American Military Starts Assassinating Children
There was a time when working on Wall Street, either on the sell or buy side, was the dream of every able-bodied worker who could do simple addition in their head and wasn't afraid to cut the occasional corner in exchange for a bottle of Bollinger and a sizable year end bonus. That, however, was so 2006 and with the long overdue conversion of the banking sector into a utility the stratospheric compensation payments from the peak of the credit bubble are long gone. So what is the New Normal dream job? Become a California state worker, preferably one who deals with neurotic and/or crazy people (i.e., a psychiatrist), and rake it in. The following chart from Bloomberg shows just how generous the otherwise insolvent state of California is when it comes to paying its public servants, and the 100%+ increase in California employee state pay since 2005. Needless to say, this is a rate of increase in compensation that 99% of workers in the private sector would die for.
It must be pointed out that gold is certainly no longer the bargain it was at the lows over a decade ago (at which time Warren Buffett undoubtedly hated it just as much as today). This is by no means akin to saying that there is no longer a bull market in force though. What seems however extremely unlikely to us is that the long term bull market is anywhere near to being over. After all, the people in charge of fiscal and monetary policy all over the globe are applying their 'tried and true' recipe to the perceived economic ills of the world in ever bigger gobs of 'more of the same'. Until that changes – and we feel pretty sure that the only thing that can usher in profound change on that score is a crisis of such proportions that the ability of said authorities to keep things under control by employing this recipe is simply overwhelmed – there is no reason not to hold gold in order to insure oneself against their depredations.
Tim Geithner's time is almost done, but the former NY Fed head is only one of very many whose position is expected to be replaced in Obama's second term (just so there is a non-continuous chain of command if and when the time comes for the people to demand an explanation for the state of the US economy from the talented Mr. Geithner). Who else is out and who is expected to be in? The following list attempts to cover all upcoming rotations at the top of the US cabinet. What is not attempted is a prediction of where in the private sector people such as Geithner will end up: that is considered largely self-explanatory.
Sweeping changes are taking place at the state level as pension trustees and legislatures push for higher monthly contributions to pension plans, a later retirement age and lower annual cost-of-living adjustments for current and retired workers. Unions (those that don't make Twinkles, in any event), are making the concessions because they can see the future absent shared sacrifice — the termination of defined benefit plans in favour of defined contribution plans. Be that as it may, employee contributions are going up — a de facto tax hike. And this will work directly against any upturn in consumer spending when you consider that the state and local government sector employ nearly 20 million people or 15% of the national job pie. So we will have less government, fewer entitlements and more whisperings that it isn't just the $250,000+ high-income households that are going to experience tax increases and diminished disposable income growth. This is shared sacrifice. To think that the nation could have ever gone to war in Iraq and in Afghanistan under the Bush regime, putting our troops at great risk not to mention the emotional scars on their families, while here at home civilians would be allowed to enjoy tax cuts and a debt-financed consumption binge.... One has to wonder what events could provide positive momentum to GDP growth, push corporate earnings to record highs as the consensus predicts as early as next year, or generate any lasting inflation, for that matter. It's the people that make these pricing decisions. Businesses can only price up to what consumers are willing to pay. It is households that determine whether or not we have inflation, not some bureaucrat in Washington who believes he has control over some printing press.
Is this really the reason why markets are rallying today? (or is it front-running the potential 'cone of silence' from a long-weekend in DC) We suspect neither, but Mike Krieger, having written extensively on the two-party political sham, notes the issue is that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are at their core the same on the big issues most affect these United States at this time. This past election should have been a wakeup call to the Republican establishment, but based on John Boehner’s recent actions, they have learned absolutely nothing. The Republican Party is imploding from within since its leaders don’t actually stand for anything. Here is how Mr. Boehner treats those within his party that do stand for something.
"High ranking generals and admirals earn their stars. They earn their stripes. Then, they earn their cash." Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has just released a fantastic new report on the revolving door between the Pentagon and the private sector, which raises serious concerns not only about ethics and corruption within the defense sector, but also raises issues of national security if retired generals are merely acting as mercenaries once they retire. As Mike Krieger notes: "When I first figured out the gigantic ponzi scheme, theft and fraud within the financial system... I never imagined the same thing goes on in virtually every sector of our corrupt crony capitalist economy... including the military." Absolutely incredible...
The schizophrenia in US equity markets (and by correlation all risk markets) is nowhere better highlighted than the last 24 hours of 2% swings in the S&P 500 on nothing more than boiler-plate comments from DC. However, as BofAML's Ethan Harris notes, "the year-end fiscal challenges in the US are more like an 'obstacle course' than a 'cliff' - politicians must navigate about 10 major policy decisions before year-end." We continue to expect a messy multistage deal on the cliff - with some wishy-washy partial deal late December and more complete resolution (as it will be called) late Spring. We agree with BoFAML's view that until then, we suggest that investors fade the likely “press fakes” of an imminent deal, and brace for downside volatility. It seems to us that the negotiations remains stuck at square one.
