Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Could USA be ruled by Emperor Trump ?

In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.

Donald Trump won the US presidency with the backing of working-class and socially conservative white voters on a populist platform of economic nationalism. Trump rejected the Republican Party’s traditional pro-business, pro-trade agenda, and, like Bernie Sanders on the left, appealed to Americans who have been harmed by disruptive technologies and “globalist” policies promoting free trade and migration.

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

But while Trump ran as a populist, he has governed as a plutocrat, most recently by endorsing the discredited supply-side theory of taxation that most Republicans still cling to. Trump also ran as someone who would “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC, and on Wall Street. Yet he has stacked his administration with billionaires (not just millionaires) and Goldman Sachs alumni, while letting the swamp of business lobbyists rise higher than ever.
Trump and the Republicans’ plan to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would have left 24 million Americans – mostly poor or middle class, many of whom voted for him – without health care. His deregulatory policies are blatantly biased against workers and unions. And the Republican tax-reform plan that he has endorsed would overwhelmingly favor multinational corporations and the top 1% of households, many of which stand to benefit especially from the repeal of the estate tax.

Trump has also abandoned his base in the area of trade, where he has offered rhetoric but not concrete action. Yes, he scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but Hillary Clinton would have done the same. He has mused about abandoning the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), but that may be just a negotiating tactic. He has threatened to impose a 50% tariff on goods from China, Mexico, and other US trade partners, but no such measures have materialized. And proposals for a border adjustment tax have been all but forgotten.

Trump’s bullying tweets against US firms that move production offshore or undertake tax inversions have been no more than cheap talk, and business leaders know it. Manufacturers who fooled Trump into thinking they would keep production in the US have continued to transfer operations quietly to Mexico, China, and elsewhere. Moreover, international provisions in the pending tax legislation will give US multinationals an even greater incentive to invest, hire, and produce abroad, while using transfer pricing and other schemes to salt away profits in low-tax jurisdictions.

Likewise, despite Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on immigration, his policies have been relatively moderate, perhaps because many of the business people who supported his campaign actually favor a milder approach. The “Muslim ban” doesn’t affect the supply of labor in the US. Although deportations have accelerated under Trump, it’s worth remembering that millions of undocumented immigrants were deported under Barack Obama, too. The border wall that Trump was going to force Mexico to pay for remains an unfunded dream. And even the administration’s plan to favor skilled over unskilled workers will not necessarily reduce the number of legal migrants in the country.

All told, Trump has governed like a plutocrat in populist clothes – that is, a pluto-populist. But why has his base let him get away with pursuing policies that mostly hurt them? According to one view, he is betting that social conservatives and white blue-collar supporters in rural areas will vote on the basis of nationalist and religious sentiment and antipathy toward secular coastal elites, rather than for their own financial interests.

But how long can anyone be expected to support “God and guns” at the expense of “bread and butter”? The pluto-populists who presided over the Roman Empire knew that keeping the populist mob at bay required substance as well as diversion: panem et circenses – “bread and circuses.” Raging tweets are meaningless to people who can scarcely afford a dignified living, let alone tickets to the modern-day Colosseum to watch football.

The tax legislation that Republicans have rushed through Congress could prove especially dangerous, given that millions of middle-class and low-income households will not only get little out of it, but will actually pay more when income-tax cuts are phased out over time. Moreover, the Republican plan would repeal the Obamacare individual mandate. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, this will cause 13 million people to lose health insurance, and insurance premiums to rise by 10%, over the next decade. Not surprisingly, a recent Quinnipiac poll found that a mere 29% of Americans support the Republican plan.

Nevertheless, Trump and the Republicans seem willing to risk it. After all, by pushing the middle-class tax hikes to a later date, they have designed their plan to get them through the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 general election. Between now and the midterms, they can brag about cutting taxes on most households. And they can expect to see the economic-stimulus effects of tax cuts peak in 2019, just before the next presidential election – and long before the bill comes due.

Moreover, the final legislation will likely lower the federal deduction for mortgage interest and eliminate deductibility for state and local taxes. This will hit households in Democratic-leaning states such as New York, New Jersey, and California much harder than households in Republican-leaning states.

