The Weiner Component Vol.2 #10 – The Fed: Saving the Country & the Future

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Ch...

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Chair Ben Bernanke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Chairman from 2006 to 2014, had developed the Bernanke thesis based upon his conclusions about the reasons for the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Official portrait of Federal Reserve Chairman ...

He found that the financial disruptions of 1930 to 1933 reduced the efficiency of the credit allocation process. The Fed had raised interest rates and made borrowing money more expensive. This resulted in higher costs and reduced availability of credit, which acted to depress aggregate demand. When banks face a mild downturn they are likely to significantly cut back on lending and other risky ventures. This further hurts the economy and creates a vicious cycle turning a mild recession into a major depression. When the Federal Reserve did that it far worsened conditions during the 1929 Depression.

 

Or to state the above simply: fear of a depression can turn a mild recession into a giant depression. Seemingly this is what occurred again in 2008. It would seem that Ben Bernanke was in the right place at the right time. He was able to utilize his principles and bring about a softening of the 2008 Crash from a major depression into a Great Recession.

 

What he did was drop the interest rate that the Fed charges banks to 0 and in his last two years as Fed Chairman he added 80.5 billion dollars a month to the National Cash Flow.

********************************

There were two major problems that emerged from the 2008 Housing Disaster. One dealt with the billions of pieces of mortgage paper that the banks had created from the mortgages. Left to itself it would take decades for this problem to be resolved. No one really owned the mortgages that had been broken up into hundreds of pieces and applied to multitudinous Hedge Funds. There were not even real records of their existence. The assorted houses would eventually go to foreclosure for none payment of property taxes. And no one knew when that could occur for the majority of them. They then would or could be sold for the price of the back taxes. The deserted homes would go first, after three of so years. The others, several years after people stopped paying property taxes on them. It was an impossible mess.

 

The second problem was that there was not enough money in circulation and the banks did not consider home loans safe investments. Money had to be loosened up.

 

What Bernanke did during his last two years in office was to add 85 billion dollars a month to the economy, an additional 40 billion was deposited in the banks, causing them to loosen up with financing new homes and refinancing old ones and 45 billion was spent buying up the multitudinous mortgage pieces.

 

The program was ended in 2014 by reducing the amount spent each month until 0 was reached in both categories. In February 2014, when Janet Yellen became the new Chairperson in charge of the Federal Reserve, she spent the first two months of her four year tenure ending the program. She also gave herself the option of renewing the program if she and the Fed Board felt it was necessary.

 

The mortgage pieces were at some point or points destroyed by the Fed. The Federal Government did not want to go into the real estate business, it wanted to get rid of this quagmire that was hanging over real estate in the U.S. After a little over two years this problem largely disappeared. Two years after that when Donald J. Trump became President no one seemed to remember it.

 

In essence while the Federal Reserve spent about six trillion, three hundred billion dollars straightening out the mortgage debacle a good percentage of that money came back in taxes. It was spent within the country on goods and services indirectly creating jobs and increasing the GDP. The Government did not waste the money; they expanded a shrinking economy.

 

The same can be said for the 40 billion a month being deposited in banks across the country. The approximately five trillion six hundred million dollars spent here tended to loosen up the banking attitude toward housing and got that industry growing again. It also added positively to the economy. In addition it also did not stir up any real inflation in the economy. Neither policy did.

 

This was the application of the Bernanke economic principle. It prevented the economy of the United States from collapsing and similar actions did the same thing for foreign economies. This action also made use of money as a tool to keep countries functioning and avoiding major depressions. Money was no longer an object of value for governments. Each government could produce it at will. It now became a means that could be used to control economic conditions. This action became Bernanke’s contribution to the principles of economics.

*******************************

Janet Louise Yellen assumed office as the Chair of the Federal Reserve on February 3, 2014. She had been the Vice Chair from October 4, 2010 to February 3, 2014. Prior to that she was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from January 11, 2004 to October 4, 2010.

 

Dr. Yellen is married to George Akenlof, a Noble prize-winning economist who is a professor at Georgetown University. Their son, Robert Akenlof teaches economics at the University of Warwick.

 

During her nomination hearings on November 14, 2013 Janet Yellen defended the more than three trillion dollars in stimulus funds that the Fed had been injecting into the U.S. economy. She also testified that U.S. Monetary Policy would revert toward more traditional monetary policy once the economy returned to normal.

 

Yellen is the first woman to hold the position of Chairperson of the Federal Reserve. On December 16, 2015, with Yellen as Chairperson, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate from 0% to ¼ of one percent. Since that time the interest rate has been raised twice, each time by ¼ of one percent. It now stands at ¾ of one percent. It has been announced by the Fed that there will be additional increases over the year 2017.

 

My overall impression of the Chairlady is that she is very caucus in all her actions. She initially misinterpreted the overall effects of the 2008 Housing Debacle feeling that it would not be that serious. She doesn’t want to make another mistake.

 

While the cost of a non-existent or very low interest rate has kept the cost of borrowing money down and has led to a resurgence in home buying it has also kept down the cost of interest the banks pay their depositors from whom they get the funds to lend out. Banks have and are paying as little as 1/10 of one percent interest to many of their depositors. In essence interest that the banks pay to their depositors is so low that the financial institutions are just about getting their money for free.

********************************

After the Presidential Election in 2016 of Donald J. Trump to the presidency Dr. Yellen vowed to protect Dodd-Frank, the law that limited the actions of the banks that was passed after the Housing Debacle of 2008.

 

Trump had denounced Dodd-Frank, stating that he will do away with it. Trump has also stated that he will not reappoint Janet Yellen in 2018, when her current term ends.

 

Janet Yellen is a Keynesian economist and advocated the use of Monetary Policy in stabilizing the economic activity of the business cycle. She has also stated that occasionally letting inflation rise could be a “wise” and humane policy if it increases output. She has stated that each percentage point drop in inflation results in a 4.4% loss of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

*************************************

Dr. Janet Yellen’s term ends in 2018. It is then up to the President to reappoint her or to appoint someone else as Chair of the Federal Reserve. President Donald Trump, if he is still President and if he follows his pattern of appointments, will probably appoint a non-economist to that position. It might even be a banker. What will the result be both to the country and to the Federal Reserve?

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #10 – Part 9: The Fed: Saving the Country & the Future

 

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Chairman from 2006 to 2014, had developed the Bernanke thesis based upon his conclusions about the reasons for the Great Depression of 1929.

 

He found that the financial disruptions of 1930 to 1933 reduced the efficiency of the credit allocation process. The Fed had raised interest rates and made borrowing money more expensive. This resulted in higher costs and reduced availability of credit, which acted to depress aggregate demand. When banks face a mild downturn they are likely to significantly cut back on lending and other risky ventures. This further hurts the economy and creates a vicious cycle turning a mild recession into a major depression. When the Federal Reserve did that it far worsened conditions during the 1929 Depression.

 

Or to state the above simply: fear of a depression can turn a mild recession into a giant depression. Seemingly this is what occurred again in 2008. It would seem that Ben Bernanke was in the right place at the right time. He was able to utilize his principles and bring about a softening of the 2008 Crash from a major depression into a Great Recession.

 

What he did was drop the interest rate that the Fed charges banks to 0 and in his last two years as Fed Chairman he added 80.5 billion dollars a month to the National Cash Flow.

********************************

There were two major problems that emerged from the 2008 Housing Disaster. One dealt with the billions of pieces of mortgage paper that the banks had created from the mortgages. Left to itself it would take decades for this problem to be resolved. No one really owned the mortgages that had been broken up into hundreds of pieces and applied to multitudinous Hedge Funds. There were not even real records of their existence. The assorted houses would eventually go to foreclosure for none payment of property taxes. And no one knew when that could occur for the majority of them. They then would or could be sold for the price of the back taxes. The deserted homes would go first, after three of so years. The others, several years after people stopped paying property taxes on them. It was an impossible mess.

 

The second problem was that there was not enough money in circulation and the banks did not consider home loans safe investments. Money had to be loosened up.

 

What Bernanke did during his last two years in office was to add 85 billion dollars a month to the economy, an additional 40 billion was deposited in the banks, causing them to loosen up with financing new homes and refinancing old ones and 45 billion was spent buying up the multitudinous mortgage pieces.

 

The program was ended in 2014 by reducing the amount spent each month until 0 was reached in both categories. In February 2014, when Janet Yellen became the new Chairperson in charge of the Federal Reserve, she spent the first two months of her four year tenure ending the program. She also gave herself the option of renewing the program if she and the Fed Board felt it was necessary.

 

The mortgage pieces were at some point or points destroyed by the Fed. The Federal Government did not want to go into the real estate business, it wanted to get rid of this quagmire that was hanging over real estate in the U.S. After a little over two years this problem largely disappeared. Two years after that when Donald J. Trump became President no one seemed to remember it.

 

In essence while the Federal Reserve spent about six trillion, three hundred billion dollars straightening out the mortgage debacle a good percentage of that money came back in taxes. It was spent within the country on goods and services indirectly creating jobs and increasing the GDP. The Government did not waste the money; they expanded a shrinking economy.

 

The same can be said for the 40 billion a month being deposited in banks across the country. The approximately five trillion six hundred million dollars spent here tended to loosen up the banking attitude toward housing and got that industry growing again. It also added positively to the economy. In addition it also did not stir up any real inflation in the economy. Neither policy did.

 

This was the application of the Bernanke economic principle. It prevented the economy of the United States from collapsing and similar actions did the same thing for foreign economies. This action also made use of money as a tool to keep countries functioning and avoiding major depressions. Money was no longer an object of value for governments. Each government could produce it at will. It now became a means that could be used to control economic conditions. This action became Bernanke’s contribution to the principles of economics.

*******************************

Janet Louise Yellen assumed office as the Chair of the Federal Reserve on February 3, 2014. She had been the Vice Chair from October 4, 2010 to February 3, 2014. Prior to that she was President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from January 11, 2004 to October 4, 2010.

 

Dr. Yellen is married to George Akenlof, a Noble prize-winning economist who is a professor at Georgetown University. Their son, Robert Akenlof teaches economics at the University of Warwick.

 

During her nomination hearings on November 14, 2013 Janet Yellen defended the more than three trillion dollars in stimulus funds that the Fed had been injecting into the U.S. economy. She also testified that U.S. Monetary Policy would revert toward more traditional monetary policy once the economy returned to normal.

 

Yellen is the first woman to hold the position of Chairperson of the Federal Reserve. On December 16, 2015, with Yellen as Chairperson, the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate from 0% to ¼ of one percent. Since that time the interest rate has been raised twice, each time by ¼ of one percent. It now stands at ¾ of one percent. It has been announced by the Fed that there will be additional increases over the year 2017.

 

My overall impression of the Chairlady is that she is very caucus in all her actions. She initially misinterpreted the overall effects of the 2008 Housing Debacle feeling that it would not be that serious. She doesn’t want to make another mistake.

 

While the cost of a non-existent or very low interest rate has kept the cost of borrowing money down and has led to a resurgence in home buying it has also kept down the cost of interest the banks pay their depositors from whom they get the funds to lend out. Banks have and are paying as little as 1/10 of one percent interest to many of their depositors. In essence interest that the banks pay to their depositors is so low that the financial institutions are just about getting their money for free.

********************************

After the Presidential Election in 2016 of Donald J. Trump to the presidency Dr. Yellen vowed to protect Dodd-Frank, the law that limited the actions of the banks that was passed after the Housing Debacle of 2008.

 

Trump had denounced Dodd-Frank, stating that he will do away with it. Trump has also stated that he will not reappoint Janet Yellen in 2018, when her current term ends.

 

Janet Yellen is a Keynesian economist and advocated the use of Monetary Policy in stabilizing the economic activity of the business cycle. She has also stated that occasionally letting inflation rise could be a “wise” and humane policy if it increases output. She has stated that each percentage point drop in inflation results in a 4.4% loss of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

*************************************

Dr. Janet Yellen’s term ends in 2018. It is then up to the President to reappoint her or to appoint someone else as Chair of the Federal Reserve. President Donald Trump, if he is still President and if he follows his pattern of appointments, will probably appoint a non-economist to that position. It might even be a banker. What will the result be both to the country and to the Federal Reserve?

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #8 – The Federal Reserve During the Bernanke Years: 2006 – 2014

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1935, Cret designed the Seal of the Board o...

In 1935, Cret designed the Seal of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On January 31, 2006, Alan Greenspan retired or resigned as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and on February 1, 2006, Ben Bernanke became the new Chairman. He served two four year terms, initially being nominated by George W. Bush and being re-nominated the second time by President Barack Obama. Chairman Bernanke would find, among other things, the means to avoid a depression far greater than that of 1929. He would do this through the use of Creative Monetary Policy; that is, essentially by flooding the economy of the United States with money.

 

To understand in detail what he did one has to read his 2015 book, The Courage to Act. In this work he explained how the world’s economies came close to collapse in 2007 and 2008. Bernanke explained how it was the efforts of the Federal Reserve utilizing Monetary Policy and cooperating with other national agencies of the U.S. and agencies of foreign governments that prevented an economic catastrophe far greater than the Great Depression of 1929 which lasted for over ten years.

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Generally speaking: in 2008 the Housing Crash came. It had gradually been developing since the 1980s. While President George W. Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, made large loans to banking houses to keep them from failing Bernanke bailed out AIG, the largest insurance company throughout the United States.

