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“We all remember Representative Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement that we have to pass the ObamaCare legislation so that we can find out what’s in it. That was in 2010 and Mrs. Pelosi was then speaker of the House of Representatives.
Well, Congress followed her advice and passed ObamaCare, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Three years later, in October of 2013, tens of millions of Americans began finding out what was really in the bill, as they began receiving health insurance cancellations and/or massive premium hikes. They also began to learn that under ObamaCare the IRS has been given new powers to go after them, their businesses, and their bank accounts. And that is only the beginning. As with all legislation, the devil is in the details, and lots of devils keep popping out of the constantly evolving details, as dozens of federal agencies continue churning out thousands of pages of regulations to implement the misbegotten, misnamed Affordable Care Act.
There are many important lessons from ObamaCare that we should apply to another huge project that could have a similarly devastating impact on our nation. In November 2009, President Obama announced his intention to have the United States participate in a so-called trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I say so-called trade agreement because 80 percent of the proposed agreement deals with a great many issues besides trade…..”Comments »
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“House Liberty Caucus Chairman Justin Amash (R-Michigan) aptly summed up the bipartisan budget deal being pushed by House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leaders in Washington with this quip on his Facebook page: “Republicans will agree to more spending, and in exchange, Republicans will get higher taxes.”
The deal — negotiated between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — would walk back about half of the $100 billion in sequester spending cuts for fiscal 2014 and a quarter of the $100 billion in spending cuts for 2015 in exchange for long-term cuts in mandatory entitlement funding that would — over 10 years — compensate for higher spending now. All of the deal’s “deficit reduction” would be far into the future, and every penny of it would eventually come from increased taxes such as a tax increase on air travel (which Republicans are calling “fees”).
“While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in astatement supporting the Ryan-Murray deal. He also slammed Tea Party and Liberty Caucus members of Congress critical of the deal, saying in a December 11 press conference that “This is ridiculous. Listen, if you are for more deficit reduction, you are for this agreement.” Never mind that if Congress can undo some spending cuts now in exchange for spending cuts later, Congress can later undo the promised down-the-road spending cuts, in whole or in part, when the time comes for their implementation….”Comments »
“According to multiple reports, the White House has asked Stanley Fischer to be the next Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve.
So far, we’ve heard nothing but endorsements for Fischer, who is credited for successfully navigating Israel’s economy through the financial crisis.
“We think it is great news that the Administration may nominate Stanley Fischer to be vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Board,” wrote Morgan Stanley’s Vincent Reinhart in a note titled The Fed Dream Team. “Fischer has been around the inner circle of international economic policymaking for three decades. If he was not at a major meeting in person, one of his students from his long tenure at MIT probably was.”
Fischer’s student have included current Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and ECB chair Mario Draghi….”Comments »
“SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Shares of Facebook Inc. jumped in the extended session Wednesday after S&P Dow Jones Indices said it was adding the social networking company to the S&P 500.
Facebook FB +4.01% shares surged more than 4% to $51.42 on very heavy volume after S&P said it would add the company to its S&P 500 Index SPX -1.13% and to its S&P 100 Index OEX -0.98% . Facebook shares were the most active stock after hours at more than 5.4 million shares trading hands.
Other new companies added to the S&P 500 include …..”Comments »
“We are already well into the “end of work.”
The more accurate title would be “The Python (Script) That Ate Your Job.” Python is a computer language whose core philosophy is summarized by “PEP 20 (The Zen of Python)”, which includes aphorisms such as:
As I understand it (from a non-programmer POV), Python enables rapid development of scripts that may not be optimized by some metrics but which work perfectly well in terms of solving a problem in a cost-effective manner.
(Programmers can be highly partisan, i.e. emotionally attached to their preferred language, so I am trying to be as non-partisan and careful as possible here to avoid arousing the ire of either Pythoneers or Python detractors. I am just an ignorant bystander; please don’t shoot the piano player, etc.)
A senior manager at a small tech company recently related a story that illustrates 1) the power of Python (and other scripting languages) and 2) the changing nature of work:
The company had some time-consuming data analysis that needed to get done on a regular basis, and the manager was considering recruiting a (paid) intern to do the work. Instead, he spent four hours writing a Python script which did the work in a few minutes. He named the program “Intern.”
This story is repeated thousands of times a day across millions of tasks. Virtually all of my self-employed friends use technology to enable one person to produce output that would have taken three people in the 1980s.
