Peter Schiff Bashes "Feeble And Fictitious" Budget Deal
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/15/2013 20:28 -0500
David Stockman's exclamation at the "betrayal" realized within the latest so-called "festerng fiscal" budget deal is taken a step further withPeter Schiff's head-shaking diatribe on Congress' inability to show that it is truly "capable of tackling our chronic and dangerous debt problems." So America blissfully sails on, ignoring the obvious fiscal, monetary, and financial shoals that lay ahead in plain sight. I believe that will continue this dangerous course until powers outside the United States finally force the issue by refusing to expand their holding of U.S. debt. That willfinally bring on the debt and currency crisis that we have created by our current cowardice.
They Bravely Chickened Out
Earlier this week Congress tried to show that it is capable of tackling our chronic and dangerous debt problems. Despite the great fanfare I believe they have accomplished almost nothing. Supporters say that the budget truce created by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray will provide the economy with badly needed certainty. But I think the only surety this feeble and fictitious deal offers is that Washington will never make any real moves to change the trajectory of our finances, and that future solutions will be forced on us by calamity rather than agreement.
There can be little doubt that the deal resulted from a decision by Republicans, who may be still traumatized by the public relations drubbing they took with the government shutdown, to make the 2014 and 2016 elections a simple referendum on Obamacare. Given the ongoing failures of the President's signature health care plan, and the likelihood that new problems and outrages will come to light in the near future, the Republicans have decided to clear the field of any obstacles that could distract voters from their anger with Obama and his defenders in Congress. The GOP smells a political winner and all other issues can wait. It is no accident the Republican press conference on the budget deal was dominated by prepared remarks focusing on the ills of Obamacare.
Although he had crafted his reputation as a hard nosed deficit hawk, Paul Ryan claimed that the agreement advances core Republican principles of deficit reduction and tax containment. While technically true, the claim is substantively hollow. In my opinion the more honest Republicans are arguing that the Party is simply making a tactical retreat in order to make a major charge in the years ahead. They argue that Republicans will need majorities in both houses in 2014, and the White House in 2016, in order to pass meaningful reforms in taxing and spending. This has convinced them to prioritize short term politics over long term goals. I believe that this strategy is wishful thinking at best. It magnifies both the GOP's electoral prospects (especially after alienating the energetic wing of their party) and their willingness to make politically difficult decisions if they were to gain majority power (recent Bush Administration history should provide ample evidence of the party's true colors). Their strategy suggests that Republicans (just like the Democrats) have just two priorities: hold onto their own jobs, and to make their own party a majority so as to increase their currency among lobbyists and donors. This is politics at its most meaningless. I believe public approval ratings for Congress have fallen to single digit levels not because of the heightened partisanship, but because of blatant cowardice and dishonesty.Their dereliction of responsibility will not translate to respect or popularity. Real fiscal conservatives should continue to focus on the dangers that we continue to face and look to constructive solutions. Honesty, consistency and courage are the only real options.
In the meantime we are given yet another opportunity to bask in Washington's naked cynicism. Congress proposes cuts in the future while eliminating cuts in the present that it promised to make in the past! The Congressional Budget Office (which many believe is too optimistic) projects that over the next 10 years the Federal government will create $6.38 trillion in new publicly held debt (intra-governmental debt is excluded from the projections). This week's deal is projected to trim just $22 billion over that time frame, or just 3 tenths of 1 percent of this growth. This rounding error is not even as good as that. The $22 billion in savings comes from replacing $63 billion in automatic "sequestration" cuts that were slated to occur over the next two years, with $85 billion in cuts spread over 10 years. As we have seen on countless occasions, long term policies rarely occur as planned, since future legislators consistently prioritize their own political needs over the promises made by predecessors.
The lack of new taxes, which is the deal's other apparent virtue, is merely a semantic achievement. The bill includes billions of dollars in new Federal airline passenger "user fees" (the exact difference between a "fee" and a "tax" may be just as hard to define as the difference between Obamacare "taxes" and a "penalties" that required a Supreme Court case to decide). But just like a tax, these fees will take more money directly from consumer's wallets. The bigger issue is the trillions that the government will likely take indirectly through debt and inflation.
The good news for Washington watchers is that this deal could finally bring to an end the redundant "can-kicking" exercises that have frustrated the Beltway over the last few years. Going forward all the major players have agreed to pretend that the can just doesn't exist. In making this leap they are similar to Wall Street investors who ignore the economy's obvious dependence on the Federal Reserve's Quantitative Easing program as well as the dangers that will result from any draw down of the Fed's $4 trillion balance sheet.
The recent slew of employment and GDP reports have convinced the vast majority of market watchers that the Fed will begin tapering its $85 billion per month bond purchases either later this month or possibly by March of 2014. Many also expect that the program will be fully wound down by the end of next year. However, that has not caused any widespread concerns that the current record prices of U.S. markets are in danger. Additionally, given the Fed's current centrality in the market for both Treasury and Mortgage bonds, I believe the market has failed to adequately allow for severe spikes in interest rates if the Fed were to reduce its purchasing activities. With little fanfare yields on the 10 year and 30 year Treasury bonds are already approaching multi-year highs. Few are sparing thoughts for yield spikes that could result if the Fed were to slow, or stop, its buying binge.
