Fed begins monetizing the deficit

By Numerian

The Federal Reserve, in announcing the results of this week's meeting of the Open Market Committee, surprised the market by revealing it will begin purchasing US Treasury notes and bonds with the principal income it receives from its vast holdings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage securities. This practice - wherein the Fed buys up US government securities and injects cash into the public market as payment for these securities - is a form of monetizing the debt.

The last time the Fed did this on a big scale was back in the 1960s when it attempted to mop up the excess Treasury securities that were flooding the market as a result of Lyndon Johnson's efforts to finance the Vietnam War. That Fed program was viewed at the time as a failure, since the cash the Fed put back into the economy in exchange for the securities was a big reason - perhaps the major reason - why price inflation accelerated from the late 1960s until a decade later, when Paul Volcker managed to squelch inflation once and for all with forbiddingly high interest rates.

Fraught with risk

Another dumb idea to avoid reducing work time: $5000 for an ounce of gold

This particularly dumb idea is from Paul Brodsky and Lee Quaintance of QB Partners.

They suggest: Rather than reducing hours of work, why not have Washington offer to buy gold at $5000 an ounce:

A coordinated global currency devaluation. The Fed, for example, tenders for private gold holdings at $5000/oz and maintains that bid/offer. As the Fed purchases gold, the gold flows to the asset side of its balance sheet. The Fed funds these gold purchases with newly-digitized money, which flows to banks in the form of net new deposits. This would be a discrete monetary inflation event (devaluation) and a simultaneous deleveraging.

Once the Fed acquires enough gold from the markets, a gold price peg for the US dollar is established. Would this be a gold standard? Yes, if that nominal exchange value is maintained in the open market by the Fed. No, if the Fed decides to periodically adjust that $5000/oz. level following the original exchange. (In fact, tinkering with the official gold price would be a pure example of a monetary agent conducting monetary policy.)

Three years later and still nothing has been learned

Three years ago this past Saturday the economic crisis struck.

That's why the comments by Alan Greenspan on the very same day on Meet the Press are worth noting.

"There is no doubt that the federal funds rate can be fixed at what the Fed wants it to be but which the government has no control over is long-term interest rates and long-term interest rates are what make the economy move. And if this budget problem eventually merges to the point where it begins to become very toxic, it will be reflected in rising long-term interest rates, rising mortgage rates, lower housing. At the moment there is no sign of that because the financial system is broke and you can not have inflation if the financial system is not working."

Wages versus gold: A look at historical data

One of the most visible measures of the condition of working families is the price level of a day’s wages. So, we figured it might make sense to subject those wages to the same sort of analysis we used in the last post: the withering criticism of an ounce of gold.

Here is a chart of an average day’s wage since 1964, as presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

 Average wages in dollars

Chart 1: Average day's wage in dollars (1964-2010) (Source:

As is befitting a labor force enjoying the prosperity of the freest, most productive, nation on the planet, we have seen our wages rising for the entire period from 1964 to 2010. Even through depressions as intense as that of the Great Stagflation (the first set of green and red bars) and the current Great Recession (the second set of green and red bars) the average day’s wage of American workers has never fallen year over year.

Unfortunately, things are not so rosy when the value of a day’s wage is measured by an ounce of gold:

Chart 2: Average day's wage in gold (1964-2010) (Source:

The Black Swans of Europe

The financial news from Europe is getting increasingly distressing.
A new EU report warns that economic conditions in Portugal and Spain could "result in a high ‘snowball’ effect on the government debt.”
French financial group AXA says "there is a fatal flaw in the system and no clear way out." They are predicting the Eurozone to break in half or completely disintegrate in the next 18 months.
Over 13% of Europe's investors are betting on a Black Monday-style collapse in stock prices (think 1987).

Understanding Supply Side Capitalism

Part #2 of Understanding Capitalism and Socialism (Part 1)
by Joaquin

Now that Republicans are starting to talk about restoring Reaganomics, it is a good time to review Reaganomics; i.e., Supply Side Capitalism. This is number two of my technical essays about how the world works. Today we will explore how supply side economics will save the world. So let's get to it.

Where are the Populists?

Where are the Populists?

Michael Collins

"There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.William Jennings Bryan, 1896

There will be no recovery! (At least none that you will like.)

You are probably familiar with the old fable about the scorpion and the frog. The one where the scorpion asks the frog for a ride across a river and the frog declines because it fears that the scorpion will kill it. Then the scorpion cons the frog by appealing to the logic that if it kills the frog, it would surely die too. Convinced, the frog agrees to help the scorpion but half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway. Paralyzed, in shock of disbelief, and just before sinking, the frog asks the scorpion "Why did you sting me"? The scorpion replies that it was just in its nature.