Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Trillions for Wall Street


On Tuesday, the 30-year fixed rate for mortgages plunged to an all-time low of 4.56 per cent. Rates are falling because investors are still  moving into risk-free liquid assets, like Treasuries. It’s a sign of panic and the Fed’s lame policy response has done nothing to sooth the public’s fears. The flight-to-safety continues a full two years after Lehman Bros blew up.

Housing demand has fallen off a cliff in spite of the historic low rates. Purchases of new and existing homes are roughly 25 per cent of what they were at peak in 2006. Case/Schiller reported on Monday that June new homes sales were the “worst on record”, but the media twisted the story to create the impression that sales were actually improving! Here are a few of Monday’s misleading headlines: “New Home Sales Bounce Back in June”–Los Angeles Times. “Builders Lifted by June New-home Sales”, Marketwatch. “New Home Sales Rebound 24 per cent”, CNN. “June Sales of New Homes Climb more than Forecast”, Bloomberg.

The media’s lies are only adding to the sense of uncertainty. When uncertainty grows, long-term expectations change and investment nosedives. Lying has an adverse effect on consumer confidence and, thus, on demand. This is from Bloomberg:

The Conference Board’s confidence index dropped to a 5-month low of 50.4 from 54.3 in June. According to Bloomberg News:

“Sentiment may be slow to improve until companies start adding to payrolls at a faster rate, and the Federal Reserve projects unemployment will take time to decline. Today’s figures showed income expectations at their lowest point in more than a year, posing a risk for consumer spending that accounts for 70 per cent of the economy.

“Consumers’ faith in the economic recovery is failing,” said guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, whose forecast of 50.3 for the confidence index was the closest among economists surveyed by Bloomberg. “The job market is slow and volatile, and it’ll be 2013 before we see any semblance of normality in the labor market.” (Bloomberg)

Confidence is falling because unemployment is soaring, because the media is lying, and because the Fed’s monetary policy has failed. Notice that Bloomberg does not mention consumer worries over “curbing the deficits”. In truth, the public has only a passing interest in the large deficits. It’s a fictitious problem invented by rich corporatists (and their think tanks) who want to apply austerity measures so they can divert more public money to themselves. In the real world, consumer confidence relates to one thing alone–jobs. And when the jobs market stinks, confidence plummets. This is from another article by Bloomberg:

“Consumer borrowing in the U.S. dropped in May more than forecast, a sign Americans are less willing to take on debt without an improvement in the labor market.

The $9.1 billion decrease followed a revised $14.9 billion slump in April that was initially estimated as a $1 billion increase, the Federal Reserve reported today in Washington. Economists projected a $2.3 billion drop in the May measure of credit card debt and non-revolving loans, according to a Bloomberg News survey of 34 economists.

Borrowing that’s increased twice since the end of 2008 shows consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the economy, will be restrained as Americans pay down debt. Banks also continue to restrict lending following the collapse of the housing market, Fed officials said after their policy meeting last month” (Bloomberg)

Consumer confidence is falling, consumer credit is shrinking, and consumer spending is dwindling. Jobs, jobs, jobs; it’s all about jobs. Budget deficits are irrelevant to the man who thinks he might lose his livelihood. All he cares about is bringing home the bacon. Here’s a quote from Yale professor Robert Schiller who was one of the first to predict the and the housing bubble:

“For me a double-dip is another recession before we’ve healed from this recession … The probability of that kind of double-dip is more than 50 per cent. I actually expect it.”

There’s no need for the economy to slip back into recession. It is completely unnecessary. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke knows exactly what needs to be done; how to counter deflationary pressures via bond purchasing programs etc. He has many options even though interest rates are “zero bound”. But Bernanke has chosen to do nothing. Intransigence is a political decision. By the November midterms, the economy will  be contracting again, unemployment will be edging higher, and the slowdown will be visible everywhere in terms of excess capacity. The Obama economic plan will be repudiated as a bust and the Dems will be swept from office. The bankers will get the political gridlock they desire. Bernanke knows this.

On Tuesday, a $38 billion Treasury auction drove 2-years bond-yields down to record lows. (0.665 per cent) Investors are willing to take less than 1 per cent on their deposits just for the guarantee of getting it back. Bond yields are a referendum on the Fed’s policies; a straightforward indictment of Bernanke’s strategy. Three years into the crisis and investors are more afraid than ever. The flight to Treasuries is an indication that the retail investor has left the market for good. It is a red flag signaling that the public’s distrust has reached its zenith.

Presently, big business is awash in savings ($1.8 trillion) because consumers are on the ropes and demand is weak. The government’s task is simple; make up for worker retrenchment by providing more fiscal and monetary stimulus. If private sector and public sector spending shrink at the same time, the economy will contract very fast and recession will become unavoidable. So, Go Big; create government work programs, help the states, rebuild infrastructure and support green technologies.  The economy is not a sentient being; it makes no distinction between “productive” labor and “unproductive” labor. The point is to keep the apparatus operating as close to capacity as possible–which means low unemployment and big deficits.

Increasing the money supply does nothing when interest rates are already at zero and consumers are slashing spending. Bernanke has added over $1.25 trillion to bank reserves but consumer borrowing, spending and confidence are still flat on the canvass.  The problem is demand, not the volume of money. Bernanke knows what to do, but he refuses to do it. He’d rather line the pockets of bondholders, bankers and rentiers. This is from Calculated Risk:

“This report from the National League of Cities (NLC), National Association of Counties (NACo), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) reveals that local government job losses in the current and next fiscal years will approach 500,000, with public safety, public works, public health, social services and parks and recreation hardest hit by the cutbacks.

The surveyed local governments report cutting 8.6 per cent of total full-time equivalent (FTE) positions over the previous fiscal year to the next fiscal year (roughly 2009-2011). If applied to total local government employment nationwide, an 8.6 percent cut in the workforce would mean that 481,000 local government workers were, or will be, laid off over the two-year period.”

The cutbacks will ravage local governments, state revenues and public services. Emergency facilities by the Fed provided $11.4 trillion for underwater banks and non banks, but nothing for the states. The GOP is helping the Fed strangle the states by opposing additional aid for Medicare payments and unemployment benefits. Many cities and counties will be forced into bankruptcy while Goldman Sachs rakes in record profits on liquidity provided by Bernanke. It’s a disaster.

The bottom line? When Wall Street is hurting, money’s never a problem.  But when the states are on the brink of default and 14 million workers are scrimping to feed their families, it’s time for belt-tightening. Explain that to your kids.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at





MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases