DYSFUNCTIONAL, DISHONEST, INSANE & INTOLERABLE

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Posted on 21st October 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.” Ben Franklin

In my last article – Decline, Decay, Denial, Delusion & Despair I tied my observations about the obesity epidemic after a weekend in Wildwood NJ to the overall decay and degradation of the American culture. I had further reflections, but the article was already too long. These musings centered upon the complete dysfunction of government and delusion of politicians who think they can create value by seizing money from taxpayers, creating programs and controlling our lives. The incompetence, arrogance, ineptitude and insanity of government officials at the Federal, State, and Local level are stunning to behold. A story from the local Wildwood newspaper crystallized why Wildwood and thousands of municipalities across the country continue to spiral downward as government assumes more hegemony over our economy and day to day lives. We need to ask ourselves whether we the people are getting better government service and efficiency today; with government spending at 35% to 40% of GDP, than we did in the 1950’s and early 1960’s when government spending was 20% to 25% of GDP.

I doubt that most people are getting 60% more value from our benevolent government today than they did in the 1950’s. The GDP of the United States was $300 billion in 1950. Today it is $15.6 trillion, a 5,200% increase in 62 years. Sounds pretty impressive until you realize that 4,500% was due to Federal Reserve scientifically created inflation. But don’t worry. Ben Bernanke’s assures us inflation is well contained. The 5,200% increase in GDP was blown away by the 9,100% increase in total government spending since 1950. When most people talk about government spending, they refer to the $3.8 trillion per year spent by the corrupt politicians and obtuse government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. But, witless state and local politicians spend another $2.6 trillion of your tax dollars per year. The charts below detail the descent into a nanny state over the last six decades, where government has stepped in to the breach as the provider of healthcare, retirement savings, welfare, food stamps, housing, phones, cable, and SSDI if you get depressed by that non-existent inflation.

 

In the 1950’s defense accounted for a significant portion of government spending due to the Cold War and Korean conflict. Government did provide a safety net for the less fortunate during the 1950s, but people were also supported by their extended families, neighbors, churches, local communities, and charitable organizations. Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps did not exist in the 1950s, and somehow, without government intervention, people were not dying in the streets or starving to death. The economy boomed as America was the manufacturer for the world. The middle class grew as blue collar jobs were plentiful and Americans took advantage of educational opportunity to move into white collar professions. Government did useful things like creating the Interstate highway system and beginning space exploration. What government did not do was create a class of dependent people who relied upon the government for their day to day existence. The transformation to a nanny state has not only created millions of non-productive members of society, but it can only be sustained by borrowing and passing the bill on to future unborn generations. This un-payable liability is the ultimate consequence of government spending outpacing GDP by 75% over the last six decades.

Johnny Can’t Add – Send Him to College

“The average American college fails… to achieve its ostensible ends. One failure… of the colleges lies in their apparent incompetence to select and train a sufficient body of intelligent teachers. Their choice is commonly limited to second-raters, for a man who really knows a subject is seldom content to spend his lifetime teaching it: he wants to function in a more active and satisfying way, as all other living organisms want to function. There are, of course, occasional exceptions to this rule, but they are very rare, and none of them are to be found in the average college. The pedagogues there incarcerated are all inferior men who really know very little about the things they pretend to teach, and are too stupid or too indolent to acquire more…. Being taught by them is roughly like being dosed in illness by third-year medical students.” H.L. Mencken

I watched the two candidates, chosen for us by our overlords, debate this past week and blather on endlessly about education being the key to our future success. As you can see from the charts above, government spending on education has remained constant at 14% of total government spending. In 1950, education spending totaled 3.3% of GDP. Today it totals 5.6% of GDP. We are spending $900 billion per year on education and making our kids dumber by the day. There are 50 million government controlled public school students and $600 billion is spent to educate them. One wonders where the $12,000 per student per year is being allocated, considering the lack of critical thinking skills, ability to write a comprehensible sentence or even the most basic math skills of the dullards that are being matriculated into society. The majority of that funding couldn’t possibly be wasted on administration, bureaucracy, union pension and healthcare benefits, and supporting the 5,000 control freaks at the Department of Education and their $100 billion budget.

The rest of the $300 billion of government spending on education is being funneled towards luring young people into debt so they can attain a college degree that will land them a part time job at Ruby Tuesdays. The hundreds of billions in Federal student loans being syphoned from the taxpayers and handed out to unsuspecting dupes has resulted in $1 trillion of student loan debt outstanding, up from $600 billion in 2008 and $200 billion in 2000. This mountain of debt makes subprime mortgages look like a good risk. Since 2008, the Federal government has intentionally accelerated the disbursement of student loans in an effort to obfuscate the true level of unemployment in this country, as people enrolled in college are not considered unemployed. The looming bailout of this grand taxpayer theft will be colossal, as the delinquency rate of student loans not in their grace period already exceeds 18%. This should not come as a surprise, as even though 10 million more people have entered the working age population since 2008, there are 3 million less people employed than in 2008. Subsidizing kids who aren’t intelligent enough to graduate community college and shelling out billions to middle aged laid off blue collar dudes so they can get an on-line degree from the University of Phoenix or the myriad of other worthless blood sucking diploma mills, is a despicable waste of taxpayer money.

Politicians continuously churn out talking points about how they are going to fix education, when it has been government control and intervention in the education market that has devastated the youth of our country. The government controlled education system has produced a vast swath of non-critical thinking, non-questioning, vacuous, materialistic, iGadget addicted nimrods. By subsidizing students who don’t have the aptitude, intelligence or preparedness to achieve a college degree, the government has artificially created the large increases in tuition. False government subsidized demand combined with limited supply leads to higher prices. It happened with housing and it is happening in college education. Government bureaucrats are so proud of their achievement in driving college enrollment to a record high of 21.6 million, up from 15.4 million in 2000. The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college has soared from 35.5% in 2000 to over 42.0% today. The trend of young people enrolling in college has been relentlessly higher. Based on this data, you would think the youth of our fine country are the best and brightest in history. You’d be wrong.

There is one slight problem with that storyline – FACTS. SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2012 fell in two of the test’s three sections, with Reading dropping to the lowest level in four decades on the college-entrance test. Only 43% of the 1.66 million private and public school students who took the college-entrance exam posted scores showing they are prepared to do well in college, according to data released by the College Board, the nonprofit group that administers the SAT. The SAT data mirror scores from the ACT college-entrance exam which showed about 75% of students failed to meet college-readiness standards. The graduating class of 2012 posted an average score of 496 (491 for public school seniors) in Reading, a one-point drop from 2011 and a 34-point decline since 1972. Writing dropped to 488 (481 for public school seniors) this year from 489 in 2011, the lowest score since that section was introduced in 2006. The average Math score was 514 (505 for public school seniors), virtually unchanged since 2007, but down by four points since 2006 and essentially flat over the last forty years. The decline from 1960 is even more dramatic.

SAT

To put it bluntly, the dumbest graduating high school class in forty years has the highest college enrollment percentage in history. To put the dreadful results detailed above in further perspective, there will be 3.4 million graduating seniors in the country. The 1.7 million seniors who took the SAT exam were the cream of the crop. Imagine how dumb the 50% who didn’t even attempt to take the exam must be. These results show that only 700,000 of all the graduating high school seniors (21%) are capable of getting a B minus or above in college. A critical thinking individual might ask why 42% of all 18 to 24 year olds are enrolled in college. And the answer is The Government. There are 13 million 18 to 24 year olds enrolled in college and at least 6 million of them should not be in college, based upon their actual intellectual abilities. Do you think tuition rates would be skyrocketing if these 6 million kids were not being subsidized with Federal government loans to occupy space at second rate colleges and for profit diploma mills across the land?

Where’s My Daddy

“Every third American devotes himself to improving and lifting up his fellow citizens, usually by force; the messianic delusion is our national disease.” H.L. Mencken

While the government continues to promote, encourage and subsidize insane solutions to our educational dysfunction, they declare we must “invest” more in education. We need more teachers, more money, more programs, more standardized government created tests, and more government control. This drivel is peddled to the dumbed down masses by politicians and the mainstream media and who could possibly disagree? We must invest in our children. They are our future. Again, facts keep getting in the way of a good yarn. The United States spends $3,000 more per student than the average OECD country. We spend 75% more than South Korea per student.

Based on spending alone, our children should have the highest test scores on earth. We missed by that much. Sadly, the average American high school graduate doesn’t have the math skills to understand the chart below, so I’ll interpret it for them. We suck at math. Math is hard and hurts our brains, so we would rather twitter and text. Korea seems to be getting a nice bang for their buck. I wonder if it has anything to do with two parent families that care about education, good teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and hardworking students. I wonder if Korean schools concentrate on social justice, multi-culturalism, the joys of diversity, promoting ego enhancement and rewarding mediocrity. Despite being 2nd in the world in spending per student, our students ranked 25th out of 34 countries in math and science scores. We’ve kept this information from our children because we don’t want to hurt their self-esteem. Everyone gets a trophy in America just for showing up. The job of teachers and educators is to inspire children and create a desire to learn, question and think. Filling their minds with rote government sanctioned pabulum and drugged up on Adderall is not the way to create critical thinking young adults.

The government bureaucrats and teachers unions declare that if we just had more teachers all would be well. Our top notch, dedicated, overburdened union teachers are just being crushed by their unbearable 9 month workload, one month of holidays, snow days, and in-service days, the grind of an 8 hour day and an average class size of 16 students. The facts are that in 1965, when SAT Reading scores were 542, the average class size for a public school teacher was 25 students. The number of students per teacher has dropped by 36% since 1965 and the public school SAT Reading scores reached a new low of 491 in 2012. Imagine how low the scores could go if we just hire another million teachers. Let’s be truthful. The majority of public school teachers in this country are mediocre at best. They are glorified babysitters. Students are unmotivated and distracted by their social media techno-gadgets. Parents, if there are two parents, are consumed by working, commuting, and their own techno-obsessions. The slow descent into national imbecility is almost complete.

Let’s not beat around the bush. As students learn less and less, taxpayers pay more and more. The Department of Education was created in 1979. This year they will spend over $80 Billion of your tax dollars on programs that will fail again. Teachers’ unions demand higher wages, pension payouts, and healthcare benefits, while thwarting efforts to fire poor performers. The Department of Education has not improved education. Its mandates, programs, and subsidies have destroyed any incentive to improve the system. The Department of Education should be eliminated, but neither party would ever do it. As States and municipalities across the land are forced to acknowledge the $2 trillion of unfunded pension liabilities owed to government union employees cannot be honored, the end of collective bargaining with the teacher’s unions will arrive. Taxpayers will revolt and refuse to pay for the gold plated benefits of second-rate teachers that produce students who can’t read, write or add.

In the politically correct society we inhabit today, you are not allowed to state the other obvious reason for the non-stop slide in test scores and the educational underachievement of our precious cherubs. In 1960, only 8% of families with a child under 18 were single parent households. Today, that number is 30%. The percentage of children born out of wedlock in this country is 41%, with 72% of black children born out of wedlock. Again, you can thank the government. You get more of what you encourage and subsidize. Government control over our educational system has created a nation of useful idiots who are compliant and malleable to whatever storyline their overlords announce through their media mouthpieces.

It’s no accident that in 1960, according to the Pew Research Center, five years before President Lyndon Johnson signed into law his War on Poverty, 61% of black adults were married. By 2008, this was down to 32%. In 1960, 2% of black children had a parent that had never been married. By 2008, this was up to 41%. The results speak for themselves:

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

By encouraging dependency and reliance upon the all-powerful government, the motivation to educate yourself, get married before having children, work hard, and pull yourself out of poverty is diminished. Self-reliance and responsibility for your own life is lessened because the government is there to provide the basic needs of all. It sounds wonderful until you consider the $100 trillion bill being passed to future generations so we can sustain our nanny state today. After decades of ever increasing government control over our lives and the accumulation of a Himalayan mountain of debt, why anyone would conclude that more government is the solution is beyond my comprehension.

May I Have Another Voucher Please?

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable…” H.L. Mencken

This brings me to the story in the Cape May County Herald that captures the insanity of government and how government solutions create unintended consequences that require more government solutions, ultimately creating such havoc and disarray that intelligent people just give up and move somewhere else. The story detailed all of the undercover operations of the Middle Township police department and the 77 arrests they made in Rio Grande for narcotics distribution, robberies, and assaults over the last year and a half. Rio Grande is a backwater town of 2,670 people living in a 3 square mile area, a few miles from Wildwood. One might wonder how a sleepy tiny seashore town could have such a crime epidemic. Well this one sentence from the article provides a clue:

With the majority of the twelve motels in the township that accept social services vouchers lining the highway, Route 47 seems to be a hotbed for crime in the township.    

It seems the community of Rio Grande supports the 43 Middle Township police officers with a tremendous level of job security. The police were confused as to why so much crime was centered at the year-round motels in Rio Grande. It seems their fellow government associates like to play hot potato with convicted criminals. The State Department of Corrections paroles the lowlife felons and puts them on a bus back to the county in which they were sentenced. The Cape May County Social Services then uses taxpayer money to provide a free housing voucher to the criminals whose families refuse to take them back. The dilapidated motels that have to accept these social services vouchers in order to survive in this terrible economy then end up filled with drug dealing troublemaking delinquents. In case you were considering a nice vacation stay at a Rio Grande motel, you should know there are currently 24 parolees living in Rio Grande motels as well as 20 Megan’s Law offenders. I bet they have some wild parties on Friday nights. I’m sure this news will do wonders for property values in Rio Grande. I was thrilled to find out that my home away from home – Wildwood – is the only place with more motels accepting these social services housing vouchers, with 15. That may help illuminate the reasons for the ten blocks of squalor that make up the heart of downtown Wildwood.

The story actually gets better. Governmental dysfunction and insanity has been taken to a new level, as described by the chief of police:

“What we found out with this funding, and this is particularly disturbing, is that the only way someone’s funding can be revoked is if they are involved activities that result in their own homelessness,” said Leusner. He gave an example of a resident at a motel that might commit a theft, break into someone’s car or shoplift and be arrested. If let go on their own recognizance, that person still receives a voucher. “They can’t revoke their funding,” said the chief. “I think that’s wrong. If you commit a crime and you victimize someone in that general area, your funding should be revoked.”

So the taxpayer has already footed the bill for a criminal’s stay in prison, pays for their free housing while still making their own mortgage payment, pays for the added police personnel to arrest them for their new crimes, and still pays for their housing after they are arrested again for committing crimes in their community. I’m sure Paul Krugman would see this as a wonderful example of Keynesian economics propelling the nation’s GDP. Government spending on housing vouchers results in more employment of police officers, revenue for motel owners, revenue for the construction industry to repair the motels after the drug crazed parties, revenue for the drug dealers, revenue for security firms and gun dealers as citizens scramble to protect themselves, and ultimately more employment of prison guards when the derelicts are eventually sent back to prison. It’s a government created dysfunctional cycle of insanity.

