Tag Archives: Federal Reserve System

Supply-side economics, instead of taxes, is cure for recession

From April, 2010.

Sound money and income tax cuts — the elements of supply-side economics — have produced economic growth in America, according to Dr. Brian Domitrovic of Sam Houston State University. When our country imposes inflationary loose money policies and high income taxes, economic growth suffers, as in the period from 1973 to 1982. Unfortunately, these are the policies of President Barack Obama and his administration.

Domitrovic lectured on principles in his book Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity last night at Friends University. His lecture was part of the Law, Liberty & the Market lecture series, which is underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation in Wichita.

“Unemployment at nine percent, five grueling quarters of decline in GDP growth, the stock market snapped back from its horrid 50 percent decline, but still needing a good 25 percent to get back to its old high: this has been some economic contraction.” While this may sound like a description of the current recession, it’s not. Instead, Domitrovic was describing the recession of 1974 and 1975. The stagflation period from 1973 to 1982, characterized by both high unemployment and high inflation, was a dark period in American history.

There was also a mortgage and foreclosure crisis during that decade, but it affected the most prudent homeowners the worst. Property taxes in California went up five-fold in a period of ten years. Selling your house resulted in the loss of half your equity because of the capital gains taxes that were in effect then.

While unemployment is high today, inflation is low, with prices even declining slightly last year. Being unemployed while prices are rising at nine percent per year — or 33 percent during one two-year period — is much worse than being unemployed today.

In 1980 the bank prime interest rate reached 22%. (It’s 3.25% today.) It was impossible to save money in the 1970s, as the real tax rates on saving exceeded one hundred percent.

Our economic crisis today is the “junior partner” to the stagflation decade. Our current political leaders should not be comparing the current situation to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Instead, the stagflation period has better lessons to teach us. It took 20 years for American living standards to recover to the level attained before the Great Depression started, Domitrovic told the audience, so we should not implement the same policies in response to the current recession.

Instead, we have a fairly recent crisis — the stagflation period — which was solved “so firmly, so efficiently, so permanently” that the quarter-century following this period is known as the “Great Moderation.” There was economic growth year after year, inflation nearly vanished, unemployment was low, interest rates settled, businesses started, and stocks and bonds boomed.

It was supply-side economics that ended the stagflation and lead to the long period of prosperity, the Great Moderation. Failing to embrace supply-side economics as a response to the economic problems that arose in 2008 was one of our greatest mistakes.

As the current crisis enters its third year, we should not be surprised that recovery is slow to arrive. “Tepid and incomplete recovery was, in fact, the record of the New Deal, which our policymakers have looked to for inspiration,” Domitrovic explained.

Supply-side economics consists of stable money and marginal tax cuts. These are the policies that defeated stagflation and lead to the Great Moderation.

Domitrovic explained that in 1913, two great institutions of macroeconomic management were created, the Federal Reserve system and the income tax. Prior to this time, the United States had no ability to conduct macroeconomic policy, either fiscal or monetary policy.

Since 1913, the economic history of the U.S. has been that of “serial disaster.” From 1913 to 1919, prices increased by 100 percent. Prior to that, there had never a peacetime inflation in the U.S. The top rate of the income tax, which started at a rate of seven percent, had increased to 77 percent by 1917. From 1919 to 1921, the U.S. experienced its worse recession up to that time. Unemployment rose to 18 percent. Prior to this time, unemployment was not a problem.

The fix was President Warren Harding’s Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon telling the Federal Reserve to keep the dollar stable instead of trying to manipulate the price level, and the income tax rate was cut by two-thirds. As a result, from 1921 to 1929 inflation was low, less than one percent, and that nation experienced the boom known as the Roaring Twenties. Economic progress boomed.

But in 1929, the Federal Reserve started to deflate the currency in an attempt to get prices back to the 1913 level. In 1932 the top income tax rate was raised to 63 percent from 25 percent. “There you have the Great Depression,” Domitrovic said. It was a crisis of macroeconomic management, not a failure of capitalism, as is commonly believed.

Franklin Roosevelt instructed the Federal Reserve to keep the price level steady, which was one good policy he implemented. But he increased income tax rates.

In 1947 income tax rates were cut and the Federal Reserve pursued stable prices after the inflation of World War II.

A pattern emerged: stable prices coupled with income tax cuts lead to recovery. When these policies are not applied, recovery was weak and collapsed. These patterns repeated through the rest of the century.

During the Eisenhower Administration, the top tax rate was 91 percent. Eisenhower refused to cut taxes, and there were three recessions during his presidency.

John F. Kennedy wanted to solve the crisis. His advisors told him to loosen money and raise taxes, even though the top marginal rate was 91 percent. The idea, according to recently-deceased economist and Kennedy adviser Paul Samuelson, was that by increasing the money supply people would spend money, which would cause production to increase and workers to be hired. But increasing the money supply produces inflationary pressures. The solution was very high income tax rates, which sops up the extra money that causes inflation.

