Off the keyboard of John Ward
Published on The Slog on February 5, 2013
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Oilman, Banker, Soldier, Spy: everything is connected
The interconnected worlds of hedge funds, energy, banking, defence, globalism and geopolitics have the ability at times to make the characters from a John Le Carre novel seem one-dimensional and honourable by comparison. The Slog delves further into the the double-dealing world of the élite, and concludes that perhaps at last its members fear they might have a fight on their hands.
Four funerals and an abduction
Like me and millions of others, you’ve probably been following the growing death-toll among financial persons of late. Following the demise of one Morgan pirate last Sunday week, A Deutsche Bank executive followed last weekend.
Next came (or rather, went) Russell Investments’ Chief Economist and former Fed economist Mike Dueker, this week found devoid of life by a Washington State roadside. Of this last, police said it looked like suicide, which is all well and good, except he seems to have chosen the most athletic way of leaving this world in history: the 50 year old jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before plummeting down a 40- to 50-foot embankment, Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer said yesterday.
The link, however, doesn’t seem to be merely banking and suicide: still unexplained is the disappearance of David Bird, the oil markets reporter who had worked at the Wall Street Journal for 20 years, who vanished on January 11 2014.
And another death hitherto largely ignored may provide a link as to WTF is going on here: last Monday week, Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym was found dead after falling from a high floor at the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. Tata Motors is the automotive arm of the Tata Sons Ltd. group, a business empire headed by Cyrus P. Mistry that includes companies engaged in oil, power generation…and solar.
The immediate commonalities here are jumping, energy, market rigging and whistle-blowing.
All of these men had expressed, at some point or another, a willingness or intention to talk to the authorities about fixes in various financial and commodity markets….oil being an especially prominent one. All fell off things (although we don’t know what happened to Bird yet) none of them were felt to be even remotely depressed, and all were either partnering with, reporting on or working far large global concerns facing very serious regulatory and criminal investigations.
The most definitive way to silence somebody is murder, but even with something as final as death, no motive is ever quite as it seems high up in in the Gods.
Greece, I have always maintained, is most definitely not about a relatively piddling debt that was (it now seems almost certain) exaggerated in the first place: much larger considerations are the country’s importance as a Mideast military base, the alliances of Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and the vast amounts of new century industrials, gas and oil to be found beneath its territorial waters. Geopolitics and energy are always in the mix somewhere: and you should never assume that energy, Wall Street, the Pentagon and the White House are separate players.
If you can’t get the ship of State to heave to, torpedo it
The same Hedge Fund fate that doomed Greece may yet befall Denmark. Owl Creek Asset Management, a leading high-performance hedge-fund firm, has begun betting against Denmark’s sovereign bonds “in anticipation of a debt crisis”. In turn, Owl Creek has taken up a massive posiiton in credit default swaps on Danske Bank, Denmark’s biggest lender. Nice little pincer movement there, guys.
While the Danes’ debt to disposable ratio is World No 1 at 320%, methinks there is another factor underlying this sudden interest in a relatively obscure Scandinavian country. You see, it just so happens that the Arctic is believed to contain 22% of the technically recoverable oil and gas resources still left in the world. Also, guess what? Denmark has the most solid claim to the largest part of it…and leads the technology race to get it out at a commercial price. But as Offshore technology Magazine reported two years ago,
‘…there are disputes between Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the US regarding rights to use resources and security of transportation through Arctic shipping routes.’
Most market-rigging is not done for profit first.
If you look at gold, QE, Zirp, Libor, derivatives and now oil, more often than not the primary motive lies with the Sovereigns and central banks around the developed world. When I first began writing about gold fundamentals in 2006, I was showered with news to the effect that I was bonkers. Now it is an accepted fact, but it is being done for survival, not profit. The price of the Euro is another example: traders can profit from it, but it has been manipulated by the ECB nonstop since 2009 for entirely political reasons. Oftentimes, the price of oil makes little sense, and the excuses given for ups and downs simply don’t check out…until you think about who wants low prices at the pumps, and who has done what deal with which Mideast maniac.
Are the MoUs finally on the run?
Twenty years ago, I used to dismiss oil conspiracy theory as bunk. Now you’d be blind to do so. To cloak the interference in Iraq, Iran, Libya and now Syria as genuine concern about human rights means merely that you suffered concussion when toppling off the Christmas tree.
However, one senses that it is increasingly important for those Uptop that no further evidence emerges of malign sovereign/central banker motives…especially in the light of Wikileaks and Philip Snowden. Be under no illusion at all: if such were to emerge and show clear evidence of persistent fraud on a global scale, the balance of belief could so easily tip in favour of the cynics. Five deaths to plug holes in the wall of silence are as nothing in that context.
Everything is connected.
Since the start of 2014, we have seen crude and brazen depression of bond yields in Italy and Spain, almost certainly linked to Japan: there are personal Draghi reasons for this, but also EU/Abe geopolitical ones. However – and this is significant I think…..no bond help in the way of rigging was offered to Greece. For it is important in the Global Energy Game that Greece remains a prisoner, made at all times to fell weak and outnumbered: it was promised Christmas debt relief, it didn’t get it. Now – Bloomberg reports today – the new bailout deal from the EU is set to include extending the maturity on rescue loans to 50 years. The plan will be considered by policy makers during March and April…a good idea this one, as Athens will default on its loans bigtime without help in May. And the Sprouts don’t want that: they just want the cowering mouse shivering in fear forever….for in the hole, Greece has riches beyond even Venizelos’s wildest dreams. And the Cat must have his cream.
And the same is true of Denmark. Within ten years, if one believes even 10% of peak oil theory, Denmark could have the highest per capita wealth on the planet, and be the world’s biggest oil exporter. There is no way the Big Boys Club can live with that one. So Denmark too must be torpedoed.
As I suggested at the outset, if this piece reads like vintage John le Carré, then (a) I’m flattered and (b) I make no apology. Sometimes, things really are just Snafu. And at other times, four badly-disguised murders in 18 days by enforced jumping all involving whistleblowers merely shows the lack of imagination of the average security services field operative.
This is, without any doubt, a story to which you really should stay tuned.
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on December 31, 2013
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In mid-January of this year I wrote my annual prediction article for 2013 – Apparitions in the Fog. It is again time to assess my inability to predict the future any better than a dart throwing monkey. As usual, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. I was far too pessimistic about the near term implications of debt, civic decay and global disorder. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people. The day to day minutia, pointless drivel of our techno-narcissistic selfie showbiz society, and artificially created issues (gay marriage, Zimmerman-Martin, Baby North West, Duck Dynasty) designed to distract the public from thinking, are worthless trivialities in the broad landscape of human history.
The course of human history is determined by recurring cyclical themes based upon human frailties that have been perpetual through centuries of antiquity. The immense day to day noise of an inter-connected techno-world awash in inconsequentialities and manipulated by men of evil intent is designed to divert the attention of the masses from the criminal activities of those in power. It has always been so. There have always been arrogant, ambitious, greedy, power hungry, deceitful men, willing to take advantage of a fearful, lazy, ignorant, selfish, easily manipulated populace. The rhythms of history are unaffected by predictions of “experts” who are paid to spin yarns in order to sustain the status quo. There is no avoiding the consequences of actions taken and not taken over the last eighty years. We are in the midst of a twenty year period of Crisis that was launched in September 2008 with the worldwide financial collapse, created by the Federal Reserve, their Wall Street owners, their bought off Washington politicians, and their media and academic propaganda machines.
I still stand by the final paragraph of my 2013 missive, and despite the fact the establishment has been able to fend off the final collapse of their man made credit boom for longer than I anticipated, they have only insured a far worse outcome when the bubble bursts:
“So now I’m on the record for 2013 and I can be scorned and ridiculed for being such a pessimist when December rolls around and our Ponzi scheme economy hasn’t collapsed. There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”
The core elements of this Crisis have been visible since Strauss & Howe wrote The Fourth Turning in 1997. All the major events that transpire during this Crisis will be driven by one or more of these core elements – Debt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder.
