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.

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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 #5 Part 2 – President Donald J. Trump

Imagine a 17 year old adolescent in an over-fed 70 year old body with all sorts of insecurities who thinks of himself as being king of the world, and is surrounded by “yes men,” and you have an image of Donald J. Trump.

 

President Donald J. Trump is a Dorf.  In certain areas he is very secretive, while in other areas he makes constant dramatic public announcements, always talking about his great achievements.  Thinking back over former President Barack Obama’s eight year tenure as Chief Executive one remembers a formal signing of the Affordable Health Care Bill during his second year in office.  Looking back after Donald Trump being in office for three weeks there have been innumerable signings of his many Executive Orders.  He seems to take the position of a 16th Century European monarch, continually giving orders to the country.  But we are in the 21st Century and many of his Executive orders end up being suggestions for Congress to pass bills, which they may or may not do.  Most of his Executive Orders do not initiate anything.  Others are like his tweets: single sentences that tend to be fairly to very general in the area in which he is dealing.  The results of these can be obscure as his language use may not be clear.  All of them are in a black folder ready to be put on a shelf in his library after he retires from office.

 

Among other things President Trump ordered the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to not make any public reports about pollution or anything that would upset his plans to limit the industrial expansion by increasing pollution.  He also ordered other units of government to not release or publish any similar type of information.  In turn when the general public became aware and protested loudly Trump backed down.  One wonders how much repression he is going to attempt.

 

In addition all ads urging sign-ups for Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) were cancelled.  And this includes those that had been already paid for.  His actions in this area threaten to undermine the nation’s medical insurance market by continually changing the parameters under which these policies are written, causing the insurance companies to lose their predictability factors as to what to charge for their services.

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On Friday, January 24th, just four days after he had assumed the presidency, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order suspending the issuing of visas to Muslims for 90 days from seven specific countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia.  He did not bother with our close ally, Saudi Arabia from which Osama bin Laden, the organizer and head of al-Qaeda, came.

 

The Secretary for Homeland Security is in charge of this move that is protecting the United States from foreign terrorist’s entry into the country.  No refugee will be admitted into the country for the next 120 days.  No one will be allowed in from Syria at all.  Muslim students, who are in the process of going to a U.S university and have gone to visit their parents over the holidays, generally will not be allowed back into the country.  Non-Muslims (Christians) from these countries will be allowed into the U.S.  Trump has stated that this is not a Muslim ban.

 

The result of this has been mass confusion at the nation’s airports.  The immediate effect has been to cause immediate confusion since a number of people from these seven countries were already in airplanes flying to the U.S.  Also the Home Security Agents at the airports stopped all Muslims coming into the country even those who ordinarily live in the United States and are returning home to their families. 

 

The Executive Order was passed with no warning.  Military officers are contending that it will hurt their relations with members of these countries who are fighting ISIS.  In fact an Iraqi legislator wanted to bring up a bill that would exclude all Americans from that country.  Inside the State Department some officials are contending in a document that closing the nation’s doors to 200 million people in order to weed out a handful of would-be terrorists will not make the nation safer but might instead increase the threat of violence.  The State Department affirmed the existence of this internal memo on Monday, January 29th. 

 

Meanwhile it’s been madness at the airports across the nation with millions of Americans peacefully and loudly protesting Trump’s edict.  The ACLU has been present at all these airports ready to represent the incoming Muslims.  It should be noted that even some top Republicans criticized the directive. 

 

The White House defended the Executive Order rollout as a success.  On Friday it led to the detention of more than 100 people landing at airports across the nation with valid entry documents.  Well over 200 individuals with valid visas were denied permission to board flights to the United States.   

 

An emergency stay was issued by a Federal Judge in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday.  In other areas of the country four other Federal Judges issued temporary stays.  Trump tweeted about Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham objections that despite a rigorous existing security process, arrivals until now have not been properly vetted. 

