Quietly, and with essentially no coverage from the mainstream media, an obscure resolution (No. 41) was introduced in the US House of Representatives this week. The entire point of the resolution (The Federal Government should not bail out State and local government employee pension plans or other plans that provide post-employment benefits to State and local government retirees) is to say that the federal government is broke. It can’t pay its own bills, and therefore is shouldn’t be responsible to pay anyone else’s either. This Resolution is a pretty scary dose of honesty.
For decades, the rest of the planet has regarded the United States as “the land of opportunity” where almost anyone can be successful if they are willing to work hard. The “American Dream” has been transformed into a very twisted game of musical chairs. With each passing year, more people are falling out of the middle class, and most of the rest are scrambling really hard to keep their own places. Something has gone horribly wrong... We are the generation that gets to witness the end of the American Dream.
Is the BLS overstating employment growth? I guess it depends on whose data set you choose to believe. However, there is little denying the fact that with over 60% of the population living paycheck-to-paycheck, stagnant wage growth and declining net worth over the last five years, there is something that simply does not add up. If employment growth were indeed growing as strongly as in the late 90's, it would seem logical to expect that many of the disparities in the economic landscape should be starting to equalize somewhat. Unfortunately, that has yet to be the case.
In the early 1970s, there were about 200,000 new US businesses created each year (net of closures). Now, the number is negative. Why are Americans getting poorer? Look no further. No new businesses (net). No new jobs (again net). No new wealth. Under Obama and Draghi, crony capitalism flourishes. Real capitalism dies.
Once upon a time, there was a saying "no taxation without representation." Well, in America's transition to an utopia of French or even Venezuelan caliber, for half the population taxation became an anachronism from a bygone era, which in turn meant that representation likewise lost its charm. However, in order to preserve a political system in which the votes of the many are bought with the money of the few or, as the case may be these days, with money printed out of thin air by the Federal Reserve, there was one bureaucratic hurdle: one still needed a US passport in order to vote. However if a newly introduced bill in Washington D.C. passes, one won't even need to be a citizen in order to vote in local elections.
How does the economy really work? In our view, both energy and debt play an extremely important role in an economic system. Once energy supply and other aspects of the economy start hitting diminishing returns, there is a serious chance that a debt implosion will bring the whole system down. In this first piece of this story, we explain how the economy is tied to energy, and how the leveraging impact of cheap energy creates economic growth.
Despite tactical, rhetorical opposition to further expansion of the entitlement state by many voices in Washington, and firm resistance by an honorable and principled few, collusive bipartisan support for an ever-larger welfare state is the central fact of politics in our nation’s capital today, as it has been for decades. Until and unless America undergoes some sort of awakening that turns the public against its blandishments, or some sort of forcing financial crisis that suddenly restricts the resources available to it, continued growth of the entitlement state looks very likely in the years immediately ahead. And in at least that respect, America today does not look exceptional at all.
During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening, Barack Obama is going to promise to make life better for middle class families. Each January, he gets up there and tells us how the economy is “turning around” and to believe that much brighter days are right around the corner. And yet things just continue to get even worse for the middle class. The numbers that you are about to see will not be included in Obama’s State of the Union speech. They don’t fit the “narrative” that Obama is trying to sell to the American people. But all of these statistics are accurate. They paint a picture of a middle class that is dying.
While a record amount of ink has been spilled praising the benefits of plunging crude price on the US consumer, so far this has manifested merely in soaring consumer confidence, if not in an actual boost to retail sales. Less has been written about the adverse side-effects of plunging oil, even though by now even the most “undisputed” permabulls have been forced to admit that the imminent collapse in capital spending is truly “unprecedented”, a phrase Goldman uses in the chart below. So what does plunging CapEx actually mean for the economy, aside from a major haircut to 2015 GDP, and what other areas of the economy will be affected by the Saudi Arabian scorched earth war on the US shale industry?
The 30 Year U.S. Treasury bond yield hit 2.35% yesterday. Long term interest rates are not controlled by Yellen. They reflect the economic prospects of the country. When they are rising it means the economy is doing well. When they are plummeting to all time lows, the economy is either in recession or headed into recession. Take your pick. No amount of government data manipulation, feel good propaganda spewed by the captured mainstream media, or Ivy League educated Wall Street economist doublespeak, can change the fact this economy is in the dumper and headed much lower. The Greater Depression is resuming its downward march toward inevitable war.
The majority of the jobs "created" since the financial crisis have been lower wage paying jobs in retail, healthcare and other service sectors of the economy. Conversely, the jobs created within the energy space are some of the highest wage paying opportunities available in engineering, technology, accounting, legal, etc. In fact, each job created in energy related areas has had a "ripple effect" of creating 2.8 jobs elsewhere in the economy from piping to coatings, trucking and transportation, restaurants and retail. Simply put, lower oil and gasoline prices may have a bigger detraction on the economy that the "savings" provided to consumers.
The U.S. now ranks not first, not second, not third, but 12th among developed nations in terms of business startup activity as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton rages, for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births. Wall Street, Clifton explains, needs the stock market to boom, even if that boom is fueled by illusion. So both tell us, "The economy is coming back." Let's get one thing clear, he exclaims, "this economy is never truly coming back unless we reverse the birth and death trends of American businesses."
Those waiting to see if the crude crash would lead to any sizable adverse impact on the US trade deficit in November, as lower production led to higher imports if only on paper, the answer is yes, but in the opposite direction: instead of increasing or dropping just marginally from October's $43.4 billion (to the $42 billion consensus estimate), the November trade deficit tumbled by 7.7% to $39 billion the lowest print since December 2013, as a result of a 2.2% drop in imports coupled with a 1% decline in exports. But it was shale crude once again that was the swing factor, which was massively produced as domestic producers scramble to offset declining prices with extra volume, because as the data showed, in November the US imported the smallest crude amount by notional since 1994, and the lowest cost crude since 2010.
2014 was quite a bizarre year. The past 12 months brought us MH370, Ebola, civil war in Ukraine, civil unrest in Ferguson, the rise of ISIS and the fall of the Democrats in the midterm elections. Our world is becoming crazier and more unstable with each passing day, and we have a feeling that things are going to accelerate greatly in 2015... despite record-er-est US stock prices.
Every year, David Collum writes a detailed "Year in Review" synopsis full of keen perspective and plenty of wit. This year's is no exception. "I have not seen a year in which so many risks - some truly existential - piled up so quickly. Each risk has its own, often unknown, probability of morphing into a destructive force. It feels like we’re in the final throes of a geopolitical Game of Tetris as financial and political authorities race to place the pieces correctly. But the acceleration is palpable. The proximate trigger for pain and ultimately a collapse can be small, as anyone who’s ever stepped barefoot on a Lego knows..."