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Inflation, Deflation and Confiscation

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Economists are the only 'professionals' who can be wrong 100% of the time and not lose their jobs

Inflation is just another way to fleece the sheeple

Thinking about inflation without considering the cost of oil (and energy in general) is deeply flawed. Inflation via rising cost of oil is the main vehicle of lowering the standard of living in developed countries. So we have the key channel of inflation via rising energy costs.

Also that are suggestions that stock market (supported by your 401K investments) functions as a new channel where "excessive money supply" is consumed, creating a bubble.   So when you buy 401K investment in inflated stock market (and substantial part of 401K investors use cost averaging)  you essentially use "depreciated dollars"  not that dissimilar to buying food with depreciated marks in Weimar Germany. In a way stock market became real inflation outlet: saving of sheeple can be confiscated via a stock market crash like in 2001 and 2008.

At the same time labor became cheaper and cheaper. And this is a clear deflationary phenomenon. With the current rate of unemployment, it is employees who hold all the cards in the job market.  Which is what neoliberalism is about: decimation of power of organized labour.

Taking into account instability, greed  and recklessness of financial sector, which hold the society by the throat by controlling the government nothing can stop Fed from printing money under some legitimate or illegitimate pretexts to avoid repetition of 2008 with a new "fall" player instead of Lehman. My impression is that all this talk about tightening is just "open mouse operations" -- a smoke screen for competitive devaluation the Fed is engaged in. Japan is probably a very good model of the USA development decades ahead.

Oil prices increased despite recession and this alone suggests that inflation in a very fundamental sense is up, not down, because at the end of the day there are natural limits of energy efficiency and in some cases the current civilization of pretty close to them. And at end of day Fed is just a bunch of mostly clueless careerists leaded by a man who deliberately did not noticed housing bubble (aka Arsonist Ben) and who was able to fit Greenspan Fed (which suggest absolute absence of spine).

In a way real money printing is done by OPEC, Russia, and other oil producing countries. Fed is just a level of speculators on top of this with the US military machine as a supporting tool to ensure that oil is traded in dollars. All those talks about renewable energy are just talks, as share of renewables in total energy balance is pretty small and is expected to stay on the same level. So the current civilization does depends on fossil fuels and can get into deep troubles as soon as it runs out of them. That means that energy prices, especially oil prices reflect the real inflation that affects the society.  and high current oil prices depress economy to a stagflation status which is hidden by underreporting inflation to squeeze positive GDP growth out of economic data.  And this is a more fundamental problem then just "number racket": nobody understand if capitalism works with negative economic growth.  It is an economic system that requires positive growth.

Rise of EROI means that the current life style needs to be drastically downsized and that what we see in the USA outside top 1% (or probably top 20%). All those talk about stock market prices are pseudoscience or worse as at the end of the day it is just different private currencies with floating rate of exchange and their level means very little in the general situation for the civilization as we know it.

If you counting inflation then in "constant dollars" S&P500 was barely beating inflation from 1994 to 2013. The value of S&P should be multiplied by 0.62, to get the reading in 1993 dollars. That means that most of S&P500 gains are due to inflation:

Year

Inflation
%

Cost of $1 item in 1993 dollars Dollar value in 1993 dollars
1993 3 1 1
1994 2.6 1.026 0.974659
1995 2.8 1.054728 0.948112
1996 3 1.08637 0.920497
1997 2.3 1.111356 0.899801
1998 1.6 1.129138 0.885631
1999 2.2 1.153979 0.866567
2000 3.4 1.193214 0.838072
2001 2.8 1.226624 0.815245
2002 1.6 1.24625 0.802407
2003 2.3 1.274914 0.784367
2004 2.7 1.309337 0.763745
2005 3.4 1.353854 0.738632
2006 3.2 1.397178 0.715729
2007 2.8 1.436299 0.696234
2008 3.8 1.490878 0.670746
2009 -0.4 1.484914 0.673439
2010 1.6 1.508673 0.662834
2011 3.2 1.556951 0.642281
2012 2.1 1.589647 0.629071

Most professionals now think that the most probable scenario is "deflation and inflation; not deflation, then inflation": both inflation and deflation are now compartmentalized.

There are clear signs of inflation in financial assets (stocks, bonds) and food prices in 2013. In essence we can assume that there are two types inflation: asset price inflation (financial bubbles) and consumer price inflation. Some authors think that asset price inflation (financial bubbles)  is more deadly for economy. Professor Charles Kindleberger analyzed episodes of high asset price inflation and stable or declining wholesale and consumer prices indices in the US for 1927-1929, Japan 1985-89, and Sweden 1985-89 and noted that central banks typically fail to intervene to arrest asset price inflation, essentially for two reasons: central banks never undermine a stock market boom, and they are concerned only with consumer price inflation.

This is an important observation. Rising stock market (asset price inflation) is an indicator of unhealthy speculative economy. It is not a sign of a healthy economy as many people assume. Inflation just found new channels in the era of computer and electronic stock exchanges.

So the amazing rise of S&P500 to 1650 in May 2013 might be not connected to the recovery. It might well be a demonstration of asset price inflation. After all stocks can be considered to be private money of public corporations (like Fed they can print them or buy them back) and stock price -- an exchange rate of this currency to dollar. As such it is more of a harbinger of a new financial crisis, then sign of a recovery.  And this time the crisis can strike with double force as FED spend all their ammunition , and are pinned against the wall by their own policies of helicopter money. They can  do nothing as they understand that they are in zugzwang and any their action is destructive. 

Please note also the recent episode of "haircuts" (aka confiscation of assets) as a solution when central bank is paralyzed.  This might be another warning sign. A very interesting recent example was the situation with Cyprus, when EU refuse bail-out without haircut and a significant portion of deposits above $100K was simply confiscated. 

That means that inflation can limited to some sectors such as financial assets and commodities which are not reflected in a typical inflation indexes. In fact, during the the recent decade we have seen a high level of inflation of prices of commodities like oil, copper, etc. Along with the deflation of other assets, especially housing. FT Alphaville has called it “compartflation.”.  There is also a term Biflation (Wikipedia)

Biflation (sometimes mixflation) is a state of the economy where the processes of inflation and deflation occur simultaneously.[1] The term was first introduced by Dr. F. Osborne Brown, a Senior Financial Analyst for the Phoenix Investment Group.[2] During Biflation, there's a rise in the price of commodity/earnings-based assets (inflation) and a simultaneous fall in the price of debt-based assets (deflation).[3]

The price of all assets are based on the demand for them versus the volume of money in circulation to buy them.

With biflation on the one hand, the economy is fueled by an over-abundance of money injected into the economy by central banks. Since most essential commodity-based assets (food, energy, clothing) remain in high demand, the price for them rises due to the increased volume of money chasing them. The increasing costs to purchase these essential assets is the price-inflationary arm of Biflation.[4]

With biflation on the other hand, the economy is tempered by increasing unemployment and decreasing purchasing power. As a result, a greater amount of money is directed toward buying essential items and directed away from buying non-essential items. Debt-based assets (mega-houses, high-end automobiles and stocks) become less essential and increasingly fall into lower demand. As a result, the prices for them fall due to the decreased volume of money chasing them. The decreasing costs to purchase these non-essential assets is the price-deflationary arm of biflation.

What is different this time is that expectation for a resumed growth might never materialize due to "energy peak" unless some technological breakthrough happens. World bank estimate for 2013 for the USA  Prospects for the Global Economy - The global outlook in summary, 2011-2015 is 1.9% which is close to stagnation as accuracy of measuring of inflation is low (+/- 1%). But in any case this means slowdown from 2012 (2.2%).

Confiscation is another danger. The principal difference is that inflation can be anticipated to varying degrees. Expropriation of ordinary people's account holdings, something that hitherto only Nazis and Communists have indulged in, but now Cyprus banks were forced to do however, cannot.

Peak energy is the most important constrain for further economic growth: unlike money, barrels of oil can’t be printed out of thin air. Resources limitations tend to depress the standard of living for majority of population. Growth of inequality due to recent rise of power of financial elite exacerbate the trend. Price of many agricultural commodities strongly correlates with the price of oil. Huge debt overhang is another important factor. 

That means that 2006/08 Commodity Price Boom was essentially a huge spike of inflation (in which big banks and hedge funds played a distinct role of enablers) that went almost undetected or what is more probably, was suppressed.  The dog does not bark if you muzzle him.

I think that the problem of inflation is essentially a political problem. It is the issue of solvency of the ruling elite be it reckless nationalist of Zimbabwe or patchwork of independent states with nationalists in power but with interdependent economies like in case of dissolution of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia or the result of overborrowing and wasting/appropriation by the elite of foreign loans. Which are very quickly  transferred back to foreign banks. That latter is a classic neocolonialism "development" scenario.

One way any serious crisis of ruling elite reveal itself is via inflation (or, in other words, when the only option is running printing press at full speed no matter what the consequences are, because the ruling elite run out of other options). Only with complete loss of political control this inflation takes form of hyperinflation -- a collapse of currency. Without South/North split, the most plausible scenario is a gradual deterioration of US fiscal position but sudden collapse of currency looks pretty remote.

On the other hand as Jim Grant noted: “Deflation is a crisis of money and credit, a symptom of which is falling prices.” In a way extremes meet, so deflation can quickly turn into rampant inflation. And the first robin in such cases is rapid depreciation of currency ("crisis of confidence") and only then rapid change in the bonds rates. Huge deficits are like a ticking time bomb with a fuse of uncertain length. When the bomb is ready to go off, it’s too late to react.  But at the same time many of government financial obligations are now adjusted for inflation (TIPs are one such example) so you need probably need an actual collapse of governance to get such a result. The was the case of ex USSR republics in 1991-2000, and might happen in case of breakup of the USA.  At the same time the amount of dollars in circulation in the world is huge and dollar remain the key currency in which oil is prices. That creates inertia

That means that the monetary policy cannot be studied, or understood, in isolation from the overall policies of the state, especially engagements in costly adventures like optional wars (read Iraq and Afghanistan). Countries engaged in wars are generally more susceptible to the bouts of inflation. Empires especially are prone to overextending themselves and succumbing to inflation.

Talks about Central banks independence make slight sense only during good times, but should not overshadow the real picture: any Central Bank is an agent of state, the agent of the ruling elite.  In tough times all correlations became one. And Central Bank behaves as a puppet of central government it always was. That's why most states monopolizes the supply of money within its own territory.

Monetary, fiscal, military, political, and economic issues are all intertwined. Military adventures is probably the most common source of inflation as an informal coalition of groups with vested interests in the continuous development and maintenance of weaponry constitute the important part of elite and that naturally leads to attempts to use its power for pursuing the state interests outside of its borders (war is a continuation of policy with other means). The U.S. military-industrial complex on an annual basis accounts for 47% of the world's total arms expenditures. The Military budget of the United States for the 2009 fiscal year was more then half-trillion dollars. BTW in the draft of his famous farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower initially used the term military-industrial-congressional complex, which indicates the essential role that the United States Congress plays in supporting and expanding the military-related industries.

While a war usually lead to inflation, the victory against major adversary can lead to disinflation. For example, low inflation (and great stock market run) of 1991-2000 was at least partially connected with the defeat of the USSR and subsequent looting of xUSSR states as well as extending dollar hegemony to this area; this was once in a century event which added almost a billion consumers and allow western corporation (financed mainly by US banks) to buy assets for pennies on a dollar. Dollarization of huge region allowed Greenspan's Fed to pursue extremely loose monetary policy. Approximately in 2000 situation changed and reckless policy of the Fed led to the collapse of housing bubble which was consciously inflated since 2000 as there was no other alternatives to growth. The subsequent financial crisis in some ways was similar with the situation in which Great Britain has found itself after the WWII when its empire collapsed. It cost the USA political influence as neoliberalism, the ideology that defeated communism, was discredited.  The latter cost the USA a part of its global influence; also penetration on foreign market by US banks and global corporation became more difficult and probe with more risks as recent Prism scandal suggests. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other leading US tech companies got under negative light in foreign markets including such important markets as China and BRICS.

In some way we can view the current crisis not as a new event, but as a resumption of an old crisis which started in late 80th just after the long holidays caused by collapse of the USSR.

Within the state monetary policy always serves the needs of the ruling elite. That's the primary, albeit unstated, goal of Fed monetary policy. The real goal of Fed policy is first of all preservation of the power of Wall Street Banks and achieving positive nominal GDP growth no matter what the costs for the population. Similarly it is the primary goal of both state diplomacy and partially state military operations ("war is a racket"). If it also happens to enhance the standard of living of ordinary people (sheeple) that's just a side effect. This idea can help understanding perspectives of increase of inflation in the USA: they are connected with severe deterioration of the USA global position.

On the other hand  the current debt crisis is the crisis of ruling elite which is disproportionally represented by FIRE sector This factor and excessive greed of this part of the elite is a destabilizing factor which might lead to high inflation in the future. But again, for hyperinflation a crisis of ruling elite is not enough (especially if the current is a global currency), high inflation in xUSSR space after the dissolution was connected with the collapse of ruling elite.

The advice that the Emperor Septimius Severus gave to his two sons distills the typical way of conducting monetary policy: "live in harmony; enrich the troops; ignore everyone else." You just need to change "troops" to "haves and have more" (which, of course, includes military establishment and bankers) to make this quote very similar to one that was once uttered by world the most famous dyslectic, George Bush II.

This is how monetary policy is conducted if we discard all the hypocrisy. See an interesting historical exposition of this approach applied to Roman empire in Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire - Joseph R. Peden - Mises Institute

While the level of inflation is the result of demands of state (wars are usually inflationary events), inflation like GDP is an aggregate metric which often camouflages several, often opposite trends. Like GDP contains a lot of harmful for the society economic activity (junk GDP), inflation also can contain some positive and some negative components (food inflation vs. stocks and financial assets inflation aka Bernanke bubble).

Moreover inflation in one sector usually co-exists with deflation in some other sector. For example in 2008 in the USA we saw coexistence of two opposite trends:

In the inflation/deflation debate, I think what most people mean under the term "inflation" is their own metric related to "personal cost of living". As such it depends on income and "propensity to consume". Unemployed do not consume much if at all big ticket items and for them rising priced for those items (for example new cars) are irrelevant. Based on Japanese experience, we may well see deflation in big ticket and discretionary items (housing, autos, boats etc..) with modest inflation in daily expenses (food, public transportation, etc) and, especially, energy (although recent peak oil prices stimulated development of new fields which previously were uneconomical to develop and as such new capacity will eventually come to the market and temporary depress prices). 

In a long run inflation is correlated with the cost of energy and from this point of view the current economic troubles for the USA started when energy costs started to rise (approximately in 1998). With oil above $100 per barrel, many components of the infrastructure of modern world are unprofitable to operate. For example the cost of transportation of goods from China became the limited factor in outsourcing of production of "heavy, low cost" goods and, for example, makes manufacturing of furniture in China significantly less attractive.  That partially can be compensated by lowing the speed of the container ships to conserve oil but this path has obvious limitations.

In any case, when discussing inflation you cannot put the fiat currency cart before the energy horse. You cannot print oil which is the new gold ("black gold") of modern world. Oil is the real anchor of fiat currencies and in this sense it is not the USA but Arab states who are the issuers of world reserve currency.

Predicting inflation, especially short term, is notoriously difficult. Dollar may be a currency under pressure but it can strengthen not weaken, if US economy proved to be less bad that other major economies. Still one long trend -- growing price of gasoline -- is unmistakable due to depletion of oil reserves. As price of gas should be factored in all modern activities the future belongs to inflation not deflation. Note that the price of oil in late 2009 was hovering around $70 despite tremendous drop of economic activity, almost collapse of some energy intensive areas of economy like construction and car manufacturing. 

Still nobody knows what will happen in the USA the next year or the next decade, so all the posts reproduced below are a mere speculation. But one thing is certain: inflation in the USA by-and-large depends on the world outside the USA and that ties hands of Bernanke Fed (running printing presses too fast can produce a "run from the dollar", which now the USA can't stop militarily as it did in Iraq). There is also intricate dance between the dollar vs. euro as Europe is also in crisis and euro is the only other major currency. The same is true for yen and Japan. For dollar to strengthen, the economic situation in the USA should not be good, it just should be marginally better then in countries of Eurozone.

There are a lot of junk thinking and posting about inflation, generated by so called economists (with the neoclassical economists being as close to agents of financial oligarchy as one can get) so beware the disinformation in so called research papers and posts. Including this one. Here are some ideas distilled from the posts below which look to me, as a programmer, more plausible then others:

The author is not a specialist and just try to chart the plausible path as a regular 401K investor (quotes if not specifically acknowledged are taken from Where Are We Now Five Point Summary « The Baseline Scenario)

In the list below items in black are deflationary and items in red are inflationary:

"More broadly, there is sophisticated window dressing in the pipeline but no real reform on any issue central to (a) how the banking system operates, or (b) more broadly, how hubris in finance led us into this crisis. The financial sector lobbies appear stronger than ever. The administration ducked the early fights that set the tone (credit cards, bankruptcy, even cap and trade); it’s hard to see them making much progress on anything – with the possible exception of healthcare."

... ... ...

"The more radical change in the system is needed and that the administration so far is “window dressing.” For the past thirty years the economy has overcompensated at the top and undercompensated at the middle and working levels of society. The current crisis was largely created by this pattern and will not resolve until the wealth created flows more evenly throughout society."

Still I would agree with the idea that holding regular Treasury bonds is now extremely risky as there are limits on buying of government debt and we might be close to this limit. Along with FED actions, yields were pushed lower by "flight to quality" (or more correctly by looting emerging economies by repatriation of speculative capital ;-). This process is closer to the end then to beginning and there are inflows of capital back into emerging countries.

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[Jun 14, 2021] Economist David Rosenberg says the Bond Market might have inflation right

The price of energy is growing. and that means inflation is accelerating, but it will probably take the form of stagflation...
Stagflation is characterized by slow economic growth and relatively high unemployment -- or economic stagnation -- which is at the same time accompanied by rising prices (i.e. inflation). Stagflation can also be alternatively defined as a period of inflation combined with a decline in gross domestic product (GDP). See also Stagflation - Wikipedia
Stagflation led to the emergence of the Misery index . This index, which is the simple sum of the inflation rate and unemployment rate, served as a tool to show just how badly people were feeling when stagflation hit the economy.
Under neoclassic economic doctrine stagflation was long believed to be impossible. This pseudoscience demonstrated in the Phillips Curve portrayed macroeconomic policy as a trade-off between unemployment and inflation.
Jun 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

I commented above on direction. I believe the bond market has the direction in June correct (falling yields).

That said, the "real yield" is nearly -5% (CPI minus the 3-Month Treasury Yield). This fosters speculation in assets.

We are in the midst of the third big bubble in just over 20 years.

Extrapolating Conditions

It's usually a big mistake to extrapolate current conditions far into the future. And that includes now.

Sure, there are huge wage pressures and the price of some commodities, especially lumber, went through the roof.

But where to from here is what's important.

Despite Wage Increases, Real Hourly Pay Is Losing to Inflation

On June 11, I commented Despite Wage Increases, Real Hourly Pay Is Losing to Inflation

I also noted Huge Upward Wage Pressures for Both Skilled and Unskilled Labor

But Lacy Hunt is holding pat as well.

He pinged me in response to Explaining the Shortage of Skilled Workers and Why It Will Get Worse with these thoughts.

Mish,

Excellent analysis. I would add one point as a result of your conclusion. Older populations with declining birth rates and slower population, depress household, business and public investment. The contracting effect on investment is highly deflationary and overwhelms the impact of inflation due to the smaller labor force. This condition is plainly evident in Japan and Europe. Moreover, this pattern will be increasingly apparent in the US .

The Transitory Boat

The transitory boat is a small one. Powell and Yellen have to say that no matter what they believe.

Rosenberg, Hunt, and I are in the small boat.

And if you want another reason to be in that boat with us, then think about what happens when asset bubbles burst. It won't be inflationary, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, "I just say buy the gold," Rosenberg said. "Gold has 1/5 of the volatility that bitcoin has."

For more on gold and real interest rates, please see my June 11 post Real Interest Rates Suggest It's a Good Time to Buy and Hold Gold

[Jun 14, 2021] World War II Was Transitory- - Putting Inflation In Context

Jun 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Via Global Macro Monitor,

Let us preface our inflation note with one of our favorite quotes:

"World War II was transitory"

– GMM

Inflation has eroded my purchasing power in my transitory life. Bring back the $.35 Big Mac, which was only about 20% of the minimum wage. Now? About 40-50%... Enough to spark a revolution?

[Jun 12, 2021] Headline CPI is expected to jump 4.7% year-over-year

May CPI is expected at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday. It is unclear to me why the 10-year Treasury yield fell below the key 1.5% Wednesday. Was it short-covering? if so what triggered it? If predictions are true it might jump up on Jun 10, 2021 because you can't have Headline CPI 4.7% and the 10-year Treasury yield 1.5%. That's the theatre of absurd.
Rent, owners' equivalent rent and medical care services collectively are 50% of the core CPI basket.
Notable quotes:
"... Headline CPI is expected to jump 4.7% year-over-year, the highest rate since sky high energy prices spiked inflation readings in the fall of 2008. ..."
"... "I am worried about rent and owners' equivalent rent because it should go up. It had decelerated," she said. Shelter is more than 30% of CPI , and rent costs have bottomed in some cities, Swonk added. "The issue is it could have longer legs and keep overall inflation measures buoyed more than people expect." ..."
Jun 09, 2021 | www.msn.com

...The consensus forecast for the core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy, is 3.5% on a year-over-year basis, according to Dow Jones. That's the fastest annual pace in 28 years.

Economists expect both core and headline CPI rose by 0.5% in May. Headline CPI is expected to jump 4.7% year-over-year, the highest rate since sky high energy prices spiked inflation readings in the fall of 2008.

... ... ...

"I am worried about rent and owners' equivalent rent because it should go up. It had decelerated," she said. Shelter is more than 30% of CPI , and rent costs have bottomed in some cities, Swonk added. "The issue is it could have longer legs and keep overall inflation measures buoyed more than people expect."

[Jun 06, 2021] Eurozone Inflation Above Target Sooner Than The ECB Expected

The USA is not immune. Energy price will drive inflation here too. So the decline of 10 years bond rate might a trap.
Jun 02, 2021 | www.wsj.com

The annual rate of inflation in the eurozone rose in May to hit the European Central Bank's target for the first time since late 2018, as energy prices surged in response to a strengthening recovery in the global economy.


[May 31, 2021] Yes inflation is transitionary. Thos only question is transitionary to what level?

Highly recommended!
As for whether this is "transitory," we may paraphrase J.M. Keynes: In the long run, everything is transitory.
May 31, 2021 | www.wsj.com
D

David Weisz

I accept the reality except that FED said this inflation is "transitory."

The Fed description is accurate... it's just whether the transition is to lower inflation or to runaway inflation.

Jim McCreary
The biggest single factor that will drive long-term inflation is the absence of downward price pressure from new Chinese market entrants. Cutthroat pricing from China is the ONLY reason the West has been able to get away with Money-Printing Gone Wild for the past 20 years without triggering runaway inflation.

There are no new Chinese entrants because the Chinese are now all in in the world economy. The existing Chinese competitors are seeing their costs go UP, not down, because they have fully employed the Chinese population, and have to pay up in order to get and keep workers.

So, without any more downward price pressure from China, this latest round of Money-Printing Gone Wild is showing up as price inflation, and will continue to do so.

Batten down the hatches! Stagflation and then runaway inflation are coming!

[May 29, 2021] Peter Schiff -- Inflation Crashes The Party

The read question is when this will happen. So far this year the yield of 10 year bond fluctuate in a rather narrow band. It does not steadily increases...
May 28, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

The latest clue that trouble is brewing has come from the sudden and dramatic arrival of inflation. On May 12, it was revealed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had risen 4.2% year-over-year , the fastest pace since 2008.

Some tried to downplay concern by pointing out that the gains resulted from the "base effect" of comparing current prices with the artificially depressed "Covid lockdown" prices of March and April of last year. But that ignores the more alarming trend of near-term price acceleration.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in every month this year, the month-over-month change in prices has been greater than the change in the previous month.

In April prices jumped .8% from March, versus an expected gain of just .2%. Clearly, if this trend continues, or even fails to dramatically reverse, we could be looking at inflation well north of 5 or 6 percent for the calendar year. That would create a big problem.

Despite Federal Reserve officials' recent assurances that the inflation problem is "transitory," many investors are concluding that the central bank will have to deal with this problem by tightening monetary policy far sooner than had been expected. This would make sense if the Fed cared about restraining inflation or, more importantly, had the power to do anything to stop it. In truth, we are sailing into these waters with little ability to alter speed or course, and we will be wholly at the mercy of the waves we have spent a generation creating.

[May 29, 2021] Inflation Takes Its Cut - WSJ

May 28, 2021 | www.wsj.com

The Commerce Department on Friday reported that consumer spending rose 0.5% in April from a month earlier, which, coming after March's government stimulus-check-fueled surge, was impressive. The gain was driven by a 1.1% increase in spending on services""an indication of how, with Covid-19 cases dropping and vaccination rates rising , consumers are shifting their behavior. Spending on goods actually declined, with the weakness concentrated in spending on nondurable goods such as groceries and cleaning products.

But a closer look at April's overall gain indicates it was mainly driven by price increases. By the Commerce Department's measure, which is the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge of inflation, consumer prices rose 0.6% in April from March, putting them 3.6% above their year-earlier level. As a result, real, or inflation-adjusted spending declined. Core prices, which exclude the often volatile food and energy categories to better capture inflation's underlying trend, were up 0.7% from March, and 3.1% on the year. The Fed's inflation goal is 2%, though it has said it will tolerate higher readings than that for some time.

[May 29, 2021] Peter Schiff- Inflation Crashes The Party - ZeroHedge

May 28, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

The latest clue that trouble is brewing has come from the sudden and dramatic arrival of inflation. On May 12, it was revealed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had risen 4.2% year-over-year , the fastest pace since 2008.

Some tried to downplay concern by pointing out that the gains resulted from the "base effect" of comparing current prices with the artificially depressed "Covid lockdown" prices of March and April of last year. But that ignores the more alarming trend of near-term price acceleration.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in every month this year, the month-over-month change in prices has been greater than the change in the previous month.

In April prices jumped .8% from March, versus an expected gain of just .2%. Clearly, if this trend continues, or even fails to dramatically reverse, we could be looking at inflation well north of 5 or 6 percent for the calendar year. That would create a big problem.

Despite Federal Reserve officials' recent assurances that the inflation problem is "transitory," many investors are concluding that the central bank will have to deal with this problem by tightening monetary policy far sooner than had been expected. This would make sense if the Fed cared about restraining inflation or, more importantly, had the power to do anything to stop it. In truth, we are sailing into these waters with little ability to alter speed or course, and we will be wholly at the mercy of the waves we have spent a generation creating.

[May 28, 2021] What Commodities Prices Are Saying About Inflation by Ryan Dezember, Joe Wallace and Andrew Barnett

May 20, 2021 | www.wsj.com

Prices for the building blocks of the economy have surged over the past year. Oil, copper, corn and gasoline futures all cost about twice what they did a year ago, when much of the world was locked down to fight the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Lumber has more than tripled.

... ... ...

N

Nidge M

Not sure its adding anything which hasn't been said already but to look at the same thing in a different way:
2, or if you look at it 'sideways' 3, main interwoven factors drive inflation:
Access to money to spend - That can be wage/earnings increases or access to cheap debt. That ups demand & prices follow.
Devaluation of the currency - Pushes up raw material imports & prices follow.

What curbs inflation?:
High taxation
High interest rates
High unemployment

And if anyone can point to any Western Democracy currently willing to implement any one, never mind all three, of those controls a lot of folk will probably be pretty surprised.

Michael Matus
Commodities prices are not the problem. They are high now because of a short-term surge in demand and supply chain issues. All should be worked out by this time next year.

The long-term structural problem could be wages. If inflation shows up in wages through wage increases through a multitude of industries then there will be a problem,....... a major one.

Having all these people on the Dole from the government didn't help things Joe!

But like all Presidents that came after HW Bush all you care about is getting re-elected. Doling out is a great way even if its at the cost of the country.

The FED as been intervening in the markets for so long that they have no tools left for the next crisis.

The FED painted themselves into a corner and the Stimulus that was not needed left them no Escape.

Michael Brown
"Having all these people on the Dole from the government didn't help things Joe!"

What about raising the minimum wage, and Joe commanding that all workers for federal contractors be paid $15 per hour or more? You think that could be inflationary?

Michael Matus
I would have to agree with yoiu Michael. I should have mentioned that, thank you for reminding me. However, the main problem with all the sources trhat I have out on the street and their are mnay. Is WAGE growth. As far as a national mimum wage there is none. Altough there probably will be now. Most states pay as high or higher than what the Federal Government was proposing.

90% of government contractors make at least $15.00 an hour anyway. The VAST majority of the problem is enhanced unemployment insurance. The 3 month averge of wage groth ending in March was 3.4%. If it hits > 4.0% that will be bad.

Michael Brown
Excellent points, Michael. The list of government actions instigating inflation would be long indeed.
Michael Matus
Unfortunately, Michael, I would have to Wholeheartedly agree with you, Have a Good Weekend!
JOSEPH MICHAEL
Serious, severe inflationary problems are here, they are just starting, and they are going to get much worse.
Brian Kearns
eh.
best to give corporations a large tax cut

so the can buy back stock

Bill Hestir
I will interested to see if new car prices, lumber prices, new home prices, gasoline prices, and food prices will ever go back down to pre-pandemic levels.

If not, with all the new anti-business taxes and reluctance of out-of-work laborers to go back to work, how will businesses not be forced to raise their wages and increase the price of their products even higher than they are today?

At what point, therefore, will the Fed end their "inflation is transitory" farce and raise interest rates?

Deirdre Hood
Food prices, regardless of when inflation ends, will not go down/return to 'normal'.

Supply lines are squeezed (NO ONE can hire reliable transport drivers), low supply of workers, plus factor in a bad year for wheat, and it turns into the perfect storm for commercial bakers.

Judy Neuwirth
Inflation is just getting started. Cho Bi-Den's hyper-regulated economy is only three months old and already it's 1976 all over again!
Jim Chapman
Now Judy, it's just "transitory" inflation as per Yellen, Powell and Buyden. You really must stick with the narrative, and remember, Adam Smith's scurrilous "Invisible Hand" is a ultra-right wing conservative myth. So we are not supposed to believe our lying eyes.

[May 28, 2021] Inflation Forces Investors to Scramble for Solutions - WSJ

May 24, 2021 | www.wsj.com

The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury inflation-protected security logged its biggest one-day decline in a month. Shares of real-estate investment trusts slid the most since January. Commodities were generally flat but dropped the following day.

The three asset classes have vacillated since, but their initial moves showed the unexpected ways that markets can behave when inflation is rising, especially when many are already expensive by historical measures.

This week, investors will gain greater insight into the inflation picture when the Commerce Department updates the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge, the personal-consumption-expenditures price index. They will also track earnings from the likes of Dollar General Corp. , Costco Wholesale Corp. and Salesforce.com Inc.

The stakes are high for investors. Inflation dents the value of traditional government and corporate bonds because it reduces the purchasing power of their fixed interest payments. But it can also hurt stocks, analysts say, by pushing up interest rates and increasing input costs for companies.

From early 1973 through last December, stocks have delivered positive inflation-adjusted returns in 90% of rolling 12-month periods that occurred when inflation""as measured by the consumer-price index""was below 3% and rising, according to research by Sean Markowicz, a strategist at Schroders, the U.K. asset-management firm. But that fell to only 48% of the periods when inflation was above 3% and rising.

A recent report from the Labor Department showed that the consumer-price index jumped 4.2% in April from a year earlier, up from 2.6% in March. Even excluding volatile food and energy prices, it was up 3% from a year earlier, blowing past analysts' expectations for a 2.3% gain.

Analysts say that there are plenty of reasons why inflation won't be able to maintain that pace for long. The latest year-over-year numbers were inflated by comparisons to deeply depressed prices from the early days of the pandemic. They were also supported by supply bottlenecks that many view as fixable and robust consumer demand that could dissipate once households have spent government stimulus checks.

... ... ...

By comparison, the S&P GSCI Commodity Total Return Index delivered positive inflation-adjusted returns in 83% of the high and rising inflation periods. "Commodities are a source of input costs for companies and they're also a key component of the inflation index, which by definition you're trying to hedge," said Mr. Markowicz.

At the same time, commodities are among the most volatile of all asset classes and can be influenced by an array of idiosyncratic factors.

T

Tracy Harris

Charles Goodhart, the economist from the Bank of England, has just written an important book arguing that worldwide demographic changes are going to result in a couple of decades of high inflation. See Charles Goodhart, The Great Democratic Reversal: Ageing Societies, Waning Inequality, and an Inflation Revival. Maybe the Journal could find someone to review it. Maybe Ms. Yellen should read it.

(Douglas Levene)

Bruce Fegley
This article is naive, if not ridiculous, for several reasons. I name a few.

1st - the stock market is the best hedge against inflation over a long time period - years, not daily, weekly, or quarterly. Especially with dividend reinvesting and with an automatic buying plan like the DRIP plans offered by many companies at no or very low cost.

2nd - Individuals can buy US government I-series savings bonds at NO COST directly from the US Treasury, and while they do not completely hedge against inflation, they offer good interest rates that beat bank interest and are completely insured.

3rd - Toyota and perhaps other car companies offer notes with higher interest than banks but not FDIC insured. About 1.5% now.

One does not have to blow money away on bitcoin or hold gold, which is taxed as a collectible and has assay fees on the front and back ends of any buy/sell transaction unless one is buying coins which have a markup to begin with.

Theo Walker
Started buying I-bonds this month. The rates are great! Easily the best safe investment right now.
Bryson Marsh
... why would you buy TIPS? The spread is a farce after all.
PHILIP NICHOLAS
Inflation is always sticky . In other words all the prices do not go down . Wages that are increased , usually stay . Companies sense a new level they can pass on to consumers . And the Government damage to energy prices will influence prices .
Bryson Marsh
Memory costs, data plans, and televisions are all examples that clearly demonstrate secular price declines despite periodic increases.
Charles D
"Inflation Forces Investors to Scramble for Solutions"
Hundreds of millions of Americans are going to suffer as the Federal Government inflates the national debt away over the next 10 to 15 years. Investors will figure it out, but the little guy will get crushed once again. Oh well, we get the government we deserve.
A Eichler
CME futures contracts ...

OIL - NAT GAS - PROPYLENE - COPPER - LUMBER - STEEL - SOYBEAN - 2 yr. and 5 yr. T-Note

They are all substantially down, one year from now; except Copper and financials which are flat.

What does that say about the economy & inflation in one year?

Paul Smith
I am under the impression that the Social Security COLA is based on a September to September comparison of the CPI-U. That is to say, for example, September 2020 CPI-U vs. September 2021 CPI-U. Is this not correct?

We have had inflation over over the past decade or so. As measured by the CPI-U, it has hovered around 2 percent. Not a big deal to the Fed's economists. Cumulatively, however, it adds up.

I have been retired for 16 years. Inflation has eroded the purchasing power of my fixed pension by 25.5. Mercifully, I have other resources to make up the loss, but for people on a fixed pension, so-called mild inflation can wreck it over time.

James Webb
Paul, one of the lower estimates for 2022:

"The Kiplinger Letter is forecasting that the annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits for 2022 will be 4.5%, the biggest jump since 2008, when benefits rose 5.8%. That would also be higher than the 3% adjustment The Kiplinger Letter predicted earlier this year."

From SocialSecurity dot gov:

"To determine the COLA, the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the most recent year a COLA was determined is compared to the average CPI-W for the third calendar quarter of the current year. The resulting percentage increase, if any, represents the percentage that will be used to increase Social Security benefits beginning for December of the current year. "

So the predicted 4.5-4.7% increase for 2022 will take effect December 31 this year.

Of course the calculation is not completed yet....

James Robertson
The Fed's inflation calculations have become increasingly "fuzzy" since the Boskin Commission in 1995. The CPI ignores housing, food, and energy. Healthcare gets weighted at 3 percent, though it accounts for 18 percent of expenditures. "Hedonic quality adjustment" is another knob the Fed turns to "control" inflation. Inflation calculated by comparing the price of a basket of goods this year to a basket of goods last year runs quite a bit higher than the CPI; even higher if you include food, shelter, and energy in that basket.
James Webb
What's in the CPI?

-Food and Beverages (breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, chicken, wine, full service meals, snacks)
-Housing (rent of primary residence, owners' equivalent rent, fuel oil, bedroom furniture)
-Clothes (men's shirts and sweaters, women's dresses, jewelry)
-Transportation (new vehicles, airline fares, gasoline, motor vehicle insurance)
-Medical Care (prescription drugs and medical supplies, physicians' services, eyeglasses and eye care, hospital services)
-Recreation (televisions, toys, pets and pet products, sports equipment, admissions)
-Education and Communication (college tuition, postage, telephone services, computer software and accessories)
-Other Goods and Services (tobacco and smoking products, haircuts and other personal services, funeral expenses)

Tim Adams
The core CPI which the Fed uses excludes food and energy. The Consumer price index which is used for things like social security adjustments does not. These very similar but different uses of the same acronym just adds to the confusion.

[May 28, 2021] Inflation Debate Hits Emerging Markets

Notable quotes:
"... there's a growing sense that the forces behind the recovery will eventually feed through to higher prices if left unchecked. One harbinger could be the rally in commodities, with a key index of raw materials this month jumping to a five-year high. ..."
"... "If the stimulus continues, at some point it will become inflationary," said Sanjiv Bhatia, the chief investment officer at Pembroke Emerging Markets in London. "At some point, we believe it will become a problem." ..."
May 09, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

The prospect of tighter monetary conditions in emerging markets still hasn't changed the overall calculus for many investors, with behemoths including Pacific Investment Management Co. and BlackRock Inc. focusing on the growth story instead. Developing-nation inflation remains near a record low, with the economic rebound making assets look "increasingly interesting," according to Dan Ivascyn, Pimco's group chief investment officer in Newport Beach, California.

Yet there's a growing sense that the forces behind the recovery will eventually feed through to higher prices if left unchecked. One harbinger could be the rally in commodities, with a key index of raw materials this month jumping to a five-year high.

"If the stimulus continues, at some point it will become inflationary," said Sanjiv Bhatia, the chief investment officer at Pembroke Emerging Markets in London. "At some point, we believe it will become a problem."

For now, assurances from the Federal Reserve that inflation in the U.S. is unlikely to get out of control have supported the bulls. The Fed appears in no rush to raise interest rates, a move that would siphon capital out of emerging economies currently enjoying the windfall from U.S. stimulus.

That major central banks currently view inflation as transitory should boost developing-nation currencies as a whole, according to Henrik Gullberg, a London-based macro strategist at Coex Partners Ltd.

MSCI Inc.'s emerging-market currency index has climbed to a record high, while the benchmark equity gauge just posted its biggest two-day rally in almost two weeks amid a rally in energy and technology shares. On Friday, risk assets got further support when U.S. job growth data significantly undershot forecasts.

"On the one hand, the valuations of growth stocks look meaningfully less demanding after recent underperformance coupled with earnings upgrades," said Kate Moore, the head of thematic strategy at BlackRock in New York. "On the other, rising inflationary pressures from the broad economic restart and low inventories should be supportive of cyclicals and commodity producers."

[May 28, 2021] Treasury yields to rise in the second half of the year, pushed higher by rises in yields on inflation-protected Treasurys

Notable quotes:
"... Mark Carbana, U.S. rates strategist at Bank of America, still expects U.S. rates to rise further especially if there is a strong reading for the Fed's preferred measure of inflation, personal consumption expenditures, due out next Friday. ..."
"... He expects Treasury yields to rise in the second half of the year ..."
May 21, 2021 | www.wsj.com

Originally from Government Bond Yields Fall as Investors Grapple With Muddied Economic Picture by By Paul J. Davies

In the U.S., inflation readings have been strong and the minutes of the last Fed meeting released Wednesday showed there had been some discussion about slowing bond purchases -- also known as taper talk.

... Mark Carbana, U.S. rates strategist at Bank of America, still expects U.S. rates to rise further especially if there is a strong reading for the Fed's preferred measure of inflation, personal consumption expenditures, due out next Friday. "Uncertainty around inflation is the highest it has been in decades," he said, particularly around whether recent high readings are temporary or due to changes in the underlying economy. He expects Treasury yields to rise in the second half of the year , pushed higher by rises in yields on inflation-protected Treasurys as the Fed starts to talk more seriously about tapering its bond purchases.

Write to Paul J. Davies at paul.davies@wsj.com

[May 28, 2021] How transitory is transitory inflation?

May 27, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

As the credit strategist continues, "while it is easy to blame transitory factors, these were surely all known about before the last several data prints and could have been factored into forecasts. That they weren't suggests that the transitory forces are more powerful than economists imagined or that there is more widespread inflation than they previously believed. "

To be sure, all such "˜surprise' indices always mean revert so the inflation one will as well. However as Reid concludes, "the fact that we're seeing an overwhelming positive beat on US inflation surprises in recent times must surely reduce the confidence to some degree of those expecting it to be transitory. "

[May 28, 2021] Stocks could drop 20% when Fed fights inflation: hedge fund founder

May 25, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Inflation fears already roiled the market this week with the Nasdaq falling nearly 2%, but one hedge fund founder is sounding the alarm over a potential 20% collapse that could be sparked by the Federal Reserve signaling an end to accommodative pandemic-era monetary policy later this year.

Satori Fund founder Dan Niles recently told Yahoo Finance that this week's hotter-than-anticipated inflation data coupled with other central banks around the world already coming off their easy money policies will likely corner the Fed into tapering its accommodative policies sooner than expected.

"If you've got food prices, energy prices, shelter prices moving up as rapidly as they are, the Fed's not going to have any choice," he said, predicting that the Fed could signal the beginning of a move to wind down its monthly $120 billion a month pace of asset purchases by this summer. "They can say what they want, but this reminds me to some degree of them saying back in 2007 that the subprime crisis was well contained. Obviously it wasn't."

[May 28, 2021] Bond Traders See a Path to 2% Yields Lurking in US

Can it be wage driven inflation, when there is mass unemployment of the scale that we observer. That's a stupid idea. Commodites driven inflation is possible as oil if probably past its peak, but for now production continued at plato level and cars are getting slightly more economical, espcially passenger car, where hybrids reached 40 miles er gallon.
Notable quotes:
"... The prospect of a rebound to 2% yields on the world's benchmark bond is alive and well. ..."
May 09, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

The prospect of a rebound to 2% yields on the world's benchmark bond is alive and well.

Treasury-market bears found a deeper message within Friday's weak employment report that's emboldened a view that inflationary pressures are on the rise, and could boost rates to levels not seen since 2019. For Mark Holman at TwentyFour Asset Management, the sub-par April labor reading indicated companies will need to lift wages to entice people back into the labor force; he's expecting a break of 2% on the 10-year this year.

That level has come to symbolize a return to pre-pandemic normalcy in both markets and the economy. The wild ride in markets on Friday suggests Holman likely has company in his views. Ten-year yields initially plunged to a more than two-month low of 1.46%, then reversed to end the day at 1.58%. Meanwhile, a key market proxy of inflation expectations surged to a level last seen in 2013.

[May 24, 2021] The Fed Has Lost Control -- John Williams Warns Of Hyperinflation In 2022

I agree that Fed might lose the control: much depends on the continuation of the status of the dollar as the main reserve currency. If this position continue to weaken all beta are off.
May 24, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

What would happen to the financial system if the Fed stopped printing massive amounts of money for stimulus and debt service? Williams explains,

" You could see financial implosion by preventing liquidity being put into the system. The system needs liquidity (freshly created dollars) to function. Without that liquidity, you would see more of an economic implosion than you have already seen. In fact, I will contend that the headline pandemic numbers have actually been a lot worse than they have been reporting. It also means we are not recovering quite as quickly. The Fed needs to keep the banking system afloat. They want to keep the economy afloat. All that requires a tremendous influx of liquidity in these difficult times."

So, is the choice inflation or implosion? Williams says, "That's the choice, and I think we are going to have a combination of both of them. .."

" I think we are eventually headed into a hyperinflationary economic collapse. It's not that we haven't been in an economic collapse already, we are coming back some now. . . . The Fed has been creating money at a pace that has never been seen before. You are basically up 75% (in money creation) year over year. This is unprecedented. Normally, it might be up 1% or 2% year over year. The exploding money supply will lead to inflation. I am not saying we are going to get to 75% inflation -- yet, but you are getting up to the 4% or 5% range, and you are soon going to be seeing 10% range year over year. . . . The Fed has lost control of inflation. "

And remember, when the Fed has to admit the official inflation rate is 10%, John Williams says, "When they have to admit the inflation rate is 10%, my number is going to be up to around 15% or higher. My number rides on top of their number."

Right now, the Shadowstat.com inflation rate is above 11%. That's if it were calculated the way it was before 1980 when the government started using accounting gimmicks to make inflation look less than it really is. The Shadowstats.com number cuts out all the accounting gimmicks and is the true inflation rate that most Americans are seeing right now, not the "official" 4.25% recently reported.

Williams says the best way to fight the inflation that is already here is to buy tangible assets. Williams says,

"Canned food is a tangible asset, and you can use it for barter if you have to. . . . Physical gold and silver is the best way to protect your buying power over time."

Gold may be a bit expensive for most, but silver is still relatively cheap. Williams says, "Everything is going to go up in price."

When will the worst inflation be hitting America? Williams predicts,

"I am looking down the road, and in early 2022, I am looking for something close to a hyperinflationary circumstance and effectively a collapsed economy."

Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he goes One-on-One with John Williams, founder of ShadowStats.com.


2 play_arrow 1

Nikki Alexis 7 minutes ago

John Williams warning about hyperinflation is like Peter Schitt telling me stocks are going to crash. It's coming, it's coming! Boy crying wolf.

Cautiously Pessimistic 59 minutes ago

Accounting Gimmicks. Election Gimmicks. Gender Gimmicks. Science Gimmicks. Rule of Law Gimmicks.

America has become one big fun house of gimmicks.

Time for a RESET.

NoDebt 54 minutes ago remove link

Yeah, the Reset Gimmick. Where they fundamentally transform themselves into a permanent position of power. Never mind that they'll kill millions to achieve it.

Samual Vimes 47 minutes ago (Edited)

What about gutting primary dealers by buying T bills directly ?

https://www.zerohedge.com/economics/fed-prepares-go-direct-liquidity

[May 18, 2021] Who Bought the $4.7 Trillion of Treasury Securities Added Since March 2020 to the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt-

May 18, 2021 | wolfstreet.com

Who Bought the $4.7 Trillion of Treasury Securities Added Since March 2020 to the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt? by Wolf Richter • May 17, 2021 • 119 Comments The Fed did. Nearly everyone did. Even China nibbled again. Here's who holds that monstrous $28.1 trillion US National Debt. By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET .

The US national debt has been decades in the making, was then further fired up when the tax cuts took effect in 2018 during the Good Times. But starting in March 2020, it became the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt. Since that moment 15 months ago, it spiked by $4.7 trillion, to $28.14 trillion, amounting to 128% of GDP in current dollars:

But who bought this $4.7 trillion in new debt?

We can piece this together through the first quarter in terms of the categories of holders: Foreign buyers as per the Treasury International Capital data, released this afternoon by the Treasury Department; the purchases by the Fed as per its weekly balance sheet; the purchases by the US banks as per the Federal Reserve Board of Governors bank balance-sheet data; and the purchases by US government entities, such as US government pension funds, as per the Treasury Department's data on Treasury securities.

Foreign creditors of the US.

Japan , the largest foreign creditor of the US, dumped $18 billion of US Treasuries in March, reducing its stash to $1.24 trillion. Since March 2020, its holdings dropped by $32 billion.

https://664e3285974f21e0f93cbda833cec3c8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

China had been gradually reducing its holdings over the past few years, but then late last year started adding to them again. In March, its holdings ticked down for the first time in months, by $4 billion, bringing its holdings to $1.1 trillion. Since March 2020, it added $9 billion:

But Japan's and China's importance as creditors to the US has been diminishing because the US debt has ballooned. In March, their combined share (green line) fell to 8.3%, the lowest in many years:

All foreign holders combined dumped $70 billion in Treasury securities in March, bringing their holdings to $7.028 trillion (blue line, left scale). But this was still up by $79 billion from March 2020.

These foreign holders include foreign central banks, foreign government entities, and foreign private-sector entities such as companies, banks, bond funds, and individuals. Despite the increase of their holdings since March 2020, their share of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt fell to 25.0%, the lowest since 2007 (red line, right scale):

After Japan & China, the 10 biggest foreign holders include tax havens where US corporations have mailbox entities where some of their Treasury holdings are registered. But Germany and Mexico, with which the US has massive trade deficits, are in 17th and 24th place. The percentages indicate the change from March 2020. Note the percentage increase of India's holdings:

US government funds hit record, but share of total debt drops further.

US government pension funds for federal civilian employees, pension funds for the US military, the US Social Security Trust Fund , and other federal government funds bought on net $5 billion of Treasury securities in Q1 and $98 billion since March 2020, bringing their holdings to a record of $6.11 trillion (blue line, left scale).

But that increase was outrun by the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt, and their share of total US debt dropped to 21.8%, the lowest since dirt was young, and down from a share of 45% in 2008 (red line, right scale):

Federal Reserve goes hog-wild: monetization of the US debt.

The Fed bought on net $243 billion of Treasury securities in Q1 and $2.44 trillion since it began the bailouts of the financial markets in March 2020. Over this period through March 31, it has more than doubled its holdings of Treasuries to $4.94 trillion (blue line, left scale). It now holds a record of 17.6% of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt (red line, right scale):

US Banks pile them up.

US commercial banks bought on net $28 billion in Treasury securities in Q1 and $267 billion since March 2020, bringing the total to a record $1.24 trillion, according to Federal Reserve data on bank balance sheets. They now hold 4.4% of the Incredibly Spiking US National Debt:

Other US entities & individuals

So far, we covered the net purchases by all foreign-registered holders, by the Fed, by US government funds, and by US banks. What's unaccounted for: US individuals and institutions other than the Fed, the banks, and the government. These include bond funds, private-sector, state, and municipal pension funds, insurers, US corporations, hedge funds (they use Treasuries in complex leveraged trades), private equity firms that need to park billions in "dry powder," etc.

These US entities hold the remainder of Incredibly Spiking US National Debt. Their holdings surged by $149 billion in Q4 and by $2.35 trillion since March 2020, to a record $8.76 trillion (blue line, left scale). This raised their share of the total debt to 31.2% (red line, right scale), making these US individuals and institutions combined the largest holder of that monstrous mountain of debt:

The Incredibly Spiking US National Debt and who holds it, all in one monstrous pile:

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? Using ad blockers – I totally get why – but want to support the site? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

[May 17, 2021] Stocks could drop 20% when Fed fights inflation- hedge fund founder

May 17, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Guzman

May 17, 2021

Inflation fears already roiled the market this week with the Nasdaq falling nearly 2%, but one hedge fund founder is sounding the alarm over a potential 20% collapse that could be sparked by the Federal Reserve signaling an end to accommodative pandemic-era monetary policy later this year.

Satori Fund founder Dan Niles recently told Yahoo Finance that this week's hotter-than-anticipated inflation data coupled with other central banks around the world already coming off their easy money policies will likely corner the Fed into tapering its accommodative policies sooner than expected.

"If you've got food prices, energy prices, shelter prices moving up as rapidly as they are, the Fed's not going to have any choice," he said, predicting that the Fed could signal the beginning of a move to wind down its monthly $120 billion a month pace of asset purchases by this summer. "They can say what they want, but this reminds me to some degree of them saying back in 2007 that the subprime crisis was well contained. Obviously it wasn't."

For their part, Fed officials have remained adamant that a rise in inflation is to be expected as a transitory reality of the economy reopening from the pandemic lockdown. The latest print from the Bureau of Labor Statistics out this week , however, may have spooked investors when it showed consumer prices for the month of April rose at their fastest annual pace since 2008. That inflation metric, which is different than the Fed's preferred Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) index , jumped to a 4.2% rise over the last 12 months. The Fed has already signaled it would be comfortable staying accommodative even if inflation in the recovery shoots past 2% as measured by its preferred metric.

[May 16, 2021] Morgan Stanley- This Is The Biggest Threat To The Red-Hot Global Recovery - ZeroHedge

May 16, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

In the US, this translates to a growth environment where GDP will be 3pp above its pre-COVID-19 path by end-2022 and underlying core PCE inflation (adjusted for base effects) rises above 2%Y from March 2022. The Fed, which is now aiming for inflation averaging 2%Y and maximum employment, should remain accommodative. Our chief US economist Ellen Zentner expects the Fed to signal its intention to taper asset purchases at the September FOMC meeting, to announce it in March 2022 and to start tapering from April 2022 . On our forecasts, rate hikes begin in 3Q23, after inflation remains at or above 2%Y for some time and the labour market reaches maximum employment.

What are the risks to this story? Most obvious is the emergence of new COVID-19 variants that resist vaccines. However, I have argued that the biggest threat to this cycle is an overshoot in US core PCE inflation beyond the Fed's implicit 2.5%Y threshold – a serious concern, in my view, which could emerge from mid-2022 onwards .


Portal 4 hours ago

LMFAO!!!

You sent manufacturing and industry to China.

There is no "red hot recovery.". Just a long descent into fascism and communist poverty.

Newpuritan 4 hours ago

The "red hot recovery." they are hoping for is replacing all efficient energy production with inefficient "green" energy. The costs will be astronomical but are hoped to offset the Boomer generation retirement period.

Iskiab 2 hours ago (Edited)

Yea, all these forecasting models are garbage. They're all based on a faulty assumption that trends continue so the growth we see now will continue, plus things will revert back to the trend line. Junk in, junk out.

A more realistic assessment would be there was a bump from reopening, but costs have increased. It will be impossible to get back to the old growth trend line, and expect the low growth of the last 20 years to continue from hereon out. The stimulus will help a bit but not much, most of the stimulus was misallocated.

JH2020 3 hours ago (Edited)

It's the sycophants of the Wall Street/government confidence game, dropping words that, hopefully, lead to buying securities, not selling, though, perversely, any negative truths result in the assumption there will be a new flood of free money, from the Fed, driving margin debt even more vertical, such that one needs a second page for the chart, or a more drastic log scale. (In this economy so red hot interests rates need to be kept near zero, for the remainder of the century, and near daily reassurance the Fed will accommodate anything and everything, whatsoever, anytime a sector gets some heartburn, or a red candlestick gets too large.)

Red hot = FOMO bait.

The "red not" verbiage is comical, reminds me of Hollywood sycophants, that write reviews of some pretend person, some degenerate nobody, "In an unparalleled display of performing brilliance, in this worthy sequel to A Couple Hours of Brains Splattered All Over the Wall, and which only proves his sheer genius, the way he flared his nostrils, while driving in the chase scene, that went two times around the entire city perimeter, in the ongoing lanes...".

ebworthen 4 hours ago

"Red hot global recovery"? ROFLMAO!

That isn't recovery, it is money printing, inflation, and rabid speculation.

hugin-o-munin 4 hours ago (Edited)

Who do these people think they can fool?

This was about the dumbest article by a bank in a long while. Pushing a contrarian lie too hard reveals it quicker than keeping quiet. Someone should remind Morgan Stanley of this age old truth. Real inflation is destroying the USD right now. Ignoring it and pretending otherwise will only accelerate the fall into hyper inflation.

J J Pettigrew 3 hours ago

A little inflation is good for you.

What's a little? 2.5%? For ten years....a flat chart of 2.5% each year... .looks like nothing happened....just 28% off the value of the dollar...thats all.

Sound of the Suburbs 2 hours ago

How does anything really work?

I don't know, I use neoclassical economics.

Everyone tries to kill growth by making the same mistakes as Japan.

Japan led the way and everyone followed.

At 25.30 mins you can see the super imposed private debt-to-GDP ratios.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStZJCKmbU&list=PLmtuEaMvhDZZQLxg24CAiFgZYldtoCR-R&index=6

What Japan does in the 1980s; the US, the UK and Euro-zone do leading up to 2008 and China has done more recently.

The PBoC saw the financial crisis coming unlike the BoJ, ECB, BoE and the FED.

Oh dear, we did what you did in Japan.

Now we've had a financial crisis and are facing a Great Depression just like you.

Japan could study the Great Depression to avoid this fate.

(The US had done the same thing in the 1920s (see graph above), it always seems to happen with neoclassical economics)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk

How did Japan avoid a Great Depression?

They saved the banks

How did Japan kill growth and inflation for the next thirty years?

They left the debt in place and the repayments on that debt killed growth and inflation (Japanification)

The Chinese did see the financial crisis coming, but they have reached the end of the line on the debt fuelled growth model of globalisation.

They just need to find out how an economy really works.

As if anyone has got the slightest idea what they are doing.

How does anything really work?

I don't know, I use neoclassical economics.

Sound of the Suburbs 2 hours ago

Everyone tries to kill growth by making the same mistakes as Japan.

European policymakers were successful.

What does Japanification look like?

https://tradingeconomics.com/japan/gdp

(Set scale to max. to get the full picture)

The EU economy hasn't been going anywhere since 2008.

https://tradingeconomics.com/european-union/gdp

(Set scale to max. to get the full picture)

It's Japanification

The UK economy has hasn't been going anywhere since 2008.

https://tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/gdp

(Set scale to max. to get the full picture)

It's Japanification

Well done, you dimwits.

How does anything really work?

I don't know, I use neoclassical economics.

Sound of the Suburbs 2 hours ago

Why did they think private debt wouldn't be a problem after 2008?

Probably the same reason they didn't notice it building up before 2008.

The economics of globalisation has always had an Achilles' heel.

The 1920s roared with debt based consumption and speculation until it all tipped over into the debt deflation of the Great Depression. No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at debt, neoclassical economics.

Not considering private debt is the Achilles' heel of neoclassical economics.

That explains it.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein.

Who do you think you are?

This is what we are going to do, whether you like it or not.

He must be one of those populists.

Einstein was right of course, but you know what neoliberals are like.

Anyone that doesn't go along with their ideas must be a populist.

