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Archive for December, 2011

Foreign Central Banks Cut Treasury Holdings by Record

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 31st December 2011

And Tsy yields at record lows!

Even with $trillion federal deficits!

Even with the S and P downgrade!

Even with large foreign holdings of US Treasury securities!

Who would have thought?


Happy New Year to all!!!

Foreign Central Banks Cut Treasury Holdings by Record

Holdings of U.S. Treasurys by foreign central banks has fallen by a record $69 billion over the past four weeks according to the latest Federal Reserve data. The Financial Times reports

Posted in Articles | 15 Comments »

ECB bond buying for next year

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th December 2011

For the coming year I’ll be watching to see if the ECB buys bonds
only on rate spikes to keep them from rising further,
or on a continuous basis regardless of yields.

I suspect the former.

It’s the difference between watering a flower only as it’s about to die,
or on a regular basis to keep it continuously perky.

Posted in ECB | 29 Comments »

Bill Mitchell’s most excellent (long) post

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 30th December 2011

Posted in Articles | 65 Comments »

Heterodox economics: Marginal revolutionaries | The Economist

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 29th December 2011

Posted in Articles | 29 Comments »

John Carney on MMT and Austrian Economics

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 27th December 2011

Another well stated piece from John Carney on the CNBC website:

Modern Monetary Theory and Austrian Economics

By John Carney

Dec 27 (CNBC) — When I began blogging about Modern Monetary Theory, I knew I risked alienating or at least annoying some of my Austrian Economics friends. The Austrians are a combative lot, used to fighting on the fringes of economic thought for what they see as their overlooked and important insights into the workings of the economy.

Which is one of the things that makes them a lot like the MMT crowd.

There are many other things that Austrian Econ and MMT share. A recent post by Bob Wenzel at Economic Policy Journal, which is presented as a critique of my praise of some aspects of MMT, actually makes this point very well.

The MMTers believe that the modern monetary system—sovereign fiat money, unlinked to any commodity and unpegged to any other currency—that exists in the United States, Canada, Japan, the UK and Australia allows governments to operate without revenue constraints. They can never run out of money because they create the money they spend.

This is not to say that MMTers believe that governments can spend without limit. Governments can overspend in the MMT paradigm and this overspending leads to inflation. Government financial assets may be unlimited but real assets available for purchase—that is, goods and services the economy is capable of producing—are limited. The government can overspend by (a) taking too many goods and services out of the private sector, depriving the private sector of what it needs to satisfy the people, grow the economy and increase productivity or (b) increasing the supply of money in the economy so large that it drives up the prices of goods and services.

As Wenzel points out, Murray Rothbard—one of the most important Austrian Economists the United States has produced—takes exactly the same position. He says that governments take “control of the money supply” when they find that taxation doesn’t produce enough revenue to cover expenditures. In other words, fiat money is how governments escape revenue constraint.

Rothbard considers this counterfeiting, which is a moral judgment that depends on the prior conclusion that fiat money isn’t the moral equivalent of real money. Rothbard is entitled to this view—I probably even share it—but that doesn’t change the fact that in our economy today, this “counterfeiting” is the operational truth of our monetary system. We can decry it—but we might as well also try to understand what it means for us.

Rothbard worries that government control of the money supply will lead to “runaway inflation.” The MMTers tend to be more sanguine about the danger of inflation than Rothbard—although I do not believe they are entitled to this attitude. As I explained in my piece “Monetary Theory, Crony Capitalism and the Tea Party,” the MMTers tend to underestimate the influence of special interests—including government actors and central bankers themselves—on monetary policy. They have monetary policy prescriptions that would avoid runaway inflation but, it seems to me, there is little reason to expect these would ever be followed in the countries that are sovereign currency issuers. I think that on this point, many MMTers confuse analysis of the world as it is with the world as they would like it to be.

In short, the MMTers agree with Rothbard on the purpose and effect of government control of money: it means the government is no longer revenue constrained. They differ about the likelihood of runaway inflation , which is not a difference of principle but a divergence of political prediction.

This point of agreement sets both Austrians and MMTers outside of mainstream economics in precisely the same way. They appreciate that the modern monetary system is very, very different from older, commodity based monetary systems—in a way that many mainstream economists do not.

In MM, CC & TP, I briefly mentioned a few other positions on the economy MMTers tend to share. Wenzel writes that “there is nothing right about these views.”

I don’t think Wenzel actually agrees with himself here. Let’s run through these one by one.

