The Weiner Component V.2 #35 – Money & the Presidents: Part 1

English: Plaza of the Presidents, commemoratin...

English: Plaza of the Presidents, commemorating all the US presidents who served during World War II; outdoor display on the grounds of the National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, Texas, USA. Each monument honors a US president who served during World War II (FD Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LB Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and GHW Bush) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Four Presidents: President Ronald Rea...

English: Four Presidents: President Ronald Reagan with his three predecessors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wealth of a nation is its level of productivity which is determined in terms of monetary value.  The monetary value is in terms of the currency of the nation.  The currency itself is merely the agent of exchange; it allows the goods and services of each individual to be exchanged for those produced by all other individuals.  All of this is finite in that there is a limit as to what a particular nation can produce.  This limit is set by the national level of manpower and by the available resources.  While wealth is determined by the currency value an individual controls, the currency itself is an instrument of exchange, not of value.  Money is basically the tool that allows for the creation or production of the actual wealth: the products or services produced.  The actual wealth is the productivity of the nation, all the goods and services it produces, its GDP.

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President Harry S. Truman continued the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He presided over the end of World War II and he created the Fair Deal as his economic policy.  Truman also presided over the beginnings of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Korean War or police action.

 

The next president was former General Dwight David Eisenhower.  He was the 34th President, entering the political race in 1952 as a Republican.  He was President from 1953 to 1961, the first Republican elected since 1928.  Eisenhower was a moderate conservative who continued the New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.  Economically he built the first interstate highway system in 1956.  Presumably this was done because of the Cold War: an interstate highway system would be beneficial if needed for military operations within the country and it would also be beneficial in helping to provide continued economic growth.

 

In the 1961 Race Republican Richard M. Nixon, Eisenhower’s former Vice President, ran against Democratic John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy won the election by 6/10s of 1% of the popular vote.  In the electoral vote he did better.

 

When Kennedy took office on January 20, 1961 the country was facing a mild recession.  His policy was to lower rates on the income taxes.  As a result of this the Federal Government collected more taxes than it had previously done.  People had more money and spent more and the recession ended.  Interestingly since that time many Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan have claimed that lowering taxes would actually increase government revenue.  It hasn’t happened.

 

Despite negative incidents during his tenure like the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy was one of the most popular presidents that this country had.  His approval rating was 77%.  Unfortunately he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.  His Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson replaced him as President and then was elected in his own right for another four years.  President Johnson was able to get Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.  In fact Johnson was able to get through some of the bills Kennedy had strongly supported.  In his own right Johnson declared War on Poverty and had a measure of success on that until he extended the war in Viet Nam, bringing American troops directly into combat.  President Kennedy had used U.S. troops as advisors only; President Johnson attempted to defeat the Viet Cong.  He apparently felt that the United States was that powerful.  He was wrong.

 

President Johnson’s domestic policy was called The Great Society.  He attempted to do too much.  Attempting to fight his War on Poverty and at the same time conduct a full scale war against North Vietnam without the American Public being affected was more than the country could handle.  The cost of all this began a spiral of inflation which was not ended until the second year of the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s.  Johnson began the excess spending during the first half of the 1960s, Reagan ended the growing inflationary spiral during his second year in office during the early 1980s; growing inflation existed for about a 20 year period.  The termination of the inflation was a very economically painful process upon small business.  The inflationary spiral was broken by raising interest rates to about 20%, making money too expensive to borrow.

 

The number of American military personnel in Viet Nam was increased dramatically during the Johnson years, going from 1600 advisors to 525,000 combat troops in 1967.  American casualties soared.  In addition the sorted battles were shown nightly by the news on television throughout the United States.  There was an angry antiwar movement especially on college compasses.  Summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965 and crime rates soared in the U.S.  With all of the above and not being able to win the Viet Nam War or police action, since it was not officially a war, broke Johnson’s spirit.  He refused to run for the presidency in 1968.

 

In that year, after a tumultuous Democratic Convention in Chicago, Hubert Humphrey, ran against and lost the election to the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon, the country’s 37th President, if he hadn’t been involved in the Watergate Break-ins, would have probably emerged as one of the outstanding Presidents of the United States.  In 1970, he created the Environment Protection Agency.  He did after a long period of time end the Viet Nam War in 1973, bringing home all the American prisoners of war.  His visit to China in 1972, the first such for an American President, led to diplomatic relations with that country.  These relations caused the Soviet Union to sign an Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the United States later that same year.  He initiated détente.