 

If AIG went bankrupt millions of people would have lost their insurance coverage and the premiums they had paid over the years. AIG had also insured some of the Hedge Funds that went under. They had wanted some of the profits that the banks were making from the Housing Market and their actuaries had no experience in dealing with Hedge Funds. I assume that Bernanke wanted to avoid the misery this would cause nationwide.

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It is important to keep in mind that the Federal Government under Presidents Bush and Obama were making loans to the banks, AIG and to the auto industry. These loans were repaid by all three groups with interest.

 

President Obama set a condition on the loans that Bush did not. That was to limit compensation packages for the executives of these struggling institutions. To the President it seem ridiculous that CEOs and other bank executives should continue to receive salaries of over a million dollars after bring the banking houses to the point of bankruptcy.

 

The CEO of the Bank of America complained bitterly about this. He wanted to pay off the Government loan quickly so the leading executives could go back to salaries in the multi-millions. Today in 2017, and for a number of prior years, their remunerations go from about four million up.

 

It should also be noted that the banks, taken together, have paid multimillions in fines for illegal practices. And no one has ever gone to jail but the banks have paid at times massive fines.

***************************************

The Housing Debacle and the increase in unemployment (up to 10%) that accompanied it should have been handled by both the Federal Reserve applying Monetary Policy and the Congress and the President applying Fiscal Policy, Congress passing spending bills and the President signing them. From 2011 on, when the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives there were no Fiscal Policy Bills passed through Congress.

 

The year 2011 on was an ideal time to begin rebuilding the infrastructure of the United States. Most of the infrastructure had been built in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th Century. The population had practically doubled since then and a good part of the infrastructure of the country was well out of date.

 

The National Highway System had been built by President Eisenhower in the 1950s. By 2009 most of the airports, railroads, government buildings, the electric grid, many public schools, even the education system was/is grossly out of date. In fact, for what it’s worth, President Donald Trump has defined the infrastructure of the country as a “disaster.”

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After the bank bailouts the Obama Administration expected the banks to return to a reasonable level of what they had been doing before the crash. This did not happen. The banks became ultra conservative in their lending policy. People buying new homes had to have a fairly large percentage of the cost of the new home. Chairman Bernanke lowered the interest rate the Fed charges banks to 0% giving them free money.

 

From this point on in approximately 2010 the banking houses looked for new way to make profits with their funds. What they came up with, among other things, was the Futures Market.

 

Future Markets are exchanges that buy and sell future contracts. A future contract gives the buyer an obligation to purchase an asset and the seller an obligation to sell an asset at a set price which is to be delivered at a future point in time. The purchasers are interested in selling the asset the future time at a profit. They are often blamed for big price swings in the Futures Market.

 

The assets underlying future contracts include food commodities, stocks and bonds, grain, precious metals, electricity, oil, beef, orange juice and natural gas to name a few. They are bets that the price of the product at the eventual delivery price will far exceed the earlier purchase price.

 

It can be assumed that the rise in food and gasoline prices after 2010 exceeded what they would have been if the banks had not been involved. In essence the banks exploited the general homeowner up until 2008 and from 2010 on they exploited the general public whose tax dollars had bailed them out of the economic disaster which they had caused in their perennial search for more and more profits.

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In the year 2010 the American public elected a Republican majority to the House of Representatives. With their ascension to the House in 2011 all possibilities of Fiscal Policy Bills ceased. The Republicans wanted to reduce government spending and make President Obama a one term president by not allowing him to succeed in anything. In fact what the House of Representatives did was to worsen the Housing Debacle by reducing, forcibly at the time, government spending. They even shut the government down by not funding it.

 

President Obama offered an Infrastructure Bill that never even came up in the House of Representatives. The fact that President Obama and Chairman Bernanke were able to turn the Housing Crash and limit initial unemployment to only 10% with actual opposition from the Republican House of Representatives was itself miraculous. What the Fed and the President did was to turn a possible depression into the Great Recession. Even though economic conditions were far from ideal this was truly an act of wonderment.

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What happened with the Housing Crash was a situation that looked like it might take decades to straighten out. Virtually overnight the value of homes deflated at the speed of an exploding balloon. Many people who had financed and refinanced their property more than once suddenly discovered that they were underwater, that is, that they owed more on their homes than they were worth. A percentage of these people just walked away from their property, leaving it deserted.

 

This raised an interesting problem both for these properties and for those in which the people continued living. Who owned these mortgages? Remember the mortgages had been divided up into innumerable fractional pieces. In order to control any one of these property mortgages one needed to own over 50% of it. No Hedge Fund owned that much of any one property. The records of mortgage ownership were highly inaccurate. Consequently in point of fact no one really owned these properties.

 

Most of the banks that had been charging endless fees to administer these mortgage loans felt that they could foreclose on these properties, either because they were deserted empty houses or because the inhabitants could, for one reason or another, no longer afford to make their monthly payments. A goodly number of these people had lost their jobs.

 

The banks used their computers to generate the needed documents since no real records of ownership existed. The banks had earlier been in too great a hurry to generate loans than to keep accurate records.

 

Some of these cases went to court and initially the judges felt that a solid institution like a bank would do nothing illegal. Some of the attorneys who made this point were declared to be in “contempt,” and were disbarred. Eventually after a large number of cases were determined in favor of the banks the evidence of their wrongdoing was acknowledged by the Courts. Whether the disbarred lawyers got their licenses back I don’t know, but the banks were severely fined for wrongdoing and the illegal foreclosing ended leaving a lot of people living in homes for which they were not paying.

 

The problem was left up in the air. As long as the people living in these homes paid their property taxes no one could legally disposes them even if they never made another house payment on the mortgage. Most of the Hedge Funds had gone bankrupt; they didn’t own enough of any property to foreclose on it. Of course no one knew which properties these were and which actually had owners of the mortgages. Some of the banks had owned some of the Hedge Funds.

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What generally happened across the nation from that point in time on was interesting. Numerous individuals, generally not being employed, no longer paid their mortgages. If they were reemployed or eventually got a job they still did not make payments. Why bother? No one had foreclosed on them. In essence these people now had extra cash which they tended to spend. Suddenly, among other things, eating out with their families became very popular. A good part of their housing funds were being spent. The National Cash Flow or the amount of money available in the general society increased with all this spending and it helped keep the level of national unemployment to no higher than ten percent. This was an interesting irony that was initially funded by the banks but ultimately payed by the taxpayers in the bail outs.

 

Had the House and Senate passed the Infrastructure Bill that President Barack Obama suggested then the overall effects of the Great Recession would have disappeared by the end of his first term in office and the country would have dropped to a 2 ½ percent unemployment level which is considered full employment because it is the rate generated by people normally retiring, changing jobs, and first entering employment.

 

The result would have been more taxes being paid which would have largely offset the increased government spending. But the Republicans dominated House of Representatives was penny smart and dollar stupid. By forcing down government expenditure they also cut down the Gross National Product (GDP) and shrank taxable income throughout the United States, keeping unemployment higher.

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On August 25, 2009, President Barack Obama announced he would nominate Bernanke to a second term as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He stated, with Ben Bernanke standing at his side that Bernanke’s background, temperament, courage and creativity helped to prevent another Great Depression in 2008.

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #6 – The Federal Reserve: Part 1

English: Monthly changes in the currency compo...

English: Monthly changes in the currency component of the U.S. money supply as reported by the Federal Reserve at the St. Louis Fed’s F.R.E.D. website at: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/CURRNS.txt The data was copy/pasted into an OpenOffice.org Calc spreadsheet, the monthly changes were calculated using a simple formula, then this image was generated from that data. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every industrial nation or group of countries like the Euro-pact, which uses a common currency, has a Central Bank that largely controls that controls its Monetary Policy, the flow of currency within its borders. In Europe it’s called the Central Bank and in the United States it is called the Federal Reserve System or the Fed.

 

Initially when the United States was founded under the Constitution in 1789 the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, suggested that a Bank of the United States be established; and it was in 1791. The bank served as a repository for federal funds and as the government’s fiscal agent.

 

The bank was privately owned, as money for it was subscribed by private citizens, but its prime function was to serve the new government. It was granted a twenty year charter by Congress and had branches in eight cities. Consequently in addition to acting for the government the bank also conducted general commercial business. Although it was well managed and profitable critics charged that it was favoring the mercantile class over agrarian interests. This brought about its temporary termination after its charter expired in 1811. In 1816 the Bank of the United States was reestablished because the country had faced financial problems during the War of 1812 and it received a new twenty year charter.

 

The Second Bank of the United States would exist until and through most of the second term of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. It’s President, Nickolas Biddle, attempted to force Jackson to sign a Congressional bill chartering another twenty year extension to the bank. President Jackson reacted to this by moved all new government income to a group of western banks, that became known as his “pet” banks, and spent the funds already deposited in the Bank of the United States before withdrawing funds from his “pet” banks to pay for the needs of the Federal Government. The Second Bank of the United States got a state charter and would eventually go bankrupt. The western “pet” banks went on a lending spree which inflated the sale of western land by hundreds of percent, resulting in a depression, when the bubble burst, that affected the entire United States during the tenure of the next President, Martin Van Buren. In any event the nation no longer had a Central Bank.

 

In 1913, during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, a new Central Bank was set up by Congress. It was called the Federal Reserve and was supposed to regulate the flow of currency within the nation in order to avoid the large and regular economic dips of recession and depression.

 

Its initial mission was to control Monetary Policy, the flow of money through the entire economy. Gradually Congress extended it purpose by new legislation. These gradual extensions were a broadening of Monetary Policy.

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Keep in mind that at this point in the history of the United States money or currency was specie; that is, it was gold or silver in the form of coins. Paper money did exist but it was a promissory note that could be exchanged at any bank, theoretically at any time, for gold and silver coins. However if this was done on a massive scale there would be a run on the bank and it would run out of money and go bankrupt. In order for business to properly occur more bank notes were printed than there was gold available.

 

Basically these metals, gold and silver, were purchased by the National Government and then minted into different denominations. The coins denoted the weight of the metal. A one ounce gold coin was a $20 gold piece. A one ounce silver coin was a silver dollar. Money, then, was exchanging value for value. The basic value of the metals was agreed upon international; so money as gold or silver could be used anywhere in the world.

 

In 1929, for various reasons, the Great Depression occurred. Under a Republican administration, that of President Herbert Hoover, the country, and, for that matter, the world, went economically downhill for the next decade. Each industrial nation had to work out its own deliverance from the Great Depression.

 

In 1932, the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. He introduced the “New Deal.” His basic program was the three R’s: relief, recovery, and reform. He attempted to offer employment to many of the unemployed, an end to the reasons for the depression, and reform by legislation or otherwise so it could never happen again.

 

Roosevelt was the longest serving President in the history of the nation. He served for four terms, through the Great Depression and most of World War II, dying in office during his fourth term.

 

Sometime during his first administration he had a bill passed by Congress that changed the use of money, first in the United States and then it was copied throughout the rest of the world. The Federal Government collected all the gold coins, with the exception of a small number that could be kept as souvenirs, issued paper silver certificates for one and five dollar bills and Federal Reserve Notes for any amount above that. The gold coins were melted down into bars of gold and stored in underground depositories like Fort Knox, situated around the country, with gold certificates issued for the gold, which the government kept on deposit to verify the value of the Federal Reserve Notes.

 

In essence money being worth its weight in gold became a myth. The gold certificates were never on display or otherwise available. There was never any record kept of actual gold being added or subtracted from the gold supply in the depositories. Money became paper, a token of no real value; everything else was a fiction.

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Early on in World War II the countries that were to become allies of the United States shipped their gold supplies to the U.S. I don’t believe the gold was ever returned to those nations. They spent the gold on buying supplies with which to fight the war. After the gold was spent the United States used a system called “lend lease” to supply its allies with the necessary food and war materials. Those goods were never really paid for monetarily. But World War II ended the last hangovers of the Great Depression. The United States and later the rest of the world emerged in different levels of economic fitness in 1945. All actual money had become paper tokens that were used to exchange goods and services for goods and services. The basic world currency, upon which all the other national currencies were based, after the war was the American dollar. It is still that today.

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The Federal Reserve came into being because of the depression or panic of 1907 and other extreme downturns in the economy. Attempts had been made during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, by the moneyed class, mainly bankers, to control the economy mainly for reasons of profit. These, in turn, particularly when they failed, had exacerbated economic shifts within the economy, usually in a downward direction.

 

The Panic of 1907 and 1908 was also known as the 1907 Bankers Panic or Knickerbocker Crisis. Its causes took place initially over a three week period when the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year. It lasted for slightly over a year.

 

Monetary panics occurred during this time of economic recession and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies. It spread throughout the nation with many state and local banks and businesses going bankrupt. The primary cause of the run was a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of confidence among depositors, exacerbated by unregulated side bets of bank funds by banking executives.

 

The panic was begun in 1907 by a failed attempt to corner the market on stock of the United Copper Company. When this failed, banks that had lent money to the cornering scheme suffered runs that later spread to affiliated banks and trusts, leading a week later to the downfall of the Knickerbocker Trust Company, New York City’s third largest trust. The collapse spread throughout the city trusts as regional banks withdrew reserves from New York City banks. Panic extended across the nation as vast numbers of people withdrew their deposits from regional banks.

 

To simply state what happened was that the object was for a group of investors to gain control of the stock shares of United Copper Company. The group concerned controlled numerous banks and trust companies. They believed that a large number of shares had been borrowed and sold short. (To sell short is to sell a stock at a higher price before one owns it, then when the price drops buy the stock at a lower price, and eventually pocket the profit.)

