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Why Post-Coronavirus America Will Have Massive Poverty

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The way that Congress and the President structured America’s coronavirus bailout legislation, the protections that go to the super-wealthy start immediately, but the protections that go to the neediest — the soaring numbers of unemployed, the increasingly endangered medical workers, etc. — require documentation which is creating delays that might soon cause many of these individuals to lose their homes, their cars, even their lives.

On April 17th, Matt Taibbi headlined “The Trickle-Up Bailout” and he noted that:

As we head into the second month of pandemic lockdown, two parallel narratives are developing about the financial rescue. 

In one, ordinary people receive aid through programs that are piecemeal, complex, and riddled with conditions.

A law freezing evictions applies to holders of government-backed mortgages only. “Disaster grants” are coming more slowly and in smaller amounts than expected; small businesses were disappointed to learn from the SBA early last week that aid would be limited to $1000 per employee.

That’s typical.

As I had already explained on April 14th:

America’s bailout package to overcome the coronavirus ‘recession’ is twofold:

One part is printing money for employees and consumers, so that they won’t be thrown out onto the streets for non-payment of debts such as mortgages, car-loans, credit cards, and student loans.

Another part is printing money for bondholders and stockholders, so that their investments will still have value and there won’t be panicked selling of them as corporations accumulate soaring losses because consumers are staying home and are cutting way back on expenses.

The top-down part of the bailout (the part for investors) will merely add to the wealth of the already-wealthy, while everybody else sinks financially into oblivion. (On April 9th, the Zero Hedge financial site explained in detail why even bailing out the airlines would hurt the economy more than help the economy.) The top-down part supplies the money to the corporations instead of to their employees and consumers, and is therefore supply-boosting instead of demand-boosting. Supplying money to the corporations that the Government selects to protect will enable those corporations to buy up assets and corporations which during the crisis are being auctioned off by the ones that go out of business, and this will leave the nation’s wealth in even fewer hands than before the epidemic struck.  

The bottom-up part (the part for workers and consumers) will be exactly the opposite of that: it will help prevent another Great Depression. By boosting purchases, instead of bailing-out billionaires and such, it will enable the economy to keep functioning, and it will not increase the concentration of wealth.

However, employees and consumers don’t have many lobbyists, but billionaires do, and billionaires also own (through political donations and lobbyists) almost all members of Congress (and also the mainstream press), and they not only own, but are represented by, one inside the White House, who is surrounded there by others, and by representatives of others, so that the concerns of the wealthiest will be very well represented by America’s Government, and will end up dominating the bailouts, so that only the insiders, who are well-connected in Washington, will be protected. (And Joe Biden would be no improvement over Donald Trump, though his rhetoric is different.)

Already, we see, in the ‘news’-reports, that there is ‘chaos’ etc. in the U.S. Government’s response to the crisis, but what’s not being reported in the mainstream ‘news’-media is that there very much is method to this seeming madness, and it is the method of the well-practiced and well-funded takers, definitely not of their victims, from whom they (and their Government) have been, and now increasingly are, taking. The takers own the Deep State, and are protected by it. The vast bulk of the bailouts will go to them. The vast bulk of the bailouts will go to suppliers (investors), not to their workers and consumers.

So, as a general rule: the more that a person’s income depends upon investments, and the less that it depends upon their labor (wages), the more fully that the bailouts will compensate for the losses they’ll be suffering as a result of the coronavirus disruptions.

Here is a breakdown of the incomes that the super-rich receive (mainly from investments), versus the incomes that everybody else receive:

As can easily be seen there, only the super-rich (the top 1%, and most especially the top 0.1%) receive the majority of their incomes from investments (“Business income” and “Capital income”). Everybody else receives it mainly from “compensation” (wages), “retirement income,” and “Transfer income” (welfare).

Most of the benefits to the top 0.1% will be coming by means of monetary policy, via the Federal Reserve, not by means of fiscal policy — such as the payments to the unemployed (which are subject to many delays) and such as the $1,200-per-adult grants (which were the fastest to be paid because it’s the “helicopter money” that buys votes for the political incumbents, all of whom had voted for the bailouts).

