thousands of people with the blessing of the US chief executive. he sold arms to Iran and despoiled the natural environment whenever possible. But given those horrendous accomplishments, he could not now get a seat at the table with the current GOP. He would be considered a RINO, that most stupid and inaccurate term, at best, and a closet liberal somewhere down the line. The current GOP is more to the right than the politicians in the South after the Civil War.

[Sep 10, 2016] Oil and gas crunch pushes Russia closer to fiscal crisis

It is pretty interesting and educational to read such articles one year after they are published.
Notable quotes:
"... Russia is already in dire straits. The economy has contracted by 4.9pc over the past year and the downturn is certain to drag on as oil prices crumble after a tentative rally. Half of Russia's tax income comes from oil and gas. ..."
"... Core inflation is running at 16.7pc and real incomes have fallen by 8.4pc over the past year, a far deeper cut to living standards than occurred following the Lehman crisis. ..."
"... This man "forecasted" Russia's demise last year. He has to show that that forecast is still liable to happen ..."
"... What Colby said is palpably true. That is why we don't hear real news and instead we are bombarded with news about their "celebs" ..."
"... He should know. And certainly, Western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis demonstrated to many millions of people in the West that major Western media is almost all controlled by the US neocons. Anyone with half a brain can see that - but clearly not you. ..."
"... Russia is not interested in invading anyone. The US has tried to force Russia to invade Ukraine in an iraq style trap but it didn't work. So they had to invent an invasion, the first in living memory without a single satellite, video or photo image of any air campaign, heavy armour, uniformed soldiers, testimony from friends & family of servicemen they could pay to get a statement, not even a mobile photo of a Russian sitting on a tank. ..."
"... As the merkins tell us a devalued dollar is your problem.. the devalued rouble is the EUs problem! ..."
"... So the political sanctions are bankrupting Russia because they dared to challenge EU expansion. Result millions of poor Russians will start to flow West and the UK will have another flood of Eastern Europeans. But at least we showed them our politicians are tough. ..."
"... Spelling it out for Russia (or Britain) that would mean giving up Byzantine based ambitions and prospering through alliances with the Muslim Nation or Countries, including Turkey. In the short term such a move would quell internal dissent of the 11m immigrants in Russia, reduce unsustainable security expenditure with its central Asian neighbours, open and expand market for Russian goods in the Middle East, Far East and North Africa, and eventually form and provide a military-commercial -political alliance (like NATO) for the Muslim nations with Russia (with partner strength based upon what is mostly commercial placed on the table (see the gist in the Vienna Agreement between P5+1 and Iran). ..."
"... The formation of such an alliance would trump Russia's (or Britain's) opponents ambitions and bring prosperity. ..."
"... Propaganda. Laughable coming from the UK hack when the UK has un-payable debt and Russia has little external debt plus we have no Gold and Russia has probably 20,000 tonnes. NATO surrounds Russia yet they are the aggressors. ..."
"... In the end, Ambrose is too ideological to be credible on the issue. Sure, Russia has couple lean years ahead, but it will come out of this ordeal stronger, not weaker. There are already reports of mini boomlets gathering steam under the surface. ..."
Jul 23, 2015 | Telegraph

Russia is already in dire straits. The economy has contracted by 4.9pc over the past year and the downturn is certain to drag on as oil prices crumble after a tentative rally. Half of Russia's tax income comes from oil and gas.

Core inflation is running at 16.7pc and real incomes have fallen by 8.4pc over the past year, a far deeper cut to living standards than occurred following the Lehman crisis. This time there is no recovery in sight as Western sanctions remain in place and US shale production limits any rebound in global oil prices.

"We've seen the full impact of the crisis in the second quarter. It is now hitting light industry and manufacturing," said Dmitri Petrov from Nomura.

"Russia is going to be in a very difficult fiscal situation by 2017," said Lubomir Mitov from Unicredit. "By the end of next year there won't be any money left in the oil reserve fund and there is a humongous deficit in the pension fund. They are running a budget deficit of 3.7pc of GDP but without developed capital markets Russia can't really afford to run a deficit at all."

A report by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow warned that a quarter of Russia's 83 regions are effectively in default as they struggle to cope with salary increases and welfare costs dumped on them by President Vladimir Putin before his election in 2012. "The regions in the far east are basically bankrupt," said Mr Mitov.

Russian companies have to refinance $86bn in foreign currency debt in the second half of this year. They cannot easily roll this over since the country is still cut off from global capital markets, so they must rely on swap funding from the central bank.

Dave Hanson

For once, Flimflambrose paints a fairly accurate picture. His formula is to take a few facts and stretch them to their illogical conclusion to create a story that sells subscriptions to the Telegraph. Sort of like the National Enquirer. He does that well. He only mentions the other side of the story in a sentence or two, usually at the end of his column. The scary headline at the top comes true perhaps one in a thousand times, just enough to keep readers from totally dismissing him as a fruitcake. Not yellow journalism. Clever journalism.

steph borne

jezzam steph borne •a day ago

''Under Putin Russia has progressed from a respectable rank 60 on the transparency international corruption index to an appalling rank 140. It is now one of the most corrupt countries in the world, entirely due to Putin.'' http://www.theguardian.com/wor...
.
jezzam is using the Corruption Perceptions Index as fact?
but it is ''Perceptions''???
''The CPI measures perception of corruption due to the difficulty of measuring absolute levels of corruption.[8]'' Wiki
Just more nonsense from Jezzam

soton

my wife is russian, she speak's to her mother on the phone every day, from what she tell's me nothing has changed economically for the "average joe" no doubt some of the abramovich types have seen the value of their properties plunge

Rosbif2

So if Russia is financially sinking below the waves, how come AEP in other articles claimed that Russia could buy themselves into Greece and menace Europe?
It seems like Greece & Russia are two drowning men who would grab onto each other & drown even faster
AEP seems to lack "joined up thinking" in his articles

giltedged

This man "forecasted" Russia's demise last year. He has to show that that forecast is still liable to happen

What Colby said is palpably true. That is why we don't hear real news and instead we are bombarded with news about their "celebs"

Real news to show that a new world economy is being built totally outside the control of US Neocons and Globalists, that the world is now multi-polar, that for example this journalist's capital city, London, now has officially a majority of the population not merely non-British in origin, but non-European, that his own country survives because of London property sales

Richard N

And isn't AEP rubbing his hands with glee at this supposedly desperate situation of Russia!

Colby, the ex-boss of the CIA, said in retirement that there is no journalist of consequence or influence in the Western media that the CIA 'does not own'.

I often find myself remembering that, when I read Ambrose pumping out the US neocon / CIA propaganda standard lines about 'Russian aggression' in Ukraine, and so on - choosing to ignore the fact that Russia's action in Crimea was in direct response and reaction to the US Neocons' coup in Ukraine, which overthrew an elected government in a sovereign state, to replace it with the current US puppet regime in Kiev.

Of course, this collapse of oil and gas prices are no accident at all - but are part of America's full-scale economic war against Russia, aiming to get Putin overthrown, and replaced by someone controlled by the US Globalists, leaving then
China as the only major power centre in the world outside the Globalists' control.

Richard N > jezzam • a day ago

If you bothered to read what I wrote carefully, you would see that, with reference to journalists, I was simply repeating what ex-head of the CIA Mr. Colby said.

He should know. And certainly, Western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis demonstrated to many millions of people in the West that major Western media is almost all controlled by the US neocons. Anyone with half a brain can see that - but clearly not you.

steph borne

''Russian bear will roar once more, says World Bank''

01 Jun 2015

''Russia economy forecast to grow by 0.7pc next year, reversing negative growth
forecast''

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin...

steph borne > TheBoggart

Do you understand what a trade surplus is?

Russia recorded a trade surplus of 15309 USD Million in May of 2015 http://www.tradingeconomics.co...

Halou > steph borne

Carried on to the absurd extreme at which all the dollars are held outside of America, the US simply prints more money thus devaluing it's currency and favoring exports (which are then cheaper to produce and cheaper buy) people giving their currency to the US in return for goods and services and restoring economic balance.

I can understand that Russia doesn't have much experience with the 'boom and bust' cycles of market economies. They've had less than 20 years experience at it.

Did you know that in the 19th century China's trade surplus with Europe was so vast that Europe almost went bankrupt and ran out of precious metals buying Chinese goods, surely by your thinking it was truly a golden age of eastern supremacy, western failure. Ask any Chinese person what the 19th century means to them, you might be surprised.

steph borne > Halou

Shame you can't provide a link or two to back up your thoughts on trade surpluses.. altho I know amongst bankrupt countries they tell you that money/assets leaving the country is a good thing....

Strange that the Germans don't agree --

''Germany recorded a trade surplus of 19600 EUR Million in May of 2015. Balance ...reaching an all time high of 23468.80 EUR Million in July of 2014...'' http://www.tradingeconomics.co...

Obviously another country heading for financial self-destruction

steph borne

02 Oct 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... 02 Oct 2014
Russias-economy-is-being-hit-hard-by-sanctions.html

01 Sept 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... 01 Sept 2014 Cameron-we-will-permanently-damage-Russias-economy.html
cameron says.??? Aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

29 Dec 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin... 29 Dec 2014 /Recession-looms-for-Russia-as-economy-shrinks-for-first-time-since-2009.html

24 Nov 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin... 24 Nov 2014 Russia-faces-recession-as-oil-crash-and-sanctions-cost-economy-90bn.html

22 Dec 2014 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin... 22 Dec 2014 Russia-starts-bailing-out-banks-as-economy-faces-full-blown-economic-crisis.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin... 29 Apr 2015
Ukraines-conflict-with-Russia-leaves-economy-in-ruins.htm
.
Still going!!!

Graham Milne

Russia has physical assets (oil, minerals and so on); we don't. It is the UK which is toast, not Russia.

billsimpson > Graham Milne

Russia is way too big & resource rich to ever be total toast. And the people are educated, even if they do drink a lot. But they could get a bit hungry in another economic collapse. All the nukes they have is the real problem. Those need to be kept secure, should another revolution occur, or the country break apart after an economic collapse.
The US & Canada would never sit back and watch the UK melt down. Witness the Five Eyes communal global spying system.
Electrify all the rail system that you can, so people can still get around on less oil. Some oil is essential for growing and transporting food.

Sal20111

Russia can't just blame it on sanctions, or price wars in oil and gas. They have not reinvested the proceeds of their prodigous fossil fuel sales smartly and neither have they diversified quickly enough - the gas sales to China was an afterthought after Ukraine.

Putin cracked down on some of the oligarchs but not all - national wealth has clearly been sucked out by a few. Nepotism and favouritism seem to be rife. They should have learnt the lesson from their communist history not to concentrate power in state contriolled organisations. Not sure whether there is much of a small to medium business culture.

With the amount of natural resources it has, and a well educated public, particularly in math and technical skills, Russia should be doing much better.

rob22

Russia is not interested in invading anyone. The US has tried to force Russia to invade Ukraine in an iraq style trap but it didn't work. So they had to invent an invasion, the first in living memory without a single satellite, video or photo image of any air campaign, heavy armour, uniformed soldiers, testimony from friends & family of servicemen they could pay to get a statement, not even a mobile photo of a Russian sitting on a tank.

Russia is too busy building up an independent agriculture and import substitution, not to mention creating economic and trade links with its Eurasian neighbours like China & India via the silk road, BRICS, Eurasian Ecconomic Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

A total nightmare for the US which once hoped to divide & dominate the region (see new American century doc)

Putin enjoys about 85% approval ratings (independent foreign stats) because it knows to surrender to the US means a return to the 90`s where the nations oil revenue went to wall st and everything else

If things get bad they`ll just devalue the ruble, get paid in dollars and spend in rubles.

This is why most Russians are willing to dig in and play the long game.

Londonmaxwell

Over the top with Ambrose, as usual. Words like "depression", "crisis", "plummet", and "shrivels"; and these only in the first two paragraphs! Moscow looks absolutely normal to me: traffic jams, packed malls and restaurants, crowded airports and train stations. Unemployment is low, inflation is tolerable.

Ambrose misses some key points.

Russia's present situation is not glorious, but it is not as precarious as Ambrose portrays it to be. Be wary of writing off Russia. The great game is just beginning.

energman58 > Londonmaxwell

Except that the slack has to be taken up by inflation and declining living standards - Russia isn't unique; in Zimbabwe dollar terms almost every company there did splendidly but the place is still bust. The problem is that most of the debt is USD denominated and without the investment blocked by sanctions they are looking at a declining production, low oil prices and an increasing debt service burden. Presumably they could revert to the traditional model of starving the peasants that has served them so well in the past but I am not sure if the people with the real stroke will be quite so happy to see their assets wither away...

Londonmaxwell > energman58

Comparing Russia with Mugabeland is a stretch, but I see your point. If the sanctions stay and the oil price goes south permanently, then Moscow has problems. But I question both assumptions. Merkel/Hollande/Renzi already face huge pressure from their business leaders to resume normal relations with Russia; i.e., drop the sanctions. As for oil prices, the USA's shale sector is already in trouble. Russia's debt burden (both public and private) is manageable and can scarcely worsen since it is cut off from the credit markets. While the oil price slump certainly hurts Russia's economy, I don't see the wheels falling off anytime soon.

AEP writes well and is always thought-provoking, but his view that Russia is facing Armageddon because of oil prices and sanctions is way off the mark.

steph borne

Here come the Ukrainian Nazis.. You lot must be very happy
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/e... 18 minutes in..
Maidan number 3 on the way as I predicted a year ago.

midnightrambler

Amazing how the narrative for military action is being fostered by articles such as this one.

So many people eager for something they have no intention of getting involved in themselves

snotcricket

It is rather odd the posts on this thread accusing any & all who question the obvious US gov line in such articles.

Could it be that some have better memories ie the Ukrainian crisis was in fact created by the support of the US & EU for but a few thousand sat in Independence Sq just two years after the country had voted in the target with a majority the likes of Cameron, Obama could only dream of.

Only an idiot could not have seen the Russki response to a situation that could in but a very short timescale see NATO troops & kit but a literal footstep from Russki soil....while the ports used by the Russki fleets would be lost overnight usurped no doubt by a 'NATO' fleet of US proportions.....plainly the US knew the likely outcome to the deposing of the elected leader & replaced by the EU puppets....the Russki's had little option.....Putin or no Putin this would have been the outcome.

With regard to the US led attack on the Russki economy with sanctions....well those sanctions hurt the UK too...but of course not the US (they have lobbyist for such matters) our farmers were hurting afore the sanctions....that became a damn sight worse after the imposition.

The US attempts to turn off the oil/gas taps of Putin has done damage to the Russkis, similarly its done damage to W. Europe thus ourselves as oil prices are now held at a level by the sanctions reducing world supplies (the US have lobbyists for such matters) thus the god of the US, the market is skewed & forecourt prices too sighed Osborne as the overall taxation gathers 67% of what goes through the retailers till.

This has been rumbling for over 3 years since the BRICS held their meeting to create a currency that would challenge the $ in terms of the general w.w economy but specifically oil. They did mistime the threat & should have kept their powder dry as the US economy like our own lives on borrowed time & money.....but they made the mistake the US was in such decline they couldn't respond....of course the US have the biggest of all responses to any threat....its armed forces & their technology that advances far more rapidly than any economy.

Incidentally I write this sat at my laptop in the North of England in between running my own business & contacting clients etc..........I suspect my politics would make Putin wince.....however the chronology, actions/outcomes & the general logic of the situation has now't to do with supporting one or t'other.......& do remember the US grudgingly acknowledge without the Russkis the er, er agreement with Iran & non-proliferation would still be a can yet to be kicked down the road.

Personally I'd be more worried that Putin has made fools of the US/EU leaders so many times thus wonder just what is the intent in assisting the brokering of any deal? With the West & Iran.

steph borne

If Russia was worried about the oil price they would not have been so helpful in getting the usa & Iran together on a deal which will put more downward pressure on the oil price! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new... Barack Obama praises Putin for help clinching Iran deal

oleteo

Reading this article I saw only one message to be sent to the Russians:"Russians,surrender!" The rumours about the desease and the ongoing decease of the Russian economy are greatly exaggerated.

steph borne

June 17, 2015 at 1:44 pm Boeing said it struck a $7.4 billion deal to sell 20 of its 747-8 freighters to Russia's Volga-Dnepr Group, providing a much-needed boost to the jumbo-jet program amid flagging demand for four-engine aircraft. http://www.seattletimes.com/bu...
MOSCOW, Russia (May 26, 2015) – Bell Helicopter,
a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced today an agreement with
JSC Ural Works of Civil Aviation (UWCA) for the development of final
assembly capabilities by UWCA for the Bell 407GXP in order to support
UWCA in obtaining Russian registry to facilitate their operations. http://www.bellhelicopter.com/...
.
Oh business as normal at Bell looks like sanctions only to be paid heed by the useful idiots in the EU

snotcricket > steph borne

Yes the sanctions do seem to TTIP more in the US favour than their Western, er, er partners

Sonduh

Just like Brown Osborne is reducing borrowing but encouraging consumer debt which is close to 120% GDP. By the end of next year household debt will be 172% of earnings.Once household debt reaches saturation point and they start defaulting on their debt as they did in 2008 -- Game over. I hear the Black Sea is nice this time of year.

steph borne

A report by Sberbank warned that Gazprom's revenues are likely to drop by almost a third to $106bn this year from $146bn in 2014, seriously eroding Russia's economic base.''

Last year $146 billion bought 4672 billion pybs this year $106 billion will buy 6148 Billion pybs
Gazprom alone generates a tenth of Russian GDP and a fifth of all budget revenues. the Pyb devaluation vs. $ has led to a 31% increase in revenues..

Something Salmond should take notice of should the SNP want to go for independence again. Inflation at 16% may well be but its the price of imported stuff pushing up the prices.. mainly EU goods for sale .. that won't be bought!

As the merkins tell us a devalued dollar is your problem.. the devalued rouble is the EUs problem!

Nikki Santoro

What is happening is the Anglo-Muricuns are actively provoking the Chinese and Russkies into a war. However once it is all said and done, they are going to need a cover story. People are going to ask why the Russkies attacked. And then the Anglo-Muricuns are going to say that Putin put all his eggs in one basket. Yeah that is what happened but really if Putin does attack, it will be because of the endless Anglo-Muricun provocations. Just as they provoked Hilter to no end and Imperial Japan as well.

steph borne

Russian companies have to refinance $86bn....''

So what are you going to do if they default.. go in and repossess..You and who's army? They are struggling trying to get Greece to comply..

Russia's trade surplus is still in the Billions of Dollars while the usa's & UKs is mired in deficit.. Russia recorded a trade surplus of 17.142 USD Billion in May of 2015 http://www.tradingeconomics.co....

Debt public/ external debt ratios

U. K..................92%........317%
usa...................74%......... 98%
And
Russia...............8%..........40%

''And while UK growth could reach 3pc this year, our expansion is far too reliant on rising personal and government debt. ''
''The UK, with an external deficit now equal to 6pc of GDP, the second-largest in half a century,''
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fin...
As ever the west points to Russia and says Look over there (for God's sake don't look here!)

Sonduh > steph borne

And don't forget all their gold reserves. And all their natural resources.

Skalla

Prosperous countries are usually benevolent (the US being the exception to the rule). Hungry countries get to be greedy and aggressive. The US with its economic and financial manipulations will turn a sleepy bear into a very awake and ravenous one, and after hibernation, the first thing bears do is FEED --

vandieman

A cynic could say that the US is driving the oil prices down to push Russia into a war.

Anth2305 > vandieman

Wait until Iranian oil comes fully on stream, which I heard some pundit on TV say could drive the cost down to < $30 a barrel, forcing the Saudis into having to eat massively into their foreign reserves.

gardiner

When the old USSR 'collapsed', what we call the 'Oligarchs' ( a collection of the most highly influential State officials who pocketed practically all the old State assets) corruption was at the very highest level, and society was at its weakest.

The economy became dependant on resource exports.

Because the country's capital was so concentrated, there was practically no 'middle class' of entrepreneurs who could invest capital in job creating, internationally competitive industry.
Although a lot further down this road than the UK - the warning is stark!

beatonthedonis > gardiner

Abramovich wasn't a state official, he was a rubber-duck salesman. Berezovsky wasn't a state official, he was an academic. Khodorkovsky wasn't a state official, he was a PC importer. Gusinsky wasn't a state official, he was an unlicensed cab driver. Smolensky wasn't a state official, he was a blackmarketeer. Fridman wasn't a state official, he was a ticket tout.

daddyseanicus

So the political sanctions are bankrupting Russia because they dared to challenge EU expansion. Result millions of poor Russians will start to flow West and the UK will have another flood of Eastern Europeans.

But at least we showed them our politicians are tough.

Busufi > Jonathan

In the East there is a saying: Why use poison when sugar delivers the same result. Or say as Deng said, It doesn't matter whether the Cat is black or white, so long it catches the mice.

Spelling it out for Russia (or Britain) that would mean giving up Byzantine based ambitions and prospering through alliances with the Muslim Nation or Countries, including Turkey. In the short term such a move would quell internal dissent of the 11m immigrants in Russia, reduce unsustainable security expenditure with its central Asian neighbours, open and expand market for Russian goods in the Middle East, Far East and North Africa, and eventually form and provide a military-commercial -political alliance (like NATO) for the Muslim nations with Russia (with partner strength based upon what is mostly commercial placed on the table (see the gist in the Vienna Agreement between P5+1 and Iran).

The formation of such an alliance would trump Russia's (or Britain's) opponents ambitions and bring prosperity.


Sonduh

" They are running a budget deficit of 3.7pc of GDP but without developed capital markets Russia can't really afford to run a deficit at all."
We are able to have a budget deficit of 4.8% and 90% national debt, 115% non financial corporate debt , 200% financial corporate debt and 120% household debt due to voodoo economics ie. countries can print money to buy your debt.

PS we also have unfunded liabilities like pensions which amounts to many hundred pc of GDP.
The results showed the extraordinary sums that Britain has committed to pay its future retirees. In total, the UK is committed to paying £7.1 trillion in pensions to people who are currently either already retired or still in the workforce.

This is equivalent to nearly five times the UK's total economic output. Such a figure may be hard to put into proportion, as a trillion – a thousand billion – is obviously a huge number.

And we think Russia is in a bad state.

georgesilver

Propaganda. Laughable coming from the UK hack when the UK has un-payable debt and Russia has little external debt plus we have no Gold and Russia has probably 20,000 tonnes. NATO surrounds Russia yet they are the aggressors.

Laughable but idiots still believe the propaganda.

tarentius > georgesilver

The entire world combined has 32,000 tonnes of gold reserves. Russia has 1,200 tonnes.

Russia has government debt of 18% to GDP, a contracting GDP. It is forced to pay interest of 15% on any newly issued bonds, and that's rising. And it has a refinancing crisis on existing debt on the horizon.

Russia's regions are heavily in debt and about 25% of them are already bankrupt. The number is rising.

And we haven't even gotten into the problem with Russian business loans.

Turn out the lights, the party's over for Russia.

Bendu Be Praised > mrsgkhan

The issue is the medias portrayal of Putin .. If the UK media was straight up with the people and just said .. "our friends in the US hate the Russians .. The Russians are growing too big and scary therefore we are going to join in destroying the Russian economy before they become uncatchable " the people would back them ..

Lets be honest .. The Russians don't do anything that we don't .. Apart from stand up to the US that is

Jim0341

Yesterday, AEP spread the gloom about China, today it is Russia. As ever, he uses quotes from leading figures in banks and finance houses, which are generally bemoaning low returns on investments, rather than the wellbeing, or otherwise, of the national economy..
Whose turn is it tomorrow, AEP? My bet is Taiwan.

Bendu Be Praised > FreddieTCapitalist

I think you will find that the UK are just pretending the sanctions and wars are not hurting us ..

Just look at the budget .. 40% cuts to public services .. America tried to destroy the Russian economy by flooding the market with cheap oil but it will come back to bite them ..

The UK should just back off .. lift sanctions against Russia and let the US squabble with them by themselves ..

I sick of paying taxes for the US governments "War on the terror and the rest of the world"

alec bell

This article makes no sense. First of all, there is no way that Gazprom is responsible for 1/10th of Russia's GDP. That is mathematically impossible. 1/20th is more like it. Second, if push comes to shove, Russians are perfectly capable of developing their own vitally-important technologies. Drilling holes in the ground cannot be more complicated than conquering space.

Whatever problems Russia has, engineering impotence is not one of them.

And third, if Russians' reliance on resourses' exports has led to "the atrophy of their industry" as AEP rightly points out, then it must logically follow that disappearance of that revenue will inevitably result in their industrial and agricultural renaissance.

In the end, Ambrose is too ideological to be credible on the issue. Sure, Russia has couple lean years ahead, but it will come out of this ordeal stronger, not weaker. There are already reports of mini boomlets gathering steam under the surface.

alec bell > vlad

vlad, JFYI: According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum (which excludes China and India due to lack of data), Russia leads the way, producing an annual total of 454,000 graduates in engineering, manufacturing and construction. The United States is in second position with 237,826 while Iran rounds off the top three with 233,695. Developing economies including Indonesia and Vietnam have also made it into the top 10, producing 140,000 and 100,000 engineering graduates each year respectively.

Nikki Santoro

Don't mess with the Anglo-Muricuns. They will jack you up bad. Unless you are thousands of miles away and posting anonymously. But even still they can lens you out and cleanse you out should you take it too far. However their dominance is not some much because of their brilliance. They don't have any despite their propaganda. But rather the depths they are willing to stoop to in order to secure victory. Like blowing up an airliner and then pinning it on you for instance. Or poisoning their own farmland.

steve_from_virginia

Futures' traders got burned earlier this year betting that oil prices would rise right back to where they were a year previously. Now they have 'gotten smart'. They know now the problem isn't Saudi Arabia but billions of bankrupt consumers the world around.

Customers are bankrupt b/c of QE and other easing which shifts purchasing power claims from customers to drillers -- and to the banks. As the customers go broke so do the banks: instead of gas lines there are ATM lines.

At the same time, ongoing 'success' at resource stripping is cannibalizing the purchasing power faster than ever before. Soon enough, the claims will be worthless! When the resource capital is inaccessible, so is the purchasing power -- which is the ability to obtain that resource capital.

Business has caught itself in the net of its own propaganda; that there is such a thing as material progress out of waste ... that a better future will arrive the day after tomorrow.

Turns out tomorrow arrives and things get worse. Who could have thunk it?

Brabantian

If AEP is as right about Russia as he was about the Yank shale gas 'boom' - now collapsing into a pile of toxic bad debt -

Then our Russian friends have nothing to worry about

midnightrambler > Guest

The largest military spend - the US - bigger than the next 20 countries combined
The most bases - the US with 800, including many in Germany
Nobody wants war - but the US needs it as their largest industry is defence - apart from manipulative banking.
We are heading for a point of rupture between those who are peaceful and those whose main aim is control and conflict.
Take your pick
A few leaders choose war - most people (who will fight those wars) choose peace.
And of course all wars are bankers' wars - it is only they who profit

Timothy D. Naegele

Both Putin and Russia are in a spiral, from which they will not recover.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.... ("Putin Meets Economic Collapse With Purges, Broken Promises")

Tony Cocks > Timothy D. Naegele

"Both Putin and Russia are in a spiral, from which they will not recover."

This from someone whose former President and gang of criminal henchmen lied to the world on a monumental scale about WMD in Iraq , and waged an illegal war on that country killing hundreds of thousands in the process . Following that it was Libyas turn , then Syrias . Now its Russia the US neo con warmongers are hounding, the difference being that Russia holds the worlds biggest nuclear arsenal.
The US forces had their kicked out of Vietnam and were thoroughly beaten despite throwing everything they had at the conflict save the nuclear option.
Imagine what will happen if it eventually comes to armed conflict with Russia.

midnightrambler > Timothy D. Naegele

A yank lawyer advocating killing.
From the land of citizen killers
What a surprise
Stay away

stephenmarchant

Instead of demonising Putin and banging on about the problems of the Russian economy the MSM should be worried about indebted Western economies including the UK and US. Russian Govt finances are not burdened with nearly £2trn of debt that has funded unsustainable nominal growth. Here in the UK the real GDP growth per capita is declining at over 3% per anum so as a nation the UK is continuing its decline:-

Govt deficit at 5% per anum
Govt debt at about 80% GDP
Private debt and corporate debt each of a similar order
Record current account deficit of about 5% per anum
A deteriorating NIIP (Net International Investment Position)
Uncontrolled immigration

Our whole debt based fiat system is on the brink but few can see it whilst they party with asset and property bubbles. A few of us foresaw the first crash of 2007/8 but we now face a systemic collapse of our fiat system because of the resulting 'extend and pretend' policy of Govts and central bankers.

In the final analysis the true prosperity of a nation will depend upon its natural resources, infrastructure, skills of its workforce and social cohesion.

Graham Milne > JabbaTheCat

The scale of Russian kleptocracy pales into vanishing insignificance beside the criminality of western banks (and the government who 'regulate' them). Europe and the USA are regimes run by criminals; worse than that, they are run by traitors. At least Putin isn't a traitor to his country.

Busufi

The best way for Russia to beat the downturn in it's oil and gas is to invest in down-stream strategic production of petroleum products that would give Russia a competitive advantage on a global scale.

Selling raw natural resources is the Third World way of exports. Not smart.

[Dec 30, 2015] On Pareto Optimality

Notable quotes:
"... the ideal markets that would produce Pareto Optimal allocations don't actually exist ..."
"... moving from actually existing non-ideal markets to ideal markets WOULD NOT BE Pareto Optimal even if it was possible to do so, which it isn't. ..."
"... In short, Pareto Optimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bullshit. ..."
"... The next step in graduate students' indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a "principle of compensation." The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest. Funny how that happens. ..."
Dec 30, 2015 | Economist's View
Sandwichman, December 30, 2015 at 10:06 AM
"Graduate students of economics learn, early in their careers, that markets allocations are Pareto Optimal."

What they don't learn is that

1. the ideal markets that would produce Pareto Optimal allocations don't actually exist and

2. moving from actually existing non-ideal markets to ideal markets WOULD NOT BE Pareto Optimal even if it was possible to do so, which it isn't.

In short, Pareto Optimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bullshit.

The next step in graduate students' indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a "principle of compensation." The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest. Funny how that happens.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Pareto Optimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bull----.

[ Agreed completely and I think this an important conclusion. ]

Paine said in reply to anne

Yes

Sandy gets the guts of it

Though

The compensation principle is precisely what Pareto rule is all about

Yes we can scramble the goods all we want so long as in the end everyone is at least as well off as before the scramble

In a pure exchange model this is less exciting then in a one period production model

Going on to an inter temporal model with an infinite horizon gets into real juicy Wonderlands

The academy makes it's living as much by distracting fine minds as training them

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

The next step in graduate students' indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a "principle of compensation." The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest....

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/business/economy/for-the-wealthiest-private-tax-system-saves-them-billions.html

December 29, 2015

Richest in U.S. Shape Private Tax System to Save Billions
By NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHEN

The very wealthiest families are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield millions, if not billions, of their income using maneuvers available only to several thousand Americans.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman...

Supposing I understand the essay, Roger Farmer is just writing the logical justification to Herbert Spencer's (never Charles Darwin's) "survival of the fittest" rationale that Spencer made wildly popular after Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

Spencer was the successful ultimate justifier of British "sun-never-setting-on-the-Empire" capitalism. Spencer sold a biological justification, Farmer is selling a logical justification of Empire.

Sandwichman said in reply to anne

No, I think Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed.

The bottom line is that NO ONE would have ever paid any attention to the not just "weak" but nonsensical concept if it didn't serve the function of justifying and ultimately glorifying great inequalities of wealth and income.
;

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

I understand the argument and I am entirely right:

Roger Farmer is just writing the logical justification to Herbert Spencer's (never Charles Darwin's) "survival of the fittest" rationale that Spencer made wildly popular after Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

Spencer was the successful ultimate justifier of British "sun-never-setting-on-the-Empire" capitalism. Spencer sold a biological justification, Farmer is selling a logical justification of Empire capitalism.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

I needed to be sure the argument was as empty morally as I supposed initially, but I supposed correctly. The Roger Farmer essay is an amoral logical justification of imperial capitalism. Plato's "Republic" conceived amorally. ;

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

A mean little essay, carefully subtle and mean.

Paine said in reply to anne

But Anne as sandy points out Roger blows up the use of Pareto by his future generations argument

Those unable to establish their preferences are unaccounted for in the scrum

He uses this to draw a bold distinction between securities markets and fish catch of the day markets

Paine said in reply to Paine

It's not the way I'd make his point

But his distinction is important

Some are impacted that are not participating

Third party effects that can not be resolved even with repeated " games "
Because the players are not yet present

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed.

The bottom line is that NO ONE would have ever paid any attention to the not just "weak" but nonsensical concept if it didn't serve the function of justifying and ultimately glorifying great inequalities of wealth and income.

[ Agreed completely, but this argument runs with mine. ]

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed....

[ The issue is that Roger Farmer leaves Pareto Optimality unscathed, and this is an essential point. The essay is beyond the morality of now, but there is no beyond. ]

[Dec 30, 2015] On Pareto Optimality

Notable quotes:
"... the ideal markets that would produce Pareto Optimal allocations dont actually exist ..."
"... moving from actually existing non-ideal markets to ideal markets WOULD NOT BE Pareto Optimal even if it was possible to do so, which it isnt. ..."
"... In short, Pareto Optiimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bullshit. ..."
"... The next step in graduate students indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a principle of compensation. The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest. Funny how that happens. ..."
Dec 30, 2015 | Economist's View
Sandwichman, December 30, 2015 at 10:06 AM
"Graduate students of economics learn, early in their careers, that markets allocations are Pareto Optimal."

What they don't learn is that

1. the ideal markets that would produce Pareto Optimal allocations don't actually exist and

2. moving from actually existing non-ideal markets to ideal markets WOULD NOT BE Pareto Optimal even if it was possible to do so, which it isn't.

In short, Pareto Optimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bullshit.

The next step in graduate students' indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a "principle of compensation." The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest. Funny how that happens.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Pareto Optimality is a just so story that has absolutely no bearing on the real world other than as an ideological justification for tons of bull----.

[ Agreed completely and I think this an important conclusion. ]

Paine said in reply to anne

Yes

Sandy gets the guts of it

Though

The compensation principle is precisely what Pareto rule is all about

Yes we can scramble the goods all we want so long as in the end everyone is at least as well off as before the scramble

In a pure exchange model this is less exciting then in a one period production model

Going on to an inter temporal model with an infinite horizon gets into real juicy Wonderlands

The academy makes it's living as much by distracting fine minds as training them

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

The next step in graduate students' indoctrination is to teach them that although Pareto Optimal reallocations are implausible, you can get around that with a "principle of compensation." The principle, too is based on a same yardstick fallacy. But never mind the Pareto Optimality smokescreen and the compensation smokescreen have constrained economists to think in terms of doing what is best for the wealthiest....

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/business/economy/for-the-wealthiest-private-tax-system-saves-them-billions.html

December 29, 2015

Richest in U.S. Shape Private Tax System to Save Billions
By NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHEN

The very wealthiest families are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield millions, if not billions, of their income using maneuvers available only to several thousand Americans.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman...

Supposing I understand the essay, Roger Farmer is just writing the logical justification to Herbert Spencer's (never Charles Darwin's) "survival of the fittest" rationale that Spencer made wildly popular after Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

Spencer was the successful ultimate justifier of British "sun-never-setting-on-the-Empire" capitalism. Spencer sold a biological justification, Farmer is selling a logical justification of Empire.

Sandwichman said in reply to anne

No, I think Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed.

The bottom line is that NO ONE would have ever paid any attention to the not just "weak" but nonsensical concept if it didn't serve the function of justifying and ultimately glorifying great inequalities of wealth and income.
;

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

I understand the argument and I am entirely right:

Roger Farmer is just writing the logical justification to Herbert Spencer's (never Charles Darwin's) "survival of the fittest" rationale that Spencer made wildly popular after Darwin published "On the Origin of Species."

Spencer was the successful ultimate justifier of British "sun-never-setting-on-the-Empire" capitalism. Spencer sold a biological justification, Farmer is selling a logical justification of Empire capitalism.

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

I needed to be sure the argument was as empty morally as I supposed initially, but I supposed correctly. The Roger Farmer essay is an amoral logical justification of imperial capitalism. Plato's "Republic" conceived amorally. ;

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

A mean little essay, carefully subtle and mean.

Paine said in reply to anne

But Anne as sandy points out Roger blows up the use of Pareto by his future generations argument

Those unable to establish their preferences are unaccounted for in the scrum

He uses this to draw a bold distinction between securities markets and fish catch of the day markets

Paine said in reply to Paine

It's not the way I'd make his point

But his distinction is important

Some are impacted that are not participating

Third party effects that can not be resolved even with repeated " games "
Because the players are not yet present

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed.

The bottom line is that NO ONE would have ever paid any attention to the not just "weak" but nonsensical concept if it didn't serve the function of justifying and ultimately glorifying great inequalities of wealth and income.

[ Agreed completely, but this argument runs with mine. ]

anne said in reply to Sandwichman

Farmer is dissing Pareto Optimality and using "sunspots" as sarcasm. He seems to do it in a way that opens up space for countless side arguments that leave Pareto Optimality unscathed....

[ The issue is that Roger Farmer leaves Pareto Optimality unscathed, and this is an essential point. The essay is beyond the morality of now, but there is no beyond. ]

[Dec 30, 2015] IMF chief Lagarde warns of disappointing global growth in 2016

Notable quotes:
"... Emerging market companies with debt in dollars and revenue in sinking local currencies could struggle as the Fed begins what is expected to be a series of interest rate increases. ..."
www.theguardian.com

The IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, said the prospect of rising interest rates in the US and an economic slowdown in China were feeding uncertainty and a higher risk of economic vulnerability worldwide.

Added to that, growth in global trade has slowed considerably and a decline in raw material prices was posing problems for economies reliant on commodities, while many countries still had weak financial sectors as the financial risks increase in emerging markets, she said.

"All of that means global growth will be disappointing and uneven in 2016," Lagarde said, noting that mid-term prospects had also weakened as low productivity, ageing populations and the effects of the global financial crisis dampened growth. In October, the IMF forecast that the world economy would grow by 3.6% in 2016.

... ... ....

Emerging market companies with debt in dollars and revenue in sinking local currencies could struggle as the Fed begins what is expected to be a series of interest rate increases.

Lagarde warned that rising US interest rates and a stronger dollar could lead to companies defaulting on their payments and that this could "infect" banks and states.

