Adjusted Monetary Base – November 16, 2013

I have to do my regular update on the adjusted monetary base.  This is what is directly controlled by the Federal Reserve (the Fed).  Just as the Fed promised, it has been increasing at approximately $85 billion per month.

I have been saying that the monetary base has more than quadrupled since 2008, when it stood at just over $800 billion.  Soon enough, I will have to say that it has quintupled.  By the time Janet Yellen takes over at the end of January, the Fed’s balance sheet will show almost $4 trillion.

Of course, as I have discussed before, much of this new money has gone into excess reserves held by the commercial banks.  This has kept most of the new money from multiplying through fractional reserve lending.  This has helped keep consumer price inflation down.

The higher demand for money has also played a key role in keeping prices relatively stable.  There is still a lot of fear out there and Obamacare is not helping the situation.  People are concerned about their jobs.  They are concerned about paying down their debt and keeping it manageable.  Other than buying stocks and, to a lesser extent, houses, there is not much euphoria out there.  A lot of people are trying not to overextend themselves.

The high demand for money can change quickly though.  If people have a perception that they will lose significant value due to inflation, then they will be more likely to spend their money before prices rise higher.  This can create an effect of raising prices even further.  It is a trend that is tough to break until the Fed gets serious about tightening its monetary policy.

I don’t know whether the Fed will start to “taper” soon.  But even if it does, it will still be creating unprecedented amounts of new money.  If the Fed cuts back to $60 billion per month instead of $85 billion per month, that is still $60 billion per month in monetary inflation.  It is still damaging the economy by misallocating resources.

I don’t know exactly how all of this will end, but it isn’t going to be pretty.  I can’t predict what Bernanke and Yellen and company are going to do.  I don’t even know if they know what they are going to do.  The Fed has really created a mess.

They are faced with a recession now or a recession later.  If they try to hold off on the recession, they will do this with more monetary inflation, which will only do more damage to the economy.  Be prepared for some interesting times ahead.

Janet Yellen at Confirmation Hearing

Janet Yellen made her first appearance in front of the Senate for her confirmation hearing.  While she was lightly challenged, there is not much question at this point that she will be confirmed as the next chair of the Federal Reserve.

Yellen said that we are in “a virtually unprecedented situation”.  She was referring to the unemployment rate, but she should have been referring to the Fed’s monetary inflation.

Yellen said, “We know that those long spells of unemployment are particularly painful for households, impose great hardship and costs on those without work, on the marriages of those who suffer these long unemployment spells…So I consider it imperative that we do what we can to promote a very strong recovery.”

Haven’t you already done enough?  She is certainly right about struggling families, but this is due to two main factors: big government and Fed policy.  Of course, the two go hand in hand.  If it weren’t for the Fed, the government would be more limited in how much it could spend.  And if it weren’t for the government, the Fed would likely not exist, or at least not in its current state.

On top of this, Yellen said that she doesn’t see any major bubbles right now.  She said, “Stock prices have risen pretty robustly, but I think that if you look at traditional valuation measures…you would not see stock prices in territory that suggests bubble-like conditions.”

This reminds me of Greenspan and Bernanke, who both said that there was no housing bubble.  Yellen’s comments almost want to make me heavily short the stock market at this point.

While I think that Janet Yellen will be a figurehead and will not be solely responsible for our future monetary policy, I do think she is symbolic of what we have.  She is certainly no better than Bernanke and it is possible she could be worse, if that is possible.

Yellen is a lot like Paul Krugman.  The Fed has been increasing the monetary base by $85 billion per month for almost a year now and this is still not enough.  She thinks the Fed needs to keep stepping on the monetary accelerator because unemployment is still too high.  It never occurs to her that it might be the Fed’s monetary policy that is contributing to the continually high unemployment rate.  It never occurs to her that it was the Fed’s policies that led to the high unemployment rate in the first place.

Janet Yellen is a perfect Keynesian.  She believes in more government spending and more monetary inflation.  I don’t know what to expect from her if price inflation goes up.  I do know that we are already in a mess and she is inheriting it.  At least her and her Keynesian policies can take the blame when everything blows up.

Obamacare is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, just keeps getting better and better.  As long as this thing is in existence, I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of jokes for late-night comedians, or for commentary on this blog.

I have actually been quite surprised at just how much of a boondoggle Obamacare has been so far.  I expected it to be a disaster, but I figured it would take longer for the disaster to come to fruition.  But instead of looking at this as a disaster, I look at it as an opportunity for educating others on how government programs never live up to their promises.

