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Thank Ghu It’s Freitag

‘Quantitative Easing’: The Hidden Government Subsidy for Banks

This video went up on Zero Hedge yesterday, I believe. In the first minute you will want to throw both of these little bears in a sack and drown them, but by the end they win you over. There are so many things about QE that are crazy, but there’s one thing that I’d like to point out in particular. Yes, this is a huge money-printing program with potentially disastrous inflationary consequences. And yes, the influx of all this money could easily distort markets and prices far beyond the extreme distortions we’ve already been dealing with (commodities prices shot through the roof after this latest QE round was announced). But the thing I want to focus on is the subsidy aspect of QE, pointed out in the video. QE is designed to buy Treasuries and other assets, but the Fed does not simply go out and buy Treasuries itself; it does it through its primary dealers, who include of course banks like Goldman, Sachs. The Fed all but announces when it’s going to be doing this buying and in what quantity, which allows the banks to buy up this stuff at lower prices ahead of time and then sell it to the Fed at inflated cost.

Even forgetting about the obvious insider trading aspect to all of this, the official middleman status of the banks is a direct government subsidy and it is little remarked upon, even by the Tea Party crowd, which is otherwise so opposed to “welfare.” But these sorts of subsidies exist all throughout the financial services industry.

You want to take out a mortgage or a credit card; you obviously can’t get your credit from the government at 0% interest. What you do instead is you get a mortgage from a private bank at 4.7% or 5%, and that bank in turn has borrowed from the Fed at 0%. This would almost make sense if indeed these banks were legitimately providing a service for that 5% cut, i.e. if they were carefully and judiciously weighing the credit risk of applicants. But if anything these banks have been even more irresponsible (more irresponsible by far, actually) with their money than the masses of people who are now in trouble with their credit cards, mortgages, student loans, etc. They not only don’t deserve this subsidy any more than ordinary people do, they’re actually the worst possible destination for an appropriation of emergency funding, which is what this Fed money is supposed to be.

Take seven minutes and watch the video. Plan on being irate afterward. Seriously.

After you watch it, read this:

In Defense of Ben Bernanke

All in all, it looks like the nation and the world need an Economics 101 refresher. So let’s start with the basics.

The Fed’s plan is to purchase about $600 billion of additional U.S. government securities over about eight months, creating more bank reserves (“printing money”) to do so. This policy is one version of quantitative easing, or “QE” for short. And since the Fed has done QE before, this episode has been branded “QE2.”

Here’s the first Economics 101 question: When central banks seek to stimulate their economies, how do they normally do it? If you answered, “by lowering short-term interest rates,” you get half credit. For full credit, you must explain how: They create new bank reserves to purchase short-term government securities (in the U.S., that’s mostly Treasury bills). Yes, they print money.

But short-term rates are practically zero in the U.S. now, so the Fed wants to push down medium- and long-term interest rates instead. How? You guessed it: by creating new bank reserves to purchase medium- and long-term government securities.

That sounds pretty similar to garden-variety monetary policy. Yet critics are branding QE2 a radical departure from past practices and a dangerous experiment.

Now here’s a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal:

While on a United Airlines flight from New York City to Los Angeles this week, a fellow passenger handed me a copy of the The Wall Street Journal Nov. 15 op-ed by Alan Blinder—”In Defense of Ben Bernanke”—and suggested that I write a letter to the editor if I disagreed with the Princeton University professor’s claims. Having read the piece, I told the passenger over my shoulder, “You bet I will.”

Prof. Blinder seems blind to the clear and present dangers of QE2. Instead of seriously discussing these dangers, he takes us on an excursion to a Keynesian utopia, a mythical land in which endless government spending is an amazingly effective job creator and investors’ confidence in U.S. Treasury bonds somehow increases as we sink ever deeper into debt while the Fed has its printing presses working overtime.

Here are some cold, hard facts from the real world: The first is the 8.7% 2012 unemployment rate predicted by the Survey of Professional Forecasters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. It seems the Obama administration’s record spending binge won’t result in job creation, but in unacceptably high long-term unemployment. The second fact is that long-term interest rates have actually gone up following the Fed’s recent QE2 announcement. The markets took one look at the Fed’s pump-priming plans and decided they had to increase interest rates—probably in order to compensate for the expected rise in inflation.

