GDP Bag of Tricks

By: Michael Pento | Tue, Apr 30, 2013
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If you're not happy with the stumbling U.S. economy all you have to do is just wait a few more months. It seems the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will perform a little hocus pocus on the GDP numbers starting in July 2013. According to the Financial Times, U.S. GDP would become 3% bigger due to the new change in its growth calculations.

It shouldn't come as a surprise they are going to change the way this number is reported. When GDP numbers are chronically bad (averaging just 1.45% in the last two quarters) and the labor force participation rate is perpetually falling, our government will do the same thing they did for the inflation data; tinker with the formula until you get the desired result. But lowering the reported rate of inflation wasn't able to increase the standard of living for the middle class. And neither will fudging the GDP methodology engender an improvement in the creditworthiness of the nation.

The government will make a significant change in the gross investment number, which will now include; research and development spending, art, music, film and book royalties and other forms of entertainment as the equivalent of tangible goods production. The U.S. will be the first nation on earth to pull off this magical GDP trick.

But the shenanigans played by government may fool some people into thinking that growth in the U.S. is gaining strength. It may even convince some investors that the debt and deficit to GDP ratio is falling. In addition, it may cause politicians to claim that government spending as a share of the economy is shrinking, so it's ok to ramp up the largess.

However, the BEA and our leaders in Washington have overlooked the most important point, as they so often do, which is that revenue to the government cannot be faked. Even if D.C. desired to count all the sea shells washed up onto America's beaches as part of our gross domestic product, it would not increase the amount of tax receipts to the government by a single penny. Therefore, it cannot alter the only metric that really counts; and that is our nation's debt and deficits as a percentage of government income. It will not increase by one penny the amount of revenue available to the government to service our debt and this, in the end, is all our creditors are really concerned about.

Revenue to the government was $2.58 trillion in fiscal 2007. But despite all the government spending and money printing by the Fed, revenue for fiscal 2013 is projected to be just $2.7 trillion. The growth in Federal revenue has been just over $100 billion in 6 years! Nevertheless, our publicly traded debt has grown by $7 trillion during that same time frame. The fact is that the U.S. economy isn't growing fast enough to significantly increase the revenue to the government, but our debt is still soaring.

It all comes down to this, the U.S. government will not be able to service its debt once interest rates normalize, and that will be the sad truth regardless of what voodoo tricks Washington uses to report GDP. It's a shame they won't just implement real measures to grow the economy like reduce regulations, simplify the tax code and balance the budget. At least we can all still purchase precious metals and mining shares to protect our portfolios when the curtain finally comes down on government's shameful magic act.



Michael Pento

Author: Michael Pento

Michael Pento, President
Pento Portfolio Strategies

Michael Pento

Michael Pento produces the weekly podcast "The Mid-week Reality Check", is the President and Founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies and Author of the book ""The Coming Bond Market Collapse."

PPS is a Registered Investment Advisory Firm that provides money management services and research for individual and institutional clients.

Michael is a well-established specialist in markets and economics and a regular guest on CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, FOX Business News and other international media outlets. His market analysis can also be read in most major financial publications, including the Wall Street Journal. He also acts as a Financial Columnist for Forbes, Contributor to and is a blogger at the Huffington Post.

Prior to starting PPS, Michael served as a senior economist and vice president of the managed products division of Euro Pacific Capital. There, he also led an external sales division that marketed their managed products to outside broker-dealers and registered investment advisors.

Additionally, Michael has worked at an investment advisory firm where he helped create ETFs and UITs that were sold throughout Wall Street. Earlier in his career he spent two years on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He has carried series 7, 63, 65, 55 and Life and Health Insurance Licenses. Michael Pento graduated from Rowan University in 1991.

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