jobs

Worst Jobs Report in 6 Years

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Published on The Economic Collapse on June 3, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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102 Million Working Age Americans Do Not Have Jobs

 

xThis is exactly what we have been expecting to happen.  On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the U.S. economy only added 38,000 jobs in May.  This was way below the 158,000 jobs that analysts were projecting, and it is also way below what is needed just to keep up with population growth.  In addition, the number of jobs created in April was revised down by 37,000 and the number of jobs created in March was revised down by 22,000.  This was the worst jobs report in almost six years, and the consensus on Wall Street is that it was an unmitigated disaster.

The funny thing is that the Obama administration says that the unemployment rate actually went down last month.  Almost every month since Obama has been in the White House, large numbers of Americans that have been unemployed for a very long time are shifted from the “unemployment” category to the “not in the labor force” category.  This has resulted in a steadily falling “unemployment rate” even though the percentage of the population that is actually working has not changed very much at all since the depths of the last recession.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the number of Americans “not in the labor force” increased by 664,000 from April to May.  If you believe that, I have a giant bridge on the west coast that I would like to sell you.  The labor force participation rate is now down to 62.6, and it is hovering just above a 38 year low.

When you add the number of working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” (7.4 million) to the number of working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force” (an all-time record high of 94.7 million), you get a grand total of 102.1 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

This is not a game.

So far in 2016, three members of my own extended family have lost their jobs.

According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, layoffs at major firms are running 24 percent higher up to this point in 2016 than they were during the same time period in 2015.

It was only a matter of time before those layoffs started showing up in the official employment numbers, and I fully expect that this trend will accelerate in the months ahead.

And here are some other brand new numbers for you to consider…

-Since Barack Obama entered the White House, 14,179,000 Americans have “left the labor force” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

-The quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate.  In May, 59,000 full-time jobs were lost, but 118,000 part-time jobs were gained.

-Since September 2014, 207,000 mining jobs have been lost.

-We just learned that U.S. factory orders have declined once again.  This marks the 18th month in a row that this has taken place, and we have never seen such an extended decline outside of a major recession.

-JPMorgan’s “recession indicators” have just soared to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.

Needless to say, the financial community is pretty horrified by all of this news.  They were expecting a much better jobs report, and many of them are not hiding their disappointment.  Here is one example from the Wall Street Journal

This was an unqualified dud of a jobs report,” said Curt Long, chief economist at the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, noting “the unemployment rate fell, but for the wrong reason as labor force participation declined for the second consecutive month.”

And here is another example that comes from David Donabedian, the chief investment officer at Atlantic Trust Wealth Management…

We can’t find a positive nugget in today’s job report. If we were looking for signs of strength in this report, there is nothing to hang onto here.”

But of course the mainstream media is doing their best to put a positive spin on these numbers.  For instance, CNN just published a laughable article entitled “America’s economy is stronger than weak jobs report“.

And the White House insists that this new employment report really isn’t that big of a deal

The White House doesn’t get “too disappointed” over the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans.

“I’ve been reacting to jobs numbers here at the White House for more than seven years, and what is true today has been true in the past, which is, we don’t get too excited when jobs numbers are better than expected and we don’t get too disappointed when jobs numbers one-month are lower than expected,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told CNBC.

But of course the truth is that it is a really big deal.  We just received major confirmation that the U.S. economy has slipped into recession mode.

For months, I have been writing about how virtually every other indicator has been screaming that a new economic crisis had already begun.

But the employment numbers had remained fairly decent up until now.  Employment is typically considered to be a “lagging indicator”, which means that it isn’t one of the first places we would expect to see signs of a recession show up.  However, it is inevitable that the official unemployment numbers will reflect an economic downturn eventually, and that is what we are starting to see now.

What this means is that you probably have even less time to get prepared for what is ahead than you may have originally thought.

The U.S. economy has already entered the early chapters of the next great economic crisis, and most of the population is going to be caught totally off guard and will suffer tremendously.

If our leaders had made better decisions since the last crisis, things could have turned out differently.  But instead, they continued to conduct business as usual, and now we will reap what they have sown

 

 

60 Hours a Week is not Enough

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Published on The Economic Collapse on May 17, 2016

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Working 60 Hours A Week At 3 Part-Time Jobs And Still Living Paycheck To Paycheck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can you do when you are working 60 hours a week at three part-time jobs and it is still not enough?  In America today, many people have taken on more than one job in a desperate attempt to make ends meet, but they still come up short at the end of the month.  And those that are actually working are the fortunate ones, because in one out of every five families in the United States nobody has a job.  There are more than 100 million working age Americans that are currently not employed (yes this is true), and as I pointed out yesterday, job cut announcements by major firms are currently running 24 percent ahead of last year’s pace.  But unemployment is just part of the overall problem.  There is this growing misconception out there that if you “have a job” that you must be doing okay.  Unfortunately for the growing number of “working poor” in America, that is not true at all.

Just consider the case of 55-year-old Erlinda Delacruz.  At one time she had a good full-time manufacturing job, but then her factory closed down.  Millions of other Americans have also seen their good paying jobs sent out of the country in recent years, and yet our politicians refuse to do anything about it.  Today, she works 60 hours a week at three different part-time jobs and she still makes less than she once did at the manufacturing plant…

For 15 years, Erlinda Delacruz had a full-time manufacturing job in rural Winters, Texas.

It gave her health benefits and four weeks of paid vacation along with a salary that supported a good life. Then the rug was pulled from under her in 2009, when the plant closed. Since then, it’s been a battle of survival as Delacruz worked a string of part-time jobs. Last summer, she even lost her home to foreclosure.

Delacruz, 55, still works part-time. Except at three different places — Monday through Wednesday she works eight hours a day at a senior citizens center serving meals, and Thursday through Sunday Delacruz divides her time between two other jobs as a cashier at Walmart (WMT) and the Wes-T-Go convenience store.

She told CNN that she lives paycheck to paycheck”, and just like half the country, she is basically flat broke at this point.

Barack Obama promised to be the hero of the working class when he was elected, but it seems like almost everything that he has done has hurt the working class even more.

Take Obamacare for example.  Health insurance premiums have soared through the roof since Obamacare was implemented, and many struggling families now find that they can no longer afford health insurance at all.

And many of those that have signed up for Obamacare are often discovering that many doctors and hospitals won’t even accept their coverage.  The following comes from the New York Times

AMY MOSES and her circle of self-employed small-business owners were supporters of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. They bought policies on the newly created New York State exchange. But when they called doctors and hospitals in Manhattan to schedule appointments, they were dismayed to be turned away again and again with a common refrain: “We don’t take Obamacare,” the umbrella epithet for the hundreds of plans offered through the president’s signature health legislation.

“Anyone who is on these plans knows it’s a two-tiered system,” said Ms. Moses, describing the emotional sting of those words to a successful entrepreneur.

“Anytime one of us needs a doctor,” she continued, “we send out an alert: ‘Does anyone have anyone on an exchange plan that does mammography or colonoscopy? Who takes our insurance?’ It’s really a problem.”

Unfortunately, things are not going to be getting any better for the working class because we have now entered the early stages of the next major economic downturn.

Earlier today, I received an email from someone that works for a very large company that provides produce for some of the biggest grocery chains in America.  According to him, there has been a dramatic decline in orders coming in recently, and this is something that didn’t even happen during the depths of the last major recession.

So why in the world would that be happening if the economy was in good shape?

I have been receiving similar anecdotal reports from people all over America.  We may not be experiencing a full-blown economic implosion like Venezuela is quite yet, but we are starting to slide in that direction.

And just like in Venezuela and elsewhere around the globe, when economic conditions get harder violent crime goes up.  I have warned that this would happen over and over again, and it is already starting to happen in major cities all over the nation

According to new reports, 2016 is shaping up to be an even more murderous year than last in over two dozen major U.S. cities as homicides rise at their fastest pace yet.

Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas have seen the worst, all of which experienced increased homicides in 2015, evidenced by acceleration of murders in the first three months of 2016.

Law enforcement officials and experts are saying the increase over the last year is due to many factors, including an uptick in gang and drug-related violence. Yet, many believe cops and citizens are now interacting differently since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has shifted attitudes to distrust police.

Of course we haven’t even gotten to the bad stuff yet.

What we have seen so far is just the very beginning of the chaos that is coming to America.

Before I go today, I want to mention a couple of things.

First of all, the Dow was down another 180 points today, and someone out there is betting unprecedented amounts of money that a major market crash is imminent.  Just check out this chart.  You buy shares of financial instruments such as UVXY because you think that the market is going to implode.  So if there is a giant market crash in our very near future, whoever purchased all of those shares of UVXY stands to make an enormous amount of money.

Secondly, I really started to sound the alarm about German banking giant Deutsche Bank back in September.  And sure enough – their stock price plunged to an all-time record low earlier this year.

But now the whispers are getting louder that even bigger trouble is ahead for this pillar of the European financial system.  The following originally comes from Berenberg analyst James Chappell

Too many problems still: The biggest problem is that DBK has too much leverage. On our measures, we believe DBK is still over 40x levered. DBK can either reduce assets or increase capital to rectify this. On the first path, the markets do not exist in the size nor pricing to enable it to follow this route. Going down the second path also seems impossible at the moment, as the profitability of the core business is under pressure. Seeking outside capital is also likely to be difficult as management would likely find it hard to offer any type of return on new capital invested.

Keep a close eye on Deutsche Bank.  They may very well end up providing us with the next “Lehman Brothers moment” that so many people have been waiting for.

There is so much going on “under the surface” right now, and I am convinced that it will not stay “under the surface” for very much longer.

The global financial system is starting to come apart at the seams even as you read this article, and this is going to have enormous implications for every man, woman and child on the planet in the years ahead.

So as bad as things are for the working class in America right now, the truth is that they are about to get a whole lot worse.

In 1 Out Of Every 5 American Families, Nobody Has A Job

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Published on The Economic Collapse on April 24, 2016

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If nobody is working in one out of every five U.S. families, then how in the world can the unemployment rate be close to 5 percent as the Obama administration keeps insisting? The truth, of course, is that the U.S. economy is in far worse condition than we are being told. Last week, I discussed the fact that the Federal Reserve has found that 47 percent of all Americans would not be able to come up with $400 for an unexpected visit to the emergency room without borrowing it or selling something. But Barack Obama and his minions never bring up that number. Nor do they ever bring up the fact that 20 percent of all families in America are completely unemployed. The following comes directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

In 2015, the share of families with an employed member was 80.3 percent, up by 0.2 percentage point from 2014. The likelihood of having an employed family member rose in 2015 for Black families (from 76.4 percent to 77.7 percent) and for Hispanic families (from 85.9 percent to 86.4 percent). The likelihood for White and Asian families showed little or no change (80.1 percent and 88.6 percent, respectively).

For purposes of this study, families “are classified either as married-couple families or as families maintained by women or men without spouses present” and they include households without children as well as children under the age of 18.

Digging into the numbers, we find that there were a total of 81,410,000 families in America during the 2015 calendar year.

Of that total, 16,060,000 families did not have a single member employed.

So that means that in 19.7 percent of all families in the United States, nobody has a job.

And of course there are lots more families that are “partially employed”. In other words, maybe the wife has a job but the husband does not.

So based on these numbers, it would appear to me that the true rate of unemployment in this country is vastly higher than 5 percent, and John Williams of shadowstats.com agrees with me. According to his calculations, the broadest measure of unemployment in the U.S. would actually be sitting at 22.9 percent if honest numbers were being used.

But let’s not just focus on where we are.

Let’s take a look at where we are going.

According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cut announcements by big companies in the United States were up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015, and it appears that the job losses are going to continue to mount as we roll into the second quarter. For instance, late last week Intel announced that it is going to be laying off 12,000 workers

As it navigates its path into the future, Intel, the 47-year-old corporation best known for making microprocessor chips that power personal computers, has announced significant changes to its business.

On Tuesday, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich said in a letter to employees that the company over the next year will cut its 107,300-person global workforce by 12,000 people, or 11 percent.

Those are good middle class jobs, and they are exactly the kind of jobs that we cannot afford to be losing.

Meanwhile, the “retail apocalypse” appears to be accelerating once again.

Bloomberg is reporting that teen clothing chain Aeropostale is preparing to file for bankruptcy.  Aeropostale currently operates more than 800 stores across the nation, and it is unclear if any of them will be able to stay open as this process plays out. But of course it isn’t just Aeropostale that has gone bankrupt lately. Here are a few more examples of major retailers that have recently filed for bankruptcy

April 16, 2016: Vestis Retail Group, the operator of sporting goods retailers Eastern Mountain Sports (camping, hiking, skiing, adventure sports), Bob’s Stores (family clothing and shoes), and Sport Chalet (general sporting goods), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It will close all 56 stores and stop online sales.

In the filing, it blamed the going-out-of-business sales at “certain Sports Authority locations,” plus the weather, which had been too warm, and trouble with switching to a new software platform. It’s owned by private equity firm Versa Capital Management LLC.

April 7, 2016: Pacific Sunwear of California, clothing retailer with nearly 600 stores and derailed ambitions of skate-and-surf cool, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. PE firm Golden Gate Capital, a lender to the company, agreed to convert over 65% of its loan into equity of the reorganized company and add another $20 million in financing. Wells Fargo agreed to provide $100 million of debtor-in-possession financing.

March 2, 2016: Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It said it would close 140 of its 450 stores, including all stores in Texas.

Just because the stock market has been doing well in recent weeks does not mean that the crisis has passed.

In fact, many experts believe that the crisis of 2016 is just getting started.  Albert Edwards of Societe Generale is one of them

But what I do know is when in the last few weeks I have heard that Janet Yellen sees no bubble in the US, when Ben Bernanke hones and restates his helicopter money speech, and when Mario Draghi says that the ECB’s policy of printing money and negative interest rates was working, I feel utterly depressed (I could also quote similar nonsense from Japan, the UK and China). I have not one scintilla of doubt that these central bankers will destroy the enfeebled world economy with their clumsy interventions and that political chaos will be the ugly result. The only people who will benefit are not investors, but anarchists who will embrace with delight the resulting chaos these policies will bring!

All over the world, the underlying economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate. Here in the U.S., retail sales have been extremely disappointing, total business sales have been steadily falling, corporate revenues and corporate profits continue to plunge, and corporate debt defaults have soared to their highest level since the last financial crisis.

All of these numbers are screaming that a major economic downturn is here, and with each passing week things look even more ominous for the second half of 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Refugee Tsunami

collapse-global-logo-1Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 20, 2015

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Migrants, who were found at sea on a boat, collect water during a heavy rain at a temporary refuge camp near Kanyin Chaung jetty, Myanmar, on June 4, 2015.

The Refugee problem is one of several Collapse Topics to be covered in a Live Broadcast this Sunday at High Noon Alaska Time on the Collapse Cafe You Tube Channel

Guests to include Nicole Foss, Gail Tverberg, Ugo Bardi, Steve Ludlum, Tom Lewis and Norman Pagett

(assuming everyone's plugins work right and the bandwidth is decent)

A growing problem all across the Globe is that of Refugees.  Millions of people trying to flee from one place and seek refuge in another.  The reasons appear to vary, in some cases because of ongoing conflict and war; in others due to Drought and the inability to provide enough food for the local population; other cases due to religious and ethnic differences between classes in the local society, etc.

Of course, all of these phenomena have two things in common, which are Population Overshoot and Resource Depletion.  All the conflicts stem from that, all the rest is just distraction.  If there really was plenty for everybody, if some people weren't being exploited for the benefit of others and there was an equitable distribution of the wealth, then you would have no conflict.  Everybody would be HAPPY! 🙂

http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/desert1101_428x269_to_468x312.jpgThe great surplus of energy we enjoyed globally here for the last couple of centuries allowed populations to balloon up all over the world, many of those populations in locations which have no chance of being self-sufficient at their current population size.  Saudi Arabia a prime example of this, they traded their oil for food and used it to pump up water from deep aquifers and desalinate still more water from the ocean, and blew up from 1M people to 30M people in a century.  In reality of course, Arabia is a DESERT!  The House of Saud Princes are descendents of a bunch of Bedouin Tribesmen who wandered that desert. Then with their Oil Wealth they imported in tons of people to do the scut work of the industrial society.   No way all these folks can continue to survive in Deserts of Arabia, so they will go on the MOVE.  At least if they don"t die first anyhow.

Although we have seen this for quite some time here in Amerika down on the Border with Mejico, constant bewailing of the problemof "Illegal Aliens" (as though they come from Outer Space without papers), the current really BIG problems are occuring in Southern Europe as refugees from the War Zones and progressively more desertified areas attempt to flee across the Mediterranean Sea by any thing that sort of floats, and on foot across Turkey and into Greece, all trying to get to the closest place where they think they still might carve out a life for themselves.

Boat-RefugeesSadly of course, Ground Zero for a lot of this migration is Italy where they are only doing marginally better than the folks down in MENA are doing.  At least 1000 a day currently actually arriving alive, plus they find a few bodies washing up on the beaches  in the Tourist hangouts on a daily basis as well.

Recently Jason Heppenstall from 22 Billion Energy Slaves was vacationing down in Italy and wrote this about the situation:

"[As an aside, a friend of mine got married in Sicily a couple of months ago and the wedding reception was continually interrupted by overhead helicopters coming back from sea with migrants dangling from them. Some children asked “What is going on?” and the adults comforted them by saying it was just some swimmers who had got into difficulty. When this carried on for two full days (Sicilian weddings being long affairs) the children must have concluded that practically everyone swimming needed rescuing.]"

For those that do make the crossing alive, they aren't exactly being welcome with open arms by the Italians

Italian protesters torch beds to try block migrant arrivals

http://www.barenakedislam.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/zx620y348_1075644.jpgRome (AFP) – Residents in a chic Rome suburb and a northern Italian village staged angry anti-immigrant protests on Friday, with villagers setting mattresses ablaze in a bid to stop authorities from housing migrants.

Authorities in the village of Quito plan to accommodate 101 immigrants in empty apartments, but several residents broke into one of the buildings, removed camp beds, mattresses and televisions intended for the newcomers and set them on fire outside.

The protesters then put up tents, with the Corriere della Sera newspaper quoting them as saying: "We aren't going home until they leave — this is an invasion."

Italy is currently hosting more than 80,000 migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean fleeing war, persecution or poverty in the Middle East and Africa. The arrivals include many Africans, particularly Eritreans, as well as Syrians.

Not very welcoming over there, obviously. Not a lot different here though, as currently leading Repub POTUS candidate The Donald not only doesn't want to let any new refugees IN, he wants to kick the ones already here OUT.

Donald Trump says illegal immigrants 'have to go' during NBC interview

Donald Trump has fired another loud shot in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, telling NBC News’ Meet the Press illegal immigrants to the US “have to go”.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said: ‘They have to go. Chuck, we either have a country, or we don’t have a country.’ Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

The real-estate mogul and sometime reality TV star, who leads polls of the Republican field after a series of controversies stoked by abrasive remarks, made the comment during an interview with host Chuck Todd which was conducted on his private plane as it sat on a runway in Des Moines, Iowa.

The conversation covered the candidate’s determination to rescind President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration which, subject to court battles, would protect up to 5 million undocumented children and family members from deportation.

Now, I cannot agree with The Donald that we even could kick all the undocumented migrants out, even if he could get such legislation passed.  It's completely impractical, how would you do such a purge?  Go on a house to house search with the Gestapo asking "Let me see your papers"?

http://northamericanimmigration.org/uploads/posts/2011-02/1298837157_statue-of-liberty.jpgHowever, the idea that in an era of steady resource depletion and population overshoot all refugees can be welcome with open arms and the Torch of the Statue of Liberty serving as a Beacon of Freedom is an equally unrealistic idea.  Both here, in Europe and in Asia as well borders are going to be shut down and migration is going to become increasingly more difficult as time goes by.  If you are figuring on trying to migrate BEFORE things get that bad in your neighborhood, now would be a good time to get moving.

As with many article on the Diner, this one was inspired by a post made by one of the KollapsniksTM on the Diner Forum.  I will close with my response to that post.

Frankly, Andre, fuck charity!  These people are voting with their feet, and they're coming to America.

I believe you were trying to embed Neil Diamond's "America", but that video version has been removed.

However, I found this one heading this article with a great Slideshow presentation, worth watching. (above heading this article)
 


Now, this gives you warm and fuzzy feelings about the History of Amerika as written in the history books,  and those images of the Statue of Liberty always bring up the Patriotic feelings and belief in the Land of Liberty.

A few things to note here though.  What do you notice about all those pictures of Immigrants?  They're all WHITE people from Europe!

Then look at those wonderful pictures of Greenery, Farms, Open Spaces etc.

Is that what CA is going to look like in 10 years?  Iowa in 20?

This is nostalgia for the PAST.  Those wide open spaces and boundless opportunity are GONE now.

Let's dissect Neil's lyrics:
 

"America"

 

 

 

 

 

Far,
We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star

Free,
Only want to be free

We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They're coming to America
Never looking back again,
They're coming to America

Home
Don't it seem so far away
Oh, we're traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home
To a new and a shiny place
Make our bed and we'll say our grace
Freedom's light burning warm
Freedom's light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They're coming to America
Ev'ry time that flag's unfurled
They're coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They're coming to America
Got a dream they've come to share
They're coming to America

They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
They're coming to America
Today, Today,
Today, Today, Today

My country 'tis of thee (today)
Sweet land of liberty (today)
Of thee I sing (today)

Of thee I sing
Today, Today, Today
Today, today, today……

Writer(s): Neil Diamond
Copyright: Stonebridge Music


Now, how realistic is this idea of "Freedom" and Liberty in the Amerika of TODAY, not your nostalgic history lessons?  Patriot Act, NDAA, TPP, Militarized Police, spying by the NSA and data mining from Google, precisely where is the FREEDOM here?  Granted it is still probably better than wherever they are coming from, but they'll be pretty disappointed in a few years, at most.

