Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Children ARE the “Ourselves”

Samuel Johnson wrote that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but in modern America, being “for the children” now has taken that august refuge of the rogue. Thus it is that Paul Krugman has decided to join such company as he appeals to us to think of “our children.”

Krugman doesn’t have any children, but he is such a collectivist that I am sure that he would claim as much “ownership” over my kids as I might do (although no one “owns” kids). I doubt Krugman’s concern for my children would extend to helping pay the substantial bills that accompany their presence.

The normal “cheating our children” has to do with the belief that through government, Americans of my generation (and Krugman’s too, since he and I were born in the same year) have borrowed such huge amounts of money that the debts either will be paid through inflation or through another means that will place a lot of the younger generation in poverty.

Krugman, however, sees it differently. Our “crime” against the children is not borrowing and spending beyond our present means so that we dump huge financial burdens on them in the future. No, our “crime” is that we are not borrowing and spending enough beyond our present means. That’s right; Krugman claims that by seeking to lessen the future financial burdens on our children, we are cheating them.

Why? Because, according to Krugman, if the government borrows lots of money and then spends it immediately, there actually is no effective opportunity cost. He writes:
Contrary to almost everything you read in the papers or see on TV, debt doesn’t directly make our nation poorer; it’s essentially money we owe to ourselves. Deficits would indirectly be making us poorer if they were either leading to big trade deficits, increasing our overseas borrowing, or crowding out investment, reducing future productive capacity. But they aren’t: Trade deficits are down, not up, while business investment has actually recovered fairly strongly from the slump. (emphasis mine)

He goes on to explain how the lack of current spending is depriving young people of teachers, more aid to college, and, of course, he mentions the “I” word, infrastructure. In Krugman’s view, it is a simple thing; just borrow, print and spend, and a strong economy will appear out of the mixture. Malinvestments? No problem. Just spend enough and the economy will expand to the point where there are no malinvestments.

So, there we have it. Borrow, spend, run up the credit card. We "owe it to ourselves," which means that government borrowing also manages to cheat the Law of Scarcity. Borrow now and the kids won't owe anything at all. The Inflation Fairy will do the rest. Just believe and do it for the children. For the children.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Krugman's Cyprus Solution: Seize Property and Print Money

In answer to the "What would you do about Cyprus if you were dictator?" question, Paul Krugman has shared his Nobel-level of economic intelligence with the rest of us, and it comes down to two actions: the Cyprus government should seize as much private property as it can, go off the euro and print its own currency, lots of it. Krugman writes:
...Cyprus should leave the euro. Now.

The reason is straightforward: staying in the euro means an incredibly severe depression, which will last for many years while Cyprus tries to build a new export sector. Leaving the euro, and letting the new currency fall sharply, would greatly accelerate that rebuilding.
He continues:
If you look at Cyprus’s trade profile, you see just how much damage the country is about to sustain. This is a highly open economy with just two major exports, banking services and tourism — and one of them just disappeared. This would lead to a severe slump on its own. On top of that, the troika is demanding major new austerity, even though the country supposedly has rough primary (non-interest) budget balance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 20 percent fall in real GDP.

What’s the path forward? Cyprus needs to have a tourist boom, plus a rapid growth of other exports — my guess would be agriculture as a driver, although I don’t know much about it. The obvious way to get there is through a large devaluation; yes, in the end this probably does come down to cheap deals that attract lots of British package tours.

Getting to the same point by cutting nominal wages would take much longer and inflict much more human and economic damage.
At one point he is correct in that the boom that Cyprus enjoyed by playing the role of bankster is over, kaput. (The biggest offender of banksterism, the government-owned bank Laiki, does seem to contradict Krugman's belief that government usually is a responsible entity and only private enterprise is reckless.) But the party is over, truly over, although Krugman seems to want us to believe that Cyprus can avoid consequences by engaging in yet more financial tricks and that a Cyprus with its own government-issued scrip will be just fine.

By the way, Krugman (as a true Keynesian) believes that no one will notice that by getting out of the euro and printing its own money (and converting the deposits in its banks into Cyprus-scrip) that Cyprus has gone bankrupt. In reality, everyone there still will be getting a major head-shaving. We are talking about a currency that would be as popular in world markets as the Zimbabwe dollar at the height of that country's hyperinflation. Imports would fall to near-zero, to be paid only by the euros and other currencies in the seized bank accounts.

