Friday, June 27, 2014

Our, Not So Beautiful, Balloons

It seems everything that the government involves itself in costs money. Not just a few dollars here and a few dollars there. No, way beyond reasonable, right into obscene. It should be obvious to even the casual observer how government, nanny type over spending, is harming our economy now and setting it up for a future crash.

Many many years ago, Claiborne Pell, the Democrat Senator from Rhode Island, had what he considered, a great idea. It probably was a good idea. But like with so many good ideas, the law of "unintended results" crept in. Senator Pell saw that many middle class and poor students could not afford a college education. He came up with Pell Grants. This, along with the Student Loan Program injected a lot of government money into the higher education business. College administrators, rather than keep modest institutions of higher learning, in the Socratic mold, started building empires. They turned campuses into resorts with classrooms. They hired more administrators than teaching staff. The cost of an education grew at a rate far outstripping inflation, leaving students with enormous debt. The government is now floating a debt that is far more than most these students will ever be able to repay. Especially in this era of few jobs. They call this the education bubble.

The government, in their never ending quest to assure equality of results, forced banks to make loans on houses that the people purchasing those homes couldn't afford. Again, the government picked up the float. That bubble popped once, bringing home sales to a crawl. So a government, that never seems to learn by it's mistakes, at the behest of developers and the real estate industry is dipping into that well once again. They call this the housing bubble.

Now we come to the most insidious government aberration of all. Six years ago, the economy was in the doldrums. It still is, and getting worse. The administration decided that the way out of this was to spend public money at a rate beyond ridiculous. This would normally create inflation. The Fed took two actions. They forced interest rates to a unnaturally low level and they started printing money as fast as the presses could produce it. They call it "Quantitative Easing" . QE has had a few interesting effects. First of all, you get practically no interest on savings accounts. Second it supports rising stock prices with no real economic underpinning. That means the rich get richer. Finally it depreciates the value of the dollar. This has created a financial bubble not seen since the depression. I call this the Bernanke Bubble.

Balloons don't last forever. Keep expanding them and they blow up in your face. What the administration has done is to try to create a political illusion. I'm tempted to use the lipstick on a pig reference, but I cannot stoop that low. But be aware of the dangers. Watch your debt and your investments. Be very careful. The light at the end of the tunnel is just a flickering candle.

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