Sean Corrigan Explains The Rules Of The "Multi-Trillion Shell Game" And What To Expect Next

Tyler Durden's picture

Diapason's Sean Corrigan does a succinct review of how the "multi-trillion" ponzi has progressed, where we are now (a point where even intellectually challenged anchors on CNBC gasp in wonder that entire countries are failing merely to save a few not so good bankers), and where we are headed: "under the rules of this multi-trillion
shell game, the sovereigns guarantee the ECB which funds the banks which
buy the government debt which provides for everyone else's guarantees."
All in all, nothing that should surprise our readers (as should none of the things that are "suddenly" headline news), but still one of the better summaries of how and why we are now at a point where even the second biggest economy in the world (the EU) is unable to stop the unraveling. It is only fitting that America is today demonstrating to the world the apogee of its consumerist orgy, even as the austerity belt is tightening for yet more hundreds of millions of people all across the world, and where resentment toward America is once again reaching unprecedented levels. At this point it is just a matter of time before said unraveling crosses the Atlantic. One year from today the media will be running amused retrospectives how a deranged bubble chasing hedge fund world was buying NFLX and AMZN at triple and quadruple digit forward multiples. But until then the insanity has just a little longer left to run.

From Material Evidence

Though he later recanted his belief in its message, Lionel Robbins' near-contemporaneous treatment of events in his 'Great Depression', remains one of the most cogent and lucid expositions of what went wrong in that dark decade and also of what kept it in a state of 'wrongness' for such an unconscionable length of time after the initial crisis.

Among its many, telling comments, the following stands out by way of its relevance to the turmoil taking place in Europe today and so is worthy of an extended reproduction here:

"...The boom was remarkable, not only for the proliferation of fashionable fraud; it was remarkable, too, for a change in the methods of straightforward financing.., by a conspicuous increase in the proportion of public investment which takes the form of fixed debt rather than participating ownership. This tendency was bound to accentuate the difficulties of any period of depression. In part, the change was due to... increased participation by banks in the financing of all kinds of enterprise created a market for bonds where equities would have been unacceptable...The big insurance companies, moreover, through whose agency so large a proportion of the savings of the poorer and middle classes are invested, had a preference for this kind of investment..."

"But in part it was due to the increased economic activity of States and governmental bodies. The most intractable and disastrous masses of fixed debt which have obstructed recovery in the slump have been debts of this sort... Of the total amount invested in Germany in the years 1924-1928, it has been estimated that at least 40 per cent was on account of governmental bodies. Much of this was spent on the carrying out of works such as the construction of swimming-baths, the financing of housing schemes and so on, which had little prospect of being financially remunerative... Much of this money is irretrievably lost. But, because it was borrowed by government bodies, recognition of this fact is slow to come and liquidation has thus been delayed. Paradoxically enough, economists who have urged that this sort of thing has not proved its worth in practice, are often called by their opponents, 'deflationists'..."

Is it so hard to see that, when the crisis broke, the Irish authorities should have restricted themselves to guaranteeing banking deposits up to some fairly modest ceiling amount and then left bank shareholders, bondholders, and wholesale depositors to negotiate over the division of whatever small residuum their ill-advised investments had left them?

By extension, if and when those creditors themselves were sufficiently embarrassed as a result of their folly, the authorities in their own jurisdictions — whether German, Dutch, French, British, or whatever — should have applied exactly the same salutary treatment to them in their turn. Losses would undoubtedly have been substantial, but the foredoomed attempt to disguise them has not only not made these any lesser, but has prevented anyone from embarking upon the process of working to put right the shocking loss of wealth they have entailed in the interim.

Yes, there would have been considerable disruption and a highly regrettable hardship would have been imposed not just on the few, highly-visible 'Rich' but also on the many, nameless, less well-off — but can anyone say that today's consequently pressing need to throw the engine of government debt accumulation violently into reverse will not occasion at least equal amounts of suffering in a far more protracted manner and without even the merit of fairness and equity in making the malefactors' willing business partners bear the first (and probably the largest) portion of the losses?

As it is, the Irish 'rescue' looks like it has only served to underline how perilously entwined the fortunes of sovereigns and their banks have become. As we have noted before, under the rules of this multi-trillion shell game, the sovereigns guarantee the ECB which funds the banks which buy the government debt which provides for everyone else's guarantees. No wonder scrutiny is switching back to Spain and Eurobank stocks are sagging, once more.

