Wall Street Journal Questions Fed Beige Book “Rosy” Take on “Recovery”

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Is the august Wall Street Journal hinting that the “recovery” has no clothes?

I receive Wall Street Journal e-mail alerts, and this showed up in my inbox yesterday afternoon:

Screen shot 2015-06-04 at 1.42.09 AM

Bear in mind that Wall Street Journal news alerts flag the stories they consider to be the most important during the day. Needless to say, that means the alerts have disproportionate impact, particularly since only a portion of the recipients click through to read the underlying story.

In all my years of blogging, I can’t recall a major financial news outlet, even in as mild a way as the Journal does, depicting the Fed as engaging in cheerleading in the title and opening paragraphs of a story.

And the third and fourth paragraphs of the article continue with the skeptical take on the Beige Book release:

In a speech Tuesday, Fed Board Governor Lael Brainard warned that more-optimistic growth forecasts may have overestimated the benefits to consumer spending from lower oil prices—and underestimate its hit on business investment.

That concern was shared among other forecasters trying to assess whether first-quarter economic softness was indeed transitory.

And in paragraph nine:

The report shows a disconnect with a string of weak second-quarter economic data that have prompted some economists and Fed officials to question whether recent weakness is in fact transitory.

Some of the comments also focused on what they saw as obfuscation. For instance:

What the H does “mixed” as the rate of growth in Boston mean, in comparison to growth in other cities? And “holding steady” for growth in Atlanta? Is Atlanta growing at a rate of 0.1%, 1% or 10%, or growing negatively? I understand “modest” and “slight” as adjectives describing growth rates, as well as “flat,” “negative,” and “robust” and “explosive.” But “mixed” and “holding steady” tell me nothing except by implication that clearer adjectives could not be found.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, this unusual spectacle of the Wall Street Journal distancing itself a tad from a Fed pronouncement follows the publication of a bizarre blog post yesterday by Jon Hilsenrath, A Letter to Stingy American Consumers. I thought it had to be a lame attempt at parody, so I didn’t go after it, although Lambert did, ably. It turns out this embarrassing attempt at lightheartedly taking up the Fed’s view that consumers were not doing their job by failing to spend their gas savings was not at all well received by Journal readers. From Michael Krieger:

By now, most of you have read Jon Hilsenrath’s mindless, tone-deaf, idiotic attempt at humor published by the Wall Street Journal yesterday. If not, here it is: A Letter to Stingy American Consumers.

What you may not have seen, are the 174 comments published in response to the article. At least 95% of them consist of justifiable crushing criticism toward the cluelessness of this Federal Reserve apparatchik masquerading as a journalist. While I am strongly against vigilante style violence as a solution to our societal problems, the incredibly frequent calls for him and other “elites” to be strung from lampposts is certainly notable. People are very angry, and this anger will explode at some point in a very nasty way unless the status quo is discarded.

Needless to say, Krieger is not exaggerating about the tone of the comments.

As Lambert pointed out in Water Cooler, Hilsenrath felt compelled to say something today, acknowledging how many readers took issue with his piece, but very much underplaying the amount of ire.

This seems to be a zeitgeist indicator, that the fact that ordinary Americans, and even better-off ones that have seen investment income flatline thanks to QE and ZIRP, have gotten sufficiently large in number and vocal that the Managers of the Official Narrative are having to take notice. Now maybe the second quarter will be hunky dory, either on its own or by dint of continued cheerleading leading all those gun-shy consumers to start spending again. If nothing else, these articles suggest that one of the Fed’s biggest assets, its credibility, is waning.

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  1. James Levy

    I believe at base the Fed is exactly what my dad (a banker) told me it was when I was a child: “the banker’s bank.” It was never intended as an instrument of countercyclical economic policy, other than functioning as the lender of last resort. Due in part to the dereliction of duty on the part of the Congress, the President, the banks, and the money-hording corporations, the Fed is operating way beyond its ken, and doing so in the only way it knows how, by pumping up the banks and the financial sector. But if the banks and the financial sector existed in 1913 for the benefit of Standard Oil and US Steel, they don’t any more. They exist to benefit themselves with likely a negative spillover into the productive economy. The Fed Mandarins either can’t or won’t comprehend that. So we have bad policy that eventually leads to erroneous reporting of reality when that bad policy fails to perform as promised. At this point, those piloting the ship have tied blindfolds around their eyes and are going on instinct and faith.

