The Center of the Universe

St Croix, United States Virgin Islands

MOSLER'S LAW: There is no financial crisis so deep that a sufficiently large tax cut or spending increase cannot deal with it.

Archive for the 'Government Spending' Category

French spending cuts outlined

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 17th April 2014

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Outlines Spending Cuts

(WSJ) French Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled some details as to how the government aims to extract €50 billion ($69 billion) in savings between 2015 and 2017.

Almost reads like he knows savings comes from deficit spending!
;)

Mr. Valls indicated for the first time that the government is prepared to take aim at politically sensitive areas of France’s welfare state to achieve the savings, including freezing benefit and pension payments at current levels for the next year. He also said a freeze in the basic pay of civil servants would continue.

Since the price level is ultimately a function of prices paid by govt, this type of thing is a highly disinflationary force.

“I am obliged to tell the truth to French people. Our public spending represents 57% of our national wealth. We can’t live beyond our means,” Mr. Valls said.

Which is true under their current institutional arrangements. So seemes no move to ‘change the rules’

Mr. Valls said the central state would account for €18 billion of the savings; local authorities €11 billion; health care €10 billion; and social security €11 billion.

Posted in Deficit, Government Spending | No Comments »

CBO estimates lower deficits as health subsidies fall

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 14th April 2014

As suspected Obamacare doesn’t add to the deficit, otherwise the Republicans would have let us know for sure!

However, it also means it’s a pro active contractionary bias that will make it that much harder for GDP growth to meet expectations this year.

CBO estimates slightly lower deficits as health subsidies fall

April 14 (Reuters) — U.S. budget deficits over the next decade will be $286 billion less than previously estimated, the Congressional Budget Office said on Monday, attributing much of the decline to lower estimates of subsidy costs under President Barack Obama’s health insurance reform law.

The non-partisan CBO, in revisions to its annual budget estimates, said the fiscal 2014 deficit would fall to $492 billion from $514 billion estimated in February. The forecasts assume no changes to current tax and spending laws.

The agency attributed the current year’s decline to technical revisions to the way it estimates spending on discretionary programs. But from fiscal 2015 onwards, it estimates a $186 billion decline in outlays for health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

This reflects a lower projection of premiums charged for health care plans offered through government-run exchanges, CBO said, based on an updated analysis of plans now being offered.

Overall, the budget referee agency now projects cumulative 10-year deficits at $7.62 trillion compared to its previous forecast of $7.9 trillion.

In addition to the lower health insurance subsidy costs, CBO also estimated a $98 billion 10-year reduction in Medicare outlays due to lower spending on prescription drugs and hospital insurance. Medicaid, the health care program for the poor, would see a $29 billion reduction, CBO said.

CBO lowered its 10-year cost estimate for the federal food stamps program by $24 billion, based on new data from the Department of Agriculture on monthly average benefits.

But the CBO left intact its previous economic projections, which envision rising deficits after 2015 as more of the massive “baby boom” generation retires or drops out of the workforce.

Deficits will reach a low point of $469 billion, or 2.6 percent of U.S. economic output, in 2015, then gradually start to rise, topping $1 trillion again in 2023 and 2024.

U.S. deficits exceeded that dollar amount during each of the first four years of Obama’s administration as the economy recovered slowly from the worst recession since the 1930s, falling to $680 billion in fiscal 2013.

Posted in Government Spending | No Comments »

consumer credit and a few comments

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 8th April 2014

Note the year over year rate of growth:

As previously discussed, in order for GDP to grow at last year’s pace all the pieces, ‘on average’ have to do same.

And so far, housing and cars are well below last year’s growth rates.

And the contribution of net govt spending is well below last year’s contribution.

And so far net export growth isn’t coming to the rescue.

Nor is consumer credit driving spending.

Even capex just took a hit.

And the personal income growth rate isn’t looking like it’s ‘bounced’ any.

Employment growth, a lagging indicator that’s largely a function of sales, if anything looks a tad less as well.

The ‘surveys’ are still showing positive growth, and maybe they’ll turn out to be correct. But I have noticed a tendency for their responses to be influenced by the stock market.

Hopefully we’ve just had a weather pause, and the consumer and business celebrate spring with a material surge of spending that exceeds their incomes to off set the ongoing ‘demand leakages’.

But if not, growth slips into reverse until the federal deficit again gets large enough to stop the slide.

Posted in Credit, Employment, GDP, Government Spending | No Comments »

Winning!

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 26th March 2014


Full size image

Posted in Currencies, Government Spending | No Comments »

Comments on Stanlely Fisher’s ‘Lessons from Crises, 1985-2014′

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th March 2014

Lessons from Crises, 1985-2014

Stanley Fischer[1]


It is both an honor and a pleasure to receive this years SIEPR Prize. Let me list the reasons. First, the prize, awarded for lifetime contributions to economic policy, was started by George Shultz. I got my start in serious policy work in 1984-85, as a member of the advisory group on the Israeli economy to George Shultz, then Secretary of State. I learned a great deal from that experience, particularly from Secretary Shultz and from Herb Stein, the senior member of the two-person advisory group (I was the other member). Second, it is an honor to have been selected for this prize by a selection committee consisting of George Shultz, Ken Arrow, Gary Becker, Jim Poterba and John Shoven. Third, it is an honor to receive this prize after the first two prizes, for 2010 and for 2012 respectively, were awarded to Paul Volcker and Marty Feldstein. And fourth, it is a pleasure to receive the award itself.