So America blissfully sails on, ignoring the obvious fiscal, monetary, and financial shoals that lay ahead in plain sight. I believe that will continue this dangerous course until powers outside the United States finally force the issue by refusing to expand their holding of U.S. debt. That will finally bring on the debt and currency crisis that we have created by our current cowardice.
Guest Post: Who Needs The Debt Ceiling?
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/15/2013 16:11 -0500
Submitted by Russell Lamberti of the Ludwig von Mises Institute,
US lawmakers reached a budget deal this week that will avert the sequester cuts and shutdowns. These fiscal “roadblocks” supposedly damaged investor confidence in 2013, although clearly no one told equity investors who’ve chased the S&P 500 up 26 percent this year. But even so the budget deal is seen by inflationists as only half the battle won, because it doesn’t deal with the pesky debt ceiling. Unsurprisingly, the old calls for a scrapping of the debt ceiling are being heard afresh.
Last week, The Week ran an opinion piece by John Aziz which argues that America (and all other nations for that matter) should keep borrowing until investors no longer want to lend to it. To this end, it is argued, the US should scrap its debt ceiling because the only debt ceiling it needs is the one imposed by the market. When the market doesn’t want to lend to you anymore, bond yields will rise to such an extent that you can no longer afford to borrow any more money. You will reach your natural, market-determined debt ceiling. According to this line of reasoning, American bond yields are incredibly low, meaning there is no shortage of people willing to lend to Uncle Sam. So Washington should take advantage of these fantastically easy loans and leverage up.
Here’s part of the key paragraph from Aziz:
Right now interest rates are very low by historical standards, even after adjusting for inflation. This means that the government is not producing sufficient debt to satisfy the market demand. The main reason for that is the debt ceiling.
What this fails to appreciate is that interest rates are a heavily controlled price in all of today’s major economies. This is particularly true in the case of America, where the Federal Reserve controls short-term interest rates using open market operations (i.e., loaning newly printed money to banks) and manipulates long-term interest rates using quantitative easing. By injecting vast amounts of liquidity into the economy, the Fed makes it appear as though there is more savings than there really is. But US bond yields are currently no more a reflection of the market’s demand for US debt than a price ceiling on gasoline is a reflection of its booming supply. Contra the view expressed in The Week, low rates brought about by contrived zero-bound policy rates and trillions of dollars in QE can mislead the federal government into borrowing more while at the same time pushing savers and investors out of US bond markets and into riskier assets like corporate bonds, equities, exotic derivatives, emerging markets, and so on.
Greece once thought that the market was giving it the green light to “produce” more debt. Low borrowing rates for Greece were not a sign of fiscal health, however, but really just layer upon layer of false and contrived signals arising from easy ECB money, allowing Greece to hide behind Germany’s credit status. As it turned out, a legislative debt ceiling in Greece (one that was actually adhered to) would have been a far better idea than pretending this manipulated market was a fair reflection of reality. Investors were happy to absorb Greece’s debt until suddenly they weren’t.
This is the nature of sovereign debt accumulation driven by easy money and credit bubbles. It’s all going swimmingly until it’s not. And there is little reason to think this time the US is different. Except that America might be worse. The very fact of the Fed buying Treasuries with newly printed money proves Washington is producing too much debt. China even stated recently that it saw no more utility accumulating any more dollar debt assets. If the whole point of QE is to monetize impaired assets, then the Fed likely sees Treasury bonds as facing considerable impairment risk. Theory and history are clear about the reasons for and consequences of large-scale and persistent debt monetization.
Finally, it is wrong to assert that the debt ceiling is the main reason for America’s fiscal deficit reduction. The ceiling has never provided a meaningful barrier to America’s borrowing ambitions, hence the dozens of upward adjustments to the ceiling whenever it threatens to crimp the whims of Washington’s profligate classes. America’s rate of new borrowing is falling because all the money it has printed washed into the economic system and found its way back into tax revenues. Corporate profits are soaring to all-time highs on dirt cheap trade financing. Corporate high-grade debt issuance has set a new record in 2013. Companies are rolling their short-term debts, now super-cheap thanks to Bernanke’s money machine, and issuing long, into a bubbly IPO and corporate bond market. The last time corporate profits surged like they’re doing now was during the credit and housing bubble that preceded the unraveling and inevitable bust in 2008/09.
These are money and credit cycle effects. The debt ceiling has had precious little to do with it. Moreover, US debt is neither crimped nor the US Treasury Department austere. Instead, the national debt is soaring, $60,000 higher for every US family since Obama took office and rising. Add to this the fact that the US Treasury’s bond issuance schedule is actually set to rise in 2014 due to huge amounts of maturing debt needing to be rolled over next year, and the fiscal significance of the debt ceiling fades even further.
