On Wednesday, Janet Yellen testified before the House Financial Services Committee. Though the hearings lost much of their appeal when Dr. Ron Paul retired from Congress, the House Republicans have maintained a reputation for being far more hostile to the Federal Reserve than their colleagues in the Senate – managing to generate some worthwhile moments. While little news was made, with Yellen maintaining her support for generally low interest rates, there were some points made today worth noting. 1) Republicans Continue to Push on the Fed’s Subsidy to Wall Street Starting in 2008, the Federal Reserve has paid interest on excess reserves parked at the Fed. While this had never been done prior to the financial crisis, this policy has now become a vital tool for the Fed in setting short-term interest rates. As the Fed has increased the Federal funds rate, so too has it increased its ‘Interest On Excess Reserves’ (IOER), now paying 1.25% on the over 2 trillion banks hold at the Fed. This policy has drawn increasing criticism from House Republicans, and Yellen faced criticism from both Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Rep. Andy Barr, who hold Dr. Paul’s old position as chairman of the monetary subcommittee. Accurately, both men highlight that this policy means the Federal Reserve – and by extension the US Treasury that would otherwise receive these interest payments – are directly subsidizing large Wall Street and foreign banks. Considering these IOER payments are projected to be $27 billion this year, it’s good to more attention be brought to this obvious example of Wall Street cronyism.
And this might become a problem for the Fed. ECB President Mario Draghi wields more power than just about any other public official in Europe, perhaps even including Angela Merkel. The organization he heads not only controls the monetary policy levers of the entire Eurozone, it also supervises the region’s 130 biggest banks. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, it even has the power to decide which of Europe’s struggling banks get to live and which don’t. Yet it is answerable to virtually no one. Until now. Emily O’Reilly, the EU Ombudsman, an arbiter for the public’s complaints about EU-institutions, has just sent Draghi a letter asking him to explain his role in the potentially compromising Group of Thirty (G30) and how he makes sure that he does not divulge insider information or runs into conflicts of interest. The tenor, tone and direction of O’Reilly’s inquiries make it clear that she means business. The Washington-based G30 was founded in the late seventies at the initiative of the Rockefeller Foundation, which also provided start-up funding for the organization. Its current membership reads like a Who’s Who of the world of global finance. It includes current and former central bankers, many of whom now work or worked in the past for major financial corporations, such as:
This post was published at Wolf Street on Jul 10, 2017.
In February 2000, the FOMC quietly switched from the CPI to the PCE Deflator as its standard for inflation measurement. There were various technical reasons for doing so, including the CPI’s employment of a geometric mean basis (which was in 2015 finally altered to a Constant Elasticity of Substitution formula). But it was one phrase that in hindsight did the Fed no favors, as it explicitly cited the expected fruits of the PCE Deflator’s methodology which would ‘avoid some of the upward bias associated with the fixed-weight nature of the CPI.’ I am not a conspiracist by any means, but there are times when you have to shake your head as these economists lack even a modicum of self-awareness. The central bank has been given a legal mandate for price stability, so the average American might wonder why that central bank is allowed to choose the measure most inherently stable (and low). At the very least, it seems like a conflict of interest, one among so many. In that regard, the last five years have been almost fitting. The PCE Deflator has, as expected, avoided the higher beta tendencies of the CPI and in both directions. For that, it has remained stable, alright, but stable below target no matter what the Fed does with its own balance sheet. I hope the irony is not lost on them, especially as it was oil prices that ‘achieved’ what they could not despite considerable expenditure on their part.