1. The MMTers think the financial system tends toward crisis. Wenzel writes that the financial system doesn’t tend toward crisis. But a moment later he admits that the actual financial system we have does tend toward crisis. All Austrians believe this, as far as I can tell.

What has happened here is that Wenzel is now the one confusing the world as it is with the world as he wishes it would be. Perhaps under some version of the Austrian-optimum financial system—no central bank, gold coin as money, free banking or no fractional reserve banking—we wouldn’t tend toward crisis. But that is not the system we have.

The MMTers aren’t engaged with arguing about the Austrian-optimum financial system. They are engaged in describing the actual financial system we have—which tends toward crisis.

They even agree that the tendency toward crisis is largely caused by the same thing, credit expansions leading to irresponsible lending.

2. The MMTers say that “capitalist economies are not self-regulating.” Again, Wenzel dissents. But if we read “capitalist economies” as “modern economies with central banking and interventionist governments” then the point of disagreement vanishes.

Are we entitled to read “capitalist economies” in this way? I think we are. The MMTers are not, for the most part, attempting to argue with non-existent theoretical economies or describe the epic-era Icelandic political economy. They are dealing with the economy we have, which is usually called “capitalist.” Austrians can argue that this isn’t really capitalism—but this is a terminological quibble. When it comes down to the problem of self-regulation of our so-called capitalist system, the Austrians and MMTers are in agreement.

3. Next up is the MMT view (borrowed from an earlier economic school called “Functional Finance”) that fiscal policy should be judged by its economic effects. Wenzel asks if this means that this “supercedes private property that as long as something is good for the economy, it can be taxed away from the individual?”

Here is a genuine difference between the Austrians—especially those of the Rothbardian stripe—and the MMTers. The MMTers do indeed envision the government using taxes to accomplish what is good for the economy—which, for the most part, means combating inflation. They think that the government may need to use taxation to snuff out inflation at times. Alternatively, the government can also reduce its own spending to extinguish inflation.

Note that we’ve come across a gap between MMTers and Rothbardians that is far smaller than the chasm between either of them and mainstream economics, where taxation of private property and income is regularly seen as justified by the need to fund government operations. MMTers and Austrians both agree that under the current circumstances people in most developed countries are overtaxed.

4. Wenzel actually overlooks the larger gap between Austrians and MMTers, which has to do with the efficacy of government spending. Many MMTers believe that most governments in so-called capitalist economies are not spending enough. Most—if not all—Austrians think that these same government are spending too much.

The Austrian view is based on the idea that government spending tends to distort the economy, in part because—as the MMTers would agree—government spending in our age typically involves monetary expansion. The MMTers, I would argue, have a lot to learn from the Austrians on this point. I think that an MMT effort to more fully engage the Austrians on the topic of the structure of production would be well worth the effort.

5. Wenzel’s challenge to the idea of functional finance is untenable—and not particularly Austrian. He argues that the subjectivity of value means it is impossible for us to tell whether something is “good for the economy.” Humbug. We know that an economy that more fully reflects the aspirations and choices of the individuals it encompasses is better than one that does not. We know that high unemployment is worse than low unemployment. All other things being equal, a more productive economy is superior to a less productive economy, a wealthier economy is better than a more impoverished one.

Wenzel’s position amounts to nihilism. I think he is confusing the theory of subjective value with a deeper relativism. Subjectivism is merely the notion that the value of an economic good—that is, an object or a service—is not inherent to the thing but arises from within the individual’s needs and wants. This does not mean that we cannot say that some economic outcome is better or worse or that certain policy prescription are good for the economy and certain are worse.

It would be odd for any Austrian to adopt the nihilism of Wenzel. It’s pretty rare to ever encounter an Austrian who lacks normative views of the economy. These normative views depend on the view that some things are good for economy and some things are bad. I doubt that Wenzel himself really subscribes to the kind of nihilism he seems to advocate in his post.

Wenzel’s final critique of me is that I over-emphasize cronyism and underplay the deeper problems of centralized power. My reply is three-fold. First, cronyism is a more concrete political problem than centralization; tactically, it makes sense to fight cronyism. Second, cronyism is endemic to centralized government decisions, as the public choice economists have shown. They call it special interest rent-seeking, but that’s egg-head talk from cronyism. Third, I totally agree: centralization is a real problem because the “rationalization” involved necessarily downplays the kinds of unarticulated knowledge that are important to everyday life, prosperity and happiness.

