Tag Archives: federal reserve

The People Who Do Everything Right Are the Ones That Really Get Screwed by the Federal Reserve – Bob Wenzel

From EPJ:

LaTi has a story out today about homeowners stuck in Las Vegas because of the collapse of the housing market:

Charles Mills can barely afford to stay here. But he also can’t afford to move.

That’s why the 44-year-old heavy-equipment operator was preparing to leave his wife and young daughter here and go where he could find work — the Oklahoma oil fields. Mills has a mortgage to pay, even if its size pains him.

He purchased his house in 2006 for $308,500. Current value: $105,797.

“We talked about it: What can we do with the house?” Mills said. “Nobody’s going to buy it. Nobody’s going to rent it. If we walk away, my credit’s shot. We’re stuck.”
In some parts of North Las Vegas, more than 80% of homeowners have plunged “underwater,” meaning they owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth — a stunning concentration of aborted plans and upended lives.

I have an ex-girlfriend in the same position. Last I talked to her, I think she was underwater on a house to the tune of $150,000. (Hey, don’t blame me. I warned her.) She won’t walk away from the property because just like the Las Vegas homeowners, she doesn’t want her credit ruined.

These are the people that do everything right. They don’t lie, cheat or steal. They aren’t Austrian economists, so they don’t understand the business cycle. When house prices were going up, the conservative thing, in their eyes, was to buy a house, since houses “always go up in value.” They didn’t understand it was a Federal Reserve manipulated scam.

Continue reading…

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Monetary Policy, the Federal Reserve, and the National Debt Problem – by Richard M. Ebeling

From Richard Ebeling:

(The following testimony was delivered before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, chaired by Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas), on “Monetary Policy and the Debt Ceiling: Examining the Relationship between the Federal Reserve and Government Debt,” in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2011)

“I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared . . . To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with public debt . . . we must make our choice between economy and liberty or confusion and servitude . . . If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and comforts, in our labor and in our amusements . . . If we can prevent the government from wasting the labor of the people, under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.”

Thomas Jefferson

Government Debt and Deficits

The current economic crisis through which the United States is passing has given a heightened awareness to the country’s national debt. After a declining trend in the 1990s, the national debt has dramatically increased from $5.7 trillion in January 2001 to $10.7 trillion at the end of 2008, to over $14.3 trillion through April of 2011. The debt has reached 98 percent of 2010 U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

The approximately $3.6 trillion that has been added to the national debt since the end of 2008 is more than double the market value of all private sector manufacturing in 2009 ($1.56 trillion), more than three times the market value of spending on professional, scientific, and technical services in 2009 ($1.07 trillion), and nearly five times the amount spent on non-durable goods in 2009 ($722 billion). Just the interest paid on the government’s debt over the first six months of the current fiscal (October 2010-April 2011), nearly $245 billion, is equal to more than 40 percent of the total market value of all private sector construction spending in 2009 ($578 billion)[1]

This highlights the social cost of deficit spending, and the resulting addition to the national debt. Every dollar borrowed by the United States government, and the real resources that dollar represents in the market place, is a dollar of real resources not available for use in private sector investment, capital formation, consumer spending, and therefore increases and improvements in the quality and standard of living of the American people.

In this sense, the government’s deficit spending that cumulatively has been increasing the national debt has made the United States that much poorer than it otherwise could have and would have been, if the dollar value of these real resources had not been siphoned off and out of use in the productive private sectors of the American economy.

What has made this less visible and less obvious to the American citizenry is precisely because it has been financed through government borrowing rather than government taxation. Deficit spending easily creates the illusion that something can be had for nothing. The government borrows “today” and can provide “benefits” to various groups in the society in the present with the appearance of no immediate “cost” or “burden” upon the citizenry.

Yet, whether acquired by taxing or borrowing, the resulting total government expenditures represent the real resources and the private sector consumption or investment spending those resources could have financed that must be foregone. There are no “free lunches,” as it has often been pointed out, and that applies to both what government borrows as much as what it more directly taxes to cover its outlays.

What makes deficit spending an attractive “path of least resistance” in the political process is precisely the fact that it enables deferring the decision of telling voter constituents by how much taxes would otherwise have to be increased, and upon whom they would fall, in the “here and now” to generate the additional revenue to pay for the spending that is financed through borrowing.[2]

But as the recent fiscal problems in a number of member nations of the European Union have highlighted, eventually there are limits to how far a government can try to hide or defer the real costs of all that it is providing or promising through its total expenditures to various voter constituent groups. Standard & Poor’s recent decision to downgrade the U.S. government’s prospective credit rating to “negative” shows clearly that what is happening in parts of Europe can happen here.

