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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 29, 2016

 


Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society. Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history. And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets. Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out. Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.” The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War. The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that. Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders. It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific. Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it. In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise. Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally. The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.

 


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.

Who are the “We”?

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on May 22, 2016

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Who is RESPONSIBLE for the mess?

responsibilityWhen I cruise through the blogosphere reading of tales of woe in the environment, politics and economics, I often run across the sad conclusion from the authors how "we" failed to change our carbon burning  ways or elect the right leaders or correct the imbalances in our economic system.  The results "we" have reaped are "our" fault collectively.  "We" live in a Democracy right?  "We" could have voted different people into office!  "We" could have held them accountable!  When the financial crisis took off in 2008, "we" could have stopped the bailouts of the TBTF Banks.  "We" could take the power of money creation away from the Federal Reserve and create our own Public Banking system!

So many things we shoulda, coulda, woulda done, if only we weren't so stupid and so weak.  Of course at the same time the same writers will often speak about how INTELLIGENT we are as a species, and how this intelligence should have been used in a vast selection of suggestions on how it would have been better if we just did this or that, or elected this guy instead of that one, etc.

http://www.storebrandsdecisions.com/upload/new_images_june2010/walmart/Walmart-low-prices-back_web.jpg The thing about dumping the blame on "us" is that once everyone is responsible, then nobody is responsible.  You can't blame our political leaders for fucking up, because we elected them!  You can't blame energy companies for destroying the environment, because we buy the gas from them!  You can't blame Da Federal Reserve for destroying the value of the dollar, because we gave them the power to print the money!  You can't blame capitalista pigmen for offshoring jobs, because we wanted cheap toys from Walmart at Low, Low Prices Every Day!

This meme is just GREAT for the managers, politicians and pigmen running the show, because once we are responsible for the mighty mess we are in here, they no longer are.  The managers of corporations who load them up with debt and then go bankrupt aren't held responsible for that either, no rather they get Golden Parachute severance packages and we allow that to happen!  Not only that, we are responsible for the fact law enforcement and the judiciary doesn't prosecute any of the banksters for fraud, because we either elect the judges ourselves or we elect the politicians who appoint the judges!

Democracy was the greatest thing the Elite ever invented for them, because much like the Corporation they no longer could be held personally responsible for any of the shit they rain down on the population at large, it all now becomes the collective responsibility of the people themselves!  However, along with the vote and collective responsibility, did the population at large ever get any real power over decision making at the top?  Of course not.

Were the Amerikan people ever consulted about sending troops into Vietnam?  Afghanistan? Iraq?  No, rather they get sold on these things via Bernays style propaganda, and even then you can have a majority of the population against such a war, but the folks in charge go right on bombing anyhow.  It doesn't matter if the population at large would prefer Single Payer Health Care, you get Obamacare instead because that is what the Insurance Companies want, and they make the campaign contributions to get the politicians elected.

http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/styles/borealis_retina_large_respondxl/public/articles/2016/05/14/ST_20160514_XOLD_2290866.jpg?itok=XUJ89Ys8 When were you ever given a choice insofar as who coins the money in the FSoA and what is used for money?  I'm no big fan of Gold as a basis for a monetary system, but at what point have you even had such a choice?  About the last time might have  been back in 1913 when the Federal Reserve Act was passed, so there is not a person alive over the age of 3 when that bill was passed in Congress.  The oldest Amerikan alive, Susanne Mushatt Jones died at the age of 116 last week.  There might be a 115 year old floating around somewhere though.  Even anyone who was alive at the time of voting age didn't have a choice on this, the Federal Reserve Act was passed after secret meetings on Jekyll Island by powerful politicians and pigmen, then passed quietly just before the Christmas Congressional break, with little in the way of knowledge about this in the public at large.  There sure was no referendum on it.

Once you have control over the system of credit and how that credit is sprinkled out, who gets voted into office doesn't matter worth a damn.  In the words of Woodrow Wilson, the POTUS who signed this act into law

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ad71B-DCDio/U4mkt3qps2I/AAAAAAABnCo/9Te84GtwVDk/s1600/Woodrow+Wilson+-+FED+Quote.png

Power in a society that is run on money does not come from the Ballot Box, who you vote for doesn't matter.  This has been well known by the Elite going back at least as far as the Amerikan Revolution itself, but in reality likely going back as far as the Babylonians and the first monetary systems.  In the words of Mayer Amchel Rothschild

http://libertyupward.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Mayer-Amschel-Rothschild.jpg

Of course, most of the population at large doesn't grasp this principle, most people believe they have control through their votes at the ballot box.  That is the beauty of the "democratic" system as far as the Elite are concerned, and they most certainly work to keep the ignorance in place, along with the misplaced belief people have in voting as a means to make significant changes in governance.  That ignorance comes in two forms, first from the basic intelligence distribution in the population at large, and then is backed up by Bernays style prooaganda pitched out both by our educational institutions and by the mass media, both controlled by the Elite in the same way they control the political system, through the control of the money supply and its distribution.  Probably 50% of the population with IQ under 100 (by definition) couldn't understand this nonsense no matter how carefully you tried to explain it, in large part there also because it makes no sense to begin with.  Then the 50% of the population above the mean are generally sold on the ideas and buy them because their critical thinking skills are systematically destroyed.  You only end up with a tiny percentage of people who have any grasp of this stuff at all, and most of those people get coopted into the system and it benefits them.  Read that Nobel Laureate economistas like Paul Krugman who pitch out even bigger bullshit, but couched in nice Academic prose so it sounds like something only the smartest guys in the room can understand, so you should take their word for it because they are World Class Experts.  Why do really SMART Guys like this pitch out such utter and complete BULLSHIT? For the answer to that one, you have to go to Upton Sinclair.

http://www.livableincome.org/wUptonSinclair3.jpg

You have an entire cadre of people up at the top of the pyramid who probably do have the brainpower to understand what is going on here, but their livelihoods depend on them NOT understanding it.  So they come up with ever more ridiculous justifications for ever more ridiculous concepts like Negative Interest Rates and Helicopter Money, and with a perfectly straight face SELL this nonsense across the Op-Ed pages of the NYT and the WSJ.  The Vox Populi then reads this nonsense, and what ensues after that in the Blogosphere is a complete cacophany of ideas on why the nonsense will or will not work.  By now, even pretty smart people are completely confused, and the 50% of dumb people out there aren't even reading it to begin with because they are more concerned with the color of Kim Kardashian's panties, so they got no clue whatsoever here.  All they got a clue on is the latest Sound Bite from some candidate who promises to "Make Amerika Great Again", usually by some Hocus Pocus involving Bombing Terrorists back to the Stone Age or preventing Transgender people from using the wrong bathroom.

Absolutely NOBODY up at the top EVER talks abot what the REAL problems are, Resource Depletion and Population Overshoot.  "Growth" is constantly put forth by EVERY candidate of EVERY political persuation Lefty or Righty as the ULTIMATE solution to all problems!  We can GROW our way out of debt!  The fact this is a finite planet with finite resources is never discussed anywhere except on fringe websites like this one.  The reality is we can only solve our problems if we STOP GROWING and START SHRINKING!

With that in mind, lets move off the topic of incredibly stupid and misconceived notions surrounding our political ande economic systems to the more fundamental problem of our ENVIRONMENT.  Are "WE" responsible for the massive trash heap that Planet Earth is turning into?  This is "our" fault?

I will start with myself here,, from right after I was born in 1957, about dead center of the Baby Boom in the aftermath of WWII. I was born in NY Shity, and from my earliest years I remember riding the Subways,  They were just part of my environment.  I had no clue whatsoever at the age of 3 or 4 all the energy it took to make those trains run.  Because I rode them though, does that make me RESPONSIBLE for this?  By any reasonable measure, no, I was not responsible, first off I had no clue as to how these things were powered and second even if I did know there was certainly nothing a 4 year old could have done to change this system.  It EXISTED, it had EVOLVED over time, and as a system there wasn't anything I could do about that.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-tdiy7K1ziQ8/Tj8DL_aFQsI/AAAAAAAACG0/yXvfHMsNoRM/s1600/images1944028_1.jpg The same is true for the Carz, the Interstate Highways, the Suburban Sub-Devleopments, Malls and Ring Roads that developed as I was growing up.  Did I ever have a choice here in this?  For the first 18 years of my life I couldn't even VOTE, not that this franchise makes a damn bit of difference anyhow.  So HTF am I RESPONSIBLE for this mess?  I was born into it, and my imperative is just to SURVIVE.  So you make your compromises and do what is necessary to insure that survival.  To make it to work in many places I lived, I HAD to have a car!  No choice there at all in many locations I lived.  I had no ability or knowledge or money enough at the time to even TRY going out to "live off the land", I was born a City Boy and by the time I graduated college, nicely in debt also though not to the extent the current generation is on this level.

There WAS a brief rebellion against this form of living back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Anti-War and Back to the Land Movement of the period.  This brief fling at stopping the Juggernaut was powerfully surpressed and CRUSHED by TPTB and the Deep State, sending the MESSAGE to all that to rebel against the system was to DIE.  Do YOU remember the 4 Dead in O-H-I-O?  I do.

Off the topic now of how trapped we have all been economically and culturally, let us now move to the area of the Environment & Climate Change, where it has been known for just about my entire life that we have been in the process of destroying the environment we depend on.  Rachel Carson wrote her seminal book Silent Spring in 1962 when I was 5 years old.  The original Limits to Growth study was published in 1972, when I was 15.  In the intervening years, the stories of environmental degradation and damage resultant from Industrialization have been non-stop. Love Canal, the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl.Macondo, Fukushima etc etc etc and those are just the big ones.  All of China is one big industrial sewer now, and we barely hear about the problems there.

Once again here, how could "WE" have ever stopped this inexorable march of destruction across the scope of the planet?  When did YOU ever have any opportunity to stop the Chinese from turning their portion of the Global Land Mass into a Global Sewer?  In fact, when did even any typical Chinese Chen Rice Wine have any say in stopping the Chinese Oligarchy from selling out to the Western Industrialist Iluuminati?   They never could, they never had any power to do this either.

EVERY single country that has ever tried to resist the incursion by the industrial model has had their political system and economy CRUSHED by one means or the other.  Sometimes by outright aggression and Warfare as was the case with Vietnam, but more often all sorts of sneaky CIA backed Coups such as the one that installed the Shah of Iran back in the 1950s.  This nonsense of course persists and becomes ever more pervasive with "Color Revolutions" all over the world, from Ukraine to Libya to now Brazil.  Who among you has any power whatsoever, no matter WHO you elect to stop this ever expanding cycle of CHAOS?  Absolutely not a single goddamn one of you could make a difference on this level, not even if you were a Billionaire Debtor Tycoon like The Donald.  If he does in fact get elected, there is not a goddamn thing he can do to stop the spin down that is ahead of us either, and pretty much no POTUS in history could have done this because the Locus of Power hs never been in the political systems, rather it is in the MONETARY SYSTEM.  Once again here, you and I have NEVER had any choice in how this is run, who gets dished out the credit and who does not, this POWER is controlled by an exceedingly small cadre of people, and that power has been jealously guarded in this iteration of the monetary cycle, beginning more or less with the Medici Banking family in the 15th Century.

So, basically here folks, it is just a lot of HORSESHIT that "we" are responsible, "we" are not.  If you want to finger some responsibility here, it lies in the folks who either were born into or maneuvered their way to the top of the food chain and then maneuvered the society down this path, mainly for their own self-aggrandizement.  Just like you and me, they too have been exposed to the same stories and have been witnesses to the ever increasing planetary degradation.  The difference between "them" and "us" is they are in positions of power where they could effect change.  Sadly the only change they wish to effect is to "increase shareholder value" of the corporations they run, and then by extention increase their own compensation packages.  It doesn't matter to them what the consequences are, child slave labor in 3rd World countries, topsoil depletion from unsustainable Industrial Agriculture practices, endangering the safety of the food supply with GMO foods, destroying the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico…none of that matters.  All that matters is the bottom line of corporate profits.

10-Corporations-Control-What-We-EatThese are the folks who control your food supply

Energy companies hire geochemist experts who tell us fracking is safe, and meanwhile you get ever increasing earthquakes in Oklahoma, groundwater increasingly filled with the toxic chemicals used in the fracking process and even rivers going on fire as methane released by frackers bubbles up through new cracks in the ground.

As if we didn't have enough trouble with methane bubbling up from the permafrost and the Arctic Ocean, we need to add to this problem by making new cracks in the ground for it to leak from?

What the criminals in charge of these organizations will tell you is that this is not THEIR fault, it is OUR fault because of our insatiable desire for more energy to run the industrial culture.  You see, if we just would stop buying their gas, they would go out of bizness.  Isn't that just brilliant logic?  Precisely how are we supposed to stop buying this stuff when the entire infrastructure we live with requires it in order to keep functioning? The gas powers the thermal electric plants which power the lights and the water pumps and sewage systems, which if you shut all that shit down the society goes to Mad Max in a matter of days.  When the entire housing stock has been built around ring roads requiring carz to make the commute to work if you still have a job, precisely how do you just give up your SUV out of consideration for the environment?

Then we have dropping into the toxic stew of criminals in charge of this show Con Men and Snake Oil Salesmen like Elon Musk, promising us a Clean, Green High Tech future of EVs and Vacations on Mars in their Rocket Ships.  Just replace your old nasty Fossil Fuel burning EV with one of Elon's Teslas and help stop Climate Change today!  MORE HORSESHIT!

First off, nobody explains how more than half the population who has less than $1000 in the bank is going to afford a nice new $35,000 Tesla, and that is the "cheap" model for the masses supposedly.  Then since it is mostly occuring over in China, nobody seems to notice that these supposedly Clean & Green Carz require massive rechargeable Li-I batteries, which require massive mining and refining of Lithium for their manufacture.  Such mining and refining operations always produce copious quantities of toxic waste, which is why we shipped such operations over to China where they don't have all those nasty regulations against polluting the water supply, thus making manufacture of such goodies a whole lot cheaper over there than it would be here.  On top of that you have a workforce of 1.3B people willing to work at slave wages a fraction of the cost of even minimum wage workers over here.  How do "we" stop the pollution when the vast majority of the world population lives in 3rd World countries where the people are just looking for a means to eke out survival, by whatever means possible within their own societies?  Just like when I was born back in 1957 in New York Shity, these folks were born into and trapped into a style of living they never had any real choice in at all.  The Industrial Bandwagon inexorably moved it's way around the globe, and even if your society did not willingly jump on the bandwagon, the industrialists in charge of the War Machine of the Military-Industrial-Banking complex brought in the Death from Above to make sure you had to leave your little villages and head for the Big Shities of your country to work in factories making toys to sell for Low, Low Prices Every Day at Walmart.

