A MATTER OF TRUST – PART TWO

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

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

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

Hundred Year Bust

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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WHO DESTROYED THE MIDDLE CLASS – PART 1

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Posted on 21st June 2012 by Administrator in Economy

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“Over the last thirty years, the United States has been taken over by an amoral financial oligarchy, and the American dream of opportunity, education, and upward mobility is now largely confined to the top few percent of the population. Federal policy is increasingly dictated by the wealthy, by the financial sector, and by powerful (though sometimes badly mismanaged) industries such as telecommunications, health care, automobiles, and energy. These policies are implemented and praised by these groups’ willing servants, namely the increasingly bought-and-paid-for leadership of America’s political parties, academia, and lobbying industry.” – Charles FergusonPredator Nation

The Federal Reserve released its Survey of Consumer Finances last week. It’s a fact filled 80 page report they issue every three years to provide a financial snapshot of American households. As you can see from the chart above, the impact of the worldwide financial collapse has been catastrophic to most of the households in the U.S. A 39% decline in median net worth over a three year time frame is almost incomprehensible. Even worse, the decline has surely continued for the average American household through 2012 as home prices have continued to fall. Median family income plunged by 7.7% over a three year time frame and has not recovered since the collection of this data 18 months ago. Even more shocking is the fact that median household income was $48,900 in 2001. Families are making 6.3% less today than they were a decade ago. These figures are adjusted for inflation using the BLS massaged CPI figures. Anyone not under the influence of psychotic drugs or engaged as a paid shill for the financial oligarchy knows that inflation is purposely under reported in order to keep the masses sedated and pacified. The real decline in median household income is in excess of 20% since 2001.

The destruction of the blue collar jobs has been underway since the early 1970s. And the relentless decline in real blue collar wages has followed a bumpy downward path for decades. Sadly, the average person doesn’t understand the insidious destruction caused to their lives by the Federal Reserve generated inflation, as they actually believe their wages today are higher than they were in 1973. The reality is the oligarchy has used foreign wage differentials and the perceived benefits of globalization to ship manufacturing and now service jobs to Asia while using their captured mainstream media to convince the average American that this has been beneficial to their lives. Using one of their 15 credit cards to buy cheap foreign goods made by people who took their jobs was never so easy.  I wonder if the benefits of being able to buy cheap Chinese electronics, toxic dog food, and slave labor produced igadgets outweighed the $2.3 trillion increase in consumer debt, 27% decline in real wages, 7 million manufacturing jobs lost since the mid-1970s, 46 million people on food stamps, $15 trillion increase in the National Debt since 1978, and a gutted decaying industrial base.

young wage high school earners

Not only have the oligarchs gutted our industrial base, resulting in enormous job losses among middle aged industrial workers, but they are now in the process of impoverishing the youth of this country by sucking them into crushing college debt with the false promise of decent paying jobs when they graduate with a degree in feminist studies from the University of Phoenix. The fabricated mantra that a college education guarantees a good paying job and a better future is not borne out by the facts. There are over 4,800 institutions of higher learning in this country, with only about 50 considered elite. There are another few hundred top notch institutions, with a few thousand mediocre schools and hundreds of for profit on-line diploma mills exploiting the easy Federal government debt to lure millions into their profit scheme of bilking unemployed naïve middle aged dupes and eventually the American taxpayer. The average student loan debt per student is $29,000. Student loan debt outstanding has risen from $200 billion in 2000 to over $1 trillion today. The Federal Government is blowing another bubble. They are the issuer, regulator and guarantor of these loans. They are making the loans with teaser rates to the ultimate in subprime borrowers – students without jobs going for worthless degrees at mediocre schools. The taxpayer is on the hook for the billions in loses that will surely follow. The payoff for this quadrupling of debt has been an 8% real decline in wages for college graduates since 2000. The monetary policies of the Federal Reserve and bipartisan fiscal policies of our government have led to this dreadful job market for the middle class.

college graduate wages

The mainstream media dutifully reported a few key highlights from the Federal Reserve report and moved onto more important issues like Snooki’s pregnancy and the octomom’s new porno gig. We certainly couldn’t expect business journalists at Bloomberg, CNBC, NYT, or CNN to actually analyze the data, produce an intelligent dialogue of the causes, and reach a conclusion that the affluent and influential on Wall Street and in Washington DC caused the average family in this country to endure tremendous hardship while the oligarchy plundered and pillaged the countryside, stuffing their pockets with ill-gotten gains. Each of the ideological camps within the oligarchy trot out the usual suspects to blame the other ideological camp, while doing nothing to change the existing paradigm. Krugman and Carville are assigned the task of blaming Republican policies and dogma for the demise of the middle class. Obama and his minions already had their press release prepared, blaming George Bush and claiming the median family has made tremendous strides since he assumed command in2009. Mitt Romney (worth $250 million), whose pocket change exceeds the annual median household income of $45,800, feels the pain of the average American family and proposes a tax decrease for billionaires and less overbearing regulation on the honorable Wall Street banks in order to help the average family. It’s nothing but Kabuki Theater as the characters play their assigned parts in this elaborate display. Gary Wills cuts right to the chase:

“Yet while the rest of the populace was suffering, the rich just got richer. In 2009 and 2010, years in which millions were unable to find work, the top one percent reaped 93% of the ‘recovery’ income, and corporations are making more than they ever did. And the Republicans can still propose even further cuts in the taxes of ‘job creators’ whose only job creation has been for their own lawyers and lobbyists.”

