The FED’s QE4: printing money out of thin air, $11 billion giveaway to Banksters

Selling out our children’s future one QE at a time.

The-Count-Says-4-QEs

Did The Fed Save Wall Street With A Temporary QE4?

The stock market suffered one of its most drastic falls on February 5, 2018. The price of gold rose but as equities started rebounding after the selloff, gold trended lower.

Gold has enacted a portfolio hedge when markets rapidly swing and the recent pullback was no different. However, something was quite bizarre with regards to the Fed’s balance sheet a week after the market meltdown. Recently published data shows that the Fed’s balance sheet increased by 14.1 billion during the week ending February 14th, 2018.

By the looks of it, the Fed had reverted back to “quantitative easing” by printing money out of thin air by injecting $11 billion into the banking system by purchasing mortgage-backed securities. It’s important to realize, that the cash injected can be leveraged 10x. In other words, the $11 billion injected is $110 billion of leverage for the banks to use for activities such as propping up the stock market.

However, most recently, the Fed’s balance sheet was reduced by $23.2 billion. By the looks of things, the Federal Reserve is serving Wall Street by providing a safety net around volatility.  Which, of course, is driven by this ridiculous “wealth effect” policy that it has tried to achieve and preserve the last decade. It’s no surprise though, central banks are going to be central banks and continue to compound on disastrous and failed policy errors by repeating their old ones.

Read More: http://www.goldtelegraph.com/federal-reserve-save-wall-street-temporary-qe4/

Our National Debt And Government Spending Are A Moral Abomination

Federal Debt

Congress has returned to doing what it loves most: spending money we don’t have. Increased spending in the latest bipartisan budget deal, along with the recent Republican tax cuts, will vastly increase the deficit.

Principled conservatives objected, but were ignored in the scramble to give the American people what they want: more government spending without having to pay for it. Both parties are happy to deliver. With some worthy exceptions, Republicans who had bitterly criticized the “Obama deficits” are now eagerly embracing enormous Trump deficits.

This is sinful, but few people think of government deficits in such terms. This is not due to any reticence about political moralizing per se. Much of our political discourse now consists of dismissing our opponents as moral monsters and declaring “I’m better than you.” Why, in this atmosphere, is deficit spending one of the few issues about which more moralizing might be in order?

There seem to be two main factors behind our disinclination to describe persistent deficit spending—and the massive national debt it produces—as a moral wrong. The first is that the national debt doesn’t seem real to us; it is just numbers somewhere in the ether. Even people who consistently oppose reckless deficit spending tend to treat it abstractly. The second is that both parties are thoroughly guilty of contributing to the problem, so partisans have a strong incentive to be indulgent on the subject.

The National Debt Steals People’s Futures

Nonetheless, this is a moral problem. Our national debt steals from other people’s futures in a way that mere personal debt does not. For instance, if I borrow money, whether for a house, a car, an education, or a shiny new cell phone, I am the one who will have to pay it back or suffer the consequences (harassment by collection agencies, repossession, bankruptcy, and so on). The debt is mine, and so are the consequences if I borrow more than I can repay.

But while the money we’re borrowing as a nation will have to be paid back, those doing so will not be the people who get it. Federal deficit spending is not like going into personal debt. It is like grandma going on a binge with her grandchildren’s credit cards. It is parents signing away their children’s future for some government handouts now.

It is wrong to place our children and grandchildren under enormous debt. It is a sin against them. But we don’t think of deficit spending that way. Parents and grandparents who otherwise work hard to help their children and grandchildren succeed have no compunction about burdening them with endless budget deficits resulting in a crushing national debt.

This is not only because the deficit and debt seem remote in a way that personal credit card bills are not, but also because many people are unaware that the sources of the deficit are some of the federal government’s most popular programs: Social SecurityMedicare and Medicaid, and military spending. Few people want to cut these, and the next largest expense is paying the interest on our nation’s existing debt, which can’t be cut without causing a global financial crisis.

