The State of the Union: An Annual Reminder of Inevitable Default

The State of the Union: An Annual Reminder of Inevitable Default

02/05/2020Tho Bishop

Last night’s State of the Union was particularly noteworthy for its showmanship. Scholarships were given away, medals were awarded, families reunited. At a time when national politics is bad theater, President Trump is clearly its most gifted star.

Trump also knows what sells. As a political figure, he’s motivated not by any consistent ideology, but rather by transactional legislation. Following the performance, an MSNBC pundit noted that the speech was a “microtargeted ad” to various demographics aimed at expanding his base before next year’s election.

Combined with his Super Bowl ads highlighting criminal justice reform, his focus on charter schools and honoring a hundred-year-old Tuskegee airman are aimed at eroding away the Democrats' 90 percent control of black voters. The cameo by Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaidó was an appeal to Hispanic families who have fled communist regimes—perhaps a poke at Bernie Sanders. Paid family leave, a policy focus of his daughter, is intended to help him with suburban women.

What doesn’t sell? Fiscal responsibility.

The political equivalent of Crystal Pepsi, the Republican Party has given up its long-standing façade of budgetary restraint. As Donald Trump told donors earlier this year, "Who the hell cares about the budget?”

Of course, some people do care, particularly those who understand the real costs of runaway spending. Unfortunately, politics isn’t about the economic literacy of the few, but the prevailing ideology of the masses. As Jeff Deist noted in 2016, the implicit ideology of the American population is much closer to Bernie Sanders than it is to Ludwig von Mises. As such, it should be no surprise that the policies of the country align more closely with the “deficits don’t matter” vision of Modern Monetary Theorists than the sober analysis of Austrians economists.

Of course, the popularity of political positions cannot shield a society from the consequences of their actions.

A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast now has America on track for a 98 percent debt-to-GDP ratio by the end of the decade, and that’s with a built-in assumption that spending trends won’t significantly increase—a bet I wouldn’t feel comfortable making.

Left out of this measure, of course, are the true costs of the current American government—including unfunded liabilities built into to America’s entitlement system. For example, social security has a projected long-term deficit of over $13 trillion. Medicare adds another $37 trillion. Factor in federal pensions and veterans' benefits and the number gets to $122 trillion.

Working to DC’s benefit is the fact that American debt is still treated globally as one of the world’s most secure assets. Global demand for US Treasurys remains strong, and directly subsidizes our leviathan state even as we simultaneously weaponize it against the rest of the world. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how long this status will continue, history informs us that it would be foolish to assume it will go on forever.

To his credit, Donald Trump seemed to instinctually understand this as a candidate. While running, he was remarkably honest when he talked about the need for American creditors to eventually take haircuts. The self-dubbed "king of debt," he compared it to his own approach in business:

I've borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts. And I've done very well with debt. Now of course I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me, and it was good for me and all of that. And you know debt was always sort of interesting to me. Now we're in a different situation with a country, but I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal. And if the economy was good it was good so therefore you can't lose. It's like you make a deal before you go into a poker game. And your odds are much better.

While his comments shocked (shocked!) the Very Serious pundits at the time, they were a refreshingly honest look at America’s future. As is often the case with Trump, he was attacked by the press for saying aloud the things you're supposed to keep quiet—like his reportedly saying “Yeah, but I won’t be here,” when given a brief on America’s growing debt crisis in 2017.

Of course, although any sort of default by the American government would be a major chaotic event for the global financial system, it’s something we should embrace and prepare for. Peter Klein has noted, “that the US can never restructure or even repudiate the national debt—that US Treasuries must always be treated as a unique and magical "risk-free" investment—is wildly speculative at best, preposterous at worst.” Murray Rothbard advocated for the repudiation of the national debt, which he viewed as a “part of the American tradition.”

At the end of the day, however, whether one agrees with the idea of debt default is inconsequential. The political system today is inherently unprepared to tackle the issue. The incentive structures of democracy actively work against restraint and responsibility. So long as the economic profession is dominated by bad economists and our education system is dedicated to government indoctrination rather than economic literacy, we will continue to lack the political will to make the difficult choices necessary to get our fiscal house in order.

Luckily, America’s political disorder doesn’t mean that American citizens have to be unprepared. Awareness of the real problems we face doesn’t require taking the black pill, it simply means being aware of practical steps we can take as individuals to best prepare for the future.

