TRYING TO STAY SANE IN AN INSANE WORLD – AT WORLD’S END

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Posted on 10th September 2013 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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

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

 

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

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

 

Increase in Real GDP per Dollar of Incremental Debt

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

Five Stages of Collapse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monetary Base (billions of USD)

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

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

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

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

In Whom Do You Trust?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

 IT’S OUR CHOICE.

TRYING TO STAY SANE IN AN INSANE WORLD – PART 2

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Posted on 4th August 2013 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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In Part 1 of this article I detailed the insane solutions proposed and executed since 2008 by our owners as they attempt to retain and further expand their ill-gotten wealth, acquired through fraud, deceit, swindles, and the brilliant manipulation and exploitation of the masses through Bernaysian propaganda techniques. Madness has engulfed the entire world, with a concentration of power in the hands of a few psychopathic financial elite wielding an inordinate and dangerous expanse of power over the lives of the common man. They are a modern day version of Al Capone, except their weapons of choice aren’t machine guns, but a printing press, peddling debt, creating derivatives of mass destruction, and peddling heaping doses of disinformation. The contemporary criminal class wears Hermes suits, Rolex watches and diamond studded pinky rings, drops $500 to dine at Masa in NYC, travels by chauffeured limo, lives in $10 million NYC penthouse suites, occupies luxurious corner offices in hundred story glass towers, and spends weekends hobnobbing with the other financial elite at their villas in the Hamptons. They have nothing but utter contempt for the lowly peasants who depend upon a weekly paycheck to make ends meet. Why work when you can steal $1 or $2 billion from farmers with no consequences?

  

The willfully ignorant masses are kept at bay by the selling them a false dichotomy of Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, and capitalism versus socialism. The ruling class distracts the public with fake wars on poverty, drugs and terror, while using these storylines to further enrich themselves and keep the public alarmed and frightened. We’ve been “fighting” the wars on poverty and drugs for over four decades and poverty is at record levels, while drugs are easier to obtain than candy in a candy store. The war on terror is nothing more than a corporate arms dealer welfare plan. The end of the Cold War put a real crimp in the bottom lines of Lockheed Martin and the rest of the peddlers of death. 9/11 and the subsequent undeclared wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria, with Iran on the horizon, have been a godsend to the bottom lines of the corporations Eisenhower warned about in 1961. In reality, the politicians are interchangeable and bought off by corporate and special interests. The people are sold a fable, and controlled opposition is the fairy tale. They perpetuate the welfare/warfare state that enriches Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the healthcare service complex, politically connected mega-corporations and the corporate media propaganda complex. The American people are given the illusion of choice by their keepers. The system is rigged. The real decisions are made by unelected secretive men who operate in the shadows and use their wealth to direct the decision making of the politicians, government bureaucrats, and corporate entities that benefit from those decisions. Edward Bernays described a society that existed in the 19th Century, 20th Century, and has now grown to immense proportions in the 21st Century:

“Political campaigns today are all sideshows…A presidential candidate may be ‘drafted’ in response to ‘overwhelming popular demand,’ but it is well known that his name may be decided upon by half a dozen men sitting around a table in a hotel room…The conscious manipulation of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”Edward Bernays 

The manipulation of the masses has been perfected by the ruling class through decades of corporate mass media messaging the purposeful dumbing down of the populace through government public school education that teaches children how to feel rather than how to think. The conscious manipulation of the masses has been designed to produce obedient non-thinking consumers of corporate products, educated to believe the accumulation of material goods with debt constitutes wealth, to fear whatever the government tells them to fear, and never look up from their iGadgets long enough to actually think for themselves. We are bombarded with Orwellian memes designed to keep us sedated and pliant, as the ruling class pillages the national wealth and expands their power and control over our lives.

Conform; Stay Asleep; Do Not Question Authority; Obey; Consume; Reproduce; Submit; Watch TV; Buy; Follow; Doubt Humanity; No New Ideas; Feel, Don’t Think; Fear; Accumulate; Honor Apathy; Believe Experts; Surrender; Spend; No Independent Thought; Win; Want More; Hate; Succumb To Desire; Yield To Power; Choose Safety Over Liberty; Choose Security Over Freedom   

This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character.

Are You Sane?

“A sane person to an insane society must appear insane.” – Kurt Vonnegut – Welcome to the Monkey House

Vonnegut and Huxley’s social commentary reveals a basic truth that societies and human beings have been prone to bouts of madness over the course of decades and centuries. Humans are a weak species, susceptible to the vagaries of greed, lust, gluttony, wrath, sloth, envy and pride. The seven deadly sins are in full bloom today, as the American empire descends through Dante’s inferno of reality TV, celebrity worship, religious zealotry, adulation of wealthy titans, military conquest and worship of false idols. Over the centuries humans have gone mad over tulips, farm land, stocks, and real estate. The easily duped American populace has been victimized by multiple bubbles bursting since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. The contention that a central bank run by private banking interests would promote a safer financial system and a stable currency is laughable. The Federal Reserve and the bankers who control it have created three stock bubbles, the largest housing bubble in history, a bond bubble and the mother of all debt bubbles, while destroying 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in the last 100 years.

There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo.

Greenspan’s easy money policies, manufacturing of negative real short term interest rates, regulatory malfeasance and unspoken promise to bail out Wall Street whenever their excessive risk taking threatened to burn down the financial system, led to 50% stock market crash in 2000/2001, a 40% plunge in national home prices, and another 55% stock market crash in 2008/2009. While Ivy Leaguers Bernanke, Paulson, Hubbard, Krugman, and Bush were too obtuse or too blinded by their ideology to recognize the fraudulent housing and stock market bubbles, honest clear thinking men like Robert Shiller, John Hussman, and Ron Paul recognized the bubbles well in advance and understood the consequences to the average American.

“Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss.” – Ron Paul – 2003

What Ron didn’t realize was the peddlers and packagers of fraudulent mortgage debt on Wall Street would walk away unscathed when the bubble they created popped. Trillions of net worth was vaporized due to the policies, solutions, and programs designed and implemented by Bernanke and his Wall Street co-conspirators. The losses should have been borne by those who made the loans. Instead they were borne by the American taxpayer and future unborn generations. David Stockman, in his no holds barred book about the Wall Street and K Street crony capitalist criminals, rails against the Federal Reserve led rescue of the profligate destroyers of capital markets:

“At the end of the day, this trillion-dollar infusion of capital and liquidity from the public till had a single overarching effect: it nullified in its entirety the impact of Mr. Market’s withdrawal of a similar magnitude of funding from the wholesale money market. So the very monetary distortion – the availability of cheap overnight funding in massive quantities – upon which the Wall Street financial bubble had been built had now been recreated at the lending windows of the Fed, FDIC, and the US Treasury.

The opposite path of liquidating the Wall Street bubble was eschewed, of course, not only because it would have meant massive losses to speculators in the stock and bonds of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and the remaining phalanx of the walking wounded. Crony capitalism also triumphed because in muscling the system during the white heat of crisis, Wall Street had plenty of intellectual cover. The fact is, mainstream economists of both parties were trapped in a Keynesian dead end, proclaiming that the solution to the crushing national debt load which had actually triggered the financial crisis was to pile on more of the same.

Accordingly, banks which were “too big to fail” couldn’t be busted up, since they were allegedly needed to shovel more credit onto already debt saturated household and business balance sheets. Likewise, speculators who should have suffered epochal losses during the meltdown were resuscitated by Fed-engineered zero interest rates in the money market, thereby quickly reviving the same massively leveraged “carry trades” in commodities, currencies, equities, derivatives, and other risk assets which had brought on the crisis in the first place.” David Stockman – The Great Deformation – The Corruption of Capitalism in America

The working middle class was forced at gunpoint to bail out billionaire bankers who had been fraudulently inducing feeble minded dupes and trailer trash to purchase $500,000 McMansions with negative amortization no doc subprime mortgages, while bullying appraisers into inflating appraisals, buying off the rating agencies, selling the toxic derivatives to their clients, and then shorting the very same derivatives. They subsequently committed foreclosure fraud by robo-signing legal documents. Describing these modern day Shylocks as heartless, cruel, lecherous, avaricious demons understates the vileness and contemptibility of their nature. Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson blatantly lied to the depraved, gutless members of Congress and to the easily hoodwinked fearful American public about the threat of our financial system collapsing unless the Wall Street banks were saved. This false storyline is still peddled today and believed by millions of willfully ignorant crony capitalist devotees. The financial system wasn’t going to collapse. The stock prices of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, Morgan Stanley, GE, and Wells Fargo were collapsing. The wealth of the financial elites that run the country was in peril. The depositors in these banks wouldn’t have lost a penny, but the shareholders and bond holders would have been wiped out. The personal wealth of Dimon, Mack, Lewis, Prince, Immelt, Blankfein and the other titans of finance took precedence over the rule of law and the negative consequences of excessive risk taking and control fraud.

