Tag Archives: Paul Craig Roberts

The emerging market mess and US manipulations

Anyone who wants to understand present-day geopolitical phenomena must pay attention to former Assistant Treasury Secretary, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts is one of a handful of people who understands what is going on–and is willing to tell people about it. Explore his website http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/, and be sure to listen to his recent interview with Eric King, here.

In that interview, Roberts tells the story of how and why the US interferes in money and securities markets, and the effects those manipulations have on others around the world. He also predicts that the Federal Reserve will soon be faced with the choice of either saving the banks or saving the dollar, perhaps as early as the end of this year. But I suspect that the Fed may not quite yet have exhausted their bag of tricks. Because banking corporations dominate politics in most of the world, and because the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency has served the purpose of Western dominance, the Fed, in alliance with other central banks, will try to save both the banks and the dollar for as long as they can.

What is actually being protected is the global usury-based debt-money regime, that unholy alliance between politicians and top level banks that enables central governments to spend far in excess of their tax and other revenues, thereby thwarting democratic government and the popular will, while enabling banking institutions to privatize our collective credit and charge us interest (usury) to access it.

So what do the central banks have left in their bag of tricks as they taper off their massive amounts of  “quantitative easing” (currency inflation)? That’s the question to ponder. I think it’s obvious that they will (1) try to corral everyone’s savings and all surpluses into government securities and Wall Street equities (think, privatization of Social Security), and (2) outright confiscation of bank deposits via selective bank failures and assessments on depositors (ala the recent Cyprus trial balloon).

Still, those can only be, at best, delaying tactics, and not without serious social and political repercussions. The real solution will continue to be denied and delayed by the powers that be. Thus it must emerge from the bottom, from the creative instincts and talents of innovators in many fields who are bringing to market better ways of mediating the exchange of value and financing the creation of sustainable, Earth-friendly, and life-supporting products and services. –t.h.g.

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Americas failed policies and destruction of the middle class

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Treasury Secretary. He is a knowledgeable and astute observer of geopolitics and the domestic and global economies. In the following article which appears in Counterpuch, he describes quite clearly, and I think accurately, the present situation and the prospects for America. It’s well worth reading in its entirety.–t.h.g.

American Freefall

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Washington has been at war since October, 2001. This war took a back seat when Bush concocted another excuse to order the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a war that went on without significant success for 8 years and has left Iraq in chaos with dozens more killed and wounded every day, a new strong man in place of the illegally executed former strongman, and the likelihood of the ongoing violence becoming civil war.

Upon his election, President Obama foolishly sent more troops to Afghanistan and renewed the intensity of that war, now in its eleventh year, to no successful effect.

These two wars have been expensive. According to estimates by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, when all costs are counted the Iraq invasion cost US taxpayers $3 trillion dollars. Ditto for the Afghan war. In other words, the two gratuitous wars doubled the US public debt. This is the reason there is no money for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, the environment, and the social safety net.

Americans got nothing out of the wars, but as the war debt will never be paid off, US citizens and their descendants will have to pay interest on $6,000 billion of war debt in perpetuity.

Not content with these wars, the Bush/Obama regime is conducting military operations in violation of international law in Pakistan, Yemen, and Africa, organized the overthrow by armed conflict of the government in Libya, is currently working to overthrow the Syrian government, and continues to marshall military forces against Iran.

Finding the Muslim adversaries insufficient for its energies and budget, Washington has encircled Russia with military bases and has begun the encirclement of China. Washington has announced that the bulk of its naval forces will be shifted to the Pacific over the next few years, and Washington is working to reestablish its naval base in the Philippines, construct a new one on a South Korean island, acquire a naval base in Viet Nam, and air and troop bases elsewhere in Asia.

In Thailand Washington is attempting to purchase with the usual bribes an air base used in the Vietnam war. There is opposition as the country does not wish to be drawn into Washington’ s orchestrated conflict with China. Downplaying the real reason for the airbase, Washington, according to Thai newspapers, told the Thai government that the base was needed for “humanitarian missions.” This didn’t fly, so Washington had NASA ask for the air base in order to conduct “weather experiments.” Whether this ruse is sufficient cover remains to be seen.