The cherry on top of this atrocious example of a bloodsucking government destroying its host is what happened when motel owners met with police and agreed to police the situation themselves. The motel owners immediately contacted Social Services whenever one of their parasite guests were seen doing or dealing drugs and would tell them they didn’t want them in their motel. Due to governmental confidentiality rules Social Services could not inform the police of this information. These government drones would then place the drug addict at another motel two blocks away without informing them about the prior complaints. This is the ultimate result of government run amuck. By putting complete faith in the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats, we are left with a system that is consuming itself and what little remains of our national wealth.

Liberty & Critical Thinking

“All government, of course, is against liberty.” H.L. Mencken

Nothing in this world gets better as it gets bigger. The bigger an organization becomes, the less efficient, less responsive, less fair, less compassionate and less functional it becomes. Government attracts mediocre, low IQ, power hungry, narrow minded, paper pushing, rules oriented, dimwits who think they can run your life better than yourself. This applies across the board from the highest levels in Washington D.C. to your local school board. There is no problem that another law, statute, program, or initiative, funded by your tax dollars or future generations, that a politician or government pencil pusher doesn’t think they can’t solve. They are just too dense to anticipate the unintended consequences of their arrogant belief in their own wisdom.

Government programs created in the 1960s created a culture of dependency, government control, relentlessly higher debt, materialism, and willful ignorance. As government has grown in power, the people have sunk to the level of feudal serfs living in indentured servitude to their overlords. The government overlords and their banking and corporate co-conspirators created the educational system that produces the flaccid, oblivious, pliable dolts that make up the majority of the populace. As we’ve seen, government subsidization of dysfunctional lifestyles and dreadful government education provided to children from these households creates a corrupt, criminal culture that engenders calls for more government programs to fix the problems created by previous government programs. This is why government spending has far outpaced GDP growth over the last six decades. It’s a cycle of dysfunction and ultimately destruction, as the crony capitalists and government parasites suck the remaining life from our decaying economic system.

It always comes back to who benefits from such a dysfunctional, dishonest, insane, intolerable system. If the population had not been dumbed down through our educational system and was capable of critical thinking they would realize the corporate media propaganda used to turn them into materialistic, narcissistic consumers, along with easy access to consumer debt has lured them into debt servitude and impoverishment, while their overlords are enriched and empowered. Our education system sucks because our overlords need it to suck.

“There’s a reason that education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever 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.

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.” George Carlin

The question remains. Can a small minority of critical thinking citizens lead a revolution that topples the existing social order and restores the Republic to its founding principles of liberty, self-responsibility, civic duty, and mutual obligation to future generations? The original Ron Paul led Tea Party movement was hijacked and defused by the overlords. The original OWS movement, with its focus on the criminal Wall Street banks, was crushed through brute force and corporate media propaganda. The few remaining citizens capable of critical thought need to decide whether they will fight for the country we should be or bow down to the overlords and accept that we have become so corrupted as to need a despotic government, being incapable of any other. The choice is ours.



 

 

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE – PART ONE

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Posted on 29th September 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price. That is why the bounty killers appeared. - For a Few Dollars More

 

“Tell me, isn’t a sheriff supposed to be courageous, loyal and, above all, honest?” - Man with No Name – For a Few Dollars More

Whenever I get an idea for an article I plan to keep it short and sweet. But it never seems to work out that way. Once I start typing, the articles tend to grow exponentially. It happened again with my attempt to make sense of how the United States of America managed to screw our finances up so badly, that an epic collapse is within view to people with their eyes open to facts and the truth. You don’t end up in the predicament we find ourselves in today due to a couple minor mistakes over a short time frame. It took thousands of horrible choices, colossal doses of delusion, a heaping of stupidity, and a mountain of denial over decades to put us on the brink of economic collapse. An unholy amalgamation of demographics, fiat currency, debt, taxes, power and greed have led us to this point. Next we experience collapse, revolution and ultimately, retribution.

Since I’ve identified four major rationales for our impending doom, I’ve decided to write a four part series that can be read in small doses, rather than one enormous article. I don’t want anyone to miss tonight’s episode of Dancing With the Stars, get distracted from the Royal Wedding preparations, or skip the best reality TV show ever – Ben Bernanke’s press conference, while reading an 8,000 word article about the end of America. The four part series will have a Clint Eastwood theme. For a Few Dollars More will address the Baby Boomer impact on America’s decline. A Fistful of Dollars will examine how the creation of the Federal Reserve and the income tax in 1913 set us on a path to ruin. Outlaw Josey Wales will scrutinize the looting of America by a small group of powerful, connected, super rich men lurking in the shadows, but pulling the strings on our puppet politicians. Lastly, Unforgiven  will detail the impending collapse of our economic system and the retribution that will be handed out to the guilty.

Over the last few weeks there seems to be consensus among many financial bloggers, whose credibility is far more trustworthy than the corporate mainstream media, that the country is teetering on the verge of economic collapse due to the complete capture of the government, financial, regulatory, and media by a small group of oligarchs. They have also been described as the super rich, plutarchs, ruling elite, and scum sucking leeches. The bloggers that I have the utmost respect for, including Jesse, Charles Hugh Smith, Mike Shedlock, Yves Smith and Gonzalo Lira have all come to the logical conclusion the horrific economic situation of the country is a direct result of the greed, corruption, fraud, and plundering by a powerful connected group of rich financiers operating without fear of being brought to justice by the authorities.

While pondering the ruminations of these dedicated truth tellers, I was reminded of the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western For a Few Dollars More. The quotes above are representative of living in the USA today. There are supposed to be courageous, loyal and honest sheriffs that protect the citizens from crime, corruption and evil doers. But, just as we saw in the Old West of Clint Eastwood movies, the sheriffs are always corrupt and bought off by the evil cattle barons. In a world where life has no value and you can’t rely on law enforcement to protect your interests, the citizens eventually will need to turn to bounty hunters to take care of the bad guys. The bounty hunters of truth reside on the internet. They reside at Zero Hedge, Jesse’s Café Americain, Of Two Minds, Mish, Chris Martenson, and dozens of other anarchist websites. When you can’t trust your government, your bankers, your church, your media, or mega-corporate CEOs, you need to seek the truth where it can be found. The insightful bloggers who courageously print the truth on a daily basis have unanimously concluded that a small band of powerful elite have accumulated undue influence and control over this country, having brought it to the verge of economic collapse. How did this happen? Who is responsible? Why were they permitted to gain this power?

Boomers Come of Age

“If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” – Howard Zinn

Whenever I direct any blame for our economic woes towards the Baby Boom generation they react as expected. They blame the GI Generation for creating the welfare state. They declare that Generation X and the Millenials are just as greedy and self centered as the Boomers. Boomers are great at blaming, ridiculing and acting pompously, while taking no responsibility for their actions and more importantly their inaction. This generation cannot avoid their responsibility for the state of affairs. They like to take credit for their stand against the Vietnam War and their protests against the man during the 1960s. They don’t like to take credit for turning into materialistic, greedy, selfish, short-term focused bastards. When a generation of 76 million people decides to go in a particular direction, the country will go in that direction. While blaming FDR and the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy for creating the unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities, the Boomers have been voting since the mid-1960s and have been in control of corporate America and the levers of government since the early 1980s.

The U.S. Congress is dominated by Baby Boomers today and has been dominated by this generation since the 1990s. The Senate has 60 Boomers out of 100, while the House of Representatives has 254 Boomers out of 435 members. Boomers occupied the White House from 1992 through 2008. They have had the political power and control of the agenda for two decades and have failed miserably. Rather than do what was best for the country for the long-term, they took the expedient, easy, vote getting route. Promise more than you could ever deliver and let future generations worry about the consequences. Not one true noble statesman has arisen from this generation of myopic, self centered “Me Generation” political hacks. Even as the country nears the precipice, they continue to address the great issues of the day with talking points supplied by other Baby Boomer PR maggots from Park Avenue. These weasels care not for the country, but worry only about poll numbers and the next election cycle. An apathetic public, dominated by the Baby Boom generation, has the attention span of a gnat. As long as they can make the lease payment on their Escalade, use one of their 15 credit cards at the Mall, be entertained by 600 cable TV stations, play with the latest iSomething, live in their McMansion for two years without making a mortgage payment and consume massive quantities of fast food, then any thoughts of future generations or civic duty are unnecessary. Live for today has been the rallying cry for the Boomer generation. Pot was their drug during the 1960s. Debt has been their drug since 1980.

The drug (debt) dealer for the Baby Boom generation has been the Wall Street mega-banks, coincidentally, run by Boomers. The entire corrupt financial industry is being run by Boomers. The CEOs, CFOs, and the thousands of Harvard MBA VPs that created the fraudulent derivative scheme to bilk billions from clueless municipalities, pension funds and American taxpayers are all Boomers. It is no coincidence that the great debt delusion began in the early 1980’s. Jim Kunstler captured the essence of Boomer transformation:

“The Baby Boomers came back from the land, clipped their pony tails, discovered venture capital, real estate investment trusts, securitization of “consumer” debt, and the Hamptons. Greed was good.”

The Boomer CEO hall of scam has been built on the brilliance and financial acumen of Lloyd (god’s work) Blankfein, Charlie (keep dancing) Prince, Jamie (friend of Obama) Dimon, and the king of the Boomers, Hank (the system is sound) Paulson. These mainstays of crony capitalism led the Boomer charge of greed, greed and more greed. The Baby Boomer generation has been the proverbial pig in a python working its way through the decades as presented below. By 1985, Boomers had entered the work force in full force with the entire generation between the ages of 25 and 42. It will be a great day when the python craps this pig of a generation out the other end.

It is not a coincidence the National Debt growth has far outstripped GDP growth since 1980. Boomers had been spoiled their whole lives and felt they deserved the goodies today while passing the bill to future generations. They voted for politicians who promised them more benefits, more programs, more subsidies, more tax breaks, more military adventures, and more pleasure. And this was “paid for” with more debt. Thirty five years of government debt declining as a percentage of GDP was reversed over the next thirty years starting in 1980, pushing it past the 90% tipping point in the last year. The country is over-indebted to the tune of $9 trillion on a current basis and $100 trillion on a long term accrual basis.

There is no better picture of Boomer decadence and myopia than an historical view of the national savings rate. The parents of the Boomers understood the meaning of sacrifice and investing in the future of the country. During World War II they bought US War Bonds to support the cause. From 1950 through 1985, the savings rate consistently ranged between 7% and 12%. Americans had this odd notion that if you saved more than you spent, you actually got ahead in life. Excess savings were used to invest in new plants and equipment that were used to produce goods and employ more Americans. By 1985, the Boomers considered these notions as quaint and old fashioned. The savings rate methodically declined until it went negative in 2006, just prior to the worldwide financial conflagration. Our inspirational Boomer president George (Mission Accomplished) Bush while waging two wars of choice, asked for the ultimate sacrifice from the Boomers. He solemnly urged them to buy a GM SUV with $0 down and 0% interest for 7 years, so we could defeat the terrorists. The Boomers who ran GMAC were more than happy to make loans to people with no income so they could “purchase” a $40,000 ostentatious gas guzzling hog. They were doing their patriotic duty for the good of the nation. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

The Boomers not only heeded George’s call, but they did him proud by buying 8,000 sq ft McMansions with $0 down and negative amortization ARMs. Luckily, the executives at the mortgage origination sweatshops were Boomers. They found no good reason to verify income or assets before loaning someone $600,000, because they knew their fellow Boomers at the rating agencies would rate the bundles of these toxic shit loans as AAA so the Boomers on Wall Street could sell them to greater fools. GMAC’s exemplary subprime mortgage arm – Ditech, did a bang up job getting migrant Mexican workers into $450,000 homes in California’s inland empire. As the tsunami of bad debt swept toward shore, delusional Boomers across the land borrowed $500 billion against the inflated value of their McMansions and installed granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, home theatres, elegant patios, Olympic sized pools, and with the excess home equity, leased a BMW or two. The first devastating tsunami wave hit in 2008 and wiped out billions in faux Boomer wealth. Instead of learning a brutal lesson and reverting back to saving and frugality, the “never say sacrifice” Boomers ventured out to where the waves had subsided looking for more trinkets and treasures.

Tsunami Warning by Mobile Phone

The next tsunami wave is on its way. The delusional Boomers will be surprised again.

The Boomer persona has been formed over the last five decades and the country will deal with the consequences for decades to come. The clean cut Beaver Cleaver children of the 1950s turned into the pot smoking Dobie Gillis of the 1960’s, then into the slimy Gordon Gekkos of the 1980s and ultimately into the eternal wealth seeking Gollums of today.

 

  

This Boomer debt orgy over the last thirty years would have made Caligula blush. Of course, none of this could have happened without the Creature from Jekyll Island. I will address this aspect of our fate in Fistful of Dollars – Part Two.

Now for the righteous indignation from the Boomers that think I have unfairly lumped them all together as one. Their reactions are predictable. Even though they have had the means, the power and the time to reverse the course of USS Titanic, they plowed full steam ahead into the abyss. The GI Generation is dead. Generation X doesn’t hold the reins of power. The Boomer generation needs to look in the mirror to recognize who is to blame.  I’m sure there are a few good Boomers out there somewhere, but as a generation they have failed this country and our unborn generations miserably.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY – PART THREE

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Posted on 29th September 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“You see in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig.” -  Blondie – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

“There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend. Those who have a rope around their neck and those who have the job of doing the cutting.” – Tuco – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The economic peril that we find ourselves confronted with, has been ninety-eight years in the making. The confluence of debt, demographics, delusion, and denial has left the country at the precipice of annihilation. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who control the money and those that are controlled by those who control the money. The last century has been marked by a methodical looting of the good (working middle class) by the bad (Federal Reserve & bankers) and supported by the ugly (Washington D.C. politicians). When historians pinpoint the year in which the Great American Empire began its downward spiral they will conclude that year to be 1913. In this dark year for the Republic, slimy politicians, at the behest of the biggest bankers in the country, created a private central bank that has since controlled the currency of the United States. This same Congress staked their claim as the most damaging group of politicians in US history by passing the personal income tax in the same year. These two acts unleashed the two headed monster of inflation and taxation on the American people.

