The U.S. federal deficit is now exceeding $1 trillion dollars every year —up from $161 billion in 2007, the last year before the financial crisis. Spending is up some $1 trillion, as outlays for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements have increased by an amount equal to the entire 2013 military budget – a budget which may again surpass the combined military expenditure of every other nation in the world. U.S. unfunded liabilities are now estimated at between $50 trillion and $100 trillion and by the end of the decade (in less than just 7 years), runaway entitlement spending will require shutting down the military or crippling many other vital domestic spending programs to head off massive deficits that will likely lead to a dollar crisis and significant inflation. No matter what deal is eventually agreed, whether before or after the new year, it will at best nibble at the edges of the trillion dollar annual deficits that are being piled up. While all the focus has been on the so called U.S. ‘fiscal cliff’, amnesia has taken hold and many market participants have forgotten about the far from resolved Eurozone debt crisis – not to mention looming debt crisis in the UK and Japan.
While the decline in initial jobless claims from a historical perspective should be a positive for economic growth in the future - it is likely to only be the case if employers began to convert part-time employees to full-time hires. This has been the hope since the end of the "Great Recession" yet subpar economic growth, increased productivity and weak consumer demand has kept businesses on the defensive to maintain profitability. The disappointment, from an economic standpoint, is that jobless claims could well hit much lower levels without a translation into stronger economic growth or significantly increased incomes.
To understand this endgame, we need to start with the financial and political basics of wealth and power in the U.S. Put these nine structural dynamics together and the endgame becomes clearly visible: Politically, a Tyranny of the Majority comprised of those who draw direct transfers/benefits from the Federal government, is ruled by the top half-of-1% financial aristocracy who own the majority of income-generating assets. The minority, who pay most of the taxes (the 24.5% between the majority and aristocracy), will see their taxes rise as the aristocracy buys loopholes and exclusions while the bottom 50% pay no income tax. Financially, the Federal government’s spending has outrun the tax revenues being collected. Structurally, Federal expenditures for entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Veterans Administration, etc.) will rise as Baby Boomers retire en masse over the next 15 years, while tax revenues will stagnate along with earned income. There is no way to square these circles. What few dare admit, much less state publicly, is that the Constitutional limits on the financial Aristocracy and the Tyranny of the Majority have failed.
The fiscal cliff dominates the mainstream news, but it is more like a bump on the pathway to the real cliff. In essence, the path has turned down and we're picking up momentum, gaining speed as we head for the cliff. The real cliff is the gap between what has been promised and what can plausibly be collected in tax revenues: $86 trillion but one recent estimate, over $120 trillion by other guestimates. Understood in this way, we can see that raising taxes by $200 billion or cutting expenditures by $200 billion is not going to keep us from hurtling off the real fiscal cliff in a few years. The fiscal cliff is only one edge we're racing toward; there are others.
The awful truth is that WE are responsible. We elected these people. We condone a two party system where we end up with a choice between the mediocre and the inferior. We are left to choose between the fool and the idiot and the men of character, the people of intellect and those focused on the health of the nation are left behind either because they will not participate or because they cannot survive the taunts and tricks of those that have no other interest besides their own ego and their own self-interests. I make no apologies. This is our fault and until and unless WE start demanding a government that represents our interests and values and morals that sets-aside America from other nations; we have no one to blame but ourselves. That is the sad truth of it which is why going off our present fiscal cliff may be the best thing that could happen to the United States. We might just wake up!
The collapse of the Fiscal Cliff talks should come as no surprise to anyone (except, of course, for all those "expert" political commentators virtually all of whom saw a deal by December 31: a full list of names is forthcoming). The reason: a simple one - a House torn, polarized to a record extreme, and a political environment in which the two parties, in the aftermath of a presidential election humiliating to the GOP, reached unseen before antagonism toward each other. In this context, it was absolutely inevitable that America would see a replica of last summer's debt ceiling collapse, which mandated a market intervention, in the form of a crash, and the wipeout of hundreds of billions in wealth - sadly the only catalyst that both parties and their electorate, understand. We had prefaced this explicitly in early November when we said that "the lame duck congress will posture, prance and pout. And it is a certainty that in the [time] remaining it will get nothing done. Which means, that once again, it will be up to the market, just like last August, just like October of 2008, to implode and to shock Congress into awakening and coming up with a compromise of sorts." Which of course brought us to Thursday night's mini-TARP moment. With all that said, there are those forensic detectives who are addicted to every single political twist and turn, and who are curious just where and when the Fiscal Cliff talks broke down in the past week. In this regard, the WSJ provides a useful timeline.
What a year 2012 has been! The mainstream media continues to tell us what a “great job” the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are doing of managing the economy, but meanwhile things just continue to get even worse for the poor and the middle class. Right now we are living in a bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity that allows us to continue to consume far more wealth than we produce, but when that bubble bursts we are going to experience the most painful economic “adjustment” that America has ever gone through. We need to be able to explain to our fellow Americans what is coming, why it is coming and what needs to be done. Hopefully the crazy economic numbers that we have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.
Facing reality is positive. That's the upside to the fiscal cliff. The last decade's fantasy that we could borrow our way to prosperity while lowering taxes on upper-income earners (because it's so cheap to borrow trillions at near-zero interest rates) is finally running into reality-based resistance.
Fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff;
Politics in play!
The only thing they have in mind;
Is the next election day! Hey!
Fiscal cliff, fiscal cliff;
Isn’t politics great?
They've left us now in such a mess;
We’ve no choice but to inflate.
So easy and so profitable
As unemployment rose toward 10%, the January 1975 cover of Ramparts magazine blared: The End of Affluence: The Last Christmas in America. (TLCIA). Now statistics are echoing that last great recession: rising prices for essentials, systemically high unemployment and stagnant wages. So how does a society deal with the End of Work when it also means The End of Affluence, even for many of those with jobs? How does government deal with declining tax revenues and rising interest rates? The death throes of the debt-based consumerist lifestyle are already visible beneath the glossy propaganda of "rising revenues this Christmas season." The Fed is desperately attempting to re-inflate the debt bubble by lowering interest and mortgage rates and buying up all sorts of semi-toxic/impaired debt. What the Fed dreads is the reality we all feel and see: fear of the future due to diminished wealth and shaky incomes.
This is one of the most revealing graphs we have posted. This Great Graphic comes from the Washington Post's Wonk blog. First, it shows that a step toward fiscal adjustment is coming to the US. The difference between Obama's plan and Boehner's is how the burden of the adjustment should be distributed. Second, chest thumping and the hand wringing that has surround the negotiations seems dramatically out of proportion on the differences. This is a case of the hubris of small differences.
The 'something for nothing' mentality is now firmly in charge in the developed economies. As the G7 economies cascade lower under their past, present and future entitlement & politically connected reward policies, misery is now being spread widely! Misery being spread widely is the product of socialism, as real growth disappears and money printed out of thin air fills in for the lack of real income growth. All of this is paid for by the money you earn and store your wealth in, buying less and less, while your balance in the bank stays the same. The attacks on wealth and job creation are set to accelerate as politicians loot and plunder the private sectors to pay the unpayable promises and support those that don’t produce, by dis-incenting and enslaving those that do. Effectively, penalizing those who lead a prudent and productive lifestyle. The cynical would argue that the goal is not to spur economic growth and job creation but instead is intended to formant economic collapse, grow government dependence, gather power as the man-made disaster unfolds, take freedoms and redistribute what wealth is left to the special interests in charge. This may very well be true but it could also be a matter of human nature and the generational re-learning of what role a government must be restricted to playing.
I attempt to craft something that has a chance of working.