But Robert Mundell, only 29 years old at the time, wrote a memo that advised the opposite, advocating stable money and low taxes. Kennedy adopted this policy, and a great boom resulted for seven years.

But Lyndon Johnson asked his Federal Reserve Chairman to increase the money supply, and passed an income tax surcharge to attempt to control the danger of inflation — the “neoclassical synthesis.” Inflation rose. Nixon increased the capital gains tax and established the alternative minimum tax. The result was the double-dip recession of 1969 to 1970, which cost more in economic output than the cost of the entire Viet Nam war.

Still, the Federal Reserve kept increasing the money supply, and the income tax rate was increased. Nixon insisted that printing money would save the economy, and in order to control inflation, Nixon imposed price controls. The result was an investment strike. If businesses could not charge the prices they needed, they would enter other fields of businesses, such as commodities. The prices of commodities rose rapidly, and there was the terrible double-dip recession of 1974 to 1975.

Mundell, along with Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal and others, started to encourage government to tighten the money supply and lower taxes. At the same time United States Representative Jack Kemp introduced a bill calling for a large tax cut and stable money. Kemp’s bill passed both houses of Congress with a veto-proof majority. But Jimmy Carter had it killed in committee.

If not for Carter’s action, the Kemp-Roth tax cuts would have become law in November 1978. These tax cuts, had they been passed and been coupled with Carter’s appointment of Paul Volcker — an advocate of stable money — as chairman of the Federal Reserve in August 1979, would have found the policy elements of “Reaganomics” in place at that time. Domitrovic said the economy would have recovered rapidly, and it is likely that Ronald Reagan would not have run for president in 1980.

Instead, the period from 1979 to 1981 was a brutal period of economic history, with high unemployment, high inflation, and tanking markets.

Upon entering office, Reagan was able to implement sound money policy and tax cuts — by then called supply-side economics — and the economy started the boom that lasted for 25 years. During this time there was only one recession, in 1990 and 1991. This is in contrast to the three recessions during Eisenhower’s eight years in office.

Supply-side economics is one of the greatest success stories in economics and government, Domitrovic said. Despite evidence of its success, despite the fact that every objection to it has collapsed, policymakers did not follow its policies in 2008. Objections to supply-side economics that have proven to be unfounded include:

It is inflationary. This is the basis for George H.W. Bush’s characterization of supply-side economics as “voodoo” economics. But inflation since 1982 has been very low.

It would cause crowding-out. This refers to the fact that tax cuts can cause budget deficits, and the government would have to borrow so much money that none would be available for private business investment. But the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were a period of historic expansion, with the Dow Jones stock market average increasing by a factor of 15 during this time.

Government debt is a burden to future generations. But the nation experienced great prosperity and economic expansion during the Great Moderation, and interest payments on the debt were not a major burden.

Tax cuts would place the U.S. in a “fiscal hole,” with budget deficits forever. But by the 1990s we were running budget surpluses. Domitrovic said that when Clinton balanced the budget in 2000, the total level of government expenditure was 18.4 percent of gross domestic product. In Reagan’s last year in office (1989) revenues were 18.4 percent of GDP. “In other words, Reagan’s tax policy plus Clinton’s spending policy was exactly sufficient for a perfectly balanced budget.”

Supply-side economics causes inequality. But Domitrovic said that tax cuts mean that wealthy people don’t have to hide their income from taxes, making their income more productive publicly. Inequality has decreased.

Summarizing, Domitrovic told the audience that the lessons of the Great Moderation are that when the institutions of 1913 — Federal Reserve and the income tax — are tamed, the American economy does wonderful things. Stable money and low taxes, combined with the entrepreneurial knack of Americans, produces remarkable economic growth and job opportunities. But when the macroeconomic institutions of 1913 run a muck the economy will suffer. The current policies of the Obama Administration — loose money and rising taxes — are not going to produce prosperity.

Social Security Trust Fund: Why no truth?

Regardless of one’s attitude towards the Social Security system, the refusal by liberals to admit the fraud of the system’s trust fund remains an obstacle to honest discussion of the system’s future.

Here’s an example from a prominent defender of the myth of the Social Security Trust Fund, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. In an editorial from earlier this year, Sanders said those who tell the truth about the Social Security Trust Fund are a “barrage of misinformation.” He went on to describe the trust fund: “Social Security invests its surpluses, as it should, in U.S Treasury bonds, the safest interest-bearing securities in the world. These are the same bonds that wealthy investors and China and other foreign countries have purchased. The bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, which in our long history has never defaulted on its debt obligations. In other words, Social Security investments are safe.”

