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Financial Skeptic Bulletin, 2015

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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 :-( ).


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[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] 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 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 its so much easier to make propaganda against Mr Putins 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 USAs 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 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 current arrangements, central banks can, if they choose, effect large monetary offsets to fiscal policy (or at least to some of the aggregate macroeconomic effects of those policies). I don't understand why any non-elected and politically unaccountable branch of our government should have the power to offset the policies of the elected branches in this way. Fiscal and monetary policy need to be yoked together to achieve policy ends effectively. Those policy ends should be the ones people vote for, not the ones a handful of men and women happen to think are appropriate.

          JF -> Dan Kervick...

          "In a democratic system" is what you wrote.

          It is more proper to refer to it as republicanism. The separation of powers doctrine, underlying the US constitution, is a reflection of James Madison's characterization in the 51st The Federalist Paper, and it is a US-defined republicanism that is almost unique:

          "the republican form, wherein the legislative authority necessarily predominates."

          - or something like that is the quote.

          In the US framers' view, at least those who constructed the re-write in 1787 and were the leaders - I'd say the most important word in Madison's explanation is the word "necessarily" - this philosophy has all law and policy stemming from the public, it presumes that you can't have stability and dynamic change of benefit to society without this.

          Arguably, aristocracies, fascists, totalitarians, and all the other isms, just don't see it that way, they see things as top-down ordering of society.

          The mythology of the monetary theorizing and the notions about a central bank being independently delphic has some of this top-down ordering view to it (austerianism, comes to mind). Well, I don't believe in a religious sense that this is how it should be, nor do you it seems.

          It will be an interesting Congress in 2017 when new legislative authorities are enacted to establish clearer framing of the ministerial duties now held by the FRB.

          Are FED officials scared that this will happen, and as a result they circle the wagons with their associates in the financial community now to fend off the public????

          I hope this is not true. They can allay their own fears by leading not back toward 1907, in my opinion.

          Of course, I could say where I'd like economic policies to go, and do here often, but this thread is about Yellin and other FED officials.

          I recognize that FRB officials can say things too, and should, as leaders of this nation (with a whole lot of research power and evidence available to them their commentary on political economics should have merit and be influential).

          Thanks for continuing to remind people that we govern ourselves in the US in a US-defined republican-form. But I think the people still respect and listen to leadership - so speak out FED officials.

          JF -> Dan Kervick...

          But Dan K, then you'd de-mythologize an entire wing of macroeconomics in a wing referred to as monetary theory based on a separate Central Bank, or some non-political theory of money.

          Don't mind the theory as it is an analytic framework that questions and sometimes informs - but it is good to step back and realize some of the religious-like framing.

          It is political-economy.

          Peter K. -> pgl...

          Yellen really lays it out in her speech.

          "The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me. The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression. By some estimates, income and wealth inequality are near their highest levels in the past hundred years, much higher than the average during that time span and probably higher than for much of American history before then.2 It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority. I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation's history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity."

          And even links to Piketty in footnote 42.

          "Along with other economic advantages, it is likely that large inheritances play a role in the fairly limited intergenerational mobility that I described earlier.42"

          42. This topic is discussed extensively in Thomas Piketty (2014), Capital in the 21st Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press). Return to text

          Sanjait said...

          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.

          Do I believe this theory? Increasingly, yes I do. And seeing the Fed right now decide to raise rates, citing accelerating wage growth as one of the main reasons, has reinforced my belief.

          A Boy Named Sue said...

          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.

          A Boy Named Sue -> A Boy Named Sue...

          I do admit, Delong is my favorite conservative economist. He is witty and educational, unlike most RW hacks.

          Jeff said...

          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] Demise of the US Middle Class Now Official

          Notable quotes:
          "... The US is in the midst of transforming itself into a much lower wage environment for all employers. ..."
          "... Now the most telling part: Of the households with children in their twenties (a mixture of high school only and graduates in an approximately 50/50 mix of the two) none - absolutely none - can afford to live in the same style as their parents did. ..."
          "... Those with no college degree are having, again, to live with their parents until they can afford somewhere to rent. ..."
          "... Damn those neo-liberals, damn them to hell! ..."
          "... Newsweek ran a story last year, titled "The Hit Men," about executives responsible for massive layoffs. The chief executives of AT T, Nynex, Sears, Philip Morris and Delta Air Lines were high on the list. Of course, international competition plays a role in some downsizings, but as Newsweek's list makes clear, it is hardly the most important cause of the phenomenon. To my knowledge there are no Japanese keiretsu competing to carry my long-distance calls or South Korean conglomerates offering me local service. Nor have many Americans started buying their home appliances at Mexican stores or smoking French cigarettes. I cannot fly Cathay Pacific from Boston to New York. … ..."
          "... The ONLY reason these corporate scum downsize is to artificially drive up "productivity" numbers, not real growth in anything, just productivity (because fewer workers NOW have to do the work of 3, and THAT for less pay than before! Instant explosion in productivity!). This only serves to bump up share prices which don't actually reflect anything of value or even approach reality on its own terms. They get to say, "See? Massive increase in productivity, so pay me a bazillion damn dollars in 'bonus". ..."
          "... Every pay cut, every job loss should be legally tied to a requirement to lay off a proportionate number of execs AND a proportional cut to top pay and compensation. The income of the top MUST be hard-locked to pay for workers. Worker pay and compensation decreases, then so MUST executive pay and compensation. ..."
          "... America was a young country full of opportunity, like China a decade or two ago. As a nation matures the wealth concentrates without strong progressive taxation and high inheritance taxes. Now US social mobility is on a par with the UK, putting it at the second lowest in Europe which is pretty bad. Our privately educated elite are an obvious cause of low social mobility in the UK and perhaps private universities are doing the same job in the US. ..."
          "... The 20th Century saw progressive taxation to do away with old money elites and so looking at the playing field now can be rather deceptive. Today's ideal is unregulated, trickledown Capitalism. We had unregulated, trickledown Capitalism in the UK in the 19th Century ..."
          "... The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863: ..."
          "... Our current wealth distribution is more the product of meritocracy than of inheritance. Harvard decided to go meritocratic back in the '50s. The average IQ of the incoming freshman class skyrocketed. There were still legacies, of course, but the whole Ivy League opened up to highly motivated, highly intelligent strivers. The result, in my view, and in the views of 'The Bell Curve' and 'The Revolt of the Elites' was a cognitive elite taking all the best jobs. Ivy league dominance of the most desirable positions in the FIRE sector, government, and the judiciary is far more pronounced today than it was in 1950. ..."
          "... You don't seem familiar with the actual data. The US is more unequal than any other major industrialized nation on the planet. By a lot. And it's not a leftist thing. When Americans are surveyed about their desired wealth distribution, the mainstream – not leftist – viewpoint is that the ideal distribution looks roughly like Sweden. ..."
          Dec 10, 2015 | naked capitalism
          David Carl Grimes

          According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the middle class makes up only 38% of US adults. The poor make up 50%!

          https://www.credit-suisse.com/ch/en/about-us/research/research-institute/publications.html

          Felix47

          The only real population growth in the US is at the extreme lower end. Nowadays we see fewer and fewer white baby boomers working. For now employers can hold their prices up somewhat because the baby boomers still consume and the employers now can profit because their labor gets less and less money. This will only last until the baby boomers die out. The replacement workforce and the workforce for the future is brown and sees minimum wage as a huge improvement over the situation in their native countries. The US is in the midst of transforming itself into a much lower wage environment for all employers. This study should be combined with a demographic analysis. My suspicion is that the "middle class" is simply dying off to be replaced by third world refugees who are going to earn a lot less.

          Clive

          Where I live most of the houses around are the definition of "middle class" for England, and it has been a middle class neighbourhood for about a century. You can tell this from the houses types - starting at Edwardian villas with an attic for one (two at the most) live-in maids which would have been the bottom-run of middle class at the time, through to post-war medium sized houses, townhouses, a couple retirement bungalows then some more recent building from the mid-1990's. Nothing is much over 2000 sq. ft. and most are a little less than that. The majority of residents have lived here for 20+years (until recently, it had an extremely stable population base) and their occupations are, again, what you'd have thought of as being text-book middle class (teachers, local government mid-ranking managers, skilled manufacturing, some semi-skilled such as CNC machine operators but no unemployed households or people who are forced to rely on social security.

          Now the most telling part: Of the households with children in their twenties (a mixture of high school only and graduates in an approximately 50/50 mix of the two) none - absolutely none - can afford to live in the same style as their parents did. I will emphasis again, this is not historically 1%'er or even a 10%'er neighbourhood. Up until the last 20 years, it was the middle of the middle. Those will college educations (most have had to return to their parents' houses, which is a social issue in itself) are having to wait until they - so they hope - get pay significant rises from their starting salaries to find a place which is not so far down the level they have been accustomed to or else move in with a partner (which again is a social issue because relationships are more difficult to sustain if they begin to be forced by the need to find suitable accommodation).

          Those with no college degree are having, again, to live with their parents until they can afford somewhere to rent. This sounds ridiculous (the whole point of renting should be that you don't need to tie up capital or much savings) but because rents are so high this close to London, such a significant portion of their likely incomes will be tied up in rent that they need a cash cushion to survive the inevitable periods where work is not easy to come by and they have to take whatever is offered. Either that or, again, they need to be in a relationship and have someone to split the rent with. But founding a relationship is kind-a hard while living with your folks.

          Traditionally, parents might have been able to help their kids with a loan deposit. But many parents already cleared themselves out of their own savings paying tuition fees and the worst excesses of their children's student loans so they would at least not end up starting out £30-£50k in debt. Even if they hadn't done that, a 10% deposit comes in at £25k on the sorts of housing which the middle classes expect to be living in - the kids' parents have been so hollowed out over the last two decades that they don't have that sort of money lying around. Oh, and even if they did, a £225k mortgage is - rightly - outside of most mainstream lender's mortgage criteria for those on a "middle class" job/salary combination as huge salary multiples are no longer available.

          Even with college educations, while people in their twenties might be fairly able to get a job in London and the Home Counties paying, say, £30k pa. before taxes, they will have travel costs of £3-5k a year which takes a big chunk out of that before they've even started. Student loan payments will take another couple of thousand out of pre-tax income. If they live link monks (or nuns), they might just about be able to save £5 to £10k a year. Which means it will be another 5 to 7 years before they can achieve any sort of financial or family-life independence - they'll be pushing 30 in other words.

          Without college, they are facing renting very poor accommodation for the rest of their days, with no viable option to improve their lot.

          So it's RIP the Middle Class, in South East England anyway. If it's died here, I can't think where it might still have any hope of being alive. I've not even mentioned pension provision here, so old age will hold no succour whatsoever.

          The FT piece was a Panglossian interpretation of this reality.

          MLaRowe

          Just wanted to say I appreciated this comment. I see the realness of what you have described in Central Ohio, USA myself. Thank you.

          perpetualWAR

          I am a former 6-figure earner who has been fighting foreclosure on my house for six years. Right before the last go-round with the bank, I lost the job I got in 2010 (after a year and a half of unemployment.) So, rather than getting a job, I fought the foreclosure pro se for two years.

          Just got new employment and am earning $14/hr.

          BTW, my former career was marketing to architects. The gal in Atlanta is crazy to think that the newest construction boom will keep her employed. During my employment in 2010, I would ask architectural firms how the Greatest Depression affected their office. Most never responded to that question, however I will never forget one pricipal replied, "Eight out of our ten employees lost their homes to foreclosure."

          You just can't bounce back after losing everything in middle age.

          NOTaREALmerican

          Damn those neo-liberals, damn them to hell!

          allan

          In 1997, some guy wrote this about the effects of globalization:

          Critics of the global economy invariably reply that America may be creating lots of jobs but that they are tenuous because of the prevalence of downsizing, which is a reaction to international competition (a line of reasoning that also provides a good excuse for companies undertaking layoffs).

          Come again? Newsweek ran a story last year, titled "The Hit Men," about executives responsible for massive layoffs. The chief executives of AT&T, Nynex, Sears, Philip Morris and Delta Air Lines were high on the list. Of course, international competition plays a role in some downsizings, but as Newsweek's list makes clear, it is hardly the most important cause of the phenomenon. To my knowledge there are no Japanese keiretsu competing to carry my long-distance calls or South Korean conglomerates offering me local service. Nor have many Americans started buying their home appliances at Mexican stores or smoking French cigarettes. I cannot fly Cathay Pacific from Boston to New York. …

          Many on the left dislike the global marketplace because it epitomizes what they dislike about markets in general: the fact that nobody is in charge. The truth is that the invisible hand rules most domestic markets, too, a reality that most Americans seem to accept as a fact of life. But those who would like to see us revert to a more managed society in all ways hope that popular unease over the economic influence of people who live in far-off places and have funny-sounding names can be used as the thin end of an ideological wedge.

          If a vanishing middle-class is the price that needs to be paid for the triumph of Econ 101, so be it. /s

          Praedor

          The ONLY reason these corporate scum downsize is to artificially drive up "productivity" numbers, not real growth in anything, just productivity (because fewer workers NOW have to do the work of 3, and THAT for less pay than before! Instant explosion in productivity!). This only serves to bump up share prices which don't actually reflect anything of value or even approach reality on its own terms. They get to say, "See? Massive increase in productivity, so pay me a bazillion damn dollars in 'bonus'".

          Every pay cut, every job loss should be legally tied to a requirement to lay off a proportionate number of execs AND a proportional cut to top pay and compensation. The income of the top MUST be hard-locked to pay for workers. Worker pay and compensation decreases, then so MUST executive pay and compensation.

          Steven

          If we reasoned similarly in physics, we should probably discover that weights possessed the property of levitation. It is the economist's definition of wealth that is at fault …

          Frederick Soddy, WEALTH, VIRTUAL WEALTH AND DEBT, p. 78

          As Ruskin said, logical definition of wealth is absolutely needed for the basis of economics needed for the basis of economics if it is to be a science.

          ibid, p. 102

          "But the securities of American millionaires can be exchanged in a flash for any currency in the world, for land, for other stocks and bonds. The wealth of the Indian princes is immobile, static; the wealth of their American counterparts is mobile, dynamic. In the money markets of the world the feudal wealth of the Indian princes is of no consequence."

          Ferdinand Lundberg, "America's 60 Families", The Vanguard Press, New York, 1937, p. 7
          Multiply that 'wealth' by the leverage a country's bankers are able to create with fractional reserve lending and you get:

          "Finance is the new form of warfare - without the expense of a military overhead and an occupation against unwilling hosts."

          http://michael-hudson.com/2010/10/why-the-imf-meetings-failed/

          America's and Europe's middle class is dying because:

          a. time marches on. We don't need armies of workers laboring day and night to create REAL, NEEDED wealth
          b. the world's 0.01% would rather continue "doing God's work" than share the wealth created by advances in science and technology with their "laboring cattle". A leisure class with a genuine clue about what real needed wealth is and what is really happening in the world constitutes a genuine threat to the established order and to all that 'wealth' the 0.01% has piled up in the form of money. (See graph above)

          All those jobs this country has off-shored with all the technology and education it takes to perform them ARE real wealth – along with things like renewable energy.

