The number of households on food stamps up 60% and the number of Sturm, Ruger guns sold up 150% since Obama assumed office in 2009. He’s really brought the country together.
1913, 1929 Crash, 1984, 1996, 9/11, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Bernanke, Boston Marathon bombing, Brave New World, cognitive dissonance, Consumer credit, debt bubble, DHS, Ernest Hemingway, executive orders, Federal Reserve, Food stamps, GDP, Glass Steagall, government spending, Housing bubble, Huxley, Internet bubble, Iraq war, Janet Yellen, John Kenneth Galbraith, military state, National Debt, normalcy bias, Obama, Orwell, Patriot Act, Personal Income, personal income tax, Police State, Ron Paul, SSDI, Wall Street
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited
The political class set in motion the eventual obliteration of our economic system with the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. Placing the fate of the American people in the hands of a powerful cabal of unaccountable greedy wealthy elitist bankers was destined to lead to poverty for the many, riches for the connected crony capitalists, debasement of the currency, endless war, and ultimately the decline and fall of an empire. Ernest Hemingway’s quote from The Sun Also Rises captures the path of our country perfectly:
“How did you go bankrupt?”
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
The 100 year downward spiral began gradually but has picked up steam in the last sixteen years, as the exponential growth model, built upon ever increasing levels of debt and an ever increasing supply of cheap oil, has proven to be unsustainable and unstable. Those in power are frantically using every tool at their disposal to convince Boobus Americanus they have everything under control and the system is operating normally. The psychotic central bankers, “bought and sold” political class, mega-corporation soulless chief executives and corporate controlled media use propaganda techniques, paid “experts”, talking head “personalities”, captured think tanks, and the willful ignorance of the majority to spin an increasingly dire economic descent as if we are recovering and getting back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is nothing normal about what Ben Bernanke and the Federal government have done over the last five years and continue to do today. Truthfully, nothing has been normal since the mid-1990s when Alan Greenspan spoke the last truthful words of his lifetime:
“Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past. But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?”
The Greenspan led Federal Reserve created two epic bubbles in the space of six years which burst and have done irreparable harm to the net worth of the middle class. Rather than learn the lesson of how much damage to the lives of average Americans has been caused by creating cheap easy money out of thin air, our Ivy League self-proclaimed expert on the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke, has ramped up the cheap easy money machine to hyper-speed. There is nothing normal about the path this man has chosen. His strategy has revealed the true nature of the Federal Reserve and their purpose – to protect and enrich the financial elites that manipulate this country for their own purposes.
Despite the mistruths spoken by Bernanke and his cadre of banker coconspirators, he can never reverse what he has done. The country will not return to normalcy in our lifetimes. Bernanke is conducting a mad experiment and we are the rats in his maze. His only hope is to retire before it blows up in his face. Just as Greenspan inflated the housing bubble and exited stage left, Bernanke is inflating a debt bubble, stock bubble, bond bubble and attempting to re-inflate the housing bubble just in time for another Ivy League Keynesian academic, Janet Yellen, to step into the banker’s box. This genius thinks Bernanke has been too tight with monetary policy. It seems inflated egos are common among Ivy League economist central bankers who think they can pull levers and push buttons to control the economy. Results may vary.
The gradual slide towards our national bankruptcy of wealth, spirit, freedom, self-respect, morality, personal responsibility, and common sense began in 1913 with the secretive creation of the Federal Reserve and the imposition of a personal income tax. Pandora’s Box was opened in this fateful year and the horrors of currency debasement and ever increasing taxation were thrust upon the American people by a small but powerful cadre of unscrupulous financial elite and the corrupt politicians that do their bidding in Washington D.C. The powerful men who thrust these evils upon our country set in motion a chain of events and actions that will undoubtedly result in the fall of the great American Empire, just as previous empires have fallen due to the corruption of its leaders and depravity of its people. Creating a private central bank, controlled by the Wall Street cabal, and allowing the government to syphon the earnings of workers through increased taxation has allowed politicians the ability to spend, borrow, and print money at an ever increasing rate in order to get themselves re-elected and benefit the cronies, hucksters and bankers that pay the biggest bribes. None of this benefit the average American, who sees their purchasing power systematically inflated and taxed away. This is not capitalism and it is not a coincidence that war and inflation have been the hallmarks of the last century.
“A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money manipulated by a central bank. Capitalism cherishes voluntary contracts and interest rates that are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank. It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking.” – Ron Paul
As you can see, the bankruptcy of our country and our culture began gradually, accelerated after Nixon closed the gold window in 1971, really picked up steam in 1980 when the debt happy Baby Boom generation came of age, and has “suddenly” reached maximum velocity as we approach the true fiscal cliff. There were many checkpoints along the way where fatefully bad choices were made. They include the New Deal, Cold War, Great Society, Morning in America, Dotcom New Paradigm, Housing Wealth Retirement Plan, Obamacare, and present belief that creating more debt will solve a problem created by too much debt. The Federal Reserve allowed interventionist politicians to fight two declared wars (World War I, World War II), fight five undeclared wars (Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq), conduct hundreds of military engagements around the globe, occupy foreign countries, begin a war on poverty that increased poverty, begin a war on drugs that increased the amount of available drugs, and finally start a war on terror that has increased the number of terrorists and pushed us closer to national bankruptcy. The terrorists have already won, as the explosion of stupidity and irrational fear has allowed those in power to acquire more power and dominion over our lives.
“We live surrounded by a systematic appeal to a dream world which all mature, scientific reality would reject. We, quite literally, advertise our commitment to immaturity, mendacity and profound gullibility. It is as the hallmark of the culture. And it is justified as being economically indispensable.” - John Kenneth Galbraith
When I critically scrutinize the economic, political, financial, and social landscape at this point in history, I come to the inescapable conclusion that our country and world are headed into the abyss. This is most certainly a minority viewpoint. The majority of people in this country are oblivious to the disaster that will arrive over the next decade. Some would attribute this willful ignorance to the normalcy bias that infects the psyches of millions of ostrich like iGadget distracted, Facebook addicted, government educated, financially illiterate, mass media manipulated zombies. Normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to inform the populace about the impending disaster. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster hasn’t occurred yet, then it will never occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with the disaster once it occurs. People tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.
The unsustainability of our economic system built upon assumptions of exponential growth, ever expanding debt, increasing consumer spending, unlimited supplies of cheap easy to access oil, impossible to honor entitlement promises, and a dash of mass delusion should be apparent to even the dullest of government public school educated drones inhabiting this country. I don’t attribute this willful ignorance to normalcy bias. I attribute it to abnormalcy bias. In a profoundly abnormal society, adjusting your thinking to fit in appears normal, but is just a symptom of the disease that has infected our culture. There is nothing normal about anything in our society today. If you were magically transported back to 1996 and described to someone the economic, political, financial and social landscape in 2013, they would have you committed to a mental institution and given shock therapy.
Even though we’ve been in a 100 year spiral downwards, things still appeared relatively normal in 1996 when Greenspan uttered his “Irrational Exuberance” faux pas that so upset his Wall Street puppet masters. The ruling class had not yet repealed Glass-Steagall (pre-requisite for pillaging the muppets), created the internet bubble, fashioned the greatest control fraud in world history (housing bubble unrecognized by Ben Bernanke), or taken advantage of mass hysteria over 9/11 to begin the never ending war on terror and expansion of the Orwellian state. The citizens, and I use that term loosely, of this country have allowed those in control of the government and media to convince them the situation confronting us is just a normal cyclical variation that will be alleviated by tweaking existing economic policies and trusting that Ben Bernanke will pull the right monetary levers to get us back on course. The stress inflicted on their brains in the last thirteen years of bubbles and wars has made the average person incapable of distinguishing between normality and abnormality. What they need is slap upside of their head. Is there anything normal about these facts?