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Confounded Interest. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission. Bloomberg has nice piece on the battle between JPMorganChase’s Jamie Dimon and the Minneapolis Fed’s Neel Kashkari. (Bloomberg) Jamie Dimon is America’s most famous banker, and Neel Kashkari is its most outspoken bank regulator, so it’s not a shock that they would eventually come to blows. What’s interesting is that their contretemps is over an acronym that most Americans have never heard of, but one that may be central to preventing another recession. TLAC, which is pronounced TEE-lack, is something you need to know about if you want to judge the sparring between Dimon, the well-coiffed chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Kashkari, the very bald man who ran for governor of California on the Republican ticket and is now president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. On April 6, Kashkari went after Dimon in a way that circumspect central bankers ordinarily don’t. In an essay published on Medium and republished on the Minneapolis Fed website, he challenged Dimon’s assertion in his annual letter to shareholders that 1) there’s no longer a risk that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill if a big bank fails, and 2) banks have too much capital (meaning an unnecessarily thick safety cushion). Wrote Kashkari: ‘Both of these assertions are demonstrably false.’
“While the idea of admitting that a bureaucracy is necessary, I must also admit that marketers are liars and if left unregulated will rival politicians in their dishonesty when making product claims. Both admissions shake my libertarian sensibilities to the core.” First, a free market eventually corrects for the condition of “marketers are liars,” unlike with politicians. Furthermore, not ALL marketers are liars. Second, what makes you think the FDA, or any government bureaucracy for that matter, doesn’t lie? If one thinks we need an FDA, then one should think that we also need an EPA, FED, NLRB, EEOC, and on, and on, and on … further violating your libertarian sensibilities. The head administrator of the FDA is pretty much a revolving door with Big Pharma: is government regulation always the knee jerk reaction to every ill that affects society? Can you creatively think of some other solutions that don’t violate the Constitution of the United States? Keep reading, and maybe some other ideas will present themselves. More people die every year from legalized drugs than from taking supplements, not to mention the drugs the FDA eventually gets around to recalling, after they’ve already done their damage. In addition, the FDA is continually pushed by vested interests (Big Pharma and lobbied government officials) to cut corners so that drugs can get to market faster. So much for the efficacy of the FDA! So, you want more of the same? lot of medical doctors are in the back pocket of Big Pharma, not to mention the AMA: can go here to find out if your particular doctor is on the take:
This post was published at Gary North on March 25, 2017.
The Republicans have a problem. Healthcare prices are so swollen by government imposed monopolies that most people cannot possibly afford to pay the crazy bills without subsidies. What to do? Example: my son recently went to an out-of-state emergency room for food poisoning. The bill came in at over $8,000. And how is this for fairness: our insurance company knocked it down to about $4,000. An uninsured person would have been liable for the full amount. Might even have faced bankruptcy for failure to pay it. I personally lobbied for a provision in Obamacare preventing hospitals for charging the uninsured more than the insured. Obama said no. Why? Because the idea upset the hospitals. They wanted to be able to continue to exploit the uninsured. Whew. What does that tell us about Obama? Under these circumstances, average people cannot possibly pay their medical bills unassisted. Yet if you repeal Obamacare by imposing new price controls and subsidies, in other words, pour old, spoiled wine into new bottles, you just perpetuate the problem. So what to do? Prices can never be reduced by price controls, much less by price controls on government imposed monopoly prices. Most people do not realize that the government, through Medicare, has fixed medical prices for half a century and the results speak for themselves. At the same time, government has fed price increases by protecting monopolies set up by the drug companies and the American Medical Association. This is what government always does, and it wrecks any sector of the economy where this crony capitalist system is applied.