In other words, we are not looking for a happy ending. On one side, Cyprus and its people could face the truth, take the up-front medicine, and then try to create a real economy producing things people actually might want to purchase. On the Krugman side, Cyprus goes on with its "let's pretend" game of slashing real wages through inflation and continuing the Big Lie that the only problem there is a currency problem.

My sense is that Krugman's easy solution might be less attractive than what he might predict. First, given the proclivity of the government there to seize the property of others, I doubt seriously that the government would offer a true market exchange rate when those hordes of British tourists invade Cyprus looking for the Good Deal. Instead, we will see the infamous Third World "dirty rates" that are notorious elsewhere.

Second, people who are the victims of outright theft -- and that is what Krugman has been advocating -- are not going to take their situations lightly. Tourists are not going to want to come to a place where mobs are pillaging and burning -- and robbing tourists. (Well, completing the robbery process that would start when the government cheated on the exchange rates.)

The best way to avoid a crisis is not to create one in the first place. Booms created through monetary tricks and inflation have a way of blowing up, and starting a second boom to replace the first is not as easy as Krugman thinks it is.

Robert Murphy notes that Krugman's "solution" is to "ignite a boom" in place of the boom that has crashed. Of course, Krugman does not come clean and tell us what will happen when that boom inevitably crashes. No doubt, his "solution" is to create yet another boom, but in reality, financial trickery has a way of being exposed and at some point, not only is the party over, but people who have been fed a diet of inflation become so addicted to it that they cannot and will not do what is necessary to fix their economies.

In the end, Keynesianism is not about long-term solutions. It is about monetary manipulation in hopes that something -- Anything! -- can hide the fact that inflation is destroying the economic fundamentals. But to the homogeneous-factors Keynesians, there are no fundamentals, just the printing press and government, lots of government. Krugman's Inflation Fairy turns out to be a wicked witch after all.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Krugman Supports Capital Controls

In reading Paul Krugman for more than a decade, it seems that he has established a firm ideological pattern: Markets evil, government good. Thus, he has decided the solution for the crisis in Cyprus: capital controls.

Now, Krugman will not admit that capital controls are essentially an act of police-state theft, although that is exactly what they are. Instead, he promotes capital controls as the epitome of “responsible” government trying to beat back the evils of capitalism. He writes:

Whatever the final outcome in the Cyprus crisis — we know it’s going to be ugly; we just don’t know exactly what form the ugliness will take — one thing seems certain: for the time being, and probably for years to come, the island nation will have to maintain fairly draconian controls on the movement of capital in and out of the country. In fact, controls may well be in place by the time you read this. And that’s not all: Depending on exactly how this plays out, Cypriot capital controls may well have the blessing of the International Monetary Fund, which has already supported such controls in Iceland.

That’s quite a remarkable development. It will mark the end of an era for Cyprus, which has in effect spent the past decade advertising itself as a place where wealthy individuals who want to avoid taxes and scrutiny can safely park their money, no questions asked. But it may also mark at least the beginning of the end for something much bigger: the era when unrestricted movement of capital was taken as a desirable norm around the world.

But it gets better:
It wasn’t always thus. In the first couple of decades after World War II, limits on cross-border money flows were widely considered good policy; they were more or less universal in poorer nations, and present in a majority of richer countries too. Britain, for example, limited overseas investments by its residents until 1979; other advanced countries maintained restrictions into the 1980s. Even the United States briefly limited capital outflows during the 1960s.

Over time, however, these restrictions fell out of fashion. To some extent this reflected the fact that capital controls have potential costs: they impose extra burdens of paperwork, they make business operations more difficult, and conventional economic analysis says that they should have a negative impact on growth (although this effect is hard to find in the numbers). But it also reflected the rise of free-market ideology, the assumption that if financial markets want to move money across borders, there must be a good reason, and bureaucrats shouldn’t stand in their way.

As a result, countries that did step in to limit capital flows — like Malaysia, which imposed what amounted to a curfew on capital flight in 1998 — were treated almost as pariahs. Surely they would be punished for defying the gods of the market!

Yes, when the socialist Labor government of Great Britain following World War II was seizing property and “nationalizing” industry after industry, the government also made sure that those people who were the victims of this theft could not legally get their money out of the country. (And, as we know, the great British experiment in socialism was a disaster as the nationalized industries became famous for poor quality goods and declining productivity, leading to high rates of inflation and even an IMF bailout.)

