Combine diminishing returns with the political dominance of vested interests and you get a system incapable of reforming itself and incapable of stopping the slide off the cliff. Vested interests have no concern for the unintended consequences of their self-aggrandizement; the entire poilitical structure is based on the faith that there is always more money to feed the insatiable hunger of entrenched interests for more funding, more protection and more power. And so the only possible "solution" left is collapse.
They’re not even trying to blame the weather this time.
To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we work in the economy we have, not the economy we might want or wish to have at a later time. And what characterizes the economy we have? It's bewildering because nothing works like it's supposed to. For example, getting a college degree was supposed to guarantee a good job and an 80% lifetime wage premium over people without college degrees. But in the economy we have, getting a college degree no longer guarantees a good job, or indeed, a job of any kind: 53% of recent college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or doing work they could have done without going to college. The payoff for getting a college degree is declining while the risks of becoming a debt-serf due to crushing student loans is rising.
We live in a pretend economy. It is important to recognize this condition, especially if you are an investor. Current market behavior is concerning. Bonds and stocks remain volatile and near record levels. Markets ignore the continuing stagnation in the pretend economy, buoyed apparently by government liquidity injections. To justify investing today in these markets, one must anticipate one or both of the following: economic growth is about to surge; and/or market values can continue to rise from here, potentially further widening the already large gap between valuations and fundamental economics. No reading of the economic tea leaves suggests a surge in economic growth is coming. Indeed, a critical analysis of the data makes one question whether there has been a recovery at all. Certainly any recovery has to be labeled as abnormal. Playing these markets in any conventional manner is akin to writing insurance policies for suicide bombers.
Putting this in context, in the past 12 months, a record 98% of all credit - $162 billion - has gone into non-revolving debt, i.e., student and car loans. How much has been added to credit card balances? An absolutely meaningless $4 billion, or 2% of total. Shown below, the "consumer recovery" is the bar chart on the left.
How much has the average cost of attending college at four-year degree-granting institution in the U.S. risen since the 1969-1970 school year?
One has to wonder why we are dodging this truth about what we've become: a nation that turns a blind eye to skimmers, scammers and legal looting. As in the story of the Emperor's new clothes, the onlooker who declares the obvious - in this case, that the stock market is rigged - shatters the consensus lie.
While we have covered the various ways in which Americans are scraping by in the current feudal economy, from food stamps and disability fraud, to student loans and living in mom and pop’s basement, this reverse mortgage thing is a piece of the puzzle we have been missing. These mortgages are not insignificant either. According to Inside Mortgage Finance, originations were up 20% in 2013, hitting $15.3 billion. So when you see that older guy working the cashier at Wal-Mart and wonder to yourself how he is surviving, the answer may increasingly be a reverse mortgage. Oh, and since the FHA is originating many of these loans, you the taxpayer will be on the hook!
Are you thinking of going to college? If so, please consider that decision very carefully. You probably have lots of people telling you that an "education" is the key to your future and that you will never be able to get a "good job" unless you go to college. And it is true that those that go to college do earn more on average than those that do not. However, there is also a downside.
The central premise of the Keynesian Cargo Cult is that this mechanism of making it cheap and easy to borrow money will work a kind of magic that can only be manifested by dancing around a fire at night waving dead chickens and chanting "humba-humba." The Keynesian cargo Cult calls this magic "animal spirits." Unfortunately, waving dead chickens while dancing around a fire doesn't do anything in the real world, and neither does making it cheap and easy to borrow more money. You poor, dumb, deluded fools. You've destroyed our economy, our values and our ability to deal with reality. Your faith is as boundless and disconnected from the real world as your policies.
Existing Home Sales Lowest In 19 Months, Cheapest Home Sales Tumble 18%; Weather, Student Loans BlamedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/20/2014 10:26 -0400
Another month, another confirmation that the so-called housing recovery is sputtering on its last breath and is being held up entirely by the higher end segment, which however is also coming to an end now that wealthy Chinese have started liquidating their ultra luxury housing. In February, according to the NAR, some 4.6 million annualized existing homes were record, in line with expectations, and a 0.4% decline from the 4.62 million print in January. This was the 19th monthly drop in a row, and the lowest since July 2012, and a 7.1% drop year over year. But the worst news is that housing is increasingly unaffordable to the poorer Americans, with houses costing in the $0-$100 bucket down 18% from a year ago. Since nobody is applying for a mortgage any more this is hardly surprising. Finally, in addition to the usual weather excuse for weak housing sales, a new scapegoat has appeared: soaring student loans: "20 percent of buyers under the age of 33, the prime group of first-time buyers, delayed their purchase because of outstanding debt. 56 percent of younger buyers who took longer to save for a downpayment identified student debt as the biggest obstacle." Oops.
Why Mainstream Economists Like Krugman Are So WRONG and So DANGEROUS
“The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”
The core elements of this Fourth Turning continue to propel this Crisis: debt, civic decay, global disorder. Central bankers, politicians, and government bureaucrats have been able to fashion the illusion of recovery and return to normalcy, but their “solutions” are nothing more than smoke and mirrors exacerbating the next bloodier violent stage of this Fourth Turning. The emergencies will become increasingly dire, triggering unforeseen reactions and unintended consequences. The civic fabric of our society will be torn asunder.
The truth is the Fed incentivizes and rewards the most parasitic, least productive sector of the economy and forcibly transfers the interest that was once earned by the productive middle class to the parasites. Though the multitudes of apologists, lackeys, toadies, minions and factotums of the Fed will frantically deny it, the inescapable truth is that the nation and the bottom 99.5% would be instantly and forever better off were the Fed closed down and its assets liquidated. The only way to eliminate the financial parasites is to stop subsidizing their skimming and scamming, and the only way to stop subsidizing the financial parasites is to shut down the Fed.
Another month down, another month in which US consumers deleveraged by paying down their credit cards. Although that is not exactly correct: as we showed recently, the New Normal source of credit has nothing to do with revolving debt, or credit cards, or any other old normal notions, and everything to do with student debt, which is used for everything except paying for tuition. That, and car loans of course. Sure enough, in February, of the $13.7 billion in new loans created, $13.9 billion, or 102% of all, was there to fund student and car loans. And looking further back at the data over the past year, of the $172 billion in new consumer debt, a stunning 96% has gone to new student and car loans.