The biggest banks on Wall Street, both foreign and domestic, have been repeatedly charged with rigging and colluding in markets from New York to London to Japan. Thus, it is natural to ask, have the big banks formed a cartel to rig the prices of their own stocks? This time last year, Wall Street banks were in a slow, endless bleed. The Federal Reserve had raised interest rates for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis on December 16, 2015 with strong hints that more rate hikes would be coming in 2016. Bank stocks never do well in a rising interest rate environment because their dividend yield has to compete with rising yields on bonds. Money gravitates out of dividend paying stocks into bonds and/or into hard assets like real estate based on the view that it will appreciate from inflationary forces. This is classic market thinking 101. Bizarrely, to explain the current run up in bank stock prices, market pundits are shoving their way onto business news shows to explain to the gullible public that bank stocks like rising interest rates because the banks will be able to charge more on loans. That rationale pales in comparison to the negative impact of outflows from stocks into bonds (if and when interest rates actually do materially rise) and the negative impact of banks taking higher reserves for loan losses because their already shaky loan clients can’t pay loans on time because of rising rates. That is also classic market thinking 101. Big bank stocks also like calm and certainty – as does the stock market in general. At the risk of understatement, since Donald Trump took the Oath of Office on January 20, those qualities don’t readily come to mind in describing the state of the union. Prior to the cravenly corrupt market rigging that led to the epic financial crash in 2008 (we’re talking about the rating agencies being paid by Wall Street to deliver triple-A ratings to junk mortgage securitizations and banks knowingly issuing mortgage pools in which they had inside knowledge that they would fail) the previous episode of that level of corruption occurred in the late 1920s and also led to an epic financial crash in 1929. The U. S. only avoided a Great Depression following 2008 because the Federal Reserve, on its own, secretly funneled $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans to Wall Street banks and their foreign cousins. (Because the Fed did this without the knowledge of Congress or the public, this was effectively another form of market rigging. Had the rest of us known this was happening, we also could have made easy bets on the direction of the stock market.)
While U. S. political journalist Matt Taibbi has made no bones about his dislike of Donald Trump… (via Rolling Stone a day after the election) Most of us smarty-pants analysts never thought Trump could win because we saw his run as a half-baked white-supremacist movement fueled by last-gasp, racist frustrations of America’s shrinking silent majority. Sure, Trump had enough jackbooted nut jobs and conspiracist stragglers under his wing to ruin the Republican Party. But surely there was no way he could topple America’s reigning multicultural consensus. How could he? After all, the country had already twice voted in an African-American Democrat to the White House. Yes, Trump’s win was a triumph of the hideous racism, sexism and xenophobia that has always run through American society. But his coalition also took aim at the neoliberal gentry’s pathetic reliance on proxies to communicate with flyover America. They fed on the widespread visceral disdain red-staters felt toward the very people Hillary Clinton’s campaign enlisted all year to speak on its behalf: Hollywood actors, big-ticket musicians, Beltway activists, academics, and especially media figures. Trump’s rebellion was born at the intersection of two toxic American myths, the post-racial society and the classless society.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 15, 2017.
This week the 115th Congress was sworn in, and there are some indications that Fed reform may be on the agenda. The combination of populist anger fueled by Ron Paul’s Presidential campaigns and the 2008 financial crisis coupled with the repeated failings of the Federal Reserve to meet their projections has created a rare window for monetary policy to be both politically advantageous, as well as so obviously needed that even politicians can see it. The question now is what sort of reform is on the table. Congressional Reforms Last Congressional session saw proposals from both the House and the Senate. From the House we have the FORM Act, which would require the Fed to adopt a monetary policy rule and explain to Congress whenever they deviate from that rule. The FORM Act also calls for an annual GAO audit of the Federal Reserve, doubles the number of times the Fed Chairman testifies before Congress, and makes some other tweaks to the makeup and protocol of the Federal Reserve Board. Since the FORM Act passed the House in 2015, there is a good chance we will see it resurrected in 2017. On the Senate side, Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby has pushed for the Financial Regulatory Improvement Act. Not only does it lack a catchy acronym, but its reforms to the Fed are far more modest than the FORM Act. The meat of the bill focuses on changes to the Fed board. The head of the New York Fed would no longer be appointed the banks board of the directors, but would instead be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate – just like the Federal Reserve Chairman. It would also grant powers to the Fed’s regional presidents that currently only reside with the board of directors. Though early drafts of the Senate bill called for the Fed to adopt rules-based monetary policy, this ended up being stripped from the final proposal due to Democratic opposition – largely because much of the Hill focus has been on the Taylor rule, which many Fed advocates fear is too restricting.
