Social Security 2100- a bill to ensure the viability of Social Security for the next 75 years

Social Security 2100 Act

Congress needs to act to ensure the future of Social

The 2018 Social Security Trustees report projects that
beneficiaries will see a 21 percent cut in benefits by 2034 unless Congress
takes action to prevent the funding shortfall. The Congressional Budget
Office’s estimate is more dire, setting the year at 2031.

The proposal to tax wages up to $400,00 will extend
the program’s solvency for 75 years, according to Social Security’s Office of
the Chief Actuary.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, because
earnings for the highest-paid workers have grown faster than the average wage,
about 83 percent of total earnings fell below the Social Security’s taxable
wage cap in 2016, down from 90 percent in 1983. We need to increase the wages
subject to Social Security so that at least 90% of wages are subject to Social
Security. For low- and middle-income earners, virtually every dollar they earn
is subject to SS tax while higher earners escape tax on much of their income,
plus they gain much of their income from sources NOT subject to SS tax such as
from investment earnings which are taxed way below wages.

How do the wealthy benefit from the shrinkage of the
middle class and growth of poverty?

The 7 most common Social Security mistakes

25/2/19: Europe’s TBTF Banks are only Bigger-to-Fail…

Since the start of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and through subsequent Euro area crises, the EU frameworks for reforming financial services have invariably been anchored to the need for reducing the extent of systemic risks in European banking. While it is patently clear that Euro area’s participation in the GFC has been based on the same meme of ‘too big to fail’ TBTF banks creating a toxic contagion channel from banks balance sheets to the real economy and the sovereigns, what has been less discussed in the context of the subsequent reforms is the degree of competition within European banking sector. So much so, that the Euro area statistical boffins even stopped reporting banking sector concentration indices for the entire Euro area (although they did continue reporting the same for individual member states).

Chart below plots weighted average Herfindahl Index for the EA12 original Euro area states, with each country nominal GDP being used as a weight.

The picture presents a dire state of the Euro area reforms aimed at derisking the bank channel within the Eurozone’s capital markets:

  • In terms of total assets, concentration of market power within the hands of larger TBFT banks has stayed virtually unchanged across the EA12 between 2009 and 2017. Herfindahl Index for total assets was 0.3249 in 2009 and it is was at 0.3239 in 2017. Statistically-speaking, there has been no meaningful changes in assets concentration in TBTF banks across the EA12 since 2003. 
  • In terms of total credit issued within the EA12, Herfindahl Index shows a rather pronounced trend up. In 2010 (the first year for which consistent data is provided), Herfindahl Index for total credit shows 0.0602 reading, which rose to 0.0662 in 2017.

Put simply, TBTF banks are getting ever bigger. With them, the risks of contagion from the banking sector to the real economy and the sovereigns remain unabated, no matter how many ‘green papers’ on reforms the EU issues, and no matter how many systemic risk agencies Brussels creates.

24/2/19: Europe of Divergence: Euro and the Crisis Aftermath

A promise of economic convergence was one of the core reasons behind the creation of the Euro. At no time in the Euro area history has this promise been more important than in the years following the series of the 2008-2013 crises, primarily because the crisis has significantly adversely impacted not only the ‘new member states’ (who may or may not have been on the ‘convergence path’ prior to the crisis onset), but also the ‘old member states’ (who were supposed to have been on the convergence path prior to the crisis). The latter group of states is the so-called Euro periphery: Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

So have the Euro delivered convergence for these states since the end of the Euro area crises, starting with 2014? The answer is firmly ‘No’.

 The chart above clearly shows that since the onset of the ‘recovery’, Euro area 8 states (EA12 ex-periphery) averaged a growth rate of just under 2.075 percent per annum. The ‘peripheral’ states growth rate averaged just 1.623 percent per annum. In simple terms, recovery in the Euro area between 2014 and 2018 has been associated with continued divergence in the EA4 states.

This is hardly surprising, as shown in the chart above. Even during the so-called ‘boom’ period, peripheral states average growth rates were statistically indistinguishable from those of the EA8. Which implies no meaningful evidence of convergence during the ‘good times’. The picture dramatically changed starting with 2009, starting the period of severe divergence between the EA8 and EA4.

In simple terms, the idea that the common currency has been delivering on its core promise of facilitating economic convergence between the rich Euro area states and the less prosperous ones holds no water.

24/2/19: Eurozone’s Corporate Yields are not quite in a crisis territory… yet…

Euro area high yield corporate credit rates are under pressure to continue moving:

But they are far from being dramatic, even though banking sector margins have now surpassed ex-crises averages:

The problem, however, is what awaits on the horizon. So far, the ECB is planning on hiking rates in the second half of 2019. If it does, with one 25 bps hikes to the end of 2019, we are looking at high yield rates jumping close to a 7 percent mark:

That is a bit more testing than the current above-the-average yields.