Another part of the Republican strategy (known as “starve the beast”) will be to use the higher deficits from tax cuts to argue for cuts in so-called entitlement spending, such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Social Security. Again, this is a risky proposition, given that elderly, middle-class, and low-income Americans rely heavily on these programs. Yes, the working and non-working poor who receive welfare payments or food stamps include minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. But millions of the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who voted for Trump also rely on these and similar programs.

With the global economy expanding, Trump is probably hoping that tax cuts and deregulation will spur enough growth and create enough jobs that he will have something to brag about. A potential growth rate of 2% won’t necessarily do much to help his blue-collar base, but at least it could push the stock market up to its highest point ever. And, of course, Trump will still claim that the US economy can grow at a rate of 4%, even though all mainstream economists, including Republicans, agree that the potential growth rate will remain around 2%, regardless of his policies.

Whatever happens, Trump will continue to tweet maniacally, promote fake-news stories, and boast about the “biggest and best” economy ever. In doing so, he may even create a circus worthy of a Roman emperor. But if gassy rhetoric alone does not suffice, he may decide to go on the offensive, particularly in the international sphere. That could mean truly withdrawing from NAFTA, taking trade action against China and other trading partners, or doubling down on harsh immigration policies.

And if these measures do not satisfy his base, Trump will still have one last option, long used by Roman emperors and other assorted dictators during times of domestic difficulty. Namely, he can try to “wag the dog,” by fabricating an external threat or embarking on foreign military adventures to distract his supporters from what he and congressional Republicans have been doing.

For example, following the “madman” approach to foreign policy, Trump could start a war with North Korea or Iran. Or he could post further inflammatory tweets about the evils of Islam, thereby driving disturbed and marginalized individuals into the arms of the Islamic State (ISIS) or other extremist groups. That would increase the likelihood of ISIS-inspired attacks – for example, “lone wolves” blowing themselves up or driving trucks through crowded pedestrian areas – within the US. With dozens, if not hundreds, slain, Trump could then wrap himself in the flag and say, “I told you so.” And if things got bad enough, Trump and his generals could declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties, and transform America into a true pluto-populist authoritarian state.
You know it’s time to worry when the conservative Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Bob Corker, warns openly that Trump could start World War III. And if you’re not convinced, consider the recent history of Russia or Turkey; or the history of the Roman Empire under Caligula or Nero. Pluto-populists have been turning democracies into autocracies with the same playbook for thousands of years. There’s no reason to think they would stop now. The reign of Emperor Trump could be just around the corner.


via project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-populist-plutocracy-by-nouriel-roubini-2017-12

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bitcoin prices could collapse from potentially new future government regulations

I would separate the blockchain from the Bitcoin. Blockchain creates an enormous chance to increase productivity in many companies and I think the technology to be something very good. But the bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – this is something entirely different. In my opinion, there is a gigantic speculative bubble related to the bitcoin.

Because this is neither a serious method of payment nor a good way to store capital. The bitcoin feeds on itself. There are no fundamental reasons for its price to reach such levels. What’s more – it is also used by criminals, for their shady business. I think that more and more countries will start to make cryptocurrency exchanges illegal like China did. New regulations will be adopted. So, this will find its end.  


via businessinsider

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bond Yields and Stock Market risks

"The global economy keeps growing, the inflation rate is still low, and central banks slowly depart from their unconventional, extra-easy monetary policy. Investors buy risk and their attitude toward the risk is optimistic. 

So, right now I don’t see any major threats. But if there is a fast increase in the bond yields, maybe we will see some major correction on the stock market. But I don’t quite believe it. Because of fundamental reasons. Globally, there are a lot of savings, but not much investment spending. 

The markets are also helped by the already-mentioned super-easy policy of the central banks that kept buying bonds and cut bond yields to below zero level. Of course, that does not mean that the banks can sleep peacefully. They need to normalize their actions in a prudent way, in order to adjust to the market expectations."


via www.businessinsider.com/qa-with-nouriel-roubini-bitcoin-is-a-gigantic-speculative-bubble-that-will-end-2017-11

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Countries and Governments should invest in People also

BI: Hard Brexit?