Just as we can arm ourselves to protect ourselves against inept law enforcement, we can safeguard our wealth outside of the American financial system to protect ourselves against inept fiscal management. Be it gold, silver, bitcoin, or whatever, the future may very well belong to those who refuse to leave their destiny in the hands of politicians, bureaucrats, and central bankers.

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Wyoming Senate Votes to Hold, Invest, and Receive Tax Payments in Gold and Silver

02/02/2023Jp Cortez

The Wyoming State Senate today voted 16-15, on a bipartisan basis, to pass a bill prompting the Wyoming state treasurer to hold gold and silver “specie” to protect the state – as well as establish a process to receive certain tax payments in specie.

Introduced by Senator Bob Ide (R-Casper), SF 101 amends and further implements the Wyoming Legal Tender Act, a popular 2018 law that had removed all tax liability from gold and silver transactions and affirmed that the monetary metals are legal tender in Wyoming.

Senate File 101 prompts the Wyoming state treasurer to create a formal system to deal directly in constitutional money – a system that would also include holding gold as an asset to help the Cowboy State hedge against its high exposure to Federal Reserve note dollars and potentially invest in precious metals leases and bonds.

The Department of Revenue could receive mineral tax payments denominated in specie, i.e. gold and/or silver. And in executing its duties, the state treasurer could hire precious metals firms that are experts in receiving, authenticating, exchanging, and storing gold and silver.

In specific terms, the bill requires the Wyoming treasurer to implement the Wyoming Legal Tender Act by:

  • Authorizing the use of specie and specie legal tender for the payment of mineral taxes, subject to authentication procedures as determined by the state treasurer that are consistent with precious metals industry standards;
  • Determining, maintaining and publishing market-based exchange rates between specie, specie legal tender and other legal tender currencies on a real‑time basis on the website of the state treasurer for the purpose of calculating tax payments to or from the state.
  • Exchanging specie and specie legal tender for other legal tender currencies;
  • Holding specie and specie legal tender;
  • If market conditions warrant, investing in precious metal leases or bonds payable in precious metals.

Wyoming has vast natural resources, and the Department of Revenue receives significant tax revenues from producers of commodities such as oil, gas, and metals. 

By creating a mechanism which enables Wyoming to receive tax payments – or to potentially make payments – in gold and silver, the Cowboy State would establish an alternative unit of payment in the face of a Federal Reserve note that continues to be devalued.

In his testimony before the Senate Revenue Committee last week, Sound Money Defense League policy director Jp Cortez said:

Proposals encouraging state gold holdings have come before the legislature since January 2019, but no bills have been passed. During the last four years of inaction on sound money, gold bullion, priced in declining dollars, has risen by 50 percent.

Cortez continued: 

Given the financial risks facing the U.S., Wyoming should take these modest steps toward creating alternative ways of transacting and saving using sound money.

Since 2018, Wyoming has established itself as a leader on sound money issues, as evidenced by the Cowboy State’s first place finish in the 2023 Sound Money Index.

Several other states are considering their own sound money bills this month, including AlaskaMissouriMississippiSouth CarolinaTennessee, and more.

After passing the Senate, SF 101 now heads to the Wyoming House for further consideration.

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The Recent Protests in Brasilia: Practical Results and the Dynamic of Power Perpetuation

02/02/2023Gabriel Camargo

The protests that took place in Brasilia earlier this month perfectly exemplify the established dynamics of domination. Bolsonaro's supporters not only made the mistake of trusting in politicians, but in the armed forces that, when necessary, fight to maintain the same power that oppresses them.

Under the illusion of the security forces serving the population, for months, protesters have pleaded for military intervention to "save Brazil" from the threat of communism and authoritarianism. In reality, the security forces perform the security of the elites, shielding them from the threat posed by the population they command. They are armed hands used to guarantee the continuity of exploitation.

The democratic process maintains the illusion of decision-making power to the subjugated people. Under the illusion of politicians being more than human, transformed into figures to be worshiped, the images of saviors and great leaders with the ability to guide and save the nation and the people from evil are projected onto them. Hope is fundamental for the maintenance and perpetuation of the system of domination, because under the veil of hope, power remains mostly in the same hands and with the same fundamental interests. The feeling of revolt is also something natural in democracy, because it, as well as the hope for a better reality, serves as a motor to keep the system alive, because any problem can be resolved in the next election process.

