A Failing System
Our monetary system is failing, but explaining that isn’t easy. The most popular argument is that the dollar has falling purchasing power and rising inflation. The problem with this argument is that consumer prices aren’t skyrocketing now. So, of course, people remain skeptical.
Meanwhile, yields across all markets are falling worldwide. This causes the income generated from assets to fall. I wrote about this serious problem last time, introducing the concept of yield purchasing power—which is how much you can buy with the interest on your savings.
I attended a panel discussion yesterday on the problems start-ups have in raising capital caused by securities regulation. Start-ups have to hire a lawyer before they raise the first dollar of capital. It’s a real catch-22.
Entrepreneurs are often surprised to find that raising capital means selling securities. They cannot legally sell securities to just anyone. They are restricted to Accredited Investors (basically people with high income or high net worth). Most young entrepreneurs don’t have a rolodex full of such investors. There are other restrictions, for example, they can’t hire someone to help them raise capital unless he has a license to sell securities.
Image credit: Simon & Schuster
The Tip of the Iceberg
The dollar is always losing value. To measure the decline, people turn to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or various alternative measures such as Shadow Stats or Billion Prices Project. They measure a basket of goods, and we can see how it changes every year.
However, companies are constantly cutting costs. If we see nominal – i.e. dollar – prices rising, it’s despite this relentless increase in efficiency.
Photo credit: Hirkophoto
Euthanasia of the Rentiers
Ben Bernanke presided over the Federal Reserve for two terms, from 2006 through 2014. A year and half into his first term, he began driving the Federal Funds Rate down. By the end of his frantic interest episode, this key overnight lending benchmark had been crushed. It hit bottom, and it hasn’t sprung back in over 6 years since.
Everyone is harmed by zero interest policy. Who suffers the most is open to debate, but one obvious candidate is the retiree who lives on a fixed income. These are people who worked and saved their whole lives, and now they depend on interest to buy groceries and heat their homes. For them, zero interest is like breathing air without oxygen. They suffer a slow death by suffocation.
In writing about this class of people, economist John Maynard Keynes used a term he intended to be pejorative—the rentier. In Keynes’ view, those who invest capital to earn a yield are parasites. In The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, he asserted that the rentier is a “functionless investor” (i.e., gets paid for doing nothing). Keynes called for “the euthanasia of the rentier” by government suppression of the interest rate.
Recently, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has begun blogging at the Brookings Institution. He wrote that legislators said he was “throwing seniors under the bus.” He reassures us that he “was concerned about those seniors as well.”
That is a neat little example of context-switching. These unnamed legislators did not ask Chairman Bernanke how he felt as he was throwing senior citizens under the bus. His feelings are not the issue. The issue is whether zero interest does, in fact, throw seniors and other rentiers under the bus. Bernanke can’t deny that, and he doesn’t try.
Instead, he offers this, “But if the goal was for retirees to enjoy sustainably higher real returns, then the Fed’s raising interest rates prematurely would have been exactly the wrong thing to do.” Got that? We have to keep interest low, so seniors can earn more interest.
Ben Bernanke, the man with feelings for seniors. As he points out here, he knows at least two of them personally.
Photo credit: Alex Brandon / AP Photo
Putting the Hurt on Labor
Interest rates have been falling for over three decades. Conventional economics has two things to say about this. One, inflation expectations are falling. Monetarists believe that the interest rate is set based on bond traders’ predictions of future price increases. Two, if employment and GDP are weak, then the central bank should increase the money supply. By increasing the money supply, it will cause rising prices, and somehow that causes workers to get hired. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen wrote a paper defending this absurd claim (which I criticized).
The Swiss Franc Will Collapse
I have worked to keep this piece readable, and as brief as possible. My grave diagnosis demands the evidence and reasoning to support it. One cannot explain the collapse of this currency with the conventional view. “They will print money to infinity,” may be popular but it’s not accurate. The coming destruction has nothing to do with the quantity of money. It is a story of what happens when interest rates fall into a black hole.
Decades of Falling Rates
The old joke is, “(with a Russian accent) In America, you correct newspaper, but in Soviet Union, newspaper corrects you.” Switzerland is now experiencing the bond market equivalent. In America, the government pays you to borrow but in Switzerland you pay the government. All Swiss bonds have a negative yield out to 9 years. Negative means you pay them to lend them your money. The 10-year Swiss government bond has effectively zero yield. For comparison, the 10-year US Treasury is 1.8%.
Here is a graph of the Swiss yield curve.
More Articles of Interest:
- Cameron's New Thought Police
- Switzerland is the Ultimate Safe Haven for Liberty and Wealth
- Ominous Stock Market Charts
- Economist on Gold – A Dissection
- A Vision of Monetary Hell …
- “Hello Dictator” - Leader of Socialist Superstate Project Meets Magyar Renegade
- Is the Fed Going to Raise Mortgage Rates?
- Are You Guilty of Crimes Against the Young?
- The “Junkie Economy”
- Why Bonds Are No Longer a “Safe Haven”