Bernanke

Something Happened

Bernankgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Bernank
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation October 26, 2015
 

Ben Bernanke’s memoir is out and the chatter about it inevitably turns to the sickening moments in September 2008 when “the world economy came very close to collapse.” Easy to say, but how many people know what that means? It’s every bit as opaque as the operations of the Federal Reserve itself.

There were many ugly facets to the problem but they all boiled down to global insolvency — too many promises to pay that could not be met. The promises, of course, were quite hollow. They accumulated over the decades-long process, largely self-organized and emergent, of the so-called global economy arranging itself. All the financial arrangements depended on trust and good faith, especially of the authorities who managed the world’s “reserve currency,” the US dollar.

By the fall of 2008, it was clear that these authorities, in particular the US Federal Reserve, had failed spectacularly in regulating the operations of capital markets. With events such as the collapse of Lehman and the rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also became clear that much of the collateral ostensibly backing up the US banking system was worthless, especially instruments based on mortgages. Hence, the trust and good faith vested in the issuer of the world’s reserve currency was revealed as worthless.

The great triumph of Ben Bernanke was to engineer a fix that rendered trust and good faith irrelevant. That was largely accomplished, in concert with the executive branch of the government, by failing to prosecute banking crime, in particular the issuance of fraudulent securities built out of worthless mortgages. In effect, Mr. Bernanke (and Barack Obama’s Department of Justice), decided that the rule of law was no longer needed for the system to operate. In fact, the rule of law only hampered it.

Mr. Bernanke now says he “regrets” that nobody went to jail. That’s interesting. More to the point perhaps he might explain why the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission did not make any criminal referrals to the US Attorney General in such cases as, for instance, Goldman Sachs (and others) peddling bonds deliberately constructed to fail, on which they had placed bets favoring that very failure.

There were a great many such cases, explicated in full by people and organizations outside the regulating community. For instance, the Pro Publica news organization did enough investigative reporting on the racket of collateralized debt obligations to send many banking executives to jail. But the authorities turned a blind eye to it, and to the reporting of others, mostly on the web, since the legacy news media just didn’t want to press too hard.

In effect, the rule of law was replaced with a patch of official accounting fraud, starting with the April 2009 move by the Financial Accounting Standards Board involving their Rule 157, which had required banks to report the verifiable mark-to-market value of the collateral they held. It was essentially nullified, allowing the banks to value their collateral at whatever they felt like saying.

Accounting fraud remains at the heart of the fix instituted by Ben Bernanke and the ploy has been copied by authorities throughout the global financial system, including the central banks of China, Japan, and the European Community. That it seemed to work for the past seven years in propping up global finance has given too many people the dangerous conviction that reality is optional in economic relations. The recovery of equity markets from the disturbances of August has apparently convinced the market players that stocks are invincible. Complacency reigns at epic levels. Few are ready for what is coming.

 

 

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.

Bread, Circuses & Bombs

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on September 22, 2014

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BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: Bread and Circuses.”

Juvenal – Satire (100 A.D.)

 

Roman satirist and poet Juvenal was displaying contempt for a degraded Roman citizenry that had shunned civic responsibility, shirked their duties of citizenship within a republic, and had chosen to sell their votes to feckless politicians for assurances of bread and circuses. Rather than govern according to noble principles based upon reason, striving for public policies that led to long term sustainability and benefitting the majority of citizens, politicians chose superficial displays and appeasing the masses utilizing the lowest common denominator of “free” food and bountiful spectacles, pageants, and ceremonies in order to retain power.

The Roman Empire’s decline stretched across centuries as the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizenry allowed demagogues to gain power and barbarians to eventually overrun the weakened empire. While the peasants were distracted with shallow exhibitions of palliative pleasures, those in power were debasing the currency, enriching themselves, and living pampered lives of luxury. The Roman leaders bought public approval and support, not through exemplary public service, but through diversion, distraction, and the satisfaction of base immediate needs and desires of the populace. Satisfying the crude motivations of the ignorant peasants (cheap food and entertainment) is how Roman politicians bought votes and retained power. Free wheat, circus games, and feeding Christians to lions kept the commoners from focusing on politicians pillaging and wasting the empire’s wealth.

History may not repeat exactly because technology, resource discoveries, and political dynamics change the nature of society, but it does rhyme because the human foibles of greed, lust for power, arrogance, and desire for conquest do not vary across the ages. The corruption, arrogance, hubris, currency debasement, materialism, imperialism, and civic decay that led to the ultimate downfall of the Roman Empire is being repeated on an even far greater scale today as the American Empire flames out after only two centuries. The pillars of western society are crumbling under the sustained pressure of an immense mountain of debt, created by crooked bankers and utilized by corrupt politicians to sustain and expand their welfare/warfare state. Recklessness, myopia, greed, willful ignorance, and selfish disregard for unborn generations are the earmarks of decline in this modern day empire of debt, delusion and decay.

“Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence – those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you’d collapse. And while you people are over-consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.”Aldous Huxley – Island

Rome was eight and a half centuries old when Juvenal scornfully described the degenerative spiral of the Roman populace. Still, the Western Empire lasted another three centuries before finally succumbing to the Visigoths and Vandals. The far slower pace of history and lack of other equally matched competing nation states allowed Rome to exist for centuries beyond its Pax Romana period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity, which lasted for two centuries. Prior to becoming an empire, the Roman Republic was a network of towns left to rule themselves with varying degrees of independence from the Roman Senate and provinces administered by military commanders. It was ruled, not by Emperors, but by annually elected magistrates known as Roman Consuls. The Roman citizens were a proud people who had a strong sense of civic duty and made government work for the people.

During the 1st century B.C. Rome suffered a long series of internal conflicts, conspiracies and civil wars, while greatly extending their imperial power beyond Italy through military conquest. After the assassination of Julius Caesar and the ascension of Augustus to emperor in 27 BC, after a century of civil wars, Rome experienced an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. During this era, the solidity of the Empire was furthered by a degree of societal stability and economic prosperity. But it didn’t last. The successors to Augustus contributed to the progressive ruination of the empire. The repugnant reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero reflected the true nature of the Roman people, who had relinquished their sovereignty to government administrators to whom they had granted absolute powers, in return for food and entertainment. It was the beginning of the end.

The American Republic began as a loose confederation of states who ruled themselves, with little or no direction from a central authority. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781 by all 13 States, limited the powers of the central government. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures. After winning the war for independence from England, the U.S. Constitution, which shifted power to a central authority, was ratified in 1789. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was passed in 1791 with the purpose of protecting individual liberties and insuring justice for all. Their function was to safeguard the citizens from an authoritarian federal government. These imperfect documents would benefit and protect the rights of the American people only if applied by moral, just, incorruptible, noble, honorable leaders and enforced by an educated, concerned, vigilant citizenry.

As with the Roman Empire, the quality of leadership has rapidly deteriorated over the last two centuries and now wallows at disgustingly low levels. These leaders are a reflection of a people who have abandoned their desire for knowledge, responsibility for their lives, work ethic, belief in freedom and the U.S. Constitution. The Juvenal of our times was H.L. Mencken who aptly and scornfully described the citizenry in 1920 as an ignorant mob who would eventually elect a downright moron to the presidency. He was right.

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” H.L. Mencken

A Republic was formed 225 years ago, as opposed to a monarchy, by men of good intentions. They weren’t perfect, but their goals for the new nation were honorable and decent. Ben Franklin had his doubts regarding whether we could keep a republic. He had good reason to doubt the long-term sustainability of this experiment. Freedom is not something bestowed on us by men of higher caste. We are born into this world free, with the liberty to live our lives as we see fit, the opportunity to educate oneself and the freedom to succeed as far as our capabilities and efforts allow. Only a self-reliant, virtuous, moral, civic minded people are capable of enjoying the fruits of freedom. Once corruption, self-interest, greed, and dependency upon government bureaucrats for sustenance become prevalent, the populace seeks masters who promise safety and security in return for sacrificing essential liberty and basic freedoms.

The country has defeated foreign invaders, withstood financial calamities, endured a bloody civil war, benefitted immensely from the discovery of oil under its soil, became an industrial power, fought on the winning side of two world wars, and since 1946 has become the greatest imperial empire since Rome fell to the barbarians. Over the course of our 225 year journey there has been a gradual relinquishment of the citizens’ sovereignty and autonomy to an ever more overbearing central government. Lincoln’s unprecedented expansion of Federal government authority during the Civil War marked a turning point, as state and local rights became subservient to an all-powerful central authority. Individual liberty has been surrendered and freedoms forfeited over a decades long insidious regression of a once courageous, independent, self-sufficient citizenry into a mob of cowering, willfully ignorant dependents of the deep state.

From the inception of the country there has been a constant battle between the banking interests and the common people. Bankers have used fraudulent fractional reserve banking to speculate for their own benefit, made risky loans, and created every financial crisis in the country’s history. The profits from excessive risk taking are retained by the bankers. The inevitable losses are borne by taxpayers with the excuse that the financial system must be saved and preserved. The storyline never changes. The beginning of the end of the American Empire can be pinpointed to the year 1913, only 124 years after its inception. Private banking interests captured the monetary system of the empire with the secretive creation of the Federal Reserve. The power of the central state was solidified with the implementation of the personal income tax, allowing politicians to bribe their constituents with modern day “bread and circuses”, paid for with money taken at gunpoint from them by the central state. We are now nothing but the hollowed out shell of a once noble Republic.

A century of central banking and heavy taxation of the people by bought off politician puppets has coincided with a century of war, depressions, currency debasement, overconsumption, obscene levels of consumer debt, trillions of excessive debt financed government spending, hundreds of trillions in unfunded entitlement liabilities, and a persistent decline in standard of living for the masses due to Federal Reserve manufactured inflation. We have failed to heed the lessons of history. We have repeated the blunders committed by the Romans.

The American Empire will not be murdered by an external force because it is too busy committing suicide. The moneyed interests, corporate oligarchs and their hand-picked politician front men see themselves as conquering heroes. Their colossal hubris and arrogance is only matched by the ignorance, gullibility, quivering fear of bogeymen, and susceptibility to propaganda of the general populace. The Wall Street bankers and feckless politicians are not gods, they are only men. Death is the great equalizer for emperors and peasants alike. The only thing that remains is your legacy and whether you positively impacted the world. It can be unequivocally stated that those in power today are leaving a legacy of despair, destruction, and debt.

Empires are born and empires die. The American Empire will not be sustained for eight centuries, as the swiftness of modern civilization, nuclear proliferation, religious zealotry, and sociopathic leadership ensures we will flame out in a blaze of glory before reaching our third century. The spirit of independence, idealism, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, knowledge seeking, advancement, and goodwill towards our fellow citizens that marked the height of our fledgling country has succumbed to a malaise of government dependency, cynicism, living on the dole, financial Ponzi schemes, willful ignorance, materialism, delusion, and myopic self-interest. The moral decline of the American populace has been reflected in the deteriorating quality of leaders we have chosen over the last century. Prosperity was taken for granted and no longer earned. We abdicated our civic responsibility to corrupt financiers and power seeking politicians. As time has passed, the ruling elite have grown ever more powerful and wealthy, at the expense of the peasantry. These sociopaths see themselves as god-like emperors, on par with the vilest of the Roman emperors.

Historians will mark 1980 as another turning point, when the nation capitulated to the financiers and ceded control of our destiny to Wall Street bankers, the military industrial complex, and globalist billionaires. The final deformation from a productive society built upon savings, capital investment, and goods production to a borrowing, gambling, and consumption society built upon debt and profiteering by powerful corporate and banking interests had commenced. The peak of this warfare/welfare state insanity was reached in 2000 and the road to decline and decay is now littered with the figurative corpses of a gutted middle class and the literal corpses of men, women and children across the globe, killed during our never ending imperial conquests. The ruling elite sense the futility and foolishness of their folly, but their insatiable appetite for wealth, power, triumph and glory blind them to the destructive consequences of their actions upon the nation and their fellow man. Power and dominion over others is a powerful aphrodisiac for our current day emperors and self-preservation at all costs is their mantra.

While they bask in their perceived triumph and glory, achieved through rigging the financial and political systems in their favor, they should heed the faint whisper in their ear that all glory is fleeting.

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” George S. Patton, Jr.

The decline of the Roman Empire can be attributed to a number of supportable hypotheses, which have been documented by historians over time. They include:

  • Perpetual warfare depleted the treasury and wasted the manhood of the empire. The use of mercenary armies eventually led to the sacking of Rome by the very armies they had employed.
  • Military overexpansion and spending resulted in resources being diverted from technological advancement, maintenance of the civil infrastructure, and worthwhile investments to support economic growth.
  • Excessive welfare spending, oppressive taxation and currency debasement widened the gap between rich and poor, resulting in discontent, mistrust and rebellion.
  • The emergence of an all-powerful centralized authoritarian government ruling by mandate, racked by corruption, and kept in power by bribing its subjects with promises of bread and circuses.
  • Emperors and Senators became oligarchs and their conspicuous consumption provided proof of their corruption and decadence. The widespread corruption and incompetence of its leadership led to a waning in civic pride among the citizens.
  • The decline in productive commercial and agricultural industries due to high taxes on producers, used to support the military empire, contributed to the circumstances that allowed barbarian invasions to succeed.
  • The moral decay of the people was caused by the influx of slave labor from conquered territories, resulting in a decline in middle class work ethic, and the subsequent rise in the level of citizens on the dole. An economy based upon slave labor precluded a middle class with buying power.

In Part Two of this tale of two empires, I’ll document the parallels between mistakes made, eternal human foibles, military misfortunes, financial misconduct, and moral decay, that denote the decline of the Roman and American Empires.

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

recession-2

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”Napoleon Bonaparte

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“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men … [W]e have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men.”Woodrow Wilson

When you ponder the implications of allowing a small group of powerful wealthy unaccountable men to control the currency of a nation over the last one hundred years, you understand why our public education system sucks. You understand why the government created Common Core curriculum teaches children that 3 x 4 = 13, as long as you feel good about your answer. George Carlin was right. The owners of this country (bankers, billionaires, corporate titans, politicians) want more for themselves and less for everyone else. They want an educational system that creates ignorant, obedient, vacuous, obese dullards who question nothing, consume mass quantities of corporate processed fast food, gaze at iGadgets, are easily susceptible to media propaganda and compliant to government regulations and directives. They don’t want highly educated, critical thinking, civil minded, well informed, questioning citizens understanding how badly they have been screwed over the last century. I’m sorry to say, your owners are winning in a landslide.

The government controlled public education system has flourished beyond all expectations of your owners. We’ve become a nation of techno-narcissistic, math challenged, reality TV distracted, welfare entitled, materialistic, gluttonous, indebted consumers of Chinese slave labor produced crap. There are more Americans who know the name of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s bastard child (North West) than know the name of our Secretary of State (Ketchup Kerry). Americans can generate a text or tweet with blinding speed but couldn’t give you change from a dollar bill if their life depended upon it. They are whizzes at buying crap on Amazon or Ebay with a credit card, but have never balanced their checkbook or figured out the concept of deferred gratification and saving for the future. While the ignorant masses are worked into a frenzy by the media propaganda machine over gay marriage, diversity, abortion, climate change, and never ending wars on poverty, drugs and terror, our owners use their complete capture of the financial, regulatory, political, judicial and economic systems to pillage the remaining national wealth they haven’t already extracted.

The financial illiteracy of the uneducated lower classes and the willful ignorance of the supposedly highly educated classes has never been more evident than when examining the concept of Federal Reserve created currency debasement – also known as inflation. The insidious central banker created monetary inflation is the cause of all the ills in our warped, deformed, rigged financialized economic system. The outright manipulation and falsity of government reported economic data is designed to obscure the truth and keep the populace unaware of the deception being executed by the owners of this country. They have utilized deceit, falsification, propaganda and outright lies to mislead the public about the true picture of the disastrous financial condition in this country. Since most people are already trapped in the mental state of normalcy bias, it is easy for those in control to reinforce that normalcy bias by manipulating economic data to appear normal and using their media mouthpieces to perpetuate the false storyline of recovery and a return to normalcy.

This is how feckless politicians and government apparatchiks are able to add $2.8 billion per day to the national debt; a central bank owned by Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks has been able to create $3.3 trillion out of thin air and pump it into the veins of its owners; and government controlled agencies report a declining unemployment rate, no inflation and a growing economy, without creating an iota of dissent or skepticism from the public. Americans want to be lied to because it allows them to continue living lives of delusion, where spending more than you make, consuming rather than saving, and believing stock market speculation and home price appreciation will make them rich are viable life strategies. Even though 90% of the population owns virtually no stocks, they are convinced record stock market highs are somehow beneficial to their lives. They actually believe Bernanke/Yellen when they bloviate about the dangers of deflation. Who would want to pay less for gasoline, food, rent, or tuition?

Unless you are beholden to the oligarchs, that sense of stress, discomfort, feeling that all in not well, and disturbing everyday visual observations is part of the cognitive dissonance engulfing the nation. Anyone who opens their eyes and honestly assesses their own financial condition, along with the obvious deterioration of our suburban sprawl retail paradise infrastructure, is confronted with information that is inconsistent with what they hear from their bought off politician leaders, highly compensated Ivy League trained economists, and millionaire talking heads in the corporate legacy media. Most people resolve this inconsistency by ignoring the facts, rejecting the obvious and refusing to use their common sense. To acknowledge the truth would require confronting your own part in this Ponzi debt charade disguised as an economic system. It is easier to believe a big lie than think critically and face up to decades of irrational behavior and reckless conduct.

What’s In Your GDP                          

“The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one of the broader measures of economic activity and is the most widely followed business indicator reported by the U.S. government. Upward growth biases built into GDP modeling since the early 1980s, however, have rendered this important series nearly worthless as an indicator of economic activity.  The popularly followed number in each release is the seasonally adjusted, annualized quarterly growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) GDP, where the current-dollar number is deflated by the BEA’s estimates of appropriate price changes. It is important to keep in mind that the lower the inflation rate used in the deflation process, the higher will be the resulting inflation-adjusted GDP growth.”John Williams – Shadowstats

GDP is the economic statistic bankers, politicians and media pundits use to convince the masses the economy is growing and their lives are improving. Therefore, it is the statistic most likely to be manipulated, twisted and engineered in order to portray the storyline required by the oligarchs. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth usually marks a recession. Those in power do not like to report recessions, so data “massaging” has been required over the last few decades to generate the required result. Prior to 1991 the government reported the broader GNP, which includes the GDP plus the balance of international flows of interest and dividend payments. Once we became a debtor nation, with massive interest payments to foreigners, reporting GNP became inconvenient. It is not reported because it is approximately $900 billion lower than GDP. The creativity of our keepers knows no bounds. In July of 2013 the government decided they had found a more “accurate” method for measuring GDP and simply retroactively increased GDP by $500 billion out of thin air. It’s amazing how every “more accurate” accounting adjustment improves the reported data. The economic growth didn’t change, but GDP was boosted by 3%. These adjustments pale in comparison to the decades long under-reporting of inflation baked into the GDP calculation.

As John Williams pointed out, GDP is adjusted for inflation. The higher inflation factored into the calculation, the lower reported GDP. The deflator used by the BEA in their GDP calculation is even lower than the already bastardized CPI. According to the BEA, there has only been 32% inflation since the year 2000. They have only found 1.4% inflation in the last year and only 7.1% in the last five years. You’d have to be a zombie from the Walking Dead or an Ivy League economist to believe those lies. Anyone living in the real world knows their cost of living has risen at a far greater rate. According to the government, and unquestioningly reported by the compliant co-conspirators in the the corporate media, GDP has grown from $10 trillion in 2000 to $17 trillion today. Even using the ridiculously low inflation BEA adjustment yields an increase from $12.4 trillion to only $15.9 trillion in real terms. That pitiful 28% growth over the last fourteen years is dramatically overstated, as revealed in the graph below. Using a true rate of inflation exposes the grand fraud being committed by those in power. The country has been in a never ending recession since 2000.

Your normalcy bias is telling you this is impossible. Your government tells you we have only experienced a recession from the third quarter of 2008 through the third quarter of 2009. So despite experiencing two stock market crashes, the greatest housing crash in history, and a worldwide financial system implosion the authorities insist  we’ve had a growing economy 93% of the time over the last fourteen years. That mental anguish you are feeling is the cognitive dissonance of wanting to believe your government, but knowing they are lying. It is a known fact the government, in conspiracy with Greenspan, Congress and academia, have systematically reduced the reported CPI based upon hedonistic quality adjustments, geometric weighting alterations, substitution modifications, and the creation of incomprehensible owner’s equivalent rent calculations. Since the 1700s consumer inflation had been estimated by measuring price changes in a fixed-weight basket of goods, effectively measuring the cost of maintaining a constant standard of living. This began to change in the early 1980s with the Greenspan Commission to “save” Social Security and came to a head with the Boskin Commission in 1995.

Simply stated, the Greenspan/Boskin Commissions’ task was to reduce future Social Security payments to senior citizens by deceitfully reducing CPI and allowing politicians the easy way out. Politicians would lose votes if they ever had to directly address the unsustainability of Social Security. Therefore, they allowed academics to work their magic by understating the CPI and stealing $700 billion from retirees in the ten years ending in 2006. With 10,000 baby boomers per day turning 65 for the next eighteen years, understating CPI will rob them of trillions in payments. This is a cowardly dishonest method of extending the life of Social Security.

If CPI was calculated exactly as it was computed prior to 1983, it would have averaged between 5% and 10% over the last fourteen years. Even computing it based on the 1990 calculation prior to the Boskin Commission adjustments, would have produced annual inflation of 4% to 7%. A glance at an inflation chart from 1872 through today reveals the complete and utter failure of the Federal Reserve in achieving their stated mandate of price stability. They have managed to reduce the purchasing power of your dollar by 95% over the last 100 years. You may also notice the net deflation from 1872 until 1913, when the American economy was growing rapidly. It is almost as if the Federal Reserve’s true mandate has been to create inflation, finance wars, perpetuate the proliferation of debt, artificially create booms and busts, enrich their Wall Street owners, and impoverish the masses. Happy Birthday Federal Reserve!!!