What we saw on Sunday in Brasilia were confused individuals expressing their anger at the destruction of state patrimony. Since all state heritage is illegitimate, following its very existence, the acts of destruction did not violate the ethics of property, but neither were they effective in achieving their proposed goals. Nor could they have been. The claims were never about freedom, nor even a criticism of state institutions, but only of their temporary occupants.

The physical destruction of buildings and facilities belonging to the state may be a symbolic act to represent discontent, but the real power of the state lies in the minds of the people who support it, no amount of physical destruction will be effective in eradicating an evil that actually lives inside each person who believes in it.

Sunday's acts, besides being useless for the advancement of freedom, have justified actions that will promote exactly the opposite. The effects of what occurred will further strengthen state power, just as it did during the recent pandemic. One now accepts what would not have been accepted before. The boundaries of state action are extended when justifications are found for its expansion.

Thus, even if slowly, the state is strengthened and more deeply consolidated in life and social contexts. The potentiality may already exist, but the consolidation only comes with the actualization of the multifaceted illusion under which the new reality of power is accepted.

Now, with the justification of ensuring the security and democratic process of a rule of law, increases in the existing level of censorship will be more easily tolerated, as well as increased monitoring of electronic communications and arrests of dissidents. The media, the informational arm of the established power, will, at every possible opportunity, classify this acts as terrorist or vandalism carried out by extremists and coup plotters, in order to implant the idea, raising the gravity of the problem, that a state solution is justified and must be established.

True liberation will only come when hope in the state ceases to exist.

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Peace Sells, and I'm Buying

We just concluded a national, state and county election season where crime and economic volatility were at the forefront. These issues are likely to occupy the minds of voters in municipal elections across the country this year.

Staying strapped

Though economic stability is more important to public safety than it’s often given credit for, it’s not quite the deterrent as a perp knowing that the good guys can protect themselves. A recent altercation here in San Antonio is a good example.

While working in a smoke shop in my area of town, a clerk was confronted by a would-be thief who entered the store and hopped the counter. No doubt a startling turn of events, the clerk was ready.

The failed robber was later found wearing bullets from the clerk’s gunshot as change for the business he actually got at the store.

We Americans are blessed to have the human right to defend ourselves enshrined in the constitution. Guns are however, admittedly intimidating. There’s no playing around with them. As such, many people choose not to carry, or even own them, and that’s OK. That’s their prerogative. 

But none of us should allow hypocritical politicians to pack heat, or have taxpayer-funded bodyguards, while they turn around and restrict how we protect ourselves. And it’s not only that we’re protecting, but also our freedom.

That’s a notion that has proven far more fragile in public officials’ hands in the last few years than previously imaginable.

Freedom

When we’re born, there’s a world of opportunity before us. Unfortunately, that starts to erode once we’re ready for kindergarten. 

The vast majority of us are limited to one degree or another, to attending the closest K-12 schools that take our property taxes for funding. While wealthier families are able to eat that bill and send their kids to private schools, or homeschool them, too many of us are stuck in low-performing schools.

In adolescence, kids are then hindered from entering the workforce by measures like the minimum wage. An employer cannot afford their lack of marketable skills at the government-mandated rate. Therefore, the opportunity for young, prospective employees is delayed.

And that’s just one government impediment: employment taxes, mandated leave, favoritism shown to bigger competitors, etc. This reached a natural conclusion, in brutal fashion, with the lockdowns of recent years.

When we face this constant barrage of regulations and taxation, the cost of choosing a life of crime goes down. People may not think about it in those terms. However, when this way of life is ingrained almost from day one, how can they be expected to? 

Many criminals are simply bad apples, but government creates its fair share, too.

Policy

More immediately problematic is making the cost of actually committing a crime lower. That is the effect some portions of “cite & release” programs have. 

Imagine two children playing with their toys. one walks over to the other and snatches a doll out of her hand. The parent responds in one of two ways: the aggressor gets a “verbal warning,” or is put in a corner after being scolded. 

Which reaction is more likely to result in a repeat offense, and which one is more likely to end up with better behavior?

Stealing a few hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise, or running off without paying computer repair, shouldn’t result in the same penalties as assault, murder, etc. But when the perpetrator spends no time behind bars or is not compelled to make his victim whole again, we’re likely to see more aggressions. 

Even if such policies persist, we should give more thought to simply increasing law enforcement.

A lean police force

A key to any peaceful, prosperous society is an enforceable rule of law, and the protection of property rights. A disciplined police force has a part to play.

