Saturday, September 16, 2017

Should we not know to whom we are kicking the public-debt-can down the road?

With respect to that congressional authorization for U.S. military operations against U.S. enemies, Senator Elizabeth Warren, very correctly, recently tweeted: 

“Congress owes our troops & their families a full debate to authorize the use of military force before we send them into harm’s way.”

But in the same vein each time an increase of public debt is authorized, or the public-debt-can is kicked further down the road, OMB should prepare a detailed report on who are expected to serve that debt.

Because let’s face it, public debt is, before anything, if it is going to be duly served, an anticipation of tax revenues to come... and future taxpayers might like to be informed of that.

To have in black and white that we might be asking our grandchildren to pay for some of our current societal requests, might be a good way to better live up to that intergenerational social contract Edmund Burke spoke about.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

3 tweets that should rock the world of bank regulators, and one day will

Motorcycles are riskier than cars, so if they have a choice, people prefer cars; so more die in car accidents than in motorcycle ones

Below BB- rated are much riskier than AAAs, so bankers much prefer AAAs, so big crises happens with AAAs turned risky, not with below BB-

Our bank regulators never understood that, and assigned 20% risk weight to AAAs and 150% to below BB-s So now what?

Regulators and bankers looking out for the same risks

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Many lesser impact sanctions, on many more soft-liners (50.000?) are also needed in Venezuela.

It includes to “Extend the use of individual sanctions, and potentially some entity-focused sanctions, to fracture the regime soft-liners from the hard-liners with nothing to lose.” 

I agree, but I do not think that only severe sanctions, of some few very responsible hard-liners, like to “block all property belonging to those individuals and entities subject to US jurisdiction and prohibit US persons from engaging in transactions with them”, will suffice.

Lesser impact sanctions, extended to many more soft-liners, could prove easier to implement and be even more effective.

For this it might suffice with USA, Canada, Europe and all those nations that recently signed a declaration in Lima, informing they were now contemplating issuing a blank prohibition to all members of the Constituent Assembly, and of the National Guard, sort of 50.000 Venezuelans, to access any kind of visa. 

If that prohibition could, at a later moment, perhaps also be extended to include all their close relatives, it would ignite many serious discussions and doubts in the homes of the soft-liners.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I believe my one line health sector reform to be better than those long ones proposed by democrats or republicans

You, all suppliers of medicines or health services, thou shall not discriminate [with more than perhaps 5%] in the prices offered to those who pay for those insured against the prices demanded from those uninsured.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

When regulators, to bankers’ lack of testosterone added their own lack of it, the Western civilization started its descent

Fact: Major bank crises result from unexpected events, criminal behavior, or excessive exposures to something ex ante perceived as safe, but that ex post turned out to be risky.

Fact: No major bank crisis ever has resulted from excessive exposures to something that was perceived as risky when placed on banks’ balance sheets.

Mark Twain with his supposedly: “A banker is one who lends you the umbrella when the sun is out and wants it back as soon as it looks it could rain” would attest to that.

Fact: Nonetheless bank regulators scared witless by the same perceived risks, imposed larger capital requirements for what is ex ante perceived as risky, than for what is ex ante perceived as safe.

That means bank can now leverage more their equity with “the safe” than with “the risky” 

That means bank can now earn higher expected risk adjusted returns on equity on “the safe than on the risky.”

Consequence 1: That day banks finds that excessive exposures to what was perceived, decreed or concocted as safe turns out risky, something that happens sooner or later, like with the AAA rated securities or sovereigns like Greece, the banks will stand their more naked than usual.

As Voltaire said: “May God defend me from my friends, I can defend myself from my enemies

Consequence 2: Bank stop financing the "riskier" future the next generations need to be financed, like SMEs and entrepreneurs; in favor of refinancing the "safer" present.

As John A Shedd said: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for”.

Our current regulators had no clue of what they were doing. In order to hang on to their jobs and hide their mistake, they are clouding the whole issue with more and more complexity.

They must be stopped, remembering of course Einstein’s: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“The inevitable climate solution” also helps to face structural unemployment, economic growth, and inequality

George P. Shultz and Lawrence Summers sign up completely on a revenue neutral carbon tax proposed by the Climate Leadership Council. “The inevitable climate solution” Washington Post, June 20.

Indeed a carbon tax which revenues are equally redistributed to all is the way of how to align the market signal that will help to face the current environmental challenges, the current concerns about inequality, the current proposals of a universal basic income to face growing structural unemployment, and the current concerns about the lack of sustainable economic growth.

