It's hard to imagine an economist being provocative, but Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner, has managed to do so.
In his June 28 New York Times op-ed, Krugman argued that since governments around the world aren't willing to double-down on Keynesian policies meant to stimulate the global economy, the United States and the rest of the world are facing a third depression. But on CNBC's June 28 "The Kudlow Report," host Larry Kudlow asked if Krugman's premise were true, how come none of the measures being applied, which Krugman advocates more of, have failed to have any effect on the current economy.
"Steve Forbes, I want to focus this, coming out of G-20," Kudlow said. "Paul Krugman's remarkable op-ed today in The New York Times - he says, we are already in the early stages of a depression. He calls it the third depression in U.S. history. He says that it's primarily a failure of policy. But, Steve, the so-called spending cuts or tax increases or deficit reduction hasn't happened yet. In the last two years, we've had gargantuan spending and ultra-easy money which is what Professor Krugman has been advocating the whole time. And he still thinks we're in a depression. So I need to ask you, maybe his policies are what threaten the depression."
If it were only that simple - that is the way CNBC's Rick Santelli would have it.
On CNBC's June 28 "Squawk Box," CNBC's senior economics reporter Steve Liesman vigorously defended the need for higher tax rates as a measure to cut federal deficits. Others argued that government revenues would increase if tax rates were lower because it would stimulate growth. (h/t Real Clear Politics Video)
"Let me get this straight - all you guys want to cut taxes en route to bringing down the deficit?" Liesman asked.
But according to Santelli, it has nothing to do with taxes, but the role of government in the economy.
"Well, you know, it's all about, in my opinion, definition and choice," Santelli said. "Definition, I don't disagree with our guest, Richard [DeKaser, president of Woodley Park Research], about stimulus, but I haven't seen any stimulus. I've seen a lot of spending. And in terms of choice, austerity isn't something people are going to volunteer for. The creditors are going to force it on them. I think these issues are much different than we're selling them. You know, we don't have a new Hoover Dam. We don't have a new electric grid. We paid a bunch of salaries and benefits and extension benefits, unemployment with a lot of that money that you save jobs because you paid teachers because states couldn't afford it I don't think any of that really falls under a definition of stimulus."
Fresh off his Tea Party cover storyin the June 24 Weekly Standard, CNBC's Rick Santelli foresees what could be classified as an economic black hole for the United States of America.
On the network's June 24 broadcast of "Strategy Session," the CME Group reporter explained how the country could be headed down the same path and face the economic calamity the Japanese faced in what is known asthe "lost decade."That period, from 1991-2000, was one which the Asian nation failed to grow economically despite countless efforts by the government to intervene. But as Santelli explained - the U.S. version of Japanese economic policies could result in Greek-style austerity measures.
"The notion that we are turning into Japan has been something talked about on this floor for probably a year and a half," Santelli said. "What changes though, is that it is now a toss up between Japan and Greece and trust me the eventual solutions or recommendations for avoiding the pitfalls of either are completely different strategies. A lot of Japanese say, ‘More Keynesian, more stimulus, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend.' And the other side of the equation says, ‘Well then, you are going turn into Greece.' Where does the truth lie? One thing I can tell you is, is that demographics are a big issue in this story as well. The Japanese have a demographic time bomb similar to the U.S. in terms of underfunded pensions and liabilities."
Wow, just wow. Never would have seen this one coming, but is one of the standard-bearers of the media elite recognizing the Obama administration's anti-business populist tone is inhibiting the U.S. economy?
"It is, certainly beyond Washington," Gregory explained. "You all know it talking to business leaders every day and I do speak to business leaders quite often as well and I hear it time and time again that what you got at the administration are two problems. One, you've got nobody in the inner sanctum of the President's advisers who has ever run a business - who have never run a business. And that's a real problem. I think there's a level of recognition about that being a problem in the West Wing as well. But the rhetoric and the policy substantively, a lot of people feel, is anti-business and getting to a point where it could really discourage businesses in the United States and certainly the multinationals working here as well. That's a problem and I think that element of criticism from Joe Barton, while off the reservation substantively, got to that larger point, which is this populist string."
With the federal government - both on Capitol Hill and in the White House - beginning to take investigative and punitive action against BP (NYSE:BP), the future of the company, at least in the United States, is in peril.