True free market capitalism embraces the concept of creative destruction. Poorly run companies fail and are replaced by well-run companies. Bankruptcy law worked perfectly during the liquidation of Washington Mutual. The orderly liquidation of the Too Big to Trust Wall Street banks would have resulted in billions of bad debt being discharged, with the losses being borne by the executives who mismanaged the banks and the investors who were foolish enough to fund the disastrous schemes perpetrated by those executives. The FDIC would have kept depositors whole. The privatization of illicit bank profits from 2002 through 2007 and the socialization of the 2008 through 2010 bank losses are proof that we are experiencing a warped, immoral, crony capitalism that enriches the well-connected and impoverishes the working middle class. Our political, economic and financial systems have been captured by corporate and special interests. This corruption will prove fatal, as the vested interests destroy the system through their myopic greed. We’ve allowed a small cadre of malevolent men to gamble away the nation’s future with impunity from all laws, regulations and any sense of morality, under the guise of capitalism. These men and the nation will pay a high price for these transgressions. The punishment will fit the crimes.

“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.”John Kenneth Galbraith – The Age of Uncertainty

The chart below reveals the criminal plan as implemented by Bernanke, the Obama administration and the Wall Street banks. Instead of allowing insolvent financial institutions to fail, $700 billion of taxpayer funds were syphoned from the economy and handed to them. Bernanke has since stuffed their coffers with another $2.4 trillion he printed out of thin air. The purpose of this insane transfer of national wealth from the people to the parasites was not to help Main Street. Forcing the FASB to allow these criminal bankers to mark to unicorn rather than mark to market, buying their toxic mortgages, and providing billions in free money was done to cover-up the fact they are insolvent. Their balance sheets and the Federal Reserve balance sheet are choking on bad debt. The ongoing foreclosure/rent to own scam was designed to drive up home prices and allow the bankers to exit their toxic mortgages with a profit. The criminally insane bankers have used the trillions in excess funds to syphon off billions in stock market gains, with assurances from Ben that QE to infinity will always be there. They know if their gambling leads to losses, Ben will come to the rescue.

The purpose of banks was supposed to be to lend money to businesses and consumers so they could make long-term investments that helped expand the economy. These Wall Street cretins didn’t loan money to people and businesses in the real world. It was much easier to generate risk free returns and program their HFT supercomputers to buy, buy, buy. By driving real interest rates below zero for the last four years, Bernanke has stolen $400 billion per year from senior citizens living on the edge and transferred it to bloodsucking bankers. Anyone with money in a bank account is losing money. This was designed to force muppets back into the stock market where they will be fleeced for the third time in the last thirteen years.

inflation and t-bill

Bernanke’s rescue measures have been a smashing success for the .1%. Wall Street is generating record levels of profits and paying out record levels of bonuses to themselves for a job well done. The stock market is at an all-time high, while the middle class is eviscerated by relentless inflation in energy, food, healthcare, clothing, tuition, rent and taxes. Reality does not match the propaganda touted by the financial elite. Ask the 47.7 million people on food stamps.

food stamps

The economic recovery narrative propagated by Wall Street paid economists, Wall Street controlled media pundits, and Wall Street bought off politicians is nothing but unmitigated bullshit. True unemployment, that doesn’t falsely exclude the unemployed who have thrown in the towel, is north of 20%, with youth unemployment exceeding 40%. The “solutions” implemented by our owners have led to a 10% collapse in the median household income since 2008. If the middle class is seeing their real incomes decline, while their living expenses are rising by 5% per year, how can the economy be recovering? It can’t. Bernanke’s banker welfare program and Obama’s $1 trillion deficits, along with accounting fraud and under-reporting of inflation, have produced the illusion of recovery.

economix-28income-blog480

Dimitri Orlov summarizes our modern financial system and sets the table for the coming collapse:

“The main tools of modern finance are mystification, obfuscation and hypnosis. What is different now is that all the governments have already shot all of their magic bailout bullets. The guilty parties are still at large, richer than they were before this crisis and probably thinking that the next crisis will make them even richer.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

The questions that must be answered are: How did we allow this to happen? Are we blameless? Can our course be reversed?

Time to Look in the Mirror

“The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories.  A perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction.  It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of citizens… which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens.  What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all.  But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it… which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’

‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure.  Democracy often works beautifully at first.  But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state.  For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.” –  Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein has been dead for twenty five years. He wrote these words decades ago. His vision of a state bleeding to death is being played out as we speak. Ben Franklin had an inkling the Republic we were given would not be sustained. The success of our nation hinged upon the wisdom, self-restraint, morality, and civic mindedness of its citizens. Our form of governance was never perfect. Nothing is perfect. Adam Smith’s free market capitalism was based upon true competition, but with an underlying moral code. The rule of law meant something. Those who stole, cheated or broke the law were punished. Bankers and their usurious machinations were frowned upon. They were tolerated as a necessary evil, but they certainly weren’t admired and celebrated. When their greedy schemes to loot the populace went too far, a courageous leader would step forth and rout out the vipers and thieves:

“You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the eternal God, I will rout you out.”Andrew Jackson

Bankers gained more power after the Civil War as oil was discovered, the country grew rapidly, and the robber barons built their fortunes on debt and the backs of the poor. But still, there were leaders like Teddy Roosevelt who stood up to the banking and corporate interests. The die was finally cast in 1913 with the introduction of the income tax, the creation of the Federal Reserve and allowing the people to directly elect their Senators. A century of central banking has led to: a century of war; a century of currency debasement; a transformation from a hard-working, saving, producing society into an irresponsible, debt based spending, consuming society; and the degradation of our society into a mob of egotistical techno-narcissists, who have chosen bread and circuses over freedom, liberty and self-reliance. At first it happened gradually, but accelerated rapidly once Nixon removed the last vestiges of control over greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and gluttonous voters. The transformation from an industrious nation of savers into a slothful nation of consumers has reached its zenith. Financialization Nation has been built on a pyramid of debt. The youth of today have been left with an un-payable debt burden and as Bill Bonner points out, the endgame will likely be violent and bloody:

“That’s a heavy burden. It is especially disagreeable when someone else ran up the debt. Then you are a debt slave. That is the situation of young people today. They must face their parents’ debt. Even serfs in the Dark Ages had it better. They had to work only one day out of 10 for their lords and masters. As it stands, young people in the U.S., Europe and Japan are expected to work their whole lives to pay for things their parents and grandparents consumed decades earlier.

Let’s see. Deny a young person work and you deny him a career. Deny him a career and you deny him a way to support a family. Deny him a family life and who knows what happens? Will today’s young people accept their lot… and remain in docile debt servitude their whole lives? Or will they rise up and burn T-bonds in public spaces… rampage down Wall Street… and perhaps hang Ben Bernanke in front of the New York Federal Reserve?” – Bill Bonner

The pyramid of debt was built brick by brick over the last century, as an unelected, secretive, unaccountable cabal of private banker pharaohs has controlled the currency of the nation and worked on behalf of the vested corporate and banking interests that control the country. Shortly after its devious creation in 1913, they enabled Woodrow Wilson to wage a war he promised to keep the nation out of. The central bank’s easy money policies during the 1920s led to an unsustainable credit driven boom in stocks, bonds and real estate. As usual, their belated monetary tightening was too late to avoid the 1929 Crash. Federal Reserve and government intervention after the crash prolonged the Depression for over a decade. The Crash of 1929 proved once again that bankers could not be trusted. Their insatiable greed and reckless thirst for more and more riches required checks on their ability to destroy our economic system. The 38 page 1933 Glass-Steagall Act made sure commercial banking was kept separate from investment banking (gambling), keeping the productive activity of helping businesses grow isolated from the parasitic activity of speculation. This clear, concise, understandable law kept bankers from destroying the lives of millions for 66 years, until a bipartisan screw job repealed the law and unleashed the kraken upon the unsuspecting public. Bernanke’s QE to infinity driven stock market gains over the last few years are reminiscent of another historic time, and this story also hasn’t reached its ultimate climax.