And given current projections by the Congressional Budget Office, the deficits are projected to continue indefinitely into future years and decade, with the cumulative national debt nearly doubling from its present level.[3] In addition, whether covered by taxes or deficit financing, these debt estimates do not include the federal government’s unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare through most of the 21st century. In 2009, the Social Security and Medicare trust funds were estimated to have legal commitments under existing law for expenditures equal to at least $43 trillion over the next seventy-five years.[4] Others have projected this unfunded liability of the United States government to be much higher – possibly over $100 trillion.[5]

The Federal Reserve and the Economic Crisis

The responsibility for a good part of the current economic crisis must be put at the doorstep of America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. By some measures of the money supply, the monetary aggregates (MZM or M-2) grew by fifty percent or more between 2003 and 2007. This massive flooding of the financial markets with huge amounts of liquidity provided the funds that fed the mortgage, investment, and consumer debt bubbles in the first decade of this century. Interest rates were pushed far below any historical levels.

For a good part of those five years, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, the federal funds rate (the rate of interest at which banks lend to each other), when adjusted for inflation – the “real rate” – was either negative or well below two percent. In other words, the Federal Reserve supplied so much money to the banking sector that banks were lending money to each other for free for a good part of this time. It is no wonder that related market interest rates were also pushed way down during this period.[6]

Market interest rates are supposed to tell the truth. Like any other price on the market, interest rates are suppose to balance the decision of income earners to save a portion of their income with the desire of others to borrow that savings for various investment and other purposes. In addition, the rates of interest, through the present value factor, are meant to limit investment time horizons undertaken within the available savings to successfully bring the investments to completion and sustainability in the longer-term.

Due to the Fed’s policy, interest rates were not allowed to do their “job” in the market place. Indeed, Fed policy made interest rates tell “lies.” The Federal Reserve’s “easy money” policy made it appear, in terms of the cost of borrowing, that there was more than enough real resources in the economy for spending and borrowing to meet everyone’s consumer, investment and government deficit needs far in excess of the economy’s actual productive capacity.[7]

The housing bubble was indicative of this. To attract people to take out loans, banks not only lowered interest rates (and therefore the cost of borrowing), they also lowered their standards for credit worthiness. To get the money, somehow, out the door, financial institutions found “creative” ways to bundle together mortgage loans into tradable packages that they could then pass on to other investors. It seemed to minimize the risk from issuing all those sub-prime home loans, which we now see were really the housing market’s version of high-risk junk bonds. The fears were soothed by the fact that housing prices kept climbing as home buyers pushed them higher and higher with all of that newly created Federal Reserve money.

At the same time, government-created home-insurance agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were guaranteeing a growing number of these wobbly mortgages, with the assurance that the “full faith and credit” of Uncle Same stood behind them. By the time the Federal government formally had to take over complete control of Fannie and Freddie in 2008, they were holding the guarantees for half of the $10 trillion American housing market.[8]

Low interest rates and reduced credit standards were also feeding a huge consumer-spending boom that resulted in a 25 percent increase in consumer debt between 2003 and 2008, from $2 trillion to over $2.5 trillion. With interest rates so low, there was little incentive to save for tomorrow and big incentives to borrow and consume today. But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, during this five-year period average real income only increased by at the most 2 percent. Peoples’ debt burdens, therefore, rose dramatically.[9]

The easy money and government-guaranteed house of cards all started to come tumbling down in the second half of 2008. The Federal Reserve’s response was to open wide the monetary spigots even more than before the bubbles burst.

The Federal Reserve has dramatically increased its balance sheet by expanding its holding of U.S. government securities and private-sector mortgage-back securities to the tune of around $2.3 trillion. Traditional Open Market Operations plus its aggressive “quantitative easing” policy have increased bank reserves from $94.1 billion in 2007 to $1.3 trillion by April 2011, for a near fourteen-fold increase, and the monetary basis in general has expanded from $850.5 billion in 2007 to $2,242.9 trillion in April of 2011, for a 260 percent increase. The monetary aggregates, MZM and M-2, respectively, have grown by 28 percent and 21.6 percent over this same period.[10]

In the name of supposedly preventing a possible price deflation in the aftermath of the economic boom, Fed policy has delayed and retarded the economy from effectively readjusting and re-coordinating the sectoral imbalances and distortions that had been generated during the bubble years.[11] Once again interest rates have been kept artificially low. In real terms, the federal funds rate and the 1-year Treasury yield have been in the negative range since the last quarter of 2009, and at the current time is estimated to be below minus two percent.

This has prevented interest rates from informing market transactors what the real savings conditions are in the economy. So, once again, the availability of savings and the real cost of borrowing is difficult to discern so as to make reasonable and rational investment decisions, and not to foster a new wave of misdirected and unsustainable private sector investment and financial decisions.

