The Dow hit a new nominal high on Friday.
Money is what we use to measure past, present and future. It is what we have to show for our years of work. And it is what we need to pay for the things we want in the future. It is how we measure what we're 'worth'.
You work all your life and you're worth say $1m. And then, the feds just print up $40bn... or more... just like that. They then give it to the people who are close to them... the people they bail out... the people who speculate in stocks... people who make campaign contributions... and people who make fighter jets.
This effect - of giving out the new money to the politically-favoured groups closest to the feds - was discovered more than two centuries ago by Richard Cantillon. It's known, natch, as the 'Cantillon Effect'.
It undermines faith in the whole financial system, past and present. Suddenly people don't know what they're worth. The auto parts distributor who worked his whole life, saved a million dollars, and put it in a saving account at the bank, now finds his banker neighbours - who speculated on banking shares - are worth twice as much as he is. He looks ahead; he wonders what will happen next.
And here's the latest report on how it works in the New York Times:
'Some four years after the financial crisis, many are still feeling the ill effects. But big bank executives are not among this unfortunate group, compensation data shows.'
The banks were bailed out by the feds. The rescue programme, TARP, included provisions limiting cash bonuses. So the bank execs took stock instead then, valued at low levels. According to the report, the bankers - the five top execs at each of the 18 largest publicly traded financial institutions - got $142m worth of stock.
But wait. Even though they'd brought their companies to the brink of extinction, they didn't actually take a dime less in compensation. They simply switched the cash bonuses they were owed to stock options, valued at the low prices of the crash era.
Then, the Fed also went to work to make sure the banks made beaucoup money - taking their bad investments off their hands at par... lending them cash at record low interest rates and generally tilting the playing field in their direction.
Four years later, that stock is now worth $457m. Nice profit, heh? But while the story is told in the NYT with all the numbers and details, the writer misses the plot. He says the bank execs were the beneficiaries of "lucky timing".
Ha, ha, ha... lucky? You call $1.2trn in Fed stimulus "luck"? You call the $700bn TARP programme "luck"?
Well, it's amazing how lucky you get when you have the Fed giving you money!
We call it what it really is - cheating. It's what happens when the feds fiddle the financial system. Money - created not made - is up for grabs. And who grabs most? Those closest to the source - the insiders. The more loot the feds distribute, the more the insiders get. The rich get richer.
'The credit inflation analog to the Cantillon effect has played out perfectly in recent decades. Central banks provided cheap money to banks, the cheap money artificially inflated asset prices, artificially inflated asset prices made anyone connected to those assets rich. As we became a nation of speculators, those riches were achieved at everyone else's expense, and everyone else has now realised what has happened and is understandably enraged. As Keynes explained, Those to whom the system brings windfalls... are the object of the hatred.'
Everyone hates bankers. And for good reason. They're cheating. They're insiders who are benefiting most from the feds' foolish money-printing.
If the bankers had got what they deserved, instead of getting options and bonuses, they would have gone broke. Then, we'd see what they were really worth. They could have picked up the pieces, creating new and better financial companies. And today, we'd have wiser... more honest bankers... and better banks too. We'd also have a more honest financial system.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
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About the Author
Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.