Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Great Recession

Head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Resigns, Giving Trump Chance to Abolish It

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, November 15, 2017: 

English: Richard Cordray, Attorney General of Ohio

Richard Cordray

Richard Cordray, the rogue head of the unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), announced on Wednesday that, effective at the end of the month, he would be leaving his post. His term doesn’t run out until July of 2018, but he’s leaving early with no reason being offered. In an internal e-mail he told his 1,623 employees, “I have told the senior leadership … that I expect to step down from my position here before the end of the month.”

The CFPB was created in July 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank bill that was hastily passed following the real estate crisis of 2007-2008 that led to the Great Recession. It is physically located inside

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Dow Crosses 23,000 for the First Time in History

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index ...

Performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index during Black Monday

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, October 17, 2017:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), colloquially called “The Dow,” crossed over the 23,000 benchmark level early Tuesday morning for the first time in history. The Dow, which tracks the stocks of 30 major corporations, has gained 25 percent since the election while the NASDAQ (which tracks the stock performance of a vastly larger and more diversified range of companies across the globe) is up 27 percent. The S&P 500 Index (which tracks the stock performance of 500 American companies) is up 19 percent.

The Wall Street Journal had no trouble finding money managers who were willing to comment positively on the news. Mark Freeman, chief investment officer and portfolio manager at Westwood Holdings Group (which invests $22 billion for its customers), told the Journal:

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Jury Punishes JPMorgan With $4 Billion in Damages for Mishandling $20 Million Estate

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, September 27, 2017:

English: Category:JPMorgan Chase

Attorneys for the widow and children of Max Hopper, the developer of the SABRE reservation software used by American Airlines, wanted to deliver a message to JPMorgan. On Tuesday they got their wish. Their attorneys announced that not only did the six-member jury award them nearly $5 million in actual damages, plus another $5 million to cover their legal fees for bringing a lawsuit against the bank, the jury doubled what the family wanted in punitive damages. They wanted to make an impression on the bank that would be heard all way from Dallas to 270 Park Avenue, New York City, the bank’s headquarters.

The jurors, apparently so outraged after listening to the bank’s fraudulent, negligent, and malicious behavior toward Hopper’s widow and two children, decided to

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As the Fed Shrinks Its Balance Sheet, Nothing Can Go Wrong

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, September 20, 2017:

Investors and Wall Street gurus, seers, and prognosticators paid attention on Wednesday to the emanations from the Federal Reserve board meeting, hoping to glean more of the details about the “great unwinding” of the Fed’s enormously bloated balance sheet. In June, Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested that the time was drawing near to begin reducing the Fed’s balance sheet and there were at least two ways to start: letting maturing bonds “roll off” instead of reinvesting the proceeds in new issues, and liquidating, ever so slowly, some U.S. treasuries, starting at $10 billion a month in October. That liquidation would increase on a quarterly basis until it topped out at $50 billion a month.

The goal, it was suggested, was to

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Impact of Fed’s Plan to Do a “QE Unwind”

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, September 19, 2017: 

English: Official picture of Janet Yellen from...

Janet Yellen

What makes tomorrow’s [today’s – Wednesday, September 20] meeting at the Federal Reserve so interesting to market watchers and bond investors is the likelihood that Fed Chair Janet Yellen will provide more details on her plans to begin unwinding the Fed’s balance sheet: how much, how fast, how soon, and what does it all mean? In addition, she is hoping to placate conservatives in Congress who remain unhappy over the Fed’s intervention in the markets in the aftermath of the real estate collapse that triggered the Great Recession.

In June, Yellen outlined some possible scenarios, which included letting some of the bonds on the central bank’s enormous $4.2 trillion balance sheet simply mature without reinvesting the funds in new issues. She suggested the Fed would also start selling off some $10 billion a month of existing securities, and then raise that amount every quarter until it reaches $50 billion a month. This way, by expanding on her plans, and by slowly — very slowly — shrinking the Fed massive balance sheet, she hopes to avoid another “taper tantrum” that bond investors experienced back in 2013 when then-chairman Ben Bernanke first said the Fed should start reducing some of its holdings of U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities.