          If it really is such a big surprise that countries like China are becoming relatively more wealthy and powerful than the U.S. then the world's rich really are as stupid as many of us believe they are.

          RBHoughton

          Well, I'll throw in a socialist comment and hope I'm not flamed.

          Isn't it the case that everyone needs a roof over their heads, food and clothing? Perhaps a bicycle too. These things and free education are the minimum a government should supply to its people.

          Keith

          America was a young country full of opportunity, like China a decade or two ago. As a nation matures the wealth concentrates without strong progressive taxation and high inheritance taxes. Now US social mobility is on a par with the UK, putting it at the second lowest in Europe which is pretty bad. Our privately educated elite are an obvious cause of low social mobility in the UK and perhaps private universities are doing the same job in the US.

          If we want equality of opportunity we should think what a meritocracy would look like.

          "What is a meritocracy?"

          1) In a meritocracy everyone succeeds on their own merit.

          This is obvious, but to succeed on your own merit, we need to do away the traditional mechanisms that socially stratify society due to wealth flowing down the generations. Anything that comes from your parents has nothing to do with your own effort.

          2) There is no un-earned wealth or power, e.g inheritance, trust funds, hereditary titles

          In a meritocracy we need equal opportunity for all. We can't have the current two tier education system with its fast track of private schools for people with wealthy parents.

          3) There is a uniform schools system for everyone with no private schools.

          Thinking about a true meritocracy then allows you to see how wealth concentrates.

          Inheritance and trust funds are major contributors.

          When you start off with a lot of capital behind you, you are in life's fast lane.

          a) Those with excess capital invest it and collect interest, dividends and rent.
          b) Those with insufficient capital borrow money and pay interest and rent.

          If the trust fund/inheritance is large enough then you won't need to work at all and can live off the rentier income provided by your parents wealth and the work of an investment banker.

          If you are in life's slow lane, with no parental wealth coming your way, you will be loaded up with student debt, rent, mortgages and loans.

          To ensure the children of the wealthy get the best start we have private schools to ensure they get the best education and make the right contacts ready for the race of life.

          The children of the poor are born in poor areas where schools are typically below average and they are handicapped before they have even started the race of life.

          Wealth concentrates because the system is designed that way.

          A meritocracy gives everyone equal opportunity but that is the last thing those in charge want for their children

          Keith

          It is easier to see what is going on if we put things in a historical perspective. Is Capitalism the first social system since the dawn of civilisation to trickle down?
          Since it is based on self-interest this seems highly unlikely. It would be drawn up in the self-interest of those that came up with the system, i.e. those at the top.

          The 20th Century saw progressive taxation to do away with old money elites and so looking at the playing field now can be rather deceptive. Today's ideal is unregulated, trickledown Capitalism. We had unregulated, trickledown Capitalism in the UK in the 19th Century. We know what it looks like.

          1) Those at the top were very wealthy
          2) Those lower down lived in grinding poverty, paid just enough to keep them alive to work with as little time off as possible.
          3) Slavery
          4) Child Labour

          Immense wealth at the top with nothing trickling down, just like today.

          The beginnings of regulation to deal with the wealthy UK businessman seeking to maximise profit, the abolition of slavery and child labour. At the end of the 19th Century, with a century of two of Capitalism under our belt, it was very obvious a Leisure Class existed at the top of society. The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions, by Thorstein Veblen The Wikipedia entry gives a good insight. This was before the levelling of progressive taxation in the 20th Century.

          It can clearly be seen that Capitalism, like every other social system since the dawn of civilisation, is designed to support a Leisure Class at the top through the effort of a working and middle class.

          After the 20th Century progressive taxation the Leisure Class probably stay hidden in the US. In the UK, associates of the Royal Family are covered in the press and show the Leisure Class are still here with us today.

          It was obvious in Adam Smith's day.

          Adam Smith:

          "The Labour and time of the poor is in civilised countries sacrificed to the maintaining of the rich in ease and luxury. The Landlord is maintained in idleness and luxury by the labour of his tenants. The moneyed man is supported by his extractions from the industrious merchant and the needy who are obliged to support him in ease by a return for the use of his money. But every savage has the full fruits of his own labours; there are no landlords, no usurers and no tax gatherers."

          With Capitalism it's better hidden:

          The Rothschild brothers of London writing to associates in New York, 1863:

          "The few who understand the system will either be so interested in its profits or be so dependent upon its favours that there will be no opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people, mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear its burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests."

          Keith

          Everyone works in their own self interest even economists.

          • Malthus – supports the vested interests of landlords and so finds nothing wrong with parasitic landlord rent extraction.
          • Ricardo – supports the vested interest of bankers coming from a banking family, sees problem with feudal landowners but not bankers that create money out of nothing
          • The Austrian School – Austrian aristocrats, of the European Leisure class, support investor's interests. Anti-Government as they are trying to do away with the old European aristocracy. Give preference to those with money:

            You are free to spend your money as you choose.
            No money, no freedom.
            Money is freedom.

          Most classical economists differentiated between earned and unearned wealth. The Austrian Aristocrats benefit from inherited wealth and hide the distinction. As members of the European Leisure class, they liked to invest and make money from the hard work of others while doing very little themselves.

          Keith

          A monetary system devised by bankers where they create money out of nothing and lend it out charging interest to make a profit. When you come up with a system you make sure it works for you.

          How is the legal system loaded? Why do people use expensive barristers/legal teams? It increases your chance of winning the case. What if you can't afford expensive barristers/legal teams? You decrease your chance of winning the case. It's loaded.

          Jim in SC

          Our current wealth distribution is more the product of meritocracy than of inheritance. Harvard decided to go meritocratic back in the '50s. The average IQ of the incoming freshman class skyrocketed. There were still legacies, of course, but the whole Ivy League opened up to highly motivated, highly intelligent strivers. The result, in my view, and in the views of 'The Bell Curve' and 'The Revolt of the Elites' was a cognitive elite taking all the best jobs. Ivy league dominance of the most desirable positions in the FIRE sector, government, and the judiciary is far more pronounced today than it was in 1950.

          What would the smartest strivers of the last sixty years have been doing if they hadn't gone to the Ivies? For one thing, they'd probably be living in the Heartland, or wherever they were from. They might have gone to a local college. IQs at local schools have dropped as IQs at the Ivies have risen. They might have worked at a union job. Losing people in the top 1% of intelligence to the Goldman Sachs and McKinseys of the world has been a terrible blow to those segments of society whose interests needed to be protected from unfettered capitalism.

          I wish the terminal lefties here at Naked Capitalism would stop trotting out the tired old horse of wealth being perpetuated across generations. By and large, in the United States, it is dispersed over time. Europe may be a different story. There are still wealthy Fuggers, etcetera. But in the US it tends to get dispersed. Only one member of the Forbes 400 of which I am aware has a tie to a great 19th century fortune: David Rockefeller, and he worked at Citigroup. See Rob Arnott's take on wealth dispersion, and Dr. William Bernstein's.

          Ulysses

          "I wish the terminal lefties here at Naked Capitalism would stop trotting out the tired old horse of wealth being perpetuated across generations. By and large, in the United States, it is dispersed over time."

          There is a very narrow sense in which this is true. We do not enforce a system of male primogeniture among a landed aristocracy here in the United States. The fact that some of my ancestors once owned large estates, in New Holland and New York, doesn't entitle me to life as a lord of the manor today. What it did do for me however, was give to my maternal grandparents the easy circumstances necessary to pursue their own interests with no desperate struggle for survival. This allowed my parents to pursue careers in philosophy and linguistics. My generation saw my brother become a physicist and myself a medievalist. We will never be as wealthy as our great-great grandparents were. Yet, because of their wealth, (even much dispersed over time) we were given opportunities to pursue interests that are simply not often available to many others.

          I always hear how Bill Gates was a "self-made" man. Really? His mother, Mary Maxwell House Gates was on the board at First Interstate Bank of Washington, and his father William H. Gates, II, was a wealthy attorney and philanthropist.

          I know that not all DuPonts, Rockefellers, Whitneys, Vanderbilts, Sharpes, Hutchinsons, Van Rensselaers, etc. are super wealthy today. Yet the vast majority of them are at least comfortable, just as Bill Gates would have been– even if he had never worked a day in his life.

          washunate

          You don't seem familiar with the actual data. The US is more unequal than any other major industrialized nation on the planet. By a lot. And it's not a leftist thing. When Americans are surveyed about their desired wealth distribution, the mainstream – not leftist – viewpoint is that the ideal distribution looks roughly like Sweden.

          Also, in a meritocratic society, the socioeconomic status of the parents would have no material impact on the child. In the US, by contrast, the parents are highly predictive of the child. Google the general term social mobility if you are interested in this. For example, we can predict that some kids will be arrested by police more than others simply by looking at the zip code of the parents at the time of birth. Stuff like that is nuts and completely incompatible with a merit-based hypothesis.

          [Dec 10, 2015] A Critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality

          Notable quotes:
          "... So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is "unjustified"? ..."
          "... Nothing is a priori just or unjust; Thomas More had slaves in his Utopia. However, when a socio-economic arrangement reaches a phase where its fairness is commonly questioned, that's a sure sign that the dominant ideology fails to convince, and the system is in trouble. Doesn't mean it's going to collapse tomorrow, obviously. ..."
          "... In a perfectly equal society where no one inherited anything, everyone got exactly the same starting salary, saved the same amount, got the same raise every year and earned the same rate of return, the richest 1/5 would still control 66% of the wealth just due to cohort effects. ..."
          "... This is an interesting paper about the dissipation of wealth: What is the True Rate of Social Mobility in Sweden? Suggests that the tendency of fortunes to fade away is generally underestimated ..."
          "... My reading of r g is that its piketty's attempt to put an overarching intellectual framework over his results and that its the least successful part of the work, although Brad Delong has made pretty good sense of it here ..."
          "... As Cudd concedes, Piketty presents a positive analysis predicting that inherited wealth will become dominant, and doesn't spell out any theory of justice, though it's obvious that he thinks this is a bad thing. ..."
          "... So, Cudd makes up a theory of justice, imputes it to Piketty and then says it hasn't been proven. What's more she writes as this topic is being addressed for the first time. She doesn't mention any of the vast number of people who've written on equality and whose arguments might be relevant here. ..."
          "... I agree with other posters. The OP 'reconstructed' an argument Piketty never made about a topic he didn't address, and then complained about how bad it is (and for really unconvincing reasons). It's not often you see someone lose an argument so badly with a straw man of their own construction. ..."
          "... A greatly unequal society requires a great amount of resources to maintain its inequality, and thus itself. ..."
          Dec 11, 2015 | Crooked Timber

          on December 10, 2015

          Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an important and valuable contribution to political economy, both empirically and philosophically. Piketty grounds his theory in vast empirical data,rather than settling for elegant mathematical models. He courageously embraces the fact that economic theory is inevitably value laden, and proposes a theory of the historical dynamics of wealth accumulation in order to offer an updated moral critique of capitalism. Grounding his prediction in the historical data and profoundly simple mathematics, Piketty projects that economic inequality is likely to increase and to favor those who own inherited capital over time. He advances the normative judgment that rising inequality is unjust and must be contained. Although Piketty raises important concerns about the possibility of growing wealth inequality, he fails to normatively ground or argue for his presupposition that this inequality is unjust. Since relative poverty can coincide with high levels of objective or subjective well-being, this presupposition is brought into question. However, there are causes of inequality (including wealth inequality) that clearly can be shown to be unjust. By considering other forms and causes of inequality and oppression, we can distinguish between those forms of wealth inequality that are unjust and those that are normatively benign. In this way Piketty's concerns about growing wealth inequality from inheritance can be partly justified, though of course not empirically verified. Piketty's argument for the injustice of growing economic inequality has two parts. The first part is an empirical, economic argument for the claim that returns from inherited wealth will far outstrip income. This argument can be summarized as follows. Let r be the rate of return on capital, and g be the growth rate of the annual flow of national income.

          1. If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.
          2. Individuals who own a greater amount of capital earn a larger r.
          3. Growth, g, is likely to be slower in future.
          4. If r is great enough and g is low enough, then there will be ever more capital from older, inherited wealth, than from wealth saved from income.
          5. Hence, (wealth) inequality will increase, and inherited wealth will make up the greatest amount of capital. [click to continue…]

          T 12.10.15 at 4:24 pm

          "To show that income inequalities are unjust, they also have to be shown to derive from injustice or to lead to injustice." First, thank you for taking the time to join the group blog. Second, it seems that high income and high wealth individuals have been very effective in tilting the tax, regulatory, and legal environment even more in their favor thereby increasing the inequality that you may argue was not originally unjust. Do you think those behaviors lead to unjust income inequality? Do you think those behaviors are a necessary consequence of increased wealth and income inequality?

          Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 4:29 pm 2

          Interesting and challenging comment which will take several readings to understand and evaluate the many different arguments being made.

          Here is why Piketty thinks a rentier society contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies:

          "…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by whichI I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death." p. 422

          I understand Cudd to be raising a neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism -- that if a fortune has been made through no injustice to a concrete other and its gifting and bequeathing does no concrete injustice to another, then there is no coherent ideal of social justice (Hayek's idea that social justice is mirage) that would allow us to condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be.

          Yet a rentier society would actually undermine social utility by reducing the incentives for entrepreneurial exertion; the largest incomes also could not be justified in terms of meritocratic principles; and rentiers would be in a position to use the political process to extract not what Piketty calls rent in terms of the income of a rentier but what most economists mean by rents. The last would have no justification in terms of welfare economics (of which Cudd gives an eloquent defense in her book on capitalism). Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it.

          Plus, the wealth concentration of a rentier society would not be accepted in a Rawlsian original position and to the extent that some wealth is needed to exercise one's capabilities would be unjustifiable from Sen's and Nussbaum's capabilities theory. Piketty expresses sympathy for both normative political theories.

          Now Cudd also notes that Piketty argues that the astronomical pay of super-managers cannot be justified in meritocratic terms; his argument is more developed than she lets on–it involves cross-sectional comparison and econometric analysis, controlling for luck and other factors in company performance outside the control of a supermanager as well as the inapplicability of marginal productivity theory to the unique jobs that a CEO does. Plus, he gives an institutional analysis of the way in which CEO's can capture boards and how their incentive to do so rose with lower marginal tax rates. Of course that Piketty undermines this justification does not necessarily mean that such compensation is unjustified, but he does undermine the meritocratic justification that is given for it.

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm 3

          "When wealth inequalities stem from unjust inheritances"

          Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an "unjust" inheritance? Serious question...

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm 4

          Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital . . . as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true. Investment of capital creates improvements in standard of living for all.

          "that is clearly not true" seems a bit emphatic for a proposition that should not be clear at all. It might be the case that an instance of capital investment improves the standard of living or it might be immiserating. A wealthy investor might invest in a payday loan operation with a remarkable return on investment. A corporation might invest in automation of a production process and bargain for a reduction of wages for the now less numerous and "less-skilled" workforce.

          The emblematic condition of Piketty's work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed.