There is no easy solution, though voters enjoy being lied to and told that one exists (if only the other party weren’t obstructing it). As ridiculous as some federally funded programs can be (e.g., Harry Reid’s cowboy poetry), they aren’t the real problem. The deficit cannot be fixed by cutting foreign aid or the National Endowment for the Arts, or by taxing the rich just a bit more. It cannot be fixed by addressing “waste, fraud and abuse.” The real money is spent on the military and middle-class welfare programs.

Yes, Your Favorite Government Programs Are Welfare

And they are welfare programs, even if that appellation makes many beneficiaries uncomfortable. Social Security is a not a retirement account the government maintains for you. It is a transfer program, in which today’s workers are taxed to pay today’s retirees and the disabled. The amount someone pays in is not what he or she will get out, and many people receive far more in benefits than they paid in.

Likewise, Medicare is not a health savings account administered by the government. It is an incredibly expensive welfare program in which those currently working pay for the health care of the elderly and disabled, with lifetime costs for beneficiaries usually far in excess of what they paid into the program.

That these are welfare programs does not mean they should be eliminated. Wealthy societies with strong economies can afford some welfare spending, or even a lot of it. However, honesty about what these programs are and what they are for is necessary if we are to keep from being bankrupted by them. We must face the reality that the typical welfare queen isn’t a black mother in the inner city, but a middle-class white retiree.

Refusing to Pay for This Welfare Is Immoral

If we want generous middle-class benefits, we will need to drastically cut defense spending and raise taxes, including on the middle class. If we are not willing to do that, then we need to reform our entitlement programs to be sustainable. Either way, the sooner we address these problems, the less painful the adjustment will be. The more indebted and dependent our nation is, the more it will hurt when we run out of easy credit.

But right now, politicians (who are well aware of the problems of endless deficits) are terrified of voters punishing them for any changes. Both parties have campaigned on protecting entitlements, and both have attacked the other for attempting reform. Young voters, who will lose the most on our current trajectory, are often disengaged and besotted with adolescent socialist fantasies.

Meanwhile, retirees and near-retirees vote. They aren’t keen on politicians who raise taxes or cut military spending, and they will annihilate any politician who threatens their government checks and health care. The youth are checked out or feeling the Bern, while their elders are selling them down the river.

The electoral math suggests that there will be no reform or restraint except what will eventually be forced on us by the pitiless math of accounting and economics. That will be a painful reckoning. The consequences will be severe, and those who oppose putting our national finances in order are sinning against their children and grandchildren.

Nathanael Blake has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.

 

Read More: http://thefederalist.com/2018/02/12/national-debt-government-spending-moral-abomination/

Our National Debt And Government Spending Are A Moral Abomination

Federal Reserve Logo

Parents and grandparents who otherwise work hard to help their kids have no compunction about burdening them with endless budget deficits resulting in a crushing national debt.

Congress has returned to doing what it loves most: spending money we don’t have. Increased spending in the latest bipartisan budget deal, along with the recent Republican tax cuts, will vastly increase the deficit.

Principled conservatives objected, but were ignored in the scramble to give the American people what they want: more government spending without having to pay for it. Both parties are happy to deliver. With some worthy exceptions, Republicans who had bitterly criticized the “Obama deficits” are now eagerly embracing enormous Trump deficits.

This is sinful, but few people think of government deficits in such terms. This is not due to any reticence about political moralizing per se. Much of our political discourse now consists of dismissing our opponents as moral monsters and declaring “I’m better than you.” Why, in this atmosphere, is deficit spending one of the few issues about which more moralizing might be in order?

There seem to be two main factors behind our disinclination to describe persistent deficit spending—and the massive national debt it produces—as a moral wrong. The first is that the national debt doesn’t seem real to us; it is just numbers somewhere in the ether. Even people who consistently oppose reckless deficit spending tend to treat it abstractly. The second is that both parties are thoroughly guilty of contributing to the problem, so partisans have a strong incentive to be indulgent on the subject.

