Tag Archives: quantitative easing

Fasten your seat belts…

1/30/1981 President Reagan and David Stockman meeting on the economy in the Oval Office

In his current subscription pitch and announcement for his new book, PEAK TRUMP: The Undrainable Swamp And The Fantasy Of MAGA, David Stockman lays out some startling facts, provides a cogent analysis, and makes some dire predictions. As President Ronald Reagan’s Budget Director and long-time political insider, Stockman should be heeded. Here are some excerpts:

“We are in a whole new ball game. The Deep State, the House Dems, the Mueller hit squad and the mainstream media are all going in for the kill.

“They are determined to take the Donald down and preserve the rule of the bipartisan establishment in favor of Empire abroad and Big Government, massive debt and Fed-fueled Bubble Finance at home.

“At the same time, the Donald is now practically handing them his political head on a platter. That’s because he has bombastically embraced the “big, fat, ugly bubble” that he so accurately harpooned during the campaign.

“But that bubble has now reached a fatal triple-top and is fixing to implode, and to take the American economy and Trump’s presidency down with it.”

Stockman says, “We are heading for the double whammy of a political/constitutional crisis and a thundering financial breakdown at the same time.” He argues that it was the failure of “the Washington/Wall Street consensus” that led to Trump’s victory in 2016, and that actions of the Federal Reserve have caused a massive asset bubble along with huge disparities of incomes and wealth.

He goes on to say that “just because Donald Trump targeted the symptoms correctly [during his campaign] that doesn’t mean he had a plan to fix the American economy or the skills and know-how to move the turgid, essentially paralyzed machinery of the Federal government.” Stockman  characterizes Trump as “a political flyweight, megalomaniacal incompetent and bile-ridden bully who stumbled into the Oval Office against all odds.” He decries the massive growth of government debt over the past four decades and boldly asserts that recession will hit the US economy before November 2020, and that “Wall Street, the US economy and the Donald’s fantasy of MAGA will come tumbling down with it.” Whether or not his timing is correct, it is clear that a political and economic shipwreck is just ahead.

Stockman decries the “bipartisan ruling class” which is “in favor of permanent war, unchained entitlements, fiscal incontinence, unsustainable debt-fueled household spending, rampant corporate financial engineering and Keynesian monetary repression and “wealth effects” based central banking that lies at the roots of our current economic malaise,” and referring to the Mueller Russiagate investigation and subsequent impeachment hearings, Stockman says, “the Donald’s fluke elevation to the Oval Office has finally caused the Deep State to come out of hiding and bare its fangs against American democracy itself.”

Stockman criticizes the Fed for “dithering” and delaying “normalization,” by which he presumably means raising interest rates and ending Fed purchases of government bonds. He also calls for “fiscal rectitude” (balanced budgets) on the part of the government, something that even his beloved Ronald Reagan was unable to pull off.

But what Stockman (and everyone else) fails to realize is that, under the interest-based debt-money regime that has prevailed throughout the modern era, it is impossible for national governments to consistently balance their budgets. Here’s why. Since money is created when banks make loans, and since interest is charged on those loans, aggregate debt increases simply with the passage of time. If growth in the money supply does not keep up with debt growth, many debtors will default and the economy will sink into recession. Thus, the banking system must find ways to keep people and corporation borrowing ever greater amounts of money. Over my lifetime I’ve seen banks roll out a succession of creative schemes. Starting with the liberalization of consumer credit following World War II (“Buy now; pay later”), then the widespread issuance of credit cards, then the introduction of “student loans,” then the easing of requirements for people to buy real estate, banks have gotten people to borrow more and more.

Then, when the private sector is all “loaned up” and cannot take on additional debt, the government must step in as “borrower of last resort.” By deficit spending, financed through the issuance of bonds, the national government, with the help of banks that buy those bonds, the money supply is expanded. (When banks buy government bonds they are making a loan to the government). And when all available funds have been sucked up, the Fed must step in as “lender of last resort” to itself buy up additional government bonds while keeping interest rates at acceptable levels. That approach, called “quantitative easing,” is what saved the global system of money and banking from total collapse in 2008 after the housing bubble burst. Thus, the government and the banking establishment are locked together in a deadly embrace and “dance of death” that is spiraling out of control.

It may very well end with a major decline and long drawn out recovery, as Stockman is predicting, but unless a new interest-free money system is implemented after the wreckage is cleared, the ultimate outcome may simply be another round of ever more extreme boom-bust cycles and political chaos.