The government began keeping official track of inflation in 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was created. The CPI on January 1, 1914 was 10.0. The CPI on January 1, 2011 was 220.2. This means that a man’s suit that cost $10 in 1913 would cost $220 today, a 2,172% increase in ninety-eight years. This is a 95.6% loss in purchasing power of the dollar.  The average American does not understand the insidious nature of central bank created inflation. It makes you think you are wealthier while you are driven into abject poverty. The Federal Reserve and politicians have pulled the wool over your eyes. The CPI was 30.9 in 1964. Today, it is 223.5. This means prices have risen 723% since 1964. The only problem is your wages have not risen at the same rate, even using the government manipulated CPI. Using a true CPI figure, average weekly earnings are 64% below what they were in 1964. This explains why a family of five could live well with one parent working in 1964, but even with both parents working and accumulating debt in prodigious amounts, the average family cannot live as well today.

It is not a coincidence that the percentage of the working age population employed bottomed in 1964 at 59%. The participation rate rose steadily for the next thirty six years, topping out in 2000 at 67.1%. The employment to population ratio also bottomed at 55% in 1964. It rose to 64.4% by 2000. It seems that future historians will mark the year 2000 as the peak of the American Empire. Apologists for the Federal Reserve and politicians who have steered this country since 1964 would argue the increase in the percentage of the population working was a positive development. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The American middle class was forced to send both parents into the workforce just to keep up with the ever declining real weekly earnings. The Federal Reserve created inflation has methodically destroyed the American dream for the middle class. As both parents had to go into the workforce, American children were left to fend for themselves or be raised by strangers in daycare centers. The pressure of trying to keep up with inflation strained families to the breaking point. The number of divorces per thousand marriages was 10 in the early 1960s. It more than doubled to 22.6 by 1980 and still resides at 17 today. There are many factors for the disintegration of the traditional family unit, but the financial strain on families to maintain a consistent standard of living due to relentless inflation has been a key factor.

From the founding of our country there had been constant conflict between corrupt bankers trying to control the currency of the nation to further their own enrichment at the expense of the people and a few courageous leaders willing to fight them. The bankers won the century old battle in 1913.

Den of Vipers & Thieves

“I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank…You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out and, by the Eternal, I will rout you out.” - Andrew Jackson

The First Bank of the United States was created in 1791. Alexander Hamilton, the 1st Secretary of the Treasury, proposed this bank and convinced a hesitant President Washington to agree. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were against the concept. It favored the moneyed classes of the North versus the agrarian South. The bank was given a 20 year charter and President James Madison let it expire in 1811. He understood the true nature of the banking interests:

“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance”.

Madison had to renew the charter in 1816 as the War of 1812 resulted in large government debts. Politicians always turn to bankers when funding wars and programs to get them re-elected. As usual, once unshackled, the bankers immediately caused a boom through their loose monetary policies. The Bank created a fake boom by 1818 through its reckless lending, which encouraged speculation in land. This lending allowed almost anyone to borrow money and speculate in land, sometimes doubling or even tripling the prices of land (remind you of another time in recent history?). In the summer of 1818, the national bank managers realized the bank’s massive over-extension, and instituted a policy of contraction and the calling in of loans. This recalling of loans simultaneously curtailed land sales and slowed the U.S. production boom due to the recovery of Europe. The result was the Panic of 1819. There was a wave of bankruptcies, bank failures, and bank runs; prices dropped and wide-scale urban unemployment struck the country. By 1819 many Americans did not have enough money to pay off their property loans. Do you see any difference between 1816 – 1819 and 2005 – 2011? Central banks don’t eliminate financial panics, they cause them. Booms and busts have always existed. They have become more common and extreme since the unleashing of greedy corrupt central bankers in the U.S., going back two centuries.

Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson became President in 1829 and proceeded to declare war on the Second National Bank. He was the first and only President in U.S. history to pay off the National Debt. He worked tirelessly to rescind the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. His reasons for abolishing the bank were:

  • It concentrated the nation’s financial strength in a single institution.
  • It exposed the government to control by foreign interests.
  • It served mainly to make the rich richer.
  • It exercised too much control over members of Congress.
  • It favored northeastern states over southern and western states.

President Jackson believed that only Congress should be responsible for the issuance and control of the currency. Delegating that duty to powerful New York bankers was distasteful to him:

“If Congress has the right to issue paper money, it was given to them to be used … and not to be delegated to individuals or corporations”

President Jackson vetoed the extension of their bank charter in 1832. He redirected government tax revenue to other state banks.  The Second Bank of the United States was left with little money and, in 1836, its charter expired and it turned into an ordinary bank. Five years later, the former Second Bank of the United States went bankrupt. Those who believe that a central bank is essential to economic progress need to examine the “free banking” period from 1837 to 1861. In the last five years of the Second Bank’s existence prices rose by 28%. Over the next 25 years, prices in the U.S. fell by 11%. We experienced the dreaded deflation. Did deflation destroy America? Not quite. GDP grew from $1.5 billion in 1836 to $4.6 billion in 1861. Deflation is only fatal to debtors. Inflation is the friend of lenders and the moneyed classes.

The American Civil War brought about the National Banking Act of 1863, which created a network of national banks. Politicians always need bankers to fight their wars and Abraham Lincoln was no different. By 1870 there were 1,638 national banks. This did not eliminate the booms and busts that punctuate human history, but the booms and busts were not scientifically created by a small cabal of bankers. With thousands of banks, those who made bad lending decisions failed. The economy withstood the periodic panics and continued to grow. The GDP of the U.S. grew from $7.6 billion in 1863 to $39 billion by 1913, with virtually no inflation. The Federal government ran surpluses or very small deficits during this entire time period. These facts refute the argument that a strong central bank was necessary to keep our economic system operating smoothly. It seems the Big Lie was not invented by the Nazis.

Creature from Jekyll Island – Control the Money, Control the Country

“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”President Woodrow Wilson

Any impartial assessment of inflation throughout the history of the United States confirms that from the beginning of our nation through the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War and the Industrial Revolution, the country experienced virtually no inflation as bankers were kept from controlling the U.S. currency and our legal tender was backed by gold. The creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 and the closing of the gold window by Richard Nixon in 1971 unleashed a tsunami of inflation that continues to inundate our country today, killing the once prosperous middle class.

The Rothschilds of London understood that a fiat currency system would benefit the few (bankers & politicians) who understood it and the masses would be too ignorant to understand they were being screwed:

“Those few who can understand the system (check book money and credit) will either be so interested in its profits, or so dependent on it favors, that there will be little opposition from that class, while on the other hand, the great body of people mentally incapable of comprehending the tremendous advantage that capital derives from the system, will bear it burdens without complaint, and perhaps without even suspecting that the system is inimical to their interests.”

The House of Rothschild had been the dominant banking family in Europe for two centuries. They were known for making fortunes during Panics and War. Some claimed they would cause Panics in order to take advantage of those who panicked. American bankers learned the lesson well. The Panic of 1907 was the used as the reason for creating the Federal Reserve. A small cabal of powerful U.S. banking interests understood that if they could control the currency of the U.S., they could control the country, its politicians, and its people.

In 1906, Frank Vanderlip, Vice President of the Rockefeller owned National City Bank, convinced many of New York’s banking establishment they needed a banker-controlled central bank that could serve the nation’s financial system. Up to that time, the House of Morgan had filled that role. JP Morgan had initiated previous panics in order to initiate stronger control over the banking system. Morgan initiated the Panic of 1907 by circulating rumors the Knickerbocker Bank and Trust Co. of America was going broke. There was a run on the banks creating a financial crisis which began to solidify support for a central banking system. During this panic Paul Warburg, a Rothschild associate, wrote an essay called “A Plan for a Modified Central Bank” which called for a Central Bank in which 50% would be owned by the government and 50% by the nation’s banks.

In November 1910 a secret conference took place on Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia. Those in attendance were:  Paul Warburg, Bernard Baruch, Senator Nelson Aldrich, Colonel House, Frank Vanderlip, Benjamin Strong, Charles Norton, Jacob Schiff, and Henry Davison. From this meeting of the most powerful bankers and politicians in the country came the plan for a Central Bank. This conference was unknown until 1933. In 1935, Frank Vanderlip wrote in the Saturday Evening Post: “I do not feel it is any exaggeration to speak of our secret expedition to Jekyll Island as the occasion of the actual conception of what eventually became the Federal Reserve System.”

Behind the scenes these powerful men were formulating the plan for a Federal Reserve System. There was no outcry from the public to implement this plan. The public knew nothing of this. The Aldrich Plan was renamed the Federal Reserve Act and pushed forward by Paul Warburg and Colonel House. Warburg essentially wrote the Act and pressured Congressmen to see his way or lose the next election. Colonel House, who had socialist leanings, was the top advisor to President Wilson.

 

The Glass Bill (the House version of the final Federal Reserve Act) had passed the House on September 18, 1913 by 287 to 85. On December 19, 1913, the Senate passed their version by a vote of 54-34. More than forty important differences in the House and Senate versions remained to be settled, and the opponents of the bill in both houses of Congress were led to believe that many weeks would elapse before the Conference bill would be taken up. The Congressmen prepared to leave Washington for the annual Christmas recess, assured that the Conference bill would not be brought up until the following year. The creators of the bill then pulled the ultimate swindle on the American public. In a single day, they ironed out all forty of the disputed passages in the bill and quickly brought it to a vote. On Monday, December 22, 1913, the bill was passed by the House 282-60 and the Senate 43-23. This meant that the single most important piece of legislation ever passed by the Senate was missing the votes of 26 Senators because it was passed during the Christmas recess. President Wilson, at the urging of Bernard Baruch, signed the bill on December 23, 1913.

File:Fed Reserve.JPG

The Road to Hell is Paved by Central Bankers

“Banking was conceived in iniquity, and was born in sin. The Bankers own the Earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create deposits, and with the flick of the pen, they will create enough deposits, to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But if you wish to remain the slaves of Bankers, and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create deposits.” – Sir Josiah Stamp (President of the Bank of England in the 1920′s, the second richest man in Britain)

 

The results speak for themselves. The Federal Reserve has been in existence for ninety eight years and over that time the U.S. Dollar has lost 95.6% of its purchasing power. In other terms, the bankers who have controlled our currency since 1913 have generated 2,172% of inflation in just under a century. In the prior one hundred years, when the country was growing by leaps and bounds, there was virtually no inflation. I’m not sure the average person fully understands this concept. To put it in layman’s terms, something that cost $4.40 in 1913 will cost you $100 today. A pair of boys’ school shoes cost 98 cents in 1913. You could purchase three loaves of bread for 10 cents. You could purchase six rolls of toilet paper for 26 cents. The truly frightening impact on the American middle class has happened since Richard Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and allowed the Federal Reserve to print money unfettered by consequences and slimy politicians to make irresponsible unfulfilled promises as bribes for votes. This chart should worry even the most ignorant of the masses.

Items 1971 2010/11 % Increase
Average Cost of new house $28,000 $273,000 975%
Median HH Income $10,300 $47,000 456%
Average Monthly Rent $150 $750 500%
Cost of a gallon of Gas $0.40 $3.80 950%
Average New Car Price $3,430 $29,200 851%
United States postage Stamp $0.08 $0.44 550%
Movie Ticket $1.50 $7.89 526%

 

Even with the proliferation of two worker households since 1971, household income has not come close to keeping up with the costs of daily living. The average American’s standard of living has declined dramatically over the last forty years and they don’t even know it. Americans have become the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of their own slavery through inflation and debt. It is not a coincidence that consumer debt, which was virtually non-existent prior to the 1960s, began to take off in the 1970s and went nearly parabolic from the early 1990s until the 2008 financial collapse. As the Federal Reserve and political class created inflation, which reduced your standard of living, the bankers who own the Federal Reserve and control the politicians used their slick marketing machine to convince you that acquiring goods using vast quantities of debt was just as good as buying things with cash you saved.

Who benefits from inflation and the issuance of trillions in debt to average Americans? Based upon the decades of gargantuan Wall Street profits, mammoth bonuses paid to bank executives, and fact that Washington politicians absconded with trillions from American taxpayers to save their Wall Street masters, it appears that bankers and politicians are the beneficiaries. A gutted, indebted, jobless, demoralized middle class were the recipients of the downside of inflation and debt. Without a Central Bank issuing a fiat currency, with no constraints, none of this could have happened.

The Federal Reserve is primarily responsible for the destruction of the American middle class. In 1915, according the Federal Reserve annual report, they operated with 35 total employees. Today, they operate with over 20,000 employees and the cost to operate the system exceeds $3.3 billion. The Federal Reserve has failed on every one of its stated mandates:

  • It was created to stabilize the banking system and keep bank panics from occurring. Within sixteen years of its creation it caused the near collapse of the banking system and the Great Depression. The stagflation of the 1970s was caused by Fed policies. The Savings & Loan crisis was created by their policies. The internet bubble, housing bubble and eventual financial collapse were caused by Federal Reserve blunders. There have been 18 recessions since the creation of the Federal Reserve.
  • The stable prices mandate has been a wretched failure, as the Fed has manufactured 2,171% of inflation and destroyed 96% of the currency’s purchasing power. This manufactured inflation has enabled the creation of our welfare/warfare state.
  • The Federal Reserve mandate of moderate long-term interest rates has clearly not been met. The Fed Funds Rate has plotted a path of extremes over the decades, ranging from 0% to 19%, not exactly stable. The Federal Reserve has consistently set rates too low, leading to credit bubbles, which always pop and end in recession or depression.
  • The mandate of maximum employment has also been a miserable failure. The easy credit policy of the Federal Reserve during the 1920s led to the Great Depression with unemployment rates exceeding 20%. Unemployment has averaged between 5% and 15% consistently since the formation of the Federal Reserve. The true unemployment rate today exceeds 15%.
  • The Federal Reserve was supposed to supervise and control the activities of banks. Instead, under Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, they stepped aside and let banks take preposterous risks while giving an unspoken assurance that the Fed would clean up any messes they caused with their debt based enrichment schemes. This total dereliction of duty and gross regulatory negligence led the greatest financial collapse in history.

The American working middle class (Good) have been deceived by the Federal Reserve, the banks that control them (Bad) and the Washington DC political class (Ugly) into believing that a fiat currency, un-backed by gold, supported by systematic inflation is beneficial to their wealth. This has been the Big Lie for the last century and has positioned the country for an epic collapse. Presidential candidate Ron Paul has been the lone voice of sanity in Washington DC for the last two decades and his assessment of the Federal Reserve while questioning Ben Bernanke in 2009 needs to be understood by every American:

“The Federal Reserve in collaboration with the giant banks has created the greatest financial crisis the world has ever seen. The foolish notion that unlimited amounts of money and credit created out of thin air can provide sustainable economic growth has delivered this crisis to us. Instead of economic growth and stable prices, (The Fed) has given us a system of government and finance that now threatens the world financial and political institutions. Pursuing the same policy of excessive spending, debt expansion and monetary inflation can only compound the problems that prevent the required corrections. Doubling the money supply didn’t work, quadrupling it won’t work either. Buying up the bad debt of privileged institutions and dumping worthless assets on the American people is morally wrong and economically futile.”