Closer to home, and typical of many hometown newspapers, a recent letter in the Wichita Eagle read: “There is $2.5 trillion in the trust fund as U.S. Treasury bonds. These bonds are just as real as those held by mutual funds and foreign banks.”

The debate over the nature of the trust fund is important. It strikes at the trust we should have — or not have — in government.

So: Is there $2.6 trillion in treasury bonds in the trust fund, and will the bonds be repaid?

Yes, I believe it is true. These bonds, all $2.6 trillion, will be repaid.

That simple belief, however, is an example of what economist Thomas Sowell calls “stage one” thinking. This mode of thinking looks at only the immediate effects or implications of something. It doesn’t ask the question: “And then what will happen?”

Simple as this seems — “What happens next?” — we find this to be an afterthought in politics. Writes Sowell: “Most thinking stops at stage one. In recent years, former economic advisers to presidents of the United States — from both political parties — have commented publicly on how little thinking ahead about economic consequences went into decisions made at the highest level. This is not to say that there was no thinking ahead about political consequences. Each of the presidents they served (Nixon and Clinton) was so successful politically that he was re-elected by a wider margin than the vote that first put him in office.”

In the case of the Social Security Trust Fund, the bonds it holds will be repaid. But we need to ask the “stage two” question: “What must the government do to pay back the bonds in the trust fund?” First, we must recognize that the federal agencies that received the proceeds of these bonds promptly spent the money. They didn’t spend it on income-producing assets that might generate a stream of cash flows that could be used to pay off the bonds. Instead, the money was spent on the day-to-day-operations of the federal government. This represents money that Congress and the president spent without specifically raising taxes or borrowing through the normal process.

At some time when the Social Security Administration wants to redeem the bonds, there are three choices: Raise taxes, reduce services, or create new money through the Federal Reserve System. Each robs us of wealth — either by paying more taxes, paying the same taxes for fewer services, or having the value of our money stolen through inflation.

It’s not just me who says this. Here’s a cautionary note from the Social Security Administration Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), fiscal year 2010, page 111: (OASI and DI trust funds are the two major components of Social Security that are financed by the payroll tax deduction.)

The U.S. Treasury does not set aside financial assets to cover its liabilities associated with the OASI and DI Trust Funds. The cash received from the OASI and DI Trust Funds for investment in these securities is used by the U.S. Treasury for general Government purposes. Treasury special securities provide the OASI and DI Trust Funds with authority to draw upon the U.S. Treasury to make future benefit payments or other expenditures. When the OASI and DI Trust Funds require redemption of these securities to make expenditures, the Government finances those expenditures out of accumulated cash balances, by raising taxes or other receipts, by borrowing from the public or repaying less debt, or by curtailing other expenditures. This is the same way that the Government finances all other expenditures.

There it is: “This is the same way that the Government finances all other expenditures.” There are no economically valuable assets in the trust fund. There is simply the realization that the U.S. government will tax more, provide less, or inflate the currency in order to make good on its promises. If you need any other proof, here’s another passage from the same report:

Treasury special securities are an asset to the OASI and DI Trust Funds and a liability to the U.S. Treasury. Because the OASI and DI Trust Funds and the U.S. Treasury are both part of the Government, these assets and liabilities offset each other for consolidation purposes in the U.S. Govemmentwide financial statements. For this reason, they do not represent a net asset or a net liability in the U.S. Govemmentwide financial statements.

It is as if I lend my wife $20 and accept her promise to repay. The financial position of my family has not changed.

The question is: Why do so many not want to face the facts about the Social Security Trust Fund?

The reason is that we’ve been lied to by politicians of both parties, and by politicians both conservative and liberal. Politicians like Sanders are still lying to us. The sham of the trust fund is an indication of the failure of government, and politicians of all parties do not want to admit this.

We must realize that no matter how bad the behavior of past politicians, the reality of the Social Security Trust Fund is the hand we’ve been dealt, and the basis on which decisions about the future must be made. The continuing refusal by most liberal politicians, starting with President Barack Obama, to accept this reality is harmful and is an obstacle to forging a solution.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday June 29, 2011

We have tried that before. Burt Folsom, who has written a book on Franklin Roosevelt’s economic policies and spoke in Wichita on that topic, warns us of the folly of government spending as a means to economic recovery. Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury to FDR, said this seven years into the New Deal: “Now, gentlemen, we have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” … Some have charged that this quotation is a fabrication, but Folsom has the proof in his article We Have Tried Spending Money. … The quotation by Morganthau continues with: “And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. … And an enormous debt to boot.”

