Punchinello’s Chronicles

March 20, 2009

Countdown to 4,000

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 11:11 am
Tags: ,

Some people think there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel, soon, with respect to the financial markets. Last year the Dow-Jones Industrial Average (DOW) was at 13,941. Today (2/17/09), following the signing of the new stimulus package, it closed at 7,552.

Personally, I think all this is a historic cycle coming into action. The world, and certainly the American public, would have had to pay the piper, so to speak, for decades of over-spending, lack of saving, and disregard for reality. We haven’t. As such, I suspect we won’t see the end of this slide until we approach the 4,000 mark.

February 17, 2008 DOW

December 30, 2011

Loss: 5.8%

(Not inflation adjusted)

America is being held hostage by the Federal Reserve, banks and financial institutions, and corrupt politicians whose entire lives are devoted to the single goal of staying in office. Those politicians haven’t the slightest interest in the American public. They have zero interest in fixing anything, and would prefer to have high anxiety and fear running rampant. The more anxiety, the better their chances of re-election.

How long will it be before we the people get really angry about the real cause of our problems: the government! When I started this post, the “recession” was in full swing. Fundamentals showed that the markets are precarious, to say the least. Today, those markets have regained 80+% of their value. Have YOU regained all that value? Or has it been the large investment banks? What about your pension fund, IRA, family wealth and your personal portfolio?

Is the “recession” clearly “over and done with?” After all, an 80% retracement back to the good times of 2007 is pretty impressive. Isn’t it?

