In the clearest indication yet, a high French government official confirmed last week that an FTT — Financial Transaction Tax — will be implemented by the European Union by the end of 2012, a year earlier than planned. Jean Leonetti, France’s minister for European affairs, said on television that “This is on the program for the next European summit [on January 30th]. Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel have decided on this and it will be put in place before the end of 2012.”
The tax would be levied, initially at least, on every financial transaction taking place by any entity with a connection to the Eurozone, and would be levied at the rate of 0.1 percent on shares of stock and bonds, and 0.01 percent on all derivatives transactions. It is estimated that the FTT would cover about 85 percent of all transactions between financial institutions such as banks, investment firms, insurance companies, pension funds and hedge funds. It is expected to raise, in the beginning, about $70 billion annually to help fund the EU.
It’s being touted as punishment for the banks that were allegedly instrumental in causing the economic meltdown, but would have no impact on ordinary citizens or small businesses. According to the European Commission, the FTT “would help to reduce competitive distortions in the single market, discourage risky trading activities [such as high frequency trading and highly leveraged derivatives contracts] and complement regulatory measures aimed at avoiding future crises.”
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul noted on Tuesday that efforts to rein in government spending appeared to be in vain, due to an agreement reached with the White House during the recent debt ceiling negotiations. Congress would have to pass a joint resolution to oppose any extension of the debt ceiling, which President Obama is free to veto. Said Paul: “A default is becoming more mathematically unavoidable with ... every debt ceiling increase.”
Not only is the word “default” becoming commonplace but also the words “economic collapse.” A study conducted by Leflein Associates and published by EcoHealth Alliance showed that of the 1003 individuals interviewed for the survey, 63 percent — or more than six out of ten of them — feared an “economic collapse” more than a natural disaster, a terrorist attack or a global outbreak of disease. This study was picked up by Michael, the author of his Economic Collapse Blog, who piled on by adding a long list of reasons why concerned citizens should be afraid of such an event:
In her article on Monday, financial journalist Jessica Mortimer said that the euro had just set a new record low against the Japanese yen: Its value is now the lowest it’s been in 10 years. The irony wasn’t lost on her as she also noted that it was just 10 years ago that the euro was first denominated in coins and currency, three years after being introduced electronically among the member states.
And she sees further weakness in the euro, now trading below $1.30 versus the dollar, and likely to move ever lower into the New Year: “In the absence of a comprehensive European policy response to the debt crisis, the euro could test its 2010 low of $1.18.” This would imply at least another nine-percent loss in value in less than a year.
She touched on only one of the few remaining options open to keep the euro from blowing up altogether: more austerity on the backs of the citizens of the member states who took excessive advantage of lower-than-market interest rates to load up on debt that they can't pay back. She noted the survey that came out over the weekend indicating that a key European manufacturing index remains persistently below recovery levels, with further declines into a full-blown recession in Europe likely. Additional austerity measures would simply hasten that recession. Kathleen Brooks, director of research at FOREX.com, told her clients: “We remain a sell on rallies (with the euro) as we tend to think the euro zone crisis will actually get worse before it gets better.”
The government of Japan and the communist dictatorship ruling mainland China announced a landmark agreement this week to facilitate trade between the two powers without using the U.S. dollar, relying instead on the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan.
According to the terms of the deal, the two governments agreed to encourage trade directly in yen and yuan without having to use American dollars as an intermediary — the current practice. Companies in Japan and China will soon be able to convert the currencies directly. And the Japanese government also agreed to hold Chinese yuan in its foreign-reserves portfolio.
It remains unclear exactly how and when the agreement will be implemented. But according to news reports, both governments have already set up a working group to iron out the details. Officials said the move was aimed at reducing risk and transaction costs.
The new currency deal comes as the communist Chinese dictatorship has been taking increasingly bold steps to expand the international role of the yuan. The regime’s officials have also become ever-more vocal in attacking the dollar’s global reserve status, calling instead for a more international system managed by a world entity such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
On the one hand, “mainstream Republicans” are described by CNN's Jack Cafferty as “apoplectic” over the prospect of Ron Paul winning the caucuses in Iowa. On the other hand, the whole party has fallen captive to the 12-term Congressman's “radical ideology,” according to Gary Weiss on the “progressive” web site Salon.com.
“The Republican Party, falling deeper into the clutches of Ron Paul’s "radical ideology," has a new item on its anti-populist agenda: Castrate the Federal Reserve so that it no longer can promote job growth,” Weiss wrote in Thursday's column. Weiss is, well, appalled at “the extent to which Ron Paul's fixation with the Fed has infected the Republican party. Anti-Fed rhetoric, once the province of "ultra-right" (on popularly cited fallacious political spectrums) groups like The John Birch Society, has gone mainstream with the rise of Paul, who has been surging in the polls and now ranks third behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. He is actually leading in Iowa, and a victory there would really rev up his famously loyal followers.”
Those loyal followers, as well as other Americans, might also be a little negatively revved up about about the report of a Government Accountability Office on the Federal Reserve Bank, issued in July of this year, showing the Fed had secretly lent some $16 trillion to domestic and foreign banks since 2008.
