Government’s plan could bring economic ruin 0

 At The Daily Beast, Arthur Laffer (‘Reagan’s economist’) writes

Why the proposed $700 billion stimulus plan could drive the country to economic ruin.

As you read this, our government is committing enormous sums of money above and beyond normal spending, solely to stimulate the economy and prop up failing companies and markets. These additional sums are huge by any reasonable measure, with estimates as high as $3 trillion in an economy with a GDP of about $15 trillion.

Here’s the bottom line: Instead of making things better, increased spending will only drive our economy further into the ground.

And there is still a lot more spending to come. First it was a $170 billion stimulus package in February of 2008, then material add-ons to both the housing and agricultural bills, followed by Federal Reserve asset swaps with Bear Stearns and a bailout of AIG (which, by the way, isn’t over yet) and then came the debt guarantees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

There is no tooth fairy. Every dollar given to someone comes from someone else.

Shortly after that, the administration anted up $700 billion in a bailout package, and now Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Bernanke want another stimulus package of $300 billion. Just this week the powers that be are debating bailouts for Michigan’s auto industry. With the slowdown in the economy, tax receipts are now projected to fall sharply. The logic here is totally upside down, and each new measure, far from helping the economy, does enormous damage.

It is true, as the proponents of these stimulus packages argue, that recipients of government checks will spend more than they otherwise would have spent. And, that increased spending will have a multiplier effect increasing spending even further. But this is only part of the story.

The government can only transfer resources; it can’t create resources. There is no tooth fairy. Every dollar given to someone comes from someone else. The government can’t bail some people out of trouble without putting other people into trouble, plus a hefty “toll for the troll.”

In the case of last February’s stimulus package, the government literally borrowed an extra $170 billion and at the same time sent out checks to the transfer recipients totaling $170 billion. The result was a $170 billion increase in the amount of bonds held by the public, accompanied by a $170 billion increase in the current value of future taxes to pay interest and principle on the additional debt.

From the standpoint of accounting, the government is $170 billion further in the red, and taxpayers are liable for an additional $170 billion worth of taxes. Therefore, for every dollar of transfer payment there’s at least an equivalent dollar of future tax liabilities. Those people with the increased tax liabilities will spend less, thereby dis-employing people who had been supplying them with goods they’ll no longer buy. And the reduction in spending of those with higher tax liabilities will lead to a multiplied reduction in total spending equal to and fully offsetting the increase in total spending from the recipients of government checks. There is no stimulus from the stimulus programs!

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tagged with , , , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink

Siren songs 0

 For those who think that Paulson’s ‘bailout’ is good for the country, or that smooth-talking Obama is the right choice for President with his campaign promises to enlarge the welfare state with a national health service and by ‘spreading the wealth around’, here is a cautionary quotation, used as an epigraph  to their book Free To Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman.

It was spoken from the bench by Judge Louis Brandeis in 1928.

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding. 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tagged with , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink

The Fatal Conceit 0

 Michelle Malkin writes that Paulson ‘doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing’. Here’s part of her article (read the whole thing): 

Members of Congress who let themselves be bullied into switching their votes on the bailout should be experiencing the biggest case of buyers’ remorse in U.S. history. They fell for what Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek called "the fatal conceit" – the disastrous idea that a federal bureaucrat has the knowledge to do a better job than the private market in organizing and directing an economy. They gave unchecked power to a single government official without a clue…

Wielding his enormous authority, Paulson is desperately throwing our money at banks in a futile attempt to convince them to lend. Instead, those banks are either hoarding the cash or acquiring more assets. In other words: Paulson is helping the banks that were "too big to fail" grow even bigger with taxpayer backing. Swell.

The White House says: "We’ll just trust our treasury secretary to implement the program." President Bush insists "government’s role will be limited and temporary." Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank is shrugging off the lack of bailout disclosure by both the Federal Reserve and Treasury. But as I reminded readers before this latest bait-and-switch admission, Hank Paulson is not to be trusted. I repeat:

This is the man who proclaimed the subprime crisis "largely contained" in April 2007; "near the bottom" in May 2007; and "largely contained" again in August 2007. This is the man who pledged that he had "no interest in bailing out lenders or property speculators" in October 2007 and couldn’t "think of any situation where the backdrop of the global economy was as healthy as it is today."