 

So, even if "we" as in the entire population of the 1st World countries could by some magical means stop burning all the fossil fuels that it takes to run these cultures, who is going to stop the juggernaut from continuing onward in 3rd World countries, where most of the population just wants to have the wonderful Happy Motoring lifestyle that Amerikans and Europeans got for the last century?  It's THEIR turn to live the High Life they got sold over the TV and Movies, just like the 'Murikans before them were sold this bill of goods.

The Sales Job of the Industrial Lifestyle and endless progress and growth of the techno-society has been ongoing and pervasive since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution.  The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 kicked off this Sales Job, financed by the World Class Robber Barons of the era, beople like Cornelius Vanderbilt & JP Morgan.

https://i10.fotocdn.net/s14/179/public_pin_3c/17/2484211890.jpg Many prominent civic, professional, and commercial leaders from around the United States participated in the financing, coordination, and management of the Fair, including Chicago steel tycoon Charles H. Schwab, Chicago railroad and manufacturing magnate John Whitfield Bunn, and Connecticut banking, insurance, and iron products magnate Milo Barnum Richardson, among many others.[6]

The fair was planned in the early 1890s during the Gilded Age of rapid industrial growth, immigration, and class tension. World's fairs, such as London's 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition, had been successful in Europe as a way to bring together societies fragmented along class lines.

The first American attempt at a world's fair in Philadelphia in 1876, drew crowds but was a financial failure. Nonetheless, ideas about distinguishing the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing started in the late 1880s. Civic leaders in St. Louis, New York City, Washington DC and Chicago expressed an interest in hosting a fair to generate profits, boost real estate values, and promote their cities. Congress was called on to decide the location. New York's financiers J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and William Waldorf Astor, among others, pledged $15 million to finance the fair if Congress awarded it to New York, while Chicagoans Charles T. Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, Gustavus Swift, and Cyrus McCormick, offered to finance a Chicago fair. What finally persuaded Congress was Chicago banker Lyman Gage, who raised several million additional dollars in a 24-hour period, over and above New York's final offer.[7]

The exposition corporation and national exposition commission settled on Jackson Park and an area around it as the fair site. Daniel H. Burnham was selected as director of works, and George R. Davis as director-general. Burnham emphasized architecture and sculpture as central to the fair and assembled the period's top talent to design the buildings and grounds including Frederick Law Olmsted for the grounds.[2] The temporary buildings were designed in an ornate Neoclassical style and painted white, resulting in the fair site being referred to as the “White City”.[7]

The Exposition's offices set up shop in the upper floors of the Rand McNally Building on Adams Street, the world's first all-steel-framed skyscraper. Davis's team organized the exhibits with the help of G. Brown Goode of the Smithsonian. The Midway was inspired by the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, which included ethnological "villages".[8]

All the marvels of the era were presented, the first "moving sidewalk", the first big Ferris Wheel, designed by George Ferris himself.  Architecture by Frederich Law Ohlmstead, the same dude who designed Central Park in New York Shity.  They didn't have any city models with Flying Carz yet in that one, since the Wright Brothers had yet to get their first airplane off the ground, but by the time the next World's Fair in Chicago showed up in the 1930s in the heart of the Great Depression, that idea was already being pitched to the masses, who were mostly unable to afford food to eat much less a land based car, forget the flying models.  They could however afford a Nickel for entrance to the Fair and escape into this wonderful fantasy world of the Future the Industrialists had planned for them.

This period of course is contemporaneous with the period I began this article with, when powerful Industrialists took final and absolute control over our monetary system with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.  This however was just the culmination of a long battle that began right with the end of the Amerikan Revolution, with Alexander Hamilton selling out to the Banksters in Europe, mainly the House of Rothschild and chartering the First Bank of the FSoA, to be followed later by the Second Bank of the FSoA, famously squashed by Old Hickory Andrew Jackson, himself famous also for massacre and genocide of numerous First Nations people.

http://mrkash.com/activities/images/jacksonmonster.jpg

"Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the Eternal God, I will rout you out."
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

Nowhere along this sad and sordid story of the progress of industrialization around the globe have "we" ever had a real choice here.  Industrialization is like a Tsunami that washed over our world, beginning with the first Steam Engines used to pump water out of Coal Mines in Jolly Old England at the beginning of the 18th Century.  It matured and "gathered steam" (sic) with the discovery of Oil in Pennsylvania in the mid 19th Century, and by the beginning of the 20th Century with the Chicago World's Fair, it was in Full Swing, the tide was rolling in fast and there was no stopping it, at least not by the population at large anyhow.  As a society and civilization we were well and truly captured, totally at the mercy of the "Den of Vipers & Thieves" Andrew Jackson fought his battle against and briefly won that one, but in the end the War was lost when Woodrow Wilson put the final signature on the Slavery Contract of the Federal Reserve Act.

In assigning responsibility for what the state of the world is, it must be placed on the people in charge, not the essentially powerless victims of their criminality and greed.  When a family gets in a car and they all get killed because Dad was driving drunk, are the kids in the car responsible because they had to ride in the backseat while he was driving?  Could the kids wrest control of the car from dad?  Of course not, and no one would blame the kids for the accident.  Reading many pundits and commenters through the blogosphere though, that is precisely what they do when looking at our economic, political and ecological disasters and then draw the conclusion "WE are responsible".   Speak for yourself there dude, I for one will not take responsibility for a clusterfuck I had no part in creating and never could do a damn thing to stop at any point in my lifetime.

Is there any HOPE then for the "We" of our society, controlled as it is by a corrupt criminal racket run by the Elite and their minions and overseers?  Yes, I believe there still is Hope.  A day will come at some point in the not too distant future when the Jets will no longer fly and the Death From Above will no longer rain down from the Heavens.  That day is not today, but it will come.  A day will come when the monetary system used to control our lives will no longer function, and we will be set free.  That day is not today, but it will come.  A day will come when true JUSTICE is served on those responsible for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.  That day also is not today, but it too will come.

In the words of Anonymous:

http://www.hdfbcover.com/randomcovers/covers/we-are-anonyumous-we-are-legion.jpg

Fedpocalypse Now?

FredaAmericanOstrichAmerican Ostrich - Anthony Freda Illustrationgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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FredaAmericanOstrichAmerican Ostrich - Anthony Freda Illustration
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 14, 2015

“Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into….”
— Oliver Hardy


If ever such a thing was, the stage is set this Monday and Tuesday for a rush to the exits in financial markets as the world prepares for the US central bank to take one baby step out of the corner it’s in. Everybody can see Janet Yellen standing naked in that corner — more like a box canyon — and it’s not a pretty sight. Despite her well-broadcasted insistence that the economic skies are blue, storm clouds scud through every realm and quarter. Equities barfed nearly four percent just last week, credit is crumbling (nobody wants to lend), junk bonds are tanking (as defaults loom), currencies all around the world are crashing, hedge funds can’t give investors their money back, “liquidity” is AWOL (no buyers for janky securities), commodities are in freefall, oil is going so deep into the sub-basement of value that the industry may never recover, international trade is evaporating, the president is doing everything possible in Syria to start World War Three, and the monster called globalism is lying in its coffin with a stake pointed over its heart.

Folks who didn’t go to cash a month ago must be hyperventilating today.

But the mundane truth probably is that events have finally caught up with the structural distortions of a financial world running on illusion. To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and economic winter is finally upon us. All the world ‘round, people borrowed too much to buy stuff and now they’re all borrowed out and stuffed up. Welcome to the successor to the global economy: the yard sale economy, with all the previously-bought stuff going back into circulation on its way to the dump.

A generous view of the American predicament might suppose that the unfortunate empire of lies constructed over the last several decades was no more than a desperate attempt to preserve our manifold mis-investments and bad choices. The odious Trump has made such a splash by pointing to a few of them, for instance, gifting US industrial production to the slave-labor nations, at the expense of American workers not fortunate enough to work in Goldman Sachs’s CDO boiler rooms. Readers know I don’t relish the prospect of Trump in the White House. What I don’t hear anyone asking: is he the best we can come up with under the circumstances? Is there not one decent, capable, eligible adult out there in America who can string two coherent thoughts together that comport with reality? Apparently not.

The class of people who formerly trafficked in political ideas have been too busy celebrating the wondrous valor of transgender. Well, now the wheels are going to come off the things that actually matter, such as being able to get food and pay the rent, and might perforce shove aside the neurotic preoccupations with race, gender, privilege, and artificial grievance that have bamboozled vast swathes of citizens wasting a generation of political capital on phantoms and figments. Contrary to current appearances, the election year is hardly over. There is still time for events to steer history in another direction.

Mrs. Yellen and her cortege of necromancers may just lose their nerve and twiddle their thumbs come Wednesday. If they actually make the bold leap to raise the fed funds rate one measly quarter of a percent, they might finally succeed in blowing up a banking system that deserves all the carnage that comes its way. There is something in the air like a gigantic static charge, longing for release.

 

 


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.

Rant Double Feature: Refugee Soup & Fed Waffles

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on September 24, 2015

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DON'T FORGET TO TAKE THE FATE OF COUNTRIES IN COLLAPSE SURVEY!

Boat-Refugeeshttp://mischlerfinancial.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Federal-Reserve-Bank-of-New-York-logo.jpgThe Refugee crisis has continued to escalate in the 2 weeks since the last "Daily" rant, so in this episode I updated on the latest insanity going on with that clusterfuck.

Second half of this rant covers the latest in waffling by Da Fed WRT raising interest rates, which supposedly they were going to do but didn't.

Raise your hands if you think these folks know what they are doing.

I didn't think so.

Snippet:

…Further talk elsewhere around the financial blogosphere is about “Helicopter Money”, Brit Prep School Butt Boy Ambrose Evans Pritchard is a big fan of this idea. The idea in this case is that of instead of handing out free money to the TBTF banks, instead they will hand out free money to J6P, to “stmulate demand” from the bottom up. Instead of “trickle down” economics, in this topsy turvy world of finance “trickle up” is the latest rage!

Precisely how they will manage such a helicopter distribution is as of yet unclear. Since they also seem to be in favor of banning Cash, they're probably not really going to drop FRNs from Helicopters, although that certainly would be cinematic if nothing else…

FOR THE REST, LISTEN TO THE RANT!

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Fed Cred Dead

strip-mall1gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation September 21, 2015
 

The economy is a two-headed monster. One head is the trade in real goods and real services. The other head is the financialized traffic in swindles and frauds that surrounds banking. There is some deception and overlap about which is which. For instance so-called health care might be perceived as a real service. In fact, it’s a hostage racket, designed to victimize “patients” at their weakest, with a “protection” premium that easily runs to $12,000-a-year for a married couple, even when they aren’t sick, and vulnerable. Just see what happens if you go to an emergency room with an injury that requires six stitches. Next stop: re-po land.

Most of the remaining on-the-ground economy consists of people merely driving their cars absurd distances, burning gasoline, between exquisitely-tuned giant warehouse store operations that were designed to destroy local Main Street trade — and accomplished that, by the way, to the applause of the local citizens whose towns were destroyed (“We want bargain shopping!”).

Now, of course, even WalMart is looking over its shoulder at the collapse of the complex arrangements that allowed it to metastasize across North America like some cancerous fungus. Globalism is winding down as the gargantuan matrix of Ponzi schemes based on owed money dissolves debt by debt. It isn’t long before nobody is a credit-worthy borrower, and no transaction in real goods can be risked unless cash hits the barrelhead — which turns out to be a very awkward way of doing business.

It’s especially like this these days in the so-called “emerging markets” — e.g. places in the world with large populations of willing factory slaves. The traffic in shipping-out containers full of flat screen TVs (or shipping-in the raw materials to make them) won’t work very well without letters-of-credit, which are promises between banks to make sure that the stuff on the receiving end gets paid for. That becomes difficult when national currencies drop 3.5 percent in value one day and then 4 percent another day, and so on. An eight-year-old can figure out how that math works.

My new theory of history applies well to the macro situation: people do what they do because it seems like a good idea at the time.

For instance, a few decades ago, the suburban / “consumer” arrangement of daily life seemed like a good idea. You buy cheap land twenty-seven miles outside what used to be a functioning (now obsolete) city. Build lots and lots of houses out of cheap, shitty materials such as strand-board and vinyl, pave a lot of new roads, line many of them with even shittier strip-mall buildings and Big Box “power centers,” and there you have a wonderful basis for an economy. That was more or less the Ronald Reagan Utopia.

Now it’s all aging badly, fraying, too costly to fix and, increasingly, not worth scraping off the land and replacing with a new cheap, shitty building. The younger generation doesn’t even want to live in that suburban dystopia. They run shrieking from it to Brooklyn, or even downtown Troy, New York, up the Hudson River Valley. Alas, this younger generation has also been broadly victimized by the college loan racket — reinforced by the revised bankruptcy laws that make it impossible to ever write-off this sort of debt. When will they get political about it? Their debt loads will disfigure their lives as surely as a tour of duty in Vietnam would have forty years ago. Perhaps Siri has not informed them about this.

Last week was the watershed for central banking and for the illusion that the current disposition of things has a future. The Federal Reserve blinked on its long-touted Fed funds interest rate hike and chairperson Janet Yellen was left standing naked in the hot glare of her own carbonizing credibility, a pitiful larval creature, still maundering about “the data,” and “the median growth projection,” and other previously-owned figments spun out of the great PhD wonk machine in the Eccles Building.

The Federal Reserve itself is the victim du jour of its own grandiose fatuous fecklessness, in particular the idea that it could play a national economy like a three-button flugelhorn. What seemed like a good idea at the time when Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke stepped into the pilot house now just looks like the fraud of frauds: enabling corporations to borrow ever more money from the future to pretend that their balance sheets are sound. That scam has nowhere left to go, except into the black hole that has been waiting for it. All the Fed really has left is to destroy the value of the dollar (to save it! Just like Vietnam!).

This ought to be an interesting week in the financial markets as the players have had a long, anxious weekend to absorb the death of Fed cred. And October, too. Expect dramatic re-pricing. Sometime a few months down the line, financial markets will present a “relief rally.” Don’t get suckered on that one.

Meanwhile, what remains on the other head of this two-headed economy besides driving to-and-from the Walmart? Pornography? The tattoo industry? Meth and narcotics? Prostitution? Professional sports on the flat screen? Kim and Kanye? Grand theft auto? Do you really think Donald Trump can fix this?