At the level of theory, Austrians and MMTers have a lot in common. Tactically, an alliance makes sense. Intellectually, bringing together the descriptive view of modern monetary systems with Austrian views about the structure of production and limitations of economic planning (as well Rothbardian respect for individual property rights) should be a fruitful project.

So, as I said last time, let’s make it happen.

Posted in Deficit, Employment, Government Spending, Inflation, Interest Rates | 144 Comments »

UK- Resurgent self-employment soars to 75-year high

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 27th December 2011

That includes selling trinkents and services to the higher income foreign tourists and residents. I used to call it Sultan fanning.

It is not a sign of prosperty…

Resurgent self-employment soars to 75-year high

By Richard Tyler

Dec 26 (Telegraph) — Britain is witnessing a renaissance in self-employment on a scale not seen since the 1930s, the latest business figures show.

Barclays estimates that nearly 480,000 new businesses were created over the past year a record and said official statistics revealed that self-employment now stood at the highest level relative to the total working population for 75 years.

The UK is in the middle of a boom for start-ups. Our best guess is that in England and Wales we are up 4pc to 5pc in the year to November and thats on the back of two strong years, said Richard Roberts, small and medium enterprise analyst at Barclays.

He said more people were setting up their own ventures because being self-employed had become more socially accepted.

The enduring nature of the economic downturn was also a factor. Few people will voluntarily risk their savings during short, sharp recessions, Dr Roberts said, with any increase in entrepreneurial activity coming from people shifting from unemployment into self-employment.

As the economy has shown little sign of recovering for the past two years, people were taking the plunge, he said. Most new business owners would have spotted an opportunity to make money, but some will have been made redundant and had no choice.

Posted in Employment, UK | 27 Comments »

Noda’s ‘Urgent’ Task Is Tax Rise as Japan Debt Load Swells

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 25th December 2011

Noda’s ‘Urgent’ Task Is Tax Rise as Japan Debt Load Swells

Dec 26 (Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s next task is securing support for a higher sales tax after Japan’s budget for the next fiscal year showed a record dependence on borrowing to fund government spending.

The government will sell 44.2 trillion yen ($566 billion) of new bonds to fund 90.3 trillion yen of spending, raising the budget’s reliance on debt to an unprecedented 49 percent, a plan approved by the Cabinet in Tokyo on Dec. 24 showed. While spending will decrease for the first time in six years, Noda will delay funding the nation’s pension fund and will create a separate budget account to pay for earthquake reconstruction.

An aging population and two decades of low growth after an asset bubble popped in the early 1990s have left Japan with debt projected at a record 1 quadrillion yen this fiscal year. Noda faces opposition from the public and within his Democratic Party of Japan to increasing the levy even as Standard & Poor’s considers further cutting the nation’s credit rating, reduced in January to AA-.

“The government should hike the consumption tax rate and cut social security spending as soon as possible,” said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a former Bank of Japan official. “This is urgent. We do not have the luxury of losing any more time.”

About 53 percent of voters oppose an increase, with a third saying Noda should call an election before such legislation, news service Jiji Press said last week, citing a Dec. 9-12 survey of 2,000 people. The DPJ lost its majority in the upper house of the parliament last year after then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan campaigned on a pledge to cut spending and raise the 5 percent sales tax.

‘Constituents’ Purses’

DPJ lawmakers with weak electoral majorities may be “tempted to vote for their constituents’ purses” by opposing an increase, said Jun Okumura, a former Japanese trade ministry official and a consultant at the Eurasia Group risk consulting firm in Tokyo.

While Japan’s gross domestic product grew an annualized 5.6 percent in the three months ended September as demand picked up after the March 11 earthquake, the pace will probably slow. The median estimate of 11 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News is for growth of 0.42 percent this quarter. Of the 10 polled this month, five predict GDP will shrink.

Gains in the yen are weighing on growth by eroding exporters’ profits, a factor cited by Moody’s Investors Service in cutting the rating outlook for Toyota Motor Corp. on Dec. 22. Europe’s debt crisis is reducing demand for the nation’s products, while earthquake reconstruction costs will swell spending. The yen traded at 78.09 per dollar on Dec. 23 after touching a post-World War II high of 75.35 on Oct. 31.

Sales Tax Plan

Noda’s party will today present a plan for raising the sales tax, lawmaker Shinichiro Furumoto said last week. The ruling coalition plans to raise the rate to 8 percent in October 2013 and 10 percent in 2015, Kyodo News reported Dec. 21, citing government sources.

