Thursday, November 24, 2011

Right Wing Hysteria

The political right is in thrall to the ultra-rich who are always horrified by inflation because it can eat up their piles of money as a "hidden tax". But the reality is that, despite record deficits, the bond market is signaling no fear of inflation. But despite that, the Federal Reserve (and more especially the European Central Bank) are still rigorously fighting "inflation" while their economies erode into depression and inflation soars.

Here is a bit by PBS's Paul Solman:
... checking with NYU's celebrated economic historian Richard Sylla, we find that today's rates are astonishingly close to the lowest in the entire history of the United States: 1.85 percent, the nadir reached in late 1941. That was the record, I should say -- until September 22, when the 10-year U.S. interest rate plunged briefly to 1.695 percent.

So what's going on? Well, rather obviously, investors are a lot more worried about the credit of Greece -- or Spain or Italy -- than ours. Investors are also more worried about stock investments. Investors are also more worried about almost any other asset into which they might put their money.

Investors also seem pretty sure that U.S. inflation is not going to be a problem anytime soon. If inflation scared them, they'd hardly let the United States lock in an interest rate of less than 2 percent for an entire decade.

So then why isn't it plausible to draw the following conclusion: that U.S. interest rates have been going in the "wrong" direction because investors are scared that the U.S. is going to reduce its debt and deficits, and such a reduction might horse-collar the world economy?

In other words, might the true story plausibly be a complete contradiction of what is regularly reported? That's what Nobel laureate Paul Krugman of the New York Times has regularly argued, but his "opinion" hasn't managed to leak into everyday coverage.
Obama needs a massive WPA program. In fact the whole developed world needs to do deficit spending to revive the economy. In the meantime, they should re-regulate the bank with even more severe regulations than were brought in post-Great Depression and the bankers of the 1990-2008 era should all be jailed with long, long sentences. These thieves stole trillions of dollars from the bottom 99%. They make Bernard Madoff look like a piker and the corner store robber a joke. The real crime in America is in the boardroom and the legal system needs to go after these malfactors with a vengeance.

Instead of "inflation" being the enemy of the country, the real enemy is austerity imposed by the political right and their ultra-rich patrons, the 0.01%. The financial reality is that bond prices are showing deflation and into "inflation" as the biggest threat to America:
The United States has to pay less than two percent to borrow money for 10 years? That's anti-Chicken Little. Not the sky falling, but the interest rate plummeting. Exactly the opposite of all the dire warnings.

Okay, but we need a little context. How far has the rate fallen? Let's go to Yahoo! Finance for a chart. There, on the right, is a blue chart of the 10-year rate over the past year. OMG! It's down from 3.5 percent since about April. April. What happened in April?

Oh, right. S&P downgraded U.S. debt. (See note.) But wait a second. The bond vigilantes should then have forced us to raise our interest rate. Instead, they lowered it?

Okay, maybe April was an anomaly. So click on "5y" under the chart for a view of the rate over the past five years. Can it be? It looks like the 10-year rate is at the lowest point over the entire period! Lower even than in the depths of despair, the post-Lehman crash of late 2008.

One more attempt at context. Go to Bob Shiller's online chart, then open the Excel file to which this links. You'll find a chart of stock prices, in blue, and the 10-year bond rate, in red, reaching back into the nineteenth century. You'll note that today's 1.97 percent is about as low as our interest rate has ever sunk since at least 1880.

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