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The casino metaphor has been widely used as a part-description of the phenomenon of over-financialisation. It’s a handy pejorative tag but can it give us any real insights? This article pursues the metaphor to extremes so that we can file & forget/get back to the football or possibly graduate to next level thinking.
What is the Financialised Economy (FE) and how big is it?
The FE can be loosely described as ‘making money out of money’ as opposed to making money out of something; or ‘profiting without producing’ . Its primacy derives largely from two sources – the ability of the commercial banks to create credit out of thin air and then lend it and charge and retain interest; and their ability to direct the first use of capital created in this fashion to friends of the casino as opposed to investing it in real economy (RE) businesses. So the FE has the ability to create money and direct where it is used. Given those powers it is perhaps unsurprising that it chooses to feed itself before it feeds the RE. The FE’s key legitimate roles – in insurance and banking services – have morphed into a self-serving parasite. The tail is wagging the dog.
The FE’s power over the allocation of capital has been re-exposed, for those who were perhaps unaware of it, as we see the massive liquidity injected by the central banks via QE disappearing into the depths of bank balance sheets and inflated asset values leaving mid/small RE businesses gasping for liquidity.
By giving preferential access to any capital allocated to the RE to its big business buddies the FE enables those companies to take out better run smaller competitors via leveraged buy outs. By ‘investing’ in regulators and politicians via revolving doors and backhanders, it captures the legislative process and effectively writes its own rule book.
Five years after the 2008 crisis hit, as carefully catalogued by FinanceWatch , economies are more financialised than ever. If the politicians and regulators ever had any balls they have been amputated by the casino managers, under the anaesthesis of perceived self-interest. They have become the casino eunuchs. An apparent early consensus on the systemic problems of over financialisation has melted away into a misconceived search for ‘business as usual’.
Derivatives are one of the most popular games in the casino.
Over the counter derivatives, which are essentially bets on the performance of asset prices, stocks, indices or interest rates, have a nominal value (as of December 2012 ) of USD 632 trillion – 6% up from 2007 levels – and 9 times world GDP. If the world decided to stop living and buy back derivatives instead of food, energy, shelter and all the stuff we currently consume, it would take nine years to spend this amount.
OK – it’s a nominal value. Many observers believe (even hope) that its real value is a minute fraction of this, but the only way we will ever find out is if the derivative contracts unwind. That is, prompted presumably by some form of crisis, parties progressively withdraw from the contracts or fold. The regulators (and the FE itself of course) will do everything they can to prevent this from happening, including grinding the population into the dust via austerity, because while no-one knows who precisely holds the unwound risk, most will certainly belong to the FE’s top tier.
Many of these derivatives started life as sensible financial products. Businesses need to insure against an uncertain harvest, or hedge against uncertain currency movements. But only a small proportion of current holders now have an insurable risk. So whereas in the past you could say we insured against our own house burning down, now they bet on their neighbour’s house burning; whereas in the past we bet on our own life expectancy, they now bet on the deaths of others; whereas in the past we insured against currency losses we experienced in our own business transactions, now they bet on currency movements in general. What might be expected when there are incentives to burn your neighbour’s house down? Organisations have even purposely set up junk asset classes, had them AAA rated, sold them to outsiders and then bet on their failure.
Government & Politicians
Politics operates as a debating society in a rented corner of the casino. The rent is high but largely invisible to the populace. The debaters are themselves well off, at least in the U.S. they are .
Now the strange thing is that the government actually owns the casino, but they have forgotten this. For the last 40 years or so, they have asked the casino managers to issue all the chips. The government use the same chips to spend on public services, and require us all to pay taxes in those chips. Mostly they don’t have enough chips for all the services they provide, so they ask the casino managers for loans. The casino managers are happy with this, provided the government pay interest on the loan of chips. This hidden subsidy effectively funds the casino. It’s perverse because the government pays interest on money they could issue themselves debt-free.
It’s not entirely clear why the government thinks the casino managers are better at managing chips than they would be. Arguably the government is elected to carry out a programme and they should be the arbiters of the country’s strategic priorities, so there should be some strategic guidance over the way the chips are spent.