US Marines have been sent to Australia and elsewhere in Asia. To corral China and Russia (and Iran) is a massive undertaking for a country that is financially busted. With wars and bankster bailouts, Bush and Obama have doubled the US national debt while failing to address the disintegration of the US economy and rising hardships of US citizens.

The annual US budget deficit is adding to the accumulated debt at about $1.5 trillion per year with no prospect of declining. The financial system is broken and requires ongoing bailouts. The economy is busted and has been unable to create high-paying jobs, indeed any jobs. Despite years of population growth, payroll employment as of mid-2012 is the same as in 2005 and substantially below 2008. Yet, the government and financial presstitute media tell us that we have a recovery.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in 2011 was only 1 million more than in 2002. As it takes about 150,000 new jobs each month to stay even with population growth, that leaves a decade long job deficit of 15 million jobs.

The US unemployment and inflation rates are far higher than reported. In previous columns I have explained, based on statistician John Williams’ work (shadowstats.com), the reasons that the government’s headline numbers are serious understatements. The headline (U3) unemployment rate of 8.2% counts no discouraged workers who have given up on finding a job. The government has a second unemployment rate (U6), seldom reported, which includes short-term discouraged workers. That rate is 15%. When the long-term discouraged workers are added in, the current US unemployment rate is 22%, a number closer to the unemployment rate of the Great Depression than to the unemployment rates of postwar recessions.

Changes in the way inflation is measured have destroyed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of the cost of living. The new methodology is substitution based. If the price of an item in the index rises, a lower priced alternative takes its place. In addition, some price rises are labeled quality improvements whether they are or not and thus do not show up in the CPI. People still have to pay the higher price, but it is not counted as inflation.

Currently, the substitution-based rate of inflation is about 2%. However, when inflation is measured as the actual cost of living, the rate of inflation is 5%.

The Misery Index is the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates. The level of the current Misery Index depends on whether the new rigged measures are used, which understate the misery, or the former methodology that accurately measures it. Prior to the November 1980 election, the Misery Index hit 22%, which was one reason for Reagan’s victory over President Carter. Today if we use previous methodology, the Misery Index stands at 27%. But if we use the new rigged methodology, the Misery Index is 10%.

The understatement of inflation serves to boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is calculated in current dollars. To be able to determine whether GDP rose because of price rises or because of increases in real output, GDP is deflated by the CPI. The higher the inflation rate, the less the growth in real output and vice versa. When the substitution based methodology is used to measure inflation, the US economy experienced real growth in the 21st century except for the sharp dip during 2008-2010.

However, if the cost-of-living based methodology is used, except for a short period during 2004, the US economy has experienced no real growth since 2000. The lack of employment and real GDP growth go together with the decline in real household median income. The growth in consumer debt substituted for the lack of income growth and kept the economy going until consumers exhausted their ability to take on more debt. With the consumer dead in the water, the outlook for economic recovery is poor.

Politicians and the Federal Reserve are making the outlook even worse. At a time of high unemployment and debt-stressed households, politicians at local, state, and federal levels are cutting back on government provision of health care, pensions, food stamps, housing subsidies and every other element of the social safety net. These cutbacks, of course, further reduce aggregate demand and the ability of income stressed Americans to survive.

The Federal Reserve has interest rates so low that retirees and others living on their savings can earn nothing on their money. The interest rates paid on bank CDs and government and corporate bonds are lower than the rate of inflation. To live on interest income, a person has to purchase Greek, Spanish, or Italian bonds and run the risk of capital loss. The Federal Reserve’s policy of negative interest rates forces retirees to spend down their capital in order to live. In other words, the Fed’s policy is destroying personal savings as people are forced to spend their capital in order to cover living expenses.

In June the Federal Reserve announced that it was going to continue its policy of driving nominal interest rates even lower, this time focusing on long-term Treasury bonds. The Fed said it would be purchasing $400 billion of the Treasury’s 30-year bonds. Driving interest rates down means driving bond prices up. With 5-year Treasury bonds paying only seven-tenths of one percent and 10-year Treasuries paying only 1.6%, below even the official rate of inflation, Americans desperate for yield move into 30-year bonds currently paying 2.7%. However, the the high bond prices mean that the risk of capital loss is very high.