The bailouts’ widely publicized part is the $2.2 trillion, since that includes whatever the public gets. However, that part is the smaller portion of the entire program. As CBS News reported on March 24th, “Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the price tag of economic stimulus amounts to roughly $6 trillion, which includes $2 trillion for direct assistance, and roughly $4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power. Kudlow said this will be the single-largest such Main Street financial package in the history of the country.” Kudlow said it at a White House press conference. He mentioned there just in passing (at 1:36), that it’s a “six trillion-dollar program, four trillion dollars in lending power from the Fed, that’s a six trillion-dollar package …,” and the reporters in the White House press corps didn’t ask him anything about the Fed’s part, the $4 trillion portion (the program’s part that protects the billionaires); they evidently didn’t care about that, but only about the $2.2 trillion, which is actually the PR decoration on this $6T cake — the $2.2T that the public is interested in, the bait-part of the entire bailout-program. (Its hook won’t sink in until the readers’ children and grandchildren will be paying for it via their taxes in a stripped America.) However, on March 26th, Wall Street on Parade (WSP) — the best investigative-reporting source about Wall Street — headlined “Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts” and disclosed that even what Kudlow had called “Main Street” (the $2.2T part) included much for Wall Street; and WSP then rhetorically asked, “Why does the Federal Reserve need $454 billion from the U.S. taxpayer to bail out Wall Street when it has the power to create money out of thin air and has already dumped more than $9 trillion cumulatively in revolving loans to prop up Wall Street’s trading houses since September 17, 2019 – long before there was any diagnosis of coronavirus anywhere in the world?” They promptly answered this: “The Fed needs that money to create more Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) — the same device used by Enron to hide its toxic debt off its balance sheet before it went belly up.” Furthermore, the $454 billion, which WSP called “the money the Treasury is handing over to the Fed” is what CBS had reported “would result in ‘$4 trillion in Federal Reserve lending power’.” And U.S. taxpayers are guaranteeing 100% of these loans to investors — so, it’s “heads you win, tails we lose,” for taxpayers addressing billionaires, and “heads we win, tails you lose,” for billionaires addressing taxpayers. The billionaires win, the public loses. But the billionaires’ media don’t mention this fact, that investors get the guarantees, while the public takes all of the risks. However, what is an “investment” for, if non-investors are receiving its risks? It’s just legalized crime. And these are huge risks, and all or most of the $454 billion that the U.S. is lending to the Fed to guarantee private investors’ investments could be destroyed in the coronavirus-crisis. This is far more socialism for the super-rich than for the bottom 99%. The billionaires love socialism when they’re the ones who are getting the bailouts — the public taking on the risks that investors are supposed to assume. The issue for billionaires isn’t “socialism versus capitalism,” like they always say; it’s actually “socialism for us, and capitalism for everybody else.” That’s not “survival of the fittest,” for the wealthiest class; it’s instead their ordering their politicians to: protect our wealth, no matter what the cost to the public could turn out to be. And that’s precisely what the President and Congress did. Kudlow, however, said, instead, that the “package” would produce “a good rebound in the second half of the year.” Maybe for the billionaires it would.

Kudlow was simply being consistent with his own prior record. On 10 December 2007, he had headlined in National Review“Bush Boom Continues: You can call it Goldilocks 2.0. But you can’t call it a recession.” And he closed by saying, “This sort of fiscal and monetary coordination will continue the Bush boom for years to come.” He’s good for the billionaires; and, so, today, he’s President Trump’s top economic advisor. He’s up there, because he’s wrong — not because he’s right. (If he had been right, he wouldn’t be there.) 

On April 21st, CNBC headlined “Here are the largest public companies taking payroll loans meant for small businesses” and the top 10 on the list totals $56.5 million going to 10 corporations whose collective market capitalization is $2.367 billion. The smallest of those ten bailouts is $10.0M going to the stockholders of a $151 million corporation. The largest of those ten bailouts is to a corporation whose top 3 investors are: Brown CapitalBlackRock, and Vanguard. On April 20th, Forbes reported that, “the U.S. central bank has hired private equity giant BlackRock BLK, which manages some $7 trillion in assets, to run purchases of corporate bonds and commercial mortgages that are part of its response to the pandemic-led recession.” So: the owners of BlackRock will now receive, from “the U.S. central bank” (the Federal Reserve), some of the bailouts from the U.S. Small Business Administration, in this “emergency” program.

Also on April 21st, David Sirota’s blog bannered “Dems Give Unanimous Consent To Trump”, and described the just-passed second coronavirus bailout legislation, which totals $484 billion: It “doesn’t include any resources for first responders, budget-strapped states or food stamps. It doesn’t include any new oversight of the first bailout bill. It includes nothing to help states move to a vote-by-mail system in the event that coronavirus complicates in-person voting during the general election. It basically doesn’t include any alleged Democratic Party priority at all.” But the legislation passed Congress with “unanimous consent,” in this ‘compromise’ with the Republicans (who oppose any government-benefits that might go to the poor).

After the immediate crisis is over, America will have a top 0.1% who are unscathed and whose mega-corporations will be selling not only what they had been selling before, but selling virtually everything that sells in the post-coronavirus world. For examples: what mom-and-pop businesses (including restaurants, B&Bs, etc.) had previously been selling, will, in the future, be supplied (to the extent that it remains being supplied at all) by McDonalds, Starbucks, Marriott, Amazon, Target, Walmart, and other megacorporations (controlled by billionaires), which will have been receiving, from the Fed, and from the Treasury, whatever they needed in order to carry their investors through the crisis-period. (And who are those investors? Look at that chart above, the recipients mainly of “Business income” and “Capital income” — the chief recipients of dividends, interest, and capital gains incomes.)