 

The interesting note or irony to all this is that under President Barack Obama vetting of immigrants could take up to two years.  But under President Trump it is currently limited to 120 days.  Apparently Trump has a need to direct everything as President.  It as though in his mind nothing happened before he entered his new office.  In any event he does have the ability to increase his negative image among the American people.  He is probably the only president in the history of the country who can continually increase his unpopularity level among the people of the country.  And this during his first week in office.

                         

During the first week of February a Seattle Judge issued a national temporary restraining order on the ban after Washington State and Minnesota sued.  The Justice Department appealed to the 9th Circuit Court.  They argued that the president has the Constitutional power to restrict entry into the United States and that the courts cannot second-guess his determination that such a step was needed to prevent terrorism.  The states argued that Trump’s ban harmed individuals, businesses, and universities.  They cited Trump’s campaign promise to stop Muslims from entering the U.S., stating that the ban unconstitutionally blocked entry to people based upon religion.  All three Judges on the Appeals Court sided with the states.  The cancelation of the ban was continued. 

 

Trump stated that he will appeal the case.  If the second appeal goes before the Supreme Court with four conservative Judges and four liberal Judges and the result is a tie then the 9th Court Appeal’s decision stands.  The probability, however, is that at least one or two of the conservative Judges will probably uphold the Appeals Court decision, then it will be 5 to 3 or 6 to 2 in favor of upholding the lower court’s verdict.  Trump has a problem with rejection.  What does he do then?

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During his first twenty days in office President Trump has gone from crisis to crisis.  In all probability each new crisis was supposed to wipe out all objections on the preceding one.  In all it’s been a strong emotional ride for the American public.

 

First came his non-resolution for his conflict of interest.  He refused to get rid of his business interests and set up a blind trust.  Instead he turned all his business interests over to his older sons.  Presumably he will have nothing to do with them while he is president.  But as President-Elect he charged a multi-thousand dollar entry fee to anyone who wanted to spend New Year’s Eve at his party with him in his Florida club.  He brought back the Keystone XL pipeline which Obama had canceled and in which he invested quite a bit of money.  He also took on Nordstrom because they dropped his daughter’s business.

 

On his first full day in office there was the Women’s Protest March throughout the major and many minor cities of the United States and throughout Europe.  This was a historical first in the United States. 

 

Meanwhile he disrupted relations with our neighbor Mexico by insisting that Mexico will pay for the 12,000 mile Wall he is going to build between the two nations.  The Mexican President cancelled a diplomatic visit with the “world’s greatest negotiator,” as Trump has defined himself.

 

He has insisted that Obamacare is a disaster and that it will be replaced by a better plan.  The Republican Congress has begun the process of defunding Affordable Health Care but there doesn’t seem to be any replacements.  In fact the only plan there is in existence now is a voucher system, which has been discussed but not acted upon.  This will cost the recipients more every year since the probability is that medical costs will rise but the costs paid out in vouchers will not go up.  The Republicans talk about making access to what will be Trumpcare available to all but not about helping fund it for those who cannot afford to buy it.

 

Trump generated the Muslim Travel Crisis to the U.S. without any warning to anyone.  In essence he has shut the nation’s door to most refugees.  Even though, at least, five Federal Judges have put temporary bans upon the order from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Trump has declared his ban a success.  He has threatened to make it permanent.  An Appeals Court has found it unconstitutional.  To Trump the point that it not constitutional would seem to be beside the point.  He says that it is necessary to keep terrorism out of the country.

 

The former Acting Attorney General has refused to defend Trump’s Executive Order in Court.  His response has been to fire her.  An interesting note of interest here is the fact that when the Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, was being questioned by the Senate, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the current, as of a few days ago,  Attorney General asked her who was primary in her carrying out her function in the Department, the President or the rule of law?  Her answer was the rule of law.  Trump fired her for doing just that.  He placed another person in her position who would use the Department to support the President rather than the rule of law.  And now that Jeff Sessions is Attorney General where will he place the emphasis?

 

Trump has appointed a reactionary individual, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, to replace the former conservative Justice, Antonin Scalia, who died about a year ago.  A large percentage of Democrats believe the Trump has stolen a Supreme Court seat that should have come under the jurisdiction of President Barack Obama since Scalia died about a year ago and Trump has been President for a little over three weeks.