The main issue though remains the resource problem.  Half of the land mass of the FSoA west of the Mississippi River will once again be the Great Amerikan Desert soon enough.  We will have our own internal refugee problem that cannot be solved, except by Dead People.  Taking in more now just makes the problem worse here later.

The days of escaping as a refugee to freedom in less populated lands where there was still Opportunity are OVAH.  Refugees are unlikely to be welcome anywhere pretty soon.  Certainly in Europe they are not going to constantly accept Wave After Wave of boat people coming from North Africa and walking across Syria and Turkey into Greece.

For probably 2/3rds of the Global population, there is already no hope.  They cannot escape.

In the words of Hawkeye from "Last of the Mohicans"

“they’re not strangers… and they stay as they lay…”

https://cenantua.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/mohicans1.jpg

Detailing the Causes of Overshoot

Off the keyboard of Ugo Bardi

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Published on Resource Limits on June 26, 2015

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The causes of overshoot finally explained in detail

– The more I cut, the more the GdP goes up.

– I say: jobs, not branches!!

 – I can't stop cutting, but I can capture sawdust and sequester it into the tree hollow.

 – Do you really believe in this story of 'gravity'? I am not convinced at all.

 – Such a small cut in this big branch, why should I be worried?

– I am not a woodsman, but I can say that, if this branch was supposed to fall, why do we see so many branches, up there?

– I have been cutting this branch for quite a while and nothing has happened. Why should anything happen?

– Branches fall all the time; it is a natural phenomenon.

– It is just an engineering problem. They'll find something to keep the branch up.

– If we stop cutting. it will cost us more than the hospital bill for the fractures caused by the fall.

Putting the Real Story of Energy and the Economy Together

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on April 15, 2015

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What is the real story of energy and the economy? We hear two predominant energy stories. One is the story economists tell: The economy can grow forever; energy shortages will have no impact on the economy. We can simply substitute other forms of energy, or do without.

Another version of the energy and the economy story is the view of many who believe in the “Peak Oil” theory. According to this view, oil supply can decrease with only a minor impact on the economy. The economy will continue along as before, except with higher prices. These higher prices encourage the production of alternatives, such wind and solar. At this point, it is not just peak oilers who endorse this view, but many others as well.

In my view, the real story of energy and the economy is much less favorable than either of these views. It is a story of oil limits that will make themselves known as financial limits, quite possibly in the near term—perhaps in as little time as a few months or years. Our underlying problem is diminishing returns—it takes more and more effort (hours of workers’ time and quantities of resources), to produce essentially the same goods and services.

We don’t measure our investment results with respect to the quantity of end product produced (barrels of oil produced, liters of fresh water produced, kilos of copper produced, or number of workers provided with sufficient education to work in high tech industries), so we don’t realize that we are becoming increasingly inefficient at producing desired end products. See my post “How increased inefficiency explains falling oil prices.”

Figure 2. The way we would expect the cost of the extraction of energy supplies to rise, as finite supplies deplete.

Wages, viewed in terms of the product produced–oil in this case–can be expected to decrease as well. This change isn’t evident in usual efficiency statistics, because some of the workers are providing new kinds of services, such as fracking services, that weren’t required before.

Figure 3. Wages per worker in units of oil produced, corresponding to amounts shown in Figure 2.

Even investment is becoming increasingly inefficient. It takes more and more investment to extract a given quantity of oil or other energy product. This investment needs to stay in place longer as well. The ultra-low interest rates we have been experiencing reflect the poor returns investments are now making.

The myth exists that prices of all of the scarce goods and services will rise high and higher, as the economy encounters scarcity. The real story, though, is that the inflation-adjusted purchasing power of common workers is falling lower and lower, especially in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Not only can these workers afford to buy less, but they can also afford to borrow less. This means that their ability to purchase expensive goods created from commodities is falling.

At some point, this lack of purchasing power can be expected to affect the financial markets, and the prices of many commodities can be expected to fall. In fact, this already seems to be happening.

The likely impact of such a fall in commodity prices is not good. If low oil prices cannot be “turned around,” they will lead to debt defaults, and these debt defaults are likely to lead to failing financial institutions. Failing financial institutions have the potential to bring down the system, because it becomes very difficult for businesses to continue if they are not supported by a banking system that allows a company to pay its employees. Workers also need the banking system to pay for goods and to save for a “rainy day.”

A big part of what has allowed the economy to grow to the size it is today is increasing debt levels. These rising debt levels play many roles:

  • They make high-priced goods more affordable to consumers.
  • They create greater demand for goods, allowing more end-product goods to be produced.
  • They create more demand for commodities required to make end-product goods, allowing the price of these commodities to rise, so that more businesses have more incentive to create/extract these commodities.

At some point, debt levels stop rising as fast as they have in the past (because of a lack of growth in purchasing power because of diminishing returns in investment), and the whole system tends to fall toward collapse. We seem to have reached this point in the middle of 2014. China was raising its total debt level rapidly up until the early part of 2014, then suddenly moderated its growth in debt level in mid 2014. At about the same time, the US scaled back and eliminated it program of quantitative easing (QE). Oil prices dropped starting in mid-2014, at the time debt levels started moderating. Other commodity prices started falling as early as 2011, indicating likely affordability problems.

We are now in the period when many people still believe everything is going well. Oil prices and other commodity prices are low—what is “not to like”? The answer is that the system in not at all sustainable—profits of oil companies and other commodity businesses are down, just as wages of common workers in developed countries are down in inflation-adjusted terms. Companies are cutting back in investment in oil production. Soon oil production will drop. With lower oil supply, the economy will face huge challenges.

Many people believe that oil prices can bounce back up again, but this really isn’t the case, because of growing inefficiency related to limits we are reaching–the need to use more advanced techniques to produce oil; the need for desalination for water in some places; the need for more pollution control equipment that doesn’t really increase the finished goods and services we are producing but instead makes goods more expensive to produce.

Each worker is, on average, producing less and less of the finished goods we really need. Whether we like it or not, standards of living will have to fall. The amount of debt workers can afford decreases rather than increases. This new reality can be expected to manifest itself in debt defaults and increasing financial system problems.

Even if oil prices bounce back up again, it is doubtful that shale oil drillers will be able to again borrow at a sufficiently high rate to increase their production again—what lender will believe that oil prices will remain high indefinitely?

The China Connection

I have been trying to put the real story of energy and the economy together over a period of years. Prof. Lianyong Feng of Petroleum University of China, Beijing, hired me to put together a short course (eight sessions, each lasting about 1.5 hours) on the nature of our current problems for students majoring in “Energy Economics and Management.” The course would be open to everyone choosing this major, including freshman, so I needed to assume a fairly low level of background knowledge. Actual attendees included a number of graduate students and faculty, attending the course without credit.

I put together a series of lectures, which I gave during the second half of March 2015. PDFs of my lectures are also now available on my Presentations/Podcasts page.

These lectures were videotaped by Prof. Feng’s staff, and I am in the process of making You Tube Videos from them, in addition to the original MP4 format. (YouTube videos cannot be seen in China.) My current plan is to give a brief discussion of these lectures, in future posts.

Following the lecture series, I visited several places in China, to see how the economic slowdown is playing out in China. This included visits to Northwest China (Hohhot and Hardin), Northeast China (Daqing and Harbin), and Southeast China (Wenzhou area). In Wenzhou, I visited three different companies attempting to sell electrical equipment on the world market.

From these visits, we could see how the world economic slowdown is affecting China, and how China’s own slowdown in debt growth is adding to the world slowdown. We could also see that the slowdown has not yet run its course China–growth in housing continues, even as the need for it seems to be slowing. College students are finding it difficult to find high-paying jobs in oil and other commodity sectors. The lack of growth in high-paying jobs will provide downward pressure on housing prices as well.

I plan to write a post about this situation as well.

Oil Glut, Low Prices & Affordability

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on March 9 2015

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The oil glut and low prices reflect an affordability problem

For a long time, there has been a belief that the decline in oil supply will come by way of high oil prices. Demand will exceed supply. It seems to me that this view is backward–the decline in supply will come through low oil prices.

The oil glut we are experiencing now reflects a worldwide affordability crisis. Because of a lack of affordability, demand is depressed. This lack of demand keeps prices low–below the cost of production for many producers. If the affordability issue cannot be fixed, it threatens to bring down the system by discouraging investment in oil production.

This lack of affordability is affecting far more than oil products. A recent article in The Economist talks about LNG prices being depressed. LNG capacity ramped up quickly in response to high prices a few years ago. Now there is a glut of LNG capacity, and prices are far below the cost of extraction and shipping for many LNG suppliers. At least temporary contraction seems likely in this sector.

If we look at World Bank Commodity Price data, we find that between 2011 and 2014, the inflation-adjusted price of Australian coal decreased by 41%. In the same period, the inflation-adjusted price of rubber is down 58%, and of iron ore is down 59%. With those types of price drops, we can expect huge cutbacks on production of many types of goods.

How Does this Lack of Affordability Come About?

The issue we are up against is diminishing returns. Diminishing returns mean that as we reach limits, it takes increased resources (usually both physical resources and human labor) to produce some type of product. Oil is product subject to diminishing returns. Metals of many kinds also are becoming increasingly expensive to extract. In many parts of the world, a shortage of water makes it necessary to use unusual techniques (desalination or long distance pipelines) to obtain adequate supply. The higher cost of pollution control can have a similar effect to diminishing returns on products with pollution issues.

When we graph of the cost of production of resources subject to diminishing reserves, the result is similar to that shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The way we would expect the cost of the extraction of energy supplies to rise, as finite supplies deplete.

What happens with diminishing returns is that cost increases tend to be quite small for a very long time, but then suddenly “turn a corner.” With oil, the shift to higher costs comes as we move from “conventional” oil to “unconventional” oil. With metals, the shift comes as high quality ores become depleted, and we need to move to mines that require moving a great deal more dirt to extract the same quantity of a given metal. With water, such a steep rise in diminishing returns comes when wells no longer provide a sufficient quantity of water, and we must go to extraordinary measures, such as desalination, to obtain water.

During the time when cost increases from diminishing returns were quite minor, it generally was possible to compensate for the small cost increases with technological improvements and efficiency gains elsewhere in the system. Thus, even though there was a small amount of diminishing returns going on, they could be hidden within the overall system.

Once the effect of diminishing returns becomes greater (as it has since about 2000), it becomes much harder to hide cost increases. The cost of finished products of many kinds (for example, food, gasoline, houses, and automobiles) starts rising, relative to the income of workers. Workers find that they must cut back on discretionary expenditures in order to have enough money to cover all of their expenses.

How Diminishing Returns Affect the Economy 

There are at least three ways that diminishing returns adversely affects the economy:

  1. Lower wages
  2. Less ability to borrow
  3. Squeezing out other sectors of the economy

The reason for lower wages relates to the fact that, as the cost of producing a commodity rises, the worker is, in some sense, becoming less and less productive. For example, if we calculate wages per worker in units of oil, as oil becomes more expensive to extract, we get something like this:

Figure 2. Wages per worker in units of oil produced, corresponding to amounts shown in Figure 1.

A similar chart would hold for other resources that are becoming more difficult to extract, or whose cost of production is becoming higher because of greater pollution controls. For example, we would expect the wages of coal workers to be falling as well.

Also, as we shift to higher cost types of energy, we become increasingly inefficient in energy production. Based on a 2013 analysis, in the United States, there are more solar energy workers than coal miners, even though we use far more coal than solar energy. The large number of workers required to produce solar energy is one of the reason that solar energy tends to be high-priced to produce.

When we look at wages of workers, we indeed see a pattern of falling wages, especially for workers below the median wage. Figure 3 from the Economic Policy Institute shows that even the most educated workers are experiencing declining inflation-adjusted wages.

Figure 3. Source:  Elise Gould, Even the Most Educated Workers Have Declining Wages.

A second major issue affecting affordability is debt saturation. Affordability is favorably affected by rising debt–for example, it is a lot easier to buy a new car or house, if the would-be purchaser can obtain a new loan. If debt levels stay the same or fall, this becomes a problem–fewer goods can be purchased.

Governments in particular are reaching the limits of their borrowing capacity. They cannot keep adding new debt, and remain within historic debt to GDP ratios.

Another way debt saturation occurs relates to young people with student loans. They find it too expensive to borrow more money for a new car or for a home. Furthermore, the fact that wages are not keeping up with price increases for many workers reduces the borrowing ability of the workers with lagging wages. This is true, even if no student loans are involved.

As mentioned above, a third issue is the fact that the inefficient sectors tend to squeeze out other portions of the economy by gobbling up a disproportionate share of workers and resources. The use of all of these resources doesn’t produce a lot of goods in the traditional sense–a desalination plant is expensive, but the amount of water produced per dollar of investment is not large. To the extent that the high costs of inefficient sectors are passed on to consumers, consumers find that they must cut back on discretionary spending. This cut-back in spending squeezes out discretionary spending, leading to cutbacks in discretionary sectors, and to reduced employment overall.

Figure 4. Author's view of the effect of diminishing returns on economy.

Wishful Thinking by Economists

Back before diminishing returns started becoming a major problem, economists created models regarding how the economy would react to higher cost of energy production and other symptoms of diminishing returns. In their view, if the cost of oil extraction rises, oil prices will rise to match these higher costs. Alternatively, substitution will take place, or technological changes will allow greater efficiency, or customers will cut back on their use of the high cost product. Somehow, these changes will take place without a particularly adverse impact on the economy.

Unfortunately, the models don’t correspond very well to what happens in practice–at least not for very long. It takes inexpensive energy to produce goods that workers can afford. Higher priced energy does not work well in this regard. Feedbacks that are not reflected in economic models reduce both wages and debt, making it harder to buy goods requiring the use of more-expensive energy products.

Furthermore, if the price of one commodity, for example oil, rises, then countries with very much oil in their energy mix find themselves handicapped in trade with other countries that use less oil in their energy mix. For example, a country that depends on tourism (which depends on oil use) for very much of its revenue, such as Greece, finds it difficult to find customers when oil prices are high. Lack of revenue can lead to financial problems for the country.

Because of the networked way the economy really works, prices for commodities can’t rise for the long-term. They may rise for a while, as consumers and governments borrow more, in an attempt to continue business as usual. Ultimately, though, the situation can’t “work.”  Customers can’t afford to buy more homes and cars, unless their own wages are rising in inflation adjusted terms, and governments can’t collect enough tax revenue.

The issue we are dealing with here is lack of affordability. This is what will bring the system down–not the high priced scenario imagined by many. Decline will come through low prices, and a glut in oil supply, even if we are not looking for it from that direction.

Can commodity prices rise again?

It is not all that clear that they can rise again. It would be a lot easier for commodity prices to rise, if the problem were simply inadequate prices of one commodity, leading to a lack of that commodity. If the problem is inadequate demand for crude oil, coal, LNG, and iron ore the problem is much greater–especially if wages are still lagging.

Problems of Deflating Oil Prices

Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg

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Published on Our Finite World on December 7, 2014

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Ten Reasons Why a Severe Drop in Oil Prices is a Problem

Not long ago, I wrote Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem. If high oil prices can be a problem, how can low oil prices also be a problem? In particular, how can the steep drop in oil prices we have recently been experiencing also be a problem?

Let me explain some of the issues:

Issue 1. If the price of oil is too low, it will simply be left in the ground.

The world badly needs oil for many purposes: to power its cars, to plant it fields, to operate its oil-powered irrigation pumps, and to act as a raw material for making many kinds of products, including medicines and fabrics.

If the price of oil is too low, it will be left in the ground. With low oil prices, production may drop off rapidly. High price encourages more production and more substitutes; low price leads to a whole series of secondary effects (debt defaults resulting from deflation, job loss, collapse of oil exporters, loss of letters of credit needed for exports, bank failures) that indirectly lead to a much quicker decline in oil production.

The view is sometimes expressed that once 50% of oil is extracted, the amount of oil we can extract will gradually begin to decline, for geological reasons. This view is only true if high prices prevail, as we hit limits. If our problem is low oil prices because of debt problems or other issues, then the decline is likely to be far more rapid. With low oil prices, even what we consider to be proved oil reserves today may be left in the ground.

Issue 2. The drop in oil prices is already having an impact on shale extraction and offshore drilling.

While many claims have been made that US shale drilling can be profitable at low prices, actions speak louder than words. (The problem may be a cash flow problem rather than profitability, but either problem cuts off drilling.) Reuters indicates that new oil and gas well permits tumbled by 40% in November.

Offshore drilling is also being affected. Transocean, the owner of the biggest fleet of deep water drilling rigs, recently took a $2.76 billion charge, among a “drilling rig glut.”

3. Shale operations have a huge impact on US employment. 

Zero Hedge posted the following chart of employment growth, in states with and without current drilling from shale formations:

Jobs in States with and without Shale Formations, from Zero Hedge.

Clearly, the shale states are doing much better, job-wise. According to the article, since December 2007, shale states have added 1.36 million jobs, while non-shale states have lost 424,000 jobs. The growth in jobs includes all types of employment, including jobs only indirectly related to oil and gas production, such as jobs involved with the construction of a new supermarket to serve the growing population.

It might be noted that even the “Non-Shale” states have benefited to some extent from shale drilling. Some support jobs related to shale extraction, such as extraction of sand used in fracking, college courses to educate new engineers, and manufacturing of parts for drilling equipment, are in states other than those with shale formations. Also, all states benefit from the lower oil imports required.

Issue 4. Low oil prices tend to cause debt defaults that have wide ranging consequences. If defaults become widespread, they could affect bank deposits and international trade.

With low oil prices, it becomes much more difficult for shale drillers to pay back the loans they have taken out. Cash flow is much lower, and interest rates on new loans are likely much higher. The huge amount of debt that shale drillers have taken on suddenly becomes at-risk. Energy debt currently accounts for 16% of the US junk bond market, so the amount at risk is substantial.

Dropping oil prices affect international debt as well. The value of Venezuelan bonds recently fell to 51 cents on the dollar, because of the high default risk with low oil prices.  Russia’s Rosneft is also reported to be having difficulty with its loans.

There are many ways banks might be adversely affected by defaults, including

  • Directly by defaults on loans held be a bank
  • Indirectly, by defaults on securities the bank owns that relate to loans elsewhere
  • By derivative defaults made more likely by sharp changes in interest rates or in currency levels
  • By liquidity problems, relating to the need to quickly sell or buy securities related to ETFs

After the many bank bailouts in 2008, there has been discussion of changing the system so that there is no longer a need to bail out “too big to fail” banks. One proposal that has been discussed is to force bank depositors and pension funds to cover part of the losses, using Cyprus-style bail-ins. According to some reports, such an approach has been approved by the G20 at a meeting the weekend of November 16, 2014. If this is true, our bank accounts and pension plans could already be at risk.1

Another bank-related issue if debt defaults become widespread, is the possibility that junk bonds and Letters of Credit2 will become outrageously expensive for companies that have poor credit ratings. Supply chains often include some businesses with poor credit ratings. Thus, even businesses with good credit ratings may find their supply chains broken by companies that can no longer afford high-priced credit. This was one of the issues in the 2008 credit crisis.

Issue 5. Low oil prices can lead to collapses of oil exporters, and loss of virtually all of the oil they export.

The collapse of the Former Soviet Union in 1991 seems to be related to a drop in oil prices.

Figure 2. Oil production and price of the Former Soviet Union, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013.

Oil prices dropped dramatically in the 1980s after the issues that gave rise to the earlier spike were mitigated. The Soviet Union was dependent on oil for its export revenue. With low oil prices, its ability to invest in new production was impaired, and its export revenue dried up. The Soviet Union collapsed for a number of reasons, some of them financial, in late 1991, after several years of low oil prices had had a chance to affect its economy.

Many oil-exporting countries are at risk of collapse if oil prices stay very low very long. Venezuela is a clear risk, with its big debt problem. Nigeria’s economy is reported to be “tanking.” Russia even has a possibility of collapse, although probably not in the near future.

Even apart from collapse, there is the possibility of increased unrest in the Middle East, as oil-exporting nations find it necessary to cut back on their food and oil subsidies. There is also more possibility of warfare among groups, including new groups such as ISIL. When everyone is prosperous, there is little reason to fight, but when oil-related funds dry up, fighting among neighbors increases, as does unrest among those with lower subsidies.

Issue 6. The benefits to consumers of a drop in oil prices are likely to be much smaller than the adverse impact on consumers of an oil price rise. 

When oil prices rose, businesses were quick to add fuel surcharges. They are less quick to offer fuel rebates when oil prices go down. They will try to keep the benefit of the oil price drop for themselves for as long as possible.

Airlines seem to be more interested in adding flights than reducing ticket prices in response to lower oil prices, perhaps because additional planes are already available. Their intent is to increase profits, through an increase in ticket sales, not to give consumers the benefit of lower prices.

In some cases, governments will take advantage of the lower oil prices to increase their revenue. China recently raised its oil products consumption tax, so that the government gets part of the benefit of lower prices. Malaysia is using the low oil prices as a time to reduce oil subsidies.

