Default

Global Financial Devastation

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on the Economic Collapse on June 29, 2015

Visit the New Diner News Page for Daily Updates from around the Collapse Blogosphere

Fireball - Devastation - Public Domain

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

16 Facts About The Tremendous Financial Devastation That We Are Seeing All Over The World

As we enter the second half of 2015, financial panic has gripped most of the globe.  Stock prices are crashing in China, in Europe and in the United States.  Greece is on the verge of a historic default, and now Puerto Rico and Ukraine are both threatening to default on their debts if they do not receive concessions from their creditors.  Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has so much financial chaos been unleashed all at once.  Could it be possible that the great financial crisis of 2015 has begun?  The following are 16 facts about the tremendous financial devastation that is happening all over the world right now…

1. On Monday, the Dow fell by 350 points.  That was the biggest one day decline that we have seen in two years.

2. In Europe, stocks got absolutely smashed.  Germany’s DAX index dropped 3.6 percent, and France’s CAC 40 was down 3.7 percent.

3. After Greece, Italy is considered to be the most financially troubled nation in the eurozone, and on Monday Italian stocks were down more than 5 percent.

4. Greek stocks were down an astounding 18 percent on Monday.

5. As the week began, we witnessed the largest one day increase in European bond spreads that we have seen in seven years.

6. Chinese stocks have already met the official definition of being in a “bear market” – the Shanghai Composite is already down more than 20 percent from the high earlier this year.

7. Overall, this Chinese stock market crash is the worst that we have witnessed in 19 years.

8. On Monday, Standard & Poor’s slashed Greece’s credit rating once again and publicly stated that it believes that Greece now has a 50 percent chance of leaving the euro.

9. On Tuesday, Greece is scheduled to make a 1.6 billion euro loan repayment.  One Greek official has already stated that this is not going to happen.

10. Greek banks have been totally shut down, and a daily cash withdrawal limit of 60 euros has been established.  Nobody knows when this limit will be lifted.

11. Yields on 10 year Greek government bonds have shot past 15 percent.

12. U.S. investors are far more exposed to Greece than most people realize.  The New York Times explains…

But the question of what happens when the markets do open is particularly acute for the hedge fund investors — including luminaries like David Einhorn and John Paulson — who have collectively poured more than 10 billion euros, or $11 billion, into Greek government bonds, bank stocks and a slew of other investments.

Through the weekend, Nicholas L. Papapolitis, a corporate lawyer here, was working round the clock comforting and cajoling his frantic hedge fund clients.

“People are freaking out,” said Mr. Papapolitis, 32, his eyes red and his voice hoarse. “They have made some really big bets on Greece.”

13. The Governor of Puerto Rico has announced that the debts that the small island has accumulated are “not payable“.

14. Overall, the government of Puerto Rico owes approximately 72 billion dollars to the rest of the world.  Without debt restructuring, it is inevitable that Puerto Rico will default.  In fact, CNN says that it could happen by the end of this summer.

15. Ukraine has just announced that it may “suspend debt payments” if their creditors do not agree to take a 40 percent “haircut”.

16. This week the Bank for International Settlements has just come out with a new report that says that central banks around the world are “defenseless” to stop the next major global financial crisis.

Without a doubt, we are overdue for another major financial crisis.  All over the planet, stocks are massively overvalued, and financial markets have become completely disconnected from economic reality.  And when the next crash happens, many believe that it will be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008.  For example, just consider the words of Jim Rogers

“In the United States, we have had economic slowdowns every four to seven years since the beginning of the Republic. It’s now been six or seven years since our last stock market problem. We’re overdue for another problem.”

In Rogers’ view, low interest rates caused stock prices to increase significantly. He believes many assets are priced beyond their fundamentals thanks to the ultra-easy monetary policies by the Federal Reserve. Fed supporters argue such measures are good for investors, but Rogers takes a different view.

The Fed might tell us we don’t have to worry and that a correction or crash will never happen again. That’s balderdash! When this artificial sea of liquidity ends, we’re going to pay a terrible price. When the next economic problem occurs, it will be much worse because the debt is so much higher.”

Of course Rogers is far from alone.  A recent article by Paul B. Farrell expressed similar sentiments…

America’s 95 million investors are at huge risk. Remember the $10 trillion losses in the crash and recession of 2007-2009? The $8 trillion lost after the dot-com technology crash and recession of 2000-2003? This is the third big recession of the century. Yes, America will lose trillions again.

Especially with dead-ahead predictions like Mark Cook’s 4,000-point Dow correction. And Jeremy Grantham’s warning of a 50% crash around election time, with negative stock returns through the first term of the next president, beyond 2020. Starting soon.

Why is America so vulnerable when the next recession hits? Simple: The Fed’s cheap-money giveaway is killing America. When the downturn, correction, crash hits, it will compare to the 2008 crash. The Economist warns: “the world will be in a rotten position to do much about it. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a recession,” whatever the trigger.

Things have been relatively quiet in the financial world for so long that many have been sucked into a false sense of security.

But the underlying imbalances were always there, and they have been getting worse over time.

I believe that we are heading into a global financial collapse that will make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic by the time it is all said and done.

Global debt levels are at all-time highs, big banks all over the planet have been behaving more recklessly than ever, and financial markets are absolutely primed for a huge crash.

Hopefully things will calm down a bit as the rest of this week unfolds, but I wouldn’t count on it.

We have entered uncharted territory, and what comes next is going to shock the world.

COMETH DEFLATION!

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Aired on the Doomstead Diner on December 3, 2014

baumgartner

Oil Prices do a Baumgartner

Discuss this Rant at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

worlds-expensive-sandwich1

Von Essen Club Sandwich: The World’s Most Expensive Deli Sandwich, dropping in here in the Triple Digits at £100 ($156 USD at the latest exchange rate). Where’s the Deflation?

Snippet:

…It has been patently obvious for quite some time that the Saudis cannot increase their production further, they are flatlined. Neither can they cut back, because they have a lot of folks ready to riot if they gotta cut jobz or cut subsidies. By no means did the Saudis plan for or instigate a price fall down from $90, they like high prices as much as any Oil exporter does. This does however give them an opportunity to put competitors outta biz. Issue there is who can outlast who and for how long?

One of the better theories floating around is that the price drop was instigated by the end of QE from Da Fed, and the theoretical end of EZ financing for White Elephants. As a trigger mechanism that is probably true, but the underlying problems have been building steadily since the last crash in 2008, when in order to “save” the banking system, enormous bailouts were issued to the TBTF Banks, along with assorted other companies deemed TBTF, like the auto companies, insurance companies, etc.

The means by which they were bailed out was of course, DEBT. What a bailout amounts to is taking the bad debt of a large corporation, buying it all up at par and dropping it on the balance sheet of Da Fed, with the US Taxpayer then theoretically on the hook for this. The bailed out company now has a load of fresh cash, and Da Fed has a load of dogshit on its books…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Upcoming on the Diner, the SEQUEL to our Oil Crash Analysis, with the Usual Suspects involved.  Stay tuned to the Diner for the Air Date.  If you missed Part 1, here it is again:

Constipation has hit the SKITTLE SHITTING UNICORNS

http://edwardhotspur.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/unicorn-skittles.jpg

OIL FUTURES?  HERE THEY COME TO SELL ‘EM AGAIN!  CALL ALAN!!!

Take it to the Bank

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

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.