    1. Larry

      Michael Hudson frequently points out this pivot in his writings and it’s one I’ve taken to heart. We no longer have productive capitalism, we principally have parasitic capitalism. The business of banks is to extract rents and inflate assets. And the Federal Reserve has stepped in nicely after the financial crises. The stock market continues to rise and home prices are popping quickly. Stories in the Boston area indicate that we’re getting back to all time highs. Inventory in my particular area are tight and homes are getting snapped up before an open house happens and often above asking price.

      1. ambrit

        Home inventories might be tight in Boston, but here Down South, there is a quiet explosion of foreclosure activity going on. We are seeing banks placing foreclosed homes on the market fairly quickly at the price they internally re-sold the property for, which seems to be the outstanding principle balance at the time of foreclosure. If you are seeing signs of an imminent bubble blow off in Boston, then here Down South it looks to be verging on “The Mother of All Busts.”
        Recent commentary about the Greek Tragedy (Economic Version,) now brings up ‘bail ins’ as a possible outcome of the crisis. Since toxic housing loans are probably a major threat to American banks, can this idea be lurking about in the DofC and Wall Street? I’m keeping my senses tuned to what happens to the Greek banks and their depositors. Now that poor weak Cyprus has pointed the way, if the same strategy works in larger, more assertive Greece, we will not be far behind.

        1. susan the other

          It looks like Cyprus was railroaded because the EU just now passed a mandate for all EU members to ratify a bank bail-in agreement so that governments and taxpayers are not left to do any more bailouts. Interesting. It’s like legislation after the fact. End-of-growth capitalism is a no-options world. But this also means that German taxpayers, accusing Greeks of being hosers, also will not be stuck with the bill for that hideous bankblob (Deutschebank) and the Greeks will have a clearer position. So that part is encouraging.

          1. ambrit

            Oh boy, this is looking bleak. I can imagine a case where a bank can sue a government for not applying a bail in provision.

  2. timotheus

    Thanks for the alert. The comments are amazing and very consistent across the ideological spectrum.

  3. Skippy

    I don’t know but last I looked it was corporations not spending and not pleb deposit holders, pensioners, and wage slaves.

    Skippy…. What does Hilsenrath expect, frack the last wee bit of dregs out of the disenfranchised so bonuses don’t take a hit. That might adversely effect his social calender, the horror…..

    1. ambrit

      Too true that. I’ll crib from Tacitus: “And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that (prosperity.)”

      1. skippy

        Never fails that these sorts lay the blame at the feet of the atomized individual consumer when it does not act according to their biased self serving models e.g. you break the plate of society and then chastise it for not the form demanded.

        Skippy… if they did nor wreak so much havoc one might feel sorry for them, being owned by the very models they created….

  4. Jim Haygood

    Given the Fed’s idée fixe that it needs some ‘ammo’ (i.e., a Fed funds rate > zero, to be cut in a crisis), it appears that ‘the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.’ We all know how that turned out in the situation that provoked the quote, the Iraq war. Where are the Fed’s inflationary WMDs?

    Currently, headline CPI is running at minus 0.2% over the past 12 months. Forecasts from my inflation model (which takes account of industrial and labor utilization) have been falling since December, to a projected CPI increase of just 1.69% over the next 12 months.

    Similarly, first quarter GDP shrank at minus 0.7% in the second estimate. The Atlanta Fed’s nowcast projects 1.1% GDP growth in the second quarter. No sign of overheating here.

    Only the dramatic steepening of the yield curve in the past week suggests stronger growth ahead. But is it real, as the ‘crude crash dividend’ takes hold? Or is it just an artifact of QE-manipulated bond markets? We don’t know, and neither do the central planners who made this mess.

    Two things can happen if J-Yel & Co. plunge ahead with a rate hike sans evidence of surchauffe (French for ‘overheating’), both of them très mauvais. One is the 1937 scenario: one little tap on the brakes sends a still-debilitated economy sliding back into depression and bread lines.

    In the second scenario, Wall Street greets the long-expected hike with relief: ‘Okay, done with the rate hikes. Everyone back in the pool!’ As in 2004-2006, if one hike has no discernible effect, try thirteen of them. Oops, the yield curve inverted! Crap, where’s the defibrillator?