If she provides sufficient clarity, and sufficient caution, Yellen might not only start the process without disrupting the market, but also avoid further criticism from congressional critics who think the Fed stepped way out of bounds in starting the whole “quantitative easing” (QE) program in the first place. In that way — again, if she is successful — she will not only cement into place the Fed as a necessary element in the American economy, but show that further “QE” expansions to meet future recessions are a legitimate tool.

Whether she can pull it off is an open question. Keynesian economist Austan Goolsbee, who headed Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors in 2010 and 2011, said, “The final exam, with the grade yet to be determined, is: can the Fed actually get out of this stuff?”

The Fed has been essentially flying blind for years, moving outside not only its mandate (to maximize labor force participation while keeping inflation under control) but its past experience. Said David Blanchflower, a Dartmouth College economist (read: Keynesian) who was on the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England from 2006 to 2009, expressed it perfectly: “We had no idea what we should buy, how much, for how long … [and] there is no idea on the way going out.”

It was all a grand experiment: expand the money supply to keep interest rates so far below market rates that people seeking income would take higher risks — i.e., dividend-paying stocks, real estate ventures, etc. — and home owners would find it easier to buy houses. This was the Keynesian antidote to the economic collapse. Rather than let the economy right itself by itself (see America’s recession and recovery in 1920-1921), Keynesians suffer the hubris to think they know better than the market, and intervened, resulting in the longest, slowest recovery from a recession in American history.

Once the Fed began to embark on its plan to bail out banks and other financial institutions in the wake of the real estate collapse, there was no going back. When the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — mortgage insurers that were approaching bankruptcy — it found that it needed to buy up billions of their failing mortgages. That explains why $1.7 billion of the Fed’s balance sheet consists of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

But when that didn’t work the Fed adopted the strategy of “quantitative easing” (QE) — creating money to spur spending across the economy — which some observers thought would never end.

But it did end, in 2014, and the Fed has been sitting on its massive pile of government and mortgage debt, waiting for the economy to revive enough so it could be offloaded without major economic disruptions.

The Fed won’t be unwinding its entire portfolio. Instead it expects to reduce it by between $800 billion and $1 trillion over the next few years, leaving in place a balance sheet of between $2.5 and $3.2 trillion. This means that the Fed will never again see days when its balance sheet shrinks all the way back to the $900 billion it had prior to the Great Recession.

Its plan should have little impact on short-term rates. Using the 10-year Treasury as the standard, when Yellen’s plan (assuming it begins in October) kicks in, it might boost its yield by perhaps a quarter of a percentage point. This would be the natural result of increasing supply in a market with a fixed demand. When more is supplied, prices will go down. In the bond market that translates into a mini-interest rate hike.

But demand from abroad for U.S. bonds continues to be strong. Yields on 10-year bonds issued by foreign governments such as Japan’s and Germany’s remain far below U.S. 10-year bonds and so any increase in rates here will only make them more attractive to foreign buyers.

In fact, once Yellen has filled in the details, as she is expected to do on Wednesday, investors and market watchers are likely to express a sigh of relief, and continue the Fed-fueled rally in stocks that began in 2009 and that shows little sign of stopping. Diane Swonk, chief economist at DS Economics, agrees: “The start to reducing the Fed’s balance sheet is an action the markets are ready for. The Fed has laid out a roadmap and there is really a sense of relief to finally get it started.”

Disincentives Cut Food Stamp Use

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, July 24, 2017: 

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) reveals a sharp drop in participation in the program, touching lows not seen since before 2010. In 2016, 44 million Americans and immigrants (legal and illegal) took advantage of taxpayers’ largess, costing $71 billion. In 2010, there were 47 million receiving SNAP benefits, costing taxpayers closer to $80 billion.

The program, which began in 1969, has virtually exploded, from just two million that year (costing taxpayers a paltry $250 million) to a peak of 47.6 million in 2013, which cost taxpayers $79.9 billion.

Part of the decline is fueled by illegal immigrants fearing deportation if

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Food Stamp Dependency Dropping

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 24, 2017:

English: Logo of the .