 

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.

The Way Out

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Image: Anthony Freda

Image: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 30, 2015

It’s not what most people think: a return to some hypothetical “normality,” with the ghost of Ronnie Reagan beaming down like a sun-god under his lopsided pompadour, and all the happy self-driving GM cars toodling back and forth from WalMart-to-home loaded to the scuppers with new electric pop-tart warmers and 3-D underwear printers. (Or drone deliveries of same from Amazon.com.)

I mean, surely the thinking folk out there must be asking themselves: what is the way out of this Federal Reserve three-card-monte, one-percenter-stuffing, so-called “economy,” and what is the destination of this society when that mendacious model for living fails?

I digress for a moment: there was a chap named Richard Duncan on the pod-waves this weekend (FSN Network) putting out the charming idea that quantitative easing (QE — governments “printing” money to buy their own bonds) had the effect of “cancelling debt” and that it could continue for decades to come. I don’t doubt that there are Federal Reserve officers who believe this. The part they leave out — and Mr. Duncan also left it out until pressed — is that there are consequences. Consult the operating manual of the universe, and you will find that there really is no free lunch or get-out-of-jail card.

The truth is, when you rig a money system with price interventions, distortions, and perversions, they will eventually express themselves in ways destructive to the system. In the present case of world-wide QE and central bank monkey business, these rackets are expressing themselves, finally, in wobbling currencies. In many nations, people are deeply unsure of what their money is worth, and how much it might be worth a month from now. This includes the USA, except for the moment our money is said to be magically appreciating in value compared to everyone else’s. Aren’t we special?

Get this: nothing is more hazardous than undermining people’s trust in their money.

All of this financial perfidy conceals the basic fact that the human race has reached the limits of techno-industrialism. There are too many people and not enough basic resources to grow more of them — oil, fishes, soil, ores, fertilizers — and there is no steady-state “solution” to keep that economy going. In other words, it must either grow or contract, and it can’t really grow anymore (despite the exertions of government statisticians), so the authorities are trying to provide a monetary illusion of growth, when instead we’re in contraction.

Yes, contraction. The way out is to get with the program, shed the dead-weight and go where reality wants to take you. In the USA that means do everything possible to quit supporting giant failing systems — Big Box shopping, mass motoring, GMO agribiz, TBTF banks — and get behind local Main Street integrated economies, walkable towns, regular railroads, smaller and more numerous farms, local medical clinic health care, artistry in public works, and community caretaking of the unfit. All this surely implies a reduced role for the national government, and maybe the states, too. You could call it a lower standard of living, or just a different way to live.

I don’t think we’ll go there via rational political discourse. The current instabilities around the world are so sinister that they are liable to lead to even more strenuous efforts at the top to pretend that everything’s working, and even war is one way to pretend you’re okay (and the “other guy” isn’t). Of course, war has already broken out, in the MidEast and Ukraine, and it has everything to do with the sequential failure of nations, in one way or another, to overcome the limits of techno-industrialism. America will be dragged kicking and screaming to the realization of what it needs to do. The 2016 election will be the convulsion point.

 


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.

The Last, Great Run For The U.S. Dollar

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on March 10, 2015

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The Death Of The Euro And 74 Trillion In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Dollars Euros - Public DomainAre we on the verge of an unprecedented global currency crisis?  On Tuesday, the euro briefly fell below $1.07 for the first time in almost a dozen years.  And the U.S. dollar continues to surge against almost every other major global currency.  The U.S. dollar index has now risen an astounding 23 percent in just the last eight months.  That is the fastest pace that the U.S. dollar has risen since 1981.  You might be tempted to think that a stronger U.S. dollar is good news, but it isn’t.  A strong U.S. dollar hurts U.S. exports, thus harming our economy.  In addition, a weak U.S. dollar has fueled tremendous expansion in emerging markets around the planet over the past decade or so.  When the dollar becomes a lot stronger, it becomes much more difficult for those countries to borrow more money and repay old debts.  In other words, the emerging market “boom” is about to become a bust.  Not only that, it is important to keep in mind that global financial institutions bet a tremendous amount of money on currency movements.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the value of the euro and the value of other global currencies.  When currency rates start flying around all over the place, you can rest assured that someone out there is losing an enormous amount of money.  If this derivatives bubble ends up imploding, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out.

Do you remember what happened the last time the U.S. dollar went on a great run like this?

As you can see from the chart below, it was in mid-2008, and what followed was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression…

Dollar Index 2015

A rapidly rising U.S. dollar is extremely deflationary for the overall global economy.

This is a huge red flag, and yet hardly anyone is talking about it.

Meanwhile, the euro continues to spiral into oblivion…

Euro U.S. Dollar

How many times have I said it?  The euro is heading to all-time lows.  It is going to go to parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is eventually going to go below parity.

This is going to cause massive headaches in the financial world.

The Europeans are attempting to cure their economic problems by creating tremendous amounts of new money.  It is the European version of quantitative easing, but it is having some very nasty side effects.

The markets are starting to realize that if the value of the U.S. dollar continues to surge, it is ultimately going to be very bad for stocks.  In fact, the strength of the U.S. dollar is being cited as the primary reason for the Dow’s 332 point decline on Tuesday

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 300 points to below the index’s 50-day moving average, wiping out gains for the year. The S&P 500 also closed in the red for the year and breached its 50-day moving average, which is an indicator of the market trend. Only the Nasdaq held onto gains of 2.61 percent for the year.

There’s “concern that energy and the strength in the dollar will somehow be negative for the equities,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He noted that the speed of the dollar’s surge was the greatest market driver, amid mixed economic data and concerns about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

And as I noted above, when the U.S. dollar rises the things that we export to other nations become more expensive and that hurts our businesses.

This is so basic that even the White House understands it

Despite reassurance from The Fed that a strengthening dollar is positive for US jobs, The White House has now issued a statement that a “strengthening USD is a headwind for US growth.”

But even more important, a surging U.S. dollar makes it more difficult for emerging markets all over the world to borrow new money and to repay old debts.  This is especially true for nations that heavily rely on exporting commodities

It becomes especially ugly for emerging market economies that produce commodities. Many emerging market countries rely on their natural resources for growth and haven’t yet developed more advanced industries. As the products of their principal industries decline in value, foreign investors remove available credit while their currency is declining against the U.S. dollar. They don’t just find it difficult to pay their debt – it is impossible.

It has been estimated that emerging markets have borrowed more than 3 trillion dollars since the last financial crisis.

But now the process that created the emerging markets “boom” is starting to go into reverse.

The global economy is fueled by cheap dollars.  So if the U.S. dollar continues to rise, that is not going to be good news for anyone.

And of course the biggest potential threat of all is the 74 trillion dollar currency derivatives bubble which could end up bursting at any time.

The sophisticated computer algorithms that financial institutions use to trade currency derivatives are ultimately based on human assumptions.  When currencies move very little and the waters are calm in global financial markets, those algorithms tend to work really, really well.

But when the unexpected happens, some of the largest financial firms in the world can implode seemingly overnight.

Just remember what happened to Lehman Brothers back in 2008.  Unexpected events can cripple financial giants in just a matter of hours.

Today, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives of all types.  Those five banks are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Morgan Stanley.

By transforming Wall Street into a gigantic casino, those banks have been able to make enormous amounts of money.

But they are constantly performing a high wire act.  One of these days, their reckless gambling is going to come back to haunt them, and the entire global financial system is going to be severely harmed as a result.

As I have said so many times before, derivatives are going to be at the heart of the next great global financial crisis.

And thanks to the wild movement of global currencies in recent months, there are now more than 74 trillion dollars in currency derivatives at risk.

Anyone that cannot see trouble on the horizon at this point is being willingly blind.

Greek Souvlaki Kabuki Roller Coaster

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on February 11, 2015

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The Game Continues…

Snippet:

 

…Going into the weekend, the chairman of the Eurozone FinMins Jeroen DieselBOOM laid down the LAW with the Greeks, basically giving them about 10 days to either CAPITULATE or be thrown under the bus and pitched out of the Eurozone, though nobody is quite clear on how legal that is to do.

There was a decent amount of speculation in the aftermath of that that it would cause the Greeks to fold up their tent and come begging for more money, but the exact opposite occurred here, which is that by Sunday both Tspiras and Souvlakis were issuing out even MORE uncompromizing Tweets, basically threatening to bring down the entire Eurozone with them if they are flushed down the toilet.

The Clowns and Jokers in Brussel Sprouts have their Poker Face on, bluffing that the economic cascade from a Grexit can be “contained” and the rest of Europe will do just fine without Feta Cheese, so best of luck there fellas! LOL…

 

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

 

In case you missed it, here is the last installment of Greek Kabuki…

Pandora’s Box

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on January 28, 2015

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Snippet:

…Well, the Worst Nightmare for the Clowns & Jokers in Brussel Sprouts has come to pass, as Alex Tspiras and the Greek Syriza Party won a BLOWOUT victory in the latest round of Greek Elections. They are so far out in front of everyone else on the Popular Front over there that not even election rigging could fix that one.

Alex has promised to go to the WALL against the Troika Austerity that has been hammering down on Greece for the last 6 years, since the initial financial crash in 2008. Bascially Syriza has opened up the window and shouted to the world, “We’re Mad as HELL, and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

This basically amounts to opening Pandora’s Box here, because the Brussel Sprouts are now between the Rock and Hard place. If they cut the Greeks loose, the Euro collapses even faster than it already is collapsing. If they capitulate and forgive Greek Debt, every other PIIGS Nation will pul the same stunt, beginning with the Spaniards, but quickly moving through the Portuguese, Italians and Frogs too. Soon as one of these major debtor nations has debt written down, they ALL will want their debt written down…

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on January 18, 2015

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Snippet:

http://cdn.news12.com/polopoly_fs/1.5585827.1372415753!/httpImage/image.PNG_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.PNG…The folks worst hit here in the short term are the Forex traders who were short on Swissies, figuring they would stay pegged to the Euro as promised by the SNB. At least two of the currency trading firms blew up immediately after this, FXCM and Excel with losses in the $100s Millions, and somebody out there took that hit, although we don’t know precisely who that is yet. Client accounts are supposedly segregated out here, but anything caught up in the trading when this went down is now GONE. Precisely how much anyone with an account with these two firms will be able to get back out and when is an open question. No doubt quite a few folks will get Corzined on this one.

Meanwhile, over in Greece in a not entirely unrelated event, now all 4 of TBTF Greek Banks had to go to the Greek Central Bank for “Emergency Liquidity Assistance”, basically because there is an ongoing RUN of the Greek Banks and everyone with any CFS is trying to get their money OUT of them before they go Tits Up and convert everybody’s savings to New Drachmas, destined to be about IMMEDIATELY worth less than a roll of Charmin.

These banks, which Zero Hedge has reported as “systemic” have basically run OUT of collateral that even the ECB which accepts almost any stinking dogshit will accept for them to hand over a few more Euros. At first it was just 2 banks referred to as systemically important, without revealing which onesd they were. The obvious reason here that the identity of these banks is not being revealed is that would of course ACCELERATE and already ongoing diarreah attack they are undergoing and they would squirt out still more liquified Brown-25. This ploy however did not work, so now the run is on all of them. LOL…

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If Wishes Were Loaves and Fishes

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 22, 2014

Janet Yellen and her Federal Reserve board of augurers might as well have spilled a bucket of goat entrails down the steps of the mysterious Eccles Building as they parsed, sliced, and diced the ramifications in altering their prior declaration of “a considerable period” (that is, before raising interest rates), vis-à-vis the simpler new imperative, “patience,” with its moral overburden of public censure aimed at those too eager for clarity — that is to say, the assurance that the Fed will not pull the plug on their life-support drip of funny money for the racketeering operation that banking has become.

The vapid pronouncement of “patience” provoked delirium in the markets, with record advances to new oxygen-thin heights. Behind all this ceremonial hugger-mugger lurks the dark suspicion that the Federal Reserve has no idea what’s actually going on, and no idea what it’s doing. And in the absence of any such ideas, Ms. Yellen and her collegial eminences have engineered a very elaborate rationale for doing nothing.

The truth is, they have already done enough. They have succeeded via their dial-tweaking interventions in destroying the agency of markets so that nobody can tell the difference anymore between prices and wishes. Coincidentally, it is that most wishful time of the year, especially among the professional money managers polishing their clients’ portfolios as the carols are sung and the champagne corks pop. Ms. Yellen should have put on a Santa Claus suit when she ventured out to meet the media last week.

Not even very far in the background, there is wreckage everywhere as events spin out of the pretense of control. Surely something is up in the Mordor of derivatives, that unregulated shadowland of counterparty subterfuge where promises are made with no possibility or intention of ever being kept. You can’t have currencies crashing in more than a handful of significant countries, and interest rates ululating, without a lot of slippage among the swaps. My guess is that a lot of things have busted wide open there, and we just don’t know about it yet, like fissures working deep below the surface around a caldera.

This Federal Reserve is running on the final fumes of its credibility. Counsel “patience” as it might, other institutions and the people running them may run out of patience with it and start running for cover. When currencies catch fire, even a run on the bank becomes an exercise in futility. The rot is spreading from the margins to the center. In a world of oxidizing paper obligations, the paper dollar is hardly a fortress but more like a stack of empty foil-wrapped boxes displayed in the concourse of a shopping mall scheduled for closure as soon as the holiday is concluded. Maybe some wise-ass kid will just torch it. The security guard is still awaiting his previous paycheck and is out drinking by the dumpster.

It will be at least a couple of months before the Fed dares to start “printing” again and a lot can happen before it does. If and when it does resume QE — and it will be sorely tempted — all its credibility will finally be lost. What an opportunity for another country, say a country with an already foundering currency, to dare introduce money partially backed by gold. Could happen. That hypothetical nation may be one with, say, substantial oil reserves, something that even an economically depressed global industrial economy desperately needs. That hypothetical nation may be one that is very weary of being jerked around by the USA, with our augerers and vizeers, and haircuts-in-search-of-brains.

Merry Christmas everyone and, this dwindling year, be especially careful what you wish for.

 

 

***

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.

WHAT THE FED HAS WROUGHT

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 16, 2014

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The chart below might be the most powerful indictment of the Federal Reserve and our corporate fascist empire of debt ever created. Some people don’t get charts. Charts tell a story. This chart tells the story of elitist bankers supporting the agenda of a corporate fascist state, resulting in the gutting of the middle class. Anyone who views this chart in a positive manner is either a Federal Reserve banker or their paycheck is dependent upon the continuation of the pillaging of the working class. Corporate profits are at all-time highs. Profit margins have always reverted to the mean throughout modern history. If they remain at all-time highs then something is terribly wrong.