“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe
My 2013 predictions were framed by these core elements. After re-reading my article for the first time in eleven months I’ve concluded it is lucky I don’t charge for investment predictions. Many of my prognostications were in the ballpark, but I have continually underestimated the ability of central bankers and their Wall Street co-conspirators to use the $2.8 billion per day of QE to artificially elevate the stock market to bubble level proportions once again. If I wasn’t such a trusting soul, I might conclude the .1% financial elite, who run this country, created QEternity to benefit themselves, their .1% corporate CEO accomplices and the corrupt government apparatchiks who shield their flagrant criminality from the righteous hand of justice.
Even a highly educated Ivy League economist might grasp the fact that Ben Bernanke’s QEternity and ZIRP, sold to the unsuspecting masses as desperate measures during a crisis that could have brought the system down, have been kept in place for five years as a means to drive stock prices and home prices higher. The emergency was over by 2010, according to government reported data. The current monetary policy of the Federal Reserve would have been viewed as outrageous, reckless, and incomprehensible in 2007. It is truly a credit to the ruling elite and their media propaganda arm that they have been able to convince a majority of Americans their brazen felonious disregard for the wellbeing of the 99% is necessary to sustain the .1% way of life. Those palaces in the Hamptons aren’t going to pay for themselves without those $100 billion of annual bonuses.
Do you think the 170% increase in the S&P 500 has been accidently correlated with the quadrupling of the Federal Reserve balance sheet or has Bernanke just done the bidding of his puppet masters? Considering the .1% billionaire clique owns the vast majority of stock in this corporate fascist paradise, is it really a surprise the trickle down canard would be the solution of choice from these sociopathic scoundrels? Of course QE and ZIRP have impacted the 80% who own virtually no stocks in a slightly different manner. Do you think the 100% increase in gasoline prices since 2009 was caused by Bernanke’s QEternity?
Do you think the 8% decline in real median household income since 2008 was caused by Bernanke’s QE and ZIRP policies?
Do you think the $10.8 trillion stolen from grandmothers and risk adverse savers was caused by Bernanke’s ZIRP?
Was the $860 billion increase in real GDP (5.8% over five years) worth the $8 trillion increase in the National Debt and $3 trillion increase in the Federal Reserve balance sheet? Was it moral, courageous and honorable of the Wall Street plantation owners to syphon the remaining wealth of the dying middle class peasants and leaving the millennial generation and future generations bound in chains of unfunded debt to the tune of $200 trillion?
My assessment regarding unpredictable events lurking in the fog was borne out by what happened that NO ONE predicted, including: the first resignation of a pope in six hundred years, the military coup of a democratically elected president of Egypt – supported by the democratically elected U.S. president, the rise of an alternative currency – bitcoin, the bankruptcy of one of the largest cities in the U.S. – Detroit, a minor terrorist attack in Boston that freaked out the entire country and revealed the Nazi-like un-Constitutional tactics that will be used by the police state as this Crisis deepens, and revelations by a brilliant young patriot named Edward Snowden proving that the U.S. has been turned into an Orwellian surveillance state as every electronic communication of every American is being monitored and recorded. The Democrats and Republicans played their parts in this theater of the absurd. They proved to be two faces of the same Party as neither faction questions the droning of innocent people around the globe, mass spying on citizens, Wall Street criminality, trillion dollar deficits, a rogue Federal Reserve, or out of control unsustainable government spending.
My predictions for 2013 were divided into the three categories driving this Fourth Turning Crisis – Debt, Civic Decay, and Global Disorder. Let’s assess my inaccuracy.
- The debt ceiling will be raised as the toothless Republican Party vows to cut spending next time. The political hacks will create a 3,000 page document of triggers and create a committee to study the issue, with actual measures that slow the growth of annual spending by .000005% starting in 2017.
The government shutdown reality TV show proved to be the usual Washington D.C. kabuki theater. They gave a shutdown and no one noticed. It had zero impact on the economy. More people came to the realization that government does nothing except spend our money and push us around. The debt ceiling was raised, the sequester faux “cuts” were reversed and $20 billion of spending will be cut sometime in the distant future. Washington snakes are entirely predictable. I nailed this prediction.
- The National Debt will increase by $1.25 trillion and debt to GDP will reach 106% by the end of the fiscal year.
The National Debt increased by ONLY $964 billion in the last fiscal year, even though the government stopped counting in May. The temporary sequester cuts, the expiration of the 2% payroll tax cut, the fake Fannie & Freddie paybacks to the U.S. Treasury based upon mark to fantasy accounting, and the automatic expiration of stimulus spending combined to keep the real deficit from reaching $1 trillion for the fifth straight year. Debt to GDP was 104%, before our beloved government drones decided to “adjust” GDP upwards by $500 billion based upon a new and improved formula, like Tide detergent. I missed this prediction by a smidgeon.
- The Federal Reserve balance sheet will reach $4 trillion by the end of the year.
The Federal Reserve balance sheet stands at $4.075 trillion today. Ben is very predictable, and of course “transparent”. This was an easy one.
- Consumer debt will reach $2.9 trillion as the Feds accelerate student loans and Ally Financial, along with the other Too Big To Control Wall Street banks, keep pumping out subprime auto loans. By mid-year reported losses on student loans will soar and auto loan delinquencies will show an upturn. This will force a slowdown in consumer debt issuance, exacerbating the recession that started in 2012.
Consumer debt outstanding currently stands at $3.076 trillion despite the fact that credit card debt has been virtually flat. The Federal government has continued to dole out billions in loans to University of Phoenix wannabes and to the subprime urban entitlement armies who deserve to drive an Escalade despite having no job, no assets and a sub 650 credit score, through government owned Ally Financial. It helps drive business when you don’t care about being repaid. Student loan delinquency rates are at an all-time high, as there are no jobs for graduates with tens of thousands in debt. Auto loan delinquencies have begun to rise despite the fact we are supposedly in a strongly recovering economy. The slowdown in debt issuance has not happened, as the Federal government is in complete control of the non-revolving loan segment. My prediction has proven to be accurate.
- The Bakken oil miracle will prove to be nothing more than Wall Street shysters selling a storyline. Daily output will stall at 750,000 barrels per day and the dreams of imminent energy independence will be annihilated by reality, again. The price of oil will average $105 per barrel, as global tensions restrict supply.
Bakken production has reached 867,000 barrels per day as more and more wells have been drilled to offset the steep depletion rates of the existing wells. The average price per barrel has been $104, despite the frantic propaganda campaign about imminent American energy independence. Tell that to the average Joe filling their tank and paying the highest December gas price in history. My prediction was too pessimistic, but the Bakken miracle will be revealed as an over-hyped Wall Street scam in 2014.
- The home price increases generated through inventory manipulation in 2012 will peter out as 2013 progresses. The market has been flooded by investors. There is very little real demand for new homes. Young households with heavy student loan debt and low paying jobs will continue to rent, since the oligarchs refused to let prices fall to a level that would spur real demand. Mortgage delinquencies will rise as job growth remains stagnant, leading to an increase in foreclosures. Rent prices will flatten as apartment construction and investors flood the market with supply.
Existing home sales peaked in the middle of 2013 and have been in decline as mortgage rates have jumped from 3.25% to 4.5% since February. New home sales remain stagnant, near record low levels. The median sales price for existing home sales peaked at $214,000 in June and has fallen for five consecutive months by a total of 8%. First time home buyers account for a record low of 28% of purchases, while investors account for a record high level of purchasers. Mortgage delinquencies fell for most of the year, but the chickens are beginning to come home to roost as delinquent mortgage loans rose from 6.28% in October to 6.45% in November. Rent increases slowed to below 3% as Blackrock and the other Wall Street shysters flood the market with their foreclosure rental properties. My housing prediction was accurate.
- The disconnect between the stock market and the housing and employment markets will be rectified when the MSM can no longer deny the recession that began in 2012 and will deepen in the first part of 2013. While housing prices languish 30% below their peak levels of 2006, the stock market has prematurely ejaculated back to pre-crisis levels. Declining corporate profits, stagnant consumer spending, and increasing debt defaults will finally result in a 20% decline in the stock market, with a chance for losses greater than 30% if Japan or the EU begin to crumble.
