Forward Guidance

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  April 7, 2014

    Guess what? There is none. Rather, the Federal Reserve practice of Delphically divulging its intentions ought to be understood as the master pretense of US economic life — the delusion that wise persons are actually in control of anything. The result of this guidance continues to be the mis-pricing of everything, especially the cost of money as represented in the operations of debt, and hence the value of everything denominated in money.

     The interventions of our central bank have really been aimed at one objective: to compensate for the contraction of real wealth in an economy that replaced purposeful activity with Kardashian studies and tattoo art.  Purposeful economic activity provides surpluses that allow for the repayment of debt. Kardashian study and tattoo art lead to entropic entrapment, aka, a death spiral of culture and economy. That’s where we are at. The debt is now eating us alive, and the central bank trick of piling on additional debt to mask the failure of repaying old debt is losing  its palliative punch.

     One big problem with the Fed’s policies is that the mis-pricing of everything ends up being expressed in the very statistics (GDP, unemployment, inflation) that are used to justify further interventions that produce ever deeper perversities. That is, the Fed distorts prices, which distort statistics used to make policy, which prompt the fed to ramp up policies that further distort prices, a dangerous recursive dynamic. Since prices are the basic information for running an economy, we end up in a situation where nothing really adds up. The antidote to that has been pervasive accounting fraud — the covering-up of mis-pricing, pretending that things add up when they don’t.

     The poster child for that, of course, is the US government, the operations of which are so saturated in falsity that the inspectors general in every branch and agency might as well just fling linguini against the wall to arrive at whatever conditional reality suits their bosses. The pretense extends to the largest financial institutions including the TBTF banks (their vaults stuffed with the detritus of epic swindles), to the giant pension funds, which were among the chief victims of the swindling, to the corporations dedicated to producing this-and-that, whose cost structures are so fatally impaired by all the aforesaid mis-pricing and accounting fraud, that they must resort to massive stock share buy-backs to maintain the illusion of being going concerns, to the millions of ordinary households running on maxed-out plastic.

     These perversities have been in force for five years now, and “folks” — to use our president’s fond locution for the diabetic masses — are beginning to get nervous about the five-year duration of the so-called bull market. This refers to the stock markets collectively, which have generally only gone up since 2009 in an economic environment that can only be called unconvincing. The word “bubble” is heard more and more in casual chatter. Events like Friday’s tanking of the NASDAQ put people in mind of the ominous Four Horsemen.

      One thing we really do know, as good old Herb Stein put it, is that things go on until they can’t, and then they don’t. Sighs of relief were heaved all last week when it appeared that the Obama / Kerry response to doings in Ukraine amounted, more-or-less, to a policy that might be called “Oh… nevermind.” Personally, I’m relieved that our leaders decided not to start World War Three over that, since in the aftermath there might be no human historians left on planet earth to record our monumental stupidity for the cosmic annals — something for our successors, the sentient cockroaches, to meditate on. But a certain nagging emptiness remains in that void of initiative. The spring zephyrs are finally caressing the tender hills and vales of upstate New York. Something is in that wind. I think I scent revolution.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

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