“Profit margins are probably the most mean-reverting series in finance, and if profit margins do not mean-revert, then something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. If high profits do not attract competition, there is something wrong with the system and it is not functioning properly.” – Jeremy Grantham, Barron’s

Here is the story I see in that chart. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP have averaged 6.5% over the last 67 years. As you can see, it is a volatile figure. Corporate profits rise during expansions and fall during recessions. That has been a given over time. The reason corporate profits have always reverted to the mean was due to the basic tenets of free market capitalism. When a company is generating outsized profits, that industry will then attract new competitors, resulting in price competition and lower profits. From 1950 through 1971, corporate profits as a percentage of GNP fluctuated in a narrow range between 5% and 7%. This was a reflection of a market driven by competition, a non-interventionist Federal Reserve, and a government not captured by corporate interests.

It is no coincidence since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and unleashed greedy bankers, feckless politicians, and self serving corporate executives to utilize easy money and prodigious amounts of debt to financialize our economic system and deform capitalism. The Fed created booms and busts are clearly evident on the chart. Nixon toady Arthur Burns created an inflationary boom in corporate profits to 8% of GNP in the late 70’s followed by the collapse to 3% caused by Volcker having to raise rates to extreme levels to crush the Burns created runaway inflation.

You can see exactly when the Maestro assumed command at the Fed and proceeded to introduce the Greenspan Put, encouraging speculation, borrowing and mal-investment. His easy money boom led to the dot com bubble that doubled corporate profits from their 1987 low. Of course the profits vaporized in an instant and plunged to 4% of GNP in 2001. Greenspan and then Bernanke  proceeded to drive interest rates to record lows creating a prodigious housing bubble resulting in the greatest level of mal-investment and financial fraud in world history. Corporate profits as a percentage of GNP skyrocketed from 4% to 10% in the space of six years. The banking cabal had captured the system.

The Fed orchestra kept the music playing and Wall Street kept dancing the rumba with their corporate CEO dates. The Keynesian acolytes were ecstatic. The Austrians warned of the impending bust. No one listened. The collapse of the worldwide financial system was portrayed by the corporate mainstream media, bankers like Dimon, corporate CEOs like Immelt, billionaires like Buffet, captured government bureaucrats like Paulson, and politicians like McCain and Obama, as a systematic risk that required a taxpayer rescue of criminals.

The $800 billion gift to bankers and mega-corporations by the Washington DC Party of captured politicians was chicken feed compared to the $3.5 trillion of newly printed fiat handed to Wall Street and corporate America by Bernanke and Yellen. Five years of 0% interest rates have impoverished senior citizens and savers, but they have done wonders for Wall Street and mega-corporation profits, along with executive bonuses. Corporate profits soared from 4.5% of GNP to an all-time high of 10.5% in the space of three years and have remained at this elevated level.

Who Needs Wage Earners Anyway?

Is it a coincidence that corporate profits as a percentage of GNP are at record highs while employee compensation as a percentage of GNP is at record lows? Is it a coincidence that employee compensation as a percentage of GNP peaked at 51% in 1971? That year certainly seems to be a turning point in U.S. economic history. Gold’s purpose as a check on statists, Keynesians, politicians, bankers, and the military industrial complex couldn’t be any clearer. The decline has multiple causes, but the storyline about technology being the major cause is patently false. My observations are as follows:

  • From the end of World War II until the mid-1970s employee compensation as a percentage of GNP was consistently between 49% and 51%. The middle class saw their standard of living rise as wages outpaced inflation, savings rates were high and led to capital investment, debt was used for long term purchases like a home or automobile, and bankers accepted deposits and made safe loans. Technological progress over the thirty years was constant, but did not result in declining wages.
  • From the moment Nixon closed the gold window, employee compensation as percentage of GNP relentlessly declined for the next quarter of a century from 51% to 44%. Over this time frame our economy deformed from a goods producing system driven by savings and capital investment into a service/financial economy built upon consumer debt, conspicuous consumption and market gambling. Our iconic mega-corporations fired Americans and hired Chinese slave laborers, lobbied for tax breaks, invested in their own stock, kept wage increases below the level of true inflation, and paid extravagant compensation packages to their Harvard MBA executives.
  • The brief upturn created by Greenspan’s irrational exuberance 90’s boom was short lived. The relentless decline resumed after the dot com collapse, even as Greenspan and Bernanke blew their epic bubble. Their financial engineering machinations on behalf of Wall Street did nothing for the average worker on Main Street. Employee compensation as a percentage of GNP declined from 47% to 44% BEFORE the financial collapse.
  • Unequivocal proof that Bernanke’s sole purpose of QE and ZIRP was to benefit his Wall Street owners can be seen in the continued decline from 44% to 42% since 2008. There has been no recovery for the average American. Wall Street is rolling in dough. Corporate America is rolling in dough. Politicians are rolling in dough. The average American worker is rolling in dog shit.

The mouthpieces for the Deep State insist corporate profits have reached a permanently high plateau. It’s another new paradigm. Just like 1929, 1999, and 2007. Jeremy Grantham is right. The system is broken. The inmates are running the asylum. But financial engineering will not work permanently.  Baijnath Ramraika and Prashant Trivedi in their outstanding article Why Jeremy Grantham is Right about Corporate Profit Margins prove that corporate gross margins have not grown, technological advancement has not been a major factor, innovation and capital investment are non-existent, and corporate CEOs have utilized one time schemes to boost profits.

There are a few major reasons for record corporate profits. The Fed’s gift to banks and mega-corporations of zero interest rates have allowed S&P 500 corporations to refinance their existing debt and take on new debt at below market interest rates. The average interest rate paid by S&P 500 companies is now at all-time lows. Any normalization of interest rates would crush corporate profits.

Even though you hear constant propaganda from the corporate MSM, corporate CEOs, and captured politicians about the dreadful level of corporate taxes, the truth is that mega-corporations are paying record low levels of actual taxes. When profits are at record highs and tax payments at record lows you know they have captured the system. “Creative” tax avoidance and the FASB allowing banks to mark their assets to fantasy have played an enormous role in record profits.

The short term oriented casino mentality of corporate CEOs can be plainly seen in the fact depreciation expense as a percentage of revenue is at 25 year lows, resulting in short term profits but long-term decline. Instead of investing in capital to increase efficiency or expand their business, greedy myopic CEOs have chosen to buy back their own stock at all-time high prices. They did the same thing in 2005 – 2007. Driving up quarterly earnings per share to boost their own stock option compensation is how it rolls in corporate America today. Investing in their workers through higher wages isn’t even a consideration. They don’t teach that in Ivy League MBA programs. SG&A expenses as a percentage of revenue have been driven to all time lows, as outsourcing, downsizing, and working people to death have done wonders for corporate profits.

Ramraika and Trivedi reach damning conclusions of corporate America, based on their detailed unbiased research:

As the world moved increasingly towards the idea of shareholder-value maximization, time horizons for management and the shareholders have shortened. As Montier shows, the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 in the 1970s was about 27 years and is down to about 15 years now. In tandem, the average tenure of CEOs is down from about 10 years in the 1970s to about 6 years now. Combine this with the incentive systems prevalent today (think stock options), and it is only logical that a CEO who is going to be around for as few as six years and is going to get a large chunk of her rewards in stock options will want to see higher stock prices.

Cutting SGA expenses and postponing capital investments — actions that carry positive short-term earnings impact at the expense of a business’ competitiveness in the long-term — look promising to managers whose payoffs depend on stock prices in the short-term. Not surprisingly, the renters (there are hardly any owners any more) clamor for just such actions. The problem with this thinking is that the long-term eventually shows up. And when it does, profit margins will have no choice but to remember their long forgotten tendency to revert to mean.

Are interest rates going to be driven lower for corporations? Are taxes going to be driven lower? How many more people can corporations fire? Have economic downturns been eliminated by the Federal Reserve? Will record profits not result in increased competition and price wars? Can wages be driven even lower?

The financial, economic and political system has been captured by corporate fascist psychopaths. The Federal Reserve has aided and abetted this takeover. Their monetary manipulations have resulted in this deformity. Psychopaths always go too far. The American middle class has been murdered. Decades of declining real wages have left them virtually penniless, in debt up to their eyeballs, angry, frustrated, and unable to jump start our moribund economy by buying more Chinese produced crap. Yellen, her Wall Street puppeteers, and the corporate titans should enjoy those record profits and record stock market highs. It won’t last. Short-term profits will be wiped out, as long-term consequences always arrive when you least expect it. The artificial boom will lead to a real depression. Luckily for the oligarchs, most middle class Americans are already experiencing a depression and won’t notice the difference.

“True, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late and to bring about a depression.” – Ludwig von Mises

BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – PART TWO

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on November 9, 2014

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In Part One of this article I discussed the similarities between the Roman Empire and the American Empire at a high level. In this article I’ll delve into some specific similarities and rhymes between the fall of the Roman Empire and our modern day empire of debt, decay and decline. I’ll address our expansive level of bread and circuses and how defects in our human nature lead to people willingly sacrificing their liberty for promises of safety and security. All empires decline due to the same human failings and ours is no exception. If anything, ours will be far more spectacular and rapid due to our extreme level of hubris, arrogance, willful ignorance and warlike preference for dealing with foreign powers.

It seems there were a few visionary thinkers in the late 1950s who foresaw the dire course our former Republic was setting. Their writings were a prophecy and a warning. There was still time to change course and avoid the pitfalls that led to the Roman Empire collapse. In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley warned against allowing a few amoral men using propaganda, scientific advancements, technology, brainwashing, and economics to control and manipulate a willfully ignorant populace into a dystopian dictatorship. The Soviet and Chinese dictatorships of the late 1950s are long gone, but Huxley foresaw how modern propaganda techniques would be used by the state to drown the masses in a sea of triviality, irrelevance, and consumerism.

“In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationaliza­tion — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationaliza­tion of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manip­ulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these tech­niques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrele­vance the rational propaganda essential to the mainten­ance of individual liberty and the survival of demo­cratic institutions.”

Another man of vision was President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As someone who understood the military industrial complex and the world of politics and power, he knew the danger of allowing the arms industry to dictate the foreign policy of the country. Maintaining a military empire bankrupted Rome and it is bankrupting the American empire. Eisenhower’s warning was unheeded.

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

When I was researching the similarities between the fall of the Roman Empire and our American Empire fall in progress, I stumbled across an essay written in 1956 by Ben Moreell called Of Bread and Circuses  

Toxic Bread, iGadgets, Circuses, & Zoloft

“The evil was not in bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease. The moral decay of the people was not caused by the doles and the games. These merely provided a measure of their degradation. Things that were originally good had become perverted and, as Shakespeare reminds us, ‘Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’”Ben Moreell – 1956 – Of Bread and Circuses

There is nothing inherently evil about food, iPhones, professional sports, television, computers, music or medicine. Human beings need food to sustain them, entertainment to provide relaxation and diversion from their daily labors, and medicine to alleviate illness and prolong their lives. Only when the people allow themselves to be lured into servitude by malevolent purveyors of bread and circuses does the perversion of seemingly harmless things begin to fester and overwhelm a nation with the fetid stench of decay and decadence. The moral degeneration of the American populace, like the Roman people before them, happened slowly over time as they sold their liberty, freedom, and self-respect for full bellies, an endless array of modern day distractions, and promises from their highly educated rulers they would be taken care of and protected from all threats to their well-being, whether foreign, domestic, physical, mental, or social.

It did not happen all at once. It happened gradually over time. We allowed the weaker facets of our human nature to succumb to the pleasurable promises of a minority of power seeking manipulative men who always attempt to control and influence the majority because they believe they are wiser and deserving of riches, glory and supremacy. The greediest, most arrogant, ambitious and well educated amongst us tend to rise to the top in all societies. As Ben Franklin stated, only a virtuous people can keep sociopaths from gaining control of our political, economic and financial systems and perverting a republic built upon a foundation of free markets, liberty, and self-sufficiency.

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”Benjamin Franklin

Historian Tacitus noted, as Rome became more and more corrupt, the number of laws grew rapidly. The Roman aristocracy, through corruption and thievery achieved lofty status in Roman society. Senators and wealthy knights engaged in extensive practices of conspicuous consumption, creating palatial town houses and monumental “art villas” to demonstrate their high rank in society. The peasants sank into poverty, while being satiated with bread and circuses. And it was all done legally, just as it is being done legally today by our beloved aristocracy and their minions.

“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” – Tacitus – The Annals of Imperial Rome

Has the proliferation of laws, rules, and regulations over the last century made us freer, safer and less corrupt?

The virtue of the American people has dissipated rapidly over the last century through their willful ignorance, laziness, apathy, vanity, greed and covetousness, while the true ruling power has consciously and intelligently manipulated the masses without them being aware they were being molded, controlled, dominated and influenced by Ivy League educated men of no conscious, empathy, or sense of decency. The paragraph below, written in 1928 by Edward Bernays, reveals the true nature of our “democracy” and our real masters:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda

Bernays and his disciples believed the American citizenry nothing more than a herd of irrational animals that needed to be led by enlightened despots like him and other highly educated wealthy men who knew what was best in a democratic society. The term propaganda developed negative connotations after some Germans used it so effectively during the 1930s, so modern American despots changed the term to public relations. It’s all about the message. As media tools have become more technologically advanced and the study of human psychology perfected, the members of the invisible government have achieved their goal of governing, molding, and pulling the wires that control the public mind in a way that enriches them and their benefactors while satisfying the base needs of the masses and keeping them distracted with trivialities, technological wonders, and a myriad of bogeyman threats. These men have contempt for the common man. They have contempt for the U.S. Constitution. They have contempt for free markets. And they have control of our country.

Needs, Wants & Desires

The concept of bread and circuses ties closely to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. The ruling class realizes the masses must be kept fed, clothed and housed or revolution would ensue. The human needs documented by Maslow were satisfied or not satisfied by humans prior to the 20th century. Once the ruling class gained control of the monetary system through their jurisdiction over the Federal Reserve and the fiscal system through their manipulation of taxes and spending, they were able to bribe the masses with their own money. The rise of the welfare state has not reduced poverty or boosted the standard of living of the poor. It has enslaved tens of millions at the basic human needs level. Once those in power had successfully bribed the masses with bread (SNAP), shelter (subsidized housing), subsistence (unemployment compensation & welfare), security (Social Security) and safety (Medicare, Medicaid), it was only necessary to keep them distracted with circuses to efficiently teach them to love their servitude.