          We can certainly hope for the kind of capital investments that result in economic growth that exceeds the return to the owners of capital, but that's not the world Piketty is worried about.

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:47 pm 5

          Piketty argues that top managers today are paid unjustifiably large salaries because it is too difficult to assess the marginal productivity, and in the absence of any information they are able to manipulate their own and each other's wages. A market failure is not an injustice . . .

          Calling an exercise of power and authority in a bureaucratic hierarchy "a market failure" is an error of ideological obduracy, since hierarchies are not "markets". Hierarchies of authority make economic use of social domination, which is, at least, potentially problematic for justice.

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:53 pm 6

          A significant cause of income inequality is the differences in human capital developed through education. Piketty notes that the educational systems in Europe and especially the US tend to prevent rather than promote social mobility, and instead transmit privilege. 'Parents' income has become an almost perfect predictor of university access.' (p. 485) Piketty's explanation seems to be that it is because wealthy parents buy places for their children in universities, but I think this overestimates the corruption in university admissions and it underestimates the degree of stratification of the developed academic abilities of college age students. Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children's abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods. Especially elite universities in the US compete very hard to find and attract low income and minority students, but the competition is stiff for qualified students who will not need remediation in order to succeed.

          Demand for low-cost tokens is outrunning supply.

          Trader Joe 12.10.15 at 5:03 pm 7

          I struggle a lot with the concept of inheritance and when/when not justified. Its easy to see how its unfair/unjustified when the amounts are signficant, far less so when they are not.

          If I'm a Rockefeller and hand over the emprire to my children, its easy to see an undeserved conferred advantage.

          If I'm farmer Joe who has worked my farm all my life, own it outright through my labor and savings and then want to pass that to my children, who have also worked it all their life(s), so that it can sustain them the same way as it sustained me – it seems far more fair though it still confers on them an advantage of priveldged and if they successfully manage that advantage they should be able to make it grow. Over some number of generations, the differences would collapse.

          I think its a very natural instinct for a parent to want to transmit advantage to their children. Teaching them and nurturing their character are never criticized though no less an asset than dollars or farms.

          I can see how the provision of an elite education transmits priveledge, but I'malso hard pressed to suggest a child should be denied the best possible education that they can get. If a child has intellectual talent it should be developed regardless of whether they come from a rich or poor family.

          One take away from Picketty could be the best possible biological strategy is to try to get as rich as you possibly can because that's the best possible insurance for perpetuating your DNA. Probably not the policy prescription being encouraged, but certainly supported by the data.

          Paul 12.10.15 at 5:21 pm 8

          All property rights are oppressive; they amount to the restriction of the freedom of the non-property owner. Unless one wants to go communist (and argue that it is possible to create a society without property rights) or libertarian (and argue that property rights somehow exist a priori of society), any society is necessarily oppressive and unjust. The goal is to minimise this injustice without creating others or destroying the ability if society to function.

          So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is "oppression". Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition.

          notsneaky 12.10.15 at 5:43 pm 9

          "Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an "unjust" inheritance?"

          So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is "unjustified"?

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 5:55 pm 11

          "So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is "oppression". Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition."

          Yep. Property is violence. Maybe beneficial violence in the utilitarian sense but violence all the same.

          Ze K 12.10.15 at 6:34 pm 12

          Nothing is a priori just or unjust; Thomas More had slaves in his Utopia. However, when a socio-economic arrangement reaches a phase where its fairness is commonly questioned, that's a sure sign that the dominant ideology fails to convince, and the system is in trouble. Doesn't mean it's going to collapse tomorrow, obviously.

          Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 6:45 pm 13

          It could be argued that entrepreneurial behavior is already individually irrational -- see Kahneman and Tversky. But it is often motivated at least partially by the dream of creating dynastic wealth and glory. Otherwise, it would make little sense to do the hard labor of thinking of new ways of doing things, convincing financiers of the worthiness of the project and giving up more secure incomes. One could worry that Piketty has exaggerated the importance of inherited wealth even in the face of his own evidence (only a small fraction of the top 1% receive most of their income as rentier rent IIRC) and that he has under-estimated its importance as an economic incentive for entrepreneurial labor and that he has also underestimated the extent to which great fortunes dissipate over time due to the growth of heirs and reasonable taxation.

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm14

          "Nothing is a priori just or unjust"

          He said as he foreclosed on the poor family and cast them out to starve in the street.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm 15

          >If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake.

          > Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children's abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods.

          Large American urban school districts are not just the best funded in the country, they're the best funded in the world. And what Bruce says about market failure applies equally well here. people have voted massive amounts of money for urban schools, when those state run schools fail to perform well despite these resources, the failure cannot possibly be attributed to market forces.

          > In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%.

          In a perfectly equal society where no one inherited anything, everyone got exactly the same starting salary, saved the same amount, got the same raise every year and earned the same rate of return, the richest 1/5 would still control 66% of the wealth just due to cohort effects. This simple characterizations of wealth inequality by quintiles or deciles do more to conceal than to reveal. what matters is not snapshots, but lifetime expectations. These, however, are harder to calculate and make for much less snappy talking points

          Paul 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm 16

          This is an interesting paper about the dissipation of wealth: What is the True Rate of Social Mobility in Sweden? Suggests that the tendency of fortunes to fade away is generally underestimated

          Paul 12.10.15 at 7:00 pm 17

          My reading of r>g is that its piketty's attempt to put an overarching intellectual framework over his results and that its the least successful part of the work, although Brad Delong has made pretty good sense of it here

          http://www.econ.hit-u.ac.jp/~makoto/Piketty_readings/Delong_2015.pdf

          But even if you consider it in error its the conclusion more than the foundation. The data speaks for itself.

          Cassander @15: I read your comment as "even a pretty equal society would be pretty unequal". The definition if a " pretty equal" society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

          Layman 12.10.15 at 7:13 pm

          If we are to complain that Piketty fails to demonstrate that income inequalities originate from or lead to injustices, can we not also complain that he fails to demonstrate that the sun rises in the east, or that night follows day, or that it is quite difficult to put the toothpaste back into the tube? While this is not as bad as complaining that he fails to discuss 20th- and 21st- century novels, it approaches that degree of badness.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 7:49 pm 21

          @Paul

          >This is an interesting paper about the disspation of wealth:

          I just skimmed it, but that the paper argues that there's a great deal of dissipation of wealth, just that it's well below 100% dissipation.

          >The definition if a " pretty equal" society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

          If everyone was born 2 feet tall and got 10% taller a year, then the tallest 20% would have 80% of the height. the point of the math I laid out is precisely that "a society where everyone has the same amount of stuff" and "a society where everyone gets the same amount of stuff" are not the same, despite our basic instinct that they should be.

          T 12.10.15 at 7:52 pm 22

          @16

          This and other studies using unique surnames tends to suggest that mobility may be overstated.
          http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/papers/Sweden%202012%20AUG.pdf

          engels 12.10.15 at 7:53 pm 23

          Apologies if I've misunderstood but does the OP really think that someone who affirm's Paine's maxim that

          'Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, must believe that someone's inviting different numbers of people to two different dinner parties is unjust?

          Paul 12.10.15 at 8:02 pm, 24

          @cassander
          But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not? And piketty's shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.

          I can see your point that headline numbers can be misleading, but piketty also shows a clear trend, that wealth is becoming more concentrated. Unless the metrics are somehow a deteriorating representation if reality that's a real thing.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 8:55 pm 25

          @Paul

          >But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not?

          For some definitions of unequal, yes, but I say those framing are not particularly useful We are all born ignorant and spend a lifetime accumulating knowledge, but we do not lament the "knowledge gap" between old and young. A world where everyone made X dollars a year, except for their 20th year when they make 1000X would not have a Gini score of 0, but I would call that world equal.

          > And piketty's shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.

          It shows that most people aren't accumulating YET. In the real world, people do not save X percent of their income a year, they they consume a larger share of their income when young (consume much more than their income, actually) and save more as they age, for obvious reasons. That's why you have to look at wealth over lifetimes, not in snapshots.

          Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:15 pm 26

          @ 15 Cassander

          ">If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake."

          It's not saying that wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

          Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey.

          These people need the financial sector to put their money to work. And as we've seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

          Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:21 pm 27

          And the one percent also effect politics and policy through their generous campaign contributions (Koch brothers); sponsorship of think tanks; ownership of mass media (think Rupert Murdoch); etc. etc.

          Politics and policy can effect both *r* and *g.*

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/us/politics/illinois-campaign-money-bruce-rauner.html

          "Around the same time that Mr. Rauner began running for governor, a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country's first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.

          Their replies were striking. Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois's two United States senators.

          Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.

          "Probably the biggest single area of disconnect has to do with social welfare programs," said Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study. "The other big area has to do with paying for those programs, particularly taxes on high-income and wealthy people.""

          Soru 12.10.15 at 9:40 pm 28

          One thing is that in reality, setting 'the wealth of a new born' as zero is rather arbitrary. In one country they might get , by right of citizenship, X dollars of security, legal, health and welfare services. In another, Y dollars..

          Both have no money, but if X >> Y, then they are going to have very different average expected life outcomes.

          At a high zero point, you get cops and judges who uphold the law, at a low one you can hire some bodyguards. At high zero point you can go to a library, at a low one hire a hack to write your autobiography.

          You can extend that to cases of active oppression by giving that a dollar equivalent and a minus sign. After all, even slavery could usually be escaped from, in theory, by buying yourself…

          Thing is, the _potential_ floor of wealth in a modern society _could be_ as far above active oppression as room temperature is above absolute zero.

          And raising it never stops being a good.

          T 12.10.15 at 9:53 pm 29

          @27
          Exactly. Regardless of how how rich got that way there is no question that they are using their wealth to increase and capture economic rents and to take actions that diminish income and wealth mobility. To the extent the economy veers to increased rent seeking, it could very well lower future growth by diverting resources to non-productive activities. If this behavior is baked in as inequality reaches a certain threshold, then it is inherently unjust. To the extent its not always baked in, it has certainly had that effect in the US over the last 30 years. Consequently, we can conclude that current levels of US inequality are unjust.

          Mike Furlan 12.10.15 at 10:27 pm 30

          An interesting snapshot of where we are.

          http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/12/demise-of-the-us-middle-class-now-official.html

          cassander 12.10.15 at 10:31 pm 31

          @Peter K.

          >It's not saying that wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

          That's explicitly the argument pikety makes with R>G, that the rich get richer by virtue of being rich, not that the moderately well off occasionally become rich by some other means. None of the people you mention got rich by sitting on accumulated capital, nor did any of the fortune 500.

          >And as we've seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

          getting rich by playing financier with other people's investments is not what pikety is talking about. Warren Buffet's fortune, and almost every other financial fortune I can think of, was made by taking a percentage of the profit he got from investing other people's money, not his own.

          js. 12.10.15 at 10:50 pm 32

          However, the equality presumption is false; it is a fallacy akin to the principle of insufficient reason, which assumes equiprobability of events where there is no reason to assign another probability. But there is also no reason to assign equal probability rather than any other, and thus rationality cannot demand that. By the same token, morality cannot demand equal shares of a good (or bad) in the absence of a reason for it. I take this to be a point of logic, not morality.

          This is almost bizarrely unconvincing. You seem to be using "inequality" in a purely formal sense-a sense in which "4 > 2" counts as an inequality. In this sense of the word, it may well be true that there is no presumption of equality. But that fact has no bearing on whether or not a presumption of equality is plausible in the case of interest, namely social and economic inequalities. In this particular case, if there is a widespread moral intuition in favor of the presumption of equality (as I think there is), you can't simply hand-wave away the presumption as a "matter of logic". You need to either (a) show that there is in fact no such widespread intuition, or (b) provide some sort of error theory for this intuition. And until one of these arguments is forthcoming, I'll continue to think that the presumption of equality has quite a bit going for it.

          Tabasco 12.10.15 at 11:05 pm 33

          wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class). Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey

          Gates is giving his money away. Buffet and Zuckerberg say they are going to give away their money. So, no dynasties there.

          T 12.10.15 at 11:32 pm 34

          @33

          As for dynastic wealth, there are 4 Waltons, 3 Mars, and 2 Kochs among the top 18 richest Americans. That's 50%. Pinketty is forecasting a future of dynastic wealth, the Forbes 400 in 30 years. It's the kids of today's plutocrats that will be the beneficiaries.

          UserGoogol 12.10.15 at 11:50 pm 35

          Paul @ 8: I'd push against that in multiple directions. Even without property per se, some degree of excluding people from using resources is inevitable just from being an organism living in a world of limited resources. If I eat some food, I exclude others from eating that food. Property gives people rather extensive abilities to exclude others from using resources far beyond what is strictly necessary in a state of nature, but any existence involves curtailing the freedoms of others. The only way to have absolute freedom is to be God.

          But by the same token it seems kind of vacuous and silly to call that injustice. Minimizing the amount of suffering (or keeping the suffering within "reasonable" bounds) seems like a more sensible way of defining that word.

          To get back to the actual point you were making instead of making vague philosophical rumbling, property certainly ipso facto causes some degree of restriction of freedom and this is something deserving of critical attention. But I don't think you can usefully say that they're oppressive by definition.

          F. Foundling 12.10.15 at 11:52 pm 36

          The OP's notion of justice is not explained in the text, but it seems to be different from mine, and, I think, from that of many others. I think most people would agree that a just distribution is a distribution in accordance with the merits and/or needs of the individuals. Any deviation from such a distribution, for whatever reason, is unjust (it 'harms others' in the sense that the same resource could have been allocated to others more deserving of it based on their merits/needs, and the fact that more wealth has been created doesn't change anything as long as that new wealth is not distributed according to the same principle). This means that inheritance-determined distribution is inevitably unjust, just as any other distribution that is not deliberately made to reflect the merits and/or needs of the individuals can be reasonably assumed to be unjust by default, for the same reason that any random lottery ticket can be assumed not to be winning the jackpot, and any random sequence of body movements can be assumed not to result in the making of a sandwitch.

          The equality presumption is basic to most people's sense of justice: most people, when asked to divide a loaf of bread 'justly' between two complete strangers of whom they know nothing, will split it into two equal parts unless there is an obvious criterion by which to differentiate (size, age, gender, caste, etc.). Indeed, even when the bread is distributed unequally in accordance with one or more of these characteristics, the very fact that the difference in share size is made proportionate to the difference in the chosen characteristic(s) shows that no other inequality is assumed apart from the one explicitly entailed by the characteristic – i.e. equality is assumed by default 'other things being equal'. Yes, it is very unlikely that these two random strangers really are *precisely* equally good and deserving; the point is that we have no *right* to assume otherwise, and as humans they have a *right* to be treated equally unless there is a specific reason for the contrary.

          Bruce B. 12.11.15 at 12:26 am 37

          It's worth noting that in a lot of cases where a particular family dynasty falls apart, a great deal of the money doesn't travel far. It goes to co-owners of shared enterprises, colleagues and rivals, and others in the same stratum. Cash can flow out quickly, but lots of assets hang around, and get used by someone close at hand.

