Quantitative Tightening—Is It Coming Soon?

For years we’ve been hearing various explanations of why income disparity in the US has been widening between the rich and poor.

For example, one reason given is that the “real value” of wages has fallen steadily over the past three decades. This means the average worker’s paycheck buys less than it used to.

Proposed remedies have included a rise in the minimum wage, lower taxes on workers, a resurrection of labor unions, and currently, creation of more jobs for workers through corporate tax breaks and corporate support of infrastructure projects.

Another reason for the loss of wealth among working Americans is job loss.

Theories about this are that too many American workers are poorly educated and new jobs in manufacturing require better skills; also robotic devices are fast hitting the American factory – take a tour of a nearby factory and you can see these fascinating objects in action: and finally, foreign workers can work more cheaply then American workers—i.e., outsourcing is to blame.

A different theory used in explaining the increasing poverty of the middle class is that illegal immigrants are being supported by the US government with funds that should go for other purposes. America First, means Americans First, others Never.

All of these ideas are up for debate, but one thing I see missing in this discussion is the fact that most Americans, young, middle age or old, working or retired used to have a source of income growth that disappeared after the “Great Recession” of 2007.

This source of income for savings was the compounded interest paid by banks on savings and checking accounts, money market certificates, and the government paid on U.S. Treasuries – Treasury bills and bonds alike.

All of this went the way of the dinosaurs when the first money market fund went bust and Lehman and US banks, large and small, started failing by the hundreds.

Before the Great Recession (and now after it) unregulated companies were creating bubbles with car loans and student loans that were also being turned into subprime derivatives.

Added to this there was the gigantic mortgage bubble which broke after large insurers and banks began buying up mortgages, piling them into blind trusts, and selling mortgage-backed derivatives that included many subprime mortgages that banks were handing out without doing proper paperwork.

Many Americans depended on home mortgage refinancing as a source of relief when they ran into economic surprises, but the surprise in 2007 was a tsunami that left many homeowners “underwater”.

The Fed’s role in creating poverty in the US

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TV News Media & Trump Madness

This year while watching TV news I found I simply couldn’t anymore.

Watching newscasters on TV brings back a memory from when I was in the midst of my first semester finals in the Graduate School of Economics at the University of Wisconsin after I received an “I’ve got bad news,” telephone call from my father.

My two oldest nephews, Willy, aged 12 and Tom aged 10, had vanished after taking a rowboat out on Puget Sound. The family, broken by this time by years of dysfunctional fighting between my parents, was going West in two shifts: my mother and I first; my father and his new wife second.

As soon as I entered his house my oldest brother. Will, took my arm and walked me over to a Coast Guard map, telling me the story as we went. A storm had come up, he said pointing to the map, “this is where a woman on the shore saw them struggling in the boat”.

He traced the trajectory of the two boys’ trip from the beach in front of his house to that point. “She called the Coast Guard, but their ship was out on the water, and it had no ship-to-shore radio.”

As I studied for exams that week, and went for walks on the cold, lonely January beach alone and with my mother, visitors came flocking in each day with more food than any of us felt like eating. I watched as Will took each one in to the map telling the same story as he told me. Over and over again.

I recognized what Will was doing. My second oldest brother Les had once sent me a list of “psychological defense mechanisms” while I was in high school. Les and I were both trying to understand what was going on in our family.

Will was clearly in shock, and he was also in denial. So was I. Seeing two boys of about the right age playing on the beach one morning as I came down the wooden stairs to the beach, I felt a leap of hope in my heart that they were my nephews, even though I knew they weren’t.

I’d grown up with those boys and lived with them when Will was more like a father to me than my own father.

It took me nine more years to lose that hope during a dream when I saw my nephews playing on the other side of a river and called across to ask if they were dead. They nodded “yes”.

Most of you probably know about the list of defense mechanisms Les gave me, but what I want to talk about now is what the frequent use of them in my family did to me as a young girl and is doing to all of us right now. Continue reading →

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Will Trump’s Mexico Plan Work? Yes, But…

The Mexico plan

Trump’s plan for Mexico is to (A) stop US manufacturing corporations from moving to Mexico, and (B) bring back those jobs to the United States.

Steps in Trump’s Mexico plan:

(1) Deport as many illegal immigrants as possible in the US from Mexico back to Mexico

(2) Persuade US corporations in Mexico to leave it and bring  back jobs to the US by giving them huge tax breaks and subsidies

(3) Build a giant Wall all along the US/Mexican border

(4) Levy a huge tax (like a 20% tariff) on imports of goods from Mexico into the US

What does each step accomplish?

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