Furthermore: after the crisis, commercial real estate will be super-cheap, because of all the bankrupted mom-and-pop businesses. Wages also will decline, as the public become increasingly desperate, and the billionaires win increasing market-power. Therefore, not only will the megacorporations be selling a larger percentage of the national output, but their expenses will go down.  

Consequently: America will have lots more poor people, and lots wealthier billionaires.

This, however, will be only a temporary situation, because the enormous spread of poverty will result in greatly decreased taxes coming into all levels of the U.S. Government. Bridges will collapse, potholes will proliferate, unendowed colleges will close, nervous breakdowns and heart-attacks will increase, and thus the public won’t be able to spend as much as they were spending before the crisis hit. And, so, although the megacorporations will be selling a larger percentage of national output, that national output will decline, because of the spreading poverty. Therefore, even the billionaires won’t necessarily become richer than they were before the crisis hit.

All of this outcome is unnecessary and results from corruption. The only reason why there is any bailout, at all, for investors (in anything other than pass-through entities), is the pervasive governmental corruption at the very top. If there were no corruption, then the only bailouts would be to individuals and pass-through businesses (which are individuals) — the “bottom-up” bailouts. America is a very corrupt country at the top, and that is the reason why it will collapse in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis.

Ultimately, when the wealth-inequality is so extreme, the billionaires are selling mainly to each other, and the necessities for the public are less and less profitable to sell at all. The outcome will therefore be economic collapse, and perhaps even revolution.

The basic way to evaluate how well or poorly a nation’s Government is performing in this crisis is the country’s ratio of coronavirus cases to its total population, but if a given country has not yet reached its peak in its daily number of new cases, then that country’s ratio is probably still rising, in which instance, that country’s performance will probably turn out to have been less good than this ratio currently is showing it to be. And, conversely, the lower this ratio is, the better the performance of that country’s Government is shown to be in responding to Covid-19.   

Here are the ten nations that have the largest numbers of cases at the present time, and the ratio of that number to their total population; and also shown here is the date when the daily number of new cases peaked (because if it hasn’t yet peaked, then this crucial ratio will probably be rising in that country):

Ratio of total cases to total population, per million (the lower this number, the better):

USA 2,472 maybe not yet peaked

SPAIN 4,367 peaked March 26th

ITALY 3,043 peaked March 19th

FRANCE 2,421 peaked April 3rd

GERMANY 1,772 peaked March 27th

UK 1,901 peaked April 10th

TURKEY 1,133 peaked April 11th

IRAN 1,010 peaked February 12th

CHINA 57 peaked March 30th

RUSSIA 362 maybe not yet peaked

In addition, the following major countries might especially be noted, since the main reason they aren’t on that list is their being outstandingly good performers:

JAPAN 88 peaked April 11th

S. KOREA 208 peaked March 3rd

The worst of all these performers appear currently to be, though not yet in any clear order: USA, Spain, and Italy.

The best appear to be, in order: China, Japan, and S. Korea. 

Regardless of a country’s size, here are the absolute worst performers, and their respective known infection-rates per million: San Marino (14,028), Andorra (9,280), Iceland (5,210), Gibraltar (3,918), Faroe Islands (3,786), Isle of Man (3,610), Belgium (3,534), Ireland (3,248), Switzerland (3,243).

The U.S. press has recently been particularly praising Denmark’s performance, and noting that Denmark’s coronavirus emergency legislation is more socialistic than Sweden’s is. However, both of those Scandinavian countries actually have very similar actual performance, thus far, in this crisis. In Denmark, the focus of the emergency legislation was on “saving jobs,” instead of on protecting investors. It’s a democratic socialist country, perhaps the most equalitarian in the world. Of course, that’s the exact opposite of dictatorial capitalism (fascism), which became America’s system after FDR died in 1945, and increasingly thereafter (hyper-imperialistic, military-industrial-complex or “MIC” dominated, like fascist regimes usually are), perpetrating coups and invasions, destroying Iran, Iraq, and many other countries, in order to expand its power and the wealth of its billionaires (like the fascist countries had done going into WW II). No cases of coronavirus-19 were reported in Denmark until February 27th. Denmark unanimously passed its emergency law on March 13th — drastically different bailout legislation from the one that America subsequently passed — in order to deal with the crisis. The daily number of Denmark’s new Covid-19 cases peaked on April 7th, and has been declining since that time. Its neighbor Sweden peaked on April 8th. Sweden’s emergency legislation is less strict about lockdowns, but relies more on individual discretion. However, since Sweden, like Denmark, is a democratic socialist country, individuals needn’t worry about paying medical bills, nor about being paid while on sick-leave. So, employees aren’t desperate to return to their places of work, such as in America; and, therefore, these countries don’t spread the infection as readily as in the U.S. and are thus far less likely to have recurring peaks and delayed terminations of the coronavirus crisis. (By contrast: in America, where losing one’s job can mean losing one’s health care, even sick employees may be inclined to stay on the job and perhaps infect customers.) And there are no corporate bailouts in either Denmark’s or Sweden’s legislation. Denmark’s Finance Minister, the Social Democrat (or democratic socialist) Nicolai Wammen was interviewed for 15 minutes on March 27th, by Christiane Amanpour, and he explained Denmark’s emergency law, which was overwhelmingly bottom-up, not top-down (such as America’s is).