 

Two Views of our Current Economic and Energy Crisis

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on Our Finite World on October 14, 2013

schrodinger

Discuss this article at the Energy Table inside the Diner

As the US heads toward debt default and continues with government shutdown, the underlying reason for the predicament is generally not clear to the American people or the world. The story that the press has generally been feeding us places the problem as basically a temporary one, caused by conflicts between the Democrats and Republicans.

It seems to me that the problem is much deeper. In this post, I summarize the two views, and provide reasons why the Predominant View is very far off the mark. We may be headed for a financial collapse that the Predominant View misses completely.

Predominant View of our Current Economic and Energy Predicament

The world economy under “normal” circumstances grows. Economic growth can sometimes slow a little, and then a little Keynesian stimulus is needed. Such stimulus would typically include deficit spending and low-interest rates. Perhaps it would include “Quantitative Easing” as well, since it tends to stimulate interest in buying assets of all kinds.

 

With the Predominant View, economic growth can continue indefinitely, without slowing down or stopping. In fact, the pursuit of economic growth becomes almost a national religion, with Ben Bernanke (probably succeeded by Janet Yellen) as its high priest. With unlimited economic growth, it is easy to have our current monetary system, since debt, and the repayment of debt, “works” well indefinitely. In fact, we can have pension plans, Social Security, and the many wonders that our financial system can deliver. We also can have more and better technological innovations, because there is always an abundance or the resources needed to make these innovations.

The late economist John Attarian describes this secular religion under the name “Economism” (Attarian 2005). According to him, under Economism, one’s life purpose is to attain affluence, so as to maximize access to consumer goods. With this belief, affluence is the universal solution to problems and grievances. Give people enough money, jobs, goods and services, and they will be happy and peaceable.

With this view, the big problem in the future is pollution, and in particular climate change caused by carbon dioxide and other gasses affecting the climate. Coal is viewed as particularly bad in this regard, oil is somewhat less bad, and natural gas better yet. Nuclear is a concern for a variety of reasons, including lack of a place for spent fuel.

To prevent/mitigate climate change, the view is that we must take steps to reduce fossil fuel usage over the next forty years. The view is that improved technology is likely to be helpful in this regard, because new technology will allow us to become increasingly efficient in our use of fossil fuels. “Renewables” can perhaps be ramped up greatly.

Birth rates can likely be reduced, through increased education of women. If there is a problem with a declining amount of resources per person, this problem can be mitigated by sharing what we have more equally. Perhaps job sharing can become more common, with each worker having part of a job.

Sustainable solutions are viewed as ones that use less fossil fuels. The “plan” is to have ever-increasing GDP per unit of energy consumption. The economy will become ever more service-oriented. People will learn to be happy with more services and fewer goods. We can move forward to a sustainable future.

With this view of the future, the economy is fundamentally fine. It will return to stronger growth in the near future, perhaps using less energy. The huge amount of stimulus currently being put into the economy through ultra low-interest rates and Quantitative Easing can be dropped back, without adverse results. With the Federal Reserve in charge, and with similar groups in charge in other countries, there is nothing to worry about.

Problems with government debt in the US, many parts of Europe, and Japan will somehow take care of themselves, if the various political parties would learn to get along better, and perhaps wait a bit for economic growth to resume on its own.

An Alternate View of our Economic and Energy Predicament

This story is very different from the Predominant View. Energy is critical to the growth of human civilization, because all types of goods and services require energy for their production. Once built infrastructure has been added, energy needs to be of the specific type used by this infrastructure.

In the world today, oil is the single largest source of energy. It is also the most versatile, and because of this, it is the most highly valued energy source. Extraction of oil has become problematic in the last decade, for two reasons: the quantity is not growing very rapidly, and the cost of extraction keeps rising. This rise in cost occurs because we extracted the easy-to-extract oil first. Now we have to move on to the more difficult (and expensive) to extract oil.

I have referred to the rising cost of oil extraction as an Investment Sinkhole Problem. We invest more and more dollars (and quantities of resources of various types), but the amount extracted barely increases world-wide. Economists would call the problem declining marginal returns on investment. When oil could be extracted cheaply, there was a huge gap between the cost of extraction and the value provided to society by this oil. Now, as the cost of extraction has risen, the difference between these two amounts becomes much smaller. If we were depending on this difference to help fuel economic growth, we are losing this benefit.

Viewed in terms of feedback loops, the huge amount of value added to society by oil over and above its cost of extraction used to lead to a positive feedback loop, favorably affecting economic growth. For example, (a) taxes on oil extraction would provide significant revenue, and (b) with low oil prices, roads could be built very cheaply. Both situations benefitted the economy.

Now at a higher cost of extraction, the value added to economies around the world is lower, leading to lower economic growth. At some point, not far away, the cost of extraction will exceed the value that this oil provides to society. At such a point, it will no longer make economic sense to extract oil. Adding more high-priced oil will lead to economic contraction, and quite likely, ultimately, collapse. Joseph Tainter in the Collapse of Complex Societies (1990) tells of many civilizations that reached declining marginal returns of investment and ultimately collapsed.

Oil and the Production Function

Figure 1. Graph of total, average, and marginal product, based on a quadratic production function, from Wikipedia.

Figure 1. Graph of total, average, and marginal product, based on a quadratic production function, from Wikipedia.

Economists talk about production functions describing how the economy works. In general,  a “production function” for the economy is of the form

Q = f (X1, X2, X3, . . . Xn)

where Q = Quantity of Output

and X1, X2, X3, . . . Xn are quantities of factor inputs, such as labor, capital, and land or raw materials.

Using the production factor approach, oil needs to be one of the Xi variables, because it is critical to the function of the economy. Oil is important for transportation, agriculture, as a lubricant, and as a raw material used in making many products such as medicines, fabrics, and asphalt. Substitutes for oil are very limited–mostly ethanol, which acts as an oil extender.

Figure 1 represents the situation where only one the of the inputs, in this case, oil, is allowed to vary. We are rapidly reaching the point where the cost of extracting oil is so high that in total, society is worse off, in terms of the total amount of goods produced by society. On Figure 1, we are reaching Stage 3.

The fact that we are reaching diminishing returns with oil is a major reason why world economic growth is slowing. It is also a major reason that many of the heavy oil consuming nations have been struggling with recession-like symptoms. These symptoms are mostly being covered up with deficit spending, ultra low-interest rates and Quantitative Easing. If this stimulus ever stops, there are likely to be huge problems.

Debt’s First Tie to Economic Growth

Debt is very much tied in with this story. GDP is a measure of how much is produced, whether or not debt is involved. Thus, if a new house or a new car is built, the value of the car is included in economic growth calculations, whether or not the house or car is bought 100% on credit.  Not only are we reaching limits on oil production (because the cost of extraction is becoming higher), but we are also reaching limits on debt, because economic growth is slowing.

Figure 2. Author's image of an expanding economy.

Figure 2. Author’s image of an expanding economy.

The fact that adding debt is easier in a growing economy than in a shrinking economy is obvious, if a person thinks about it.

If the economy is expanding rapidly, it is easy to add debt, because borrowing from the future always looks like it provides a benefit. In fact, it is possible to pay fairly high interest rates, in a growing economy, without profits being badly depressed. Businesses get the advantage of economies of scale, helping their profits and their ability to pay back debt. Reinhart and Rogoff (2008) unexpectedly stumbled across this phenomenon in examining eight centuries of financial crises. They reported, “It is notable that the non-defaulters, by and large, are all hugely successful growth stories.”

