Linking ≠ endorsement.
20) About COMER
⇧ Why the federal reserve will not raise rates in 2015 – OC Housing News
Our consistent readers will no doubt remember that we post articles by Larry Roberts on occasion and do so because we often agree with him but also because even where we don’t, we know he’s never playing games. He is always serious and sincere in his beliefs and what he’s putting forth for your consideration. Also, and not least, he backs up his articles with links to other articles and with data all while discussing at least both sides of the given issue or issues.
This article of his is a perfect case in point.
Read his article and consider the following. Then finish reading our brief take on it just below.
The political left will embrace inflation specifically because it reduces the value of wealth. One of the biggest problems of modern times (according to the political left anyway) is the huge divide between the wealthy and the middle class. Sustained inflation reduces this problem by raising wages for the middle class and reducing the value of stored wealth. Judgements about the morality of this approach aside, it’s politically palatable, and therefore, I believe that’s how the future will play out.
We don’t disagree but want to point out that the “political left” is not a monolith. We aren’t suggesting for a moment that Larry thinks it is or had a momentary lapse in his article. We take it that he means that on balance, the political left (the part in positions of power) will embrace inflation.
Why does that matter? Well, obviously were suggesting that given the spectrum from right to left within the left side of the whole spectrum and allowing for the dimension or plane of anarchy to totalitarianism, there are plenty of people on “the left” or “of the left” who don’t embrace inflation but rather see the hyper control of inflation (2%) by the monetarists as a means of keeping the working class weak for the sake of the elite capitalists (starting with the bankers themselves), keeping systemic unemployment high enough (5%) so wages will remain low because more unemployed people will continue competing for fewer jobs so the bargaining power will remain with capital, that is ownership, so those owners, particularly the consolidating, utmost elite, may continue taking an ever-increasing share of the profits from productivity from labor.
That is not to dismiss deflationary or hyper-inflationary concerns. They are real though artificial. What it is to suggest is that while the Fed has a dual mandate (inflation/deflation control plus maximizing employment), it ought to err on the side of fuller employment (especially right now), which is also what Larry Roberts is suggesting and what Larry Summers is suggesting, as Larry Roberts pointed out.
What could, and actually should (ethically speaking), happen instead? The power of the elite should be radically reduced in favor of the “99%.” I placed that in quotes because there is no hard and fast line of demarcation. It simply a number to conjure up the overall concept. It is also a clever political symbol, as it joins even the upper-middle and ever increasingly, the lower-upper class to even the lowest financial class, those in utter poverty in American terms, the homeless sleeping rough and without the facilities and resources to even take advantage of “food stamps,” people often thrown out of mental-health institutions, even though they truly needed that care from the rest of us collectively through governmental fiscal support (private charity wasn’t cutting it), and against whom laws have been passed to make sitting or lying down in public parks or other places (city sidewalks, etc.) illegal for them and people giving them food in public illegal and on and on, a disgrace and a glaring show of how our current American system stinks, frankly. Out of sight, out of mind really is hard-hearted, and those who support it ought not be in charge in government or business.
Tax cuts for the rich did not do what was promised, not even close, and never will. Destroying the bargaining power of the classes below the capitalists (owners of private for-profit enterprises) did not do what was promised, not even close, and never will.
Finally, the Phillips Curve (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillips_ curve) is typically employed via too few variables, such as the labor-participation rate. That’s far from the only apt criticism of its use, especially with this agonizingly slow recovery (intentionally).
We’ll leave it there for now.
⇧ Local Politics Are Fracturing European Unity – NYTimes.com
The euro had been enshrined in a treaty but not yet come to life in the autumn of 1997, when Martin Feldstein, the influential president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, published an essay arguing that European leaders’ hopes that a monetary union would foster greater harmony and peace in a Continent repeatedly ravaged by wars were misplaced.
It “would be more likely to lead to increased conflicts,” wrote Mr. Feldstein, a former chief economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
War within Europe, “would be abhorrent but not impossible,” he added. “The conflicts over economic policies and interference with national sovereignty could reinforce longstanding animosities based on history, nationality and religion.”
Needless to say, Mr. Feldstein’s sobering forecast was widely derided in Europe and even treated as beyond the pale by a number of economic commentators in the United States, including the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.
It doesn’t look so outrageous these days. True, not all of his observations hit the bull’s-eye. He expected Europe’s monetary union to proceed toward deeper unification, including a common foreign and defense policy, and even a unified military. Interestingly, he feared a more assertive Europe might go to war with Russia if it were to invade Ukraine.
You can’t rightly credit Martin Feldstein for much here.
Had the EU done what he thought it would (short of a problem over Ukraine), it could have done what Angela Merkel is suggesting right now: an EU trade union (free-trade zone) with the Russian Federation (provided the Ukrainian conflict is resolved).
The EU could always have unified and done so with Russia rather than against it.
The US is unified to a level where Martin Feldstein isn’t speaking against such unification and where the US is called a melting pot.
What is the argument against the EU being more closely integrated, that the US is exceptional in its ability to get beyond ethnicity? If so, that’s nonsensical to us; and it’s perhaps deliberate false propaganda to keep Europe under US Atlantacism, where the US is to always utterly dominate over smaller governmental units, such as individual, non-unified European states.
⇧ Thoughts on Monetary Policy and Community Banks | Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
This is a perfect follow-up to the article above by Larry Roberts and our comments on it.
Recall that monetary stimulus pushes both employment and prices in the same direction. By providing somewhat more stimulus, the FOMC could have stimulated at least somewhat more employment growth, without creating undue inflation. I am sure that this faster employment growth would have been welcomed by the American public. So, even though employment grew, it seems that there was an improvement opportunity: The FOMC should have facilitated even faster employment growth.
