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Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

Not Adding Up

One of the more disagreeable discrepancies of American life in the 21st century is the world according to Washington’s economic bureaus and the world as it actually is.  In short, things don’t add up.  What’s more, the propaganda is so far off the mark, it is downright insulting.

Coming down from the mountain with the latest data tablet… [PT]

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports an unemployment rate of just 3.7 percent.  The BLS also reports price inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), of 1.8 percent.  Yet big city streets are lined with tents and panhandlers grumble “that’s all” when you spare them a dollar.

In addition, good people of sound mind and honest intentions are racking up debt like never before.  Mortgage debt recently topped $9.4 trillion. If you didn’t know, this eclipses the 2008 high of $9.3 trillion that was notched at the precise moment the credit market melted down.

Total American household debt, which includes mortgages and student loans, is about $14 trillion – roughly $1 trillion higher than in 2008.  Credit card debt, which is over $1 trillion, is also above the 2008 peak.  To be clear, these debt levels are not signs of economic strength; rather, they are signs of impending disaster.  Moreover, they’re signs that American workers have been given a raw deal.

US CPI, “core” CPI and total consumer credit outstanding. 

How is it that the economy has been growing for a full decade straight, but the average worker has seen no meaningful increase in his income?  Have workers really been sprinting in place this entire time?  How did they end up in this ridiculous situation?

US mortgage debt outstanding and real household wages (real hourly earnings of production and non-supervisory employees) [PT]

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s The Proof: How The CPI Is Underrepresenting Food Inflation By 40%

Here’s The Proof: How The CPI Is Underrepresenting Food Inflation By 40%

The “muzzle” on reported inflation has policymakers and analysts perplexed.

As Joseph Carson, former director of economic research at Alliance Bernstein writes in his follow up to a “New Working Theory on Inflation“, numerous economic explanations and theories have been offered, and policymakers are considering making changes to their operating price-targeting framework. Yet, before any decisions are made policymakers should consider all of the factors that could be keeping a “muzzle” on published inflation.

Here are two:

First, a little more than 20 years ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) introduced a number of new measurement techniques in the estimation of consumer inflation (see Boskin Commission). So the current business cycle, which started in 2009, is the second consecutive cycle in which these new procedures have been employed.

Statistical changes have been made to account for product substitution, a greater degree of quality changes in products and services and faster introduction of new outlets or ways in which people shop. The introduction of new variables in the estimation of inflation alters the pattern and at various times the rate of change as well.

Prior to their implementation, analysts and government statisticians estimated that the potential reduction in core inflation from all of these statistical changes would range from one-half to a full percentage point. Yet, all of those estimates were looking backwards and there is no guidance from the statistical agencies of the scale of the reduction in reported inflation after implementation.

Odds are high that the impact on reported inflation varies year to year, with some years at the upper end of range of estimate and others at the lower end.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There’s Trouble Brewing In Middle Earth

There’s Trouble Brewing In Middle Earth

For the second time in three years, I’m fortunate enough to spend some time in New Zealand (or Aotearoa). In 2012, it was all mostly a pretty crazy touring schedule, but this time is a bit quieter. Still get to meet tons of people though, in between the relentless Automatic Earth publishing schedule. And of course people want to ask, once they know what I do, how I think their country is doing.

My answer is I think New Zealand is much better off than most other countries, but not because they’re presently richer (disappointing for many). They’re better off because of the potential here. Which isn’t being used much at all right now. In fact, New Zealand does about everything wrong on a political and macro-economic scale. More about that below.

I’ve been going through some numbers today, and lots of articles, and I think I have an idea what’s going on. Thank you to my new best friend Grant here in Northland (is it Kerikeri or Kaikohe?) for providing much of the reading material and the initial spark.

To begin with, official government data. We love those, don’t we, wherever we turn our inquisitive heads. Because no government would ever not be fully open and truthful. This is from Stuff.co.nz, March 19 2015:

New Zealand GDP grew 3.3% last year

New Zealand’s economy grew 3.3% last year, the fastest since 2007 before the global financial crisis, Statistics NZ said. Most forecasts expect the economy to keep growing this year and next, although slightly more slowly than in the past year. For the three months ended December 31, GDP grew 0.8%, in line with Reserve Bank and other forecasts. That was led by shop sales and accommodation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

Paul Singer Slams The Fake World: “Fake Growth, Fake Money, Fake Jobs, Fake Stability, Fake Inflation Numbers” | Zero Hedge

Paul Singer Slams The Fake World: “Fake Growth, Fake Money, Fake Jobs, Fake Stability, Fake Inflation Numbers” | Zero Hedge.

Excerpted from Elliott Management’s Paul Singer letter to investors,

FAKING IT

Nobody knows when reality will overtake the rhetoric, lies, phony statistics, wishful thinking, fake prices and tiresome poseurs pretending to be world leaders. The situation is universal, a consequence of incompetent leaders and careless (or ignorant) citizenry. Global problems are continuing to mount, along with the risk that the consequences of years of bad policies and inept leadership compound (as sometimes happens) in a short window of time. Let us start by unpacking some current examples of fakery, and then try to explore the consequences.

Monetary policy.

Either out of ideology or incompetence, all major developed governments have given up (did they ever really try?) attempting to use solid, fundamental policies to create sustainable, strong growth in output, incomes, innovation, entrepreneurship and good jobs. The policies that are needed (in the areas of tax, regulatory, labor, education and training, energy, rule of law, and trade) are not unknown, nor are they too complicated for even the most simple-minded politician to understand. But in most developed countries, there is and has been complete policy paralysis on the growth-generation side, as elected officials have delegated the entirety of the task to central bankers.

…click on above link to read the rest of the article…

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