How can the Fed be so clueless? Investor’s Business Daily: “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says he’s puzzled by the failure of the economy to respond to our government’s many ministrations. Which explains much of why our economy is such a mess. … Not to be rude, but can the nation’s top banker really be so clueless? Anyone with half a lick of common sense looking at our economy knows what’s wrong: We’ve spent the better part of three years with government making the most extraordinary interventions in the economy in our nation’s history. Government spending, as a share of the economy, has soared 25%. Regulations, many of them arbitrary and foolish, such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs, have never been more numerous.” … The piece goes on to list many of the unwise policies the government has followed: ARRA stimulus, TARP, GM and Chrysler, Dodd-Frank, etc. In conclusion: “A handful of bureaucrats can never set prices or allocate goods or decide what should be made as efficiently as millions of people acting in their own interest through a free and open market. Our policymakers seem to have forgotten this. They make statements that indicate they don’t know the damage their policies are doing or they are willfully oblivious to them.”

Deficit is probably worse than thought. “We should be prepared for upward revisions in official deficit projections in the years ahead — even if a deal is struck,” writes Lawrence B. Lindsey in The Wall Street Journal. The reasons why projects of deficits are too optimistic are three: The interest rates being contemplated for Treasury borrowing are probably too low, the growth rates for the economy are too large, and the long-run costs of ObamaCare are way too low. Writes Lindsey: “There is no way to raise taxes enough to cover these problems. The tax-the-rich proposals of the Obama administration raise about $700 billion, less than a fifth of the budgetary consequences of the excess economic growth projected in their forecast. The whole $700 billion collected over 10 years would not even cover the difference in interest costs in any one year at the end of the decade between current rates and the average cost of Treasury borrowing over the last 20 years.” He recommends long-term reduction in entitlement spending as the only cure. See The deficit is worse than we think: Normal interest rates would raise debt-service costs by $4.9 trillion over 10 years, dwarfing the savings from any currently contemplated budget deal..

Blue pill or red pill? “Great expectations” are placed on the hope of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) as a way to save money on health care costs, both in the private and public sector. Now a report published by Manhattan Institute finds that this technique, despite its appealing name and promise, may not be the magic pill that President Obama is relying on: “This result seems counterintuitive: How can it be that, when a CER study shows no difference between two drugs, limiting coverage for the more expensive drug could actually increase costs?” The report explains that individuals are different, and what applies to the “average” patient may not be right for a large number of other patients. A second reason is “variance in dependence in patient responses across therapies.” The report provides illustrations of where CER-based policies cost more. … Concluding, the executive summary states: “Our results suggest that CER will not fulfill its promise unless it is implemented differently by researchers and understood differently by policymakers. Simply put, seeking the treatment that is most effective on average will not improve health or save money. However, CER can be conducted in a way that takes difference and dependence into account and measures their effect. If CER is applied in this way — as a tool for matching individual patients to the best treatments for those individuals — it will realize its potential to reduce costs without inhibiting freedom of choice for doctors and patients.” … The report is Blue Pill or Red Pill: The Limits of Comparative Effectiveness Research

Even quicker. “For the roughly four million homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments, the federal government is offering yet another remedy: free money to catch up on their loans.” See SmartMoney: More Money for Struggling Homeowners. … The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a boil water advisory for the city of Waterville, which is located in Marshall County. I guess there’s no water in Waterville today. … Strong public support found for “Cut, cap, and balance,” a program to bring the federal budget under control. See National Taxpayer Union: New Poll Highlights Public Support for Cut, Cap and Balance. … Rasmussen: “Most voters continue to feel America needs to do more to develop domestic gas and oil resources. They also still give the edge to finding new sources of oil over reducing gas and oil consumption.” … Becker on Speculators: “Put differently, speculation tends to be stabilizing when speculators are making money because they have correct expectations about price movements, and destabilizing when they are losing money because their expectations turn out to be wrong. Given that the fundamentals imply large price movements from rather small shocks to supply and demand, and that successful speculation tends to moderate price movements, it is hard to believe that speculation has played a major role in causing the large swings in oil prices.” Do you hear that, Bill O’Reilly?

Quantitative easing: another round?

With uncertainty on the rise globally, talk of a new round of quantitative easing — it would be QE3 — is increasingly common. QE is a policy where the U.S. Federal Reserve System creates additional money through its open market operations.

Last year the Fed announced QE2, a policy of buying $600 billion in bonds, meaning that $600 billion in new money will have been created by the time the program ends in June. While it is commonly said that the Fed prints new money to pay for these bonds, the bonds are paid for via bookkeeping entries, sort of an electronic bill pay system between the Fed and banks who sell the bonds. That’s even cheaper than printing stacks of $100 bills. Reason explains in more detail how QE works:

One simplified way to describe how this round of quantitative easing will work is this: The Fed doles out $600 billion in made-up money to the world’s biggest banks, who make a tidy profit on the sale and then split that profit up into bonuses. As Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon writes, “We’re not exactly helping the unemployed here.”