So please, even if this could make Trump to become a greater green hero than Al Gore, swallow it, for the best of our young.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

A simple but complex question from a humble Venezuelan economist to any outstanding Venezuelan international lawyer

"Article 12. Mining and hydrocarbon deposits, whatever their nature, existing in the national territory, under the territorial sea bed, in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf, belong to the Republic, are property of the domain Public and, therefore, inalienable and imprescriptible. "

Suppose a Revised Constitution would establish: "Article 12. Mining and hydrocarbon deposits, whatever their nature, existing in the national territory, under the territorial sea bed, in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf, belong to Venezuelan citizens, as long as they live and, therefore, inalienable and imprescriptible."

Suppose also that the current PDVSA bankruptcy and all its assets are acquired by a PDVSA II or by any other national or foreign company that, on behalf of the citizens of Venezuela, has been entrusted to extract and market that oil providentially deposited in Venezuela. 

So then a tanker would be transporting, not the oil of a sovereign country, but the oil privately owned by millions of Venezuelan citizens.  My question to expert lawyers would then be:

Could the financiers of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela, or old PDVSA, embargo that tanker? Could a tanker for instance belonging to ExxonMobil, be seized by creditors of the United States or the state of Texas in the event that any of the latter fail to meet financial obligations?

Of course, current Venezuela and Pdvsa creditors would claim before judges they always lent against estimated future oil revenues. But, can a government mortgage something that the constitution itself declares as inalienable?

Would the world, knowing then that the oil revenues carried by the tanker would be delivered directly to millions of Venezuelans, the rightful owners of the oil, and which will help these to satisfy some basic human needs, like food and medicines ... allow that tanker to be embargoed in order to satisfy the cravings of a few speculating financiers?

Dear friends, our Venezuela has been ransacked. It is the obligation of every Venezuelan to seek to try to save our nation in any way we can. 

If expert lawyers respond to me with a "You’re crazy Kurowski, that’s not possible", then, shamelessly, I’ll try to find other ways.

And if that means governments’ of Venezuela will not get access to credit in the future, I would almost count that as a blessing.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein should perhaps go to jail, for violating the FCPA, or be fired, for being too dumb

1. For years (decades) I have argued that any sovereign (and I really mean any sovereign) that has to pay something like 100-200% more in interest rates than that sovereign who at that time pays the least, in order to obtain finance, has not earned the right to take on public debt, and with that to mortgage the future generations. 

The current rate the US has to pay for 5-year money is about 2%.

2. There are plenty of persons currently in jail in the US because of acts committed against the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

3. Goldman Sachs, has just handed over about US$800 million to the notoriously corrupt and human rights violating government of Venezuela, in order to obtain $2.8billion Venezuelan bonds paying a 12.75% interest rate, which if repaid would provide GS with about a 42% yearly return, 2.000% more than what US pays. Has it in fact not committed the mother of all corruptions acts punishable under the FCPA?

4. Of course, if Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman of Goldman Sachs, can see a 42% return for lending to a sovereign, and not conclude that something extremely corrupt and fishy is going on, then he should, as a minimum minimorum, instead be fired for being too dumb.

Many people have been arguing for decades for the need of a Sovereign Debt Rescheduling Mechanism (SDRM).

I totally agree with that, but that must begin with classifying credits as bona-fide, doubtful, or outright odious. This specific Venezuela debt referred to here, clearly belongs to the latter, and should not be repaid.

PS. Venezuela, a nation with tremendous food and medicine shortages sells gas at less than US$ 2 cents a gallon. What else can I say?

PS. Still not the slightest sign of a "Sorry" from Lloyd Blankfein.

PS. If there's no social sanctioning of the elites there will be no society left to sanction.

PS. Today June 27 Maduro, he who was financed by Goldman Sachs stated "If we don't win with votes we will win with our weapons".

Saturday, May 27, 2017

“Whut you goin' to do when a [lefty] starts to talk purty? I'm jist a [socialist] who cain't say no”

Socialists are never ever able to resist the siren songs of false sirens like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. They always remind me of Oklahoma’s Ado Annie singing “I Cain't Say No!

“Whut you goin' to do when a [lefty] gits flirty
And starts to talk purty? whut you goin' to do?
Whut you goin' to do when he talks that way
Spit in his eye?
I'm jist a [socialist] who cain't say no”

Here for instance Noam Chomsky: “What's so exciting about visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created."

Here for instance Sean Penn: “Maduro is similar to Chavez in that he is ‘in love with his people and his country’”
Of course there are those not so much convinced by purty talk but much more by purty pay, like here Pablo Iglesias

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Here I will keep my up-today main comments on Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Years ago I wrote: “We need decent and worthy unemployments”. With ever growing structural unemployment threatening, I am sure that a Universal Basic Income is a fundamental tool for achieving that. 

Here follows my current thinking on UBI:

Universal Basic Income eats directly into the redistribution profiteers’ franchise value, and so they will be its strongest opponents. Their opposition can take many forms, like that of enthusiastically supporting UBI, but cleverly backstabbing it at any possible opportunity. We must always be alert!