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When you connect the dots you realize the under-reporting of inflation benefits the corporate fascist surveillance state. If the government was reporting the true rate of inflation, mega-corporations would be forced to pay their workers higher wages, reducing profits, reducing corporate bonuses, and sticking a pin in their stock prices. The toady economists at the Federal Reserve would be unable to sustain their ludicrous ZIRP and absurd QEfinity stock market levitation policies. Reporting a true rate of inflation would force long-term interest rates higher. These higher rates, along with higher COLA increases to government entitlements, would blow a hole in the deficit and force our spineless politicians to address our unsustainable economic system. There would be no stock market or debt bubble. If the clueless dupes watching CNBC bimbos and shills on a daily basis were told the economy has been in fourteen year downturn, they might just wake up and demand accountability from their leaders and an overhaul of this corrupt system.

Mother Should I Trust the Government?

We know the BEA has deflated GDP by only 32% since 2000. We know the BLS reports the CPI has only risen by 37% since 2000. Should I trust the government or trust the facts and my own eyes? The data is available to see if the government figures pass the smell test. If you are reading this, you can remember your life in 2000. Americans know what it cost for food, energy, shelter, healthcare, transportation and entertainment in 2000, but they unquestioningly accept the falsified inflation figures produced by the propaganda machine known as our government. The chart below is a fairly comprehensive list of items most people might need to live in this world. A critical thinking individual might wonder how the government can proclaim inflation of 32% to 37% over the last fourteen years, when the true cost of living has grown by 50% to 100% for most daily living expenses. The huge increases in property taxes, sales taxes, government fees, tolls and income taxes aren’t even factored in the chart. It seems gold has smelled out the currency debasement and the lies of our leaders. This explains the concerted effort by the powers that be to suppress the price of gold by any means necessary.

 

Living Expense

Jan-00

Mar-14

% Increase

Gallon of gas

$1.27

$3.51

176.4%

Barrel of oil

$24.11

$100.00

314.8%

Fuel oil per gallon

$1.19

$4.07

242.0%

Electricity per Kwh

$0.084

$0.134

59.5%

Gas per therm

$0.712

$1.078

51.4%

Dozen eggs

$0.97

$2.00

106.2%

Coffee per lb

$3.40

$5.20

52.9%

Ground Beef per lb.

$1.90

$3.73

96.3%

Postage stamp

$0.33

$0.49

48.5%

Movie ticket

$5.25

$10.25

95.2%

New car

$20,300.00

$31,500.00

55.2%

Annual healthcare spending per capita

$4,550.00

$9,300.00

104.4%

Average private college tuition

$22,000.00

$37,000.00

68.2%

Avg home price (Case Shiller)

$161,000.00

$242,000.00

50.3%

Avg monthly rent (Case Shiller)

$635.00

$890.00

40.2%

Ounce of gold

$279.00

$1,334.00

378.1%

Mother, you should not trust the government. There is no doubt they have systematically under-reported inflation based on any impartial assessment of the facts. The reality that we remain stuck in a fourteen year recession is borne out by the continued decline in vehicle miles driven (at 1995 levels) due to declining commercial activity, the millions of shuttered small businesses, and the proliferation of Space Available signs in strip malls and office parks across the land. The fact there are only 8 million more people employed today than were employed in 2000, despite the working age population growing by 35 million, might be a clue that we remain in recession. If that isn’t enough proof for you, than maybe a glimpse at real median household income, retail sales and housing will put the final nail in the coffin of your cognitive dissonance.

The government and their media mouthpieces expect the ignorant masses to believe they have advanced their standard of living, with median household income growing from $40,800 to $52,500 since 2000. But, even using the badly flawed CPI to adjust these figures into real terms reveals real median household income to be 7.3% below the level of 2000. Using a true inflation figure would cause a CNBC talking head to have an epileptic seizure.

Click to View

The picture is even bleaker when broken down into the age of households, with younger households suffering devastating real declines in household income since 2000. I guess all those retail clerk, cashier, waitress, waiter, food prep, and housekeeper jobs created over the last few years aren’t cutting the mustard. Maybe that explains the 30 million increase (175% increase) in food stamp recipients since 2000, encompassing 19% of all households in the U.S. Luckily the banking oligarchs were able to convince the pliable masses to increase their credit card, auto and student loan debt from $1.5 trillion to $3.1 trillion over the fourteen year descent into delusion.

When you get your head around this unprecedented decline in household income over the last fourteen years, along with the 50% to 100% rise in costs to live in the real world, as opposed to the theoretical world of the Federal Reserve and BLS, you will understand the long term decline in retail sales reflected in the following chart. When you adjust monthly retail sales for gasoline (an additional tax), inflation (understated), and population growth, you understand why retailers are closing thousands of stores and hurdling towards inevitable bankruptcy. Retail sales are 6.9% below the June 2005 peak and 4% below levels reached in 2000. And this is with millions of retail square feet added over this time frame. We know the dramatic surge from the 2009 lows was not prompted by an increase in household income. So how did the 11% proliferation of spending happen?

Click to View

The up swell in retail spending began to accelerate in late 2010. Considering credit card debt outstanding is at exactly where it was in October 2010, it seems consumers playing with their own money turned off the spigot of speculation. It has been non-revolving debt that has skyrocketed from $1.63 trillion in February 2010 to $2.26 trillion today. This unprecedented 39% rise in four years has been engineered by the government, using your tax dollars and the tax dollars of unborn generations. The Federal government has complete control of the student loan market and with their 85% ownership of Ally Financial, the largest auto financing company, a dominant position in the auto loan market. The peddling of $400 billion of subprime student loan debt and $200 billion of subprime auto loan debt has created the illusion of a retail recovery. The student loan debt has been utilized by University of Phoenix MBA wannabes  to buy iGadgets, the latest PS3 version of Grand Theft Auto and the latest glazed donut breakfast sandwich on the market. It’s nothing but another debt financed bubble that will end in tears for the American taxpayer, as hundreds of billions will be written off.

The fake retail recovery pales in comparison to the wolves of Wall Street produced housing recovery sham. They deserve an Academy Award for best fantasy production. The Federal Reserve fed Wall Street hedge fund purchase of millions of foreclosed shanties across the nation has produced media proclaimed home price increases of 10% to 30% in cities across the country. Withholding foreclosures from the market and creating artificial demand with free money provided by the Federal Reserve has temporarily added $4 trillion of housing net worth and reduced the number of underwater mortgages on the books of the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks. The percentage of investor purchases and cash purchases is at all-time highs, while the percentage of first time buyers is at all-time lows. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at the long-term chart of mortgage applications and realize we are still in a recession. Applications are 35% below levels at the depths of the 2008/2009 recession. Applications are 65% below levels at the housing market peak in 2005. They are even 35% below 2000 levels. There is no real housing recovery, despite the propaganda peddled by the NAR, CNBC, and Wall Street. It’s a fraud.

It is the pinnacle of arrogance and hubris that a few Ivy League educated economists sitting in the Marriner Eccles Building in the swamps of Washington D.C., who have never worked a day in their lives at a real job, think they can create wealth and pull the levers of money creation to control the American and global financial systems. All they have done is perfect the art of bubble finance in order to enrich their owners at the expense of the rest of us. Their policies have induced unwarranted hope and speculation on a grand scale. Greenspan and Bernanke have provoked multiple bouts of extreme speculation in stocks and housing over the last 15 years, with the subsequent inevitable collapses. Fed encouraged gambling does not create wealth it just redistributes it from the peasants to the aristocracy. The Fed has again produced an epic bubble in stock and bond valuations which will result in another collapse. Normalcy bias keeps the majority from seeing the cliff straight ahead. Federal Reserve monetary policies have distorted financial markets, created extreme imbalances, encouraged excessive risk taking, and ruined the lives of working class people. Take a long hard look at the chart below and answer one question. Was QE designed to benefit Main Street or Wall Street?

The average American has experienced a fourteen year recession caused by the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. Our leaders could have learned the lesson of two Fed induced collapses in the space of eight years and voluntarily abandoned the policies of reckless credit expansion, instead embracing policies encouraging saving, capital investment and balanced budgets. They have chosen the same cure as the disease, which will lead to crisis, catastrophe and collapse.

“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises

 

Forward Guidance


Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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TARP-bailout
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  February 17, 2014
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     “Guidance” is the new organizing credo of US financial life with Janet Yellen officially installed as the new Wizard of Oz at the Federal Reserve. Guidance refers to periodic cryptic utterances made by the Wizard in staged appearances before congress or in the “minutes” (i.e. transcribed notes) from meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee. The cryptic utterances don’t necessarily have any bearing on reality, but are issued with the hope that they will be mistaken for it, especially by managers in the financial markets where assets are priced and traded.  

    One such infamous moment of guidance was Ben Bernanke’s May 2007 statement saying that percolating sub-prime mortgage problems were “contained.” If that was a signal for anything it was a green light for banks not yet deemed too big to fail to continue constructing swindles called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were bundles of already bundled mortgage backed securities based on janky mortgages for million-dollar houses owned by Las Vegas busboys, and the like, that had no prospect of ever being paid. The banks kept at it sedulously for another year, and then in September of 2008 this stream of combustible financial garbage blew up the banking system. Nobody at the Fed saw it coming, least of all Janet Yellen.

     And then the banking system was “rescued” by the “program” (free money bailouts) enacted by congress called TARP, while the Fed set up a carry trade system that would enable the floundering (now) too big to fail banks to convert massive volumes of zero-interest no-risk loans into a dependable revenue flow to “build reserves,” that is, allow them to appear solvent while engaging in new dodges, swindles, and manipulations of markets, currencies and interest rates.

      Which brings us very near the present. Fed chairperson Yellen gave a marathon six-hour audience to the House Committee on Financial Services last week. It was so devoid of substance and meaning that the TV network covering it switched the feed a few times to the exciting Olympic event of curling, in which “athletes” wield brooms to induce giant polished stones to glide across a length of ice at a scoring target — that is, an entirely artificial and purposeless activity aimed at producing a trance of contentment among viewers who have nothing better to do in the middle of the day.

       Last May’s remarks by then Fed Chairperson Ben Bernanke that the Fed might consider “tapering” its gigantic monthly purchases of US Treasury bonds plus an equal amount of stranded mortgage paper made the markets so nervous that stock indexes had a seizure and the interest rate on the lodestar ten-year treasury bill shot up 150 basis points — into a zone that would cripple the government’s ability to keep its credit revolving. These dire portents prompted Bernanke to take back what he’d said, but then three months later, in the fall, he restated the taper guidance. By then, market watchers and playas were sure that he was just juking them, and anyway they were too busy stuffing their Christmas bonus stockings to take him seriously.

       Lo, the taper is still on under Wizard Yellen, for the simple reason that if she backed out of it now, before she officially chaired her first meeting of the Fed governors, her outfit would lose whatever shreds of credibility it still hangs onto. Even with the taper on, it is for now still pumping over half a trillion dollars a year into the banking system. There is some reason to think that it made the markets puke two weeks ago. But then a really bad employment number came out, and in the inverse climate of bad-news-being-good-news for bubble markets, that was construed as a sure sign that the Fed might have to un-taper sometime around late spring with Yellen’s chairpersonship fully established.  I suspect they’ll do something else: they’ll continue to taper down purchases of treasuries and mortgage detritus via the direct TBTF bank channel and they’ll establish a new “back door” for shoveling money into the system. Nobody knows what this is yet, and it may be some time even after it starts that the mechanism is discovered. In the meantime, the seeming placidity of the renewed “risk on” mood should be a warning to market cheerleaders. Something’s got to give and I think it will be the US dollar index, which has been in Zombieland since November. The world has never been so ready for a change in direction. Expect no real guidance from your leaders.

***

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.

 

 

WARPED, DISTORTED, MANIPULATED, FLIPPED HOUSING MARKET

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on February 2, 2014

house-flipping

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The report from RealtyTrac last week proves beyond the shadow of a doubt the supposed housing market recovery is a complete and utter fraud. The corporate mainstream media did their usual spin job on the report by focusing on the fact foreclosure starts in 2013 were the lowest since 2007. Focusing on this meaningless fact (because the Too Big To Trust Wall Street Criminal Banks have delayed foreclosure starts as part of their conspiracy to keep prices rising) is supposed to convince the willfully ignorant masses the housing market is back to normal. It’s always the best time to buy!!!

The talking heads reading their teleprompter propaganda machines failed to mention that distressed sales (short sales & foreclosure sales) rose to a three year high of 16.2% of all U.S. residential sales, up from 14.5% in 2012. The economy has been supposedly advancing for over four years and sales of distressed homes are at 16.2% and rising. The bubble headed bimbos on CNBC don’t find it worthwhile to mention that prior to 2007 the normal percentage of distressed home sales was less than 3%. Yeah, we’re back to normal alright. We are five years into a supposed economic recovery and distressed home sales account for 1 out of 6 all home sales and is still 500% higher than normal.

The distressed sales aren’t even close to the biggest distortion of this housing market. The RealtyTrac report reveals that all-cash purchases accounted for 42% of all U.S. residential sales in December, up from 38% in November, and up from 18% in December 2012. Does that sound like a trend of normalization? There were five states where all-cash transactions accounted for more than 50% of sales in December – Florida (62.5%), Wisconsin (59.8%), Alabama (55.7%), South Carolina (51.3%), and Georgia (51.3%). In the pre-crisis days before 2008, all-cash sales NEVER accounted for more than 10% of all home sales. NEVER. This is all being driven by hot Wall Street money, aided and abetted by Bernanke, Yellen and the rest of the Fed fiat heroine dealers.

The fact that Wall Street is running this housing show is borne out by mortgage applications languishing at 1997 levels, down 65% from the 2005 highs. Real people in the real world need a mortgage to buy a house. If mortgage applications are near 16 year lows, how could home prices be ascending as if there is a frenzy of demand? Besides enriching the financial class, the contrived elevation of home prices and the QE induced mortgage rate increase has driven housing affordability into the ground. First time home buyers account for a record low percentage of 27%. In a normal non-manipulated market, first time home buyers account for 40% of home purchases.

Price increases that rival the peak insanity of 2005 have been manufactured by Wall Street shysters and the Federal Reserve commissars. Doctor Housing Bubble sums up the absurdity of this housing market quite well.

The all-cash segment of buyers has typically been a tiny portion of the overall sales pool.  The fact that so many sales are occurring off the typical radar suggests that the Fed’s easy money eco-system has created a ravenous hunger with investors to buy up real estate.  Why?  The rentier class is chasing yields in every nook and cranny of the economy.  This helps to explain why we have such a twisted system where home ownership is declining yet prices are soaring.  What do we expect when nearly half of sales are going to investors?  The all-cash locusts flood is still ravaging the housing market.

The Case-Shiller Index has shown price surges over the last two years that exceed the Fed induced bubble years of 2001 through 2006. Does that make sense, when new homes sales are at levels seen during recessions over the last 50 years, and down 70% from the 2005 highs? Even with this Fed/Wall Street induced levitation, existing home sales are at 1999 levels and down 30% from the 2005 highs. So how and why have national home prices skyrocketed by 14% in 2013 after a 9% rise in 2012? Why are the former bubble markets of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Phoenix seeing 17% to 27% one year price increases? How could the bankrupt paradise of Detroit see a 17.3% increase in prices in one year? In a normal free market where individuals buy houses from other individuals, this does not happen. Over the long term, home prices rise at the rate of inflation. According to the government drones at the BLS, inflation has risen by 3.6% over the last two years. Looks like we have a slight disconnect.

http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2014/01-overflow/Case%20Shiller%20NSA.jpg

This entire contrived episode has been designed to lure dupes back into the market, artificially inflate the insolvent balance sheets of the Too Big To Trust banks, enrich the feudal overlords who have easy preferred access to the Federal Reserve easy money, and provide the propaganda peddling legacy media with a recovery storyline to flog to the willingly ignorant public. The masses desperately want a feel good story they can believe. The ruling class has a thorough understanding of Edward Bernays’ propaganda techniques.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”  

Ben Bernanke increased his balance sheet by $3.2 trillion (450%) since 2008, and it had to go somewhere. We know it didn’t trickle down to the 99%. It was placed in the firm clutches of the .1% billionaire club. Bernanke sold his QE schemes as methods to benefit Main Street Americans, when his true purpose was to benefit Wall Street crooks. 30 year mortgage rates were 4.25% before QE2. 30 year mortgage rates were 3.5% before QE3. Today they stand at 4.5%. QE has not benefited average Americans. They are getting 0% on their savings, mortgage rates are higher, and their real household income has fallen and continues to fall.

But you’ll be happy to know banking profits are at all-time highs, Blackrock and the rest of the Wall Street Fed front running crowd have made a killing in the buy and rent ruse, and record bonuses are being doled out to the men who have wrecked our financial system in their gluttonous plundering of the once prosperous nation. Their felonious machinations have added zero value to society, while impoverishing a wide swath of America. Bernanke, Yellen and their owners have used their control of the currency, interest rates, and regulatory agencies to create the widest wealth disparity between the haves and have-nots in world history. Their depraved actions on behalf of the .1% will mean blood.

Just as Greenspan’s easy money policies of the early 2000’s created a housing bubble, inspiring low IQ wannabes to play flip that house, Bernanke’s mal-investment inducing QEternity has lured the get rich quick crowd back into the flipping business. The re-propagation of Flip that House shows on cable is like a rerun of the pre-bubble bursting frenzy in 2005. RealtyTrac’s recent report details the disturbing lemming like trend among greedy institutions and dullard brother-in-laws across the land.

  • 156,862 single family home flips — where a home is purchased and subsequently sold again within six months — in 2013, up 16% from 2012 and up 114% from 2011.
  • Homes flipped in 2013 accounted for 4.6% of all U.S. single family home sales during the year, up from 4.2% in 2012 and up from 2.6% in 2011

The easy profits just keep flowing when the Fed provides the easy money. What could possibly go wrong? Home prices never fall. A brilliant Ivy League economist said so in 2005. The easy profits have been reaped by the early players. Wall Street hedge funds don’t really want to be landlords. Flippers need to make a quick buck or their creditors pull the plug. Home prices peaked in mid-2013. They have begun to fall. The 35% increase in mortgage rates has removed the punchbowl from the party. Anyone who claims housing will improve in 2014 is either talking their book, owns a boatload of vacant rental properties, teaches at Princeton, or gets paid to peddle the Wall Street propaganda on CNBC.

Reality will reassert itself in 2014, with lemmings, flippers, and hedgies getting slaughtered as the housing market comes back to earth with a thud. The continued tapering by the Fed will remove the marginal dollars used by Wall Street to fund this housing Ponzi. The Wall Street lemmings all follow the same MBA created financial models. They will all attempt to exit the market simultaneously when their models all say sell. If the economy improves, interest rates will rise and kill the housing market. If the economy tanks, the stock market will plunge, creating fear and killing the housing market. Once it becomes clear that prices have begun to fall, the flippers will panic and start dumping, exacerbating the price declines. This scenario never grows old.

Real household income continues to fall and nearly 25% of all households with a mortgage are still underwater. Young people are saddled with $1 trillion of government peddled student loan debt and will not be buying homes in the foreseeable future. Dodd-Frank rules will result in fewer people qualifying for mortgages. Mortgage insurance is increasing. Obamacare premium increases are sucking the life out of potential middle class home buyers. Retailers have begun firing thousands. The financial class had a good run. They were able to re-inflate the bubble for two years, but the third year won’t be a charm. In a normal housing market 85% of home sales would be between individuals using a mortgage, 10% would be all cash transactions, less than 5% of sales would be distressed, and 40% would be first time buyers. In this warped market only 40% of home sales are between individuals using a mortgage, 42% are all cash transactions, 16% are distressed sales, 5% are flipped, and only 27% are first time buyers. The return to normalcy will be painful for shysters, gamblers, believers, paid off economists, Larry Yun, and CNBC bimbos.

Something Stirs

Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on January 31, 2014

Last-Tree

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Do you remember this poster that idealistic people used to have on their walls in the 1970s? The native American wisdom it quotes stresses that we can’t actually eat money, which to my young self seemed pretty self-evident.

These days of course, people don’t put posters like that up on their physical walls, they put them all over their virtual social media walls so that like minded people can ‘like’ them and un-like minded people can unlike you and whisper about you having ‘gone weird’.

Anyway, money, or what passes for it these days, has been getting a whole lot more exciting over the last week. I blame Ben Bernanke, the soon-to-be ex-chairman of the US Federal Reserve. During his tenure he has overseen a massive bond-buying programme, the likes which the world has never seen. Now, as he steps down to hand over the reins of power, he is tapering off the amount of – let’s be honest – money printing. And this is having a pretty dramatic effect on things, to say the least.

Although he is being hailed as a fiscal hero in most quarters, the legacy he leaves behind is massive debt and broken economies. And it is only now becoming clear that the effect of flooding the too-big-to-fail banks with money has been to make them even bigger, and to launch a series of crises around the world as ’emerging economies’ (I hate that condescending nomenclature, so have to put it in quotes) suddenly find themselves with currency crises. Any number of them are having to hoik interest rates to protect their currencies, and in doing so are chucking many of their citizens under the proverbial bus.

India, Turkey, South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, plus a baker’s dozen other ’emerging nations’ are in full panic mode as they exhaust their supplies of hard currency trying to keep their own rands, rupees and florins from devaluing. Each one is a different case, with some in better positions than others, but the upshot of it is that all of them will be going through some challenging contractions. Some excitable people are talking about currency wars being a prelude to real bullets and bombs wars. Better get a flak jacket and dig a shelter, if that’s the case.

And it’s not just the ’emerging economies’. Combined, they make up almost half of the world’s trade. A couple of decades ago this would not have been the case, but now, by crashing their economies, the US is effectively shooting itself in the foot – albeit a foot that is wearing the steel toe-capped boots of a reserve currency status. For now.

Turmoil ensues. Stocks are dropping like stones. Money is flooding into safe havens, such as gold, the Swiss franc and, of course, the US dollar. The volatility index has gone through the roof and the mainstream media, for all of its talk about recovery, is still trying its best to ignore it.