Most businesses recognize that the oil price drop is at most a temporary situation, since the cost of extraction continues to rise (because we are getting oil from more difficult-to-extract locations). Because the price drop this is only temporary, few business people are saying to themselves, “Wow, oil is cheap again! I am going to invest a huge amount of money in a new road building company [or other business that depends on cheap oil].” Instead, they are cautious, making changes that require little capital investment and that can easily be reversed. While there may be some jobs added, those added will tend to be ones that can easily be dropped if oil prices rise again.

Issue 7. Hoped for crude and LNG sales abroad are likely to disappear, with low oil prices.

There has been a great deal of publicity about the desire of US oil and gas producers to sell both crude oil and LNG abroad, so as to be able to take advantage of higher oil and gas prices outside the US. With a big drop in oil prices, these hopes are likely to be dashed. Already, we are seeing the story, Asia stops buying US crude oil. According to this story, “There’s so much oversupply that Middle East crudes are now trading at discounts and it is not economical to bring over crudes from the US anymore.”

LNG prices tend to drop if oil prices drop. (Some LNG prices are linked to oil prices, but even those that are not directly linked are likely to be affected by the lower demand for energy products.) At these lower prices, the financial incentive to export LNG becomes much less. Even fluctuating LNG prices become a problem for those considering investment in infrastructure such as ships to transport LNG.

Issue 8. Hoped-for increases in renewables will become more difficult, if oil prices are low.

Many people believe that renewables can eventually take over the role of fossil fuels. (I am not of view that this is possible.) For those with this view, low oil prices are a problem, because they discourage the hoped-for transition to renewables.

Despite all of the statements made about renewables, they don’t really substitute for oil. Biofuels come closest, but they are simply oil-extenders. We add ethanol made from corn to gasoline to extend its quantity. But it still takes oil to operate the farm equipment to grow the corn, and oil to transport the corn to the ethanol plant. If oil isn’t around, the biofuel production system comes to a screeching halt.

Issue 9. A major drop in oil prices tends to lead to deflation, and because of this, difficulty in repaying debts.

If oil prices rise, so do food prices, and the price of making most goods. Thus rising oil prices contribute to inflation. The reverse of this is true as well. Falling oil prices tend to lead to a lower price for growing food and a lower price for making most goods. The net result can be deflation. Not all countries are affected equally; some experience this result to a greater extent than others.

Those countries experiencing deflation are likely to eventually have problems with debt defaults, because it will become more difficult for workers to repay loans, if wages are drifting downward. These same countries are likely to experience an outflow of investment funds because investors realize that funds invested these countries will not earn an adequate return. This outflow of funds will tend to push their currencies down, relative to other currencies. This is at least part of what has been happening in recent months.

The value of the dollar has been rising rapidly, relative to many other currencies. Debt repayment is likely to especially be a problem for those countries where substantial debt is denominated in US dollars, but whose local currency has recently fallen in value relative to the US dollar.

Figure 3. US Dollar Index from Intercontinental Exchange

The big increase in the US dollar index came since June 2014 (Figure 3), which coincides with the drop in oil prices. Those countries with low currency prices, including Japan, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, and South Africa, find it expensive to import goods of all kinds, including those made with oil products. This is part of what reduces demand for oil products.

China’s yuan is relatively closely tied to the dollar. The collapse of other currencies relative to the US dollar makes Chinese exports more expensive, and is part of the reason why the Chinese economy has been doing less well recently. There are no doubt other reasons why China’s growth is lower recently, and thus its growth in debt. China is now trying to lower the level of its currency.

Issue 10. The drop in oil prices seems to reflect a basic underlying problem: the world is reaching the limits of its debt expansion.

There is a natural limit to the amount of debt that a government, or business, or individual can borrow. At some point, interest payments become so high, that it becomes difficult to cover other needed expenses. The obvious way around this problem is to lower interest rates to practically zero, through Quantitative Easing (QE) and other techniques.

(Increasing debt is a big part of pumps up “demand” for oil, and because of this, oil prices. If this is confusing, think of buying a car. It is much easier to buy a car with a loan than without one. So adding debt allows goods to be more affordable. Reducing debt levels has the opposite effect.)

QE doesn’t work as a long-term technique, because it tends to create bubbles in asset prices, such as stock market prices and prices of farmland. It also tends to encourage investment in enterprises that have questionable chance of success. Arguably, investment in shale oil and gas operations are in this category.

As it turns out, it looks very much as if the presence or absence of QE may have an impact on oil prices as well (Figure 4), providing the “uplift” needed to keep oil prices high enough to cover production costs.

Figure 4. World "liquids production" (that is oil and oil substitutes) based on EIA data, plus OPEC estimates and judgment of author for August to October 2014. Oil price is monthly average Brent oil spot price, based on EIA data.

The sharp drop in price in 2008 was credit-related, and was only solved when the US initiated its program of QE started in late November 2008. Oil prices began to rise in December 2008. The US has had three periods of QE, with the last of these, QE3, finally tapering down and ending in October 2014. Since QE seems to have been part of the solution that stopped the drop in oil prices in 2008, we should not be surprised if discontinuing QE is contributing to the drop in oil prices now.

Part of the problem seems to be differential effect that happens when other countries are continuing to use QE, but the US not. The US dollar tends to rise, relative to other currencies. This situation contributes to the situation shown in Figure 3.

QE allows more borrowing from the future than would be possible if market interest rates really had to be paid. This allows financiers to temporarily disguise a growing problem of un-affordability of oil and other commodities.

The problem we have is that, because we live in a finite world, we reach a point where it becomes more expensive to produce commodities of many kinds: oil (deeper wells, fracking), coal (farther from markets, so more transport costs), metals (poorer ore quality), fresh water (desalination needed), and food (more irrigation needed). Wages don’t rise correspondingly, because more and more labor is needed to provide less and less actual benefit, in terms of the commodities produced and goods made from those commodities. Thus, workers find themselves becoming poorer and poorer, in terms of what they can afford to purchase.

QE allows financiers to disguise growing mismatch between what it costs to produce commodities, and what customers can really afford. Thus, QE allows commodity prices to rise to levels that are unaffordable by customers, unless customers’ lack of income is disguised by a continued growth in debt.

Once commodity prices (including oil prices) fall to levels that are affordable based on the incomes of customers, they fall to levels that cut out a large share of production of these commodities. As commodity production drops to levels that can be produced at affordable prices, so does the world’s ability to make goods and services. Unfortunately, the goods whose production is likely to be cut back if commodity production is cut back are those of every kind, including houses, cars, food, and electrical transmission equipment.

 Conclusion

There are really two different problems that a person can be concerned about:

  1. Peak oil: the possibility that oil prices will rise, and because of this production will fall in a rounded curve. Substitutes that are possible because of high prices will perhaps take over.
  2. Debt related collapse: oil limits will play out in a very different way than most have imagined, through lower oil prices as limits to growth in debt are reached, and thus a collapse in oil “demand” (really affordability). The collapse in production, when it comes, will be sharper and will affect the entire economy, not just oil.

In my view, a rapid drop in oil prices is likely a symptom that we are approaching a debt-related collapse–in other words, the second of these two problems. Underlying this debt-related collapse is the fact that we seem to be reaching the limits of a finite world. There is a growing mismatch between what workers in oil importing countries can afford, and the rising real costs of extraction, including associated governmental costs. This has been covered up to date by rising debt, but at some point, it will not be possible to keep increasing the debt sufficiently.

The timing of collapse may not be immediate. Low oil prices take a while to work their way through the system. It is also possible that the world’s financiers will put off a major collapse for a while longer, through more QE, or more programs related to QE. For example, actually getting money into the hands of customers would seem to be temporarily helpful.

At some point the debt situation will eventually reach a breaking point. One way this could happen is through an increase in interest rates. If this happens, world economic growth is likely to slow greatly. Oil and commodity prices will fall further. Debt defaults will skyrocket. Not only will oil production drop, but production of many other commodities will drop, including natural gas and coal. In such a scenario, the downslope of all energy use is likely to be quite steep, perhaps similar to what is shown in the following chart.

Figure 5. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

Related Articles:

Low Oil Prices: Sign of a Debt Bubble Collapse, Leading to the End of Oil Supply?

WSJ Gets it Wrong on “Why Peak Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True”

Eight Pieces of Our Oil Price Predicament

Notes:

[1] There is of course insurance by the FDIC and the PBGC, but the actual funding for these two insurance programs is tiny in relationship to the kind of risk that would occur if there were widespread debt defaults and derivative defaults affecting many banks and many pension plans at once. While depositors and pension holders might try to collect this insurance, there wouldn’t be enough money to actually cover these demands. This problem would be similar to the issue that arose in Iceland in 2008. Insurance would seem to be available, but in practice, would not pay out much.

Also, I learned after writing this post that bail-ins were mandated for US banks by the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. In the language of the summary, bank depositors are “unsecured creditors,” and are thus among those to whom the burden of loss is transferred. The FDIC is not allowed to borrow extra funds, beyond bank funds, to cover this loss.

[2] LOCs are required when goods are shipped internationally, before payment has actually been made. They offer a guarantee that a buyer will be able to “make good” on his promise to pay for goods when they arrive.

Ferguson and the False Promise of “Revolution”

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on November 26, 2014

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November 26, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – LD) – When faced on the battlefield with a numerically superior enemy, one must attempt to divide his enemy into smaller, more easily dispatched opponents, or even more ideally, divide them against one another, and have them defeat each other without ever drawing your sword. For Wall Street’s 0.1%, divide and conquer is a way of life.Divide and ConquerNever in human history has there been a more effective way for tyrants to rule over large groups of people who, should they ever learn to cooperate, would easily throw off such tyranny.At the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War, the British despoiled Zululand, divided it into 14 separate cheifdoms, each led by a proxy obedient to the British Empire. The British ensured that these 14 cheifdoms harbored animosities toward one another and fostered petty infighting between them to ensure British interests would never again be challenged by a unified Zulu threat. Before the British, the Romans would employ similar tactics across Germania and Gual.

Image: Zululand lies in flaming ruins, its legendary army decimated, but the British were not about to take any chances of allowing them to unite and resit again. They divided the defeated nation into 14 chiefdoms each headed by leaders harboring dislike for the others ensuring perpetual infighting and a divided, weakened Zululand never again to rise and challenge British subjugation. 
In this way, the British Empire and the Romans managed to not only decimate their enemies, but by keeping them perpetually infighting, divided, and at war with one another, manged to keep them subservient to imperial rule for generations.

But one would be mistaken to believe that imperialism is only waged abroad. Imperialism is as much about manipulating, controlling, and perpetuating subservience at home as it is projecting hegemony abroad. For the imperialist, all of humanity represents a sea of potential usurpers. The systematic division, weakening, and subjugation of various social groups along political, religious, class, or racial lines has proven an ageless solution for the elite.
One remembers the infamous use of Christians as a scapegoat for the corruption of Roman Emperor Nero, deflecting public anger away from the ruling elite and unto others among the plebeians.This is a game that has continued throughout the centuries and continues on to this very day. While racial, religious, and political divisions are aspects of human nature, they are viciously exploited by the ruling elite to divide and destroy any capacity of the general public to organize, resist, or compete with established sociopolitical and economic monopolies.Ferguson – Playing America Like a Fiddle 
 
Before protests began breaking out in Ferguson, Missouri, and even after the first of the protests in August, many across America’s polarized “left/right” paradigm began to find a common ground, shocked at the level of militarization the police had undergone and the heavy-handed response they exercised amid protests. Even among the generally pro-police and military “right,” there was concern over what was finally recognized as a growing and quite menacing “police state” in America.Politicians, the corporate media, and security agencies set off to work, dividing America’s public down very predictable lines. Convenient “revelations” that the police were connected with the ultra-racist Ku Klux Klan, coupled with growing choruses across the right to circle the wagons in support of the militarized police attempted to place those who converged on this common ground back into their assigned places on the “right” and “left” of America’s ultimately Wall Street-controlled political order.Regardless of its success, attempts to intentionally provoke violence, confusion, and division on both sides is an attempt by the establishment to keep people divided and weak while maintaining their position of primacy over the country and the expansive “international order” it imposes globally. It was this establishment, in fact, that intentionally militarized the police, intentionally cultivates both institutional racism as well as sociopolitical and economic rot in America’s inner cities, creating breeding grounds of violence and crime. So busy is America managing the predictable conflict amongst themselves, they have neither the time nor the energy to recognize their true tormentors.
In reality, the police and protesters and those across America and around the world “picking sides” have more in common with one another than the government and corporate-financier interests that reign in Washington and on Wall Street.Get Off the Hamster Wheel 
One cannot accomplish anything by burning down one’s own community, killing one another, or complaining and protesting endlessly. Real revolution is not taking to the streets and destroying a political order, it is creating a new order that displaces the old.
The American Revolution, for instance, occurred after the colonies established their own economic system, as well as their own militias, political networks, and infrastructure. The violence broke out only after the British tried to reassert themselves amid the steady process of being displaced. By the time shots were being fired, the real revolution had already occurred – the subsequent war was to defend its success.
Today, the establishment constitutes unchecked, unwarranted power and influence held by the corporate-financier elite – an establishment we are in fact paying into daily every time we patronize their businesses, use their services, associate with their institutions, and pay in attention and time to their propaganda and political agenda we ourselves should be setting and executing. Ironically many of both the police and protesters clashing in Ferguson on opposite sides of the “conflict” have homes full of Wall Street’s goods, and subscriptions to many of their services.
Indeed, Walmart ends up filling our homes with most of the consumer products we depend on in America. A handful of agricultural giants feed us. A handful of pharmaceutical giants medicate us. A handful of energy monopolies light our homes and fuel our vehicles. You could fill a single sheet of paper with the names of corporate-financier interests that rule over nearly every aspect of our lives.Such monopolies exist because they have extinguished competitors. Ensuring that competition remains extinguished means creating a society that is incapable of producing individuals or paradigms capable of challenging their established order. This includes sabotaging the education system, creating a socioeconomic system that encourages unsustainable dependence rather than self-sufficiency and independence, and rigging rules, regulations, and laws against any potential upstarts.The notion of Ferguson protesters demanding justice from a system created of injustice, upon injustice, is as absurd as trying to squeeze apple juice from a lemon. It is the definition of fantastical futility.
Instead of demanding justice, jobs, education, healthcare, food, and other necessities and desires from a system with no intention of ever empowering the people – a system that in order to continue perpetuating itself must by necessity never truly empower the people – we must begin working together locally to empower ourselves.Power stems from infrastructure and institutions – and locally this can be accomplished in innumerable ways. Already farmers’ markets, organic cooperatives, makerspaces, churches, community centers, community gardens, and charities along with innovative small businesses leveraging technology to do locally what once required global spanning industry to accomplish, all constitute the seeds of this shifting paradigm. For communities unlucky enough not to have one of these above institutions, or a lack of them, instead of baying for blood in the streets, burning building down, or clashing with police, build them.
The alternative media itself is proof of what power people have when they stop depending on others, stop demanding others to do their jobs properly, and instead take up the responsibility themselves. Expanding this paradigm shift to other aspects of our daily lives, from agriculture to energy, to education, will be key to true and enduring change.Ferguson teaches us that real change in the mind of many is still far off. America isn’t on the edge of revolution. A hamster wheel endlessly spinning has no “edge.” Those picking sides and bickering over the events in Ferguson are playing into an elementary strategy of divide and conquer. We are divided, Wall Street has conquered.At the end of it all, Wall Street comes out even stronger. Because in the smoking remnants of our communities after all is said and done, we have even less with which to build an alternative to the system we live trapped within. Divided, we have half the people we should be joining together with, collaborating and building together with, to build the world we want to live in tomorrow.Build, don’t burn. Collaborate, don’t complain. Don’t simply “resist” the system, replace it altogether.

Trans-Pacific Collapse Partnership

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on November 15, 2014

Trans-Pacific

Some background from Michael Snyder…

Obama’s Secret Treaty Would Be The Most Important Step Toward A One World Economic System

Barack Obama behind Resolute Desk in the Oval Office - Public DomainBarack Obama is secretly negotiating the largest international trade agreement in history, and the mainstream media in the United States is almost completely ignoring it.  If this treaty is adopted, it will be the most important step toward a one world economic system that we have ever seen.  The name of this treaty is “the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, and the text of the treaty is so closely guarded that not even members of Congress know what is in it.  Right now, there are 12 countries that are part of the negotiations: the United States, Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.  These nations have a combined population of 792 million people and account for an astounding 40 percent of the global economy.  And it is hoped that the EU, China and India will eventually join as well.  This is potentially the most dangerous economic treaty of our lifetimes, and yet there is very little political debate about it in this country.

Even though Congress is not being allowed to see what is in the treaty, Barack Obama wants Congress to give him fast track negotiating authority.  What that means is that Congress would essentially trust Obama to negotiate a good treaty for us.  Congress could vote the treaty up or down, but would not be able to amend or filibuster it.

Of course now the Republicans control both houses of Congress.  If they are foolish enough to blindly give Barack Obama so much power, they should all immediately resign.

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Snippet:

…The latest Hubbub in Economic disasters waiting to happen is the Double Super Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement which Obama-sama is Front Man for, which from all indications appears to be something like NAFTA on Steroids. I say “from all indications” because nobody seems to know precisely what is in this agreement, not even the lower level of Puppets in Congress. The general idea is well known though, which is to establish yet another bigger and more comprehensive “Free Trade” Zone amongst a whole bevy of countries surrounding the Pacific Sewer, from Chile and Peru on the Left Coast of South America up around through the FSoA and back down the other side through Japan to SE Asia and on to Oz and Kiwiland. The “hope” here amongst the Globalist Pigmen who are drafting this thing up is that China too will buy in here to this NEW & IMPROVED agreement designed basically to make Corporate Oligarchs even richer than they already are while sucking the last of whatever resource wealth is still left anywhere around this ring out of the ground and driving down the rest of the population into even more desperate poverty than so far achieved here with NAFTA and the rest of the Globalization meme.

The Buzzword here is “FREE TRADE”, and who can be against something FREE, right? You the Konsumer are going to BENEFIT from still more FREE TRADE! The Low, Low Prices Every Day at Walmart will get even LOWER!

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Automation & Mass Distribution: Death of Community

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on October 28, 2014

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NEOLIBERAL AUTOMATION & MASS DISTRIBUTION: the death of communities and the bankruptcy of governments

The following are now more or less consensus views on our current model of virtual bourse-fed globalist capitalism:

Prices fall but quality is reduced; offshore job relocation and automation destroy employment levels; service levels are cut to the bone; physical retail jobs disappear; social and healthcare budgets are cut; trickle-down wealth is nowhere near enough to retain mass consumption levels; recession and deflation are the inevitable end results; short termism reduces vital investment in everything from energy innovations to arts creativity; and cash-strapped governments are forced to turn to unelected money in order to survive.

Multiple retailing’s development after 1962 ensured that the life would be ripped out of small communities. But the internet has so trashed the physical retail model of distribution, our community high streets and village shops will soon implode….and even some multiples will go bust in the end – eg, Tesco.

The ISP rejection of call centres in favour of online automated after-sales ‘service’ has ensured the loss of millions of telephony jobs worldwide.

A report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concluded last year that the next the next two decades will see 45% of America’s workforce replaced by computerised automation.

Lost jobs in a welfare-based society are expensive. The policies we’re following are decimating jobs, and reducing tax income/welfare payments. Thus…

Nearly a quarter of the Crown’s state prosecutors have been cut as part of budget savings, leaving many in the justice system, including senior judges, expressing grave concerns about the state’s performance in some criminal trials.

Neoliberal mass-production globalism is dysfunctional on almost every dimension. It increases inequality, destroys communities, threatens liberty, trivialises democracy, and dilutes the most fundamental principle of civilisation: the equitable Rule of Law.

At the End of the Day

Why is there such a human race

to profit from the marketplace

and thus accelerate apace

away from any human face?

Retail Death Rattle Grows Louder

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on May 25, 2014

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The definition of death rattle is a sound often produced by someone who is near death when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest. The person can’t swallow and emits a deepening wheezing sound as they gasp for breath. This can go on for two or three days before death relieves them of their misery. The American retail industry is emitting an unmistakable wheezing sound as a long slow painful death approaches.

It was exactly four months ago when I wrote THE RETAIL DEATH RATTLE. Here are a few terse anecdotes from that article:

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end.