This is the man who patted himself on the back for refusing to "put taxpayer money on the line" to rescue Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15 – and then turned around the next day and engineered the $85 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of AIG. This is the man who vowed he had "no plans to insert money" into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – and then turned around and committed $200 billion in capital and credit lines to those corrupt, bloated, crumbling institutions.

This is the man who declared that "the worst is likely to be behind us" in May 2008.

Emperor Paulson’s bipartisan courtiers in Congress berated anyone who dared challenge his wisdom. Minority Leader John Boehner sniffed: "This is no time for ideological purity." Well, ideological pollution begat this mess. It’s time for a fiscal-conservative counterinsurgency to disrobe and disarm the charlatans before they do more harm.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, November 14, 2008

Tagged with , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink

Trust capitalism, it works 0

 Joseph Calhoun writes in Real Clear Markets (read the whole thing here):

Now markets are waiting on pins and needles as the politicians haggle over the details of the latest bailout attempt by the Fed and Treasury. This has introduced another roadblock to the re-capitalization and reorganization of the financial industry. Companies that are in need of capital are waiting to see if the plan will bail them out of their difficulties. If Hank Paulson is willing to pay an above market price for their bad loans, why should they dilute their equity now? Why not wait until they can offload the bad paper on the taxpayer and raise capital at a better price? Why take Tony Soprano terms when Uncle Sam is willing to let the taxpayer take the hit for you?

If this bailout goes ahead in its current form and the Treasury pays a high enough price to recapitalize the troubled banks, what has been accomplished? The plan may be enough to induce the banking sector to start lending again, although frankly, I don’t know why we would want institutions who have shown such poor judgment in the past to stay in that business. This plan short circuits the capitalist model which would allow the stronger, well-run institutions to gain market share and/or expand profit margins. The long-term effect will be to lower the overall return on capital in the financial services industry. The government apparently believes that the key to economic recovery is to allocate limited resources in an inefficient manner. Does that make sense?

Paulson and Bernanke have testified to Congress that the market for the mortgage paper rotting on the balance sheets of bad banks is not working. They have not offered an explanation of why that market is not functioning except to blame the complicated nature of some of the securities. That explanation begs the question of how exactly the Treasury believes it will be any better at deciphering the mortgage market. A more logical explanation is not a lack of willing buyers, but a lack of willing sellers. The Fed has allowed institutions to use collateral of ever falling quality to secure loans from the Fed. If a bank can finance its activities through the Fed and keep the bad loans on the balance sheet, what incentive does it have to sell? Selling will reveal the true condition of the company and will also force other institutions to do the same under mark- to-market accounting. The Fed is the one keeping the market from functioning. The Treasury does not need to enter the market for it to start functioning; the Fed needs to leave the market.

Paulson has said that the cause of the current problems is the housing deflation, but that ignores the elephant in the living room. The housing bubble, which was concentrated in a relatively small number of states, was caused by the reckless actions of the Greenspan Fed. The consequences of that bubble have been exacerbated by the Bernanke Fed. The market is functioning as it should. It is the Fed that is not functioning correctly. There is no reason we had to go through either the bubble or the aftermath. We got into this mess because we tried to avoid the consequences of the Internet bubble. We will only make things worse by trying to avoid the consequences of the housing bubble.

We are not on the verge of a new depression. The housing bubble collapse in California, Florida and a few other states is not enough to bring down the entire banking system. Investors who made mistakes in these markets should be held responsible and those who navigated the Fed-distorted market should be rewarded for their wisdom and prudence. Enacting the Paulson plan will not allow that to happen and our economy will suffer for it in the long run. The Japanese tried to prop up failed banks in the aftermath of the bursting of their twin bubbles and the result was 15 years of stagnation. Why are we emulating a strategy that is a demonstrable failure? A better alternative would be to allow capitalism to work as it should and stop the interventions of the Fed in the money market. Trust capitalism. It works.

 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tagged with , , , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink