Here’s another Tech Ticker segment on the state of the economy. Noted economic bear Gary Shilling believes the US is in recession or will be entering one shortly. His view is that wages have not grown robustly enough to warrant the level of spending consistent with continued recovery. Indeed, the three consecutive months of declining retail sales are a clear sign of recession in Shilling’s view.
I would submit then that the problem is the debt. This is true right across the developed economies. Until the debt is reduced, global growth will be slow and that makes economies susceptible to recession. As much as the President wants to deflect attention toward the disaster building in Europe, he should admit to himself that more needs to be done on household debts, incomes and jobs. A banking-centric policy response has caught up with us and we’ll just have to see if we can ride this one out.
I thought now would be a good time to see how my ten surprises for 2012 are tracking as we are nearly a third of the way through the year. I posted these as my first weekly newsletter and these are events that have 1-in-3 odds of happening but which I believe have a more than 50 percent likelihood of occurring in 2012.
The latest Gallup poll shows the approval rating for Congress at a record low 10%. 86% disapprove.
The Obama administration’s record of prosecuting elite financial frauds is worse than the Bush administration’s record, which is a very large statement. Neither administration has prosecuted any elite CEO for the epidemic of mortgage fraud that drove the ongoing crisis. This contrasts with over 1,000 elite felony convictions arising from the S&L debacle. The ongoing crisis caused losses more than 70 times greater than the S&L debacle and the amount of elite fraud driving this crisis is also vastly greater than during the S&L debacle.
Fannie and Freddie have already been nationalized and the government is already on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars of losses as a result. Clearly, this makes it a lot easier to use the GSEs as vehicles to pump money into the economy because any incremental loss is completely obscured by the existing gargantuan losses. Fannie and Freddie can essentially become a giant stimulus slush fund for the Obama Administration as we head into the 2012 election.
So here’s the deal. What happened is that the financial sector taken as a whole moved into extremely short-term finance of positions in assets. This is a huge topic and is related to the transformation of investment banking partnerships that had a long-term interest in the well-being of their clients to publicly-held, pump-and-dump enterprises whose only interest was the well-being of top management.
It also is related to the rise of shadow banks that appeared to offer deposit-like liabilities but without the protection of FDIC. And it is related to the Greenspan “put” and the Bernanke “great moderation” that appeared to guarantee that all financial practices—no matter how crazily risky—would be backstopped by Uncle Sam. And it is related to very low overnight interest rate targets by the Fed (through to 2004) that made short-term finance extremely cheap relative to longer-term finance. All of this encouraged financial institutions to rely on insanely short short-term finance.
Permanent zero can work over the medium-term but the economy is dependent on employment growth and monetary policy doesn’t drive that.
I was on CNBC yesterday ahead of Ben Bernanke’s speech explaining the FOMC’s recent decision to add an explicit inflation target to its decision to extend its rate easing/permanent zero policy. My conclusion: the Obama mortgage plan and Bernanke easing campaign are bullish for the US economy.
Investors must still be worried about the fallout from the European meltdown. However, the situation in the US is looking much better than it did last week because of this aggressive policy response.
This is a sing along in honor of the US Treasury Secretary.
Senior former regulators are willing to be quoted by name asserting that Obama’s (not Bush’s) financial regulatory leaders are blocking lawsuits against fraudulent financial elites and their anti-regulatory co-conspirators because they fear embarrassment.