Financial Repression Authority with Marshall Auerback
Special Guest: Marshall Auerback, Director of Institutional Partnerships, Institute for New Economic Thinking. Auerback has over 20 years of experience in the investment management business. He served as a director and global portfolio strategist for the Canada-based fund management group Pinetree Capital. He also was head of economic research for Madison Street Partners, a Denver-based investment management group, and he worked as an economic consultant to PIMCO, the world's largest bond fund management group. In addition, Auerback is a Research Associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and a Research Fellow for the Economists for Peace and Security. (http://www.epsusa.org)
Previously, Auerback managed the Prudent Global Fixed Income Fund for David W. Tice & Associates and assisted with the management of the Prudent Bear Fund. He also worked as an international economics strategist for Veneroso Associates, which provided macroeconomic strategy to a number of leading institutional investors. Prior to that, Auerback ran an emerging markets fund for Tiedemann Investment Group in New York. He began his finance career as an investment manager at GT Management, focusing on the markets of Japan, Australia, and the Pacific Rim, while based in Hong Kong and then Tokyo.
Auerback graduated magna cum laude from Queen's University in Canada and received a post-graduate masters degree from Oxford University.
"Financial Repression can be a fairly loaded word. I think you can say that anytime you have a central bank which is a monopoly of anything, which can establish a price, you can have repression. I am less concerned with the labels and more concerned with the fact that we have been in response to this unprecedented crisis, been increasingly undertaking exotic experiments on behalf of the central banks. Most notably Quantitative Easing. It has had the effect of repressing interest rates or keeping them low. This of course is great for borrowers, but has the unintended by-product of depriving people of income."
A Flawed System
Financial Repression is an experiment that " is flawed in terms of the economics behind it. I don't think it does much to help elevate aggregate demand (spending power) and it turns out to be a large implicit subsidy for the financial sector."
"As far as I am concerned we are already over-financed as an economy and do too much for the banks anyway. It is really a fundamentally mistaken policy approach!"
Trends Since The Financial Crisis
"We have had three rounds of Quantitative Easing by the Fed, we have undertaken similar policies in Japan and more recently in Europe. If you look at the impact it has been rather minimal! The Japanese economy is still pretty stagnant. The US is growing but I believe that has less to do with QE and more to do with the fact that we had a fairly robust fiscal policy response after the crisis in 2009. Likewise in Europe we have been mired in depression like numbers which is worse than anything we had in the 1930s. It hasn't worked but we keep trying it."
"The economics behind it are flawed. it is based on the notion that if a bank buys a bond and puts reserves into the banking system that somehow it can encourage the banker to lend. We actually don't lend out reserves and are only used for interbank lending amongst banks. Also lending is a two way process. You have to have a credit worthy borrower and a credit worthy lender. If you have individuals or business that are piled down with debt they may not be very credit worthy or they may be less inclined to take on more debt"
"You want to engender rising employment, rising income so people aren't as reliant on credit. I think that is the problem our system has had over the last 30 years. We have become Credit centric versus Income centric!"
"We have been conducting this 'pulmonary resuscitation' to a fundamentally dead financial system rather than use the money to revive the economy and transition it into more productive economic activity."
"When you have an economy that is over financialized and banks account for a disproportionate amounts of activity, and you have a compensation incentive system that is highly dependent on share price appreciation, then you provide a very perverse incentive for business not to invest in productive business affairs but to use excessive cash to buyback shares."
"What is worse is you begin to use all sorts of accounting tricks. This is what Professor Bill Black calls 'Control Fraud'. You get a form of casino capitalism. Actually, the casinos in Las Vegas are regulated more favorably than the banks are."
Private Debt Buildup
Marshall Auerback believes we have had excessive build-up in Corporate and Household debt. "When you have a demand shock, then servicing that debt becomes a problem. You end up with a large build-up of public debt in response." Unfortunately those who benefited now want cuts to things like Medicare that were not the cause of the problem. "Its a pretty perverse example of the wrong headed people running our system."
Employment - Job Guarantee Program
TIME FOR A NEW APPROACH ON UNEMPLOYMENT: GOVERNMENT AS EMPLOYER OF LAST RESORT By Marshall Auerback
At 10.2%, official American unemployment is now at its highest level since 1983 (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Jobless-rate-tops-10-pct-for-apf-563122944.html?x=0&.v=8).
Nearly 16 million people can't find jobs even though we are constantly being told that the worst recession since the Great Depression has officially ended. Yet instead of trying to revive the productive economy, most of the Obama Administration's recover efforts still remain focused on cardio-shock treatment for Wall Street. Additionally, the President still seems curiously hamstrung by his Herbert Hoover-like devotion to fiscal rectitude: he wants to spend without "adding one dime to the budget deficit", as he announced at his Congressional address on health care in September, even though deficits are a natural consequence of slowing economic growth, falling tax revenues and higher social welfare payments.
To all of the chicken-littles (including the President) who fret about "excessive" government spending, we would simply point out that it is far better to deploy government spending in a way which REDUCES unemployment, rather than arises as a consequence of it. We therefore suggest a new approach:
Government as Employer of Last Resort (ELR) or a Job Guarantee program.
The U.S. Government can proceed directly to zero unemployment by hiring all of the labor that cannot find private sector employment. Furthermore, by fixing the wage paid under this JG program at a level that does not disrupt existing labor markets, i.e., a wage level close to the existing minimum wage, substantive price stability can be expected. Other benefits could be provided, including vacation and sick leave, and contributions to Social Security and, most importantly, health care benefits, providing scope for a bottom up reform of the current patchwork health care system.
Government as employer of last resort would not be introducing another element of intrusive bureaucracy into our economy, but simply better utilizing the existing stock of unemployed, now dependent on the public purse - especially the chronically long term unemployed. The current system we have relies on unemployed labor and excess capacity to try to dampen wage and price increases; however, it pays unemployed labor for not working and allows that labor to depreciate and develop behaviors that act as a barrier to future private sector employment. Social spending on the unemployed prevents aggregate demand from collapsing into a depression-like state, but little is done to enhance future growth and demand, which can be done via the JG by providing them with employment, greater education and higher skill levels.
The JG program would allow for the elimination of many existing government welfare payments for anyone not specifically targeted for exemption, and would command greater political legitimacy, as society places a high value on work as the means through which individuals earn a livelihood. Minimum wage legislation would no longer be needed as it would be established via the JG. Labor would welcome the safety net of a guaranteed job, and business would recognize the benefit of a pool of available labor it could draw from at some spread to the government wage paid to JG employees. Additionally, the guaranteed public service job would be a counter- cyclical influence, automatically increasing government employment and spending as jobs were lost in the private sector, and decreasing government jobs and spending as the private sector expanded. It would therefore remain a permanent feature of our economy, in effect acting as a buffer stock to put a floor under unemployment, whilst maintaining price stability whereby government offers a fixed wage which does not "outbid" the private sector, but simply creates a stabilizing floor and thereby prevents deflation.
ELR is desired because a more or less free market system does not (and, perhaps, cannot) continuously generate true full employment. No civilized nation should allow a large portion of its population to go without adequate food, clothing and shelter. Best of all is that the program would be creating a stock of EMPLOYED people, rather than a buffered stock of unemployed, where social capital depletes rapidly, and several long-term social pathologies develop. The current policies clearly are not working; it's time to try something that can put as many Americans as possible into productive employment.