And so it becomes clear that all of this QE business boiled down to one thing: most of the world’s weaker economies were sacrificed on the alter of keeping the bigger western economies from melting down. Simple as that, really. Let them have an emerging middle class of consumers, and just when their expectations have been raised, pull the rug out from under their feet and send them all back to the shanty towns. That’s life in the hardball world of dog-eat-dog capitalism.

And still, it may all be for nothing. Does anyone feel safe with their money in a bank account? If so, why? Putting your money in a bank is akin to lending it to a crystal meth addict with a black credit record. Incidentally, once you put your money in the bank it ceases to be yours. Almost every western nation is now talking in terms of bail-ins. A bail-in is where YOU get to bail out the failing bank with YOUR money because the world’s central banks are running out of fire blankets and ammunition to contain the problem of over-leverage. It happened in Cyprus. It may well happen in the UK next, where some banks are insisting that if you want to withdraw money from your own account you must submit to intimate questioning, have documented proof of what you are spending it on, and present a signed note from your mum for good measure.

What’s more, we are heading into a period of deflation. People hear the word deflation and think that it’ll be great because things will be cheaper. They may well be cheaper, but they’ll have correspondingly less money to spend on them, so they’ll still be poorer. Europe has already entered into deflation. I found myself in a Poundland store (where everything costs a pound) this morning on a trip to Truro, the regional capital (a throbbing metropolis of 19,000 people). I must admit to being a bit sniffy about this kind of place in the past. Not any more. I picked up four fruit bushes, some toilet paper, a roll of silver kitchen paper, two home-grow mushroom kits, a CD, two litres of milk and some potting compost – all for ten quid. The same stuff in other stores would cost four times the price.

Perhaps that’s why everyone all of a sudden seems to be shopping at these places and why supermarkets such as Lidl are popping up everywhere. Of course, not everyone can even afford to shop at Poundland or Lidl – these are the people that find themselves lining up at food banks. There are plenty of these too. Some recovery! Still, better get used to going hungry some reports suggest that global food prices will triple in the next two decades.

Poundland: cheap and cheerful

On the way back home I listened to a BBC programme on the radio in which people in Liverpool were questioned about whether they could ‘feel the recovery yet’. Only one person said he had become better off in the last five years and he was selling donuts on the street (‘Because people can’t afford a proper meal any more so they buy donuts.’). Everyone else seemed to have tales of deprivation and downright misery. The only person who could see any green shoots at all was the leader of the city council, who was defending his decision to spend £50 million on a shiny new prestige library that has won some kind of architectural award. The city borrowed the money to build it. But even he said it was ‘challenging’ when the receipts from local taxes only covered about half of what the city spends annually. But he figured everything would be okay in the end because the city has a great vibe and ‘people are resilient’.

Yet, despite all this gloom, there remains a patina of richness and wealth about the country. People cruise around in their shiny new BMWs and Audis and luxury supermarkets are also on the rise. Property prices are rising dramatically, and the government would have us believe that Britain is the rising star of the European economies. Sometimes I have to pinch my arm and remind myself that most wealth is virtual, that 99% of ‘money’ in the global economy is just static electricity on computer chips being buzzed around via satellites and cables from one continent to another seeking ‘yield’.

A newspaper front page last week

So it seems that the propaganda machine is in overdrive to convince us that we are enjoying boom times again. Could it be that this is timed to coincide with the inevitable capital flight from the ’emerging nations’ as QE programmes are wound down? Is the British government’s policy to try and look like the proverbial prettiest horse in the glue factory to skittish investors? Does anyone realise we are just one sharp pin away from a big bubble going pop?

Prediction time. Over the next few weeks and months there will be a massive deleveraging of unsalvageable debt. The stock market will go down a lot. The weaker currencies will devalue mightily as traders act like pack wolves to bring them down one by one. China will wrestle with its out of control shadow banking system, with unpredictable results. People will willingly sign up to have their pensions evaporated. Financial Crisis 2:0 will be hailed and politicians everywhere will blame the ’emerging markets’ for the chaos. Within a year the fracking bubble will have burst (big oil companies are already pulling out as fast as they can), deflation will take hold and a lot of people will suddenly find they are a lot poorer. Life will go on, for most. The investor classes will look around for a new bubble to inflate.

And no, when the last tree has been cut down, the last river poisoned  and the last fish caught, we will find that we can’t eat static electricity either. What strange times we live in.

The Retail Death Rattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on January 20, 2012

Death-Rattle

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“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”Emile Gauvreau

If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun. November and December retail sales account for 20% to 40% of annual retail sales for most retailers. The number of visits to retail stores has plummeted by 50% since 2010. Please note this was during a supposed economic recovery. Also note consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Also note credit card debt outstanding is 7% lower than its level in 2010 and 16% below its peak in 2008. Retailers like J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears, Radio Shack and Barnes & Noble continue to report appalling sales and profit results, along with listings of store closings. Even the heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target continue to report negative comp store sales. How can the government and mainstream media be reporting an economic recovery when the industry that accounts for 70% of GDP is in free fall? The answer is that 99% of America has not had an economic recovery. Only Bernanke’s 1% owner class have benefited from his QE/ZIRP induced stock market levitation.

The entire economic recovery storyline is a sham built upon easy money funneled by the Fed to the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks so they can use their HFT supercomputers to drive the stock market higher, buy up the millions of homes they foreclosed upon to artificially drive up home prices, and generate profits through rigging commodity, currency, and bond markets, while reducing loan loss reserves because they are free to value their toxic assets at anything they please – compliments of the spineless nerds at the FASB. GDP has been artificially propped up by the Federal government through the magic of EBT cards, SSDI for the depressed and downtrodden, never ending extensions of unemployment benefits, billions in student loans to University of Phoenix prodigies, and subprime auto loans to deadbeats from the Government Motors financing arm – Ally Financial (85% owned by you the taxpayer). The country is being kept afloat on an ocean of debt and delusional belief in the power of central bankers to steer this ship through a sea of icebergs just below the surface.

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The most amazingly delusional aspect to the chart above is retailers continued to add 44 million square feet in 2013 to the almost 15 billion existing square feet of retail space in the U.S. That is approximately 47 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Retail CEOs are not the brightest bulbs in the sale bin, as exhibited by the CEO of Target and his gross malfeasance in protecting his customers’ personal financial information. Of course, the 44 million square feet added in 2013 is down 85% from the annual increases from 2000 through 2008. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

The impact of this retail death spiral will be vast and far reaching. A few factoids will help you understand the coming calamity:

  • There are approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the United States ranging in size from the small convenience centers to the large super-regional malls.
  • There are in excess of 1 million retail establishments in the United States occupying 15 billion square feet of space and generating over $4.4 trillion of annual sales. This includes 8,700 department stores, 160,000 clothing & accessory stores, and 8,600 game stores.
  • U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.
  • The U.S. shopping-center industry directly employed over 12 million people in 2010 and indirectly generated another 5.6 million jobs in support industries. Collectively, the industry accounted for 12.7% of total U.S. employment.
  • Total retail employment in 2012 totaled 14.9 million, lower than the 15.1 million employed in 2002.
  • For every 100 individuals directly employed at a U.S. regional shopping center, an additional 20 to 30 jobs are supported in the community due to multiplier effects.

The collapse in foot traffic to the 109,500 shopping centers that crisscross our suburban sprawl paradise of plenty is irreversible. No amount of marketing propaganda, 50% off sales, or hot new iGadgets is going to spur a dramatic turnaround. Quarter after quarter there will be more announcements of store closings. Macys just announced the closing of 5 stores and firing of 2,500 retail workers. JC Penney just announced the closing of 33 stores and firing of 2,000 retail workers. Announcements are imminent from Sears, Radio Shack and a slew of other retailers who are beginning to see the writing on the wall. The vacancy rate will be rising in strip malls, power malls and regional malls, with the largest growing sector being ghost malls. Before long it will appear that SPACE AVAILABLE is the fastest growing retailer in America.

The reason this death spiral cannot be reversed is simply a matter of arithmetic and demographics. While arrogant hubristic retail CEOs of public big box mega-retailers added 2.7 billion retail square feet to our already over saturated market, real median household income flat lined. The advancement in retail spending was attributable solely to the $1.1 trillion increase (68%) in consumer debt and the trillion dollars of home equity extracted from castles in the sky, that later crashed down to earth. Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. With real median household income 8% lower than it was in 2008, the collapse in retail traffic is a rational reaction by the impoverished 99%. Americans are using their credit cards to pay their real estate taxes, income taxes, and monthly utilities, since their income is lower, and their living expenses rise relentlessly, thanks to Bernanke and his Fed created inflation.

The media mouthpieces for the establishment gloss over the fact average gasoline prices in 2013 were the second highest in history. The highest average price was in 2012 and the 3rd highest average price was in 2011. These prices are 150% higher than prices in the early 2000′s. This might not matter to the likes of Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine, but for a middle class family with two parents working and making 7.5% less than they made in 2000, it has a dramatic impact on discretionary income. The fact oil prices have risen from $25 per barrel in 2003 to $100 per barrel today has not only impacted gas prices, but utility costs, food costs, and the price of any product that needs to be transported to your local Wally World. The outrageous rise in tuition prices has been aided and abetted by the Federal government and their doling out of loans so diploma mills like the University of Phoenix can bilk clueless dupes into thinking they are on their way to an exciting new career, while leaving them jobless in their parents’ basement with a loan payment for life.

The laughable jobs recovery touted by Obama, his sycophantic minions, paid off economist shills, and the discredited corporate legacy media can be viewed appropriately in the following two charts, that reveal the false storyline being peddled to the techno-narcissistic iGadget distracted masses. There are 247 million working age Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Only 145 million of these people are employed. Of these employed, 19 million are working part-time and 9 million are self- employed. Another 20 million are employed by the government, producing nothing and being sustained by the few remaining producers with their tax dollars. The labor participation rate is the lowest it has been since women entered the workforce in large numbers during the 1980′s. We are back to levels seen during the booming Carter years. Those peddling the drivel about retiring Baby Boomers causing the decline in the labor participation rate are either math challenged or willfully ignorant because they are being paid to be so. Once you turn 65 you are no longer counted in the work force. The percentage of those over 55 in the workforce has risen dramatically to an all-time high, as the Me Generation never saved for retirement or saw their retirement savings obliterated in the Wall Street created 2008 financial implosion.

To understand the absolute idiocy of retail CEOs across the land one must parse the employment data back to 2000. In the year 2000 the working age population of the U.S. was 213 million and 136.9 million of them were working, a record level of 64.4% of the population. There were 70 million working age Americans not in the labor force. Fourteen years later the number of working age Americans is 247 million and only 144.6 million are working. The working age population has risen by 16% and the number of employed has risen by only 5.6%. That’s quite a success story. Of course, even though median household income is 7.5% lower than it was in 2000, the government expects you to believe that 22 million Americans voluntarily left the labor force because they no longer needed a job. While the number of employed grew by 5.6% over fourteen years, the number of people who left the workforce grew by 31.1%. Over this same time frame the mega-retailers that dominate the landscape added almost 3 billion square feet of selling space, a 25% increase. A critical thinking individual might wonder how this could possibly end well for the retail genius CEOs in glistening corporate office towers from coast to coast.

This entire materialistic orgy of consumerism has been sustained solely with debt peddled by the Wall Street banking syndicate. The average American consumer met their Waterloo in 2008. Bernanke’s mission was to save bankers, billionaires and politicians. It was not to save the working middle class. You’ve been sacrificed at the altar of the .1%. The 0% interest rates were for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Your credit card interest rate remained between 13% and 21%. So, while you struggle to pay bills with your declining real income, the Wall Street bankers are again generating record profits and paying themselves record bonuses. Profits are so good, they can afford to pay tens of billions in fines for their criminal acts, and still be left with billions to divvy up among their non-prosecuted criminal executives.

Bernanke and his financial elite owners have been able to rig the markets to give the appearance of normalcy, but they cannot rig the demographic time bomb that will cause the death and destruction of our illusory retail paradigm. Demographics cannot be manipulated or altered by the government or mass media. The best they can do is ignore or lie about the facts. The life cycle of a human being is utterly predictable, along with their habits across time. Those under 25 years old have very little income, therefore they have very little spending. Once a job is attained and income levels rise, spending rises along with the increased income. As the person enters old age their income declines and spending on stuff declines rapidly. The media may be ignoring the fact that annual expenditures drop by 40% for those over 65 years old from the peak spending years of 45 to 54, but it doesn’t change the fact. They also cannot change the fact that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next sixteen years. They also can’t change the fact the average Baby Boomer has less than $50,000 saved for retirement and is up to their grey eye brows in debt.

With over 15% of all 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ basement and those under 25 saddled with billions in student loan debt, the traditional increase in income and spending is DOA for the millennial generation. The hardest hit demographic on the job front during the 2008 through 2014 ongoing recession has been the 45 to 54 year olds in their peak earning and spending years. Combine these demographic developments and you’ve got a perfect storm for over-built retailers and their egotistical CEOs.

The media continues to peddle the storyline of on-line sales saving the ancient bricks and mortar retailers. Again, the talking head pundits are willfully ignoring basic math. On-line sales account for 6% of total retail sales. If a dying behemoth like JC Penney announces a 20% decline in same store sales and a 20% increase in on-line sales, their total change is still negative 17.6%. And they are still left with 1,100 decaying stores, 100,000 employees, lease payments, debt payments, maintenance costs, utility costs, inventory costs, and pension costs. Their future is so bright they gotta wear a toe tag.

The decades of mal-investment in retail stores was enabled by Greenspan, Bernanke, and their Federal Reserve brethren. Their easy money policies enabled Americans to live far beyond their true means through credit card debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, and home equity debt. This false illusion of wealth and foolish spending led mega-retailers to ignore facts and spread like locusts across the suburban countryside. The debt fueled orgy has run out of steam. All that is left is the largest mountain of debt in human history, a gutted and debt laden former middle class, and thousands of empty stores in future decaying ghost malls haunting the highways and byways of suburbia.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. Real estate developers will be going belly-up and the banking sector will be taking huge losses again. I’m sure the remaining taxpayers will gladly bailout Wall Street again. The facts are not debatable. They can be ignored by the politicians, Ivy League economists, media talking heads, and the willfully ignorant masses, but they do not cease to exist.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”Aldous Huxley

 

Dense Fog Turns into Toxic Smog

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on December 31, 2013

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

 

In mid-January of this year I wrote my annual prediction article for 2013 – Apparitions in the Fog. It is again time to assess my inability to predict the future any better than a dart throwing monkey. As usual, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. I was far too pessimistic about the near term implications of debt, civic decay and global disorder. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people. The day to day minutia, pointless drivel of our techno-narcissistic selfie showbiz society, and artificially created issues (gay marriage, Zimmerman-Martin, Baby North West, Duck Dynasty) designed to distract the public from thinking, are worthless trivialities in the broad landscape of human history.

The course of human history is determined by recurring cyclical themes based upon human frailties that have been perpetual through centuries of antiquity. The immense day to day noise of an inter-connected techno-world awash in inconsequentialities and manipulated by men of evil intent is designed to divert the attention of the masses from the criminal activities of those in power. It has always been so. There have always been arrogant, ambitious, greedy, power hungry, deceitful men, willing to take advantage of a fearful, lazy, ignorant, selfish, easily manipulated populace. The rhythms of history are unaffected by predictions of “experts” who are paid to spin yarns in order to sustain the status quo. There is no avoiding the consequences of actions taken and not taken over the last eighty years. We are in the midst of a twenty year period of Crisis that was launched in September 2008 with the worldwide financial collapse, created by the Federal Reserve, their Wall Street owners, their bought off Washington politicians, and their media and academic propaganda machines.

I still stand by the final paragraph of my 2013 missive, and despite the fact the establishment has been able to fend off the final collapse of their man made credit boom for longer than I anticipated, they have only insured a far worse outcome when the bubble bursts:

“So now I’m on the record for 2013 and I can be scorned and ridiculed for being such a pessimist when December rolls around and our Ponzi scheme economy hasn’t collapsed. There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”

The core elements of this Crisis have been visible since Strauss & Howe wrote The Fourth Turning in 1997. All the major events that transpire during this Crisis will be driven by one or more of these core elements – Debt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder.

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

My 2013 predictions were framed by these core elements. After re-reading my article for the first time in eleven months I’ve concluded it is lucky I don’t charge for investment predictions. Many of my prognostications were in the ballpark, but I have continually underestimated the ability of central bankers and their Wall Street co-conspirators to use the $2.8 billion per day of QE to artificially elevate the stock market to bubble level proportions once again. If I wasn’t such a trusting soul, I might conclude the .1% financial elite, who run this country, created QEternity to benefit themselves, their .1% corporate CEO accomplices and the corrupt government apparatchiks who shield their flagrant criminality from the righteous hand of justice.

Even a highly educated Ivy League economist might grasp the fact that Ben Bernanke’s QEternity and ZIRP, sold to the unsuspecting masses as desperate measures during a crisis that could have brought the system down, have been kept in place for five years as a means to drive stock prices and home prices higher. The emergency was over by 2010, according to government reported data. The current monetary policy of the Federal Reserve would have been viewed as outrageous, reckless, and incomprehensible in 2007. It is truly a credit to the ruling elite and their media propaganda arm that they have been able to convince a majority of Americans their brazen felonious disregard for the wellbeing of the 99% is necessary to sustain the .1% way of life. Those palaces in the Hamptons aren’t going to pay for themselves without those $100 billion of annual bonuses.

Do you think the 170% increase in the S&P 500 has been accidently correlated with the quadrupling of the Federal Reserve balance sheet or has Bernanke just done the bidding of his puppet masters? Considering the .1% billionaire clique owns the vast majority of stock in this corporate fascist paradise, is it really a surprise the trickle down canard would be the solution of choice from these sociopathic scoundrels? Of course QE and ZIRP have impacted the 80% who own virtually no stocks in a slightly different manner. Do you think the 100% increase in gasoline prices since 2009 was caused by Bernanke’s QEternity?

Do you think the 8% decline in real median household income since 2008 was caused by Bernanke’s QE and ZIRP policies?

Click to View

Do you think the $10.8 trillion stolen from grandmothers and risk adverse savers was caused by Bernanke’s ZIRP?

Was the $860 billion increase in real GDP (5.8% over five years) worth the $8 trillion increase in the National Debt and $3 trillion increase in the Federal Reserve balance sheet? Was it moral, courageous and honorable of the Wall Street plantation owners to syphon the remaining wealth of the dying middle class peasants and leaving the millennial generation and future generations bound in chains of unfunded debt to the tune of $200 trillion?

My assessment regarding unpredictable events lurking in the fog was borne out by what happened that NO ONE predicted, including: the first resignation of a pope in six hundred years, the military coup of a democratically elected president of Egypt – supported by the democratically elected U.S. president, the rise of an alternative currency – bitcoin, the bankruptcy of one of the largest cities in the U.S. – Detroit, a minor terrorist attack in Boston that freaked out the entire country and revealed the Nazi-like un-Constitutional tactics that will be used by the police state as this Crisis deepens, and revelations by a brilliant young patriot named Edward Snowden proving that the U.S. has been turned into an Orwellian surveillance state as every electronic communication of every American is being monitored and recorded. The Democrats and Republicans played their parts in this theater of the absurd. They proved to be two faces of the same Party as neither faction questions the droning of innocent people around the globe, mass spying on citizens, Wall Street criminality, trillion dollar deficits, a rogue Federal Reserve, or out of control unsustainable government spending.

My predictions for 2013 were divided into the three categories driving this Fourth Turning CrisisDebt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder. Let’s assess my inaccuracy.

Debt

  • The debt ceiling will be raised as the toothless Republican Party vows to cut spending next time. The political hacks will create a 3,000 page document of triggers and create a committee to study the issue, with actual measures that slow the growth of annual spending by .000005% starting in 2017.

The government shutdown reality TV show proved to be the usual Washington D.C. kabuki theater. They gave a shutdown and no one noticed. It had zero impact on the economy. More people came to the realization that government does nothing except spend our money and push us around. The debt ceiling was raised, the sequester faux “cuts” were reversed and $20 billion of spending will be cut sometime in the distant future. Washington snakes are entirely predictable. I nailed this prediction.

  • The National Debt will increase by $1.25 trillion and debt to GDP will reach 106% by the end of the fiscal year.

The National Debt increased by ONLY $964 billion in the last fiscal year, even though the government stopped counting in May. The temporary sequester cuts, the expiration of the 2% payroll tax cut, the fake Fannie & Freddie paybacks to the U.S. Treasury based upon mark to fantasy accounting, and the automatic expiration of stimulus spending combined to keep the real deficit from reaching $1 trillion for the fifth straight year. Debt to GDP was 104%, before our beloved government drones decided to “adjust” GDP upwards by $500 billion based upon a new and improved formula, like Tide detergent. I missed this prediction by a smidgeon.

  • The Federal Reserve balance sheet will reach $4 trillion by the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve balance sheet stands at $4.075 trillion today. Ben is very predictable, and of course “transparent”. This was an easy one.

  • Consumer debt will reach $2.9 trillion as the Feds accelerate student loans and Ally Financial, along with the other Too Big To Control Wall Street banks, keep pumping out subprime auto loans. By mid-year reported losses on student loans will soar and auto loan delinquencies will show an upturn. This will force a slowdown in consumer debt issuance, exacerbating the recession that started in 2012.

Consumer debt outstanding currently stands at $3.076 trillion despite the fact that credit card debt has been virtually flat. The Federal government has continued to dole out billions in loans to University of Phoenix wannabes and to the subprime urban entitlement armies who deserve to drive an Escalade despite having no job, no assets and a sub 650 credit score, through government owned Ally Financial. It helps drive business when you don’t care about being repaid. Student loan delinquency rates are at an all-time high, as there are no jobs for graduates with tens of thousands in debt. Auto loan delinquencies have begun to rise despite the fact we are supposedly in a strongly recovering economy. The slowdown in debt issuance has not happened, as the Federal government is in complete control of the non-revolving loan segment. My prediction has proven to be accurate.