My summary assessment is that the FOMC underperformed in the past three years with respect to the price stability mandate and the employment mandate. I’m sometimes asked, “What concrete actions could the FOMC have taken to provide additional stimulus?” I think one concrete action would have been not to reduce stimulus. In mid-2013, the FOMC began communicating about the eventual elimination of its asset purchase program that took place from December 2013 and October 2014. These communications, and the follow-up actions, served as a tightening of monetary policy. Accordingly, they were associated with sharp increases in market interest rates and sharp reductions in the rate of home mortgage refinancing.
Admittedly, there has been considerable skepticism over the course of the past five years about the ability of monetary or fiscal policy to stimulate employment growth. I have expressed some of those concerns myself on occasion. But look at how rapidly employment actually grew in 2014! The job market is—finally—on a highly desirable upward trajectory. We are more likely to continue on that welcome trajectory if the FOMC does not tighten monetary policy in 2015.
You see, keeping inflation low keeps unemployment higher than it has to be to keep inflation from running away.
Now, who would want that? The answer is those capitalists who want to keep their share of the profits from productivity extremely high by not having to pay higher wages and salaries to everyone else to maintain or increase that productivity.
It’s very shortsighted, but they plan on dying before that becomes a problem. Meanwhile, there’s at least a lost generation or two that would otherwise not have to have been lost (economically oppressed).
Is that a “leftist” view? Yes, but it’s correct and is ducked by the elite capitalists for the most part. Occasionally someone of their ilk will say something that causes his “peers” to cringe and want him to shut up, such as Warren Buffett pointing to his secretary’s higher taxes relative to income than he pays in taxes relative to his income.
Please note that Narayana Kocherlakota also mentioned other variables concerning the labor force, just as we did above. You may be wondering if we simply read Narayana Kocherlakota’s speech first and “stole” from it. The answer is that we wrote our commentary on Larry Robert’s article before reading Narayana Kocherlakota’s speech or even knowing he had made it….
The fact is that Narayana Kocherlakota has come around more to our way of thinking rather than the other way around. We’re glad he did and hope you will too if you’re not already there.
⇧ New Jersey Stepping Up Multifamily Investment – CoStar Group
The New Jersey Division of Investment is proposing an investment of up to $300 million in a value-add multifamily investment account managed by New York-based TGM Associates.
⇧ An Unconventional Truth by Nouriel Roubini – Project Syndicate
Nouriel Roubini, Professor, NYU’s Stern School of Business; Chairman, Roubini Global Economics:
…rebellion among pseudo-economists and market hacks in recent years. This assortment of “Austrian” economists, radical monetarists, gold bugs, and Bitcoin fanatics has repeatedly warned that such a massive increase in global liquidity would lead to hyperinflation, the US dollar’s collapse, sky-high gold prices, and the eventual demise of fiat currencies at the hands of digital krypto-currency counterparts.
None of these dire predictions has been borne out by events. Inflation is low and falling in almost all advanced economies; indeed, all advanced-economy central banks are failing to achieve their mandate — explicit or implicit — of 2% inflation, and some are struggling to avoid deflation.
Even the International Monetary Fund has correctly pointed out that part of the solution for a world with too much supply and too little demand needs to be public investment in infrastructure, which is lacking — or crumbling — in most advanced economies and emerging markets (with the exception of China). With long-term interest rates close to zero in most advanced economies (and in some cases even negative), the case for infrastructure spending is indeed compelling. But a variety of political constraints — particularly the fact that fiscally strapped economies slash capital spending before cutting public-sector wages, subsidies, and other current spending — are holding back the needed infrastructure boom.
All of this adds up to a recipe for continued slow growth, secular stagnation, disinflation, and even deflation. That is why, in the absence of appropriate fiscal policies to address insufficient aggregate demand, unconventional monetary policies will remain a central feature of the macroeconomic landscape.
⇧ Demand for government-backed FHA loans spikes
…applications for a loan to purchase a home fell 2 percent.
They are going about stimulating housing the wrong way.
⇧ Calculated Risk: A few comments on Inflation, the Unemployment Rate and Demographics
Although monetary policy works with a lag, as Krugman notes, no one knows when inflation will pick up – and the risks of raising too soon far outweigh the risks of waiting too long.
I’d like to add on inflation that there might be a demographics component, as I noted early this year:
I expect the FOMC will wait until core inflation is clearly moving back towards their 2% target – and hopefully wait until wage growth is increasing.
Bill is good at thinking demographics. We think older folks who were hit by the Lesser Depression would like to get back into the labor force before they’re too old or ill to do it.
It’s a shame that some people don’t care about that but only want high unemployment so they can take the lion’s share of labor productivity.
⇧ President’s Sequestration Relief Would Ease Austerity Without Raising Deficits — Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
David Reich and Joel Friedman:
The President’s budget would provide relief from “sequestration” cuts to non-defense and defense appropriations in 2016 and future years to allow increased funding in areas such as education, scientific research, infrastructure, and national security. It would fully offset these restorations by alternate deficit reduction, consistent with the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and the sequestration relief enacted for previous years on a bipartisan basis. In fact, the President’s alternate deficit reduction measures would likely be more effective than sequestration in improving the long-term fiscal outlook.
Housing assistance. The budget includes $512 million to restore 67,000 Housing Choice Vouchers lost due to sequestration since March 2013. Within this total, 30,000 vouchers would be targeted to homeless families, homeless veterans, survivors of domestic and dating violence, and families that need rental assistance to reunite with children in the foster care system. This is part of a $1.8 billion increase in tenant-based rental assistance, with the remainder going to maintain and effectively administer in 2016 the vouchers currently in use.