[Dec 29, 2015] The Fed and Financial Reform – Reflections on Sen. Sanders op-Ed

Notable quotes:
"... The obvious candidate for this dark force [correlation between (rising) inequality and (low) growth] is crony capitalism. When a country succumbs to cronyism, friends of the rulers are able to appropriate large amounts of wealth for themselves -- for example, by being awarded government-protected monopolies over certain markets, as in Russia after the fall of communism. That will obviously lead to inequality of income and wealth. It will also make the economy inefficient, since money is flowing to unproductive cronies. Cronyism may also reduce growth by allowing the wealthy to exert greater influence on political policy, creating inefficient subsidies for themselves and unfair penalties for their rivals. ..."
"... The real problem is that money does not go to where it should go, as we see for example in the United States. The money does not flow into the real economy, because the transmission mechanism is broken. That is why we have a bubble in the financial system. The answer is not to tighten monetary policy, but to reform monetary policy so as to ensure that the money gets to the right place... ..."
"... As Stiglitz notes, the transmission mechanisms are broken. Economists trickle down monetary policy might work in theory, but not in practice, as we have seen for the last seven years, when low rates dont trickle down and were wasted instead on asset speculation by the 1%. ..."
"... Reform of the Fed, and the end of cronyism are essential to making sure that the stimulus of low rates gets to Main Street, to ordinary people, and not primarily to asset speculators. ..."
"... The recent decision by the Fed to raise interest rates is the latest example of the rigged economic system. Big bankers and their supporters in Congress have been telling us for years that runaway inflation is just around the corner. They have been dead wrong each time. Raising interest rates now is a disaster for small business owners who need loans to hire more workers and Americans who need more jobs and higher wages. As a rule, the Fed should not raise interest rates until unemployment is lower than 4 percent. Raising rates must be done only as a last resort - not to fight phantom inflation. ..."
"... And in one sentence Summers illustrates exactly why we dodged a bullet in not appointing Summers to be Fed Chair. Preserving the power of the Fed is not the most important policy. Changing the Fed composition so that it is more consumer friendly and not dominated by Wall Street interests is the most important policy change needed. ..."
"... the Balkanized character of US banking regulation is indefensible and would be ended. The worst regulatory idea of the 20th century-the dual banking system-persists into the 21st. The idea is that we have two systems one regulated by the States and the Fed and the other regulated by the OCC so banks have choice. With ambitious regulators eager to expand their reach, the inevitable result is a race to the bottom. ..."
"... Summers is also calling for higher capital requirements. Excellent stuff! ..."
Dec 29, 2015 | Economist's View

'The Fed and Financial Reform – Reflections on Sen. Sanders op-Ed'

This is the beginning of a long response from Larry Summers to an op-ed by Bernie Sanders:
The Fed and Financial Reform – Reflections on Sen. Sanders op-Ed : Bernie Sanders had an op Ed in the New York Times on Fed reform last week that provides an opportunity to reflect on the Fed and financial reform more generally. I think that Sanders is right in his central point that financial policy is overly influenced by financial interests to its detriment and that it is essential that this be repaired.

At the same time, reform requires careful reflection if it is not to be counterproductive. And it is important in approaching issues of reform not to give ammunition to right wing critics of the Fed who would deny it the capacity to engage in the kind of crisis responses that have judged in their totality been successful in responding to the financial crisis.

The most important policy priority with respect to the Fed is protecting it from stone age monetary ideas like a return to the gold standard, or turning policymaking over to a formula, or removing the dual mandate commanding the Fed to worry about unemployment as well as inflation. ...

JohnH said...
Disagree!!! There is more to this than just interest rates. There is the matter of how the policy gets implemented--who gets low rates. Currently the low rates serve mostly the 1%, who profit enormously from them. Case in point: Mort Zuckerberg's 1% mortgage!

"The obvious candidate for this dark force [correlation between (rising) inequality and (low) growth] is crony capitalism. When a country succumbs to cronyism, friends of the rulers are able to appropriate large amounts of wealth for themselves -- for example, by being awarded government-protected monopolies over certain markets, as in Russia after the fall of communism. That will obviously lead to inequality of income and wealth. It will also make the economy inefficient, since money is flowing to unproductive cronies. Cronyism may also reduce growth by allowing the wealthy to exert greater influence on political policy, creating inefficient subsidies for themselves and unfair penalties for their rivals."

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-24/cronyism-causes-the-worst-kind-of-inequality

As we know (although most here steadfastly ignore it) the Fed is rife with crony capitalism. As Bernie pointed out, 4 of the regional governors are from Goldman Sachs. Other examples are abundant. Quite simply, the system is rigged to benefit the few, minimizing any potential trickle down.

If a broad economic recovery is the goal, ending cronyism at the Fed is likely to be far more effective that low interest rates channeled only to the 1%.

JohnH said in reply to JohnH...
Stiglitz:

The real problem is that money does not go to where it should go, as we see for example in the United States. The money does not flow into the real economy, because the transmission mechanism is broken. That is why we have a bubble in the financial system. The answer is not to tighten monetary policy, but to reform monetary policy so as to ensure that the money gets to the right place...

Small and medium enterprises cannot borrow money at zero interest rates - not even a private person, I wish I could do that (laughs). I'm more worried about the loan interest rates, which are still too high. Access for small and medium enterprises to credit is too expensive. That's why it is so important that the transmission mechanism work..."
http://www.cash.ch/news/alle/stiglitz-billiggeld-lost-kein-problem-3393853-448

And let's not forget consumer credit rates, which barely dropped during the Great Recession and are still well above 10%. Even mortgage lending, which primarily benefits the affluent, have been stagnant for years despite historically low rates.

As Stiglitz notes, the transmission mechanisms are broken. Economists' trickle down monetary policy might work in theory, but not in practice, as we have seen for the last seven years, when low rates don't trickle down and were wasted instead on asset speculation by the 1%.

Reform of the Fed, and the end of cronyism are essential to making sure that the stimulus of low rates gets to Main Street, to ordinary people, and not primarily to asset speculators.

Peter K. said in reply to JohnH...

Bernie Sanders:

"The recent decision by the Fed to raise interest rates is the latest example of the rigged economic system. Big bankers and their supporters in Congress have been telling us for years that runaway inflation is just around the corner. They have been dead wrong each time. Raising interest rates now is a disaster for small business owners who need loans to hire more workers and Americans who need more jobs and higher wages. As a rule, the Fed should not raise interest rates until unemployment is lower than 4 percent. Raising rates must be done only as a last resort - not to fight phantom inflation. "

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/opinion/bernie-sanders-to-rein-in-wall-street-fix-the-fed.html

EMichael said in reply to Peter K....

It is hilarious.

"He's right! But his policies are wrong!"

You couldn't make this up......

JF said...
The financial system reform legislation in 2017 will also need to include these matters:

1. Licensure fees and higher and more differential income taxation rates based on the type of financial trading ratios the entities have (in order to direct more emphasis to real-economy lending and away from speculative and leveraged positions used in the financial asset trading marketplaces, so hedge funds probably would face the highest rates in income taxation). For a certain period after enactment these added taxes would be payable by the banks using their excess reserves, which will simply be eliminated until the reserve accounts return to the historically normal period when excess reserves were very small (there would no longer be a need for IOER, as the excess would be eliminated by operation of the taxation statutes). Attaching added ways & means statutes to all the financial service entities also serves to 'cover' some more of huge financial risk held by society and produced by them while the success of this huge sector actually contributes to the financing of self-government - which is also an indirect way to attach high Net Worth being used).

2. New statutory provisions need to reach any and all entities in the financial community regardless of definitions based on the functions they serve or provide (or the way they are named - so yes, the prior separation for deposit-management banking from investing activities can still happen, but this only helps to define which of the differential provisions apply, not help the entity escape them). Perhaps as a result Bank Holding Companies and other large entities won't use a complex network of hundreds of subsidiaries as these would not then serve as a way to avoid taxation, regulatory standards on what are prudent expectations, or supervision; or be used simply to obfuscate -- so investors and regulators can't see the truth of matters.

3. The newly named central bank needs to hold the discretion to buy Treasury bonds directly from the Treasury. This would discipline these fundamental asset-trading marketplaces and the huge primary dealer group of entities, and weaken the fox-and-hen-house influence on public finance.

4. New accounting approaches for the central bank would clarify what happens should the Congress direct redemption amounts or asset sales for the public's purposes. A good portion of the current FRB's book of owned assets can be redeemed or sold without affecting the 'power' of the central bank, and the proceeds used then, for example, to lower payroll taxes via a direct transfer to the social security trust fund's set of accounts).

Senator Sanders, good stuff. Bring out the vote, let us get others in Congress with whom you can work.

BillB said...
Summers: "The most important policy priority with respect to the Fed is protecting it from stone age monetary ideas like a return to the gold standard, or turning policymaking over to a formula, or removing the dual mandate commanding the Fed to worry about unemployment as well as inflation."

And in one sentence Summers illustrates exactly why we dodged a bullet in not appointing Summers to be Fed Chair. Preserving the power of the Fed is not the most important policy. Changing the Fed composition so that it is more consumer friendly and not dominated by Wall Street interests is the most important policy change needed.

Summers argument is the same we always hear from so-called "centrists." "You hippies should shut up because you are helping the opposition."

You hear the same sort of argument with respect to Black Lives Matter.

pgl said in reply to pgl...

On financial regulation - Summers is spot on here:

"the Balkanized character of US banking regulation is indefensible and would be ended. The worst regulatory idea of the 20th century-the dual banking system-persists into the 21st. The idea is that we have two systems one regulated by the States and the Fed and the other regulated by the OCC so banks have choice. With ambitious regulators eager to expand their reach, the inevitable result is a race to the bottom."

It is called regulatory capture.

Summers is also calling for higher capital requirements. Excellent stuff!

[Dec 27, 2015] 2016 will be a year of living dangerously for the global economy

Notable quotes:
"... WW I happened after 20 yrs during which the the superpower Britain had been blatantly replacing their dwindling economic influence by demonstrations of military powers. Now which nation today is siphoning off by ever more military means the products and raw materials of others, while not even caring a bit about welfare for the majority of their own citizens? ..."
"... But it's so much easier to make propaganda against Mr Putin's public appearances than seriously address the point that this guy is genuinely popular at home precisely because he refuses his country to be a sellout to USA's 1O %. ..."
Dec 27, 2015 | The Guardian

marketingexpert -> HorseCart 27 Dec 2015 14:38

If the big borrower nations like GB and USA were honest, it would be electoral suicide because all they could promise is massive reduction in living standards back to a level we can afford

And that will happen either by progressive erosion or catastrophic bubble burst and economiccollapse.

But It is so much easier Lefty fashion to promise jam today for everyone, and invent bogus bogeymen to pay for it all, or pretend you can borrow or print to prosperity. Anyone north of a five year old can see through such nonsense from the day they trade mars bars for marbles,

Buy gold, or farmland.

lingyai -> SrdeAth 27 Dec 2015 14:25

that's what the US has all those military bases around the world for.. can't have the world reserve currency being threatened...

KillerMarmot -> Lafcadio1944 27 Dec 2015 14:25

Neoliberalism is going to provide prosperity when clear-eyed analysis shows Neoliberalism to be little more than subjugation to oligarch rule and the most egregious inequity the world has ever known.

Actually the world is more prosperous than it has ever been. Over the last few decades, billions of people have been lifted out of abject poverty into something resembling a modern lifestyle. Infant mortality has been falling steadily. Life expectancy has been raising steadily. It is resounding triumph, but one that is little recognized,

Marjallche -> gilesjuk 27 Dec 2015 13:02

Yes I actually think it is, as dependencies breed fear of being exploited, breeds distrust as to whether the other side does or does not threaten with blackmail etc. I got the idea from Keynes, who saw stability in self-reliance of nations and instability in population import, which threw the balance in favour of big capital.

Marjallche -> JudiHoskyn885 27 Dec 2015 12:57

WW I happened after 20 yrs during which the the superpower Britain had been blatantly replacing their dwindling economic influence by demonstrations of military powers. Now which nation today is siphoning off by ever more military means the products and raw materials of others, while not even caring a bit about welfare for the majority of their own citizens?

But it's so much easier to make propaganda against Mr Putin's public appearances than seriously address the point that this guy is genuinely popular at home precisely because he refuses his country to be a sellout to USA's 1O %. Another pre WWI parallel. PS it seems to be a very anglo-saxon notion that the upper 10% belong to a better and preferable breed of humans. The rest being granted the "freedom" to crawl in the dirt and die in the name of "freedom" for the preservation of their "democratic" 1%ers privilege.

Iconoclastick 27 Dec 2015 12:54

It was bad in 2012, it's got far worse.

as the chart below shows, if there is anything the global financial system needs, is for the rating agencies, bond vigilantes, and lastly, general public itself, to realize that the UK's consolidated debt (non-financial, financial, government and household) to GDP is... just under 1000%. That's right: the UK debt, when one adds to its more tenable sovereign debt tranche all the other debt carried on UK books (and thus making the transfer of private debt to the public balance sheet impossible), is nearly ten times greater than the country's GDP. To call that "game over" is an insult to game overs everywhere.


http://www.zerohedge.com/news/psssst-france-here-why-you-may-want-cool-it-britain-bashing-uks-950-debt-gdp

Sammy Johnston -> gilesjuk 27 Dec 2015 12:41

All political parties follow the will of the banking families and corporate elites. The economy is in it's intended state, gearing up for the third world war, the formation of world government and the eventual digitalization of currency world wide.

To state that cameron has any control is naive. To say corbyn can be effective to oppose it is naive. We need to eliminate our current elite and start a new paradigm to have any sense of freedom again.

MancuMan -> eveofchange 27 Dec 2015 12:50

Aye, a few million people got murdered by the Communists but apart from that and the lack of joy in life for the survivors it all went very well indeed and we should give it another go.

ldopas -> eveofchange 27 Dec 2015 12:37

I see you have been studying the socialist comics again.

Evidence tells us, evidence, that capitalism has problems. Lots of them. But it does work for the most part, and the model of capitalism also when there is a disruption mostly recovers like a cut in the skin that heals. Socialism wherever tried ALWAYS has produced poor if not catastrophic results, and once a downward spiral is established there is nothing to stop it, no mechanism in place to heal it like capitalism.

So my money, pun intended, is with capitalism.

Look if you are fed up of our capitalist first world services, infrastructure and healthcare there are still a few deluded places where some sort of socialism exists; Cuba for example where everyone is equal in poverty and their infrastructure is non existent, perhaps N Korea?

Ask yourself this. when a country that is poor and gets the chance for democracy, why do they always go more capitalistic?

eveofchange -> jonsnow92 27 Dec 2015 12:25

I have told you what would happen if capitalism continues.

I opposed Stalin and his ilk, and his corruption of socialism. But under even he, Russia escaped the economic collapse of the thirties, and was invaded by a country that had been ravaged by capitalism's collapse . Russia even emerged stronger.

The nationalised economy worked perfectly, and defeated capitalist Germany (although Hitler himself,introduced aspects of socialism--as did the UK and US). But without a workers and working class democracy, nationalisation will not work for any length of time .

jonsnow92 -> eveofchange 27 Dec 2015 12:17

unless consciously overthrown by a working class takeover for socialism, would still carry on. What do you want?

It didn't work in USSR did it? The working class took over and it didn't end up in milk and honey on the streets. Same for East Germany - apart from the genius of Trabant not much else going on until the people started voting with their feet jumping walls and going to capitalism. And I didn't mention Albania, Cuba, North Korea and other great success stories from socialism.

BTW - in socialist countries you couldn't have a strike as the working class was in power and as Stalin said: "why would the working class strike if they are in power?"

eveofchange 27 Dec 2015 12:02

The problem is capitalism, as Marx correctly pointed out and analysed. One "solution" always leads to a worse problem---and it cannot be resolved,or solved Eventually there is either a major war, between desperate capitalist states fighting over shrinking markets, or there is a gigantic crash.--or both.This literally wipes out productive capacity, and thus the problem of "overproduction" is temporarily "solved". The same cycle is then repeated, to it's inevitable conclusion--again.
Millions, throughout the world, even in the UK, are made destitute by this, or even die--but capitalism, unless consciously overthrown by a working class takeover for socialism, would still carry on. What do you want?

> newsfreak 27 Dec 2015 13:33

The ambiguity of economic and financial forecasters tend to reach proverbial limits. They make a living out of ambiguity and what later end up being frustrated expectations: "2016 will be a year of living dangerously for the global economy" yet "there will be no explosion in 2016, but a fuse will be lit." How dangerous is a lit fuse? The whole financial world system is a sham based on printing currencies with no backing standard. At some point there will be a wake up call, a reality check, and a devastating free fall.

ID7829806 27 Dec 2015 11:58

Economic forecasting is a mug's game.

But a lot of people get paid a lot of money to do it. Forecasting is of course, at best, an inexact and purely speculative effort (I nearly wrote 'an inexact science', but there is nothing scientific about it, at all).

Those who have the confidence/cheek/arrogance to predict, tend to stick close to the average of an (emerging) consensus, if there is one. Commentators keep looking around and over their shoulders - no one wants to look silly - and so feed-on and affirm each other. Few stick their necks out - but then, if they do, they are likely unknown or a maverick, and does anyone therefore notice, or care?

A broken clock is right twice a day, but who wants to predict that the clock will fall off the wall (unless they have inside knowledge)?

Larry, you may be right. Or you may be wrong. 2016 is an Election Year in the US, which suggests 'nothing to see here' for the next 12 months. But then again, it didn't stop the last crash happening.

But the feeling in your water could be right, precisely because we are in unknown and unprecedented territory. The historic economic 'rule-book' hasn't so much been torn-up in recent years, rather - quietly - put back on the shelve, and self-consciously ignored.

These are unprecedented times. So: who knows what might happen? An unprecedented economic implosion round about 2017 is possible. Or not. But on a balance of probabilities: something without precedent is likely to happen (for good or ill): and none of us will have predicted it.

Dan_de_Macy 27 Dec 2015 11:58

Prediction:

Going South: Why Britain will have a Third World Economy by 2014 Paperback – 14 Jun 2012

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Going-South-Britain-Third-Economy/dp/0230392547

Reality:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/17/imf-chief-praises-british-governments-handling-of-economy

Iconoclastick 27 Dec 2015 11:50

Other stuff building up a storm on the horizon...

Forget About Junk Bonds, This Is the New Credit-Equity Disconnect Investors Should Be Watching
Can contagion spread to stocks?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-15/forget-about-junk-bonds-this-is-the-new-credit-equity-disconnect-investors-should-be-watching

This Junk Bond Derivative Index Is Saying Something Scary About Defaults. Markit's CDX index is pricing in a 2008-like selloff.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-16/this-junk-bond-derivative-index-is-saying-something-scary-about-defaults

[Dec 27, 2015] Summer Rerun Why America Will Need Some Elements of a Welfare State

Notable quotes:
"... Wolf concludes that America cannot do without some form of a welfare state, specifically improved training, education, and universal health care. ..."
"... Our problem is that we are asking for concessions that are beyond the acceptable limit for elites in any historical epoch. We're asking the powerful and the rich to give up their money and power for the greater good of all mankind. This is not likely to happen unless a powerful enough segment of the elite comes to the inescapable conclusion that they're literally dead meat if they don't and therefore opts for survival over position. ..."
"... Welfare etc are social services that can only be funded through the world-wide looting operation of the American empire ..."
Dec 27, 2015 | naked capitalism

An excellent column by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, where he is the lead economics editor. Starting with principles put forward by Ben Bernanke in his recent speech on income inequality, Wolf concludes that America cannot do without some form of a welfare state, specifically improved training, education, and universal health care.

James Levy, December 26, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I have no idea if Marx was right, in the long run, or wrong–the verdict is still out on the long-term viability of industrial capitalism, which is less than 250 years old and creaking mightily as I write this. It may be that when Rosa Luxemburg said that the choice was between Socialism and Barbarism, she underestimated how likely barbarism was. What I do know is that capitalism today isn't just too ugly to tolerate, it is downright murderous. Its imperatives are driving the despoliation of the planet. It's love of profit over all else is cutting corners and creating externalities that are lethal. But it has made a few percent of the global population comfortable and powerful, and they are holding onto that comfort and that power come hell or high water (and, ironically, if things continue apace both are on the menu).

Our problem is that we are asking for concessions that are beyond the acceptable limit for elites in any historical epoch. We're asking the powerful and the rich to give up their money and power for the greater good of all mankind. This is not likely to happen unless a powerful enough segment of the elite comes to the inescapable conclusion that they're literally dead meat if they don't and therefore opts for survival over position. I am not enthusiastic that this will happen before it is way too late to save more than a fraction of the current world population, and send those people back to the lifestyles and thought patterns of 30 Year's War Europe.

    1. digi_owl

      Its a generational thing. Right after WW2, many of the elite had just that epiphany that unless they have the common people behind them, they are toast. But now they are dead or dying, and their grandkids are basically once more thinking that they can go it alone. This because they have not had the required experiences that help develop the wisdom.

      Reply
  1. Paul Tioxon

    What Marx saw long ago, we can see today, and without relegating ourselves to his analysis, come to our own conclusions. Contradictions, summed up well by Lincoln as a house divided against itself cannot stand is just as true today. Millions of guns to protect the citizenry from tyranny have only resulted in a 1/4 million murders and 5 times as many shootings since Jan 1, 2000, some placing people in wheel chairs and other crippling gunshot afflictions, and more and more institutionalized state oppression, economic exploitation and miserable lives propped up in an alcoholic haze until the liver or brain gives out. We have more food than we know what to do with so we throw away almost as much as we eat. And we have eaten ourselves into morbid obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The contradictions abound from the kitchen table to the kitchen cabinet of the White House where there seems to be nothing passed so freely as bad advice.

    The Welfare State arose from the sacrifices of the population in giving their sweat, blood and tears to defend their nation during war, to be rewarded for their sacrifices, rewards which were demands for power sharing and more in the paycheck, more benefits and more time to enjoy the life spent in a more prosperous world. It seems to me that Obamacare is not simply in death spiral all of its own making, but even more so, because it is the best attempt capitalism can produce in an America that is the most capitalist of societies down to the marrow its bones. Little competition from the Church or the social relations between nobles and subjects set for in the laws that were disestablished to free markets for commodification and money making. Money making enterprises structured the laws from slavery, to the voting franchise with little from the state to cushion any of the hardships of life in America.

    Health care is the largest industry we have. It is approaching 20% of the GNP. I remember the great national freak out in the late 1970s when congress realized it was approaching 10%. Nothing seems to be stopping the costs from spiraling upward and onward. No risk of deflation here where nothing is spared to save a life, operate on some poor little afflicted child, or buy a piece of equipment the size of an office building that shoots a proton beam at cancer, one cancer cell at a time.

    When Obama Care becomes a clear burden to even the democrats who can point to it now as some sort of accomplishment, and it is an accomplishment for the people who finally get to see a doctor, get into a hospital, get that operation or diagnosis that saves their lives, when even those accomplishments number in the millions, it will be part of a health care industry for which $Trillions of dollars can no longer be justified or even funded. As that financial collapse approaches, it would be better for politicians to declare the defeat of a program better rolled into one universal single payer system currently operating as Medicare, than try to reform, shore up or the old tried and true public lie, get rid of its waste and corruption.

    Declare victory with Medicare as the solution and put everyone into it. The only paper work left should be each person's medical history with diagnosis and healing as the happy ending to the story.

    Reply
  2. jgordon

    There is a fundamental error in perception in the Western world that is so pervasive that people can't even see it. As a most basic component of a healthy society people need to be able to survive at a local community level without outside support. Only after that is taken care of should people concern themselves with luxuries, inter-community and international relations.

    Welfare–not to mention other government services–can appear to have positive impacts if one only looks at their effects in isolation, however I think there is a devastating and pernicious impact on people's ability to form community bonds and have local resilience with things like welfare.

    Also, let's also not forget that Americans consume far more of the earth's precious resources than any other group in the world. Welfare etc are social services that can only be funded through the world-wide looting operation of the American empire. Do these recipients of empire benefits have a moral right to share in the loot of empire? Perhaps instead of domestic welfare it would be more ethical for the American empire to provide social benefits for the indigenous peoples who are forced from their lands to work like slaves for the empire's benefit. Although admittedly if the American empire used it's loot for the benefit of the foreign peoples whose lives it destroyed then there'd probably be nothing left to spread around to the military, or to pacify and police the domestic population. So I suppose that's not a serious proposal.

    Reply
    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Welfare etc are social services that can only be funded through the world-wide looting operation of the American empire

      This is obviously not true. Unless every social democratic country in the world is considered as a piece of the American empire. And even then, I would argue that we can easily afford a generous welfare state with a small shift in priorities away from (globally destabilizing) defense spending to social productive spending on human development.

      Reply
      1. jgordon

        Obvious to who? America lavishes so much money on its military not only because of corruption, but also because it has the world reserve currency and is a guarantor of the safety of international shipping. These facts are inextricably linked to the America's status as the world hegemon. The empire provides order and structure, and enforces the extraction of resources from the periphery to the center. The bread and circuses are inextricably linked to the empire's military activities and trying to tease them apart will only lead to collapse of the entire system sooner than it will otherwise happen.

        "Social Democratic"–now that's an interesting phrase. Did you know that Syria is a democracy, and was an extremely prosperous and well-education nation prior to 2011?

        Reply
        1. Vatch

          "Did you know that Syria is a democracy"

          Here's a telling paragraph from the Wikipedia article about Syria:

          Hafez al-Assad died on 10 June 2000. His son, Bashar al-Assad, was elected President in an election in which he ran unopposed.[68] His election saw the birth of the Damascus Spring and hopes of reform, but by autumn 2001 the authorities had suppressed the movement, imprisoning some of its leading intellectuals.[84] Instead, reforms have been limited to some market reforms.

          [Dec 27, 2015] The Sneaky Way Austerity Got Sold to the Public Like Snake Oil

          Notable quotes:
          "... When children don't get good educations, the production of knowledge falls into private control. Power gets consolidated. The official theoretical frameworks that benefit the most powerful get locked in. ..."
          "... Not only were the politicians worried about votes but also the welfare state was a way to head off a left wing revolution. ..."
          "... the change began in 1976 with the election of Rockefeller-funded Jimmy Carter, who immediately launched an austerity program. Support for Keynesian economics was further eroded by the 70's stagflation which we now know was caused by Mid East oil but at the time the "left" were like deer in the headlights, with no clue what to do. ..."
          "... The final nail in the coffin was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR, discrediting communism. After that, "there was no alternative" to corporate capitalism. Or more accurately, the left was slow to formulate an alternative and to this day is still struggling with an alternative as we have observed with Syriza. It's not enough to oppose austerity, you have to have a constructive plan to fix things. ..."
          Dec 27, 2015 | naked capitalism
          LP: You indicate that this approach to budgeting was invented as a way of making the New Deal acceptable to the business community. How did that work? Over time, who has benefitted from it? Who has lost?

          OC: Back in the 1940s, workers were fighting for their rights, class struggle was heating up, and soldiers would soon be returning from the fronts. At that point, a new business organization, the Committee for Economic Development (CED), came together. Led by Beardsley Ruml and other influential business figures, the CED played a crucial role in developing a conservative approach to Keynesian economics that helped make policies that would help put all Americans to work acceptable to the business community.

          The idea was that more consumers would translate into more profits - which is good for business. After all, the economic experts and budget technicians said so, not just the politicians. And the business leaders were told that economic growth and price stability would go along with this, which they liked.

          But things changed progressively over the 1970s and early 1980s. Firms went global. They became financialized. The balance of power between workers and owners started to shift more towards the owners, the capitalists. People were told they needed to sacrifice, to accept cuts to social spending and fewer rights and benefits on the job - all in the name of economic science and capitalism. The CAB was turned into a tool for preventing excessive spending - or justifying selected cuts.

          Middle class folks were afraid that inflation would erode their savings, so they were more keen to approve draconian measures to cut wages and reduce public budgets. People on the lower rungs of the economic ladder felt the pain first. But eventually the middle class fell on the wrong side of the fence, too. Most of them became relatively poorer.

          I suppose this shows the limits of democracy when information, knowledge, and ultimately power are unequally distributed.

          LP: You're really talking about birth of austerity and the way lies about public spending and budgets have been sold to the public. Why is austerity such a powerful idea and why do politicians still win elections promoting it?

          OC: Austerity is so powerful today because it feeds off of itself. It makes people uncertain about their lives, their debts, and their jobs. They become afraid. It's a strong disciplinary mechanism. People stop joining forces and the political status quo gets locked down.

          Even the
          name of this tool, the "cyclically adjusted budget," carries an aura of respect. It diverts our attention. We don't question it. It creates a barrier between the individual and the political realm: it undermines democratic participation itself. This obscure theory validates, with its authority, a big economic mistake that sounds like common sense but is actually snake oil - the notion that the federal government budget is like a household budget. Actually, it isn't. Your household doesn't collect taxes. It doesn't print money. It works very differently, yet the nonsense that it should behave exactly like a household budget gets repeated by politicians and policymakers who really just want to squeeze ordinary people.

          LP: How does all this play out in the U.S. and in Europe?

          OC: The European Union requires its members to comply with something called a cyclically adjusted budget constraint. Each country has to review its economic and fiscal plans with the European Commission and prove that those are compatible with the Pact. It's a ceiling on a country's deficit, but it's also much more than that.

          Thanks to the estimate, the governments of Italy or Spain, for example, are supposed to force the economy toward some ideal economic condition, the definition of which is obviously quite controversial and has so far rewarded those countries that have implemented labor market deregulation, cut pensions, and even changed the way elections happen. Again, it's a control mechanism.

          In the U.S. this scenario plays out, too, although less strictly. Talk about the budget often relies on the same shifty and politically-shaded statistical tools to support one argument or the other. Usually we hear arguments that suggest we have to cut social programs and workers' rights and benefits or face economic doom. Tune in to the presidential debates and you'll hear this played out - and it isn't strictly limited to one party.

          LP: How do we stop powerful players from co-opting economics and budgets for their own purposes?

          OC: Our education system is increasingly unequal and deprived of public resources. This is true in the U.S. but also in Europe, where the crisis accelerated a process that was already underway. When children don't get good educations, the production of knowledge falls into private control. Power gets consolidated. The official theoretical frameworks that benefit the most powerful get locked in.

          In the economic field, we need to engage different points of view and keep challenging dominant narratives and frameworks. One day, human curiosity will save us from intellectual prostitution.

          craazyboy, December 25, 2015 at 10:10 am

          Most people don't eat, go to college, use healthcare, rent or buy housing on the east or west coast, or purchase military equipment (except perhaps small time stuff like assault rifles), so the BLS greatly underweights(or hedonics prices, or just pulls rent data outta their butts) these things in the inflation data they create. The Fed then goes into a tizzy if the data comes in a few tenths of a percent below 2%, even if the data spent years above 2%, and floods the country in liquidity so our job creators – banks and large corporations – will hire us and give us raises, and once they finish doing that, the BLS will signal that inflation is 2% and the Fed will then know all our problems are solved. It just takes time.

          See the book "Treasure Island" for how things are going on the revenue side. But more tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy are needed so we don't force them to do any illegal tax avoidance stuff and they will then happily pay whatever they think their fair should be. Might be zero. They will then have money to buy stuff too, which is a big plus as well, when you think about it.

          So clearly, you can see why deficit spending almost seems inevitable.

          Then the next problem is we still have unemployment, and something needs to be done about that. For instance, lots of room for more government contracts for social purposes. Take Obamacare. Place a single source contract, now estimated between $1 and $2 billion, with a Canadian systems company that employs independent contractor Indian programmers. Eventually, we have Obamacare!

          We can do this if we just get serious about this and say "No More Austerity In America!"

          likbez, December 27, 2015 at 9:31 pm

          Emperor Severus is famously said to have given the advice to his sons: "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men"

          Brooklin Bridge

          Can education provide the solution?

          I suspect that the educational bias occurs at all levels in the sense that much the same misinformation is provided regardless of neighborhood but progressively wrapped in more elegant pedagogical flim-flam-ery for the owner class. Basically, the bias changes, but not the message, as one goes from poor (austerity – this is your lot in life) to wealthy (austerity – you were born to make the tough decisions, it's in your genes – and you'll just have to accept the rewards, man up to your destiny and toss em a quarter on Sundays). The upper class does get a far better education, but the bias is or becomes unconscious over time.

          Basically, aristocracy is a nasty brutish cycle that keeps upping the ante of consequences.

          washunate, December 26, 2015 at 8:09 am

          Yves, INET and NEP and others have been lecturing that topic for years. How many trillions of dollars do we have to deficit spend before the failure of things to improve indicts the hypothesis itself?

          Maybe what matters is not the amount of the spending, but rather, the distribution.

          And what is so bad about deflation? The attachment of moral judgment to inflation and deflation is rather bizarre outside of establishment monetary economics. The basic monetary problem confronting the bottom 80% or so of American households is inflation, not deflation.


          Dan Lynch, December 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

          I don't buy the article's historical narrative.

          Conservatives have ALWAYS opposed spending on social programs and ALWAYS used the deficit as an excuse (unless the deficit was due to war or tax cuts for the rich). This was true during the New Deal; FDR himself was a deficit hawk.

          Nonetheless for years the public supported social programs and no politician dared to cut them. Not only were the politicians worried about votes but also the welfare state was a way to head off a left wing revolution.

          What changed? I would say the change began in 1976 with the election of Rockefeller-funded Jimmy Carter, who immediately launched an austerity program. Support for Keynesian economics was further eroded by the 70's stagflation which we now know was caused by Mid East oil but at the time the "left" were like deer in the headlights, with no clue what to do.

          The final nail in the coffin was the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR, discrediting communism. After that, "there was no alternative" to corporate capitalism. Or more accurately, the left was slow to formulate an alternative and to this day is still struggling with an alternative as we have observed with Syriza. It's not enough to oppose austerity, you have to have a constructive plan to fix things.

          Vatch, December 25, 2015 at 12:40 pm

          History teaches us that peacetime austerity can be horribly disastrous. Some examples:

          British austerity during the 19th century included the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1849: The Irish population was about 8 million people in 1841, and the death toll of the famine was at least a million. This is a huge percentage loss of life. Due to the combination of deaths with emigration and births that did not occur, the 1851 population of 6.5 million was estimated to be about 2.5 million lower than expected. Since food was exported during the famine, this was definitely an extreme case of austerity.

          Soviet austerity during the 1930s: Millions died, and food was exported during the famine period of 1931-1933. Austerity is often associate with conservatives, so I guess conservative austerity enthusiasts must be pleased with the performance of the eminent conservative Josef Stalin.

          Chinese austerity during the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1962: Tens of millions died - perhaps as many as 45 million. The same irony about conservatives and Stalin is true about conservatives and Mao, but on a far greater scale.

          Merry Christmas.

          ben chifley

          july 24 2015: Krugman:Ignore the 'MIT gang' at US economy's peril Paul Krugman says while economists of the '70s discarded Keynes, he never went away at MIT.‏
          http://www.chron.com/opinion/outlook/article/Krugman-Ignore-the-MIT-gang-at-US-economy-s-6404243.php

          MIT: Libertarian Haven | Independent Political Report‏
          http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2011/01/mit-libertarian-haven/

          Soros | MIT Global Education & Career Development‏
          https://gecd.mit.edu/go-abroad/distinguished-fellowships/explore-fellowships/soros

          washunate

          This is a pretty remarkable piece of rambling drivel. To the extent coherent points can be taken away from this, it appears there are at least two major flaws:

          1) There is absolutely no link between public opinion and CAB. Germany chooses to have national healthcare, passenger rail, and renewable energy. The US chooses to have national security, predatory medicine, and car-dependent sprawl.

          2) There is absolutely no link between austerity and concentration of wealth and power. France has a much more equal distribution of wealth than the US. Yet the US has run enormous deficits while France is supposedly constrained by the techno mumbo jumbo nonsense of the EU.

          The notion that 'austerity' is sold to the public is just a blatant falsehood. Americans don't support the budget priorities in Washington. It's a collective action problem, not a public opinion problem.

        2. [Dec 27, 2015] This Junk Bond Derivative Index Is Saying Something Scary About Defaults

          Bloomberg Business

          Citigroup analysts led by Anindya Basu point out that spreads on the CDX HY, as the index is known, are currently pricing in an expected loss of 21.2 percent, which translates into something like 22 defaults over the next five years if one assumes zero recovery for investors. That is a pretty big number once you consider that a total of 41 CDX HY constituents have defaulted since the index really began trading in 2005, equating to about 3.72 defaults per year. A big chunk of those defaults (17) occurred in 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

          What to make of it all? Actual recoveries during corporate default cycles tend to be higher than the worst-case scenario of zero percent. In fact, they average somewhere in the 26 percent range, which would imply 29 defaults over the next five years instead of 41.

          So what? you might say. The CDX HY includes but one default cycle, and those types of analyses tend to underestimate the peril of tail risk scenarios (hello, subprime crisis). Citi has an answer for that, too. Using spreads from the cash bond market going back to 1991, they forecast the default rate over the next 12 months to be something more like 5 percent to 5.5 percent. (For comparison, the rating agency Moody's is currently forecasting a 3.77 percent default rate.)

          [Dec 24, 2015] In 2012, Greek pension funds, which were obliged under Greek law to own government bonds were hit by debt write-down and lost about 10 billion euros or roughly 60 percent of their reserves

          econbrowser.com
          Jeffrey J. Brown

          In reading the following NYT article about the Greek Crisis, with an emphasis on pensions and pensioners, I recalled Professor Hamilton's post on the US Social Security system. To borrow Warren Buffet's phrase about finding out who is skinny dipping when the tide goes out, I wonder if the tide has just receded faster for Greece than for the US, in terms of over promised and under-funded Social Security and pension plans, especially in regard to vastly underfunded state and local government pension plans. And of course, federal government owns both the asset and the liability for the Social Security Trust Fund

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/world/europe/greece-pensions-debt-negotiations-alexis-tsipras.html?hpw&rref=business&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

          Greece's social security system was troubled even before the crisis, already divided into more than 130 funds and offering a crazy quilt of early-retirement options that were a monument to past political patronage.

          In 2012, the pension funds, which were obliged under Greek law to own government bonds*, were hit by a huge debt write-down as those bonds plummeted in value. As a result they lost about 10 billion euros, or $11.1 billion - roughly 60 percent of their reserves.

          Greece's creditors, seeking to make the Greek labor market more competitive, insisted that the government reduce the amount companies and workers must contribute toward pensions. And they insisted that Greece reduce its minimum wage so that those who do contribute have smaller outlays.

          At the same time, the pension system was becoming an even bigger component of the social safety net, absorbing thousands. People like Ms. Meliou retired early, either because of the sale of state-owned companies, because they feared their salaries would be cut and thus their pensions would be smaller, or simply because their businesses failed. Few are living comfortably, and many support unemployed children.

          *Remind you of another system?

          [Dec 24, 2015] An Aging Society Is No Problem When Wages Rise

          Notable quotes:
          "... Hey, if the plutocrats won't raise wages then they will need to raise the payroll tax cap on Social Security. They should have thought of that before starting so many wars. The Bonus Army will not be denied. ..."
          "... Raise it my foot, they need to eliminate it. The cap has always been more welfare for the rich. ..."
          "... Why not eliminate the income cap ($118k) entirely and start taxing capital gains and dividends for Social Security too? Members of Congress pay this tax on 65% of the salaries ($174k), while 95% of all wage earners pay this tax on 100% of their earnings. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com

          Dean Baker:

          An Aging Society Is No Problem When Wages Rise: Eduardo Porter discusses the question of whether retirees will have sufficient income in twenty or thirty years. He points out that if no additional revenue is raised, Social Security will not be able to pay full scheduled benefits after 2034.
          While this is true, it is important to note that this would have also been true in the 1940, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. If projections were made for Social Security that assumed no increase in the payroll tax in the future, there would have been a severe shortfall in the trust fund making it unable to pay full scheduled benefits.
          We have now gone 25 years with no increase in the payroll tax, by far the longest such period since the program was created. With life expectancy continually increasing, it is inevitable that a fixed tax rate will eventually prove inadequate if the retirement age is not raised. (The age for full benefits has already been raised from 65 to 66 and will rise further to 67 by 2022, but no further increases are scheduled.)
          The past increases in the Social Security tax have generally not imposed a large burden on workers because real wages rose. The Social Security trustees project average wages to rise by more than 50 percent over the next three decades. If most workers share in this wage growth, then the two or three percentage point tax increase that might be needed to keep the program fully funded would be a small fraction of the wage growth workers see over this period. Of course, if income gains continue to be redistributed upward, then any increase in the Social Security tax will be a large burden.
          For this reason, Social Security should be seen first and foremost as part of the story of wage inequality. If workers get their share of the benefits of productivity growth then supporting a larger population of retirees will not be a problem. On the other hand, if the wealthy manage to prevent workers from benefiting from growth during their working lives, they will also likely prevent them from having a secure retirement.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said...