The International Monetary Fund says a gradual increase to 15 percent “could provide roughly half of the fiscal adjustment needed to put the public-debt ratio on a downward path.” Martin Schulz, a senior economist at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo, advocates boosting the tax to “at least” 20 percent.

‘Not Normal Times’

Former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa and Shizuka Kamei, the head of the People’s New Party, a coalition partner, aim to head off the move. Kamei said this month that “we’re not in normal times, and it’s folly to be playing around with the tax system.”

So far, Japan’s debt burden hasn’t impeded the government’s ability to borrow, with 10-year bond yields poised to close below 1 percent for the first year since 2002.

Noda’s spending plan for the year starting April includes a 3.8 trillion yen special account for reconstruction spending.

Besides the consumption tax, a government panel proposes increasing the highest personal income tax rate to 45 percent from 40 percent by the middle of this decade.

“Japan’s government is proposing the right remedies for the country’s fiscal debt problems, but the speed is too slow and we can’t be confident that the measures will actually be implemented,” said Hitoshi Suzuki, a senior researcher of Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo.

Tokyo-based Ratings & Investment Information Inc. cut Japan’s rating for the first time on Dec. 21. S&P has a negative outlook for the nation and said last month that a downgrade may be getting closer after insufficient progress in tackling a public debt burden that is the world’s biggest.

Japan’s structural deficit “is completely out of whack because of increasing social security demands and costs,” Schulz of Fujitsu said last week. “If the government remains lazy in terms of hiking the consumption tax rate, it’s just a matter of time before the very obedient Japanese investors are no longer happy to finance the deficit.

Posted in Government Spending, Japan | 34 Comments »

We WON!!! MMT got everything right…EVERYTHING!!!

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd December 2011

We WON!!! MMT got everything right…EVERYTHING!!!

Posted in Credit, Currencies, Deficit, Fed, Government Spending | 45 Comments »

Bini Smaghi Says ECB Should Use QE If Deflation Risk Arises

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 23rd December 2011

As if QE is an inflationary bias.
They are all clueless.

MMT to the ECB:
QE addresses the solvency issue, not ‘deflation’ or aggregate demand issues.

Bini Smaghi Says ECB Should Use QE If Deflation Risk Arises

By Gabi Thesing

Dec 23 (Bloomberg) — European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said that policy makers shouldn’t shirk from using quantitative easing if deflation becomes a danger to the euro region.

“I do not understand the quasi-religious discussions about quantitative easing,” Bini Smaghi, who will leave his post at the end of the month, said in an interview published yesterday by the Financial Times. The ECB confirmed the comments. “It is appropriate if economic conditions justify it, in particular in countries facing a liquidity trap that may lead to deflation.”

Posted in ECB, Inflation | 24 Comments »

Monetary Theory, Crony Capitalism and the Tea Party

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 22nd December 2011

Just posted on CNBC:

Monetary Theory, Crony Capitalism and the Tea Party

By John Carney

Dec 21 (CNBC) — The past few years have taught us a lot about the effects and operations of monetary policy in the United States.

The Federal government responded to the economic downturn by spending enormous amounts and Federal Reserve responded to the financial crisis with an enormous expansion of its balance sheet — what the proles call “printing money” — and both occurred without any attendant inflation or giant soaring of interest rates.

The so-called “bond vigilantes” turned out to be mythological creatures, at least as far as U.S. federal debt is concerned. Even the crisis over the debt ceiling and the downgrade of the U.S.’s credit rating only lead to lower interest rates.

The school of economics that best explains this phenomenon is called “Modern Monetary Theory” or MMT. The MMT school is made up of scholars, businessmen and online advocates who have a deep understanding of the operations of the actual operational aspects of our monetary system.

They argue, quite persuasively, that our monetary system is built in such a way that our government is never revenue constrained, which is to say it can spend as much as it likes, because the government creates our money. The real constraint on government spending is price inflation, which occurs when government and private spending outpace economic output.

I was first attracted to MMT because of the focus on monetary operations. I really enjoy figuring out the nitty-gritty details of how things like swap lines, Treasury auctions, and payment of claims on the Treasury occur. I like reading detailed papers on the daily meetings of the Treasury and the Fed estimating what Federal spending will amount to. Many of the MMT people have studied this stuff in detail.

Monetary nerds of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but the interest of your cooler friends.

For those of you interested in learning more, I suggest you start with the website Pragmatic Capitalism, which is edited by Cullen Roche. Now, Cullen isn’t a fully orthodox MMTer but he is one of its clearest exponents. It was my first doorway into MMT.