The latest news is that, as of early November, just over 106,000 people had chosen a health insurance plan from the new “marketplaces”.  About three quarters of the people who signed up did it through a state program.  Only about one quarter was actually through the federal website.

These numbers are absolutely abysmal, at least from the standpoint of the Obama administration and Obamacare supporters.  We live in a country of over 300 million people.  It is usually the Democrats who are crying that 40 million (or pick some random number around there) Americans are without health insurance.

If only about 100,000 people sign up each month, then every American should be insured in about 33 years, assuming the population doesn’t grow at all.

Another way to look at this is that one person has signed up for every 2,900 people or so living in the U.S.  So if you talk to 2,900 people, then you should find one person who has signed up, statistically speaking.

But the news just gets better and better.

This figure of 106,000 people doesn’t mean they have actually paid for anything.  It just means these people have put a plan in their “shopping cart”.  Based on this reasoning, I guess Amazon can now count quarterly sales for products that people placed in their carts but never actually purchased.  Amazon, just like Obamacare, can just assume that if someone placed an item in their cart, that they will eventually pay for it.

This article says that almost one million people successfully applied for insurance during the first month, but had yet to enroll in a specific plan.  Doesn’t this make it even worse?  It means that people didn’t like what they saw.  It means people were shopping for a product, but found that the products were too expensive for what they were worth.

Obamacare is Obama’s legacy at this point.  It is a joke, just the way Obama’s presidency has been.

Obamacare is going to end the career of many Democrats next year.  Unfortunately, we will get Republicans in their place.

Should the FDA Ban Trans Fat?

There were recent reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going to attempt to ban trans fat.  From a personal standpoint, I believe that trans fats are generally harmful to people’s health and they should be avoided as best as possible.  With that said, I am also a libertarian who believes in voluntary choice.

There are so many things wrong with this, it is hard to know where to start.

First, how did the FDA ever get the power to do something like this.  This whole thing provides a perfect example of where the government has gone completely wrong.  The FDA should not have the arbitrary power to create new laws and regulations.  This is the same with any of the other agencies of the government.

That is why I support the Write the Laws Act, sponsored by  Congress should not be delegating their authority to other bureaucrats, who are basically completely unaccountable.  If a terrible law is going to be passed, it should at least be done by the people who supposedly represent you in Congress.

Second, this is obviously a moral outrage for anyone who has a libertarian streak.  It doesn’t matter if trans fat is harmful.  Smoking can be harmful too.  Drinking alcohol can be harmful.  Eating too much pasta can be harmful.  Skydiving can be harmful.  This doesn’t mean any of this should be banned.  Consenting adults should be able to do what they want as long as they are not infringing on others.

Third, supporting this FDA move could be really dangerous in setting a future precedent.  In the article linked, there is one particular sentence that really caught my attention.  It says, “Trans fat is widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fat, which can also contribute to heart disease.”

This is just terrible science and the government and the establishment are full of junk science.  While I agree that trans fat is bad, saturated fat is not.  In fact, saturated fat is quite beneficial and plays a vital role in keeping the human body healthy.  I specifically try to eat foods high in saturated fat for the benefits.

If you disagree with me on saturated fat, that is your right to do so.  But are you going to tell the FDA to ban saturated fat next?  Don’t try to shove your faulty science down my throat.

And this leads to point number four, which is, who gets to decide?  Why do the bureaucrats at the FDA get to decide what I can and can’t put into my body?  What makes them so special?  In fact, they have an incentive to help their friends who lobby for this junk science, which often benefits pharmaceutical companies, certain food industries, etc.  Who gets to decide what is healthy and what is not?  The bureaucrats have already decided that saturated fat is bad for you and, in my opinion, they are absolutely wrong.  The information they put out on some things is not just wrong, but the opposite of right.

In conclusion, if you think it is unhealthy to eat food with trans fat and you want to avoid it, then don’t buy it and don’t eat.  But we should never advocate the use of force to impose our ways on others.  That should only be done through persuasion.

Big Government Kills

Libertarians are often accused of not caring about the poor.  People not well versed in libertarianism, and even some who are, like to portray libertarians as wanting a dog-eat-dog world, where only the strongest survive.  But ironically, it is a libertarian society where the weak can survive and are most likely to prosper.

Also ironically, for those who like to support government solutions as the answer to our societal problems, you are the ones who are devastating the weak and the poor, whether intentional or not.