          Hey, if the plutocrats won't raise wages then they will need to raise the payroll tax cap on Social Security. They should have thought of that before starting so many wars. The Bonus Army will not be denied.

          DrDick -> Darryl, Ron...

          "they will need to raise the payroll tax cap on Social Security"

          Raise it my foot, they need to eliminate it. The cap has always been more welfare for the rich.

          Bud Meyers -> DrDick...

          Why not eliminate the income cap ($118k) entirely and start taxing capital gains and dividends for Social Security too? Members of Congress pay this tax on 65% of the salaries ($174k), while 95% of all wage earners pay this tax on 100% of their earnings.

          mulp

          "We have now gone 25 years with no increase in the payroll tax, by far the longest such period since the program was created. With life expectancy continually increasing, it is inevitable that a fixed tax rate will eventually prove inadequate if the retirement age is not raised."

          Illogical!

          If wages of younger workers were maintaining the same gains over their previous generation peers, and in fact, gained even more due to reduced supply of workers relative to steady demand for labor as the large boomer cohort leaves the labor force to the smaller subsequent generation.

          Instead, conservative free lunch economicntheory, itself grossly illogical, has led to cuts in wages as a matter of policy based on the idea that workers are not consumers, so gdp can grow faster if workers are paid less, leading to a larger supply of consumers with pockets of money being created by the tinker bell of wealth.

          While changing demographics might require higher payroll taxes, say younger generations having more kids than the boomer generation and being stay at home parents than boomers were, in reality, the younger generations are moving further along the trend line of working more, just like the boomers.

          Incomes are falling leading to reduced gdp growth because that is driven by labor incomes which are labor costs, and lower gdp means lower wage income means lower tax revenue with a fixed tax rate.

          Social Security has structural problems simply because conservatives have sold Americans a bill of goods, promising something for nothing.

          TANSTAAFL

          As a leading edge boomer, I've had the best of both good and bad policy. Great big government benefits when young to give me a great start in life, followed by bad policy tax hikes for me paid for by screwing the generation of children I did not have, and now 68, getting the great big government Social Security benefits Reagan signed into law in 1983, doubly great because, my big government start in life lasted to 2001 and made me very rich from simply working and living like my parents who were shaped by the depression. And Republicans can not cut my benefits because I'm hidden in the biggest block of the Republican base who almost all depend on Social Security.

          [Dec 24, 2015] The Fed Has Created A Monster And Just Made A Dangerous Mistake, Stephen Roach Warns

          Zero Hedge
          Stephen Roach is worried that the Fed has set the world up for another financial market meltdown.

          Lower for longer rates and the proliferation of unconventional monetary policy have created "a breeding ground for asset bubbles, credit bubbles, and all-too frequent crises, so the Fed is really a part of the problem of financial instability rather than trying to provide a sense of calm in an otherwise unstable world," Roach told Bloomberg TV in an interview conducted a little over a week ago.

          To be sure, Roach's sentiments have become par for the proverbial course. That is, it may have taken everyone a while (as in five years or so) to come to the conclusion we reached long ago, namely that central banks are setting the world up for a crisis that will make 2008 look like a walk in the park, but most of the "very serious" people are now getting concerned. Take BofAML for instance, who, in a note we outlined on Wednesday, demonstrated the prevailing dynamic with the following useful graphic:

          Perhaps Jeremy Grantham put it best: "..in the Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully- fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006."

          Indeed. It's with that in mind that we bring you the following excerpts from a new piece by Roach in which the former Morgan Stanley chief economist and Yale fellow recounts the evolution of the Fed and how the FOMC ultimately became "beholden to the monster it had created".

          * * *

          From "The Perils of Fed Gradualism" as posted at Project Syndicate

          By now, it's an all-too-familiar drill. After an extended period of extraordinary monetary accommodation, the US Federal Reserve has begun the long march back to normalization.

          A majority of financial market participants applaud this strategy. In fact, it is a dangerous mistake. The Fed is borrowing a page from the script of its last normalization campaign – the incremental rate hikes of 2004-2006 that followed the extraordinary accommodation of 2001-2003. Just as that earlier gradualism set the stage for a devastating financial crisis and a horrific recession in 2008-2009, there is mounting risk of yet another accident on what promises to be an even longer road to normalization.

          The problem arises because the Fed, like other major central banks, has now become a creature of financial markets rather than a steward of the real economy. This transformation has been under way since the late 1980s, when monetary discipline broke the back of inflation and the Fed was faced with new challenges.

          The challenges of the post-inflation era came to a head during Alan Greenspan's 18-and-a-half-year tenure as Fed Chair. The stock-market crash of October 19, 1987 – occurring only 69 days after Greenspan had been sworn in – provided a hint of what was to come. In response to a one-day 23% plunge in US equity prices, the Fed moved aggressively to support the brokerage system and purchase government securities.

          In retrospect, this was the template for what became known as the "Greenspan put" – massive Fed liquidity injections aimed at stemming financial-market disruptions in the aftermath of a crisis. As the markets were battered repeatedly in the years to follow – from the savings-and-loan crisis (late 1980s) and the Gulf War (1990-1991) to the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-1998) and terrorist attacks (September 11, 2001) – the Greenspan put became an essential element of the Fed's market-driven tactics.

          The Fed had, in effect, become beholden to the monster it had created. The corollary was that it had also become steadfast in protecting the financial-market-based underpinnings of the US economy.

          Largely for that reason, and fearful of "Japan Syndrome" in the aftermath of the collapse of the US equity bubble, the Fed remained overly accommodative during the 2003-2006 period. The federal funds rate was held at a 46-year low of 1% through June 2004, before being raised 17 times in small increments of 25 basis points per move over the two-year period from mid-2004 to mid-2006. Yet it was precisely during this period of gradual normalization and prolonged accommodation that unbridled risk-taking sowed the seeds of the Great Crisis that was soon to come.

          Today's Fed inherits the deeply entrenched moral hazard of the Asset Economy. The longer the Fed remains trapped in this mindset, the tougher its dilemma becomes – and the greater the systemic risks in financial markets and the asset-dependent US economy.

          Full post here

          * * *

          Roach goes on to say that we're already seeing the beginnings of what may very well turn out to be a dramatic unwind as high yield rolls over and the emerging world struggles to cope with a soaring dollar (remember, even though EM has largely avoided "original sin" i.e. borrowing in dollars, at the sovereign level, corporates are another story).

          As an aside, those interested in a comprehensive account of what Roach covers in the article cited above are encouraged to reach David Stockman's "The Great Deformation."

          [Dec 23, 2015] The neocon's abiding faith in the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA) has proved to be a colossal failure

          peakoilbarrel.com

          Glenn Stehle, 12/22/2015 at 12:11 pm

          Watcher said:

          This stuff about giving up . . . why do you want to give up. Fund weapons to prepare to TAKE what you must have.

          But, as John Mearsheimer explains in this article, the neocon's abiding faith in the so-called revolution in military affairs (RMA) has proved to be a collossal failure:

          In particular, they believed that the United States could rely on stealth technology, air-delivered precision-guided weapons, and small but highly mobile ground forces to win quick and decisive victories. They believed that the RMA gave the Bush administration a nimble military instrument which, to put it in Muhammad Ali's terminology, could "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." ….

          The real trouble comes once the United States owns the country it has overrun, and the Americans are seen as occupiers and face an insurgency. The RMA is largely useless in combatting an insurgency, against which a large army is needed, as the Bush administration has discovered in Iraq. But once the United States commits huge numbers of soldiers in a country like Iraq, it is no longer free to invade other countries because it is effectively stuck in a quagmire.

          https://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-americanpower/morgenthau_2522.jsp

          So in light of that colossal failure of the RMA in Afghanistan and Iraq, what now?

          The chest thumping rings a little bit hollow, to say the least.

          Watcher, 12/23/2015 at 10:36 am
          Rest assured if the Air Force had won its preference, there would have been no US Army involvement nor anyone particularly on the ground. There is no proof that the boots on the ground are required to hold territory makes any sense when you can dictate policy with precision strikes. And you can. "Do this, or die." After all, how many US Army or UK Army boots on the ground were required to remove Gadaffi?

          Nobody "found out" that you had to have troops on site to do things. The Army lobbied for that to be sure they didn't lose funding. As did all the Congress critters with Army bases in their districts. As opposed to Air Force bases.

          Think about it. Do you really think carrier based bombing is necessary? If you needed more sorties, you could send more Air Force aircraft. But the Navy has to defend its own funding, too.

          Jimmy, 12/23/2015 at 11:26 am
          "There is no proof that the boots on the ground are required to hold territory makes any sense when you can dictate policy with precision strikes. And you can. "Do this, or die."………"

          Where have you been since 2001? If all it takes is air power to dictate policy then please explain to my why USA isn't dictating policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya and seeing enthusiastic compliance with said policy by those on the ground. Removing Gaddafi is not difficult with air power however it took guys with AKs on the ground to put a bullet in his head.

          If you suggest launching multimillion dollar air campaigns every time a handful of kids with RPGs and AKs get uppity you'll quickly find yourself on the losing side of the balance sheet of war. Keep it up for too long and you'll be broke. Your rivals will make sure of it with a very small expenditure.

          You've obviously never served in the military. Dream on.

          Fred Magyar, 12/23/2015 at 12:53 pm
          If you suggest launching multimillion dollar air campaigns every time a handful of kids with RPGs and AKs get uppity you'll quickly find yourself on the losing side of the balance sheet of war. Keep it up for too long and you'll be broke. Your rivals will make sure of it with a very small expenditure.

          Yup!

          https://goo.gl/DMxx4f

          The entire concept of 'GROUND' and 'TERRITORY' is so last century…
          What matters today is digital control and governments just don't get it.

          oldfarmermac, 12/23/2015 at 12:03 pm
          While I generally disagree with Watcher on economics, I have to agree that he has a point regarding the efficacy of air power and infighting among the various branches of the armed services for status, resources, and political clout.

          It is nowadays obviously possible to literally bomb any country with any significant industrial infrastructure back into the stone age using conventional, meaning non nuclear, bombs, and to do it at far less cost in men than putting troops on the ground.

          One modern bomber, flying out of reach of anybody on the ground equipped with less than the latest and hardest to get anti air technology, can take out a dozen bridges, or a tank farm, or a water treatment plant, or a dozen office buildings- or for that matter a dozen hospitals. One or two " sorties" is enough to wipe out almost any kind of major industrial installation, or damage it past operation for many months on end.

          In WWII, most of the bombs dropped landed hundreds of yards to miles away from the intended targets. Modern bombs can literally be aimed at a given WINDOW in a large building, with a very high probability of not missing that window more than a few feet, and actually hitting it quite often.

          It is not a question of " can't be done" but rather whether the aggressor is willing to pay the price in the court of public opinion at home and world wide, and deal with the political repercussions.

          So far no nation with the capability of bombing this way on the grand scale has been willing to actually do it.

          But this does not prove that it will never be done.

          All the major powers in WWII would have done it, if they had possessed the ability to do so at that time, if the leadership had concluded it would save the lives of countless men of their own and brought the war to a faster conclusion.

          The US for instance firebombed some German cities with results that were ac quite comparable to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atom bombs.

          And for what it is worth, we seldom hear much about nuclear weapons, except the scare stories involving mutant creatures and radioactivity levels being so high people will not be able to live where the bombs fall for centuries.

          In actual fact, if only a few bombs are used, and they are designed so as to minimize fallout, people will be able to live where they are dropped within a decade, no problem, in terms of the big picture.Sure a few kids, maybe a lot of kids, would get cancer, but that would be a minor problem compared to lack of water , food, shelter,employment, etc.

          One "MIRV" ICBM loaded with neutron bombs, or a couple of flights of heavy bombers protected by fighter air craft, could just about wipe out the entire urban population of a fair sized country in a matter of minutes or hours at the most.

          There wouldn't be enough people LEFT to seriously dispute possession of the country with an occupying ground force.

          I PRAY such a grand scale genocidal air war will never come to pass, but anybody who has bothered to look into the TECHNICAL possibility of such a war understands that it COULD HAPPEN.

          At one time I read a book about the history of WWII once a week or so for a couple of years. It got to be a personal quest to understand how it started, and how it played out, and why.

          The folks who argue that bombing the hell out of the Germans did not prevent them from increasing production of some armaments deliberately miss the point, for partisan reasons. The question should be rephrased, how much MORE would the GERMANS have been able to produce, and how many MORE men, and how many MORE planes and guns etc, they would have been able to put on OFFENSIVE rather than DEFENSIVE assignments.

          The bombing nay sayers also avoid discussing the obvious fact that ninety percent of bombs hit their targets these days, where as in WWII more than ninety percent missed by a substantial margin.

          Modern bombers will come home nearly every sortie. Any country initiating an air war is apt to have overwhelming air superiority,meaning plenty of fighter escorts, and modern bombers are stealthy and fly way too high for ordinary anti aircraft guns to reach them.

          For now, nobody except the USA, Russia, and a couple of larger NATO countries could manage it.

          But in a couple of decades, there might be other countries able to do it, and DESPERATE ENOUGH to do it.

          One thing about military tech that people often fail to appreciate is that it often gets exponentially cheaper as time passes. The computers and guidance systems etc needed for a smart bomb were state of the art top secret stuff couple of decades ago. A decade from today, a good team of engineers will probably be able to design and BUILD smart bombs using readily available commercial technology.

          A sharp kid could probably build a workable guidance system today hacking it together out of security camera and drone parts, with a smart phone sized computer programmed for just this one job. He might even be able to hack and reprogram a smart phone to serve as both the camera and the computer.

          Suppose Iran and Iraq have another go a decade down the road. Either or both countries may have large arsenals of smart bombs, and planes to deliver them.

          likbez, 12/23/2015 at 2:01 pm
          "It is nowadays obviously possible to literally bomb any country with any significant industrial infrastructure back into the stone age using conventional, meaning non nuclear, bombs, and to do it at far less cost in men than putting troops on the ground. "

          First of all bombers that are not reachable by modern air defense systems do not exist.

          Also your implicit assumption is that attacked country does not have nuclear weapons (or at least dirty bombs) and means to deliver them to the aggressor. Or allies with such weapons.

          And that such an attack will never lead to global thermonuclear war. In case nuclear winter materialize that's a postponed death sentence for the majority of population of the winner of such conflict.

          So your statement is not true about China, Russia, EU, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and several other countries with significant industrial infrastructure.

          Also after Iraq war air defense systems developed at huge speed and now systems like S400 represent a huge obstacle to bombing without losing your own aircraft. Even older S300 systems are dangerous as Russians discovered during Georgia conflict.

          If colonel Gaddafi was wiser and bought a dozen of S300 systems he might well be still alive as the idea of losing of half of aircraft would be a deterrent for French.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-400_(missile)

          === quote ===
          Maximum targeting range (detection radius is wider).

          For a ballistic target (speed of 4800 m/s and a radar cross-section of 0.4 square meters): 230 km.

          For a target with RCS of 4 square meters: 390 km.

          For targeting of strategic – bomber sized types: 570 km.

          Ves, 12/23/2015 at 9:05 pm
          Mac,
          Don't fantasies about any wars. Wars are not video games. If it is that simple US wouldn't do a war sequel every 10 years: "Gulf War I", "Gulf War II", and now you have proxy "Gulf War III" ..well let me ask you how many times you will bang your head in the wall before you realize that it does not work? It's just does not work.

          Mac, you are too much consumed with garbage news that does not allow you to connect the dots. The Gulf War I was in the 90's and the world oil supply was relatively plentiful to absorb the shocks. Forward 2003 and Gulf War II and during and after the conflict the price of oil quadrupled and world economy pretty much got suffocated by 2008.

          This time around the Gulf War III that is ongoing but obviously your favorite TV channel has not informed you, has to be proxy and relatively low intensity war otherwise with the hot war we would have a high price of oil beyond any imagination.

          If you think you can run modern wars during prolonged period with high oil prices and having somewhat functioning economy then you have read wrong history books. It doesn't mean that they will not have another "go". But if they do you will be walking and not driving 20 miles to the closest grocery store.

          [Dec 23, 2015] The Texas unempolyment rate is up 12% since the cyclical low in July-Aug

          peakoilbarrel.com
          BC, 12/21/2015 at 3:57 pm
          https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/fredgraph.png?g=2XOQ

          The Texas U rate is up 12% since the cyclical low in July-Aug, which similarly occurred in May-June 2008, Apr 2001, and Feb 1980.

          Employment, particularly the U rate, is a lagging indicator.

          https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/fredgraph.png?g=2XP0

          There are notable similarities between today and 1985-86 during the previous energy bust. However, real GDP per capita was growing at more than twice today's rate; peak Boomer demographic tailwinds were building; debt to wages and GDP was much lower; the price of oil fell to the $20s; interest rates were higher and setting up to decline, providing a once-in-a-lifetime, debt-induced, reflationary growth phase (that ended with the GFC); the US economy had not yet begun to deindustrialize; health care spending was one-half of today's level as a share of GDP; and inequality had not yet become extreme.

          Texas entered recession in Q1-Q2 and the rest of the US economy is following behind. Prepare accordingly.

          Clueless, 12/21/2015 at 4:58 pm
          BC – I am too old and without enough energy [no pun intended, which always means pun] to research and respond to your points. Except with questions. In 1986, what was the US GDP as a % of world GDP? And what is that % today? What was the Texas GDP as a % of US GDP? And what is that % today? In 1986, how much money [billions of $] was the US just printing? And how much today?

          I turned 21 in 1962. For the next 40 years, every chart pattern with respect to stocks, bonds, real estate, etc for the next 40 years was compared to the Great Depression. Every comparison ended up being total nonsense.

          If I could give anyone some wisdom, it would be "Do not look at the past. It was totally different." In the Great Depression the farmers were broke [and, about 1/3 of Americans were farmers]. Lately, they are the wealthiest group of Americans. Yes, greater, on average than lawyers, doctors, and even investment bankers. The elderly, were the most in dire need. Today, with Social Security, Medicare, free food, pensions, their own houses, etc., they are the most content of any age group [per AARP]. And, the future is changing faster now than it was back in 1962-2002.

          First, I want to thank Ron for having this blog. Merry Christmas, regardless of what you believe. And, I really do not know what your work experience was, but, it is of no matter. Other than to ask: Have you ever seen more opportunity staring you in the face? Years of lower new discoveries, especially with the "elephant" fields. Continuing, slow, but steady demand growth. I think that there is a big collision coming, especially with the 20-40 year olds that somehow believe that oil should be $20/barrel, gas under a 1$, and unlimited supply with the "new" technology. Some kind of disconnect. Their I-phones have kept going up in cost [the gold standard of technology], but oil will not. Some people are in for a rude awakening.

          Let me add a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Prosperous New Year's wish to all.

          [Dec 23, 2015] The Big Short Every American Should See This Movie

          Notable quotes:
          "... Enjoyed the movie, but in typical Hollywood fashion, the role of the Federal Reserve and government in pushing housing down to those unable to afford it was not even mentioned once. ..."
          Zero Hedge
          The Big Short opens nationwide today. But it happened to have one showing last night at a theater near me. My youngest son and I hopped in the car and went to see it. I loved the book by Michael Lewis. The cast assembled for the movie was top notch, but having the director of Anchorman and Talledaga Nights handle a subject matter like high finance seemed odd.

          The choice of Adam McKay as director turned out to be brilliant. The question was how do you make a movie about the housing market, mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, collateralized debt swaps, and synthetic CDOs interesting for the average person. He succeeded beyond all expectations.

          Interweaving pop culture icons, music, symbols of materialism, and unforgettable characters, McKay has created a masterpiece about the greed, stupidity, hubris, and arrogance of Wall Street bankers gone wild. He captures the idiocy and complete capture of the rating agencies (S&P, Moodys). He reveals the ineptitude and dysfunction of the SEC, where the goal of these regulators was to get a high paying job with banks they were supposed to regulate. He skewers the faux financial journalists at the Wall Street Journal who didn't want to rock the boat with the truth about the greatest fraud ever committed.

          ...Ultimately, it is a highly entertaining movie with the right moral overtone, despite non-stop profanity that captures the true nature of Wall Street traders. This is a dangerous movie for Wall Street, the government, and the establishment in general. They count on the complexity of Wall Street to confuse the average person and make their eyes glaze over. That makes it easier for them to keep committing fraud and harvesting the nation's wealth.

          This movie cuts through the crap and reveals those in power to be corrupt, greedy weasels who aren't really as smart as they want you to think they are. The finale of the movie is sobering and infuriating. After unequivocally proving that Wall Street bankers, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve, Congress, the SEC, and the mainstream media, destroyed the global financial system, put tens of millions out of work, got six million people tossed from their homes, and created the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the filmmakers are left to provide the depressing conclusion.

          No bankers went to jail. The Too Big To Fail banks were not broken up – they were bailed out by the American taxpayers. They actually got bigger. Their profits have reached new heights, while the average family has seen their income fall. Wall Street is paying out record bonuses, while 46 million people are on food stamps. Wall Street and their lackeys at the Federal Reserve call the shots in this country. They don't give a fuck about you. And they're doing it again.

          Every American should see this movie and get fucking pissed off. The theater was deathly silent at the end of the movie. The audience was stunned by the fact that the criminals on Wall Street got away with the crime of the century, and they're still on the loose. I had a great discussion with my 16 year old son on the way home. At least there is one millennial who understand how bad his generation is getting screwed.

          wee-weed up

          I read the book last year... It is outstanding! Highest recommendation. If you have not read this book, you cannot understand how today's market really works.

          JRobby

          This subject matter has to be put in a form that can be understood by the masses. Hopefully the popular actors and this director is a step in that direction.

          Main stream Hollywood as an informer? Hmmmmm? This adds to the current assumptions and rumors of fractures among the elite groups.

          We are reasonable people. If the banking elite is sacrificed and the other corporate oligarchs come into a more socially acceptable line, we may be satisfied. However, the banking elite must be sacrificed. There is no negotiation on that point.

          Of course some will say I am over optimistic, they are throwing it in our faces to make $$$ and it ends up a total police state so enjoy your "entertainment" for now.

          Time goes on. Time will tell.

          chunga

          First you'd have to believe that politicians give a fuck about any damn thing but themselves. REAL concern for minorities or communities LOL! Then you'd have to believe banks were forced to do *anything* they don't want.

          Then, you'd have to fall right to sleep and miss the part where all this crap was sold on Wall Street while at the same time betting against all the "shitty deals" they made, then the whole thing getting bailed out @ par. With par being at the absurd fraudulent property appraisals that were made by the lenders or their agents. It's just nuts.

          This was all planned, beginning with Greenspan. AIG's Greenberg KNEW their CDS paper was no damn good, but didn't care because the also KNEW there would be a bailout. The only problem for him was Paulson and Blankfein conspired to steal the bailout money...and they did!

          That's why all this money went looking for people...it was all planned.

          chunga

          Hundreds of scandals have gone by since then, thoroughly unpunished, so I wonder why this movie is coming out now. I looked into some of the cronies calling the shots at the GSE's back then and saved it. A lot is outdated by now. Seems like a fairly bi-partisan effort.

          FRANKLIN RAINES [D] – FNMA CEO (1999 – 2004) Raines accepted "early retirement" from his CEO position while the SEC pretended to investigate accounting irregularities. Fannie's own OHFHEO also accused him of abetting widespread accounting errors, including the shifting of losses, so he and his fellow execs could "earn" large bonuses. The WSJ reported back in 2008 that Raines was one of several cronies that received below market rates for mortgages from Countrywide. Raines alone receive loans for over $3 million while CEO of FNMA. Raines' compensation for his "work" at FNMA - $90 million.

          RAINES GRADE – F

          DANIEL MUDD [R] – FNMA CEO (2005 – 2008) Before becoming CEO of FNMA, Mudd worked at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, was an advisor to Asia-Pacific Economic Corp., "served" on the board of the Council of Foreign Relations, "consulted" at the World Bank, and held many positions at GE Capital including president and CEO. Mudd was dismissed as CEO of FNMA when FHFA became conservator in 2008. In 2011 Mudd and other GSE execs were charged by SEC with securities fraud. After his career at FNMA Mudd became CEO of a NYC hedge fund named "Fortress". Fortress invested in purchasing tax liens on delinquent property taxes from local governments under many benign corporate names such as "Pleasant Valley Capital" and "Travis Farm Investments". Cozy. Mudd's compensation for his "work" at FNMA - $80 million.

          MUDD GRADE – F

          NEEL KASHKARI [R] – FNMA CEO (Tenure is murky) Kashkari was a former investment banker for Goldman Sachs, was tapped by Hank "The Shank" Paulson to lend his skills over at TARP HQ, and now rather ironically, continues God's work as a Managing Director at PIMCO. Kashkari's compensation for his "work" at FNMA is also murky; I'll just assume it was too much.

          KASHKARI GRADE - F

          HERB ALLISON [D] – FNMA CEO (2008 – 2009) The esteemed Mr. Allison was quickly whisked off to oversee the wildly successful TARP program. I didn't find much on his compensation during his brief stint as FNMA CEO. Allison served in various positions at Merrill Lynch and became a member of the board in 1997. He was a director of the NYSE from 2003 – 2005.

          ALLISON GRADE – F

          MICHAEL WILLIAMS [?] – FNMA CEO (2009 – Jan 1, 2012) Mr. Williams is a 20 year veteran at FNMA. While "serving" as FNMA CEO, Williams managed to scrape by on less than $6 million in 2011 alone. This could and should be considered a hardship, given the complexities involved in purloining ~ $60 billion of Fed bailout money.

          WILLIAMS GRADE – F

          FANNIE'S MAJOR DANCE PARTNER, FREDDIE MAC, HAS ALSO PERFORMED VERY POORLY.

          Charles (my friends call me "Ed") Haldeman has announced his retirement plans but intends to be a good sport and stay on with insolvent FHLMC until another crony can be found to fill his wing-tips.

          That might take a while. "Serving" as CEO of the ultimate backstops for the lion's share of the MBS Ponzi is very stressful.

          We'll have to accept former Freddie exec David Kellermann's testimony posthumously. Mr. Kellermann was found hanging by the neck in the basement of his posh Vienna, VA home in the affluent suburb of Washington. D.C. way back in April of 2009. It is presumed he had no help and local police have stated there was no evidence of foul play.

          Urban Redneck

          GREED is non-partisan. And all sides agreed MOAR "home ownership" was desirable. The left got its SJW colorblind automation, while the underwriters were able to increase volumes by thousands of percent while reducing overall headcount. Securitization wasn't actually "automated" since the fuckwits were using MS-Excel, but it was commoditized with Blackrock's pricing model.

          These were the days of the original algorithms of mass financial destruction, which were primitive and largely FICO-centric, but everyone wanted to minimize the cost (of logic coding and external data sources) so they coding decisioning based solely on information contained in the mortgage application and the applicant's electronic credit report.

          khakuda

          Enjoyed the movie, but in typical Hollywood fashion, the role of the Federal Reserve and government in pushing housing down to those unable to afford it was not even mentioned once.

          Keynesians

          Wall Street is laughing at all the clowns who think this movie will "wake up America". It would have never came out if it was any kind of danger to Wall Street, the FED, or the establishment.

          Agent P

          Directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys....), so ... yeah I'm going to go see it. Remember the end credits for The Other Guys? He hates Wall Street....

          GoldenDonuts

          Perhaps you should read the book. These are real characters from a non fiction book. They may have changed a name or two but these are real people. I will lend you my copy if you can't afford one.

          conraddobler

          Yeah I can't imagine a commercially successful movie out of this that would actually tell the truth and make it to the screens.

          What someone should do is write one of those fantastical novels where everything is a symbol for something else and jazz it up, put some romance, danger, intrigue and of course big boobs in it.

          The real message ala the olden days usually had to be hidden to avoid the wrath of those it was really aimed at.

          [Dec 22, 2015] A Milestone For Vanguard: New Fund Could Include Junk Bonds

          blogs.barrons.com

          ,,,,The Vanguard Core Bond Fund, unveiled in a filing with regulators on Monday, is being billed as an actively managed alternative to index funds like the Total Bond Market fund (VBMFX, VBTLX, BND). Its launch, slated for the first three months of 2016, would coincide with a period of great uncertainty in the bond markets. The Fed could mull its next interest-rate hike as soon as March.

          ... ... ...

          Daniel Wiener, editor of the Independent Adviser for Vanguard Investors newsletter and a close watcher of all things Vanguard, was quick to note that the fund could invest in bonds of "any quality." The new fund's fine print shows leeway for Vanguard's portfolio managers to plunk up to 5% of the portfolio in junk bonds. Some 30% of the fund could fall into "medium-quality" bonds.

          Vanguard's existing offering in junk debt, the Vanguard High-Yield Corporate Fund (VWEHX, VWEAX), is managed by Wellington Management Company.

          Says Wiener: "Vanguard has never offered lesser-quality bond funds run by its internal group. The junk portion of the Core Bond product will be a first."

          [Dec 21, 2015] Weak president, neoliberal Obama and housing bubble

          Notable quotes:
          "... The relationship between low interest rates and bubbles has nothing to do with the above. Low interest rates RAISE asset prices. Through the magic of low discount rates, the future earnings and cash flows are worth a lot higher today. This is why Bernanke cut rates and kept them low. Raising asset prices and the resultant higher net worth was supposed to lead to higher spending today. But outsized returns also attracts speculation. what is so difficult to understand? John Williams of SF Fed has shown how positive returns in asset markets raises the speculators expected returns. when this dynamic gets out of control, it is a bubble. ..."
          "... That is exactly the point. Expected returns in stocks have nothing to do with earnings growth. http://www.frbsf.org/our-district/press/presidents-speeches/williams-speeches/2013/september/asset-price-bubbles-tomorrow-yesterday-never-today/ ..."
          "... You think a rise in stock prices created by a fall in the cost of capital is a bubble. ..."
          "... keeping the risk free rate at zero for 7 years is not a change in fundamentals. and if it is and it rises leading to a large fall in equity prices, you will be the first one crying uncle. so why put the economy through this? ..."
          "... Rising stock prices allow corporations to raise debt, because the stock is put up as collateral. This makes funding easier, but it doesnt favor any particular purpose of the funding. It could be to buy back stock, for example. Said buy back can raise the stock price even more, which in turn can pay off the borrowing. Didnt cost a dime. ..."
          "... It always seem to me that right wing economists credit businessmen with superhuman foresight and sophistication, except when it comes to the actions of the Fed and then something addles their brains and they become completely stupid. As I once put, it seems investors cant understand what the Fed is doing, even though they tell you. ..."
          "... Thats it exactly. Markets are efficient, unless the government does anything, and then markets lose their minds and its the governments fault. ..."
          "... Here is how they evaluate models: Good model; one that reaches the right good conclusions. Bad model; one that ends up saying stuff nobody should believe in. ..."
          "... Obama could have at least made the investigations a high priority...but he let Holder, a Wall Street attorney, consign them to the lowest. ..."
          "... Democrats filibuster-proof majority consisted of 58 Democrats and two independents who caucused with them. Only an inept President and Senate majority leader could have failed to take advantage of such a majority to implement significant parts of the party platform. ..."
          "... Gullible folks like pgl and his coterie believe what these Democrats say and waste our time defending their neoliberal behavior. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com
          reason said... December 18, 2015 at 02:20 AM
          I wish Krugman would attack the view that is being propagated at the moment that low nominal interest rates (it seems irrespective of the reason for them) foster bubbles. It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense - leverage doesn't just magnify the gains, it magnifies the losses as well - what really counts is expectations regardless of nominal interest rates.)

          The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of interest rates, but of things like bank culture, bank regulation and macro-economic and technological prospects.

          JF said in reply to reason... December 18, 2015 at 05:19 AM

          Great comment. I especially liked this point: "The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of" ....

          Supervising regulators need to look carefully at the ratio of credit used for financial trading compared to credit used for what we've called real-economy matters. They should adjust the level of monitoring based on this view while they also inform policy makers including those in the legislature.

          There may be an opportunity in 2017 to revise the statutes so the public plainly says what the rules of Commerce are in these financial 'inter-mediation' areas - society is better served if more of such credit offerings go to investments in the real economy where inputs are real things like employees, supplies, equipment/technologies. The public's law can effect this change.

          david said in reply to JF...

          except that a significant chunk of institutional investors have sticky nominal targets for return thanks to the politics of return expectation setting (true for pension fund and endowments) -- low interest rates do encourage chasing phantoms or looking to extract some rents, for those subject to that kind of pressure

          sanjait said in reply to david... December 18, 2015 at 02:47 PM

          Are there enough of those to dominate securities prices?

          I don't see how there possibly could be. For everyone trying to reach for yield there are a lot of people happy to arbitrage or otherwise exploit those inefficiencies.

          pgl said in reply to reason... December 18, 2015 at 05:53 AM

          Nice comment. I think Krugman is letting others take out the bubble brains. But if he's reading your excellent comment - maybe he will go the fray.

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to reason... December 18, 2015 at 06:35 AM

          "The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of interest rates, but of things like bank culture, bank regulation and macro-economic and technological prospects."

          The relationship between low interest rates and bubbles has nothing to do with the above. Low interest rates RAISE asset prices. Through the magic of low discount rates, the future earnings and cash flows are worth a lot higher today. This is why Bernanke cut rates and kept them low. Raising asset prices and the resultant higher net worth was supposed to lead to higher spending today. But outsized returns also attracts speculation. what is so difficult to understand? John Williams of SF Fed has shown how positive returns in asset markets raises the speculator's expected returns. when this dynamic gets out of control, it is a bubble.

          Sanjait said in reply to BenIsNotYoda... December 18, 2015 at 07:35 AM

          It's hard to see how to your claim that expected returns are high when earnings yields across the board are historically low.

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to Sanjait... December 18, 2015 at 07:38 AM

          That is exactly the point. Expected returns in stocks have nothing to do with earnings growth. http://www.frbsf.org/our-district/press/presidents-speeches/williams-speeches/2013/september/asset-price-bubbles-tomorrow-yesterday-never-today/

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to BenIsNotYoda... December 18, 2015 at 07:38 AM

          I mean earnings yields not earnings growth.

          Sanjait said in reply to BenIsNotYoda... December 18, 2015 at 07:48 AM

          So you say. And yet, stock values today conform very well with the standard model Williams says doesn't historically fit the data. While you are talking bubbles, the equity risk premium is parked in the normal range.

          How do you explain that?

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to Sanjait... December 18, 2015 at 07:54 AM

          so says Williams. dividend yields, earnings yields and risk premiums are not necessarily weighted heavily in investors' formation of expected returns. past returns do, to a great extent. that is what Williams shows.

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to BenIsNotYoda... December 18, 2015 at 07:56 AM

          our prehistoric brains are wired to trend follow patterns.

          pgl said in reply to BenIsNotYoda... December 18, 2015 at 09:13 AM

          Williams actually tries to model the rise in stock prices and defines any increase the model cannot explain a bubble. Of course maybe his modeling is not entirely spot on and fundamentals can explain the rise stock prices.

          But this is not what you do as you see any asset price increase as a bubble. Which is beyond stupid. Of course it would help if you ever bothered to do what Williams attempted - use a basic model of financial economics. Then again my guess is that is beyond your understanding of basic financial economics. So troll on!

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to pgl... December 18, 2015 at 10:40 AM

          You think a rise in stock prices created by a fall in the cost of capital is a bubble. But no - it is a change in fundamentals.

          keeping the risk free rate at zero for 7 years is not a change in fundamentals. and if it is and it rises leading to a large fall in equity prices, you will be the first one crying uncle. so why put the economy through this?

          JohnH said in reply to pgl... December 18, 2015 at 04:22 PM

          The first thing pgl did when stocks corrected this summer was to call for QE4...he panicked because his portfolio was threatened...but claimed that he was only worried about workers!

          Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to reason... December 18, 2015 at 10:57 AM

          It does not seem reasonable or
          fair to pay practically no interest
          on savings, which is a consequence
          of Fed policy.

          A consequence of this is that people
          go into risky investments that lead
          to catastrophe, sometimes widespread.

          If the goal was to get people to spend
          (i.e. consume) more, it seems that they
          are persistently & stubbornly frugal.

          Chris Herbert said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... December 18, 2015 at 02:31 PM

          Rising stock prices allow corporations to raise debt, because the stock is put up as collateral. This makes funding easier, but it doesn't favor any particular purpose of the funding. It could be to buy back stock, for example. Said buy back can raise the stock price even more, which in turn can pay off the borrowing. Didn't cost a dime.

          sanjait said in reply to reason...

          Let me be the fourth person to compliment that comment.

          "leverage doesn't just magnify the gains, it magnifies the losses as well - what really counts is expectations regardless of nominal interest rates."

          QFT!

          The one hypothetical caveat (as BINY alluded to, knowingly or not) is that expectations often get out of whack based on momentum trading. So hypothetically, lowering rates could possibly feed that.

          But guess what? Rates are already at zero. They can't go lower. It's not even a question of lowering rates, but rather whether to keep them where they are. So a bubbles-from-monetary-fed-momentum argument falls completely flat. We've been at zero for 7 years now!

          reason said...

          It always seem to me that right wing economists credit businessmen with superhuman foresight and sophistication, except when it comes to the actions of the Fed and then something addles their brains and they become completely stupid. As I once put, it seems investors can't understand what the Fed is doing, even though they tell you.

          Sanjait said in reply to reason...

          That's it exactly. Markets are efficient, unless the government does anything, and then markets lose their minds and it's the government's fault.

          And somehow the RW economists see no problem with this model

          DeDude said in reply to Sanjait...

          Here is how they evaluate models: Good model; one that reaches the "right" good conclusions. Bad model; one that ends up saying stuff nobody should believe in.
          likbez said in reply to Sanjait...
          "Markets are efficient, unless the government does anything"

          This is a dangerous neoliberal dogma. Total lie.

          === quote ===
          The efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is a flavor of economic Lysenkoism which became popular for the last 30 years in the USA. It is a pseudo scientific theory or, in more politically correct terms, unrealistic idealization of market behavior. Like classic Lysenkoism in the past was supported by Stalin's totalitarian state, it was supported by the power of neoliberal state, which is the state captured by financial oligarchy (see Casino Capitalism and Quiet coup for more details).

          Among the factors ignored by EMH is the positive feedback loop inherent in any system based on factional reserve banking, the level of market players ignorance, unequal access to the real information about the markets, the level of brainwashing performed on "lemmings" by controlled by elite MSM and market manipulation by the largest players and the state.

          Economics, it is said, is the study of scarcity. There is, however, one thing that certainly isn't scarce, but which deserves the attention of economists - ignorance.
          ...Conventional economics analyses how individuals choose - maybe rationally, maybe not - from a range of options. But this raises the question: how do they know what these options are? Many feasible - even optimum - options might not occur to them. This fact has some important implications. ...
          Slightly simplifying, we can say that (financial) markets are mainly efficient in separation of fools and their money... And efficient market hypothesis mostly bypasses important question about how the inequity of resources which inevitably affects the outcomes of market participants. For example, the level of education of market players is one aspect of the inequity of resources. Herd behavior is another important, but overlooked in EMH factor.

          http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Financial_skeptic/Casino_capitalism/Pseudo_theories/Permanent_equilibrium_fallacy/Efficient_market_hypothesys/index.shtml

          Peter K. said in reply to reason...

          And/or the markets are telling the Fed something, like they don't believe the Fed's forecasts about growth and inflation and are betting otherwise, but the hawks at the Fed dismiss the markets and say we need to raise rates now.

          It's all very convenient reasoning about markets.

          Vile Content said...