 

When he first took office he imposed wage and price controls in 1969 in an attempt to stop the inflation spiral that had reached 4.7%.  It didn’t work because of all the exceptions that had to be applied.  Fighting the Viet Nam War and attempting to maintain peacetime conditions in the nation which would continue well past his time in office brought on the continued rise in inflation.  Not Nixon nor anyone else as President would have been able to stop it.  It would take extreme action by the Federal Reserve to do so.

 

For his second term in 1972 Nixon wanted a massive victory.  This required assorted actions, some of which were illegal.  Nixon and the Republican leaders secretly supported the far left Democratic candidate that would be unacceptable to the majority of the American people.  They chose South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who had unsuccessfully attempted to replace Robert Kennedy after his assassination in 1968.  McGovern was generally considered a far-left liberal.  He was the hero of the radical college groups.  The Nixon campaign contributed heavily to the McGovern candidate.  That action may have been immoral but it was not illegal.

 

In addition to this Nixon had a group in Washington called the “plumbers.”  They broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel a number of times and were finally caught and arrested.  From that point on a cover-up ensued until it finally came apart two years into Nixon’s second term.

 

Nixon was informed by Senator Barry Goldwater, probably the leading Republican in the U.S. at the time, that he had to resign or proceedings to impeach him would be begun the next day.  On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon became the first President to resign from the presidency.

 

Ironically he was replaced by the Vice President he had himself appointed, Gerald Ford.  The original Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had earlier resigned from office rather than face a lengthy corruption trial which would have found him guilty.  Ford, shortly after assuming the Presidency, pardoned Nixon for any crimes he had or might have committed.  Nixon accepted the pardon, thus admitting his guilt by accepting the pardon.

 

Gerald R. Ford had been appointed to the Vice Presidency by then President Richard M. Nixon.  He was also earlier appointed to the Senate by the governor of Michigan.  At that time he was Minority Leader at the House of Representatives.  He had served there for 25 years in the House of Representatives.  As President he appointed Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President.

 

President Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, which officially marked an end to the Cold War and brought about détente.  He presided over the end of the Viet Nam War nine months into his presidency.  Domestically, he served as President over the worst economy since the Great Depression, dealing with growing inflation and a recession.  His foreign policy was characterized by the increased role Congress began to play.  He served as Chief Executive of the United States for 895 days, the shortest term for a president who did not die in office.  In 1976 Gerald Ford lost the presidency to the Democratic candidate, former Georgia governor James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.

 

Jimmy Carter had been elected Governor of Georgia from January 12, 1971 through January 14, 1975.  Despite the fact that he was little known outside of Georgia Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter defeated Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976.  He assumed office on January 20, 1977 as the 39th President of the United States.

 

On his second day as President, Carter pardoned all Viet Nam draft evaders of the Viet Nam War.  He was able to get the first signed agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, the Camp David Accords.  He signed the Panama Canal Treaties that gave Panama control of the Canal and the second round of Arms limitation Talks (SALT II).

 

Economically the country was going through stagflation during his tenure, both high inflation and high unemployment.  Carter had his Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, attempt to break the inflation spiral which had reached about 15%.  Volcker did this by raising the interest rate to about 20%, making money too expensive to borrow.  This, in turn, would drive many small businesses into bankruptcy as they could not afford those rates during their economic dry seasons.  Many complained to the President and he had Volcker end the policy.  The next President would enforce it and end the inflation spiral while driving numerous small businesses into bankruptcy.

 

Gasoline and fuel prices rose in 1980 to about $2.16 a gallon for gasoline and went considerably higher for heating fuel also.  President Carter recommended that people keep their thermostats set at 65 degrees and wear sweaters.  He did this at the White House.

In 1979 to 1981 there was the Iranian hostage crisis which ended shortly after the next President took office.  Because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan Carter ended détente and resumed the Cold War.

 

In the 1980 Presidential Election the Republicans chose Ronald Reagan to run against President Jimmy Carter.  Reagan won an overwhelming victory.

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Up to this point in our history the National Debt, which had almost always been with us was under one trillion dollars.  The Federal Government had spent money but it had always been on a limited basis.  Roosevelt, perhaps the greatest of the spending presidents, while he doubled the money supply that had been available in the country, did so without raising the National Debt significantly.  Even with World War II, the immediate post war spending, and the Cold War the country’s spending did not reach this point.  All of this would change after 1981 with the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency.