Sound of the Suburbs 2 hours ago (Edited) remove link

Not considering private debt is the Achilles' heel of neoclassical economics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStZJCKmbU&list=PLmtuEaMvhDZZQLxg24CAiFgZYldtoCR-R&index=6

At 18 mins.

1929 and 2008 stick out like sore thumbs.

No one realised the problems that were building up in the economy as they used an economics that doesn't look at debt, neoclassical economics.

Einstein's definition of madness "Doing the same thing again and again and expecting to get a different result"

Einstein was right again.

He was a clever bloke.

[May 13, 2021] Investors brace for test of nerves as inflation worries mount

Weak analysis. The fundamental factor is the price for energy, not some trivia like used cars and trucks. Teh second dot com bubble will deflate but it is unclear when and whether this is a crash or gradual deplation of worthless junk stocks which enjoyed "profitless" IPOs.
With rising energy prices it is more difficult to keep interpreting high CPI numbers as temporary. But like in the past the USA will fight the rise in energy prices tools and nail. With the full power of their global neoliberal empire.
May 13, 2021 | www.ft.com

... prices for used cars and trucks jumped 10 per cent in April alone, accounting for a large slice of the gains in the overall index.

"It looks like Wall Street is climbing the wall of worry," said Gregory Perdon, co-chief investment officer at private bank Arbuthnot Latham. "The bears are constantly looking for signs that the world is going to end. They come up with all the potential excuses. The reality is that the only question that matters is whether the reopening is going OK or not.

... Notably, while 10-year US yields did rise on Wednesday after the inflation data release, they did not hit new highs.

[May 13, 2021] Inflation Doesn't Have to Mean High Interest Rates - WSJ

May 13, 2021 | www.wsj.com

Inflation is back. The U.S. consumer-price index surged to a 13-year high of 4.2% in April, official data showed Wednesday. The eurozone's figure is a weaker 1.6%, but still a two-year high. The global bond market isn't panicking yet. The pandemic led many distressed companies to slash prices in 2020. Investors always knew that, as the economy reopened, some year-over-year increases would be huge.

The prices of most products haven't changed much . CPI gyrations are mostly down to a few items particularly affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, such as airfares and restaurant prices, as well as commodities. Excluding food and energy, U.S. inflation in April was just 3%.

... Over the past few decades, for example, CPI figures have mostly been the results of a concatenation of "temporary" trends in different sectors -- the costs of education and healthcare rose nonstop, while the prices of many goods continuously fell. It was different in the 1970s, when an idiosyncratic squeeze in the supply of oil fueled an inflationary spiral that pushed all costs up.

[May 12, 2021] What is the nature of current round of inflation in the USA; after all wages are stagnant

May 12, 2021 | www.moonofalabama.org

paulmeli , May 12 2021 18:50 utc | 21

"Inflation" in the US is mostly profit-taking and speculation (scalping)

[May 11, 2021] Jim Grant- The Fed Can't Control Inflation

May 11, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

...As Peter Schiff put it, CPI is a lie . Grant used the evolution of the toothbrush into its electric form as an example. How do you measure the clear quality improvements in the toothbrush? The government uses hedonics to measure these changes, but as Grant pointed out, this is "inexact and not really a science."

Grant believes that the economy can only tolerate 2.5% real rates. If that is breached, he thinks the Fed will have to resort to yield-curve control. If it does actually try to shrink its balance sheet and sell bonds, it will drive bond yields even higher. Fed bond-buying is the only thing propping up the bond market right now.

In fact, the Fed is propping up the entire economy. There is a sense that the Fed will always step in and save the markets. As a result, we have bubbles everywhere, from the stock market, to real estate, to cryptocurrency.

"These are strange and oppressive markers of financial markets that have lost moorings of valuation," Grant said.

I think the astounding complacency toward, or indifference of, the evident excesses in our monetary and fiscal affairs I think the lack of concern about those things is perhaps the most striking inflationary augur I know of."

Meanwhile, the Fed continues to create money. M1 annual growth is 350%; M2 is growing at approximately 28%.

"Never before have we had monetary peacetime growth this fast," Grant said.

"Tell me who cares."

Grant said central bankers like Powell are guilty of hubris. They suffer from the delusion that they can actually control everything. Grant called the Fed "un-self-aware."

Despite Jay Powell's credentials, he knows nothing about the past and believes he knows everything about the future."

Grant talked about gold , saying it is an investment in "monetary disorder."

To me, gold isn't a hedge against monetary disorder. It's an investment in monetary disorder, which is what we have. We have floating-rate currencies. We have manipulated exchange rates. We have manipulated interest rates. When the cycle turns, people will want gold and silver, and they will want something tangible ."

[May 11, 2021] Consumers Expect Surging Inflation to Crush the Purchasing Power of their Labor- Fed's Survey - Wolf Street

May 11, 2021 | wolfstreet.com

Consumers are picking up on the rise of inflation, and the Fed, which has been trying to heat up inflation, is pleased. The Fed watches "inflation expectations" carefully. The minutes from the March FOMC meeting mention "inflation expectations" 12 times.

The New York Fed's Survey of Consumer Expectations for April, released today, showed that median inflation expectations for one year from now rose to 3.4%, matching the prior highs in 2013 (the surveys began in June 2013).

But wait the median earnings growth expectations 12 months from now was only 2.1%, and remains near the low end of the spectrum, a sign that consumers are grappling with consumer price inflation outrunning earnings growth. The whoppers were in the major specific categories.

[May 10, 2021] Many layers of leverage stacked on top of each other increase the probability of dollar collapse

Notable quotes:
"... "It's just unbelievable that central banks are actively encouraging this." ..."
"... Good point. Many times we look at charts and say WTF but once you normalize to inflation, maybe this is not as bad as originally it appeared ..."
"... reminds me of an abusive husband telling his beaten wife, "See what you made me do!" ..."
"... Hussman says the right way to do that is to look at margin debt to GDP ration, which is a record. GDP is doubling rate is about every 20 years now at nominal 3.5% ..."
"... That description applies to most Wall Streeters and banksters, whose titanic egos are amazing given the fact that most are parasites that contribute less than a woodlouse to society. Still, I dread the coming US debt collapse discussed in this website, which I would term a debt explosion as all of the bubbles start to pop and so many debtors and former creditors (like lessors, banks, etc.) become publicly known to be legally insolvent. ..."
"... I have invested carefully but we will all lose much or most of our savings. ..."
"... It is very irritating to think of the trillions that the banksters' deceptively named, "Federal" Reserve has been transferring to its ultra-rich owners for decades. They will probably even avoid most taxation again. ..."
Apr 26, 2021 | wolfstreet.com

YuShan Apr 18, 2021 at 3:13 am

Exactly. It is way more scary than even Wolf's charts suggest because there are so many layers of leverage stacked on top of each other.

People taking out margin debt on stock portfolios that they bought by re-mortgaging their bubbled houses to buy stocks with record corporate debt, collaterised (if at all) with bubble assets, at record valuations driven itself by leverage etc etc

It's just unbelievable that central banks are actively encouraging this.

historicus Apr 18, 2021 at 5:06 am

"It's just unbelievable that central banks are actively encouraging this."

Indeed. It's QUITE believable that the politicians love the free money and would never be bold enough to say .

"Hey Fed. Your mandates say you are to FIGHT inflation (stable prices) NOT PROMOTE inflation."

Moosy Apr 17, 2021 at 6:13 pm

The amount of margin debt is not a WTF amount if you use the prices-double each 11 year rule of thumb.

This 11 year period is strikingly accurate if you take the price of the New York Times since 1900 (I have a booklet with frontpages of each year and discovered this when looking at the selling prices). Having said that, the current 800B is the same as the previous inflation corrected peaks of 2009 and around 1999.

So yes, Wolf is 100% correct with the prediction on what is coming. It is just not a WTF amount but a history-repeats-itself moment

ru82 Apr 17, 2021 at 11:45 pm

Good point. Many times we look at charts and say WTF but once you normalize to inflation, maybe this is not as bad as originally it appeared

cas127 Apr 18, 2021 at 5:06 am

"normalize to inflationary, maybe not as bad as originally it appeared"

I know what you mean, but then the (major) problem is that the inflation itself shouldn't be viewed as "normal". Kinda reminds me of a gvt program defending doubled budget over 8 yrs because of "inflation" when in point of fact it is likely that G printing/policy has *created* the inflation in the first place (to help fund the program now pointing at inflation).

Also, reminds me of an abusive husband telling his beaten wife, "See what you made me do!"

Old School Apr 19, 2021 at 6:08 am

Hussman says the right way to do that is to look at margin debt to GDP ration, which is a record. GDP is doubling rate is about every 20 years now at nominal 3.5%

K Apr 17, 2021 at 9:10 pm

That description applies to most Wall Streeters and banksters, whose titanic egos are amazing given the fact that most are parasites that contribute less than a woodlouse to society. Still, I dread the coming US debt collapse discussed in this website, which I would term a debt explosion as all of the bubbles start to pop and so many debtors and former creditors (like lessors, banks, etc.) become publicly known to be legally insolvent.

It is unfortunate that it may happen at the worst possible time, when we face an adversary worse and more powerful than the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany ever was. I have invested carefully but we will all lose much or most of our savings.

It is very irritating to think of the trillions that the banksters' deceptively named, "Federal" Reserve has been transferring to its ultra-rich owners for decades. They will probably even avoid most taxation again.

I do not like to even think how many Americans will wind up. Remember the saying "There but for the grace of god, go I." Many of us will be saying that a lot in the coming years if we are very fortunate.

[May 09, 2021] CPI Is A Lie! We can't trust CPI to tell us the truth about inflation by Peter Schiff

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The CPI is calculated by analyzing the price of a "basket of goods." The makeup of that basket has a big impact on the final CPI number. According to WolfStreet , 10.9% of the CPI is based on durable goods (computers, automobiles, appliances, etc.). Nondurable goods (primarily food and energy) make up 26.6% of CPI. Services account for the remaining 62.5% of the basket. This includes rent, healthcare, cellphone service etc.) ..."
"... The things the government includes and excludes from the basket can make a profound difference in that final CPI number. Back in 1998, the government significantly revised the CPI metrics. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) admitted the changes were "sweeping." ..."
"... In 1998, the BLS followed the recommendations of the Boskin Commission. It was appointed by the Senate in 1995. Initially called the "Advisory Commission to Study the Consumer Price Index," its job was to study possible bias in the computation of the CPI. Unsurprisingly, it determined that the index overstated inflation " by about 1.1% per year in 1996 and about 1.3% prior to 1996. The 1998 changes to CPI were meant to address this "issue." ..."
"... As Peter pointed out, there is a lot of geometric weighting, substitution and hedonics built into the calculation. The government can basically create an index that outputs whatever it wants. ..."
"... Peter said there is a bit of irony in government officials and central bankers constantly complaining about "not enough inflation." ..."
"... They're the ones that are cooking the books to pretend that inflation is lower than it really is. Because what they're really trying to do is get the go-ahead to produce more inflation, which is printing money." ..."
"... And there are other things that hide inflation. For instance, shrinking packaging so there is less product sold at the same price, or substituting lower quality ingredients, or requiring consumers to assemble items themselves. ..."
"... They find different ways to lower the quality and not increase the price, and I'm sure that the government is not picking up on any of that. If the quality improves, yeah, yeah, they calculate that. But they probably ignore all the circumstances where the quality is diminished." ..."
"... The bottom line is we can't trust CPI to tell us the truth about inflation. ..."
May 04, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Via SchiffGold.com,

We've been talking a lot about the specter of inflation. Despite the Fed's assurances not to worry because any price increases we're seeing are transitory, some people are indeed worried. A former JP Morgan managing director warned about inflation and echoed Peter Schiff's view that the central bank is powerless to fight it.

And we're seeing rising prices all over the place, from the grocery store to the gas station. Even the government numbers flash warning signs . But as Peter Schiff explains in this clip from an interview with Jay Martin, it's probably even worse than we realize because the government cooks the numbers when it calculates CPI.

The monthly rises in CPI through the first quarter show an upward trend. The CPI in January was up 0.3%. It was up 0.4% in February. And now it's up 0.6% in March. That totals a 1.013% increase in Q1 alone. The question is does this really reflect the truth about inflation? Peter doesn't think it does.

The government always makes changes to their methods of measuring things, whether it's GDP, or inflation, or unemployment. And they always tweak the numbers to produce a better result as a report card. "

https://www.youtube.com/embed/lnPrsBzIZsw

Imagine if students in a school had the ability to change the metrics by which they were graded or the methodology the teacher used to calculate their grades.

Would it surprise anybody that all of a sudden they started getting more As and Bs and fewer Cs and Ds? The government always wants to make the good stuff better, like economic growth, and the bad stuff better, like unemployment or inflation. So, they want to find ways to make those numbers little and the good numbers big."

The CPI is calculated by analyzing the price of a "basket of goods." The makeup of that basket has a big impact on the final CPI number. According to WolfStreet , 10.9% of the CPI is based on durable goods (computers, automobiles, appliances, etc.). Nondurable goods (primarily food and energy) make up 26.6% of CPI. Services account for the remaining 62.5% of the basket. This includes rent, healthcare, cellphone service etc.)

The things the government includes and excludes from the basket can make a profound difference in that final CPI number. Back in 1998, the government significantly revised the CPI metrics. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) admitted the changes were "sweeping."

According to the BLS, periodic changes to the CPI calculation are necessary because "consumers change their preferences or new products and services emerge. During these occasions, the Bureau reexamines the CPI item structure, which is the classification scheme of the CPI market basket. The item structure is a central feature of the CPI program and many CPI processes depend on it."

In 1998, the BLS followed the recommendations of the Boskin Commission. It was appointed by the Senate in 1995. Initially called the "Advisory Commission to Study the Consumer Price Index," its job was to study possible bias in the computation of the CPI. Unsurprisingly, it determined that the index overstated inflation " by about 1.1% per year in 1996 and about 1.3% prior to 1996. The 1998 changes to CPI were meant to address this "issue."

As Peter pointed out, there is a lot of geometric weighting, substitution and hedonics built into the calculation. The government can basically create an index that outputs whatever it wants.

I think this period of "˜Oh wow! We have low inflation!' It's not a coincidence that it followed this major revision into how we calculate it."

Peter said there is a bit of irony in government officials and central bankers constantly complaining about "not enough inflation."

They're the ones that are cooking the books to pretend that inflation is lower than it really is. Because what they're really trying to do is get the go-ahead to produce more inflation, which is printing money."

Peter said the CPI will never reveal the true extent of rising prices.

And there are other things that hide inflation. For instance, shrinking packaging so there is less product sold at the same price, or substituting lower quality ingredients, or requiring consumers to assemble items themselves.

They find different ways to lower the quality and not increase the price, and I'm sure that the government is not picking up on any of that. If the quality improves, yeah, yeah, they calculate that. But they probably ignore all the circumstances where the quality is diminished."

The bottom line is we can't trust CPI to tell us the truth about inflation.

[May 09, 2021] 4 surprising stocks Goldman Sachs thinks could triumph over inflation by Brian Sozzi

Notable quotes:
"... "In a highly inflationary environment, we like the auto parts space with its unique ability to pass-through higher costs to customers given the non-discretionary nature of the category," says Goldman Sachs analyst Kate McShane. "For instance, in 2019, telegraphed prices increases to offset cost pressures arising from tariffs provided an incremental benefit to same-store sales growth and most auto parts retailers cited between 150-300 basis points of tariff-related inflation." ..."
May 05, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

If you are seeking stocks that could perform well during the inflationary environment the U.S. looks to be headed into as it recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic , Goldman Sachs suggests parking some money in auto parts retailers.

Yes, auto parts retailers.

The investment thesis is pretty straightforward. With mobility across the country picking up (see chart below) as people get vaccinated, cars will likely need more maintenance. That leaves auto parts retailers such as O'Reilly ( ORLY ), Genuine Parts Company ( GPC ), AutoZone ( AZO ) and Advance Auto Parts ( AAP ) in the enviable position of being able to pass inflation in everything from tires to car wax on to consumers and then post strong profits.

"In a highly inflationary environment, we like the auto parts space with its unique ability to pass-through higher costs to customers given the non-discretionary nature of the category," says Goldman Sachs analyst Kate McShane. "For instance, in 2019, telegraphed prices increases to offset cost pressures arising from tariffs provided an incremental benefit to same-store sales growth and most auto parts retailers cited between 150-300 basis points of tariff-related inflation."

McShane rounds out her bullish thesis on auto parts retailers by noting the main sector plays sport price-to-earnings multiples below historical averages. Of the four aforementioned auto parts retailers, AutoZone has the lowest forward price-to-earnings multiple of 18.7 times, according to Yahoo Finance Plus data .

Mobility is back on the move higher as people get vaccinated for COVID-19.

As for which name McShane is most bullish on, that award goes to Advance Auto Parts in the wake of a recent analyst day. McShane made the rare Wall Street move of upgrading her rating on Advance Auto Parts to Buy from Sell.

"Our double tier upgrade " from Sell to Buy " is predicated upon

McShane says.

[May 09, 2021] Inflation Risk Intensifies With Supply Shortages Multiplying

May 09, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Signs of inflation are picking up, with a mounting number of consumer-facing companies warning in recent days that supply shortages and logistical logjams may force them to raise prices.

Tight inventories of materials as varied as semiconductors, steel, lumber and cotton are showing up in survey data, with manufacturers in Europe and the U.S. this week flagging record backlogs and higher input prices as they scramble to replenish stockpiles and keep up with accelerating consumer demand.

As commodities become increasingly expensive, whether faster inflation proves transitory -- or not -- is the biggest question for policy makers and markets. Rising prices and the potential for a response from central banks topped the list of concerns for money managers surveyed by Bank of America Corp.

Many economists and central bankers, from the Federal Reserve on down, maintain that price gains are temporary and will be curbed by forces such as virus worries and unemployment. Investors remain skeptical, with businesses including Nestle SA and Colgate-Palmolive Co. already announcing they’ll need to raise prices.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a former Fed chair, entered the debate on Tuesday when she ruffled markets with the observation that rates will likely rise as government spending ramps up. She later clarified she was neither predicting nor recommending an increase.

The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks 23 raw materials, has risen to its highest level in almost a decade. That has pushed a gauge of global manufacturing output prices to its highest point since 2009, and U.S. producer prices to levels not seen since 2008, according to data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and IHS Markit. JPMorgan analysts also estimate non-food and energy import prices in the biggest economies rose almost 4% in the first quarter, the most in three years.

“Risk clearly leans to the upside in the current environment,†said John Mothersole, pricing and purchasing research director at IHS Markit. “The surge in commodity prices over the past year now guarantees higher goods-price inflation this summer.â€

[May 09, 2021] Kolanovic Warns Most Money Managers at Risk of Inflation Shock

May 09, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Money managers who’ve spent the bulk of their careers profiting from deflationary trends need to quickly switch gears or risk an “inflation shock†to their portfolios, warns JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief global markets strategist Marko Kolanovic.

“Many of today’s investment managers have never experienced a rise in yields, commodities, value stocks, or inflation in any meaningful way,†Kolanovic wrote in a report Wednesday. “A significant shift of allocations towards growth, ESG and low volatility styles over the past decade, all of which have negative correlation to inflation, left most portfolios vulnerable.â€

After staging a powerful rally since November amid vaccine rollouts and government stimulus, bets tied to inflation -- rising Treasury yields, cyclical stocks and small-caps, to name a few -- have taken pause in recent weeks. While that has sparked debate over how long the trend will persist, Kolanovic urged clients to adjust to the new regime amid the reopening of the global economy.

“Given the still high unemployment, and a decade of inflation undershoot, central banks will likely tolerate higher inflation and see it as temporary,†he wrote. “The question that matters the most is if asset managers will make a significant change in allocations to express an increased probability of a more persistent inflation.â€

The way Kolanovic sees it, as data continue to point to higher prices of goods and services, investors will be forced to shift from low-volatility plays to value stocks, while increasing allocations to direct inflation hedges such as commodities. That trend is likely to persist in the second half of the year, he wrote.

Based on JPMorgan’s data, professional investors have yet to fully embrace the reflation trade. Take equities, for instance. Both computer-driven traders and hedge funds now hold stocks at levels below historical averages.

“Portfolio managers likely will not take chances and will reposition portfolios,†Kolanovic wrote. “The interplay of low market liquidity, systematic and macro/fundamental flows, the sheer size of financial assets that need to be rotated or hedges for inflation put on, may cause outsized impact on inflationary and reflationary themes over the next year.â€

Story

[May 08, 2021] What's Behind the WTF Spike in Used-Vehicle Prices- My Gut Says, it Can't Last. But if it Lasts, It's Scary-Crazy Inflation -

May 08, 2021 | wolfstreet.com

And if it doesn't last after the stimmies are gone, dealers will sit on massively overpriced collateral, which could get messy.
By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET .

This has been going on for months: Used-vehicle prices spiking from jaw-dropper to jaw-dropper, and just when I thought prices couldn't possibly spike further, they do.

Prices of used vehicles that were sold at auctions around the US in April spiked by 8.3% from March, by 20% year-to-date, by 54% from April 2020, and by 40% from April 2019, according to the Used Vehicle Value Index released today by Manheim, the largest auto auction operator in the US and a unit of Cox Automotive. All heck has broken loose in the used vehicle market:

The price spike has now completely blown by the prior record spike over the 13-month period through September 2009, which included the cash-for-clunkers program that removed a whole generation of serviceable older vehicles from the market.


makruger May 8, 2021 at 1:31 am

Curiously, the St. Louis Fed says used car prices have been pretty much flat for the last 25 years. While the last year of data shows a notable jump in prices, it's apparently been bludgeoned a little with some old fashioned hedonic quality adjustments.

Wolf Richter May 8, 2021 at 8:55 am

makruger,

I'll help you out since I've been covering this for years. So here is the correct link that explains it all, new vehicle CPI and used vehicle CPI (which is what you cited), plus "hedonic quality adjustments."

https://wolfstreet.com/2021/04/13/yup-dollars-purchasing-power-dropped-to-record-low-again-but-more-sharply-and-its-worse-than-cpi-shows/

And some relevant charts from that article:

Reply
Scott May 8, 2021 at 1:34 am

I can see how the supply for these auctions will be tight for some time given that business travel and the resulting car rental usage is way down. In addition, I would expect a lot of corporate car purchasing is down considerably as many sales reps have worked remotely which stalled corporate car purchasing schedules.

[May 08, 2021] Inflation Is More of a Threat Than the Fed Says - WSJ

May 08, 2021 | www.wsj.com

Naples, Fla.

Messrs. Levy and Bordo allude to the sharp drop in the velocity of M2 after the 2007-09 crisis. The actual decline is startling. In the first quarter of 2007 M2 velocity was 1.99, by the first quarter of 2020 it had fallen almost continually to 1.38. In other words, the money stock went from turning over twice a year to under 1.4 times a year. This is the primary reason for the very low inflation over the period.

me title=

Because of the Covid lockdowns, M2 fell even further to 1.13 by the fourth quarter of 2020. As the authors point out, conditions are much different today than in 2007-20 because of boosted bank reserves, households with substantial savings ready to spend and commercial banks in good shape and eager to lend. Unless an economy-wide lockdown occurs, these are very good reasons to believe the velocity of money will increase significantly, just as the 27% surge in M2 since the outbreak of the pandemic works its way through the economy.

This is a prescription for major inflation, perhaps 4%-5% in the next two years. When people say "no way," I remind them that in the early 1980s hardly anyone believed that interest rates would ever return to 1950s levels. While many individuals prefer to trend forecast, never underestimate how inflation (and interest rates) can swing back and forth in ways that amaze.

Em. Prof. Stephen Happel

Arizona State University

Tempe, Ariz.

Messrs. Levy and Bordo might have made an equally compelling case about the Fed being in total denial about the more troubling risk: that its policies have been contributing to a global asset-price and credit-market bubble.

By maintaining ultralow interest rates and by continuing to expand its balance by $120 billion a month, even when the economy could soon be overheating and U.S. equity valuations are close to their all-time highs, the Fed risks further inflating the asset-price bubble. By so doing, it is heightening the chances of a hard economic landing when the Fed is eventually forced to slam on the monetary-policy brakes to meet its inflation objective.

Desmond Lachman

American Enterprise Institute

Washington

Why did the money supply hardly budge in 2008, whereas now it's steadily increasing? The answer is that during the financial crisis the Fed conducted a radical experiment: It paid banks not to lend. By design, quantitative easing shored up banks' balance sheets while interest on excess reserves prevented the newly created money from circulating.

In March 2020, the Fed slashed interest on excess reserves from 1.60% to 0.10%. The benefits of sitting on funds is much smaller, which is why lending has increased.

me title=

Messrs. Levy and Bordo emphasize structural factors in the U.S. economy, such as housing and trade. These matter, but not nearly so much as policy. Inflationary pressures will continue if the Fed's asset purchases increase the broader money supply. But this depends on whether the Fed raises interest on excess reserves to prepandemic levels.

For better or worse, interest on excess reserves is now a crucial policy tool. We can't understand inflation without it.

Assoc. Prof. Alexander William Salter

Texas Tech University

Lubbock, Texas

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the May 5, 2021, print edition as 'Inflation Is More of a Threat Than Fed Says.'

[May 08, 2021] Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII

May 08, 2021 | www.wsj.com

SUBSCRIBER 3 hours ago Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII.

The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and will likely have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits. The U.S. M4 money supply rose an alarming 24% in March alone from a year earlier whereas M1 rose 37%. Notwithstanding these shocking numbers the Fed continues to buy $120bn of bonds each month and the total amount of money in circulation is exploding at an unprecedented 40% rate.

Professor William Barnett of the Center for Financial Stability in New York explained that today's financial collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations. The chaotic aftermath? By mid-1947 the rate of inflation exceeded 17% per year - destroying low income households.

(Cont.)
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Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII

SUBSCRIBER 3 hours ago
Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII.

The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and will likely have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits. The U.S. M4 money supply rose an alarming 24% in March alone from a year earlier whereas M1 rose 37%. Notwithstanding these shocking numbers the Fed continues to buy $120bn of bonds each month and the total amount of money in circulation is exploding at an unprecedented 40% rate.

Professor William Barnett of the Center for Financial Stability in New York explained that today's financial collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations. The chaotic aftermath? By mid-1947 the rate of inflation exceeded 17% per year - destroying low income households.

(Cont.)

Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII SUBSCRIBER 3 hours ago
Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII.

The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and will likely have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits. The U.S. M4 money supply rose an alarming 24% in March alone from a year earlier whereas M1 rose 37%. Notwithstanding these shocking numbers the Fed continues to buy $120bn of bonds each month and the total amount of money in circulation is exploding at an unprecedented 40% rate.

Professor William Barnett of the Center for Financial Stability in New York explained that today's financial collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations. The chaotic aftermath? By mid-1947 the rate of inflation exceeded 17% per year - destroying low income households.

(Cont.)

Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII
Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII.

The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and will likely have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits. The U.S. M4 money supply rose an alarming 24% in March alone from a year earlier whereas M1 rose 37%. Notwithstanding these shocking numbers the Fed continues to buy $120bn of bonds each month and the total amount of money in circulation is exploding at an unprecedented 40% rate.

Professor William Barnett of the Center for Financial Stability in New York explained that today's financial collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations. The chaotic aftermath? By mid-1947 the rate of inflation exceeded 17% per year - destroying low income households.

(Cont.)

Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII
Yellen and the Fed are currently repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of U.S. economic history. It happened during the 1940s following the conclusion of WWII.

The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and will likely have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits. The U.S. M4 money supply rose an alarming 24% in March alone from a year earlier whereas M1 rose 37%. Notwithstanding these shocking numbers the Fed continues to buy $120bn of bonds each month and the total amount of money in circulation is exploding at an unprecedented 40% rate.

Professor William Barnett of the Center for Financial Stability in New York explained that today's financial collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations. The chaotic aftermath? By mid-1947 the rate of inflation exceeded 17% per year - destroying low income households.

(Cont.)

[May 08, 2021] President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation

May 08, 2021 | www.wsj.com

President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation

Carlos Lumpuy
President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation.
On May 7 of last year, the metric standard of lumber, 1,000 board feet was $360 . Today it's $1,702 a record high. It broke $1,000 first time ever a month ago on April 7.
That's a 70% increase in lumber in just the last 30 days.
Copper was $2.33 on May 7 of last year. Today, $4.76 a record high.
Steel Rebar was $3,768 on May 7 of last year. Today: $5,483 , record high.
President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation .
Tell that to a builder, his subcontractors, and the buyer of a newly built home this summer.
Food prices for Corn, Wheat, Soybeans, Rice, Milk, Coffee, Cocoa are up double digits in just the last two months.
Vice President Harris ignored a question about inflation with her regular everyday cackle laughing as she walked away.
We are in month four of this administration that prioritizes its war on the wind and the weather.
Figures are from Yahoo Finance
President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation Carlos Lumpuy
President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation.
On May 7 of last year, the metric standard of lumber, 1,000 board feet was $360 . Today it's $1,702 a record high. It broke $1,000 first time ever a month ago on April 7.
That's a 70% increase in lumber in just the last 30 days.
Copper was $2.33 on May 7 of last year. Today, $4.76 a record high.
Steel Rebar was $3,768 on May 7 of last year. Today: $5,483 , record high.
President Biden and Secretary Yellen said this week there is no significant inflation .
Tell that to a builder, his subcontractors, and the buyer of a newly built home this summer.
Food prices for Corn, Wheat, Soybeans, Rice, Milk, Coffee, Cocoa are up double digits in just the last two months.
Vice President Harris ignored a question about inflation with her regular everyday cackle laughing as she walked away.
We are in month four of this administration that prioritizes its war on the wind and the weather.
Figures are from Yahoo Finance

[May 07, 2021] Goldman, Pimco Detect Irrational Inflation Mania in Bonds

May 07, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and bond titan Pacific Investment Management Co. have a simple message for Treasuries traders fretting over inflation: Relax.

The firms estimate that bond traders who are pricing in annual inflation approaching 3% over the next handful of years are overstating the pressures bubbling up as the U.S. economy rebounds from the pandemic.

...the overshoot could be as large as 0.2-to-0.3 percentage point. That gap makes a difference with key market proxies of inflation expectations for the coming few years surging this week to the highest in more than a decade. The 10-year measure, perhaps the most closely followed, eclipsed 2.5% Friday for the first time since 2013, even after unexpectedly weak U.S. jobs data.

There's at least one market metric that backs up the view that the pressures, which have been building for months, aren't about to get out of hand and may even prove temporary. A swaps instrument that reflects the annual inflation rate for the second half of the next decade has been relatively stable in recent months.

...The Federal Reserve has been hammering home that it sees any spike in price pressures as likely short-lived, and that it's willing to let inflation run above target for a period as the economy revives.

... ... ...

... Inflation worries have been mounting against a backdrop of soaring commodities prices -- copper, for example, set a record high Friday. It's all happening as lawmakers in Washington debate another massive fiscal-stimulus package.

...

Korapaty calls the outlook for inflation "benign." His view is that the market is overly optimistic with its inflation assumptions, with the greatest mismatch to be found on the three- and five-year horizon. At roughly 2.75% and 2.7%, respectively, those rates are around 20 to 30 basis points higher than they should be, in his estimate.

... ... ...

...Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stirred markets by saying interest rates will likely rise as government spending swells and the economy achieves faster growth. She walked back the remarks hours later.

... "Because we think front-end rates are pricing in a more aggressive Fed path than we believe, we do like shorter-dated nominal bonds, and think there's value there," she said.

[May 05, 2021] Mark Blyth " An Inflated Fear of Inflation ?

May 01, 2021 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. Mark Blyth is such a treat. How can you not be a fan of the man who coined "The Hamptons are not a defensible position"? Even though he's not always right, he's so incisive and has such a strong point of view that his occasional questionable notions serve as fodder for thought. And I suspect he'll be proven correct on his topic today, the inflation bugaboo. Yves here. Mark Blyth is such a treat. How can you not be a fan of the man who coined "The Hamptons are not a defensible position"? Even though he's not always right, he's so incisive and has such a strong point of view that his occasional questionable notions serve as fodder for thought. And I suspect he'll be proven correct on his topic today, the inflation bugaboo. Even though he's not always right, he's so incisive and has such a strong point of view that his occasional questionable notions serve as fodder for thought. And I suspect he'll be proven correct on his topic today, the inflation bugaboo. Even though he's not always right, he's so incisive and has such a strong point of view that his occasional questionable notions serve as fodder for thought. And I suspect he'll be proven correct on his topic today, the inflation bugaboo. By Paul Jay.

... ... ...

Paul Jay
And is the idea that inflation is about to come roaring back one of the stupid ideas that you're talking about? And is the idea that inflation is about to come roaring back one of the stupid ideas that you're talking about?
Mark Blyth
I hope that it is, but I'm going to go with Larry on this one. He says it's about one third chance that it's going to do this. I'd probably give it about one in ten, so it's not impossible.

So, let's unpack why we're going to see this. Can you generate inflation? Yeah. I mean, dead easy. Imagine your Turkey. Why not be a kind of Turkish pseudo dictator?

Why not fire the head of your central bank in an economy that's basically dependent on other people valuing your assets and giving you money through capital flows? And then why don't you fire the central bank head and put in charge your brother-in-law? I think it was his brother-in-law. And then insist that low interest rates cure inflation. And then watch as the value of your currency, the lira collapses, which means all the stuff you import is massively expensive, which means that people will pay more, and the general level of all prices will go up, which is an inflation. So, can you generate an inflation in the modern world? Sure, yeah. Easy. Just be an idiot, right? Now, does this apply to the United States? No. That's where it gets entirely different. So, a couple of things to think about (first). So, you mentioned that huge number of 20 trillion dollars. Well, that's more or less about two thirds of what we threw into the global economy after the global financial crisis, and inflation singularly failed to show up. All those people in 2010 screaming about inflation and China dumping bonds and all that. Totally wrong. Completely wrong. No central bank that's got a brass nameplate worth a damn has managed to hit its inflation target of two percent in over a decade. All that would imply that there is a huge amount of what we call "˜slack' in the economy. (Also) think about the fact that we've had, since the 1990s, across the OECD, by any measure, full employment. That is to say, most people who want a job can actually find one, and at the same time, despite that, there has been almost no price pressure coming from wages, pushing on into prices, to push up inflation. So rather than the so-called vertical Phillips curve, which most of modern macro is based upon, whereby there's a kind of speed bump for the economy, and if the government spends money, it can't push this curve out, all it can do is push it up in terms of prices. What we seem to actually have is one whereby you can have a constant level of inflation, which is very low, and any amount of unemployment you want from 2 percent to 12 percent, depending on where you look and in which time-period.

All of which suggests that at least for big developed, open, globalized economies, where you've destroyed trade unions, busted up national product cartels, globally integrated your markets, and added 600 million people to the global labor supply, you just can't generate inflation very easily. Now, we're running, depending on how much actually passes, a two to five trillion-dollar experiment on which theory of inflation is right. This one, or is it this one? That's basically what we're doing just now. Larry's given it one in three that it's his one. I'd give it one in ten his one's right. Now, if I may just go on just for a seconds longer. This is where the politics of this gets interesting. Most people don't understand what inflation is. You get all this stuff talked by economists and central bankers about inflation and expectations and all that, but you go out and survey people and they have no idea what the damn thing is. Think about the fact that most people talk about house price inflation.

There is no such thing as house price inflation. Inflation is a general rise in the level of all prices. A sustained rise in the level of prices. The fact that house prices in Toronto have gone up is because Canada stopped building public housing in the 1980s and turned it into an asset class and let the 10 percent top earners buy it all and swap it with each other. That is singularly not an inflation. So, what's going to happen coming out of Covid is there will be a big pickup in spending, a pickup in employment. I think it's (going to be) less than people expect because the people with the money are not going to go out and spend it because they have all they want already. There are only so many Sub-Zero fridges you can buy. Meanwhile, the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution are too busy paying back debt from the past year to go on a spending spree, but there definitely will be a pickup. Now, does that mean that there's going to be what we used to call bottlenecks? Yeah, because basically firms run down inventory because they're in the middle of a bloody recession. Does it mean that there are going to be supply chain problems? Yes, we see this with computer chips. So, what's going to happen is that computer chips are going to go up in price.

So, lots of individual things are going to go up in price, and what's going to happen is people are going to go "there's the inflation, there's that terrible inflation," and it's not. It's just basically short-term factors that will dissipate after 18 months. That is my bet. For Larry to be right what would have to be true?

That we would have to have the institutions, agreements, labor markets and product markets of the 1970s. We don't.

... ... ...

So, I just don't actually see what the generator of inflation would be. We are not Turkey dependent on capital imports for our survival with a currency that's falling off a cliff. That is entirely different. That import mechanism, which is the way that most countries these days get a bit of inflation. That simply doesn't apply in the U.S. So, with my money on it, if I had to bet, it's one in 10 Larry's right, rather one in 3.

Paul Jay
The other point he raises, and we talked a little bit about this in a previous interview, but let's revisit it, is that the size of the American debt, even if it isn't inflationary at some point, creates some kind of crisis of confidence in the dollar being the reserve currency of the world, and so this big infrastructure spending is a problem because of that. That's part of, I believe, one of his arguments. The other point he raises, and we talked a little bit about this in a previous interview, but let's revisit it, is that the size of the American debt, even if it isn't inflationary at some point, creates some kind of crisis of confidence in the dollar being the reserve currency of the world, and so this big infrastructure spending is a problem because of that. That's part of, I believe, one of his arguments.
Mark Blyth
The way political economists look at the financial plumbing, I think, is different to the way that macro economists do. We see it rather differently. The first thing is, what's your alternative to the dollar unless you're basically going to go all-in on gold or bitcoin? And good luck with those. If we go into a crushing recession and our bond market collapses, don't think that Europe's going to be a safe haven given that they've got half the US growth rate. And we could talk about what Europe's got going on post-pandemic because it's not that good. So what's your alternative (to the Dollar)? Buy yen? No, not really. You're going to buy Chinese assets? Well, good luck, and given the way that their country is being run at the moment, if you ever want to take your capital out. I'm not sure that's going to work for you, even if you could. So you're kind of stuck with it. Mechanically there's another problem. All of the countries that make surpluses in the world make surpluses because we run deficits. One has to balance the other. So, when you're a Chinese firm selling to the United States, which is probably an American firm in China with Chinese subcontractors selling to the United States, what happens is they get paid in dollars. When they receive those dollars in China, they don't let them into the domestic banking system. They sterilize them and they turn them into the local currency, which is why China has all these (dollar) reserves. That's their national savings. Would you like to burn your reserves in a giant pile? Well, one way to do that would be to dump American debt, which would be equivalent to burning your national savings. If you're a firm, what do you do? Well, you basically have to use dollars for your invoicing. You have to use dollars for your purchasing, and you keep accumulating dollars, which you hand back to your central bank, which then hands you the domestic currency. The central bank then has a problem because it's got a liability " (foreign) cash rather than an asset. So, what's the easiest asset to buy? Buy another 10-year Treasury bill, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. So, if we were to actually have that type of crisis of confidence, the people who would actually suffer would be the Germans and the Chinese, because their export-driven models only makes sense in terms of the deficits that we run. Think of it as kind of monetarily assured destruction because the plumbing works this way. I just don't see how you can have that crisis of confidence because you've got nowhere else to take your confidence.
Paul Jay
If I understand it correctly, the majority of American government debt is held by Americans, so it's actually really the wealth is still inside the United States. I saw a number, this was done three or four years ago, maybe, but I think it was Brookings Institute, that assets after liabilities in private hands in the United States is something like 98 trillion dollars. So I don't get where this crisis of confidence is going to come any time soon. If I understand it correctly, the majority of American government debt is held by Americans, so it's actually really the wealth is still inside the United States. I saw a number, this was done three or four years ago, maybe, but I think it was Brookings Institute, that assets after liabilities in private hands in the United States is something like 98 trillion dollars. So I don't get where this crisis of confidence is going to come any time soon.
Mark Blyth
Basically, if your economy grows faster (than the rest of the world because you are) the technological leader, your stock markets grows faster than the others. If you're an international investor, you want access to that. (That ends) only if there were actual real deep economic problems (for the US), like, for example, China invents fusion energy and gives it free to the world. That would definitely screw up Texas. But short of that, it's hard to see exactly what would be these game-changers that would result in this. And of course, this is where the Bitcoin people come in. It's all about crypto, and nobody has any faith in the dollar, and all this sort of stuff. Well, I don't see why we have faith in something (like that instead . I think it was just last week. There wasn't much reporting on this, I don't know if you caught this, but there were some twenty-nine-year-old dude ran a crypto exchange. I can't remember where it was. Maybe somewhere like Turkey. But basically he had two billion in crypto and he just walked off with the cash. You don't walk off with the Fed, but you could walk off with a crypto exchange. So until those problems are basically sorted out, the notion that we can all jump into a digital currency, which at the end of the day, to buy anything, you need to turn back into a physical currency because you don't buy your coffee with crypto, we're back to that (old) problem. How do you get out of the dollar? That structural feature is incredibly important.
Paul Jay
So there's some critique of the Biden infrastructure plan and some of the other stimulus, coming from the left, because, one, the left more or less agrees with what you said about inflation, and the critique is that it's actually not big enough, and let me add to that. I'm kind of a little bit surprised, maybe not anymore, but Wall Street on the whole, not Larry Summers and a few others, but most of them actually seem quite in support of the Biden plan. You don't hear a lot of screaming about inflation from Wall Street. Maybe from the Republicans, but not from listening to Bloomberg Radio. So there's some critique of the Biden infrastructure plan and some of the other stimulus, coming from the left, because, one, the left more or less agrees with what you said about inflation, and the critique is that it's actually not big enough, and let me add to that. I'm kind of a little bit surprised, maybe not anymore, but Wall Street on the whole, not Larry Summers and a few others, but most of them actually seem quite in support of the Biden plan. You don't hear a lot of screaming about inflation from Wall Street. Maybe from the Republicans, but not from listening to Bloomberg Radio.
Mark Blyth
You don't even hear a lot of screaming about corporate taxes, which is fascinating, right? You'd think they'd be up in arms about this? I actually spoke to a business audience recently about this, and I kind of did an informal survey and I said, "why are you guys not up in arms about this?" And someone that was on the call said, "well, you know, the Warren Buffet line about you find out who's swimming naked when the tide goes out? What if a lot of firms that we think are great firms are just really good at tax optimization? What if those profits are really just contingent on that? That would be really nice to know this because then we could stop investing in them and invest in better stuff that actually does things." You don't even hear a lot of screaming about corporate taxes, which is fascinating, right? You'd think they'd be up in arms about this? I actually spoke to a business audience recently about this, and I kind of did an informal survey and I said, "why are you guys not up in arms about this?" And someone that was on the call said, "well, you know, the Warren Buffet line about you find out who's swimming naked when the tide goes out? What if a lot of firms that we think are great firms are just really good at tax optimization? What if those profits are really just contingent on that? That would be really nice to know this because then we could stop investing in them and invest in better stuff that actually does things."
Paul Jay
And pick up the pieces of what's left of them for a penny if they have to go down. And pick up the pieces of what's left of them for a penny if they have to go down.
Mark Blyth
Absolutely. Just one thought that we'll circle back, to the left does not think it's big enough, etc. Well, yes, of course they wouldn't, and this is one of those things whereby you kind of have to check yourself. I give the inflation problem a one in ten. But what I'm really dispassionately trying to do is to look at this as just a problem. My political preferences lie on the side of "˜the state should do more.' They lie on the side of "˜I think we should have higher real wages.' They lay on the side that says that "˜populism is something that can be fixed if the bottom 60 percent actually had some kind of growth.' So, therefore, I like programs that do that. Psychologically, I am predisposed therefore to discount inflation. I'm totally discounting that because that's my priors and I'm really deeply trying to check this. In this debate, it's always worth bearing in mind, no one's doing that. The Republicans and the right are absolutely going to be hell bent on inflation, not because they necessarily really believe in (inevitable) inflation, (but) because it's a useful way to stop things happening. And then for the left to turn around and say, well, it isn't big enough, (is because you might as well play double or quits because, you know, you've got Biden and that's the best that's going to get. So there's a way in which when we really are trying to figure out these things, we kind of have to check our partisan preferences because they basically multiply the errors in our thinking, I think.
Paul Jay
Now, earlier you said that one of the main factors why inflation is structurally low now, I don't know if you said exactly those words. Now, earlier you said that one of the main factors why inflation is structurally low now, I don't know if you said exactly those words.
Mark Blyth
I would say that yes. I would say that yes.
Paul Jay
Is the weakness of the unions, the weakness of workers in virtually all countries, but particularly in the U.S., because it matters so much. That organizing of workers is just, they're so unable to raise their wages over decades of essentially wages that barely keep up with inflation and don't grow in any way, certainly not in any relationship to the way productivity has grown. So we as progressives, well, we want workers to get better organized. We want stronger unions. We want higher wages, but we want it without inflation. Is the weakness of the unions, the weakness of workers in virtually all countries, but particularly in the U.S., because it matters so much. That organizing of workers is just, they're so unable to raise their wages over decades of essentially wages that barely keep up with inflation and don't grow in any way, certainly not in any relationship to the way productivity has grown. So we as progressives, well, we want workers to get better organized. We want stronger unions. We want higher wages, but we want it without inflation.
Mark Blyth
And it's a question of how much room you have to do that. I mean, essentially, if you quintuple the money supply, eventually prices will have to rise"¦but that depends upon the velocity of money which has actually been collapsing. So maybe you'd have to do it 10 times. There's interesting research out of London, which I saw a couple of weeks ago, that basically says you really can't correlate inflation with increases in the money supply. It's just not true. It's not the money that's doing it. It's the expectations. That then begs the question, well, who's actually paying attention if we all don't really understand what inflation is? So I tend to think of this as basically a kind of a physical process. It's very easy to understand if your currency goes down by 50 percent and you're heavily dependent on imports. You're import (prices) go up. All the prices in the shops are going to go up. That's a mechanism that I can clearly identify that will generate rising prices. If you have big unions, if you have kind of cartel-like vertically integrated firms that control the national market, if you have COLA contracts. If you have labor able to do what we used to call leapfrogging wage claims against other unions, if this is all institutionally and legally protected, I can see how that generates inflation, that is a mechanism I can point to. That doesn't exist just now. Let's unpack this for a minute. The sort of fundamental theoretical assumption on this is based is some kind of "˜marginal productivity theory of wages.' In a perfectly free market with free exchange, in which we don't live, what would happen is you would hire me up to the point that my marginal product is basically paying off for you, and once it produces zero profits, that's kind of where my wages end. I'm paid up to the point that my marginal product is useful to the firm. This is not really a useful way of thinking about it because if you're the employer and I'm the worker, and I walk up to you and say, hey, my marginal productivity is seven, so how about you pay me seven bucks? You just say, shut up or I'll fire you and get someone else. Now, the way that we used to deal with this was a kind of "˜higher than your outside option,' on wages. The way we used to think about this was "why would you pay somebody ten bucks at McDonald's?" Because then you might actually get them to and flip the burgers because they're outside option is probably seven bucks, and if you pay them seven bucks, they just won't show up. So we used to have to pay workers a bit more. So that was, in a sense, (workers) claiming (a bit of the surplus) from productivity. But now what we've done, Suresh Naidu the economist was talking about this the other day, is we have all these technologies for surveilling workers (instead of paying them more). So now what we can do is take that difference between seven and ten and just pocket it because we can actually pay workers at your outside option, because I monitor everything you do, and if you don't do exactly what I say I'll fire you, and get somebody else for seven bucks. So all the mechanisms for the sharing of sharing productivity, unions, technology, now lies in the hands of employers. It's all going against labor. So (as a result) we have this fiction that somehow when the economy grows, our productivity goes up, and workers share in that. Again, what's the mechanism? Once you take out unions and once you weaponize the ability of employers to extract surplus through mechanisms like technology, franchising, all the rest of it, then it just tilts the playing field so much that we just don't see any increase in wages. (Now) let's bring this back to inflation. Unless you see systematic (and sustained) increases in the real wage that increases costs for firms to the point that they need to push on prices, I just don't see the mechanism for generating inflation. It just isn't there. And we've underpaid the bottom 60 percent of the U.S. labor market so long it would take a hell of a lot of wage inflation to get there, with or without unions.
Paul Jay
Yeah, what's that number, that if the minimum wage was adjusted for inflation and it was what the minimum wage was, what, 30 years ago, the minimum wage would be somewhere between 25 and 30 bucks, and that wasn't causing raging inflation. Yeah, what's that number, that if the minimum wage was adjusted for inflation and it was what the minimum wage was, what, 30 years ago, the minimum wage would be somewhere between 25 and 30 bucks, and that wasn't causing raging inflation.
Mark Blyth
And there is that RAND study from November 2020 that was adeninely entitled, "˜Trends in Income 1979 to 2020,' and they calculated, and I think this is the number, but even if I'm off, the order of magnitude is there, that transfers, because of tax and regulatory changes, from the 90th percentile of the distribution to the 10 percentile, totalled something in the order of $34 trillion. That's how much was vacuumed up and practically nothing trickled down. So when you consider that as a mechanism of extraction, why are worrying about inflation (from wages)? The best story on inflation is actually Charles Goodhart's book that came out last year. We got a long period of low inflation because of global supply chains, and because of demographic trends. It's a combination of global supply chains, Chinese labor, and demographics all coming together to basically push down labor costs, and that's why you get this long period of deflation, which leads to rising profits and zero inflation. A perfectly reasonable way of explaining it. And his point is that, well, that's coming to an end. The demographics are shifting, or shrinking. We're going back to more closed economies. You're going to create this inflation problem again. OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? And there is that RAND study from November 2020 that was adeninely entitled, "˜Trends in Income 1979 to 2020,' and they calculated, and I think this is the number, but even if I'm off, the order of magnitude is there, that transfers, because of tax and regulatory changes, from the 90th percentile of the distribution to the 10 percentile, totalled something in the order of $34 trillion. That's how much was vacuumed up and practically nothing trickled down. So when you consider that as a mechanism of extraction, why are worrying about inflation (from wages)? The best story on inflation is actually Charles Goodhart's book that came out last year. We got a long period of low inflation because of global supply chains, and because of demographic trends. It's a combination of global supply chains, Chinese labor, and demographics all coming together to basically push down labor costs, and that's why you get this long period of deflation, which leads to rising profits and zero inflation. A perfectly reasonable way of explaining it. And his point is that, well, that's coming to an end. The demographics are shifting, or shrinking. We're going back to more closed economies. You're going to create this inflation problem again. OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? The best story on inflation is actually Charles Goodhart's book that came out last year. We got a long period of low inflation because of global supply chains, and because of demographic trends. It's a combination of global supply chains, Chinese labor, and demographics all coming together to basically push down labor costs, and that's why you get this long period of deflation, which leads to rising profits and zero inflation. A perfectly reasonable way of explaining it. And his point is that, well, that's coming to an end. The demographics are shifting, or shrinking. We're going back to more closed economies. You're going to create this inflation problem again. OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? The best story on inflation is actually Charles Goodhart's book that came out last year. We got a long period of low inflation because of global supply chains, and because of demographic trends. It's a combination of global supply chains, Chinese labor, and demographics all coming together to basically push down labor costs, and that's why you get this long period of deflation, which leads to rising profits and zero inflation. A perfectly reasonable way of explaining it. And his point is that, well, that's coming to an end. The demographics are shifting, or shrinking. We're going back to more closed economies. You're going to create this inflation problem again. OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? OK, what's the timeline on that? About 20 years? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here? A few years ago, we were told we had 12 years to fix the climate problem or we're in deep shit. If we have to face the climate problem versus single to double-digit inflation, I'm left wondering what is the real problem here?

cocomaan , , May 1, 2021 at 7:24 am

Great piece. He put to words something I've thought about but couldn't articulate: if wages are stagnant, how could you possibly get broad based inflation?

There is no upward pressure on labor costs anywhere in the economy. The pressures are all downward.

You would need government spending in the order of magnitudes to drive up wages. Or release from a lot of debt, like student loan forgiveness or what have you.

Left in Wisconsin , , May 1, 2021 at 2:06 pm

I'm not sure you need wage growth to get inflation. As Blyth notes, most of the time inflation is a currency or a monetary issue. In the 70s, it was initially an oil thing " and oil flows through a lot of products " and then really went crazy only when Volker started raising interest rates. I don't think there is an episode of "wage-push" inflation in history. (The union cost-of-living clauses don't "cause" inflation, they only adjust for past inflation. If unions can cause wage-push inflation, someone needs to explain how they did this in the late 70s, when they were much less powerful and unemployment was substantially higher, than in the 1950s.) One could argue that expansive fiscal policy might drive inflation but, even then, the mechanism is through price increases, not wage increases. You do need consumption but that can always come from the wealthy and further debt immiseration of the rest of us.

Adam Eran , , May 1, 2021 at 2:51 pm

Blythe is one of those guys who is *almost* correct. For example he declares that expectations drive inflation. What about genuine shortages? The most recent U.S. big inflation stemmed from OPEC withholding oil"a shortage we answered by increasing the price ($1.75/bbl in 1971 -> $42/bbl in 1982). In Germany, the hyperinflation was driven by the French invading the Ruhr, something roughly like shutting down Ohio in the U.S. A shortage of goods resulted. Inflation! In Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian (white) farmers left, and the natives who took over their farms were not producing enough food. A shortage of food, requiring imports, resulted. Inflation!

I guess you could say people in Zimbabwe "expected" food"¦but that's not standard English.

JFYI, Blythe is not a fan of MMT. He calls it "annoying." Yep, that's his well-reasoned argument about how to think about it.

As a *political* economist, he may have a point in saying MMT is a difficult political sell, but otherwise, I'd say the guy is clueless about it.

CH , , May 1, 2021 at 9:13 am

Inflation isn't caused by the amount of money in the economy but by the amount of *spending*.

Like the other commenter, I've wondered this too"if wages have been stagnant for a generation, then how are we going to get inflation? By what mechanism? It seems like almost all of the new money just adds a few zeros to the end of the bank account balances of the already rich (or else disappears offshore).

Still, you just cannot people to understand this because of houses, health care and education. One might even argue that inflated house and education prices are helping keep inflation down. If more and more of our meager income is going to pay for these fixed expenditures, then there's no money left over to pay increased prices for goods and services. So there's no room to increase the prices of those things. As Michael Hudson would point out, it's all sucked away for debt service, meaning a lot of the "money printing" is just subsidizing Wall Street.

But if you pay attention to the internet, for years there have been conspiracy theories all across the political spectrum that we were really in hyperinflation and the government just secretly "cooked the books" and manipulated the statistics to convince us all it wasn't happening. Of course, these conspiracy theories all pointed to the cost of housing, medicine and education as "proof" of this theory (three things which, ironically, didn't go up spectacularly during the Great Inflation of the 1970's). Or else they'd point to gas prices, but that strategy lost it's potency after 2012. Or else they'd complain that their peanut butter was secretly getting smaller, hiding the inflation (shrinkflation is real, or course, but it's not a vast conspiracy to hide price increases from the public).

I'm convinced that this was the ground zero for the kind of anti-government conspiratorial thinking that's taken over our politics today. These ideas was heavy promoted by libertarians like Ron Paul starting in the nineties, helped by tracts like "The Creature from Jekyll Island," which argued that the Fed itself was one big conspiracy. I've seen plenty of people across the political spectrum"including on the far Left"take all of this stuff as gospel.

So if the government is secretly hiding inflation and the Fed itself is a grand conspiracy to convince us that paper is money (rather than "real" money, aka gold), then is it that hard to believe they're manipulating Covid statistics and plotting to control us all by forcing us all to wear masks and get vaccinated? In my view, it all started with inflation paranoia.

Blyth explains why housing inflation isn't really a sign of hyperinflation. But the average "man on the street" just doesn't get it. To Joe Sixpack, not counting some of the things he has to pay for is cheating. So are "substitutions" like ground beef when steak gets too pricey, or a Honda Civic for a Toyota Camry, for example. The complexity of counting inflation is totally lost on them, making them vulnerable to conspiratorial thinking. Since Biden was elected, the ZOMG HyPeRiNfLaTiOn!!&%! articles are ubiquitous.

Does anyone have a good way of explaining this to ordinary (i.e. non-economically literate) people? I'd love to hear it! Thanks.

TomDority , , May 1, 2021 at 9:41 am

"There is no such thing as house price inflation. Inflation is a general rise in the level of all prices. A sustained rise in the level of prices. The fact that house prices in Toronto have gone up is because Canada stopped building public housing in the 1980s and turned it into an asset class and let the 10 percent top earners buy it all and swap it with each other. That is singularly not an inflation."
Maybe I am totally off but, I would say"¦. By your definition, inflation does not exist in the economic terminology as inflation only exists if generally all prices go up and a singularity of soaring house prices and education and healthcare do not constitute an inflation because the number of things inflating do not meet some unknown number of items needed for a general rise in all prices to create an inflation.
What I read you to say is that if Labor prices go up " that could lead to inflation " but if house prices go up (as they have) that is not inflation.
Hypothetically " if labor prices do not go up and the "˜nessesities of living' prices go up (Housing and Med) " would you not have an inflation in the cost of living? " I am convinced that economists and market experts try to claim that the economy and markets are seperate and distinct from humans as a science " and that Political science has nothing to do with what they present. Yet, humans are the only species to have formed the markets and money we all participate and, the only species, therefore, to have an exclusive asset ownership, indifferent to any other species " IE " if you can't pay you can't play and have no say.
I submit that one or a few asset price increases that are combined with labor price stasis(the actual money outlayed for those asset price increased products not moving up) " especially one that is a basic to living (shelter) and not mobile (like money) is inflation " Land prices going up will generally increase the prices of all products created thereon.

Chris , , May 1, 2021 at 9:55 am

Exactly my interpretation.

The "transitory" "food inflation" (but it's not inflation since TVs went down!) is no issue. Just eat 2 years from now or a TV instead.

Objective Ace , , May 1, 2021 at 10:23 am

I think there's two things going on here. There's different inflation indicators, and asset prices are by definition never a part of inflation

The main indicator of CPI has so many different things in it that the inflation of any one item is going to have little effect on it. But you can look up BEA's detailed GDP deflator to see inflation for more specific things like housing expenses (rent) or transportation.

So back to real estate/land: real estate and land are like the stock market. They aren't subject to inflation. They are subject to appreciation. There is somewhat of a feedback effect for sure though: Increased real estate prices can drive up inflation. Rent for sure gets driven up, but also any other good that's built domestically if the owners of capital need to pay more to rent their factories/farms etc.