Former Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher recently gave a speech identifying the Federal Reserve’s easy money/low interest rate policies as a source of the public anger that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. Mr. Fisher is certainly correct that the Fed’s policies have ‘skewered’ the middle class. However, the problem is not specific Fed policies, but the very system of fiat currency managed by a secretive central bank. Federal Reserve-generated increases in money supply cause economic inequality. This is because, when the Fed acts to increase the money supply, well-to-do investors and other crony capitalists are the first recipients of the new money. These economic elites enjoy an increase in purchasing power before the Fed’s inflationary policies lead to mass price increases. This gives them a boost in their standard of living. By the time the increased money supply trickles down to middle- and working-class Americans, the economy is already beset by inflation. So most average Americans see their standard of living decline as a result of Fed-engendered money supply increases.
After Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s election in the US, the political elites of the world are slowly waking up to the inevitability that the will of the people can not be ignored forever. In Northern Europe, the electorate has rebelled against political elites, like Angela Merkel, who have embraced “open borders” and the influx of refugees from war-torn areas in the mid-east that have brought with them increasing violence and terror attacks. In the U. S., the rebellion is the direct result of Americans being fed up with a federal government that is defined by cronyism and complete dysfunction. Now, the latest demonstration of an electorate fighting back against its elected officials comes from Spain as 80,000 people rallied in Barcelona on Sunday in a show of support for Catalan leaders locked in a political battle with Madrid over an independence referendum. In Catalonia, separatists complain their relatively wealthy region is overtaxed by an oppressive central government in Madrid to subsidize poorer regions of the country.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2016.
Trump shocked the world last night by tapping into a “burning resentment” growing within the American electorate…something that he alone was able to identify while every other politician and mainstream media journalist clearly missed it. Trump’s victory, as Michael Moore said, is “the biggest fuck you” in human history as voters lashed out against a system they view as rigged and only working for the rich and powerful. Trump’s victory give a voice to those infuriated with the excesses of wall street, the corruption of the mainstream media that is more interested in spreading their own propaganda than reporting the truth and to those who are utterly fed up with politicians who are “all talk.” In the 2008 U. S. election, Carrie Sheridan slept in her Honda Element as she campaigned across the country for Democrat Barack Obama. On Tuesday, the self-described community activist from the Washington, D. C. area spent $864 of the last $1,000 in her checking account on a room in Republican Donald Trump’s $200 million luxury hotel three blocks from the White House. “I had to be here,” Sheridan said, as Trump supporters lounging on velvet sofas poured champagne on each other early Wednesday morning to celebrate their candidate’s shock presidential election victory. “This is rage against the machine.” Voters in Tuesday’s presidential election were split nearly evenly between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who as of late Wednesday morning was leading in media tallies of the popular vote count despite failing to win enough states to secure the White House.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 9, 2016.
At an event in Davos, Switzerland earlier today, Former U. S. Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, argued that Central Bank independence from national governments should be scrapped in favor of a coordinated effort between politicians, central bankers and treasury to engineer inflation. Seems reasonable, right?…what could possibly go wrong? According to Market Watch, Summers argued that Central Bank independence came from “an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times.” Ironically, he argued that Central Bank “insulation” was required in the 70s/80s when the “White House” and “Congress” could not be trusted to fight inflation. So does this indicate that Summers’ baseline assumption is that politicians today are more trustworthy than in the 70s/80s? Perhaps Summers is the one that is “insulated” from reality? Is it possible that he’s completely missed the fact that one of our presidential candidates is currently under multiple investigations by the FBI for various allegations of corruption and fraud? Meanwhile, both presidential candidates are polling at among the lowest rates ever experienced for “trustworthiness” while the job approval rating of Congress has never been lower…but sure, we should grant them even more power to wreak havoc on the U. S. economy for political gain…why not? Central bank independence ‘comes from an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times,’ Summers said in a speech at the International Monetary Fund.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.