 

The Weiner Component V.2 #35 – Money & the Presidents: Part 1

 

The Wealth of a nation is its level of productivity which is determined in terms of monetary value.  The monetary value is in terms of the currency of the nation.  The currency itself is merely the agent of exchange; it allows the goods and services of each individual to be exchanged for those produced by all other individuals.  All of this is finite in that there is a limit as to what a particular nation can produce.  This limit is set by the national level of manpower and by the available resources.  While wealth is determined by the currency value an individual controls, the currency itself is an instrument of exchange, not of value.  Money is basically the tool that allows for the creation or production of the actual wealth: the products or services produced.  The actual wealth is the productivity of the nation, all the goods and services it produces, its GDP.

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

President Harry S. Truman continued the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He presided over the end of World War II and he created the Fair Deal as his economic policy.  Truman also presided over the beginnings of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the Korean War or police action.

 

The next president was former General Dwight David Eisenhower.  He was the 34th President, entering the political race in 1952 as a Republican.  He was President from 1953 to 1961, the first Republican elected since 1928.  Eisenhower was a moderate conservative who continued the New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.  Economically he built the first interstate highway system in 1956.  Presumably this was done because of the Cold War: an interstate highway system would be beneficial if needed for military operations within the country and it would also be beneficial in helping to provide continued economic growth.

 

In the 1961 Race Republican Richard M. Nixon, Eisenhower’s former Vice President, ran against Democratic John F. Kennedy.  Kennedy won the election by 6/10s of 1% of the popular vote.  In the electoral vote he did better.

 

When Kennedy took office on January 20, 1961 the country was facing a mild recession.  His policy was to lower rates on the income taxes.  As a result of this the Federal Government collected more taxes than it had previously done.  People had more money and spent more and the recession ended.  Interestingly since that time many Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan have claimed that lowering taxes would actually increase government revenue.  It hasn’t happened.

 

Despite negative incidents during his tenure like the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis Kennedy was one of the most popular presidents that this country had.  His approval rating was 77%.  Unfortunately he was assassinated on November 22, 1963.  His Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson replaced him as President and then was elected in his own right for another four years.  President Johnson was able to get Kennedy’s Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress.  In fact Johnson was able to get through some of the bills Kennedy had strongly supported.  In his own right Johnson declared War on Poverty and had a measure of success on that until he extended the war in Viet Nam, bringing American troops directly into combat.  President Kennedy had used U.S. troops as advisors only; President Johnson attempted to defeat the Viet Cong.  He apparently felt that the United States was that powerful.  He was wrong.

 

President Johnson’s domestic policy was called The Great Society.  He attempted to do too much.  Attempting to fight his War on Poverty and at the same time conduct a full scale war against North Vietnam without the American Public being affected was more than the country could handle.  The cost of all this began a spiral of inflation which was not ended until the second year of the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s.  Johnson began the excess spending during the first half of the 1960s, Reagan ended the growing inflationary spiral during his second year in office during the early 1980s; growing inflation existed for about a 20 year period.  The termination of the inflation was a very economically painful process upon small business.  The inflationary spiral was broken by raising interest rates to about 20%, making money too expensive to borrow.

 

The number of American military personnel in Viet Nam was increased dramatically during the Johnson years, going from 1600 advisors to 525,000 combat troops in 1967.  American casualties soared.  In addition the sorted battles were shown nightly by the news on television throughout the United States.  There was an angry antiwar movement especially on college compasses.  Summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965 and crime rates soared in the U.S.  With all of the above and not being able to win the Viet Nam War or police action, since it was not officially a war, broke Johnson’s spirit.  He refused to run for the presidency in 1968.

 

In that year, after a tumultuous Democratic Convention in Chicago, Hubert Humphrey, ran against and lost the election to the Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon, the country’s 37th President, if he hadn’t been involved in the Watergate Break-ins, would have probably emerged as one of the outstanding Presidents of the United States.  In 1970, he created the Environment Protection Agency.  He did after a long period of time end the Viet Nam War in 1973, bringing home all the American prisoners of war.  His visit to China in 1972, the first such for an American President, led to diplomatic relations with that country.  These relations caused the Soviet Union to sign an Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the United States later that same year.  He initiated détente.

