Inflation

A Market Collapse Is On The Horizon

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Published on the Oil Price on February 13, 2016

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What is ahead for 2016? Most people don’t realize how tightly the following are linked:

1. Growth in debt
2. Growth in the economy
3. Growth in cheap-to-extract energy supplies
4. Inflation in the cost of producing commodities
5. Growth in asset prices, such as the price of shares of stock and of farmland
6. Growth in wages of non-elite workers
7. Population growth

It looks to me as though this linkage is about to cause a very substantial disruption to the economy, as oil limits, as well as other energy limits, cause a rapid shift from the benevolent version of the economic supercycle to the portion of the economic supercycle reflecting contraction. Many people have talked about Peak Oil, the Limits to Growth, and the Debt Supercycle without realizing that the underlying problem is really the same–the fact the we are reaching the limits of a finite world.

There are actually a number of different kinds of limits to a finite world, all leading toward the rising cost of commodity production. I will discuss these in more detail later. In the past, the contraction phase of the supercycle seems to have been caused primarily by too high a population relative to resources. This time, depleting fossil fuels–particularly oil–plays a major role. Other limits contributing to the end of the current debt supercycle include rising pollution and depletion of resources other than fossil fuels.

The problem of reaching limits in a finite world manifests itself in an unexpected way: slowing wage growth for non-elite workers. Lower wages mean that these workers become less able to afford the output of the system. These problems first lead to commodity oversupply and very low commodity prices. Eventually these problems lead to falling asset prices and widespread debt defaults. These problems are the opposite of what many expect, namely oil shortages and high prices. This strange situation exists because the economy is a networked system. Feedback loops in a networked system don’t necessarily work in the way people expect.

I expect that the particular problem we are likely to reach in 2016 is limits to oil storage. This may happen at different times for crude oil and the various types of refined products. As storage fills, prices can be expected to drop to a very low level–less than $10 per barrel for crude oil, and correspondingly low prices for the various types of oil products, such as gasoline, diesel, and asphalt. We can then expect to face a problem with debt defaults, failing banks, and failing governments (especially of oil exporters).

The idea of a bounce back to new higher oil prices seems exceedingly unlikely, in part because of the huge overhang of supply in storage, which owners will want to sell, keeping supply high for a long time. Furthermore, the underlying cause of the problem is the failure of wages of non-elite workers to rise rapidly enough to keep up with the rising cost of commodity production, particularly oil production. Because of falling inflation-adjusted wages, non-elite workers are becoming increasingly unable to afford the output of the economic system. As non-elite workers cut back on their purchases of goods, the economy tends to contract rather than expand. Efficiencies of scale are lost, and debt becomes increasingly difficult to repay with interest. The whole system tends to collapse.

How the Economic Growth Supercycle Works, in an Ideal Situation

In an ideal situation, growth in debt tends to stimulate the economy. The availability of debt makes the purchase of high-priced goods such as factories, homes, cars, and trucks more affordable. All of these high-priced goods require the use of commodities, including energy products and metals. Thus, growing debt tends to add to the demand for commodities, and helps keep their prices higher than the cost of production, making it profitable to produce these commodities. The availability of profits encourages the extraction of an ever-greater quantity of energy supplies and other commodities.

The growing quantity of energy supplies made possible by this profitability can be used to leverage human labor to an ever-greater extent, so that workers become increasingly productive. For example, energy supplies help build roads, trucks, and machines used in factories, making workers more productive. As a result, wages tend to rise, reflecting the greater productivity of workers in the context of these new investments. Businesses find that demand for their goods and services grows because of the growing wages of workers, and governments find that they can collect increasing tax revenue. The arrangement of repaying debt with interest tends to work well in this situation. GDP grows sufficiently rapidly that the ratio of debt to GDP stays relatively flat.

Over time, the cost of commodity production tends to rise for several reasons:

1. Population tends to grow over time, so the quantity of agricultural land available per person tends to fall. Higher-priced techniques (such as irrigation, better seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides) are required to increase production per acre. Similarly, rising population gives rise to a need to produce fresh water using increasingly high-priced techniques, such as desalination.

2. Businesses tend to extract the least expensive fuels such as oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium first. They later move on to more expensive to extract fuels, when the less-expensive fuels are depleted. For example, Figure 1 shows the sharp increase in the cost of oil extraction that took place about 1999.

Figure 1. Figure by Steve Kopits of Westwood Douglas showing the trend in per-barrel capital expenditures for oil exploration and production. CAGR is “Compound Annual Growth Rate.”

3. Pollution tends to become an increasing problem because the least polluting commodity sources are used first. When mitigations such as substituting renewables for fossil fuels are used, they tend to be more expensive than the products they are replacing. The leads to the higher cost of final products.

Related: The Hidden Agenda Behind Saudi Arabia’s Market Share Strategy

4. Overuse of resources other than fuels becomes a problem, leading to problems such as the higher cost of producing metals, deforestation, depleted fish stocks, and eroded topsoil. Some workarounds are available, but these tend to add costs as well.

As long as the cost of commodity production is rising only slowly, its increasing cost is benevolent. This increase in cost adds to inflation in the price of goods and helps inflate away prior debt, so that debt is easier to pay. It also leads to asset inflation, making the use of debt seem to be a worthwhile approach to finance future economic growth, including the growth of energy supplies. The whole system seems to work as an economic growth pump, with the rising wages of non-elite workers pushing the growth pump along.

The Big “Oops” Comes when the Price of Commodities Starts Rising Faster than Wages of Non-Elite Workers

Clearly the wages of non-elite workers need to be rising faster than commodity prices in order to push the economic growth pump along. The economic pump effect is lost when the wages of non-elite workers start falling, relative to the price of commodities. This tends to happen when the cost of commodity production begins rising rapidly, as it did for oil after 1999 (Figure 1).

The loss of the economic pump effect occurs because the rising cost of oil (or electricity, or food, or other energy products) forces workers to cut back on discretionary expenditures. This is what happened in the 2003 to 2008 period as oil prices spiked and other energy prices rose sharply. (See my article Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis.) Non-elite workers found it increasingly difficult to afford expensive products such as homes, cars, and washing machines. Housing prices dropped. Debt growth slowed, leading to a sharp drop in oil prices and other commodity prices.

Figure 2. World oil supply and prices based on EIA data.

It was somewhat possible to “fix” low oil prices through the use of Quantitative Easing (QE) and the growth of debt at very low interest rates, after 2008. In fact, these very low interest rates are what encouraged the very rapid growth in the production of US crude oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels.

Now, debt is reaching limits. Both the US and China have (in a sense) “taken their foot off the economic debt accelerator.” It doesn’t seem to make sense to encourage more use of debt, because recent very low interest rates have encouraged unwise investments. In China, more factories and homes have been built than the market can absorb. In the US, oil “liquids” production rose faster than it could be absorbed by the world market when prices were over $100 per barrel. This led to the big price drop. If it were possible to produce the additional oil for a very low price, say $20 per barrel, the world economy could probably absorb it. Such a low selling price doesn’t really “work” because of the high cost of production.

Debt is important because it can help an economy grow, as long as the total amount of debt does not become unmanageable. Thus, for a time, growing debt can offset the adverse impact of the rising cost of energy products. We know that oil prices began to rise sharply in the 1970s, and in fact other energy prices rose as well.

Figure 3. Historical World Energy Price in 2014$, from BP Statistical Review of World History 2015.

Looking at debt growth, we find that it rose rapidly, starting about the time oil prices started spiking. Former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, talks about “The Distastrous 40-Year Debt Supercycle,” which he believes is now ending.

Figure 4. Worldwide average inflation-adjusted annual growth rates in debt and GDP, for selected time periods. See post on debt for explanation of methodology.

In recent years, we have been reaching a situation where commodity prices have been rising faster than the wages of non-elite workers. Jobs that are available tend to be low-paid service jobs. Young people find it necessary to stay in school longer. They also find it necessary to delay marriage and postpone buying a car and home. All of these issues contribute to the falling wages of non-elite workers. Some of these individuals are, in fact, getting zero wages, because they are in school longer. Individuals who retire or voluntarily leave the work force further add to the problem of wages no longer rising sufficiently to afford the output of the system.

The US government has recently decided to raise interest rates. This further reduces the buying power of non-elite workers. We have a situation where the “economic growth pump,” created through the use of a rising quantity of cheap energy products plus rising debt, is disappearing. While homes, cars, and vacation travel are available, an increasing share of the population cannot afford them. This tends to lead to a situation where commodity prices fall below the cost of production for a wide range of types of commodities, making the production of commodities unprofitable. In such a situation, a person expects companies to cut back on production. Many defaults may occur.

China has acted as a major growth pump for the world for the last 15 years, since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. China’s growth is now slowing, and can be expected to slow further. Its growth was financed by a huge increase in debt. Paying back this debt is likely to be a problem.

Figure 5. Author’s illustration of problem we are now encountering.

Thus, we seem to be coming to the contraction portion of the debt supercycle. This is frightening, because if debt is contracting, asset prices (such as stock prices and the price of land) are likely to fall. Banks are likely to fail, unless they can transfer their problems to others–owners of the bank or even those with bank deposits. Governments will be affected as well, because it will become more expensive to borrow money, and because it becomes more difficult to obtain revenue through taxation. Many governments may fail as well for that reason.

The U. S. Oil Storage Problem

Oil prices began falling in the middle of 2014, so we might expect oil storage problems to start about that time, but this is not exactly the case. Supplies of US crude oil in storage didn’t start rising until about the end of 2014.

Related: Why Today’s Oil Bust Pales In Comparison To The 80’s

Figure 6. US crude oil in storage, excluding Strategic Petroleum Reserve, based on EIA data.

 

 

 

 

Once crude oil supplies started rising rapidly, they increased by about 90 million barrels between December 2014 and April 2015. After April 2015, supplies dipped again, suggesting that there is some seasonality to the growing crude oil supply. The most “dangerous” time for rapidly rising amounts added to storage would seem to be between December 31 and April 30. According to the EIA, maximum crude oil storage is 551 million barrels of crude oil (considering all storage facilities). Adding another 90 million barrels of oil (similar to the run-up between Dec. 2014 and April 2015) would put the total over the 551 million barrel crude oil capacity.

Cushing, Oklahoma, is the largest storage area for crude oil. According to the EIA, maximum working storage for the facility is 73 million barrels. Oil storage at Cushing since oil prices started declining is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Quantity of crude oil stored at Cushing between June 27, 2014, and June 1, 2016, based on EIA data.

Clearly the same kind of run up in oil storage that occurred between December and April one year ago cannot all be stored at Cushing, if maximum working capacity is only 73 million barrels, and the amount currently in storage is 64 million barrels.

Another way of storing oil is as finished products. Here, the run-up in storage began earlier (starting in mid-2014) and stabilized at about 65 million barrels per day above the prior year, by January 2015. Clearly, if companies can do some pre-planning, they would prefer not to refine products for which there is little market. They would rather store unneeded oil as crude, rather than as refined products.

Figure 8. Total Oil Products in Storage, based on EIA data.

EIA indicates that the total capacity for oil products is 1,549 million barrels. Thus, in theory, the amount of oil products stored can be increased by as much as 700 million barrels, assuming that the products needing to be stored and the locations where storage are available match up exactly. In practice, the amount of additional storage available is probably quite a bit less than 700 million barrels because of mismatch problems.

In theory, if companies can be persuaded to refine more products than they can sell, the amount of products that can be stored can rise significantly. Even in this case, the amount of storage is not unlimited. Even if the full 700 million barrels of storage for crude oil products is available, this corresponds to less than one million barrels a day for two years, or two million barrels a day for one year. Thus, products storage could easily be filled as well, if demand remains low.

At this point, we don’t have the mismatch between oil production and consumption fixed. In fact, both Iraq and Iran would like to increase their production, adding to the production/consumption mismatch. China’s economy seems to be stalling, keeping its oil consumption from rising as quickly as in the past, and further adding to the supply/demand mismatch problem. Figure 9 shows an approximation to our mismatch problem. As far as I can tell, the problem is still getting worse, not better.

Figure 9. Total liquids oil production and consumption, based on a combination of BP and EIA data.

There has been a lot of talk about the United States reducing its production, but the impact so far has been small, based on data from EIA’s International Energy Statistics and its December 2015 Monthly Energy Review.

Figure 10. US quarterly oil liquids production data, based on EIA’s International Energy Statistics and Monthly Energy Review.

Based on information through November from EIA’s Monthly Energy Review, total liquids production for the US for the year 2015 will be about 700,000 barrels per day higher than it was for 2014. This increase is likely greater than the increase in production by either Saudi Arabia or Iraq. Perhaps in 2016, oil production of the US will start decreasing, but so far, increases in biofuels and natural gas liquids are partly offsetting recent reductions in crude oil production. Also, even when companies are forced into bankruptcy, oil production does not necessarily stop because of the potential value of the oil to new owners.

Figure 11 shows that very high stocks of oil were a problem, way back in the 1920s. There were other similarities to today’s problems as well, including a deflating debt bubble and low commodity prices. Thus, we should not be too surprised by high oil stocks now, when oil prices are low.

(Click to enlarge)

Figure 11. US ending stock of crude oil, excluding the strategic petroleum reserve. Figure by EIA.

Many people overlook the problems today because the US economy tends to be doing better than that of the rest of the world. The oil storage problem is really a world problem, however, reflecting a combination of low demand growth (caused by low wage growth and lack of debt growth, as the world economy hits limits) continuing supply growth (related to very low interest rates making all kinds of investment appear profitable and new production from Iraq and, in the near future, Iran). Storage on ships is increasingly being filled up and storage in Western Europe is 97% filled. Thus, the US is quite likely to see a growing need for oil storage in the year ahead, partly because there are few other places to put the oil, and partly because the gap between supply and demand has not yet been fixed.

What is Ahead for 2016?

1. Problems with a slowing world economy are likely to become more pronounced, as China’s growth problems continue, and as other commodity-producing countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and Australia experience recession. There may be rapid shifts in currencies, as countries attempt to devalue their currencies, to try to gain an advantage in world markets. Saudi Arabia may decide to devalue its currency, to get more benefit from the oil it sells.

Related: OPEC-Russia Rumors Persist After Comments From Rosneft Chief

2. Oil storage seems likely to become a problem sometime in 2016. In fact, if the run-up in oil supply is heavily front-ended to the December to April period, similar to what happened a year ago, lack of crude oil storage space could become a problem within the next three months. Oil prices could fall to $10 or below. We know that for natural gas and electricity, prices often fall below zero when the ability of the system to absorb more supply disappears. It is not clear the oil prices can fall below zero, but they can certainly fall very low. Even if we can somehow manage to escape the problem of running out of crude oil storage capacity in 2016, we could encounter storage problems of some type in 2017 or 2018.

3. Falling oil prices are likely to cause numerous problems. One is debt defaults, both for oil companies and for companies making products used by the oil industry. Another is layoffs in the oil industry. Another problem is negative inflation rates, making debt harder to repay. Still another issue is falling asset prices, such as stock prices and prices of land used to produce commodities. Part of the reason for the fall in price has to do with the falling price of the commodities produced. Also, sovereign wealth funds will need to sell securities, to have money to keep their economies going. The sale of these securities will put downward pressure on stock and bond prices.

4. Debt defaults are likely to cause major problems in 2016. As noted in the introduction, we seem to be approaching the unwinding of a debt supercycle. We can expect one company after another to fail because of low commodity prices. The problems of these failing companies can be expected to spread to the economy as a whole. Failing companies will lay off workers, reducing the quantity of wages available to buy goods made with commodities. Debt will not be fully repaid, causing problems for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. Even electricity companies may be affected, if their suppliers go bankrupt and their customers become less able to pay their bills.
5. Governments of some oil exporters may collapse or be overthrown, if prices fall to a low level. The resulting disruption of oil exports may be welcomed, if storage is becoming an increased problem.

6. It is not clear that the complete unwind will take place in 2016, but a major piece of this unwind could take place in 2016, especially if crude oil storage fills up, pushing oil prices to less than $10 per barrel.

7. Whether or not oil storage fills up, oil prices are likely to remain very low, as the result of rising supply, barely rising demand, and no one willing to take steps to try to fix the problem. Everyone seems to think that someone else (Saudi Arabia?) can or should fix the problem. In fact, the problem is too large for Saudi Arabia to fix. The United States could in theory fix the current oil supply problem by taxing its own oil production at a confiscatory tax rate, but this seems exceedingly unlikely. Closing existing oil production before it is forced to close would guarantee future dependency on oil imports. A more likely approach would be to tax imported oil, to keep the amount imported down to a manageable level. This approach would likely cause the ire of oil exporters.

8. The many problems of 2016 (including rapid moves in currencies, falling commodity prices, and loan defaults) are likely to cause large payouts of derivatives, potentially leading to the bankruptcies of financial institutions, as they did in 2008. To prevent such bankruptcies, most governments plan to move as much of the losses related to derivatives and debt defaults to private parties as possible. It is possible that this approach will lead to depositors losing what appear to be insured bank deposits. At first, any such losses will likely be limited to amounts in excess of FDIC insurance limits. As the crisis spreads, losses could spread to other deposits. Deposits of employers may be affected as well, leading to difficulty in paying employees.

