Thursday, July 22, 2021

Federal Government & Federal Reserve Supercharge the Economy: When & How Does It End?

The U.S. pandemic, beginning in early 2020, ushered in an unmatched flood of federal government overspending and record Federal Reserve (FED) stimulus.

With a compliant Congress, the Trump Administration increased an already bloated federal deficit by $1.22 trillion in one year. Not to be outdone, the Biden Administration expanded the deficit by more than $2.1 trillion in only six months. During this period of time, the FED slashed short term interest rates from 1.75% to 0.0% and purchased $4.3 trillion of federal debt and mortgage-backed securities in order to reduce long-term interest rates to record lows. During the pandemic, these actions increased the money supply by 28.1% and reduced the value of the U.S. dollar by 3.4%. So, what were some of the other outcomes?

Inflation and asset bubbles sprouted. The year-over-year consumer price index (CPI) climbed from a pre-pandemic 2.3% to the most recent reading of 5.5%, well above the FED’s pre-pandemic target of 2%. Additionally, the record high spending, low interest rates, and surging inflation have pushed investors into riskier bets. For example, in only 12 months, the Case-Shiller national home price index soared by 14.0%, the S&P stock index rocketed by 38.6%, bitcoin ballooned by 270.1%, and gold increased by 12.6%. Meantime, the overall U.S. economy barely nudged with the inflation-adjusted GDP actually down by 0.9%.

So, what’s the problem? The FED cannot sit idly by as inflation rips through the U.S. economy. Higher Inflation and interest rates will degrade U.S. stock prices forcing stocks to a more reasonable price to earnings ratio. Meanwhile, inflation will be supportive of cryptocurrency, gold and silver prices, even as higher interest rates moderate their gains.

Despite the evidence, the FED continues to plead their case that year-over-year CPI growth was just as high in July 2008. However, they fail to also acknowledge the FED’s short-term interest rate was 2.0% in July 2008 compared to today’s 0%.

Thus, there is currently much more FED stimulus for even higher inflation. To quote Eisenhower Administration economist Herb Stein, “If something can’t go on forever, it will stop.” So, what will stop or thwart these Goldilocks investment gains? Higher interest rates as early as Q4, 2021, that’s what!

Many economists, including yours truly, expect these out-sized gains to be flattened or even reversed when the FED begins raising long-term interest rates (tapering) as early as Q4, 2021. Strap on your financial seat belt-the economic landscape will get bumpy. Ernie Goss

Friday, June 25, 2021

Biden’s 'War on Work' Doubles LBJ’s 'War on Poverty': Who Pays for It? Today’s Youth!

Much like President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s 1964 launch of his “war on poverty,” President Biden, since his inauguration, has authorized $1.9 trillion in stimulus spending, and released his fiscal 2022 budget for $6.0 trillion in what could be termed his “war on work.”

In 1964, LBJ pushed the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, which opened the floodgate of 40 federal programs targeted against poverty. Much like LBJ’s explosive federal spending expansion, the New York Times portrayed Biden’s spending foray as "an attempt to expand the size and scope of federal engagement in Americans' daily lives." In his 4 years in office, LBJ advanced federal spending by 14% per year, and expanded welfare outlays by roughly $800 billion per year. Biden has almost doubled that growth in his first budget year alone by boosting federal spending by 26% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Biden’s 2020 so-called stimulus spending of $1.9 trillion added $300 per week in unemployment pay on top of regular jobless benefits, plus $1,400 per individual in stimulus checks, and $3,000 per child in financial assistance (all discouraging work). In a recently completed study, Mulligan, Antoni, and Moore concluded that in 19 states, a household of four with two unemployed workers can receive $100,000 in equivalent pay without working (Committee to Unleash Prosperity, White Paper #8).

And who pays for this fiscal indulgence? Between 1964 and 1968, LBJ funded his War on Poverty by raising the nation’s federal deficit as a percent of GDP from 1.0% to 1.5%. Biden, to fund what is termed here as his War on Work, has proposed raising deficit spending as a percent of GDP from pre-pandemic 4.8% to approximately 9.9%, the highest since World War II.

Furthermore, Biden’s Plan would also push the debt held by the public (not counting internal debt) to 111.8% of GDP eclipsing the level suffered in the wake of World War II.

Ultimately the nation’s youth will pay for this overspending via either higher inflation, advancing interest rates and soaring taxes, or a combination of all three.

Ernie Goss

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

China’s GDP Surpasses U.S.’s: Who Loses and When?

In 2010, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) was approximately one-fourth that of the U.S. Since then, China’s overall economy has advanced at an annual compound growth rate of 10% compared to the U.S.’s much slower expansion of 4.1%. Should this trend persist, China’s GDP will surpass the U.S.’s in 2027. Other than bragging rights, what are the impacts? Could the U.S. dollar lose its reserve status?