 

We are also dealing with the question of lifting sanctions placed upon Russia after she invaded and seized sections of some of her neighboring countries.  And the issue of Sanctuary Cities where the local enforcement authorities cannot be used by the Federal Government to enforce Federal Immigration laws or edicts against Muslims.  The California Legislature is currently dealing with a bill to make the entire state a Sanctuary one.

 

The interesting note of irony here is that the Republican Party is the minority political party in the United States.  They have essentially gotten control of Congress by gerrymandering political districts and the presidency with a minority vote.  Can Trump and the Republicans continue to enforce their will upon the American People?  There is a midterm election in November of 2018 and a Presidential Election in 2020. 

The Weiner Component #146 Part 2 – The Republican Party & the Future

English: Woodrow Wilson.

English: Woodrow Wilson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 U.S. Presidents. Former President Jimmy Cart...

4 U.S. Presidents. Former President Jimmy Carter (right), walks with, from left, George H.W. Bush (far left), George W. Bush (second from left) and Bill Clinton (center) during the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 18, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Fra...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Franklinas Delanas Ruzveltas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the effects of the American Civil War was the industrial concentration of large groups of people needed to manufacture the goods required by the military confrontation.  This slowly began the movement which would become, through the rest of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, known as the Rise of the Cities. This Industrial Revolution would increase after the War, people would leave the rural areas and numerous immigrants would come to the ever-growing cities and the United States would become mainly an urban nation.

 

From 1877 on, when the Southern occupation or Reconstruction by a Northern army of occupation ended as a result of a deal made during the disputed Presidential Election of 1876 in which the Republicans got the presidency and Reconstruction ended, with the South becoming freely again a part of the Union.  The Senate barely remained Republican and the House had a Democratic majority.

 

A Republican, James A. Garfield was elected in 1881.  He was assassinated four months into his term and was replaced by his Vice President, Chester A. Arthur, who served out the four years.  The Senate had an equal number of Republicans and Democrats and the House had a Republican majority.

 

There were an equal number of Republican and Democratic presidents after until you get to the reform presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who are both Republicans.  They are followed by the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, and World War I.  He will be succeeded by three Republican Presidents: Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.  At that point we have the Great Depression of 1929 which lasts until World War II.  The Congress will generally follow the lead of the reigning president.

 

The next President in 1933, by a landslide, was the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Both the House and Senate maintained a Democratic majority during his terms in office.  He is reputed to have brought unemployment down from 25% to 2%.

 

After his death, during his fourth term, his Vice President, Harry S. Truman, served the rest of his fourth term and an additional one of his own through 1953.  During his last two years in office the Congress had a Republican majority.

 

Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, during his eight years in office, intermittently had both Democratic and Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress.  Democratic Presidents, Kennedy and Johnson had Democratic majorities in Congress.  The same is true of Republicans, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford.  From January 1977 to 1981 President Jimmy Carter had Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress.  Ronald Reagan had Democratic majorities in the House and mostly the same in the Senate.  George H.W. Bush had to work with Democratic majorities during his four years in office while Bill Clinton had them only during his first two years in office.  George W. Bush had both during different times and Barack Obama had a Democratic majority only during his first two years, then a Democratic Senate and a Republican House, and a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress during his last two years in office.

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In the post-Civil War period, as earlier, recessions and depressions came, at the best, every few years or at the worst, almost successively, with occasional major downturns like the Bankers’ Panic of 1907 at the New York Stock Exchange.

 

On December 23, 1913 Congress passed and President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act bringing financial regulation into existence in the United States.  Prior to this time Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which he defined as the motivating force behind the Market System, determined which way the Stock Market would run.  The “invisible hand,” self-interest, individual greed, had historically caused continual large fluctuations in the Stock and other Markets.