And now we get to the prediction that makes me happy I don’t charge people for investment advice. Facts don’t matter in world of QE for the psychopathic titans of Wall Street and misery for the indebted peasants of Main Street. The government data drones, Ivy League educated Wall Street economists, and the obedient corporate media propaganda apparatus declare that GDP has grown by 2% over the last four quarters and we are not in a recession. If you believe their bogus inflation calculation then just ignore the collapsing retail sales, stagnant real wages, and rising gap between the uber-rich and the rest of us. Using a true measure of inflation reveals an economy in recession since 2004. Whose version matches the reality on the ground?
Corporate profits have leveled off at record highs as mark to fantasy accounting fraud, condoned and encouraged by the Federal Reserve, along with loan loss reserve depletion and $5 billion of risk free profits from parking deposits at the Fed have created a one-time peak. The record level of negative earnings warnings is the proverbial bell ringing at the top.
I only missed my stock market prediction by 50%, as the 30% rise was somewhat better than my 20% decline prediction. Bernanke’s QEternity, Wall Street’s high frequency trading supercomputers, record levels of margin debt, a dash of delusion, and a helping of clueless dupes have taken the stock market to another bubble high. My prediction makes me look like an idiot today. I’m OK with that, since I know facts and reality always prevail in the long-run. As John Hussman sagely points out, today’s idiot will be tomorrow’s beacon of truth:
“The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top, and most of the signals that have been most historically useful for that purpose have been blazing red since late-2011. My impression remains that the downside risks for the market have been deferred, not eliminated, and that they will be worse for the wait.”
- Japan is still a bug in search of a windshield. With a debt to GDP ratio of 230%, a population dying off, energy dependence escalating, trade surplus decreasing, an already failed Prime Minister vowing to increase inflation, and rising tensions with China, Japan is a primary candidate to be the first domino to fall in the game of debt chicken. A 2% increase in interest rates would destroy the Japanese economic system.
Abenomics has done nothing for the average Japanese citizen, but it has done wonders for the ruling class who own all the stocks. Abe has implemented monetary policies that make Bernanke get a hard on. Japanese economic growth remains mired at 1.1%, wages remain stagnant, and their debt to GDP ratio remains above 230%, but at least he has driven their currency down 20% versus the USD and crushed the common person with 9% energy inflation. None of this matters, because the .1% have benefitted from a 56% increase in the Japanese stock market. My prediction was wrong. The windshield is further down the road, but it is approaching at 100 mph.
- The EU has temporarily delayed the endgame for their failed experiment. Economic conditions in Greece, Spain and Italy worsen by the day with unemployment reaching dangerous revolutionary levels. Pretending countries will pay each other with newly created debt will not solve a debt crisis. They don’t have a liquidity problem. They have a solvency problem. The only people who have been saved by the actions taken so far are bankers and politicians. I believe the crisis will reignite, with interest rates spiking in Spain, Italy and France. The Germans will get fed up with the rest of Europe and the EU will begin to disintegrate.
This was another complete miss on my part. Economic conditions have not improved in Europe. Unemployment remains at record levels. EU GDP is barely above 0%. Debt levels continue to rise. Central bank bond buying has propped up this teetering edifice of ineptitude and interest rates in Spain, Italy and France have fallen to ridiculously low levels of 4%, considering they are completely insolvent with no possibility for escape. The disintegration of the EU will have to wait for another day.
- Progressive’s attempt to distract the masses from our worsening economic situation with their assault on the 2nd Amendment will fail. Congress will pass no new restrictions on gun ownership and 2013 will see the highest level of gun sales in history.
Obama and his gun grabbing sycophants attempted to use the Newtown massacre as the lever to overturn the 2nd Amendment. The liberal media went into full shriek mode, but the citizens again prevailed and no Federal legislation restricting the 2nd Amendment passed. Gun sales in 2013 will set an all-time record. With the Orwellian surveillance state growing by the day, arming yourself is the rational thing to do. I nailed this prediction.
- The deepening recession, higher taxes on small businesses and middle class, along with Obamacare mandates will lead to rising unemployment and rising anger with the failed economic policies of the last four years. Protests and rallies will begin to burgeon.
The little people are experiencing a recession. The little people bore the brunt of the 2% payroll tax increase. The little people are bearing the burden of the Obamacare insurance premium increases. The number of employed Americans has increased by 1 million in the last year, a whole .4% of the working age population. The number of Americans who have willingly left the labor force in the last year because their lives are so fulfilled totaled 2.5 million, leaving the labor participation rate at a 35 year low. The anger among the former middle class is simmering below the surface, as Bernanke’s policies further impoverish the multitudes. Mass protests have not materialized but the Washington Navy yard shooting, dental hygenist murdered by DC police for ramming a White House barrier, and self- immolation of veteran John Constantino on the National Mall were all individual acts of desperation against the establishment.
- The number of people on food stamps will reach 50 million and the number of people on SSDI will reach 11 million. Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and Jeff Immelt will compensate themselves to the tune of $100 million. CNBC will proclaim an economic recovery based on these facts.
The number of people on food stamps appears to have peaked just below 48 million, as the expiration of stimulus spending will probably keep the program from reaching 50 million. As of November there were 10.98 million people in the SSDI program. The top eight Wall Street banks have set aside a modest $91 billion for 2013 bonuses. The cost of providing food stamps for 48 million Americans totaled $76 billion. CNBC is thrilled with the record level of bonuses for the noble Wall Street capitalists, while scorning the lazy laid-off middle class workers whose jobs were shipped to China by the corporations whose profits are at all-time highs and stock price soars. Isn’t crony capitalism grand?
- The drought will continue in 2013 resulting in higher food prices, ethanol prices, and shipping costs, as transporting goods on the Mississippi River will become further restricted. The misery index for the average American family will reach new highs.
The drought conditions in the U.S. Midwest have been relieved. Ethanol prices have been flat. Beef prices have risen by 10% since May due to the drought impact from 2012, but overall food price increases have been moderate. The misery index (unemployment rate + inflation rate) has supposedly fallen, based on government manipulated data. I whiffed on this prediction.
- There will be assassination attempts on political and business leaders as retribution for their actions during and after the financial crisis.
There have been no assassination attempts on those responsible for our downward financial spiral. The anger has been turned inward as suicides have increased by 30% due to the unbearable economic circumstances brought on by the illegal financial machinations of the Wall Street criminal banks. Obama and Dick Cheney must be thrilled that more military personnel died by suicide in 2013 than on the battlefield. Mission Accomplished. The retribution dealt to bankers and politicians will come after the next collapse. For now, my prediction was premature.
- The revelation of more fraud in the financial sector will result in an outcry from the public for justice. Prosecutions will be pursued by State’s attorney generals, as Holder has been captured by Wall Street.
Holder and the U.S. government remain fully captured by Wall Street. The states have proven to be toothless in their efforts to enforce the law against Wall Street. The continuing revelations of Wall Street fraud and billions in fines paid by JP Morgan and the other Too Big To Trust banks have been glossed over by the captured mainstream media. As long as EBT cards, Visas and Mastercards continue to function, there will be no outrage from the techno-narcissistic, debt addicted, math challenged, wilfully ignorant masses. Another wishful thinking wrong prediction on my part.
- The deepening pension crisis in the states will lead to more state worker layoffs and more confrontation between governors attempting to balance budgets and government worker unions. There will be more municipal bankruptcies.
Using a still optimistic discount rate of 5%, the unfunded pension liability of states and municipalities totals $3 trillion. The taxpayers don’t have enough cheese left for the government rats to steal. The crisis deepens by the second. State and municipal budgets require larger pension payments every year. The tax base is stagnant or declining. States must balance their budgets. They will continue to cut existing workers to pay the legacy costs until they all experience their Detroit moment. With the Detroit bankruptcy, I’ll take credit for getting this prediction right.
- The gun issue will further enflame talk of state secession. The red state/blue state divide will grow ever wider. The MSM will aggravate the divisions with vitriolic propaganda.
With the revelations of Federal government spying, military training exercises in cities across the country, the blatant disregard for the 4th Amendment during the shutdown of Boston, and un-Constitutional mandates of Obamacare, there has been a tremendous increase in chatter about secession. A google search gets over 200,000 hits in the last year. The divide between red states and blue states has never been wider.
