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Gross Domestic Fantasy

Over the past 21 years, United States nominal GDP has averaged 8.69% annual growth while MZM money stock has averaged yearly growth of 18.05%, a net difference of 9.36%.

While the headline GDP figures may look impressive upon first glance, perpetuating frothy confidence in the markets, a look behind the curtain reveals a sobering difference.

Now, the math cited above surely illustrates a problematic incongruity between the perceived productive capacity of a nation and what could either be captured through the PCE or else described as sleight of hand by the manipulative money-printers at the central bank.

PCE data show an annual increase of 7.19%, leaving an unaccounted 2.17%. So, the PCE data either fail to capture the total increase of general prices or some of this money has been shipped elsewhere, thereby temporarily postponing the eventual rise of prices.

As it turns out, the latter scenario is indeed supported by the widening trade deficit, unaccounted price increases relative to quantity and quality dilution, and total foreign holdings of US Treasury securities, which presently eclipse $6 trillion and constitute an unrealized measure of future inflation and economic loss.

What's more, the applied methodologies of the deflator, otherwise known as the CPI or PCE, have changed dramatically over the years.

In 2000, the Federal Reserve determined that it would rely specifically upon the redesigned personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index over the consumer price index (CPI) due to the purported compositional changes of consumer spending in the United States.

Conveniently, the PCE consistently reports inflation below the marks of the CPI.

The principal changes to the measure are found in shelter, diluted from 31% to 15%, and transportation, reduced from 17% to 10%.

These dilutions afford a tamer measure of inflation to enable the Fed to exercise greater latitude in what it calls accommodative monetary policy.

In its adherence to its so-called dual mandate, the Federal Reserve aims for price stability, which it characterizes as 2% inflation per annum, and maximum employment.

Of course, inflation is measured here rather unconventionally from a purist's perspective, as inflation is definitionally the expansion of the quantity of money.

The Fed and other government bodies prefer to gauge price increases, which are the attending consequences of inflation when the expansion of the quantity of money outstrips the increased marginal production of the market, because it reliably underreports its effects.

These lowball figures empower the Fed to operate even more loosely with their manipulation of the money supply and interest rates to control the other side of their mandate: employment.

With easier access to credit and lower barriers to borrowing, economists and bureaucrats suppose that consumers will become more willing to spend and take on debt, and consequently employers will be more willing to hire. Of course, this fails to take into consideration the quality of these expenses and the sustainability of those debts.

GDP: 1996 to Today

For the sake of comparison, a cursory evaluation of GDP statistics from 1996 reveals the respective shares of services and government spending as 63% and 34% of the total.

In 2017, total government outlays will constitute greater than 37% of nominal GDP, while services are broadly expected to exceed 80% of the total. The reason that these two measures are so vital to a sophisticated understanding of the character of gross domestic product is that they have proved to be reliable predictors of future economic growth.

Meanwhile, of all that the United States produces, greater than 70% is for the benefit of consumer spending, a facet of the United States economy buried in unproductive debt now totaling more than $1 trillion.

In principle, government outlays and spending on services and simple consumption will not, in and of themselves, sustain an economy. Indeed, these are definitionally destructive economic behaviors.

These expenditures are purely the enabled consequence of a productive economy. Ultimately, only enterprising investment in capital-forming processes and infrastructure will achieve this end.

Imputations have also contributed to the changing complexion of GDP, as they adjust for the opportunity costs of non-market gains from owner-occupied houses to differences between interest payments from banks and those from so-called "safe" government securities.

Between 1996 and today, the share of GDP constituted by the imputation of owner-occupied housing has increased from 6% to greater than 7%, effectively enabling a transformation of the GDP figure from a metric reflecting the productivity of the nation's economy to one double-counting the artificially-driven, non-productive real estate market and other unsustainable and non-productive forms of debt-financed consumption.

Even private domestic investment, which today stands at 16% of GDP, has synthesized infrastructural investments with accelerating spending on non-profit work while classifying film and music production as research and development, effectively equating Robert Downey, Jr's $50-million salary per Iron Man flick to a $50 million investment in a factory.

This is the new American economy, a theatrical display built on debt and consumption at the veritable expense of sustainable reality.


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