          If the principle that "since I didn't set out to harm anyone, you have no right to tax my stuff" were taken seriously in general, we wouldn't have laws against pollution or having your car run over someone because you didn't set the parking break. The idea sounds appealing widely at first hearing, but it doesn't take much of a context to establish how incompatible it is with a bunch of other moral reasoning.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 12:41 am 38

          The OP seems to be completely misconceived. As Cudd concedes, Piketty presents a positive analysis predicting that inherited wealth will become dominant, and doesn't spell out any theory of justice, though it's obvious that he thinks this is a bad thing.

          So, Cudd makes up a theory of justice, imputes it to Piketty and then says it hasn't been proven. What's more she writes as this topic is being addressed for the first time. She doesn't mention any of the vast number of people who've written on equality and whose arguments might be relevant here.

          The closest actual engagement with Piketty is her reference to the epigraph 'Social distinctions can be based only on common utility,' which would most naturally be interpreted in utilitarian terms (that's the default assumption for an economist anyway). So, Piketty can be taken to say that a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality is unlikely to promote common (aggregate) utility. There are plenty of arguments that can be made for or against this, but Cudd doesn't even bother. Having cited the epigraph, she never again mentions utility.

          js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am 39

          UserGoogol @35 - I'd make it even simpler: if you've got a conception of "justice" such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible, then whatever you've got is not a conception of justice.

          engels 12.11.15 at 1:05 am 41

          I agree with other posters. The OP 'reconstructed' an argument Piketty never made about a topic he didn't address, and then complained about how bad it is (and for really unconvincing reasons). It's not often you see someone lose an argument so badly with a straw man of their own construction.

          Robb Lutton 12.11.15 at 1:16 am 42

          …In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital,…

          This cannot be true else there would be no inequality as it would mean the bottom 50% would have 50% of capital.

          Markos Valaris 12.11.15 at 1:51 am 44

          js, UserGoogol, I suspect Paul is after something somewhat different, which is the idea that using force to exclude others from some resources must *either* be backed by good reasons *or* count as oppressive/unjust. This doesn't seem crazy, and it would generate the kind of request for justification the OP puzzles about.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am 45

          I haven't read the comment thread with great care but I have the read the OP.

          It seems to be the basic argument of the OP is roughly this:

          1) Absolute poverty (in today's world) is always unjust, but relative poverty resulting from economic inequalities is not necessarily always (or even presumptively) unjust. Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren't, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

          2) Economic inequalities resulting in or reflecting relative (not absolute) poverty are unjust when they are caused by (or transmit) oppression and/or discrimination, or when they 'stigmatize' and thereby cause psychological harm to an identifiable group. This point I think is more controversial but interesting and defensible, at least with a more elaborate account, which I take it the author of the OP has given elsewhere.

          As for where the OP directly engages with and criticizes Piketty, I'm not well-placed to get into this, but ISTM the passage where the OP criticizes him for ignoring the factor of oppression, e.g. w/r/t women in particular time periods, can be taken as a reasonable criticism.

          When read with some care, the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position, istm, as some commenters here apparently think.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:27 am 47

          One last thing: the criterion of "stigma" is arguably not that far from the Rawlsian criterion of 'self-respect' (which came up in the thread on Chris B's post), or at least it might be related… If one feels stigmatized or is objectively stigmatized by a particular situation of ec. inequality, then the social bases of self-respect are not being met. The OP refers to "social psychology" as tool of empirical investigation here, whereas in the other thread we were talking about moral psychology, but obvs. there's a common element: psychology.

          Matt 12.11.15 at 3:52 am 48

          LFC's reconstruction of the post strikes me as not only charitable, but pretty much obviously right. I'm pretty surprised, and sorry, to see the comments mostly get on the wrong foot and not address what's interesting in the post.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 4:20 am 49

          'Surely not the case for women'. This is far from obvious. 40 per cent of female headed families live in poverty. http://www.epi.org/publication/female-headed-families-children-poverty/

          This is an absolute poverty line set in the early 1960s, so the position of these families relative to the median household is considerably worse. Relative to the top 1 per cent of households, the gap has grown enormously.

          The poverty rate for female headed households has barely changed since the 1970s, but (I think) the proportion of such households has increased substantially. On the other side of that equation, the proportion of couple households with two high incomes has also risen.

          So, while it's certainly true that the wages of employed women have risen relative to those of employed men, that doesn't mean that gender based inequality and poverty have declined.

          I haven't got a conclusive answer on this, but if it's going to be the central point of a critique it deserves more than a handwaving "surely".

          F. Foundling 12.11.15 at 4:31 am 50

          @js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am
          > if you've got a conception of "justice" such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible …

          A banal point, probably, but AFAICS, everything is unjust compared to perfect justice, and perfect justice is impossible, because perfect anything is impossible. Not a reason not to keep 'perfecting' things. It's what humans do.

          @LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am
          > the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position

          'Some' does a lot of work here.

          >Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren't, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

          The problem is that the OP's idea of what it takes to prove an inequality to be unjust is highly restricted. Not only is inequality assumed to be just until the opposite is proven, but it is argued that even if an inequality demonstrably, as Piketty claims, lacks any basis in merit (a blatant example being the case of inheritance), this is still not sufficient to make it unjust. That inequality per se does not even need to be justified by merit, or in any way at all, is a position so radically and counterintuitively anti-egalitarian that even right-wingers usually won't take it openly (rather, they'll insist that there is, in fact, a merit that justifies it). You see, only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls 'stigma' and 'oppression' might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don't think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

          js. 12.11.15 at 4:35 am 51

          Hey Markos, it's Jamsheed. I think I see what you're saying-maybe. If that's what Paul was getting at, fair enough. But if I'm understanding you correctly, I think it still ends up turning on the "equality presumption" bit, on which see below.

          LFC - I agree with you that Cudd is sympathetic to egalitarianism in the post-and her points about gender inequality are well taken. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It just seems to me that she's given up a good direct argument against inequality for a considerably more circuitous one-for reasons that remain utterly opaque to me. (For one thing, all those old homilies about the "gentler and fairer sex" can be taken as ways to defeat the equality presumption, which would militate against gender inequality; one could of course find more modern equivalents too.)

          Anyway, this still seems wrong to me:

          one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust

          I really think it's the other way around. One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust-one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that's rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:44 am 52

          Matt @48
          Thanks.
          (Btw, in re-reading my comment @45, I see there are typos in the first two lines - sorry.)9

          JQ @49: I said that "could be" a reasonable pt of criticism of P., but I don't/didn't know the empirics, so wasn't endorsing.

          A H 12.11.15 at 4:46 am 53

          I read Piketty as being a reformist liberal similar to Keynes. The reason wealth inequality is bad is because it threatens meritocratic liberal capitalism with either a return to feudalism or political upheaval. So any normative critique of Piketty needs to start with meritocracy.

          greg 12.11.15 at 5:41 am 55

          Any distribution of income in a society requires the consumption of resources to maintain itself. That distribution which requires the least consumption of resources to maintain itself is the most 'natural.' It is the most efficient, as well as the most robust economy.

          A greatly unequal society requires a great amount of resources to maintain its inequality, and thus itself. (A perfectly equal society also requires a large amount of resources just to maintain equality.) This consumption of resources, merely to maintain inequality, reduces the amount of resources available to actually operate the economy. That is, it reduces the efficiency of the economy. If the efficiency of the economy is sufficiently reduced, the economy cannot maintain itself.

          greg 12.11.15 at 5:47 am 56

          But I suppose the survival of the economy is beside the point.

          Paul 12.11.15 at 6:51 am 57

          UserGoogol @35: If you stop a hungry person picking an apple from a tree, it may be just (there may be a hungrier person who has planted and tended the tree, for example), but it's hard to argue that it isn't oppressive. But I concede this is a silly argument.

          The serious argument is that property is so deeply engrained in our society that it tends to get a free pass. I suspect that most people's conception of justice is based on the idea of "everyone has the right to their own stuff" ignoring completely how arbitrary our moral claims to owning anything as individuals actually are. What I dislike about the OP is that it effectively works from the position that existing claims on property are to be considered valid unless demonstrated otherwise; and doesn't make this argument directly, but instead makes it implicitly by making egalitarianism prove its case.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 7:12 am 58

          Rather than imputing a theory of justice to Piketty based on hints from Capital in the 21st Century, it would have been more helpful to respond to the explicitly normative analysis in his work with Saez, which leads to a call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 per cent.

          This gives a clear answer to the "burden of proof" question raised in the comments above. In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

          Again, the OP does none of this. There's no sign that the author is even aware of Piketty's large body of work leading up to Capital in the 21st Century

          TM 12.11.15 at 9:34 am 59

          The article is poorly argued and based on irrelevant speculation.

          Bruce W 4: "The emblematic condition of Piketty's work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed."

          In the light of our discussion in the other thread, I am a bit surprised. You are now admitting that Piketty's argument is based on capital's share of total income rising but clearly, that share cannot rise indefinitely or else it would swallow up all of production. This is what I have argued and you, if I remember correctly, called that "idiotic". So which is it?

          TM 12.11.15 at 9:47 am 60

          "a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock of capital (relative to its income)." (Piketty)

          This kind of argument really drives me to despair. If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an "enormous stock" of it. As of ownership, a lot of our accumulated capital is actually publicly owned and actually makes people's lives better. Piketty makes no difference between productive capital and unproductive wealth and none between publicly and privately owned capital. Piketty makes it sound as if public investment in productive infrastructure is a bad policy because we really shouldn't be accumulating so much capital. Exasperating.

          Ze K 12.11.15 at 10:52 am 61

          The justice thing is tricky. In the current western worldview, as I understand it, the only 'just' way to distribute a loaf of bread is to negotiate and sell it.

          Capitalist inequality doesn't need to be justified, because it's not explicitly postulated (quite the opposite: 'all men are created equal'), but is merely a side-effect of a much more fundamental concept, the right to own property, also known as 'freedom', 'liberty'.

          Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, but wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

          Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

          Richard M 12.11.15 at 11:45 am 62

          > If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an "enormous stock" of it.

          That seems a failure of charitable reading. You can't get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings. So by 'capital', he clearly means money, i.e. ownership rights, not the things that money buys.

          Some interesting back-of-envelope calculations from link below suggest that there is two-to-three times as much ' investable capital' as 'capital required to run the economy'. Which explains why so much of it is spent trying to play zero-sum-except-in-case-of-fraud financial games. And why every-time someone does come up with a semi-valid new thing, they end up a billionaire.

          http://continuations.com/post/134920840275/capital-is-no-longer-scarce

          TM 12.11.15 at 1:04 pm 63

          "You can't get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings."

          But Piketty ("a country that saves a lot" etc.) doesn't make any of these distinctions. Is it really uncharitable to take him literally?

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:22 pm 64

          There are some very controversial points raised in the OP.

          This "even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates's example would attest." is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:27 pm 65

          "It seems that Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital or income as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true."

          I know Bruce W addressed this before @4, but to take another tack – it is also empirically not true since wage rates have been falling for 30 years at the same time as inequality has increased (not to mention that capital investment, at least since the invention of the joint stock company, is not an exclusive imperative of the wealthy).

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:32 pm 66

          Where do the figures from
          " In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%. In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital, while in Europe the top 10% own 60% and the next 40% own 35% of capital. " come from (there is no source given).

          The figure for the US today looks simply odd:
          http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/ suggests the top 10% today own 75% of the wealth.

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:45 pm 67

          "Piketty claims that 'economics is a subdiscipline of the social sciences, alongside history, sociology, anthropology, and political science.'"

          I regard this as rather unfortunate. I think economics is much closer in content and style to ecology and should be seen as a subset of ecology. If it saw itself that way, it would be much better.

          MPAVictoria 12.11.15 at 2:19 pm 68

          Paul I think you may find this article by Matt Bruenig interesting as it relates to many of the points you have made here:

          http://www.demos.org/blog/6/3/14/lesson-grab-what-you-can

          engels 12.11.15 at 2:27 pm 69

          Lfc, speaking only for myself the problem with the OP of not that it's 'hostile to some kind of egalitarian position' but that it's making bad arguments against a set of made-up claims.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:49 pm 70

          reason @64
          This "even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates's example would attest." is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

          I think Cudd's point here in the context of the post is the fairly banal one that not all fortunes are inherited, even today: Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc and then turning it into a corporate empire, helped *greatly* of course by intellectual-property laws once the software etc hit the market. I agree the sentence should be tweaked, but the 'human capital' reference here is to the fact that he and others he worked with were able to come up w/ whatever they came up with in the first place. Anyway, it's sort of a side issue because the post is not about the legal, socioeconomic, and 'luck' conditions that allow some inventors to get wealthy and others not, and it was really a point just made in passing.

          reason 12.11.15 at 2:54 pm 71

          LFC @70
          None the less the value of his human capital is what an employed programmer would have been paid to do what he did. And such a basic error, may not change the argument substantially, but along with some other errors (notably the incorrect wealth distribution figure quoted) gives the whole OP less authority than it otherwise might have had.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:07 pm 72

          JQ @58
          In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

          But "welfare-relevant differences between people" frequently exist, so at this level of generality that mostly kicks the can down the road, so to speak. Piketty and Saez's call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 percent is presumably based on a combination of their normative leanings and their empirical judgment that such a tax rate would not harm economic growth in a major way so as to offset its redistributive or other benefits. Assuming that judgment is correct, I'm still not sure it's reasonable to expect Cudd, who is a philosopher not an economist, to grapple with it. But I take the point that the OP as it's presented infers (or imputes) a normative analysis on P.'s part w/o noting what he had written in that vein before the book.

          Layman 12.11.15 at 3:09 pm 73

          "Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc"

          I think this is the wrong myth. Perhaps you mean Jobs?

          engels 12.11.15 at 3:10 pm 74

          His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates's maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had the "II" suffix.

          engels 12.11.15 at 3:25 pm 75

          Apropos of nothing where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:31 pm 76

          js. @51
          One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust-one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that's rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

          The main issue here though is not inequality in general but inequality of wealth and income. And no functioning economy in the real world can maintain a *completely* equal income distribution over time without a degree of micromanagement from someone that would be unworkable; probably not even a socialist utopia is going to have a *completely* equal distribution.

          So there *will be* some inequalities of income and wealth. If you want to start from the position that all of those inequalities have to be justified on a case-by-case basis, so to speak, that's fine with me, I guess. But you're not going to end up w complete equality of income, empirically b.c is it's not sustainable over time in any kind of minimally dynamic economy, and normatively b.c there are always going to be "welfare-relevant differences between people" (JQ's phrase), e.g., those with particular disabilities, etc etc.

          F Foundling @50
          only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls 'stigma' and 'oppression' might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don't think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

          It depends partly on how broadly 'oppression' and 'stigma' are defined. If inherited wealth plays an ever-increasing role in an economy and if the result is a caste-like society which effectively stigmatizes those excluded from the top caste by denying them access to, e.g., anything like equal educational or employment opportunities, then on the OP's reasoning that would be grounds for restricting inheritances.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:45 pm 78

          @66, @77

          There's a simple explanation: it's a typographical error. "25%" at that point should read "75%". Pretty obviously, the top 10% in the U.S. today don't own a mere 25% of the 'capital'. It's a typo.

          que_es 12.11.15 at 3:57 pm79

          cassander at 15:

          >If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          "If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake. "

          Every Kennedy? Huh? A wealthy person today is perfectly free to leave all of his/her wealth to the eldest son. But wealthy families today are not stuck with primogeniture. They can design their own custom wealth preservation plans and impose restrictions on the use of family wealth for generations after the death of the patriarch/matriarch. Perhaps most importantly, they can and almost always do impose restrictions on the free alienability of that wealth that restricts the rights of third parties in ways that entrench the wealth within the family.