A police presence gives many citizens, regardless of demographic, peace of mind. It allows them to go about their business, engage with others socially and/or commercially. When and if things go sideways however, we’re our own first line of defense (see above).

Ideally, the police are there to deescalate and investigate. It’s important here to remember that they are under no constitutional duty to protect us. The events in Uvalde were a stark reminder of this.

That’s just one reason we should be cautious when calling for more police officers, especially when some police chiefs say they’re well-staffed already.

Moreover, to the extent that opposition to (recent) council policies exists, do we want greater enforcement of them? As pro-government forces fatten the budget, milk the taxpayer and expand the city’s reach, do we want to contribute to and enable that? 

Like the citizenry they serve, most police officers are solid folks. What happens though, when they’re replaced by more “mental health” officers? We’d end up living out the movie “Demolition Man,” with future governments putting the muscle behind tax collection to they make sure to get theirs.

In a way, this implicitly signals surrender on trying to correct criminal behavior at its source. 

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We do our best by our kids. We rightfully see them as an opportunity to make society better. We correct bad behaviors. We educate them. We make sure they’re respectful. 

It’s inevitable however, that some tragically fall through the cracks, and are then more likely to veer off onto the wrong side of the tracks. This is where we have an opportunity to step up.

Mentoring or fostering kids can make a difference. Some heroes go so far as to navigate the adoption process thicket to give kids in troubled circumstances a new life. It doesn’t even have to go that far. 

Some families with a gaggle of their own to look after have an open-door policy where their kids’ friends can come and go almost at will. If these friends have issues they’re trying to escape from, a welcoming, harmonious household can show them the possibilities and offer hope.

We need to start digging deeper to radiate that harmony more broadly, rather than deal with the predictable outcome of giving policymakers more power.

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On the Scott Horton Show: Ryan McMaken on How the Fed Is Ripping Us Off

01/31/2023Ryan McMaken

Download Episode.

Ryan McMaken of the Mises Institute joins Scott to discuss the ill effects central banking has on the country. McMaken wrote an article recently pointing out that the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, is technically bankrupt. Scott has McMaken explains how that’s true and why the costs of a bankrupt Fed are felt by us all. Scott and McMaken also address some common points about inflation made by the left and examine what they get right and where they go wrong. The two also look at today’s economy to try and work out where we are in the boom-bust cycle. 

Discussed on the show:

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The WEF’s Outlook for 2023

01/30/2023Robert Aro

With January’s world elite submit in Davos wrapping up earlier this month, members of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who publicly celebrate their infiltration of governments across the globe, continue to do what they do best, i.e. intervene in the market for the purpose of destabilizing the world with ominous projects like the Great Reset.

Their predictions begin with a recession in 2023:

A global recession is seen as likely by two-thirds of respondents to the World Economic Forum’s Chief Economists Outlook…

Surely, everyone should anticipate a recession by now, but maybe not? Further details are provided:

…expect growth to drop to 1.9% this year from 3% in 2022 because of intersecting crises such the Ukraine war, surging inflation, debt tightening and the climate emergency.

Take a moment to consider just how much the average person, not just in America, but the entire world, is forced to pay for that which they have no business in, no part of, and no desire to support. Notice some of the problems ahead:

The War in Ukraine costs billions of dollars. You may sympathize but unless you have family or loved ones in the region, you likely don’t feel directly responsible for its funding.

Primarily due to the Federal Reserve printing trillions of dollars a few years ago, “surging inflation” was exacerbated by governments forcing a worldwide economic shutdown during the same time period.

“Debt tightening” is something no one should hold their breath on. If there has ever been a documented case of government showing spending restraint through monetary/fiscal policies, those instances have been few and far between.

The following chart highlights America’s debt and debt ceiling problem since 1970:

Few things in life should be given a 0% chance of ever happening; but if anything is to be assigned a probability of zero, it would be debt tightening. Per the chart, there is absolutely no historical evidence that managing the debt was ever possible. The advent of the Federal Reserve ensured debt management would never be something the country could handle.

Rounding out events to anticipate in 2023: “climate emergency.” Likely a costly endeavor; how much money will be needed to fight climate change? And, how will this impact the economy? This has yet to be seen.

What is seen is the unimaginable central planning power wielded by a handful of elected and unelected officials, whether through war, money (debt) creation, or other schemes such as climate change. The average person, Sumner’s The Forgotten Man, is funding a great deal that has nothing to do with them.