⇧ [Oil Price] Dead cat bounce? – YouTube
Oil’s dramatic resurgence carried on for another day, with big spill-over effects in other markets. John Authers in New York asks whether this signals that the oil market has really hit bottom – or whether this is just a ‘dead cat bounce’.
We’ve heard that the US is asking the Saudis to cut production. We haven’t followed up on that yet to fact check it (as of 2/4/15 @ 7 AM PST).
If it’s true, there could be a whole host of reasons.
The US could be concerned about the loss of US production. It could be interested in jerking Russia and other nations around. It could be concerned with the Saudis being seen as being too powerful in the US and about closed-door complaints from anti-Saudi forces. Then there’s this that suggests the Saudis might have floated the idea with the Russians as a carrot to get Russia to stop backing Assad: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/saudi s-higher-oil-prices-russia-syria-support -2015-2
Those are just a few possibilities.
The general US consumer won’t like the rising gas prices regardless. The Pentagon might, as it doesn’t want to be beholden to foreign sources to run its military hardware while it transitions to new fueling methods (not easy).
⇧ Mark Hafner – YouTube
Mark Hafner, Senior Managing Director at Greystar, talks about his firm’s foray with Mexican apartments and student housing in the U.K.
⇧ Jay Lybik – YouTube
Jay Lybik, vice president, market research at Equity Residential, gives MHN the rundown on supply and demand fundamentals for 2015.
⇧ Sittenfeld wants expanded registration of foreclosed properties – Cincinnati Business Courier
The program, which has led to about 1,450 registered properties, has resulted in the number of degrading properties dropping from 30 percent of those registered to 4.5 percent, Sittenfeld said.
The program can be improved if the city expands it to close loopholes, such as properties in which someone has bought the tax lien to the property but not the property itself, Sittenfeld said. He also wants revenue from the program to be able to be used for hazard abatements, demolitions and stabilization work.
Works for us.
⇧ How a Teacher’s Pension Fund Became a Real Estate Giant | Commercial Observer
TIAA-CREF is far from the only pension fund that’s active in real estate. The California Public Employee Retirement System (Calpers), for instance, is investing $7 billion in commercial real estate, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. And the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) recently partnered with MHP Real Estate Services to buy 180 Maiden Lane for $470 million through the pension’s subsidiary, Clarion Partners.
Even so, the real estate plays of those and other pension funds are dwarfed by TIAA-CREF’s portfolio.
⇧ TREASURIES-U.S. yields jump after ADP U.S. jobs data | Reuters
U.S. Treasuries yields rose on Wednesday after the January reading on a gauge on U.S. private jobs creation supported the view of steady domestic employment growth and revived bets the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates in mid-2015.
The ADP National Employment Report said U.S. private employers added 213,000 jobs in January, falling short of the 225,000 increase forecast among economists polled by Reuters. It was also the lowest monthly gain since September.
The smaller-than-expected increase in January was offset by an upward revision of the December increase by 12,000 to 253,000.
Right now, we’re on a roller coaster ride. Oil is the reason. We can only take a wait-and-see approach.
⇧ Corporate America Feels Downdraft While Recovery Lifts Households – Bloomberg Business
Corporate America’s pain is U.S. consumers’ gain.
Company profits — and their shares — have been sideswiped by tumbling energy prices, a strengthening dollar and rising labor costs. Those same forces are lifting consumers’ spirits as they pay less for gasoline at the pump and for imported suits at the mall while reaping the benefits of a tighter jobs market.
“There are strong cross-currents in the economy” as households prosper and businesses suffer, said David Hensley, director of global economics for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. “The balance, though, is positive for growth.”
Cross-currents with Yo-Yo prices and geopolitical land mines….
⇧ 250 vases stolen from cemeteries in central Oklahoma – Times Union
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the theft of 30 bronze vases from a Norman cemetery, and officials say more than 200 other vases have been stolen recently in central Oklahoma.
Cemetery plots and such vases are often covered under homeowners insurance. The issue would be with theft and what’s called “mysterious disappearance.” Typically, there needs to be at least one sign of breaking and entering or forceful exit or the like. Therefore, we wonder what signs of theft there were other than that the vases are simply gone. Were they anchored and is there damage from removing them?
⇧ Researchers link smoke from fires to tornado intensity
They say the smoke lowered the base of the clouds and increased wind shear, defined as wind speed variations with respect to altitude. Together, those two conditions increased the likelihood of more severe tornadoes. The effects of smoke on these conditions had not been previously described, and the study found a novel mechanism to explain these interactions.
⇧ Tsipras gets support from Italy on the road to Brussels – YouTube
Greece’s new prime minister is on a tour and today he arrives in Brussels, bringing his ideas on Greece’s economic plight to the heart of the EU, but on Tuesday he got a welcome boost from founder member Italy,
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, also keen to end austerity policies, promised support.
“I strongly believe that there are conditions to find an agreement between the Greek authorities and the European institutions. We believe that each of us in our countries should make reforms,” he said.
⇧ SR 356 – Good News From Canada – YouTube
Okay, this is an amazing development. We’ll post four in a row here on this for you. First, here’s Bill Still’s video on it. Bill is a huge bond-free national-currency advocate, as are we.
⇧ About COMER
So, here’s COMER — Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform, which Bill Still referred to in his video above.
COMER is an international publishing and education resource based in Toronto, Canada, and is comprised of people who are concerned about the destabilizing effects current economic and monetary policies have had, and are having, on the citizens of Canada and other countries.
⇧ Banking on serious reform | Orillia Packet and Times
We wanted to verify whether there’s a news blackout on this development, so we Googled Google News on it and came up with a sole source: Orillia Packet and Times.
