Terence Corcoran, National Post
March 19, 2009
U.S. law-making is riddled with slapdash, incompetence and gamesmanship
Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s Federal Reserve is dropping trillions of fresh paper dollars on the world economy, the President of the United States is cracking jokes on late-night comedy shows, his energy minister is threatening a trade war over carbon emissions, his treasury secretary is dithering over a banking reform program amid rising concerns over his competence and a monumentally dysfunctional U.S. Congress is launching another public jihad against corporations and bankers.
As an aghast world – from China to Chicago and Chihuahua – watches, the circus-like U.S. political system seems to be declining into near chaos. Through it all, stock and financial markets are paralyzed. The more the policy regime does, the worse the outlook gets. The multi-ringed spectacle raises a disturbing question in many minds: Is this the end of America?
Probably not, if only because there are good reasons for optimism. The U.S. economy has pulled out of self-destructive political spirals in the past, spurred on by its business class and corporate leaders, the profit-making and market-creating people who rose above the political turmoil to once again lift the world out of financial crisis. It’s happened many times before, except for once, when it took 20 years to rise out of the Great Depression.
Past success, however, is no guarantee of future recovery, especially now when there are daily disasters and new indicators of political breakdown. All developments are not disasters in themselves. The AIG bonus firestorm is a diversion from real issues , but it puts the ghastly political classes who make U.S. law on display for what they are: ageing self-serving demagogues who have spent decades warping the U.S. political system for their own ends. We see the system up close, law-making that is riddled with slapdash, incompetence and gamesmanship.
One test of whether we are witnessing the end of America is how many more times Americans put up with congressional show trials of individual business people and their employees, slandering and vilifying them for their actions and motives. And for how long will they tolerate a President who berates business and corporations as dens of crime and malfeasance? If the majority of Americans come to accept the caricatures of business as true, then America is closer to the end of its life as a global leader, as a champion of markets and individualism.
But America is at risk in other ways, especially in the technical business of setting and executing policy. The presidency of Barack Obama has set out on a course that has no precedent in U.S. history. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal transformed the U.S. economy during the Great Depression, pushed America off on a sharply different political and ideological course. The Obama administration is different in many ways, not least in its supreme self-confidence in its methods and objectives.
Reform of health care, environmental policy, education, energy, banking, regulation – every nook and cranny of the U.S. economy has been put on alert for major change. Expansion of government spending, plunging the U.S. into unprecedented deficits, is without parallel. In economic policy, through regulation and control of energy output, financial services and monetary expansion, the U.S. government has embarked on a fundamental reshaping of America. It is designed, in short, to bring on the end of America.
The spillover effect of all this on the rest of the world promises to be dramatically disruptive. The greatest global risk is in monetary and currency policy. Below [Ed. Note: Above] is a chart that graphically demonstrates the sharp deviation in monetary policy from past norms. Under the chairmanship of Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve is in the midst of a giant economic experiment, flooding the world with U.S. dollars, hoping that flood will stimulate economic activity.
The total monetary base, already at astronomical levels, is now expected to take another big hit with the new Fed policy of buying up U.S. longer-term treasury bills in a bid to drive down long-term interest rates.
Mr. Bernanke is sometimes known as “Helicopter Ben” because he once in an academic paper referred to the use of “helicopters” full of money to rescue an economy from deflation. In comments Wednesday to explain the Fed’s new policy of buying $300-billion in U.S. treasury bills, Mr. Bernanke noted that the Fed is now more worried about inflation being too low than about it getting too high in the future.
For the rest of the world, however, the worry is that America is at risk of becoming the fountainhead of a new inflationary outburst. The U.S. dollar is now in decline, gold is moving sharply higher, and new global currency turmoil is on the horizon.
It may not happen. A paper just published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, source of the chart above, says that the Fed will have to be prepared to absorb all the excess money it has poured into the U.S. economy. It will be a technical and political challenge unlike any central bank has ever undertaken. The future of America is at stake.