As management guru Peter Drucker noted, enterprises don’t have profits, they only have expenses. If you are self-employed or own/manage a business, you will immediately grasp the profound truth of this insight.
If you can replace an expensive worker (and every employee is expensive nowadays, due to the high cost of labor and general overhead) with a Python script that can be crafted in a few hours, financial fact compels you to do so: your business has no profit, it only has expenses.
This dynamic is scale-invariant, meaning it is true of all organizations, from one-person businesses up to global corporations and entire nations. A non-profit group only has expenses, and so do churches, cities and nations. Once expenses exceed income, the organization goes bust.
Could I be replaced with a Python script? In some ways, yes: a script could be written that mined the thousands of entries and essays I’ve written for repeating words, phrases and themes, and the script would rehash the material into “new” entries.
But since the script isn’t logging “experience” in the same way as a human does, the script would not be able to replicate dynamics such as changing one’s mind or taking a new direction, although it could randomly generate such behaviors to mimic human development.
Would the script be “good enough” to attract readers? Perhaps; but attracting and keeping readers is not necessarily a problem-state that can be solved with data-mining and pattern matching, as readers seek not just novelty and expressive writing but insight. Any script that rehashed existing material would not be generating new insight; it would simply be repackaging previous insights.
For highly partisan blogs, this might well be “good enough,” since partisan readers actually want to read the same rehashed material again and again: in effect, a script that repackaged “it’s the Demopublican’s fault” with new headlines and slightly different content would closely match the human content generator’s output.
I have no doubt some clever programmers have already played around with generating rehashed content and posting it as a blog written by a human being….”Comments »
“Standard & Poor’s reduced its estimate for next year’s U.S. economic growth to 2.6 percent from the 3.1 percent growth it expected last quarter.
The credit ratings agency said in a report that “significant downside risks” from government spending cuts sparked the change, CNBC reports.
“We’ve lowered our forecast for U.S. GDP growth in light of the additional sequester [automatic] spending cuts in 2014 as well as the potential for another political standoff in Washington after the October government shutdown,” S&P explains.
To be sure, Democrats and Republicans in Congress struck a deal Tuesday that reduced some of the automatic spending cuts slated for fiscal 2014, which began Sept. 30.
The deal calls for a discretionary budget of $1.012 trillion for the year, compared to the $967 billion amount originally slated under sequestration.
The bipartisan accord does increase deficit reduction by $23 billion with the extension of a Medicare spending cut.
S&P also cites the Federal Reserve as a wild card….”Comments »
“The populist notion of taxing the rich once again turned up in the International Monetary Fund’s Fiscal Monitor Reportreleased in October, but scarcely anyone noticed. In an arcane chart-laden 107-page-long report that was competing at the time with the government shutdown, the failing rollout of ObamaCare, and other concerns, crises, and disasters, why should they?
Here’s why. On page 49, the authors said, “The sharp deterioration of the public finances in many countries has revived interest in a ‘capital levy’ — a one-time tax on private wealth — as an exceptional measure to restore debt sustainability.”
Let’s be clear: That tax would apply to all private wealth on the planet. And it wouldn’t balance budgets but would only bring them down to a slightly more manageable level so that government borrowing and spending could continue without interruption. The levy would have to be implemented rapidly, before the wealthy could react and move their assets, or themselves, out of harm’s way: “The appeal is that such a tax, if it is implemented before avoidance is possible … [will not] distort behavior.”
If such a tax were delayed in implementation, governments that had borrowed and spent too much might not be able to confiscate enough money to escape short-term financial trouble and would have to default on their promises or inflate them away:
The conditions for success are strong, but also need to be weighed against the risks of the alternatives, which include repudiating public debt or inflating it away (these, in turn, are a particular form of wealth tax — on bondholders).
This is where the IMF’s interests really lie: Those bondholders, including central banks, which have allowed governments to exceed their borrowing capacity and are now facing the threat of severe haircuts through either default or inflation.
Just how much would the IMF’s “capital levy” be? Say the authors:
The tax rates needed to bring down public debt to precrisis levels are sizable: reducing debt ratios to end-2007 levels would require … a tax rate of about 10 percent on households with positive net worth.
After reading the entire 107 pages, Forbes’ columnist Bill Frezza was livid:[The IMF proposal] means that all households with positive net worth — everyone with retirement savings or home equity — would have their assets plundered….
It would merely “restore debt sustainability,” allowing free-spending sovereigns to keep tapping the bond markets until the next crisis comes along.