Here, therefore, is the actual performance, thus far, of both of those two countries:

DENMARK 1,329 peaked April 7th

SWEDEN 1,517 peaked April 8th

Both of them are reasonably comparable to Germany, UK, Turkey, and Iran, but not as good as S. Korea, and not nearly as good as the two best, China and Japan.

In the final analysis, China and Japan could turn out to have the least-corrupt and best-run Governments; and the most corrupt Governments could turn out to be USA, Spain, and Italy. However, the performances of Brazil and some other nations in the southern hemisphere might yet turn out to be even worse than those of USA, Spain, and Italy, because the winter season has’t yet reached there.

Another important way of measuring a nation’s coronavirus performance is tests per million population. Among the nations with the largest numbers of cases, Italy and Germany are excellent on this, having above 20,000 persons tested per million population; and China is the worst (because it doesn’t even say how many were tested). Consequently: China’s outstanding performance (as measured by low number of reported cases) might actually be fraudulent. Japan’s outstandingly low number of reported cases might also be fraudulent, because their test-number per million is only 923. America’s test-rate is in the mid-range: 12,651. Denmark’s is 17,358. Sweden’s is 9,357.

What cannot be reasonably doubted is that America’s Governmental response to the coronavirus-19 pandemic is catastrophically corrupt. On April 16th, Wall Street on Parade headlined “Here Are the Contracts Showing How $4.5 Trillion in Stimulus Was Outsourced to Wall Street” and described — and documented — what the Wall Street Journal and the rest of the financial press would not, which is the U.S. Government’s legalized money-laundering operation, via the Fed, transferring onto the American public almost all of the losses that America’s billionaires will be suffering from the coronavirus crash. Back on 21 January 2020, WSP described this money-laundering, in its earlier 2008 embodiment, this way: “The epic financial collapse on Wall Street in 2008 was, reduced to its basic terms, simply the end game of Wall Street banks’ efforts to monetize their frauds.” They noted: “On April 9, 2019, the nonprofit Wall Street watchdog, Better Markets, released a study titled: “Wall Street’s Six Biggest Bailed-Out Banks: Their RAP Sheets & Their Ongoing Crime Spree.” It should have made headlines on the front pages of every major newspaper in the U.S. Instead, it was effectively ignored by mainstream media.” (Incidentally: Obama repeatedly promised to prosecute banksters, but secretly protected them and prosecuted none of them, though their crimes had been monstrous. The billionaires’ thefts from the public are entirely bipartisan, supported by over 95% of Congress — the billionaires own the Presidents and members of Congress, and not only own virtually all of the news-media.) On April 20th, America’s National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast “Amid Pandemic, Italian Prosecutors Warn That Mafia Groups Are Cementing Their Power” and reported that Mafia bosses were buying up cheap some of Italy’s suddenly desperate small businesses. If the same thing is being done by America’s billionaires, that’s not yet being reported by their press — perhaps it will instead be reported by Italy’s press.

The Federal Reserve are controlled by and represent the banksters — Wall Street — who not only skim on their own accounts but work with and for the billionaires, some of whom are themselves banksters, but many of whom are operating hedge funds, private equity funds, and all types of FORTUNE 500 companies. Basically, Wall Street works for the billionaires. The billionaires run practically everything in America, except Main Street.