9. All in all, 2016 looks likely to be a much worse year than 2008 from a financial perspective. The problems will look similar to those that might have happened in 2008, but didn’t thanks to government intervention. This time, governments appear to be mostly out of approaches to fix the problems.

10. Two years ago, I put together the chart shown as Figure 12. It shows the production of all energy products declining rapidly after 2015. I see no reason why this forecast should be changed. Once the debt supercycle starts its contraction phase, we can expect a major reduction in both the demand and supply of all kinds of energy products.

Figure 12. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

Conclusion

We are certainly entering a worrying period. We have not really understood how the economy works, so we have tended to assume we could fix one or another part of the problem. The underlying problem seems to be a problem of physics. The economy is a dissipative structure, a type of self-organizing system that forms in thermodynamically open systems. As such, it requires energy to grow. Ultimately, diminishing returns with respect to human labor–what some of us would call falling inflation-adjusted wages of non-elite workers–tends to bring economies down. Thus all economies have finite lifetimes, just as humans, animals, plants, and hurricanes do. We are in the unfortunate position of observing the end of our economy’s lifetime.

Most energy research to date has focused on the Second Law of Thermodynamics. While this is a contributing problem, this is really not the proximate cause of the impending collapse. The Second Law of Thermodynamics operates in thermodynamically closed systems, which is not precisely the issue here.

We know that historically collapses have tended to take many years. This collapse may take place more rapidly because today’s economy is dependent on international supply chains, electricity, and liquid fuels–things that previous economies were not dependent on.

TSHTF Podcast with Nicole Foss, Raul Ilargi Meijer & RE

logopodcastOff the microphones of Nicole Foss, Raul Meijer & RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 9, 2015

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Discuss this Interview at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

Recently, Nicole Foss of The Automatic Earth returned to blogging after taking something of a hiatus over the last year.  I caught one of her recent pieces on the situation in China, and her partner Raul Meijer has been covering the situation in Greece extensively.

Besides the two ongoing clusterfucks of China & Greece, there's quite a bit of ongoing collapse related to climate, the recent publication by James Hansen on Sea Level Rise, and of course the Encyclical by the Vicar of Christ on Earth, His Holiness Pope Francis, Chief Spokesperson for some 1.2B members of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, not to mention all the hubbub about Near Term Human Extinction…. clearly no shortage of Collapse Topics to discuss! 🙂

It's been nearly 2 years since I first got together with Nicole to talk about Energy & Inflation & Deflation.  So this seemed like a good time to do an update, and I nailed her down for another chat this week.  She happens to be visiting with Raul in the Netherlands, so as a bonus in this conversation we got his input as well.

http://momsgrilledcheesetruck.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Just-The-Facts-Maam-Moms-Grilled-Cheese-Truck.jpgNow, for those of you expecting to get the normal "Just the Facts, Ma'am"  type of presentation from Nicole in this Podcast, you may be slightly disappointed.   There definitely are a lot of facts jammed into this hour of KollapsnikTM chat.  However, because Nicole was chatting with both me and Raul, we kind of went off the rails a few times, and hilarity ensued.   I decided to leave some of it in there for a little entertainment value. 🙂  The stuff I cut out is even funnier, but sadly not for public consumption.  LOL.

Additionally, Nicole currently has a DVD in post production, discussing parameters of where you want to live, what kind of choices you can make moving ahead and so forth.  We currently have up a Doomstead Diner SurveyTM on places you DON'T want to live, still OPEN.  We'll have a new survey up next week on places you DO want to live.

Anyhow, crack open a bottle of your favorite beverage and enjoy the latest in Collapse from the Collapse CafeTM on the Doomstead Diner and the folks from The Automatic Earth.

Snippets:

 Nicole:

Just that the people need to understand that this is the model that we've been suggesting as to what's going to happen is not a theory, it's actually happening exactly the way we said it would. It's just not happening everywhere at the same time because systems that are predatory pick off the little sick ones first. They work from the periphery towards the center as you said. But where we're seeing things move more and more to the center now. And China has been the the global engine of liquidity for the last while,  and drives demand for absolutely everything.  That's now tipping over the edge and we are going to see those same consequences manifesting in countries in the center that do not see themselves as being in any way comparable to Greece, but they are, they're just not there yet.  The same dynamic ends up operating there. But when we tell people what's happening people, they tend to think "oh well that's just my theory", but it's not a theory,  it's actually happening and will in the future a lot more places…

RE:

Yeah it's an ongoing phenomenon it's definitely not something that is projected or happening in the future or something like that,  collapse is ongoing now,  it's happening and you can watch.  You can watch it  progress, you can see all the different places where it manifests itself. Greece is one of course and Puerto Rico now as well…

Raul:

Civil War…That makes me think…  People think the French are very good at protests right?   But they haven't seen the Chinese.  The Chinese do protests like nobody else does. (RE: Yea…they get serious about it…) because it's very bloody, very violent and I've been writing about this for years. I don't see how China can not end up in that kind of thing…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW!!!

Confessions of a Carnivore

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner  on August 1, 2015

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The Meat FIX for the week…

Discuss this article at the Diner Pantry

I have a confession to make.

I am a MEAT ADDICT.

This addiction may be even worse than my Beer Addiction, it's a tossup.

http://shepherdexpress.com/imgs/hed/art10330widea.jpgI can blame the Meat Addiction on my parents.  Growing up in my youngest years in Brasil, they often took me to Churascarias where many delicious cuts of meat were served up directly off the spit.  My Taste Buds became so entranced by the flavor of Meat cooked over an Open Flame that upon returning to the FSoA around age 10 or so, I immediately embarked on a career as a BBQ Chef, utilizing a small Cast Iron Hibachi that was the site of many Steaks, Burgers, Chicken Wings and Salmon Fillets being Grilled to PERFECTION! 🙂

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/412UgoxHaSL.jpg

I am of course aware these days of how poorly treated the cows, pigs and chickens are by our Industrial Ag system, but people aren't treated a whole lot better and it becomes a bit much to worry about the unfortunate life of a cow in a feed lot when there are a few billion people not living much better lives, and besides I just LOVE MEAT!  So I can't quite buy in to the Vegan mind set because of this.

http://beefambassador.com/wp-content/gems/2014/04/feedlot-1.jpgBeyond the downside of the unfortunate life for an an Industrially raised, fed and slaughtered cow in some Chicago Feed Lot is the ENERGY and WATER problems involved with a diet copiously laden with MEAT in it.

According to HuffPo, it takes around 1847 gallons of water to raise up a Pound of Beef.  Chicken does a lot better at just 518 Gallons for a pound of Chicken, and Beer does better than Wine at 296 vs 872, although you then get into serving size questions as well.

In any event, as you can see it takes a whole heck of a lot of water to put the meat on the table, and even the Beer in your Bottle also!  To acquire enough of that water these days also takes energy, pumping it up from ever more depleted Aquifers like the Ogalalla.

However, the problems of Industrial Ag and its treatment of animals used for food sources, the problems of energy consumption and the problems of water consumption are NOT the reason I am writing this article!

The reason is that due to a few reasons, I cannot STOP buying MEAT at the grocery store!  The Feature Photo at the top of the page has this week's selections, a rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs which ON SALE came in around $4/lb, and 3 nice Filet Mignon Cuts coming in at $12/lb.  That wasn't a sale, but it's still pretty cheap for Filet Mignon.

http://storage.googleapis.com/zgt-user/Boston-Chicken-Photo.pngPrior to buying this meat, I still have in the fridge leftovers from LAST week. particularly some nice Short Ribs and about 1/3rd of a Rotisserie Chicken left to eat, and that is BEFORE I take the carcass and throw it in the Slow Cooker to make a batch of Chicken Soup, which itself will last me another 2 days EZ.

Layered on top of this is the fact that my neurological problems from my neck injury are depressing my appetite, so most of the time I just don't feel like eating any of it!  Regardless how good it smells or looks!  I'm just not feeling HUNGRY enough to devour it!

Now, because  I can't help myself as an ADDICT, I keep buying this stuff.   I'm NOT living on the SNAP Cad Gourmet budget of $2/day (yet!), but neither am I spending much more than $5/day either on food.  The Filet Mignon I picked up for around $12, The Pork Baby Back Ribs for another $16, but together this is enough Animal Protein for 2 weeks EZ!  If I would just STOP buying the stuff when i see it ON SALE, I COULD stay under $2/day!

 

http://i5.walmartimages.com/dfw/dce07b8c-fae7/k2-_f9c906d7-2db2-412b-b285-669ed7dfd238.v1.jpgBut I can't stop buying it, I'm a JUNKIE for Meat!  Not just beef, any Animal protein.  You know what ELSE I bought this week?  A Cocktail Shrimp Ring for $10!  Like I really need this with all the freaking leftovers I have in the fridge right now?  It will take me a month to work through just the LEFTOVERS, and some of it will probably go bad before I am hungry enough to eat it!

Supermarket-meatsI can't even vaccuum seal it up and put it in the Freezer!  Why not?  Because the freezer itself is JAM PACKED with as yet uncooked Steaks, Fish, Chicken and Sausage I have purchased on other occassions travelling down the Meat Aisles of the local Food Emporiums.  I'm like a kid in a Toy Store when I walk (or these days cruise on the Ewz) down the meat department.  Look at those beautifully marbled Rib Eye's ON SALE!  Gotta have those.  Hot Italian Sausage ON SALE!  Mmmm, think of the great Spaghetti Sauce I can make with those!  LOL.

Meanwhile of course out there in the rest of the world and even here in the FSoA, plenty of people have trouble just putting enough Rice in a Bowl to get the daily necessary intake of calories.  Houston, We Have a Distribution Problem!

You might think this would make me feel guilty about buying more meat than I can actually eat, but it doesn't.  Why not?  Because all the dead cow flesh in the local freezer will never make it onto the plate of a starving child in India, and in fact a good deal of it never even goes to feed the homeless up here either.  It just gets tossed if it gets too old and can't even be sold at discount. It's not my fault the distribution system is so fucked up, and I am not going to blame myself because I have more meat to eat than I can handle and somebody else has none.  It happens to be the shelf at my local grocery store, and I happen to have money to buy it, so I do.

http://lorax.blog.drugisvet.com/files/2011/11/Skinny-cow.jpgThe other reason I can't stop buying the Meat is because of the problem I KNOW is coming down the pipe here at some point, which is that the stuff just won't be available to buy AT ALL.

Cattle are already not looking too good in many parts of the world, and here in the FSoA as the water depletes out of Ogalalla and the energy isn't there to pump it up either, the Cattle right here are going to look just like the one at left.  The ones still left anyhow, since the ranchers are already culling the herds, which leads to some pretty weird effects not dissimilar from what is going on with Oil, which is that in spite of a real shortage, the prices go DOWN rather than UP. as a temporary GLUT hits the market.

You have the additional problem where as Credit dries up, the first folks to lose access to the credit are the actual End Consumers of the product, be it either Rib Eye steaks or Gas for your SUV.  If the end consumers don't have credit to buy the stuff, where can the price go but DOWN?  This deflationary driver is ongoing across the Globe at the moment, and is likely to continue on for quite a while in many places, while in others new Credit is created, driving an inflationary spiral in those places.  Eventually either way though, without the stuff on the meat rack to buy, the Money Dies.  It simply stops working to buy things, and you revert to a barter economy if you are fortunate, this already is occurring in Greece.  You do need something to barter though that somebody else wants, and they have to have something you want.  Both of those things are also likely to start disappearing too.

Which brings us back round to the old question of TIMELINE, how long will it take for this to play itself out, in what locations first and how can you best negotiate what is inevitable here, for yourself and your progeny?  There are no firm answers to those questions, but we do tackle them daily here on the pages of the Doomstead Diner.

 

4 Signs of Deflation

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on July 20, 2015

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4 Things That Are Happening Today That Indicate That A Deflationary Financial Collapse Is Imminent

When financial markets crash, they do not do so in a vacuum.  There are always patterns, signs and indicators that tell us that something is about to happen.  In this article, I am going to share with you four patterns that are happening right now that also happened just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008.  These four signs are very strong evidence that a deflationary financial collapse is right around the corner.  Instead of the hyperinflationary crisis that so many have warned about, what we are about to experience is a collapse in asset prices, a massive credit crunch and a brief period of absolutely crippling deflation.  The response by national governments and global central banks to this horrific financial crisis will cause tremendous inflation down the road, but that comes later.  What comes first is a crisis that will initially look a lot like 2008, but will ultimately prove to be much worse.  The following are 4 things that are happening right now that indicate that a deflationary financial collapse is imminent…

#1 Commodities Are Crashing

In mid-2008, just before the U.S. stock market crashed in the fall, commodities started crashing hard.  Well, now it is happening again.  In fact, the Bloomberg Commodity Index just hit a 13 year low, which means that it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis…

 

#2 Oil Is Crashing

On Monday, the price of oil dipped back below $50 a barrel.  This has surprised many analysts, because a lot of them thought that the price of oil would start to rebound by now.

In early 2014, the price of a barrel of oil was sitting above $100 a barrel and the future of the industry looked very bright.  Since that time, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 percent.

There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has fallen by more than $50 a barrel in such a short period of time.  That was in 2008, just before the great financial crisis that erupted later that year.  In the chart posted below, you can see how similar that last oil crash was to what we are experiencing right now…

Oil Price 2015

#3 Gold Is Crashing

Most people don’t remember that the price of gold took a very serious tumble in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008.  In early 2008, the price of gold almost reached $1000 an ounce, but by October it had fallen to nearly $700 an ounce.  Of course once the stock market finally crashed it ultimately propelled gold to unprecedented heights, but what we are concerned about for this article is what happens before a crisis arrives.

Just like in 2008, the price of gold has been hit hard in recent months.  And on Monday, the price of gold absolutely got slammed.  The following comes from USA Today

The yellow metal has tumbled to a five-year low amid a combination of diminishing investor fears related to foreign headwinds in Greece and China, and stronger growth in the U.S. which is leading to a stronger dollar and coming interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. Investors have been dumping shares of gold-related investments as other bearish signs, such as less demand from China and the breaking of key price support levels, add up.

Earlier today, an ounce of gold fell below $1,100 an ounce to $1,080, its lowest level since February 2010. Gold peaked around $1,900 an ounce back in 2011.

For years, I have been telling people that we were going to see wild swings in the prices of gold and silver.

And to be honest, the party is just getting started.  Personally, I particularly love silver for the long-term.  But you have got to be able to handle the roller coaster ride if you are going to get into precious metals.  It is not for the faint of heart.

#4 The U.S. Dollar Index Is Surging

Before the U.S. stock market crashed in the fall of 2008, the U.S. dollar went on a very impressive run.  This is something that you can see in the chart posted below.  Now, the U.S. dollar is experiencing a similar rise.  For a while there it looked like the rally might fizzle out, but in recent days the dollar has started to skyrocket once again.  That may sound like good news to most Americans, but the truth is that a strong dollar is highly deflationary for the global financial system as a whole for a variety of reasons.  So just like in 2008, this is not the kind of chart that we should want to see…

Dollar Index 2015

If a 2008-style financial crisis was imminent, these are the kinds of things that we would expect to see happen.  And of course these are not the only signs that are pointing to big problems in our immediate future.  For example, the last time there was a major stock market crash in China, it came just before the great U.S. stock market crash in the fall of 2008.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Chinese Stock Market Crashed Like This?

As an attorney, I was trained to follow the evidence and to only come to conclusions that were warranted by the facts.  And right now, it seems abundantly clear that things are lining up in textbook fashion for another major financial crisis.

But even though what is happening right in front of our eyes is so similar to what happened back in 2008, most people do not see it.

And the reason why they do not see it is because they do not want to see it.

Just like with most things in life, most people end up believing exactly what they want to believe.

Yes, there is a segment of the population that are actually honest truth seekers.  If you have felt drawn to this website, you are probably one of them.  But overall, most people in our society are far more concerned with making themselves happy than they are about pursuing the truth.

So even though the signs are obvious, most people will never see what is coming in advance.

I hope that does not happen to you.

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on May 22, 2015

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MoneyHoleDiscuss this Rant at the Podcast Table inside the Diner

 

Snippet:

…Bitcoins, a relatively new form of electronic money are also often hawked as the latest and greatest solution to keeping your money safe. Except EVERYBODY KNOWS about Mt. Gox by now. From Wiki:

Mt. Gox was a Bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo, Japan. It was launched in July 2010, and by 2013 was handling 70% of all Bitcoin transactions.[1] In February 2014, the Mt. Gox company suspended trading, closed its website and exchange service, and filed for a form of bankruptcy protection from creditors called minji saisei, or civil rehabilitation, to allow courts to seek a buyer.[2][3] In April 2014, the company began liquidation proceedings.[4] It announced that around 850,000 bitcoins belonging to customers and the company were missing and likely stolen, an amount valued at more than $450 million at the time.[5][6] Although 200,000 bitcoins have since been "found", the reason(s) for the disappearance—theft, fraud, mismanagement, or a combination of these—are unclear as of March 2014.[7]

You think Fraud, Mismanagement and Hacking will STOP if money goes cashless? OF COURSE NOT, IT WILL GET WORSE! There is no computer system ever that is foolproof and incapable of being hacked, and of course the rewards for hacking such a system or “mismanaging” it gets bigger all the time, so the Best & the Brightest spend all their time figuring out how to do that…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Full Rant Transcript available HERE

ALSO, IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO ALREADY, TAKE THE SURVEY ON NEAR TERM HUMAN EXTINCTION BELOW!