Other sites that I regularly read include Warren Mosler’s MoslerEconomics; Mike Norman Economics, which tends toward the combative, and New Economic Perspectives, which tends toward the academic side of things. There are dozens of other sites, which you’ll no doubt encounter if you follow the links to the ones I just named. I’d also recommend reading Mosler’s book, “The Seven Deadly Innocent Fraud’s of Economic Policy.”

There’s a lot more to MMT than its view of monetary operations and government funding, however. They believe the government should guarantee jobs for everyone, that the financial system tends toward crisis and corruption, that capitalist economies are not self-regulating, and that fiscal policy should be measured by its effect on the economy not on whether budgets are balanced. Some of this is fine, other parts I regard as distractions (such as the jobs guarantee).

But my biggest point of departure with the MMTers is they display a political and economic naivete when it comes to the effects of government spending. When they talk about spending it is almost always in terms of abstract aggregates, which is weird for a school of economics so focused on the specifics of monetary operations. What this means is that they miss the distortions of crony capitalism the accompanies so much government spending.

Government spending occurs through specific channels, not in aggregate abstractions. This means that certain companies and sectors of the economy benefit, and others suffer, because of government spending.

The sectors and companies that benefit are not those that bring the most or the widest prosperity but, conversely, those in which prosperity is most concentrated in the hands of a few. The spending is accompanied by regulatory privileges and barriers that also benefit the very same groups. When government spending levels and regulatory operations are high, this has a widely distortive effect on the economy that effectively impoverishes most of the population. This is basic public choice Econ 101 but the MMTers seem blind to it.

If any MMTers want to learn more about this effect of government spending and regulation, a good place to start would be two books by my brother Tim Carney. Tim covers politics for the Washington Examiner, and his columns often address these very points. But for a fuller treatment of the subject I suggest you read “The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money” and”Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses.”

Likewise, the MMTers seem not to understand the politics of inflation and why government often doesn’t prevent inflation from occurring, even though it is obviously within its power to do so. The problem with inflation was first and best described by Austrian economists, who explained that inflation does not spread evenly through the economy. It benefits some economic players and harms others because it moves through the economy sequentially.

The first recipients of inflated dollars are those closest to government, those on the receiving end of government payments. They get to pay non-inflated prices for the goods and services they consume because other economic actors have not yet realized that inflation is taking place. Those closest to the primary recipients are also advantaged against those further away. The real losers are private citizens whose economic activities are furthest removed from the crony capitalist and financiers who primarily benefit from inflation. This is, again, a case where those receiving concentrated benefits will almost always beat out those suffering dispersed costs. Public choice 101 again.

Because they do not at least publicly address the crony capitalist distortions of government spending and inflation, the MMTers are at a loss when dealing with Tea Party objections to government spending.

Much of the Tea Party’s objection to spending and deficits is not to counter-cyclical stimulus spending or broad-based entitlements. (I doubt very many of them want to reform Social Security, for instance.) It’s to the fact that the government picks winners and losers when it spends, especially when it engages in stimulus, that is, discretionary, spending.

This objection to cronyism is at the very heart of the Tea Party movement. It is controlling the Republican primaries right now. It is why the bailouts irked so many. It is, in fact, a deep part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It’s also why the public isn’t really that interested in the things that bother the policy wonks so much. Things like the cost of Social Security or medical care. People don’t mind these so much because they are less prone to cronyism and distort the economy less. This kind of spending is more neutral than discretionary spending. So it doesn’t bother the Tea Partiers or the Occupiers.

And guess what? This aligns the Tea Party with MMT. You guys also don’t think Social Security is in danger of going bankrupt. You know the government won’t run out of money, that Social Security checks will never bounce. The wonks have it wrong; the proles have it right.

Even your Jobs Guarantee might be sellable on the grounds that it is government spending without cronyism.

So my recommendation to the MMTers is that they stop talking about spending in the abstract. Start talking about spending that leads to crony capitalism and spending that does not. Get on the side of the anti-crony, Tea Party brigades. There’s a natural friendship to be made.

Let’s make it happen.

Posted in Government Spending | 71 Comments »

Fitch Again Warns US Debt Burden Threatens AAA Rating

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 22nd December 2011

They just want to make it clear that along with S&P and Moody’s they don’t understand the difference between issuers of a currency and users of a currency.

Fitch Again Warns US Debt Burden Threatens AAA Rating

Dec 22 (Reuters) — Fitch Ratings on Wednesday warned again that the United States’ rising debt burden was not consistent with maintaining the country’s top AAA credit rating, but said there would likely be no decision on whether to cut the rating before 2013.

