Election 2012

How Presidential Candidate Ron Paul's Campaign Could End the Fed

Led by presidential candidate Ron Paul's "end the Fed" mantra, Republicans have made their attacks on the U.S. Federal Reserve into an election year rallying cry.

It's one that could turn ugly in November if the GOP manages to score big.

Where Paul has been the lone voice in the wilderness criticizing the central bank for years, others in the GOP recently adopted the Fed as a scapegoat for the financial crisis of 2008.

Many of the Republican attacks include calls to fire Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and to scale back the Fed's mandate - or in Paul's case, eradicate it altogether.

And while Paul - who actually wrote a book called "End the Fed" in 2008 - has little chance of becoming the nominee, his campaign does have a larger philosophical objective.

"It is Paul's goal to permanently establish within the Republican Party a group that is dead set on not having the Fed," Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, during his 2008 run for the presidency,told MarketWatch. "This is not going away."


Ron Paul Scores Big With Younger Voters

Although Paul's overall support generally hovers in the low double digits, his message is very popular among younger Republican voters.

Paul won 48% of the under-30 vote in Iowa, 47% of the under-30 vote in New Hampshire and 31% in South Carolina. It's a demographic every candidate covets.

Paul's resonance with young voters, combined with the public's dim view of the Fed has set off an all-out GOP assault on the central bank.

For added juice, Republicans in general have sought to tie their criticisms of the Fed to U.S. President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

"If you are a [Republican] running for Congress - those freshmen in the House - they thought that Bernanke was walking around talking about buying assets for Obama to make it easier for him to spend," Holtz-Eakin told MarketWatch. "It lit the fuse."

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Five Things Obama Didn't Want You to Hear in His State of the Union

Seeking to put the best possible spin on his message, President Barack Obama took some liberties with the truth in his State of the Union address.

Although the president never actually lied, he repeatedly left out facts that contradict his claims of success.

President Obama hadn't yet left the House chamber when the reality check started. And it didn't take long to find some pretty big the holes in the State of the Union address.

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Restoring the Dream: State of the Union Pitches an Economy "Built to Last"

In a speech before the nation last night, President Obama's State of the Union Address spoke of a new American economy that is "built to last."

Of course, in the wake of the dot com bubble, the subprime mortgage fiasco and the funny money of the last decade, that's certainly an objective all of us can heartily agree with.

The American Dream is in need of repair.

The good news is that with one exception the President's State of the Union Address did outlined some useful steps that could be taken to help boost the economic recovery.

Naturally though, I think the details could use a little tweaking!

The Worthy Goals in the State of the Union Address

To start off with, the President outlined his primary strategy to help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. That's an entirely worthy objective.

What's more, this goal actually has a decent chance of being met--- at least partially.

Here's why...

Chinese manufacturing costs have been rising rapidly over last few years, since its workforce is now demanding a larger share of the profits in the country's new found prosperity.

Also the President was correct when he claimed that there are several intrinsic advantages to manufacturing here in the states. As a result, the cost equation has been swinging pretty rapidly in favor of bringing manufacturing jobs back home.

His example of the Master Lock plant in Milwaukee running at full capacity for the first time in fifteen years is just part of a greater trend.

The President's proposal to lower corporate tax rates, while eliminating the loopholes that allow companies like General Electric to pay almost no U.S. taxes, will also undoubtedly help to bring even more manufacturing jobs back home.

Not only is this sensible, the President's proposal is politically clever as well.

After all, it's always pretty smart to call for something already starting to happen. That way your success is almost guaranteed!

Unfortunately, some of the President's other ideas were less satisfying...



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State of the Union Excerpts Outline Speech Focused on Income Inequality, Job Creation

According to excerpts released by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama will deliver an ambitious speech when he addresses the nation at 9 p.m. ET today (Tuesday) in the annual State of the Union. His plans for 2012 will focus on job creation, rebuilding the middle class, U.S. government spending, and tax reform. State […]

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GDP Is a Lie – It’s Time for a New Measure of Economic Growth

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the most commonly used measure of economic growth. But GDP isn't just inaccurate and misleading - it's the contrivance of Keynesian economists seeking to push their own, big-government agenda.

That's right. GDP is a financial ruse - the biggest of the past half-century. And it's time to move past it to another, more accurate measure of economic growth.

Keynesian economist Simon Kuznets designed GDP at the height of the New Deal era. Kuznets first revealed the measure in a report to Congress in 1934. GDP takes into account consumption, investment and government expenditure to create a measure of economic growth.

But the Keynesians employed some chicanery, or sleight-of-hand, to generate this statistic. A close look reveals the dirty little secret about GDP: It intentionally overplays the importance of government spending - and in doing so inflates the role that Washington plays in each of our lives.

And it's been doing this for 77 years ...

The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century

Gross domestic product is supposed to be a measure of all the goods and services produced here at home.

But there's a discrepancy.

You see, private-sector output is measured by the price people are prepared to pay for it. But government output is fudged: It's measured by its cost.

That means GDP increases any time the government spends money. It doesn't matter if that money is actually put to productive use or not - GDP rises nonetheless.

The bureaucrat devising regulations that damage business? His salary increases GDP. The $300 million Alaskan "bridge to nowhere" of a few years back? That was $300 million added to GDP. The jet-fighter project that costs billions, and is plagued by huge overruns that lead to its cancellation? Those billions add to GDP.

Even public-spending "stimulus" programs, however foolish, are always effective according to the GDP definition, because their cost is simply added to output.