When John Shoven first spoke to me about the prize, he must have expected that I would speak on the economic issues of the day and I would have been delighted to oblige. However, since then I have been nominated by President Obama but not so far confirmed by the Senate for the position of Vice-Chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Accordingly I shall not speak on current events, but rather on lessons from economic crises I have seen up close during the last three decades and about which I have written in the past starting with the Israeli stabilization of 1985, continuing with the financial crises of the 1990s, during which I was the number two at the IMF, and culminating (I hope) in the Great Recession, which I observed and with which I had to deal as Governor of the Bank of Israel between 2005 and 2013.

This is scheduled to be an after-dinner speech at the end of a fine dinner and after an intensive conference that started at 8 a.m. and ran through 6 p.m. Under the circumstances I shall try to be brief. I shall start with a list of ten lessons from the last twenty years, including the crises of Mexico in 1994-95, Asia in 1997-98, Russia in 1998, Brazil in 1999-2000, Argentina in 2000-2001, and the Great Recession. I will conclude with one or two-sentence pieces of advice I have received over the years from people with whom I had the honor of working on economic policy. The last piece of advice is contained in a story from 1985, from a conversation with George Shultz.


I. Ten lessons from the last two decades.[2]


Lesson 1: Fiscal policy also matters macroeconomically. It has always been accepted that fiscal policy, in the sense of the structure of the tax system and the composition of government spending, matters for the behavior of the economy. At times in the past there has been less agreement about whether the macroeconomic aspects of fiscal policy, frequently summarized by the full employment budget deficit, have a significant impact on the level of GDP. As a result of the experience of the last two decades, it is once again accepted that cutting government spending and raising taxes in a recession to reduce the budget deficit is generally recessionary. This was clear from experience in Asia in the 1990s.[3] The same conclusion has been reached following the Great Recession.

Who would have thought?…

At the same time, it needs to be emphasized that there are circumstances in which a fiscal contraction can be expansionary particularly for a country running an unsustainable budget deficit.

Unsustainable?
He doesn’t distinguish between floating and fixed fx policy. At best this applies to fixed fx policy, where fx reserves would be exhausted supporting the peg/conversion. And as a point of logic, with floating fx this can only mean an unsustainable inflation, whatever that means.

More important, small budget deficits and smaller rather than larger national debts are preferable in normal times in part to ensure that it will be possible to run an expansionary fiscal policy should that be needed in a recession.

Again, this applies only to fixed fx regimes where a nation might need fx reserves to support conversion at the peg. With floating fx nominal spending is in no case revenue constrained.

Lesson 2: Reaching the zero interest lower bound is not the end of expansionary monetary policy. The macroeconomics I learned a long time ago, and even the macroeconomics taught in the textbooks of the 1980s and early 1990s, proclaimed that more expansionary monetary policy becomes either impossible or ineffective when the central bank interest rate reaches zero, and the economy finds itself in a liquidity trap. In that situation, it was said, fiscal policy is the only available expansionary tool of macroeconomic policy.

Now the textbooks should say that even with a zero central bank interest rate, there are at least two other available monetary policy tools. The first consists of quantitative easing operations up and down the yield curve, in particular central bank market purchases of longer term assets, with the intention of reducing the longer term interest rates that are more relevant than the shortest term interest rate to investment decisions.

Both are about altering the term structure of rates. How about the lesson that the data seems to indicate the interest income channels matter to the point where the effect is the reverse of what the mainstream believes?

That is, with the govt a net payer of interest, lower rates lower the deficit, reducing income and net financial assets credited to the economy. For example, QE resulted in some $90 billion of annual Fed profits returned to the tsy that otherwise would have been credited to the economy. That, with a positive yield curve, QE functions first as a tax.

The second consists of central bank interventions in particular markets whose operation has become significantly impaired by the crisis. Here one thinks for instance of the Feds intervening in the commercial paper market early in the crisis, through its Commercial Paper Funding Facility, to restore the functioning of that market, an important source of finance to the business sector. In these operations, the central bank operates as market maker of last resort when the operation of a particular market is severely impaired.

The most questionable and subsequently overlooked ‘bailout’- the Fed buying, for example, GE commercial paper when it couldn’t fund itself otherwise, with no ‘terms and conditions’ as were applied to select liquidity provisioning to member banks, AIG, etc. And perhaps worse, it was the failure of the Fed to provide liquidity (not equity, which is another story/lesson) to its banking system on a timely basis (it took months to get it right) that was the immediate cause of the related liquidity issues.

However, and perhaps the most bizarre of what’s called unconventional monetary policy, the Fed did provide unlimited $US liquidity to foreign banking systems with its ‘swap lines’ where were, functionally, unsecured loans to foreign central banks for the further purpose of bringing down Libor settings by lowering the marginal cost of funds to foreign banks that otherwise paid higher rates.

Lesson 3: The critical importance of having a strong and robust financial system. This is a lesson that we all thought we understood especially since the financial crises of the 1990s but whose central importance has been driven home, closer to home, by the Great Recession. The Great Recession was far worse in many of the advanced countries than it was in the leading emerging market countries. This was not what happened in the crises of the 1990s, and it was not a situation that I thought would ever happen. Reinhart and Rogoff in their important book, This Time is Different,[4] document the fact that recessions accompanied by a financial crisis tend to be deeper and longer than those in which the financial system remains operative. The reason is simple: the mechanisms that typically end a recession, among them monetary and fiscal policies, are less effective if households and corporations cannot obtain financing on terms appropriate to the state of the economy.