The Fed’s debt monetization, or a drop in the exchange value of the dollar as other countries move away from its use to settle their balance of payments, could set off inflation that would take interest rates out of the Fed’s control. As interest rates rise, bond prices fall.

In other words, bonds are now the bubble that real estate, stocks, and derivatives were. When this bubble pops, Americans will take another big hit to their remaining wealth.

It makes no sense to invest in long-term bonds at negative interest rates when the federal government is piling up debt that the Federal Reserve is monetizing and when other countries are moving away from the flood of dollars. The potential for a rising rate of inflation is high from debt monetization and from a drop in the dollar’s exchange value. Yet, bond fund portfolio managers have to follow the herd into longer term maturities or see their performance relative to their peers drop to the bottom of the rankings.

Some individual investors and foreign central banks, anticipating the dollar’s loss of value, are accumulating gold and silver bullion. Realizing the danger to the dollar and its policy from the rapid rise in the price of bullion during 2011, the Federal Reserve has arranged offsetting action. When the demand for physical bullion drives up the price, short sales of bullion in the paper market are used to drive the price back down. Similarly, when investors begin to flee Treasuries, thus causing interest rates to rise, J.P. Morgan and other dependencies of the Federal Reserve sell interest-rate swaps, thus offsetting the effect on interest rates of the bond sales. (Keep in mind that interest rates rise when bond prices fall and vice versa.)

The point of all this information is to establish that except for the 1 percent, the incomes and wealth of Americans are being cut back across the board. From 2002 through 2011 the economy lost 3.5 million manufacturing jobs. These jobs were replaced with lowerpaying waitress and bartender jobs (1,189,000), ambulatory health care service jobs (1,512,000) and social assistance jobs (578,000).

These replacement jobs in domestic services mean that on a net basis US consumer income was moved out of the country. Potential aggregate demand in the US dropped by the differences in pay in the job categories. Clearly and unambiguously, jobs offshoring lowered US disposable income and US GDP and, thereby, employment.

Despite the lack of an economic base, Washington’s hegemonic aspirations continue unabated. Other countries are amused at Washington’s unawareness. Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa are forming an agreement to abandon the US dollar as the currency for international settlement between themselves.

On July 4 the China Daily reported: “Japanese politicians and prominent academics from China and Japan urged Tokyo on Tuesday to abandon its outdated foreign policy of leaning on the West and accept China as a key partner as important as the United States. The Tokyo Consensus, a joint statement issued at the end of the Beijing-Tokyo Forum, also called on both countries to expand trade and promote a free-trade agreement for China, Japan and South Korea. “

This means that Japan is in play.

The Chinese government, more intelligent than Washington, is responding to Washington’s military threats by enticing away Washington’s two key Asian allies. As the Chinese economy is now as large as the US and on far firmer footing, and as Japan now has more trade with China than with the US, the enticement is appealing.

Moreover, China is next door, and Washington is distant and drowning in its hubris. Washington, which flicked its middle finger to international law and to its own law and Constitution with its arrogance and gratuitous and illegal wars and with its assertion of the right to murder its own citizens and those of its allies, such as Pakistan, has made the United States a pariah state.

Washington still controls its bought-and-paid-for NATO puppets, but these puppet states are overwhelmed with derivative debt problems brought to them by Wall Street and by sovereign debt problems, some of which were covered up by Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs.

Europe is on the ropes and has no money with which to subsidize Washington’s wars of hegemony.

Washington is becoming an isolated and despised element of the world community. Washington has purchased Europe, Canada, Australia, the former Soviet state of Georgia (and almost Ukraine), and Columbia, and continues its effort to purchase the entire world, but sentiment is turning against the rising Gestapo state that has shown itself to be lawless, ruthless, and indifferent, even hostile, to human life and human rights.

A government, whose military was unable with the help of the UK to occupy Iraq after eight years and was forced to end the conflict by putting the “insurgents” on the US military payroll and to pay them to stop killing American troops, and a government whose military has been unable to subdue a few thousand lightly armed Taliban after 11 years, is over the top when it organizes war against Iran, Russia, and China.

The only prospect Washington has of prevailing in such an undertaking is first use of nuclear weapons, of catching its demonized opponents off guard by nuking them out of the blue. In other words, by the elimination of life on earth.