The National Debt Steals People’s Futures

Nonetheless, this is a moral problem. Our national debt steals from other people’s futures in a way that mere personal debt does not. For instance, if I borrow money, whether for a house, a car, an education, or a shiny new cell phone, I am the one who will have to pay it back or suffer the consequences (harassment by collection agencies, repossession, bankruptcy, and so on). The debt is mine, and so are the consequences if I borrow more than I can repay.

But while the money we’re borrowing as a nation will have to be paid back, those doing so will not be the people who get it. Federal deficit spending is not like going into personal debt. It is like grandma going on a binge with her grandchildren’s credit cards. It is parents signing away their children’s future for some government handouts now.

It is wrong to place our children and grandchildren under enormous debt. It is a sin against them. But we don’t think of deficit spending that way. Parents and grandparents who otherwise work hard to help their children and grandchildren succeed have no compunction about burdening them with endless budget deficits resulting in a crushing national debt.

This is not only because the deficit and debt seem remote in a way that personal credit card bills are not, but also because many people are unaware that the sources of the deficit are some of the federal government’s most popular programs: Social SecurityMedicare and Medicaid, and military spending. Few people want to cut these, and the next largest expense is paying the interest on our nation’s existing debt, which can’t be cut without causing a global financial crisis.

There is no easy solution, though voters enjoy being lied to and told that one exists (if only the other party weren’t obstructing it). As ridiculous as some federally funded programs can be (e.g., Harry Reid’s cowboy poetry), they aren’t the real problem. The deficit cannot be fixed by cutting foreign aid or the National Endowment for the Arts, or by taxing the rich just a bit more. It cannot be fixed by addressing “waste, fraud and abuse.” The real money is spent on the military and middle-class welfare programs.

Yes, Your Favorite Government Programs Are Welfare

And they are welfare programs, even if that appellation makes many beneficiaries uncomfortable. Social Security is a not a retirement account the government maintains for you. It is a transfer program, in which today’s workers are taxed to pay today’s retirees and the disabled. The amount someone pays in is not what he or she will get out, and many people receive far more in benefits than they paid in.

Likewise, Medicare is not a health savings account administered by the government. It is an incredibly expensive welfare program in which those currently working pay for the health care of the elderly and disabled, with lifetime costs for beneficiaries usually far in excess of what they paid into the program.

That these are welfare programs does not mean they should be eliminated. Wealthy societies with strong economies can afford some welfare spending, or even a lot of it. However, honesty about what these programs are and what they are for is necessary if we are to keep from being bankrupted by them. We must face the reality that the typical welfare queen isn’t a black mother in the inner city, but a middle-class white retiree.

Refusing to Pay for This Welfare Is Immoral

If we want generous middle-class benefits, we will need to drastically cut defense spending and raise taxes, including on the middle class. If we are not willing to do that, then we need to reform our entitlement programs to be sustainable. Either way, the sooner we address these problems, the less painful the adjustment will be. The more indebted and dependent our nation is, the more it will hurt when we run out of easy credit.

But right now, politicians (who are well aware of the problems of endless deficits) are terrified of voters punishing them for any changes. Both parties have campaigned on protecting entitlements, and both have attacked the other for attempting reform. Young voters, who will lose the most on our current trajectory, are often disengaged and besotted with adolescent socialist fantasies.

Meanwhile, retirees and near-retirees vote. They aren’t keen on politicians who raise taxes or cut military spending, and they will annihilate any politician who threatens their government checks and health care. The youth are checked out or feeling the Bern, while their elders are selling them down the river.

The electoral math suggests that there will be no reform or restraint except what will eventually be forced on us by the pitiless math of accounting and economics. That will be a painful reckoning. The consequences will be severe, and those who oppose putting our national finances in order are sinning against their children and grandchildren.

Nathanael Blake has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.

Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

Fragmented States of America

The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise. Not just any kind. Not even troubling, worrying, and dangerous ones. But strange and bizarre ones. Unique ones. Singular and gruesomely weird ones I’ve never really seen before, and outside of a dystopia written by Dickens and Orwell, nor have you, and neither has history. They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline — shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on —we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.

Let me give you just five examples of what I’ll call the social pathologies of collapse — strange, weird, and gruesome new diseases, not just ones we don’t usually see in healthy societies, but ones that we have never really seen before in any modern society.

America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days. That’s one every other day, more or less. That statistic is alarming enough — but it is just a number. Perspective asks us for comparison. So let me put that another way. America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse — it just doesn’t happen in any other country — and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”: a new, bizarre, terrible disease striking society.

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

So there is of course also an “opioid epidemic”. We use that phrase too casually, but it much more troubling than it appears on first glance. Here is what is really curious about it. In many countries in the world — most of Asia and Africa — one can buy all the opioids one wants from any local pharmacy, without a prescription. You might suppose then that opioid abuse as a mass epidemic would be a global phenomenon. Yet we don’t see opioid epidemics anywhere but America — especially not ones so vicious and widespread they shrink life expectancy. So the “opioid epidemic” — mass self-medication with the hardest of hard drugs — is again a social pathology of collapse: unique to American life. It is not quite captured in the numbers, but only through comparison — and when we see it in global perspective, we get a sense of just how singularly troubled American life really is.

Why would people abuse opioids en masse unlike anywhere else in the world? They must be living genuinely traumatic and desperate lives, in which there is little healthcare, so they have to self-medicate the terror away. But what is so desperate about them? Well, consider another example: the “nomadic retirees”. They live in their cars. They go from place to place, season after season, chasing whatever low-wage work they can find — spring, an Amazon warehouse, Christmas, Walmart.

Now, you might say — “well, poor people have always chased seasonal work!” But that is not really the point: absolute powerlessness and complete indignity is. In no other country I can see do retirees who should have been able to save up enough to live on now living in their cars in order to find work just to go on eating before they die — not even in desperately poor ones, where at least families live together, share resources, and care for one another. This is another pathology of collapse that is unique to America — utter powerlessness to live with dignity. Numbers don’t capture it — but comparisons paint a bleak picture.

How did America’s elderly end up cheated of dignity? After all, even desperately poor countries have “informal social support systems” — otherwise known as families and communities. But in America, there is the catastrophic collapse of social bonds. Extreme capitalism has blown apart American society so totally that people cannot even care for one another as much as they do in places like Pakistan and Nigeria. Social bonds, relationships themselves, have become unaffordable luxuries, more so than even in poor countries: this is yet another social pathology unique to American collapse.

Yet those once poor countries are making great strides. Costa Ricans now have higher life expectancy than Americans — because they have public healthcare. American life expectancy is falling, unlike nearly anywhere else in the world, save the UK — because it doesn’t.

And that is my last pathology: it is one of the soul, not one of the limbs, like the others above. American appear to be quite happy simply watching one another die, in all the ways above. They just don’t appear to be too disturbed, moved, or even affected by the four pathologies above: their kids killing each other, their social bonds collapsing, being powerless to live with dignity,or having to numb the pain of it all away.

If these pathologies happened in any other rich country — even in most poor ones — people would be aghast, shocked, and stunned, and certainly moved to make them not happen. But in America, they are, well, not even resigned. They are indifferent, mostly.

So my last pathology is a predatory society. A predatory society doesn’t just mean oligarchs ripping people off financially. In a truer way, it means people nodding and smiling and going about their everyday business as their neighbours, friends, and colleagues die early deaths in shallow graves. The predator in American society isn’t just its super-rich — but an invisible and insatiable force: the normalization of what in the rest of the world would be seen as shameful, historic, generational moral failures, if not crimes, becoming mere mundane everyday affairs not to be too worried by or troubled about.

read more: https://eand.co/why-were-underestimating-american-collapse-be04d9e55235

Jeremy Grantham Exposes The Corporatocracy: America’s “Run By Those Guys For Their Own Interests”

america the corporatocracy

Have profit margins risen to a permanently higher plateau? Are average Americans better off than they were a generation ago? I had the opportunity to discuss those questions, which are centrally important to investing and economic policy, with Jeremy Grantham a couple of weeks ago.