As noted in the article though, capitalists can simply move their production overseas so there's a limit to how much US land appreciation can filter into inflation. Its definitely happening with rent as housing can't be outsourced. But rent is only one part of overall inflation

jsn , , May 1, 2021 at 10:23 am

The point he was making is that the price change in housing is the result of a policy restructuring of the market: no new public housing and financial deregulation.

The price of food is similarly a response to policy changes: industry consolidation and resulting price setting to juice financial profits.

The point is distinguishing between political forces and market forces. The former is socially/politically determined while the latter has to do with material realities within a more or less static market structure.

This is a distinction essential to making good policy but useless from a cost of living perspective.

Starry Gordon , , May 1, 2021 at 11:26 am

One could prevent crossover for awhile, but eventually certain policies are going to affect certain markets. The policy of giving the rich money drives up asset prices, real estate is a kind of asset, eventually rising real estate costs affect the market the proles enter when they have to buy or rent real estate.

If state institutions tell them there is no inflation, the proles learn that the state institutions lie because they know better from direct experience. Once that gap develops, it's as with personal relationships: when trust is broken, it is very hard to replace. Once belief in state institutions is lost, significant political effects ensue. Often they are rather unpleasant.

jsn , , May 1, 2021 at 1:06 pm

Yes. Discussing complexity in a low trust society makes definitions of terms within a discussion necessary.

The same words are used in different contexts to mean different things making a true statement in one place a lie in another.

Skip Intro , , May 1, 2021 at 2:22 pm

Blyth pointed to the lack of systemic drivers of price increases, and how the traditional ones have disappeared. I think one that he missed, that results in a disconnect with the evidence of price increases across multiple sectors, is the neoliberal infestation. Rent-sucking intermediaries have imposed themselves into growing swaths of the mechanisms of survival, hollowed out productive capacity, and crapified artifacts to the extent that their value is irredeemably reduced. This is a systemic cause for reduced buying power, i.e. inflation, but it is not a result of monetary or fiscal policy, but political and ideological power.

cnchal , , May 1, 2021 at 3:23 pm

> . . . The fact that house prices in Toronto have gone up is because Canada stopped building public housing in the 1980s and turned it into an asset class and let the 10 percent top earners buy it all and swap it with each other.

That is a total load of baloney. The eighties were a time when the Conservative government came up with the foreign investor program and it was people from Hong Kong getting out before the British hand over to China in 1997.

I was there, trying to save for a house and for every buck saved the houses went up twenty. I finally pulled the plug in 89 when someone subdivided a one car garage from their house and sold it for a small fortune. The stories of Hong Kongers coming up to people raking their yard and offering cash well above supposed market rates and the homeowner dropping their rakes and handing over the keys were legendary.

It's still that way except now they come from mainland China, CCP members laundering their loot.

Any government that makes domestic labor compete with foreign richies for housing is mendacious.

When a Canadian drug dealer "saves up" a million to buy a house and the RCMP get wind of it, they lose the house. When a foreigner show up at the border with a million, it's all clean.

Robert Hahl , , May 1, 2021 at 9:49 am

Many people who talk about avoiding inflation are speaking euphemistically about preventing wage growth, and only that; dog whistles, clearly heard by the intended audience. Yet they are rarely confronted directly on this point. Instead we hear that they don't understand what the word inflation means, and Mark seems to be saying these euphamists (eupahmites?) needn't be so concerned because wages will not go up anyway. If so, what we are talking about here is merely helping workers stay afloat without making any fundamental changes. Well, both sides can agree to that as usual. Guess I'm just worn out by this kind of thing.

Basil Pesto , , May 1, 2021 at 10:02 am

this is only related insofar as Mark Blyth is a treat, and I shared it last week, but icymi, an excellent interview with him on the European Super League debacle last week , which really was a huge story.

The Rev Kev , , May 1, 2021 at 10:28 am

The thing that I like about Mark Blyth is how he cuts to the chase and does not waffle. Must be his upbringing in Scotland I would say. The revelation that the US minimum wage should be about $25-30 is just mind-boggling in itself. But in that talk he unintentionally put a value on how much is at stake in making a fairer economic system and it works out to be about $34 trillion. That is how much has been stolen by the upper percentile and why workers have gone from having a job, car, family & annual vacation to crushing student debt, a job at an Amazon fulfillment center and a second job being an Uber driver while living out of car.

Skip Intro , , May 1, 2021 at 1:24 pm

That $25-30 wage was keeping up with inflation , if it were keeping up with productivity it would be, IIRC, nearly twice that. It is interesting to see a dollar figure put on the amount you can reap after a generation or two of growing a middle class, by impoverishing it.

cnchal , , May 1, 2021 at 3:41 pm

This is key.

But now what we've done, Suresh Naidu the economist was talking about this the other day, is we have all these technologies for surveilling workers (instead of paying them more) . So now what we can do is take that difference between seven and ten and just pocket it because we can actually pay workers at your outside option, because I monitor everything you do, and if you don't do exactly what I say I'll fire you, and get somebody else for seven bucks.

Praise be the STEM workers. Without them where would the criminal corporate class be?

Every time I listen to the news (without barfing) the story is, we need moar STEM workers, and I ask myself, what do they do for a living?

howard in nyc , , May 1, 2021 at 10:37 am

Blyth is a bass guitar player! The things you learn about people.

eg , , May 1, 2021 at 11:32 am

I think he also plays guitar and drums, in addition to the bass guitar.

Mikel , , May 1, 2021 at 2:02 pm

If that kind of tidbit excites you:
Before going into economics, Alan Greenspan was a sax and clarinet player who played with the likes of Stan Getz and Quincy Jones.

Go figure"¦.

The Rev Kev , , May 1, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Mark Blyth has a remarkable history as well as, well, I will let you read this article about him-

https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2006/10/things-ive-learned-prof-mark-blyth-26651

As a tidbit, he has released five or six albums when younger and is into gourmet Indian cuisine.

HotFlash , , May 1, 2021 at 9:04 pm

And Michael Hudson studied piano and conducting . Do failed musicians gravitate to economics? Perhaps for the same reason as my bank manager, a failed bass player (honors graduate from Classy Cdn U in double bass), they see the handwriting on the wall. He told me his epiphany came when he and his band-mates were trying to make cup-o-noodles with tap water in a room over the pub in Thunder Bay where they were playing.

Tex , , May 1, 2021 at 10:39 am

The mental gymnastics to get to "everything needed to survive costs more but wages have not gone up in decades so therefore its all transitory and inflation does not exist" must be painful. How high does the price for cat food have to get before we stop eating?

freebird , , May 1, 2021 at 10:11 pm

Thank you. Most things I buy or am forced to pay for are rising in price. The economists may enjoy the article, but here in Topeka, it's not flying.

KLG , , May 1, 2021 at 10:49 am

Yes! "The Hamptons are not a defensible position" ranks right up there with "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of (neoliberal) capitalism" by Mark Fisher (and F. Jameson?).

Jeff W , , May 1, 2021 at 5:03 pm

"The Hamptons are not a defensible position"

From Mark Blyth's 2016 interview with AthensLive here .

Return of the Bride of Joe Biden , , May 1, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Does anybody here have knowledge of how much hedonic adjustments influence our official measures of inflation?

chuck roast , , May 1, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Very good, Mark. This leads to the next Q. How do we maintain aggregate demand? The rich guys increasingly Hoover everything up and pay no taxes. So, there is no T. Is the only way to get cash and avoid deflation deficit spending by the G? There is no I worth a damn. (X-M) is a total drain on everything since it's all M in the US and no X. The deficits will have to go out of sight in the future.

You say that there is no velocity of money. Is this because the more money pored into the economy by the G, the more money the rich guys steal? So, there is a general collapse in C. Maybe the work around for the rich guy theft is a $2,000 (sorry, $1,400) check every now and then to the great unwashed. The poors can circulate it a couple of times before the rich guys steal it. Seems like the macro-economists have a lot of "˜splainin' to do. Oh, right, they are busy right now measuring the output gap.

eg , , May 1, 2021 at 2:17 pm

Can someone please define the variables in this comment?

T
G
X
M
C

Also, is there an equation that goes with them?

chuck roast , , May 1, 2021 at 3:29 pm

GNP = Consumption + Investment + Government + (Exports " Imports)

I'd like to see Mark go into a discussion on the velocity of money. I remember the old timey Keynesians lecturing about it, and that's all I remember. I'm guessing that it's related to the marginal propensity to consume.

Ed S. , , May 1, 2021 at 4:35 pm

Chuck,

I may be getting a bit out over my skis, but the St. Louis Fed calculates the velocity of money ( https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M2V ). It is defined as

The velocity of money is the frequency at which one unit of currency is used to purchase domestically- produced goods and services within a given time period. In other words, it is the number of times one dollar is spent to buy goods and services per unit of time. If the velocity of money is increasing, then more transactions are occurring between individuals in an economy.

So as velocity slows, fewer transactions happen. Based on the linked chart, the peak velocity was 2.2 in mid-1997. In Q1 2021, it was 1.12. By my understanding, although the money supply continues to increase, the money isn't flowing through the economy in the way it was over the last 30 years (or even 10 years ago).

It's beyond my level of understanding to say with any certainty as to why the slowdown in velocity has occurred, but I speculate it's directly related to the ever-growing inequality in the US economy and the ongoing rentier-ism that Dr. Hudson discusses. [simplistically, if Jeff Bezos has $1.3 billion more on Monday than on Friday, that money will flow virtually nowhere. If each of Amazon's employees equally shared that $1.3 billion (about $1,000 each), the preponderance of the money would flow into the economy in short order].

I've always speculated that money velocity is one of the key indicators of the stagnant economy since 2008. It certainly has coincided with the dramatic increase in wealth in the top fraction (not the 1% but the 0.001%) of the US population.

flora , , May 1, 2021 at 1:03 pm

Thanks for this post. Blyth is always good at explaining in a way I can understand.

Mikel , , May 1, 2021 at 1:04 pm

What Blythe has laid out is not a tale about inflation or money, but a tale about power.

If money goes to the non-elite, you get inflation. If it goes to the elite, you don't get inflation.
If you are a country with little control of your resources (not lack of resources, but control) and/or loans (think IMF)/debt (think war reparations) that give people with little interest in whether you live or die control over your countries' finances, you can be prone to inflation or even hyperinflation.

Yeah, I figured out a long time ago that none of this is any "natural economic law" because there is no such thing as "nature" in economics. Inflation is all about political decisions and perceptions.

And I saw this on YouTube a couple of days ago"¦and I still can't think of anything around me that hasn't gone up on price.

politicaleconomist , , May 1, 2021 at 2:37 pm

This is a good response to Summers. But I have a quibble and a concern.
My quibble is that he offers no theory of inflation except implicitly aggregate supply exceeding aggregate demand and there is nothing but hand-waving regarding what he is referring to that he feels has a one chance in ten of happening versus Summers one in three. A second part of this quibble is: what does it mean for inflation to "come roaring back." I assume it means more than just a short-term adjustment to a shot of government spending and gifting. I believe if he thought this through he would have to conclude that without changes in the current structure of the global economy there is no way for this to happen. That really is the case he has made. With labor beaten down not only in the US but worldwide inflation will not come roaring back, period. That is unless there is a chance either that a labor renewal is a near-term possibility. I doubt he believes this. Or does he believe there is another way for inflation to roar back? If so, what is that way, what is the theory behind it?

A more fundamental concern is the part where he relies on marginal productivity theory when discussing employment and exploitation. Conceptually that far from Marx's fundamental distinction between labor and labor power.

Wukchumni , , May 1, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Hyperinflation doesn't seem to be possible in this age of digital money no matter how much you conjure up because nobody notices the extreme amount of monies around all of the sudden as the average joe isn't in the know.

Used houses are always appreciating in value, but none dare call it inflationary, more of a desired outcome in income advancement if you own a domicile.

There were no shortages of anything in the aftermath of the GFC, and now for want of a semiconductor, a car sale was lost. Everything got way too complex, and we'll be paying the price for that.

I think the inflation to come won't be caused by a lack of faith in a given country's money, but the products and services it enabled us to purchase.

Mikel , , May 1, 2021 at 3:47 pm

""¦and now for want of a semiconductor, a car sale was lost"¦."
Sometimes car sales are lost because the price of cars has gone up (new and used)"¦just don't call it inflation"¦

I'm going to let some more time pass, but stimulus or not, we went from all economic problems being laid at the feet of Covid to now moving on to "shortages" everywhere"¦

Just enought to make you go"¦hmmmm"¦.unti more time passes.

Ed S. , , May 1, 2021 at 8:34 pm

Used houses always appreciate " or is it that they appreciate due to a combination of inflation in income over time and the dramatic decrease in interest rates over the last 20 years?

A very quick back of the envelope calc (literally " and all number are approximate):

In June 2000, median US income was $40,500; 30 yr mortgage rate was 8.25%. 28% of monthly income = $945. That supports a mortgage (30 yr fixed, P&I only " no tax, insurance, etc) of roughly $125,000.

In June 2005, median US income was $44,000; 30 yr mortgage rate was 5.5%. 28% of monthly income = $1026. That supports a mortgage (30 yr fixed, P&I only " no tax, insurance, etc) of roughly $180,000.

In June 2010, median US income was $49,500; 30 yr mortgage rate was 4.69%. 28% of monthly income = $1155. That supports a mortgage (30 yr fixed, P&I only " no tax, insurance, etc) of roughly $225,000.

In June 2015, median US income was $53,600; 30 yr mortgage rate was 4.00%. 28% of monthly income = $1250. That supports a mortgage (30 yr fixed, P&I only " no tax, insurance, etc) of roughly $260,000.

Finally, In June 2020, median US income was $63,000; 30 yr mortgage rate was 3.25%. 28% of monthly income = $1470. That supports a mortgage (30 yr fixed, P&I only " no tax, insurance, etc) of roughly $340,000.

And for fun, if you went to 40% of income in 2020 (payment only), a $2100 monthly payment will cover nearly a $500,000 mortgage in 2020.

For the vast majority of home buyers, the price isn't the main consideration " it's how much will it cost per month. So a small increase in median income (roughly 2% per year) combined with dramatically lower interest rates can drive a HUGE increase in a mortgage " and ultimately the price that can be paid for a house.

Michael Ismoe , , May 1, 2021 at 3:24 pm

I find it amazing that when you give poor people money, it creates inflation. If you give rich people money, it creates jobs (LOL. Sure it does.).

As long as billionaires pay as little as possible, the world is fine.

Tom Bradford , , May 1, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Can't say I really understand this sort of thing but saying rocketing house-prices is "˜a singularity' rather than "˜house-price inflation' has to me echoes of the Bourbon's "Bread too expensive? Let them eat cake." And Versailles wasn't a defensive position either.

In my version of economics-for-the-under-tens you get inflation in two situations. First is where enough folk have enough cash in their pockets for producers/manufacturers/retailers to hike their prices without hitting their sales too much and secondly where there's a shortage of stuff people want and/or need which leads to a bidding war. However I'd agree with Blyth that neither condition exists now or seems likely to arise for a while, making a "˜spike' in inflation unlikely.

ArvidMartensen , , May 1, 2021 at 4:17 pm

I am a non-economist, and so my thoughts below may be wrong. However, here goes.
I would say we have had inflation. Roaring inflation. For the past 20 years of so.

Inflation in wages and ordinary costs of living? No, wages have been stagnant. Health care has led the charge in cost of living increases, but most other living expense increases have been low.

Inflation in asset prices? We have had massive inflation in the costs of residential housing where I live.
20 years ago I could buy a 5 br, 3 bath home on a decent block in a good area close to everything for $270,000 dollars. Sure it needed some renovation, but still"¦. Now to buy that home it would cost me around $1,250,000. So that home has gone up in value by 500%. Man, that is inflation.

As I understand it, asset inflation is not counted by governments in the GDP or CPI. It appears that those who have most of the assets don't want this to be counted, by the very fact that they control the politicians who control what is counted, and asset inflation isn't counted in the economic data that the politicians rely upon to prove how prudent they are.

So if you want a day to day example of where all this free money is going, look at housing. And also have a quick look at the insane increases in the worth of billionaires. They love all this government spending which magically? seems to end up, via asset purchase and asset price inflation, in their pockets.

cnchal , , May 1, 2021 at 7:02 pm

That home has gone up in price by 500%

Price is what one pays, value is what one gets. That house is roughly the same, so the value has not changed, but the price has gone up by a factor of 5

Same with stawks. One share of Amazon stawk is $3,467.42 as of yesterday.

What is its value? If Bezos can work his tools ever harder, monitor them down to the nanosecond and wring ever moar productivity out of them before throwing them in the tool dumpster behind every Amazon warehouse, the value proposition is that someone else will believe the stawk price should be even higher, at which point one can sell it at greater price for a profit.

Susan the other , , May 1, 2021 at 5:07 pm

What is inflation? Good question. I'd say inflation is fear of monetary devaluation. Not devaluation, just the fear of it. We'll never overcome this unease if we always deal in numbers. Dollars, digits, whatever. We need to deal in commodities " let's call just about everything we live with and use a "commodity". Including unpaid family help/care; and the more obvious things like transportation. If we simply took a summary of all the necessary things we need to live decent lives " but not translated into dollars because dollars have no sense " and then provided these necessities via some government agency so that they were not "inflated" in the process and thereby provided a stable society, then government could MMT this very easily. Our current approach is so audaciously stupid it will never make sense let alone balance any balance sheets. That's a feature, not a bug because it's the best way to steal a profit. The best way to stop demand inflation or some fake scarcity or whatever is to provide the necessary availability. That's where uncle Joe is gonna run headlong into a brick wall. He has spent his entire life doing the exact opposite.

William Neil , , May 1, 2021 at 6:59 pm

The figure for the upward transfer of wealth from the Rand Study was $50 trillion between 1975-2018. It was adjusted up by the authors from $47 trillion to bring it up to 2020 trends.

Here are the authors explaining what they found and their methodology: https://time.com/5888024/50-trillion-income-inequality-america/

Now the interesting thing to me is this " look at the date of the publication in Time magazine: Sept. 14, 2020, so right in the heart of campaign fever, and it never came up in the debates, in the press"¦I didn't hear about it until Blyth made one of his appearances on Jay's show with Rana Foroohar. Long after the election.

VietnamVet , , May 1, 2021 at 9:47 pm

As long as 80% of Americans are head over heels in debt and 52% of 18-to-29-year-olds are currently living with their parents, there never will be the wage inflation of the 1970s. A majority of the people arrested for the Capitol riot had a history of financial trouble. The elite blue zones in Washington State and Oregon that prospered from globalism are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases. North American neoliberal governments have failed dismally. It is intentional in order to exploit more wealth for the rich from the natural resources and workers. If the mRNA vaccines do not control coronavirus variants, and a workable national public health system is not implemented; succession and chaos will bring on Zimbabwe type inflation.

There is a reason why Portland Oregon has been a center of unrest for the past year. The Elite just do not want to see it. How can Janet Yellen deal with this? She can't. She is an Insider. She was paid 7.2 million dollars in speaker and seminar fees in the last two years not to.

[May 05, 2021] Flip flop: Yellen Says She Isn't Predicting Higher Interest Rates

Treasury as a PR operation ;-) Trying to stem inflating by talking it down.
May 05, 2021 | www.wsj.com
Treasury Secretary walks backs comments she made earlier suggesting that rates might rise

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday she is neither predicting nor recommending that the Federal Reserve raise interest rates as a result of President Biden's spending plans, walking back her comments earlier in the day that rates might need to rise to keep the economy from overheating.

"I don't think there's going to be an inflationary problem, but if there is, the Fed can be counted on to address it," Ms. Yellen, a former Fed chairwoman, said Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit.

Ms. Yellen suggested earlier Tuesday that the central bank might have to raise rates to keep the economy from overheating, if the Biden administration's roughly $4 trillion spending plans are enacted.

[May 03, 2021] The Price of the Stuff That Makes Everything Is Surging

May 03, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

The prices of raw materials used to make almost everything are skyrocketing, and the upward trajectory looks set to continue as the world economy roars back to life.

From steel and copper to corn and lumber, commodities started 2021 with a bang, surging to levels not seen for years. The rally threatens to raise the cost of goods from the lunchtime sandwich to gleaming skyscrapers. It’s also lit the fuse on the massive reflation trade that’s gripped markets this year and pushed up inflation expectations. With the U.S. economy pumped up on fiscal stimulus, and Europe’s economy starting to reopen as its vaccination rollout gets into gear, there’s little reason to expect a change in direction.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said this week it sees a continued rally in commodities and that the “reflation and reopening trade will continue.†On top of that, the Federal Reserve and other central banks seem calm about inflation, meaning economies could be left to run hot, which will rev up demand even more.

“The most important drivers supporting commodity prices are the global economic recovery and acceleration in the reopening phase,†said Giovanni Staunovo, commodity analyst at UBS Group AG. The bank expects commodities as a whole to rise about 10% in the next year.


[May 03, 2021] Bond Market's Inflation Bulls Get Powell Go-Ahead to Double Down

May 03, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

The Treasury market's inflation bulls seem to have gotten a green light from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to double down on wagers that price pressures will only intensify in the months ahead.

The renewed mojo for the reflation trade follows Powell's reaffirmation this week of the central bank's intention to let the world's biggest economy run hot for some time as it recovers from the pandemic. The Fed's unwavering commitment to ultra-loose policy in the face of robust economic data is what caught traders' attention. It took on added significance as it coincided with signs infections are ebbing again in the U.S., and as President Joe Biden unveiled plans for trillions more in fiscal spending.

Investors eying all this aren't ready to give the Fed the benefit of the doubt in its assessment that inflationary pressures will prove temporary. A key bond-market proxy of inflation expectations for the next decade just hit the highest since 2013, and cash has been pouring into the largest exchange-traded fund for Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. Globally, there's been a net inflow into mutual and exchange-traded inflation-linked debt funds for 23 straight weeks, EPFR Global data show.

The Fed is stressing that inflation's upswing "is transitory, but we likely won't have better clarity on this assertion until this initial economic wave from reopening has subsided," said Jake Remley, a senior portfolio manager at Income Research + Management, which oversees $89.5 billion. "Inflation is a very difficult macro-economic phenomenon to predict in normal times. The uncertainty of a global pandemic and a dramatic economic rebound" has made it even harder.

Ten-year TIPS provide a reasonably priced insurance policy against inflation risk over the coming decade, Remley said. The securities show traders are wagering annual consumer price inflation will average about 2.4% through April 2031. The measure has roared back from the depths of last year, when it dipped below 0.5% at one point in March.


[May 03, 2021] Warren Buffett- We are seeing substantial inflation and are raising prices

May 03, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

Brian Sozzi · Editor-at-Large Sat, May 1, 2021, 6:05 PM

Billionaire Warren Buffett is joining the long list of executives saying serious levels of inflation are starting to take hold as the U.S. economy roars back from the COVID-19 downturn.

"We are seeing substantial inflation," Buffett said at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting broadcast exclusively by Yahoo Finance . "We are raising prices. People are raising prices to us, and it's being accepted."

Buffett called out much higher steel costs impacting Berkshire's housing and furniture businesses.

"People have money in their pocket, and they pay higher prices... it's almost a buying frenzy," Buffett said, noting that the economy is "red hot."

The Oracle of Omaha isn't alone in battling inflation at the moment from everything to higher steel prices to runaway copper prices.

The number of mentions of "inflation" during first quarter earnings calls this month have tripled year-over-year, the biggest jump dating back to 2004, according to fresh research from Bank of America strategist Savita Subramanian . Raw materials, transportation, and labor were cited as the main drivers of inflation .

Subramanian's research found that the number of inflation mentions has historically led the consumer price index by a quarter, with 52% correlation. In other words, Subramanian thinks investors could see a "robust" rebound in inflation in coming months in the wake of the latest round of C-suite commentary.

"Inflation is arguably the biggest topic during this earnings season, with a broad array of sectors (Consumer/Industrials/Materials, etc.) citing inflation pressures," Subramanian notes.

The world's biggest companies are taking action, just like Buffett at Berkshire.

Proctor & Gamble said recently it would begin to hike prices on baby care , feminine care and adult incontinence products in the United States. Price increases will range from mid- to high-single digit percentages. The hikes will go into effect in mid-September.


Whirlpool CFO Jim Peters recently told Yahoo Finance Live the appliance maker just jacked up prices by 5% to 12% to counteract rising steel costs.

Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark said it will increase prices in the U.S. and Canada on the majority of its consumer products due to "significant" commodity cost inflation. The percentage increases will range from mid- to high-single digits and go into effect in June.

[May 03, 2021] The Fed's -Base-Effect- Inflation Argument Is Nonsense - ZeroHedge

May 03, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

By Joseph Carson , former chief economist of Alliance Bernstein

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has played down the current runup in inflation, arguing it is associated with the reopening of the economy. And as the low inflation readings of one year ago drop out, the twelve-month calculation (i.e., the so-called base effect) of reported inflation is likely to move up in the coming months.

Yet, Mr. Powell's "base effect" inflation argument is nonsense. For the "base effect" argument to be correct, the twelve-month reading of reported inflation should be markedly lower when the economy was closed than what occurred before the pandemic. But that's not the case.

Last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the twelve-month change ending in March 2021 in the core personal consumption index (the Fed's preferred price index) was 1.83%. That compares to the 1.87% reading for the year ending in February 2020 and 1.7% for the year before that.

The 1.83% reading for twelve months ending March 2021 essentially matches the average inflation rate of the two prior years. And that 12 month period includes the three months (April to June) when the economy was closed, and GDP plunged a record 31% annualized. How could there be a "base effect" on reported inflation when the base year has the same inflation rate as it did before the pandemic?

Mr. Powell's "base effect" inflation argument has not been questioned or challenged by analysts or reporters. Regardless of that, investors need to ignore the Fed's rhetoric and treat upcoming price increases as "new" inflation.

As nonsensical as the explanation for the uptick in inflation, so too is the remedy. Demand has always been the primary force behind broad inflation cycles. Yet, Mr. Powell argues that product price inflation will ease once manufacturers increase output and eliminate "supply bottlenecks," and home inflation will slow once builders build more homes.

It's hard to see how more supply (or growth) will slow inflation anytime soon. Federal Home Loan Mortgage Company (Freddie Mac) estimates that the US needs almost 4 million new homes to meet demand. That could take two to three years. Also, it's hard to see how increasing product output will solve the inflation problem. The supply-side argument solution; fight inflation with more demand and more commodity inflation.

The Fed's mantra has always been "inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon." But nowhere in Mr. Powell's statements or comments do you find any monetary policy role for increased inflation or any responsibility for containment. Investors forewarned.

[Apr 29, 2021] Federal Reserve isn't fooling anybody on inflation

Apr 29, 2021 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Apr 29 2021 15:19 utc | 7

Food for thought:

Federal Reserve isn't fooling anybody on inflation

I don't share David P. Goldman's ideology and convictions. They are almost the polar opposite of mine's.

But he has something I don't have, something that only a bourgeois specialist can give: insider information.

I once hypothesized here that, if the USA were to collapse suddenly (which I don't think it ever will, but if it do happen), then it would surely involve an uncontrolled growing spiral of inflation/hyperinflation. That's the logical conclusion of an hypothetical collapse of the USD standard.

So far, I can only see a mild rise in inflation. I don't think the USA will ever experience hyperinflation (four-digit) or even true high inflation (two-digit). Goldman is a rabid neoliberal, and anything above 2% is hyperinflation for him, so we should take these kind of analyses with a grain of salt.

--//--

Sugar rush:

US real GDP rose 6.4 per cent on an annualised basis in the first quarter

Fed Chair Jay Powell said that the Fed was not going to tighten monetary policy any time soon. So the US stock market hit yet another all-time high.

[Apr 27, 2021] What Happens to Stocks When HOT Inflation Hits- - ZeroHedge

Apr 27, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

We've been outlining how the Fed and other central banks have unleashed an inflationary bubble in all assets truly an Everything Bubble.

We've already assessed the impact this is having on commodities, bonds and other asset classes. Today I want to assess the impact this will have on stocks.

To do that, we need to look at emerging markets.

Inflation is a common occurrence for emerging markets, primarily because more often than not they devalue their currencies, whether by choice or because the markets lose faith in their ability to pay off their debts.

Because of this, emerging markets can provide a glimpse into how inflation affects stocks. So, let's dig in.

Here is a chart of South Africa's stock market since 2003. As you can see, the stock market rallied significantly until 2010, but has effectively gone nowhere ever since then.

The reason this chart looks so lackluster is because it is priced in U.S. dollars. The $USD has been strengthening against the South African currency (the Rand) since 2010.

Watch what happens we price the South Africa stock market in its domestic currency (blue line). Suddenly, this stock market has been ROARING, rising some 750% since 2003. That means average annual gains of 41%!!!

Let's use another example.

Below is a chart of the Mexican stock market priced in $USD. Once again, we see a stock market that has done nothing of note for years.

Now let's price it in pesos (actually the exchange rate of pesos to $USD, but close enough).

You get the general idea. So if hot inflation is in the U.S. financial system, it would make perfect sense for stocks (denominated in the $USD which is losing value due to inflation) to ERUPT higher.

Something like I don't know what's happened since mid-2020?

Look, we all know what's going on here. The stock market is erupting higher as inflation rips into the financial system based on Fed NUCLEAR money printing. And we all know what comes when this bubble bursts.

On that note, we just published a Special Investment Report concerning FIVE secret investments you can use to make inflation pay you as it rips through the financial system in the months ahead.

The report is titled Survive the Inflationary Storm. And it explains in very simply terms how to make inflation PAY YOU.

We are making just 100 copies available to the public.

To pick up yours, swing by:

https://phoenixcapitalmarketing.com/inflationstorm.html

Best Regards

Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Phoenix Capital Research

[Apr 27, 2021] -They're Guessing- - Gundlach Rejects The Fed's -Inflation Is Transitory- Narrative - ZeroHedge

Apr 27, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Don't believe your lying eyes, will be the message tomorrow from The Fed's Jay Powell as he hypnotizes investors to believe that "inflation is transitory" and they have "the tools" to manage it.

'Bond King' Jeff Gundlach is not buying that line and told BNN Bloomberg in an interview this morning.

"...more importantly, I'm not sure why they think they know it's transitory... how do they know that?"

"...there's plenty of money-printing that's been going on, and we've seen commodity prices going up massively... home prices in the US are inflating very substantially... so there's a lot of inflation that's already baked in to input prices ."

Gundlach does admit that Powell has a point in the very near term as the prints were about to see "which could be as high as 4% [for CPI]" are off of year-ago, very depressed levels. "...what he means by transitory is that the base effect will lead to problems in the next few months but then the base effect will become less problematic."

But, Gundlach adds, "it's not clear to me that inflation is going to go back down to around 2 to 2.5%... we don't know, nobody knows... but we're most concerned with the fact that The Fed thinks they know."

This is worrisome because The Fed's track record is anything but inspiring...

"when I go back to the global financial crisis, when we almost had a complete meltdown of the financial system, Ben Bernanke completely missed all of the problems that led to the crisis."

Bernanke's infamous "contained to subprime... and subprime is only a sliver of the market" comments could be about to be trumped by Powell's "inflation is transitory" comments as Gundlach warns "there's plenty of indicators that suggest inflation is going to go higher and not just on a transitory basis."

The Fed is "trying to paint the picture" of control, but Gundlach tries to make clear: "they're guessing."

So, what does that mean for markets?

While some fear "we ain't seen nothing yet" in terms of yields rising (and multiple contraction), Gundlach notes that "it really depends on just how much manipulation the authorities are willing to do."

The billionaire fund manager notes that yields are "still very low... well below the current inflation rate... so we have negative yields everywhere on the yield curve."

It's also "hard to figure out who's going to buy the bonds," he notes, "as we are about to see issuance like we have never seen before." Foreigners have been selling bonds for years and domestically there is little demand, so Gundlach notes the only one left to soak up all this extra supply is The Federal Reserve, which has already expanded its balance sheet massively in the last 12 months.

"Who's going to buy all these many trillions of dollars of bonds? Foreigners have been selling for years and they've accelerated their selling in the last several quarters, domestic buyers are not exactly selling, but they're not adding to their holdings. So what's left to absorb all of the spawn supply is the Federal Reserve ."

"Left to true, free markets, bond yields at the long-end would obviously be higher than they are now."

And so who will buy all these bonds with negative real yields - The Fed... "and they have been transparent about their willingness and ability to buy bonds and expand their balance sheet with no ceiling."

Gundlach is talking about Yield Curve Control, reminding viewers that "The Fed can set the long-end wherever they want it... there's a precedent for this from back in the 1940s into the 50s," in order to ease the pain of the debt from World War II.

Of course, Gundlach warns ominously, "once they stopped the yield curve control, we went into a 27 year massive bear market in bonds, because of 'guns-n'butter' policies... which look like our policies today."

Simply put, he sees "an echo [in current markets and policies] of what happened in the late 1970s into the early 1980s."

His forecast is that "The Fed will allow the market forces to take yields to higher levels [10Y 2.25%] before stepping in."

The Bond King also note that the US stock market is very overvalued by virtually every important metric , and especially so versus foreign markets such as Asia and even Europe.

"I bought European equities a couple of weeks ago, literally for the first time in many years. I can't remember the last time I did it. And that's largely because I think the U.S. dollar is almost certain to decline over the intermediate to long term."

There's a lot more in the interview on the impact of Biden's stimmies and potential tax hikes...

https://webapps.9c9media.com/vidi-player/1.9.19/share/iframe.html?currentId=2189621&config=bnn/share.json&kruxId=&rsid=bellmediabnnbprod,bellmediaglobalprod&siteName=bnnb&cid=%5B%7B%22contentId%22%3A2189621%2C%22ad%22%3A%7B%22adsite%22%3A%22ctv.bnn%22%2C%22adzone%22%3A%22ctv.bnn%22%7D%7D%5D 10,571 48 NEVER


Sound of the Suburbs 26 minutes ago

We are going to train you in this Mickey Mouse economics that doesn't consider private debt and put you in charge of financial stability at the FED.

They don't stand a chance.

Financial stability arrived in the Keynesian era and was locked into the regulations of the time.

https://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/banking-crises.png

"This Time is Different" by Reinhart and Rogoff has a graph showing the same thing (Figure 13.1 - The proportion of countries with banking crises, 1900-2008).

Neoclassical economics came back and so did the financial crises.

The neoliberals removed the regulations that created financial stability in the Keynesian era and put independent central banks in charge of financial stability.

Why does it go so wrong?

Richard Vague had noticed real estate lending balloon from 5 trillion to 10 trillion from 2001 – 2007 and knew there was going to be a financial crisis.

Richard Vague has looked at the data for financial crises going back 200 years and found the cause was nearly always runaway bank lending.

We put central bankers in charge of financial stability, but they use an economics that ignores the main cause of financial crises, private debt.

Most of the problems are coming from private debt.

The technocrats use an economics that ignores private debt.

The poor old technocrats don't stand a chance.

WITCH PELOSI 39 minutes ago

42" entry level lawnmower @ Home Depot, spring 2014, $999. Spring 2021 $1549. That's what I call inflation! And maybe a little greed to boot!

atomp 34 minutes ago

$30 is the new $10.

Sound of the Suburbs 25 minutes ago remove link

In 2008 the Queen visited the revered economists of the LSE and said "If these things were so large, how come everyone missed it?"

It's that neoclassical economics they use Ma'am, it doesn't consider private debt.

Here it is Ma'am, look it's obvious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStZJCKmbU&list=PLmtuEaMvhDZZQLxg24CAiFgZYldtoCR-R&index=6

At 18 mins.

Let's get our experts in neoclassical economics to have a look.

"It was a black swan"

Not considering private debt is the Achilles' heel of neoclassical economics.

It is a black swan to them.

That's the problem.

[Apr 14, 2021] Energy Price Surge Continues to Drive Everyday Prices Higher - Seeking Alpha

Apr 14, 2021 | seekingalpha.com

Summary

[Apr 14, 2021] How To Estimate -Rational- Market Expectations Of Future Inflation

Apr 14, 2021 | angrybearblog.com

For a given time-horizon, it has been conventional for those estimating such a "rational" market forecast of expected inflation to take the appropriate Treasury security nominal yield of that time horizon (say 5 years) and simply subtract from it the yield on the same time horizon TIPS, which covers security holders for inflation. So it has long looked like this difference is a pretty good estimate of this market expectation of inflation, given that TIPS covers for it while the same time horizon Treasury security does not.

Well, it turns out that there are some other things involved here that need to be taken account, one for each of these securities. On the Treasury side, it turns out that the proper measure of the expected real yield must take into account the expected time path of shorter term yields up to that time horizon. This time path has associated with it a risk regarding the path of interest rates throughout the time period. This is called the Treasury risk premium, or trp. It can be either positive or negative, with it apparently having been quite high during the inflationary 1979s.

The element that needs to be taken into account with respect to the TIPS is that these securities are apparently not as liquid in general as regular Treasury securities, and the measure of this gap is the Liquidity premium, or lp. This was apparently quite high when these were first issues and also saw a surge during the 2008-09 financial crisis. In principle this can also be of either sign, although has apparently been positive.

Anyway, the difference between the nominal T security yield and the appropriate TIPS yield is called the "inflation breakeven," the number that used to be focused on as the measure of market inflation expectations. But the new view is that this must be adjusted by adding (tpr – lp).

In a post just put up on Econbrowser by Menzie the current inflation breakeven for five years out is 2.52%. But according to Menzie the current (tpr – lp) adjustment factor is -0.64%. So adding these two together gives as the market expected inflation rate five years from now of 1.88%, although Menzie rounded it out to 1.9%.

If indeed this is what we should be looking at it says the market is not expecting all that much of an increase in the rate of inflation from its current 1.7% five years from now. The Fed and others are looking at a short term spike in prices this year, but the market seems to agree with their apparent nonchalance (shared by Janet Yellen) that this will wain later on, with that expected 5 year rate of inflation still below the Fed's target of 2%.

Certainly this contrasts with the scary talk coming from Larry Summers and Olivier Blanchard, not to mention most GOP commentators, regarding what the impact of current fiscal policies passed and proposed by Biden will do to the future rate of inflation. Not a whole lot, although, of course, rational expectations is not something that always forecasts all that well, so the pessimists might still prove to be right.

Barkley Rosser

Likbez , April 14, 2021 6:27 pm

Larry Summers is a puppet of financial oligarchy. Everything that he writes should be viewed via this prism. He also is highly overrated.
IMHO rates are no longer are determined by only domestic factors.

I think that the size of foreign holdings of the USA debt and their dynamics is another important factor. FED will do everything to keep inflation less then 2% but this is possible only as long as they can export inflation.

BTW realistically inflation in the USA is probably 30%-60% higher than the official figure. Look at http://www.shadowstats.com/ :

March 2021 annual Consumer Price Index inflation hit an unadjusted three-year high of 2.62%, as gasoline prices soared to multi-year highs, not seen since well before the 2020 Oil Price War. -- March Producer Price Index exploded, with respective record annualized First-Quarter PPI inflation levels of 9.0% in Aggregate, 16.0% in Goods and 5.6% in Services.

L A T E S T .. N U M B E R S .. March 2021 unadjusted year-to-year March 2021 CPI-U Inflation jumped 2.62% -- a one-year high -- as gasoline prices soared, not only fully recovering pre-Oil Price War levels of a year ago, but also hitting the highest unadjusted levels since May of 2019 (April 13th, Bureau of Labor Statistics – BLS). Headline March 2021 CPI-U gained 0.62% in the month, 2.62% year-to-year, against monthly and annual gains of 0.35% and 1.68% in February.

That inflation pickup reflected more than a full recovery in gasoline prices, which had been severely depressed by the Oil Price War of one year ago. Such had had the effect of depressing headline U.S. inflation up through February 2021, including suppressing the 2021 Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security by about one-percentage point to the headline 1.3%. By major sector, March Food prices gained 0.11% in the month, 3.47% year-to-year (vs. 0.17% and 3.62% in February); "Core" (ex-Food and Energy) prices gained 0.34% in March, 1.65% year-to-year (vs. 0.35% and 1.28% in February); Energy prices gained 5.00% in March, 13.17% year-to-year (vs. 3.85% and 2.36% in February), with underlying Gasoline prices gaining 9.10% in the month, 22.48% year-to-year (vs. 6.41% and 1.52% in February).

The March 2021 ShadowStats Alternate CPI (1980 Base) rose to 10.4% year-to-year, up from 9.4% in February 2021 and against 9.1% in January 2021. The ShadowStats Alternate CPI-U estimate restates current headline inflation so as to reverse the government's inflation-reducing gimmicks of the last four decades, which were designed specifically to reduce/ understate COLAs.

Related graphs and methodology are available to all on the updated ALTERNATE DATA tab above. Subscriber-only data downloads and an Inflation Calculator are available there, with extended details in pending No. 1460 .

In this sense China and Japanese policies will influence the USA rates. If they cut buying the US debt the writing for higher rates is on the wall. In a way, recent events might signal that FED can lose the control over rate if and when foreign actors cut holding of the USA debt.

Behavior of foreign actors is probably the key factor that will determine the rates in the future.

[Apr 13, 2021] U.S. Treasury yields slip despite surge in inflation to 2½-year high by very small number of companies.

Treasury yields slipped Tuesday after bond investors shrugged off an increase in U.S. consumer prices in March that sent yearly inflation measures to the highest level in two and a half years. Treasury yields slipped Tuesday after bond investors shrugged off an increase in U.S. consumer prices in March that sent yearly inflation measures to the highest level in two and a half years.
economistsview.typepad.com

The 10-year Treasury note yield TMUBMUSD10Y, 1.653% fell to 1.659%, down from 1.675% at the end of Monday, while the 2-year note TMUBMUSD02Y, 0.168% was steady at 0.169%. The 30-year bond yield TMUBMUSD30Y, 2.339% slid 0.9 basis point to 2.336%.

What's driving Treasurys?

The U.S. consumer price index rose 0.6% in March, while the core gauge that strips out for energy and food prices came in at an 0.3% increase.

The annual rate of inflation climbed to 2.6% from 1.7% in the prior month, marking the highest level since the fall of 2018.

[Apr 09, 2021] Inflation is different for different income stratas of the US population with poor hit much harder then the rich

Apr 09, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

For low-income Americans, it has been a double-whammy of job losses (the total number of Americans receiving jobless benefits from the government has basically stagnated for the last four months)...

Source: Bloomberg

...and significant increases in the costs of living.

As Bloomberg reports , while the headline consumer inflation rate in the U.S. remains subdued, at 1.7% - but it masks large differences in what people actually buy .

If you like to eat, food-price inflation is running at more than double the headline rate , and staples like household cleaning products have also climbed.

Source: Bloomberg

if you drive a car, gas prices have soared in recent months...

Source: Bloomberg

All of which might explain why confidence among the lowest income Americans is lagging significantly (because groceries or gas take up a bigger share of their monthly shopping basket than is the case for wealthier households, and they're items that can't easily be deferred or substituted )...

Source: Bloomberg

An analysis by Bloomberg Economics , which reweighted consumer-price baskets based on the spending habits of different income groups, found that the richest Americans are experiencing the lowest level of inflation .

As Bloomberg 's Andrew Husby points out:

"On average, higher-income households spend a smaller fraction of their budgets on food, medical care, and rent, all categories that have seen faster inflation than the headline in recent years, and 2020 in particular."

The question of who exactly gets hurt most by higher prices could become more urgently concerning as most economists - and even The Fed itself - expect inflation to accelerate in the next 12 months.

"The food price story and inflation story are important to the issue of equality," says Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank's chief economist.

"It's a shock that has very uneven effects."

So, in summary, The Fed is telling Americans - ignore "transitory" spikes in non-core inflation (such as food and energy), it's just temporary and base-effect-driven (oh and we have the "tools" to manage it). However, despite all The Fed's pandering and virtue-signaling about "equity" and "fairness", it is precisely this segment of the costs of living that is crushing most of the long-suffering low-income population ($1400 checks or not) .

And now all eyes will be on this morning's PPI print which is expected to surge to +3.8% YoY.

[Apr 09, 2021] Inflation might be the way out of the debt crisis

Highly recommended!
An interesting headline from Financial Times
Apr 09, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com
Pascal Blanqué Wed, April 7, 2021, 8:00 PM

Bond markets are firmly in the driving seat. For too long, inflation has disappeared from investors' radar. The key ones include a hostile environment for trade and globalisation, business and labour support public programmes and the extraordinary debt burden fuelled by the pandemic. These are set to create a turning point in the current market regime before long.

[Apr 03, 2021] Inflation Is Coming. Why it Could Be Here to Stay by Jacob Sonenshine

Apr 01, 2021 | www.marketwatch.com

...Economists do expect inflation to rise to above 2% as more states reopen and then stay there. And the St. Louis Fed is forecasting a 2.35% rate for the next 10 years.

...China's economy has dynamics that could raise the U.S. inflation rate over time. Key to the argument are China's aging population and the value of the country's currency, the Yuan. First, age. Today, the average age in China is 38, the same as in the U.S. By 2040, though, the number skyrockets to 47 in China and dips to 37 here.

The shift means fewer Chinese workers and upward pressure on pay. Higher wages probably would cause Chinese manufacturers to raise prices of exports, which could be passed onto American consumers.

Now, the Yuan. The currency bottomed at 7.12 per dollar in late 2019 after a more than five-year down-trend. China wants a weaker currency so its exports are more competitive -- cheaper -- for global buyers. Since the end of 2019, the Yuan has risen to 6.50 per dollar. If the trend continues, U.S. importers might raise prices because the cost of their imports are higher.

"Over the next decade, Asia's growth will slow dramatically, its wages will rise, its factories will close, its surpluses will melt and its currencies will rise sharply," wrote Vincent Deluard, global macro strategist at StoneX in a note. "For the rest of the world, this will be a massive and unexpected inflationary shock."

[Mar 28, 2021] Seconding Paul Krugman- inflationary pressures will be a transient phenomenon in 2021 (will they cause a recession in 2022)

Krugman is is barking on the wrong tree. The question right now is not wage inflation but the inflation due to weakening dollar as purchases of Treasuries by foreign buyers weakened. That what probably caused the spike on 10 year Treasuries yield.
Without foreign buyers of the US debt the deficit spending does not work. So it is quite possible that this time inflationary pressures will come from the weakening of the status of the dollar as the world reserve currency. As along the this status is unchallenged the USA will be OK. If dollar is challenged the USA will experience the Seneca cliff.
Paul Krugman argues once's again this morning that any increase in inflation this year as part of a post-pandemic boom will be transitory:
Mar 28, 2021 | angrybearblog.com

Paul Krugman

A few months of rising prices won't mean the 70s are back

I agree. I want to elaborate on one point he hasn't emphasized; namely, you can't have a wage-price inflationary spiral if wages don't participate!

To make my point, let me show you three graphs below, covering wages and prices in three different periods: (l) the inflationary 1960s and '70's, (2) the disinflationary
Reagan-era 1980s and early '90's, and (3) the low inflation period of the late 1990s to the present.

In addition to the YoY% change in CPI, I also show CPI less energy (gold), better to show oil shocks, and also that it takes about a year for inflation in energy prices to filter through to inflation in other items.

Also, hourly wages were greatly affected (depressed) by the entry of 10,000,000's of women into the workforce between the 1960s and mid-1990s. This increased median household income, which would be the better metric, but since that statistic is only released once a year, I've approximated its impact by adding 1% to the YoY% change in average hourly wages (light blue).

Here are the three graphs:

... ... ...

[Mar 28, 2021] Krugman Dismisses 1970s-Style Inflation, With Faith in Fed by Julia Fanzeres

Are FED pushing on the string?
Mar 19, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

"It took really more than a decade of screwing things up -- year after year -- to get to that pass, and I don't think we're going to do that again," Krugman said of the inflation scourge of the 1970s to early 1980s. He spoke in an interview with David Westin for Bloomberg Television's "Wall Street Week" to be broadcast Friday.

...The worst-case scenario out of the fiscal stimulus package would be a transitory spike in consumer prices as was seen early in the Korean War, Krugman said. The relief bill is "definitely significant stimulus but not wildly inflationary stimulus," he said.

...Economists predict that the core inflation measure tied to consumer spending that the Fed uses in its forecasts will remain under 2% this year and next, a Bloomberg survey shows. A different gauge, the consumer price index is seen at 2.4% in 2021 and 2.2% next year. The CPI peaked at over 13% in 1980.

The risk is that policy makers are "fighting the last war" -- countering the undershooting of the 2% inflation target and limited fiscal measures taken after the 2007-09 financial crisis, the economists said.

Even so, he argued that "redistributionist" aspects of the pandemic-relief package will reduce the need for the Fed to keep monetary stimulus too strong for too long in order to address pockets of high unemployment. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly said the central bank wants to see very broad strengthening in the labor market, not just a drop in the national jobless rate.

"It's not silly to think that there might be some inflationary pressure" from the fiscal package, Krugman said. But it was designed less as stimulus than as a relief plan, he said.

[Mar 26, 2021] S P 500 And US Economy Face Seismic Shifts From Joe Biden And The Federal Reserve

The UBS economics team holds the out-of-consensus view that annual core PCE inflation won't exceed the Fed's 2% target until 2024. And what will happen with S&P500 if inflation brakes 3% barrier in late 2021 or 2022. Pumping money into stock market is a Ponzi scheme by definition so at one point mistki moment might arrive.
Mar 26, 2021 | www.investors.com

Biden hailed the new law's focus on growing the economy "from the bottom up and the middle out," after decades of supply-side, or "trickle down" tax policies. It "changes the paradigm" for the first time since President Johnson's Great Society programs, he said.

But the last time free-spending, inflation-permissive "regime shifts for fiscal and monetary policymakers" coincided, wrote Deutsche Bank economists David Folkerts-Landau and Peter Hooper, "such shifts touched off a sustained surge in inflation in the U.S.," beginning in 1966.

Growth in core prices, which exclude food and energy, jumped from well under 2% in 1965 to nearly 3.5% in 1966 and approached 5% by late 1968, Deutsche Bank noted. Inflation remained elevated into the early 1970s, even before an oil shock hit in 1973. The pickup was broad-based, but health care inflation played a key role, going from less than 3% to nearly 7% by early 1967.

The S&P 500 suffered through a bear market in 1966. Another 19-month bear market began in late 1968. The Dow Jones made a major top in January 1966. It would take the Dow Jones until 1982 to finally break through that ceiling for good.


What Is Inflation And Why Does It Matter To The Fed -- And You?


Outlook For Inflation, Federal Reserve Policy

Almost everyone expects a notable pickup in inflation this year -- including the Fed. Monetary policymakers expect the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index to rise 2.4% this year. That's vs. 1.5% in the 12 months through January.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said March 17 that the Fed will discount this year's jump in prices as a transitory bounce from pandemic-induced weakness. What happens in 2022 will be key. Fed projections show inflation easing back to 2%. But if pressures don't ease, the Fed will have to reassess its 2024 timetable for the cycle's first rate hike.

It's easy to see how Fed projections might understate next year's inflation. Policymakers likely are not factoring in any impact from the Democrats' next massive spending package.

Subdued health care prices might help keep inflation in check, depending on what Congress does. A 2% hike in Medicare reimbursements is scheduled to lapse in April, but lawmakers appear set to extend it. A 3.75% increase in Medicare fees for physicians could end in January, Deutsche Bank said.

Democrats also are eyeing spending curbs to help pay for their infrastructure package. Letting Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices is high on the list of options.

Longer term, the inflation outlook may depend on whether a post-pandemic productivity boom offsets upward price pressure as globalization backslides.

10-Year Treasury Yield Surges On U.S. Economy Growth Outlook

This week, the 10-year Treasury yield has eased to 1.66%, after hitting 1.75% last week, the highest of the Covid era. Still, the 10-year yield is up 66 basis points since Jan. 5.

Financial market pricing now indicates an expectation that inflation will average 2.35% over the coming decade. That's the difference between the 10-year Treasury yield and the -0.69% yield on 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, or TIPS.

"Negative real yields seem highly incongruous with the robust economic growth in train," Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi wrote. As real yields rebound, Zandi sees the 10-year Treasury yield reaching 2% by year end, 2.5% in 2022 and 3% by late 2023.

What Do Taxes, Interest Rates Mean For S&P 500?

As the new fiscal and monetary policy regime takes hold, investors will have a lot to process. If the era of too-little inflation and ultralow interest rates is drawing to an end, but earnings growth surges as the economy catches fire, what will that mean for the S&P 500? And how might tax hikes affect stock prices?

... ... ...

The UBS economics team holds the out-of-consensus view that annual core PCE inflation won't exceed the Fed's 2% target until 2024. Chief U.S. economist Seth Carpenter expects the new stimulus checks to be largely saved. The next fiscal package might likewise have a "muted" bang for the buck, while adding just $600 billion to the federal deficit.

... ... ...

Interest Rates: Parker finds that a 50-basis-point rise in the 10-year Treasury yield compresses price-earnings multiples by six-tenths of a point. Based on the S&P 500's current forward earnings multiple of about 21.5, that would equate to about a 3% decline in the S&P 500.

Capital Gains Taxes: Biden has proposed hiking the capital gains tax rate from 20% to 39.6% for high earners. Parker figures that could slice 1.5 points off the S&P 500 P/E multiple, potentially a 7% hit. However, UBS expects that not quite half the tax plan will become law.

Parker arrives at a 19.5 forward earnings multiple for the S&P 500. That also factors in some compression because the fiscal boost to earnings is bound to slacken...

[Mar 24, 2021] VTIP - Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities Index Fund ETF Shares

Mar 24, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

The investment seeks to track the performance of the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) 0-5 Year Index. The index is a market-capitalization-weighted index that includes all inflation-protected public obligations issued by the U.S. Treasury with remaining maturities of less than 5 years. The manager attempts to replicate the target index by investing all, or substantially all, of its assets in the securities that make up the index, holding each security in approximately the same proportion as its weighting in the index.

Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities Index Fund ETF Shares (VTIP) NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real Time Price. Currency in USD Add to watchlist
51.69 +0.13 (+0.25%) At close: 4:00PM EDT

51.66 -0.03 (-0.06%)

After hours: 4:21PM EDT

[Mar 24, 2021] Fed's Bullard sees inflation at 2.5% this year, easing only slightly in 2022

Mar 24, 2021 | www.reuters.com

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Inflation will hit 2.5% this year and not fall much in 2022, which the Federal Reserve should welcome as a way to reaffirm the central bank's inflation target, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said on Tuesday.

" I am not seeing the inflation rate come down very much in 2022 ... maybe just slightly, " Bullard said in comments that placed him among the more aggressive Fed officials in terms of willingness to see inflation move higher this year and remain there without raising interest rates.

"Part of the goal is to take the increase in inflation that we have this year penciled in and allow some of that to move through to inflation expectations," and keep them cemented at the Fed's 2% inflation target.

[Mar 24, 2021] US Inflation Rate by Year- 1929 - 2023

The real inflation for the past 20 years was probably around 5%: that buypoer of$100 dinimisnes by 50% in 20 years. In some areas like education and healthcare much faster that that. In some areas slower then that. Official inflation was around half of that (and this discrepancy is systemic -- due to the desire of any regime based of fiat currency to underestimate inflation and thus diminish additional payment to Social Security and other linked to inflation budget items) . Thanks to a massive federal deficit inflation might pick up.
Higher inflation in 2021-2023 is now the consensus,
Mar 24, 2021 | www.thebalance.com
Year Inflation Rate YOY Fed Funds Rate* Business Cycle (GDP Growth) Events Affecting Inflation
... ... ... ... ...
2000 3.4% 6.50% Expansion (4.1%) Tech bubble burst
2001 1.6% 1.75% March peak, Nov. trough (1.0%) Bush tax cut, 9/11 attacks
2002 2.4% 1.25% Expansion (1.7%) War on Terror
2003 1.9% 1.00% Expansion (2.9%) JGTRRA
2004 3.3% 2.25% Expansion (3.8%)
2005 3.4% 4.25% Expansion (3.5%) Katrina, Bankruptcy Act
2006 2.5% 5.25% Expansion (2.9%) Bernanke became Fed Chair
2007 4.1% 4.25% Dec peak (1.9%) Bank crisis
2008 0.1% 0.25% Contraction (-0.1%) Financial crisis
2009 2.7% 0.25% June trough (-2.5%) ARRA
2010 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (2.6%) ACA, Dodd-Frank Act
2011 3.0% 0.25% Expansion (1.6%) Debt ceiling crisis
2012 1.7% 0.25% Expansion (2.2%)
2013 1.5% 0.25% Expansion (1.8%) Government shutdown. Sequestration
2014 0.8% 0.25% Expansion (2.5%) QE ends
2015 0.7% 0.50% Expansion (3.1%) Deflation in oil and gas prices
2016 2.1% 0.75% Expansion (1.7%)
2017 2.1% 1.50% Expansion (2.3%) Core inflation rate 1.7%
2018 1.9% 2.50% Expansion (3.0%) Core rate 2.2%
2019 2.3% 1.75% Expansion (2.2%) Core rate 2.3%
2020 1.2% 0.25% Contraction (-2.4%) Forecast: Core rate 1.4%
Impact of COVID
2021 1.8% 0.25% Expansion (4.2%) Forecast: Core rate is 1.8%
2022 1.9% 0.25% Expansion
(3.2%)
Forecast: Core rate is 1.9%
2023 2.0% 0.25% Expansion (2.4%) Forecast: Core rate is 2.0%

[Mar 24, 2021] Powell Says Rise in Long-Term Bond Yields Reflects Economic Optimism

Higher interest rates means higher interest payment of the new government debt. The USA can't afford this so FED probably will try to suppress rate.
Mar 24, 2021 | www.wsj.com

"The Fed has signaled that its dovish monetary policy is here indefinitely," Mr. Toomey said, noting a recent uptick in commodity prices and a brightening outlook for economic growth. "I worry that the Fed will be behind the curve when inflation picks up."

Mr. Powell, however, reiterated that he doesn't expect supply-chain bottlenecks or an expected surge in consumer demand later this year as the economy reopens to change in long-term price trends. The Fed generally doesn't alter its policies in response to temporary price pressures.