The actual process is slightly more complicated, but not much more appealing. Once the members of the Federal Open Market Committee vote to buy additional bonds, the Fed schedules a series of sales, and notifies the banks on its list of primary dealers — 18 very large banks. Those banks then buy up bonds with the intention of selling them at higher rates to the Fed. And then when the scheduled sales come around, they trade their store of bonds for money that the Fed has newly created, as The Washington Post explained, “essentially out of thin air.” Interest rates go down. Inflation goes up. Investors, knowing that money is cheap now and might not be worth as much later, start to spend. The economy gets back in gear.

At least that’s the idea. It’s not the first time the Fed has pursued the QE strategy (hence QE2), and the first go-round wasn’t an obvious success. When the financial crisis first landed, the Fed pumped $1.7 trillion into the system, yet failed to lift the economy out of its sluggish state. By the time this round of quantitative easing ends, the Fed will have added almost $3 trillion to the money supply — and that’s if it quits with $600 billion.

One major worry is that all that extra currency will only lead to out of control inflation.

For another explanation of QE and whether it works, a video from last November explains.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday March 13, 2011

Wichita city council this week. There is no meeting of the Wichita City Council this week, as most members will be attending a meeting of the National League of Cities in Washington, DC. These conferences are designed to help council members be more effective. But for three of the council members that will be attending, their future service on the council is measured in days, not years. These three lame duck members — Sue Schlapp, Paul Gray, and Roger Smith — will be leaving the council in April when their terms end. Their participation in this conference, at taxpayer expense, is nothing more than a junket — for lame ducks.

How attitudes can differ. At a recent forum of city council candidates, one candidate mentioned the five or six police officers conducting security screening of visitors seeking to enter Wichita city hall, recognizing that this doesn’t create a welcoming atmosphere for citizens. Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell said he thought the officers are “accommodating and welcoming.” It should be noted that Longwell carries a card that allows him to effortlessly enter city hall through turnstiles that bypass the screening that citizens endure. Further, it’s natural that the police officers are deferential to Longwell, just as most employees are to their bosses. … This attitude of Longwell is an example of just how removed elected officials can be from the citizens — and reality, too. Coupled with the closing of the city hall parking garage to citizens and the junket for lame ducks described above, the people of Wichita sense city hall elected officials and bureaucrats becoming increasingly removed from the concerns of the average person.

Private property and the price system. In The Science of Success, Charles Koch succinctly explains the importance of private property and prices to market economies and prosperity, how government planning can’t benefit from these factors, and the tragedy of the commons: “Private property is essential for both a market economy and prosperity. There cannot be a market economy without private property, and a society without private property cannot have prosperity. To ensure ongoing innovation in satisfying people’s needs, there must be a robust and evolving system of private property rights. Without a market system based on private property, no one can know how to effectively allocate resources. This is because they lack the information that comes from market prices. Those prices depend on voluntary exchanges by owners of private property. Prices and the resulting profit and loss guide entrepreneurs toward satisfying the needs of consumers. Through this system, consumers are able to direct entrepreneurs in efficiently allocating resources through knowledge and incentives in a way no central authority can. … The biggest problems in society have occurred in those areas thought to be best controlled in common: the atmosphere, bodies of water, air, streets, the body politic and human virtue. They all reflect aspects of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ and function much better when methods are devised to give them characteristics of private property.”

Toward a free market in education. From The Objective Standard: “More and more Americans are coming to recognize the superiority of private schools over government-run or ‘public’ schools. Accordingly, many Americans are looking for ways to transform our government-laden education system into a thriving free market. As the laws of economics dictate, and as the better economists have demonstrated, under a free market the quality of education would soar, the range of options would expand, competition would abound, and prices would plummet. The question is: How do we get there from here?” Read more at Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?. … This week in Kansas a committee will hold a hearing on HB 2367, known as the Kansas Education Liberty Act. This bill would implement a system of tax credits to support school choice, much like explained in the article.

Are lottery tickets like a state-owned casino? This week a committee in the Kansas House of Representatives will hear testimony regarding HB 2340, which would, according to its fiscal note, “exempt from the statewide smoking ban any bar that is authorized to sell lottery tickets under the Kansas Lottery Act.” The reasoning is that since the statewide smoking ban doesn’t apply to casinos because it would lessen revenue flowing to the state from gaming, the state ought to allow smoking where lottery tickets are sold, as they too generate revenue for the state.

Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve. This month’s meeting of the Wichita chapter of Americans for Prosperity, Kansas features a DVD presentation from the Ludwig von Mises Institute titled “Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve.” About the presentation: “Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson understood “The Monster.” But to most Americans today, Federal Reserve is just a name on the dollar bill. They have no idea of what the central bank does to the economy, or to their own economic lives; of how and why it was founded and operates; or of the sound money and banking that could end the statism, inflation, and business cycles that the Fed generates.” The event is Monday (March 14) at 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Wichita-area legislators to meet public. Saturday (March 19th) members of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation will meet with the public. The meeting will be at Derby City Hall, 611 Mulberry Road (click for map), starting at 9:00 am. Generally these meetings last for two hours. Then on April 23 — right before the “wrap-up session” — there will be another meeting at the Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex, 5015 E. 29th Street (at Oliver).