          "
          constant repetition, especially in captive media, keeps this imaginary history in circulation no matter how often it is shown to be false.
          "
          ~~pK~

          ... ... ...

          anne said...

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/23/shorts-subject/

          November 23, 2015

          Shorts Subject
          By Paul Krugman

          Last night I was invited to a screening of "The Big Short," which I thought was terrific; who knew that collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps could be made into an edge-of-your-seat narrative (with great acting)?

          But there was one shortcut the narrative took, which was understandable and possibly necessary, but still worth noting.

          In the film, various eccentrics and oddballs make the discovery that subprime-backed securities are garbage, which is pretty much what happened; but this is wrapped together with their realization that there was a massive housing bubble, which is presented as equally contrary to anything anyone respectable was saying. And that's not quite right.

          It's true that Greenspan and others were busy denying the very possibility of a housing bubble. And it's also true that anyone suggesting that such a bubble existed was attacked furiously - "You're only saying that because you hate Bush!" Still, there were a number of economic analysts making the case for a massive bubble. Here's Dean Baker in 2002. * Bill McBride (Calculated Risk) was on the case early and very effectively. I keyed off Baker and McBride, arguing for a bubble in 2004 and making my big statement about the analytics in 2005, ** that is, if anything a bit earlier than most of the events in the film. I'm still fairly proud of that piece, by the way, because I think I got it very right by emphasizing the importance of breaking apart regional trends.

          So the bubble itself was something number crunchers could see without delving into the details of mortgage-backed securities, traveling around Florida, or any of the other drama shown in the film. In fact, I'd say that the housing bubble of the mid-2000s was the most obvious thing I've ever seen, and that the refusal of so many people to acknowledge the possibility was a dramatic illustration of motivated reasoning at work.

          The financial superstructure built on the bubble was something else; I was clueless about that, and didn't see the financial crisis coming at all.

          * http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/housing_2002_08.pdf

          ** http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/that-hissing-sound.html

          anne said in reply to anne...

          http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/16/opinion/mind-the-gap.html

          August 16, 2002

          Mind the Gap
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          More and more people are using the B-word about the housing market. A recent analysis * by Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic Policy Research, makes a particularly compelling case for a housing bubble. House prices have run well ahead of rents, suggesting that people are now buying houses for speculation rather than merely for shelter. And the explanations one hears for those high prices sound more and more like the rationalizations one heard for Nasdaq 5,000.

          If we do have a housing bubble, and it bursts, we'll be looking a lot too Japanese for comfort....

          * http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/housing_2002_08.pdf

          anne said in reply to anne...

          http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/that-hissing-sound.html

          August 8, 2005

          That Hissing Sound
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          This is the way the bubble ends: not with a pop, but with a hiss.

          Housing prices move much more slowly than stock prices. There are no Black Mondays, when prices fall 23 percent in a day. In fact, prices often keep rising for a while even after a housing boom goes bust.

          So the news that the U.S. housing bubble is over won't come in the form of plunging prices; it will come in the form of falling sales and rising inventory, as sellers try to get prices that buyers are no longer willing to pay. And the process may already have started.

          Of course, some people still deny that there's a housing bubble. Let me explain how we know that they're wrong.

          One piece of evidence is the sense of frenzy about real estate, which irresistibly brings to mind the stock frenzy of 1999. Even some of the players are the same. The authors of the 1999 best seller "Dow 36,000" are now among the most vocal proponents of the view that there is no housing bubble.

          Then there are the numbers. Many bubble deniers point to average prices for the country as a whole, which look worrisome but not totally crazy. When it comes to housing, however, the United States is really two countries, Flatland and the Zoned Zone.

          In Flatland, which occupies the middle of the country, it's easy to build houses. When the demand for houses rises, Flatland metropolitan areas, which don't really have traditional downtowns, just sprawl some more. As a result, housing prices are basically determined by the cost of construction. In Flatland, a housing bubble can't even get started.

          But in the Zoned Zone, which lies along the coasts, a combination of high population density and land-use restrictions - hence "zoned" - makes it hard to build new houses. So when people become willing to spend more on houses, say because of a fall in mortgage rates, some houses get built, but the prices of existing houses also go up. And if people think that prices will continue to rise, they become willing to spend even more, driving prices still higher, and so on. In other words, the Zoned Zone is prone to housing bubbles.

          And Zoned Zone housing prices, which have risen much faster than the national average, clearly point to a bubble....

          EMichael said in reply to anne...

          Yeah, the only thing he missed was the timing of the collapse.

          The day he wrote this the Fed had already raised rates 250% in one year, on the way to a total of 400% in the next 6 months.

          Yet prices accelerated until the top was reached a year after the column.

          anne said in reply to EMichael...

          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/25/opinion/25krugman.html

          August 25, 2006

          Housing Gets Ugly
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          Bubble, bubble, Toll's in trouble. This week, Toll Brothers, the nation's premier builder of McMansions, announced that sales were way off, profits were down, and the company was walking away from already-purchased options on land for future development.

          Toll's announcement was one of many indications that the long-feared housing bust has arrived. Home sales are down sharply; home prices, which rose 57 percent over the past five years (and much more than that along the coasts), are now falling in much of the country. The inventory of unsold existing homes is at a 13-year high; builders' confidence is at a 15-year low.

          A year ago, Robert Toll, who runs Toll Brothers, was euphoric about the housing boom, declaring: "We've got the supply, and the market has got the demand. So it's a match made in heaven." In a New York Times profile of his company published last October, he dismissed worries about a possible bust. "Why can't real estate just have a boom like every other industry?" he asked. "Why do we have to have a bubble and then a pop?"

          The current downturn, Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he's seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any "macroeconomic nasty condition" taking housing down along with the rest of the economy. He suggests that unease about the direction of the country and the war in Iraq is undermining confidence. All I have to say is: pop! ...

          EMichael said in reply to anne...

          "Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he's seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any "macroeconomic nasty condition""

          You gotta love builders and RE agents. It wasn't macro that caused it, it was default rates across the board on supposedly safe investments that caused mortgage money supply to totally disappear.

          One day people will understand that payments are the key to all finance.

          JohnH said...

          "and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished ."

          Yes, indeed. And who do we have to blame for that? Obama and Holder, of course. They made the investigation of mortgage securities fraud DOJ's lowest priority. Krugman's Democratic proclivities prevent him from stating the obvious.

          I' m sure that pgl and his band of merry Obamabots will try to spin this in Obama's favor...I.e. Congress prevented him from implementing the law, even though Congress has nothing to do with it.

          Fact is, Obama has intentionally been a lame duck ever since he took office. He was even clueless on how to capitalize on a filibuster-proof majority in the midst of an economic crisis...which brings us to Trump. Many are so desperate for leadership after Obama's hollow presidency that they'll even support a racist demagogue to avoid another empty White House.

          JohnH said in reply to anne...

          Oh, please...Krugman could barely criticize Obama, even when Obama introduced an austerity budget back in 2011.

          The tendency of people like Krugman to overlook Democrats' bad behavior only encourages more bad behavior. If Krugman really cared about the policies he champions, he would let the chips fall wherever...and not let empty suits like Obama get away with austerity and failure to enforce the law when Wall Street willfully violates it.

          pgl said in reply to JohnH...

          Did you forgot to read the post before firing off your usual hate filled fact free rant? Here - let me help you out:

          "some members of the new commission had a different goal. George Santayana famously remarked that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." What he didn't point out was that some people want to repeat the past - and that such people have an interest in making sure that we don't remember what happened, or that we remember it wrong. Sure enough, some commission members sought to block consideration of any historical account that might support efforts to rein in runaway bankers."

          It seems Krugman indeed bashed how the government sort of let this crooks off the hook. We know you have an insane hatred for President Obama. But do you also hate your poor mom? Why else would you continue to write such incredibly stupid things?

          JohnH said in reply to pgl...

          As I expected, rationalizations for Obama's refusal to enforce the law...since when does the buck no longer stop at the White House? And what's with trying to defend people who refuse to do their job and uphold the rule of law?

          pgl said in reply to JohnH...

          Krugman did not rationalize that. Neither have I.

          Either you know you are lying or you flunked preK reading.

          JohnH said in reply to pgl...

          Of course pgl rationalizs Obama's failures...he spent a lot of time denying that Obama introduced and signed off on austerity...and that he proposed cutting Social Security. And now he can't admit that Obama and Holder have refused to defend the rule of law by not prosecuting...or even seriously investigating...Wall Street criminality.

          RGC said in reply to William...

          Prosecutions don't require congressional action.

          Most of the New Deal was accomplished in 100 days.

          Promotion by a president can galvanize action.

          pgl said in reply to EMichael...

          The lack of prosecutions was a bad thing. Of course any prosecutor would tell you putting rich people in jail for anything is often difficult. Rich people get to hire expensive, talented, and otherwise slimy defense attorneys. I have to laugh at the idea that JohnH thinks he could have pulled this off. The slimy defense attorneys would have had his lunch before the judge's gavel could come down.

          JohnH said in reply to pgl...

          Obama could have at least made the investigations a high priority...but he let Holder, a Wall Street attorney, consign them to the lowest.

          pgl is intent on explaining away Obama's failure to enforce the law...thereby encouraging more lawlessness.

          JohnH said in reply to William...

          Democrats' filibuster-proof majority consisted of 58 Democrats and two independents who caucused with them. Only an inept President and Senate majority leader could have failed to take advantage of such a majority to implement significant parts of the party platform. Even Lieberman had a good record on many issues. Except for ACA, it turned out to be a do-nothing Congress, reflecting an abject lack of leadership...which is why many are so desperate for leadership. Having lacked it for seven years, many are willing to turn to anybody, even Trump, to provide it. Pathetic!

          RGC said in reply to William...

          No vitriol, just facts. And Obama had the example of FDR to follow - why didn't he follow it? I have been deeply disappointed in Obama.

          JohnH said in reply to pgl...

          pgl conveniently forgets my choice words about Bill Clinton, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. What I object to is Democrats who position themselves to sound like FDR and then prosecute a neo-liberal agenda.

          Gullible folks like pgl and his coterie believe what these Democrats say and waste our time defending their neoliberal behavior.

          [Dec 21, 2015] Monetalism is dead but remains of monetarist thinking are still lingering

          Notable quotes:
          "... Summers is right that bubbles are usually accompanied by some kind of financial euphoria. ..."
          "... There will be massive pushback because so many have wasted many years and resources building mathematically elegant but fatally flawed models that do not make accurate predictions on even represent the fundamentals of any economy. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com
          Peter K. said in reply to pgl... December 16, 2015 at 10:07 AM
          "It seems to me looking at a year when the stock market has gone down a bit, credit spreads have widened substantially and the dollar has been very strong it is hard to say that now is the time to fire a shot across the bow of financial euphoria. Looking especially at emerging markets I would judge that under-confidence and excessive risk aversion are a greater threat over the next several years than some kind of financial euphoria."

          Summers is right that bubbles are usually accompanied by some kind of financial euphoria.

          ... ... ...

          Peter K. said in reply to Benedict@Large...

          I disagree with your assessment. People (elite?) are talking about unusual solutions because fiscal policy is being blocked politically.

          MMT doesn't seem that different from Keynesianism, except proponents have very big chips on their shoulders for some reason.

          Right now the Keynesians are arguing that the Fed shouldn't raise rates. Are the MMTers arguing any differently? Or are they merely giving us the blue prints for utopia. Blue prints don't help much if the politics are against you.

          Syaloch said in reply to Peter K....

          Great question.

          If I have two black boxes that always produce exactly the same outputs, does it matter whether their internal mechanisms are different?

          Dan Kervick said in reply to Syaloch...
          "Or maybe they would be effective because people believe they ought to be effective."

          Possibly. I think back in the 80's when monetarism was the super-sexy new view, there were a lot of people who thought inflation was mainly a function of the monetary base, so if the Fed made a big public stink about pumping up the monetary base, that could be counted on the boost inflation expectations, at least in some quarters, and the high expectations would in turn help to boost actual inflation. That doesn't seem to be the case any longer.

          Dan Kervick said in reply to pgl...
          The heyday of monetarism was the late 70's and early 80's. That's when Friedman's monetary theory of inflation caught the public imagination, and it's the only time the Fed ever attempted (briefly) to target the money supply.

          Conservative spear-carrier Niall Ferguson knows how important monetarism was to the neoliberal movement, and how big a deal it was during the Thatcher-Reagan era.

          http://www.niallferguson.com/journalism/finance-economics/friedman-is-dead-monetarism-is-dead-but-what-about-inflation

          Other references to the heyday of monetarism abound:

          http://www.voxeu.org/article/nominal-gdp-targeting-developing-nations

          Dan Kervick said in reply to pgl...
          The heyday of monetarism was the late 70's and early 80's. That's when Friedman's monetary theory of inflation caught the public imagination, and it's the only time the Fed ever attempted (briefly) to target the money supply.

          Conservative spear-carrier Niall Ferguson knows how important monetarism was to the neoliberal movement, and how big a deal it was during the Thatcher-Reagan era.

          http://www.niallferguson.com/journalism/finance-economics/friedman-is-dead-monetarism-is-dead-but-what-about-inflation

          Other references to the heyday of monetarism abound:

          http://www.voxeu.org/article/nominal-gdp-targeting-developing-nations

          bakho said... December 16, 2015 at 05:45 AM
          Kevin Hoover, The emperor has no clothes!

          "Given what we know about representative-agent models…there is not the slightest reason for us to think that the conditions under which they should work are fulfilled. The claim that representative-agent models provide microfundations succeeds only when we steadfastly avoid the fact that representative-agent models are just as aggregative as old-fashioned Keynesian macroeconometric models. They do not solve the problem of aggregation; rather they assume that it can be ignored."

          This the reason Macro needs to move into more data driven empirics.

          There will be massive pushback because so many have wasted many years and resources building mathematically elegant but fatally flawed models that do not make accurate predictions on even represent the fundamentals of any economy.

          Syaloch said... December 16, 2015 at 05:50 AM

          The Advantages of Higher Inflation - The New York Times

          From the article:

          "A critical problem with aiming for higher inflation is how to get from here to there. The Fed has spent enormous effort anchoring people's expectations to 2 percent. Even economists sympathetic to a higher target are wary of what such a shift might do to its credibility.

          "'A perfect world, where you could commit to 4 percent and everybody believed it, would be great,' Mr. Mishkin told me. 'We are not in a perfect world. Moving much higher than 2 percent raises the risk that expectations become unanchored.'

          "So here is an alternative proposal. If the Fed is too cautious to risk unhinging inflationary expectations, how about just delivering what it has promised? Among economists and investors, the problem with the Fed's 2 percent target is that just about everybody believes it is really a ceiling. That makes it even harder for inflation to rise to that level. The market expects the Fed to act pre-emptively to ensure it never goes over that line - which is what it seems to be doing now.

          "If the Fed is not going to aim for higher inflation, the least it could do is re-anchor expectations to the goal it established, allowing inflation to fluctuate above and below a 2 percent average. That alone might help deal with the next economic crisis.

          "'We haven't fully tested whether we can deal with this kind of crisis with a 2 percent inflation target,' said David H. Romer of the University of California, Berkeley. 'Central banks have lots of tools. If they say they are willing to keep using them until they get where they want, they can eventually do it.'"

          This highlights a confusing aspect of inflation targets. If the Fed simply announces a higher inflation target without taking any other action, have they really done anything? What's more, they not only need to announce the new target, they need to convince markets that they are willing to do whatever it takes to hit that target -- it's all about credibility and re-anchoring expectations. And while engaging in QE to push down longer-term rates might help make that statement more convincing, it doesn't seem to be strictly necessary for the new target to be effective.

          Thus inflation targets seem in at least some cases to operate purely through psychological manipulation, as a sort of placebo effect: inflation rises not because the Fed has injected money into the economy today or changed the cost of lending today, but rather because the Fed is able to "trick" markets into believing it will rise in the future.

          Peter K. said in reply to Syaloch...

          And the reverse is true. The markets are skeptical that the Fed will hit its 2 percent ceiling target any time soon.

          Inflation expectations are becoming un-anchored on the downside but nobody cares because .... oil.

          Dan Kervick said in reply to Peter K....
          I guess we'll all have to wait for Yellen's future memoirs to know the thinking that was going on inside the Fed during 2015. But it's interesting that both Yellen and Stanley Fischer, both formerly held in gigantic respect by the more prominent liberal economists, are now the targets of ire for apparently not seeing eye-to-eye with their opinionated friends on the outside. Despite the fact that BoG members have access to mountains of internal research and policy input that people on the outside can only guess at, the default position of the outsiders is that the insiders have been corrupted by power and fast-talking bankers or something.

          Here's my conjecture about what the Fed's thinking is: The Fed recognizes that keeping policy interest rates down at an unprecedentedly low basement level for years on end sends this message to the global economy: the US economy is a sick basket case. It needs the permanent life support of extraordinary monetary policy intervention to be kept from flat-lining.

          I think the people who actually work inside the Fed think that is total bunk, and that as they gradually wean the financial sector off of the monetary ventilator, nothing bad is going to happen at all. The patient is going to get up, walk around and breathe normally. And when that happens, it will say, "Wow, maybe I should have tried that earlier!" Business confidence will spurt; people will think, "Hey, I guess we're not in that gloomy post-2008 depression any more!", and the country will get on with its business more cheerfully.

          The Fed has had a devil of a time getting back to normal, because despite its best intentions it has inadvertently re-defined a condition of zero rates and excess reserves bleeding from bankers's ears as the new normal, and created an out-of-control public fixation on monetary policy intervention. Fed communications strategies aimed at guiding the market have turned back on them in a reflexive and self-defeating cycle. They got themselves into a terrible pattern for a while where every time there was good economic news, the markets would respond negatively because they interpreted the good news as evidence that the Fed would "taper" - which they regarded as bad news! And if there was bad news, the markets would respond favorably because they saw the bad news as evidence that the fed would "remain aggressive" - which is good news! Obviously that's a pretty pathological cycle to be in: it's a mechanism fro economic self-stultification. Indicating a move toward normalization too suddenly in 2013 caused the irrational "taper tantrum", so they have had to go more slowly this time around with the hand-holding and by building a longer "guidance" runway.

          Their chief need now is to push back against the monetary maniacs and hyperventilators who keep trying to convince impressionable business people and consumers that the Fed has somehow been "keeping the economy" afloat, and that when interest rates go up - from 1/4 to 1/2 of a percent! - we're all going to drown. If you have enough ambulance chasers convincing people they are sick and damaged, they will act sick and damaged.

          [Dec 20, 2015] Paul Krugman: The Big Short, Housing Bubbles and Retold Lies

          Notable quotes:
          "... I get the feeling that if doing a film review of The Force Awakens , most economists would be rooting for the Empire to win - after all the empire will bring free trade within its borders, like the EU. ..."
          "... In market fundamentalist world, markets dont fail. They can only be failed. Though its still not clear how they think a little bit of government incentive for loans to low income borrowers caused the entire financial sector to lose its mind wrt CDOs. ..."
          "... The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of interest rates, but of things like bank culture, bank regulation and macro-economic and technological prospects. ..."
          "... ....Supervising regulators need to look carefully at the ratio of credit used for financial trading compared to credit used for what weve called real-economy matters. They should adjust the level of monitoring based on this view while they also inform policy makers including those in the legislature. ..."
          "... except that a significant chunk of institutional investors have sticky nominal targets for return thanks to the politics of return expectation setting (true for pension fund and endowments) -- low interest rates do encourage chasing phantoms or looking to extract some rents, for those subject to that kind of pressure ..."
          "... The relationship between low interest rates and bubbles has nothing to do with the above. Low interest rates RAISE asset prices. Through the magic of low discount rates, the future earnings and cash flows are worth a lot higher today. This is why Bernanke cut rates and kept them low. Raising asset prices and the resultant higher net worth was supposed to lead to higher spending today. But outsized returns also attracts speculation. what is so difficult to understand? John Williams of SF Fed has shown how positive returns in asset markets raises the speculators expected returns. when this dynamic gets out of control, it is a bubble. ..."
          "... Yes, indeed. And who do we have to blame for that? Obama and Holder, of course. They made the investigation of mortgage securities fraud DOJs lowest priority. Krugmans Democratic proclivities prevent him from stating the obvious. ..."
          "... Fact is, Obama has intentionally been a lame duck ever since he took office. He was even clueless on how to capitalize on a filibuster-proof majority in the midst of an economic crisis...which brings us to Trump. Many are so desperate for leadership after Obamas hollow presidency that theyll even support a racist demagogue to avoid another empty White House. ..."
          "... Yes you are correct. From 2001 into 2008 when all of the liar and ninja loans were being made, not one government official stepped forward to investigate the possibility of fraud, the predatory lending, the misrepresentation of loans taking place, the loans with teaser rates which later ballooned, the packing of loans with deceptive fees, the illegal kick backs, etc. Not one. To make matters worst, the administration from 2001-2008 aligned itself with the banks along with the maestro hisself Greenspan. ..."
          "... When state AGs took on the burden of investigating the flagrant violations, the administration moves to block them saying they had no jurisdiction to do so. It did this through the OCC issuing rules preventing the states from prosecuting the banks. Besides blocking any investigation, the OCC failed in its mission to audit the banks for which it was by law to do. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com

          Why are Murdoch-controlled newspapers attacking "The Big Short?"

          'The Big Short,' Housing Bubbles and Retold Lies, by Paul krugman, Commentary, NY Times: In May 2009 Congress created a special commission to examine the causes of the financial crisis. The idea was to emulate the celebrated Pecora Commission of the 1930s, which used careful historical analysis to help craft regulations that gave America two generations of financial stability.

          But some members of the new commission had a different goal. ... Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote to a fellow Republican on the commission ... it was important that what they said "not undermine the ability of the new House G.O.P. to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank"...; the party line, literally, required telling stories that would help Wall Street do it all over again.

          Which brings me to a new movie the enemies of financial regulation really, really don't want you to see.

          "The Big Short" ... does a terrific job of making Wall Street skulduggery entertaining, of exploiting the inherent black humor of how it went down. ... But you don't want me to play film critic; you want to know whether the movie got the underlying ... story right. And the answer is yes, in all the ways that matter. ...

          The ...housing ... bubble ... was inflated largely via opaque financial schemes that in many cases amounted to outright fraud - and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished ... aside from innocent bystanders, namely the millions of workers who lost their jobs and the millions of families that lost their homes.

          While the movie gets the essentials of the financial crisis right, the true story ... is deeply inconvenient to some very rich and powerful people. They and their intellectual hired guns have therefore spent years disseminating an alternative view ... that places all the blame ... on ... too much government, especially government-sponsored agencies supposedly pushing too many loans on the poor.

          Never mind that the supposed evidence for this view has been thoroughly debunked..., constant repetition, especially in captive media, keeps this imaginary history in circulation no matter how often it is shown to be false.

          Sure enough, "The Big Short" has already been the subject of vitriolic attacks in Murdoch-controlled newspapers...

          The ... people who made "The Big Short" should consider the attacks a kind of compliment: The attackers obviously worry that the film is entertaining enough that it will expose a large audience to the truth. Let's hope that their fears are justified.

          btg said in reply to pgl...

          I get the feeling that if doing a film review of "The Force Awakens", most economists would be rooting for the Empire to win - after all the empire will bring free trade within its borders, like the EU. Krugman would not, however.

          Sanjait said...

          In market fundamentalist world, markets don't fail. They can only be failed. Though it's still not clear how they think a little bit of government incentive for loans to low income borrowers caused the entire financial sector to lose its mind wrt CDOs.

          Are markets efficient or not? I feel like the fundiesndont really have a coherent explanation for what happened, other than insisting the government somehow did it.

          reason said...

          I wish Krugman would attack the view that is being propagated at the moment that low nominal interest rates (it seems irrespective of the reason for them) foster bubbles. It doesn't make the slightest bit of sense - leverage doesn't just magnify the gains, it magnifies the losses as well - what really counts is expectations regardless of nominal interest rates.)

          The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of interest rates, but of things like bank culture, bank regulation and macro-economic and technological prospects.

          reason said... December 18, 2015 at 02:32 AM

          It always seem to me that right wing economists credit businessmen with superhuman foresight and sophistication, except when it comes to the actions of the Fed and then something addles their brains and they become completely stupid. As I once put, it seems investors can't understand what the Fed is doing, even though they tell you.

          Sanjait said in reply to reason... December 18, 2015 at 08:06 AM

          That's it exactly. Markets are efficient, unless the government does anything, and then markets lose their minds and it's the government's fault.

          And somehow the RW economists see no problem with this model

          DeDude said in reply to Sanjait... December 18, 2015 at 08:18 AM

          Here is how they evaluate models:

          Good model; one that reaches the "right" good conclusions. Bad model; one that ends up saying stuff nobody should believe in.

          likbez said in reply to Sanjait...

          "Markets are efficient, unless the government does anything"

          This is a dangerous neoliberal dogma. Total lie.

          === quote ===
          The efficient market hypothesis (EMH) is a flavor of economic Lysenkoism which became popular for the last 30 years in the USA. It is a pseudo scientific theory or, in more politically correct terms, unrealistic idealization of market behavior. Like classic Lysenkoism in the past was supported by Stalin's totalitarian state, it was supported by the power of neoliberal state, which is the state captured by financial oligarchy (see Casino Capitalism and Quiet coup for more details).

          Among the factors ignored by EMH is the positive feedback loop inherent in any system based on factional reserve banking, the level of market players ignorance, unequal access to the real information about the markets, the level of brainwashing performed on "lemmings" by controlled by elite MSM and market manipulation by the largest players and the state.

          Economics, it is said, is the study of scarcity. There is, however, one thing that certainly isn't scarce, but which deserves the attention of economists - ignorance.
          ...Conventional economics analyses how individuals choose - maybe rationally, maybe not - from a range of options. But this raises the question: how do they know what these options are? Many feasible - even optimum - options might not occur to them. This fact has some important implications. ...
          Slightly simplifying, we can say that (financial) markets are mainly efficient in separation of fools and their money... And efficient market hypothesis mostly bypasses important question about how the inequity of resources which inevitably affects the outcomes of market participants. For example, the level of education of market players is one aspect of the inequity of resources. Herd behavior is another important, but overlooked in EMH factor.

          http://www.softpanorama.org/Skeptics/Financial_skeptic/Casino_capitalism/Pseudo_theories/Permanent_equilibrium_fallacy/Efficient_market_hypothesys/index.shtml

          JF said in reply to reason...

          Great comment. I especially liked this point: "The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of"

          ....Supervising regulators need to look carefully at the ratio of credit used for financial trading compared to credit used for what we've called real-economy matters. They should adjust the level of monitoring based on this view while they also inform policy makers including those in the legislature.

          There may be an opportunity in 2017 to revise the statutes so the public plainly says what the rules of Commerce are in these financial 'inter-mediation' areas - society is better served if more of such credit offerings go to investments in the real economy where inputs are real things like employees, supplies, equipment/technologies. The public's law can effect this change.

          david said in reply to JF...

          except that a significant chunk of institutional investors have sticky nominal targets for return thanks to the politics of return expectation setting (true for pension fund and endowments) -- low interest rates do encourage chasing phantoms or looking to extract some rents, for those subject to that kind of pressure

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to reason...

          "The distribution of the use of credit between pure financial speculation and productive investment is not a function of interest rates, but of things like bank culture, bank regulation and macro-economic and technological prospects."

          The relationship between low interest rates and bubbles has nothing to do with the above. Low interest rates RAISE asset prices. Through the magic of low discount rates, the future earnings and cash flows are worth a lot higher today. This is why Bernanke cut rates and kept them low. Raising asset prices and the resultant higher net worth was supposed to lead to higher spending today. But outsized returns also attracts speculation. what is so difficult to understand? John Williams of SF Fed has shown how positive returns in asset markets raises the speculator's expected returns. when this dynamic gets out of control, it is a bubble.

          Sanjait said in reply to BenIsNotYoda...

          It's hard to see how to your claim that expected returns are high when earnings yields across the board are historically low.

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to Sanjait...

          That is exactly the point. Expected returns in stocks have nothing to do with earnings growth.

          http://www.frbsf.org/our-district/press/presidents-speeches/williams-speeches/2013/september/asset-price-bubbles-tomorrow-yesterday-never-today/

          Fred C. Dobbs said in reply to reason...

          It does not seem reasonable or fair to pay practically no interest on savings, which is a consequence of Fed policy. A consequence of this is that people go into risky investments that lead to catastrophe, sometimes widespread. If the goal was to get people to spend (i.e. consume) more, it seems that they are persistently & stubbornly frugal.

          anne, December 18, 2015 at 06:37 AM

          http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/23/shorts-subject/

          November 23, 2015

          Shorts Subject
          By Paul Krugman

          Last night I was invited to a screening of "The Big Short," which I thought was terrific; who knew that collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps could be made into an edge-of-your-seat narrative (with great acting)?

          But there was one shortcut the narrative took, which was understandable and possibly necessary, but still worth noting.

          In the film, various eccentrics and oddballs make the discovery that subprime-backed securities are garbage, which is pretty much what happened; but this is wrapped together with their realization that there was a massive housing bubble, which is presented as equally contrary to anything anyone respectable was saying. And that's not quite right.

          It's true that Greenspan and others were busy denying the very possibility of a housing bubble. And it's also true that anyone suggesting that such a bubble existed was attacked furiously - "You're only saying that because you hate Bush!" Still, there were a number of economic analysts making the case for a massive bubble. Here's Dean Baker in 2002. * Bill McBride (Calculated Risk) was on the case early and very effectively. I keyed off Baker and McBride, arguing for a bubble in 2004 and making my big statement about the analytics in 2005, ** that is, if anything a bit earlier than most of the events in the film. I'm still fairly proud of that piece, by the way, because I think I got it very right by emphasizing the importance of breaking apart regional trends.

          So the bubble itself was something number crunchers could see without delving into the details of mortgage-backed securities, traveling around Florida, or any of the other drama shown in the film. In fact, I'd say that the housing bubble of the mid-2000s was the most obvious thing I've ever seen, and that the refusal of so many people to acknowledge the possibility was a dramatic illustration of motivated reasoning at work.

          The financial superstructure built on the bubble was something else; I was clueless about that, and didn't see the financial crisis coming at all.

          * http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/housing_2002_08.pdf

          ** http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/that-hissing-sound.html

          anne said in reply to anne... December 18, 2015 at 06:43 AM

          http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/16/opinion/mind-the-gap.html

          August 16, 2002

          Mind the Gap
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          More and more people are using the B-word about the housing market. A recent analysis * by Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic Policy Research, makes a particularly compelling case for a housing bubble. House prices have run well ahead of rents, suggesting that people are now buying houses for speculation rather than merely for shelter. And the explanations one hears for those high prices sound more and more like the rationalizations one heard for Nasdaq 5,000.

          If we do have a housing bubble, and it bursts, we'll be looking a lot too Japanese for comfort....

          * http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/housing_2002_08.pdf

          anne said in reply to anne... December 18, 2015 at 06:44 AM

          http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/08/opinion/that-hissing-sound.html

          August 8, 2005

          That Hissing Sound
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          This is the way the bubble ends: not with a pop, but with a hiss.

          Housing prices move much more slowly than stock prices. There are no Black Mondays, when prices fall 23 percent in a day. In fact, prices often keep rising for a while even after a housing boom goes bust.

          So the news that the U.S. housing bubble is over won't come in the form of plunging prices; it will come in the form of falling sales and rising inventory, as sellers try to get prices that buyers are no longer willing to pay. And the process may already have started.

          Of course, some people still deny that there's a housing bubble. Let me explain how we know that they're wrong.

          One piece of evidence is the sense of frenzy about real estate, which irresistibly brings to mind the stock frenzy of 1999. Even some of the players are the same. The authors of the 1999 best seller "Dow 36,000" are now among the most vocal proponents of the view that there is no housing bubble.

          Then there are the numbers. Many bubble deniers point to average prices for the country as a whole, which look worrisome but not totally crazy. When it comes to housing, however, the United States is really two countries, Flatland and the Zoned Zone.

          In Flatland, which occupies the middle of the country, it's easy to build houses. When the demand for houses rises, Flatland metropolitan areas, which don't really have traditional downtowns, just sprawl some more. As a result, housing prices are basically determined by the cost of construction. In Flatland, a housing bubble can't even get started.

          But in the Zoned Zone, which lies along the coasts, a combination of high population density and land-use restrictions - hence "zoned" - makes it hard to build new houses. So when people become willing to spend more on houses, say because of a fall in mortgage rates, some houses get built, but the prices of existing houses also go up. And if people think that prices will continue to rise, they become willing to spend even more, driving prices still higher, and so on. In other words, the Zoned Zone is prone to housing bubbles.

          And Zoned Zone housing prices, which have risen much faster than the national average, clearly point to a bubble....

          EMichael said in reply to anne... December 18, 2015 at 06:59 AM

          Yeah, the only thing he missed was the timing of the collapse. The day he wrote this the Fed had already raised rates 250% in one year, on the way to a total of 400% in the next 6 months.

          Yet prices accelerated until the top was reached a year after the column.

          anne said in reply to EMichael... December 18, 2015 at 07:43 AM

          http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/25/opinion/25krugman.html

          August 25, 2006

          Housing Gets Ugly
          By PAUL KRUGMAN

          Bubble, bubble, Toll's in trouble. This week, Toll Brothers, the nation's premier builder of McMansions, announced that sales were way off, profits were down, and the company was walking away from already-purchased options on land for future development.

          Toll's announcement was one of many indications that the long-feared housing bust has arrived. Home sales are down sharply; home prices, which rose 57 percent over the past five years (and much more than that along the coasts), are now falling in much of the country. The inventory of unsold existing homes is at a 13-year high; builders' confidence is at a 15-year low.

          A year ago, Robert Toll, who runs Toll Brothers, was euphoric about the housing boom, declaring: "We've got the supply, and the market has got the demand. So it's a match made in heaven." In a New York Times profile of his company published last October, he dismissed worries about a possible bust. "Why can't real estate just have a boom like every other industry?" he asked. "Why do we have to have a bubble and then a pop?"

          The current downturn, Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he's seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any "macroeconomic nasty condition" taking housing down along with the rest of the economy. He suggests that unease about the direction of the country and the war in Iraq is undermining confidence. All I have to say is: pop! ...

          EMichael said in reply to anne... December 18, 2015 at 07:52 AM

          "Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he's seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any "macroeconomic nasty condition""

          You gotta love builders and RE agents. It wasn't macro that caused it, it was default rates across the board on supposedly safe investments that caused mortgage money supply to totally disappear.

          One day people will understand that payments are the key to all finance.

          JohnH said...

          "and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished ."

          Yes, indeed. And who do we have to blame for that? Obama and Holder, of course. They made the investigation of mortgage securities fraud DOJ's lowest priority. Krugman's Democratic proclivities prevent him from stating the obvious.

          I' m sure that pgl and his band of merry Obamabots will try to spin this in Obama's favor...I.e. Congress prevented him from implementing the law, even though Congress has nothing to do with it.

          Fact is, Obama has intentionally been a lame duck ever since he took office. He was even clueless on how to capitalize on a filibuster-proof majority in the midst of an economic crisis...which brings us to Trump. Many are so desperate for leadership after Obama's hollow presidency that they'll even support a racist demagogue to avoid another empty White House.

          run75441 said in reply to JohnH...

          Yes you are correct. From 2001 into 2008 when all of the liar and ninja loans were being made, not one government official stepped forward to investigate the possibility of fraud, the predatory lending, the misrepresentation of loans taking place, the loans with "teaser" rates which later ballooned, the packing of loans with deceptive fees, the illegal kick backs, etc. Not one. To make matters worst, the administration from 2001-2008 aligned itself with the banks along with the maestro hisself "Greenspan."

          When state AGs took on the burden of investigating the flagrant violations, the administration moves to block them saying they had no jurisdiction to do so. It did this through the OCC issuing rules preventing the states from prosecuting the banks. Besides blocking any investigation, the OCC failed in its mission to audit the banks for which it was by law to do.

          What was the SEC doing during this time period? What was the administration doing with Enron in 2002? Didn't Cheney get sued by the GAO to find out who he was talking to at Enron?

          Yes there is the matter of not prosecuting banking execs after 2008; however, the issue was allowed to grow during the prior administration and left on the next administration's doorstep. Closing the barn door after the perps have escaped is a bit late and it should have been stopped dead in its tracks during the prior 8 years.

          So keep going down that path and we can also talk about fraud with tranching, CDS, Naked CDs, reserves, etc.

          So, where was the administration during this time period?

          DeDude said...

          Subprime loans in poor communities represented a very small fraction of the total subprime volume and defaulted loans. I mean talk about the mouse and the elephant. Yet the FoxBots are being convinced to look at those scary mice and all that thundering noise they are making.

          Alex H said in reply to Peter K....
          In the book, one of the supposed villains went to the division of AIG that was selling CDSes (i.e. "insuring" the toxic crap) and explained to a direct subordinate of the division exactly how his bank and the other companies of Wall Street were suckering them into taking on absurd risks. In *2005*.

          Because he was massively short in this market, and AIG pulling the plug would have popped the bubble. Nobody else was selling CDSes (then), and Wall Street couldn't have pretended that their risks were covered without them. That doesn't make him a hero, but seriously, if AIG had listened, no collapse.

          Several of the characters effectively called up the ratings agencies to shout at them. Others called NYT and WSJ reporters, who ignored them. Then they called the SEC's enforcement division, who ignored them.

          Besides, if the other side in all of those bets were foreign "widows and orphans", then it wouldn't have wrecked the financial system. If Bear Stearns had been sitting as the middleman between a Korean pension fund and Steve Eisman, they'd have just taken their cut and moved on.

          [Dec 19, 2015] The Enduring Relevance of "Manias, Panics, and Crashes"

          Notable quotes:
          "... Manias, Panics, and Crashes ..."
          "... The New International Money Game ..."
          "... Manias, Panics and Crashes ..."
          "... Why Minsky Matters ..."
          "... Manias, Panics and Crashes ..."
          "... Manias, Panics and Crashes ..."
          December 17, 2015 | Angry Bear

          by Joseph Joyce

          The Enduring Relevance of "Manias, Panics, and Crashes"

          The seventh edition of Manias, Panics, and Crashes has recently been published by Palgrave Macmillan. Charles Kindleberger of MIT wrote the first edition, which appeared in 1978, and followed it with three more editions. Robert Aliber of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago took over the editing and rewriting of the fifth edition, which came out in 2005. (Aliber is also the author of another well-known book on international finance, The New International Money Game.) The continuing popularity of Manias, Panics and Crashes shows that financial crises continue to be a matter of widespread concern.

          Kindleberger built upon the work of Hyman Minsky, a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis. Minsky was a proponent of what he called the "financial instability hypothesis," which posited that financial markets are inherently unstable. Periods of financial booms are followed by busts, and governmental intervention can delay but not eliminate crises. Minsky's work received a great deal of attention during the global financial crisis (see here and here; for a summary of Minksy's work, see Why Minsky Matters by L. Randall Wray of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Levy Economics Institute).

          Kindleberger provided a more detailed description of the stages of a financial crisis. The period preceding a crisis begins with a "displacement," a shock to the system. When a displacement improves the profitability of at least one sector of an economy, firms and individuals will seek to take advantage of this opportunity. The resulting demand for financial assets leads to an increase in their prices. Positive feedback in asset markets lead to more investments and financial speculation, and a period of "euphoria," or mania develops.

          At some point, however, insiders begin to take profits and withdraw from the markets. Once market participants realize that prices have peaked, flight from the markets becomes widespread. As prices plummet, a period of "revulsion" or panic ensues. Those who had financed their positions in the market by borrowing on the promise of profits on the purchased assets become insolvent. The panic ends when prices fall so far that some traders are tempted to come back into the market, or trading is limited by the authorities, or a lender of last resort intervenes to halt the decline.