In its report released last week the USDA reported that SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the old food stamp program – is shrinking, a little. In 2016, 44 million Americans and immigrants (legal and illegal) took advantage of taxpayers’ largess, costing them $71 billion. In 2010, there were 47 million receiving SNAP benefits costing taxpayers closer to $80 billion.

The program, which began in 1969, has virtually exploded, from just 2.9 million beneficiaries that year (costing taxpayers a paltry $250 million) to a peak of 47.6 million in 2013, which cost taxpayers $79.9 billion.

Part of the shrinkage is due to

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Has Janet Yellen Tripped the Bernanke Indicator?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, July 14, 2017:

Official portrait of Federal Reserve Chairman ...

Official portrait of former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

During a question and answer period following her talk at the British Academy in London on June 27, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was asked if there could possibly be a repeat of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. She answered:

I think the system is much safer and much sounder [today]. We are doing a lot more to try to look for financial stability risks that may not be immediately apparent, but to look in corners of the financial system that are not subject to regulation, outside those areas in order to try to detect threats to financial stability that may be emerging….

 

Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? You know probably that would be going too far but I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.

Historians will remember similar assurances from then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just before the real estate crash that led to the financial crisis back in 2007:

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Goldilocks Stock Market Making Forecasters Nervous

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, July 13, 2017:  

At the moment, Wall Street investors are enjoying a “Goldilocks” economy: not so hot that it pushes prices up and not so cold that it causes a recession. Translation: Unemployment is low, wages are rising, interest rates are still near record lows, the gross domestic product (GDP) continues to grow (although not as fast as President Trump would like), and inflation is under control.

It isn’t a perfect world, but to Wall Street investors it’s close.

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When Will the Luddites Ever Learn?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, July 10, 2017: 

Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine

Two Oxford University professors, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, wrote back in 2013 that the robotic revolution would overtake and virtually displace human workers in broad expanses of U.S. industry. Those occupations most at risk include loan officers (98 percent chance of being replaced by a robot), receptionists and information clerks (96 percent), paralegals and legal assistants (94 percent), retail sales people (92 percent), taxi drivers and chauffeurs (89 percent), and fast food cooks (81 percent).

At the bottom of the list are elementary school teachers and physicians and surgeons (0.4 percent chance), lawyers (4 percent), musicians and singers (7 percent), and reporters and correspondents (11 percent).

They found that almost half of those currently employed in the United States were in their “high risk” category, defined as jobs that could be automated “relatively soon, perhaps over the next decade or two.”

Two other college professors, this time from the University of Redlands, California, decided to take the Oxford study and apply it to American cities with more than 250,000 workers. They concluded that

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Pew Research: Gap Between Promises and Assets Widens for State Pensions

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, April 24, 2017:

A RETIRED COUPLE FROM CALIFORNIA STOP TO FISH ...

After reviewing the investment results for 230 public pension plans for the last two years, Pew reported last Thursday that, despite strong recent stock market performance, the gap between liabilities (promises) and assets for those plans widened by 17 percent, to $1.4 trillion. Put another way, those plans should have nearly $4 trillion in assets to enable them to keep their promises. The latest data shows them with just over $2.5 trillion instead.

Said Greg Mennis, director of the project,

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The PBGC is Falling. Where is Superman When He is Needed?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 3, 2017:

In the 1978 film Superman, Lois Lane is caught mid-air by Superman who says: “Easy, miss. I’ve got you.” Responds Lois: “You – you’ve got me? Who’s got you?

Concerning government agencies making promises, the answer is always and everlastingly: the U.S. taxpayer.

For example, consider the 42-year-old government agency backing up single-employer and multi-employer pension plans:

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Federal Insurance Agency Backing Union Pensions Facing Crisis Itself

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, March 2, 2017: 

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

When Teamsters Local 707’s pension plan ran out of money in February, it sought assistance from the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Said PBGC Director Tom Reeder:

This is a big issue for us. It’s a big issue for Local 707 and it’s a big issue for others in the same situation across the country.

 

We’re projected to run out of money in eight to 10 years. Many union pension plans are projected to run out in 20 years.

The federal insurance agency is now paying out $1.7 million every month to the stranded retirees of Local 707.

