James Pethokoukis

Gold is nowhere near its old highs

September 3, 2009

A great factoid from the Calafia Beach Pundit, Scott Grannis:

Gold prices peaked in January 1980 at $850. In today’s dollars, that would be equivalent to $2,300. (The chart shows a peak of $1,800 because it uses month-end data.) So in rough terms, let’s say that gold today is worth about half of what it was at the peak of the inflation fears in early 1980.

The Obama stimulus reconsidered

September 3, 2009

I listened to VP Joe Biden today talking abut the Obama stimulus package, aka, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A few thoughts:

The consequences of massive budget deficits

September 3, 2009

The Cleveland Fed gives the bad news:

First, without a correction on the spending side, more tax revenue will need to be raised, with the consequence of subjecting the economy to greater tax-associated inefficiencies.

Another vote against a super-regulator

September 3, 2009

Edward Harrison has an interesting and worth-reading take on financial reform :

I propose the following: Shelve any talk of a super-regulator.  It is a dangerous idea that will prove both politically unpopular and ineffective. Enforce the regulations that currently exist. For example, anti-trust law should prohibit any institution from holding more than 10% of banking assets. Another example is the Home Owner Equity Protection Act of 1994, which gave the Federal Reserve the authority to stop abusive mortgage lending practices. Promote smaller community banks. The Bush and Obama Administration’s policies during this crisis have favoured big banks. Meanwhile, community banks are being held to a disadvantage in access to cheap capital. Why doesn’t the FDIC spin off seized assets as small community banks with new leadership instead of gifting them to private equity or other banks? Regulate OTC derivatives. Full-stop.  No clearinghouses. No loopholes.  We need an exchange-traded OTC derivatives market. (listen to the audio at the bottom of this post to hear how lobbyists gutted the OTC derivatives regulation in Obama’s reform package). Keep the Consumer Finance Protection Agency. If we want any new regulators, this is where we need them.  The Fed failed to protect consumers from abusive mortgage lending practices and there is now a balkanized regulatory structure to oversee consumer protections. The CFPA would change this.

Bill Gross and America’s ‘New Normal’

September 3, 2009

Pimco’s Bill Gross paints a dreary future is his monthly letter:

We are heading into what we call the New Normal, which is a period of time in which economies grow very slowly as opposed to growing like weeds, the way children do; in which profits are relatively static; in which the government plays a significant role in terms of deficits and reregulation and control of the economy; in which the consumer stops shopping until he drops and begins, as they do in Japan (to be a little ghoulish), starts saving to the grave.