- The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in 1996 consisted of $422 billion, of which 91% were Treasury securities. Today it consists of $3.25 trillion, of which only 56% are Treasury securities, and the rest is toxic home mortgages, toxic commercial mortgages, and whatever other crap the Wall Street banks have dumped on their books. Their balance sheet is leveraged 57 to 1 and Bernanke has promised his Wall Street bosses he will add another $750 billion before the year is out. Is there anything normal about a central bank adding twice as much debt to its balance sheet in less than twelve months than existed on its entire balance sheet in 1996?
- The National Debt at the end of fiscal 1996 was $5.25 trillion. It increased by $250 billion that year. The GDP of the country was $7.8 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage of GDP was only 67% and our annual deficit was only 3% of GDP. At the time, the country was worried about these outrageous levels of debt. Today the National Debt stands at a towering $16.8 trillion. It has increased by a staggering $1.12 trillion in the last twelve months. The GDP of the country today is $15.7 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage GDP has soared to 107%. Our annual deficits now exceed 7% of GDP on a consistent basis. Our budgets are on automatic pilot, with the $20 trillion level to be breached by 2016. Is it a normal state of affairs when the GDP of your country rises by 100% over seventeen years, while your debt rises by 320%?
- Total government spending (Federal, State, Local) in 1996 totaled $2.7 trillion, or 35% of GDP. Today total government spending is $6.3 trillion, or 40% of GDP. In 1979, before the belief in government became a religion, total government spending was only 31.5% of GDP (27% in 1965). Are you receiving twice the service from government than you received in 1996? Are you safer from terrorists due to the massive expansion of the police state? Are your kids getting a much better education than they did in 1996? Have the undeclared wars benefitted you in any way, other than tripling the price of gas? Are the higher wage taxes, real estate taxes, school taxes, sewer fees, utility fees, phone fees, gasoline taxes, permit fees, and myriad of other government charges worth it? Is it normal for government to account for almost half of our economy?
- In 1996 personal consumption expenditures accounted for 67% of GDP, while private domestic investment accounted for 16% of GDP and we ran small trade deficits of 1% of GDP. Today, consumer spending accounts for 71% of GDP (despite the storyline about consumer retrenchment), while domestic investment has contracted to 13% of GDP and our trade deficits have surged to almost 4% of GDP. The Federal government has expanded their piece of the GDP pie by 130% since 1996, with the Department of War accounting for the bulk of the increase. Saving and capital investment is now penalized in this country. Is it normal for a country to borrow, consume and bleed itself to death?
- Consumer credit outstanding totaled $1.2 trillion in 1996, or $4,500 per every man, woman and child in the country. Today, the austere balance is now $2.8 trillion, or $8,800 per every man, woman and child inhabiting our debt saturated paradise. The more than doubling of consumer debt would be acceptable if wages were rising at a similar rate. But that hasn’t been the case, as wages have only advanced from $3.6 trillion in 1996 to $7.0 trillion today. With even the massively understated CPI showing 50% inflation since 1996 and 23% more Americans in the working age population (45 million), real wages have advanced by 30%. Using a true measure of inflation, real wages have fallen. Total credit market debt in 1996 was $19 trillion, or 243% of GDP. Today total credit market debt sits at an all-time high of $56.2 trillion, or 358% of GDP. Is it normal for credit market debt to increase at three times the rate of GDP?
- In 1996, personal income totaled $6.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 55% of the total, interest income on savings accounting for 12% and government entitlement transfers accounting for 14%. Today personal income totals $13.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 51% of the total, interest income on savings plunging to 7% due to Bernanke’s “Screw a Senior Zero Interest Policy”, and Big Brother entitlement transfers skyrocketing to 18%. In what Orwellian dystopian society is taking money from wage earners and redistributing it to non-wage earners considered personal income? Is it normal for a government to punish savers and makers in order to benefit the borrowers and takers?
- Prior to the financial collapse and during the mid-1990s prudent risk-averse savers could get a 4% to 5% return on money market accounts. Since the Wall Street created worldwide financial collapse, Ben Bernanke, at the behest of these very same Wall Street banks, has reduced short term interest rates to 0%. The result has been to transfer $400 billion per year from the pockets of savers and senior citizens into the grubby hands of bankers that have destroyed our economy. The prudent are left earning .02% on their savings, while the profligate bankers can borrow for 0% and earn billions by re-depositing those funds at the Federal Reserve. In what bizarro world this be a normal state of affairs?
- Total mortgage debt outstanding in 1996, before the epic Wall Street produced housing bubble, was $4.7 billion. Today, even after the transfer of almost $1 trillion of bad debt to the balance sheet of the American taxpayer, the amount of mortgage debt is an astounding $13.1 trillion. Despite home values rising since 1996, there are 20% of all households still in a negative equity position. Total household real estate equity was 60% in 1996, plunged below 40% in 2009, and has only slightly rebounded to 47% today because Wall Street dumped the bad mortgages on the backs of the American taxpayer. Is it normal for mortgage debt to triple and home equity to plunge in a rationally functioning world? Is it normal when 25% of all existing home sales are distressed sales and another 30% are sales to Wall Street hedge funds like Blackrock?
- In 1996 there were 200 million working age Americans, with 134 million (67%) in the labor force, 127 million (63.5%) employed, and 66 million (33%) not in the labor force. Today there are 245 million working age Americans, with 155 million (63%) in the labor force, 143 million (58%) employed, and 90 million (37%) supposedly not in the labor force. The number of working age Americans has increased by 22.5%, while the number of those employed has advanced by only 12.5%. The population to employment ratio has reached a three decade low as millions have given up, been lured into college by cheap plentiful government debt, or developed a mysterious ailment that has gotten them into the SSDI program. Is it normal for millions of Americans to leave the labor force when the economy is supposedly recovering?
- In 1996 there were 25.5 million Americans on food stamps, or 9.6% of the population, costing $24 billion per year. Today there are 47.8 million Americans on food stamps, or 15% of the population, costing $75 billion per year. Historically, the number of people in this program would rise during recessions and recede when the economy recovered, just as a safety net program should function. According to our government keepers the economy has been in recovery since late 2009. The number of people entering the food stamp program has gone up by 7 million since the recession officially ended. This is not normal. Either the government is lying about the recession or they are screwing the taxpayer by encouraging constituents to enter the program in an effort to gain votes. Which is it?
- The price of oil averaged $20 per barrel in 1996 and it cost you $1.20 per gallon to fill your tank. Oil averaged $85 per barrel in 2012 and currently hovers around $90 per barrel. Most Americans are now paying between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon to fill their tanks. This result seems abnormal considering the propaganda machine is proclaiming we are on the verge of energy independence. After two Middle East wars, 6,700 dead American soldiers, 50,000 wounded American soldiers, and $1.5 trillion of national wealth wasted, this is all we get – a tripling in gas prices and creation of thousands of new terrorists?
You have to have a really bad case of normalcy bias to be able to convince yourself that everything that has happened since 1996 is normal. Every fact supports the reality that we’ve entered a period of extreme abnormality and our response as a nation thus far has insured that a disaster of even far greater magnitude is just over the horizon. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes the social mood is deteriorating rapidly. We are in the midst of a Crisis period that will result in earth shattering change, but the masses want things to go back to normal and don’t want to face the facts. The cognitive dissonance created by reality versus their wishes will resolve itself when the next financial collapse makes 2008 look like a walk in the park. But, until then most will just stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best.
