16 April 2016

Caught in the Aftermath of a Minsky Moment by a Credibility Trap

"I think this is where the academics are kind of clashing with the practitioners. I think on paper negative rates make a lot of sense if you're running academic models, but in reality they make no sense.  Having seven or eight trillion dollars of debt trading at negative rates, having thirty year JGB's trading at fifty basis points is absolutely ludicrous. This experiment that's going on we all know will end poorly at some point in time, I just don't know when that time is...

I think that one of the fears that they have is a run on cash. If they told you and I that they're going to tax your deposits by a hundred basis points, well it's better to put it in a safe or under your mattress. And that's why you see a resurgence in gold. The more they move to negative rates, the more gold is gonna take off because there's no carrying cost."

Kyle Bass, Hayman Capital

This comment [quoted below] about a recent column by Paul Krugman is written by someone I consider to be an ethical and intelligent mainstream economist. It was so simply and eloquently put that I am using it here on my site.  It expresses almost perfectly why there is a broad movement growing in the US that rejects all the  establishment candidates from both parties

And it goes without saying that the words I put in front of it are completely my own, and most likely go far beyond what this person said so well.  We have disagreed on some things at times, but I hope in an amicable way.  This is how knowledge is created from the raw material of data.

What I find to be highly significant right now is how badly the status quo is assessing and reacting to this current political situation.  There is an unmistakable desire for honesty, transparency, and reform in this country, especially among the young.  But those who view themselves as the powerful, the thought leaders, seem to be retreating into a comfortable story that they tell each other.   It is a story about how good things really are, if only the stupid and naive public could be made to understand it. Few may actually believe it in their hearts, but it is a story that serves their cause: it is expedient.

I don't wish to single Mr. Krugman out, not at all, because he is hardly the worst among mainstream commentators and economists.  He is merely symptomatic of these times, more a follower and participant than an original thinker or leader. Like his peers, he has seen others doing it, and it has worked for them.  As Louis Brandeis once said, the government teaches by example.   
What the privileged fail to realize is that by continuing to push forward with their winning strategy, because nothing powerful enough has risen up yet to stop them, will at some point shake the American republic to its foundations.

Since our current system of finance and money is so heavily reliant on confidence in its integrity, I fear that this break in trust, that is already showing signs of advanced development, will lead to a serious tear in the social and economic fabric.  This is certainly something that we have seen before in this country, but thankfully not for many, many years.

Some people will view this gathering storm as an opportunity to gain more power for themselves and their friends, and will attempt to use it as such.  And some ruthlessly so I am sure.  And that is dangerous. It is unfortunate that real change that can provide a more constructive alternative is not happening, because the very serious people, what Larry Siummers categorized as insiders, keep rationalizing the status quo to themselves, and deny anything that suggests that the prevailing system has failed, that they may have failed in anything.  I have called this the credibility trap.
If the fortunate few decide to continue to push down this rising trend towards reform and justice, eventually resorting to force as confidence and willing compliance continues to decline, then history suggests that the Pandora's box that they will open will carry many of them, and far too many innocents, to a place where they would not wish to go.
We do not have 'capitalism;'  what we have is plunder.   We have a corrupt system of kleptocracy ruled over by the big money power of a relative few individuals and organizations, what FDR called 'organized money'.  And a system based on the primacy of selfishness, power,, unbridled greed and a free hand to cheat and deceive and manipulate will serve to create a kind of hell on earth.

I think it is time for all of us to take a deep breath and seriously consider where our passions are taking us, and what this spirit of contentiousness and willfulness is causing us to say and do. The ultimate irony is when we become that which we hate.  I would wish all of us to step back and see what we may become before this goes too far.

Saturday, April 16, 2016 at 05:32 AM (in reaction to the two recent PK columns on Sanders):

"Paul Krugman has decided that if there is any way to destroy a decent, humble, caring, thoughtful candidate for president, a candidate who offers the possibility of actual change in domestic and foreign policies that have created so many problems for so many people for so long, if there is any way, any word that can be used, to destroy that candidate then destruction there will be.

What Krugman has done however is show me what wild intolerance, what authoritarian political thinking in an American context amounts to, and the attempts by Krugman at destruction of a decent person and candidate will with me turn me completely away from the desired effect.

Were I a student of Paul Krugman, I would smile and nod as if in agreement and very quietly go in the opposite direction. After all, I fortunately learned early on which teachers always had to be agreed with.

I have no idea where this disdain for a truly decent person and candidate comes from, obviously not from the person, nor do I care about the psychology on where the disdain comes from. Krugman is being as fierce as can be, harsh as can be. I record the fierceness and harshness, know such an anti-intellectual posture can never be for me and move away.

"As you know, I’m only saying these things because I’m a corporate whore and want a job with Hillary.

Related: Paul Krugman, Why I Haven't Felt the Bern

Jesse in reply:

Paul, you will obtain no objection to that self-confession from me, although it is purposely and dramatically overstated so as to discredit it.   No, you are caught by an idea, to a particular economic arrangement that seems to be failing most people, and to what history is likely to see as a systematic and continuing abuse of power.

This is not capitalism; this is mere plunder by a powerful few. We are caught in the aftermath of a 'Minsky Moment' by a credibility trap, and it has been going on for far too long.

In your defense, there is a lot of this sort of creative rationalization of a rotten system going around these days. It is fashionable.   And that is a big part of the problem.