"In the near term, we do expect, as many forecasters do, that there will be some upward pressure on prices," Mr. Powell said. "Long term we think that the inflation dynamics that we've seen around the world for a quarter of a century are essentially intact. We've got a world that's short of demand with very low inflation and we think that those dynamics haven't gone away overnight and won't."

Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) pressed Ms. Yellen on her changing views on the risks of high and rising federal debt. Government red ink has swelled over the past year as economic activity stalled and Congress ramped up spending to combat the pandemic.

[Mar 24, 2021] No Inflation Panic Yet, but There Is Concern

Mar 24, 2021 | www.wsj.com

John Gimmy Chesapeake City, Md

. Alan S. Blinder is correct that with the slack in the economy and high unemployment there is no risk of wage inflation (" There's No Need to Panic About a Little Inflation ," op-ed, March 16).

... ... ...

Lloyd B. Thomas, Ph.D. University of Missouri Columbia, Mo.

The Federal Reserve is capable of nipping any surge of inflation, but it has made clear it will be behind the curve as inflation rises. It has announced that it will not boost interest rates until it is confident we have reached full employment and until inflation substantially exceeds 2% annually for a considerable period.

Ed Kah, l Woodside , Calif,

The Fed's "foresight" in the 1970s sleepwalked us over 10 years into 14.5% inflation, 18.5% mortgage rates, 7.5% unemployment and a severe recession in 1980. The Fed's repression of interest rates has already inflated asset prices. It is now favoring spending that will move the national debt held by the public toward 150% of GDP if the Democrats keep passing multitrillion-dollar stimulus spending bills in a fast recovering economy.

The big risk comes when interest rates regress to higher historic averages that increase the cost of government debt. Even a very small rise in short-term rates shook the markets recently. The Fed should at the very least hedge this risk by lengthening the maturity of most government debt. They should also caution Congress about the sorry history of countries whose debt exceeds GDP.

Jacob R. Borden , P.E. Trine University, Angola, Ind.

Prof. Blinder uses macroeconomic anecdotes to argue that upward of 4% inflation is no big deal. But it is a big deal when you recognize that inflation is a tax on the accumulation of wealth. Sen. Elizabeth Warren must be smiling.

Even worse, inflation is a regressive tax on wealth. The professional class is already shifting assets to protect against inflationary headwinds. Mary B. Flyover, on the other hand, has few such assets and instead spends relatively more of her money on fuel and groceries, the very elements missing from Mr. Blinder's preferred measure of inflation.

Every year, inflation saps the spending power of a dollar earned, putting future savings further out of reach for people already being left behind. What little savings is available is largely in checking and savings accounts that don't even keep up with current inflation, let alone just a little more. Then add the compounding impact of inflated incomes on inflated tax bills. Once 4% inflation is baked in, Ms. Flyover's tax bill will be forever higher, while her purchasing power will trend ever lower.

Thomas Porth, Hockessin, Del.

The facts that Prof. Blinder doesn't cite are what worry me. When I studied economics at Princeton in 1981 (using Prof. Blinder's textbook), the yield on the 10-year Treasury stood at 14% as of the end of December, while the CPI-U inflation rate stood at 8.9%. The real risk-free rate of return was therefore a positive 5.1% or so. In contrast, today the CPI-U stands at 1.7% (March 10), while the yield on the 10-year Treasury stands at 1.71% (March 18), for a real risk-free rate of return of what is effectively zero.

me title=

Even relying on current measures of inflation, the real rate of return has dropped from positive 5.1% in 1981 to zero or, let's be serious, less than zero today (when I am retired). Sorry, Prof. Blinder, but I'm starting to panic.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the March 23, 2021, print edition.

[Mar 15, 2021] A worry for retirees- Inflation forecasts hit 8-year high

Mar 15, 2021 | finance.yahoo.com

A worry for retirees: Inflation forecasts hit 8-year high

A worry for retirees: Inflation forecasts hit 8-year high
Brett Arends Mon, March 15, 2021, 10:01 AM

Nobody suffers more from high inflation than retirees. Back in the 1970s, it was those in retirement living on fixed income that got hit the hardest as prices rose year after year. The investment returns from their bonds and cash fell way behind.

[Mar 14, 2021] Inflation Isn't Happening, and It Likely Won't. Here Are 7 Charts Showing This. - Barron's

Real inflation in the USA is probably close to 3-4% a year judging from the dynamic of rental payments and prices on on food. Annual Food inflation was between 3.93%, to 3.78% in December to February timeframe.
The February 2021 ShadowStats Alternate CPI (1980 Base) increased 9.4% year-to-year, up from 9.1% in January 2021, 9.0% in December 2020 and against 8.8% in November. The ShadowStats Alternate CPI-U estimate restates current headline inflation so as to reverse the government's inflation-reducing gimmicks of the last four decades, which were designed specifically to reduce/ understate COLAs.
Mar 14, 2021 | www.barrons.com

Inflation may be on many investors' minds, but it has yet to show up in the numbers. Moreover, a close reading of the data suggests that inflation won't be a problem for some time, if ever.

The latest reading of the consumer price index shows that Americans' cost of living was only 1.7% higher in February 2021 than a year earlier. That's the fastest inflation reading since the pandemic began, but still substantially slower than the pre-pandemic average. Exclude volatile food and energy prices, and inflation is running at 1.3%...

[Mar 14, 2021] Fact vs. Fiction: Understatement Of Housing Inflation Exceeds Bubble Levels

Mar 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Submitted by Joseph Carson, former chief economist of AllianceBernstein

The understatement of housing inflation in the consumer price index has reached a new milestone. As reported, the gap between the actual change in house prices and owners' rent, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), exceeds the "bubble" levels.

In February, BLS reported owner's rent increased 2% over the last 12 months. House price inflation, as reported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), increased 11.4%. That gap over 900 basis points exceeds the 800 basis point gap recorded during the housing bubble peak.

The consumer price index was created and designed to measure prices paid for purchases of specific goods and services by consumers. The CPI was often referred to as a buyers' index since it only measured prices "paid" by consumers.

The CPI has lost that designation. It is no longer measures actual prices. For the past two decades, BLS imputes the owners' rent series, using data from the rental market, no longer using price data from the larger single-family market.

Imputing prices for the cost of housing services make the CPI a hybrid index or a cross between a price index and a cost of living index. A hybrid index is not appropriate as a gauge to ascertain price stability, especially when the hypothetical measure of owner's rent accounts for 30% of the core CPI.

The CPI missed the price "bubble" of the mid-2000s, and the economic and financial fallout was historic. History sometimes repeats itself in economics and finance. Policymakers forewarned.

[Mar 14, 2021] Some thought on the current money bubble from ZeroHedge crowd

Mar 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

USAllDay 3 hours ago

The FED has been inflating a cheap money bubble for 40 years. The response to every recession is to cut rates. But the Fed never returns rates to pre-recession levels so the economy ultimately enters one recession after the next at lower and lower rates. Now at near zero, the gig is up. Dropping rates by nearly 50 basis points per year for four decades has created the mother of all bubbles.

Greed is King 1 hour ago remove link

USA, the new Roman Empire and just like the old Roman Empire was, the scourge of the planet.

A Sovereign debt ridden nation, that only survives due to its enormous military that enables the USA to pillage the resources of other countries via a foreign policy of threat, intimidation, invasion and occupation; exactly the same tactics used by the original Roman Empire.

Unfortunately for the USA, the MIC and American armed forces, are the biggest consumer of all of the income and resources obtained from pillaging and debt, they are a greedy insatiable monster that continues to grow and demands more and more to be fed.

We`re now in the ludicrous, unsustainable and unacceptable situation of, all of the countries who are having their resources stolen by the USA, and all of the American tax payers who are underwriting the debt incurred by the USA are in fact paying for the MIC and armed forces to repress them.

Here`s a radical idea; why not stop borrowing to feed the MIC monster, and try treating the rest of planet Earth with respect and cooperation.

Make peace, not war.

Utopia Planitia 2 hours ago

It's a positive feedback loop...

[Mar 14, 2021] CPI Rose 0.4% in February on Higher Prices for Energy and Medical Services

Mar 14, 2021 | angrybearblog.com

CPI Rose 0.4% in February on Higher Prices for Energy and Medical Services

run75441 | March 10, 2021 9:59 pm

US ECONOMICS

Commenter R.J.S. Discuses CPI Rising led by Food, Energy, and Medical

The consumer price index rose 0.4% in February , as higher prices for fuel, groceries, utilities, and medical services were only partly offset by lower prices for clothing, used vehicles, and airline fares the Consumer Price Index Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that seasonally adjusted prices averaged 0.4% higher in February, after rising by 0.3% in January, 0.2% in December, 0.2% in November, 0.1% in October, 0.2% in September, 0.4% in August, by 0.5% in July and by 0.5% in June, after falling by 0.1% in May, falling by 0.7% in April and by 0.3% in March, but after rising by 0.1% in February of last year .the unadjusted CPI-U index, which was set with prices of the 1982 to 1984 period equal to 100, rose from 261.582 in January to 263.014 in February , which left it statistically 1.6762% higher than the 258.678 reading of February of last year, which is reported as a 1.7% year over year increase, up from the 1.4% year over year increase reported a month ago .with higher prices for energy and foods both factors in the overall index increase, seasonally adjusted core prices, which exclude food and energy, were up just 0.1% for the month, as the unadjusted core price index rose from 269.755 to 270.696, which left the core index 1.2826% ahead of its year ago reading of 267.268, which is reported as a 1.3% year over year increase, down from the 1.4% year over year core price increase that was reported for January and the 1.6% the year over year core price increase that was reported for December

The volatile seasonally adjusted energy price index rose 3.9% in February , after rising by 3.5% in January, 2.6% in December, 0.7% in November, 0.6% in October, 1.4% in September, 0.9% in August, 2.1% in July, and by 4.4% in June, but after falling by 2.3% in May, by 9.5% in April, 5.8% in March, and by 2.5% last February, and hence is only 2.4% higher than in February a year ago the price index for energy commodities was 6.6% higher in February, while the index for energy services was 0.9% higher, after falling 0.3% in January .the energy commodity index was up 6.6% on a 6.4% increase in the price of gasoline and a 9.9% increase in the index for fuel oil, while prices for other energy commodities, including propane, kerosene, and firewood, were on average 7.3% higher within energy services, the price index for utility gas service rose 1.6% after falling 0.4% in January and is now 6.7% higher than it was a year ago, while the electricity price index rose 0.7% after falling 0.2% in January .energy commodities are now averaging 1.6% higher than their year ago levels, with gasoline price averaging 1.5% higher than they were a year ago, while the energy services price index is now up 3.2% from last February, as electricity prices are also 2.3% higher than a year ago

The seasonally adjusted food price index rose 0.2% in February, after rising by 0.1% in January and 0.3% in December, after being unchanged in November, rising 0.2% in October, rising 0.1% in August and in September, after falling 0.3% in July, rising 0.5% in June, 0.7% in May, 1.4% in April, 0.3% in March, and by 0.3% last February, as the price index for food purchased for use at home was 0.3% higher in January, after falling 0.1% in January, while the index for food bought to eat away from home was 0.1% higher, as average prices at fast food outlets rose 0.4% and prices at full service restaurants rose 0.3%, while food prices at employee sites and schools averaged 12.2% lower notably, the price index for food at elementary and secondary schools was down 13.7% and is now down 32.5% from a year ago

[Mar 14, 2021] Fact vs. Fiction: Understatement Of Housing Inflation Exceeds Bubble Levels

Mar 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Submitted by Joseph Carson, former chief economist of AllianceBernstein

The understatement of housing inflation in the consumer price index has reached a new milestone. As reported, the gap between the actual change in house prices and owners' rent, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), exceeds the "bubble" levels.

In February, BLS reported owner's rent increased 2% over the last 12 months. House price inflation, as reported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), increased 11.4%. That gap over 900 basis points exceeds the 800 basis point gap recorded during the housing bubble peak.

The consumer price index was created and designed to measure prices paid for purchases of specific goods and services by consumers. The CPI was often referred to as a buyers' index since it only measured prices "paid" by consumers.

The CPI has lost that designation. It is no longer measures actual prices. For the past two decades, BLS imputes the owners' rent series, using data from the rental market, no longer using price data from the larger single-family market.

Imputing prices for the cost of housing services make the CPI a hybrid index or a cross between a price index and a cost of living index. A hybrid index is not appropriate as a gauge to ascertain price stability, especially when the hypothetical measure of owner's rent accounts for 30% of the core CPI.

The CPI missed the price "bubble" of the mid-2000s, and the economic and financial fallout was historic. History sometimes repeats itself in economics and finance. Policymakers forewarned.

[Mar 12, 2021] Higher Gas, Energy Prices Boost Consumer Inflation

Mar 12, 2021 | www.wsj.com

The consumer-price index rose 0.4% in February from the prior month, as the pace of the economic recovery increased following a winter lull, buoyed by higher gasoline and energy costs.

[Mar 06, 2021] Pointless Pain Is What We're Enduring. And All for the Sake of Accepting That Money is Not a Constraint on Our Potential

Mar 06, 2021 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

I worry that people cannot survive this. Real, warm blooded, caring, loving people can be broken by this. And that's what makes me angry. Because this is unnecessary. The money to deliver a decent society exists.

All that we need to make the lives of the vast majority of people in this country is a real understanding of economics, of money, of how it interacts with tax, and how we can use that for the common good.

But no political party seems to get that as yet. And until they do, this unnecessary suffering will continue. And that makes me very angry. Pointless pain is what we're enduring. And all for the sake of accepting that money is not a constraint on our potential, and never will be.


DTK , March 6, 2021 at 8:28 am

Hey Steve K,
Please explain why MMT is a bad joke.
Thank You

dummy , March 6, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Let me have a go.
If prosperity and wealth can be created by printing more money, why there is still poverty in the world?
After all, isn't every country equipped with a central bank that can print as much money as they want?

eg , March 6, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Depends upon what the additional money is used for -- if it's to employ the currently unemployed productively, then everyone is better off.

dummy , March 6, 2021 at 6:59 pm

Real wealth is not denominated in dollars, only in what those dollars can buy. Devaluing the dollar doesn't hurt the wealthy, most of their wealth is in the form of equity and real assets, not dollars.
The average person's wealth is measured mostly in his future labor, how much he is going to earn. He will earn less because the Fed devalues his labor through its manipulation of the dollar. He will see this in the rising cost of living without an increase in his pay. Sure perhaps the value of labor will at some point catch up to the devalued dollar, but in the interim he will earn less and will never catch up to what he would have earned otherwise. It doesn't hurt the wealthy, it hurts the middle class, and will for years to come.

occasional anonymous , March 6, 2021 at 5:43 pm

That isn't what MMT says. You're arguing against a strawman.

eg , March 6, 2021 at 10:14 am

Your macroeconomic ignorance is duly noted, featuring as it does the usual "commodity money" and mercantilist shibboleths.

MMT describes fiat monetary operations which have been in effect since the Nixon shock and the abandonment of Bretton Woods almost 50 years ago . Do catch up.

Louis Fyne , March 6, 2021 at 7:53 am

honest question, wouldn't MMT (in a hypothetical universe run by committed MMTers) in the UK likely will produce vastly different results than MMT in relatively autarkic economics like the USA or Russia?

The UK relies on imports to one degree or another for virtually every physical good necessary for a first-world living standard (food -- even basic foodstuffs like wheat, medicine, spare parts, petrol, apparel, even steel, etc).

While the UK's economy tilts to exporting services education, finance, media, medicinal/technological intellectual property, tourism, etc.

Would a weaker UK pound encourage more service exports? Or merely increase inflation, particularly for the bottom 50%?

honest question.

PlutoniumKun , March 6, 2021 at 8:03 am

Because MMT analysts tend to be mostly US or Australian, the applicability of it to smaller, more open economies has not, I think, had the attention thats needed (although to be fair, Richard Murphy has done quite a lot of writing on this). While the UK is a large economy, its also very open (although increasingly less so, thanks to Brexit). So it clearly has much less room to manoeuvre in terms of monetary or fiscal policy than a more autarkical nation. Its not just with MMT and inflation – things like Keynesian multipliers tend to be lower in more open economies as the benefits of fiscal expansion get exported out. The Labour party under Corbyn did put together some very interesting and well thought through MMT-influenced policies, but of course that all got thrown out with Corbyn.

As Yves has pointed out before, the UK has a particular problem in that it has little spare physical capacity in its economy to take advantage of a weaker currency. In the past, it has been unable to increase output when the pound has been weaker. So a weakening pound is likely to be more inflationary than in many other economies.

I think that in a general sense, MMT makes sense in all economies in a Covid scenario of a massive drop in output thanks to a black swan event. As Murphy points out, you just need to shove the cash into the economy through monetary means and forget about having to repay it. Inflation just isn't a problem in those circumstances, and it has the benefit of maintaining productive capacity within the economy. But in more 'normal' times, MMT needs to be applied with far more care in an economy like the UK than in a US or China or Russia or EU.

Susan the other , March 6, 2021 at 1:16 pm

Kind of wondering here what would happen if all the poor and unemployed/welfare recipients and even the precarious middle class also decided to offshore their money. Why not? Say in every country; say it became a global movement. The neoliberal nightmare should inform us all. Just because a small country doesn't have spare capacity or idle resources is not really a contraindication for MMT. It is more a factor of having an intrinsic imbalance due to decades if not centuries of grift and graft by those in a position to help themselves. And it creates confused politics. As you mentioned above – the Tories in the UK seem to have also usurped the opposition. Well, to my thinking, that is exactly what Trump did. And it is almost a crazy hope of "If you can't beat them, join them." And just exactly where does that leave a functional economy? My first image is a junkyard.

James E Keenan , March 6, 2021 at 9:55 am

Two points:

First, apropos the applicability of Modern Money Theory to relatively open economies like that of the U.K., see the discussion of the prerequisites for monetary sovereignty as outlined by Robert Hockett and Aaron James in their 2020 book, Money for Nothing . In addition to the well-known requirements (nation must issue its own currency; currency not pegged to metal or any other currency; no borrowing in foreign currencies), Hockett and James add others, including "limited trade dependence in essential goods such as food or energy sources, in order to mitigate foreign exchange and inflation risk ." (274)

Second, apropos the applicability of MMT to smaller economies, I am pleased to note that Fanny Pigeaud and Ndongo Samba Sylla's 2018 book, L'Arme Invisible de la Françafrique: Une Histoire du Franc CFA , has at last been published in English as Africa's Last Colonial Currency: The CFA Franc Story . (Your search engine will take you either to the publisher or to an internet behemoth where you can order it.)

Pigeaud and Sylla's book is a history and analysis of the political economy of the CFA zone: the countries of central and west Africa which were French colonies and which continue to use a common currency imposed on them by the French imperialists in 1945.

This book is, in my estimation, the best book we have so far in applying the insights of Modern Money Theory to non-monetarily sovereign economies. You have to love any book that starts out by translating Hyman Minsky's most famous aphorism into French: Tout un chacun peut creér de la monnaie: le problème est de la faire accepter.

HotFlash , March 6, 2021 at 11:42 am

"limited trade dependence in essential goods such as food or energy sources, in order to mitigate foreign exchange and inflation risk ."

Again, we/they have choices based on resource constraints. But, as usual, they are political. Most of these choices seem impossible now, but remember Victory Gardens ? Alas, such things are not looked upon favourably by Big Ag and the supermarket chains, but my depression-era grandparents grew most of their own food for their very large (by our standards) families. Maternal side, farmers -- my mother, born 1923, said that she never even knew there was a depression until she read about it later in high school. Grandpa paid his property taxes by driving snowplow for the county in the winter. Father's side -- my father, born 1922, grew up in a village (5-bedroom two story house built by his father, a shoemaker, and friends/relatives/contractors) on a biggish, maybe 1-2 acre? lot, which was part of a grant to the family for Civil War service. Grandma still had apple, peach, cherry and walnut trees, raspberry and currant bushes when I knew her, and had grown beans, tomatoes, potatoes and all that stuff before the 7 kids got married. Obviously, the kids did a lot of the work, too. Sewing room -- made most of the clothes for family, Dad says the kids' diapers were made of sugar sacks.

IOW, this is not rocket science. We did this sort of thing for millions of years, omitting the last 200 or so, and can very likely do it again. People explored the whole round world, and conquered a lot of it, without electricity or the internal combustion engine. We're not all gonna die!

Unless we as a species continue to act on maximizing shareholder value rather than surviving.

fwe'theewell , March 6, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Michelle Obama, izzat you? Gorgeous designer bootstraps.

The Rev Kev , March 6, 2021 at 5:53 pm

I think that you might be onto something here. I suspect that the lives of our grandchildren as they grow older will resemble the lives of our grandparents from your description. Of course that may mean a lot off decentralization from out of big cities but it can be done – especially if there is no other choice. And it's not like in the US that there is not the land to do this with.

RODGER MITCHELL , March 6, 2021 at 8:21 am

It is an excellent article, with one small exception, the words, "I accept that creating money this way is inflationary."

Contrary to popular wisdom, inflation is not caused by money creation . All inflations are caused by shortages , most often shortages of food or energy.

That includes hyperinflations. Consider, for one, the Zimbabwe hyperinflation. The government took farmland from farmers and gave it to non-farmers. The inevitable food shortages caused inflation. The government's "money-printing" was merely the wrongheaded response to the inflation, not the cause.

In fact, the hyperinflation could have been cured by more money creation, had that money been used to cure the food shortage, by purchasing food from abroad and distributing it, or by teaching the non-farmers how to farm.

In the past year, the U.S. has spent an astounding $4 trillion, and soon it will spend another $2 trillion, Yet, there will be no inflation so long as there are no shortages of food, oil, or labor.

Bottom line: Scarcity, not money creation, causes inflation.

Economists: Revise your economics textbooks.

Gengiskahn , March 6, 2021 at 3:55 pm

How do you define inflation?

DTK , March 6, 2021 at 8:36 am

In the US, as in the UK, planned inequality and (managed) unequal access to the benefits of the money system are two of the most salient activities of our (US) three government branches.

Patrick , March 6, 2021 at 9:02 am

So are ye telling me the reason conservatives don't (for example) want to raise the minimum wage is not because of some economic or monetary reason or law but instead just to keep people in their place, i.e. preserve the status quo? Amazing! And I guess them conservatives that "havenot" go along because of that "relative advantage" thing – they are so fixated on keeping those below in their place that they are blind to the upside of a more democratic and social monetary policy. Well I'll be. Now I git it!

Patrick ,

Patrick , March 6, 2021 at 9:21 am

Adding that yes, "fear of inflation" is an applicable "economic or monetary reason or law" that may explain the conservative position.

Anonapet , March 6, 2021 at 11:42 am

Then the MMT School are conservatives since they'd use taxation to curb inflation (by some undisclosed means that does not curb consumption).

But why should price inflation be a problem so long as:
1) It does not exceed income gains for ALL citizens;
2) the means that produce it do not violate equal protection under the law;
and
3) it is not extreme?

The only reason I can think of, and it's a contemptible one, is that large fiat hoarders* would see their hoards diminish in value in real terms.

*not to disparage those saving for a home, initial capital formation, legitimate liquidity needs, etc.

Adam Eran , March 6, 2021 at 1:50 pm

One point of inflation is to restrain creditors (rhymes with "predators").

Meanwhile, "printing" money does not initiate inflation. Most inflation–even hyperinflation–is "cost push," i.e. related to shortages of goods. In Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian farmers left, and the people to whom Mugabe gave their land were not as productive. Result: a shortage of food requiring imports (balance of payments problem).

In Weimar Germany, the French army invaded the Ruhr, shutting down Germany's industrial heartland, making a shortage of goods. They already had a balance of payments problems with WWI reparations.

Patrick , March 6, 2021 at 1:50 pm

"Then the MMT School are conservative"

In my example, no. The MMT School does not invoke inflation FEAR to deny nurses a meaningful wage raise.

Fear. Of change. Of "others". Of a level playing field? These pesky conservatives.

(For the record I did not excel in Father Brennan's freshman year logic class. And that was fifty years ago!)

Amfortas the hippie , March 6, 2021 at 2:23 pm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_vigilante

it was always thus.
the real Burkean Conservatives behind it all, who yes want to keep everyone in their place.
as i've lamented many times, it's hard to get a read on who the real Bosses are, since they don't go on TV and brag, generally(various rightwing billionaires in the last 15 years, notwithstanding)
C.Wright Mills and Domhoff are the only taxonomists of that cohort that i'm aware of Diannah Johnstone, perhaps.
Maybe Pepe Escobar when they hide the rum.
otherwise, every attempt i've seen in the last 30 years has had elements of tinfoil and illuminatii/NWO scattered throughout.
I reckon this is by design, at some level.
whatever there exists a demographic cohort of humanity that is exceedingly wealthy, thinks it's in charge and mostly really is and that is truly cosmopolitiain citizens of the world.
their most defining feature is that they pretend real hard not to exist and most of us little people give them no mind, and pretend right along.
This cohort is not monolithic, nor all powerful they each are as prone to tunnel vision and stupidity as any of us but they have better connected steering wheels, and cleaner windshields, and mirrors that work.
One hopes that, like in FDR Times, they will feel threatened enough by the results of their long term policy preferences to allow a few larger crumbs to fall from the table, so as to mollify the ravening hordes .ere those hordes notice who the real Hostis Humani Generis are.
But it looks like they're more likely to double down on the diversionary division of the Bewildered Herd hence, Cancel Seuss! and Sinema's little antoinette dance .and an hundred other mostly unimportant things that happened just yesterday to keep us'n's riled up about the wrong things.

see: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-06-16-me-4587-story.html

for an enlightening memento mori of being right here before .Time is, indeed, cyclical, like the Ancients insisted.

Patrick , March 6, 2021 at 6:39 pm

"Maybe Pepe Escobar when they hide the rum". LOL! Needed that.

[Jan 26, 2021] When guys like Michael Saylor put a half a billion into bitcoin they have done their homework. Seems to me a scam is an operation containing a lot of lies

Jan 26, 2021 | www.moonofalabama.org

uncle tungsten , Jan 26 2021 1:11 utc | 172

c1ue #118
I actually talked about this with Kuppy last week.

He considers HFT a problem but not crippling; he says they cost him $10K to $25K a day but apparently this isn't enough to deter his hedge fund activities. He said that up to 70% of trading volume activity in any stock is HFT (!).
As for scam: well - the value of the front running exists only so long as the herd is in the market. Every single market crash - whether bitcoin or the stock market or whatever - sees the vast majority of players exit (or bankrupt). At that point, the trading volumes and numbers of people participating plummet dramatically.
How valuable do you think RH's model is then?

Sounds to me that HFT is a scam in itself. Am I to believe that algorithms trading against each other repetitively at high speed is anything other than machine driven gambling on one algorithm's interpretation of the behaviour of another algorithm, mostly outside of the human buy and sell in the market place. Are the humans just strapped on for the ride through a cabal of trading companies?


psychohistorian , Jan 26 2021 1:29 utc | 173

@ uncle t # 168 who wrote
"
I was looking back at some earlier reports to gain an insight into the means by which the USA gave the game away and the means that might restore its place in the economic world. It has allowed itself to be completely captive to global private finance AND ownership of the keys to its salvation. If it does not nationalize its key industries then it can rest assured of its doom.
"

I continue to posit that the key industry that needs to be "nationalized/made totally sovereign" is finance. If humanity can follow China's lead, the motivations in the other industries will revert to doing what is right, rather than what is profitable.


In regards to your HFT comment in # 172, you have calling HFT a scam correct. It is programmed/manufactured theft under the guise of AI.

Thanks for your comments.

uncle tungsten , Jan 26 2021 1:32 utc | 174
arby #110
When guys like Michael Saylor put a half a billion into bitcoin they have done their homework. Seems to me a scam is an operation containing a lot of lies. I don't see how bitcoin falls into that category.

As far as a Ponzi scheme I also do not see the connection. It is nothing like a Ponzi. There are no promises of big returns or large dividends.


When people follow 'guys like Michael Saylor [and see him] put a half a billion into bitcoin they [think] have done their homework [and follow like fish chasing a lure] THEN they have been sucked into a ponzi scheme where the lure is a fast buck if they follow the (smart?) leader. Then the smart leader progressively sells out at a sweet peak and the chumps watch it dip for a month or two. Unless of course there are lots of paid journalists and bloggers and facebook praise singers pumping the lure of the endless profit of bitcoin.

Sounds like rumours of gold in them thar hills.

There are a large number of lies (or exaggeration?) in bitcoin and all spun within a sheath of mystery and complexity and even 'mining' to smear some credible lipstick on the scheme.

There is a sucker born every minute and they invest in BS and love a veneer of mystique and bitcoin falls squarely into the category of lies and scams and fancy imaginings and the lure that suckers are forever chasing. Yes, people buy and sell and some make a profit - same as any ponzi scheme.

While the BS is pumped the ponzi is inflated.

[Aug 08, 2020] Russia-China -Dedollarization- Reaches -Breakthrough Moment- As Countries Ditch Greenback For Bilateral Trade -

Aug 08, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Russia-China "Dedollarization" Reaches "Breakthrough Moment" As Countries Ditch Greenback For Bilateral Trade by Tyler Durden Thu, 08/06/2020 - 21:55 Twitter Facebook Reddit Email Print

Late last year, data released by the PBOC and the Russian Central Bank shone a light on a disturbing - at least, for the US - trend: As the Trump Administration ratcheted up sanctions pressure on Russia and China, both countries and their central banks have substantially "diversified" their foreign-currency reserves, dumping dollars and buying up gold and each other's currencies.

Back in September, we wrote about the PBOC and RCB building their reserves of gold bullion to levels not seen in years. The Russian Central Bank became one of the world's largest buyers of bullion last year (at least among the world's central banks). At the time, we also introduced this chart.

We've been writing about the impending demise of the greenback for years now, and of course we're not alone. Some well-regarded economists have theorized that the fall of the greenback could be a good thing for humanity - it could open the door to a multi-currency basket, or better yet, a global current (bitcoin perhaps?) - by allowing us to transition to a global monetary system with with less endemic instability.

Though, to be sure, the greenback is hardly the first "global currency".

Falling confidence in the greenback has been masked by the Fed's aggressive buying, as central bankers in the Eccles Building now fear that the asset bubbles they've blown are big enough to harm the real economy, so we must wait for exactly the right time to let the air out of these bubbles so they don't ruin people's lives and upset the global economic apple cart. As the coronavirus outbreak has taught us, that time may never come.

But all the while, Russia and China have been quietly weening off of the dollar, and instead using rubles and yuan to settle transnational trade.

Since we live in a world where commerce is directed by the whims of the free market (at least, in theory), the Kremlin can just make Russian and Chinese companies substitute yuan and rubles for dollars with the flip of a switch: as Russian President Vladimir Putin once exclaimed , the US's aggressive sanctions policy risks destroying the dollar's reserve status by forcing more companies from Russia and China to search for alternatives to transacting in dollars, if for no other reason than to keep costs down (international economic sanctions can make moving money abroad difficult).

In 2019, Putin gleefully revealed that Russia had reduced the dollar holdings of its central bank by $101 billion, cutting the total in half.

https://lockerdome.com/lad/13084989113709670?pubid=ld-dfp-ad-13084989113709670-0&pubo=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com&rid=www.zerohedge.com&width=890

And according to new data from the Russian Central Bank and Federal Customs Service, the dollar's share of bilateral trade between Russia and China fell below 50% for the first time in modern history.

Businesses only used the greenback for roughly 46% of settlements between the two countries. Over the same period, the euro constituted an all-time high of 30%. While other national currencies accounted for 24%, also a new high.

As one 'expert' told the Nikkei Asian Review, it's just the latest sign that Russia and China are forming a "de-dollarization alliance" to diminish the economic heft of Washington's sanctions powers, and its de facto control of SWIFT, the primary inter-bank messaging service via which banks move money from country to country.

The shift is happening much more quickly than the US probably expected. As recently as 2015, more than 90% of bilateral trade between China and Russia was conducted in dollars.

Alexey Maslov, director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Nikkei Asian Review that the Russia-China "dedollarization" was approaching a "breakthrough moment" that could elevate their relationship to a de facto alliance.

"The collaboration between Russia and China in the financial sphere tells us that they are finally finding the parameters for a new alliance with each other," he said. "Many expected that this would be a military alliance or a trading alliance, but now the alliance is moving more in the banking and financial direction, and that is what can guarantee independence for both countries."

Dedollarization has been a priority for Russia and China since 2014, when they began expanding economic cooperation following Moscow's estrangement from the West over its annexation of Crimea. Replacing the dollar in trade settlements became a necessity to sidestep U.S. sanctions against Russia.

"Any wire transaction that takes place in the world involving U.S. dollars is at some point cleared through a U.S. bank," explained Dmitry Dolgin, ING Bank's chief economist for Russia. "That means that the U.S. government can tell that bank to freeze certain transactions."
The process gained further momentum after the Donald Trump administration imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods. Whereas previously Moscow had taken the initiative on dedollarization, Beijing came to view it as critical, too.

"Only very recently did the Chinese state and major economic entities begin to feel that they might end up in a similar situation as our Russian counterparts: being the target of the sanctions and potentially even getting shut out of the SWIFT system," said Zhang Xin, a research fellow at the Center for Russian Studies at Shanghai's East China Normal University.

[Jul 19, 2020] A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon you're talking real money (creation) -- Crooked Timber

Jul 19, 2020 | crookedtimber.org

Larry Hamelin 07.18.20 at 9:37 am (no link)

The MMTers reading your article will take umbrage at your use of finance .

According to MMT, all government spending is financed by creating money. The problem of where to get the money is a non-problem.

Once the government has spent money into existence, the real problem is how to distribute the social opportunity cost of the spending, especially if the government has spent money to allocate real resources away from the production of private goods and services.

MMT makes this distinction precisely because they (we?) want to eliminate the rich as a veto point for spending. We don't need to get their money in order to spend it, and they cannot (or we should not let them) essentially restrict spending by obstructing the government's taxation of their wealth.

If we want to get the money belonging to the rich (and we do!), we want to do so because we don't want them to have it, for whatever reason.

There's another reason to be explicit about the difference between financing and distributing opportunity costs. If the rich have a lot of money that is not in circulation (in the national economy), and the government taxing that money to "pay for" its spending will do nothing to control inflation or distribute opportunity costs. Removing money that is not circulating has no effect on prices. It seems theoretically possible to balance the budget financially but still see price-level inflation.

I haven't done any specific investigation into the GND, but it seems uncontroversial that it will involve allocating substantial real resources to the creation of a nonpolluting power, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure. However, the effect on the real economy and the price level seems uncontroversially complicated. Some of the real resources will be previously unallocated, and we will simply be transferring demand from welfare-supported to work-supported, with no effect on the price level. Some of the demand created will indirectly cause an increase in private production, putting unused industrial capacity to work; the increase in circulating money will cause a corresponding increase in real private production, and again have no net effect on the price level. And some of the real resources will indeed be transferred from private production with no corresponding offset; taxes, "enforced" borrowing, and other monetary interventions will be needed to keep price inflation manageable.

I don't know of (and, like Lee A. Arnold above, would very much like to see) a model showing what effect something like the GND would have on the real economy. Under normal circumstances, the fiscal impact is a good proxy for the real impact. But circumstances are far from normal, so think that the fiscal impact is no longer a valuable proxy for modeling the real impact.

MisterMr 07.18.20 at 10:11 am ( 4 )

"The ultimate constraint on money creation is inflation. That hasn't been a problem lately and (as I'll argue in more detail later) the world is in need of a fair bit of inflation, probably at an annual rate of about 4 per cent for the foreseeable future. It's unclear how much expansion of the monetary base would generate this outcome, while avoiding the risk of a resurgence of inflation like that of the 1970s"

I don't agree that this is the problem: IMO the direct cause of [keynesian] inflation is the wage-price spiral, and not money creation per se (this also implies a problem, which is that if we want an high level of employment because we want an higer bargaining power for workers we can't really avoid wage-price spirals and therefore inflation).

Money creation by itself creates wealth, not income, and the kind of economic policies we had in recent decades caused an increase in the wealth/income ratio (or in other words the creation of a lot of fictitious capital) more than inflation.
So the real problem of "money creation" today is that it generates financial bubbles, rather than inflation.
The difference between money printing and government debt, from this point of view, is just that money is a 0% interest financial asset, whereas bonds bear at least some interest, so money creation pushes the general interest rate down more than bond creation, but this again is a consequence of the increase of the wealth/income ratio (since more wealth extracts profits from the same quantity of income).

"Substantial reductions in private consumption and investment will be needed to make room for the required public expenditure, and that can only be achieved through a combination of taxation and debt."
In my view the problem is that taxation is needed to avoid bubbles, and therefore what we need is to tax income from wealth and wealth itself (in order to push down the wealth/income ratio).
To put it in more familiar keynesian terms, the problem is that the ex-ante saving rate is too high, so that currently we need an increase in debt levels (bubbles) to ricycle ex-ante savings into consumption; we need taxation to push down the ex-ante saving rate.

But, the problem is, is it possible to have a capitalist economy running without economic crises while the wealth/income ratio goes down (which means that a lot of people see their relative wealth go down)?
IMO this is really difficult, and also explains the political problem for policieswhose purpose is to push down the wealth/income ratio, since these policies look like just some way to be mean against wealth owners, without an immediate economic reason, and when the bubble pops everyone blames the banks and the financial sector, not the excessively high ex-ante saving rate, that is instead perceived as a virtue.

Bradley C Kuszmaul 07.18.20 at 10:38 am ( 5 )

Recent quantitative easing of only 2% of GDP doesn't provide much of a bound on how much can be tolerated without causing too much inflation. Inflation is still up against the zero lower bound, and it seems plausible that we could get more than a factor of two more money creation. Which does get us into the green new deal range.

John Quiggin 07.18.20 at 10:40 am ( 6 )

@1 The Green part is (comparatively) easy and low cost. It's the New Deal (free college tuition, Job Guarantee, single-payer health etc) that will require a bit transfer of resources.

Lee A. Arnold 07.18.20 at 11:27 am ( 7 )

@6 Transfers of real resources or financial resources? Single-payer requires an expansion of suppliers in the healthcare sector to meet the uncovered demand, and those suppliers will be new taxpayers. College learning will be going more on-line, a tendency accelerated by this pandemic and anticipating the next pandemic, so we need, not many more buildings, but more professors, but they too will be new taxpayers. The jobs guarantee could be structured to generate sector expansions, not merely makework. So couldn't all of these eventuate in expanded sectors, ergo more taxes? Government investment at rock-bottom interest rates?

bob mcmanus 07.18.20 at 11:50 am ( 8 )

How much is enough (to pay for our policy goals)?

Only too much is enough, we want to print and spend enough to change expectations.

Currently, the dollar is the reserve currency I think largely for "safe haven" reasons, i.e. the oligarchs who have all the assets believe the US will be the last place to inflate, devalue, or elect an expropriating left-wing gov't.

After 40+ years of capital share gains and worker immiseration in terms of real and social wages and labour solidarity, and assuming we have under President S Kelton control only of printing and spending but no ability to raise progressive redistributive taxes how much MMT financed spending will it take to have the average worker believe that her real wages, social wages, standard of living, opportunities etc will improve relative to capital and the rich for the next forty years? And have the oligarchs also believe it?

That's how much.

Alan White 07.19.20 at 1:21 am (no link)

John, what say you about US/global military spending, which if cut and reallocated in the low double digits could transform society? Do you think it's just politically untouchable? If the US cut its military budget by say 25% it would still be formidable, especially given its nuclear deterrent. For the life of me I can never understand why military budgets are sacrosanct. Is it just WW2 and Cold War hangover? Couldn't the obvious effects of climate change and the fragility of the economy subject to natural threats like the pandemic change attitudes about overfunding the military (like the debacle of the F-35 program)?

J-D 07.19.20 at 2:03 am ( 14 )

@Tim Worstall: The political poles shifted, but less than you might think. Southern pols were overwhelmingly opposed, and nearly all of them were D (the entire old Confederacy had only 11 R Reps and only 1 R Senator). Northern pols, including Dirksen, were overwhelmingly in favor, and they were split between the two parties. But if you break it down by party and region, a larger percentage of Ds than Rs voted for the bill within each region. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/28/republicans-party-of-civil-rights

An interesting example of Simpson's paradox.

I don't know about the Democratic Party, but there was an important shift in the Republican Party: the thing is, that shift took place in the nineteenth century, not the twentieth. At the end of the Civil War, the Republican Party really was the party of civil rights, with champions of equality prominent within it; after the end of the Reconstruction this ceased to be true. Of course the Republican Party has changed further since then, because everything changes; but it hasn't changed as rapidly since the late nineteenth century as it did after the Civil War.

John Quiggin 07.19.20 at 3:50 am ( 15 )

Alan White @13 Military spending is about 3.4 per cent of US GDP, compared to 2 per cent or less most places. So that's a significant and unproductive use of resources that could be redirected to better effect. But the income of the top 1 per cent is around 20 per cent of total income. If that was cut in half, there would be little or no reduction in the productive services supplied by this group. If you want big change, that's where you need to look.

eg 07.19.20 at 4:08 am ( 16 )

@Alan White #13

I think some of the reluctance to cut military spending in the US is the extent to which it acts as a politically unassailable source of fiscal stimulus and "welfare" in a country where such things are otherwise anathema. Well, that and all of the grift it represents for the donor class.

[Jul 15, 2020] -There Are No Free Lunches- - Former Reserve Bank Of India Chief Explains Why MMT Will Never Work -

Jul 14, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

As Joe Biden tries to split the difference between the midwestern swing-state voters and the Sanders faithful, he's released an economic plan - a plan that bears the imprimatur of his one-time foe Bernie Sanders - that, in its attempt to be everything to every one, effectively promises everything to every one.

Buy American. Green New Deal. Corporate tax hikes. Trillions of dollars spent on infrastructure to install the latest eco-nonsense with money that should be going to roads, bridges, rails and airports. Docks and highways. Things people actually need and use. And who knows? Depending on his running mate, maybe we'll get a massive student-debt jubilee, too. All on the federal government's tab.

Now that MMT has gone from fringe idea to mainstream, making Stephanie Kelton, a cryptomarxist who believes that the link between value and money can be completely severed, so long as we tax the wealthiest among us enough to keep inflation low. It doesn't take a genius to suspect that an 'economic theory' grounded in the idea that governments can take on unlimited amounts of debt and never stick anybody with the tab sounds absurd - even dangerous.

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We say dangerous because Kelton's greatest sin is offering pandering politicians more cover to encourage their spendthrift ways. During a recent interview with Macro Hive, former Central Bank of India Governor and University of Chicago Professor Raghuram Rajan delivered a succinct and insightful explanation of why MMT is so dangerous.

"We talked about sustainability and one of the big topics in markets at least is this whole idea of QE MMT infinity, the ability of sovereigns to borrow. Now in developed countries, they have historical capital they've built up and credibility," Rajan's interviewer began. "But you're starting to also see this idea...you're starting to see more emerging market countries experiment with it, including Indonesia and several others."

But at the same time "yields are very low, and if you look at emerging market spreads, they're very low...so markets are telling you that they aren't worried. Yet we know debt levels are high, and there's more talk in debt markets of QE and MMT."

Does the fact that markets seem content with the status quo (at least for now) validate Kelton's argument?

Of course not, Rajan explained. Because while the complexities of the global financial system, and the dollar's role within it, have allowed the Fed to spearhead this great monetary, as the veteran central banker explained, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

"We know that markets can be complacent until a certain point and then they turn on a time. We are at this point in a benign phase supported by an enormous amount of central bank liquidity emanating from the primary reserve currencies, the euro area, the US Fed and to some extent the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England."

"But we must also recognize is that there are no free lunches. If there's one statement you want to keep to pound into the head of every policy maker, it's that there are no free lunches. If you borrow today, there is a presumption that it will be repaired at some point, so you are in a sense taking away resources from somebody else in the future."

" Now it may be a generation or two down the line will be on the hook for this ...whether they can pass it on to their children is an open question...but you're definitely taking away their ability to borrow by borrowing today."

https://lockerdome.com/lad/13084989113709670?pubid=ld-dfp-ad-13084989113709670-0&pubo=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com&rid=www.zerohedge.com&width=890

.While burdening future generations doesn't seem to come up much in cryptomarxist essays about the moral imperative of expansive fiscal spending - some have gone so far as to argue that the federal government has a moral obligation to forgive student debt - Rajan acknowledges that the idea is "seductive" for all the wrong reasons.

"So the idea that there are free lunches...which certainly is what the lay person takes away from MMT...is very sort of attractive, seductive - but it's absolute nonsense."

If that's the message that's going to be communicated, then that's wrong.

Asked to elaborate, he continued...

"There are times when you can spend a little bit more, but you are still making a trade off and evaluating this trade off well...I think that's the right thing to do. If that's the message from MMT, then I'm fine with that. There are periods where you have more leeway."

"The message can't be 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' it has to be 'yes take advantage of periods when you have a little more spending capacity but use it wisely, because there's no such thing as a free lunch and you will have to repay it at some point... that's what any sensible economic theory will tell you, and I think that's what we understand now."

"When banks aren't lending, when inflation is low, it is possible for the central bank to expand its balance sheet somewhat ...and finance more activities that the government wants to undertake. That doesn't mean it's free debt it's equivalent to debt issued by the government - think of the central bank issuing debt as the same as the government issuing debt: it's the consolidated balance sheet you're looking at."

"Somebody is responsible for payment, it's either the central bank or the government."

"At low interest rates it doesn't really matter who it is, but as inflation picks ups it does matter a little more who it is because the central bank often is financing itself with effectively forced loans from the banking sector, and there's a limit to how much the banking sector is willing to do that, especially as economic activity picks up."

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"So my sense is yes there is some room now but it doesn't mean the debt level doesn't matter and it doesn't mean that we should just keep spending without thought of who's going to repay. And I think the big philosophical issues are how much are you going to bail out companies...why should Joe Schmoe...why should his taxes go to bail out a capital owner? After all, neither of them saw the pandemic coming...neither is responsible for the pandemic...so why should one bail out the property rights of another?"

"It strikes me these guys who want to open up the government wallet and spend to protect everybody from the consequences of the pandemic don't realize that there's one person who's bearing the hit: it may not be you, but it might be your children."

"And the question is: Why do they have to pay when they have no part in this?"

Remember: As Rajan explains, we must recognize that our resources are limited and use them wisely. Keep that in mind when Democratic politicians are trying to spend trillions of dollars of public money to outfit private buildings with solar panels or whatever 'Green New Deal' infrastructure travesty AOC & Co come up with.

* * *

Source: Macro Hive

[May 10, 2020] MMT and COVID-19

May 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

financial matters , May 9 2020 22:43 utc | 34

The Fed is just following the Congressional mandate of supporting the people who fund our political system.

It should be clear that the stock market doesn't care about Main Street when you see it still going up with massive levels of unemployment.

MMT states that the Fed can create these funds that are handed out to business by the trillions but that is not what MMT 'policy' would want.

Most MMT people are actually against handouts to people in the form of a basic guaranteed income.

A major cornerstone of MMT policy though is a Job Guarantee. In times like these they would very much like to see employment supported by these government funds. Not only the basic job pool of a minimum wage job but also supporting more highly paid skilled employment such as supervising infrastructure projects etc.

MMT is more concerned with resources than money per se. It doesn't help to have money if people aren't making stuff, providing food and services etc.

[Apr 28, 2020] Hudson gives him the primary credit for providing the foundation for Modern Monetary Theory

Apr 28, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Apr 27 2020 0:25 utc | 53

Some will know who Hyman Minsky was, some won't. Hudson gives him the primary credit for providing the foundation for Modern Monetary Theory, and he gets praise from Keen, Wolfe and many others too. On the occasion of his 100th birthday, here's a long essay that seeks the following:

"But the question still stands: Was Minsky in fact a communist? Of course not. But, a century after his birth, it is useful to clarify often neglected aspects of his intellectual biography."

Since Minsky's referenced so often by Hudson particularly, I think this piece will be helpful for those of us following the serious economic issues now in play. I'd reserve an hour for a critical read.

[Apr 24, 2020] The Use and Abuse of MMT

Apr 24, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Apr 23 2020 18:19 utc | 35

Musburger @3--

I highly suggest you read "The Use and Abuse of MMT" by Michael Hudson, with Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen and T.Sabri Öncü.


Leser , Apr 23 2020 18:55 utc | 41

MMT is brilliant and it's really embarrassing that it took The Deadliest Pandemic™ for some folks to come round to it. We all collectively print an extra bit of money - and give it to each other!

There are historic examples documented of successful applications of the concept, look no further than to the earnest witness of Baron Munchausen pulling himself out of a swamp by his own hair. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baron_Munchausen

karlof1 , Apr 23 2020 19:22 utc | 48
Hudson also has another video posted to his site , "An interview on the Radical Imagination: Imagining How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Are Destroying Us," which is based on his book Killing the Host . It's a recent video interview that's @50 minutes long prefaced by the Occupy Wall Street Anthem and introduction.

One aspect of MMT that must be made clear is it advocates the use of public banking or the Treasury to pump capital in the form of money into the productive economy , not the parasitic economy the Fed supports--the difference is huge and vital. For MMT to succeed within the Outlaw US Empire, the Fed must be liquidated. For more, please read the essay I linked to @35.

suzan , Apr 23 2020 19:56 utc | 50
Musburger @ 3 : "What do you folks think about MMT?"


Re-inflation of a depressed economy can be achieved by government spending into:
public investment
employment
income transfers
income support
labour
tangible capital
infrastructure.

This is "good" MMT.

"Bad" MMT, or fake MMT, is government spending into WallStreet, handouts to:
the banks
large corporations
speculators
bondholders.

The March 2020 CAREs Act is bad MMT as was the 2008 bailout. This one is same as that one but "on steroids."
Both bailouts further empower(ed):
rentiers (the landlord class),
monopolies,
the financial creditor class
and cast most of the rest of the US population into reduced circumstances, poverty and/or debt servitude. They burden the working economy with overhead and debt that cannot be paid. Bad MMT.

While the MMT school has a healthy diversity within it, USG applications have flipped the theory on its head, says Hudson. See below for link.

(Remember Cheney's, "We are all Keynesians now"? )

Worse, Bad MMT does more than simply bailout the top 1%. It also increases the parasitic power of financialization on the real economy. As we have repeatedly seen, now most dramatically, the financial sector is incapable of planning for anything other than its own fictional valorization.

Libertarians' freedom from government dogma excoriates against centralized planning and yet, ironically, the end result of their "government is bad" path forced upon us in USA led directly to central 'planning' by default -- by parasitic-on-the real-economy privatized finance sector, a form of fascism not democracy or liberty.

USA'ns public health crisis occurs as states, which are required by law to not run deficits, face huge costs that will force more austerity on their populations. More callous, they are forced to compete against each other as they purchase essential equipment and technology (from for-profit privateers) to deal with the highly infectious novel virus, and the fed indemnifies the privateer mask makers!!!

What is the root of inequality today? Debt and the monopolization of real estate.
What are solutions?
Wipe out and roll back debt overhead on production and consumption.
This is "good" MMT.
Bad MMT furthers the debt burden on society, concentrates monopolization and cements in central planning by parasitic private finance sector.


https://michael-hudson.com/2020/04/covid-plan-more-capital-gains-not-profits/

[Apr 21, 2020] On monetary policy: there is always money for corporate welfare, the military, tax relief and benefits for the oligarchy but never money for health care, education, infrastructure

Notable quotes:
"... The budget deficit is simply a ruse to make you believe that government funding is limited when in reality they create money on demand with a few keystrokes. ..."
"... Thus there is always money for corporate welfare, the military, tax relief and benefits for the oligarchy but never money for health care, education, infrastructure, etc. ..."
Apr 21, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Noah Way , Apr 21 2020 16:42 utc | 75

@ #6 Passer by

In the broadest sense the US deficit is a measure of how much money the govt has created (not entirely accurate as the creation of money - really debt - has been largely outsourced to private banks). If the national debt was 'paid off' It would suck all the money out of society and the economy would collapse.

The Fed doesn't need taxes as revenue as it just creates whatever money it needs. The budget deficit is simply a ruse to make you believe that government funding is limited when in reality they create money on demand with a few keystrokes.

Thus there is always money for corporate welfare, the military, tax relief and benefits for the oligarchy but never money for health care, education, infrastructure, etc. The deficit is 1/2 of a balance sheet, the deficit on the govt side is balanced by a surplus (money in circulation) in the economy. Note that states are revenue constrained and depend on taxes and federal outlays to operate as they cannot create their own money on demand.

But what about inflation? Too much money in circulation lowers its value. Taxes are the real federal economic regulatory mechanism. When there is inflation, higher taxes directly remove money from circulation. The disinformation campaign is that interest rates control inflation, which has a) repeatedly been demonstrated false and b) is simply another system of rewards for the banking cartel.

The best metaphor is a sink. The faucet is the creation of money, the basin is the economy, and the drain is taxes. When the sink starts to overflow (inflation) the solution is to open up the drain (raise taxes).

Note also that this is for a sovereign economy, one that is controlled by the government. The EU has effectively destroyed all the sovereign economies in Europe with its central bank. Thus Greece, Italy, Spain, etc. have no control of their own economies and as such are unable to economically regulate themselves and subject to foreign predatory forces.

gm , Apr 21 2020 16:51 utc | 77

@Posted by: Noah Way | Apr 21 2020 16:42 utc | 75

Shorter version: "Deficits Don't Matter" Dick Cheney, 2002.
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2004-01-12-0401120168-story.html

[Mar 15, 2020] While it is still popular to claim that the United States has never defaulted on its debt, this is a myth

Mar 15, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Likklemore , Mar 14 2020 22:42 utc | 44

@c1ue 28 and 30

Given that 2/3rds or more of the debt is owed to Americans

suggest you whisper that to the Chinese, other sovereign holders and non-US individuals - you know those Tbills and Tbonds.

Nobody has a better credit rating than the USG - because the USG can literally not default.

Really? Why did S&P downgrade US credit rating in 2014?

and

what do you think happened on August 15 1971? that date can be categorized as recent!

LINK


[.]
While it is still popular to claim that the United States has never defaulted on its debt, this is a myth. The US has been forced to default a couple of times throughout history, the last of which being when Richard Nixon&rsquo closed the gold window. By cutting the ability of foreign governments to redeem US dollars for gold, America was allowed to pay back past debt with devalued fiat money. This form of default has long been a popular option for governments with debt obligations it can't or won't honor.

Of course, as Peter Klein wrote last week, even Trump's suggestion of the US restructuring its debt isn't the doomsday scenario CNBC talking heads have made it out to be, noting that:

[T]he idea that the US can never restructure or even repudiate the national debt -- that US Treasuries must always be treated as a unique and magical "risk-free" investment -- is wildly speculative at best, preposterous at worst.

Murray Rothbard himself advocated for outright repudiating the national debt, arguing:

The government is an organization, so why not liquidate the assets of that organization and pay the creditors (the government bondholders) a pro-rata share of those assets? This solution would cost the taxpayer nothing, and, once again, relieve him of $200 billion in annual interest payments. The United States government should be forced to disgorge its assets, sell them at auction, and then pay off the creditors accordingly.

Trump himself has even touched on the possibility of selling of assets held by the Federal government as a form of debt reduction.[.]

Oops then there was 1979 said caused by word-processing error
so we defaulted on some of them."

c1ue dear friend, the current level of US debt is unsustainable. Never mind the happy cheerleaders promoting mighty U.S. is the wealthiest nation on earth. Have no fear our dollar is good as gold, backed by the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam.

Here is a brief history of U.S.defaults starting with year 1790- LINK

[Nov 30, 2019] Practitioner's Guide to MMT

Part 1 and Part 2
Nov 30, 2019 | themacrotourist.com
              1. Danny November 28, 2019 at 3:27 pm

                Hal,
                Could you please comment on Dylan Ratigan's comment about $128 Billion being automatically pumped into the banker's hands without public comment by Dodd Frank?

                Is it the same thing as a repo? I'm a non-economist, just a simple fellow, that's getting the hang of this con game.

                https://www.greanvillepost.com/2019/11/15/jimmy-dore-with-dylan-ratigan-the-super-rich-have-no-country/

                After the 1 hour 39 minute mark here:
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23Dc2ZfpKmo

                Reply
                1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL November 28, 2019 at 6:16 pm

                  I watched the Ratigan video on your recommendation and agree it is a fundamental retelling that pulls the elements together better than anything I'd previously seen. And I completely agree with his assessment that this was the biggest theft in mankind's history.

                  The Fed's highest stated purpose is "the integrity and stability of the banking system". Problem is, that mission justifies anything and everything beneath it. They are not in the business of ensuring a bank obeys the law, and if they break the law, even the "business law" of making terrible business decisions, all the Fed thinks they are required to do is make them whole.

                  So you have a radically anti-capitalist structure at the tippy top of a supposedly "capitalist" system. And that's even before you even get to any discussion of secrecy, subterfuge or malfeasance.

                  Why are we not allowed to know who the recipients were of the *$21 trillion* (GAO number) of free Fed money after 2009? All we can do is follow the bread crumbs: we do know, for example, that 2/3rds of those dollars went to European institutions, including non-bank corporations. Huh? Q: That benefits the Main St U.S. economy how, again? A: It doesn't. This means you can pay no attention whatsoever to the ancillary Fed "missions" around U.S. employment and economic growth.

                  The $128B Ratigan mentions re Dodd-Frank is just a trickle in the tsunami of funds reaching bank coffers. Free money of course is funding massive share buybacks, the *only* cause of stock "rises" since 2009, but what completely infuriates me is what banks are doing around buybacks. It's one thing if buybacks benefit *all* shareholders, but the latest trick (esp by Jamie Dimon) is to take free money, buy back JPM shares, *but those shares are only given to Jamie himself and his top managers*.

                  (Of course until 1982 companies borrowing money to buy back their own shares was completely illegal since it's effect is stock price manipulation).

                  Repo is just a shorter term version of all of these other diverted flows. Completely under all radars, with no Congressional hearings or public scrutiny or oversight.

                  End the Fed.

                  Reply
                  1. Yves Smith Post author November 28, 2019 at 10:46 pm

                    No this is totally wrong and I don't have the time now to debunk it. Ratigan is not a funding markets expert and it shows.

                    Reply
                    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL November 29, 2019 at 1:51 am

                      I always love to be wrong because it means I get to be right again. I'm not a funding market expert either, but I hope you're just correctlng Ratigan's views on the $128B, not the entirety of my ramble? Thx Yves

                  2. cnchal November 28, 2019 at 11:40 pm

                    Interesting comment Dylan made regarding politicians.