Another situation where debt works well is if the economy is close to flat, but with debt, it is possible to add inexpensive fossil fuel energy. In this case, the value to society in terms of the work performed by the fossil fuels in far in excess of the cost of extracting the fossil fuel energy. This difference can feed back into the system, through cheap infrastructure, rising tax revenue, and even rising wages of workers, helping economic growth along. Thus, even though the economy was not growing at the time of the initial loans (these loans would be to potential consumers, to potential factory owners, and to potential extractors of the energy), the debt did in fact enable growth, by helping the huge difference between the cost of extraction and the value to society of the energy flow through to the economy.

Figure 3. Author's image of declining economy.

Figure 3. Author’s image of declining economy.

A shrinking economy can handle much less debt. Businesses, instead of seeing economies of scale, find that fixed costs are increasingly high compared to sales. Thus, their profits tend to shrink, even before debt service is added. Workers experience layoffs frequently, and often find that their new job pays less than their old job. This problem makes debt repayment difficult. If the economy is in fact reaching Stage 3 in Figure 1, because of diminishing returns with respect to oil, additional debt simply pushes the economy toward collapse more quickly.

Debt’s Further Tie to Economic Growth

There are two reasons why increasing debt is important for economic growth. First, increasing debt gives governments, businesses, and individuals increased spending power. For example, with a new auto loan or new home loan, a person is able to purchase an automobile or a home. This aspect or increasing debt is referred to as “increasing demand”–really the increased ability to afford goods.

If debt is declining, the situation is similar to the situation where few new loans are given–instead the old loans simply need to be paid off. If these are home and car loans, the number of cars and homes sold would likely drop back greatly.

A second aspect is just as important. The increased demand tends to lead to higher prices. For example, suppose mortgages for homes suddenly dried up. The amount a person could get for selling his house would likely drop. The same problem would happen if car loans disappeared–there would be many fewer buyers for cars (even used cars), and the value of cars would tend to drop. The value of commodities in general would likely drop as well, because there would be fewer cars made. The fact that fewer cars are made would feed back and affect steel prices, oil prices, and prices of other components of automobiles.

A related issue is that if the amount of debt starts to drop, the feedback loop is such that it tends to encourage more contraction, lower prices, and more debt default. (Like 2008!) Such debt defaults can cause banks and insurance companies to collapse, unless propped up by the government. Lower commodity prices can lead to a cutback of oil production. The expected feedbacks are especially bad if the economy is already reaching Stage 3, in Figure 1.

At this point, we have a great deal of oil extraction that is financed by debt. As we get to the more expensive oil, there will be more of this that can never be paid back. The tight oil extracted using fracking from shale formations is quite possibly of this type. The president of Shell Oil Company recently explained what a disappointment its investment in shale oil and gas had been (Financial Times).

Brazil is a step further toward bond defaults. It is trying to extract expensive oil from below a salt layer offshore. Brazil’s second largest oil company recently was not able to make its debt payment, and is now being liquidated (Bloomberg). The debt rating of its largest oil company, Petrobas, was recently downgraded (Financial Times).

A person cannot help but be concerned that if we start to see debt defaults, there will be  contagion as prices drop and banks and insurance companies fail. The government is already stimulating the economy using super-low interest rates, deficit spending, and Quantitative Easing. It would seem to be running out of ammunition to fix the situation, if another round of debt defaults start. Former Director of the US Office of Management and the Budget, David Stockman, has recently talked about this issue (King World News).

The Electricity Part of Our Predicament

Electricity can be produced in many different ways, at vastly different costs. When electricity costs are low, low electricity costs also contribute to economic growth, because the cost of generating the electricity is significantly lower than the benefit to the economy from the electricity. In this respect, electricity is very much like oil.

We can think of oil and electricity both as intermediate products, that are not exactly what we as consumers can use. What we want is transportation, or light from a light bulb, or our food cooked. Our salaries only go so far. Once the share of our salaries that must be spent on these intermediate products (electricity or oil) starts increasing, the share of our salaries that can go for the applications we really want must shrink. Similarly, if more of the world’s resources and manpower go to creating wind turbines and solar panels and nuclear plants, less is available to produce other things.

The shift toward renewables has several difficulties:

  1. Renewables  are an order of magnitude less efficient in producing electricity than the fossil fuels they replaced, when the energy cost of mitigating intermittency is included in the calculation  (Weissbach et al. 2013). EROI comparisons are distorted, because they do not reflect this cost.
  2. Renewables tend to use fossil fuels heavily at the beginning of their life cycle, so do not really reduce fossil fuel use unless at some point in the future, we greatly reduce the amount of renewables we produce (and perhaps not even then, if the intermittency cost is as high as indicated in Item 1).
  3. The shift toward renewables in electricity production acts very much like the push toward high-priced oil, in terms of pushing the economy toward Stage 3 of the production function (in Figure 1), only on a different axis than oil.
  4. The view that the economy is hurtling toward climate change is based on the view that the economy will in fact continue to grow and will continue to extract fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. If oil and debt are limits that we are hitting right now, we may very well encounter economic collapse in the near future. Such a collapse will likely cut fossil fuel use of all kinds very quickly, because of low prices and disruption to systems.
  5. If, in fact, we do hit collapse, renewables will not operate the electric grid without fossil fuels, because we need fossil fuels to keep transmission lines repaired, to create and transport replacement parts, and to allow customers to have jobs to pay for the electricity. Thus, without fossil fuels in the future, our investment in renewables is of  no long-term value. (And EROI estimates are vastly overstated.)

Government Tie to Collapse Issues

Governments are perhaps the most vulnerable part of the system, if collapse hits due to continuing high oil prices.

Governments are the ones charged with bailing out banks and providing benefits to unemployed workers, at the same time that their own tax revenue is down due to reduced employment. In fact, many of the governments of big oil consuming nations (US, most of Europe, and Japan) are in very vulnerable positions, because their debt levels are very high, and they keep adding more debt. At the same time, they are pulling out all of the stops to keep their economies from collapsing, including very low-interest rates and Quantitative Easing. Because they are already so stretched, it is doubtful that they could do another round of bailouts.

The US government shutdown and debt cap limit debate is indicative of very serious problems–more than a conflict between two political parties. With slowing economic growth, there is a huge gap between what has been promised and what the government can in fact afford. No government official wants to explain to voters how bad the situation really is. So we end up with gridlock. See my post from November 2012, Understanding Our Oil-Related Fiscal Cliff.

Conclusion

The Predominant View appears to fall very wide of the mark. Limits on oil and on other resources are a signal that Nature is really in charge, not humans. We can’t escape these limits. If we try to mitigate climate change by using more renewables, we hit a different kind of limit–high-priced electricity, and the problems it brings.

Potential collapse seems to be directly in front of us. The Republican solution of more oil drilling will lead us in the direction of collapse, just as will the Democratic solution of increased debt and more emphasis on low-carbon fuels, particularly for electricity. The limits are just on different axes of the production function.

Whether or not we humans would like to be in charge, Nature is, in fact, in charge. Nature determines timeframes. The timeframe could be very close. It is even possible that the current government shutdown/debt ceiling problems will ultimately lead to US collapse, and perhaps even world collapse.

The current Predominant View of our situation is one that puts humans, and in particular current governmental officials, in charge. Historically, governments have had close ties with religion, using religion to further their own purposes. Now, government and religion have almost been fused into one. Perhaps this close tie is the reason why it is so difficult to get a well-reasoned story about our current predicament from those in charge, and why so many people are willing to believe the story we are being told.

