Too Big To Fail
The fact that the phrase sounds antique should warn us of the scale of our folly. We have lost, given away, pawned the power we once claimed. We have ceased to be who we once were. Or at least who we claimed and hoped to be – The People. Now who are we? The Consumer? The Unemployed. The Unwanted? ”We, the Unwanted” does not have the same ring about it does it? And yet that is what we are fast becoming. It is time to chose. Sit in front of your television or computer screen and let it sooth you, until one day you too find you have have become one of the unheard, unlamented, Unwanted. Or reach out to others and grasp hold. It is surely time that we re-assert what the phrase “We, The People” once meant.
All this boils down to one simple question: can the top 10% (roughly 11 million households) support the billions of square feet of retail space that were added in the 2000s? If the answer is no, as it clearly is, then the retail CRE sector is doomed to implode. Let's try a second simple question: what's holding the retail CRE sector up? Answer: leases that will soon expire or be voided by insolvency, bankruptcy, etc. as retailers close stores and shutter their businesses. One last question: who's holding all the immense debt that's piled on top of this soon-to-collapse sector? The domino of retail CRE will not fall in isolation; it will topple the domino of debt next to it, and that will topple the lenders who are bankrupted by the implosion of retail-CRE debt. And once that domino falls, it will take what's left of the nation's illusory financial stability down with it.
President Obama has recently promoted inequality as a fundamental threat to our way of life, saying, “The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe.” You can read the rhetoric here. Let’s look at the reality.
If the Federal Reserve is trying to force feed us prosperity then the inevitable blowback will be adversity. If the Fed is trying to compel the most dramatic economic recovery in history, then the blowback may well be the deepest depression in history. If the Fed is trying to enforce confidence and optimism then the blowback will be fear and despair. If the Fed is trying to force consumers to spend then the blowback will be a collapse in consumer confidence.
"Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences." - Robert Louis Stevenson
We sincerely hope that we are completely wrong here, that we are missing something, that there is a flaw in our logic. However until we can locate such a flaw we must trust the technical case for treating this Fed force-fed rally in the stock market as something that will end badly.
If we have learned anything since the global financial crisis peaked in 2008, it is that preventing another one is a tougher job than most people anticipated. Not only does effective crisis prevention require overhauling our financial institutions through creative application of the principles of good finance; it also requires that politicians and their constituents have a shared understanding of these principles. Today, unfortunately, such an understanding is missing. “Firefighting is more glamorous than fire prevention.” Just as most people are more interested in stories about fires than they are in the chemistry of fire retardants, they are more interested in stories about financial crashes than they are in the measures needed to prevent them. That is not a recipe for a happy ending.
Have you seen the economic recovery? We haven’t either. But it is bound to be around here somewhere, because the National Bureau of Economic Research spotted it in June 2009, four and one-half years ago. It is a shy and reclusive recovery, like the “New Economy” and all those promised new economy jobs. I haven’t seen them either, but we know they are here, somewhere, because the economists said so. At a time when most Americans are running out of coping mechanisms, the US faces a possible financial collapse and a high rate of inflation from dollar depreciation as the Fed pours out newly created money in an effort to support the rigged financial markets. It remains to be seen whether the chickens can be kept from coming home to roost for another year.
Most economic observers are predicting that 2014 will be the year in which the United States finally shrugs off the persistent malaise of the Great Recession. In contrast, we believe that the episode has, for the moment, established supreme confidence in the powers of monetary policy to keep the economy afloat and to keep a floor under asset prices, even in the worst of circumstances. The shift in sentiment can only be explained by the growing acceptance of monetary policy as the magic elixir that Keynesians have always claimed it to be. This blind faith has prevented investors from seeing the obvious economic crises that may lay ahead. Based on nothing but pure optimism, the market believes that the Fed can somehow contract its $4 trillion balance sheet without pushing up rates to the point where asset prices are threatened, or where debt service costs become too big a burden for debtors to bear. The more likely truth is that this widespread mistake will allow us to drift into the next crisis.
Bitcoin is rapidly becoming part of the everyday lexicon. Following David Woo's investigation, National Australia Bank's Emma Lawson looks at its creation, use, and quality as "currency," and find that Bitcoin meets most, but not all the conditions required to be a currency. Lawson concludes Bitcoin may not be the most efficient monetary system, given the costs to create, and that the supply set-up can be seen as both an advantage (hyperinflation is not possible) but also a disadvantage (there are conditions which may create deflation). But, if enough people believe in it, and use it, it may be here to stay as a payment system. Simply put, its success (or failure) will depend on establishing trust and adoption.
December 23rd, 1913 is a date which will live in infamy. That was the day when the Federal Reserve Act was pushed through Congress. Many members of Congress were absent that day, and the general public was distracted with holiday preparations. Now we have reached the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, and most Americans still don't know what it actually is or how it functions. But understanding the Federal Reserve is absolutely critical, because the Fed is at the very heart of our economic problems. Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 recessions or depressions, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by 98 percent, and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger. This insidious debt-based financial system has literally made debt slaves out of all of us, and it is systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. The truth is that we do not have to have a Federal Reserve. The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when we did not have a central bank. If we are ever going to turn this nation around economically, we are going to have to get rid of this debt-based financial system that is centered around the Federal Reserve. On the path that we are on now, there is no hope.
Overstock to Accept Bitcoin Starting In 2014
Do we need a banking sector dominated by politically untouchable "Too Big to Fail" (TBTF) banks? Thanks to fast-advancing technology, the answer is a resounding no. Not only do we not need a banking sector, we would be immensely better off were the banking sector to wither and vanish from the face of the Earth, along with its parasitic class of political enablers, toadies and Federal Reserve apparatchiks.... An automated banking utility has no need for parasitic bankers or politicos or indeed, a central bank. The only legitimate regulatory function of the state is to enforce transparency; beyond that, its actions are all subsidies of one sort or another of politically powerful constituencies at the expense of the real economy's productive people, communities and enterprises.
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.
If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
So the question is simple: If there is a recession in 2014, and policymakers are out of bullets, how will it play out across the American economy?
Before you buy the dip "because this Bull market will run until 2016," please ponder this chart... Empirically, the stock market advances when credit is expanding and declines when credit growth slows. If credit expansion leads the stock market, the market is in trouble...
Volcker Rule - Who cares? I know we are supposed to care more about this convoluted rule, but we just can’t. The concept that somehow “prop” trading brought down the banks seems silly. The idea that market making desks were a dangerous part of the equation is ludicrous. They could have fixed this with a few simple changes, but that would have meant some blame would have had to be shifted onto the regulators...