  • The Bakken oil miracle will prove to be nothing more than Wall Street shysters selling a storyline. Daily output will stall at 750,000 barrels per day and the dreams of imminent energy independence will be annihilated by reality, again. The price of oil will average $105 per barrel, as global tensions restrict supply.

Bakken production has reached 867,000 barrels per day as more and more wells have been drilled to offset the steep depletion rates of the existing wells. The average price per barrel has been $104, despite the frantic propaganda campaign about imminent American energy independence. Tell that to the average Joe filling their tank and paying the highest December gas price in history. My prediction was too pessimistic, but the Bakken miracle will be revealed as an over-hyped Wall Street scam in 2014.

  • The home price increases generated through inventory manipulation in 2012 will peter out as 2013 progresses. The market has been flooded by investors. There is very little real demand for new homes. Young households with heavy student loan debt and low paying jobs will continue to rent, since the oligarchs refused to let prices fall to a level that would spur real demand. Mortgage delinquencies will rise as job growth remains stagnant, leading to an increase in foreclosures. Rent prices will flatten as apartment construction and investors flood the market with supply.

Existing home sales peaked in the middle of 2013 and have been in decline as mortgage rates have jumped from 3.25% to 4.5% since February. New home sales remain stagnant, near record low levels. The median sales price for existing home sales peaked at $214,000 in June and has fallen for five consecutive months by a total of 8%. First time home buyers account for a record low of 28% of purchases, while investors account for a record high level of purchasers. Mortgage delinquencies fell for most of the year, but the chickens are beginning to come home to roost as delinquent mortgage loans rose from 6.28% in October to 6.45% in November. Rent increases slowed to below 3% as Blackrock and the other Wall Street shysters flood the market with their foreclosure rental properties. My housing prediction was accurate.

 

  • The disconnect between the stock market and the housing and employment markets will be rectified when the MSM can no longer deny the recession that began in 2012 and will deepen in the first part of 2013. While housing prices languish 30% below their peak levels of 2006, the stock market has prematurely ejaculated back to pre-crisis levels. Declining corporate profits, stagnant consumer spending, and increasing debt defaults will finally result in a 20% decline in the stock market, with a chance for losses greater than 30% if Japan or the EU begin to crumble.

And now we get to the prediction that makes me happy I don’t charge people for investment advice. Facts don’t matter in world of QE for the psychopathic titans of Wall Street and misery for the indebted peasants of Main Street. The government data drones, Ivy League educated Wall Street economists, and the obedient corporate media propaganda apparatus declare that GDP has grown by 2% over the last four quarters and we are not in a recession. If you believe their bogus inflation calculation then just ignore the collapsing retail sales, stagnant real wages, and rising gap between the uber-rich and the rest of us. Using a true measure of inflation reveals an economy in recession since 2004. Whose version matches the reality on the ground?

 

Corporate profits have leveled off at record highs as mark to fantasy accounting fraud, condoned and encouraged by the Federal Reserve, along with loan loss reserve depletion and $5 billion of risk free profits from parking deposits at the Fed have created a one-time peak. The record level of negative earnings warnings is the proverbial bell ringing at the top.

negative earnings

I only missed my stock market prediction by 50%, as the 30% rise was somewhat better than my 20% decline prediction. Bernanke’s QEternity, Wall Street’s high frequency trading supercomputers, record levels of margin debt, a dash of delusion, and a helping of clueless dupes have taken the stock market to another bubble high. My prediction makes me look like an idiot today. I’m OK with that, since I know facts and reality always prevail in the long-run. As John Hussman sagely points out, today’s idiot will be tomorrow’s beacon of truth:

“The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top, and most of the signals that have been most historically useful for that purpose have been blazing red since late-2011. My impression remains that the downside risks for the market have been deferred, not eliminated, and that they will be worse for the wait.”

  • Japan is still a bug in search of a windshield. With a debt to GDP ratio of 230%, a population dying off, energy dependence escalating, trade surplus decreasing, an already failed Prime Minister vowing to increase inflation, and rising tensions with China, Japan is a primary candidate to be the first domino to fall in the game of debt chicken. A 2% increase in interest rates would destroy the Japanese economic system.

Abenomics has done nothing for the average Japanese citizen, but it has done wonders for the ruling class who own all the stocks. Abe has implemented monetary policies that make Bernanke get a hard on. Japanese economic growth remains mired at 1.1%, wages remain stagnant, and their debt to GDP ratio remains above 230%, but at least he has driven their currency down 20% versus the USD and crushed the common person with 9% energy inflation. None of this matters, because the .1% have benefitted from a 56% increase in the Japanese stock market. My prediction was wrong. The windshield is further down the road, but it is approaching at 100 mph.

  • The EU has temporarily delayed the endgame for their failed experiment. Economic conditions in Greece, Spain and Italy worsen by the day with unemployment reaching dangerous revolutionary levels. Pretending countries will pay each other with newly created debt will not solve a debt crisis. They don’t have a liquidity problem. They have a solvency problem. The only people who have been saved by the actions taken so far are bankers and politicians. I believe the crisis will reignite, with interest rates spiking in Spain, Italy and France. The Germans will get fed up with the rest of Europe and the EU will begin to disintegrate.

This was another complete miss on my part. Economic conditions have not improved in Europe. Unemployment remains at record levels. EU GDP is barely above 0%. Debt levels continue to rise. Central bank bond buying has propped up this teetering edifice of ineptitude and interest rates in Spain, Italy and France have fallen to ridiculously low levels of 4%, considering they are completely insolvent with no possibility for escape. The disintegration of the EU will have to wait for another day.

Civic Decay

  • Progressive’s attempt to distract the masses from our worsening economic situation with their assault on the 2nd Amendment will fail. Congress will pass no new restrictions on gun ownership and 2013 will see the highest level of gun sales in history.

Obama and his gun grabbing sycophants attempted to use the Newtown massacre as the lever to overturn the 2nd Amendment. The liberal media went into full shriek mode, but the citizens again prevailed and no Federal legislation restricting the 2nd Amendment passed. Gun sales in 2013 will set an all-time record. With the Orwellian surveillance state growing by the day, arming yourself is the rational thing to do. I nailed this prediction.

  • The deepening recession, higher taxes on small businesses and middle class, along with Obamacare mandates will lead to rising unemployment and rising anger with the failed economic policies of the last four years. Protests and rallies will begin to burgeon.

The little people are experiencing a recession. The little people bore the brunt of the 2% payroll tax increase. The little people are bearing the burden of the Obamacare insurance premium increases. The number of employed Americans has increased by 1 million in the last year, a whole .4% of the working age population. The number of Americans who have willingly left the labor force in the last year because their lives are so fulfilled totaled 2.5 million, leaving the labor participation rate at a 35 year low. The anger among the former middle class is simmering below the surface, as Bernanke’s policies further impoverish the multitudes. Mass protests have not materialized but the Washington Navy yard shooting, dental hygenist murdered by DC police for ramming a White House barrier, and self- immolation of veteran John Constantino on the National Mall were all individual acts of desperation against the establishment.

  • The number of people on food stamps will reach 50 million and the number of people on SSDI will reach 11 million. Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and Jeff Immelt will compensate themselves to the tune of $100 million. CNBC will proclaim an economic recovery based on these facts.

The number of people on food stamps appears to have peaked just below 48 million, as the expiration of stimulus spending will probably keep the program from reaching 50 million. As of November there were 10.98 million people in the SSDI program. The top eight Wall Street banks have set aside a modest $91 billion for 2013 bonuses. The cost of providing food stamps for 48 million Americans totaled $76 billion. CNBC is thrilled with the record level of bonuses for the noble Wall Street capitalists, while scorning the lazy laid-off middle class workers whose jobs were shipped to China by the corporations whose profits are at all-time highs and stock price soars. Isn’t crony capitalism grand?

  • The drought will continue in 2013 resulting in higher food prices, ethanol prices, and shipping costs, as transporting goods on the Mississippi River will become further restricted. The misery index for the average American family will reach new highs.

The drought conditions in the U.S. Midwest have been relieved. Ethanol prices have been flat. Beef prices have risen by 10% since May due to the drought impact from 2012, but overall food price increases have been moderate. The misery index (unemployment rate + inflation rate) has supposedly fallen, based on government manipulated data. I whiffed on this prediction.

  • There will be assassination attempts on political and business leaders as retribution for their actions during and after the financial crisis.

There have been no assassination attempts on those responsible for our downward financial spiral. The anger has been turned inward as suicides have increased by 30% due to the unbearable economic circumstances brought on by the illegal financial machinations of the Wall Street criminal banks. Obama and Dick Cheney must be thrilled that more military personnel died by suicide in 2013 than on the battlefield. Mission Accomplished. The retribution dealt to bankers and politicians will come after the next collapse. For now, my prediction was premature.

  • The revelation of more fraud in the financial sector will result in an outcry from the public for justice. Prosecutions will be pursued by State’s attorney generals, as Holder has been captured by Wall Street.

Holder and the U.S. government remain fully captured by Wall Street. The states have proven to be toothless in their efforts to enforce the law against Wall Street. The continuing revelations of Wall Street fraud and billions in fines paid by JP Morgan and the other Too Big To Trust banks have been glossed over by the captured mainstream media. As long as EBT cards, Visas and Mastercards continue to function, there will be no outrage from the techno-narcissistic, debt addicted, math challenged, wilfully ignorant masses. Another wishful thinking wrong prediction on my part.

  • The deepening pension crisis in the states will lead to more state worker layoffs and more confrontation between governors attempting to balance budgets and government worker unions. There will be more municipal bankruptcies.

Using a still optimistic discount rate of 5%, the unfunded pension liability of states and municipalities totals $3 trillion. The taxpayers don’t have enough cheese left for the government rats to steal. The crisis deepens by the second. State and municipal budgets require larger pension payments every year. The tax base is stagnant or declining. States must balance their budgets. They will continue to cut existing workers to pay the legacy costs until they all experience their Detroit moment. With the Detroit bankruptcy, I’ll take credit for getting this prediction right.

  • The gun issue will further enflame talk of state secession. The red state/blue state divide will grow ever wider. The MSM will aggravate the divisions with vitriolic propaganda.

With the revelations of Federal government spying, military training exercises in cities across the country, the blatant disregard for the 4th Amendment during the shutdown of Boston, and un-Constitutional mandates of Obamacare, there has been a tremendous increase in chatter about secession. A google search gets over 200,000 hits in the last year. The divide between red states and blue states has never been wider.

  • The government will accelerate their surveillance efforts and renew their attempt to monitor, control, and censor the internet. This will result in increased cyber-attacks on government and corporate computer networks in retaliation.

If anything I dramatically underestimated the lengths to which the United States government would go in their illegal surveillance of the American people and foreign leaders. Edward Snowden exposed the grandest government criminal conspiracy in history as the world found out the NSA, with the full knowledge of the president and Congress, has been conspiring with major communications and internet companies to monitor and record every electronic communication on earth, in clear violation of the 4th Amendment. Government apparatchiks like James Clapper have blatantly lied to Congress about their spying activities. The lawlessness with which the government is now operating has led to anarchist computer hackers conducting cyber-attacks on government and corporate networks. The recent hacking of the Target credit card system will have devastating implications to their already waning business. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.

Global Disorder 

  • With new leadership in Japan and China, neither will want to lose face, so early in their new terms. Neither side will back down in their ongoing conflict over islands in the East China Sea. China will shoot down a Japanese aircraft and trade between the countries will halt, leading to further downturns in both of their economies.

The Japanese/Chinese dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands has blown hot and cold throughout the year. In the past month the vitriol has grown intense. China has scrambled fighter jets over the disputed islands. The recent visit of Abe to a World War II shrine honoring war criminals has enraged the Chinese. Trade between the countries has declined. An aircraft has not been shot down, but an American warship almost collided with a Chinese warship near the islands, since our empire must stick their nose into every worldwide dispute. We are one miscalculation away from a shooting war. It hasn’t happened yet, so my prediction was wrong.

  • Worker protests over slave labor conditions in Chinese factories will increase as food price increases hit home on peasants that spend 70% of their pay for food. The new regime will crackdown with brutal measures, but the protests will grow increasingly violent. The economic data showing growth will be discredited by what is happening on the ground. China will come in for a real hard landing. Maybe they can hide the billions of bad debt in some of their vacant cities.

The number of worker protests over low pay and working conditions in China doubled over the previous year, but censorship of reporting has kept these facts under wraps. In a dictatorship, the crackdown on these protests goes unreported. The fraudulent economic data issued by the government has been proven false by independent analysts. The Chinese stock market has fallen 14%, reflecting the true economic situation. The Chinese property bubble is in the process of popping. China will never officially report a hard landing. China is the most corrupt nation on earth and is rotting from the inside, like their vacant malls and cities. China’s economy is like an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 coming in for a landing at SF International.

  • Violence and turmoil in Greece will spread to Spain during the early part of the year, with protests and anger spreading to Italy and France later in the year. The EU public relations campaign, built on sandcastles of debt in the sky and false promises of corrupt politicians, will falter by mid-year. Interest rates will begin to spike and the endgame will commence. Greece will depart the EU, with Spain not far behind. The unraveling of debt will plunge all of Europe into depression.

Violent protests flared in Greece and Spain throughout the year. They did not spread to Italy and France. The central bankers and the puppet politicians have been able to contain the EU’s debt insolvency through the issuance of more debt. What a great plan. The grand finale has been delayed into 2014. Greece remains on life support and still in the EU. The EU remains in recession, but the depression has been postponed for the time being. This prediction was a dud.

  • Iran will grow increasingly desperate as hyperinflation caused by U.S. economic sanctions provokes the leadership to lash out at its neighbors and unleash cyber-attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and U.S. corporations. Israel will use the rising tensions as the impetus to finally attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. will support the attack and Iran will launch missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel in retaliation. The price of oil will spike above $125 per barrel, further deepening the worldwide recession.

Iran was experiencing hyperinflationary conditions early in the year, but since the election of the new president the economy has stabilized. Iran has conducted cyber-attacks against Saudi Arabian gas companies and the U.S. Navy during 2013. Israel and Saudi Arabia have failed in their efforts to lure Iran into a shooting war. Obama has opened dialogue with the new president to the chagrin of Israel. War has been put off and the negative economic impacts of surging oil prices have been forestalled. I missed on this prediction.

  • Syrian President Assad will be ousted and executed by rebels. Syria will fall under the control of Islamic rebels, who will not be friendly to the United States or Israel. Russia will stir up discontent in retaliation for the ouster of their ally.

Assad has proven to be much tougher than anyone expected. The trumped up charges of gassing rebel forces, created by the Saudis who want a gas pipeline through Syria, was not enough to convince the American people to allow our president to invade another sovereign country. Putin and Russia won this battle. America’s stature in the eyes of the world was reduced further. America continues to support Al Qaeda rebels in Syria, while fighting them in Afghanistan. The hypocrisy is palpable. Another miss.

  • Egypt and Libya will increasingly become Islamic states and will further descend into civil war.

The first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup as the country has descended into a civil war between the military forces and Islamic forces. It should be noted that the U.S. supported the overthrow of a democratically elected leader. Libya is a failed state with Islamic factions vying for power and on the verge of a 2nd civil war. Oil production has collapsed. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.

  • The further depletion of the Cantarell oil field will destroy the Mexican economy as it becomes a net energy importer. The drug violence will increase and more illegal immigrants will pour into the U.S. The U.S. will station military troops along the border.

Mexican oil production fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2013. It has fallen 25% since 2004 to the lowest level since 1995. Energy exports still slightly outweigh imports, but the trend is irreversible. Mexico is under siege by the drug cartels. The violence increases by the day. After declining from 2007 through 2009, illegal immigration from Mexico has been on the rise. Troops have not been stationed on the border as Obama and his liberal army encourages illegal immigration in their desire for an increase in Democratic voters. This prediction was mostly correct.

  • Cyber-attacks by China and Iran on government and corporate computer networks will grow increasingly frequent. One or more of these attacks will threaten nuclear power plants, our electrical grid, or the Pentagon.

China and Iran have been utilizing cyber-attacks on the U.S. military and government agencies as a response to NSA spying and U.S. sabotaging of Iranian nuclear facilities. Experts are issuing warnings regarding the susceptibility of U.S. nuclear facilities to cyber-attack. If a serious breach has occurred, the U.S. government wouldn’t be publicizing it. Again, this prediction was accurate.

I achieved about a 50% accuracy rate on my 2013 predictions. These minor distractions are meaningless in the broad spectrum of history and the inevitability of the current Fourth Turning sweeping away the existing social order in a whirlwind of chaos, violence, financial collapse and ultimately a decisive war. The exact timing and exact events which will precipitate the demise of the establishment are unknowable with any precision, but there is no escape from the inexorable march of history. While most people get lost in the minutia of day to day existence and supposed Ivy League thought leaders are consumed with their own reputations and wealth, apparent stability will morph into terrifying volatility in an instant. The normalcy bias being practiced by an entire country will be shattered in a reality storm of consequences. The Crisis will continue to be driven by the ever growing debt levels, civic decay caused by government overreach, and global disorder driven by resource shortages and religious zealotry. The ultimate outcome is unpredictable, but the choices we make will matter. History is about to fling us towards a vast chaos.

“The seasons of time offer no guarantees. For modern societies, no less than for all forms of life, transformative change is discontinuous. For what seems an eternity, history goes nowhere – and then it suddenly flings us forward across some vast chaos that defies any mortal effort to plan our way there. The Fourth Turning will try our souls – and the saecular rhythm tells us that much will depend on how we face up to that trial. The saeculum does not reveal whether the story will have a happy ending, but it does tell us how and when our choices will make a difference.”  – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

Take it to the Bank

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 17, 2013

Strip_Mall

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

iStock 000016651896Small 2 300x199 What to Do When Your Bank Branch ClosesReports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink really get my goat. As I travel the increasingly vacant highways of Montgomery County, PA I’m keenly aware of my surroundings. If I were a foreigner visiting for the first time, I’d think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. I’ve detailed the slow disintegration of our suburban sprawl paradise in previous articles:

Available

Are you Seeing What I’m Seeing?

More than 30 Blocks of Grey and Decay

Extend & Pretend Coming to an End

Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. Gas stations are shuttered on a daily basis as the ongoing depression results in less miles being driven by unemployed and underemployed suburbanites. At least the Chinese “Space Available” sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters.

 

The sad part is that I live in a relatively prosperous county with a low level of SNAP recipients and primarily occupied by a white collar college educated populace. If the clear downward spiral in my upper middle class county is an indication of our country’s path, the less well-off counties across the land must be in deep trouble.

While hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant, office and industrial space have been vacated in the last six years, the only entities expanding in my area have been banks, drug stores, municipal buildings and healthcare facilities. I have been flabbergasted by what I’ve viewed as a complete waste of resources to create facilities that weren’t needed and wouldn’t be utilized. I have seven drug stores within five miles of my house. I have ten bank branches within five miles of my house. While two perfectly fine older hospitals in Norristown were abandoned, a brand new $300 million super deluxe, glass encased Einstein Hospital palace was built three miles away by a barely above junk bond status non-profit institution. None of this makes sense in a contracting economy.

This is another classic case of mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity. Cheap money leads to bad investments. I’m all for competition between drug store chains and banks. CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are the three big chains in the country. I have my pick of multiple stores close to my house. There are clearly too many stores competing for a dwindling number of customers, with a dwindling supply of disposable income. The only reason Rite Aid is still in the picture is the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve. They have been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for the last five years, but continue to get cheap financing from the Wall Street cabal, who would rather pretend they will get paid, than write-off the bad debt. Who in their right mind would continue to lend money to a company with $6 billion in debt, NEGATIVE $2.3 billion of equity, and losses exceeding $2 billion since 2008? They are the poster child for badly run businesses that over expanded, took on too much debt and should be liquidated. There are over 4,600 zombie Rite Aid stores littering the countryside waiting to be put out of their misery.

the walking dead season 4 rick grimes  rite-aid-corner-abandoned

Rite Aid will never repay the $6 billion of debt. They know it. Their auditors know it. Their Wall Street lenders know it. The Federal Reserve Bank regulators know it. Anyone with a functioning brain knows it. Tune in to CNBC for those who are paid to keep clueless investors from knowing it. Interest rates that actually reflected risk and weren’t manipulated to an artificially low level by the Federal Reserve would make financing for a dog like Rite Aid a non-starter. Creative destruction would be allowed to work its magic, with winners separated from losers. Instead Rite Aid continues as a zombie entity, barely surviving for now. This exact scenario applies to J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Sears and a myriad of other dead retailers walking. Rather than suffering the consequences of appalling management judgment, dreadful strategic decisions, and reckless financial gambles, they have been allowed to remain on life support compliments of Bernanke, his Wall Street chiefs, and the American taxpayer.

In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit.  Extending debt payment schedules of zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009. The Federal Reserve is responsible for zombifying the entire country. And it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice made by those in power in order to maintain the status quo. The fateful day in March 2009 when the pencil pushing lightweight accountants at the FASB rescinded mark to market accounting rules gave birth to zombie nation. And not coincidently, marked the bottom for the stock market. Wall Street banks were free to fabricate their earnings, pretend they didn’t have hundreds of billions in bad loans on their books, and extend the terms of commercial real estate loans that were in default. With their taxpayer funded TARP ransom, ability to borrow at 0% from Uncle Ben, and the $3 trillion of QE cocaine snorted up their noses in the last four years, the mal-investment, fraud, and idiocy of the Wall Street drug addicts has reached a crescendo.