                    The political system rewards those that are the best at raising money and character assasination.

                    Trump assassinates his own character better than anyone else. Bernie is great at raising lots of money with small donations from many people.

                    Bernie or bust.

                    Reply
              2. Yves Smith Post author November 28, 2019 at 10:45 pm

                *Sigh*

                I don't write about the repo mess because the commentary on it is generally terrible. This is not "monetizing debt". This is "providing liquidity to the money markets" which is what the Fed is supposed to do!!!

                The Fed got itself into a corner with super low rates and QE. It also stupidly decided to manage short term rates via interest on reserves. Prior to 2008, the Fed intervened in the repo markets every bloody day to hit the target rate and no one cared.

                The Fed drained liquidity too fast. It's been caught out and has had to go into reverse big time. Its refusal to admit that is why everyone is overreacting to the liquidity injections.

                Reply
                1. skippy November 28, 2019 at 11:03 pm

                  You just can't washout that commodity money stain in some peoples minds .

                  Reply
                2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL November 29, 2019 at 1:54 am

                  42 days seems longish to apply to the overnight money markets, no? Macro Voices/Alhambra have a very different perspective

                  Reply
            1. Yves Smith Post author November 28, 2019 at 10:41 pm

              Yes, MMT proponents oppose a UBI (or BGI). They want a Job Guarantee. They argue that setting a floor on the price of labor is a much more important way to regulate the economy than diddling with interest rates, plus it increases the productive capacity of an economy, which increases prosperity.

              The will accept a UBI that is lower than a JG as a sort of disability income.

              Reply
      1. xkeyscored November 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm

        Thank you for that link. It certainly sounds like real life, and they say their models predict inequality in various countries to within 1%.
        Any single agent in this economy could have become the oligarch -- in fact, all had equal odds if they began with equal wealth. In that sense, there was equality of opportunity. But only one of them did become the oligarch, and all the others saw their average wealth decrease toward zero as they conducted more and more transactions. To add insult to injury, the lower someone's wealth ranking, the faster the decrease.
        once we have some variance in wealth, however minute, succeeding transactions will systematically move a "trickle" of wealth upward from poorer agents to richer ones, amplifying inequality until the system reaches a state of oligarchy. If the economy is unequal to begin with, the poorest agent's wealth will probably decrease the fastest. Where does it go? It must go to wealthier agents because there are no poorer agents. Things are not much better for the second-poorest agent. In the long run, all participants in this economy except for the very richest one will see their wealth decay exponentially.
        the presence of symmetry breaking puts paid to arguments for the justness of wealth inequality that appeal to "voluntariness" -- the notion that individuals bear all responsibility for their economic outcomes simply because they enter into transactions voluntarily -- or to the idea that wealth accumulation must be the result of cleverness and industriousness. It is true that an individual's location on the wealth spectrum correlates to some extent with such attributes, but the overall shape of that spectrum can be explained to better than 0.33 percent by a statistical model that completely ignores them.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee November 28, 2019 at 8:52 pm

          From "The Highlander:" "In the end, there can be only one."

          Reply

[Nov 28, 2019] Making Sense of the National Debt

Nov 28, 2019 | research.stlouisfed.org

It will be interesting to see how China responds in reality to the naked hegemony of the US law just passed and signed by Trump about HK. Is China ready to stand up to the bully of dying empire or be cowed into slicing their response even thinner and thinner but not saying NO MORE!

We do live in interesting times.

Transferring my post to this thread, about the decline of US fertility rates:

Japanification of the USA:

Birthrates in the U.S. are falling. Abortions have also hit an all-time low

As we all know, constant population growth is essential for the survival of capitalism, since it is one of the main factors that slow down its tendency of the profit rate to fall. The article seems to agree with this:

Birthrates have been trending downward overall since 2005, sparking concern about potential economic and cultural ramifications. Keeping the number of births within a certain range, called the "replacement level," ensures the population level will remain stable. A low birthrate runs the risk that the country will not be able to replace the workforce and have enough tax revenue, while a high birthrate can cause shortages of resources.

Another related article approaches the issue from another angle:

Social counterrevolution and the decline in US life expectancy

Virginia Commonwealth University professor Dr. Steven H. Woolf and Eastern Virginia Medical School student Heidi Schoomaker analyzed life expectancy data for the years 1959-2016 and cause-specific mortality rates for 1999-2017. The data shows that the decline in life expectancy is not a statistical anomaly, but the outcome of a decades-long assault on the working class.

So, this is not an "anomaly". If it isn't, then there's an underlying cause, which the same article hypothetizes:

Obamacare was part of a deliberate drive by the ruling class to lower the life expectancy of working people. As far as the strategists of American capitalism are concerned, the longer the lifespan of elderly and retired workers, who no longer produce profits for the corporations but require government-subsidized medical care to deal with health issues, the greater the sums that are diverted from the coffers of the rich and the military machine.

A 2013 paper by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) frankly presented the increasing longevity of ordinary Americans as an immense crisis for US imperialism. "The US does not face any foreign threat as serious as its failure to come to grips with the rise in the cost of federal entitlement spending," Cordesman wrote, saying the debt crisis was driven "almost exclusively by the rise in federal spending on major health care programs, Social Security, and the cost of net interest on the debt."

Meanwhile, conditions for the rich have never been better. This is reflected in the growing life expectancy gap between the rich and the poor. The richest one percent of men live 14 years longer than the poorest one percent, and the richest one percent of women 10 years longer than the poorest.

I wasn't aware of this CSIS report. If true, then this is indeed a very interesting hypothesis.

--//--

The thing I don't understand in the WSWS article linked above is this:

The first nodal point, in the early 1980s, corresponds to the initiation of the social counterrevolution by the administration of Ronald Reagan, which involved union busting, strikebreaking, wage-cutting and plant closings on a nationwide scale, combined with cuts in education, health care and other social programs.

So, Ronald Reagan did a "counterrevolution". That means there was a revolution before him, which I suppose is the post-war "Keynesian consensus", the "golden age of capitalism" of 1945-1975.

I really can't understand the logic behind the Trotskyists: they condemn the USSR and China as "stalinists", i.e. as counterrevolutionaries. But Harry Truman was a revolutionary? Dwight Eisenhower was a revolutionary? Clement Attlee was a revolutionary? De Gaulle was revolutionary?

What kind of nonsense is this?

What is most funny is that these same Trotskyists from the same WSWS website use the rise of labor strikes in China to argue China is a capitalist empire -- but uses the same strikes as evidence there was a revolution in the West during the post-war (by negative, since Reagan's "counterrevolution" was characterized by "union busting, strikebreaking, wage-cutting and plant closings on a nationwide scale, combined with cuts in education, health care and other social programs").

I think Trotskyism is having an identity crisis. They don't know if they are essentially a movement whose objective is essentially to tarnish Stalin's image or if they are closeted social-democrats. They forgot Trotsky fought for the revolution, not personal vendetta.

Posted by: vk | Nov 28 2019 15:44 utc | 12

[Aug 02, 2019] 'Dr Doom' economist Nouriel Roubini in Bitcoin battle

Aug 02, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

(Ron) Weakley , July 23, 2019 at 03:30 AM

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48852059

'Dr Doom' economist Nouriel Roubini in Bitcoin battle


3 July 2019


Outspoken economist Nouriel Roubini, nicknamed Dr Doom for his gloomy warnings, has caused a stir with his latest attack on Bitcoin and its fellow cryptocurrencies.

Prof Roubini, who foresaw the financial crisis, says Bitcoin is "overhyped".

At a summit in Taiwan on Tuesday, he likened it to a "cesspool".

But his sparring partner at the event, who runs a cryptocurrency exchange, has angered the professor by blocking the release of video of the event.

Arthur Hayes, the chief executive of the BitMex exchange, controls the rights to footage of their debate, which took place during the Asia Blockchain Summit.


In a post on Twitter, Prof Roubini said he "destroyed" Mr Hayes in the debate and called him a "coward" for not making it available...

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 03:34 AM
Oh, RE: The Great Crypto Heist

Jul 16, 2019 | Nouriel Roubini

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/cryptocurrency-exchanges-are-financial-scams-by-nouriel-roubini-2019-07


Cryptocurrencies have given rise to an entire new criminal industry, comprising unregulated offshore exchanges, paid propagandists, and an army of scammers looking to fleece retail investors. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of rampant fraud and abuse, financial regulators and law-enforcement agencies remain asleep at the wheel.


NEW YORK – There is a good reason why every civilized country in the world tightly regulates its financial system. The 2008 global financial crisis, after all, was largely the result of rolling back financial regulation. Crooks, criminals, and grifters are a fact of life, and no financial system can serve its proper purpose unless investors are protected from them...

*

[Go get 'em Doctor Doom. Does he know that this is a feature and not a bug?]

Joe -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 03:55 AM
Wild traders are a feature, not a bug.

Wild traders are always here, as Doctor Doom points out. They are there when we use rocks, when we used sea shells, when we used paper and now crypto, the wild traders remain.

Regulate as much as Dr. Doom thinks regulators should regulate. But do not deploy government bean counters looking for stone age rocks under our matress, we are using digital crypto instead.

Just yesterday Daimler announce a completely independent hard wallet for crypto use, in a car. They are giving a car all the freedom to hold bearer assets in crypto form. The car needs this to automate much of the car industry functions from gas taxes to used car sales. So tell Dr. Doom to complain about car industry violating financial regulations.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Joe... , July 23, 2019 at 04:11 AM
The crypto casino was created so that speculators could profit from the money laundering industry that provides investor liquidity to the back end of the human and illegal narcotics trafficking industry. It was built on the anti-bank angst that emerged after the financial crisis. It gives organized crime the legitimacy that they need to spend their enormous wealth that is generated by so many ruined lives. Fools have always run with dicks. They just do not know any better.
Joe -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 05:39 AM
The crypto casinos were created to automate trading. Crypto insures that a bot trading obeys the prior contract, and thus great simplifies transactions everywhere, from the Fed down to you and me with significant savings, at least 1% increase in productivity.

We have a technology change happening. You get the wildcatters, they don't scare me, so Dr. Doom is likely missing something here. More than likely he is short sided, looking at this one thing and ignoring the fact that this is our 7th or 8th time we have changed money tech. How did we do it last time? Wildcatters, hysterics, and failure to read history. Worked fine then.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Joe... , July 23, 2019 at 09:51 AM
Crypto currencies are not money. They are just private scrip. Only demand give them exchange value and only crooks and speculators have any demand for scrip born of the daughters of ENIAC. To believe otherwise is to be a sovereign fool.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 10:05 AM
Actual automated trading algorithms run on computers all the time and have been for decades now, no cryptocurrencies required.
Julio -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , August 01, 2019 at 07:50 AM
The Empire, in all its wisdom, has declared some countries as illegal, unworthy of using the banking system. And then, sanctioned anyone who does business with those illegals. So, it is illegals all the way down, in our ever-expanding WOE (War On Everyone).

This has generated interest in cryptocurrencies from some of those crooks and criminals (aka "other countries").

Julio -> Joe... , July 23, 2019 at 10:01 AM
You are too focused on the technology. Banks are not there just to conduct transactions, they are there to track them and report to the government. They are required to know something about the people behind the transactions.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Julio ... , July 23, 2019 at 10:07 AM
Joe appears to miss the significance of underlying technology as much as anything else. Joe's focus is directed somewhere inside his own mind that is separated from any reality that I am aware of.
Joe -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 11:56 AM
No, we are using cryptography everywhere, from cars to toys to wallets. Dr. Doom fails to see this happening, happening as sure as we switched from metal to paper. Dr. Doom wants more regulation of shadow banking, fine, why not say that out loud?

His ability to regulated shadow bankers has nothing to do with technology. Crypto is no different than the embedded water mark on paper, same technology. Both regulators and regulated have to adapt.

He has created a red Herring, a useless talking point to fool the delusionals, give them some worthless talking point.

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to Joe... , July 24, 2019 at 03:40 AM
Duh! Cryptography and cryptocurrencies are not the same thing.
kurt -> Joe... , July 25, 2019 at 04:07 PM
Crypto - the money laundering index.
mulp -> Joe... , July 23, 2019 at 02:26 PM
"Crypto insures that a bot trading obeys the prior contract, and thus great simplifies transactions everywhere, from the Fed down to you and me with significant savings, at least 1% increase in productivity."


Huh?

How does crypto ensure that my wages producing a thousand meals as a food worker will allow me to buy a thousand meals in the future? What I've seen is crypto turning a thousand meals produced into a contracct that will buy two thousand one day, but only 500 the next day.

kurt -> mulp ... , July 25, 2019 at 04:09 PM
Crypto really just wastes a bunch of computing power to solve a problem that only exists if you are trying to hide illegal transactions from governments. Crypto currency is a solution in search of problem unless you are engaged in laundering money, selling large quantities of drugs/guns/people/animals/other illegal products, or buying same. Governments should make it prosecutable wire fraud to use them.
anne -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 23, 2019 at 05:14 PM
The Roubini-Hayes video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlZukhN_C6c&t=12s

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to anne... , July 24, 2019 at 03:41 AM
thanks

[Jul 31, 2019] Tell me now, how did George Soros get so rich, and why was the Bretton Woods system abandoned?

Jul 31, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

David -> reason... ,

Thanks. I referred to Judy Shelton's book for the reasons to support the gold standard. But, I can list some of them here:
1) The gold standard was the core mechanism of Bretton-Woods that worked so well at keeping world prices stable, promoting growth, and tying the money supply to the real economy.
2) Free market currencies have led to speculation taking over from market exchange rates to support trade. Currency trading is ~100x the underlying trade in goods and services.
3) The exchange rates of currencies fluctuate far greater under a free market fiat currency system than under the gold standard
4) Fiat currencies are always subject to political intervention.
5) gold can't be faked or conjured into existence.
6) The gold supply grows about 2%/year, which has been stable for many decades.
7) gold, as a real commodity, ties money to the real economy rather than the financial markets.

canonicalthoughts.blogspot.com

kurt -> David ... , July 16, 2019 at 10:04 AM
1. Under the gold standard prices were much more unstable. This argument doesn't pass even the most modest scrutiny. https://www.minneapolisfed.org/community/financial-and-economic-education/cpi-calculator-information/consumer-price-index-1800

2. This has what to do with the gold standard? There was lots of currency trading under the gold standard. This is primarily a result of algorithmic trading.

3. True - but this is good. Why would this be bad?

4. This is why you have an independent central bank.

5. No but gold can also be hoarded. Please see Krugman's Baby Sitter Klatch article.

6. This is utterly absurd. Gold production stops when the price is too low, ramps up when it is high.

7. How is gold a commodity? 99% of the gold in the world sits in a basement being guarded by governments. It's only value is in making shiny things and the current supply is wildly more than there is demand for said shiny things. Ohhhh, Shiny! does not make something a commodity. If there were any large industrial applications for the metal maybe - but there really isn't.

David -> kurt... , July 16, 2019 at 11:33 AM
Thanks for the good points. Some clarification:
1) By world prices this means the exchange rate. Under Bretton-Woods the price of gold was set at $35/oz and other currencies were pegged to the dollar.
2) If the purpose of currency exchange is to facilitate trade, then this is the tail wagging the dog, and indicates a currency trading system that has become disconnected from its core purpose.
3) Price stability is a core goal of money. So that tomorrow I will be confident of what that money will be worth.
4) Independence is not disinterest. Central banking has shown itself to sway with political winds such as the German central bank in the 1990s, and the US central bank under Nixon.
5) Hoarding of gold, in the sense of cornering the market, is essentially impossible because of the wide distribution of gold in the world and because moving to gold in general would indicate a loss of confidence in a currency, which is good. (as long as we're saying good v. bad).
6) True. production is not that stable, but on average it is fairly constant. See Fig 1. : https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2002/of02-303/OFR_02-303.pdf
7) Not true. Again see the USGS publication. Most gold goes into jewelry, and so is held by the public. Much of the other gold goes into industry, dental

Total gold in the world, 3.4B troy oz (105,000 t) see: https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/gold/gold.pdf
Annual production ~2500t, which is about 2.4% of the total.

The reason to prefer gold, besides the above, is that most money created since 1971 has gone into the financial sector rather than the real economy. Thus, workers don't get a real raise, but financial instruments just keep going up with no limit.

http://canonicalthoughts.blogspot.com

reason -> David ... , July 17, 2019 at 08:06 AM
David,
tell me now, how did George Soros get so rich, and why was the Bretton Woods system abandoned?

5. Shows that you don't understand the issue. Hoarding doesn't have to corner the market to be an issue, it's just that rewards people who are creating a problem and so can create a vicious circle.

reason -> reason... , July 17, 2019 at 08:30 AM
P.S. 2% is way too low. Money needs to expand at least enough to match nominal GDP - and that assumes that the rate of savings and circulation velocity are constant. And if prices are absolutely constant how will people ever pay off debts. People have to pay back the nominal capital of a loan. If income/head in nominal terms is relatively constant (in some countries at some times there will be actual deflation) then compared to the current situation in situations of absolute price stability delinquency rates will rise. You quote the 50/60s as a golden - what were inflation rates like then (answer >2% with real growth of >5% so >7% nominal GDP growth)?
David -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 16, 2019 at 08:50 AM
Gold is not a great system for a money supply, but its the best one we have so far. Other commodities could be used as the means of value and settlement, but they are far less convenient and have other properties that are not as good as gold.

Perhaps a global crypto currency will take the place of gold in the future? It would need to be of a fixed amount that does not change over time, and secure against hacking. So, maybe not.

canonicalthoughts.blogspot.com

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to David ... , July 16, 2019 at 10:11 AM
[Great answer inasmuch as changing the question is always the best answer when one has no answer to some obvious questions.

OTOH, the US dollar based global reserve currency is a problem, although mostly for the US in just general economic terms, but a problem for the entire world in terms of limiting the use of carbon based fuels. Cheap oil is good for the dollar hegemon, but bad for supporting continued human existence on Earth.

Internationally managed reserve currency and FOREX institutional arrangements along the lines of Keynes's Bancor might be a better idea. Crypto currency is an invitation to black market traffickers and hackers. Primary support is from drug and sex trafficking. So, what is not to love?

The hard money crew in the US defeated Keynes's Bancor proposal at the Bretton Woods conference and basically all of the problems that the gold bugs complain about today have been the results of following their preferred policy path after WWII.]

https://theweek.com/articles/626620/how-john-maynard-keynes-most-radical-idea-could-save-world

How John Maynard Keynes' most radical idea could save the world

As the Second World War was drawing to a close, the economic experts of the Allies met in a New Hampshire resort to try to hammer out an international monetary system that would help prevent a recurrence of the Great Depression. The ensuing debate centered around two main proposals, one from the British delegation and one from the American. John Maynard Keynes, the greatest economist of the 20th century, presented the British case while Harry Dexter White, one of FDR's key economic advisers, presented the American one.

Keynes lost on many key points. The result was the Bretton Woods system, named after the small town in which the conference was held. As part of the agreement, it also created what would later become the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. That served as the system of managing international trade and currencies for nearly three decades. Today the IMF and World Bank survive, but Bretton Woods was broken in 1971 when Nixon suspended the convertibility of the dollar into gold.

Yet most of the problems that spurred the creation of Bretton Woods have since returned in only somewhat less dire form. It's worth returning to Keynes' original, much more ambitious idea for an international institution to manage the flow of goods and money around the globe.


The basic problem with international trade is that imbalances can develop: Some countries get big export surpluses, while others necessarily develop big trade deficits (since the world cannot be in surplus or deficit with itself). And because countries typically must borrow to finance trade deficits, it's a quick and easy recipe for a crash in those countries when their ability to take on more debt reaches its limit. It's not as bad for surplus countries, since they will not have a debt crisis or a collapse in the value of their currency, but they too will be hurt by the loss of export markets. This problem has haunted nations since well before the Industrial Revolution.

Nations like Germany with a large export surplus often portray it as resulting from their superior virtue and technical skill. But the fundamental reality of such a surplus is that it requires someone to buy the exports. As Yanis Varoufakis points out in his new book, without some sort of permanent mechanism to recycle that surplus back into deficit countries, the result will be eventual disaster. It's precisely what caused the initial economic crisis in Greece that is still ongoing.

Bretton Woods addressed this problem with a set of rather ad hoc measures. The dollar would be pegged to a particular amount of gold, and semi-fixed exchange rates for other currencies were to be fixed around that. In keeping with White's more orthodox economic views, all trade imbalances were to be solved on the deficit side. There was no limit to the surplus nations could build up (importantly, at the time the U.S. was a huge exporter), and the IMF was tasked with shoring up countries having serious trade deficit problems by enforcing austerity and tight money. (This would lead to repeated disaster for developing countries.)

Keynes' idea, by contrast, was substantially more ambitious. He proposed an overarching "International Clearing Union" that potentially every country in the world could join. It would create a new reserve currency, the "bancor," that could only be used for settling international accounts, and member nations would pay a membership quota in proportion to their total trade. Countries in surplus would receive bancor credit, while those in deficit would have a negative account.

The union was also explicitly aimed at facilitating increased trade overall (also unlike Bretton Woods). And critically, it would incentivize nations to keep their trade balanced on both sides -- surplus and deficit. Run too far into deficit, and a country would be required to devalue to reduce imports. But run too far into surplus, and a country's currency would be required to appreciate so as to increase imports. A bancor tax would also be levied at an increasing rate on anyone with a large trade imbalance.


There's much more to the story, but the fundamental idea is fairly simple. As Keynes wrote in his original proposal, the basic "principle is the necessary equality of credits and debits, of assets and liabilities. If no credits can be removed outside the clearing system but only transferred within it, the Union itself can never be in difficulties."

For the postwar generation, Bretton Woods worked tolerably well -- and it certainly was a vast improvement on the prewar gold standard. But its mechanisms were far less legible, and required constant good-faith efforts from various nations, particularly Germany and the U.S., to work properly. More importantly, it relied on large American surpluses to soak up the huge aid that was being sent to Europe under the Marshall Plan, a goodly portion of which was used to buy American-made exports. When the U.S. moved to deficit, the system broke down within only a few years.


Keynes' plan, by contrast, would likely have had the flexibility to adapt to a massive 180 degree shift in the balance of trade. It is also far more transparent and comprehensible to average people, perhaps disrupting the excessive pride of surplus countries to some extent. And if it were to be created in the future, it would be under effective supervision from the member states. The vast carnage inflicted by the unaccountable, supranational European Central Bank is too stark to ignore.

It would undoubtedly take years and years to build and update Keynes proposal to where it might be implemented. But the problems it is designed to address will always keep cropping up. Perhaps after the eurozone implodes, the world will get another chance to do it right.


*

[The rallying cry of the gold bugs is "Idiots of the world unite," which is very effective given the considerable majority held by idiots in the electorates of republics and among their controlling elites both public and private.]


David -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 16, 2019 at 11:42 AM
Under Bretton-Woods no trade imbalances were possible because of the settlement mechanism in gold. The deficit nations (that imported more than exported) would have to settle by transferring gold out in the amount of the deficit. Thus, in effect selling the commodity of gold for the excess imports. This all works well if the imbalances are periodically settled by the gold transfers, which didn't happen as many countries simply held onto the currencies, and if trade is balanced.

Balance of trade is the key to stable trade. All imbalances eventually come back into balance. The question is: will this happen in a smooth orderly manner, like under Bretton-Woods, or in a calamity where for example the dollar crashes?

http://canonicalthoughts.blogspot.com

RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to David ... , July 16, 2019 at 12:16 PM
"...This all works well if the imbalances are periodically settled by the gold transfers, which didn't happen as many countries simply held onto the currencies, and if trade is balanced..."

*

[You are getting warmer, but still no cigar and a whole lot of cart before the horse. What happened under the original Bretton Woods agreement was that surplus traders held onto their US dollar reserves while convertibility (more to silver than gold - which we hold) kept the US dollar from becoming overvalued under the simultaneous pressures of what remained small US trade deficits and growing foreign reserves of US dollars. This was not a gold standard per se, but rather the establishment of the US dollar, the currency of the dominant global economic power, as the global reserve currency for foreign held reserves and also the dominant currency of international trade exchange. Trade remained relatively well balanced because convertibility limited how overvalued the dollar could maintain itself under trade deficits despite its broadly held status as the dominate global reserve currency.

The end of Bretton Woods US dollar convertibility saw growing US trade deficits with simultaneous growth in US dollar denominated foreign reserves and an over-valued dollar which just accelerated US trade deficits even further. Bigger US trade deficits just fed into even larger USD foreign reserves. It was a vicious cycle of dollar over-valuation despite growing US trade deficits because surplus partners had relatively secure means of holding large USD reserves. The world's high demand for dollars was great for rentiers, arbitrage seekers, and global corporations. Trading partners could hold USD reserves to keep their currencies undervalued relative to the USD more successfully than with convertibility. OTOH, the US gained cheap access to global oil reserves and also US multinational corporations gained global price arbitrage advantages if they were willing to offshore much labor to countries with currencies undervalued relative to the dollar or merely countries with lower standards of living (i.e., real wages) and environmental protection standards for industrial production. Winning all three together on the same US dollar capital flow was the global price arbitrage trifecta. ]

David -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 16, 2019 at 01:21 PM
The US could have had it both ways in the sense that it could have run budget deficits by monetizing the dollar and causing inflation as it was starting to do in the late 1960s and maintain the international exchange rate. The mechanism to do this is US tariffs. This would have made imports to the US expensive and kept all those excess dollars from flowing overseas. The rational is balance of trade. As long as the current account is balanced the Bretton-Woods system would continue to function.
RC (Ron) Weakley said in reply to David ... , July 16, 2019 at 02:22 PM
The US went all in on free trade and eliminating tariffs when it implemented the income tax system to finance government operations spending in 1913. At the time the US dollar was underpriced against most European currencies in FOREX, particularly the pound sterling, and the US had a growing trade surplus which eventually contributed significantly to the settlements crisis under the gold standard that was a major cause for precipitating the Great Depression. Once that path was taken it became difficult to turn back since the wealthy build their rentier and arbitrage systems upon the world that is rather than some world that might be. Policy makers rely upon the stock of wealth both for campaign contributions and to raise their miserable lives into something of elite significance because of who they hang out with and in turn whose interests that they serve.

I understand it that if a frog had wings then it would not bump its ass every time that it leaped.

reason -> David ... , July 18, 2019 at 05:18 AM
The US consistently ran a trade surplus during the Bretton Woods period, but Bretton Woods was based on US dollars. So the world was being drained of US dollars (or the rest of the world of Gold). That is clearly not sustainable. There is a problem with unbalanced trade if it is either direction. Under Bretton Woods there was no penalty for mercantilism. You just need to know history to no that financial crises are nothing new and that a gold standard didn't prevent them, but in fact exacerbated them. I don't where you get your ideas from, but you should go back and read some history.
David -> reason... , July 17, 2019 at 10:32 AM
Yes, this beats around the bush as they say.

The real questions are:
1) During Bretton-Woods worker compensation grew with growth in productivity, but since the withdrawal in 1971, worker compensation has been flat. Why? And how to re-mediate this?
2) Why has so much of GDP shifted to financial speculation and away from the productive economy? And how to shift economic activity back to the productive sector?
3) Given our use of fiat currency, what limits the growth of the money supply in the financial sector? That is, what prevents financial instruments that are disconnected from the productive economy from creating an endless cycle of: new instruments drives new money to buy them, rinse and repeat...

anne -> David ... , July 17, 2019 at 04:46 PM
https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lSfN

January 30, 2018

Nonfarm business productivity and real compensation, 1948-2018

(Percent change)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=lSfP

January 30, 2018

Nonfarm business productivity and real compensation, 1948-2018

(Indexed to 1948)

David -> anne... , July 18, 2019 at 06:11 AM
Anne, thanks for the graphs.

The second one in particular lays out the issue quite clearly. It literally forms an arrow with the tip pointing to the divergent point where something major happened to create such a stark and durable systematic change.

reason -> David ... , July 19, 2019 at 02:19 AM
This is classical cargo cult thinking, these two things are correlated so one must have caused the other. There were lots of things changed at that time, I was there, I followed the debates (in which the world basically decided to follow some of what Milton Friedman said - and ignored some other things that he said - like negative interest rates and that money supply expansion should come mostly from expanding the central bank balance sheet - see also Robert Waldmann's explanation that Lucas and Friedman are methodical opposites and yet both belong to the "Chicago School"). You have to not only note a correlation, but also show the mechanism and control for other factors. Get to it.
reason -> reason... , July 19, 2019 at 02:37 AM
For your amusement.
http://ok-cleek.com/blogs/?p=27691
David -> reason... , July 19, 2019 at 04:31 AM
I agree, and am working on just that.
reason -> reason... , July 19, 2019 at 12:59 PM
oops - not negative interest rates - negative income tax.
reason -> David ... , July 18, 2019 at 12:19 AM
1. Other things happened at the same time (see tariffs, changes in laws related to unions, containerization and also relaxation of capital controls and banking regulation). You went from a world of relatively isolated economies (especially the US) to a world of tightly integrated economies. Bretton Woods fall had almost nothing to do with it.
2. Washington consensus that budget deficits are bad and monetary policy (i.e. encouraging private debt) are good. We need to expand the central bank balance sheet in line with nominal GDP and reduce private indebtedness again.

As I said read "Between Debt and the Devil".

reason -> reason... , July 18, 2019 at 12:27 AM
Not to mention what was happening demographically (which was massive). Sorry, I really should not have forgotten that. The real world matters.
David -> reason... , July 19, 2019 at 04:38 AM
True, but whatever the cause, to have such a sharp and clear divergence, one or more significant changes had to happen in a short span of time. Do those things mentioned above add up to enough of a cumulative durable change?
reason -> David ... , July 19, 2019 at 12:58 PM
But it wasn't a SHARP divergence at all. I actually wish that Anne had done the chart in terms of rates of change. Having it in terms of levels hides more than it shows. But think about this - there was a reason that Bretton Woods was abandoned - it didn't happen in a vacuum. Maybe you should ask why that happened.
Paine -> David ... , July 17, 2019 at 12:14 PM
Commodity money
Is our new friends preference

And as commodities go gold has a number of advantages
Over say concrete blocks or diamonds

Lots of clever souls would like to use an exchange medium that
Wasn't subject to modern state financial casuistry
And usually they aren't overly focused on the existing
Unregulated market systems hitches and loops
and
Perversities

Paine -> Paine ... , July 17, 2019 at 12:19 PM
The Recalcitrance of markets has always been a wish away reality

And price systems are often reified into angel dust

And shipped from Chicago FOB

mulp -> RC (Ron) Weakley... , July 17, 2019 at 04:15 PM
Cold mining costs have always tracked the monetary price of gold. Aka, the marginal price of a new ounce is the monetary price.

To get the cost of mining goold down to $20 in the late 20s, food, housing prices had tlo fall by slashing wages which cut demand for food forcing prices of food down by forcing wages down, thus gold miners could eat enough food to mine an ounce of gold.

When FDR set the price government paid for gold to $35 dollars, the number of gold miners, and gold ounces mined doubled in less than a year, and stayed up until government prohibited gold mining to reallocate labor to the war industrial production.

What we don't see is the actual marginal costs of gold mining in either the short or long run. The global gold mining cartel keeps all the data secret, eg, South Africa, Russia, which produce about half the gold aannually. They can easily bankrupt a big corporation investing in a new big mineing and refining operation by releasing some of their massive gold hoard at prices just below the corporation marginal cost plus debt service. The big driver of gold demand is Asia and Muslim consumption for gold hoops and rings so people, especially women have their wealth with them at all times.

anne -> mulp ... , July 17, 2019 at 04:40 PM
Aside:

MULP made an assertion a couple of days ago that there were far more empty beds in the country now that several decades ago. I questioned the assertion, since there was no supporting data, but now I am finding the data in Census tracts and know MULP was correct. Family and household sizes have been declining for decades.

Thank you MULP.

[Jul 22, 2019] As with all things public and private, public money is not required to make a profit, but in contrast, private money has no other reason to exist than to make a profit.

Jul 22, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Grieved , Jul 22 2019 5:46 utc | 107

Regarding money, and the difference between private and public money.

As with all things public and private, public money is not required to make a profit, but in contrast, private money has no other reason to exist than to make a profit.

What we call money in the US, is privately owned. It is actually a promissory note, the signifier of a loan made to those who hold the note. This is how US money comes into existence.

We could trade coconut shells, or beads, but we trade promissory notes. They are legal tender by law. And they fulfill the role of money pretty well. But we the people do not ultimately own those obligations.

Public money is issued out of the same thin air as private money, but not as a debt, simply as an issuance. The bills do their job for exchange and storage, and circulate until being retired as taxes and the like. No one pays interest on that money.

Public money doesn't charge interest. Private money charges interest. This is the only difference, and this difference is killing us and destroying the entire world.

~~

Professor Richard Werner illustrates nicely how a mortgage comes into existence through a bank, which doesn't actually create money in this loan, but purchases a promissory note from the home buyer. It is this promissory note that then enters the public record as new money, which we then trade like sea shells - happy children, except that we now will pay interest of more than 100 percent over the next 30 years. This interest is the profit on the private money.

The Finance Curse

You'll find the mortgage part specifically around 16:15.

~~

As to all the rest, there is much more collateral, including the flagship work by Helen Brown. Sorry I have no time to supply more links.

But I'm surprised to see so much wordy ignorance here on the subject, which is actually very simple (although obfuscated, of course). Thanks to psychohistorian and karlof1 and others who show that the good economists are all calling for public money which charges no interest. And the communists and socialists do this as a matter of course.

As Hudson ended in his address cited by b and discussed here: "nations face a choice between socialism and barbarism" .

Neoliberal economics and private finance is this very barbarism. It is accompanied by fascism, oppression and the utter loss of freedom. As I cited in my previous comment, Dambisa Moyo suggests very cogently that economic sufficiency undergirds democratic freedom. The corollary is obvious: as we get more impoverished, freedom flees away.

~~

Interest charged on a loan is a claim on wealth that it doesn't create. It therefore steals existing wealth in order to be redeemed. That's where our wealth went, and why we're all so broke.

A loan for a productive purpose that will create new wealth can hopefully afford to slice some of this new wealth off to pay the interest. It's still usury. But any loan at interest that doesn't create wealth - such as a mortgage that simply buys an existing asset - is something vastly more wicked.

[Jul 22, 2019] T>here's a fundamental difference between debt in the past and debt today. In the past debt was owed to the state, today it's owed to some wealthy corporations. Good luck with debt jubilees in the absence of violent uprisings.

Notable quotes:
"... As Mael Colium says, the US picks off individual countries by isolating them. ..."
"... there's a fundamental difference between debt in the past and debt today. In the past debt was owed to the state, today it's owed to some wealthy corporations. Good luck with debt jubilees in the absence of violent uprisings. ..."
"... The difference is they internalize profit and externalize cost. And that's fundamentally different from all other epochs in the past. Even the birth of nation state was out of their rationalization of how to maximize profit extraction and cost externalization in the 1st place. Good luck with debt jubilees. ..."
"... How would this occur aside from a repudiation of the almighty buck one wonders, and would it be based on reserves in the vault, or actual use as money? ..."
"... The Eurozone and China could run trade deficits, thereby creating an opportunity for their currencies to become reasonably viable alternative reserves. But they don't because they don't want to cede control of their manufacturing and export-driven economic bases away. ..."
"... The sine qua non of our economic empire (which I learned here) is that a global currency requires global trade deficits, which must grow as quickly as the global economy to fulfill its role. ..."
"... So American deficits are structural. Our debt-ceiling controversies are theater. And our dollar is exceptional until the instant it isn't–then the Fed electron-tranfers trillions more to the speculators whose notional dollars just evaporated, keeping the currencies in the air with their new casino chips. Is this a loan? A gift? An electron cloud? It's the fog of war by other means . . . ..."
"... Resources and the critical health of the planet bother me a lot. Money and "gold" are, in the end, both fictitious obsessions. ..."
"... You'll find few authors willing to provide their seminal work for free online– 2nd Edition PDF . I think it fair for those unfamiliar with Hudson's work to read his analysis prior to being judgmental. ..."
Jul 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

"On a similar note, I've wondered why Russia has not defaulted on it's considerable USD and EUR debt (also too, why is Russia still doing debt in USD and thus strengthening U.S.?)"

It should be noted that Russia has almost zero foreign public debt and that the private foreign debt has been much reduced and now amounts to US dollars 450 billion.

As Russia has a surplus of more than US dollars 100 billion on the current account the total foreign debt amounts to 4 years current account surplus only.

Ad to this that Russias international currency reserves amounts to ca. US dollars 500 billion which meens that Russia is in a very strong fiscal position as it is capable of paying off its entire foreign debt any time it chooses.


Ian Perkins , July 21, 2019 at 9:16 am

Along the same lines, the summary starts with, "The first existential objective is to avoid the current threat of war by winding down U.S. military interference in foreign countries and removing U.S. military bases as relics of neocolonialism."

Either would be taken as proof of evil anti-US intentions, leading to sanctions, coups, assassinations, regime change, and eventually outright war. As Mael Colium says, the US picks off individual countries by isolating them.

Off The Street , July 21, 2019 at 9:19 am

Peripherally related MMT 2nd of 3 articles

jsn , July 21, 2019 at 11:50 am

When we have MMT paying for arts, history, journalism and particularly editors, I won't be so irritated by these kinds of criticisms.

We live in a very advanced world of Bernaysian propaganda where the communicative industries are privately owned and directed to ensure deep criticisms of the hyper-exploitative current reality CANNOT be published and promoted.

When someone takes the effort to produce something, like this or the book other commenters on this thread are also slighting, at great personal expense to themselves without corporate backing or institutional support, a decent reply would be "Thank you!", rather than tasking them or our hosts here at this site to "go back and clean up this mess??"

If you had any decency, you might suggest clarifying edits in comments, like changing "– so that it can taxing its own citizens." at the end of the 23rd paragraph to, "– so that it can avoid taxing its own citizens", to help the people you are criticizing for making things so difficult for you.

Jonathan Holland Becnel , July 21, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Michael Hudson is a modern day Saint! Who cares about a few typos when his ideas are truly REVOLUTIONARY!

For example, i had no idea about Debt Jubilees in early civilizations 3000 years ago! The pyramids built by FREE MEN! Liberty and Freedom originating from canceling debts! Torches and Beacons of light as representatives of said Debt Jubilees!

If you ask me, the #HudsonHawk is trying to awaken the Workers of the World in Forgiveness, Peace, Love, and Solidarity.

HUDSON 2024

softie , July 21, 2019 at 3:27 pm

I didn't know that until I read anthropologist David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

But there's a fundamental difference between debt in the past and debt today. In the past debt was owed to the state, today it's owed to some wealthy corporations. Good luck with debt jubilees in the absence of violent uprisings.

Kurtismayfield , July 21, 2019 at 5:20 pm

And those corporations get favorable rates on money printed by the government.. and the government backs trillions in mortgage and student loans.

Not much different.

softie , July 21, 2019 at 10:22 pm

The difference is they internalize profit and externalize cost. And that's fundamentally different from all other epochs in the past. Even the birth of nation state was out of their rationalization of how to maximize profit extraction and cost externalization in the 1st place. Good luck with debt jubilees.

Wukchumni , July 21, 2019 at 10:15 am

That is why Russia, China and other powers that U.S. strategists deem to be strategic rivals and enemies are looking to restore gold's role as the preferred asset to settle payments imbalances.

How would this occur aside from a repudiation of the almighty buck one wonders, and would it be based on reserves in the vault, or actual use as money?

Keep in mind that there isn't a human alive now who ever proffered a monetized gold coin in order to purchase something, and increasingly relatively few that have ever used a monetized silver coin for the same purpose.

Clive , July 21, 2019 at 10:44 am

I don't have a huge amount of sympathy. The Eurozone and China could run trade deficits, thereby creating an opportunity for their currencies to become reasonably viable alternative reserves. But they don't because they don't want to cede control of their manufacturing and export-driven economic bases away.

The US doesn't mind and doesn't care about the domestic repercussions. For how much longer that can continue, especially as Trump's America First policy is putting that under some strain, is an open question. But for now, it's willing to be satisfied with a little rowing back rather than wholesale reversal (back to, for example, an immediate-post war position of significant trade surpluses although the article is correct to point out this was due to the US being the last man standing, in terms of having a manufacturing base still intact).

The Eurozone and China are not only not showing any signs of a policy change, they've continued embedding and strengthening the current modus operandi. You pays your money, you takes your choices. Here as elsewhere. If they'd rather not have the US$ having a more-or-less monopoly position in then global financial system as a reserve currency, they'll need to make the compromises needed to set up these challenger currencies as viable alternatives.

But they can't have their economic cakes and eat them, too.

And it's not just currencies. You need legal systems which are deemed to be (which can only come through real, observational experience) investor-friendly -- not just prone to supporting or at the very least given an easy ride to domestic stalwarts. Again, this has repercussions if you then have to stop cosseting domestic "champions". The US legal system is ridiculously business friendly. But it doesn't, overtly, differentiate between US and non-US companies in a commercial dispute.

barefoot charley , July 21, 2019 at 11:31 am

The sine qua non of our economic empire (which I learned here) is that a global currency requires global trade deficits, which must grow as quickly as the global economy to fulfill its role. Tell that to Germany! If your silly little euro or yen or renminbi tries to go global, the dollar-based currency speculators will shrivel it like Soros did the pound in the 90s.

So American deficits are structural. Our debt-ceiling controversies are theater. And our dollar is exceptional until the instant it isn't–then the Fed electron-tranfers trillions more to the speculators whose notional dollars just evaporated, keeping the currencies in the air with their new casino chips. Is this a loan? A gift? An electron cloud? It's the fog of war by other means . . .

It may have been Hudson who explained that a quarter (or was it half?) of all corporate profits after WWII went to American companies, when our economy was that much of the world's. Now we're a much smaller fraction of the global economy, but our corporate sector still profits as much as it did when it was producing, rather than marketing, real goods. Another exceptional achievement.

Summer , July 21, 2019 at 1:20 pm

Really all we know is that such a plan would create a different order. That so many countries have continued to pauper their populations long after the obviousness that "development" is a sham doesn't bode well for their intentions even after the USA is brought to heel.

hunkerdown , July 22, 2019 at 5:20 am

Agreed. The likes of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership are still under negotiation and still, like every other multilateral investment agreement of recent vintage, apparently primarily concerned with creating supranational rights for landlords, especially of the absentee variety, at the expense of citizens in their collective capacity.

Susan the other` , July 21, 2019 at 2:30 pm

This is a good summary of our irrational world. MMT and the GND can save the situation but only if we industrialized humans forego any more fossil fuels except for long-term survival purposes. Ration it with draconian discipline. That in turn will discipline our military and turn our energies to things we can no longer ignore. Money doesn't bother me much. Resources and the critical health of the planet bother me a lot. Money and "gold" are, in the end, both fictitious obsessions.

karlof1 , July 21, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Thanks for providing this transcript prior to Hudson posting it to his own website. He was the first political-economist to lay out the Outlaw US Empire's game plan when he published Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire in 1972.

You'll find few authors willing to provide their seminal work for free online– 2nd Edition PDF . I think it fair for those unfamiliar with Hudson's work to read his analysis prior to being judgmental.

[Jul 22, 2019] I think Calvin and his role in today's debt based monetary system is much underestimated

Jul 22, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Alexander P , Jul 22 2019 13:09 utc | 138

@84 Karlof1

I think Calvin and his role in today's debt based monetary system is much underestimated. The meteoric rise of the seven provinces and what was to become the Dutch colonial empire was in no small part funded and financed by this debt based system in the latter half of the 16th century. The same applied shortly afterwards to the UK. The book passage I quoted from is from Devaluing the Scholastics: Calvin's Ethics of Usury .

[Jul 22, 2019] The world is in WWIII which is between private and public finance. To characterize the private finance side as being just the US is obfuscation

Jul 22, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

psychohistorian , Jul 21 2019 15:20 utc | 2

I read the Michael Hudson piece and shake my head at the manifest obfuscation at play

The world is in WWIII which is between private and public finance. To characterize the private finance side as being just the US is obfuscation

Global private finance exists outside the bounds of any one nation state and the US is just the current face of the centuries of empires under this model.

Why is the West unable to have a discussion about the core component to the world war we are engaged in?

Sad comment on the successful brainwashing at work here.....that is why I call the web site Michael Hudson's writing is provided at ALMOST Naked Capitalism

Wake the rest of the way up fellow humans of the West.

John Merryman , Jul 21 2019 15:39 utc | 4

psychohistorian,

The essential problem is that money functions as a contract, with one side an asset and the other a debt, but as we experience it as quantified hope and security, we try to save and store it. Thus Econ 101 tells us it is both medium of exchange and store of value. Even though one is dynamic and the other is static, like blood and fat, or roads and parking lots.

Necessarily then, in order to store the asset side, generally equal amounts of debt have to be manufactured and this creates a centripetal effect, as positive feedback pulls the asset side to the center of the economy, while negative feedback accumulates the debt on the fringes.
The ancients used debt jubilees to push the reset button, but since we have been conditioned to think of money as private property, not a public medium, now the only way to reset is for societal collapse.

Value, as a savings for the future, needs to be stored in tangibles, like strong social and environmental networks, not as abstractions in the financial circulation system. The functionality of money is in its fungibility. We own it like we own the section of road we are using, or the fluids passing through our bodies.
We are also conditioned to think of ourselves as individuals, not as parts of a larger community, so this social atomization enables finance to mediate most transactions and tax them. A figurative version of The Matrix.

John Merryman , Jul 21 2019 15:49 utc | 7
psycho,

I was pretty much banned from NC for questioning MMT. Yves called me a troll. The exchange is jan 6, in the links post.

Consequently I'll only try posting very occasionally and one or two have gone through moderation.

My view in MMT is that either these people are extremely naive, or operatives for the oligarchy, as there is no free lunch and the public issuing ever more promises only drives it further into debt. Which is then accumulated by the oligarchy and eventually traded for remaining public assets. It's basic predatory lending/disaster capitalism and has been going on since the dawn of civilization.
Not that people are not often incredibly stupid, but I suspect some recognize the dynamic. When you start having to pay tolls on most roads, you will know we are way down that rabbit hole.

Bemildred , Jul 21 2019 16:06 utc | 8
John Merryman @7: Sure there are free lunches, Uncle Sugar has been getting lots of free lunches ever since WWII. The thing about free lunches is those situations cannot be permanent in a growth economy. To have permanent free lunches you have to have an ecologically stable economy and a stable population consuming it. In other words, you can't get too greedy.
Russ , Jul 21 2019 16:17 utc | 11
What's ridiculous is to fall for the "public vs. private" scam, one of the most potent divide-and-conquer scams of the corporate state, where in reality there's zero distinction between public and private power.

Power is power, and the finance sector is purely wasteful, purely destructive, serves zero legitimate purpose, and needs to be abolished as a necessary part of any kind of human liberation.

Of course the Mammon religion has brainwashed almost everyone into believing, among other lies, that the dominion of money is necessary for human existence. Never mind that the vast majority of societies didn't use money for more than a few special transactions, and many didn't use it at all. Almost all of those societies were humanly more wholesome than this one, and all of them were less ecologically destructive by many orders of magnitude.

bevin , Jul 21 2019 16:22 utc | 12
"The ancients used debt jubilees to push the reset button, but since we have been conditioned to think of money as private property, not a public medium, now the only way to reset is for societal collapse."
John Merryman @4

There are compromises in this business: debt repudiation being an obvious one.
It is easy enough to make a case for declaring large parts of the public debt, odious. This is particularly true of the enormous debts run up by Public-Private Partnerships of the sort that the former UK Premier Brown promoted so enthusiastically. But it is generally true of debts contracted for purposes which contradict the public interest.
Debt used to make deposits in private bank accounts in the Caymans for example can justifiably be repudiated by the public, particularly when the creditor was well aware that its loans were going to be employed for corrupt purposes.
Most of the US Debt, contracted to finance the MIC, is not only odious on general grounds (Defending what against whom?) but on a contract to contract basis, most contracts being padded to ensure the ability to provide kickbacks: when Congressmen receive funds from government contractors and 'public servants', including military types, get jobs/sinecures from the same, then any money borrowed to finance such contracts is, clearly, odious.

It would be revolutionary no doubt but perfectly practicable to push a 'reset' button on the Public Debt by proclaiming that, in future, all borrowing for purposes not approved or understood the putative taxpayer would be found to be odious.

Another possible course would be to stop paying interest on public debt and issue bonds to repay the capital amounts lent.

The fact that such options are understood would make the regular claims, by neo-liberals pushing austerity, that there is no money for such things as social security or living wages, an obvious trigger for debt reduction measures designed to impact the rich rather than their victims.

fastfreddy , Jul 21 2019 16:31 utc | 13
Predators and Prey. But the prey believe themselves to be predators also, or at least to have the potential to become predators should they win the lotto.

"Send Her Back!, Send Her Back!"

[Jul 06, 2019] Neoliberal economics and other fairytales about money by Peter McKenna

Notable quotes:
"... Aditya Chakrabortty ( It's reckless. But a Tory cash splurge could win an election , 3 July) is right to point out the hypocrisy of the political right about public expenditure. While progressive proposals for public spending are decried as burdening the hard-pressed taxpayer, the right is happy to use public money to rescue the banks or boost their electoral chances. ..."
"... As I explain in my book Money: Myths, Truths and Alternatives, neoliberal economics is built on a fairytale about money that distorts our view of how a contemporary public money system operates. It is assumed that public spending depends on extracting money from the market and that money (like gold) is always in short supply. Neither is true. Both the market and the state generate money – the market through bank lending and the state through public spending. Both increase the money supply, while bank loan repayments and taxation reduce it. There is no natural shortage of money – which today mainly exists only as data. ..."
Jul 04, 2019 | www.theguardian.com

Neoliberal economics and other fairytales about money Politics is not about a struggle over a fixed pot of money, says Mary Mellor, and the best way to end austerity is to reject it as an ideology, says Peter McKenna

Aditya Chakrabortty ( It's reckless. But a Tory cash splurge could win an election , 3 July) is right to point out the hypocrisy of the political right about public expenditure. While progressive proposals for public spending are decried as burdening the hard-pressed taxpayer, the right is happy to use public money to rescue the banks or boost their electoral chances.

As I explain in my book Money: Myths, Truths and Alternatives, neoliberal economics is built on a fairytale about money that distorts our view of how a contemporary public money system operates. It is assumed that public spending depends on extracting money from the market and that money (like gold) is always in short supply. Neither is true. Both the market and the state generate money – the market through bank lending and the state through public spending. Both increase the money supply, while bank loan repayments and taxation reduce it. There is no natural shortage of money – which today mainly exists only as data.

ss="rich-link tone-news--item rich-link--pillar-news"> Business Today: sign up for a morning shot of financial news Read more

The case for austerity missed the point. Politics is not about a struggle over a fixed pot of money. What is limited are resources (particularly the environment) and human capacity. How these are best used should be a matter of democratic debate. The allocation of money should depend on the priorities identified. In this the market has no more claim than the public economy to be the source of sustainable human welfare.
Professor Mary Mellor
Newcastle upon Tyne

• Over the years Aditya Chakrabortty has provided us with powerful critiques of austerity. His message now – that EU membership "is the best way to end austerity" – overlooks the fact that the UK was in the EU all that time.

Moreover, the EU's stability and growth pact requires that budget deficits and public debt be pegged below 3% and 60% of GDP respectively.

Such notions are the beating heart of austerity, and the European commission's excessive deficit procedure taken against errant states has almost universally resulted in swingeing austerity programmes. These were approved and monitored by the commission and council, with the UK only taken off the naughty step in 2017 after years of crippling austerity finally reduced the deficit to 2.3% of GDP.

The best way to end austerity – and to sway voters – is to reject austerity as an ideology regardless of remain or leave, and rehabilitate the concept of public investment in a people's economy.
Peter McKenna

[Jul 05, 2019] The World Bank and IMF 2019 by Michael Hudson and Bonnie Faulkner

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it's not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering. As long as other countries play an artificial economic game that U.S. diplomacy can control, finance is able to achieve today what used to require bombing and loss of life by soldiers ..."
"... It was set up basically by the United States in 1944, along with its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their purpose was to create an international order like a funnel to make other countries economically dependent on the United States ..."
"... American diplomats insisted on the ability to veto any action by the World Bank or IMF. The aim of this veto power was to make sure that any policy was, in Donald Trump's words, to put America first. "We've got to win and they've got to lose." ..."
"... The World Bank was set up from the outset as a branch of the military, of the Defense Department. John J. McCloy (Assistant Secretary of War, 1941-45), was the first full-time president ..."
"... Many countries had two rates: one for goods and services, which was set normally by the market, and then a different exchange rate that was managed for capital movements. That was because countries were trying to prevent capital flight. They didn't want their wealthy classes or foreign investors to make a run on their own currency – an ever-present threat in Latin America. ..."
"... The IMF and the World Bank backed the cosmopolitan classes, the wealthy. Instead of letting countries control their capital outflows and prevent capital flight, the IMF's job is to protect the richest One Percent and foreign investors from balance-of-payments problems ..."
"... The IMF enables its wealthy constituency to move their money out of the country without taking a foreign-exchange loss ..."
"... Wall Street speculators have sold the local currency short to make a killing, George-Soros style. ..."
"... When the debtor-country currency collapses, the debts that these Latin American countries owe are in dollars, and now have to pay much more in their own currency to carry and pay off these debts. ..."
"... Local currency is thrown onto the foreign-exchange market for dollars, lowering the exchange rate. That increases import prices, raising a price umbrella for domestic products. ..."
"... Instead, the IMF says just the opposite: It acts to prevent any move by other countries to bring the debt volume within the ability to be paid. It uses debt leverage as a way to control the monetary lifeline of financially defeated debtor countries. ..."
"... This control by the U.S. financial system and its diplomacy has been built into the world system by the IMF and the World Bank claiming to be international instead of an expression of specifically U.S. New Cold War nationalism. ..."
"... The same thing happened in Greece a few years ago, when almost all of Greece's foreign debt was owed to Greek millionaires holding their money in Switzerland ..."
"... The IMF could have seized this money to pay off the bondholders. Instead, it made the Greek economy pay. It found that it was worth wrecking the Greek economy, forcing emigration and wiping out Greek industry so that French and German bondholding banks would not have to take a loss. That is what makes the IMF so vicious an institution. ..."
"... America was able to grab all of Iran's foreign exchange just by the banks interfering. The CIA has bragged that it can do the same thing with Russia. If Russia does something that U.S. diplomats don't like, the U.S. can use the SWIFT bank payment system to exclude Russia from it, so the Russian banks and the Russian people and industry won't be able to make payments to each other. ..."
"... You can't create the money, especially if you're running a balance of payments deficit and if U.S. foreign policy forces you into deficit by having someone like George Soros make a run on your currency. Look at the Asia crisis in 1997. Wall Street funds bet against foreign currencies, driving them way down, and then used the money to pick up industry cheap in Korea and other Asian countries. ..."
"... This was also done to Russia's ruble. The only country that avoided this was Malaysia, under Mohamed Mahathir, by using capital controls. Malaysia is an object lesson in how to prevent a currency flight. ..."
"... Client kleptocracies take their money and run, moving it abroad to hard currency areas such as the United States, or at least keeping it in dollars in offshore banking centers instead of reinvesting it to help the country catch up by becoming independent agriculturally, in energy, finance and other sectors. ..."
"... But in shaping the World Trade Organization's rules, the United States said that all countries had to promote free trade and could not have government support, except for countries that already had it. We're the only country that had it. That's what's called "grandfathering". ..."
Jul 05, 2019 | www.unz.com

"The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it's not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering. As long as other countries play an artificial economic game that U.S. diplomacy can control, finance is able to achieve today what used to require bombing and loss of life by soldiers."

I'm Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter: Dr. Michael Hudson. Today's show: The IMF and World Bank: Partners In Backwardness . Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street Financial Analyst, and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

His most recent books include " and Forgive them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year "; Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy , and J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception . He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt , among many other books.

We return today to a discussion of Dr. Hudson's seminal 1972 book, Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire , a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank, with a special emphasis on food imperialism.

... ... ...

Bonnie Faulkner : In your seminal work form 1972, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire , you write: "The development lending of the World Bank has been dysfunctional from the outset." When was the World Bank set up and by whom?

Michael Hudson : It was set up basically by the United States in 1944, along with its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their purpose was to create an international order like a funnel to make other countries economically dependent on the United States. To make sure that no other country or group of countries – even all the rest of the world – could not dictate U.S. policy. American diplomats insisted on the ability to veto any action by the World Bank or IMF. The aim of this veto power was to make sure that any policy was, in Donald Trump's words, to put America first. "We've got to win and they've got to lose."

The World Bank was set up from the outset as a branch of the military, of the Defense Department. John J. McCloy (Assistant Secretary of War, 1941-45), was the first full-time president. He later became Chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (1953-60). McNamara was Secretary of Defense (1961-68), Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy and Under Secretary of Defense (1989-2005), and Robert Zoellick was Deputy Secretary of State. So I think you can look at the World Bank as the soft shoe of American diplomacy.

Bonnie Faulkner : What is the difference between the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the IMF? Is there a difference?

Michael Hudson : Yes, there is. The World Bank was supposed to make loans for what they call international development. "Development" was their euphemism for dependency on U.S. exports and finance. This dependency entailed agricultural backwardness – opposing land reform, family farming to produce domestic food crops, and also monetary backwardness in basing their monetary system on the dollar.

The World Bank was supposed to provide infrastructure loans that other countries would go into debt to pay American engineering firms, to build up their export sectors and their plantation sectors by public investment roads and port development for imports and exports. Essentially, the Bank financed long- investments in the foreign trade sector, in a way that was a natural continuation of European colonialism.

In 1941, for example, C. L. R. James wrote an article on "Imperialism in Africa" pointing out the fiasco of European railroad investment in Africa: "Railways must serve flourishing industrial areas, or densely populated agricult5ural regions, or they must open up new land along which a thriving population develops and provides the railways with traffic. Except in the mining regions of South Africa, all these conditions are absent. Yet railways were needed, for the benefit of European investors and heavy industry." That is why, James explained "only governments can afford to operate them," while being burdened with heavy interest obligations. [1] What was "developed" was Africa's mining and plantation export sector, not its domestic economies. The World Bank followed this pattern of "development" lending without apology.