But the government is only here for five years, and the casino managers are here permanently. So perhaps they think it’s safer just to trust the casino managers to get on with it. When asked, the casino managers explain that they allocate chips according to ‘what the market needs’ and no-one quite understands why that doesn’t seem to include much real investment. In any case the government have forgotten that they could issue the chips themselves, and although prompted (e.g. ), have failed to show any interest in reclaiming that power. Occasionally they create a whole new batch of chips themselves (QE) – if they think the tables are quiet – but give them straight back to the casino managers. Maybe it’s too complicated for politicians. Many of them haven’t had proper jobs. There are a few civil servants who understand what’s happening, but most of them don’t want to rock the boat – they are here permanently too and have good pensions. They research for the debaters and have lunch with the casino managers. That keeps them quite busy enough, thank you.
The Real Economy
The Real Economy also operates from a corner of the casino. It’s hard to put an exact figure on it, but perhaps 3-5% of the overall floor space depending how you measure.
It’s a very important corner of the casino, but not for the reasons it should be. It should be important because it’s the place where food is grown, houses are built, energy for warmth and work is created and so on. But these precious things are taken for granted by the casino managers. They have always had enough chips to buy whatever they need – they issue them for God’s sake – and they think food, shelter and energy will always be available to them. Crucially though, they have also managed to financialise this remaining RE corner, and this ‘support’ is trotted out as a continuing justification for the FE’s central importance .
The RE corner has always included important social and cultural, non-GDP activities. The enormous real value of these activities is now being properly articulated and is spawning citizen-led initiatives (e.g. sharing economy approaches, basic unconditional income) but they are often presented as beggars who annoyingly keep petitioning for their ‘entitlements’ and generally clutter up this remote corner of the casino.
On the finance side, individuals and businesses are exploring ways of funding their future activity without going cap-in-hand to the casino managers. They are exploring peer-to-peer finance, crowdfunding, prepayment instruments and so on. What these initiatives have in common is the disintermediation of the casino. They provide ways for people to invest more directly and take more control over their savings and investments. Of course a new breed of intermediary is surfacing to broker and risk-insure these new models, and these new intermediaries can also be captured.
With transparency and short-circuit communication via social media though, there is definitely scope to do things differently. We must hope for progress because the casino managers have little interest in what’s going on outside.
The Planet – outside the casino
The planet outside is used by the casino in two ways – as a source of materials and as a dumping ground for waste.
The materials are not essential to the core FE which is all about making money out of money and needs nothing but ideas, a few arcane mathematical models to give spurious gravitas, and credulous or naive investors. But RE activity performs a valuable role for the casino managers – it provides them with an endless stream of innovative ways of using chips. The shale gas bonanza for example is apparently grounded in the real world need for energy, and is presented as such. Its significance to the FE is as another bubble based partly at least on land-lease ‘flipping’ .
Without an RE-related rationale/narrative, the FE might disappear up its own waste pipe as it re-invested/sliced-and-diced/marketised its own products to itself. So materials from outside the casino are important for the managers’ big corporate proxies in the RE.
FE-favoured RE activities also create lots of waste, some of which is toxic, and may eventually prove terminal, as it builds up. This fact is of little interest to the casino managers. There is a minor interest in waste-related financialised vehicles – carbon markets for example are a relatively new casino game – and in the slight impact on some of the FE’s RE-friends like big energy companies. But mostly the casino managers are too busy with their games and their chips. Occasionally a manager will wake up to the dangers and defect to the real world where they, somewhat perversely, carry more credibility because of their casino experience. A small minority of managers stay within the casino and try to gently modify its behaviour. This is portrayed as a healthy sign of openness; the casino is secure in the knowledge that their ways cannot easily be re-engineered.
Combating the casino’s influence
Essentially there would appear to be three possible lines of response for those who believe there should be more to life than casino capitalism. Marginalise, convert or destroy……
These approaches map on to the three ‘broad strategies of emancipatory transformation’ suggested by sociologist Erik Olin Wright  – interstitial, symbiotic and ruptural. I have a fourth suggestion/ variation of which more in a moment.
The challenge for interstitial initiatives is the sheer pervasiveness of the FE. There are few spaces left where the effects of the FE can be ignored. They may not be well understood, but whenever we pursue dreams, they pop up in front of us, usually as obstacles. Developments that are most heavily attacked by the FE establishment perhaps merit the most attention – community scale renewable energy, crypto currencies, co-ops, the sharing economy, and so on. The more these alternative directions are attacked as utopian or uneconomic the more we can be sure they offer promising interstitial opportunities.