Retail store results for the 1st quarter of 2014 have been rolling in over the last week. It seems the hideous government reported retail sales results over the last six months are being confirmed by the dying bricks and mortar mega-chains. In case you missed the corporate mainstream media not reporting the facts and doing their usual positive spin, here are the absolutely dreadful headlines:

Wal-Mart Profit Plunges By $220 Million as US Store Traffic Declines by 1.4%

Target Profit Plunges by $80 Million, 16% Lower Than 2013, as Store Traffic Declines by 2.3%

Sears Loses $358 Million in First Quarter as Comparable Store Sales at Sears Plunge by 7.8% and Sales at Kmart Plunge by 5.1%

JC Penney Thrilled With Loss of Only $358 Million For the Quarter

Kohl’s Operating Income Plunges by 17% as Comparable Sales Decline by 3.4%

Costco Profit Declines by $84 Million as Comp Store Sales Only Increase by 2%

Staples Profit Plunges by 44% as Sales Collapse and Closing Hundreds of Stores

Gap Income Drops 22% as Same Store Sales Fall

American Eagle Profits Tumble 86%, Will Close 150 Stores

Aeropostale Losses $77 Million as Sales Collapse by 12%

Best Buy Sales Decline by $300 Million as Margins Decline and Comparable Store Sales Decline by 1.3%

Macy’s Profit Flat as Comparable Store Sales decline by 1.4%

Dollar General Profit Plummets by 40% as Comp Store Sales Decline by 3.8%

Urban Outfitters Earnings Collapse by 20% as Sales Stagnate

McDonalds Earnings Fall by $66 Million as US Comp Sales Fall by 1.7%

Darden Profit Collapses by 30% as Same Restaurant Sales Plunge by 5.6% and Company Selling Red Lobster

TJX Misses Earnings Expectations as Sales & Earnings Flat

Dick’s Misses Earnings Expectations as Golf Store Sales Plummet

Home Depot Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic Only Rises by 2.2%

Lowes Misses Earnings Expectations as Customer Traffic was Flat

Of course, those headlines were never reported. I went to each earnings report and gathered the info that should have been reported by the CNBC bimbos and hacks. Anything you heard surely had a Wall Street spin attached, like the standard BETTER THAN EXPECTED. I love that one. At the start of the quarter the Wall Street shysters post earnings expectations. As the quarter progresses, the company whispers the bad news to Wall Street and the earnings expectations are lowered. Then the company beats the lowered earnings expectation by a penny and the Wall Street scum hail it as a great achievement.  The muppets must be sacrificed to sustain the Wall Street bonus pool. Wall Street investment bank geniuses rated JC Penney a buy from $85 per share in 2007 all the way down to $5 a share in 2013. No more needs to be said about Wall Street “analysis”.

It seems even the lowered expectation scam hasn’t worked this time. U.S. retailer profits have missed lowered expectations by the most in 13 years. They generally “beat” expectations by 3% when the game is being played properly. They’ve missed expectations in the 1st quarter by 3.2%, the worst miss since the fourth quarter of 2000. If my memory serves me right, I believe the economy entered recession shortly thereafter. The brilliant Ivy League trained Wall Street MBAs, earning high six digit salaries on Wall Street, predicted a 13% increase in retailer profits for the first quarter. A monkey with a magic 8 ball could do a better job than these Wall Street big swinging dicks.

The highly compensated flunkies who sit in the corner CEO office of the mega-retail chains trotted out the usual drivel about cold and snowy winter weather and looking forward to tremendous success over the remainder of the year. How do these excuse machine CEO’s explain the success of many high end retailers during the first quarter? Doesn’t weather impact stores that cater to the .01%? The continued unrelenting decline in profits of retailers, dependent upon the working class, couldn’t have anything to do with this chart? It seems only the oligarchs have made much progress over the last four decades.

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Retail CEO gurus all think they have a master plan to revive sales. I’ll let you in on a secret. They don’t really have a plan. They have no idea why they experienced tremendous success from 2000 through 2007, and why their businesses have not revived since the 2008 financial collapse. Retail CEOs are not the sharpest tools in the shed. They were born on third base and thought they hit a triple. Now they are stranded there, with no hope of getting home. They should be figuring out how to position themselves for the multi-year contraction in sales, but their egos and hubris will keep them from taking the actions necessary to keep their companies afloat in the next decade. Bankruptcy awaits. The front line workers will be shit canned and the CEO will get a golden parachute. It’s the American way.

The secret to retail success before 2007 was: create or copy a successful concept; get Wall Street financing and go public ASAP; source all your inventory from Far East slave labor factories; hire thousands of minimum wage level workers to process transactions; build hundreds of new stores every year to cover up the fact the existing stores had deteriorating performance; convince millions of gullible dupes to buy cheap Chinese shit they didn’t need with money they didn’t have; and pretend this didn’t solely rely upon cheap easy debt pumped into the veins of American consumers by the Federal Reserve and their Wall Street bank owners. The financial crisis in 2008 revealed everyone was swimming naked, when the tide of easy credit subsided.

The pundits, politicians and delusional retail CEOs continue to await the revival of retail sales as if reality doesn’t exist. The 1 million retail stores, 109,000 shopping centers, and nearly 15 billion square feet of retail space for an aging, increasingly impoverished, and savings poor populace might be a tad too much and will require a slight downsizing – say 3 or 4 billion square feet. Considering the debt fueled frenzy from 2000 through 2008 added 2.7 billion square feet to our suburban sprawl concrete landscape, a divestiture of that foolish investment will be the floor. If you think there are a lot of SPACE AVAILABLE signs dotting the countryside, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The mega-chains have already halted all expansion. That was the first step. The weaker players like Radio Shack, Sears, Family Dollar, Coldwater Creek, Staples, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster and dozens of others are already closing stores by the hundreds. Thousands more will follow.

This isn’t some doom and gloom prediction based on nothing but my opinion. This is the inevitable result of demographic certainties, unequivocal data, and the consequences of a retailer herd mentality and lemming like behavior of consumers. The open and shut case for further shuttering of 3 to 4 billion square feet of retail is as follows:

  • There is 47 square feet of retail space per person in America. This is 8 times as much as any other country on earth. This is up from 38 square feet in 2005; 30 square feet in 2000; 19 square feet in 1990; and 4 square feet in 1960. If we just revert to 2005 levels, 3 billion square feet would need to go dark. Does that sound outrageous?

  • Annual consumer expenditures by those over 65 years old drop by 40% from their highest spending years from 45 to 54 years old. The number of Americans turning 65 will increase by 10,000 per day for the next 16 years. There were 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000, accounting for 12% of the total population. By 2030 there will be 70 million Americans over 65, accounting for 20% of the total population. Do you think that bodes well for retailers?

  • Half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have no retirement savings. The other half has accumulated $52,000 or less. It seems the debt financed consumer product orgy of the last two decades has left most people nearly penniless. More than 50% of workers aged 25 to 44 report they have less than $10,000 of total savings.

  • The lack of retirement and general savings is reflected in the historically low personal savings rate of a miniscule 3.8%. Before the materialistic frenzy of the last couple decades, rational Americans used to save 10% or more of their personal income. With virtually no savings as they approach their retirement years and an already extremely low savings rate, do retail CEOs really see a spending revival on the horizon?

  • If you thought the savings rate was so low because consumers are flush with cash and so optimistic about their job prospects they are unconcerned about the need to save for a rainy day, you would be wrong. It has been raining for the last 14 years. Real median household income is 7.5% lower today than it was in 2001. Retailers added 2.7 billion square feet of retail space as real household income fell. Sounds rational.

  • This decline in household income may have something to do with the labor participation rate plummeting to the lowest level since 1978. There are 247.4 million working age Americans and only 145.7 million of them employed (19 million part-time; 9 million self-employed; 20 million employed by the government). There are 92 million Americans, who according to the government have willingly left the workforce, up by 13.3 million since 2007 when over 146 million Americans were employed. You’d have to be a brainless twit to believe the unemployment rate is really 6.3% today. Retail sales would be booming if the unemployment rate was really that low.

  • With a 16.5% increase in working age Americans since 2000 and only a 6.5% increase in employed Americans, along with declining real household income, an inquisitive person might wonder how retail sales were able to grow from $3.3 trillion in 2000 to $5.1 trillion in 2013 – a 55% increase. You need to look no further than your friendly Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks for the answer. In the olden days of the 1970s and early 1980s Americans put 10% to 20% down to buy a house and then systematically built up equity by making their monthly payments. The Ivy League financial engineers created “exotic” (toxic) mortgage products requiring no money down, no principal payments, and no proof you could make a payment, in their control fraud scheme to fleece the American sheeple. Their propaganda machine convinced millions more to use their homes as an ATM, because home prices never drop. Just ask Ben Bernanke. Even after the Bernanke/Blackrock fake housing recovery (actual mortgage originations now at 1978 levels) household real estate percent equity is barely above 50%, well below the 70% levels before the Wall Street induced debt debacle. With the housing market about to head south again, the home equity ATM will have an Out of Order sign on it.

  • We hear the endless drivel from disingenuous Keynesian nitwits about government and consumer austerity being the cause of our stagnating economy. My definition of austerity would be an actual reduction in spending and debt accumulation. It seems during this time of austerity total credit market debt has RISEN from $53.5 trillion in 2009 to $59 trillion today. Not exactly austere, as the Federal government adds $2.2 billion PER DAY to the national debt, saddling future generations with the bill for our inability to confront reality. The American consumer has not retrenched, as the CNBC bimbos and bozos would have you believe. Consumer credit reached an all-time high of $3.14 trillion in March, up from $2.52 trillion in 2010. That doesn’t sound too austere to me. Of course, this increase is solely due to Obamanomics and Bernanke’s $3 trillion gift to his Wall Street owners. The doling out of $645 billion to subprime college “students” and subprime auto “buyers” since 2010 accounts for more than 100% of the increase. The losses on these asinine loans will be epic. Credit card debt has actually fallen as people realize it is their last lifeline. They are using credit cards to pay income taxes, real estate taxes, higher energy costs, higher food costs, and the other necessities of life.

The entire engineered “recovery” since 2009 has been nothing but a Federal Reserve/U.S. Treasury conceived, debt manufactured scam. These highly educated lackeys for the establishment have been tasked with keeping the U.S. Titanic afloat until the oligarchs can safely depart on the lifeboats with all the ship’s jewels safely stowed in their pockets. There has been no housing recovery. There has been no jobs recovery. There has been no auto sales recovery. Giving a vehicle to someone with a 580 credit score with a 0% seven year loan is not a sale. It’s a repossession in waiting. The government supplied student loans are going to functional illiterates who are majoring in texting, facebooking and twittering. Do you think these indebted University of Phoenix dropouts living in their parents’ basements are going to spur a housing and retail sales recovery? This Keynesian “solution” was designed to produce the appearance of recovery, convince the masses to resume their debt based consumption, and add more treasure into the vaults of the Wall Street banks.

The master plan has failed miserably in reviving the economy. Savings, capital investment, and debt reduction are the necessary ingredients for a sustained healthy economic system. Debt based personal consumption of cheap foreign produced baubles & gadgets, $1 trillion government deficits to sustain the warfare/welfare state, along with a corrupt political and rigged financial system are the explosive concoction which will blow our economic system sky high. Facts can be ignored. Media propaganda can convince the willfully ignorant to remain so. The Federal Reserve can buy every Treasury bond issued to fund an out of control government. But eventually reality will shatter the delusions of millions as the debt based Ponzi scheme will run out of dupes and collapse in a flaming heap.

The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since I always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, I predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.

Student Loan Forgiveness

Off the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on April 24, 2014

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Snippet:

…Problem of course is that as time went by, there were lots of graduates who couldn’t pay up, and more all the time these days as the economy circles the tidy bowl. Besides that, as more students now had more money to buy an education courtesy of these loans, the institutions started jacking up the prices and the cost to get one of these Sheepskins has gone up about 1000% since I jumped through the hoops 30 years ago. You can’t “work your way” through school anymore, you would have to work 2 jobs to pay a full tuition and room and board, leaving no time to actually attend class. If you cut down the number of classes to take to what you could afford pay as you go, just to get an Undergrad degree would take you 10-15 years, forget doing Grad Skule. Good luck getting a job as a College Grad with no experience at 30 years old.

The expectation here for the student is that if you get one of these Valuable Sheepskins, there will be a Job waiting for you that will launch you into the upper middle class that used to exist, but as time has gone by fewer of these jobs have been available to get while more people graduated qualified for them. This isn’t just a problem in the FSoA, it’s been a long standing problem in China and the old Soviet Union also, where there are tons of folks with Ph.D.s working clerical and sales jobs because there is nothing available in their area of expertiese.  At least in those countries though under the Commie system, they didn’t graduate with a debt load the size of K2…

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!

RE

JOBS

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 19, 2014

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The Big Newz last week on the Economic Front was the Jobs Report from the Bureau of Lies & Statistics, which now has the FSoA UE Rate down to a remarkable 6.7%!  We are doing FANTASTIC!  This is down from Double Digit UE Rates around 11% following the Financial Crack-Up of 2008.  Happy Daze are HERE AGAIN!

From Zero Hedge

Curious why despite the huge miss in payrolls the unemployment rate tumbled from 7.0% to 6.7%? The reason is because in December the civilian labor force did what it usually does in the New Normal: it dropped from 155.3 million to 154.9 million, which means the labor participation rate just dropped to a fresh 35 year low, hitting levels not seen since 1978, at 62.8% down from 63.0%.

And the piece de resistance: Americans not in the labor force exploded higher by 535,000 to a new all time high 91.8 million.

The jobless, laborless recovery continues to steam on.

ZH of course highlights the OBVIOUS canard being pitched out here, which goes to the Denominator in the Equation, who the BLS counts as UE and Looking for Work.  The UE measured rate by the BLS obviously went down tremendously as soon as Da Federal Goobermint dropped millions off from Extended UE bennies that were running 99 Weeks.  Once you have used up your Bennies, you no longer are counted as looking for a job, whether you found one or not by the time the bennies ran out.

At the same time, the “Labor Participation Rate”, the percentage of the population who actually has a Job continues to drop here off the map.  Are we expected to believe all these folks no longer need or want a job?

Part of the reason for this is Demographics.  Overall the population is aging, and more of the Boomers Retire each year, and at least for now can collect SS and whatever Pension is due them, at least if they were not working for the City of Detroit for the last 30 years.  However, we still do have Immigration going on, and we still do have homegrown young folks graduating from High School and College.  The percentage of either class of people able to find “Jobs” in our current economy continues to drop here, and their hopes for the Future drop with them.

Of course this is NOTHING compared to what is ongoing in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy these days, where Youth

Unemployment is reaching into the +50% category.  In a society where having a JOB to earn MONEY is essential if you expect to stay out of Prison or not live in a cardboard box on the street, I can’t think of any better recipe for Social Unrest than these kind of UE numbers.

http://hrackova.veronika.sweb.cz/in-spain-the-epicenter-of-europes-youth-unemployment-crisis-the-rate-has-soared-to-565.png

If you are older here and go UE, even if you are not QUITE yet eligible for SS, decent chance you have some savings to live off, or maybe a paid off McMansion you can sell and live off the proceeds in a trailer park while you wait for SS to kick in.  Or you can try and get SSDI a bit earlier than 62 for regular SS retirement FRNs.

http://nomoneynoworries.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/ss-disability.jpg

So there is still some Safety Net here for Job losses, which goes a long way toward explaining why we do not yet see the kind of social unrest already ongoing in Greece and Spain.  How long this can continue to play here remains an open question of course.

jobless_unemploymentSo, the bottom line here on all of this ongoing collapse nonsense revolves around the JOBS, which have been since the Industrial Revolution the means by which MOST people get some MONEY to then be able to buy food, pay Rent to the Rentier Class and buy energy with which to run the carz they need to get to work and participate in said Industrial Economy.  Jobs disappear, the ability to participate disappears with it.

What ARE the jobs of the Industrial Economy though?  Well, for a while during the early Growth Phase here in the FSoA, those jobs were Industrial Factory type work, as we provided hardware to run both WWI and WWII.  We had copious sources of local Cheap Energy to run the Factories back then, and besides that after destroying much of the Infrastructure in Europe in both wars, it needed to be rebuilt, providing a lot of work for Factory workers here in the FSoA, where nothing got Bombed.

During the Post WWII period also, the FSoA Industrialists began the largest Public Works project in the History of Mankind, the Eisenhower Interstate.  The reason was not to develop Commerce, although that came out of it as a means to Finance the project, it came from the realization by the Military arm of the Military-Industrial Complex that in order to move their Tanks and Hardware around this vast continent, they needed ROADS upon which to roll that hardware.

As a Young Lieutenant in the Army back in 1919, Dwight D Eisenhower had to move a Convoy across the old “Lincoln Highway”, which was really a Hodgepodge of paved and dirt roads, and the equipment they had got bogged down all the time.  Fuel stops were vitually nonexistent, so they had to have their own Fuel trucks travelling with them to stock up at the few fuel depots that existed at the time in the more majore motros connected toa Rail line.  It took WEEKS to make it across the country.

From the Illinois Dept. of Transportation website:

In late June 2006, a caravan of vehicles organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) will travel across the United States from San Francisco, California to Washington, D. C. to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System.

The AASHTO Anniversary Caravan of 2006 will follow Interstate 80 much of the way. It will be retracing, in reverse, the approximate route of a famous previous expedition, the Transcontinental Army Motor Convoy, which followed the Lincoln Highway across the country from Washington to San Francisco in 1919. PHOTO (ABOVE): Soldiers pushing a disabled truck during the 1919 Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy, Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 86-19-190

The remainder of this section will describe the 1919 Army Convoy; report on its three-day trip across Illinois and relate what the 1919 Army Convoy meant for the future of American Roads.

ORIGINS AND PURPOSES OF THE 1919 ARMY CONVOY

World War I (1914-1918) was the first large scale military conflict that employed vehicles powered by the relatively new internal combustion engine. Airplanes, trucks, motorcars, and tanks were used on both sides. However, they lacked the reliability, flexibility, and capacity for moving large masses of troops or equipment over long distances on inferior European roads. The vast majority of WWI military transportation on land was done by horses and railroad trains; nevertheless, by the end of the war, most military leaders saw the potential for increased use of motorized troops and equipment in military campaigns of the future.

The end of the war also inspired the leaders of the Good Roads Movement to resume their public relations (PR) campaign to convince the public to demand better roads from state and local governments. The PR campaign had been put on hold during the 1917-1918 period while America was engaged in WWI. Early in 1919, Lincoln Highway Association leader Harry Ostermann had persuaded the War Department to conduct a transcontinental motor convoy trip from the East Coast to San Francisco on the marked route of the Lincoln Highway.

The purpose of the convoy was two fold: 1) it was to be a training exercise and 2) a test of the feasibility of the long distance movement of military men and supplies by auto and truck.

From the Good Roads Movement’s viewpoint, the convoy was meant to produce positive PR by demonstrating that long distance motor travel was possible. It was also meant to heighten awareness of existing poor roads that comprised much of the Lincoln Highway and other roads in the Unites States. Return to Top

AN EPIC JOURNEY FULL OF CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Amid much hoopla, speeches and fanfare, a 76-vehicle combined “public-private” convoy, including 56 military vehicles, 209 officers and enlisted men, and dozens of private citizens took off from the White House on July 7, 1919. (LH/MAIN STREET, p. 83).

Later that evening, the convoy was joined by two, last minute volunteer Army officers. They were Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower and Major Sereno Brett, who were to serve as observers for the Army Tank Corps. PHOTO: Major Sereno Brett, Harvey Firestone, Jr., and Lt. Colonel Dwight Eisenhower at 1919 Army Convoy stopover at the Firestone Homestead, Columbania, Ohio, July 13, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 70-520-3.

The convoy was to operate as if the country was at war and that an Asiatic enemy had destroyed railroad lines, bridges, and tunnels. They were also to act as if they would be traveling through enemy territory and thus, had to be self-contained and self-sustaining over the 3,250-mile route. Maintaining the illusion of being at war or being truly self-sustaining proved to be very difficult, as was the trip itself.

Among some of the military personnel, there was even doubt whether or not the convoy could actually make it across the continent. The vehicles were untested over long distances. Many sections of the Lincoln Highway were unimproved dirt roads. Finally, few military personnel; especially enlisted men, had much experience with motor vehicle driving or maintenance. Eisenhower later wrote that the trek was a genuine adventure. “We were not sure it could be accomplished at all. Nothing of the sort had ever been attempted.”

At first, in the East from Washington through Indiana, the roads were generally good but mechanical problems with the various vehicles and logistical problems slowed the convoy’s progress. Military discipline among the men also was “conspicuous by its absence,” according to one observer. About the familiarity of the men with operating trucks, Eisenhower wrote:

All drivers had claimed lengthy experience in driving trucks; some of them, it turned out, had never handled anything more advanced than a Model T. Most colored the air with expression in starting and stopping that indicated a longer association with teams of horses than with internal combustion engines. (EISENHOWER REPORT)

As the convoy (also referred to as the “train” by some) headed into Illinois and the West, road conditions along the Lincoln Highway presented serious challenges that often delayed and sometimes halted the convoy. The Highway ran on dirt roads through most of Illinois, but the weather was dry, so it was possible to cross the state in a few days. Of the roads between Illinois and California, Eisenhower, in his post-trip report wrote:

The dirt roads of Iowa are well graded and are good in dry weather; but would be impossible in wet weather. In Nebraska, the first real sand was encountered, and two days were lost in western part of this state due to bad, sandy roads. Wyoming roads west of Cheyenne are poor dirt ones, with weak culverts and bridges. In one day, 14 of these were counted, broken through by the train. The desert roads in the southwest portion of this state are very poor. In western Utah, on the Salt Lake Desert, the road becomes almost impossible to heavy vehicles. From Orr’s Ranch, Utah, to Carson City, Nevada, road is one succession of dust, ruts, pits and holes. This stretch was not improved in any way, and consisted only of a track across the desert. At many points on the road water is twenty miles distant, and parts of the road are ninety miles from the nearest railroad. (EISENHOWER REPORT)

In fact, one of the biggest problems was the poor state of the bridges along the Lincoln Highway. PHOTO: Army Truck testing the holding power of one of many small bridges crossed during the Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-25.

Advance notice of the convoy spread and its arrival in towns along the Lincoln Highway were occasions for celebrations and plenty of speeches imploring listeners to demand more public funding for “Good Roads.” The convoy passed through 350 communities, and it was estimated that more than 3,000,000 people witnessed it along the route. Millions more followed the trek in newspapers and early motion picture “newsreels.” PHOTO: 1919 Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy on Review, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1919. Eisenhower Library Audiovisual Department, photo 81-17-55.

