That the bankrupt US is living on borrowed time between various can kicking episodes is by now not news to anyone. Neither is it news that as long as the broader population finds brief distractions, such as the latest iPad app or the occasional Charlie Sheen scandal, which keep them busy in peak advertising hours, few if any will care about the sordid details of the unsustainable big picture. This ongoing apathy is starting to get to some market commentators most notably Paul Farrell of MarketWatch who summarizes events in the past 2 years as follows: " Admit it, we lost the opportunity. Jail a bank CEO and Wall Street will miraculously reform? You’re joking, right? Wall Street got away with a “legal” bank heist. Today the should-be/would-be inmates are running the prison. Wall Street’s corrupt banks have lost their moral compass … their insatiable greed has become a deadly virus destroying its host nation … their campaign billions buy senate votes, stop regulators’ actions, manipulate presidential decisions. Wall Street money controls voters, runs America, both parties. Yes, Wall Street is bankrupting America." But nobody cares. So what would make America care? Here are the four time-bombs which Farrell believes will be sufficient to blow up Wall Street.
4 ticking time bombs that will ignite the Wall Street revolution
Yes, the rich live in a different world. And no, information won’t change them. But a revolution will. Revolutions build slowly over a long time. Then, suddenly, a critical mass, a flash point, something totally unexpected ignites the ticking bomb.
It happened recently in a remote Tunisian village. Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old college graduate, unable to pay bribes, set himself on fire to protest police confiscation of his unlicensed vegetable cart. That triggered a revolution. And his death rapidly led to the collapse of a 24-year dictatorship.
Today we have four hot time bombs, tick-ticking, soon to make history; any one can easily accelerate the revolution that’s already killing Wall Street from within.
1. Wealth gap: Super-Rich vs class wars, death of democracy
The gap: In one generation, America’s wealthiest 1% has exploded from 9% to 23% of America’s income, while middle-class income has stagnated. Even Buffett admits: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and winning.”
But my rich friend tells the real story, of their social disconnect. The rich just don’t care. They live in a different world, live by a self-centered code lacking a moral compass. The public welfare is honored only if supported by tax benefits.
The wealth gap is widening and soon something unpredictable will ignite a Wall Street revolution.
2. Wall Street’s doomsday capitalism vs rule by anarchy
A key Supreme Court decision accelerated and codified Wall Street’s ability to use billions stolen from taxpayers to lobby Washington and solidify its power, all for its own self-interest, through campaign payola, senators’ votes, presidential access, manipulation of regulators, grabbing tax benefits, etc. And it’s every man and woman for themselves.
Don’t believe it? Know this, democracy is dead and you’re in denial. Wall Street CEOs and Forbes 400 billionaires are either engaged in a secret conspiracy, or a classic anarchy picking apart America, oblivious of the fact they are setting up the next big revolution.
3. Pentagon’s perpetual war machine vs America’s budget time bomb
The mathematics of our $75 trillion Social Security and Medicare deficits often seem insurmountable, but can be recalibrated. However, the war-loving mindset of America’s neocons — fueled by China’s military actions, the insatiable expansion of our military spending and a Pentagon prediction that global population growth — is putting more and more pressure on the world’s scarce resources, and will, in turn, increase global wars and the demand for more war spending, increasing the risk of sudden revolutions everywhere.
4. Global population explosion vs resources, jobs, better lifestyles
As the world population explodes from 7 billion to 10 billion in the next generation, the demand for more jobs and the pressure on scarce resources will increase, while expectations will fall as the ratio of haves to have-nots increases, making the world all around Wall Street a burning powder keg setting up a revolution.
Bottom line: Forget jailing Wall Street’s dictators. It’s naïve and too late. We missed that opportunity. But a revolution will do the trick, give us a second chance to jail the crooks.
Until then, remember, these four factors are building to a head, merging into a critical mass that will accelerate into a revolution and destroy Wall Street from within: The widening wealth gap, capitalism’s new rule-by-anarchy, the high cost of feeding the Pentagon’s costly war machine, and the huge global population explosion.
Perhaps Paul is right. One thing is certain: the ongoing divergence from economic equilibrium driven by a global central planning cartel which hopes to fill valuation holes will infinite money printing has been working so far, yet the simplest laws of physics say that eventually every equilibrium asserts itself. So far most guesses of how much longer this can continue have been wrong. And whereas we indeed had a chance to reassert a fair market value after the Lehman crash, we simply papered it over with another round of the same failed policies that resulted in a historic crash. What is truly interesting, and deserves a study in itself, is the seemingly endless ability of those in control to delude not only themselves but all those around them. Alas, this is primarily driven by the non-overlap of the various key cycles in the current world: from the hedge fund manager performance cycle of a few months at most, to the Wall Street bonus cycle of one year, to the political cycle of 4 years, and lastly, to the actual business cycle which lasts between 7-10 years, and the generational cycle of just over 20 years. As long as there are extensive conflicts of interest pushing and pulling all four of these in different directions, and as long as the Fed believes it can control them successfully, the kinds of time bombs that Farrell writes about are guaranteed.