On CNBC's June 14 "The Kudlow Report," John Kilduff, a CNBC contributor and the vice president of MF Global was asked by host Larry Kudlow about a potential debarment from eligibility to be awarded government contracts, which have been very lucrative for the embattled oil giant.
"John, this would effectively be debarment," Kudlow said. "This is something we talked about a week ago, and the prevailing attitude was there would not be debarment because that hardly ever happens in American commercial history. Is President Obama having this as a Sword of Damocles over BP?"
"Rep. Ron Paul is captivated by gold," O'Hara and Keating wrote. "Over the past two decades, he has written books about the virtues of gold-backed currency. He has made uncounted speeches about the precious metal. He even took a leadership post on the House subcommittee that oversees the nation's monetary policy, mints and gold medals."
Reports are surfacing that BP is finally considering a suspension of its shareholder's dividend, but what could have been done differently to avert the public relations nightmare BP is facing? Two CNBC hosts had some ideas about that, and about what could have happened if BP chose not to play ball.
Jim Cramer and Erin Burnett shared their thoughts on the "Stop Trading" segment of "Street Signs" June 11. According to the "Mad Money" host, Obama could have set a foul precedent for multi-national businesses if BP (NYSE:BP) didn't agree to make some concessions on how it is handling its day-to-day operations in the wake of this ecological crisis.
"I think that this is a, a stock that represents great value but you're dealing with the government," Cramer said. "I saw that Nancy Pelosi, she's the second most powerful person in our country, saying that they shouldn't be paying a dividend. I mean, this is one of those situations where I know, the president's approval ratings are down and what you got to do is you got to go after BP if you're the president. I'm not saying I would do it but I'm saying if I were the president of the United States, BP is public enemy number one and you're not even going to listen to what the British say. You just gotta say, ‘Guys, here's the deal, we're not, we're not going to have any dividends here. And just you know, take it or leave it, partner, because this is a company that needs U.S. ball play."
On February 19, 2009, Rick Santelli helped create a movement whose political impact has not yet been fully realized. The "Rant Heard 'Round the World," as it has become known, was a profound, if hardly isolated example of the power of conservative pundits to enact political change.
That power has grown as Americans have become more sympathetic to the economic conservative argument--both the moral/spiritual element of it, and the strictly economic one. The American people have by and large come full circle in a short time, and the pundits that retain the most influence in our society have changed accordingly.
Santelli is the perfect example, as he was certainly not the prominent name he is now before he let loose on the floor of the Chicago exchange. Michael Barone explains the essential appeal of the rant. He wrote Wednesday that it "was both an economic and a moral argument."
When a protectionist law is enacted and nearly a century later it is inhibiting a recovery from major ecological catastrophe, it's probably time to scrap it or at least temporarily waive it.
But instead a nearly century old provision known as the Jones Act of 1920 is wielding the wrath of unintended consequences. According to the Heritage Foundation, this protectionist measure was put in place to defend the American maritime industry, but is endangering far more jobs than it is protecting.
"The Jones Act, which is supposedly about protecting jobs, is actually killing jobs," Heritage co-authors James Dean and Claude Berube wrote in a June 8 The Foundry post. "The jobs of fishermen, people working in tourism and others who live along the Gulf Coast and earn a living there are being severely impacted. There are also additional private sector jobs which are NOT being created in the United States since the Jones Act effectively prices U.S. based companies out of the ability to be competitive on the competitive global market. As we strive to develop new technologies for a cleaner environment at sea, the Jones Act continues to hobble our own capabilities, sometimes with devastating results."
In an article published yesterday afternoon, CNBC news associate Joseph Pisani took note of something the rest of the media mostly hasn't, or at least hasn't highlighted: the terrible job market for teenagers. The headline and text indicate that this is the worst such market in 41 years. That's true, based on the stat Pisani presented. But barring a near miracle in the next three months, in terms of the stat that matters most, the unemployment rate, it's the worst ever.
Give the CNBC reporter props for doing something almost no other journalist has done, which is to use the not seasonally adjusted (NSA) employment numbers as his factual source. As I have discussed several times, including here, the reported NSA numbers represent the government's best estimate of what really happened in a given month, while the seasonally adjusted (SA) numbers published (and appropriately labeled) by the government and reported (but usually not labeled) by the press represent the result after smoothing out seasonal fluctuations.
Maybe President Barack Obama watched a little too much of the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night. The language seems to have rubbed off.