Commerce Bank

The mal-investment by zombie drug store chains has only been exceeded by the foolish, egocentric, insane bank branch expansion by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street CEOs. In the last ten years dozens of bank branches have been built in the vicinity of my house and across the state of Pennsylvania. These gleaming glass TARP palaces are on virtually every other street corner across Montgomery County. Stunning, glittery, colorful branches stuffed with bank employees pretending to loan money to non-existent customers. They have become nothing but a high priced marketing billboard with an ATM attached. By 2010, the number of bank branches in this country had reached almost 100,000. The vast majority are run by the usual insolvent suspects:

Wells Fargo – 6,500

J.P. Morgan – 6,000

Bank of America – 5,700

The top ten biggest banks, in addition to holding the vast majority of deposits, mortgages and credit card accounts, operate 33% of all the bank branches in the country. The very same banks that have paid out $66 billion in criminal settlement charges over the last three years and have incurred $103 billion of legal fees to defend themselves against the thousands of actions brought by victims for their criminal misdeeds, decided it was a wise decision to open new bank branches from 2007 through 2010. Only an Ivy League educated MBA could possibly think this was a good idea.

It was almost as if the CEO’s of the biggest Wall Street banks didn’t care about pissing away the $2.5 million to build the average 3,500 square foot bank branch, which would require $30 million of deposits to breakeven. This level of deposits isn’t easy to achieve when your customers are unemployed due to your bank destroying the American economy, broke due to their real household income declining by 10% over the past fourteen years, and your bank paying them .15% on their deposits. It also probably doesn’t help when you charge them $3 every time they withdraw their own money from your bank and you charge them $25 when their bank balance falls below $1,000 because they just got laid off from Merck on Christmas Eve. It is now estimated that one-third of all bank branches in the country lose money. Who can afford to run something that consistently losses money, other than our government? Wall Street bankers can when the taxpayer is footing the bill and Bernanke/Yellen subsidizes their mal-investment by lending to them at 0%, providing them $2.5 billion per day of QE play money, and paying them $5 billion per year in interest to park the excess reserves that aren’t getting leant to small businesses and consumers at their thousands of gleaming bank branches.

Hasn’t one of the thousands of highly educated MBA vice presidents occupying offices at the Too Big To Control Wall Street banks explained to Stumpf, Dimon and Monyihan that bricks and mortar are dead? A new invention called the internet has made in-person banking virtually obsolete. Why does anyone need to go into a bank branch in this electronic age? I’ve been in my credit union branch five times in the last ten years, twice for a refinance closing on my home and a couple times to get a certified check. With ATM machines, direct deposit and on-line bill paying, why would the country need 100,000 physical bank locations? I pay 90% of my bills on-line. If I need cash, I hit the ATM at Wawa, where there are no ATM fees (my credit union doesn’t charge me to get my own money). The only people who go into bank branches on a regular basis are old fogeys that don’t trust that new-fangled internet. The older generations are dying out and the millennial generation has no need for bank branches. Their iGadgets function as their bank connection. Plus, since they don’t have jobs or money, a bank account at the local bank branch of J.P. Morgan seems a bit trite.

The writing had been on the wall for a long time, but the reckless bank executives continued to build branches in an ego driven desire to outdo their equally irresponsible competitor bank executives. Now the race is on to see which banks can close the most branches. Bank consultant Jim Adkins succinctly sums up the pure idiocy of physical bank branches:

“There’s almost nobody in the branches. You could shoot water balloons all over the place and not hit anybody.”

It seems my humble state of Pennsylvania leads the pack in closing branches in the past year, with 149 abandoned and only 43 opened. Only two states in the entire country had more branch openings than closings.

After shuttering 2,267 branches in 2012, the industry is on track to closing another 2,500 in 2013. Shockingly, the leader of the Wall Street zombie apocalypse, Bank of America, led the pack in bank branch closings with 194 in the last year. Staying true to his hubristic arrogance, Jamie Dimon actually opened 62 more branches than he closed in the last year, despite his upstanding institution having to pay tens of billions in fines, settlements and pay-offs for their criminal transgressions.

There are now 93,000 bank branches remaining in this country, and one third of them don’t generate a profit. That percentage will grow as the older generations rapidly die out and are replaced by the techno-narcissists who never leave their family rooms.  Online banking already accounts for 53% of banking transactions, compared with 14% for in-branch visits. Younger bank customers increasingly prefer online and mobile banking, as advancing technology enables them to make remote deposits, shop for loans and manage accounts more efficiently from their desktops or smartphones. This trend will only accelerate in the years to come.

Banking industry profits reached a record level of $141 billion in 2012 as more vacancy signs appeared on Main Street. Now that the Wall Street cabal have syphoned every ounce of blood from their customers/victims through ATM fees, overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, credit card fees, late payment fees, and paying no interest on deposits, they are forced to focus on the $300,000 average loss per bank branch. QE and ZIRP might not last forever. Yeah right. AlixPartners, a New York consulting firm, expects the number of bank branches to drop to 80,000 over the next decade. They are wrong. They have failed to take into account the lemming like behavior of Wall Street banks. As their accounting gimmicks to generate fake profits dissipate, the increasingly desperate insolvent zombie banks will rapidly vacate their prime corner locations in droves. With approximately 30,000 locations already generating losses, the Wall Street MBAs will be closing branches quicker than you can say “mortgage fraud”. There will be less than 70,000 branches within the next five years. That means another 20,000 to 30,000 Space Available signs going up on Main Street. That means another 200,000 to 300,000 neighbors without jobs. But don’t worry about Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street bankers. They’ll be just fine. In addition to being endlessly fed by the Fed, they’ll get creative and charge their customers a new bank branch access fee of $50 for the privilege of entering one of their few remaining outlets. By now we should know how cash flows to Main Street in this corporate fascist paradise.

140226 600 Cash Flow cartoons

Do your part to starve the beast. Move your bank accounts to a local credit union. Don’t support criminals.

 

Culture of Ignorance: Part I

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 27, 2013

http://www.schoolofunlearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ignorant.jpg

Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

– Thomas Edison

The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.

 

“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” Hendrik Willem van Loon

The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.

The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.

Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.

“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” – Bernard M. Baruch

The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.

The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.

When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.

The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.

 

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”Samuel Adams

Cult of Ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

  

“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.”Henry Hazlitt

America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” Ben Bernanke – July 2005

The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.

When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.

The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.

 

“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:

  • It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
  • If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
  • The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
  • Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
  • The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
  • Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
  • The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
  • The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
  • A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
  • Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
  • Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.

When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Aldous Huxley

Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken

The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.

 

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.

No Way to Run a Railroad…

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

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Published on Economic Undertow on October 15, 2013

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A lot of confusion in the capital of the World’s Greatest Nation, more like what would be expected in Italy: House G.O.P. Backs Off Plan, Leaving Fiscal Talks in Limbo, (NY Times), House GOP scrambles for support on new funding plan, (WaPo), Competing Budget Plans Cloud Talks, (WSJ) … Default Usa, accordo lontano ma si spacca il fronte repubblicano, (La Repubblica).

Cliffhanger, anyone? It should be said that there is still time, the US is not likely to default; the managers are likely to come to some sort of accommodation, first.

Then again, time is running short … for the US government to get its act together and start governing. A few more days and the Treasury will either fail to make payments upon obligations to lenders or fail to make payments to its own dependent citizenry. What comes after that is hard to say; maybe the dreaded ‘taper’ in some (inadvertent) form. Keep in mind, Treasury securities are collateral for every sort of money/credit exchange, they are deemed to be ‘risk-free’, same as cash. The nation’s word is its bond … what if? Should the US default, risk-free must be redefined throughout finance and politics, (Feliz Salmon/Reuters):

If Treasury payments can’t be trusted entirely, then not only do all risk instruments need to be repriced, but so does the most basic counterparty risk of all. The US government, in one form or another, is a counterparty to every single financial player in the world. Its payments have to be certain, or else the whole house of cards risks collapsing — starting with the multi-trillion-dollar interest-rate derivatives market, and moving rapidly from there.

There you have it, the Freudian slip that reveals our greatest human endeavor to date is entertainment for bored children, a distraction. There is something to be said — and gained — from letting the entire mess collapse, if only to end its pointless and destructive wastefulness. At the same time, the card collapse would render much of the world citizens into paupers over a short time, this would be equally wasteful — and over the longer term, extremely dangerous. There are too many of us, we are too angry and filled with fear. The time is now for cooler heads to find the larger perspective … and kick that can one more time!

The US government has defaulted in the past, the effects have been generally beneficial for both business and the citizens. After the Revolution, the young country defaulted on its war debts, during the Civil War the US suspended convertibility and issued what amounted to scrip — which remained in circulation until 1971. In 1934, the government removed specie from circulation and eliminated ‘gold clauses’ in all contracts, in 1971 Richard Nixon famously closed the Treasury ‘gold window’ and ended the convertibility of dollars to gold in trade between nations. In some cases such as 1934, default bailed out the country’s ruined banks and jump-started a moribund economy. The Revolutionary War debts were ultimately paid with interest … after the US had restructured itself and ratified a new (somewhat excellent) Constitution. Both accelerated US trade both domestically and across the Atlantic.

Using scrip — demand notes — allowed the Union to end slavery and industrialize, then become a world economic power, something it could not have hoped to do as a pastoral state. Ironically, the US since 1900 using credit money has de-industrialized to the degree it has been able to shed its manufacturing work force; it has become a financial- or loan shark state, structurally little different today … from the Confederate South.

With the passage of time, US defaults, like everything else, offered diminished returns. Closing the gold window sparked OPEC’s ire leading to the oil embargo which took place two years later. The oil producers were disgruntled about not receiving gold in exchange for their precious petroleum; unlike other US trading partners they were in a position to do something about it. Not forever, the producers were forced to satisfy themselves with empty US promises of ‘prosperity’ because there were no feasible alternatives … only emptier promises by others, or to leave their petroleum in the ground and gain nothing.

In 1979, the US Treasury failed to make coupon payments on $120 million in Treasury Bills. The causes were a debt ceiling debate, much like today’s; a flood of investors seeking securities at the same time and a word-processing failure. Ultimately, the overdue payments were made with interest: the US was always and at all times solvent, it could always pay its bills. The default was expensive, however; there was a narrow increase in risk premium added to bonds over the next ten+ years that added up to billions of dollars. This was an interest penalty paid to banks by ordinary citizens: the taxpayers penalizing themselves.

To some degree, default is already starting to be ‘priced in’ at the short end of the borrowing spectrum. This is the same short end that the Fed has endeavored to suppress since 2008. The danger here is the Fed and other central banks lose control of the policy rate altogether. Even a small rise would amount to a cash loss in credit markets of many trillions of dollars, the cost to business of increased rates would be much higher. Businesses would be unable to afford credit and would fail, this would cause a recession that central banks would be unable to remedy because they could not lower rates. This in turn would eventually trigger deleveraging across finance, (WSJ);

If Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit before Oct. 17, the date when it is expected to reached, and the U.S. government feels it has no choice but to default, it will in effect “debase the currency” of the repo market, says Lou Crandall, an analyst at market research firm Wrightson ICAP LLC. And that will force dramatic changes in how institutions deal with their cash needs.

They’ll have to make costly and cumbersome changes to margin requirements, a process that if it gets out of hand could convert the temporary liquidity problem into a full-blown credit problem. We learned during the great panic of 2008, when repo transactions were also at the epicenter of the crisis, how a mushrooming “bank run” can occur when one lender imposes tougher collateral restrictions on its counterparties, which in turn impose the same on theirs. In this case, increased margins will be applied to a single asset class in a one-off, across-the-board manner. That might mitigate the risk of a “collateral spiral,” but it’s impossible to gauge all the possible spillover effects.

If credit concerns do arise among counterparties then we’re off to the races: fears about bank defaults, about cascading triggers in the credit default market, about money market funds potentially “breaking the buck.”

A big problem is absence of imagination on the part of the managers who are, a) engaged in a mud-fight with each other, b) pursuing their personal agendas at the expense of the citizens, and, c) locked into doctrinaire economic approaches.

What the Treasury cannot gain from tax receipts, ongoing sales and royalties and interest payment on assets it holds it must borrow. Right now, banks and finance offer (ledger) loans to the Treasury at very low rates. These are secured loans, the Treasury IOU is collateral.

The Treasury has borrowed already a very massive amount, this net amount is not required to shrink but it cannot grow, either. The Treasury can roll over existing loans as they mature, but they cannot increase their level of borrowing.

On the largest scale, the economy is divided into two; the private sector and the public sector. Consider both together to make up a national ledger that must zero out: what follows is not economics but simple bookkeeping on the order of balancing a checkbook. The private sector is made up of firms that have no choice but to earn profits (borrow) in order to remain in business. For the private sector to gain those profits some other sector must run a deficit. The private sector obviously cannot run a surplus and a deficit at the same time; business failures would exponentially increase relative to the rest until the entire sector was bankrupt. Instead, the public sector runs a perpetual deficit. By doing so it creates the necessary surplus within the private sector, that is: public sector deficit is private sector wealth.

The real limit to the size of the deficit is the perceived credibility of the system’s managers. There is no limit within a credit-money system to the public sector borrowing capacity. The public sector cannot ‘run out of money’ any more than a football team can run out of touchdowns. The public sector using its own currency can always pay its bills … and will do so until the managers decide they don’t want to anymore … because the bills are unpleasant or there is some illusory ideological- or political advantage to not doing so.

The alternative to this wealth-making process is the exponential private sector bankruptcy. Our current default theater illuminates the hazards associated with the public sector failing to run deficits … and of the foolish managers destroying what remains of their credibility.

This does not mean that the sectors aren’t over-extended. The problem is not the creation of credit as much as what is done with it after it’s created. Finance has generated hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of credit along with pumping a trillion barrels of crude oil out of the ground. What is there to show for this expenditure besides used cars and smog? Anything?

If the managers had any imagination there are many alternatives to default;

Right now, the private sector is eager to lend to the Treasury because doing so = free money. Not much but at the current rate of borrowing the free-money return adds up. The US needs to set up a money laundry.

– Taper, Baby, taper: Treasury ordinarily can issue IOUs at will — that is, borrow — but cannot do so now due to debt ceiling. However, the Fed and primary dealers hold plenty of Treasury paper in their inventories that can be offered as collateral for loans. The Fed can ‘pretend’ to be the Treasury and borrow from finance using some of its Treasuries as collateral. It can then label the proceeds as ‘interest’ and forward them to the Treasury Department. The Fed holds more than two-trillion dollars worth of Treasuries in its inventory that it can offer in a form of ‘inverse QE’ that would fund the government for almost two years.

This ‘inverse QE’ would be spent to the government’s workers, beneficiaries as well as back to the banks — as real interest. The Fed simply has to rename its lending as ‘interest payments to the Treasury’ there is nothing out of the ordinary about making these payments … and nothing Congress can do about it, either. After the crisis is over, the Treasury can issue new IOUs, unwind the trade and repay the Fed … or not. The Fed doesn’t really need the money*.

– Issue More Scrip: When the Congress and president finally decide to raise the debt ceiling, they should agree to allow the Treasury to issue more scrip, that is, create more US notes. The government has always been able to create currency at will to meet any obligation including the repayment of debts and interest. This makes the US government ‘default proof’. United States Notes or greenbacks were in circulation longer than any other kind of US currency; the original idea for ‘demand notes’ was offered by Edmund Dick Taylor as a means to finance Union efforts during the US Civil War, (Wikipedia):

A United States Note, also known as a Legal Tender Note, is a type of paper money that was issued from 1862 to 1971 in the U.S. Having been current for over 100 years, they were issued for longer than any other form of U.S. paper money. They were known popularly as “greenbacks” in their heyday, a name inherited from the Demand Notes that they replaced in 1862. Often called Legal Tender Notes, they were called United States Notes by the First Legal Tender Act, which authorized them as a form of fiat currency. During the 1860s the so-called second obligation on the reverse of the notes stated:

This Note is Legal Tender for All Debts Public and Private Except Duties On Imports And Interest On The Public Debt; And Is Redeemable In Payment Of All Loans Made To The United States.

They were originally issued directly into circulation by the U.S. Treasury to pay expenses incurred by the Union during the American Civil War. Over the next century, the legislation governing these notes was modified many times and numerous versions have been issued by the Treasury.

Congress would authorize the Treasury to issue $2 trillion in US notes, these would be used to extinguish the same amount of debt. Actual currency would not be necessary, only a ledger-entry repayment to retire ledger entry obligations. There would be no inflation or increase in ‘money’ by way of this process. this is because the money increase occurred at the time the original loan to the Treasury was made. Instead, the residue of bad loans carried forward on ledgers year after year would be wiped out.

Bankers would be unhappy with ledger repayments, they hold out for payments in blood in the form of circulating currency. This is the same way OPEC oil ministers complained about not gaining any gold in exchange for their crude. Like gold was after 1972 circulating money is in inadequate supply and unaffordable, the alternative to the banks is outfight repudiation. A ledger-entry repayment is better business for the banks than no repayment at all.

– Issue More Scrip 2.0: Any of the EU countries could do the same thing: the Italian Treasury could ledger into existence EUR 2 trillion and reliquify the entire EU by reducing the burden of bad (ledger) loans festering on Europe’s books.

– Cancel, Baby, cancel: The Treasury could simply cancel all intra-governmental debt, that is obligations between US agencies. Doing so would reduce the US government deficit by at least $2 trillion at zero cost (about half of intragovernmental debt is held by the Federal Reserve).

Of course, none of the above would solve either Europe’s or the United States’ energy shortages and capital-related business constraints. To actually address these issues would require stringent conservation. However, taking the above steps would buy sufficient time to put conservation strategies into effect.

There would be consequences to Fed’s ‘inverse QE’. Cash on the repo market does not fund the Treasury, it funds shadow banking. Without repo there would be an excess of cash but not for long, the demand for cash would grow as it would be the remaining risk-free security. The demand would mushroom, this would unwind overseas- and internal dollar carry trades, then dollar deflation and business contraction.

The carry unwind would shift dollar inflation overseas as dollar funds dry up and local currencies depreciate sharply. Witness India’s currency collapse along with that of the Brazilian real. The inflation was baked into the cake from the beginning of Bernanke’s accomodative policy … so was the carry trade which shuffled it toward assets overseas.

The investment represented by all those dollars occurred in emerging markets … US workers were left on the outside looking in. If those dollars had ‘stayed home’ wage-push stagflation might have indeed taken place here in the US, that in turn would have put an end to the easing program without ‘curing’ the economy; the recession that stares us in the face right now would have occurred already.

There is a panic about the dollar with many believing it will be substantially depreciated; this has been the panic about the other reserve currencies including sterling, the euro and yuan. Like the others, the current panic will end, in a few months the panic will be about another currency and other credit systems. All of this is symptomatic of the greater ills; capital destruction along with the inevitable reversal of the easing process set into motion by Ben Bernanke and other central bankers beginning in 2008. One way of the other this process will be undone … with or without a default.

Another process being undone is the dominion of private sector money over the governing process. The chaos underway in the US capital is the result of pampered tycoons using their political surrogates to advance their now-conflicting aims against each other, conflicted also against reality. The outcome is the management structures falling apart in disgrace. At the end of the day there is nothing to do but start again with a new political regime that excludes the billionaires’ money, one way or the other the money is gone. Doing business as we are now is no way to run a railroad.

* The danger of central banks making unsecured loans is offset by few in the markets recognizing that the central bank has made an unsecured loan.

** Please take the time to read Grant William’s take on this bit of nonsense right HERE!

Taper (Not)

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Published on Clusterfuck Nation August 2013

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Taper (Not)

     

Remember, the doleful, lonesome figure of Ben Bernanke stands (or slumps) at the top of a pyramid of obfuscation so high, broad, and massive that all the debt serfs in a history of the future will not avail to reconstruct its hypothecated contours. When the world picks itself up from the smoldering ruins of the financial landscape currently being rigged to blow, nobody will be able to explain how the modern world collateralized itself out of existence.

     What a set up. Bernanke gave the financial markets five months of the heebie-jeebies punctuated by a big fake-out and so the consensus finally perceives a giant green-light for resumed asset inflation. That’s why I like standing outside the consensus. Assets can inflate all they like on their way to the biggest train wreck of organized money ever recorded. Dow 20,000 is accelerating on a parallel track with the complete loss of confidence in paper representations of wealth. Enjoy your Facebook shares, or at least the digital ghost of them on your iPhone screen, while they’re fluorescing.

     It was perfectly obvious all spring and summer that the Federal Reserve could not neck down its purchases of US Treasury debt paper and bundled mortgage swindles without causing the equivalent of the 1942 Boston Coconut Grove nightclub fire in the financial markets. But not pretending to contemplate the “taper” would have entailed an admission that the so-called economy was on artificial life support juice. That would have suited neither the politicians and their political economists, who clung to their “recovery” story, nor the 1 percenters who were the direct beneficiaries of the wealth transfer activated by the life support liquidity juice injections.

     The net result is a return to the grand theme of pretend, with an increasingly dark outlook for the consequences, which will be the repudiation of what is officially called “money.” Meanwhile, congress now convenes to debate the question of extend, which can only add a frisson to the spectacle of pretend. The problem with these best laid plans of mouse-like creatures is that shit happens.

     Those distant rumbles of thunder are the audible traces of the destruction at the margins, certainly out of earshot of those at the very center. The margins is the place where nations, towns, institutions, families, and individual lives are ground down into a fine entropic powder of broken dreams. From the standpoint of the blogger-journalist, the story has been about how the destruction travels from the margins to the center. The center has been able to protect itself so far with one swindle after another, at the expense of the poor schnooks at the margins. The swindles are so abstruse and impenetrable that the schnooks don’t have a clue what is hitting them. At least so far.

     Faced with such a quandary, the schnooks may opt for political suicide, which is apparently the program of both major parties. Out of this sort of tragic muddle, Great Men emerge to galvanize the potential energy of the swindled multitudes. Recent models of this archetype are not so reassuring: Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ayatollah Khomeini. What history has in store for the USA is probably something that could only be cooked up on TV. One can hope that it turns out to be comedy, not something breaking bad.

          Of course the inverse of the idiotic American exceptionalism story lies beyond the fact that were not as special as we think. There is a whole vast world beyond the podium of Ben Bernanke and in that big world other mouse-like creatures are working sedulously to take advantage of our exceptional fecklessness. Distracted by everything from same-sex marriage to Monday Night Football, we don’t pay attention to the attrition. They’ve got our gold now, and despite the theory that gold has no more intrinsic value than $100 Federal Reserve notes, you can bet that before this is all over it will buy whatever food and fuel remains in the ground.

