If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Economy flounders, despite the stimulus

(CNN) -- A year after a nearly $800 billion stimulus package was passed, the U.S. economy still finds itself mired in mediocrity.

Economic growth is stagnant, unemployment remains higher than almost any time since the Great Depression and millions of Americans are upset that trillions of taxpayer dollars have been committed to numerous government bailout programs with no improvement of the economy within sight.

They question, rightfully, is where this money is going and why it hasn't been as helpful as the government has claimed.

The problems with stimulus packages are manifold. The primary reason they fail is because they do not address the roots of the problem. If you are unable to identify the cause of your problem, then your solution is doomed to fail.

In the case of the current economic crisis, it had its root in loose monetary policy and easy credit that skewed the allocation of resources within the economy.

Combined with other measures to promote home ownership, these easy money policies caused a massive housing bubble. Money that would have been put to other uses was used to produce raw materials, hire workers and loaned to homebuyers, all while home prices spiked.

The boom was, of course, unsustainable, as many prognosticators pointed out during the housing bubble's peak. But the damage was done, and now that the bubble has burst, we need to stand back and allow the mess to unwind. Yet the government does everything in its power to stave off true recovery and is attempting to re-inflate the bubble.

Rather than allow prices to fall so that the housing market returns to a sustainable level, the government does everything in its power to try to keep housing prices elevated.

The reasoning behind the stimulus package was that underconsumption was to blame for the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting economic crisis. The government seems to think that if consumption can be spurred, then the economy will be return to normal.

In reality, the collapse of the economy was not caused by a sudden lack of consumption but rather a malinvestment of resources into sectors of the economy that were unsustainable without easy credit. The rise in housing prices was not, in fact, indicative of the new normal but rather an indicator that something was seriously wrong.

Continue reading - Economy flounders, despite the stimulus

"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

In Fear the Boom and Bust, John Maynard Keynes and F. A. Hayek, two of the great economists of the 20th century, come back to life to attend an economics conference on the economic crisis. Before the conference begins, and at the insistence of Lord Keynes, they go out for a night on the town and sing about why there's a "boom and bust" cycle in modern economies and good reason to fear it. Enjoy the rap.

"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

Ron Paul on FIRE debating Stimulus, Bernanke, and the Fed!

Ron Paul on CNBC's Squawk Box: Debate on Bernanke, the Fed, and Stimulus

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ron Paul - USA is Bankrupt,Quit Buying Bombs or We're Done

Ron Paul on the house floor trying to explain how it really is. At some point these people have got to listen to the man. Practically everything he says is just pure common sense. Which says to me that the rest of Washington is stupid or their in on it. What do you think?This is a bad ass speech. Ron Paul is the man.

Ron Paul - USA is Bankrupt,Quit Buying Bombs or We're Done

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ron Paul on Competing Currencies

Congressman Paul makes the case for his legislation to allow competing currencies

Ron Paul on Competing Currencies

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mahathir: 9/11 was staged!

If only people were as smart and vigilant as Mahathir.

KUALA LUMPUR: There is strong evidence that the Sept 11 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 could have been “staged” as an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is evidence that the attacks were staged.

“But whether real or staged, the 9/11 attacks have served the United States and Western countries well. They have an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world,” he added.

Mahathir also criticised US President Barack Obama for failing to fulfil his promises concerning the country’s commitment in West Asia, including his promise to resolve the prevailing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises have been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead.

“He promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo.

“It is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevent the President from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, AIPAC,” he said.

Continue reading - Mahathir: 9/11 was staged

Dr M persists with 9/11 conspiracy theories

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continued today with his claims that the 9/11 attacks in the United States were staged. He now suggests that the collapse of the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings in New York nine years ago was the result of controlled demolition.

His remarks, published in his blog today, backs conspiracy theories put forward by fringe groups, and comes just days after he had also said that the Holocaust had failed as a final solution against the Jews.