The lesson should have been that the private sector is necessarily pro cyclical, and that a collapse in aggregate demand that reduces the collateral value of bank assets and reduces the income required to support the credit structure triggers a downward spiral that can only be reversed with counter cyclical fiscal policy.

In the last few years, a great deal of work and effort has been devoted to understanding what went wrong and what needs to be done to maintain a strong and robust financial system. Some of the answers are to be found in the recommendations made by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision and the Financial Stability Board (FSB). In particular, the recommendations relate to tougher and higher capital requirements for banks, a binding liquidity ratio, the use of countercyclical capital buffers, better risk management, more appropriate remuneration schemes, more effective corporate governance, and improved and usable resolution mechanisms of which more shortly. They also include recommendations for dealing with the clearing of derivative transactions, and with the shadow banking system. In the United States, many of these recommendations are included or enabled in the Dodd-Frank Act, and progress has been made on many of them.

Everything except the recognition of the need for immediate and aggressive counter cyclical fiscal policy, assuming you don’t want to wait for the automatic fiscal stabilizers to eventually turn things around.

Instead, what they’ve done with all of the above is mute the credit expansion mechanism, but without muting the ‘demand leakages’/'savings desires’ that cause income to go unspent, and output to go unsold, leaving, for all practical purposes (the export channel isn’t a practical option for the heaving lifting), only increased deficit spending to sustain high levels of output and employment.

Lesson 4: The strategy of going fast on bank restructuring and corporate debt restructuring is much better than regulatory forbearance. Some governments faced with the problem of failed financial institutions in a recession appear to believe that regulatory forbearance giving institutions time to try to restore solvency by rebuilding capital will heal their ills. Because recovery of the economy depends on having a healthy financial system, and recovery of the financial system depends on having a healthy economy, this strategy rarely works.

The ‘problem’ is bank lending to offset the demand leakages when the will to use fiscal policy isn’t there.

And today, it’s hard to make the case that us lending is being constrained by lack of bank capital, with the better case being a lack of credit worthy, qualifying borrowers, and regulatory restrictions- called ‘regulatory overreach’ on some types of lending as well. But again, this largely comes back to the understanding that the private sector is necessarily pro cyclical, with the lesson being an immediate and aggressive tax cut and/or spending increase is the way go.

This lesson was evident during the emerging market crises of the 1990s. The lesson was reinforced during the Great Recession, by the contrast between the response of the U.S. economy and that of the Eurozone economy to the low interest rate policies each implemented. One important reason that the U.S. economy recovered more rapidly than the Eurozone is that the U.S. moved very quickly, using stress tests for diagnosis and the TARP for financing, to restore bank capital levels, whereas banks in the Eurozone are still awaiting the rigorous examination of the value of their assets that needs to be the first step on the road to restoring the health of the banking system.

The lesson remaining unlearned is that with a weaker banking structure the euro zone can implement larger fiscal adjustments- larger tax cuts and/or larger increases in public goods and services.

Lesson 5: It is critical to develop now the tools needed to deal with potential future crises without injecting public funds.

Yes, it seems the value of immediate and aggressive fiscal adjustments remains unlearned.

This problem arose during both the crises of the 1990s and the Great Recession but in different forms. In the international financial crises of the 1990s, as the size of IMF packages grew, the pressure to bail in private sector lenders to countries in trouble mounted both because that would reduce the need for official financing, and because of moral hazard issues. In the 1980s and to a somewhat lesser extent in the 1990s, the bulk of international lending was by the large globally active banks. My successor as First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, Anne Krueger, who took office in 2001, mounted a major effort to persuade the IMF that is to say, the governments of member countries of the IMF to develop and implement an SDRM (Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism). The SDRM would have set out conditions under which a government could legally restructure its foreign debts, without the restructuring being regarded as a default.

The lesson is that foreign currency debt is to be avoided, and that legal recourse in the case of default should be limited.

Recent efforts to end too big to fail in the aftermath of the Great Recession are driven by similar concerns by the view that we should never again be in a situation in which the public sector has to inject public money into failing financial institutions in order to mitigate a financial crisis. In most cases in which banks have failed, shareholders lost their claims on the banks, but bond holders frequently did not. Based in part on aspects of the Dodd-Frank Act, real progress has been made in putting in place measures to deal with the too big to fail problem. Among them are: the significant increase in capital requirements, especially for SIFIs (Systemically Important Financial Institutions) and the introduction of counter-cyclical capital buffers for banks; the requirement that banks hold a cushion of bail-in-able bonds; and the sophisticated use of stress tests.

The lesson is that the entire capital structure should be explicitly at full risk and priced accordingly.

Just one more observation: whenever the IMF finds something good to say about a countrys economy, it balances the praise with the warning Complacency must be avoided. That is always true about economic policy and about life. In the case of financial sector reforms, there are two main concerns that the statement about significant progress raises: first, in designing a system to deal with crises, one can never know for sure how well the system will work when a crisis situation occurs which means that we will have to keep on subjecting the financial system to tough stress tests and to frequent re-examination of its resiliency; and second, there is the problem of generals who prepare for the last war the financial system and the economy keep evolving, and we need always to be asking ourselves not only about whether we could have done better last time, but whether we will do better next time and one thing is for sure, next time will be different.

And in any case an immediate and aggressive fiscal adjustment can always sustain output and employment. There is no public purpose in letting a financial crisis spill over to the real economy.

