70 2 mins 7 yrs

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers …

“Nobody over the last 50 years, not the IMF, not the US Treasury, has predicted any of the recessions a year in advance, never,” he said.

No, not that, but Timmy’s comment that it’s a problem for those who think they can plan an economy.

Hardly anyone, Peter Schiff aside, predicted the 2008 crash so closely, and if any government economists even predicted a coming recesion they’re still hiding that light under a dense bushell. Gordon Brown may have thought he had abolished boom and bust, but in this era of chronic fiat money inflation, the economy will always be heading for boom or into bust. The only uncertainties are around how large the bubble will be and when the bust will come.

I’d go a little further than Tim Worstall and say that Summers’ comment demolishes the case for all economic planning. Or as von Mises said: “If one rejects laissez fayre on account of man’s fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.”

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70 thoughts on “YES, FAIR POINT

  1. Gold flim flam guys like Schiff are predicting crash every day that ends with a Y so the predictions are bound to be right some day.

    But his more tangible and immediate prediction of high inflation? Best not to ever ask about that one.

    Peter Schiff is one of the most famous investors in America. He might also be the person most wrong about America’s economic struggles. In 2009, Schiff not only warned of impending inflation but said it was already upon us. “An inflationary depression is going to be a protracted period of economic decline accompanied by rapid increases in consumer prices,” he said. “So, it’s going to be something like the stagflation of the 1970s, only much more stagnation, or outright contraction of the economy, with the cost of living increases even more rapidly than it did then.”

    Anyone who has followed the economy in the ensuing years knows that those rapid prices increase haven’t happened. Inflation has run below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target for years. In fact, the challenge has been how to raise inflation so that businesses and consumers spend money to get the economy back going.


  2. There are a number of indicators which suggest that the US could be in recession this year. But the stock market reacts to bad news by driving prices ever higher, fuelled by free borrowing, courtsey of the Fed. We have now had 77 months of “emergency” zero interest rates.

    David Stockton explains the madness here

  3. Yes, but soothsayer Schiff promised America an inflationary depression and neither has happened.

    The US has outperformed Europe and the world economy since he uttered those words of wisdom.

  4. the challenge has been how to raise inflation so that businesses and consumers spend money to get the economy back going.

    That’s a myth for sure. So you need a new car, but you leave off buying for another year because it might be cheaper then? And what about essentials, do you starve yourself this week because might be cheaper to eat next week? Inflation is not benign, it is theft instigated by governments and central banks.

  5. Superb.

    Peter says there have now been 77 months of “emergency” zero interest rates, and Phantom thinks it’s a retort to say the US economy has outperformed the world.

  6. But in the US there has been no significant inflation in the broad economy since the near meltdown.

    This was a prediction based on nothing – deflation was the greater danger all along in this period.

    If there had been hyperinflation or god help us a depression, the Schiffs of this world would have never shut up about their genius ” prediction ” on that one too.

  7. Pete

    I’ve never said that this economy is a bed of roses.

    I’ve said that depression has been averted for now, and that inflation has not been a major problem at all.

    The business community as a whole, apart from the gold fraudsters, is somewhat optimistic on the US. My big business contacts are still much more bullish on the US than they are on Europe or China.

  8. Phantom –

    That the years of zero per cent interest rates doesn’t register any significance with you is rather telling.

    Yes, there has been no price inflation, as long as you ignore house prices, food prices, repeated record high stock prices, transport price inflation and the $2.3 trillion of bank reserves sitting at the Fed.

  9. deflation was the greater danger all along in this period

    Stone the crows, he’s bought the entire rack of government economic scares. Falling prices making everyone more wealthy – oh the horror!

  10. Poor Pete.

    All I know is that the business community in the US for the most part does not share your perpetual panic – and that they did not share your view that we should have allowed for a complete collapse in 2008.

  11. Hate to ruin the day of the gloomy doomies, but see the below bit of news.

    US and non US investors continue to bet big on the US economy.

    Even massive investment does not fix everything, since modern factories are very automated, and since many of the unemployed don’t have the right skills to work in such factories.

    But the smart money is on the US. I was right when I said this here in 2009, and I am right when I say it today.