None of this should come as a surprise. Blinders off, common sense engaged, it’s time for us to “refudiate” the notion that this dangerous experiment in printing $600 billion out of thin air, with nothing to back it up, will magically fix economic problems that were caused in large part by the government’s interfering with our free market system in the first place, and then made worse by the government’s reckless spending experiments with our children’s fiscal future. Instead of the tired, old Keynesian ideas behind Obamanomics, we need to turn to time-tested practices that are pro-free market rather than pro-big government. Some call this “free-market populism.” It’s based on the realization that the best way to get the economy moving again is to get government out of the way, let the free market dictate winners and losers, and allow the private sector to grow our economy one job, one paycheck and one American dream at a time. It’s the only way we can restore much needed confidence and certainty in our economy. This is the only way we will all be able to soar from New York to Los Angeles and throughout the heartland.

Sarah Palin
Wasilla, Alaska

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know shit about economics. I can’t even balance my checkbook. With all this conflicting information flying around I really wish I knew an economist I could trust. Even Paul Krugman is unreliable these days. Some days he’s shrill, and other days he’s a shill.

I studied history and I do remember something about a “Weimar Republic” that tried to solve it’s financial problems by printing money:

Since striking workers were paid benefits by the state, much additional currency was printed, fueling a period of hyperinflation. The 1920s German inflation started when Germany had no goods with which to trade. The government printed money to deal with the crisis; this allowed Germany to pay war loans and reparations with worthless marks, and helped formerly great industrialists to pay back their own loans. This also led to pay raises for workers and for businessmen who wanted to profit from it. Circulation of money rocketed, and soon the Germans discovered their money was worthless. The value of the Papiermark had declined from 4.2 per US dollar at the outbreak of World War I to 1 million per dollar by August 1923.

If you’re not depressed enough yet, this story just plain sucks:

Afghan Hero Dog Is Euthanized by Mistake in U.S.

When a suicide bomber entered an American military barracks in Afghanistan in February, it was not American soldiers but Afghan stray dogs that confronted him. Target and two other dogs snarled, barked and snapped at the man, who detonated his bomb at the entrance to the facility but did not kill anyone.

The dogs were from the Dand Aw Patan district, in the eastern Paktia Province near the Pakistani border. One died of wounds suffered in the blast, and months later, Target and the other dog, Rufus, were flown to the United States by a charity and adopted by families. Target — who received a hero’s welcome, including an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — went to live with the family of Sgt. Terry Young, 37, an Army medic who witnessed the animals’ bravery that night and helped treat the dogs and several American soldiers who were wounded.

The glory, though, was short-lived. Target, after learning to get along with the Young family’s other dog in Arizona, becoming accustomed to dog food and to using a doggie door to relieve herself, escaped from her yard. She was captured last week and euthanized by mistake.

Here is a list of important events that took place in history on November 19th. A partial list:

1980 CBS TV bans Calvin Klein’s jean ad featuring Brooke Shields
1965 Kellogg’s Pop Tarts pastries created
1959 “Rocky and His Friends” debuts on ABC
1895 Frederick E. Blaisdell patents the pencil

is the birthday of:

Kerri Strug (1977) Jodie Foster (1962) Meg Ryan (1961) Kathleen Quinlan (1954) Calvin Klein (1942) Dick Cavett (1936) Jeane J. Kirkpatrick (1926)

If you’ve been wondering what happened to Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire:

The Cannon mystery: All is revealed!

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, this movie opens today:

84 Responses

  1. Via Uppity:

  2. Obama Forces Showdown With G.O.P. on Arms Pact

    Just two weeks after an election that left him struggling to find his way forward, President Obama has decided to confront Senate Republicans in a make-or-break battle over arms control that could be an early test of his mettle heading into the final two years of his term.

    He is pushing for a vote on a signature issue despite long odds, daring Republicans to block an arms-control treaty at the risk of disrupting relations with Russia and the international coalition that opposes Iran’s nuclear program. If he succeeds, Mr. Obama will demonstrate strength following the midterm election debacle. If he fails, he will reinforce the perception at home and abroad that he is a weakened president.

    “It’s really high stakes,” said Geoffrey Kemp, a former national security aide to President Ronald Reagan and a scholar at the Nixon Center, a research group in Washington. “I would say it’s the biggest gamble he’s taken so far, certainly on foreign policy.”

    After months of quiet negotiations blew up this week, Mr. Obama on Thursday escalated ratification of the agreement, the so-called New Start treaty, into a public showdown, enlisting former Republican officials and assigning Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to work on it “day and night.” An allied group, the American Values Network, kicked off a television and e-mail campaign.