Romain Hatchuel, the managing partner of asset-manager Square Advisors, saw the same dangers but noted that the tax rate on everyone owning anything in the United States would be much higher than just 10 percent:
As the IMF calculates, the … revenue-maximizing [tax] rate … is around 60 percent, way above existing levels.
For the U.S., it is [between] 56% and 71% — far more than the current 45% paid … by those in the top tax bracket…
From New York to London … powerful economic players are deciding that with an ever-deteriorating global fiscal outlook, conventional levels and methods of taxation will no longer suffice. That makes weapons of mass wealth destruction — such as the IMF’s one-off capital levy… — likelier by the day.
This is going to be a tough sell, which is why it must be mandated through international agreements…..”Comments »
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“Despite the quiet nature of things lately from a geopolitical standpoint, coupled with the mainstream media’s obsession with new nominal highs in the various paper indexes, there is definitely turbulence below the surface. There have already been a number of thought-provoking articles written regarding the future of dollar hegemony and the purpose of this week’s piece is to hopefully add to the discussion and stimulate some thought.
The first important thing to remember is that unless one has access to credible inside information, most of what we read is speculation, and most of the commentators will readily admit that. I’m going to do the same thing here. Opinions will be clearly noted and facts will be referenced. Despite the abstract sounding nature of the term, ‘dollar hegemony’ is the paradigm that allows America to do what it is currently doing; namely spending money it doesn’t have on things it doesn’t produce (or need). It is the leverage mechanism that is used globally to politely – and sometimes with extreme prejudice – cajole other nations into doing what is in the Anglo-American banking syndicate’s best interests. The fact that the entire paradigm is a complete fabrication without foundation is lost neither on the powerbrokers that perpetrate the scam, nor the parties the scam is perpetrated on.
The main reason the dollar standard, or dollar hegemony, has lasted so long has been mainly been due to a lack of alternatives. Countries who attempted to stray from the dollar were labeled as enemies (remember the ‘axis of evil’?) and contrived wars were launched or economic sanctions were applied until compliance was achieved. That assertion is mostly fact, part opinion, but when it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck you don’t call it a horse. However, as the wealth has shifted from America to other parts of the world due to our persistent lack of production, coupled with overconsumption and resulting debt load, alternatives to the dollar standard are beginning to show themselves.
The Dollar Standard’s Far-Reaching Effects
So why spend the time discussing this? Does it really matter to the average person? Absolutely. It couldn’t matter more from a financial standpoint. Every financial transaction you engage in as an economic actor rests firmly on this fraudulent paradigm. Without the dollar standard, your credit cards, paper scrip, and bank accounts would buy nothing. Without the dollar standard, your net worth, minus whatever tangibles you happened to own, would drop to zero, with negative equity because your debts would still exist, just not in dollar form.
That is probably one of the hardest things to grasp – the idea of not using the paper dollar. We’ve become so separated in a time manner from the pre-not-so-USFed era that we’ve lost our bearings on what it is like without the paper dollar. How many people are alive that remember what it was like before 1913? Take it another step back – there is not a person alive today that was alive and aware when the banking panic of 1907 took place. The portion of our population that remembers the great depression is dwindling every day and we ignore those people and their testimonies for the most part. We’re so much smarter now than they were back then, aren’t we? I’ve got news for you: those Americans were tougher than 99% of us today, this author included.
Think of feudalism for a minute if you would. I’ve mentioned that previously in other articles and believe that is the direction we’re headed. Let’s face it; America is not ‘rich’ as the quislings on television would have you believe. We’re broke. Sure we have a bunch of stuff, but it is mostly borrowed from others who now have the power over us. In my opinion, America is little more than a nation that is quickly becoming the land of the fee and the home of the debt slave. This is probably where some of you will choose to stop reading and that’s fine. Whether you believe it or not doesn’t make it any less true and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Believe me, I hate that reality as much as you do, but patriotism is about more than just waving flags and singing the Star Spangled Banner. It is also about taking responsibility, tightening the belt, and cleaning up our messes in the hopes of passing along a country better than the one we received.