- The government will accelerate their surveillance efforts and renew their attempt to monitor, control, and censor the internet. This will result in increased cyber-attacks on government and corporate computer networks in retaliation.
If anything I dramatically underestimated the lengths to which the United States government would go in their illegal surveillance of the American people and foreign leaders. Edward Snowden exposed the grandest government criminal conspiracy in history as the world found out the NSA, with the full knowledge of the president and Congress, has been conspiring with major communications and internet companies to monitor and record every electronic communication on earth, in clear violation of the 4th Amendment. Government apparatchiks like James Clapper have blatantly lied to Congress about their spying activities. The lawlessness with which the government is now operating has led to anarchist computer hackers conducting cyber-attacks on government and corporate networks. The recent hacking of the Target credit card system will have devastating implications to their already waning business. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.
- With new leadership in Japan and China, neither will want to lose face, so early in their new terms. Neither side will back down in their ongoing conflict over islands in the East China Sea. China will shoot down a Japanese aircraft and trade between the countries will halt, leading to further downturns in both of their economies.
The Japanese/Chinese dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands has blown hot and cold throughout the year. In the past month the vitriol has grown intense. China has scrambled fighter jets over the disputed islands. The recent visit of Abe to a World War II shrine honoring war criminals has enraged the Chinese. Trade between the countries has declined. An aircraft has not been shot down, but an American warship almost collided with a Chinese warship near the islands, since our empire must stick their nose into every worldwide dispute. We are one miscalculation away from a shooting war. It hasn’t happened yet, so my prediction was wrong.
- Worker protests over slave labor conditions in Chinese factories will increase as food price increases hit home on peasants that spend 70% of their pay for food. The new regime will crackdown with brutal measures, but the protests will grow increasingly violent. The economic data showing growth will be discredited by what is happening on the ground. China will come in for a real hard landing. Maybe they can hide the billions of bad debt in some of their vacant cities.
The number of worker protests over low pay and working conditions in China doubled over the previous year, but censorship of reporting has kept these facts under wraps. In a dictatorship, the crackdown on these protests goes unreported. The fraudulent economic data issued by the government has been proven false by independent analysts. The Chinese stock market has fallen 14%, reflecting the true economic situation. The Chinese property bubble is in the process of popping. China will never officially report a hard landing. China is the most corrupt nation on earth and is rotting from the inside, like their vacant malls and cities. China’s economy is like an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 coming in for a landing at SF International.
- Violence and turmoil in Greece will spread to Spain during the early part of the year, with protests and anger spreading to Italy and France later in the year. The EU public relations campaign, built on sandcastles of debt in the sky and false promises of corrupt politicians, will falter by mid-year. Interest rates will begin to spike and the endgame will commence. Greece will depart the EU, with Spain not far behind. The unraveling of debt will plunge all of Europe into depression.
Violent protests flared in Greece and Spain throughout the year. They did not spread to Italy and France. The central bankers and the puppet politicians have been able to contain the EU’s debt insolvency through the issuance of more debt. What a great plan. The grand finale has been delayed into 2014. Greece remains on life support and still in the EU. The EU remains in recession, but the depression has been postponed for the time being. This prediction was a dud.
- Iran will grow increasingly desperate as hyperinflation caused by U.S. economic sanctions provokes the leadership to lash out at its neighbors and unleash cyber-attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and U.S. corporations. Israel will use the rising tensions as the impetus to finally attack Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. will support the attack and Iran will launch missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel in retaliation. The price of oil will spike above $125 per barrel, further deepening the worldwide recession.
Iran was experiencing hyperinflationary conditions early in the year, but since the election of the new president the economy has stabilized. Iran has conducted cyber-attacks against Saudi Arabian gas companies and the U.S. Navy during 2013. Israel and Saudi Arabia have failed in their efforts to lure Iran into a shooting war. Obama has opened dialogue with the new president to the chagrin of Israel. War has been put off and the negative economic impacts of surging oil prices have been forestalled. I missed on this prediction.
- Syrian President Assad will be ousted and executed by rebels. Syria will fall under the control of Islamic rebels, who will not be friendly to the United States or Israel. Russia will stir up discontent in retaliation for the ouster of their ally.
Assad has proven to be much tougher than anyone expected. The trumped up charges of gassing rebel forces, created by the Saudis who want a gas pipeline through Syria, was not enough to convince the American people to allow our president to invade another sovereign country. Putin and Russia won this battle. America’s stature in the eyes of the world was reduced further. America continues to support Al Qaeda rebels in Syria, while fighting them in Afghanistan. The hypocrisy is palpable. Another miss.
- Egypt and Libya will increasingly become Islamic states and will further descend into civil war.
The first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup as the country has descended into a civil war between the military forces and Islamic forces. It should be noted that the U.S. supported the overthrow of a democratically elected leader. Libya is a failed state with Islamic factions vying for power and on the verge of a 2nd civil war. Oil production has collapsed. I’ll take credit for an accurate prediction on this one.
- The further depletion of the Cantarell oil field will destroy the Mexican economy as it becomes a net energy importer. The drug violence will increase and more illegal immigrants will pour into the U.S. The U.S. will station military troops along the border.
Mexican oil production fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2013. It has fallen 25% since 2004 to the lowest level since 1995. Energy exports still slightly outweigh imports, but the trend is irreversible. Mexico is under siege by the drug cartels. The violence increases by the day. After declining from 2007 through 2009, illegal immigration from Mexico has been on the rise. Troops have not been stationed on the border as Obama and his liberal army encourages illegal immigration in their desire for an increase in Democratic voters. This prediction was mostly correct.
- Cyber-attacks by China and Iran on government and corporate computer networks will grow increasingly frequent. One or more of these attacks will threaten nuclear power plants, our electrical grid, or the Pentagon.
China and Iran have been utilizing cyber-attacks on the U.S. military and government agencies as a response to NSA spying and U.S. sabotaging of Iranian nuclear facilities. Experts are issuing warnings regarding the susceptibility of U.S. nuclear facilities to cyber-attack. If a serious breach has occurred, the U.S. government wouldn’t be publicizing it. Again, this prediction was accurate.
I achieved about a 50% accuracy rate on my 2013 predictions. These minor distractions are meaningless in the broad spectrum of history and the inevitability of the current Fourth Turning sweeping away the existing social order in a whirlwind of chaos, violence, financial collapse and ultimately a decisive war. The exact timing and exact events which will precipitate the demise of the establishment are unknowable with any precision, but there is no escape from the inexorable march of history. While most people get lost in the minutia of day to day existence and supposed Ivy League thought leaders are consumed with their own reputations and wealth, apparent stability will morph into terrifying volatility in an instant. The normalcy bias being practiced by an entire country will be shattered in a reality storm of consequences. The Crisis will continue to be driven by the ever growing debt levels, civic decay caused by government overreach, and global disorder driven by resource shortages and religious zealotry. The ultimate outcome is unpredictable, but the choices we make will matter. History is about to fling us towards a vast chaos.
“The seasons of time offer no guarantees. For modern societies, no less than for all forms of life, transformative change is discontinuous. For what seems an eternity, history goes nowhere – and then it suddenly flings us forward across some vast chaos that defies any mortal effort to plan our way there. The Fourth Turning will try our souls – and the saecular rhythm tells us that much will depend on how we face up to that trial. The saeculum does not reveal whether the story will have a happy ending, but it does tell us how and when our choices will make a difference.” – Strauss & Howe - The Fourth Turning
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on November 17, 2013
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
Reports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink really get my goat. As I travel the increasingly vacant highways of Montgomery County, PA I’m keenly aware of my surroundings. If I were a foreigner visiting for the first time, I’d think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. I’ve detailed the slow disintegration of our suburban sprawl paradise in previous articles:
Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. Gas stations are shuttered on a daily basis as the ongoing depression results in less miles being driven by unemployed and underemployed suburbanites. At least the Chinese “Space Available” sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters.
The sad part is that I live in a relatively prosperous county with a low level of SNAP recipients and primarily occupied by a white collar college educated populace. If the clear downward spiral in my upper middle class county is an indication of our country’s path, the less well-off counties across the land must be in deep trouble.
While hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, restaurant, office and industrial space have been vacated in the last six years, the only entities expanding in my area have been banks, drug stores, municipal buildings and healthcare facilities. I have been flabbergasted by what I’ve viewed as a complete waste of resources to create facilities that weren’t needed and wouldn’t be utilized. I have seven drug stores within five miles of my house. I have ten bank branches within five miles of my house. While two perfectly fine older hospitals in Norristown were abandoned, a brand new $300 million super deluxe, glass encased Einstein Hospital palace was built three miles away by a barely above junk bond status non-profit institution. None of this makes sense in a contracting economy.
This is another classic case of mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity. Cheap money leads to bad investments. I’m all for competition between drug store chains and banks. CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are the three big chains in the country. I have my pick of multiple stores close to my house. There are clearly too many stores competing for a dwindling number of customers, with a dwindling supply of disposable income. The only reason Rite Aid is still in the picture is the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve. They have been teetering on the verge of bankruptcy for the last five years, but continue to get cheap financing from the Wall Street cabal, who would rather pretend they will get paid, than write-off the bad debt. Who in their right mind would continue to lend money to a company with $6 billion in debt, NEGATIVE $2.3 billion of equity, and losses exceeding $2 billion since 2008? They are the poster child for badly run businesses that over expanded, took on too much debt and should be liquidated. There are over 4,600 zombie Rite Aid stores littering the countryside waiting to be put out of their misery.
Rite Aid will never repay the $6 billion of debt. They know it. Their auditors know it. Their Wall Street lenders know it. The Federal Reserve Bank regulators know it. Anyone with a functioning brain knows it. Tune in to CNBC for those who are paid to keep clueless investors from knowing it. Interest rates that actually reflected risk and weren’t manipulated to an artificially low level by the Federal Reserve would make financing for a dog like Rite Aid a non-starter. Creative destruction would be allowed to work its magic, with winners separated from losers. Instead Rite Aid continues as a zombie entity, barely surviving for now. This exact scenario applies to J.C. Penney, RadioShack, Sears and a myriad of other dead retailers walking. Rather than suffering the consequences of appalling management judgment, dreadful strategic decisions, and reckless financial gambles, they have been allowed to remain on life support compliments of Bernanke, his Wall Street chiefs, and the American taxpayer.
In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit. Extending debt payment schedules of zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009. The Federal Reserve is responsible for zombifying the entire country. And it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice made by those in power in order to maintain the status quo. The fateful day in March 2009 when the pencil pushing lightweight accountants at the FASB rescinded mark to market accounting rules gave birth to zombie nation. And not coincidently, marked the bottom for the stock market. Wall Street banks were free to fabricate their earnings, pretend they didn’t have hundreds of billions in bad loans on their books, and extend the terms of commercial real estate loans that were in default. With their taxpayer funded TARP ransom, ability to borrow at 0% from Uncle Ben, and the $3 trillion of QE cocaine snorted up their noses in the last four years, the mal-investment, fraud, and idiocy of the Wall Street drug addicts has reached a crescendo.
The mal-investment by zombie drug store chains has only been exceeded by the foolish, egocentric, insane bank branch expansion by the Too Big To Trust Wall Street CEOs. In the last ten years dozens of bank branches have been built in the vicinity of my house and across the state of Pennsylvania. These gleaming glass TARP palaces are on virtually every other street corner across Montgomery County. Stunning, glittery, colorful branches stuffed with bank employees pretending to loan money to non-existent customers. They have become nothing but a high priced marketing billboard with an ATM attached. By 2010, the number of bank branches in this country had reached almost 100,000. The vast majority are run by the usual insolvent suspects:
Wells Fargo – 6,500
J.P. Morgan – 6,000
Bank of America – 5,700
The top ten biggest banks, in addition to holding the vast majority of deposits, mortgages and credit card accounts, operate 33% of all the bank branches in the country. The very same banks that have paid out $66 billion in criminal settlement charges over the last three years and have incurred $103 billion of legal fees to defend themselves against the thousands of actions brought by victims for their criminal misdeeds, decided it was a wise decision to open new bank branches from 2007 through 2010. Only an Ivy League educated MBA could possibly think this was a good idea.
It was almost as if the CEO’s of the biggest Wall Street banks didn’t care about pissing away the $2.5 million to build the average 3,500 square foot bank branch, which would require $30 million of deposits to breakeven. This level of deposits isn’t easy to achieve when your customers are unemployed due to your bank destroying the American economy, broke due to their real household income declining by 10% over the past fourteen years, and your bank paying them .15% on their deposits. It also probably doesn’t help when you charge them $3 every time they withdraw their own money from your bank and you charge them $25 when their bank balance falls below $1,000 because they just got laid off from Merck on Christmas Eve. It is now estimated that one-third of all bank branches in the country lose money. Who can afford to run something that consistently losses money, other than our government? Wall Street bankers can when the taxpayer is footing the bill and Bernanke/Yellen subsidizes their mal-investment by lending to them at 0%, providing them $2.5 billion per day of QE play money, and paying them $5 billion per year in interest to park the excess reserves that aren’t getting leant to small businesses and consumers at their thousands of gleaming bank branches.
Hasn’t one of the thousands of highly educated MBA vice presidents occupying offices at the Too Big To Control Wall Street banks explained to Stumpf, Dimon and Monyihan that bricks and mortar are dead? A new invention called the internet has made in-person banking virtually obsolete. Why does anyone need to go into a bank branch in this electronic age? I’ve been in my credit union branch five times in the last ten years, twice for a refinance closing on my home and a couple times to get a certified check. With ATM machines, direct deposit and on-line bill paying, why would the country need 100,000 physical bank locations? I pay 90% of my bills on-line. If I need cash, I hit the ATM at Wawa, where there are no ATM fees (my credit union doesn’t charge me to get my own money). The only people who go into bank branches on a regular basis are old fogeys that don’t trust that new-fangled internet. The older generations are dying out and the millennial generation has no need for bank branches. Their iGadgets function as their bank connection. Plus, since they don’t have jobs or money, a bank account at the local bank branch of J.P. Morgan seems a bit trite.
The writing had been on the wall for a long time, but the reckless bank executives continued to build branches in an ego driven desire to outdo their equally irresponsible competitor bank executives. Now the race is on to see which banks can close the most branches. Bank consultant Jim Adkins succinctly sums up the pure idiocy of physical bank branches:
“There’s almost nobody in the branches. You could shoot water balloons all over the place and not hit anybody.”
It seems my humble state of Pennsylvania leads the pack in closing branches in the past year, with 149 abandoned and only 43 opened. Only two states in the entire country had more branch openings than closings.
After shuttering 2,267 branches in 2012, the industry is on track to closing another 2,500 in 2013. Shockingly, the leader of the Wall Street zombie apocalypse, Bank of America, led the pack in bank branch closings with 194 in the last year. Staying true to his hubristic arrogance, Jamie Dimon actually opened 62 more branches than he closed in the last year, despite his upstanding institution having to pay tens of billions in fines, settlements and pay-offs for their criminal transgressions.
There are now 93,000 bank branches remaining in this country, and one third of them don’t generate a profit. That percentage will grow as the older generations rapidly die out and are replaced by the techno-narcissists who never leave their family rooms. Online banking already accounts for 53% of banking transactions, compared with 14% for in-branch visits. Younger bank customers increasingly prefer online and mobile banking, as advancing technology enables them to make remote deposits, shop for loans and manage accounts more efficiently from their desktops or smartphones. This trend will only accelerate in the years to come.