Paul Bedard at U.S. News and World Report caught an interesting exchange on CNBC this morning about Obama's use of "ass" in an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer. Obama asserted to Lauer that he wanted to know "whose ass to kick" over the oil spill in the Gulf.
Squawk Box co-host Becky Quick criticized President Obama for using "the A word" on the Today show, saying he set a bad example for kids.
"If you're the president of the United States and you go on the Today show, which is a morning show, where you're going to have a lot of kids who are sitting around watching this, I think you choose your words a little more carefully," Quick said.
"I think using the a-word on the Today show when you're talking to Matt Lauer, yeah, that disturbs me," Quick said.
Quick said that it's "silly" to use inappropriate language to prove that you're mad.
If you think government has all the answers, you'll certainly approve of this call.
Former Clinton Secretary of Labor and CNBC contributor Robert Reich has determined it's time for President Barack Obama to seize the reigns of control from BP (NYSE:BP) and put the North American operations of the company into a "temporary receivership." He told host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera on CNBC's June 1 broadcast of "Closing Bell" that the government was the only entity remaining capable of determining if the oil giant was properly utilizing its resources to contain a spill that has been going on since mid-April.
"Well, Michelle, it is temporary," Reich said. "And the government merely takes over the North America operations, the subsidiary, in order to make sure the public is getting the right information, in order to make sure that risks and benefits are being weighed properly - still using the expertise and intelligence of BP. I think, in fact in many ways BP would want some relief and might even appreciate that direct kind of ownership."
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) taking another tumble of 376 points on May 20, some investors are pointing to problems in Europe for the sell-off. However, there may be problems at home as well.
"Well, a couple of things," Santelli said. Well, first of all, if you look at the high-grades, they widened out with the high-yields widened out more today at levels today that are wider than the day of the flash crash. That's ‘a.' And ‘b,' you know Maria, we have a 1.2511 on the Euro. This is so much more than just focusing on the Euro."
A far-left Democratic congressman is accusing conservative commentators of improperly -- perhaps illegally -- conspiring with advertisers to shill for their products under the guise of political opinion. The accusers, however, conveniently ignore liberal commentators that do virtually the same thing, only on a far larger scale.
Rep. Anthony Weiner released a report yesterday alleging that Goldline "has formed an unholy alliance with conservative pundits to drive a false narrative and play off public fears in order to sell its products," according to a release. Under "conservative pundits," read the Fox News Channel, and specifically Glenn Beck.
Weiner has this far neglected to criticize Fox's cable news competitor MSNBC and its parent network, which consistently shill for policies that would dramatically enrich their parent company, General Electric. GE's communications arm consistently further's Weiner's own political agenda, so a double standard seems to be afoot in his failure to call NBC out on its colossal conflict on interest.
Talking with CNBC's Jim Cramer on the May 6 "Hardball" about the Greek fiscal crisis, everyone's favorite MSNBCer blamed "right-wing" dictators from the Cold War era for financial troubles in Greece, Portugal, and Spain [MP3 audio available here]:
I'm a political guy, you're a money guy. Let's crosswalk this thing. It seems to me that you and I grew up with the fact there were dictatorships in Europe. They were in the Iberian peninsula and in Greece. You had Franco, who overstayed the Second World War a bit, by about two generations. You had Salazar in Portugal, and of course you had the Greek colonels.
The right-wing governments in Europe seem to be the ones that are most precarious right now: Greece, Portugal, Spain.
What's the connection? Is this a complete coincidence, or is it old-line right-wing politics that never quite stabilized into serious social democratic countries? What happened?
The European Union and the International Monetary Fund to the rescue! The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) soars and investors breathe a sign of relief. But where's this $1 trillion in bailout funds for Greece coming from?
"On one thing, Rick - because you started the whole thing where you said, ‘Are you listening, President Obama?' about paying for your neighbor's mortgage," Kernen said. "Are you, could you really tell the American taxpayer, you can connect the dots between them and Greece? I mean are they paying for some lavish benefits in Greece right now?"
While everyone is scratching their heads and trying to figure out how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost nearly 1,000 points before rallying back to lose only 347 points - it appears not to be limited to just one stock.
On CNBC's May 6 "Closing Bell," correspondent Matt Nesto explained that investigators for both the stock exchanges and for Citigroup, the firm that some are pointing fingers at for a so-called trader error, have narrowed it down to a futures index called the E-mini S&P 500.