I’ve now completed three parts of the five part series, documenting the downfall of the great American Empire. Part four, Outlaw Josey Wales, will scrutinize the looting of America by a small group of powerful, connected, super rich men lurking in the shadows, but pulling the strings on our puppet politicians. Lastly, Unforgiven  will detail the impending collapse of our economic system and the retribution that will be handed out to the guilty.

The smell of revolution is in the air.

Part One – For a Few Dollars More

Part Two – Fistful of Dollars

ARE YOU SEEING WHAT I’M SEEING?

242 comments

Posted on 17th September 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Is it just me, or are the signs of consumer collapse as clear as a Lowes parking lot on a Saturday afternoon? Sometimes I wonder if I’m just seeing the world through my pessimistic lens, skewing my point of view. My daily commute through West Philadelphia is not very enlightening, as the squalor, filth and lack of legal commerce remain consistent from year to year. This community is sustained by taxpayer subsidized low income housing, taxpayer subsidized food stamps, welfare payments, and illegal drug dealing. The dependency attitude, lifestyles of slothfulness and total lack of commerce has remained constant for decades in West Philly. It is on the weekends, cruising around a once thriving suburbia, where you perceive the persistent deterioration and decay of our debt fixated consumer spending based society.

The last two weekends I’ve needed to travel the highways of Montgomery County, PA going to a family party and purchasing a garbage disposal for my sink at my local Lowes store. Montgomery County is the typical white upper middle class suburb, with tracts of McMansions dotting the landscape. The population of 800,000 is spread over a 500 square mile area. Over 81% of the population is white, with the 9% black population confined to the urban enclaves of Norristown and Pottstown.

The median age is 38 and the median household income is $75,000, 50% above the national average. The employers are well diversified with an even distribution between education, health care, manufacturing, retail, professional services, finance and real estate. The median home price is $300,000, also 50% above the national average. The county leans Democrat, with Obama winning 60% of the vote in 2008. The 300,000 households were occupied by college educated white collar professionals. From a strictly demographic standpoint, Montgomery County appears to be a prosperous flourishing community where the residents are living lives of relative affluence. But, if you look closer and connect the dots, you see fissures in this façade of affluence that spread more expansively by the day. The cheap oil based, automobile dependent, mall centric, suburban sprawl, sanctuary of consumerism lifestyle is showing distinct signs of erosion. The clues are there for all to see and portend a bleak future for those mentally trapped in the delusions of a debt dependent suburban oasis of retail outlets, chain restaurants, office parks and enclaves of cookie cutter McMansions. An unsustainable paradigm can’t be sustained.

The first weekend had me driving along Ridge Pike, from Collegeville to Pottstown. Ridge Pike is a meandering two lane road that extends from Philadelphia, winds through Conshohocken, Plymouth Meeting, Norristown, past Ursinus College in Collegeville, to the farthest reaches of Montgomery County, at least 50 miles in length. It served as a main artery prior to the introduction of the interstates and superhighways that now connect the larger cities in eastern PA. Except for morning and evening rush hours, this road is fairly sedate. Like many primary routes in suburbia, the landscape is engulfed by strip malls, gas stations, automobile dealerships, office buildings, fast food joints, once thriving manufacturing facilities sitting vacant and older homes that preceded the proliferation of cookie cutter communities that now dominate what was once farmland.

Telltale Signs

 

 

I should probably be keeping my eyes on the road, but I can’t help but notice the telltale signs of an economic system gone haywire. As you drive along, the number of For Sale signs in front of homes stands out. When you consider how bad the housing market has been, the 40% decline in national home prices since 2007, the 30% of home dwellers underwater on their mortgage, and declining household income, you realize how desperate a home seller must be to try and unload a home in this market. The reality of the number of For Sale signs does not match the rhetoric coming from the NAR, government mouthpieces, CNBC pundits, and other housing recovery shills about record low inventory and home price increases.

The Federal Reserve/Wall Street/U.S. Treasury charade of foreclosure delaying tactics and selling thousands of properties in bulk to their crony capitalist buddies at a discount is designed to misinform the public. My local paper lists foreclosures in the community every Monday morning. In 2009 it would extend for four full pages. Today, it still extends four full pages. The fact that Wall Street bankers have criminally forged mortgage documents, people are living in houses for two years without making mortgage payments, and the Federal Government backing 97% of all mortgages while encouraging 3.5% down financing does not constitute a true housing recovery. Show me the housing recovery in these charts.

Existing home sales are at 1998 levels, with 45 million more people living in the country today.

New single family homes under construction are below levels in 1969, when there were 112 million less people in the country.

Another observation that can be made as you cruise through this suburban mecca of malaise is the overall decay of the infrastructure, appearances and disinterest or inability to maintain properties. The roadways are potholed with fading traffic lines, utility poles leaning and rotting, and signage corroding and antiquated. Houses are missing roof tiles, siding is cracked, gutters astray, porches sagging, windows cracked, a paint brush hasn’t been utilized in decades, and yards are inundated with debris and weeds. Not every house looks this way, but far more than you would think when viewing the overall demographics for Montgomery County. You wonder how many number among the 10 million vacant houses in the country today. The number of dilapidated run down properties paints a picture of the silent, barely perceptible Depression that grips the country today. With such little sense of community in the suburbs, most people don’t even know their neighbors. With the electronic transfer of food stamps, unemployment compensation, and other welfare benefits you would never know that your neighbor is unemployed and hasn’t made the mortgage payment on his house in 30 months. The corporate fascist ruling plutocracy uses their propaganda mouthpieces in the mainstream corporate media and government agency drones to misinform and obscure the truth, but the data and anecdotal observational evidence reveal the true nature of our societal implosion.

A report by the Census Bureau this past week inadvertently reveals data that confirms my observations on the roadways of my suburban existence. Annual household income fell in 2011 for the fourth straight year, to an inflation-adjusted $50,054. The median income — meaning half earned more, half less — now stands 8.9% lower than the all-time peak of $54,932 in 1999. It is far worse than even that dreadful result. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. When you understand that real household income hasn’t risen in 23 years, you can connect the dots with the decay and deterioration of properties in suburbia. A vast swath of Americans cannot afford to maintain their residences. If the choice is feeding your kids and keeping the heat on versus repairing the porch, replacing the windows or getting a new roof, the only option is survival.

US GDP vs. Median Household Income

All races have seen their income fall, with educational achievement reflected in the much higher incomes of Whites and Asians. It is interesting to note that after a 45 year War on Poverty the median household income for black families is only up 19% since 1968.

real household income

Now for the really bad news. Any critical thinking person should realize the Federal Government has been systematically under-reporting inflation since the early 1980’s in an effort to obscure the fact they are debasing the currency and methodically destroying the lives of middle class Americans. If inflation was calculated exactly as it was in 1980, the GDP figures would be substantially lower and inflation would be reported 5% higher than it is today. Faking the numbers does not change reality, only the perception of reality. Calculating real median household income with the true level of inflation exposes the true picture for middle class America. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1970, just prior to Nixon closing the gold window and unleashing the full fury of a Federal Reserve able to print fiat currency and politicians to promise the earth, moon and the sun to voters. With incomes not rising over the last four decades is it any wonder many of our 115 million households slowly rot and decay from within like an old diseased oak tree. The slightest gust of wind can lead to disaster.

Eliminating the last remnants of fiscal discipline on bankers and politicians in 1971 accomplished the desired result of enriching the top 0.1% while leaving the bottom 90% in debt and desolation. The Wall Street debt peddlers, Military Industrial arms dealers, and job destroying corporate goliaths have reaped the benefits of financialization (money printing) while shoveling the costs, their gambling losses, trillions of consumer debt, and relentless inflation upon the working tax paying middle class. The creation of the Federal Reserve and implementation of the individual income tax in 1913, along with leaving the gold standard has rewarded the cabal of private banking interests who have captured our economic and political systems with obscene levels of wealth, while senior citizens are left with no interest earnings ($400 billion per year has been absconded from savers and doled out to bankers since 2008 by Ben Bernanke) and the middle class has gone decades seeing their earnings stagnate and their purchasing power fall precipitously.

 

The facts exposed in the chart above didn’t happen by accident. The system has been rigged by those in power to enrich them, while impoverishing the masses. When you gain control over the issuance of currency, issuance of debt, tax system, political system and legal apparatus, you’ve essentially hijacked the country and can funnel all the benefits to yourself and costs to the math challenged, government educated, brainwashed dupes, known as the masses. But there is a problem for the 0.1%. Their sociopathic personalities never allow them to stop plundering and preying upon the sheep. They have left nothing but carcasses of the once proud hard working middle class across the country side. There are only so many Lear jets, estates in the Hamptons, Jaguars, and Rolexes the 0.1% can buy. There are only 152,000 of them. Their sociopathic looting and pillaging of the national wealth has destroyed the host. When 90% of the population can barely subsist, collapse and revolution beckon.

Extend, Pretend & Depend

As I drove further along Ridge Pike we passed the endless monuments to our spiral into the depths of materialism, consumerism, and the illusion that goods purchased on credit represented true wealth. Mile after mile of strip malls, restaurants, gas stations, and office buildings rolled by my window. Anyone who lives in the suburbs knows what I’m talking about. You can’t travel three miles in any direction without passing a Dunkin Donuts, KFC, McDonalds, Subway, 7-11, Dairy Queen, Supercuts, Jiffy Lube or Exxon Station. The proliferation of office parks to accommodate the millions of paper pushers that make our service economy hum has been unprecedented in human history. Never have so many done so little in so many places. Everyone knows what a standard American strip mall consists of – a pizza place, a Chinese takeout, beer store, a tanning, salon, a weight loss center, a nail salon, a Curves, karate studio, Gamestop, Radioshack, Dollar Store, H&R Block, and a debt counseling service. They are a reflection of who we’ve become – an obese drunken species with excessive narcissistic tendencies that prefers to play video games while texting on our iGadgets as our debt financed lifestyles ultimately require professional financial assistance.

What you can’t ignore today is the number of vacant storefronts in these strip malls and the overwhelming number of SPACE AVAILABLE, FOR LEASE, and FOR RENT signs that proliferate in front of these dying testaments to an unsustainable economic system based upon debt fueled consumer spending and infinite growth assumptions. The booming sign manufacturer is surely based in China. The officially reported national vacancy rates of 11% are already at record highs, but anyone with two eyes knows these self-reported numbers are a fraud. Vacancy rates based on my observations are closer to 30%. This is part of the extend and pretend strategy that has been implemented by Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, the FASB, and the Wall Street banking cabal. The fraud and false storyline of a commercial real estate recovery is evident to anyone willing to think critically. The incriminating data is provided by the Federal Reserve in their Quarterly Delinquency Report.

The last commercial real estate crisis occurred in 1991. Mall vacancy rates were at levels consistent with today.

The current reported office vacancy rates of 17.5% are only slightly below the 19% levels of 1991.

As reported by the Federal Reserve, delinquency rates on commercial real estate loans in 1991 were 12%, leading to major losses among the banks that made those imprudent loans. Amazingly, after the greatest financial collapse in history, delinquency rates on commercial loans supposedly peaked at 8.8% in the 2nd quarter of 2010 and have now miraculously plummeted to pre-collapse levels of 4.9%. This is while residential loan delinquencies have resumed their upward trajectory, the number of employed Americans has fallen by 414,000 in the last two months, 9 million Americans have left the labor force since 2008, and vacancy rates are at or near all-time highs. This doesn’t pass the smell test. The Federal Reserve, owned and controlled by the Wall Street, instructed these banks to extend all commercial real estate loans, pretend they will be paid, and value them on their books at 100% of the original loan amount. Real estate developers pretend they are collecting rent from non-existent tenants, Wall Street banks pretend they are being paid by the developers, and their highly compensated public accounting firm pretends the loans aren’t really delinquent. Again, the purpose of this scam is to shield the Wall Street bankers from accepting the losses from their reckless behavior. Ben rewards them with risk free income on their deposits, propped up by mark to fantasy accounting, while they reward themselves with billions in bonuses for a job well done. The master plan requires an eventual real recovery that isn’t going to happen. Press releases and fake data do not change the reality on the ground.

I have two strip malls within three miles of my house that opened in 1990. When I moved to the area in 1995, they were 100% occupied and a vital part of the community. The closest center has since lost its Genuardi grocery store, Sears Hardware, Blockbuster, Donatos, Sears Optical, Hollywood Tans, hair salon, pizza pub and a local book store. It is essentially a ghost mall, with two banks, a couple chain restaurants and empty parking spaces. The other strip mall lost its grocery store anchor and sporting goods store. This has happened in an outwardly prosperous community. The reality is the apparent prosperity is a sham. The entire tottering edifice of housing, autos, and retail has been sustained by ever increasing levels of debt for the last thirty years and the American consumer has hit the wall. From 1950 through the early 1980s, when the working middle class saw their standard of living rise, personal consumption expenditures accounted for between 60% and 65% of GDP. Over the last thirty years consumption has relentlessly grown as a percentage of GDP to its current level of 71%, higher than before the 2008 collapse.

If the consumption had been driven by wage increases, then this trend would not have been a problem. But, we already know real median household income is lower than it was in 1970. The thirty years of delusion were financed with debt – peddled, hawked, marketed, and pushed by the drug dealers on Wall Street. The American people got hooked on debt and still have not kicked the habit. The decline in household debt since 2008 is solely due to the Wall Street banks writing off $800 billion of mortgage, credit card, and auto loan debt and transferring the cost to the already drowning American taxpayer.

The powers that be are desperately attempting to keep this unsustainable, dysfunctional debt choked scheme from disintegrating by doling out more subprime auto debt, subprime student loan debt, low down payment mortgages, and good old credit card debt. It won’t work. The consumer is tapped out. Last week’s horrific retail sales report for August confirmed this fact. Declining household income and rising costs for energy, food, clothing, tuition, taxes, health insurance, and the other things needed to survive in the real world, have broken the spirit of Middle America. The protracted implosion of our consumer society has only just begun. There are thousands of retail outlets to be closed, hundreds of thousands of jobs to be eliminated, thousands of malls to be demolished, and billions of loan losses to be incurred by the criminal Wall Street banks.