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World

abraham-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs1.preview.jpg

The invisible governing authorities don’t want the masses to actually satisfy their psychological and self-fulfillment needs. The last thing they want is an educated, aware, critical thinking, independent, courageous, self-reliant, civic minded populace questioning the motivations of their keepers. This is where the corporate fascists who control the mass media propaganda machine and the sickcare industrial complex have combined forces to create a painless concentration camp of prisoners enjoying their servitude and happy to sacrifice their liberty for perceived safety. An uneducated, obese, sickly, depressed, overly-medicated populace is not a threat to the ruling class. They have been conditioned and pharmacologically sedated to such an extent the governing class feels indestructible, displaying arrogance and hubris in dangerous doses.

“There will be in the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it.” – Aldous Huxley

The concept of voluntary servitude has been a constant theme across the ages as most people want to be led, told what to do, and will not question or contest those in authority. Liberty and freedom require effort, sacrifice, honor and a people with a strong moral character. The Roman people succumbed to tyranny by abandoning their liberty to despots for a full belly and grand spectacles. The American people have succumbed to modern day banker, billionaire and politician oligarchs for a belly full of toxic corporate processed food, cable HDTV with 600 stations, iGadgets, a never ending supply of cheap Chinese produced crap at big box retail stores, Facebook, Twitter, 24 hour drive thru Dunkin Donuts joints, and an endless array of professional sporting events, all paid for with an infinite supply of cheap consumer debt from the Wall Street fraud machine. We live in a warfare/welfare surveillance state built on a foundation of debt, consumerism, and delusion, with no tears. We’ve learned to love our servitude.

French philosopher Etienne de La Boetie captured the degradation of the once noble Roman people five centuries ago, and his words ring true today as the American people have foolishly relinquished their liberty to a corporate aristocracy that has bankrupted the nation, debased the currency, pillaged the middle class and set in motion an irreversible decline of the empire.

“Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books. Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else.

The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.” – Etienne de La Boétie – Discourse on Voluntary Servitude – 1548

We are fools to not realize the governing authorities who benevolently distribute bread and entitlements to the masses have already taken the money at gunpoint from the people, while syphoning off their cut, favoring their courtesans and taking away our liberties and freedoms. H.L. Mencken, who could match de La Boetie in contempt for the ignorant masses and corrupt politicians, understood our democracy was destined for the trash heap of history.

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.” – H.L. Mencken – Notes on Democracy

In Part Three of this article I will address how the creation of the Federal Reserve has led to a century of currency debasement, mindless consumption and endless warfare, while impoverishing the masses and setting in motion the dynamics of empire collapse.

Signs and Wonders

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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20141103_pot
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation November 3, 2014

Holy smokes,” Janet Yellen must have barked last week when Japan stepped up to plug the liquidity hole left by the US Federal Reserve’s final taper trot to the zero finish line of Quantitative Easing 3. The gallant samurai Haruhiko Kuroda of Japan’s central bank announced that his grateful nation had accepted the gift of inflation from the generous American people, which will allow the island nation to fall on its wakizashi and exit the dream-world of industrial modernity it has struggled through for a scant 200 years.

Money-printing turns out to be the grift that keeps on giving. The US stock markets retraced all their October jitter lines, and bonds plumped up nicely in anticipation of hot so-called “money” wending its digital way from other lands to American banks. Euroland, too, accepted some gift inflation as its currency weakened. The world seems to have forgotten for a long moment that all this was rather the opposite of what America’s central bank has been purported to seek lo these several years of QE heroics — namely, a little domestic inflation of its own to simulate if not stimulate the holy grail of economic growth. Of course all that has gotten is the Potemkin stock market, a fragile, one-dimensional edifice concealing the post-industrial slum that the on-the-ground economy has become behind it.

Then, as if cued by some Satanic invocation, who marched onstage but the old Maestro himself, Alan Greenspan, Fed chief from 1987 to 2007, who had seen many a sign and wonder himself during that hectic tenure, and he just flat-out called QE a flop. He stuck a cherry on top by adding that the current Fed couldn’t possibly end its ZIRP policy, either. All of which rather left America’s central bank in a black box wrapped in an enigma, shrouded by a conundrum, off-gassing hydrogen sulfide like a roadkill ‘possum. Incidentally, Greenspan told everybody to go out and buy gold — which naturally sent the price of gold spiraling down through its previous bottom into the uncharted territory of worthlessness. Gold is now the most unloved substance in the history of trade, made even uglier by the overtures of Mr. Greenspan. Personally, I think the more violently gold devalues for the moment, the more extreme the reaction will be when the first glimpses of reality pierce the twilight’s last gleaming of official US market intervention shenanigans.

All this goes on, by the way, because an essential problem remains: the world cannot pay back its accumulated debt and the money maestros of world finance don’t dare even try to unwind it in an orderly manner, fearing they will open up an international monetary sucking chest wound of deflationary doom. And this does nothing to brighten the prospect that evermore new debt can ever be repaid. All that remains are various three card monte maneuvers, hot potato games, and musical chair tournaments using the last kinetic rocket thrusts of global credulity to pretend that contraction is not already here, walking amongst us, like the ancient Harvestman of yore, swinging his scythe.

Of course, few doubt the reality of Ebola. And ISIS (or whatever it’s called) also works its ghastly hoodoo in the gummiest region of the world, and they both share an interesting feature these days: reporters are discouraged from going into either hot zone where the threat is that they will bleed out through all the orifices from Ebola or have their heads hacked off on video by ISIS. So we are not getting the best information out of Ebola West Africa and those parts of the Middle East where ISIS is at large. The situation is apt to be rather worse than we are being told. The financial markets shrugged off both these threats by the time Halloween rolled around, but I wouldn’t be so confident that story is over for either of these two ugly influences. If the world had a face, it would have fragility written all over it.

 

***

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.

CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER – DESPERATE MEASURES

Off the Keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 25, 2014

Black Friday riot 1

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The desperation of retailers grows by the day. I head to Wal-Mart and Giant in Harleysville every Sunday morning at 7:00 am. to do my weekly grocery shopping. I go to Wal-Mart at opening to avoid the freaks we see weekly on the People of Wal-Mart post. The workers at Wal-Mart are only a small step above the customers. They can barely communicate, rarely look you in the eye, and generally act like they are prisoners in an asylum.

I’m in winter/bad times ahead prep mode. I had a load of fire wood delivered yesterday which I wheelbarrowed to the back yard and stacked with my already decent sized stack. Last week I took an empty propane canister back to Wal-Mart to replace it with a full canister. That would give me three full propane tanks. I left the empty tank outside next to the propane cage and went in to pay. The old lady cashier with the gravelly smoker voice told me she would call for someone to get me a new tank.

I went over the cage and patiently waited for a Wal-Mart drone to come out, unlock the propane cage and give me a full tank. Two minutes, five minutes, and eventually ten minutes go by with no one coming out to help me. The cashier pokes her head out the door and shrugs her shoulders and says no one is responding to her calls. What a well oiled machine they have at Wal-Mart. Eventually the old lady abandoned her cashier post and in a painstakingly slow manner proceeded to unlock one bin after another until she found a full tank. I’m sure a line of unhappy customers were piling up at the only register in the garden center while she spent ten minutes getting me my propane tank.

A transaction that should have taken five minutes from start to finish ended up taking closer to twenty five minutes, with another five or six customers also dissatisfied with their extra long wait. This is a perfect example of how not to do business. Maybe Wal-Mart’s problems are bigger than households having less to spend. They are attempting to maintain their profit margins by reducing staff hours, hiring low quality people, and paying them shit wages. In the short run it may keep profits higher, but in the long-run customers will go elsewhere. Except most of the elsewhere stores closed up years ago when Wal-Mart arrived and underpriced them into bankruptcy.

My shopping experience at Giant is generally pleasant. The staff are nice, competent, and have been there for years. They know what they are doing and serve you with a smile. But their store is part of a worldwide conglomerate, so things have changed for the worse over the last four months. They renovated the entire store, creating bigger aisles and moving stuff around. That’s annoying, but after a while you figure out where they moved the stuff you want. The real negative change was the dreaded “Everyday Low Pricing”. This weasel phrase means you will be paying more. This is what the Apple idiot CEO – Ron Johnson – did at JC Penney. It put them on a rapid path to bankruptcy.

The weekly sale items at Giant have virtually disappeared. This has coincided with the drastic increase in beef, pork and fresh produce prices. Since “Every Day Low Pricing” went into affect our weekly grocery bill has gone up 20%. And I am buying far less beef and more chicken. In the past I would stock up on sale items and put beef, pork and whatever was on sale in our storage area freezer. Now I am stuck buying what we need that week. No bargains, just fully priced food items. Be forewarned, whenever you see a store announce “Everyday Low Pricing” you are getting screwed.

The Boos Begin in August & Bells Start Jingling in October

The desperation of Wal-Mart and most of the other mega-retail chains is no more clearly evident than in their relentlessly ridiculous acceleration of holiday marketing displays. I was flabbergasted when I saw Halloween candy, decorations and costumes in row after row BEFORE Labor Day at my local Wal-Mart. Selling Halloween candy two months before Halloween is idiotic and a sure sign of desperation. Retailers have run out of merchandising ideas. I wouldn’t even consider buying Halloween candy until the week before Halloween. Do Wal-Mart freaks of the week actually buy Halloween merchandise in September?

Holidays used to be special occasions that lent a sense of sales urgency for retailers for a week or two, to pump up sales. Now Wal-Mart and the rest of the dying retailers have Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, and Halloween displays up for 80% of the year. There is no sense of urgency to buy. From September 1 though October 31 there are rows and rows of bags of corporate produced chemicals disguised as candy. I suppose the obese masses buy this crap in anticipation of Halloween, tell themselves they’ll only take one, and then shovel the entire bag down their gullets.

So last week, still a full two weeks before Halloween, Wal-Mart had already converted their entire garden center into a Christmas wonderland of cheap mass produced Chinese cookie cutter Christmas decorations and lights that will blow out after three hours of use. They had also converted aisles at the front of the store to Christmas displays. Who the hell shops for Christmas crap in October? There is nothing like having cheap Chinese Christmas crap available for over two months to create a sense of urgency to buy. Wal-Mart and the rest of the mega-retailers have got nothin. They have no original merchandising ideas. They don’t even try anymore. They source low quality goods from China and compete solely on price. I can’t wait for the Easter candy to appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves in late December.

Black Thanksgiving

Black Friday is dead. Long live Black Thanksgiving. The riots and stampedes by the ignorant masses for toasters and HDTVs on Black Friday are now being replaced by retailers and malls across America opening at 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving. It actually seems fitting. How better to give thanks for our mass consumption, debt financed, materialistic, iGadget addicted society than to open stores on Thanksgiving. Spending time with family is overrated anyway. If you had to spend six hours with cousin Eddie and aunt Bethany, you’d be looking forward to an early opening at Macy’s.

The bullshit message from the mega-retailers is: “We’re not opening on Thanksgiving out of desperation or greed. We’re doing it simply to satisfy the demands of our customers”. It’s a racist national holiday anyway. We should be going to an Indian run casino on Thanksgiving to make up for our past sins. Opening stores and forcing workers to work on Thanksgiving is pathetic, disgusting and a truly desperate measure in this consumer empire in decline. The law of diminishing returns has been invoked upon the mega-retailers that dominate our suburban sprawl paradise.

These retailers can start holiday merchandising three months before the actual holiday. They can open their doors on Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. It’s nothing more than shuffling the deck furniture on the Titanic. We’ve allowed bankers, politicians and corporate titans to financialize our economy, gutting the once thriving middle class, sending manufacturing jobs overseas, and convincing the clueless masses that consumer goods purchased with debt is equal to wealth. But, we’ve reached the point of no return. There are 248 million working age Americans and 102 million of them are not employed. Of the 146 million working Americans, 82 million of them make less than $30,000 per year.

While retailers have added billions of square feet since 1989, real median net worth is 5% lower over 24 years. Retailers are attempting to get blood from a stone. The stone is in debt, approaching retirement with no savings and dead broke.

We have one entity that deserves the most credit for destroying the American Dream. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. The 2008 collapse was caused by the easy money bubble machine at the Federal Reserve. We had the opportunity to hit the reset button, implement rational economic and monetary policies, take our lumps, and make the banking culprits pay for their crimes. Instead, the easily manipulated masses believed the Wall Street storyline and allowed the Federal Reserve and feckless politicians to save the banking cabal with extreme money printing and debt creation. This has pushed the middle class closer to the breaking point, while further enriching the oligarchs. The Federal Reserve saved their owners and lured the masses further into debt.

The Fed, Wall Street, and Washington DC have successfully driven consumer debt to an all-time high, blasting through the $3 trillion level. Declining real incomes and rising debt are a sure recipe for success.

Our entire economic paradigm is built upon desperate measures. Zero interest rates, $3 trillion of QE, systematic accounting fraud, fudged economic data, and doling out subprime loans to auto renters and University of Phoenix wannabes have failed to revive our moribund economy. Delusions don’t die easily. But they do die. We are reaching the limit of this delusionary dream built upon debt, denial, and deception. Make sure you wolf down that Thanksgiving feast before 5:00 pm. There are HDTV’s to fight for at 6:00 pm.

Either you’re the Butcher or the Cattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 16, 2014

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I know many people have no interest in watching the boob tube because 99% of the programming is either mindless drivel or government sanctioned propaganda. It’s the 1% that reflects the deeper themes and moods engulfing our society. Television shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead reflect the darkening mood of this intensifying Fourth Turning. I wrote one of my more pessimistic articles called Welcome to Terminus in April regarding the season four finale of the Walking Dead series. I essentially argued we are approaching the end of the line and the world is going to get real nasty.

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In the six short months since I wrote that depressing article, we’ve seen men beheaded on Youtube videos by terrorists no one had ever heard of at the beginning of this year. Somehow a ragtag band of 30,000 Muslim terrorists, using American military equipment supplied to fight Assad in Syria and taken from the Iraqi Army when they turned tail and ran away, have been able to defeat 600,000 Iraqi and Kurd fighters with air support from the vaunted U.S. Air Force. Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan descend into never ending religious based warfare. We’ve even had passenger planes mysteriously disappear in Asia with no trace.