Source | See Also under Economics: U.N. panel says world should ditch dollarÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â | IMF poised to print billions of dollars in ‘global quantitative easing’Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â | G20 officials pledge ‘whatever action necessary’ to revive economyÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â |Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Changes to law could affect navigation of Canadian waters, critics say | Mainstream Financial Publication Finally Admits that Austrian Economists Were Right | Global recession deepening, Geithner says | Obama calls for G20 joint action | UK Central Bank begins using ‘new’ money | Brace for sharp slump, IMF warns Canada | IMF, World Bank predict a global recession | Worst crisis since 1930s says Fed, calls for ‘forceful action’ | Jobs data grim, Flaherty says | Atlas felt a sense of dÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©jÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â vu | UK government takes control over Lloyd’s bank | Canada expects EU free-trade talks soon: Stockwell Day | GM pensions: Who’s responsible? | Stimulus needed now, Bank of Canada says | GM says it will go bust in days without new US bail-out | Terence Corcoran: Ontario’s green energy plan sneaks in feed-in taxes | Time to emulate Roosevelt’s New Deal and create green jobs | Central bank tactics pushed to brink | Ontario facing massive deficit | Obama outlines ‘hard choices’ budget | UK: Loss-making Northern Rock to pay bonuses to managers | IMF emergency fund is doubled to $500bn, Northern Rock bank granted $14bn bailout | EU backs sweeping new financial rules, more power for IMF | GM wants twice as much taxpayer’s money | Volcker sees crisis leading to global regulation | Gold Tops $1,000, First Time Since March as Recession Deepens | Stocks Drop Around the World; Stoxx 600 Falls to 6-Year Low | Greenspan backs bank nationalisation | Behemoth budget bill to be rammed through parliament unread | Obama signs stimulus bill | Congressman warns unread ’stimulus’ bill will prolong agony | Gordon Brown seeks sweeping reforms to give IMF global ’surveillance role’ | $787B stimulus package passes through U.S. Congress | Paul Martin prescribes international regulatory body for ailing fiat economies | US Congress reaches deal on economic stimulus package | World stocks fall on skepticism over U.S. bank plan | Next US bailout could top $1-trillion | Geithner Said to Have Prevailed on the Bailout | Canada lost 129,000 jobs in January: StatsCan | Economic crisis: The shakeup Canadians need? | Pass stimulus or watch out, Obama warns | Canadian credit card delinquencies rising | Iceland to be fast-tracked into the EU | France responds to economic downturn with a general strike | U.S. House passes $819B economic stimulus | World Economic Forum elite blame ‘profit’, not fraud, for crisis | Fed infrastructure money requires provincial spending | Ignatieff lets government stand with budget amendment demand | Rewriting the rulebook for 21st-century capitalism | Obama urges Republicans to support economic plan | The budget: Global shock therapy | All maxed out? Budget measures would improve credit access | $12B for infrastructure forms key pillar of stimulus package | Few surprises as government turns on the spending taps | U.S. Senate confirms Geithner as treasury secretary despite reservations | Iceland’s government collapses | Optimistic central bank expects speedy economic rebound | Ottawa risks erasing decade of debt reduction | Canadian, U.S. energy policies to be inextricably linked: Prentice | Business Development Bank will get $350M injection, Clement says | Prominent Economist: Crisis Caused By Government Interventions | New UK bank bailout | Vancouver dodges public referendum requirement for funding to finish Olympic Village | Zimbabwe unveils 100 trillion dollar banknote | Financial crisis: Bank of America given $138bn rescue package | Q&A: Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with The Post’s John Ivison | Premiers to press Harper for infrastructure boost | Vancouver mayor to recall legislature to handle Olympic Village crisis | Bring in a Canadian securities regulator: Flaherty’s handpicked business panel | Merged Citigroup, Morgan brokerage would be largest | Obama to visit Canada, Tories to propose ‘integrated carbon market’ | Brace for a big, ‘comprehensive’ budget: Harper | Canadians starting to save cash, shun debt | GM’s U.S. bailout deal bars strikes | European Leaders Call For New Global Order | Transport Minister Baird calls for dramatic action on stimulus package | Obama calls for ‘dramatic action’ on stimulus package | UK PM unveils ‘New Deal’ plan to create 100,000 jobs | Flaherty vows short-lived deficit, consults corporate chiefs on spending initiatives | Analyst: One Third Of Banks Could Collapse or Merge In 2009 | Auto bailout gives Federal, Provincial governments incremental nationalization powers | Banks won’t say where U.S. bailout money going | UK: Bailiffs get power to use force on debtors | Kissinger Calls For New International System Out Of World Crises | Canadian auto bailout could reach more than $4-billion | U.S. to spend $17.4-billion to ‘rescue’, nationalize auto industry | Harper government plans deficits as deep as $30 billion | Flaherty appoints business leaders to economic advisory council | IMF Chief Warns Of Riots In Response To Economic Crisis | Bank of Canada ready to monetize distressed equities | Canada may backstop ABCP rescue: Flaherty | The ugly spectre of ‘new Keynesianism’ and the self-appointed Guardians | Army ‘Strategic Shock’ Report Says Troops May Be Needed To Quell U.S. Civil Unrest | Federal government, Ontario agree on $3.3B auto bailout package | ‘Outrage’ greets banks’ failure to match rate cut | State to bail