The good news is that there are credit money innovations waiting in the wings, and now emerging, that can be rolled out, replicated, and networked together to usher in a “Butterfly Economy” and new world order of peace, justice, and human unity. For details about what the Butterfly Economy might look like, and how we might get there, see my video, The Butterfly Economy: How Communities are Building a New World From the Bottom Up, and my article, Reclaiming the Credit Commons: Towards a Butterfly Society. — t.h.g.

I was right about “quantitative tightening”

I was right about “quantitative tightening”
by Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Just about two years ago, someone sent me a link to an article titled, Why America’s Federal Reserve might make money disappear, that appeared in The Economist on April 17, 2017. The gist of the article was the predicted move by the Fed to unwind quantitative easing, that is, to sell off some of the securities that it bought in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The expansion of Fed holdings from the $850 billion it held just prior to the crisis, to the $4.5 trillion it held at the time the Economist article was written, was a desperate move that was taken to keep a flawed financial system from crashing down.

After I read that article, this is what I wrote to my correspondent on April 25, 2017:

Dear…,
Thanks for alerting me to that article in the Economist. Interesting.
The sub-head reads, “The Fed has signalled that it will soon reduce the size of its balance-sheet,” yet the article says nothing about how it signalled that move. It seems to be the author’s own speculation based on the Fed’s recent small interest rate increase. To wit, “Today, however, the Fed, now led by Janet Yellen (pictured), is raising short-term rates, as it tries to keep a lid on inflation. So—the logic goes—it should also shrink its balance-sheet, to push up long-term rates.”

You need to ask, why did the Fed load up on government bonds to begin with?

I am reminded of a story about a man who wanted to invest in the stock market. He opened an account with a broker who immediately steered him into some penny stock.

The dialog went something like this:
Broker: Welcome aboard. I can get you in on the ground floor of this new company. Their stock is really hot right now and it’s only four dollars a share.
Customer: Fine, buy me 1000 shares.

The next day the broker calls and says,
Broker: Hey, that stock is now up to eight dollars a share.
Customer: Wow, that’s great, buy me 2000 more shares.

A couple days later, the broker calls again and says,
Broker: Amazing, that stock is now up to 12 dollars a share.
Customer: Fantastic, sell all my shares.
Broker: To whom??

In other words, the Fed is locked in to their position, it’s a one way street and there’s no going back.

The answer is that there was not nearly enough available capital in private hands to fund the government budget deficits, at least not at interest rates that would not make the deficits even more gigantic than they have been.

As I’ve written in my books, there is a collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians that goes back more than 300 years. Governments get to spend more than their revenues, while banks get to lend money into circulation by making interest bearing loans. Yes, open market operations by the central banks do distort financial markets as QE critics claim, but that is the fundamental role of central banks, to manipulate financial markets. It’s the biggest scam in history. The central bank is the lender of last resort, and the government is the borrower of last resort to keep the money supply pumped up as bankers suck interest earnings into their capital account.

The Fed will be lucky to get away with small interest rate increases, but unloading their holdings of government bonds will not happen.

The entire article seems disingenuous, suggesting the possibility of actions that cannot be taken without severely unbalancing government budgets and contracting the money supply which will send the economy back into recession.

Real inflation rates are much greater than government figures indicate.  See the Chapwood index, http://www.chapwoodindex.com/, and Shadow Stats, http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts.

Also, follow Chris Martenson, https://www.peakprosperity.com/.
This interview is particularly pertinent, Oil, Gold, & The Collapse of Central Banking ~ Interview with Chris Martenson.

Regards,
Thomas

Now, on March 20, 2019, this Bloomberg article, Powell Signals Prolonged Fed Pause as Inflation Lags, Risks Loom, acknowledged that the Fed has thrown in the towel on tightening, saying, “Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said interest rates could be on hold for “some time” as global risks weigh on the economic outlook and inflation remains muted. … Officials also decided to slow the drawdown of the U.S. central bank’s bond holdings starting in May, then end them in September. Together, the moves complete the Fed’s 2019 pivot away from policy tightening and toward a markedly cautious stance.”

Surprise, surprise!

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Why Central Banks?

I have long argued that the interest-based, debt-money, central banking regime is both dysfunctional and destructive, and advocated for the decentralization of control over credit and the creation of exchange alternatives that use privately issued currencies and direct clearing of accounts among buyers and sellers.

There is a considerable body of literature that makes the case for free money and free banking, most of which has been ignored. These ideas have been overwhelmed by the economic and financial orthodoxy which stands in support of the political status quo which centralizes power and concentrates wealth.