Crimea seceded from Ukraine and rejoined Russia, initiating a plan to punish Russia by the western powers. America supported and planned the overthrow of a democratically elected government in the Ukraine, with a predictable push back response by Russia, leading to a bloody civil war in the Eastern Ukraine. We’ve had a false flag shooting down of an airliner over the Ukraine by the Ukrainian government, blamed on Russia and Putin by Obama and his EU co-conspirators. The American corporate media mouthpieces have ignored the cover-up of missing controller transmissions, black box recordings, and physical evidence regarding the murder of hundreds of innocent people by western politicians. Israel and Hamas resumed their endless religious war in Gaza, with thousands of casualties and destruction.

UK fear mongering and financial threats barely averted the secession of Scotland from the UK. Cantalonia continues to push for a secession vote to leave Spain. Violent protests have broken out in Spain, Italy, France and even Sweden. Turmoil, protests and riots in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico have been driven by anger at political corruption, high inflation, and general economic dysfunction. Saber rattling between China and Japan has increased and young people in Hong Kong have been protesting the lack of democratic elections being permitted by China. The world economy, undergoing central bank monetary stimulus withdraw, is headed back into recession as Germany, China and the U.S. join the rest of the world in economic decline. And now the Western Africa outbreak of ebola has gone worldwide, with predictions of an epidemic potentially causing worldwide economic chaos.

What’s happening in the real world makes the dystopian zombie world of Walking Dead seem almost quaint. The writers of this show brilliant use of symbolism and imagery captures the violent, chaotic, inhumane, darkening, brutal world we inhabit as the Fourth Turning crisis period we entered in 2008 deepens on a daily basis. There is a good reason why the first episode of their fifth season drew the biggest cable TV audience in history. The show is clearly tapping into the mood of the masses. Early in the latest episode you realize Terminus has become a processing center run by cannibals. The line between victim and criminal, killer and prey, good and evil, madness and sanity, and moral and immoral is blurred. Everything is relative in the post-pandemic world of the Walking Dead.

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Seeing Wall Street cannibals walk away unscathed after devouring the worldwide economic system in 2008 with their fraudulent financial schemes, corrupt politicians enriched by throwing taxpayers under the bus, militarized police forces trampling the Fourth Amendment, the NSA spying on every American, a private central bank enriching their owners by funneling trillions into their bank vaults, a president trampling on the Constitution by issuing executive orders to bypass the other branches of government, and billions of welfare and tax fraud from the urban ghettos to the penthouse suites in NYC, has convinced a large swath of Americans that everything is relative and nothing matters in our warped dystopian world. Right and wrong no longer matter. Morality is an antiquated concept. Adhering to the Constitution is an outmoded notion. Our society celebrates and condones our dog eat dog economic paradigm. Or zombie eats anything world in the case of Walking Dead.

The Terminus complex is reminiscent of the concentration camp in Schindler’s List. It is complete with railroad cars to hold the prisoners, gates with barbed wire, armed guards, and extermination facilities to “process” the prisoners. Thick black smoke belches into the air. There is a room stacked full of booty, teddy bears, watches, clothes – everything except the gold fillings.The Nazi like precision and attention to detail is reflected in the almost business-like method in which the Terminus administrators go about gutting their prey. The bone chilling efficiency and antiseptic processing facility evoke memories of the holocaust gas chambers. The opening sequence when Rick, Daryl, Glenn and Bob are among a group of men lined up to be gutted like pigs over a trough in place to collect their spilled blood, might have been the most brutal scene ever put on non-premium cable TV.

The callous and dispassionate way in which the prisoners (cattle) are lined up in front of a stainless steel trough is disconcerting and bone chilling. The victims are hit with a baseball bat and then their throats are slit over the trough by men in protective suits. They have become nothing but cattle to be butchered and consumed by the Terminus cannibals. You see another part of the processing plant where human remains are hanging from hooks like sides of beef. Gareth, the leader of Terminus, supervises the operation like a CEO, berating the butchers for not meeting quotas and following standard operating procedures. Not much different than how our mega-corporations are run today.

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The other fascinating similarity between the dystopian “nightmare of want” setting of Terminus and our modern day dystopian “empire of excess” is the use of false advertising and propaganda to lure “customers” into their web. Their version of billboard advertising was plywood with the hand written messages of “Sanctuary for All”, “Community for All”, and “Those Who Arrive Survive”. The Terminus cannibals would have fit in well on Madison Avenue with the highly paid spin artists, propagandists, and whores for the corporate oligarchs.

The signs along train tracks and radio transmissions from a call center like facility showed the calculated business-like efficiency of the cannibals in systematically and methodically luring victims to their slaughterhouse. It is the same techniques used by the apostles of Edward Bernays to consciously and intelligently manipulate the habits, opinions, tastes, ideas and actions of the masses, in order to control and influence their buying habits, voting decisions, and support of their rulers. The unseen men who constitute the “invisible government” use these techniques to keep the cattle docile, fed, and ignorant, as they are led to slaughter.

The government and lack thereof is always lurking in the murky background of how and why the United States has devolved into an infected world of the walking dead. This episode provided some clues about government labs producing viruses as weapons to be used against some unexplained enemy. The insinuation is that the government somehow lost control of the virus and the ensuing pandemic destroyed our modern world and left the survivors to battle the biters and each other for the remaining scraps. The Federal government caused the societal collapse and is nowhere to be found in rebuilding the nation.

It is unclear how the apocalypse went down, but you can assume it began with fear, which led to panic, chaos, economic collapse, violent upheaval, war, and total breakdown of governmental authority and control. It is ironic that today fear of a worldwide ebola pandemic is coinciding with an inevitable economic implosion, wars raging in the Middle East, violent protests raging around the globe, and trust in governmental authority plunging to all-time lows. The Walking Dead has wittingly or unwittingly captured the ambiance of our turbulent times.

When you are faced with desperate circumstances you can either do whatever you need to survive or you can submissively accept your fate and die. Gareth and his cannibalistic cohorts had been in the same situation as Rick and his posse, but they had somehow turned the tables on their captors. Gareth’s survival of the fittest creed was “either you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle”. Human beings react to intense pressure and life threatening situations in different ways. Some people snap and turn into monsters, like Gareth. Some people snap and lose their minds. Others, like Rick and Carol, summon an inner strength to do whatever it takes to survive while barely maintaining their humanity. Others turn into blind followers of a strong forceful leader, not questioning the morality, legality or humanity of what they are ordered to do. The line between right and wrong, necessary versus unnecessary, vengeance versus justice, and butcher versus cattle is blurred in a world without rules, government or accepted norms.

I believe the “butcher or cattle” analogy is sadly a valid meme for the world we currently inhabit. In the Walking Dead world, individuals must choose to be butcher or cattle. It’s a Darwinian world of kill or be killed. Like minded individuals with common values and goals form communities to protect themselves, provide for themselves, and attempt to bring a semblance of order in a chaotic world. The community of Westbury, led by the governor and the community of Terminus, led by Gareth, are founded upon a foundation of evil and ultimately destroyed. Rick’s community of liberty minded freedom fighters do whatever is necessary to survive, but retain their humanity, decency and desire to create a better world.

Our present day world may not be as brutish as the Walking Dead world, though the line between reality and fiction is often indistinguishable when you turn on the news, but the distinction between butchers and cattle is clear. The elected and non-elected rulers of the deep state are the butchers, sending young men off to die for oil companies and arms dealers, impoverishing the masses through inflation and their control of the currency, and enriching themselves through their complete control of the political, financial, judicial, and economic systems. This establishment, or invisible government as Bernays described, is committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. Its scope, financial resources, and global reach put it in a predator class all by itself.

The common people are the cattle being led to slaughter. We are kept docile with incessant propaganda from the mainstream media; marketing messages to consume from Madison Avenue; filtered, adjusted, manipulated economic data fed to us by government agencies; an endless supply of iGadgets and other electronic distractions; government education designed to keep us ignorant; 24/7 reality TV on six hundred stations to keep us entertained; corporate toxic processed food to keep us obese and tame; and an endless supply of Wall Street supplied debt to keep us caged in our pens with no hope of escape. The butchers of the deep state have maintained control for decades, but we’re entering a new era.

Fourth Turnings result in the tables being turned on the butchers. Some cattle are awakening from their stupor. They can see the bloody writing on the slaughterhouse wall. Anyone who isn’t sensing a dramatic mood change in this country is either a mindless zombie or a functionary of the deep state. The financial shenanigans of the ruling class are again being revealed as nothing but a Ponzi scheme built on a foundation of debt and propped up by delusions and ignorance. When the house of cards collapses in the near future, the tables will turn. When people have nothing left to lose, they will lose it. The butchers will become the cattle. There will be no sanctuary for these evil men. Their reign of terror will be swept away in a whirlwind of retribution, death and destruction. It might even make the Walking Dead look like a walk in the park.

 

Fed Gate, PIMPCO & Oil Prices

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on October 1, 2014

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Financial WWIII: Secessions, Sanctions & Anti-Dollars

Snippet:

…The fact those revelations have produced basically ZERO in the way of prosecutions and perp walks has led to an even greater sense of invulnerability, so what do they care if they are recorded? “ You suckas are fucked and we are Masters of the Universe! Muuuhhhaahaaa!”

Why is nobody getting prosecuted here? Because EVERYBODY, and I mean EVERYBODY in the top echelon levels of Goobermint and Banking is FUCKING GUILTY! Everybody in the Department of Justice supposed to control criminal behavior is a fucking criminal. Everybody in Congress is a flunky criminal marionette or ventriloquist dummy with a Bankster behind him telling him how to vote and what to say. The fucking POTUS Obama-sama is a Rubber Stamp who signs whatever executive order his Caddy hands to him while out on the Back Nine to make certain your Pension Fund belongs to Goldman, not you.

Besides the fact that everybody in charge of running this Racket is a Criminal, the other main reason that nobody gets prosecuted is that the whole monetary system is a Criminal Racket, and has been so since the founding of the FSoA, and going well back before that too. If anybody really started to enforce laws against the main Racketeers in charge of the TBTF Banks and major Energy and Defense Corporations, the entire monetary system would collapse in a heartbeat. The only thing that keeps it running is Theft and Military Enforcers running the Protection Racket through the CIA…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

SMOKING GUN: Da Fed PWNED by Da Squid

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on September 28, 2014

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Smoking Gun Evidence That The New York Fed Serves The Interests Of Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs And The New York Fed - Public DomainFor years, many people have suspected that the New York Fed is more or less controlled by the “too big to fail” banks.  Well, now we have smoking gun evidence that this is indeed the case.  A very brave lawyer named Carmen Segarra made a series of audio recordings while she was working for the New York Fed.  The 46 hours of meetings and conversations that she recorded are being called “the Ray Rice video for the financial sector” because of the explosive content that they contain.  What these recordings reveal are regulators that are deeply afraid to do anything that may harm or embarrass Goldman Sachs.  And it is quite understandable why Segarra’s colleagues at the New York Fed would feel this way.  As a recent Bloomberg article explained, it has become “common practice” for regulators to leave “their government jobs for much higher paying jobs at the very banks they were once meant to regulate.”  If you think that there is going to be a cushy, high paying banking job for you at the end of the rainbow, you are unlikely to do anything that will mess that up.

To say that the culture at the New York Fed is “deferential” to big banks such as Goldman Sachs would be a massive understatement.

When Carmen Segarra was first embedded at Goldman Sachs, she was absolutely horrified by what she was seeing and hearing.  But her superiors were so obsessed with covering up for Goldman that they actually pressured her to alter the notes that she took during meetings

The job right from the start seems to have been different from what she had imagined: In meetings, Fed employees would defer to the Goldman people; if one of the Goldman people said something revealing or even alarming, the other Fed employees in the meeting would either ignore or downplay it. For instance, in one meeting a Goldman employee expressed the view that “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.” After that meeting, Segarra turned to a fellow Fed regulator and said how surprised she was by that statement — to which the regulator replied, “You didn’t hear that.”

This sort of thing occurred often enough — Fed regulators denying what had been said in meetings, Fed managers asking her to alter minutes of meetings after the fact — that Segarra decided she needed to record what actually had been said.

Needless to say, someone like Segarra that did not “go along with the program” was not going to last long at the New York Fed.

After only seven months, she was fired

In 2012, Goldman was rebuked by a Delaware judge for its behaviour during a corporate acquisition. Goldman had advised one energy company, El Paso Corp., as it sold itself to another energy company, Kinder Morgan, in which Goldman actually owned a $4-billion stake. Segarrra asked questions and was told by a Goldman executive that the bank did not have a conflict of interest policy. The Fed found some divisions of the bank did have a policy, though not a comprehensive one. The Fed pressured Segarra not to mention the inadequate conflict of interest policy at Goldman in her reports and, she alleges, fired her after she refused to recant.

If Segarra had not made the recordings that she did, we would have probably never heard much from her ever again.

After all, who is going to believe her over Goldman Sachs and the New York Fed?  A minority would, of course, but the general public would have probably dismissed her accusations as the bitter ramblings of an ex-employee.

But she did make those recordings, and they are causing chaos on Wall Street right now.

The following is how Michael Lewis summarized the importance of this audio…

But once you have listened to it — as when you were faced with the newly unignorable truth of what actually happened to that NFL running back’s fiancee in that elevator — consider the following:

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

The New York Fed says that it “categorically rejects” all of the allegations made by Carmen Segarra.

Of course they do.

But what is there to deny?  The evidence is right there in the audio recordings.

The New York Fed has been caught red-handed serving the interests of Goldman Sachs, and no number of strongly-worded denials is going to change that.

Sadly, this is not likely to change any time soon.  Employees of the New York Fed are going to continue to want to get hired by the big banks, and the big banks are going to continue to hire them.  So the incestuous relationship between the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs is probably not going to change in any meaningful way despite this bad publicity.

What this means is that Goldman Sachs is going to continue to do pretty much whatever it wants to do, and nobody is going to stop them.

But someone should be doing something.

As I wrote about the other day, Goldman Sachs has less than a trillion dollars in total assets, but it has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.

When the derivatives crisis strikes, some of these “too big to fail” banks are going to go down very hard.

Goldman might be one of them.

And when Wall Street starts collapsing, it is going to plunge the entire U.S. economy into a complete and utter nightmare.

Much of this could have been avoided if we had good rules in place and we had regulators that were honestly trying to enforce those good rules.

But instead, the wolves are guarding the hen house and the big banks are going absolutely wild.

Ultimately, this is all going to end very, very badly.

Inflation, Deflation & FOOD!