The housing market has not been allowed to fully adjust, either. With so much of the mortgage-backed securities being held off the market in the portfolio of the Federal Reserve, there is little way to determine any real market-based pricing to determine their worth or their total availability so the housing market can finally bottom out with clearer information of supply and demand conditions for a sustainable recovery.

This misguided Fed policy has been, in my view, a primary factor behind the slow and sluggish recovery of the United States economy out of the current recession.

Federal Reserve Policy and Monetizing the Debt

Many times in history, governments have used their power over the monetary printing press to create the funds needed to cover their expenses in excess of taxes collected. Sometimes this has lead to social and economic catastrophes.[12]

Monetizing the debt refers to the creation of new money to finance all or a portion of the government’s borrowing. Since the early 2008 to the present, Federal Reserve holdings of U.S. Treasuries have increased by about 240 percent, from $591 billion in March 2008 to $1.4 trillion in early May 2011, or a nearly $1 trillion increase. In the face of an additional $3.6 trillion in accumulated debt during the last three fiscal years, it might seem that Fed policy has “monetized” less than one-third of government borrowing during this period.

However, the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities, no less than its purchase of U.S. Treasuries, potentially increases the amount of reserves in the banking system available for lending. And since 2008, the Federal Reserve had bought an amount of mortgaged-backed securities that it prices on its balance sheet as being equal about $928 billion.

The $1.4 trillion increase in the monetary base since the end of 2007, from $850.5 billion to $2.2 trillion, has increased MZM measurement of the money supply by $2,161.1, or an additional $769 billion dollars in the economy above the increase in the monetary base. This is an amount that is 83 percent of the dollar value of the $927 billions in mortgage-backed securities.

Due to the “money multiplier” effect – that under fractional reserves, total new bank loans are potentially a multiple of the additional reserves injected into the banking system – it is not necessary for the Fed to purchase, dollar-for-dollar, every additional dollar of government borrowing to generate a total increase in the money supply that may be equal to the government’s deficit.

Thus, it can be argued that Fed monetary policy has succeeded, in fact, in generating an increase in the amount of money in the banking system that is equal to two-thirds of the government’s $3.6 trillion of new accumulated debt.

That the money multiplier effect has not been as great as it might have been, so far, is because the Federal Reserve has been paying interest to member banks to not lend their excess reserves. This sluggishness in potential lending has also been affected by the general “regime uncertainty” that continues to pervade the economy. This uncertainty concerns the future direction of government monetary and fiscal policy. In an economic climate in which it difficult to anticipate the future tax structure, the likely magnitude of future government borrowing, and the impact of new government programs, hesitancy exists on the part of both borrowers and lenders to take on new commitments.

But the monetary expansion has most certainly has been the factor behind the worsening problem of rising prices in the U.S. economy and the significant fall in the value of the dollar on the foreign exchange markets.

The National Debt and Monetary Policy

It is hard for Americans to think of their own country experiencing the same type of fiscal crisis that has periodically occurred in “third world” countries. That type of government financial mismanagement is supposed to only happen in what used to be called “banana republics.”

But the fact is, the U.S. is following a course of fiscal irresponsibility that may lead to highly undesirable consequences. The bottom line truth is that over the decades the government – under both Republican and Democratic leadership – has promised the American people, through a wide range of redistributive and transfer programs and other on-going budgetary commitments, more than the U.S. economy can successfully deliver without seriously damaging the country’s capacity to produce and grow through the rest of this century.

To try to continue to borrow our way out of this dilemma would be just more of the same on the road to ruin. The real resources to pay for all the governmental largess that has been promised would have to come out of either significantly higher taxes or crowding out more and more private sector access to investment funds to cover continuing budget deficits. Whether from domestic or foreign lenders, the cost of borrowing will eventually and inescapably rise. There is only so much savings in the world to fund private investment and government borrowing, particularly in a world in which developing countries are intensely trying to catch up with the industrialized nations.

Interest rates on government borrowing will rise, both because of the scarcity of the savings to go around and lenders’ concerns about America’s ability to tax enough in the future to pay back what has been borrowed. Default risk premiums need not only apply to countries like Greece.

Reliance on the Federal Reserve to “print our way” out of the dilemma through more monetary expansion is not and cannot be an answer, either. Printing paper money or creating it on computer screens at the Federal Reserve does not produce real resources. It does not increase the supply of labor or capital – the machines, tools, and equipment – out of which desired goods and services can be manufactured and provided. That only comes from work, savings and investment. Not from more green pieces of paper with presidents’ faces on them.

