How The Federal Reserve Is Purposely Attacking Savers

flickr/DonkeyHotey

There's something we 'regular' citizens wrestle with that the elites never seem to: a sense of moral duty. Not everybody holds that view, however. Rich people have terrible credit. They know that there’s a system and it has rules. And, for them, these rules can (and should) be optimized for their own benefit. So they do anything and everything that works to their advantage.

For example, following the collapse of the housing bubble, many people struggled with mortgages they could no longer afford to pay, fearing the shame of default. Many believed defaulting was wrong somehow; that it was their moral obligation to pay their mortgages, no matter how dire their personal situation. And of course, the mortgages lenders did their utmost to reinforce this perception.

In a perfect world, we would honor our debts and obligations, every one of us. But the world is an imperfect place ,and moral obligation is something that almost never enters into the decision matrix of our society's richest. Or the banking industry.

For them, the number one (and two, and three...) rule is that whatever is expedient and makes the most money is the right thing to do.

For the bottom 99%, it’s like playing with a stricter set of rules than your opponent: you’re not allowed to hit below the belt, and they’ve brought a baseball bat into the ring.

Note how this guy had to fight through his middle class conditioning before coming to a sense of peace over his decision to enter into a short sale on his house:

How a short sale taught me rich people’s ethics

Sep 29, 2014

The closest I ever came to acting like a rich person was two years ago when I short-sold my primary residence. I might have been able to keep it but strategic default made life easier. I owed about $400,000 on a house that short-sold for $150K. The bank lost more than a quarter of a million dollars, and I lost at least $80K in down payment and property improvements.

I was taught growing up to “keep my word” and that your handshake “meant something.” Yet businessmen and individual wealthy people make decisions that are far less moral than a short sale. People “incorporate” so they can avoid legal responsibility for individual actions.

It works great. You can stiff creditors, declare bankruptcy, pollute daily and raid pensions to enrich individual executives. If it all goes wrong, like it has so often for Donald Trump, you can keep your mansions and individual fortunes.

I entered the shark-infested waters of high finance with a short sale. It was the worst ethical decision, but the finest, most profitable business moment, of my adult life. It was an informative, even transformative, experience.

(Source)

This poor guy has a very bad case of ‘middle class morality’. It's a very real phenomenon. All our lives, we are all taught (programmed?) to stay within the true and narrow groove of middle class life, pay our bills, and be on the hook should things go awry.

Not everybody holds that view, however. As he continues in the piece, the author discovers something important along the way:

I always knew business was getting over on me, but I had no idea the extent until I started looking to short-sell. I first learned all I could aboutprivatehome financing. I called up some shady investment groups around town and questioned them at length. I didn’t end up using them, but they were frank, informative and unashamed.

“Who would pay 11 percent on a home loan?” I asked.

“Rich people,” said “Bill” from the legal loan-sharking company. “The rich have terrible credit.”

Rich people = bad credit: Just let that sink in.

Bill told me in roundabout ways that rich people never pay a bill if there is any way around it. If something goes wrong in an investment or a business, they always preserve their own assets first.

Rich people have terrible credit. They know that there’s a system and it has rules. And, for them, these rules can (and should) be optimized for their own benefit. So they do anything and everything that works to their advantage.

There’s a reason and a logic to that which I can appreciate, but it makes me wonder where the rest of us obtained our deep-seeded beliefs about duty and responsibility towards debts.

Similar to rich people, banks do not have any entangling moral restrictions on their behaviors. That absence allows them to get away with extraordinary misdeeds, none more obvious and damaging than those that the Federal Reserve has perpetrated on the nation, specifically, and the world, more broadly.

To understand why, we first have to discuss something called Financial Repression.

 

Financial Repression

In my recent interview with Daniel Amerman, to whom I will credit much of the concise thinking and for unearthing the sources that I will weave throughout the remainder of this piece (please read his excellent article on Financial Repression here), the truly immoral intent of the Fed's policies really sank in.

In response to the Fuzzy Numbers chapter (18) of the Crash Course, reader JBarney pondered the following:

Thanks for putting this update together. I think one of the problems is there are so many moving parts, so many manipulated numbers it is difficult to get a clear picture. The way it is organized here is helpful.