One thing that the Predominant View misses is the fact that we live in a finite world. This means that growth must at some point slow, and ultimately be reversed. The world operates in cycles; we can’t really change this. Nothing is permanent. The species that are dominant will change; humans may even lose their dominance. The climate changes, although perhaps not as fast as it is currently.

Another thing that the Predominant View misses is the fact that energy of the right kinds is absolutely essential for the functioning of the economy. The view that there will be a substitute is more “faith-based” than it is based on objective facts. The Predominant View also misses the point that the substitute needs to be cheap; high-priced energy is terribly bad for the economy–it can easily push the economy into Stage 3 of the production function. The fact that high-priced oil is likely to lead to a debt unwind is likely to make the situation worse than it otherwise would be.

A major debt unwind is likely to lead to low prices for oil and commodities of all types and significant job loss. This is analogous to the problem the 1930s Depression. The big difference is that in the 1930s Depression, job loss was associated with the falling price of food, as fossil fuels replaced human labor, bringing food production costs down, and leaving many unemployed. (Stiglitz 2010). In that scenario, there was still plenty more cheap fossil fuels in the ground. Therefore, more debt and stimulus programs could re-inflate the economy, because it could lead to more use of cheap fossil fuels in non-agricultural sectors of the economy.

We are now at the edge of a very different scenario. We are reaching debt default limits because we have extracted the easy to extract oil. Additional extraction can only be more expensive and thus push us further into Stage 3 of the production function, or more toward financial collapse.  As the economy naturally shrinks, there is no longer a way that more debt can re-inflate the system. Instead, the use of debt must reach a new, much lower equilibrium. Because of debt’s tie to banks, pension funds, insurance companies, and the rest of the financial system, this is a huge problem.

We can think that the growth of human systems, including the economy, will go on forever, but we are almost certainly kidding ourselves. At some point, when Nature decides, new species will dominate–perhaps plants that can use more CO2. The transition will be the transition Nature dictates.

We are kidding ourselves if we think that we can decide to slowly reduce oil and fossil fuel usage over the next 40 or more years. If oil prices drop to, say, $30 barrel because of debt defaults, oil production will drop very quickly–not based on some slow decline curve. Natural gas and coal prices will drop dramatically too, essentially putting an end to their production. Jobs will disappear with the lack of fossil fuels. Eighty or ninety percent of us will again need to work in manual food production without fossil fuels. Education, government, and services of all kinds will shrink rapidly.

Nature is deciding for us right now what is ahead. We likely will have little choice in the matter. If we do have a choice at all, it is likely to be in the direction of serious back-pedaling, in terms of population, and in terms of learning to live essentially without fossil fuels. The future is likely to be very different from the past.

No Way to Run a Railroad…

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on Economic Undertow on October 15, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

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!

Creepily Close

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  October 14, 2013
Laughing clowns at a funfair

 Creepily Close

     Things that can’t go on, the prophet Herb Stein once observed, go on until they can’t. Criticality eventually bushwhacks credulity. The aggregation of rackets that American life has become is rolling over like a great groaning wounded leviathan and the rest of the world is starting to freak out at the spectacle. Instead of a revolution, we’re having a suicide party.

     But don’t worry, a revolution would not be far behind. My guess is that it would kick off as generational rather than regional or factional, but it would eventually incorporate all three. A generation already swindled by the college loan racket must be chafing at the bureaucratic nightmare that ObamaCare instantly turned into at its roll-out, with a website that wouldn’t let anyone log in. Isn’t technology wonderful? I wonder when the “magic moment” will come when all those unemployed millennials join a Twitter injunction to just stop paying back their loans. If that particular message went out during this month’s government food fight, it would do more than just get the attention of a few politicians. It would crash the banks and snap the links in every chain of obligation holding the fiasco of globalism together.

     So far, the millennials have shown about as much political inclination as so many sowbugs under a rotten log, but it is in the nature of criticality that things change real fast. In any case, the older generations have completely disgraced themselves and it is only a question of how cruelly history will treat them in their unseating. The last time things got this bad, the guys in charge divided into two teams with blue and gray uniforms, rode gallantly onto the first fields of battle thinking it was a kind of rousing military theatrical, only to find themselves in a grinding four-year industrial-scale slaughter in which it was not uncommon for 20,000 young men to get shot to pieces in a single day — one day after another.

     Of course, things are a bit different now since we became a nation of overfed clowns dedicated to getting something for nothing, but despite the abject futility of American life in its current incarnation, there is room for plenty of violence and destruction. The sad and peculiar angle of the current struggle is that both sides in government wish heartily to keep all the rackets of daily life going — they just disagree on the distribution method of the vig.

     What amuses me at the moment is the behavior of the various financial markets and the cockamamie stories circulating to explain what they are doing in this time of perilous uncertainty. One popular story is called “the energy renaissance.” This is a fairy-tale that pretends that we have enough oil at a cheap enough price to keep driving to WalMart forever. Of course, shale oil wells that cost $12million to drill and produce 80 barrels-a-day for three years before crapping out altogether do not bode well for that outcome, but the wish to believe over-rides the reality. Another laughable story du jour is “the manufacturing renaissance.” This story proposes that the “central corridor” of the USA, from North Dakota to Texas, is about to give China a run for its money in manufacturing. The catch is that any new factory opening up in this scenario will be run on robots — leaving who, exactly, to be the customers paying for what these factories produce? Think about it for five minutes and you will understand that it is just a story calculated to goose up a share price here and there, and only for moment until it is discovered to be just a story. What interests me most is what happens when the stories lose their power to levitate the legitimacy of the people who tell them.

            Well, Christine LeGarde, chief of the IMF, tried to read the riot act to the American clownigarchs over the weekend, but they’re not paying attention to her. What has she done for her own country, France, lately anyhow. They’ve got their own set of rackets running over there. The Chinese are getting a little prickly, too, since they are sitting on a few trillion in US promises to pay cash money in the not so distant future. The Chinese are beginning to apprehend that future perhaps never arriving.

     In case you haven’t heard: America is “in recovery.” We can play all the games we want with money, or what passes for money these days. And then the moment will come when we can’t. That moment begins to feel creepily close.

 

***

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.

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

Cuckoos_Nest

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.

fed balance sheet

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.

Default in Europe

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Published on Economic Undertow on March 24, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

The world’s economic enterprise is a tightly-coupled, massively complexarray of interlocking establishments, each highly complex in their own right. The failure of one component effects all the others. The analog is removing a pinwheel from a watch: the watch will still appear to be a watch but it won’t keep time.

The relative scale of the European economic enterprise compared to Cyprus is the same as the gigantic balloon relative to the tiny pin … any hole the pin might cause has consequences to the balloon wildly out of proportion to its size.

The Russians can simply refuse to accept euros, they will accept only dollars, instead!

David Whitney House 1

The David Whitney house in winter, 1955, on Woodward and Canfield Street in Detroit, Michigan, from the Burton Historical collection, Detroit Public Library, University of Michigan. In our shiny new zero-sum post-petroleum world, some places succeed because other places are disposable. Detroit is the way Detroit is because New York City is the way New York City is.

Germany is the way Germany is because Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece — and Cyprus — are they way they are. The worse it is for them, the better it is for Germany.

There are references to Archduke Ferdinand and the cold war all over the Internet. Somewhere in abeyance the gauntlet has been thrown down. What is absent is any understanding of … why.