The Faces of Failure & Futility

My fourteen years working in key positions for big box retailer IKEA has made me particularly observant of the hubris and foolishness of the big chain stores that dominate the retail landscape.  There are 1.1 million retail establishments in the United States, but the top 25 mega-store national chains account for 25% of all the retail sales in the country. The top 100 retailers operate 243,000 stores and account for approximately $1.6 trillion in sales, or 36% of all the retail sales in the country. Their misconceived strategic plans assumed 5% same store growth for eternity, economic growth of 3% per year for eternity, a rising market share, and ignorance of the possible plans of their competitors. They believed they could saturate a market without over cannibalizing their existing stores. Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowes have all hit the limits of profitable expansion. Each incremental store in a market results in lower profits.

My trip to my local Lowes last weekend gave me a glimpse into a future of failure and futility. Until 2009, I had four choices of Lowes within 15 miles of my house. There was a store 8 miles east, 12 miles west, 15 miles north, and 15 miles south of my house. In an act of supreme hubris, Lowes opened a store smack in the middle of these four stores, four miles from my house. The Hatfield store opened in early 2009 and I wrote an article detailing how Lowes was about to ruin their profitability in Montgomery County. It just so happens that I meet a couple of my old real estate buddies from IKEA at a local pub every few months. In 2009 one of them had a real estate position with Lowes and we had a spirited discussion about the prospects for the Lowes Hatfield store. He assured me it would be a huge success. I insisted it would be a dud and would crush the profitability of the market by cannibalizing the other four stores. We met at that same pub a few months ago. Lowes had laid him off and he admitted to me the Hatfield store was a disaster.

I pulled into the Lowes parking lot at 11:30 am on a Saturday. Big Box retailers do 50% of their business on the weekend. The busiest time frame is from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturday. Big box retailers build enough parking spots to handle this peak period. The 120,000 square feet Hatfield Lowes has approximately 1,000 parking spaces. I pulled into the spot closest to the entrance during their supposed peak period. There were about 70 cars in the parking lot, with most probably owned by Lowes workers. It is a pleasure to shop in this store, with wide open aisles, and an employee to customer ratio of four to one. The store has 14 checkout lanes and at peak period on a Saturday, there was ONE checkout lane open, with no lines. This is a corporate profit disaster in the making, but the human tragedy far overrides the declining profits of this mega-retailer.

As you walk around this museum of tools and toilets you notice the looks on the faces of the workers. These aren’t the tattooed, face pierced freaks you find in many retail establishments these days. They are my neighbors. They are the beaten down middle class. They are the middle aged professionals who got cast aside by the mega-corporations in the name of efficiency, outsourcing, right sizing, stock buybacks, and executive stock options. The irony of this situation is lost on those who have gutted the American middle class. When you look into the eyes of these people, you see sadness, confusion and embarrassment. They know they can do more. They want to do more. They know they’ve been screwed, but they aren’t sure who to blame. They were once the very customers propelling Lowes’ growth, buying new kitchens, appliances, and power tools. Now they can’t afford a can of paint on their $10 per hour, no benefit retail careers. As depressing as this portrait appears, it is about to get worse.

This Lowes will be shut down and boarded up within the next two years. The parking lot will become a weed infested eyesore occupied by 14 year old skateboarders. One hundred and fifty already down on their luck neighbors will lose their jobs, the township will have a gaping hole in their tax revenue, and the CEO of Lowes will receive a $50 million bonus for his foresight in announcing the closing of 100 stores that he had opened five years before. This exact scenario will play out across suburbia, as our unsustainable system comes undone. Our future path will parallel the course of the labor participation rate. Just as the 9 million Americans who have “left” the labor force since 2008 did not willfully make that choice, the debt burdened American consumer will be dragged kicking and screaming into the new reality of a dramatically reduced standard of living.

Connecting the dots between my anecdotal observations of suburbia and a critical review of the true non-manipulated data bestows me with a not optimistic outlook for the coming decade. Is what I’m seeing just the view of a pessimist, or are you seeing the same thing?

A few powerful men have hijacked our economic, financial and political structure. They aren’t socialists or capitalists. They’re criminals. They created the culture of materialism, greed and debt, sustained by prodigious levels of media propaganda. Our culture has been led to believe that debt financed consumption over morality and justice is the path to success. In reality, we’ve condemned ourselves to a slow painful death spiral of debasement and despair.

“A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, and fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.” – Chris Hedges

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A MATTER OF TRUST – PART TWO

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Posted on 8th August 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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This is Part 2 of my three part series on trust. Part 1 addressed the history of bubbles and busts and the role trust plays in these episodes. In the end, truth is what matters.

“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” - Santosh Kalwar

Hundred Year Bust

 

“Debasement was limited at first to one’s own territory. It was then found that one could do better by taking bad coins across the border of neighboring municipalities and exchanging them for good with ignorant common people, bringing back the good coins and debasing them again. More and more mints were established. Debasement accelerated in hyper-fashion until a halt was called after the subsidiary coins became practically worthless, and children played with them in the street, much as recounted in Leo Tolstoy’s short story, Ivan the Fool.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

The Holy Roman Empire debased their currency in the early 1600s the old fashioned way, by replacing good coins with bad coins. Any similarities with the U.S. issuing pennies that cost 2.4 cents to produce and nickels that cost 11 cents to produce is purely coincidental. I wonder what the ancient Greeks would think of our Olympic gold medals that contain 1.34% gold. The authorities have become much more sophisticated in the last one hundred years. Digital dollars are so much easier to debase. The hundred year central banker scientifically manufactured bust relentlessly plods towards its ultimate conclusion – the dollar reaching its intrinsic value of zero.

 

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Henry Ford

Henry Ford made this statement decades before the debasement of our currency entered overdrive. The facts reflected in the chart above should have provoked a revolution, but the ruling class has done a magnificent job of ensuring the mathematical ignorance of the masses through government education, mass media propaganda, and statistical manipulation of inflation data to obscure the truth. Mainstream economists have successfully convinced the average American that inflation is good for their lives and deflation is dangerous to their wellbeing. There are economists like Kindleberger, Shiller and Roubini who have brilliantly documented and predicted various bubbles, despite being scorned a ridiculed by the captured mouthpieces for the oligarchs. But even these fine men have a flaw in their thinking. They can see speculative manias spurred by irrational beliefs and delusional thinking, but are blind to the evil manipulations of bankers, politicians, and corporate titans. They believe that humans with Ivy League educations can outsmart markets and through the fine tuning of interest rates, manipulation of the money supply and provision of liquidity through a lender of last resort, can control the financial system and avoid panics.          

Kindleberger understood the dangers, but still concluded that the Federal Reserve lender of last resort was a desirable entity which would be a benefit to the smooth functioning of the economic system and people of the United States.  

“I contend that markets work well on the whole, and can normally be relied upon to decide the allocation of resources and, within limits, the distribution of income, but that occasionally markets will be overwhelmed and need help. The dilemma, of course, is that if markets know in advance that help is forthcoming under generous dispensations, they break down more frequently and function less effectively.

The dominant argument against the a priori view that panics can be cured by being left alone is that they almost never are left alone. The authorities feel compelled to intervene. In panic after panic, crash after crash, crisis after crisis, the authorities or some “responsible citizens” try to bring the panic to a halt by one device or another. The learning has taken the form of discovering the desirability and even the wisdom of a lender of last resort, rather than relying exclusively on the competitive forces of the market.” -– Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

Kindleberger’s reasoning seems to be that since egomaniac busy bodies in power always interfere in markets in order to convince voters they care; it is desirable to institutionalize this intervention. Book smart academics always think they can outsmart the markets and correct the errors caused by the flaws endemic across all humanity. Well-meaning brainy economists like Kindleberger, Shiller, and Stiglitz easily identify the irrationality of human nature in creating havoc with our economic system, but somehow conclude that human constructs like the Federal Reserve, tinkering with interest rates, controlling money supply, and applying fiscal stimulus can be managed to the benefit of the American people. This is a foolish notion and has been proven to be disastrous for the majority of the American people.

Why wouldn’t the same human flaws that lead to booms and busts manifest themselves in the actions of bankers and politicians selected to manage and control our economic system? Therein lays the problem and the need for a true free market method of dealing with our human frailties. The false storyline of Democratic socialism versus Republican free market capitalism is nothing more than propaganda talking points designed to keep the non-critical thinking public distracted from the looting and pillaging of the nation’s wealth by our owners – the wealthy powerful elite who have captured our political, economic and financial system. The “solution” to create a private central bank has created more crises than it has prevented.

When examining Kindleberger’s list of manias, panics and crashes, you will note that prior to 1913 almost all of these crashes occurred over the course of two years or less. The creation of the Federal Reserve was supposedly in response to the 1907 panic, created by J.P. Morgan, who then nobly came to the rescue of the banking system. He then secretly led the effort to create a central bank that would function as the lender of last resort during future panics. Forbes magazine founder B.C. Forbes later described the meeting that hatched the malevolent plan for the creation of a banker controlled Federal Reserve:

“Picture a party of the nation’s greatest bankers stealing out of New York on a private railroad car under cover of darkness, stealthily riding hundreds of miles South, embarking on a mysterious launch, sneaking onto an island deserted by all but a few servants, living there a full week under such rigid secrecy that the names of not one of them was once mentioned, lest the servants learn the identity and disclose to the world this strangest, most secret expedition in the history of American finance. I am not romancing; I am giving to the world, for the first time, the real story of how the famous Aldrich currency report, the foundation of our new currency system, was written.”

The American people should have been alarmed that a small group of powerful bankers designed the Federal Reserve and it was passed into law in the dead of night on December 23, 1913 with 27 Senators not even in Washington D.C. to vote on the bill. Something done this secretively never leads to a positive outcome. It is beyond question the creation of a private lender of last resort has not ended the boom and bust cycles of our economic system, but it has intensified and protracted them.

The Great Depression, which was precipitated by Federal Reserve easy money policies during the 1920s, Federal Reserve missteps in the early 1930s, and FDR driven government intervention in the markets, began in 1929 and did not truly end until 1946. The easy money Federal Reserve policies during the 1970s, along with Nixon’s closing the gold window, and commencement of our welfare/warfare state, led to a prolonged crisis from 1973 through 1982. The Federal Reserve easy money policies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, along with the repeal of Glass Steagall, belief that bankers could be trusted to regulate themselves, and capture of regulators, rating agencies, and politicians by Wall Street, has led to two prolonged epic busts between 1999 and 2009, with the biggest bust still coming down the track. Putting our trust in a secretive society of bankers has worked out exactly as expected, with bankers and their cronies becoming obscenely wealthy, while the average person has seen 96% of their purchasing power inflated away since the Federal Reserve’s inception.

The illusion of prosperity through debt and inflation does not change the fact that the inflation adjusted wages of blue collar manufacturing workers are lower today than they were 40 years ago. Luckily for your owners, 98% of Americans don’t know or care what the term “inflation adjusted” means. As long as they can keep buying stuff with one of their 15 credit cards, life is good. Ignorance is bliss.

 

The debate regarding whether markets should be allowed to correct themselves or be saved by the authorities has transcended the centuries. Kindleberger poses the dilemma succinctly:  

“There is of course much truth in these contentions, and some danger in coming to the rescue of the market to halt a panic too soon, too frequently, too predictably, or even on occasion at all. The opposing view concedes that it is desirable to purge the system of bubbles and manic investment but that a deflationary panic runs the risk of spreading and wiping out sound investments that may not be able to obtain the loans necessary to ensure survival.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

The lack of historical understanding and politically correct education doled out in public schools perpetuates the myth that Herbert Hoover was a do nothing non-interventionist that allowed the Great Depression to worsen because he refused to intervene. The truth is that FDR just continued and expanded upon the massive intervention begun by Hoover. It was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who commenced the policy of piling up huge deficits to support massive public-works projects. After declining or holding steady through most of the 1920s, federal spending soared between 1929 and 1932, increasing by more than 50%, the biggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime. Public projects undertaken by Hoover included the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Hoover Dam. His description of the advice of his Treasury Secretary has been passed down to the ignorant masses as his actual policy. But it’s another false storyline propagated by the mainstream media.  

“The leave-it-alone liquidationists headed by Secretary of Treasury Mellon felt that government must keep its hands off and let the slump liquidate itself. Mr. Mellon had only one formula: ‘Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.’ He insisted that, when the people get an inflationary brainstorm, the only way to get it out of their blood is to let it collapse. He held that even panic was not altogether a bad thing. He said: ‘It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.” – Herbert Hoover

In retrospect, Andrew Mellon’s advice, if followed, would have resulted in a short violent collapse, with a true recovery within a year or two (aka Iceland). This exact scenario had played out over the prior three centuries, as detailed by Kindleberger. The monetary intervention, tariffs, mal-investments, price controls, intimidation of businesses, and overall interference in the markets kept a true recovery from happening. Unemployment was still 19% in 1938, after years of stimulus. It wasn’t until 1946 that the U.S. economy started a real recovery, and that was due in part to the rest of the world being left in a smoldering ruin.

Based on the catastrophic results over the last hundred years, you would think the non-interventionist view on markets would be gaining traction. But, the interventionists gain even more power as they propose and implement more resolutions to the disasters they created with their previous solutions. The belief in the wisdom and ability of a few men to control the levers of a $70 trillion world economy for the good of the many is staggering in its naivety and basis in delusion. “Experts” can barely predict tomorrow’s weather, this month’s unemployment rate, the value of Facebook stock, or the next $5 billion snafu from the Prince of Wall Street – Jamie Dimon. But, we trust that Ben Bernanke, his fellow central bankers, and bunch of political hacks like Geithner know how to micro-manage the world economy.

Kindleberger understood exactly the risks in having an institutionalized lender of last resort:        

“One objection to helping either the borrowing banks and industry or lending to capitalists abroad was that it made both less prudent. In the insurance area this effect is called “moral hazard.” It is a strong argument for letting a financial crisis recover by itself, provided one is willing to take a long term view and worry equally, or almost equally, about a future financial crisis, as opposed to the present one. It requires a low rate of interest for trouble.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

And there is the rub. It is a rare case when faced with an immediate crisis that a leader will step back and assess the long-term implications of the short-term solutions which will avert or delay the crisis at hand. The present-day economic situation around the world is a result of no one ever worrying about a future financial crisis, because it was never a good time to bite the bullet and accept the consequences of our mistakes and failures. The solution for the last thirty years has been to kick the can down the road. This is how you end up with $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities, with the bill being passed on to future unborn generations.