The supply of money in an energy-scarce world

Off the keyboard of Richard Douthwaite

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Re-Published on FEASTA on March 22, 2015

Heat_engine-MoneyFrom the Thermodynamic View of Money article by RE

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Posted on August 4, 2011 by admin

Richard Douthwaite

Money has no value unless it can be exchanged for goods and services but these cannot be supplied without the use of some form of energy. Consequently, if less energy is available in future, the existing stock of money can either lose its value gradually through inflation or, if inflation is resisted, be drastically reduced by the collapse of the banking system that created it. Many over-indebted countries face this choice at present — they cannot preserve both their banking systems and their currency’s value. To prevent this conflict in future, money needs to be issued in new, non-debt ways.

The crux of our present economic problems is that the relationship between energy and money has broken down. In the past, supplies of money and energy were closely linked. For example, I believe that a gold currency was essentially an energy currency because the amount of gold produced in a year was determined by the cost of the energy it took to extract it. If energy (perhaps in the form of slaves or horses rather than fossil fuel) was cheap and abundant, gold mining would prove profitable and, coined or not, more gold would go into circulation enabling more trading to be done. If the increased level of activity then drove the price of slaves or steam coal up, the flow of gold would decline, slowing the rate at which the economy grew. It was a neat, natural balancing mechanism between the money supply and the amount of trading which worked rather well.

In fact, the only time it broke down seriously was when the Spanish conquistadors got gold for very little energy — by stealing it from the Aztecs and the Incas. That damaged the Spanish economy for many years because it meant that wealthy Spaniards could afford to buy from abroad rather than using the skills of their own people, which consequently did not develop. It was an early example of “the curse of oil” or the “paradox of plenty,” the paradox being that that countries with an abundance of non-renewable resources tend to develop less than countries with fewer natural resources. Britain suffered from this curse when North Sea oil began to come ashore, distorting the exchange rate and putting many previously sound firms out of business.

19th-century gold rushes were all about the conversion of human energy into money as the thousands of ordinary 21st-century people now mining alluvial deposits in the Amazon basin show. Obviously, if supplies of food, clothing and shelter were precarious, a society would never devote its energies to finding something that its members could neither eat, nor live in, and which would not keep them warm. In other words, gold supplies swelled in the past whenever a culture had the energy to produce a surplus. Once there was more gold available, its use as money made more trading possible, enabling a society’s resources to be converted more easily into buildings, clothes and other needs.

Other ways of converting human energy into money have been used besides mining gold and silver. For example, the inhabitants of Yap, a cluster of ten small islands in the Pacific Ocean, converted theirs into carved stones to use as money. They quarried the stones on Palau, some 260 miles away and ferried them back on rafts pulled by canoes, but once on Yap, the heavy stones were rarely moved, just as no gold has apparently left Fort Knox for many years. According to Glyn Davies’ mammoth study, The History of Money, the Yap used their stone money until the 1960s.

Wampum, the belts made from black and white shells by several Native American tribes on the New England coast, is a 17th-century example of human-energy money. Originally, the supply of belts was limited by the enormous amount of time required to collect the shells and assemble them, particularly as holes had to be made in the shells with Stone Age technology – drills tipped with quartz. The currency was devalued when steel drill bits enabled less time to be used and the last workshop drilling the shells and putting them on strings for use as money closed in 1860.

The last fixed, formal link between money and gold was broken on August 15, 1971, when President Nixon ordered the US Treasury to abandon the gold exchange standard and stop delivering one ounce of gold for every $35 that other countries paid in return. This link between the dollar and energy was replaced by an agreement that the US then made with OPEC through the US-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation that “backed” the dollar with oil. [1] OPEC agreed to quote the global oil price in dollars and, in return, the US promised to protect the oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coups. This arrangement is currently breaking down.

The most important link between energy and money today is the consumer price index. The central banks of every country in the world keep a close eye on how much their currency is worth in terms of the prices of the things the users of that currency purchase. Energy bills, interest payments and labour costs are key components of those prices. If a currency shows signs of losing its purchasing power, the central bank responsible for managing it will reduce the amount in circulation by restricting the lending the commercial banks are able to do. This means that, if energy prices are going up because energy is getting scarcer, the amount of money in circulation needs to become scarcer too if it is to maintain its energy-purchasing power.

A scarcer money supply is a serious matter because the money we use was created by someone somewhere going into debt, and if there is less money about, interest payments make those debts harder to repay. Money and debt are co-created in the following way. If a bank approves a loan to buy a car, the moment the purchaser’s cheque is deposited in the car dealer’s account, more money — the price of the car — comes into existence, an amount balanced by the extra debt in the purchaser’s bank account. Consequently, in the current monetary system, the amount of money and the amount of debt are almost equal and opposite. I say “almost” as borrowers have more debt imposed on them every year because of the interest they have to pay. If any of that interest is not spent back into the economy by the banks but is retained by them to boost their capital reserves, there will be more debt than money.

Until recently, if the banks approved more loans and the amount of money in circulation increased, more energy could be produced from fossil-fuel sources to give value to that money. Between 1949 and 1969 — the heyday of the gold exchange standard under which the dollar was linked to gold and other currencies had exchange rates with the dollar — the price of oil was remarkably stable in dollar terms. But when the energy supply was suddenly restricted by OPEC in 1973, two years after the US broke the gold-dollar link, and again in 1979, the price of energy went up. There was just too much money in circulation for it to retain its value in relation to the reduced supply of oil.

The current “credit crunch” came about because of a huge increase in the price of energy. World oil output was almost flat between September 2004 and July 2008 for the simple reason that the output from major oil fields was declining as fast the production from new, smaller fields was growing. Consequently, as more money was lent into circulation, oil’s price went up and up, taking the prices of gas, coal, food and other commodities with it. The rich world’s central bankers were blasé about these price increases because the overall cost of living was stable. In part, this was because lots of cheap manufactured imports were pouring into rich-country economies from China and elsewhere, but the main reason was that a lot of the money being created by the commercial banks’ lending was being spent on assets such as property and shares that did not feature in the consumer price indices they were watching. As a result, they allowed the bank lending to go on and the money supply — and debt — to increase and increase. The only inflation to result was in the price of assets and most people felt good about that as it seemed they were getting richer, on paper at least. The commercial banks liked it too because their lending was being backed by increasingly valuable collateral. What the central banks did not realise, however, was that their failure to rein in their lending meant that they had broken the crucial link between the supply of energy and that of money.

This break damaged the economic system severely. The rapid increase in energy and commodity prices that resulted from the unrestricted money supply meant that more and more money had to leave the consumer-countries to pay for them. The problem with this was that a lot of the money being spent was not returned to the countries that spent it in the form in which it left. It went out as income and came back as capital. I’ll explain. If I buy petrol for my car and part of the price goes to Saudi Arabia, I can only buy petrol again year after year if that money is returned year after year to the economy from which my income comes. This can happen in two ways, one of which is sustainable, the other not. The sustainable way is that the Saudis spend it back by buying goods and services from Ireland, or from countries from which Ireland does not import more than it exports. If they do, the money returns to Ireland as income. The unsustainable way is that the Saudis lend it back, returning it as capital. This enables Ireland to continue buying oil but only by getting deeper and deeper into debt.

As commodity prices rose, the flow of money to the energy and mineral producers increased so rapidly that there was no way that the countries concerned could spend it all back. Nor did they wish to do so. They knew that their exports were being taken from declining resources and that they should invest as much of their income as possible in order to provide an income for future generations when the resources were gone. So they set up sovereign wealth funds to invest their money, very often in their customers’ countries. Or they simply put their funds on deposit in rich-country banks.

The net result was that a lot of the massive increase in the flow of income from the customers’ economies became capital and was lent or invested in the commodity consumers’ economies rather than being spent back in them. This was exactly what had happened after the oil price increases in 1973 and 1979. The loans meant that, before the money became available again for people to spend on petrol or other commodities, at least one person had to borrow it and spend it in a way that converted it back to income.

This applied even if a sovereign wealth fund invested its money in buying assets in a consumer economy. Suppose, for example, the fund bought a company’s outstanding shares rather than a new issue. The sellers of the shares would certainly not spend the entire amount they received as income. They would place most of their money on deposit in a bank, at least for a little while before they bought other assets, and people other than the vendors would have to borrow that money if it was going to be spent as income. As a result, it often took quite a lot of borrowing transactions before the total sum arrived back in people’s pockets.

For example, loans to buy existing houses are not particularly good at creating incomes whereas loans to build new houses are. This is because most of the loan for an existing house will go to the person selling it, although a little will go as income to the estate agent and to the lawyers. The vendor may put the money on deposit in a bank and it will have to be lent out again for more of it to become income. Or it may be invested in another existing property, so someone else gets the capital sum and gives it to a bank to lend. A loan for a new house, by contrast, finances all the wages paid during its construction so a lot of it turns into income. The building boom in Ireland was therefore a very effective way of getting the money the country was over-spending overseas and then borrowing back converted into incomes in people’s pockets. Direct foreign borrowing by governments to spend on public sector salaries is an even more effective way of converting a capital inflow into income.

We can conclude from this that a country that runs a deficit on its trade in goods and services for several years, as Ireland did, will find that its firms and people get heavily in debt because a dense web of debt has to be created within that country to get the purchasing power, lost as a result of the deficit, back into everyone’s hands. This is exactly why the UK and United States are experiencing debt crises too. The US has only had a trade surplus for one year — and that was a tiny one — since 1982 and the UK has not had one at all since 1983.

Table 1: The worst external debtors per $1,000 of GDP in 2006

1

Ireland

$6,251.97

2

United Kingdom

$3,530.89

3

Netherlands

$2,887.82

4

Switzerland

$2,836.01

5

Belgium

$2,686.21

6

Austria

$1,843.11

7

Sweden

$1,554.06

8

France

$1,551.52

9

Denmark

$1,471.46

10  

Portugal

$1,413.50

DEFINITION: Total public and private debt owed to non-residents repayable in foreign currency, goods, or services. Per $ GDP figures expressed per 1,000 $ gross domestic product.
Source: CIA World Factbooks 18 December 2003 to 18 December 2008
Table 2: Ireland’s gross external debt triples over five years

CSO data for the final quarter of each year (m)

2002

521,792

2003

636,925

2004

814,446

2005

1,132,650

2006

1,338,747

2007

1,540,240

2008

1,692,634

2009

1,611,396

Table 3: The world’s biggest balance of payments deficits at the height of the boom in 2007

Deficit, millions

Ranking of absolute size of deficit

Population, millions

Deficit per head

Greece

-$44,400

6

11.0

$4,036

Spain

-$145,300  

2

41.1

$3,535

Ireland

-$14,120  

13

4.0

$3,530

Australia

-$56,780  

4

19.7

$2,882

United States

-$731,200

1

294

$2,486

Portugal

-$21,750

10  

10.1

$2,153

United Kingdom

-$119,200

3

59.3

$2,010

Romania

-$23,020

9

22.3

$1,032

Italy

-$51,030  

5

57.4

889

Turkey

-$37,580  

7

71.3

$527

France

-$31,250  

8

60.1

$520

South Africa

-$20,630  

11

45.0

$458

Poland

-$15,910  

2

38.6

$412

It is notable that all the eurozone countries experiencing a debt crisis — the “PIIGS” Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain — appear in this table and that the three worst deficits on a per capita basis are those of Greece, Spain and Ireland. The countries in italics have their own currencies and are thus better able to correct their situations.

Source: CIA World Factbook, 18 December 2008, with calculations by the author.

The debts incurred by the current account–deficit countries were of two types: the original ones owed abroad and the much greater value of successor ones owed at home as loans based on the foreign debt were converted to income. Internal debt — that is, debt owed by the state or the private sector to residents of the same country — is much less of a burden than foreign debt but it still harms a country by damaging its competitiveness. It does this despite the fact that paying interest on the debt involves a much smaller real cost to the country since most of the payment is merely a transfer from one resident to another. (The remainder of the payment is taken in fees by the financial services sector and the increase in indebtedness has underwritten a lot of its recent growth.)

Internal debt is damaging because a country with a higher level of internal debt in relation to its GDP than a competing country will have higher costs. This is because, if the rate of interest is the same in both countries, businesses in the more heavily indebted one will have to allow for higher interest charges per unit of output than the other when calculating their operating costs and prices. These additional costs affect its national competitiveness in exactly the same way as higher wages. Indeed, they are the wages of what a Marxist would call the rentier class, a class to which belongs anyone who, directly or indirectly, has interest-bearing savings. A country’s central bank should therefore issue annual figures for the internal-debt to national income ratio.

While internal debt slows a country up, external debt can cause it to default. In their book This Time Is Different, Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff consider external debt in two ways — in relation to a country’s GNP and in relation to the value of its annual exports.

Table 4: How oil imports commandeered an increased share of Ireland’s foreign earnings.

Mineral fuel imports

GNP

Fuel cost as % of GNP

Exports

Fuel cost as % of export earnings

2001

2,219

98,014

2.26

92,690

2.39

2002

1,932

106,494

1.81

93,675

2.06

2003

1,969

117,717

1.67

82,076

2.40

2004

2,814

126,096

2.23

84,409

3.33

2005

4,020

137,265

2.93

86,732

4.63

2006

4,719

152,456

3.10

88,772

5.32

2007

5,728

161,210

3.55

88,571

6.47

2008

6,595

158,343

4.17

86,618

7.61

Source: CSO data with calculations by the author.

The second ratio is the more revealing because exports are ultimately the only means by which the country can earn the money it needs to pay the interest on its overseas borrowings. (A country’s external debt need never be repaid. As its loans become due to be repaid they can be replaced with new ones if its creditors are confident that it can continue to afford to pay the interest.) The book examines 36 sovereign defaults by 30 middle-income countries and finds that, on average, a country was forced to default when its total public and private external debt reached 69.3% of GNP and 230% of its exports.

Poorer countries lend to the world’s richest ones

Graph 2: Rich countries have borrowed massively from “developing” and “transition” countries over the past ten years. This graph shows the net flow of capital. The funds borrowed came predominantly from energy and commodity export earnings. Source: World Situation and Prospects, 2010, published by the UN.

Table 5: The most over-indebted countries at the height of the boom in 2007

Total state & private external debt, billions

Export

earnings billions

Ratio

total

external debt to exports

GDP

billions

Ratio

total

external debt to GDP

1

United Kingdom

$10,450  

$442.2

2360%

2,674

391%

2

Ireland

$1,841  

$115.5

1590%

268

687%

3

United States

$12,250  

$1,148

1070%

14,093

87%

4

France

$4,396  

$546

810%

2,857

154%

5

Switzerland

$1,340  

$200.1

670%

492

272%

6

Australia

$824.9  

$142.1

580%

1,015

81%

7

Netherlands

$2,277  

$456.8

500%

871

261%

8

Italy

$2,345  

$502.4

470%</span>

2.303

102%

9

Spain

$1,084  

$256.7

420%

1,604

68%

10

Belgium

$1,313  

$322.2

410%

504

261%

11

Germany

$4,489  

$1,354

330%

3,649

123%

12

Japan

$1,492  

$678.1

220%

4,911

30%

Countries that exceed the average level at which countries in the Reinhart and Rogoff study defaulted are marked in a darker shade.

As Table 5 shows, almost a dozen rich countries are in danger of default by the Reinhart-Rogoff criteria. The total amount of debt in the world in 2010 is roughly 2.5 times what it was ten years ago in large part as a result of the spend-and-borrow-back process. This means that there is 2.5 times as much money about, but not, of course, 2.5 times as much energy. If much of that new money was ever used to buy energy, the price of energy would soar. In other words, money would be devalued massively as the money-energy balance was restored. The central banks are determined to prevent this happening, as we will discuss in a little while.

World debt more than doubles in ten years

Graph 3: Rich-country debt has grown remarkably in the past ten years because of the amount of lending generated by capital flows from fossil energy– and commodity-producing nations was used to inflate asset bubbles. The emerging economies, by contrast, invested borrowed money in increasing production. As a result, their debt/GDP ratio declined. Source: The Economist.