    DETROIT — General Motors said Thursday that it would invest $5.4 billion in its American factories over the next three years as part of a broader effort to modernize production facilities and secure jobs.

    G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, has been methodically upgrading and expanding its manufacturing plants in the United States and elsewhere since its bankruptcy and government bailout in 2009.

    The moves are another example of the way auto companies are taking advantage of healthy profits and a strong American car market to increase spending on plants and new technology.

  12. This can’t be true, because Peter Schiff says it can’t be true.

    Good night, Pete.

    (Reuters) – The aerospace industry is shifting more manufacturing investment to the United States after a decade in which production jobs in the sector flowed to China and other emerging economies, according to a new study.

    Consultancy ICF International analyzed more than 2,000 investment transactions made since 2000, and found 28 manufacturing investments in the United States from 2012 to 2013, compared with eight each in China and Mexico, and four in Brazil. A decade earlier, Mexico led the pack with 10 investments, compared with just six investments in the United States.

    ICF said its data show a strong flow into China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other emerging markets until 2012. In the last three years, investment has shifted toward the United States.

    “The U.S. at this point in time has become the hot spot in aerospace manufacturing,” Kevin Michaels, a vice president at ICF, said at the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference this week. “Comparative advantage is a fleeting thing. Three years ago it looked like everything was heading to China. Now that’s changed.”


  13. Phantom

    But what about Apple? They are a drag on the US economy:

    “Apple Undermining US Manufacturing

    Nine years, a trillion dollars in sales, and almost no taxes paid. That’s just the starting point for wondering about Apple’s actual contribution to the US economy. Apple’s success drags down the US GDP. The behemoth that is Apple sold almost 200M phones last year, none of which were made in the US or used components made here. Instead of exporting $100B in iPhones, the US imported $50B. That $150B swing matters in terms of balance of trade, GDP and jobs. If you wanted to improve the US economy, there’s no better place to start than with Apple and smartphones.

    Apple undermines the US manufacturing base. Assembly matters and manufacturing matters more. There was a time when Apple could have assembled phones and tablets in the US, but that would mean spending an extra $5 per phone since that’s approximately the extra labor cost to build that $700 phone here instead of in Vietnam or China. Assembly may not be a competitive, value-add step but it does employ a lot of people.

    Unfortunately, it would also cut Apple’s profits by $1B, shrinking the company’s annual net income from $45B to $44B. Apple wouldn’t notice a drop in profits of $1B because it’s not putting its cash to use: Apple has $200B in cash conveniently parked outside of the US, not doing anything. On the other hand, assembling in the US would employ tens of thousands of people. A bit more productive use of capital, I believe.

    Semiconductor manufacturing is more important in the grand scheme of things. It’s a fact that higher-skilled high-tech jobs create more wealth for an economy because they lead to innovation and new product development. Again, Apple could have its chips made in the US, by Intel for example. Instead, Apple turned to Samsung (Korea) and TSMC (Taiwan), going offshore to save another few dollars.

    With a healthy dose of Schadenfreude, one notes Apple’s struggles to compete with Samsung, its past and present chip manufacturer. When Apple turned to Samsung to manufacture chips, the company also transferred vital intellectual property. Samsung learned everything it needed to know to design its own chips and phones. Apple saved ~$2B per year. In return, Samsung gained $100B a year in smartphone market share.

    But while Apple’s greed makes it penny wise and pound foolish, it’s the US that pays the price. Shifting manufacturing of the most cutting-edge chips has permanently eroded our manufacturing base and high-tech competitive edge.

  14. Fine by me if Apple is criticized, but

    Pete told me that its heroic to evade taxes and

    I don’t know too many Americans who’d want to assemble cell phones all day.

  15. Phantom

    Please read the linked article. This is about corporate greed, hi-tech jobs and semi-conductors, and it calls for a consumer boycott of Apple until they mend their ways.