However,I can't help but wonder about all of the implications of these numbers for the real economy and people's lives. One of the sections which really hits home was the impact inflation has on all of this. If these are the numbers now, what will it be like when things really start to change?

The answer is that while inflation always steals from savers, it really does its dirty work when the central bank and government conspire to create a condition of pervasive and unavoidable negative real interest rates.

This is the heart of Financial Repression: an environment in which you literally cannot save money without paying a penalty.

The main takeaway of Chapter 18 on Fuzzy Numbers is not that the government fibs a little now and then (okay,all the time) merely because that's politically expedient, but it does so in service to a larger and more pernicious aim: forcing people to accept an inflation rate that is higher than either their income growth and/or the market's safe rate of return.

As soon as you are locked into a negative interest rate regime, your capital is losing purchasing power. But simple accounting rules dictate that loss of wealth had to go somewhere. So where did it go? To somebody else.

Negative real interest rates transfer money from every saver to every over-extended borrower. This is especially true with the government (largely because of its special revolving door relationship with the Fed, which both issues the money out of thin air and then buys government debt forcing rates into negative territory).

It's really that simple. The Fed has openly and actively suppressed rates -- not to help the credit markets, as they claim, but to engineer a condition of Financial Repression. Because that's what the government needs to stealthily take your wealth to pay down the prior debts it accumulated.

Thus 'negative real rates' are the essential component of transferring wealth from the many to the few, with the 'few' being defined as the government, Wall Street, and others who exploit leverage and liabilities at sufficient scale to be on the right side of that wealth transfer.

This well-known phenomenon is a thoroughly accepted and well-described practice of governments and central banks everywhere. One of the better descriptions of it comes to us courtesy of the BIS in this working paper published in 2011.

From the abstract:

Historically, periods of high indebtedness have been associated with a rising incidence of default or restructuring of public and private debts.

A subtle type of debt restructuring takes the form of “financial repression.”

Financial repression includes directed lending to government by captive domestic audiences (such as pension funds), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, regulation of cross-border capital movements, and (generally) a tighter connection between government and banks.

In the heavily regulated financial markets of the Bretton Woods system, several restrictions facilitated a sharp and rapid reduction in public debt/GDP ratios from the late 1940s to the 1970s.

Low nominal interest rates help reduce debt servicing costs while a high incidence of negative real interest rates liquidates or erodes the real value of government debt.

Thus, financial repression is most successful in liquidating debts when accompanied by a steady dose of inflation.

Inflation need not take market participants entirely by surprise and, in effect,it need not be very high(by historic standards).

For the advanced economies in our sample, real interest rates were negative roughly ½ of the time during 1945-1980. For the United States and the United Kingdom our estimates of the annual liquidation of debt via negative real interest rates amounted on average from 2 to 3 percent of GDP a year.

Let me decode that.

  • Step 1: Governments get into trouble by borrowing too much.
  • Step 2: Rather than pay this down honestly via cutting spending (unpopular) or by defaulting (even more unpopular), the government conspires with the central bank to slowly liquidate the stack of obligations by forcing negative real interest rates on everyone.
  • Step2bHang on one second...it wouldn’t work if people could dodge the Financial Repression, so a ring fence has to be built out of capital controls and explicit rate caps on and across the whole spectrum of interest-bearing securities.
  • Step 3: Sit back and wait for everyone with savings to contribute their purchasing power to those who issued the debts, be those public or private entities.

And this is exactly what has happened. All of the talk about the Fed focusing on unemployment or inflation or whatever are red herrings. What the Fed is really trying to do is to create a set of macro conditions that will allow the federal government to slowly crawl out from under a pile of debt and entitlement obligations that it literally can not pay by honest, above board means.

I guess if we were to imagine a "Step 4" in the above process, it would be to wait for the head of the central bank to come out and deliver a speech in which she expresses a grandmotherly concern for the wealth gap that naturally results from all this, but to deflect attention away from this being a direct and understood consequence of the Fed's intentional goal of financial repression and towards some failure on the part of those who have been targeted to donate to the cause of bailing out the profligate and rewarding the borrowers.

Oh, wait. That did just happen.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/88227/how-federal-reserve-purposely-attacking-savers

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