Lesson 6: The need for macroprudential supervision. Supervisors in different countries are well aware of the need for macroprudential supervision, where the term involves two elements: first, that the supervision relates to the financial system as a whole, and not just to the soundness of each individual institution; and second, that it involves systemic interactions. The Lehman failure touched off a massive global financial crisis, a reflection of the interconnectedness of the financial system, and a classic example of systemic interactions. Thus we are talking about regulation at a very broad level, and also the need for cooperation among regulators of different aspects of the financial system.

The lesson are that whoever insures the deposits should do the regulation, and that independent fiscal adjustments can be immediately and aggressively employed to sustain output and employment in any economy.

In practice, macroprudential policy has come to mean the deployment of non-monetary and non-traditional instruments of policy to deal with potential problems in financial institutions or a part of the financial system. For instance, in Israel, as in other countries whose financial system survived the Great Recession without serious damage, the low interest rate environment led to uncomfortably rapid rates of increase of housing prices. Rather than raise the interest rate, which would have affected the broader economy, the Bank of Israel in which bank supervision is located undertook measures whose effect was to make mortgages more expensive. These measures are called macroprudential, although their effect is mainly on the housing sector, and not directly on interactions within the financial system. But they nonetheless deserve being called macroprudential, because the real estate sector is often the source of financial crises, and deploying these measures should reduce the probability of a real estate bubble and its subsequent bursting, which would likely have macroeconomic effects.

And real effects- there would have been more houses built. The political decision is the desire for real housing construction.

The need for surveillance of the financial system as a whole has in some countries led to the establishment of a coordinating committee of regulators. In the United States, that group is the FSOC (Financial Stability Oversight Council), which is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury. In the United Kingdom, a Financial Policy Committee, charged with the responsibility for oversight of the financial system, has been set up and placed in the Bank of England. It operates under the chairmanship of the Governor of the Bank of England, with a structure similar but not identical to the Bank of Englands Monetary Policy Committee.

Lesson 7: The best time to deal with moral hazard is in designing the system, not in the midst of a crisis.

Agreed!
Moral hazard is about the future course of events.

At the start of the Korean crisis at the end of 1997, critics including friends of mine told the IMF that it would be a mistake to enter a program with Korea, since this would increase moral hazard. I was not convinced by their argument, which at its simplest could be expressed as You should force Korea into a greater economic crisis than is necessary, in order to teach them a lesson. The issue is Who is them? It was probably not the 46 million people living in South Korea at the time. It probably was the policy-makers in Korea, and it certainly was the bankers and others who had invested in South Korea. The calculus of adding to the woes of a country already going through a traumatic experience, in order to teach policymakers, bankers and investors a lesson, did not convince the IMF, rightly so to my mind.

Agreed!
Nor did they need an IMF program!

But the question then arises: Can you ever deal with moral hazard? The answer is yes, by building a system that will as far as possible enable policymakers to deal with crises in a way that does not create moral hazard in future crisis situations. That is the goal of financial sector reforms now underway to create mechanisms and institutions that will put an end to too big to fail.

There was no too big to fail moral hazard issue. The US banks did fail when shareholders lost their capital. Failure means the owners lose and are financially punished, and new owners with new capital have a go at it.

Lesson 8: Dont overestimate the benefits of waiting for the situation to clarify.


Early in my term as Governor of the Bank of Israel, when the interest rate decision was made by the Governor alone, I faced a very difficult decision on the interest rate. I told the advisory group with whom I was sitting that my decision was to keep the interest rate unchanged and wait for the next monthly decision, when the situation would have clarified. The then Deputy Governor, Dr. Meir Sokoler, commented: It is never clear next time; it is just unclear in a different way. I cannot help but think of this as the Tolstoy rule, from the first sentence of Anna Karenina, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

It is not literally true that all interest rate decisions are equally difficult, but it is true that we tend to underestimate the lags in receiving information and the lags with which policy decisions affect the economy. Those lags led me to try to make decisions as early as possible, even if that meant that there was more uncertainty about the correctness of the decision than would have been appropriate had the lags been absent.

The lesson is to be aggressive with fiscal adjustments when unemployment/the output gap starts to rise as the costs of waiting- massive quantities of lost output and negative externalities, particularly with regard to the lives of those punished by the government allowing aggregate demand to decline- are far higher than, worst case, a period of ‘excess demand’ that can also readily be addressed with fiscal policy.

Lesson 9: Never forget the eternal verities lessons from the IMF. A country that manages itself well in normal times is likely to be better equipped to deal with the consequences of a crisis, and likely to emerge from it at lower cost.

Thus, we should continue to believe in the good housekeeping rules that the IMF has tirelessly promoted. In normal times countries should maintain fiscal discipline and monetary and financial stability. At all times they should take into account the need to follow sustainable growth-promoting macro- and structural policies. And they need to have a decent regard for the welfare of all segments of society.

Yes, at all times they should sustain full employment policy as the real losses from anything less far exceed any other possible benefits.

The list is easy to make. It is more difficult to fill in the details, to decide what policies to
follow in practice. And it may be very difficult to implement such measures, particularly when times are good and when populist pressures are likely to be strong. But a country that does not do so is likely to pay a very high price.

Lesson 10.

In a crisis, central bankers will often find themselves deciding to implement policy actions they never thought they would have to undertake and these are frequently policy actions that they would have preferred not to have to undertake. Hence, a few final words of advice to central bankers (and to others):

Lesson for all bankers:
Proposals for the Banking System, Treasury, Fed, and FDIC

Never say never


II. The Wisdom of My Teachers

:(

Feel free to distribute, thanks.