And to think that the former UK Prime Minister used to boast that he had 'saved the world' when he set the standard by being the first to rush to conclude a similar pact of mutually-assured destruction into which the hosts of cherubim and seraphim, surely, would have feared to tread.

As if this were not enough for markets to try to rationalise, there is just the risk that it travels back to the US - whether via the 'putback' of dodgy mortgage loans to FNM/FRE and/or the banks, or via a possible Muni implosion when the Build America Bond programme expires at year end.

Bigger yet is the threat posed by China's inflationary outbreak. Although we derided its crude attempts to suppress prices and boost welfare payments - and while the market was briefly relieved that the PBoC did no more than hike reserve ratios for the umpteenth time - it does appear as if something a little more draconian may be coming down the track, possibly after the Central Economic Work Conference has discussed any such measures in three weeks' time.

Certainly, if we are to take the China Daily at its word, we should be reducing risk exposures where we can: -

"...The latest move to contain excess liquidity and the forceful measures that the central government has taken to stabilize prices show the determination of Chinese policymakers to fight inflation. Though these moves may not be enough to tame inflation once and for all, they are a good start before more aggressive actions become necessary to battle inflation that is unlikely to end anytime soon, as debt-laden rich countries keep flooding the world economy with their newly printed money."

Well, if Ben can blame it all on Zhou, he is surely entitled to give a little of it back, but the main point is that the former's indulgence in QE might just be about to run into the latter's switch to QT. We know which we think will carry more weight in setting commodity prices.

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LeBalance's picture

This is the "Et tu, Brute?" realization.  As we awaken to the horror of our existence and the generations of slavery, we rail against the sleeping masses.  Then we realize the only way not to be them is to be "them."

Catch-22 to put it mildly.

Or are there other choices?  Hmmmm......

High Plains Drifter's picture

Well there are two choices.  Accept the lie and die or do not accept the lie and die. It took us two generations to get into this mess and it will take two generations to get out of it. How's that for a black Friday prognostication?

JW n FL's picture

"In a democracy, we get the government we deserve."




"The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits." Ignorant Masses


Michael Noer, 04.02.09, 07:20 PM EDT
There is plenty to be mad about, but the mob is mindless.


The mob of neo-hippies and anarchists that descended on London this week to protest the G-20 economic summit certainly seemed angry. They marched, chanted, burned effigies, broke windows and scrawled graffiti.

Some clashed with police and ended up bloodied, arrested or both. Overall, it was a typical display of the poor behavior that has marred these sorts of global conferences since the WTO meeting in Seattle back in the fall of 1999.

This time around, however, there really is plenty to be angry about. The world is engulfed in a systemic economic crisis, arguably fueled by the easy money monetary policies of the world's largest central banks, and indisputably spread by greedy bankers and tame ratings agencies. The credit markets remain in crisis, economies are in recession and trillions of dollars worth of exotic (toxic) securities still lurk in the financial system. Fine, get mad. March, if you must.

But turn up the volume on the television, or squint at the newspaper photographs, and the picture gets fuzzier. A lot fuzzier, in fact.

Why on earth is that bearded chap shouting Free Tibet? What does that have to do with anything? Peace in Palestine? No argument here, but the G-20 is an organization of finance ministers and central bankers. That's a bit like complaining to the baker that the dry cleaner ruined your best jacket. Global warming? Problematic, to be sure, but go pester Al Gore--these guys have work to do.

Now, to be fair, some of the protestors seemed at least dimly aware that this was a meeting about the global financial crisis, not about the virtues of legalizing marijuana. But even among this crowd, the solutions on offer seemed either slightly simplistic ("Abolish money!") or downright barbaric ("Kill the Bankers!").

Listen to their shouts and it becomes increasingly clear that the masses have no clue what they are talking about. Sure, they are angry, but they don't know what they should be angry about. No wonder so many of them are listed in press accounts as "unemployed" or as (suspiciously old) students. After all, who would hire these folks?

Thankfully, we are here to help. An intrepid reporter for The New York Times did spot one fellow sporting a hand-lettered "Mark To Market" sign. Now, that's our sort of guy. (He turned out to be a Citigroup ( C - news - people ) financial analyst, but he was still protesting, albeit civilly). Why not follow his example?

