If there is one thing that unites trade unionists, Keynesian Cargo Cultists, free-market fans and believers in American exceptionalism, it's a misty-eyed nostalgia for the Golden Era of the 1950s and 60s, when one wage-earner earned enough to buy all the goodies of a middle-class lifestyle because everything was cheap. Food was cheap, land was cheap, houses were cheap, college was cheap and most importantly, oil was cheap. The nostalgic punditry quite naturally think of this full-employment golden age of their youth as the default setting, i.e. the economy of the 1950s/60s was "normal." But it wasn't normal--it was a one-off anomaly, never to be repeated.
If you are not Professor Paul Krugman you probably agree that Washington has left no stone unturned on the Keynesian stimulus front since the crisis of September 2008. By the time the “taper” is over later this year (?) the Fed’s balance sheet will exceed $4.7 trillion - $4 trillion in new central bank liabilities in six years. All conjured out of thin air. Professor Krugman proposing to “do something”... In short, Krugman wants to double-down on the lunacy we have already accomplished. Unfortunately, we are presently nigh onto “peak debt”; there is no “escape velocity” because the Fed’s credit channel is broken and done. Going forward, the American people will once again be required to live within their means, spending no more than they produce. By contrast, Professor Krugman’s destructive recipes are entirely the product of a countrafactual economic universe that does not actually exist. He wants us to borrow and print even more because our macro-economic bathtub is not yet full. And that part is true. It doesn’t even exist.
The central premise of the Keynesian Cargo Cult is that this mechanism of making it cheap and easy to borrow money will work a kind of magic that can only be manifested by dancing around a fire at night waving dead chickens and chanting "humba-humba." The Keynesian cargo Cult calls this magic "animal spirits." Unfortunately, waving dead chickens while dancing around a fire doesn't do anything in the real world, and neither does making it cheap and easy to borrow more money. You poor, dumb, deluded fools. You've destroyed our economy, our values and our ability to deal with reality. Your faith is as boundless and disconnected from the real world as your policies.
“Black Swan” Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb DEMOLISHES the Claim that GMOs Are Low-Risk
If you are like most Americans, paying taxes is one of your pet peeves. The deadline to file your federal taxes is coming up, and this year Americans will spend more than 7 billion hours preparing their taxes. When the federal income tax was originally introduced a little more than 100 years ago, most Americans were taxed at a rate of only 1 percent. But once they get their feet in the door, the social planners always want more. Since that time, tax rates have gone much higher and the tax code has exploded in size. Why do we have to have the most convoluted tax system in the history of the planet?
Since the early twentieth century, Saudi Arabia has enjoyed a close relationship with the United States. From the development of the Saudi oil fields,to the First Gulf War, this relationship has been an uneasy cooperation—each side received something out of the alliance while nervously watching the other. So recently we have the first open break between the two powers culminating in the Saudi’s refusing a seat on the U.N Security Council due to anger with U.S. Middle Eastern policies. It is foolish for America to offend and promote distrust with another ally in a long list of broken long-standing relationships. These include Poland, United Kingdom, Israel, Egypt, etc. One wonders whether the results of American diplomacy stems from extreme incompetence or is evidence of a much darker agenda.
Apparently China did not get the memo that the Fed's apologists are furiously scrambling to packpedal on Yellen's "6 month" guidance in virtually all media outlets. The is the only way to explain why Vice Minister of Finance Zhu Guangyao said overnight that "the U.S. Federal Reserve will begin boosting interest rates within six months after exiting “unconventional” monetary policy, and that will have a “significant impact” on the U.S. and world economy, as Market News International reported earlier. Zhu told China Development Forum this weekend “we believe a the Fed meeting this October, the exit of their quantiative easing will complete." In other words while the spin for public and algo consumption is that the Fed will continue placating those long the stock market until everyone's price target on the S&P 500 is hit and everyone can comfortably sell into an ever-present bid, China is already looking for the exits. But while the end of QE appears a given, at least until the market realizes there is no handover to an economy that is a moribund as it has ever been in the past five years, and the Fed has no choice but to untaper and return with an "even more QE" vengeance (it certainly won't be the first time - just recall the "end" of QE1, QE2, Op Twist, etc), a bigger question surrounds whether China, already sliding in credit contraction and suffering a plunging stock market with its housing sector also on the edge of a bubble bust, is about to take over from the Fed and proceed with its own stimulus program. The answer is no.
