RECOVERY OR BUBBLE?

The Virtual Recovery

By Paul Craig Roberts/ PaulCraigRoberts.org/ October 29, 2012

Since mid-2009 the US has been enjoying a virtual recovery courtesy of a rigged inflation measure that understates inflation. The financial Presstitutes spoon out the government’s propaganda that prices are rising less than 2%. But anyone who purchases food, fuel, medical care or anything else knows that low inflation is no more real that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or Gadhafi’s alleged attacks on Libyan protesters or Iran’s nuclear weapons. Everything is a lie to serve the power-brokers.

During the Clinton administration, Republican economists pushed through a change in the way the CPI is measured in order to save money by depriving Social Security retirees of their cost-of-living adjustment. Previously, the CPI measured the change in the cost of a constant standard of living. The new measure assumes that consumers adjust to price increases by lowering their standard of living by substituting lower quality, lower priced items. If the price, for example, of New York strip steak goes up, consumers are assumed to substitute the lower quality round steak. In other words, the new measure of inflation keeps inflation down by reflecting a lowered standard of living.

Statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com), who closely follows the collecting and reporting of official US economic statistics, reports that consumer inflation, as measured by the 1990 official government methodology has been running at about 5%. If the 1980 official methodology for measuring the CPI is used, John Williams reports that the current rate of US inflation is about 9%.

The 9% figure is more consistent with people’s experience in grocery stores.

Officially the recession that began in 2007 ended in June 2009 after 18 months, making the Bush Recession the longest recession since World War II. However, John Williams says that the recession has not ended. He says that only the GDP reporting, distorted by an erroneous measurement of inflation, shows a recovery. Other, more reliable measures of economic activity, show no recovery.

Williams reports that the economy began turning down in 2006, falling lower in 2008 and 2009, and bottom-bouncing ever since. Not only is there no sign of any recovery, but “the economic downturn now is intensifying once again.” The absence of an economic recovery “is evident in the [official] reporting of nearly all major economic series. Not one of these series shows a pattern of activity that confirms the recovery [shown] in the GDP series.”

Williams concludes that “the official recovery simply is a statistical illusion created by the government’s use of understated inflation in deflating the GDP.” In other words, the reported gains in GDP are accounted for by price increases, not increases in real output.

The result of the US government’s economic deception is the same as the deception Washington has used to start wars all over the Middle East. The government propaganda produces a make-believe virtual reality that bears no relationship to real reality. In history there have been many governments who have prevailed by deceiving the people, but Washington has moved this success to a new peak. As long as Americans believe anything Washington says, they are doomed.

It is easy to see why there is no economic recovery and cannot be an economic recovery. Look at the chart below (courtesy of John Williams, shadowstats.com).

Real median household income at the end of 2011 is back where it was in 1967-68. Moreover, Williams has deflated household income to get its real value by using the official inflation measure, which substantially understates inflation. If Williams had used the 1990 or 1980 official government methodology for calculating the consumer price index, the real median incomes of households would show a larger decline.

Moreover, the low 2011 real median household income is the summation, in most cases, of two household earners, whereas in 1967-68 one earner could produce the same real income. As Nobel economist Gary Becker, my former colleague as Business Week columnist, pointed out, when both husband and wife have to work in order to maintain the same purchasing power, household income from the wife’s in-kind household services is eliminated. Therefore, the monetary measure of the dual household income overstates income, because it is not adjusted for the lost benefits formerly provided by the wife who at home managed the household.

Americans are far more oppressed by the power brokers in Washington than statistics display. Moreover, the young are born into the oppressive, exploitative American system and do not know any different. They are fed by the Presstitute media with endless propaganda about how fortunate they are and how indispensable their wonderful country is. Americans are kept in a constant state of amusement, and many never grasp the loss of their civil liberties, job and career opportunities, and respect that the US won during the decades-long cold war with Soviet Communism.

On September 13, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben “Helicopter” Bernanke announced Quantitative Easing 3. Bernanke said that the recovery is weak and needs more Fed stimulus. He said the Fed will purchase $40 billion of mortgage bonds per month in order to drive interest rates further below the rate of inflation and help to sell more houses.

But how do you sell houses to households who are getting by with 1967-68 levels of real income and who have absolutely no job security? Their company can be taken over and offshored tomorrow or they can be replaced by foreign workers on H-1B visas. Housing prices have dropped, but not to 1967-68 levels.

Bernanke’s announcement that the Fed’s purchase of mortgage bonds is to spur housing and the economy is disinformation. Bernanke is purchasing the bonds in order to boost the values of the derivatives and debt instruments in the banks’ portfolios. Lower interest rates raise the value of the debt instruments on the banks’ balance sheets. By depriving American savers of a real interest rate on their savings, Bernanke makes the busted banks look solvent.

This is what is happening in “freedom and democracy” America. The vast majority of Americans, especially the retired, are forced to consume their savings and draw down their capital because they can get no real interest on their savings. The beneficiaries are the banksters, who can borrow at near zero interest rates, charge consumers 16% on their credit cards, and use the Federal Reserve’s largess to speculate on interest rate swaps and credit default swaps. The American taxpayers hold the bag for the banksters’ uncovered gambles.

Would you not gamble if the American taxpayers had to cover your bets, but your winnings were yours alone?  (CONTINUED-Read Entire Article Here)

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate.
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