  16. The whole thing is a house of smoke and mirrors and we’re all dooooomed

    Stock Pile Food, Guns, Ammo, Liquor, Tobacco and Gold in that order…. 😉

  17. And another thing. Saying Apple’s profits would drop by only a few percentage points if they built their phones in the US is facile analysis. They aren’t building these phones in a vacuum– the entire electronic industry migrated to Asia 20 years ago. There And another thing. Saying Apple’s profits would drop by only a few percentage points if they built their phones in the US is facile analysis. They aren’t building these phones in a vacuum– the entire electronic industry migrated to Asia 20 years ago. There is a gigantic infrastructure there that simply doesn’t exist in the US anymore. If you manufacture in China, everybody you deal with is in the same time zone and your vendors are right down the street. The US is on the other side of the planet from everything you need. .

    See above from one of the comments to the linked article.

    I agree that Apple probably made an error in using Samsung as a supplier.

    But nearly all the smartphones made by and for their competitors are made in Asia also – for the reasons stated above, but also IMO because I don’t think that not very many Americans want $10 an hour jobs making cellphones all day. That is the actual wage paid to assemblers in the one ( Motorola ) plant in Ft Worth Tx.

  18. Oops


    ( June 2014 )

    Motorola Mobility will be shutting down its factory in Fort Worth, Texas by the end of the year, in advance of Lenovo’s purchase of the unit from Google.

    The factory, which assembles Motorola’s flagship Moto X Android phone and only opened in May 2013, will be closed down due to weak sales by Motorola and high manufacturing costs.

  19. As so often, Phantom, the ATW diversionist, attempts to draw attention away from the failures of ‘economics’. Fortunately, not even students of economics can ignore the deficiencies of the curriculum:


    Multiple-choice and maths questions dominate the first two years of economics degrees, which Earle said meant most students stayed away from modules that required reading and essay-writing, such as history of economic thought. “They think they just don’t have the skills required for those sorts of modules and they don’t want to jeopardise their degree,” he said. “As a consequence, economics students never develop the faculties necessary to critically question, evaluate and compare economic theories, and enter the working world with a false belief about what economics is and a knowledge base limited to neoclassical theory.”

    Being fed the nonsense of ‘economics’ allows Phantom to claim that things are fine in the US economy when clearly those outside the ever-decreasing bubble can see that they’re not.

  20. Allan: “Ach, we’re all dooooomed!”

    Pete (running round in a panic): “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring! Don’t panic!”

  21. I don’t think that not very many Americans want $10 an hour jobs making cellphones all day.

    No Phantom – they would prefer to be out of their heads on crystal meth. In reality, the low-paid jobs in manufacturing are starter jobs for students or GOOD jobs (get out of debt jobs) where people can reduce expenditure by being in the workplace and use their earnings to pay down things like student loans etc. Additionally, it instills the sense of being in work which one acquires from…… being in work.

    MourneReg didn’t grasp the comment at 10.07am so he just decided to write something stupid. That’s perfectly logical because it’s what stupid people do.

  22. truth be told in todays economy, with todays unemployment and reduction of full time work, a 40hr a week job at $10 an hour is a good job to 2/3rds of the American people.

    That’s one of the factors why I believe the dems loose this round, it doesn’t matter who is on either side of ticket.

  23. MourneReg is spot on.

    I don’t -want- anyone who uses crystal meth, or who has ever considered using crystal meth even one time to be within ten miles of the factory where my next Ipad or smart phone will be made.

    Apple nearly died around 1997. Steve Jobs returned that year, and he hired Tim Cook in 1998.

    Tim Cook led the move of manufacturing to outsourced firms in China, the China where very many of the component manufacturers were located already.

    Apple then was fragile, not the mighty firm of today. They were in no position to pay more to manufacture in the US. I don’t like the fact that this manufacturing moved to low cost China, but I do understand it.

    If anyone here was in charge of a still fragile Apple in 1997, they would have made the same decision. All of Apple’s competitors did.

  24. Phantom, on May 1st, 2015 at 1:07 PM Said:

    Apple then was fragile, not the mighty firm of today. They were in no position to pay more to manufacture in the US. I don’t like the fact that this manufacturing moved to low cost China, but I do understand it.

    It’s Apples decision where they manufacture the devices, but it would be nice if they didn’t turn a blind eye to the exploitation of the workers in the Chinese factories. Conditions are so bad, they have put up suicide netting at one of the factories that supplies Apple.