As I read this Krugman column, I get the sense that he is claiming that governments are financially and fiscally responsible, but it is those evil people in private enterprise that are making things worse, and the only reason that they might want to get their money out of the country is that they are being selfish. So, when Argentina and Bolivia installed capital controls in the middle of their hyperinflations, no doubt Krugman would claim that it was no big deal. Hey, they had more money than ever, right?

Lest it looks as though I am exaggerating, here is Krugman in his own words:
It’s hard to imagine now, but for more than three decades after World War II financial crises of the kind we’ve lately become so familiar with hardly ever happened. Since 1980, however, the roster has been impressive: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile in 1982. Sweden and Finland in 1991. Mexico again in 1995. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Korea in 1998. Argentina again in 2002. And, of course, the more recent run of disasters: Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Cyprus.

What’s the common theme in these episodes? Conventional wisdom blames fiscal profligacy — but in this whole list, that story fits only one country, Greece. Runaway bankers are a better story; they played a role in a number of these crises, from Chile to Sweden to Cyprus. But the best predictor of crisis is large inflows of foreign money: in all but a couple of the cases I just mentioned, the foundation for crisis was laid by a rush of foreign investors into a country, followed by a sudden rush out.

To read Krugman, one would think that people just dumped money into a country and then took it out for no good reason, and THAT was the cause of the crises. In other words, the flow of capital was not a response to what was occurring, but rather was a cause. This would be consistent with Krugman’s statist ideology, and to be honest, I am not surprised to see him embrace the policies that once were the staple of banana republics.

Notice what never receives blame in a Krugman piece: central banks. No, in Wonderland, the only sin that a central banker can commit is not inflating enough. We are supposed to believe that the rapacious capitalists flinging their money around the globe create the financial crises and then responsible governments and central bankers must come in and clean up the mess.

It never seems to occur to Krugman that the various austerity packages that governments are imposing exist for the purpose of propping up the banks, or if Krugman actually acknowledges that fact, he then claims that such policies exist because of a mystical bout of ideology. The ties between bankers, politicians, and central bankers never are explored as though these people all operate in separate spheres of life.

I have no doubt that the vast amounts of movement of capital around the globe can exacerbate a crisis, but not create it. However, capital controls are a form of theft, period, although it is a theft that Krugman supports. He wants us to think that because Great Britain had capital controls and imposed socialism, those were the good old days, and there was no economic price to pay for such policies.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan did not come to power because a mystical ideology suddenly appeared in books and in newspapers, an ideology that convinced people who were living in great and prosperous times that things really were terrible. When Thatcher took office, inflation in Great Britain was more than 20 percent and it was 13 percent in Jimmy Carter’s last year in office in 1980. The very policies that Krugman currently endorses came to fruition in the late 1970s. Just because he wants to rewrite history and try to convince us that it was conservative Republicans who pushed through most deregulation does not mean the guy is telling the truth.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Marches of the Non Sequitur

I really was ready to shout, "Hallalujah!" when I saw the title of Paul Krugman's latest column on the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. When I met Krugman in 2004 at the Southern Economic Association meetings in New Orleans, we were discussing Iraq and I told him that I was afraid we would live the results of that war for the rest of our lives, and he agreed. I hated the war then and always will hate what the U.S. Government has done there.

Had he left things at that, I would have written a post filled with hosannas for Krugman's good judgment. Alack and alas, The Great One was using Iraq as a warmup for claiming that since the war was bad and the media did a terrible job in dealing with it, then any media criticism of the current federal budget deficit also is bad. Don't you get it? Media wrong then; therefore, media wrong now.

This is what the ancients once called the non sequitur (Latin for "it does not follow") in which the conclusion is not supported by the premises. If Washington was "wrong" on Iraq, then Washington certainly must be "wrong" on anything regarding the federal budget. Everyone knows that!

Even beyond Krugman's logical fallacy, there is another problem with his argument: Washington hardly is a place where "austerity" is being practiced, much less preached. The Republicans hardly were "austere" during their days of controlling all branches of the federal government and when people talk of "draconian budget cuts," they really are referring to alleged "cuts" in the INCREASE of spending. In other words, any slowdown in the rate of increase in spending is termed "austerity" by people who should know better.

