Just over a week ago, President Trump delivered the State of the Union speech. The president gave a speech with a decidedly optimistic tone. This was certainly welcome with the increasingly fractured and divided American political landscape. But it’s important to focus beyond the political theater and take a hard look at where the US economy really is and where it is heading. Unfortunately, the political rhetoric doesn’t always line up with economic reality.
As the GOP tax plan wound its way through Congress, we argued that it is not going to create the kind of economic benefits promised without some reduction in the size and scope of government. We don’t just need tax relief, we need government relief. But there don’t appear to be any serious efforts to cut spending or to reduce the size of the federal government on the horizon. In fact, it looks like D.C. is hurtling in the exact opposite direction. With tax reform in the rearview mirror, Pres. Trump has set his eyes on a federal plan to “fix” America’s infrastructure.
This is a Keynesian boondoggle of epic proportions. And as Ryan McMaken shows in the following article originally published at the Mises Wire, it isn’t even necessary. We don’t need a federal solution to the infrastructure problem. Not for practical purposes. And not to “stimulate” the economy. In fact, the borrowing and money printing that will be necessary to finance whatever plan the politicians in D.C. come up with will compound the country’s economic woes.
We talk a lot about how central banks serve as the primary force driving the business cycle. When a recession hits, central banks like the Federal Reserve drive interest rates down and launch quantitative easing to stimulate the economy. Once the recovery takes hold, the Fed tightens its monetary policy, raising interest rates and ending QE. When the recovery appears to be in full swing, the central bank shrinks its balance sheet. This sparks the next recession and the cycle repeats itself.
This is a layman’s explanation of the business cycle. But how do the maneuverings of central banks actually impact the economy? How does this work?
The Yield Curve Accordion Theory is one way to visually grasp exactly what the Fed and other central banks are doing. Westminster College assistant professor of economics Hal W. Snarr explained this theory in a recent Mises Wire article.
We’ve done extensive reporting on the GOP tax reform bill as it’s moved through Congress. We’ve highlighted a number of concerns about the plan, specifically the significant expansion of the national debt it will cause. Yesterday, we explained how the impact on the deficit will likely be even bigger than expected because of the incentives found in the latest incarnation of the plan. Most significantly, we’ve echoed Peter Schiff’s view that the plan isn’t really tax reform. It’s tax cuts masquerading as reform.
But all of this leaves an important question unanswered. What would actual reform look like?
Mises Institute senior fellow Mark Thonrton offers some ideas in his latest piece at the Mises Wire. In a nutshell, shrinking the size of government is a key ingredient necessary for real reform.
Last week, Pres. Donald Trump nominated Marvin Goodfriend to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. When we reported the news, we called him “another swamp creature” – a member of the Washington D.C./Wall Street clan Trump promised to drain away.
We’re not alone in our thinking. In an article on the Mises Wire, Tho Bishop called Goodfriend’s nomination “a dangerous act of outright betrayal to Trump’s core constituency of working-class voters.”
It’s true Goodfriend’s views on monetary policy don’t fit in with the current Fed status quo. But that’s not a good thing. Goodfriend isn’t a fan of the conventional radical policy of quantitative easing. He’s actually a proponent of an even more radical policy.
Following is Bishop’s analysis in its entirety.
In all of the talk about tax reform, nobody is considering the more fundamental problem facing America – the size and scope of the federal government.
Peter Schiff has described the Republican tax plan as “tax cuts masquerading as reform.” When it’s all said and done, Americans aren’t going to get tax relief. They are going to get big government on a credit card. The balance will come due down the road.
The real issue is the total cost of government. In an article originally published on the Mises Wire, Ryan McMaken argues that if Republicans really want to ease the burden of government, they need to cut spending.
There’s been a lot of focus on the Federal Reserve lately.
Earlier this month, the central bank launched efforts to shrink its balance sheet after years of quantitative easing. Most analysts also expect one more interest rate increase this year. Then there is rampant speculation about who will take the reins at the Fed when Janet Yellen’s term ends early next year. Many observers think Trump will pick a more hawkish Federal Reserve chair who will increase the pace of “normalization.”
But Peter Schiff has said ultimately the Fed doesn’t want to do anything to upset the status quo. And at this point, the central bank is between a rock and a hard place. It can normalize, which will ultimately pop the bubble, or it can continue with its easy money policies and wreck the dollar. Peter has said the Fed will ultimately sacrifice the dollar on the altar of the stock market.
In a recent article published on the Mises Wire, economist Ryan McMaken weighs in, arguing along these same lines. He says the Fed won’t do anything that will spook the markets. That means we can expect more “easy money.” But this raises a question – what happens when the next recession rolls along?
Last week, we asked an important question about Trump’s tax reform plan: Can it deliver?
Despite rampant optimism about tax reform, there are a number of problems. In the first place, it remains uncertain whether or not Congress can even get anything done. Second, as Peter Schiff pointed out, the plan as presented won’t likely create the economic growth it promises.
Peter focused on the fact that the plan isn’t truly reform. It’s tax cuts masquerading as reform. Then there is the issue that it promises to decrease revenue without actually cutting spending and shrinking the size of government. There is strong evidence showing high debt levels retard economic growth.
In a recent article published on the Mises Wire, economist Frank Shostak explains precisely why cutting taxes without accompanying decreases in government spending won’t spur economic growth over the long-term.
Last week, Janet Yellen announced the Federal Reserve will begin the much anticipated “tapering” of its massive balance sheet. The Fed chair also hinted another interest rate hike is in the works. After the most recent FOMC meeting, we raised the question: Is this a viable path forward, or is the central bank playing a game of monetary chicken? Peter Schiff has argued that the Fed ultimately won’t be able to reduce its balance sheet to any significant extent. So, despite the Fed’s hawkish stance, the path forward seems far from certain.
In a recent article published on the Mises Fed Watch, Tho Bishop also raised some poignant questions about how the Fed will actually move forward with monetary policy.
Earlier this month, we reported a move by China that could foreshadow the end of the US dollar as the world reserve currency. The Chinese announced the launch of a gold-backed, yuan-denominated oil futures contract. The move potentially creates a way for oil exporters to circumvent US dollar denominated benchmarks by trading in yuan. The contracts will be priced in yuan, but convertible to gold.
More broadly speaking, Russia and China seem to be setting the stage to set up an alternative the international US dollar system. Many analysts believe the two countries are buying gold specifically to minimize their dependence on the US dollar. Russia and China are also reportedly moving closer to developing a broader gold-based trading system.
In an article originally published on the Mises Wire, Ronald-Peter Stöferle digs deeper into the possibility of “de-dollarization.”
The world is looking for alternatives to the dollar — and finds them more and more often.”