 

The mission of the Federal Reserve was through Monetary (money) Policy to maximize employment, keep prices stable, and moderate long term interest rates.  This purpose was extended with bank regulation during FDR’s New Deal.  In the 1980s the Reagan administration canceled the bank regulation.  This, in turn, led to the Real Estate Bubble two decades later.  And because of the banking-caused Real Estate Debacle of 2008 the Federal Reserve’s purpose was again expanded to supervising and regulating banks, maintaining stability of the financial structure, and providing financial services to depository institutions, the United States Government, and foreign official institutions.

 

Of course the banks objected to the 2009 reforms and in the 2014 Federal Government’s Finance Bill, Citibank was able to slip in a section into this 1,600 page law limiting this power.  This was done the night before the bill had to be voted upon.  Naturally the banks object to any regulation that limits them.  I would also suppose that their executives would equally object if any of them were sent to jail for illegal activities instead of having the bank just paying fines as they have been doing since 2009.

 

In the 2012 Presidential Election the Republican Candidate, Mitt Romney, publically stated, more than once, that after he was elected he would do away with the Dodd-Frank Banking Reform Bill that was passed in 2009.  His statements called for a return to the good-old-days before the 2008 Real Estate Crash when the banks and bankers were making inordinate amounts of money and getting phenomenal compensation packages.

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If we look at the economic patterns that occurred during the last hundred and some years what emerges is the fact that the major economic downturns were preceded by Republican Presidents.  The three presidents during the last three major downturns were: Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and George W. Bush.

 

While they were not individually responsible for the depressions it was both the Republican policies and the general ignorance of how the economy works that brought the economic collapses into being.  In 1907, there was no central bank, money, in the shape of gold coins, moved freely according to the needs of the nation.  The Panic of 2007, also known as the Banker’s Panic, more or less, began in October of that year when the New York Stock Market dropped about 50%.  There had been an assault upon the Stock Market that blew up the economy and there was no Central Bank at that time to infuse currency into the National Cash Flow.  A few years later in 1913 this depression brought about the establishment of the Federal Reserve.

 

For 1929s depression, and all the minor recessions up to that time, there was a bland reliance upon the forces of the Marketplace to continually determine what had supposedly been long term prosperity.  In essence the Market forces, the “invisible hand,” self-interest, was the determinate.  After years of pushing stock prices upward the Stock Market was severely overpriced.  This could not go on forever and it collapsed in 1929 dropping to a fraction of what it had been earlier, and in the process bringing the entire economy down.

 

In 1933 the new Democratic President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, doubled the money supply by collecting all the gold coins, melting them down into gold blocks, burying them in depositories like Fort Knox, legally doubling their value, and issuing paper money presumably backed by gold.  It was a fiction that lasted until 1969 when, then President Richard M. Nixon took away the last bit of gold supposedly behind the dollar.

 

This action by Roosevelt, doubling the money supply easily paid for the New Deal but it wasn’t enough to offset the 1929 Depression.  It would have taken four to eight times the money then in circulation to end the economic situation.  Unfortunately the problem wasn’t understood properly at that time and it took a major war from 1939 to 1945 to offset and end the Great Depression.

 

The explosion of the 2008 Real Estate Bubble toward the end of that year also occurred during a Republican presidency.  Here the next President, Barack Obama, applied all the money needed; and what could have been a Greater Depression than that of 1929 became a major recession that should have been resolved in a year or two with applications of both Monetary and Fiscal Policy.  But the Republicans, following their historic philosophy which had caused most of the economic downturns, exacerbated the situation by refusing to pass any Fiscal Policy laws.  Virtually every economic move they made tended to worsen economic conditions.  It took the efforts of the President and the Federal Reserve to keep a depression from happening.

 

If the Republicans had been solely in charge, not only the United States but the entire world would currently be in a Great Depression that would  make 1929 look like a weekend holiday.

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Much has been learned and understood as to how National Economies work from the latter half of the 20th Century on.  Economic changes like recessions and depressions can be lightened or even avoided.  The National Economies are not like wild animals that inevitably rear their heads and bring about indiscriminately varied levels of misery to their populations.  In 2009 a multi-gigantic depression was avoided by actions of the Central Government.  Economic catastrophe or lack of prosperity can be avoided and controlled.  It was in 2009 by President Obama and his administration.