However, what inflation can do is:

  • · Accelerate the devaluation of the dollar on the foreign exchange markets, and thereby disrupting trading patterns and investment flows between the U.S. and the rest of the world;
  • · Reduce the value, or purchasing power, of every dollar in people’s pockets throughout the economy as prices start to rise higher and higher;
  • · Undermine the effectiveness of the price system to assist people as consumers and producers in making rational market decisions, due to the uneven manner in which inflation impacts of some prices first and effects others only later;
  • · Potentially slow down capital formation or even generate capital consumption, as inflation’s uneven effects on prices makes it difficult to calculate profit from loss;
  • · Distort interest rates in financial markets, creating an imbalance between savings and investment that sets in motion the boom and bust of the business cycle;
  • · Create incentives for people to waste their time and resources trying to find ways to hedge against inflation, rather than devote their efforts in more productive ways that improve standards of living over time;
  • · Bring about social tensions as people look for scapegoats to blame for the disruptive and damaging effects of inflation, rather than see its source in Federal Reserve monetary policy;
  • · Run the risk of political pressures to introduce distorting price and wage controls or foreign exchange regulations to fight the symptom of rising prices, rather than the source of the problem – monetary expansion.

What is To Be Done?

The bottom line is, government is too big. It spends too much, taxes too heavily, and borrows too much. For a long time, the country has been trending more and more in the direction of increasing political paternalism. Some people argue, when it is proposed to reduce the size and scope of government in our society, that this is breaking some supposed “social contract” between government and “the people.”

The only workable “social contract” for a free society is the one outlined by the American Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and formalized in the Constitution of the United States. This is a social contract that recognizes that all men are created equal, with governmental privileges and favors for none, and which expects government to respect and secure each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property.

The reform agenda for deficit and debt reduction, therefore, must start from that premise and have as its target a radical “downsizing” of government. That policy should plan to reduce government spending across the board in every line item of the federal budget by 10 to 15 percent each year until government has been reduced in size and scope to a level and a degree that resembles, once again, the Founding Father’s conception of a free and limited government.[13]

A first step in this fiscal reform is to not increase the national debt limit. The government should begin, now, living within its means – that is, the taxes currently collected by the Treasury. In spite of some of the rhetoric in the media, the U.S. need not run the risk of defaulting or losing its international financial credit rating. Any and all interest payments or maturing debt can be paid for out of tax receipts. What will have to be reduced are other expenditures of the government.

But the required reductions and cuts in various existing programs should be considered as the necessary “wake-up call” for everyone in America that we have been living far beyond our means. And as we begin living within those means, priorities will have to be made and trade-offs will have to be accepted as part of the transition to a smaller and more constitutionally limited government.

In addition, the power of monetary discretion must be taken out of the hands of the Federal Reserve. The fact is, central banking is a form of monetary central planning under which it is left in the hands of the members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to “plan” the quantity of money in the economy, influence the value or purchasing power of the monetary unit, and manipulate interest rates in the loan markets.

The monetary central planners who run the Federal Reserve have no more or greater knowledge, wisdom or ability that those central planners in the old Soviet Union. The periodic recurrence of the boom and bust of the business cycle demonstrates that there is no way for them to get it right – in spite of them saying, again and again, that “next time” they will get it right.

It is what the Nobel Prize-winning, Austrian economist, Friedrich A. Hayek, once called a highly misplaced “pretense of knowledge.” That is why in a wide agenda for reform, the goal should be to move towards a market-based monetary system, the first step in such an institutional change being a commodity-backed monetary order such as a gold standard.[14]

And in the longer-run serious consideration must be given the possibilities of a monetary system completely privatized and competitive, without government control, management, or supervision.[15]

The budgetary and fiscal crisis right now has made many political issues far clearer in people’s minds. The debt dilemma is a challenge and an opportunity to set America on a freer and potentially more prosperous track, if the reality of the situation is looked at foursquare in the eye.

Otherwise, dangerous, destabilizing, and damaging monetary and fiscal times may be ahead.

End Notes


[1] The 2011 Statistical Abstract: The National Data Book (Washington, D.C., U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), Table 669.

http://www.census.gov.compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s0669.pdf.

[2] Richard M. Ebeling, Why Government Grow: The Modern Democratic Dilemma,” AIER Research Reports, Vol. LXXV, No. 14 (Great Barrington, MA: American Institute for Economic Research, August 4-18, 2008); James M. Buchanan and Richard E. Wagner, Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes (New York: Academic Press, 1977); and earlier, Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Essays and Lectures on Social and Political Subjects (Honolulu, Hawaii: University Press of the Pacific, [1872] 2004), Ch. 6: “National Debts and National Prosperity,” pp. 125-153.

