The political left misunderstands the causes of income inequality —confused by the belief that government can somehow challenge the corporate and financial power it created in the first place — and thus proposes politically unrealistic (non-) solutions, particularly campaign finance reform, and raising taxes on the rich and corporations. Yes, the left are well-intentioned. Yes, they identify many of the right problems. But how can government effectively regulate or challenge the power of the financial sector, megabanks and large corporations, when government is almost invariably composed of the favourite sons of those organisations? How can anyone seriously expect a beneficiary of the oligopolies — whether it’s Obama, McCain, Romney, Bush, Gore, Kerry, or any of the establishment Washingtonian crowd — to not favour their donors, and their personal and familial interests? How can we not expect them to favour the system that they emerged through, and which favoured them? In reality, the system of corporatism that created the income inequality will inevitably degenerate of its own accord. The only question is when…
Ideological deflationists and inflationists alike find themselves both facing the same problem. The former still carry the torch for a vicious deflationary juggernaut sure to overpower the actions of the mightiest central banks on the planet. The latter keep expecting not merely a strong inflation but a breakout of hyperinflation. Neither has occurred, and the question is, why not? The answer is a 'cold' inflation, marked by a steady loss of purchasing power that has progressed through Western economies, not merely over the past few years but over the past decade. Moreover, perhaps it’s also the case that complacency in the face of empirical data (heavily-manipulated, many would argue), support has grown up around ongoing “benign” inflation. If so, Western economies face an unpriced risk now, not from spiraling deflation, nor hyperinflation, but rather from the breakout of a (merely) strong inflation. Surely, this is an outcome that sovereign bond markets and stock markets are completely unprepared for. Indeed, by continually framing the inflation vs. deflation debate in extreme terms, market participants have created a blind spot: the risk of a conventional, but 'hot,' inflation.
Here are four charts of wages, income and consumption. The charts depict changes from a year ago (also called year-over-year) and the percentage of change from a year ago. These measure rates of change as opposed to absolute changes, and so they are useful in identifying trends... The build-out of Internet infrastructure that culminated in the dot-com boom boosted employment, wages and consumption, and the credit-housing bubble of the mid-2000s also boosted income and consumption. Now that these temporary conditions have faded, what's left is the relentless chewing up of traditional industries by the Web as distributed software boosts productivity while slashing the number of people required to create value. What's remarkable about the first chart is the increase in volatility in recent years: the changes in wages and salaries are increasingly dramatic. This might be reflecting the dynamics of the global economy pulling wages lower while massive financial-stimulus policies of the Central State and bank (the Federal government and the Federal Reserve) act to artificially boost wages with trillions of dollars in borrowed/printed money.
The states of America are, truly, children of the Constitution. The legal framework that is the foundation of state sovereignty and internal administration is unique for perhaps any country in history up to the moment the U.S. won its independence. States were designed to decentralize and keep in check the power of a subservient Federal Government. They were meant to be the guardians at the gate, the barrier to the formation of oligarchy or outright dictatorship. This, of course, has changed drastically. The battle over centralized verses decentralized authority and economy has been going on for quite some time, and is undeniably critical in our climate of crisis now, under a government which is bankrupt in every sense and a currency which is on the verge of calamity... The following is a step by step method that states could use to accomplish the task of insulation from financial crisis and federal control. Much of it hinges on a willingness by state governments to actually pursue independence, which might seem like a naïve dream to most of us. But, in the wake of a major breakdown, and the fall of the greenback, I believe many states will be seeking a way to weather the storm, if only out of a desire to survive, and this includes walking away from their ties to Washington.
This strange event happened this past Tuesday in the COMEX New York markets but I didn't have time to post it until now. Not much to add here in the commentary that the pictures don't say themselves, except that market prices of two different assets do not plunge in tandem by 1.2% within a matter of half-an-hour or so at precisely the same time and then gain everything back in the next two hours if their prices are set by free and fair markets.
Decades of manipulation by the Federal Reserve (through its creation of paper money) and by Congress (through its taxing and spending) have pushed the US economy into a circumstance that can't be sustained but from which there is no graceful exit. With few exceptions, all of the noble souls who chose a career in "public service" and who've advanced to be voting members of Congress are committed to chronic deficits, though they deny it. For political purposes, deficits work. The people whose wishes come true through the spending side of the deficit are happy and vote to reelect. The people on the borrowing side of the deficit aren't complaining, since they willingly buy the Treasury bonds and Treasury bills that fund the deficit. And taxpayers generally tolerate deficits as a lesser evil than a tax hike. So stay up as late as you like on election night to see who wins, but the deficits aren't going to stop anytime soon. The debt mountain will keep growing. The part of it the government acknowledges is now approaching $16 trillion, which is more than the country's gross domestic product for a year. Obviously, the debt can't keep growing faster than the economy forever, but the people in charge do seem determined to find out just how far they can push things.
