What makes Financial Times a problem... - The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning by Bill Bonner
On This Day - 30 October 2014
What makes Financial Times a problem... A  A  A

Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Diary,

QE isn't dead. But it's off the job. For now.

ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) is still at work. The Fed says it will keep interest rates near zero for "considerable time."

Stocks didn't crash. The Dow fell only 31 points. Does this mean that the economy really is stronger than we think... and that the Fed can take away the punchbowl without shutting down the party?

We wait to find out... safely on the sidelines.

We picked up an issue of the Financial Times yesterday; the "pink paper." We wondered; how many wrongheaded, stupid, counter-productive, delusional ideas can one day's paper have?

We were trying to understand how come the entire financial world (with exception of Germany) seems to be singing from the same off-key, atonal, bizarre hymnbook. All want to cure a debt crisis with more debt.

The FT is part of the problem. It is the choirmaster to the economic elite, singing confidently and loudly the bogus chants that now guide public policy. Look on practically any financial desk in any time zone anywhere in the world and you are likely to find the day's issue. Walk over to the minister of finance... or to a Non-Government Organization... or to a think tank - there's the FT.

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Yes, you might also find a copy of the Wall Street Journal or the local financial rag, but it is the Financial Times that has become the paper of record for the economic world.

Too bad. Because the 'pink paper' has more bad economic ideas per square inch than a Hillary Clinton speech.

For example, it is on the pages of the FT that Larry Summers is allowed to hold forth, with no warning of any sort to alert gullible readers. In the latest of his epistles, he puts forth the preposterous claim that government borrowing to pay for infrastructure would have a 6% return. He says it would be a 'free lunch,' because it would not only put people to work and stimulate the economy, the return on investment, in terms of GDP growth, would make the project pay for itself... and yield a profit.

Yo, Larry... Earth calling... have you ever been to New Jersey?

It is hard enough for a private investor, with his own money at stake, to get a 6% return. Imagine when the investors are spending someone else's money... and when decisions must pass through multiple levels of committees and commissions made up of people with no business or investment experience... no interest in controlling costs or making a profit... and no idea what they are doing. Imagine too that these people are political appointees with strong, and usually hidden, connections to contractors and unions...

What kind of return do you think you would really get? We don't know, but we'd put a minus sign in front of it.

But the fantasy of borrowing for 'public investment' soaks the FT. It is part of a whole mythology based on crackpot economic theory, in which economies need high rates of growth. And when growth rates slow, 'demand' needs to be stimulated. How do you stimulate demand? You give people more money and credit - even when the slowdown was caused by too much money and credit in the first place.

On page 9 of yesterday's FT Martin Wolf, a man who should be roped off with red and white tape, like a toxic spill, gives us the standard line on how to increase Europe's growth rate: "The question... is how to achieve higher demand growth in the Eurozone and creditor countries... the Eurozone lacks a creditable strategy for re-igniting demand [aka debt]."

You see, it's not enough for people to decide for themselves when they actually want to buy something and when they have the money to pay for it. The authorities... and their august advisors on the FT editorial page... need a 'strategy.'

On the front page too, the FT reports - with no sign of guffaw or irony - that the US is developing a 'digital divide.' Apparently, people in poor areas are less able to pay $44 a month for broadband service than people in rich areas. Thus, the poor are less able to go on the internet and check out the restaurant reviews or enjoy the free pornography. This undermines Barack Obama's campaign pledge of giving every American "affordable access to robust broadband." The FT hardly needed to mention it; it thinks the US should make a larger investment in broadband infrastructure, paid for with more debt, of course!

Maybe it's in a part of the Constitution that we haven't read - the right to broadband. Maybe it's something they stuck in to replace the rights they took out - such as habeas corpus or privacy. We don't know. We only bring it up because it shows how dopey the pink paper - and modern economics - can be.

Quantity can be measured. Quality cannot. Broadband subscriptions can be counted. The effect of access to the internet on poor families is unknown. Would they be better off if they had another distraction in the house? Would they be happier? Would they be healthier? Would they be purer in heart or more settled in spirit? Of course, nobody knows. But a serious paper would at least ask.

It might ask whether more 'demand' or more GDP really makes people better off too. It might consider how you can get real demand by handing out printing press money. And it might pause to wonder why Zimbabwe is not now the richest country on earth.

But the FT does none of that.

Over on page 24, for instance, columnist John Plender, calls corporations on the carpet for having too much money. You'd think corporations could do with their money whatever they damned well pleased. But not in the central planning dreams of the FT. There, corporations should use their resources in way that the FT's economists deem appropriate. And since the world suffers a lack of demand, "corporate cash hoarding must end in order to drive recovery."

Not only are the corporations to blame. Plender spares no one... except the economists most responsible for the crisis and slowdown. "At root," he says of Japan's slump (which could apply almost anywhere), the problem "results from under consumption." Ah ha... consumers are not doing their part either.

Plender and the FT have a solution for everything. Unfortunately, it's always the same solution and it always doesn't work.

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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