by Owen Sullivan
On Nov 15, 2018
One of the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis was the greed and ignorance of thousands of bankers and regulators. But have you heard the story of the one banker that was so careless and greedy that he managed to cause an entire financial crisis all on his own?
by Owen Sullivan
On Oct 19, 2018
Just 50 years ago, choosing to live out your golden years in a developing country was still seen as pretty wild idea. But in the last 20 years, several significant shifts in modernization have fostered a new era of globetrotting retirees.
by Owen Sullivan
On May 23, 2018
An FEK is a secure store of all your crucial financial records. It should contain everything you need to recover your life as quickly as possible after a disaster. Here’s a checklist to make sure you have everything you need in yours.
“For decades,” David Hathaway, author of The EMP Hoax writes, “a gallon of gas was set at a nickel in Venezuela.
“The real gas price was out there to be discovered by the market, if it had been allowed to do so.”
And, to this day, the Venezuelan central planners are still on the case. Still trying to hunt down that mythical “Goldilocks” price. Except now, no price… food, gas, water, wind… will go unset.
In the meantime, of course, its citizens (who were dependent on the government managing such things) are, in a much more expedient fashion, hunting down dumpsters, animal shelters and cattle farms because the food supply chain has been blown to bits.
Without honest market signals, Venezuela is groping in the dark.
At best, the central planners make guesses in full knowledge they don’t know what they’re doing. At worst, their guesses are what they deem to be “educated.”
But, either way, they scoff at the idea that the economy, something so infinitely complex and rich, could ever be managed by anything but the infinite wisdoms hiding betwixt their ears.
And if the old birds aren’t as wise as they once thought?
Yoho. Not to worry, friend.
Not a single living skin cell is removed from their backs.
At the end of the day, it’s only those on the rungs lower — those who catch the overcast of the ivory towers — who feel the pinch.
“The same goes,” Hathaway adds, “with interest rates in the U.S.”
Allowing the market to decide interest rates is considered heresy in the hallowed halls of the central banks.
To suggest such a thing is to besmirch the very notion of civilization itself!
Pouring trillions of dollars into an economy, after all, is the ONLY way to get it back on its feet. (Much in the same way a constant IV of cocaine, Red Bull and pixie sticks is the ONLY way to cure sleep deprivation.)
While artificially low interest rates have produced an eruption in the prices of housing, stocks, education, healthcare… and on…
We’re expected to believe that without such enormous artificial growths (also known, in some circles, as tumors) in place, the economy cannot possibly operate as normal.
Beyond the divisive politicking and culture wars (mostly distractions, a trick as old as bread and circuses), there’s something more insidious afoot.
Cloaked in opaque language and circular reasoning. So boring in its approach it pleads with us not to pay any more attention… to leave it to the experts…
From Flint, Michigan to Afghanistan, two words are at root of this rot.
Today, to give you the deep dive on America’s moldy crawl space, we invite David Veksler, Director of Marketing at FEE, to the show.
How Easy Money Is Rotting America from the Inside-Out
By David Veksler
The Federal Reserve has been the main cause of business cycles in America since 1913. For several decades, it has tried to hide the consequences of its policies by enabling easy credit during each recession.
As Jonathan Newman wrote yesterday, pouring trillions of dollars into the financial sector obscures the external signs of the recession such as low asset prices and high unemployment and promotes economic malinvestment.
This malinvestment creates the conditions that cause the next recession. Some of the consequences of the Fed’s policies, such as stock market and housing bubbles can be directly attributed to its policies. In other cases, the artificially low interest rates and other “easy money” policies foster an “infrastructure rot” that erodes the efficiency of the American economy, the standard of living of consumers, and eats away at American infrastructure. These effects are difficult to trace back to the Fed’s policies, so let’s concretize some examples to understand how Federal Reserve policies affect America.
At the city level, low interest rates allow cities to fund new public projects such as parks and bridges. While this may seem fine and dandy, all infrastructure projects have a maintenance cost. It’s not sufficient to build a park. One must also have the money to maintain it every year. If there is not enough revenue to pay for maintenance, the park will literally rot until the playgrounds fall apart, the lawns are overgrown, the lights fail, and the park becomes too dangerous for families to play in.
The same thing will happen to streets, bridges, and plumbing. This is one of the ways urban decay happens: easy money policies fund unsustainable urban infrastructure projects which make politicians look good, but end up crumbling a few years or decades later. The Flint water crisis happened in large part because the Federal government funded infrastructure projects that were not sustainable by the incomes of the people of Michigan.
Easy money from the Fed also rots the guts of American corporations. New money goes to the most politically-connected businesses first, and funds projects that would not be possible in a free market. Because private investors haven’t actually saved enough to see the projects through to completion, and consumers don’t value the product enough to cover production costs, the companies getting free money from the government either fail or receive endless bailouts. For example, easy money encouraged unsustainable commitments like high union wages and pensions, forcing US automakers to sell cars for prices that consumers could not pay given their actual savings rate. When sales dipped in 2009, the government was forced to bail out GM, Chrysler, and Ford in 2009.
While small businesses are the last to get access to the Fed’s easy money taps, big banks received over $700 billion in TARP bailouts and even more selling U.S. Treasury bonds to the Fed under the QE program. Such subsidies signal to banks that their primary customer is the government, not consumers. As a result, financial services have stagnated, and banks have fought rather than embraced genuine innovations like the blockchain.
The 2009 crisis made banks cautious of making mortgages to people who clearly could not afford them. But the Fed kept giving away free money and enabled a new phenomenon: zero-interest auto loans. While this may seem like a good deal for consumers, the Fed’s credit expansion has created an auto-credit bubble worth 9.2% of all household debt. Consumers are buying and leasing cars that they would not normally be able to afford.
Instead of being taught to save, millennials are learning to have a negative savings rate (acquiring more debt than assets) and trust their future entirely to the government. If a recession happens, millions of people will suddenly find that they are unable to keep their cars and lack any emergency savings. When millions of unwanted cars are dumped back onto the market, automakers will again be unable to keep up with their inflated liabilities, requiring another bailout.
Perhaps one of the most destructive products of easy money has been the War On Terror. The U.S. has spent about $5 trillion on this seemingly endless war, and most of the money has not come from higher taxes, but from selling bonds to institutions like pensions funds, and especially foreign countries such as China and Japan. American citizens have gained nothing of value, while our government has been spreading death, destruction, and revolution abroad.
While the national economy has gotten away with federal deficits and a $20 trillion dollar debt for decades, this trend is only sustainable as long as the rest of the world keeps lending the U.S. money. When they decide to stop funding our wars and financial irresponsibility, Americans will suddenly be faced with paying trillions of dollars in liabilities. This overdue correction will likely come with dramatic reductions to Americans’ standard of living.
My point in writing this is to help you visualize the destructive effect of the U.S. government’s easy money policies from an abstract harm to the practical harm: collapsing bridges, kids poisoned from lead plumbing, millions of cars rotting in junkyards, scandalous bank services fees, bombs falling on innocent people all over the world, and widespread poverty once the easy-credit party ends.
This article originally appeared at FEE at this link.