          JimV 12.11.15 at 4:11 pm 80

          A minor digressive point about Bill Gates (based on reading the unauthorized biography "Gates"): he came from a wealthy background and as a result went to a school which had a computer club which had access to a PDP-11 mini-computer, at a time when most high schools did not have computer clubs. He and Paul Allen (illegally) copied the Basic Interpreter program of that computer, received slaps on the wrist for it (not that I think it deserved much more, but kids of a different social class might have been treated more severely), and later used it as the basis for their first commercial success, a Basic Interpreter for the first home micro-computer.

          He and Paul Allen are very smart people, but there were probably at least 10,000 other kids as smart or smarter from poor or middle-class backgrounds in the USA at that time, but who did not have the same opportunities.

          In conclusion, not a case of capital accumulation only, but it played a part – which I think is all that is necessary, just a a small fitness advance will raise a species to domination over time.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:19 pm 81

          Ze K @61

          …wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

          Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

          Rawls TOJ 1971, p.15, emphasis added: "Once we decide to look for a conception of justice that nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance…, we are led to these principles [of justice]."

          So Rawls was "a supporter of totalitarianism"? One could easily get the impression from reading certain things on the Internet and elsewhere that he was a squishy milquetoast liberal. My, my. Live and learn.

          js. 12.11.15 at 4:20 pm 82

          LFC @76 - Oh, I don't think each inequality needs to be justified on a case by case basis-something like the Difference Principle would do the trick.

          Maybe I'm not being clear, but I mean to make one specific point: Cudd is wrong to think that the equality presumption is false, or at any rate she hasn't given any argument that would convince me otherwise.

          This isn't a blanket criticism of her post or anything like that. For example, I think a lot of the stuff about oppression is interesting and worth thinking about. I just picked the one thing I disagree with (as one does).

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:29 pm 84

          js. @82:
          I get it. Fair enough.

          Now we can get back to the burning question of whether people who support 80% inheritance/estate taxes and 70% top marginal tax rates are Stalinists or merely Trotskyites. ;)

          Ze K 12.11.15 at 4:33 pm 85

          "So Rawls was "a supporter of totalitarianism"? "

          Yeah, sounds like it, according to this excerpt, unless it's ripped out of context. "nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance" sounds more radical than stalinism, it's practically pol-potian.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 5:24 pm 86

          @85
          well, since the bk quoted from is 600 pp. long, it was necessarily out of context. (R's first principle protects/prioritizes "basic [political] liberties".) Anyway, the pt was I don't think challenging inherited wealth equals Pol-Potianism. But this is just a minor eddy here, so we can agree to forget it.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 5:40 pm 87

          engels @75
          where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

          My hunch/sense is that this is not a particularly reliable index of class position. There are probably some very non-affluent African-American families today with people w names like Jones III or Smith IV, etc.

          On the other hand, when you see names with clear references to 17th or 18th cent. (hypothetically, something like "John Hancock V"), you pretty much know the person is from an old-line WASP family that's been in the U.S. a long time. Which doesn't *necessarily* mean wealthy, though it could well mean that

          [Dec 10, 2015] A Critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality

          Notable quotes:
          "... I understand Cudd to be raising a neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plants book on neo-liberalism -- that if a fortune has been made through no injustice to a concrete other and its gifting and bequeathing does no concrete injustice to another, then there is no coherent ideal of social justice (Hayeks idea that social justice is mirage) that would allow us to condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be. ..."
          "... Calling an exercise of power and authority in a bureaucratic hierarchy a market failure is an error of ideological obduracy, since hierarchies are not markets . Hierarchies of authority make economic use of social domination, which is, at least, potentially problematic for justice. ..."
          "... I can see how the provision of an elite education transmits priveledge, but Imalso hard pressed to suggest a child should be denied the best possible education that they can get. If a child has intellectual talent it should be developed regardless of whether they come from a rich or poor family. ..."
          "... So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is unjustified ? ..."
          "... Nothing is a priori just or unjust; Thomas More had slaves in his Utopia. However, when a socio-economic arrangement reaches a phase where its fairness is commonly questioned, thats a sure sign that the dominant ideology fails to convince, and the system is in trouble. Doesnt mean its going to collapse tomorrow, obviously. ..."
          "... He said as he foreclosed on the poor family and cast them out to starve in the street. ..."
          "... In a perfectly equal society where no one inherited anything, everyone got exactly the same starting salary, saved the same amount, got the same raise every year and earned the same rate of return, the richest 1/5 would still control 66% of the wealth just due to cohort effects. ..."
          "... This is an interesting paper about the dissipation of wealth: What is the True Rate of Social Mobility in Sweden? Suggests that the tendency of fortunes to fade away is generally underestimated ..."
          "... My reading of r g is that its pikettys attempt to put an overarching intellectual framework over his results and that its the least successful part of the work, although Brad Delong has made pretty good sense of it here ..."
          "... But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not? And pikettys shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating. ..."
          "... As Cudd concedes, Piketty presents a positive analysis predicting that inherited wealth will become dominant, and doesnt spell out any theory of justice, though its obvious that he thinks this is a bad thing. ..."
          "... So, Cudd makes up a theory of justice, imputes it to Piketty and then says it hasnt been proven. Whats more she writes as this topic is being addressed for the first time. She doesnt mention any of the vast number of people whove written on equality and whose arguments might be relevant here. ..."
          "... I agree with other posters. The OP reconstructed an argument Piketty never made about a topic he didnt address, and then complained about how bad it is (and for really unconvincing reasons). Its not often you see someone lose an argument so badly with a straw man of their own construction. ..."
          "... This is an absolute poverty line set in the early 1960s, so the position of these families relative to the median household is considerably worse. Relative to the top 1 per cent of households, the gap has grown enormously. The poverty rate for female headed households has barely changed since the 1970s, but (I think) the proportion of such households has increased substantially. On the other side of that equation, the proportion of couple households with two high incomes has also risen. So, while its certainly true that the wages of employed women have risen relative to those of employed men, that doesnt mean that gender based inequality and poverty have declined. ..."
          "... if youve got a conception of justice such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible … A banal point, probably, but AFAICS, everything is unjust compared to perfect justice, and perfect justice is impossible, because perfect anything is impossible. Not a reason not to keep perfecting things. Its what humans do. ..."
          "... The problem is that the OPs idea of what it takes to prove an inequality to be unjust is highly restricted. Not only is inequality assumed to be just until the opposite is proven, but it is argued that even if an inequality demonstrably, as Piketty claims, lacks any basis in merit (a blatant example being the case of inheritance), this is still not sufficient to make it unjust. That inequality per se does not even need to be justified by merit, or in any way at all, is a position so radically and counterintuitively anti-egalitarian that even right-wingers usually wont take it openly (rather, theyll insist that there is, in fact, a merit that justifies it). You see, only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls stigma and oppression might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I dont think convincing the author is worth the trouble. ..."
          "... A greatly unequal society requires a great amount of resources to maintain its inequality, and thus itself. ..."
          "... This consumption of resources, merely to maintain inequality, reduces the amount of resources available to actually operate the economy. That is, it reduces the efficiency of the economy. If the efficiency of the economy is sufficiently reduced, the economy cannot maintain itself. ..."
          "... Rather than imputing a theory of justice to Piketty based on hints from Capital in the 21st Century , it would have been more helpful to respond to the explicitly normative analysis in his work with Saez, which leads to a call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 per cent. ..."
          "... This kind of argument really drives me to despair. If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an enormous stock of it. As of ownership, a lot of our accumulated capital is actually publicly owned and actually makes peoples lives better. Piketty makes no difference between productive capital and unproductive wealth and none between publicly and privately owned capital. Piketty makes it sound as if public investment in productive infrastructure is a bad policy because we really shouldnt be accumulating so much capital. Exasperating. ..."
          "... Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, but wealth , according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck . Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck. ..."
          "... You cant get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings. So by capital, he clearly means money, i.e. ownership rights, not the things that money buys. ..."
          "... Some interesting back-of-envelope calculations from link below suggest that there is two-to-three times as much investable capital as capital required to run the economy. Which explains why so much of it is spent trying to play zero-sum-except-in-case-of-fraud financial games. And why every-time someone does come up with a semi-valid new thing, they end up a billionaire. ..."
          "... This even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gatess example would attest. is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital). ..."
          "... The figure for the US today looks simply odd: http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/ suggests the top 10% today own 75% of the wealth. ..."
          "... None the less the value of his human capital is what an employed programmer would have been paid to do what he did. And such a basic error, may not change the argument substantially, but along with some other errors (notably the incorrect wealth distribution figure quoted) gives the whole OP less authority than it otherwise might have had. ..."
          "... Piketty and Saezs call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 percent is presumably based on a combination of their normative leanings and their empirical judgment that such a tax rate would not harm economic growth in a major way so as to offset its redistributive or other benefits. Assuming that judgment is correct, Im still not sure its reasonable to expect Cudd, who is a philosopher not an economist, to grapple with it. But I take the point that the OP as its presented infers (or imputes) a normative analysis on P.s part w/o noting what he had written in that vein before the book. ..."
          "... The main issue here though is not inequality in general but inequality of wealth and income. And no functioning economy in the real world can maintain a *completely* equal income distribution over time without a degree of micromanagement from someone that would be unworkable; probably not even a socialist utopia is going to have a *completely* equal distribution. ..."
          Dec 11, 2015 | Crooked Timber

          on December 10, 2015

          Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an important and valuable contribution to political economy, both empirically and philosophically. Piketty grounds his theory in vast empirical data,rather than settling for elegant mathematical models. He courageously embraces the fact that economic theory is inevitably value laden, and proposes a theory of the historical dynamics of wealth accumulation in order to offer an updated moral critique of capitalism. Grounding his prediction in the historical data and profoundly simple mathematics, Piketty projects that economic inequality is likely to increase and to favor those who own inherited capital over time. He advances the normative judgment that rising inequality is unjust and must be contained. Although Piketty raises important concerns about the possibility of growing wealth inequality, he fails to normatively ground or argue for his presupposition that this inequality is unjust. Since relative poverty can coincide with high levels of objective or subjective well-being, this presupposition is brought into question. However, there are causes of inequality (including wealth inequality) that clearly can be shown to be unjust. By considering other forms and causes of inequality and oppression, we can distinguish between those forms of wealth inequality that are unjust and those that are normatively benign. In this way Piketty's concerns about growing wealth inequality from inheritance can be partly justified, though of course not empirically verified. Piketty's argument for the injustice of growing economic inequality has two parts. The first part is an empirical, economic argument for the claim that returns from inherited wealth will far outstrip income. This argument can be summarized as follows. Let r be the rate of return on capital, and g be the growth rate of the annual flow of national income.

          1. If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.
          2. Individuals who own a greater amount of capital earn a larger r.
          3. Growth, g, is likely to be slower in future.
          4. If r is great enough and g is low enough, then there will be ever more capital from older, inherited wealth, than from wealth saved from income.
          5. Hence, (wealth) inequality will increase, and inherited wealth will make up the greatest amount of capital. [click to continue…]

          T 12.10.15 at 4:24 pm

          "To show that income inequalities are unjust, they also have to be shown to derive from injustice or to lead to injustice." First, thank you for taking the time to join the group blog. Second, it seems that high income and high wealth individuals have been very effective in tilting the tax, regulatory, and legal environment even more in their favor thereby increasing the inequality that you may argue was not originally unjust. Do you think those behaviors lead to unjust income inequality? Do you think those behaviors are a necessary consequence of increased wealth and income inequality?

          Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 4:29 pm 2

          Interesting and challenging comment which will take several readings to understand and evaluate the many different arguments being made.

          Here is why Piketty thinks a rentier society contradicts the meritocratic worldview of democratic societies:

          "…no ineluctable force standing in the way to extreme concentration of wealth…if growth slows and the return on capital increases [as] tax competition between nations heats up…Our democratic societies rest on a meritocratic worldview, or at any rate, a meritocratic hope, by whichI I mean a belief in a society in which inequality is based more on merit and effort than on kinship and rents. This belief and hope play a very crucial role in modern society, for a simple reason: in a democracy the professed equality of rights of all citizens contrasts sharply with the very real inequality of living conditions, and in order to overcome this contradiction it is vital to make sure that social inequalities derive from ration and universal principles rather than arbitrary contingencies. Inequalities must therefore be just and useful to all, at least in the realm of discourse and as far as possible in reality as well…Durkheim predicted that modern democratic society would not put for long with the existence of inherited wealth and would ultimately see to it that the ownership of property ended at death." p. 422

          I understand Cudd to be raising a neo-liberal point discussed in Raymond Plant's book on neo-liberalism -- that if a fortune has been made through no injustice to a concrete other and its gifting and bequeathing does no concrete injustice to another, then there is no coherent ideal of social justice (Hayek's idea that social justice is mirage) that would allow us to condemn the resulting distribution of wealth, as fantastically concentrated as it may be.

          Yet a rentier society would actually undermine social utility by reducing the incentives for entrepreneurial exertion; the largest incomes also could not be justified in terms of meritocratic principles; and rentiers would be in a position to use the political process to extract not what Piketty calls rent in terms of the income of a rentier but what most economists mean by rents. The last would have no justification in terms of welfare economics (of which Cudd gives an eloquent defense in her book on capitalism). Piketty is correct that to the extent that citizens understood the nature of a rentier society they would rise in opposition to it.

          Plus, the wealth concentration of a rentier society would not be accepted in a Rawlsian original position and to the extent that some wealth is needed to exercise one's capabilities would be unjustifiable from Sen's and Nussbaum's capabilities theory. Piketty expresses sympathy for both normative political theories.

          Now Cudd also notes that Piketty argues that the astronomical pay of super-managers cannot be justified in meritocratic terms; his argument is more developed than she lets on–it involves cross-sectional comparison and econometric analysis, controlling for luck and other factors in company performance outside the control of a supermanager as well as the inapplicability of marginal productivity theory to the unique jobs that a CEO does. Plus, he gives an institutional analysis of the way in which CEO's can capture boards and how their incentive to do so rose with lower marginal tax rates. Of course that Piketty undermines this justification does not necessarily mean that such compensation is unjustified, but he does undermine the meritocratic justification that is given for it.

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm 3

          "When wealth inequalities stem from unjust inheritances"

          Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an "unjust" inheritance? Serious question...

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:34 pm 4

          Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital . . . as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true. Investment of capital creates improvements in standard of living for all.

          "that is clearly not true" seems a bit emphatic for a proposition that should not be clear at all. It might be the case that an instance of capital investment improves the standard of living or it might be immiserating. A wealthy investor might invest in a payday loan operation with a remarkable return on investment. A corporation might invest in automation of a production process and bargain for a reduction of wages for the now less numerous and "less-skilled" workforce.