    1. Dino Reno

      The Big Banks want an end to to ZIRP. The Fed has its marching orders. The rollout includes suddenly acting concerned about bubbles, issuing seasonally adjusted data, John H. chastising consumers about money hoarding (Big Oops!), window dressing the Beige Book and seeing inflation rearing its ugly head everywhere, especially in wage reports (lucrative part-time Uber jobs).
      The Fed state of mind, as exemplified by the John H. piece, is quite perverse. The contempt for the fugal consumer who won’t spend what was given to them so they get back the interest rates they lost is rich beyond measure.

      1. ian

        I honestly didn’t understand that column taking savers to task. David Einhorn wrote a column a few years ago that really resonated with me. His point was that a lot of people save more when interest rates are low. When you have expenses in the future that you need to save for (ie kids college, retirement, etc…) , and interest rates are near 0, then you need to save more, rather than less. This is exactly the situation I find myself in.

    2. Rhondda

      You mention a lot of “official” data points. Problem is, they’re probably as fake as the Beige Book survey Yves mentions. People who aren’t getting paid to pretend they’re real see through them. If you buy groceries, pay rent, pay for services, healthcare, etc…normal everyday stuff… you’re aware that inflation is real. The govt’s CPI numbers are fake. Many of the normal everyday things one needs have doubled in price in the last few years. Also, the size of products has been reduced, a sort of shadow inflation. This last weekend, for example, I bought my usual 3-pack of organic chicken at Costco. It’s expensive…over $20. In the past, there have been 2 breasts in each pack, for a total of 6. So, about $4 per breast. But now, as I discovered when I went to cook dinner, there’s only one breast in each pack. That means the price of the organic chicken I normally buy has doubled. Since the previous week. Now, perhaps it has something to do with the bird flu…but that reason doesn’t change the numbers.

      I guess what I am saying is I know for sure that the CPI numbers are BS, so I suspect all the numbers are lies. From what I read, they WORK at massaging the numbers (partly by tweaking what they count) to get numbers they want to support the policies They want.

      It surprises me that you’d reel off these numbers as if they are real and should be taken seriously. As if they are useful information and not lies.

      1. RUKidding

        I’m a financial/economics dummy, but I want to respond to your input about CPI. As a small state agency employee in CA, we do get an annual COLA. Typically the COLA is tied to what our local county provides to its employees. Since the 2008 crash, our COLAs have been no more than 1.5% and usually 1%. Yes, I am grateful for any crumb tossed my way and consider myself fortunate to have job, esp one that provides any COLA (most of us here are at the top of our salary ranges and so have no more merit increases available).

        My point being that the real cost of living – for “average” citizens – is way more than 1% per year or even 2% year. Frankly, I suspect that the govt just pulls the 1% COLA figure out of its butt cheek and says: good luck with that. Essentially meaningless, and we proles have to suck it up. And of course, tug our forelocks and feel immense gratitude that we’re lucky enough to have any job, so STFU.

        And then we get “lectured” by some high and mighty Wall St/Bank type about not spending enough??? Well I’d say something, but Lambert has advised that this is a family blog.

        1. jsn

          Actually, what they do is exclude food and energy prices from CPI. After all corporations don’t eat and fill up the tank.

          They claim they do this because these numbers are volatile, but they could adjust for volatility if they wanted to.

          The reality is that these numbers have been creeping steadily up at more than the official inflation rate since the 80s so anyone living on a fixed income has been seeing a steadily increasing bite out of discretionary spending by these essentials.

        2. Vatch

          I addition to the doubtfulness of the CPI numbers that the government publishes, any COLA will lag many months after the price increases have already occurred. So even if accurate inflation numbers were being used, people’s wages would still lose value to inflation.

        3. JCC

          I’m no financial genius either, but I’m also not blind. As this has been mentioned before here as well as other financially-oriented blogs, there may be lots of deflationary pressure in housing, etc. (there is where I live in small town SoCal, for a fact), consumer goods just keep going up, and often hidden through various though obvious methods.

          Yesterday I bought my usual standard sized bottle of nationally known dish soap… I buy 1 bottle about every 6 months. When home, I thought to myself as I pulled it out of the grocery bag, “damn, I got a bad one, the machine didn’t fill it completely.”