“It is of course a fact that the two towers were destroyed after two aircraft crashed into them,” he said in reference to a speech he made on Wednesday when he said that “if they can make Avatar they can make anything.”

“A lot of people in America (the apologists will dismiss them as conspiracy theorists) questioned whether the towers collapsed because the planes crashed into them or that something else caused them to come down. These people have reproduced videos taken by media people showing the attack and the collapse of the towers, pointing out certain peculiar features. I have seen the three-hour long video which is widely distributed.”

He argued that the collapse of the twin towers was typical of controlled demolitions which are common in the United States.

In his posting, he also provides a link to a video on the Internet which is based on a book written by a conspiracy theorist who claims that elements in the US government had staged the attacks.

In his posting, Dr Mahathir reproduces a number of claims and allegations which have been rejected by engineers and other investigators, including how the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon was never found.

The former PM, who still retains significant influence among conservative Malay-Muslims and Umno members, also claimed that he met a janitor who worked in the twin towers and who had told him of explosions unrelated to the plane crash.

“As I said in my speech I am not so certain now that the Arab ‘terrorists’ hijacked four commercial aircrafts simultaneously and flew them into the twin towers, the Pentagon and somewhere unknown .

“Some people have condemned me for doubting that the attack was mounted by Arab Muslim terrorists. Perhaps one of the television stations would care to air the videos mentioned without censorship.”

Continue reading - Dr M persists with 9/11 conspiracy theories

More at Mahathir Blog - September 11, 2001

Dig out the evidence:
Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
Scholars for 9/11 Truth & Justice
Truth Action

Watch Zeitgeist - The Movie for more evidences!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Smashing Myths and Restoring Sound Money

Presented by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. at "Depression, Monetary Destruction, and the Path to Sound Money": the Mises Circle in Greenville, South Carolina, 3 October 2009. Sponsored by Atlantic Bullion and Coin, and Professional Planning of Easley, LLC.

Smashing Myths and Restoring Sound Money

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Barons of Wall Street testify to crisis panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chiefs of Wall Street's biggest firms defended the lucrative pay practices and huge size of their businesses, but conceded regulatory changes are needed at the first hearing of a congressional commission investigating the 2008 global financial crisis.

With U.S. unemployment near a 26-year-high after the worst recession in decades, public fury is growing over the crisis, taxpayer bailouts and huge bonuses for bankers.

Raising their right hands Wednesday to be sworn in before reading prepared statements, Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and other executives braced for sharp questions from the panel.

"People are angry. They have a right to be," Angelides said, citing Wall Street's bonuses and profits.

Blankfein said his firm reaped rewards from government support during the financial meltdown.

"We believe that the government action was critical and we benefited from it," he said. "The system clearly needs to be structured so that private capital, rather than government capital, is used to stabilize troubled firms promptly before a crisis metastasizes."

Dimon told the commission that there may be legitimate concerns that bonuses contributed to excessive risk taking, but he defended JPMorgan's pay practices, saying "they have been and remain appropriate."

The commission's hearing could fuel popular resentment of the banks and at the government's role in rescuing a powerful industry seen by many Americans as greedy and irresponsible.

The basic causes of the crisis are well known. From a real estate bubble and subprime mortgages, to runaway securitization and exotic debt instruments, the financial system failed spectacularly in the final months of the Bush administration.

Continue reading - Barons of Wall Street testify to crisis panel

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US court skeptical of Fed push for bailout secrecy

* Press seeks details of Fed bailout programs
* Fed says disclosure could hurt banks, financial system
* Bloomberg says disclosure breeds confidence
* News Corp's Fox News also opposes Fed

A federal appeals court on Monday appeared skeptical of U.S. Federal Reserve efforts to prevent the press and the public from learning the names of participants in emergency lending programs designed to support and bail out the financial system.

The central bank has argued that disclosure would cause "competitive and reputational harm" to participants, perhaps triggering bank runs, and impede its ability "to effectively manage the current, and any future, financial crisis."