    “It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served Republican presidents. “There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress.”

    So if the GOPers just sit on their hands, will Obama hold his breath until he turns blue?

    I’m serious – what kind of leverage does he have? The Republicans have been the “Party of No” for two years now and it seems to be working for them.

    • seems they only have 60 votes…

      I must be confused – how many votes does it take now to pass a bill?

      (good grief!)

      • When I sober up I’m gonna have to do a post about this unusually busy lame-dick session.

        • I think the bills that get passed now, in lame duck session, must be the ones that they really want to pass. (Maybe already paid for by lobbyists?)

          It’s like Cheney being free to do whatever the heck he wants because he wasn’t running for Preznit.

          The Food Safety bill s510 seems to be one.

      • Treaties need 67 votes (2/3) for ratification.

        I like how the newly elected but no sworn in repukes are saying that it not right to do anything that might go against the wishes of their soon to be constituents.
        It’s the Constitution, stoopids, you’re not in Congress yet so STFU.

  3. Great post. Now I need a drink. And this early too. Damn, there goes my day.

  4. Why is this a story?

    John Ensign prepped Sharron Angle for Harry Reid debate

    Ensign is the other senator from Nevada and he is a Republican. Apparently he and Dirty Harry have an “amicable” relationship.

    So what? He helped a candidate from his party prepare for a debate.

    In other news, water is wet.

    • Most political news seems to go for the soap opera angle. Perhaps that’s as far as their tiny brains can take them.

      I’ve finally decided after watching some TV news yesterday, almost all news anchors not only have never watched TV news before, but have also never read a newspaper before. When you realize that, it all makes more sense.

  5. Headline:

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski Tells Local TV She Will Vote For Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal


    Last night during an appearance on MSNBC, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) refused to say if she would vote for a National Defense Authorization Act that included a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but this afternoon, during an interview with KTV’s Matt Felling in Alaska, Murkowski said that she would “not vote against a bill that had that repeal in it.”

    In law school they teach you to parse words carefully. I guess they don’t do that in journalism schools.

    Princess Lisa DID NOT say she would vote to repeal DADT – she only said she would not vote against it. There are other options, like abstention.

    And she didn’t say anything about a cloture vote, now did she?

  6. My Morning sneeze – the follow up from Carvile’s balls giving story and some startling reactions

  7. What happened to Dakinikat? I thought there was a resident economist here?

    • Her blog is sky dancing

      and she’s got a bunch of econ posts up.

      Btw, myiq, she doesn’t think inflation is a problem (partly because demand is way down?)
      I’m not an economist either, so I don’t know.

      I will say that having lived in a country where inflation was a huge problem, it doesn’t FEEL like it is a problem here and now.

      • Inflation IS a problem.

        Dak is talking macroeconomics, in terms of Wall Street, Banksters, etc. They aren’t feeling the inflation.

        I do hope she’s explaining that governmental definitions of “inflation” do not include food, fuel, healthcare, etc.

        For regular little people, especially those on fixed incomes (seniors), all of those costs are going up.

        From Bernanke or Krugman, you’ll see no mention of THOSE expenses. They’re talking macro, not micro.

        And the more money Bernanke prints (to help the big boys, again), the more inflation will rise , for the little people.

        Gallon of milk, tank of gas, insurance premiums–that’s not included in governmental “inflation” numbers, especially if they’re devaluing the dollar on purpose.

        Economics 101

        • It makes my head hurt.

          All I know is that if we had jobs, enough jobs with wages we could actually live on, we would not be worrying about this.

          • It makes my head hurt too, Macro/Micro I just don’t get it. I feel so dumb about all of the economic talk. I just know that things I need everyday are way more expensive. Having to live on such a small salary, when the income needed to survive is more than we make, is wearing thin. My nerves are shot. I am exhausted and my mental state is one of frustration. With Christmas around the corner, choices will have to be made. My kids are still too young to truly grasp the dire situation that our family is in. It sucks.