Loving Your Servitude
“Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.” – Ron Paul
The most disgraceful example of abnormality that has infected our culture has been the cowardice and docile acquiescence of the citizenry in allowing an ever expanding police state to shred the U.S. Constitution, strip us of our freedoms, and restrict our liberties. Our keepers have not let any crisis go to waste in the last seventeen years. They have also taken advantage of the willful ignorance, childish immaturity, extreme gullibility, historical cluelessness, financial illiteracy and techno-narcissism of the populace to reverse practical legislation and prey upon irrational fears to strip the people of their constitutionally guaranteed liberties and freedoms. If you had told someone in 1996 the security measures, laws, and police agencies that would exist in 2013, they would have laughed you out of the room. Every crisis, whether government created or just convenient to their agenda, has been utilized by the oligarchs to expand the police state and benefit the crony capitalists that profit from its expansion. The character of the American people has been found wanting as they obediently cower and beg for protection from unseen evil doers. The propagandist corporate media reinforces their fears and instructs them to submissively tremble and implore the government to do more. The cosmic obliviousness and limitless sense of complacency of the general population with regards to a blatantly obvious coup by a small cadre of sociopathic financial elite and their army of bureaucrats, lackeys and jackboots is a wonder to behold.
The 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression was primarily the result of excessively loose Federal Reserve monetary policy during the Roaring 20’s and the unrestrained fraud perpetrated by the Wall Street banks. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act was a practical 38 page law which kept Wall Street from ravenously raping its customers and the American people for almost seven decades. The Wall Street elite and their bought off political hacks in both parties repealed this law in 1999, while simultaneously squashing any effort to regulate the financial derivatives market. The day trading American public didn’t even look up from their computer screens. Over the next nine years Wall Street went on a fraudulent feeding frenzy rampage which brought the country to its knees and then held the American taxpayer at gunpoint to bail them out. The Federal Reserve arranged rescue of LTCM in 1998 gave the all clear to Wall Street that any risk was acceptable, since the Fed would always bail them out. Just as they did in the 1920’s, the Federal Reserve set the table for financial disaster with excessively low interest rates and non-existent regulatory oversight.
The downward spiral of our empire towards an Orwellian/Huxley merged dystopian nightmare accelerated after the 9/11 attacks. Within one month those looking to exert hegemony over all domestic malcontents had passed the 366 page, 58,000 words Patriot Act. Did the terrified masses ask how such a comprehensive destruction of our liberties could be written in under one month? It is apparent to anyone with critical thinking skills that the enemy within had this bill written, waiting for the ideal opportunity to implement this unprecedented expansion of federal police power. Electronic surveillance of our emails, phone calls and voice mails, along with warrantless wiretaps, and general loss of civil liberties was passed without question under the guise of protecting us. Next was the invasion of a foreign country based upon lies, propaganda and misinformation without a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution. Our government began torturing suspects in secret foreign prisons. The shallow, self-centered, narcissistic, Facebook fanatic populace has barely looked up from texting on their iPhones to notice that we have been at war in the Middle East for eleven years, because it hasn’t interfered with their weekly viewing of Honey Boo Boo, Dancing With the Stars, or Jersey Shore. They occasionally leave their homes to wave a flag and chant “USA, USA, USA”, as directed by the media, when a terrorist like Bin Laden or Boston bomber is offed by our security services, but for the most part they can live their superficial vacuous lives of triviality unscathed by war.
The creation of the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security ushered in a further encroachment of our everyday freedoms. They attempted to keep the masses frightened through a ridiculous color coded fear index. Little old ladies, people in wheelchairs and little children are subject to molestation by lowlife TSA perverts. Military units conduct “training exercises” in cities across the country to desensitize the sheep-like masses, who fail to acknowledge that the U.S. military cannot constitutionally be used domestically. DHS considers military veterans, Ron Paul supporters, and Christians as potential enemies of the state. The use of predator drones to murder suspected adversaries in foreign countries, while killing innocent men, women and children (also known as collateral damage), has just been a prelude to the domestic surveillance and eventually extermination of dissidents and nonconformists here in the U.S. We are already becoming a 1984 CCTV controlled nation. DHS has been rapidly militarizing local police forces in cities and towns to supplement their jackbooted thugs. Obama’s executive orders have given him the ability to take control of industry. He can imprison citizens without charges for as long as he deems necessary. Attempts to control gun ownership and shutdown the internet is a prologue to further government domination and supremacy over our lives when the wheels come off this unsustainable bus.
The last week has provided a multitude of revelations about our government and the people of this country. The billions “invested” in our police state, along with warnings from a foreign government, and suspicious travel patterns were not enough for our beloved protectors to stop the Boston Marathon bombing. After stumbling upon these amateur terrorists by accident, the 2nd responders, with their Iraq war level firepower, managed to slaughter one of the perpetrators, but somehow allowed a wounded teenager to escape on foot and elude 10,000 donut eaters for almost 24 hours. The horde of heavily armed, testosterone fueled thugs proceeded to bully and intimidate the citizens of Watertown by illegal searches of homes and treating innocent people like criminals. The government completely shut down the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country for an entire day looking for a wounded 19 year old. The people of Boston obeyed their zoo keepers and obediently cowered in their cages.
The entire episode was an epic fail. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight needed an old man to find the bomber in his backyard boat. The people of Boston exhibited the passivity and subservience demanded by their government. Since the capture of the remaining terrorist, the shallow exhibitions of national pride at athletic events and smarmy displays of honoring the police state apparatchiks who screwed up – allowing the attack to occur and looking like the keystone cops during the pursuit of the suspects, has revealed a fatal defect in our civil character. We are living in a profoundly abnormal society, with millions of medicated mindless zombies controlled by a vast propaganda machine, who seemingly enjoy having their liberties taken away. Most have willingly learned to love their servitude. For those who haven’t learned, the boot of our vast security state will just stomp on their face forever. We’re realizing the worst dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley simultaneously. This abnormalcy bias will dissipate over the next ten to fifteen years in torrent of financial collapse, war, bloodshed, and retribution. Sticking your head in the sand will not make reality go away. The existing social, political, and financial order will be swept away. What it is replaced by is up to us. Will this be the final chapter or new chapter in the history of this nation? The choice is ours.
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
- George Orwell
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution” -Aldous Huxley, 1961
THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN HOUSEHOLDS ON FOODSTAMPS ALWAYS HITS ALL-TIME HIGHS DURING AN ECONOMIC RECOVERY – RIGHT?
There are 115 million households in the entire U.S. There are now 23.1 million of these households on food stamps. For the math challenged, that is exactly 20% of all the households in the country. When Obama became president there were 15 million households on food stamps. No one can deny that SNAP has been, by far, Obama’s most successful program. By the time he is done, I’m sure he can breach the 30 million household level. This is surely a sign of economic recovery. If these people had just played the stock market, they wouldn’t be so hungry. Let them eat gold!!!
US Households On Foodstamps Hit Record High
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/15/2013 12:19 -0400
Record Dow, record S&P, record debt, record plunge in gold, and now: record US households on foodstamps. What’s not to like. While today’s gold selloff may be confusing to everyone, one can scratch off some 23,087,886 US households, or the number that according to the USDA were on foodstamps in January and just happen to be a fresh all time high, as the likely sellers, especially when one considers that the average monthly benefit to each household dropped to a record low of $274.04. This number probably ignores, for good reason, the once every four years fringe benefits of Obamaphones and other such made in China trinkets.