June 3, 2008 – Obama nomination victory speech
October 5, 2008 – Bush administration passes TARP bill
January 25, 2009 – Obama inauguration
February 17, 2008 – Obama administration passes second $1-trillion stimulus
February 20, 2009 – Rumors of short-term bank nationalization, denied by administration
February 23, 2009 – Obama introduces “deficit in half by 1 year” (likely means tax increases)
February 25, 2009 – Obama talks to joint session Congress about fixing the economy
February 27, 2009 – Omnibus spending package and new budget revealed
March 2, 2009 – AIG gets 4th bailout, Feds buy Citibank stock
March 4, 2009 – Obama announces Section-8 plan for endangered mortgages
March 5, 2009 – Citibank falls below $1/share, healthcare reform talks begin
March 10, 2009 – Citibank announces first quarter profit
March 12, 2009 – Financial Accounting Standards Board announces mark-to-market change
March 18, 2009 – Housing starts report first upward movement in long time
March 20, 2009 – Markets miss the memo that the recession is over
March 24, 2009 – RTF-like proposal to buy $1-trillion in toxic assets from banks
April 2, 2009 – G20 World Finance meeting to contain international money crisis
April 3, 2009 – DOW up past 8,000 mark, first time since January
April 9, 2009 – First-quarter earnings reports indicate banks made profits
April 17, 2009 – California housing prices stable 3 months, Fed says we’ve hit bottom
April 24, ’09 – Q1 bank and retail accounting changes show companies making profits.
Apr 29, 09 – Fed says it will continue to interfere with all possible tools to help fix economy
Apr 30, 09 – Chrysler announces bankruptcy to qualify for gov’t. bailout money from Fed.
May 4, 09 – Bear rally sends market up 300 points apparently due to insider selling.
May 5, 09 – Rally continues ahead of Fed “stress test” results for banking industry.
May 8, 09 – Fed says biggest banks healthy, just need a little extra capital. Rally continues.
May 20, 09 – Q1 retail down, housing starts down. Fed says some signs of improvement.
May 22, 09 – US dollar rating may drop. Fed says things may still be a little off.
May 29, 09 – USD value drops, oil up, transport and commodities up. GM bankruptcy.
Jun 1, 09 – GM declares bankruptcy. Wall Street apparently rejoices. DOW is up!
Jun 10, 09 – Feds say rate of decline is slowing, unemployment claims slowing.
Jun 12, 09 – Inkspots guitarist Huey Long dies at 105. Analysts predict economic recovery.
Jun 22, 09 – FDA takes control of tobacco, Healthcare reform, World Bank worried
Jul 9, 09 – Obama ratings dropping, next bailout coming, Michael Jackson dies
July 20, 09 – Recession petering out, likely done by Fall. Banks making money like crazy!
Jul 23, 09 – Happy Days Are Here Again! 64th US bank closes. Leading indices all up.
Aug 7, 09 – Bear market rally continues. Losses everywhere less bad than expected.
Aug 13, 09 – Banks, Wall Street, Fed, Ford making money. Unemployment increases
Aug 21, 09 – 80 banks fail – 3500 branches, small banks in peril. 13+% mortgages in peril
Aug 28, 09 – Unemployment up, FDIC says 400+ banks may fail, retail down, markets rally
Sep 2, 09 – Recession is over, green shoots everywhere. Health care for everyone in question.
Sep 9, 09 – Institutional traders push rally. Gold over $1,000
Sep 15, 09 – Fed says recession absolutely over. Definitely. For sure. Really! 9700 peak coming
Sep 17, 09 – Passing through predicted bear rally peak. All fundamentals down, Wall street up.
Sep 22, 09 – High continues, unemployment increases, Wall street ecstatic.
Sep 24, 09 – Insiders take profits, DOW springs leak. “Green shoots” everywhere, presumably.
Oct 2, 09 – Recession over, banks making money, unemployment higher, no problems!
Oct 9, 09 – Alcoa Aluminum singlehandedly saves the US economy. Gold over $1040/oz.
Oct 22, 09 – Foreclosures, unemployment up, retail down, 99 banks closed, Wall Street ecstatic
Oct 24, 09 – NetFlix shares record high, Wall Street cheers. 106 banks now closed, FDIC broke
Oct 30, 09 – US GDP up unexpected 3.5% Banks try to spell “debt,” consumers stop spending
Nov 5, 09 – Published Unemployment near 10%, Central Banks exit emergency “largesse”
Nov 9, 09 – 0% rates, absolutely no loss Fed guarantees, gold at record $1100 on dollar weakness
Nov 17, 09 – Markets totally disconnected from reality, all fundamentals down, WS up.
Nov 27, 09 – Dubai World nears default. DOW 10,500 upper test limit nearly reached.
Dec 24, 09 – Xmas eve Senate vote passes Obamacare. Miractulous Markets ecstatic with debt
Dec 28, 09 – Volume-less high-frequency computer trading sucks away year-end profits
Jan 14, 10 – Haiti 7+ earthquake, higher unemployment, holiday retail down markets up!
Jan 25, 10 – Prop trading regulation proposed, Bernanke reappointment in jeopardy
Jan 29, 10 – Bernanke reconfirmed 2nd term, 70-30, more of the same 4 more years
Feb 22, 10 – Little volume, DOW mostly trading back and forth by computers
Mar 23, 10 – Record $26B pulled from markets, $3B pulled 2/2010. Healthcare nationalized
Apr 13, 10 – 39M on food stamps, negative volume, Euro debt imploding, Markets…up!
May 6, 10 – High-Frequency-Trading causes 1,000 DOW plunge in 15 minutes, by accident.
May 10, 10 – 3/4-trillion Euro to bail out Greece & EC banks. Blank check on spending. Markets up!
July 8, 10 – Machines trading with machines, no volume. Markets +400 -400 with no reality.
Aug 2, 10 – $35-billion leaves equity funds, Robot computers trade with each other.
Aug 12, 10 – Fed will now buy its own debt, no money left for Qualitative Easing v2.0
Sep 9, 10 – $65-B year-to-date small investors have left markets due to HFT scams
Oct 26, 10 – Fed (POMO) buying everything for sale in markets. Mid-term elections 2010.
Nov 4, 10 – Fed announces $600B QE2. Silver $26.73/oz. Markets priced in silver down 29% YTD
Jan 6, 11 – Fed rally continues unabated. 33 weeks of retail investors leaving markets.
Jan 12, 11 – Rep. Gifford shot, Fed buys another $112B in bonds, Australia flooded.
Jan 27, 11 – Fed Permanent Open Market Operations (POMO) only game left in town.
Jan 28, 11 – Egypt, Tunisia, Middle East begin riots over inflation and food prices.
Feb 10, 11 – 43M on Food stamps. Dutch to buy (merge with) 219 year old NY Stock Exchange
Mar 16, 11 – 9.0 Japan quake-tsunami and hedge funds run from markets
Apr 12, 11 – Month later, nobody cares about Japan. All markets up. Gold: $1453
Dec 30, 11 – Europe fixed – broke, all summer long. Gold: $1612. Market outflows $192-billion.











