Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting “The Treachery of Images,” depicts a tobacco pipe with a caption that reads “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” (French for “This is not a pipe”). Everyone who has taken a course in modern art knows that Magritte’s exercise in contradiction was meant to draw a distinction between a real thing and a representation of that thing. Perhaps we should send Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell a beret and an easel as he is attempting a similarly surrealistic take on monetary policy.
Last week, Keynesian extraordinaire Paul Krugman called for more fiscal stimulus in the form of a “government investment program.” Mike Maharrey poked fun of him in his Fun on Friday column. But while it might be amusing to crack jokes at the expense of Keynsians and their obsession with both fiscal and monetary stimulus, the policies they promote are actually quite pernicious.
In fact, the do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to.
We’re being robbed!
And most of us don’t even realize it.
When the stock market tanked late last year, the Federal Reserve came to the rescue. First, we had the “Powell Pause” and then we got two interest rate cuts. More recently, the Fed launched a new quantitative easing program – although the central bank isn’t calling it QE.
The US national debt increased by a staggering $814 billion between Aug. 1 and Oct. 6, according to Treasury Department data.
That represents a 4% increase in the debt — in just a little over two months.
I saw a tweet this week by Paul Krugman asserting, “What we do have is a persistent problem of weak demand; yes, we have full employment now, but only with extremely low interest rates, which means little ability to respond to the next downturn. This makes a strong case for a big government investment program.”
Ah yes. It’s the Keynesian solution to every problem. Just spend more money!
News of a possible “phase 1 trade deal” and movement toward a resolution of the Brexit fiasco have buoyed stocks and put a lid on silver and gold this week. But positive vibes on these two fronts overshadowed a lot of economic data that came out this week that was less than ideal. It seems the American consumer might be getting close to being maxed out. In this episode of the SchiffGold Friday Gold Wrap podcast, host Mike Maharrey digs into a big pile of debt and more.
“In case the people in this room didn’t know, the financial crisis of 2008, which I had been forecasting for some time, and the Great Recession that ensued, was caused predominantly by the Federal Reserve.”
This was the opening line of Peter Schiff’s talk at the Las Vegas MoneyShow.
The Fed managed to “rescue” the economy after the financial crisis, but in the process, it created an even bigger bubble than the one that popped in ’08. This bubble is about to burst and the Fed will try to repeat the process. The difference is this time it won’t work, as Peter explains.
We have yet another reason to be concerned about the direction of the US economy.
Earlier this month, we reported that the ISM index of national factory activity for September came in under 50 for the second month in a row. This indicates that manufacturing is contracting. The September ISM nonmanufacturing index wasn’t a whole lot better. It charted at 52.6%, down from August’s reading of 56.4%. It was the lowest reading in three years. The mainstream pundits warned that the disappointing service sector data could boost recession fears as this is the largest component of the US economy.
Yesterday we got the retail numbers for September and they were equally bleak.
The national debt continues to spiral upward. It increased by another $1.2 trillion in fiscal year 2019. But Paul Krugman says it’s not that big of a deal. He downplayed the national debt in a tweet, claiming emphatically that “DEBT IS MONEY WE OWE TO OURSELVES.”
This encapsulates a common Keynesian argument. Debt can’t really burden future generations. In the aggregate, Americans won’t be any worse off. Paying the national debt merely shifts dollars from one American to another. While future taxpayers will be out some money, the American bondholders who receive the interest payments will end up with more money. When all is said and done, it’s a wash.
Consumers continued to pile on debt in August, according to the latest data released by the Federal Reserve. But credit card debt fell slightly, raising a troubling question: are consumers close to maxing out the plastic?
Total consumer credit grew by another $17.9 billion in August. That represents an annualized increase of 5.2% and pushes total consumer indebtedness to a new record of $4.14 trillion (seasonally adjusted).