2008, Aldous Huxley, available, Barack Obama, Bernanke, BLS, Buffett, CMBS, CNBC, Commercial real estate, Crash, David Stockman, delinquencies, Denninger, Edward Bernays, Elite, Food stamps, for lease, for rent, George Carlin, Home sales, Ivy League, Jamie Dimon, Jesse, Jim Cramer, John Hussman, Jon Corzine, Lloyd Blankfein, MBA, Mish, Moody's, MSM, NAR, oligarchs, QE to Infinity, Reis, ruling class, Rupert Murdoch, S&P, Soros, Trepp, Trepp LLC, University of Phoenix, vacancy rates, Wall Street, Zero Hedge
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
Six months ago I wrote an article called Are You Seeing What I’m Seeing?, describing my observations while traveling along Ridge Pike in Montgomery County, PA and motoring to my local Lowes store on a Saturday. My observations were in conflict with the storyline portrayed by the mainstream media pundits, Ivy League PhD economists, Washington politicians, and Wall Street shills. It is clear now that I must have been wrong. No more proof is needed than the fact the Dow has gone up 1,500 points, or 11%, since I wrote the article. Everyone knows the stock market reflects the true health of the nation – multi-millionaire Jim Cramer and his millionaire CNBC talking head cohorts tell me so. Ignore the fact that the bottom 80% only own 5% of the financial assets in this country and are not benefitted by the stock market in any way.
The mainstream corporate media that is dominated by six mega-corporations (Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Comcast, Viacom, and Bertelsmann), has one purpose as described by the master of propaganda – Edward Bernays:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.
These media corporations’ task is to use propaganda and misinformation to protect the interests of the status quo. The ruling class has the power to manipulate public opinion, obscure the truth, alter government data, and outright lie, but they can’t control the facts and reality smacking the average person in the face every day. Based on the performance of the stock market and the storyline of economic recovery being peddled by the corporate media, the facts must surely support their contention. Here are a few facts about what has really happened in the last six months since I wrote my article:
- The working age population has grown by 1.1 million, the number of employed Americans is up 500k, while the number of people who have left the labor force has gone up by 600k. The BLS reports the unemployment rate has fallen without blinking an eye or turning red with embarrassment.
- The number of Americans entering the Food Stamp Program in the last six months totaled 1 million, bringing the total to 47.8 million, or 20% of all households (up 15 million since the Obama economic recovery began in December 2009).
- Existing home sales have increased by a scintillating 2.9% on a seasonally adjusted annual basis and average prices have fallen by 6% in the last six months. It is surely a great sign that 32% of all home sales are to Wall Street investors and 25% are either foreclosure sales or short sales. A large percentage of the remaining sales are funded by 3% down FHA government backed loans.
- There were 31,000 new homes sales in January versus 34,000 new home sales six months prior. Through the magic of seasonal adjustment, this translates into a 15% increase.
- Single family housing starts were 41,600 in February versus 51,400 six months prior. Even using seasonal adjustments, the government drones can only report a pathetic 4.7% annualized increase and flat starts over the last three months, with mortgage rates at all-time lows.
- The National Debt has gone up by $750 billion in the last six months, while Real GDP has gone up by less than $150 billion.
- Real hourly earnings have not increased in the last six months.
- Consumer debt has risen by $65 billion as the Federal Government has doled out student loans like candy and auto loans (through the 80% government owned Ally Financial – aka GMAC, aka Ditech, aka ResCap) like crack dealer in West Philly.
- The Federal Reserve has increased their balance sheet by $385 billion in the last six months by buying toxic mortgages from Wall Street banks and the majority of Treasuries issued by the government to fund the $1 trillion annual deficits being produced by the Obama administration. It now totals $3.2 trillion, up from $900 billion in September 2008, and headed to $4 trillion before this year is out.
- Retail sales have increased by less than 2% over the last six months and are barely 1% above last February. On an inflation adjusted basis, retail sales are falling. Other than internet sales and government financed auto sales, every other retail category is negative year over year. This is reflected in the poor sales and earnings reports from JC Penney, Sears, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, Kohl’s, Darden, McDonalds, and Yum Brands. I’m sure next quarter will be gangbusters, with the Obama payroll tax increase, Obamacare premium increases, 15% surge in gasoline prices, and continued inflation in food and energy.
Considering that 71% of GDP is dependent upon consumer spending (versus 62% in 1979 before the financialization of America), the dreadful results of retailers and restaurants even before the Obama tax increases confirms the country has been in recession since the second half of 2012. In 1979 the economy was still driven by domestic investment that accounted for 19% of GDP. Today, it wallows at all-time lows of 13%. In addition, our trade deficits, driven by debt fueled consumption, subtract 3.5% from GDP. These facts are reflected in the depressed outlook of small business owners who are the backbone of growth, hiring and entrepreneurship in this country. Small businesses of 500 employees or less employ half of all the private industry workers in the country and account for 65% of all new jobs created. There are approximately 27 million small businesses versus 18,000 large businesses. The chart below does not paint an improving picture. The small business optimism has dropped from an already low 92.8 in September 2012 to 90.8 in March 2013.
The head of the NFIB couldn’t make the situation any clearer:
“While the Fortune 500 is enjoying record high earnings, Main Street earnings remain depressed. Far more firms report sales down quarter over quarter than up. Washington is manufacturing one crisis after another—the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff and the Sequester. Spreading fear and instability are certainly not a strategy to encourage investment and entrepreneurship. Three-quarters of small-business owners think that business conditions will be the same or worse in six months. Until owners’ forecast for the economy improves substantially, there will be little boost to hiring and spending from the small business half of the economy.” – NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg
If consumers, who account for 71% of the economy, aren’t spending, and small business owners, who do 65% of all the hiring in the country, are petrified with insecurity, why is the stock market hitting all-time highs and the corporate media proclaiming happy days are here again? It can be explained by the distribution of wealth and income in this country. Every media pundit, politician, Wall Street shill, Ivy League PhD economist, and corporate titan you see on CNBC, Fox or any corporate media outlet is a 1%er or better. The chart below shows the bottom 99% saw their real incomes decline between 2009 and 2011, while the top 1% reaped the stock market gains and corporate bonuses for using “creative” accounting to generate record corporate profits. The trend in 2012 through today has only widened this gap, as real worker wages have continued to decline and the stock market has advanced another 20%.
The feudal financial industry lords are feasting on caviar and champagne in their mountaintop manors while the serfs and peasants scrounge in the gutters for scraps and morsels. This path has been chosen by the king (Obama) and enabled by his court jester (Bernanke). Money printing and inflation are their weapons of choice. We are living in a 21st Century version of the Dark Ages.
On the Road Again
I’ve been baffled by a visible disconnect between deteriorating data and the storyline being sold to the ignorant masses by the financial elitists that run the show. The websites and truthful analysts that I respect and trust (Zero Hedge, Mish, Jesse, Karl Denninger, John Hussman, David Stockman, Financial Sense and a few others) provide analytical evidence on a daily basis that confirm my view that our economic situation is worsening. We are all looking at the same data, but the pliable faux journalists that toil for their corporate masters spin the data in a manner designed to mislead and manipulate in order to mold public opinion, as Edward Bernays taught the invisible ruling class. As you can see, numbers and statistical data can be spun, adjusted, and manipulated to tell whatever story you want to depict. I prefer to confirm or deny my assessment with my observations out in the real world. I spend 12 hours per week cruising the highways and byways of Montgomery County and Philadelphia as I commute to and from work and shuttle my kids to guitar lessons, friends’ houses, and local malls. I can’t help but have my antenna attuned to what I’m seeing with my own eyes.
As I detailed in my previous article, Montgomery County is relatively affluent area with the dangerous urban enclaves of Norristown and Pottstown as the only blighted low income, high crime areas in the 500 square mile county of 800,000 people. The median household income and median home prices are 50% above the national averages. Major industries include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, insurance and information technology. It is one of only 30 counties in the country with a AAA rating from Standard & Poors (as if that means anything). On paper, my county appears to be thriving and healthy, with white collar professionals living an idyllic suburban existence. One small problem – the visual evidence as you travel along Welsh Road towards Montgomeryville or Germantown Pike towards Plymouth Meeting reveals a decaying infrastructure, dying retail meccas, and miles of empty office complexes.
