Friday, March 7, 2014

The Good Old Days, or what's a little panic among friends

Employers reported adding 175,000 jobs in February compared to 189,000 average over the past 12 months. December and January numbers were revised upward by 10,000 and 15,000 respectively. Considering the really awful winter weather over much of country these numbers are actually pretty good, and this could mean that forecasts of 4% growth in GDP this year may have some validity.

The fly in the economic growth ointment continues be stagnant wages and the continued outsourcing of good paying manufacturing jobs. The good news is that Janet Yellen who is the new Federal Reserve Chairman is not being swayed by calls to raise interest rates. The inflation hawks have been thoroughly discredited but that doesn't keep those with a conservative agenda from screaming that the currency is "BEING DE-BASED!"

The USD is just fine, but people who don't actually know anything about economics will tell you it you're going to be hauling your bread money in a wheelbarrow any day. And it's all Obama's fault because gasoline was only a $1.85 when Obama took office. Gas had risen steadily over the previous 8 years to $4.25/gallon, but that was during that non-existent period between the Clinton Adm when gas was a dollar, and his immediate successor Obama. The price fell sharply when Wall Street banks were forced to stop trading in commodities and it went up again once they were bailed out, and resumed stealing, I mean trading. Good capitalists, one and all.

Conservatives always cite the same two examples of hyper-inflation, post WWI Germany and Zimbabwe ten years ago, because there simply haven't been any other such extreme occurrences in modern times. Spain had the runaway inflation when they brought ship loads of gold back from the New World, largely destroying their economy. Contrary to what Libertarians claim, using gold won't protect you from economic disaster.

It's true that many third world countries have had problems with relatively high inflation though, but this is simply because the rich and powerful print money to buy up the foreign currency that comes into their country. They then deposit that in Swiss banks making their own money worthless in the process.

In a normal economy inflation is the signal that the economy is actually doing well, bank regulation and progressive tax rates work just fine to keep inflation at a manageable level. In the 'good old days' inflation was dealt with by having a 'bank panic', today we call that a depression. This typically resulted in a 90% drop in prices (deflation), and the rich would snatch up more property during each cycle. On the average prices remained the same, so these were the 'good old days' that Libertarians want us to return to. Great if you're super rich, not so great if you're everybody else.

Herbert Hoover's Sec of Treasury Andrew Melon described deflation as the period when "the wealth returns to its rightful owners". Melon was likely a Trillionaire in today's dollars owning hundreds of companies that he acquired by 'questionable means'. FDR tried to prosecute him for his direct participation in causing the Great Depression, but the evil old man died before he reached the dock.

Twitter @BruceEnberg - where we don't debase the currency or the truth.


Anonymous said...

I want to expand you mention of commodity trading. The traders by electronic means, rapidly trade commodities at the speed of light, such as oil futures with the tacit approval of a price increase on each trade. This places a non-government tax on commodities which ammounts to $1 on a $4 gallon of gas we by. When the high price cannot be supported they "short sell" and make more money on the down side. Short selling involves borrowing a commodity contract at a high price and wait until it is profitable to replce it at a lower price pocketing the difference as profit. These procedures used to be illegal until deregulation under the Reagan Administration. Of course all of these profits are treated as capital gains and are taxed at the lowest rate.