“A major boom in real stock prices in the U.S. after ‘Black Tuesday’ brought them halfway back to 1929 levels by 1930. This was followed by a second crash, another boom from 1932 to 1937, and a third crash. Speculative bubbles do not end like a short story, novel, or play. There is no final denouement that brings all the strands of a narrative into an impressive final conclusion. In the real world, we never know when the story is over.”Robert Shiller

The destruction of Europe, Russia and Japan during World War II and the Bretton Woods system that made the USD supreme across the world kept the economic peace for the next quarter century. A confluence of events in the late 1960s and early 1970s set the stage for the ultimate collapse of our faith based monetary system. LBJ’s Great Society welfare programs and our disastrous foray into Southeast Asia began the insane welfare/warfare dynamic that has required more and more debt to sustain. Nixon realized the debt expansion needed to pay for an ever expanding state could never be achieved with the Bretton Woods/gold pegged currency system.  In 1971 Nixon unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the USD to gold. It ushered in the era of freely floating currencies, relentless inflation, financial bubbles, debt accumulation, consumerism, and the rise of the corporate/fascist propaganda state. Using government supplied CPI statistics, the dollar had lost 75% of its purchasing power between 1913 and 1971. Since 1971 it has lost 83% of its remaining purchasing power. And Ben Bernanke has the guts to publicly state his worries about the ravages of deflation.

The years 1913 and 1971 will be seen by future historians as infamous dates when marking the decline of the great American empire.  Prior to 1971, the New York Stock Exchange barred the public listing of investment banks. After the exchange repealed this ban, the large investment banks (Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns) converted from partnerships, where the senior employees owned the company and were responsible for all of its liabilities, profits and losses, into publicly owned corporations, where executives’ incentives become aligned with outside shareholders, who demanded short-term profits and higher stock prices at the expense of long term sustainability. The partnership structure provided a mechanism of restraint, self-control, fiscal responsibility and cautiousness. If the bank failed, the partners’ net worth would be wiped out. Their incentives were for the long-term sustainability of the business and they were discouraged from taking undue risks that might produce huge short term profits, but might also destroy the firm. Shame and a sense of responsibility to fellow partners was a strong deterrent to obscene risk taking. The unholy combination of allowing investment banks to go public and repealing Glass Steagall in 1999, created a greed driven uncontrollable Too Big To Control brutish monstrosity consuming the world in its desire for more. It will only be stopped when it chokes to death while gorging on what’s left of the middle class.

The citizens, formerly known as the hard working American middle class, must accept their share of responsibility for the desperate circumstances we face. Some are guiltier than others, but we only need look in the mirror to find the culprits in allowing the bankers, politicians, military industrial complex, mass media and vested corporate interests to gain control over our country. The introduction of the credit card by Wall Street bankers as a must have for every citizen in the early 1970s coincided with the inflationary demons unleashed from Pandora’s Box by Nixon and the Federal Reserve, along with the peak of cheap U.S. oil production. Thus began four decades of real wages declining and consumer debt soaring. A nation of people that believed in saving before purchasing were given the freedom to spend money they didn’t have. The statistics paint a picture of a society gone mad:

  • Credit card debt grew from $5 billion in 1971 to $856 billion today, a 17,000% increase in forty-two years. GDP rose from $1.2 trillion to $16.6 trillion, a mere 1,400% increase. Real GDP only grew by 300%. Wages have grown from $600 billion to $7 trillion, a 1,200% increase. Real disposable personal income per capita grew from $17,200 to $36,800, a 200% increase.
  • Non-revolving debt (auto, student loan) grew from $127 billion in 1971 to $1.98 trillion today, a 1,600% increase.
  • There are over 600 million credit cards in circulation within the U.S. and Americans charged over $2.1 trillion last year.
  • Over 40% of Americans carry a balance on their credit card from month to month, with an average balance of $8,200 and an average interest rate of 13%.
  • 40% of all low and middle income households must rely on their credit cards to pay basic living expenses like rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, real estate taxes, income taxes, along with their “needed” iPhones, HDTVs, bling, stainless steel appliances, and tattoo artwork.
  • Wall Street banks have written off over $300 billion in credit card debt since 2008 (and passing the bill to taxpayers), while bilking their customers out of $60 billion per year in late fees and overdraft fees.

Despite the storyline of austerity, consumer credit outstanding has reached an all-time high of $2.84 trillion because Bernanke and his Wall Street puppeteers require perpetual debt expansion to keep their Ponzi scheme alive. Federal government dispensation of loans to subprime student borrowers has helped mask the true unemployment rate and Federal government doling out of subprime auto loans through Ally Financial and their crony Wall Street partners has created a fake auto recovery. The Blackrock/Wall Street “rent to own” faux housing recovery was designed by our owners to lure clueless math challenged dupes back into the housing market. Our entire economy is nothing but a confidence game at this point.

The four decade long orgy of debt couldn’t have ensued if our currency had remained linked to the barbaric relic – gold. The apologists and lackeys for the vested interests scorn and ridicule the notion of our economic system being burdened with any checks or balances. This is where the interests of those in power and those being ruled have coincided, as a fiat based monetary system allowed unlimited spending to keep the welfare/warfare state growing, enriching the crony capitalists, deepening the power of the state, and providing the masses with foreign made trinkets, baubles, corporate logoed clothing, techno-gadgets, and pimped out financed wheels. The concepts of self-restraint, discipline, saving for a rainy day, prudence, discretion, and deferred gratification are rarely displayed in modern day America. In a case of mass delusion, Americans have convinced themselves to live for today, recklessly ignore their futures, irresponsibly spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, neglect their civic duty towards future generations, choose ignorance over knowledge, and vote for spineless politicians who promise them entitlements that are mathematically impossible to honor. The public’s foolish attitude towards debt accumulation matches the arrogance of our gutless intellectually dishonest leaders.

“When people pile up debts they will find difficult and perhaps even impossible to repay, they are saying several things at once. They are obviously saying that they want more than they can immediately afford. They are saying, less obviously, that their present wants are so important that, to satisfy them, it is worth some future difficulty. But in making that bargain they are implying that when the future difficulty arrives, they’ll figure it out. They don’t always do that.” Michael Lewis – Boomerang

The manner in which our leaders are governing the country and citizens are living their lives can only be considered normal in relation to residing in a profoundly abnormal society. The American Dream of having the opportunity for upward mobility through educating yourself, working hard, accumulating wealth methodically by spending less than you earn, and reaching your full potential as a caring loving human being has been replaced by a perverted nightmare where we run on a hamster wheel for our entire lives trying to achieve the new American dream of accumulating throw away material goods, working to make the payments for McMansions, SUVs, stainless steel appliances, and iGadgets you rent from bankers, while driving yourself into an early grave by consuming mass quantities of processed poison and the stress created by trying to achieve the lifestyle sold to us by Madison Ave. maggots, Wall Street shysters and the mainstream media propagandists. The corporate fascists tell you what to believe, which “enemy” to fear, how you should look, what to eat, what drug to take for the illnesses caused by the food they lured you to eat, the kind of house you need to impress your friends and family, and the car you need to drive to impress your neighbors. As George Carlin aptly pronounced: “It’s called the American Dream because you’d have to be asleep to believe it.” – either asleep or insane.

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”  - Ellen Goodman

Our profoundly abnormal society of materialistic zombies, who mindlessly obey the commands and marketing messages of the financial elite, has staked their futures and the future of the country on the wisdom and brilliance of an Ivy League academic who never worked a day in the real world, didn’t spot the largest fraudulent housing bubble in world history, and whose unlawful acts as Federal Reserve chairman have enriched the banking whores who destroyed the country and impoverished what remains of the dying middle class. It’s the height of insanity for the American people to trust these crooked high priests of finance to cure a disease they spread with their immoral, traitorous policies over the last century. Bernanke and his lackeys, in a desperate last gasp gamble to prolong their fiat currency pillaging of the peasants, have rolled the dice with QE to infinity, accounting fraud, and further enrichment of their corporate masters.

“Viewed as a religious cult, modern finance revolves around the miracle of the spontaneous generation of money in a set of rituals performed by the high priests of central banking. People hang on the high priests’ every word, attempting to divine the secret meaning behind their cryptic utterances. Their interventions before the unknowable deity of global finance assure them of economic recovery and continued prosperity, just as a shaman’s rain dance guarantees rain or ritual sacrifice atop a Mayan pyramid once promised a bountiful harvest of maize.” – Dimitri Orlov – The Five Stages of Collapse

Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park. In Part 3 of this article I will speculate on the timing, scope and consequences of the coming collapse. It’s not going to be a happy ending, especially for the existing social order.

ALL IS WELL!!!