In the upcoming June 2020 issue of the neoconservative (pro-U.S.-imperialist) Democratic Party U.S. magazine, The Atlantic, their George Packer banners “We Are Living in a Failed State: The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.” That magazine blames this “failed state” on the (neoconservative) Republican Party, and so Packer’s phrase there “a dysfunctional government” links to an anti-Republican article, by one of the top officials in the liberal neoconservative U.S. Administration of the Democrat Barack Obama, titled “How Trump Designed His White House to Fail.” However, the actual cause of the gradual collapse, since 1945, of what had been U.S. President FDR’s largely democratic U.S.A., is the billionaires who own both Parties — it is bipartisan. This rot comes from both Parties’ billionaires. (The particular propaganda-operation, The Atlantic, happens to be controlled by the same Democratic Party billionaire who controls Apple corporation.) No billionaire will publish the reality. For example, Packer’s article said: “The second crisis, in 2008, intensified it [‘a bitterness toward the political class’]. At the top, the financial crash could almost be considered a success. Congress passed a bipartisan bailout bill that saved the financial system.” The presumption there is that the only way to restore the economy after a crash is to bail out the country’s billionaires. It’s a timely propaganda-message, at this moment when the billionaires require their Government to bail them out, yet again. (I recently proposed one way to reduce the billionaires’ dictatorship over America.)

On April 17th, WSP headlined “Americans Are Paying a Tragic Price for Allowing Five Banks to Control the U.S. Economy” and closed by urging: “Americans need to use this time at home to call their Senators and Reps in Congress and demand the separation of federally-insured, deposit-taking banks from the casinos on Wall Street. We’re talking about nothing less than the survival of this country.” Needless to say, the ultimate beneficiaries of this public largesse — to America’s billionaires — don’t desire to publicize such writings, any more than they desire to expose to the public their offshore bank accounts. 

Unlike so much that’s in the billionaires’ ‘news’, the facts that are reported here are solidly documented (and linked-to), but the billionaires don’t report these facts. Thus, the masses don’t know these facts, and so the mass-violence, when it comes, won’t be focused against the billionaires. What you’re reading, here, is being kept secret by (not being published by) the billionaires’ media. So — if only in order to spread word that the cause of this is not “the Chinese” or “foreigners” or “the Jews” or some other amorphous ethnicity (who aren’t actually to blame) — please email the URL (the web-address) atop this article, to all of your friends, as “FYI:”. It might stir some interesting conversations, especially if all the ‘news’ that they know comes from America’s billionaires — the same people who fund the country’s successful politicians, each and every election-year. The American Revolution did not come about by misinformed people. It came about by informed people. Misinformed people create only more problems.

So, that’s “FYI.” And thanks for reading here.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Will the trade war between China and the United States come to end?

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USA China Trade War

Authors: Raihan Ronodipuro& Hafizha Dwi Ulfa*

The recent trade conflict between the United States and China has had a direct effect on some of the world’s economic players. These two countries are attacking each other with declarations and a trade war; the relationship between the two countries can be defined as a love-hate relationship because the two countries have a lot of mistrust for each other, but they still need each other.

The United States requires China as a global source of low-wage labor as well as a market for marketing American products, and China requires the United States as an investor in its companies as well as a market for marketing Chinese products known for their low-cost. What makes these two countries to be so cold to one another? To answer the question, let’s go back to when this trade war saga started.

Donald Trump is a successful businessman who owns enterprises and corporations all over the world. His candidacy for President of the United States in 2016 poses several concerns, including whether Trump is eligible to run for office. Trump replied by becoming the 45th President of the United States, succeeding Obama.

Trump adopted a protectionism agenda in order to shield the US economy from what he referred to as the “robber from China.” Trump has released a law stating that all steel and aluminum products entering the United States from Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico would be subject to 25% and 10% tariffs, respectively. Of course, China is outraged that the United States issued this order, as well as a related policy on all tribal products. Automobile components, as well as agriculture and fishery products, are manufactured in the United States.

In addition to the tariff battle, President Trump has expressly demanded that the TikTok and WeChat apps be prohibited from running in the United States. We know that these two technologies are very common in the larger population. Giant corporations, such as Huawei, have not survived Trump’s “rampage,” with the Chinese telecommunications giant accused of leaking US national security data to China through Huawei’s contract with US security authorities.

As a result, many US firms were forced to cancel contracts with Huawei or face sanctions. Google is one of the companies impacted by this contract termination, which means that all Huawei smartphone devices manufactured in 2019 and after will lack any of Google’s services such as the Google Play Store, Gmail, and YouTube.

Many of the world’s economic organizations predict a 0.7 percent drop in GDP in 2018 and a 2% growth in 2020. Coupled with the Coronavirus pandemic, the global economy has become increasingly stagnant, with global economic growth expected to be less than 0%.

Amid the tough trade negotiations between the United States and China, COVID-19 pandemic is also affecting their relationship. The United States domestic pressure to contain the pandemic, has led Trump to accuse China of being the virus spread source.  As a consequence, Trump put the US-China future relations at stake with his “China’s Virus” label. Besides, the United States absence from World Health Organization (WHO) during Trump administration along the pandemic, that become a new opportunity for China to expand its influence.  China uses the Covid-19 pandemic issue as an opportunity.