Big government kills.  Some things are obvious.  We can see direct killings when it comes to wars and other attacks, such as drone bombings.  This is the government killing people directly.

There is also indirect killing.  One example is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA provides false assurance for many drugs that can be quite dangerous.  At the same time, the FDA will keep some drugs, sometimes potentially life-saving drugs, off of the market for years.  The drugs cannot be made available to the public until the FDA approves it, making sure their own backsides are covered.  Meanwhile, people die waiting for the drug to be approved.

In addition, you don’t know how many potentially life-saving drugs never come to the market because it is not worth the expense of getting FDA approval.

But I was also reminded this week of another way that government kills, although indirectly.  There was a devastating typhoon (basically a hurricane to Americans) that struck the Philippines.  The death toll is estimated to be at least 10,000, but it is impossible to tell right now due to the destruction.  People there will probably continue to die due to dehydration, hunger, disease and all of the other related problems from the devastation.

If a similar storm hit the U.S. in an area with a similar population, there is no question that you would see death and destruction.  But it is unlikely that the death toll would hit anywhere near 10,000.  So what does this have to do with government?

The reason that a place like the Philippines is more devastated when a storm like this hits, is simply because it is a poorer place.  The construction of houses and buildings is not nearly as good in general.  In addition, it is harder for people to escape the storm when they are really poor.  I do acknowledge that it is easier to go inland in the U.S. as compared to a place like the Philippines that is all islands.  But still, a lack of wealth means less mobility for people.

Now some might say that the better construction in the U.S. is because of the building codes.  Some would actually credit government with the better construction.  But people who cite this have everything completely backwards.

The only reason the U.S. is able to have stricter building codes is because it is a wealthier country.  It is a long history of relatively free markets and strong property rights that have led to the great wealth.  Two centuries of savings and capital investment have led to this great wealth.

If the government in the Philippines were to enact building codes as strict as in the U.S., then either most people wouldn’t follow the law or else most people would be living without any shelter.  It isn’t that people don’t want stronger houses to live in.  It is just that most people simply cannot afford it.

There are any number of examples where big government leads to death and destruction.  This storm that hit the Philippines, which is basically still a third-world country with some modernization in the big cities, showed a good example of how poverty can lead to death.

I contend that a libertarian society would be a very compassionate society, aside from the fact that aggressive force would not be allowed, even by government.  I contend that a libertarian society, in which property rights were respected and free association was allowed, would lead to greater prosperity and far less poverty.  It would mean a better life for most people and it would lessen the tragedy we see in this world.

Pledging Allegiance

There was an article recently about a boy in 4th grade who was not putting his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.  The teacher actually grabbed the student’s arm, telling him to put his hand over his heart.

The young boy did not back down.  He said that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not worship objects, but that he would stand out of respect.  The teacher ended up getting suspended and is under investigation (and rightly so in my opinion).
The whole thing of pledging allegiance to the flag is a little funny to me.  It isn’t patriotism to me.  It is falling in line with the establishment and being a good little soldier who doesn’t question authority.
Americans like to make fun of pictures from 1930’s and 1940’s Germany where German citizens are extending their arm upwards in a Nazi salute, or something to that effect.  You can see many pictures and videos of Hitler doing it, with crowds of people imitating.
Are we going to look back one day and make fun of Americans for putting their right hand over their heart in allegiance to the American flag, which is really supposed to translate into allegiance to the U.S. government?
As usual, I like reading the comments at the bottom of the story.  It is a little disturbing that many people were making fun of the kid and pulling the whole patriotism card.  It really is amazing how brainwashed people are.  They will make fun of other people in other countries, but they can’t see their own hypocrisy.  And some people follow in the footsteps of the authoritarian teacher saying that if you don’t want to say the Pledge, then you should move to another country.
Of course, there were some comments saying that it is the kid’s right not to put his hand over his heart if that is his choice.
While I didn’t read all of the comments, I didn’t see a mention of the fact that this likely took place at a government school.  You never seem to get these controversies in schools where there are actual paying customers.
I’m a little surprised, although not too much, that the kid’s parents are not sending him to a private school or homeschooling him.  Of course, the government taxes people so much that they have difficulty opting out of the government school system.
I think the Pledge of Allegiance, which was written by a socialist, is a joke and a propaganda tool of the state.  All of the people who are criticizing those who do not worship the Pledge should take a look in the mirror.  Should we all pledge allegiance to Obama and Congress?  Should we all do a Nazi salute while we are at it?

