The word "sacrifice" has been sacrificed on the altar of expediency. The politicians we elect (those who dare speak the truth of our impoverishment and complicity don't get elected--we abhor and fear the truth) have ground the word "sacrifice" into meaningless with overuse; it now means nothing but yet another clarion-call to swallow lies and artifice to protect our share of the loot. The government can't be the problem, because the government issues me a nice check every month. And so we cling to easy falsehoods... The problem is our consumerist, Central-State dominated society/economy that depends on ever-rising debt and and leverage is unsustainable, and placating ourselves with expedient simplicities that shift the accountability and responsibility from ourselves to someone or something else solves nothing. This reliance on excuses, denial and expediency is the hallmark of adolescence; in adulthood, these are the hallmarks of failure and pathology.
Is this what we've become, brittle, simulacra "grown-ups" who are incapable of acknowledging the truth of our situation? If we cannot dare acknowledging reality, then how can we solve our problems? If we cannot bear an awareness of our systemic rot and unsustainability, then how can we move past denial and expediency? If we have lost the ability to live within our means and to acknowledge difficult facts, then we have lost everything: our national integrity, our ability to problem-solve, our vigor and our future.
Only in public schools and universities is the fairy tale still taught that governments are representative of the people. The blue collared man on the street realizes the chips are stacked against him. For those who don’t have political connections, the pseudo fascist system that is still referred to as “capitalism” in the U.S. is akin to a casino game of chance. That is, the odds are always in the house’s favor. The house is the federal leviathan and its equivalent at the state and local level as well as the big, cartelized industries which feed off government protection. With Obamacare, the middle class will end up being liable for yet another entitlement program that, like any other government initiative, will cost more than was initially estimated. Worse yet, they will be bombarded with advertisements they paid for which attempt to convince them that Uncle Sam has once again delivered prosperity with a badge and a gun. The disheartening part is some Americans will be foolish enough to actually believe it.
Our entire society is in a downward social and economic spiral. We are just at different levels of decay (Dante’s circles of hell). At the current pace it won’t be long before I’m writing about the 50 States of Squalor. It is virtually impossible to reverse a decline that has been underway for the last three decades. We sold our souls to Wall Street and chose a debt financed illusion of wealth over productive savings and investment which would have led to real wealth. Our choices are reflected in the continued deterioration and decay along West Chester Pike and the squalor that is West Philly. Grey and decay will carry the day. The words on the Statue of Liberty should be revised from, ”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, to “we have become your indebted, materialistic, obese, aging masses yearning for the government to protect and sustain us as our once great nation decays.”
As a nation, we have chosen this path. We made the choices and now we will suffer the consequences.
We have all thought it. We have all muttered it under our breaths (and some of us have even written about it on blogs) but the Keynesian Krusader's borrow-and-spend-our-way-to-growth dogma was bazooka'd by former Senator Alan Simpson yesterday. "I say why don't you read our report and then get back to me", Simpson says of Krugman in a must-watch interview on Bloomberg TV, adding that "Paul Krugman is a great economist, but he ain't the best in the world. This is nuts...I love to read his stuff because it borders on hysteria" Critically, he adds on the growing demographic crisis "This is not 20 years ago, it isn't 10. It is now. You have 10,000 a day coming into the system. The demographics are there. It is all different -- it is not the same". The former Senator goes on to discuss whether US will become the next Europe, how lawmakers will sell cutbacks to the American public, whether policymakers keeping rates low are contributing to the problem, and finally on Simpson-Bowles 2.0. - "The people of America are telling their elected people how it is. Erskin and I go all over the country and tell them we do not do BS or mush, but pull up a chair and we will tell you where the country is, and they are thirsting for that."
What we have is a system where the full-time worker to beneficiary is already 1-to-1 and the system pays out 10 times more per person than it collects in taxes. The Medicare system would need about 10 workers for every beneficiary to be sustainable. Right now the ratio is just above 2-to-1. That simply is not sustainable. Tweaking the payouts doesn't change the basic math: "pay as you go" entitlements are not sustainable when the number of recipients equals the number of full-time workers. Programs that pay out $400,000 per person (many of whom did not work a lifetime) and collect $40,000 per lifetime of full-time work are not sustainable.
Wishing the math were different does not make it different.
One of the few things we know with certainty is that which is unsustainable will go away and be replaced by another more sustainable arrangement. Whether we like it or not, or are willing to accept reality or not, unsustainable public pensions will go away. What makes "defined benefit" pensions unsustainable? 1) Promised cash/benefits packages that are not aligned with the fiscal realities of what can be contributed annually to the pension funds 2) New Normal low yields on low-risk investments and 3) skyrocketing costs of healthcare benefits.
This is easily illustrated with basic math.
What we have is a Central State and an economy that has borrowed and squandered trillions of dollars on consumption and malinvestment in unproductive "stranded" assets. The debt and risk pile up, while the labor that results from consumption is temporary and does not create wealth or permanent employment. Figuratively speaking, we're stranded in a McMansion in the middle of nowhere, a showy malinvestment that produces no wealth or value, and we're wondering how we're going to pay the gargantuan mortgage and student loans. Debt and the risk generated by rising debt create a death-spiral when the money is squandered on consumption, phantom assets, speculation and malinvestments. Sadly, that systemic misallocation of capital puts the job market in a death spiral, too.
