Category Archives: Economics

Crispin’s Day (Not Henry V)

Crispin Odey, who runs the most bearish hedge fund and needless to say has done rather well this year, writes in his recent manager’s letter:

I have a lot of sympathy for your position, sitting on the other side of the desk.

This is late cycle economics. Consumers are sated and over-borrowed. Companies have extracted all the margin they can and have leveraged themselves as well. Cheap money has spawned competition. Populism risks playing about with prices and property ownership. Recessions will not be altogether unwelcome given that they deal with the problem of rich and poor and young and old. The rich lose money which pleases the poor. The old lose their jobs and the young are the first to be reemployed. Without recessions this redistribution has to be done through taxation and legal theft.

Too Tight?

Reportedly, President Trump is considering firing Fed chair Powell, blaming him for the recent stock market declines.

Ironically, in Sept 2016, Trump accused the the Fed of “keeping the rates artificially low so the economy doesn’t go down so that Obama can say that he did a good job. They’re keeping the rates artificially low so that Obama can go out and play golf in January and say that he did a good job. It’s a very false economy. We have a bad economy, everybody understands that but it’s a false economy.”

Of course, he then adopted the “false economy,” even though he apparently well knew that it was a bubble, going on to extend it with spending increases and tax cuts. Of course, this simply increased government’s value destruction and we will all reap the consequences. In my mind, this is the biggest disappointment of Trump’s presidency – that he knowingly continued to inflate the bubble.

Yellen was “too short.” It seems Powell is “too tight.” Firing Powell would probably precipitate a crash.

The right thing to do is to acknowledge that the Fed’s ability to control the economy is a myth. Their attempts just lead to an endless series of booms and busts, as anyone who has the least understanding of control systems theory could predict.

Here We Go Again

Recurring economic crises are nothing but the consequence of attempts, despite all the teachings of experience and all the warnings of the economists, to stimulate economic activity by means of additional credit. […]

And although the conclusion to which my investigations lead, that expansion of credit cannot form a substitute for capital, may well be a conclusion that some may find uncomfortable, yet I do not believe that any logical disproof of it can be brought forward.

— Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit, 1934, 2009 edition

Fair Tax

There’s much whining that Trump’s tariffs are going to be paid by the U.S. consumer in the form of higher prices for imported goods.

That’s right. And that’s a good thing. Trump has lowered income taxes and needs another source of revenue to compensate. Tariffs, in effect, are a form of consumption tax.

Back in 2009, I blogged my recipe for diverting the nation from the financial disaster now awaiting us. I fear that it is too late, but the first bullet on my list was:

Rebuild the nation’s balance sheet by encouraging savings and penalizing consumption. The primary tool for doing this would be the replacement of the income tax with a consumption tax.

Unfortunately, it is far too late. But replacing income tax with consumption tax is the right thing to do. And yes, I am aware that penalizing consumption will, well, reduce consumption. That’s OK, especially if it reduces the number of huge testosterone-fueled black pickups.

Close To The Event Horizon?

From ECRI’s Lakshman Achuthan:

Notably, the combined debt of the US, Eurozone, Japan, and China has increased more than ten times as much as their combined GDP [growth] over the past year.

Remarkably, then, the global economy—slowing in sync despite soaring debt—finds itself in a situation reminiscent of the Red Queen Effect we referenced 15 years ago, when tax cuts boosted the US budget deficit much more than GDP. As the Red Queen says to Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Those Words Again

Fed Chairman Powell, speaking this morning at the Jackson Hole festival of central banker self-love, promised to do “whatever it takes” to prevent another financial crisis.

Unfortunately, Mr Powell, your predecessors have done everything that it takes to guarantee another crisis, a truly special one this time.

The PhD Standard

James Grant (Grant’s Interest Rate Observer) in 2011:

“The 2007-2009 real estate debacle is the monetary equivalent of a chain reaction on a foggy California freeway. The trouble with our monetary mandarins is they [the Fed] believe impossible things. They have persuaded themselves that the central bank can pick the interest rate that will cause the GDP to grow, payrolls to expand, and prices to levitate by just two percent a year, as they measure it. It is impossible as experience and common sense attest. Yet, they hold it to be true.

… William F. Buckley famously and persuasively said that he would rather be governed by the first 400 names in the Boston phone directory than by the faculty of Harvard. Unaccountably, this Congress has entrusted the value of the dollar that we own, that we transact to an independent committee dominated by monetary scholars. In one short generation we have moved to the PhD standard from the gold standard.”

The insanity continues.

Let’er Rip, Potato Chip

Larry Kudlow, newly minted economic advisor, was on CNBC last night, advising that the Fed should “Let the economy rip.”

Larry, if you want to see what happens when a country monetizes its deficits, look south.

Oh Dear

Apparently President Trump has chosen Larry Kudlow as his top economic advisor. All I can say is ROFLOL.

If he wanted a TV personality, the least he could have done is choose one with brains, for example Kathleen Hays. Even Maria Bartiromo would have been a better choice. I can’t believe I wrote that, even if it is true.

A Little Late

Maybe a few folks at the BIS now realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is, in fact, a train.

The previous analysis suggests that there is a prima facie case for monetary policy to pay closer attention to the financial cycle than in the past. We may have been underestimating the influence of benign disinflationary forces and overestimating the ability of monetary policy to fine-tune inflation, especially to push it up towards targets in the face of powerful headwinds. If so, we may also have been underestimating the collateral damage that such strategies may generate in terms of financial and macroeconomic stability over longer horizons, especially by amplifying the financial cycle.