10/17/13 – A Modest Proposal: Why Doesn’t the Fed Forgive the Debt?

October 17, 2013

Recently, I was invited by the CFA Institute to contribute some thoughts to a discussion about why the Fed doesn’t forgive the debt. My commentary was published, and I’ve received some very nice feedback on it. You can read it here.

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10/10/13 – Markets Start to Worry

October 10, 2013

The consequences of the debt ceiling standoff and government shutdown continue to reverberate. Markets are increasingly showing signs of nervousness, with excess volatility tracking news reports as they come out of DC.

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10/9/13 – A Modest Proposal to Solve the Debt Ceiling Problem

October 9, 2013

I’ve been reviewing my posts and articles from the last time we went down the debt ceiling crisis road, and marveling a bit. Trillion-dollar coin indeed! That post proved to be prescient in a lot of ways, although 10 months early. The options I outlined there remain the most probable this time around, but no one has been trotting them out so far. Instead, the discussion has revolved around how to make payments once we run out of money.

I don’t like the spirit of despair that this kind of planning reflects, and I think I have a better idea about how to solve the problem. It requires no issuance of coins, no scrip rather than cash—although the difference is small—and no constitutional confrontation.

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9/30/13 – Here Comes the Shutdown

September 30, 2013

Here we go again. I’ve written something to that effect several times over the past couple of years, what with the 2011 debt ceiling debate, the 2012 fiscal cliff, and now this. Governmental dysfunction has been normalized.

The phrase that comes to mind is “defining deviancy down,” from a 1993 paper by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the great statesmen of American politics. The idea is similar to the boiled frog theory I described last month: with every ratchet down in behavior, the new low becomes somehow normal, and any subsequent changes are perceived as being less bad (compared with the new “normal”) than they would have been otherwise. Another way to describe it is a behavioral downward spiral—that is, behavior that formerly would have been thought absolutely disgraceful is now seen as somewhat embarrassing.

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9/27/13 – The Government Shutdown, the Debt Ceiling, and the Markets

September 27, 2013

I have to be honest: I’ve been putting off writing about this for the past couple of days, for both good and bad reasons. One good reason is that, really, there hasn’t been much news. Congress is playing games, everyone is shouting at each other, and nothing is getting done. The other good reason is that there’s not much we can do to prepare, given the level of uncertainty that prevails. No news, no action items, no need to comment.

The bad reason I have for putting this off is that, quite frankly, it’s depressing. We’ve been through this before, in both 2011 and 2012, and the fact that we’re going through it once again is just ridiculous. Be that as it may, though, here we are, so let’s deal with it.

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9/23/13 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

September 23, 2013

The past week has been interesting, with lots of developments. Rather than trying to cover just one, I thought we should look at several of the most important.

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9/19/13 – Fed to Economy: “You Can’t Handle the Taper!”

September 19, 2013

To the surprise of many, the Federal Reserve decided yesterday to continue its stimulus program at the current levels, buying $85 billion of Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds per month. Not only did it opt to continue buying at current levels, but Chairman Bernanke repeatedly went out of his way to note, in the press conference afterward, that the Fed reserves the right to continue stimulus, no matter what the various metrics it had previously used as targets do. He seemed to be walking back much of the guidance he had previously provided, trying to make the Fed harder for the market to predict. With this action, he succeeded.

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