Why do Canadians allow private banks to profit off our public debt when the Bank of Canada is legislated to provide low- or no-interest loans for human capital and infrastructure spending? The Bank of Canada has not issued such loans since 1974, after it funded Canada out of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the infrastructure boom, universal health care, universities and colleges, CBC and more. Monday, three judges upheld the previous ruling of justiciability. The next step is to determine the statutes of the Bank of Canada Act and if they have been subverted by conspiracy.
⇧ Update COMER VS BOC Jan 2015 [Video]
Finally, here’s a video of the attorney in the case, Rocco Galati. More power to him. Unfortunately, we didn’t see an embed feature on the video post. Please click through to watch it.
Breaking News, Update on the COMER VS. Bank of Canada law suit,Jan 26 2015 Today COMER (Committee on Monetary and Economic Reform EST. 1986) and constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati won yet another round of appeals …
⇧ Household Formation within the “Boomerang Generation” [It’s Mostly Student Debt] | Liberty Street Economics
Zachary Bleemer, Meta Brown, Donghoon Lee, and Wilbert van der Klaauw:
Why might young people increasingly reside with their parents? They may be unable to find employment, they may be saving their income to pay down increasing levels of student debt, or they may be unable to afford the rent for an apartment in the face of lower income or higher housing prices.
…while local economic growth, reflected in rising youth employment and escalating house prices, has mixed consequences for youth independence, the increasing magnitude of student debt among college graduates appears to be driving young people home and keeping them there.
So, residential managers, landlords, developers, agents, and others dependent upon the residential sector should favor funding college the way public high schools are funded now. That would be certainly doable if we were to convert from the bond-based currency to a debt-free currency. It would be great across-the-board for the economy.
The US would have the best-educated population on the planet, especially if we were to extend the funding to include graduate school, which we should and easily could without price inflation or deflation of the evil kinds.
⇧ Fed optimism could cost the economy dearly – CBS News
Mark Thoma, macroeconomist and time-series econometrician at the University of Oregon:
As forecasts were revised over time the Fed eventually did better, though many observers don’t believe the Fed was aggressive enough at any stage.
The risk now is that the Fed will repeat these mistakes.
Why has the Fed been too optimistic? The researchers find that “Overall, the evidence raises doubts about the theory of ‘rational expectations.’ This theory, which is the dominant paradigm in macroeconomics, assumes that peoples’ forecasts exhibit no systematic bias towards optimism or pessimism. Allowing for departures from rational expectations in economic models would be a way to more accurately capture features of real-world behavior.”
This research is a sign that perhaps the Fed is finally learning its lesson. Inflation has not been a problem, in fact it’s far below target, and economic growth has not lived up to the Fed’s expectations in the past.
The problem with the current use of rational expectations is that it’s way too static. This is why we been advocating real-time stats, a real-time all-items PCE and beyond: actually all transactions running through the US Treasury (which would be the only bank: public and non-profit) as Central Bank and via cyber bond-free (no interest, no national debt) currency. There’s more to it than that, but we’ve discussed our ideas at some length both on this blog and elsewhere. The reception has been dazed.
On Mark Thoma, while we agree with Mark the vast majority of the time, what we find about him is that he may very well be the best economist we know at plain-language teaching to the masses. He has to use some jargon, but he really does take what other economists would take hours to explain poorly and turns the same subject matter into relatively short, to-the-point, clearly stated, useful information. He’s also the best economics blog-post aggregator we know, though sometimes we think some of the posts he links are in the farm league at best. Mark, himself, is a major leaguer.
⇧ Social mobility barely exists. So don’t expect it to solve inequality | Gregory Clark | Comment is free | The Guardian
How do we know we cannot change the rate of social mobility? One piece of evidence is what happened to social mobility rates as England moved from the pre-industrial world of squire and servant, to the modern noisy meritocracy of the rude boys of finance. What happened as the political franchise was extended in the early 19th century? What happened as mass public education was introduced later in the century? What happened as education, healthcare and pensions for the poor were financed by taxation of the incomes of the wealthier? The answer is that social mobility remained at its slow pre-industrial pace. Tracking the status of rare surnames across generations we can measure social mobility rates for wealth and education in England from 1670 to 2012. The descendants of earlier elites only become average after about 10 generations, or 300 years. Status persists as strongly in the Cameron meritocracy as in pre-industrial England. Lineage is destiny. At birth, most of your social outcome is predictable from your family history.
…while mobility seems governed by a social physics that defies easy intervention, the magnitude of social inequalities varies considerably across societies, and can be strongly influenced by social institutions.
That’s because the changes were not radical enough. They were not radical enough because radical changes were blocked by the elite, self-rewarded class (first established via violence and still maintained by violent coercion and the threat thereof) that only allowed change to the point where violent revolution wouldn’t occur, such as the violent revolution in France, which was more than overkill.
Burkean conservativism is a failure while the French Revolution was also. We don’t need to use either in obtaining the proper radical-change, proper outcome lifting all boats higher than the highest boat now.
⇧ Where Are the Jobs? [What’s the Real Solution?]
Now is the best time in recent years to be a job seeker. After falling steeply during the Great Recession, the job openings rate has fully recovered; similarly, after spiking during the recession, layoffs have fallen back to their normal rate. The pace of hiring is also nearly back to pre-recession levels.
White-collar industries—led by finance, health care, education, and professional services—are the best places to be looking for work. These sectors enjoy low unemployment, lots of openings, and strong compensation.
We can do better, much, much better.