Geopolitical Moves to End the Dollar Standard – Destruction from Within
So we’ve had this cushy lifestyle, by and large, since the mid 1980s or so. Madison Avenue had figured out how to remove the stigma of debt servitude and the deals had been cut with the Arabs to create the petrodollar (we buy their oil, they buy our junk USGovt bonds). So things were sort of copacetic with one minor problem; we’d started shedding our industry. See, we cut a deal (my opinion here) with the Chinese to create what I’ll call the WallyWorld dollar. In exchange for unfettered access to the American consumer, who was by then beginning to be armed with credit cards, the Chinese would also become purchasers of our bonds. One of the necessary steps here was to depreciate the dollar to harm American exports and make the imported junk from China more appealing.
Now maybe this wasn’t an explicit treaty or anything like that, but there was a definite trend shift in trade and monetary policy. The 1990s included a bevy of additional ‘free trade’ agreements that did nothing but further the de-industrialization of America and fuel the industrial revolution in China. This period from the mid 1980s through the end of the millennium also featured significant destruction of the USDollar from a domestic price perspective. According to the USGovt’s delusional consumer price index (CPI), prices rose 57% from 1986 through 2000 (a period of 14 years). According to the newly cooked numbers, they’ve risen an additional 36% from 2000 to the present (almost 13 years), which, as many know, has been one of the most notorious inflationary periods in history even if the BLS insists otherwise.
To put it another way, from 1986 to 2013, the dollar lost around 54% of its purchasing power due to the above and sub-equilibrium interest rates to encourage indebtedness. The less the dollar has purchased, the more EVERYONE has borrowed to fill the gap – from the government to the consumer and every entity in between.
Tying this back to the dollar standard, if you’re one of the parties around the world that uses this currency for your international trade, then how do you feel about it losing its purchasing power in such a manner? You probably don’t like it very much. One of the functions of money is to act as a store of value and the USDollar has become like trying to hold sand between your fingers. The harder you squeeze to hang onto it, the more it slips away. The simpletons in academia and government like to pretend that either a) nobody has noticed this annoying trend, and/or b) they don’t really care or feel they can do anything about it, and/or c) because this is America and we’re just entitled to do whatever we please.
But so far, these are all moves that have served to systematically undermine the dollar standard from within. Well, there are some pretty prominent statesman who said the only way this country would fall would be from within. So maybe those old folks weren’t so dumb after all.
Geopolitical Moves to End the Dollar Standard – Destruction from Without
However, the above only represents half the story – and a very abbreviated version of it at that. There have been a whole raft of agreements over the past half dozen years in particular that have sought to undermine the dollar standard. It is pretty simple how it works. If the dollar is the ‘reserve’ currency, then that creates automatic demand for dollars because countries need to keep a given amount (subject to policy changes and economic conditions) for settling their international trades. As the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased this has increased the demand for dollars because countries needed more to purchase the same amount of goods. This is one of the biggest (and perhaps the main one) reasons the ‘fed’ has been able to get away with its inflationary policies without going into Weimar mode. Couple that with military strong-arm tactics and order has been maintained for the most part – up until now.
Conversely, what more and more countries are doing is cutting deals with other countries and settling the transactions in some other currency – or even gold in some cases. These actions that exclude the dollar reduce aggregate demand for dollars and make it harder for the ‘fed’ to hide its inflationary tactics such as QE. Assisting in that cause is the fact that most other central banks are doing the exact same thing; they’re attacking their own currencies to make them cheap to facilitate exports. As if you can’t have a strong currency AND a strong export base. We might get into that another day, but for now it is a race to the bottom. However, China for one is making a power play. Their gold-buying habits have become very well documented. From the article:
“The increased appetite for gold also reflects rising wealth. China’s rural per capita income in the first nine months of the year jumped 12.5% from a year earlier, while urban per capita disposable income rose 9.5%. In April, when the price of gold fell 14% in two days, Chinese media showed images of women clearing shelves in gold shops.”
The actions of the Chinese demonstrate the huge disconnect in thinking between East and West. But it isn’t rural Chinese buying gold that should concern Americans, it is the actions of the central bank and the deals the country has cut with Russia, Venezuela, and Iran, to name a few, that will impact the future of the dollar standard.
As indicated in the article below, Venezuela is set to start selling the Chinese oil priced in Yuan rather than USDollars. The deals to provide the oil were cut several years ago and at the time myself and many others opined that the trades would eventually be settled in Yuan rather than dollars. That pretty much takes Venezuela off America’s bully list. China will protect her interests as Russia did in the case of running to the side of Syria as the US screamed for war a few months back. Oh, by the way, where is all the outrage from our leaders at the alleged chemical weapons attacks? (emphasis on alleged) Stories rise and fall from the news based on political expediency rather than anything else. If you want backup for that assertion, just go and look up some of the stuff that has gone on in places like Liberia and Mali…..”Comments »
“CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (MarketWatch) — Here’s something really scary: The stock market may be forming a dangerous triple top of major long-term significance.