I don’t think my general observations as I drive around Montgomery County are colored by any predisposition towards negativity. I see a gray winter like pallor has settled upon the land. I see termite pocked wooden fences with broken and missing slats. I see sagging porches. I see leaky roofs with missing tiles. I see vacant dilapidated hovels. I see mold tainted deteriorating siding on occupied houses. I see weed infested overgrown yards. I see collapsing barns and crumbling farm silos. I see houses and office buildings that haven’t been painted in 20 years. I see clock towers in strip malls with the wrong time. I see shuttered gas stations. I see retail stores with lights out in their signs. I see trees which fell during Hurricane Sandy five months ago still sitting in yards untouched. I see potholes not being filled. I see disintegrating highway overpasses and bridges. I constantly see emergency repairs on burst water mains. I see malfunctioning stoplights. I see fading traffic signage. I see regional malls with rust stained walls beneath their massive unlit Macys, JC Penney and Sears logos. I see hundreds of Space Available, For Lease, For Rent, Vacancy, For Sale and Store Closing signs dotting the suburban landscape. These sights are in a relatively affluent suburban county. When I reach West Philly, it looks more like Dresden in 1945.
Dresden – 1945 Philadelphia – 2013
I moved to my community in 1995 when the economy was plodding along at a 2.5% growth rate. The housing market was still depressed from the early 90s recession. The retail strip centers and larger malls in my area were 100% occupied. Office parks were bustling with activity. Office vacancy rates were the lowest in twenty years during the late 1990s. National GDP has grown by 112% (only 50% after adjusting for inflation) since 1995, with personal consumption rising 122%. Domestic investment has only grown by 80%, but imports skyrocketed by 204%. If the economy has more than doubled in the last 18 years, how could retail strip centers in my affluent community have 40% to 70% vacancy rates and office parks sit vacant for years? The answer is that Real GDP has not even advanced by 50%. Using a true rate of inflation, not the bastardized, manipulated, tortured BLS version, shows the country has essentially been in contraction since the year 2000.
The official government sanctioned data does not match what I see on the ground, but the Shadowstats version of the data explains it perfectly.
My observations also don’t match up with the data reported by the likes of Reis, Trepp, Moody’s and the Federal Reserve. Reis reports a national vacancy rate of 17.1% for offices, barely below its peak of 17.6% in late 2010. Vacancy rates are 35% above 2007 levels and more than double the rates in the late 1990s. But what I realized after digging into the methodology of these reported figures is the true rates are significantly higher. First you must understand that Reis and Trepp are real estate companies who are in business to make money from commercial real estate transactions. It is in their self -interest to report data in the most positive manner possible – they’ve learned the lessons of Bernays. These mouthpieces for their industry slice and dice the numbers according to major markets, minor markets, suburban versus major cities, and most importantly they only measure Class A office space.
I didn’t realize the distinctions between classes when it comes to office space. The Building Owners and Managers Association describes the classes:
Class A office buildings have the “most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users with rents above average for the area.” Class A facilities have “high quality standard finishes, state of the art systems, exceptional accessibility and a definite market presence.” Class B office buildings as those that compete “for a wide range of users with rents in the average range for the area.” Class B buildings have “adequate systems” and finishes that “are fair to good for the area,” but that the buildings do not compete with Class A buildings for the same prices. Class C buildings are aimed towards “tenants requiring functional space at rents below the average for the area.”
So we have landlords self-reporting Class A vacancy rates in big markets to a real estate company that reports them without verification. Is it in a landlord’s best interest to under-report their vacancy rate? You bet it is. If potential tenants knew the true vacancy rates, they would be able to negotiate much lower rents. There is a beautiful Class A 77,000 square foot building near my house that was built in 2004. Nine years later there is still a huge Space Available sign in front of the building and it appears at least 50% vacant.
I pass another Class A property on Welsh Road called the Gwynedd Corporate Center that consists of three 40,000 square foot buildings in a 13 acre office park. It was built in 1998 and is completely dark. The vacancy rate is 100%. As I traveled down Germantown Pike last week I noted dozens of Class A office complexes with Space Available signs in front. I’m absolutely certain that vacancy rates in Class A offices in Montgomery County exceed 25%. When you expand your horizon to Class B and Class C office space, vacancy rates exceed 50%. The only booming business in my suburban paradise is Space Available sign manufacturing. We probably import those from China too. Despite the spin put on the data by the real estate industry, Moody’s reported data supports my estimates:
- The values of suburban offices in non-major markets are 43% below 2007 levels.
- Industrial property values in non-major markets are 28% below 2007 levels.
- Retail property values in non-major markets are 35% below 2007 levels.
The data being reported by Reis regarding vacancies in strip malls and regional malls is also highly questionable, based on my real world observations. The reported vacancy rates of 8.6% for regional malls and 10.7% for strip malls, barely below their 2011 peaks, are laughable. Again, there is no benefit for a landlord to report their true vacancy rate. The truth will depress rents further. This data is gathered by surveying developers and landlords. We all know how reputable and above board real estate professionals are – aka David Lereah, Larry Yun. A large strip mall near my house has a 70% vacancy rate, with another, one mile away, with a 50% vacancy rate. Anyone with two eyes and functioning brain that has visited a mall or driven past a strip mall knows that vacancy rates are at least 15%, the highest in U.S. history. These statistics don’t even capture the small pizza joints, craft shops, antique outlets, candy stores, book stores, gas stations and myriad of other family run small businesses that have been forced to close up shop in the last five years.
The disconnect between reality, the data reported by the mouthpieces of the status quo, and financial markets is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Even the purveyors of false data can’t get their stories straight. Trepp has been reporting steadily declining commercial delinquency rates since July 2012, when they had reached 10.34%, the highest level since the early 1990s. The decline is being driven solely by apartment complexes and hotels. Industrial and retail delinquencies continue to rise and office delinquencies are flat over the last three months. Again, the definition of delinquent is in the eye of the beholder.
The quarterly delinquency rates on commercial loans reported by the Federal Reserve is less than half the rate being reported by Trepp, at 4.13%. Bennie and his band of Ivy League MBA economists have reported 10 consecutive quarters of declining commercial loan delinquency rates. This is in direct contrast to the data reported by Trepp that showed delinquencies rising during 2012.
Real estate loans
Booked in domestic offices
The data being reported doesn’t pass the smell test. Commercial vacancy rates are at or above the levels seen during the last Wall Street created real estate crisis in the early 1990’s. During 1991/1992 commercial loan delinquency rates ranged between 10% and 12%. Today, with the same or higher levels of vacancy, the Federal Reserve reports 4% delinquency rates. When the latest Wall Street created financial collapse struck in 2008 and commercial property values crashed while vacancy rates soared, there were dire predictions of huge loan losses between 2010 and 2012. Commercial real estate loans generally rollover every 5 to 7 years. The massive issuance of dodgy subprime commercial loans between 2005 and 2007 would come due between 2010 and 2012. But miraculously delinquency rates have supposedly plunged from 8.78% in mid-2010 to 4.13% today. The Federal Reserve decided in 2009 to look the other way when assessing whether a real estate loan would ever be repaid. A loan isn’t considered delinquent if the lender decides it isn’t delinquent. The can’t miss strategy of extend, pretend and pray was implemented across the country as mandated by the Federal Reserve. This pushed out the surge in loan maturities to 2014 – 2016.
In an economic system that rewarded good choices and punished those who took ridiculous undue risks and lost, real estate developers, mall owners, and office landlords would be going bankrupt in large numbers and loan losses for Wall Street Too Stupid to Succeed banks would be in the billions. Developers took out loans in the mid-2000’s which were due to be refinanced in 2012. The property is worth 35% less and the rental income with a 20% vacancy rate isn’t enough to cover the interest payments on the loan. The borrower would have no option but to come up with 35% more cash and accept a higher interest rate because the risk of default had risen, or default. Instead, the lenders have pretended the value of the property hasn’t declined and they’ve extended the term of the loan at a lower interest rate. This was done on the instructions of the Federal Reserve, their regulator. The plan is dependent on an improvement in the office and retail markets. It seems the best laid plans of corrupt sycophant central bankers are going to fail.
