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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Larry Summers

Portugal loses patience with Europe

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by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Posted July 18th, 2011

 

AT LAST, SOME RAW EMOTIONAL GAULLISTE PATRIOTISM FROM THE VICTIMS of Europe’s Maquina Infernal? Portugal’s new premier Pedro Passos Coelho — a free marketeer — began to growl over the weekend. “We want to take part in an ambitious European project and make our contribution so Europe can confront its problems in the most ambitious way, but as prime minister I will not stand by and wait for Europe to govern Portugal,” he told the party faithful.

For Portuguese readers: “Nós queremos participar num projecto europeu ambicioso e queremos dar o nosso contributo para que a Europa saiba encontrar respostas mais ambiciosas para os problemas, mas como primeiro-ministro nunca ficarei à espera do que a Europa tenha que fazer para governar Portugal”

Please correct me if my loose translation is wrong.

So, it has begun: last week Greece’s premier George Papandreou launched two angry broadsides against EU magnates. How could he do otherwise after Eurogroup chair Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper that Greece’s sovereignty would be “massively limited”?

“Massively limited?” Mr Juncker should be clamped in irons if he dares set foot on Greek soil. Now the leader of what is arguably Europe’s oldest nation state (foundation 868, under Vimara Peres) has shown the first hints of frustration.

Just to remind you: unemployment in Portugal is 12.4pc (youth: 28.1) and about to rise much further as the fiscal punch hits. The figures for Spain are 20.9pc (44.4), Greece 15pc (38.5), Ireland 14pc (26.5), Latvia 16.2pc (32.9). Yet the these countries are all facing further headwinds of fiscal and monetary tightening.

For a serving prime minister to make such remarks at this delicate juncture might be taken by some as a cloaked threat  to walk away from the EU project, if the country continues to be treated in a humiliating and damaging fashion. Mr Passos Coelho is fencing with a double-edged blade. Even to hint at misgivings over EMU is to set matters in motion. The markets were very quick to pick up on political body language during the ERM crisis in 1992. The Portuguese leader also said there was a “colossal” €2bn hole in the public accounts left by… well, somebody. He refrained from blaming the outgoing Socialists. They are needed to help pass laws in the Assembleia. Any other skeletons to be uncovered?

I have great sympathy for Mr Passos Coelho and for the Portuguese people. The German-led creditor states have treated the EMU crisis as if it were a morality tale, castigating Club Med and Ireland for alleged fecklessness. All that is required — goes the argument — is further austerity, a dose of 1930s wage and debt-deflation, and virtue will be its own reward. The Left-wing Bloco calls it “social terrorism”.

Adding injury to insult, Germany has insisted that Portugal, Greece, and Ireland pay a penal rate of interest some 200 to 300 basis point over the cost of funding paid by the EU’s bail-out machinery, though this may soon be cut somewhat. As former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said this morning in the pink sheet, such penal rates play havoc with debt dynamics and are driving a string of countries into insolvency and depression.

This Germanic view of events is self-serving and intellectually dishonest. Southern Europe is in trouble because Europe’s monetary union is and always was dysfunctional. The Maastricht process caused interest rates to plunge in the Club Med bloc, setting off credit booms. Portugal’s rates fell from 16pc to 3pc in short order.

The ECB poured further petrol on the fire by tilting monetary policy to German needs in the middle of the last decade, when Germany was in trouble. The ECB breached is own eurozone M3 and inflation targets for year after year. In the specific case of Portugal, the boom occurred earlier, in the late 1990s. No doubt a great many foolish errors were made in those halycon days. (I wrote about them at the time or shortly after, and was roundly reproached for my insolence).

Yet over the last eight years Portugal has been relatively frugal. It did not have an Irish banking bubble, or a Spanish property bubble. It did let social transfer costs creep up to 22pc of GDP — when they should have been falling — but it also passed a string of fiscal austerity packages. Yet at the end of the day it was punished anyway. It has failed to reap any worthwhile benefits. There has been no economic convergence or EMU catch-up effect. Productivity has remained stuck at 64pc of the core-EU average. Portugal switched from surplus on its external accounts in the early 1990s to a deficit of 109pc of GDP today.

Public and private debt has ballooned to 330pc of GDP, one of the highest in the world. Portugal will still have a current account deficit of almost 8pc this year and the budget deficit was still running at a 8.7pc rate in the first quarter. Such a profile two or three years into draconian cuts and demand compression is almost tragic. And now they must implement yet further austerity, without debt relief or offsetting monetary stimulus or devaluation. This policy is a near certain formula for economic asphyxiation..

In Portugal — as well as Greece, Ireland, and perhaps Spain in due course — we are moving closer to the point where national leaders must decide whether to satisfy EU demands, or placate their own citizens, for is it no longer possible to serve these two masters at the same time?

Can there really be any doubt as to the outcome of this tug-of-war

Obama’s Speech and America, Inc.

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by Nomi Prins
Originally posted January 26, 2011
http://www.nomiprins.com/thoughts/2011/1/26/obamas-speech-and-america-inc-1.html

Watching Obama deliver his State of the Union Speech last night, reminded me of all the rah-rah quarterly meetings that we had to attend as Managing Directors at Goldman, where senior management would remind us all of how great we were, and if there were any areas of competitive weakness relative to our adversaries at other banks, all we had to do was step up our game, innovate and globalize (or something like that.)