Stop chanting "Abolish Money!" and try out "Hard Money!" for a change. Scream "Transparency!" rather than "Tibet!"; "Clawbacks!" not "Criminals!"

The leaders of the world's largest economies are likely to still ignore you (at least until you shave and get a decent haircut) but at least you'll be speaking their language.

And if you are really pissed off at the central bankers, don't bother smashing the Bank of England's windows and stealing $20 keyboards. They really don't care. Instead, make yourself useful and start learning something about monetary policy and credit default swaps. You might even get a job as a result.

High Plains Drifter's picture

Tell them to get out of the street and go buy silver coins, as much as they can buy.

trav7777's picture

oh yeah, the words on your signs will REALLY make a difference.


No, really at this point "criminals" and "kill" is about all that anyone can wrap their heads around.

Seer's picture

"Listen to their shouts and it becomes increasingly clear that the masses have no clue what they are talking about."

Yeah, like Forbes and the rest of the controlling elites do?

What utter BS.  This is what happens when necessary purges take place.  If they were orderly they'd be steered by the same wreckless bastards that got us into this mess in the first place!

And for god sake, quit this anarchists = (physical) destruction crap!  This is the propaganda that the wreckless bastard TPTB spout: never mind that they are responsible for building and using the most destructive forces ever known!

This is all but whining that one cannot predict what will happen, such that they can profit off it all.  Well, that's the way it should be!  I have no like of mindless masses, but this is how it  all comes off, and instead of trying to protect that which needs to go away (purge), time and energy is better spent creating the new future...

rapacious rachel wants to know's picture
rapacious rachel wants to know (not verified) Nov 26, 2010 1:07 PM

I just ordered a two for one coupon special on wrist slitting kits.

Something couples can do together.

RobotTrader's picture

Well, look at it this way.

We will all be able to vacation in Europe next summer at substantially lower cost.

Anyone travelling overseas with U.S. dollars will be able to flaunt the currency's outstanding strength with the local merchants still stuck doing business in "Scleros"...


Spalding_Smailes's picture

According to data released by the US Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, year to date domestic steel demand from January to August 2010 is up 42.3% from the same period in 2009.

NumberNone's picture

Apparently YTD burrito demand is up 300% as CMG continues to skyrocket to takes it's place next to McDonalds in valuation.  

High Plains Drifter's picture

No way I am going anywhere near a airport unless they put hot babes in the pat down department.

Landrew's picture

Ah, you do realize this is not geographic right? Bonds know no bounds! This is equally coming to our banksters yet again. Even at 1.3 euro it's not the deal you think it is. 1-1 it would only be fair. Lived there and I know. I bought the Citi 4 Dec. puts again cheap Wed.    


Spitzer's picture

So you think California is in better shape then Greece ?

Illinois is in better shape then Ireland ?

hbjork1's picture

Spitzer, Hello.

Yes, I think California is in better shape because it is more productive in the things that can be sold first in a bad economic situation. And in this era when biochemistry is coming to the fore and electronics seem headed for the molecular level, they will continue to be creating tomorrows computational infrastructure. California's economy dwarfes the economy of Greece for a reason.

I think Illinois has a lot of very productive farm land and some pretty solid industry.  I have a small rental farm there and am amazed by the farming labor and productivity changes wrought by modern techniques, chemicals and genetically modified seeds. This farmer has to hustle but has been raising is own meat stock and rents a total of up to 1,000 acres.  The location is about on the St. Louis parallel in the center of the state. 

It is hard to compare Illinois to Ireland due to differences in location, population and industrial strength near large markets.

Illinois industry is robust even if their debt is a problem.  Cat in Rockford is doing well with solid China sales and operations.  And Chicago, with ~9.5 million  of course, has the industrial base to work through a period of lower returns. 

I have to say that California will suffer more than Americans have been accustomed to but it is more robust than Greece.

Ireland is Ireland, Illinois is Illinois and both will have to do some belt tightening but IMO both will survive and I would do better in Illinois than in Ireland.



sangell's picture

The CDO nature of the EFSF becomes more apparent with each bailout. Now the mezzanine tranche of contributors are being taken out as their spreads remove them from the 'donor' category into a future supplicant. Or are we playing 16 little Indians and until 'and then there were none'?

jm's picture

EDITED:  Spanish govvie yields have rocketed.