  25. “MourneReg didn’t grasp the comment at 10.07am so he just decided to write something stupid. That’s perfectly logical because it’s what stupid people do.”

    “Doooommmmed” LOL.

    Allan, do you always take the views of undergrad students as gospel? Or only when it suits you?

    Also, do you agree with everything Mr Earle wrote in the article? What about his views on Marx and Keynes?

    “Joe Earle, a spokesman for the Post-Crash Economics Society and a final-year undergraduate, said academic departments were “ignoring the crisis” and that, by neglecting global developments and critics of the free market such as Keynes and Marx, the study of economics was “in danger of losing its broader relevance”.

  26. If anyone here was in charge of a still fragile Apple in 1997, they would have made the same decision. All of Apple’s competitors did.

    It was the right decision, although I doubt many here would have made it. The conditions to bring manufacturing back to the US for most industries are just about to be reached. The reason to go over seas is workforce cost.

    We are at a point we could make it economical in the US once again. We have an over abundance of out of work labor especially in the manufacturing sector, and we can drop the cost of fuel to power 100s of factories to next to nothing, but it will take 10yrs if we start now.

    Don’t you think these people in Baltimore might love a $10hr Job?

    For young black men between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment rate was an astounding 37% in 2013, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

  27. An unpleasant truth is that a whole lot of the people in Baltimore have horrible work habits and would not be a good work force. That’s why they’re unemployed now.

    Many have problems with authority, with showing up for work on time every day, and with staying focused.

    There is a high absenteeism rate in school in lots of inner cities. Think that when those students are grown up they’ll show up for work on time every day?

  28. Yeah, sure they did. There were no drugs and no absenteeism and no lateness in 1950.

    Got it.

  29. of course there was, but there was a family structure and a desire for enterprise and opportunity.

  30. There is truth to that, a lot of truth.

    But in those days there were lots of factory jobs that did not require much of an education at all. Those days are gone in the US and they won’t be coming back.

    The average Chinese high school student is probably much better educated that the average Baltimore high school student. Which means that even if the Chinese salaries were higher than those in the US, China might still be a better place to site some of your factories.

    And again, the Chinese and Asians generally ( real Asians, not Pakistanis ) very much respect authority. They will listen to what the boss says. Lots of ” inner city youth ” have a real problem with male authority.

    The Chinese low end worker is both more disciplined and better educated than many from the inner city. So any returning factories will not be sited in Riotsville, Maryland. People want the work to get done, not to be mouthed at by lazy employees.

  31. Interesting fact. As I’ve mentioned before, I work in IT, and over the last twenty years I’ve seen a lot of technology work move abroad, (India mostly.) What’s interesting, (well, it surprised me) is that a lot of this work is now coming back to the UK. India has become much more expensive and the quality of the work in many cases hasn’t been what was expected.

  32. Chinese factory wages have tripled over the last decade.

    This is one reason why the Chinese are using robots more now – up until now, the wages were so low, it was cheaper to do by hand most of the time.

  33. Phantom

    I’m sure it’s more complicated that my simplistic take, but I think that as a country develops a skilled workforce and other countries take advantage of this, the skilled people become more in demand and in shorter supply. Therefore pay goes up. Also, we found many companies in India claimed to have skills, (programming in particular), far in advance of what they actually had.

  34. Yes – that is the case in China. And the ” one child policy ” has played its part also. The pool of workers is less than it otherwise would have been.

    The Chinese will go up the value chain and will use more automation, and some jobs will be lost to lower wage places like Vietnam and Bangladesh that will be happy to have them.

  35. Phantom – the average Chinese student is Chinese: the average Baltimore student is Black.

  36. Peter –

    David Stockmann makes interesting comments about Amazon.

    It turns out it isn’t a mega-money maker. In fact it hardly turns a profit at all.

    That Apple’s capitalisation is a huge multiplier and not based on profits, I’m reminded of the dot-com boom when profitless start ups were being valued many times higher than established, profitable firms.

    That inflationary mania went as well as all inflationary manias of course.

  37. Amazon is overpriced, but it is a hugely compelling market share story. Their game is to dominate a market if they can.