Obama wasn’t delivering a summary of what has, or is, going on for most Americans last night, no such negative status report. And, if you didn’t expect him to, he gave good speech – full of reminders of how it is America’s destiny and the American dream to be great and powerful, “robust democracy” that we are.

There was a massive pink elephant in the room called reality though. So, when he waxed proud when he said, “We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing.” I had a different reaction.

My reaction was wtf? Two years after the worst recession? After? Really? What about the 26 million people unemployed or underemployed in the country?

What about the 4.4 people applying for every job, compared to the 2.9 people per job after the 2000s recession?

What about the 4.4 million jobs that should have been added, just accounting for a population coming of job age alone, forget any kind of growth, compared to the fact that instead, the job pool declined by a quarter of a million people in the past two years, because the time required to get a job is at record highs?

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No Mr. President, Larry Summers did not resolve the financial crisis for a pittance, he just papered over the problem

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by William K. Black
Assoc. Professor, Univ. of Missouri, Kansas City; Sr. regulator during S&L debacle

Originally posted October 28, 2010

I PASSED UP THE OBVIOUS TITLE: “HECKAVA JOB, LARRY!” THAT WAS THE MOMENT OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that set all Americans cringing. Yes, he really said that Summers “did a heckuva job.” The candidate that was gifted the opportunity to run against the legacy of one of the worst presidents in U.S. history has, as president, used Bush as his role model to continue many disastrous policies. It was strangely fitting that he would channel Bush’s infamous praise (“Heckuva job Brownie”) for the FEMA chief who failed New Orleans so badly in the hurricane.

President Obama understandably wishes to focus attention on the economic disaster he inherited from President Bush. But Jon Stewart’s question to him, which led to the president’s gaffe, correctly asked about the message that Summers’ appointment sent about the administration’s commitment to fundamental change.

Summers had financial red ink on his hands at the time he was appointed. He was Rubin’s chief minion in the successful effort to defeat effective financial regulation and supervision. (Yes, the effort was bipartisan and the Republican leadership shares in the guilt.) Summers was not simply wrong, but also arrogant and brutal, in blocking effective regulation at the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Summers was made rich by Wall Street in one of those sordid consulting arrangements designed to buy influence and reward past and future favors.

President Obama’s appointment of Summers as his chief economic advisor made the administration’s overall response to the crisis predictable. (Robert Kuttner gives a detailed explanation of the policies that Rubin’s protégés championed in his new book, A Presidency in Peril.) The response would follow the disastrous Japanese model that has harmed their economy and damaged their integrity.

The dominant characteristics can be summarized quickly: (1) the government would act for the benefit of the largest financial firms and their CEOs, even when they directed massive frauds, by (2) engineering a cover up of the banks’ losses and the CEO’s misconduct; (3) the administration would use the fictional reports generated to conduct the cover up to declare victory (due to their brilliance); and (4) the same strategy would impair the recovery.

The strategy was also an assault on integrity, the rule of law, and the core precepts of the Obama campaign for president. This is why we warned from the beginning that the cover up could enrage the nation and make him a one-term president.

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Harvard lobotomies and the disgrace of the economics profession

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by Damon Vrabel
Posted originally Sept 16, 2010

IT’S WORTH STEPPING BACK ON OCCASION TO CONSIDER THE PROGRESS THAT HAS BEEN witnessed in particular academic fields. Astronomy took a giant step forward centuries ago when it finally realized the sun was at the center of the solar system. Geology adapted to the fact of a round earth. The continuous evolution of Physics boggles the mind. Engineering perpetually pushes into new frontiers.

And how does Economics compare?
 Well let me take a moment to congratulate the few Harvard, LSE, Princeton, Chicago, MIT grads serving Wall Street, the Fed primary dealer cartel, the IMF, and the World Bank (Larry Summers deserves extra credit). These economists drive the field, and they’ve brought it to a point that has taken us back to the days of medieval feudalism. The field is now more primitive than flat-earth Geology and Ptolemaic Astronomy. Congratulations economists!

Of course it’s not entirely the economists’ fault. They were taught from day one in Economics 101 that they will undergo a moral lobotomy. Economics goes to great lengths to indoctrinate new recruits that it’s a positive vs. normative “science.” Other sciences don’t bother to do that because the fact is there should be no conflict between the positive and the normative. Why is Economics the only field that does this? Because it wants to avoid the questions that good students interested in true progress would otherwise ask. It knows it’s hiding something in its content that conflicts with the normative and it doesn’t want students to search for and find the truth. Just remember this helpful indicator in your next life – anything that goes to such lengths to admit upfront that it’s morally bankrupt might be something around which you should NOT build your life!

The truth is that Economics has been designed to completely hide the monetary system that hovers above the economy. Economics assumes money is just a medium of exchange floating through the economy to facilitate a free market and generate wealth. At times that has been true, but today it’s probably the biggest lie of modern history. The current system does not generate wealth and freedom for most people. It generates debt and servitude. And it is not a free market. Today’s money flows from a top-down imperial power system expanding globally. It creates a master-servant relationship because all money comes from privately held debt.

Let me say that again. ALL MONEY COMES FROM DEBT (for those of us who suffered the most indoctrination by attending schools like Harvard, let’s pause here for a moment so we can catch up to the rest of the class). This means in order for governments, businesses, and people to have the liquidity necessary to live, they must agree to sign over a claim on their assets to banks.

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