“If the Economy Surprises Us…”

Submitted by William Bonner, Chairman – Bonner & Partners

Congress Gets a Reprieve

On Thursday, the pope and the Fed chief fought for center stage. God and Mammon – or their earthly representatives – took the headlines. Pope Francis spoke to Congress. “Render unto Caesar” he did not recite.

Francis in CongressPope Francis in Congress: skipping over parts of his speech …

Photo credit: M. Scott Mahaskey

Nor did he even suggest that mammon might have gotten too big for its britches in the U.S. establishment. Apparently – according to Vatican sources – he forgot to mention it. MSN News has the report:

“Pope Francis omitted a short but powerful section of his speech to Congress – in which he warned politicians not to be a “slave” to the economy or finance – because he lost his place and accidentally skipped part of his script, the Vatican has said.

The remarks could have made the assembled crowd of lawmakers a little uncomfortable, given the widely held perception that members of Congress from both parties are too beholden to special interests.

Lawmakers raise tens of millions of dollars from companies and other interests – especially banks – to help fund their campaigns. Companies also pay lobbyists tens of millions of dollars every year to help sway, mold, and kill proposed legislation to suit their needs.”

Instead of warning the world to stay away from politics, Francis urged U.S. legislators to make common cause with the church in order to render the world a better place.

“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continues to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.”

How the people’s representatives can actually make the world a better place – except by backing off – has never been revealed, neither in scripture nor in history.

But the members of Congress are nothing if not eager. Bring peace to the Mideast… eliminate poverty… defeat cancer… stop illegal drug use… there is no job too big or too small… no problem too immense or too insignificant… and no lobbyist so craven and sullied that his money will be refused!

lobbyist_top10Top 10 lobbyists, 2008-2015 – click to enlarge.

A Rate Increase This Year

Meanwhile, the Dow fell again – down 75 points. It is headed for the 16,000 level.

Once through that barrier, we are likely to see some bigger moves to the downside. Somehow, sometime… the stock market has to sell off. Always does. Always will.

DJIADJIA daily – still struggling – click to enlarge.

It should be no business of the Fed how much investors pay for U.S. assets. But 81 months of activist management – in which it held the price of Fed credit far below the “natural” rate – broke the system.

Now, the Fed owns it. The Fed – with knowledge aforethought – intentionally shifted trillions of dollars in paper wealth toward America’s asset owners. Now, it has to try to keep those ill-gotten gains where it put them.

The pressure of it must be getting to Janet Yellen. Onstage on Thursday, she was visibly staggered by it. She hesitated… she coughed… she hinted at rate hikes… and the whole world’s capital structure shivered.

Fed chair Janet Yellen delivered a speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Thursday. According to the WSJ, 50 minutes into the speech “she stumbled over her prepared text, paused for long stretches several times, missed and jumbled some words in the text, and coughed before concluding her speech and leaving the stage”.

Photo credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Then, the high priestess of Mammon, drawing strength from some unseen source, seemed to recover. And when it was over, we were left with the impression that the Fed aims to raise rates before the end of the year. Ms. Yellen:

“Most FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] participants, including myself, currently anticipate that achieving these conditions will likely entail an initial increase in the federal funds rate later this year, followed by a gradual pace of tightening thereafter. But if the economy surprises us, our judgments about appropriate monetary policy will change.”

Our guess is that the economy will surprise the Fed chief. It is always a shock to the manipulators when an economy or a society refuses to obey their commands. Janet Louise Yellen (the Fed chief) can no more improve the world than can the political hacks listening to Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis).

Both are only human. And, like all humans, they are sometimes good, sometimes bad… and always subject to influence.