China’s successful in controlling the pandemic,  has also made China confident in facing the United States. Meanwhile, the United States is increasingly threatened by its position. Moreover, the United States dependence on overcoming Covid-19 which requires relations from many parties, including China, makes the United States’ position weak as a superpower.

This is what we hoped for when Biden took office. Many consider President Joe Biden to be willing to “soften” the United States’ stance on the trade war with China. After his inauguration on January 20, 2021, Biden has made many contacts with Beijing to address a variety of issues, one of which is the continuation of the trade war.

The United States and China agreed to meet in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18-20, 2021, to discuss this issue. The meeting produced no bright spots in the escalation of the US-China trade war, but rather posed questions concerning the Middle East, Xinjiang, North Korea, and Taiwan.

The Biden administration stressed that it does not plan to abolish various regulations passed during the Trump administration’s term in the trade war with China, but it also does not intend to employ the same negotiation strategies as the Trump administration, which seemed to be very offensive. Besides, the Biden administration must be careful, If Biden prioritizes domestic challenges then China has room to push its agendas, including in the field of technology and territorial issues

Furthermore, the Biden administration’s policy has shifted from imposing tariffs on China to investing in industries that Biden believes are less competitive with China, such as nanotechnology and communication networks.

In conclusion, the trade war between the United States and China has ushered in a new age in the global economy, one in which China is going forward to replace the United States’ status as a world economic force, something that the United States fears.

The door to investment is being opened as broad as possible, the private sector is being encouraged to participate (under tight government oversight, of course), the cost of living is being raised, and the defense spending is being expanded. Today, we can see how the Chinese economy is advancing, becoming the world’s second largest economy after the United States, selling goods all over the world to challenge the United States’ status, and even having the world’s largest military after the United States.

The rise of China is what the US is scared of; after initially dismissing China’s problem as insignificant, the US under the Trump administration takes China and Xi Jinping’s problems seriously by starting a trade war that is still underway.

Will this trade war enter a new chapter in the Biden presidency, where the relationship with China will be more ‘calm’ and the trade war can be ended, or can it stalemate and maintain the stance as during the previous president’s presidency?

*Hafizha Dwi Ulfa is a Research Assistant of the Indonesian International Relations Study Center (IIRS Center) with analysis focus on ASEAN, East Asia, and Indo-Pacific studies.

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The “Retail Investor Revolution” in the U.S.

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Authors: Chan Kung and He Jun

Recently, the battle between retail investors and institutional investors is taking place in the U.S. stock market, with some short-selling institutional investors being driven to the brink of bankruptcy. The rise of the retail investor, which has led to huge volatility in the U.S. stock market, is nothing short of a “retail investor revolution” in a market dominated by institutional investors.

GameStop (GME), the world’s largest video game and entertainment software specialty retailer with a chain of nearly 7,000 retail stores worldwide, has continued to underperform in recent years under the impact of online gaming, with its stock price dipping from USD 28 per share in 2016 to USD 2.57 per share in April 2020. Nevertheless, since January 11, 2021, retail investors have been bullish on GME that it has soared to as high as USD 483 per share, a “crazy” move that drove Melvin Capital, a hedge fund with a large short position in the company, to the brink of bankruptcy. So far this year, short-sellers had lost USD 19.75 billion on GME, according to fintech and analytics firm S3 Partners. S3 Partners estimates that short positions in GME lost more than USD 7.8 billion on January 29 alone. The “long-short” battle between retail investors and institutional investors ended with the retreat of institutional investors.

Other U.S. stocks that have recently been caught up in the “long-short” battle have also been volatile. On January 28, American Airlines plunged after opening nearly 31% higher, closing up 9.30%. Castor Marintime, a Cypriot dry bulk shipping company, also plunged after opening with a 67.62% jump, closing up 14.77%. AMC Theatres, a U.S. cinema chain on the verge of bankruptcy, closed down 56.63% on the same day after soaring more than sevenfold in two weeks. Canadian mobile phone company BlackBerry and the U.S. fashion clothing chain Express also fell about 42% and 51%, respectively.

The U.S. capital market has long been dominated by institutional investors, and in mid-2018, institutional investors held 93.2% of the market value of the stock market, while individual investors held less than 6% of the market value. In the U.S. capital market, where institutions are the absolute majority, the market system and regulatory rules are set in favor of institutional investors. Market participants, i.e., investors (institutional investors and retail investors), regulatory authorities, and financing entities (enterprises) have formed a set of “self-consistent” system. However, the “retail investor revolution” has disrupted the conventional ecology of the market, with some young retail investors from the WallStreetBets (WSB) group on the Reddit forum throwing institutions into disarray. This “long-short” battle has put retail investors, represented by the “WallStreetBets”, at center stage and secured support from the top elites, including Elon Musk. In the face of this sudden “retail investor revolution”, the reasons and possible effects are worth in-depth observation and thinking.