Even in the best of times, some people are bound to be temporarily out of work as they switch jobs. Transitions are not always smooth, and it can take some time for prospective employees and employers to come together. One job does not always end with the next neatly in-hand; in the career relay race, baton drops are common. Interviews and paperwork can stretch out over weeks; sorting out schedules and juggling family obligations can lengthen the process. And some workers must undergo training or licensing before they complete transitions.
People experiencing these types of delays are known as the frictionally unemployed, because, like marbles rolling across a sandy surface, they are hitting small bumps that slow their journey.
Well, that’s why we need the public sector to put people back to work quickly while they seek other employment that may pay more (if we are to retain the mixed-economy model and do better for the people in general). It’s a plank in the Modern Money Theory (MMT) platform.
…leisure and hospitality—the fastest growing major blue-skill industry—is the worst sector. The average leisure and hospitality worker makes just $18,900 a year (gross, before taxes). This is not even enough to keep a family of three a bove the poverty level ($19,790 in 2014). Similarly, retail, the largest blue-skill sector, is second-worst in terms of pay, with average annual earnings of $27,700.
…higher-paying industries have seen faster relative earnings growth. The notion of widening inequality is one that has seeped into the popular consciousness in recent years….
The rich are getting richer. For every $10,000 in additional average weekly earnings an industry had in 2007, its average earnings grew by an extra 2 percentage points during the six-year period. For example, the average employee working in retail, a low-paying industry, earned $28,300 for a full year of work in 2007; after adjusting for inflation, the same employee actually made less, just $27,700, last year. By contrast, the average information worker earned $59,900 in 2007, among the highest of any industry. During the next six years, the advantage of information workers over poorly-paid workers only grew, with average earnings increasing 9.4 percent, or $5,600 in real terms. The same is true of other white-collar sectors, like finance (a gain of $4,500) and professional services (a gain of $3,600). Like so many other labor market indicators, this link between earnings and earnings growth reflects rising inequality.
⇧ Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government And Wants It Secret | The New Republic
Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. In letters delivered to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the last month, Citi, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley seek exemption from a shareholder proposal, filed by the AFL-CIO labor coalition, which would force them to identify all executives eligible for these financial rewards, and the specific dollar amounts at stake. Critics argue these “golden parachutes” ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.
The handouts recently received attention when Antonio Weiss, the former investment banker at Lazard now serving as counselor to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, acknowledged in financial disclosures that he would be paid $21 million in unvested income and deferred compensation upon exiting the company for a job in government. Weiss withdrew from consideration to become the undersecretary for domestic finance under pressure from financial reformers, but the counselor position—which does not require congressional confirmation—probably still entitles him to the $21 million. The terms of the award are part of a Lazard employee agreement that nobody has seen.
These payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers “a lump sum cash payment” for government service, for example.
… Critics wonder whether the gifts are intended to fill the government with friendly faces who will act in their former employer’s interests.
They also deny the existence of golden parachutes, arguing that these officers would receive the same treatment no matter how they left the company, as long as it wasn’t for a competitor.
…Citigroup actually cites an article by New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, celebrating the golden parachute payments as a way to “encourage public service,” as part of their argument. “The piece is nothing more than an opinion,” the AFL-CIO responds, and “irrelevant to the standard set by Rule 14a-8.”
No-action letters from Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley argue mostly the same thing, that they have substantially implemented the proposal already and that the golden parachutes don’t exist. Corporations frequently build on each other’s no-action letter arguments. “If it works, they do it more and more, and broaden the scope of what the commission will kick out,” said Slavkin Corzo.
If stymied on disclosure, action could move to Congress, with legislative action to ban these windfall payments that make the revolving door more attractive. “At a time when people are worried about the over-representation of Wall Street in policymaking positions, we see that the revolving door is baked into the compensation structure,” said Michael Smallberg of POGO, “It’s worth considering whether these provisions should be banned altogether.”
It’s plausible deniability, but we really do know that dog-eat-dog crony capitalists aren’t interested in “public service” for its own sake.
⇧ Making Sense of the Phillips Curve | Uneasy Money
This is a prime example of an article that has important information to offer but is not very accessible (it presupposes quite an economics education).
We’re not suggesting a lack of intelligence on the part of all outsiders here. We actually understand the article. Maybe we should get out more. (just kidding)
We must say that “equilibrium” is not real. It is always and everywhere (short of Heaven) simultaneously a probability and moving target: the universe and only as we think we know it. In short, all economic models are scientifically speaking, approximations from the human perspective. We write that before having delved into the article.
Ah, after having read the article now, we’re sure Lipsey and the article’s author, David Glasner, get that.
David Glasner, economist at the Federal Trade Commission:
Lipsey acknowledges a crucial misstep in constructing the Aggregate Demand/Aggregate Supply framework: assuming a unique macroeconomic equilibrium, an assumption that implied the existence of a unique natural rate of unemployment. Keynesians won the battle, providing a perfectly respectable theoretical explanation for stagflation, but, in doing so, they lost the war to Friedman, paving the way for the malign ascendancy of New Classical economics, with which New Keynesian economics became an effective collaborator.
… The assumption that there is a natural rate of unemployment “ground out,” as Milton Friedman put it so awkwardly, “by the Walrasian system of general equilibrium equations” simply lacks any theoretical foundation.
The article fits in very nicely with our earlier observations well above (first few links in this blog post) concerning the Phillips Curve.
⇧ Dean Baker: New Leftist Greek Leaders Being “Very Smart” to Challenge German-Imposed Austerity | Democracy Now!
Juan González: Dean Baker [economist, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research], you’ve written that Greece needs an exit option. Could you explain?
Dean Baker: …a model here being Argentina in 2001. They broke with their link to the dollar, defaulted on their debt, December 2001. By the fall of 2002, they were growing rapidly. And by 2003, they made up all the lost ground and then some. I don’t know if Greece would rebound quite that quickly, but that was a very impressive performance.