Bloomberg News and News Corp's (NWSA.O) Fox News Network LLC had sought details of the Fed's actions under the federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which requires government agencies to make documents available to the public.

A release of data could give the public, including bank shareholders, a better sense of how the Fed was moving to prop up the financial system during what is widely considered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

In a 1-3/4 hour oral argument, a panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan questioned the Fed argument that if potential participants knew they might be named, they might choose not to borrow rather than face a possible "stigma" for seeming to be in trouble.

This, the Fed had argued, "could harm the broader financial system."

Continue reading - US court skeptical of Fed push for bailout secrecy

Geithner’s Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure and SEC Order Helps Maintain AIG Bailout Mystery

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a “backdoor bailout” of financial firms.

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.”

Issa requested the e-mails from AIG Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche in October after Bloomberg News reported that the New York Fed ordered the crippled insurer not to negotiate for discounts in settling the swaps. The decision to pay the banks in full may have cost AIG, and thus taxpayers, at least $13 billion, based on the discount the insurer was seeking.

The e-mail exchanges between AIG and the New York Fed over the insurer’s disclosure of the transactions show that the regulator pressed the company to keep details out of the public eye. Issa’s comments add to criticism from Republican lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, who wrote letters in the past two months demanding information from Geithner, 48, about the costs of the AIG bailout.

Continue reading - Geithner’s Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure

SEC order helps maintain AIG bailout mystery

* SEC agreed with AIG to keep some bailout terms sealed(Utterly BS!!)
* SEC granted "confidential treatment" last May
* Secrecy order stays in place until November 2018(WTF!!)

It could take until November 2018 to get the full story behind the U.S. bailout of insurance giant American International Group because of an action taken last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In May, the SEC approved a request by AIG to keep secret an exhibit to a year-old regulatory filing that includes some of the details on the most controversial aspect of the AIG bailout: the funneling of tens of billions of dollars to big banks like Societe Generale, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch.

The SEC's Division of Corporation Finance, in granting AIG's request for confidential treatment, said the "excluded information" will not be made public until Nov. 25, 2018, according to a copy of the agency's May 22 order.

The SEC said the insurer had demonstrated the information in the exhibit, called Schedule A, "qualifies as confidential commercial or financial information."

The expiration date for the SEC order falls on the 10th anniversary of Federal Reserve of New York's decision to provide emergency financing to an entity set up to specifically acquire some $60 billion in collateralized debt obligations from 16 banks in the United States and Europe.

All the banks that got money from the Fed-sponsored entity -- Maiden Lane III -- had purchased insurance contracts, or credit default swaps, on those mortgage-related securities from AIG

The Fed's bailout of AIG long has been controversial because the banks that sold CDOs to Maiden Lane III were paid 100 percent of face value, even though many of the securities were worth substantially less at the time of the government bailout.

Last Thursday the furor over the Maiden Lane transaction was reignited after Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, released copies of emails detailing discussions between the New York Fed and AIG over how much information to disclose.

Issa, the highest-ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the panel will soon hold hearings about how information was disclosed to the public about the Maiden Lane deal.

But Issa, in a prepared statement, said "as much information as possible should be made available to Congress to review the details and decisions" regarding the payments.

Continue reading - SEC order helps maintain AIG bailout mystery

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bernanke Says Low Interest Rates Didn't Cause The Housing Bubble!?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said low central bank interest rates didn’t cause the housing bubble of the past decade and that better regulation would have been more effective in curbing the boom.

“The best response to the housing bubble would have been regulatory, rather than monetary,” Bernanke said yesterday in remarks to the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta. The Fed’s efforts to constrain the bubble were “too late or were insufficient,” which means that regulatory actions “must be better and smarter,” he said.

Scholars such as Allan Meltzer, a historian of the central bank, have criticized the Fed for helping fuel the housing boom by keeping interest rates too low for too long. The bursting of the housing bubble led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“It sounds a little bit like a mea culpa,” said Randall Wray, an economics professor at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, who was in Atlanta and didn’t attend Bernanke’s speech. “The Fed played a role by promoting the most dangerous financial innovations used by institutions to fuel the housing bubble.”