First, who opposes the “retail investor revolution”?

The answer is of course, Wall Street as represented by institutional investors, who are the “establishment” in the capital market and represent the mainstream and value perspectiveof the financial market. Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment bank, saying the butterfly effect of the GME short squeeze is leading to the worst short squeeze in the U.S. stock market since the financial crisis. Over the past 25 years, the U.S. stock market has seen a number of severe short squeezes, but none as extreme as has occurred recently. Goldman Sachs warned that if the short squeeze continued, the entire financial market would collapse. According to Goldman Sachs, unsustainable excess in one small part of the market has the potential to tip a row of dominoes and create broader turmoil. In recent years, the pattern of low volume and high concentration in U.S. stocks has increased the risk of funds unwinding their position across the market.

Market maker brokers and trading platforms have also imposed strict restrictions on retail trading. In the midst of a fierce battle between retail investors and short sellers in the U.S. stock market, for example, several brokerage houses, including Robinhood, a zero-commission online brokerage, and Interactive Brokers, one of the largest online brokerages in the U.S., abruptly shut down buying of WSB related stocks such as GME, AMC, and Nokia. Robinhood said the restrictions had to be put in place because of the pressure on data processing and margins brought by the volume of retail trading. But the move immediately drew accusations from the market that the decision was “market manipulation”.

Second, what gathers a group of scattered retail investors?

According to Chan Kung, founder of the ANBOUND, the answer lies in the internet. A group of young retail investors gather in a Reddit subsection called WallStreetBets (WSB), and rely on the convenience of the internet to mobilize and convene, forming a force that can influence institutions in specific areas (such as WSB concept stocks). As in recent years, public use of social networking platforms in the social and political spheres has shifted to the stock market investment sphere.

Chan also pointed out in that the role of the internet is not only in mobilizing and convening, but also in providing and sharing quality analysis. The dominance of institutions in the stock market is not only reflected in funds, but also in research capabilities. They rely on professional teams to collect information, conduct market research, and conduct modeling and analysis, forming a certain information monopoly and an overall investment advantage over retail investors. However, the development of the internet has broken up this information monopoly. Due to the convenience of information acquisition and sharing, some small institutions and professional investors also have a high analytical ability. Their participation and sharing make the Internet platform another kind of “large institutions”, which provide investment analysis and advice to retail investors in a distributed manner. The rapid information sharing and investment actions make the retail investor cluster a “disruptor” and “challenger” that cannot be underestimated in the capital market. Chan Kung also pointed out that among the retail investors, a group of people with strong information ability will further decide the market trend in the future, and the investment in the capital market will gradually become information-oriented, and the size of the funds will not be as important as in the past.

Third, how would the U.S. financial regulators handle the short squeeze and the stock market turmoil?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on January 29 that it is closely monitoring extreme price volatility and will review entities that “unduly inhibit” traders’ ability to trade certain stocks. The SEC also added that extreme stock price volatility has the potential to expose investors to rapid and severe losses and undermine market confidence, and that market participants should be careful to avoid “illegal” manipulative trading activity. The SEC is working with regulators to assess the current situation and review the activities of regulated entities, financial intermediaries, and other market participants. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the White House economic team are closely watching the stock market activity around GameStop and other heavily shorted companies. She called the trading in the video-game retailer “a good reminder, though, that the stock market isn’t the only measure of the health of our economy.” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell declined to weigh in on the activity around GameStop. “I don’t want to comment on a particular company or day’s market activity or things like that. It’s just not something really that I would typically comment on,” Powell said. This information suggests that the U.S. regulatory authorities are cautious in their stance on market volatility, but hope that the market will remain stable and compliant.

Fourth, what will happen to the market relationship between retail investors and institutions?

The “retail investor revolution” has exposed the contradiction between retail investors and institutions, and made the market relationship between retail investors and institutions the focus of the market. Retail investors are within their rights to take legal action against brokerage houses for restricting trading. In the market, it is not only the so-called “regulators” that can deliver justice. Chan Kung stressed that the real problem with institutional restrictions is that if Wall Street establishes a firewall for market trading and prohibits retail investors from uniting to make the market, then the market becomes an inter-agency market, and may even further evolve into a false trading market, shaking the foundation of the entire market system. Therefore, this unprecedented short squeeze triggered by retail investors has exposed a systemic defect in the U.S. capital market. To solve this problem, there is the need to continue observing and following up.

Remarkably, the same problem exists in China. People who speculate in Chinese stocks gather on WeChat and online forums to lead a large number of hot money to hit the market. Drawing on the example of the “retail investor revolution” in the U.S., the following questions are worth considering: Is such trading activity legal? If it is “illegal”, then what kind of market has the Chinese stock market become? If there are certain winners in the market, limits on how much the stock price can go up and how much they can go down, and, in short, all the criteria that are set internally, isn’t the market trading becoming akin to sham game? Such questions are also worth pondering in China’s retail investors-dominated stock market.