[3] The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2011 to 2021 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Budget Office, January 27, 2011)

[4] Richard M. Ebeling, “Brother, Can You Spare $43 Trillion? America’s Unfunded Liabilities,” AIER Research Reports, Vol. LXXVI, No. 3 (Great Barrington, MA: American Institute for Economic Research, March 2, 2009), pp. 1-3.

[5] Michael D. Tanner, “The Coming Entitlement Tsunami.” April 6, 2010. http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=11666 (accessed May 5, 2011).

[6] For more details, see, Richard M. Ebeling, “The Financial Bubble was Created by Central Bank Policy,” American Institute for Economic Research, November 5, 2008, http://www.aier.org/research/briefs/667-the-financial-bubble-was-created-by-central-bank-policy (accessed on May 5, 2011).

[7] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “Market Interest Rates Need to Tell the Truth, or Why Federal Reserve Policy Tells Lies,” in Richard M. Ebeling, Timothy G. Nash, and Keith A. Pretty, eds., In Defense of Capitalism (Midland, MI: Northwood University Press, 2010) pp. 57-60; http://defenseofcapitalism.blogspot.com/2009/12/market-interest-rates-need-to-tell.html

[8] Thomas Sowell, The Housing Boom and Bust (New York: Basic Books, 2010); Johan Norberg, Financial Fiasco (Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2009).

[9] Richard M. Ebeling, “Is Consumer Credit the Next Bomb in the Economic Crisis?” American Institute for Economic Research, October 22, 2008, http://www.aier.org/research/briefs/599-consumer-credit-the-next-qbombq-in-the-economic-crisis (accessed May 5, 2011).

[10] Monetary Trends (St. Louis, MO: St. Louis Federal Reserve, May 2011)

[11] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “The Hubris of Central Bankers and the Ghosts of Deflation Past” July 5, 2010, http://defenseofcapitalism.blogspot.com/2010/07/hubris-of-central-bankers-and-ghosts-of.html (accessed May 5, 2011)

[12] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “The Lasting Legacies of World War I: Big Government, Paper Money, and Inflation,” Economic Education Bulletin, Vol. XLVIII, No. 11 (Great Barrington, MA: American Institute for Economic Research, November 2008), for a detailed example of the German and Austrian instances of monetary-financed inflationary destruction following the First World War.

[13] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “The Cost of the Federal Government in a Freer America,” The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty (March 2007), pp. 2-3; http://www.thefreemanonline.org/from-the-president/the-cost-of-the-federal-government-in-a-freer-america/ (accessed May 5, 2011).

[14] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “The Gold Standard and Monetary Freedom,” March 30, 2011, http://defenseofcapitalism.blogspot.com/2011/03/gold-standard-and-monetary-freedom-by.html

[15] See, Richard M. Ebeling, “Real Banking Reform? End the Federal Reserve,” January 22, 2010, http://defenseofcapitalism.blogspot.com/2010/01/real-banking-reform-end-federal-reserve.html

Voting is Evil – Christine Smith

From the web:

 

Gold as the Silent Witness

Dan Norcini writes:

I wanted to post some brief comments to let some of the newer readers understand why many of us believe that there is a war being waged upon gold by the Central Banks of the West.

Let me start this off by quoting from none other than former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan more than 40 years ago:

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. … This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard

What the former Fed Chairman was then saying was that absent a gold standard or some device for restraining the unlimited creation of fiat money, there was nothing to impede monetary officials from engaging in such activity to the extent that it would ultimately set in motion a process of inflation, which is really just another name for the erosion of the purchasing power of a nation’s currency by debasing it. Inflation was and is in essence, the transfer of wealth from one class to another.

Today we have the Fed engaging in the very process that Greenspan warned against back then. We also have the BOJ and the ECB effectively doing the same thing to an extent.

Unlike Silver, Gold is the main metal that most analysts and commentators look to when attempting to decipher whether or not inflation is a serious problem. That means the reference point of gold has become a target for Central Banks which want the world to believe that they can create unlimited amounts of funny money with absolutely ZERO impact on inflation levels. In other words, that they can conjure up wealth and produce prosperity with the electronic equivalent of a printing press and produce no serious inflationary impact by so doing.

A rising gold debunks their hubristic assertions to the contrary for it stands as a silent witness testifying against them. This is the reason the yellow metal is despised by so many Central Banks. It mocks their policies and displays their folly for all the world to see. Central Bankers, being the demigods that they are, will tolerate no rivals to their claims of economic omniscience. You see they have actually come to believe that it is their own wisdom and foresight which enables them to see through the fog that hinders and impedes our economic progress and that they are in a unique position to provide the rest of us with lasting prosperity. They attempt to do this by basically providing or withdrawing liquidity as they in their wisdom judge best and by the setting or manipulation of interest rates.