Is this Washington’s program revealed by the neoconservative warmonger, Bill Kristol, who had no shame to ask publicly: “What’s the good of nuclear weapons if you can’t use them?

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  He is the author of HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, published by CounterPunch/AK Press. Dr. Roberts’ latest book is Economies in Collapse: The Failure of Globalism, published in Europe, June, 2012.He can be reached through his website.

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Another (more honest) take on the economy

In his recent article that appeared in Counterpunch, Paul Craig Roberts, tells the story of the American economy as it really is.–t.h.g.

February 01, 2012

The Emperor Has No Clothes.  Economics 101

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

Last Friday (January 27) the US Bureau of Economic Analysis announced its advance estimate that in the last quarter of 2011 the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.8% in real inflation-adjusted terms, an increase from the annual rate of growth in the third quarter.

Good news, right?

Wrong.  If you want to know what is really happening, you must turn to John Williams at shadowstats.com.

What the presstitute media did not tell us is that almost the entire gain In GDP growth was due to “involuntary inventory build-up,” that is, more goods were produced than were sold.

Net of the unsold goods, the annualized real growth rate was eight-tenths of one percent.

And even that tiny growth rate is an exaggeration, because it is deflated with a measure of inflation that understates inflation. The US government’s measure of inflation no longer measures a constant standard of living.  Instead, the government’s inflation measure relies on substitution of cheaper goods for those that rise in price. In other words, the government holds the measure of inflation down by measuring a declining standard of living. This permits our rulers to divert cost-of-living-adjustments that should be paid to Social Security recipients to wars of aggression, police state, and banker bailouts.

When the methodology that measures a constant standard of living is used to deflate nominal GDP, the result is a shrinking US economy. It becomes clear that the US economy has had no recovery and has now been in deep recession for four years despite the proclamation by the National Bureau of Economic Research of a recovery based on the rigged official numbers.

A government can always produce the illusion of economic growth by underestimating the rate of inflation. There is no question that a substitution-based measure of inflation understates the inflation that people experience. More proof that there has been no economic recovery is available from those data series that are unaffected by inflation. If the economy were in fact recovering, these date series would be picking up. Instead, they are flat or declining, as John Williams demonstrates.

For example, according to the government’s own data, payroll employment in December 2011 is less than in 2001. Meanwhile, there has been a decade of population growth. The presstitute media calls the alleged economic recovery a “jobless recovery,” which is a contradiction in terms. There can be no recovery without a growth in employment and consumer income.

Real average weekly earnings (deflated by the government’s CPI-W) have never recovered their 1973 peak. Real median household income (deflated by the government’s CPI-U) has not recovered its 2001 peak and is below the 1969 level. If earnings were deflated by the original methodology instead of by the new substitution-based methodology, the picture would be bleaker.

Consumer confidence shows no recovery and is far below the level of a decade ago.

How does an economy recover without a recovery in consumer confidence?

Housing starts have remained flat since 2009 and are  below their previous peak.

Retail sales are  below the index level of January 2000.

Industrial production remains  below the index level of January 2000.

To repeat, the only indicator of economic recovery is the GDP deflated with an understated measure of inflation.

The US economy cannot recover, because the US economy depends on consumer expenditures for more than 70% of its activity. The offshoring of middle class jobs has stopped the rise in middle class income and caused a drop in consumer spending power.

The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan compensated for the absence of US consumer income growth with a policy of easy credit and a policy of driving up home prices with low interest rates. This policy allowed people to refinance their homes and to spend the inflated equity in their homes that Greenspan’s policy created.

In other words, an increase in consumer indebtedness and dissavings drove the economy in the place of the missing growth in consumer incomes.

Today, consumers are too indebted to borrow, and banks are too insolvent to lend. Therefore, there is no possibility of further debt expansion as a substitute for real income growth. An offshored economy is a dead and exhausted economy.

The consequences of a dead economy when the government is wasting trillions of dollars in wars of naked aggression and in bailouts of fraudulent financial institutions is a government budget that can only be financed by printing money.

The consequence of printing money when jobs have been moved offshore is an inflationary depression. This catastrophe could begin to unfold this year or in 2013. If Europe’s problems worsen, flight into dollars could delay sharp rises in US inflation until 2014.

The emperor has no clothes, and sooner or later this will be recognized.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached through his website