Michael Hudson’s latst book is a must read. Here is an excerpt.
This summary of my economic theory traces how industrial capitalism has turned into finance capitalism. The finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector has emerged to create “balance sheet wealth” not by new tangible investment and employment, but financially in the form of debt leveraging and rent-extraction. This rentier overhead is overpowering the economy’s ability to produce a large enough surplus to carry its debts. As in a radioactive decay process, we are passing through a short-lived and unstable phase of “casino capitalism,” which now threatens to settle into leaden austerity and debt deflation.
This situation confronts society with a choice either to write down debts to a level that can be paid (or indeed, to write them off altogether with a Clean Slate), or to permit creditors to foreclose, concentrating property in their own hands (including whatever assets are in the public domain to be privatized) and imposing a combination of financial and fiscal austerity on the population. This scenario will produce a shrinking debt-ridden and tax-ridden economy.
I read report after report that pointed out the Bear Case. The Demise of Europe, Hard Landing in China, and Fiscal Cliff dominated the analysis, roughly in that order.
I agree with a lot of the Bear case. I can see it. I can argue it, heck, since much of it is focused on the bond market, I think I could argue it better than most. The problem with the bear case isn’t that it isn’t compelling, just that it hasn’t worked.
So what is wrong with the Bear Case?
For one, the bear case, in many instances is done with as much “fluff” as cheerleading bull arguments.
If Spain rolls 1 billion of debt, no new debt was created. Sometimes, the “debt on debt” argument is devolving into a rant. If a country can replace 4% average coupon debt with 2% average coupon, that is useful. It decreases current deficit. It reduces how much money has to be borrowed to pay interest. I’m not convinced this will happen, and I am concerned that the focus is on the short end, but average coupon does matter, access to cheap debt to roll old debt does matter. So this is one area where the bears are potentially too pessimistic.
Weekend reading on taxes and politicians, by Vanity Fair.
For all Mitt Romney’s touting of his business record, when it comes to his own money the Republican nominee is remarkably shy about disclosing numbers and investments. Nicholas Shaxson delves into the murky world of offshore finance, revealing loopholes that allow the very wealthy to skirt tax laws, and investigating just how much of Romney’s fortune (with $30 million in Bain Capital funds in the Cayman Islands alone?) looks pretty strange for a presidential candidate.
Aperson who worked for Mitt Romney at the consulting firm Bain and Co. in 1977 remembers him with mixed feelings. “Mitt was … a really wonderful boss,” the former employee says. “He was nice, he was fair, he was logical, he said what he wanted … he was really encouraging.” But Bain and Co., the person recalls, pushed employees to find out secret revenue and sales data on its clients’ competitors.