11, 824

January 5, 2012

The So-Called Unfair Wealth Gap

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 1:54 am

Here we are, starting January 2012, and The Protester was the “man of the year” on Time magazine. We remember the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, made up of people inarticulately angry at all the money the bankers are making. Their main chant is that 99% of the population makes a barely living wage, while 1% of the population owns all the money and assets. What do we do about it? They have no clue, other than turn American into a socialist system. They want the government to fix it!

The government caused the problem in the first place!

So how come there’s all this money at the top? Why is it so hard to get credit? How come small businesses are being shut down because they can’t get a line of credit from the big banks? What’s this “too big to fail?”

Over the past decades, laws have changed allowing banks to merge and have branches all over the country. As smaller banks have failed because of real estate crashes, the FDIC offers them to the bigger banks rather than use federal money to pay out the insured claims of depositors. The big banks get bigger, the small banks fail and disappear.

We also know that the reason the real estate market crashed is due to government laws mandating that banks provide low-cost loans to anyone who can draw an X on a piece of paper. They don’t need a job, don’t need a past, don’t need a credit rating, and don’t need a down payment. If the banks do NOT make those loans, they face government sanctions.

“Liar’s loans” were a moral hazard, where a bank would be guaranteed a loan they made to anyone. The government would make those guarantees through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Additionally, we have “notional value,” which means that the value a bank places on a property is whatever they say it is.

In the old days, “mark to market” meant that a property would periodically be assessed at some market value. If that value went up, then the value was carried on the bank’s books at the higher price. Lower assessments, the asset value would be reduced. As real estate prices began to crash, banks had to reduce their asset values on the books. So Congress repealed “mark to market.” What we now have is what some people call “mark to unicorn.”

Remember, banks hold only a small percentage of actual money or property to back up loans. Decades ago, the Federal Reserve set the rules that a bank could lend out 10 times what they had on the books as assets. Today, that number is almost unlimited. The Fed has allowed banks to lend out 30 times or more of their assets.

So “asset” means all sorts of important consequences. If the assets go down, then a bank has to call in loans and can’t make more loans. With “mark to unicorn,” a house that was originally mortgaged for $400,000 but is now worth $300,000 is still carried on the books at $400,000. That’s the “notion” of what it’s value would be if everything went back to normal. It doesn’t matter what’s going on now, for how long.

In the real world, that house has lost 25% of its value. In the real world, the bank would have to cut back on lending to match the reduced asset value. In the real world, someone might be able to buy the cheaper house and take it off the market. With “mark to unicorn,” the bank can keep the value, keep their loans outstanding, foreclose on the house and make more money by selling it again while collecting penalties on the loan. And the person living there, ends up in the streets.

Banks began having major trouble meeting the Federal Reserve banking rules, not to mention SEC regulations. They’d borrowed money at zero interest from the Fed, then used that money to bet on the stock and commodities market. They stopped lending money to people, and made the money from investing. In fact, the end of the Glass-Steagall Act, repealed during the Clinton administration, made it legal for a bank to be both a customer bank and an investment bank.

Banks are allowed to use whatever money they have to invest, presumably on “behalf of” the customers. The SEC used to make sure that “invest” meant something reasonable. Now, with the SEC watching porn videos, “invest” means gambling.

But the casino is falling apart. Occult investments in derivatives, credit-default swaps, currency swaps and so forth, have meant that hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars have been borrowed, then used to gamble. Estimates of the currently outstanding derivatives market make it $500 TRILLION!!! That’s a half a QUADRILLION dollars outstanding!

What happens when people start making claims on all those pieces of paper? The total, entire, complete, EVERYthing value of the Entire United States is $54-trillion dollars. If we sold every tree, rock, river, mountain, house, building, bike, doll, bushel of corn and everything else, leaving us without even the dirt we’re standing on, we’d need Ten Times that amount to meet ONLY the obligations created by ONLY the banking and financial industry!

With only 10 banks controlling around 90% of the entire national asset list and financial structure, Congress and the Federal Reserve noted that these banks were “too big to fail.” If they failed, they would collapse the entire world economy, shutting down the whole concept of money, ending all trade, and bringing on a Dark Ages. They say. Therefore, there’s no way these banks can fail.

But what if they do?

Throughout all of nature, the most basic principle has always been competition. Bad actions lead to failure. Good actions are those that succeed. Humanity has, in the past, also said that “good” actions mean moral actions. Then we go on to create religions and philosophies about what’s good. Banks, based on the Chicago school of economics claim that “whatever succeeds is good.”