The convoy did make it. Battered, but unbowed, the caravan arrived at the gates of Lincoln Park in San Francisco. However, it had taken until September 6, 1919 for it to reach its destination, a grueling sixty-two (62) days!

In November 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower wrote a seven-page report relaying the observations he made during the Army Convoy to the Chief of the Army’s Motor Transport Corps (M.T.C.). He summarized the results as follows:

The truck train was well received at all points along the route. It seemed that there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways, and, from the standpoint of promoting this sentiment, the trip was an undoubted success. As stated before in this paper, it is believed that the M. T. C. should pay more attention to disciplinary drills for officers and men, and that all should be intelligent, snappy soldiers before giving them the responsibility of operating trucks. Extended trips by trucks through the middle western part of the United States are impracticable until roads are improved, and then only a light truck should be used on long hauls. Through the eastern part of the United States, the truck can be efficiently used in the Military Service, especially in problems involving a haul of approximately 100 miles, which could be negotiated by light trucks in one day. (EISENHOWER REPORT.)

Return to Top

THE 1919 ARMY MOTOR CONVOY IN ILLINOIS

The 1919 Army Transcontinental Army Convoy crossed into Illinois on the afternoon of Saturday, July 19, 1919. It stopped the next day for a Sunday rest period in Chicago Heights. The trip was resumed on Monday July 21, 1919, and the convoy camped over that night in DeKalb. On Tuesday July 22, 1919, the convoy left DeKalb and crossed over the Mississippi River Bridge at Fulton, Illinois and entered into Iowa that evening.

During the two full days it spent on the road in Illinois, the convoy covered about 172 miles in a little over 21 hours on the road. It was fairly lucky with the weather and thus the roads, but as the following account from the convoy’s daily log reveals, it had its share of problems with the vehicles, drivers, and equipment in its journey across the Land of Lincoln.

(Read the official Army account of the convoy’s journey thru Illinois).

So basically from the 1950s right up until around 2008 when the Sub-Prime Mortgage Bubble popped, as the Industrial Jobs began to leave the country in the 1970s to go to Cheaper Labor Markets in places like Mexico, India and China, fairly decently paid work in the Construction Industry took their place.  Many jobs even for highly paid well educated folks like Civil Engineers, Architects, Electrical Engineers, Plumbers et al, as every new Mall and every new Suburban Subdivision needed to be Wired Up and Plumbed to keep the Sanitation Decent.  As the communities sprouted like mushrooms across the once Pristine Wilderness of the FSoA, Civil Service Goobermint workers in every field from Police Work to Sanitation workers to Teachers were necessary.  Where did the MONEY come from to PAY all these people for these new JOBS in these new communities?

As with ALL money since the beginning of the Industrial Era (and really long before that, btu expanding exponentially through this period), the MONEY came from the Issuance of New Credit done by the folks who have controlled this since the beginning of the Colonial Era at the LATEST, the TBTF Banks and the small number of people who control them, often referred to here on the pages of the Diner as the “Illuminati”.  In 1692 the Bank of England was Chartered, and despite a real lack of Precious Metals in England at that time, these folks issued CREDIT on what basically was all the resources of the New World they were set to exploit.  They did not HAVE the “money” to issue out, they CREATED the money to issue out.  Long as everyone under their Political Control HAD to use this money (“Legal Tender”) they could LOAN it to others, who then owed them Interest.  Anyone on the Inside of this Scheme never really could go Broke, as they could always issue themselves newer and bigger Loans to further buy out the Resources, and the Flow Begins of this money through the economy.  EVERYTGHING comes to depend on this flow of money, and constant INCREASE in the money supply otherwise the interest being charged cannot be paid up on.  whenever a Contraction or even just a slowdown occurs, Depressions ensue, Deleveraging occurs and most of the population gets hung out to dry.  this was the narrative pretty much from 1700 right through to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Throughout the period of the post-Revolutionary War here in the FSoA, Credit was issued by Industrialists in Europe to first off exploit the Coal Resources here and ship them back to Europe to power their Factories, and then to further build out Industrial Infrastructure here.  The Railroads were the essential component of this, because without them there was no moving the Coal from the mines of West Virginia to the Ports on the East Coast.  So the Jobs of those days came in the form of Coal Mining and Railroad construction, and as the railroads expanded across the continent, new communities based on this new type of Industrial living popped up like Buboes across the landscape.

Still, it was basically an Agrarian Paradigm, with most people in the country engaged in local Agriculture, right up until the Great Depression.  Reason for this is that it really was not until the  1920’s or so that the first ICE Tractors became available, and Ag was still very Human Labor intensive through the 1800s.  Even going into the Great Depression in the 1930s, most estimates I have read put 90% of the population here living and working locally in the Ag paradigm.

For those who did not Own Land, up until the Civil War you had explicit Slavery for the imported African Labor force, so I don’t think you can really call what they did as a “Job”.  During the Reconstruction period, you had Sharecroppers, and not sure this form of exploiting labor can be called a Job either.

Where what we think of now as Jobs being paid with Money emerged here was first in the Coal Mines and along the Railroad Tracks, work which was uniformly low paid and very dangerous also.  Workers who performed these jobs were recruited from places like China and Ireland, where conditions for their populations were so bad at the time that just the CHANCE to come over here and work in one of these jobs was a step up, though for many it proved a disappointment for sure as they died in dangerous working conditions, and often had wages so low surviving on what you could buy from the Company Store was pretty difficult

The upshot of this period as the Factories began to pop up as well was a workforce that became increasingly Organized, with Labor making it’s first Battles here against the Capitalist class in control of Credit Creation, money, and by this time virtually all the worthwhile Property across the country.

In fact this battle started in Europe where the whole Industrial paradigm began, and Jobs (or lack of them) and ridiculously low pay and bad working conditions developed alternative ideas to the Capital Exploitation model.  Specifically, Karl Marx and Friederich Engels developed the Communist model, which the Bolsheviks in Russia tried to implement, becoming increasingly bastardized over time.  In fact that model was probably corrupt right from the get go, as Trotsky and Lenin likely got most of their funding for that Revolution from Industrialists in Germany and England.

Over here, as the Great Depression took hold, similar Movements towards Communism and Socialism began to gain traction, the Wobblies were a growing force, and everything possible was done to keep that movement from gaining traction.  Labor Union was pitted against Labor Union, Union Bosses were paid off, the Pinkertons were brought in to disrupt Organization and physically threaten anyone organizing, and overall the Capitalist class was successful in destroying the Labor Movement in the FSoA as we moved into and past the Great Depression.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) is an international industrial union that was formed in 1905. The origin of the nickname “Wobblies” is uncertain.[3]

The IWW promotes the concept of “One Big Union“, contends that all workers should be united as a social class and that capitalism and wage labor should be abolished.[4] They are known for the Wobbly Shop model of workplace democracy, in which workers elect their managers[5] and other forms of grassroots democracy (self-management) are implemented. IWW membership does not require that one work in a represented workplace,[6] nor does it exclude membership in another labor union.[7]

In the 1910s and early ’20s, the IWW achieved many of their short-term goals, particularly in the American west, and cut across traditional guild and union lines to organize workers in a variety of trades and industries. At their peak in 1923, IWW membership has been estimated at about 40,000.[8] However, the extremely high rate of IWW membership turnover during this era (estimated at 133% per decade) makes it difficult to state membership totals with any certainty, as workers tended to join the IWW in large numbers for relatively short periods (e.g., during labor strikes and periods of generalized economic distress).[9]

Nonetheless, membership declined dramatically in the 1920s due to several factors. There were conflicts with other labor groups, particularly the American Federation of Labor (AFL) which regarded the IWW as too radical while the IWW regarded the AFL as too staid and conservative.[8] Membership also declined in the wake of government crackdowns on radical, anarchist and socialist groups during the First Red Scare after WWI. The most decisive factor in the decline in IWW membership and influence, however, was a 1924 schism due to internal conflict, from which the IWW never fully recovered.[8][10]

Compromises were made however, and the New Deal of Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt incorporated numerous salves to buy off the Working Class, primary among them the creation of the Social Security system.  Unions also still retained decent power in the post WWII period as the Automotive Industry ramped up in the FSoA, and for a short while the Working Class Heros of Industrialization did OK here, from say 1950 to maybe 1970 or so, though you did have to usually have “Connections” to get inside any of the powerful Trade Unions of the Era.

Over time of course the Unions and their ability to negotiate a better wage for their workers has been systematically diminished, and on a Media level the whole IDEA of Unions and Collective bargaining has been subject to non-stop Bernays style propagandizing against, to the point through the 90s-00s that even the Blue Collar workers such collectives work best for were convinced they were bad.  Go to any Kneejerk Conservatard Website like the one Mike “Mish” Shedlock runs on Global Economic Analysis, and you will find non-stop BLAME being placed on Unions as the Cause of all our problems.  See folks, if we just got rid of those nasty Teacher’s Unions and Auto Unions and all those “Big” Pensions they negotiated over the years, we would have PROSPERITY again!  LOL.

Prosperity for WHO?  Certainly not Prosperity for the Pensioners who have their pensions ripped out from under them, that is for sure.  Certainly not Prosperity for the next Generation of Workers either, who in order to keep our products “competitive” on the Global Market need to drop their Wages down to whatever it is the Chinese of Mexicans or Egyptians are getting these  days, like $2/day there.  the folks who PROSPER from reneging on Pensions are the Rentier Class, aka the Illuminati.  See, they are the “Secured Bondholders”.  gotta pay them off before you pay the pension of anyone who worked for the City of Detroit for the last 30 years.  As the economic system which Industrialists used to build out their system falls apart here, they hang out to dry everyone who ever worked in the system in ANY capacity, from an Industrial Factory Worker to a Coal Miner to the Police Force of Detroit, who for near 100 years protected the “Property” these folks claimed to own, thoroughly polluted and then abandoned.

Same Bizness occurring over in China now, just at a vastly Accelerated Pace as first the Hot Money drops in there to “Create Jobs” in Industry, profit is sucked out on the back of cheap labor, the resource landscape of the country is destroyed and then when no more Profit can be pulled from this mess, they “Unwind the Carry Trade”, Newzpeak for the Rentier Class packing their bags and Private Jets with whatever they can and GTFO of Dodge, leaving the rest of the Chinese Population to die in the stinking sewer they made of that land mass.

http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/Global/eastasia/photos/climate-energy/air-pollution-linfen-bicycle.jpg

Today, as we speak, this whole paradigm is coming to a close, for numerous reasons.

First off, there really is no NEW place to go to either exploit Resources or Exploit Labor to gain “Profit” for the individual or corporation that has not already been thoroughly sucked dry.  Though there is still some fossil fuel energy left in the ground to extract, the energy cost for pulling it up comes ever closer each day to the cost the consumer of this energy can afford to pay.  Without continuing expansion of Credit, there is no ‘money” flow to the end consumer, and while the Central Banks provide endless Quantitative Easing FREE CREDIT a ZIRP to their member TBTF Banks, said Banks do not pass this money on in the form of new loans to anybody further than one tier below their line.  Do you think a lot of Individuals line up to buy a Facepalm IPO?  Who are the “Investors” in Facepalm, and where do they get the money to invest in that piece of shit Social Media White Elephant?  Faceplam has NEVER turned a Profit since the day Mark Suckerbug and the Winkletwins dreamed it up.  Regardless, “investors” subscribed to the IPO to the tune of like $100B, least that is around where the Market Cap is here I think.  Where did they GET $100B to “invest” in Facepalm?  They BORROWED it from the Federal Reserve, rehypothecating worthless MBS as collateral to invest here.  This is the circle jerk of money creation, and folks on the inside get fabulously wealthy off of it, but everybody else gets screwed to beat the band here.  Constant investment in ultimately non-productive and worthless enterprise that simply burns energy faster all the time, until there is nothing left to burn, which we are not at yet but getting closer to all the time.  Ongoing here really since the very first Railroad Tracks were laid here in the FSoA in the early 1800s.

So, in the final analysis, this is where all the “JOBS” came from.  Money created as Debt to exploit the resources of the New World, accessing a fabulous wealth of stored energy, first from Coal, then following that from Oil.  Every last “Job” that has been created through the era all comes from the downhill flow of this energy as it is burned, and with less and less available to burn all the time, there are fewere and fewer Jobs to be had that depend on the burning of this energy.  Politicos calls for a “Return to Growth” are a chimera, there is no growth, really there has not been for 30 years here or so.  The “growth” you see is Numerical Smoke & Mirrors, pretty arbitrary numbers overall that get bigger all the time, while the population at large gets poorer all the time.  The FSoA population has been getting steadily poorer under this paradigm, but not until now has it really been evident, masked well by Financialism and control over the Global Reserve Currency of the Dollar.

Besides the fact there is no new place to GO to exploit resource and labor, the result of 200 years of this shit is that we are now Neck Deep in our own sewage, with far too many people on the planet who have opportunity for truly productive things to do with their lives and who are pretty much 100% Dependent on the system continuing onward for their own survival.  Willfully trying to exit the system while it continues to function is close to impossible in most places, really you have to go way out into the bush to even try something like this, and few people are prepared to do that these days.

Those of us who are engaged in building the SUN Project see all of these things quite clearly.  There are no easy answers, no simple ways to exit, and a “Crash on Demand” by a large percentage of the population walking away from Industrialization simultaneously is unlikely to occur as a willfull thing, though it may happen organically quite rapidly if the current systems fail rapidly in cascade fashion.

For those of us involved in SUN, we seek to redefine the ideas of Jobs, Work & Money.  Jobs as we have known them through the Industrial Era are already going the way of the Dinosaur, and as Bruce Springstein write in “My Hometown”, they ain’t ever coming back.

We don’t NEED no Stinkin’ JOBs, and we don’t NEED the Debt Money pitched out here by the Illuminati for the last 200 years of Industrialization either.  Like the “Assets” this money created, it is all going quite Worthless now.  What we NEED is to work together, to build our communities, to work for the common good of our Species and the Planet we live on.  We are rapidly running short on time here to make such changes in anything but the most Painful Way conceivable, and Heliopaths seek to avoid such a nasty endgame, if not for everyone, at least for those who see what is coming and wish to do the best they can to avoid it with us.

Perhaps you think this is all useless, it is too late already and the End is Written in Stone.  If so, I wish you well and I will see you in the Great Beyond when we all get there.  I personally am not concerned with whether the End is Written in Stone or not, because that does not materially affect the way I approach this End Game.  Maybe I will go down, maybe my friends will go down too.  However, if that is how it plays out, we will GO DOWN SWINGING.

IT AIN’T OVAH TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS!

http://accountingprofessor.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/fatlady.jpg

SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE

RE

Unemployment Reality in Amerika

Off the keyboard of Michael Snyder

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Published on Economic Collapse on November 10, 2013

10 Facts About The Growing Unemployment Crisis In America That Will Blow Your Mind

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UnemploymentDid you know that there are more than 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job?  Yes, I know that number sounds absolutely crazy, but it is true.  Right now, there are more than 11 million Americans that are considered to be “officially unemployed”, and there are more than 91 million Americans that are not employed and that are considered to be “not in the labor force”.  When you add those two numbers together, the total is more than 102 million.  Overall, the number of working age Americans that do not have a job has increased by about 27 million since the year 2000.  But aren’t things getting better?  After all, the mainstream media is full of headlines about how “good” the jobs numbers for October were.  Sadly, the truth is that the mainstream media is not being straight with the American people.  As you will see below, we are in the midst of a long-term unemployment crisis in America, and things got even worse last month.

In this day and age, it is absolutely imperative that people start thinking for themselves.  Just because the media tells you that something is true does not mean that it actually is.  If unemployment was actually going down, the percentage of the working age population that has a job should actually be going up.  As you are about to see, that is simply not the case.  The following are 10 facts about the growing unemployment crisis in America that will blow your mind…

#1 The percentage of working age Americans with a job fell to 58.3 percent in October.  The lowest that number has been at any point since the year 2000 is 58.2 percent.  In other words, there has been absolutely no “jobs recovery”.  During the last recession, the civilian employment-population ratio dropped from about 63 percent to below 59 percent and it has stayed there for 50 months in a row.  Will the percentage of working age Americans with a job soon drop below the 58 percent mark?…

Employment-Population Ratio November 2013

#2 The U.S. economy lost 623,000 full-time jobs last month.  But we are being told to believe that the economy is actually getting “better”.

#3 The number of American women with a job fell by 357,000 during the month of October.

#4 The average duration of unemployment in October 2013 was nearly three times as long as it was in October 2000.

#5 The number of Americans “not in the labor force” increased by an astounding 932,000 during October.  In other words, the Obama administration would have us believe that nearly a million people “disappeared” from the U.S. labor force in a single month.

#6 The number of Americans “not in the labor force” has grown by more than 11 million since Barack Obama first entered the White House.

#7 In October, the U.S. labor force participation rate fell from 63.2 percent to 62.8 percent.  It is now the lowest that it has been since 1978.  Below is a chart which shows how the labor force participation rate has been steadily declining since the year 2000.  How can the economy be “healthy” if the percentage of Americans that are participating in the labor force is continually declining?…

Labor Force Participation Rate

#8 If the labor force participation rate was still at the same level it was at when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the official unemployment rate would be about 11 percent right now.

#9 Even if you are working, that does not mean that you are able to take care of yourself and your family without any help.  In fact, approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.

#10 In January 2000, there were 75 million working age Americans that did not have a job.  Today, there are 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job.

So what are our politicians doing to fix this?

Shouldn’t they be working night and day to solve this crisis?

After all, Barack Obama once made the following promise to the American people…

“But I want you all to know, I will not rest until anybody who’s looking for a job can find one — and I’m not talking about just any job, but good jobs that give every American decent wages and decent benefits and a fair shot at the American Dream.”

Unfortunately, things have not improved since Obama made that promise, but he has found the time to play 150 rounds of golf since he has been president.

Meanwhile, because there aren’t enough jobs, the number of Americans living in poverty continues to grow.

As I wrote about the other day, according to new numbers that were just released an all-time high 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty.

And right now 1.2 million public school students in the United States are homeless.  For many more statistics like this, please see my previous article entitled “29 Incredible Facts Which Prove That Poverty In America Is Absolutely Exploding“.

The only thing that most Americans have to offer in the marketplace is their labor.  If they can’t find a job, they don’t have any other way to take care of themselves and their families.

The future of the middle class in America depends upon the creation of good jobs.  It really doesn’t matter how far the quantitative easing that the Federal Reserve has been doing pumps up the current stock market bubble.  The American people were told that “economic stimulus” was the reason for doing all of this reckless money printing, but the percentage of working age Americans with a job is now actually lower than it was four years ago.  Quantitative easing has been a complete and total failure in the job creation department, and it is doing a tremendous amount of long-term damage to our financial system.

The really frightening thing is that the Federal Reserve and the federal government have supposedly been doing all they can to try to “create jobs” and they have utterly failed.  In fact, this is the first time in the post-World War II era that we have not seen an employment recovery following a recession.

And now the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.  What that hits us, millions more Americans will lose their jobs.

So the truth is that this is just the beginning of the unemployment crisis in America.

Yes, things are bad now, but soon they will get much worse.

Trying to Stay Sane in an Insane World- At World’s End

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on September 10, 2013

Cuckoos_Nest

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In the first three parts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) of this disheartening look back at a century of central banking, income taxing, military warring, energy depleting and political corrupting, I made a case for why we are in the midst of a financial, commercial, political, social and cultural collapse. In this final installment I’ll give my best estimate as to what happens next and it has a 100% probability of being wrong. There are so many variables involved that it is impossible to predict the exact path to our world’s end. Many people don’t want to hear about the intractable issues or the true reasons for our predicament. They want easy button solutions. They want someone or something to fix their problems. They pray for a technological miracle to save them from decades of irrational myopic decisions. As the domino-like collapse worsens, the feeble minded populace becomes more susceptible to the false promises of tyrants and psychopaths. There are a myriad of thugs, criminals, and autocrats in positions of power who are willing to exploit any means necessary to retain their wealth, power and control. The revelations of governmental malfeasance, un-Constitutional mass espionage of all citizens, and expansion of the Orwellian welfare/warfare surveillance state, from patriots like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden has proven beyond a doubt the corrupt establishment are zealously anxious to discard and stomp on the U.S. Constitution in their desire for authoritarian control over our society.

Anyone who denies we are in the midst of an ongoing Crisis that will lead to a collapse of the system as we know it is either a card carrying member of the corrupt establishment, dependent upon the oligarchs for their living, or just one of the willfully ignorant ostriches who choose to put their heads in the sand and hum the Star Spangled Banner as they choose obliviousness to awareness. Thinking is hard. Feeling and believing a storyline is easy.

 

A moral society must be inhabited by an informed, educated, aware populace and   governed by honorable leaders who oversee based upon the nation’s founding principles of liberty, freedom and limited government of, by and for the people. A moral society requires trust, honor, property rights, simple just laws, and the freedom to succeed or fail on your own merits. There is one major problem in creating a true moral society where liberty, freedom, trust, honor and free markets are cherished – human beings. We are a deeply flawed species who are prone to falling prey to the depravities of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Men have always been captivated by the false idols of dominion, power and wealth. The foibles of human nature haven’t changed over the course of history. This is why we have 80 to 100 year cycles driven by the same human strengths and shortcomings revealed throughout recorded history.