But 5Y yield are only at 456 bps.  This is half of Irish govvies yields.  Spanish debt to GDP is ~65%.  The debt doesn't look unserviceable, just uncomfortable.





TWORIVER's picture

looks like they turned off the "BUY" switch at 1pm. SPY's drop 50 cents with no bid on 5 million shares.

Implicit simplicit's picture

The new Black Friday special is a mixed game of Monopoly and a financial version of Apocalypse Now.

Delight as the Euro and USD race to debase.

 Belly laugh and fart as countries go bankrupt, and bond holders get stuck holding the bag as they rush to the exits.

Trip out like you’ve swallowed peyote buttons and already puked as the stock market climbs amidst rising poverty, the dismemberment of the middle class, and the acceleration of pseudo wealth to the oligarchies consisting of the bank, military and government complex.


*Disclosure: Not responsible for any resemblance to real life illusions. Made in China. Not responsible for any resulting wars and poverty. If any of this seems real to you, take the red pill.

Real Estate Geek's picture

News Flash:  Krugman actually makes some sense about Ireland.  He even compares the proposed plan unfavorably to Iceland's course of action

I've got to go outside and look for the flying pigs.

Landrew's picture

I know I could not believe what I was reading and read it again! If he thinks the Irish should have gone Iceland, then why does he expound on the glory of the Fed./Treasury bailing out our banksters with un-payable tax dollars? Kruger with a real thought shocking!

doolittlegeorge's picture

phew!  lot going on here but "gettin' warmer Jack" as Bugs Bunny said so well.  First off "there is no connection between Netflix and Amazon and geo-political risk."  More to the point "with the various negative connotations of the word 'orgy' is a consumerist one really that bad"?  I say..."no.  Not really."  I would agree "a consumerist orgy serves no militant or national security purpose" but it doesn't serve the "imminent demise of a great civilization" argument either.  Needless to say the significance of "the potential for the imminent collapse of the European Union" as well as "the potential for an imminent war on the Korean Penninsula" cannot be overstated.  Should they both happen simultaneously next week (and they can) what does it mean?  If your answer is "200 dollar 32 inch HDTV's" congratulations, you've passed the test.  In short "I see nothing given what I view as these two imminent events being actualized thereby causing the treasury complex to be obliterated."  Of course as was said in the movie Patton, "because gentlemen I understand we can still lose this war" strikes me as an important "concept" too.  We have CURRENTLY significant operations underway in Afghanistan and a "signifcant interest" in the situation in "what is called Iraq."  To overlay these two ongoing concerns with "merely Europe and the Korean Penninsula" is a big deal indeed.

overqualified's picture

He forgot the ultimate step: "who guarantees the sovereigns". I just heared an interview to a bunch of italian banksters and economy profs. who all agreed about giving full taxing power to EU in order to finance all these "guarantees".  In fact, we are definitely not taxed enough in europe.

JW n FL's picture


ICAP Completes First Voice Brokered OTC CNH Trade

Hong Kong, 22nd November - ICAP plc (IAP.L), the world’s premier interdealer broker, announced today it has executed the first ever voice brokered OTC Option trade in the CNH market between HSBC and BNP Paribas, to further support effective trading of the newly tradable Hong Kong delivered Chinese Yuan (CNH).

Gordon French, Head of Global Markets, Asia Pacific, HSBC, said:
"It is very promising to see another RMB derivative product to be settled in RMB in Hong Kong. Last month, HSBC traded first offshore RMB deliverable SHIBOR Interest Rate Swap. With extensive knowledge in local markets, HSBC is dedicated to developing the RMB interest rate derivative market and continuing to be a major market maker in all RMB products. The development expands our trading potential and leads to a broader range of RMB products, which will assist us in providing risk management, investment and hedging solutions for our clients."

Pierre Themiot, Head of IR and LTFX options trading, Asia ex-Japan, BNP Paribas commented:
"BNP Paribas is very pleased to have closed this landmark CNH swaption deal. BNP Paribas' leadership in derivatives, and its extensive presence in Asia, means we are involved in every stage of the RMB internationalisation process. This first option trade is a reflection of our ambitions to grow our RMB product offerings for the benefit of our clients."