Policy ‘Appropriate’

Bernanke devoted most of his speech to rebutting criticism that the Fed’s rate policy fueled the housing bubble. Monetary policy after the 2001 recession “appears to have been reasonably appropriate, at least in relation to” a formula based on the so-called “Taylor Rule.” In addition, Bernanke said Fed research shows the rise in housing prices had little to do with monetary policy or the broader economy.

John Taylor, a Stanford University economist and former Treasury undersecretary, created a shorthand formula that suggests how a central bank should set rates if inflation or growth veers from goals.

Under former Chairman Alan Greenspan, the Fed lowered its benchmark rate to 1.75 percent from 6.5 percent in 2001 and cut it to 1 percent in June 2003. The central bank left the federal funds rate for overnight interbank lending at 1 percent for a year before raising it in quarter-point increments from 2004 to 2006.

Rates Slashed

Bernanke, 56, joined the Fed as a governor in 2002 and supported all of the interest-rate decisions under Greenspan before being appointed chairman in 2006. After the financial crisis struck, he cut the federal funds rate almost to zero in December 2008 from 5.25 percent in September 2007.

The standard Taylor Rule would have recommended that the Fed raise the rate to a range of 7 percent to 8 percent through the first three quarters of 2008, “a policy decision that probably would not have garnered much support among monetary specialists,” Bernanke said. A variation of the rule used by the Fed focused on anticipated rates of inflation, not actual rates, he said.

Continue reading - Bernanke Says Regulation Came ‘Too Late’ to Curb Housing Bubble

The Fed and the Crisis: A Reply to Ben Bernanke By John B. Taylor

In his recent speech, the Fed chairman denied that too-low interest rates were responsible. Does this mean we're headed for a new boom-bust cycle?

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke spent most of his speech to the American Economic Association on Jan. 3 responding to the critique that easy monetary policy during 2002-2005 contributed to the housing boom, to excessive risk taking, and thereby to the financial crisis.

In his speech, Mr. Bernanke's main response to this critique was to propose alternatives to the standard Taylor rule—and then to use the alternatives to rationalize the Fed's policy in 2002-2005.

In one alternative, which addresses what he describes as his "most significant concern regarding the use of the standard Taylor rule," he put the Fed's forecasts of future inflation into the Taylor rule rather than actual measured inflation. Because the Fed's inflation forecasts were lower than current inflation during this period, this alternative obviously gives a lower target interest rate and seems to justify the Fed's decisions at the time.

There are several problems with this procedure. First, the Fed's forecasts of inflation were too low. Inflation increased rather than decreased in 2002-2005. Second, as shown by economists Athanasios Orphanides and Volker Wieland, who previously served on the Federal Reserve Board staff, if one uses the average of private sector inflation forecasts rather than the Fed's forecasts, the interest rate would still have been judged as too low for too long.

Third, Mr. Bernanke cites no empirical evidence that his alternative to the Taylor rule improves central-bank performance. He mentions that forecasts avoid overreacting to temporary movements in inflation—but so does the simple averaging of broad price indices as in the Taylor rule. Indeed, his alternative is not well defined because one does not know whose forecasts to use. Moreover, the appropriate response to an increase in actual inflation would be different from the appropriate response to an increase in forecast inflation.

There are other questionable points. Mr. Bernanke's speech raises doubts about the Taylor rule by showing that another version of the rule would have called for very high interest rates in the first few months of 2008. But using the standard Taylor rule, with the GDP price index as the measure of inflation, interest rates would not be so high, as I testified at the House Financial Services Committee in February 2008.