          So I checked it against the old one. Physically the exact same size, old bottle – 709 mls., new bottle – 638 mls., price – within pennies, type/style, identical. The new bottle holds about 9% less.

          That, to my way of thinking, is called (severe) inflation. Although everyone here already knows it, the CPI is a joke.

          1. Skippy

            The consumer sees this as inflation by loss of purchasing power as noted by the mass, volume, quality reduction.

            Yet the dollar is not signaling – proceeding this event i.e. the company’s which make the product are using the same dollars before you do e.g. the loss you see as a consumer is a result of the company squeezing margins for profit to burnish quarterly financial statements, which reflect on their stock performance i.e. as equity’s its self is a form of money used in executive remunerations based on performance metrics [self administered] and as a form of exchange in M&A.

            Skippy… this is heightened by the misconception of – hard money – which still lingers when operational reality is MMT.

            1. Schofield

              Or as posterity will record modern fiat money operational reality is MMT not the rabid anti-government bigot reality of right-wing Libertarianism.

      2. craazyboy

        I stopped believing the CPI long ago and instead replaced it with my “Price of Dried Beans Indicator”. I believe it is quite accurate, and beans don’t get Bird Flu. Additionally, the beans all seem to come from S. America somewhere, so they are immune to things like the CA drought as well. There are many kinds of beans, but eyeball averaging dried bean prices at Walmart indicates the price of beans has risen about 50% over the last 5 years. If I was more diligent and made a flour indicator, things would look even worse. That doubled, I think.

        Anyway, these are things you will never hear from the Fed or read about in the Beige Book. Buyer beware!

      3. Jeremy Grimm

        I believe there is another factor related to the gapping disconnect between the reported inflation index and the price inflation most of us see in our lives which further depresses consumer spending. Looking at the things I buy and value, not only have prices gone up — the rate of increase and uncertainty of future prices makes it very difficult to plan for things like retirement, college tuition, medical costs, legal and municipal ticket costs, and all the real costs we must bear just to live a simple life. This upward driving price volatility leaves me feeling as if no amount of savings or frugality will enable me to enjoy even a modest retirement. The zero interest rate on savings and house of cards stock market really amounts to a substantial volatile and random negative interest rate.

        For younger people, less fortunate in choosing when they joined our workforce, facing this volatility in upward costs — people like my own children — I watch them struggle to accumulate and keep even the bare minimum of savings necessary to handle the emergencies which inexorably arise in the volatile new worlds of work, renting and getting by.

        In the end we have no choice but to save to avoid getting pulled under and even saving has become a desperate rear-guard action as we retreat to ever lower standards of living and ever increasing uncertainty and instability in living our simple lives.

        1. Rhondda

          “This upward driving price volatility leaves me feeling as if no amount of savings or frugality will enable me to enjoy even a modest retirement. The zero interest rate on savings and house of cards stock market really amounts to a substantial volatile and random negative interest rate.”

          That is quite insightful, Jeremy. Got me to pondering. And it caused me to realize that I have been thinking this way — the same way — so long it had become invisible to me…Thank you for making it visible.

          Occultum fiat manifestum…

  5. Yata

    If the wsj piece was intended as a sentiment survey it hit it’s mark with a certain audience. Oddly the same proposition was espoused, quite straight faced, by former treasury secretary Larry Summers in a Reuters op-ed
    (circa ’10-’11 ?). The title, roughly, was Consumers could spend their way out of recession, but you’d be hard pressed to find that op-ed. A cursory search of his Reuters blog and the web, won’t return that piece.

  6. Tom C

    Perhaps the best article this morning is one saying that high interest rates are good for stocks as they are less volatile.

    The circle is now complete

  7. Eclair

    Criminy! I read through the comments. Wow! And these are WSJ readers! I cancelled my subscription years ago when I realized that they were shilling for an invasion of Iraq.

    But, talk about creating a new narrative. And such creative ways of offing the aristocrats! And, new epithets: “Banksters’ whore” being my favorite. We can combine this with an NC commenter’s suggestion of renaming ‘private equity’ into ‘pirate equity.’

    And, Yves, you thought your posts were having little effect.