Roubini: At the beginning, the Brexit was to lead to the EU disintegrating. The same was thought after Donald Trump became the US President. In my opinion, the contrary happened. Because of the Brexit, you finally started to talk about joint actions against terrorism; such issues as joint defense, additional spending on infrastructure have emerged. Also, I can’t see the domino effect – the worries that other countries will follow the UK example.


BI: And aren’t you afraid of the rising protectionism? Look at Donald Trump’s words about the US leaving the NAFTA, freeze on the TTIP talks, accusing China of currency manipulations?   

Roubini: These are truly serious threats. Some people see the free trade as a reason of unequal distribution of goods. In other words, some companies lose their income, some people lose their jobs, and protectionism is seen as a good solution to these problems. So, the US moves toward the increased protectionism, but we don’t know what shape it will take – hard or soft. The issue is still open.



BI: Do you think it’s a right way?

Roubini: No, I don’t. At the end of the day, protectionism always leads to higher prices for goods in the particular country, hits a consumer and does little to protect jobs or companies. 

In my opinion, in the future new technologies rather than free trade or migration will be a much more disruptive factor causing chaos in the labor market. I support free trade, but it should be beneficial for everybody, the whole society. If there are people who lost their jobs due to lowering of the trade barriers, they should get appropriate support and help; they should change the sector, implement new technologies. In other words, we should invest in people. You can’t just give them a job for some six months and then forget about them. This way, they will feel abandoned, neglected, rejected by globalization.



BI: Now you sound like the International Monetary Fund’s representatives. This year the organization sent a very clear message – it’s necessary to fight income inequalities because they destroy our potential and threaten the economic growth.

Roubini: Because that’s true. It’s high time to state it clearly and loudly – over last years the role of trade unions decreased, the companies went through all kinds of restructuring. Our world has changed. But this is a dangerous road. We have to invest in the social capital, in education. We have to give people strength and the feeling they are able to change something. There are countries without natural resources, like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong. Why have they succeeded? Because they have invested in their people. This is the key to success. It’s not only about roads, infrastructure, and physical assets. No. First of all, one has to invest in people.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dr Roubini talks about financial risks

BI: They will come back provided there won’t be a similar crash as in 2008. If you succeeded to forecast the biggest crash in the global economy since the Great Depression of the 1920's, I have to ask you this particular question: does the world faces the similar fate right now? Do you notice any symptoms of the upcoming crisis?

Roubini: I don’t see similar threats for next one-and-a-half to two years. But in a long-term, there will be some kind of crisis, that’s certain. But whether it’s going to be in the US, China or Japan, we don’t know. Will its reach be global or local? We don’t know it either. But one has to remember that a crisis is not something unpredictable, like an earthquake. All crises build up - gradually, step by step. We keep climbing, higher and higher until we reach the final point. And that – Bam! We have a crash.


BI: So, right now, are we in the middle of this road toward the peak? Or do we just start climbing?   

Roubini: There are certain spots in the US over-leveraged enterprise sector that can cause trouble. The non-bank financial sector or rising government debt is also worrying, but for now, I don’t see the crash approaching. But the situation needs careful monitoring. The debt has to be spent on investment, not consumption – this is the only way to avoid another financial crisis.


BI: Are you telling me that we’ve learned something from 2008 experience?  

Roubini: There is a very distinctive change in a banking sector, both in the US and Europe. Earlier, we had to face high leverage, elevated risk or lack of liquidity. Since then, a lot of solutions have been launched to make the banking sector more stable. The improvement is obvious. However, there are still some banks, especially on fringes of the Eurozone, that need their balance sheets being put into order, especially due to bad loans. We need consolidation and more efficient management.


via www.businessinsider.com/qa-with-nouriel-roubini-bitcoin-is-a-gigantic-speculative-bubble-that-will-end-2017-11

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Likely economic scenarios for the next few years ahead

"For the past few years, the global economy has been oscillating between periods of acceleration (when growth is positive and strengthening) and periods of deceleration (when growth is positive but weakening). After more than a year of acceleration, is the world heading towards another slowdown, or will the recovery persist?