The discussion took place as part of a larger interview about climate-change investing. Grantham is the co-founder and chief investment strategist of Boston-based Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO).

It’s been widely reported that over the last 20 years the number of publicly traded companies has decreased by about 50%. The common explanations center on the fact that the number of de-listings, mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies have outstripped the initial public offerings (IPOs).

But I wanted to know if there was a deeper explanation related to the fact that corporate profit margins are at historical highs. Over the last dozen years, with the exception of the financial crisis, profit margins have been between 9% and 11% of GDP. Prior to that, the last time they were above 9% was in 1951.

The U.S. economy has become more concentrated in the service and technology sectors, which are inherently more profitable than the manufacturing businesses that dominated 50 years ago. Those business, like Amazon, Apple and Google have built incredibly strong, near-monopolistic franchises that should translate to higher margins.

If the market has become dominated with highly profitable, monopolistic franchises, then maybe that is why there are fewer companies and profit markets are no longer “the most mean-reverting series in finance,” as Grantham once claimed.

GMO has looked at this issue extensively. As Grantham noted, “profit margins and return on sales will vary much depending on whether you are in the supermarket business or whether you are in some software company. There is no average to which it moves.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that returns for equities will be greater going forward. As Grantham explained, higher margins will attract more capital and reduce the returns relative to other asset classes. “If your capital is returning more in this area than the other area then capital will flow and balance it out,” he said.

Higher margins have been offered as an explanation, by Grantham and others, for why the cyclically adjusted price-earnings (CAPE) ratio is higher than its historical average. But CAPE ratios depend on other factors, such as real interest rates, so margins only tell part of the story.

Grantham said that the monopoly factor has increased margins “a bit.” “Corporate power as exercised through Congress, particularly in the U.S., has clearly increased the total domination of regulatory boards by the industries. Regulations have gone from being concerning to laughable, and totally run by those guys for their own interests,” he said.

Grantham is far more concerned about the societal impacts of unchecked capitalism than he is with its effect on margins. “We are seeing a flowering of corporatism where government is designed to maximize the opportunities of giant influential companies and industries that spend a lot of money lobbying,” he said. “We continue down that primrose path today with yet another cycle of deregulating designed to help corporations.”

Grantham spoke about the “punishing consequences” that tax cuts and deregulation will have on the general public. He said that “maximizing the returns and the share of the pie going to corporations and the superrich is deplorable and has terrible effects on the economy in the long run. The average person in the street doesn’t have the buying power increments that they used to have.”

American prosperity

But is the average American really losing buying power? On this point, Grantham and I disagreed. Whether you go back 10, 20 or 40 years, I contend the standard of living for Americans has increased enormously.

Grantham, however, said that in terms of general well-being and happiness, Americans are worse off.`

“If you do your best to control for everything and measure happiness, this is not a particularly happy country,” Grantham said. “It is not entirely dependent on income by any means, and we have not improved.”

He acknowledged a couple areas where Americans are better off – entertainment, such as high-tech computer games, and medicine, where he said progress in drugs and technology are keeping people alive longer. To those I would add food, in light of the advances in the quality and variety of choices in cuisine, and transportation, considering the speed and safety at which we can travel by car, plane and other means.

But Grantham said that the average worker has not been paid more since 1974 for an hour’s work. “Does he feel more content, or does he feel extremely frustrated by his relative lack of progress compared to others?” he asked, rhetorically. “There is no doubt that he is more frustrated. The suicide rate in that group has gone way up. The drug addiction has gone way up.”

Indeed, he said there are all the indications of a “thoroughly miserable middle America.”

Read More: https://www.advisorperspectives.com/articles/2018/01/08/jeremy-grantham-on-profit-margins-and-american-prosperity