At the 1971 Bretton Woods Agreement, the U.S. dollar was officially crowned the world’s reserve currency. Even without this official designation, due to the size of the U.S. economy, and its debt markets, the U.S. dollar was, and is, the global reserve currency. As a result of this status, other countries accumulate reserves of U.S. dollars equivalents instead of gold. But rather than holding U.S. dollars, these nations purchase and hold interest earning U.S. Treasury bonds. These purchases have the impact of reducing U.S. interest rates. Furthermore, these bond purchases strengthen the U.S. dollar making purchases of foreign products such as Paris vacations and German automobiles cheaper in price for U.S. consumers.

However, in 2015, the IMF awarded the Chinese yuan status as one of four reserve currencies with the dollar supreme. The IMF basket of reserve currencies currently includes the euro, the Japanese yen, the British pound, and U.S. dollar. Should China’s GDP surpass that of the U.S., and they abandon currency manipulation, there will be pressure from global investors to abandon the dollar and crown the yuan as THE global reserve currency.

The yuan replacing the dollar as THE global reserve would push U.S. interest rate much higher, increase borrowing costs for U.S. firms engaged in international trade, and boost U.S. consumer/business borrowing costs.

At this time, China’s interest rates on government debt are approximately two percentage points higher than the U.S.’s. Thus, the dollar losing its status as the global reserve currency could increase U.S. federal debt service by as much as two percentage points and cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $600 billion per year in interest payments, other factors unchanged.

Ernie Goss
Since taking office, the Biden Administration has passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to fuel an economy that was already expanding at a very healthy pace. Now President Biden is advancing a so-called $2.0 trillion “infrastructure” bill. To pay for a portion of this exploding spending, the president has called for an increase in the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%, and a boost in the income tax rate on households making more than $400,000. The added corporate tax rate is on top of state the assessment of 44 states and D.C. that have corporate income taxes on the books ranging from North Carolina’s single rate of 2.5% to a top marginal rate of 11.5% in New Jersey. An increase in the federal corporate tax rate to 28 percent would raise the U.S. federal-state combined tax rate to an average of almost 34% and would be the highest among the 37 OECD nations which have an average corporate rate of 22% with lowest rates for Ireland at 12.5%, and Switzerland at 8.5%. This increase would harm U.S. economic competitiveness and increase the cost of U.S. firms. The Tax Foundation estimated that the hike would reduce long-run GDP growth by approximately one-fourth, eliminate 159,000 jobs, and reduce wages by 0.7%. But instead of engaging in global competition, the Biden Administration is attempting to coerce OECD members into raising their rates. To quote ex-academic economist, Federal Reserve Chairman, and current U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “Destructive tax competition will only end when enough major economies stop undercutting one another and agree to a global minimum tax.” I guess she only believed in market-based economics and competition when she was teaching macroeconomics at the University of California-Berkley. Welcome to the 21st Century Dr. Yellen. The U.S. must compete in the global economy, not attempt to fix prices, and limit competition. This is not legal for companies in the U.S., and should be verboten for OECD nations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Biden Taxes Will Reduce Global Competition, Slow Growth: Practice What You Preached Dr. Yellen

Since taking office, the Biden Administration has passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill to fuel an economy that was already expanding at a very healthy pace. Now President Biden is advancing a so-called $2.0 trillion “infrastructure” bill.

To pay for a portion of this exploding spending, the president has called for an increase in the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%, and a boost in the income tax rate on households making more than $400,000. The added corporate tax rate is on top of state the assessment of 44 states and D.C. that have corporate income taxes on the books ranging from North Carolina’s single rate of 2.5% to a top marginal rate of 11.5% in New Jersey.

An increase in the federal corporate tax rate to 28 percent would raise the U.S. federal-state combined tax rate to an average of almost 34% and would be the highest among the 37 OECD nations which have an average corporate rate of 22% with lowest rates for Ireland at 12.5%, and Switzerland at 8.5%. This increase would harm U.S. economic competitiveness and increase the cost of U.S. firms. The Tax Foundation estimated that the hike would reduce long-run GDP growth by approximately one-fourth, eliminate 159,000 jobs, and reduce wages by 0.7%.

But instead of engaging in global competition, the Biden Administration is attempting to coerce OECD members into raising their rates. To quote ex-academic economist, Federal Reserve Chairman, and current U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, “Destructive tax competition will only end when enough major economies stop undercutting one another and agree to a global minimum tax.”

I guess she only believed in market-based economics and competition when she was teaching macroeconomics at the University of California-Berkley. Welcome to the 21st Century Dr. Yellen. The U.S. must compete in the global economy, not attempt to fix prices, and limit competition. This is not legal for companies in the U.S., and should be verboten for OECD nations.