According to modern economics, ALL profit is good. That means morally good! That means that any time you make a profit, no matter how you do it, you are doing a morally good thing. Does it matter who gets hurt, killed or destroyed? No, as long as you’re making a profit. It’s up to the “other guy” to watch out for their own best interests. If they don’t make a profit, then that’s too bad. They’re “bad.”

The end result is that profiteering with no moral code at all is considered the new moral standard. Crony capitalism means using other people’s money to make a never-ending profit. “Moral hazard” means that IF you fail to make a profit, AND you’re a bank, THEN the government will bail you out. With other people’s money. OUR money! Money taken from the 99%. Too bad the morons in the protest movement don’t understand a frickin’ thing about all this!

The reason that wealth has concentrated more and more into the hands of fewer and fewer super-billionaires is that they can’t fail! They’re not allowed to fail! They’re too big to fail! No matter what stupid-ass decisions they make, they’ll be bailed out. No matter what dumb-ass investments they make, if they lose they’ll be bailed out. By the government. The same government the Occupy Mars movement wants to “fix” things!

More importantly, no matter what laws are broken, regulations are disregarded or ethical principles are ignored, the federal government will be there to bail out the criminals. Banks can’t fail. Major industries like the automobile companies won’t fail. The government will levitate them, no matter how bad their actions and investments.

What would it be like if you could start a business with an unlimited amount of money? No matter what you did, no matter what product, no matter what market or lack of market, no matter what decisions, no matter what kind of business practices, all you’d have to do is show your books every few months. If you made money, you get to keep it. If you lost money, the government would re-stock your bank account. If you wanted to borrow more money to go to Las Vegas, the government would give you an open-ended credit card.

You go to Las Vegas, spend money on food, hotels, shows, clothes, jewelry and whatever. All reimbursed. Then you go gamble. If you win, you get to keep the winnings. If you lose, the government covers the bill.

How hard would it be for YOU to become one of the super rich?

The problem is: Where does all this government money come from? You? The taxpayer? Of course not! There isn’t enough money in the universe to make up all the dollars flying around. Instead, it’s all being printed by the US Treasury, which borrows the “authority to print” from the Federal Reserve. That’s the American continental central bank, a private bank having nothing to do with the United States.

If you went to buy a bolt of cotton 10 years ago, you would pay, say, $50 in US dollars. That means that one dollar would purchase a certain amount of woven fabric. The world markets set the “exchange” rate as to how much was the value of that dollar in terms of cotton — how many dollars it takes to buy a certain amount of cotton.

Today, to buy the same bolt of cotton you would have to pay $75 US dollars. What happened? Did the cotton get more expensive? No. The value of the US dollar has dropped by 50% in the world markets. The cotton is the same, it’s the dollars that have become worth…less. Worthless. Why? Because the Federal Reserve has printed so many new dollars, they have nothing whatsoever backing them.

So to make sure the big banks can continue their unrestrained, out-of-control gambling spree, the Federal Reserve has authorized an unlimited credit line to the US Treasury. That credit line is what Congress wants raised and raised and raised every few month. Keep in mind that while the banks are gambling trillions of dollars, the US government is also spending trillions of dollars to buy a constant supply of voters.

Is it unfair that the super wealthy have so much money? Not really. It’s only that they can’t fail. The banks and investors buy the politicians and their votes. We repeal or negate laws meant to protect free markets. We make new laws designed to take more money from taxpayers, and every election a larger number of people have no idea what’s happening. The Occupy Mars people want to re-elect the same government, over and over again. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. Same thing.

To make it all fair again is a simple thing: Allow failure to fail! That’s it, pure and simple. If General Motors makes a bad car and nobody buys it, the company should go bankrupt. If Citigroup or Bank of America can’t collect on their loans, then let them go bankrupt.

If that had happened ten years ago, we would have maybe had an economic depression for a year or two. Instead, we kept it all floating and kicked the can down the road. Now, if these mega-institutions were to fail, it would bring down the entire financial structure of the world. Would we survive? Of course. But we’d have some major chaos for awhile.

To just keep kicking the can down the road means that every single last dollar available from working people has to feed the maw of the never-ending gambling spree on the part of the big institutions and Congress. I say stop the credit card, cut up the credit card, and let the failed businesses fail. T’row da bums out!