          In addition to elaborating on the stages of a financial crisis, Kindleberger also placed them in an international context. He wrote about the propagation of crises through the arbitrage of divergences in the prices of assets across markets or their substitutes. Capital flows and the spread of euphoria also contribute to the simultaneous rises in asset prices in different countries. (Piero Pasotti and Alessandro Vercelli of the University of Siena provide an analysis of Kindleberger's contributions.)

          Aliber has continued to update the book, and the new edition has a chapter on the European sovereign debt crisis. (The prior edition covered the events of 2008-09.) But he has also made his own contributions to the Minsky-Kindleberger (and now –Aliber) framework. Aliber characterizes the decades since the early 1980s as "…the most tumultuous in monetary history in terms of the number, scope and severity of banking crises." To date, there have been four waves of such crises, which are almost always accompanied by currency crises. The first wave was the debt crisis of developing nations during the 1980s, and it was followed by a second wave of crises in Japan and the Nordic countries in the early 1990s. The third wave was the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, and the fourth is the global financial crisis.

          Aliber emphasizes the role of cross-border investment flows in precipitating the crises. Their volatility has risen under flexible exchange rates, which allow central banks more freedom in formulating monetary policies that influence capital allocation. He also draws attention to the increases in household wealth due to rising asset prices and currency appreciation that contribute to consumption expenditures and amplify the boom periods. The reversal in wealth once investors revise their expectations and capital begins to flow out makes the resulting downturn more acute.

          These views are consistent in many ways with those of Claudio Borio of the Bank for International Settlements (see also here). He has written that the international monetary and financial system amplifies the "excess financial elasticity," i.e., the buildup of financial imbalances that characterizes domestic financial markets. He identifies two channels of transmission. First, capital inflows contribute to the rise in domestic credit during a financial boom. The impact of global conditions on domestic financial markets exacerbates this development (see here). Second, monetary regimes may facilitate the expansion of monetary conditions from one country to others. Central bankers concerned about currency appreciation and a loss of competitiveness keep interest rates lower than they would otherwise, which furthers a domestic boom. In addition, the actions of central banks with international currencies such as the dollar has international ramifications, as the current widespread concern about the impending rise in the Federal Funds rate shows.

          Aliber ends the current edition of Manias, Panics and Crashes with an appendix on China's financial situation. He compares the surge in China's housing markets with the Japanese boom of the 1980s and subsequent bust that initiated decades of slow economic growth. An oversupply of new housing in China has resulted in a decline in prices that threatens the solvency of property developers and the banks and shadow banks that financed them. Aliber is dubious of the claim that the Chinese government will support the banks, pointing out that such support will only worsen China's indebtedness. The need for an eighth edition of Manias, Panics and Crashes may soon be apparent.

          cross posted with Capital Ebbs and Flows

          [Dec 19, 2015] The Washington Post's Non-Political Fed Looks a Lot Like Wall Street's Fed

          Notable quotes:
          "... Any serious discussion of Fed policy would note that the banking industry appears to have a grossly disproportionate say in the country's monetary policy. ..."
          Dec 19, 2015 | Beat the Press

          ... ... ...

          But what is even more striking is the Post's ability to treat the Fed a neutral party when the evidence is so overwhelming in the opposite direction. The majority of the Fed's 12 district bank presidents have long been pushing for a rate hike. While there are some doves among this group, most notably Charles Evans, the Chicago bank president, and Narayana Kocherlakota, the departing president of the Minneapolis bank, most of this group has publicly pushed for higher rate hikes for some time. By contrast, the governors who are appointed through the democratic process, have been far more cautious about raising rates.

          It should raise serious concerns that the bank presidents, who are appointed through a process dominated by the banking industry, has such a different perspective on the best path forward for monetary policy. With only five of the seven governor slots currently filled, there are as many presidents with voting seats on the Fed's Open Market Committee as governors. In total, the governors are outnumbered at meetings by a ratio of twelve to five.

          Any serious discussion of Fed policy would note that the banking industry appears to have a grossly disproportionate say in the country's monetary policy. Furthermore, it seems determined to use that influence to push the Fed on a path that slows growth and reduces the rate of job creation. The Post somehow missed this story or at least would prefer that the rest of us not take notice.

          * https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-federal-reserve-makes-a-good-judgment-call-in-raising-interest-rates/2015/12/18/7954e1c6-a4f8-11e5-ad3f-991ce3374e23_story.html

          -- Dean Baker

          [Dec 18, 2015] The Upward Redistribution of Income: Are Rents the Story?

          Looks like growth of financial sector represents direct threat to the society
          Notable quotes:
          "... Perhaps the financialization of the economy and rising inequality leads to a corruption of the political process which leads to monetary, currency and fiscal policy such that labor markets are loose and inflation is low. ..."
          "... Growth of the non-financial-sector == growth in productivity ..."
          "... In complex subject matters, even the most competent person joining a company has to become familiar with the details of the products, the industry niche, the processes and professional/personal relationships in the company or industry, etc. All these are not really teachable and require between months and years in the job. This represents a significant sunk cost. Sometimes (actually rather often) experience within the niche/industry is in a degree portable between companies, but some company still had to employ enough people to build this experience, and it cannot be readily bought by bringing in however competent freshers. ..."
          December 18, 2015 | cepr.netDean Baker:
          Working Paper: : In the years since 1980, there has been a well-documented upward redistribution of income. While there are some differences by methodology and the precise years chosen, the top one percent of households have seen their income share roughly double from 10 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in the second decade of the 21st century. As a result of this upward redistribution, most workers have seen little improvement in living standards from the productivity gains over this period.

          This paper argues that the bulk of this upward redistribution comes from the growth of rents in the economy in four major areas: patent and copyright protection, the financial sector, the pay of CEOs and other top executives, and protectionist measures that have boosted the pay of doctors and other highly educated professionals. The argument on rents is important because, if correct, it means that there is nothing intrinsic to capitalism that led to this rapid rise in inequality, as for example argued by Thomas Piketty.

          Flash | PDF

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to Fair Economist, December 18, 2015 at 11:34 AM

          "...the growth of finance capitalism was what would kill capitalism off..."

          "Financialization" is a short-cut terminology that in full is term either "financialization of non-financial firms" or "financialization of the means of production." In either case it leads to consolidation of firms, outsourcing, downsizing, and offshoring to reduce work force and wages and increase rents.

          Consolidation, the alpha and omega of financialization can only be executed with very liquid financial markets, big investment banks to back necessary leverage to make the proffers, and an acute capital gains tax preference relative to dividends and interest earnings, the grease to liquidity.

          It takes big finance to do "financialization" and it takes "financialization" to extract big rents while maintaining low wages.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron, December 18, 2015 at 11:42 AM
          [THANKS to djb just down thread who supplied this link:]

          http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021305040

          Finance sector as percent of US GDP, 1860-present: the growth of the rentier economy

          [graph]

          Financialization is a term sometimes used in discussions of financial capitalism which developed over recent decades, in which financial leverage tended to override capital (equity) and financial markets tended to dominate over the traditional industrial economy and agricultural economics.

          Financialization is a term that describes an economic system or process that attempts to reduce all value that is exchanged (whether tangible, intangible, future or present promises, etc.) either into a financial instrument or a derivative of a financial instrument. The original intent of financialization is to be able to reduce any work-product or service to an exchangeable financial instrument... Financialization also makes economic rents possible...financial leverage tended to override capital (equity) and financial markets tended to dominate over the traditional industrial economy and agricultural economics...

          Companies are not able to invest in new physical capital equipment or buildings because they are obliged to use their operating revenue to pay their bankers and bondholders, as well as junk-bond holders. This is what I mean when I say that the economy is becoming financialized. Its aim is not to provide tangible capital formation or rising living standards, but to generate interest, financial fees for underwriting mergers and acquisitions, and capital gains that accrue mainly to insiders, headed by upper management and large financial institutions. The upshot is that the traditional business cycle has been overshadowed by a secular increase in debt.

          Instead of labor earning more, hourly earnings have declined in real terms. There has been a drop in net disposable income after paying taxes and withholding "forced saving" for social Security and medical insurance, pension-fund contributions and–most serious of all–debt service on credit cards, bank loans, mortgage loans, student loans, auto loans, home insurance premiums, life insurance, private medical insurance and other FIRE-sector charges. ... This diverts spending away from goods and services.

          In the United States, probably more money has been made through the appreciation of real estate than in any other way. What are the long-term consequences if an increasing percentage of savings and wealth, as it now seems, is used to inflate the prices of already existing assets - real estate and stocks - instead of to create new production and innovation?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financialization

          pgl said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron, December 18, 2015 at 03:25 PM
          Your graph shows something I've been meaning to suggest for a while. Take a look at the last time that the financial sector share of GDP rose. The late 1920's. Which was followed by the Great Depression which has similar causes as our Great Recession. Here is my observation.

          Give that Wall Street clowns a huge increase in our national income and we don't get more services from them. What we get is screwed on the grandest of scales.

          BTW - there is a simple causal relationship that explains both the rise in the share of financial sector income/GDP and the massive collapses of the economy (1929 and 2007). It is called stupid financial deregulation. First we see the megabanks and Wall Street milking the system for all its worth and when their unhanded and often secretive risk taking falls apart - the rest of bear the brunt of the damage.

          Which is why this election is crucial. Elect a Republican and we repeat this mistake again. Elect a real progressive and we can put in place the types of financial reforms FDR was known for.

          Peter K. said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron, December 18, 2015 at 11:50 AM

          " and it takes "financialization" to extract big rents while maintaining low wages."

          It takes governmental macro policy to maintain loose labor markets and low wages. Perhaps the financialization of the economy and rising inequality leads to a corruption of the political process which leads to monetary, currency and fiscal policy such that labor markets are loose and inflation is low.

          djb said...

          http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021305040

          I don't know about the last couple years but this chart indicates a large growth in financials as a share of gdp over the years since the 40's

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to djb, December 18, 2015 at 12:03 PM
          [Anne gave you FIRE sector profits as a share of GDP while this gives FIRE sector profits as a share of total corporate profits.]

          *

          [Smoking gun excerpt:]

          "...The financial system has grown rapidly since the early 1980s. In the 1950s, the financial sector accounted for about 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Today, that figure has more than doubled, to 6.5 percent. The sector's yearly rate of growth doubled after 1980, rising to a peak of 7.5 percent of GDP in 2006. As finance has grown in relative size it has also grown disproportionately more profitable. In 1950, financial-sector profits were about 8 percent of overall U.S. profits-meaning all the profit earned by any kind of business enterprise in the country. By the 2000s, they ranged between 20 and 40 percent...

          [Ouch!]

          [Now the whole enchilada:]

          http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novemberdecember_2014/features/frenzied_financialization052714.php?page=all

          If you want to know what happened to economic equality in this country, one word will explain a lot of it: financialization. That term refers to an increase in the size, scope, and power of the financial sector-the people and firms that manage money and underwrite stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other securities-relative to the rest of the economy.

          The financialization revolution over the past thirty-five years has moved us toward greater inequality in three distinct ways. The first involves moving a larger share of the total national wealth into the hands of the financial sector. The second involves concentrating on activities that are of questionable value, or even detrimental to the economy as a whole. And finally, finance has increased inequality by convincing corporate executives and asset managers that corporations must be judged not by the quality of their products and workforce but by one thing only: immediate income paid to shareholders.

          The financial system has grown rapidly since the early 1980s. In the 1950s, the financial sector accounted for about 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Today, that figure has more than doubled, to 6.5 percent. The sector's yearly rate of growth doubled after 1980, rising to a peak of 7.5 percent of GDP in 2006. As finance has grown in relative size it has also grown disproportionately more profitable. In 1950, financial-sector profits were about 8 percent of overall U.S. profits-meaning all the profit earned by any kind of business enterprise in the country. By the 2000s, they ranged between 20 and 40 percent. This isn't just the decline of profits in other industries, either. Between 1980 and 2006, while GDP increased five times, financial-sector profits increased sixteen times over. While financial and nonfinancial profits grew at roughly the same rate before 1980, between 1980 and 2006 nonfinancial profits grew seven times while financial profits grew sixteen times.

          This trend has continued even after the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent financial reforms, including the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Financial profits in 2012 were 24 percent of total profits, while the financial sector's share of GDP was 6.8 percent. These numbers are lower than the high points of the mid-2000s; but, compared to the years before 1980, they are remarkably high.

          This explosion of finance has generated greater inequality. To begin with, the share of the total workforce employed in the financial sector has barely budged, much less grown at a rate equivalent to the size and profitability of the sector as a whole. That means that these swollen profits are flowing to a small sliver of the population: those employed in finance. And financiers, in turn, have become substantially more prominent among the top 1 percent. Recent work by the economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole, and Bradley T. Heim found that the percentage of those in the top 1 percent of income working in finance nearly doubled between 1979 and 2005, from 7.7 percent to 13.9 percent.

          If the economy had become far more productive as a result of these changes, they could have been worthwhile. But the evidence shows it did not. Economist Thomas Philippon found that financial services themselves have become less, not more, efficient over this time period. The unit cost of financial services, or the percentage of assets it costs to produce all financial issuances, was relatively high at the dawn of the twentieth century, but declined to below 2 percent between 1901 and 1960. However, it has increased since the 1960s, and is back to levels seen at the early twentieth century. Whatever finance is doing, it isn't doing it more cheaply.

          In fact, the second damaging trend is that financial institutions began to concentrate more and more on activities that are worrisome at best and destructive at worst. Harvard Business School professors Robin Greenwood and David Scharfstein argue that between 1980 and 2007 the growth in financial-industry revenues came from two things: asset management and loan origination. Fees associated either with asset management or with household credit in particular were responsible for 74 percent of the growth in financial-sector output over that period.

          The asset management portion reflects the explosion of mutual funds, which increased from $134 billion in assets in 1980 to $12 trillion in 2007. Much of it also comes from "alternative investment vehicles" like hedge funds and private equity. Over this time, the fee rate for mutual funds fell, but fees associated with alternative investment vehicles exploded. This is, in essence, money for nothing-there is little evidence that hedge funds actually perform better than the market over time. And, unlike mutual funds, alternative investment funds do not fully disclose their practices and fees publicly.

          Beginning in 1980 and continuing today, banks generate less and less of their income from interest on loans. Instead, they rely on fees, from either consumers or borrowers. Fees associated with household credit grew from 1.1 percent of GDP in 1980 to 3.4 percent in 2007. As part of the unregulated shadow banking sector that took over the financial sector, banks are less and less in the business of holding loans and more and more concerned with packaging them and selling them off. Instead of holding loans on their books, banks originate loans to sell off and distribute into this new type of banking sector.

          Again, if this "originate-to-distribute" model created value for society, it could be a worthwhile practice. But, in fact, this model introduced huge opportunities for fraud throughout the lending process. Loans-such as "securitized mortgages" made up of pledges of the income stream from subprime mortgage loans-were passed along a chain of buyers until someone far away held the ultimate risk. Bankers who originated the mortgages received significant commissions, with virtually no accountability or oversight. The incentive, in fact, was perverse: find the worst loans with the biggest fees instead of properly screening for whether the loans would be any good for investors.

          The same model made it difficult, if not impossible, to renegotiate bad mortgages when the system collapsed. Those tasked with tackling bad mortgages on behalf of investors had their own conflicts of interests, and found themselves profiting while loans struggled. This process created bad debts that could never be paid, and blocked attempts to try and rework them after the fact. The resulting pool of bad debt has been a drag on the economy ever since, giving us the fall in median wages of the Great Recession and the sluggish recovery we still live with.

          And of course it's been an epic disaster for the borrowers themselves. Many of them, we now know, were moderate- and lower-income families who were in no financial position to borrow as much as they did, especially under such predatory terms and with such high fees. Collapsing home prices and the inability to renegotiate their underwater mortgages stripped these folks of whatever savings they had and left them in deep debt, widening even further the gulf of inequality in this country.

          Moreover, financialization isn't just confined to the financial sector itself. It's also ultimately about who controls, guides, and benefits from our economy as a whole. And here's the last big change: the "shareholder revolution," started in the 1980s and continuing to this very day, has fundamentally transformed the way our economy functions in favor of wealth owners.

          To understand this change, compare two eras at General Electric. This is how business professor Gerald Davis describes the perspective of Owen Young, who was CEO of GE almost straight through from 1922 to 1945: "[S]tockholders are confined to a maximum return equivalent to a risk premium. The remaining profit stays in the enterprise, is paid out in higher wages, or is passed on to the customer." Davis contrasts that ethos with that of Jack Welch, CEO from 1981 to 2001; Welch, Davis says, believed in "the shareholder as king-the residual claimant, entitled to the [whole] pot of earnings."

          This change had dramatic consequences. Economist J. W. Mason found that, before the 1980s, firms tended to borrow funds in order to fuel investment. Since 1980, that link has been broken. Now when firms borrow, they tend to use the money to fund dividends or buy back stocks. Indeed, even during the height of the housing boom, Mason notes, "corporations were paying out more than 100 percent of their cash flow to shareholders."

          This lack of investment is obviously holding back our recovery. Productive investment remains low, and even extraordinary action by the Federal Reserve to make investments more profitable by keeping interest rates low has not been able to counteract the general corporate presumption that this money should go to shareholders. There is thus less innovation, less risk taking, and ultimately less growth. One of the reasons this revolution was engineered in the 1980s was to put a check on what kinds of investments CEOs could make, and one of those investments was wage growth. Finance has now won the battle against wage earners: corporations today are reluctant to raise wages even as the economy slowly starts to recover. This keeps the economy perpetually sluggish by retarding consumer demand, while also increasing inequality.

          How can these changes be challenged? The first thing we must understand is the scope of the change. As Mason writes, the changes have been intellectual, legal, and institutional. At the intellectual level, academic research and conventional wisdom among economists and policymakers coalesced around the ideas that maximizing returns to shareholders is the only goal of a corporation, and that the financial markets were always right. At the legal level, laws regulating finance at the state level were overturned by the Supreme Court or preempted by federal regulators, and antitrust regulations were gutted by the Reagan administration and not taken up again.

          At the institutional level, deregulation over several administrations led to a massive concentration of the financial sector into fewer, richer firms. As financial expertise became more prestigious than industry-specific knowledge, CEOs no longer came from within the firms they represented but instead from other firms or from Wall Street; their pay was aligned through stock options, which naturally turned their focus toward maximizing stock prices. The intellectual and institutional transformation was part of an overwhelming ideological change: the health and strength of the economy became identified solely with the profitability of the financial markets.

          This was a bold revolution, and any program that seeks to change it has to be just as bold intellectually. Such a program will also require legal and institutional changes, ones that go beyond making sure that financial firms can fail without destroying the economy. Dodd-Frank can be thought of as a reaction against the worst excesses of the financial sector at the height of the housing bubble, and as a line of defense against future financial panics. Many parts of it are doing yeoman's work in curtailing the financial sector's abuses, especially in terms of protecting consumers from fraud and bringing some transparency to the Wild West of the derivatives markets. But the scope of the law is too limited to roll back these larger changes.

          One provision of Dodd-Frank, however, suggests a way forward. At the urging of the AFL-CIO, Dodd-Frank empowered the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine the activities of private equity firms on behalf of their investors. At around $3.5 trillion, private equity is a massive market with serious consequences for the economy as a whole. On its first pass, the SEC found extensive abuses. Andrew Bowden, the director of the SEC's examinations office, stated that the agency found "what we believe are violations of law or material weaknesses in controls over 50 percent of the time."

          Lawmakers could require private equity and hedge funds to standardize their disclosures of fees and holdings, as is currently the case for mutual funds. The decline in fees for mutual funds noted above didn't just happen by itself; it happened because the law structured the market for actual transparency and price competition. This will need to happen again for the broader financial sector.

          But the most important change will be intellectual: we must come to understand our economy not as simply a vehicle for capital owners, but rather as the creation of all of us, a common endeavor that creates space for innovation, risk taking, and a stronger workforce. This change will be difficult, as we will have to alter how we approach the economy as a whole. Our wealth and companies can't just be strip-mined for a small sliver of capital holders; we'll need to bring the corporation back to the public realm. But without it, we will remain trapped inside an economy that only works for a select few.

          [Whew!]

          Puerto Barato said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron,
          "3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Today, that figure has more than doubled, to 6.5"
          ~~RC AKA Darryl, Ron ~

          Growth of the non-financial-sector == growth in productivity

          Growth of the financial-sector == growth in upward transfer of wealth

          Ostensibly financial-sector is there to protect your money from being eaten up by inflation. Closer inspection shows that the prevention of *eaten up* is by the method of rent collection.

          Accountants handle this analysis poorly, but you can see what is happening. Boiling it down to the bottom line you can easily see that wiping out the financial sector is the remedy to the Piketty.

          Hell! Financial sector wiped itself out in 008. Problem was that the GSE and administration brought the zombie back to life then put the vampire back at our throats. What was the precipitating factor that snagged the financial sector without warning?

          Unexpected
          deflation
          !

          Gimme some
          of that

          pgl said in reply to djb...

          People like Brad DeLong have noted this for a while. Twice as many people making twice as much money per person. And their true value to us - not a bit more than it was back in the 1940's.

          Rock O Sock O Choco said in reply to djb... December 18, 2015 at 06:26 PM

          JEC - MeanSquaredErrors said...

          Wait, what?

          Piketty looks at centuries of data from all over the world and concludes that capitalism has a long-run bias towards income concentration. Baker looks at 35 years of data in one country and concludes that Piketty is wrong. Um...?

          A little more generously, what Baker actually writes is:

          "The argument on rents is important because, if correct, it means that there is nothing intrinsic to capitalism that led to **this** rapid rise in inequality, as for example argued by Thomas Piketty." (emphasis added)

          But Piketty has always been very explicit that the recent rise in US income inequality is anomalous -- driven primarily by rising inequality in the distribution of labor income, and only secondarily by any shift from labor to capital income.

          So perhaps Baker is "correctly" refuting Straw Thomas Piketty. Which I suppose is better than just being obviously wrong. Maybe.

          tew said...

          Some simple math shows that this assertion is false "As a result of this upward redistribution, most workers have seen little improvement in living standards" unless you think an apprx. 60% in per-capita real income (expressed as GDP) among the 99% is "little improvement".

          Real GDP 2015 / Real GDP 1980 = 2.57 (Source: FRED)
          If the income share of the 1% shifted from 10% to 20% then The 1%' real GDP component went up 410% while that of The 99% went up 130%. Accounting for a population increase of about 41% brings those numbers to a 265% increase and a 62% increase.

          Certainly a very unequal distribution of the productivity gains but hard to call "little".

          I believe the truth of the statement is revealed when you look at the Top 5% vs. the other 95%.

          cm said in reply to tew...

          For most "working people", their raises are quickly eaten up by increases in housing/rental, food, local services, and other nondiscretionary costs. Sure, you can buy more and better imported consumer electronics per dollar, but you have to pay the rent/mortgage every months, how often do you buy a new flat screen TV? In a high-cost metro, a big ass TV will easily cost less than a single monthly rent (and probably less than your annual cable bill that you need to actually watch TV).

          pgl said in reply to tew...

          Are you trying to be the champion of the 1%? Sorry dude but Greg Mankiw beat you to this.

          anne said...

          In the years since 1980, there has been a well-documented upward redistribution of income. While there are some differences by methodology and the precise years chosen, the top one percent of households have seen their income share roughly double from 10 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in the second decade of the 21st century. As a result of this upward redistribution, most workers have seen little improvement in living standards from the productivity gains over this period....

          -- Dean Baker

          anne said in reply to anne...

          http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/

          September 16, 2015

          Real Median Household Income, 1980 & 2014


          1980 ( 48,462)

          2014 ( 53,657)


          53,657 - 48,462 = 5,195

          5,195 / 48,462 = 10.7%


          Between 1980 and 2014 real median household income increased by a mere 10.7%.

          anne said in reply to don...

          I would be curious to know what has happened to the number of members per household....

          http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/household/

          September 16, 2015

          Household Size

          2014 ( 2.54)
          1980 ( 2.73)

          [ The difference in household size to real median household incomes is not statistically significant. ]

          anne said in reply to anne...

          http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/families/index.html

          September 16, 2015

          Real Median Family Income, 1948-1980-2014


          1948 ( 27,369)

          1980 ( 57,528)

          2014 ( 66,632)


          57,528 - 27,369 = 30,159

          30,159 / 27,369 = 110.2%


          66,632 - 57,528 = 9,104

          9,104 / 57,528 = 15.8%


          Between 1948 and 1980, real median family income increased by 110.2%, while between 1980 and 2014 real median family income increased by a mere 15.8%.

          cm said...

          "protectionist measures that have boosted the pay of doctors and other highly educated professionals"

          Protectionist measures (largely of the variety that foreign credentials are not recognized) apply to doctors and similar accredited occupations considered to be of some importance, but certainly much less so to "highly educated professionals" in tech, where the protectionism is limited to annual quotas for some categories of new workers imported into the country and requiring companies to pay above a certain wage rate for work visa holders in jobs claimed to have high skills requirements.

          A little mentioned but significant factor for growing wages in "highly skilled" jobs is that the level of foundational and generic domain skills is a necessity, but is not all the value the individual brings to the company. In complex subject matters, even the most competent person joining a company has to become familiar with the details of the products, the industry niche, the processes and professional/personal relationships in the company or industry, etc. All these are not really teachable and require between months and years in the job. This represents a significant sunk cost. Sometimes (actually rather often) experience within the niche/industry is in a degree portable between companies, but some company still had to employ enough people to build this experience, and it cannot be readily bought by bringing in however competent freshers.

          This applies less so e.g. in medicine. There are of course many heavily specialized disciplines, but a top flight brain or internal organ surgeon can essentially work on any person. The variation in the subject matter is large and complex, but much more static than in technology.

          That's not to knock down the skill of medical staff in any way (or anybody else who does a job that is not trivial, and that's true for many jobs). But specialization vs. genericity follow a different pattern than in tech.

          Another example, the legal profession. There are similar principles that carry across, with a lot of the specialization happening along different legislation, case law, etc., specific to the jurisdiction and/or domain being litigated.

          [Dec 18, 2015] How low can oil prices go? Opec and El Niño take a bite out of crudes cost

          Oil is a valuable chemical resource that is now wasted because of low prices... "The obvious follow-up question is, how long will the sane people of the world continue to allow so much fossil-fuel combustion to continue? An exercise for readers."
          Notable quotes:
          "... Iran wont flood the market in 2016. Right now Iran is losing production. It takes time to reverse decline and make a difference. ..."
          "... Those who predict very low prices dont understand the industry (I do). The low price environment reduces capital investment, which has to be there just to keep production flat (the decline is 3 to 5 million barrels of oil per day per year). At this time capacity is dropping everywhere except for a few select countries. The USA is losing capacity, and will never again reach this years peak unless prices double. Other countries are hopeless. From Norway to Indonesia to Colombia to Nigeria and Azerbaijan, peak oil has already taken place. ..."
          "... If oil prices remain very low until 2025 itll either be because you are right or because the world went to hell. ..."
          "... But Im with Carambaman - prices will go up again. Demand is and will still be there. The excess output will eventually end, and the prices stabilises. And then move up again. ..."
          "... Time to examine the real question: how long can the Saudis maintain their current production rates? Theyre currently producing more than 10 Mbarrels/day, but lets take the latter figure as a lower bound. They apparently have (per US consulate via WikiLeaks--time for a followup?) at least 260 Gbarrels (though it seems no one outside Saudi really knows). You do the math: 260 Gbarrels / (10 Mbarrels/day) = 26 kdays ~= 70 years. @ 15 Mbarrels/day - 47.5 years. @ 20 Mbarrels/day - 35 years. ..."
          "... The obvious follow-up question is, how long will the sane people of the world continue to allow so much fossil-fuel combustion to continue? An exercise for readers. ..."
          "... Saudi Arabia, a US ally, using oil production and pricing to crush US oil shale industry? Did I read that correctly? ..."
          "... Yeah, but I suspect it was *written* incorrectly. Im betting the Saudis real target is the Russians. ..."
          "... In 1975 dollars, thats $8.31 / bbl (with a cumulative inflation factor of 342% over 40 years), or $.45 / gal for gas (assuming a current price of $2.00 / gal). ..."
          "... I spent 30 years in the oil industry and experienced many cycles. When it is up people cannot believe it will go down and when it is down people cannot believe it will go up. It is all a matter of time ..."
          Dec 16, 2015 | The Guardian

          Fernando Leza -> jah5446 15 Dec 2015 06:12

          Iran won't flood the market in 2016. Right now Iran is losing production. It takes time to reverse decline and make a difference.

          Those who predict very low prices don't understand the industry (I do). The low price environment reduces capital investment, which has to be there just to keep production flat (the decline is 3 to 5 million barrels of oil per day per year). At this time capacity is dropping everywhere except for a few select countries. The USA is losing capacity, and will never again reach this year's peak unless prices double. Other countries are hopeless. From Norway to Indonesia to Colombia to Nigeria and Azerbaijan, peak oil has already taken place.

          Fernando Leza -> SonOfFredTheBadman 15 Dec 2015 06:05

          If oil prices remain very low until 2025 it'll either be because you are right or because the world went to hell. I prefer your vision, of course. But I'm afraid most of your talk is wishful thinking. Those of us who do know how to put watts on the table can't figure out any viable solutions. Hopefully something like cheap fusion power will rise. Otherwise you may be eating human flesh in 2060.

          Fernando Leza -> p26677 15 Dec 2015 06:00

          Keep assuming. I'll keep buying Shell stock.

          MatCendana -> UnevenSurface 14 Dec 2015 03:36

          Regardless of the breakeven price, producers with the wells already running or about to will keep pumping. Better to have some income, even if the operation is at a loss, than no income. This will go on and on right until the end, which is either prices eventually go up or they run out of oil and can't drill new wells.

          But I'm with Carambaman - prices will go up again. Demand is and will still be there. The excess output will eventually end, and the prices stabilises. And then move up again.

          Billy Carnes 13 Dec 2015 19:52

          Also this hurts the states...Louisiana is now in the hole over 1.5 Billion or more

          TomRoche 13 Dec 2015 12:31

          @Guardian: Time to examine the real question: how long can the Saudis maintain their current production rates? They're currently producing more than 10 Mbarrels/day, but let's take the latter figure as a lower bound. They apparently have (per US consulate via WikiLeaks--time for a followup?) at least 260 Gbarrels (though it seems no one outside Saudi really knows). You do the math: 260 Gbarrels / (10 Mbarrels/day) = 26 kdays ~= 70 years. @ 15 Mbarrels/day -> 47.5 years. @ 20 Mbarrels/day -> 35 years.

          That's just Saudi (allegedly) proven reserves. But it's plenty long enough to push atmospheric GHG levels, and associated radiative forcing, to ridiculously destructive excess.

          The obvious follow-up question is, how long will the sane people of the world continue to allow so much fossil-fuel combustion to continue? An exercise for readers.

          TomRoche -> GueroElEnfermero 13 Dec 2015 12:14

          @GueroElEnfermero: 'Saudi Arabia, a US ally, using oil production and pricing to crush US oil shale industry? Did I read that correctly?'

          Yeah, but I suspect it was *written* incorrectly. I'm betting the Saudis' real target is the Russians.

          Sieggy 13 Dec 2015 11:49

          In 1975 dollars, that's $8.31 / bbl (with a cumulative inflation factor of 342% over 40 years), or $.45 / gal for gas (assuming a current price of $2.00 / gal).

          Carambaman 13 Dec 2015 10:25

          I spent 30 years in the oil industry and experienced many cycles. When it is up people cannot believe it will go down and when it is down people cannot believe it will go up. It is all a matter of time

          [Dec 17, 2015] The Feds decision to raise interest rates today is an unfortunate move in the wrong direction

          Notable quotes:
          "... The Feds decision to raise interest rates today is an unfortunate move in the wrong direction. In setting interest rate policy the Fed must decide whether the economy is at risk of having too few or too many jobs, with the latter being determined by the extent to which its current rate of job creation may lead to inflation. It is difficult to see how the evidence would lead the Fed to conclude that the greater risk at the moment is too many jobs. ..."
          "... While at 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate is not extraordinarily high, most other measures of the labor market are near recession levels. The percentage of the workforce that is involuntarily working part-time is near the highs reached following the 2001 recession. The average and median duration of unemployment spells are also near recession highs. And the percentage of workers who feel confident enough to quit their jobs without another job lined up remains near the low points reached in 2002. ..."
          "... While wage growth has edged up somewhat in recent months by some measures, it is still well below a rate that is consistent with the Fed's inflation target. Hourly wages have risen at a 2.7 percent rate over the last year. If there is just 1.5 percent productivity growth, this would be consistent with a rate of inflation of 1.2 percent. ..."
          "... One positive point in today's action is the Fed's commitment in its statement to allow future rate hikes to be guided by the data, rather than locking in a path towards "normalization" as was effectively done in 2004. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com
          Peter K. -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... December 17, 2015 at 10:12 AM
          "Corporate bond rates have been rising steadily since May. Yellen is not doing what Greenspan did in 2004."

          There isn't much of a difference between signaling tighter money to a market that is skeptical of Fed forecasts and actually tightening.

          http://cepr.net/press-center/press-releases/statement-on-fed-and-interest-rates

          Washington, D.C.- Dean Baker, economist and a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) issued the following statement in response to the Federal Reserve's decision regarding interest rates:

          "The Fed's decision to raise interest rates today is an unfortunate move in the wrong direction. In setting interest rate policy the Fed must decide whether the economy is at risk of having too few or too many jobs, with the latter being determined by the extent to which its current rate of job creation may lead to inflation. It is difficult to see how the evidence would lead the Fed to conclude that the greater risk at the moment is too many jobs.

          "While at 5.0 percent, the unemployment rate is not extraordinarily high, most other measures of the labor market are near recession levels. The percentage of the workforce that is involuntarily working part-time is near the highs reached following the 2001 recession. The average and median duration of unemployment spells are also near recession highs. And the percentage of workers who feel confident enough to quit their jobs without another job lined up remains near the low points reached in 2002.

          "If we look at employment rates rather than unemployment, the percentage of prime-age workers (ages 25-54) with jobs is still down by almost three full percentage points from the pre-recession peak and by more than four full percentage points from the peak hit in 2000. This does not look like a strong labor market.

          "On the other side, there is virtually no basis for concerns about the risk of inflation in the current data. The most recent data show that the core personal consumption expenditure deflator targeted by the Fed increased at just a 1.2 percent annual rate over the last three months, down slightly from the 1.3 percent rate over the last year. This means that the Fed should be concerned about being below its inflation target, not above it.

          "While wage growth has edged up somewhat in recent months by some measures, it is still well below a rate that is consistent with the Fed's inflation target. Hourly wages have risen at a 2.7 percent rate over the last year. If there is just 1.5 percent productivity growth, this would be consistent with a rate of inflation of 1.2 percent.

          "Furthermore, it is important to recognize that workers took a large hit to their wages in the downturn, with a shift of more than four percentage points of national income from wages to profits. In principle, workers can restore their share of national income (the equivalent of an 8 percent wage gain), but the Fed would have to be prepared to allow wage growth to substantially outpace prices for a period of time. If the Fed acts to prevent workers from getting this bargaining power, it will effectively lock in place this upward redistribution. Needless to say, workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution can expect to see the biggest hit in this scenario.

          "One positive point in today's action is the Fed's commitment in its statement to allow future rate hikes to be guided by the data, rather than locking in a path towards "normalization" as was effectively done in 2004. If it is the case that the economy is not strong enough to justify rate hikes, then the hike today may be the last one for some period of time. It will be important for the Fed to carefully assess the data as it makes its decision on interest rates at future meetings.

          "Recent economic data suggest that today's move was a mistake. Hopefully the Fed will not compound this mistake with more unwarranted rate hikes in the future."


          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to Peter K....

          I like Dean Baker. Unlike the Fed, Dean Baker is a class warrior on the side of the wage class. He makes the point about the path to normalization being critical that I have been discussing for quite a while. Let's hope this Fed knows better than Greenspan/Bernanke in 2004-2006. THANKS!

          likbez said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          Very true !

          pgl said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          "Longer-term bond rates barely moved, showing that there was very little news." This interest rate rose from 4.45% to 5.46% already. So the damage was already done:

          https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/BAA

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to pgl...

          "... This interest rate rose from 4.45% to 5.46% already..."

          [Exactly! Corporate bond rates have been rising steadily since May. Yellen is not doing what Greenspan did in 2004. Yellen's Fed waited until the bond rate lifted off on its own (and maybe with some help from policy communications) before they raised the FFR. So far, there is no sign of their making a fatal error. They are not fighting class warfare for wage class either, but they seem intent on not screwing the pooch in the way that Greenspan and Bernanke did. No double dip thank you and hold the nuts.]

          [Dec 17, 2015] Full employment is important for long-term reduction of inequality

          Notable quotes:
          "... Full employment is important for long-term reduction of inequality. Periods of high unemployment not only do damage to workers who lose their jobs and see their skills atrophy, but also cause those who keep their jobs to experience weaker wage growth. This is especially hard on those with lower incomes, who see larger cuts in working hours during periods of high unemployment. ..."
          "... The elites like Feldman seem to be fine with golden parachutes for the wealthy but want to give the poor a lottery in place of a pension. Social Security is insurance that provides a safety net. Replacing SS with investments that allow people to fall through the cracks is not a good idea. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com

          pgl said... December 17, 2015 at 01:46 AM

          ...

          Full employment is important for long-term reduction of inequality. Periods of high unemployment not only do damage to workers who lose their jobs and see their skills atrophy, but also cause those who keep their jobs to experience weaker wage growth. This is especially hard on those with lower incomes, who see larger cuts in working hours during periods of high unemployment.

          ...As it looks like the economy will be weak, and interest rates low, for the foreseeable future, this is a problem that won't go away on its own. And as she concludes, "excessive emphasis on low and stable inflation at the expense of a strong labor market is unwarranted. Privileging low inflation over maximum employment means that more people are likely to experience unemployment, underemployment, or stagnant wages."

          bakho -> pgl...
          Our wealthy elites like cheap labor. High unemployment leads to cheap labor.
          The newly employed are not likely to take up a collection to hire an outgoing Fed member. A banker might be willing to hire at a premium.
          BenIsNotYoda -> pgl...

          The Fed can not reduce inequality. This should be done with fiscal action - taxes, min wage hikes etc. To push Fed to consider inequality is pure mission creep and delusional. They will create more problems trying. What is next on the list? Cancer?

          pgl -> BenIsNotYoda...

          I'm not against fiscal stimulus but that is not decided by the FED. Congress is run by gold bug idiots. So the point that the FED should not be run by gold bug idiots stands...

          BenIsNotYoda -> pgl...

          The rule should be - do not do stupid things. And by absolving congress and pushing the Fed to do things they can not, you are part of the problem.

          Peter K. -> BenIsNotYoda...

          "The Fed can not reduce inequality."

          Why not?

          "This should be done with fiscal action - taxes, min wage hikes etc."

          Why not all of the above?

          "To push Fed to consider inequality is pure mission creep and delusional."

          Why?

          "They will create more problems trying."

          Not true.

          "What is next on the list? Cancer?""

          reductio ad absurdum

          William -> Peter K....

          A Reductio is not actually a fallacy, it's an acceptable form of refutation.

          His actual fallacy was a Slippery Slope.

          That being said, I agree with pgl. Just because the person behind the steering wheel is trying to drive you into a ditch doesn't mean the person controlling the pedals can't hit the breaks.