Last month, Fitch changed its U.S. credit rating outlook to negative from stable, citing the failure of a special congressional committee to agree on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit-reduction measures.

“Federal debt will rise in the absence of expenditure and tax reforms that would address the challenges of rising health and social security spending as the population ages,” Fitch said in a statement.

“The high and rising federal and general government debt burden is not consistent with the U.S. retaining its ‘AAA’ status despite its other fundamental sovereign credit strengths,” the ratings agency said.

In a new fiscal projection, Fitch said at least $3.5 trillion of additional deficit reduction measures will be required to stabilize the federal debt held by the public at around 90 percent of gross domestic product in the latter half of the current decade.

Fitch, when it lowered its outlook to negative, had said it was giving the U.S. government until 2013 to come up with a “credible plan” to tackle its ballooning budget deficit or risk a downgrade from the AAA status.

“A key task of an incoming Congress and administration in 2013 is to formulate a credible plan to reduce the budget deficit and stabilize the federal debt burden. Without such a strategy, the sovereign rating will likely be lowered by the end of 2013,” Fitch reiterated.

Rival ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut its credit rating on the United States to AA-plus from AAA on August 5, citing concerns over the government’s budget deficit and rising debt burden as well as the political gridlock that nearly led to a default.

On November 23, Moody’s Investors Service, warned that its top level Aaa credit rating for the United States could be in jeopardy if lawmakers were to backtrack on $1.2 trillion in automatic deficit cuts that are set to be made over 10 years.

The plan for automatic cuts was triggered after the special congressional committee failed to reach an agreement on deficit reduction. Moody’s said any pullback from the agreed automatic cuts to take effect starting in 2013 could prompt it to take action.

Posted in Currencies, Government Spending | 17 Comments »

Carney on Mosler on Romney

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st December 2011

Mitt Romney’s Ridiculous Comparison of US to Greece

By John Carney

Dec 21 (CNBC) — I realize that Republicans want the United States to accumulate less debt. That’s a fine policy position to take. I’m somewhat sympathetic to the idea that debt can drag down the economy.

But there’s no need to start saying crazy things like the U.S. is about to become Italy or Greece if Obama is elected for another term. This simply isn’t in the cards.

The problems faced by Greece and Italy are nowhere near comparable to those faced by the United States. We have far more dynamic economies — and far lower tax rates — than those countries. More important, our government can indirectly self-finance by having the Federal Reserve buy Treasurys on the secondary market.

As we’ve seen, the Fed has an unlimited balance sheet, something that Greece and Italy do not enjoy.

Our government will never run out of money. Greece and Italy can definitely run out of money.

So it’s a shame to see Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner for president, spouting this nonsense.

From The Hill:

Mitt Romney said that the United States would experience a financial crisis similar to that of Greece or Italy if President Obama were elected to a second term, and hit rival Newt Gingrich’s plan for the federal judiciary as unconstitutional during an interview Monday night with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

“I think we hit a Greece-like wall. I think before the end of his second term, if he were re-elected, there’s a very high risk that we would hit a financial crisis that Greece or Italy have faced,” Romney said.

This is worse than ignorant. It is actually malfeasant. Having one of the leading politicians in the country talk like this can only induce further economic panic.

(Hat tip: Warren Mosler)

Posted in Political | 2 Comments »

Romney: US could face ‘financial crisis’ like Greece, Italy if Obama is reelected

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st December 2011

In case you had any respect whatsoever for Romney’s understanding of monetary operations and fiscal policy.

In fact, no one has been invoking Greece since the S&P downgrade when interest rates went down, and pundits from both sides pointed out the difference is we ‘print our own money.’

Romney: US could face ‘financial crisis’ like Greece, Italy if Obama is reelected

By Justin Sink

Dec 20 — Mitt Romney said that the United States would experience a financial crisis similar to that of Greece or Italy if President Obama were elected to a second term, and hit rival Newt Gingrich’s plan for the federal judiciary as unconstitutional during an interview Monday night with Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly.

“I think we hit a Greece-like wall. I think before the end of his second term, if he were reelected, there’s a very high risk that we would hit a financial crisis that Greece or Italy have faced,” Romney said.

“I think it’s also very possible that we would continue to see very high levels of unemployment. I think you would see industry in this country, entrepreneurs, big and small, decide to go elsewhere, to take their investment dollars to other nations. This president has put together the most anti-investment, anti-growth and anti-job series of policies that I’ve seen since Jimmy Carter,” he added.

