Miscellaneous

     

 

 

Life After ZIRP

Roughly three years ago, after traversing between Los Angeles and San Francisco via the expansive San Joaquin Valley, we penned the article, Salting the Economy to Death.  At the time, the monetary order was approach peak ZIRP.

 

Our boy ZIRP has passed away. Mr. 2.2% effective has taken his place in the meantime. [PT]

 

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What Is Money?

Today we begin with a fundamental question: What is money?  This, no doubt, is an important question.  And we ask it with clear intent and purpose.  Namely, we want to better understand how it’s possible for America to rack up such a massive trade deficit with China.

 

China-US imports and exports of goods. It has to be stressed that the most often cited figure is the trade deficit in goods, which is the “scariest” figure. The US surplus in services with China has grown rapidly in recent years. It was $33 billion in 2015, doubling from $16.5 billion just four years earlier. By 2017 it had grown to $38.5 billion. The idea that a trade deficit is somehow “bad” is highly dubious. “Countries” do not trade with each other anyway – individuals and companies do, and they obviously do so because they deem it advantageous for both sides. Moreover, these aggregate statistics obscure more than they reveal. The global supply chain is extremely complex – a single $3 t-shirt “Made in China” will contribute to the incomes of people in some 15 to 20 countries before a consumer in the US plucks it off a shelf at Wal-Mart. If we were to talk incessantly about the US capital account surplus – which offsets the trade deficit – would anyone complain? [PT]

 

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Impressive Zeal for Faded Ideals

Uncompromising independence, rugged individualism, and limitless personal freedom were once essential to the American character.  According to popular American folklore, they still are.  We have some reservations.

 

Rugged individualists suffer mid-life identity crisis. [PT]

 

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Credit has a wicked way

of magnifying a person’s defects.  Even the most cautious man, with unlimited credit, can make mistakes that in retrospect seem absurd.  But an average man, with unlimited credit, is preeminently disposed to going full imbecile.

 

Let us not forget about this important skill…  [PT]

 

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A Difficult, but Also Exciting Year…

Dear Readers,

Another year is coming to a close, and the team at Acting Man wishes you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays and all the best for the new year.

You have probably noticed that your main scribe was a lot less prolific this year than he normally tends to be; unfortunately, we were held back by health-related issues. We remain among the quick though and will try to increase our posting frequency again. After all, it is not as though nothing interesting were happening.

 

We felt a bit like Santa feels in this picture this year, but we are recovering. Santa recovered too, just look at the stock market at the end of the year for evidence.

 

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Il n’y a rien à défendre – by Vidocq

 

Dr. Marc Faber, author of the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report

Photo credit: Michael Wildi / RDB

 

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Crazed Decision

The Los Angeles City Council’s recent, crazed decision* to replace Christopher Columbus Day with one celebrating “indigenous peoples” can be traced to the falsification of history and denigration of European man which began in earnest in the 1960s throughout the educational establishment (from grade school through the universities), book publishing, and the print and electronic media.

 

Christopher Columbus at the Court of the Catholic Monarchs (a painting by Juan Cordero).  Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa in Italy, but made his exploration voyages (four in all) under the auspices of the Spanish crown. In 1492, just after Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had reconquered the last Muslim outpost in Spain, they finally agreed to make a deal with Columbus and funded his voyages (the crown later partly reneged on the deal, particularly with respect to the degree of political power Columbus and his appointees were allowed to wield in the new territories –  descendants of Columbus were involved in litigation over the matter until 1790). Interestingly, no contemporary portrait of Columbus exists – we have actually no idea what he really looked like. All statues and paintings of the man were made posthumously. A previous attempt to rename Columbus Day ”Indigenous People Day” in Utah was voted down by the Utah Senate in 2016. [PT]

 

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Input Data Errors

Dear Readers,

I owe you an apology. I made a mistake. I am writing this letter in the first person, because I made the mistake. Let me explain what happened.