For governments, central banks serve as “lenders of last resort,” enabling deficit spending through their purchase of government bonds and manipulation of interest rates, while for the banking cartel, government serves as “borrower of last resort,” sustaining their privilege of lending money into circulation and charging interest on it. Whenever this unsustainable system threatens to implode (as it did in the crisis of 2008), the government steps in to take bad (private) debts off the bankers’ hands and place them on the shoulders of the citizens (“bail-outs”). When the next bubble reaches its climax, we will likely see another round of “quantitative easing,” but when that proves to be inadequate, we will likely see some combination of inflation and outright asset confiscation known as “bail-ins” (partial seizure of bank balances).

In his recent review, Leonidas Zelmanovitz, highlights the main points in Vera Smith’s book, The Rationale of Central Banking and the Free Banking Alternative, which was published in 1936. Paraphrasing Smith, Zelmanovitz concludes that [Keynsian policies are] “not necessary to solve the problems they are purported to solve; most likely, they are part of the cause of the problem. Furthermore, there is an alternative, and that alternative is free banking,.” and, ” You can have good money without central banking and central banking does not guarantee good money.” You can read the entire review on the EconLib website.

Another classic source on free banking is Henry Meulen‘s, Free Banking (London: Macmillan, 1934). Free download available here. I will provide some excerpts from that source in a future post.


Central Bank Interventions and the Looming Catastrophe

In this recent interview below, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts describes the “house of cards” that is today’s global regime of money, banking and finance. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the major central banks around the world—the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan—have all been active in the securities markets, buying huge amounts of government and corporate bonds and shares of private companies, a process that is euphemistically called “quantitative easing.”

As Roberts points out, these actions are being taken to support the big banks. I agree, but it goes much deeper than that. The underlying objective is to preserve the global interest-based debt-money system which requires continual expansion if debt, an inherent systemic flaw which I call the “debt growth imperative.” The result of these market manipulations, of course, has been the inflation of market bubbles in bonds, stocks, and real estate, and the massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a small segment of the population.

Roberts does not mention it, but the recurrent waves of tax cuts for the rich likewise seem to be designed to keep these market bubbles pumped up. The wealthy class, for the most part, does not spend these windfall gains, they invest them in, you guessed it, bonds, stocks and real estate. If tax cuts were to go mainly to the lower and middle classes, what would they do with the money? They would surely spend much of it, which would stimulate consumption of consumer goods and restore the real economy, but much of it would go toward reducing the massive amounts of debt that these people carry and make it unnecessary for them to borrow even more. A system that requires perpetual expansion of debt cannot tolerate that.
Now, do you understand?

 

Bank of Japan announces plan for massive inflation of the Yen, as US Fed curtails dollar monetization (QE). What does it mean for you?

A recent article in the Guardian (UK) reports that the Japanese central bank has announced plans to “inject ¥80tn (£447bn) a year into the financial system, mainly through the purchase of government bonds, in a bid to ward off the threat of deflation.”

Thus, Japan takes over much of the burden of keeping a flawed global money system alive, as the US central bank (the Federal Reserve) ends its own program of dollar inflation.

Bloomberg provides a “quick take” on the FED policy saying, “It was the biggest emergency economic stimulus in history and now it’s over. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s once-in-a-lifetime program to buy immense piles of bonds, month after month, in an extraordinary effort to restart a recession-deadened economy came to an end in October after adding more than $3.5 trillion to the Fed’s balance sheet – an amount roughly equal to the size of the German economy. The bond-buying program, called quantitative easing or QE, had been controversial since its start in 2009, as had the Fed’s decision in 2013 to gradually reduce the monthly economic boost, a plan that became known as the taper. Whether the Fed tapered too soon, given global economic weakness, or too late, given signs of bubbles in some markets, was hotly debated. But even after the taper’s end the Fed continued to pump support into the economy the old-fashioned way, by holding its interest rates near zero.”

As I’ve pointed out before, “Quantitative easing” is simply a euphemism for inflation of the currency (mainly by central banks buying government bonds and other uncollectable debt). Other things being equal, currency inflation eventually leads to price inflation. But other things are not equal. The US has indeed seen significant inflation of prices in some sectors, especially food, but other prices are being kept down, primarily because of layoffs and underemployment, leaving consumers with lower incomes and reduced purchasing power. If income from wages and interest on savings are held down, people must either do without or borrow more money to maintain their levels of spending. The following table from the Federal Reserve shows the growth in consumer credit over the past few years.

Consumer Credit Outstanding ($ Billions)
2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
As of 8/31
2,552.8 2,647.4 2,755.9 2,923.6 3,097.9 3,225.3

These figures cover most short- and intermediate-term credit extended to individuals, excluding loans secured by real estate.

Those figures show a more than a 26% increase in consumer credit just over the past four and one half years, much of it high-interest credit card debt. Although credit card debt has declined somewhat from its 2009 peak, according to nerdwallet.com, falling indebtedness is largely due to defaults rather than repayment.