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Posted on 6th February 2013 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

 

I woke up this past Saturday morning and opened my local paper to find out that all was well. An Associated Press article declared a healthy jobs market, fantastic auto sales, a surging housing market, and a stock market rocketing to new all-time highs. What’s not to love? If the mainstream media says the economy is as good as new, it must be so. Why should we let facts get in the way of a good storyline? The stock market has surged to 2007 highs, so the country’s employment situation must be strong.

 

The chart above tells a slightly different story. The S&P 500 has regained almost all its losses since October 2007 as Bernanke and Washington politicians chose to save Wall Street and screw over Main Street. The working age population has risen by 12.8 million since 2007 and there are 4 million less Americans employed. The December Household Survey from the BLS being touted by the mainstream media as proof of a jobs recovery told a slightly different story:  

  • The number of unemployed Americans went up by 126,000 in one month
  • Another 169,000 Americans left the workforce evidently because their stock market gains made them wealthy.
  • There are 250,000 more Americans unemployed than there were in September 2012.
  • There are 6,000 less Americans employed than there were in October 2012.
  • The unemployment rate reported to the masses went up to 7.9% (the true rate reached 23%).

This is just the picture over the last few months. The picture since 2007 is beyond horrific, as more than 10 million Americans have left the workforce. Everyone knows people willingly leave the labor force when the economy crashes and their net worth is reduced by 30%. Who needs a paying job then? Just because there are 101 million working age Americans not working and the labor participation rate of 63.6% is at a three decade low, certainly doesn’t mean we aren’t experiencing a tremendous jobs recovery, according to the mainstream media.   

 

The deep thinkers at CNBC, Fox, CNN and the rest of the captured corporate status quo mouthpieces, propagate the false storyline that the reason for Americans leaving the workforce is Baby Boomers retiring. Considering the average Boomer has $90,000 of total savings and 28% of them have less than $1,000 saved, I suspect there are few willingly leaving the workforce. The Boomers have taken on 4 million additional jobs since the low point in 2009, while the 16 to 54 year olds have lost an additional 2.9 million jobs. Does this reflect a strengthening jobs market? Does the fact that real hourly wages have fallen for the last two years reflect an improving labor market?  

 

Inquiring minds might wonder how auto sales could be booming when there are 4 million less employed Americans and real wages are falling. Of course, mainstream media faux journalists aren’t paid to inquire, think critically, or even think at all. They are paid to regurgitate propaganda designed to keep the masses sedated and ignorant. The “fabulous” rebound in auto sales has been buoyed by the return of easy money lending, even to deadbeat borrowers with lousy credit histories. There is a reason the Federal government hasn’t attempted to spin off their 80% control of Ally Financial (aka GMAC, Ditech, Rescap). The Feds are attempting to manufacture a recovery by doling out subprime auto loans to anyone who can scratch an X on a loan document and offering 0% loans over 7 years to good credits. How exactly does a finance company generate a profit by making 0% loans for seven years and approving loans to people with no means of paying them back? Experian recently noted that 44% of ALL auto loans have been to subprime borrowers over the last year. When a financing company doesn’t have to worry about profits or loan losses, everyone gets a Cadillac Escalade. The losses on these subprime loans will be in the billions when the next leg down in this Crisis hits. The taxpayer will unknowingly pick up the tab, just as they have been doing for the last five years. The trend in this chart is nothing but a Federal government induced fraud.

 

PhD in Stupidity

The Federal government induced sham auto recovery is small peanuts compared to the bubble they are blowing in the higher education realm. Since the Federal government took over 85% of the student loan market in 2009, the debt outstanding has surged to over $1 trillion from below $600 billion. The Feds don’t care about credit risk or loan losses. You’re on the hook for the losses. The purpose for doubling the amount of student loans was to artificially lower the unemployment rate by removing as many people from the labor force as possible. The 600,000 University of Phoenix enrollees getting their on-line master’s degrees in basket weaving while sitting in their mother’s basement, subsidized with $20,000 loans from the taxpayer, didn’t count as unemployed.

Enrollment in these diploma mills has begun to plunge, as the scam has been revealed. The New York Times reported that:

“Enrollments at the University of Phoenix and in the for-profit sector over all have been declining in the last two years, partly because of growing competition from other online providers, including nonprofit and public universities, and a steady drumroll of negative publicity about the sector’s recruiting abuses, low graduation rates and high default rates … including many charges that the schools enrolled students who had almost no chance of succeeding, to get their federal student aid.”

Enrolling students who have no chance of graduating is exactly what the Obama Administration and the status quo want.

 

Based upon the chart below you would think the United States is producing the brightest bunch of young people in U.S. history. Nothing could be further from the truth. 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. If SAT scores are at decade lows, how could college enrollment be at record highs? Our government controlled public school system is graduating functionally illiterate dullards and the government is then subsidizing these subprime students as they matriculate into substandard colleges across the land.  Approximately 3.4 million seniors are graduating from our high schools every year. The 1.66 million seniors who took the SAT exam are the cream of the crop. If the 50% of students who took the SAT exam could score so pitifully, imagine how dimwitted the 50% of students who didn’t even take the exam must be.  The upshot of these tests are that only 700,000 of all the graduating high school seniors (21%) are capable of getting a B minus or above in college.

college enrollment rates 

Think about that for one second. Only 21% of all graduating high school seniors are intelligent enough to get a B minus in college, but 70% of them are enrolling in college. Of course enrolling in college and graduating college are two different things. Only 30% actually graduate college. The other 40% get drunk, fornicate, sleep late, fail, rack up gobs of debt, and then drop out. There are approximately 13 million 18 to 24 year olds enrolled in college today and at least 6 million of them have little to no chance of graduating. If the Federal government was not subsidizing them with loans, they would rightfully be looking for jobs geared to their intellectual capabilities. Would tuition rates be soaring if there were 6 million less drones matriculating into one of the 4,000 mostly mediocre higher learning institutions in this country?

 

The Federal government bureaucrats who think they can control the levers of finance to steer our economy to greater heights are creating a new subprime bubble. The absolute implosion of the for profit diploma mills, that have fed like bloated pigs at the Federal loan trough, is the Bear Stearns moment for the massive student loan losses that will be foisted on the shoulders of the American taxpayer. The deceptive schemes, fraud, and financial aid manipulation practices of the publicly traded diploma mills – Corinthian Colleges (down 90%), ITT (down 90%), Apollo Group (down 80%) and DeVry (down 60%) have been revealed, as their ill- gotten profits have evaporated and their stock prices have crashed. Enrollment at the king of worthless online degrees, the University of Phoenix, has plunged from 600,000 to 400,000 and they are closing 115 of their 227 campuses. The proof that much of the student loan bubble has been created by these for-profit shysters can be seen by the fact that 60% of all student loans are owed by people over 30 years old, with 33% owed by people over 40 years old. These people bought into the re-training fallacy perpetuated by government drones and mainstream media mouthpieces.

StudentLoans1 

But still the Federal government continues to blow the bubble bigger and bigger as non-revolving consumer debt has reached all-time highs. Peter Thiel recently compared this bubble to the housing bubble we are still dealing with:

“We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing…everybody believed you had to have a house, they’d pay whatever it took. Today, everybody believes that we need to go to college, and people will pay– whatever it takes. There are all sorts of vocational careers that pay extremely well today, so the average plumber makes as much as the average doctor. I did not realize how screwed up the education system is. We now have $1 trillion in student debt in the U.S. Cynically you can say it’s paid for $1 trillion of lies about how good education is.”

Delinquency rates have already begun to skyrocket as the diploma mill scam implodes, dropouts can’t make loan payments with their EBT cards and even graduates from legitimate colleges are stuck waitressing at TGI Fridays and can’t make their payments. Millions of millenials are ensnared in the chains of debt servitude, with no chance of escape. 

 

Delinquency rates on student loans made in the past two years stand at 15%, according to FICO, versus 12.4% for loans made from 2005 to 2007. This is proof that loans doled out since the Federal government took control of the market have been distributed willy-nilly in a frantic effort to artificially reduce the unemployment rate. Average student- loan debt last year rose to $27,253 from $17,233 in 2005, with almost 605 of bank managers surveyed in December expecting delinquencies to worsen in six months, according to FICO. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer of Fair Issac, said in a statement:

“This situation is simply unsustainable and we’re already suffering the consequences. When wage growth is slow and jobs are not as plentiful as they once were, it is impossible for individuals to continue taking out ever-larger student loans without greatly increasing the risk of default.”