Bruce Krasting channels Barnum instead of Armageddon:

 

On the Circus in Europe 

I’m flabbergasted that Cyprus is the cause of the circus in Europe. Cyprus was an avoidable problem in my opinion. That view is supported by the fact that all of the words, actions (and threats) by the deciders in Northern Europe have been decidedly negative. There was no “Can Do” talk. All I heard was, “We won’t do” or “Here is a deadline” – “Here’s a gun to your head”.

Two possibilities – Either this was a completely bungled effort in Brussels. Or this this was a deliberate effort to weed out the weak members of the EU. If the intent was the latter, this will not stop with little Cyprus.

Next week there will some broad confusion following the resolution in Cyprus. Either Cyprus is out of the Euro zone by Wednesday, or the +E100k depositors are going to get whacked big. There is no soft landing potential any longer. If the folks in Brussels and Berlin who are pulling the strings are really serious about stabilizing the Euro zone they will respond with a series of “positive” measures next week. Things that might be considered to ring-fence Cyprus include:

– Doubling the deposit guaranty to E200.

– Creating a Transaction Account Guarantee. This would insure all accounts that were related to the settlement of goods and trade. (protect the economy)

– Financial measures – From some minor stimulus stuff, to monetary measures like LTRO or a cut in % rates.

 

These would be “calming” steps. They would be proactive in that the intent would be to get ahead of any contagion. We could also see “nothing” from Brussels. That silence would be a “tell” that “they” don’t want to resist gravity any longer. The most significant sign would be if capital controls were established more broadly in Europe over the next few weeks. These will scare the crap out of folks, especially those in Spain and Italy.

 

If the EU was serious about managing the currency/credit flows there would be some discussion of the foregoing already. In fact there would have been discussions along these lines long before last weekend.

Instead there is noise about confiscating deposits in Italy and Europe-wide capital controls. In a currency union, capital controls are a death sentence. The ‘natural’ form of control is different currencies for each state. Under the condition of currency controls there are de-facto independent ‘euros’ with different prices for each. The next step — toward independent currencies — is a very small one.

What is underway is beyond the reach of language to adequately describe. Not only have best practices for deposit banking for 200 years been undone but so has long-standing management policy of money-capital flows across national boundaries. It can be inferred that every euro sent to Russia since 2000 has been a fraudulent instrument. Why would Russia sell more fuels to Europe under current uncertain circumstances? If the Russians do not accept euros, why would Saudi Arabia or any other oil producer?

 

 

Apoplectic Steve Keen says the Russians can cut off European natural gas supply.

Steve from Virginia says the Russians can simply refuse to accept euros, they will accept only dollars, instead! How retro! How … 1990!

Why would the Russians accept euros when they are subject to confiscation? Why would they accept French francs or Spanish pesetas? It’s the same bunch of thieves … the same bankrupt national economies!

The entire euro-as-energy-hedge is undone in an instant. By stiffing bank depositors, the EU has defaulted. There are no two ways around it.

The Chinese bosses are reaching for those Maalox bottles right now. China holds a trillion in euro-denominated debt instruments, so does Japan. Germany appears not to have thought this through. Regardless of what happens in/with the eurozone, Germany is on the hook for the overseas euro-trillions. Germany is the only EU country with money: it is responsible for all those Target 2 liabilities as well — this is another trillion euros. If not Germany, who picks up the tab?

Germany is declaring that overseas holders of euro currency are going to pick it up — starting with the Russians! Off the hook is the euro-establishment itself and its pet tycoons. High-level finance acumen is not necessary to understand how outrageous and destabilizing such an arbitrary action is: head-loppage was never part of the euro sales pitch! The euro was to be a ‘better, sounder’ dollar, always ‘good as gold’. Now, its fairy money, worthless in the hands of ‘not-quite-special friends’ who only discover they are so after the fact.

Exposure to currency derivatives presently denominated in euros is another liability. According to the Bank for International Settlements, the current derivative exposure including options and futures is twenty-four trillion euros. Who is on the hook for that? If the answer is ‘nobody’ then the entire edifice comes crashing down.

From here is looks like a lot of agony to come around the world: if Germany doesn’t default it is ruined by its ‘share’ of EU liabilities. If Germany defaults then China’s finance system is bankrupted along with Japan’s.

Don’t be surprised to see the European ‘bank run’ materialize over the next few weeks in the foreign exchange markets as countries seek to offload their euro risk onto suckers and market fools as quickly as possible. Unlike the bond and equities markets, F/X markets are difficult to manipulate. One reason is because they are too large: trillions of dollars and other currencies are exchanged every day. Who would volunteer to be the sucker? Not even the Fed is large enough — or dumb enough — to take over China’s or Japan’s massive euro positions.

Who is going to take over these positions? If the answer is nobody China and Japan — along with Russia — are left with with massive, instant F/X risk.

One outcome of this risk would be an increase in interest rates! Such a rate increase in the US and elsewhere would be very unpleasant: there would be instant hits to government spending as borrowing would become less affordable. Government bond holders would face immense losses. Eventually, the governments would be forced to bail out their bond markets simply to function!

Sacre Bleu! Capital flight to support the dollar and bond prices would only last as long as the euro was a viable currency. If the euro fails there is no readily available substitute for it. If Germany made good euro liabilities with d-marks … it would be for show only. The European euro-liabilities are simply too enormous. The end-game would be Germany refusing all non-German liabilities and restricting d-mark circulation to native Germans within Germany. Euro-credit everywhere would be re-denominated into (worthless) local currencies. There would be intense competition for international dollars, a massive deflationary contraction as these dollars vanish from circulation.

Believe it or not the Fed cannot ‘print money’. It can only make loans against ‘good’ collateral. The demand for US dollar currency would become overwhelming … Congress would have to act … in the highly complex, interconnected finance universe, the smallest perturbation effects everything else.

All of this could take place next month week! Look to the world’s money authorities to start leaning on the eurozone to put the genie back into the bottle. Matters could spiral rapidly out of control.

The motive behind this nonsense is presumably ‘bailout fatigue’: to spare the Germans the minuscule cost of keeping Cyprus banks functioning until after the German elections in September. There is no reason why the ECB could not continue to fund these banks by way of ELA and use the time to craft a solution that leaves depositors intact.

Export of petroleum consumption is the real reason behind the onrushing European default. When countries fail their allotment of petroleum is exportable. There is no substantial difference between the thievery underway in Cyprus and that in Libya or Egypt. Ultimately, all of Europe’s petroleum consumption is exportable leaving the various citizens in distress. The hope is to default on the small scale and hive Cyprus’ petroleum consumption and divert it toward the rest of Europe. The hope is that the default is contained and that the loss in Cyprus can be offset by more affordable fuel for the rest of Europe.

Cyprus is a test case. If the Cypriots can be jettisoned from the EU energy hedge then other countries can be safely ejected such as Spain and Italy. These countries can fend for themselves in the fuel-for-dollar market while the ‘core’ uses the hard euro to gain that fuel price discount and a guaranteed supply.