The same site reports that, in total, American consumers owe:

  • $11.63 trillion in debt, an increase of 3.8% from last year
  • $880.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.07 trillion in mortgages
  • $1,120.3 billion in student loans, an increase of 11.5% from last year

Central banks find currency inflation necessary in order to offset the reductions in the money supply caused by charging interest on money that banks create when they make “loans.” There is never enough money in circulation to enable repayment of the aggregate of principal plus accrued interest of money created as bank “loans.” Thus the “natural” tendency of the usury-based debt-money system is toward deflation. Central governments then must become the borrowers of last resort and central banks become the lenders of last resort as bankers and politicians continue their absurd dance that is a death spiral of recurrent and ever more extreme financial crises.

The real solution to our monetary, financial, and economic problems is to end the usury-based debt-money system. But the bankers, the rulers of the world, will not stand for that. By control of the money creation process, they have extended their power to tightly control the political process, as well. Thus, the wealth and purchasing power of the vast majority of people will continue to decline as the system continues to pump up the wealth and power of the few who control the money system, and their minions.

According to the Fed, between 2010 and 2013, “mean (overall average) family income rose 4 percent in real terms, but median income fell 5 percent, consistent with increasing income concentration during this period.” And “Families at the bottom of the income distribution saw continued substantial declines in average real incomes between 2010 and 2013, continuing the trend observed between the 2007 and 2010 surveys.”

So, what can people and communities do to counter these trends and regain control of their economic fortunes and enhance their political power?

Considering the dynamics of power that prevail in the so-called democratic countries today, reliance on the political process to effect systemic reforms seems futile. So, while it is necessary to continue to protest the status quo and reframe the political dialog, it is even more important to take action to rebuild society from the bottom upward. We must reduce our dependence upon the very systems that are being used to disempower us, of which the political money system is foremost.

That is not so daunting as it might first appear, and conceptually it is not very complicated. It is what my work of the past quarter century as been all about. The biggest difficulties have had to do with dispelling erroneous myths about money and banking and helping people to see beyond the orthodox. This, and the lack of adequate tools have retarded the process of taking promising alternatives to scale, but that is quickly changing as new technologies that enable moneyless trading become available.

But don’t sit idly by waiting for things to happen “out there.” Start with your own personal development and empowerment, while working to strengthen your various communities and networks, your city, state, and region. Some tips to get you started can be found here. –t.h.g.

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How do central banks control interest rates?

Question: How do central banks control interest rates?

Answer: By creating counterfeit money.

Of course, they will never admit that. They see their “purchases” of debt instruments, mainly those of governments, as being legitimate. But such purchases violate sound monetary principles, and even their legality is questionable.

The obvious question that must be asked is “Where do central banks get the money with which to buy those debt instruments?” The answer is, they do not “get” the money, they create it–by fiat. This is  their celebrated “quantitative easing,” which is actually currency inflation. The new “high powered money” thus created puts new “reserves” into the banking system, which banks use to multiply their own purchases of government bonds and other assets.

Without this “monetization” of debts by the banking system, newly offered debt instruments, like government bonds, would have to offer higher rates of interest to attract buyers from the general public.

Interest rates on the ever-increasing amounts of sovereign debts can only be kept low by this sort of central bank intervention. As I put it, central banks are the “buyers of last resort” for bonds that cannot be sold at artificially low rates of interest. The chart below show just how desperate the situation has become since the financial crisis of 2008.

Interest Rate Elephant In The Room

 

Initially, however,  in the case of the Fed, the purchases were of “junk” that the banks had created during the real estate bubble. That was the bailout that saved the banks but put the squeeze on people through foreclosures, layoffs, and loss of income on their savings.

As shown in this chart and others I posted previously, all he major central banks are doing the same thing, so foreign exchange rates are not too adversely affected–yet. But keep your eye on Brazil, Russia, India, China, and other countries that show signs that they may not be willing to play along./ t.h.g.

Global debt soars; no end in sight

I have often pointed out, but almost no economist is willing to admit, that central governments play an essential role as “borrowers of last resort” to keep a flawed system of money and banking from collapsing. In their collusive arrangement with the banking elite, government’s debts will be monetized through the actions of their respective central banks. This is the process of currency inflation, which is now euphemistically called “quantitative easing.”

The empirical data makes this plain to anyone who cares to look at it and put two and two together. The Bank for International Settlements has just reported that global debt has increased more than 40 percent in just the past six years. You can find more details about that in this recent Bloomberg article: Global Debt Exceeds $100 Trillion as Governments Binge, BIS Says.

When debt growth, fueled by compound interest, hits the wall of physical reality, something’s got to give.