DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHNING CHRISTINE LAGARDESeptember 1, 2014
Remember the former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and how they accused him of raping a hotel maid? You'll recall the basics: Strauss-Kahn was jailed on allegations of rape, and then subsequently released when the allegations proved to be ...well, let's just say, nothing that a prosecutor would want to bring to trial. But the damage was done. Strauss-Kahn, who had ideas that one might qualify as definitely counter to the prevailing financial wisdom, and who had aspirations to run for the French Presidency, had his political career ruined.
Now, it seems, Mm. (or is it Mme.? So hard to tell with her!) Christine Lagarde, current head of the IMF and former Finance Minister of France, has now come into someone's cross hairs:
The question, of course, for Zero Hedge, and for everyone else, is why Mm or Mme Lagarde should be so summarily Dominique Strauss-Kahned, or, as Zero Hedge puts it, "DSK'd." For Zero Hedge, it's the Bernanke Money "paradrop":
"Regardless of the spin, at this point it's all over for the first female president of the IMF, whose departure has come with the same facility as her ascent.
"The only question is who and why was angered by her policies over the past three years, and who will be her replacement. And most importantly, is the imminent shift at the top of the IMF indicative of what the CFR pitched yesterday when it proposed that the time has come for Bernanke's money paradrop. After all, one would need an even more obedient puppet at the head of the monetary fund if such an idiotic plan is to even be able to take off the ground, so to speak."
The "paradrop" amounts to nothing less than direct central bank-to-consumer money giveaways, in an effort to stimulate the West's sagging economies by a version of Milton Friedman's "helicoptor drop" of money:
In case you missed what the CFR's Foreign Affairs journal proposed, here it is, in all its stark Keynesian reality:
"In the decades following World War II, Japan’s economy grew so quickly and for so long that experts came to describe it as nothing short of miraculous. During the country’s last big boom, between 1986 and 1991, its economy expanded by nearly $1 trillion. But then, in a story with clear parallels for today, Japan’s asset bubble burst, and its markets went into a deep dive. Government debt ballooned, and annual growth slowed to less than one percent. By 1998, the economy was shrinking.
"That December, a Princeton economics professor named Ben Bernanke argued that central bankers could still turn the country around. Japan was essentially suffering from a deficiency of demand: interest rates were already low, but consumers were not buying, firms were not borrowing, and investors were not betting. It was a self-fulfilling prophesy: pessimism about the economy was preventing a recovery. Bernanke argued that the Bank of Japan needed to act more aggressively and suggested it consider an unconventional approach: give Japanese households cash directly. Consumers could use the new windfalls to spend their way out of the recession, driving up demand and raising prices.
"As Bernanke made clear, the concept was not new: in the 1930s, the British economist John Maynard Keynes proposed burying bottles of bank notes in old coal mines; once unearthed (like gold), the cash would create new wealth and spur spending. The conservative economist Milton Friedman also saw the appeal of direct money transfers, which he likened to dropping cash out of a helicopter. Japan never tried using them, however, and the country’s economy has never fully recovered. Between 1993 and 2003, Japan’s annual growth rates averaged less than one percent.
"Today, most economists agree that like Japan in the late 1990s, the global economy is suffering from insufficient spending, a problem that stems from a larger failure of governance. Central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, have taken aggressive action, consistently lowering interest rates such that today they hover near zero. They have also pumped trillions of dollars’ worth of new money into the financial system. Yet such policies have only fed a damaging cycle of booms and busts, warping incentives and distorting asset prices, and now economic growth is stagnating while inequality gets worse. It’s well past time, then, for U.S. policymakers -- as well as their counterparts in other developed countries -- to consider a version of Friedman’s helicopter drops. In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy. Over the long term, they could reduce dependence on the banking system for growth and reverse the trend of rising inequality. The transfers wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them."
The reason for this bizarre "solution"? Political gridlock, or, to put the point more bluntly, governments increasingly in thrall to special interests and not genuinely representative of that strange entity called "The People":
"In theory, governments can boost spending in two ways: through fiscal policies (such as lowering taxes or increasing government spending) or through monetary policies (such as reducing interest rates or increasing the money supply). But over the past few decades, policymakers in many countries have come to rely almost exclusively on the latter. The shift has occurred for a number of reasons. Particularly in the United States, partisan divides over fiscal policy have grown too wide to bridge, as the left and the right have waged bitter fights over whether to increase government spending or cut tax rates. More generally, tax rebates and stimulus packages tend to face greater political hurdles than monetary policy shifts. Presidents and prime ministers need approval from their legislatures to pass a budget; that takes time, and the resulting tax breaks and government investments often benefit powerful constituencies rather than the economy as a whole. Many central banks, by contrast, are politically independent and can cut interest rates with a single conference call. Moreover, there is simply no real consensus about how to use taxes or spending to efficiently stimulate the economy."
The message? Bypass governments by having central banks deal directly with the people, and thereby shortcircuit the last vestiges of any sort of government or popular oversight of monetary and fiscal policy..
So where does Mm. or Mme. Lagarde fit in? One does not get the impression that she would be the sort of person in the helicopter throwing out bundles of euros or dollars (or, if certain other predictions over the long term come true, D-Marks). So in that sense, Zero Hedge appears to be correct: she is going, because she probably has or had profound misgivings about the wisdom of such a path. Indeed, in a world where popular cynicism about corporate and government corruption have reached all time highs, one wonders if such a "paradrop" would work. Would people really rush out on a buying binge with their newfound money (thus inflating prices and driving more demand)? Or would they squirrel all that liquidity away in the same banking system?
I don't know about you, but my deepest intuition here is that there is something else at work in the DSKing of Christine Lagarde besides any potential opposition she may or may not have had about a "paradrop."
A few weeks and months ago, Mm. (or Mme.) Lagarde appeared before the National Press Club (and other venues), and began her remarks in her crisp French-accented English with a bit of... well, let's be blunt...numerology. It was, to say the least, a disconcerting performance for someone as highly placed and influential to do. A message, perhaps, that at those rarefied levels there are other factors of occulted synchronicity and design operating of which we are scarcely aware, but that some of us have long guessed at and suggested. One of those "strange syncrhonicities", as I suggested in my book Babylon's Banksters, was the bizarre fact that every great depression in American economic history occurred more or less concurrently with the astrological phenomenon known as a "Grand Cross."
And perhaps that was what really torpedoed Lagarde, for what she was perhaps suggesting was that there were profound connections between what you and I would call "esoteric practice," and the occulted world of high finance and banking. Perhaps Ms. Lagarde knows that, if one is in a certain phase of a naturally occurring cycle, then no amount of Keynesian tinkering will reverse the overall trend; at best, it can only exacerbate or ameliorate it. Perhaps, in intimating strange esoteric connections out of the bag, she was revealing secrets that "they" do not wish revealed.
High Octane Speculation? Absolutely! Because I don't think any conventional form of financial analysis - including that which does not account for hidden systems of finance, vast black budgets, and the role of intelligence agencies in banking, not to mention the more deeply rooted cosmic connections - can cut it any longer. And she may have been trying, in her own inscrutable way, to let everyone know that.
See you on the flip side.