24/2/19: Buybacks vs Capex

U.S. corporates spending or ‘investing’ over the last 10 years:

  • CapEx ($6.4T), including often non-productive M&As
  • Buybacks ($4.9T) and 
  • Dividends ($3.4T) 

via @mbarna6

Just another reminder why productivity growth is not being aided by cheap credit.

22/2/19: Deutsche Bank’s New Old Losses: When a Candy Bites Back

Our good old friends at @DeutscheBankAG have been at it again… this time (h/t to @macromon) raking in $1.6 billion of freshly announced losses from pre-Global Financial Crisis trades in municipal bonds. Story at WSJ: (gated)

In summary: “This transaction was unwound in 2016 as part of the closure of our Non-Core Operations”, according to the spokeswoman email to the WSJ. DB ca $7.8 billion portfolio of 500 municipal bonds back in 2007. The bonds were insured by specialised mono-line insurers to protect against default. In March of 2008, the bank followed up the trade by buying additional default protection from Berkshire Hathaway for $140 million. Insure-and-forget, right?By the end of 2011, the bank had a little over $115 million of reserves set aside to cover potential losses on the trade. That figure rose to over $1 billion at the start of 2016. By May 2016, the bank calculated an additional loss of $728-$768 million on a potential sale of the portfolio net of the loss protection from Berkshire.

Per WSJ, this loss – previously unreported – amounts to ca x4 times DB’s 2018 profits.

The champs!

20/2/19: Broader Measures of Irish Unemployment 4Q 2018

The latest Labour Force Survey for 4Q 2018 for Ireland, published by CSO, shows some decent employment increases over 2018, and a welcomed, but shallow, rise in the labour force participation rates. Alongside with a decrease (over FY 2018) in the headline unemployment rate, these are welcome changes, consistent with overall economic growth picture for the state.

One, much less-reported in the media, set of metrics for labour markets performance is the set of broader unemployment measures provided by the CSO. These are known as Potential Labour Supply stats (PLS1-PLS4). The measures also show improvements over 2018, just in line with overall employment growth. However, these measures clearly indicate that after 11 years running, the 2008-2014 crises remain still evident in the labour force statistics for Ireland.

Here is a chart of all four PLS measures, compared to their pre-2008 averages:

Note: Increase in PLS2-PLS4 series at 3Q 2017 is down to change in assessment methodology under the LFS replacing QNHS, with data pre-3Q 2017 adjusted to reflect that change by the CSO.

As a reminder, the above data series are defined as:

  • PLS1 adds discouraged workers. These are individuals who are out of work but who have become disillusioned with job search. 
  • PLS2 includes all individuals in Potential Additional Labour Force (PALF). The PALF is made up of two groups: persons seeking work but not immediately available and persons available to work but not seeking, of which discouraged workers make up the largest number. 
  • PLS3 includes all those in the previous two categories (PLS1 and PLS2) along with persons outside the labour force but not in education or training. 
  • PLS4 is the broadest measure of unemployment or potential labour supply and is calculated by adding part-time underemployed workers to PLS3. Part-time underemployed workers are individuals currently working part time who are willing and available to work additional hours. The broadest measure of unemployment (PLS4) stood at 13.7 per cent in 4Q 2016. At 4Q 2017 it was 18.7 per cent and by 4Q 2018 it was down to 17.5 per cent.

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20/2/19: Crack and Opioids of Corporate Finance

More addictive than crack or opioids, corporate debt is the sand-castle town’s equivalent of water: it holds the ‘marvels of castles’ together, util it no longer does…


Firstly, as @Lisaabramowicz correctly summarises: “American companies look cash-rich on paper, but average leverage ratios don’t tell the story. 5% of S&P 500 companies hold more than half the overall cash; the other 95% of corporations have cash-to-debt levels that are the lowest in data going back to 2004”. Which is the happy outrun of the Fed and rest of the CBs’ exercises in Quantitive Hosing of the economies with cheap credit over the recent years. So much ‘excessive’ it hurts: a 1 percentage point climb in corporate debt yields, over the medium term (3-5 years) will shave off almost USD40 billion in annual EBITDA, although tax shields on that debt are likely to siphon off some of this pain to the Federal deficits.

Secondly, this pile up of corporate debt has come with little ‘balancesheet rebuilding’ or ‘resilience to shocks’ capacity. Much of the debt uptake in recent years has been squandered by corporates on dividend finance and stock repurchases, superficially boosting the book value and the market value of the companies involved, without improving their future cash flows. And, to add to that pain, without improving future growth prospects.