          (Though our current situation is more like the person behind the wheel is refusing to steer, and is instead spending their time drilling holes in the gas tank to keep us from going anywhere.)


          Sanjait -> William...

          His fallacy was in the original claim that the Fed can't do anything to reduce inequality. It's an especially obtuse claim at this moment in time.

          Syaloch -> BenIsNotYoda...

          Binder: "Privileging low inflation over maximum employment means that more people are likely to experience unemployment, underemployment, or stagnant wages."

          Sure sounds to me like the Fed can reduce inequality.

          Or do you think unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant wages have no impact on inequality?

          RGC -> RGC...

          Pushing on a string

          From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          Pushing on a string is a figure of speech for influence that is more effective in moving things in one direction than another – you can pull, but not push.

          If something is connected to someone by a string, they can move it toward themselves by pulling on the string, but they cannot move it away from themselves by pushing on the string. It is often used in the context of economic policy, specifically the view that "Monetary policy [is] asymmetric; it being easier to stop an expansion than to end a severe contraction

          According to Roger G. Sandilans[1] and John Harold Wood[2] the phrase was introduced by Congressman T. Alan Goldsborough in 1935, supporting Federal Reserve chairman Marriner Eccles in Congressional hearings on the Banking Act of 1935:

          Governor Eccles: Under present circumstances, there is very little, if any, that can be done.

          Congressman Goldsborough: You mean you cannot push on a string.

          Governor Eccles: That is a very good way to put it, one cannot push on a string. We are in the depths of a depression and... beyond creating an easy money situation through reduction of discount rates, there is very little, if anything, that the reserve organization can do to bring about recovery.[2]

          The phrase is, however, often attributed to John Maynard Keynes: "As Keynes pointed out, it's like pushing on a string...",[3] "This is what Keynes meant by the phrase 'Pushing on a string.'"

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushing_on_a_string

          BenIsNotYoda -> Syaloch...

          To all of the above,

          The biggest factor increasing inequality is not high unemployment right now. It is sky high asset prices that is raising the net worth and income of the top 1% or 0.1%. Piketty documented this as well - asset prices and inequality cycles are highly correlated.

          So what is Fed to do? They caused it in the first place.

          Letting the economy run hot so wages go up - this way will take forever to reduce inequality to any appreciable degree.

          Cascatore Хачатурян -> BenIsNotYoda..

          "
          Fed can not reduce inequality. This should be done with
          "
          ~~BenIsNotYoda~

          Do FG have 4 trillion $$$$ of assets still on their balance sheet? What happens when they auction these off into the free market? All asset prices drop? By supply/price/demand? As asset prices drop what happens to buying power of 1% jokers? Drops?

          As buying power of 1% dudes drops they are able to buy less thus to some extent they cease to price 99% out of the market. Do you see the mechanism involved?

          When the benBernank pushed onto the top of the stack first high rates then middle rates then low rates then small balance sheet as he expanded sheet with *twist*, you are thinking that the graniteJanet will pop balance sheet off the top of the stack first later pop 0% rates off top of the stack as we come out of the inner loop then revert to the parent process. This is subtle but important.

          The graniteJanet used an offset on the stack pointer to dip into the middle of the stack to access higher rate first, bypassing the 4 trillion balance sheet. Do you see how all this fits together?

          You now have 64 micro-seconds to crunch the numbers.

          Good
          luck
          !

          JohnH -> pgl...

          As usual, pgl opposes any ideas that carry of whiff of criticism of the Fed and its ineffective, redistributive monetary policy. He must be responsible for PR for the Fed...

          In fact the criticisms are spot on--its focus is more on higher inflation than on legally mandated maximum employment, it refuses to enforce regulations, and it is rife with cronyism, as Bernie's audit of the Fed revealed years ago.

          Stiglitz advocates reform, noting that "The real problem is that money does not go to where it should go, as we see for example in the United States. The money does not flow into the real economy, because the transmission mechanism is broken...Access for small and medium enterprises to credit is too expensive. That's why it is so important that the transmission mechanism work." And of course, consumer credit rates barely budged since the Fed cut rates to zero, so ordinary people don't see the benefit, except for affluent mortgage holders.

          http://www.cash.ch/news/alle/stiglitz-billiggeld-lost-kein-problem-3393853-448

          Ellen Brown would go further--reinvent the entire banking system and cites Russia, Iceland, Ireland and Ecuador as places experimenting with new ideas.
          http://ellenbrown.com/2015/12/11/reinventing-banking-developments-in-russia-iceland-the-uk-and-ecuador/

          Of course, all of this is anathema to Fedbots like pgl, who insist that everything is hunky dory...if only the Fed would feed free money to his cronies forever, it would be heaven on earth.

          Instead of taking any criticism of the Fed off the table, as pgl and his coterie fervently desire, it's long past time for a thorough debate about the Fed, its failed policies, and ways to extensively reform it.

          bakho said...

          Noah Corrects Feldman's funny numbers on entitlements and wealth inequality and comes to the opposite conclusion. The elites like Feldman seem to be fine with golden parachutes for the wealthy but want to give the poor a lottery in place of a pension. Social Security is insurance that provides a safety net. Replacing SS with investments that allow people to fall through the cracks is not a good idea.

          [Dec 17, 2015] Update of CBOs long term SS projections

          www.cbo.gov

          "CBO's Publications - CBO's 2015 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information"
          
          New From CBO

          pdf 446.38 KB

          "CBO's 2015 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information"

          "Under current law, CBO projects, Social Security's trust funds, considered together, will be exhausted in 2029. In that case, benefits in 2030 would need to be reduced by 29 percent from the scheduled amounts."

          Summary

          "Social Security, which marked its 80th anniversary in 2015, is the largest single program in the federal government's budget. About 72 percent of the roughly 60 million people who currently receive Social Security benefits are retired workers or their spouses and children, and another 10 percent are survivors of deceased workers; all of those beneficiaries receive payments through Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI). The remaining 18 percent of beneficiaries are disabled workers or their spouses and children; they receive Disability Insurance (DI) benefits.

          In fiscal year 2015, spending for Social Security benefits totaled $877 billion, or almost one-quarter of federal spending. OASI payments accounted for about 84 percent of those outlays, and DI payments made up about 16 percent."

          [Dec 16, 2015] Donald Trump's Divisiveness Is Bad for the Economy

          Notable quotes:
          "... A divided society cannot function optimally, especially when the divisions erect walls between groups that are difficult to cross. There are all sorts of attempts to divide us right now, but I want to focus on something other than the bigotry that has been on display in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, the division into winners and losers. ..."
          "... To some extent that's correct, but competitive capitalism is not divisive. In fact, it is just the opposite. Competition is a great leveling force. ..."
          "... For example, when a firm discovers something new, other firms, if they can, will copy it and duplicate the innovation. If a firm finds a highly profitable strategy, other firms will mimic it and take some of those profits for themselves. A firm might temporarily separate itself from other firms in an industry, but competition will bring them back together. Sometimes there are impediments to this leveling process such as patents, monopoly power, and talent that is difficult to duplicate, but competition is always there, waiting and watching. ..."
          "... Competition also drives us forward individually and as a nation. It is a source of new innovation and new technology as people and firms try to find ways to do better than others, to earn higher incomes, gain more popularity, to escape from the pack. People pursue education and other ways to improve themselves not just as a source of knowledge, but also as a way to distinguish themselves. ..."
          "... There are differences in talents and abilities, of course, that prevent a full leveling, but to the extent possible people will copy anything that leads to success. ..."
          "... Inequality erects those barriers as those who have been fortunate try to protect themselves from capitalism's inherent tendency to erode away their superior position. They feel threatened by competition and do all they can to avoid it once they have found success. ..."
          "... When those barriers exist, talent is wasted and we are worse off as a nation. How many great ideas will never be known simply because some people never had the education or opportunity needed to draw the ideas out? ..."
          "... Separating the winners from the losers is okay if it is based on merit. If we start equally, and have the same chance to get ahead, then unequal outcomes are less of a concern. The problem is that some people are born "winners" even though they have done nothing to earn it, and others have little chance to win due to our unwillingness to truly embrace what equal opportunity means. ..."
          Dec 15, 2015 | The Fiscal Times

          White House spokesperson Josh Earnest described Donald Trump as "offensive and toxic," though that only begins to describe the corrosive effect his bigotry, divisiveness, and xenophobia have on our society. It is at odds with our values as a nation.

          It's also bad for the economy.

          A divided society cannot function optimally, especially when the divisions erect walls between groups that are difficult to cross. There are all sorts of attempts to divide us right now, but I want to focus on something other than the bigotry that has been on display in the Republican race for the presidential nomination, the division into winners and losers.

          It might seem at first that this is exactly what capitalism does. It uses competition to separate people into various income classes, decide who gets the best jobs, who gets to live in desirable locations – it decides who wins and who loses. Some people, hopefully those who have earned it, do well and others fall behind. This drive to be a winner, it is argued, is the driving force behind capitalism.

          To some extent that's correct, but competitive capitalism is not divisive. In fact, it is just the opposite. Competition is a great leveling force.

          For example, when a firm discovers something new, other firms, if they can, will copy it and duplicate the innovation. If a firm finds a highly profitable strategy, other firms will mimic it and take some of those profits for themselves. A firm might temporarily separate itself from other firms in an industry, but competition will bring them back together. Sometimes there are impediments to this leveling process such as patents, monopoly power, and talent that is difficult to duplicate, but competition is always there, waiting and watching.

          Competition also drives us forward individually and as a nation. It is a source of new innovation and new technology as people and firms try to find ways to do better than others, to earn higher incomes, gain more popularity, to escape from the pack. People pursue education and other ways to improve themselves not just as a source of knowledge, but also as a way to distinguish themselves.

          However, any successful strategy will be followed. There are differences in talents and abilities, of course, that prevent a full leveling, but to the extent possible people will copy anything that leads to success. The fact that this is true – that capitalism will take away gains and differences if it can – is what drives people to continue to try to get ahead. If you rest on your laurels, they will be taken away.

          But there is an essential feature in the system that makes it work, and this takes us back to the attempt by Trump and the Republican Party more generally to erect walls between groups of people. The system works best when people have the freedom to enter a new business (if they have the means and are willing to take the risk). It works best when people compete for jobs on equal footing, have access to the same opportunities, when there are no artificial barriers in society that prevent people from reaching their full potential.

          Inequality erects those barriers as those who have been fortunate try to protect themselves from capitalism's inherent tendency to erode away their superior position. They feel threatened by competition and do all they can to avoid it once they have found success. And it's not just the wealthy. Even the middle class will attempt to erect roadblocks – social, legal, whatever it takes – if it feels threatened from competition from traditionally disadvantaged groups.

          When those barriers exist, talent is wasted and we are worse off as a nation. How many great ideas will never be known simply because some people never had the education or opportunity needed to draw the ideas out?

          But it's not just the children of poorer households that are disadvantaged by inequality. The children of the wealthy have no incentive, in many cases, to reach their full potential. Why struggle, take risks, do the hard work that is needed to come up with a new and useful idea when your needs are already taken care of? How much talent is wasted because of this?

          It is not inequality that drives innovation and economic growth--it is the attempt to escape the leveling forces of capitalism. If we truly wanted to produce the most economic growth, everyone should start off equal to the extent possible. That way, everyone would have the incentive to differentiate themselves from others, and the means to do so. Inheritance taxes would be 100 percent; schools would be assigned randomly to ensure there's an incentive to equalize resources, and so on, and so on.

          Of course, that will never happen. As we're seeing in the presidential election, those with means are trying to make the divisions larger rather than break them down. They tell us inequality drives our economy, when in fact inequality is an outcome, the driving force behind it is the desire to escape the equalizing forces of competition. Inequality as a starting point takes away opportunity from the children of the poor, and it dulls incentives for the children of the rich. It's not hard to understand why recent research has found that high and persistent inequality is associated with lower economic growth.

          Separating the winners from the losers is okay if it is based on merit. If we start equally, and have the same chance to get ahead, then unequal outcomes are less of a concern. The problem is that some people are born "winners" even though they have done nothing to earn it, and others have little chance to win due to our unwillingness to truly embrace what equal opportunity means.

          And, as Republican campaigns for the presidential nomination are making abundantly clear, that's just the way some people want it.

          [Dec 15, 2015] FOMC Tomorrow, Cargo Cult Economics

          Notable quotes:
          "... So let's see how things go this week, keeping in mind that there may be antics aplenty after the Fed announcement and into the quad witch for stocks on Friday. ..."
          Jesse's Café Américain

          ...There is a heavy lean towards believing that the Fed will raise rates 25 basis points.


          Fed Funds futures are indicating expectation of a move to 100 basis points total by the end of next year. Let's see if they can pull that one off. It seems aspirational, if one wishes to have room to cut when their latest folly falls back upon them.

          The idea that since recoveries are often accompanied by inflation, if we can only use monetary policy to create inflation then the recovery will come, is so wrong-headed that it leaves me aghast.

          Even Keynes recognized that the point of stimulus was to provoke aggregate demand, which is the organic form of growth in the economy that will provide all the inflation that one might expect.

          But to pursue this effete, top down stimulus focused primary on the still unreformed Banking system and the wealthiest top few percent is beyond policy error, and more policy malpractice. And of course, if one puts austerity and financial parasitism into the mix, then we just aren't in Kansas anymore Toto.

          So let's see how things go this week, keeping in mind that there may be antics aplenty after the Fed announcement and into the quad witch for stocks on Friday. The miners have been beaten bloody.

          [Dec 15, 2015] This Is How The Credit Crisis Spreads To Stocks

          Notable quotes:
          "... Yeah but its junk credit... who cares! I am invested in solid megacaps and even solider FANGs - what can go wrong? ..."
          "... The biggest buyer of stocks in 2016, will be, according to Goldman Sachs, the same as it was in 2015 - corporate management teams buying back their own stock in near record quantities. But there is a problem with this thesis... the cost of funding these epic buybacks is surging, making the un-economic actions of the CFO (if very economical for their own bank accounts as they sell record amounts of their own personal stock to their company) even more irrational. ..."
          "... Charts: Bloomberg ..."
          "... And this is why the contagion to IG matters: the biggest buyer of stocks of the last few years is about to priced away as its (cheap debt) funding dries up, removing the biggest pillar of delusion from current equity valuations. ..."
          "... Did nobody tell this stupid asshole that the west funds jihadism in order to conquer Russia? ..."
          "... ...After Ukraine and Syria, Russians have no illusions left about how the West intends to treat Russia. Russians are ready for any action Putin may take against the West and any fall out from it for themselves. ..."
          "... What is sometimes forgotten, is how the Bush neo-cons gave their "spin" to this narrative for the Middle East by casting Arab national secularists and Ba'athists as the offspring of "Satan": David Wurmser was advocating in 1996, "expediting the chaotic collapse" of secular-Arab nationalism in general, and Baathism in particular. He concurred with King Hussein of Jordan that "the phenomenon of Baathism" was, from the very beginning, "an agent of foreign, namely Soviet policy." ..."
          "... Putin knows Erdogan was following Obama's orders when Erdogan let US Air Force pilots in Turkish planes shot down the Russian bomber. ..."
          "... if the US were ever to develop the capability to neutralise a Russian nuclear attack, Russia can be guaranteed she will be treated with no greater respect than Iraq under Saddam was. Neither being locked in a weapons race to keep the US vulnerable to Russian attacks nor being prepared to live under Western dictates are options for Russia. ..."
          "... Our DC Beltway and NYC elites are wildly delusional about their ability to win a nuclear war. They listen only to the defense contractors. In fact the West's elites are the prime target in a nuclear war, and even though a small and select strata might have time to hide in a deep bunker, the vast substrata that supports them, runs their bureaucracies and mans their deep state will certainly be annihilated. ..."
          "... The nuclear war our elites seek to provoke will be the first in nearly a thousand years in which the elites themselves will be on the front lines of the combat. ..."
          "... Personally, I think the biggest weakness the USA has is its increasingly diverse and divided population ..."
          "... The Pentagon and their masters must expect to resolve any future major conflict by means of technologic jujitsu; if they think that Americans from all walks of life are going to rally in support of a major foreign war of choice, support mass conscription etc., they're making IMHO a big mistake. ..."
          "... Still, with enough provocation and manipulation, perhaps the typical Amurican can be goosed into enthusiasm for a fight against Islam ; TPTB certainly seem to be giving this angle their best shot these days. ..."
          "... What a shame, such stupidity; the other great power and nation that is at least still Western and Christian. Europe appears to be lost, and yet the U.S. arms Muslim armies and pokes Russia on its borders. Abject insanity. ..."
          "... Simple. Kill the Neocons one by one and we have a safer world for your children, your family and you. ..."
          Dec 14, 2015 | zerohedge.com

          "Yeah but it's junk credit... who cares! I am invested in solid megacaps and even solider FANGs - what can go wrong?"

          The biggest buyer of stocks in 2016, will be, according to Goldman Sachs, the same as it was in 2015 - corporate management teams buying back their own stock in near record quantities. But there is a problem with this thesis... the cost of funding these epic buybacks is surging, making the un-economic actions of the CFO (if very economical for their own bank accounts as they sell record amounts of their own personal stock to their company) even more irrational.

          Here is Goldman's David Kostin explaining who the biggest buyer of stocks is (and will be) - as a reminder, it's not "mom(o) and pop".

          We expect corporations will continue to be the largest source of demand for stocks, with net purchases by US companies totaling $450 billion, equal to about 2% of public equity cap. We forecast equity inflows from equity-related ETFs ($225 billion), equity mutual funds ($200 billion), life insurance ($50 billion), and foreign investors ($25 billion). We forecast net outflows from households ($25 billion) and pensions ($150 billion).

          Well, the cost of funding that carnival of financial engineering and artifice (just ask Nordstrom, Macy's, IBM and so on) is soaring, as high-yield decompression pukes over into investment grade markets, spiking the cost of funding and crushing the 'economic feasibility' of debt-funded shareholder-friendliness:

          Charts: Bloomberg

          And, in case you thought "well, cost of funding has only gone up 30-40bps in IG, they can handle that," you are wrong! To all those who claim US corporate balance sheets are in great shape - they are not! Leverage is at record highs and interest coverage near record lows for the IG universe. And judging by today's collapse in Investment Grade bond prices, the market just woke up to this reality.

          Simply put, the Fed's policies enabled massive releveraging and now corporations are stuck with few options to escape a vicious circle - which by the way, is why it's called the credit 'cycle'.

          And this is why the contagion to IG matters: the biggest buyer of stocks of the last few years is about to priced away as its (cheap debt) funding dries up, removing the biggest pillar of delusion from current equity valuations.

          Selected Skeptical Comments

          strannick

          Professor Steve Cohen, the foremost Russia scholar in the U.S., laments, is that it is this narrative which has precluded America from ever concluding any real ability to find a mutually acceptable modus vivendi with Russia – which it sorely needs, if it is ever seriously to tackle the phenomenon of Wahhabist jihadism (or resolve the Syrian conflict).

          Wow, the foremost scholar on Russia is one dumb motherfucker. Did nobody tell this stupid asshole that the west funds jihadism in order to conquer Russia?

          sam i am

          The Western nations underestimated the horrible trauma that the Russian society experienced in 1990s when the Russians peacefully surrendered their society, their lands, their economy to the West, hoping to be accepted and treated as equals by the "world" community. Instead, the West dealt with the Russian skillfully, decisively, and mercilessly, just like the American Indians were dealt with by the colonizers. The Russia was gutted, scalped, and hanged on a cross to die slow and painful death. Some say that Russia like a cat has nine lives. Others say that Russia died and resurrected like Phoenix or Jesus. Open wounds have not healed yet, when after the February 22nd 2014 putsch in Kiev, and publication of the US Department of Defense tenders on the constructions of facilities in Sevastopol for the US fleet and NAVY everyone in Russia, including its government, understood that it was a declaration of war, and stood up in arms.

          http://thesaker.is/ukraine-sitrep-december-13th-2015-by-scott/

          Global Observer

          ...After Ukraine and Syria, Russians have no illusions left about how the West intends to treat Russia. Russians are ready for any action Putin may take against the West and any fall out from it for themselves.

          Ghordius

          "It is the basis to America's and Europe's claim to exceptionalism and leadership". seriously?

          "What is sometimes forgotten, is how the Bush neo-cons gave their "spin" to this narrative for the Middle East by casting Arab national secularists and Ba'athists as the offspring of "Satan": David Wurmser was advocating in 1996, "expediting the chaotic collapse" of secular-Arab nationalism in general, and Baathism in particular. He concurred with King Hussein of Jordan that "the phenomenon of Baathism" was, from the very beginning, "an agent of foreign, namely Soviet policy.""

          so? yes, King Hussein is right, in the very beginning it was mainly the Soviet Union that fostered Ba'athism. and again, so? the Soviet Union is no more

          junction

          Obama is stark raving mad, and his female neocons - Nuland, Powers and assorted other power hungry bitches - are too busy following orders from Israel to realize they are on a treasonous path to World War III. Putin will vaporize Raqqa with one of his new nuclear weapons that works like a neutron bomb. In all likelihood, when the first Kalibr cruise missiles hit ISIS/Bush's Captagon meth plant in Raqqa, the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office couldn't even detect them to warn CIA black ops spies in the drug facility to run. Putin knows Erdogan was following Obama's orders when Erdogan let US Air Force pilots in Turkish planes shot down the Russian bomber.

          Global Observer

          NOBODY WINS A NUCLEAR WAR.

          I hope that Putin and his Military Advisors are smart enough to figure that out.

          They are. But what the Americans don't seem to be aware of is that for some there are worse things than being dead and in order to avoid these worse things, people are prepared to die and nations willing to risk annihilation.

          Russia is willing to risk annihilation in order to be able to live peacefully and with dignity. Is the USA willing to risk annihilation in order to be able to continue to insult Russia and bully the world? If the USA is indeed willing to risk annihilation to continue to do that, it would be silly for Russia not to attack the USA while she still can, because if the US were ever to develop the capability to neutralise a Russian nuclear attack, Russia can be guaranteed she will be treated with no greater respect than Iraq under Saddam was. Neither being locked in a weapons race to keep the US vulnerable to Russian attacks nor being prepared to live under Western dictates are options for Russia.

          monk27

          If the US will be stupid enough to start a war with Russia or/and China, it will lose such a fight big time. That will be the end of America as we know it, and also the end of the contemporary Western "elite" whether they believe it or not. Their move...

          MrPalladium

          "and also the end of the contemporary Western "elite"

          Our DC Beltway and NYC elites are wildly delusional about "their" ability to win a nuclear war. They listen only to the defense contractors. In fact the West's elites are the prime target in a nuclear war, and even though a small and select strata might have time to hide in a deep bunker, the vast substrata that supports them, runs their bureaucracies and mans their deep state will certainly be annihilated.

          No intelligent power like Russia is likely to waste a perfectly good nuke on Paducah Kentucky, but it is certain that the entire population of Manhattan Island, and the DC beltway will be vaporized along with West Los Angeles (propaganda production central) and Silly Valley. The effluvia of the silos in Iowa and Nebraska can be intercepted. Remarkably, our elites and their supporting substrata still believe that the main combatants will be rural boys from Texas and Tennessee which in a strange turn of justice will be the safest places to hide. Our 400 or so billionaire oligarchs who control this country are concentrated in about 20 zip codes. Do you really think that Russia hasn't already targeted them? The whole point of nuclear war is to decapitate the regime but spare the resources and general population for future use, and the real regime, the oligarchs, occupy a very modest and easily cleared amount of territory.

          The nuclear war our elites seek to provoke will be the first in nearly a thousand years in which the elites themselves will be on the front lines of the combat.

          August

          I do like the way you think, Mr. P, and it's entertaining to speculate about war, TEOTWAWKI etc.

          Personally, I think the biggest weakness the USA has is its increasingly diverse and divided population (which is also rather dumbed-down, infantile and irresponsible). The Pentagon and their masters must expect to resolve any future major conflict by means of technologic jujitsu; if they think that "Americans from all walks of life" are going to rally in support of a major foreign war of choice, support mass conscription etc., they're making IMHO a big mistake.

          Still, with enough provocation and manipulation, perhaps the typical Amurican can be goosed into enthusiasm for a "fight against Islam"; TPTB certainly seem to be giving this angle their best shot these days.

          monk27

          "They" (i.e. the Russians) stand a better chance to survive than us. Ours is a much more complex AND violent society than theirs. The Mad Max way of living works only in movie...

          Tall Tom

          NO. THEY DO NOT. NUCLEAR WINTER, PAL.

          You will either freeze to death or succumb to suffocation due to LACK OF OXYGEN.

          The ash will blot out most sunlight. Plants require sunlight to photosynthesize Carbon, from CO2, into complex sugars and starches.

          They transpire OXYGEN. Without the plants...YOU ARE DEAD.

          Watch this video. Even the former Soviet Academy of Sciences concur with this modeling. NOBODY WILL SURVIVE. It is GLOBAL EXTINCTION. It is a God Damned Extinction Level Event.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCTKcd2Ko98

          I am a physicist. This is valid science. My warning is not without a solid foundation.

          Volkodav

          Soviet did not so much invade. Soviet was already, support moderate government, building infrastructure, schools and other. Girls attended school in dresses.

          Search for photos Kabul in 60's 70's

          Moderate leader was murdered in coup by extremist backed from outsiders. Russians, moderates and monorities were slaughtered. That is when Soviet, after much concern debate, sent additional forces. Soviet was not defeated, but withdrew orderly result of collapse of funds, problems.

          Soviet controlled more of country than west coalition ever did and alone, against outside interferences aiding radicals there was some beginning of what is today, some nasty creations. You never understood there was other side, moderate and civil

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc2KeSkl5H0

          ebworthen

          What a shame, such stupidity; the other great power and nation that is at least still Western and Christian. Europe appears to be lost, and yet the U.S. arms Muslim armies and pokes Russia on its borders. Abject insanity.

          Insurrexion

          Simple. Kill the Neocons one by one and we have a safer world for your children, your family and you.


          [Dec 15, 2015] How to Invest in Bonds as Interest Rates Start Rising

          Notable quotes:
          "... For investors who hold bonds primarily for the income they generate, the drop in prices doesn't matter as much. That's because if you hold a bond until maturity, you never have to sell it and take a loss. ..."
          TheStreet

          Keep in mind that the Fed's first rate hike won't really change much. Rates will still be at historic lows. It all depends on how much the central bank raises rates in the coming months. So you don't have to rush to do anything.
          An increase of 0.25 percentage point on Wednesday will almost certainly not result in big swings in bond values, especially given how many in the market expect the hike. And the Fed is likely to say that the pace of future increases will be slow.

          Still, higher rates lessen the value of the bonds you currently own. That's because newly issued bonds under those higher rates will pay out more than older ones. So the price of your older bonds falls as a result.

          For investors who hold bonds primarily for the income they generate, the drop in prices doesn't matter as much. That's because if you hold a bond until maturity, you never have to sell it and take a loss.

          But it's a different story if you hold bonds through a mutual fund, as most investors do. The value of the fund declines with any interest rate hike because the fund becomes less attractive to investors.

          The drop in value is closely linked with the term of the bonds, known as duration. Those durations are usually indicated as short term, intermediate term, or long term. In theory, short-term bonds will drop the least in value, and long-term bonds will drop the most when rates go up.

          So what should investors do?

          Larry Swedroe, author of The Only Guide to a Winning Bond Strategy You'll Ever Need, urges investors not to make big moves without making a plan first.

          "Inaction is almost always better" than making a sudden shift in strategy in a panic, he said.

          "The most anticipated event of any we can think of is that the Fed is going to raise interest rates on Dec. 16," Swedroe said. "The market must already have that information incorporated into the current price" of bonds (and stocks too, for that matter).

          Don't try to outsmart the market, said Swedroe, who also is director of research for the BAM Alliance of financial advisers.

          Investors "stretching for yield" can make "very bad errors," Swedroe said, including investing in real estate investment trusts, dividend-paying stocks, emerging-market bonds, and other securities that are much more risky than bonds.

          If the economy falters and investors flee those asset classes and move to high-quality investments, investors in riskier assets "get crushed, just when you need the safety the most," said Swedroe.

          Swedroe suggests three possible strategies for investors looking for yield in this market.


          1.Stick to the middle. For bonds, the "sweet spot" for balancing risk and reward is via intermediate-term bonds with about a 5-year duration, Swedroe said. Investors there can get "most of the term premium without the longer-term inflation risk." Consider any low-cost, intermediate-term, high-quality bond fund, he said. That could include the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Bond ETF (BIV) or the Fidelity Spartan U.S. Bond Index Fund (FBIDX) -- there are many such funds available.
          2.Move to CDs. Investors who really want yield but can't stomach the market fluctuation of bond funds should look at certificates of deposit, "where you can have much higher yields" than bonds but with very low risk and no mutual fund fees. For example, 5-year CDs can pay up to 2.45% in annual percentage yield, while 5-year U.S. Treasury securities pay a yield of a mere 1.56%. Swedroe said CDs are most useful for investors with IRAs, who can choose where they hold their assets.
          3.Embrace the wisdom of the markets. This is the most Zen option. Swedroe said investors should take a page out of Warren Buffett's book, ignore market forecasts, and simply develop a financial plan. Find the best way to implement the plan -- with simplicity and low costs. "Stop worrying and stick with your plan," he said. Forever.

          If investors really do want to rely on the consensus judgment of the markets, they should consider the world's largest bond fund, the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VBMFX) (VBTLX) (BND) . (In April, Vanguard's fund surpassed Pacific Investment Management's Pimco Total Return Fund (PTTAX) , which had been the largest bond fund for decades.)

          Must Read: Why Wall Street Won't Be Pouring Cristal on New Year's Eve

          Vanguard's Total Bond index fund is totally market weighted, with no active calls about which types of bonds will outperform and which will not. The investor class charges a 0.2% fee annually, and the ETF class charges 0.07%. The fund's SEC yield is 2.27% and its average duration is 5.8 years (in the "sweet spot"), and its pretax return for the past 12 months as of Sept. 30 has been 2.64%. It's hard to get cheaper or simpler.

          Investors can also buy Treasury bonds directly from the government via Treasury Direct -- and pay no fees. The bonds available there are high-quality and simple to buy. There are some caveats: EE and E savings bonds must be held for at least one year, and you'll pay a penalty of three months' interest if you sell them within five years of buying them; they earn interest for 30 years. Other Treasury notes and bonds can be bought directly through Treasury Direct, but if you want to sell them before their term is up, you'll need to move them to a broker for sale. You can also buy resold Treasury securities at auction on Treasury Direct.

          And investors should also maintain perspective, according to Vanguard.

          "Many people look at bonds independently from their stocks," Fran Kinniry, of Vanguard's Investment Strategy Group, said in a statement. "But it's more beneficial to think, 'How do my bonds complement my stocks and fit into my whole investment picture?' You really want to put the two types of investments together and see how they interact as a whole. Ask yourself: 'What's my risk level for all my holdings? Does it align with my risk comfort if there's a downturn?' If you answer no, make the appropriate adjustments."

          In other words, investors should hold bonds to manage volatility, to provide consistency in a portfolio, and to earn a reasonable return. Using bonds for speculation or to take more risk makes an entire portfolio more volatile.

          So investors may want to stick to plain-vanilla bonds. If they plan to hold a bond fund to its average duration, which is listed on the prospectus, they will likely come out ahead even after an interest rate hike -- being paid more in interest than they have lost to reduced principal (or the face value of the bonds).

          Investors hold bonds for safety -- or at least they should. If you have too much money tied up in junk bonds or in long-term bonds, be prepared for swings in the value of the principal. If you can wait out the duration of the bonds, you will likely be OK. If you can't stomach big swings, face that about yourself and move to shorter duration bonds or CDs. They could pay less, but they will also fluctuate less in value.

          Must Read: 8 Winning Financial Stocks Once the Fed Raises Interest Rates

          Fixed-income investing is about reducing risk and receiving a predictable payment on schedule. Remember that the bonds will keep paying the same even if their face value has dropped.

          Now's the time when bond investors should verify that they have enough -- not too much, not too little -- in bonds, then sit back and collect the interest.


          [Dec 14, 2015] Offshoring and Unskilled Labor Demand Evidence That Trade Matters

          Notable quotes:
          "... I actually think that the bigger effect is not just offshoring, but a vicious circle relating to increasing inequality. After all, most of the economy today is services, but if normal people cant afford the services anymore, then that will of course stagnate, forcing down wages decreasing the affordability even more (or causing substitution of inferior automated or remote services). ..."
          "... That is why the one employment bright spot is medical services which are subsidised (one way or the other) almost everywhere. We really have to investigate more the distribution of the circulation of money, how the concentration of money in a few hands means that money circulates through relatively hands. I dont know of anybody who actually investigates this. You could say, it is the disaggregation-is-important problem. ..."
          "... One thing that really annoys with political discussion today is the dominance of money illusion. This is particularly extreme in the Euro area today where Germans keep complaining that so and so will be taking our tax money . No one ever seems to stop and think, where does the money come from in the first place , and yet, in macro-economics, this is absolutely the most important question. Nobody even seems to notice that both deleveraging and bankruptcy actively destroy money and that money needs to be replaced. ..."
          "... Foreign companies like Toyota and Honda solidified their dominance in family and economy cars, gained market share in high-margin luxury cars, and, in an ironic twist, soon stormed in with their own sophisticatedly engineered and marketed SUVs, pickups and minivans. Detroit, suffering from a "good enough" syndrome and wedded to ineffective marketing gimmicks like rebates and zero-percent financing, failed to give consumers what they really wanted - reliability, the latest technology and good design at a reasonable cost. ..."
          "... Yes, I see offshoring as a transitional stage while foreign workers are cheaper than machines. ..."
          "... The plot was about automation, but the moral was about humanity. :) ..."
          "... "The main business of humanity is to do a good job of being human beings, said Paul, not to serve as appendages to machines, institutions, and systems." ..."
          "... It is not the PRODUCERS who have a huge incentive to make sure it never happens. Au contraire, they want their consumers to have more money. It is the OWNERS who want to make sure it never happens because that would dilute their power. ..."
          Dec 14, 2015 | Economist's View

          Syaloch said in reply to cm...

          So you think that offshoring does not eventually increase living standards in the destination countries? That's odd. What's your evidence?

          Automation may not be the first response, but it's always in the equation:

          CEO: "Those pesky foreign workers are asking for more again! Machines are so much easier to work with. Can we replace them with machines yet?"

          CTO: "Let me check... No, not yet, but a lot of smart people are working on it."

          CEO: "OK, then let's look for another offshoring partner with more complacent workers for now and revisit this later."

          The answer to this automation question only has to be yes once to permanently change the playing field.

          reason said...

          I actually think that the bigger effect is not just offshoring, but a vicious circle relating to increasing inequality. After all, most of the economy today is services, but if normal people can't afford the services anymore, then that will of course stagnate, forcing down wages decreasing the affordability even more (or causing substitution of inferior automated or remote services).

          That is why the one employment bright spot is medical services which are subsidised (one way or the other) almost everywhere. We really have to investigate more the distribution of the circulation of money, how the concentration of money in a few hands means that money circulates through relatively hands. I don't know of anybody who actually investigates this. You could say, it is the disaggregation-is-important problem.

          reason said...

          One thing that really annoys with political discussion today is the dominance of money illusion. This is particularly extreme in the Euro area today where Germans keep complaining that so and so will be taking "our tax money". No one ever seems to stop and think, "where does the money come from in the first place", and yet, in macro-economics, this is absolutely the most important question. Nobody even seems to notice that both deleveraging and bankruptcy actively destroy money and that money needs to be replaced.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to pgl...

          "...the empty suits running GM and Ford were both greedy and incompetent..."

          [Yep!]

          http://www.amazon.com/The-United-States-Toyota-Squandered/dp/1592993028

          The United States of Toyota: How Detroit Squandered Its Legacy and Enabled Toyota to Become America's Car Company

          September 11, 2007

          by Peter M. DeLorenzo

          The United States of Toyota is many stories in one. First and foremost, it is a business story, detailing the decline of the American automobile industry - and the simultaneous rise of an Asian manufacturer to take its place. It is also a history book, providing an intimate portrait of the larger-than-life personalities and cars that led the American auto industry through its glory days and down the path toward extinction. It is a political/current affairs piece, presenting the rise of a Japanese company - Toyota - not just in terms of its sales success but also in terms of its cultural success, as it works to assimilate into American society. And finally, it is a never-before-seen primer on Detroit - The Motor City - a town and a region dominated by the auto companies, their suppliers and their ad agencies - and by a mindset and culture all its own. In commentary that is as accurate as it is blunt, Peter De Lorenzo presents the players and the action in the auto business in a way not seen before in print. His voice is unique and refreshingly candid. His provocative analyses and assessments - grounded in personal experience and a lifelong immersion in all things automotive - present a compelling picture of the state of the auto business - how it used to be, what it has become and where it is headed. From the arrogance and short-sightedness of the Detroit manufacturers to the acumen and relentlessness of Toyota, The United States of Toyota paints an insightful portrait of an iconic American industry as it struggles for survival in the early years of the 21st century.

          http://www.amazon.com/The-End-Detroit-American-Market/dp/0385507704

          The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market


          September 21, 2004
          by Micheline Maynard

          An in-depth, hard-hitting account of the mistakes, miscalculations and myopia that have doomed America's automobile industry.

          In the 1990s, Detroit's Big Three automobile companies were riding high. The introduction of the minivan and the SUV had revitalized the industry, and it was widely believed that Detroit had miraculously overcome the threat of foreign imports and regained its ascendant position. As Micheline Maynard makes brilliantly clear in THE END OF DETROIT, however, the traditional American car industry was, in fact, headed for disaster. Maynard argues that by focusing on high-profit trucks and SUVs, the Big Three missed a golden opportunity to win back the American car-buyer.

          Foreign companies like Toyota and Honda solidified their dominance in family and economy cars, gained market share in high-margin luxury cars, and, in an ironic twist, soon stormed in with their own sophisticatedly engineered and marketed SUVs, pickups and minivans. Detroit, suffering from a "good enough" syndrome and wedded to ineffective marketing gimmicks like rebates and zero-percent financing, failed to give consumers what they really wanted - reliability, the latest technology and good design at a reasonable cost. Drawing on a wide range of interviews with industry leaders, including Toyota's Fujio Cho, Nissan's Carlos Ghosn, Chrysler's Dieter Zetsche, BMW's Helmut Panke, and GM's Robert Lutz, as well as car designers, engineers, test drivers and owners, Maynard presents a stark picture of the culture of arrogance and insularity that led American car manufacturers astray. Maynard predicts that, by the end of the decade, one of the American car makers will no longer exist in its present form.

          *

          [Like the executives of the US steel industry before them, the management of the big three (plus one) US automakers possessed legendary inabilities when it came to product development and production quality control. One can only imagine that their golf games must have been better than their understanding of auto making.]

          pgl said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          Exactly - products designs that were better than our. Lean production which we were slow to adapt. And there are those Jan commercials. Toyotas are selling like crazy. But at least Ford and GM is finally under new management.

          sanjait said in reply to pgl...

          A few decades later ... Ford and GM do indeed look to be getting their act together. I'd buy a car from either one of those companies today.

          lower middle class said...

          Paging Dr. Proteus... Dr. Paul Proteus!

          cm said in reply to lower middle class...

          That was automation, not offshoring.

          Syaloch said in reply to cm...

          In the end that's a distinction without a difference.

          Julio said in reply to Syaloch...

          Yes, I see offshoring as a transitional stage while foreign workers are cheaper than machines.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to Julio...

          Machines could not open up SE Asian markets to US firms in the way that offshoring could.

          Syaloch said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          Suppose we visited those factories from Player Piano and discovered that the few highly educated workers remaining were not overseeing automated machines, but rather shipping raw materials over to a foreign country where goods were produced by low-wage laborers. In terms of the domestic economy, would that make any difference?