 

The group believed that a majority of the stock was held by the Heinze family and that a significant number had been borrowed and sold short on the belief that the price would drop considerably. Their aggressive purchasing would drive up the price of the stock. The short sellers would be forced to come to them in order to purchase stocks that they had already sold and they could charge whatever they wished.

 

United Copper rose in one day from $39 to $52 a share. It then went up to nearly $60 a share, but the short sellers were able to able to find United Copper from other sources. The group has misread the Market and the stock price began to collapse. It closed at $30 and then dropped to $10 a share. The manipulators and the banks they represented were ruined. As news of the collapse spread depositors rushed to pull their money out of these banks. The run on banks spread throughout the city. A week later many regional stock exchanges throughout the nation were closing or limiting trading.

 

The hero of the crisis was J.P. Morgan. He coordinated the heads of the banks and trust companies and was able to keep the total economy of the United States from collapsing. The Panic of 2007 was from May 2007 to June 2008, 13 months. While it started and was centered in New York City the entire nation was involved. There was bank panic, runs on banks and trusts with crowds of depositors withdrawing all their funds, and falling stock prices that resulted in massive economic disruption. Production fell 11% in the nation, imports went down by 26%, and unemployment rose to 8% from under 3% two years earlier. Even immigration dropped to 750,000. It had been 1.2 million two years earlier. J. P. Morgan lost about $21 million straightening the situation out.

 

The frequency of economic crises and the severity of the 1907 panic led to a national debate on reform of the system. In May 1908 Congress passed the Aldrich-Vreeland Act that established a National Monetary Commission to investigate the panic and propose legislation to regulate banking.

 

It was discovered that the major difference between European and American banking systems was the existence of a Central Bank which controlled Monetary Policy. They could easily move money to where it was needed. The European nations all had one, the United States did not. The European states were able to extend the supply of currency during periods of low cash reserves. The United States had a great problem doing this.

 

The final report of the National Monetary Commission was on January 11, 1911. For nearly two years Congress debated the proposal. On December 23, 1913 Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act. President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill immediately and the legislation was enacted on the same day, December 23, 1913, creating the Federal Reserve System as the Central Bank within the United States.

 

 

English: Flag of the United States Federal Res...

English: Flag of the United States Federal Reserve Bank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #147 Part 3 – Money: The FED & the Treasury

English: Chart of M1 money velocity for the Un...

English: Chart of M1 money velocity for the United States. Nominal GDP, and M1 NSA stock data from Federal Reserve. M1 velocity calculated using nominal GDP divided by M1 stock. Data in log transformation. NBER Recessions in gray. Created in Excel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A map of the 12 districts of the Unit...

English: A map of the 12 districts of the United States Federal Reserve system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Janel Yellen, met with the House Financial Services Committee to give her semiannual report on the state of the nation and answer questions from each of the members.  Again on Thursday, February 11, she met with the Senate Finance Committee to do the same thing.  As she has shown prior she emphasized caution and the need for the FED to carefully monitor the tenuously existing economic conditions in the world.

 

The major problem that exists today is the widening fallout or nervousness from concern over China’s weak currency and economic outlook, which is rattling financial markets around the world.  China’s GDP (Gross National Product) had traditionally been around 8%.  Over the last year or so it dropped considerably while the value of her currency has increased against other national currencies.  A higher Yuan would make China’s goods more expensive overseas.  The Central Government stated that they would lower the value of the Yuan on international markets.

 

This is done, following the Laws of Supply & Demand, by increasing the amount of actual currency available on the international exchanges, supplying more Yuans than are needed.  In this way the Yuan becomes more available than all the other currencies and its value against them drops.

 

This process, in turn, would bring down the cost of Chinese goods in trade with other countries.  Of course, all the non-Chinese markets did not appreciate their currencies increasing in value over that of the China.  This made numerous other countries nervous and some decided to react in a similar fashion.  Consequently a number of governments began attempting to manipulate their currencies.  These actions tended to deregulate international trade.  The United States dollar rose in value against all the other currencies, being considered internationally the most stable.

 

China made two attempts to do this.  Each did lower the value of the Yuan, but in both instances it fell fractionally.  China’s GDP did not rise to its coveted 8%.  Their Central Bank, by attempting to raise the GDP actually, lost control of their economy.  What they had achieved was a currency oscillating in value.  The value of some other currencies have tended to be equally erratic; but the other counties that attempted to manipulate their currency values did not advertise the fact.  Will a new equilibrium be reached in the future?  Probably, at some point.

 

Meanwhile most of the stock markets in these assorted countries went on roller-coaster rides, mainly ending downhill.  Nervous people sold some or all of their stocks; the different stock markets dropped hundreds of points; automatic computer-controlled programs owned by large holders like retirement funds automatically sold; and the drops became even more dramatic.  Exchange rates of the different currencies went on a tetter-totter basis and international stability tethered on a day by day basis

 

Using this information Ms. Yellen and her Board of Directors at the Federal Reserve have to make projections of what the international and national futures will be.  The American Stock Market has lost at least 10%, to date, of its value.  Most stocks are down considerably.  This is also true of most international stocks.

 

The Chinese Government has made two attempts to lower the Yuan.  They lowered it fractionally both times and then lost control of what they were doing.  Everything, inside and outside of China, has been erratic since.  The Central National Banks are now waiting for a sense of equalization to come again.  So far it hasn’t and everyone is still waiting for some return of normality; and this includes Chairwoman Yellen and the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve.

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In her remarks Yellen said that the Federal Reserve expects to eventually raise its rates slowly; but they are not on any preset course.  She commented that it was possible that the recent economic weakness could prove temporary, and if so it could set the stage for further economic growth and a stronger increase in inflation than the FED is currently forecasting.  If this occurs then the FED would be likely to hike rates more quickly than anticipated.

 

Ms. Yellen said that various economic indicators demonstrate that China, the world’s second largest economy, was undergoing a sharp slowdown.  But recent declines in the value of that country’s currency have intensified concerns about her future economic prospects.

 

This uncertainty led to increased volatility in global financial markets and against the background of monetary weakness abroad, exacerbated concerns about the outlook for global growth, which generally caused the nervous or erratic actions within the various nations.

 

Yellen also stated that the shark decline in U.S. stock prices, rising interest rates for riskier borrowers and further strength in the dollar has translated into financial conditions that are less supportive of growth.

 

“These developments, if they prove persistent, could weigh on the outlook for economic activity and the labor market, although declines in longer term interest rates and oil prices could provide some offset.”

 

She stated that the labor market remains solid, creating 150,000 jobs in January.  That was enough to push the unemployment rate down to 4.9%.  Inflation, however, has continued to fall below the FED’s target of 2% annual price increases.  (At the beginning of February it was .7 of 1 %.)  The shortfall has been steeper recently because of the renewed drop in oil prices and stronger dollar, which holds down U.S. inflation by making foreign goods cheaper for American consumers.

 

But Yellen said the Central Bank continued to believe that the energy declines and dollar strength would fade in coming months.  Inflation would also begin to move closer to 2% as a healthy labor marker pushes up wages.  She also stated that worker pay has started to show its first significant gains since the Great Recession ended 6 ½ years ago.

 

In late 2015 the interest rate the FED charges banks went from 0 to ¼ of 1%.  When the next increase in interest rates will occur is not known.  The FED will examine the indicators again in March.  Many economists believe there will be few if any increases in interest charged by the FED this year.

 

After her report Chairwoman Yellen took questions from each of the members of the Committees, for the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.

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What Dr. Yellen implied in her statement was that the economies of China, the United States, and many European nations are far healthier than current economic conditions demonstrate.  She indicated that the international economic chaos begun by China will probably soon end in a new financial equilibrium and trade will probably be again balanced between nations.

 

What has caused the stock markets around the world to go through their current gyrations has been nervousness by investors within the individual nations.  It has been fear or an overreaction to the erratic international financing, a sort of terror that the different national economies could follow domestically the international situation.

 

Of course the irony here is that the currency of the United States is considered the safest in the world and the dollar is the most valuable currency available.  Particularly since the U.S. National Debt has supposedly reached about 19 trillion dollars.

 

Dr. Yellen indicated that the FED is doing nothing but wailing for international trade to stabilize again.  At that point the FED will again raise the subprime rate it charges banks another ¼ of 1% bringing it to ½%.  There will probably be very few, in any, raises this year; but it will pick up in the future.  She mentioned that the average depositor is being financially hurt by the low interest rates they’re receiving from their almost required deposits to the banks.

 

While she didn’t state this fact the implication is that countries like Venezuela, that function mainly on one major export like oil, and whose economies have suffered from the drop in oil prices, are now looking for other products or raw materials they can export to raise their economic levels within their borders.  This may take a few years; but that can’t be helped.  The current drop in the price of oil has been matched by the current drops in their standards of living.

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After her remarks Dr. Yellen took questions and comments from all the members of the committee.  Each had a short period to deal with her.  The questions and comments tended to be quite enlightening.  The Democratic Congress people were a bit friendlier in their remarks than the Republicans.

 

One area of interest was that the Federal Reserve has, between 2009 and 2015 transferred over 600 billion dollars to the U.S. Treasury.  This is money that is separate from all the taxes and fines collected.  It was further denoted as no less than 100 billion dollars a year went to the Treasury.

 

The sources of these funds were not mentioned.  Some of these funds are interest on the part of the National Debt which the U.S. Government owns.  The Federal Government admits to owning 40% of its own debt.  That is a conservative estimate.  I would put it up to, at least, 50% or even over 60%.  The Federal Reserve uses parts of the Debt to adjust conditions within the economy at times.  Federal bonds are both short and long term.  Some are always being sold and other expire and are cashed out.  The FED can add money to the economy or National Cash Flow by selling less than it cashes out or the reverse can be done.  If inflation is too low or there is a recession they will sell less than they cash out.  If, on the other hand, inflation is too high then the FED will sell much more than they cash out. Reducing the amount of money available in the economy.  These changes do not necessarily totally solve the economic problem but they were and are a tool that lessens their impact.

 

Forgetting adjusting economic conditions, the rest of the cash transferred to the Treasury was just a simple money transfer.  All of this money was just brought into existence by the FED.  After all they control the printing presses and can issue money within legal limits as they decide it is necessary.  Remember, what stands behind the dollar is the word of the United States Government.  There is nothing else, no entity of value other than the Central Government.  All money today is a token, merely an instrument for exchanging goods and/or services for goods and/or services.

 

There was no mention of the 45 billion dollars a month that was spent for well over two years during this period resolving the housing dilemma created by the banks during the end of 2008 when the Real Estate Market crashed.  The FED bought 45 billion dollars’ worth of fractional mortgage pieces in all 50 states and territories upon which it would never be able to collect its investment.  In essence the FED bought the economy out of the bank caused Housing Bubble.

 

One area of concern that was brought up by several Black members of the Committee was the fact that unemployment is far higher in minority areas of the country, that the general 4.9 percent unemployment was as high as 50% in some of the Black and Hispanic neighborhoods and among young minority members entering the labor market.  Dr. Yellen stated that Monetary Policy was a general force that worked throughout the economy.  It did not differentiate between ethnic or racial groups, that this type of job creation was the province of Congress, using Fiscal Policy to create work projects in area where these people lived.

 

While she didn’t state it this Fiscal Policy was done from 1987 through 1980 during the Administration of President Jimmy Carter.  Assorted Public Projects were built throughout the nation that benefited both communities and created employment in areas that had larger than normal levels of unemployment.

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There is another factor which Dr. Yellen did not mention but that is highly important and that is the velocity of money.  New currency added to the overall economy or National Cash Flow is spent numerous times before it becomes part of the increased amount of money available in an increased National Cash Flow.  It can be spent three to eight times and in some instances as many as twelve times as goods and services are paid for and then reused by the person or institution who receives them.  This is a continuum.

 

If we take five as the average number of times the 800+ billion dollars, the FED added to the economy between 2009 and 2015, as the average velocity in which the money passed through the overall economy the amount of money Dr. Yellen stated was in excess of 4 trillion dollars.  And if we add to that the 45 billion a month that was used to resolve the mortgage crisis for a period of over two years, that makes another 540+ billion dollars, from which the government never collected back a dime.

 

With all this money added to the economy inflation by February of 2016 was 7/10ths of 1%.  The indication is that the total United States economy totally needed these funds, not only to avoid a Major Depression but to just function and grow.  Keep in mind that the overall population of the country is dynamic, constantly growing.

 

If we just consider the taxes paid on this money on a municipality, city, and federal level we are talking about survival for local and state governments.  For example a state like California charges a sales tax of 7½% Imagine how much additional sales tax would be paid by 40 some million people.  States like California and New York have state income taxes which are a small percentage of what the Federal Government collects, but can still be a substantial sum.  Try to visualize the additional amounts collected by these or other states that have their own income taxes.  And, of course, the increased Federal Income taxes on the additional 4.5 billion plus dollars.

 

In all probability the United States recovery from the 2008 Real Estate Crash was brought about by this Creative Monetary Policy brought about by the Federal Reserve with the support of the President.