Symbiotic opportunities may represent the triumph of hope over experience. Armed with the power of ideas, we back our ability to persuade policy makers and business leaders to change the game. The main challenges here are the arrogance of the powerful and the danger of being captured by supping with the devil. Vested interests generally feel secure enough that they don’t need to negotiate or even to spend brain power on listening and evaluating alternatives. If enough interest is manifested that symbiotic trial projects are begun, their champions can be captured by being made comfortable.
Ruptural alternatives come in a spectrum from those that would destroy business models to those that would destroy societies. They probably share the above analysis but differ in their degree of radicalism and disconnection from the main. The impact of FE-driven globalisation is beyond the scope of this article, save to note that its effects have unnecessarily radicalised whole populations making more measured responses more difficult to promote than they might have been.
The role of the internet and social media in progressing both interstitial and ruptural initiatives is significant. Most of the space to develop and assemble communities of interest and mission-partners is here, explaining why both are likely to experience increasingly determined attempts to capture.
The nature of one’s chosen response will be a matter of personal choice. We should not be judgemental of those who don’t have the will, energy or resourcefulness to play a more active role. We all suffer from our subservience to a dysfunctional system, some much more than others. The fourth response? Perhaps there’s some mileage in judo principles .
: http://rikowski.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/profiting-without-producing-how-finance-exploits-u s-all/
: “It seems fairly clear at this time that the land is the play, and not the gas. The extremely high prices for land in all of these plays has produced a commodity market more attractive than the natural gas produced.” Art Berman quoted athttp://theautomaticearth.blogspot.ie/2011/07/july-8-2011-get-ready-for-north.html
Featured image: Luxor, Las Vegas. Author: David Marshall jr. Source: http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=90604
The latest Index of Economic Freedom has just come out, and the news for the United States isn’t good. The study, a joint effort of The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, concludes that economic freedom in the United States has declined again. This is the seventh year in a row this has happened.
For more than 200 years, the United States led the world in economic freedom. For many of those years, we were also the most prosperous Nation in the world, as we demonstrated that economic abundance was one of the happy consequences of economic freedom. Now, many other nations are confirming the same thing.
But we aren’t. Now, we’re not even in the top 10 of the 178 countries the study measured. Thanks a lot, Barack Obama! And Congress. And, yes, even the U.S. Supreme Court. All have been complicit in the unrelenting assaults on free enterprise in this country.
In an opinion piece in The Journal, Terry Miller, one of the study’s directors, had this to say: “It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket.”
But out-of-control government spending is just one of the areas where the United States is in decline. As Miller wrote: “The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.”
So if the U.S. is losing economic freedom, how is the rest of the world doing? Believe it or not, economic freedom is actually improving in most of the world. According to the study, 114 countries of the 178 in the study enjoyed an increase in economic freedom in the past year. And some 43 countries scored their highest ranking ever in the index’s 20-year history.
Leading the list once again is Hong Kong, which scored 90.1 on the 100-point scale. Following it in the “free” category are Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand and our northern neighbor, Canada.
Rounding out the top 10 in the “mostly free” category are Chile, Mauritius, Ireland and Denmark. Then comes Estonia. The United States finally shows up next, at 12th on the list. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but even Estonia did better than the U.S. this time.
Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. It turns out that several countries in Eastern Europe that used to be dominated by the Soviet Union are thriving now that they have embraced free-market economies. According to the study, Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic are the European countries that gained the most economic freedom in the past 20 years.
Congress, are you listening?
According to the study, 18 countries in Europe have reached new highs in economic freedom. They include Germany, Sweden, Poland and Georgia. On the other hand, five countries — Greece, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Cyprus — scored lower than they did when the first index appeared 20 years ago.
No surprise on which countries are on the bottom of the list. In descending order, they are Iran, Eritrea, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea. All are known for despotic governments, government-run economies and few, if any, property rights — oh, and one other thing: the abject poverty endured by most of their citizens.
The study measures economic freedom in 10 different categories under four broad areas, which it calls the pillars of economic freedom. They are,
- The Rule of Law, which includes property rights and lack of corruption;
- Limited Government, measured by fiscal freedom and controls on government spending;
- Regulatory Efficiency, such as business freedom, labor freedom and monetary freedom; and finally,
- Open Markets, as measured by freedom to trade, investment freedom and financial freedom.