  8. Eleanor

    I pulled this out of the comments on the WSJ essay:

    Seneca wrote:

    I recent drove from my home in Colorado to Minnesota, largely avoiding the highways and taking the secondary roads. I had made the same drive in 2008, and what I saw shocked me. The decline was all too visible. I stopped in a lot of small town diners and eateries for lunch, dinner, and supper and talked with the locals, and I’ve never seen such quiet desperation and palpable hopelessness. America as I grew up believing it to be no longer exists. We only have our central planners and crony capitalist accomplices printing themselves free money, blowing up their asset bubbles, and destroying the purchasing power, livelihoods, and futures of the 99%. When the Great Reset gets here, it’s going to be epic.

    1. Eclair

      Yes, all the dying small towns in the mountain west. And, take Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (it usually runs, although never ‘on time’ and one must be shuttled onto buses if the weather is too cold or snow) and marvel at the deserted factories and whole towns, left to rot, along the route. So much for our industrial policy.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Or the Acela from New York to a bit south of Philly. Once an industrial heartland, now dead dead. Miles of factories with broken windows, abandoned. Creative destruction my sweet Aunt Fannie.

        1. susan the other

          Depressing. Years ago, maybe 20 or so, I thought it would be nostalgic to take a trip through all the little towns that time forgot. My friend said, well where are they? And I said, I’m sure they are everywhere. But what I realize now, painfully, is that they really aren’t there anymore.

        2. Eclair

          Yeah, Lambert. I see us – or more likely my grandchildren – at some time in the future, like the barbarian tribes on the fringes of the Roman Empire, scavenging the bricks from these bombed-out factories, getting all excited when we find some unbroken panes of window glass, gathering bundles of broken wood for cooking fires. Us and Mad Max.

  9. C

    If you follow the FED and other official bodies over time one of the things that I have noticed is the distressing lack of real “agency.” In many ways this goes beyond the formal use of passive voice into the land of John Kerry where all bad things are the result of “economic forces” and there is nothing they can do.

    Most of the time I assume it is an effort to deflect blame but I do wonder if they actually believe their own hype and think that all they can do is madly try to juice the confidence fairy.

  10. Alejandro

    “This country does a great job of creating wealth, but not a great [job] of distributing it.” -Lloyd Blankfein

    Does anybody remember this quote from Gods right hand man? I remember thinking at the time that this actually made sense, but what made it bizarre was the source from which these words emanated. It wasn’t until reading Polanyi that it became clear as to why. Polanyi, observed that “money” representing the “purchasing power” in a market economy, in addition to labor and nature, is a fictitious commodity. One can conclude that it is the means by which ‘wealth’ IS distributed and the above quote coming from those that have appropriated the control of this means seems like semantic but clever “sleight of hand”.

    “…Now, in regard to labor, land, and money such a postulate cannot be upheld. To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society…” The Great Transformation-Karl Polanyi

  11. C

    I read the WSJ letter and like the others found it nauseating but I found this part particularly vile:

    The Federal Reserve is counting on you too. Fed officials want to start raising the cost of your borrowing because they worry they’ve been giving you a free ride for too long with zero interest rates.

    Only someone completely divorced from reality would think that the average consumers, whom he notes had been laid off and were under water from inflated mortgages were the ones getting a “free ride.” While there are echoes of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s 50% in this it takes a real deep seated level of evil to both deign to acknowledge that people are jobless and debt-ridden but still describe a policy based upon bailouts, immunity from prosecution (for the rich), and easy-money QE as a “free ride” for consumers.

    On one level this is the most unhinged thing I’ve seen the journal publish since they let Neel Kashkari opine about homelessness.

    1. Rhondda

      H’s “letter” struck me as having the tone of the abuser…the Big daddy with his belt explaining in a soft voice that he beats you for your own good. Nauseating.

      Hilsenrath has received the wrath he deserves. But his masters deserve the more-ther. And judging from the comments…they’re gonna get it.

      1. C

        I agree more is needed. I was looking through some of the comments and this one particularly struck me as quite cogent:

        Think Not Hope wrote:

        Dear Sir,

        Inflation is damaging to those earning middle class incomes or less. Despite your assertions that there is no inflation, there is quite a lot. Examples: 40 oz contains of nuts at Costco = $16 up from $12 a few years ago. Most consumer goods are either increasing in price or shrinking in quality/quantity, for example thinner shirts (less material), smaller packing sizes, etc.