Eyes Wide Open
There are 1,300 regional malls in this country, with most anchored by a JC Penney, Sears, Barnes & Noble, or Best Buy. The combination of declining real household income, aging population, lackluster employment growth, rising energy, food and healthcare costs, mounting tax burdens, and escalating on-line purchasing will result in the creation of 200 or more ghost malls over the next five years. The closure of thousands of big box stores is baked in the cake. The American people have run out of money. They have no equity left in their houses to tap. The average worker has only $25,000 of retirement savings and they are taking loans against it to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table. They can’t afford to perform normal maintenance on their property and are one emergency away from bankruptcy. In a true cycle of doom, most of the jobs “created” since 2009 are low skill retail jobs with little or no benefits. As storefronts go dark and more “Available” signs are erected in front of these weed infested eyesores, more Americans will lose their jobs and be unable to do their 71% part in our economic Ponzi scheme.
The reason office buildings across the land sit vacant, with mold and mildew silently working its magic behind the walls and under the carpets, is because small businesses are closing up shop and only a crazy person would attempt to start a new business in this warped economic environment of debt dependent diminishing returns. The 27 million small businesses in the country are fighting a losing battle against overbearing government regulations, increasingly heavy tax burdens, operating cost inflation, Obamacare mandates, a low skill poorly educated workforce, and customers with diminishing resources and declining disposable income. Small business owners are not optimistic about the future because they don’t have a sugar daddy like Bernanke to provide them with free money and a promise to bail them out if their high risk investments go bad. With small businesses accounting for 65% of all new hiring in this country and looming healthcare taxes, mandates, regulations and penalties approaching like a freight train, there is absolutely zero probability that office buildings will be filling up with new employees in the next few years. With hundreds of billions in commercial real estate loans coming due over the next three years, over 60% of the loans in the office and retail category, vacancy rates at record levels, and property values still 30% to 40% below the original loan values, a rendezvous with reality awaits. How long can bankers pretend to be paid on loans by developers who pretend they are collecting rent from non-existent tenants who are selling goods to non-existent customers? The implosion in the commercial real estate market will also blow a gaping hole in the Federal Reserve balance sheet, which is leveraged 55 to 1.
I regularly drive along Schoolhouse Road in Souderton. It is a winding country road with dozens of small manufacturing, warehousing, IT, aerospace, auto repair, bus transportation, retail and landscaping businesses operating and trying to scratch out a small profit. Most of these businesses have been operating for decades. I would estimate that most have annual revenue of less than $2 million and less than 100 employees. It is visibly evident they have not been thriving, as their facilities are looking increasingly worn down and in disrepair. Their access to credit has been reduced since the 2008 crisis, as only the Wall Street banks and mega-corporations with Washington lobbyists received Bennie Bucks and Obama stimulus pork. These small businesses have been operating on razor thin margins and unable to invest in their existing facilities or expand their businesses. The tax increases just foisted upon small business owners and their employees, along with Obamacare mandates which will drive healthcare costs dramatically higher, and waning demand due to lack of income, will surely push some of these businesses over the edge. There will be some harsh lessons learned on Schoolhouse Road over the next few years. I expect to see more of these signs along Schoolhouse Road and thousands of other roads in the next few years.
The mainstream media pawns, posing as journalists, have not only gotten the facts wrong regarding the current situation, but their myopia extends into the near future. The perpetual optimists that always see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow are either willfully ignorant or a product of our government run public education system and can’t perform basic mathematical computations. As pointed out previously, consumer spending drives 71% of our economy. As would be expected, the highest level of annual spending occurs between the ages of 35 to 54 years old when people are in their peak earnings years. Young people are already burdened with $1 trillion of government peddled student loan debt and are defaulting at a 20% rate because there are no decent jobs available. Millions of Boomers are saddled with underwater mortgages, prodigious levels of credit card and auto loan debt, with retirement savings of $25,000 or less. Anyone expecting the young or old to ramp up spending over the next decade must be a CNBC pundit, University of Phoenix MBA graduate or Ivy League trained economist.
There will be 10,000 Boomers per day turning 65 years old for the next 18 years. Consumers in the 65-74 age segment spend 28% less on average than during their peak years. It is estimated that between 2010 and 2020 there will be approximately 14.5 million more consumers aged 65 or older. The number of Americans in their peak spending years will crash over the next decade. This surely bodes well for our suburban sprawl, mall based, cheap energy dependent, debt fueled society. Do you think this will lead to a revival in retail and office commercial real estate?
We’ve got $1 trillion annual deficits locked in for the next decade. We’ve got total credit market debt at 350% of GDP. We’ve got true unemployment exceeding 20%. We’ve had declining real wages for thirty years and no change in that trend. We’ve got an aging, savings poor, debt rich, obese, materialistic, iGadget distracted, proudly ignorant, delusional populace that prefer lies to truth and fantasy to reality. We’ve got 20% of households on food stamps. We’ve got food pantries, thrift stores and payday loan companies doing a booming business. We’ve got millions of people occupying underwater McMansions in picturesque suburban paradises that can’t make their mortgage payments or pay their utility bills, awaiting their imminent eviction notice from one of the Wall Street banks that created this societal catastrophe.
We’ve got a government further enslaving the middle class in student loan debt with the false hope of new jobs that aren’t being created. We’ve got a shadowy unaccountable organization, owned and controlled by the biggest banks in the world, that has run a Ponzi scheme called a fractional reserve lending system for 100 years, and inflated away 96% of the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar. We’ve got a self-proclaimed Ivy League academic expert on the Great Depression (created by the Federal Reserve) who has tripled the Federal Reserve balance sheet on his way to quadrupling it by year end, who has promised QE to eternity with the sole purpose of enriching his benefactors while impoverishing senior citizens and the middle class. He will ultimately be credited in history books as the creator of the Greater Depression that destroyed the worldwide financial system and resulted in death, destruction, chaos, starvation, mayhem and ultimately war on a grand scale. But in the meantime, he serves the purposes of the financial ruling class as a useful idiot and will continue to spew gibberish and propaganda to obscure their true agenda.
It is time to open your eyes and arise from your stupor. Observe what is happening around you. Look closely. Does the storyline match what you see in your ever day reality? It is them versus us. Whether you call them the invisible government, ruling class, financial overlords, oligarchs, the powers that be, ruling elite, or owners; there are powerful wealthy men who call the shots in this global criminal enterprise. Their names are Dimon, Corzine, Blankfein, Murdoch, Buffett, Soros, Bernanke, Obama, Romney, Bloomberg, Fink, among others. They are using every means at their disposal to retain their control and power over the worldwide economic system and gorge themselves like hyenas upon the carcasses of a crippled and dying middle class. They have nothing but contempt and scorn for the peasants. They’re your owners and consider you as their slaves. They don’t care about you. They think the commoners are unworthy to be in their presence. Time is growing short for these psychopathic criminals. No amount of propaganda can cover up the physical, economic, social, and psychological descent afflicting our world. There’s a bad moon rising and trouble is on the way. The time for hard choices is coming. The words of Edward Bernays represent the view of the ruling class, while the words of George Carlin represent the view of the working class.
“There’s a reason that education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now, the big, wealthy, business interests that control all things and make the big decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re irrelevant.
Politicians are put there to give you that idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, and they’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, and the City Halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They’ve got you by the balls.