May 24, 2011

Why Use Digital Money?

We all live our lives with different levels of activity, based on different circumstances. At the most basic level, we survive with water, food, shelter and clothing. Much of our time is spent getting food and shelter, and that’s been true throughout human history. Long ago, we actually went out hunting for food and water, living in caves and discovering agriculture. Nowadays, we use money of some sort in exchange for these basics.

When we’re at the basic survival level, our own survival comes first and we take whatever resources we find to ensure that survival. Depending on circumstances, we’ll share limited resources in order to help the survival of people close to us. Think of a ship wreck and lifeboat. We need to survive individually, and if there’s enough water and food, we’ll try to help others. Presumably, each of us acts the same way, but we know that’s not really true.

It’s only after we’re fairly sure of our own survival and we can get our own resources that we move upward to the next step. With additional resources, we begin looking around for things that we’d like to have, in addition to things we need to have (what we must have). That’s where a modern economy begins to introduce whole new concepts. In today’s world we really do need transportation, an address and a connection for communication. We need income, and in most cases that means a job. Otherwise, we have to create a product to trade.

The most basic economics involve the idea of exchanging something of value. That value is in the eyes of the beholder, not in the eyes of the owner! I might have something I think is junk, but if someone else “beholds” that thing and decides they want it, then they’ve placed a value on the thing. Regardless of what I might think about that thing.

Exchange: That’s the fundamental concept.

As societies got more complicated, people started using various commodities as symbols of value. Among the most well known are gold, silver, diamonds, copper, and other metals and jewels. Because those items were considered to be equal with actual “stuff,” they became precious metals and precious jewels. “Precious” means that which has a high value to people.

If you work all day underground digging out coal from the bowels of a mountain, you’ve sacrificed your comfort, your time, your energy, your muscles and so forth. At the end of the day, you have a pile of coal that’s as valuable to you as the sum of all that labor and sweat. It’s physical coal. You own it because you dug it out of the ground. But you can’t eat coal, so you want to go buy some food.

A farmer might want some coal to keep a fire going, so that farmer is willing to give you some food in exchange for some coal. The exchange is a real one, and both of you continue to have in your possession something each of you values. The farmer now has in his possession the coal, and you have the actual food. The farmer doesn’t care about your muscles, your time or anything else. The farmer “sets the value” to himself, and YOU decide if that’s “fair.” If it is, then you exchange products.

Symbolic money is no different. If you do whatever it is that gets you a piece of gold, then you have a physical piece of precious metal. When you exchange it, you first want to get something of equal value. Secondly, whatever it is that you trade for, you continue to have something physical.

The problem with a “gold standard,” where it refers to money is that there isn’t enough gold to match all the stuff in the world. Not only that, but there isn’t enough gold to match what stuff MIGHT enter into the world. There might be enough gold for all the current stuff, but what if you want to start a business making new stuff? There isn’t enough gold.

To solve the problem, societies create money out of something that’s more readily available. Those societies arbitrarily declare the value of that new item, and it becomes real money. “Real” means that you can pay bills, pay taxes, and make legal claims based on the exchange of that money.

So what’s the difference between, say, paper money and “fiat” money?

Social money has two basic requirements. First, it MUST associate with and match some underlying real-world value. Secondly, whomever is in charge of that money MUST be honest!

For example, we might decide to use pearls as money. We know we can find a fairly large supply of pearls, but they’re not so easy to find that anyone could pile up a whole lot of pearls. When we make the decision to use those pearls, we have to assign a value to them. We have to say that pearls, from now on will equal the amount of all the food in the world. If surplus food shows up after a good harvest, then the value of each existing pearl will go down. If there’s a shortage of food, then the value of each pearl will go up.

What matters fundamentally is that the person in charge of keeping track of all the pearls in the world, MUST be honest in their numbers! They have to tell us the truth as to how many pearls are floating around. Otherwise, how would we know if the pearls should be more or less valuable? That person, therefore, must also know the truth about how much food there is in any given year.

The US Treasury and the Federal Reserve are in charge of telling us how many paper dollars there are in the world. The Bureau of Labor & Statistics is in charge of telling us how much food, work, service and product there is in the world. Both of them are lying.