This afternoon the CBO reported a number that in itself is quite remarkable: in April, a preliminary estimate of US receipts and outlays showed that the US Treasury posted its first budget surplus in 42 months, or since September 2008. At $58 billion, the surplus was nearly $100 billion more than the the $40 billion deficit from a year earlier. Unfortunately, while superficially this number would have been worthy of praise, digging underneath the surface as always reveals 'footnotes'. Sure enough, in the aftermath of February which saw a record US deficit of $232 billion and March's $198 billion in net outlays, there was a "catch." As the CBO admits: "This April, the Treasury realized a surplus of $58 billion, CBO estimates, in contrast with the $40 billion deficit reported for the same month last year. The results in both years were influenced by timing shifts of certain payments; adjusted for those shifts, the surplus in April 2012 would have been $27 billion, compared with a deficit of $13 billion in April 2011.... The federal government incurred a budget deficit of $721 billion in the first seven months of fiscal year 2012, $149 billion less than the shortfall reported during the same period last year. Without shifts in the timing of certain payments, however, the deficit so far this year would have been only $92 billion smaller." In other words, without various temporal adjustments, the April surplus of $58 billion would have been completely netted out by the cumulative $57 billion in deficit time shifts. However, in an election year, every beneficial item such as this is an extended talking point as the president will gladly take the praise for a number which is indicative of anything but the underlying US financial "health." After all, others can bother with the explanations.
The entire bogus recovery is again being driven by subprime auto loans being doled out by Ally Financial (85% owned by the U.S. government) and the other criminal Wall Street banks. The Federal Reserve and our government leaders will continue to steer the country on the same course of encouraging rampant speculation, deterring savings and investment, rewarding outrageous criminal behavior, purposefully generating inflation, and lying to the average American. It will work until we reach a tipping point. Dr. Krugman thinks another $4 trillion of debt and a debt to GDP ratio of 130% should get our economy back on track. When this charade is revealed to be the greatest fraud and theft in the history of mankind, Ben and Paul better have a backup plan, because there are going to be a few angry men looking for them.
Gold is down 1.6% on the week. The gold market has seen peculiar, lack lustre, low volume trading this week punctuated with sudden, oddly timed, very large sell orders. This leads to quick price falls followed either by slow, gradual recovery or a sharp bounce, prior to next bout of strangely timed sudden large sell orders.
This was clearly seen by the mysterious and massive $1.24 billion ‘Goldfinger’ trade on Monday.
In this final part of the four-part series from The Heritage Foundation, we look at the scale of the entitlement society we live in relative to the Federal Budget. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security spending is set to explode, placing enormous pressure on other priorities such as defense and the rest of the budget.
Excessive spending has created record levels of debt and deficits, and the worst is yet to come, threatening opportunity and prosperity for younger generations. In these 10 charts, via The Heritage Foundation, we highlight the third (and arguably most frightening) in our four-part series on the Federal Budget - Debt & Deficits.
In this second part of the four-part series describing the state of the Federal Budget, we present 10 charts courtesy of The Heritage Foundation on Federal Revenues. America’s growing tax burden is a drag on the economy and will reach record levels without policy changes.
In a four-part series, on the premise that a picture paints a thousand words, we present, via The Heritage Foundation, everything you wanted to know about the Federal Budget - In Charts. We start with Federal Spending - which is at record levels and is still growing, threatening economic freedom.
A month ago we chronicled what we consider one of the biggest problems for America's long-term viability in "No Country For Thin Men: 75% Of Americans To Be Obese By 2020" which goes straight to the heart of the biggest shortfall in America's balance sheet: the net present value of future spending associated with Medicare and various other healthcare related programs, which will sadly only rise as more and more Americans become morbidly obese, and demand more expensive health service out of the piggy bank that even now has tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities. And while the future is certainly not bright, the past and present are just as bleak. A Reuters report focuses on just how it is that America got to where it is today (most likely sitting in front a computer, eating potato chips and drinking sugar-laden soda): "The percentage of Americans who are obese (with a BMI of 30 or higher) has tripled since 1960, to 34 percent, while the incidence of extreme or "morbid" obesity (BMI above 40) has risen sixfold, to 6 percent. The percentage of overweight Americans (BMI of 25 to 29.9) has held steady: It was 34 percent in 2008 and 32 percent in 1961. What seems to have happened is that for every healthy-weight person who "graduated" into overweight, an overweight person graduated into obesity." Which is not surprising: with pink and white slime food substitutes (as an example) allowing more and more low income individuals to drown their sorrows in fat (aka high calorie dollar meals) it was only a matter of time. Sadly, there is nothing in the equation that indicates this is set to change any time soon, even as the all too real costs, to both the individual and to society, mount in an exponential manner.