          The emblematic condition of Piketty's work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed.

          We can certainly hope for the kind of capital investments that result in economic growth that exceeds the return to the owners of capital, but that's not the world Piketty is worried about.

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:47 pm 5

          Piketty argues that top managers today are paid unjustifiably large salaries because it is too difficult to assess the marginal productivity, and in the absence of any information they are able to manipulate their own and each other's wages. A market failure is not an injustice . . .

          Calling an exercise of power and authority in a bureaucratic hierarchy "a market failure" is an error of ideological obduracy, since hierarchies are not "markets". Hierarchies of authority make economic use of social domination, which is, at least, potentially problematic for justice.

          Bruce Wilder 12.10.15 at 4:53 pm 6

          A significant cause of income inequality is the differences in human capital developed through education. Piketty notes that the educational systems in Europe and especially the US tend to prevent rather than promote social mobility, and instead transmit privilege. 'Parents' income has become an almost perfect predictor of university access.' (p. 485) Piketty's explanation seems to be that it is because wealthy parents buy places for their children in universities, but I think this overestimates the corruption in university admissions and it underestimates the degree of stratification of the developed academic abilities of college age students. Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children's abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods. Especially elite universities in the US compete very hard to find and attract low income and minority students, but the competition is stiff for qualified students who will not need remediation in order to succeed.

          Demand for low-cost tokens is outrunning supply.

          Trader Joe 12.10.15 at 5:03 pm 7

          I struggle a lot with the concept of inheritance and when/when not justified. Its easy to see how its unfair/unjustified when the amounts are signficant, far less so when they are not.

          If I'm a Rockefeller and hand over the emprire to my children, its easy to see an undeserved conferred advantage.

          If I'm farmer Joe who has worked my farm all my life, own it outright through my labor and savings and then want to pass that to my children, who have also worked it all their life(s), so that it can sustain them the same way as it sustained me – it seems far more fair though it still confers on them an advantage of priveldged and if they successfully manage that advantage they should be able to make it grow. Over some number of generations, the differences would collapse.

          I think its a very natural instinct for a parent to want to transmit advantage to their children. Teaching them and nurturing their character are never criticized though no less an asset than dollars or farms.

          I can see how the provision of an elite education transmits priveledge, but I'malso hard pressed to suggest a child should be denied the best possible education that they can get. If a child has intellectual talent it should be developed regardless of whether they come from a rich or poor family.

          One take away from Picketty could be the best possible biological strategy is to try to get as rich as you possibly can because that's the best possible insurance for perpetuating your DNA. Probably not the policy prescription being encouraged, but certainly supported by the data.

          Paul 12.10.15 at 5:21 pm 8

          All property rights are oppressive; they amount to the restriction of the freedom of the non-property owner. Unless one wants to go communist (and argue that it is possible to create a society without property rights) or libertarian (and argue that property rights somehow exist a priori of society), any society is necessarily oppressive and unjust. The goal is to minimise this injustice without creating others or destroying the ability if society to function.

          So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is "oppression". Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition.

          notsneaky 12.10.15 at 5:43 pm 9

          "Is there any inheritance anywhere in the world that is not an "unjust" inheritance?"

          So… if I work hard all my life, say three minimum wage jobs, to put my kid through college, their college education is "unjustified"?

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 5:55 pm 11

          "So I think the OP is wrong in asserting that any allocation of property rights should be assumed just in the absence if evidence that the distribution is "oppression". Property rights are (probably necessary) oppression, almost by definition."

          Yep. Property is violence. Maybe beneficial violence in the utilitarian sense but violence all the same.

          Ze K 12.10.15 at 6:34 pm 12

          Nothing is a priori just or unjust; Thomas More had slaves in his Utopia. However, when a socio-economic arrangement reaches a phase where its fairness is commonly questioned, that's a sure sign that the dominant ideology fails to convince, and the system is in trouble. Doesn't mean it's going to collapse tomorrow, obviously.

          Rakesh Bhandari 12.10.15 at 6:45 pm 13

          It could be argued that entrepreneurial behavior is already individually irrational -- see Kahneman and Tversky. But it is often motivated at least partially by the dream of creating dynastic wealth and glory. Otherwise, it would make little sense to do the hard labor of thinking of new ways of doing things, convincing financiers of the worthiness of the project and giving up more secure incomes. One could worry that Piketty has exaggerated the importance of inherited wealth even in the face of his own evidence (only a small fraction of the top 1% receive most of their income as rentier rent IIRC) and that he has under-estimated its importance as an economic incentive for entrepreneurial labor and that he has also underestimated the extent to which great fortunes dissipate over time due to the growth of heirs and reasonable taxation.

          MPAVictoria 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm14

          "Nothing is a priori just or unjust"

          He said as he foreclosed on the poor family and cast them out to starve in the street.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm 15

          >If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake.

          > Wealthier families are better able to invest in developing children's abilities and talents to prepare them for college, and have better schools in their neighborhoods.

          Large American urban school districts are not just the best funded in the country, they're the best funded in the world. And what Bruce says about market failure applies equally well here. people have voted massive amounts of money for urban schools, when those state run schools fail to perform well despite these resources, the failure cannot possibly be attributed to market forces.

          > In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%.

          In a perfectly equal society where no one inherited anything, everyone got exactly the same starting salary, saved the same amount, got the same raise every year and earned the same rate of return, the richest 1/5 would still control 66% of the wealth just due to cohort effects. This simple characterizations of wealth inequality by quintiles or deciles do more to conceal than to reveal. what matters is not snapshots, but lifetime expectations. These, however, are harder to calculate and make for much less snappy talking points

          Paul 12.10.15 at 6:51 pm 16

          This is an interesting paper about the dissipation of wealth: What is the True Rate of Social Mobility in Sweden? Suggests that the tendency of fortunes to fade away is generally underestimated

          Paul 12.10.15 at 7:00 pm 17

          My reading of r>g is that its piketty's attempt to put an overarching intellectual framework over his results and that its the least successful part of the work, although Brad Delong has made pretty good sense of it here

          http://www.econ.hit-u.ac.jp/~makoto/Piketty_readings/Delong_2015.pdf

          But even if you consider it in error its the conclusion more than the foundation. The data speaks for itself.

          Cassander @15: I read your comment as "even a pretty equal society would be pretty unequal". The definition if a " pretty equal" society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

          Layman 12.10.15 at 7:13 pm

          If we are to complain that Piketty fails to demonstrate that income inequalities originate from or lead to injustices, can we not also complain that he fails to demonstrate that the sun rises in the east, or that night follows day, or that it is quite difficult to put the toothpaste back into the tube? While this is not as bad as complaining that he fails to discuss 20th- and 21st- century novels, it approaches that degree of badness.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 7:49 pm 21

          @Paul

          >This is an interesting paper about the disspation of wealth:

          I just skimmed it, but that the paper argues that there's a great deal of dissipation of wealth, just that it's well below 100% dissipation.

          >The definition if a " pretty equal" society us surely one where the richest 20% only control a little more than 20% of the wealth, surely? After all, the tallest 20% do not account for 66% of the total height in the population.

          If everyone was born 2 feet tall and got 10% taller a year, then the tallest 20% would have 80% of the height. the point of the math I laid out is precisely that "a society where everyone has the same amount of stuff" and "a society where everyone gets the same amount of stuff" are not the same, despite our basic instinct that they should be.

          T 12.10.15 at 7:52 pm 22

          @16

          This and other studies using unique surnames tends to suggest that mobility may be overstated.
          http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/papers/Sweden%202012%20AUG.pdf

          engels 12.10.15 at 7:53 pm 23

          Apologies if I've misunderstood but does the OP really think that someone who affirm's Paine's maxim that

          'Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, must believe that someone's inviting different numbers of people to two different dinner parties is unjust?

          Paul 12.10.15 at 8:02 pm, 24

          @cassander
          But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not? And piketty's shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.

          I can see your point that headline numbers can be misleading, but piketty also shows a clear trend, that wealth is becoming more concentrated. Unless the metrics are somehow a deteriorating representation if reality that's a real thing.

          cassander 12.10.15 at 8:55 pm 25

          @Paul

          >But a world where everyone is born poor and steadily becomes rich is also a pretty unequal world, is it not?

          For some definitions of unequal, yes, but I say those framing are not particularly useful We are all born ignorant and spend a lifetime accumulating knowledge, but we do not lament the "knowledge gap" between old and young. A world where everyone made X dollars a year, except for their 20th year when they make 1000X would not have a Gini score of 0, but I would call that world equal.

          > And piketty's shows that 50% of people in most western societies own nothing, which suggests a lot of people are not accumulating.

          It shows that most people aren't accumulating YET. In the real world, people do not save X percent of their income a year, they they consume a larger share of their income when young (consume much more than their income, actually) and save more as they age, for obvious reasons. That's why you have to look at wealth over lifetimes, not in snapshots.

          Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:15 pm 26

          @ 15 Cassander

          ">If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake."

          It's not saying that wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

          Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey.

          These people need the financial sector to put their money to work. And as we've seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

          Peter K. 12.10.15 at 9:21 pm 27

          And the one percent also effect politics and policy through their generous campaign contributions (Koch brothers); sponsorship of think tanks; ownership of mass media (think Rupert Murdoch); etc. etc.

          Politics and policy can effect both *r* and *g.*

          http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/us/politics/illinois-campaign-money-bruce-rauner.html

          "Around the same time that Mr. Rauner began running for governor, a group of researchers based at Northwestern University published findings from the country's first-ever representative survey of the richest one percent of Americans. The study, known as the Survey of Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good, canvassed a sample of the wealthy from the Chicago area. Those canvassed were granted anonymity to discuss their views candidly.

          Their replies were striking. Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois's two United States senators.

          Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.

          "Probably the biggest single area of disconnect has to do with social welfare programs," said Benjamin I. Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study. "The other big area has to do with paying for those programs, particularly taxes on high-income and wealthy people.""

          Soru 12.10.15 at 9:40 pm 28

          One thing is that in reality, setting 'the wealth of a new born' as zero is rather arbitrary. In one country they might get , by right of citizenship, X dollars of security, legal, health and welfare services. In another, Y dollars..

          Both have no money, but if X >> Y, then they are going to have very different average expected life outcomes.

          At a high zero point, you get cops and judges who uphold the law, at a low one you can hire some bodyguards. At high zero point you can go to a library, at a low one hire a hack to write your autobiography.

          You can extend that to cases of active oppression by giving that a dollar equivalent and a minus sign. After all, even slavery could usually be escaped from, in theory, by buying yourself…

          Thing is, the _potential_ floor of wealth in a modern society _could be_ as far above active oppression as room temperature is above absolute zero.

          And raising it never stops being a good.

          T 12.10.15 at 9:53 pm 29

          @27
          Exactly. Regardless of how how rich got that way there is no question that they are using their wealth to increase and capture economic rents and to take actions that diminish income and wealth mobility. To the extent the economy veers to increased rent seeking, it could very well lower future growth by diverting resources to non-productive activities. If this behavior is baked in as inequality reaches a certain threshold, then it is inherently unjust. To the extent its not always baked in, it has certainly had that effect in the US over the last 30 years. Consequently, we can conclude that current levels of US inequality are unjust.

          Mike Furlan 12.10.15 at 10:27 pm 30

          An interesting snapshot of where we are.

          http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/12/demise-of-the-us-middle-class-now-official.html

          cassander 12.10.15 at 10:31 pm 31

          @Peter K.

          >It's not saying that wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class).

          That's explicitly the argument pikety makes with R>G, that the rich get richer by virtue of being rich, not that the moderately well off occasionally become rich by some other means. None of the people you mention got rich by sitting on accumulated capital, nor did any of the fortune 500.

          >And as we've seen the last 100 years, the fiancial sector grows and grows as many of the newly rich are financiers.

          getting rich by playing financier with other people's investments is not what pikety is talking about. Warren Buffet's fortune, and almost every other financial fortune I can think of, was made by taking a percentage of the profit he got from investing other people's money, not his own.

          js. 12.10.15 at 10:50 pm 32

          However, the equality presumption is false; it is a fallacy akin to the principle of insufficient reason, which assumes equiprobability of events where there is no reason to assign another probability. But there is also no reason to assign equal probability rather than any other, and thus rationality cannot demand that. By the same token, morality cannot demand equal shares of a good (or bad) in the absence of a reason for it. I take this to be a point of logic, not morality.

          This is almost bizarrely unconvincing. You seem to be using "inequality" in a purely formal sense-a sense in which "4 > 2" counts as an inequality. In this sense of the word, it may well be true that there is no presumption of equality. But that fact has no bearing on whether or not a presumption of equality is plausible in the case of interest, namely social and economic inequalities. In this particular case, if there is a widespread moral intuition in favor of the presumption of equality (as I think there is), you can't simply hand-wave away the presumption as a "matter of logic". You need to either (a) show that there is in fact no such widespread intuition, or (b) provide some sort of error theory for this intuition. And until one of these arguments is forthcoming, I'll continue to think that the presumption of equality has quite a bit going for it.

          Tabasco 12.10.15 at 11:05 pm 33

          wealthy dynasties don't fall apart. They often do. But new dynasties are formed (often from well-off families, not the lower middle class). Trump. Warren Buffet. George Soros. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Oprah Winfrey

          Gates is giving his money away. Buffet and Zuckerberg say they are going to give away their money. So, no dynasties there.

          T 12.10.15 at 11:32 pm 34

          @33

          As for dynastic wealth, there are 4 Waltons, 3 Mars, and 2 Kochs among the top 18 richest Americans. That's 50%. Pinketty is forecasting a future of dynastic wealth, the Forbes 400 in 30 years. It's the kids of today's plutocrats that will be the beneficiaries.

          UserGoogol 12.10.15 at 11:50 pm 35

          Paul @ 8: I'd push against that in multiple directions. Even without property per se, some degree of excluding people from using resources is inevitable just from being an organism living in a world of limited resources. If I eat some food, I exclude others from eating that food. Property gives people rather extensive abilities to exclude others from using resources far beyond what is strictly necessary in a state of nature, but any existence involves curtailing the freedoms of others. The only way to have absolute freedom is to be God.

          But by the same token it seems kind of vacuous and silly to call that injustice. Minimizing the amount of suffering (or keeping the suffering within "reasonable" bounds) seems like a more sensible way of defining that word.

          To get back to the actual point you were making instead of making vague philosophical rumbling, property certainly ipso facto causes some degree of restriction of freedom and this is something deserving of critical attention. But I don't think you can usefully say that they're oppressive by definition.

          F. Foundling 12.10.15 at 11:52 pm 36

          The OP's notion of justice is not explained in the text, but it seems to be different from mine, and, I think, from that of many others. I think most people would agree that a just distribution is a distribution in accordance with the merits and/or needs of the individuals. Any deviation from such a distribution, for whatever reason, is unjust (it 'harms others' in the sense that the same resource could have been allocated to others more deserving of it based on their merits/needs, and the fact that more wealth has been created doesn't change anything as long as that new wealth is not distributed according to the same principle). This means that inheritance-determined distribution is inevitably unjust, just as any other distribution that is not deliberately made to reflect the merits and/or needs of the individuals can be reasonably assumed to be unjust by default, for the same reason that any random lottery ticket can be assumed not to be winning the jackpot, and any random sequence of body movements can be assumed not to result in the making of a sandwitch.