Final analysis conclusion

The historical experience shows that the enthusiasm of the market can never prevent the laws of the market from working, and that the rules formed on the basis of previous experiences and lessons are still the main keynote of the market. At the same time, one should also see that with the changes in the information world and the changes in the behavior of retail investors, retail investors are forming a force that can affect the market. Therefore, certain changes in the market system and regulatory approach as a result are likely to be a future trend.

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Economy

ESG as the New Loadstar for the Global Economy

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The ills of the world economy and the frequency of crises may in part emanate from a loss of the sense of direction. With economic policy rules increasingly undermined at the level of countries and international organizations, the resulting loss of an anchor resulted in a rising frequency of economic crisis episodes. Instead of the weakening norms and top-down conditionality of international organizations a new set of rules and standards is starting to propagate throughout the global economy from the micro-level of the corporate and financial world. This new moral code is epitomized in the ESG (environment, social, governance) framework, with the propagation of ESG principles taking place across all key segments of the global economy.

The buy-side is witnessing a growing volume of assets under management that is tracking ESG principles by 2020 the value of global assets employing environmental, social and governance data to deliver investment decisions has almost doubled over four years, and more than tripled over eight years, to $40.5 trillion. Sell-side research is actively advancing ESG products in the corporate research space as well as in evaluating the macroeconomic implications of the use of ESG standards. The largest corporates are starting to compete in the ESG space, with a rising importance attached to corporate ESG ratings. At the country level governments are actively elaborating the national ESG strategies and evaluating the risks and the opportunities harboured in the rising global presence of the ESG agenda.

For corporates the importance of complying with ESG principles is driven increasingly by the rising share of ESG-driven investments, most notably among the largest institutional investors. According to PwC, ESG funds are set to hold more assets under management than their non-ESG counterparts by 2025, with ESG funds’ market share projected to rise to 57% in 2025, compared with the current 15%. In effect, companies not complying with ESG norms deprive themselves of a rising share of the global investment pool, which may impart negative implications for the companies market capitalization.

There may be also notable implications for countries and companies in terms of borrowing costs depending on the resilience and susceptibility to environmental factors as climate change. According to the estimates of the IMF, an increase of 10 percentage points in climate change vulnerability is associated with an increase of over 150 basis points in long-term government bond spreads of emerging markets and developing economies, while an improvement of 10 percentage points in climate change resilience is associated with a decrease of 37.5 basis points in bond spreads.

Importantly, there are notable regional variations in perceptions and regulatory regimes governing ESG factors as revealed by a Blackrock survey of 425 investors in 27 countries with nearly $25trn in assets under management. For more than half of the respondents in EMEA (51%), the top reason for adopting sustainable strategies was because it is the right thing to do, while just 37 per cent of respondents in the region said mitigating investment risk was a key consideration. At the same time in the Americas, mitigating risk is the second highest driver of adoption (49 per cent), followed by better risk-adjusted performance (45%) and mandate from board or management (45%).

The positive aspect of the ESG agenda is that it broadens the time-horizons of the world economy, including its financial and the real sectors, and allows for longer term risks and vulnerabilities to be incorporated into the current decision-making.

The Covid crisis was the bell toll that greatly underscored the importance of such a re-calibration of the time-horizons in economic strategies away from the excessive short-termism of the pre-Covid era. There is also the greater emphasis on sustainability as the core principle that aligns the operation of the corporate and financial markets with the broader global agenda as reflected in the UN development goals.

On the other hand, the transition towards the ESG principles also involves risks that have to do with the significant differentiation across countries in terms of values and preparedness to incorporate ESG standards. Developing economies, most notably those with a sizeable share of the mineral resource sectors in their economies, will likely find it more challenging to compete with advanced economies in the speed of ESG transformation indeed with respect to environmental standards there is the risk of green protectionism being employed against developing countries. Another risk may be the use of ESG norms as the new universal rules-based framework that separates rather than unites the global community.

In the end, just as the apocalyptic predictions regarding the coming of the WTO membership for Russia have proven to be unfounded so the ESG challenge may well turn out to be a factor of creative change rather than destruction. In many respects the ESG value code aligns well with the crucial exigencies facing Russia’s economy the need for longer time horizons in economic policy-making and investing as well as greater emphasis on environmental standards and social issues. For Russia’s financial realm this is an important element related to the development of deeper and less speculative markets, more emphasis being placed on education and support for the fledgling class of retail investors, and greater transparency and higher governance standards in the corporate world.

From our partner RIAC

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