 

When you combine this lack of leadership, courage and forethought with the fact that Federal Reserve governors are appointed by partisan political hacks, you produce a deadly potion for the trusting American populace. You end up with spineless weasels like Arthur Burns, who was bullied into easy money policies by Trick Dick Nixon, with the result being out of control inflation and a stagnating economy for ten years. You end up with a once staunch proponent of a currency backed by gold – Greenspan – turning into a tool for the Wall Street elite and rescuing them from their folly and extreme risk taking with other people’s money. You get a former Bush White House toady like Bernanke whose only solution to every problem is to fire up the helicopter and drop gobs of cash into the clutches of his Wall Street puppeteers. Whenever human nature is allowed to interfere with and tinker with the free market economic process, miscalculation, error, over-confidence, desire to please, self-interest, greed, and hubris lead to disaster.

Those who scorn the notion of a currency backed by gold are believers in the false premise that highly educated arrogant men are smarter than the markets and are capable of making the right decisions that will benefit the most people. These are the same people who prefer the actual results since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 to be obscured, miss-represented and ignored. In 1971 total credit market debt outstanding was $1.7 trillion. Today it stands at $54.6 trillion, a 3,200% increase in the 40 years since there were no longer immediate consequences for politicians over-promising, Wall Street over-lending, consumers over-borrowing and central bankers over-printing.    

 

The GDP of the U.S. was $1.1 trillion in 1971, with consumer spending only accounting for 62% and capital investment accounting for 16%. Today, GDP is $15.6 trillion with consumer spending accounting for 71% and capital investment only 12%. Trade surpluses of the early 1970s are now $600 billion annual deficits. Total debt to GDP has surged from 155% in 1971 to 350% today. The illusion of prosperity has been built on a mountain of debt with an avalanche imminent.

 

The truth is that human beings cannot be trusted to do the right thing. We are weak and susceptible to irrational and short-term thinking that now imperil our entire economic system. Did the gold standard prevent booms and busts prior to 1913? No. Since we are human, booms and busts cannot be prevented. Did the gold standard prevent politicians and bankers from making foolish self-serving short-term decisions that would have long-term negative consequences? Yes. A currency backed by nothing but the hollow promises of liars, swindlers and racketeers is destined to fail. Gold functioned as an alarm bell that revealed the machinations and frauds of politicians and bankers. It can be trusted because it has no ulterior motives, no ego, no desire to be loved, and no plans to run for re-election. It is an inconvenient check on do-gooders, warmongers, inflationists, and Keynesians. That is why it will never be embraced by either party or any central banker. It’s too truthful.

Kindleberger’s fears regarding the moral hazard of rescuing those who have taken excessive risk have been fully realized ten times over. The maestro – Alan Greenspan – should have his picture next to the term moral hazard in the dictionary. His entire reign as savior of American crony capitalism was marked by his intervention in markets to protect his bosses on Wall Street. His solution to every crisis was to lower interest rates and print mo money: 1987 Crash, Savings & Loan crisis, Gulf war, Mexican crisis, Asian crisis, LTCM, Y2K, bursting of internet bubble, 9/11. The Greenspan Put guaranteed the Federal Reserve would always come to the rescue with unlimited liquidity to prop up stock prices. Investors increasingly believed that in a crisis or downturn, the Fed would step in and inject liquidity until the problem got better. Invariably, the Fed did so each time, and the perception became firmly embedded in asset pricing in the form of higher valuations, narrower credit spreads, and excess risk taking. The privatizing of profits and socialization of losses continued and accelerated under Bernanke. These helicopter twins talked a good game, but their game plan only had one play – print money. Those Ivy League educations have proven to be invaluable.  

The Federal Reserve’s last shred of credibility and illusion of independence has been obliterated by their increasingly blatant backstopping of recklessly criminal Wall Street banks and secretive machinations with Washington politicians and foreign central bankers. Bernanke has lied to the American public, encouraged accounting fraud by Wall Street banks, overstepped his legal authority in purchasing toxic assets from Wall Street banks, been involved in the manipulation of LIBOR, screwed senior citizens and all savers with his zero interest rate policy, and used quantitative easing as a method enrich Wall Street at the expense of the general public that bear the heaviest burden of higher food and energy prices. The Bernanke Put is the only thing keeping a clearly overvalued stock market from crashing today. But delaying the inevitable through easy money policies will only exacerbate the pain of the ultimate crash. Bernanke is caught in a liquidity trap and his one weapon of choice is shooting blanks. Bernanke along with his banker and politician cronies have crossed the line of lawlessness in their futile efforts to retain their power and wealth. Jesse eloquently describes how a few evil men have captured our economic and political system:  

“The Fed is now engaged in a control fraud, and what appears to be racketeering in conjunction with a few big investment banks. They may have entered into it with good intentions, but they seem to have been turned towards deceit and corruption. This is not an historical event, but an ongoing theft in conjunction with a number of Wall Street banks, and politicians whom they have paid off through a corrupt system of campaign financing and influence peddling. This is nothing new in history if one reads the un-sanitized version. But people never think it can happen today, that somehow yesterday things were different, as if one is looking at some distant, foreign land. This is a facet of the illusion of general progress.

We are now in the cover-up stage of a scandal, similar to Watergate when the White House was stone-walling. The difference is that the corruption and capture of the government is much more pervasive now, and includes a significant portion of the mainstream media, so meaningful reform is difficult. Most of what has transpired so far has been designed to distract and placate the people in their righteous anger. The Fed deceives the Congress and the public, turns a blind eye to glaring conflicts of interest, and is essentially debasing the currency while transferring the wealth of the nation to their cronies. And still the regulators do not enforce the laws they have, and Washington drags its feet while accepting buckets of cash from the perpetrators.”Jesse

Putting our trust and faith in a few unelected bureaucrats and bankers, who use their obscene wealth to buy off politicians in writing the laws and regulations to favor them has proven to be a death knell for our country. The captured main stream media proclaims these men to be heroes and saviors of the world, when they are truly the villains in this episode. These are the men who unleashed the frenzy of Wall Street greed and pillaging by repealing Glass Steagall, blocking Brooksley Born’s efforts to regulate derivatives, encouraging mortgage fraud, not enforcing existing regulations, and creating speculative bubbles through excessively low interest rates and making it known they would bailout recklessness. They have created an overly complex tangled financial system so they could peddle propaganda to the math challenged American public without fear of being caught in their web of lies. Big government, big banks and big legislation like Dodd/Frank and Obamacare are designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. The system has been captured by a plutocracy of self-serving men. They don’t care about you or your children. We are only given 80 years, or so, on this earth and our purpose should be to sustain our economic and political system in a balanced way, so our children and their children have a chance at a decent life. Do you trust that is the purpose of those in power today? Should we trust the jackals and grifters who got us into this mess, to get us out?    

 

“This story is the ultimate example of American’s biggest political problem. We no longer have the attention span to deal with any twenty-first century crisis. We live in an economy that is immensely complex and we are completely at the mercy of the small group of people who understand it – who incidentally often happen to be the same people who built these wildly complex economic systems. We have to trust these people to do the right thing, but we can’t, because, well, they’re scum. Which is kind of a big problem, when you think about it.” - Matt Taibbi – Griftopia

Thus concludes Part 2 of my three part series on trust. Part 1 addressed our bubble based economic system and Part 3 will document a multitude of reasons to not trust bankers, politicians, government bureaucrats, corporate chieftains, or the mainstream media, while pondering the unavoidable bursting of our debt bubble and potential consequences.

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IT’S A MATTER OF TRUST – PART ONE

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Posted on 5th August 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan

     

“The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.”Lord Acton

Who do you trust? Do you trust the President? Do you trust Congress? Do you trust the Treasury Secretary? Do you trust the Federal Reserve? Do you trust the Supreme Court? Do you trust the Military Industrial Complex? Do you trust Wall Street bankers? Do you trust the SEC? Do you trust any government agency or regulator? Do you trust the corporate mainstream media? Do you trust Washington think tanks? Do you trust Madison Avenue PR maggots? Do you trust PACs? Do you trust lobbyists? Do you trust government unions? Do you trust the National Association of Realtors? Do you trust mega-corporation CEOs? Do you trust economists? Do you trust billionaires? Do you trust some anonymous blogger? You can’t even trust your parish priest or college football coach anymore. A civilized society cannot function without trust. The downward spiral of trust enveloping the world is destroying our global economy and will lead to collapse, chaos and bloodshed. The major blame for this crisis sits squarely on the shoulders of crony capitalists that rule our country, but the willful ignorance and lack of civic accountability from the general population has contributed to this impending calamity. Those in control won’t reveal the truth and the populace don’t want to know the truth – a match made in heaven – or hell.

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” – Aldous Huxley

The fact that 86% of American adults have never heard of Jamie Dimon should suffice as proof regarding the all-encompassing level of ignorance in this country. As the world staggers under the unbearable weight of debt built up over decades, to fund a fantasyland dream of McMansions, luxury automobiles, iGadgets, 3D HDTVs, exotic vacations, bling, government provided pensions, free healthcare that makes us sicker, welfare for the needy and the greedy, free education that makes us dumber, and endless wars of choice, the realization that this debt financed Ponzi scheme was nothing but a handful of pixie dust sprinkled by corrupt politicians and criminal bankers across the globe is beginning to set in. A law abiding society that is supposed to be based on principles of free market capitalism must function in a lawful manner, with the participants being able to trust the parties they do business with. When trust in politicians, regulators, corporate leaders and bankers dissipates, anarchy, lawlessness, unscrupulous greed, looting, pillaging and eventually crisis and panic engulf the system.

Our myopic egocentric view of the world keeps most from seeing the truth. Our entire financial system has been corrupted and captured by a small cabal of rich, powerful, and prominent men. It is as it always has been. History is filled with previous episodes of debt fueled manias, initiated by bankers and politicians that led to booms, fraud, panic, and ultimately crashes. The vast swath of Americans has no interest in history, financial matters or anything that requires critical thinking skills. They are focused on the latest tweet from Kim Kardashian about her impending nuptials to Kanye West, the latest rumors about the next American Idol judge or the Twilight cheating scandal.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble

Economist and historian Charles P. Kindleberger in his brilliant treatise Manias, Panics, and Crashes details the sordid history of unwitting delusional peasants being swindled by bankers and politicians throughout the ages. Human beings have proven time after time they do not act rationally, obliterating the economic teachings of our most prestigious business schools about rational expectations theory and efficient markets. The only thing efficient about our markets is the speed at which the sheep are butchered by the Wall Street slaughterhouse. If humanity was rational there would be no booms, no busts and no opportunity for the Corzines, Madoffs, and Dimons of the world to swindle the trusting multitudes. The collapse of a boom always reveals the frauds and swindlers. As the tide subsides, you find out who was swimming naked.

“The propensity to swindle grows parallel with the propensity to speculate during a boom… the implosion of an asset price bubble always leads to the discovery of frauds and swindles”Charles P. Kindleberger, economic historian

The historically challenged hubristic people of America always think their present-day circumstances are novel and unique to their realm, when history is wrought with similar manias, panics, crashes and criminality. Kindleberger details 38 previous financial crises since 1618 in his book, including:

  • The Dutch tulip bulb mania
  • The South Sea bubble
  • John Law Mississippi Company bubble
  • Banking crisis of 1837
  • Panic of 1857
  • Panic of 1873
  • Panic of 1907 – used as excuse for creation of Federal Reserve
  • Great Crash of 1929
  • Oil Shock of 1974-75
  • Asian Crisis of 1998

Kindleberger wrote his book in 1978 and had to update it three more times to capture the latest and greatest booms and busts. His last edition was published in 2000. He died in 2003. Sadly, he missed being able to document two of the biggest manias in history – the Internet bubble that burst in 2001 and the housing/debt bubble that continues to plague the world today. Every generation egotistically considered their crisis to be the worst of all-time as seen from quotes at the time:

  • 1837: “One of the most disastrous panics this nation ever experienced.”
  • 1857: “Crisis of 1857 the most severe that England or any other nations has ever encountered.”
  • 1873: “In 56 years, no such protracted crisis.”
  • 1929: “The greatest of speculative boom and collapse in modern times – since, in fact, the South Sea Bubble.”

Human beings have not changed over the centuries. We are a flawed species, prone to emotional outbursts, irrational behavior, alternately driven by greed and fear, with a dose of delusional thinking and always hoping for the best. These flaws will always reveal themselves because even though times change, human nature doesn’t. The cyclical nature of history is a reflection of our human foibles and flaws. The love of money, power, and status has been the driving force behind every boom and bust in history, as noted by historian Niall Ferguson.

“If the financial system has a defect, it is that it reflects and magnifies what we human beings are like. Money amplifies our tendency to overreact, to swing from exuberance when things are going well to deep depression when they go wrong. Booms and busts are products, at root, of our emotional volatility.” –  Niall Ferguson

Not only are our recent booms and busts not unique, but they have a common theme with all previous busts – greedy bankers, excessive debt, non-enforcement of regulations, corrupt public officials, rampant fraud, and unwitting dupes seeking easy riches. Those in the know use their connections and influence to capture the early profits during a boom, while working the masses into frenzy and providing the excessive leverage that ultimately leads to the inevitable collapse. As the bubble grows, rationality is thrown out the window and all manner of excuses and storylines are peddled to the gullible suckers to keep them buying. Nothing so emasculates your financial acumen as the sight of your next door neighbor or moronic brother-in-law getting rich. As long as all the participants believe the big lie, the bubble can inflate. As soon as doubt and mistrust enter the picture, someone calls a loan or refuses to be the greater fool, and panic ensues. This is when the curtain is pulled back on the malfeasance, frauds, deceptions and scams committed by those who engineered the boom to their advantage. As Kindleberger notes, every boom ends in the same way.

“What matters to us is the revelation of the swindle, fraud, or defalcation. This makes known to the world that things have not been as they should have been, that it is time to stop and see how they truly are. The making known of malfeasance, whether by the arrest or surrender of the miscreant, or by one of those other forms of confession, flight or suicide, is important as a signal that the euphoria has been overdone. The stage of overtrading may well come to an end. The curtain rises on revulsion, and perhaps discredit.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

When mainstream economists examine bubbles, manias and crashes they generally concentrate on short-term bubbles that last a few years. But some bubbles go on for decades and some busts have lasted for a century. The largest bubble in world history continues to inflate at a rate of $3.8 billion per day and has now expanded to epic bubble proportions of $15.92 trillion, up from $9.65 trillion in September 2008 when this current Wall Street manufactured crisis struck. A 65% increase in the National Debt in less than four years can certainly be classified as a bubble. We are currently in the mania blow off phase of this bubble, but it began to inflate forty years ago when Nixon closed the gold window. This unleashed the two headed monster of politicians buying votes with promises of unlimited entitlements for the many, tax breaks for the connected few and pork projects funneled to cronies, all funded through the issuance of an unlimited supply of fiat currency by a secretive cabal of central bankers running a private bank for the benefit of other bankers and their politician puppets. Crony capitalism began to hit its stride after 1971.