Most of the world’s increased debt is concentrated in richer countries. Their debt-to-GDP ratio has more than doubled whereas in the so-called “emerging economies” the debt-to-GDP ratio has declined. This difference can be explained by adapting an example given by Peter Warburton in his 1999 book, Debt and Delusion. Suppose I draw 1,000 on my overdraft facility at my bank to buy a dining table and chairs. The furniture store uses most of its margin on the sale to pay its staff, rent, light and heat. Say 250 goes this way. It uses most of the rest of my payment to buy new stock, say, 700. The factory from which it orders it then purchases wood and pays its costs and wages. Perhaps 650 goes this way, but since the wood is from overseas, 100 of the 650 leaks out of my country’s economy. And so I could go on, following each payment back and looking at how it was spent and re-spent until all the euros I paid finally go overseas. The payments which were made to Irish resident firms and people as a result of my 1,000 loan contribute to Irish national income. If we add up only those I’ve mentioned here — 1,000 + 250 + 700 + 550 — we can see that Irish GDP has increased by 2,500 as a result of the 1,000 debt that I took on. In other words, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 40%.

As debt increases, US economy grows by less and less

Graph 4: Because borrowings have been invested predominantly in purchasing assets rather than in production capacity, each increase in borrowing in the US has raised national income by less and less. The most recent bout of borrowing — to rescue the banking system — actually achieved negative returns because it failed to stop the economy contracting. Graph prepared by Christopher Rupe and Nathan Martin with US Treasury figures dated 11 March 2010. Source: http://economicedge.blogspot.com/2010/04/guest-post-and-more-on-most-important.html

Now suppose that rather than buying furniture, I invest my borrowed money in buying shares from someone who holds them already, rather than a new issue. Of the 1,000 I pay, only the broker’s commission and the taxes end up as anyone’s income. Let’s say those amount to 100. If so, the debt-to-GDP ratio is 1000%.

So one reason why the debt burden has grown in “rich” countries and fallen in “emerging” ones is the way the debt was used. A very much higher proportion of the money borrowed in some richer countries went to buying up assets, and thus bidding up their prices, than it did in the poorer ones. After a certain point in the asset-buying countries, it was the rising price of assets that made their purchase attractive, rather than the income that could be earned from them. Rents became inadequate to pay the interest on a property’s notional market value, while in the stock market, the price-earnings ratio rose higher and higher.

Only a small proportion of the money created when the banks lent money to buy assets was spent in what we might call the real economy, the one in which everyday needs are produced and sold. The rest stayed as what the money reform activist David J. Weston called “stratospheric money” in his contribution to the New Economics Foundation’s 1986 book The Living Economy; in other words, money that moves from bank account to bank account in payment for assets, with very little of it coming down to earth. The fraction that does flow down to the real economy each year is normally balanced — and sometimes exceeded — by flows in the other direction such as pension contributions and other forms of asset-based saving. The flows in the two directions are highly unstable, however, not least because those who own stratospheric assets know that they can only convert them to real-world spending power at anything like their current paper value if other people want to buy them. If they see trouble coming, they need to sell their assets before everyone else sees the trouble too and refuses to buy. This creates nervousness and an incentive to dump and run.

If all asset holders lost all faith in the future and wanted to sell, prices would fall to zero and the loans that the banks had secured on their value would never be repaid. The banks would become insolvent, unable to pay their depositors, so the huge amounts of money that were created when the asset-backed loans were approved would disappear, along with the deposits created by loans given out to finance activities in the real economy. In such a situation, the deposit guarantees given by governments would be of no avail. The sums they would need to borrow to honour their obligations would be beyond their capacity to secure, particularly as all banks everywhere would be in the same situation.

No-one wants such a situation so, since a decline in asset values could easily spiral downwards out of control, the only safe course is to keep the flow of money going into the stratosphere greater than that coming out. This keeps asset prices going up and removes any reason for investors to panic and sell. The problem is, however, that maintaining a positive flow of money into the stratosphere depends on having a growing economy. If the economy shrinks, or a greater proportion of income has to be spent on buying fuel and food because their prices go up, then less money can go up into the stratosphere in investments, rents and mortgage repayments. This causes asset values to fall and could possibly precipitate an investors’ stampede to get into cash.

In effect, the money circulating in the stratosphere is another currency — one that has only an indirect relationship with energy availability and which people use for saving rather than to buy and sell. Because there is a fixed one-to-one exchange rate between the atmospheric currency and the real-world one, the price of assets has to change for inflows and outflows to be kept in balance. As we’ve just discussed, the banking system will collapse if asset values fall too far, so governments are making heroic efforts to ensure that they do not. As 20% of the assets involved are owned by 1% of the population in Britain and Ireland (the figure is 38% in the US), this means that governments are cutting the services they deliver to all their citizens in order to keep the debt-money system going in an effort to preserve the wealth of the better-off.

In 2007, the burden imposed on the real economy by the need to support the stratospheric economy became too great. The richer countries that had been running balance of payments deficits on their current accounts found that paying the high energy and commodity prices, plus the interest on their increased amount of external debt, plus the transfer payments required on their internal ones, was just too much. The weakest borrowers — those with sub-prime mortgages in the US — found themselves unable to pay the higher energy charges and service their loans. And, since many of these loans had been securitised and sold off to banks around the world, their value as assets was called into question. Banks feared that payments that they were due from other banks might not come through as the other banks might suddenly be declared insolvent because of their losses on these doubtful assets. This made inter-bank payments difficult and the international money-transfer system almost broke down.

All asset values plunged in the panic that followed. Figures from the world’s stock markets show that the FTSE-100 lost 43% between October 2007 and February 2009 and that the Nikkei and the S&P 500 lost 56% and 52% respectively between May-June 2007 and their bottom, which was also in February 2009. All three indices have since recovered some of their previous value but this is only because investors feel that incomes are about to recover and increase the flow of funds into the stratosphere to support higher levels. They would be much less optimistic about future prices if they recognised that, in the medium term at least, a growing shortage of energy means that incomes are going to fall rather than rise.

This analysis of the origins of the current crisis leads to four thoughts that are relevant to planning the flight from Vesuvius:

  1. It is dangerous and destabilising for any country, firm or individual to borrow from abroad, even if they are borrowing their own national currency. Net capital movements between countries should be prohibited.
  2. An inflation is the best way of relieving the current debt crisis. An attempt to return the debt-GNP ratio to a supportable level by restricting lending would be a serious mistake. Instead, money incomes should be increased.
  3. A debt-based method of creating money cannot work if less and less energy is going to be available. New ways of issuing money will therefore need to be found.
  4. New ways of borrowing and financing are going to be required too, since, as incomes shrink because less energy can be used, fixed interest rates will impose an increasing burden.

We will discuss these in turn.

1. Borrowing from abroad

We have already discussed the problems that servicing foreign debt can create and, in view of these, it is hard to see why any country should ever borrow abroad at all. Foreign capital creates problems when it enters a country and further problems when it leaves. When it comes in, it boosts the country’s exchange rate, thus hurting firms producing for the home market by making imports cheaper than they would otherwise be. It also hurts exporters, reducing their overseas earnings when they convert them into their national currency. As a result, when the loan has to be repaid, the country is in a weaker position to do so than it was when it took the loan on — its imports are higher and its exports reduced. Foreign borrowing is so damaging that it has even been claimed that the Chinese policy of pegging its currency to the dollar at a rate which makes its exports very attractive and keeping that rate by lending a lot of the dollars it earns back was designed by military strategists to destroy America’s manufacturing base. [2] The strategists are said to have argued that no superpower can maintain its position without a strong industrial sector, so lending back the dollars China earned was a handy way to destroy the US ability to fight a major war.

For a country with its own currency, the alternative to borrowing abroad is to allow the value of its currency to float so that its exports and imports are always in balance and it never need worry about its competitiveness again. As eurozone countries no longer have this option, they have very few tools to keep exports and imports in balance. Indeed, it’s hard to know what they should do to deter foreign borrowing because, while the state may not borrow abroad itself, its private sector may be doing so. In Ireland, for example, the net indebtedness of Irish banks to the rest of the world jumped from 10% of GDP in 2003 to over 60% four years later, despite the fact that some of the state’s own borrowings were repaid during these years. All the state could have done to stop this borrowing would have been to restrict lending that was based on the overseas money. For example, it could have placed a limit on the proportion of its loans that a bank could make to the property sector, or stipulated that mortgages should not exceed, say, 90% of the purchase price and three times the borrower’s income. This would have dampened down the construction boom and limited the growth of incomes and thus import demand. But such indirect methods of control are not nearly as potent as allowing the market to achieve balance automatically. Their weakness is a very powerful argument for breaking up the eurozone.

Although one might accept that borrowing abroad for income purposes comes at the cost of undermining its domestic economy, it could be argued that capital inflows for use as capital will allow a country develop faster than would otherwise be the case. Let’s see if this argument stands up.

The danger with bringing capital into a country with its own currency is that part of it will become income in the ways we discussed and thus boost the exchange rate and undermine the domestic economy. So, if we restrict the capital inflow to the actual cost of the goods that the project will need to import, is that all right? Well, yes, it might be. It depends on the terms on which the capital is obtained, and whether the project will be able to earn (or save) the foreign exchange required to pay the investors. If the world economy shrinks as we expect, it is going to be harder to sell the product and its price may fall. This might mean that interest payments took a greater share of the project’s revenue than was expected, causing hardship for everyone else. So, as we will discuss later, the only safe approach is for the foreign investor to agree to take a fixed portion of the project’s foreign revenue, whatever that is, rather than a fixed sum of money based on the interest rate. This would ensure that the project never imposed a foreign exchange burden on the country as a whole. The foreign capital would be closer to share capital than a loan. This should be the only basis that any country should allow foreign capital in.

At present, however, so much foreign capital is moving around that its flow might need to be limited to prevent destabilising speculation. As Reinhart and Rogoff point out, “Periods of high international capital mobility have repeatedly produced international banking crises, not only famously as they did in the 1990s, but historically.” One solution to this, again for countries with their own currencies, is to have two exchange rates; one for capital flows, the other for current (i.e. trading) flows. This would mean that people could only move their capital out of a country if others wanted to move theirs in. Rapid, speculative flows would therefore be impossible. Ireland had this system when it was part of the Sterling Area after World War 2 until Britain abandoned it around 1979. It was known as the dollar premium. South Africa had a capital currency, “the financial rand,” which gave it financial stability throughout the apartheid period. It dropped it in 1995.

Keeping capital and current flows apart would greatly reduce the power of the financial sector. After they were divided, no-one would ever say as James Carville, President Clinton’s adviser, did about the bond markets in the early 1990s when he realised the power they had over the government, that they “can intimidate everybody.”

Of course, the threat to its power will mean that the financial sector opposes capital-flow currencies tooth and nail. Yet its power, and income, must be reduced, especially if incomes in other sectors of the economy are going fall. According to the OECD, the share of GDP taken by the financial sector (defined as “financial intermediation, real-estate, renting and business activities”) in the United States increased from 23% to 31% between 1990 to 2006. The increase in the UK was over 10% to about 32% and around 6% in both France and Germany.

The rise in the sector’s share of corporate profits was even more striking. In the United States, for example, it was around 10% in the early 1980s but peaked at 40% in 2007. Mentioning these figures, Már Gudmundsson, the deputy head of the Monetary and Economic Department of the Bank for International Settlements, told a conference in the US in 2008 that the financial sector needed to become smaller and less leveraged: “That is the only way the sector can be returned to soundness and profitability in the environment that is likely to prevail in the post-crisis period.” I would put it much more strongly. The British sector’s income is bigger than those of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, electricity generation, construction and transport put together, and the sector’s dominance in other economies is similar. It is a monstrous global parasite that needs to be cut down to size.

The financial tail wags the societal dog

Graph 5: The financial sector in five rich-country economies, the US, Japan, the UK, France and Germany, has been taking an increasing share of national income over the past twenty years, in part because of the increasing debt burden. The sector is now bigger in each country than all the productive sectors put together. Source OECD.

2. Allowing inflation to correct the debt-income imbalance

As the amount of energy in a litre of petrol is equivalent to three weeks’ hard manual work, having power at one’s disposal can make one much more productive. A country’s income is consequently largely determined by its direct and indirect energy use. So, whenever less energy is available, incomes fall and debt becomes harder to service unless an inflation is allowed to increase money incomes and reduce the real burden imposed by the debt.

This has been demonstrated by two real-world experiments. After OPEC’s first oil-supply restriction in 1973, the world’s central banks allowed the inflation created by the higher oil prices to go ahead. By reducing the burden of existing debt, this made room for the commercial banks to lend out the money that the oil producers were unable to spend. The US came out of the recession quickly and Britain did not have one at all. Developing countries did well too even though they were paying more for their oil, because the prices of their commodity-exports increased more rapidly than the rate of interest they were being charged on their external debts and, although they borrowed from abroad, their debt-export ratio stayed constant.

After the 1979 restriction, however, the story was different. This time, the central banks resolved to maintain the purchasing power of their monies in relation to energy and they did all they could to fight the inflation. In Britain, an ultra-tight fiscal and monetary policy was adopted. Interest rates were set at 17% and government spending cuts of £3.5bn were announced for the following year. The result was the “Winter of Discontent” with 29m working days lost through strikes, the largest annual total since the General Strike in 1926. In the US, the prime rate reached 20% in January 1981. Unemployment, which had dropped steadily from 1975 to 1979, began to rise sharply as the deflationary measures were put into effect.

The OPEC countries themselves moved from a small balance of payments deficit of $700 million in 1978 to a surplus of $100 billion in 1980. They put most of this money on deposit in US and British banks. But what were the banks to do with it, since none of their rich-country customers wished to borrow at the prevailing interest rates, especially as their domestic economies had been thrown into recession by the central banks’ policies? The answer was to lend it to the developing countries, since the loans made to these countries after 1973 had worked out well.

The result was the Third World Debt Crisis. In 1970, before it began, the 15 countries which it would affect most severely — Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Syria and Venezuela — had a manageable collective external public debt. It amounted to 9.8% of their collective GNP and took 12.4% of their export income to service. [3] By 1987, these same nations’ external public debt was 47.5% of their GNP and servicing it took 24.9% of their export earnings. This doubling had come about because they had borrowed abroad to avoid inflicting drastic spending cuts on their people like those made in the US and the UK. They could, of course, have avoided borrowing and tried to manage on their reduced overseas earnings but this would have forced them to devalue, which would have itself increased their foreign debt-to-GDP ratio. They really had very few options.

Just how deep the commodity-producing countries devaluations would have had to have been is indicated by the decline in net farm incomes in the US. In 1973, these reached a record high of $92.1 billion but by 1980 they had dropped back to $22.8 billion, largely because of a decline in overseas demand, and by 1983 they were only $8.2 billion. Not surprisingly in view of the high interest rates, many US farmers went bankrupt. In 1985, 62 agricultural banks failed, accounting for over half of the nation’s bank failures that year. The high interest rates were also a factor a few years later when 747 US mortgage lenders, the savings and loans or “thrifts” had to be bailed out. The cost was around $160 billion, of which about $125 billion was paid by the US government.

Money’s exchange rate with energy fell in both 1973 and 1979 because there was too much of it in circulation in relation to the amount of oil available. In 1973, the inflation removed the surplus money by requiring more of it to be used for every purchase. The results were generally satisfactory. In 1979, by contrast, an attempt was made to pull back the price of oil by jacking up interest rates to reduce the amount of money going into circulation and thus, over a period of years, bring down the “excessive” money stock. The higher rates caused immense hardship because they ignored the other side of the money=debt equation, the debt that was already there. So, by setting their faces against allowing money to be devalued in relation to energy, the central banks’ policies meant that a lot of the debt had to be written off. Their policy hurt them as well as everyone else. Yet the same policy is being used again today.

So which policy should be adopted instead to remove the current surplus stratospheric money? Incomes in the real economy need to be increased so that they can support current asset values in the stratosphere and, since there is insufficient energy to allow growth to increase them, inflation has to be used instead. Attempts to use 1979-type methods such as those being promoted by the Germans for use in the eurozone will only depress incomes, thus making the debt load heavier. A lot of the debt would then have to be written off, causing the banking system to implode. Even if this could be avoided, such a policy can never work because the money is being taken from the real economy rather than the stratospheric one.

The choice is therefore between allowing inflation to reduce the debt burden gradually, or trying to stop it and having the banking system collapse, overwhelmed by bad debts and slashed asset values. In such a situation, account holders’ money would not lose its value gradually. It could all disappear overnight.

The inflation we need cannot be generated with debt-based money as it was in 1973 because in today’s circumstances that would increase debts more rapidly than it raised incomes. As Graph 4 shows, each $100 borrowed in 2006-7 in the US only increased incomes by around $30 whereas in 1973, the return was higher and the level of debt the country was carrying in relation to its income was about half what it is today. The same applies to most other OECD countries; their public and private sectors are already struggling with too much debt and do not wish to take on more.

The solution is to have central banks create money out of nothing and to give it to their governments either to spend into use, or to pay off their debts, or give to their people to spend. In the eurozone, this would mean that the European Central Bank would give governments debt-free euros according to the size of their populations. The governments would decide what to do with these funds. If they were borrowing to make up a budget deficit — and all 16 of them were in mid-2010, the smallest deficit being Luxembourg’s at 4.2% — they would use part of the ECB money to stop having to borrow.

