Peter Schiff: The whole service sector economy has to go away…
We have assumed, for some time now, that employment in the service sector was doomed in this crisis. We just came across this quote from Peter Schiff from 2007 which, for the first time, put into words what we have been awkwardly trying to explain on this blog to anyone who would happen by and read it.
Peter Schiff (2007):
December’s larger than expected jump in non-farm payrolls is predictably being touted as evidence of a more vibrant U.S. economy. Unfortunately, the data does not support this conclusion. The bloated service sector added 178,000 jobs, while manufacturing shed another 12,000 jobs. What this means is that 178,000 more workers will be consuming goods while 12,000 fewer will be making them. The result will be larger trade deficits that merely compound already stretched global imbalances and exacerbate America’s inevitable day of reckoning.
A service sector can only exist so long as it is supported by a vibrant manufacturing sector. The reason is simple. People employed in the service sector consume goods but do not actually produce any of them. Therefore they must rely on others, who presumably benefit from their services, to produce goods in their stead.
As an example, suppose that ten castaways were marooned on an island. What if on the day they washed up on shore they all decided to assume the following jobs; lawyer, accountant, banker, economist, actor, philosopher, astrologer, beautician, teacher, and nurse. How long do you suppose they would all remain alive without food, water, or shelter? Someone has to provide those things or everyone will perish.
In modern America, the goods shortfall is being made up by foreigner producers, who only derive a marginal benefit from the American service sector. In December, 43,000 new jobs were added in the education and health care sectors and 50,000 were added in business and professional services. What are all of these people going to export in order to pay for all the imported goods their paychecks will permit them to consume? Is there really that big a demand for American legal services in China? Do the Japanese really need our accounting advice? Do Saudi Arabian children benefit from pre-schools in America? How many sick Germans will seek treatment in American hospitals?
The fact that the U.S dollar rose in response to today’s jobs data is further evidence of how widespread this misunderstanding has become. Currency traders bid up the dollar because they assume a stronger jobs market will engender higher interest rates, which is perceived as dollar bullish. However, they ignore the longer term implications of the larger trade deficits that those service jobs will ultimately produce, which is decisively dollar bearish.
For now, all these excess dollars are being absorbed by foreign central banks precisely because foreign private consumers have little use for them. Today’s jobs data means that the resolve of foreign governments to continue accumulating additional dollar reserves will be that much harder to maintain.
Two years later, Schiff’s views on this subject have not changed, although his prescription may be unlikely. The following is a summary of his talking points from a recent speech:
The U.S. Government is interfering with the free market forces trying to fix the economy. We lived in a phony “bubble” economy. The Government is trying to reflate the bubble. Americans are trying to rebuild their balance sheets and save to build wealth. As any drug addict knows if you stop using drugs you will go through withdrawal. Government is making the situation worse. We don’t need any more stimulus, we are suffering from the stimulus we have already been given. Alan Greenspan and Federal Reserve got everyone drunk on easy credit.
Government has created moral hazard, i.e. Fannie and Freddie. The housing bubble was Fed and nurtured by the government. America is broke and our creditors are acknowledging that. What is going on in the global economy will not last and is beneficial to the rest of the world. Foreign nations will retool factories and create products for themselves. Our ride on the global gravy train has come to the end. The whole service sector economy has to go away. If companies are not profitable they need to go out of business. Nobody talks about the productive jobs the Government destroys by saving jobs at GM or AIG. The damage this time around can be far greater than Hoover and Roosevelt created during the Depression. Hoover attempted to bail out the economy and business, Roosevelt only followed his failed policies on a much larger scale. Bush has followed bailout policies like Hoover, now Obama’s is following Bush’s failed policies only on a much larger scale.
Japan was in a good position when they busted, we are in the opposite position. We can’t solve a crisis that is the made of borrowing and spending by more borrowing and spending. Our creditors will stop lending to us. Inflation is going to run out of control. Ultimately that inflation is going to cause prices to go through the roof. We will not be able to purchase items to go on store shelves. This not a major collapse, it is a restructuring. The decoupling concept is here, but the US is not the engine it is the caboose.
You need to own assets in countries where economies will thrive and prosper like Asia, and stay away from US assets. This is the beginning of an inflationary depression.