Banking industry profits reached a record level of $141 billion in 2012 as more vacancy signs appeared on Main Street. Now that the Wall Street cabal have syphoned every ounce of blood from their customers/victims through ATM fees, overdraft fees, minimum balance fees, credit card fees, late payment fees, and paying no interest on deposits, they are forced to focus on the $300,000 average loss per bank branch. QE and ZIRP might not last forever. Yeah right. AlixPartners, a New York consulting firm, expects the number of bank branches to drop to 80,000 over the next decade. They are wrong. They have failed to take into account the lemming like behavior of Wall Street banks. As their accounting gimmicks to generate fake profits dissipate, the increasingly desperate insolvent zombie banks will rapidly vacate their prime corner locations in droves. With approximately 30,000 locations already generating losses, the Wall Street MBAs will be closing branches quicker than you can say “mortgage fraud”. There will be less than 70,000 branches within the next five years. That means another 20,000 to 30,000 Space Available signs going up on Main Street. That means another 200,000 to 300,000 neighbors without jobs. But don’t worry about Jamie Dimon and the rest of the Wall Street bankers. They’ll be just fine. In addition to being endlessly fed by the Fed, they’ll get creative and charge their customers a new bank branch access fee of $50 for the privilege of entering one of their few remaining outlets. By now we should know how cash flows to Main Street in this corporate fascist paradise.
Do your part to starve the beast. Move your bank accounts to a local credit union. Don’t support criminals.
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on August 25, 2013
Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner
In Part 1 of this article I documented the insane remedies prescribed by the mad banker scientists presiding over this preposterous fiat experiment since they blew up the lab in 2008. In Part 2 I tried to articulate why the country has allowed itself to be brought to the brink of catastrophe. There is no turning back time. The choices we’ve made and avoided making over the last one hundred years are going to come home to roost over the next fifteen years. We are in the midst of a great Crisis that will not be resolved until the mid-2020s. The propagandists supporting the vested interests continue to assure the voluntarily oblivious populace the economy is improving, jobs are plentiful, inflation is under control, and housing is recovering. Bernanke and his band of merry money manipulators, Obama and his gaggle of government apparatchiks, and their mendacious mainstream media mouthpieces have enacted radical measures in the last five years that reek of desperation in their effort to give the appearance of revival to a failing economic system. Stimulating the net worth of bankers and connected corporate cronies through engineered stock market gains has not trickled down to the peasants. Our owners try to convince us it’s raining, but we know they’re pissing down our backs. Our Crisis mood is congealing.
“But as the Crisis mood congeals, people will come to the jarring realization that they have grown helplessly dependent on a teetering edifice of anonymous transactions and paper guarantees. Many Americans won’t know where their savings are, who their employer is, what their pension is, or how their government works. The era will have left the financial world arbitraged and tentacled: Debtors won’t know who holds their notes, homeowners who owns their mortgages, and shareholders who runs their equities – and vice versa.” - The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997
The core elements of this Crisis have been discernible for decades. The accumulation of private and public debt; the civic, moral, and intellectual decay of our society; the growing power of the corrupt corporate fascist surveillance state; growing wealth inequality created by crony capitalist skullduggery; the peak in cheap easily accessible oil; and global disorder caused by overpopulation, scarce resources, religious zealotry, and war; combine in a toxic brew of unimaginable pain, anguish and tragedy. The Crisis began in September 2008 and the sole purpose of the deceitful establishment has been to avert a catastrophe that is destined to extinguish the wealth, power and control they’ve treacherously procured over the last few decades.
The appearance of stability is illusory, as the civic fabric of the country continues to tear asunder. Record high stock markets do not trickle down. The debt engineered stock market gains enrich the .1% at the expense of the working class. Bernanke’s “wealth effect” theory is a charade. He has backed the country into a corner with no escape for the prisoners of his QE prison (he’ll escape to collect his Wall Street paycheck in January). He knows that without the combined $300 billion per month being pumped into the veins of zombie U.S., European and Japanese insolvent zombie banks by central bankers, the worldwide financial system will implode. He blathers on about tapering while awaiting the next government manufactured crisis to give him an excuse to continue or increase his money printing exercise. Control P is the only key on Bennie’s laptop. To think dropping trillions of dollars into the laps of Wall Street will somehow stimulate Main Street is beyond laughable. Some ideas are so ridiculous that only intellectuals and academics could possibly believe them.
The masters of propaganda seem baffled that their standard operating procedures are not generating the expected response from the serfs. They have failed to take into account the generational mood changes that occur during Fourth Turnings. Propaganda loses its effectiveness in proportion to the pain and distress being experienced by the citizenry. Goebbels’ propaganda enthused and motivated the German people during the 1930s as Hitler re-armed, scrapped the Versailles Treaty and took over countries, as well as when he was conquering Poland and France in the early phase of World War II. Propaganda didn’t work so well when the U.S. Air Force was obliterating Dresden, Hitler was hunkered down in his bunker about to put a bullet in his skull, and the Russians were on the outskirts of a burning Berlin. Propaganda works when the people want to believe the falsehoods. When the cold harsh reality slaps them in the face, propaganda no longer works.
Propaganda Working Well Propaganda Not Working So Well
The American Empire propaganda machine continues to gyrate but the gears are getting clogged with the gunk of mistruths revealed. Even the willfully ignorant masses are beginning to realize they have been screwed by those running the show. After five years of debt bankrolled “no Wall Street banker left behind solutions” and Keynesian crony capitalist handouts, real median household income is 8% lower, there are 5 million less full-time jobs, there are 19 million more Americans on food stamps, gasoline prices hover near all-time high levels, health insurance premiums are skyrocketing, local, state and Federal taxes relentlessly rise, and the national debt has gone hyperbolic – up by $6.7 trillion in five years.
This 67% increase is more debt than the country accumulated in the 214 years from its founding in 1789 through 2003. The $6.7 trillion of new debt, along with Bernanke printing almost $3 trillion of new fiat dollars and handed to his puppet masters on Wall Street, have generated a pitiful $1.8 trillion of GDP growth. We know Main Street has not benefitted from this insane expansion of our empire of debt. But, someone benefitted.
Shockingly, those who profited from the actions of Bernanke, Obama, Congress, and the U.S. Treasury are the very same malevolent predators that created the financial disaster and prompted the emergency response in the first place. QE to infinity has not been a failure. It has done exactly what it was designed to do. In September 2008 every major Wall Street bank was insolvent. Orderly bankruptcy under existing law was the solution. The richest, most powerful men in the world would have seen vast amounts of their illicitly acquired wealth vaporized. Hundreds of billions in bad debt would have been written off, with no lasting impact on the average American. A brief violent depression would have ensued, but with the bad debt purged from the system and only prudent sensible bankers left, the economy would have rapidly recovered. Instead, a small cadre of financial elite hatched a plan to preserve their ill-gotten gains through accounting fraud, and manipulation of monetary and fiscal policy.
Bernanke and Paulson compelled the pocket protector wearing accounting weenies at the FASB to allow Wall Street banks to mark their assets to make believe rather than market. Bernanke then proceeded to buy up toxic assets from the Wall Street banks, providing a never ending flow of QE heroin injected directly into the veins of Wall Street bankers, and paying .25% on all deposits made by the Wall Street banks. Bernanke didn’t do this so the banks could make loans to John and Susie Q Public and small time entrepreneurs with great business ideas. He did it so Wall Street could repair their insolvent balance sheets on the backs of American taxpayers. The $2 trillion of excess reserves parked at the Federal Reserve by Wall Street banks is “earning” $5 billion of risk free profits for the Too Big to Trust autocrats. Wall Street has generated billions of additional accounting entry “profits” by pretending their future losses on worthless loans will be minimal. Lastly, the “Bernanke Put” allows the Wall Street traders to use their HFT supercomputers and advanced notice of economic data to front run the muppets and syphon billions of risk free trading profits from the real economy. The chart below reveals all you need to know about the true purpose of Bernanke’s QEfinity.
You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb to not realize who Bernanke is really working for. But it seems the majority of people in this country don’t care, don’t understand or don’t want to know the truth, as long as the ATM keeps spitting out twenty dollar bills, there are still Cool Ranch Doritos on the shelf at the Piggly Wiggly, and the EBT card gets recharged on the first of the month.
