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U.S. Economy is NOT Growing

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There was no surprise with the announced third-quarter GDP for the U.S. economy (+3.5%), however, there was some personal disappointment for me. The disappointment relates to the fact that few, if any, commentators were willing to speak up and exclaim that “the emperor is wearing no clothes.”


The reason that this is such a big disappointment is that the absurd “official” number for U.S. Q3 GDP cannot withstand the slightest analytical scrutiny. So, allow me to analytically dissect this obviously fraudulent number.


Let's start with the big picture. At the end of 2008, official GDP was -6.4%. This was also likely an understatement, but for the sake of argument let's treat it as “fact”. Move ahead to the Q3 2009 reading of +3.5% and we see a swing of 10% in U.S. GDP – in merely the span of nine months. The only factor in the U.S. economy pushing against this massive contraction (and debt implosion) is the “Obama stimulus package”. However, using the Obama regime's own numbers, less than $300 billion of true “stimulus” would reach the U.S. economy over the course of this entire year.


This means that as of the end of Q3, only about $200 billion of true stimulus has entered the U.S. economy. If anyone actually believes that this $200 billion could create a 10% shift in U.S. GDP, the following points will quickly dispel that fantasy.


Regular readers will recall that I have pointed out on a number of occasions that the U.S. economy has lost roughly $2 trillion in spending-power from the peak of the housing bubble. This is comprised of roughly ½ reduced credit, and ½ lost income. On the credit side, at the peak of the bubble, U.S. homeowners extracted $840 billion in (temporary) “equity” in 2006 alone. That source of credit has virtually disappeared – along with billions in other categories of “consumer credit”. The following graph from the St. Louis Fed helps to illustrate this more clearly.


As you can see, for the first time in the more than 40 years for which this data has been kept, U.S. consumer credit is steadily contracting. This 40-year period also marks the era in which the U.S. economy has become totally dependent on ever expanding debt/credit. Clearly, a mere $200 billion in stimulus could do little more than slow down the U.S. economic collapse – and certainly not reverse it.


With the U.S. economy now burdened with $60 trillion in total public/private debt, it already spends trillions each year simply paying the interest on this debt. Thus, this Ponzi-scheme economy now requires a steady, significant rise in credit merely for this economy to “tread water” (i.e. zero growth). By itself, contracting credit is a powerful downward force on the U.S. economy. The following point will make this even more obvious.


As I have recently stated, the U.S. government can never afford to voluntarily raise interest rates again. A mere 1% increase in interest rates would result in $600 billion per year in added interest payments (on top of the existing trillions per year in interest payments). I observed that, by itself, this $600 billion extracted from the U.S. economy would be equal to roughly a 5% drop in GDP.


I also added that the total drop in U.S. GDP would be greater than 5% because of the spin-off (or “multiplier”) effect of that withdrawal of cash. This begs the question: how large a multiplier effect would be a reasonable estimate?


If we look at the Obama stimulus package, and the purported gain in U.S. GDP, we are supposed to believe that a mere $200 billion could cause a 10% shift in GDP. If that was true, then a 1% increase in U.S. interest rates, which would lead to a subtraction of $600 billion from the economy (three times the amount of Obama stimulus) implies a drop in U.S. GDP of 30%. If anything, a 1% increase in interest rates would cause an even larger collapse in the U.S. economy – since this additional push would be working with the existing downward momentum, not against it (like the Obama stimulus package).


If I wrote a piece claiming that a 1% increase in U.S. interest rates would cause a 30% drop in U.S. GDP, would anyone believe that? Yet, if you refuse to believe those numbers, then you can't possibly place any credence on the GDP number which the U.S. government fabricated for the third quarter.


However, denouncing this ridiculous farce isn't dependent on logic, alone – we also have our “smoking gun”. In order to fabricate a number as wildly inaccurate as Q3 GDP, the U.S. government had to also fabricate additional data – most notably the “GDP deflator”.


For those who haven't had this explained to them before, every GDP estimate must be “deflated” (by the prevailing inflation in the economy). If this wasn't done, then the “raw” GDP data is totally invalid – because there is no separation of how much of that “growth” was a genuine increase in economic activity, and how much was merely higher prices.


For the third quarter, the U.S. government used a “deflator” of less than 1%. Again, it is easy to demonstrate that this number has no connection to the real world. As we have all heard, the entire world is engaged in a game of “competitive devaluation” of their currencies. Obviously “devaluing currencies” is identical to “rising prices” (i.e. inflation) since by definition it requires more units of a devalued currency to purchase goods.