      • Um, demand may be down because things cost too much. No, seriously. Food shopping in my area is getting ridiculous. Fruit is outrageous and Brooke is a fruit eating junky.
        Then there are things like refrigerators. I need a new one but I swear there’s been a steep price increase lately. I have to postpone this until next year, if I’m lucky.
        Then there are the things they don’t seem to be counting. Like fees on absolutely everything. ATM fees, road toll fees, bridge fees, currency exchange fees, baggage fees. Everything is “not included” anymore. No more free meals on flights, no more free extracurricular activities. Everyone has their hands out. It’s what happens when tax money goes into the big black void of two unnecessary wars for years on end and bankers who royally screwed up. Health insurance for me went up 30% for next year.
        So, I don’t know what this deflation is that everyone in economics is talking about. My life is vastly more expensive and my wages are not keeping up very well.

        • Not to mention property taxes are going up. The township next to us will go up 27%. I’m sacred to find out about our township.

          All these frickin’ tax cuts and austerity measures mean that the push the bill down to the few people who have managed to hang on to their houses so far. Jeeze.

          • This is a real concern, votermom.

            In passing Obama’s Health Insurance Reform, the increase in Medicaid is probably a good thing morally, but what many people don’t know is that the feds help states increase all those Medicaid rolls, but only help finance it for 2 years. After that, the states themselves have to pick up the entire cost of the federally mandated increase.

            Meaning, of course, your property taxes will go up even more.

            That doesn’t get explained very well in all the shallow whoop-de-do media defenses of the plan.

            Ask yourself if Ed Schultz, Keith Olberman, or Rachel Maddow have ever admitted that on the air. Then ask yourself why not.

          • It’s like they WANT us all to join the Tea Party.

        • Macro Honks!

    • Miss seeing the wonky goodness and explaining stuff so I could understand.

      Apparently the CPI consumer price index is a mix of things, some of which have changed, but lumped together the total hasn’t gone up much. Some individual items have. I think it’s the — what, 30% for housing? that’s definitely down since home prices are down.

  8. I just realized that yesterday was the 32nd anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre.

    • Lesson = DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID!

    • Wow …. I remember that well. Just reading the words brought it all back like a movie.

    • Is there anyone in Congress today as brave as Congressman Ryan?

      • Wiki:

        Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. (May 5, 1925 – November 18, 1978) was an American politician of the Democratic Party. He served as a U.S. Representative from the 11th Congressional District of California from 1973 until he was murdered in Guyana by members of the Peoples Temple shortly before the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.

        After the Watts Riots of 1965, then-Assemblyman Ryan took a job as a substitute school teacher to investigate and document conditions in the area. In 1970, he investigated the conditions of Californian prisons by being held, under a pseudonym, as an inmate in Folsom Prison, while presiding as chairman on the Assembly committee that oversaw prison reform. During his time in Congress, Ryan traveled to Newfoundland to investigate the killing of seals.

        Ryan was also famous for vocal criticism of the lack of Congressional oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and authored the Hughes-Ryan Amendment, passed in 1974. He was also an early critic of L. Ron Hubbard and his Scientology movement and of the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon.[1] On November 3, 1977, Ryan read into the United States Congressional Record a testimony by John Gordon Clark about the health hazards connected with destructive cults.[1] Ryan is the only U.S. congressman to have been killed in the line of duty.[2][3][4][5] He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously in 1983.

        Ryan’s aide (Jackie Speier) was with him at Jonestown.

        She is now a Congresswoman.

        Speier served as a congressional staffer for Congressman Leo Ryan. Speier was part of the November 1978 fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by the Reverend Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple followers, almost all of whom were American citizens who had moved to Jonestown with Jones in 1977 and 1978.[5] Speier was one of only two members of the mission who were concerned enough about potential violence to make out a will before traveling to Jonestown.[10] Several Peoples Temple members ambushed the investigative team and others boarding the plane to leave Jonestown on November 18. Five people died, including Congressman Ryan. While attempting to shield herself from rifle and shotgun fire behind small airplane wheels with the other members of the team, Speier was shot five times and waited 22 hours before help arrived.

  9. It is my daughter Caroline’s birthday as well (1991).

  10. in today’s tabloids – a picture is worth 1000 words – jusy see who Obama is surrounding himself with these days

  11. More on TSA and their blatant violations of the fourth amendment, including lawsuits being filed:

    Some offer graphic accounts of genital contact, others tell of agents gawking or making inappropriate comments, and many express a general sense of powerlessness and humiliation. In general passengers are saying they are surprised by the intimacy of a physical search usually reserved for police encounters.