 

If the Republicans in the House of Representatives were not so Penny wise and dollar stupid as they have been since 2011 when they took control of the House of Representatives they could, as Dr. Yellen suggested in her answers to questions and President Obama earlier proposed, have passed Fiscal Policy laws and the infrastructure of the United States could well be on its way to modernization.  This, in turn, on a more focused basis than just Monetary Policy would have brought unemployment well down from the 4.9% it is now and significantly increased the country’s GDP.  The difference it would have created in the National Debt by the increased government expenditures would have been made up by the increase in taxes on every level of government.  This also could have focused on minority areas which currently have inordinately larger levels of unemployment.

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One of the comments made by a Republican legislator was interesting in demonstrating his ignorance of the basic principles of Macroeconomics.  His comment referred back to the Golden Era of the Federal Reserve when Alan Greenspan was Chairman of the FED and, in the opinion of the legislator, we were living in a Golden Age.  How misinformed or ignorant can anyone be?  There should be an economics literacy test for people running for Congress

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It is because of people like Barack H. Obama, Dr. Ben S. Bernanke, and Dr. Janet L. Yellen that the country is as economically healthy as it is now.  Without them the United States would today be in a dire depression.

The Weiner Component #147 Part 2 – Money & the Federal Reserve

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Fede...

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve Board . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately economics is not an exact science and different economists can hold different views about what should be done.   However there are basic principles that all economists adhere to and the overwhelming majority of economists do believe in the use of both Fiscal and Monetary Policy.  Many, if not most, Republicans do not believe in either of these processes.  Fiscal Policy has to do with Congress passing laws that enhance employment throughout the country.  This is extremely important at present because the overall unemployment rate is 5% and the country’s infrastructure is still well into the 20th Century; it desperately needs upgrading and modernizing.  Monetary Policy consists of the controls exercised by the Federal Reserve, essentially regulating the amount of currency in the National Cash Flow, its flow through the overall economy, and the use of money throughout the economy.  Many Republicans equally oppose this agency.

 

Basically one of the major difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is their positions upon these two uses of economics.  The Democrats believe in the overall principles of economics and using its tools while the Republicans do not.  They hold that an unfettered Free Market will make all the proper decisions within the society.  Their solution to recessions or depressions is to lower taxes for the rich, limit any kind of regulation and let the economy take off with this new financial investment.  This Supply Side Economics was first advocated by the Ronald Reagan Administration.  It didn’t work then and it isn’t going to work now.  Point of fact, it was this type of behavior that brought about the Bankers Depression of 1907, the Great Depression of 1929, and the Real Estate Crash of 2008.

 

But the Republicans seem to be oblivious to the past, particularly their own errors in the past; they are only interested in the near future and substantially ignore what has happened and their own mistakes, always proposing to do the same things again.  For example: not too long ago, Jeb Bush vowed to cut taxes for the very wealthy and for corporations when he became president.  He would reduce the top income tax bracket from 39.6% to 28% and corporate taxes from 35% down to 20%.  This would mean that those not in the upper 5 or so percent would be paying a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes.  His rationale, I assume, would be the application of Supply Side Economics which didn’t work earlier or ever.  The theory being that by lowering taxes for the rich the Federal Government would take in more tax revenue.  So much for reasonable thinking!

 

Of course Jeb Bush claims to have been a phenomenal success as the former governor of Florida.  He seems to have forgotten or ignores some of the disreputable things he did as governor.

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In 1964 Lynden B. Johnson, after finishing the late President John F. Kennedy’s term in office, won the Presidency on his own in 1964, running against Republican Conservative Barry Goldwater.  In his prior two years in office he had pushed through his “Great Society” legislation, extending, among other things, Civil Rights, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and his “War on Poverty,” that helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty level.

 

But Johnson also, it would seem, had an ego problem.  He saw himself as the most powerful man on earth.  He apparently decided that he would have the United States subdue North Viet Nam and make the country into a democratic democracy through the use of U.S. military power.  In 1964 he escalated involvement in Viet Nam, bringing military involvement from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 550,000 mostly military combatants by early 1968.  Unfortunately he was wrong; even with the use of American military might, he was unable to subdue the Viet Cong.

 

What Johnson attempted was what was generally referred to as a policy of “Guns and Butter.”   The Federal Government would continue its’ domestic policies within the country and at the same time fight and supply a major war.  It meant that the productivity and costs of what was going on within the United States would continue unabated while the additional costs, manpower, and productivity of a major military action would be added to this.  Johnson would supposedly finance this with a small temporary addition to everyone’s income tax.

 

The result of this great increase in productivity and manpower was the beginnings of an inflationary spiral that would continue to escalate gradually, for that and other reasons, and not be ended until the early 1980s with major disruptions throughout the U.S. economy.  In essence the competition between the non-war effort and the war effort for the production of goods and services would begin and continue the inflationary spiral.

 

During the time Jimmy Carter was President, from 1977 to 1981, the inflation rate had reached just under 14.8%, interest rates went up to 18%, and unemployment had risen to just under 10%.  Paul Volcker, as chairman of the Federal Reserve, attempted to stringently drop the interest rate.  He did this by raising it, making money too expensive to borrow.  A number of small businessmen complained strongly to President Carter that they were being forced into bankruptcy by this practice.  President Carter had Volcker back-off.  And the situation continued.

 

The next President, Ronald Reagan, allowed Volcker to carry out this policy.  There was a lot of ensuing misery throughout the United States.  President Reagan got on national television and told people that if there were no jobs in their area then they should go to where there were jobs.  He provided no other information.  Large numbers of individuals packed their cars and their families and took off, following rumors.  For a while there were all sorts of elderly vehicles going from city to city, their occupants looking for work.  Temporary agencies did well at this time.  It took around two years for the inflation rate to drop down to a low single digit, where it has remained since then.  The increase in homelessness that resulted from this is still with us.

 

What, in effect, happened was that the price of borrowing money became too expensive for many companies.  Higher interest rates brought about higher inflation, which in turn brought about a recession.  Multitudes of these smaller businesses that needed short term loans to keep operating could not afford the cost of these loans and went under increasing unemployment during President Ronald Reagan’s first two years in office.  A lesser demand for financial borrowing brought down the cost of loans significantly.    It would drop to a low single digit number, where it has generally stayed since that time.

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Shortly before withdrawing from the 2016 Republican Presidential race Rand Paul, one of the potentially Republican candidates, publically stated that he didn’t trust banks, particularly the biggest bank in the United States, the Federal Reserve.  He obviously considers them on the same basis as the commercial banks and the credit unions that deal directly with the public.  He doesn’t understand that the Federal Reserve is the banks’ bank and to a certain extent controls all the banks that deal directly with the public.  The FED controls all the money in the United States and generally how all the other banks do business.  Its purpose is to have the nation function at its highest level of efficiency and its major tool is the currency that the country uses.  This is Monetary Policy;

 

It’s obvious that Paul and the majority of the elected Republicans and probably some of the Democratic Congressmen could use and should be required to take at least a short course on Macroeconomics.  It would seem that being elected to public office does not require any specific knowledge.  Our Founding Fathers emphasized public education, believing that an educated person would elect the best possible people to public office.  It would seem that they were wrong; many people tend to vote more with their feelings than with their brains.

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The functions of the Federal Reserve can and have strongly affected the condition of the country.  If we briefly examine how the FED worked over the last forty years we get an image of this and also see some of the fallacies of their dealing with the welfare of the nation.  As we’ve seen Lynden Johnson’s enhanced police action in Viet Nam began an inflation spiral that eventually required drastic action to end it in the early 1980s.  Johnson underestimated the productive abilities of the United States to supply both “Guns & Butter” during his term as president in 1964 to 1968 and the result was a gradual growth of inflation for the American public over a sixteen or so year period to require drastic economic actions.

 

In 1979 then President Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He would hold that office for eight years under Presidents Carter and Reagan.  Previously Volcker had been President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, one of the FED’s twelve regional banks.

 

We’ve considered his actions against the inflationary spiral.  Under his leadership the FED limited the growth of the National Cash Flow, limiting the money supply and increasing short term interest rates.  At the cost of a heavy recession in the early 1980s he was able to end a high two digit recession and bring about what turned out to be a prolonged period of economic growth.

 

Volcker was succeeded by Alan Greenspan, a conservative economist, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.  He chaired the FED from August 1987 to January 31, 2006 for four, four year terms, sixteen years.  Among other things he was criticized by Democrats for wanting to privatize Social Security.  The Republicans held him in awe.

 

President Reagan, who believed totally in Adam Smith’s late 18th Century concept of the Free Market, unfettered capitalism, chose a fellow conservative, economist Alan Greenspan, who shared his views on economics.  It was during this period that the banks were totally deregulated and given the freedom to act as they saw fit.  And it was during the Reagan administration that government regulation of industry was essentially done away with.   The banking institutions, whose deposits were insured by the Federal Government, were now free to act as they saw fit.  Their motivation being Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” profit.

 

It was during the Reagan years that the mortgage crisis really began.  Prior to this time mortgages were split into a small number of pieces, each held by a separate individual, but now the concept of fractionalization of mortgages into a hundred or more pieces began.  The banks discovered that they could split mortgages into a hundred or more pieces, with a separate hedge fund owner for each piece.  Basically they sold the pieces to investors but maintained control of mortgages, charging fees for every service they performed.  In addition all the banks set up their own agency to keep control of all the property dealings throughout the United States.

 

Traditionally all the property dealings were recorded in the cities and counties where the property was located.  But this was too slow a process for the financial institutions.  They created their own single record keeping institution to keep tabs on all the mortgaging and refinancing throughout the fifty states.  This bank-owned company had so much to do that their error factor was phenomenally high.  Their records became an unfathomable mess.  In essence when it came to foreclosing on a property for nonpayment it was eventually discovered that no one owned enough of the property to foreclose.

 

Throughout the country people were encouraged to continually refinance their homes taking their ever-rising equity out of the properties that were continually going up in value.  Virtually everyone who wanted to could continually take money out of their homes which kept increasing in value.  The banks meanwhile making billions in fees while continually maintaining control of the properties.

 

What was happening from the 1980s on was that the National Cash Flow, the amount of money within the economy, was increasing exponentially.  There was a constant need for money, for all kinds of economic expansion and the banks, for a price, were supplying these funds.

 

Allan Greenspan, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, essentially sat back and enjoyed this growing prosperity.  He basked in his treatment by Congress.  There was a need for an increase of money in the National Cash Flow on a rational level but Greenspan and his Board of Directors ignored this.  I imagine they felt that if something was going well, don’t change it.  But conditions weren’t really going well, the country was moving toward 2007 when it became obvious the Real Estate Market was headed for a crash.  This was met by denial at the banks.  Many of them raised the amount of money they would lend on a property to 125% of its appraised value.  The crash came in late 2008, toward the end of President George W. Bush’s last year in office.  By then Alan Greenspan had retired as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and been replaced by Ben Bernanke.

 

The easy money policies of the FED and the tax cuts during Greenspan’s chairmanship, which increased the National Debt, have been suggested as a leading cause of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.  Greenspan served for sixteen years.  He resigned on January 31, 2006.  Was he aware at that time of what the future held?  An interesting question, which will never be answered.

 

Ben Bernanke was appointed by George W. Bush on February 1, 2006 as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He started as a registered Republican and had been chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.  He was reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.  Under his guidance the country went through the Real Estate Crash in late 2008.  Working with President Obama and by the use of Creative Monetary Policy, the two were able to pull the country out of a disaster that could have been greater than the Great Depression of 1929.

 

In his 2015 book Bernanke asserted that it was only through the novel efforts of the FED, cooperating with other agencies of both the U.S. and of foreign governments that they were able to prevent an economic catastrophe far greater than the Great Depression.

 

It is interesting to note that the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2011 on, after the Republicans gained control of that body, not only did no pass any legislation to alleviate the economic crisis but they did push through bills that intensified the effects of the conditions of the sub-prime mortgage crisis by increasing unemployment.

 

Bernanke requested numerous times, both formerly and informedly, to Congress that it pass Fiscal Policy Bills, but was ignored to the point that the subject wasn’t even brought up in the House of Representatives.  This meant that any action to divert a major depression had to be taken by both the President and by the Federal Reserve.  President Obama bailed out the banks and the auto industry and, where possible, used his power of executive privilege.  For his part Bernanke after gradually lowering the interest rate the FED charged banks to 0 to encourage the banks to lend money; he came up with Creative Monetary Policy.  Meanwhile the FED continually added sums of money to the National Cash Flow.  They did this by having the FED in open market operations sell less bonds than they cashed out when they became due.

 

There were two major problems facing the nation at this time.  One was the need for more currency available throughout the economy.  It was first believed that the banks would start again financing mortgages and refinancing homes; but that didn’t happen.  Suddenly the banks were very restrictive in the way they used their funds.  It seemed almost as though the banks got burned by mortgages and didn’t want to deal with them again.  Suddenly the banks had become very stingy with their funds.

 

The second problem dealt with the millions of fractionalized mortgages.  Initially the different banks generated papers from their computers and foreclosed upon multitudes of properties that they didn’t own.  These were homes that they administered for the assorted Hedge Funds.  Initially the courts assumed that the banks would not do anything dishonest.  If fact a number of attorney’s were disbarred for stating that the banks were dishonest.  Eventually the truth came out and the different banking houses paid heavy fines and stopped their foreclosures.  Every major banking house was included in this process and eventually, taken together, the banks paid well over a trillion dollars in fines.