They would give the balance to their people on an equal-per-capita basis so that they could reduce their debts, or not incur new ones, because private indebtedness needs to be reduced too. If someone was not in debt, they would get their money anyway as compensation for the loss they were likely to suffer in the real value of their money-denominated savings. Without this, the scheme would be very unpopular. The ECB could issue new money in this way each quarter until the overall, public and private, debt in the eurozone had been brought sufficiently down for employment to be restored to a satisfactory level.

The former Irish Green Party senator, Deirdre de Burca, has improved on this idea. She points out that (1) we don’t want to restore the economy that has just crashed and (2) that politicians don’t like giving away money for nothing. Her suggestion is that the money being given to ordinary citizens should not just be lodged in their bank accounts but should be sent to them as special credits which could only be used either to pay off debt or, if all their debts were cleared, to be invested in projects linked to the achievement of an ultra-low-carbon Europe. These could range from improving the energy-efficiency of one’s house to investing in an offshore wind farm or a community district heating system.

Creating money to induce an inflation may seem rather odd to those who advocate buying gold because they fear that all the debt-based money that has been created recently by quantitative easing will prove inflationary by itself. What they have failed to recognise is that most of the money they are worried about is in the stratosphere and has very few ways of leaking down. It is in the accounts of financial institutions and provides the liquidity for their trading. The only way it can reach people who will actually spend it rather than investing it again is if it is given out as loans but, as we saw, that is not happening. Even paying it out to an institution’s staff as wages and bonuses won’t work too well as most are already spending as much as they can and would use any extra to buy more assets, thus keeping it stratospheric.

A common argument against using inflation to reduce debts is bound to be trotted out in response to this idea. It is that, if an inflation is expected, lenders simply increase their interest rates by the amount they expect their money to fall in value during the period of the loan, thus preventing the inflation reducing the debt burden. However, the argument assumes that new loans would still be needed to the same extent once the debt-free money creation process had started. I think that is incorrect. Less lending would be needed, the investors’ bargaining position would be very weak and interest rates should stay down. Incomes, on the other hand, would rise. As a result, if the debtors continued to devote the same proportion of their incomes to paying off any new or remaining loans, they would be free of debt much more quickly.

3. The end of debt-based money

Output in today’s economy gets a massive boost from the high level of energy use. If less and less energy is going to be available in future, the average amount each person will be able to produce will decline and real incomes will fall. These shrinking incomes will make debts progressively harder to repay, creating a reluctance both to lend and to borrow. For a few years into the energy decline, the money supply will contract as previous years’ debts are paid off more rapidly than new ones are taken on, destroying the money the old debts created when they were issued. This will make it increasingly difficult for businesses to trade and to pay employees. Firms will also have more problems paying taxes and servicing their debts. Bad debts and bankruptcies will abound and the money economy will break down.

Governments will try to head the breakdown off with the tool they used during the current credit crunch — producing money out of nothing by quantitative easing. So far, the QE money they have released, which could have been distributed debt-free, has been lent to the banks at very low interest rates in the hope that they will resume lending to the real economy. This is not happening on any scale because of the high degree of uncertainty — is there any part of that economy in which people can invest borrowed money and be sure of being able to pay it back?

Some better way of getting non-debt money into the real economy is going to have to be found. In designing such a system, the first question that needs to be asked is “Are governments the right people to create it?” The value of any currency, even those backed by gold or some other commodity, is created by its users. This is because I will only agree to accept money from you if I know that someone else will accept it from me. The more people who will accept that money and the wider range of goods and services they will provide in return, the more useful and acceptable it is. If a government and its agencies accept it, that increases its value a lot.

As the users give a money its value, it follows that it should be issued to them and the money system run on their behalf. The government would be an important user but the currency should not be run entirely in its interest, even though it will naturally claim to be acting on behalf of society, and thus the users, as a whole. Past experience with government-issued currencies is not encouraging because money-creation-and-spend has always seemed politically preferable to tax-and-spend and some spectacular inflations that have undermined a currency’s usefulness have been the result. At the very least, an independent currency authority would need to be set up to determine how much money a government should be allowed to create and spend into circulation from month to month and, in that case, the commission’s terms of reference could easily include a clause to the effect that it had to consider the interests of all the users in taking its decisions.

This raises two more design questions. The first is “Should the government benefit from all the seignorage, the gain that comes from putting additional money into circulation, or should it be shared on some basis amongst all the users?” and the second is “Should the new money circulate throughout the whole national territory or would it be better to have a number of regional systems?” I am agnostic about the seignorage gains. My answer depends on the circumstances. If the new money is being issued to run in parallel with an existing currency, giving some of the gains to reward users who have helped to develop the system by increasing their turnover could be an important tool during the set-up process. On the other hand, if the new money was being issued to replace a collapsed debt-based system, giving units to users on the basis of their previous debt-money turnover would just bolster the position of the better off. It would be better to allow the state to have all the new units to spend into use in a more socially targeted way.

A more definite answer can be given to the second question. Different parts of every country are going to fare quite differently as energy use declines. Some will be able to use their local energy resources to maintain a level of prosperity while others will find they have few energy sources of their own and that the cost of buying their energy in from outside leaves them impoverished. If both types of region are harnessed to the same money, the poorer ones will find themselves unable to devalue to improve their exports and lower their imports. Their poverty will persist, just as it has done in Eastern Germany where the problems created by the political decision to scrap the ostmark and deny the East Germans the flexibility they needed to align their economy with the western one has left scars to this day.

If regional currencies had been in operation in Britain in the 1980s when London boomed while the North of England’s economy suffered after the closure of its coal mines and most of its heavy industries, then the North-South gap which developed might have been prevented. The North of England pound could have been allowed to fall in value compared with the London one, saving many of the businesses that were forced to close. Similarly, had Ireland introduced regional currencies during the brief period it had monetary sovereignty, a Connacht punt would have created more business opportunities west of the Shannon if it had had a lower value than its Leinster counterpart.

Non-debt currencies should not therefore be planned on a national basis or, worse, a multinational one like the euro. The EU recognises 271 regions, each with a population of between 800,000 and 3 million, in its 27 member states. If all these had their own currency, the island of Ireland would have three and Britain 36, each of which could have a floating exchange rate with a common European reference currency and thus with each other. If it was thought desirable for the euro to continue so that it could act as a reference currency for all the regional ones, its independent currency authority could be the ECB. In this case, the euro would cease to be the single currency. It would simply be a shared one instead.

The advantages from the regional currencies would be huge:

  1. As each currency would be created by its users rather than having to be earned or borrowed in from outside, there should always be sufficient liquidity for a high level of trading to go on within that region. This would dilute the effects of monetary problems elsewhere.
  2. Regional trade would be favoured because the money required for it would be easier to obtain. A strong, integrated regional economy would develop, thus building the region’s resilience to shocks from outside.
  3. As the amount of regional trade grew, seignorage would provide the regional authority with additional spending power. Ideally, this would be used for capital projects.
  4. The debt levels in the region would be lower, giving it a lower cost structure, as much of the money it used would be created debt free.

In addition to the regional currencies, we can also expect user-created currencies to be set up more locally to provide a way for people to exchange their time, human energy, skills and other resources without having to earn their regional currency first. One of the best-known and most successful models is Ithaca Hours, a pioneering money system set up by Paul Glover in Ithaca, New York, in 1991 in response to the recession at that time. Ithaca Hours is mainly a non-debt currency since most of its paper money is given or earned into circulation but some small zero-interest business loans are also made. A committee controls the amount of money going into use. At present, new entrants pay $10 to join and have an advertisement appear in the system’s directory. They are also given two one-Hour notes – each Hour is normally accepted as being equivalent to $10 – and are paid more when they renew their membership each year as a reward for their continued support. The system has about 900 members and about 100,000 Hours in circulation, a far cry from the days when thousands of individuals and over 500 businesses participated. Its decline dates from Glover’s departure for Philadelphia in 2005, a move which cost the system its full-time development worker.

Hours has no mechanism for taking money out of use should the volume of trading fall, nor can it reward its most active members for helping to build the system up. It would have to track all transactions for that to be possible and that would require it to abandon its paper notes and go electronic. The result would be something very similar to the Liquidity Network system that Graham Barnes describes in the next article.

New variants of another type of user-created currency, the Local Exchange and Trading System (LETS) started by Michael Linton in the Comox Valley in British Columbia in the early 1990s, are likely to be launched. Hundreds of LETS were set up around the world because of the recession at that time but unfortunately, most of the start-ups collapsed after about two years. This was because of a defect in their design: they were based on debt but, unlike the present money system, had no mechanism for controlling the amount of debt members took on or for ensuring that debts were repaid within an agreed time. Any new LETS-type systems that emerge are likely to be web based and thus better able to control the debts their members take on. As these debts will be for very short periods, they should not be incompatible with a shrinking national economy.

Complementary currencies have been used to good effect in times of economic turmoil in the past. Some worked so well in the US in the 1930s that Professor Russell Sprague of Harvard University advised President Roosevelt to close them down because the American monetary system was being “democratized out of [the government’s] hands.” The same thing happened to currencies spent into circulation by provincial governments in Argentina in 2001 when the peso got very scarce because a lot of money was being taken out of the country. These monies made up around 20% of the money supply at their peak and prevented a great deal of hardship but they were withdrawn in mid-2003 for two main reasons. One was pressure from the IMF, which felt that Argentina would be unable to control its money supply and hence its exchange rate and rate of inflation if the provinces continued to issue their own monies. The other, more powerful, reason was that the federal government felt that the currencies gave the provinces too much autonomy and might even lead to the break-up of the country.

4. New ways to borrow and finance

The regional monies mentioned above will not be backed by anything since a promise to pay something specific in exchange for them implies a debt. Moreover, if promises are given, someone has to stand over them and that means that whoever does so not only has to control the currency’s issue but also has to have the resources to make good the promise should that be required. In other words, the promiser would have to play the role that the banks currently perform with debt-based money. Such backed monies would not therefore spread financial power. Instead, they could lead to its concentration.

Even so, some future types of currency will be backed by promises. Some may promise to deliver real things, like kilowatt hours of electricity, just as the pound sterling and the US dollar were once backed by promises to deliver gold. Others may be bonds backed by entitlements to a share an income stream, rather than a share of profits, as Chris Cook describes in his article in this book. Both these types of money will be used for saving rather than buying and selling. People will buy them with their regional currency and either hold them until maturity if they are bonds, or sell them for regional money at whatever the exchange rate happens to be when they need to spend.

These savings currencies could work like this. Suppose a community wanted to set up an energy supply company (ESCo) to install and run a combined heat and power plant supplying hot water for central heating and electricity to its local area. The regional currency required to purchase the equipment could be raised by selling energy “bonds” which promise to pay the bearer the price of a specific number of kWh on the day they mature. For example, someone could buy a bond worth whatever the price of 10,000 kWh was when that bond matured in five years. The money to redeem that bond would come from the payments made by people buying energy from the plant in its fifth year. The ESCo would also offer other bonds with different maturity dates and, as they were gradually redeemed, those buying power from the ESCo would, in fact, be taking ownership of the ESCo themselves.

These energy bonds will probably be issued in large denominations for sale to purchasers both inside and outside the community and will not circulate as money. However, once the ESCo is supplying power, the managing committee could turn it into a bank. It could issue notes for, say, 50 and 100 kWh which locals could use for buying and selling, secure in the knowledge that the note had real value as it could always be used to pay their energy bills. Then, once its notes had gained acceptance, the ESCo could open accounts for people so that the full range of money-moving services was available to those using the energy-backed units. An ESCo would be unlikely to do this, though, if people were happy with the way their regional currency was being run. Only if the regional unit was rapidly losing its value in energy terms would its users migrate to one which was not.

Conclusion

Up to now, those who allocated a society’s money supply by determining who could borrow, for what and how much determined what got done. In the future, that role will pass to those who supply its energy. Only this group will have, quite literally, the power to do anything. Money once bought energy. Now energy, or at least an entitlement to it, will actually be money and energy firms may become the new banks in the way I outlined. This makes it particularly important that communities develop their own energy supplies, and that if banks issuing energy-backed money do develop, they are community owned.

As energy gets scarcer, its cost in terms of the length of time we have to work to buy a kilowatt-hour, or its equivalent, is going to increase. Looked at the other way round, energy is cheaper today than it is ever likely to be again in terms of what we have to give up to get it. We must therefore ensure that, in our communities and elsewhere, the energy-intensive projects required to provide the essentials of life in an energy-scarce world are carried out now. If they are not, their real cost will go up and they may never be done.

Working examples of both backed and unbacked forms of modern regional and community monies are needed urgently. Until there is at least one example of a non-debt currency other than gold working well somewhere in the world, governments will cling to the hope that increasingly unstable national and multinational debt-based currencies will retain their value and their efforts to ensure that they do will blight millions of lives.

Moreover, without equitable, locally and regionally controllable monetary alternatives to provide flexibility, the inevitable transition to a lower-energy economy will be extraordinarily painful for thousands of ordinary communities, and millions of ordinary people. Indeed, their transitions will almost certainly come about as a result of a chaotic collapse rather than a managed descent and the levels of energy use that they are able to sustain afterwards will be greatly reduced. Their output will therefore be low and may be insufficient to allow everyone to survive. A total reconstruction of our money-issuing and financing systems is therefore a sine qua non if we are to escape Vesuvius’ flames.

Endnotes:

  1. Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar, William R. Clark, New Society Publishers, British Columbia, 2005. p31. See http://books.google.com
  2. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, both colonels in the Chinese army, wrote a book, Unrestricted Warfare, which appeared on the Internet in English 1999 about strategies China could use to defeat a technologically superior opponent such as the United States through a variety of means including currency manipulation. Extracts from the book can be found at http://www.cryptome.org/cuw.htm
  3. Debt Crisis in the Third World, by Yanhui Zhang, 2003.
    See http://www.grin.com/e-book/39036/debt-crisis-in-the-third-world

Featured image: Stone money of Uap, Western Caroline Islands Source: Wikimedia Commons

10 Charts of Collapse

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on The Economic Collapse on March 18, 2015

jenga_collapse

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10 Charts Which Show We Are Much Worse Off Than Just Before The Last Economic Crisis

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/10-Charts-Economic-Crisis.jpgIf you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article.  I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.  If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things.  Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low.  But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end.  Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems.  The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out.  Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis.  Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.

For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession.  As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008.  That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.

#1 The National Debt

Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars.  Since that time, it has nearly doubled.  So does that make us better off or worse off?  The answer, of course, is obvious.  And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014.  What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal.  And so what does Barack Obama want to do now?  He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.

Presentation National Debt

#2 Total Debt

Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences.  Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.

Presentation Credit Market Instruments

#3 The Velocity Of Money

When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly.  So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession.  But why has it kept going down since then?

Presentation Velocity Of M2

#4 The Homeownership Rate

Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class.  And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame.  But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?

Presentation Homeownership Rate

#5 The Employment Rate

Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”.  But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks.  Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed.  During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.

Presentation Employment Population Ratio

#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate

So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically?  Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”.  As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years

If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all?  Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent.  Today it is just about 12 percent.

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#8 Real Median Household Income

Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well.  This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.

Presentation Real Median Household Income

I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating.  In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary.  The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.

-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.

-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy.  As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.

#9 Inflation

Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.

Presentation Food Inflation

#10 Government Dependence

As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights.  For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession.  How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?

Presentation Government Spending On Food Stamps

So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?

To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.

And now things are setting up in textbook fashion for the next great economic crisis.  Unfortunately, most Americans are totally clueless about what is going on and the vast majority are completely and totally unprepared for what is coming.

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on March 14, 2015

MoneyHole

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“THE GREATEST BONFIRE OF PAPER WEALTH IN ALL OF RECORDED HISTORY TM

money-burning

Snippet:

http://www.angelfire.com/art/masks/images/mask01.jpg…So to try to resolve this mess, one choice for Da Federal Reserve would be to issue out multiples of the $Trillions$ it has already issued out and take every last indebted country onto its own balance sheet as the collateral, effectively essentially putting say France under the Ownership of the Federal Reserve! Then the Frogs get the same treatment that Greece gets now taking it up the ass from the Troika. The population gets squeezed dried, but this STILL does not stop the implosion from progressing onward.

The other choice, which in the words of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is to “take their medicine” is that Da Federal Reserve STOPS pitching Worthless Money after more Worthless Money out, and TBTF Banks and entire nation States go Bankrupt in a huge Daisy Chain, or as I once wrote on the Peak Oil Forum, “The Greatest Bonfire of Paper Wealth in All of Recorded History”.

There is no Third Option as yet identified here, it’s a Shakespearian Comedy/Tragedy, “To Print or not to Print, that is the question? Whether ’tis nobler to die by the slings and arrows of Hyperinflationary misfortune,, or to dry up liquidity and die slowly in a Deflationary Spiral, and by collapsing this stupid shit end this utter nonsense? To sleep, perchance to die…”

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

The Big Churasco

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 8, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHow do you think I got this Pic to have a White Background?