Does it really matter how a country scores on economic freedom? Absolutely!
“Countries achieving higher levels of economic freedom consistently and measurably outperform others in economic growth, long-term prosperity and social progress,” Miller wrote.
It is an outrage that this country, whose freedom and prosperity made us an inspiration for the world, is now measurably on the decline. The report says that the U.S. has suffered “particularly large losses in… control of government spending.” But we already knew that, didn’t we?
The latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms just how shaky things have become in the U.S. economy. While forecasters expected new jobs in December to exceed 200,000, the BLS number came in at a lowly 74,000.
Yet even with that disappointing number, the unemployment rate in this country somehow dropped 3/10 of a point, from 7 percent to 6.7 percent. How is that possible?
It turns out that nearly five times more people stopped looking for work in December than found new jobs. An estimated 347,000 Americans left the labor force and are no longer counted among the unemployed.
Clearly, there’s the solution to make the unemployment numbers look good. If enough people who don’t have jobs simply give up looking for them, unemployment in this country would drop to zero. Wouldn’t that give the Obamaites something to crow about?
“[T]his year’s index demonstrates that the U.S. needs a drastic change in direction,” Miller wrote.
Indeed it does. But as long as Harry Reid holds the reins as Senate Majority Leader, we’re not going to get it. Happily, that could change in a big way this November, when he could receive a well-deserved demotion to Minority Leader.
I’ll have a lot more to say in coming days on the key elections that could make that happen. In the meantime, keep reminding your friends that Ronald Reagan got it right when he said: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
The latest Index of Economic Freedom confirms the wisdom of the former President’s remark. The more government gets out of the way, the more a country will prosper. The results of five years of Obama prove that the opposite is true, too.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
The Conference Board of Canada is calling the decline in the Canadian dollar the economic story of the year so far, predicting further declines as the Canadian economy underperforms.
The loonie began the day stronger on Thursday, rising to 91.48 US in early trading, up from its close of 91.37 US yesterday. It closed up 0.16 of a cent to 91.53 cents US.
The Canadian currency fell 6.6 per cent in 2013, after trading at par with the greenback in February, and is down more than three per cent since the beginning of the year.
‘Markets are betting that the Canadian economy will continue to underperform’– Glen Hodgson, Conference Board
The Conference Board, an economic and policy think tank, said the falling dollar is a sign of lack of confidence in Canadian growth prospects.
“Arguably more important than the value of the loonie is the signal it sends about the Canadian economy. Markets are betting that the Canadian economy will continue to underperform,” chief economist Glen Hodgson said in a report released today.
“This assessment is consistent with our own forecast, which calls for U.S. gross domestic product to grow by 3.1 per cent in 2014, much better than Canadian growth of 2.3 per cent,” he continued.
Hodgson is not the only economist predicting Canada’s GDP growth will underperform the U.S. Towers Watson’s annual survey of Canada’s top economists and analysts found most believe Canada will lag the U.S. in both economic activity and job creation over the next few years.
Too many plant closures
“With a lower Canadian dollar, there is hope that manufacturing businesses, and certainly the export sector of the economy, can contribute to reducing the unemployment rate in the next few years,” said Janet Rabovsky, Towers Watson director of investment consulting.
“That being said, recent announcements about industrial plant closures in Ontario would indicate that the cycle has not yet turned.”
Hodgson agreed that it is not clear if Canadian exporters will be able to fully capitalize on a weaker dollar because of the loss of capacity in the manufacturing sector since 2008.
There have been deep slashes in export-dependent industries — such as autos and parts — and a shift of much U.S. production to the southern states, so Canadian suppliers may not benefit as quickly as in the past from the U.S. recovery, he said.
He also points to the hit consumers may take from higher prices.
TD chief economist Craig Alexander said the U.S. Fed’s “decision to taper asset purchases has greased the skids under an already depreciating loonie.”
Traders rush back to U.S. dollar
The Fed decided in December to taper its U.S. bond-buying program to $75 billion US a month and as good economic news out of the U.S. continues to roll in, it is expected to continue tapering.
But that has encouraged traders to buy the U.S. dollar, leading to a rush away from the Canadian dollar.