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want—they don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. You know something, they don’t want people that are smart enough to sit around their kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago.” – George Carlin
1%, BLS, Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Triumph, Cash for Clunkers, CCL, CPI, debt, deficits, Delusion, Food stamps, fraud, Friedrich Nietzsche, GDP, HARP, illusion, Infrastructure, investments, Leonard Cohen, lies, mortgages, National Debt, Obama, Propaganda, Sandy relief, State of the Union, student loans, Unemployment, Wall Street
“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
The big story this past week, besides the annual State of the Delusion speech by Barack “It won’t add a cent to the deficit” Obama, was the fate of the passengers on the Carnival Triumph as their skyscraper sized ship was left adrift at sea for days without power. This 900 foot long, 100,000 ton goliath is one of the largest passenger cruise liners in the world, carrying 3,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members in luxurious splendor through warm Gulf of Mexico seas to sun drenched exotic isles. These ships are practically floating countries, with passengers treated to an endless American buffet of never ending quantities of bacon, sausage, biscuits, gravy, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, waffles, pizza, cheesecake, soda, beer and the rum drink of the day. It’s as if all 3,400 passengers have a SNAP card with no limit. There are retail stores, restaurants, bars, ice skating rinks, movie theaters, showplaces, and staff waiting on you hand and foot. No cash changes hands. You charge everything to your room number and then just pay with one of your 13 credit cards at the conclusion of your voyage into debt. Then you pay 18% interest on the 25 Funky Monkeys you consumed for the next 14 years. Cruising captures the essence of America as we traverse our voyage to hell.
The ordeal at sea of the Carnival Triumph and the leadership displayed by the Carnival management and executive officers is a microcosm of our declining empire. The $420 million Carnival Triumph was put into service in 1999 and has run continuously for the last fourteen years, with only periodic dry dock maintenance. These massive ships are replenished within hours of docking and depart within twelve hours of dumping their 3,400 passengers back onshore. The CEO and top management of Carnival care only about ROI and whether their stock options are vested. Their goal is to bilk the passengers out of as much cash as possible, while paying their foreign slave labor crew members as little as possible. The ships are registered in foreign countries for tax purposes and the crew members are mostly from third world countries. Carnival executives and shipboard officers have a history of recklessness, mismanagement, and willingness to endanger its passengers in its greedy thirst for short term profits. Ask the families of the 32 passengers killed in the sinking of the Costa Concordia.
The engine room fire that disabled the Triumph was not an isolated instance. This was the fourth engine room fire on a Carnival owned ship resulting in a loss of power, the others being the Tropicale in 1999, the Carnival Splendor in 2010, and the Costa Allegra in 2012. The Carnival Triumph should not have been at sea. It had been plagued with mechanical problems for weeks prior to the engine fire. Voluntarily taking the ship out of service would have hurt the 1st quarter earnings per share of this public company, therefore the leadership of Carnival told the engineers to patch it up and get it back out on the seas. Two weeks prior to the engine room fire the Carnival Triumph experienced propulsion issues that caused it to be five hours late returning to its Galveston home port on January 28, 2013 and delaying the ship’s departure for its next cruise until 8:00 pm that night. The ship departed, but the problems had not been fixed. The Associate Press reported a story about that cruise that provides a different assessment than the public relations drivel released the corporate office:
An email informed Debbi Smedley and other passengers that the propulsion problem would prevent them from docking at two ports. “Due to the limited cruising speed, our itinerary will be impacted. Depending on the progress of the repairs, we will either visit Progreso or Cozumel,” stated the email, signed by Vicky Rey, vice president of guest services. Smedley said the ship was in poor condition overall. During her five-day cruise, a water line broke in the hallway ceiling near her cabin, and a separate sewer line broke outside the main dining hall, she said. Metal was protruding from handrails on the staircases, and the elevators often did not work. Rather than docking in Progreso for only a few hours as planned, the ship stayed in the port for two days, and cruise workers repeatedly told passengers they were waiting for parts to fix a mechanical problem, according to Smedley.
Carnival’s public relations machine then admitted to an electrical problem with the ship’s alternator in the last voyage before the fire, but claimed it was repaired. What they didn’t reveal is that it was a Coast Guard inspection that revealed there was a short in the high voltage connection box of one of the ships generators causing damage to cables within the connection box. A directive with a compliance due date of February 27, 2013 was issued following the inspection requiring that “the condition of the ship and its equipment shall be maintained to conform with the regulations to ensure that the ship in all respects will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons on board.” The Coast Guard Marine Information Safety and Law Enforcement System showed that this deficiency remained unresolved at the time of the subsequent fire and loss of power while at sea on February 10. So you have a company PR maggot lying and you have another useless Department of Homeland Security branch not enforcing regulations that are supposed to protect passengers. This is par for the course in our corporate fascist states of America today.
George: Aha. Aha. Could it be because you don’t want him to know that you have a friend who pees in the shower, is that it?!
Elaine: No, that’s not it!
George: Oh, I think it is! I think that’s exactly what it is!
Elaine: Why couldn’t you just wait?
George: I was there! I saw a drain!
Elaine: Since when is a drain a toilet?!
George: It’s all pipes! What’s the difference?!
George Costanza would have enjoyed sailing on the Carnival Triumph as passengers were left to piss in showers and shit in red plastic bags for days. It finally became socially acceptable to pee in the shower. Most of the ship’s electrical power went down after the engine room fire, causing extensive breakdowns of vital shipboard mechanical systems, including taking out sanitary systems. Passengers reported sewage sloshing around in hallways, flooded rooms and trouble getting enough to eat. Passengers waited in line for three hours to get a lousy hot dog. On the lower decks sewage came up through the shower drain, pooling in the sinks and flowing into the hallways. The allegory of the poor people on the lower decks being inundated with feces and living in wretched conditions, while the rich people living in luxury on the upper decks are blissfully ignorant of the fate of their fellow passengers is so easy to apply to our society in this day and age. The 1% glory in their stock market gains, while 20% of U.S. households are on food stamps.
These direct quotes from passengers and pictures taken onboard this voyage from hell provide a taste of what our future portends:
“We have to urinate in the shower. They’ve been passed out plastic bags to go to the bathroom. There was fecal matter all over the floor.”
“They’re walking around in a lot of urine and fecal matter, and the sewers are backing up.”
“The sanitation situation was gross and the stench was awful.”
“Just imagine the filth. People were doing crazy things and going to the bathroom in sinks and showers.”
“A lot of people were crying and freaking out.”
“We are trapped aboard a floating petri dish without power, air conditioning, or fresh water.”
“It’s degrading. Demoralizing, and then they want to insult us by giving us $500″
After reading a number of articles describing what happened before, during and after the engine fire aboard the Carnival Triumph, the parallels between this Ship of Horrors and our Ship of State become self-evident. You have the CEO and top executives of Carnival only concerned about their wealth, power and control of the company. Rather than thinking long term and making decisions that might be detrimental to their short term quarterly earnings, but insure the long –term financial health and reputation of the company, their decision was driven by their true masters on Wall Street. Instead of taking the ship off-line to make vital repairs and necessary investments, they just papered over signs of an imminent disaster and turned to public relations spin and propaganda as there preferred course of action. When disaster “suddenly” struck, the management and executive officers were unprepared, slow to react, and more concerned with their reputations than about the health, safety and welfare of the passengers. Much more could have been done to alleviate the misery of the 3,400 passengers. Carnival could have had a large generator helicoptered onto the deck and used to produce enough electricity to run some lights, ventilation, refrigeration and toilets. It appears that this ship had two engine rooms and only one was damaged by fire. They could have restarted the undamaged engine room and would have had enough power for most normal functions in the cabins of the ship, and probably some capability to propel the ship towards port. The disgraceful lack of urgency and refusal of top management to attempt every possible solution to this crisis is a lesson to be learned by passengers and citizens alike. They don’t care about you.