Ernie Goss

Monday, February 22, 2021

Mainstreet Versus Wallstreet: Stocks Did Better Under Democrat Presidents (Workers Under Republicans)

Since the onset of Covid-19, Wallstreet, as captured by stock market indices, has significantly outperformed the overall U.S. economy. Since the fourth quarter of 2019 until the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P) soared by 14.6% as the overall U.S. economy (GDP) shrank by 1.2%. This has caused critics to argue that the responses of the Republican Whitehouse, and the Federal Reserve (Fed) to Covid-19, as well as other economic maladies, have benefited Wallstreet business interests at the expense of workers, and small businesses on Mainstreet. Is there merit in the critics’ argument? Figure 1 compares the ratio of the S&P stock average and employee compensation to GDP from 1985 to 2020. As presented, since reaching a low of 52,6% of GDP in 2014 in the Obama Administration, employee compensation has risen to 54.6% in 2019 (the latest data) in the Trump Administration. During this same period of time, the S&P stock average climbed from 11.1% to 15.4% of GDP. However, the Fed has been clearly on the side of the stock market by reducing interest rates during 2020. For example, the yield on the 6-month U.S. Treasury bond tumbled from an average 2.11% in 2019 to 0.37% in 2020. Table 1 compares the impact of 16 years of Democrat presidencies versus 20 years of Republican presidencies on stocks and workers. As presented in Table 1, stocks and business profits have expanded at a faster pace during Democrat presidencies, while worker compensation excelled under Republican presidencies. Likewise, the Fed appears to have been more supportive of stocks during Democrat presidencies than Republican presidencies by keeping interest rates lower. While differences between Democrat and Republican presidencies listed in Table 1 are not substantial, they are surprising and contrary to the popular narrative. Furthermore, differences may spring from many factors, just one of which is control of the White House.
Ernie Goss

Monday, January 25, 2021

Punishing Success by Raising Taxes: Biden’s Bite to Support Government Expansion

 

President Biden has promised to raise taxes on high income individuals to fund his planned rapid decade-long expansion in federal spending. His approach calls for raising the top income tax rate from 37% to 39.6%, limiting deductions for top earners, and boosting the long-term capital gains tax rate for high earners from 20% to 39.6%.
 
Table 1 below lists the 10 states with current highest income tax rates on additional income. As presented, a California high wage earner, or self-employed, keeps only $35.85 of every $100 of additional income. Importantly, these rates do not account for other taxes paid primarily by higher income individuals such as capital gains taxes, and do not consider Biden’s proposed cap on deductions for high income earners. The rates do include Medicare, and Social Security taxes.
 
Even before the Biden Bite, the top 5% of earners pay approximately 58% of federal income taxes. Likewise, the increase is ill-timed hitting earners in an economic downturn (i.e. a reverse stimulus). The Keynesians should be properly outraged, but don’t count on witnessing it.
 
In addition to funding a plethora of new government programs, proponents of the Biden Bite argue that these tax hikes will reduce income inequality as measured by the Gini Coefficient. The Gini Coefficient measures income inequality with the coefficient varying from zero (least income inequality) to 1.00 (maximum income equality).
 
Table 2 lists the ten states experiencing the greatest degree on income inequality. Four states with the highest income inequality are ranked in the top 15 states in terms of income tax rates. Calculating the correlation between top tax rates and the Gini Coefficients for the 50 states and D.C. indicates only a slight association between tax rates and the Gini Coefficients. However, the association is opposite to that argued by the Biden proponents. That is, states with higher tax rates on higher earners experience greater income inequality, not less.
 
This essay is based on state income tax data indicating that increasing the tax rate on higher income has not and will not reduce income inequality, and in fact may increase income inequality.

Taxing better educated, higher earners will instead further burden high earners which discourages initiative, reduces the motivation to improve human capital via education, and incentivizes tax avoidance and/or tax evasion. Furthermore, raising taxes at this time, offsets some of the positive impacts of stimulating the economy with higher consumer spending fueled by Stimulus I and II.


Table 1: Top tax rates for highest (rates are for income tax rates only, and do not include other Biden increase such as capital gains)

 

Current Top

Income tax rate

Biden addition

New top tax rate

1. California

64.15%

2.60%

66.75%

2. Hawaii

61.85%

2.60%

64.45%

3. New Jersey

61.60%

2.60%

64.20%

4. Oregon

60.75%

2.60%

63.35%

5. Minnesota

60.70%

2.60%

63.30%

6. D.C.

59.80%

2.60%

62.40%

7. New York

59.67%

2.60%

62.27%

8. Vermont

59.60%

2.60%

62.20%

9. Iowa

59.38%

2.60%

61.98%

10. Wisconsin

58.50%

2.60%

61.10%

Notes: Iowa’s income tax rate allows the deductibility of federal income taxes and is thus somewhat lower than that listed.




Table 2: Ten states with the greatest income inequality

State

Total

Current top tax rate

2018 Gini coefficient

1. District of Columbia

59.80%

0.524

2. New York

59.67%

0.513

3. Connecticut

57.84%

0.501

4. Louisiana

56.85%

0.494

5. California

64.15%

0.491

6. New Mexico

55.75%

0.489

7. Florida

50.85%

0.489

8. Massachusetts

55.85%

0.488

9. Alabama

55.85%

0.486

10. Arkansas

57.45%

0.485