In theory, at any given time you or I could go to the person counting pearls and ask to see those pearls. We could walk around and count up how much food there is, then match that food to the pearls. A “standard” means that the “thing” being used for money matches the “stuff” being exchanged as valuable.

When someone arbitrarily decides to make more money, they have to also arbitrarily tell us how much that money is worth. They make a declaration by “fiat,” and so we end up with fiat money. Fiat money is a symbolic form of exchange based on nothing at all other than someone’s say-so.

Long ago we had a gold standard, where people could physically exchange a piece of gold (or silver) for something of value. In 1913, we decided once again to go with paper money. At that time, the US Government assigned 35 pieces of paper to 1 ounce of gold. The gold was supposed to match the amount of work and production in all of America.

In 1975, we decided not to use gold anymore. (Well actually the government decided, not you and me.) The government said that we would print paper dollars in enough volume to match the entire production of the country — the United States Gross Domestic Product.

They also said they’d be honest, and tell the truth about how much paper they were printing, and how much stuff America was producing. Since then, nobody has ever been able to audit the Federal Reserve, just to…say…check to see if they’re being honest. They say they are, though, and that’s good enough for Congress.

Likewise, nobody actually audits the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, except for weird (extremist) alternative blogs and strange financial analysts. Nothing the BLS prints makes any sense, but nobody minds really. It’s good enough for the financial news reports.

Meanwhile, people got used to exchanging actual pieces of paper for actual stuff. If you bought a candy bar, you handed over some paper and metal and you got the candy bar in exchange. You could actually put that candy bar in your mouth and eat it. The store owner had to trade the paper and metal for either more candy, or for something else he or she valued.

Since the mid-1990s, the amount of paper the government needs has been growing so fast the printing machines are in danger of exploding. NONE of that paper is matched to a damn thing! They “say” it matches the US economy, but that’s a lie.

Even so, the rest of us still like to know that we have something valuable in our pocket, wallet or purse. We like to actually see our paper money in a box, an envelope or under the mattress. But we’ve been learning how to use futures contracts for money, in the form of checks.

You give me a hamburger today, valued at $1.00. In exchange, I give you a contract that tells you that sometime in the future you can go to a special place and the people there will give you a dollar. In other words, I write you a check for a buck and you hang on to it until you cash it at the bank.

That was all fine and dandy, until we discovered computers. That led us to credit and debit cards and electronic gift cards. What actually does that mean?

When we used paper money, the only reason we needed checks and checking accounts was to handle long-distance transactions. That distance might be physical, or it might be distance in time. But one way or another, a bank actually had to have a certain amount of paper money in its vaults to match the numbers in their accounting books.

The problem is that money started moving around so fast, nobody could keep up with the actual transfer of dollars! There weren’t enough trucks to move that amount of money from bank to bank. Prices started going up as more and more paper flooded into the economy. (Those pearls suddenly started being made out of plastic, and everyone who could started making pearls.)

Instead of a house needing $35,000 pieces of paper moving from one bank to another, that house required $300,000 pieces of paper. All that paper was taking up room! BUT!….no matter how screwed up, at least there was some amount of paper that matched some amount of stuff.

The problem is that we now have such a massive amount of paper, there isn’t any room to store it anymore! Not only that, but none of that paper is worth anything other than as toilet paper or kindling. It costs more to print and move that paper than it’s worth!

Enter the final disaster: Digital Currency.

This digital currency is electronic money. Now we don’t even need a “thing” to represent underlying value. No, with digital currency we can just pretend that some “thing” exists, even when it doesn’t. At that point, we no longer even need to have fiat money! From now on, we can arbitrarily move numbers around on computers, none of which mean anything at all.

It’s already impossible to comprehend 14 Trillion Dollars. The paper would be mind-boggling, or we would have $1-billion bills in our wallets. Therefore, why bother? Why not just have numbers in a machine, totally disconnected from any kind of meaning at all? You get Direct Deposit for your paycheck? Well then, why not just pay you $1-million a year? Who cares? They’re just numbers, and there’s no need to carry around actual paper in an actual wallet!

This all works only until people who actually produce things stop exchanging!

When that coal miner, who sweats and digs to pull physical coal out of the ground no longer will accept “a number” instead of real value, we’re finished. At that point, no doctor will perform services. No farmer will sell food. No mechanic will fix a car. No store will sell candy. No weaver will make cloth. No plumber will fix the toilets.