The IMF was in charge of short-term foreign currency loans. Its aim was to prevent countries from imposing capital controls to protect their balance of payments. Many countries had a dual exchange rate: one for trade in goods and services, the other rate for capital movements. The function of the IMF and World Bank was essentially to make other countries borrow in dollars, not in their own currencies, and to make sure that if they could not pay their dollar-denominated debts, they had to impose austerity on the domestic economy – while subsidizing their import and export sectors and protecting foreign investors, creditors and client oligarchies from loss.

The IMF developed a junk-economics model pretending that any country can pay any amount of debt to the creditors if it just impoverishes its labor enough. So when countries were unable to pay their debt service, the IMF tells them to raise their interest rates to bring on a depression – austerity – and break up the labor unions. That is euphemized as "rationalizing labor markets." The rationalizing is essentially to disable labor unions and the public sector. The aim – and effect – is to prevent countries from essentially following the line of development that had made the United States rich – by public subsidy and protection of domestic agriculture, public subsidy and protection of industry and an active government sector promoting a New Deal democracy. The IMF was essentially promoting and forcing other countries to balance their trade deficits by letting American and other investors buy control of their commanding heights, mainly their infrastructure monopolies, and to subsidize their capital flight.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Now, Michael, when you began speaking about the IMF and monetary controls, you mentioned that there were two exchange rates of currency in countries. What were you referring to?

MICHAEL HUDSON : When I went to work on Wall Street in the '60s, I was balance-of-payments economist for Chase Manhattan, and we used the IMF's monthly International Financial Statistics every month. At the top of each country's statistics would be the exchange-rate figures. Many countries had two rates: one for goods and services, which was set normally by the market, and then a different exchange rate that was managed for capital movements. That was because countries were trying to prevent capital flight. They didn't want their wealthy classes or foreign investors to make a run on their own currency – an ever-present threat in Latin America.

The IMF and the World Bank backed the cosmopolitan classes, the wealthy. Instead of letting countries control their capital outflows and prevent capital flight, the IMF's job is to protect the richest One Percent and foreign investors from balance-of-payments problems.

The World Bank and American diplomacy have steered them into a chronic currency crisis. The IMF enables its wealthy constituency to move their money out of the country without taking a foreign-exchange loss. It makes loans to support capital flight out of domestic currencies into the dollar or other hard currencies. The IMF calls this a "stabilization" program. It is never effective in helping the debtor economy pay foreign debts out of growth. Instead, the IMF uses currency depreciation and sell-offs of public infrastructure and other assets to foreign investors after the flight capital has left and currency collapses. Wall Street speculators have sold the local currency short to make a killing, George-Soros style.

When the debtor-country currency collapses, the debts that these Latin American countries owe are in dollars, and now have to pay much more in their own currency to carry and pay off these debts. We're talking about enormous penalty rates in domestic currency for these countries to pay foreign-currency debts – basically taking on to finance a non-development policy and to subsidize capital flight when that policy "fails" to achieve its pretended objective of growth.

All hyperinflations of Latin America – Chile early on, like Germany after World War I – come from trying to pay foreign debts beyond the ability to be paid. Local currency is thrown onto the foreign-exchange market for dollars, lowering the exchange rate. That increases import prices, raising a price umbrella for domestic products.

A really functional and progressive international monetary fund that would try to help countries develop would say: "Okay, banks and we (the IMF) have made bad loans that the country can't pay. And the World Bank has given it bad advice, distorting its domestic development to serve foreign customers rather than its own growth. So we're going to write down the loans to the ability to be paid." That's what happened in 1931, when the world finally stopped German reparations payments and Inter-Ally debts to the United States stemming from World War I.

Instead, the IMF says just the opposite: It acts to prevent any move by other countries to bring the debt volume within the ability to be paid. It uses debt leverage as a way to control the monetary lifeline of financially defeated debtor countries. So if they do something that U.S. diplomats don't approve of, it can pull the plug financially, encouraging a run on their currency if they act independently of the United States instead of falling in line. This control by the U.S. financial system and its diplomacy has been built into the world system by the IMF and the World Bank claiming to be international instead of an expression of specifically U.S. New Cold War nationalism.

BONNIE FAULKNER : How do exchange rates contribute to capital flight?

MICHAEL HUDSON : It's not the exchange rate that contributes. Suppose that you're a millionaire, and you see that your country is unable to balance its trade under existing production patterns. The money that the government has under control is pesos, escudos, cruzeiros or some other currency, not dollars or euros. You see that your currency is going to go down relative to the dollar, so you want to get our money out of the country to preserve your purchasing power.

This has long been institutionalized. By 1990, for instance, Latin American countries had defaulted so much in the wake of the Mexico defaults in 1982 that I was hired by Scudder Stevens, to help start a Third World Bond Fund (called a "sovereign high-yield fund"). At the time, Argentina and Brazil were running such serious balance-of-payments deficits that they were having to pay 45 percent per year interest, in dollars, on their dollar debt. Mexico, was paying 22.5 percent on its tesobonos .

Scudders' salesmen went around to the United States and tried to sell shares in the proposed fund, but no Americans would buy it, despite the enormous yields. They sent their salesmen to Europe and got a similar reaction. They had lost their shirts on Third World bonds and couldn't see how these countries could pay.

Merrill Lynch was the fund's underwriter. Its office in Brazil and in Argentina proved much more successful in selling investments in Scudder's these offshore fund established in the Dutch West Indies. It was an offshore fund, so Americans were not able to buy it. But Brazilian and Argentinian rich families close to the central bank and the president became the major buyers. We realized that they were buying these funds because they knew that their government was indeed going to pay their stipulated interest charges. In effect, the bonds were owed ultimately to themselves. So these Yankee dollar bonds were being bought by Brazilians and other Latin Americans as a vehicle to move their money out of their soft local currency (which was going down), to buy bonds denominated in hard dollars.

BONNIE FAULKNER : If wealthy families from these countries bought these bonds denominated in dollars, knowing that they were going to be paid off, who was going to pay them off? The country that was going broke?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Well, countries don't pay; the taxpayers pay, and in the end, labor pays. The IMF certainly doesn't want to make its wealthy client oligarchies pay. It wants to squeeze ore economic surplus out of the labor force. So countries are told that the way they can afford to pay their enormously growing dollar-denominated debt is to lower wages even more.

Currency depreciation is an effective way to do this, because what is devalued is basically labor's wages. Other elements of exports have a common world price: energy, raw materials, capital goods, and credit under the dollar-centered international monetary system that the IMF seeks to maintain as a financial strait jacket.

According to the IMF's ideological models, there's no limit to how far you can lower wages by enough to make labor competitive in producing exports. The IMF and World Bank thus use junk economics to pretend that the way to pay debts owed to the wealthiest creditors and investors is to lower wages and impose regressive excise taxes, to impose special taxes on necessities that labor needs, from food to energy and basic services supplied by public infrastructure.

BONNIE FAULKNER: So you're saying that labor ultimately has to pay off these junk bonds?

MICHAEL HUDSON: That is the basic aim of IMF. I discuss its fallacies in my Trade Development and Foreign Debt , which is the academic sister volume to Super Imperialism . These two books show that the World Bank and IMF were viciously anti-labor from the very outset, working with domestic elites whose fortunes are tied to and loyal to the United States.

BONNIE FAULKNER : With regard to these junk bonds, who was it or what entity

MICHAEL HUDSON : They weren't junk bonds. They were called that because they were high-interest bonds, but they weren't really junk because they actually were paid. Everybody thought they were junk because no American would have paid 45 percent interest. Any country that really was self-reliant and was promoting its own economic interest would have said, "You banks and the IMF have made bad loans, and you've made them under false pretenses – a trade theory that imposes austerity instead of leading to prosperity. We're not going to pay." They would have seized the capital flight of their comprador elites and said that these dollar bonds were a rip-off by the corrupt ruling class.

The same thing happened in Greece a few years ago, when almost all of Greece's foreign debt was owed to Greek millionaires holding their money in Switzerland. The details were published in the "Legarde List." But the IMF said, in effect that its loyalty was to the Greek millionaires who ha their money in Switzerland. The IMF could have seized this money to pay off the bondholders. Instead, it made the Greek economy pay. It found that it was worth wrecking the Greek economy, forcing emigration and wiping out Greek industry so that French and German bondholding banks would not have to take a loss. That is what makes the IMF so vicious an institution.

BONNIE FAULKNER : So these loans to foreign countries that were regarded as junk bonds really weren't junk, because they were going to be paid. What group was it that jacked up these interest rates to 45 percent?

MICHAEL HUDSON : The market did. American banks, stock brokers and other investors looked at the balance of payments of these countries and could not see any reasonable way that they could pay their debts, so they were not going to buy their bonds. No country subject to democratic politics would have paid debts under these conditions. But the IMF, U.S. and Eurozone diplomacy overrode democratic choice.

Investors didn't believe that the IMF and the World Bank had such a strangle hold over Latin American, Asian, and African countries that they could make the countries act in the interest of the United States and the cosmopolitan finance capital, instead of in their own national interest. They didn't believe that countries would commit financial suicide just to pay their wealthy One Percent.

They were wrong, of course. Countries were quite willing to commit economic suicide if their governments were dictatorships propped up by the United States. That's why the CIA has assassination teams and actively supports these countries to prevent any party coming to power that would act in their national interest instead of in the interest of a world division of labor and production along the lines that the U.S. planners want for the world. Under the banner of what they call a free market, you have the World Bank and the IMF engage in central planning of a distinctly anti-labor policy. Instead of calling them Third World bonds or junk bonds, you should call them anti-labor bonds, because they have become a lever to impose austerity throughout the world.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Well, that makes a lot of sense, Michael, and answers a lot of the questions I've put together to ask you. What about Puerto Rico writing down debt? I thought such debts couldn't be written down.

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's what they all said, but the bonds were trading at about 45 cents on the dollar, the risk of their not being paid. The Wall Street Journal on June 17, reported that unsecured suppliers and creditors of Puerto Rico, would only get nine cents on the dollar. The secured bond holders would get maybe 65 cents on the dollar.

The terms are being written down because it's obvious that Puerto Rico can't pay, and that trying to do so is driving the population to move out of Puerto Rico to the United States. If you don't want Puerto Ricans to act the same way Greeks did and leave Greece when their industry and economy was shut down, then you're going to have to provide stability or else you're going to have half of Puerto Rico living in Florida.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Who wrote down the Puerto Rican debt?

MICHAEL HUDSON : A committee was appointed, and it calculated how much Puerto Rico can afford to pay out of its taxes. Puerto Rico is a U.S. dependency, that is, an economic colony of the United States. It does not have domestic self-reliance. It's the antithesis of democracy, so it's never been in charge of its own economic policy and essentially has to do whatever the United States tells it to do. There was a reaction after the hurricane and insufficient U.S. support to protect the island and the enormous waste and corruption involved in the U.S. aid. The U.S. response was simply: "We won you fair and square in the Spanish-American war and you're an occupied country, and we're going to keep you that way." Obviously this is causing a political resentment.

BONNIE FAULKNER : You've already touched on this, but why has the World Bank traditionally been headed by a U.S. secretary of defense?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Its job is to do in the financial sphere what, in the past, was done by military force. The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it's not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering. As long as other countries play an artificial economic game that U.S. diplomacy can control, finance is able to achieve today what used to require bombing and loss of life by soldiers.

In this case the loss of life occurs in the debtor countries. Population growth shrinks, suicides go up. The World Bank engages in economic warfare that is just as destructive as military warfare. At the end of the Yeltsin period Russia's President Putin said that American neoliberalism destroyed more of Russia's population than did World War II. Such neoliberalism, which basically is the doctrine of American supremacy and foreign dependency, is the policy of the World Bank and IMF.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Why has World Bank policy since its inception been to provide loans for countries to devote their land to export crops instead of giving priority to feeding themselves? And if this is the case, why do countries want these loans?

MICHAEL HUDSON : One constant of American foreign policy is to make other countries dependent on American grain exports and food exports. The aim is to buttress America's agricultural trade surplus. So the first thing that the World Bank has done is not to make any domestic currency loans to help food producers. Its lending has steered client countries to produce tropical export crops, mainly plantation crops that cannot be grown in the United States. Focusing on export crops leads client countries to become dependent on American farmers – and political sanctions.

In the 1950s, right after the Chinese revolution, the United States tried to prevent China from succeeding by imposing grain export controls to starve China into submission by putting sanctions on exports. Canada was the country that broke these export controls and helped feed China.

The idea is that if you can make other countries export plantation crops, the oversupply will drive down prices for cocoa and other tropical products, and they won't feed themselves. So instead of backing family farms like the American agricultural policy does, the World Bank backed plantation agriculture. In Chile, which has the highest natural supply of fertilizer in the world from its guano deposits, exports guano instead of using it domestically. It also has the most unequal land distribution, blocking it from growing its own grain or food crops. It's completely dependent on the United States for this, and it pays by exporting copper, guano and other natural resources.

The idea is to create interdependency – one-sided dependency on the U.S. economy. The United States has always aimed at being self-sufficient in its own essentials, so that no other country can pull the plug on our economy and say, "We're going to starve you by not feeding you." Americans can feed themselves. Other countries can't say, "We're going to let you freeze in the dark by not sending you oil," because America's independent in energy. But America can use the oil control to make other countries freeze in the dark, and it can starve other countries by food-export sanctions.

So the idea is to give the United States control of the key interconnections of other economies, without letting any country control something that is vital to the working of the American economy.

There's a double standard here. The United States tells other countries: "Don't do as we do. Do as we say." The only way it can enforce this is by interfering in the politics of these countries, as it has interfered in Latin America, always pushing the right wing. For instance, when Hillary's State Department overthrew the Honduras reformer who wanted to undertake land reform and feed the Hondurans, she said: "This person has to go." That's why there are so many Hondurans trying to get into the United States now, because they can't live in their own country.

The effect of American coups is the same in Syria and Iraq. They force an exodus of people who no longer can make a living under the brutal dictatorships supported by the United States to enforce this international dependency system.

BONNIE FAULKNER : So when I asked you why countries would want these loans, I guess you're saying that they wouldn't, and that's why the U.S. finds it necessary to control them politically.

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's a concise way of putting it Bonnie.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Why are World Bank loans only in foreign currency, not in the domestic currency of the country to which it is lending?

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's a good point. A basic principle should be to avoid borrowing in a foreign currency. A country can always pay the loans in its own currency, but there's no way that it can print dollars or euros to pay loans denominated in these foreign currencies.

Making the dollar central forces other countries to interface with the U.S. banking system. So if a country decides to go its own way, as Iran did in 1953 when it wanted to take over its oil from British Petroleum (or Anglo Iranian Oil, as it was called back then), the United States can interfere and overthrow it. The idea is to be able to use the banking system's interconnections to stop payments from being made.

After America installed the Shah's dictatorship, they were overthrown by Khomeini, and Iran had run up a U.S. dollar debt under the Shah. It had plenty of dollars. I think Chase Manhattan was its paying agent. So when its quarterly or annual debt payment came due, Iran told Chase to draw on its accounts and pay the bondholders. But Chase took orders from the State Department or the Defense Department, I don't know which, and refused to pay. When the payment was not made, America and its allies claimed that Iran was in default. They demanded the entire debt to be paid, as per the agreement that the Shah's puppet government had signed. America simply grabbed the deposits that Iran had in the United States. This is the money that was finally returned to Iran without interest under the agreement of 2016.

America was able to grab all of Iran's foreign exchange just by the banks interfering. The CIA has bragged that it can do the same thing with Russia. If Russia does something that U.S. diplomats don't like, the U.S. can use the SWIFT bank payment system to exclude Russia from it, so the Russian banks and the Russian people and industry won't be able to make payments to each other.

This prompted Russia to create its own bank-transfer system, and is leading China, Russia, India and Pakistan to draft plans to de-dollarize.

BONNIE FAULKNER : I was going to ask you, why would loans in a country's domestic currency be preferable to the country taking out a loan in a foreign currency? I guess you've explained that if they took out a loan in a domestic currency, they would be able to repay it.

MICHAEL HUDSON : Yes.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Whereas a loan in a foreign currency would cripple them.

MICHAEL HUDSON : Yes. You can't create the money, especially if you're running a balance of payments deficit and if U.S. foreign policy forces you into deficit by having someone like George Soros make a run on your currency. Look at the Asia crisis in 1997. Wall Street funds bet against foreign currencies, driving them way down, and then used the money to pick up industry cheap in Korea and other Asian countries.

This was also done to Russia's ruble. The only country that avoided this was Malaysia, under Mohamed Mahathir, by using capital controls. Malaysia is an object lesson in how to prevent a currency flight.

But for Latin America and other countries, much of their foreign debt is held by their own ruling class. Even though it's denominated in dollars, Americans don't own most of this debt. It's their own ruling class. The IMF and World Bank dictate tax policy to Latin America – to un-tax wealth and shift the burden onto labor. Client kleptocracies take their money and run, moving it abroad to hard currency areas such as the United States, or at least keeping it in dollars in offshore banking centers instead of reinvesting it to help the country catch up by becoming independent agriculturally, in energy, finance and other sectors.

BONNIE FAULKNER : You say that: "While U.S. agricultural protectionism has been built into the postwar global system at its inception, foreign protectionism is to be nipped in the bud." How has U.S. agricultural protectionism been built into the postwar global system?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Under Franklin Roosevelt the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 called for price supports for crops so that farmers could earn enough to invest in equipment and seeds. The Agriculture Department was a wonderful department in spurring new seed varieties, agricultural extension services, marketing and banking services. It provided public support so that productivity in American agriculture from the 1930s to '50s was higher over a prolonged period than that of any other sector in history.

But in shaping the World Trade Organization's rules, the United States said that all countries had to promote free trade and could not have government support, except for countries that already had it. We're the only country that had it. That's what's called "grandfathering". The Americans said: "We already have this program on the books, so we can keep it. But no other country can succeed in agriculture in the way that we have done. You must keep your agriculture backward, except for the plantation crops and growing crops that we can't grow in the United States." That's what's so evil about the World Bank's development plan.

BONNIE FAULKNER : According to your book: "Domestic currency is needed to provide price supports and agricultural extension services such as have made U.S. agriculture so productive." Why can't infrastructure costs be subsidized to keep down the economy's overall cost structure if IMF loans are made in foreign currency?

MICHAEL HUDSON : If you're a farmer in Brazil, Argentina or Chile, you're doing business in domestic currency. It doesn't help if somebody gives you dollars, because your expenses are in domestic currency. So if the World Bank and the IMF can prevent countries from providing domestic currency support, that means they're not able to give price supports or provide government marketing services for their agriculture.

America is a mixed economy. Our government has always subsidized capital formation in agriculture and industry, but it insists that other countries are socialist or communist if they do what the United States is doing and use their government to support the economy. So it's a double standard. Nobody calls America a socialist country for supporting its farmers, but other countries are called socialist and are overthrown if they attempt land reform or attempt to feed themselves.

This is what the Catholic Church's Liberation Theology was all about. They backed land reform and agricultural self-sufficiency in food, realizing that if you're going to support population growth, you have to support the means to feed it. That's why the United States focused its assassination teams on priests and nuns in Guatemala and Central America for trying to promote domestic self-sufficiency.

BONNIE FAULKNER : If a country takes out an IMF loan, they're obviously going to take it out in dollars. Why can't they take the dollars and convert them into domestic currency to support local infrastructure costs?

MICHAEL HUDSON : You don't need a dollar loan to do that. Now were getting in to MMT. Any country can create its own currency. There's no reason to borrow in dollars to create your own currency. You can print it yourself or create it on your computers.

BONNIE FAULKNER: Well, exactly. So why don't these countries simply print up their own domestic currency?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Their leaders don't want to be assassinated. More immediately, if you look at the people in charge of foreign central banks, almost all have been educated in the United States and essentially brainwashed. It's the mentality of foreign central bankers. The people who are promoted are those who feel personally loyal to the United States, because they that that's how to get ahead. Essentially, they're opportunists working against the interests of their own country. You won't have socialist central bankers as long as central banks are dominated by the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements.

BONNIE FAULKNER : So we're back to the main point: The control is by political means, and they control the politics and the power structure in these countries so that they don't rebel.

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's right. When you have a dysfunctional economic theory that is destructive instead of productive, this is never an accident. It is always a result of junk economics and dependency economics being sponsored. I've talked to people at the U.S. Treasury and asked why they all end up following the United States. Treasury officials have told me: "We simply buy them off. They do it for the money." So you don't need to kill them. All you need to do is find people corrupt enough and opportunist enough to see where the money is, and you buy them off.

BONNIE FAULKNER : You write that "by following U.S. advice, countries have left themselves open to food blackmail." What is food blackmail?

MICHAEL HUDSON : If you pursue a foreign policy that we don't like -- for instance, if you trade with Iran, which we're trying to smash up to grab its oil -- we'll impose financial sanctions against you. We won't sell you food, and you can starve. And because you've followed World Bank advice and not grown your own food, you will starve, because you're dependent on us, the United States and our Free World Ó allies. Canada will no longer follow its own policy independently of the United States, as it did with China in the 1950s when it sold it grain. Europe also is falling in line with U.S. policy.

BONNIE FAULKNER : You write that: "World Bank administrators demand that loan recipients pursue a policy of economic dependency above all on the United States as food supplier." Was this done to support U.S. agriculture? Obviously it is, but were there other reasons as well?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Certainly the agricultural lobby was critical in all of this, and I'm not sure at what point this became thoroughly conscious. I knew some of the World Bank planners, and they had no anticipation that this dependency would be the result. They believed the free-trade junk economics that's taught in the schools' economics departments and for which Nobel prizes are awarded.

When we're dealing with economic planners, we're dealing with tunnel-visioned people. They stayed in the discipline despite its unreality because they sort of think that abstractly it makes sense. There's something autistic about most economists, which is why the French had their non-autistic economic site for many years. The mentality at work is that every country should produce what it's best at – not realizing that nations also need to be self-sufficient in essentials, because we're in a real world of economic and military warfare.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Why does the World Bank prefer to perpetrate world poverty instead of adequate overseas capacity to feed the peoples of developing countries?

MICHAEL HUDSON : World poverty is viewed as solution , not a problem. The World Bank thinks of poverty as low-priced labor, creating a competitive advantage for countries that produce labor-intensive goods. So poverty and austerity for the World Bank and IMF is an economic solution that's built into their models. I discuss these in my Trade, Development and Foreign Debt book. Poverty is to them the solution, because it means low-priced labor, and that means higher profits for the companies bought out by U.S., British, and European investors. So poverty is part of the class war: profits versus poverty.

BONNIE FAULKNER : In general, what is U.S. food imperialism? How would you characterize it?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Its aim is to make America the producer of essential foods and other countries producing inessential plantation crops, while remaining dependent on the United States for grain, soy beans and basic food crops.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Does World Bank lending encourage land reform in former colonies?

MICHAEL HUDSON : No. If there is land reform, the CIA sends its assassination teams in and you have mass murder, as you had in Guatemala, Ecuador, Central America and Columbia. The World Bank is absolutely committed against land reform. When the Forgash Plan for a World Bank for Economic Acceleration was proposed in the 1950s to emphasize land reform and local-currency loans, a Chase Manhattan economist to whom the plan was submitted warned that every country that had land reform turned out to be anti-American. That killed any alternative to the World Bank.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Does the World Bank insist on client governments privatizing their public domain? If so, why, and what is the effect?

MICHAEL HUDSON : It does indeed insist on privatization, pretending that this is efficient. But what it privatizes are natural monopolies – the electrical system, the water system and other basic needs. Foreigners take over, essentially finance them with foreign debt, build the foreign debt that they build into the cost structure, and raise the cost of living and doing business in these countries, thereby crippling them economically. The effect is to prevent them from competing with the United States and its European allies.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Would you say then that it is mainly America that has been aided, not foreign economies that borrow from the World Bank?

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's why the United States is the only country with veto power in the IMF and World Bank – to make sure that what you just described is exactly what happens.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Why do World Bank programs accelerate the exploitation of mineral deposits for use by other nations?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Most World Bank loans are for transportation, roads, harbor development and other infrastructure needed to export minerals and plantation crops. The World Bank doesn't make loans for projects that help the country develop in its own currency. By making only foreign currency loans, in dollars or maybe euros now, the World Bank says that its clients have to repay by generating foreign currency. The only way they can repay the dollars spent on American engineering firms that have built their infrastructure is to export – to earn enough dollars to pay back for the money that the World Bank or IMF have lent.

This is what John Perkins' book about being an economic hit man for the World Bank is all about. He realized that his job was to get countries to borrow dollars to build huge projects that could only be paid for by the country exporting more – which required breaking its labor unions and lowering wages so that it could be competitive in the race to the bottom that the World Bank and IMF encourage.

BONNIE FAULKNER : You also point out in Super Imperialism that mineral resources represent diminishing assets, so these countries that are exporting mineral resources are being depleted while the importing countries aren't.

MICHAEL HUDSON : That's right. They'll end up like Canada. The end result is going to be a big hole in the ground. You've dug up all your minerals, and in the end you have a hole in the ground and a lot of the refuse and pollution – the mining slag and what Marx called the excrements of production.

This is not a sustainable development. The World Bank only promotes the U.S. pursuit of sustainable development. So naturally, they call their "Development," but their focus is on the United States, not the World Bank's client countries.

BONNIE FAULKNER : When Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire was originally published in 1972, how was it received?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Very positively. It enabled my career to take off. I received a phone call a month later by someone from the Bank of Montreal saying they had just made $240 million on the last paragraph of my book. They asked what it would cost to have me come up and give a lecture. I began lecturing once a month at $3,500 a day, moving up to $6,500 a day, and became the highest-paid per diem economist on Wall Street for a few years.

I was immediately hired by the Hudson Institute to explain Super Imperialism to the Defense Department. Herman Kahn said I showed how U.S. imperialism ran rings around European imperialism. They gave the Institute an $85,000 grant to have me go to the White House in Washington to explain how American imperialism worked. The Americans used it as a how-to-do-it book.

The socialists, whom I expected to have a response, decided to talk about other than economic topics. So, much to my surprise, it became a how-to-do-it book for imperialists. It was translated by, I think, the nephew of the Emperor of Japan into Japanese. He then wrote me that the United States opposed the book being translated into Japanese. It later was translated. It was received very positively in China, where I think it has sold more copies than in any other country. It was translated into Spanish, and most recently it was translated into German, and German officials have asked me to come and discuss it with them. So the book has been accepted all over the world as an explanation of how the system works.

BONNIE FAULKNER : In closing, do you really think that the U.S. government officials and others didn't understand how their own system worked?

MICHAEL HUDSON : Many might not have understood in 1944 that this would be the consequence. But by the time 50 years went by, you had an organization called "Fifty Years Is Enough." And by that time everybody should have understood. By the time Joe Stiglitz became the World Bank's chief economist, there was no excuse for not understanding how the system worked. He was amazed to find that indeed it didn't work as advertised, and resigned. But he should have known at the very beginning what it was all about. If he didn't understand how it was until he actually went to work there, you can understand how hard it is for most academics to get through the vocabulary of junk economics, the patter-talk of free trade and free markets to understand how exploitative and destructive the system is.

BONNIE FAULKNER : Michael Hudson, thank you very much.

MICHAEL HUDSON : It's always good to be here, Bonnie. I'm glad you ask questions like these.

I've been speaking with Dr. Michael Hudson. Today's show has been: The IMF and World Bank: Partners in Backwardness. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is president of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street financial analyst and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His 1972 book, Super Imperialism : The Economic Strategy of American Empire , a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank, the subject of today's broadcast, is posted in PDF format on his website at michael-hudson.com. He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt , which is the academic sister volume to Super Imperialism. Dr. Hudson acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide on finance and tax law. Visit his website at michael-hudson.com.

Guns and Butter is produced by Bonnie Faulkner, Yarrow Mahko and Tony Rango. Visit us at gunsandbutter.org to listen to past programs, comment on shows, or join our email list to receive our newsletter that includes recent shows and updates. Email us at faulkner@gunsandbutter.org . Follow us on Twitter at #gandbradio.

[Jun 26, 2019] Neoliberalism Has Tricked Us Into Believing a Fairytale About Where Money Comes From by Mary MELLOR

Jun 26, 2019 | www.strategic-culture.org

There is nothing natural about money. There is no link to some scarce essential form of money that sets a limit to its creation. It can be composed of base metal, paper or electronic data – none of which is in short supply. Similarly – despite what you may have heard about the need for austerity and a lack of certain cash-generating trees – there is no "natural" level of public expenditure. The size and reach of the public sector is a matter of political choice.

Which puts austerity, the culling of expenditure in the public economy, under some question. For some countries, such as Greece , the impact of austerity has been devastating. Austerity policies still persist despite numerous studies arguing that they were entirely misconceived, based on political choice rather than economic logic. But the economic case for austerity is equally mistaken: it is based on what can best be described as fairytale economics.

So what were the justifications? Britain, for example, has lived under an austerity regime since 2010, when the incoming Tory-Liberal Democrat government reversed the Labour policy of raising the level of public expenditure in response to the 2007-8 financial crisis. The crisis had created a perfect storm: bank rescue required high levels of public spending while economic contraction reduced tax income. The case for austerity was that the higher level of public expenditure could not be afforded by the taxpayer. This was supported by " handbag economics ", which adopts the analogy of states as being like households, dependent on a (private sector) breadwinner.

Under handbag economics, states are required to restrict their expenditure to what the taxpayer is deemed to be able to afford. States must not try to increase their spending by borrowing from the (private) financial sector or by "printing money" (although the banks were rescued by doing so by another name – quantitative easing , the creation of electronic money).

The ideology of handbag economics claims that money is to be generated only through market activity and that it is always in short supply. Request for increased public expenditure is almost invariably met with the response "where's the money to come from?" When confronted by low pay in the NHS, the British prime minister, Theresa May, famously declared, "there is no magic money tree".

So where does money come from? And what is money anyway? What is money?

Until the last 50 years or so the answer seemed to be obvious: money was represented by cash (notes and coin). When money was tangible, there seemed no question about its origin, or its value. Coins were minted, banknotes were printed. Both were authorised by governments or central banks. But what is money today? In richer economies the use of cash is declining rapidly . Most monetary transactions are based on transfers between accounts: no physical money is involved.

In the run up to the financial crisis, the state's role in relation to money held in bank accounts was ambiguous. Banking was a monitored and licensed activity with some level of state guarantee of bank deposits, but the actual act of creating bank accounts was, and is, seen as a private matter. There may be regulations and limitations, but there is no detailed scrutiny of bank accounts and bank lending.

Yet, as the 2007-8 financial crisis showed, when bank accounts came under threat as banks teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, states and central banks had to step in and guarantee the security of all deposit accounts. The viability of money in non-investment bank accounts was demonstrated to be as much a public responsibility as cash.

The magic money tree. © Kate Mc , Author provided

This raises fundamental questions about money as a social institution. Is it right that money can be generated by a private choice to take on debt, which then becomes a liability of the state to guarantee in a crisis?

But far from seeing money as a public resource, under neoliberal handbag economics, money creation and circulation has increasingly been seen as a function of the market. Money is "made" solely in the private sector. Public spending is seen as a drain on that money, justifying austerity to make the public sector as small as possible.

This stance, however, is based on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of money, sustained by a series of deeply embedded myths.

Myths about money

Neoliberal handbag economics is derived from two key myths about the origin and nature of money. The first is that money emerged from a previous market economy based on barter. The second is that money was originally made from precious metal.

It is claimed that bartering proved to be very inefficient as each buyer-seller needed to find another person who exactly matched their requirements. A hat maker might barter a hat for some shoes she needs – but what if the shoe maker is in no need of a hat? The solution to this problem, so the story goes, was to choose one commodity that everyone desired, to act as a medium of exchange. Precious metal (gold and silver) was the obvious choice because it had its own value and could be easily divided and carried. This view of the origin of money goes back to at least the 18th century: the time of economist Adam Smith .

The 'father of capitalism' Adam Smith, 1723-1790. Matt Ledwinka/Shutterstock.com

These myths led to two assumptions about money that are still current today. First, that money is essentially connected to, and generated by, the marketplace. Second that modern money, like its original and ideal form, is always in short supply. Hence the neoliberal claim that public spending is a drain on the wealth-creating capacity of the market and that public spending must always be as limited as possible. Money is seen as a commercial instrument, serving a basic, market, technical, transactional function with no social or political force.

But the real story of money is very different. Evidence from anthropology and history shows that there was no widespread barter before markets based on money developed, and precious metal coinage emerged long before market economies. There are also many forms of money other than precious metal coins.

Money as custom

Something that acts as money has existed in most, if not all, human societies. Stones, shells, beads, cloths, brass rods and many other forms have been the means of comparing and acknowledging comparative value. But this was rarely used in a market context. Most early human communities lived directly off the land – hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening. The customary money in such communities was used mainly to celebrate auspicious social events or serve as a way of resolving social conflict.

For example, the Lele people, who lived in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s, calculated value in woven raffia cloths . The number of cloths required for different occasions was fixed by custom. Twenty cloths should be given to a father by a son on achieving adulthood and a similar amount given to a wife on the birth of a child. The anthropologist Mary Douglas, who studied the Lele, found they were resistant to using the cloths in transactions with outsiders, indicating that the cloths had a specific cultural relevance.

Even stranger is the large stone money of the Yap people of Micronesia. Huge circular discs of stone could weigh up to four metric tons . Not something to put in your pocket for a trip to the shops.

Try lugging that to the market. Evenfh/Shutterstock.com

There is plenty of other anthropological evidence such as this all over the world, all pointing to the fact that money, in its earliest form, served a social rather than market-based purpose.

Money as power

For most traditional societies, the origin of the particular money form has been lost in the mist of time. But the origin and adoption of money as an institution became much more obvious with the emergence of states. Money did not originate as precious metal coinage with the development of markets. In fact, the new invention of precious metal coinage in around 600BC was adopted and controlled by imperial rulers to build their empires by waging war.

Most notable was Alexander the Great, who ruled from 336–323BC. He is said to have used half a ton of silver a day to fund his largely mercenary army rather than a share of the spoils (the traditional payment). He had more than 20 mints producing coins, which had images of gods and heroes and the word Alexandrou (of Alexander). From that time, new ruling regimes have tended to herald their arrival by a new coinage.

Alexandrou. Alex Coan/Shutterstock.com

More than a thousand years after the invention of coinage, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742-814), who ruled most of western and central Europe, developed what became the basis of the British pre-decimal money system: pounds, shillings and pence. Charlemagne set up a currency system based on 240 pennies minted from a pound of silver. The pennies became established as the denier in France, the pfennig in Germany, the dinero in Spain, the denari in Italy and the penny in Britain.

So the real story of money as coinage was not one of barterers and traders: it emerged instead from a long history of politics, war and conflict. Money was an active agent in state and empire building, not a passive representation of price in the market. Control of the money supply was a major power of rulers: a sovereign power. Money was created and spent into circulation by rulers either directly, like Alexander, or through taxation or seizure of private holdings of precious metal.

Nor was early money necessarily based on precious metal. In fact, precious metal was relatively useless for building empires, because it was in short supply. Even in the Roman era, base metal was used, and Charlemagne's new money eventually became debased. In China, gold and silver did not feature and paper money was being used as early as the 9th century.

A coin from the time of Charlemagne, 768-814 AD. Classical Numismatic Group, CC BY-SA

What the market economy did introduce was a new form of money: money as debt.

Money as debt

If you look at a £20 banknote you will see it says: "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds." This is a promise originally made by the Bank of England to exchange notes for the sovereign currency. The banknote was a new form of money. Unlike sovereign money it was not a statement of value, but a promise of value. A coin, even if made of base metal, was exchangeable in its own right: it did not represent another, superior, form of money. But when banknotes were first invented, they did.

The new invention of promissory notes emerged through the needs of trade in the 16th and 17th centuries. Promissory notes were used to acknowledge receipt of loans or investments and the obligation to repay them through the fruits of future transactions. A major task of the emerging profession of banking was to periodically set all these promises against each other and see who owed what to whom. This process of "clearing" meant that a great amount of paper commitments was reduced to relatively less actual transfer of money. Final settlement was either by payment with sovereign money (coins) or another promissory note (banknote).

Eventually, the banknotes became so trusted that they were treated as money in their own right. In Britain they became equivalent to the coinage, particularly when they were united under the banner of the Bank of England. Today, if you took a banknote to the Bank of England, it would merely exchange your note for one that is exactly the same. Banknotes are no longer promises, they are the currency. There is no other "real" money behind them.

What promissory notes became. Wara1982/Shutterstock.com

What modern money does retain is its association with debt. Unlike sovereign money, which was created and spent directly into circulation, modern money is largely borrowed into circulation through the banking system. This process shelters behind another myth, that banks merely act as a link between savers and borrowers. In fact, banks create money. And it is only in the last decade that this powerful myth has been finally put to rest by banking and monetary authorities.

It is now acknowledged by monetary authorities such as the IMF, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, that banks are creating new money when they make loans. They don't lend the money of other account holders to those who want to borrow.

Bank loans consist of money conjured out of thin air, whereby new money is credited to the borrowers account with the agreement that the amount will eventually be repaid with interest.

The policy implications of the public currency being created out of nowhere and lent to borrowers on a purely commercial basis have still not been taken on board. Nor has basing a public currency on debt as opposed to the sovereign power to create and directly circulate money free of debt.

The result is that rather than using their own sovereign power over money creation, as Alexander the Great did, states have become borrowers from the private sector. Where there are public spending deficits or the need for large scale future expenditure, there is an expectation that the state will borrow the money or increase taxation, rather than create the money itself.

Creators of cash. Creative Lab/Shutterstock.com

Dilemmas of debt

But basing a money supply on debt is ecologically, socially and economically problematic.

Ecologically, there is a problem because the need to pay off debt could drive potentially damaging growth : money creation based on repaying debt with interest must imply constant growth in the money supply. If this is achieved through increasing productive capacity, there will inevitably be pressure on natural resources.

Basing the money supply on debt is also socially discriminatory because not all citizens are in a position to take on debt. The pattern of the money supply will tend to favour the already rich or the most speculative risk-taker. Recent decades, for example, have seen a huge amount of borrowing by the financial sector to enhance their investments.

The economic problem is that the money supply depends on the capacity of the various elements of the economy (public and private) to take on more debt. And so as countries have become more dependent upon bank-created money, debt bubbles and credit crunches have become more frequent.

This is because handbag economics creates an impossible task for the private sector. It has to create all new money through bank-issued debt and repay it all with interest. It has to completely fund the public sector and generate a profit for investors.

But when the privatised bank-led money supply flounders, the money creating powers of the state come back into clear focus. This was particularly plain in the 2007-8 crisis, when central banks created new money in the process known as quantitative easing. Central banks used the sovereign power to create money free of debt to spend directly into the economy (by buying up existing government debt and other financial assets, for example).

The question then becomes: if the state as represented by the central bank can create money out of thin air to save the banks – why can't it create money to save the people?

It's a mistake to think of the state as a piggybank or handbag. ColorMaker/Shutterstock.com

Money for the people

The myths about money have led us to look at public spending and taxation the wrong way around. Taxation and spending, like bank lending and repayment, is in a constant flow. Handbag economics assumes that it is taxation (of the private sector) that is raising the money to fund the public sector. That taxation takes money out of the taxpayer's pocket.

But the long political history of sovereign power over money would indicate that the flow of money can be in the opposite direction. In the same way that banks can conjure money out of thin air to make loans, states can conjure money out of thin air to fund public spending. Banks create money by setting up bank accounts, states create money by allocating budgets.

When governments set budgets they do not see how much money they have in a pre-existing taxation piggybank. The budget allocates spending commitments that may, or may not, match the amount of money coming in through taxation. Through its accounts in the treasury and the central bank, the state is constantly spending out and taking in money. If it spends more money than it takes in, it leaves more money in people's pockets. This creates a budget deficit and what is effectively an overdraft at the central bank.

Is this a problem? Yes, if the state is treated as if it was any other bank account holder – the dependent household of handbag economics. No, if it is seen as an independent source of money. States do not need to wait for handouts from the commercial sector. States are the authority behind the money system. The power exercised by the banks to create the public currency out of thin air is a sovereign power.

It is no longer necessary to mint coins like Alexander, money can be created by keystrokes. There is no reason why this should be monopolised by the banking sector to create new public money as debt. Deeming public spending as being equivalent to bank borrowing denies the public, the sovereign people in a democracy, the right to access its own money free of debt.

Money should be designed for the many, not the few. Varavin88/Shutterstock.com

Redefining money

This foray into the historical and anthropological stories about money shows that long-held conceptions – that money emerged from a previous market economy based on barter, and that it was originally made from precious metal – are fairytales. We need to recognise this. And we need to capitalise on the public ability to create money.

But it is also important to recognise that the sovereign power to create money is not a solution in itself. Both the state and bank capacity to create money have advantages and disadvantages. Both can be abused. The reckless lending of the banking sector, for example, led to the near meltdown of the American and European monetary and financial system. On the other hand, where countries do not have a developed banking sector, the money supply remains in the hands of the state, with massive room for corruption and mismanagement.

The answer must be to subject both forms of money creation – bank and state – to democratic accountability. Far from being a technical, commercial instrument, money can be seen as a social and political construct that has immense radical potential. Our ability to harness this is hampered if we do not understand what money is and how it works . Money must become our servant, rather than our master.

theconversation.com The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation. Tags: Capitalism Neoliberalism Print this article June 24, 2019 | Editor's Сhoice Neoliberalism Has Tricked Us Into Believing a Fairytale About Where Money Comes From Mary MELLOR

There is nothing natural about money. There is no link to some scarce essential form of money that sets a limit to its creation. It can be composed of base metal, paper or electronic data – none of which is in short supply. Similarly – despite what you may have heard about the need for austerity and a lack of certain cash-generating trees – there is no "natural" level of public expenditure. The size and reach of the public sector is a matter of political choice.

Which puts austerity, the culling of expenditure in the public economy, under some question. For some countries, such as Greece , the impact of austerity has been devastating. Austerity policies still persist despite numerous studies arguing that they were entirely misconceived, based on political choice rather than economic logic. But the economic case for austerity is equally mistaken: it is based on what can best be described as fairytale economics.

So what were the justifications? Britain, for example, has lived under an austerity regime since 2010, when the incoming Tory-Liberal Democrat government reversed the Labour policy of raising the level of public expenditure in response to the 2007-8 financial crisis. The crisis had created a perfect storm: bank rescue required high levels of public spending while economic contraction reduced tax income. The case for austerity was that the higher level of public expenditure could not be afforded by the taxpayer. This was supported by " handbag economics ", which adopts the analogy of states as being like households, dependent on a (private sector) breadwinner.

Under handbag economics, states are required to restrict their expenditure to what the taxpayer is deemed to be able to afford. States must not try to increase their spending by borrowing from the (private) financial sector or by "printing money" (although the banks were rescued by doing so by another name – quantitative easing , the creation of electronic money).

The ideology of handbag economics claims that money is to be generated only through market activity and that it is always in short supply. Request for increased public expenditure is almost invariably met with the response "where's the money to come from?" When confronted by low pay in the NHS, the British prime minister, Theresa May, famously declared, "there is no magic money tree".

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So where does money come from? And what is money anyway? What is money?

Until the last 50 years or so the answer seemed to be obvious: money was represented by cash (notes and coin). When money was tangible, there seemed no question about its origin, or its value. Coins were minted, banknotes were printed. Both were authorised by governments or central banks. But what is money today? In richer economies the use of cash is declining rapidly . Most monetary transactions are based on transfers between accounts: no physical money is involved.

In the run up to the financial crisis, the state's role in relation to money held in bank accounts was ambiguous. Banking was a monitored and licensed activity with some level of state guarantee of bank deposits, but the actual act of creating bank accounts was, and is, seen as a private matter. There may be regulations and limitations, but there is no detailed scrutiny of bank accounts and bank lending.

Yet, as the 2007-8 financial crisis showed, when bank accounts came under threat as banks teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, states and central banks had to step in and guarantee the security of all deposit accounts. The viability of money in non-investment bank accounts was demonstrated to be as much a public responsibility as cash.

The magic money tree. © Kate Mc , Author provided

This raises fundamental questions about money as a social institution. Is it right that money can be generated by a private choice to take on debt, which then becomes a liability of the state to guarantee in a crisis?

But far from seeing money as a public resource, under neoliberal handbag economics, money creation and circulation has increasingly been seen as a function of the market. Money is "made" solely in the private sector. Public spending is seen as a drain on that money, justifying austerity to make the public sector as small as possible.

This stance, however, is based on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of money, sustained by a series of deeply embedded myths.

Myths about money

Neoliberal handbag economics is derived from two key myths about the origin and nature of money. The first is that money emerged from a previous market economy based on barter. The second is that money was originally made from precious metal.

It is claimed that bartering proved to be very inefficient as each buyer-seller needed to find another person who exactly matched their requirements. A hat maker might barter a hat for some shoes she needs – but what if the shoe maker is in no need of a hat? The solution to this problem, so the story goes, was to choose one commodity that everyone desired, to act as a medium of exchange. Precious metal (gold and silver) was the obvious choice because it had its own value and could be easily divided and carried. This view of the origin of money goes back to at least the 18th century: the time of economist Adam Smith .

The 'father of capitalism' Adam Smith, 1723-1790. Matt Ledwinka/Shutterstock.com

These myths led to two assumptions about money that are still current today. First, that money is essentially connected to, and generated by, the marketplace. Second that modern money, like its original and ideal form, is always in short supply. Hence the neoliberal claim that public spending is a drain on the wealth-creating capacity of the market and that public spending must always be as limited as possible. Money is seen as a commercial instrument, serving a basic, market, technical, transactional function with no social or political force.

But the real story of money is very different. Evidence from anthropology and history shows that there was no widespread barter before markets based on money developed, and precious metal coinage emerged long before market economies. There are also many forms of money other than precious metal coins.

Money as custom

Something that acts as money has existed in most, if not all, human societies. Stones, shells, beads, cloths, brass rods and many other forms have been the means of comparing and acknowledging comparative value. But this was rarely used in a market context. Most early human communities lived directly off the land – hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening. The customary money in such communities was used mainly to celebrate auspicious social events or serve as a way of resolving social conflict.

For example, the Lele people, who lived in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1950s, calculated value in woven raffia cloths . The number of cloths required for different occasions was fixed by custom. Twenty cloths should be given to a father by a son on achieving adulthood and a similar amount given to a wife on the birth of a child. The anthropologist Mary Douglas, who studied the Lele, found they were resistant to using the cloths in transactions with outsiders, indicating that the cloths had a specific cultural relevance.

Even stranger is the large stone money of the Yap people of Micronesia. Huge circular discs of stone could weigh up to four metric tons . Not something to put in your pocket for a trip to the shops.

Try lugging that to the market. Evenfh/Shutterstock.com

There is plenty of other anthropological evidence such as this all over the world, all pointing to the fact that money, in its earliest form, served a social rather than market-based purpose.

Money as power

For most traditional societies, the origin of the particular money form has been lost in the mist of time. But the origin and adoption of money as an institution became much more obvious with the emergence of states. Money did not originate as precious metal coinage with the development of markets. In fact, the new invention of precious metal coinage in around 600BC was adopted and controlled by imperial rulers to build their empires by waging war.

Most notable was Alexander the Great, who ruled from 336–323BC. He is said to have used half a ton of silver a day to fund his largely mercenary army rather than a share of the spoils (the traditional payment). He had more than 20 mints producing coins, which had images of gods and heroes and the word Alexandrou (of Alexander). From that time, new ruling regimes have tended to herald their arrival by a new coinage.

Alexandrou. Alex Coan/Shutterstock.com

More than a thousand years after the invention of coinage, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (742-814), who ruled most of western and central Europe, developed what became the basis of the British pre-decimal money system: pounds, shillings and pence. Charlemagne set up a currency system based on 240 pennies minted from a pound of silver. The pennies became established as the denier in France, the pfennig in Germany, the dinero in Spain, the denari in Italy and the penny in Britain.

So the real story of money as coinage was not one of barterers and traders: it emerged instead from a long history of politics, war and conflict. Money was an active agent in state and empire building, not a passive representation of price in the market. Control of the money supply was a major power of rulers: a sovereign power. Money was created and spent into circulation by rulers either directly, like Alexander, or through taxation or seizure of private holdings of precious metal.

Nor was early money necessarily based on precious metal. In fact, precious metal was relatively useless for building empires, because it was in short supply. Even in the Roman era, base metal was used, and Charlemagne's new money eventually became debased. In China, gold and silver did not feature and paper money was being used as early as the 9th century.

A coin from the time of Charlemagne, 768-814 AD. Classical Numismatic Group, CC BY-SA

What the market economy did introduce was a new form of money: money as debt.

Money as debt

If you look at a £20 banknote you will see it says: "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds." This is a promise originally made by the Bank of England to exchange notes for the sovereign currency. The banknote was a new form of money. Unlike sovereign money it was not a statement of value, but a promise of value. A coin, even if made of base metal, was exchangeable in its own right: it did not represent another, superior, form of money. But when banknotes were first invented, they did.

The new invention of promissory notes emerged through the needs of trade in the 16th and 17th centuries. Promissory notes were used to acknowledge receipt of loans or investments and the obligation to repay them through the fruits of future transactions. A major task of the emerging profession of banking was to periodically set all these promises against each other and see who owed what to whom. This process of "clearing" meant that a great amount of paper commitments was reduced to relatively less actual transfer of money. Final settlement was either by payment with sovereign money (coins) or another promissory note (banknote).

Eventually, the banknotes became so trusted that they were treated as money in their own right. In Britain they became equivalent to the coinage, particularly when they were united under the banner of the Bank of England. Today, if you took a banknote to the Bank of England, it would merely exchange your note for one that is exactly the same. Banknotes are no longer promises, they are the currency. There is no other "real" money behind them.

What promissory notes became. Wara1982/Shutterstock.com

What modern money does retain is its association with debt. Unlike sovereign money, which was created and spent directly into circulation, modern money is largely borrowed into circulation through the banking system. This process shelters behind another myth, that banks merely act as a link between savers and borrowers. In fact, banks create money. And it is only in the last decade that this powerful myth has been finally put to rest by banking and monetary authorities.

It is now acknowledged by monetary authorities such as the IMF, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, that banks are creating new money when they make loans. They don't lend the money of other account holders to those who want to borrow.

Bank loans consist of money conjured out of thin air, whereby new money is credited to the borrowers account with the agreement that the amount will eventually be repaid with interest.

The policy implications of the public currency being created out of nowhere and lent to borrowers on a purely commercial basis have still not been taken on board. Nor has basing a public currency on debt as opposed to the sovereign power to create and directly circulate money free of debt.

The result is that rather than using their own sovereign power over money creation, as Alexander the Great did, states have become borrowers from the private sector. Where there are public spending deficits or the need for large scale future expenditure, there is an expectation that the state will borrow the money or increase taxation, rather than create the money itself.

Creators of cash. Creative Lab/Shutterstock.com

Dilemmas of debt

But basing a money supply on debt is ecologically, socially and economically problematic.

Ecologically, there is a problem because the need to pay off debt could drive potentially damaging growth : money creation based on repaying debt with interest must imply constant growth in the money supply. If this is achieved through increasing productive capacity, there will inevitably be pressure on natural resources.

Basing the money supply on debt is also socially discriminatory because not all citizens are in a position to take on debt. The pattern of the money supply will tend to favour the already rich or the most speculative risk-taker. Recent decades, for example, have seen a huge amount of borrowing by the financial sector to enhance their investments.

The economic problem is that the money supply depends on the capacity of the various elements of the economy (public and private) to take on more debt. And so as countries have become more dependent upon bank-created money, debt bubbles and credit crunches have become more frequent.

This is because handbag economics creates an impossible task for the private sector. It has to create all new money through bank-issued debt and repay it all with interest. It has to completely fund the public sector and generate a profit for investors.

But when the privatised bank-led money supply flounders, the money creating powers of the state come back into clear focus. This was particularly plain in the 2007-8 crisis, when central banks created new money in the process known as quantitative easing. Central banks used the sovereign power to create money free of debt to spend directly into the economy (by buying up existing government debt and other financial assets, for example).

The question then becomes: if the state as represented by the central bank can create money out of thin air to save the banks – why can't it create money to save the people?

It's a mistake to think of the state as a piggybank or handbag. ColorMaker/Shutterstock.com

Money for the people

The myths about money have led us to look at public spending and taxation the wrong way around. Taxation and spending, like bank lending and repayment, is in a constant flow. Handbag economics assumes that it is taxation (of the private sector) that is raising the money to fund the public sector. That taxation takes money out of the taxpayer's pocket.

But the long political history of sovereign power over money would indicate that the flow of money can be in the opposite direction. In the same way that banks can conjure money out of thin air to make loans, states can conjure money out of thin air to fund public spending. Banks create money by setting up bank accounts, states create money by allocating budgets.

When governments set budgets they do not see how much money they have in a pre-existing taxation piggybank. The budget allocates spending commitments that may, or may not, match the amount of money coming in through taxation. Through its accounts in the treasury and the central bank, the state is constantly spending out and taking in money. If it spends more money than it takes in, it leaves more money in people's pockets. This creates a budget deficit and what is effectively an overdraft at the central bank.

Is this a problem? Yes, if the state is treated as if it was any other bank account holder – the dependent household of handbag economics. No, if it is seen as an independent source of money. States do not need to wait for handouts from the commercial sector. States are the authority behind the money system. The power exercised by the banks to create the public currency out of thin air is a sovereign power.

It is no longer necessary to mint coins like Alexander, money can be created by keystrokes. There is no reason why this should be monopolised by the banking sector to create new public money as debt. Deeming public spending as being equivalent to bank borrowing denies the public, the sovereign people in a democracy, the right to access its own money free of debt.

Money should be designed for the many, not the few. Varavin88/Shutterstock.com

Redefining money

This foray into the historical and anthropological stories about money shows that long-held conceptions – that money emerged from a previous market economy based on barter, and that it was originally made from precious metal – are fairytales. We need to recognise this. And we need to capitalise on the public ability to create money.

But it is also important to recognise that the sovereign power to create money is not a solution in itself. Both the state and bank capacity to create money have advantages and disadvantages. Both can be abused. The reckless lending of the banking sector, for example, led to the near meltdown of the American and European monetary and financial system. On the other hand, where countries do not have a developed banking sector, the money supply remains in the hands of the state, with massive room for corruption and mismanagement.

The answer must be to subject both forms of money creation – bank and state – to democratic accountability. Far from being a technical, commercial instrument, money can be seen as a social and political construct that has immense radical potential. Our ability to harness this is hampered if we do not understand what money is and how it works . Money must become our servant, rather than our master.

[Feb 27, 2019] It's Just Wrong - Fed Chair Powell Destroys MMT Dreams

Feb 27, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

We can already hear the whining from the uber-left's ivory tower as Fed Chair Jerome Powell unleashed some common-sense on the latest fraud being thrust upon Americans - that of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

As Bloomberg reminds, MMT argues that because America borrows in its own currency, it can always print more dollars to cover its obligations. As a result, the thinking goes, the U.S. can always run sustained budget deficits and rack up an ever-increasing debt burden. Helping grease the wheels for some MMTers is the expectation that the Fed would keep rates low to contain the cost of servicing America's obligations . With that in mind, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., asked Powell about the theory, saying its advocates back a "spend-now spend-later spend-often policy that would use massive annual deficits to fund these tremendously expensive policy proposals." MMT advocates figure the Fed would be a partner in funding these programs through easy monetary policy.

Powell's response was brief and to the point:

"The idea that deficits don't matter for countries that can borrow in their own currency I think is just wrong..."

"And to the extent that people are talking about using the Fed -- our role is not to provide support for particular policies," Powell said.

"Decisions about spending, and controlling spending and paying for it, are really for you."

Simply put, Powell explained that the increasingly popular theory espoused by progressives that the government can continue to borrow to fund social programs such as Medicare for everyone, free college tuition and a conversion to renewable energy in the next decade is unworkable and makes some "pretty extreme claims."

Earlier in the hearing Powell also noted that "U.S. debt is fairly high to the level of GDP -- and much more importantly -- it's growing faster than GDP, really significantly faster. We are going to have to spend less or raise more revenue."


Let it Go , 10 hours ago link

In his book "A Time For Action" written in 1980 William Simon, a former Secretary of the Treasury tells how he was "frightened and angry". In short, he sounded the trumpet about how he saw the country was heading down the wrong path. William Simon (1927 – 2000) was a businessman and a philanthropist.

Simon became the Secretary of the Treasury on May 8, 1974, during the Nixon administration and was reappointed by President Ford and served until 1977. I recently picked up a copy of the book that I had read decades ago and while re-reading it I reflected on and tried to evaluate the events that brought us to today.

Out of this came an article reflecting on how the economy of today had been greatly shaped by the actions that took place starting around 1979. Interest rates, inflation, and debt do matter and are more significant than most people realize. Rewarding savers and placing a value on the allocation of financial assets is important.

The path has again become unsustainable and many people will be shocked when the reality hits, this is not the way it has always been. The day of reckoning may soon be upon us, how it arrives is the question. Many of us see it coming, but the one thing we can bank on is that after it arrives many people will be caught totally off guard. The piece below explores how we reached this point.

http://brucewilds.blogspot.com/2015/04/interest-rates-inflation-and-debt-matter.html

Condor_0000 , 14 hours ago link

The Fed loved MMT when it was called quantitative easing and all the trillions were going to the one-percenters. They proved MMT works beautifully.

It's funny how the ruling-class talks so differently depending upon whether the 1% are benefiting or the 99% are benefiting.

"Reagan proved deficits don't matter." - greedy capitalist-**** **** Cheney as the 1% were looting the public till for tax cuts.

alfbell , 15 hours ago link

This is not fair to MMT for two reasons...

1) It isn't a theory, just an explanation of the US monetary system and how it works. It isn't advocating the system, it is just stating how it works and how one would need to operate within it.

2) MMT states that money shouldn't be created (spent into the economy by the gov) unless the necessary capacity, productivity, workers, resources and assets existed in the economy. And, if they didn't, they'd have to be created first. This would prevent inflation, not create it.