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 26, 2014

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http://www.free-workout-routines.net/image-files/speed-bag-workout.jpgBefore getting into my rant on this timelessly popular topic in the Collapse-Econ Blogosphere, it’s worthwhile to review some of the Data and Tables tracking Inflation and the disappearing Middle Class in the FSoA for some background.

First, a month by month table for Annual Inflation Rates from 1913 to the Present.  If you look at this table in detail, you’ll probably be a bit surprised about how far the numbers deviate from the storyline that Da Federal Reserve has kept Inflation contained over the last Century.

If you don’t like to review tables, that is what the Rant is for that follows here. 🙂 The Rant looks at the last 40 years from 1970 to present day from Important Parameters everybody is concerned with, Pizza, Gas, College Tuitions & Paychecks.  Scroll down to the bottom here and just listen if you don’t feel like reviewing tables.  I suggest strapping on some Boxing Gloves and listening while working out on the Speed Bag.  Downloads available on the Diner.

Historical Annual U.S. Inflation Rate from 1913 to the present
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2014 1.58 % 1.13 % 1.51 % 1.95 % 2.13 % 2.07 % 1.99 % 1.70 %
2013 1.59 % 1.98 % 1.47 % 1.06 % 1.36 % 1.75 % 1.96 % 1.52 % 1.18 % 0.96 % 1.24 % 1.50 % 1.47 %
2012 2.93 % 2.87 % 2.65 % 2.30 % 1.70 % 1.66 % 1.41 % 1.69 % 1.99 % 2.16 % 1.76 % 1.74 % 2.07 %
2011 1.63 % 2.11 % 2.68 % 3.16 % 3.57 % 3.56 % 3.63 % 3.77 % 3.87 % 3.53 % 3.39 % 2.96 % 3.16 %
2010 2.63 % 2.14 % 2.31 % 2.24 % 2.02 % 1.05 % 1.24 % 1.15 % 1.14 % 1.17 % 1.14 % 1.50 % 1.64 %
2009 0.03 % 0.24 % -0.38 % -0.74 % -1.28 % -1.43 % -2.10 % -1.48 % -1.29 % -0.18 % 1.84 % 2.72 % -0.34 %
2008 4.28 % 4.03 % 3.98 % 3.94 % 4.18 % 5.02 % 5.60 % 5.37 % 4.94 % 3.66 % 1.07 % 0.09 % 3.85 %
2007 2.08 % 2.42 % 2.78 % 2.57 % 2.69 % 2.69 % 2.36 % 1.97 % 2.76 % 3.54 % 4.31 % 4.08 % 2.85 %
2006 3.99 % 3.60 % 3.36 % 3.55 % 4.17 % 4.32 % 4.15 % 3.82 % 2.06 % 1.31 % 1.97 % 2.54 % 3.24 %
2005 2.97 % 3.01 % 3.15 % 3.51 % 2.80 % 2.53 % 3.17 % 3.64 % 4.69 % 4.35 % 3.46 % 3.42 % 3.39 %
2004 1.93 % 1.69 % 1.74 % 2.29 % 3.05 % 3.27 % 2.99 % 2.65 % 2.54 % 3.19 % 3.52 % 3.26 % 2.68 %
2003 2.60 % 2.98 % 3.02 % 2.22 % 2.06 % 2.11 % 2.11 % 2.16 % 2.32 % 2.04 % 1.77 % 1.88 % 2.27 %
2002 1.14 % 1.14 % 1.48 % 1.64 % 1.18 % 1.07 % 1.46 % 1.80 % 1.51 % 2.03 % 2.20 % 2.38 % 1.59 %
2001 3.73 % 3.53 % 2.92 % 3.27 % 3.62 % 3.25 % 2.72 % 2.72 % 2.65 % 2.13 % 1.90 % 1.55 % 2.83 %
2000 2.74 % 3.22 % 3.76 % 3.07 % 3.19 % 3.73 % 3.66 % 3.41 % 3.45 % 3.45 % 3.45 % 3.39 % 3.38 %
1999 1.67 % 1.61 % 1.73 % 2.28 % 2.09 % 1.96 % 2.14 % 2.26 % 2.63 % 2.56 % 2.62 % 2.68 % 2.19 %
1998 1.57 % 1.44 % 1.37 % 1.44 % 1.69 % 1.68 % 1.68 % 1.62 % 1.49 % 1.49 % 1.55 % 1.61 % 1.55 %
1997 3.04 % 3.03 % 2.76 % 2.50 % 2.23 % 2.30 % 2.23 % 2.23 % 2.15 % 2.08 % 1.83 % 1.70 % 2.34 %
1996 2.73 % 2.65 % 2.84 % 2.90 % 2.89 % 2.75 % 2.95 % 2.88 % 3.00 % 2.99 % 3.26 % 3.32 % 2.93 %
1995 2.80 % 2.86 % 2.85 % 3.05 % 3.19 % 3.04 % 2.76 % 2.62 % 2.54 % 2.81 % 2.61 % 2.54 % 2.81 %
1994 2.52 % 2.52 % 2.51 % 2.36 % 2.29 % 2.49 % 2.77 % 2.90 % 2.96 % 2.61 % 2.67 % 2.67 % 2.61 %
1993 3.26 % 3.25 % 3.09 % 3.23 % 3.22 % 3.00 % 2.78 % 2.77 % 2.69 % 2.75 % 2.68 % 2.75 % 2.96 %
1992 2.60 % 2.82 % 3.19 % 3.18 % 3.02 % 3.09 % 3.16 % 3.15 % 2.99 % 3.20 % 3.05 % 2.90 % 3.03 %
1991 5.65 % 5.31 % 4.90 % 4.89 % 4.95 % 4.70 % 4.45 % 3.80 % 3.39 % 2.92 % 2.99 % 3.06 % 4.25 %
1990 5.20 % 5.26 % 5.23 % 4.71 % 4.36 % 4.67 % 4.82 % 5.62 % 6.16 % 6.29 % 6.27 % 6.11 % 5.39 %
1989 4.67 % 4.83 % 4.98 % 5.12 % 5.36 % 5.17 % 4.98 % 4.71 % 4.34 % 4.49 % 4.66 % 4.65 % 4.83 %
1988 4.05 % 3.94 % 3.93 % 3.90 % 3.89 % 3.96 % 4.13 % 4.02 % 4.17 % 4.25 % 4.25 % 4.42 % 4.08 %
1987 1.46 % 2.10 % 3.03 % 3.78 % 3.86 % 3.65 % 3.93 % 4.28 % 4.36 % 4.53 % 4.53 % 4.43 % 3.66 %
1986 3.89 % 3.11 % 2.26 % 1.59 % 1.49 % 1.77 % 1.58 % 1.57 % 1.75 % 1.47 % 1.28 % 1.10 % 1.91 %
1985 3.53 % 3.52 % 3.70 % 3.69 % 3.77 % 3.76 % 3.55 % 3.35 % 3.14 % 3.23 % 3.51 % 3.80 % 3.55 %
1984 4.19 % 4.60 % 4.80 % 4.56 % 4.23 % 4.22 % 4.20 % 4.29 % 4.27 % 4.26 % 4.05 % 3.95 % 4.30 %
1983 3.71 % 3.49 % 3.60 % 3.90 % 3.55 % 2.58 % 2.46 % 2.56 % 2.86 % 2.85 % 3.27 % 3.79 % 3.22 %
1982 8.39 % 7.62 % 6.78 % 6.51 % 6.68 % 7.06 % 6.44 % 5.85 % 5.04 % 5.14 % 4.59 % 3.83 % 6.16 %
1981 11.83 % 11.41 % 10.49 % 10.00 % 9.78 % 9.55 % 10.76 % 10.80 % 10.95 % 10.14 % 9.59 % 8.92 % 10.35 %
1980 13.91 % 14.18 % 14.76 % 14.73 % 14.41 % 14.38 % 13.13 % 12.87 % 12.60 % 12.77 % 12.65 % 12.52 % 13.58 %
1979 9.28 % 9.86 % 10.09 % 10.49 % 10.85 % 10.89 % 11.26 % 11.82 % 12.18 % 12.07 % 12.61 % 13.29 % 11.22 %
1978 6.84 % 6.43 % 6.55 % 6.50 % 6.97 % 7.41 % 7.70 % 7.84 % 8.31 % 8.93 % 8.89 % 9.02 % 7.62 %
1977 5.22 % 5.91 % 6.44 % 6.95 % 6.73 % 6.87 % 6.83 % 6.62 % 6.60 % 6.39 % 6.72 % 6.70 % 6.50 %
1976 6.72 % 6.29 % 6.07 % 6.05 % 6.20 % 5.97 % 5.35 % 5.71 % 5.49 % 5.46 % 4.88 % 4.86 % 5.75 %
1975 11.80 % 11.23 % 10.25 % 10.21 % 9.47 % 9.39 % 9.72 % 8.60 % 7.91 % 7.44 % 7.38 % 6.94 % 9.20 %
1974 9.39 % 10.02 % 10.39 % 10.09 % 10.71 % 10.86 % 11.51 % 10.86 % 11.95 % 12.06 % 12.20 % 12.34 % 11.03 %
1973 3.65 % 3.87 % 4.59 % 5.06 % 5.53 % 6.00 % 5.73 % 7.38 % 7.36 % 7.80 % 8.25 % 8.71 % 6.16 %
1972 3.27 % 3.51 % 3.50 % 3.49 % 3.23 % 2.71 % 2.95 % 2.94 % 3.19 % 3.42 % 3.67 % 3.41 % 3.27 %
1971 5.29 % 5.00 % 4.71 % 4.16 % 4.40 % 4.64 % 4.36 % 4.62 % 4.08 % 3.81 % 3.28 % 3.27 % 4.30 %
1970 6.18 % 6.15 % 5.82 % 6.06 % 6.04 % 6.01 % 5.98 % 5.41 % 5.66 % 5.63 % 5.60 % 5.57 % 5.84 %
1969 4.40 % 4.68 % 5.25 % 5.52 % 5.51 % 5.48 % 5.44 % 5.71 % 5.70 % 5.67 % 5.93 % 6.20 % 5.46 %
1968 3.65 % 3.95 % 3.94 % 3.93 % 3.92 % 4.20 % 4.49 % 4.48 % 4.46 % 4.75 % 4.73 % 4.72 % 4.27 %
1967 3.46 % 2.81 % 2.80 % 2.48 % 2.79 % 2.78 % 2.77 % 2.45 % 2.75 % 2.43 % 2.74 % 3.04 % 2.78 %
1966 1.92 % 2.56 % 2.56 % 2.87 % 2.87 % 2.53 % 2.85 % 3.48 % 3.48 % 3.79 % 3.79 % 3.46 % 3.01 %
1965 0.97 % 0.97 % 1.29 % 1.62 % 1.62 % 1.94 % 1.61 % 1.94 % 1.61 % 1.93 % 1.60 % 1.92 % 1.59 %
1964 1.64 % 1.64 % 1.31 % 1.31 % 1.31 % 1.31 % 1.30 % 0.98 % 1.30 % 0.97 % 1.30 % 0.97 % 1.28 %
1963 1.33 % 1.00 % 1.33 % 0.99 % 0.99 % 1.32 % 1.32 % 1.32 % 0.99 % 1.32 % 1.32 % 1.64 % 1.24 %
1962 0.67 % 1.01 % 1.01 % 1.34 % 1.34 % 1.34 % 1.00 % 1.34 % 1.33 % 1.33 % 1.33 % 1.33 % 1.20 %
1961 1.71 % 1.36 % 1.36 % 1.02 % 1.02 % 0.68 % 1.35 % 1.01 % 1.35 % 0.67 % 0.67 % 0.67 % 1.07 %
1960 1.03 % 1.73 % 1.73 % 1.72 % 1.72 % 1.72 % 1.37 % 1.37 % 1.02 % 1.36 % 1.36 % 1.36 % 1.46 %
1959 1.40 % 1.05 % 0.35 % 0.35 % 0.35 % 0.69 % 0.69 % 1.04 % 1.38 % 1.73 % 1.38 % 1.73 % 1.01 %
1958 3.62 % 3.25 % 3.60 % 3.58 % 3.21 % 2.85 % 2.47 % 2.12 % 2.12 % 2.12 % 2.11 % 1.76 % 2.73 %
1957 2.99 % 3.36 % 3.73 % 3.72 % 3.70 % 3.31 % 3.28 % 3.66 % 3.28 % 2.91 % 3.27 % 2.90 % 3.34 %
1956 0.37 % 0.37 % 0.37 % 0.75 % 1.12 % 1.87 % 2.24 % 1.87 % 1.86 % 2.23 % 2.23 % 2.99 % 1.52 %
1955 -0.74 % -0.74 % -0.74 % -0.37 % -0.74 % -0.74 % -0.37 % -0.37 % 0.37 % 0.37 % 0.37 % 0.37 % -0.28 %
1954 1.13 % 1.51 % 1.13 % 0.75 % 0.75 % 0.37 % 0.37 % 0.00 % -0.37 % -0.74 % -0.37 % -0.74 % 0.32 %
1953 0.38 % 0.76 % 1.14 % 0.76 % 1.14 % 1.13 % 0.37 % 0.75 % 0.75 % 1.12 % 0.75 % 0.75 % 0.82 %
1952 4.33 % 2.33 % 1.94 % 2.33 % 1.93 % 2.32 % 3.09 % 3.09 % 2.30 % 1.91 % 1.14 % 0.75 % 2.29 %
1951 8.09 % 9.36 % 9.32 % 9.32 % 9.28 % 8.82 % 7.47 % 6.58 % 6.97 % 6.50 % 6.88 % 6.00 % 7.88 %
1950 -2.08 % -1.26 % -0.84 % -1.26 % -0.42 % -0.42 % 1.69 % 2.10 % 2.09 % 3.80 % 3.78 % 5.93 % 1.09 %
1949 1.27 % 1.28 % 1.71 % 0.42 % -0.42 % -0.83 % -2.87 % -2.86 % -2.45 % -2.87 % -1.65 % -2.07 % -0.95 %
1948 10.23 % 9.30 % 6.85 % 8.68 % 9.13 % 9.55 % 9.91 % 8.89 % 6.52 % 6.09 % 4.76 % 2.99 % 7.74 %
1947 18.13 % 18.78 % 19.67 % 19.02 % 18.38 % 17.65 % 12.12 % 11.39 % 12.75 % 10.58 % 8.45 % 8.84 % 14.65 %
1946 2.25 % 1.69 % 2.81 % 3.37 % 3.35 % 3.31 % 9.39 % 11.60 % 12.71 % 14.92 % 17.68 % 18.13 % 8.43 %
1945 2.30 % 2.30 % 2.30 % 1.71 % 2.29 % 2.84 % 2.26 % 2.26 % 2.26 % 2.26 % 2.26 % 2.25 % 2.27 %
1944 2.96 % 2.96 % 1.16 % 0.57 % 0.00 % 0.57 % 1.72 % 2.31 % 1.72 % 1.72 % 1.72 % 2.30 % 1.64 %
1943 7.64 % 6.96 % 7.50 % 8.07 % 7.36 % 7.36 % 6.10 % 4.85 % 5.45 % 4.19 % 3.57 % 2.96 % 6.00 %
1942 11.35 % 12.06 % 12.68 % 12.59 % 13.19 % 10.88 % 11.56 % 10.74 % 9.27 % 9.15 % 9.09 % 9.03 % 10.97 %
1941 1.44 % 0.71 % 1.43 % 2.14 % 2.86 % 4.26 % 5.00 % 6.43 % 7.86 % 9.29 % 10.00 % 9.93 % 5.11 %
1940 -0.71 % 0.72 % 0.72 % 1.45 % 1.45 % 2.17 % 1.45 % 1.45 % -0.71 % 0.00 % 0.00 % 0.71 % 0.73 %
1939 -1.41 % -1.42 % -1.42 % -2.82 % -2.13 % -2.13 % -2.13 % -2.13 % 0.00 % 0.00 % 0.00 % 0.00 % -1.30 %
1938 0.71 % 0.00 % -0.70 % -0.70 % -2.08 % -2.08 % -2.76 % -2.76 % -3.42 % -4.11 % -3.45 % -2.78 % -2.01 %
1937 2.17 % 2.17 % 3.65 % 4.38 % 5.11 % 4.35 % 4.32 % 3.57 % 4.29 % 4.29 % 3.57 % 2.86 % 3.73 %
1936 1.47 % 0.73 % 0.00 % -0.72 % -0.72 % 0.73 % 1.46 % 2.19 % 2.19 % 2.19 % 1.45 % 1.45 % 1.04 %
1935 3.03 % 3.01 % 3.01 % 3.76 % 3.76 % 2.24 % 2.24 % 2.24 % 0.74 % 1.48 % 2.22 % 2.99 % 2.56 %
1934 2.33 % 4.72 % 5.56 % 5.56 % 5.56 % 5.51 % 2.29 % 1.52 % 3.03 % 2.27 % 2.27 % 1.52 % 3.51 %
1933 -9.79 % -9.93 % -10.00 % -9.35 % -8.03 % -6.62 % -3.68 % -2.22 % -1.49 % -0.75 % 0.00 % 0.76 % -5.09 %
1932 -10.06 % -10.19 % -10.26 % -10.32 % -10.46 % -9.93 % -9.93 % -10.60 % -10.67 % -10.74 % -10.20 % -10.27 % -10.30 %
1931 -7.02 % -7.65 % -7.69 % -8.82 % -9.47 % -10.12 % -9.04 % -8.48 % -9.64 % -9.70 % -10.37 % -9.32 % -8.94 %
1930 0.00 % -0.58 % -0.59 % 0.59 % -0.59 % -1.75 % -4.05 % -4.62 % -4.05 % -4.62 % -5.20 % -6.40 % -2.66 %
1929 -1.16 % 0.00 % -0.58 % -1.17 % -1.16 % 0.00 % 1.17 % 1.17 % 0.00 % 0.58 % 0.58 % 0.58 % 0.00 %
1928 -1.14 % -1.72 % -1.16 % -1.16 % -1.15 % -2.84 % -1.16 % -0.58 % 0.00 % -1.15 % -0.58 % -1.16 % -1.15 %
1927 -2.23 % -2.79 % -2.81 % -3.35 % -2.25 % -0.56 % -1.14 % -1.15 % -1.14 % -1.14 % -2.26 % -2.26 % -1.92 %
1926 3.47 % 4.07 % 2.89 % 4.07 % 2.89 % 1.14 % -1.13 % -1.69 % -1.13 % -0.56 % -1.67 % -1.12 % 0.94 %
1925 0.00 % 0.00 % 1.17 % 1.18 % 1.76 % 2.94 % 3.51 % 4.12 % 3.51 % 2.91 % 4.65 % 3.47 % 2.44 %
1924 2.98 % 2.38 % 1.79 % 0.59 % 0.59 % 0.00 % -0.58 % -0.58 % -0.58 % -0.58 % -0.58 % 0.00 % 0.45 %
1923 -0.59 % -0.59 % 0.60 % 1.20 % 1.20 % 1.80 % 2.38 % 3.01 % 3.61 % 3.59 % 2.98 % 2.37 % 1.80 %
1922 -11.05 % -8.15 % -8.74 % -7.73 % -5.65 % -5.11 % -5.08 % -6.21 % -5.14 % -4.57 % -3.45 % -2.31 % -6.10 %
1921 -1.55 % -5.64 % -7.11 % -10.84 % -14.08 % -15.79 % -14.90 % -12.81 % -12.50 % -12.06 % -12.12 % -10.82 % -10.85 %
1920 16.97 % 20.37 % 20.12 % 21.56 % 21.89 % 23.67 % 19.54 % 14.69 % 12.36 % 9.94 % 7.03 % 2.65 % 15.90 %
1919 17.86 % 14.89 % 17.14 % 17.61 % 16.55 % 14.97 % 15.23 % 14.94 % 13.38 % 13.13 % 13.50 % 14.55 % 15.31 %
1918 19.66 % 17.50 % 16.67 % 12.70 % 13.28 % 13.08 % 17.97 % 18.46 % 18.05 % 18.52 % 20.74 % 20.44 % 17.26 %
1917 12.50 % 15.38 % 14.29 % 18.87 % 19.63 % 20.37 % 18.52 % 19.27 % 19.82 % 19.47 % 17.39 % 18.10 % 17.80 %
1916 2.97 % 4.00 % 6.06 % 6.00 % 5.94 % 6.93 % 6.93 % 7.92 % 9.90 % 10.78 % 11.65 % 12.62 % 7.64 %
1915 1.00 % 1.01 % 0.00 % 2.04 % 2.02 % 2.02 % 1.00 % -0.98 % -0.98 % 0.99 % 0.98 % 1.98 % 0.92 %
1914 2.04 % 1.02 % 1.02 % 0.00 % 2.06 % 1.02 % 1.01 % 3.03 % 2.00 % 1.00 % 0.99 % 1.00 % 1.35 %