Posted in Obama, Political | 13 Comments »

another look at the LTRO

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st December 2011

The initial rate on the 3 year LTRO was reported to be ‘fixed’ at 1%, but turns out it adjusts with the policy rate and will be an average of the policy rate over the three year term.

So it doesn’t fix rates for the banks, it just ensures funding at the policy rate. Which makes sense, as the bank’s cost of funds is the policy instrument of the ECB.

Also interesting is how in the case of bank defaults the member nations guarantee the bank deposits. But those member nations get their funding from bond sales. And with the weaker ones that means bond sales to the ECB. So in that sense, the ECB is backing bank deposits. Which means when it provides liquidity and takes collateral, should the bank subsequently realize losses, causing the ECB to realize losses on the funds provided to the bank for liquidity, the member nation would then sell bonds to the ECB to get the funds to pay for the loans it got from the ECB.

Again, it all comes down to the ECB writing the check. And it all works from a solvency point of view when the ECB writes the check. And the ECB writing the check introduces a serious moral hazard issue. Hence the (over) emphasis on austerity.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

quick look at the 489 billion euro LTRO

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st December 2011

When it comes to CB liquidity operations, as previously discussed, it’s about price- interest rates- and not quantities of funds. In other words, the LTRO is an ECB tool that assists in setting the term structure of euro interest rates. It helps the ECB set the term cost of funds for its banking system, with that cost being passed through to the economy on a risk adjusted basis, with the banking system continuing to price risk.

So what does locking in their funds via LTRO do for most banks? Not much. Helps keep interest rate risk off the table, but they’ve always had other ways of doing that. It takes away some liquidity risk, but not much, as the banks haven’t been euro liquidity constrained. And banks still have the same constraints due to capital and associated risks.

To it’s credit, the ECB has been pretty good on the liquidity front all along. I’d give it an A grade for liquidity vs the Fed where I’d give a D grade for liquidity. Back in 2008 the ECB was quick to provide unlimited euro liquidity to its member banks, while the Fed dragged its feet for months before expanding its programs sufficiently to ensure its member banks dollar liquidity. And the FDIC did the unthinkable, closing WAMU for liquidity rather than for capital and asset reasons.

But while liquidity is a necessary condition for banking and the economy under current institutional arrangements, and while aggregate demand would further retreat if the CB failed to support bank liquidity, liquidity provision per se doesn’t add to aggregate demand.

What’s needed to restore output and employment is an increase in net spending, either public or private. And that choice is more political than economic.

Public sector spending can be increased by simply budgeting and spending. Private sector spending can be supported by cutting taxes to enhance income and/or somehow providing for the expansion of private sector debt.

Unfortunately current euro zone institutional structure is working against both of these channels to increased aggregate demand, as previously discussed.

And even in the US, where both channels are, operationally, wide open, it looks like FICA taxes are going to be allowed to rise at year end and work against aggregate demand, when the ‘right’ answer is to suspend it entirely.

Posted in Banking, Deficit, ECB, EU, Fed, Interest Rates | 6 Comments »

Housing Starts-GDP

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th December 2011

It was pretty lonely forecasting those kinds of GDP numbers several months ago!

While the 8% budget deficit keeps it all muddling through at modest levels of growth, it’s still a far cry from being ‘acceptable’ in my book, as it’s just barely enough to reduce the output gap.

And letting FICA go up at year end or somehow paying for continuing the current level could trim quite a bit of Q1 aggregate demand.

Karim writes:

Even though the 9.3% rise in starts was led by a 25% gain in the volatile multi-family component, this still represents ‘news’ for GDP forecasts as most (including the Fed) did not assume any contribution to growth from this sector.

Some Q4 GDP estimates starting to move from 3.5% to 4%, and Q1 also now looks to be in the 3.5% area (assuming payroll tax cut is extended).

Although still likely, FOMC may have a lively debate on extending ‘conditional commitment’ beyond mid-2013.

Posted in Deficit, GDP, Government Spending, Housing | 3 Comments »

MT900 mishap- driver unhurt

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th December 2011



Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Japan To Buy Chinese Govt Bonds Under Bilateral Pact

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th December 2011

This is peculiar.
This supports the yuan vs the yen,
supporting Japan’s exports to China.

Could be more evidence of China’s inflation concern?