There are some fundamental mistakes that could kill UBI, even after its inception, and so therefore we must see to that the enemy does not exploit any of its possible Achilles’s heels.

1. UBI is strictly for the population of working age. Children and elderly have their very specific needs that should be satisfied with different tools.

2. UBI shall strictly be related to working conditions, like 70% of the lowest fulltime salary; and NOT to any poverty related threshold.

3. UBI needs to be 100% funded with real and clearly identifiable sources of income, and not with any debts. One possibility is to apply to robots and similar automations those payroll taxes and similar that applies to humans. As am added benefit that would also allow for a more efficient allocation of labor/capital resources.

4. The more UBI is funded by sources linked to other socially relevant matters, like from carbon taxes to help stop pollution, the better.

5. UBI must always be kept as a citizen to citizens affair and so, ideally, it should be enshrined in some type of constitutional protection, so that populists trying to serve their own ambitions do not capture it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Here some disorderly lose cannon questions about life in the just around the corner Robot/Automation La-La-Land

The more varied and crazy questions we pose, the better chance we have to prepare ourselves... and so, in no special order, here we go with some tweet-sized ones!!!

When Mexicans, Chinese and American compete for the jobs the robots are taking, is that not just a Lilliput/Blefuscu war?

Why is how to handle jobs being productively taken over by robots/automation, not sufficiently high on our agendas?

How will net salaries not paid to robots be used: Lower prices, higher salaries, bonuses or dividends?

And when robots substitute for humans, what are the consequences for a nations tax base?

Is not falling working-age population numbers quite irrelevant with so many robots volunteering to work? 

When 2nd class robots don’t cut it, how to we assure ourselves we get the 1st class ones?

No minimum wages for humans. Those are just subsidies to robots. Robots must compete, so that we get the best robots.

Having your nation being “Second” is livable, but is having your robots not being “First” that?

The better the robots, the more we lose human jobs, the more the need of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). Are we prepared?

Universal Basic Income threatens the redistribution profiteers so they will try to stop it. How can we stop them?

The lower trade tariffs and human salaries are, the more competition do robot manufacturers face. Is that good?

The higher the trade tariffs and human salaries are, the more will robot manufacturers profit. Is that good?

The better the robot, the more it can produce for us, but the more human jobs it can take from us. So what do we do?

Should we allow 3rd class robots, only because of unfair competition, like no payroll taxes, to replace humans?

In order to force our robots to become 1st class, do we not need to tax them, a lot? 

If land A has the better robots how can B compete: with tariffs or with lower dividends, salaries, bonuses and UBIs?

If my grandchildren’s future depends on the quality of their robots, is it really a sin to engage in some industrial espionage?

To who does robot productivity that supplants human productivity belong: to all, or to the 0.00000001 percenters?

How can I help my grandchildren to be needed as sane and happy humans, in tomorrows’ Robot/Automation-land?

What are unions to do with a shrinking labor base? Will tomorrows CEO’s need a union? What if robots want to unionize?

With unions vigorously defending the employed, their clientele, don't the unemployed need to create their own unions? 

What’s better intelligent artificial intelligence or sort of dumb artificial intelligence we can still sort of better control?

When supplanted by robots how can we avoid being thought of as an unneeded human surplus?

If we humans are supplanted by robots, are we doomed to join Jethro Tull’s “Heavy Horses” in retirement? 

PS. My Universal Basic Income 

Where are those Mexicans? (and the robot is laughing)

Friday, January 20, 2017

President Trump, here is a conflict of interest on which many would appreciate you acted on in your own future self-interest.

President Trump. 

I am not an American, so I did not vote. But had I been I must confess I would most likely have voted for the Gary Johnson escape-valve. Congrats anyhow!

Mr. President, you have all your life been an entrepreneur, of one sort or another. As such we could easily presume you have quite often needed to have access to bank credit. Once you are back to civil life in some years, I also assume you would like to reassume your life as entrepreneur, since once one, forever one, and therefore to again have access to bank credit.

Now President Trump, you might not be much aware of it, few really are, and there are of course those interested in it not to be known, or at least not understood but, since 1988, with the Basel Accord, for purposes of determining how much capital banks should hold, the risk weighted for ordinary citizen borrowers was set at 100%, while if it was the central government doing the borrower, then the risk weight was 0%. Yes, you read right… 0%!

That has introduced a disastrous discrimination against all SMEs, start-ups and entrepreneurs when accessing bank credit. The risk aversion that regulation signifies banks no longer finance the riskier future our children need to be financed, they mostly just refinance the “safer” past and present.