Over the years, I have found myself remembering and repeating words of advice that I first heard from my teachers, both academics and policymakers. Herewith a selection:


1. Paul Samuelson on econometric models: I would rather have Bob Solow than an econometric model, but Id rather have Bob Solow with an econometric model than Bob Solow without one.

2. Herb Stein: (a) After listening to my long description of what was happening in the Israeli economy in 1985: Yes, but what do we want them to do?”

(b) The difference between a growth rate of 2% and a growth rate of 3% is 50%.

(c) If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.
3. Michel Camdessus (former head of the IMF):

(a) At 7 a.m., in his office, on the morning that the U.S. government turned to the IMF to raise $20 billion by 9:30 a.m: Gentlemen, this is a crisis, and in a crisis you do not panic

(b) When the IMF was under attack from politicians or the media, in response to my asking Michel, what should we do?, his inevitable answer was We must do our job.

(c) His response when I told him (his official title was Managing Director of the IMF) that life would be much easier for all of us if he would only get himself a cell phone: Cell phones are for deputy managing directors.

(d) On delegation: In August, when he was in France and I was acting head of the IMF in Washington, and had called him to explain a particularly knotty problem and ask him for a decision, You have more information than me, you decide.

4. George Shultz: This event happened in May 1985, just before Herb Stein and I were due to leave for Israel to negotiate an economic program which the United States would support with a grant of $1.5 billion. I was a professor at MIT, and living in the Boston area. Herb and I spoke on the phone about the fact that we had no authorization to impose any conditions on the receipt of the money. Herb, who lived in Washington, volunteered to talk to the Secretary of State to ask him for authorization to impose conditions. He called me after his meeting and said that the Secretary of State was not willing to impose any conditions on the aid.

We agreed this was a problem and he said to me, Why dont you try. A meeting was hastily arranged and next morning I arrived at the Secretary of States office, all ready to deliver a convincing speech to him about the necessity of conditionality. He didnt give me a chance to say a word. You want me to impose conditions on Israel? I said yes. He said I wont. I asked why not. He said Because the Congress will give them the money even if they dont carry out the program and I do not make threats that I cannot carry out.

This was convincing, and an extraordinarily important lesson. But it left the negotiating team with a problem. So I said, That is very awkward. Were going to say To stabilize the economy you need to do the following list of things. And they will be asking themselves, and if we dont? Is there anything we can say to them?

The Secretary of State thought for a while and said: You can tell them that if they do not carry out the program, I will be very disappointed.

We used that line repeatedly. The program was carried out and the program succeeded.

Thank you all very much.

[1] Council on Foreign Relations. These remarks were prepared for presentation on receipt of the SIEPR (Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research) Prize at Stanford University on March 14, 2014. The Prize is awarded for lifetime contributions to economic policy. I am grateful to Dinah Walker of the Council on Foreign Relations for her assistance.

[2] I draw here on two papers I wrote based on my experience in the IMF: Ten Tentative Conclusions from the Past Three Years, presented at the annual meeting of the Trilateral Commission in 1999, in Washington, DC; and the Robbins Lectures, The International Financial System: Crises and Reform Several other policy-related papers from that period appear in my book: IMF Essays from a Time of Crisis (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004). For the period of the Great Recession, I draw on Central bank lessons from the global crisis, which I presented at a conference on Lessons of the Global Crisis at the Bank of Israel in 2011.

[3] This point was made in my 1999 statement Ten Tentative Conclusions referred to above, and has of course received a great deal of focus in analyses of the Great Recession.

[4] Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, This Time is Different, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2009.

Posted in Banking, Bonds, CBs, Credit, Currencies, Deficit, ECB, Employment, Government Spending, Housing, Interest Rates | No Comments »

factory orders and Italy

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 18th March 2014

U.S. factories flex muscle after severe winter chill

March 17 (Reuters) — U.S. manufacturing output recorded its largest increase in six months in February. Factory production increased 0.8 percent in February after a 0.9 percent January drop.

Quite the bounce- not even back to where it was.

Motor vehicle output rebounded 4.8 percent last month after tumbling 5.2 percent in January, the Fed said in its report.

Same.

There were also notable gains in the production of machinery and fabricated metal products. Mining output rose 0.3 percent last month, but utilities production fell 0.2 percent. The rise in manufacturing and mining output helped to lift overall industrial production 0.6 percent in February. It had slumped 0.2 percent in January. The amount of industrial capacity in use increased to 78.8 percent in February from 78.5 percent. Still, it remained 1.3 percentage points below its long-run average.

Renzi tells Merkel Italy will respect EU budget rules

March 17 (Reuters) — Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he aimed to accelerate growth while respecting deficit spending limits.

:(

Renzi last week announced a sweeping package of tax cuts, including 10 billion euros ($13.9 billion) in income-tax reductions, to help spur consumer demand, saying spending cuts and extra borrowing would fund the measures.

Since spending cuts tend to be higher multiple than tax cuts, doesn’t seem all this is likely to help, and might hurt.

“Italy is not asking to exceed treaty limits,” Renzi told reporters after his a meeting with Merkel in Berlin.

They are still a bit above the 60% debt/gdp limit…

On top of the income-tax cuts, Renzi said he would reduce a regional business tax and increase hiring flexibility for companies. Renzi said Italian debt has risen as a percentage of output in recent years even though spending has been kept in check because growth has been stagnant. Domestic demand has “collapsed,” he said.