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http://www.iheartthemart.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Ground-Beef-Walmart-248x300.pngLately as most of you Diners are aware, the price of Beef on the Diner Menu has been steadily increasing.  We are sorry for this incovenience here on the Diner, but we have to pass along the costs that the ranchers are passing along to 3 Bears.

In fact, the cost for Ground Beef just passed a new Record High per pound, @ $4.13 Nationwide Average.  Here on the Last Great Frontier, currently 90% lean Ground Beef is coming in @$4.99 lb.  However, while Ground Beef is found in a Favorite Diner Menu offering of Spaghetti & Meatballs and the Chef here likes to eat Raw Ground Beef as Steak Tartare periodically, the real favorites here are the Diner BBQ offerings.

http://cnsnews.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/large/images/Updated%20Beef%20Chart%20(2)_0.jpg

Chart above ends in 2013.  We have soared well above this now.

Reason of course that the Price for Beef is going UP is that the Supply is Going DOWN, while the Population is still going UP.

http://images.bwbx.io/cms/2014-11-18/1117_BeefChart2.png

Where’s the BEEF?

With this in mind, I did a Test today of 3 Beef cuts for the Diner Churasco, Beef Ribs, Ribeye Steaks & Fillet Mignon.  I felt it was a good time to do this before the price skyrockets too high or the beef isn’t in the fridge at 3 Bears.

The Price differential in the 3 cuts is quite a wide spread.  The Ribs come in at $2.79/lb, well under the Ground Beef price of $4.99/lb.  The Ribeyes came in at $7.59/lb, and the Fillets at $9.99.  My question to myself was how much difference is there in taste and texture with these 3 cuts of a Dead Cow injected full of Hormones and Anti-Biotics in a Chicago Feed Lot?

To do a fair analysis, I prepared all 3 cuts in the same way, all in the same Marinade bag, with the Diner TOP SECRET special BBQ Marinade.  I cooked all of them together, completely covering the small area of the Diner Portable Grill, suitable for Bugouts.  Obviously, I did not eat all of this at once, however straight off the grill I took Sample Cuts from each piece to do the Taste Test.  The remainder has been dropped in the Fridge and will be consumed as Diner Leftovers all week.

As far as flavor goes, you just can’t beat the Ribs, even against the more expensive Ribeye and Filet cuts.  However, the amount of easily carved off meat from the ribs is substantially less than for the other two cuts, virtually all of which are ingestable.  Comparing the Ribeye to the Filet, the former is more flavorful (more FAT!), but the latter is more tender and meaty.  The ribs win hands down though when you save them to then make a Soup or Stew later, you get double use out of them this way.

The most important thing here for all the cuts is cooking at the right temperature for the right amount of time, you don’t want to end up with strips of leather to chew on, nor do most people like to eat raw meat either.  Medium Rare is what you want to hit most of the time, and for this adventure, I nailed it right on for all 3 cuts.  Below are cross sections from the Ribs and from the Filets.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Moving down the Collapse Highway a piece here, I will mainly be looking for good buys on the Ribs as primary Animal Protein source, and for right now I’m putting the Upper Limit on what I will pay for Beef at $15/lb.  Occassionally some Prime Beef Cuts are coming in at $20/lb, but they just aren’t that much better than the Ribs to justify the additional expenditure.

I do wonder how the increasing Beef Prices are affecting the average J6P Diet choices these days, since at least for the lowest portion of the demographic, a diet with a lot of meat in it will put a pretty good dent in your monthly food budget.  The main thing to be aware of is that you don’t need a huge amount of meat in the diet, and to make the most of what you do buy.  In this case, I ate about 1/3rd of one of the 2 ribeyes, half of one of the Fillets and the best meat off one of the ribs.  This is way more than you need, but it was for the taste test, part of the great SACRIFICE I make daily on the Diner for the Readers.  LOL.  Any one of those would have been plenty of meat for the day, I did serious Artery Clogging by chowing down on this much in one day.

For the rest, I thinly slice the filets and ribeyes to make Steak Sandwiches, which I spruce up with things like mushrooms sauteed in butter and garlic, Pesto Sauce,  Asiago Cheese and various veggies like black olives and pickled jalapeno peppers.  This quantity of meat is probably enough for about 6-8 nice Steak sandwiches.  For the Ribs, I microwave them just enough to warm, but not further cook them, then eat the best meat off them.  Another 3 days there left at 1 per day.  After that, I take all those bones and Meat remaining on them and make a stew or soup from them, good for another couple of days.  All together, this pile of meat lasts about 2 weeks in total.  The total cost was $10 for the Filets, $5 for the Ribs and $8 for the Ribeyes.  Roughly a cost of a little less than $2/day on the Meat portion of the Diet, well within the SNAP Card Budget, even without using just Ground Beef for Burgers.  It’s comparable in price, a decent Burger is about 1/3rd/lb, coming in at around $1.66 for the Meat.

As most Kollapsniks know, Beef Ranching is one of the most intensive forms of food production in terms of water, feed, transportation etc.  Providing so much Beef to so many people is highly dependent on the current energy stock of fossil fuels, as well as the current stock of Water that can be drawn up from Underground Aquifers to hydrate all those Cows, and to grow the Corn they get fattened up with in the Chicago Feedlots.  This sort of food production probably will collapse even before the Happy Motoring does, so this is a good time to do some Final BBQs at a price you still might be able to afford to pay.

 As a Canary in the Coal Mine, exactly how hig the Beef prices can go before the Konsumers stop BUYING the Beef is an interesting question.  Beef is relatively Elastic as a commodity, you don’t absolutely HAVE to eat Beef as your source of Animal protein.  You can easily substitute Fish, Chicken, Eggs etc.  So at some point in the upward spiral of Beef prices, people will simply stop buying it, at which point it will not be economic to ranch it at large scale, and most beef will disappear from the Meat Freezers.

Although for the moment I have put my Upper Bound at $15/lb for ANY cut of beef, if the overall prices rise to Double that but the meat is still available on the shelves, I’ll still probably buy it before making the switch to Chicken, which probably will not rise in  price quite so rapidly.  I’ll ration it a little more carefully, and certainly not do Mass Consumption, even as a Gift to Diner Readers.  LOL.  However, while I can afford a doubling in meat prices, most of the population cannot, certainly not the segment on a SNAP Card budget.  Prices that high will inevitably result in meat disappearing from the shelves as the Ranchers go Outta Biz.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another 2 years of Churasco at a price I can afford, with a decent selection of meat cuts available.  I’ll chow down on it as the main Animal Protein in the diet for as long as I can, and savor every last bite, so I can image it in my mind and remember it well while Chowing Down on an Earthworm Burger.

http://www.redbrick.me/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Mealworm.jpg

Living the American Dream is a Nightmare

From the keyboard of Thomas Lewis
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In Plato’s little-recognized prediction of the Age of Television, slaves chained to their couches watch reflections of events, while philosophers struggle up to the sunlight to see what’s really going on.

In Plato’s little-recognized prediction of the Age of Television, slaves chained to their couches watch reflections of events, while philosophers struggle up to the sunlight to see what’s really going on.

First published at The Daily Impact  January 12, 2014

 

Plato asked us to imagine a group of people chained to a wall in a cave in such a way that they could not see what was going on around them, only reflections cast on the cave wall opposite them by firelight. He invited us to consider how skewed the prisoners’ understanding of the world would become over time, and to value the contributions of philosophers who go out into the sunlight and see things as they really are. It’s easy for us Americans of 2015 to grasp the first part of his allegory, because it’s a perfect description of us watching TV (remarkable that he nailed that prediction 2,000 years ago, don’t you think?). It’s the second part that mystifies: what would a philosopher, stumbling out of the cave of shadows on the wall, make of our realities?

The shadows on the cave wall are dancing in eternal, unrelieved, twitching ecstasy: gas prices are down, the government-calculated unemployment rate is down, job creation is up, the stock market is setting altitude records, and because of the happiness of the shadows on the wall, the prisoners chained to the wall are feeling better about their futures than ever.

So, prisoners. What’s really out there? The philosopher has returned from a brief sojourn, wherein he found that the American Dream has become a nightmare.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics — the agency responsible for the “good news” that America has created 605,000 low-paying jobs in the last two months, reported at the same time that the total number of American employed was in December only 182,000 more than the October total. So where are the other 423,000 jobs that were “created?” Shadows on the wall.
  • Also note that in December alone, 451,000 people left the labor market — they joined the 93 million adult Americans who have given up and stopped looking for work (and thus are not counted when the “unemployment rate” is calculated). Quick, another chorus of “Happy Days are Here Again.”
  • Since the last time America was doing okay, 2007, we have added 16 million people to our adult population, and we have subtracted 2 million full-time jobs. Thus we have a situation that (to hear the shadows on the wall tell it) has improved every year for seven years but is now worse than it was seven years ago.
  • Two recent surveys have found that well over half of adult Americans have no savings – none — and do not have enough cash in their possession to cover a sudden expense ($400 in one survey, $1,000 in the other).
  • In contrast to the shadow land where there is no inflation , the philosopher finds that real Americans are struggling with an inflation rate for food of more that 20%. Ground beef has just hit a national average price of $3.88 per pound, an all-time record high. But food prices are not included in the government’s calculation of the rate of inflation. More than 50 million American households — not people,  households full of people – last year experienced what is politely referred to as “food insecurity”. That’s the term the shadows use, out in the sunlight we call it “hunger.”
  • 46 million Americans are on food stamps, 20 million more than were enrolled in 2007, before the Great Recession started. And in nearly three-quarters of large American cities, requests for emergency food aid were up sharply in 2014 and are expected to skyrocket in 2015.

So out here in the sunlight, we see rising hunger, poverty, unemployment, sea levels, desertification and collapsing energy and stock markets. Who can blame us for preferring the cave, where at least somebody sees to it that the fire is kept burning?

 

***

 

Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

 

 

The THRILL of VICTORY…and the AGONY of DEFEAT!

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on December 24, 2014

WHICH WILL IT BE FOR VLAD THE IMPALER?

The THRILL OF VICTORY?

Putin-chess

or

The AGONY of DEFEAT?

http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/dynamic/imgs/110315/julius-caesar_510.jpg

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Who will be SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES as this plays itself out?


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http://www.thepoke.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/B138PqYIMAI5h6P.jpg

…Putin of course is a Veteran KGB apparatchik, so he is certainly aware of all these issues, and no doubt has a first class Pretorian Guard surrounding him all the time. At this point if he does NOT have an absolutely first class set of Bodyguards he can depend on he is Toast. He does need to identify the Oligarchs who have been made The Unrefusable Offer and nail them before they nail him with the Home Depot Nail Gun. LOL.

This of course brings us to the hairy question of assassinations, as just about everyone knows it was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 that set off WWI, although the real problems had been brewing beneath the surface a long time before that. The problems are the same as they were then, Industrialization created a population of impoverished and disenfranchised people, and the solution to eliminating the people was to enlist them into warfare against other people…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Note: For Non-Native speakers of English and people who prefer to read rather than listen, the transcript of this rant will be available HERE in a few days.

Don’t miss the prior rant on the Collapse of the Ruble

RUBLE RUN INSANITY

Now we ALL are DOWNHILL RACERS!

Tighten your bindings and get ready to plant those poles, because…

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-uBvDEyxfiTU/Ta7qYKu7GuI/AAAAAAAAAlY/SV25ZbP6Cqg/s1600/donkey+kong.jpg

Suicide by Deflation

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on December 16, 2014

dogtailpt

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CRASH2: Neoliberalism, murderer of inflation, commits suicide by deflation.

How devious geopolitics and dead-end globalism combined to eat the world economy

You have to hand it to the neoliberal fraternity – perhaps I should say patriarchy – there’s never been a belief system in history capable of breaking all its own rules one by one, and still trying to tell us it’s the best socio-economic development system on the planet.

The world’s Milt-milkers have variously demanded to be nationalised, expected to be saved, opposed any and all reform, used austerity as a form of stimulation, tried Zirp as a means of increasing spending power in a recession, produced endless monopolies of media, banking and energy, used the biggest Government market interventions of all time, and then produced the slump to end all global slumps.

I’ve read most of Friedman’s stuff, and leaving aside for a second its narrow academic inability to take real people into account, I really don’t remember any of the above features being present in his work. However, one thing he did like was the idea of conquering chronic inflation; so whatever else one wants to throw at the neolibs, this you have to grant them: they have indeed wiped out inflation.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when around five years ago 0% inflation suddenly became a spawn of the Devil. Yes – believe it or not, and frankly it’s an unavoidable conclusion – those who used Milton Friedman as their guiding light for so many years have even decided that this tenet of the Messiah’s gospel is also a false witness. (Or to use the other excuse, “Milt would never have recommended doing this”).

What we have today – and the virus is spreading fast – is deflation. So today I’d like to ignore all the other drivel that MF spewed out over three decades of abject failure in the real world, and focus single-minded on that.

Why did inflation suddenly swap places with deflation as the Great Global Bogeyman?

The answer is threeofold: politicians spending beyond their means, greedy bankers trading with each other beyond human understanding, and bourse-demanded growth insisting on consumer credit.

Succinctly, exposure to dangerous level of debt.

In an inflationary world, debt gets smaller in real terms all the time. So banking and politics have one thing that binds them together above any other: to avoid a deflationary world where debt gets bigger in real terms.

The globalist world today runs, grows, produces, swaps, and demands debt. Whereas real, entrepreneurial capitalism takes calculated risk to produce positive growth, mercantilist monopolism requires unfeasible debt just to function.

So where there is debt, there must not be deflation. And that’s why, after 2008, deflation went, with one mighty bound, from Goal of the Good to Spawn of the Devil. That’s largely why we had QE to erode currency value, Zirp to make repair easier – and specifically now, gold suppression to make it cheaper for sovereign central banks to repair past insanity in their dealings with neoliberal politicians and bonus-obsessed merchant bankers.

But the mixture of geopolitical ego and systemically flawed economic theory is a heady brew, Cynthia. Mercantilism on a global scale replaces war as the new dimension of diplomacy, and fossil-energy monopolism creates an obsession with access to it. So before you know where you are, devious tactics and greedy strategies create a maelstrom in which the urgent overtakes the important.

The circle of contradiction this involves is getting tighter with every week.

The price of oil must fall, the euro must fall, borrowing costs must fall, the Ruble must fall, gold’s value must fall. Even wages and commodity prices must fall. The result of all this is the terrible trio – falling demand, falling costs, and falling prices – followed by the tragic twosome – rising welfare costs and rising taxes.

On and on it goes. For raised taxes reduce demand still further, rising welfare costs increase debt further, and so deficits get bigger and borrowing costs get higher. This is why Osborne is in a corner, and Abenomics veers all over the place while getting nowhere.

When the Ruble falls, however, only higher rates will prop it up. When neoliberal austerity and growing wealth inequality kill economic recovery, borrowing yields spike…and another dimension now sits alongside deflation to raise the real level of debt.

I’ve been saying for three years that you cannot have a world in which everyone wants Zirp all the time: not only does that too reduce the spending power of the wealthiest age demographic, in a world where nations have competing geopolitical, social and economic priorities, it is a preposterous idea built on the hubris of distorted Alpha minds.

The bottom line is this: everything energy monopolism forces sovereigns to do geopolitically negates everything that sovereign banks need to do fiscally and financially.

Reagan and Thatcher championed the neoliberal economics of the smaller State as the way to defeat inflation. Having murdered inflation, the monopolous greed that underlies such economics has created its own murderer – deflation.

There is no way out of the cul-de-sac now, nowhere else to turn, nothing else to try. We are heading unstoppably for the sort of confluential collapse that changes everything. And the ignorant, unthinking nature of this endgame is summed up by a tweet I page-captured this morning:

repubnutGod bless America.

Inflation, Deflation & FOOD!

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on September 26, 2014

inflation-or-deflation

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Landscape  Pizza_15c

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!!!

The Right to Remain Silent…

Off the keyboard of Surly1

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The Right to Remain Silent…

 

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on date
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

“. . .  What most likely lies ahead is not a series of satisfying American-style solutions to the economic problems of the 99%, but a boiling frog’s journey into a form of twenty-first-century feudalism in which a wealthy and powerful few live well off the labors of a vast mass of the working poor.  Once upon a time, the original 99% percent, the serfs, worked for whatever their feudal lords allowed them to have. Now, Walmart “associates” do the same.”

― Peter Van Buren

 

On Saturday I attended a family reunion for a branch of Contrary’s far-flung, extended German-Irish family. The trip occasioned a full day of travel, but like many family meetings, rewarded with new friends, good food, abundant laughter, and plenty of conversation.

Before we left, Contrary advised me that many of the women in this wing of her family held opinions much like her own, which is to say pretty progressive/left-wing. Whereas the men were very much conservative, and argumentatively so. So before we left I asked Contrary, “If the talk turns to politics and I find myself listening to arrant, right wing claptrap, should I hold my tongue?”  (In spite of what long time readers of this space might think, I am housebroken and DO know how to behave in groups.) Her response: “Why in the world would you do that?”

Fair enough.