Obamacare is a Joke

One of the best ways to defeat something politically is to make it the subject of jokes and laughter.  So it is good news for lovers of liberty that Obamacare, along with its infamous website, is the laughingstock of the country right now.

At the Country Music Awards, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood spent over a minute on stage making fun of Obamacare and the website.  They finish it off singing a little tune about the slowness of the site and how 6 people have signed up.  The crowd was mostly laughing and clapping, although I think there were a few that didn’t appreciate the humor.

Of course, if this little skit had been put on at the Grammys or Academy Awards, I don’t think the response would have been quite the same.

But Obamacare is a major theme of the late-night comedy shows.  It is just too easy to make fun of right now.

Meanwhile, Obama has just come out with an apology to the American people.  He said, “It means a lot to them.  And it’s scary to them.  And I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.  We’ve got to work hard to make sure that we hear them and that we’re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

This is actually quite remarkable, when Obama was going around lying just a few days ago.  First he lied about people being able to keep their health insurance when Obamacare was being promoted a few years ago.  Then he lied a few days ago about his first lie.  He was trying to convince people that he never assured people they could keep their current plan, even though he is on camera saying it many times.  And now he is apologizing for his false assurances, which just a few days ago he was saying he never gave.

This is a complete train wreck and I couldn’t be happier about it.  And what is now a joke will become anger on the part of the American people.  We can make fun of the terrible website right now.  But wait until middle class Americans, who are already struggling to pay their bills, have to fork over hundreds of dollars a month for a lousy insurance plan that probably doesn’t even cover that much.

This is good news.  I still think there is a chance that Obamacare could be repealed.  Obama backed down on Syria.  He just backed down about his original lies.  If the political pressure is strong enough, we could see Obamacare go down in flames.  That would be a victory for liberty.

November 2013 – Election Results Assessment

Some people who don’t follow politics much might not even be aware that there were elections across the country on November 5, 2013.  Aside from electing politicians, the voters also got to decide on many state ballot measures.  The results are interesting to look at, just to see the pulse of the country.  You can get a decent idea of what happened here.

In Colorado, there were 11 counties that voted on the issue of secession.  5 out of the 11 counties voted in favor of it, or at least in favor of pursuing it further.  This does not mean these 5 counties will secede.  It means it can be pursued further.  It would be a secession from the state of Colorado, not from the U.S.

Regardless though, the fact that 5 counties had a majority vote favoring the idea of secession is a good step in the right direction for libertarians.

Another positive thing for libertarians is that  a few cities in Main and Michigan had ballot measures to legalize the possession of marijuana.  The voters approved the measures.  Again, it might be more symbolic than anything at this point, but it is still a good sign of a shifting of opinion towards drug legalization.

On the bad side, New Jersey voters approved (with about 61%) an increase of the state minimum wage to $8.25 per hour, which is $1 more than the federal minimum wage.

On the issue of minimum wage, this is something where America needs a lot of work still.  This isn’t just a question of economic ignorance.  It is a question of freedom of association.

Minimum wage laws are preventing people from voluntarily associating.  Starting in January, if someone wants to offer work to another person for $8 per hour, then he will be in violation of the law in New Jersey.  It is prohibited by the state.  The person hiring (the employer) is willing to pay $8 per hour.  The person who needs a job is willing to work at that particular job for $8 per hour.  If that weren’t the case, then no law would be necessary.

The minimum wage laws simply outlaw employment.  They destroy freedom of association and the freedom to work.

I think the whole concept of freedom of association has been lost on many Americans.  It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with economics or social issues.  Having the government force people to do business and having the government prohibit certain people from doing business is just bad policy.  It doesn’t matter whether you personally think it is a good idea.  You should not force voluntary consenting adults from choosing what to do with their own life and their own property.

In conclusion, the election results are a mixed bag for libertarians.  But I think there is some progress and I think there has been a little bit of a shift in public opinion on some issues.

Election Results and Obamacare

As I write this, it looks as though Terry McAuliffe will be the next governor of Virginia.  However, the election results are extremely close.

I was expecting McAuliffe to win easily.  While I don’t consider Virginia a given for Democrats, such as New York and California, I consider it more Democratic leaning than Republican.

The results are extremely close.  There is about 1% separating the Republican and Democrat.  And more surprisingly, the Libertarian candidate received well over 6% of the vote, which is quite remarkable given how close the race was.

So while McAuliffe may be the winner, it is actually Obamacare that is the loser.  I will explain further.