It’s more than a coincidence that at a time when the two leading candidates for the highest office in the United States are considered untrustworthy by tens of millions of their fellow citizens, the industry that has perpetually attempted to stack the political deck in Washington has also lost the trust of a majority of Americans. This feels to many like having Wall Street’s one percent at the rudder for the past two decades has finally steered the ship of state into a toxic sink hole that is devouring the credibility of the United States at home and abroad. Wall Street’s image has fallen so low that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is holding an annual ‘Reforming Culture and Behavior in the Financial Services Industry’ conference. That New York Fed President Bill Dudley is heading up this conference shows just how hopelessly lost Wall Street really is. (Dudley is the guy who didn’t see a problem with his wife collecting $190,000 annually from JPMorgan Chase while Dudley supervised the bank. The New York Fed is also the place that allowed JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon to continue to sit on its Board as JPMorgan was being investigated by the Fed for losing over $6 billion in depositors’ money in the London Whale derivatives fiasco. And Dudley is also the guy that allowed the firing of one of his own bank examiners, Carmen Segarra, after she filed a negative examination of Goldman Sachs. Segarra filed a Federal lawsuit charging that she was fired in retaliation for refusing to change her examination report. The portrait of the New York Fed as a crony regulator under Dudley was dramatically broadened in 2014 when ProPublica and public radio’s This American Life released internal tape recordings Segarra had made inside the New York Fed showing a lap dog regulator cowering before a powerful Wall Street firm.)
Obamacare premiums are exploding, just as mises.org has long predicted. Another disastrous example of politicians discarding basic common sense in passing through legislation to address a problem they themselves have created. Unfortunately there is little hope of politicians learning from their mistakes, as they continue to push through bill, after bill, after bill that expands their influence at the expense of the market and human freedom. No wonder public faith in elections is collapsing as the reach of the state grows larger. Hopefully this growing distrust can spur a libertarian populist awakening, leading to the spread of the ideas that make civilization prosperous. The Mises Institute will further discuss the collapsing public trust in politics next weekend during our Dallas-Ft. Worth, Mises Circle. You can join Jeff Deist, Lew Rockwell, Robert Murphy and our other great speakers in person, or follow the event live at Mises.org/live. On Mises Weekends, Jeff is joined by Nomi Prins, a prolific writer and speaker on the subjects of central banking, financial markets, and Wall Street cronyism. She is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, but left investment banking to speak out against what she perceives as global financial malfeasance by commercial, investment, and central banks. Nomi is a dedicated progressive who supported Bernie Sanders, but she’s also a harsh critic of the Fed and sympathetic to Austrian depictions of malinvestment and artificially-created bubbles.
If there is any truth to the allegation that Russia is behind the hacking of emails being released by WikiLeaks, then the American public owes Russia a huge debt of gratitude. At a time when the American people are sharply focused on how the leader of the free world is chosen, WikiLeaks is giving us an unprecedented, historical opportunity to understand how corporate money in politics has corrupted everything we believe in as a democracy. This week, for example, emails from WikiLeaks show that President Obama, using the email address of email@example.com, was communicating directly with Michael Froman of Citigroup in 2008, who fed Obama lists of recommended appointments to his cabinet. In an email from Froman dated October 6, 2008, with Froman using his Citigroup email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, Hillary Clinton shows up on Froman’s list for Secretary of State or head of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a separate list attached to the email, Eric Holder was recommended for U. S. Attorney General at the Department of Justice or as White House Counsel. (See the email and the attachments here.) In less than a month after Obama’s election as President on November 4, 2008, Obama had nominated Clinton to be his Secretary of State and Holder as his Attorney General. Despite the unprecedented corruption rooted out on Wall Street by regulators, Holder failed to prosecute any of Wall Street’s top executives for the crimes that led to the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression.