Digital currency means that we can instantly give everyone with a food-stamp card $1,000 a month. We can increase your credit card limit to $18-billion. We can increase your wage to $10,000 a month. It’s like…magic! We can give everyone as much money as they want, and never have to use chopped up trees or ink or printing presses! Nobody has to do anything, we just push a button and BLAM!….you have a new minimum wage!

Until nobody agrees anymore to give up real and valuable things!

The reason the whole world wants fiat digital money is because there’s still a limit on how much money the government can print. It’s hardly a limit at all, but the amount of paper money necessary to pretend we have an economy is still that limit. Get rid of paper money, and there’s no more limit whatsoever. At that point, the government can spent quadrillions of dollars a minute, and the only thing that changes is a computer register.

May 11, 2011

Gold Standard? Not So Much

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 5:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Steve Forbes has come out with a statement suggesting that the US will likely go back to a gold standard. Several potential 2012 presidential candidates are also jumping on this bandwagon. I have to admit that not so long ago, I would have thought this was a great idea. But I’ve taken the time to learn a bit about economics, and I now understand that a gold standard would be foolish.

What’s money in the first place? Money is simply stored work and effort. It’s a symbolic “something” that’s easy to carry around and exchange in various ways. Paper money (cash) is easy to use between people for everyday transactions. Checks are useful to mail payments. Electronic transactions use digital numbers to represent whatever money is in a bank account. All in all, money is “something” that we can give to folks or get from folks, and use it to buy stuff.

We “get” money through some sort of work and effort. If we have no money, then we have to somehow figure out a way to get shelter from the weather, put clothing on our body, grow food, collect water and all the other basics of survival. The next step up is to grow or build enough surplus that we can trade our surplus for someone else’s surplus. Trading and barter make up a basic, primitive economy.

The problem with barter begins when we have a larger society, separated by geographic distance. The next immediate problem is when needs are separated in time. For example, if you mow someone’s lawn today, you might not want to immediately trade that service for a fried chicken dinner. So how do you store your lawn-mowing work until such time as you want the chicken dinner?

Another example would be that you want to trade your lawn-mowing service for a sweater made by someone 500 miles away. It’s not so easy, first because of your having to travel the distance to mow their lawn, and secondly because they might have someone closer at hand. Not to mention the travel involved to pick up the sweater. You want a way to assign your work to “something” that you can put in the mail.

Money is a way we can store our work and effort so that we can postpone an exchange. We can store up a lot of work in order to exchange that work for something more “expensive.” Maybe the knit sweater is worth 4 mowed lawns. How do you do that, unless you postpone getting the sweater until after you’ve mowed the person’s lawn four times.

A better way would be to mow four different people’s lawns in one afternoon, then trade all that work for one sweater. Now the problem is that you only mowed the sweater maker’s lawn one time. What about all that work you did for the three other people?

Throughout history, people have come up with a symbol of some sort that represents value. The value is work and effort. We might say that mowing one lawn is worth 1 pearl, 15 shells, 40 beads, 2 packs of cigarettes, 12 bullets, 2 rabbit pelts, or whatever else we want to make up. What matters is that EVERYone agrees on the basic symbol.

The problem with assigning a symbol is that we also have to work out some kind of formula that connects the symbol with work and effort. How many plastic beads will equal one mowed lawn?

Another problem is the exact specification of the symbol. What kind of plastic, in what colors, made under what sort of engineering specifications?

Finally, we have the problem of counterfeiting, where someone can make copies of the symbol we’re using for money, but there was NO work or effort behind the symbol.

Imagine if someone started manufacturing plastic beads by the truckload, and used them to buy real goods and services! This is what the Federal Reserve is doing, in cahoots with the US Treasury when they both print dollar bills that have no connection to gross domestic product (GDP).

The key here is the connection between a money symbol and the underlying, real-world goods and services. There must be a true connection between work and effort produced by real people, and the “something” the society is using for money.

Until I did some studying and learning, I thought that a good money symbol should also be limited in access and quantity. Gold, for example, is limited. There’s only a small supply of gold in the world, therefore it would be very hard to counterfeit. But there’s a fundamental problem with that concept!

  • What happens when there are more and more goods and services, and more and more work and effort, but there’s only a limited amount of gold?

It isn’t the symbol that matters. It’s who controls the symbol!