“The mischief springs from the power which the monied interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining…and unless you become more watchful in your states and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of government have been given or bartered away….” ― Andrew Jackson
Parasite on a Parasite on a Parasite
“This is by no means a new idea, nor is it the least bit radical; it is deeply conservative and highly traditional. It was Aristotle who first defined the economy as an exchange of goods and services for money, commerce as a parasite on the economy (where those who create nothing extract a share by trading) and finance a parasite on commerce (which extracts a share by switching money from hand to hand – a parasite on a parasite). A typical US politician, such as the president, who counts financial companies such as Goldman Sachs among his top campaign donors, could be characterized as a parasite on a parasite on a parasite – a worm infesting the gut of a tick that is sucking blood from a vampire bat, if you like.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse
The bastardized form of capitalism that passes for our economic system today is based upon a parasitic relationship between Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks, powerful mega-corporations, connected wealthy cronies, and bloodsucking politicians, with the American people as the debt bloated host. The parasites have put the host on life support in critical condition. It took forty years, since Nixon unleashed immoral bankers and devious politicians by decoupling our currency from gold, but the financialization and gutting of America through the false promises of globalization is almost complete. The quaint days of the 1950s and 1960s, when the country was supported by an economy that produced goods, invested in productive assets and citizens who saved money to buy things they desired, are long gone. The insane concepts espoused in the mid-1960s that created our current day welfare/warfare state required Americans to stop using their brains and start using their credit cards. The degenerate Wall Street banking cabal were thrilled to oblige by providing vast sums of debt to the government and the masses. Constant war, uncontrolled materialism, and an ever expanding welfare state is the triple crown of profits for unscrupulous bankers and corporate CEOs. Once the inconveniant anchor of gold was cut loose by Nixon, the bankers and politicians were free to guide the U.S. Titanic towards its ultimate destination.
The decades long shift from a productive manufacturing society based on savings and investing in productive capital assets to a predatory consumption society based on borrowing and spending has enriched the Wall Street financial elite and destroyed the working middle class. An economy where 25% of its GDP was produced by manufacturing products allowed all boats to rise. A hard working middle class family had a chance to move up the social ladder. An economy where more than 20% of its GDP is dependent upon parasitical financial intermediaries that produce nothing and add no value creates the extreme wealth inequality we have in our society today. Only the yachts rise in such a society. The shift has been slow and methodical and we’ve crossed the point of no return. The propaganda being spewed by the mainstream corporate media and the connected crony capitalists like Jeffrey Immelt about a U.S. based manufacturing revival is designed to pacify the distracted masses. The pillaging by the FIRE sector will continue until the host is deceased.
The growth as a percentage of our GDP in business & professional services from 5% of GDP in 1970 to 12% today provides further evidence of a country in a downward spiral. The country wastes billions hiring “experts” (lawyers, accountants, consultants) to interpret the millions of pages of indecipherable laws, regulations and tax codes created by politicians used to control, monitor, tax and bilk the masses. The 3,300% increase in spending on healthcare and education since 1970 has created tens of millions of sickly functional illiterates. The corporate food conglomerates mass produce processed poison, Madison Avenue maggots peddle the poison to the masses through relentless Bernaysian propaganda marketing, creating nauseatingly obese human beings, and then the corporate healthcare conglomerates treat the dozens of diseases created by this insane process with their drugs, while corporate profits soar ever higher. We all know that superstar corporate CEOs like Jack Welch, Jamie Dimon, Angelo Mozillo, and Mark Zuckerberg deserve hundreds of millions in compensation for adding so much value to our everyday lives. How would we survive without a Best Buy credit card through GE Capital at 21% interest, or a JP Morgan created credit default swap sold to customers and then shorted, or a subprime negative amortization liar loan used to purchase a $750,000 McMansion, or having a place to post every inane thought we have so employers and the NSA can keep up to date on our status.
The corpulent populace have been so dumbed down by the public educational system run by social engineers and union teachers, along with the 24/7 corporate media propaganda inundating them since childhood, they are content to stare into their boob tubes, play with their iGadgets, or read what a friend of a distant relative ate for breakfast, on Facebook. The government provides enough welfare handouts to keep the increasingly larger lower classes from rioting by borrowing $1 trillion per year from future unborn generations. When the middle class shows signs of discontent regarding their declining wages and lack of jobs, the government and the military industrial complex use the bogeyman of impending terror threats and evil foreign dictators to wage undeclared wars and distract the willfully ignorant masses. Plus, there are always fantasy football leagues, paying $300 to take your family to watch drug enhanced millionaire baseball players not run out a ground ball at a $1 billion taxpayer financed stadium, shopping at a suburban ghost mall with one of your nine credit cards to dull the pain of a meaningless pathetic life, or watch eight year old Honey Boo Boo dress like whore and parade before adult judges on the Discovery Channel. Our choice to ignore the basic mathematics of our lives has resulted in creating a nation of sub-humans wandering through life like zombies in a bad horror movie.
“Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear his shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
And we owe it all to the bankers and politicians that have procured undue influence over the political, economic, and financial mechanisms that control the country. The 2008 financial collapse, systematically created by the pathologically egomaniacal financial elite who are programmed to thrust their vampire squid blood funnels into every potential pot of untapped wealth in the world, should have led the American people to tear down their criminal enterprise and throw the treacherous predators into prison. Instead, the fearful masses begged the Wall Street bankers and the pandering politician flunkies in Washington D.C. to steal more of their money. The bankers won again.
“They have been able to pay off politicians with political campaign funds and have been granted informal and unspoken yet complete immunity from prosecution, setting the scene for even bigger confiscations of investor capital. With the risk of legal repercussions so small and the temptation to steal so large, why would any of them not take advantage? What do they have to do to stop people from entrusting them with their savings? Put up neon signs that say, “We steal your money”?” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse
This capturing of unwarranted power by an unelected group of rich powerful men through deceitful means has left the country at the mercy of these psychopaths as their increasingly desperate measures insure the ultimate destruction of wealth across the planet. There are four central bankers (U.S., EU, Japan, China) who are the front men for the oligarchs. They are empowered with control over 70% of all the money on the planet. Do you think they have your best interests at heart? The financial crisis was caused by excessive levels of debt, created to benefit the issuers of the debt and the politicians who used the debt to promise voters more goodies than they could ever possibly deliver. Those politicians would be long gone before the IOUs came due, but the promises got them re-elected and made them rich. The “solutions” put forth by our owners since 2008 to solve our debt crisis have been to create debt at an even more rapid pace. Total credit market debt in the U.S. has surged by $6 trillion since 2007 to $57 trillion, 345% of GDP (it was 150% in 1970). The entire world is awash in un-payable levels of debt as reckless central bankers and gutless politicians know only one response to every crisis they cause – PRINT!!!
The decline in U.S. household debt has been solely due to write-offs, as the bad debt was shifted from reckless households and gluttonous bankers to the government books, where those who prudently abstained from the debt orgy are now on the hook for trillions of newly created unfunded obligations. Despite a moribund economy, with the lowest percentage of the population employed since 1983, consumer spending tanking, interest rates rising, gas prices near record highs, and poverty levels at all-time highs, corporate profits are off the charts. It seems the “solutions” implemented by the Ivy League MBA financial elite bankers and bureaucrats have had the desired result – enrichment of the criminal class who financialized the nation. The establishment and their media propaganda machine have somehow convinced a vast swath of Americans to believe that record profits accruing to the largest corporations in the world and stock market gains accruing to the 1% are beneficial to their lives. It’s a testament to the power of propaganda that people can be convinced to cheer on their own downfall as they are dehumanized and enslaved by the plantation owners who run this country.
“Crime follows money like a shadow. The more money there is within a society, the greater are its social inequalities. Financialization dehumanizes human relationships by reducing them to a question of numbers printed on pieces of paper, and a blind calculus for manipulating these numbers mechanically; those who take part in this abstract dance of numbers dehumanizes others and, in turn, lose their own humanity and can go on to perform other dehumanizing acts. Money is, in short, a socially toxic substance.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse
There is no more revealing statistic than real median household income to gauge the winners and losers from the financialization and dehumanization of America. The real median household income of $52,100 is still 8% below the early 2008 level of $56,600. It is still 5% lower than it was in 1999, before the Federal Reserve/Wall Street bubble blowing wealth destruction machine really got going. In fact, real median household income has only risen 9% in the last 35 years. Prior to that, most families could live comfortably with only one spouse working. I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that these calculations are based on the fraudulently manipulated CPI figures which are understated by at least 3% per year. Using a true measure of inflation would reveal median household income to be lower today than it was in the mid-1960s. The bottom 80% have seen a decline in their standard of living since the mid-1960s as inflation has robbed them of purchasing power and the financial elite have skimmed the cream off the top of our economic system. The economic gains have accrued to the top 5%, with astronomical gains being amassed by the .1% ruling elite, who have rigged the game in their favor through laws written by their lobbyists, regulatory shenanigans, tax code manipulation, and buying off politicians. Thank you Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, and Phil Gramm for repealing Glass Steagall and stopping any regulation of financial derivatives. Where would the country be without those two courageous acts on your part?