 

The problem was that it was almost, if not totally impossible, to put together 50.1% of many of these mortgages.  Basically no one owned the mortgages for a large percentage of these properties.  In many cases the property values had dropped far below the current debt value of the homes and the former owners had walked away from their properties leaving them vacant.  It was a major disaster that left to itself would take well over one or two decades to straighten out.

 

The major question here was: Who owned what?  These conditions virtually destroyed the housing industry.  Builders could not borrow the funds to build new homes.  And a good percentage of the older homes were so tied up that they couldn’t be sold or bought.  The effect of this was to reduce employment to every industry that was effected by new and older homes and properties.

 

What Chairman Ben Bernanke came up with was his creative Monetary Policy.  Every month for a period of well over two years, ending in 2015 the Federal Reserve spent 85 billion dollars a month.  Forty-five billion was spent on the fractionalized mortgage paper and forty billion dollars was added to the National Cash Flow.  In 2015 the expenditures were reduced 10 billion dollars a month, five billion in mortgages and five billion to the National Cash Flow.

 

By the time Bernanke’s tenure in office had ended as of February of 2014 and Janet Yellen had become the new Chairperson in charge of the Federal Reserve.  It was she who gradually ended the bond buying.  It should also be noted that the Housing Crisis is essentially over.  There is new construction and older homes are selling.  AS of February 2016 all the employment that goes along with this is now in place.  The unemployment level in the United States is down to 4.9%.  Its lowest level since the Real Estate Crash of 2008.

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This blog began with the concept that economics is not an exact science.  Using hinder sight it is easy to pick out the major trends of the last few decades but living through that period and being able to make specific recommendations as to what was needed is not always that easy.  Alan Greenspan was the FED chairman for 16 years, and according to his theories he did what was necessary to keep the country functioning properly.  But he missed the greatest problem during that period and allowed the banks endlessly and with no restrictions, to add money to the economy, bringing about a crisis that could easily have been worse than the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Ben Bernanke was the right economist at the right time to be chairman of the Federal Reserve; but despite the fact that the Republican led House of Representatives absolutely refused to go cooperate with him, he and President Obama were able to mitigate, what has been called, The Great Recession and avoid a Greater Depression than that of 1929.

 

On February 3, 2014 Ben Bernanke completed his second term of four years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  The new chairperson was Janet L. Yellen.  She was appointed on that same date and had served as Vice Chair from 2010 to 2014.  Prior to that she was CEO of the Federal Reserve Band of San Francisco and had been Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton.  Also she was the first Democrat appointed to that office.  Ms. Yellen is credited with the ability to connect economic theory to everyday life, actually to connect abstract theory to concrete living.

 

Yellen was the one who reduced the $85 billion that was added to the economy monthly by $10 billion, $5 billion from mortgage paper and $5 billion from being added to the National Cash Flow, until 0 was reached in each account.  At that point Ms. Yellen made conditional statements that these accounts could be reopened if the need arose.

 

Presumably she had agreed with Bernanke that the time was right for these changes.  The mortgage crisis was essentially resolved, the amount of currency flowing through the economy was adequate, and inflation was low, by the beginning of 2016 it had dropped to slightly below 1%.  The issue of what to do next seems to have been raising the prime lending rate, which had been at 0% for a number of years since 2008.

 

Janet Yellen had been cautiously putting this off and then toward the end of 2015 the FED raised the discount rate ¼ of 1%.  The discount rate is what the Federal Reserve charges banks for monies borrowed from it.  This establishes the base for what banks charge the public and pay the public for money that the public deposits in them.  The banks translated this increase into a 2 to 3% increase in the interest they would charge on many long term loans.

 

There is an interesting note of irony here.  The monies that the banks lend out and from which they essentially make their profits is all the deposits made by the general public, many of whom have their pay checks automatically deposited into their accounts.  This was the basis of the monies loaned out prior to the 2008 Real Estate Crash which was also insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  If these banks has gone under then the Federal Government would have been responsible for replacing all these funds up to ½ a million dollars per account.

 

Prior to the FED raising the discount rate the banks paid most of their depositors 1/10th of 1% interest for their deposits.  The overall interest that the general public received on their bank deposit accounts was under $10.00 a year, too small an amount upon which to even pay income taxes.  That translates into 1 cent in interest for every 10 dollars held by the bank for one year.

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Janet Yellen, the new Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, now has to bring the country back to prosperity, which would be full employment; but there currently are multi-forces pushing the country in different directions at the same time.  All this seems to begin with the international drop in oil prices from over $100 dollars a barrel of oil to what is currently under $30 a barrel.  What has happened with oil is that there are new methods of searching for it and the amount discovered has greatly increased the available supply.  (There are other economic costs.  Fracking tends to increase the possibilities of earthquakes by destabilizing the soil.)

 

This drop in oil prices has economically hurt many of the countries which depend upon their oil revenue to maintain their levels of prosperity.  Some examples would be Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Algeria Ecuador, and Egypt.  As the price of oil goes down so do their overall standards of living.  And many of these nations in order to make up the difference pump more oil, which, in turn, lowers the price per barrel even further.  While the lower price of oil noticeably lowers the inflation within many nations it also upsets the balance of trade between nations.

 

Another problem is that the dollar, despite nearly 19 trillion dollars of National Debt is currently considered the strongest currency in the world today.  Within the last few years it has slowly increased in value against all other currencies.  This means that American exports are increasing in price in other countries while their exports become less expensive in the U. S.  This, in turn, hurts American exports, which decrease, and causes the balance of trade to tilt in the direction of the other countries trading with the U.S.

 

Apparently the Japanese Government is now selling bonds within its country with a negative interest rate.  This means that for every $100 borrowed the borrower pays back less than the original amount when the debt becomes due.  China is apparently thinking along those lines with its Central Bank’s discount rate.  They want to bring their overall productivity back up to 8%.  For most countries 2 to 4% is considered a positive growth rate.

 

Within the last few months the Stock Market has gone down well over 100 points, with each point being one dollar in value.  That is the extent that many stocks have decreased in value.  Usually that indicates an oncoming major recession or depression.  What is causing the current drop?

 

Yet gradual economic growth is still occurring in the United States.  Real Estate construction is slowly still improving.  Inflation is very low.  Ultimately the United States uses 22% of the world’s productivity.  The inflation rate is in February of 2016 is 7/10ths of 1%.

 

The basic question is: What should the FED do?  Raise the discount rate another ¼ of 1%?  Leave things as they are?  What?  It would seem to be a major dilemma.  I would currently hate to have to make the decision.

 

On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, Janet L. Yellen, the Chair of the Federal Reserve Board gave her semi-annual report to the standing House Financial Services Committee on the economic condition of the nation and what the actions of the FED will or will not be.

The Weiner Component #144 – The Federal Reserve & the Rising Interest Rate

English: President George W. Bush and Presiden...

In late 2008 the major banking houses in the United States, like the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and others by their reckless and irresponsible actions during the prior 28 years, virtually destroyed the Real Estate Industry bringing it to a giant crash.  Not only Real Estate but also the major banking houses themselves, like the like those already mentioned and numerous other banks stood upon the edge of total disaster.  Many of the banking houses were initially saved by President George W. Bush during his last year in office and then, with restrictions, by President Barack Obama.

 

(The CEO of Bank of America complained venomously about the restrictions, cutting executive salaries well below a million dollars.  He wanted to pay-off the government debt so executive salaries could get back to normal.)

 

For the first year of Obama’s Presidency the Fiscal Policy applied by the Democratic Congress dealt mostly with bailing out banks and other industries.  President Obama also saved the auto industry in the United States.  Ford was able to just make it without any government help but its stock tanked to under $5.00 a share for a period of time and then went up to over $14 a share.  General Motors took government loans and its stock, in a bankruptcy suite, was declared valueless by a judge.  Bail out funds and a new issue of stock saved the company.  The original stock holders lost their investment.  Chrysler was saved by a bail out.

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Household property values dropped like large bombs and exploded.  During 2008, when all the indicators foretold oncoming disaster, the bank executives were in denial, in order to continue, financing and refinancing, they raised loan values on properties to 125% of appraised value.  When the Crash came, in September of that year, a goodly percentage of the home mortgages were far above the newly appraised value of the homes.

 

Many of the banks were overextended, too much money had been invested in mortgages which had not yet been converted into fractional pieces and sold to hedge funds.  Many homeowners suddenly discovered that their homes carried greater loans than they were suddenly worth.  A number of them decided to start over and walked away from their properties, leaving empty houses behind.  Values dropped overnight; employment across the country fell significantly.  There was massive unemployment and it was continuing to decrease.  The nation was in a deep recession ready to continue falling into a deeper depression than that of 1929.  It would take at least a decade or more for the housing crisis to be resolved and for the banks to be willing to finance new construction again.

 

At first the banks generated documents on properties they administered but did not own, selling these houses, and keeping the profits for themselves.  This went on until the Courts realized or discovered what was happening; then the different banking houses stopped the illegal process.  The ownership of these homes had been so fractionalized that no one really owned them.  The records on these structures had been so sloppily put together by the banks that it was impossible to establish ownership on many of these structures.

 

The banks, in their rush to make profits, had been in such a hurry to finance and refinance their numerous deals that tracing the ownership of many of these houses was like going through an impossible maze.  They could not find fifty plus percent of the mortgage ownership.  These empty houses would be sold in a few years for back taxes.  The original hedge fund owners lost their investments as their hedge funds became valueless.

 

Many who were able to hold onto their homes would eventually see their properties rise in value.  And many who held on to their homes would eventually lose them by not being able to afford the monthly payments.  It was an impossible mess!

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From 2009 to 2010 the Federal Government had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress and was able to apply Fiscal Policy.  In those two years Congress with the aid of the President, Barack Obama, was able to pass Fiscal Polity bills and make executive decisions that slowed down the recession gradually turned the country in the direction of recovery.

 

After the 2010 Midterm Election the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives.  From 2011 on no Fiscal Policy Bills were passed by the House of Representatives.  In fact, at one point they refused to fund the government, effectively shutting it down for a period of time, and costing the taxpayers several billion dollars in this process.

 

The prospective of the Republicans tended to be and generally still is, what’s happening right now, this minute.  The future to them seems to be an abstraction that they do not deal with.  They seem to be penny wise and dollar stupid.  Immediate savings would be the limit of their understanding.

 

They have wasted millions on pointless hearings such as on investigating Benghazi and other causes which seem to be mainly political, attempting to embarrass a Democratic leader or cause.  And they seem to like to hold their government refinancing bills to the last moment where the bill must be passed or the government will face some sort of disaster.  In 2014 they spent over a trillion dollars financing the government for 2015 and including earmarks for every other cause they supported with friendly legislation all combined into one giant bill of over 1,000 pages that cost the government billions of dollars.  For 2016 they spent 1.25 trillion dollars effecting a 2,200 page compromise bill with the Democrats.  So much for fiscal responsibility!

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In dealing with the 2008 Real Estate Crash the Federal Reserve utilized Monetary Policy.  What happened with the Crash is that the value of a dollar dropped to five or ten cents virtually overnight.  Many people lost their employment.  Most people were also confused as to what was happening.

 

The Chairman of the Federal Reserve at this time was Ben Bernanke.  He had been originally appointed by President George W. Bush.  One of the first things he did was to lower interest rates that the FED charges banks to 0%.  The current Chairperson is Janet Yellen.  On December 16, 2015 she and her Board, which consists of the Presidents of the twelve regional Banks, raised the interest rate from 0 to ¼ of 1%.  They had held it at zero for about seven years.  The average bank account in the U.S. was receiving interest at the rate of 1/10th of 1% per year.  Generally that is not even enough yearly interest to have taxes paid on it.  Most accounts received under $10 a year.  This amount was too small to be reported to the IRS which requires a ten dollar minimum.

 

The object of this move, after the 2008 Real Estate Crash, was to make money very inexpensive to borrow.  Theoretically it was to encourage the banks to loosen their lending policies and encourage economic expansion and thus reverse the Great Recession.  That didn’t happen.  Suddenly the banks became super cautious with their lending policies.  What the banks seemed to go into at this time was investing in the futures market.  This is buying items like food crops that are still growing and assorted raw materials that have not yet been mined months in advance of their coming on the market for sale and then selling these items when they came on the market with a goodly amount of profit added to them.  Here the virtually free money lent by the Federal Reserve to the banks, actually by the taxpayer indirectly, allowed them, the banks, to raise prices on much of the goods the public needed to survive and make a goodly profit on it.

 

It should also be noted that during this period the banks were also paying millions in fines for illegal practices they were and had been engaging in.  I don’t think any of the major banking houses escaped paying numerous multimillion dollar fines.  In all, these fined added up to billions of dollars; but no one went to jail for these breaches of the laws.

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Both Bernanke and Obama had tried to get the Republican House of Representatives to pass Fiscal Policy, laws that would create jobs.  President Obama had presented them with a plan for infrastructure improvement which would create jobs and Chairman Bernanke had stated the need in numerous Congressional hearings and public speeches.  Congress not only ignored them, it passed various measures shrinking the Federal Government and actually exacerbating the recession by causing more unemployment.

 

As the cheap money policy wasn’t working on a large enough scale to noticeably affect the overall economy what was needed was a new plan to encourage economic growth. This was a new creative use of Monetary Policy and the FED came up with one that would loosen currency in the economy and end the “Housing Mess” created by the banks.  This was Creative Monetary Policy.