The situation with Russia should give investors and traders a reason to brush up on their history, as current events take root in things that happened 50, 100, and 200 years ago. To understand this, can provide perspective, during an information war, where it's not easy for some to separate facts from beliefs and propoganda (on both sides). The relationship between US and Russia has always been interesting, as we shall explore.
The cultural divide
One could see this one coming from a mile away.
In its 2013 annual report to Congress, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate wrote that the IRS shows “disrespect for the law and a disregard for taxpayer rights.” Further, the report says that the current system “disproportionately burdens those who [make] honest mistakes." We all know the stories. The IRS has nearly infinite power to do whatever it wants, including freezing you out of your own bank account without so much as a phone call, let alone due process. This is an incredible amount of authority to wield. But the British government has just gone even further...
With the Crimea referendum passed and Russia ready to annex the region, the United States and the European Union have threatened sanctions. The full extent of these sanctions is not yet known, and announcements are pending for the end of March. If these measures are concrete, they will of course be followed inevitably by economic warfare, including a reduction of natural gas exports to the EU and the eventually full dump of the U.S. dollar by Russia and China. As I have discussed in recent articles, the result of these actions will be disastrous. For those of us in the liberty movement, it is now impossible to ignore the potential threat to our economy. No longer can people claim that “perhaps” there will be a crisis someday, that perhaps “five or 10 years” down the road we will have to face the music. No, the threat is here now, and it is very real.
As any long-time reader of this column knows, we routinely draw from historical lessons to highlight that this time is not different. History is full of examples, from ancient Mesopotamia to the Soviet Union, which show that whenever societies reach unsustainable levels of resource consumption and allocation, they collapse. We’ve been writing about this for years, and the idea is now hitting mainstream. A recent research paper funded by NASA highlights this same premise. According to the authors: "Collapses of even advanced civilizations have occurred many times in the past five thousand years, and they were frequently followed by centuries of population and cultural decline and economic regression." The results of their experiments show that some of the very clear trends which exist today– unsustainable resource consumption, and economic stratification that favors the elite – can very easily result in collapse.
Each time the Fed has lowered the overnight lending rate, the next set of increases have never exceeded the previous peak. This is due to the fact, that over the last 35 years, economic growth has been on a continued decline. Increases in interest rates are not kind to the markets either. Each time the Fed has started increasing the overnight lending rates. Each time has seen either market stagnation, declines, or crashes. Furthermore, it is currently implied that the Fed funds rate will increase to 3% in the future, yet the current downtrend suggests that an increase to 2% is likely all that can be withstood. According to Jim Cramer last night, he said the idea of rising interest rates shocked the markets, however, in the long-term it's a positive sign. Rates rise as the economy does better. The assumption he makes is that as the economy "catches fire" and corporate profits increase, then it is natural for interest rates to rise also. If a growing economy is a function of expanding profitability, then what is wrong with the chart below...
"It is clear to us that speculative and Ponzi finance dominate China’s economy at this stage. The question is when and how the system’s current instability resolves itself. The Minsky Moment refers to the moment at which a credit boom driven by speculative and Ponzi borrowers begins to unwind. It is the point at which Ponzi and speculative borrowers are no longer able to roll over their debts or borrow additional capital to make interest payments.... We believe that China finds itself today at exactly this juncture."
From "contrarianism takes courage" to "expect bullshit," Doug Casey's nine secrets for successful speculation are principles everyone can learn from.