There were two articles today that exist in direct contradiction to each other in substance, but when taken together reveal how ECB President Draghi and IMF Director Lagarde HOPE to punish and repress the German saving class in an effort to salvage the EU via the alleviation of debt owed by the so-called peripheral nations. The first article of significance is an op-ed piece by the FT’s Wolfgang Munchau titled, “Draghi, Schauble and the high cost of Germany’s savings culture.” The article lays it on the line that the Germans bear a great deal of responsibility for the ECB’s negative interest rate policy because of Chancellor Merkel’s push for austerity budgets to correct the massive deficits of the heavily indebted “peripheral” nations of the EU. The Germans were pushing themselves into AUSTERITY simultaneously by pushing forward a law on its own BALANCED BUDGET RULE. The battle cry from Germany was growth through austerity. In July 2012, when the debt plagued EU was on the verge of financial collapse, the profligate peripherals were willing to accept any demands put forward by the Germans in an effort to gain access to the Berlin credit card. As Munchau notes: “If German fiscal policy had been neutral during that period, the ECB’s job would have been easier. It would have been able to achieve its inflation target and would not have had to cut rates by as much.”
Posts Tagged ‘Christine Lagarde’
It was a very big weekend for information leaks that many in the world of policy making did not wish to have spread across the globe. The noted economist Arthur Okun posited that there was a trade-off between equality and inefficiency when it came to providing a social safety net for those suffering from the capriciousness of a capitalist system. In an effort to minimize the economic dislocations of a market economy, the redistribution of wealth through transfers was compared to a leaky bucket in which not all the money would make it to the intended recipients. Okun also posited that in an effort for some amelioration of the pain of economic dislocation taxes on the most successful actors would result in an effort to avoid any wealth confiscation through progressive taxation: “High tax rates are followed by attempts of ingenious men to beat them as surely as snow is followed by little boys on sleds.” (Library of Economics and Liberty)
As the markets are settling into the holiday mood of eggnog and the decorating of Tannenbaums, Germany’s EU partners were castigating Berlin for its continued emphasis on fiscal austerity. The ECB’s chief-economist and executive board member Peter Praet was maintaining that ECB policy would be accommodative for a very long time. This was a shot fired at Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Praet was speaking on behalf of President Draghi who didn’t enjoy being “bested” by Weidmann at the December 3 meeting. The German “block” had raised its concern about more QE and prevented Draghi from delivering what he had previously promised.
As Notes From Underground has been publishing for five-and-a-half years, a recurring theme has been the ineptness of the IMF. While there are many fine economists and researchers working for the IMF, its history is laden with policies that were devastating for the nations that used its facilities as an act of financial desperation. As the global lender of last resort, the FUND demanded onerous policies of raising interest rates, devaluing currency and undergoing fiscal austerity as a prerequisite for an IMF bail out. The recipients of most IMF loans were “third world” nations that had run out of alternative creditors. The IMF was the “only game in town.” During the height of the Asian crisis of 1997-1998, many of the Asian Tigers shunned IMF advice and money and operated outside the bounds of the Bretton Woods-IMF system.
Bill Gross was the darling of “access media” for promoting his favorite trade (what he called the short of a lifetime), the German bund. It captured the headlines on financial blogs but it is the wrong trade. If an investor wished to trade the “short of a lifetime,” the more appropriate tool would be the FRENCH OAT (the name for the French 10-year bond). It seems that Gross’s logic is based on the fact that the German BUND can only drop to -20 basis points because the ECB has determined that it will not purchase sovereign debt yielding less than its official reserve rate so over the time the BUND has a ceiling on its potential value. Gross is making the case that the ECB has so badly distorted the sovereign debt markets through its QE program that valuations are badly misaligned, BUT THE FRENCH OAT IS MUCH MORE OVERVALUED.
Never has so much money been riding on ONE WORD from a monetary authority. The issue isn’t the idea of FED PATIENCE in regards to raising rates for if the FED increases the effective rate to 37 basis points from 12 basis points IT IS MEANINGLESS. The issue for the FED is the huge pile of bank reserves sitting at the central bank to the tune of $2.7 TRILLION (and let’s not forget the FED‘s $4.5 TRILLION balance sheet). If the economy begins to heat up and banks begin to circulate those RESERVES, the FED will have a velocity of money problem as the ECONOMY MAY BE AT SOME LEVEL OF FULL EMPLOYMENT. It’s not an interest rate problem for the FED but a RESERVE PROBLEM.
One upon a time, the IMF‘s mission was to aid countries suffering balance of payments problems and dealing with the possible credit problems that would arise for over-extended nations. Recently, the Christine Lagarde-led IMF has acted in a more aggressive capacity when it became involved in the bailouts of the debt-plagued European peripheries. The IMF took a proactive stance in becoming one of the troika–ECB, European Commission, IMF–in an effort to stem the stress of Greece, Portugal, Cyprus (and possibly Spain and Italy). The IMF became involved not because Europe was lacking the funds but because the Germans were wavering as to how far the ECB should go in expending capital to bail out the so-called PIIGS. The European elites called upon the IMF to use its funding power to alleviate the pressure from Berlin’s demands that debtors undertake severe austerity in order to resolve the problems of recession and budgetary malfeasance. IMF Director Lagarde was very happy to open the IMF’s treasury to her comrade’s in arm: the European finance ministers. Remember, prior to Lagarde’s position at the IMF, she was the French finance minister.
“There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop
Last year the FED turned over $ 88.9 billion in profit to the U.S. Treasury, which was the “earned income” from the Fed’s QE program, for Bernanke’s Fed is the world’s largest coupon clipper. The Fed’s earnings are supposed to be turned over to the Treasury at regular intervals so why isn’t the Fed forwarding its gains to help the Treasury have more income to pay off the governments immediate expenses. If last year’s profits totaled $88.9 billion, this year’s gains should be larger as the balance sheet has grown by almost $850 BILLION. So where is the money, Ben?