Europe’s strategy can only work if the euro-establishment is able to convince the Russians there are currency gains to offset depositor losses. The problem is that deflation follows its own rules: harder currencies cut into consumption which in turn presses the fuel suppliers. When customers hoard hard currency they do not buy fuel, the fuel suppliers go out of business. This is the reason why fuel prices have been declining since February.
Brent 032313

Figure 1: Brent spot crude from yCharts (click on for big). Along with consumption export is the recent rise in fuel price to near $120 per barrel on Brent market. $120 is the new $147: the fuel price is too high, there are the ugliest of all possible noises coming out of Europe …

Cyprus imports 95% of its fossil fuel energy. The euro- and euro denominated credit have been the means by which Cyprus could afford fuel and the thousands of cars needed to waste it. Cyprus earned exactly nothing by driving those cars: nothing remains to retire the multi-billion-euro debts taken on to facilitate the waste. Meanwhile, the country fashioned itself into a mercantile (banking) state so as to arbitrage fuel like Japan. Its banking products have now been deemed redundant and expendable to the European mercantilists. Cyprus’ arbitrage has been devoured by the greater European version. Cyprus was a poor relative to the rest prior to the euro, it is on the way to becoming a poor relative again.

What is occurring in Cyprus is destruction of purchasing power by administrative fiat: this is, conservation by other means. Cyprus’ consumption is exported, its citizens will drive less because they will have less money, what money remains will be hoarded. Fuel not purchased in Cyprus will be available elsewhere so that others can drive in the Cypriots’ place.

Right now it is clear that the establishment will sacrifice anything — good relations with other countries and peoples, economic stability and predictability and best financial practices — to be able to continue to drive automobiles.

– One casualty of default is the media-promoted pseudo-recovery in America and elsewhere. This farce is now a child’s fantasy that can be safely dumped into the trash. Economies that required more easy credit last month now require human sacrifices. Today Cyprus gets the Black Spot, next month’s fall guy is France. Who’s next?

– Bernanke could come up with the ten-billion-or-so euros needed by the EU and end the panic. If he was smart he would do so — very publicly — tomorrow morning. This would buy some time and allow a chance for a comprehensive … etc. round of can kicking.

– If there is an EU ‘handshake’ with Russia => Panic in Southern Europe => contagion and derivatives implosion. This does not have to happen, but avoiding it will require extraordinary efforts, that will cost much more than anything gained at Cyprus’ — and Russia’s — expense.

– If there is no handshake — which seems likely as the European establishment is incompetent — Default in Cyprus is part of generalized euro default => failure of the euro, contagion in China and Japan => severe worldwide recession => collapse of fuel prices and physical shortages.

– Right now, Europeans are busy, opening new bank accounts in Norway, UK, Miami, Panama City and even Switzerland … It takes time to set up yr bank run, there has to be a place to run to.

– The Cypriots are trying to figure out how to evade the capital controls sure to come. Russians are trying to figure out how to remove their funds … Greeks are figuring out how to emulate the Cypriots who in turn are reading about the Icelanders. There is a lot of scheming — and fretting — going on right now.

– Nobody on Planet Earth wants a Greater Depression, everyone knows the score, this is the ‘Big One’ and people have their game face on. If a crisis can be avoided with a small payment most people will make the payment and not complain. It is the analysts who are upset about the consequences of the past few days. Most of the analysts are wrong about which consequences matter the most. They are wrong b/c they ignore the big energy story right under their noses.

– Citizens generally aren’t libertarians and they don’t take ideological positions, they are flexible. Right now the system does not appear to be ruined. That it is indeed ruined has to be proven by events.
David Whitney House 2

The David Whitney house in Detroit in 2013. Out of the current wreckage some fragments will survive.

The only possible exit from currency death by energy strangulation is stringent conservation. Europe needs to cut its fuel bill in half right now. So does the rest of the world. This word ‘conservation’ is never mentioned, the conservationist is excluded from the management dialog. The conservationist offers options that are unhappy for the capital wasters. What the system managers refuse to understand is this: if nothing is done to conserve voluntarily there will be conservation by other, ongoing, extremely unpleasant means.

Six Unresolved Questions about Cyprus

Off the keyboard of John Ward

Published on The Slog on March 23, 2013

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

Robbing banks, reducing wages, increasing hours worked: the lessons to take from the Cyprus bailin.

cyprusballoon2The night Cyprus joined the euro….what goes up, must come down

What is the American State Department up to? What will Turkey do? Why didn’t things develop in Moscow? Where is Mario Draghi? WTF is this really all about?

How do you tell if a eurocrat is short-sighted? You ask him to spot the difference between a Russian billionaire’s pocket money and a Cypriot’s life savings.

That gag doing the rounds in southern Europe sums up the perfectly natural focus of most people in ClubMed: this is just more of the same old same old Brussels-am-Berlin bullying cock-up, followed by mealy mouthed denials and a screwed up financial system. As indeed it is. Put with less humour but equal bluntness is this verdict from the OECD Director General’s adviser Adrian Blundell-Wignall:

‘The Cyprus crisis is the result of policy mistakes and a failure of collective responsibility, as well as an illustration of what bad policy can do and could do if it’s not corrected.’ Quite. But not everyone is as stupid as they pretend to be.

Type ‘Cyprus’ and ‘Putin’ into The Slog’s search engine, and you can see that this small island is, and always has been, of pivotal strategic importance in relations between Europeans and Arabs. The energy and rare-earth mineral finds of recent years have merely accentuated what was already a place of obvious military importance: access to the Med for Moscow, and a jumping-off point for the US and its obsessive concern with securing energy supplies and the ever-more tenuous Al Qaida.

cypmapWhat very few people do for starters is just look where the hell Cyprus is. As you can see from this map, it is a long way east of Rhodes. That country it appears to be pointing a finger at is Syria. Just after that comes Iraq and Iran. A spit and a throw to the north is Erdogan-run Turkey. Every one of these countries is in one form or another the victim (willing or otherwise) of Islamist advance.

Since 9/11, the so-called War on Terrorism plus Peak Oil theories have had the Americans in a fit of manic focus on this entire area.

Erdogan has always wanted Cyprus ‘back’ (although it was never his in real terms) but more especially he wants the energy fields reconfigured to favour Turkey. Being a NATO ally, he is more than capable of making this mess even more complicated – and the Turks confirmed two days ago that they’d challenge any move by Cyprus to speed up offshore natural gas exploration. Yet there seems to be no pressure from NATO to shut Erdogan up. Why?

For Moscow, the stakes are very high both strategically and in relation to the energy reserves.

In a number of key areas of the region, one of the biggest prospectors in Noble Energy. Former employee Jim Cramer explains:

“…about the nexus between the Cyprus bank bailout deal and the natural gas and oil development in the western Mediterranean…I believe there are some places where these two seemingly unconnected events meet. Since 2010, Noble Energy has been on the front line in exploring the massive Levant basin, including large potential deepwater fields located in both Israeli and Cypriot waters. At every turn, enthusiasm has grown, and it is now thought that the many fields inside the Levant basin could change the natural gas supply dynamic in the entire Western Mediterranean, including both Greece and Italy. Eastern Europe has been forced to depend exclusively on very undependable Russian gas supplies, periodically cut by the Russians dependent upon prices and their own national demand, as well as their national interest. But the now-nearly ready supply from the Leviathan and Tamar fields might begin to break that Russian hegemony. The Tamar field will begin production in April, promising more than a 1 billion cubic feet a day of natural gas, a small but important start….”

So here is a way for Moscow to escape into the Med, have a finger in both energy pies, and avoid being stitched out of its all-important energy-supply business. But also here is an American company leading the charge. What we haven’t seen is any evidence of the US State Department getting heavy with Brussels, Berlin, or Moscow in public.

Even more mystifying (although there were cold Muscovite feet from the start of the the Russo-Cypriot bailout talks) the sessions came to nothing: Russia walked away. Why?