"A person familiar with the Citi investigation said one focus of the trading probes were the futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 stock index known as the E-mini S&P 500 futures and in particular that two-minute window in which 16 billion of the futures were sold," Nesto said. "Again, those sources are telling us that Citigroup's total E-mini volume for the entire day was only 9 billion, suggesting that the origin of the trades was elsewhere."
Although to ask this question is to invite with a good degree of criticism, it is still worth asking: Is Obama administration's approach to publicly reprimanding private industry cause for concern?
On CNBC's May 4 "Squawk Box," host Michelle Caruso-Cabrera raised this point and asked Washington correspondent John Harwood if White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' recent statement BP was a little overboard.
"The spokesperson says, quote, ‘We're going to keep our boot on the throats of BP,'" Caruso-Cabrera said. "How is the Business Council going to react to that when they see President Obama?"
Harwood, who often goes easy on the Obama administration, wasn't so quick to criticize Gibbs for this. His explanation was that it was a little "hostile," but repeated Gibbs' suggestion it was just a regional saying.
A $787-billion stimulus. Liabilities of $356 billion for the TARP bailout on the federal government's balance sheet. And that's in addition to other unfunded liabilities from federal entitlements like ObamaCare, Medicare, and Social Security.
But that doesn't mean the U.S. is heading down the path toward socialism because they were one-time expenditures, according to CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box" April 29, as jobless claims for the week was being released on the floor of the CME Group in Chicago, co-host Joe Kernen asked for Liesman's opinion.
As congressional Democrats press on with their attempts to get financial legislation reform passed, a key component has been lacking from the debate: how to handle the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
Cramer told MSNBC's April 26 "Morning Joe" that Goldman really has no defense if, as the government alleges, Goldman misled investors when it established a mortgage-backed security in 2007 for a hedge fund client looking to bet against the housing market. And that's in addition to facing heat from shareholders for not revealing that it received a Wells Notice from the SEC.
That was the takeaway from an April 22 CNBC "Squawk Box" segment in which the network's Washington correspondent John Harwood explained the upside for the Obama administration in taking an aggressive tack on financial regulation and pushing it through Congress.
According to Harwood, public opinion on this issue favors President Barack Obama. He explained that Wall Street is very unpopular and that's causing some Republicans to be willing to compromise with Democrats on the issue.
"He knows that things are rolling his way on this issue," Harwood said. "You had battle lines initially drawn - both parties took to the trenches, started firing heavy ammunition. But the throw weight is with the Democratic side on this. The public wants financial regulation reform. They don't like Wall Street, just as they don't like Washington. So this is a case where Barack Obama, instead of being the target of public anger, can direct some of it somewhere else. That is what causes Republicans at the end to say, ‘OK, it's time to negotiate, get serious about a deal.' And they're going to get some concessions in that bargaining in exchange for their votes. And they will then be able to stand up and say, ‘This bill was headed to be a bailout bill. We stopped the bailout and everybody can hold hands and say they did something good for the country.'"
The media is still having trouble understanding the Tea Party movement and what it is protesting, even though its roots are clear.
On Feb. 19, 2009 during CNBC's "Squawk Box," Rick Santelli made his famous rant heard around the world, calling for a so-called tea party-style revolt. And that helped fuel the growth of a Tea Party movement that has resulted in more than 600 protests this April 15, 2010.
Santelli's call for protest wasn't about high taxes. Instead, it was a cry against the Obama administration's plan for a taxpayer-funded mortgage bailout. The very beginning of the tea parties was about bailouts and the growth of government.
But the Associated Press still seemed to miss the point about worries over an overspending government in an April 15 article by Calvin Woodward about the Tea Party rallies. In that report, Woodward defended Obama's tax policies.
"Lost in the rhetoric was that taxes have gone down under Obama," Woodward wrote. "Congress has cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion, leaving Americans with a lighter load despite nearly $29 billion in increases by states. Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his health care overhaul and other programs."
Is President Barack Obama really instituting "cradle-to-grave" social policies and transforming the United States into a nanny state? Well, it may not be "womb-to-tomb" yet, but he's certainly creating a welfare state for Americans beyond their mid-20s.
"I think it's more likely to be stuck," Harwood said. "Now, ultimately, the hope for Democrats, and for the president, is the actual experience with the legislation. Forget the sales job, but once elements of that kick in, especially the more popular ones, letting kids stay on their parents' insurance policies until they're 26, and preventing insurance companies from kicking people off when they hit a lifetime max - those kinds of things, they hope, will make, fuel acceptance of this legislation."