And I think it’s important to hold that out, because that’s something that would scare Germany, not so much because they care about Greece, but if Greece were to do that and rebound, there will be tremendous pressure on Spain, probably Italy, other countries, to also leave the euro, and Germany’s going to be sitting there with a rump eurozone at the end of the day.
That’s exactly the position we’ve been taking. Europe is Germany’s to lose by not radically changing policies and practices vis-a-vis the rest of Europe. Germany must dump the Austrian School of Economics approach or utterly fail the European Union and eurozone.
Europe needs radical integration and radical democratization. It needs its nation-states to be even closer than the states of the United States are to each other while getting completely off the usury (interest/debt) train.
⇧ Coppola Comment: What on earth is the ECB up to?
Varoufakis met ECB chief Mario Draghi yesterday and he meets German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble today. In between those two meetings the ECB pulled the waiver. Why? Well, Schäuble is openly hostile to Varoufakis’s ideas of debt relief and an end to austerity, while Draghi has so far kept very quiet (though his deputy Vitor Constancio has been more forthright). Schäuble will no doubt be looking for explicit backing from the ECB. Should this action be taken as the ECB’s governing council signalling whose side it is on?
If the collapse of the Greek banks precipitated the disorderly exit of Greece from the Euro, there would be significant losses for the ECB itself, the other Eurozone governments and probably the IMF. The impact on the European economy would be devastating and it would send shock waves around the world. And it would set an important precedent. If one member state can leave, so can others. How can the ECB have any credibility as guardian of the Euro if it is seen to be actively forcing out member states?
…the UK’s George Osborne, while calling for the Greek finance minister to “act responsibly”, also criticised the Eurozone for its lack of a coherent plan for jobs and growth. Calling for the two sides to strike a deal, he warned that the standoff between Greece and the Eurozone is the “greatest risk facing the global economy”. This seems like hyperbole to me, given the continuing crisis in Ukraine and military game-playing in the South China Sea, not to mention the Islamic insanity in the Middle East. But it all helps the Greek cause.
Varoufakis is gambling that the Eurozone, and more particularly Germany, will not dare to push him off the cliff because of the consequences for international political relations. If Germany was seen to force Greece out of the Euro by refusing to negotiate, it would become an international pariah. There are already voices reminding Germany of its own debt forgive ness in 1953, and anti-austerity movements in many other Eurozone countries would only be encouraged by Germany and/or the ECB looking like bullies. Forcing Greece out of the Euro could result in the disorderly unravelling of the whole thing.
Frances Coppola gets quite a bit of it but not why George Osborne called it the “greatest risk facing the global economy.”
He means the greatest risk to neoliberalism (his ideology), and it’s very close to being that (for the moment).
⇧ The ECB Has Shaken The Eurozone’s Utopian Foundations
Wow! Ann Pettifor:
While failing in their primary mandate, ECB technocrats bypassed their European political masters and last night flouted wider EU Treaty objectives for social and political stability and for solidarity amongst member states.
But this arrogance, this disregard for the governments and the political will of the Greek people in particular and the peoples of Europe in general — is wholly in line with the Maastricht Treaty’s utopian vision for the Eurozone. As Wynne Godley argued way back in 1992, the architecture of the Eurozone is premised on the notion that economies are
self-righting organisms which never under any circumstances need management at all.
This machinery was made to fit a financier-friendly ideology based on contempt for democratic government. According to this ideology governments are ‘rent-seeking’ and should be marginalized. Economic policy (monetary and fiscal) must be privatized in the hands of financial markets that, surprisingly, are regarded as having no such ‘rent-seeking’ instincts.
Today’s Eurozone’s architecture and associated economic policies are not different in intent from the “fetters” or “corset” that was the Gold Standard, and that regarded the role of governments with the same contempt. They are the same policies that led 1930s Europe into unbearable degradation, poverty, and misery. Today these policies once again threaten to unleash dangerous tensions. Society — locally, nationally, and internationally — is making ‘concerted efforts to protect itself from the market’. History is repeating itself. Current resistance to market liberalism echoes past resistance. As Karl Polanyi argued in his great, and increasingly relevant, work, The Great Transformation, the second ‘great transformation’ of the 20th century, the rise of fascism, was a direct result of the first ‘great transformation’ — the rise of market liberalism.
Just as the collapse of the Gold Standard in Britain and the United States led to a dramatic pre-war recovery in those countries, so the collapse of the utopian blueprint that is the Eurozone may herald good news for Europe’s economies, for its thousands of firms and for its millions of unemployed. Above all it may revive popular faith in a united, peaceful European Union based on collaboration, shared responsibility and solidarity.
Indeed we may yet come to thank ECB technocrats for shaking the very foundations of the current, ill-constructed Eurozone.
We can’t add a thing to that. Go Ann!
⇧ Inside investment: Oil — let it flow, let it flow /Euromoney magazine
Defaulting companies are as inevitable as the business cycle. When sovereigns fail, the consequences are ugly, but the world soon moves on. Serial defaulters find that capital markets are open to them again if they pursue broadly sensible IMF-approved policies.
What about broadly sensible environmental policies to end Anthropogenic Global Warming? Don’t let it flow. Change to clean alternatives that won’t add to AGW and won’t irradiate us with isotopes.
⇧ Debt and (not much) deleveraging | McKinsey & Company
Since the Great Recession, global debt has increased by $57 trillion, outpacing world GDP growth.