Those of us who believe that it is free market capitalism and the industry and efforts of mankind that produce wealth and prosperity would beg to differ but that is another story altogether. I would add that it is my opinion that the world would be better off without this plague of locusts that actually devour a nation’s wealth but the fact is that they are here.

While they are here gold will attempt to move in such a manner that it either blesses or curses their policies. Now we all would love to have our policies approved by the vote of the market but what about those times in which the market frowns on our course of action and refuses to smile upon it? Why this is but a simple matter – attack the messenger! If one can somehow manage to keep the price of gold under wrap so that it does not move sharply higher then one can attempt to make the claim that inflation is not a serious problem. The comments usually go something like this:

“Well Jerry, we are looking at the gold price and from what we can see, that while it is definitely higher, it is not soaring out of control. The market may be pricing in some gradual inflation but the action in the gold price is telling us that any fears of inflation getting out of control are definitely unwarranted. Besides, we all agree that some inflation is a good thing because the alternative is deflation and no one wants to see that”.

Imagine Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress saying that the current rise in prices of many goods is only “temporary” and “relatively modest” if the gold price were soaring beyond $1650 and higher! Do you think anyone would take anything that the Chairman said seriously? Copper can soar higher and most will not notice it. Even if it does, it is generally explained as a positive because we are told it is a sign of strong economic growth ahead. Crude oil and energy prices can rocket higher and that can be attributed to geopolitical unrest among oil producing nations. Food can rise sharply and everyone notices that but such things are often explained away by citing weather conditions, supply constraints, etc. but a rising gold price? How does one explain that away?

The only reason that gold has a sustained price rise is because of a lack of confidence in the monetary system. It does not rise sharply because of such things as jewelry demand or industrial demand – it rises when fear, distrust, doubt, suspicion and uncertainty over Central Bank policy reigns. It rises when REAL interest rates are negative and investors understand the insidious process of currency debauchment practiced by these monetary authorities is underway. It thus cries aloud and issues a warning to those who can hear it and what it shouts displeases many Central Bankers because they are among those who while they despise its message, are all too keenly able to hear that message.

Thus the messenger, the prophet, the oracle, must be silenced or at the very least, his message blunted, toned down, marginalized, trivialized by whatever means possible. The mechanism employed to do just this is a subject for another time and place. Suffice it to say for now, without the efforts by the monetary officials of the West to discredit gold, it would be trading considerably higher. Even at that however, the ancient metal of kings refuses to go quietly and docilely into the night. It will yet have the final say.

Utah House stamps gold, silver as legal tender

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

By Lee Davidson

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Mar 04 2011 12:14PM
Updated Mar 5, 2011 12:04AM

It may not fold as conveniently as dollar bills, but the Utah House took a first step Friday to recognize gold and silver as legal tender.

It voted 47-26 to pass HB317 by Rep. Brad Galvez, R-West Haven, and sent it to the Senate. The measure would recognize as legal tender gold and silver coins issued by the federal government — not just their face value, but also their value in gold and silver or to a collector.

It also would order the state to study whether Utah should establish an alternative form of legal tender, such as one backed by silver and gold.

“This is a step in preparedness, a step in security,” Galvez said, “that allows us to be able to help hold up our economy as the dollar continues to shrink.”

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said, for example, that a 1960s John F. Kennedy half-dollar coin — 90 percent silver — would have bought three gallons of gasoline with its face value in the mid-60s. But the value of the silver in it today would buy about five gallons of gas, while the face value of the coin would buy only a fraction of a gallon.

Ivory said the bill is “a way for us to preserve for the citizens of Utah … the purchasing power of the money they hold.”

The bill would not require anyone to accept gold and silver coins as legal tender. It also would exempt the sale of such U.S. coins from state sales taxes and from capital-gains taxes.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, a certified public accountant, opposed the bill, saying it could create tax loopholes. He said people seeking to escape capital-gains taxes on other assets — such as gold bullion — might be able to do so by selling it for coins under the bill.

Utah Considers Return to Gold, Silver Coins

From FoxNews:

By Stephen Clark

Published March 03, 2011 | FoxNews.com

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It’s been nearly 80 years since the U.S. stopped using gold coins as legal currency, and nearly 40 since the world abandoned the gold standard, but the precious metal could be making a comeback in the United States — beginning in Utah.

The Utah House was to vote as early as Thursday on legislation that would recognize gold and silver coins issued by the federal government as legal currency in the state. The coins would not replace the current paper currency but would be used and accepted voluntarily as an alternative.