          The equality presumption is basic to most people's sense of justice: most people, when asked to divide a loaf of bread 'justly' between two complete strangers of whom they know nothing, will split it into two equal parts unless there is an obvious criterion by which to differentiate (size, age, gender, caste, etc.). Indeed, even when the bread is distributed unequally in accordance with one or more of these characteristics, the very fact that the difference in share size is made proportionate to the difference in the chosen characteristic(s) shows that no other inequality is assumed apart from the one explicitly entailed by the characteristic – i.e. equality is assumed by default 'other things being equal'. Yes, it is very unlikely that these two random strangers really are *precisely* equally good and deserving; the point is that we have no *right* to assume otherwise, and as humans they have a *right* to be treated equally unless there is a specific reason for the contrary.

          Bruce B. 12.11.15 at 12:26 am 37

          It's worth noting that in a lot of cases where a particular family dynasty falls apart, a great deal of the money doesn't travel far. It goes to co-owners of shared enterprises, colleagues and rivals, and others in the same stratum. Cash can flow out quickly, but lots of assets hang around, and get used by someone close at hand.

          If the principle that "since I didn't set out to harm anyone, you have no right to tax my stuff" were taken seriously in general, we wouldn't have laws against pollution or having your car run over someone because you didn't set the parking break. The idea sounds appealing widely at first hearing, but it doesn't take much of a context to establish how incompatible it is with a bunch of other moral reasoning.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 12:41 am 38

          The OP seems to be completely misconceived. As Cudd concedes, Piketty presents a positive analysis predicting that inherited wealth will become dominant, and doesn't spell out any theory of justice, though it's obvious that he thinks this is a bad thing.

          So, Cudd makes up a theory of justice, imputes it to Piketty and then says it hasn't been proven. What's more she writes as this topic is being addressed for the first time. She doesn't mention any of the vast number of people who've written on equality and whose arguments might be relevant here.

          The closest actual engagement with Piketty is her reference to the epigraph 'Social distinctions can be based only on common utility,' which would most naturally be interpreted in utilitarian terms (that's the default assumption for an economist anyway). So, Piketty can be taken to say that a combination of slow growth and increasing inequality is unlikely to promote common (aggregate) utility. There are plenty of arguments that can be made for or against this, but Cudd doesn't even bother. Having cited the epigraph, she never again mentions utility.

          js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am 39

          UserGoogol @35 - I'd make it even simpler: if you've got a conception of "justice" such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible, then whatever you've got is not a conception of justice.

          engels 12.11.15 at 1:05 am 41

          I agree with other posters. The OP 'reconstructed' an argument Piketty never made about a topic he didn't address, and then complained about how bad it is (and for really unconvincing reasons). It's not often you see someone lose an argument so badly with a straw man of their own construction.

          Robb Lutton 12.11.15 at 1:16 am 42

          …In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital,…

          This cannot be true else there would be no inequality as it would mean the bottom 50% would have 50% of capital.

          Markos Valaris 12.11.15 at 1:51 am 44

          js, UserGoogol, I suspect Paul is after something somewhat different, which is the idea that using force to exclude others from some resources must *either* be backed by good reasons *or* count as oppressive/unjust. This doesn't seem crazy, and it would generate the kind of request for justification the OP puzzles about.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am 45

          I haven't read the comment thread with great care but I have the read the OP.

          It seems to be the basic argument of the OP is roughly this:

          1) Absolute poverty (in today's world) is always unjust, but relative poverty resulting from economic inequalities is not necessarily always (or even presumptively) unjust. Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren't, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

          2) Economic inequalities resulting in or reflecting relative (not absolute) poverty are unjust when they are caused by (or transmit) oppression and/or discrimination, or when they 'stigmatize' and thereby cause psychological harm to an identifiable group. This point I think is more controversial but interesting and defensible, at least with a more elaborate account, which I take it the author of the OP has given elsewhere.

          As for where the OP directly engages with and criticizes Piketty, I'm not well-placed to get into this, but ISTM the passage where the OP criticizes him for ignoring the factor of oppression, e.g. w/r/t women in particular time periods, can be taken as a reasonable criticism.

          When read with some care, the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position, istm, as some commenters here apparently think.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:27 am 47

          One last thing: the criterion of "stigma" is arguably not that far from the Rawlsian criterion of 'self-respect' (which came up in the thread on Chris B's post), or at least it might be related… If one feels stigmatized or is objectively stigmatized by a particular situation of ec. inequality, then the social bases of self-respect are not being met. The OP refers to "social psychology" as tool of empirical investigation here, whereas in the other thread we were talking about moral psychology, but obvs. there's a common element: psychology.

          Matt 12.11.15 at 3:52 am 48

          LFC's reconstruction of the post strikes me as not only charitable, but pretty much obviously right. I'm pretty surprised, and sorry, to see the comments mostly get on the wrong foot and not address what's interesting in the post.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 4:20 am 49

          'Surely not the case for women'. This is far from obvious. 40 per cent of female headed families live in poverty. http://www.epi.org/publication/female-headed-families-children-poverty/

          This is an absolute poverty line set in the early 1960s, so the position of these families relative to the median household is considerably worse. Relative to the top 1 per cent of households, the gap has grown enormously. The poverty rate for female headed households has barely changed since the 1970s, but (I think) the proportion of such households has increased substantially. On the other side of that equation, the proportion of couple households with two high incomes has also risen. So, while it's certainly true that the wages of employed women have risen relative to those of employed men, that doesn't mean that gender based inequality and poverty have declined.

          I haven't got a conclusive answer on this, but if it's going to be the central point of a critique it deserves more than a handwaving "surely".

          F. Foundling 12.11.15 at 4:31 am 50

          @js. 12.11.15 at 1:02 am

          > if you've got a conception of "justice" such that any possible social arrangement is unjust, i.e. justice is actually impossible … A banal point, probably, but AFAICS, everything is unjust compared to perfect justice, and perfect justice is impossible, because perfect anything is impossible. Not a reason not to keep 'perfecting' things. It's what humans do.

          @LFC 12.11.15 at 2:06 am
          > the OP seems not anywhere near as hostile to some kind of egalitarian position

          'Some' does a lot of work here.

          >Some economic inequalities are unjust, others aren't, and one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust. This point strikes me as fairly uncontroversial.

          The problem is that the OP's idea of what it takes to prove an inequality to be unjust is highly restricted. Not only is inequality assumed to be just until the opposite is proven, but it is argued that even if an inequality demonstrably, as Piketty claims, lacks any basis in merit (a blatant example being the case of inheritance), this is still not sufficient to make it unjust. That inequality per se does not even need to be justified by merit, or in any way at all, is a position so radically and counterintuitively anti-egalitarian that even right-wingers usually won't take it openly (rather, they'll insist that there is, in fact, a merit that justifies it). You see, only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls 'stigma' and 'oppression' might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don't think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

          js. 12.11.15 at 4:35 am 51

          Hey Markos, it's Jamsheed. I think I see what you're saying-maybe. If that's what Paul was getting at, fair enough. But if I'm understanding you correctly, I think it still ends up turning on the "equality presumption" bit, on which see below.

          LFC - I agree with you that Cudd is sympathetic to egalitarianism in the post-and her points about gender inequality are well taken. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It just seems to me that she's given up a good direct argument against inequality for a considerably more circuitous one-for reasons that remain utterly opaque to me. (For one thing, all those old homilies about the "gentler and fairer sex" can be taken as ways to defeat the equality presumption, which would militate against gender inequality; one could of course find more modern equivalents too.)

          Anyway, this still seems wrong to me:

          one needs to make an argument about why particular inequalities (when we're talking about relative and not absolute poverty) are unjust

          I really think it's the other way around. One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust-one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that's rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:44 am 52

          Matt @48
          Thanks.
          (Btw, in re-reading my comment @45, I see there are typos in the first two lines - sorry.)9

          JQ @49: I said that "could be" a reasonable pt of criticism of P., but I don't/didn't know the empirics, so wasn't endorsing.

          A H 12.11.15 at 4:46 am 53

          I read Piketty as being a reformist liberal similar to Keynes. The reason wealth inequality is bad is because it threatens meritocratic liberal capitalism with either a return to feudalism or political upheaval. So any normative critique of Piketty needs to start with meritocracy.

          greg 12.11.15 at 5:41 am 55

          Any distribution of income in a society requires the consumption of resources to maintain itself. That distribution which requires the least consumption of resources to maintain itself is the most 'natural.' It is the most efficient, as well as the most robust economy.

          A greatly unequal society requires a great amount of resources to maintain its inequality, and thus itself. (A perfectly equal society also requires a large amount of resources just to maintain equality.)

          This consumption of resources, merely to maintain inequality, reduces the amount of resources available to actually operate the economy. That is, it reduces the efficiency of the economy. If the efficiency of the economy is sufficiently reduced, the economy cannot maintain itself.

          greg 12.11.15 at 5:47 am 56

          But I suppose the survival of the economy is beside the point.

          Paul 12.11.15 at 6:51 am 57

          UserGoogol @35: If you stop a hungry person picking an apple from a tree, it may be just (there may be a hungrier person who has planted and tended the tree, for example), but it's hard to argue that it isn't oppressive. But I concede this is a silly argument.

          The serious argument is that property is so deeply engrained in our society that it tends to get a free pass. I suspect that most people's conception of justice is based on the idea of "everyone has the right to their own stuff" ignoring completely how arbitrary our moral claims to owning anything as individuals actually are. What I dislike about the OP is that it effectively works from the position that existing claims on property are to be considered valid unless demonstrated otherwise; and doesn't make this argument directly, but instead makes it implicitly by making egalitarianism prove its case.

          John Quiggin 12.11.15 at 7:12 am 58

          Rather than imputing a theory of justice to Piketty based on hints from Capital in the 21st Century, it would have been more helpful to respond to the explicitly normative analysis in his work with Saez, which leads to a call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 per cent.

          This gives a clear answer to the "burden of proof" question raised in the comments above. In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

          Again, the OP does none of this. There's no sign that the author is even aware of Piketty's large body of work leading up to Capital in the 21st Century

          TM 12.11.15 at 9:34 am 59

          The article is poorly argued and based on irrelevant speculation.

          Bruce W 4: "The emblematic condition of Piketty's work, r > g, ought to imply something about the balance at the margin. If the income share claimed by capital is rising faster than total income, it cannot be the case that all capital investment entails a positive-sum bargain in which the net gain is distributed."

          In the light of our discussion in the other thread, I am a bit surprised. You are now admitting that Piketty's argument is based on capital's share of total income rising but clearly, that share cannot rise indefinitely or else it would swallow up all of production. This is what I have argued and you, if I remember correctly, called that "idiotic". So which is it?

          TM 12.11.15 at 9:47 am 60

          "a country that saves a lot and grows slowly will over the long run accumulate an enormous stock of capital (relative to its income)." (Piketty)

          This kind of argument really drives me to despair. If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an "enormous stock" of it. As of ownership, a lot of our accumulated capital is actually publicly owned and actually makes people's lives better. Piketty makes no difference between productive capital and unproductive wealth and none between publicly and privately owned capital. Piketty makes it sound as if public investment in productive infrastructure is a bad policy because we really shouldn't be accumulating so much capital. Exasperating.

          Ze K 12.11.15 at 10:52 am 61

          The justice thing is tricky. In the current western worldview, as I understand it, the only 'just' way to distribute a loaf of bread is to negotiate and sell it.

          Capitalist inequality doesn't need to be justified, because it's not explicitly postulated (quite the opposite: 'all men are created equal'), but is merely a side-effect of a much more fundamental concept, the right to own property, also known as 'freedom', 'liberty'.

          Social distinctions can be based only on common utility, but wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

          Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

          Richard M 12.11.15 at 11:45 am 62

          > If that stock of capital is productive capital, it is a good, not a bad thing for a society to have accumulated an "enormous stock" of it.

          That seems a failure of charitable reading. You can't get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings. So by 'capital', he clearly means money, i.e. ownership rights, not the things that money buys.

          Some interesting back-of-envelope calculations from link below suggest that there is two-to-three times as much ' investable capital' as 'capital required to run the economy'. Which explains why so much of it is spent trying to play zero-sum-except-in-case-of-fraud financial games. And why every-time someone does come up with a semi-valid new thing, they end up a billionaire.

          http://continuations.com/post/134920840275/capital-is-no-longer-scarce

          TM 12.11.15 at 1:04 pm 63

          "You can't get publicly owned utilities as a consequence of private savings."

          But Piketty ("a country that saves a lot" etc.) doesn't make any of these distinctions. Is it really uncharitable to take him literally?

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:22 pm 64

          There are some very controversial points raised in the OP.

          This "even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates's example would attest." is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:27 pm 65

          "It seems that Piketty treats economic inequality stemming from return on capital or income as a zero sum sort of situation, but that is clearly not true."

          I know Bruce W addressed this before @4, but to take another tack – it is also empirically not true since wage rates have been falling for 30 years at the same time as inequality has increased (not to mention that capital investment, at least since the invention of the joint stock company, is not an exclusive imperative of the wealthy).

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:32 pm 66

          Where do the figures from

          " In the 19th century the top 10% most wealthy owned 90% of capital, the middle 40% owned 5% and the bottom 50% owned 5%. In the US today, top 10% own 25% and the next 40% own 25% of capital, while in Europe the top 10% own 60% and the next 40% own 35% of capital. " come from (there is no source given).

          The figure for the US today looks simply odd: http://inequality.org/wealth-inequality/ suggests the top 10% today own 75% of the wealth.

          reason 12.11.15 at 1:45 pm 67

          "Piketty claims that 'economics is a subdiscipline of the social sciences, alongside history, sociology, anthropology, and political science.'"

          I regard this as rather unfortunate. I think economics is much closer in content and style to ecology and should be seen as a subset of ecology. If it saw itself that way, it would be much better.

          MPAVictoria 12.11.15 at 2:19 pm 68

          Paul I think you may find this article by Matt Bruenig interesting as it relates to many of the points you have made here:

          http://www.demos.org/blog/6/3/14/lesson-grab-what-you-can

          engels 12.11.15 at 2:27 pm 69

          Lfc, speaking only for myself the problem with the OP of not that it's 'hostile to some kind of egalitarian position' but that it's making bad arguments against a set of made-up claims.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 2:49 pm 70

          reason @64
          This "even though human capital can create great wealth in a single lifetime, as Bill Gates's example would attest." is clearly fallacious (Bill Gates great wealth came from Intellectual Property not human capital).