Most everyone is misinformed and hasn't done their homework as to what MMT is. The Libtards have taken an MMT point out of context and run with it. PRINT MONEY! But they omit the key MMT policy point of... "Print/spend ONLY ONLY ONLY if the productive capacity and resources are already in the economy to balance any gov spending out." A slightly important point that they conveniently overlooked due to their 2nd grade understanding of finance, economics and accounting.

HamburgerToday , 16 hours ago link

MMT simply doesn't work if a nation 'borrows' its own currency. However, if it does not, then MMT would at least theoretically be correct because the issue of 'printing money' (or creating credit) would not be tied to debt but would entail a balancing of the beneficial and adverse effects of monetary inflation.

Batman11 , 17 hours ago link

Alan Greenspan tells Paul Ryan the Government can create all the money it wants and there is no need to save for pensions.

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

What matters is whether the goods and services are there for them to buy with that money.

Money comes out of nothing and is just numbers typed in at a keyboard.

Too much and you get inflation (consumer price and/or asset price inflation), too little and you get deflation.

The true nature of money is revealed with hyper inflation.

Wheel barrows of the stuff won't buy you anything, it has no intrinsic value.

yogibear , 16 hours ago link

Hence state bailouts of NJ, IL, CA, etc. Money from helicopters coming to those that are broke!

Freebies from the Fed.

JD59 , 17 hours ago link

It is all FIAT CURRENCY, the debt is WORTHLESS, and means nothing.

Rusty Pipes , 16 hours ago link

Tell that to future (unaborted) generations. $10 billion a week in interest payments now, at relatively low rates, and rising.

Stuck on Zero , 17 hours ago link

There is some evidence that you can print money and spend it and have a vibrant, powerful economy. It depends on how you spend it. If it's spent on supportive infrastructure such as energy, transportation, utilities, communications, etc. it's all upwards. If it's spent on welfare, war machinery, and supporting the bureaucracy the system fails in one generation.

brushhog , 17 hours ago link

Underlying the whole premise of MMT is the question; Does the market determine interest rates or does the fed?

I know the fed determines the federal funds rate but are they the sole dictator of interest rates? A large portion of our debt is purchased by both domestic and foreign investors. These are independent people....as well as governments. Will they continue to buy bonds at 2% interest from a country that has a debt-to-GDP ration of 300% and 10 trillion dollar yearly deficits??

If US debt gets downgraded, can the fed over-ride the tide of reality and dictate low interest rates? Can they print enough to buy them all or do they have to maintain a functioning balance sheet as well?

daveeemc2 , 17 hours ago link

cut spending - why does usa need fbi branches in every foreign country?

why do we need so many outdated military machines (ahem aircraft carriers)

why does health care and education cost so much (ahem we forget to talk about cost, only how to pay the fee imposed by the business)

Much of our debt is result of party over country, pointless wars (that Iraq oil is now controlled by Russia and china..so much for the return on investment there), Afghanistan is a failed and foolish intervention - just ask russia, syria is a soverign nation leave them alone, same as venezuala.

Retrench and let the world figure itself out - after pakistan and india nuke each other back to stone age, lets hope for humanities sake we can get real global cooperative leadership that doesnt include the capitalist big read white and blue **** smacking foreign nations on the forehead to further the elites agenda.

[Feb 09, 2019] Large Excess Reserves and the Relationship between Money and Prices - FRB Richmond

Notable quotes:
"... But otherwise, quite correct. Raise payments on deposits and get more deposits. Raise charges on loans and get fewer loans. I might note that the Fed has supposedly paused rate hikes, but deposits are still exiting the system faster than loans. This result can be had via Fred. Thus the curve is getting more3 inverted. ..."
Feb 09, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com

Joe , February 06, 2019 at 04:54 PM

Large Excess Reserves and the Relationship between Money and Prices - FRB Richmond

At the same time that it has been normalizing its balance sheet, the Fed also has been raising its target for interest rates. The ability to pay interest on reserves has been crucial to allowing the Fed to raise its target rate while there are still significant excess reserves in the banking system. Despite these rate increases, due to various secular reasons, interest rates are expected to remain historically low for a long time.

--------------

I sample the current expectation, and it is a bit more detailed. The expectation is that the curve will remain inverted, generally with a zero near the five yer mark, if I judge from the Treasury curve where the curve has been inverted with a zero near the five yer mark.

The ten year rate will remain historically higher than the five year rate for some time, evidently. If we measure interest rate as the per annum percent of Real GDP devoted to nominal federal interest charges, then the interest rate was higher than it has ever been going back to 1972, briefly (four months ago) , and now occupies the second highest level since just before the 92 recession, at about 3.5% of GDP. These result can be had in Fred by dividing nominal interest payments by real GDP.

But otherwise, quite correct. Raise payments on deposits and get more deposits. Raise charges on loans and get fewer loans. I might note that the Fed has supposedly paused rate hikes, but deposits are still exiting the system faster than loans. This result can be had via Fred. Thus the curve is getting more3 inverted.

Why do we know the curve will invert? It is the law, when the Fed loses deposits, loan charges drop, not rise as would be normal. That is why we all expect the curve to remain inverted, the law. The law is specifically designed so the Fed holds the current low rate as long as possible, then does the sudden regime change. The law, written into the law, a rule requires that we spend time with an inverted yield curve before price adjustment. I emphasis the law because it is actually typed out, signed and enforced publicly.

The law requires the Fed hold the curve as long as possible, mainly so the pres and Congress have time to react to changes in term of trade. So, like under Obama, we hold the line on rates until Obama and the Repubs agree on a tax and spending plan going forward, then the treasury curve gains traction again. Te law, it is not under debate unless you want to be arreswted.

[Feb 05, 2019] Money's true nature is law. When a country collapses, then its money collapses.

Feb 05, 2019 | www.unz.com

MEFOBILLS , says: February 3, 2019 at 8:07 pm GMT

@nsa Sorry, not true.

The original bronze disks of Rome circulated as currency. The metal money of U.S. Confederacy circulated that is until the Confederacy became no more.

The point? Money's true nature is law. When a country collapses, then its money collapses.

Paper money that was good? Lincoln's greenbacks circulated at par. Massachusetts Bills circulated as money and prevented Oligarchs from England and their attempted takeover. The colony used the money to make iron goods (like Cannons) and do commerce.

The real statement is this: Money when it becomes unlawful, always collapses.

Massive money printing can happen when too many loans are made, as in the case today as all private bank credit notes come into being with loan activity -- a little more that 98%.

Driving a currency down with shorts causes new money to be loaned into existence, which in turn is the underlying cause of hyperinflations. The new credit creation covers the short. This mechanism always goes along with exchange rate pressures, where your country has to pay a debt in a foreign currency.

If you had an internal gold currency, which is recognized internationally, then your debts would be paid in gold, which would collapse your country into depression instead of inflation.

Bottom line is that money's true nature is law, and making claims about "paper" or "metal" obscures this fact.

cassandra , says: February 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm GMT
@eah

Since both the Fed and your local bank create money from nothing

They also impose some obligations: repayment of principle and interest. Since we can't create money from nothing, this payback has to come from money somehow created by the banks as well.

I'm less worried about "disappearing" tax money than I am about misallocated spending and its consequences -- eg the 'black budget' of the NSA and 'deep state' generally.

Can't we worry about everything ?

Good point about the 'black budget'. But the last time some sort of DOD audit was attempted the Pentagon accountants' offices got hit by a missile, I mean airliner, on 911.

[Feb 04, 2019] Externally, a nation's currency usually has value to the extent that a nation has something to offer others, which makes the currency useful for making a desired purchase. Today, the "desired purchase" is oil.

Feb 04, 2019 | www.unz.com

cassandra , says: February 4, 2019 at 9:43 pm GMT

@MEFOBILLS +++++

I'd extend your comment a bit.

Internally, a national currency has a value corresponding to demand placed by the government, such as money for the taxes the state requires of its people. The ups and downs of Lincoln's Greenback fiat currency, especially its interaction with the value of gold, demonstrates how currency is tied to confidence in the government, as you suggest.

Externally, a nation's currency usually has value to the extent that a nation has something to offer others, which makes the currency useful for making a desired purchase. Today, the "desired purchase" is oil. The dollar is valued because you need dollars to buy oil, as formerly enforced by diplomatic pressure. Because of US sanctions, trade in oil is now beginning using rubles, yuan, and most unforgivably, Venezuelan currency! (Like Iraq, Libya and Syria). If this keeps up, countries will no longer need dollars for their oil, and $ will have to compete internationally based on other considerations. That won't be pretty. IMHO, US leaders have dangerously eroding the dollar's pre-eminence by profligate use of sanctions.

I need to remedy my own deficiencies in this area, but advocates of Modern Monetary Theory, like Michael Hudson, Steve Keene, and like-minded economists who often post at nakedcapitalism, make a strong case for a fiat money system, issued and controlled by state banks, in contrast to the private banks as now.

But objecting to the fact that private bankers charge us interest, and act above the law and democratic accountability, is such a quaint complaint.

[Feb 03, 2019] Neoliberalism and Christianity

Highly recommended!
Money quote: " neoliberalism is the fight of finance to subdue society at large, and to make the bankers and creditors today in the position that the landlords were under feudalism."
Notable quotes:
"... ... if you take the Bible literally, it's the fight in almost all of the early books of the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, all about the fight over indebtedness and debt cancellation. ..."
"... neoliberalism is the fight of finance to subdue society at large,and to make the bankers and creditors today in the position that the landlords were under feudalism. ..."
"... They call themselves free marketers, but they realize that you cannot have neoliberalism unless you're willing to murder and assassinate everyone who promotes an alternative ..."
"... Just so long as you remember that most of the strongest and most moving condemnations of greed and money in the ancient and (today) western world are also Jewish--i.e. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, the Gospels, Letter of James, etc. ..."
"... The history of Jewish banking after the fall or Rome is inextricable from cultural anti-judaism of Christian west and east and de facto marginalization/ghettoization of Jews from most aspects of social life. The Jewish lending of money on interest to gentiles was both necessary for early mercantilist trade and yet usury was prohibited by the church. So Jewish money lenders were essential to and yet ostracized within European economies for centuries. ..."
"... Now Christianity has itself long given up on the tradition teaching against usury of course. ..."
"... In John, for instance most of the references to what in English is translated as "the Jews" are in Greek clearly references to "the Judaeans"--and especially to the ruling elite among the southern tribe in bed with the Romans. ..."
May 02, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , May 1, 2018 2:27:06 PM | 13

Just finished reading the fascinating Michael Hudson interview I linked to on previous thread; but since we're discussing Jews and their religion in a tangential manner, I think it appropriate to post here since the history Hudson explains is 100% key to the ongoing pain us humans feel and inflict. My apologies in advance, but it will take this long excerpt to explain what I mean:

"Tribes: When does the concept of a general debt cancellation disappear historically?

"Michael: I guess in about the second or third century AD it was downplayed in the Bible. After Jesus died, you had, first of all, St Paul taking over, and basically Christianity was created by one of the most evil men in history, the anti-Semite Cyril of Alexandria. He gained power by murdering his rivals, the Nestorians, by convening a congress of bishops and killing his enemies. Cyril was really the Stalin figure of Christianity, killing everybody who was an enemy, organizing pogroms against the Jews in Alexandria where he ruled.

"It was Cyril that really introduced into Christianity the idea of the Trinity. That's what the whole fight was about in the third and fourth centuries AD. Was Jesus a human, was he a god? And essentially you had the Isis-Osiris figure from Egypt, put into Christianity. The Christians were still trying to drive the Jews out of Christianity. And Cyril knew the one thing the Jewish population was not going to accept would be the Isis figure and the Mariolatry that the church became. And as soon as the Christian church became the establishment rulership church, the last thing it wanted in the West was debt cancellation.

"You had a continuation of the original Christianity in the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Orthodox Church, all the way through Byzantium. And in my book And Forgive Them Their Debts, the last two chapters are on the Byzantine echo of the original debt cancellations, where one ruler after another would cancel the debts. And they gave very explicit reason for it: if we don't cancel the debts, we're not going to be able to field an army, we're not going to be able to collect taxes, because the oligarchy is going to take over. They were very explicit, with references to the Bible, references to the jubilee year. So you had Christianity survive in the Byzantine Empire. But in the West it ended in Margaret Thatcher. And Father Coughlin.

"Tribes: He was the '30s figure here in the States.

"Michael: Yes: anti-Semite, right-wing, pro-war, anti-labor. So the irony is that you have the people who call themselves fundamentalist Christians being against everything that Jesus was fighting for, and everything that original Christianity was all about."

Hudson says debt forgiveness was one of the central tenets of Judaism: " ... if you take the Bible literally, it's the fight in almost all of the early books of the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, all about the fight over indebtedness and debt cancellation. "

Looks like I'll be purchasing Hudson's book as he's essentially unveiling a whole new, potentially revolutionary, historical interpretation.

psychohistorian , May 1, 2018 3:31:50 PM | 26
@ karlof1 with the Michale Hudson link....thanks!!

Here is the quote that I really like from that interview
"
Michael: No. You asked what is the fight about? The fight is whether the state will be taken over, essentially to be an extension of Wall Street if you do not have government planning. Every economy is planned. Ever since the Neolithic (era), you've had to have (a form of) planning. If you don't have a public authority doing the planning, then the financial authority becomes the planners. So globalism is in the financial interest –Wall Street and the City of London, doing the planning, not governments. They will do the planning in their own interest. So neoliberalism is the fight of finance to subdue society at large,and to make the bankers and creditors today in the position that the landlords were under feudalism.
"

karlof1, please email me as I would like to read the book as well and maybe we can share a copy.

And yes, it is relevant to Netanyahoo and his ongoing passel of lies because humanity has been told and been living these lives for centuries...it is time to stop this shit and grow up/evolve

james , May 1, 2018 10:30:01 PM | 96
@13 / 78 karlof1... thanks very much for the links to michael hudson, alastair crooke and the bruno maraces articles...

they were all good for different reasons, but although hudson is being criticized for glossing over some of his talking points, i think the main thrust of his article is very worthwhile for others to read! the quote to end his article is quite good "The question is, who do you want to run the economy? The 1% and the financial sector, or the 99% through politics? The fight has to be in the political sphere, because there's no other sphere that the financial interests cannot crush you on."

it seems to me that the usa has worked hard to bad mouth or get rid of government and the concept of government being involved in anything.. of course everything has to be run by a 'private corp' - ie corporations must run everything.. they call them oligarchs when talking about russia, lol - but they are corporations when they are in the usa.. slight rant..

another quote i especially liked from hudson.. " They call themselves free marketers, but they realize that you cannot have neoliberalism unless you're willing to murder and assassinate everyone who promotes an alternative ." that sounds about right...

@ 84 juliania.. aside from your comments on hudsons characterization of st paul "the anti-Semite Cyril of Alexandria" further down hudson basically does the same with father coughlin - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Coughlin.. he gets the anti-semite tag as well.. i don't know much about either characters, so it's mostly greek to me, but i do find some of hudsons views especially appealing - debt forgiveness being central to the whole article as i read it...

it is interesting my own view on how money is so central to the world and how often times I am incapable of avoiding the observation of the disproportionate number of Jewish people in banking.. I guess that makes me anti-semite too, but i don't think of myself that way.. I think the obsession with money is killing the planet.. I don't care who is responsible for keeping it going, it is killing us...

WJ | May 1, 2018 10:48:58 PM | 100

James @96,

Just so long as you remember that most of the strongest and most moving condemnations of greed and money in the ancient and (today) western world are also Jewish--i.e. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, the Gospels, Letter of James, etc.

The history of Jewish banking after the fall or Rome is inextricable from cultural anti-judaism of Christian west and east and de facto marginalization/ghettoization of Jews from most aspects of social life. The Jewish lending of money on interest to gentiles was both necessary for early mercantilist trade and yet usury was prohibited by the church. So Jewish money lenders were essential to and yet ostracized within European economies for centuries.

Now Christianity has itself long given up on the tradition teaching against usury of course.

WJ , May 1, 2018 8:23:40 PM | 88
Juliana @84,

I too greatly admire the work of Hudson but he consistently errs and oversimplifies whenever discussing the beliefs of and the development of beliefs among preNicene followers of the way (as Acts puts is) or Christians (as they came to be known in Antioch within roughly eight or nine decades after Jesus' death.) Palestinian Judaism in the time of Jesus was much more variegated than scholars even twenty years ago had recognized. The gradual reception and interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls in tandem with renewed research into Phili of Alexandria, the Essenes, the so-called Sons of Zadok, contemporary Galilean zealot movements styles after the earlier Maccabean resistance, the apocalyptism of post exilic texts like Daniel and (presumably) parts of Enoch--all paint a picture of a highly diverse group of alternatives to the state-Church once known as Second Temple Judaism that has been mistaken as undisputed Jewish "orthodoxy" since the advent of historical criticism.

The Gospel of John, for example, which dates from betweeen 80-120 and is the record of a much earlier oral tradition, is already explicitly binitarian, and possibly already trinitarian depending on how one understands the relationship between the Spirit or Advocate and the Son. (Most ante-Nicene Christians understood the Spirit to be *Christ's* own spirit in distributed form, and they did so by appeal to a well-developed but still largely under recognized strand in Jewish angelology.)

The "theological" development of Christianity occurred much sooner that it has been thought because it emerged from an already highly theologized strand or strands of Jewish teaching that, like Christianity itself, privileged the Abrahamic covenant over the Mosaic Law, the testament of grace over that of works, and the universal scope of revelation and salvation as opposed to any political or ethnic reading of the "Kingdom."

None of these groups were part of the ruling class of Judaean priests and levites and their hangers on the Pharisees.

In John, for instance most of the references to what in English is translated as "the Jews" are in Greek clearly references to "the Judaeans"--and especially to the ruling elite among the southern tribe in bed with the Romans.

So the anti-Judaism/Semiti of John's Gispel largely rests on a mistranslation. In any event, everything is much more complex than Hudson makes it out to be. Christian economic radicalism is alive and well in the thought of Gregory of Nysa and Basil the Great, who also happened to be Cappadocian fathers highly influential in the development of "orthodox" Trinitarianism in the fourth century.

I still think that Hudson's big picture critique of the direction later Christianity took is helpful and necessary, but this doesn't change the fact that he simplifies the origins, development, and arguably devolution of this movement whenever he tries to get specific. It is a worthwhile danger given the quality of his work in historical economics, but still one has to be aware of.

[Jan 29, 2019] Modern Monetary Theory A Cargo Cult

Jan 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) absolutely needed to be "a larger part of our conversation." Her comment shines a spotlight on MMT. So what is it? According to Wikipedia , it is:

"a macroeconomic theory that describes the currency as a public monopoly and unemployment as the evidence that a currency monopolist is restricting the supply of the financial assets needed to pay taxes and satisfy savings desires."

It is uncontroversial to say that the Federal Reserve has a monopoly on the dollar. So let's look at the second proposition. Unemployment, MMT holds, is evidence that the supply of dollars is restricted.

In other words, more money causes more employment!

This does not sound very different from what the New Keynesians say. Keith analyzed former Fed Chair Janet Yellen's seminal paper on the economics of labor for Forbes :

"Here is their [Yellen and co-author Ackerloff] tenuous chain of logic:

  1. Disgruntled employees don't work hard, and may even sabotage machinery.
  2. So companies must overpay to keep them from slacking.
  3. Higher pay per worker means fewer workers, because companies have a finite budget.

Yellen concludes -- you guessed it:

  1. inflation provides corporations with more money to hire more people."

As a footnote, MMT is referred to as neo-Chartalism, and there is some evidence that Keynes was influenced by Chartalism (which goes back to at least 1905).

On Thursday, Marketplace published a piece on MMT . Things are heating up for this hot new (old) idea. Marketplace presented a "bathroom sink" model of the economy (yes, really!)

To wrap your brain around this concept, picture a bathroom sink. Think of the government and its ability to create more money whenever it needs to as the faucet and that bucket area of the sink where the water goes as the economy.

The government controls how much money, or water, is flowing into the economy. It spends money into the economy by building interstates or paying farm subsidies or funding programs.

"And so as those dollars reach the economy, they begin to fill up that bucket, and what you want to do is be very mindful about how full that bucket is getting or you're going to get an inflation problem," [Bernie Sanders economic advisor Stephanie] Kelton said.

Inflation is where the sink overflows. If that happens, Kelton said there are two ways to fix it: "You can slow the flow of dollars coming into that bucket. That means the government then has to start slowing it's [sic] rate of spending, or you can open up the drain and let some of those dollars out of the economy. And that's what we do when we collect taxes."

This sounds a lot like the Quantity Theory of Money (QTM). This view often paints a picture of pouring water into a container. The higher the water level, the higher the general price level.

QTM by itself does not promote the idea that more money causes more employment. Only that more money causes more rising prices. But Keynes did. And the New Keynesians like Yellen do.

So what makes MMT unique?

According to Stephanie Kelton, in the Marketplace article:

"If you control your own currency and you have bills that are coming due, it means you can always afford to pay the bills on time," Kelton said. "You can never go broke, you can never be forced into bankruptcy. You're nothing like a household."

Keynes taught us about government deficits to bolster employment and government deficits to respond to a crisis. MMT teaches us how to get to the next level. The voters want free goodies. Traditional economics says "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

MMT says "oh yes there is!"

At least until you get to too much inflation . The Monetarists would agree, don't print too much money or you get too much inflation . Much of the gold community also agrees. If you print too much money, then you get skyrocketing inflation .

Never mind that this prediction was proven wrong in the post-2008 policy response. We want to highlight that the Keyesians, the Monetarists, the MMTers, and even many Austrians largely agree. The problem with too much money printing is too much inflation . They quibble about what is too much, but they agree on the "bathroom sink" model of the economy.

In the words of early 20 th century physicist Wolfgang Pauli, QTM "is not even wrong ."

We define inflation as the counterfeiting of credit. That is, fraudulently taking money from a saver. It is called borrowing , but the borrower hasn't got the means or intent to repay. Additionally, when everyone thinks that the government's debt paper is money , the saver doesn't even know or consent to the borrowing.

There are lies, damnlies, and statistics. Then there are a few pugnacious, in your face, gaslighting make-you-believe-in-unreality cargo cults. We will explore this in full, below.

During World War II, the US military set up operations on certain Pacific islands. They built landing strips, where they landed planes bringing in supplies and men. They hired the local tribesmen as labor, and paid them stuff that was ordinary to Americans, but wondrous to the islanders. Like canned food. The islanders really looked forward to when a plane would land, and they would get some cargo.

After the war, the US military pulled up stakes and left. But the islanders still wanted the cargos. So they set up these elaborate charades, with tiki torches instead of flashlights, and coconut shell mockup headphones. They went through the motions that they thought the Americans did. To try to bring back the cargos.

Huh. What does that remind you of? An elaborate charade, with bogus props, going through the motions of a civilization they don't understand to try to produce desired results -- free goodies?

Modern Monetary Theory is a cargo cult.

It's ironic that the name includes the word modern . If we said that a pile of greasy rags sealed in a dark closet would spontaneously generate rats, would you call that a modern theory? If we said that sickness is caused by bad humors, and the cure is bloodletting by leaches, would you say this is modern ? How about the idea that the Sun and the planets orbit the Earth. Is this modern , too?

Not only are these not modern -- they are, in fact, old ideas that were tossed into the garbage heap -- they are not theories either. A theory is an explanation of reality, which integrates many observed facts and contradicts none. Modern Monetary Theory is neither modern nor a theory .

MMT is not an attempt to explain reality, but to deny it.

Even a child understands something. Even people in the ancient world understood it, too. If you lend a bushel of wheat to your neighbor, and he does not repay it, you suffer a loss. You are worse off, compared to before. And so is the borrower (who at the least ruins his credit).

MMT is based on denying this universal truth. Common sense says that if Peter lends to Paul, and Paul does not repay, then Peter is impoverished. Common sense says that Peter would not lend to Paul if he knew that Paul would renege on his obligation.

MMT says that a modern economy has a modern currency, which is just the state's paper. And in a modern economy, the modern state can print more with no concerns other than "overflowing the bathroom sink". Get that, the only concern is prices could rise too fast. And so long as this does not occur, then the state can get away with it. Only, there is nothing to get away with. It's perfectly fine.

In a cargo cult, the people did not recognize the difference between fake coconut shell headphones, and real headphones. Or flashlights and tiki torches. So they made crude copies as best they could. They went through the motions to summon the sky gods to come down to earth, with cargo.

Let's look at the mental gymnastics. They imbued magical -- that is outside the principle of cause and effect -- characteristics to their props. Failing to understand that airplanes are created by men, and that it takes a great deal of planning (not to mention wealth) to fly a plane full of cargo from America to the middle of the Pacific, they imagined that, somehow, the act of using the headphones and the flashlights caused the plane and its cargo to come. The headset is tokenized, viewed as a magical talisman.

What a cargo cult does to headphones, MMT does to money. First, the cargo cult substitutes coconut shells held together with twisted vine for headphones. What they wear when attempting to summon the sky gods is not a headset, but a surrogate. MMT (as does Keynesianism and Monetarism) substitutes government debt paper for money.

As an aside, even a gold-redeemable certificate is not money. Think about it. You can bring this piece of paper to the teller window. You push it across the counter. The teller pushes back the gold coin. If the word for the paper is money, then what is the word for the gold for which it redeems?

Anyways, modern monetary systems use irredeemable paper. It's not gold-redeemable, but even worse. And they treat this paper as if it were money .

And it goes even farther. Previous theories felt the need to at least pay lip service to repaying debt. They couldn't quite get to the point of openly admitting that the debt is never to be repaid. Keynes famously quipped that, "in the long run, we are all dead," creating ambiguity about the intention to repay. Monetarists generally promote the idea that if the economy grows fast enough, the debt will shrink as a proportion of GDP.

The Keynesians don't have the intention to repay. And the Monetarists don't look at Marginal Productivity of Debt , which would show them that their idea isn't working. But they don't go as far as the MMT'ers.

MMT says that the government is unlike deadbeat-debtor Paul. There is no need for the government to repay. It's the same as the cargo cult. The cargo cult has no concept for capital. The islanders do not produce in excess of what they consume, accumulating tools and technology to increase their productivity. They subsist, and assume that this is how the world works.

MMT has no concept for capital either. It puts blinders on, declaring that consumer prices are the only thing to measure. The only risk is if they rise too fast. And the MMT'ers refuse to see anything else.

In our discussion of Yield Purchasing Power , we introduced a farmer who sells off the back 40 (acres), chops down the apple orchard to sell the fruitwood, tears down the old barn to sell the planks, and even dismantles the tractor. And why does he do this? He gets cash in exchange. And the cash is far in excess of his crop yield. Why struggle and sweat to produce $20,000 a year by growing food, when you can sell off the piece of the farm for $20,000,000.

The monetary system incentivizes the farmer to trade productive capital for paper credit slips. The incentive is that this paper has a greater purchasing power than what he can earn by operating the farm. He can trade his farm for far more groceries, than the food he could grow on it.

This is the same old game. But MMT gives it a new name -- and asserts a bolder defense. MMT'ers don't want to see, and they want you not to see, that the lender gives up good capital but the borrower is just consuming it.

MMT justifies the naked consumption of capital.

Supply and Demand Fundamentals

The prices of the metals rose this week, especially on Friday. The exchange rate of gold went up twenty two US dollars, and that of silver 41 US cents.

As we will discuss below, we think that there is a rethinking of gold occurring in the market. And we don't just mean celebrities like Sam Zell buying gold for the first time.

There is a sense of déjà vu. Starting in mid-2004, the Fed went on one of its rate-hiking sprees. It did not manage to get as high as the previous peak of 6.5%, set prior to the previous crisis. In 2006, this rate topped out at 5.25%. In both the crisis of 2001, and the crisis of 2008, the Fed had begun cutting rates before the official indication of recession , and the cuts occurred more rapidly than the preceding hikes.

The cuts were too little and/or too late to avert disaster.

The problem is that during the period of low rates, firms are incentivized to borrow. They finance projects which generate a low rate of return. These projects would not be financed, but for the even-lower cost of borrowing. When rates rise, it does not increase the rate of return produced by marginal projects (likely the opposite). So borrowers are squeezed.

The Fed eventually comes along with its fix -- even lower rates. While this is too late to save firms that are teetering into default, it does enable the next wave of borrowing for even-poorer-projects.

And now, here we are. Since its first tepid hike in December 2005, the Fed has been hiking for just over three years so far. It has hit a rate well under half of the peak of 2006-2007. The president has publicly urged the Fed to reverse policy course. And the Fed said it is listening to the market, and may have paused hiking for now.

Meanwhile, the Fed Funds rate may be lower than the previous peak but it is much higher than it was from the end of 2008 through the end of 2015. For seven years, it was basically zero. Nobody knows how many dollars' worth of projects were financed that were only justified, only possible, due to this zero interest-rate policy. But it was surely a lot (we would guess at least trillions).

And now the rate is up to 2.25%. Many of those projects are no longer justified, and can no longer service the debt that finances them.

And none of this is a secret. It is well known to the borrowers, of course. And their creditors. And the Fed. And hedge funds and other sophisticated speculators. And not just in general theory, but lists of specific companies and the rollover dates of their bond issues.

Rollover is key to this. After decades of falling interest, everyone has learned the game of using short-term financing. But the risk is that it must be rolled over. And when it is rolled, the previous low-rate is replaced with the higher, current rate. And that's when we find out which businesses can still pay.

So what will the Fed do? The next programs will have a new name, but the Fed must lower the cost of capital if it wants to keep the game going.

Is this time going to be the total collapse of the dollar? We don't believe so, as there is still a lot of capital remaining and more is flooding in as people abandon the dollar-derivative currencies. So we think of it as déjà vu, the Fed is likely to do something similar to last time.

And that is an environment where even the non-goldbugs see clear and compelling arguments for owning gold.

It could be that the timing is not now. It could be that it will take months or years to arrive at this point. We make no predictions of timing. However, we note that the Monetary Metals Gold Fundamental Price has been in a rising trend since mid-October. Its low was on October 9 ($1,266).

Silver is similar, but a bit different. The low in its fundamental occurred in late November ($14.37). But it's up like a rocket since then, now about two bucks higher.

We are at an interesting point.

Let's take a look at the only true picture of the supply and demand fundamentals of gold and silver. But, first, here is the chart of the prices of gold and silver.

[Nov 20, 2018] The Torah, biblical and Quran stories were written in agrarian societies where capitalistic enterprise hardly existed. Loans were for not dying of hunger in the period between when the food of the last harvest had been used completely, and the new harvest was still in the future.

Nov 20, 2018 | www.unz.com

jilles dykstra , says: November 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm GMT

@tac The Torah, biblical and Quran stories were written in agrarian societies where capitalistic enterprise hardly existed.
Loans were for not dying of hunger in the period between when the food of the last harvest had been used completely, and the new harvest was still in the future.
Thus interest was seen as blackmailing people, they needed money to prevent dying of starvation.
There was enterprise long ago, and trade over long distances, in the early centuries for example swords from Damascus were famous in Europe, and exported to Europe.
Investment for business was the exception, even the first iron smelting installations were simple, those who wanted them could build them by themselves.
The idea that invested money could yield money came later, when installations became more complex, ships bigger, etc.
With investment came risk, there was not much risk in consumptive loans, they normally could paid out of the coming harvest.
And so the problem began, a church not understanding capitalism, an agrarian society based on barter changing into a money using capitalistic society.
Commercial people had no problem with interest, even now Muslims do not have problems with interest.
What they do is simply giving interest other names, such as a fine for repaying late.
It has been agreed that the repayment will be late, so anybody is happy.

[Nov 20, 2018] It is an interesting side-note that both Christianity and Islam both prohibit the use of usury

Nov 20, 2018 | www.unz.com

tac , says: November 14, 2018 at 6:35 am GMT

@renfro And there you have it in a nutshell: usary -- the usurper of civilization, the enslaver of humanity, the seed of ultimate degeneracy. It seems humanity is adverse to learn from history. It is an interesting side-note that both Christianity and Islam both prohibit the use of usury (a consideration worthy of mention when one contemplates the ongoing wars in the ME) and some who here take shots at Farakhann, 'neo-nazis', blue-hair and other deplorables.

Our dilemma today is the same that occurred in Rome. Our country and people will suffer the same fate if usury continues as it has. From the onset of history, it has been the moneychangers, who have exploited mankind for pure profit. Usury is an abomination against God's statutes, which manipulates and destroys people, families, and nations. It is by the profits made from usury used to attack Christianity. One needs only to ask- who is in control of usury worldwide? Didn't Rome suffer from these same people? Usury brings forth an insidious side to all people. The temptation to borrow is powerful, and it always polarizes lender against borrower where the former becomes the master and the later, the slave. As a vice, neighbor is pitted against his neighbor, and nation against nation.

[...]

The Roman government was far too corrupt already with its politicians bought by moneychangers for any fledgling Christian sect to have an affect on its decline. The moneychanger's demand was perpetually self-serving, which was disparate to the common good of the populace. Originally, Rome was founded as a republic. The unchecked influence of the moneychangers caused it to change into a democracy. A republic is derived through the election of public officials whose attitude toward property is respected in terms of law for individual rights. A democracy is derived through the election of public officials whose attitude toward property is communistic and respects the "collective good" of the population instead of the individual. This is the resultant system that moneychangers bring to civilization. The subversion of power is a sleight of hand that changes the right of the individual into what is often called the "collective good" of the people (communistic), which is always controlled by an alliance of powerful interests.

There is no reference in the article to the moneychangers and their lawyers sowing the seeds for Roman society to suffocate under its own lethargic weight. Lawyers were indeed a problem to Rome. The Romans were so concerned by lawyers' opprobrious effect on public morale that they attempted to curb their influence. In 204 BC, the Roman Senate passed a law prohibiting lawyers from plying their trade for money. As the Roman republic declined and became more democratic, it became increasingly difficult to keep lawyers in check and prevent them from accepting fees under the table. Indeed, they were very useful to the moneychangers. The lawyers fed upon corruption and accelerated the downward plunge of Roman civilization. Some wealthy Romans began sending their sons to Greece to finish their schooling, to learn rhetoric (Julius Caesar was one example) -- a lawyer's cleverness in oration. This compounded Rome's growing woes.
[...]
The moneychangers destroyed Rome from within by first monopolizing usury, monopolizing the precious mineral trade and then disproportionately magnifying the temporal businesses of prostitution (including pedophilia and homosexuality), and slavery. Constantine (306-337 AD) was the first Roman emperor to issue laws, which radically limited the rights of Jews as citizens of the Roman Empire, a privilege conferred upon them by Caracalla in 212 AD. The laws of Constantius (337-361 AD) recognized the Jewish domination of the slave trade and acted to greatly curtail it. A law of Theodosius II (408-410 AD), prohibited Jews from holding any advantageous office of honor in the Roman state. Always the impetus was buying influence concerning their trade.
[...]
Usury has been the opiate that has ruined the ingenuity of many of its civilizations. As this Jewish craft spread, the people increasingly suffered from the burdens of indebtedness. So troubling was the effects of usury that Lex Genucia outlawed usury in 342 BC. Nevertheless, ways of evading such legislation were found and by the last period of the Republic, usury was once again rife. Emperors like Julius Caesar and Justinian tried to limit the interest rate and control its devastating effects (Birnie, 1958). Entertainment was a way to temporarily set aside the burdens of indebtedness. It was a way to festively indulge in all the glory that Rome had to offer. Rome soon became drunk on hedonism. Collectively, entertainment helped disguise the collapsing of a great power. Spectator blood sports, brothels, carnivals, festivals, and parties substituted for everything that was wrong with Rome.
[...]
Rome became a multi-cultural state much like our own in the United States. Indeed, it was truly an international city. Foreigners of every nation resided and worked there. The Romans soon intermarried and had children with the many foreigners. This included concubines from the numerous slaves won through war. Rome had an extraordinary large slave population and was estimated to make up about two-thirds of its population at one time.
[...]
Eventually, the Romans lost their tribal cohesion and identity. The population of Rome had changed and so did its character. Increasing demands were made of the ruling patricians. The aristocrats tried to appease the masses, but eventually those demands could not be sustained. Rome had become bankrupt. The effects of usury polarized the patrician class against an increasingly dispossessed and burdened class of citizens.
[...]
Rome was bankrupt and was collapsing. The parasitic nature of usury and its effect on government was too complex for the uneducated plebeians to understand (see Addendum for an illustration of usury's power). Indeed, it was the moneychangers with the use of their lawyers that destroyed pagan Rome. The Jewish interests did not control all usury. However, they were a people well recognized as being extremely loyal to each other and adept in the black craft of usury. To all others (gentiles) they showed hate and enmity. Throughout history the weapon of usury is used again and again to destroy nations.
[...]
Fortunately, the writings of Cicero survived the burning of libraries. In the case against Faccus, we can see the crafts of the Jews are the same today. The Jews clearly held great influence in politics as a result of their professions and profited immensely at the expense of Rome. We can further deduce by the case of Faccus that the Jews were not concerned with the interests of Rome, but rather for their own interests. The Jewish gold was being shipped from Rome and its provinces throughout the empire to Jerusalem. Why? We also know that the Jews had utter contempt and hatred of the Romans. This contempt is demonstrated by their breaking of Roman law, which Faccus tried to uphold. If we look closer, we see that gold has a very special meaning to all Jewry unlike any other people.
[...]
There are enough records for us to piece together what actually occurred in Rome that led to its downfall. Rome fell as a result of corruption and the lack of cohesion of its own people. But, it was the instrument of usury that brought about this corruption and allowed its gold and silver to be controlled by Jewish interests.
[...]
It was Christianity that put an end to the destructive nature of usury on its people (see addendum for usury example). Rome's treasury became barren as a result of the moneychangers. It weakened the Roman Empire immeasurably, and thrust untold millions in poverty, debt, and in prison. It was Christianity that halted the influence of the Jews and their destructive trades and practices. And, the Christian faith spread throughout the former Roman Empire. All of the European people eventually became Christianity's vanguard and champion. Without the strict adherence to the moral ethos, any civilization will devolve into the religion of Nimrod.

http://www.vanguardnewsnetwork.com/v1/index274.htm

[Oct 25, 2018] Should we trust MMT?

Oct 25, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Tvc15 , October 23, 2018 at 2:34 pm

I apologize in advance to Lambert for adding this link to his terrific daily water cooler topics, but since Yves and NC were specifically mentioned I thought it would be interesting to share. The video is titled, "Should we trust MMT?" with Joe Bongiovanni. It is 48 minutes long and I only made it about 20 minutes after becoming too annoyed. Yves/NC are mentioned at 18 minutes and 40 seconds in. Joe says he was part of the NC commentariat for years, but was banned due to his thoughts that MMT proponents are misleading and don't "tell the real truth".

https://youtu.be/jvunhn47F20

Tvc15 , October 23, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Not being an economist or comfortable enough with my understanding of MMT to know if what he was saying had merit. Plus the style and lack of preparation from the interviewer other than wanting her expert to debunk MMT for her right wing followers.

JohnnyGL , October 23, 2018 at 6:45 pm

I'm 30 min in .skip ahead to that point to get to the meat of his discussion.

He keeps repeating that he wants monetary "reform", so that the money system 'works for the people'. But he doesn't say what that change is or why MMT gets it wrong in its understanding of how the system works.

He says "govt doesn't create money by spending". Except, yes, it does. It then chooses to offset that spending later with bond auctions.

He doesn't make a distinction between public and private debt, doesn't distinguish between currency users and issuers. No distinction between stocks and flows. No discussion of capacity constraints, inflation.

He actually fear-mongers about the debt around the 38-39 min mark. Says there's going to be tough times when we get austerity (in addition to environment collapsing).

He talks a lot about how 'the monetary system works', but it's clear to me he doesn't get how the banking system works. I don't think you can understand one without the other very well.

MMT can offer a clear explanation of why:

1) 30 yr treasury bond yields fell rapidly in the 1980s while deficits were exploding.
2) 30 yr treasury bond yields rose in 2000, hitting 7% on the 30 yr at one point, when the government was running surpluses.
3) Japan has a functional currency and economy with massive debts and deficits for many years.

Conventional economics has NO explanation for the above phenomenon.

ChristopherJ , October 23, 2018 at 7:33 pm

Cheers Johnny – he's been here before and took umbrage to the NC crew saying that taxation for revenue is obsolete. Don't make me go there.

Said NC doesn't like criticism and Yves had banned him I'd be banned too if I thought that!!

Got some trolls on Youtube worked up. I'll go and finish them off after I do a little more digging on Joe and his Kettle Pond Institute for Debt Free Money.

He had a go at Bill Mitchell on this post recently:

http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=39889

IMO, Tvc, if you want some relevant stuff, look at how Jimmy Dore (a comedian turned activist) gets his head around MMT – Stephanie Kelton was good and has been linked here and also Chris Hedges

People like JD are very influential and I can see a heightened awareness out there that we are not going to get anywhere now by being polite and civil.

That's how we got here in the first place

Plenue , October 23, 2018 at 8:18 pm

"he's been here before and took umbrage to the NC crew saying that taxation for revenue is obsolete."

It's not just obsolete as in "we don't need to do this anymore". Instead it literally doesn't happen at the federal level.

Yves Smith , October 23, 2018 at 9:36 pm

I don't remember the details, but he was banned for behavior. The problem that so often happens is that the people on losing sides of arguments here (as in not just the moderators but the commentariat does a good job of debunking their claims) is they don't give up and start going into various forms of bad faith argumentation: broken record, straw manning, or just plain getting abusive. Then they try to claim they were banned due to their position, as opposed to how they started carrying on when they couldn't make their case.

ChrisAtRU , October 23, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Joe B. is part of AMI (American Monetary Institute). This installment from NEP should sort you out.

#MMT v #AMI/#PositiveMoney

Yves Smith , October 23, 2018 at 9:43 pm

The AMI people are a real problem, and the worst is that they use enough lingo that sounds MMT-like that they confuse people about MMT. They are also presumptuous as hell. I was part of an Occupy Wall Street group, Alternative Banking. Every week, a group came and kept trying to hijack the discussion to be about Positive Money. They got air time because that's Occupy but everyone else regarded them as an annoyance.

One Sunday, the president of AMI showed up in a suit, uninvited, and expected to be able to take over the group and lecture. The rules were everyone on stack got only 2 or 3 minutes each (I forget how long) and then had to cede the floor. Since everyone else was too polite, I was the one who had to shut him up by blowing up at him and telling him he was totally out of line and had no business abusing the group's rules. That is the only time in my WASPy life I have carried on like that in a public setting. Broke up the meeting, which reconvened only after he left.

ChrisAtRU , October 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm

#Yikes I learned early on to avoid the #PositiveMoney trap, and this anecdote should convince others of the same.

skippy , October 24, 2018 at 12:41 am

All part of the broader sound money camp, not unlike Mr. Volcker's recent NYT piece.

[Oct 09, 2018] The Continuing Dominance of the Dollar by Josepth Joyce

Notable quotes:
"... Financial Times ..."
"... Global Financial Stability ..."
Oct 09, 2018 | angrybearblog.com

Why does the dollar continue to possess a hegemonic status a decade after the crisis that seemed to signal an end to U.S.-U.K. dominated finance? Gillian Tett of the Financial Times offers several reasons. The first is the global reach of U.S. based banks. U.S. banks are seen as stable, particularly when compared to European banks. Any listing of the largest international banks will be dominated by Chinese banks, and these institutions have expanded their international business . But the Chinese banks will conduct business in dollars when necessary. Tett's second reason is the relative strength of the U.S. economy, which grew at a 4.1% pace in the second quarter. The third reason is the liquidity and credibility of U.S. financial markets, which are superior to those of any rivals.

The U.S. benefits from its financial dominance in several ways. Jeff Sachs of Columbia University points out that the cost of financing government deficits is lower due to the acceptance of U.S. Treasury securities as "riskless assets." U.S. banks and other institutions earn profits on their foreign operations. In addition, the use of our banking network for international transactions provides the U.S. government with a powerful foreign policy tool in the form of sanctions that exclude foreign individuals, firms or governments from this network .

There are risks to the system with this dependence. As U.S. interest rates continue to rise, loans that seemed reasonable before now become harder to finance. The burden of dollar-denominated debt also increases as the dollar appreciates. These developments exacerbate the repercussions of policy mistakes in Argentina and Turkey, but also affect other countries as well.

The IMF in its latest Global Financial Stability (see also here ) identifies another potential destabilizing feature of the current system. The IMF reports that the U.S. dollar balance sheets of non-U.S. banks show a reliance on short-term or wholesale funding. This reliance leaves the banks vulnerable to a liquidity freeze. The IMF is particularly concerned about the use of foreign exchange swaps, as swap markets can be quite volatile. While central banks have stablished their own network of swap lines , these have been criticized .

The status of the dollar as the primary international currency is not welcomed by foreign governments. The Russian government, for example, is seeking to use other currencies for its international commerce. China and Turkey have offered some support, but China is invested in promoting the use of its own currency. In addition, Russia's dependence on its oil exports will keep it tied to the dollar.

But interest in formulating a new international payments system has now spread outside of Russia and China. Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for the establishment of "U.S. independent payment channels" that would allow European firms to continue to deal with Iran despite the U.S. sanctions on that country. Chinese electronic payments systems are being used in Europe and the U.S. The dollar may not be replaced, but it may have to share its role as an international currency with other forms of payment if foreign nations calculate that the benefits of a new system outweigh its cost. Until now that calculation has always favored the dollar, but the reassessment of globalization initiated by the Trump administration may have lead to unexpected consequences.

[Oct 08, 2018] The city of Los Angeles has on its ballot for the November elections a measure to create a city-owned bank.

Oct 08, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Grieved , Oct 7, 2018 4:13:53 PM | link

Our commenter psychohistorian and others interested in public banking, and the concept of money as a public utility rather than a private (and profit-gouging) instrument, may want to watch the latest Keiser Report, which has an interview with Ellen Brown.

Brown relates that the city of Los Angeles has on its ballot for the November elections a measure to create a city-owned bank. This was put on the ballot by the city council itself, prompted by a groundswell of support coming from constituents.

The rapid-fire interview doesn't go deeply into the politics behind this citizen initiative, but it seems like a happy story of young millennials looking for an alternative to Wall Street banks, and learning from Brown and others about the strong value of the public bank.

An interesting turn of events. The interview starts in the second half of the show at 14:40:

Episode 1289 Keiser Report

[Oct 02, 2018] Randy Wray Modern Monetary Theory How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... Treatise on Money ..."
"... State Theory of Money ..."
"... Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies ..."
"... Understanding Modern Money ..."
"... Modern Money Theory ..."
"... Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth ..."
"... Reclaiming the State ..."
"... Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea ..."
"... permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. ..."
"... that one of the consequences of the protracted super-low interest rate regime of the post crisis era was to create a world of hurt for savers, particularly long-term savers like pension funds, life insurers and retirees. ..."
"... income inequality ..."
"... even after paying interest ..."
"... It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945). ..."
"... After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received. ..."
"... See: https://mythfighter.com/2018/08/27/ten-answers-that-are-contrary-to-popular-wisdom/ ..."
"... There is no avoiding bad government. ..."
"... "Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency." ..."
"... "JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability." ..."
Oct 02, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Randy Wray: Modern Monetary Theory – How I Came to MMT and What I Include in MMT Posted on October 2, 2018 by Yves Smith By L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at Bard College. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

I was asked to give a short presentation at the MMT conference. What follows is the text version of my remarks, some of which I had to skip over in the interests of time. Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT.

I'd also like to quickly respond to some comments that were made at the very last session of the conference -- having to do with "approachability" of the "original" creators of MMT. Like Bill Mitchell, I am uncomfortable with any discussion of "rockstars" or "heroes". I find this quite embarrassing. As Bill said, we're just doing our job. We are happy (or, more accurately pleasantly surprised) that so many people have found our work interesting and useful. I'm happy (even if uncomfortable) to sign books and to answer questions at such events. I don't mind emailed questions, however please understand that I receive hundreds of emails every day, and the vast majority of the questions I get have been answered hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of times by the developers of MMT. A quick reading of my Primer or search of NEP (and Bill's blog and Warren's blogs) will reveal answers to most questions. So please do some homework first. I receive a lot of "questions" that are really just a thinly disguised pretense to argue with MMT -- I don't have much patience with those. Almost every day I also receive a 2000+ word email laying out the writer's original thesis on how the economy works and asking me to defend MMT against that alternative vision. I am not going to engage in a debate via email. If you have an alternative, gather together a small group and work for 25 years to produce scholarly articles, popular blogs, and media attention -- as we have done for MMT -- and then I'll pay attention. That said, here you go: wrayr@umkc.edu .

******************************************************************************

As an undergraduate I studied psychology and social sciences -- but no economics, which probably gave me an advantage when I finally did come to economics. I began my economics career in my late 20's studying mostly Institutionalist and Marxist approaches while working for the local government in Sacramento. However, I did carefully read Keynes's General Theory at Sacramento State and one of my professors -- John Henry -- pushed me to go to St. Louis to study with Hyman Minsky, the greatest Post Keynesian economist.

I wrote my dissertation in Bologna under Minsky's direction, focusing on private banking and the rise of what we called "nonbank banks" and "off-balance sheet operations" (now called shadow banking). While in Bologna, I met Otto Steiger -- who had an alternative to the barter story of money that was based on his theory of property. I found it intriguing because it was consistent with some of Keynes's Treatise on Money that I was reading at the time. Also, I had found Knapp's State Theory of Money -- cited in both Steiger and Keynes–so I speculated on money's origins (in spite of Minsky's warning that he didn't want me to write Genesis ) and the role of the state in my dissertation that became a book in 1990 -- Money and Credit in Capitalist Economies -- that helped to develop the Post Keynesian endogenous money approach.

What was lacking in that literature was an adequate treatment of the role of the state–which played a passive role -- supplying reserves as demanded by private bankers -- that is the Post Keynesian accommodationist or Horzontalist approach. There was no discussion of the relation of money to fiscal policy at that time. As I continued to read about the history of money, I became more convinced that we need to put the state at the center. Fortunately I ran into two people that helped me to see how to do it.

First there was Warren Mosler, who I met online in the PKT discussion group; he insisted on viewing money as a tax-driven government monopoly. Second, I met Michael Hudson at a seminar at the Levy Institute, who provided the key to help unlock what Keynes had called his "Babylonian Madness" period -- when he was driven crazy trying to understand early money. Hudson argued that money was an invention of the authorities used for accounting purposes. So over the next decade I worked with a handful of people to put the state into monetary theory.

As we all know, the mainstream wants a small government, with a central bank that follows a rule (initially, a money growth rate but now some version of inflation targeting). The fiscal branch of government is treated like a household that faces a budget constraint. But this conflicts with Institutionalist theory as well as Keynes's own theory. As the great Institutionalist Fagg Foster -- who preceded me at the University of Denver–put it: whatever is technically feasible is financially feasible. How can we square that with the belief that sovereign government is financially constrained? And if private banks can create money endogenously -- without limit -- why is government constrained?

My second book, in 1998, provided a different view of sovereign spending. I also revisited the origins of money. By this time I had discovered the two best articles ever written on the nature of money -- by Mitchell Innes. Like Warren, Innes insisted that the dollar's value is derived from the tax that drives it. And he argued this has always been the case. This was also consistent with what Keynes claimed in the Treatise, where he said that money has been a state money for the past four thousand years, at least. I called this "modern money" with intentional irony -- and titled my 1998 book Understanding Modern Money as an inside joke. It only applies to the past 4000 years.

Surprisingly, this work was more controversial than the earlier endogenous money research. In my view it was a natural extension -- or more correctly, it was the prerequisite to a study of privately created money. You need the state's money before you can have private money. Eventually our work found acceptance outside economics -- especially in law schools, among historians, and with anthropologists.

For the most part, our fellow economists, including the heterodox ones, attacked us as crazy.

I benefited greatly by participating in law school seminars (in Tel Aviv, Cambridge, and Harvard) on the legal history of money -- that is where I met Chris Desan and later Farley Grubb, and eventually Rohan Grey. Those who knew the legal history of money had no problem in adopting MMT view -- unlike economists.

I remember one of the Harvard seminars when a prominent Post Keynesian monetary theorist tried to argue against the taxes drive money view. He said he never thinks about taxes when he accepts money -- he accepts currency because he believes he can fob it off on Buffy Sue. The audience full of legal historians broke out in an explosion of laughter -- yelling "it's the taxes, stupid". All he could do in response was to mumble that he might have to think more about it.

Another prominent Post Keynesian claimed we had two things wrong. First, government debt isn't special -- debt is debt. Second, he argued we don't need double entry book-keeping -- his model has only single entry book-keeping. Years later he agreed that private debt is more dangerous than sovereign debt, and he's finally learned double-entry accounting. But of course whenever you are accounting for money you have to use quadruple entry book-keeping. Maybe in another dozen years he'll figure that out.

As a student I had read a lot of anthropology -- as most Institutionalists do. So I knew that money could not have come out of tribal economies based on barter exchange. As you all know, David Graeber's book insisted that anthropologists have never found any evidence of barter-based markets. Money preceded market exchange.

Studying history also confirmed our story, but you have to carefully read between the lines. Most historians adopt monetarism because the only economics they know is Friedman–who claims that money causes inflation. Almost all of them also adopt a commodity money view -- gold was good money and fiat paper money causes inflation. If you ignore those biases, you can learn a lot about the nature of money from historians.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue. Again, history shows that this has always been true. All money must be redeemed -- that is, accepted by its issuer in payment. As Innes said, that is the fundamental nature of credit. It is written right there in the early acts by the American colonies. Even a gold coin is the issuer's IOU, redeemed in payment of taxes. Once you understand that, you understand the nature of money.

So we were winning the academic debates, across a variety of disciplines. But we had a hard time making progress in economics or in policy circles. Bill, Warren, Mat Forstater and I used to meet up every year or so to count the number of economists who understood what we were talking about. It took over decade before we got up to a dozen. I can remember telling Pavlina Tcherneva back around 2005 that I was about ready to give it up.

But in 2007, Warren, Bill and I met to discuss writing an MMT textbook. Bill and I knew the odds were against us -- it would be for a small market, consisting mostly of our former students. Still, we decided to go for it. Here we are -- another dozen years later -- and the textbook is going to be published. MMT is everywhere. It was even featured in a New Yorker crossword puzzle in August. You cannot get more mainstream than that.

We originally titled our textbook Modern Money Theory , but recently decided to just call it Macroeconomics . There's no need to modify that with a subtitle. What we do is Macroeconomics. There is no coherent alternative to MMT.

A couple of years ago Charles Goodhart told me: "You won. Declare victory but be magnanimous about it." After so many years of fighting, both of those are hard to do. We won. Be nice.

Let me finish with 10 bullet points of what I include in MMT:

1. What is money: An IOU denominated in a socially sanctioned money of account. In almost all known cases, it is the authority -- the state -- that chooses the money of account. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Keynes, Geoff Ingham, and Minsky.

2. Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency. The ability to impose such obligations is an important aspect of sovereignty; today states alone monopolize this power. This comes from Knapp, Innes, Minsky, and Mosler.

3. Anyone can issue money; the problem is to get it accepted. Anyone can write an IOU denominated in the recognized money of account; but acceptance can be hard to get unless you have the state backing you up. This is Minsky.

4. The word "redemption" is used in two ways -- accepting your own IOUs in payment and promising to convert your IOUs to something else (such as gold, foreign currency, or the state's IOUs).

The first is fundamental and true of all IOUs. All our gold bugs mistakenly focus on the second meaning -- which does not apply to the currencies issued by most modern nations, and indeed does not apply to most of the currencies issued throughout history. This comes from Innes and Knapp, and is reinforced by Hudson's and Grubb's work, as well as by Margaret Atwood's great book: Payback: Debt and the shadow side of wealth .

5. Sovereign debt is different. There is no chance of involuntary default so long as the state only promises to accept its currency in payment. It could voluntarily repudiate its debt, but this is rare and has not been done by any modern sovereign nation.

6. Functional Finance: finance should be "functional" (to achieve the public purpose), not "sound" (to achieve some arbitrary "balance" between spending and revenues). Most importantly, monetary and fiscal policy should be formulated to achieve full employment with price stability. This is credited to Abba Lerner, who was introduced into MMT by Mat Forstater.

In its original formulation it is too simplistic, summarized as two principles: increase government spending (or reduce taxes) and increase the money supply if there is unemployment (do the reverse if there is inflation). The first of these is fiscal policy and the second is monetary policy. A steering wheel metaphor is often invoked, using policy to keep the economy on course. A modern economy is far too complex to steer as if you were driving a car. If unemployment exists it is not enough to say that you can just reduce the interest rate, raise government spending, or reduce taxes. The first might even increase unemployment. The second two could cause unacceptable inflation, increase inequality, or induce financial instability long before they solved the unemployment problem. I agree that government can always afford to spend more. But the spending has to be carefully targeted to achieve the desired result. I'd credit all my Institutionalist influences for that, including Minsky.

7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability. This comes from Minsky's earliest work on the ELR, from Bill Mitchell's work on bufferstocks and Warren Mosler's work on monopoly price setting.

8. And also for that reason, we need Minsky's analysis of financial instability. Here I don't really mean the financial instability hypothesis. I mean his whole body of work and especially the research line that began with his dissertation written under Schumpeter up through his work on Money Manager Capitalism at the Levy Institute before he died.

9. The government's debt is our financial asset. This follows from the sectoral balances approach of Wynne Godley. We have to get our macro accounting correct. Minsky always used to tell students: go home and do the balances sheets because what you are saying is nonsense. Fortunately, I had learned T-accounts from John Ranlett in Sacramento (who also taught Stephanie Kelton from his own, great, money and banking textbook -- it is all there, including the impact of budget deficits on bank reserves). Godley taught us about stock-flow consistency and he insisted that all mainstream macroeconomics is incoherent.

10. Rejection of the typical view of the central bank as independent and potent. Monetary policy is weak and its impact is at best uncertain -- it might even be mistaking the brake pedal for the gas pedal. The central bank is the government's bank so can never be independent. Its main independence is limited to setting the overnight rate target, and it is probably a mistake to let it do even that. Permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. I credit Keynes, Minsky, Hudson, Mosler, Eric Tymoigne, and Scott Fullwiler for much of the work on this.

That is my short list of what MMT ought to include. Some of these traditions have a very long history in economics. Some were long lost until we brought them back into discussion. We've integrated them into a coherent approach to Macro. In my view, none of these can be dropped if you want a macroeconomics that is applicable to the modern economy. There are many other issues that can be (often are) included, most importantly environmental concerns and inequality, gender and race/ethnicity. I have no problem with that.