McAuliffe is a sleaze bag.  He is as corrupt as they come.  I know this not just because he is a politician.  I know this because he is a close friend of the Clintons.  Anyone who voluntarily hangs around the Clintons is likely to be a bad apple.  Most Clinton associates either end up in politics, end up in jail, or end up in an “accidental” death somewhere.  I guess it is lucky for McAuliffe that he ended up in politics.

Now back to Obamacare.  The Republican candidate in Virginia was backed by the Tea Party.  He is what is considered a conservative Republican.

Meanwhile, the Libertarian, while not a radical by any means, supports lower taxes and less government.  I don’t buy the mantra that the Libertarian candidate always steals votes from the Republican candidate.  There might be a little more truth to that at the state and local level, but most people who vote Libertarian have a mind of their own anyway.  They could just as likely have stayed home or put down a write-in candidate.

In this particular election, if you combine the Libertarian vote and the Republican vote, McAuliffe lost by over 5%.  And while Obamacare is not really a state level issue (unless you are talking about nullification), it is one of the top things on the mind of voters.  You better believe that Obamacare is having an effect on people’s attitudes towards Republicans and Democrats and it isn’t good for the Democrats.

I think Obamacare is only going to become more of a disaster as time goes on.  Wait until people actually have to start paying the exorbitant premiums for lousy coverage.  I think the Democrats are going to pay a heavy price in 2014.

I think the Virginia election points to this.  Even though the Democrat technically won, it was not with a majority of votes.  He just barely won in a state that does not usually go conservative.  The majority of people voted for someone who they perceived as being for smaller government, at least in terms of the economy.  Both the Libertarian and Republican were anti-Obamacare, at least in rhetoric.

It looks as though the Democrats will experience heavy losses in 2014.  It is still possible that Obamacare could get repealed.

Food Stamp Dependency

Food stamps have been in the news lately, as recipients are facing some minor scheduled cuts in the government program.  The politically correct term these days is SNAP, which stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  It should also be pointed out that we don’t really see food stamps any more.  It is more like a credit card that bills the taxpayer.

Here is one article on the cuts that food stamp recipients are facing.  I realize how naive I was about this whole thing.  I knew that the number of recipients had grown substantially over the last ten years and was now close to 50 million Americans.  But I had no idea the amounts that people were receiving.

A family of four can get a maximum payment of $668 per month.  This is set to decrease to $632.  I really had no idea it was this much.  I thought it was a supplement.  I didn’t realize that food stamps paid for people’s groceries in their entirety, all year long.

At $632 per month (the reduced amount), that still leaves over $150 per week for a family of four.  That is over $20 per day.  As long as you are not buying individual meals and not buying expensive meals like steak and lobster, then this should cover most or all of your food expenses.  It is easy to realize why non-recipients get so aggravated at the massive welfare.

I realize that you can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes with food stamp money.  But this really doesn’t matter.  Money is fungible.  If someone pays for their beer and cigarettes separately, it doesn’t mean that these things are not being subsidized.  The person could have used the money spent on beer and cigarettes and put that towards food, instead of using government violence to collect the money.

I realize that there are all different kinds of government welfare.  I would certainly rather see a food stamp program than a war overseas that kills innocent people.  I would rather see a food stamp program than funding the drug war that destroys people’s lives and causes higher crime rates.  I would rather see a food stamp program than sending money to dictators in foreign countries.

I have sympathy for some poor people (even though that doesn’t justify using force).  But there are many poor people for which I have little sympathy.  I suppose my only sympathy is that they were brought up by terrible parents, or maybe one parent.  They grew up with bad examples and a terrible school system that taught them how to be leaches on society.

I do have sympathy for poor people who work hard.  There are many hardworking people, both poor and middle class, who find themselves struggling.  They are in a bad system where the government makes their lives extremely difficult.  Government regulation, massive government spending, and Federal Reserve inflation all make us poorer and make our lives harder than they should be.

I think there is going to come a time when the middle and upper classes say “enough”.  They don’t want to seem uncompassionate, but there will come a time when they will be pushed over the edge and will demand a reduction, if not a stop, to the massive government welfare.

The food stamp program is symbolic of government welfare.  It causes resentment on both sides.  It creates dependency on one side and anger on the other.  And then the dependent side gets angry when their plunder is reduced by about 5% per month.

The non-recipients are still a large majority in this country.  There may be 47 million Americans on food stamps, but there are over 250 million who are not.  The 250 million can put a stop to it at any time.