707’s problems have been decades in the making.

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Heritage Foundation Blames Obama Admin. for America’s Economic Decline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, February 15, 2017:

The Heritage Foundation minced no words in commenting on its latest Index of Economic Freedom: America’s continuing decline is all Obama’s fault:

America’s standing in the index [now in 17th place, the lowest in history] has dwindled steadily during the Obama years. This is largely owed to increased government spending, [increased] regulations, and a failed stimulus program that enriched the well-connected while leaving average Americans behind.

For the ninth time in 10 years, America’s index has lost ground. Coming in above 80 in 2008, the United States’ current index is barely above 75, tying it with

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Trump Names Jay Clayton, Quintessential Wall Street Lawyer and Goldman Sachs Advisor, to Head SEC

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, January 4, 2017:

English: Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc....

In announcing Jay Clayton as his pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), President-elect Donald Trump issued a statement that was both laudatory and a thinly veiled warning to Clayton: “Jay Clayton is a highly talented expert on many aspects of financial and regulatory law, and he will ensure our financial institutions can thrive and create jobs while playing by the rules at the same time.”

And then, as if quoting from the job description Trump no doubt created as he was sorting through prospective picks for the position:

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Teamsters’ Pension Plans Seek Massive Cuts to Retirees to Stay Solvent

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 2, 2017:

Logo of the United States Pension Benefit Guar...

The Central States Teamsters pension plan, covering more than 400,000 participants, expects to receive permission shortly from the Treasury Department to cut benefits to those participants, possibly by as much as 30 percent. At the end of 2014 the plan had $35 billion in liabilities (future promises to participants as they retire) compared to less than $18 billion on hand to pay them.

Right behind Central States was the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund, which is also in trouble. Owing nearly $3 billion to its 35,000 plan participants, it has less than $1.3 billion to meet this obligation. Its plan, in its request to the Treasury Department, spelled out just how great the cuts would be:

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Kudlow as Cheerleader, Not Serious Economic Advisor

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, December 21, 2016:  

If Donald Trump is looking for someone to present his economic plan to the public in non-threatening terms, someone who is amiable, popular, and ideology-free, he could do worse than picking Larry Kudlow (shown). Kudlow has been affiliated with CNBC for 15 years, most notably for hosting “The Kudlow Report,” and before that, “Kudlow and Cramer.”

According to Trump transition team advisor Stephen Moore, Kudlow will shortly be named as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisors. Kudlow fits the bill.

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Trump Likely To Pick Larry Kudlow as Chief Economic Advisor

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Tuesday, December 20, 2016:  

Speaking to the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce last week, Trump transition team advisor Stephen Moore let the cat out of the bag: The president-elect would shortly be naming Larry Kudlow (shown) as his chief economic advisor. Moore enthusiastically endorsed the pending nomination: “Who better than Larry? He’s one of the great economists in this country.”

Kudlow may be many things, including enjoying a long-running affiliation with CNBC and host of The Kudlow Report, but he is not an economist.

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Will Mick Mulvaney Pull Trump’s Financial Fat Out of the Fire?

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, December 19, 2016:  

English: Official portrait of US Rep. Mick Mul...

Michael “Mick” Mulvaney (shown) rode the Tea Party wave in 2010 into Congress, replacing a 14-term Democrat from South Carolina’s 5th District. He has been handily reelected ever since. He took his oath of office seriously, saying in 2010 that “If political reporters want to know what drives the Tea Partiers, it is their belief in the Constitution. That’s what has always driven me in politics and will guide me in Congress.”

He remained as true to his word as any of those riding the same wave,

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“Upside Sensitivity” the New Buzzword as Companies Plan for Trump Economy

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, December 9, 2016: 

English: Photo of the AT&T Midtown Center in M...

AT&T Midtown Center in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia.

AT&T’s Chief Executive, Randall Stephenson, spoke to a UBS investment conference on Tuesday, introducing a new phrase that more and more American companies will shortly be adopting: “upside sensitivity” studies. He spoke of how less government oversight and lower taxes would impact his business, expressing optimism that “a more moderate approach to some of those regulations is in the making under a Trump administration.” He then added:

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.