The apologists for the status quo, which include the corporate mainstream media, intellectually dishonest economist clowns like Krugman, Kudlow, Leisman, and Yun, ideologically dishonest think tanks funded by billionaires, and corrupt politicians of both stripes, peddle the storyline that a national debt of 102% of GDP, up from 57% in 2000, is not a threat to our future prosperity, unborn generations or the very continuance of our economic system. They use the current historically low interest rates as proof this Himalayan Mountain of debt is not a problem. Of course it is a matter of trust and faith in the ability of a few ultra-wealthy, sociopathic, Ivy League educated egomaniacs that their brilliance and deep understanding of economics that will see us through this little rough patch. The wisdom and brilliance of Ben Bernanke is unquestioned. Just because he missed a three standard deviation bubble in housing and didn’t even foresee a recession during 2008, doesn’t mean his zero interest rate/screw grandma policy won’t work this time. It’s done wonders for Wall Street bonus payouts.

The growth of this debt bubble is unsustainable, as it is on track to breach $20 trillion in 2015. The only thing keeping interest rates low is coordinated manipulation by Ben and his fellow sociopathic central bankers, the insolvent too big to fail banks using derivative weapons of mass destruction, and politicians desperately attempting to keep the worldwide debt Ponzi scheme from imploding on their watch. Their “solution” is to kick the can down the road. But there is a slight problem. The road eventually ends.

At some point a grain of sand will descend upon a finger of instability in the sand pile and cause a collapse. No one knows which grain of sand will trigger the crisis of confidence and loss of trust. But with a system run by thieves, miscreants, and scoundrels, one of these villains will do something dastardly and the collapse will ensue. Ponzi schemes can only be sustained as long as there are enough new victims to keep it going. As soon as uncertainty, suspicion, fear and rational thinking enter the equation, the gig is up. Kindleberger lays out the standard scenario, as it has happened numerous times throughout history.

“Causa remota of the crisis is speculation and extended credit; causa proxima is some incident that snaps the confidence of the system, makes people think of the dangers of failure, and leads them to move from commodities, stocks, real estate, bills of exchange, promissory notes, foreign exchange – whatever it may be – back into cash. In itself, causa proxima may be trivial: a bankruptcy, suicide, a flight, a revelation, a refusal of credit to some borrower, some change of view that leads a significant actor to unload. Prices fall. Expectations are reversed. The movement picks up speed. To the extent that speculators are leveraged with borrowed money, the decline in prices leads to further calls on them for margin or cash and to further liquidation. As prices fall further, bank loans turn sour, and one or more mercantile houses, banks, discount houses, or brokerages fail. The credit system itself appears shaky, and the race for liquidity is on.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes

Despite centuries of proof that human nature will never change, there are always people (usually highly educated) who think they are smart enough to fix the markets when they breakdown and create institutions, regulations and mechanisms that will prevent manias, panics and crashes. These people inevitably end up in government, central banks and regulatory agencies. Their huge egos and desire to be seen as saviors lead to ideas that exacerbate the booms, create the panic and prolong the crashes. They refuse to believe the world is too complex, interconnected and unpredictable for their imagined ideas of controlling the levers of economic markets to have a chance of success. The reality is that an accident may precipitate a crisis, but so may action designed to prevent a crisis or action by these masters of the universe taken in pursuit of other objectives. Examining the historical record of booms and busts yields some basic truths. The boom and bust business cycle is the inevitable consequence of excessive growth in bank credit, exacerbated by inherently damaging and ineffective central bank policies, which cause interest rates to remain too low for too long, resulting in excessive credit creation, speculative economic bubbles and lowered savings.

Low interest rates tend to stimulate borrowing from the banking system. This expansion of credit causes an expansion of the supply of money through the money creation process in our fractional reserve banking system. This leads to an unsustainable credit-sourced boom during which the artificially stimulated borrowing seeks out diminishing investment opportunities. The easy credit issued to non-credit worthy borrowers results in widespread mal-investments and fraud. A credit crunch leading to a bust occurs when exponential credit creation cannot be sustained. Then the money supply suddenly and sharply contracts as fear and loathing of debt replace greed and worship of debt. In theory, markets should clear through liquidation of bad debts, bankruptcy of over-indebted companies and the failure of banks that made bad loans. Sanity is restored to the marketplace through failure, allowing resources to be reallocated back towards more efficient uses. The housing boom and bust from 2000 through today perfectly illustrates this process. Of course, Bernanke declared housing to be on solid footing in 2007.

The housing market has not been allowed to clear, as Bernanke has artificially kept interest rates low, government programs have created false demand, and bankers have shifted their bad loans onto the backs of the American taxpayer while using fraudulent accounting to pretend they are solvent. Our owners are frantically attempting to re-inflate the bubble, just as they did in 2003. Our deepest thinkers, like Greenspan, Krugman, Bush, Dodd, and Frank knew we needed a new bubble after the Internet bubble blew up in their faces and did everything in their considerable power to create the first housing bubble. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Human nature hasn’t changed in centuries. We have faith that humanity has progressed, but the facts prove otherwise. We are a species susceptible to the passions of power, greed, delusion, and an inflated sense of our own intellectual superiority. And we still like to kill each other in the name of country and honor. There is nothing progressive about crashing the worldwide economic system and invading countries for “our” oil.

History has taught that there will forever be manias, bubbles and the subsequent busts, but how those in power deal with these episodes has been and will be the determining factor in the future of our economic system and country.

Humanity is deeply flawed; the average human life is around 80 years; men of stature, wealth, over-confidence in their superior intellect, and egotistical desire to leave their mark on history, always rise to power in government and the business world; this is why history follows a cyclical path and the myth of human progress is just a fallacy.

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that History has to teach” – Aldous Huxley

In Part 2 of this three part series I will examine the one hundred year experiment of trusting a small cabal of non-elected bankers to manage and guide our economic system for the benefit of the American people.

 

 

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ECONOMIC REPORT CARD – FAIL

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Posted on 8th July 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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We are now three and one half years into Barack Obama’s presidency. I thought a few pertinent charts would help us assess the success of his economic policies. Upon his election he demanded an $800 billion stimulus package in order to keep the unemployment rate from surpassing 8%. The $800 billion was to be spent over two years we were told and then government spending would be scaled back to pre-stimulus levels. There were 145 million Americans employed when Obama was elected. There are 9 million more working age Americans today than there were in 2008. There are now 142.4 million employed Americans. So, we’ve added 9 million potential workers and still have 2.6 less Americans employed. We have the same number of Americans employed as we did in early 2006, when there were 17 million less working age Americans.

The Obama stimulus plan was passed with everything he wanted. Democrats controlled the House and Senate and gave him exactly what he proposed. By October 2009, the unemployment rate was 10%. Obama’s stimulus package and economic policies have been so successful that he has been able to get the unemployment rate all the way down to 8.2% after three and one half years, even though he said his stimulus package would keep the unemployment rate under 8%. And all it took to get the unemployment rate down to 8.2% was for 8 MILLION Americans to leave the labor force. A critical thinking person who doesn’t swallow the crap peddled by the BLS and the rest of the government propaganda machine might question WHY 8 million Americans would leave the workforce when people desperately need income. If the labor participation rate had stayed constant, the current unemployment rate is 10.9%.

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The long-term chart below tells the true story. The BLS classifying millions as not in the labor force is a crock. The Obama apologists and sycophants peddle a false storyline about Baby Boomers retiring as the cause for this labor force decline. The fact is people over the age of 55 have the highest participation rate in history and it continues to rise. Of the 142.4 million employed Americans, only 114 million works more than 35 hours per week, with 28.4 million working part-time. That means that 20% of those employed are part time workers with no benefits. In 2008, prior to the ascendency of Obama, there were 125 million full-time workers and 20 million part-time workers. Obama has been able to increase the percentage of part-time workers from 14% to 20% in just over 3 years. Remember this fact when Obama touts the 3 million new jobs he’s created since 2010.

If you were wondering what the 8.5 million Americans who have left the labor force since 2008 were doing, look no further than the millions of bedrooms now functioning as classrooms for the University of Phoenix and the other on-line, for profit diploma mills that have proliferated with the doling out of hundreds of billions in cheap government student loans. These for profit diploma mills know how to game the system and get their money even if the students drop out after a few months. They educate 12% of students, receive 25% of federal student aid and account for nearly 50% of loan defaults. Sounds like a great business model.

Low interest Federal government loans have skyrocketed from $100 billion when Obama took office to $450 billion today. Total student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion, with the average student graduating with $25,000 of debt and many more burdened with $100,000 or more of debt. Those part-time jobs making lattes at Starbucks aren’t cutting it. Default rates are already at a ten year high and are poised to skyrocket as more people graduate into a jobless job market. Not only is the American taxpayer on the hook for the $450 billion of direct Federal student loans, but the Federal government is guaranteeing another $450 billion. When the student loan bubble pops, the taxpayer financed bailout will be epic. And this is all being engineered by the Obama administration in order to artificially reduce the unemployment rate. Does this graph remind you of another bubble that resulted in a few problems for the American taxpayer?

After three and a half years, Obama’s policies have led to 11 million less full-time workers and 8 million more part-time workers – just like he drew it up on the board when he committed $800 billion of your tax dollars to saving our economy through classic Keynesianism. Obama declared the stimulus would be a two year jolt to get our economy back on track. Federal government spending was $2.7 trillion in 2006, $2.7 trillion in 2007 and $3.0 trillion in 2008, the last three years of Bush’s administration. If spending stayed on a standard trajectory, it would have been $3.1 trillion in 2009, $3.2 trillion in 2010, $3.3 trillion in 2011 and $3.4 trillion in 2012. With the end of the Iraq occupation in 2010, it should have dropped by $200 billion, resulting in total spending of $3.1 trillion in 2011 and $3.2 trillion in 2012.

Obama declared the stimulus would be short-term. Federal government spending should have risen to $3.5 trillion in 2009, $3.6 trillion in 2010 ($300 billion stimulus – $200 billion Iraq withdrawal), and then revert back to $3.3 trillion in 2011 and $3.4 trillion in 2012. Let’s see whether Obama was honest in his promises:

Federal Government Spending

2009 – $3.5 trillion

2010 – $3.5 trillion

2011 – $3.6 trillion

2012 – $3.8 trillion

After three and one half years of stimulus spending, Cash for Clunkers, Home Buyer Tax Credits, mortgage modification programs, Fannie, Freddie & FHA accumulating billions in bank losses, zero interest rates, QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, unlimited student loans, wars of choice in the Middle East, mark to fantasy accounting standards for Wall Street, and hundreds of billions in bonuses for criminal bankers, we are left with a $5.3 trillion (50% increase) higher national debt and a $300 billion (2.3% increase) higher real GDP. That’s not exactly a big bang for your Keynesian buck. The response you will get from the Obama apologists is, “Imagine how bad it would have been if we didn’t spend the money”. This is a classic liberal response when their solutions are a total failure. Krugman will declare that if we had only spent another $2 trillion all would be well.

As you can see, Obama and all the politicians in Washington DC are really good at spending your money on pork projects, paying off campaign contributors and compensating their corporate cronies. Do you see any reversion back to normalized spending? How can current spending be $300 billion higher than the two stimulus years if Obama was telling the truth in 2009? The Obamanistas declare we are still in an emergency and must borrow and spend to save the economy. The emergency never ends for politicians of both parties. This is how they have bastardized John Maynard Keynes’ theory. They love to implement spending when the economy is in the dumper, but they forget his admonition to pay down debt during the good times. It never happens. There will always be another emergency. Even 2nd grade level Sesame Street fans can see the Federal government spending and debt accumulation never reverses. It couldn’t be any more obvious, unless you are an intellectually dishonest Keynesian ideologue hack (aka Krugman).

This brings us to the crowning economic achievement of the Obama administration. His most successful program is unequivocally the SNAP food stamp program. When Obama assumed power in January 2009 there were 32 million Americans on food stamps and the annual cost of the program was $44 billion. Today there are 46 million Americans on food stamps and the annual cost is pacing at $75 billion. He has been able to get fully 15% of the U.S. population enrolled in this fantastic program and the Department of Agriculture is even running advertisements to convince more people to join.

And don’t worry about any restrictions. You can buy as much soda, ice cream, cheetos, and fudge brownies with your SNAP card as you choose. Of course, you are still free to purchase higher end fare.

A cynical less trusting soul than me might even conclude that Obama’s goal is to provide government entitlements to as many people as possible in order to win votes in the upcoming election. One might ask how he can tout an economic recovery and the millions of “new” jobs he has created since 2010, when 6 million people have been added to the food stamp rolls since his economic recovery officially began in 2010. I’m confused by the Obama distinction between success and utter failure.

Not far behind the food stamp program, the SSDI program has been another resounding Obama success. He has been able to enroll twice as many participants in this program as jobs created since the end of the recession. There are already 10 million people on SSDI costing the American taxpayer in excess of $150 billion per year. There are 250,000 people per month applying for benefits and the program will be broke by 2015. In a shocking development, when people began to roll off the 99 week unemployment gravy train, the number of new SSDI applications soared. I guess they were depressed at not being able to collect unemployment for two more years.

Bob Adelman recently summed up the SSDI scam:

“The program, funded federally but administered by the states, is being milked by many who have run out of unemployment benefits and other resources and haven’t been able to find work. At present one out of every eight working-age, non-retired individuals receive disability payments, some for “mental disorders” and “back pain.” Claims for mental disorders, for instance, have more than tripled from 10 percent of cases in 1982 to 32.8 percent in 2012, with half of those based on “mood disorders” such as depression or anxiety. Back or neck “problems” have increased by 31 percent and were the top cause of disability for 50- to 64-year olds. Depression and anxiety and other emotional problems increased by 20 percent, and now constitute one-third of all disability claims. Once on the rolls, beneficiaries have little incentive to return to work because their disability entitles them to additional benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, and student-loan forgiveness. As a result less than one half of one percent of those on disability ever go back to work.”

I’m depressed by the results of Obama’s economic policies. Maybe I should apply for SSDI.