In a world of devaluing currencies, the U.S. dollar has managed to fall much farther than almost every other currency in the world. Again, as a matter of logical necessity, this means that the U.S. economy must experience more inflation than other economies – not less. Yet other governments are beginning to withdraw monetary stimulus from their economies, precisely because of growing inflationary pressures.


As a further rebuttal of the ridiculous inflation numbers of the U.S. government, we have the well-respected John Williams, and his own web-site: shadowstats.com – which calculates U.S. economic statistics using the same methodology which was used a generation (or two) ago, before the U.S. government added all of its “techniques” for manipulating those same statistics. Williams pegged Q3 U.S. inflation at roughly 7% - a huge gap from the less-than-1% the U.S. government used to “deflate” its raw GDP data.

 

(courtesy of shadowstats.com)

In short, any commentator who removed his/her “blinders” to take a close look at the latest U.S.GDP number would have to reject it as being inaccurate to the point of total irrelevance – assuming one is capable of performing simple arithmetic. The fact that even critics of U.S. official “statistics” refuse to denounce this number as fraud is a regrettable demonstration of their own timidity.


The emperor is wearing no clothes,” and I'm not afraid to explicitly state this. We will all be better off when other commentators who are not part of the corporate propaganda-machine will cease their own self-censorship and explictly denounce the endless stream of fraudulent “statistics” of the U.S. government.

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Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, November 14, 2009
Hi Kwp.

I think you have misunderstood the numbers. There is no need that one penny of added interest payments go to China. A 1% increase in U.S. interest rates simply drains $600 billion from the economy - period.

Yes, some parties in the U.S. will COLLECT some of that interest, however the ONLY entity in the U.S. economy which would TAKE more than it paid out are the private bankers of the Federal Reserve.

And don't forget the resultant 5% drop in GDP is only the IMMEDIATE economic impact - including none of the "multiplier effect" which would ratchet-up the drop in GDP much higher than that.
kwp99
...
written by kwp99, November 14, 2009
This article states:
a) The US has $60 trillion in total public/private debt,
b) A mere 1% increase in interest rates would result in $600 billion per year in added interest payments.
c) $600 billion extracted from the U.S. economy would be equal to roughly a 5% drop in GDP.

I think this is a rather simplistic view of the situation as it assumes that the 1% of interest simply disappears into the ether. As if China owned all $60T of that debt and every penny was being shipped out of the country. But most of that debt is owed between entities within the US so that most of that interest is just changing hands within the US economy.

It's also not entirely clear what constitutes "true stimulus" or that even if the entire $600B of interest mentioned above went to China that it could be compared dollar for dollar to the "true stimulus" that the government has created. Let's say the US government has borrowed $1.2T from China to create $200B of "true stimulus". Using simple math that this article assumes, that would imply a loss of $600B in interest going to China (which would simply offset the $1.2T we borrowed from China) which would result in a loss of half or $100B in "true stimulus" and not $600B.

Frankly, I think the economy is every bit as bad as the author makes it out to be, but there's no need to exaggerate things or interpret the data in crazy ways to make it look any worse than it is.





Jeff Nielson
...
written by Jeff Nielson, November 11, 2009
Hi Realist.

Thanks for that info. If you haven't already done so, I would urge you to go through Chris Martenson's SUPERB presentation, his "Crash Course" (posted in our "Guest Commentators" section).

Among the many insights he provides is the fact that U.S. GDP has $2 trillion of statistical "padding", "deemed GDP" for which there are no actual dollar-transactions. This amounts to more than 15% of U.S. GDP being pure "fluff".

It also means that U.S. debt-to-GDP ratios are AT LEAST 25% worse than the government pretends - equal (if not worse) to the ATROCIOUS ratios of the UK economy.
realist
...
written by realist, November 10, 2009
Jeff,

The GDP numbers are actually worse than stated. The New York Times had an article on November 8, 2009 that discussed the effect that imports have on falsely increasing the GDP numbers. The U. S. Government claims that imported goods into the U. S. are American-made products. They then claim that this increases the GDP when in fact the GDP should actually decrease because of the imports.

This situation has been occurring for years. If revisions to the GDP were made for previous years, it would show even less GDP growth.

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