That’s because the Dow, in inflation-adjusted terms, is no higher today than it was at the 2000 and 2007 tops. It should give us pause to note that the market — strong as it has been — is only back to the level that turned the market back on two prior occasions.
That puts the market in a “make or break” position. On the one hand, it would be a sign of significant strength if the market were able to break through the “resistance” created by the 2000 and 2007 tops
On the other hand, if the market were to turn down from close-to-current levels — and thereby form a triple top — then it would mean that the market on three occasions had tried, and failed, to break through to higher levels. According to the theory behind technical analysis, that would mean that current levels represent particularly strong resistance — and make it that much harder for the market to break through in the future as well.
In other words, if you believe in technical analysis, the market is at a very critical juncture.
Take a look at the accompanying chart, which plots the Dow in constant 2013 dollars. Compared to the Dow’s current level of close to 16,000, the October 2007 bull market top was near 15,800 and the Dow at its early 2000 top stood at close to 16,200.
To be sure, as David Aronson points out, a chart of the inflation-adjusted S&P 500 index tells a slightly different story. Aronson is president of Hood River Research, a firm that employs sophisticated modeling to “enhance the profitability of quantitative investing strategies,” and the recent author (with Dr. Timothy Masters) of “Statistically Sound Machine Learning for Algorithmic Trading of Financial Instruments.” …”Comments »
“I am glad (and sad) to say that the Balance Sheet Recession in the USA appears to be over. Yesterday’s Z.1 report from the Fed confirmed that households have indeed begun releveraging. Household debt showed its first year over year gains (on a quarterly basis) in Q3 since the crisis began. …”Comments »
“WASHINGTON—Regulators are set to usher in a new era of tough banking oversight on Tuesday that drills to the core of Wall Street’s profitable markets and trading businesses, according to a draft of the rule reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The so-called Volcker rule will put in place new hurdles for banks that buy and sell securities on behalf of clients, known as market making, and will restrict compensation arrangements that encourage risky trading, according to the draft.
Five U.S. financial regulatory agencies are expected to approve the rule, which bans banks from making bets with their own money and limits their ability to invest in certain trading vehicles, such as hedge funds and private-equity vehicles.
The approval would bring to an end a 2½-year effort to complete the 2010 Dodd-Frank provision. The final language of the Volcker rule could change before Tuesday’s vote. Regulators have told firms that they don’t expect to strictly enforce the rule’s provisions until 2015.
The rule, which hasn’t been publicly released, will require banks to provide “demonstrable analysis of historical customer demand” for financial assets they buy and sell on behalf of clients. That essentially requires a firm to prove it has engaged in a certain type of trading previously. It is an effort to keep banks from attempting to disguise bets made for a profit—so-called proprietary trading, which would be banned—as permissible market-making activity.
Multiple new requirements in the recent copy of the rule reviewed by the Journal are designed to discourage traders from hunting for loopholes to engage in proprietary trading. It states that “compensation arrangements” for traders should be designed “not to reward or incentivize prohibited proprietary trading.”
Bank chief executives, meanwhile, will be required to “attest in writing…that the banking entity has in place processes to establish, maintain, enforce, review, test and modify the compliance program” set up for the Volcker rule.
The draft of the rule shows how regulators are trying to push Wall Street to curb risky trading activity that critics say puts customer deposits at risk….”Comments »
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“Art Cashin says the yield on the U.S. 10-year note remains the “North Star” for stocks and if it tops 3 percent we’ll see some “outright selling” in the stock market.
Cashin, UBS’ director of floor operations at the NYSE, said on CNBC, “Interestingly, on Friday it spiked up to 2.93. Stocks hesitated a little bit, but it came right back below it.”
Referring to Friday’s Dow gain of almost 200 points after….”Comments »
“U.S. household net worth climbed to a record in the third quarter as home prices marched higher and the value of stocks and mutual funds surged, boosting the economic outlook.
The Federal Reserve said Monday net worth increased $1.9 trillion to $77.3 trillion in the third quarter, the highest level since records started in 1945.
The value of residential real estate rose by $428 billion between July and September, and corporate equities and mutual funds were up by $917 billion over the period, it said….”Comments »