What you will not receive from the corporate mouthpieces in the mainstream media is an explanation of where the money went, who stole it and why it happened. The theme from the media is the loss in net worth and decade long decline in household income was unavoidable and due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control. This is a false storyline perpetrated by those who have stolen your money. It’s been a bipartisan screw job and it was initiated by Clinton, Rubin, Gramm and Leach, who deregulated the banking system in 1999 by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, but made it clear the Greenspan Put would always be in place to protect the banks from their own recklessness, greed and hubris. As a result, Wall Street could go ahead and take irresponsible financial system destroying risks in pursuit of vast riches, knowing they could count on the unlimited checkbook of Uncle Sam if things went south, and that’s exactly what happened. Heads they won, tails you lost. It’s good to own the politicians, regulators, and media.

Dude, Where’s My Net Worth?

“Sometime around the year 2010, Xers will hit a hangover mood like that of the Lost in the early 1930s and the Liberty in the late 1760s: a feeling of personal exhaustion mixed with a new public seriousness. The members of this forty- and fiftyish generation will fan out across an unusually wide distribution of personal outcomes, reminiscent of a night at the bingo table. A few will be wildly successful, others totally ruined, and the largest number will have lost a little ground since the days of Boomer midlife.” – Strauss & Howe – Generations – 1991

Neil Howe and Bill Strauss wrote their first generational theory book six years prior to their epic Fourth Turning prophecy. It appears they nailed it. Generation X households saw their net worth crushed, with a 54% loss in three years. The Baby Boomer households also took a beating in this banker engineered financial collapse. The Silent generation has survived this downturn relatively unscathed.  Most of the Silents traded down from their primary residence at or near the top of the housing boom. As Neil Howe points out:

“Most sold or annuitized their financial assets at a much better moment in the history of the Dow. Even if they didn’t, they are more likely than Boomers or Xers to be getting retirement checks from defined-benefit corporate or government plans that are unaffected by the market.”

The Millenials and late Xers did not lose much because they didn’t have much to lose. Most did not own a house or stocks. As the economy continues to deteriorate the generational tension builds. The Silents and Boomers, who vote in large numbers, have not and will not vote for anyone who attempts to reform our entitlement system and make it economically viable over the long-term for young people just entering the job market.

The false storyline about the 2007 through 2010 being an aberration in the long term path to prosperity for the average American family is refuted by the following chart.

This chart paints a long-term picture of generational inequality that has been going on over the last three decades. Over three decades the Silent generation has seen their median real net worth increase by 133%, while GenX has seen their median real net worth decrease by 55% compared to the same age cohort in 1983. Only those 55 and over have seen a real improvement in their net worth over the last 27 years. Considering this period encompassed a seventeen year bull market and the GDP grew from $3.5 trillion to $15.7 trillion, a 450% increase, a few bucks should have trickled down to the average household. Even on an inflation adjusted basis, GDP has risen 125% since 1983. Evidently the economic policies supported by both parties across decades have not floated all boats – just the yachts. Age is only part of the equation. Class is the other piece. There is a class war being waged and the Buffett, Dimon, Blankfein, Romney, Clinton, Koch and the rest of the ultra-wealthy oligarchs are winning. We are now in the midst of a Fourth Turning and the corrupt, dysfunctional, amoral social order will be swept away before the climax of this Crisis.

“Through the Third Turning and into the initial stages of the Fourth, the Silent will prosper, Boomers will cope with declining expectations, and Gen-Xers will get hammered. Throughout history, we have argued, inequality both by class and by age reaches its apogee entering the Crisis era. Indeed, part of the historical purpose of the Crisis is to tear down dysfunctional institutions, vacate positions of entitlement and privilege, rectify the inequality, and create a tabula rasa on which the rising generation can build something new.” – Neil Howe

The reason for the epic collapse of middle class net worth is quite simple when viewed from a 10,000 foot elevation. The great descent in net worth was primarily due to the bursting of the Federal Reserve created real estate bubble. The Case Shiller Home Price Index plunged 28% between 2007 and 2010. The wealth destruction was concentrated among the working middle class because their homes accounted for the vast majority of their household net worth. For the wealthy, housing is a fraction of their vast net worth, while for the lowly poor; homeownership is now only a dream. Of course, between 2000 and 2007 anyone that could fog a mirror was encouraged by George Bush, Barney Frank, the National Association of Realtors, Alan Greenspan, and Wall Street shills to “own” a home. With home prices having fallen an additional 7% since 2010, the middle class has seen a further decline in their net worth. Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke’s ZIRP, QE1, QE2, Operation Twist, and the upcoming “Operation Screw the Middle Class Again” have succeeded in expanding the net worth of millionaires, billionaires and the bonuses of Wall Street bankers, while destroying the fragile finances of little old ladies and middle class risk adverse savers.

case shiller and snp500

Once you dig into the details beneath the thin veneer of Bernaysian obfuscation, you realize the corporate mainstream media storyline of middle class decline has a veiled storyline of a powerful, connected 1%, enriched at the expense of the middle class.

In Part 2 of this three part series I will examine who stole your net worth and in Part 3 why they stole your net worth. Part 4 will require pitchforks, torches and a guillotine.

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