Hugh Gallagher, CEO, ICAP Asia Pacific, said:
"The completion of this first option trade is a further development in the internationalization journey of Chinese Yuan. We look forward to continuing to work with our bank customers to further grow and cultivate a dynamic CNH market place."

Earlier in November, ICAP announced the launch of four new CNH currency pairs on the EBS spot FX platform. ICAP also landed Asia Risk Magazine’s Interdealer Broker of the Year award 2010, for the fourth consecutive year.

Buttcathead's picture

I aint buy'n nuttin.

DavidRicardo's picture

"under the rules of this multi-trillion shell game, the sovereigns guarantee the ECB which funds the banks which buy the government debt which provides for everyone else's guarantees."


This analysis is shallow.  What is going on is Mellonesque liquidation--looting.  Somehow the author has missed this, and its consequences.

Encroaching Darkness's picture

What, CDS and MBS aren't complicated enough? Let's introduce international bank bailouts, cross-Atlantic credit lines and more fiat money. Let's add Treasury buybacks, Chinese inflation and POMO to the inputs. And then indict the hedge funds, add more banking "regulation" and capital controls as well. After all, the real reason the systems are failing is lack of sufficient complexity, right? At this time I suggest KISS - buy PM's, emergency supplies and anything else you think might be worth something after the Crunch collapses the dollar, euro, reminbi and all the other fiats. A single ounce of gold might cost you $1500, but make you the richest man in the county in six months or so. Timing is difficult, but get it in 1/10 oz coins for convenience, and hold it until it's worth more than your house. My little hoard won't impress anyone here, but it will probably keep us fed. That's all I really want, to keep my family whole until sanity returns. Gold and silver, to make up for the fevered imaginings of people who are "smarter" than we are - and in positions to make us miserable. Now I've got to get back to work. [Feverishly building pyre of FRNs to hold back the coming night.]

Fatso's picture


And our fiat lovin' government would never do something like make possession of gold a crime, like Executive Order 6102 did in 1933.

No, not even gold is gonna save your ass.

Not till we get into the fucking street and demand clawbacks and prosecutions in numbers that even the LameStreamMedia won't be able to ignore, will we have any hope of improving the situation.

anony's picture

Not so.

How do you stop a serial killer once and for all?  By jumping up and down in front of him?  Yelling you won't take it any more? 

No.  The way you stop a serial killer, addicted to his murderous ways is to kill him. Dead.

Until the likes of Lord Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and their accomplices experience a modern day version of the method the Bolshies employed to rid themselves of Nicholas II, the transfer of all the money in the world that can possibly exist to a few well-placed Jews and their consigleres like Hank Paulson and Warren Buffet,  the rape will continue.

DosZap's picture


I agree w/your last sentence, but I disagree w/the second.

EO's,PDD's, don't , will not mean SHIT to the American people this time.

We are no where close to the people of the 30's.

We think differently, we have educated ourselves on WHO is responsible for the storm,and if they try and forcibly take anything, it will be a humongus showdown.

Personally I think it will make the American Revolution look like a 3yr old's B Day party.

As in, "Piss poor planning(outright theft) on YOUR part, does not constitute an Emergency on my Part".

So, go get in a corner a FYERSEF.


ElGuappo's picture

Soda - Booze-Check



Shotgun Ammo-Check

Nonperishable fully salt loaded junk food-Check


All I need is 3 min warning and its Panic Sex til the streets clear.

Bring it on !



DosZap's picture


Read the article about the Banks Saftey Deposit boxes..............silly rabbits.

But,they have the same idea as 4% of the US citizens.

But, we know better than to stick it there.

Encroaching Darkness's picture

Fatso, the current existence of pre-1933 St. Gaudens gold coins indicates that even then, in a much more unified and cooperative America, there were those who chose not to obey Roosevelt's socialist diktat. Sure, some were probably overseas in foreign bank holdings and such, but I expect there were plenty in American attics, sock drawers and nail jars as well.
Today, with BHO's 39% approval rating, do you think anyone would comply? Having seen what happened last time, who do you think would obey such an order? No, private holdings of gold would simply go overseas, or underground, until BHO becomes a bad memory of a tortured time, and his attempted theft is ignored or overturned.
Secondly, clawbacks of what? Depreciating FRNs? Worthless paper promises? And prosecutions of whom, the fraudulent banksters or their pet politicians? The politicians WILL protect the bankers, they know where their campaign funds come from. Any real attempt at prosecuting the guilty will be papered over, or litigated endlessly by lawyers in on the scheme. And don't count on the LameStream Media to tell the truth in any case.
I see it as protect yourself, as well as you can figure; or play games where the house has an infinite, inside edge. (Imagine a roulette wheel consisting only of the green 0 and 00 slots). Best of luck to you, you'll need it!