        Apparently you base your hopes on the idea that inflation will increase incomes, which will boost spending. However, you forget that technology displaces workers almost as much as trade agreements that ship manufacturing and other jobs to other countries. For many just being employed is the first goal.

        Moreover, price inflation is anathema to most people. All the propaganda that deflation is bad is just BS. The theory is that if prices are slowly decreasing over time, people will never buy anything thus causing the economy to tank. Really? Everyone has a marginal price point. Everyone has a want and need for things. Am I not going to buy a shirt because maybe it will be two dollars cheaper 8 months from now even though I can’t wear the shirt it is replacing because it is torn? Am I going to starve myself to death because I think food will be cheaper? Heck if I die I never have to spend another dollar so I might as well kill myself, right? Have you ever considered that if item X is less expensive rather than more expensive, and item y is less expensive rather than more expensive, I will actually over time purchase more goods and a wider variety of goods than if one item sucked up more of my income?

        Do you know why Henry Ford was able to sell Model Ts? Because he made the price affordable to the middle class whereas previously cars were a luxury item for the rich. The resulting externalities (gas stations, auto repair parts and service, restaurants along new travel routes, etc.) were a boon to the country. How about computers? $5,000 PCs don’t sell to many consumers, but as prices fell over time more and more consumers could afford them, and the resulting externalities (video games, desktop software, printers, etc.) were a boon to the country.

        You want to avoid dangling by a rope? Set policies that 1) encourage prices to adjust naturally over time, 2) punish financial wrong-doers, 3) eliminate the *need* for citizens to have to borrow money, 4) encourage savings, 5) focus on the needs of the middle class without concern for trying to benefit the wealthy, especially those in the finance sector, 6) support a “wealth tax” on publicly traded companies as a percentage of their market capitalization — public companies are focused on rising stock prices, not paying their employees well, ensuring quality products/service, and goodwill.

        Your turn, dear Sir.

        What is unfortunate about this comment is that the sane logical arguments the author makes are simply unacceptable to Economists who find it impossible to understand that people must eat today or do not care.

  12. Ishmael

    Between approximately 2002 and 2008 many of my fellow finance workers “thought I had lost my mind.” Well after going through the financial meltdown of the oil patch in the early 80’s, involvement with Argentina from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s and living and working on several continents gave me a far broader understanding of the impact of monetary and banking policies on the long-term economy. Starting around 2002 I could see that policies were leading to a major crash and I just thought the policy makers were to ignorant to understand. After 2008 I realized it was not ignorance but corruption.

    I just completed a 6 month project for a Fortune 500 company which through M&A had just doubled in size. I was working with their top finance people on a daily basis outside of the CFO on a daily basis. All of them pretty much have thought the policies of the govt and the fed since 2008 were a disaster and there was much anger. There was even discussion of fiat currency. I have to tell you this is 180 degree turn compared to what was encountered pre-2008 in the upper levels of corporate America. Any mention of too much debt and fiat currency pre-2008 was met with looks like you had a tin-foil hat on and hostility.

    A large part of the upper middle class now understand that the two parties are just shams and that are elected officials from both parties have destroyed America and that most of the so-called experts of the elite universities, “No nothing Jon Snow.” Winter is coming!

  13. Lambert Strether

    Pleased to see “One Pissed-off Mainer” made it into the top 20. Alas, I bowdlerized “cr@pified” in case their Skynet was like ours, but I hope more than reader noticed the secret NC handshake.

    1. ambrit

      Yes Cousin Lambert, we did notice, but, in a genuinely heartfelt urge to protect you from Megalocephalocity Syndrome, we refrained from excessive and immodest demonstrations of emotion. (The reference to the Acela gave you away.) Besides, here on NC you are on a much more rarified and exclusive level of blogsistance. The WSJ comments section? Slumming.

    2. Eclair

      I really appreciated the “streets are filled with cops looking like Darth Vader” remark. As a well-educated, well-off, middle-class suburbanite who was on the street when the Denver SWAT teams roared up to Civic Center Park to destroy Occupy, my illusions lying about my feet as shattered glass, I’m glad somebody is noticing.