Hilary Barnes , October 2, 2018 at 3:01 am

Out of my depth: "7. For that reason, the JG is a critical component of MMT." The JG?

BillC , October 2, 2018 at 3:07 am

Job guarantee (especially as distinguished from a basic income guarantee). See here for fairly recent coverage by Lambert.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:16 am

I had exactly the same question. Thank you.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:04 am

A JG is to discontinue NAIRU or structural under-unemployment with attendant monetarist/quasi inflation views. Something MMT has be at pains to point out wrt fighting a nonexistent occurrence due to extended deflationary period.

dcrane , October 2, 2018 at 5:31 am

The paragraph on "double entry book-keeping" is also a bit too inside-baseball. Otherwise I enjoyed the essay.

PlutoniumKun , October 2, 2018 at 6:11 am

Yup, he lost me on quadruple entry book-keeping, thats the first time I ever heard of that concept.

Quanka , October 2, 2018 at 8:02 am

Its double entry accounting counting both sides of the equation. Fed deposits money into bank requires 4 entries, a double entry for the Fed and for the bank. Typical double entry accounting only looks at the books of 1 entity at a time. Quadruple Entry accounting makes the connection between the government monetary policy and private business accounting. I'm not an accountant, I may have butchered that.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

that's pretty much it

Peter Pan , October 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Does Steve Keen's "Minsky" program utilize quadruple-entry bookkeeping?

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:47 pm

Double entry

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Yes it does. Double entry for each party to the transaction.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm

you are right – it does give each parties transactions.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:43 am

think about banks and reserves, your money is on the bank's liability side (and your asset), while the reserves are on the bank's asset side (and gov't or fed's liability.)

i think its the reserves that quadruple it, reserves are confusing because when you move $5 from a bank account to buy ice cream its not just one copy of the $5 that moves between checking accounts, there is another $5 that moves "under the hood" so to speak in reserve world

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Very briefly, double entry bookkeeping keeps track of how money comes in/out, and where it came from/went. Cash is the determining item (although there may be a few removes). Hence, say I buy a $20 dollar manicure from you. I record my purchase as "Debit (increase) expense: manicure $20, credit (decrease) cash, $20". Bonus! If my bookkeeping is correct, my debits and credits are equal and if I add them up (credits are minus and debits are plus) the total is zero – my books "balance". So, double-entry bookkeeping is also a hash-total check on my accounting accuracy. But I digress.

On your books, the entry would be "Debit (increase) cash $20, credit (decrease) sales, $20".

So, your double-entry book plus my double-entry books would be quadruple-entry accounting.

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

#7 was my immediate stopper, too. It drives me nuts when people introduce 2-3-4 letter acronyms with no explanation (I work for the DoD and I'm surrounded by these "code words". I rarely know what people are talking about and when I ask, the people talking rarely know what these TLAs – T hree L etter A cronyms – stand for either!).

Next question regarding #7: What is ELR?

Other than #7, I really appreciate this article. NC teaches and/or clarifies on a daily basis.

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 10:11 am

Employer of Last Resort? (Wikipedia)

Matthew Platte , October 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

DoD?

JCC , October 2, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Guilty as charged :-)

For non-US readers, DoD is D epartment o f D efense, the undisputed-by-many home of TLAs.

lyman alpha blob , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Ha! I really love this blog.

somecallmetim , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

NC?

;)

Bill C , October 2, 2018 at 3:02 am

Thank you for this post!

This quick, entertaining read is IMHO nothing less than a "Rosetta Stone" that can bring non-specialists to understand MMT: not just how , but why it differs from now-conventional neoliberal economics. I hope it finds a wide readership and that its many references to MMT's antecedents inspire serious study by the unconvinced (and I hope they don't take Wray's invitation to skip the 10 bullet points).

This piece is a fine demonstration of why I've missed Wray as he seemed to withdraw from public discourse for the last few years.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm

No no! He said "Many readers might want to skip to the bullet points near the end, which summarize what I include in MMT."

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 4:55 am

Thank you! The (broad) analogies with my own experience are there. I had a decidedly "mainstream" macro education at Cambridge (UK); though many of the "old school" professors/college Fellows who, although not MMT people as we'd currently understand (or weren't at *that* stage – Godley lectured a module I took but this was in the early 1990s) were still around, in hindsight the "university syllabus" (i.e. what you needed to regurgitate to pass exams) had already steered towards neoliberalism. I never really understood why I never "got" macro and it was consistently my weakest subject.

It was later, having worked in the City of London, learned accountancy in my actuarial training, and then most crucially starting reading blogs from people who went on to become MMT leading lights, that I realised the problem wasn't ME, it was the subject matter. So I had to painfully unlearn much of what I was taught and begin the difficult process of getting my head around a profoundly different paradigm. I still hesitate to argue the MMT case to friends, since I don't usually have to hand the "quick snappy one liners" that would torpedo their old discredited understanding.

I'm still profoundly grateful for the "old school" Cambridge College Fellows who were obviously being sidelined by the University and who taught me stuff like the Marxist/Lerner critiques, British economic history, political economy of the system etc. Indeed whilst I had "official" tutorials with a finance guy who practically came whenever Black-Scholes etc was being discussed, an old schooler was simultaneously predicting that it would blow the world economy up at some point (and of course he was in the main , correct). I still had to fill in some gaps in my knowledge (anthropology was not a module, though Marxist economics was), with hindsight I appreciate so much more of what the "old schoolers" said on the sly during quiet points in tutorials – Godley being one, although he wasn't ready at that time to release the work he subsequently published and was so revolutionary. Having peers educated elsewhere during my Masters and PhD who knew nothing of the subjects that – whilst certainly not the "key guide" to "proper macro" described in the article – began to horrify me later in my career.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 5:07 am

Thanks for your efforts Mr Wray, your provide a rich resource to familiarize most and in some cases refute doctrinaire attitudes. Kudos.

BTW completely agree with the perspective against PR marketing of the topic or individuals wrt MMT or PK.

Lambert Strether , October 2, 2018 at 5:23 am

This is really great. Thanks a ton, as Yves would say.

I know I have used to "rock star" metaphor on occasion, so let me explain that to me what is important in excellent (i.e., live) rock and roll is improvisational interplay among the group members -- the dozen or so who understood MMT in the beginning, in this case -- who know the tune, know each other, and yet manage to make the song a little different each time. It's really spectacular to see in action. Nothing to do with spotlights, or celebrity worship, or fandom!

DavidEG , October 2, 2018 at 5:54 am

I'm no MMT expert, but I think this article does a good job of juxtaposing MMT with classic (non-advanced) macroeconomics. I quote:

In the language of Tinbergen (1952), the debate between MMT and mainstream macro can be thought of as a debate over which instrument should be assigned to which target. The consensus assignment is that the interest rate, under the control of an independent central bank, should be assigned to the output gap target, while the fiscal position, under control of the elected budget authorities, should be assigned to the debt sustainability target. [ ] The functional finance assignment is the reverse -- the fiscal balance under the budget authorities is assigned to the output target, while any concerns about debt sustainability are the responsibility of the monetary authority.

What about interest rate fixing? The central bank would remain in charge of that, but in an MMT context this instrument would lose most of its relevance:

[W]hile a simple swapping of instruments and targets is one way to think about functional finance, this does not describe the usual MMT view of how the policy interest rate should be set. What is generally called for, rather, is that the interest rate be permanently kept at a very low level, perhaps zero. In an orthodox policy framework, of course, this would create the risk of runaway inflation; but keep in mind that in the functional framework, the fiscal balance is set to whatever level is consistent with price stability.

It may be a partial reconstruction of MMT, but to me this seems to be a neat way to present MMT to most people. Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

larry , October 2, 2018 at 6:14 am

The best comparison of MMT with neoliberal neoclassical economics, in my view, is Bill Mitchell's blog post, "How to Discuss Modern Monetary Theory" ( http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=25961 ). I especially recommend the table near the end as a terrific summary of the differences between the mainstream narrative and MMT.

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 8:53 am

Thanks! I have enormous respect for Mitchell, given the quantity and quality of his blogging. However, my only nitpick is that a lot of his blog entries are quite long and "not easily digestible". I have long thought that one of those clever people who can do those 3 minute rapid animation vids we see on youtube is needed to "do a Lakoff" and change the metaphors/language. But this post of Mitchell (which I missed, since I don't read all his stuff) is, IMHO, his best at "re-orienting us".

kgw , October 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

I get this "http's server IP address could not be found." I'll try, gasp, googling it

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 11:24 am

FWIW I mucked around with the link in Firefox (although I typically use Opera, which gave me that same error) and could read it.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 6:34 am

Saying that taxes are there just to remove money from the economy or to provide incentives is a rather extreme statement that is bound to elicit some fierce opposition.

Yes this is a frightening statement. The power to tax is the power to destroy. If this is a foundation point of the proposal then

Having said that, I've never seen anyone address what I think are two issues to MMT: how to make sure that the power to create money is not exploited by a political body in order to achieve consensus, and how to assure that the idea of unlimited monetary resources do not lead to misallocation and inefficiencies (the bloated, awash-with-money US military industry would probably be a good example).

Bingo. My thoughts exactly. Too much power in the hands of the few. Easy to slide into Orwell's Animal Farm – where some people are more equal than others.

MMT is based upon very good intentions but, in my view, there is a moral rot at the root of the US of A's problems, not sure this can be solved by monetary policy and more centralized control.

And the JG? Once the government starts to permanently guarantee jobs

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:12 am

I suggest you delve into what is proposed by the MMT – PK camp wrt a JG because its not centralized in the manner you suggest. It would be more regional and hopefully administrated via social democratic means e.g. the totalitarian aspect is moot.

I think its incumbent on commenters to do at least a cursory examination before heading off on some deductive rationalizations, which might have undertones of some book they read e.g. environmental bias.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:38 am

Skippy, I read the article, plus the links, including those links of the comments. I will admit that I am a little more right of center in my views than many on the website.

The idea is interesting, but the administration of such a system would require rewriting the US Constitution, or an Amendment to it if one thinks the process through, would it not? I think of the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System when I say this.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:45 am

I think WWII is instructive here.

Clive , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

One thing I really don't like at all -- and I've crossed swords with many over this -- is that we do tend to take (not just in the US, this is prevalent in far too many places) things like the constitution, or cultural norms, or traditions or other variants of "that's the way we've always done this" and elevate them to a level of sacrosanctity.

Not for one moment am I suggesting that we should ever rush into tweaking such devices lightly nor without a great deal of analysis and introspective consultations.

Constitutions get amended all the time. The Republic of Ireland changed its to renounce a territorial claim on Northern Ireland. The U.K. created a right for Scotland to secede from the Union. There's even a country in Europe voting whether to formally change its name right now. Britain "gave up" its empire territories (not, I would add speedily, without a lot of prodding, but still, we got there in the end). All of which were, at one time or another, "unthinkable". Even the US, perhaps the most inherently resistant to change country when it thinks it's being "forced" to do so, begrudgingly acknowledged Cuba.

If something is necessary, it should be done.

vlade , October 2, 2018 at 8:06 am

Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature.

They change over time to survive. The easy way, or the hard way.

Or they don't survive at all, that's an option too.

witters , October 2, 2018 at 9:09 am

"Human laws (any and all, for simplicity I include culture, customs etc.. here) are not laws of nature."

Wave Function Collapse?

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:14 am

Why would a jobs guarantee require a constitutional amendment? The federal government creates jobs all the time, with certain defined benefits. This would merely expand upon that, to potentially include anyone who wants a job.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

I was thinking of implementing the whole concept of MMT, of which the JG is but one part, with this statement. Perhaps I did not make that clear.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:36 am

There are a couple different aspects of this that people are getting mixed together, I think. The core of MMT is not a proposal for government to implement. Rather, it is simply a description of how sovereign currencies actually operate, as opposed by mainstream economics, which has failed in this regard. In other words, we don't need any new laws to implement MMT – we need a paradigm shift.

The Jobs Guarantee is a policy proposal that flows from this different paradigm.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 3:16 pm

It has been stated many times that it is to inform policy wrt to potential and not some booming voice from above dictating from some ridged ideology.

Persoanly as a capitalist I can't phantom why anyone would want structural under – unemployment. Seems like driving around with the hand brake on and then wondering why performance is restricted or parts wear out early.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Power.

I want 12 people lined up at the door to take your job, and then you will know where the power lies

Carla , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Re-writing the U.S. Constitution is something people think about and talk about all the time, FYI.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

the Amendment required to create the Federal Reserve System

What Amendment was that?

And since the Constitution gives Congress the power to coin money I am unaware of any reason an amendment would be necessary.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Thinking of the Federal Reserve Act being enabled by the Federal Income Tax of the 16th Amendment.

Using Federal taxes to fund the JG; I do not think that this aspect of it (and others) would survive a Constitutional challenge. Therefore ultimately an Amendment might be needed.

Then again I may be wrong. Technically Obamacare should have been implemented by an Amendment were strict Constitutional law applied.

Rights to health care and jobs are not enumerated in either the Constitution or Bill of Rights, as far as I am aware.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm

16th Amendment had nothing to do with the Federal Reserve.

And I think you are confusing 'you must buy health insurance or face a tax", with "You have a right to have healthcare".

If the government forced you to work, you may have a case.

There are 3 things the feds can spend federal funds on, pay debt, provide for the common defense, and the general welfare clause.

The General Welfare clause has been interpreted very widely in regards to Government spending.

New Deal, Social Security, Medicare/aid all survived court challenges, or if they lost, they lost on regulatory issues, and not 'spending' issues

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:28 am

Not opposed to some of the principles of MMT, just don't understand, in this modern age where effectively all currency is electronic digits in a banking computer system, the issue of a currency must be tied to taxes. In years past, where currency was printed and in one's pocket, or stuffed under a mattress, or couriered by stagecoach, then yes – taxes would be needed. But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP? Why therefore do we need government debt? Why do we need an income tax?

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:37 am

A. GDP is non distributional.

B. Had taxation not been promoted as theft in some camps Volcker would have not had to jack IR to such a upper bound during the Vietnam war.

C. Government Debt allocated to socially productive activities is a long term asset with distributional income vectors.

D. Ask the Greeks.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 7:48 am

Skippy, I have lived and worked in countries without income tax (but instead indirect tax) and where government operating revenue was based upon a percentage of projected national revenue. I have been involved in the administration of such budgets.

I am in favor of government spending, or perhaps more accurately termed investing, public money on long-term, economically beneficial projects. But this is not happening. The reality is that government priorities can easily be hijacked by political interests, as we currently witness.

larry , October 2, 2018 at 7:58 am

While I agree that political highjacking is possible and must be dealt with, this is not strictly speaking part of an economic theory, which is what MMT is. While MMT authors may take political positions, the theory itself is politically neutral.

Income taxes, tithes, or any other kind of driver is what drives the monetary circuit. Consider it from first principles. You have just set up a new government with a new currency where this government is the monopoly issuer. No one else has any money yet. So, the government must be the first spender. However, how is this nascent government going to motivate anyone to use this new currency? Via taxation, or like means, that can only be met by using the national currency, whatever form that currency may take, marks on a stick, paper, an entry in a ledger, or the like.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:34 am

Thank you for this explanation. I understand that, for example, this is why the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, I believe, created the Federal Reserve and Federal Income Tax at the same time.

But the US economy functioned adequately, survived a civil war, numerous banking crises, experienced industrialization, national railways, etc without a central bank or federal income tax from the 1790's to 1913.

To me, the US's state of perpetual war is enabled by Federal Income Tax. Without it the MIC would collapse, I am certain.

John k , October 2, 2018 at 10:31 am

Functioned adequately
During the 150 yr hard money period we had recessions/depressions that we're both far more frequent (every three years) and on avg far deeper than what we have had since fdr copied the brits and took us off the gold standard. Great deprecession was neither the longest or deepest.
Two reasons
Banks used to fail frequently, a run on one bank typically leading to runs on other banks, spreading across regions like prairie fires if your bank failed you lost all your money. Consequences were serious.
During GR so many banks failed in the Midwest, leading to farm foreclosures, the region was near armed insurrection in 1932. Fiat meant that the fed can supply unlimited liquidity. Since then banks have failed but immediately taken over by another. Critically, no depositor has lost a penny, even those with far more exposed than the deposit insurance limit. No runs on us banks since 1933.
Second, we now have auto stabilizers, spending continues during downturns because gov has no spending limit. Note previously in an emergency gov borrowed. 10 mil from J.P. Morgan.

Brian , October 2, 2018 at 11:30 am

But at what cost? no depositor loses money, yet huge amounts are required to be printed, thus devaluing the "currency". So is the answer inflation that must by necessity become hyperinflation?
I don't understand why it is important to protect a bank vs. making it perform its function without risking collapse. This is magical thinking as we have found very few banks in this world not ready and willing to pillage their clients, be it nations or just the little folk.
Why would anyone trust a government to do the right thing by its population? When has that ever worked out in favor of the people?
I can not understand the trust being demanded by this concept. It wants trust for the users, but in no way can it expect trust or virtue from the issuer of the "currency"

also, I can't help but think MMT is for growth at all costs. Hasn't the growth shown that it is pernicious in itself? Destroy the planet for the purpose of stabilizing "currency".

Our federal reserve gave banks trillions of dollars, and then demanded they keep much of it with the Fed and are paid interest not to use it. It inflated the "currency" in circulation yet again and now it is becoming clear a great percentage of people in our country can no longer eat, no longer purchase medications, a home, a business

If being on a hard money system as we were causes recessions and depressions, would we find that it was a natural function to cut off the speculators at their knees?

How does MMT promote and retain value for the actual working and producing people that have no recourse with their government? I would like to read about what is left out of this monumental equation.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:10 pm

Money is not a commodity and does not "lose value" the more of it there is.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm

we used to protect the banks depositors and the government put the the bank in receivership.

That went away in the 21st century for some reason.

Now we protect the bank and put the Government in receivership (Greece).

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:08 pm

Some points:

US had a federal income tax during the civil war and for a decade or so after.

I have always assumed that mass conscription and the Dreadnought arms race led to the implementation of the modern taxing/monetary system. (gov't needed both warfare and welfare)

Taxes, just as debt, create an artificial demand for currency as one must pay back their taxes in {currency}, and one must pay back debt in {currency}. It doesn't have to be an income tax, and I think a sales tax would be a better driver of demand than an income tax.

The US had land sales that helped fund government expenditures in the 1800s.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Not all taxes are income taxes. Back in the day (20's/30's/40's),my grandfather could pay off the (county) property taxes on his farm by plowing snow for the county in the winter -- and he was damned careful to make sure that the county commissioners' driveways were plowed out as early as possible after a storm.

In the 30's/40's the property tax laws were changed to be payable only in dollars.

So Grandpa had to make cash crops. Things changed and money became necessary.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 7:44 am

But today can we not just print (electronically) the cash needed for government operations each year based upon a fixed percentage of private sector GDP?

The élites could, but it would be totally undemocratic and the economics profession's track record of forecasting growth is no better than letting a cat choose a number written on an index card.

Why therefore do we need government debt?

There is no government debt. It's just a record of interest payments Congress has agreed to make because the wealthy wanted another welfare program.

Why do we need an income tax?

The only logically consistent purpose is because people have too much income.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:19 am

I think the point they're driving at, is that by requiring the payment of taxes in a particular currency, a government creates demand for that currency. There are other uses for federal taxes, not the least of which is to keep inflation in check.

Government debt is not needed, at least not at the federal level. My understanding of it is that it's a relic from the days of the gold standard. It's also very useful to some rather large financial institutions, so eliminating it would be politically difficult.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:23 am

Wray has said in interviews that the debt (and associated treasury bonds), while not strictly necessary in a fiat currency, is of use in that it provides a safe base for investment, for pensioners and retirees, etc.

Sure, it could be eliminated by (a) trillion dollar platinum coins deposited at the Federal Reserve followed by (b) slowly paying off the existing debt when the bonds mature or (c) simply decreeing that the Fed must go to a terminal and type in 21500000000000 as the US Gov account balance (hope I got the number of zeroes correct!).

It could be argued that the US doesn't strictly need taxes to drive currency demand as long as our status as the world reserve currency is maintained (see oft-discussed petrodollar, Libya, etc). If that status is imperiled, say by an push by a coalition of nations to establish a different currency as the "world reserve currency") taxes would be needed to drive currency demand.

I think most of this is covered in one way or another here:

http://neweconomicperspectives.org/modern-monetary-theory-primer.html

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Government debt is not actually a 'real thing'. It is a residue of double-entry bookkeeping, as is net income (income minus expenses, that's a credit in the double-entry system). It could as well be called 'retained earnings (also a 'book' credit in the double-entry system). If everybody had to take bookkeeping in high school there would be far few knickers in knots!

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Its real if you pay an interest rate on it

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

There are two kinds of government 'debt': the accumulated deficit which is the money in circulation not a real debt, and outstanding bonds which is real in the sense that it must be repaid with interest.

However, the government can choose the interest rate and pay it (or buy back the bonds at any time) with newly minted money at no cost to itself, cf. QE.

Neither kind warrant bunched panties.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 4:39 pm

no panties bunched.

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:51 am

seems to me that the guaranteed jobs would be stigmatized, and make it harder for people to get private sector jobs. "once youre in the JG industry, its hard to get out" etc.

how much of a guarantee is the job guarantee supposed to be? ie. at what point can you get fired from a guaranteed job?

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

Yes, my mind wandered into the same territory. While I agree that something needs to be done, it also has the potential to strike at the heart of a lean, merit-based system by introducing another layer of bureaucracy. In principle, I am not against the idea, but as they say, "God (or the Devil – take your pick) is in the details ".

The Rev Kev , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Is there any point in working for a jobs guarantee when the only sort of jobs that would probably be guaranteed would be MacJobs and Amazon workers?

Newton Finn , October 2, 2018 at 11:23 am

If you haven't already read it, "Reclaiming the State" by Mitchell and Fazi (Pluto Press 2017) provides a detailed and cogent analysis of how neoliberalism came into ascendency, and how the principles of MMT can be used to pave the way to a more humane and sustainable economic system. A new political agenda for the left, drawing in a different way upon the nationalism that has energized the right, is laid out for those progressives who understand the necessity of broadening their appeal. And the jobs guarantee that MMT proposes has NOTHING to do with MacJobs and Amazon workers. It has to do with meeting essential human and environmental needs which are not profitable to meet in today's private sector.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Job guarantee, or govt as employer of last resort -- now there is a social challenge/opportunity if there ever was one.

Well managed, it would guarantee a living wage to anyone who wants to work, thereby setting a floor on minimum wages and benefits that private employers would have to meet or exceed. These minima would also redound to the benefit of self-employed persons by setting standards re income and care (health, vacations, days off, etc) *and* putting money in the pockets of potential customers.

Poorly managed it could create the 'digging holes, filling them in' programs of the Irish Potato Famine ore worse (hard to imagine, but still ). It has often been remarked that the potato blight was endemic across Europe, it was only a famine in Ireland -- through policy choices.

So, MMT aside (as being descriptive, rather than prescriptive), we are down to who controls policy. And that is *really* scary.

Todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Government job guarantees is an idea as old as the pyramids.

Frankly so is mmt

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 11:34 am

In terms of power, the government has the power to shoot your house to splinters, or blow it up, with or without you in it. We say they're not supposed to, but they have the ability, and it has been done.
The question of how to hold your government to the things it's supposed to do applies to issues beyond money. We'd best deal with government power as an issue in itself. I should buckle down and get Mitchell's next-to-newest book Reclaiming the State .

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Ding ding ding!

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Bill Mitchell was not too impressed with the INET paper: Part 1 .
There's three parts! Mitchell rarely has the time to be brief.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 6:02 am

I don't claim to fully understand MMT yet, but I find Wray's use of the derogatory term "gold bugs" to be both disappointing and revealing. To lump those, some of whom are quite sophisticated, who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value (and no, "the military" misses the point), or those who hold physical gold as an insurance policy against political incompetence, and the inexorable degradation of fiat currencies, in with those who promote or hold gold in the hopes of hitting some type of lottery, is disingenuous at best.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 7:06 am

OMT seemingly has no reason to exist being old school, but for what it's worth, the almighty dollar has lost over 95% of it's value when measured against something that matters, since the divorce in 1971.

I found this passage funny, as in flipping the dates around to 1791, is when George Washington set an exchange rate of 1000-1 for old debauched Continental Currency, in exchange for newly issued specie. (there was no Federal currency issued until 1861)

So yeah, they burned all of their tax revenue, because the money wasn't worth jack.

Farley Grubb -- the foremost authority on Colonial currency -- proved that the American colonists understood perfectly well that taxes drive money. Every Act that authorized the issue of paper money imposed a Redemption Tax. The colonies burned all their tax revenue.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 7:30 am

Gold bug is akin to money crank e.g. money = morals. That's not to mention all the evidence to date does not support the monetarist view nor how one gets the value into the inanimate object or how one can make it moral.

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 8:01 am

Gold doesn't historically perform as a hedge but as a speculative trade. Those who think it can protect them from political events typically don't realize that a gold standard means public control of the gold industry, thereby cutting any separation from the political process off at the knees.

When a government declares that $20 is equal in value to one ounce of gold, it also declares an ounce of gold is equal to $20 dollars. It is therefore fixing, through a political decision subject to political changes, the price of the commodity.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

Nonsense. When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia . All one need do is to look at Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, etc., to see that ancient dynamic in action today.

You, and others who have replied to my comment, are using the classical gold standard as a straw man, as well. Neither I, nor many other gold "bugs" propose such a simple solution to the obviously failed current economy, which is increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity (see Hunt brothers and silver).

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:54 am

But that is obviously false, given that no other commodity has remotely performed with such stability over such a long period of time.

It is true that over short periods distortions can appear, and the *true* value of gold has been suppressed in recent years through the use of fraudulent paper derivatives. But again, I'm not arguing for the return of a classical gold standard.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:13 am

The only way the gold standard returns, is if it's forced on the world on account of massive fraud in terms of fiat money, but that'll never happen.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 10:56 am

Tinky:

I'm curious as to what you consider the "*true* value of gold". Could you elaborate?

I'm dense/obtuse and thus not an economist!

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

Don't worry, I'm likely to be at least equally dense!

I didn't mean to suggest that there is some formula from which a *true* value of precious metals might be derived. I simply meant that gold has clearly been the object of price suppression in recent years through the use of paper derivatives (i.e. future contracts). The reason for such suppression, aside from short-term profits to be made, is that gold has historically acted as a barometer relating to political and economic stability, and those in power have a particular interest in suppressing such warning signals when the system becomes unstable.

So, while the Central Banks created previously unimaginable mountains of debt, it was important not to alarm the commoners.

The suppression schemes have become less effective of late, and will ultimately fail when the impending crisis unfolds in earnest.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

As long as one is mindful that gold is just another commodity, subject to the same speculative distortions as any other commodity

It sounds good in theory, but history says otherwise.

The value remained more or less the same for well over 500 years as far as an English Pound was concerned, the weight and value of a Sovereign hardly varied, and the exact weight and fineness of one struck today or any time since 1817, is the same, no variance whatsoever.

Thus there was no speculative distortions in terms of value, the only variance being the value of the Pound (= 1 Sovereign) itself.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_(British_coin)

Benjamin Wolf , October 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm

When fiat currencies invariably degrade, and especially at a fast rate, gold has proven to be a relative store of value for millennia.

Currencies do not degrade. Political systems degrade.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 8:25 am

" who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value"

As I understand it, MMT also requires that currency be backed by something of tangible value: a well managed and productive economy. It doesn't matter in the least if your debt is denominated in your own currency if you have the economy of Zimbabwe.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:48 am

Sounds reasonable in theory, but that was supposed to be the case with the current economic system, as well, and we can all see where that has led.

I'm not arguing that there isn't a theoretically better way to create and use "modern" money, but rather doubt that those empowered to create it out of thin air will ever do so without abusing such power.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 10:10 am

Oh, I agree with you. In no universe that I am aware of would the temptation to create money beyond the productive capacity of the economy to back it up be resisted. I think Zimbabwe is a pretty good example of where the theory goes in practice.

TroyMcClure , October 2, 2018 at 12:20 pm

That's exactly wrong. Zimbabwe had a production collapse. Same amount of money to buy a much smaller amount of goods. The gov responded not by increasing goods, but increasing money supply.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Maybe because the economy did not have the productive capacity to increase goods? It takes more than a magic wand and wishful thinking.

voteforno6 , October 2, 2018 at 8:29 am

Mark Blyth has a good discussion of the gold standard in his book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea . He makes the point that, in imposing the adjustments necessary to keep the balance of payments flowing, the measures imposed by a government would be so politically toxic, that no elected official in his or her right mind would implement them, and expect to remain in office. In short, you can have either democracy, or a gold standard, but you can't have both.

Also, MMT does recognize that there are real world constraints on a currency, and that is represented by employment, not some artificially-imposed commodity such as gold (or bitcoin, or seashells, etc). The Jobs Guarantee flows out of this.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:50 am

As mentioned above, you, among others who have replied to my original comment, are using the classical gold standard as a straw manl. Neither I, nor many other gold "bugs", propose such a simple solution for the failed current economic system, which is increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 11:35 am

increasingly based on mountains of debt that can never be repaid.

Huh? I listed two ways they could be repaid above. In the US, the national debt is denominated in dollars, of which we have an infinite supply (fiat). In addition, the Federal Reserve could buy all the existing debt by [defer to quad-entry accounting stuff from Wray's primer] and then figuratively burn it. Sure, the rest of the world would be pissed and inflation *may* run amok, but "can never" is just flat out wrong.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Of course it can be extinguished through hyperinflation. I didn't think that it would be necessary to point that out. No "may" about it, though, as if the U.S. prints tens of trillions of dollars to extinguish the debt, hyperinflation will be assured.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm

not if it would be done over time, as the debt comes due.

We could also tax the excess dollars from the system with a large capital gains tax rate.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:04 pm

so I don't believe there will be a hyper-inflation of goods, but in asset prices. That is why I would raise the capital gains rate.

The failure of MMT is when the hyper-inflation occurs in goods and services.

Taxing a middle class person while his cost of living is rising will be a tough political act to do.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

I didn't think that it would be necessary to point that out.

Sorry, but I'm an old programmer; logic rules the roost. When one's software is expected to execute billions of times a day without fail for years (and this post is very likely routed through a device running an instance of something I've written). Always means every time, no exceptions; never means not ever, no matter what.

You said never.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Yes I did. I was simply being lazy, as I typically do add "except via hyperflation", when discussing debts that can only be repaid in that manner.

That "solution" is obviously no solution at all, as it would lead to chaos.

Interpret it any way that you wish.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 11:37 am

So what is the new solution proposed by 'gold bugs'?

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 2:06 pm

I'm sure that there is no one solution proposed, though an alternative to the current system which seems plausible would be a currency backed by a basket of commodities, including gold.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm

and when commodity prices fluctuate you will still have government printing and eliminating money to maintain the price.

I would say, if that was the argument, stick to gold as it is one of the more stable commodities.

AlexHache , October 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

Can I ask what your solution would be? I don't think you've mentioned it.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Hi Tinky, much late but still. Gold will have value as long as people believe it has value. But what will they trade it for? The bottom line is your life.

I don't have any gold, too expensive, and it really has no use. But I remember Dimitri Orlov's advice : I am long in needles, pins, thread, nails and screws, drill bits, saws, files, knives, seeds, manual tools of many sorts, mechanical skills and beer recipes. Plus I can sing.

Bridget , October 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Don't forget a nice supply of 30 year old single malt scotch!

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 2:04 pm

The vast majority of people who hold physical gold are well aware of the value of having skills and supplies, etc., in case of a serious meltdown. But it's not a zero-sum game, as you suggest. Gold will inexorably rise sharply in value when today's fraudulent markets crash, and there will be plenty of opportunities for those who own it to trade it for other assets.

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, gold's utility is already on full display, to those who are paying attention, and not looking myopically through a USD lens.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Why not the GOILD standard?, one mineral moves everything, while the other just sits around gathering dust, after being extracted.

David Swan , October 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm

"Mountains of debt that can never be repaid" is a propaganda statement with no reference to any economic fact. Why do you feel that this "debt" needs to be "repaid"? It is simply an accounting artifact. The "debt" is all of the dollars that have been spent *into* the economy without having been taxed back *out*. The word "debt" activates your feels, but has no intrinsic meaning in this context. Please step back from your indoctrinated emotional reaction and understand that the so-called national "debt" is nothing more than money that has been created via public spending, and "repaying" it would be an act of destruction.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 3:27 pm

THIS!!!

I keep telling (boring, annoying, infuriating) people that, in the simplest terms, the national debt is the money supply and they won't grasp that simple declaration. When I said it to my Freedom Caucus congress critter (we were seated next to each other on an exit aisle) his head started spinning, reminding me of Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 3:44 pm

The debt may not have to be repaid, but the interest does have to be serviced. Good luck with that in the long run.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm

As I said to my congress critter, if the debt bother's y'all so much, why not just pay it off, dust off your hands, and be done with it?

Personally, if I were President for a day, I'd have the mint stamp out 40 or so trillion dollar platinum coins just to fill the top right drawer of the Resolute desk. Would give me warm fuzzy feelings all day long.

p.s. I also told him that the man with nothing cares not about inflation. He didn't like that either.

MisterMr , October 2, 2018 at 8:46 am

"those, some of whom are quite sophisticated, who believe that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value (and no, "the military" misses the point), or those who hold physical gold as an insurance policy against political incompetence, and the inexorable degradation of fiat currencies"

I suspect that Wray exactly means that these people are the goldbugs, not the ones who speculate on gold.

The whole point that currencies should be backed by something of tangible value IMO is wrong, and I think the MMTers agree with me on this.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 9:56 am

If so, then he should clarify his position, as again, lumping the billions – literally – of people who consider gold to be economically important, together as one, is disingenuous.

skippy , October 2, 2018 at 3:55 pm

I think people that consider gold to be a risk hedge understand its anthro, per se an early example of its use was a fleck of golds equal weight to a few grains of wheat e.g. the gold did not store value, but was a marker – token of the wheat's value – labour inputs and utility. Not to mention its early use wrt religious iconography or vis-à-vis the former as a status symbol. Hence many of the proponents of a gold standard are really arguing for immutable labour tokens, problem here is scalability wrt high worth individuals and resulting distribution distortions, unless one forwards trickle down sorts of theory's.

Not to mention in times of nascent socioeconomic storms many that forward the idea of gold safety are the ones selling it. I think as such the entire thing is more a social psychology question than one of factual natural history e.g. the need to feel safe i.e. like commercials about "peace of mind". I think a reasonably stable society would provide more "peace of mind" than some notion that an inanimate object could lend too – in an atomistic individualistic paradigm.

WobblyTelomeres , October 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm

I once had an co-worker that was a devout Christian. When he realized I wasn't religious, he asked me, incredulously, how I was able to get out of bed in the morning. Meaning, he couldn't face a world without meaning.

I think a lot of people feel that same way about money. They fight over it, lie for it, steal it, kill for it, go to war over it, and most importantly, slave for it. Therefore, it must have intrinsic value. I think gold bugs are in this camp.

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 6:06 am

Talking about Warren's blog ( http://moslereconomics.com/ ), everytime I try to go there, Cloudflare asks me to prove that I am human. Anyone know what's up with that? It's the only website I've ever seen do that.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 6:13 am

No such prompt for me (using Mac desktop computer, OS 10.11.6 and Safari browser.

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 7:35 am

Thanks. It seems to be blocking my IP address, no idea why. Not sure why I have to be human to look at a website.

Epistrophy , October 2, 2018 at 8:46 am

Try running your IP address through a blacklist checker maybe it's been flagged

Fried , October 2, 2018 at 10:03 am

Hm, I can't find anything that would explain it. Maybe the website just generally blocks Austrians. ;-)

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 10:10 am

That's a good suggestion. Unfortunately, as I sometimes find, you can pass ALL the major test-sites but something (a minor, less-used site using out-of-date info?) can give you grief. NC site managers once (kindly) took the time to explain to me why I might have problems that they had no ability to address at their end. I had to muck around with a link given earlier to Bill Mitchell's blog before my browser would load it.
I think there can be quirks that are beyond our control (unfortunately) – for instance I think a whole block of IP addresses (including mine) used by my ISP have been flagged *somewhere* – no doubt due to another customer doing stuff that the checker(s) don't like. (The issue I mentioned above was more likely due to a strict security protocol in my browser, however.)

kgw , October 2, 2018 at 11:57 am

I ended up physically typing in the url to Bill Mitchell's blog: that worked.

el_tel , October 2, 2018 at 12:43 pm

yeah think that's what I did

larry , October 2, 2018 at 6:45 am

Monetary policy in terms of interest rates is not just weak, it also tends to treat all targets the same. Fiscal policy can be targetted to where it is felt it can do the most good.

William Beyer , October 2, 2018 at 7:00 am

Christine Desan's book, "Making Money," exhaustively documents the history of money as a creature of the state. Recall as well that creating money and regulating its value are among the enumerated POWERS granted to our government by we, the people. Money, indeed, is power.

Grumpy Engineer , October 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

Hmmm Randy Wray states that " permanent Zirp (zero interest rate policy) is probably a better policy since it reduces the compounding of debt and the tendency for the rentier class to take over more of the economy. "

But just last week, Yves stated that " that one of the consequences of the protracted super-low interest rate regime of the post crisis era was to create a world of hurt for savers, particularly long-term savers like pension funds, life insurers and retirees. " [ https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/09/crisis-caused-pension-train-wreck.html ]

So are interest rates today too high, or too low? We're getting mixed messages here.

IMO, interest rates are too low . Beyond the harmful effect to savers, it also drives income inequality . How? When interest rates are less than inflation, it is trivial to borrow money, buy some assets, wait for the assets to appreciate, sell the assets, repay the debt, and still have profit left over even after paying interest . Well, it's trivial if you're already rich and have a line of credit that is both large and low-interest. If you're poor with a bad FICO score, you don't get to play the asset appreciation game at all.

I can't think of another reason inequality skyrocketed so badly during the Obama years: https://www.newsweek.com/2013/12/13/two-numbers-rich-are-getting-richer-faster-244922.html . Other than interest rates, his policies weren't all that different from Clinton or Bush.

Tinky , October 2, 2018 at 10:38 am

Not to mention that interest rates are designed to reflect risk . Artificially suppressed rates mask risk, and inevitably lead to gross malinvestment.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

The rates between riskier and less risky borrowers will still be reflected in the different rates given to each.

The low rates encourage greater risk taking to increase the reward(a higher rate of return). This is what leads to the gross malinvestment.

Case in point: the low rates led to more investments into the stock market, where the returns are unlimited. This is what led to the income inequality of Obama's term, as mentioned above.

todde , October 2, 2018 at 3:07 pm

if government creates money to lend to borrowers it should be at a zero interest rate.

The loans would be based on public policy decisions, and not business decisions.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:36 pm

I cannot speak for Yves, nor or Randy, but IMO, interest rates are too low for people who depend on interest for their living -- as an old person, I have seen my expected income drop to about zilch when I had expected 7 to 10% on my savings. Haha! So yeah, too low for us who saved for 'retirement'.

Too high for people financing on credit, since a decent mortgage on a modestly-priced house will cost you almost the same as the house . And that doesn't even begin to look at unsecured consumer credit (ie, credit card debt), which is used in the US and other barbaric countries for medical expenses, not to mention student debt. The banks can create the principal with their keystrokes, but they don't create the interest. Where do you suppose that comes from? Hint: nowhere, as in foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Adam1 , October 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Wray's statement reflects his preferences from an operational policy perspective. Sovereign government debt cares no risk and therefore should not pay interest. The income earned from that interest is basically a subsidy and all income when spent caries a risk of inflation induced excess demand. Therefore who unnecessarily add the risk to the economy and potential risk needing to reduce other policy objectives to accommodate unnecessary interest income subsidies to mostly rich people?

Yves comment reflects the reality of prior decades of economic history. Even if Wray's policy perspective is optimal, there are decades of people with pensions and retirement savings designed around the assumption of income from risk-free government debt. It's this legacy that Yves is commenting on and is a real problem that current policy makers are just ignoring.

As for your comments on how low cost credit can be abused, I believe you'll find most MMT practitioners would recommend far more regulation on the extension of credit for non-productive purposes.

michael hudson , October 2, 2018 at 8:38 am

I just wrote a note to Randy:
The origin of money is not merely for accounting, but specifically for accounting for DEBT -- debt owed to the palatial economy and temples.
I make that clear in my Springer dictionary of money that will come out later this year: Origins of Money and Interest: Palatial Credit, not Barter

horostam , October 2, 2018 at 8:57 am

The Babylonian Madness is contagious thanks prof hudson

gramsci , October 2, 2018 at 9:22 am

Can somebody help me out here? It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945).

Since then, insofar as I understand MMT, fiat has been printed and distributed to flow primarily through the MIC and certain other periodically favored sectors (e.g. the Interstate Highway System). Then, rather than destroying this fiat through taxation, the sectoral balances have been kept deliberately out of balance: Taxes on unearned income have been almost eliminated with an eye to not destroying fiat, but to sequestering as much as possible in the private hands of the 1%. This accumulating fiat cannot be productively invested because that would cause overproduction, inflation, and reduce the debt burden by which the 1% retains power over the 99%. So the new royalists, as FDR would have styled them, keep their hoard as a war chest against "socialists".

I get all this, more or less, and I appreciate that it is well and good and important that MMTers insistently point out that the emperor has no clothes. This is a necessary first step in educating the 99%.

But I don't see MMT types discussing the fact that US (and NATO) macroeconomic policy already has a Job Guarantee: if you don't want to work alongside undocumented immigrants on a roof or in a slaughterhouse or suffer the humiliation of US welfare, such as it is, you can always get a job with the army, or the TSA, or the police, or as a prison guard, or if you have some education, with a health unsurance company or pushing drone buttons. You only have to be willing to follow orders to kill–or at least help to kill–strangers.

(Okay, perhaps I overstate. If you're a medical doctor or an "educator" with university debt you don't have to actively kill. You can decline scant Medicaid payments and open a concierge practice, or you can teach to the test in order that nobody learns anything moral.)

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it. Wouldn't it be clarified matters if MMTers acknowledged that we already have a JG?

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 12:50 pm

We have been operating on MMT since the end of WW2, with 2 exceptions in 1968 when Silver Certificate banknotes no longer were redeemable for silver, and in 1971 when foreign central banks (not individuals!) weren't allowed to exchange FRN's for gold @ $35 an ounce anymore.

It's been full on fiat accompli since then and to an outsider looks absurd in that money is entirely a faith-based agenda, but it's worked for the majority of all of lives, so nobody squawks.

It's an economic "the emperor has no clothes" gig.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 1:54 pm

It seems to me that the US macroeconomic policy has been operating under MMT at least since FDR (see for example Beardsley Ruml from 1945).

Yup, you are correct, IMO. And about the jobs guarantee, too. The point of MMT is not that we have to adopt, believe in, or implement it, but that *this is how things work* and we need to get a %&*^* handle on it *STAT* or they will ride it and us to the graveyard. The conservatives and neo-cons are already on to this, long-time.

I believe the chant is:

We can have anything we want that is available in our (sovereign) currency and for which there are resources

What we get depends on what we want and how well we convince/coerce our 'leaders' to make it so.

David Swan , October 2, 2018 at 2:43 pm

JG is geared toward community involvement to create an open-ended collection of potential work assignments, not top-down provision of a limited number of job slots determined by bureaucrats on a 1% leash.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 9:31 am

About every 80 years, there has been a great turning in terms of money in these United States

Might as well start with 1793 and the first Federal coins, followed in 1861 by the first Federal paper money, and then the abandonment of the gold standard (a misnomer, as it was one of many money standards @ era, most of them fiat) in 1933.

We're a little past our use-by date for the next incarnation of manna, or is it already here in the guise of the great giveaway orchestrated since 2008 to a selected few?

Adam1 , October 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received. One of the primary mainstream teachings that I now readily see as false is the concept of money being a vale over a barter economy. It's lazy, self-serving analysis. It doesn't even pass a basic logical analysis let alone archeological history. Even in a very primitive economy it would be virtually impossible for barter to be the main form of transaction. The strawberry farmer can't barter with the apple farmer. His strawberries will be rotten before the apples are ripe. He could give the apple farmer strawberries in June on the promise of receiving apples in October, but that's not barter that's credit. The apple farmer could default of his own free will or by happenstance (he dies, his apple harvest is destroyed by an act of god, etc ). How does the iron miner get his horse shoed if the blacksmith needs iron before he can make the horse show? Credit has to have always been a key component of any economy and therefore barter could never have been the original core.

HotFlash , October 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm

After learning MMT I've occasionally thought I should get a refund for the two economics degree's I originally received.

Agreed. Richard Wolff notes that in most Impressive Universities there are two schools, one for Economics (theory) and another for Business (practice). Heh. I say, go for the refund, you was robbed.

Wukchumni , October 2, 2018 at 10:11 am

Take Indians for instance

All the Rupee* has done over time is go down in value against other currencies, and up in the spot price measured in Rupees even as gold is trending down now, and that whole stupid demonetization of bank notes gig, anybody on the outside of the fiat curtain looking in, had to be laughing, and ownership there is no laughing matter, as it's almost a state financial religion, never seen anything like it.

* A silver coin larger than a U.S. half dollar pre-post WW2, now worth a princely 1.4 cents U.S.

Chauncey Gardiner , October 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Not an economist, but I appreciate both the applicability of MMT and the fierce, but often subtle resistance its proponents have encountered academically, institutionally and politically. However, I have questioned to what extent MMT is uniquely applicable to a nation with either a current account surplus or that controls access to a global reserve currency.

How does a nation that is sovereign in its own currency, say Argentina for example (there are many such examples), lose 60 percent of its value in global foreign exchange markets in a very short time period?

Is this due primarily to private sector debts denominated in a foreign currency (and if so, what sectors of the Argentine economy undertook those debts, for what purposes, and to whom are they owed?), foreign exchange market manipulation by external third parties, the effective imposition of sanctions by those who control the global reserve currency and international payments system, or some combination of those or other factors?

Mel , October 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Michael Hudson described some of it earlier this year:
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/07/michael-hudson-argentina-gets-biggest-imf-loan-history.html

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell , October 2, 2018 at 3:48 pm

All hyperinflations are caused by shortages, usually shortages of food. See: https://mythfighter.com/2018/08/27/ten-answers-that-are-contrary-to-popular-wisdom/

There is no avoiding bad government.

PKMKII , October 2, 2018 at 1:57 pm

MMT makes more sense than orthodox neoliberal accounts of currency and sovereign spending to me, as it does a better job of acknowledging reality. MMT recognizes that currency is an artifice and that imagined limitations on it are just that, and real resources are the things which are limited. Neoliberal economics acts as if all sorts of byzantine factors mean currency must be limited, but we can think of resources, and the growth machine they feed, as being infinite.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell , October 2, 2018 at 3:41 pm

"Taxes or other obligations (fees, fines, tribute, tithes) drive the currency."

Specifically, what does "drive" mean? Does it mean:
1. When taxes are reduced, the value of money falls?
2. If taxes were zero, the value of money would be zero?
3. Cryptocurrencies, which are not supported by taxes, have no value?

"JG is a critical component of MMT. It anchors the currency and ensures that achieving full employment will enhance both price and financial stability."

Specifically, what do "anchors" and "critical component" mean? Do they mean:
1. Since JG does not exist, the U.S. dollar is unanchored and MMT does not exist?
2. Providing college graduates with ditch-digging jobs enhances price and financial stability?
3. Forcing people to work is both morally and economically superior to giving them money and benefits?

Grebo , October 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm

"Drive" means "creates initial demand for":
1. No, not for an established currency.
2. See 1.
3. Crypto is worth what you can buy with it.

"Anchors" means it acts against inflation and deflation. "Critical component" means the economy works better if it has it.
1. Yes and no.
2. Yes, if no-one else will hire them.
3. No element of force is implied.

[Sep 27, 2018] Even those nations desirous of undoing dollar hegemony have said it cannot be done overnight as the overall system is both too complex and too fragile for hasty adjustments to be made stably. Moreover, for better or worse, the Outlaw US Empire's an integral component of the global economy, which motivates those changing the system to arrive at a Soft Landing, not a Hard Crash.

Sep 27, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Sunny Runny Burger , Sep 26, 2018 4:06:24 PM | link

Karlof1 I could be wrong of course but one example of why none of that would matter is when the US dollar for all practical purposes winks out of existence and that could happen right now as we speak. Why would that happen you may ask? It would happen whenever someone "beyond personal wealth" like the usual finance suspects decides it is the way for them to make enormous amounts of profit out of the resulting worldwide instability before any of their competitors beat them to it. The longer they wait the more likely someone else will jump the gun and surprise them.

I don't think the US has two years worth of "blood" left in it before that happens.

In a sense nothing will be left when each and every dollar becomes at least 20 trillion times less valuable. If the response to that happening is the same as the early 20ieth century response (Germany) then nothing will be left at all considering the difference in technology and differences in circumstance (everybody already have the weapons ready). If the response is the late 20ieth century response (USSR) then maybe something will be left but the USSR was both lucky and relatively solvent in comparison to the current US. The starting point for the US is several magnitudes worse in both examples. The world can't afford to carry the US at cost any more than the US can't right now and like the US haven't been able to for decades, the required wealth doesn't exist.

karlof1 , Sep 26, 2018 5:13:27 PM | link

Sunny Runny Burger @24--

The nascent USA had its national capital sacked and presidential residence burnt during what's known as the War of 1812, yet it continued to exist politically. Same during Civil War. During the Revolutionary War, the USA had a national government and 13 separate state governments, all of which continued to function as the war raged. There've been at least two Coups--1963 and 2000--but the USA continued its political existence. Even the Germany destroyed by WW2 still existed politically. Destroying political entities is very--extremely--difficult, which is why it seldom occurs. Rome's central authority ceased in the mid 6th century but its provinces continued as did the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire. Russia's governmental system was drastically altered during and after Russia's Civil War, but Russia continued to exists as a political entity. The USSR was an imperial governing edifice built atop numerous national political entities. It did vanish, but the nations comprising it didn't; indeed, new nations were born as a result.

As for the dollar and its international position, even those nations desirous of undoing dollar hegemony have said it cannot be done overnight as the overall system is both too complex and too fragile for hasty adjustments to be made stably . Moreover, for better or worse, the Outlaw US Empire's an integral component of the global economy, which motivates those changing the system to arrive at a Soft Landing, not a Hard Crash.

Catastrophism belongs in the realm of Geology, not Geopolitics, although the former will certainly affect the latter. Geopolitics can certainly enable an ecological crisis such as the Overshoot we're now entering, but that's several magnitudes less than what rates as a geological catastrophe--and not all such catastrophes are global.

[Sep 21, 2018] The Dollar Shortage China's Bond Selling Are About To Corner the Fed Zero Hedge Zero Hedge

Sep 21, 2018 | www.zerohedge.com

The Dollar Shortage & China's Bond Selling Are About To Corner the Fed

by Palisade Research Fri, 09/21/2018 - 19:22 8 SHARES

Via Adem Tumerkan @ Palisade-Research.com

- This is a repost of the recent Palisade Weekly Letter –

Earlier this week – news went by relatively unnoticed by the ' mainstream ' financial media (CNCB and such) that Beijing's started selling their U.S. debt holdings.

Putting it another way – they're dumping U.S. bonds. . .

"China's ownership of U.S. bonds, bills and notes slipped to $1.17 trillion, the lowest level since January and down from $1.18 trillion in June."

Remember – dumping U.S. debt is China's nuclear option (which I wrote about back in April – click here to read if you missed it ).

And although they're starting to sell U.S. bonds – expect it to be at a slow and steady pace. They don't want to risk hurting themselves over this.

I believe China may be selling just enough to get the attention of Trump and the Treasury. A soft warning for them not to take things too far with tariffs and trade.

Yet already just as news hit the wire that China was selling bonds a few days ago – U.S. yields spiked above 3%. . .


Don't forget that China's the U.S.'s largest foreign creditor. And this is an asset for them.

And although them selling is worrisome – the real problems started months ago. . .

Over the last few months, my macro research and articles are all finally coming together. This thesis we had is finally taking shape in the real world.

I wrote in a detailed piece a few months back that foreigners just aren't lending to the U.S. as much anymore ( you can read that here ).

I called this the 'silent problem'. . .

Long story short: the U.S. is running huge deficits. They haven't been this big since the Great Financial Recession of 08.

And it shouldn't come as a surprise to many.

Because of Trump's tax cuts, there's less government revenue coming in. And that means the increased military spending and other Federal spending has to be paid for on someone else's tab.

The U.S. does 'bond auctions' all the time where banks and foreigners buy U.S. debt – giving the Treasury cash to spend now.

But like I highlighted in the 'silent problem' article (seriously, read it if you haven't) – foreigners are buying less U.S. debt recently. . .

This is a serious problem because if the Treasury wants to spend more while collecting less taxes, they need to borrow heavily.

This trend's continued since 2016 and it's getting worse. And with the mounting liabilities (like pensions and social security and medicare), they'll need to borrow trillions more in the coming years.


So, in summary – the U.S. has less interested foreign creditors at a time when they need them more than ever.

But wait, it gets worse. . .

The Federal Reserve's currently tightening – they're raising rates and selling bonds via Quantitative Tightening (QT – fancy word for sucking money out of system).

This is the second big problem – and I wrote about in 'Anatomy of a Crisis' ( read here ). And even earlier than that here .

So, while the Fed does this tightening, they're creating a global dollar shortage. . .

As I wrote. . . "This is going to cause an evaporation of dollar liquidity – making the markets extremely fragile. Putting it simply – the soaring U.S. deficit requires an even greater amount dollars from foreigners to fund the U.S. Treasury . But if the Fed is shrinking their balance sheet , that means the bonds they're selling to banks are sucking dollars out of the economy (the reverse of Quantitative Easing which was injecting dollars into the economy). This is creating a shortage of U.S. dollars – the world's reserve currency – therefore affecting every global economy."

The Fed's tightening is sucking money – the U.S. dollar – out of the global economy and banks. And they're doing this at a time when Foreigners need even more liquidity so that they can buy U.S. debt.

How is the Treasury supposed to get funding if there's less dollars out there available? And how can they entice investors if Foreigners don't have enough liquidity to fund U.S. debt?

These Emerging Markets must use their dollar reserves to prop up their own currencies and economies today. They can't be worrying about funding U.S. pensions and other bloated spending when their economies are crumbling.

These two themes I've written about extensively – the decline of foreign investors and the Fed's tightening – have gotten us to this point today.

And the U.S. is extremely fragile because of both problems. . .

Here's the worst part – China probably knows this . That's why they're selling just enough U.S. bonds to spook markets.

But if the trade war and soon-to-be a currency war continues, no doubt China will sell more of their debt – sending yields soaring.

I just got done last week detailing how U.S. debt servicing costs (interest payments) are already becoming very unsustainable ( click here if you missed it ).

At this point they're literally borrowing money just to pay back old debts – that's known as a 'ponzi scheme'.

This is why I believe the Fed will eventually cut rates back to 0% – and then into negative territory. And instead of sucking money out of the economy via QT, they're going to start printing trillions more.

How else will the Treasury be able to get the funding they need?

I'll continue to keep you up to date with what's going on and how it all fits together.

But I think the two big problems I wrote about above are now converging into a new massive problem. And I don't see any way out of it unless the Fed monetizes the U.S. Treasury and outstanding debts. And that will cause massive moves in the markets.

I'm sure Trump will eventually tweet , "Oh Yeah? Foreigners don't want to buy the U.S. debt? Blasphemy! Who needs you all when we have a printing press!"

Or something like that. . .

TimeTraveller , 1 hour ago

I'm really starting to get sick of these crap reports from Palisade Research. Again they are totally wrong on so many levels.

1. China is selling Treasuries, because they are pre-empting a debt crisis in their own country and need Dollar financing for their overleveraged companies and their banking sector. Also, China is lending money to every 3rd world country that needs infrustructure for it's Belt and Road Initiative. Building ports, bridges and railways across Asia and Africa, costs money.

2. Selling Treasuries will weaken the Dollar, so making the RMB stronger. China does NOT want the RMB stronger because it erodes their exporters margins and competetiveness. Why would they want to hurt themselves just to punish their biggest customer?

To even suggest China is "using the Nuclear option" of dumping Treasuries just shows your total ignorance of the real world.

Palisade are clueless

ConanTheContrarian1 , 1 hour ago

OTOH, the crisis in Emerging Markets and the effect of capital flight on China are just two of the MANY things not mentioned in this article. There has been tension building into financial warfare between China and the US ever since they pegged the yuan low to the dollar in 1987. The US is doing things under the table to China, China to the US, and they're both quite capable of paying Adam Tumerkan (and others) to write hit pieces against the other side. Think deeply before choosing a side.

[Sep 15, 2018] Has that system dynamic changed/evolved seriously since the Roman era? We have usury. We have inheritance. We have banking. The concept of private property evolved along with the mythical moral fig leaf of rule-of-law. We call it the Western form of "civilization".

Sep 15, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

psychohistorian , Sep 15, 2018 7:51:52 PM | link

@ Lochearn who is correcting my genealogical representation of empire

Yes, you are more correct than I. That said, does it go back even further to the founding of monotheistic religions? We are referring to social control by an elite in my mind more than the Jewish bankers part of your genealogy. I admit to the bankers part but see that bankers group as the encourage/control entity for the other monotheistic religions.

Has that system dynamic changed/evolved seriously since the Roman era? We have usury. We have inheritance. We have banking. The concept of private property evolved along with the mythical moral fig leaf of rule-of-law. We call it the Western form of "civilization".

Jen , Sep 15, 2018 8:01:37 PM | link

Psycho Historian: I have been reading a Great Courses book on the history of the Achaemenid rmpire that ruled Persia and one interesting tidbit from my reading is that temples and their priests made loans to property (though turned did not accept deposits). So religious institutions got into the banking business early.

karlof1 , Sep 15, 2018 8:13:22 PM | link

Jen @27--

In his talks about his upcoming book, Hudson has said that besides the Palace the Temples were the first sources of credit. But their relation to society then vastly differs from what evolved as both Palace and Temple become corrupted by greed.

jrkrideau , Sep 15, 2018 9:03:58 PM | link</