We have tried a number of times (here, here, and here) to explain the simple math behind the populist call for a higher minimum wage (that appears to be founding the President's new class warfare) but in the following clip, we hope, Peter Schiff visits a local Wal-Mart in the hopes of explaining that magic money trees are not real.
Despite yesterday's governmental reassurance (a la Venezuela and Argentina) that there is no inflation in the US, the reality for the average man in the street is a little different. We have previously noted that gas prices are 25% above their average price of the last decade but it is another staple that is more worrisome for many in America. As CNSNews reports, the average price of ground beef hit an all-time high this week at $3.61 per pound (up from just $1.82 per pound in 1980). As both a home-cooked and fast-food staple, the price of ground chuck alone has risen 45% in the last 10 years. Nope, no inflation here...
The rich continue to grow richer, and as David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) so eloquently explains in this brief clip, this has pushed the Fed into a corner. As the Federal Reserve gets a new chair and decides what to do next, whether to print $85 billion a month more or not, McWilliams examines the heist that is the new normal financialized economy - who gets all the loot and why today's kidnappers wear Prada. "Wake up," he blasts, explaining the uncomfortable reality of what happens when financial kidnappers dress up as loyal patriots and extort money in the name of the common good.
87-year-old Lew Manchester has just returned from a 3-week trip touring Buddhist temples in Laos and cruising the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. His 61-year-old daughter Lee lives year-round in the basement of her friend’s Cape Cod cottage, venturing into the winter cold to get to the bathroom. As Bloomberg reports, Lew is making the most of his old age. Lee is paring back and lightening her load as she looks ahead to her later years. Both worked all their lives, both saved what they could. “Timing is everything and my dad’s timing with jobs, real estate and retirement benefits was better,” said Lee. A rising tide of graying baby boomers is less secure financially and has a lower standard of living than their aged parents.
Despite yesterday's exuberant spike in optimism from the NAHB sentiment index to 8 year highs, the delusion from reality appears to growing ever wider. This morning's "if we build them, they will buy'em" false headline spike in housing starts (seasonally-adjusted) is yet another delusional divergence as the mortgage applications index collapses (down 60% from 2013 highs) to a new 13-year low.
Spanish loan delinquencies as a percentage of the total have risen for the 8th straight month to a new record high of 13.00% (even as sovereign bond spreads continue to plunge to multi-year lows signaling all is well). With unemployment rates stuck stubbornly high, however, reality is starting to dawn in the Spanish banking system as mortgage defaults are rising following the Bank of Spain's order for lenders to review their portfolios. As Bloomberg reports, the default rate for Banco Santander alone jumped to 7% (from 3.1%) following its "reclassification" of loans that it had refinanced (never expecting to be repaid) and with home prices still falling, "there is an urgency to come clean" as regulators see the need for banks to cover a further EUR5 billion shortfall in provisions.
On January 29, 1845, the New York Evening Mirror published a poem that would go on to be one of the most celebrated narrative poems ever penned. The poem was entitled "The Raven," and its star was an ominous black bird that visits an unnamed narrator who is lamenting the loss of his true love... So, with the vision firmly planted in your mind's eye of a man completely out of touch with reality, seeking wisdom from a mysterious talking bird - knowing that there is only one response, no matter the question - Dear Reader, Grant Williams presents a chart whose importance is enormous... simply put, this one chart shows exactly why we are where we are...
Americans Have Lost Faith
America’s political economy has changed incrementally enough that many people have not noticed what is really happening. It’s over for most of us. You can call it collapse, or you can call it restructuring. You can even call it a recovery. But you can not call it sustainable, or pleasant. The overall trajectory is toward decline, decay, destitution... This collapse is the collapse of dreams, hopes and expectations, not an obvious one like the collapse of the currency or the government. And if you have no hopes or dreams, and your expectations are sufficiently low, then you might not even be aware of it. For the time being, what is really in everyone’s interest, here and abroad, is to keep playing along. Collapse? What collapse? We all have to keep pretending everything is fine, or things will get even worse quickly - for us. But if things are continuing to get worse for us in any case...
Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying HellholesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 21:12 -0400
All over America, formerly prosperous communities are being transformed into crime-infested wastelands of poverty and despair. Of course the most famous example of this is Detroit. At one time, Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city that the world had ever seen and it had the highest per capita income in the entire country. But now it has become a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the planet laughs at. And of course Detroit is far from alone. There are hundreds of other U.S. cities that are suffering a similar fate. In this article, the focus is going to be on Camden, New Jersey, but the truth is that there are lots of other "Detroits" and "Camdens" all over the nation. Jobs and businesses are leaving our cities at a staggering rate, and what is being left behind is poverty, crime and extreme desperation.
Why Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program Failed (Spoiler Alert: Thank Bank Of America et al)Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/16/2013 20:41 -0400
Back when the Executive and Congress at least pretended not to abdicate all power to the Fed, one of the centerpiece programs designed to boost the housing market for the benefit of the poor (as opposed to letting Ben Bernanke make marginal US housing a rental industry owned by a handful of private equity firms and hedge funds), was Barack Obama's Home Affordable Modification Program or HAMP, which attempted to prevent foreclosures by lowering distressed borrowers’ mortgage payments. Under the program, homeowners would be given trial modifications to prove they can make reduced payments before the changes become permanent. The program was a disaster as of the 3 million foreclosures that were targeted for modification in 2009, only 905,663 mods have been successful nearly five years later - a tiny 13% of the 6.9 million who applied (still, numbers which Obamacare would be delighted to achieve). Part of the reason: the program's reliance on the same industry that sold shoddy mortgages during the housing bubble and improperly sped foreclosures afterward. But there was much more. For the definitive explanation of everything else that went wrong, we go to Bloomberg's Hugh Son whose masterpiece released today explains how and why once again the banks - and especially one of them - won, and everyone else lost.
Could we have another bullish year in 2014? It is certainly possible as long as the Federal Reserve remains engaged in their ongoing balance sheet expansions. But maybe the ongoing inflation of assets, without the underlying improvement in organic, sustainable, economic growth, will eventually lead to the next market bubble and bust. Of course, for anyone that has payed attention, such an outcome would be of little surprise. The important point is that, as an investor, you need to pay attention to the ever decreasing reward/risk ratio of chasing the financial markets. The "low hanging fruit" has long been harvested and the risk currently far outweighs the potential reward of being aggressively invested. Of course, it is not popular, or fun, to rain on the bullish parade. However, while they will likely appear to be correct in the short term; the long term outcome will most likely be far less pleasant.
We want to believe the fake unemployment rate of 7% rather than the real rate of 14+% because the officially sanctioned forgery feeds our belief that our bloated, corrupt Empire of Debt is sustainable, fair and working well. To accept that we've been bamboozled, ripped off, taken advantage of and ultimately cheated out of an authentic economy and life by swindlers is too painful.
The so-called Volcker Rule for policing banking practices, approved by a huddle of federal regulating agency chiefs last week, is the latest joke that America has played on itself in what is becoming the greatest national self-punking exercise in world history. The Glass Steagall Act of 1933 was about 35 pages long, written in language that was precise, clear, and succinct. It worked for 66 years. The Volcker rule comes in the form of nearly 1,000 pages of incomprehensible legalese written with the “help” of lobbyist-lawyers furnished by the banks themselves. Does this strain your credulity? Well, this is the kind of nation we have become: anything goes and nothing matters. There really is no rule of law, just pretense.
Those who adhere to the don’t-stop-til-you-get-enough theory of sovereign borrowing, and by extension argue for a scrapping of the debt ceiling, couldn’t be more misguided. In free markets with no Fed money market distortion, interest rates can be a useful guide of the amount of real savings being made available to borrowers. When borrowers want to borrow more, real interest rates will rise, and at some point this crimps the marginal demand for borrowing, acting as a natural “debt ceiling.” But when markets are heavily distorted by central bank money printing and contrived zero-bound rates, interest rates utterly cease to serve this purpose for prolonged periods of time. What takes over is the false signals of the unsustainable business cycle which fools people into thinking there is more savings than there really is. Debt monetization has a proven track record of ending badly. It is after all the implicit admission that no one but your monopoly money printer is willing to lend to you at the margin. The realization that this is unsustainable can take a while to sink in, but when it does, all it takes is an inevitable fat-tail event or crescendo of panic to topple the house of cards. If the market realizes it’s been duped into having too much before the government decides it’s had enough, a debt crisis won’t be far away.