Those in control of the system have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams as 72% of all the wealth in the US is held in the hands of 5% of the population, with 42% of this in the hands of the top 1%. The top 1% now “earn” over 20% of all the income in the U.S., a level exceeded only once before in the 1920s prior to the Great Crash of 1929 and ensuing Depression. During the heyday of middle class upward mobility, from 1950 through 1970, the top 1% earned 10% of all income. Today, the top 1% is dominated by debt peddling bankers creating derivatives of mass destruction, hedge fund egomaniacs in collusion with bankers to syphon capital away from productive ventures, mega-corporation job destroying executives, entertainment personalities, and shyster lawyers preying on the weak and feeble minded. Our insane society heaps accolades on these rich and famous narcissists, who add no value, produce nothing, create economic havoc, and drain the lifeblood from the dying carcass of a once great nation. The nearly extinct middle class owes their fate to the malevolent men that turned the country into a gambling casino of debt, derivatives, delusion and dreams of jackpots that will never materialize. The bankers and their cronies run the casino and the house always wins, as the chart below confirms.
It is mind boggling that we have allowed ourselves to be brainwashed by the ruling class about the tremendous benefits of globalization, efficiency, productivity, and profitability. When academia, the mass media, and government leaders use their power and influence to convince the masses that ever higher mega-corporation profits benefit the well-being of the country, you end up where we are today. Globalization was nothing more than a scheme by our biggest corporations to use labor arbitrage as a way to increase profits. As American jobs were disappeared overseas to countries that allow slave labor conditions and wages, median household income declined.
The banking cabal stepped to the plate and convinced the increasingly poorer middle class to replace that lost income with easily accessible debt. Just whip out that credit card and use your house as an ATM and you still give the appearance of increasing wealth. You might be in debt up to your eyeballs but, by God, at least the neighbors would think you were doing great. Until the foreclosure sign went up in front of your house in 2009. The marriage of corporations outsourcing American jobs to China with consumer debt peddled by the predator banks was a match made in heaven until the country ran out of decent paying jobs, one in six people was on food stamps, and the average middle class family was drowning in debt. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that corporate efficiency and productivity means firing American workers, cutting benefits, and bigger bonuses for corporate executives as their stock price is boosted by the announcement of more layoffs. The country has been gutted by the predator class in their unquenchable thirst for more. Human nature never changes. Greed, desire, avarice and stupidity will always rear their heads, leading to predictable outcomes.
“Indeed, it had not – not when the nation’s most sophisticated corporate financiers and their accountants were constantly at work finding new instruments of deception barely within the law; not when supposedly cool-headed fund managers had become fanatical votaries at the altar of instant performance; not when brokers’ devotion to their customers interest was constantly being compromised by private professional deals or the pressure to produce commissions; and not when the style-setting leaders of professional investing were plunging as greedily and recklessly as any amateur.” – John Brooks
The psychopaths controlling this country have fashioned untenable financial conditions by further weakening an already structurally deficient economic structure that will result in an epic flood of financial destruction destined to destroy the lives of millions in the U.S. and around the globe. Those who put their faith in financialization and interconnected globalization will reap what they have sowed. We will all feast at a banquet of consequences. Encouraging central bankers across the world to print trillions of fiat currency out of thin air as the solution to our debt problem is the ultimate in idiocracy. The unsustainability of this scheme should be evident to even an Ivy League economist. But the dimwitted government apparatchiks, overeducated economists, greedy corporate executives, vacuous media talking heads, and intellectually dishonest journalists cheer on Ben Bernanke and his central banker brethren.
When you see a Bloomberg bimbo interviewing an Ivy League Wall Street economist about the tremendous merits of QE to infinity, you have a millionaire interviewing a multi-millionaire, with both working for corporations owned by billionaires. Their jobs depend upon the sustenance and further enrichment of the establishment. Therefore, they will lie, obfuscate and mislead their audience about the criminality of their bosses and the true consequences of these crimes against humanity. The existing hierarchy will not willingly surrender their control, power and illegitimately acquired wealth. Only the process of economic collapse, war and revolution will end their reign of terror.
We’ve seen it all before. The cycles of human history have provided us with centuries of proof that a few evil men can gain control over a civilization and procure an inordinate amount of wealth and power before ultimately relinquishing it due to their myopic pathological desire to acquire more. Powerful wealthy narcissists are never satisfied with what they have. Their arrogance and hubris will always be their downfall. Their foolish belief in their own omniscience reveals their true ignorance. Their enormous egos and confidence in the linearity of history blind them to their impending demise. Time is no longer on their side. A reckoning will happen within the next decade. Their gated communities and penthouse doormen will not keep them safe.
The American people cannot shirk their responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. The evil men could only pull off this bank heist with the silent consent of the governed. And that is exactly what has happened. The American people have been gradually persuaded through propaganda and fear to willingly give up freedom, liberty and self-responsibility for safety, security and government provided succor. Over the last forty years the Americans people have allowed themselves to be enslaved in debt by bankers, corporations and politicians, who realized all the riches, while binding the citizens in chains made of credit cards and mortgages. Now that the system has reached its breaking point and the further issuance of debt no longer generates the appearance of growth, the ruling class have resorted to more authoritarian measures, all done in the name of protecting us from phantom terrorists and evil dictators. It’s for the children.
Decisions about our economy are made in secret meetings by unelected officials and with sparse details announced with great fanfare by the corporate media. The President, with the full support of the military industrial complex, chooses which dictators are evil and which are good, with each being interchangeable depending upon the circumstances. The iron fist of American democracy attacks countries at will, without a declaration of war as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Twenty five hundred page laws, indecipherable reams of regulations, and 60,000 pages of tax code are rammed down the throats of Americans without the benefit of even a debate. Each crisis caused by the previous government solution is met with more laws and regulations, designed and written by the very entities they were supposed to control. The farce of party politics is used to give people the appearance of choice, when there is not an iota of policy difference when the opposing party assumes power.
The people are told every situation is too complicated for them to understand and they should let the “experts” solve the problems. Every authoritarian measure used to control dissent among those capable of thinking is done in the name of national security. Edward Snowden is declared a traitor for revealing the traitorous actions of our own government, and the people silently consent. The head of the NSA is caught lying to Congress, and no one cares. The Department of Homeland Security locks down one of the biggest cities in America looking for a teenager and the people cower and beg Big Brother for more protection. The NSA and other secretive government agencies treat the 4th Amendment like toilet paper, and the people feebly respond by breathlessly texting, twittering and facebooking about Anthony Weiner’s cock. The U.S. military desensitizes the masses by conducting live fire exercises in American cities, and the people just change the channel to Bridezillas or I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.
Each new economic “surprise”; each new foreign “threat”; each new government “solution” is met with secrecy, spin, and no avenue for the people to impact the decisions made by our owners. The people no longer matter. They can’t change the course of the country through legal means or the ballot box because the system has been captured. It has happened before. The American people are under the mistaken impression we are free. That boat has sailed. Our economic, financial and political systems have been usurped by malicious men posing as gangsters in this saga. We have allowed this to happen. We mistakenly put our trust in bankers, academics and politicians and will suffer the consequences of our choices, just as the German people experienced during the last Fourth Turning.
“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.
Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’… must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing…. Each act… is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.” – Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans 1933-45
In the fourth and final installment of this seemingly never ending treatise on a world gone insane, I’ll address how the disintigration of trust will ultimately lead to a collapse of the worldwide Ponzi scheme and how the collapse could lead to a rebirth of a society built upon family, community, cooperation, local commerce, compassion, freedom and liberty. I can dream, can’t I?