Panic, But Slowly

The economy has been expanding since the start of 2010. It hasn’t been rapid, and It’s only now enough to absorb the workers who need jobs, but it’s real. It’s only natural for economists to ask, “When does it end?”

That’s not because they are extremely un-fun people. It’s their job. Recessions are a much bigger problem when no one sees them coming, and history shows that we never really see them coming. And that economists are always worried about the next recession, but we don’t really listen to them.

So is it time to panic? As Groucho tells us, “There’ll be plenty of time to panic later.”

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Unlimited Credit

This post from November 2015 is becoming more important as the federal deficit ratchets up and private credit is turning back up.  I am leaving in the references to Sanders and progressive counters because they may well be current again.

If you’re like most people, you probably think that you can never have too much access to credit. After all, you never know what might go horribly wrong or when an opportunity to really follow your dream might come up. A little scratch ready in the background might be the difference between the good life and something much less.

Then again, a lot of credit has a corrosive effect. In a world saturated with borrowing everything is judged against the expected return if the money was simply loaned out at market rates. It seems reasonable that where a little credit is a good thing a lot of credit, defining everything in the world, is the biggest enemy of both long-term thinking and a society looking to maximize happiness and human potential.

Logic says that where a little credit is good a lot could be bad, meaning there is an optimal point. Where is that? Where are we with respect to a good level of credit? It turns out that train left the station a very long time ago – and this may explain a lot of the problems in this economy.

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A Bold Prediction

We’ve been talking about the stock market this week, so why not end it with a bold prediction: Once the federal debt ceiling is raised, look for the stock market to utterly tank within two weeks, certainly within a month.

While there are many reasons why the market is taking at least a pause if not slouching towards a correction, the most important is the appetite for government debt. A time like this requires careful management and attention to consequences. We’re not getting it. What we have instead is mismanagement on an epic scale that will certainly spook the market and ultimately kill it.

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Black Hole

Because of a death in the family, I have to run a repeat.  This is from 2012, when things looked a lot more bleak than they do now.  I’m running it without any updates because that 2012 perspective is interesting.  Things are better, but not a ton better.  Good enough?  Not yet, but will it be?

Imagine you are in a space ship hurtling toward a black hole.  You might try to turn the ship around and fire the engines full force.  The problem is that the blast from your engines only adds mass to the black hole, making its gravitational pull even harder.  What do you do?  Fire the engines harder to try to hit escape velocity?

That may sound like a silly analogy for our ecnonomy, and it is definitely far from complete.  But as the brilliant John Mauldin discusses in his “Thoughts From the Frontline”, the black hole of debt is posing some very unusual economic problems.  This “singularity” is, simply put, a place where the normal equations that describe the universe of economics no longer apply.  What can we do when everything we know no longer works?
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Crisis and Calm

If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s going on in the world you’re in good company. The global economy has been undergoing rapid change for a number of years but global politics has been a bit slow to catch up to it.

A few items that Barataria has covered recently have entered new phases recently – unpredictable, rapidly changing phases that show that things are indeed coming to a head. We’ve consistently called 2017 as “The Year Everything Changes” for a number of reasons, but the lead-up to that year is proving to be especially chaotic. Here are updates to three stories we’ve been all over that should take surprising turns in the next year and a half. You read it here first!

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Banks Amok? Perhaps Not

The Greek Crisis has everyone nervous, and for good reasons. If this is what happens when a nation hits a financial crisis people around the world have to reasonably ask, “Are we next?” Every nation on this planet is deep into debt, although few are as bad off as Greece.

A lot of national debt is a threat to the world we live in for two related but distinct reasons. The first is that a nation loses the ability to make its own decisions and operate as a legitimate sovereign nation – which, in the case of democracies, means a de facto taking of power by creditors at the expense of the people. The second is that a large debt load has to be serviced by the government somehow which ultimately is a drain on the economy, reducing the standard of living and generally hurting personal opportunities.

With all this debt floating around causing so much pain it’s best to look at who holds it and how the world can get a handle on it.

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“Oxi” Means …

Greece has voted “no”. The word is “oxi”, pronounced something like “ohee” in phonetic English, but with a little bit stuck in your throat on the “h” as if you are spitting on the European Central Bank (ECB).

It may well be that this deal had to be rejected and Greece has to essentially go over the cliff to be able to really stand on its feet one day. It may be that the ECB deserves to be spat on, and for that matter perhaps all banks have it coming to them.

But banks today are what we have to watch – in Greece and all around the world. The proud Hellenic people may be about to find out what a world without banks is like as theirs are at the very least going to remain closed for a while longer.  Life is going to become increasingly more difficult for everyone.

But this is hardly the first time Greece stood up and said “no” to the great powers of the world.
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