The WEF’s list provides plenty more risks and unpleasant events; this was only some. But at the conclusion of their summary of existing and potential economic problems, which they are largely to blame, they ask:

Can central bank digital currencies help stabilize global financial markets?

The unequivocal answer is and should always be a hard “no.” Central planning had its shot in the 20th century and failed miserably. Unfortunately, so few seem to remember, or care. We’re almost a quarter of the way into the 21st century and, so far, the role of the central planner has only gained in stature. We can only wonder how many more times humanity must saddle the brink of collapse due to the precious plans of a few.

There are some excellent podcasts regarding the WEF that warrant a listen. The Human Action Podcast topic was Davos: Has Globalism Peaked, Radio Rothbard discussed How the Fed Fuels WEF’s Managerial Revolution, and Michael Rectenwald wrote an interesting article titled: Mastering the Future: The Megalomaniacal Ambitions of the WEF. It’s probably also a good idea to read the WEF’s website for good measure, since it’s good to know the direction in which they intend to nudge or overtly direct society. Or, if nothing else, to at least consider the  5 reasons why eating insects could reduce climate change. Much can be learned from the WEF, especially that the best place to keep a conspiracy, in fact, is in plain sight.

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Crypto Custody… At the Fed?

01/23/2023Robert Aro

The idea that billionaires would gather behind closed doors and discuss the fate of the world is no longer conspiracy. The more you read, the more you’ll see. The plans are laid out in plain sight.

Take a look at this chart from the World Economic Forum (WEF) itself. Notice anything strange (hint: top right)?

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) was undoubtedly on the agenda at this years’ meeting in Davos. Here is where one must maintain a keen eye. When they discuss risks surrounding cryptocurrency, like custody, they provide neutral points and maintain an air of uncertainty. Per the chart above, they’re not stating a conclusion, but merely showing how risk is reduced the higher up one goes on the scale.

Self-custody was once the safest way to store your crypto. Looking at this chart, if a central bank offered custody of “your” CBDC, it would offer an even higher measure of security.

They’ll try to convince you by claiming they spent a lot of money, time, and expertise exploring the issue of digital money for the “public’s interest.” Nonetheless, no different than a scientific research paper, we must ask, who funded the project?

Over the past year, an interdisciplinary research team funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation…

If Bill Gates can influence the future of CBDCs the same way he has the scientific, medical, and drug market, then we’re in for something spectacular in the future.

And this future could be just around the corner. According to one of the experts at the World Economic Forum:

Over the next four years, we should expect to see many central banks decide whether they will use blockchain and distributed ledger technologies to improve their processes and economic welfare.

Four years from now seems a lifetime away, especially when most people in the wealthiest nations on earth are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling with an ever-increasing cost of living, and very little about the future looks promising. Yet, one day, CBDCs will be implemented.

It’s all part of the plan. Literally, the WEF has the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where, amongst other things they’ve:

…built a global community of central banks, international organizations and leading blockchain experts to identify and leverage innovations in distributed ledger technologies (DLT) that could help usher in a new age for the global banking system.

The plan is progressing quite nicely too! They have no problem saying:

We are now helping central banks build, pilot and scale innovative policy frameworks for guiding the implementation of DLT, with a focus on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). 

The difficulty is that as of yet, these ideas are still intangible to the public. There is currently no functioning Fedcoin. If we are cashless, it is only by choice. Individuals cannot hold a deposit at the Federal Reserve.

But just because the world looks like this today, doesn’t mean it will look like this tomorrow. Everything the WEF publishes, these meetings in Davos, and whatever the response to the next crisis will be are all designed to move the masses away from liberty, freedom, privacy, security, and autonomy, to be handled by another. They market whatever it is they’re doing as a public service. The reality is anything but. Society has seen this before, many times and in many forms.

Unfortunately, by the time CBDC hits the front page, by the time society has become officially cashless, and by the time you're forced to accept a salary, or pay debts in Fedcoin, held in custody at your local Federal Reserve branch, it will be too late. It’s like waiting for a tornado to touchdown on your front porch; you know it’s coming. It’s just a question of how bad it will be, whether you’ve prepared for it, or whether you’ve left town completely.

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More Lies in the CPI

01/16/2023Robert Aro

As reported by CNBC last week, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) figure of 6.5% shows how the mainstream media disseminates false economic information for consumption by the masses. Try to spot some of the more concerning parts:

Initially, the chart raises questions such as where this data comes from and who participated in the sampling. Once the data was compiled, how did statisticians determine what constitutes the “average” egg, frankfurter, or new vehicle?