out, control US auto industry | Get close to Obama on economy and security, paper says | Financial Times: And now for a world government | Terence Corcoran: It’s Twilight for Detroit and the U.S. economy | Mexico to downsize metal in coins to save a few cents | Automakers seek $6B aid package from Ontario, federal government | Bank of England mulls “nuclear option” of cash injection | Zimbabwe tackles cash shortage amid riots and looting | Icelanders storm central bank in protest | Liberals and NDP sign unprecedented pact; to pursue stimulus, carbon taxes | UN Climate Change Conference open with call for ‘co-operation’ | UK closer to joining euro, EU commission president says | Iceland turns 90 amid economic ruin, currency freeze | TSX drops 600 points, N.Y. also falls | Britain buys control of Royal Bank of Scotland | Iceland inflation soars to 17.1% | Canada in recession: OECD | Maybe we should look at Zimbabwe before trying to print our way out of a money crisis | Britain to introduce massive stimulus packageObama appoints architects of economic collapse, financial globalism to economic team | | Jim Flaherty Urging Greater Federal, International Control over Canadian economy | Citigroup seeks ‘emergency cash’ | Deficits ‘essential,’ Harper says | Harper vows Canada will remain open to international trade | 5 injured during protest in Iceland over economic meltdown | ‘Hard decisions’ needed during economic crisis: throne speech | Paulson, Bernanke defend change of plan: $700-billion now to be given directly to banks | After G20 meeting, Ottawa ready to spend to spark economy | Congress Accuses Federal Reserve Bagman Of Bailout “Bait and Switch” During Angry Hearing | Flaherty eyes sale of Canadian government assets | Analysts Predict Hyper-Inflation To Push Gold To $2000, Oil to $300 | Terence Corcoran: Rescuers pulling market under | U.S. government won’t use bailout fund to buy troubled assets | Ottawa to pour another $50B into mortgage markets | Bank of Canada adds $8B to credit markets | Merrill CEO: Economic Environment Recalls 1929 | Fed Hides Destination Of $2 Trillion In Bailout Money | PM, premiers agree to speed up infrastructure investment | Flaherty lauds Keynesian global ‘economic stimulus’ strategies | Who are the Architects of Economic Collapse? | The Bush gang’s parting gift: a final, frantic looting of public wealth | IMF may need to “print money”, act as “world’s central bank” as crisis spreads | Morgan Chase Exec Brags Bailout Is for Takeovers, Restructuring, Not Lending | Draft letter calls on IMF to play critical role in financial crisis | Ottawa to guarantee interbank lending | More cash needed to save economy: Bernanke | Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout | German parliament backs bail-out | Regulator says brokers failed on ABCP, sets new guidelines | US Bailout Cost Heads Towards $5 Trillion | Market Euphoria Dissipates | Loonie leaps, then reverses course | $25B credit backstop for banks ‘not a bailout’: Harper | Brown wants ‘global’ bank support | US considers following British example of taking stakes in banks | New World Order: Global co-operation, nationalisation and state intervention – all in one day | TSX closes up 226 points in wild day after rate cuts | Federal Reserve Moves to Monetize Commercial Paper Debts | Stocks recoup some losses after markets hit by panic selling | Star column blames ‘Capitalism’ for market woes, offers false choice: Authoritarianism or Socialism | Bank of Canada greases financial system with $12B in new cash | Stock markets drop despite bailout | Why Paulson’s Plan is a Fraud | Representatives Were Threatened With Martial Law In America Over Bailout Bill | Congress Rejects (First) Bail-Out Plan | Congressman Ron Paul: Bailout Will Destroy Dollar, World Economy | Paul Martin calls for ‘global solution’ | Markets sink as woes spread | UK banking shares plunge as crisis deepens | Congressman Ron Paul Schools Fed Chairman Bernanke on the Bailout Plan | Bailout is “petty cash”, Inflation is the Federal Reserve’s real crime | Private Federal Reserve Makes Power Grab as Bush, McCain Urge Congress to Approve Plan | Canadian Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal in ABCP case | Last major investment banks in U.S. change status | U.S., British market regulators ban short-selling | Next Federal Reserve bank bailout round could cost taxpayers 1$ Trillion Dollars | Bank of Canada piles on in global inflationary swindle | Central banks continue inflating global economy | Central Banks Move to Transfer Wealth from Taxpayers to Banks | Crisis on Wall St. as firms collapse | Goldman-Sachs Alumni Hold Reins of Financial System | Frontrunners emerge in scramble to save another major bank | Lehman Brothers on Verge of Collapse, Wall Street Fears | US Treasury nationalizes Freddie Mae, Fannie Mac | Cities Debate Giving Away Public Infrastructure to Bankers | Court Grants Big Banks Immunity from Lawsuits over Derivatives Losses | Bush Calls for New Highway Tolls, More Private Funding of Roads | US mortgage firm bailout includes rider clause to expand police state: all credit card transactions now to be reported to IRS | Global ‘liberalization’ illusion under threat. Economist calls for world economic regime, Keynesian saviour. Irony? | Federal Reserve cites global stakes in Fannie and Freddie rescue | Financial ’super cop’ role for Fed | What Really Killed Bear Stearns? | Soros points out regulated markets fail to operate on market fundamentals, calls for more regulation | Competition study calls for lowered barriers to foreign ownership, bank mergers | Massive overhaul urged on foreign investment in airlines, media, and banks | Bilderberg Seeks Bank Centralization Agenda | Secretive Bilderberg Group Reverses Policy, Releases Press Release and Attendance List | Banks face “new world order,” consolidation: report