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Austerity Farm: Where Cuts For Some Are More Equal Than Cuts For Others

As the Greek government voted on their austerity plans (and prepare to vote on the budget), most of the media is focused on the molotov-cocktail-throwing malarkey that is occurring outside of the parliament. However, as Reuters reports, it was the band-of-brothers inside the building that may just have sparked the largest anger among the public. The government workers, who have enjoyed the "kind of lavish pay and benefits that have become emblematic of the public sector excess at the heart of Greece's debt crisis", suddenly discovered that in the 500-page draft of cost cuts and tax hikes that they themselves were expected to share in that sacrifice. This was entirely not acceptable and thus - they walked off the job, with police having to be called to prevent the shut off of power to the parliament building. Dubbed "The Princes of Parliament", these 'unsackable' staff who have enjoyed 16-month-per-year salaries, seem happy to draft the cuts for others but when it is their own..."we will stop it... Maybe forcefully this time" is response.



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Ron Paul: A New Beginning

America is over $16 trillion in debt. The “official” unemployment rate still hovers around 8%. Our federal government claims the right to spy on American citizens, indefinitely detain them, and even assassinate them without trial. Domestic drones fly over the country for civilian surveillance. Twelve million fewer Americans voted in 2012 than in 2008, yet political pundits scratch their heads. It’s not hard to see why, though.



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Visualizing The Impotence Of Bernanke's Wealth Transmission Channel

We have discussed the apparent (though anecdotal) divergence between refinancing rates and interest rates a number of times. Furthermore, we have exclaimed at the significant drop in refi rates since QE3 (following the initial spike) noting the unintended consequence that US households are increasingly realizing that rates will never be allowed to rise and so every rate rise is not a signal to rush into refinancing but instead a signal to pause for lower rates. The chart below is somewhat surprising in its clarity as Goldman Sachs note that despite record low mortgage rates, borrowers are refinancing at a rate of just 20-30% per year - far lower than prepayment speeds we would expect. The great majority of 'in the money' mortgages are not being refinanced and while we suggest this is the unintended Bernanke conditioning, Goldman also opines that industry capacity and underwriting standards on the supply side; and consumer awareness and household behavior on the demand side. Bernanke's wealth-building transmission channel via housing is entirely broken...



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Guest Post: Why The Chicago Plan Is Flawed Reasoning And Would Fail

On October 21st, 2012, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote a note titled “IMF’s epic plan to conjure away debt and dethrone bankers”, on UK’s The Telegraph. The article presented the International Monetary Fund’s working paper 12/202, also titled “The Chicago Plan revisited“. I will begin the discussion on this working paper with two disclosures: a) my personal portfolio would profit immensely if the Chicago Plan, as presented by the IMF’s working paper 12/202, was effectively carried out in the US. The reason I write today, however, is that to me, it is more important to ensure that my children live and grow in a free and prosperous world, and b) I have not read the so called Chicago Plan, as originally proposed by H. Simmons and supported by I. Fisher. My comments are on what the IMF working paper tells us that the Chicago Plan proposed, without making any claim on the original plan.



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Spot The Start Of The End Of The Keynesian Dream

Presented with little comment, but while there are numerous reasons for elevated oil prices (from short-term supply disruptions, middle-east tensions, and emerging-market demand) it appears something broke in Q1 2009 between a proxy for world trade (or indeed for ship-building mal-investment in hope-driven excesses continuing) and the cost of fulfilling that demand. After 25 years of credit-driven Keynesian (monetary-to-fiscal-policy reach-around) planning, it would appear it is different this time as the potential for infinite supply of fiat currency clashes with the 'finite' supply of hard assets (crude oil in this case)... Much as we question who gained from Draghi's first year of action in Europe, we suggest this chart clarifies who did not benefit from Bernanke's experimentation...



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Israel Launches A Missile Into Syrian Territory For The First Time In 39 Years

Golan Heights

Last week, when we reported that Syria has decided to enter the Golan Heights DMZ, and "provoke" yet another pro-Western stalwart, Israel, we said: "Syria can't wait to start a war, hopefully one which also involves Iran, and provokes the punishment of NATO and the west." We said this because when it comes to what the "fair and objective" media has deemed rogue states, the theory of rational actors no longer applies. Such is the case now in Syria, whose regime is not only involved in a bloody civil war (whose one-sided accounts we get each and every day), but it recently did everything in its power to start a war with Turkey (which failed after it became clear time and again that this was nothing but one huge false flag provocation) and thus provoke NATO's fury which would naturally wipe Syria off the map with the UN's blessing, and start a broader Middle Eastern conflict which certainly would not end there, but has also escalated to Israel just to be certain it gets promptly retaliated against. Today, we learn that Syria has finally gotten what it so urgently desired, after Israel, for the first time since 1973 "returned fire on Syrian military forces after Syrian shells exploded in Israeli territory."

 



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Deep Sunday Morning Thoughts From Bill Gross

Just because Jack Handey never got to manage $1+ trillion in debt...



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If The Greek Elections Were Held Today

Last week's largely symbolic vote in which the Greek bailout-addicted parliament passed, by the tiniest of margins, the latest request for just one more monetary fix promising that this time it will, pinky swear, get its house in order (and maybe even collect some taxes, because all those previous promises were just rehearsals) succeeded in one thing: the coalition government from this summer's elections, crumbling well ahead of time. Which means the time for yet another parliamentary vote is fast approaching. So if a vote were held today, who would be the most represented parties in the Greek parliament? The answer, according to the latest KAPA poll, is the following...