Pompeo to meet with public. If you don’t get your fill of politics for the day after the meeting with state legislators, come meet with United States Representative Mike Pompeo, who is just completing two months in office. Pompeo will be holding a town hall meeting at Maize City Hall, 10100 W. Grady (click for map) starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday March 19th.

Losing the brains race. Veronique de Rugy writing in Reason: “In November the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its Program for International Student Assessment scores, measuring educational achievement in 65 countries. The results are depressingly familiar: While students in many developed nations have been learning more and more over time, American 15-year-olds are stuck in the middle of the pack in many fundamental areas, including reading and math. Yet the United States is near the top in education spending.” … A solution is to introduce competition through markets in education: “Because of the lack of competition in the K–12 education system. Schooling in the United States is still based largely on residency; students remain tied to the neighborhood school regardless of how bad its performance may be. … With no need to convince students and parents to stay, schools in most districts lack the incentive to serve student needs or differentiate their product. To make matters worse, this lack of competition continues at the school level, where teacher hiring and firing decisions are stubbornly divorced from student performance, tied instead to funding levels and tenure.” The author notes that wealthy families already have school choice, as they can afford private schools or can afford to move to areas with public schools they think are better than the schools in most urban districts.

Teachers unions explained. A supporter of the teachers unions is questioned about her belief that the unions need more money and power. In Kansas, the teachers union in the form of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) and its affiliates consistently opposes any attempt at reform.

Supply-side economics, not taxes, cure for recession, audience told

Sound money and income tax cuts — the elements of supply-side economics — have produced economic growth in America, according to Dr. Brian Domitrovic of Sam Houston State University. When our country imposes inflationary loose money policies and high income taxes, economic growth suffers, as in the period from 1973 to 1982. Unfortunately, these are the policies of President Barack Obama and his administration.

Domitrovic lectured on principles in his book Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity last night at Friends University. His lecture was part of the Law, Liberty & the Market lecture series, which is underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation in Wichita.

“Unemployment at nine percent, five grueling quarters of decline in GDP growth, the stock market snapped back from its horrid 50 percent decline, but still needing a good 25 percent to get back to its old high: this has been some economic contraction.” While this may sound like a description of the current recession, it’s not. Instead, Domitrovic was describing the recession of 1974 and 1975. The stagflation period from 1973 to 1982, characterized by both high unemployment and high inflation, was a dark period in American history.

There was also a mortgage and foreclosure crisis during that decade, but it affected the most prudent homeowners the worst. Property taxes in California went up five-fold in a period of ten years. Selling your house resulted in the loss of half your equity because of the capital gains taxes that were in effect then.

While unemployment is high today, inflation is low, with prices even declining slightly last year. Being unemployed while prices are rising at nine percent per year — or 33 percent during one two-year period — is much worse than being unemployed today.

In 1980 the bank prime interest rate reached 22%. (It’s 3.25% today.) It was impossible to save money in the 1970s, as the real tax rates on saving exceeded one hundred percent.

Our economic crisis today is the “junior partner” to the stagflation decade. Our current political leaders should not be comparing the current situation to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Instead, the stagflation period has better lessons to teach us. It took 20 years for American living standards to recover to the level attained before the Great Depression started, Domitrovic told the audience, so we should not implement the same policies in response to the current recession.

Instead, we have a fairly recent crisis — the stagflation period — which was solved “so firmly, so efficiently, so permanently” that the quarter-century following this period is known as the “Great Moderation.” There was economic growth year after year, inflation nearly vanished, unemployment was low, interest rates settled, businesses started, and stocks and bonds boomed.

It was supply-side economics that ended the stagflation and lead to the long period of prosperity, the Great Moderation. Failing to embrace supply-side economics as a response to the economic problems that arose in 2008 was one of our greatest mistakes.

As the current crisis enters its third year, we should not be surprised that recovery is slow to arrive. “Tepid and incomplete recovery was, in fact, the record of the New Deal, which our policymakers have looked to for inspiration,” Domitrovic explained.

Supply-side economics consists of stable money and marginal tax cuts. These are the policies that defeated stagflation and lead to the Great Moderation.

Domitrovic explained that in 1913, two great institutions of macroeconomic management were created, the Federal Reserve system and the income tax. Prior to this time, the United States had no ability to conduct macroeconomic policy, either fiscal or monetary policy.