“However, the fundamentals are not Canadian-dollar positive either, and the loonie likely has further to fall,” Alexander said in a research note.
BMO chief economist Doug Porter predicts a falling dollar will actually help boost Canadian GDP in the long-term – as much as 1.5 percentage points over the next two years if the loonie falls to 90 cents or lower.
“There are definitely losers, such as consumers, travellers, utilities, broadcasters, sports teams. But there are also lots of winners. The beleaguered manufacturing and domestic tourism sectors will find the biggest relief from the weaker currency. Even some retailers will be breathing a tad easier, as the loud siren call of cross-border shopping fades for consumers with each tick down in the currency,” he said.
Nanos Number: pipeline politics 6:52
In an attempt to press the Obama administration on its own turf, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird used the first day of a Washington visit to repeatedly call for a prompt decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.
He buttressed his case by making public appearances Wednesday with two pro-Keystone Democratic senators, who both expressed frustration with how long the administration has dragged out the decision.
Baird offered a snappy reply when asked if there’s anything pro-Keystone politicians on either side of the border could still say or do to influence a debate that has been going on for years.
“One politician — the president of the United States — can say yes to a great project to create jobs on both sides of the border, help with energy independence and energy security,” Baird replied, drawing a chuckle from the lawmaker next to him, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
“Decision time is upon us.”
He repeated the “decision time” phrase on three separate occasions at two public appearances Wednesday, making increasingly clear the Canadian government’s frustration over the prolonged approval process.
Baird held a half-dozen meetings on Capitol Hill and several other get-togethers throughout the day.
His two media appearances — both with pro-Keystone lawmakers from the president’s party — allowed them to air their own feelings.
— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) January 15, 2014
“I will tell you the frustration that many of us have,” said Heitkamp.
“It has taken us longer to make a decision than it took us to defeat Hitler in the Second World War.”
‘Weeks’ until environmental review
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would not take “no for an answer” until the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is approved, last fall in New York. More recently, he suggested the U.S. president had “punted” a politically uncomfortable dilemma by adding additional steps to the regulatory process.
When asked how soon he expected a decision, Baird said the ongoing environmental review by the State Department could be completed and released “in the coming weeks,” soon after this month’s state of the union address.
After that, he said, a decision could be announced quickly.
He delivered a similar message during a meeting with Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, touted as the likely next chair of the Senate energy committee.
— Senator Landrieu (@SenLandrieu) January 15, 2014
With media invited into the meeting, she sympathetically placed a hand on Baird’s as she shared her regrets about how long the process had taken.
Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election fight, said the project was popular in her state.
They used that public meeting to inform U.S. reporters that Canada has the same greenhouse-gas standards as the U.S., the same vehicle-emissions standards, and has done more to phase out coal.
Baird also met with U.S. Senator Bob Corker who posted a picture of his meeting with the foreign affairs minister after his approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
#KeystoneXL will create jobs, expand access to North American energy and strengthen ties with Canada, our largest trading partner. -BC
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) January 15, 2014
During his three-day trip, Baird also has meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several think-tanks.
He’s also scheduled to speak Thursday to business leaders.
With Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras settling into his role as EU President, UKIP’s Nigel Farage stunned the “Goldman Sachs puppet” with a 150-second tirade of truthiness he has likely never experienced. Farage sacrastically remarks how Greeks “will be dancing in the streets” at Samaras’ ‘successful’ negotiation on MiFiD reminding him that “60% of youth are unemployed and the neo-nazi party are on the march.” Europe is now run by “big business, big banks, and big bureaucrats,” Farage goes on, suggesting the smarmy-looking Samaras should “rename his party from New Democracy to No Democracy.” People do not want a United State of Europe, the outspoken UKIP leader explains, they want a “Europe of sovereign states,” and concludes ominously, “the European elections will be a watershed.”
…And you come here Mr Samaras and you tell us that you represent the sovereign will of the Greek people? Well, I’m sorry, but you’re not in charge of Greece, and I suggest you rename and rebrand your party – it’s called ‘New Democracy’, I suggest you call it ‘No Democracy’.
Because Greece is now under foreign control. You can’t make any decisions, you’ve been bailed out, and you’ve surrendered democracy, the thing your country invented in the first place.