  14. Lambert Strether

    Mosler on the Beige Book:

    The sharp reduction in oil capex that was driving the economy has predictably shown up first in the oil states like Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, etc. Just as these states led on the way up, they are leading on the way down as well, with that weakness working its way to the other regions as the US continues to suffer from a general lack of aggregate demand. Though to a lesser degree, this is similar to the sub prime episode, where that housing expansion led the recovery, driving down the Federal deficit via the automatic fiscal stabilizers (tax revenues and transfer payments) as private sector deficit spending increased and did the heaving lifting. Then when that private sector deficit spending came to an end, sales and jobs collapsed, as the recession unfolded. Same for the .com era expansion and the S and L driven expansion prior to that, etc. Once the deficit spending falls short of the demand leakages the cycle ends.

    1. Skippy

      The Houston example I gave in another post is germane here imo, pre GFC municipal cash flow projections were based on investment in RMBS et al, which intern was commingled with muni funds.

      Post GFC municipality’s were forced to get out the knife wrt public expenditure whilst privatizing assets [short term high]. This is compounded by wanting to attract corporations by tax concessions – land and other subsidies, all whilst deregulating land zoning [fertile fraud enviroment – not to mention floods] to induce rapid RE – energy development in order to offset the aforementioned leakages, all whilst using a large slice of this action as a tax minimization scheme for preferred clientele.

      With such a fragile arrangement, dependent on high expectations, its not surprising to see how the Saudi actions has put rather a dire cloud over the whole thing, not to mention the environmental challenges [drought – flood – rinse – repeat]. Which lends to a suspicion that the Saudis move is not entirely market share driven considering the geopolitical reality’s in the ME, makes Nukes look like child’s toys if it holds any water.

      Skippy…. way things are going down here… were soon to join them…

  15. Jeremy Grimm

    I just finished reading a fair number of the comments in the link cited by the post. OMG! These were comments on the Wall Street Journal!? I noticed a great deal of pessimism and discontent talking to people around where I live — but readers of the Wall Street Journal!!!? No wonder we are seeing our police turned into mercenary militias.

    I smell fear.

    1. lord koos

      I wouldn’t get too attached to the idea that most of the responses were from regular WSJ readers. I very occasionally peruse the site and left a comment but I wouldn’t in a million years think of myself as a “Wall Street Journal reader”.

  16. Sanctuary

    I have a feeling that this is coming out in anticipation of tomorrow’s news. June 5th is a big day. Not only do we find out about the Greek situation (although they did announce today that they are seeking the payment bundling option for June 30th) but we also get to hear from OPEC’s meeting just what the Saudis think of their oil strategy thus far. I have a feeling they are going to announce a production INCREASE, not just stating their happiness with today’s situation in oil markets. If that occurs, oil prices will drop like a rock, this fake oil rally will end, and the financial shockwaves rippling through the system right now from the previous drop will intensify and reverberate throughout the globe. It will mean that one of the key institutional players has decided that they are not going to “muddle through” any more regardless of what bankster elites in the US and Europe want and are going their own way for their own benefit. It also means the layoffs, bankruptcies, and defaults will finally break through the wall of speculative inertia and skyrocket. And so will begin the tumbling of the house of cards…

    1. ambrit

      Greece goes for “extend and pretend” in a big way. Playing for time.
      Metals are trading near the bottom of their 52 week moving average.
      The Baltic Dry Index, year on year, oy vey!
      The labour participation rate in America. Sobering. A three percentage point drop in ten years. And that’s the official figure!
      See: http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

  17. flora

    Hilsenrath’s op-ed suggesting the indebted and cash-strapped middle class should go out and spend spend spend to boost the economy reminds me that our illustrious politicians and economists have been pushing govt austerity and telling us that the “US economy is like a household economy, and when there’s too much debt you have to spend less.” So, uh, the US economy is like a household economy, and if there’s too much debt then austerity is the correct move? But a real household economy that has too much debt should spend even more than they have to, going even further into debt? What? I’m so confused.

  18. Schofield

    History will record that economic dysfunction in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first part of the twenty-first was largely due to the failure to understand a three sector consolidated balance sheet’s effects on modern fiat money creation. This in turn was entirely due to the juvenile and rabid anti-government bigotry of right-wing Libertarianism.

    1. JTMcPhee

      It’s only dysfunctional for you and me, of course: “They” are doing just fine. And history, the kind that becomes part of the Narrative, gets written by the winners. Nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki won the war for us, the war American “interests” had no part in instigating. “We” do not do war crimes. The business of the world is business. Simple, right? God gives them their money.

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