Clusterfuck Nation: “Commotion” by JH Kunstler

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Published on Clusterfuck Nation September 2013

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Commotion

September 16, 2013                                                                                                                                                 by James Howard Kunstler

    Now that Lawrence Summers has removed himself from consideration as Federal Reserve chairman, President Obama is free to launch him into Syria as the first human rehypothecation weapon of mass destruction, where he can sow enough confusion between Assad’s Alawites and the Qaeda opposition to collateralize both factions into contingent convertible capital instruments buried in the back pages of Goldman Sachs’s balance sheet so that the world will never hear of them again — and then the Toll Brothers can be brought in to develop Syria into a casino / assisted living complex that will bring hundreds of good jobs to US contractors in the region.

     No doubt the stock markets will fly like eagles today. Nobody knew what monkeyshines Mr. Summers might have pulled over at the Fed and it was making investors nervous, as well as the big banks who employed Mr. Summers occasionally as some kind of policy bagman. So a big sigh of relief blew over the Northeast Region of the nation like the gusts of autumn air that swept away a fetid hump of stale, wet tropical weather that ruined all the ladies’ party hair in the Hamptons this month.

     Now that Syria has been disposed of — that is, indefinitely consigned to failed state purgatory — the world can focus its remaining attention on the almighty taper. I’m with those who think we’ll get a taper test. That is, the Fed will cut back ten or fifteen percent on its treasury bond purchases to see what happens. What happens is perfectly predictable: interest rates shoot above 3 percent on the ten-year and holders of US paper all the world round fling them away like bales of smallpox blankets and… Houston, we’ve got a problem. After a month (or less) of havoc in the bond market, and the housing market, Mr. Bernanke will issue an advisory saying (in more words than these) “just kidding.” Then it will be back to business as usual, which is to say QE Forever, which might as well be saying “game over.”

     One must feel for poor Mr. Bernanke. He’s tried to run a long-distance foot-race against reality and now it’s breathing down his neck near finish line. The idea was to pump enough artificial “money” into the economy to give it the appearance of motion, but all he accomplished in the words of my recent podcast guest, Eric Zencey, was a commotion of money, and the commotion was pretty much limited to a few blocks of lower Manhattan, two ribbons of real estate running up the East Side and Central Park West, and a subsidiary disturbance out on the South Fork of Long Island. Everybody else in the country was left to stew in a tattoo-and-malt-liquor torpor at the SNAP Card application office.

      The Fed can only pretend to try to get out of this self-created hell-hole. The stock market is a proxy for the economy and a handful of giant banks are proxies for the American public, and all they’ve really got going is a hideous high-frequency churn of trades in conjectural debentures that pretend to represent something hidden in the caboose of a choo-choo train of wished-for value — and hardly anyone in the nation, including those with multiple graduate degrees in abstruse crypto-sciences, can even pretend to understand it all.

     When reality crosses the finish line ahead of poor, exhausted Mr. Bernanke, havoc must ensue. All the artificial props fall away and the so-called American economy is revealed for what it is: a surreal landscape of ruin with nothing left but salvage value. Very few people will get a living off of the salvage operations, and there will be fights and skirmishes everywhere by one gang or another for control of the pickings. The utility of money itself may be bygone, along with the legitimacy of anyone or anything claiming institutional authority. This is what comes of all attempts to get something for nothing.

     By the way, for those of you still watching the charts, notice that gold and silver may bob up and down week-by-week, but the price of oil remains stubbornly above $105-a-barrel no matter what happens. That is the only number you need to know to predict the fate of industrial economies.

Clusterfuck Nation Double Feature

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Published on Clusterfuck Nation August 2013

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Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide

August 19, 2013

KunstlerThe Federal Reserve answers only to God, but Ben Bernanke’s must not have known that his boss was such a prankster. All of a sudden here is the interest rate of 10-year Treasury paper rising like an angry carbuncle on Ben’s pale tuchus just when he thought he could sit back and watch the mud wrestling contest between Larry Summers and Janet Yellen.

Poor Ben, sedulous student of the Great Depression, who didn’t notice that the country had changed from a nation of farmers and factory workers to a nation of pole dancers and waiters, now awaits his sublime moment of Hooverization. Like poor President Hoover, he gets to hang around the pilot house half a year after he runs the garbage barge of US finance aground on the shoals of wishful thinking and accounting fraud.

Everyone who has to pay attention to the order of things in the universe — meaning those not stewed on crank or drank, or waiting on line for a SNAP card, or leafing through the tattoo catalog, or waiting for a Kim Kardashian gangbang guest shot on Duck Dynasty, or lost in the alt reality of their cell phone — is suddenly very nervous about the order of things in this little corner of the universe. Sag Harbor is starting to live up to its name and down along the Hamptons the tide has gone out to feed a Tsunami of margin calls that soon will give the phrase “under water” a whole new life in the twisted mythology of capital. The immortal Bill Gross even sent out an SOS on Twitter at the end of the week. No wonder folks have got the heebie-jeebies.

The fear is that the central banks have finally lost control of a situation that they have only pretended to control since 2007, when the grotesque racket of mortgage re-bundling caused a psychotic break in the banking system. The prescribed therapy for that was half a decade of ZIRP and maxing out the national credit card. The ugly truth now emerging through this fog of psychosis is that the bond market probably can’t be saved, and without it all other paper markets are toast, including the stock markets and very possibly the entire fiat currency system.

In the background, of course, is the energy melodrama. How can anybody with half a brain suppose that the late turbo-industrial economy could “recover” with oil priced at $107 a barrel? Anyway, all the “recovery” memes floating around the collective media zeitgeist are based on a handful of doctored and massaged GDP numbers universally known to be false. In short, the USA can’t run the current setup on oil over $100 a barrel and has been trying to compensate for that basic fact by lending itself money. So has virtually every other advanced economy, and now they are all in trouble so there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide — and for us, nowhere to export our financial quandaries to.

Japan is the most interesting corpse in the pathology lab. It shot its wad twenty years ago and has been self-cannibalizing ever since. It has no oil or gas of its own, and now it has a runaway nuclear meltdown that is getting only slightly less attention than its financial meltdown. I used to think that Japan had no choice except to go medieval. Now I wonder if there will be anything there in ten years but a depopulated archipelago of steaming radioactive kelp. They can’t possibly buy more US treasury paper and must desperately need to dump their accumulated holdings, and when they do they will start a financial chain reaction that will flense the pretense of value from all the world’s sovereign debt paper. It may already be happening.

If you prepare for anything, prepare for a world without financial pretense. Credibility is caught in that riptide developing off the Hamptons. When the water goes out, all you will see is ugly things wriggling in the mud, and when the water comes rushing back in again, all you will see is a spectacle of drowning bankers. The only higher ground to go to will be your local community, if you have one, and even there it will be a struggle to make sense of what has happened to the world.

August 26, 2013

How then did Ben Bernanke finally summon the fortitude to entertain tapering Federal Reserve bond purchases from $85 billion a month to, say, $84.7 billion a month come September 18th, the world may never know, but now the deed appears to be done, in his absence, by remote paranormal transmission, while the other Fed board members, with their attendant economist factotums, servelings, and catamites all beamed the message out of horsey Jackson Hole that they expected — even pined for — the vaunted return to “a normal economy.” Which left many bystanders wondering if that meant a Dow Jones industrial average at, say 3,847 around Columbus Day, the 10-year bond at 5 percent, and every pension fund in world bleeding out from a sucking chest wound — not to mention a Hindenberg-like conflagration of the US Treasury as debt payments went beyond critical.

Pardon me for saying that I don’t think these mooks of finance know what they’ve been paying for with the QE series of monkeyshines. They’ve been creating “money” for five years to offset the collapse of a no-longer-cheap-oil economy. It’s really that simple. If any of these poobahs thinks they can run a “normal economy” at $106-a-barrel then they should run out and get a realtor’s license and buy as many Arizona REO’s as the foundering banks will admit to holding on their books, and then become landlord to renters working 29 hours a week on the WalMart loading dock.

Actually, I don’t think they will have to wait that long to see the consequences of their loose, silly talk. America’s major export is now working its hoodoo in many other parts of the world as currencies become unglued and economies look down at the flimsy bamboo scaffolding that holds them up so high. America’s major export these days is economic uncertainty, specifically the question of what, exactly, will maintain the pretense that the hopelessly intertwined financial affairs of China, India, Brazil, Japan, Euroland, Russia, and everybody else, really, including ourselves, are not unraveling like some kind of cosmic sweater knitted with one needle by a cross-eyed god with the jim-jams.

A lot of people begin to suspect that there is something called “an economy” quite apart from the shenanigans and dumb shows put on by the banks and their imitators, the hedge funds. That actual economy is a very earthy thing, in so far as it is pegged to the biophysical realities of the planet — such as, can you harvest a turnip and therefore make turnip soup for dinner? After all, you won’t be making a soup out of interest rate swaps. Of course, dining on turnip soup is not as sexy as driving to work in a Tesla to a hedge fund boiler room where you get to cream off millions every week by playing Where’s Waldo with the rehypothecated accounts of the muppets who foolishly entrusted you with their own ill-gotten savings.

The nervousness out there is palpable and epochal. Not only is everyone waiting for some other shoe to drop after Labor Day; they’re waiting for it to drop on their own heads. The most visible result, I think, will be a shocking flight into precious metals, of which there is precious little to meet the kind of demand soon to overwhelm that teeny-weeny market corner of the financial universe. What else is there now? The Fed taper talk is pretty much a case of holding a gun to a puppy’s head — the puppy being the equities markets. The bond sector is a hall of mirrors. Cash is a lot less than king in several countries now, with the contagion running hot. Everything is mispriced to the upside except Gold and Silver, which are mispriced the other way, especially after the chicaneries of April and June when, depending on which story you believe, the banks ran a naked short campaign to knock the stuffing out of the metals so they could then go back in and hoover some of it up cheap in an attempt to conceal the multiple out-leasings (that is sale, or perhaps theft) of metal left by fools in their custodial charge. Or, some other sages might say, the knock-down was done to defend the honor of the evaporating US dollar (a dollar with the vapors), making it appear sturdier than it actually is. Yes, well that worked, sort of, for a few months, while Wall Street repaired to the annual East Hampton endorphin splash. I was not invited to Diddy’s party, where the pineal glands of the gathered .01 percent were audibly ringing with celestial euphoria as they swapped the reassuring pulsations of their own specialness. Those people, you can be sure, were not pining for a “normal economy.”

Long story short: we’re in for some interesting weeks ahead. Keep your hat on.

Slogger Trifecta

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on August 19, 2013

trifecta

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August 19, 2013 · 9:25 pm

At the End of the Day

Over the last few days, cheated preferentes depositors in the Novagalicia Bank  have been demonstrating in Spain. At this morning’s demo they rightly proclaimed themselves to be hard working, thrifty savers who had simply kept their savings there. They can no longer withdraw their life savings, because some hastily manufactured legality has told them they are creditors, not customers.

When, after twenty years hard graft, I finally in 1988 received a large cheque at 3am one morning for my shares in an ad agency I’d helped found, seven hours later I dashed down to the local Building Society and whacked the cheque in. When it cleared three days later – and only then – did I phone my first wife to say “The money’s safely banked”.

Safely. What a rare word that is these days in financial services.

Exactly who do these language-manipulating sociopaths think they are? They are bankers who took money in at minimal sight rates, making eternal profits from their customer base – and then had the gall to introduce service charges. They are blank-faced, goggle-eyed  bureaucrats in Whitehall, Brussels and Washington who approved this weasel terminology as if they might be rubber-stamping the train times to Auschwitz. And they are the multi-faced politicians who perpetually apologise for the indefensible behaviour of those whose money they so desperately need…having failed, year in year out, to keep within budgets.

Feeling safe is about having trust. The EC finally lost the trust of the lenders after the 37th dithering lie about the problem being solved. The ECB lost the trust of the bond markets when it illegally subordinated holders of Greek debt, and then went on to rape Cypriot investors for no good reason at all. Bernanke lost the trust of the American people when he carried on chucking their dollars at an intractable problem intrinsic to neoliberal economics. Parliament lost the last vestige of my trust when it said nothing against the theft of money from Cooperative Bank depositors to save its own neck. David Cameron lost the trust of millions of Britons when he continued to insist there had been nothing improper in his personal relationships with senior Newscorp officials. Congress lost the trust of the entire world when it bickered about the biggest deficit in US history. And last but not least, the Church of England lost any last vestige of trust when it began trying to profit from fracking.

Everything from love to money is based on trust and mutual respect. I no longer love my country, because it is a whore. There isn’t a single institution there I would trust. I can’t even feel that banked money is safe.

But still the apologists for this insane f**ked up fiat currency version of globalist ‘free market’ capitalism witter on, failing as ever to acknowledge that not a single investment market anywhere on the planet is free from artificial (and usually illegal) interference.

Please Britain, don’t put off your protest or jump off the cliff because they tell you to. Switch off the telly, get off the sofa, and tell the bastards where to get off.

· 7:11 am

CRASH2: China plans new gold standard for dominant Yuan

Uncle Sam goes foot-shooting, gets felled by snipers

bondbuy

Last week I posted about how Bernanke has run out of road in his attempt to keep everyone happy. As so often in such circumstances, he’s pleased nobody in the end: not the brokers, not the Asian creditors, and most definitely not the US consumer.

I also posted last week about the huge percentage of US bond-offloading accounted for by Chinese and Japanese dumping. And I’ve posted ad nauseam about the inability to generate spending from people who’s wages one just spent a decade eroding by 30%.

But as America shoots itself in the foot, snipers are busy targeting its head. What follows will explain how.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

From Day One of QE, Ben Bernanke insisted he was showering American consumers with money. Along with millions of other sites, The Slog always maintained he did it to get dividends up, keep the Dow high, and create liquidity/solvency/new business at the banks. Some neat new charts now show us precisely why we were right and he was telling porkies.

In this one, we can see how the supply (aka printing) of money went stratospheric during and after Greenspangling and Bernankenomics, and then upcurved further after 2010:

Fredcrop1There are today almost exactly twice as many dollars in circulation than there were…..but middle America’s share of it went down 30%. So they had less money with less spending capacity. So they spent less, took out more credit – and bought cheap Asian imports. Bang! There go the toes in your right foot.

Now let’s look at what happened as that Nixonian shift off the Gold Standard inevitably turned into Uncle Ben’s buck-showering bonanza:

Fred3cropWhile the supply of Fiat paper rocketed, consumer purchasing velocity fell even faster under QE than it had been doing during the previous pauperisation of the populace. And as blue-collars are now working fewer hours for less money with little chance of further credit, most of the money never reached them….and if it did, they paid off debt rather than indulging in retail therapy. Bang! There goes your right instep. Try to keep your balance now…

There is a growing feeling around the globe (if my contacts are even remotely typical) that after all this mess has finally covered every Westerner in excrement, there will be pressure to end the era of fiat paper. Not only would this be a disaster for the US, it would be a major coup for Beijing: there is every chance that a Yuan set against a new gold standard would make it the dominant reserve currency in short order….especially as the Dollar even now is predictably drifting down in value. China, it seems, has the aim of de-linking the Yuan from the US dollar. And Asian media are increasingly of the view that they will, when the time is right, fix it to gold instead.

China continues to amass gold. In June alone, it imported 104.6 tonnes from Hong Kong. That would bring China’s gold imports from Hong Kong to 1,160 tonnes since the beginning of this year. Officially, China hat around 1,000 tonnes of the stuff. But past experience has shown the Beijing suddenly pops up one day far more of shiny metal than you thought. The real figure is estimated to be around 8,000 tonnes….and likely to pass the US total, audited at 8,113 tonnes.

Yao Yudong, major money-man on the China Bank MPC, has of late been talking about fiat paper being a disaster, and his admiration for Bretton Woods. Further, China has been doing currency swap contracts big time with other countries to bypass the Buck. It has currency swap agreements with Brazil, Russia, Iran, Australia and the UK, to name a few. This aim here is clearly to get Westerners accustomed to the idea of dealing with the Yuan, and seeing it as a new ‘Central Currency’.

Bang! That first assassin’s bullet went straight through your neck. Breathing is getting difficult.

And of course, as I posted in recent days, those interest rates that were never going to rise are, um, rising. Very fast. The American cost of borrowing just doubled. And the Chinese are far and away the biggest sellers of those T-Bonds….which must now offer higher yields.

Oh look America, you just fell over, and your lungs are filling with blood….just as the traders, brokers, and big banking dicks get back to their desks next week, only to see a topping Dow, a falling T-Bond, and a backfiring, stuttering economy. And even though you’re manipulating the gold downwards to repair those bank balance sheets, it becomes even easier for Beijing to fill its boots with that gold.

Bang! That was the rear of your cerebrum coming off. It’s over.

August 18, 2013 · 9:02 pm

At the End of the Day

Lines on the nature of being united in idiocy

I think top marks tonight must surely go to Spain, for its unique ability to get Tom Watson agreeing with David Cameron. Yes, there can be no doubt about it, as long as Spain wants Gibraltar “back”, then the Iberian peoples have the capacity to unite Britain…a set of Islands not so much great any more as disintegrating.

It’s a useful distraction for both sides of course, but none of the fuss from Senor Rajoy holds any water at all. Britain has actually ‘owned’ Gibraltar for far longer and more continuously than the Spanish ever did and – as in the case of the Falklands with Argentina – its inhabitants have no desire at all to be Spanish. But if things get very nasty, I can’t wait to see how Operation Barbarossa van Pumpy in Brussels “handles” it.

At the same time, however, one must recognise the ability of almost any event in the Middle East to have Brit and US pols united in myopia, their respective leaders drivelling on about a Special Relationship that deserves the adjective only in the context of kids who require special needs education. After the demonisation of Assad in Syria comes the glorification of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I came across some Brits down here on holiday this morning, and they clearly didn’t have the remotest notion which way was up about Egypt’s tragedy….or indeed, who was for what, and why David Cameron wants to galvanise the EU into condemning the wicked military “coup”.

A simple analysis of the Egyptian dilemma doesn’t require that many brain cells. Early in July this year, I posted to say that “What [the US] State [Department] has done is bestow respectability upon the Muslim Brotherhood without in any way changing its truly ghastly attitudes and barbaric behaviour.” Tracing the lineage of this dynasty of deranged thinking, as long ago as November 2011, The Slog suggested that “the [Egyptian] military is playing upon a real fear: Egyptian liberals are sympathetic to the military’s attempt to dominate the constitution-writing process, being rightly fearful of Muslim Brotherhood dominance”.

Now we have MB fanatics desperate to present themselves as martyrs – and the usual figures of dead demonstrators growing with every report by Western news agencies. I can only repeat what I’ve been saying for nearly three years about the ‘Arab Spring’: it is based on Anglo-Saxon ignorance about the fundamental nature of Arab liberalism and Islamist fascism.

Very few international situations are as cut and dried as our mamipulative politicians would suggest: in the end – despite the EU nonsense and the Levitt myth of globalism – every nation is out for itself most of the time. The “deposed” President Mohamed Morsi had, from Day One of his term, worked overtime to marginalise a pro-secular Military in favour of his rabidly fundamentalist associates. There is no discernible difference between what Morsi was up to, and what Recep Erdogan has been up to in Turkey – viz, purging all those elements in the political and military class who support the secular aims of the hero Kemal Ataturk, in favour of his own closet Islamist agenda.

From the very start of this dire history of needless death in the name of a religious leader who is a myth, David Cameron and the US State department have placed themselves cynically on the side of authoritarianism: Cameron because he wants trade deals with Turkey, and the US because they want the oil. Yet  again, it is all about munneeeee. And that root of many evils has placed allegedly liberal democracies on the side of a neo-Nazi, misogynist bunch of religious maniacs.

And in other dramatic news developments today, the BBC’s Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman has a beard. I realise that in gay circles this means he has a girlfriend to hide an aberrant sexuality, but there haven’t really ever been any doubts about Paxo when it comes to which way he swings: basically, he would I suspect like to see 95% of politicians swinging from a lamppost. So it is especially sad to see that by far the biggest brain and toughest interviewer at the BBC needs to grow facial hair to catch the fickle gnat’s-length attention of the British public for longer than a tweet.

When the David Kelly affair began the sad descent of the BBC into Government lapdog, Paxman was a steady influence in favour of telling all politicians TGF themselves. After the McApine scam, he once again urged the Governors to face this unpleasant opportunist down. When the Jimmy Savile drivel about him “grooming a whole nation” went full-on tabloid, yet again our Jeremy tried to find some evidence of a spine in the Beeb’s management tier. Having discovered that his employer is, effectively, a mollusc, it is little wonder that he now carries a care-worn, slightly bored air around with him.

To relegate Jeremy Paxman to the margins of our national broadcaster is rather like taking Robin Day’s knighthood away because he gave Thatcher what-for. I’m afraid it symptomatically defines what is wrong with Britain.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World: Part 2

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Cuckoos_NestPublished on The Burning Platform on August 4, 2013

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In Part 1 of this article I detailed the insane solutions proposed and executed since 2008 by our owners as they attempt to retain and further expand their ill-gotten wealth, acquired through fraud, deceit, swindles, and the brilliant manipulation and exploitation of the masses through Bernaysian propaganda techniques. Madness has engulfed the entire world, with a concentration of power in the hands of a few psychopathic financial elite wielding an inordinate and dangerous expanse of power over the lives of the common man. They are a modern day version of Al Capone, except their weapons of choice aren’t machine guns, but a printing press, peddling debt, creating derivatives of mass destruction, and peddling heaping doses of disinformation. The contemporary criminal class wears Hermes suits, Rolex watches and diamond studded pinky rings, drops $500 to dine at Masa in NYC, travels by chauffeured limo, lives in $10 million NYC penthouse suites, occupies luxurious corner offices in hundred story glass towers, and spends weekends hobnobbing with the other financial elite at their villas in the Hamptons. They have nothing but utter contempt for the lowly peasants who depend upon a weekly paycheck to make ends meet. Why work when you can steal $1 or $2 billion from farmers with no consequences?