In another article, CNBC tries to explain:

CPI is the most closely watched inflation gauge as it takes into account moves in everything from a gallon of gas to a dozen eggs and the cost of airline tickets.

As discussed on multiple occasions, calculating (price) inflation is the Art of Moving the Goal Posts. Consider the impossibility of comparing gas, eggs, and an airline ticket. Adding them up and dividing by 3 would not produce meaningful results.

However, if weights of relative importance were assigned to every individual item then apples could be compared to oranges, mathematically. Of course, statistical calculation doesn’t equal sound logic. In addition to using highly subjective guess work to arrive at these relative weights, other tactics such as adjusting for seasonality or simply excluding certain items if they’re “too volatile” are employed to massage the CPI.

Consider the two images below, the first being the latest snapshot of the CPI data showing the relative importance:

Now compare the relative importance from almost a year ago:

According to the charts, since last year, food has become less important while energy has become more important. Unfortunately, we live in a society that values statistical calculation and the ability to draw upon data more than reasoning.

Rather than argue with merits or lack of logic itself, mainstream economists found that the best career move is to not fight for the truth, but embrace the data, flaws included. This leads to Fedspeak like this excerpt from Andrew Hunter, a senior economists at Capital Economics who told CNBC:

The huge amount of inflation we had from rising gas prices has now almost completely reversed.

It’s one thing to say (price) inflation has slowed in recent months, but to claim “almost completely reversed,” simply makes no sense. The average person could only wish that prices have reversed, meaning price decreases, but this is not the case. At best, we can hope for a slowdown in the rate of increase.

He’s not alone in his inflation elation. In the same article, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics said:

I don’t think people will be talking about inflation this time next year.

And despite the skyrocketing price of eggs as purported by the abundance of memes on social media, he went so far as to say:

I think it’s already starting to feel better for people.

Naturally, Moody’s top economist is in a much higher income bracket than the average person; so his perspective could be skewed.

Ultimately, the biggest red flag is waved, not by the data itself, or the economists whose job it is to cheerlead the Fed and its support system, but it comes from this:

Inflation closed out 2022 with a 6.5% annual reading, as measured by the consumer price index, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday. It was in line with economists’ expectations.

Given the countless data fields and inputs, including relative weights of importance required to arrive at the CPI figure, how is it conceivable that economists’ expectations matched that of the bureau of labor and statistics?

Either these economists are really that good, or this data is really that bad. 

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Kevin McCarthy Faces New House Rules and the Debt Ceiling Fight

It took 15 votes and a host of concessions to the Freedom Caucus and its allies, but Kevin McCarthy (finally) became Speaker of the House. Of course, the real length of the delay (in McCarthy’s eyes anyway) was much longer than the three days last week. Afterall, when John Boehner abruptly stepped down in 2015, McCarthy had been the heir apparent. A similar lack of support among the more hardline fiscally conservative members, however, resulted in the elevation of Paul Ryan to the top job in the House.

With Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan lurking in the prospective background, McCarthy initially talked tough: in a speech before the first vote he demanded the members loyalty, saying he’d “earned” the job.

A few embarrassing votes later, and the necessary concessions came on like a flood.

Frankly, there is a lot to like:

Apart from the fact any member may now precipitate a vote to vacate the chair, in the new House all income tax increases will now require a three fifths vote; general spending cut amendments will be allowed; no unauthorized appropriations may be increased; and, perhaps biggest of all, any increases in mandatory spending must be offset immediately by equivalent cuts.

Or, as the Washington Post put it: “The Terrorists Have Already Won.” 

Gross hyperbole aside, the now-familiar debt ceiling standoff later this summer looks set to be a big one. McCarthy has, rightly, never been trusted, and his concessions to secure the job of Speaker rendered him effectively impotent. Whatever he and his allies may think they have cooked up to get out of the debt ceiling fight, they are mistaken.

It will be a fight, or it will be his job, and if Kevin McCarthy has proven one thing over the course of his time in D.C., it is that he will do anything for power. 

Already looking ahead, Republicans and Democrats are openly mulling the parliamentary technicalities that might be exploited to avoid a government shutdown or default. A discharge petition, for example, could theoretically advance the bill directly to a vote over the objections of the Speaker.

McCarthy would no doubt be grateful. 