    “I didn’t really expect her to touch my vagina through my pants,” said Kaya McLaren, an elementary schoolteacher from Cle Elum, Wash., who was patted down at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Saturday because the body scanner detected a tissue and a hair band in her pocket.

    The agency has so far responded to the complaints by calling for cooperation and patience from passengers, citing polls showing broad support for the full-body scanning machines.

    Still, it remains to be seen whether travelers approve of the pat-downs, especially as millions more people experience them for the first time during the holiday travel season.

    “I would be very surprised if the average American would say this is O.K. after going through the kind of experience we’re hearing about,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has received nearly 400 complaints from travelers.

    Critics also question whether the pat-downs will survive legal scrutiny. On Tuesday, two pilots filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, claiming that the new screening procedures violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. But legal experts are divided over whether the courts will find the searches reasonable.

    “For Fourth Amendment purposes, you can’t touch somebody like this unless you’re checking them into a jail or you’ve got reasonable suspicion that they’ve got a gun,” said John Wesley Hall, a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in search and seizure law.

    “Here there is no reasonable suspicion,” he said. “It’s the pure act of getting on a plane.”

    • From the same article:

      Rather than waiting for a court decision or the T.S.A. to rethink its procedures, some local officials — and passengers — are taking matters into their own hands. On Thursday, New York City Council members called for the city to ban the use of body scanners at city airports. And sites like WeWontFly.com and OptOutDay.com are calling for passenger protests at security checkpoints next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, while other disgruntled travelers are suggesting that men wear kilts or that the boldest passengers strip down to their underwear before entering the security line.

    • If we accept these searches for air flight then can Malls start doing them (didn’t a gigantic mall recently burn down in California due to arson?) Can Libraries ….

      Can Bridge Toll Takers? … What if someone wants to bomb the Golden Gate Bridge to make a statement. Or the Empire State Building.

      Are we agreeing to invasive searches anytime we leave our house?

    • This TSA bullying really enrages me. I immigrated to the USA after living most of my life in a highly authoritarian dictatorship where we didn’t even have habeas corpus, and if you saw a uniformed police/soldier/security person you would very quietly and quickly go the other way. And the America was supposed to be the place where people valued and defended their rights.

      The scans and searches are supposed to protect us, but as a parent my job is also to protect my kids.

      Frankly, if my 13yo & I have to fly, and I pick to either let her be exposed to proven carcinogens or let her genitals be touched by a uniformed stranger, I am not protecting her at all.

      As a parent I would rather get blown up as part of protecting my child than just have to go back to bowing my head to this police-state aggression.

    • I might have missed this, but here it is again:

    • The only way this changes is to hurt the airlines in the pocket book. Stop flying and see how quick things change.

      The mega-corps and their lackey congress members are counting on the American people to roll over and take it.

      • Are the airlines really responsible for this? I work in the travel industry and my livelihood depends on people flying.

        Isn’t this more the government? Maybe a gift to whoever manufactures these machines? And aren’t the majority of people behind this?

        For the record I am outraged as well. The searches are humiliating, degrading and intrusive. This is an egregious example of how we are being frightened into giving up our civil liberties. It does not make us safer.

        • I don’t think airlines want this but, if it’s not hurting the bottom line I don’t think they’ll kick about it. If it starts hurting them, maybe they will apply lobbying pressure to Congress and offset that of the machine manufacturers.

          Something has to give or we will have no rights left at all.

    • Also, Maybe I’m missing something but, how would it be better if these searches were done by private contractors rather than TSA?

  12. Woman says her Lambert security screening was sexual assault

    Business traveler, Penny Moroney, was flying home from St. Louis to Chicago. Like all other airline passengers, she had to go through security first. When the metal in her artificial knees set off the detectors, she had to undergo more screening. When Moroney asked if she could go through a body scanner, she was told none were available.

    Moroney explains “Her gloved hands touched my breasts…went between them. Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and my skin… then put her hands up on outside of slacks, and patted my genitals.”

    I was shaking and crying when I left that room” Moroney says. “Under any other circumstance, if a person touched me like that without my permission, it would be considered criminal sexual assault.”


  13. I could’ve sworn I heard Joe Biden say that his job was jobs, jobs jobs for the American people. Day and night he’s workin on them. I guess Obama decided Joe’s job was done and he could start working on treaty, treaty, treaty.

  14. So sad about the dog from Afgahn.

  15. Can someone please tell me about the Cannon vid so i don’t have to watch it?


    thanks in advance.

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