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Barclays' Barry Knapp Batters Bullish Believers

Barclays' Barry Knapp has joined the growing crowd of 'sub-1400 year-end S&P 500 target' realists among sell-side equity strategists. With Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker at 1167 and Goldman's David Kostin at 1250, Knapp just reduced his target to 1325 as he notes "the election scenario that unfolded was the one with the most risk, the status quo outcome." In a brief but densely packed interview on Bloomberg TV (the likes of which we suspect we will not see on CNBC), Knapp summarizes his non-rose-colored-glasses view: "In the longer term, while U.S. growth ... remains constrained by policy uncertainty and balance sheet deleveraging. Financial repression has limited the Fed’s effectiveness... We believe a period of significant equity market valuation improvement can’t begin until the Fed initiates the exit strategy process, which is unlikely to occur until Federal government debt sustainability is addressed." From lame-duck impotence to tax-selling pressures, Knapp nails our new reality and explains, as we have been saying, that the only solution lies in a market-forced move: "We suspect, absent a market correction large enough to force compromise, the two sides will not agree on the starting point for tax rates." Must Watch...



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Spain's "Terrible And Inhumane" Situation Prompts End To Evictions

With Spanish unemployment at record levels over 26% (and youth unemployment over 50%), even the bailout-avoiding prime minister is now recognizing the "terrible things and inhumane situations" that many real people are dealing with. To wit, a 53-year-old woman died after she threw herself from a window of her apartment when representatives of Spanish bank La Caixa arrived with locksmiths to evict her yesterday morning. The suicide (following another last month in Granada) has prompted Rajoy to temporarily halt evictions of the most vulnerable families as the government devises measures to help people stay in their homes. And yet, we are told again and again by Juncker, Barroso, van Rompuy et. al that the corner has been turned... we suspect not!



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"The Worm Turns" As Chevron 'Infected' By Stuxnet Collateral Damage

"I don't think the US government even realized how far it had spread" is how the collateral damage from the Iran-attacking Stuxnet computer virus is described by Chevron. The sleep San-Ramon-based oil giant admitted this week that from 2010 on "we're finding it in our systems and so are other companies... so now we have to deal with it." It would seem that little consideration for just how viral this cyber warfare tactic has become and this news (reported by Russia Today) is the first time a US company has come clean about the accidental infection. On the record, the federal government maintains ignorance on the subject of Stuxnet, but perhaps Chevron sums up the impact of Stuxnet best (given the escalating Iranian enrichment program): "I think the downside of what they did is going to be far worse than what they actually accomplished." As more truth comes out so it would appear the probability of copycat attacks is rising as the shadowy Iranian-based hacking group called The Qassam Cyber Fighters took credit for launching a cyberattack on the servers of Capital One Financial Corp. and BB&T Corp just last month.

 



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On Germany's Desire To See America "On Its Knees", And Its "Infantile Crush On Obama"

When you strip all the politically correct rhetoric, and the carefully sculpted facade is taken off for the night, this is what remains: Via Germany's most popular financial newspaper Spiegel: "There is hardly an issue about which Germans as so united as they are by their desire to see America on its knees. It unites both the left and the right. Wherever they look, they see decay, a lack of culture and ignorance. "A perverse mixture of irresponsibility, greed, and religious zealotry".  With a bit of luck, the specter across the Atlantic might even take care of itself. It can't be ruled out. When they are not shooting each other or being fried by dangling power lines then the Americans might simply pop. Two out of every three US citizens are overweight, or even obese! Every child in Germany knows the numbers. The childish excitement over Obama, that once again took hold over Germans during this election -- fully 93 percent of the country would have voted for him in this election -- is the flip side of this desire for America's demise. That the Germans, of all people, should see themselves in a black civil rights attorney from Chicago can only be explained by the fact that they see him as the opposite of what they consider to be normal Americans."



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Caption Contest: Communist China

It appears communism is alive and well. Coming to a '5 year plan'-sponsored KolHoz near you.



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Foodstamps Surge By Most In One Year To New All Time Record, In Delayed Release

While there had been speculation that the BLS may delay the release of its October nonfarm payroll number until after the election, it turned out there was no reason to worry. Perhaps this is because the number, while at stall speed, was not quite as horrible as some had expected (even if the change in average hourly earnings did tumble to new all time lows) and so boosted Obama's reelection chances. There was, however, another closely tracked number which perhaps is far more indicative of the economic "growth" in the past 4 years, which certainly had a delayed release. The number of course is that showing how many Americans are on foodstamps, and usually is released at the end of the month, or the first day or two of the next month. This time the USDA delayed its release nine days past the semi-official deadline, far past the election, and until Friday night to report August foodstamp data. One glance at the number reveals why: at 47.1 million, this was not only a new all time record, but the monthly increase of 420,947 from July was the biggest monthly increase in one year. One can see why a reported surge in foodstamps ahead of the elections is something the USDA, and the administration may not have been too keen on disclosing.



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Gold And The Potential Dollar Endgame Part 1

Economists the world over can take comfort that the laws of supply and demand still largely rule the marketplace. However, we believe there is a noted exception for a yellow, largely useless metal. A metal that just happens to have shaped the world’s monetary systems for the last several thousand years. Gold’s “supply” traditionally defined as global mining production is virtually meaningless in determining its’ price. How can this be? Gold, even when viewed as a commodity, is unique in that it is not consumed. Rather than supply in the traditional sense, what drives the gold price is the percentage of the existing stock (170,000 tons) that is available for sale on any given day. Gold, in our opinion is what is often referred to as a Giffen good. We believe that a massive revaluation of gold denominated in dollars can happen quite suddenly, almost overnight. But not because of any sustained long term demand for gold, but simply because owners of metal simply withdraw it from sale, sending the stock to flow ratio to infinity. This is why understanding gold’s stock to flow ratio is so vital. What happens to the “price” of gold when it ceases bidding for dollars? Zero. Or infinity. Take your pick.



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