Japan To Buy Chinese Govt Bonds Under Bilateral Pact

TOKYO (Nikkei) — Japan will likely purchase yuan-denominated bonds issued by the Chinese government under a proposed bilateral currency and financial agreement, The Nikkei learned Monday.

Japanese and Chinese officials are working out plans to have the pact signed when their leaders meet for a summit this coming Sunday. The agreement will be pillared on the purchase of Chinese government bonds using Japan’s foreign exchange fund special account, along with the joint establishment of a green investment fund.

Japan seeks to diversify its forex fund special account, which now focuses on dollar investments. It also aims to strengthen economic cooperation with China by supporting that nation’s efforts to turn the yuan into a more international currency.

The bond purchases may total up to 10 billion dollars’ worth, or roughly 780 billion yen, with buying carried out in stages through the special account.

The Chinese government counts Japanese government bonds among its foreign-currency reserves. Through cross-holding of bonds, Japan and China will be better poised to exchange information on financial developments in the bond market and elsewhere.

The Japanese government also plans to aid Chinese efforts to nurture an offshore market for yuan-denominated transactions.

The proposed joint fund for environmental investment would feature the participation of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and private-sector companies from the Japanese side. Details of the fund’s size and investment percentages are to be fleshed out in the near future.

Thailand and Nigeria are among the countries that hold yuan-denominated government bonds through their central banks. Tokyo and Beijing believe that having a developed nation like Japan maintain a certain amount of yuan-denominated holdings may help lift the Chinese currency’s standing on the international stage.

China’s government bond offerings totaled 1.4 trillion yuan in 2009, up 55% on the year.

Such issuances have recently increased in Hong Kong. Overseas investors can acquire government bonds issued on the mainland, but regulations — including a ceiling on purchase amounts — remain strict. top

China Bond Purchases Could Help Ties: Finance Minister

Japan To Buy Chinese Govt Bonds Under Bilateral Pact

TOKYO (NQN) — Finance Minister Jun Azumi on Tuesday confirmed a report that Japan is considering buying Chinese government bonds, arguing that such purchases will offer the two countries significant advantages while strengthening bilateral economic ties.

At a news conference after a Cabinet meeting, Azumi said Japan should hold yuan-denominated bonds as a means of strengthening diplomatic relations.

Azumi said no official decisions have been made on the matter, and that Tokyo will discuss the issue at a future Japan-China summit. He also suggested that the two nations may be able to strike an agreement when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visits China.

Posted in China, Currencies, Japan | 7 Comments »

Draghi leaves door open on PSI?

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th December 2011

Reads to me like PSI discussion might come back after a firewall and bank recap is in place?

FT: And the fifth answer is that the idea of introducing private sector involvement (PSI) in eurozone bail-outs was, in retrospect, a mistake?

Mario Draghi: The ideal sequencing would have been to first have a firewall in place, then do the recapitalization of the banks, and only afterwards decide whether you need to have PSI. This would have allowed managing stressed sovereign conditions in an orderly way. This was not done. Neither the EFSF was in place, nor were banks recapitalized, before people started suggesting PSI. It was like letting a bank fail without having a proper mechanism for managing this failure, as it had happened with Lehman.

Posted in ECB | 7 Comments »

comments on the new long term ECB funding policy for member banks

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th December 2011

The talk is that the new ECB longer term euro funding policy will mean euro member banks will suddenly start buying member nation euro debt and thereby ease the funding issue.

That doesn’t make sense to me. I see the 20 billion euro/wk bond purchases as possibly being enough to stabilize things, but not this.

Here’s my take:

So even if a bank officer now wants to buy, say, Italian debt out to 3 years because he can get ECB funding for that term, he probably has to go to an investment committee, so it is unlikely to happen overnight.

And the investment committees go something like this.

Investment officer:

‘now that we can get 3 year term funding from the ECB, i recommend we add to our italian debt position and make a 3% spread, which is a 30% return on equity’

committee responses:

‘why does the availability of term funding alter our current policy of reducing holdings to reduce credit risk?
what are the regulatory limits?
will the regulators allow us to own more?
what about the risk of downgrade which could force a sale?
what about repo haircuts if prices fall?
what if it’s decided Italy is unsustainable and the euro ministers vote on private sector haircuts?
how will taking on this risk affect our ability to raise capital?’


While banks may indeed buy more euro member nation debt due to the availability of the new term funding, I don’t think that new funding is enough to cause them to make that decision.

I do think the term funding will be used by banks with problems obtaining term funding to lock in the term cost of funds.

Posted in Banking, CBs, ECB | 12 Comments »