When subprime mortgages blew up, at least there was collateral to alleviate some of the losses. When the subprime auto loans blow up, at least there will be vehicles to repossess. Student loan debts are the ultimate in subprime, with no collateral and millions of jobless debtors. The situation is much worse than the delinquency numbers reveal. More than half of the student loans are in deferment, grace periods, or forbearance, meaning they are not currently requiring repayment. This means the true delinquency rates are twice as high as the reported figure of 15%. What happens next can be succinctly summed up by the esteemed economist John Kenneth Galbraith:

 “Then the shit hit the fan.”John Kenneth Galbraith

The involuntary taxpayer bailout for this Federal Government created disaster will exceed $200 billion after the shit is done hitting the fan.

Do You Want Pepperoni on that Housing Recovery?

 

Everywhere I turn I’m hearing about the strong housing recovery that is propelling our economy, generating jobs and spurring a resurgence in retail spending by the millions of deleveraged consumers. Wall Street paid economists on CNBC, NYT economic “journalists”, and even the Fox News blond bimbo brigade all assure me the housing market is in a strong recovery and it’s the best time to buy. There are just two small problems with the story. None of the propaganda spouted by the mouthpieces of the kleptocracy is supported by the facts. And what little uptick in sales and prices that has occurred is due to collusion, fraud and manipulation by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and connected crony corporate interests.

I challenge anyone to show me the tremendous housing recovery on the new home sales chart below. New homes sales have “surged” to an annual pace of 369,000, only 74% below the 2006 peak and about 50% below the long term average. New home sales fell in December at the fastest rate since February 2011. Existing home sales also fell in December, are pacing at 1999 levels, and are still 30% below 2006 levels. In a country of 115 million households, with mortgage rates at all-time lows, there were a total of 26,000 new homes sold in December, and only 10,000 of them were actually built. For some perspective, new home sales are at the same level as they were in 1967 when the U.S. population was 200 million.  

 

The kleptocrats’ master plan has multiple dimensions designed to lure unsuspecting dupes back into the market. The Federal Reserve has bought over $1 trillion of toxic mortgage debt, freeing the criminal Wall Street banks to start raping the American public again. Bernanke has driven mortgage rates to near all-time lows by tripling his balance sheet, with promises to quadruple it before the end of the year. By driving real interest rates below zero Bernanke has the dual purpose of driving people into the stock market for a positive return and luring “investors” into the housing market.

The Wall Street part of this grand scheme has been to delay the foreclosure process on millions of homes, thereby restricting the amount of inventory on the market. By artificially creating an inventory “shortage”, they have been able to drive prices higher, with the purpose of trying to get the 25% of underwater homeowners back to breakeven. The Treasury Department, through their captured entities (Fannie, Freddie, FHA) are guaranteeing 95% of all mortgages, with the FHA requiring only 3.5% down payments, with the hundreds of billions in  present and future losses being incurred by the American taxpayer. You’ve heard of the cycle of life. This is the government cycle of fraud.

The last part of the plan has been to lure investors into the market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have sold huge blocks of foreclosed homes to connected friends of Wall Street at below market rates so they could convert them to rental properties. This has further artificially reduced inventory available for sale, and jacked up prices by as much as 20% in the former bubble markets of Phoenix, Las Vegas and California. Investors and flippers account for 30% of all home sales, with another 24% of home sales listed as distressed sales. Sure sounds like a healthy market to me. With this full court press by the powers that be to produce a housing recovery, the chart below reveals the utter ineptitude of their effort. Real home prices, even using the fake government manipulated CPI, have barely budged from their lows and sit at 1990 levels. Real home prices are still down 40% from their 2006 highs.     

If a true housing recovery was underway how could mortgage purchase applications be at 1997 levels? If housing was recovering there would be more mortgage applications. It really is that simple. Do supposed journalists have any critical thinking skills or are they just playing their assigned role in this kleptocracy?

 

Essentially, the kleptocrats’ primary purpose has been to protect and enhance the wealth of the oligarchs that control Wall Street, Washington DC, and corporate America. They have achieved their goal, while destroying the middle class and sentencing unborn generations to a life sentence of debt servitude.

If we have been experiencing a solid jobs recovery, strong automobile sales, a resurgence of consumer spending, and rising home sales and home prices, how could GDP be negative in the 4th quarter? The mainstream media immediately declared it the best negative GDP of all-time. They pompously declared that GDP would have been positive if government defense spending hadn’t plummeted. These disgraceful excuses for journalists failed to mention the huge surge in government and defense spending in the 3rd quarter just prior to the presidential election that accounted for a 3.1% GDP and helped get Obama re-elected. A less trusting person than myself might question why the surge in government spending prior to the election.

Did the mainstream media government mouthpieces question the absolutely laughable 0.60% inflation rate used to calculate the 4th quarter GDP? No they didn’t. That wouldn’t support their storyline of recovery. Using even the bastardized CPI figure of 2.0% would have produced a -1.5% GDP figure. Using real inflation figures over time reveals what every middle class family in America knows in their bones – the economy has essentially been in recession since the early 2000s. The massive dose of debt issued by the government has masked the true nature of our economic decline.   

 

All is not well. Any awake and aware citizen knows the economic, financial, societal and social fabric of this country is in tatters, and is getting progressively worse by the day. Since this supposed economic recovery began in mid-2009, the country has added 4 million jobs, more than 100% of which went to workers over the age of 55, forced into the workforce by Bernanke’s zero interest rate policy. Over this same time frame of economic recovery, 16 million Americans went on food stamps. How could this possibly happen if the economy has been recovering? Either the government and mainstream media are lying about the economic recovery or the Obama administration has been fraudulently encouraging people to go on food stamps to win votes in elections. Which of these truths is more palatable to your sensibilities?     

 

It comes down to this. The monied interests, high financiers, corporate interests, captured politicians, government apparatchiks, and corporate media have a vested interest in maintaining the corrupt and destructive status quo. They have become rich and powerful through their manipulation of the currency, ravenous sacking of the national wealth, destruction of the working middle class, and ability to use mass media propaganda to convince the willfully ignorant masses to learn to love their debt servitude. Our once proud, liberty minded, self-sufficient nation of freedom loving individuals has devolved into a kleptocracy,  where a small cadre of powerful men run the show solely to increase the personal wealth and political power of officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population. They are essentially running a state sponsored embezzlement and Ponzi scheme to pillage the wealth of the dumbed down, sedated, technologically distracted masses. Our entire system has been captured and we are entering the final stages of decay and ultimately a day of reckoning where the guilty and innocent alike will suffer the awful consequences of currency collapse, death and destruction on a wide scale, and likely civil and world war.

 “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

The entire system is corrupt to its core. Both political parties, regulatory agencies, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and mainstream media are participants in this enormous fraud. They grow more desperate and bold by the day. The lies, misinformation and propaganda being spewed on a daily basis become more outrageous and audacious. They are using the Big Lie method on a grand scale. They frantically need to lure the muppets into the stock market and the housing market to keep the game going a little longer. You can sense we are reaching a tipping point. The system they have created is mathematically unsustainable. Therefore, it will not be sustained. The world is going mad. Governments across the globe are all trying to out debase each other. Austerity and inflation for the peasants and caviar and champagne for the Davos class is the chosen path. All is not well. Ben Bernanke and the oligarchs running the show will be immortalized in history books forever when this farce comes to a spectacular conclusion.   

 “If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error.”John Kenneth Galbraith   

survival seed vault

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

6 comments

Posted on 16th December 2012 by MuckAbout in Economy

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If this doesn’t piss you off, nothing will.  Let’s just solve all our problems by making the BIG LIE official policy of the Government (as if it isn’t already!).  Now the FED is going to set it QE4EVA policy based on unemployment – which figures are just as big lies as the “official” CPI rate which understates inflation by a minimum of 7%  (Official CPI year over year: 2%, true year over year is 9%).  So what do we do?  Modify the way the CPI is figured, yet once again, so any adjustments to payments made based on the “official” CPI will be lower – saving the Goobermint money and putting the greased pole to anyone receiving benefits.

Now benefits from Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, Obamaphones, SNAP and Social Security are going to have to be reformed and probably cut.  But WHY IN HELL CAN’T THE GOVERNMENT BE HONEST AND SAY, “Hey guys and girls, we’re going broke and can’t afford these entitlements.” instead of LYING about it, not reducing Gooberment spending, fraud and abuse, cut Federal salaries (especially the automatic pay raises CONgress awarded themselves) and everyone share the pain?  

This “suggestion” sucks and John Rubino calls them on it..

 

Hat tip to  John Rubino

 

By the age of 12 or so, most people have learned through bitter experience that dishonesty is hard to pull off, because one lie tends to require more lies, until the complexity of the situation exceeds the liar’s ability keep everything straight.