It had been before the Civil War that an election for Speaker took longer than it did for the 118th Congress. Should he face an attempted ouster (likely), McCarthy will make history again as the first to face a privileged motion to vacate the chair in a century.

Recognizing his predicament, some Democrats are already speaking openly of the next debt ceiling fight as an opportunity. With Biden already saying he “refuses to negotiate” and that the debt ceiling must be raised “without strings,'' Democrats seem to be banking on a repeat of the experiences of both Clinton and Obama, who benefited politically from their respective standoffs and shutdowns.

A long shot, but not unimaginable scenario given the narrow margins in the current House, is Hakeem Jeffries winding up Speaker before the year is out. There are still a number of Tuesday Group Republicans in the House, and in the event of a stalemate some of them in purple districts might be tempted to jump ship in order to save themselves.

Such political consequences are impossible to predict with any certainty, and so only time will tell. However, for their part those committed House Republicans should stick to their guns: government spending needs cutting and the debt needs reducing.

As a parting observation, the revolution continues to eat its children: Just as Gingrich came to be viewed as too willing to compromise by his own protégés, such as John Boehner, Boehner in turn was forced out by his own more hard-edged newer colleagues, like Jim Jordan – who, surprisingly, threw his critical support behind McCarthy in his final bid.

In an alternate universe, Jim Jordan headed the conservative opposition to McCarthy in his bid for Speaker, and the California Republican never got to move his things back into the Speaker’s office he had presumptively occupied.

As things stand, the Kevin McCarthy of this universe shouldn’t make himself too comfortable.

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Powell Answering Questions No One Asked

01/11/2023Robert Aro

The average price of eggs increased by 49%, butter/margarine by 34% year-over-year, CNBC reported as of November. Yet, with his first speech of the year, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell addressed the issue of the Fed’s independence. Yes, the conference was on Central Bank independence. But how many Americans have any concern, or the slightest care for this?

At a conference in Sweden, Powell made his case using an appeal to democracy:

With independence comes the responsibility to provide the transparency that enables effective oversight by Congress, which, in turn, supports the Fed's democratic legitimacy. 

Strange that one of the country's most opaque (and possibly most unconstitutional) organizations speaks about both transparency and democratic legitimacy; but once the propagandists commit to Orwellian leaps of the absurd, they must never deviate from the narrative.

Normally, talk about Fed independence centers around being independent from Congress. It was Congress who was tasked by the constitution to handle monetary affairs of the country; it was also Congress who essentially outsourced the task to the Fed. However, Powell somewhat deviated from script when speaking about Fed independence in relation to the banking system.

In the area of bank regulation, too, the Fed has a degree of independence, as do the other federal bank regulators. Independence in this area helps ensure that the public can be confident that our supervisory decisions are not influenced by political considerations.

It’s an odd relationship. I frequently express how peculiar it is that the Fed is tasked with regulating the banking system while simultaneously paying an annual dividend to the very banks it regulates. In addition to the payout of very (normally) large profits, the Fed acts as the “lender of last resort,” creating money to buy bonds when it chooses, bails out wall street, pays interest on bank reserves held at the Fed, conducts repo/reverse repo operations, carrying out all sorts of tactics to keep the banking sector afloat.

No other industry is supported like the banking industry. The existence of the Fed allows banks to take on tremendous amounts of risk, knowing the Fed will protect the downside. In other words: privatize profits and socialize losses; one of the many reasons those who long for a free and fair society are against the Fed.

And so, in addition to lack of transparency, the Fed has an independence problem, whether from Congress or the banking sector. If there was something to agree with him yesterday, it would be that the Fed should not use its monetary powers to tackle climate change. Unfortunately, his stance on not being a “climate policymaker” is not without caveats. Powell tells us:

Decisions about policies to directly address climate change should be made by the elected branches of government and thus reflect the public's will as expressed through elections.

… if it wasn’t clear:

But without explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals.

Was he giving a wink to Congress?

The moment Congress gives the Fed explicit direction to fight climate change is the moment it becomes appropriate to use the Fed’s monetary firepower to fight the war on climate change. As the democratic process affords, this would be okay if the public, via the electoral process, expressed enough interest on the topic.

It all invokes an interesting conclusion which illustrates the myth of Fed independence. It’s Congress (backed by wealthy individuals) who allows the Fed to exist. The Fed can only serve as a tool to protect special interests (i.e. the same wealthy individuals); and the Fed would never end itself anymore than Congress would. It’s a messy affair! But the Fed, Congress and the current banking system are inextricably linked, and by their very nature go against the public’s interest.