Muppets have received a lot of bad press since Greg Smith realized that he is not, in fact, a one-percenter. Fortunately Elmo’s back to reclaim his rightful place in the financial world: Making the seemingly incomprehensible comprehensible while politely pointing out what should be obvious to everyone not in diapers. That’s not so easy when the economic views espoused by everyone from central bankers to TV talking heads can only be accurately described as infantile.
One of the great existential debates about U.S. equities is essentially demographic in nature. Nic Colas, of ConvergEx, asks the question, will retiring Baby Boomers cash out of stocks in the coming years, leaving lower valuations in their wake? At least one recent Fed paper pointed to an 8x earnings multiple for stocks – down from 14x currently – in 2025, all due to the changing face (and age) of the typical investor. But all this doom and gloom only fits if every generation has a similar risk tolerance. If younger cohorts – dubbed Generation X and “Next” – have higher risk thresholds, they may actually buy more equities than their parents, alleviating the demographic time bomb behind that dire Fed prediction. Getting a fix on how these nascent investors will evaluate the risk-return tradeoff is tough; they still don’t have much money to put to work. Still, some signs exist. Believe it or not, a third of young Americans have tattoos, an acknowledged sign of risk-loving behavior. And if you think that is just bad decision-making, consider the business rock-stars of the under-30 set. This latest wave of billionaires are all outsized risk takers, and role models to their generation. Stocks may not be dead just yet.
I recently wrote an article that addresses the subject of sociopaths and how they insinuate themselves into society. Although the subject doesn't speak directly to what stock you should buy or sell to increase your wealth, I think it's critical to success in the markets. It goes a long way towards explaining what goes on in the heads of people like Bernie Madoff and therefore how you can avoid being hurt by them. But there's a lot more to the story. At this point, it seems as if society at large has been captured by Madoff clones. If that's true, the consequences can't be good. So what I want to do here is probe a little deeper into the realm of abnormal psychology and see how it relates to economics and where the world is heading. If I'm correct in my assessment, it would imply that the prospects are dim for conventional investments – most stocks, bonds and real estate. Those things tend to do well when society is growing in prosperity. And prosperity is fostered by peace, low taxes, minimal regulation and a sound currency. It's also fostered by a cultural atmosphere where sociopaths are precluded from positions of power and intellectual and moral ideas promoting free minds and free markets rule. Unfortunately, it seems that doesn't describe the trend that the world at large and the US in particular are embarked upon. In essence, we're headed towards economic and financial bankruptcy.
Size of Banks Killing Economy … But Giant Banks Have Only Gotten Bigger Since Financial “Reform” Enacted
Recently I was asked by a high school teacher if I had any ideas about why students today seem so apathetic when it comes to engaging with the world around them. I waggishly responded, "Probably because they're smart." In my opinion, we're asking our young adults to step into a story that doesn't make any sense. Sure, we can grow the earth's population to 9 billion (and probably will), and sure, we can extract our natural gas and oil resources as fast as possible, and sure, we can continue to pile on official debts at a staggering pace -- but why are we doing all this? Even more troubling, what do we say to our youth when they ask what role they should play in this story -- a story with a plot line they didn't get to write? So far, the narrative we're asking them to step into sounds a lot like this: Study hard, go to college, maybe graduate school. And when you get out, not only will you be indebted to your education loans and your mortgage, but you'll be asked to help pay back trillions and trillions of debt to cover the decisions of those who came before you. All while operating within a crumbling, substandard infrastructure. Oh, and by the way, the government and corporate sector appear to have no real interest in your long-term future; you're on your own there. Yeah, I happen to think apathy is a perfectly sane response to that story. Thanks, but no thanks. To understand how our national narrative evolved (or, more accurately, devolved) to become so unappealing, we have to take an honest look at money.
The Fed and the Administration should be on their knees and giving thanks for the blessings they have received for the economy over the past 9 months. First, falling oil prices last summer gave individuals an effective $60 billion tax cut. Then during the winter where normally heaters are turned up to stave off the wintery blasts the balmy winter added roughly $30 billion to consumer's wallets due to decreased utility costs. Those impacts gave individuals more dollars to spend and when combined with seasonal adjustments it gave the illusion of a strongly recovering economy. With "Operation Twist" now rapidly coming to an end and the Fed apparently in a trap of rising inflation I am not sure what the next "support" for the economy will be. My expectation continues to be that the economy will continue to run at a sub-par growth rate though the end of 2012 and that we could see a recession by the end of 2012 or by mid-2013. Of course, that is assuming we are boosted by further rounds of artificial intervention by the Fed or Mother Nature.
What if all global leaders' suits and any news/products associated with huge global events were required to be labeled with corporate sponsorship as are the racing jumpsuits and racing cars of Nascar drivers?