The legislation, which has 12 co-sponsors, would let Utahans pay their taxes with gold and also calls for a committee to study alternative currencies for the state. It would also exempt the sale of gold from the state capital gains tax.

The bill cleared a state legislative committee on Wednesday, the first of 13 similar bills in statehouses across the country to do so. If the bill clears the House, it would have to pass the Senate before the governor could sign it into law.

Attorney and Tea Party activist Larry Hilton, author of the original bill, said he doesn’t foresee any roadblocks.

“There’s enough uneasiness going on in the economy to trigger people to feel that, hey, having a little Plan B, kind of a backup system, is not a bad idea,” he told FoxNews.com.

The U.S. used some version of the gold standard from 1873 until 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlawed the private ownership of gold amid the Great Depression. An international monetary system based on a gold-exchange standard continued until 1971 when President Richard Nixon stopped the U.S. from redeeming dollars for gold altogether.

Critics of the gold standard say it limits countries’ control over its monetary policy and leaves them vulnerable to financial shocks, such as the Great Depression. But supporters argue that the current financial system’s dependence on the Federal Reserve exposes the value of U.S. money to the threat of inflation.

Rep. Ron Paul, a longtime critic of the Federal Reserve who has called on a return to the gold standard, has praised Hilton’s efforts.

“Efforts such as yours in states around the country highlight the importantance of returning to sound money,” Paul wrote in a letter to Hilton. “Even if such efforts fail to achieve legislative success on their first try, their importance lies in bringing to the public’s attention the problem of the ever-weakening dollar and the necessity of returning to a sound monetary system.”

Hilton said the bill before the House doesn’t go as far as his original draft, which was more sweeping, including recognizing more than just U.S. minted coins and more details on specific tax treatment. But he said he’s willing to take it step-by step.

He also said he’s not pushing to restore the gold standard in the U.S.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this week dismissed the notion of the gold standard returning to the U.S.

“It did deliver price stability over long periods of time, but over shorter periods of time it caused wide swings in prices related to changes in demand or supply of gold,” he told the Senate Banking Committee. “So I don’t think it’s a panacea.”

Bernanke also said that gold couldn’t return as the world standard because there’s not enough gold in the world to effectively support the U.S. money supply.

Hilton said he’s taking a positive approach to the issue.

“This is not an anti-dollar issue at all,” he said. “We want to strengthen the dollar. We think by introducing gold and silver of our nation’s history, by injecting that into the debate is very healthy for our policymakers.”

Jeff Bell, a policy director for the Washington-based American Principles in Action (APPIA), which helped shape the Utah bill, told FoxNews.com that passage of the bill would send a message to Washington and other states.

“People sense that in the era of quantitative easing and zero interest rates, something has gone haywire with our monetary policy. But people are afraid to say it,” said Bell, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns. “If one state recognizes gold as a valid currency, I think it would embolden people not just in other states but in Washington.”

Bell credited Tea Party activists for advancing the legislation this far. Rep. Brad Galvez, who introduced the legislation, is a freshman legislator backed by the Tea Party.

“Saying we now recognize gold as money is a big step forward,” he said.

Twelve other states have offered similar proposals: Georgia, Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, Vermont and Oklahoma.

What Charlie Sheen and the US Economy have in common

They are both self-destructing as they deal with addiction and excessive partying according to Peter Schiff:

SILVER OUTWEIGHS GOLD

by Peter Schiff

Peter Schiff

In the world of precious metals, silver spends a lot of time in the shadow of its big brother gold.

 

Gold, with its high price-to-weight and distinctive yellow tint, has always occupied a special place in the human psyche. To many people across many ages, gold is simply the ultimate form of money – and, as a long-term, stable store of value for one’s personal wealth, I agree it’s hard to beat.

However, rare circumstances are aligning today that I believe will make silver the true champion of this bull run.

WHAT’S DRIVING PRECIOUS METALS?

Gold and silver are both benefitting from a perfect storm in the sector.

Dollar devaluation means that much of the ‘gains’ we see are really just losses by people holding dollars. In other words, if your dollars lose 50% of their value, it’s going to take twice as many of them to buy the same ounce of gold.

But the rally is based on more than simple inflation. Precious metals are regaining their role as the ultimate reserve asset. That means many, many more people are buying and holding these metals than at any time in the last thirty years.

Another factor is the rise of emerging markets and decline of developed markets. As billions of poor Asians, Africans, and South Americans lift themselves out of poverty by embracing the free market, the US is plunging itself into poverty by rejecting it. This means there are a mind-boggling number of new customers for jewelry, savings, and industrial products that require precious metals – and that we are becoming less and less able to outbid them for these resources with our dollars.