Empires rise and fall due to the humanness of their leaders and citizens. The great American Empire is no different. It was created a mere 224 years ago by courageous patriots who risked their wealth and their lives to create a Republic founded upon the principles of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; took a dreadful wrong turn in 1913 with the creation of a privately held central bank to control its currency and introduction of an income tax; devolved into an empire after World War II, setting it on a course towards bankruptcy; sealed its fate in 1971 by unleashing power hungry psychopathic elitists to manipulate the monetary and fiscal policies of the nation to enrich themselves; and has now entered the final frenzied phase of pillaging, currency debasement, war mongering, and ransacking of civil liberties. Despite the frantic efforts of the financial elite, their politician puppets, and their media propaganda outlets, collapse of this aristocracy of the moneyed is a mathematical certainty. Faith in the system is rapidly diminishing, as the issuance of debt to create the appearance of growth has reached the point of diminishing returns.

 

Increase in Real GDP per Dollar of Incremental Debt

“At the root of America’s economic crisis lies a moral crisis: the decline of civic virtue among America’s political and economic elite. A society of markets, laws, and elections is not enough if the rich and powerful fail to behave with respect, honesty, and compassion toward the rest of society and toward the world.”Jeffrey Sachs

Five Stages of Collapse

The day of reckoning for a century of putting our faith in the wrong people with wrong ideas and evil intentions is upon us. Dmitry Orlov provides a blueprint for the collapse in his book The Five Stages of Collapse – Survivors’ Toolkit:

Stage 1: Financial Collapse. Faith in “business as usual” is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings wiped out and access to capital is lost.

Stage 2: Commercial Collapse. Faith that “the market shall provide” is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm.

Stage 3: Political Collapse. Faith that “the government will take care of you” is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.

Stage 4: Social Collapse. Faith that “your people will take care of you” is lost, as social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush to fill the power vacuum, run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.

Stage 5: Cultural Collapse. Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for “kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity.” Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes “May you die today so that I can die tomorrow.”

The collapse is occurring in fits and starts. The stages of collapse do not necessarily have to occur in order.  You can recognize various elements of the first three stages in the United States today. Stage 1 commenced in September 2008 when this Crisis period was catalyzed by the disintegration of the worldwide financial system caused by Wall Street intentionally creating the largest control fraud in world history, with easy money provided by Greenspan/Bernanke, fraudulent mortgage products, fake appraisals, bribing rating agencies to provide AAA ratings to derivatives filled with feces, and having their puppets in the media and political arena provide the propaganda to herd the sheep into the slaughterhouse.

The American people neglected their civic duty to elect leaders who would tell them the truth and represent current and future generations equally. They have neglected the increasing lawlessness of Wall Street, K Street and the corporate suite. The American people have lived in denial about their responsibility for their own financial well-being, willingly delegating it to a government of math challenged politicians who promised trillions more than they could ever deliver. The American people have delayed tackling the dire issues confronting our nation, including: $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities, the military industrial complex creating wars across the globe, militarization of our local police forces, domestic spying on every citizen, allowing mega-corporations and the financial elite to turn our nation from savings based production to debt based consumption, and allowing corporations, the military industrial complex, Wall Street, and shadowy billionaires to pick and control our elected officials. The civic fabric of the country is being torn at the points of extreme vulnerability.

“At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where, during the Unraveling, America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action. Anger at “mistakes we made” will translate into calls for action, regardless of the heightened public risk. It is unlikely that the catalyst will worsen into a full-fledged catastrophe, since the nation will probably find a way to avert the initial danger and stabilize the situation for a while. Yet even if dire consequences are temporarily averted, America will have entered the Fourth Turning.”  – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

Our Brave New World controllers (bankers, politicians, corporate titans, media moguls, shadowy billionaires) were able to avert a full-fledged catastrophe in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 which would have put an end to their reign of destruction. To accept the rightful consequences of their foul actions was intolerable to these obscenely wealthy, despicable men. Their loathsome and vile solutions to a crisis they created have done nothing to relieve the pain and suffering of the average person, while further enriching them, as they continue to gorge on the dying carcass of a once thriving nation. Despite overwhelming public outrage, Congress did as they were instructed by their Wall Street masters and handed over $700 billion of taxpayer funds into Wall Street vaults, under the false threat of systematic collapse. The $800 billion of pork stimulus was injected directly into the veins of corporate campaign contributors. The $3 billion Cash for Clunkers scheme resulted in pumping taxpayer dollars into the government owned union car companies, while driving up the prices of used cars and hurting lower income folks.

Ben Bernanke has peddled the false paradigm of quantitative easing (code for printing money and airlifting it to Wall Street) as benefitting Main Street. Nothing could be further from the truth. He bought $1.3 trillion of toxic mortgage backed securities from his Wall Street owners. He has pumped a total of $2.8 trillion into the hands of Wall Street since September 2008, and is singlehandedly generating $5 billion of risk free profits for these deadbeats by paying them .25% on their reserves. Drug dealer Ben continues to pump $2.8 billion per day into the veins of Wall Street addicts and any hint of tapering the heroin causes the addicts to flail about. Ben should be so proud. He should hang a Mission Accomplished banner whenever he gives a speech. Bank profits reached an all-time record in the 2nd quarter, at $42.2 billion, with 80% of those profits going to the 2% Too Big To Trust Wall Street Mega-Goliath Banks. It’s enough to make a soon to retire, and take a Wall Street job, central banker smile.

“The money rate can, indeed, be kept artificially low only by continuous new injections of currency or bank credit in place of real savings. This can create the illusion of more capital just as the addition of water can create the illusion of more milk. But it is a policy of continuous inflation. It is obviously a process involving cumulative danger. The money rate will rise and a crisis will develop if the inflation is reversed, or merely brought to a halt, or even continued at a diminished rate. Cheap money policies, in short, eventually bring about far more violent oscillations in business  than those they are designed to remedy or prevent.” Henry Hazlitt – 1946

Any serious minded person knew Wall Street had too much power, too much control, and too much influence in 2008 when they crashed our economic system. When something is too big to fail because it will create systematic collapse, you make it smaller. Instead we have allowed our sociopathic rulers to allow these parasitic institutions to get even larger. Just 12 mega-banks control 70% of all the banking assets in the country, with 90% controlled by the top 86 banks. There are approximately 8,000 financial institutions in this country. Wall Street will be congratulating themselves with record compensation of $127 billion and record bonuses of $23 billion for a job well done. It is dangerous work making journal entries relieving loan loss reserves, committing foreclosure fraud, marking your assets to unicorn, making deposits at the Fed, and counting on the Bernanke Put to keep stocks rising. During a supposed recovery from 2009 to 2011, average real income per household grew pitifully by 1.7%, but all the gains accrued to Bernanke’s minions. Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Therefore, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery. This warped trend has only accelerated since 2011.

The median household income has fallen by $2,400 to $52,100 since the government proclaimed the end of the recession in 2009. Real wages for real people continue to fall. A record 23.1 million households (20% of all households) are receiving food stamps. After four years of “recovery” propaganda, we are left with 2.2 million less people employed (5 million less full time jobs) and 22 million more people on SNAP and SSDI. A record 90.5 million working age Americans are not working, with labor participation at a 35 year low. Ben’s money has not trickled down, but his inflation has fallen like a load of bricks on the heads of the middle class. Bernanke’s QE to infinity constitutes a transfer of purchasing power away from the middle class to the bankers, mega-corporations and .1%. This Cantillon effect means that newly created money is neither distributed evenly nor simultaneously among the population. Some users of money profit from rising prices, and others suffer from them. This results in a transfer of wealth (a hidden tax) from later receivers to earlier receivers of new money. This is why the largest banks and largest corporations are generating the highest profits in history, while the average person sinks further into debt as their real income declines and real living expenses (energy, food, clothing, healthcare, tuition) rise.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 12.35.48 PM.png

Ben works for your owners. Real GDP (using the fake government inflation adjustment) since July 2009 is up by a wretched 5.6%. Revenue growth of the biggest corporations in the world is up by a pathetic 12%. One might wonder how corporate profits could be at record levels with such doleful economic performance. One needs to look no further than Ben’s balance sheet, which has increased by 174%. There appears to be a slight correlation between Ben’s money printing and the 162% increase in the S&P 500 index. With the top 1% owning 42.1% of all financial assets (top .1% own most of this) and the bottom 80% owning only 4.7% of all financial assets, one can clearly see who benefits from QE to infinity.

The key take away from what the ruling class has done since 2008 is they have only temporarily delayed the endgame. Their self-serving exploits have guaranteed that round two of the financial collapse will be epic in proportion and intensity. This Fourth Turning Crisis is ongoing. The linear thinkers who control the levers of power keep promising a return to normalcy and resumption of growth. This is an impossibility – mathematically & socially. Fourth Turnings do not end without the existing social order being swept away in a tsunami of turmoil, violence, suffering and war. Orlov’s stages of collapse will likely occur during the remaining fifteen years of this Crisis. We are deep into Stage 1 as our national Detroitification progresses towards bankruptcy, with an added impetus from our trillion dollar wars of choice in the Middle East. Commercial collapse has begun, as faith in the fantasy of free market capitalism is waning. The race to the bottom with currency debasement around the globe is reaching a tipping point, and the true eternal currencies of gold and silver are being hoarded and shipped from the West to the Far East.

Monetary Base (billions of USD)

When the financial collapse reaches its crescendo, the just in time supply chain, that keeps cheese doodles and cheese whiz on your grocery store shelves, Chinese produced iGadgets in your local Wal-Mart Supercenter, and gasoline flowing out of gas station hoses into your leased Cadillac Escalade, will break down rapidly. The strain of $110 oil is already evident. The fireworks will really get going when ATM machines run dry and the EBT cards stop functioning. Within a week riots and panic will engulf the country.

“At some point we are bound to hear, from across two oceans, the shocking words “Your money is no good here.” Fast forward to a week later: banks are closed, ATMs are out of cash, supermarket shelves are bare and gas stations are starting to run out of fuel. And then something happens: the government announces they have formed a crisis task force, and will nationalize, recapitalize and reopen banks, restoring confidence. The banks reopen, under heavy guard, and thousands of people get arrested for attempting to withdraw their savings. Banks close, riots begin. Next, the government decides that, to jump-start commerce, it will honor deposit guarantees and simply hand out cash. They print and arrange for the cash to be handed out. Now everyone has plenty of cash, but there is still no food in the supermarkets or gasoline at the gas stations because by now the international supply chains have broken down and the delivery pipelines are empty.”  Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

We are witnessing the beginning stages of political collapse. The government and its leaders are being discredited on a daily basis. The mismanagement of fiscal policy, foreign policy and domestic policy, along with the revelations of the NSA conducting mass surveillance against all Americans has led critical thinking Americans to question the legitimacy of the politicians running the show on behalf of the bankers, corporations and arms dealers. The Gestapo like tactics used by the government in Boston was an early warning sign of what is to come. Government entitlement promises will vaporize, as they did in Detroit, with pension promises worth only ten cents on the dollar. Total social and cultural collapse could resemble the chaotic civil war scenarios playing out in Libya and Syria. The best case scenario would be for a collapse similar to the Soviet Union’s relatively peaceful disintegration into impotent republics. I don’t believe we’ll be this fortunate. The most powerful military empire in world history will not fade away. It will go out in a blaze of glory with a currency collapse, hyper-inflation, and war on a grand scale.

“History offers even more sobering warnings: Armed confrontation usually occurs around the climax of Crisis. If there is confrontation, it is likely to lead to war. This could be any kind of war – class war, sectional war, war against global anarchists or terrorists, or superpower war. If there is war, it is likely to culminate in total war, fought until the losing side has been rendered nil – its will broken, territory taken, and leaders captured.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

In Whom Do You Trust?

“Use of money concentrates trust in a single central authority – the central bank – and, over extended periods of time, central banks always tend to misbehave. Eventually the “print” button on the central banker’s emergency console becomes stuck in the depressed position, flooding the world with worthless notes. People trust that money will remain a store of value, and once the trust is violated a gigantic black hole appears at the very center of society, sucking in peoples’ savings and aspirations along with their sense of self-worth. When those who have become psychologically dependent on money as a yardstick, to be applied to everything and everyone, suddenly find themselves in a world where money means nothing, it is as if they have gone blind; they see shapes but can no longer resolve them into objects. The result is anomie – a sense of unreality – accompanied by deep depression. Money is an addiction – substance-less and unreal, and sets itself up for a severe and lengthy withdrawal.” Dmitry Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Our modern world revolves around wealth, the appearance of wealth, the false creation of wealth through the issuance of debt, and trust in the bankers and politicians pulling the levers behind the curtain. The entire world economic system is dependent on trusting central bankers whose only response to any crisis is to create more debt. The death knell is ringing loud and clear, but people around the globe are desperately clinging to their normalcy biases and praying to the gods of cognitive dissonance. It seems the only things that matter to our controllers are stock market levels, the continued flow of debt to the plebs, continued doling out of hush money to those on the dole, and of course an endless supply of brown skinned enemies to attack. With every country in the world attempting to the same solution of debasing their currencies, we are rapidly approaching the tipping point. India is the canary in the coal mine.

Government, Household, Financial & Non-Financial Debt (% of GDP)

An exponential growth model built upon cheap plentiful energy and debt creation has its limits, and we’ve reached them. With the depletion of inexpensive, easily accessible energy resources, higher prices will continue to slow world economies. Demographics in the developed world are slowing the global economy as millions approach their old age with little savings due to over consuming during their peak earnings years. Bernanke has already quadrupled his balance sheet with no meaningful benefit to the economy or the financial well-being of the average middle class American. Financial manipulation that creates nothing has masked the rot consuming our economic system. The game has been rigged in favor of the owners, but even a rigged game eventually comes to an end. Americans and Europeans can no longer maintain a façade of wealth by buying knickknacks from China with money they don’t have. The US and Europe are finding that their credit is no longer good in the exporting Far East countries. This is a perilous development, as the West has depended upon foreigners to accommodate its never ending expansion of credit. Without that continual expansion of debt, the Ponzi scheme comes crashing down. As China, Japan and the rest of Asia have balked at buying U.S. Treasuries with negative real yields, the only recourse for Ben has been to monetize the debt through QE and inflation. The doubling of ten year Treasury rates in a matter of three months due to just talk of possibly slowing QE should send shivers down your spine.

We are supposedly five years past the great crisis. Magazine covers proclaimed Bernanke a hero. If we are well past the crisis, why are the extreme emergency measures still in effect? If the economy is growing and jobs are being created, why do we need $85 billion of government debt to be monetized each and every month? Why are the EU, Japan, and China printing even faster than the Fed? The answer is simple. If the debt was not being monetized, it would have to be purchased out in the free market. Purchasers would require an interest rate far above the 2.9% being paid today. The debt levels in the U.S., Europe and Japan are so large that a rise in interest rates of just a few points would explode budget deficits and lead to a worldwide financial collapse. This is why Bernanke and the rest of his central banker brethren are trapped by their own ideology of bubble production. Just the slowing of debt creation will lead to collapse. Bernanke needs a Syrian crisis to postpone the taper talk. Those in control need an endless number of real or false flag crises to provide cover for their printing presses to keep rolling.

There are a couple analogies that apply to our impending doom. The country is like a 224 year old oak tree that has been slowly rotting on the inside due to the insidious diseases of hubris, apathy, selfishness, dependence, delusion, and debasement. The old oak gives an outward appearance of health and stability. Winter has arrived and gale force winds are in the forecast. One gust of wind and the mighty aged oak will topple and come crashing to earth. I think an even more fitting analogy is the sandpile with grains of sand being added day after day. Seven out of ten Americans receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Goliath corporations and the uber-wealthy use the tax code and legislation to syphon hundreds of billions from the national treasury every year. We spend $1 trillion per year on past, current and future wars of choice. Annual interest on the debt we’ve racked up in the last few decades already approaches $400 billion per year. The entire Federal budget totaled $400 billion in 1977. The sandpile grows ever higher, while its instability expands exponentially. One seemingly innocuous grain of sand will ultimately cause the pile to collapse catastrophically. Will it be an unintended consequence of a missile launch into Syria? Will it be a spike in oil prices? Will it be the collapse of one of the EU PIIGS? Will it be an assassination of a political figure or banker? No one knows. But that innocuous grain of sand will trigger the collapse of the entire pile.

Worried people are looking for solutions. They often get angry at me because they don’t think I provide answers to the issues I raise about our corrupt failing system. They want easy answers to intractable problems. Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that our system and majority of citizens are too corrupted to change our course through the ballot box or instituting policies along the lines of those proposed by Ron Paul and many other thoughtful liberty minded people. We are experiencing the downside of a representative democracy.  Once a person is democratically elected a gulf is created between the electors and the person they elected, as the representative becomes corrupted and bought by moneyed interests. Elected officials become a class unto themselves. The political class grows to be puppets that resemble human beings but are nothing but cogs in a vast corporate run machine, pawns in an enormous game of chess played by powerful vindictive immoral men.

There are no cures for our disease. It’s terminal. Anyone telling you they have the answers is either lying or trying to sell you something. More people and organizations are on the take than are playing by the rules. The producers are being overrun by the parasites. The barbarians are at the gate. An implosion of societal trust is underway. The next stage of this crisis, which I believe will materialize within the next twelve months will try the souls of the weary.

“As the Crisis catalyzes, these fears will rush to the surface, jagged and exposed. Distrustful of some things, individuals will feel that their survival requires them to distrust more things. This behavior could cascade into a sudden downward spiral, an implosion of societal trust. This might result in a Great Devaluation, a severe drop in the market price of most financial and real assets. This devaluation could be a short but horrific panic, a free-falling price in a market with no buyers. Or it could be a series of downward ratchets linked to political events that sequentially knock the supports out from under the residual popular trust in the system. As assets devalue, trust will further disintegrate, which will cause assets to devalue further, and so on.”The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

As a nation we have squandered our inheritance, born of the blood of patriots. A freedom loving, liberty minded, self-responsible, courageous people have allowed ourselves to fall prey to selfishness, apathy, complacency and dependency. Once we allowed our human appetites of greed, power seeking, and control to override the moral responsibility for our own lives and the lives of future unborn generations, collapse was inevitable. The danger now is what happens after the unavoidable collapse. Will the millions of dependency zombies beg for a strong dictator to protect them, provide for them and lead them into further bondage? Or will the spark of liberty and freedom reignite, allowing citizens to throw off the shackles of banker and corporate control? I believe most of the people in this country are good hearted. We are merely pawns in this game of Risk being played by those seeking power, wealth and world domination. We are all trapped in our own forms of normalcy bias. Have I cashed out my retirement funds, sold my suburban house and built a doomstead in the mountains? No I haven’t. Do I second guess myself sometimes? Yes I do. But even the aware have families to support, jobs to go to, bills to pay, laundry to do, lawns to mow, and lives to live. I can’t live in constant fear of what might happen. We only get 80 or so years on this earth, if we’re lucky. The best we can do is leave a positive legacy for our children and their children. A drastic change to our way of life is coming, but most of us are trapped in a cage of our own making.

Each living generation will need to do their part during this Crisis if we are to survive the coming storm. Since no one knows the nature of how the next fifteen years will unfold, it would be wise to at least make basic preparations for food, water, heat and protection. This is easier for some than others, but you don’t have to star on Doomsday Preppers in order to stock up on items that can be purchased at Wal-Mart today, but won’t be available when the global supply chain breaks down. Make sure you have neighbors and family you can rely upon. A small community of like-minded people with varied skills is more likely to succeed in our brave old world than rugged individualists. With no financial means to maintain our globalized world, living locally will take on a new meaning. After much turmoil, chaos, violence, and likely mass casualties the best outcome would be for the Great American Empire to break into regional republics, incapable of waging global war, led by law abiding moral liberty minded individuals, and willing to trade freely and honestly with their fellow republics. Daily life would revert back to a simpler Amish like time. Would that be so bad?

This Fourth Turning could end with a whimper or a bang. There are enough nuclear arms to obliterate the world ten times over. There are enough hubristic egomaniacal psychopathic men in power, that the use of those weapons has a high likelihood of happening. It will be up to the people to not allow this horrific result. I love my country and despise my government. The Declaration of Independence clearly states that when a long train of abuses and usurpations lead toward despotism, it is our right and duty to throw off that government and provide new guards of liberty. My family comes first with my country a close second. I will fight with whatever means necessary to protect my family and do what I can to influence the future course of our country. Time is running out. Will we have the courage, fortitude and wisdom to make the right decisions over the next fifteen years? Will we choose glory or destruction? The fate of our nation hangs in the balance. Are you prepared? Are you ready to fight for your family and your rights?

The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

 

 IT’S OUR CHOICE.