This is just as true for governments as for individuals, especially when it comes to money. A currency that holds its value over long periods of time is nice but restrictive, because it limits a government’s ability to fight multiple wars and buy votes with generous social programs. So every government eventually resorts to monetary inflation, which is a combination of theft and deceit – or fraud, as it’s known in legal circles. By creating large amounts of new currency, a country lowers the value of each piece of currency in the hands of citizens, thus secretly taxing them to run the government. Then, to mask the effects of this stealth tax, governments distort their reported economic statistics to portray a world that’s healthier than the one most people experience. The goal is to siphon off as much wealth as possible while keeping the victims docile for as long as possible. The longer the con runs, the richer the people at the top become.

Eventually the gap between government reports and individual experience grows so wide that the lie is revealed and the scam ends, either through some sort of revolution or a financial collapse or both. A sign that we’re approaching that point is the following article, in which Time Magazine advocates making a heretofore-unspoken part of the con explicit government policy:

Fixing Inflation Adjustments Is the Smart Way to Shrink the Deficit

Let’s face it: There’s no way to reduce America’s budget deficit that won’t hurt someone, and that pain can’t be limited only to the rich. A payroll tax, passed in 2010, is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, for example, and that will cost middle-class households anywhere from $600 to $1,200. In addition, more than 20 million taxpayers could become subject to the alternative minimum tax (AMT), adding several hundred dollars to their annual tax bills on average. On the spending side, budget cuts would not only reduce government services but could also eventually cost tens of thousands of Americans their jobs.

But there are other ways to make progress on the deficit over the long term that would be a lot less painful and would also be politically viable. In my last column, I wrote about the estimated $30 billion a year that the Federal government could save by getting really tough on fraud. Even more could be done, though, by changing the inflation adjustments for government spending.

Cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) are used throughout the U.S. economy – for union contracts and income tax brackets, as well as for government entitlements. It may seem only fair to adjust contracts and government programs for inflation – otherwise recipients would see their standard of living steadily erode over time. But there are a lot of ways to adjust for inflation. Moreover, the most commonly used gauge, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), may overstate the adjustment needed. Switching to a more conservative measure could save as much as $200 billion over the coming decade.

The most commonly proposed change is to replace the CPI with another index called the “chained CPI.” Basically, inflation is calculated based on putting together a basket of commonly bought goods and services and then tracking the price increases for them. In reality, though, people don’t consistently buy the same things. If one particular item – steak, for example – gets very expensive, people will typically buy something cheaper instead, such as chicken. The chained CPI takes into account the substitution of cheaper items for things that get too expensive, and is therefore arguably more accurate than the regular CPI. It also rises a little bit more slowly.

The result of replacing the regular CPI with the chained CPI would be slightly slower increases in monthly Social Security payments and some other government benefits. The new measure would also modestly boost tax revenues. The reason: tax brackets are indexed to inflation and would ratchet up more slowly if the chained CPI were used to adjust them. For many taxpayers, that would mean that some of their income would fall in a higher bracket.

Further savings could come from changing the formula used to calculate initial Social Security benefits. Because Social Security was originally designed to mimic a pension plan rather than look like a welfare entitlement, initial benefits are pegged to retirees’ earnings over their working lives. Because the general standard of living improves over time, wages and salaries normally outpace inflation – and so do initial Social Security benefits. (After benefits have begun, further increases are based on a more usual cost-of-living adjustment.) Some economists have long argued for altering the formula for initial benefits. Keeping the current more generous earnings-based calculation for lower-income retirees but switching to an inflation-based calculation for the more-affluent half of the population could eliminate half of the Social Security deficit over the next 75 years.

Such fixes to benefit plans are not uncontroversial. When a recent Republican budget proposal included changes to the way the Federal government calculates inflation, the idea was swiftly rejected by some Democrats. Opponents of the idea objected that retirees face higher inflation than the average American because of health-care costs and that some of the tax increases would fall on the middle class. It’s true, of course, that altering inflation adjustments will limit future benefit increases and cause an upward creep in income taxes. But the idea that the Federal deficit can be brought down to sustainable levels without anyone giving up anything is simply unrealistic. Hiking tax rates on the rich alone will raise enough revenue to cut the deficit only by about 8%. In the end, simple arithmetic ensures that the bulk of deficit reduction will come from the middle class – the challenge is to minimize the pain.

Unfortunately, tinkering with inflation adjustments will be little help with other runaway costs – most significantly health care, which presents even greater long-term budget problems than Social Security does. Advances in medicine often make treatment more expensive. In addition, health care is labor intensive, and in all service sectors it’s hard to offset rising labor costs with the sort of productivity gains that can be achieved in manufacturing. Doctors can only see so many patients an hour, teachers can only correct so many papers, and there’s a limit to how fast a pianist can play the minute waltz.

But where rising costs are chiefly the result of inflation adjustments, fine-tuning those mechanisms may be the least painful way to start bringing down the long-term deficit. The spending cuts that are currently scheduled to go into effect next year in the absence of a budget deal look horrific and could result in 7% to 9% reductions in a broad range of Federal programs. Surely it seems more rational to minimize the need for such sudden, deep, and indiscriminate cuts in the near term by accepting smaller increases in government spending over the coming decades.

Some thoughts:
This is a perfect example of how lying sometimes corrupts both liar and victim. The honest approach to a situation where there’s not enough wealth would be to explain that everything from the military empire to the welfare state will henceforth have to live smaller. But that’s both hard to say and hard to hear, which makes the lie relatively painless for both sides. Just keep telling citizens that they’ll get everything they expect, while actually giving them a little less each year. Government gets the inflation-generated resources it wants, and the recipients of government spending get to pretend for a while longer that they’re taken care of. The problem is pushed into the future for tomorrow’s leaders and the children of today’s recipients to deal with.

Put more clearly, US voters are enabling the liars because – despite the mounting evidence that the lies are coming at our expense – we prefer the comfort of those lies to the harsh reality of no more free money for the lifestyles we thought were our birthright.

The result of dishonest public policy being enabled by voters in denial is a corrupt society, where lying – as in the article reprinted above – becomes acceptable public policy. We’re not far from the old Soviet joke, “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

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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WE ARE THE ROMAN EMPIRE

20 comments

Posted on 15th February 2012 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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I love reading MSM articles that blather on with trivialities while missing the big picture. It costs 2.4 cents to make a penny. It costs 11.2 cents to make a nickel. The article provides all kinds of facts but fails to reach the logical conclusion that 100 years of currency debasement by the Federal Reserve has reached its point of no return. The Romans methodically reduced the metal content of their coins as their empire slowly and methodically declined. The price of all metals continue to rise in dollars as the Federal Reserve prints them at hyper-speed. There is no way to produce a penny or a nickle for less than the value of the coin. We’ve passed the point of no return. The USD has lost 97% of its purchasing power since 1913, as man made inflation has destroyed the middle class. We are the Roman Empire in its final death throes.

Obama wants cheaper pennies and nickels

 

The U.S. Mint is facing a problem — especially during these penny-pinching times. It turns out it costs more to make pennies and nickels than the coins are worth.

And because of that, the Obama administration this week asked Congress for permission to change the mix of metal that goes to make pennies and nickels, an expensive recipe that has remained unchanged for more than 30 years.

To be precise, it cost 2.4 cents to make one penny in 2011 and about 11.2 cents for each nickel.

Given the number of coins that the mint produces — 4.3 billion pennies and 914 million nickels last year alone, those costs add up pretty quickly: a little more than $100 million for each coin.

But even though Treasury has been studying new metals since 2010, it has yet to come up with a workable mix that would definitely be cheaper, and it has no details yet as to what metals should be used or how much it would save to do so.

Even if a cheaper metal can be used, it might not take the cost of a penny down to less than a penny.

Just the administrative cost of minting 4.3 billion pennies costs almost a half-cent per coin by itself, leaving precious little room to make a penny for less than a cent, no matter the raw material used.

The raw material cost of the metals used in a current penny is only about 0.6 cents per coin, according to prices quoted on the London Metal Exchange, and a breakdown of a penny’s composition from the mint. The mint paid 1.1 cents on average for the metal used in a penny in 2011, but that is the cost of ready-to-stamp blanks from the supplier, not raw material traded on commodity markets.

Funny money? 11 local currencies

There have been times in recent years when a run-up in zinc and copper priceshas taken the raw material value of a penny above one cent.

That’s the case for a nickel today. Its more expensive metal mix means the raw materials in each are worth almost 6 cents per coin, based on current market prices. (States eye silver and gold currencies)

Despite popular belief, since 1982 pennies have only been copper plated, not copper through and through. Much less expensive zinc makes up 97.5% of the mass of a penny, the rest is a copper coating.