A little over a year ago, President Obama signed into law the $787-billion stimulus legislation that was supposed to prevent the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. And although the unemployment has receded some from its high, it's still well North of 9 percent. So if that stimulus is given more time, will unemployment improve?
Last week's jobless claims numbers, showing a stagnant unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, didn't provide any reason for optimism. And on CNBC's April 12 "Squawk Box," host Joe Kernen asked CNBC CME Group floor reporter Rick Santelli if this economic indicator is going to be stubborn number, which would confirm a failure of Obamanomics.
"Rick, I wasn't here last week when that claims number came out. But if I could really just dig deep down into your view, do you think a year from now we're still going to be talking about a stubborn unemployment rate, Rick?" Kernen asked.
The "normal person" definition of a recession is two or more quarters of economic contraction as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This definition was perfectly acceptable to everyone until the 1970s, when the "non-partisan" National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) was tasked with deciding when recessions begin and end.
In December 2008, the NBER declared that a recession had begun in December 2007. As I've noted several times in several places, they did this despite several contrary indicators such as positive economic growth in the second quarter of 2008, and at best inconclusive results relating to income, industrial production, and employment.
Nonetheless, the establishment media has consistently run with the NBER's definition of when the recession began. After all, they're the experts. Who are we peons to dare to point out that using the normal person definition, the recession began in the third quarter of 2008, continued for four quarters, and ended when GDP went positive in the third quarter of 2009?
In a move that one would expect is causing an excess of expletives inside the White House, NBER officials have indicated that they can't yet conclude that the recession as they define it has ended. A New York Times story carried at CNBC tells us the following (internal link added by me):
Green jobs to save the American economy? If you have listened to the various politicos on the left end of the spectrum, especially before and after the passage of the $787-billion stimulus package earlier, you would think that is the cure-all.
But so far it isn't working and there are other fundamental problems that lie ahead according to some energy market analysts, like much higher oil prices - despite the pledge by President Barack Obama to open up 160 million acres for future oil exploration and drilling. To avoid the price of $100-plus oil, CNBC's CME Group floor reporter suggested expediting the process, as was the case with ObamaCare and TARP.
"I think what you're hitting on is so important because the President of course talking about some of these jobs, but also talking about drilling," Santelli said on CNBC's April 1 broadcast of "Closing Bell." "You know, if the government was able to put forth health care and the government was able to do bailouts and TARP and stretch the rules, if they wanted to get jobs now and avoid the $100-plus oil you know that's coming they could drill quickly if they wanted to. And this is something that needs to be discussed, don't you think?"
With March unemployment data to be released April 2, some are anticipating what potentially lower jobless numbers will all mean for the financial markets and the economy as a whole. However, that data will come with the caveat that it will be misleading because it will include temporary jobs driven by hiring for the 2010 census.
On CNBC's March 29 "Squawk Box," CME floor reporter Rick Santelli was asked how to interpret the expected improvement. He warned it isn't the kind of job creation that is good for a sustained economic recovery.
"You know, I think it's fascinating," Santelli said. "Most experts would agree, the kind of job creation we're going to see is welcome but it isn't the kind we need in the big picture. But having said that, yes, I think that the markets will act in a way that will show a robustness if the number comes in a couple of hundred thousand and I think it's kind of silly."
Former presidential candidate and New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani minced no words when it came to the Obama administration's massive health care overhaul. In an exclusive interview with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Giuliani stated that, plain and simple, it "was an ideological act by the Congress" liberal Democrats "are very happy about."
"Instead of privatizing - which is what our government should be doing - we're taking major roles of the economy for the United States government," Giuliani told "Closing Bell" anchor Bartiromo. "And it is not an exaggeration to say we are starting to look more like a European social democracy than we are an American free-market capitalist society."
A self-avowed free-market advocate, Bartiromo attempted to defend the Democrats' actions for a second: "Let me take devil's advocate for a minute here and say, ‘Okay, you say socialism and we're seeing this government takeover. Well maybe some of this stuff wasn't working before, so how do we know this isn't going to work better?'" she posed.
Giuliani lamented how disingenuous Obama's entire argument about a health care "crisis" was, seeing as how much of the significant provisions do not go into effect for years - and quite possibly under the watch of a Republican president.