It appears that former college professor Obama never paid attention in his macroeconomics undergraduate course. The “guns versus butter model” doesn’t enter the equation for a profound thinker like Barack. Why do hard choices need to be made when Ben Bernanke is manning the printing press? In the real world, a nation has to choose between two options when spending its finite resources. It can buy either guns (invest in defense/military) or butter (invest in production of goods), or a combination of both. This can be seen as an analogy for choices between defense and civilian spending in more complex economies. Politicians and bankers have been ignoring this rational model since 1971 when Nixon closed the gold window. Why make difficult choices when you can borrow and print your way to prosperity? As a country we’ve chosen guns, butter, BMWs, McMansions, free unfunded healthcare, unfunded pensions, unfunded sickcare, and DHS implemented security for all. In order to prove himself tougher than George W., Obama, the socialist, has actually increased war spending by 23% to an all-time high. Fiat currency is an amazing invention. Guns, butter and healthcare for all.

Mainstream media liberals like Ezra Klein dutifully trot out charts and storylines trying to convince the ignorant masses that Obama is not to blame for the soaring national debt. They declare it was the Bush tax cuts and his wars. This blame Bush storyline is growing old as Obama has already extended the Bush tax cuts once, ramped up wars in the Middle East and cut payroll taxes for the last two years. The Office of Management and Budget has calculated the total increase in the national debt will be $7.8 trillion after eight years of Obama, 269% more than was accumulated during the Bush reign of error. I believe the $7.8 trillion is ridiculously optimistic. The national debt has increased by $5.3 trillion since Obama took office. It will go up another $200 billion by the end of this fiscal year. It will surely exceed $1 trillion per year during a 2nd Obama term as he would extend most of the Bush tax cuts, extend the payroll tax cuts, continue to increase war spending, and the hidden delayed Obamacare costs would arrive. His eight year report card will show a $9.5 trillion increase in the national debt, reaching the magic grand total of $20 trillion. The national debt to GDP ratio will be close to 120%.

This scathing assessment of Obama’s economic policies is by no means an endorsement of Mitt Romney or his economic plan, since he has never provided a detailed economic plan. After four years of a Romney presidency, the national debt will also be $20 trillion as his war with Iran and handouts to his Wall Street brethren replace Obama’s food stamps and entitlement pork. There was only one presidential candidate whose proposals would have placed this country back on a sustainable path. The plutocracy controlled corporate mainstream media did their part in ignoring and then scorning Ron Paul during his truth telling campaign. The plutocracy wants to retain their wealth and power, while the willfully ignorant masses don’t want to think. The words of Ron Paul sum up what will occur over the coming years as the interchangeable pieces of this corporate fascist farce drive the country to ruin:

“Deficits mean future tax increases, pure and simple. Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers.” 

“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.”

“Believe me, the next step is a currency crisis because there will be a rejection of the dollar, the rejection of the dollar is a big, big event, and then your personal liberties are going to be severely threatened.”

 

 

The politicians, bankers and corporate titans running this country are too corrupt and cowardly to reverse the course on our path to destruction. The debt will continue to accumulate until our Minsky Moment. At that point the U.S. dollar will be rejected and chaos will reign. The Great American Empire will be no more. At that time sides will need to be chosen and blood will begin to spill. Decades of bad decisions, corruption, cowardice, ignorance, greed and sloth will come to a head. The verdict of history will not be kind to the once great American Empire.

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WHO DESTROYED THE MIDDLE CLASS – PART 2

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Posted on 22nd June 2012 by Administrator in Economy

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In Part 1 of this three part series I addressed where and how the net worth of the middle class was stolen. In Part 2, I will tackle who stole your net worth and in Part 3, why they stole your net worth. Now let’s zero in on the culprits of this crime.

Dude, Who Stole My Net Worth?

“Thus far, both political parties have been remarkably clever and effective in concealing this new reality. In fact, the two parties have formed an innovative kind of cartel—an arrangement I have termed America’s political duopoly. Both parties lie about the fact that they have each sold out to the financial sector and the wealthy. So far both have largely gotten away with the lie, helped in part by the enormous amount of money now spent on deceptive, manipulative political advertising.” Charles FergusonPredator Nation

When you dig into the charts and data supplied by the Federal Reserve generated report, the data which goes back to 2001 tells a story not addressed by the deceptive, manipulative, political propaganda that passes for investigative reporting by the captured mainstream media. The chart below compares the median versus mean income growth from the last three Fed consumer surveys. Overall, it reveals a lost decade of negative income growth for the average middle class family. In the early part of the decade the average middle class family made some progress as jobs were relatively plentiful and the internet crash mostly impacted the rich, who own most of the stocks in the country. This is why the median income rose while the average income fell. The wealthy have a large impact on the average because they own the vast majority of assets in this country. The stock market debacle was unacceptable to the oligarchs and their money printing puppet Greenspan.

Both the liberal and conservative wings of the ruling oligarchy were in complete agreement. A new bubble needed to be blown in order to refill the coffers of the ruling class. Paul Krugman spoke for the liberal wing:

“To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble.”

Greenspan and his handpicked successor Bernanke represented the conservative wing by reducing interest rates to ridiculously low levels, failing to carry out their regulatory obligations, encouraging recklessness, and purposefully failing to acknowledge and deflate the greatest housing bubble in world history:

“American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage.” Alan Greenspan – February 2004

“House prices have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past two years. Although speculative activity has increased in some areas, at a national level these price increases largely reflect strong economic fundamentals.” – Ben Bernanke – October 2005

“With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly.” – Ben Bernanke – November 2005

The master plan worked like a charm from 2004 through 2007 as you can see by the tremendous surge in average income. The stock market rocketed by 75% between 2003 and 2007 and national home prices shot up by 50%. Wall Street creatively invented no doc, negative amortization, interest only, subprime mortgages and generated a frenzy of demand from anyone that could scratch an X on a loan document, just as Greenspan had demanded. Being “sophisticated” financial institutions, they were able to assemble thousands of shit loans that were certain to default into one big derivative package of shit and their captured lackeys at the “sophisticated” rating agencies stamped a AAA rating on the smelly pile of feces. Always looking out for the best interests of their clients (aka muppets), the upstanding Wall Street firms sold the derivative piles of shit to them as can’t miss investments. Wall Street profits went off the charts. Billions in bonuses flowed to the rich and powerful Wall Street titans. Mega-corporations generated record profits as consumers utilized the Fed induced tsunami of easy debt to buy BMWs, 72 inch HDTVs, home theaters, stainless steel appliances, granite counter-tops, Caribbean cruises, Jimmy Choo shoes, and Rolex watches in a mad frenzy of consumer delusion.

What you might also notice in the chart above is that median household income somehow declined during this decadent orgy of corporate fascist pleasure. How could this be? Table 2 from the Fed report makes it clear. The vast majority of households in this country generate 75% to 81% of their income from wages. Virtually none of the income generated in 85 million households (the bottom 75%) comes from interest, dividends or capital gains. You need money to make money. The top 10% only generated 46% of their income from wages. The report does not provide details on the top 1%, but wages most certainly account for less than 20% of their income. Interest, dividends and capital gains represented 22.2% of the income for the top 10%, while it represented less than 1% of income for the bottom 75%. This data is the smoking gun that proves that Federal Reserve policy and control fraud on a grand scale by the titans of Wall Street was designed and executed to benefit only the wealthy elite billionaire class and their co-conspirators. All the income gains during this time accrued to the psychopathic amoral financial oligarchy. The average family saw their real wages decline and anyone lured into the housing market during this time frame by the “sophisticated” financial experts at Citicorp, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and the other members of the Too Big To Fail criminal syndicate was set up for epic loses.

Source of Household Income By Percentile of Net Worth

As expected, the psychopathic banker class could not be satisfied with the results of their looting. Their gluttonous voracious greed culminated in a historic collapse of the worldwide financial system resulting in a housing implosion, stock market crash and 8 million middle class Americans losing their jobs.  The Fed report does show that average household income declined more than median household income after this historic financial oligarchy created collapse. One look at Table 6 from the Fed report will explain why. Only 15% of families own stocks and only 50% have retirement accounts. Approximately 50 million households in the country have virtually no stocks and less than 30% have retirement accounts. The top 10% wealthiest households, with a median household net worth of $1.2 million, proportionately own 3 times as much stock as the average family and 90% have retirement accounts. Therefore, the 57% crash in stocks impacted the top 10% to a greater extent, while the average family was most impacted by the 28% drop in home prices.

9 out of 10 Young People Don't Invest in Stocks

Despite the fact that the median net worth of the top 10% actual rose from $1.17 million in 2007 to $1.19 million in 2010 (while the bottom 80% saw their net worth decline by 36%) the losses in the stock market were intolerable to the banker predators and their captured government parasite politicians. All the “solutions” to the Wall Street induced financial debacle have been designed to benefit those who committed the crime and should have done the time. The singular design of those pulling the strings was to replenish the treasure chests on Wall Street, engineer a stock market rally to pump up the net worth and capital gain income for the 1%, and protect the vested interests of the financial elite. All the obscene criminally generated profits created during the boom were privatized into the grubby hands of the financial predators, while the subsequent gargantuan losses were socialized onto the backs of the American middle class taxpayers and future unborn generations.

TARP was rammed through the captured Congress by the oligarchs despite a 300 to 1 opposition from the public in order to protect obscenely wealthy bankers, stockholders and bondholders. The $800 billion of debt financed political pork, disguised as stimulus, was doled out to corporate contributors, union thugs, and a myriad of other special interests. Zero interest rates are specifically geared to generate billions of risk free profits for Wall Street and to force retirees to gamble their dwindling retirement funds in the rigged stock market. Bernanke and Paulson threatened the limp wristed pocket protector CPAs at the FASB into allowing Wall Street banks to make up the value of their loan portfolios in order to mislead the public regarding their insolvency. The tripling of the Federal Reserve balance sheet from $950 billion in September 2008 to $2.9 trillion today was done to remove the toxic assets from the balance sheets of the Too Big To Fail Wall Street cabal at 100 cents on the dollar.  QE1, QE2, and Operation Twist have had the sole purpose of providing the “sophisticated” financial elite with the funds to pump into the stock market using their high frequency trading super computers.

The subsequent Federal Reserve contrived 100% increase in the S&P 500 has repaired the damaged balance sheets of the moneyed interests, while the average middle class family has sunk further into debt and despair. The powerful entrenched sociopathic marauder class cares not for the average middle class American. They can barely conceal their contempt and disgust for the masses as they blatantly flaunt their hegemony and supremacy over our decrepit decaying corrupted economic system. M. Ramsey King described the disgusting display last week:

“Jamie Dimon’s appearance before the Senate Banking Committee was a sickening display that clearly demonstrated that Congress has been thoroughly corrupted by Wall Street. Instead of grilling Dimon, Senators acted like overly affectionate puppies fighting each other for an opening to smooch their master.”

The destruction of the middle class has been methodical and systematic. The top 10% of earners had a median net worth of $1.19 million, or 192 times as much as the median wealth of $6,200 of those in the bottom 20% in 2010. In 2007, the top 10% had 138 times as much wealth as the bottom 20%. In 2001, it was 106 times as much. With the continued rise in the stock market, declining real wages for the middle class, and further home price declines, the gap between the top 10% and the bottom 20% has continued to widen. The level of pain being experienced by the middle class has reached an unprecedented extreme. A few data points from David Rosenberg make that clear:

  • Forty-six million Americans (one in seven) are on food stamps.
  • One in seven is unemployed or underemployed.
  • The percentage of those out of work defined as long-term unemployed is the highest (42%) since the Great Depression.
  • 54% of college graduates younger than 25 are unemployed or underemployed.
  • 47% of Americans receive some form of government assistance.
  • Employment-to-population ratio for 25- to 54-year-olds is now 75.7%, lower than when the recession “ended” in June 2009.
  • There are 7.7 million fewer full-time workers now than before the recession, and 3.3 million more part-time workers.
  • Eight million people have left the labor force since the recession “ended” — adding those back in would put the unemployment rate at 12% instead of 8.2%.
  • The number of unemployed looking for work for at least 27 weeks jumped 310,000 in May, the sharpest increase in a year.

I would add a few more data points to David’s list of woe:

  • Over 7.5 million homes have been foreclosed upon by the Wall Street bankers since 2008.
  • The National Debt has increased by $5.7 trillion (57% increase) since September 2008, while real GDP has risen by $305 billion (2.3% increase) since the 3rd quarter of 2008.
  • Interest income paid to senior citizens and savers has declined by $400 billion (29% decline) since September of 2008 due to Ben Bernanke’s ZIRP.
  • Government transfer payments have risen by $500 billion (32% increase) since September 2008, while private industry wages have risen by $200 billion (4.7% increase).
  • The price of a gallon of gas has risen from $1.70 in December 2008 to $3.53 today.
  • Food prices have risen by 7% to 10% since late 2008, even using the falsified BLS data. A true assessment by anyone who actually goes to a grocery store (not Bernanke – his maid does the shopping) would be a 10% to 20% increase.

The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth. They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.

“Senator, don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining” – Fletcher – Outlaw Josey Wales

The situation is growing increasingly unstable and has left the country susceptible to an extreme outcome when this teetering tower of debt topples.

The moneyed interests have brilliantly pitted the middle class against the lower classes through their control of the media, academia, and the political system. They have cleverly blamed the victims for their own plight. They have convinced the general public that millions have lost their homes to foreclosure because they were careless, greedy and stupid. They blame the Community Reinvestment Act. They blame others for taking on too much debt when they were the issuers of the debt. The Wall Street moneyed interests created the fraud inducing mortgage products, employed the thousands of sleazy mortgage brokers, bullied appraisers into fraudulent appraisals, paid off rating agencies, bribed the regulators, bet against the derivatives they had sold to their clients, threatened to burn down the financial system unless Congress handed them $700 billion, and paid themselves billions in bonuses for a job well done. But, according to these greedy immoral bastards, the real problem in this country is the lazy good for nothing parasites on food stamps and collecting unemployment, who need to stop complaining and pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get a damn job. It’s a storyline used against Occupy Wall Street and anyone who questions their right to plunder what is left on the carcass of America. The vilest fraud in the history of man was perpetrated by these evil men and not one executive of these firms has been prosecuted. Obama, the champion of the little people, has proven to be nothing but a figurehead for the powers that be. Proof that the Wall Street syndicate is winning the war couldn’t be any clearer than the fact that the top six criminal banks now have 40% more of the nation’s assets in their vaults than they did before they burned down the economy.

The demonization of the victims continues, while the perpetrators prosper. The sociopaths appear to be winning; just as they seemed to be winning in the later stages of the Roman Empire.

“And we often fall into this bias on the prompting of con men and sociopaths of the predator class who use it to justify their own criminal actions and personal injustice. They are not burdened with empathy for their victims, and even delight in their misfortune. But they must find ways to make their actions more acceptable to society as a whole that normally does have such concerns for equity and justice.”Jesse

 

“Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions?” –  Camille Paglia

I think you know the answer to this question.

If you missed the first part of this series, CLICK HERE to read it.

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