 

We don’t know who deserves credit for it, whether it was the President, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, or members of his Board, or for that matter a combination of the three.  But we do know that it worked.  What they did for a period of well over two years was to add 85 billion dollars each month to the National Cash Flow or the available amount of currency in the entire economy, ending the process in 2015 by decreasing the amount by 10 billion monthly until it reached 0.  Of this money 45 billion was used to buy mortgage paper and 40 billion was just added to the existing currency in circulation.

 

In all the Federal Reserve spent over 2 trillion 7 hundred billion dollars in getting rid of the “Housing Mess” created recklessly by all the major banking houses.  If we add to that another 2 trillion dollars we get an image of what the Federal Government spent through the Federal Reserve turning the country around toward economic recovery.  These are the profits the banks and their executives made from the 1980s to late 2008.

 

Somehow I don’t remember anyone in the banking industry publically expressing any remorse.  Particularly I don’t remember any banking executive being sorry about the 2.7 trillion dollars that the public paid indirectly to end the Housing Disaster in a relatively short time.  The only public complaints that came from banking executives was that, under President Obama, they had to take enormous cuts in their million or multimillion dollar compensation packages.  The fact that millions lost their homes and savings was immaterial to them.

 

The weakening of the Dodd-Frank Bill that was passed in 2009-2010 to do away with the causes that had brought about the 2008 Real Estate Crash was going to be done away with when Mitt Romney became President in 2013.  Romney lost that election.  When the Republican dominated House of Representatives passed the bill in 2014 funding the government for the oncoming year on December 11, the Thursday before the yearly Congressional session ended, one of the measures added to the Bill slightly weakened the Dodd-Frank Law.  I suspect they had originally hoped to do completely away with the legislation in 2015 with the last minute Finance Bill that year but it got dropped at some point in the negotiations between the two political parties.

 

Why is it that I feel like a victim from both the banks and Congress?

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In all the Federal Government added trillions of dollars to the currency in circulation and rather rapidly, in a little over two years resolved the “Housing Mess” created by the banks.  By 2015 there were very few houses empty houses in the country and new construction was occurring within all 50 states.  Conditions had moved in the direction of normalization and unemployment had dropped to 5% in the United States.

 

Of the 45 billion dollars that was spent buying up fractional pieces of mortgages throughout the fifty states each month there was no direct way for the Federal Government to ever directly recoup this money.

 

Originally the banks did not like having the properties having to be registered in the counties where they were situated; it was too slow a process.  They set up their own registration agency to handle all these exchanges and were able to get the Congress to pass the legislation that they needed in order to do this.  Their major problem was that the agency was not large enough to handle all these transactions throughout the fifty states.  There had to be at least a 20% error margin; it was probably much higher.  Either the agency was too small to properly record everything or it was too understaffed to properly do this and the assorted banks were not paying enough to fund it properly, or it was a combination of these.  In any event the records were rife with inaccuracies.  It would have taken an incalculable amount of time to straighten out the mess.

 

What the government bought for its 45 billion dollars in mortgage paper a month was billions of fractional pieces of mortgages that were virtually impossible to sort.  Further these came from houses situated throughout the entire United States and its territories.  There was no way sense could have been made out of these.  What the government was doing was buying up the “Housing Mess” that the banks had created and removing “the Mess” from the market where the banks had dumped it.  They were removing “the Mess” from the society and absorbing the loss.

 

The former owners of these houses who were still living in them and paying their property taxes but making no mortgage payments were living in houses that nobody owned and upon which nobody could legally foreclose.  They were, in essence, living for free in these homes that they had formally owned.  They could keep the house for the rest of their lives.  They could even sell the property if they could find a bank that would put a mortgage on the house.  Basically they could spend the rest of their lives in these houses without paying another cent on the original mortgage as long as they paid their taxes.

 

The problem here was that no one knew who really owned those houses.  It could be the Federal Government or it could be a mortgage company or, for that matter, it could be a bank.  It could also be an individual who had purchased the full mortgage from a bank.  If an individual or a mortgage company owned the entire property they would eventually make their presence known and resolve the ownership problem.  But if the mortgage had been fractionalized it was either the government or a defunct hedge fund and impossible to determine ownership.

 

Generally the behavior of these people, who were making no more mortgage payments, was to live well.  Suddenly they had more disposable income and they tended to spent much or all of it.  The result was that this money added significantly to the amount of currency in circulation and helped to eradicate much of the results of the 2008 Real Estate Crash.  It can also be stated that these people who were paying no mortgage could no longer deduct the interest on their housing loans.  Consequently nationally the IRS collected additional billions in taxes from these people across the nation.

 

This was the creative Monetary Policy that the Federal Reserve and its Chairman, Ben Bernanke, came up with.  It worked and with some Fiscal Policy applied by Congress could have totally returned this nation to full economic health.

 

Instead the nation is still at 5% unemployment.  The Republican candidates, like Jed Bush talk about doing away with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a mean of increasing employment in the United States.  It would seem that they would like to see parts of the U.S. look like some of the Chinese cities, dark with smog at noon, filled with unbreathable air.  But they believe this would increase employment in the country, even if it does shorten lives.

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It should also be noted that the interest rate that the Federal Reserve charged banks was at 0%.  In December of 2015 the new Chairperson, Janet Yellen, announced that they were raising it to ¼ of 1% that is .025%.  That will mean that the banks will raise the interest they pay on bank deposits from 1/10th of 1% to possibly 3/10th of 1%.  For the last seven or so years the public has been funding the banks practically for free.  With this increase the interest paid by the banks might rise enough so that some people, but not too many, will have to pay the IRS a few dollars in taxes on their bank deposits in 2016.

 

We, the public, have been funding the banks with our funds, checks and so forth, practically for nothing.  These monies, up to ½ million dollars per account are guaranteed by the Federal Government through the FDIC, but the banks can and do use the money they continually receive from us in almost any way they see fit for their own profit.  In 2015 the banks are reporting significant profits.  Their executive salaries are in the millions and multi millions.  And for contributing these monies the public ends up not only paying endless fees to the banks but also considerable amounts as middle men in the Futures Market.  The banks freely take a share of the money you earn and spend for your food and other necessary products as the Middle Men in the sale of many of the items people need to survive.

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It should also be noted that with 0% interest paid by the banks mortgage rates dropped to, in some cases, below 3%.  With the Federal Reserve’s action of raising the interest rate charged banks a fraction mortgage rates still dropped.  The amount the banks now pay to the FED is minuscule.  I would assume that they will continue to rise, at least, at the same rate as the first increase.  The public does deserve some return for letting the banks use their monies.

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As a sort of footnote we should remember that the banks are necessary for the national and international economies to properly work.  But we should also note that the major reason for all the banks is to serve the public.  Today it would seem that the major banking houses of the United States and much of the Industrial World serve mainly themselves.  The public seems to be exploited for the benefit of their self-interest, profit.  We, as a nation, might be better off if there was an alternative to the current privately run banking houses in this country.  If nothing else giving the public an alternative to the current banking situation might generate a certain amount of humility in the current banking houses.

 

An alternative does exist; and that is the Federal Reserve.  All the Congress has to do is extend their powers so that they can also deal directly with the public.  They are a government agency that was created in on December 23, 1913 as a result of numerous financial panics.  Their major objective is to serve the public; that is still their major purpose.  The FED has undergone an evolution, particularly in the 1930s after the Great Depression.  If the Congress were to extend their powers they could easily take on the same functions as the private banking houses and allow the public to have a positive banking experience that would operate for the benefit of the public.

 

There are twelve Federal Reserve Districts covering the entire United States.  They can easily establish banking facilities throughout the nation.  This would also give them more ability to positively control the economy.  And they need not totally replace the current private banking houses; they could function alongside them giving the public a choice of where they want to do their banking.  Their existence in this fashion would also insure that the public gets a reasonable return on their banking accounts and it would force the private banks to stay honest.

 

It should also be noted that finances in most industrial nations are run by state owned public banks, like the bank of England or France.

The Weiner Component #143 – President Obama & the Republicans

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the Republican Presidential Debates, which are being held nearly a year before the next Presidential Election, one of the constantly recurring themes that a number of the Republican Presidential candidates continually bring up is that the current President, Barack Obama, is a failed president, not capable of running the country.  Of course if he’s that bad one would expect a movement to impeach him.  But I haven’t heard of that happening.  So what we have is an interpretation by the prospective Republican candidates who of late have tied Hillary Rodham Clinton to President Obama as a failed Secretary of State.  I suppose the more they denounce him the greater they feel they themselves are.

 

Also after denouncing President Obama and Clinton the Republican candidates announce generally what they will do, the results from their handling of specific problems.  How they will solve military issues by sending in American troops, create a no-fly zone over Syria, create increased employment by getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  But more pollution will not necessarily produce more jobs.  It will successfully, however, shorten a number of lives.  It must be wonderful to be that sure of oneself.

 

In essence most of the potential candidates are blowing in the wind!  Most, if not all, that they say they will do requires either an act of Congress or an Amendment to the Constitution.  According to what Donald Trump says as to what he will do would need a new document of government to drastically increase the powers of the president and limit Congress’ powers.  In the case of Carley Fiona I keep remembering that after she became CEO of Hewlett Packard the stock dropped to half its original value and she argued that she was a positive force even though she lied to her employees to get them to reduce their wages and thus reduce company costs.  She left the company or was fired by the Board of Directors not too long after with a buy-out package worth about 15 million dollars.  She has also lied or fabricated in her public announcements as a Presidential candidate.  Ted Cruz, it seems to me from much of what he has said, would like to become leader or fuhrer of the United States rather than just President.  He seems to have some of the elements of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy.

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I have often wondered what would have happened if in 2008 Senator John McCain had become President of the United States.  First off, he would have inherited a full-fledged Great Recession or potential Great Depression from former President, George W. Bush.  While Bush had temporarily initially bailed out many of the banks at the end of his presidency the question that arises is would McCain have continued the process?  According to the current Republican Presidential candidates no business is too big to fail.  The indication is that McCain would probably not have bailed out the banks.  The result would have been that the major banks in the United States would have gone under.  The movement of money through the economy would have slowed to a trickle and the country would have gone into a major depression that would make the Great Depression of 1929, which did not end until 1939 with the outbreak of World War II, look like a mild recession.  We would still today be feeling its strong negative effects.

 

In addition since the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insured every bank account up to a half million dollars the Federal Government would have had to pay out all the accounts of the bankrupt banks or take over and continue to operate those banks.  Either solution would have disrupted the dollar internationally and brought about major depressions in all the major industrial nations.

 

Unemployment in most if not all of these nations would have dropped to over 75%.  It was only 50% at the depth of the Great Depression.

 

In addition there would have been no bail out of the automobile industry and all the American car producing companies would have gone under in the U.S.  Mitt Romney distinctly made the point in 2012 when he ran for the Presidency, as the Republican candidate, that the auto companies should have been allowed to have gone through bankruptcy.  His point there is that in a bankruptcy the court generally declares the stock worthless.  The judge uses the value of the stock to pay off the company’s debt.  The same management that initially made the decisions that caused the bankruptcy stays in control of the company.

 

Way to go Mitt!  Your group stays in control of the company and the stockholders who trusted your leadership all get screwed.  It sounds very much like what Donald Trump did with his casinos in New Jersey.

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Barak Obama, in 2008, ran for President on a platform of change.  And it was indeed time for a change after the disasters brought about by the George Bush Jr. administration.  Presumably Bush had declared war against Iraq because they had secreted away weapons of mass destruction.  Actually he had the military invade the country because its leader, Saddam Hussein, had attempted to have his father, former President Bush Sr., assassinated and he was also acting as Sheriff of the Middle East, bringing American Democracy to Iraq.  The CIA was amazed when they heard his reasons for the act.  The United Nations, at the time, was legally searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.  Bush ended that with the U.S. invasion.

 

President Obama inherited a country ready to slip into total disaster.  Employment was rapidly dropping.  Property values were falling like a major landslide.  While he had been elected to bring about change his immediate problem was literally keeping the society functional.  He had to return to normality before he could inaugurate any real changes.  The fact that he also inaugurated Universal Health Care at this time is a demonstration of his level of competence.

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In periods of economic recession the government has two major weapons to fight the economic down-flow.  One is Monetary Policy which is controlled by the Federal Reserve (FED).  Here the FED can increase the amount and movement of currency in the general society by lowering the interest rates it charges banks.  This, in turn, forces the banks to lower their interest rates on the monies they lend out.  The effect of this is to loosen up the flow of currency through the economy, making the cost of borrowing cheaper, and thus encouraging growth or economic expansion.  Will this always happen?  The answer is generally; there are occasionally other variables which can hinder growth.

 

Under normal conditions there will be economic expansion and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) would increase helping to end or counter-act the recession.  Going along with this is an increase in employment.

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The FED, which has twelve distinct branches throughout the fifty states, constantly monitors the entire economy.  It’s as though it has a thermometer throughout the nation and can interpret what’s happening in every part of the country.  Its main function is to keep the economy as healthy as possible.

 

Another tool the FED has is its control of how much money banks can led out.  This amount can be raised or lowered.  Every commercial bank or credit union has to keep a small percentage of every loan it makes.  The average is about 5% of all the monies it lends out.  For every $100.00 the bank lends out it has to keep $5.00 in cash.  If that is deposited in the bank then it has to keep 5% of that and so on until it has a $100.00 in cash.  By that time the bank has lent out $1,000.  If this amount is raised by the FED to 10% it then lowers the amount that can be lent out by 50%.  If it is lowered to 2 ½ % it increases the amount to $2,000.00 for every hundred dollars deposited into the bank.