Posted in Government Spending | No Comments »

Wholesale trade

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 11th March 2014

Worse than expected, and only one number subject to revision, with the govt deficit at only 3% of GDP this kind of slowdown can turn pro cyclical:

Wholesale Trade



Highlights
Rising inventories, tied in part to weather-related shipping snags, are a rising threat to economic growth. Wholesale inventories rose 0.6 percent in January against a 1.9 percent plunge in sales, a heavy mismatch that drives the sector’s stock-to-sales ratio up 2 notches to 1.20 which is one of the heaviest readings of the recovery.

Details show large builds in autos, metals, and machinery, three groups where January sales were weak. Nondurable goods show especially large builds against especially soft sales including paper, drugs and petroleum.

Data on factory inventories, which were released last week with the factory orders report, showed an unwanted build and a dip in sales that pushed the stock-to-sales ratio near its heaviest level of the whole recovery. Inventories in the retail sector, with December the latest available report, are the heaviest of the recovery and are building at a time when sales are slowing — not accelerating. Retail data for January will be posted with the business inventories report on Thursday.

Market Consensus before announcement
Wholesale inventories showed a 0.3 percent build in December and were well matched by a 0.5 percent rise in wholesale sales that left the stock-to-sales ratio for the wholesale sector unchanged at 1.17. This ratio has held between 1.18 and 1.17 since May.

Posted in GDP, Government Spending | No Comments »

proactive fiscal tightening damages income growth

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 10th March 2014


Full size image


Full size image

Mind the gap:


Full size image

This is below prior recession levels!


Full size image

This is year over year growth in consumption of domestic product, which is GDP less capex less exports.

It shows how much ‘the consumer’ is spending on domestically produced goods and services:


Full size image

The underlying narrative is that proactive austerity damages income growth and thereafter requires a ‘jump’ in ‘borrowing to spend’/reduction in savings’ to sustain the prior levels of growth.

When growth itself brings the govt deficit down via the auto fiscal stabilizers, the needed credit growth/savings drop to replace the lost govt deficit spending is ‘already there proactively’ as it’s what drove the growth in the first place. So while the credit expansion/savings reduction needs to continue to grow to support GDP growth, the credit expansion/savings reduction doesn’t need to ‘spike up’ proactively as it does when the fiscal tightening is proactive.

So note that q3′s higher GDP growth included over 1% from additions to inventories. That represents a reduction in corporate savings from what it would have been if they had not net added to inventories. That is, consumers didn’t ‘jump the gap’ created by the ongoing increase in FICA vs the prior year, and the sequester cuts, that together proactively reduced govt deficit spending by over 1.5% of GDP (with the FICA hike adding to the automatic stabilizers as well). And Q4′s consumer spending on domestic product grew at a lower rate even as capex was higher. Also note that while capex growth for 2014 is forecast at about the same 5% as 2013, even with the high levels of energy investments, ultimately it’s largely a function of top line sales.

The reduction in net imports is a reduction in the growth of foreign savings of $ denominated financial assets, which does ‘make up’ for the reduction in govt deficit spending, depending on foreign demand. But it’s been ongoing and doesn’t look to be ‘jumping the spending gap.’

And note too that the running US deficit of about 3% of GDP is about the same as the euro zone’s and the Maastricht limit. So for me the question is whether this will make our economies converge as US income growth continues to decline?

And, as previously discussed, the 0 rate policy has worked to directly bring down personal income. Also note that personal income growth has slowed coincidentally with the approx 200,000/mo additions to total employment.

So seems that the income added by that much new employment isn’t enough to keep overall (after tax) personal income growth positive.

Posted in Deficit, Fed, Government Spending, Inflation | No Comments »

UK ‘money creation’ dialogue

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 3rd March 2014

Seems to me it must be a nation of counterfeiters for the UK govt from inception to get its funds from the people…

Not that the author isn’t also confused by the ‘money creation dynamics.’

It’s Official: There Is a Money Tree

“…Cameron echoed his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, who in October, 1983 told the Conservative Party conference that:

“the state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more. And it’s no good thinking that someone else will pay. That someone else is you.

There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money”.

This idea that “there is no such thing as public money” was later foolishly echoed by Labour’s Treasury spokesperson, Liam Byrne. He left a note for his successor upon leaving the Treasury in 2010 which said: “I’m afraid there’s no money left.”

Posted in Government Spending, UK | No Comments »

Lew bragging about the lower deficit

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 2nd March 2014

With friends like these who needs enemies…

“Thanks to the tenacity of the American people and the determination of the private sector we are moving in the right direction,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in the report. “The United States has recovered faster than any other advanced economy, and our deficit today is less than half of what it was when President Obama first took office.”

Posted in Deficit, Government Spending | No Comments »

The newly appointed Italian “Ministry of the Economy” had said…

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 21st February 2014

truly insulting!

The euro zone is at risk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by abandoning efforts to cut budget deficits and fix long-standing economic problems.

The growing perception that austerity has been futile is incorrect.

Fiscal consolidation is producing results, the pain is producing results

Euro-zone policy makers need to do a better job of communicating their successes to a weary population.

Posted in EU, Government Spending | No Comments »

The austerity narrative

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 19th February 2014

Early in 2013 my narrative was the tax hikes as well as the subsequent sequesters were likely to cause growth to slow to maybe a 2% rate from what might have otherwise been a 4% rate, with downside risk from there.

Take a look at the charts below and notice how these key elements of the economy seemed to ‘go sideways’ during 2013.