Since 1913, the economic history of the U.S. has been that of “serial disaster.” From 1913 to 1919, prices increased by 100 percent. Prior to that, there had never a peacetime inflation in the U.S. The top rate of the income tax, which started at a rate of seven percent, had increased to 77 percent by 1917. From 1919 to 1921, the U.S. experienced its worse recession up to that time. Unemployment rose to 18 percent. Prior to this time, unemployment was not a problem.

The fix was President Warren Harding’s Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon telling the Federal Reserve to keep the dollar stable instead of trying to manipulate the price level, and the income tax rate was cut by two-thirds. As a result, from 1921 to 1929 inflation was low, less than one percent, and that nation experienced the boom known as the Roaring Twenties. Economic progress boomed.

But in 1929, the Federal Reserve started to deflate the currency in an attempt to get prices back to the 1913 level. In 1932 the top income tax rate was raised to 63 percent from 25 percent. “There you have the Great Depression,” Domitrovic said. It was a crisis of macroeconomic management, not a failure of capitalism, as is commonly believed.

Franklin Roosevelt instructed the Federal Reserve to keep the price level steady, which was one good policy he implemented. But he increased income tax rates.

In 1947 income tax rates were cut and the Federal Reserve pursued stable prices after the inflation of World War II.

A pattern emerged: stable prices coupled with income tax cuts lead to recovery. When these policies are not applied, recovery was weak and collapsed. These patterns repeated through the rest of the century.

During the Eisenhower Administration, the top tax rate was 91 percent. Eisenhower refused to cut taxes, and there were three recessions during his presidency.

John F. Kennedy wanted to solve the crisis. His advisors told him to loosen money and raise taxes, even though the top marginal rate was 91 percent. The idea, according to recently-deceased economist and Kennedy adviser Paul Samuelson, was that by increasing the money supply people would spend money, which would cause production to increase and workers to be hired. But increasing the money supply produces inflationary pressures. The solution was very high income tax rates, which sops up the extra money that causes inflation.

But Robert Mundell, only 29 years old at the time, wrote a memo that advised the opposite, advocating stable money and low taxes. Kennedy adopted this policy, and a great boom resulted for seven years.

But Lyndon Johnson asked his Federal Reserve Chairman to increase the money supply, and passed an income tax surcharge to attempt to control the danger of inflation — the “neoclassical synthesis.” Inflation rose. Nixon increased the capital gains tax and established the alternative minimum tax. The result was the double-dip recession of 1969 to 1970, which cost more in economic output than the cost of the entire Viet Nam war.

Still, the Federal Reserve kept increasing the money supply, and the income tax rate was increased. Nixon insisted that printing money would save the economy, and in order to control inflation, Nixon imposed price controls. The result was an investment strike. If businesses could not charge the prices they needed, they would enter other fields of businesses, such as commodities. The prices of commodities rose rapidly, and there was the terrible double-dip recession of 1974 to 1975.

Mundell, along with Robert Bartley of the Wall Street Journal and others, started to encourage government to tighten the money supply and lower taxes. At the same time United States Representative Jack Kemp introduced a bill calling for a large tax cut and stable money. Kemp’s bill passed both houses of Congress with a veto-proof majority. But Jimmy Carter had it killed in committee.

If not for Carter’s action, the Kemp-Roth tax cuts would have become law in November 1978. These tax cuts, had they been passed and been coupled with Carter’s appointment of Paul Volcker — an advocate of stable money — as chairman of the Federal Reserve in August 1979, would have found the policy elements of “Reaganomics” in place at that time. Domitrovic said the economy would have recovered rapidly, and it is likely that Ronald Reagan would not have run for president in 1980.

Instead, the period from 1979 to 1981 was a brutal period of economic history, with high unemployment, high inflation, and tanking markets.

Upon entering office, Reagan was able to implement sound money policy and tax cuts — by then called supply-side economics — and the economy started the boom that lasted for 25 years. During this time there was only one recession, in 1990 and 1991. This is in contrast to the three recessions during Eisenhower’s eight years in office.

Supply-side economics is one of the greatest success stories in economics and government, Domitrovic said. Despite evidence of its success, despite the fact that every objection to it has collapsed, policymakers did not follow its policies in 2008. Objections to supply-side economics that have proven to be unfounded include:

It is inflationary. This is the basis for George H.W. Bush’s characterization of supply-side economics as “voodoo” economics. But inflation since 1982 has been very low.

It would cause crowding-out. This refers to the fact that tax cuts can cause budget deficits, and the government would have to borrow so much money that none would be available for private business investment. But the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s were a period of historic expansion, with the Dow Jones stock market average increasing by a factor of 15 during this time.

Government debt is a burden to future generations. But the nation experienced great prosperity and economic expansion during the Great Moderation, and interest payments on the debt were not a major burden.