          Large-scale offshoring was enabled by machines that made the exchange of goods and information between remote locations possible. Whatever residual labor component is involved is merely an automation problem that hasn't been solved... yet.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to Syaloch...

          MNCs wanted their capital investment to have access to the markets with the most growth potential. Regulatory and FOREX arbitrage helped. Labor costs were low on the totem pole.

          Syaloch said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          That's more true with offshored manufacturing than with services. US companies aren't sending call center jobs to India because they hope to serve the Indian market.

          But even with regard to manufacturing labor costs are obviously a major consideration. Just watch any episode of "Shark Tank" and listen to the sharks explain how stupid anyone is for trying to manufacture anything here in the US. Are t-shirts sewn in Bangladesh because of the huge growth potential in apparel sales there? Were the Mexican maquiladoras set up to have better access to the Mexican market?

          lower middle class said in reply to cm...

          The plot was about automation, but the moral was about humanity. :)

          "The main business of humanity is to do a good job of being human beings," said Paul, "not to serve as appendages to machines, institutions, and systems."
          ― Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano

          Syaloch said in reply to lower middle class...

          Toward the end of Player Piano the Shah of Bratpuhr asks a very good question: What are people for?

          When I first read Player Piano I also happened by pure chance to be reading a collection of essays by Wendell Berry titled "What Are People For?"

          The eponymous essay from Berry's collection was a great complement to Vonnegut's book.

          lower middle class said in reply to Syaloch...

          Time for me to visit the library, thanks Syaloch!

          reason said...

          New Deal democrat
          Yes, it is part of your name (and was copied then throughout the Western world). Then of course there was the Russian and Chinese revolutions, which at least initially were very egalitarian.

          New Deal democrat said in reply to reason...

          I think you misunderstood my point, which was about liberalizing international trade. I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think that was a really high priority of the Russian and Chinese revolutions. :)

          pgl said in reply to New Deal democrat...

          I studied Russian history. Free trade was not exactly what drove Lenin. And it is certainly not what drives Putin.

          PPaine said in reply to New Deal democrat...

          There was a significant debate about trade early on with bukharin advocating. Two way openness. And Lenin a two way state monopoly. Lenin anticipated what happened to russia after the wall fell ....70 or so years later.

          He had a keen insight into MNCs free for all tactics. Unfortunately state concessions which he supported faced a tacit constriction.

          Despite notable exceptions including Pater Koch

          reason said...

          P.S. New Deal democrat

          It is not the PRODUCERS who have a huge incentive to make sure it never happens. Au contraire, they want their consumers to have more money. It is the OWNERS who want to make sure it never happens because that would dilute their power.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to reason...

          Yep. Capital gains... and gains... and gains, until there is little left for labor gains.

          pgl said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          Nike makes obscene profits. And for what? Designing new shoes? They don't make anything - their third party Chinese manufacturers do the hard work at low wages. BTW - the US does not get to tax those Nike profits as they end up in Bermuda.

          [Dec 13, 2015] While redemptions are elevated, particularly in high-yield bond funds, there doesn't seem to be a rush to for the exits

          For the last several year buying "junkest junk" was a profitable strategy. Now it came to abrupt end.
          Notable quotes:
          "... The rest of the industry has been quick to say that while redemptions are elevated, particularly in high-yield bond funds, there doesn't seem to be a rush to for the exits. ..."
          "... Goldman Sachs, for one, put out a note Friday warning Franklin Resources "is most at risk" given the large high-yield holdings of its funds, poor performance and large outflows. On Friday, its shares fell sharply. Meanwhile, there were unusually large declines Friday in the value of exchange-traded funds that track high-yield debt. ..."
          "... The idea of a "run" on mutual funds might sound strange. Typically, runs are associated with highly leveraged banks engaged in maturity transformation, funding long-term loans with short-term debt. Nearly all the programs designed to avoid destabilizing runs-from deposit insurance to the Fed's discount window to liquidity requirements-are built for banks. But unleveraged investors, including mutual funds, can also give rise to runs. That is because there is a liquidity mismatch in mutual funds that hold relatively illiquid assets funded by investors entitled to daily redemptions. ..."
          peakoilbarrel.com
          Jeffrey J. Brown, 12/13/2015 at 4:06 pm
          Interesting WSJ article (do a Google Search for the title, for access). Last week, the Journal noted that Chesapeake bonds that traded at 80¢ on the dollar a few months ago were currently trading at 30¢ to 40¢ on the dollar. I suspect that there are some huge losses on the books of a lot of pension funds.

          WSJ: The Liquidity Trap That's Spooking Bond Funds
          The specter of a destabilizing run on debt is haunting markets

          The debt world is haunted by a specter-of a destabilizing run on markets.

          Last week, this took on more form even if there weren't concrete signs of panic. Only one mutual fund manager, Third Avenue Management, has said it would halt redemptions to forestall having to dispose of assets in a fire sale. The rest of the industry has been quick to say that while redemptions are elevated, particularly in high-yield bond funds, there doesn't seem to be a rush to for the exits.

          Still, growing angst comes as the oil-price rout continues and the U.S. Federal Reserve appears ready to raise rates. This has investors worried-and starting to ask the fearful question: "Who's next?"

          Goldman Sachs, for one, put out a note Friday warning Franklin Resources "is most at risk" given the large high-yield holdings of its funds, poor performance and large outflows. On Friday, its shares fell sharply. Meanwhile, there were unusually large declines Friday in the value of exchange-traded funds that track high-yield debt.

          The idea of a "run" on mutual funds might sound strange. Typically, runs are associated with highly leveraged banks engaged in maturity transformation, funding long-term loans with short-term debt. Nearly all the programs designed to avoid destabilizing runs-from deposit insurance to the Fed's discount window to liquidity requirements-are built for banks. But unleveraged investors, including mutual funds, can also give rise to runs. That is because there is a liquidity mismatch in mutual funds that hold relatively illiquid assets funded by investors entitled to daily redemptions.

          [Dec 13, 2015] Deregulation of exotic financial instruments like derivatives and credit-default swaps and corruption of Congress and government

          Notable quotes:
          "... Can you list all of the pro- or anti- Wall Street reforms and actions Bill Clinton performed as President including nominating Alan Greenspan as head regulator? Cutting the capital gains tax? Are you aware of Greenspans record? ..."
          "... Its actually pro-neoliberalism crowd vs anti-neoliberalism crowd. In no way anti-neoliberalism commenters here view this is a character melodrama, although psychologically Hillary probably does has certain problems as her reaction to the death of Gadhafi attests. The key problem with anti-neoliberalism crowd is the question What is a realistic alternative? Thats where differences and policy debate starts. ..."
          "... Events do not occur in isolation. GLBA increased TBTF in AIG and Citi. TBTF forced TARP. GLBA greased the skids for CFMA. Democrats gained majority, but not filibuster proof, caught between Iraq and a hard place following their votes for TARP and a broader understanding of their participation in the unanimous consent passage of the CFMA, over objection by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN). ..."
          "... It certainly fits the kind of herd mentality that I always saw in corporate Amerika until I retired. The William Greider article posted by RGC was very consistent in its account by John Reed with the details of one or two books written about AIG back in 2009 or so. I dont have time to hunt them up now. Besides, no one would read them anyway. ..."
          "... GS was one of several actions taken by the New Deal. That it wasnt sufficient by itself doesnt equate to it wasnt beneficial. ..."
          "... "Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century," said then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy." ..."
          "... The repeal of Glass Steagal was a landmark victory in deregulation that greased the skids for the passage of CFMA once Democrats had been further demoralized by the SCOTUS decision on Bush-v-Gore. The first vote on GLBA was split along party lines, but passed because Republicans had majority and Clinton was willing to sign which was clear from the waiver that had been granted to illegal Citi merger with Travelers. Both Citi and AIG mergers contributed to too big to fail. The CFMA was the nail in the coffin that probably would have never gotten off the ground if Democrats had held the line on the GLBA. Glass-Steagal was insufficient as a regulatory system to prevent the 2008 mortgage crisis, but it was giant as an icon of New Deal financial system reform. Its loss institutionalized too big to fail ..."
          "... Gramm Leach Biley was a mistake. But it was not the only failure of US regulatory policies towards financial institutions nor the most important. ..."
          "... It was more symbolic caving in on financial regulation than a specific technical failure except for making too big to fail worse at Citi and AIG. It marked a sea change of thinking about financial regulation. Nothing mattered any more, including the CFMA just a little over one year later. Deregulation of derivatives trading mandated by the CFMA was a colossal failure and it is not bizarre to believe that GLBA precipitated the consensus on financial deregulation enough that after the demoralizing defeat of Democrats in Bush-v-Gore then there was no New Deal spirit of financial regulation left. Social development is not just a series of unconnected events. It is carried on a tide of change. A falling tide grounds all boats. ..."
          "... We had a financial dereg craze back in the late 1970s and early 1980s which led to the S L disaster. One would have thought we would have learned from that. But then came the dereg craziness 20 years later. And this disaster was much worse. ..."
          "... This brings us to Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary of the United States and at the time right hand man to then Treasury Security Robert Rubin. Mr. Summers was widely credited with implementation of the aggressive tactics used to remove Ms. Born from her office, tactics that multiple sources describe as showing an old world bias against women piercing the glass ceiling. ..."
          "... According to numerous published reports, Mr. Summers was involved in. silencing those who questioned the opaque derivative product's design. ..."
          "... The Tax Policy Center estimated that a 0.1 percent tax on stock trades, scaled with lower taxes on other assets, would raise $50 billion a year in tax revenue. The implied reduction in trading revenue was even larger. Senator Sanders has proposed a tax of 0.5 percent on equities (also with a scaled tax on other assets). This would lead to an even larger reduction in revenue for the financial industry. ..."
          "... Great to see Bakers acknowledgement that an updated Glass-Steagall is just one component of the progressive wings plan to rein in Wall Street, not the sum total of it. Besides, if Wall Street types dont think restoring Glass-Steagall will have any meaningful effects, why do they expend so much energy to disparage it? Methinks they doth protest too much. ..."
          "... Yes thats a good way to look it. Wall Street gave the Democrats and Clinton a lot of campaign cash so that they would dismantle Glass-Steagall. ..."
          "... Slippery slope. Ya gotta find me a business of any type that does not protest any kind of regulation on their business. ..."
          "... Yeah, but usually because of all the bad things they say will happen because of the regulation. The question is, what do they think of Clintons plan? Ive heard surprisingly little about that, and what I have heard is along these lines: http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/08/investing/hillary-clinton-wall-street-plan/ ..."
          "... Hillary Clinton unveiled her big plan to curb the worst of Wall Streets excesses on Thursday. The reaction from the banking community was a shrug, if not relief. ..."
          "... Iceland's government is considering a revolutionary monetary proposal – removing the power of commercial banks to create money and handing it to the central bank. The proposal, which would be a turnaround in the history of modern finance, was part of a report written by a lawmaker from the ruling centrist Progress Party, Frosti Sigurjonsson, entitled "A better monetary system for Iceland". ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com

          RGC said...

          Hillary Clinton Is Whitewashing the Financial Catastrophe

          She has a plan that she claims will reform Wall Street-but she's deflecting responsibility from old friends and donors in the industry.

          By William Greider
          Yesterday 3:11 pm

          Hillary Clinton's recent op-ed in The New York Times, "How I'd Rein In Wall Street," was intended to reassure nervous Democrats who fear she is still in thrall to those mega-bankers of New York who crashed the American economy. Clinton's brisk recital of plausible reform ideas might convince wishful thinkers who are not familiar with the complexities of banking. But informed skeptics, myself included, see a disturbing message in her argument that ought to alarm innocent supporters.

          Candidate Clinton is essentially whitewashing the financial catastrophe. She has produced a clumsy rewrite of what caused the 2008 collapse, one that conveniently leaves her husband out of the story. He was the president who legislated the predicate for Wall Street's meltdown. Hillary Clinton's redefinition of the reform problem deflects the blame from Wall Street's most powerful institutions, like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, and instead fingers less celebrated players that failed. In roundabout fashion, Hillary Clinton sounds like she is assuring old friends and donors in the financial sector that, if she becomes president, she will not come after them.

          The seminal event that sowed financial disaster was the repeal of the New Deal's Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had separated banking into different realms: investment banks, which organize capital investors for risk-taking ventures; and deposit-holding banks, which serve people as borrowers and lenders. That law's repeal, a great victory for Wall Street, was delivered by Bill Clinton in 1999, assisted by the Federal Reserve and the financial sector's armies of lobbyists. The "universal banking model" was saluted as a modernizing reform that liberated traditional banks to participate directly and indirectly in long-prohibited and vastly more profitable risk-taking.

          Exotic financial instruments like derivatives and credit-default swaps flourished, enabling old-line bankers to share in the fun and profit on an awesome scale. The banks invented "guarantees" against loss and sold them to both companies and market players. The fast-expanding financial sector claimed a larger and larger share of the economy (and still does) at the expense of the real economy of producers and consumers. The interconnectedness across market sectors created the illusion of safety. When illusions failed, these connected guarantees became the dragnet that drove panic in every direction. Ultimately, the federal government had to rescue everyone, foreign and domestic, to stop the bleeding.

          Yet Hillary Clinton asserts in her Times op-ed that repeal of Glass-Steagall had nothing to do with it. She claims that Glass-Steagall would not have limited the reckless behavior of institutions like Lehman Brothers or insurance giant AIG, which were not traditional banks. Her argument amounts to facile evasion that ignores the interconnected exposures. The Federal Reserve spent $180 billion bailing out AIG so AIG could pay back Goldman Sachs and other banks. If the Fed hadn't acted and had allowed AIG to fail, the banks would have gone down too.

          These sound like esoteric questions of bank regulation (and they are), but the consequences of pretending they do not matter are enormous. The federal government and Federal Reserve would remain on the hook for rescuing losers in a future crisis. The largest and most adventurous banks would remain free to experiment, inventing fictitious guarantees and selling them to eager suckers. If things go wrong, Uncle Sam cleans up the mess.

          Senator Elizabeth Warren and other reformers are pushing a simpler remedy-restore the Glass-Steagall principles and give citizens a safe, government-insured place to store their money. "Banking should be boring," Warren explains (her co-sponsor is GOP Senator John McCain).
          That's a hard sell in politics, given the banking sector's bear hug of Congress and the White House, its callous manipulation of both political parties. Of course, it is more complicated than that. But recreating a safe, stable banking system-a place where ordinary people can keep their money-ought to be the first benchmark for Democrats who claim to be reformers.

          Actually, the most compelling witnesses for Senator Warren's argument are the two bankers who introduced this adventure in "universal banking" back in the 1990s. They used their political savvy and relentless muscle to seduce Bill Clinton and his so-called New Democrats. John Reed was CEO of Citicorp and led the charge. He has since apologized to the nation. Sandy Weill was chairman of the board and a brilliant financier who envisioned the possibilities of a single, all-purpose financial house, freed of government's narrow-minded regulations. They won politically, but at staggering cost to the country.

          Weill confessed error back in 2012: "What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking. Have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not going to be too big to fail."

          John Reed's confession explained explicitly why their modernizing crusade failed for two fundamental business reasons. "One was the belief that combining all types of finance into one institution would drive costs down-and the larger institution the more efficient it would be," Reed wrote in the Financial Times in November. Reed said, "We now know that there are very few cost efficiencies that come from the merger of functions-indeed, there may be none at all. It is possible that combining so much in a single bank makes services more expensive than if they were instead offered by smaller, specialised players."

          The second grave error, Reed said, was trying to mix the two conflicting cultures in banking-bankers who are pulling in opposite directions. That tension helps explain the competitive greed displayed by the modernized banking system. This disorder speaks to the current political crisis in ways that neither Dems nor Republicans wish to confront. It would require the politicians to critique the bankers (often their funders) in terms of human failure.

          "Mixing incompatible cultures is a problem all by itself," Reed wrote. "It makes the entire finance industry more fragile…. As is now clear, traditional banking attracts one kind of talent, which is entirely different from the kinds drawn towards investment banking and trading. Traditional bankers tend to be extroverts, sociable people who are focused on longer term relationships. They are, in many important respects, risk averse. Investment bankers and their traders are more short termist. They are comfortable with, and many even seek out, risk and are more focused on immediate reward."

          Reed concludes, "As I have reflected about the years since 1999, I think the lessons of Glass-Steagall and its repeal suggest that the universal banking model is inherently unstable and unworkable. No amount of restructuring, management change or regulation is ever likely to change that."

          This might sound hopelessly naive, but the Democratic Party might do better in politics if it told more of the truth more often: what they tried do and why it failed, and what they think they may have gotten wrong. People already know they haven't gotten a straight story from politicians. They might be favorably impressed by a little more candor in the plain-spoken manner of John Reed.

          Of course it's unfair to pick on the Dems. Republicans have been lying about their big stuff for so long and so relentlessly that their voters are now staging a wrathful rebellion. Who knows, maybe a little honest talk might lead to honest debate. Think about it. Do the people want to hear the truth about our national condition? Could they stand it?

          http://www.thenation.com/article/hillary-clinton-is-whitewashing-the-financial-catastrophe/

          EMichael -> RGC...
          "She claims that Glass-Steagall would not have limited the reckless behavior of institutions like Lehman Brothers or insurance giant AIG, which were not traditional banks."

          Of course this claim is absolutely true. Just like GS would not have affected the other investment banks, whatever their name was. And just like we would have had to bail out those other banks whatever their name was.

          Peter K. -> EMichael...
          Can you list all of the pro- or anti- Wall Street "reforms" and actions Bill Clinton performed as President including nominating Alan Greenspan as head regulator? Cutting the capital gains tax? Are you aware of Greenspan's record?

          Yes Hillary isn't Bill but she hasn't criticized her husband specifically about his record and seems to want to have her cake and eat it too.

          Of course Hillary is much better than the Republicans, pace Rustbucket and the Green Lantern Lefty club. Still, critics have a point.

          I won't be surprised if she doesn't do much to rein in Wall Street besides some window dressing.

          sanjait -> Peter K....
          "Can you list all of the pro- or anti- Wall Street "reforms" and actions Bill Clinton performed..."

          That, right there, is what's wrong with Bernie and his fans. They measure everything by whether it is "pro- or anti- Wall Street". Glass Steagall is anti-Wall Street. A financial transactions tax is anti-Wall Street. But neither has any hope of controlling systemic financial risk in this country. None.

          You guys want to punish Wall Street but not even bother trying to think of how to achieve useful policy goals. Some people, like Paine here, are actually open about this vacuity, as if the only thing that were important were winning a power struggle.

          Hillary's plan is flat out better. It's more comprehensive and more effective at reining in the financial system to limit systemic risk. Period.

          You guys want to make this a character melodrama rather than a policy debate, and I fear the result of that will be that the candidate who actually has the best plan won't get to enact it.

          likbez -> sanjait...

          "You guys want to make this a character melodrama rather than a policy debate, and I fear the result of that will be that the candidate who actually has the best plan won't get to enact it."

          You are misrepresenting the positions. It's actually pro-neoliberalism crowd vs anti-neoliberalism crowd. In no way anti-neoliberalism commenters here view this is a character melodrama, although psychologically Hillary probably does has certain problems as her reaction to the death of Gadhafi attests. The key problem with anti-neoliberalism crowd is the question "What is a realistic alternative?" That's where differences and policy debate starts.

          RGC -> EMichael...
          "Her argument amounts to facile evasion"

          Fred C. Dobbs -> RGC...

          'The majority favors policies to the left of Hillary.'

          Nah. I don't think so.

          No, Liberals Don't Control the Democratic Party http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/02/no-liberals-dont-control-the-democratic-party/283653/
          The Atlantic - Feb 7, 2014

          ... The Democrats' liberal faction has been greatly overestimated by pundits who mistake noisiness for clout or assume that the left functions like the right. In fact, liberals hold nowhere near the power in the Democratic Party that conservatives hold in the Republican Party. And while they may well be gaining, they're still far from being in charge. ...

          Paine -> RGC...

          What's not confronted ? Suggest what a System like the pre repeal system would have done in the 00's. My guess we'd have ended in a crisis anyway. Yes we can segregate the depository system. But credit is elastic enough to build bubbles without the depository system involved

          EMichael -> Paine ...

          Exactly.

          Most people think of lending like the Bailey Brothers Savings and Loan still exists.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> EMichael...

          Don't be such a whistle dick. Just because you cannot figure out why GLBA made such an impact that in no way means that people that do understand are stupid. See my posted comment to RGC on GLBA just down thread for an more detailed explanation including a linked web article. No, GS alone would not have prevented the mortgage bubble, but it would have lessened TBTF and GS stood as icon, a symbol of financial regulation. Hell, if we don't need GS then why don't we just allow unregulated derivatives trading? Who cares, right? Senators Byron Dorgan, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, Tom Harkin, Richard Bryan, Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders all voted against GLBA to repeal GS for some strange reason and Dorgan made a really big deal out of it at the time. I doubt everyone on that list of Senators was just stupid because they did not see it your way.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> EMichael...
          I ran all out of ceteris paribus quite some time ago. Events do not occur in isolation. GLBA increased TBTF in AIG and Citi. TBTF forced TARP. GLBA greased the skids for CFMA. Democrats gained majority, but not filibuster proof, caught between Iraq and a hard place following their votes for TARP and a broader understanding of their participation in the unanimous consent passage of the CFMA, over "objection" by Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN). We have had a Republican majority in the House since the 2010 election and now they have the Senate as well. If you are that sure that voters just choose divided government, then aren't we better off to have a Republican POTUS and Democratic Congress?

          sanjait -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          "I ran all out of ceteris paribus quite some time ago. Events do not occur in isolation. GLBA increased TBTF in AIG and Citi. TBTF forced TARP. GLBA greased the skids for CFMA. "

          I know you think this is a really meaningful string that evidences causation, but it just looks like you are reaching, reaching, reaching ...

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> sanjait...

          Maybe. No way to say for sure. It certainly fits the kind of herd mentality that I always saw in corporate Amerika until I retired. The William Greider article posted by RGC was very consistent in its account by John Reed with the details of one or two books written about AIG back in 2009 or so. I don't have time to hunt them up now. Besides, no one would read them anyway.

          I am voting for whoever wins the Democratic nomination for POTUS. Bernie without a like-minded Congress would not do much good. But when we shoot each other down here at EV without offering any agreement or consideration that we might not be 100% correct, then that goes against Doc Thoma's idea of an open forum. Granted, with my great big pair then I am willing to state my opinion with no consideration for validation or acceptance, but not everyone has that degree of a comfort zone. Besides, I am so old an cynical that shooting down the overdogs that go after the underdogs is one of the few things that I still care about.

          RGC -> Paine ...

          GS was one of several actions taken by the New Deal. That it wasn't sufficient by itself doesn't equate to it wasn't beneficial.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RGC...

          [Lock and load.]

          http://www.occasionalplanet.org/2015/05/13/glass-steagall-one-democratic-senator-who-got-it-right/

          Glass-Steagall: Warren and Sanders bring it back into focus

          Madonna Gauding / May 13, 2015

          Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are putting a new focus on the Glass-Steagall Act, which was, unfortunately, repealed in 1999 and led directly to the financial crises we have faced ever since. Here's a bit of history of this legislative debacle from an older post on Occasional Planet published several years ago :

          On November 4, 1999, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) took to the floor of the senate to make an impassioned speech against the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, (alternately known as Gramm Leach Biley, or the "Financial Modernization Act") Repeal of Glass-Steagall would allow banks to merge with insurance companies and investments houses. He said "I want to sound a warning call today about this legislation, I think this legislation is just fundamentally terrible."

          According to Sam Stein, writing in 2009 in the Huffington Post, only eight senators voted against the repeal. Senior staff in the Clinton administration and many now in the Obama administration praised the repeal as the "most important breakthrough in the world of finance and politics in decades"

          According to Stein, Dorgan warned that banks would become "too big to fail" and claimed that Congress would "look back in a decade and say we should not have done this." The repeal of Glass Steagall, of course, was one of several bad policies that helped lead to the current economic crisis we are in now.

          Dorgan wasn't entirely alone. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Shelby, Tom Harkin, Richard Bryan, Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders also cast nay votes. The late Sen. Paul Wellstone opposed the bill, and warned at the time that Congress was "about to repeal the economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place."

          Democratic Senators had sufficient knowledge about the dangers of the repeal of Glass Steagall, but chose to ignore it. Plenty of experts warned that it would be impossible to "discipline" banks once the legislation was passed, and that they would get too big and complex to regulate. Editorials against repeal appeared in the New York Times and other mainstream venues, suggesting that if the new megabanks were to falter, they could take down the entire global economy, which is exactly what happened. Stein quotes Ralph Nader who said at the time, "We will look back at this and wonder how the country was so asleep. It's just a nightmare."

          According to Stein:

          "The Senate voted to pass Gramm-Leach-Bliley by a vote of 90-8 and reversed what was, for more than six decades, a framework that had governed the functions and reach of the nation's largest banks. No longer limited by laws and regulations commercial and investment banks could now merge. Many had already begun the process, including, among others, J.P. Morgan and Citicorp. The new law allowed it to be permanent. The updated ground rules were low on oversight and heavy on risky ventures. Historically in the business of mortgages and credit cards, banks now would sell insurance and stock.

          Nevertheless, the bill did not lack champions, many of whom declared that the original legislation - forged during the Great Depression - was both antiquated and cumbersome for the banking industry. Congress had tried 11 times to repeal Glass-Steagall. The twelfth was the charm.

          "Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century," said then-Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. "This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy."

          "I welcome this day as a day of success and triumph," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, (D-Conn.).

          "The concerns that we will have a meltdown like 1929 are dramatically overblown," said Sen. Bob Kerrey, (D-Neb.).

          "If we don't pass this bill, we could find London or Frankfurt or years down the road Shanghai becoming the financial capital of the world," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "There are many reasons for this bill, but first and foremost is to ensure that U.S. financial firms remain competitive."

          Unfortunately, the statement by Chuck Schumer sounds very much like it was prepared by a lobbyist. This vote underscores the way in which our elected officials are so heavily swayed by corporate and banking money that our voices and needs become irrelevant. It is why we need publicly funded elections. Democratic senators, the so-called representatives of the people, fell over themselves to please their Wall Street donors knowing full well there were dangers for the country at large, for ordinary Americans, in repealing Glass-Steagall.

          It is important to hold Democratic senators (along with current members of the Obama administration) accountable for the significant role they have played in the current economic crisis that has caused so much suffering for ordinary Americans. In case you were wondering, the current Democratic Senators who voted yes to repeal the Glass-Steagall act are the following:

          Daniel Akaka – Max Baucus – Evan Bayh – Jeff Bingaman – Kent Conrad – Chris Dodd – Dick Durbin – Dianne Feinstein – Daniel Inouye – Tim Johnson – John Kerry – Herb Kohl – Mary Landrieu – Frank Lautenberg – Patrick Leahy – Carl Levin – Joseph Lieberman – Blanche Lincoln – Patty Murray – Jack Reed – Harry Reid – Jay Rockefeller – Chuck Schumer – Ron Wyden

          Former House members who voted for repeal who are current Senators.

          Mark Udall [as of 2010] – Debbie Stabenow – Bob Menendez – Tom Udall -Sherrod Brown

          No longer in the Senate, or passed away, but who voted for repeal:

          Joe Biden -Ted Kennedy -Robert Byrd

          These Democratic senators would like to forget or make excuses for their enthusiastic vote on the repeal of Glass Steagall, but it is important to hold them accountable for helping their bank donors realize obscene profits while their constituents lost jobs, savings and homes. And it is important to demand that they serve the interests of the American people.

          *

          [The repeal of Glass Steagal was a landmark victory in deregulation that greased the skids for the passage of CFMA once Democrats had been further demoralized by the SCOTUS decision on Bush-v-Gore. The first vote on GLBA was split along party lines, but passed because Republicans had majority and Clinton was willing to sign which was clear from the waiver that had been granted to illegal Citi merger with Travelers. Both Citi and AIG mergers contributed to too big to fail. The CFMA was the nail in the coffin that probably would have never gotten off the ground if Democrats had held the line on the GLBA. Glass-Steagal was insufficient as a regulatory system to prevent the 2008 mortgage crisis, but it was giant as an icon of New Deal financial system reform. Its loss institutionalized too big to fail.]

          pgl -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          Gramm Leach Biley was a mistake. But it was not the only failure of US regulatory policies towards financial institutions nor the most important. I think that is what Hillary Clinton is saying.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> pgl...

          It was more symbolic caving in on financial regulation than a specific technical failure except for making too big to fail worse at Citi and AIG. It marked a sea change of thinking about financial regulation. Nothing mattered any more, including the CFMA just a little over one year later. Deregulation of derivatives trading mandated by the CFMA was a colossal failure and it is not bizarre to believe that GLBA precipitated the consensus on financial deregulation enough that after the demoralizing defeat of Democrats in Bush-v-Gore then there was no New Deal spirit of financial regulation left. Social development is not just a series of unconnected events. It is carried on a tide of change. A falling tide grounds all boats.

          pgl -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          We had a financial dereg craze back in the late 1970's and early 1980's which led to the S&L disaster. One would have thought we would have learned from that. But then came the dereg craziness 20 years later. And this disaster was much worse.

          I don't care whether Hillary says 1999 was a mistake or not. I do care what the regulations of financial institutions will be like going forward.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> pgl...

          I cannot disagree with any of that.

          sanjait -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          "Deregulation of derivatives trading mandated by the CFMA was a colossal failure and it is not bizarre to believe that GLBA precipitated the consensus"

          Yeah, it is kind of bizarre to blame one bill for a crisis that occurred largely because another bill was passed, based on some some vague assertion about how the first bill made everyone think crazy.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> sanjait...
          Democrats did not vote for GLBA until after reconciliation between the House and Senate bills. Democrats were tossed a bone in the Community Reinvestment Act financing provisions and given that Bill Clinton was going to sign anyway and that Republicans were able to pass the bill without a single vote from Democrats then all but a few Democrats bought in. They could not stop it, so they just bought into it. I thought there was supposed to be an understanding of behaviorism devoted to understanding the political economy. For that matter Republicans did not need Democrats to vote for the CFMA either, but they did. That gave Republicans political cover for whatever went wrong later on. No one with a clue believed things would go well from the passage of either of these bills. It was pure Wall Street driven kleptocracy.
          likbez -> sanjait...
          It was not one bill or another. It was a government policy to get traders what they want.

          See

          Bruce E. Woych | August 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm |

          http://www.imackgroup.com/mathematics/989981-the-untold-story-brooksley-born-larry-summers-the-truth-about-unlimited-risk-potential/

          The Untold Story: Brooksley Born, Larry Summers & the Truth …
          http://www.imackgroup.com/mathematics/989981-the-untold-story-brooksley-born-larry...
          Oct 5, 2012 … Larry Summers is attempting to re-write history at the expense of … and they might just find one critical point revealed in Mr. Cohan's article.
          [PERTINENT EXCERPT]: Oct 5, 2012

          "As the western world wakes to the fact it is in the middle of a debt crisis spiral, intelligent voices are wondering how this manifested itself? As we speak, those close to the situation could be engaging in historical revisionism to obfuscate their role in the design of faulty leverage structures that were identified in the derivatives markets in 1998 and 2008. These same design flaws, first identified in 1998, are persistent today and could become graphically evident in the very near future under the weight of a European debt crisis.

          Author and Bloomberg columnist William Cohan chronicles the fascinating start of this historic leverage implosion in his recent article Rethinking Robert Rubin. Readers may recall it was Mr. Cohan who, in 2004, noted leverage issues that ultimately imploded in 2007-08.

          At some point, market watchers will realize the debt crisis story will literally change the world. They will look to the root cause of the problem, and they might just find one critical point revealed in Mr. Cohan's article.

          This point occurs in 1998 when then Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) ChairwomanBrooksley Born identified what now might be recognized as core design flaws in leverage structure used in Over the Counter (OTC) transactions. Ms. Born brought her concerns public, by first asking just to study the issue, as appropriate action was not being taken. She issued a concept release paper that simply asked for more information. "The Commission is not entering into this process with preconceived results in mind," the document reads.

          Ms. Born later noted in, the PBS Frontline documentary on the topic speculation at the CFTC was the unregulated OTC derivatives were opaque, the risk to the global economy could not be determined and the risk was potentially catastrophic. As a result of this inquiry, Ms. Born was ultimately forced from office.

          This brings us to Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary of the United States and at the time right hand man to then Treasury Security Robert Rubin. Mr. Summers was widely credited with implementation of the aggressive tactics used to remove Ms. Born from her office, tactics that multiple sources describe as showing an old world bias against women piercing the glass ceiling.

          According to numerous published reports, Mr. Summers was involved in. silencing those who questioned the opaque derivative product's design. "

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Paine ...

          TBTF on steroids, might as well CFMA - why not?

          Bubbles with less TBTF and a lot less credit default swaps would have been a lot less messy going in. Without TARP, then Congress might have still had the guts for making a lesser New Deal.

          EMichael -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron...

          TARP was window dressing. The curtain that covered up the FED's actions.

          pgl -> RGC...

          Where have I heard about William Greider? Oh yea - this critique of something stupid he wrote about a Supreme Court decision:

          www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/06/06/how-many-errors-can-william-greider-make-in-two-sentences-describing-lochner-v-new-york/

          pgl -> RGC...

          "Exotic financial instruments like derivatives and credit-default swaps flourished, enabling old-line bankers to share in the fun and profit on an awesome scale."

          These would have flourished even if Glass-Steagall remained on the books. Leave it to RGC to find some critic of HRC who knows nothing about financial markets.

          RGC -> pgl...

          Derivatives flourished because of the other deregulation under Clinton, the CFMA. The repeal of GS helped commercial banks participate.

          RGC -> pgl...

          The repeal of GS helped commercial banks participate.

          Fred C. Dobbs -> pgl...

          Warren Buffet used to rail about how risky derivative investing is, until he realized they are *extremely* important in the re-insurance biz, which is a
          big part of Berkshire Hathaway.

          Peter K. said...

          http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-and-cracking-down-on-wall-street

          Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Cracking Down on Wall Street
          by Dean Baker

          Published: 12 December 2015

          The New Yorker ran a rather confused piece on Gary Sernovitz, a managing director at the investment firm Lime Rock Partners, on whether Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton would be more effective in reining in Wall Street. The piece assures us that Secretary Clinton has a better understanding of Wall Street and that her plan would be more effective in cracking down on the industry. The piece is bizarre both because it essentially dismisses the concern with too big to fail banks and completely ignores Sanders' proposal for a financial transactions tax which is by far the most important mechanism for reining in the financial industry.

          The piece assures us that too big to fail banks are no longer a problem, noting their drop in profitability from bubble peaks and telling readers:

          "not only are Sanders's bogeybanks just one part of Wall Street but they are getting less powerful and less problematic by the year."

          This argument is strange for a couple of reasons. First, the peak of the subprime bubble frenzy is hardly a good base of comparison. The real question is should we anticipate declining profits going forward. That hardly seems clear. For example, Citigroup recently reported surging profits, while Wells Fargo's third quarter profits were up 8 percent from 2014 levels.

          If Sernovitz is predicting that the big banks are about to shrivel up to nothingness, the market does not agree with him. Citigroup has a market capitalization of $152 billion, JPMorgan has a market cap of $236 billion, and Bank of America has a market cap of $174 billion. Clearly investors agree with Sanders in thinking that these huge banks will have sizable profits for some time to come.

          The real question on too big to fail is whether the government would sit by and let a Goldman Sachs or Citigroup go bankrupt. Perhaps some people think that it is now the case, but I've never met anyone in that group.

          Sernovitz is also dismissive on Sanders call for bringing back the Glass-Steagall separation between commercial banking and investment banking. He makes the comparison to the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline, which is actually quite appropriate. The Keystone battle did take on exaggerated importance in the climate debate. There was never a zero/one proposition in which no tar sands oil would be pumped without the pipeline, while all of it would be pumped if the pipeline was constructed. Nonetheless, if the Obama administration was committed to restricting greenhouse gas emissions, it is difficult to see why it would support the building of a pipeline that would facilitate bringing some of the world's dirtiest oil to market.

          In the same vein, Sernovitz is right that it is difficult to see how anything about the growth of the housing bubble and its subsequent collapse would have been very different if Glass-Steagall were still in place. And, it is possible in principle to regulate bank's risky practices without Glass-Steagall, as the Volcker rule is doing. However, enforcement tends to weaken over time under industry pressure, which is a reason why the clear lines of Glass-Steagall can be beneficial. Furthermore, as with Keystone, if we want to restrict banks' power, what is the advantage of letting them get bigger and more complex?

          The repeal of Glass-Steagall was sold in large part by boasting of the potential synergies from combining investment and commercial banking under one roof. But if the operations are kept completely separate, as is supposed to be the case, where are the synergies?

          But the strangest part of Sernovitz's story is that he leaves out Sanders' financial transactions tax (FTT) altogether. This is bizarre, because the FTT is essentially a hatchet blow to the waste and exorbitant salaries in the industry.

          Most research shows that trading volume is very responsive to the cost of trading, with most estimates putting the elasticity close to one. This means that if trading costs rise by 50 percent, then trading volume declines by 50 percent. (In its recent analysis of FTTs, the Tax Policy Center assumed that the elasticity was 1.5, meaning that trading volume decline by 150 percent of the increase in trading costs.) The implication of this finding is that the financial industry would pay the full cost of a financial transactions tax in the form of reduced trading revenue.

          The Tax Policy Center estimated that a 0.1 percent tax on stock trades, scaled with lower taxes on other assets, would raise $50 billion a year in tax revenue. The implied reduction in trading revenue was even larger. Senator Sanders has proposed a tax of 0.5 percent on equities (also with a scaled tax on other assets). This would lead to an even larger reduction in revenue for the financial industry.

          It is incredible that Sernovitz would ignore a policy with such enormous consequences for the financial sector in his assessment of which candidate would be tougher on Wall Street. Sanders FTT would almost certainly do more to change behavior on Wall Street then everything that Clinton has proposed taken together by a rather large margin. It's sort of like evaluating the New England Patriots' Super Bowl prospects without discussing their quarterback.

          Syaloch -> Peter K....

          Great to see Baker's acknowledgement that an updated Glass-Steagall is just one component of the progressive wing's plan to rein in Wall Street, not the sum total of it. Besides, if Wall Street types don't think restoring Glass-Steagall will have any meaningful effects, why do they expend so much energy to disparage it? Methinks they doth protest too much.

          Peter K. -> Syaloch...

          Yes that's a good way to look it. Wall Street gave the Democrats and Clinton a lot of campaign cash so that they would dismantle Glass-Steagall. If they want it done, it's probably not a good idea.

          EMichael -> Syaloch...

          Slippery slope. Ya' gotta find me a business of any type that does not protest any kind of regulation on their business.

          Syaloch -> EMichael...

          Yeah, but usually because of all the bad things they say will happen because of the regulation. The question is, what do they think of Clinton's plan? I've heard surprisingly little about that, and what I have heard is along these lines: http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/08/investing/hillary-clinton-wall-street-plan/

          "Hillary Clinton unveiled her big plan to curb the worst of Wall Street's excesses on Thursday. The reaction from the banking community was a shrug, if not relief."

          pgl -> Syaloch...

          Two excellent points!!!

          sanjait -> Syaloch...

          "Besides, if Wall Street types don't think restoring Glass-Steagall will have any meaningful effects, why do they expend so much energy to disparage it? Methinks they doth protest too much."

          It has an effect of shrinking the size of a few firms, and that has a detrimental effect on the top managers of those firms, who get paid more money if they have larger firms to manage. But it has little to no meaningful effect on systemic risk.