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.” John A Shedd, 1850-1926

To top it up, regulators have not been able to realize that all this does not make the banking sector any safer. All major bank crises have only resulted from unexpected events, criminal behavior or excessive exposures to what ex ante was perceived as very safe but that ex post turned out very risky. No major bank crises ever was the result of excessive exposures to something ex ante perceived risky.

May God defend me from my friends, I can defend myself from my enemies” Voltaire

So President Trump, please help America, and the rest of the world ,to banish forever this dangerous nonsense of the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks.

I have tried to inform, for instance your Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB and so many others about this, but they have not been interested. You as an Entrepreneur President do surely stand a better chance to catch their attentions.

PS. When it comes to bank regulations that could destroy the economy of your country, is that not also an issue for Homeland Security?

PS. What poses a bigger threat to American jobs, Mexicans, Canadians or robots?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

That we suffer under the thumb of neoliberalism is mostly a self-serving myth created by statism fans.

In its simplest form neoliberalism represents a belief in that free markets will do better for all, or at least for most, than government with its central planning. 

So many failures have been attributed to neoliberalism and its bad intents that it takes too long to explain them all. In this respect I will here refer briefly to only two aspects that have been sold as neoliberalism, but that in reality are quite far from it, namely financial deregulation and privatizations.

Bank regulations: In 1988 the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, for the purpose of setting the capital requirements for banks, decided that the risk weight of the Sovereign, meaning the central government was 0%, while that of We the People was 100%. That meant banks would be allowed to leverage more their equity when lending to the public sector than when lending to the private sector; which meant banks could earn higher expected risk adjusted returns on equity when lending to the public sector than when lending to the private sector; which meant banks would lend more to the public sector than to the private sector; which de facto meant that regulators believed the public sector could make better use of bank credit than the private sector. 

That principle is still well and alive today. How it has anything to do with neoliberalism, with financial deregulation and not with financial missregulation, is beyond my comprehension.

For instance those who attribute the financial meltdown of 2007‑8 to neoliberalism must ignore completely the decisive role that bank regulations played in distorting the allocation of credit to the real economy. It suffices to understand the definite role regulations played in the subprime mess and in the excessive lending for instance to Greece. Those regulations basically decreed inequality.

Privatization: Many or perhaps most of the privatizations of public services were allocated, not to those who offered to provide those services in the cheapest and best way, but to those who offered to pay the government the most for the rights. That in all essence signified the government collecting taxes in advance, leaving the citizens to repay these by mean of higher tariffs. How that has anything to do with neoliberalism, is beyond my comprehension.

Why have so many swallowed the myth of neoliberalism? One reason is that the world has too uncritically accepted using the term of crony capitalism, when most of the deviations it suffers are the direct consequence of crony statism.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Canada: A Universal Basic Income, should never be more than a step-ladder to help reach up to the real economy.

Had Venezuela’s oil revenues over the last 15 years been distributed directly to the Venezuelans by means of a (in this case a variable) Universal Basic Income (UBI), instead of by redistribution profiteers, the poorest of my homeland would have received at least six times more of it, and the country would not be so close to being a totally failed state.

Be sure, the best way to increase the efficiency of our citizen-to-citizen solidarity, everywhere, is to avoid the redistribution profiteers’ tolls.

I am not a Canadian but I have two Canadian granddaughters, and so I have a vested interest in Canada’s future. I firmly believe that a UBI is a very important tool in order to meet many actual and future social and economic challenges.

But the number one objection to a UBI, and which your local redistribution profiteers will try to argue in order to keep their franchise, is that it could reduce the willingness for work.

In this respect, and referring to Andre Picard’s “Basic income is not just about work, it’s about health” Globe and Mail, November 8, I believe that the UBI to be tested, should not be set as is proposed as 75% of low income measure before tax (LIM-BT), $1,320, but as a percentage of the salary you could obtain working, for instance 60% at the minimum salary level. As I calculate it, that would yield $1,100.

For me the biggest benefit of UBI is as a step-ladder that facilitates reaching up to that gig-economy that seems to have arrived as a fixed feature. We do need worthy and decent unemployments.

UBI should never be seen as lifting anyone out of poverty but allowing millions to lift themselves out of poverty.

UBI has much less to do with human rights, "doing good", than with an intelligent society organizing itself for challenging times, "doing smart".

UBI should always be a beautiful citizens to citizens affair. At no moment should it be soiled by referring to it as a government handout. 

Of course UBI has to be funded with real money, no cheating paying it with inflation or public debt. Besides natural savings in the redistribution costs, one interesting alternative is the use of revenues from high carbon taxes. That would align the incentives between the fights for a better environment and against inequality.

PS. Joking but not really joking: Perhaps a payroll tax on robots and driverless cars could also be used as funding mechanism; that would also help us humans workers to be able to compete on a more level playing field.