Rat Kidneys, Science and the Promethean

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

Published on Epiphany Now on May 5, 2013

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

I recently finished a semester at our local community college where I took prerequisites for their nursing program. I was 33 taking 13 hours of classes in this bastion of hopium, wishful thinking, and just plan reality distorting dysplagia that is American higher education…or whatever the hell it’s called these days. My classes were Anatomy and Physiology 2, Medical Terminology, Probability and Statistics, and Compter Science 101, and each class had it’s own brand of incompetence, egomegaly superhero professors, and creative academic bullshit as required reading. I’ll be taking you on a quick tour of what economically accessible higher education looks like in America in 2013 in the following expose.
I’ll start with CPT 101 (computer science) since it represented the absolute pinnacle of what a pointless waste of brain cells college has become. The first class our instructor told us that she was only going to be our instructor for a couple of classes. Apparently she was going to be teaching at the community college in the next town and couldn’t be bothered with us. The first three classes involved a pre-digital literacy test followed by me spending time online at the doomsteaddiner due to the fact that there was nothing for me to pay attention to. When our next instructor arrived it got interesting. She had the worse case of ADD I’ve ever seen, and we got to be subjected to it on the overhead whenever she could be bothered with actually showing up to class. 10 minutes late was early for this magnificent specimen of a 21st century college professor. A month goes by and there hasn’t been so much as one powerpoint presentation about what the internet is, or what a computer is, or what Microsoft is…nothing. Just more doomsteaddiner surfing.
One day, the entire class and I were still sitting on the floor in the hall, 15 minutes after class had started, with no instructor. Usually this wasn’t a problem because we’d all just go in the room and get online to do what we no doubt would all probably be doing anyways if we were at home…only not getting college credit for it, except this day the class room door was locked. At any rate, I decided, all at once, that I didn’t go to war and drop bombs on Afghanistan so that I could sit on the floor in a hallway waiting on some incompetent twit to get her drunk ass out of bed to come spread her ADD around in an academic setting. I got up, walked to the next classroom, opened the door, and grabbed a random professor by the neck and said “hey bub, how bout opening our classroom door so that we can get up off the damn hallway floor?” That set a chain of events in motion that I was sure would get the ball rolling in our classroom. The head of the department ended up in our classroom that day. Our instructor rolled in 20 minutes late and then disappeared with the head of the department. The next class…there our Miss Incompetent was, on time and in class ready to spread her ADD around on the overhead in the name of computer science. I was thrilled that the head of the department apparently found it reasonable to put her back into position as the professor seeing as how she had taught nothing and been on time once all semester.
She was on time for the next two classes before she got back to her usual ways. One day, 18 minutes after class had started, still instructorless, I decided to check my school email. That’s when I noticed that she had just sent us an email stating that she was still in court and class had been canceled for the day. WTF I thought to myself. A couple of weeks later and she decides to assign us a project for Microsoft Access after we had already taken the Access chapter exam (having not been taught anything about it in class mind you). I got pissed off about the fact, as did others, and we began making a general consensus ruckus about what an outrage it all was. This resulted in the head of the department getting involved again.
This time she decided to shit can Miss Incompetent. We had three classes left of the semester at this point. Our replacement professor, and apparently second in command of the department, took over at this point. The first class was a powerpoint presentation on how awesome her 21 year old son was. He was a black homosexual who had moved from the Upstate of SC to Hollywood where he was pursuing a career as an actor. We got to see his facebook page and a bunch of head shots of him. Apparently he is a great and sweet man who bagged a roll as the local retard who throws rocks at Van Diesel who’s babysitting the neighbors kids or some stupid shit. He got about a minute on screen and shouted some retard slogan. Captain second in command of the computer department assured us that her son was destined for great things on the silver screen and then dismissed us from class. This was the best the school could cough up for the last couple of classes.
Next I’ll cover the only online class I took, Medical Terminology. This was the only class that I took that wasn’t a requirement. Of course, I was taking it because I was told by my guidance counselor that it was a mandatory prereq. As an aside, my overly competent guidance counselor had a degree in business administration. Apparently the days of guidance counselors having some psychology back ground are over. Let there be no mistake about it, this is a business and nothing more. My Medical Terminology proctor was a successful black lady in her late 30’s. She was a doctor, of chiropractics, and had an ego that was full of dead air, but full of itself nonetheless. I found myself in her office, for a scheduled meet and greet, to help me figure out the schools online class software. There were glitches that I couldn’t figure out. She hemmed and hawed and ultimately produced no help for me because she simply did not know the answer to my questions. She didn’t have time to deal with an “online” student. She also had no idea that her head was full of hot air that had just been blown up her ass by some other academic credential dispensing goon.
At one point I had a project due that involved reading a professional medical journal entry of my choosing, writing a 250 word synopsis of it, and defining ten medical terms. The instructions on how to submit this intolerably difficult academic exercise set a new precedence in vaguery. We were supposed to submit a “copy of the professional journal entry used,” and it couldn’t be the same article that any of the other students used in the class. How we were to know what articles the other students were using was never disclosed. At any rate, I sent her a copy of the url to the article as well as documented it in the appropriate MLA format in the bibliography and called it good. A couple of weeks later I noticed that I had been given a zero on the project because I did not submit a copy of the article, only a link as well as MLA citation (which tells you everything you could possibly want to know about the god damned article’s location and point of origin). I emailed her a kind WTF, and how do I submit a copy of the article so that I can get credit for the work that I did? She emailed me back with a one liner that said “go to the schools tech department to get help” if I couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t have time to deal with it, and at any rate she didn’t give two shits about my grade.
This was the only class where an “A” was a 94, and so it was the only class that was keeping my GPA below a 4.0. The one class that wasn’t mandatory for me to take. The other three classes an “A” was a 90 or above. The other gripe I had with the class is that we were required to pay 50 bucks for online software that we never used. The good and learn-ed doctor explained to me that the company responsible for the online material stated that we would be required to enter an access code for the class at some point. Doctor Learn-ed couldn’t tell me when that day would be, but she assured me that one day I would log onto the site and be required to insert that 50 dollar line of random numbers. I never had to insert that magic number.
Anatomy and Physiology 2 was ruled over by another Doctor who believed that the schools standard for Anatomy should be the same as Harvards, or any other Ivy league school for that matter. He liked pointing out how our required text book was wrong on every occasion where it was wrong. I learned quickly that studying the required text book was a waste of my time. After the first test I threw my 300 dollar text book aside and never opened it again (of course I’m not a sucker, so I bought it for 120 off ebay rather than at the schools usury store). Doctor Anatomy was at least competent and very knowledgeable, albeit under the delusion that we were here to learn. His class was the most difficult college class I’ve had in my life. I had to study about 20 hours to make an “A” on any of his exams and even then it wasn’t guaranteed that I would make an “A”. His anatomy exams were over 100 questions of him pointing to various foramens, notches, orifices, and meatuses while we recalled the overly descriptive Latin and Greek words. I made five “A’s” two “B’s” and one “F” and made an “A” on the final. My final letter grade was a “B.” The only “B” I made for the semester. I thought it was bullshit that one bad test, weighted the same as all the rest, brought my grade down to a “B.”
After class one day I got into a conversation with Dr. Ivy League about the foundations of science. Back in the 70’s and 80’s he was involved in doing research on kidney function for a large study that was being done at a large university. His particular study was about a specific symporter in the loop of Henle, which is a feature of the kidney that allows us to make concentrated urine. It’s impossible to see the loop of Henle under a slide because it’s too long. You can only see sections of it. However, there is a specific rat who’s Loop of Henle can be seen microscopically, and this rat is responsible for the majority of what we know about the Loop of Henle (as well as other kidney physiology). Dr. Ivy League was actually studying human kidney tissue in the lab, and he discovered a reaction that was different from the rat’s in the human kidney tissue. It was repeatable, and he could prove that the function was different. The dude responsible for the research at the university told Dr. Ivy league, when presented with this new information that had come to light, that it mattered not what the microscope was repeatedly saying about human kidney physiology. What mattered was what the official line said.
Now, Dr. Ivy League could prove that what the official line was saying was now wrong. He was told that he would remove this from his report and replace it with the rat physiology. He refused. This put an end to his research in histology and therefore an end to his membership in academia. No research, no books, no tenure for you. 20 year’s later, after billing pharmaceutical companies 500 dollars an hour to look at shit under a microscope as an independent contractor, and he was teaching at a local community college to pay the bills. Academia chewed him up and spit him out because he was concerned about what the microscope had to say about reality. He was concerned about the stated goals of science that feature illuminating mankind about reality. Science on the other hand, is not really concerned with reality, it’s concerned with the same thing the rest of BAU is concerned with…money. So the official line is that rat kidneys are mamallian, just like ours, and so they are close enough. And since they are close enough we can assume that they are indeed the same, and so base our allopathic treatment of human kidneys on the physiology of rats. Pharmaceuticals anyone?
Finally there was Probability and Statistics. I was actually impressed with this classes professor. She was an astute, competent, and beautiful teacher of math. She made the concepts accessible and easy to manage. The class featured a Promethean, which is a huge screen on the wall that she could write on. I didn’t have to take notes because her notes were saved and made available to us online. This allowed me to pay complete attention to her as she taught. I found it interesting to learn how the man manipulates numbers to make reality say whatever he wants it to. That is essentially what “Probability and Statistics” is about. I had questions about the theoretical aspects of the class because they seemed to be a bit presumptuous at times. I smelled bull shit with the official theories that we were to take for granted were true. However, I’m not mathematically inclined, and being 33 I no longer give a shit. I understand that it’s not about learning, or higher education, it’s about jumping through hoops to arrive as a Registered Nurse so that I can make money.
The Promethean
Now I have Microbiology left to take during the summer session. After Microbiology I’ll have met all of the requirements and will be applying to nursing school this fall. I fully expect nursing school to be about the same bullshit that I just spent the last semester sifting through. Just a bunch of shit that I’m to commit to memory so that I can promptly forget it once I’m in the clinical setting. After all, how much shit do I need to know to do what a doctor tells me to do? I’ve already been a medic for eight years. I’ve been in tough medical situations with lives depending on my actions and no doctor to tell me what to do. You can’t teach competence. All that I’m doing in college is plugging a hole that’s in place to help with the business of college. I’m required to learn about how science doesn’t give a shit about reality, and how to sit in a computer class surfing the net, and how to manipulate reality with numbers; and all of this is somehow going to make me a better murse. I’m pretty sure I can do what a doctor tells me to do now…without all of the required bullshit and time wasted. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s what I did in high school, when the doctor cradled my balls in his hand and asked me to turn my head and cough.

Hypocrisy

Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on November 20, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Last winter, living without a working furnace or income, I was ready to fix up this house and sell it. I was going to sell it, and go to dance in the wheat fields of England, to call down a sign, or call out the ones who do it. From there, to the Big Island of Hawaii, to walk around it, up to Dec 21. From there, wherever, perhaps deep in the amazon, in search of Ayahuasca and Strophoria cubensis.

Spring came, and I fell in love with the garden again, and I planted fruit trees. I started the work on the house, which went well up to a point, when I lost any energy for it, after a series of arguments with my father, who shares the mortgage on the house, and has been paying on it the last four years. I walked away from the house, longtime readers, and readers of my books, will recall, during the fall of 2008. I was hardly aware of the financial collapse, as I was in love, and recovering from Lyme disease. I lived with that woman and her kids, in Northern California and Wisconsin, the following two years, when we broke off the relationship and I returned to this house, which had been unoccupied all that time. That is when I started this blog, and expanded the garden. By mid-summer this year, it was clear to me that the house was not saleable to anyone but a speculator at a house-flipper price in a depressed market; and the garden had become like an enchanted place.

I couldn’t go another winter without taking on the mortgage payment, and the Halloween store I managed in the fall of 2010 and 2011, had been sold to a buyer out-of-state, so I had to go looking for a job, which I haven’t had, a nine-to-five or simulacrum, in four years, other than the Halloween store. I applied for about thirty jobs, went to one interview that didn’t go well, skipped a dead-end one. The third interview, I almost skipped; which turned out to be serendipitous, and I am not one to ignore serendipity. They were vague, and somewhat cagey about the job, it being a high-class temp agency, but I would be working for a big bank, which I knew would make my father happy, and I could get there by bus after a one mile bike ride, in about 50 minutes after leaving my house. Not owning a car, and not wanting one, that was a positive (some people at big bank bus two hours each way.) It occurred to me though, the evening after the interview, restless in bed, that I might have been hired to foreclose on houses.

There was a three week gap between the time I was hired, and the start date. During that time, every single person I talked to about my concern, to a one, said, “it’s a job.” Not one person shared my concern, and while some of the people I spoke with are conventional, the majority are not. I was surprised. But then I am dubious about the vast majority of jobs. No one seemed very perturbed by the fact that I would be making less than I had been by the hour, working for my friend Organic Bob moving dirt around and landscaping, less than half I was making at that corporate job I had at the Behemoth in 2008, and only 25% what I was making during the housing boom, remodeling houses.

The DREAM JOB I had been angling for, I failed to be interviewed for, despite that I had a friend advocating for me inside. This, I chalk up to the fact that I failed to pursue the Masters and Doctorate I was being pushed to pursue by my Teachers, back in 2000, but I saw that I would be a fifth-tier Doctor with $150,000 in debt at 40, and besides, I felt the call of the wild. Too wild now, for a scholastic job writing and editing articles about solutions to environmental problems, evidently. So I took the one job I was offered, at big bank.

My concern was confirmed as accurate, day one, within ninety minutes. The trainer said the loans we would be working on were in default, that no one was living in those houses, that we would not be foreclosing on people. I liked him, and still do, but I suspected then and suspect now there is no reason to believe at all, that there aren’t people in the houses on the loans we are foreclosing on. For myself, since then, every weekday but Veteran’s Day, I awoke at five am to foreclose on houses for eight hours, to return home just under twelve hours later. The work has since proven to be more like prison work, than any job I’ve had, and I’ve worked in a foundry, and on 0-180 degree Fahrenheit flat roofs, roofing. My work now is to audit hundreds of on-line mortgage documents each day, most for loans that should never have been issued.

Still, the job has been a blessing in some ways. I’m paying the mortgage again, and I’m able to put money into the house, and the various projects around the garden I’ve long imagined, but had no resources or means to bring into being. The job may be set up like prison work, but there are no petty tyrants, none I have to deal with anyway. In fact, the people I work for directly are very reasonable, and the people I work with are like most people, mostly good. I’ve been able to listen to about 200 hours of old Terence Mckenna recordings. The job has also been a strong lesson in how wrong the housing bubble was for America, and how much fault does rest in average Americans, taking out loans that could only be paid off if the economy were to grow by 5%+ every year for the next several decades, and maybe not even then, with the systematic downward thrust of average wages, and decreasing good-paying jobs, climate change, resource constraints, et al. That, and a clear picture of how un-enlightened big bank is, as if the work I do is fit for humans. We are called “butts in seats, in the meat locker, or the morgue,” I hear, trickling down from above. That may not sound like a blessing, those last two lines, but ever have I tried to pull back the veil of the ruling paradigm. 🙂

Not everyone is enamored of my work there. This is what one reader had to say, on the thread dedicated to this blog, in the Doomstead Diner, for members of the forum:

“Sorry, but IMHO working for one of the four big wall street banks is one of the most morally degrading things you can do at this time. Helping them instead of working to put them out of business? Being complicit with them is being complicit with what is wrong at the core. Anything but that. What is this called, ” cognitive dissonance”? What is the use of saying or doing anything if you are going to do that?”

Another had this to say:

“you’re a dime-a-dozen sellout but you’re a first-rate poser. you’re a stain on this place.”

My role at big bank is one rung on a ladder as long as a DNA strand, though unlike DNA, those at each rung are largely ignorant of every other. It is a perfectly bureaucratic structure, big bank, though it ostensibly be a “private” business. It should also be said, big bank isn’t “private”, as it is sustained by free money from the Federal Reserve, which is socializing loses and privatizing the gains, at least until they destroy the dollar. The structure exists as it does, to provide plausible deny-ability for it’s employees, giving them only the most scant responsibility for what is going on – just like every hierarchical Institution everywhere. Were we ever in contact with the actual “borrowers” whose loans we audit, the system wouldn’t work, because that would be humanizing the work. As is, it is almost devoid, the process, of anything even resembling “humanity.” And as you might imagine, most people working there show a singular lack of awareness about any of the deeper realities I try to elucidate in this blog.

Which, speaking of a lack of humanity, would the commenter’s quoted above, feel free to walk into my department and declare such things before the throng? Of the 70+ people working in my department, about 20% are white. Predominant are people of African and Asian origin, first or second generation, and African-Americans. I am struck by the number of pictures of young children on computer screen-savers and backgrounds. Is it merely my knowledge that makes me a hypocrite, a sell-out and first rate poser? If so, what are these others, in their work-a-day ignorance in service to their families, in their culpability to the American dream made possible by vile imperialism?

When I was working as a manager of a Halloween store, I commented at length in this blog, and in my second book, on cheap Chinese crap, and the un-sustainability of crass American consumerism. When I was asked if I wanted to work in a Halloween store, by an old college friend, I said without hesitation, “fuck no!” At the time, I had just returned to Minneapolis, after Wisconsin, I had $80 and no job prospects of any kind. Immediately after that, I thought, he just offered me a job, I haven’t seen him in five years, and I’ve been waiting for a sign. Working there, aside from being fun, and exhausting, made me not one whit more enamored of consumerism, not one whit less honest about what I think about it’s prospects. Indeed, I have come to think of consumerism as a death-cult.

I am not a “moral” man. “Morality”, such as it’s practitioners hold forth righteously upon, is generally a construct over-laid reality, per-suppossing humans are inherently evil otherwise, or mere animals who would immediately proceed to consume each other, without said righteous tight asses lording over us. Whereas, I believe humans to a one, are profound, divine, innately good beings, inherently corrupted by degrees, by the cultural paradigms, morals, ideologies, dogmas, pollutants, programs and pogroms, designed to control life, for the benefit of the few at the expense of ALL. Not being a “moral” man, I am not restrained by absolutist rigidity, which both commenters above show in spades, IMHO, even though theirs is a minority opinion culturally, about things generally. Nuance, being a thing of truer understanding.

As for me having a “truer” understanding, I have also come to believe, that not a one of us on earth has anything like a “true” understanding, of what this life is really all about, though there are no shortage of people who claim to, be they hiding behind a gun, or bizness or gov or Religion or ideology or money or plain ol’ vitriol. Here is some of my response, on the Diner.