And you can’t admit that joining the euro was a mistake – of course Mr Papandreou did that didn’t he, he even said there should be a referendum in Greece and within 48 hours, the unholy trinity (troika) that now run this European Union had him removed and replaced by a ex-Goldman Sachs employee puppet.
We are run now by big business, big banks and in the shape of Mr Barroso, big bureaucrats…
Americans have never had less economic freedom than they do right now. The 2014 Index of Economic Freedom has just been released, and it turns out that the level of economic freedom in the United States has now fallen for seven consecutive years. But of course none of us need a report or a survey to tell us that. All we have to do is open our eyes and look around. At this point our entire society is completely dominated by control freaks and bureaucrats. Our economy is literally being suffocated to death by millions of laws, rules and regulations and each year brings a fresh tsunami of red tape. As you will see below, the U.S. government issued more than 80,000 pages of brand new rules and regulations last year on top of what we already had. Even if we didn’t have all of the other monumental economic problems that we are currently facing, all of this bureaucracy alone would be enough to kill our economy.
Yes, every society needs a few basic rules. We would have total chaos if we did not have any laws at all. But in general, when there is more economic freedom there tends to be more economic prosperity. In fact, the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was during a time when the federal government was much smaller, there was no Federal Reserve and there was no income tax. Most Americans do not know this.
Those that founded this nation intended for it to be a place where freedom was maximized and government intrusion into our lives was minimized.
If they were still alive today, they would be absolutely horrified. We are literally drowning in red tape.
The photo posted below was shared by U.S. Senator Mike Lee on his Facebook page. Study it carefully…
The following is what he had to say about this photo…
“Behold my display of the 2013 Federal Register. It contains over 80,000 pages of new rules, regulations, and notices all written and passed by unelected bureaucrats. The small stack of papers on top of the display are the laws passed by elected members of Congress and signed into law by the president.”
I didn’t even see the small stack of paper at the top of the cabinet until I read his explanation. Most of the time everyone is so focused on what Congress is doing, but the truth is that the real oppression is happening behind the scenes as unelected federal bureaucrats pump out millions upon millions of useless regulations that are systematically killing our economic freedom.
On Tuesday, an article about the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom was published by the Wall Street Journal. As I mentioned above, the United States has fallen for seven years in a row…
World economic freedom has reached record levels, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, released Tuesday by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. But after seven straight years of decline, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 most economically free countries.
That same article mentioned some of the reasons why the United States is falling…
It’s not hard to see why the U.S. is losing ground. Even marginal tax rates exceeding 43% cannot finance runaway government spending, which has caused the national debt to skyrocket. The Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and national prosperity.
And of course the results are predictable. Our economy has been steadily declining for many years, and that decline appears to be ready to start picking up speed once again. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Dave in Denver…
In the latest retail sales report for December, auto sales were nailed – down 1.8%. The only reason overall retail sales from November to December showed a slight “gain” that November’s number was revised lower. Electronics fell off of a cliff. The housing market is about to get crushed. Feedback I’m getting from my Seeking Alpha articles and blog posts on housing from housing market professionals all around the country tells me that the housing market hit a wall at the end of 2013, as I have been forecasting.
What he said about the housing market is definitely true. In recent months, mortgage originations have been falling like a rock. Just check out this chart.
And as I wrote about the other day, there has been absolutely no employment recovery since the end of the last recession. In fact,1,687,000 fewer Americans have jobs today compared to exactly six years ago even though the population has grown significantly since then.
Unfortunately, these are not just “cyclical problems”. Long ago we abandoned the fundamental principles that once made our economy great, and now we are paying a tremendous price for that.
Posted below is a story that has been circulating all over the Internet for quite some time. It is a fake story. Once again, let me repeat that. This is a fake story. But I think that it does a great job of illustrating what is happening to America as we march toward full-fledged socialism…
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that.
But of course it would be disingenuous to pin all of the blame for this just on Obama. The truth is that our nation has continued to march toward socialism no matter who has been in the White House and no matter who has been in control of Congress. So if you want to place some of the blame on a “Bush” or a “Clinton” or a “Boehner” or a “Pelosi” please feel free.
And the American people are getting sick and tired of this one party system that has two heads. According to a recent Gallup survey, only29 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be Democrats right now. And the news was even worse for Republicans. According to that survey, only 24 percent of all Americans consider themselves to be Republicans at this point.