Then there are statements like the following in which Krugman wants to claim that the mainstream media is on the side of "austerity": as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

To be honest, I cannot recall reading anything recently in the mainstream press recently that referenced a "debt crisis." However, I would add that the U.S. Government is not paying its debts via any methods other than financial trickery, something that cannot continue forever without serious consequences. The U.S. Government pays its debts either by borrowing more money or essentially printing the payments, neither of which is sustainable.

No, we are not in a current "debt crisis," as one might define the term. Not even the Austrians are making that claim. The Austrians do say, however, that the real financial damage that the government and the Federal Reserve System has been doing is not going to have a happy ending. Krugman and his True Believers may believe that printed money essentially is real wealth (and that ultimately is what they are claiming), but the laws of economics have a way of making themselves known, and there will come a time when Ben Bernanke has no more rabbits to pull out of his hat.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Who is Flimflaming Whom?

Folks, things are getting serious. Paul Krugman and the Progressives have found the solution to all of our problems: spend money now, borrow, print, and then tax the rich (even higher) in the future and stick it to business. We'll all get rich!

You see, this is what Krugman calls a "serious" proposal. Anything that is grounded in reality -- you know, that fact-based world -- is what The Great One calls a "flimflam." First, however, he had to take his usual shot at Paul Ryan and the budget Krugman attacks. (Not that such things are news. While I have no plans to shill for Ryan, nonetheless I would say that what Ryan does is much more serious than Krugman's fantasy of spending ourselves into prosperity.)

However, one has to realize what Krugman calls a "serious" proposal: the budget plan recently released by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is a nice way of describing a group of people who believe in near-total State control of every aspect of your life. (Except abortion on demand, of course, as only that should be left out of any governmental regulation, according to "Progressives.")

Called "Back to Work," Krugman describes the plan in his own words:
But there’s a plan that does: the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, titled “Back to Work,” which calls for substantial new spending now, temporarily widening the deficit, offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution.
Yes, we are supposed to believe that after the government spends trillions more on "job creation" (which is yet another euphemism for "massive public works" that socialists are fond of demanding), sometime in the next decade Congress will get around to trying to figure out how to pay for all of this. This "serious" proposal has the usual stuff about public works, "green energy," and all of the things that Obama has been pushing already. And there is yet another promise that socialist medical care will both lower costs and improve delivery.

What I do find interesting is that Krugman declares the following when describing another budget proposal, this one by Senate Democrats who apparently are not "Progressive" enough for Krugman:
...the Senate plan calls for further deficit reduction, through a mix of modest tax increases and spending cuts. (Incidentally, the tax increases still fall well short of those called for in the Bowles-Simpson plan, which Washington, for some reason, treats as something close to holy scripture.) But it avoids large short-run spending cuts, which would hobble our recovery at a time when unemployment is still disastrously high, and it even includes a modest amount of stimulus spending.
If unemployment is "disastrously high," then one would have to say that President Obama's programs then have had "disastrous" results. However, Krugman has been shilling for Obama for the past five years and continues to shill for him. Yet, he describes the results of what Obama has done to lower unemployment as "disastrous"? Very interesting.

In other words, this is more of Krugman's "heads I win, tails you lose" reasoning. And when it comes to "serious" budget proposals (as though Congress and the president are going to agree on a budget when that has not occurred for many years), the most serious is the one that spends and borrows now and then 10 years from now leaves to a future Congress as how to pay for all of it. No doubt, the Inflation Fairy is going to have to do a lot of work to pay for this one.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Federal Deficit is a Symptom, Not a Disease

Member of Congress are infamous for attacking symptoms of a problem instead of going straight to the heart of the disease, and the current "discussion" on the massive federal deficits are yet another case in point. While I do find myself in some agreement with Paul Krugman on the issue of deficits in his most recent column, nonetheless I also find that once again Krugman sets up the straw man argument and falsely portrays himself as a lonely voice of sanity.

I will say it again; the federal budget deficits are symptoms of the larger problem of federal spending and lawmakers and economists should not be fixated upon them while ignoring more important issues. While I agree with Krugman that as the economy improves, deficits will grow smaller, I contend that the Keynesian prescription -- spend like crazy during the recession -- actually has made the economy worse and has prevented a more robust recovery.

