Monday, June 13, 2011

Alan Greenspan, "The Flaw", Laissez-faire, and Moral Hazard

Newsweek reports:

In the fall of 2008, with the global economy in shambles and panic spreading throughout the financial system, a seemingly humbled Alan Greenspan—the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve—appeared before Congress and admitted the unimaginable: there was a “flaw” in his world view that had prevented him from foreseeing the worst credit crisis in American history.

And so begins The Flaw, David Sington’s new documentary about the origins of the financial crisis. The movie, which opened in London last week, makes a compelling argument that the nature of American capitalism has changed in recent decades, giving rise to unstable levels of inequality and a mistaken belief in the self-correcting power of free markets. The Flaw focuses largely on the housing market and offers a far less blistering critique of Wall Street than Inside Job¸ Charles Ferguson’s 2010 Oscar-winning documentary. Yet in both films, Greenspan, who spoke with NEWSWEEK at his office in Washington, D.C., is cast in a similar role—as someone who personifies much of what went wrong with the economy...

Despite his 2008 mea culpa, Greenspan has largely remained steadfast in his faith in laissez faire, arguing against the government’s stimulus package and recent financial regulation. As Congress continues to fight over long-term spending and the future of entitlements, it is precisely this sort of stubborn libertarianism that has enraged Greenspan’s critics and once again cast a spotlight on his legacy.

read the article

Anthony Gregory on the meddling Fed: When All You Have is a Hammer

Murray Rothbard on Greenspan (writing in 1987)

Greenspan's real qualification is that he can be trusted never to rock the establishment's boat. He has long positioned himself in the very middle of the economic spectrum. He is, like most other long-time Republican economists, a conservative Keynesian, which in these days is almost indistinguishable from the liberal Keynesians in the Democratic camp. In fact, his views are virtually the same as Paul Volcker, also a conservative Keynesian. Which means that he wants moderate deficits and tax increases, and will loudly worry about inflation as he pours on increases in the money supply.

There is one thing, however, that makes Greenspan unique, and that sets him off from his Establishment buddies. And that is that he is a follower of Ayn Rand, and therefore "philosophically" believes in laissez-faire and even the gold standard. But as the New York Times and other important media hastened to assure us, Alan only believes in laissez-faire "on the high philosophical level." In practice, in the policies he advocates, he is a centrist like everyone else because he is a "pragmatist."

As an alleged "laissez-faire pragmatist," at no time in his prominent twenty-year career in politics has he ever advocated anything that even remotely smacks of laissez-faire, or even any approach toward it. For Greenspan, laissez-faire is not a lodestar, a standard, and a guide by which to set one's course; instead, it is simply a curiosity kept in the closet, totally divorced from his concrete policy conclusions.

read the essay

The War on Waste

USA Today reports:

President Obama seeks to revive an old war today -- the war on government waste.

Obama has appointed Vice President Biden to head up the Campaign to Cut Waste, a renewed effort to eliminate what the president called unnecessary government programs and "stupid spending that doesn't benefit anybody.

Anthony Gregory responds:
I do not want to understate the evil of government waste. A billion dollars stolen from taxpayers and sent down the drain is an injustice and a moral disgrace of national importance. But government is an organ of plunder, economic dislocation, mass imprisonment, social destruction, persecution and mass murder. Given that it steals our money—certainly a great evil in itself—we’re generally much better off the larger portion of its budget goes purely to waste.
read the essay

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Defense Spending

Richard Maybury on Austrian Economics

"The Austrian economists point out that the economy is not a machine, it is an ecology composed of living organisms, people. The Austrian school is in the forefront of the effort to expose the madness of the government's Keynesian and socialist policies."

read the essay

The Next Crisis or the Continuation of the Current Crisis

Gary North writes:
The mainstream financial media are running stories on the next financial crisis. This is unheard of two years into a so-called economic recovery. So weak is this recovery that the old pre-2008 confidence has not returned...

We are being warned in advance by the financial media: expect another major crisis. The bailouts were not enough. The expansion of the monetary base was not enough. The new Dodd-Frank regulatory structure is not enough...

There is no formula to deal with this. There is no organized government response that is waiting in the wings. There will be another crisis. And when it comes, the response will be the same: to preserve the solvency of the biggest banks, at taxpayer expense and at central bank expense. When it comes to bailouts and central bank inflation, it's all "doable." It will therefore be done.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bernanke's Speech on the Economy

Here is the transcript.
At the same time, the longer-run health of the economy requires that the Federal Reserve be vigilant in preserving its hard-won credibility for maintaining price stability.
My thoughts: Ha!! Credibility for maintaining price stability? The dollar has lost over 95% of its purchasing power since the Fed was created. That is called failure!!