Next, here are some great tables presented by Ben Casselman on FiveThirtyEight Economics:

In 1988, the typical American adult was 40 years old, white and married, with a high school diploma. If he was a man, he probably worked full time. If she was a woman, she probably didn’t.

Twenty-five years later, Americans are older, more diverse and more educated. We are less likely to be married and more likely to live alone. Work is divided more evenly between the sexes. One thing that hasn’t changed? The income of the median U.S. household is still just under $52,000.

The government’s release last week of income and poverty data for 2013 brought renewed attention to the apparent stagnation of the American middle class — not just since the financial crisis hit six years ago this month, but for much of the decade that preceded the crash. The report showed that the economic recovery has yet to translate into higher incomes for the typical American family. After adjusting for inflation, U.S. median household income is still 8 percent lower than it was before the recession, 9 percent lower than at its peak in 1999, and essentially unchanged since the end of the Reagan administration.

“As a country,” New York magazine’s Annie Lowrey wrote Friday, “we peaked in the late 1990s.”

There’s little doubt that the past 15 years have been hard ones for the middle class. But median income isn’t necessarily the best way to show that. The problem is that changes in median income reflect several trends all jumbled together: the aging of the population, changing patterns in work and schooling, and the evolving makeup of the American family, as well as long- and short-term trends in the economy itself. Understanding the state of the American middle class requires digging a bit deeper than median income alone.

Let’s start with what median income does measure: the amount of money earned by the household at the midpoint of the U.S. income distribution — half of households make more, and half make less. Journalists, including me, often refer to it as the amount earned1 by the “typical household,” which is true as long as we’re talking about a moment in time. But as soon as we start talking about change over time, median income becomes trickier to interpret.

casselman-feature-income-tableTo understand why, imagine a simple model in which there are five people. The poorest makes $30,000 a year and the richest $70,000, with the other three evenly distributed in between. The group’s median income would be $50,000. The next year, everyone gets a $10,000 raise — except the richest person, who retires and starts drawing a $40,000-a-year pension. Most people see their income go up, but the median remains unchanged.2

This scenario is oversimplified, but it illustrates a trend. On average, people’s earnings rise in their 20s and 30s, peak sometime in their late 40s or early 50s, and then decline when they retire.3 All else equal, the retirement of the baby boom generation should push down the overall median income.

Aging, at least, is fairly easy to control for. We can look, for example, at how much money people earned at a given point in their lives. The charts below show median income over time for specific ages.4 The details differ, but the trend is similar: Incomes generally rose until 2000 and have generally fallen since then. The aging population certainly isn’t helping the overall decline in incomes, but it isn’t causing it either.5

casselman-feature-income-1

But aging isn’t the only trend that could be skewing the median. Fewer Americans are getting married, and they’re having fewer children. That means the size of the typical U.S. household is shrinking — which is important, because it costs more to support more people. There’s a big difference between an individual living on $50,000 a year and a family of four doing the same. To account for this, economists often adjust incomes for household size, scaling up the income for the person living alone and adjusting it down for the family of four.6

As the chart below shows, adjusting for household size makes a significant difference before 2000. But since then, the trends line up closely.7 The shrinking U.S. household doesn’t explain the past 15 years of stagnation.

casselman-feature-income-2

The U.S. is changing in other ways, too: by race, by education, and by the region where they live. But almost no matter how we break down the population, incomes are down since 1999. Moreover, most groups saw little if any improvement in income between 1999 and 2007, before the recession began.

casselman-feature-income-3

Another problem with focusing on median income is that it only tells us about households in the middle — it doesn’t reveal anything about households elsewhere in the income distribution. And middle class incomes haven’t just been stagnant. The middle class itself has also been shrinking.

In 1970, 55 percent of U.S. income was earned by households in the middle 60 percent of the income distribution. More than half of households were in what Pew Research Center has labeled the “middle tier” of households (those earning between two-thirds and twice the median income). In 2013, both numbers had fallen to about 45 percent. In a 2012 report, Pew researchers called the 2000s “the lost decade of the middle class.”

casselman-feature-income-4

One common definition of the American dream is the belief that each generation will do better than the one before. By that measure, the dream is fading. Take the generation born in 1970. In early adulthood, these Americans outearned their parents, those born in 1950. But their gains stalled in the 2000s, when they were in their 30s. Now in their 40s, their earnings have fallen behind those of their parents at the same stage in their lives.

casselman-feature-income-5

The picture painted by all these figures is the same: The middle class was struggling in the 2000s despite an economy that was, by conventional measures, strong. The recession turned stagnation into an outright decline, and the recovery has thus far been too weak to claw back much of what was lost.

Now let’s FLASHBACK to 1970 to look at some of the Prices and Wages for that year, before I get Ranting on this one:


Economy
President:  Richard M. Nixon 
Vice President:  Spiro T. Agnew 

Population: 
205,052,174 
Life expectancy:  70.8 years 

Dow-Jones 
 
High:  842 (RE Note: Dow Jones today @ 16, 945! 2000% Increase there!)
Low:  669 

Federal spending: 
$195.65 billion (RE Note: 2014 @ $3.77 TRILLION!  Also around 2000% increase!)
Federal debt:  $380.9 billion  (RE Note: CHUMP CHANGE! Da Fed issues that much out every 3-5 months or so now!)
Inflation:  6.5% 
Consumer Price Index:  38.8 
Unemployment:  3.5% 
Prices
Cost of a new home:  $26,600.00 
Cost of a new car: 
Median Household Income:  $8,734.00  (RE Note: 2014 MHI $50K.  Only 600% Increase!  How come J6P doesn’t get QUADRUPLE digit inflation in wages here? Triple Digits is for LOSERS!)
Cost of a first-class stamp:  $0.06 
Cost of a gallon of regular gas:  $0.36 
Cost of a dozen eggs:  $0.62 
Cost of a gallon of Milk:  1.15 

 

What you do need to realize is that Deflation is much more feared than Inflation by anyone in charge of credit creation.  In a deflationary scenario, you can’t issue credit and money essentially disappears from circulation.  Despite the fact the CBs are trying to reinflate through Central credit creation, the credit is not further made available to downstream Biznesses and at the consumer level is near strangulation now except for some specific Goobermint guaranteed Bubbles like Student Loans.  Further consumption cannot occur without further credit being made available at the bottom of the credit food chain, and that simply is not occuring.

With that in mind, and without further ado, today’s Rant tracking Inflation from the 1970s to today. 🙂

Snippet:

http://www.atlantarex.com/urban-pizza-pub-for-sale-in-atlanta/urban-pizza-bar-for-sale-atlanta-pizza-dough.jpg…What got me going on this today was I made a Stop at Fred Myer to pick up a fresh loaf of French Bread to go with my St. Andre Cheese I picked up last week and froze a few of them at $5 each. Very nice cheese this one. As I walked by the Deli Hot counter to the Artisan Bread section, I bypassed a NEW offering, they are now offering By-the-Slice Pizza, just like the old Pizzerias in New York Shity had out when I was a teenager on my way to or from Stuyvesant, or out for Lunch.

In those days, these Pizzas were Hand Tossed by real old Italian Immigrants, or their first generation sons taking over the Biz in many cases. The Tomato Sauce used was different from Pizzeria to Pizzeria, often made from scratch by Grandma from tomatoes grown in the backyard of their Queens tract house. The Slices were a foot long, coming from 24” diameter Hand Tossed Full Pizzas. A slice cost 15-25 cents over those years in the 1970s.

Fast forward to the Fred Myer Pizza Counter. Nobody is Hand Tossing the Pizza Wheel, they cook the pizzas up from the same ones they sell uncooked in boxes in the refrigerated counter. They have a fairly generous supply of cheese and other ingredients dropped on them, but they are 18” wheels, so smaller slices at around 9 inches, which is impressive for a Porn Star but small for a slice of Pizza. Price for one slice of this Pizza? $2….

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Bread, Circuses & Bombs

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on September 22, 2014

fall-of-rome

Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner

BREAD, CIRCUSES & BOMBS – DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE

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

Juvenal – Satire (100 A.D.)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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