Government debt is unsustainably high in some countries. Since 2007, government debt has grown by $25 trillion. It will continue to rise in many countries, given current economic fundamentals. Some of this debt, incurred with the encouragement of world leaders to finance bailouts and stimulus programs, stems from the crisis. Debt also rose as a result of the recession and the weak recovery. For six of the most highly indebted countries, starting the process of deleveraging would require implausibly large increases in real-GDP growth or extremely deep fiscal adjustments. To reduce government debt, countries may need to consider new approaches, such as more extensive asset sales, one-time taxes on wealth, and more efficient debt-restructuring programs.
… Debt undoubtedly remains an essential tool for financing economic growth. But how it is created, used, monitored, and (when necessary) discharged still needs improvement.
You see there the false idea that there is no viable, even better, alternative to debt and usury.
That’s been the problem. The world needs to have the discussion. We’re pushing for it and have been for years with increasing success.
⇧ The Promise of the $20,000 House [Less land costs] – CityLab
We like it and think it would work for rentals, but we’re concerned about the open foundation, which may not get by many insurers. Of course, it seems it wouldn’t take much to place it on at least a closed foundation, if required by the preferred insurance carrier.
Roof insulation is a question too.
It would beat sleeping rough all the time though!
⇧ As Greece Rebels, the Notion of Debt Forgiveness Returns – NYTimes.com
…talk of slashing the government debt loads of European countries, starting with Greece, is back. For all the opposition, the idea has resurfaced with a vengeance in recent days as the new government in Athens, facing a cash squeeze and aiming to make life easier for its citizens, looks for immediate ways to reduce what it owes. The pressure on Greece increased on Wednesday when the European Central Bank cut off direct funding to Greek banks, forcing them to rely instead on emergency loans from the country’s own central bank. The move followed a meeting in Frankfurt between Mario Draghi, the central bank’s president, and Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s new finance minister, and appeared to signal a hard line in negotiations over debt.
Writing down debt can in theory provide relief to a struggling country. It allows governments to spend less money servicing their obligations, freeing up funds for more stimulus spending. It may also bolster overall confidence in a nation, laying the groundwork for more investment. …
Opponents of debt forgiveness in Europe say that making big concessions might reduce the pressure on countries that need to overhaul their laws and work practices to become more competitive. But the debt write-downs enjoyed by Brazil and Mexico did not appear to undermine their desire to enact far-reaching changes in their economies in the following years.
Writing down government debts, or stretching out when they need to repaid, causes losses for the institutions and individuals that hold the securities. Banks hold billions of euros in government bonds and, to make sure the banks remain stable, money would need to be found to replenish the big losses that the banks would suffer. Richer countries would have to agree to provide such funds. Taxpayers there may object, adding support to political parties that op pose much of what the European Union stands for and wants to achieve. Greece owes much of its debt to other countries or international institutions backed by other countries.
Still, supporters of debt forgiveness are pressing on. They say that less disruptive ways can be found to reduce indebtedness. One approach is to link what a country owes to the rate of growth of its economy. The aim would be to keep the debt burden manageable when the economy is sluggish, and allow it to rise only when growth has returned. Another innovation would be to allow a troubled country to effectively pool its obligations with those of more creditworthy European nations.
“Taxpayers there may object, adding support to political parties that oppose much of what the European Union stands for and wants to achieve.” Oh, you can say that again.
Where’s the discussion of the alternative to this needlessly banker/usurer-run system?
Who’s controlling the discussion, the media, such that the conversation isn’t being had, such that the people don’t even know there is a clear alternative that was successfully used for decades in Canada for instance?
⇧ Fed’s Rosengren: Weak Inflation Is Key Challenge for Central Banks – Real Time Economics – WSJ
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren warned Thursday that central banks need to treat the threat posed by weak inflation as seriously as they did the troubles created by high inflation several decades ago.
“The problem of significantly undershooting inflation—a dynamic which could well keep interest rates at the zero lower bound—is likely to be a key challenge to central bankers in the first two decades of the 21st century,” Mr. Rosengren said in the text of a speech prepared for delivery before an event held in Frankfurt.
He’s on the same page as Narayana Kocherlakota.
⇧ Presidents Message
…the 2004-06 normalization cycle was considered orderly (i.e., perfectly even amounts that were generally anticipated) but, in retrospect, turned out to be suboptimal because it allowed for the continuation of speculation in housing markets and in mortgage finance. For the upcoming normalization cycle, some combination of the two—the data dependency from the 1994 case and the transparency from the 2004-06 case—would probably provide the optimal method of returning the policy rate to normal.
Two things here, first, we don’t agree that 2015 must see a rate hike. Second, bad monetary policy was far from the only reason for the housing bubble. Deregulation, lack of oversight, predatory lending, lender fraud, rubber-stamped securities ratings, and ignorant and fraudulent buyers all contributed. It was not the GSE’s, though they were used, duped, and caved in to a degree.
⇧ What is an investor friendly real estate agent? – YouTube
This is very good and honest advice from Mark Ferguson. We’ve been there. We tried the busy agents versus the newer.
Another thing we’ll add is that you want an agent in an agency that’s connected (if you’re a novice) and with a solid broker. By connected, we mean knows good title-insurance people and others who service the real estate purchase and sales industry. We’re not talking about agents who get kickbacks but who simply know plenty of people with good working credentials, etc.
Mark has covered the low-ball offers very, very well.
⇧ The Super Rich Own $3 Trillion In Real Estate: And It Doesn’t Matter At All – Forbes
Another one of these little reports out about how much the super rich own. This time it’s looking at a subset of that financial wealth that Oxfam reported upon recently. This time it’s just real estate holdings. Sotheby’s announces that said super rich now own some $3 trillion in real estate holdings around the world. And they then compare it to GDP, which is wrong in itself. But the real point about this is that it really doesn’t matter at all.