Tax cuts would place the U.S. in a “fiscal hole,” with budget deficits forever. But by the 1990s we were running budget surpluses. Domitrovic said that when Clinton balanced the budget in 2000, the total level of government expenditure was 18.4 percent of gross domestic product. In Reagan’s last year in office (1989) revenues were 18.4 percent of GDP. “In other words, Reagan’s tax policy plus Clinton’s spending policy was exactly sufficient for a perfectly balanced budget.”

Supply-side economics causes inequality. But Domitrovic said that tax cuts mean that wealthy people don’t have to hide their income from taxes, making their income more productive publicly. Inequality has decreased.

Summarizing, Domitrovic told the audience that the lessons of the Great Moderation are that when the institutions of 1913 — Federal Reserve and the income tax — are tamed, the American economy does wonderful things. Stable money and low taxes, combined with the entrepreneurial knack of Americans, produces remarkable economic growth and job opportunities. But when the macroeconomic institutions of 1913 run a muck the economy will suffer. The current policies of the Obama Administration — loose money and rising taxes — are not going to produce prosperity.

Response to economic crisis to be subject of Wichita lecture

Tomorrow night at Friends University Dr. Brian Domitrovic of Sam Houston State University will deliver a lecture titled “Economic Crisis: Have We Learned from History?” Domitrovic is the author of the book Econoclasts: The Rebels Who Sparked the Supply-Side Revolution and Restored American Prosperity.

In an email message Professor Domitrovic gave a preview of his lecture: “I’ll discuss the history of policy responses to economic crisis over the last century. The unbroken record of that history is that when the crisis was met with stable money from the Fed and income tax cuts, the crisis was dispatched; and that when solutions other than this supply-side policy mix were applied, the crisis festered until the proper cure came. I’ll devote special attention to the 1919-21 and 1961 crises, before reserving words for the stagflation era and the supply-side solution that ended it. The lessons for today should jump off the page.”

Domitrovic’s website is Econoclasts.

This free lecture and following reception is Tuesday April 20, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, in rooms 101-102 of the Marriage & Family Therapy facility on the Friends campus. It’s building number 10 on this map, just north of Kellogg Drive on Hiram Street.

This event, which is part of the Law, Liberty & the Market lecture series, is underwritten by the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation in Wichita.

Money, Banking and the Federal Reserve

Events over the last year have placed our nation’s monetary system in focus. Or, at least it should be in sharp focus, as U.S. monetary policy and the Federal Reserve System bear much responsibility for the financial crisis and the accompanying recession. Few politicians, Ron Paul being one, are looking in the right places for the cause of the problem. His campaign to audit the Fed is a good first step.

The problems with our system of money have been known for many years. This video, dating from 1996, produced by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, explains the problem and its history. It’s 42 minutes long and well worth the time. Here’s more information from the Mises Institute:

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson understood “The Monster”. But to most Americans today, Federal Reserve is just a name on the dollar bill. They have no idea of what the central bank does to the economy, or to their own economic lives; of how and why it was founded and operates; or of the sound money and banking that could end the statism, inflation, and business cycles that the Fed generates.

Dedicated to Murray N. Rothbard, steeped in American history and Austrian economics, and featuring Ron Paul, Joseph Salerno, Hans Hoppe, and Lew Rockwell, this extraordinary new film is the clearest, most compelling explanation ever offered of the Fed, and why curbing it must be our first priority.

Alan Greenspan is not, we’re told, happy about this 42-minute blockbuster. Watch it, and you’ll understand why. This is economics and history as they are meant to be: fascinating, informative, and motivating. This movie could change America.

It’s time to audit the Federal Reserve Bank

I received a press release from the Libertarian Party of Kansas announcing their support for legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Ron Paul that would “audit the centralized/privatized banks that make up the Federal Reserve System.”

“The secretive FR [Federal Reserve] is a monetary oligarchy and an unelected monopoly that has control of credit, interest, volume and value of our currency. Until the people regain control of their money, bankers and not the government, will control the situation and our property,” says Al Terwelp, Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of Kansas. “We must have the ability to search for the truth in FR practices and once it is found only then can we exercise justice for all. Without openness, our Republic’s existence is in jeopardy, for every dollar, every citizen, every issue of monetary, social and foreign policy is connected to the hegemony that is the Federal Reserve.”

Personally, I find that most people have no idea of what the Federal Reserve does, or that it creates money out of thin air. It doesn’t even have to print it, as all it has to do is make some computerized ledger entries, and there’s new some money.

Rep. Paul’s bill that would requre the audit of the Fed, HR 1207, has 237 co-sponsors in the House, including Kansas’ Tiahrt, Moran, and Jenkins. Rep. Dennis Moore of Johnson County is not a sponsor.

Rep. Paul has a resource page with much information about the legislation and the need for it at Audit the Federal Reserve: HR 1207 and S 604.