Back in 1913, the United States made a decision to use a Gold Standard for money. That simply means that the US assigned 35 pieces of paper to equal 1 ounce of gold. They called the pieces of paper “dollars.”

Now comes the major, major, really big problem: Who connects how many pieces of paper with how much work and effort?

There are two basic theories about how to assign work and effort to a monetary symbol. The one theory comes from John Maynard Keynes and gives us the Keynesian school of economic theory. The other theory is from Friedrich August Hayek, producing the Free-Market Capitalism school of economics.

Keynes tells us that a central authority, a government or state will determine how much symbol should equal how much work and effort. This has become known as “top down” economics, where someone at “the top” tells everyone else at “the bottom” how much money they can have for how much work and effort.

Free-market capitalism tells us that “the market” will determine how much symbol will equal what amount of goods and services. This “market” means every individual in the society, working on their own, in their own self interest, figuring out how much they’re each willing to exchange for whatever they want.

Hayek’s concept has become known as “bottom up” economics. The individuals at the bottom of the process each, individually determine prices and value, which eventually comes together to form statistical “market prices.”

When the US government made the determination that 35 dollar bills will equal 1 ounce of gold, that was a top down decision. When the State of Illinois government tells you that 1 hour of work and effort will equal $8.25 (eight and a quarter pieces of paper), that’s a top down decision.

Everything is still okay, as long as whomever at the top makes sure that the number of symbols (paper dollars) matches up with the amount of work and effort being produced by the entire society. In theory, the amount of money in circulation is supposed to match up with the total production of everyone in America’s work and effort. That total production is the gross domestic product — the GDP that you hear about all the time.

  • When money symbols can increase with the amount of goods and services, we have fiat money.

A gold standard would mean that “someone” would have to be in charge of storing all the gold somewhere. That gold would be the representation of real work and real effort. That “someone” would then issue pieces of paper (dollars) in an exact formula. Back in 1913, you could take 35 pieces of paper, go to “someone” and redeem the paper for 1 ounce of gold. The gold (in theory) was stored in Fort Knox.

What happens if that group or person who stores the gold is corrupt? What if they start printing more dollar bills then there actually is gold?

It’s no different than when a corrupt person or group prints more pieces of paper than there actually is real production!

It doesn’t matter if we use gold or we use yours and my work and effort to “back” the value of our dollars! Nobody cares, and it means nothing at all to the world economy! What matters is ONLY that the amount of symbolic money matches the real, underlying “stuff” the money symbolizes!

Bottom-up economics, as advocated by Hayek and the Chicago School of Economics is pretty simple. For each person’s work and effort, the servant government then produces “money.” Only after a product or service has been created does “someone” produce the money to match that real stuff!

  • Top-down economics allows whomever is in control to produce arbitrary amounts of money. In theory, that will therefore cause products and services to magically appear! (In the same way, producing more and more gasoline will cause new cars to magically appear.)

Every time you hear about “stimulus” and how QE1 or QE2 or QE-whatever will “grow job and stimulate the economy,” you’re hearing the fantasy of Keynesian economics. They believe that printing more money will somehow produce more real-world work and effort.

At the same time, more and more people are doing NO work, expending NO effort. Unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps, and every other government benefit or entitlement program is producing yet MORE paper money without a connection to goods and services.

Going to a gold standard would do absolutely nothing! Zero, zilch, nada! In fact, what it would do would be to limit even more the free market determination of prices and value. What if you want to start a business and borrow some money for a machine? What if there isn’t enough available gold to generate the money for you to borrow? Then what?

The solution is NOT a gold standard! Instead, the solution is to get rid of the corruption taking place in the government and the banking system. People should be in jail by now! Remove the phony statistics from the Bureau of Labor & Statistics. They’re busy telling us how all the magic money pouring into the economy “matches” the GDP! It’s total hogwash designed for a single purpose: to give the super-rich more and more paper money.

We can use gold, silver, wooden sticks, or Kryptonite as the underlying basis of our money. It doesn’t matter! What matters is only who controls the supply of that underlying basis. When you and I, in a a free market, with only the most basic regulatory oversight systems — when we control the supply (and demand) of money, then we’ll have a solid economy!

Government should serve the people, not the other way around! And that service is to only print new money whenever new products, goods and services enter into the market. That’s it! That’s all she wrote! No more, no less, but a government BY the people, FOR the people, which SERVES the people.

Okay…that’s the end of my rant for now.

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