No, it matters very much. To purchase the private owner-occupied residential property for the top 211,275 would take more than the value the entire nation of India produces in a whole year. The point is that we’re talking obscene private holdings while inequality is increasing.
No, Tim, we’re not going to drink your Kool-Aid. You’re welcome to join us, however, in caring about the downtrodden, downtrodden directly on account of the policies and practices mainly backed and funded by the system that brought the uber-rich to power and keeps them there in the first place: Plutocracy calling the important shots in the controlled (purchased) democracy.
⇧ Overseer of Fannie and Freddie Takes Cautious Steps to Strengthen Housing Market – NYTimes.com
The housing market is finally on the mend, but any major transformation in the government’s role in the housing economy does not appear to be on the agenda of a top federal housing regulator.
On Wednesday, in his first on-the-record meeting with reporters since becoming director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency more than a year ago, Mel Watt came across as a cautious tinkerer, one who is hesitant to make sweeping changes that might be perceived as exceeding his mandate as the overseer of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-owned institutions that back most home loans.
Performing a balancing act is central to Mr. Watt’s role. He is trying to encourage more home buying without risking a return to the excessively loose lending standards that helped cause the crisis.
But Mr. Watt said he did not intend to play a role in deciding whether his agency should change the terms of oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac now that the worst of the housing crisis is over. It is up to lawmakers to decide whether to scale back the role of his agency, which took control of Fannie and Freddie during the crisis to prevent them from going bankrupt.
The article is wrong that it was Mel Watt’s first on-the-record interview with reporters. We reported on his first many months ago.
⇧ Administration aggressive on real estate cuts
The administration wants to implement a five-year strategy to reduce the size of its real estate portfolio, with each agency required to set annual reduction targets for office and warehouse space, according to President Obama’s 2016 budget request. That could mean a reduction of more than 500,000 square feet, according to the administration.
That sounds like one-size-fits-all. We do hope that’s not the actual approach.
⇧ Schaeuble ‘Agrees to Disagree’ With Greece’s Varoufakis – Bloomberg Business
The first direct talks between Greece and Germany since a new anti-bailout government took power in Athens last week yielded no agreement on how to narrow their differences.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he and his Greek counterpart, Yanis Varoufakis, “agreed to disagree” in their Berlin meeting. That prompted Varoufakis to respond: “We didn’t even agree to disagree from where I’m standing.”
“I told my colleague Varoufakis that we respect the Greek electorate’s will of course, but that in every European Union member country, the electoral will of voters in all other countries also has to be respected,” Schaueble said. “The reasons for the difficult path that Greece must follow — and we didn’t disagree on that — lie in Greece, not in Europe.”
“The reasons for the difficult path that Greece must follow…lie in Greece, not in Europe.” No, that’s wrong. They lie in Germany, in the German economic errors, it’s approach, known as Austrian Economics and neoliberalism.
Greece made historical mistakes, but the current European economic system is very wrong. More importantly, people are literally dying in Greece due to German insistence on austerity measures. It is very hard-hearted and completely unnecessary to the preservation of Germany’s prosperity. In fact, Germany’s approach is counter-productive to the German growth curve.
⇧ U.S. productivity falls in fourth quarter; labor costs rise | Reuters
Unit labor costs, a key gauge of inflation and profit pressures that measures the price of labor for any given unit of output, increased at a 2.7 percent rate in the fourth quarter after falling at a 2.3 percent rate in the third quarter.
For all of 2014, unit labor costs rose 1.5 percent compared to a gain of 0.2 percent in 2013. Hourly compensation rose at a 0.9 percent rate in the fourth quarter. It had risen at a 1.3 percent pace in the July-September quarter.
You need to view the hourly-compensation rate year-over-year and quarterly and monthly, in terms of the annualized 2.0% PCE-rate target of the Fed. In other words, we don’t have enough info in this article to gauge whether wage pressures have materialized enough, though we’re quite confident they haven’t.
⇧ Oil falls again amid supply surge | TheHill
The price of oil fell late Wednesday, ending a four-day increase.
⇧ Allstate Settles Mortgage Suit Against Morgan Stanley – Bloomberg Business
Allstate Insurance Co. agreed to settle a 2011 lawsuit accusing Morgan Stanley of fraud over more than $100 million worth of mortgage-backed securities in which the insurer invested.
⇧ Contractor Cheats Dozens, Gets Prison : Durability + Design News
Wow! Out of control:
A Massachusetts contractor who failed to finish projects, used false identities, and forged documents will spend three and a half years in state prison, a judge ruled Friday (Jan. 30).
James F. McCarthy, 54, of Boxford, pleaded guilty in Salem Superior Court to 67 criminal counts of contractor fraud, larceny and related crimes, according to an announcement by the Essex District Attorney’s Office.
⇧ Craigslist contracting license sting uncovers 8 | Local News – Home
Investigators targeted people online for advertising contractor services without a contractors license.
In the state of California, it is illegal to charge more than $500 without a license. As soon as the bids became more than that number, they started arresting.
⇧ Vancouver motel fined more than $112,000 for exposing workers to used needles
This is something residential-rental managers and owners should consider when sending cleaning staff in to clean a recently vacated rental unit. What hazards may be there, and how should they be approached?
If you use a cleaning contractor, who has the liability? What does your cleaning contract say and what does your insurance policy say concerning any such agreement and any such risks?
Exposure of workers to used hypodermic needles while cleaning rooms, and a lack of required training on the use of chemical cleaners are among the violations that have resulted in a fine and citation for a Vancouver Motel 6. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has fined the motel $112,450 for multiple willful and serious violations related to health hazards to workers.