          So if your main policy goal is to shrink the compensation for a small number of powerful Wall Street managers, G-S is great. But if you actually want to accomplish something useful to the American people, like limiting systemic risk in the financial sector, then a plan like Hillary's is much much better. She explained this fairly well in her recent NYT piece.

          Paine -> Peter K....

          There is absolutely NO question Bernie is for real. Wall Street does not want Bernie. So they'll let Hillary talk as big as she needs to . Why should we believe her when an honest guy like Barry caved once in power

          Paine -> Paine ...

          Bernie has been anti Wall Street his whole career . He's on a crusade. Hillary is pulling a sham bola

          Paine -> Paine ...

          Perhaps too often we look at Wall Street as monolithic whether consciously or not. Obviously we know it's no monolithic: there are serious differences

          When the street is riding high especially. Right now the street is probably not united but too cautious to display profound differences in public. They're sitting on their hands waiting to see how high the anti Wall Street tide runs this election cycle. Trump gives them cover and I really fear secretly Hillary gives them comfort

          This all coiled change if Bernie surges. How that happens depends crucially on New Hampshire. Not Iowa

          EMichael -> Paine ...

          If Bernie surges and wins the nomination, we will all get to watch the death of the Progressive movement for a decade or two. Congress will become more GOP dominated, and we will have a President in office who will make Hoover look like a Socialist.

          Syaloch -> EMichael...

          Of course. In politics, as they say in the service, one must always choose the lesser of two evils. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4PzpxOj5Cc

          pgl -> EMichael...

          You should like the moderate Democrats after George McGovern ran in 1972. I'm hoping we have another 1964 with Bernie leading a united Democratic Congress.

          EMichael -> pgl...

          Not a chance in the world. And I like Sanders much more than anyone else. It just simply cannot, and will not, happen. He is a communist. Not to me, not to you, but to the vast majority of American voters.

          pgl -> EMichael...

          He is not a communist. But I agree - Hillary is winning the Democratic nomination. I have only one vote and in New York, I'm badly outnumbered.

          ilsm -> Paine ...

          I believe Hillary will be to liberal causes after she is elected as LBJ was to peace in Vietnam. Like Bill and Obomber.

          pgl -> ilsm...

          By 1968, LBJ finally realized it was time to end that stupid war. But it seems certain members in the State Department undermined his efforts in a cynical ploy to get Nixon to be President. The Republican Party has had more slime than substance of most of my life time.

          pgl -> Peter K....

          Gary Sernovitz, a managing director at the investment firm Lime Rock Partners? Why are we listening to this guy too. It's like letting the fox guard the hen house.

          sanjait -> Peter K....

          "The piece is bizarre both because it essentially dismisses the concern with too big to fail banks and completely ignores Sanders' proposal for a financial transactions tax which is by far the most important mechanism for reining in the financial industry."

          This is just wrong. Is financial system risk in any way correlated with the frequency of transactions? Except for market volatility from HFT ... no. The financial crisis wasn't caused by a high volume of trades. It was caused by bad investments into highly illiquid assets. Again, great example of wanting to punish Wall Street but not bothering to think about what actually works.

          Peter K. said...

          Robert Reich to the Fed: this is not the time to raise rates.

          https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1116088268403768

          RGC said...

          Iceland's Radical Money Plan

          Iceland, too, is looking at a radical transformation of its money system, after suffering the crushing boom/bust cycle of the private banking model that bankrupted its largest banks in 2008. According to a March 2015 article in the UK Telegraph:

          Iceland's government is considering a revolutionary monetary proposal – removing the power of commercial banks to create money and handing it to the central bank. The proposal, which would be a turnaround in the history of modern finance, was part of a report written by a lawmaker from the ruling centrist Progress Party, Frosti Sigurjonsson, entitled "A better monetary system for Iceland".

          "The findings will be an important contribution to the upcoming discussion, here and elsewhere, on money creation and monetary policy," Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson said. The report, commissioned by the premier, is aimed at putting an end to a monetary system in place through a slew of financial crises, including the latest one in 2008.

          Under this "Sovereign Money" proposal, the country's central bank would become the only creator of money. Banks would continue to manage accounts and payments and would serve as intermediaries between savers and lenders. The proposal is a variant of the Chicago Plan promoted by Kumhof and Benes of the IMF and the Positive Money group in the UK.

          Public Banking Initiatives in Iceland, Ireland and the UK

          A major concern with stripping private banks of the power to create money as deposits when they make loans is that it will seriously reduce the availability of credit in an already sluggish economy. One solution is to make the banks, or some of them, public institutions. They would still be creating money when they made loans, but it would be as agents of the government; and the profits would be available for public use, on the model of the US Bank of North Dakota and the German Sparkassen (public savings banks).

          In Ireland, three political parties – Sinn Fein, the Green Party and Renua Ireland (a new party) - are now supporting initiatives for a network of local publicly-owned banks on the Sparkassen model. In the UK, the New Economy Foundation (NEF) is proposing that the failed Royal Bank of Scotland be transformed into a network of public interest banks on that model. And in Iceland, public banking is part of the platform of a new political party called the Dawn Party.

          December 11, 2015
          Reinventing Banking: From Russia to Iceland to Ecuador

          by Ellen Brown

          http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/11/reinventing-banking-from-russia-to-iceland-to-ecuador/

          pgl -> RGC...

          "Banks would continue to manage accounts and payments and would serve as intermediaries between savers and lenders."

          OK but that means they issue bank accounts which of course we call deposits. So is this just semantics? People want checking accounts. People want savings accounts. Otherwise they would not exist. Iceland plans to do what to stop the private sector from getting what it wants?

          I like the idea of public banks. Let's nationalize JPMorganChase so we don't have to listen to Jamie Dimon anymore!

          sanjait -> pgl...

          I don't know for sure (not bothering to search and read the referenced proposals), but I assumed the described proposal was for an end to fractional reserve banking. Banks would have to have full reserves to make loans. Or something. I could be wrong about that.

          Syaloch said...

          Sorry, but Your Favorite Company Can't Be Your Friend

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/upshot/sorry-but-your-favorite-company-cant-be-your-friend.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

          To think that an artificial person, whether corporeal or corporate, can ever be your friend requires a remarkable level of self-delusion.

          A commenter on the Times site aptly quotes Marx in response:

          "The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

          "The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers."

          https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch01.htm

          [Dec 12, 2015] David Dayen Is This The Beginning of the Crackup in High-Yield Corporate Debt

          Notable quotes:
          "... It cuts two ways. Junk ETFs such as JNK and HYG have badly underperformed their benchmarks, owing to buying and selling in an illiquid market to replicate an index. Whereas actively managed junk mutual funds have the flexibility to deviate from index holdings in ways that can add a couple of hundred basis points a year. ..."
          "... Your apology is flawed because it assumes equal access to information among investors as well as assuming all investors have the same objective. Institutional investors have different goals than hedge funds for example. The people you refer to have been fleeced that's just ok with you. As to tea leaves the people have been steeped in recovery stories for years. ..."
          "... Wait, so speculators are shorting big bond positions of distressed funds? No way, hope they aren't doing this to ETF's. Jeez, didn't see this coming. I guess having the positions of big ETF's published daily might assist the speculators. ..."
          "... What I do remember (and I can't remember whether it was Spring of 2008 or earlier), was that HY spreads had gapped out at least a couple of hundred bps, and equities were still at or near all-time highs. I remember sitting in a meeting with a couple I-bankers, who chuckled ruefully "equities haven't a clue". ..."
          "... The received wisdom on the Street is that the bond market is smarter than the equity market. And, at last in my career, it was true, at least as far as downturns went. ..."
          naked capitalism
          MikeNY December 12, 2015 at 6:41 am

          Yes, junk is usually the canary in the coal mine. The HY market melted in the Summer of 2008, months before equities noticed what was going on. The question really is how much contagion there will be: how many CDS have been written on the distressed names, who holds them, etc. My instinct tells me that there are considerably less CDS on junk than were written on MBS, due to the smaller market, the lower liquidity and (supposed) credit quality. But how much has that changed since 2008? I dunno.

          One thing I do know: it's like the movie "Groundhog Day". The Fed always overstimulates, and there always follows a crash. Are there any bubbles left to blow, to 'reflate' assets next time?

          timmy December 12, 2015 at 9:39 am

          Your remark on written CDS is important. While it may be difficult to get liquidity on distressed names, it is less so on credit tiers above that or on indices. I'm sure there is some on junk, yes, but the real opportunity for spec CDS is (perhaps, was) on the BBB space which is the largest category in the investment grade market and is more liquid. While it may take awhile for distressed trading to creep up the credit ratings to the larger and more liquid names (specifically, since the definition of liquidity seems to be important on NC: the size of the specific issues' float, approximated with average daily volume), they will also have larger moves because potential fallen angels are repriced aggressively in an unstable market. The other thing about CDS is that they are most often delta-hedged which requires dealers to sell proxy's as the CDS go deeper into the money. The one restraining factor is that once a crisis is in motion, I think its going to be difficult for specs to get more CDS on their books. This strategy is purely directional (this is not an ETF NAV arb), essentially owning out of the money puts with minimal cost of carry.

          Jim Haygood December 12, 2015 at 1:39 pm

          'Their investing strategy – putting high-risk investments into a mutual fund – seems like exactly what not to do.'

          It cuts two ways. Junk ETFs such as JNK and HYG have badly underperformed their benchmarks, owing to buying and selling in an illiquid market to replicate an index. Whereas actively managed junk mutual funds have the flexibility to deviate from index holdings in ways that can add a couple of hundred basis points a year.

          That said, both junk ETFs and junk mutual funds are offering daily liquidity, while holding underlying securities that may trade once a week, or have no bids at all. As David Dayen observes, this sets up the risk of a bank run when investors get spooked.

          Take a look at the "power dive" chart of TFCIX (Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund) - Aiieeeeee!

          http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/quickchart/quickchart.asp?symb=tfcix&insttype=&freq=&show=

          Now the question is contagion. Morningstar shows that 48% of TFCIX's portfolio was below B rating, and 41% had no bond rating. Most junk funds don't have THAT ugly a portfolio. But when the herd starts to stampede, fine distinctions can get lost in the dust cloud from the thundering hooves.

          Over to you, J-Yel. Do you feel lucky, cherie? Well, do you?

          Mike Sparrow December 12, 2015 at 3:48 pm

          There is no CDS. There just isn't less, there is none. The stock market has pretty much ignored it as well except that its move from 13000 to 18000 has temporarily stalled. I suspect by the spring, this will be old news.

          I think we make errors here, not understanding this particular type of financial speculation is "anti-growth" in general. This would probably blow most of the minds on this board.

          Keith December 12, 2015 at 7:27 am

          Many years ago when Alan Greenspan first proposed using monetary policy to control economies, the critics said this was far too broad a brush.

          After the dot.com crash Alan Greenspan loosened monetary policy to get the economy going again. The broad brush effect stoked a housing boom.

          When he tightened interest rates, to cool down the economy, the broad brush effect burst the housing bubble. The teaser rate mortgages unfortunately introduced enough of a delay so that cause and effect were too far apart to see the consequences of interest rate rises as they were occurring.

          The end result 2008.

          With this total failure of monetary policy to control an economy and a clear demonstration of the broad brush effect behind us, everyone decided to use the same idea after 2008.

          Interest rates are at rock bottom around the globe, with trillions of QE pumped into the global economy.

          The broad brush effect has blown bubbles everywhere.

          "9 August 2007 – BNP Paribas freeze three of their funds, indicating that they have no way of valuing the complex assets inside them known as collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), or packages of sub-prime loans. It is the first major bank to acknowledge the risk of exposure to sub-prime mortgage markets. Adam Applegarth (right), Northern Rock's chief executive, later says that it was "the day the world changed"

          10th December 2015 – "Moments ago, we learned courtesy of the head of Mutual Fund Research at Morningstar, Russ Kinnel, that the next leg of the junk bond crisis has officially arrived, after Third Avenue announced it has blocked investor redemptions from its high yield-heavy Focused Credit Fund, which according to the company has entered a "Plan of Liquidation" effective December 9."
          When investor's can't get their money out of funds they panic.

          Central Bank low interest rate policies encourage investors to look at risky environments to get a reasonable return

          Pre-2007 – Sub-prime based complex financial instruments
          Now – Junk bonds

          The ball is rolling and the second hedge fund has closed its doors, investors money is trapped in a world of loss.

          "Here Is "Gate" #2: $1.3 Billion Hedge Fund Founded By Ex-Bear Stearns Traders, Just Suspended Redemptions"

          We know the world is downing in debt and Greece is the best example I can think of that shows the reluctance to admit the debt is unsustainable.

          Housing booms and busts across the globe ……

          Those bankers have saturated the world with their debt products.

          Keith December 12, 2015 at 7:29 am

          Links (which will probably require moderation)

          Skippy December 12, 2015 at 7:41 am

          Quality of instruments impaired by corruption has a more deleterious effect than quantities of could ever imagine…

          David December 12, 2015 at 10:33 am

          "Those bankers have saturated the world with their debt products."

          I'm no apologist for Banksters but people bought this "stuff" as the Stuffies.

          whether you call it greed or desperation in the face of zero yield – at the end of the day the horizon was short since the last debacle.

          getting 2 & 20 or whatever the comp arrangement was for those who are motivated by greed – 2% of $2 Billion yields at least $40 million a year for 5 years or $200 million – not bad for ten guys or less – obviously not fiduciaries – bouncing from Bear to Tudor to Third Ave with no change in the model yields predictable results

          I put forth the proposition the "people" deserve their fate – the tea leaves were all there to see

          tegnost December 12, 2015 at 10:52 am

          Your apology is flawed because it assumes equal access to information among investors as well as assuming all investors have the same objective. Institutional investors have different goals than hedge funds for example. The people you refer to have been fleeced that's just ok with you. As to tea leaves the people have been steeped in recovery stories for years.

          Ian December 12, 2015 at 2:24 pm

          Also fails to recognize the collateral damage caused towards the people that did not directly participate. It is very hard to say that they deserve their fate in this context, in that they were largely powerless to stop it to begin with, at a reasonable level.

          Ian December 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm

          I guess you qualified that with focusing solely on the people who bought it. Did not read fully.

          Timmy December 12, 2015 at 8:34 am

          Wait, so speculators are shorting big bond positions of distressed funds? No way, hope they aren't doing this to ETF's. Jeez, didn't see this coming. I guess having the positions of big ETF's published daily might assist the speculators.

          Jim Haygood December 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm

          Yesterday HYG closed at a 0.76% discount to NAV, while JNK closed at a 0.68% discount (values from Morningstar). These are wider discounts than ETF managers like to see.

          The arbitrage mechanism of buying the discounted ETF shares, redeeming them for the underlying, and then selling the bonds at full value for an instant 0.76% gain is supposed to kick in now.

          But sell … to whom?

          Timmy December 12, 2015 at 4:51 pm

          The misperception is that the ETF junk trade is an arb right now. Its not, its directional. The discipline to bring NAV's in line with underlying value will only kick in at much wider levels because traders are still long (and putting on more of) the "widener" because they anticipate higher levels of vol going forward.

          tegnost December 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

          Actually have already been bracing myself as demand for labor fell off a cliff at the end of sept., and I'm guessing it's stories such as this that makes my customers tighten their belts....

          nat scientist December 12, 2015 at 9:55 am

          "Some say the world will end in fire
          Some say in ice
          From what I've tasted of desire
          I hold with those who favor (fire) INFLATION
          But if it had to (perish) REFINANCE twice,
          I think I know enough of (hate) ZIRP RATES
          To say that for destruction (ice) NO BID
          Is also great
          And would suffice."

          Marty Whitman now gets Robert Frost.

          craazyboy December 12, 2015 at 4:26 pm

          All those junk companies could just declare bankruptcy and start over. That's the way it's supposed to work. Just ask The Donald. Then it would be like that movie where Bruce Willis saved the earth from an asteroid strike. 'Course there was only one asteroid in that movie. Instead, we have World War Z with zombies all over the place!

          But maybe JYell will buy all the junk bonds, burn them, and then the dollar will crash and we can all get jobs?

          Christer Kamb December 12, 2015 at 1:44 pm

          MikeNY said;

          "The HY market melted in the Summer of 2008, months before equities noticed what was going on."

          Not really. HYG market were in a downtrend during summer of 2007, together with the stockmarket. Also in the 2008 summer both markets were in a severe meltdown. This time around the HYG´s started their downtrend from summer 2014 with the 1:st leg down to dec same year. 2:nd leg is now running in which the stockmarket joined.

          Your right, HYG´s seems to be the canaries here! But, from august this year they seems to go in different directions. Or are they?

          MikeNY December 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm

          You're right, it was earlier than Summer 2008, now I think about it.

          What I do remember (and I can't remember whether it was Spring of 2008 or earlier), was that HY spreads had gapped out at least a couple of hundred bps, and equities were still at or near all-time highs. I remember sitting in a meeting with a couple I-bankers, who chuckled ruefully "equities haven't a clue".

          The received wisdom on the Street is that the bond market is smarter than the equity market. And, at last in my career, it was true, at least as far as downturns went.

          [Dec 12, 2015] Robert Reich to the Fed: this is not the time to raise rates

          Notable quotes:
          "... Within days the Fed will begin hiking interest rates in an effort to prevent inflation. This is nuts. There's no sign of dangerous inflation anywhere. Raising rates will just slow the economy, making it harder for people to find jobs. The share of working-age people in jobs is near a 40-year low. Watch our video to find out what this is all about -- and how it will affect you. ..."
          www.facebook.com

          Robert Reich

          Within days the Fed will begin hiking interest rates in an effort to prevent inflation. This is nuts. There's no sign of dangerous inflation anywhere. Raising rates will just slow the economy, making it harder for people to find jobs. The share of working-age people in jobs is near a 40-year low. Watch our video to find out what this is all about -- and how it will affect you.

          Dwight McCabe

          According to Paul Krugman the banks desperately need rates higher so they make more profits. With these very low rates they are stuck in low profit. The Fed lives in the financial culture and all the learned people around them, bankers, are convinced that the economy needs higher rates. The economy will not benefit but the financial community sure will.

          David Van Dyne

          ...By the way, how about the negative returns on money market funds invested through a 401(k) plan?

          [Dec 12, 2015] The American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it

          Notable quotes:
          "... I would merely point out that the out-of-touch elite is not confined to the Republican Party. There are substantial elements within the Brookings-Third Way wing of the Democratic coalition that would rather cut Social Security than establish a sensible retirement-income system, and that would rather cut Medicare than improve the efficiency of health care finance and delivery, after all. ..."
          "... Why a one-percentage-point rise in the GDP share of Social Security is something that calls in any technocratic sense for cuts to the Social Security system is something that eludes me. What cutting Social Security has to do with reducing poverty eludes me. But it is something that all fifteen of the authors thought was so obvious as to require no explanation or justification whatsoever... ..."
          Economist's View

          Links for 12-12-15

          Syaloch said in reply to anne...

          In other news, here at home we're shrinking too.

          http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/

          The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground
          No longer the majority and falling behind financially

          After more than four decades of serving as the nation's economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

          Peter K. said...

          I don't believe I've seen DeLong talk this way before. He and Krugman often focus on the Republicans or the European VSPs, with good reason.

          But if Hillary doesn't move the ball down the field despite Republican opposition, increasing inequality will make politics worse and worse.

          http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/12/live-from-evans-hall-i-would-merely-point-out-that-the-out-of-touch-elite-is-not-confined-to-the-republican-party-ther.html

          Live from Evans Hall: I would merely point out that the out-of-touch elite is not confined to the Republican Party. There are substantial elements within the Brookings-Third Way wing of the Democratic coalition that would rather cut Social Security than establish a sensible retirement-income system, and that would rather cut Medicare than improve the efficiency of health care finance and delivery, after all.

          As all of the authors of the Brookings-AEI joint "consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream" write:

          there are reasonable ways both to cut spending and to raise revenue that are consistent with our core values. For example, Social Security spending is projected to consume over one percentage point more of national income in 2040 than it does today...

          Why a one-percentage-point rise in the GDP share of Social Security is something that calls in any technocratic sense for cuts to the Social Security system is something that eludes me. What cutting Social Security has to do with reducing poverty eludes me. But it is something that all fifteen of the authors thought was so obvious as to require no explanation or justification whatsoever...

          Paul Krugman: Empowering the Ugliness: "The story is quite different in America...

          Continue reading "" "

          [Dec 11, 2015] Dangers of reaching for yield

          The quest for yield is pushing investors into risk in a frantic hunt for yield in an environment where risk free assets yield at best an inflation adjusted zero and at worst have a negative carrying cost. Add to this fake earnings and share repurchases that weaken many companies including such stalwart as IBM and you get the message.
          Notable quotes:
          "... A firm founded by legendary vulture investor Martin Whitman is barring investor withdrawals while it liquidates its high-yield bond fund, an unusual move that highlights the severity of the months long junk-bond plunge that has swept Wall Street. ..."
          "... All 30 of the largest high-yield bond funds tracked by Morningstar have lost money this year, reflecting price declines as investors shied away from risk. ..."
          "... "Investors have been dazzled that yields on bonds have climbed so high, even while default rates remained low," said Martin Fridson, founder of Lehmann Livian Fridson Advisors and a longtime junk-bond analyst. "Currently, though, the ability to sell a large position is especially poor…. When that tension gets especially high, you can see something snap." ..."
          "... Speculation by retail investors in high risk instruments like high yield bonds, oil ETN funds (based off oil futures), gold funds, etc rose tremendously during ZIPR period. Probably several billions were lost by retail investors during this period in search for yield. The same is true about participation of retail investors in regular casino games such as stock funds and indexes like S&P500. ..."
          economistsview.typepad.com

          BenIsNotYoda said... Friday, December 11, 2015 at 03:42 AM

          Another leg of the reach-for-yield/carry trade crumbling. Emerging markets, commodities and now corporate high yield. No bubbles here. Carry on.

          http://www.wsj.com/articles/as-high-yield-debt-reels-mutual-fund-blocks-holders-from-redeeming-1449767526

          Junk Fund's Demise Fuels Concern Over Bond Rout

          Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund takes rare step, seeking an orderly liquidation as junk-bond market swoons

          A firm founded by legendary vulture investor Martin Whitman is barring investor withdrawals while it liquidates its high-yield bond fund, an unusual move that highlights the severity of the months long junk-bond plunge that has swept Wall Street.

          The decision by Third Avenue Management LLC means investors in the $789 million Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund may not receive all their money back for months, if not more.

          BenIsNotYoda said in reply to BenIsNotYoda...
          of course, biotech has to be added to this list; down 20%.
          pgl said in reply to BenIsNotYoda...
          Amgen shares trading at $145 and Gilead shares trading at $102. Not feeling sorry for these dudes.
          pgl said in reply to BenIsNotYoda...
          Talk about burying the lead:

          "The yield spread between junk-rated debt and U.S. Treasurys narrowed to a multiyear low in mid-2014, reflecting investors' confidence in companies' business prospects. But spreads have since risen, reflecting lower prices, as the energy bust intensified questions about junk-rated companies' ability to repay debts. All 30 of the largest high-yield bond funds tracked by Morningstar have lost money this year, reflecting price declines as investors shied away from risk.

          "Investors have been dazzled that yields on bonds have climbed so high, even while default rates remained low," said Martin Fridson, founder of Lehmann Livian Fridson Advisors and a longtime junk-bond analyst. "Currently, though, the ability to sell a large position is especially poor…. When that tension gets especially high, you can see something snap."

          The Securities and Exchange Commission has been warning mutual-fund managers who purchase illiquid securities-those that may be difficult to buy or sell at stated prices because of a lack of willing investors-to prepare better for potential redemptions and is drawing up new rules requiring such measures."

          Simply put - people who go into the junk bond market get a very high return but they also take the risk. No feeling sorry for these guys especially given that the SEC gave them fair warning.

          Peter K. said in reply to pgl...
          "All 30 of the largest high-yield bond funds tracked by Morningstar have lost money this year, reflecting price declines as investors shied away from risk."

          Investors are shying away from risk? I thought ZIRP encouraged reach-for-yield.

          The market goes up and down. Only drama queens would see a bubble like the tech stock bubble or housing bubble in the data.

          http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/matt-o-brien-takes-obama-to-task-on-fed-appointees

          Dean Baker again:

          "Preventing the rebirth of housing bubbles in these markets was a very good thing in my book. I will add the qualification that high interest rates is not my preferred way of bursting bubbles. The first recourse should be talk, as in using the Fed's bully pulpit, coupled with its research, to warn the markets of rising bubbles. Janet Yellen did this successfully in the summer of 2014 when she used congressional testimony to warn of bubbles in social media companies, biotech stocks, and junk bonds. She did not follow through with subsequent warnings, but all three markets did take a hit in the weeks following her testimony.

          For some reason most economists reject the idea of having the Fed talk down bubbles. I guess it is considered impolite. This seems more than a bit bizarre given the enormous damage done by bursting bubbles compared with the virtually costless effort to talk them down.

          Of course the Fed also has substantial regulatory powers which can be used to curb bank lending to support bubbles. This is also a policy option that should be pursued before deliberately slowing the economy with higher interest rates.

          Anyhow, I was not happy to see the economy slowed by the Taper Tantrum, but I was very happy to see that it prevented the growth of another bubble. It is unfortunate that almost no one knows this story - I guess it is difficult for reporters to get access to the Case-Shiller data on the web."

          pgl said in reply to Peter K....
          "The market goes up and down. Only drama queens would see a bubble like the tech stock bubble or housing bubble in the data."

          Yep! And the lack of QE of late has driven up both government bond rates and credit spreads. Now wonder these vulture investors lost money. I'm not feeling for them a bit. And yes - BenIsNotYoda was being a drama queen.

          likbez said in reply to Peter K....
          "Investors are shying away from risk? I thought ZIRP encouraged reach-for-yield."

          Yes, very true.

          Speculation by retail investors in high risk instruments like high yield bonds, oil ETN funds (based off oil futures), gold funds, etc rose tremendously during ZIPR period. Probably several billions were lost by retail investors during this period in search for yield. The same is true about participation of retail investors in regular casino games such as stock funds and indexes like S&P500.

          Conservative investments like TIPS suffered.

          [Dec 11, 2015] Demand, Supply, and what is new after 2008

          Notable quotes:
          "... Robert Waldmann writes that that the reason Krugman was surprised by the failure of the supply side is that he didn't pay enough attention to the European unemployment problem. The natural unemployment rate hypothesis failed spectacularly in Europe in the 1980s. Extremely high unemployment did not lead to deflation - rather it coexisted with moderate inflation for a long time, then with low inflation. By 2008, the flat Phillips curve was already very clear to anyone who read Italian newspapers. ..."
          angrybearblog.com
          Angry Bear

          ... ... ...

          The natural unemployment rate hypothesis failed spectacularly in Europe in the 1980s. Extremely high unemployment did not lead to deflation - rather it coexisted with moderate inflation for a long time, then with low inflation.

          Krugman posted a graph showing how the US graph of inflation and unemployment has changed (just click the link and look). In the past high unemployment gradually lead to lower inflation and then to lower inflation and unemployment - this is the pattern predicted by Friedman, Phelps, Tobin (and discussed already by Samuelson and Solow in 1960). But in the recent past extremely high unemployment has come with low and stable core inflation.

          Things used look very different here in Italy than in the USA. Here is a graph of data from before January 2008. Extremely high unemployment was consistent with moderate and then with low inflation. The only clear shift in inflation occurred in 1996 and 1997 (which may or may not be when Italians began to think they might actually earn the wonderful reward of being allowed to adopt the Euro).

          filipograph

          By 2008, The flat Phillips curve (the Fillipo curve?) was already very clear to anyone who read Italian newspapers.

          Here are all data which are available on FRED (yes I sit in Rome and surf to St Louis for Italian data). Oddly the harmonized unemployment series is only available (at FRED) from 1983 on.

          filipo2

          In this graph there is also very little sign of Friedman-Phelps cycles. The old pattern was a steady decline from extremely high inflation - it looks almost like an expectations unaugmented Phillips curve. But then (really from 1986 on) there was fairly stable moderate to low inflation along with extreme swings in unemployment. I stress that this is CPI inflation including food and energy not core inflation. the peak oil spike in 2007 and the collapse in 2008 are clearly visible. It is possible that the most recent observations show a slide to actual persistent deflation, but it is more likely that the recent decline in inflation is due to the collapse of the price of oil.

          Unlearning economic paradigms | Bruegel , November 30, 2015 7:22 am

          […] Robert Waldmann writes that that the reason Krugman was surprised by the failure of the supply side is that he didn't pay enough attention to the European unemployment problem. The natural unemployment rate hypothesis failed spectacularly in Europe in the 1980s. Extremely high unemployment did not lead to deflation - rather it coexisted with moderate inflation for a long time, then with low inflation. By 2008, the flat Phillips curve was already very clear to anyone who read Italian newspapers. […]

          [Dec 11, 2015] Why Its Tricky for Fed Officials to Talk Politically

          "There is no reason for central banks to have the kind of independence that judicial institutions have. Justice may be blind and above politics, but money and banking are not." Economic and politics are like Siamese twins (which actually . If somebody trying to separate them it is a clear sign that the guy is either neoliberal propagandists or outright crook.
          Notable quotes:
          "... I think FED chairman is the second most powerful political position in the USA after the POTUS. Or may be in some respects it is even the first ;-) So it is quintessentially high-power political position masked with the smokescreen of purely economic (like many other things are camouflaged under neoliberalism.) ..."
          "... I think that is a hidden principle behind attacks on FED chair. A neoliberal principle that the state should not intrude into economics and limit itself to the police, security, defense, law enforcement and few other related to this functions. So their point that she overextended her mandate is an objection based on principle. Which can be violated only if it is used to uphold neoliberalism, as Greenspan did during his career many times. ..."
          "... This kind of debate seems to be a by-product of the contemporary obsession with having an independent central bank, run according to the fantasy that there is such a thing as a neutral or apolitical way to conduct monetary policy. ..."
          "... A number of commenters and authors have recently pointed out that inequality may not just be an unrelated phenomenon to monetary policy, but actually, in part at least, a byproduct of it. ..."
          "... The theory is that the Fed in the Great Moderation age has been so keen to stave off even the possibility of inflation that it chokes down the vigor of recoveries before they get to the part where median wages start rising quickly. The result is that wages get ratcheted down with the economic cycle, falling during recessions and never fully recovering during the recoveries. ..."
          "... Two Things: (i) The Fed should be open and honest about monetary policy. No one wants to return to the Greenspan days. (ii) Brad Delong is a neoliberal hack. ..."
          "... As to why risk a political backlash in the piece, the short answer is: to invoke the debate on whether politics or fact (science) is going to dominate. Because they can't both. See: Romer. Let's have this out once and for all. ..."
          Dec 11, 2015 | Economist's View
          anne said...
          Fine column, with which I agree. Federal Reserve policy as such is difficult and contentious enough to avoid wandering to social-economic analysis or philosophy from aspects of the Fed mandate.

          As for the use of the word "hack" in referring to Janet Yellen, that needlessly insulting use was by a Washington Post editor and not by columnist Michael Strain.

          anne -> RW (the other)...

          As Brad notes, many Fed Chairs before Yellen have opined on matters outside monetary policy so why is Yellen subject to a different standard?

          [ Fine, I have reconsidered and agree. No matter how the headline was written, the headline was meant to be intimidating and was willfully mean and that could and should have been made clear immediately by the writer of the column. ]

          likbez -> anne...

          "Federal Reserve policy as such is difficult and contentious enough to avoid wandering to social-economic analysis or philosophy from aspects of the Fed mandate."

          Anne,

          I think FED chairman is the second most powerful political position in the USA after the POTUS. Or may be in some respects it is even the first ;-) So it is quintessentially high-power political position masked with the smokescreen of "purely economic" (like many other things are camouflaged under neoliberalism.)

          That's why Greenspan got it, while being despised by his Wall-Street colleagues...

          He got it because he was perfect for promoting deregulation political agenda from the position of FED chair.

          pgl -> likbez...

          Greenspan was despised on Wall Street? Wow as he tried so hard to serve their interests. I guess the Wall Street crowd is never happy no matter how much income we feed these blow hards.

          anne -> likbez...

          So it is quintessentially high-power political position masked with the smokescreen of "purely economic" (like many other things are camouflaged under neoliberalism.)

          [ I understand, and am convinced. ]

          Peter K. said...

          I respectfully disagree. Republicans are always working the refs and despite what the writer from AEI said, they're okay with conservative Fed chairs talking politics. They have double standards.

          Greenspan testified to Congress on behalf of Bush's tax cuts for the rich. Something about how since Clinton balanced the budget, the financial markets had too little safe debt to work with. (maybe that's why they dove into mortgaged-backed securities). But tax cuts versus more government spending? He and Rubin advised Clinton to drop his middle class spending bill and trade deficit reduction for lower interest rates. That's economics which have political outcomes.

          So if the rightwing is going to work the the refs, so should the left. We shouldn't unilaterally disarm over fears Congress will gun for the Fed. There should be more groups like Fed Up protesting.

          The good thing about Yellen's speech is that it's a signal to progressives that inequality is problem for her even as she is raising rates in a political dance with hawks and Congress.

          The Fed is constantly accused of increasing inequality so it's good Yellen is saying she thinks it's a bad thing and not American.

          Bernie Sanders is right that for change to happen we'll need more political involvement from regular citizens. We'll need a popular movement with many leaders.

          The Fed should be square in the sights of a progressive movement. A high-pressured economy with full employment should be a top priority.

          Instead I saw Nancy Pelosi being interviewed by Al Hunt on Charlie Rose the other night. Hunt asked her about Yellen raising rates.

          Pelosi said no comment as she wasn't looking at the data Yellen was and didn't want to interfere. The Fed should be independent, etc. Perhaps like Thoma she has the best of motives and doesn't want to motivate the Republicans to go after the Fed and oppose what she wants.

          Still I felt the Democratic leadership should be committed to a high-pressure economy. Her staff should know what Krugman, Summers etc are saying. What the IMF and World Bank are sayings.

          She should have said "they shouldn't raise rates until they see the whites of inflation's eyes" as Krugman memorably put it. She should have said that emphatically.

          We need a Democratic Party like that.

          Instead Peter Diamond is blocked from becoming a Fed governor by Republicans and Pelosi is afraid to comment on monetary policy.

          Peter K. -> Peter K....

          A longer reply from DeLong:

          http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/12/must-read-i-would-beg-the-highly-esteemed-mark-thoma-to-draw-a-distinction-here-between-inappropriate-and-unwise-in-m.html

          Must-Read: I would beg the highly-esteemed Mark Thoma to draw a distinction here between "inappropriate" and unwise. In my view, it is not at all inappropriate for Fed Chair Janet Yellen to express her concern about excessive inequality. Previous Fed Chairs, after all, have expressed their liking for inequality as an essential engine of economic growth over and over again over the past half century--with exactly zero critical snarking from the American Enterprise Institute for trespassing beyond the boundaries of their role.

          But that it is not inappropriate for Janet Yellen to do so does not mean that it is wise. Mark's argument is, I think, that given the current political situation it is unwise for Janet to further incite the ire of the nutboys in the way that even the mildest expression of concern about rising inequality will do.

          That may or may not be true. I think it is not.

          But I do not think that bears on my point that Michael R. Strain's arguments that Janet Yellen's speech on inequality was inappropriate are void, wrong, erroneous, inattentive to precedent, shoddy, expired, expired, gone to meet their maker, bereft of life, resting in peace, pushing up the daisies, kicked the bucket, shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the bleeding choir invisible:

          Mark Thoma: Why It's Tricky for Fed Officials to Talk Politically: "I think I disagree with Brad DeLong...

          pgl -> Peter K....

          "my point that Michael R. Strain's arguments that Janet Yellen's speech on inequality was inappropriate are void, wrong, erroneous..."

          DeLong is exactly right here. Strain's argument has its own share of partisan lies whereas Yellen is telling the truth. Brad will not be intimidated by this AEI weasel.

          sanjait said...

          Why would Yellen not talk about inequality? It's an important macroeconomic topic and one that is relevant for her job. It's both an input and an output variable that is related to monetary policy.

          And, arguably I think, median wage growth should be regarded as a policy goal for the Fed, related to its explicit mandate of "maximum employment."

          But even if you think inequality is unrelated to the Fed's policy goals, that doesn't stop them from talking about other topics. Do people accuse the Fed of playing politics when they talk about desiring reduced financial market volatility? That has little to do with growth, employment and general price stability.

          likbez -> sanjait...

          I think that is a hidden principle behind attacks on FED chair. A neoliberal principle that the state should not intrude into economics and limit itself to the police, security, defense, law enforcement and few other related to this functions. So their point that she overextended her mandate is an objection based on principle. Which can be violated only if it is used to uphold neoliberalism, as Greenspan did during his career many times.

          Sandwichman said...

          I think I disagree with Mark Thoma's disagreement with Brad DeLong. Actually, ALL economic discourse is political and efforts to restrain the politics are inevitably efforts to keep the politics one-sided

          Dan Kervick said...

          This kind of debate seems to be a by-product of the contemporary obsession with having an "independent" central bank, run according to the fantasy that there is such a thing as a neutral or apolitical way to conduct monetary policy.

          But there really isn't. Different kinds of social, economic and political values and policy agendas are going to call for different kinds monetary and credit policies. It might be better for our political health if the Fed were administratively re-located as an executive branch agency that is in turn part of a broader Department of Money and Banking - no different from the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Education, etc. In that case everybody would then view Fed governors as ordinary executive branch appointees who report to the President, and whose policies are naturally an extension of the administration's broader agenda. Then if people don't like the monetary policies that are carried out, that would be one factor in their decision about whom to vote for.

          There is no reason for central banks to have the kind of independence that judicial institutions have. Justice may be blind and above politics, but money and banking are not. Decisions in that latter area should be no more politics-free than decisions about taxing and spending. If we fold the central bank more completely into the regular processes of representative government, then if a candidate wants to run on a platform of keeping interest rates low, small business credit easy, bank profits small, etc., they could do so without all of the doubletalk about the protecting the independence of the sacrosanct bankers' temple.

          We could also then avoid unproductive wheel-spinning about that impossibly vague and hedged Fed mandate that can be stretched to mean almost anything people want it to mean. The Fed's mandate under the political solution would just be whatever monetary policy the President ran on.

          likbez -> Dan Kervick...

          "The Fed's mandate under the political solution would just be whatever monetary policy the President ran on"

          Perfect !

          Actually sanjait in his post made a good point why this illusive goal is desirable (providing "electoral advantage") although Greenspan probably violated this rule. A couple of hikes of interest rates from now till election probably will doom Democrats.

          Also the idea of FEB independence went into overdrive since 80th not accidentally. It has its value in enhancing the level of deregulation.

          Among other things it helps to protect large financial institutions from outright nationalization in cases like 2008.

          Does somebody in this forum really think that Bernanke has an option of putting a couple of Wall-Street most violent and destructive behemoths into receivership (in other words nationalize them) in 2008 without Congress approval ?

          Dan Kervick -> Sanjait ...

          Sanjait, with due respect, you are not really responding to the reform proposal, but only affirming the differences between that proposal and the current system.

          Yes, of course fiscal policy is "constrained" by Congress. Indeed, it is not just constrained by Congress but actually made by Congress, subject only to an overridable executive branch veto. The executive branch is responsible primarily for carrying out the legislature's fiscal directives. That's the point. In a democratic system decisions about all forms of taxation and government spending are supposed to be made by the elected legislative branch, and then executed by agencies of the executive branch. My proposal is that monetary policy should be handled in the same way: by the elected political branches of the government.

          You point out that under c