SILVER’S DRIVING FASTER

If the world were going to hell in a hand-basket, then I would expect gold to outperform silver. However, it is only the developed economies that are on the rocks – and only the US that faces true catastrophe. Thus, we have seen silver outperform gold for the last eight years.

The market is telling us that while uncertainty reigns supreme, the global economy will prosper in the years ahead. While gold most effectively insures the investor against economic devastation, silver offers both a shield against monetary turmoil and exposure to market growth.

THE KEY: INDUSTRIAL DEMAND

This is because silver is both a precious metal and an industrial metal. Gold is mostly precious, copper is mostly industrial, but silver strikes a fine balance between the two. And it seems as if this moment in history is perfectly suited to this balance. We are facing not only the prospect of the collapse of the international monetary order, but also the largest industrialization process the world has ever seen.

While in a past era, wood, steel, or oil would have been the most critical commodity, today silver is used in everything we hold dear: iPhones, flat-screen TVs, batteries, solar panels, etc. Asia – the new heart of the global economy – is accumulating gold, but they’re consuming silver. That makes both metals good bets, but likely gives silver the edge.

It’s safe to say the future depends on a steady supply of silver. This burgeoning demand is reflected in the latest figures: global demand for silver is about 890 million ounces a year, while global mine production is about 720 million ounces a year. We’re actually consuming scrap to make up the difference. And unlike gold, which tends to remain in a recoverable state as coins or jewelry, a large quantity of silver is ending up in trash dumps – where it is essentially lost forever.

As long as the emerging markets continue to trend toward freer markets, and consumers the world over continue to demand computers, electronics, and green tech, silver should only become more scarce – and thus more valuable. I think these assumptions are pretty safe to make.

CAN THE WORLD THRIVE EX-US?

Of course, if everyone agreed with me, silver would already be worth hundreds of dollars an ounce and there wouldn’t be any profit to be made on the trade. Fortunately, there are a couple of bogeymen in the financial media scaring the majority of investors away from silver so far.

First, some analysts still believe – bless their hearts – that the US is really going to pull through this time into a sustainable recovery. After being duped by dot-coms and then housing, they are all aboard the Treasury Express back to Bubbletown. Unfortunately, as in the previous two cases, the current low interest rate environment is merely masking an underlying economy that is vastly more rotten than it was even a decade ago. The unemployment rate is a key signal that this time, Bernanke’s magic medicine won’t work.

A second cohort sees that the US is doomed, but still thinks we will drag the rest of the world down with us. This is the school that holds that despite our persistent current account deficits and monumental external debt, the world economy “needs” the US consumer to drive growth. As I alluded to in my book, How An Economy Grows And Why It Crashes, this is like a plantation master claiming his slaves need him around to consume the fruits of their labor, or else they wouldn’t have anything to do. Well, the results are in: after an initial panic rush into dollar-based assets, emerging markets are back at full sprint while the US is still limping along.

SILVER IN A DOLLAR COLLAPSE

Just like a Hollywood celebrity, we in the US spent our time at the top of the world – and soon let our status get to our heads. And like a celebrity, our adoring fans the world over will be quick to forget us as we fall from the limelight and deal with our powerful addiction to partying and cheap money. To survive the next decade in America, you are going to want an asset that is in demand globally, but is also free from counterparty risk here at home.

I recently did an interview with a group that is making a film about living in America in the year 2019. The premise is that inflation is rampant, the economy is in shambles, and groups are springing up that do all their trading in silver rounds. While I think their timeline is quite generous, this is a fairly accurate picture of what lies ahead.

Not only does silver appreciate while sitting in your safe due to overseas demand, but it also comes in units that are ideal for use as a common trade unit. Two or three ounces of silver can buy you groceries for a week. By contrast, just try to eat an ounce of gold’s worth of vegetables before they spoil. There are fractional gold coins and bars, but they carry very high markups.

None of us have had to think about these things in our lifetimes, but it is not abnormal in history. Soon, understanding precious metals will be as much a survival skill as knowing how to change a car tire.

THE GOLDEN RATIO

I always say that every investor should have at least 5-10% of his portfolio in physical precious metals. Of that, the proportion allocated to gold vs. silver depends mainly on risk tolerance. Silver tends to be more volatile than gold, so silver investors must have the discipline not to liquidate their stash at the first sign of a correction.

I generally advise a ratio of 2:1 gold-to-silver in the average portfolio. More aggressive investors can push it to 1.5:1 or beyond.

Year-to-date, silver is up 5 percentage points more than gold, and I expect that trend to continue. It’s important to understand that in this fast-changing world, silver is no longer runner-up.