Is it certain that the nations of the European Union are heading for a hard fall? It certainly looks that way. When the overspending of governments such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland were involved, the threat to the euro was real, but it could be psychologically contained (an important factor in maintaining the stability of financial institutions). Those three nations, after all, are small. Spain, the fourth member of the “PIGS,” was more than half the size of the Italian economy, but much of the industrialized West has viewed Mediterranean nations as inherently volatile.
Two months ago, however, Italy — one of the largest economies in the world — had its sovereign debt downgraded by Standard & Poor’s and then by Moody’s, which reduced the bond rating for Italian government bonds by three notches. The GDP of those five nations — Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain — equal about $3.7 trillion, or more than 20 percent of the economy of the European Union.
The latest news is that France could have its AAA credit rating downgraded before Christmas. Standard & Poor’s is expected to make that decision imminently.
When Kyle Bass defended his decision on BBC Radio Hard Talk on November 17th to purchase 20 million nickels, he was just putting Gresham’s Law into operation. Bass, the founder and principal of the hedge fund Hayman Advisors, did the math and discovered that he could purchase 6.8 cents worth of copper in each nickel for just 5 cents. Nickels are 75 percent copper while pennies (minted between 1909 and 1982) are 95 percent copper and the recent spike in copper’s price simply made it too good a deal for Bass to pass up.
This is Gresham’s Law in action. The standard definition is that “bad money drives out good.” Simply put, when coins of lesser value are forced to be accepted alongside coins of greater value, the more highly valued coins will be hoarded. In other words, Gresham’s Law reflects the price-fixing disruption always inherent in legal tender laws. A better definition of Gresham’s Law might be “When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation.”
Prior to 1965 dimes and quarters were made of 90 percent silver and 10 percent nickel but with the Coinage Act of 1965 the silver content was removed and replaced with 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel. Almost immediately the high intrinsic value dimes and quarters began to be hoarded as Gresham’s Law kicked in. Today a pre-1965 silver dime is worth about $2.40 in inflated Federal Reserve Notes.
As reported by Annika Breidthardt for RealClearMarkets.com, the latest European crisis summit that ended last weekend resulted in “a historic agreement to draft a new treaty” which she then characterized as “too little, too late.” Reaction of the equity and currency markets agreed, with substantial losses in American and European stock markets opening the week, and the euro dropping to lows not seen since last February.
The agreement will require EU member states to ante-up $267 billion to the International Monetary Fund which will then turn around and re-lend it to those member states in financial trouble. Exactly how those needing the funds will “ante-up” was left unexplained. The existing bailout fund — the European Financial Stability Fund, or EFSF — will be leveraged, debt upon debt, to give it more ability to lend to those same struggling countries.
But the big news is the moving forward of the date for ratification of the ESM — the European Stability Mechanism — by a full year, to June of 2012. This is the elephant in the living room that few in the media have spent much time reviewing, although a careful analysis is available here. The reason for moving ahead with such a grotesque totalitarian program is obvious: there may not be enough time left to implement it. Investors continue to demand higher and higher risk premiums when lending to Greece and Italy, Standard and Poor’s will be doing another financial review “as soon as possible,” while Moody’s expects to issue its own credit report on European countries and banks early next year. Moody’s took a dim view of the “historic agreement” by noting:
The Federal Reserve has joined an open conspiracy with its other central-banking buddies to steal several trillion dollars from my grandchildren.
The plan is to steal not just from my grandchildren, but from all of us. Each American anywhere who measures the value of his savings, the pay he receives, the stocks he owns and every other possession he has in dollars — the currency that is created and controlled by our central bank — is a target.
Every time the Federal Reserve turns on the printing presses and creates “money” out of thin air (or, more accurately, creates a digital entry on a computer screen), it reduces the value of all the money that is already in circulation.
The equation is simple: The more fiat (unbacked) currency that is created, the less each individual currency unit is worth. The creation of fiat money is the only reason for inflation. Rising prices do not cause inflation, as the powers that be would like you to believe. You see, if you accept that false explanation, you will put the blame for rising prices on businesses — not on government, where it belongs.
Americans are quickly getting poorer as the much-touted economic “recovery” remains elusive. Household wealth plummeted by more than four percent from July to September according to a report released last week by the Federal Reserve, marking the steepest drop since 2008 and the second quarterly decline in a row. That represents an average loss of about $21,000 per household in just three months.
At the end of the third quarter, household wealth plunged by $2.4 trillion, from a total of about $60 trillion down to slightly less than $57.5 trillion. The dramatic drop in net worth — the value of all assets minus total debts and liabilities -—was led by still-declining housing prices and crashing stock values.
Despite wild money printing by the Fed in recent years, home values are not expected to recover any time soon. During the third quarter, American real estate assets lost about $100 billion from the previous quarter. And banks are still sitting on an unknown but huge number of foreclosed properties expected to keep prices depressed for years to come.
Stocks performed terribly last quarter, too, though they have recovered some of those losses so far. The S&P500 Index lost around 14 percent from July to September. And according to the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index, equities shed $2.6 trillion for the quarter.