Sometimes these things write themselves. In the fullness of time I found myself in the backyard, taking a break from Ghana v. Germany in the World Cup, quaffing a beverage and in the company of Men Discussing Current Events. One of them observed what a blight unions were on the working landscape. He offered a tale about how, supposedly after Hurricane Sandy,  phone company union workers for a  New Jersey resisted working with the nonunion help  from “right to work” states like Virginia. And then came the the piling on. So I asked a question: “Any idea where the phrase ‘right to work’ came from?” No one knew. The answer: “It was the brainchild of the Dallas public relations plan in 1947 to give an fair-sounding name to a campaign of anti-union activities meant to cripple the ability of working people to negotiate their work conditions compensation.”

Oh yeah, what’s your point? I went on:

RemainSilent“Any idea what percentage of the private industrial workforce belongs to a union today? Heads shaken no. “6%,” I replied, “Does it not seem reasonable that the many complaints you hear about how unions are crippling this country are really the complaints of industrialists who, with their boots on the necks of the American worker, don’t yet feel they have enough of an advantage?”

Then a cousin mentioned the minimum wage, as in, there shouldn’t be any.

“Really?” I asked. “Do you have any idea what the 1978  minimum would be if it had kept up with inflation? No idea. “Over $22 per hour.” Well, came the reply, there still shouldn’t be a minimum. Then I made a point that struck home to this group of devoted family men: “Do you remember how it was when we were growing up? The parents of the people in this house, like the one I grew up in, lived a life where the man worked, and supported a family, sometimes running to eight to ten kids.” Point made: Contrary’s family is extremely prolific.  “That’s because a working man could earn enough working a job, sometimes two, to support a family– even a big family. Where are those manufacturing jobs today? They are in Mexico and the Pacific Rim, and the export of those jobs has been subsidized by favorable tax treatment for the industries that moved them. Sound fair?”

Grumblings. Then one of them mentioned “welfare.” As comedian Ron White once said, “I had the right to remain silent, but I did not have the ability.”

“Glad you mentioned welfare. Don’t you just hate welfare queens?” Nods of assent. “Wouldn’t you just love to get the welfare queens off the dole? Don’t you think constant handouts erode self-reliance?” More vigorous nods now. “The biggest welfare queens we pay for are American corporations. The same  ones that export American jobs, bank their earnings overseas, then park their boodle in the Cayman Islands or in Switzerland to avoid American taxes. All while using roads and other infrastructure that you’re paying for. Man, I hate me a bloodsucker like that, don’t you?”

Yeah, but real welfare, food stamps, SNAP… “The SNAP program costs $76 billion a year. And the big food producing companies love it. And banks like JP Morgan make money on both ends of the SNAP card business. On the other hand, corporate tax concessions, givebacks and other forms of legalized bribery cost working folks like you and me $180 billion a year. More than twice SNAP. Sound fair to you?”

That pretty much derailed the political part of that conversation. I’m not sure I’ll be invited back anytime soon.

***

50 years ago, a group of men like that, middle to late middle age (or in my case, rapidly approaching senility), working-class types, would have favored progressive causes. One of the marvels of our age remains how working people have been convinced to vote counter to their self-interest by a consistent torrent of plutocrat propaganda. Within my lifetime the role of government as guarantor of the rights of the little guy has evaporated, as industry has infiltrated and suborned the regulatory apparatus of government. And if you are convinced that your government no longer works for or represents you, the guy who wants to “drown it in the bathtub” is likely to receive a better hearing.

Fortunately for me, before I entered into the above conversation I had perused an article by Peter Van Buren in TomDispatch. Van Buren is the author of The Ghost of Tom Joad,” and his vision of what is happening in the economy would have been excruciatingly familiar to Steinbeck.

 

The striking trend lines of social and economic disparity that have developed over the last 50 years are clearly no accident; nor have disemboweled unions, a deindustrialized America, wages heading for the basement (with profits still on the rise), and the widest gap between rich and poor since the slavery era been the work of the invisible hand. It seems far more likely that a remarkably small but powerful crew wanted it that way, knowing that a nation of fast food workers isn’t heading for the barricades any time soon. Think of it all as a kind of “Game of Thrones” played out over many years. A super-wealthy few have succeeded in defeating all of their rivals — unions, regulators, the media, honest politicians, environmentalists — and now are free to do as they wish. 

 

cigar-infusing-alcoholVan Buren answers the question, “Why Don’t the Unemployed Get Off Their Couches?”\ and Eight Other Critical Questions for Americans.” These are the sorts of questions being discussed by people at, well, family gatherings. And a key issue is that the working people of this country are only receiving one side of the story. It is a good read: you owe it to yourself to give it ten minutes

Van Buren ends his thus:

Once upon a time, the original 99% percent, the serfs, worked for whatever their feudal lords allowed them to have. Now, Walmart “associates” do the same. Then, a few artisans lived slightly better, an economic step or two up the feudal ladder. Now, a technocratic class of programmers, teachers, and engineers with shrinking possibilities for upward mobility function similarly amid the declining middle class. Absent a change in America beyond my ability to imagine, that’s likely to be my future — and yours.

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He has contributed a number of forgettable rants, articles and moments of spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and a shifting menagerie of relatives, some of which may not now come to visit since he opened his big yap at the reunion.

 

Deflation Doom

Off the microphone of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 19, 2014

Snippet:

…What the CBs and Financial Pundits like Ambrose Evans-Pritchard are TERRIFIED by now is apparent DEFLATION through numerous of the micro economies throughout Eurotrashland. Prices are FALLING! Horrors! Even in SWEDEN prices are falling! This really gets nasty in the world of Real Estate, because falling prices put many McMansion “Owners” underwater, where they owe more than the box is worth on the market. Combine that with defaults and foreclosures (which actually are the cause of the falling prices) and banks get stuck with a lot of White Elephants they can’t sell.

To solve THAT problem, the Cbs start offering up lots of low interest money to the well connected to go buy the junk and keep the prices propped up, leading to Hedge Funds like Blackrock getting into the rental bizness, which generally is a nightmare to run….

For the rest, listen to the RANT!

RE

Forward Guidance

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  April 7, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

 

The Fourteen Year Recession

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on March 24, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s In Your GDP                          

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to View

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

Mother Should I Trust the Government?

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

 

Living Expense

Jan-00

Mar-14

% Increase

Gallon of gas

$1.27

$3.51

176.4%

Barrel of oil

$24.11

$100.00

314.8%

Fuel oil per gallon

$1.19

$4.07

242.0%

Electricity per Kwh

$0.084

$0.134

59.5%

Gas per therm

$0.712

$1.078

51.4%

Dozen eggs

$0.97

$2.00

106.2%

Coffee per lb

$3.40

$5.20

52.9%

Ground Beef per lb.

$1.90

$3.73

96.3%

Postage stamp

$0.33

$0.49

48.5%

Movie ticket

$5.25

$10.25

95.2%

New car

$20,300.00

$31,500.00

55.2%

Annual healthcare spending per capita

$4,550.00

$9,300.00

104.4%

Average private college tuition

$22,000.00

$37,000.00

68.2%

Avg home price (Case Shiller)

$161,000.00

$242,000.00

50.3%

Avg monthly rent (Case Shiller)

$635.00

$890.00

40.2%

Ounce of gold

$279.00

$1,334.00

378.1%

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

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

Click to View

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

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

Click to View

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shake me, wake me!


Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  January 20, 2014
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     The rot moves from the margins to the center, but the disease moves from the center to the margins. That is what has happened in the realm of money in recent weeks due to the sustained mispricing of the cost of credit by central banks, led by the US Federal Reserve. Along the way, that outfit has managed to misprice just about everything else  — stocks, houses, exotic securities, food commodities, precious metals, fine art. Oil is mispriced as well, on the low side, since oil production only gets more expensive and complex these days while it depends more on mispriced borrowed money. That situation will be corrected by scarcity, as oil companies discover that real capital is unavailable. And then the oil will become scarce. The “capital” circulating around the globe now is a squishy, gelatinous substance called “liquidity.” All it does is gum up markets. But eventually things do get unstuck.

     Meanwhile, the rot of epic mispricing expresses itself in collapsing currencies and the economies they are supposed to represent: India, Turkey, Argentina, Hungary so far. Italy, Spain, and Greece would be in that club if they had currencies of their own. For now, they just do without driving their cars and burn furniture to stay warm this winter. Automobile use in Italy is back to 1970s levels of annual miles-driven. That’s quite a drop.

     Before too long, the people will be out in the streets engaging with the riot police, as in Ukraine. This is long overdue, of course, and probably cannot be explained rationally since extreme changes in public sentiment are subject to murmurations, the same unseen forces that direct flocks of birds and schools of fish that all at once suddenly turn in a new direction without any detectable communication.

     Who can otherwise explain the amazing placidity of the sore beset American public, beyond the standard trope about bread, circuses, and superbowls? Last night they were insulted with TV commercials hawking Maserati cars. Behold, you miserable nation of overfed SNAP card swipers, the fruits of wealth and celebrity! Savor your unworthiness while you await the imminent spectacles of the Sochi Olympics and Oscar Night! Things at the margins may yet interrupt the trance at the center. My guess is that true wickedness brews unseen in the hidden, unregulated markets of currency and interest rate swaps.

     The big banks are so deep in this derivative ca-ca that eyeballs are turning brown in the upper level executive suites. Notable bankers are even jumping out of windows, hanging themselves in back rooms, and blowing their brains out in roadside ditches. Is it not strange that there are no reports on the contents of their suicide notes, if they troubled to leave one? (And is it not unlikely that they would all exit the scene without a word of explanation?) One of these, William Broeksmit, a risk manager for Deutsche Bank, was reportedly engaged in “unwinding positions” for that that outfit, which holds over $70 trillion in swap paper. For scale, compare that number with Germany’s gross domestic product of about $3.4 trillion and you could get a glimmer of the mischief in motion out there. Did poor Mr. Broeksmit despair of his task? 

     Physicist Stephen Hawking declared last week that black holes are not exactly what people thought they were. Stuff does leak back out of them. This will soon be proven in the unwinding derivatives trades when most of the putative wealth associated with swaps and such disappears across the event horizon of bad faith, and little dribbles of their prior existence leak back out in bankruptcy proceedings and political upheaval.

     The event horizon of bad faith is the exact point where the credulous folk of this modern age, from high to low, discover that their central banks only pretend to be regulating agencies, that they ride a juggernaut of which nobody is really in control. The illusion of control has been the governing myth since the Lehman moment in 2008. We needed desperately to believe that the authorities had our backs. They don’t even have their own fronts.

     Is the money world at that threshold right now? One thing seems clear: nobody is able to turn back the plummeting currencies. They go where they will and their failures must be infectious as the greater engine of world trade seizes up. Who will write the letters of credit that make international commerce possible? Who will trust whom? When do people seriously start to starve and reach for the pitchforks? When does the action move from Kiev to London, New York, Frankfurt, and Paris?

***

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.

 

 

Dense Fog Turns into Toxic Smog

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on December 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to View

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

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

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

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

Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

negative earnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civic Decay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Disorder 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic Sense and Nonsense

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

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Published on Economic Undertow on December 16, 2013

schrodinger

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner


e·con·o·my

/iˈkänəmē/
noun
noun: economy; plural noun: economies
    1. the wealth and resources of a country or region, esp. in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.
      synonyms: wealth, (financial) resources;
      financial system, financial management, “the nation’s economy”

      financial system, financial management
      “the nation’s economy”
      • a particular system or stage of an economy.
        “a free-market economy”

 

  1. careful management of available resources.
    “even heat distribution and fuel economy”
    synonyms: thrift, thriftiness, providence, prudence, careful budgeting, economizing, saving, scrimping, restraint, frugality, abstemiousness

    “one can combine good living with economy”
    antonyms: extravagance

    – from Google

    When is enough enough? When do economic ‘deep thinkers’ pull their heads out of their asses and realize there is more to economics besides cheerleading exponentially increased numbers of new cars, tract houses and the latest from Apple? Don’t these people understand entropy? Selling tens of billions of new cars would certainly be good for the car business but what about everything else?

    Right now we are destroying our life-support system so that a relative handful of individuals can become ‘rich’ … adverse conditions apply to wealthy and poor alike. After we screw up there is nowhere ‘off planet’ for the rich to go.

     


    Dead or alive? Schrödinger’s markets

    “True economic health will be known only when stimulus is removed!” says Financial Times.

    Rude good health is when our nature-raping monstrosity is able to cannibalize its own capital without any special help from the government. Of course, our irreplaceable capital must be continually annihilated faster because that rate of increase represents ‘growth’; the annihilation process is collateral is our ‘wealth’. We’ll know when we’ve finally reached the highest level of success when we fail spectacularly, when everything blows apart.

    What is wealth, you ask? Do you really want to know?

     

    Central banks have flooded the financial system with cash, driving investors to park their money in higher-yielding securities and largely obfuscating the true state of underlying markets.

    Take, for instance, the corporate default rate and the analytical models that are supposed to he …

     

    Blah, blah, blah! Everything the Financial Times writes after the words ‘Central Banks have’ is utter nonsense. The remark is designed to mislead. Either the highly regarded author of the piece is a complete moron who doesn’t know the first thing about finance or the Time’s staff knows better and is mouthing a client’s company line.

    People who claim the central banks print money are peak oil deniers, as it is the high and increasing real cost of fuel that is slowly and certainly strangling industrial economies. $110/barrel crude does not bring any more goods or services into this world than did $20 crude. The difference is prices is simply a tax levied by our past economic success against every current — and future — fuel user! Central banks cannot drive money costs low enough to compensate for rising costs of fuel. $110 Brent is the equivalent of a 5% or higher policy rate. Add this to the penalty rates levied against countries in Southern Europe and the result is +10% interest for sovereigns and banks … no surprise that Europe is falling apart.

    Fiddling with interest rates won’t deflect fuel prices: even if lenders pay customers to borrow there is no re-lending of fuel resources. When they are gone they are gone …

    Common sense lesson for Financial Times: central banks cannot ‘print money’ because they are collateral constrained, that is, they cannot make loans that are greater than the worth of collateral they take on as security. When central banks issue funds they are always very careful to accept ‘high-quality’ collateral from borrowers when they do so. Since finance institution collateral is promissory notes from loans already made, the central bank does nothing but refinance existing debt; no new money is created.

    A central bank can make a $10 billion loan against $10 billion in collateral but not a loan greater than that amount; it generally offers less than par; giving collateral a haircut. Only private sector finance institutions can make ‘unsecured’ loans; that is, lending increased amounts over and over against the same collateral … or against no collateral at all. Commercial banks have underwriting departments that determine whether a borrower can repay or not, whether he will be able to borrow tomorrow so as to retire the loan he seeks today. Central banks are dependent upon private sector credit creation => finance lends to itself because it can book ‘wealth effect’ gains-on-paper => this assures future loans = the finance marketplace is a self-perpetuating Ponzi scheme that serves to dump hundreds of borrowed billion$ into the pockets of tycoons.

    The rest of us are obliged to repay these loans …

    Private sector finance has a capital structure, an ownership interest/equity with the capacity to ‘sell’ risk at a discount to others. Central banks are ‘reserve banks’; they have no capital to speak of, they are risk absorbers. Returns are not retained but are paid to the treasury. Central banks are balance sheets and nothing more: assets and liabilities are always balanced … all loans are secured, they have to be. If not, the central bank is instantly another commercial bank and insolvent for the same reason; excess leverage. The ruined cannot rescue the ruined: there would be no lender of last resort, no entity able to fix asset prices or reassure markets and depositors. The entire banking system would teeter, there would be runs out of it.

    Right now there are signs that central banks have exhausted collateral and are inching toward leveraged lending, toward insolvency. Evidence is capital flows out of countries such as China.

    If a central bank was to make an unsecured loan to any one bank, all the other commercial banks would demand the same treatment. Banks would quickly borrow unlimited amounts without offering collateral. Private sector banks do not leverage the Fed or other central banks because they are disciplined but because they are unable to do so; they must offer collateral and there is not enough to go around.

    Keep in mind, real, physical collateral evaporates under everyone’s nose. Vast amounts of money are lent into existence to gain fuel, the fuel is instantly burned for nothing — at the end of the day there is no more collateral. What remains after each successful loan-for-fuel transaction is the need for even more loans and more fuel to burn. Collateral for the entire system ceases to be a thing but ‘demand’ for things to destroy. This destructiveness is the underlying health of the economy we are all supposed to be concerned about!

    Because the greatest amounts of debt have been taken on to buy fuel in some form or other, use of the fuel = destruction of the collateral. The only thing that allows this process to continue us is our purposeful and collective refusal to understand the true nature of collateral … or to accept what we are doing as a form of collective insanity.

    Something to keep in mind: when central banks conduct open-market operations such as quantitative easing (QE) it creates excess reserves. By doing so the central banks effectively create guarantees of commercial bank deposits. These reserves emerge from the shadows when there is a redemption demand, by depositors seeking their money … as during a bank run. It might be interesting to know why central banks seem intent on guaranteeing bank deposits in this way. Is there something that the central bank is not telling us?