Last week partisan shill Congressman Jerry Nadler called on the FBI director to ‘investigate Roger Stone for his ties to Wikileaks and Julian Assange’. It’s an abuse of power and a witch hunt worthy of Sen. Joe McCarthy. If Jerry Nadler had left any sense of decency he’d be ashamed. The still corpulent Congressman now admits the questions were fed to him by Clinton money-launderer David Brock. In a scathing article by New York Post’s Paul Sperry, we learn more about the FBI’s leniency towards prime material witnesses and targets in their investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rather than clearing Clinton, the 50 plus pages of documents show a massive cover up including systematic destruction of subpoenaed evidence by Clinton’s aides and the lack of FBI interest in recovering it. Agents failed to prosecute their duties including reconciling contradictory testimony or re-interrogate uncooperative witnesses. In addition, the FBI failed to pursue the most basic lines of standard questioning even letting Clinton aides sit in on Clinton’s interviews despite the thew obvious conflict of interest. The latest in this unraveling tale of corruption shows how the FBI granted immunity to Clinton’s e-mail administrator Paul Combetta in exchange for full cooperation and honest testimony. The House Judiciary Committee has since learned that he lied after he was granted immunity. That’s a felony.
Fed Governor Lael Brainard has donated to Clinton’s campaign and is widely viewed as a potential Clinton pick for Treasury secretary. Yellen hesitated and then demurred when Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey asked whether Brainard would have a conflict of interest if she were indeed in talks with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign about a position. The election takes place Nov. 8. ‘I would have to consult my counsel, I’m not aware that that’s a conflict,’ Yellen said in testimony to the House Financial Services Committee in Washington, while rejecting Garrett’s suggestion that the U. S. central bank has a political bias. Source: Fed Politics in Spotlight as Yellen Cornered by Lawmaker | Bloomberg Imagine how higher management would feel about you reacting in the same situation. Goldman has been known to lay off its employees for even donating to the Trump campaign. So a similar situation would be you, an employee of a firm, donating to a political campaign, and later getting a promotion as a result of that donation. Of course, Lael Brainard herself has a long history of working in the executive branch to begin with. She initially served in Bill Clinton’s administration, and was appointed Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs early in Barack Obama’s presidency. In 2014, she was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governers, and it appears the majority of ‘conflicts of interest’ and connections with her past employers were largely ignored during her confirmation.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 5, 2016.
Even with two years remaining in her term, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen may quit if Donald Trump is elected president, an economist argued on Tuesday. Paul Ashworth, chief U. S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients that Trump doubled down on criticism of the Fed during his debate with Hillary Clinton. Trump said the U. S. economy is in a ‘big, fat, ugly bubble’ and specifically called out Yellen. ‘And we have a Fed that’s doing political things. This Janet Yellen of the Fed,’ he said. ‘The day Obama goes off, and he leaves, and goes out to the golf course for the rest of his life to play golf, when they raise interest rates, you’re going to see some very bad things happen, because the Fed is not doing their job. The Fed is being more political than Secretary Clinton.’ Ashworth noted that, after the last meeting, Yellen fought back against earlier charges by Trump that the central bank was acting in a politically motivated manner.
Now that’s more like it. Echoing Donald Trump’s Monday night bull’s-eye regarding the Fed’s thoroughly political essence, Rep. Scott Garrett put more wood to Janet Yellen during yesterday’s hearing: Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N. J., seized Trump’s mantle during Wednesday’s hearing, saying ‘the Fed has an unacceptable cozy relationship’ with the Obama administration and Democrats. ‘As the saying goes, perception is reality,’ Garrett told Yellen. ‘Whether you like it or not, the public increasingly believes that the Fed’s independence is nothing more than a myth.’ Of course it’s a myth, and a dangerous one at that. The truth is, Keynesian monetary central planning is inherently, massively and irremediably ‘political’. That’s because it interjects the state deeply into the money and capital markets – -the very heart of capitalism – -and thereby in plenary fashion manipulates, rigs and falsifies the prices of all financial assets. So doing, it supersedes governance by the many via continuous auction and free market processes of financial valuation and allocation with governance by the few, who rule arbitrarily and often secretly via ideological whims and shibboleths that they are pleased to call ‘policy’. Worse still, the Eccles Building politicians who rule the financial markets directly – -and through them much of the balance of capitalism indirectly – – are unelected and are accountable to no democratic oversight and control whatsoever. They have essentially seized great power in the manner of a coup d’ etat, and have then added insult to injury by proclaiming the utterly spurious doctrine of Fed ‘independence’.