Mish Shedlock provides some usefully commentary.

Bernanke did everything possible to mitigate his role and the Fed's role in this crisis. His unmitigated gall comes through loud and clear with this bald-faced lie:

"The Federal Reserve's actions in recent years have doubtless helped stabilize the financial system, ease credit and financial conditions, guard against deflation, and promote economic recovery. All of this has been accomplished, I should note, at no net cost to the federal budget or to the U.S. taxpayer."

For starters, were it not for the complete ineptitude of the Greenspan and Bernanke Fed the US would not be in this mess in the first place. Second, there most assuredly is a cost to the Fed's policies.

Prices are higher, wages are not. Banks were bailed out at taxpayer expense. The Fed pays interest on reserves. That interest comes from taxpayers. The Fed's balance sheet is loaded to the gills with garbage from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Fed is not at risk on that garbage because Congress approved unlimited backing for GSE debt. That unlimited backing is over $300 billion and counting. Those losses are not all on the Fed's balance sheet of course. However let's not ignore the Fed's role in getting Congress to pass that blatantly stupid bill.

Let's also not forget the Fed cheerleading fiscal stupidity in Congress, not wanting Congress to do anything about monstrous deficits now. Keynesian and Monetarist clowns never want to do anything now. They always want to do it at the "appropriate" time, which in practice means never.

Most importantly I would like to point out the very real cost of those on fixed income, attempting to get by with higher food prices, higher gasoline prices, etc. I dare Ben Bernanke to face senior citizens and tell them there is no cost associated with interest rates at 0%.

In case you missed it please read Hello Ben Bernanke, Meet "Stephanie". That post is about the plight of those on fixed incomes struggling to get by with rising costs and CD rates at 1%.

Finally, there is an unseen cost to the stupidity of Bernanke's policies. That unseen cost is the cost associated with fostering still more speculation in the financial markets. There is another bubble in the stock market, another bubble in junk bonds, and another bubble in commodities.

We have yet to feel the ramifications when those bubble pop, and they will. Bernanke cannot see those bubbles for the same reason he could not see the bubble in housing, the bubble in credit, the rapidly rising unemployment rate, and countless other things he missed.

Bernanke is a complete fool, trapped in academic wonderland, completely oblivious as to how the real world works. To top it off, Bernanke has the gall to knowingly lie about the real world effects of his blatant stupidity.

Ben Bernanke, you are disgusting.

Real Spending


Tax Revenue Rising


My thoughts: The problem remains spending.

Friday, June 3, 2011

May 2011 Unemployment: 9.1%

The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by just 54,000 in May, far below expectations for a gain of more than 150,000, and the jobless rate rose from 9.0 percent to 9.1 percent, adding to the recent gloom about the U.S. economy that, with each new report, appears to have entered a “soft patch” or, perhaps, something more serious.


Why Can't Defense Spending Be Cut?

see commentary

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Housing Double Dip?


Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy

A new introduction by Anthony Gregory.

Gregory writes:

The idea that corporate interests, banking elites, and politicians conspire to set US policy is at once obvious and beyond the pale. Everyone knows that the military-industrial complex is fat and corrupt, that presidents bestow money and privilege on their donors and favored businesses, that a revolving door connects Wall Street and the White House, and that economic motivations lurk behind America's wars. But to make too fine a point of this is typically dismissed as unserious conspiracy theorizing, unworthy of mainstream consideration.

We have seen this paradox at work in the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse. The left-liberals blame Wall Street and Big Finance for betraying the masses out of predatory greed and for being rewarded for their irresponsibility by Washington's bailouts. At the same time, the Left appears reluctant to oppose these bailouts outright, seeing the spending as a necessary evil to return the global economy to stability, however inequitably. What's more, left-liberals fail to call out President Obama and Democratic leaders for their undeniable hand in all this. They blame Goldman Sachs but see their president, who got more campaign money from the firm than from almost any other source, as a helpless victim of circumstance, rather than an energetic conspirator in corporate malfeasance on top of being the enthusiastic heir and expansionist of George W. Bush's aggressive foreign policy.

The tea-party Right is also hesitant to examine the corporate state too closely. These conservatives detect an elitism in Obama's governance but are loath to earnestly challenge the economic status quo, for it would lead to uncomfortable questions about the warfare state, defense contractors, US wars, the whole history of the Republican Party, and all the typical right-wing assumptions about the inherent fairness of America's supposedly "free-enterprise" system. By refusing to admit that economic fundamentals were unsound through the entirety of the Bush years — by failing to acknowledge the imperial reality of US wars and their debilitating effect on the average household budget — the Right is forgoing its chance to delve beyond the surface in its criticism of Obama's reign.

read the entire essay

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Framework

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