Rev. Wendell Gill’s experience onboard the Triumph provides a glimpse into our future. He immediately recognized the leadership of the ship was non-existent and it would be up to people helping people if they were to make it through the ordeal:
“What you had was a tale of two ships. You seldom saw a deck officer. I never saw the captain. Some of the people in the upper areas had plenty of air, but down below, it was unlivable. It was like a sauna of sewage. It was the people on the boat that saved Carnival. In an adverse situation, most people will rise to help — that’s just the human spirit.”
Reverend Gill and his wife noticed that no one from Carnival was stepping up to help the elderly and sick get around. The Gills, along with other concerned passengers, decided to take matters into their own hands, carting mattresses and bedding up from the lower decks. They witnessed the worst side of human nature in the inaction of Carnival leadership, along with some people becoming drunk, disorderly and fighting over food. But they also witnessed people coming together under difficult circumstances, with many in the upper cabins sharing their space with those from the lower uninhabitable decks. The passengers created their own shanty town of tents on deck and in the cooler hallways. The vast majority of people acted like decent human beings. Kindness, sharing, and helping one another won the day. This voyage through hell is a precursor of what lies ahead for everyone in this country. When vital systems fail, the lights go out, and your beloved government leaders are nowhere to be found, how will you fare? Don’t count on someone from the government to lead when we are set adrift in a sea of chaos created by them. The politicians, bankers and bureaucrats will be scrambling to save themselves. Your family, friends, and neighbors will be the only people you can rely on. Your caring government doesn’t really care about you.
Cruisin for a Bruisin
“Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The similarities between the horrific voyage of the Carnival Triumph and the tragic voyage of the dysfunctional ship of state we call America are many. We have a ruling class consisting of the President, Congress, Judiciary, Central bankers, Media titans, and goliath corporation CEOs who care not for the citizens of this country. You are ignorant peasants in their eyes. They only care about maintaining and expanding their wealth, control and power through the complete capture of our financial markets, political system and media propaganda to the masses. The health and welfare of the peasants isn’t even on their radar screen. The ruling class steering this ship of fools have no interest in the truth or the best long –term interests of the country. The vast majority of the passengers on this impaired listing ship prefers to believe the propaganda and lies spewed by the captain and his minions. They prefer the illusion of safety and security to the truth about the real condition of this ship. When the engines of this ship come to a grinding halt, their illusions will be shattered. Big government will come up small when it counts. The government propaganda and public relations will be revealed as nothing but hot putrid air and fecal matter.
Speaking of fecal matter, President Obama’s State of the Union address, which was watched by 33 million (down from 52 million in 2009) believers, was a perfect reflection of the thinking that led to the Carnival Triumph disaster. The reality facing the country is: $220 trillion of unfunded entitlement liabilities; a $16.5 trillion national debt; annual deficits exceeding $1 trillion; 48 million citizens on food stamps; 11 million people on SSDI; a true unemployment rate of 23%; true inflation exceeding 5%; record high gasoline prices; 0% interest rates for senior citizen savers; free money for criminal bankers provided by their sugar daddy Bernanke; not one criminal prosecution of a Wall Street executive for the greatest financial fraud in history; a war department that spends $1 trillion per year and fights undeclared wars around the world; a chief executive that invokes dictatorial executive orders to murder Americans with his fleet of predator drones and imprison citizens indefinitely without charges; and a bureaucratic nightmare called Obamacare that will drive up deficits, drive up healthcare costs for every family, enrich the healthcare industrial complex, drive doctors into retirement, and drive small businesses into bankruptcy.
Rather than deal with this reality, Obama chose the Carnival Cruise Line method of public relations, misinformation, denial and delusion. He has embraced the Big Lie concept as if he had created it. With a straight face he proposes “investments” in infrastructure, new jobs programs, new education initiatives, more green energy projects, pollution control schemes, bailing out more underwater mortgages, and raising the minimum wage, all done for the children – and it won’t add one cent to the deficit. Instead of leveling with the American people and explaining the dire economic issues confronting our nation that require sacrifice, reality based thinking, and tough choices, we got more platitudes, class warfare, divide and conquer, phantom spending cuts, disingenuous twisting of the truth, intellectual dishonesty and fuzzy math. Public relations spin created by Madison Avenue maggots and pronounced grandly by corrupt puppet politician hacks will not prevent the catastrophic engine failure that will leave this country adrift in a sea of its own feces.
Our cruise of illusions and delusions is headed for troubled water. The math challenged citizens on this ship have been enjoying the 24 hour pizza buffet without the labor required to pay for the bounty. When your leaders boldly lie and tell you we don’t have a spending problem, refer to proposed spending increases as “investments”, and hail $1.6 trillion of spending cuts that did not happen, you’ve got a ship that will be signaling SOS in the imminent future. Both political parties are laughable in their blathering about spending cuts as Bush and his Republican cronies drove spending from $1.9 trillion in 2001 to $3.0 trillion in 2008 with their unfunded wars, unfunded new entitlements (Medicare Part D), Wall Street bailouts, and creation of police state agencies (DHS); while Obama and his Democrat co-conspirators have driven spending up to $3.8 trillion in four years with new unfunded entitlements (Obamacare), expansion of warfare in the Middle East (they sit on top of “our” oil), $800 billion stimulus handouts, $60 billion hurricane relief pork handed out for $25 billion of uninsured losses, and bailing out banks, auto companies, homeowners, and other gamblers who took undo risks and lost to the tune of hundreds of billions. Politicians and the inhabitants of this country have forgotten there are consequences to their actions and inactions.
Carnival Cruise Line is trying to buy off the passengers with refunds and $500 bribes to keep them quiet and sedated, while protecting their continued hundreds of millions in profits and million dollar bonuses for their executives. The ruling class in the United States has bought off the American people with entitlement promises that can’t possibly be honored, food stamps, SSDI, tax rebates, homebuyer tax credits, loan modification programs, Cash for Clunkers, payroll tax cuts, $1 trillion of taxpayer financed student loans, taxpayer financed subprime auto loans, and a myriad of other handouts designed to keep the masses sedated, while the ruling class continues to pillage the national wealth. It’s as if the entire country has been charging their food, drinks, excursions, and purchases to their room number and the bill has reached $16.5 trillion, rising by $3 billion per day. This voyage is reaching an end and the bill is coming due. The engine is on fire but the captain is telling us all is well. Eventually, everyone will know the captain lied.
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
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- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Bostonbob on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Gayle on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Hollow man on ANTHONY INSERTS HIS WEINER INTO THE RACE
- Administrator on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- agneaux on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Administrator on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- ecliptix543 on WHAT DID HE KNOW?
- Administrator on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Stucky on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Stucky on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Stucky on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- Eddie on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- AWD on AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- ragdouche on BEND OVER
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- The Telescreen Is Coming
- WHAT DID HE KNOW?
- WALKING AWAY
- EXISTING HOME SALES NEW HIGH BLAH BLAH BLAH
- ANTHONY INSERTS HIS WEINER INTO THE RACE
- PAPER vs THE REAL THING
- EMPTY CHAIR
- Massive Commodity Inflation and Investing in Gold
- BELOW AVERAGE
- WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD PEOPLE GONE?
- BEND OVER
- QUOTES OF THE DAY
- AND THE BAND PLAYED ON
- ALL YOUR BLOGS ARE BELONG TO US
- DO YOU BELIEVE?
- SHARED VALUES
- SHOULD HAVE USED A FORK
- Why the Fed Rigs the Bullion Market
- THE CIRCUS IS IN TOWN
- RAIDERS OF THE LOST [paper] GOLD
- OOPS, SORRY ABOUT THAT
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- UNDER THE HOOD OF HOME DEPOT EARNINGS
- Name That Black Swan
- QUOTE OF THE DAY
- LETS ADD “GATE” TO THE END
- HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD
Cost of War
The Gross National Debt
Cost of Peak Oil