 

When he first took office he imposed wage and price controls in 1969 in an attempt to stop the inflation spiral that had reached 4.7%.  It didn’t work because of all the exceptions that had to be applied.  Fighting the Viet Nam War and attempting to maintain peacetime conditions in the nation which would continue well past his time in office brought on the continued rise in inflation.  Not Nixon nor anyone else as President would have been able to stop it.  It would take extreme action by the Federal Reserve to do so.

 

For his second term in 1972 Nixon wanted a massive victory.  This required assorted actions, some of which were illegal.  Nixon and the Republican leaders secretly supported the far left Democratic candidate that would be unacceptable to the majority of the American people.  They chose South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who had unsuccessfully attempted to replace Robert Kennedy after his assassination in 1968.  McGovern was generally considered a far-left liberal.  He was the hero of the radical college groups.  The Nixon campaign contributed heavily to the McGovern candidate.  That action may have been immoral but it was not illegal.

 

In addition to this Nixon had a group in Washington called the “plumbers.”  They broke into Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel a number of times and were finally caught and arrested.  From that point on a cover-up ensued until it finally came apart two years into Nixon’s second term.

 

Nixon was informed by Senator Barry Goldwater, probably the leading Republican in the U.S. at the time, that he had to resign or proceedings to impeach him would be begun the next day.  On August 9, 1974, Richard M. Nixon became the first President to resign from the presidency.

 

Ironically he was replaced by the Vice President he had himself appointed, Gerald Ford.  The original Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had earlier resigned from office rather than face a lengthy corruption trial which would have found him guilty.  Ford, shortly after assuming the Presidency, pardoned Nixon for any crimes he had or might have committed.  Nixon accepted the pardon, thus admitting his guilt by accepting the pardon.

 

Gerald R. Ford had been appointed to the Vice Presidency by then President Richard M. Nixon.  He was also earlier appointed to the Senate by the governor of Michigan.  At that time he was Minority Leader at the House of Representatives.  He had served there for 25 years in the House of Representatives.  As President he appointed Nelson Rockefeller as his Vice President.

 

President Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, which officially marked an end to the Cold War and brought about détente.  He presided over the end of the Viet Nam War nine months into his presidency.  Domestically, he served as President over the worst economy since the Great Depression, dealing with growing inflation and a recession.  His foreign policy was characterized by the increased role Congress began to play.  He served as Chief Executive of the United States for 895 days, the shortest term for a president who did not die in office.  In 1976 Gerald Ford lost the presidency to the Democratic candidate, former Georgia governor James Earl (Jimmy) Carter.

 

Jimmy Carter had been elected Governor of Georgia from January 12, 1971 through January 14, 1975.  Despite the fact that he was little known outside of Georgia Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter defeated Republican President Gerald Ford in 1976.  He assumed office on January 20, 1977 as the 39th President of the United States.

 

On his second day as President, Carter pardoned all Viet Nam draft evaders of the Viet Nam War.  He was able to get the first signed agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, the Camp David Accords.  He signed the Panama Canal Treaties that gave Panama control of the Canal and the second round of Arms limitation Talks (SALT II).

 

Economically the country was going through stagflation during his tenure, both high inflation and high unemployment.  Carter had his Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, attempt to break the inflation spiral which had reached about 15%.  Volcker did this by raising the interest rate to about 20%, making money too expensive to borrow.  This, in turn, would drive many small businesses into bankruptcy as they could not afford those rates during their economic dry seasons.  Many complained to the President and he had Volcker end the policy.  The next President would enforce it and end the inflation spiral while driving numerous small businesses into bankruptcy.

 

Gasoline and fuel prices rose in 1980 to about $2.16 a gallon for gasoline and went considerably higher for heating fuel also.  President Carter recommended that people keep their thermostats set at 65 degrees and wear sweaters.  He did this at the White House.

In 1979 to 1981 there was the Iranian hostage crisis which ended shortly after the next President took office.  Because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan Carter ended détente and resumed the Cold War.

 

In the 1980 Presidential Election the Republicans chose Ronald Reagan to run against President Jimmy Carter.  Reagan won an overwhelming victory.

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

Up to this point in our history the National Debt, which had almost always been with us was under one trillion dollars.  The Federal Government had spent money but it had always been on a limited basis.  Roosevelt, perhaps the greatest of the spending presidents, while he doubled the money supply that had been available in the country, did so without raising the National Debt significantly.  Even with World War II, the immediate post war spending, and the Cold War the country’s spending did not reach this point.  All of this would change after 1981 with the election of Ronald Reagan to the Presidency.

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.