    Because of faulty reasoning and desire to maintain the status quo at all cost, the banking system looks ready to unravel at the drop of a hat … of course, nobody will have seen it coming!

    Banks failed all over the world after Creditanstalt collapsed in 1931. There was a gigantic run, depositors demanded gold which the holders were loathe to part with. The result; velocity cratered which increased the demand for circulating money which was in turn held more tightly is a vicious cycle.

    Creditors called in loans; borrowers who retired their loans saw their repayments extinguished. This is how the money-creation process works: money appears when it is loaned into existence then extinguished when the loan is repaid. In the early 1930s, the demand for currency was increasing even as currency supply was being diminished; the result was a scarcity premium attached to money. It became impossible to find enough of the expensive currency to retire the remaining loan balances … this in turn caused defaults and decline in worth of non-money assets in yet another, complimentary vicious cycle.

    By 1933, most US banks were permanently closed except for those in two states (Manchester). When Roosevelt was inaugurated he declared a state of emergency and ordered Congress to prepare for an all-out effort to end the banking crisis. The Congress quickly authorized a seven-day bank holiday which provided time for the Treasury to print $700 million in currency; this was then flown to the Federal Reserve banks for distribution to commercial banks. This cash infusion allowed the banks to reopen and pay circulating money to depositors (who could then turn around and repay their own loans).

    Repayment to depositors was limited to currency as it could be printed rather than dug out of the ground or ‘bought’ with cripplingly high interest rates in the international market as had been the case up to that time. FDR and Congress removed specie out of circulation — it was already hoarded out of circulation and most gold holders were banks or speculators — and outlawed the predatory gold clause in contracts. The dollar was depreciated 40% against gold as well as against European currencies that were still pegged to gold. Without a gold peg to defend or gold hoards to increase, US interest rates retreated and nominal commodity prices including agricultural goods increased. The US stock market reached its lowest level (inflation adjusted or nominal) and began to rally. FDR had bailed out the banks, and by doing so he bailed out much of the rest of the US economy!

    After the immediate bailout, the government insured bank deposits, began to regulate Wall Street trading, separated ordinary deposit banking from finance underwriting, insurance and other forms of gambling. FDR also used federal money to employ some of the millions of young, unemployed men and women. His most successful programs were Works Progress Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Civilian Conservation Corp, the pro-union Wagner Act, Social Security, then later the Agricultural Adjustment Act.

    Today, the entire banking system is insolvent w/ banks’ non-government assets being worth far less than their face price. What keeps banks and bank-like entities afloat is dishonest accounting/mark to fantasy and the defective understanding (hope) that the central bank will lend against these impaired assets @ near-par. At some point every asset will be carefully measured on more rational grounds. Fantasy worth will be rejected: the result will be a massive hit against banking system liabilities which will result in banks closing — as during the 1930s.

    In the 1930s, bank balance sheets were lopsided; assets were often stocks bought during the Great Bubble or accumulated immediately after the crash — collected by way of margin calls. Assets also included inflated mortgages on now-worthless land. Bank liabilities were minuscule relative to the pyramid of assets; the loss of only a small amount of asset worth wiped out bank capital and impinged on liabilities. Banks closed rather than hand out their remaining deposits, some of which wound up in the Treasury and the central bank as non-balance sheet custody items. One could say the Treasury got a good deal, for $700 million in public currency the Treasury gained control over billions, at the same time it retired claims (liabilities) that would have otherwise contributed to the bankruptcy of the entire system.

    What would bankrupt the system today is situational awareness, the recognition of systemic insolvency. Right now the Depression-era depositor guarantees protect against one or two banks failing due to insolvency and over-leverage, not against all the banks being insolvent and over-leveraged at the same time. Ordinarily, if one bank fails, liabilities are shifted from the failed bank to other, solvent institutions. As discussed previously, when the entire system is over-leveraged, shifting funds from one failed bank to another is futile; all the banks are in effect a single, giant bank; depositor funds are trapped therein. Unlike in 1934, it would take far more than $700 million to refloat the system by making depositors whole with currency; it would take years for the government to produce even the smallest part of total liabilities (insured deposits) in paper money. There is over $7 trillion deposited @ banks, there is less than $1 trillion in currency, 40% of that is overseas. Seven trillion dollars is seventy billion $100 bills, there isn’t enough paper or ink! This is the problem with the post-modern bank run; depositors are unable to gain currency/circulating money because there isn’t enough time or resources to print it. On the other hand, shifting funds from one depository to another is pointless because all of them are bankrupt.

    When the central bank begins to offer unsecured loans and to leverage its collateral thereby, then the entire system from the largest to the smallest bank is insolvent. Afterward, the Treasury — with its massive imbalance of debits vs. liabilities as well as incompetent, criminal management — becomes insolvent. This is what Irving Fisher was describing in 1933.

     

    39.

    Those who imagine that Roosevelt’s avowed reflation is not the cause of our recovery but that we had “reached the bottom anyway” are very much mistaken. At any rate, they have given no evidence, so far as I have seen, that we had reached the bottom. And if they are right, my analysis must be woefully wrong.

    According to all the evidence, under that analysis, debt and deflation, which had wrought havoc up to March 4, 1933, were then stronger than ever and, if let alone, would have wreaked greater wreckage than ever, after March 4. Had no “artificial respiration” been applied, we would soon have seen general bankruptcies of the mortgage guarantee companies, savings banks, life insurance companies, railways, municipalities, and states. By that time the Federal Government would probably have become unable to pay its bills without resort to the printing press, which would itself have been a very belated and unfortunate case of artificial respiration. If even then our rulers should still have insisted on”leaving recovery to nature” and should still have refused to inflate in any way, should vainly have tried to balance the budget ad discharge more government employees, to raise taxes, to float, or try to float, more loans, they would soon have ceased to be our rulers. For we would have insolvency of our national government itself, and probably some form of political revolution without waiting for the next legal election. The mid-west farmers had already begun to defy the law.

    40.

    If all this is true, it would be as silly and immoral to “let nature take her course” as for a physician to neglect a case of pneumonia. It would also be a libel on economic science, which has its therapeutics as truly as medical science.

     

    One possible fix would be to forget trying to print the needed amounts of currency and turn deposits into a federalized form of Bitcoin. Deposits could be held by individuals on their own personal computers rather than at failed-and-failing banks. That this might be a real strategy is indicated by Fed/Treasury interest in Bitcoin … not to shut it down but to make use of it.

    Make no mistake; if the banks fail in the US and money becomes unavailable as it was in Argentina in early 2000s, there will be disturbances in this country. Americans have put their entire faith in money, it has been elevated in the place of family- and community: this is the big difference between USA in 2013 and USA in 1933. Take away the money flows — even for a little while — and there are instantly very serious problems … panic, breakdown of money-dependent processes leading to shortages of critical goods, loss of confidence, public rage and sense of ‘nothing to lose’.

    There would be tremendous backlash against the bankers. It’s one thing for the bankers to steal from the middle class stealthily as they have been doing since 1980, but stealing at once in broad daylight would be too much to bear.

    Attempting to make depositors whole with insufficient banknote capability allows for the printing of ‘unconventional’ notes of very high denominations, such as the famous RM 1,000,000,000 note. Banknote insufficiency is a component of hyperinflation that must be kept in mind at all times. If a depositor demands $100,000 there is the temptation on the part of the government to offer that individual a $100,000 bill instead of a thousand $100 bills. The first large-denomination bill is accompanied by others which are superseded by ever- larger bills as nominal currency demand increases along with nominal deposits in yet another self-reinforcing cycle. System failure is not currency failure but that of system components and currency ‘trap’.

    Here is another highly-regarded thought leader who does not recognize that the world has been changed by our own success:

     

    23 years ago the world seemed much simpler. Francis Fukuyama wrote that the West had won the war of Capitalism. However, 23 years later things have changed. By 2016 the economy of China will exceed that of the U.S. This is not what Fukuyama expected in 1989. It should not be possible that a communistic society could poised to overtake a capitalistic economy. It is quite an amazing turn of events.

    The explosion of public debt in Western economies is a symptom of the more profound economic malaise. The argument between stimulus and austerity are very futile. The reality is that by 2050 interest payments on government debt will be above 100% of federal revenues according to the Alternative Fiscal Scenario (AFS) of the CBO. The AFS is the more realistic of the two assumptions that the CBO produces.

    If we look at the US and China per capita to GDP ratios we find that in 1978 the average American was 22 times richer than the average Chinese citizen. Today, that ratio is down to only 5 times. The great divergence of prosperity that was generated by the strength of capitalism is now the great re-convergance.

    There were “6 Killer Apps” that defined the U.S. during its great economic growth cycle.

    1) Competition

    2) Scientific Revolution

    3) Modern Medicine

    4) Consumer Society

    5) Work Ethic

    6) Property Rights

    Those issues allowed for growth, innovation and rising economic prosperity during the 20th century. Today, while the rest of the world has slowly been adopting these “killer apps” the U.S. is slowly losing them.

     

    Says the analyst …

     

    “I did not come to this country to participate in its decline.”

     

    How self-congratulatory … and how misleading. America’s ‘Killer Apps’ were largely a matter of luck: that FDR was in charge of America during the Great Depression rather than Herbert Hoover. The American banking system avoided collapse by a matter of days or weeks in 1933. It would have taken a long time for the country to recover afterward had deflationary matters been allowed to run their course. As it was, the bellicose states Germany and Japan recovered more quickly than America, enough to take advantage of the US’s economic weakness and inability to secure its own and allies’ overseas interests. The consequence was a titanic and unnecessary conflagration that took tens of millions of lives.

    Any number of different conditions or sets of conditions can be added to those above to explain why American industry succeeded completely during its, “great economic growth cycle”. Missing from this list includes cheap labor, access to sea trade, favorable demographics and helpful doctrine — the gently moderating Invisible Hand.

    Most important and left out are access to inexpensive energy resources and organic credit. The latter is critical: centralized industry is fundamentally loss-making; credit is required in order for industry to both take root and to carry forward. The difference between economic success or failure is whether a country has access to its own sources of loans or must rely on intermittent streams of external funds. With organic credit a country lacking resources can gain them in exchange for excellent-appearing empty promises.

    American colonies in the early-to-mid 1700s were at the mercy of their home-island lenders whose rapaciousness was a major cause of the Revolution. Banks in London would lend in the form of paper drafts — discountable bills issued at no cost to them. Borrowers were compelled to repay in gold or silver. Inability to pay in the ‘appropriate manner’ resulted in forfeiture as lenders deputized the Crown’s agents and by way of arbitrary writs dispossessed borrowers in kangaroo courts. One reason for this abuse was 75-plus years of costly warfare in North America between England and France.

    Enough abuses and the colonists rebelled. Afterward, Americans erected their own credit structure: a national treasury, an American currency, sufficient large finance institutions able to act as lenders of last resort and final guarantors of liabilities, then a central bank. America also had many local banks able to make loans or issue bills as well as a legal structure including enforceable private contracts.

    Indeed, it is only within the context of enforceable — and equitable — contracts do competition, consumer society, work ethic or private property matter.

    Likewise, the UK possessed its own organic credit which was necessary — along with the theft of Spanish-New World treasure — to finance the Industrial Revolution. This included the Bank of England, Britain’s country banks as well as merchant lenders and insurers within the City of London, the well-regarded and long enduring sterling currency and discountable bills-of-exchange; also commercial laws and the court system within which these would be exercised. With organic credit the iron machines and factories that made them were made possible in the first place as all had to be bought and paid for before they could be put to any use.

    Kenya was a country with ‘killer apps’ but no organic credit; like the other colonies it was dependent upon British credit and currency. Kenya’s economy ‘succeeded’ when credit flowed from the UK towards it, Kenya was ruined when credit rushed out. Blame for ruin was cast upon demographics: Kenya is a country filled with hapless Negro savages who deserve whatever they get. Demographics cannot explain the repeated failures of Ireland, a country filled with Caucasians; also a country that was — and is — a slave-state to external credit.

    Ireland: a country that once borrowed in sterling now borrows euros from the European Union; as such it is as much a colony as it ever was; ditto Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy … France. Here is real Killer App: all EU nations are credit slaves to nothing or no-one … only each others’ foolishness and iniquity.

    “Growth, innovation and rising economic prosperity during the 20th century,” is the outcome of expanding credit and self-extinguished resources. A highly regarded economic thinker swings and misses:

     

    There is no such thing as “the central challenge to growth”. Proof is impossible to come by with respect to all macroeconomic controversies. Klein vapidly handwrings that, “Growth simply isn’t producing enough jobs” without meaningfully addressing the question of how to achieve growth, or addressing the arguments that Bernstein carefully catalogs for why a broader distribution might be growth-supportive. When Klein writes “fixing [unemployment] is necessary, though not sufficient, to making real headway against inequality”, he is making an empirical assertion without …

     

    The content of this relatively harmless and inoffensive article what one might expect. What matters is the repeated invocation of ‘growth’ and the absence of a “central challenge” to it. Evidence is easy to find, one need only drive to a gas station and fill ‘er up. The $3+ dollars squandered on each gallon in excess of the small change spent in identical transactions during earlier and better times is money that cannot be spent elsewhere: it subsidizes the decreasingly productive petroleum industry. Meanwhile, the collateral in the gas tank is burned up for absolutely nothing. The economist does not recognize the problem, in fact he likely believes he is contributing to a better world by adding to ‘demand’.

    The car cannot be paid for by driving the car … neither can the gas. The driver-economist could become a courier or taxi driver but there is very modest amount of commercial business for drivers so employed. The fuel customer must instead borrow; his boss borrows against the bank accounts of his company’s customers who in turn borrow from from their own customers’ banks which themselves borrow in turn. Multiply by the tens of millions driving to gas stations every day using borrowed money to buy gas … there is the central challenge to growth … there is no way to retrieve the gas … there is nothing to retire the loans!

    Arguing about non-existent growth is like arguing about transubstantiation. There is not point to it because thermodynamic physics rules, economics that ignores this is irrelevant. Instead, conventional monetary economics has become ‘the silly science’, useful only to the degree that it sheds some light on how far we will fall when we cross certain — and onrushing — thermodynamic thresholds.

    The time to invent a new economic regime is running out … one that rewards husbandry and capital conservation the way it rewards squandrous waste. Economics today has become the science of extravagance and nothing more. Economists relentlessly pimp living beyond our means as if this is a natural entitlement rather than a fatal wound. It is appalling how clueless, stupid and self-interested the economic management appears to be. This is failure of the highest order, the willfully blind are leading the rest over the precipice.

    Pre-crash bull Irving Fisher famously predicted two weeks before the 1929 crash that, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau …” During the run-up to the crash, Fisher had become wealthy by way of his analysis, he was a famous and highly regarded economist. The depression that followed the crash cost Fisher his fortune. Nevertheless, he was possessed of enough integrity to reconsider his prejudices and analyze carefully the dynamics that brought his world — and himself — to ruin.

    Now it is time for the rest of the analysts to follow suit …

 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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Not that the future will be so glamorous.https://youtu.be/FjNyTtW-6K8The embed is high-def and did not work, or something.Our past will be our future and in 3000 years the damage of the dimming down will have been fully revers...

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Brexit: stage one in Europe’s slow-burn energy collapse

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Another Mass Extinction Is Underway

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The Sequel: Life after Economic Growth

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A new study found that the Great Recession correla [...]

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They clipped Cohen's wings. With legal fees I [...]

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A new study found that the Great Recession correla [...]

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The central bank gold lending market, centered in [...]

PEDOGATE: France Erupts as President’s Past Comes [...]

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Alternate Perspectives

  • Two Ice Floes
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There Will Be Blood…and Many More Lies By Cognitive Dissonance   I suppose if we randomly stopped pe [...]

A Few Screws Loose By Cognitive Dissonance     Twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, I haul [...]

The Honor Box By Cognitive Dissonance   It is commonly said the fish rots from the head down, meanin [...]

Animal Spirits and Over Extended Markets By Cognitive Dissonance     Animal spirits is the term John [...]

  (Edit: I've tried to write on this subject for a while now and failed, realizing I would not, [...]

Event Update For 2018-12-10http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-12-09http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-12-08http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-12-07http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

Event Update For 2018-12-06http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.htmlThe [...]

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The Arithmetic of Plastic"Isn’t it time we asked why we design a material to last forever and then put that into objects [...]

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Indio Hatuey"Cuban agriculture has moved beyond carbon neutral and into drawdown territory."Worm Farm, [...]

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

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Interesting report, consistent with the issues in France which if I understand correctly Gail has po [...]

Meanwhile in the world of fast food. https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-12-11/walmart-testing-flipp [...]

you only get socialism when there's enough surplus energy to spread around democracy is essenti [...]

“World Bank senior vice-president Mahmoud Mohieldin said that the unemployment rate among Arab youth [...]

“The European Central Bank is fully expected on Thursday to affirm its plan to end its bond-buying p [...]

Thin gruel is Turkeys main export although it has been a hard row to hoe, literally, for a while now [...]

We could support independence for the Kurds and ignore Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey if we just impl [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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