- OECD slashes 2013 growth forecast (FT)
- Fiscal Cliff Compromise Elusive as Congress Returns (Bloomberg)
- China’s PBOC Chief Search Spurs Focus on Finance Regulators (Bloomberg)
- Elected, but Still Campaigning (WSJ)
- Pentagon Readies Options for Afghanistan Force After 2014 (Bloomberg)
- Greece Wins Easier Debt Terms as EU Hails Rescue Formula (Bloomberg)
- Monti presses Cameron for EU referendum (FT)
- Welcome, Mr Carney – Britain needs you (FT)
- Argentina seeks halt to $1.3bn debt order (FT)
- Asean chief warns on South China Sea disputes (FT)
- South Korea Tightens FX Rules to Temper Won Surge (WSJ)
We are now averaging more than one suicide per day for active duty military. This is an absolute national disgrace. We are living in a sick society that is getting sicker and sicker each day. We must turn this around and the only way to do so is to get the facts to people and shake them out of their apathy.
If only the nation’s Founding Fathers could see us now! A Supreme Court totally gone wild, de facto legislating and imposing its will; a Congress, lair of lazy career politicians and self-serving scoundrels; and an Executive, wearing reversible togas colored blue and red, running the nation as an empire, and using the country’s military as police force for multi-national predatory capitalism… subsidized by taxpayers from America’s lower and middle classes. Are we at the embryo stage of a major military scandal… a Miligate? Petraeus and Allen are two Samson-characters who availed their modern day Delilah(s) with a razor-sharp lack of common sense. Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawan are neither geishas, nor courtesans... perhaps more of a groupie-variety around the military. Let’s all be concerned with pressuring the politicians to defuse the “fiscal cliff,” and wait until appropriate investigations are concluded to determine whether there is a Miligate.
- Don't jump to conclusions over general, Pentagon chief says (Reuters)
- Bad times for generals: Pentagon demotes 4-star General Ward (Reuters)
- Investors Pay to Lend Germany Money (WSJ)
- Noda will no longer be watching... watching: Japan PM honors pledge with December 16 vote date, to lose job (Reuters)
- New China leadership takes shape (FT)
- Hispanic Workers Lack Education as Numbers Grow in U.S. (Bloomberg)
- Quest for EU single bank supervisor stumbles (FT)
- Anti-austerity strikes sweep Europe (Reuters)
- Amazon faces new obstacles in fight for holiday dollars (Reuters)
- SEC Expands Knight Probe (WSJ)
- Singapore’s Casinos Lose Luster as Gaming Revenue Decline (Bloomberg)
- Amid Petraeus sex scandal, Air Force to release abuse report (Reuters)
- Geithner’s Money Fund Overhaul Push Sparks New Opposition (Bloomberg)
The REAL Meaning of Veterans Day ...
Update, in which we find the true reason for the affair: Petraeus Won’t Testify on Benghazi Next Week, Senate Aide Says. In other words, next time one is called to testify before a panel over the deaths of 4 people including one US ambassador, one just pulls the infidelity "get out of testimony" card and all is well.
A mere few days after the re-election of our president, CIA Director David Petraeus annoucnes his resignation:
- *CIA DIRECTOR DAVID PETRAEUS RESIGNS
- *PETRAEUS SAYS HE ASKED OBAMA TO BE ALLOWED TO RESIGN: NBC NEWS
The reason - an extra-marital affair...
- *PETRAEUS SAYS HE ENGAGED IN AN EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR: NBC NEWS
- *PETRAEUS 'SUCH BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE' IN A LEADER: CNN
Of course, the defense is already known: Petreaus did not commit that affair... the government did it for him
Does China have what it takes to get from here (industrialized export economy) to there (sustainable growth, widespread prosperity)? The same can be asked of every nation: do they have what it takes to move beyond their current limitations to the next level? Consider corruption. Corruption isn't just a "values" issue: corrupt societies have corrupt economies, and these economies are severely limited by that corruption. A deeply, pervasively corrupt economy cannot get from here to there. Corruption acts as a "tax" on the economy, siphoning money from the productive to the parasitic unproductive Elites skimming the bribes, payoffs, protection money, unofficial "fees," etc. By definition, the money skimmed by corruption reduces the disposable income of households and enterprises, reducing their consumption and investment... Pull aside the curtain and what you find is a China crippled by corruption and debt.