Nickels actually have much more copper in them — 75% copper and 25% nickel, the same mix it has always had.

The mint did make steel pennies for one year — in 1943 — when copper was needed for the war effort. And steel might be a cheaper alternative this time. Steel is roughly one-quarter the price of zinc on the London Metal Exchange.

Treasury had already made a cost-saving move in December when it stopped making dollar coins.

With 1.4 billion surplus presidential dollar coins sitting in bank vaults waiting to be circulated, and American consumers showing little appetite to start using the coins, Treasury estimates the halt in production of the coins will save about $50 million a year.

Check commodity prices

Treasury spokesman Matt Anderson said Treasury has the authority to stop making the dollar coins on its own, but it can’t change the mix of metals in pennies without permission.

As for the suggestion of some that the penny be abandoned altogether, Anderson said only “that is not a proposal we have put forward.”

WHERE’S OUR OIL PRICE COLLAPSE?

188 comments

Posted on 4th September 2011 by Administrator in Economy |Politics |Social Issues

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Make no mistake about it, without plentiful, cheap, and easy to access oil, the United States of America would descend into chaos and collapse. The fantasies painted by “green” energy dreamers only serve to divert the attention of the non critical thinking masses from the fact our sprawling suburban hyper technological society would come to a grinding halt in a matter of days without the 18 to 19 million barrels per day needed to run this ridiculous reality show. Delusional Americans think the steaks, hot dogs and pomegranates in their grocery stores magically appear on the shelves, the thirty electronic gadgets that rule their lives are created out of thin air by elves and the gasoline they pump into their mammoth SUVs is their God given right. The situation was already critical in 2005 when the Hirsch Report concluded:

“The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.”

In the six years since this report there has been unprecedented oil price volatility as the world has reached the undulating plateau of peak cheap oil. The viable mitigation options on the demand and supply side were not pursued. The head in the sand hope for the best option was chosen. The government mandated options, ethanol and solar, have been absolute and utter disasters as billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered and company after company goes bankrupt. The added benefit has been sky high corn prices, dwindling supplies and revolutions around the world due to soaring food prices. The last time the country went into recession in 2008, the price of oil plunged from $140 a barrel to $30 a barrel in the space of six months. I’d classify that as volatility. We’ve clearly entered a second recession in the last six months. So we should be getting the benefit of collapsing oil prices.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to another oil price collapse. It didn’t happen. WTI Crude is trading for $87 a barrel, up 23% since January 1. Unleaded gas prices are up 54% in the last year and 43% since January 1. Worldwide oil pricing is not based on WTI crude but Brent crude, selling for $113 per barrel, only down 10% from its April high of $125. The U.S. and Europe consume 40% of all the oil in the world on a daily basis. Multiple European countries have been in recession for the last nine months. The U.S. economy has been in free fall for six months.  

Some short term factors will continue to support higher oil prices.  The Chinese continue to fill their strategic petroleum reserve, Japan is still relying on diesel generators for electricity post-tsunami, and the Middle East is developing a love affair with the air conditioner. But, it’s the long term factors that will lead to much higher oil prices for myopic oblivious Americans. 

U.S. GDP 2011 Q2 update 2009-2011 US GDP second Q2011 (percent) July 2011

John Hussman describes the situation on the ground today based upon six economic conditions presently in effect:

There are certainly a great number of opinions about the prospect of recession, but the evidence we observe at present has 100% sensitivity (these conditions have always been observed during or just prior to each U.S. recession) and 100% specificity (the only time we observe the full set of these conditions is during or just prior to U.S. recessions).

With 40% of the world in or near recession, how come oil prices are still so high and much higher than last year, when the economies in Europe and the U.S. were expanding? The number of vehicle miles driven in the U.S. is still below the level reached 43 months ago and at the same level as early 2005. The price of a barrel of oil in early 2005 was $42. The U.S. is using the same amount of oil, but the price is up 112%. It seems the U.S. isn’t calling the shots when it comes to the worldwide supply/demand equation. 

It would probably be a surprise to most people that U.S. oil consumption today is at the same level it was in 1997 and is 10% lower than the peak reached in 2005. This is not a reflection of increased efficiency or Americans gravitating towards smaller vehicles with better mileage. Americans are still addicted to their SUVs and gas guzzling luxury automobiles. It’s a reflection of a U.S. economy that has been in a downward spiral since 2005.

1996 18,476.15 3.89 %
1997 18,774.07 1.61 %
1998 18,946.01 0.92 %
1999 19,603.83 3.47 %
2000 19,717.92 0.58 %
2001 19,772.60 0.28 %
2002 19,834.31 0.31 %
2003 20,144.82 1.57 %
2004 20,833.01 3.42 %
2005 20,924.36 0.44 %
2006 20,803.93 -0.58 %
2007 20,818.37 0.07 %
2008 19,563.33 -6.03 %
2009 18,810.01 -3.85 %

 

If the U.S. isn’t driving oil demand in the world, then why are prices going up? There are three main factors:

  1. Dramatic increase in demand from China and other developing countries.
  2. A plunging U.S. Dollar
  3. Peak oil has arrived

Surging Developing World Demand

The Energy Information Administration issued their latest forecast and it does not bode well for lower prices:

Despite continued concerns over the pace of the global economic recovery, particularly in developed countries, the US Energy Information Administration expects worldwide oil consumption to increase this year and next spurred by demand in developing countries. US oil consumption, however, is forecast to contract from a year ago. Worldwide oil demand, led by China, will increase by 1.4 million b/d in 2011 to average 88.19 million b/d and by 1.6 million b/d in 2012, outpacing average global demand growth of 1.3 million b/d from 1998-2007, before the onset of the global economic downturn.

China is now consuming over 9 million barrels per day. This is up from an average of 7 million barrels per day in 2006. Platts, a global energy analyst, put China’s 2010 figures at 8.5 million barrels per day, up 11.43% from the previous year. The forecast for China’s crude throughput in 2011 is an average of 9.24 million barrels per day up 8.5% from 2010. In the first seven months of this year, total crude throughput stood at average of 8.95 million barrels per day.

Standard Chartered Bank predicts that, by the year 2020, China will overtake all of Europe as the second largest consumer of oil in the world, and should catch up to the U.S. by the year 2030 as China’s demand continues to rise while U.S. demand is expected to be flat. Chinese crude imports grew 17.5% in 2010 to 4.79 million barrels per day. China is importing 55% of its oil today versus 40% in 2004.

China’s oil consumption per capita has increased over 350% since the early 1980s to an estimated 2.7 barrels per year in 2011. Consumption per capita has risen nearly 100% in just the past decade. Oil consumption per capita in the U.S. currently ranks among the top industrialized nations in the world at 25 barrels per year. However, today’s consumption levels are approximately 20% lower than they were in 1979. The chart below paints a picture of woe for the United States and the world. China overtook the United States in auto sales in 2009. They now sell approximately 15 million new vehicles per year. India sells approximately 2 million new vehicles per year. The U.S. sells just over 12 million new vehicles per year. In China and India there are approximately 6 car owners per 100 people. In the U.S. there are 85 car owners per 100 people.    

They call China, India and the rest of the developing world - Developing – because they will be rapidly expanding their consumption of goods, services and food. There will certainly be bumps along the way, as China is experiencing now, but the consumption of oil by the developing world will plow relentlessly higher. China isn’t the only emerging country to show big increases in per capita consumption. The growth in consumption for several other countries far outpaces China. Consumption per capita in Malaysia has nearly quadrupled since the mid-1960s. Consumption in Thailand and Brazil has more than doubled to roughly 5.7 barrels and 4.8 barrels per year, respectively.

Developed countries, especially those in Western Europe, have experienced substantial declines in oil consumption. Today’s per capita consumption in Sweden is roughly 12 barrels per year, down from 25 barrels per year in the mid-1970s.  France, Japan, Norway and U.K. all use less oil on a per capita basis than they did in the 1970s. These countries have been able to drive down the consumption of oil by taxing gasoline at an excessive level.

Americans pay 43 cents in taxes out of the $3.70 they pay at the pump for a gallon of gasoline. A driver in the UK is paying $4 per gallon in taxes out of the $9 per gallon cost. Gasoline costs between $8 and $9 per gallon across Europe today. The extreme level of gas taxes certainly reduces car sizes, consumption and traffic. Too bad the mad socialists across Europe spent the taxes on expanding their welfare states and promising even more to their populations. Maybe a $6 per gallon tax will do the trick. Forcing Americans to drive less by doubling the gas tax is a quaint idea, but it is too late in the game. Europe is still made up of small towns and cities with the populations still fairly consolidated. Biking, walking and small rail travel is easy and feasible. The sprawling suburban enclaves that proliferate across the American countryside, dotted by thousands of malls and McMansion communities, accessible only by automobiles, make it impossible to implement a rational energy efficient model for moving forward. We cannot reverse 60 years of irrationality. Even without higher gas taxes, the price of gasoline will move relentlessly higher due to the stealth tax of currency debasement.