  

The willfully ignorant masses are kept at bay by the selling them a false dichotomy of Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, and capitalism versus socialism. The ruling class distracts the public with fake wars on poverty, drugs and terror, while using these storylines to further enrich themselves and keep the public alarmed and frightened. We’ve been “fighting” the wars on poverty and drugs for over four decades and poverty is at record levels, while drugs are easier to obtain than candy in a candy store. The war on terror is nothing more than a corporate arms dealer welfare plan. The end of the Cold War put a real crimp in the bottom lines of Lockheed Martin and the rest of the peddlers of death. 9/11 and the subsequent undeclared wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria, with Iran on the horizon, have been a godsend to the bottom lines of the corporations Eisenhower warned about in 1961. In reality, the politicians are interchangeable and bought off by corporate and special interests. The people are sold a fable, and controlled opposition is the fairy tale. They perpetuate the welfare/warfare state that enriches Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the healthcare service complex, politically connected mega-corporations and the corporate media propaganda complex. The American people are given the illusion of choice by their keepers. The system is rigged. The real decisions are made by unelected secretive men who operate in the shadows and use their wealth to direct the decision making of the politicians, government bureaucrats, and corporate entities that benefit from those decisions. Edward Bernays described a society that existed in the 19th Century, 20th Century, and has now grown to immense proportions in the 21st Century:

“Political campaigns today are all sideshows…A presidential candidate may be ‘drafted’ in response to ‘overwhelming popular demand,’ but it is well known that his name may be decided upon by half a dozen men sitting around a table in a hotel room…The conscious manipulation of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”Edward Bernays 

The manipulation of the masses has been perfected by the ruling class through decades of corporate mass media messaging the purposeful dumbing down of the populace through government public school education that teaches children how to feel rather than how to think. The conscious manipulation of the masses has been designed to produce obedient non-thinking consumers of corporate products, educated to believe the accumulation of material goods with debt constitutes wealth, to fear whatever the government tells them to fear, and never look up from their iGadgets long enough to actually think for themselves. We are bombarded with Orwellian memes designed to keep us sedated and pliant, as the ruling class pillages the national wealth and expands their power and control over our lives.

Conform; Stay Asleep; Do Not Question Authority; Obey; Consume; Reproduce; Submit; Watch TV; Buy; Follow; Doubt Humanity; No New Ideas; Feel, Don’t Think; Fear; Accumulate; Honor Apathy; Believe Experts; Surrender; Spend; No Independent Thought; Win; Want More; Hate; Succumb To Desire; Yield To Power; Choose Safety Over Liberty; Choose Security Over Freedom   

This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character.

Are You Sane?

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.” – Kurt Vonnegut – Welcome to the Monkey House

Vonnegut and Huxley’s social commentary reveals a basic truth that societies and human beings have been prone to bouts of madness over the course of decades and centuries. Humans are a weak species, susceptible to the vagaries of greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, envy and pride. The seven deadly sins are in full bloom today, as the American empire descends through Dante’s inferno of reality TV, celebrity worship, religious zealotry, adulation of wealthy titans, military conquest and worship of false idols. Over the centuries humans have gone mad over tulips, farm land, stocks, and real estate. The easily duped American populace has been victimized by multiple bubbles bursting since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. The contention that a central bank run by private banking interests would promote a safer financial system and a stable currency is laughable. The Federal Reserve and the bankers who control it have created three stock bubbles, the largest housing bubble in history, a bond bubble and the mother of all debt bubbles, while destroying 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in the last 100 years.

There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo.

Greenspan’s easy money policies, manufacturing of negative real short term interest rates, regulatory malfeasance and unspoken promise to bail out Wall Street whenever their excessive risk taking threatened to burn down the financial system, led to 50% stock market crash in 2000/2001, a 40% plunge in national home prices, and another 55% stock market crash in 2008/2009. While Ivy Leaguers Bernanke, Paulson, Hubbard, Krugman, and Bush were too obtuse or too blinded by their ideology to recognize the fraudulent housing and stock market bubbles, honest clear thinking men like Robert Shiller, John Hussman, and Ron Paul recognized the bubbles well in advance and understood the consequences to the average American.

“Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss.” – Ron Paul – 2003

What Ron didn’t realize was the peddlers and packagers of fraudulent mortgage debt on Wall Street would walk away unscathed when the bubble they created popped. Trillions of net worth was vaporized due to the policies, solutions, and programs designed and implemented by Bernanke and his Wall Street co-conspirators. The losses should have been borne by those who made the loans. Instead they were borne by the American taxpayer and future unborn generations. David Stockman, in his no holds barred book about the Wall Street and K Street crony capitalist criminals, rails against the Federal Reserve led rescue of the profligate destroyers of capital markets:

“At the end of the day, this trillion-dollar infusion of capital and liquidity from the public till had a single overarching effect: it nullified in its entirety the impact of Mr. Market’s withdrawal of a similar magnitude of funding from the wholesale money market. So the very monetary distortion – the availability of cheap overnight funding in massive quantities – upon which the Wall Street financial bubble had been built had now been recreated at the lending windows of the Fed, FDIC, and the US Treasury.

The opposite path of liquidating the Wall Street bubble was eschewed, of course, not only because it would have meant massive losses to speculators in the stock and bonds of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and the remaining phalanx of the walking wounded. Crony capitalism also triumphed because in muscling the system during the white heat of crisis, Wall Street had plenty of intellectual cover. The fact is, mainstream economists of both parties were trapped in a Keynesian dead end, proclaiming that the solution to the crushing national debt load which had actually triggered the financial crisis was to pile on more of the same.

Accordingly, banks which were “too big to fail” couldn’t be busted up, since they were allegedly needed to shovel more credit onto already debt saturated household and business balance sheets. Likewise, speculators who should have suffered epochal losses during the meltdown were resuscitated by Fed-engineered zero interest rates in the money market, thereby quickly reviving the same massively leveraged “carry trades” in commodities, currencies, equities, derivatives, and other risk assets which had brought on the crisis in the first place.” David Stockman – The Great Deformation – The Corruption of Capitalism in America

The working middle class was forced at gunpoint to bail out billionaire bankers who had been fraudulently inducing feeble minded dupes and trailer trash to purchase $500,000 McMansions with negative amortization no doc subprime mortgages, while bullying appraisers into inflating appraisals, buying off the rating agencies, selling the toxic derivatives to their clients, and then shorting the very same derivatives. They subsequently committed foreclosure fraud by robo-signing legal documents. Describing these modern day Shylocks as heartless, cruel, lecherous, avaricious demons understates the vileness and contemptibility of their nature. Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson blatantly lied to the depraved, gutless members of Congress and to the easily hoodwinked fearful American public about the threat of our financial system collapsing unless the Wall Street banks were saved. This false storyline is still peddled today and believed by millions of willfully ignorant crony capitalist devotees. The financial system wasn’t going to collapse. The stock prices of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, Morgan Stanley, GE, and Wells Fargo were collapsing. The wealth of the financial elites that run the country was in peril. The depositors in these banks wouldn’t have lost a penny, but the shareholders and bond holders would have been wiped out. The personal wealth of Dimon, Mack, Lewis, Prince, Immelt, Blankfein and the other titans of finance took precedence over the rule of law and the negative consequences of excessive risk taking and control fraud.

True free market capitalism embraces the concept of creative destruction. Poorly run companies fail and are replaced by well-run companies. Bankruptcy law worked perfectly during the liquidation of Washington Mutual. The orderly liquidation of the Too Big to Trust Wall Street banks would have resulted in billions of bad debt being discharged, with the losses being borne by the executives who mismanaged the banks and the investors who were foolish enough to fund the disastrous schemes perpetrated by those executives. The FDIC would have kept depositors whole. The privatization of illicit bank profits from 2002 through 2007 and the socialization of the 2008 through 2010 bank losses are proof that we are experiencing a warped, immoral, crony capitalism that enriches the well-connected and impoverishes the working middle class. Our political, economic and financial systems have been captured by corporate and special interests. This corruption will prove fatal, as the vested interests destroy the system through their myopic greed. We’ve allowed a small cadre of malevolent men to gamble away the nation’s future with impunity from all laws, regulations and any sense of morality, under the guise of capitalism. These men and the nation will pay a high price for these transgressions. The punishment will fit the crimes.

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”John Kenneth Galbraith – The Age of Uncertainty

The chart below reveals the criminal plan as implemented by Bernanke, the Obama administration and the Wall Street banks. Instead of allowing insolvent financial institutions to fail, $700 billion of taxpayer funds were syphoned from the economy and handed to them. Bernanke has since stuffed their coffers with another $2.4 trillion he printed out of thin air. The purpose of this insane transfer of national wealth from the people to the parasites was not to help Main Street. Forcing the FASB to allow these criminal bankers to mark to unicorn rather than mark to market, buying their toxic mortgages, and providing billions in free money was done to cover-up the fact they are insolvent. Their balance sheets and the Federal Reserve balance sheet are choking on bad debt. The ongoing foreclosure/rent to own scam was designed to drive up home prices and allow the bankers to exit their toxic mortgages with a profit. The criminally insane bankers have used the trillions in excess funds to syphon off billions in stock market gains, with assurances from Ben that QE to infinity will always be there. They know if their gambling leads to losses, Ben will come to the rescue.

The purpose of banks was supposed to be to lend money to businesses and consumers so they could make long-term investments that helped expand the economy. These Wall Street cretins didn’t loan money to people and businesses in the real world. It was much easier to generate risk free returns and program their HFT supercomputers to buy, buy, buy. By driving real interest rates below zero for the last four years, Bernanke has stolen $400 billion per year from senior citizens living on the edge and transferred it to bloodsucking bankers. Anyone with money in a bank account is losing money. This was designed to force muppets back into the stock market where they will be fleeced for the third time in the last thirteen years.

inflation and t-bill

Bernanke’s rescue measures have been a smashing success for the .1%. Wall Street is generating record levels of profits and paying out record levels of bonuses to themselves for a job well done. The stock market is at an all-time high, while the middle class is eviscerated by relentless inflation in energy, food, healthcare, clothing, tuition, rent and taxes. Reality does not match the propaganda touted by the financial elite. Ask the 47.7 million people on food stamps.

food stamps

The economic recovery narrative propagated by Wall Street paid economists, Wall Street controlled media pundits, and Wall Street bought off politicians is nothing but unmitigated bullshit. True unemployment, that doesn’t falsely exclude the unemployed who have thrown in the towel, is north of 20%, with youth unemployment exceeding 40%. The “solutions” implemented by our owners have led to a 10% collapse in the median household income since 2008. If the middle class is seeing their real incomes decline, while their living expenses are rising by 5% per year, how can the economy be recovering? It can’t. Bernanke’s banker welfare program and Obama’s $1 trillion deficits, along with accounting fraud and under-reporting of inflation, have produced the illusion of recovery.

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Dimitri Orlov summarizes our modern financial system and sets the table for the coming collapse:

“The main tools of modern finance are mystification, obfuscation and hypnosis. What is different now is that all the governments have already shot all of their magic bailout bullets. The guilty parties are still at large, richer than they were before this crisis and probably thinking that the next crisis will make them even richer.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

The questions that must be answered are: How did we allow this to happen? Are we blameless? Can our course be reversed?

Time to Look in the Mirror

“The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories.  A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction.  It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens.  What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all.  But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’

‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure.  Democracy often works beautifully at first.  But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state.  For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.” –  Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein has been dead for twenty five years. He wrote these words decades ago. His vision of a state bleeding to death is being played out as we speak. Ben Franklin had an inkling the Republic we were given would not be sustained. The success of our nation hinged upon the wisdom, self-restraint, morality, and civic mindedness of its citizens. Our form of governance was never perfect. Nothing is perfect. Adam Smith’s free market capitalism was based upon true competition, but with an underlying moral code. The rule of law meant something. Those who stole, cheated or broke the law were punished. Bankers and their usurious machinations were frowned upon. They were tolerated as a necessary evil, but they certainly weren’t admired and celebrated. When their greedy schemes to loot the populace went too far, a courageous leader would step forth and rout out the vipers and thieves:

“You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you out.”Andrew Jackson

Bankers gained more power after the Civil War as oil was discovered, the country grew rapidly, and the robber barons built their fortunes on debt and the backs of the poor. But still, there were leaders like Teddy Roosevelt who stood up to the banking and corporate interests. The die was finally cast in 1913 with the introduction of the income tax, the creation of the Federal Reserve and allowing the people to directly elect their Senators. A century of central banking has led to: a century of war; a century of currency debasement; a transformation from a hard-working, saving, producing society into an irresponsible, debt based spending, consuming society; and the degradation of our society into a mob of egotistical techno-narcissists, who have chosen bread and circuses over freedom, liberty and self-reliance. At first it happened gradually, but accelerated rapidly once Nixon removed the last vestiges of control over greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and gluttonous voters. The transformation from an industrious nation of savers into a slothful nation of consumers has reached its zenith. Financialization Nation has been built on a pyramid of debt. The youth of today have been left with an un-payable debt burden and as Bill Bonner points out, the endgame will likely be violent and bloody:

“That’s a heavy burden. It is especially disagreeable when someone else ran up the debt. Then you are a debt slave. That is the situation of young people today. They must face their parents’ debt. Even serfs in the Dark Ages had it better. They had to work only one day out of 10 for their lords and masters. As it stands, young people in the U.S., Europe and Japan are expected to work their whole lives to pay for things their parents and grandparents consumed decades earlier.

Let’s see. Deny a young person work and you deny him a career. Deny him a career and you deny him a way to support a family. Deny him a family life and who knows what happens? Will today’s young people accept their lot… and remain in docile debt servitude their whole lives? Or will they rise up and burn T-bonds in public spaces… rampage down Wall Street… and perhaps hang Ben Bernanke in front of the New York Federal Reserve?” – Bill Bonner

The pyramid of debt was built brick by brick over the last century, as an unelected, secretive, unaccountable cabal of private banker pharaohs has controlled the currency of the nation and worked on behalf of the vested corporate and banking interests that control the country. Shortly after its devious creation in 1913, they enabled Woodrow Wilson to wage a war he promised to keep the nation out of. The central bank’s easy money policies during the 1920s led to an unsustainable credit driven boom in stocks, bonds and real estate. As usual, their belated monetary tightening was too late to avoid the 1929 Crash. Federal Reserve and government intervention after the crash prolonged the Depression for over a decade. The Crash of 1929 proved once again that bankers could not be trusted. Their insatiable greed and reckless thirst for more and more riches required checks on their ability to destroy our economic system. The 38 page 1933 Glass-Steagall Act made sure commercial banking was kept separate from investment banking (gambling), keeping the productive activity of helping businesses grow isolated from the parasitic activity of speculation. This clear, concise, understandable law kept bankers from destroying the lives of millions for 66 years, until a bipartisan screw job repealed the law and unleashed the kraken upon the unsuspecting public. Bernanke’s QE to infinity driven stock market gains over the last few years are reminiscent of another historic time, and this story also hasn’t reached its ultimate climax.

“A major boom in real stock prices in the U.S. after ‘Black Tuesday’ brought them halfway back to 1929 levels by 1930. This was followed by a second crash, another boom from 1932 to 1937, and a third crash. Speculative bubbles do not end like a short story, novel, or play. There is no final denouement that brings all the strands of a narrative into an impressive final conclusion. In the real world, we never know when the story is over.”Robert Shiller

The destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II and the Bretton Woods system that made the USD supreme across the world kept the economic peace for the next quarter century. A confluence of events in the late 1960s and early 1970s set the stage for the ultimate collapse of our faith based monetary system. LBJ’s Great Society welfare programs and our disastrous foray into Southeast Asia began the insane welfare/warfare dynamic that has required more and more debt to sustain. Nixon realized the debt expansion needed to pay for an ever expanding state could never be achieved with the Bretton Woods/gold pegged currency system.  In 1971 Nixon unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the USD to gold. It ushered in the era of freely floating currencies, relentless inflation, financial bubbles, debt accumulation, consumerism, and the rise of the corporate/fascist propaganda state. Using government supplied CPI statistics, the dollar had lost 75% of its purchasing power between 1913 and 1971. Since 1971 it has lost 83% of its remaining purchasing power. And Ben Bernanke has the guts to publicly state his worries about the ravages of deflation.

The years 1913 and 1971 will be seen by future historians as infamous dates when marking the decline of the great American empire.  Prior to 1971, the New York Stock Exchange barred the public listing of investment banks. After the exchange repealed this ban, the large investment banks (Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns) converted from partnerships, where the senior employees owned the company and were responsible for all of its liabilities, profits and losses, into publicly owned corporations, where executives’ incentives become aligned with outside shareholders, who demanded short-term profits and higher stock prices at the expense of long term sustainability. The partnership structure provided a mechanism of restraint, self-control, fiscal responsibility and cautiousness. If the bank failed, the partners’ net worth would be wiped out. Their incentives were for the long-term sustainability of the business and they were discouraged from taking undue risks that might produce huge short term profits, but might also destroy the firm. Shame and a sense of responsibility to fellow partners was a strong deterrent to obscene risk taking. The unholy combination of allowing investment banks to go public and repealing Glass Steagall in 1999, created a greed driven uncontrollable Too Big To Control brutish monstrosity consuming the world in its desire for more. It will only be stopped when it chokes to death while gorging on what’s left of the middle class.

The citizens, formerly known as the hard working American middle class, must accept their share of responsibility for the desperate circumstances we face. Some are guiltier than others, but we only need look in the mirror to find the culprits in allowing the bankers, politicians, military industrial complex, mass media and vested corporate interests to gain control over our country. The introduction of the credit card by Wall Street bankers as a must have for every citizen in the early 1970s coincided with the inflationary demons unleashed from Pandora’s Box by Nixon and the Federal Reserve, along with the peak of cheap U.S. oil production. Thus began four decades of real wages declining and consumer debt soaring. A nation of people that believed in saving before purchasing were given the freedom to spend money they didn’t have. The statistics paint a picture of a society gone mad:

  • Credit card debt grew from $5 billion in 1971 to $856 billion today, a 17,000% increase in forty-two years. GDP rose from $1.2 trillion to $16.6 trillion, a mere 1,400% increase. Real GDP only grew by 300%. Wages have grown from $600 billion to $7 trillion, a 1,200% increase. Real disposable personal income per capita grew from $17,200 to $36,800, a 200% increase.
  • Non-revolving debt (auto, student loan) grew from $127 billion in 1971 to $1.98 trillion today, a 1,600% increase.
  • There are over 600 million credit cards in circulation within the U.S. and Americans charged over $2.1 trillion last year.
  • Over 40% of Americans carry a balance on their credit card from month to month, with an average balance of $8,200 and an average interest rate of 13%.
  • 40% of all low and middle income households must rely on their credit cards to pay basic living expenses like rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, real estate taxes, income taxes, along with their “needed” iPhones, HDTVs, bling, stainless steel appliances, and tattoo artwork.
  • Wall Street banks have written off over $300 billion in credit card debt since 2008 (and passing the bill to taxpayers), while bilking their customers out of $60 billion per year in late fees and overdraft fees.

Despite the storyline of austerity, consumer credit outstanding has reached an all-time high of $2.84 trillion because Bernanke and his Wall Street puppeteers require perpetual debt expansion to keep their Ponzi scheme alive. Federal government dispensation of loans to subprime student borrowers has helped mask the true unemployment rate and Federal government doling out of subprime auto loans through Ally Financial and their crony Wall Street partners has created a fake auto recovery. The Blackrock/Wall Street “rent to own” faux housing recovery was designed by our owners to lure clueless math challenged dupes back into the housing market. Our entire economy is nothing but a confidence game at this point.

The four decade long orgy of debt couldn’t have ensued if our currency had remained linked to the barbaric relic – gold. The apologists and lackeys for the vested interests scorn and ridicule the notion of our economic system being burdened with any checks or balances. This is where the interests of those in power and those being ruled have coincided, as a fiat based monetary system allowed unlimited spending to keep the welfare/warfare state growing, enriching the crony capitalists, deepening the power of the state, and providing the masses with foreign made trinkets, baubles, corporate logoed clothing, techno-gadgets, and pimped out financed wheels. The concepts of self-restraint, discipline, saving for a rainy day, prudence, discretion, and deferred gratification are rarely displayed in modern day America. In a case of mass delusion, Americans have convinced themselves to live for today, recklessly ignore their futures, irresponsibly spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, neglect their civic duty towards future generations, choose ignorance over knowledge, and vote for spineless politicians who promise them entitlements that are mathematically impossible to honor. The public’s foolish attitude towards debt accumulation matches the arrogance of our gutless intellectually dishonest leaders.

“When people pile up debts they will find difficult and perhaps even impossible to repay, they are saying several things at once. They are obviously saying that they want more than they can immediately afford. They are saying, less obviously, that their present wants are so important that, to satisfy them, it is worth some future difficulty. But in making that bargain they are implying that when the future difficulty arrives, they’ll figure it out. They don’t always do that.” Michael Lewis – Boomerang

The manner in which our leaders are governing the country and citizens are living their lives can only be considered normal in relation to residing in a profoundly abnormal society. The American Dream of having the opportunity for upward mobility through educating yourself, working hard, accumulating wealth methodically by spending less than you earn, and reaching your full potential as a caring loving human being has been replaced by a perverted nightmare where we run on a hamster wheel for our entire lives trying to achieve the new American dream of accumulating throw away material goods, working to make the payments for McMansions, SUVs, stainless steel appliances, and iGadgets you rent from bankers, while driving yourself into an early grave by consuming mass quantities of processed poison and the stress created by trying to achieve the lifestyle sold to us by Madison Ave. maggots, Wall Street shysters and the mainstream media propagandists. The corporate fascists tell you what to believe, which “enemy” to fear, how you should look, what to eat, what drug to take for the illnesses caused by the food they lured you to eat, the kind of house you need to impress your friends and family, and the car you need to drive to impress your neighbors. As George Carlin aptly pronounced: “It’s called the American Dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.” – either asleep or insane.