 

The FED also controls the money flow in the U.S. by using the National Debt as a tool, buying and selling government bonds.  When the FED buys back government bonds and does not issue as much in new bonds it can increase the amount of money in circulation.  Doing the reverse of this decreases the amount of money available.  It can also, as it did after 2011, just issue currency to the National Cash Flow.  All this would be done with the concurrence of the President.  During Jimmy Carter’s four year administration he had the FED reverse its policy because of its adverse effect upon a segment of the population.

 

All of these are powerful tools for regulating the economy.  But in some instances they are not enough to bring about the needed positive change.  Such an instance was the 2008 Real Estate Crash.  At that time what was also needed was the other major Federal Government weapon that could help regulate the economy and that was Fiscal Policy.  Fiscal Policy would be one or more laws authorizing government spending passed by Congress and signed by the President.

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From 2009 through 2010, during President Obama’s first two years in office, he worked upon limiting the effects of the Great Recession.  This was done through an intensive use of fiscal policy with a Democratic Congress, continuing the bank bailouts and also bailing out the American automobile industry, among numerous other things.  During this period the Affordable Health Care Bill was passed.  This was the major visible change; the others, keeping the economy from crashing, were mainly invisible.  To many people who voted for him in 2008, the changes he had promised did not come about.

 

In the year 2010 the Midterm Election was held.  A large number of people who had supported President Obama in the Election of 2008 apparently were disgusted with him for not bringing about enough visible change in the society and stayed at home, not voting in the election; this resulted in the Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives.

 

2010 was a census year in which the population of the country was counted so that the seats in the House of Representatives which are fixed in number could be properly reapportioned.  That year Republicans also won control of a number of states.  Those states and other Republican controlled states were then gerrymandered with new Voting Districts that would give Republicans an advantage in the future elections.

 

The new House of Representatives met as a caucus and took an oath not to cooperate with President Obama in anything.  The former minority Party in the House of Representatives, where the Democrats had had a majority, had taken the same oath two years earlier.  The Republicans had wanted to make him a one term president.  The new House of Representatives would not pass any Fiscal Policy laws.  When presented with a plan by President Obama they totally ignored his recommendations.  In fact they all opposed Obamacare and swore to rescind the Affordable Health Care law and passed such bills over 50 times from 2011 to 2014.  All these bills were ignored by the Senate.

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Because of the nature of what President Obama and his administration were doing there was very little publicity given to most of the changes they were bringing about, keeping the country from falling into a major depression and slowly bringing about recovery from the Housing Crash.  Visibly the President and the Democratic Congress seemed to be doing very little.  The one thing that emerged from that two year period was the Affordable Health Care Law, which was loudly denounced by the Republicans and passed strictly on a political party basis.  All Republicans voting against it and all Democrats, who had the majority in both Houses, voting for it.

 

As a note of irony the Affordable Health Care Bill (Obamacare) was modeled upon a Republican plan developed by a Republican Think Tank and originally applied in the state of Massachusetts by its then governor, Mitt Romney.  The plan, rather than have a single insurer, the Federal Government, relied on private enterprise, the many insurance companies across the country, in order to be put into operation.  It was a means of increasing the amount of business that the insurance companies did with some patient protective limitations.

 

To get Republican support on this bill President Obama and the Democrats had bent backwards to give the Republicans something they could easily support.  The Republicans have continued up until the present to oppose and denounce this law.  Ted Cruz has sworn to end this program when he becomes President.  The term Obamacare was originally stated as a put-down.

 

With the 2011 Midterm Election the Republicans were able to achieve a majority in the House of Representatives.  The voter turnout was very low.  A number of people who had voted for Obama in 2008, particularly among the Hispanics stayed at home and didn’t bother voting.  Thereafter virtually nothing President Obama supported was passed in the House of Representatives.

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One of the major problems within the United States has to do with its infrastructure.  The National Highway System was built in the 1950s during the Eisenhower administration.  Most of the ports are too small to allow the new giant container ships to use them.  Many if not most of the bridges built in the U.S. were done in the early part of the 20th Century if not earlier.  The majority of airports are inadequate in dealing with all the air traffic.  The electric grid throughout the United States is totally dated and in winter parts of it have stopped functioning by freezing up and parts of the country has lost electric power.  Most of the utility companies don’t have the resources to fix this problem, leaving it to the Federal Government.  These are just some of the infrastructure problems, there are many more.  Ultimately most of these come down to the Federal Government as the only source that has the resources to really upgrade the nation.

 

Most of these repairs would in a relatively short period of time pay for themselves by increasing the GDP and significantly increase the tax base on all levels of government.  With one exception, and that is renewing a functioning plan that already existed, both the House and the Senate have ignored these problems.  Ultimately a total upgrade would cost trillions of dollars.  And at some point it will have to be begun and ultimately done.

 

President Obama presented Congress with a detailed plan that would at the same time have begun work on the infrastructure and ended all the effects of the 2008 Real Estate Crash by totally ending unemployment in the country.  The plan would have reduced unemployment to about 2% which is the rate of people changing jobs.

 

The House of Representatives totally ignored the plan and did not even consider it.  To them spending government money they didn’t have to would be anathema; their basic problem was that they could only understand the present which meant that they would be spending additional funds.  The fact that the nation would get that money back with interest in the next decade or so was out of their realm of comprehension.

 

In fact what the Republicans have done in passing legislation in the House of Representatives and in the Senate has been to increase unemployment in the United States.  Using economy or reduced government spending as their excuse they have forced through bills that significantly reduce government spending.  Their final and most important cut was Sequestration which was passed when they could get no agreement with the Democrats in Congress to cut anything else.  This law automatically cuts by a specific percentage every year from just about every program unless a law is pass to stop a section of it from happening.

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The President requires the “advice and consent” of the Senate on most of his appointments of officials to government jobs; particularly supervisory positions such as judges, heads of government departments, etc.  There are more open judgeships now or unappointed heads of departments that at any other time in the history of the United States.

 

An individual that comes to mind is someone that both the Democrats and Republicans approve of whose expertise deals with a phase of banking wherein he can trace the movement of currency through terrorist organizations like ISIS and interrupt that movement.  The current Senate, that has a slight Republican majority, has refused to bring his name up for a vote.  Apparently they don’t want President Obama to have any successes regardless of the cost to the country.

 

However, even though the media just mentioned a small number of these incidents, U.S. explosive drones have killed most of al-Qaeda leaders as was Osama bin Laden in a military raid in Pakistan. They are no longer the military terrorist force they were when they blew up the Twin Towers during the Bush Republican administration.

 

President Obama has just signed a 1.15 billion dollar compromise with the Republican Congress that will keep the Federal Government going and achieve a number of Democratic programs.  It was a compromise bill and will also achieve a number of Republican goals.

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If we examine the achievements of the last dozen or so Presidents, Barak Obama emerges as one of our top leaders.  This is amazing in the respect that for the last five of his eight years in office Congress has consistently worked to keep him from achieving anything.  He emerges as a man among men who has achieved much regardless of the limitations continually set for him by the Republicans in Congress.

 

During most of his administration he has bent backwards to get the cooperation of the Republicans in Congress.  It hasn’t happened.  I suspect that by this time he had had it and will only accept positive results from Congress as he did with the 1.15 trillion dollar budget compromise.

 

In this bill the Republicans have added significantly to the National Debt, a principle they supposedly oppose.  They spent almost as much in 2014 with their last minute bill then to finance the Federal Government through 2015.  They achieved a number of their objectives but they did not defund Planned Parenthood or keep Syrians from immigrating to the United States.  They did however keep Planned Parenthood from getting an increase in funding from the government.

 

Personally I am glad that Barak Obama is President of the United States.  I would hate to think of what might have happened if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won.  President Obama has carried the United States through a very difficult time in our history.

The Weiner Component #120 – The Shrinking Economic World: Interdependence

Seal of the United States Federal Reserve Syst...

English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Rese...

English: Clockwise from top-left: Federal Reserve, Bank of England, European Central Bank, Bank of Canada (Note: Uploaded for use on Wikinews) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logo of the United States Tennessee Valley Aut...

On the one hand each nation today tends to be strongly nationalistic seeing itself as a unique entity while on the other hand each of the national and regional groups are also strongly interdependent. When any one nation is adversely affected economically then all the others are also negatively impacted. A prime example of this would be the late 2008 bursting of the U.S. Real Estate Bubble whose effect was felt throughout the major industrial nations for at least seven years.

We are today in the 21st Century and interdependent; either we all prosper or we are all undergoing stages of recovery from different levels of recessions. This situation seems to be intensified in some of the 19 nations that make up the Eurozone, which is actually a smaller version of the overall economic world. Whether they survive as an economic unit or not depends upon decisions they will make in the next few months

Most countries have a central government bank like the Federal Reserve in the United States or the European Central Bank for the Eurozone but there is a wild card in all these countries or regions and that is the private banks. To some extent they are limited by the National Banking House but mainly they operate for profit in a Market Economy environment. These banks are motivated by profit and their lending policies can create money or shrink the expenditure of funds within an economy.

An example of this would be in the U.S. after the Real Estate Bubble burst in late 2008. The major banks had recently been bailed out of bankruptcy by the Federal Government with loans and were expected to have a loose money policy to enhance economic recovery. The private banks, however, became ultra-conservative, essentially hording their monies and considerably slowing down the rate of economic recovery.

These banks as they exist today are necessary for the functioning of any National economy.  But, mainly, they exist for profit through fees or the interest rate they charge on their depositor’s savings and checking accounts.  The banks are responsible for the flow of money through the entire economy. Their CEO’s or presidents take home salaries in the millions of dollars while the government banking houses like the FED or ECB take home salaries that are in the thousands of dollars. These private banks are necessary, yet they pose a contradiction within the Free Market system.

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The economic system of a nation works simply. It always seems to follow the following

model.

IMG

                                  THE NATIONAL BUSINESS CYCLE MODEL

 

The above model is continuous.  The duration of each cycle can vary from a relatively short period of one to several months to a number of years.  The Great Depression of 1929 lasted until the Second World War, ten to twelve years before recovery was completed.

All of this operates in a Market Economy where the forces of the Market or Free Enterprise determine what is happening.   And what causes the Market to operate is the goal of profit.  During a period of prosperity many businesses that are doing well want to expand and do better.  They generally borrow money from the banks in order to do this. There may in addition be a shortage of labor and wages will be bid up raising the costs of production. Eventually more is produced than can be sold, be it manufactured items or food products; prices drop, there is overproduction, people are laid off, unemployment rises.  The economy moves into a recession which can lead into a depression or if it misses that then directly into the recovery stage, and the cycle eventually begins again with a level of recovery.  This pattern has been endless lasting at times for months and at other times for years, or for some period between the two. And always it has been propelled by profit

This is, of course, a simplification of the many forces at work within each economy during the business cycle but it is essentially the root that powers the economies, the wild card that the Central Banks can never really totally control.  And when one country is affected it is like a virus that then spreads and in different degrees affects other nations.

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It can be and has been argued that a planned economy controlled by central planners in the government, as it was in the Soviet Union, never worked. They were always beset by bottlenecks when production stopped while the factory waited for some necessary part to be produced and shipped to them before they could finish their product. This did occur prior to World War II when the Soviet Union was undergoing its 5 Year Plans that were to turn it into an industrial nation.  And if we check carefully we will find that it did also occur in countries with the Market System.

It can also be argued that this is a form of socialism which is by definition bad and has never worked.  But if one examines the history of socialism he or she finds that it is a late 19th and early 20th century form of utopianism, which in many cases also had religious overtones. They were reaching for a state of being in an early industrial society where everyone could live happily and fairly ever after.  We are looking at a state of being that could not, with the limited resources that existed then, really exist at that time in history.

What we are considering now is a state of being that is utilitarian; that is a possible and logical outcome to what is the most efficient course of action today. Most industrial nations have from some to many aspects of the society that are operated by the government for the public good.

In the United States, for example, there is Social Security, Medicare, and Affordable Health Care to name some social programs.  One can even quote the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which serves only a section of the country supplying water and electricity sold by the Federal Government.  Even some municipalities will sell water and/or electricity to their residents.  These are all social programs run for the public good rather than for profit.

Most industrial nations have many more social and industrial programs that cover their citizens from the cradle to the grave. Their taxes are high but their protections for their citizens are far more extensive than those in the United States where many of these programs cost the citizens far more than these other industrial nation’s people pay for them in taxes.

The problem as it exists in the United States and many other industrial nations is that most of the major banking houses are too big to fail.  They keep a goodly percentage of the cash flowing through the economy.  If they were to disappear by going bankrupt through bad speculation or otherwise then the nation or nations would go into a deep depression.  The banks are in the business of making large profits with their depositor’s money, which generally is insured by the Central or National Government, but their executives make decisions that could lose that money as happened toward the end of 2008 when the Real Estate Bubble burst.  The governments bailed out most of the banking houses like the Bank of America.  The banks were needed for the economy to keep functioning.

If we, as individuals, invest money foolishly we can lose our investment but if the banking houses do it the National Government using taxpayer money will have to pay for the loses. They seem to have an advantage over the rest of the society, a very unfair advantage.