tobinajwels's picture

Nothing is safe but investing in jewels and gold. Please see here:

M.B. Drapier's picture

The Irish banks certainly shouldn't have been "saved", but it's no surprise that they were. What got the country into this nightmare was the absolute (and well-documented) prostration of Irish politicians and regulators before the country's own banks - especially the two Most Precious Darlings, Bank of Ireland and AIB (ie. Allied, not Anglo). It was the Big Two that arm-twisted and bamboozled the state into the blanket bank guarantee in 2008, much more than any foreign institution. If anything, the Irish example helped to drag the other EU states into coddling their bondholders, rather than the other way round. Once the fatal guarantee had been made, though, the Irish establishment's fawning attitude to the EU, as well as its general spinelessness and fecklessness, helped to carry us down the path of least resistance into the ditch.

As we have noted before, under the rules of this multi-trillion shell game, the sovereigns guarantee the ECB which funds the banks which buy the government debt which provides for everyone else's guarantees.

The odd thing is that the sovereigns don't really guarantee the ECB, or at least there's no clear mechanism for them to dig out the ECB if it bankrupts itself, yet Frankfurt turned this weakness into a strength when it decided to get shot of its Irish-debt timebomb. Since the lack of any agreed mechanism for the ECB to be recapitalised would make any recapitalisation request an "unthinkable" nightmare-carnival (while printing away the losses remains taboo, at least for now), what else could the member-states do except catch the bomb when the ECB threatened to drop it? So whether through malice or (more likely) recklessness, the ECB managed to pull a bait-and-switch on Ireland (and soon Spain and Portugal, perhaps): "sure, if you bail out your banks we'll share the cost with you!" Chicken and all that. Too bad if it comes apart on them.

Itsalie's picture

"As we have noted before, under the rules of this multi-trillion shell game, the sovereigns guarantee the ECB which funds the banks which buy the government debt which provides for everyone else's guarantees. "

So how is that worse or any different from the US of A? Here Uncle Sam guarantees the Fed, which then guarantee the PD's/banks debt and prints unlimited amount to keep the same banks afloat, the money is then used to buy buy the toilet treasury debt issued by Uncle Sam , and onsold back to the Fed (for a profit).

Ireland or Greece or Protugal or Spain or Italy or France or Germany should have been saved? Why didn't anyone mention the same of Indonesia or Korea or Thailand in 1998?

Face it, the West will go thru 10 years of pain as Asia did - devaluation (hey the rupiah went from 2500Rp a buck to 16,000 a buck - so euro at 1.2 is really not so bad), destruction of banks and industries, unemployment, social chaos, fall of regimes (who is the Suharto of the West?) - the full works. Welcome!

WarProfiteer's picture

Don't forget the other precious metal...Lead. I suggest a good Kalashnikov

to go with it.

As for the banking system, well I don't think too many ZH readers will be

troubled by it's passing.


lamont cranston's picture

The latest article at sums up the debt crisis rather succinctly.

As for a run on the banking system, a logical outcome could be some form of martial law, given recent statements from TSA. YGWYPF.

Krugger's picture

Thank you lamont for the martinarmstrong link, the article "Can the Euro survive a Sovereign Debt crisis" very enlightening.   :-)

PD Quig's picture

"Is it so hard to see that, when the crisis broke, the Irish authorities should have restricted themselves to guaranteeing banking deposits up to some fairly modest ceiling amount and then left bank shareholders, bondholders, and wholesale depositors to negotiate over the division of whatever small residuum their ill-advised investments had left them?"

And why did this not happen in the U.S. in 2008? Or with GM/Chrysler? Why won't it happen with California?

Because no steps so painful will ever be taken voluntarily by any politician or government bureaucrat until a gun is either physically or figuratively pointed at their head. Which is exactly what is going to happen some time in the next few years (months? weeks? days?)