 

The wrong stuff went into the funnel in the upper left-hand corner…

 

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Disappearing Credit

All across the banking world – from commercial loans to leases and real estate – credit is collapsing. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing for British newspaper The Telegraph:

 

Credit strategists are increasingly disturbed by a sudden and rare contraction of U.S. bank lending, fearing a synchronized slowdown in the U.S. and China this year that could catch euphoric markets badly off guard. Data from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows that the $2 trillion market for commercial and industrial loans peaked in December.

The sector has weakened abruptly as lenders tighten credit, especially for non-residential property. Over the last three months it has dropped at a rate of 5.4% on annual basis, a pace of decline not seen since December 2008.

 

C & I loans, y/y growth. Readers may recall that we recently showed this chart in “Libor Pains”, in which we discussed corporate debt. Actually, y/y commercial & industrial loan growth peaked in early 2015 already, not just “last December”… but lettuce not quibble (Pritchard likely meant to refer to total commercial bank credit, the growth rate of which reached an interim peak in late 2016 – shown further below). The point remains that credit growth is falling fast – click to enlarge.

 

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Neo-Marxist Pope Francis Argues for Global Central Bank

As the new year dawns, it seems the current occupant of St. Peter’s Chair will take on a new function which is outside the purview of the office that the Divine Founder of his institution had clearly mandated.

 

Neo-Papist transmogrification. We highly recommend the economic thought of one of Francis’ storied predecessors, John Paul II, which we have written about on previous occasions. In “A Tale of Two Popes” and “Papal Eco-Hysteria”, we have contrasted Francis and John Paul II and quoted from the latter’s seminal encyclical “Centesimus Annus”, which probably contains the most clear-headed thinking on human liberty and economics that has ever emerged from the Vatican. Francis strikes us as a throwback to a completely discredited and dangerous ideology by comparison. Lately he is even calling for the establishment of a global central bank!

 

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Surface Temperatures Plunge – the Great Pause Continues

Last year’s El Nino phenomenon temporarily provided succor to climate alarmists, who were increasingly bothered by the “Great Pause” – the fact that the tiny amount of warming experienced since the last cooling cycle ended in the late 1970s had apparently stopped. Despite trace amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere continuing to climb, mother nature decided to disobey alarmist models and temperatures went sideways for about 20 years (or even longer, depending on the data set).

 

Too bad penguins actually don’t live at the North Pole! One probably should refrain from obtaining climate information from rabidly leftist blogs. Incidentally, the same very same ice-floe has carried lost polar bears in the past, in particular the species “ursus bogus”. If one looks around a bit, there’s also a version with three penguins…

 

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Democratic Fantasy

BALTIMORE – Fidel Castro was regarded as a revolutionary and a “change agent.”

But he is better understood as a throwback, more of a counter-revolutionary than a real revolutionary. The real revolution in human affairs happened long before he was born… and is still going on – the revolution led by civilized free-market capitalism.

 

timeFinger-wagging Fidel Castro on the cover of TIME in 1965, which by this time accused his revolution of “decaying”. The US government initially continued to subsidize Cuba in the wake of Castro’s takeover as he had given less than truthful assurances that the “handful of communists” in his cabinet had no influence on Cuba’s policies. The Batista government’s economic policies had a great many statist features as well, so at first it seemed as though the differences between the two regimes would only be marginal – mainly, someone else would do the stealing. By the time the above cover story was published, the US was waging a full-scale economic war against Cuba. It is rare for a classical peasants’ revolt to actually succeed. Castro’s victory over Batista was quite a feat in that sense; not surprisingly, it elicited the admiration of Leftists the world over. Castro was not a Stalinist, presumably not least because Khrushchev had “de-Stalinized” the Soviet Union, but he did declare himself a Marxist-Leninist (which Stalin incidentally had claimed to be as well). The political Left’s misguided admiration for Castro never wavered though.

 

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