A staggering 45 percent of all Americans now consider themselves to be Independents. Deep down, most Americans know that something is seriously wrong with our nation and that they are being lied to be our politicians and the mainstream media.
Unfortunately, there is very little agreement about how to fix things because Americans do not have a set of shared values that we all agree on anymore.
Bankers disagree on housing bubble 2:59
The average price of a Canadian home increased 10.4 per cent to $389,119 in December, compared to the same month in 2012.
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) released data Wednesday showing that a total of 457,893 homes changed hands in Canada last year, an increase of about 0.8 per cent from 2012’s level.
“Absent further mortgage rule changes,” CREA’s chief economist Gregory Klump said, “sales in 2014 may surpass the annual total for 2013 if demand holds steady near current levels as strengthening economic and better job growth offset the impact of further expected marginal mortgage interest rate increases.”
As has been the case for some time now, CREA says the large jump in prices was largely due to what was happening in Canada’s most active and expensive markets.
Sales activity in December 2012 in Toronto and Vancouver was abnormally low, which dropped the national average at that time.
“Removing Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto from national average price calculations cuts the year-over-year increase to 4.6 per cent,” CREA said.
CREA says the average price can be misleading, as it can be too easily influenced by individual factors.
The realtor group says its MLS Home Price Index “provides a better gauge of price trends because it is not affected by changes in the mix of sales activity the way that average price is.”
That index shows home prices rose 4.31 per cent over the past 12 months. Gains were seen in all housing types.
The index was led by an 8.7 per cent gain in Calgary and a 6.3 per cent gain in Toronto.
Vancouver’s market index posted a second straight increase of 2.13 per cent after declines for much of the time between late 2012 and late 2013.
The World Bank raised its global growth forecasts as the easing of austerity policies in advanced economies supports their recovery, boosting prospects for developing markets’ exports.
The Washington-based lender sees the world economy expanding 3.2 percent this year, compared with a June projection of 3 percent and up from 2.4 percent in 2013. The forecast for the richest nations was raised to 2.2 percent from 2 percent. Part of the increase reflects improvement in the 18-country euro area, with the U.S. ahead of developed peers, growing twice as fast as Japan.
The report by the institution that’s trying to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 indicates a near-doubling of the growth in world trade this year from 2012, as developed economies lift export-reliant emerging nations. At the same time, the withdrawal of monetary stimulus in the U.S. may raise market interest rates, hurting poorer countries as investors return to assets such as Treasuries, according to the bank.
“This strengthening of output among high-income countries marks a significant shift from recent years when developing countriesalone pulled the global economy forward,” the bank said yesterday in its Global Economic Prospects report published twice a year. Import demand from the richest nations “should help compensate for the inevitable tightening of global financial conditions that will arise as monetary policy in high-income economies is normalized.”
The bank’s forecasts hinge on the orderly unwinding of Federal Reserve stimulus, which is starting this month with the trimming of monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion. If investors react abruptly in coming months, as they did in May when the central bank mentioned the possibility of tapering, capital inflows to developing economies could drop again, according to the report.
“To date, the gradual withdrawal of quantitative easing has gone smoothly,” Andrew Burns, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “If interest rates rise too rapidly, capital flows to developing countries could fall by 50 percent or more for several months — potentially provoking a crisis in some of the more vulnerable economies.”
The bank sees a global expansion of 3.4 percent in 2015, compared with 3.3 percent predicted in June.
In the U.S., where growth is seen accelerating to 2.8 percent this year, unchanged from the outlook in June, the recent budget compromise in Congress will ease spending cuts previously in place and boost confidence from households and businesses, the bank said.
The bank held its forecast this year for Japan at 1.4 percent, while cautioning that the reforms of the economy promised by the government “have disappointed thus far, raising doubts about whether the improvement in economic performance can be sustained over the medium to longer term.”
It raised its prediction for the euro region to 1.1 percent for this year from 0.9 percent in June as the monetary union comes out of it debt crisis, propelled by Germany and showing improvement in fragile economies including Spain and Italy.
“The euro area is where the U.S. was a year and a half or two years ago, where growth is starting to go positive but it’s still hesitant,” Burns, also the bank’s manager of global macroeconomics, said in a phone interview. “We’re not going to be totally convinced until this gathers a little more steam.”