A Plunging US Dollar

The US dollar has fallen 15% versus a basket of worldwide currencies (DXY) since February 2009. This is amazing considering that 57% of the index weighting is the Euro. If you haven’t noticed, Europe is a basket case on the verge of economic disintegration. The US imports a net 9.4 million barrels of oil per day, or 49% of our daily consumption. Our largest suppliers are:

  1. Canada – 2.6 million barrels per day
  2. Mexico – 1.3 million barrels per day
  3. Saudi Arabia – 1.1 million barrels per day
  4. Nigeria – 1.0 million barrels per day
  5. Venezuela – 1.0 million barrels per day
  6. Russia – 600,000 barrels per day
  7. Algeria – 500,000 barrels per day
  8. Iraq – 400,000 barrels per day

These eight countries account for over 70% of our daily oil imports. You hear the “experts” on CNBC declare that our oil supply situation is secure because close to 60% of our daily usage is sourced from North America. The presumption is that Canada and Mexico are somehow under our control. There is one problem with this storyline. US oil production peaked in 1971 and relentlessly declines as M. King Hubbert predicted it would. Mexico will cease to be a supplier to the U.S. by 2015 as their Cantarell oil field is in collapse. Most of the oil supplied from Canada is from their tar sands. Expansion of these fields is difficult as it takes tremendous amounts of natural gas and water to extract the oil.

The rest of the countries on the list dislike us, hate us, or are in constant danger of implosion. When the Neo-Cons on Fox News try to convince you that Iraq has been a huge success and certainly worth the $3 trillion of national wealth expended, along with 4,500 dead and 32,000 wounded soldiers, you might want to keep in mind that Iraq was exporting 795,000 barrels of oil per day to the U.S. in 2001 when the evil dictator was in charge. Today, we are getting 415,000 barrels per day. Dick Cheney was never good at long term strategic planning.

We better plant more corn, as our supply situation is far from stable. Maybe we can install solar panels from Obama’s Solyndra factory on the roofs of the 65 Chevy Volts that were sold in the U.S. this year, to alleviate our oil supply problem. The reliability and stability of our oil supply takes second place to the price increases caused by Ben Bernanke and his printing press. The average American housewife driving her 1.5 children in her enormous two and a half ton Chevy Tahoe or gigantic Toyota Sequoia two miles to baseball practice doesn’t comprehend why it is costing her $100 to fill the 26 gallon tank. If she listens to the brain dead mainstream media pundits, she’ll conclude that Big Oil is to blame. The real reason is Big Finance in conspiracy with Big Government.

Ben Bernanke is responsible for Americans paying $4 a gallon for gasoline. Zero interest rates, printing money out of thin air to buy $2 trillion of mortgage and Treasury bonds, and propping up insolvent criminal banks across the globe have one purpose – to deflate the value of the U.S. dollar. The rulers of the American Empire realize they can never repay the debts they have accumulated. They have chosen to default through debasement. It’s an insidious and immoral method of defaulting on your obligations. Let’s look at from the perspective of our two biggest oil suppliers.

A barrel of oil cost $40 a barrel in early 2009. The U.S. dollar has declined 30% versus the Canadian dollar since early 2009. The U.S. dollar has shockingly declined 20% versus the Mexican Peso since early 2009. How could the mighty USD decline 20% against the currency of a 3rd world country on the verge of being a failed state? Ask Ben Bernanke. Our lenders can’t do much about the continuing debasement of our currency, but our oil suppliers can. They will raise the price of oil in proportion to our currency devaluation. Since Bernanke’s only solution is continuous debasement, the price of oil will relentlessly rise.

Peak Oil Has Arrived

“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD. At present, investment in oil production is only beginning to pick up, with the result that production could reach a prolonged plateau. By 2030, the world will require production of 118 MBD, but energy producers may only be producing 100 MBD unless there are major changes in current investment and drilling capacity.” - 2010 Joint Operating Environment Report

We’ve arrived at the point where demand has begun to outpace supply and even the onset of another worldwide recession will not assuage this fact. World oil supply has peaked just below 89 million barrels per day. Supply has since fallen to 87.5 million barrels per day, as Libyan supply was completely removed from world markets. The International Energy Agency is already forecasting worldwide demand to reach 90 million barrels per day in the second half of 2011 and reach 92 million barrels per day in 2012. The IEA warns that “just at the time when demand is expected to recover, physical limits on production capacity could lead to another wave of price increases, in a cyclical pattern that is not new to the world oil market.”

project global oil production through 2100

The world is trapped in an inescapable conundrum. As supply dwindles, prices increase, causing global economies to contract, and temporarily causing a drop in prices, except the lows are higher each time. The drill, drill, drill ideologues do nothing but confuse and mislead the easily led masses. We have 2% of the world’s oil reserves and consume more than 20% of the daily output. We consume 7 billion barrels of oil per year.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and areas formerly off limits in the Outer Continental Shelf will not close the supply gap. The amount of recoverable oil in the Arctic coastal plain is estimated to be between 5.7 billion and 16 billion barrels. This could supply as little as a year’s worth of oil. And it will take 10 years to produce any oil from this supply. The OCS has only slightly more recoverable oil at an estimated 18 billion barrels and the BP Gulf Oil disaster showed how easy this oil is to access safely. The new over hyped energy savior is shale gas. The cheerleaders in the natural gas industry claim that we have four Saudi Arabias worth of natural gas in the U.S. This is nothing but PR talking points to convince the masses that we can easily adapt. The amount of shale gas that can be economically produced is far less than the amounts being touted by the industry. The wells deplete rapidly and the environmental damage has been well documented. And last but certainly not least, we have the abiotic oil believers that convince themselves the wells will refill despite the fact that there is not one instance of an oil well refilling once it is depleted.

I wrote an article called Peak Denial About Peak Oil exactly one year ago when gas was selling for $2.60 a gallon. I railed at the short sightedness of politicians and citizens alike for ignoring a calamitous crisis that was directly before their eyes. Just like our accumulation of $4 billion per day in debt, peak oil is simply a matter of math. We cannot take on ever increasing amounts of debt in order to live above our means without collapsing our economic system. We cannot expect to run our energy intensive world with a depleting energy source. There is no amount of spin and PR that can change the math. Un-payable levels of debt and dwindling supplies of oil will merge into a perfect storm over the next ten years to permanently change our world. The change will be traumatic, horrible, bloody and a complete surprise to the non-critical thinking public.

“In the longer run, unless we take serious steps to prepare for the day that we can no longer increase production of conventional oil, we are faced with the possibility of a major economic shock—and the political unrest that would ensue.”Dr. James Schlesinger – former US Energy Secretary, 16th November 2005

We were warned. We failed to heed the warnings. If we had begun making the dramatic changes to our society 5 to 10 years ago, we may have been able to partially alleviate the pain and suffering ahead. Instead we spent our national treasure fighting Wars on Terror and bailing out criminal bankers. Converting truck and bus fleets to natural gas; expanding the use of safe nuclear power; utilizing wind, geothermal, and solar where economically feasible; buying more fuel efficient vehicles; and creating more localized communities supported by light rail with easy access to bike and walking options, would have allowed a more gradual shift to a less energy intensive society.

We’ve done nothing to prepare for the onset of peak oil. Until this foreseeable crisis hits with its full force like a Category 5 hurricane, Americans will continue to fill up their M1 tank sized, leased SUVs, tweet about Lady Gaga’s latest stunt, and tune in to this week’s episode of Jersey Shore. Meanwhile, economic stagnation, catastrophe and wars for oil are darkening the skies on our horizon.

  

“Dependence on imported oil, particularly from the Middle East, has become the elephant in the foreign policy living room, an overriding strategic consideration composed of a multitude of issues. …. Taken in whole, the National Energy Policy does not offer a compelling solution to the growing danger of foreign oil dependence.  …  Future military efforts to secure the oil supply pose tremendous challenges due to the number of potential crisis areas.  …..  Economic stagnation or catastrophe lurk close at hand, to be triggered by another embargo, collapse of the Saudi monarchy, or civil disorder in any of a dozen nations.”America’s Strategic Imperative A “Manhattan Project” for Energy