The EC itself is now admitting (a rarity in itself) that this the Cyprus bailout offer was a cock-up. But the ECB has delivered an ultimatum (anyone remember there being a vote on that?) to Nicosia saying ‘Monday is it guys: if you’re in fine, if you’re not, you’re broke’. Yet of the most powerful financial officer in Europe, Mario Draghi, there is no sign: nothing, in fact, since March 7th. Why?

Former Foreign Minister and losing Presidential candidate of Cyprus George Lillikas said Wednesday last that he was certain a Cypriot eurozone exit would lead to the collapse of the single currency. “I am sure that if one country, no matter how small, leaves the eurozone, the euro will collapse,” he said, “but the troika’s suggestions of imposing a tax on deposits in Cypriot banks would destroy the island’s banking system”. As indeed it would. Yet Berlin turned up the heat on Cyprus yesterday, increasing the amount Nicosia must raise to secure a bailout…despite the mortal injury that Cyrpriot exit could inflict on the eurozone via a mélange of rebellion and financial contagion. Why?

This leaves us with a number of questions to answer. And you must, I’m afraid accept most of what follows for what it is: informed speculation. I’ve been given some steers and hints along the way, but nothing concrete.

I think there’s every reason to suspect that the US is giving Turkey a long leash, because it needs Turkey as a base (and a suitable place to invent fictitious crap about Syria) through which it can neutralise first Assad and then Iran. The American strategy is clear: support the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood against the Shi’ite Iranians and Alhawite Syrian élite, and thus secure energy access throughout the Middle East. As so often with the US, the policy is naive, its consequences haven’t been considered enough, and it has no basis in terms of how the Sunnis will run things as and when Assad finally loses. But America is ultimately selfish in foreign policy, and paranoid about energy and raw materials.

That reality may also partly explain why the US State department has been surprisingly private about this whole affair. There are some who will tell you that the long term Pentagon aim for Cyprus is a shared hegemony over the place with Turkey. So a weak Cyprus in hock to the EU might suit both very well. It would also, of course, remove the legal obstacle Brussels would face in having two members, both claiming the island as theirs. But whatever the EU says in public, several key members remain implacably opposed to Turkish entry.

The bigger mystery at first sight is why Putin looked this gift-horse in the mouth. I think there is probably far more to this than Moscow simply being unwilling to clear up the mess created by Brussels-am-Berlin. At a total bailout cost of €18 billion – small change for Russia these days – the Kremlin could’ve broken out from its perceived encirclement and neutralised any EU/US attempt to stitch it out of new energy reserves. In purely geopolitical terms, this looks like an act of completely myopic idiocy.

But there are other important factors. The Mafia/oligarch axis in Russia is virtually indistinguishable from the energy sector. They might get control of the sub-ocean finds – but they might not. If they didn’t – with Nicosia and Putin heavily involved – then their control over the Russian economy would be reduced. It’s likely that the top blokes applied pressure to the talks on that basis.

The Kremlin was also worried about the British naval presence on Cyprus. They seem to have seen the deal as rather like buying a low-priced house with sitting tenants already in place: it isn’t really your house until they leave. In a military dimension, that sort of thing is very important.

Finally, it is clear that Moscow doesn’t trust Anastasiadi, seeing him virtually as an enemy. Allegedly, at the outset of the discussions very little seemed to be on offer from the Cypriots, and this convinced more than one on the Russian side that Nicosia wasn’t serious: that it was using Moscow’s interest as a bargaining tool against the EC. Others in turn pointed out that the bailout amount seemed hazy (as I showed yesterday, it was worked out on the most facile of bases) and likely to pave the way for more debt until Cyprus became a money pit. On the other hand, a Cypriot source thinks the Russians were never serious either, and wished only to wind up the West.

I still find much of this hard to rationalise. It is just possible that Russia no longer sees military attack as the best way to influence events, so the Med has a lower strategic importance for them: that energy and cyberspace are better weapons. That’s what one source in Washington thinks. I’m not convinced.

The mystery of Mario Draghi the Invisible Man is more disturbing in some ways. I posted about Schäuble briefing bigtime against him the week before last, and I now think it boils down to two serious possibilities. The first is that Berlin has somehow neutralised the ECB boss, and told him to stay out of public and leave it to them. If so, he has managed very well to be AWOL during a classic Brussels-am-Berlin cock-up. But even as the ECB demanded a Nicosia decision by Monday and then demanded more money after the Moscow talks broke down, SuperMario was nowhere to be seen. That is odd.

The second possibility – and one I increasingly favour – is that from the outset Mario Draghi saw Cyprus as a distraction, no more: he knows that via his control over the banking purse-strings, he can bring the island to its knees any time he likes. Either he knew (or guessed) that the Berlin mentality would jackboot into the situation and use it as a test-case for (a) future events where threats are felt to be necessary and (b) setting the precedent for State theft of depositor funds under the guise of bollocks like Open Bank Recontruction (OBR) or fantasy ‘levies’. Of course, he would prefer to be away from that grubby operation, but I return to the key word here – distraction: Germany’s aim is control; Draghi’s aim is the survival of the euro, whatever it might cost. The two need not be the same, and in the long term probably won’t be.

I have heard but one rumour about what is distracting Draghi, but that’s all it is. I can however say with near-certainty he has been genuinely busy in recent weeks on the subject of eurozone exports.

In almost his last public appearance just over a month ago, ECB President Mario Draghi tried to take the heat out of the currency wars debate by dismissing it as a fantasy. That always makes my nose twitch: when any top Wally says never, unique, impossible, poppycock or fantasy, you know you’re onto something. And while Mario worked hard to rubbish the idea, he did quite openly say that the ECB would “still have to assess the economic impact of the euro’s strength”.

His chief concern at the moment is high costs making eurozone exports uncompetitive. This problem doesn’t seem to afflict Germany, but it is at base the fundamental problem with the euro: you can’t devalue it here and revalue it there. It’s all or nobody, as it were. Devalue the whole eurozone currency, and it may help ClubMed for a while: but in the medium term, it will make things even easier for Germany to get richer and richer. Draghi does not, in private, want that at any cost. What he wants is an efficient EU ensuring a stable, respected currency.

While there’s no doubt that on balance the ECB would like a cheaper euro (another reason to have left Germany alone to f**k up the Cyprus bailout?) Mario’s ideas are far more focused on cost reduction in the real world of manufacturing: and the biggest single way to do that is to drive down wages.

Two weeks ago, the ECB boss made a late-night presentation to senior eurocrats and europols about the twin issues of productivity and wages. Six years ago Germany went through the studied process of maintaining a voluntary pay freeze. Draghi thinks the rest of Europe must follow suit, but ClubMed workers tend to be less obedient than Shop Floor Fritz. He has not, in fact, been neutralised by Berlin: he is supporting Berlin’s plan to provide cheap labour working longer hours, but via another, less public, method: helping to make people desperate.

The toughest immediate challenges ahead now are Italy and Spain. Both countries have powerful leftwing Parties unwilling to put up with much more austerity. Draghi’s opinion is strongly towards easing off on the cuts, finding the money for stimulus, and lowering the expectations of those re-entering the job market. It’s a tough circle to square, but he’s on the case.

Equally, Spain, Italy and France could soon find themselves at the epicentre of a european bond market panic…especially if Greek default becomes more likely (it must) and Italian rebellion gains speed (it will). As I reported some time ago, Mario Draghi is keen on the idea of using gold as a bond-backing instrument to overcome this. That’s no easy task either.