Then there are following statements like this that make me scratch my head in disbelief:
What’s really remarkable at this point, however, is the persistence of the deficit fixation in the face of rapidly changing facts. People still talk as if the deficit were exploding, as if the United States budget were on an unsustainable path; in fact, the deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations, it is already down to sustainable levels, and it is too small given the state of the economy.
Yes, readers are told simultaneously that (a) the deficit is dwindling because the economy is improving and, (b) the deficit needs to be bigger to help the economy. This is the classic non sequitur in which (a) does not imply (b). His logical chain, I believe, runs as such:
  • Deficits should be large if the economy is depressed because extra spending (as long as the revenues come from borrowing or outright money printing or taxes on the "idle hoards" of the rich) boosts the economy, as more deficit spending ultimately will lead to less deficit spending;
  • The current federal deficit is dwindling even as government spending increases because the U.S. economy is rapidly improving;
  • Therefore, the current U.S. federal deficit is too small.
The idea behind Krugman's thinking here is that the U.S. economy has been mired in a "liquidity trap," a set of circumstances in which individuals as a whole are mired in a perverse Nash Equilibrium in which no one will seek better gains from trade because no one else is willing to do the same. If government does not try to break the logjam with massive new spending (no worry of where to spend, just spend), then the economy will permanently be stuck at a miserable steady-state of high unemployment and low output. Only new government spending can change the circumstances.

Keep in mind that U.S. Government policies before 1929 pretty much adhered to what Krugman says not to do, yet the economy always recovered from downturns. Only from 1929 to 1940 did the government actively intervene, and we call that era the Great Depression, yet today we are told that the New Deal programs actually ended the Depression, which clearly is not true.

Murray Rothbard wrote about the penchant of governments to try to internally bring prosperity by more spending, and he predicted (accurately) that the programs would fail. This section from America's Great Depression is a very poignant commentary on what has been done in the past five years:
If government wishes to see a depression ended as quickly as possible, and the economy returned to normal prosperity, what course should it adopt? The first and clearest injunction is: don't interfere with the market's adjustment process. The more the government intervenes to delay the market's adjustment, the longer and more grueling the depression will be, and the more difficult will be the road to complete recovery. Government hampering aggravates and perpetuates the depression. Yet, government depression policy has always (and would have even more today) aggravated the very evils it has loudly tried to cure. If, in fact, we list logically the various ways that government could hamper market adjustment, we will find that we have precisely listed the favorite "anti-depression" arsenal of government policy. Thus, here are the ways the adjustment process can be hobbled:
  1. Prevent or delay liquidation. Lend money to shaky businesses, call on banks to lend further, etc.

  2. Inflate further. Further inflation blocks the necessary fall in prices, thus delaying adjustment and prolonging depression. Further credit expansion creates more malinvestments, which, in their turn, will have to be liquidated in some later depression. A government "easy money" policy prevents the market's return to the necessary higher interest rates.

  3. Keep wage rates up. Artificial maintenance of wage rates in a depression insures permanent mass unemployment. Furthermore, in a deflation, when prices are falling, keeping the same rate of money wages means that real wage rates have been pushed higher. In the face of falling business demand, this greatly aggravates the unemployment problem.

  4. Keep prices up. Keeping prices above their free-market levels will create unsalable surpluses, and prevent a return to prosperity.

  5. Stimulate consumption and discourage saving. We have seen that more saving and less consumption would speed recovery; more consumption and less saving aggravate the shortage of saved-capital even further. Government can encourage consumption by "food stamp plans" and relief payments. It can discourage savings and investment by higher taxes, particularly on the wealthy and on corporations and estates. As a matter of fact, any increase of taxes and government spending will discourage saving and investment and stimulate consumption, since government spending is all consumption. Some of the private funds would have been saved and invested; all of the government funds are consumed. Any increase in the relative size of government in the economy, therefore, shifts the societal consumption-investment ratio in favor of consumption, and prolongs the depression.

  6. Subsidize unemployment. Any subsidization of unemployment (via unemployment "insurance," relief, etc.) will prolong unemployment indefinitely, and delay the shift of workers to the fields where jobs are available.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have done all of these things in spades, yet even now Krugman complains that we need larger budget deficits (although the current shrinking deficit reflects economic improvement). The above suggestions definitely set Keynesians to fits of apoplexy, but they pretty much have summed up what the government did before, and the economy always recovered.

The Keynesian response always is the same: we haven't spent enough money. How much is enough? The Keynesians will let us know when we have reached that point - but we haven't reached it yet.