 

Yet none of these practices are or have been accepted by the members of the Republican Party.  They still follow Adam Smith’s late 18th Century work, An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, which in itself was, in part, a reaction against the 16th Century economic practice known as Mercantilism.  Smith defined the Free Market controlling entity as the “invisible hand,” self-interest.    What Smith did not foresee was that the Free Market led to Monopoly and Oligopoly, which led to societal economic decision-making by the few who were still motivated by self-interest.

 

This is the Free Market in which Ronald Reagan and the Republicans believe.  This is what the Reagan and his administration utilized for their newly discovered Supply Side Economics.  Lower taxes, particularly for the upper echelon of society (the rich), and they will automatically invest that new income in new industry, creating new jobs, and new productivity which will supply new goods and jobs for everyone.  And everyone will live happily ever after.  A nice fairy tale!  It never happened.

 

What did happen was that a very large percentage of the people who benefited from the tax cut gave these new savings to financial experts who invested them in old productivity, stocks and bonds.  New startup companies, when they came into existence and had proved their durability, tended to be financed by the large banking houses.

 

The theory was nonsense.  It never worked.  But the 2016 Republican candidates for the presidency are all still adhering to it.  They want to cut taxes for the very rich which currently stops being graduated after their income reaches $400,000, with the percentage the Federal Government receives staying fixed no matter how many millions or billions it goes into.

 

Why is it important for the Republicans to be Supply Siders?  Because these people are their main financial contributors.  They are the ones who pay for their political campaigns.  And the Republicans are very good at combining need (endless contributions) with political philosophy.

 

This is also true with most pharmaceutical companies.  Their products can be purchased at lower prices outside of the United States.  Congress has passed laws fixing their prices in this country and not allowing any government agency to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry.  They are large contributors to political campaigns, particularly Republican political campaigns and Republican Congressmen are utilizing the principle of self-interest.

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Of the two major political parties in the United States the Republicans are the minority party; there are far less of them than there are Democrats.  But they are far more vociferous than the Democrats, never ceasing their loud complaining about the other party.  While the Democrats seem to keep a more or less polite silence.  The Democrats are blamed for everything wrong with the country, particularly those items caused by Republican actions.  The Republicans never take responsibility for any adverse action; they are either ignored or blamed on the Democrats.  Their theories of economics are self-serving and absurd.  And ultimately in percentage of the population they are actually shrinking in number as time moves forward and they become slowly an ever-decreasing minority.

 

They, the Republicans, have been successful politically in the last six years mainly through voter apathy and disgust.  They have done far better in Midterm Elections than in Presidential ones when a good percentage of the citizenry in disgust or disappointment for what has not happened during the last two years don’t bother to vote.  This has been added to by various forms of voter suppression in states the Republicans control.  In essence they have greater political victories when more people stay home on election days.

 

In addition to this in order to gain the support of the evangelicals the Republicans have incorporated the concept of the holiness of life from conception onward into their philosophy.  Statements have been made about passing an amendment to the Constitution giving the fetus full Constitutional rights from conception on.  This will never happen but it gives them a certain credence with the far right evangelicals.

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In the 1973, the Supreme Court found, by a 7 to 2 decision, in the Roe v. Wade case that abortions were legal; that women had a right to make their own decisions about their own bodies.  The evangelicals (religious right) have resisted this decision from the beginning.  At some point the Republicans latched onto this cause and made it their own, gaining the support of this group.

 

To many Republicans today, women are not capable of dealing with their own bodies.  They state and believe there should be no abortions allowed, not even in cases of rape, incest, or where the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life.  It would seem that they have and are trying to endanger women’s lives, both psychologically and physiologically.  In their view women are not capable of making certain decisions concerning their own lives.  It must be done by elderly white men who make up the bulk of the Republican Party.  This is, without question, War on Women,

 

In addition to this the Republicans are an extension of the National Rifle Association.  They tend to be against any laws regulating weapons, ammunition, and magazine size in any way.  No atrocity will deter them from this belief.  A goodly percentage of their blue collar membership, more or less, holds this belief.  To many members of the NRA the fact that this hasn’t happened is proof that it will happen if they allow any changes to occur to the gun laws.