The bank estimates that investors withdrew $64 billion from developing-country mutual funds between June and August, with the impact most pronounced on middle-income countries includingBrazil, India and Turkey. Not all economies were hit the same way, as China or Mexico were less affected because of stronger economic fundamentals, the bank said.
The 2014 forecast for developing markets was cut to 5.3 percent from 5.6 percent.
The bank lowered its forecast for China this year to 7.7 percent from 8 percent, saying the world’s second-largest economy is shifting “to slower but more sustainable consumption-led growth.”
It cut projections for Brazil to 2.4 percent from 4 percent, for Mexico to 3.4 percent from 3.9 percent and for India to 6.2 percent from 6.5 percent.
Growth in developing countries will accelerate “modestly” between 2013 an 2016, at a pace about 2.2 percentage points below that of the years preceding the global crisis, according to the bank’s report.
“The slower growth is not cause for concern,” according to the report. “More than two-thirds of the slowdown reflects a decline in the cyclical component of growth and less than one-third is due to slower potential growth.”
Still, not all countries are well placed to respond to capital outflows and higher interest rates, according to the bank, which urged policy makers to prepare now for such an outcome.
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Canada Job Grant ad 0:34
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The federal government blanketed the internet with ads and bought pricey TV spots during playoff hockey as part a $2.5-million publicity blitz to promote a skills training program that doesn’t yet exist, CBC News has learned.
TV commercials for the Canada Job Grant often ran twice per game last May during the widely watched Hockey Night in Canada NHL playoff broadcasts on CBC. There were ads on radio, as well.
“The Canada Job Grant will result in one important thing – a new or better job,” said the reassuring voice-over in the TV ads.
The problem: The program was never launched and is still on hold. The job grants were announced in the 2013 federal budget, but it called for an agreement with the provinces, which have so far refused to buy in.
Employment and Social Development Canada spent between $2.5 million and $2.6 million on the ad campaign. That figure excludes radio ads funded by the Finance Department.
“Spending millions of dollars to advertise a program that doesn’t even exist is like flushing tax dollars down the toilet,” Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said.
$11-million publicity push
CBC News has also learned that that advertising cash came from an $11-million fund set aside last year for Employment and Social Development Canada to promote the government as a job creator.
Before the Canada Job Grant TV ad went to air, the government paidEnvironics Research Group almost $70,000 to conduct market research. Focus groups saw a near-final version of the commercial.
Environics concluded: “The main message was consistently seen as positive and one that inspired hope…. In light of seeing the new ad for the Canada Job Grant, most now believe the Government of Canada is on the right track regarding skills training and the job market in Canada.”
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“Their own research suggests that people get a positive impression of the ads,” Queens University political science professor, Jonathan Rose said. “Whether that means they convey accurate information is another story.”
A government commissioned survey done post-campaign showed only two per cent of the 292 people polled who saw or heard the ad also caught the disclaimer that the program didn’t yet exist. It also found only 18 per cent of viewers understood tax dollars paid for the advertising.
Ads ruled misleading
After receiving numerous viewer complaints, Advertising Standards Canada, the advertising industry’s self-regulating body, ruled the TV commercial was misleading because the job grant program hadn’t been approved.
“The commercial omitted relevant information,” ASC concluded in a report. The report didn’t name the government because the ad campaign was already over.
The proposed job grants would give workers $15,000 each for training, with the provinces kicking in one-third of the cost. But provinces have yet to sign on, complaining the proposed program claws back $300 million in federal funds now used to help disadvantaged workers.
“We do not believe, the way the program is designed, that it will work,” Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne said at a premiers meeting last July.
Quebec threatened to opt out. There’s no word yet on when an agreement might be reached.
Asked to comment on the ad campaign, a spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada said, “The government of Canada’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.”
Harper blasted Liberals over ads
In his first question as opposition leader, in 2002, Stephen Harper took the then Liberal government to task over their advertising spending and the emerging sponsorship scandal.
“Will the prime minister stop the waste and abuse right now and order a freeze of all discretionary government advertising?” he asked in the House of Commons on May 21, 2002.
During its peak, the Liberal government spent $111 million on advertising, in 2002-2003. Harper’s current Conservatives doled out $136.3 million in 2009-2010, their biggest advertising budget yet on record.
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