    AAPL I don’t see as overpriced. It makes real things, and has a universe of very loyal customers. As of now, their P/E is about 17, not bad for a growth stock that is now entrenched in China and which also throws back a decent 1.5% dividend.

    These are seriously great companies, that many here use heavily, including me.

    Even the overpriced Amazon is a great company that their customers like a lot and you can’t always say that.

  38. If Amazon is losing money then it’s not a great company.

    If it’s losing money then it’s making us poorer by destroying wealth. This is why we (the economically sane) want loss-making firms to go bust, so they stop making everyone poorer.

  39. Not necessarily true .

    They’re still reinvesting everything into the company, seeing that is a better (and more tax advantageous ) long term deal for the shareholders than earning money today.

    Lots of companies don’t earn money when they’re being built.

    Don’t bet against Bezos ( though I agree that the stock is fat )

  40. If you don’t own Amazon stock, how in the world can it make you poorer?

    What real world companies do you like?

  41. David Stockmann makes interesting comments about Amazon.

    Yes Pete, I read it a couple of days ago. Stockman is an excellent analyst who exposes the Wall Street bullshit for what it is.

  42. But Amazon and Apple aren’t ” Wall Street bullshit ”

    They’re great companies that their customers love.

    Apple just had an $18 billion net profit in one quarter! If you are an investor, what is wrong with that? Some feel that APPL stock is still too cheap!

  43. Phantom –

    “If you don’t own Amazon stock, how in the world can it make you poorer?”

    By combining inputs (capital, time, labour) to produce something worth less than the sum of those inputs. We are all poorer as a result.

    “Apple just had an $18 billion net profit in one quarter!”

    Maybe it’s best to read Stockmann’s piece before throwing around statements like these.

  44. Peter –

    Yep, Stockmann is a rare breed – a former government man who knows economics and how markets work. His regular take downs of Wall St BS are first class.

  45. Phantom

    Stockman’s point is that Amazon is vastly over-valued given its poor profit record.

    Apple wants to give billions of cash back to stockowners, but only if they get a tax amnesty. If they do, it will be a scandal, given that no tax has been paid on the profits. Although very successful, they are an example of corporate greed without equal. And they pretend to be so cool.

  46. I read Stockman’s piece.

    AAPL is still a great company.

    And so is Amazon. The final chapter of that great company has yet to be written. Investors are buying a share in what they think the future earnings will be.

    And Pete you are a worshipper of gold, which is the most ridiculous dead weight investment that there is. Better to put your money in a flyer on the Vancouver stock exchange than throw it away on something that employs no one, creates nothing, doesn’t pay a dividend, and costs money to store.

  47. Phantom

    Apple’s stockholders are demanding an amnesty. They shouldn’t get it, should they?

  48. I absolutely think that they should be allowed to repatriate 100% of the offshore income without any tax.

    The US is I think alone among major industrial nations in taxing the worldwide income of US based corporations. This hinders US companies in their competition with the Samsungs and Daimler Benz’s of this world.

    All I ask is for an even playing field that allows US companies to do even better globally than they do now.

    You cannot be fairer than that.

  49. They should be treated the exact same way that Siemens or Samsung investors are treated by Germany or Korea – the home country taxes only the income earned in that country.

    It is an identical treatment, not any sort of giveaway and it must be part of the long term tax reform in the US

  50. The US also taxes US citizens who are resident in other countries, which is also unfair and stupid.

    The UK and other countries only tax their citizens for income earned when they are resident at home.

  51. Phantom

    Apple has paid no corporate tax anywhere on its profits. So now its stockholders should get a free ride as well, courtesy of the US taxpayers?

  52. Apple pays corporate income tax in the US. They may not pay as much as they should, but they absolutely do pay.

  53. tax rate of 26.5 percent

    I’d love to see the detail of that. In particular, how much tax will Apple actually pay and where and when will it pay it? Maybe that “26.5%” has something to do with this? Smoke and mirrors?

    “Apple says it could be forced to pay a decade’s worth back taxes to Ireland. In June, the European Commission launched a probe to see whether Apple’s (AAPL, Tech30) 1991 tax deal with Ireland violated European Union laws prohibiting state aid to companies. Ireland and Apple say they work in accordance with the law.