It's obvious why big-government Keynesians would like this calculation: It substantiates their claim that government spending stimulates economic growth.

In the real world, however, this makes no sense. Indeed, none of the examples above actually add to economic welfare.

Don't misunderstand - some government output is very valuable. We could not exist in a free society without a court system that protects our property rights and a national defense that protects our borders. In most other cases, however, if government output were truly cost effective, the private sector would've already taken the initiative (and probably done so at lower cost and greater impact).

So how can you get an accurate measure of economic growth?

Arithmetically, there's a simple solution: You take Line 1, "Gross Domestic Product," in the Bureau of Economic Analysis' GDP Table and subtract from it Line 21, "Government Consumption Expenditures andGrossInvestment. "

That gives you a net number, which we can call "gross private product," or GPP. It's a measure of all the output produced by the private sector. In general, it will underestimate national "welfare" unless government is really bad. But it will give you a much better idea of the output the market economy is producing.

Indeed, looking at GPP's past performance helps to explain some things that GDP doesn't.

Keynesians like to proclaim that World War II got America out of the Great Depression: Thus, if you make stimulus big enough, it will solve economic problems.

This is the biggest lie of the 20th century.

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The Debt-Ceiling Debate: Three Federal Tax Increases That Could Save the U.S. Economy

As the debt-ceiling debate escalates, U.S President Barack Obama says federal tax increases are necessary to close the U.S. budget deficit.

Although Republicans then said that tax hikes were "off the table," this statement is reminiscent of a toddler who threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue if you make him eat spinach.

Given that our elected leaders in Congress just can't seem to curb their spending addiction, the unpleasant reality is that some types of tax hikes are essentially inevitable.

Truth be told, I can show you three tax increases that should be enacted.

As a taxpayer, that statement will probably make you wince in anticipated pain.

But once I've made my case, I'm betting that the investor in you will agree that these three federal tax increases could save the U.S. economic recovery.

Let's take a look ...

Federal Tax Increases We Don't Want to See

If we ignore the debt-ceiling debate (and the Aug. 2 deadline for increasing the ceiling) for a minute, and just consider the health and welfare of the U.S. economy, we can see that there are a number of federal tax increases that would be highly counterproductive.

One example: boosting the corporate tax rate above 35%.

Except for Japan, the United States already has the highest corporate tax rate in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Corporations don't pay much tax because they are able to keep profits overseas in tax-free jurisdictions and employ leasing and other tax breaks. It would make much more sense to lower the corporate tax rate - perhaps to 30% - and close many of the loopholes so that the "yield" (what's actually collected) is the same or perhaps even a little higher.

Similarly, it makes no sense to increase the 15% tax on dividend income. Dividends are paid by corporations out of their after-tax income. The levy on dividends - paid by the company's shareholders - means those companies actually suffer from a "double-taxation" rate of about 47%.

This encourages companies to fool around with stock options, repurchase agreements and with overpriced acquisitions, thus ripping off ordinary shareholders and reducing the economy's efficiency.

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How to Fix the U.S. Housing Market

If this week's economic reports showed us anything, it's the fact that two years into what's supposed to be an economic recovery, the U.S. housing market remains on life support.

But here's what those reports didn't tell you: If the housing market isn't fixed soon, it's going to drag the rest of the economy down into a hellish bottom that will take years, if not decades, to crawl out of.

The housing market is our single-most important generator of gross domestic product (GDP) and, ultimately, national wealth.

It's time we fixed what's broken and implemented new financing and tax strategies to stabilize prices.

Contrary to the naysayers - and in spite of political pandering and procrastination - we can almost immediately execute a simple two-pronged plan to fix mortgage financing and stabilize U.S. housing prices.

I call it a not-so-modest proposal.

The Worst Since the Great Depression

The facts are frightening: We are in a bad place. The plunge in housing prices we've seen during the current downturn is on par with the horrific freefall the U.S. housing market experienced during the Great Depression.

And without an effective plan to arrest the double-dip in housing, there's no bottom in sight.

Hope Now, an alliance of lenders, investors and non-profits formed at the behest of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, counts 3.45 million homes being foreclosed from 2007 through 2010. Current estimates of pending and potential foreclosures range from another 4 million to as many as 14 million.

According to RealtyTrac, a real-estate data provider, the country's biggest banks and mortgage lenders are sitting on 872,000 repossessed homes. If you add in the rest of the nation's banks, lenders and mortgage-servicers, the true number of these REO (real-estate owned) homes is closer to 1.9 million.

These shocking statistics illustrate just how large the current overhang of bank-owned properties actually is (at current sales levels, REO properties would take three years to unload). And they help us to understand how the staggering number of yet to-be-foreclosed, repossessed, and sold homes will depress U.S. housing market prices for years to come.



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Special Report: How the Government is Setting Us Up for a Second Subprime Crisis

[Editor's Note: Shah Gilani, a retired hedge fund manager and noted expert on the global credit crisis, predicted this developing FHA debacle in a July 2008 Money Morning essay.] Is the government creating another subprime-mortgage bubble? The first time around, the three-headed federal serpent – the Bush administration, the Treasury Department and the U.S. Federal […]

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The Slow Death of General Motors

By Martin Hutchinson Contributing Editor Money Morning U.S. President Barack Obama's firing of General Motors Corp. (GM) Chief Executive Officer G. Richard Wagoner Jr. may be the beginning of the final act of a long and sad drama – the slow death of GM. The company nameplate may soldier on in some form, but it […]

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