In the March 4, 2015 edition of the Los Angeles Times there was a short article dealing with the J.P. Morgan Chase bank.  They were to pay 25,000 thousand homeowners $50 million for failing to properly review payment-charge notices sent to these homeowners in bankruptcy.  The bank acknowledged that it filed about 25,000 payment change notices without a proper review.  They were signed in the names of employees who no longer worked for the company or who hadn’t reviewed the filings.

If we do a review of the major banking houses from 2009 to the present we find that all of these banks paid fines to the Federal Government of multimillions of dollars for various nefarious and outright dishonest practices with virtually no one going to prison for any of the illegal activities.  Outside of a fine there has been no legal penalty for banking houses instigating illegal activities.  In fact even after the fines were paid the banks, in most cases, still made a profit on these activities.

Are there solutions to these problems?  The banking practices as they now work are completely out of kilter with the needs of society.  In fact in many instances they seem to go against the interests of the general public.  A simple solution to this would be in the United States to expand the powers of the Federal Reserve which would allow them to deal directly with the general public.

The Federal Reserve divides the United States into twelve Federal Reserve Zones. Each has a main Federal Reserve Bank and ancillary banks.  The zones could be expanded to also include Federal Commercial Banks that would deal directly with the public

There are many advantages to this. The Federal Reserve can exercise its power more rapidly over the overall economy as it continually adjusts the business cycle and national cash flow, keeping the economy in a healthier state.  The contradictions in the system disappear with the Federal Banks serving the people for their benefit and not for profit.  It makes for a far healthier economy and the negative shifts in the business cycle should be massively reduced in a positive direction.

As to the concept of interdependence we need a consortium of the heads or leaders from each of the National Banks who would meet regularly and have the power to deal with the problems that affect all the member nations.  They can work toward international levels of prosperity for all the member nations.

Is all of this possible in today’s world?  The major nations are presently cooperating in the direction of ending national flare-ups.  They are cooperating in attempting to wipe out the terrorist group ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

Setting up an international economic consortium would just be another step in this direction.  Currently there is the G-20, an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major nations.  It attempts to address issues that are international in content.  Collectively the G20’s nations account for around 85% of the gross world products, 80% of world trade, and 2/3ds of the world’s population.

They have been meeting annually since 1999.  Actually under other names they have been meeting since the end of World War II.  The leaders of these nations confer together and can bring home recommendations to their individual governments.  If the individual nations were to give up a percentage of their sovereignty the group’s representatives could meet more often and they could be given power to implement their economic recommendations as acts of international law.

In addition there is the United Nations which has operated on various levels since 1945, the end of the Second World War.  In part it has been politicalized but that can be changed and it can be brought to operate as a world union

The tools for all these changes already exist. All that is required is that they are positively developed.

German Logo of the ECB.

German Logo of the ECB. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #89 – Money, Economic Growth, & The National Debt

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the last time I checked the Census Bureau the population of the United States was increasing at the rate of one person every 11 seconds. This included births, deaths, and immigration. This increases the overall population by about 117,818 people per year. In order for the per capita level to remain at 0% it must rise several points every year. In order for the economy to grow it has to rise beyond this point.

In order for the economy to function positively there must be a reasonable level of growth. For this to occur there must be a reasonable yearly growth of the money supply. If the amount of currency in circulation is stultified or decreases the country is in recession moving toward depression.

By the mid1970s the money supply in circulation was not increasing at a rate needed by the country for economic growth. At this point the banks by their lending policies, gradually began to fill the currency void. They gradually discovered that they could bundle their mortgages, dividing them up into infinitesimal pieces, set up hedge funds, sell the mortgage shares like stock, recover their investment, lend the money out again, and continue to do this endlessly, charging assorted fees on every level of this process. In doing this they created first billions of dollars and then trillions, always keeping a good percentage of this in the form of fees. While this process was needed for growth within the nation eventually, thirty odd years later, it had become a mad race for endless profits by the banks.

In 2008 this housing bubble the banks created burst and the country fell almost instantaneously into economic depression. What had been a dollar in value a few days earlier now became worth a nickel or at most a dime in value. The country was headed for a depression deeper than that of 1929.

Newly elected President Barak Obama and his administration stepped into the void and the Federal Government made massive loans to the banks and later to the dying American auto industry. Where did they get the money? They printed it and temporarily took on additional massive debt. All the loans were repaid within a few years with interest.

A word about the National Debt. What is it and where does it come from? The Debt is money the government spends in excess of the taxes it collects. It is currently more than 17 trillion dollars. The money is borrowed and has interest paid on it. This money is owed to individuals in and out of the United States, it is owed to countries like China and Japan, to both of whom is owed in excess of one trillion dollars, and mostly the money is owed to itself and its agencies such as Social Security, who is owed well over 2 1/2 trillion dollars, and Medicare. In fact just about all government agencies that have a surplus have had their excess taken and used in the General Fund. The interest on all of this is paid by the Federal Reserve to the General Fund. I remember reading several months ago about 88 or 89 billion dollars being transferred from the FED to the Treasury.

The National Debt is divided into two parts, public and private. Public would be what is owned by individuals or countries like China and Japan, generally acquired to balance international trade. Private ownership of the Debt is what the Federal Government owes itself. It admits to owning about 50% of its own debt. By my estimate the Federal Government directly or indirectly through its agencies actually owns roughly about 75% of its own debt.

Where does it get all this money? Simple! It prints it and issues the currency as needed. After all there is nothing behind the United States dollar but the word of the U.S. Government. There is nothing behind any currency but the word of the government using it.

By the year 2000 the banks had created trillions of dollars and were going strong with mortgages, both new ones and refinanced ones. Money that had been needed for economic growth and development was being readily supplied with the banks taking a good share of this currency. Large numbers of people were using their homes as bank accounts, refinancing again and again. The major banks were making billions in fees and wanted profits of many more billions. The mortgages were considered safe investments and they sold like shares of stock with a promised safe return. These were the Hedge Funds bought nationally and internationally that were touted as hedges against any type of financial loss and they paid nice dividends.

The situation grew more-tense as time went by with many bankers encouraging homeowners to lie on their applications. After all prices had been and were continually rising on real estate. Anything that could be mortgaged was mortgaged more than once. The situation grew more and more chaotic, until toward the end of 2008 when the entire economy collapsed. Shortly thereafter Barak Obama took office as the 45th President of the United States.

His theme had been “It’s time for a change.” By 2010 the economy had been saved but there wasn’t enough “change” to satisfy the majority of the voting population and the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives. The Tea Party was in control of the Republican Party, moving its position far to the reactionary right. All possibility of fiscal policy ended. There would be no more government projects. In fact the Republicans had two specific goals: one was to shrink the economy by curtailing spending and the other was to make Barak Obama a one term president by not allowing him any legislative victories or successes.

They successfully achieved their first goal of contracting government expenditures, particularly on entitlement programs to the poor and to the states, forcing state governments to shrink their services, and they added to the unemployment caused by the Real Estate Bubble bursting. The House of Representatives would not even take up fiscal policy, keeping unemployment high and forcing the country to continue with an infrastructure well over fifty years old. They left any possible improvement to the economy to the Federal Reserve which, under Chairman Ben Bernanke’s guidance, used imaginative Monetary Policy to bring about some recovery.

Two major problems developed from the 2008 economic crisis: first the amount of money in circulation had to be increased significantly and second, many people were underwater on their mortgages; that is, they owed more on their property than it was worth. Something had to be done to alleviate the housing crisis. An additional crisis was who controlled the mortgages that had been broken into hundreds of pieces and attached to innumerable hedge funds. What the FED came up with was to add 85 billion dollars to the economy; 45 billion was spent buying up mortgage paper and 40 billion was used to buy up government debt. This was done monthly for several years, adding trillion of dollars in currency to the economy.

Toward the end of his tenure as chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke announced that the FED would decrease its purchases by 10 billion monthly. The new chairperson of the FED, Janet Yellen, stated that she would continue the policy, ending it in October of 2014.

Many prices had been gradually rising and the fear was that the country might fall into an inflationary spiral, too much money being in circulation and forcing prices up.

Toward the end of 2013 the housing crisis seems to have leveled off. There has been new construction throughout the United States and property values have gradually risen, taking a lot of people out from being underwater.

On Tuesday, July 16, 2014 Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen announced in her report to Congress that the FED might not completely stop buying debt and mortgage paper at the end of October.

What will happen should be very interesting. Following October is the 2014 Midterm Election. How will the country react if there is a stoppage of all Monetary Policy? Will there be a significant drop in the Stock Market, which today is far higher than it was just before the 2008 Crash?

How will the country react? Will they even notice the change? Will the election be affected in any way? The times are certainly changing!

There is enough money now in circulation, far more than there was in 2008. The problem is its distribution. More and more of it seems to go to the upper 20% of the population, forcing many in the middle class economically downward. Unemployment has dropped to a fraction above 6%. What the country needs is a redistribution of the National Income downwards and a rebuilding of its infrastructure. Affordable Health Care should have a single entity running it and not for profit. This would be the Federal Government and it should be paid for out of taxes like Social Security and Medicare. Instead we allow private companies to become richer running it. We need a greater level of fairness in this country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #66 – Macroeconomics & the GDP

Imagine a giant caldron or pot as high and as large as the tallest building you’ve ever seen,

The western front of the United States Capitol...

The western front of the United States Capitol. The Capitol serves as the seat of government for the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The building is marked by its central dome above a rotunda and two wings. It is an exemplar of the Neoclassical architecture style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

filled[ with money, paper bills, with over 17 trillion dollars in it.  This is the Gross Domestic Product, the GDP, the amount of wealth produced in one year in the United States.  It represents the monetary value of all the goods and services produced and consumed in a twelve month period.  The money is a paper means of exchanging all this wealth and productivity, all the goods and services produced in one fiscal year.  It has no real value except as a token of transfer, goods and services for goods and services.  There is nothing behind the dollar except the word of the Federal Government.  Gold, which has a high value, cannot be used for money because there is not enough of it in existence to meet the financial needs of any of the many industrial nations.

The real wealth is what is produced and exchanged.  The money is merely the means of exchange that rates one unit of productivity against another and is used nationally or internationally.  The currency, then, is the tool through which this system of exchange occurs.  It can be used immediately or stored in institutions like banks or credit unions and used at some point in the future.  Money can also be used as a commodity, loaned or rented out with interest for a period of time or it can be used for all sorts of investments that pay interest or dividends.  It is in every case a tool to satisfy different types of wants and needs.

To consider money as the source of wealth is to be naïve.  The amount one has through earnings or inheritance can be used as a sort of score to determine one’s level of success against that of all other people in the society.  It is a government supplied tool that allows for the productive functioning of society.

It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to keep enough of it in circulation, a constant cash flow, so that full productivity occurs.  A shortage of the money supply in the nation can cause economic recession and eventual depression.  An excess amount of money in the National Economy can bring about run-away inflation, too much money available for the goods and services produced.  The Federal Government’s task is to provide just enough for full employment and full creation of the goods and services needed for the highest possible standard of living for the entire population.

This is not easy and requires constant readjustment because, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of the nation is increasing at the rate of one additional person every eleven seconds.  This figure includes births, immigration, and deaths.  In 2010, the time of the last National Census, the estimated population was 308,745,536, and this was considered a low count.  While an adjustment upward was made a year later this figure was used for the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives.

One has to keep in mind that in addition to this number the population since then has increased at the rate of 5.46 people per minute, 327.27 per hour, 7,854.55 per day, 54,981.81 per week, 2,866,911 per year, plus another 7,854 for leap years.  The money supply has to be continually increased to keep up with these ever-growing numbers or the country moves in the direction of economic constriction, unemployment, recession, and finally depression.  All this is supposed to be done by the Federal Reserve with the aid of Congress and the President.

The Federal Reserve continually monitors the economy and continually makes its adjustments through Monetary Policy.  It can strongly but not completely affect the amount and flow of currency. The other section of the Federal Government that is supposed to continually affect the level of economic prosperity in the country is Congress.  They do this through fiscal policy; passing laws that can diminish or create employment throughout the United States by either increasing or decreasing government spending.  In essence through the passage of laws they can constrict or expand the cash flow and the level of employment

If we look at the actions of the Republicans in the House of Representatives from 2011 on, when they gained control of that body, it would seem that they by their actions are working very hard to bring this country into an economic depression and not allow for any recovery from the Real Estate Debacle of 2008.  We are still, six years later at seven plus percent unemployment.  Millions of people are still not earning enough to maintain a decent standard of living.  There is growing hunger in America, that many people are not food secure.  What are the Republicans proposing and trying to push through Congress?  Massively reducing food stamp and other programs that are vital for the proper survival of fifteen or more million people.

Their version of job creation is to massively reduce Federal spending for entitlement programs while wasting twenty-five billion dollars on shutting down the Federal Government for a period of time.  If one looked for a plan to destroy the United States or make it into a third rate nation then one would do exactly what the Republicans in Congress have been and are trying to achieve, to bring a large part of the population into despair and desolation.

The Republicans are acting like the Hoover Administration did from 1929, when the Great Depression broke, until 1933, when the Roosevelt Administration came into being.  Is it an act of maliciousness or just simply economic ignorance?  They are attempting to run the country as they run or ran their household budgets.  One Tea Party Congressman stated that he understood economics because he had raised a family.  They are making money the object of value and ignoring the potential productivity of the nation.  They are actually using the principles of Microeconomics, which works well with households, businesses, and state and municipal governments but can create disaster if it is used to run an industrial nation of over 300 million people.

 


 

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