These technical arguments are important, but one should not lose sight of the forest through the trees. You do not have to rely on the Taylor rule to see that monetary policy was too loose. The real interest rate during this period was persistently less than zero, thereby subsidizing borrowers. Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, reported in a speech on Jan. 7 that during the past decade "real interest rates—the nominal interest rate adjusted for inflation—remained at negative levels for approximately 40 percent of the time. The last time this occurred was during the 1970s, preceding a time of turbulence."

Inflation was increasing, even excluding skyrocketing housing prices. Yet even when inflation is low, the damage of boom-bust monetary policy can be severe as Milton Friedman stressed in his strong criticism of the Fed in the 1950s and 1960s. Stepping back from the fray, an objective observer of all this evidence would have to at least admit the possibility that monetary policy was too easy and a possible contributor to the crisis.

Not admitting the possibility raises concerns. One is that if such a large deviation from standard policy is rationalized away, it might happen again. Indeed, some analysts are worried now about the Fed holding interest rates too low for too long, causing another boom-bust and a shorter expansion.

Another concern is that, rather than trying to be vigilant and avoid causing bubbles, the Fed will try to burst them with interest rates. Indeed, one of the lines from Mr. Bernanke's speech most picked up by Fed watchers is that "we must remain open to using monetary policy as a supplementary tool for addressing those risks." We have very limited ability to fine tune monetary policy in such an interventionist way.

Continue reading - The Fed and the Crisis: A Reply to Ben Bernanke

Peter Joseph: "Where are we going?" | The Zeitgeist Movement

An ingenious proposal by Peter Joseph, the founder of The Zeitgeist Movement, to solve our current global crises, whether it be the global financial crisis, political and religious instability as we have seen happening around the world, it certainly proves that we cannot afford to continue living in an outdated paradigm. If we do not make a swift change, in our attitude and our behaviors, we might risk ourselves a more devastating catastrophe in the coming years. That is why, there is no better time than now to educate the masses. Evolve or perish. It's your choice.

We must be the change we want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi

ZDay 2010 on March 13 Worldwide

Peter Joseph: "Where are we going?" Nov. 15th '09 | 1/2

Peter Joseph: "Where are we going?" Nov. 15th '09 | 2/2

Federal Reserve Seeks to Block Release of U.S. Bailout Secrets

Jan. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve will ask a U.S. appeals court to block a ruling that for the first time would force the central bank to reveal secret identities of financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest government bailout in U.S. history.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, after hearing arguments in the case today, will decide whether the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. In August, a federal judge ordered that the information be released, responding to a request by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg argues that the public has the right to know basic information about the “unprecedented and highly controversial use” of public money. Banks and the Fed warn that bailed-out lenders may be hurt if the documents are made public, causing a run or a sell-off by investors. Disclosure may hamstring the Fed’s ability to deal with another crisis, they also argued. The lower court agreed with Bloomberg.

“The question is at what point does the government get so involved in the life of the institution that the public has a right to know?” said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Davis isn’t involved in the lawsuit.

Freedom of Information

The lawsuit, brought under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, came as President Barack Obama criticized the previous administration’s handling of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed by Congress in October 2008. Obama has said funds were spent by the administration of former President George W. Bush with little accountability or transparency.

FOIA requires federal agencies to make government documents available to the press and public.

In her Aug. 24 ruling, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York said loan records are covered by FOIA and rejected the Fed’s claim that their disclosure might harm banks and shareholders. An exception to the statute that protects trade secrets and privileged or confidential financial data didn’t apply because there’s no proof banks would suffer, she said.

Burden Not Met

The central bank “speculates on how a borrower might enter a downward spiral of financial instability if its participation in the Federal Reserve lending programs were to be disclosed,” Preska, the chief judge of the Manhattan federal court, said in her 47-page ruling. “Conjecture, without evidence of imminent harm, simply fails to meet the board’s burden” of proof.

In its appeal, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System argued that disclosure of “highly sensitive” documents, including 231 pages of daily lending reports, threatens to stigmatize lenders and cause them “severe and irreparable competitive injury.”

Continue reading - Federal Reserve Seeks to Block Release of U.S. Bailout Secrets