The current upswing in growth and equity markets has been going strong since the summer of 2016. Despite a brief hiccup after the Brexit vote, the acceleration endured not only Donald Trump’s election as US president but the heightening policy uncertainty and geopolitical chaos that he has generated. In response to this apparent resilience, the International Monetary Fund, which in recent years had characterised global growth as the “new mediocre”, upgraded its World Economic Outlook in July.

Will the recent growth spurt continue over the next few years? Or is the world experiencing a temporary cyclical upswing that will soon be subdued by new tail risks, such as those that have triggered other slowdowns in recent years? It is enough to recall the summer of 2015 and early 2016, when investors’ fears of a Chinese hard landing, an excessively fast exit from zero policy rates by the US Federal Reserve, a stall in US GDP growth and low oil prices conspired to undercut growth.

One can envision three possible scenarios for the global economy in the next three years or so. In the bullish scenario, the world’s four largest, systemically important economies – China, the eurozone, Japan and the US – implement structural reforms that increase potential growth and address financial vulnerabilities. By ensuring that the cyclical upswing is associated with stronger potential and actual growth, such efforts would produce robust GDP growth, low but moderately rising inflation and relative financial stability for many more years. US and global equity markets would reach new heights, justified by stronger fundamentals.

In the bearish scenario, the opposite happens: the world’s major economies fail to implement structural reforms that raise potential growth. Rather than using the national congress of the Chinese Communist party this month as a catalyst for reform, China kicks the can down the road, continuing on a path of excessive leverage and overcapacity. The eurozone fails to achieve greater integration, while political constraints limit national policymakers’ ability to implement growth-enhancing structural reforms. And Japan remains stuck on its low-growth trajectory, as supply-side reforms and trade liberalisation – the third “arrow” of Shinzo Abe’s economic strategy – fizzle out.

As for the US, the Trump administration, in this scenario, continues to pursue a policy approach, including a tax cut that overwhelmingly favours the rich, trade protectionism and migration restrictions, which may well reduce potential growth. Excessive fiscal stimulus leads to runaway deficits and debt, which results in higher interest rates and a stronger dollar, further weakening growth. Trigger-happy Trump could even end up in a military conflict with North Korea, and, later Iran, diminishing US economic prospects further.

In this scenario, the lack of reform in major economies will leave the cyclical upswing constrained by low trend growth. If potential growth remains low, easy monetary and credit policies could eventually lead to goods and/or asset inflation, eventually causing an economic slowdown – and possibly an outright recession and financial crisis – when asset bubbles burst or inflation rises.

The third and in my view most likely scenario lies somewhere between the first two. The cyclical upswing in growth and equity markets continues for a while, driven by the remaining tailwinds. Yet, while major economies pursue some structural reforms to improve potential growth, the pace of change is much slower, and the scope more modest, than is needed to maximise potential.

In China, this muddle-through scenario means doing just enough to avoid a hard landing, but not enough to achieve a truly soft one; with financial vulnerabilities left unaddressed, distress becomes all but inevitable over time. In the eurozone, this scenario would entail only nominal progress towards greater integration, with Germany’s continued rejection of true risk-sharing or fiscal union weakening incentives for struggling member countries to undertake tough reforms. In Japan, an increasingly ineffective Abe administration would implement minimal reforms, leaving potential growth stuck below 1%.

In the US, Trump’s presidency would remain volatile and ineffective, with a growing number of Americans realising that, despite his populist pretence, Trump is merely a plutocrat protecting the interests of the rich. Inequality rises, the middle classes stagnate, wages barely grow and consumption and growth remain anaemic at barely close to 2%.

But the risks of muddling through extend far beyond mediocre economic performance. This scenario represents not a stable equilibrium, but an unstable disequilibrium, vulnerable to economic, financial and geopolitical shocks. When such shocks eventually emerge, the economy will be tipped into a slowdown or, if the shock is large enough, even recession and financial crisis.

In other words, if the world does simply muddle through, as seems likely, it could, within three or four years, face a more bearish outlook. The lesson is clear: either political leaders and policymakers demonstrate the leadership needed to secure a better medium-term outlook, or downside risks will materialise before long – and do serious damage to the global economy."

via guardian