25 August 2015

I'm In Your Debt

You do remember The Joker (Rogoff) and Penguin (Rinehart) of quant econ? What quants and micros never seem to do is get beyond narrow, yet superficial, analytics. All the while spouting such rhetoric as "deep dive", "laser focus", and "it's the Damn Gummint's fault".

What the Right Wing apologists never do is look beyond affirming their agenda, that it's either the Damn Gummint or Little People who pay taxes who are the cause of all that misery.
Every financial crisis, he and his co-author, Carmen M. Reinhart, concluded, stems from the same simple problem: too much debt.

Well, Rogoff is at it again, this time gloating that he got China right long before anybody else. He didn't, really, but did go public early on. Only God knows who was first.

His explanation: too much debt. Yeah, so?

And, of course, that's quite wrong.
...distribution ... of wealth as it is currently produced ... to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation's economic machinery.

That's a quote from Eccles, which appears in the preamble to some of the versions of these endeavors. Since the quants and micros only care about maximizing profit for a narrow sector, or even just one corporation, the "winner takes all" meme is more to their liking, and never questioned. That "winner takes all" leads to collapse of the whole edifice, is never considered.

What Rogoff, and his ilk, fail to do is ask the question that matters: why is it that consumers turn to debt to pay for their widgets, rather than out of income???? Hmmm????

The Great Recession happened partly because The Giant Pool of Money demanded high-return, low-risk instruments, which the financial services sector was happy to concoct and provide. The problem, of course, was that the 99% couldn't float the needed mortgages with the existing, standard, protocol. So, the protocol was fudged. A lot. But the needed instruments were created.

One of the side effects of artificially inflated house prices was the Home Equity Loan: "use your house to pay for that dream vacation", and such. So, not only were the poor inveigled into McMansions with teaser APRs, but otherwise sensible folks enticed into making the homestead an ATM. And why not? Wages for the 99% have barely budged over the preceding decades, and this provided more cash flow to consumer goods companies. Do you really think they'd say, No? Of course not.

With the increased concentration of both wealth and income over the last three or four decades, money to buy widgets out of pocket for the 99% just isn't there. So, how do corporations shift widgets? Credit (or DEBT as Rogoff has it), of course. The key to The Great Recession was that mortgage companies, then banks who saw their market share dwindle, understood the real issue: monthly payment. Folks don't buy a $100,000 house, they buy a $750/month house. It's the monthly nut that matters. "Look, the initial payment is within your income. In a few years the payment will reset, but then just sell the house at much higher price, if don't strike it rich. You'll actually be better off."

We see the same scam going on now with auto sales. The 84 month car loan (25% of loans in 2014) is the same scheme: keep the monthly payment within protocol. Auto makers can shift higher cost/profit cars, too boot. Good deal for everybody. The amounts, per household, aren't (one hopes, anyway) as troublesome as the subprime mortgages. One hopes.

Nevertheless, a mini-Great Recession will occur with these car loans, if the job market gets soft. All those cars being repo-ed may well cascade through the economy nearly as evilly as the mortgages did. Folks get laid off. Stop paying for the car. Car gets repo-ed. Without wheels, you can't get work. And so on.

But it's all the fault of those greedy 99%, who won't live on the starvation wages corporations deem them worthy of. Eccles can't be denied, forever.

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