And, unfortunately, real disposable personal income took a hit as well and doesn’t look to me like it can support any kind of ‘bounce back’:

(the last yoy print is ‘exaggerated’ by the ‘outlier’ a year earlier, but the trend is clear to me)

[note from poster: apologize for format- should be amended shortly]

Real disposable income

Architecure billings index

Housing starts

MBA purchase applications

Vehicle sales

Retail Sales

Posted in Deficit, Employment, Government Spending, Housing | No Comments »

bill gross on credit expansion

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 6th February 2014

It used to grow pre-Lehman at 810% a year, but now it only grows at 34%. Part of that growth is due to the government itself with recent deficit spending. A deficit of one trillion dollars in 20092010 equaled a 2% growth rate of credit by itself. But despite that, other borrowers such as households/businesses/local and foreign governments/financial institutions have been less than eager to pick up the slack. With the deficit now down to $600 billion or so, the Treasury is fading as a source of credit growth. Many consider that as a good thing but short term, the ability of the economy to expand and P/Es to grow is actually negatively impacted, unless the private sector steps up to the plate to borrow/invest/buy new houses, etc. Credit over the past 12 months has grown at a snails 3.5% pace, barely enough to sustain nominal GDP growth of the same amount.

Full text

Posted in Credit, GDP, Government Spending | No Comments »

The unconscious liberal

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 3rd February 2014

Macroeconomic Populism Returns

By Paul Krugman

February 1 (NYT) — Matthew Yglesias says what needs to be said about Argentina: theres no contradiction at all between saying that Argentina was right to follow heterodox policies in 2002, but it is wrong to be rejecting advice to curb deficits and control inflation now. I know some people find this hard to grasp, but the effects of economic policies, and the appropriate policies to follow, depend on circumstances.

Yes, unemployment- source of the greatest economic loss as well as a social tragedy and a crime against humanity, is always the evidence deficit spending is too low. There is no exception as a simple point of logic. The currency is a simple public monopoly, and the excess capacity we call unemployment- people looking to sell their labor in exchange for units of that currency- is necessarily a consequence of the monopolist restricting the supply of net financial assets.

I would add that we know what those circumstances are! Running deficits and printing lots of money are inflationary

Why the undefined ambiguous empty rhetoric?

and bad

What does ‘bad’ mean here? For example, there is no evidence that inflation rates at least up to 40% hurt real growth, and more likely help it. Politically, however, it may be ‘very bad’. But those are two different things.

in economies that are constrained by limited supply;

Limited supply of what? Labor? Hardly! In fact, full employment is even more critical, if that’s possible, when there are limited supplies of other resources. Wasn’t Rome built without electricity, oil, bulldozers, the IMF, etc. etc.? OK, it took more than a day, but it was built. There is always more to do than people to do it. Economically, unemployment is never appropriate policy.

they are good things when the problem is persistently inadequate demand.

Unemployment is the evidence of this ‘inadequate demand’ which is necessarily created by taxation, the ultimate source of all demand for a given currency. In fact, taxation functions first to create unemployment- people looking for work paid in that currency. That’s how govt provisions itself- it creates people looking for jobs with its taxation, then hires those unemployed its tax created. What sense does it make for govt to create more unemployed than it wants to hire??? Either hire the unemployed thus created, or lower the tax!!!!!!!!!!!!

Similarly, unemployment benefits probably lead to lower employment in a supply-constrained economy; they increase employment in a demand-constrained economy; and so on.

With more that needs to be done than there are people to do it, the economy isn’t supply constrained until full employment. And nominal unemployment benefits are about the level of prices, wages, and the distribution of income rather than the level of potential employment, etc.

So sometimes the relationship and money looks like this, from the best economics principles textbook:

This is more about ‘inflation’ causing ‘money’ as defined.

But sometimes it looks like this:

This is more about partially defining ‘money’ as reserve account balances at the Fed but not securities account balances (tsy secs) at the Fed.

And just to repeat a point Ive made many times, those of us who understood IS-LM predicted in advance that the actions of the Bernanke Fed wouldnt be inflationary, while the other side of the debate was screaming debasement.

It’s not about ISLM, which is fixed fx analysis. It’s about recognizing that there is always precious little difference between balances in reserve accounts at the Fed and securities accounts at the Fed.

There’s something else to be said about Argentina and, it seems, Turkey namely, that were seeing a mini-revival of what Rudi Dornbusch and Sebastian Edwards long ago called macroeconomic populism. This involves, you might say, making the symmetrical error to that of people who think that running deficits and printing money always turns you into Zimbabwe; its the belief that the orthodox rules never apply. And its an equally severe mistake.

Unfortunately most of the ‘orthodox rules’ apply to the fixed fx policies in place when they were first stated, and not to today’s floating fx.

Its not a common mistake these days; a few years ago one would have said that only Venezuela was making the old mistakes, and even now its just a handful of countries. But it is a mistake, and we need to say so.

Yes, mistakes are being made by all of the headline economists and the global economy is paying the price.

Posted in Deficit, Emerging Markets, Employment, Fed, Government Spending | No Comments »

What a good economy should look like

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 28th January 2014

What a good economy should look like

Warren Mosler, from a talk in Chianciano, Italy, on January 11, 2014 entitled Oltre L’Euro: La Sinistra. La Crisi. L’Alternativa.