The point is this: Draghi may have had his own career reasons for being off the set during the last fortnight. But thinking about it in the round, he is clearly very busy. It may add up to no more than that. Personally, what he plans to do adds up to yet another form of citizen pauperisation alongside the bank robbery approach. I think it is bound to make things worse, but there you are: what do I know?

And so the final question sets itself really: peering out from the helicopter, WTF is going on here? I think there is one further possibility. You may have noticed that President Obama conveniently turned up in Israel this week, talking airily about peace – in that rhetoric-dominated manner he adopts when there’s no beef in the sandwich. In fact, he got Netanyahu to utter some encouragingly nice bromides about America as an ally and the bonds of friendship being unbreakable and so forth. I don’t think Barack Obama was in the region to talk about peace. He was doing the “I’m here to remind you all that I’m keeping a beady eye on this sh*t”.

There is a theory that runs like this. The commitment to Berlin remains strong in Washington, as the only place likely to sort out the eurozone disaster. Merkel’s husband is extremely well-connected in the American security sector. State under Hillary Clinton made it very obvious she was “betting the farm” on Germany, as indeed did Timothy Geithner. Both sides now have a vested interest in a supine ClubMed in general (less threat to Wall Street) and Greco-Cypriot weakness in particular (the EC remains dominant, Berlin gets tough on the euro, the Americans retain their access to mining, energy and military bases, the Russian monopoly on gas supply is broken). That also, of course, suits Turkey.

This may very well be how the interested parties see it. Erdogan mouths off and gets to look macho, Schäuble plays hardball and gets another one over Draghi, and the US President turns up to remind everyone who’s really in control here. I cannot believe that these NATO allies didn’t at least discuss some of the possible outcomes beforehand. Thus I would also assume that all this – and the dangers of messing with it – will also have been politely explained to Moscow. There may even have been a carrot on hand if necessary.

The total picture on Cyprus is on three main levels: Brussels-am-Berlin mendacious control to blame austerity’s failure on nasty billionaires, lazy Greeks, and dumb Cypriot potato-heads; Washington-am-Berlin geopolitical power games; and a deregulating financial élite working along side Major League politicians to find ‘solutions’ to the problems they themselves created. This last dimension is the one I think the most significant: if the Berlin-dominated EC decides it wants a power bulwark against Russia, China, the US or whomever, there’s nothing I can do to stop them, and there are plenty of ways to avoid the effects of it. I’m British, and sixty-five years old. I’ll continue to try and wake people up to it, but I’m past the barricades stage of life. Ditto the likelihood that US Friedmanite mercantilism will wind up blowing us all up. But in the end, most power and almost all misery stems from money.

It’s very clear now – and the catalyst here has indeed been the Cyprus crisis – that most developed countries have a plan in place for buying their way out of self-inflicted trouble, and that we aren’t going to even loan them the dosh: they’re going to find ways to cut out the middle men (the Revenue services) and simply steal it from our bank accounts, bond investments, gold punts, interest on capital, dormant accounts and so forth. What RBS has been doing to SMEs for the last four years is going to happen globally to all of us…..unless we resist. Confirmation of this is, in my view, the main by-product of Nicosia’s collapse at the prospect of Berlin smash-and-grab.

Without money, States cannot fulfil their objectives. On the other hand, money does get people off the sofa in the end. On those encouraging bases, I foresee some change of focus for The Slog from here on.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

https://image.freepik.com/free-icon/musical-notes-symbols_318-29778.jpg

Support the Diner

Search the Diner

Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D

Archives

Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Humanity has a new definition of the kilogram, the standard unit of mass used the world over.The change — implemented on this World Metrology Day — will occur more silently than when a leap second was added to a year. It will disrupt nothing. The num...

The little-noticed surge across the U.S.-Mexico border: It’s Americans he...

It's Rockin' out there in Flyover country![embed=1200,900]

[img width=250]https://www.jetms.aero/cache/uploads/images/gallery/cabin_refurbishment/2/ru/0x0xoriginal/optimalnoe_kachest...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a Native American elk hunter, citing an 1868 treaty between his tribe and the U.S. government as it revived his legal challenge to a conviction for hunting out of season in Bighorn Na...

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday [...]

 A sub-adult great white shark measuring nearly 10 [...]

For the past five years, the VA Home Loan program [...]

Diner Newz Feeds

  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Doomstead Diner Daily May 21The Diner Daily is ava [...]

[html]How Fox News pushed a debunked conspiracy th [...]

Quote from: UnhingedBecauseLucid on March 18, 2019 [...]

CleanTechnicaSupport CleanTechnica’s work via dona [...]

QuoteThe FACT that the current incredibly STUPID e [...]

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Monday [...]

 A sub-adult great white shark measuring nearly 10 [...]

For the past five years, the VA Home Loan program [...]

Dear Readers, Things in Venezuela are getting mess [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on April 27, 2019, 01:49:4 [...]

Quote from: Eddie on April 25, 2019, 09:09:46 AMQu [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on April 25, 2019, 04:33:0 [...]

                             Judy Shelton Is Right [...]

You can read more or subscribe to this feed at Glo [...]

Quote from: Surly1 on May 19, 2019, 12:40:41 PMQuo [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on May 19, 2019, 10:59:35 AMTwo [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on May 19, 2019, 10:28:09 AMSaud [...]

Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

A Window Into Our World By Cognitive Dissonance   Every year during the early spring awakening I qui [...]

Deaf, Dumb and Blind Who Is Better at Conceding They Are Wrong - Conservative or Liberal Extremists? [...]

The Apology: From baby boomers to the handicapped generations. by David Holmgren Re-posted from Holm [...]

Society Is Made Of Narrative. Realizing This Is Awakening From The Matrix. By Caitlin Johnstone Orig [...]

But We Need the Eggs Re-posted from Epsilon Theory   Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory is one of those rare [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-19http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-18http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2019-05-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

With fusion energy perpetually 20 years away we now also perpetually have [fill in the blank] years [...]

My mea culpa for having inadvertently neglected FF2F for so long, and an update on the upcoming post [...]

NYC plans to undertake the swindle of the civilisation by suing the companies that have enabled it t [...]

MbS, the personification of the age-old pre-revolutionary scenario in which an expiring regime attem [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability

  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

What is your climate pawprint?"If US dogs had their own country it would be bigger than 200 other countries and likely be on [...]

Orellana's Robots"Climate scientists are now connecting the dots and starting to glimpse how a terra preta thera [...]

Can some nut unseat King Corn?"Acornucopia is sprouting under a tree near you."“I am partial to the peculiar and wholeso [...]

Cheddar and the Leafcutters"What can you do when geophysics outpaces evolution?"My personal ancestry has a major limb [...]

Pushing on to Venus"We need to stop our warming ways or there will be Hell to pay." I sometimes look back at [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

I'll take a look at it. Thanks. In my own book series humans, robots and cyborgs are uploaded b [...]

global politics is just a puppet show to distract and obfuscate while century long agendas play out [...]

I mean those elders too. I mean all elders at all levels that make decisions for the rest of the gro [...]

The worst part of being aware of the impending collapse is trying to muster the energy to care about [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction

Useful Links

Technical Journals

The creation of realistic gridded precipitation fields improves our understanding of the observed cl [...]

A recent article reviewed data on Great Salt Lake (Utah) and concluded falsely that climate changes, [...]

Stretching along the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, The Red River Valley (RRV) of the North h [...]

The idea of compact cities is attracting enthusiasts, and some have proposed sustainable options for [...]