Krugman is correct; the issue is not finding ways to cut the deficit per se, as much of the deficit is due to the condition of the economy. However, as Rothbard so clearly stated above, the massive government interventions have not helped the economy, but instead have slowed the recovery and have made it much harder for entrepreneurs to find those lines of production that are going to be profitable.

The fixation should not be on balancing the budget, both of us believe. However, we part company when we look at how to deal with the issue at hand.

I would ask this final question: If what Krugman has claimed earlier is true - that the U.S. Government's response to the crisis has essentially been one of "austerity" - then how is the economy growing fast enough to shrink the deficit? Furthermore, let me ask if this quote from Krugman even makes "Keynesian" sense:

“People are exhausting their savings,” he (Krugman) said. “People are running out of hope.”
Isn't the destruction of savings during a recession a key to bringing back prosperity? How can this be a sign of "losing hope" if the actions actually stimulate consumption, and every good Keynesian knows that consumption actually is the form of production that creates real prosperity? Furthermore, are we not supposed to be cheering on the Inflation Fairy as it destroys savings and raises real costs to individuals? Inquiring non-Keynesians really would like to know.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is Paul Krugman Really a Martyr?

Paul Krugman operates with numerous themes, although for the most part they revolve around his belief that (1) the U.S. economy is in a "liquidity trap," and (2) government must spend, borrow, raise taxes (ostensibly to seize "idle" money holdings), print money, and spend some more. Anyone who does not agree, according to Krugman, is not worthy of existence and certainly should not be allowed to make any public utterances.

(The Austrians, in Krugman's view, are nothing more than an evil cult who apparently are trying to foist things like the Law of Scarcity and Marginal Utility -- What? Marginal Utility? -- upon the world. Everyone but the Austrians knows that government can create prosperity by printing and borrowing.)

Lately, however, Krugman has fastened himself to another theme: Paul Krugman, martyr. Yes, Krugman is fashioning himself as the Lonely Voice In The Wilderness, the ignored prophet, the abused Holy Man, and now the Last Hippie (or at least until Ben Bernanke testified to Congress that showering the world with freshly-printed dollars was sound economic policy -- that made Bernanke an Honored Hippie).

To be honest, I find this amusing. Martyrs do not receive Nobel Prizes, nor do Sunday television news shows compete literally every week for the man's appearance. Nor do martyrs make millions of dollars a year, and martyrs certainly do not have positions on a faculty of one of the world's top-ranted universities.

What Krugman seems to mean is that if anyone -- Anyone -- publicly criticizes what he is saying, then whoever had the temerity to utter such blasphemies also has inflicted a grievous wound upon The Great One and has thrown him into the pit of martyrdom. Those who refuse to believe in the Inflation Fairy or who would deny that governments can create more wealth by forcing up real costs have no place in the discussion of economics.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Joseph Salerno on Bernanke's Asset Bubbles

While I realize that Paul Krugman insists that only "unregulated" markets can create asset bubbles (and that government plays no role in creating them), Joseph Salerno begs to differ, saying that the U.S. Government and its Federal Reserve System is "addicted" to a bubble economy.

Helicopter Ben Runs Out of Ideas for Creating Money

Ben Bernanke confided on January 14 that he is unaware of any new method of stimulating economic growth. Bernanke said: “As far as I’m aware, there’s no completely new method that we haven’t [already tapped].” So Helicopter Ben has run out of innovative and unconventional ways to create new money. Lest you be tempted to breathe a bit easier, however, rest assured that the now conventional method of quantitative easing, involving the Fed’s monthly purchase of $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed and U.S. government securities, seems to be working just fine according to Bernanke and he foresees its continuation. Noting the stubbornly high unemployment rate combined with the low inflation rate in the U.S. economy, Bernanke stated, “That is the case for being aggressive, which we are trying to do.” Although he is “cautiously optimistic,” he does promise to closely monitor the risks, efficacy, costs, and benefits of this inflationary policy.

I guess the rapid asset price run-up in stock and commodities markets, which are nearly back to financial bubble levels, and booming farmland prices do not count in Bernanke’s benefit-cost calculus. More likely, Bernanke accounts them as a benefit, which, via the “wealth effect,” will induce another debt-driven consumption spree on the part of the American public that will stimulate economic growth, i.e., create another bubble economy.

Read the Entire Article Here