What a good economy should look like

I just want to say a quick word about what a good economy is because it’s been so long since we’ve had a good economy. You’ve got to be at least as old as I am to remember it. In a good economy business competes for people. There is a shortage of people to work for business. Everybody wants to hire you. They’ll train you, whatever it takes. They hire students before they get out of school. You can change jobs if you want to because other companies are always trying to hire you. That’s the way the economy is supposed to be but that’s all turned around. For one reason, which I’ll keep coming back to, the budget deficit is too small. As soon as they started tightening up on budget deficits many years ago, we transformed from a good economy where the people were the most important thing to what I call this ‘crime against humanity’ that we have today……

So what you do is you target full employment, because that’s the kind of economy everybody wants to live in. And the right size deficit is whatever deficit corresponds to full employment…

Posted in Deficit, Employment, Government Spending | No Comments »

State deficits turning to surplus

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 27th January 2014

Just like any other agent, when they spend more than their income they are adding that much to growth, and as their deficits fall the are net adding that much less.

States Weigh New Plans for Revenue Windfalls

By Mark Peters

January 26 (WSJ) — Governors across the U.S. are proposing tax cuts, increases in school spending and college-tuition freezes. The strengthening in tax revenue started in late 2012 as higher-income residents in many states took increased capital gains among other steps to avoid rising federal tax rates on certain income. Those tax payments spilled over into 2013, and further fuel for collections came from a record stock market and improving economy. State tax revenue nationally climbed 6.7% in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2013, Moody’s Analytics says. Still, state spending last year remained below peak levels in 2008 when adjusted for inflation, while state reserves hit their highest level since the recession, reaching a total of $67 billion nationally, or 9.6% of state spending, according to a report last month from the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Posted in Government Spending | No Comments »

last comment of the year on fiscal drag

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 31st December 2013

Back in November my forecast for 2013 was 4%, which at the time was by far the highest around. The govt was spending more than its income by about 6% of GDP, which was about $900 billion if I recall correctly. But then it cut back, first with the year end FICA hike along with other expiring tax cuts, and then with the sequesters that began in April.

Consequently, the govt spent only about $680 billion more than its income, which lowered growth by maybe 2%. And today mainstream economists are saying much the same- growth would have been maybe 2% higher without the ‘fiscal drag’ of the tax hikes and spending cuts.

So far our narratives are the same.

But here’s where they begin to differ.

They say the GDP/private sector would have grown by 4% if the fiscal drag hadn’t taken away 2%, and so without the govt again taking away 2%, the private sector will resume its ‘underlying’ 4% rate of growth.

I say the GDP/private sector would have grown by 4% that included the 6%/$900 billion net spending contribution by govt, if govt hadn’t cut back that contribution to $600 billion.

That is, they say the govt ‘took away’ from the ‘underlying’ 4% growth rate, and I say the govt ‘failed to add’ to the ‘underlying’ 2% growth rate that still included a 4% contribution by net govt spending.

And, in fact, I say that if the govt had cut its deficit another 4% to 0, GDP growth might have been -2% (multipliers aside for purposes of this discussion), which is the actual ‘underlying’ private sector growth rate. And that’s due to the ‘unspent income’ of some agents not being sufficiently offset by other agents ‘spending more than their income’.

Furthermore, I say that unless the ‘borrowing to spend’ of the ‘non govt’ sectors steps up to the plate to ‘replace’ the reduced govt contribution, the output won’t get sold, as evidenced by unsold inventory and declining sales in general, throwing GDP growth into reverse, etc.

So because we have different narratives, we read the same data differently.

They see the 1.7% Q3 inventory build as anticipation of future sales, while I see it as evidence of a lack of demand.

They see the Chicago PMI’s large spike followed by 2 months of decline as a strong 3 month period, while I see it as a sharp fall off after the inventory build.

They see the fall off in mortgage purchase apps as a temporary pause, while I see it as a disturbing fall off in the critical ‘borrowing to spend’ growth maths.

They see October’s shut down limited 15.2 million rate of car sales followed by November’s spike to 16.4 million as a return of growth, while I see the two month average a sign that growth has flattened in this critical ‘borrowing to spend’ dynamic.

And likewise with the weakness in the Pending Home Sales, Credit Manager’s Index, Architectural billings, down then up durable goods releases, new home sales, the slowing rate of growth of corporate profits, personal income, etc. etc.

And they see positive survey responses as signs of improvement, while I see them as signs they all believe the mainstream forecasts.

;)

And not to forget they see the increase in jobs as evidence of solid growth given the rapidly growing % of sloths, and I see it flat as a % of the population.

;)

Happy New Year/ La Shona Tova to all!!!

Posted in Deficit, Employment, Government Spending, Housing | No Comments »

Corporate profits

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 20th December 2013

Profits are after tax but without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments. Corporate profits on a year-on-year basis increased 5.6 percent versus 5.3 percent in the second quarter.

They also show close correlation with the size of the Federal deficit.

Posted in Deficit, Government Spending | No Comments »

Smallest budget deficit in 5 years spun as great news

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 12th December 2013

The automatic fiscal stabilizers are far too aggressive as they do their thing to abort this recovery.

>   
>   (email exchange)
>   
>   Nice data on shrinking deficit due to private sector growth and not “cuts” in governments
>   spending.
>   

Smallest budget deficit in 5 years is great news

Posted in Government Spending | No Comments »

WSJ July 1999

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on 10th December 2013

Classic from 1999-

Congrats on the budget surplus on the left, and warning that savings is too low on the right!

WSJ July 1999

Posted in Deficit, Government Spending | No Comments »