I guestimate that of all the loans I’ve seen, about 80% of them were loans in excess of $300,000. I wade through the wreckage of greed mostly. How do I justify it? I am trying to do right by my house, which I like to say I bought twelve minutes before the market collapsed, and I’m still around really only because my niece and nephew live only a mile away. My entire life top to bottom is paradox, and you are free to make of me any kind of villain you like.

~~~~~~~~
IMHO, I am exactly where I need to be, to accomplish the things I imagine. Think of it as an alchemical transmutation, wading through the economic wreckage as I am, reporting on my experience, to bring beauty and love into being? ;) You might have some faith in me. I’m not asking much. :icon_sunny:
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I would be a hypocrite if I did not document publicly, the things I do, and what I think about that, for free. I have two books available for free on my website, www.WilliamHunterDuncan.com. Also a novel I was working on until I was offered my current employment. I’ve written in my blog and one of my books, about planting marijuana on Federal, State and County land, here in the Twin Cities. I aim to live and write with integrity. I am the peace pirate Sir Vis, in service to the Goddess, former manager of the coolest Halloween store in the Midwest, who now finds himself under a mortgage ostensibly owned by the same big bank he now astoundingly finds himself working for, wading through the wreckage of the housing market. Meanwhile, learning skills that will be useful when big bank and the others like them fall. Which they will, as inevitably as the sun will rise tomorrow. Probably not tonight, but soon, very likely.

What possesses you to play the role [the commenter of the second comment listed] you do here, I don’t know. We share a great deal, in our view of the world. You are on the right track about something though. Now is not a time for fearfulness. Terence Mckenna said, when asked what to do in the face of teotwawki, “flood the world with ART.” Which is what I think about my writing, my garden, the things I build, and my life generally. And why I keep telling myself to follow through with the plan I see, to put together a band. Because what could be more important at the end of the world, than a joyful sound?

Thus I make no claims about the “morality” of what I do. Indeed, as to the actual work at big bank, there is nothing particularly honorable, interesting, or empowering about it. It is merely where I find myself, at this time, making the best of it, not to waste the opportunity.

And you, dear readers, are free to trust me, or make whatever judgement you like, however harsh. Though I don’t recommend harsh moral rigidity as a way of being. Rather, I would have you embrace the mystery, of this very curious life, joyously, wherever you find yourself.

Pauperization Meat Grinder…

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Published on Economic Undertow on October 1st 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

 

Mish posted an interesting video the other day, another TED-talk by Andrew McAfee. it is an example of how far down the technology rabbit hole we’ve traveled. McAfee’s idea is that robots are going to take everyone’s jobs … but this will be alright! We’ll be ‘free’ (from hated jobs, money, etc.) Insert buzzword here:

McAfee is a shill for the computer/telephone industry. He has cleverly put the wind to his back and proselytizes for the job-eradication industry. It’s actually a safe job! In the process he promises all sorts of abstract benefits that are certain to arrive ‘tomorrow’ …

Humans are suckers, we always wind up believing the promises. We really have no choice, we’ve become desensitized and can no longer imagine alternatives to mechanized mass-marketed ‘prosperity’ other than ‘Third Reich’, ‘Mad Max’ or ’40 acres and a mule’.

Technologists: it’s always tomorrow with these people. Tomorrow’s benefits are essential to overcome the baleful consequences of yesterday’s benefits. Tech is the ultimate tail-chasing exercise, nobody gets anywhere except unemployed. The outcome is a deeper and deeper capital hole that can never be dug out of. Here is McAfee in his own words:

About Andrew McAfee

Andrew McAfee studies the ways that information technology (IT) affects businesses and business as a whole. His research investigates how IT changes the way companies perform, organize themselves, and compete. At a higher level, his work also investigates how computerization affects competition, society, the economy, and the workforce.

He and Erik Brynjolfsson are co-authors of the ebook “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy”. The book brings together a range of data, examples, and research to show that the average US worker is being left behind by advances in technology.

He coined the phrase “Enterprise 2.0” in a spring 2006 Sloan Management Review article to describe the use of Web 2.0 tools and approaches by businesses. He also began blogging at that time, both about Enterprise 2.0 and about his other research. McAfee’s blog is widely read, becoming at times one of the 10,000 most popular in the world (according to Technorati).

 

Industrialization concentrates employment within manufacturing centers and has done so since the Industrial Revolution: in this sense nothing has changed for hundreds of years. Machines are the instruments of the pillage economy: as long as there are fossil fuels to power machines there will be machines stealing human jobs. Machines cost less to operate, they never go on strike, never complain or fail to perform. If a particular machine is balky it is repaired or thrown away and replaced without concern. Machines are collateral, they can be debt-subsidized, humans workers cannot. The machine-dynamic is self-amplifying, reflecting the desires (greed) of machines’ owners. If one owner doesn’t have job-pillaging machines, his competitors obtain them and destroy his business. Technological advancement is the essence of ‘ruinous competition’.

According to McAfee, machines will labor so we won’t have to. Nothing is said about how the great bulk of the world’s citizens will entertain themselves absent jobs. Undertow has mentioned this before: the greatest shortage in the world right now is not one of resources or water or fossil fuels, rather it is a shortage of interesting, useful things for people to do! As the late, great Charles Bukowski said, you can only fuck once a day, what do you do the rest of the time? A: drink. Who makes the beverages? A: robots.

McAfee:

 

I am personally still a huge digital optimist, I am supremely confident that the digital technologies that we’re developing now are going to take us into a utopian future … not a dystopian future … and to explain why I want to pose kind of a ridiculously broad question. I want to ask what had been the most important developments in human history? No single answer to it … what does the data say? The Industrial Revolution …

The bottom of the pyramid is benefitting hugely from technology … the economist Robert Jenson did this wonderful study a while back, where he watched in great detail what happened to the fishing villages of Kerala, India, when they (?) got mobile phones for the very first time. And when you write for the Quarterly Journal of Economics, you have to use very dry and very circumspect language … but when I read his paper I kind of feel Jensen is trying to scream at us and say … ‘Look, this was a big deal, prices stabilized’ … so people could plan their economic lives (!). Waste was not reduced … it was eliminated! And the lives of both the buyers and the sellers in these villages … measurably improved.

The ‘droids are taking our jobs … but, focusing on that fact misses the point entirely. The point is that then we are freed up to do other things. And what we are going to do, I am very confident, what we are going to do is reduce poverty and drudgery and misery around the world …

What is there not to like about cute little ‘droids?

Readers can come to their own conclusions about Jensen’s paper which measures the impact of cell phones on independent fishermen and their customers on the Arabian seacoast of southern India. The fishermen and customers use the phones to discover where the best price might be had for fish as well as who has fish available for sale. What Jensen does not examine in parallel is the efficiencies of other, simpler technology such as VHF- or citizens’ band radios which do not need the massive network infrastructure of the cell phones. Jensen is a rationalizer for the expanding ‘growth’ status quo, the paper is filled with the usual econometric gibberish. What matters most is excluded from it by design: the cost of the network technology in its entirety against the best possible returns of the users.

Cell phones are a billion-dollar solution to a thousand dollar problem. The only way the phones can exist in the first place is when the entire country takes on the debts needed to construct the platform and keep it running. Fishermen are subsidized by everyone else: costs are smeared across the network, the fishermen by themselves cannot hope to pay for anything other than their own handsets and (limited) access. Creditors provide the funds and put future generations on the hook for repayment. Whether the enterprise supports itself is irrelevant because the (expanding) infrastructure — not the customer base — is collateral for (expanding) loans. Once constructed the infrastructure is self-supporting in that it is ‘too big to fail’: it will be bailed out as needed by the government in the form of central bank credit or government guarantees for private sector loans.

McAfee argues the medium matters more than the content itself. This is nothing new, television has been around for decades. The result is smart (chic) transmission means with users having little or nothing to say: smarter machines and dumber operators. The medium marginalizes any content that does not acknowledge the supremacy of the medium in a self-amplifying cycle. Even as ‘progress’ is busy cannibalizing itself, content which might break the cycle is shunted to the margins. Technology is a form of information rationing: fashionable content which supports the fashionable medium is transmitted. Anything else is deemed hopelessly old fashioned and is safely ignored.

The robots steal peoples’ jobs until the cheap energy that drives them becomes too costly. Robots become stranded capital, then recyclable junk. Ironically, the cheap energy is disappearing because there are too many robots! Technology requires a large supply of refined, concentrated energy along with a hyper-complex infrastructure of interrelated robots, to provide the desired services and to keep itself operating. Links in the system don’t have to break, they only to become unaffordable which strands the other links. Once gasoline becomes too costly, the marginal driver vanishes. Once he’s gone so goes the new car industry: without cheap fuel there are too-few gasoline users to support the massive enterprise.

Consider the fishermen in Kerala: efficient fish-pillagers become more successful than others over the short term. They gain subsidies to purchase high-performance fishing boats that allow them to exploit the fishery more completely than their competitors. There are diminishing marginal returns on technology: increasing the efficiency of the fishermen does not increase the fishery but diminishes it. At some point the fishery collapses from over-exploitation, leaving the fishermen turning to the government for a bailout. At the end of the day there is no fishery, little- or no fishing at all … the boats sit idle and corrode. Fishermen are out of work and cannot afford their cell phones without turning the girls in their families out into the street as whores. Gone forever is a thousand-year enterprise of fishing from small boats along with the communities that the unfashionably inefficient fishing once supported. The villages become concrete-block ‘resorts’: the fisherman, undone by their own technology, are hustled off to slums within sprawling mega-cities. The apologists for modernity rationalize for these things too.

The ‘cost error’ is fatal. Because machines cannot pay for themselves by way of the their use, they must be paid for with borrowed ‘money’ which itself is the ‘Mother Of All Innovations’. Most of the gadget-finagling of the past thirty or so years has nothing to do with actual improvements to machines but are restatements/reconfigurations of pre-existing versions. Innovation has taken the form of ‘money tricks’ that conjure more credit against non-existent collateral and discursive processes that make it easier for asset managers to steal from their customers. Because of the success of previous innovations and diminishing returns, the thefts are naked, the thieves desperate. They have pillaged too well for too long: there is only so much remaining … that isn’t bolted down.

Nobody asks the question, where do the thieves go with the loot? Lifeboats from the Titanic are picked up by other Titanics careering into icebergs. The passage of time and repetition of the lifeboat/sinking process also has diminished returns. The amount of work to be done conforms to available resources: at some point there is one lifeboat and a relative handful of passengers, this is what the resources will support over an extended period.

The basic idea is our mechanized economy isn’t productive enough to support all the demands made against it.

To the technologist, the obvious solution to our crisis is to deploy more machines so as to eliminate the productivity shortfall. Besides the techies, this is the argument of the so-called ‘free market’ types keep making over and over. Give us more productivity (machines), ‘innovation’ (machines), ‘entrepreneurs’ (machines) and old time religion (hard currency) and there will be paradise tomorrow!

The flip side of the argument is that everything but the machines must be sacrificed or tomorrow will be a disaster! To satisfy technology, our parents are tossed into the furnace their pensions are stolen. Payments to the seniors must be suspended or nothing will remain for machines (with real numbers to prove it). Of course the children and the grand-children were consumed a long time ago. There is nothing left, the machines have burned it all, what remains is to take what little capital remains, feed that into the fire then jump in after it!

Analysts wail because the US Social Security Trust fund is underwater with not a word is said about every other aspect of modernity that has drowned first. Real money/capital has been shoveled down the rathole for decades. It was given over for fuel put into our precious toys that never earned a dollar!

The country (countries) have been ruined while a handful of well-positioned criminals have enriched themselves. What else is there to show for the trillion$ simply extinguished? Those who want waste need only look to the ends of their driveways! Look to the insides of houses! Look at any automobile slum, any monstercity with hulking tombstone concrete towers that must be fed with rivers of petroleum every single day or else.

The way to solve the problems in the USA right now … along with those of China, Europe, Japan and the rest of the world is to shed the autos and leave the seniors and the kids alone. Instead, everything in sight — pensions, education, health care, privacy and civil liberties — are thrown into the fire in order to keep driving. This is madness!

Pauperization is a world-wide phenomenon: too many humans, too many machines, no return on the use of the machines. We love our machines, we will never let them go …

Phantom returns (from the machines) are actual claims levied against humans (and the rest of nature). Machines ‘prosper’ because humans starve (and capital is wiped out). The bosses say, “No problem! There are increasing numbers of humans, we can afford to sacrifice some of them (as the payment for my getting rich).”

When the machine-feeding system breaks down the outcome is Greece … then Yemen. Coming up is Spain then China and others … into the pauperization meat grinder. Higher input costs multiply exponentially through the system … whatever kind of system you have. In the end, nobody can afford what the system needs to function. The next step is shortages … which are permanent.

As fuel becomes more expensive, machines are fired and humans replace them: ruinous competition doesn’t follow any rules but its own! The entire machine-paradigm of expanding work, expanding machines, of expanding labor productivity and expanding marketplaces requires expanding capital to consume or it shifts into reverse. The amount of work to be done conforms to available resources. McAfee says nothing about ‘hyper-ruinous competition’ where tech competes with itself for diminished inputs.

The largest industrial input is petroleum. Regardless of production or reserves, Peak Oil occurred in 1998, when a barrel of Saudi crude cost less than $10. Price matters, nothing else. More costly crude strands all of world’s fuel wasting infrastructure. Even massive extensions of credit, public and private, cannot bring the cost of petroleum within reach even as credit has its own unbearable costs.

Pauperization is taking place right now in real time right under everyone’s noses. For this the technologists have no answer because there is none … What is needed is a complete change of thinking and attitude, a look beyond the mass technology magic mirror and toward functioning ways of living that demand more of the citizens than to be fashion slaves.

A Hunter of Jobs

Off the Keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published Originally on Off the Grid in Minneapolis 

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Part I

My apologies to my dear readers, that I have not written a post in the past two weeks. I’ve been looking for a job. I haven’t done that in quite some time. It is exhausting. I’ve been applying for anything that pays $12/hr or more, everything from light industrial/warehouse, to corporate copywriting. Ten to fifteen applications a day, online. A few highlights:

The first response came from an ad I responded to, for office work. It was an innocuous ad, nothing special. The response came by email, asking if I wanted to be Eugene’s personal assistant. A representative for Baume de Mercier watches, he was in Switzerland temporarily, and needed someone to handle money transfers from clients. All I would have to do is receive the transfers in my account, and then transfer the money to another account. That’s it. $2000/month, plus 10% of every transfer. Maybe 3-4 hours a day, he said. I just needed to send him all the relevant information. I looked up Baume de Mercier watches online. I emailed him back, innocent like, saying it sounded like a great deal – but if I can buy a Baume de Mercier watch online with a credit card or paypal transfer, why does money need to be transferred through my account? I didn’t ask what he was really trafficking in. He did not respond.

The second response came from an ad about entry-level management. I’m not sure why I applied to that one, except they talked about integrity, and it being a family friendly environment. The gal who called was Asian, with a thick accent. We set up an appointment – I figured at the time, I haven’t been to an interview in a while, it would be good practice – and she told me to look sharp. Then she told me where the meeting would take place, in an office building on the second floor across the street from the UofM campus, and then I knew it was a shitty call center job with a ridiculously high turnover rate because poor college kids couldn’t stand it. I skipped that one.

The next one involved the selling of insurance. I have no interest in selling insurance, but I went to that interview because their niche market is unions, credit unions and associations, and the meeting was in Eden Prairie, one of the ritzier suburbs of Minneapolis, so I figured it was legit. I was also under the impression it would involve more the reviewing of documents, than selling insurance. And I figured, even if there’s some selling, at least I’ll be talking to union guys. I can do that.

I walked into the office and was surprised to discover everyone working there seemed younger than me. And there was contemporary yuppie music blaring from the front desk, out of two cheap computer speakers. The pretty girl at the front desk was wearing so much makeup I couldn’t really see her face, and she averted her eyes as soon as I made eye contact. I interviewed with another young woman, when it became clear that it was all about sales. I didn’t exactly hide the fact that I wasn’t all that interested, but when she asked if I wanted to stay for the informative “second interview,” I was like, ok, sure.

I sat down in a circle of, well, losers – from a success perspective. Not all of them. There was one recent college graduate, who hadn’t been totally kicked around by the job market the past four years, though she likely had more debt than anyone in the room. Most of the guys were working class themselves. There was an army wife from Missouri who, when it came time to introduce herself, went on and on like she forgot she was talking. There was a mortgage guy who got out of the business because it had become so “distasteful.” Everyone, including myself, talked about how much they wanted to make the world a better place – except the mortgage guy. After introductions, there was a canned speech by the maybe thirty year old Brian leading the meeting, while some dirt bag sat in the corner silently without introducing himself, and took notes about each of us. Then the Brian introduced the introductory video.

I thought it was a farce at first, like they were making fun of fat cat rich guys. Then I realized it was a compilation of the company yearly meeting, set to rock and roll. The leadership looked union, and talked union, except when they got to talking about how much money they made. There were profiles of this twenty something worth two million, and that twenty-something making $435,000/yr, etc. The last guy was the CFO, I think, congratulating his people for their honor and integrity, before he ended the video by saying something about how cool it was to be among so many rich people. I remember thinking, if these guys showed this video to any of the union guys they were trying to sell to, they’d never sell another policy. It might be the end of the business, which has been around for awhile – which wouldn’t be good for existing policies of course. Maybe the insurance is good, I don’t know. It must pay out, or word would get around. It should probably be cheaper than it is, though. The Brian wouldn’t look me in the eye after that, and I didn’t even say anything. The rest of the spiel was about how much money you could make. Quite the gravy train, to retire in ten years. Hard to get people to sell insurance, I guess.

I sat down with the girl from the initial interview, after, for the “third interview.” She couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. I didn’t get a call back for the “fourth interview.”

The job search got considerably better after that. I’ll get to that in part two

Part II

I’ve been holding onto this piece for awhile, not sure how to write it. While I’m not really paranoid – I don’t lie awake at night worrying about suits with guns and unmarked black SUV’s – I’m no dummy, and it’s clear to anyone who cares at this point, the surveillance, police state is ratcheting up. It’s not like I’m anything like a threat to my government – who’s gonna rally behind that Goddess guy, in any kind of number? – but I have said many a thing in this blog that could be triggers to some digital sweeper, leading to God knows what. All in all, I think my message is about peace. But then, when you think about it, the last thing the leadership of this empire, any empire wants, is peace. A compliant, apathetic, cynical consumer citizenry, passively in support of global military expansion and universal debt bondage, maybe, but certainly not peace. So if you will permit me to be a bit coy, I think it best perhaps not to advertise precisely where I might be working.

That said, after my brief tour through the rotten underbelly of the job market, I received a call about an interview downtown. They weren’t very clear about the job, and I wasn’t at first inclined to go to the interview. But it was downtown, there is a high concentration of attractive women and curious characters downtown, I can take the train, and as I’d skipped one interview already, it seemed like fulfilling a kind of commitment, if not to the interview as much to the idea of finding a job.

So I took the train downtown on a beautiful, sunny day, and rode the elevator to a very high floor in a prominent tower, and presented myself in my everycorporateman grey shirt, black pants and black shoes.

First thing was the assessment test. I was led to a back computer in a small room of ten computers lining two walls, I was asked to take a seat, given brief directions, before I was left alone in the room. Right off, first question on the screen, what is 10×12? No problem. Next, what is 314-76? Ok, thank the Goddess I brought a pen, and there’s a pad of paper. Next, what is 765.1936-345.789. Oh shit. By this time, I am feeling somewhat clammy, not being conditioned to air conditioning, or lists of random math questions. I’m ok with basic math. No problem. Except I’m applying for a job, and there are 76 more questions on this first of four assessments. Breath. Relax. You can do this.

The math questions, um, mercifully ended after question 36 – after they had gotten progressively more complex. Then it was on to, “of these four sentences, which is grammatically incorrect?” And I’m looking at them, the sentences, and I’m like, they’re all kind of stilted, kind of sloppy. I wouldn’t write a sentence like that. What’s the rule again about apostrophes? Oh shit, relax, breathe, think, intuit. Then it was about punctuation (except they’re kind of the same thing), and then it was spelling, and sometimes, in a way, it was really about all three in the same word, except they weren’t that specific. I was looking at some of those spelling words, and I was remembering Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, and his assertion that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a terrible speller, and then I was thinking about how spell-check has made me a lazy speller (until recently, as my Linux Ubuntu spell check is a worse speller than I am), and then I was like, I don’t think there’s an extra g in Armageddon, but I’m pretty sure there’s a second l in millennium.

The second assessment was the 10-key. Tap. Tap tap. Tap. The third assessment was Typing Speed and Accuracy. You’ld think after a million and a half words…peck, peck peck, backspace, peck. After that, was the Customer Service assessment. “If a customer is rude to you, is it ok to be rude back? A:Never, B:Almost Never, C:Sometimes, D:Yes.” Etcetera, eighty times over. As a former manager of a retail establishment, I can assure you, whatever is said, the customer is not always right. The customer is at times delusional, occasionally sociopathic verging on the psychopathic, and potentially violent. As far as I’m concerned, I scored 100% on that test.

Back in the lobby, I was standing at the front desk filling out some paperwork, when I heard a voice next to me: “Hunter Duncan. William Hunter Duncan.” I looked over, and there was Lorenzo M. who I haven’t seen in maybe eight years. We had a little love fest, and in that moment, the entire mood in the room changed, and I went from random guy applying for a job, to part of the in-crowd, just like that.

In the official interview with Jackie, I was informed that I scored in the 96th percentile on the math/grammar/punctuation/spelling test; only the 90th percentile in accuracy on the 10-key and typing tests, but, um, slightly below average on speed. But not so slow as to disqualify me…whew. On the customer service assessment, I got a dozen questions wrong. Wrong? I told Jackie I didn’t think it was possible to get a “wrong” answer unless you were a fool. She laughed and said the 83% percentile probably meant I was telling the truth. I told her I answered as a manager, and not a robot. She giggled.

Afterward I went to lunch with Lorenzo. He claims, that very morning he was looking at a database of potential hires, that he hasn’t looked at in three months, and my name was second on the list.

The next day I was talking with a friend, one of the Halloween partners (of the retail store I managed), and he says, you’re a prolific writer, go to this website and type in “writer.” I did, and the first thing that popped up was my DREAM job. Not just my DREAM job, but the thing I was MADE TO DO. Except, I was in the middle of shooting off resume after resume, and I didn’t realize it was my DREAM job that I was MADE TO DO. I filled out the necessary info, hopped up on coffee, sweating, and went to send it, and my Internet went down. That’s weird. Restart. No Internet. Restart, Restart, freak out for no good reason, Restart. Internet! Yeah! Go to send, Internet goes down, Shit, WTF! Restart, Freak out for no reason. Restart. Restart.

Send.

It wasn’t until I went back later and I really looked at the job description, and then even later as I was in bed, trying to get to sleep, that it hit me, that’s my DREAM job! That’s not just my DREAM job, that’s MY JOB! That’s what I’ve been working toward, without knowing that’s what I’ve been working toward! And Oh MY GOD, I fucked it up, didn’t I? Those weren’t the writing samples I should have sent! That wasn’t the cover letter. Idiot! And then I realized, or remembered, I sent that application thinking that I couldn’t get that job, and I was only applying because I couldn’t not. And then I rolled around in bed for another hour berating myself. Why didn’t I just take the hint – the first or the second – and stop, and think about it?

Less than 48 hours later, I was rejected by HR. As expected. So I started calling everyone I knew who might have any connection to anyone who might be inside the office of my DREAM job. Call after call, and nothing, and then I called one of my childhood playmates, who used to come out to the lake and go swimming and paddle around in the paddle boat, and she was like, I know everybody in that office. And I was like WHOO-HOO, and dancing. And she dropped my name with half a dozen people, and I made contact by email, and spent five days re-writing everything, Resume, Cover Letter and Samples, recruiting some good advice from an HR friend. I reapplied, and that is still pending.

Yesterday, I got the call. I got that other job. Not the DREAM job, but the never-in-a-million-years-imagined-I-would-do job, the back into the belly of the behemoth job, doing something egregious (maybe*) for less money/hr than I make landscaping with my friend Organic Bob, less-than-half/hr I was making at that other behemoth doing something a hell of a lot easier, back in 2008 before the market collapsed, or was collapsed. (*I say egregious, but I don’t really know for sure, and I may even like it and be good at it, and it might be a great opportunity, and eventually pay for all sorts of necessities. Stay tuned.)

That job doesn’t start for three weeks. Meanwhile, there’s still the possibility of the DREAM job. Except I have to get past HR, and they are humorless, and I don’t necessarily have the credentials. If I’d gone and got that Masters and that Doctorate like my professors all wanted me to, instead of wandering in the wilderness, and learning how to build a house, and gardening and writing radical blogs and books, I’d be a shoo-in (and about $150,000 in debt.) Still, nobody in this city can do a better job at that job than I can.

I keep calling out, I am in service. My Goddess, my Goddess, my Goddess, my name is William Hunter Duncan, and I am in service to you. The path seems obvious to me, but that’s not now in my control.

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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