The singular brilliance of the debt ceiling however, is that it keeps reminding everyone that there is a growing national debt that never seems to shrink. That is a tremendous service to American citizens who live in the dark regarding the borrowing machinations of their political overlords. Yes, politicians keep raising the debt ceiling, but nowadays they have to bend themselves into ever twisty pretzels trying to explain why to their justifiably skeptical and cynical constituents. Most people don’t understand bond yields, quantitative easing, and Keynesian pump-a-thons too well, but they sure understand a debt ceiling.
Those who adhere to the don’t-stop-til-you-get-enough theory of sovereign borrowing, and by extension argue for a scrapping of the debt ceiling, couldn’t be more misguided. In free markets with no Fed money market distortion, interest rates can be a useful guide of the amount of real savings being made available to borrowers. When borrowers want to borrow more, real interest rates will rise, and at some point this crimps the marginal demand for borrowing, acting as a natural “debt ceiling.” But when markets are heavily distorted by central bank money printing and contrived zero-bound rates, interest rates utterly cease to serve this purpose for prolonged periods of time. What takes over is the false signals of the unsustainable business cycle which fools people into thinking there is more savings than there really is. Greece provides a recent real-world case study of this very phenomenon in action. In these cases we are likely to see low rates sustained during the increase in government borrowing, only for them to quickly reset higher and plunge a country into a debt trap which may force default or extreme money printing.
Debt monetization has a proven track record of ending badly. It is after all the implicit admission that no one but your monopoly money printer is willing to lend to you at the margin. The realization that this is unsustainable can take a while to sink in, but when it does, all it takes is an inevitable fat-tail event or crescendo of panic to topple the house of cards. If the market realizes it’s been duped into having too much before the government decides it’s had enough, a debt crisis won’t be far away.
"Money For Nothing" And The Survival Of The Fattest
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/15/2013 14:29 -0500
It is perhaps a testament to the ability of the oligarchy (that 1% which owns some 50% of all US assets) to distract and distort newsflow from what really matters, that a century after the creation of the Federal Reserve, the vast majority of Americans are still unfamiliar with the most important institution in the history of the US - an institution that unlike the government is not accountable to the people (if only as prescribed on a piece of rapidly amortizing paper), but merely to a few banker stakeholders as Bernanke's actions over the past five years have demonstrated beyond any doubt. It is for their benefit that Jim Bruce's groundbreaking movie "Money for Nothing" is a must see, although we would urge everyone else, including those frequent Zero Hedge readers well-versed in the inner workings of the Fed, to take the two hours and recall just who the real enemy of the people truly is.
A quick note on producer, director and writer Jim Bruce. While Jim has been a student of financial markets for over a decade, and began writing a newsletter in 2006 warning about the oncoming financial crisis, what is perhaps most notable is that it was his short trades in 2007 and 2008 that helped finance a significant portion of Money For Nothing’s budget.
However, most impressive is Bruce's ability to bring together such a broad and insightful cast which includes both current and former Fed members, as well as some of the most outspoken Fed critics, among which:
- Paul Volcker
- Janet Yellen
- Alice Rivlin
- Alan Blinder
- Richard Fisher
- Thomas Hoenig
- Jeffrey Lacker
- Jim Grant
- Allan Meltzer
- Raghuram Rajan
- Charles Plosser
- Tony Boeckh
- Jeremy Grantham
- Todd Harrison
... and many others.
From the film's official website:
MONEY FOR NOTHING is a feature-length documentary about the Federal Reserve - made by a Team of AFI, Sundance, and Academy Award winners – that seeks to unveil America’s central bank and its impact on our economy and our society.Current and former top economists, financial historians, and investors and traders provide unprecedented access and take viewers behind the curtain to debate the future of the world’s most powerful financial institution.Digging beneath the surface of the 2008 crisis, Money For Nothing is the first film to ask why so many facets of our financial system seemed to self-destruct at the same time. For many economists and senior Fed officials, the answer is clear: the same Fed that put out 2008’s raging financial fire actually helped light the match years before.As the global financial system continues to falter, the Federal Reserve finds itself at a crossroads. The choices it makes will greatly influence the kind of world our children and grandchildren inherit. How can the Federal Reserve steer our nation toward a more sustainable path? How can the American people – who the Fed was created to serve - influence an institution whose inner workings they may not understand?The key tenet underlying Money For Nothing is our belief that a more fully and accurately informed public will promote greater accountability and more effective policies from our central bank - no matter the conclusions any individual draws from the film.
Sadly this is where we differ, for it is Zero Hedge's opinion that not only is it now far too late to promote any type of change at the top, but the best policy is to urge the Fed on in its ludicrous policies, in order to lead to the catastrophic culmination of 100 years of disastrous wealth-transfer policies, which unfortunately is the only possible way a cleansing systemic reset - one that would finally eradicate the scourge of central-planning - can be unleashed upon a broken and malfunctioning system in its final throes of status quo existence.
Then again, perhaps there is a chance.
Finally, as an added bonus, here are some thoughts from the creator and that supreme beneficiary of the Fed's wealth transfer protocols, billionaire David Tepper, on how Ben Bernanke managed to, temporarily, circumvent Darwin's laws and how it is not the fittest but the fattest that survive.