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”  – Ellen Goodman

Our profoundly abnormal society of materialistic zombies, who mindlessly obey the commands and marketing messages of the financial elite, has staked their futures and the future of the country on the wisdom and brilliance of an Ivy League academic who never worked a day in the real world, didn’t spot the largest fraudulent housing bubble in world history, and whose unlawful acts as Federal Reserve chairman have enriched the banking whores who destroyed the country and impoverished what remains of the dying middle class. It’s the height of insanity for the American people to trust these crooked high priests of finance to cure a disease they spread with their immoral, traitorous policies over the last century. Bernanke and his lackeys, in a desperate last gasp gamble to prolong their fiat currency pillaging of the peasants, have rolled the dice with QE to infinity, accounting fraud, and further enrichment of their corporate masters.

“Viewed as a religious cult, modern finance revolves around the miracle of the spontaneous generation of money in a set of rituals performed by the high priests of central banking. People hang on the high priests’ every word, attempting to divine the secret meaning behind their cryptic utterances. Their interventions before the unknowable deity of global finance assure them of economic recovery and continued prosperity, just as a shaman’s rain dance guarantees rain or ritual sacrifice atop a Mayan pyramid once promised a bountiful harvest of maize.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park. In Part 3 of this article I will speculate on the timing, scope and consequences of the coming collapse. It’s not going to be a happy ending, especially for the existing social order.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World: Part 1

Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on July 23, 2013

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Discuss this article at the Economics table inside the Diner

“I mean—hell, I been surprised how sane you guys all are. As near as I can tell you’re not any crazier than the average asshole on the street.”R.P. McMurphy – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

“Years ago, it meant something to be crazy. Now everyone’s crazy.”Charles Manson

 

“In America, the criminally insane rule and the rest of us, or the vast majority of the rest of us, either do not care, do not know, or are distracted and properly brainwashed into acquiescence.”Kurt Nimmo

I have to admit to being baffled by the aptitude of the Wall Street and K Street financial elite to keep their Ponzi scheme growing. I consider myself to be a rational, sane human being who understands math and bases his assessments upon facts and a sensible appraisal of the relevant information obtained from trustworthy sources. Of course, finding trustworthy sources is difficult when you live in a corrupt, crony-capitalist, fascist state, controlled by banking, corporate and military interests who retain absolute control over the mainstream media and governmental propaganda agencies. Those seeking truth must pursue it through the alternative media and seeking out unbiased critical thinkers who relentlessly abide by what the facts expose. This is no time for wishful thinking, delusions and fantasies. In the end, the facts are all that matter. As Heinlein noted decades ago, the future is uncertain so facts are essential in navigating a course that doesn’t lead you to ruin upon the shoals of ignorance.

“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the un-guessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!” ― Robert A. Heinlein

Facts are treasonous and dangerous in an empire of lies, fraud and propaganda. It is maddening to watch the country spiral downward, driven to ruin by a psychotic predator class, while the plebs choose to remain willfully ignorant of reality and distracted by their lust for cheap Chinese crap and addicted to the cult of techno-narcissism. We are a country running on heaping doses of cognitive dissonance and normalcy bias, an irrational belief in our national exceptionalism, an absurd trust in the same banking class that destroyed the finances of the country, and a delusionary belief that with just another trillion dollars of debt we’ll be back on the exponential growth track. The American empire has been built on a foundation of cheap easily accessible oil, cheap easily accessible credit, the most powerful military machine in human history, and the purposeful transformation of citizens into consumers through the use of relentless media propaganda and a persistent decades long dumbing down of the masses through the government education system.

This national insanity is not a new phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche observed the same spectacle in the 19th century.

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

The “solutions” imposed by the supposed brightest financial Ivy League educated minds and corrupt bought off political class upon people of the United States since the Wall Street created 2008 worldwide financial collapse are insane and designed to only further enrich the crony capitalists and their banker brethren. The maniacs are ruling the asylum. John Lennon saw the writing on the wall forty five years ago.

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives…. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends … and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”John Lennon, Interview BBC-TV (June 22, 1968)

The world is most certainly ruled by a small group of extremely wealthy evil men who desire ever more treasure, supremacy and control, but the vast majority of Americans have stood idly by mesmerized by their iGadgets and believing buying shit they don’t need with money they don’t have is the path to happiness and prosperity, while their wealth, liberty and self-respect were stolen by the financial elite. Our idiot culture, that celebrates reality TV morons, low IQ millionaires playing children’s sports, egomaniacal Hollywood hacks, self-promoting Wall Street financers, and self-serving corrupt ideologue politicians, has been degenerating for decades.

“We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.” Carl Bernstein -1992

The examples of our national insanity are almost too vast to document, but any critical assessment of what we’ve done over the last one hundred years reveals the idiocracy that has engulfed our collapsing empire.

The Madness of Crowds

In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.”Charles MacKay – Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

We have become a nation that seamlessly goes mad every five years in pursuit of some new delusionary fantasy sold to us by the ruling class, only to see those dreams shattered like a wooden ship on the reef of reality. You can never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Ben Bernanke and his Federal Reserve cronies have printed $2.6 trillion of new money out of thin air since September 2008 in order to prop up their Wall Street owners, who had engineered the largest control fraud (mortgage debt/housing bubble) in world history, recklessly gambled in their ravenous appetite for sordid profits, and drove their firms into insolvency. It took the Federal Reserve 95 years to accumulate a balance sheet of $900 billion of safe U.S. Treasuries.

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They have insanely quadrupled their balance sheet in the last 5 years by accumulating toxic mortgage debt from Wall Street banks and purchasing the majority of new Treasury debt being issued to fund the Federal government’s insane trillion dollar annual deficits. Bernanke, the corporate media, government apparatchiks, and captured political class act as if this is normal, when it is clearly the act of a desperate ruling class in its final death throes. Bernanke has leveraged his balance sheet 60 to 1. Lehman and Bear Stearns were leveraged 30 to 1 when they collapsed. The 100 basis point move in rates over the space of two months has resulted in Bernanke losing $200 billion and effectively wiping out his $55 billion of capital.

fed 10 year

Of course, in a corrupt regime accounting fraud is encouraged and applauded by the status quo. Just as the spineless accountants on the FASB buckled to threats from Bernanke and Paulson in early 2009 and reversed the requirement that assets be marked to market so the felonious Wall Street banks could fraudulently hide their insolvency, the Federal Reserve has decided their losses don’t matter. The Federal Reserve classifies their losses as an asset. Don’t you wish you could classify your 401k losses and your home value losses as an asset? The tapering bullshit storyline is just another attempt to distract the masses from focusing on the fact that Bernanke will never stop expanding his balance sheet because if he stops the financial system will collapse in a catastrophic implosion. The Ponzi scheme will continue until loss of faith leads to a scramble away from the U.S. dollar.

fed balance sheet

Since the infamous creation of the Federal Reserve by a secretive cabal of bankers and politicians in 1913, the ultimate destination of the American empire was set. Every fiat currency in world history has collapsed. Our entire system has been based on infinite exponential growth. The fallacy of American exceptionalism has been built on an underpinning of pure stupid luck and the issuance of more and more debt. The American empire grew to epic proportions due to the discovery of cheap easily accessible oil in the late 19th century and the physical and economic destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II. The accumulation of debt was fairly moderate during the glory years after World War II, but began to accelerate after the fateful year of 1971 when U.S. oil production peaked and Tricky Dick Nixon removed the last vestiges of restraint from central bankers and politicians by closing the gold window. With the shackles removed from the wrists of corruptible knaves and shysters, America’s future depended upon the wisdom, honesty and financial acumen of Washington politicians and Wall Street financers. Once the citizens realized they could vote for more bread and circuses, our ultimate demise was set in motion. A nation that had produced real annual growth of 4% during the 1950’s and 1960’s has seen a steady decline for the last four decades.

The term pushing on a string describes the Quantitative Easing (literally money printing) and Keynesian debt financed pork spending efforts of our increasingly frantic owners. The insanity of what we’ve done since 1971 is almost too crazy to comprehend. In the first 182 years of our existence the leaders we elected to steward the nation accumulated $400 billion of national debt. By 1981, unleashed from any semblance of spending control, the politicians and bankers had added another $600 billion of debt, a 150% increase in 10 years. By 1991 our beloved leaders had added another $2.6 trillion of debt, another 160% increase in 10 years. By 2001 another $2.2 trillion had been accumulated, only a 60% increase due to the end of the Cold War and a one-time tax surge from the Dot.com stock bubble. Bush’s worldwide War on Terror, expansion of the police state, tax rebate stimulus idiocy, and expansion of the welfare state (Medicare Part D) drove the national debt up by another $2.2 trillion in just eight years, a 40% increase.

The insane amassing of debt since 2008 has put a final nail in the coffin of the ridiculous Keynesian theory, as the Federal government has increased annual spending by 35% over the last five years and the economy is still moribund. Our fearless leaders have driven the national debt from $7.8 trillion to $16.7 trillion in less than five years, a 110% increase. The country continues to add $2 to $3 billion of debt per day. Consider how insane it is that we now accumulate more debt in half a year than we did cumulatively over the first 182 years of our existence as a country. And our elected, or should I say selected, leaders, cheer on the intellectually bankrupt academics like Bernanke whose only solution to every crisis is to print moar and then lie to the American people about his true purpose, act as if annually spending $1 trillion more than we collect while knowing there are over $200 trillion of unfunded promises to fulfill is a reasonable and realistic way to manage the national finances. Any sane person knows our current path will lead to ruin. When you need to issue new debt in order to honor old debt, the end is in sight.

The multitude of insane responses to a financial crisis created by a few greedy psychopathic bankers will be looked upon by historians with contempt and scorn. Future generations will wonder “What were they thinking?” Trillions in wealth were vaporized due to the actions of a small secretive league of highly educated, egocentric psychopaths whose warped sense of morality led them to pillage the wealth of the nation through fraudulent financial products, bribing regulatory agencies, stabbing clients and competitors in the back, and peddling lies, propaganda and misinformation to the public through their captured media mouthpieces. Not only haven’t any predator bankers been thrown in jail, but these villains have grown their parasitic entities to enormous proportions while paying themselves obscene billion dollar bonuses. Jon Corzine stole $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of his customers to cover his gambling losses and he remains free to laze about in one of his five gated mansions. The largest banks on earth have been caught red handed forging mortgage documents, rigging LIBOR, front running the muppets with non-public economic information, insider dealing, and using their HFT supercomputers to manipulate the markets at their whim. Government spy agencies regularly use the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper while accumulating electronic dossiers on every citizen in the country. The rule of law does not exist for the ruling class.

Only in a world gone insane would we be celebrating Wall Street generating all-time high profits through the use of accounting fraud and Bernanke filling their coffers with trillions of interest free money while bilking senior citizens out of $400 billion per year of interest income through his dastardly ZIRP “save a Wall Street banker” scheme. Bernanke has stolen close to $2 trillion from the bank accounts of little old ladies since 2008 and given it to Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfien and the rest of the Wall Street scumbags. While Wall Street and the crony capitalist mega-corporations report record profits, Main Street is left with 5 million less full-time jobs than they had in 2007 and a real unemployment rate exceeding 20%. While the government has insanely reported a recovering economy since mid-2009, the food stamp rolls have grown from 33 million to 47 million. The ruling class cheers the record highs in the stock market that overwhelmingly benefit the top .1% because they are the .1%. Meanwhile, the average schmuck out in the hinterlands is paying double the price they were paying for gas in 2009 and their everyday living costs are rising by greater than 5% annually. Luckily for the financial elite, the average American would rather watch Honey Boo Boo than try to understand the evilness of Federal Reserve created inflation. The economic recovery storyline is obliterated by the fact that real household income is still 9% below its 2008 peak and amazingly 8% below its 2000 level.

Since the 2009 low, the household net worth of the wealthiest 7% has grown by 28%, while the other 93% have seen their net worth decline by a further 4%. The profits accrue to those who run the show, buy the politicians, write the laws, command the media propaganda machine and control the currency. As a sane person in this insane world I’m flabbergasted that there is virtually no outrage at the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity. Americans have earned the moniker – ignorant masses. Bread and circuses have won the day in our declining empire. The oligarchs thank you.

The blame doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of the evil men running the show. They have only done what we allowed them to do. From top to bottom our society has hopped on the crazy train. The lack of national morality, sense of civic duty, inter-generational responsibility, and willful ignorance regarding sensible financial policies has led us to a tipping point. Decades of feckless self-serving political leadership making entitlement promises they could never honor to win votes, combined with a parasitic financial class peddling debt to millions of witless, narcissistic, math challenged, materialistic morons, has left the country in debt up to its eyeballs with no escape other than cataclysmic default. Michael Lewis documents the bleeding out of our society in his recent book:

“The people who had the power in the society, and were charged with saving it from itself, had instead bled the society to death. The problem with police officers and firefighters isn’t a public sector problem; it isn’t a problem with government; it’s a problem with the entire society. It’s what happened on Wall Street in the run-up to the subprime crisis. It’s a problem of taking what they can, just because they can, without regard to the larger social consequences. It’s not just a coincidence that the debts of cities and states spun out of control at the same time as the debts of individual Americans. Alone in a dark room with a pile of money, Americans knew exactly what they wanted to do, from the top of the society to the bottom. They’d been conditioned to grab as much as they could, without thinking about the long-term consequences. Afterward, the people on Wall Street would privately bemoan the low morals of the American people who walked away from their subprime loans, and the American people would express outrage at the Wall Street people who paid themselves a fortune to design the bad loans.”Michael Lewis – Boomerang

The insanity of our debt accumulation in relation to our pathetic economic growth is clearly evident to even an Ivy League educated economist or a bubble headed CNBC anchorwoman. Since 1971 nominal GDP has grown by a factor of 14. Over this same time frame total credit market debt (household, corporate, government) has grown by a factor of 32. Real GDP (even using the fraudulent BLS manipulated CPI) has only expanded by a factor of 3.5 since 1971. The exponential growth model is clearly failing, with debt going hyperbolic, while GDP has stagnated.

us-debt-and-gdp

Since 2007 real GDP has gone up $500 billion while total credit market debt has gone up by $6 trillion. Only an insane society would allow itself to be convinced by the perpetrators of the financial crimes that collapsed our economic system that accelerating the level of debt in our system will resolve the dilemma of Too Big to Trust banker insolvency. Transferring the immense losses of greedy sham capitalist gambling addicts from their insolvent balance sheets onto the balance sheets of the taxpayer has allowed the criminals to retain and expand their wealth, while sovereign states shift the pain and suffering onto the backs of the sinking middle class. This is a worldwide phenomenon perpetuated by central bankers at the behest of their crony capitalist co-conspirators. They call it capitalism when the scams, dodges and swindles work and the profits accrue to the schemers. When the gamblers and extreme risk addicts roll craps they use their crony capitalist connections, bought with blood money, to socialize their losses. The game is rigged and your owners don’t care about your hopes and dreams or your children’s future. They care about their own wealth and lifestyles of luxury. When the richest 300 people in the world have a greater net worth than the poorest 3 billion people on earth, a sane person realizes a chaotic end of the existing social order beckons.

“All over the world people borrowed vast sums of money they could never repay. The honest toting up, and taking, of the losses is being delayed. There’s a reason for this. The bad debts are owed, largely, to big banks. The big banks (even bigger than they were at the start of this crisis) and the people who own them enjoy a wildly disproportionate amount of political influence. And so, even now, five years into this mess, we remain at the mercy of the failed financial institutions that sit at the center of our capitalism. Geithner & Bernanke, along with their European counterparts, are doing everything in their power to prevent banks from failing. But the effect of this new financial order is bizarre: capitalism for everyone but the capitalists. Ordinary workers remain fully exposed to the increasingly harsh collisions in the marketplace while the highest paid financial elites ride protected by a passenger airbag.” Michael Lewis – Boomerang

Clearly we’ve entered the final phase of our debt financed orgy of narcissistic materialism and self-absorbed avarice. The unsustainability of our course is a fact. Our society has gone mad en-masse but we are only recovering our sanity one by one. The global financial system is insolvent. A fractional reserve fiat money based system requires continuous growth or it collapses. The global banking system is overleveraged and real global growth is stagnant. Central bankers are not smart men. They have one response to every crisis – print!!! Bernanke and his fellow banker cronies are printing at hyper-speed in order to prop up the terminally ill mega-banks. Bernanke feigns confusion at the fact that his QE to infinity and ZIRP have only benefitted his banker puppet masters and the richest .1%, while further impoverishing senior citizen savers and the working middle class.

The anger at the true Wall Street malefactors manifested itself in the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street movement, but both efforts were quickly hijacked by neo-con right wingers and socialist left wingers for their own ideological purposes. The existing social order continues to hold the reins of power, but their grip is growing precarious. The anger, dismay and resentment in the country simmer beneath the surface. The average person senses that all is not well, but most absurdly continue to believe the lies and propaganda spewed at them on a daily basis by the ruling class and their corporate media pawns. When the next shoe drops and billions of stock market and housing wealth are wiped out again, the national anger will sweep away the corrupt social order in a torrent of blood and retribution. Innocent and guilty alike will suffer the consequences. Michael Lewis is somewhat perplexed by the lack of outrage and violence so far.

“A lot has happened. And yet, given the provocation, it’s amazing how little has happened. No one on Wall Street has been shot, or even jailed – and the existing social order has not been seriously challenged. There’s a reason for this, too. The anger arising from the financial crisis finds no natural channel. In another era – an era before catastrophic experiments with radical socialism and nationalism – we would be watching market capitalism being displaced by something far uglier. But today there is no natural place for anger to flow, and so the anger flows haphazardly, like raindrops down a windowpane. The only political ideology that anger benefits these days is anarchy. From the point of view of those who enjoy political stability, it’s a stroke of luck that anarchists have no natural talent for organizing themselves. But how long will it take them to learn?”  Michael Lewis – Boomerang

Staying sane in a society gone mad is not easy. Millions of people believe themselves to be sane, but they have really just adapted to an insane society, so they appear sane within the warped paradigm of that insane society. The truly sane people appear to be insane in an insane society. It’s enough to drive a man crazy. The immense forces of normalcy bias and social inertia have led millions to refuse to understand the mathematical certainty of the coming collapse. The worldwide banking system is like a great white shark that needs to keep moving or it dies. Exponential growth and continuous credit expansion have been the essential ingredients to expanding the American empire, but the growth has stopped, while the debt keeps growing. Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. As natural resources deplete and become more expensive to obtain, while the planet’s population continues to grow, the fractional reserve banking system and the nation states who continue to pile up trillions in debt will suddenly suffer a catastrophic collapse. We are in the end stages of a confidence game. Your government will not give you warning. We need to come to our senses one by one, until there are enough sane people to tip the scales in our favor. I’ve concluded that I live in a dishonest, insane, intolerable world and consider it my duty to spread discontent among those I can reach. I’m a dangerous man in the eyes of our corporate fascist surveillance state. So be it.

“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is apt to spread discontent among those who are.”H.L. Mencken

In Part 2 of this article I will attempt to figure out why mass insanity has gripped the world and ponder what might happen when sanity returns.

Idiots, Geniuses and Psychopaths

One thing all the media have in common is to refer constantly to how frigging stupid the technocrats and politicians such as Bernanke and Obama are.  The NY Times (hypothetically – I haven’t read the (toilet) paper of record in years) does it subtly and demurely.  The polite “alternative media” such as Chris Martenson may do it politely but less subtly.  The blunt alternative media (TAE) says it bluntly.  The snarky alternative media (Zero Hedge) says it with continuous sarcasm.  But, in their own individual styles, they all say the same damn thing – that the Status Quo technocrats and pols are de facto idiots steering the global economy through sheer cowardice, lack of imagination, and stupidity into the jagged rocks.

Exactly.  But unfortunately the de facto idiots are not the central bankers or their bossman shareholders, quasi human or otherwise, but rather the vast majority of the alternative financial media.  (We all know that the MSM are not only idiots but presstitutes.  Why beat a dead horse?)  And there is a good reasons for this.  Most of the alternative media, despite their individual foibles, even the ones who yell at their dogs after a hard day at the office, are essentially decent human beings and cannot imagine the minds of the true psychopaths who run our planet.  They simply cannot envision, for example, intentionally destroying the beautiful Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, or causing millions of Japanese children to experience slow and painful deaths as they melt from radiation sickness and cancers.  Yeah, it is a lack of imagination.  But I cannot condemn humanity because this lack of imagination shows its basic decency.  Perhaps the fact that I can imagine it shows a glaring, infested abscess in my personal spiritual make-up.
David Icke is a genius in many respects, but perhaps the greatest is his ability to translate the complex into simplicity for the Everyman without losing its substance.  So Icke takes the abstruse Hegelian dialectic and translates it into Problem>Reaction>Solution.  The Illuminati need a constant problem as the locomotive force for their agenda.  The problem itself may vary depending on the arena.  It may be 9/11 or it might be a currency that was born to fail.  The one thing that the problem must do is generate great fear and panic among the muppets who then demand a solution.  So like a true Aikido master, the Elites supply the solution, which always translates into a consolidation of its regional or global power.  If it does not, that means that the Illuminati lost that hand at the poker table.  But so far, they haven’t lost many.  Of course, the solution is never The Solution.  Which then forms the basis of the next iteration in their consolidation of power into a global, feudalistic police state.
So instead of ragging on with just how stupid Benjamin Shalom Bernanke is, let’s assume that he is totally brilliant and that things are proceeding exactly as he and his bosses planned.  Let’s assume that not only are they brilliant, but that they have access to supercomputers that are damn close to Kurtzweil’s self-aware singularity.  Then let us extrapolate the current solution and see how that leads to their consolidation of power, and of course, the development of the next huge problem.  Even a mediocre chess player can run this at least six moves ahead, but I will leave that up to our accomplished readership since I was beaten at chess by a first generation Atari 2600 at level one 🙁
So as a challenge, I suggest that the DD readership reverse engineer the financial Illuminati’s “mistakes,” assume that they are not mistakes at all, and thereby reconstruct their actual agenda.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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