 

It seems, if we consider the group in Oregon which has recently taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, that having weapons, like thousand dollar plus assault rifles, will keep the Government respectful.  Of course the fact that the Federal Government doesn’t want another blood bath is beside the point.  They have been there since January 2, 2016 and the few that have not been arrested and are still remaining there have stated that they will stay until the Federal Government gives the land to the original owners, the local ranchers.  It must be nice to just sit around indefinitely and wait for the Federal Government to give the land to the local ranchers.  Of course following their argument the land really belongs to the local Indians who have inhabited the area for at least the last two thousand years and claim it as their own.

 

It would seem that the Republican battle cry for a large number of its members is God and Guns, or is it Guns and God?  It’s often hard to tell which should come first.  I suppose it depends upon which Republican you ask.

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The American society has needs which have to be handled by necessary legislation.  These societal needs have been avoided by the Republican dominated legislature and in many cases by Republican dominated state law making bodies.  Congress has attempted to deal with these problems by ignoring them, especially since 2011 when the Republicans, by gerrymandering the states where they had a majority in the legislatures, gained control of the House of Representatives.

 

If anything what the House of Representatives has done is to shorten its meeting days until 2016 when they were reduced to 110 days for the year, to a three day week with holidays.  This allows the new Speaker, Paul Ryan, to spend four days a week home with his family: wife and two children, in Wisconsin and three days in Washington, D.C., as Speaker of the House.  A good job, if you can get it!

 

The Republican dominated Senate will meet a bit more often for the year.  Both Houses of Congress are ignoring the needs of the people within the nation and expect to maintain their majorities in both Houses of Congress after the 2016 Presidential Election and get a Republican elected to the presidency.  And they believe they can do this by antagonizing most of the other minorities and the one remaining majority, the women of the United States.

 

Speaker Paul Ryan has stated that after having passed a law doing away with Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) which the President vetoed, they will continue to pass laws embarrassing the President by forcing him to veto them.  They do not have enough votes to override his vetoes.  And in that way they, the Republicans, will show the public what they will get in the way of new laws in 2017 if they elect Republicans in both Congress and the Presidency.  I would imagine that if Donald J. Trump were to become the next President of the United States then all bets are off!

 

So much for Republicans!  They are, after all, the minority party which tends to win elections when only a minority vote in Midterm Elections.  2016 is a Presidential Election.  The majority of the population will be voting in that election.  The probability is that the Republicans, at best, will retain the House of Representatives; and that is because in 2011 they gerrymandered the Districts within the states they controlled.  In this way they choose their own voters instead of having the voters choose them.  Remember in the 2014 Midterm Election well over a million more votes were cast throughout the United States for Democrats in the House, but the Republicans still retained control of that body.

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It should also be noted that large, and, in some cases almost unlimited, contributions give immediate access to legislators and Congress by those making them.  These contributors to elections can and have influenced legislation or the direction the government is going.  The Republicans have integrated into their psyches the desires or needs of most of these individuals or corporations. For example, the Koch brothers of Wichita, Kansas, who are involved with oil, have had their state pass legislation against green energy.  Citibank has written financial regulation which has been inserted into Congressional Bills and become laws.

 

The Republicans are after all the party of business and of the individual.  They believe in everyone having as much freedom as possible.  Their solution to adding jobs is to increase pollution and other unsafe conditions.  No one forces anyone to take a job.  Everyone has choices, even the choice to starve or live in the street.

 

Finally it should be noted that even with voter suppression the Democrats are the majority party.  States like Texas have been able to limit rural voters by two or three hundred thousand by making it very difficult and expensive for these people living in rural areas, mostly, if not all, Democrats, to get proper identification and/or register to vote.  This was proven in the last Midterm Election of 2014.  But even so, the probability is that the Democrats will gain back the Senate and keep the presidency.  The probability is that the House is the one body the Republicans may still be able to control.  If my prediction is correct we will have total gridlock in the Congress for an additional four years.  It’s a depressing thought!

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.