    But the handwriting on the wall suggests that the EC could rule against Ireland. Apple warned in October that it might lose its Irish tax break. This week, in a regulatory filing, Apple said that if the EC comes back with an unfavorable ruling, the company could have to pay back the Irish government the disallowed state aid it received, covering a period of up to 10 years. Apple said the amount could be “material,” but it couldn’t yet estimate exactly how much it would have to pay.

    Even if the EC rules against Ireland, Apple probably wouldn’t have to pay back taxes any time soon. The Irish government would almost certainly appeal the case, and it would likely be stuck in courts for years.

    Apple has paid as little as 2% on profits attributed to its subsidiaries in Ireland, well below the 35% top rate in the United States and even well below Ireland’s 12.5% rate. That has prompted complaints by both European and U.S. lawmakers. CEO Tim Cook was even called to testify on Apple’s tax deal before a Senate committee in 2013.

    To soothe angry regulators, Ireland announced last year that it would end a key tax loophole for tech companies by 2020.”

  54. They are aggressive on taxes.

    But there is no way in hell that a company that huge and visible and profitable was ever going to not pay US corporate taxes.

  55. “Apple is borrowing $6.5 billion by selling bonds, the fourth time it has borrowed through bond sales since 2013. Is Apple short of cash? Why else go into hock to expand and operate? Apple has $178 billion in cash. So, why incur added expense? Because it’s cheaper for Apple to pay interest on billions of borrowed dollars than spend its own money – because of taxes.

    Most of Apple’s cash is kept offshore to avoid U.S. taxes. If that money were brought home to Cupertino to spend, Apple would be taxed up to 35 percent on it. Wouldn’t you borrow money at less than 2 percent interest rather than bring home your cash stash and pay 35 percent tax on it?

    Link here

  56. All that offshore money was earned outside of the US.

    It is my point.

    The US should not seek to tax any of it, in line with international including British tax policy on only taxing a home based multinational on the income earned at home.

  57. The UK has introduced a “diverted profits” tax in an attempt to tax profits eared in the UK but shipped to Bermuda via “franchise fees” and the like. It remains to be seen how well this works, but it has been called the Google tax so you can see its purpose.

    Anyway, here is an explanation of how Apple and Facebook and Google get away with it.

  58. http://mashable.com/2013/01/05/apple-taxes-2012/

    Apple paid more in U.S. taxes last year than most companies made in total, but its tax bill could have been even higher.

    The California-based company paid $6 billion in federal corporate income taxes in the 2012 fiscal year, according to a statement Apple provided to The New York Times on Friday, in which it emphasized just how much money it pays back to the federal government annually.

    If they paid $6 billion in federal tax in 2012, they paid more in 2014 with their exploding profits.

    But I see that the Washington Post have false headlines that lead one to believe that they paid no corporate tax! The below headline is absolutely false. I don’t deny that they are aggressive on tax, but they sure as hell pay a lot of tax.


  59. From your linked article:

    “Apple’s domestic tax bill has drawn the interest of corporate tax experts and policy makers because although the majority of Apple’s executives, product designers, marketers, employees, research and development operations and retail stores are in the United States, in the past Apple’s accountants have found legal ways to allocate about 70 percent of the company’s profits overseas”

    Legal, yes. But a consumer boycott would work wonders. Ask Starbucks UK.

  60. Phantom –

    You and the WaPo are both in error, because “corporation tax” is a fiction. How many times does a sane man (me) have to explain that corporations do not pay tax?

  61. Pete

    Sean Hannity told me that. I didn’t believe him, either.

    But Troll and Mitt Romney think that corporations are people, and people pay tax, and so a corporation is a good man for paying some of his taxes.

  62. Forget Hannity, I told you that.

    Strewth, it’s well beyond time you stopped talking about what you think is economics and started to humbly ask me for wisdom and guidance.

  63. But Troll and Mitt Romney think that corporations are people, and people pay tax, and so a corporation is a good man for paying some of his taxes.

    Those corporations are good for employing all those men and women, and they pay tax.

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