          I think Cudd's point here in the context of the post is the fairly banal one that not all fortunes are inherited, even today: Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc and then turning it into a corporate empire, helped *greatly* of course by intellectual-property laws once the software etc hit the market. I agree the sentence should be tweaked, but the 'human capital' reference here is to the fact that he and others he worked with were able to come up w/ whatever they came up with in the first place. Anyway, it's sort of a side issue because the post is not about the legal, socioeconomic, and 'luck' conditions that allow some inventors to get wealthy and others not, and it was really a point just made in passing.

          reason 12.11.15 at 2:54 pm 71

          LFC @70
          None the less the value of his human capital is what an employed programmer would have been paid to do what he did. And such a basic error, may not change the argument substantially, but along with some other errors (notably the incorrect wealth distribution figure quoted) gives the whole OP less authority than it otherwise might have had.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:07 pm 72

          JQ @58
          In the absence of welfare-relevant differences between people, the utility derived from a given aggregate income is maximized when that income is distributed equally. So, any inequality needs to be justified, either on the basis of welfare-relevant differences, or on the basis that it is needed to generate a larger aggregate income.

          But "welfare-relevant differences between people" frequently exist, so at this level of generality that mostly kicks the can down the road, so to speak. Piketty and Saez's call for a top marginal tax rate of around 70 percent is presumably based on a combination of their normative leanings and their empirical judgment that such a tax rate would not harm economic growth in a major way so as to offset its redistributive or other benefits. Assuming that judgment is correct, I'm still not sure it's reasonable to expect Cudd, who is a philosopher not an economist, to grapple with it. But I take the point that the OP as it's presented infers (or imputes) a normative analysis on P.'s part w/o noting what he had written in that vein before the book.

          Layman 12.11.15 at 3:09 pm 73

          "Gates did not inherit his wealth (though presumably he came from a middle or upper-middle class background) but made his fortune via inventing stuff in a garage etc"

          I think this is the wrong myth. Perhaps you mean Jobs?

          engels 12.11.15 at 3:10 pm 74

          His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates's maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had the "II" suffix.

          engels 12.11.15 at 3:25 pm 75

          Apropos of nothing where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:31 pm 76

          js. @51
          One never needs to justify why an inequality is unjust-one only ever needs to justify the inequality itself. Of course, one sees plenty of arguments for why some inequality is unjust and why we need to fix that, but I think these are really arguments for disrupting existing social arrangements so as to make them more egalitarian, rather than arguments for the justice of equality per se, which again is something that's rarely needed an argument, it seems to me.

          The main issue here though is not inequality in general but inequality of wealth and income. And no functioning economy in the real world can maintain a *completely* equal income distribution over time without a degree of micromanagement from someone that would be unworkable; probably not even a socialist utopia is going to have a *completely* equal distribution.

          So there *will be* some inequalities of income and wealth. If you want to start from the position that all of those inequalities have to be justified on a case-by-case basis, so to speak, that's fine with me, I guess. But you're not going to end up w complete equality of income, empirically b.c is it's not sustainable over time in any kind of minimally dynamic economy, and normatively b.c there are always going to be "welfare-relevant differences between people" (JQ's phrase), e.g., those with particular disabilities, etc etc.

          F Foundling @50
          only some very specific reasons such as certain proof of the presence of what the author calls 'stigma' and 'oppression' might potentially convince the author to deign to care about wealth-induced unequal outcomes in a way roughly comparable to the way the author cares about gender-induced and race-induced unequal outcomes. Personally, I don't think convincing the author is worth the trouble.

          It depends partly on how broadly 'oppression' and 'stigma' are defined. If inherited wealth plays an ever-increasing role in an economy and if the result is a caste-like society which effectively stigmatizes those excluded from the top caste by denying them access to, e.g., anything like equal educational or employment opportunities, then on the OP's reasoning that would be grounds for restricting inheritances.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 3:45 pm 78

          @66, @77

          There's a simple explanation: it's a typographical error. "25%" at that point should read "75%". Pretty obviously, the top 10% in the U.S. today don't own a mere 25% of the 'capital'. It's a typo.

          que_es 12.11.15 at 3:57 pm79

          cassander at 15:

          >If r>g, then (wealth) inequality will grow over time.

          "If this were true, every Kennedy alive today would be richer than Joe Kennedy was. This is not the case. It is not the case because people eventually die and fortunes get divided up. It's not a statement of how feudalism works under primogeniture, but it doesn't describe modern economies. Everything Pikety says is built on this fundamental mistake. "

          Every Kennedy? Huh? A wealthy person today is perfectly free to leave all of his/her wealth to the eldest son. But wealthy families today are not stuck with primogeniture. They can design their own custom wealth preservation plans and impose restrictions on the use of family wealth for generations after the death of the patriarch/matriarch. Perhaps most importantly, they can and almost always do impose restrictions on the free alienability of that wealth that restricts the rights of third parties in ways that entrench the wealth within the family.

          JimV 12.11.15 at 4:11 pm 80

          A minor digressive point about Bill Gates (based on reading the unauthorized biography "Gates"): he came from a wealthy background and as a result went to a school which had a computer club which had access to a PDP-11 mini-computer, at a time when most high schools did not have computer clubs. He and Paul Allen (illegally) copied the Basic Interpreter program of that computer, received slaps on the wrist for it (not that I think it deserved much more, but kids of a different social class might have been treated more severely), and later used it as the basis for their first commercial success, a Basic Interpreter for the first home micro-computer.

          He and Paul Allen are very smart people, but there were probably at least 10,000 other kids as smart or smarter from poor or middle-class backgrounds in the USA at that time, but who did not have the same opportunities.

          In conclusion, not a case of capital accumulation only, but it played a part – which I think is all that is necessary, just a a small fitness advance will raise a species to domination over time.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:19 pm 81

          Ze K @61

          …wealth, according to our worldview, can be legitimately acquired by luck. Inheriting wealth is one example of such luck.

          Questioning these assumptions (again, in our current worldview) makes one a supporter of totalitarianism.

          Rawls TOJ 1971, p.15, emphasis added: "Once we decide to look for a conception of justice that nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance…, we are led to these principles [of justice]."

          So Rawls was "a supporter of totalitarianism"? One could easily get the impression from reading certain things on the Internet and elsewhere that he was a squishy milquetoast liberal. My, my. Live and learn.

          js. 12.11.15 at 4:20 pm 82

          LFC @76 - Oh, I don't think each inequality needs to be justified on a case by case basis-something like the Difference Principle would do the trick.

          Maybe I'm not being clear, but I mean to make one specific point: Cudd is wrong to think that the equality presumption is false, or at any rate she hasn't given any argument that would convince me otherwise.

          This isn't a blanket criticism of her post or anything like that. For example, I think a lot of the stuff about oppression is interesting and worth thinking about. I just picked the one thing I disagree with (as one does).

          LFC 12.11.15 at 4:29 pm 84

          js. @82:
          I get it. Fair enough.

          Now we can get back to the burning question of whether people who support 80% inheritance/estate taxes and 70% top marginal tax rates are Stalinists or merely Trotskyites. ;)

          Ze K 12.11.15 at 4:33 pm 85

          "So Rawls was "a supporter of totalitarianism"? "

          Yeah, sounds like it, according to this excerpt, unless it's ripped out of context. "nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance" sounds more radical than stalinism, it's practically pol-potian.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 5:24 pm 86

          @85
          well, since the bk quoted from is 600 pp. long, it was necessarily out of context. (R's first principle protects/prioritizes "basic [political] liberties".) Anyway, the pt was I don't think challenging inherited wealth equals Pol-Potianism. But this is just a minor eddy here, so we can agree to forget it.

          LFC 12.11.15 at 5:40 pm 87

          engels @75
          where does being called Miles Fraser V or whatever place you in American class system: 1% or merely upper-middle class?

          My hunch/sense is that this is not a particularly reliable index of class position. There are probably some very non-affluent African-American families today with people w names like Jones III or Smith IV, etc.

          On the other hand, when you see names with clear references to 17th or 18th cent. (hypothetically, something like "John Hancock V"), you pretty much know the person is from an old-line WASP family that's been in the U.S. a long time. Which doesn't *necessarily* mean wealthy, though it could well mean that

          [Dec 10, 2015] The Feds Painted Itself Into The Most Dangerous Corner In History - Why There Will Soon Be A Riot In The Casino

          As long as oil stay low I think there will be no recession...
          Notable quotes:
          "... Submitted by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog, ..."
          Zero Hedge

          Submitted by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog,

          Presumably, Yellen and her posse know that we did not have seven years running of negative real money market rates even during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

          So after one pretension, delusion, head fake and forecasting error after another, the denizens of the Eccles Building have painted themselves into the most dangerous monetary corner in history. They have left themselves no alternative except to provoke a riot in the casino - the very outcome that has filled them with fear and dread all these years.

          ... ... ...

          But the fantastic global credit bubble summarized below has now reached its apogee. China and the EM economies are rolling over into a debilitating deflation, thereby catalyzing the mother of all margins calls. This time subprime is lettered in Chinese and speaks with a Portuguese accent.

          ... ... ...

          According to Dr. Summers, the thing to do when recession strikes is to cut interest rates by 300 basis points. But even he admits it ain't going to happen this time.

          Even if were technically possible to have a negative 300 bps federal funds rate, what is already a 2016 election year gong show would take on a whole new level of crazy. The brutally trod upon savers and retirees of American would well and truly revolt.

          Historical experience suggests that when recession comes it is necessary to cut interest rates by more than 300 basis points. I agree with the market that the Fed likely will not be able to raise rates by 100 basis points a year without threatening to undermine the recovery. But even if this were possible, the chances are very high that recession will come before there is room to cut rates by enough to offset it. The knowledge that this is the case must surely reduce confidence and inhibit demand.

          Central bankers bravely assert that they can always use unconventional tools. But there may be less in the cupboard than they suppose. The efficacy of further quantitative easing in an environment of well-functioning markets and already very low medium-term rates is highly questionable. There are severe limits on how negative rates can become. A central bank that is forced back to the zero lower bound is not likely to have great credibility if it engages in forward guidance.

          Katherine Schock, 1 year ago
          Just spent the major part of my day putting together the records to file the old man's tax this year. We have contributed mightily to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry and yes, a major part of our income that makes up our yearly retirement amount has ended up in the pockets of these Wall Street bums! Therefore, I am posting this song as a tribute to Wall Street...thanks to you guys we barely have a dime left over! Hope you choke on your fucking bonus!

          Gene Burnett - Jump You F#kers (A Song For Wall Street) - YouTube

          [Dec 10, 2015] Regarding the Future is Bright

          Notable quotes:
          "... We had a sluggish economy during the Bush Mismanagement years. The Fed compensated by allowing an under regulated housing bubble to form. We never fixed the core problem that led to the 2001 recession. It would be foolish to try to fix the jobs problem with housing alone and I think Bondad has a point that housing is not saving us this time. ..."
          "... the crucial indicator being real wage growth. ..."
          "... Another problem is that we live in a bad society. Whether or not there is another recession affects the precise level of pain. But even if there is no recession the future will only be bright for a select class of socially privileged winners. For many, many Americans, the future is bleak no matter what - absent major structural political and economic changes. ..."
          "... Clintons tech stock bubble popped and morphed into Bushs housing bubble. Bush thought military Keynesianism and tax cuts for the rich would help but they didnt help much. The solution is to regulate and tax the financial industry to prevent bubbles from forming. Greenspan denied its existenc ..."
          "... The simple tool for reining in our excessively top-heavy financial sector is deflation! ..."
          "... Its generally useful to talk about macroeconomic factors in terms of cyclical and structural factors. Its a reductionist framework, but one that IMO holds up well and is quite clarifying. So when I hear someone say something about a nebulous core problem that leads to recessions, I am very suspicious. Usually, such claims are about someones hobby horse structural issue, which may or may not be important, but is generally not the cause of recessions. ..."
          Economist's View
          bakho said...
          Regarding the "The Future is Bright ".

          We had a sluggish economy during the Bush Mismanagement years. The Fed compensated by allowing an under regulated housing bubble to form. We never fixed the core problem that led to the 2001 recession. It would be foolish to try to fix the jobs problem with housing alone and I think Bondad has a point that housing is not saving us this time.

          cawley said in reply to bakho...
          Agreed. Also with the crucial indicator being real wage growth.

          ken melvin said in reply to bakho...

          Yup, housing is the effect, not the cause.

          RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to ken melvin...

          Exactly!

          New Deal democrat said in reply to bakho...

          Thanks.

          My post at Bonddad was an elaboration on a comment I made here two days ago. I had been meaning to reply to CR last year when he made the same argument, but never got around to it.

          In fairness, I think Bill makes an excellent case that we won't have another recession brought about by a housing bubble, and/or too much consumer leverage any time soon. But there are plenty of other reasons why the economy might tip back into recession, as comments here have already mentioned.

          Dan Kervick said in reply to New Deal democrat...

          Another problem is that we live in a bad society. Whether or not there is another recession affects the precise level of pain. But even if there is no recession the future will only be "bright" for a select class of socially privileged winners. For many, many Americans, the future is bleak no matter what - absent major structural political and economic changes.

          Dan Kervick said in reply to JF...

          Well I said the prospects are bleak only absent major structural political and economic changes. And they are. American society is killing off whole classes of people. The prisons are full; there are epidemics of substance abuse going on, and rising suicide rates. The Financial Times reported today Even if there is no recession, that just means that these people are not also laid off, and can trudge back and forth every day from their Wal-Jobs to their hardscrabble communities, slums and trailer parks and afford more booze to drink themselves to death or buy lottery tickets to win imaginary pots of gold that will never come, and to have a functioning TV so they can watch people scream at each other all night. Oh, and the prices of hookers and drugs are down. Bright times!

          Why should any of these people care what the "Bonddad" thinks about how bright the future is for people who ... well, own bonds; or who party in Manhattan and Silicon Valley with their fortunes; or who make use of their abundant low-anxiety leisure to talk to their college chums all day in the establishment punditariat?

          The up and down cyclical motions of the pretty horsies going up and down mean little to the people who sleep in the dark machinery underneath the merry-go-round.

          If US society keeps its basic overall shape, the future isn't bright. But it does contain just enough glare to make sure that the party boys with their ever-evolving fashion lines of fancy sunglasses will continue not to see half of the world.

          Dan Kervick said in reply to Dan Kervick...

          Incomplete sentence. I meant to say, "The Financial Times reported today on the further hollowing out of the US middle class and growing income stratification."

          Dan Kervick said in reply to Dan Kervick...

          America, 2015:

          http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/may/14/homan-square-detainee-police-abuse

          JF said in reply to Dan Kervick...

          Yes, we absolutely have the opportunity to do better. We ought to try.

          Julio said in reply to JF...

          We are rich beyond belief. We just have to get used to the idea. Then, new vistas open up.

          JF said in reply to Julio...

          Yes. Net Wealth of US residents is nearly $85 T with an annual flow of economic activity over $17 T.

          We have a rising population, not a declining one.

          We produce more food than we can eat and have access to immense energy sources.

          And we have one of the better judicial systems and at least historically a governing set of institutions that brings up to the pragmatic middle that has made sound currency and nationwide payment systems, lots of supportive infrastructure including some good literacy levels from the educational system part of it.

          We can do better, but I'd take the US over any other place (we even have a moderate climate).

          This election might change my thinking on this last point about ta