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Economists Should Help Limit at Least One Major American Political Party

01/10/2023James Anthony

Great economists have worked on the economy’s key initial and boundary conditions—those in politics and governments. Now, maximum leverage will come from improving on the current party system.

Economics Is the Study of Humans’ Actions to Add Value

Economists study human action that’s intended to add value. Economists make use of philosophy, theory, and observations. Everything flows from the axiom that humans act intentionally.

Economists consider complex, real-world action. Because good economics is anchored in sound theory, it provides understanding that’s empirically valid. This is what the proper study of real-world action should be expected to do, since after all the most-complete model of the real world is the real world itself.

Politics Sets the Key Initial and Boundary Conditions

Politics is human action related to governments. On the human action that adds value, which is the subject of economics, politics is what sets the key initial and boundary conditions.

Initial and boundary conditions critically influence the actions throughout systems across time.

Initial and boundary conditions influence model systems, but equally influence real systems. In both cases, initial and boundary conditions limit the extreme values that any parts of the system reach, and constrain the time that this takes.

In economic systems, initial and boundary conditions limit how much value can be added by human action.

Voter Education Isn’t a Prerequisite for Change

It may seem that before we will get less-economically-harmful actions from governments, we will need voters to achieve numeracy and economic literacy. Or that before we will get constitutional limited governments, we will need voters to understand how the Constitution is designed to work. But in both cases the key limit is not education but organization.

Generations of voters were taught to favor the policies of Prohibition and of Progressivism before these policies began to be adopted. This was helped along by government schools. Government actions produce results that are bad, so proponents need voters to be indoctrinated.

But voters need little education to support economically-sound low taxes and constitutional limited governments. In the American Colonies, under astoundingly-limited governments, voters experienced growth substantial enough to propel them from subsistence-level to having per-capita purchasing power that exceeded that of Great Britain’s people by 68%. These voters eagerly supported keeping total taxes as a fraction of GDP no higher than 1% to 2%, and these voters watchfully supported the Constitution’s government-limiting processes. Government-limiting actions produce results that are good, so proponents only need to utilize effective government-limiting processes.

Maximum Leverage Is Provided by a Good Major Party

Today, the missing government-limiting process is the design and operation of at least one major party that’s good.

So far, no parties have been good. All parties to date have used centralized, top-down control and unenumerated, unrestrained power to select and elect candidates. All parties to date have lacked processes to disqualify bad incumbents.

The processes that all parties to date have used have ended up selecting for candidates who won’t use the Constitution’s decentralized, bottom-up control and offsetting powers to limit government.

A good party, by design, and in operation, will use Constitution-derived decentralized, bottom-up control and offsetting powers to limit the party government. A good party will have processes to disqualify bad incumbents.

Given this design and operation, a good party will select for candidates who will in turn use the Constitution’s decentralized, bottom-up control and offsetting powers to limit governments.

Past Great Economists Have Taken on Politics

To appreciate the relationship between economics and politics, it’s not necessary to visualize the economy as being capable of being mathematically modeled, it’s only necessary to pay attention to the big picture. Economics includes bedrock content—money, banking, finance—that, in historical experience, has resulted from the combined action of government people and their business cronies.

Naturally, then, politics has been considered in detail by great economists. For example:

These men, and others in their intellectual tradition, would have a field day with today’s decentralized media, today’s Tea Party and more-libertarian elected minorities in politics, and today’s opportunities to spontaneously network, experiment, and innovate.

Present Economists Should Help Limit At Least One Major Party

Many who present as economists conform their understanding to the desires of politicians. They are deep in the game, changing the outcomes. If good economists stand on the sidelines, that inaction might be all that’s needed to allow evil to triumph.

Economics isn’t a spectator sport, economics is purpose-driven action. The key value-adding actions are those of customers and producers. The key value-subtracting actions are those of politicians and cronies. And politics is controlled by parties, the tails that wag the dog.

To limit governments, then, limit at least one major party. To limit a party, focus first and foremost on processes that limit the party government. Build at least one good party to last.

Voters keep trying to break up the activist-crony, business-crony Progressive monopoly over government that has been grabbed by the major parties. All voters need is the right decentralized, self-limited party organization.

Economists are well-prepared to understand this and to be integral to the action that’s needed. Liberty is calling!

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