While massive binges in stock buybacks and accounting gimmicks have continued to blur the actual profitability of businesses, the decline in jobless claims suggests that there is little room from further reductions in body counts. However, that does not mean that businesses must begin rapidly increasing employment and wages. Businesses are indeed hiring, but prefer to hire from the "currently employed" labor pool rather than the unemployed masses. The "bad news" is that for those unemployed, full-time employment remains elusive, and wages remain suppressed due to the high competition for available work.
In spite of the landmark decision 80 years ago against the imposition of economic fascism in America, the U.S. government has continued to grow in power over the American people. But it should be remembered that men of courage, integrity, and principle can stand up to Big Brother and resist the headlong march into economic tyranny. That unanimous Supreme Court decision in 1935 was one bright example of it.
When we left you yesterday, we were trying to connect the bloated, cankerous ankles of the US economy (Part 1) to the sugar rush of its post-1971 credit-based money system (Part 2). Today, we look at the face of our government. It is older... with more worry lines and wrinkles. But whence cometh that pale and stupid look? That is also the result of the same advanced diabetic epizootic that has infected American society.
With all deference to Dr. Richard Fisher, the surging dollar is not good for either the economy or ultimately a stronger labor market. This is particularly the case when the dollar is only stronger because the rest of the world is on the brink of recession and or deflation. The negative impact of a surging dollar in a weak economic environment will more than likely outweigh any positive inputs for the U.S. consumer. Time will tell, but the evidence is mounting that the we are likely closer to the end of the current economic cycle than the beginning.
Many people ask why we can’t just cancel all debt, and start over again. To do so would probably mean canceling all bank accounts as well. Most of our current jobs would probably disappear. We would probably be without grid electricity and without oil for cars. It would be very difficult to start over from such a situation. We would truly have to start over from scratch. Those holding paper wealth can’t count on getting very much.
Halloween has a socialist tenor. Menacing figures arrive at your door uninvited, demand your property, and threaten to perform an unspecified "trick" if you don't fork over. That's the way the government works in a nutshell. Thanksgiving has been reinterpreted as the white man, after burning, raping, and pillaging the noble Indian, trying to make amends with a cheap turkey dinner. New Year's can be ruined as the beginning of a new tax year, and the knowledge that the next five or six months will be spent working for the government. That's why I love Christmas.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
The increasing use of technology to replace human capital is a trend that will not reverse anytime soon and will continue to proliferate areas where unskilled, repetitive labor can be automated. This is the risk that fast food workers take by lobbying for higher wages; an ordering kiosk can be quickly employed to take orders and deliver those to an automated production line. Or better yet, why not allow customers to simply place orders on the way to the restaurant through an "app." The next time you go out take a moment to realize the impact of technology on everything you do. Also, notice how many individuals have the faces stuck into their phones being truly unproductive.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just released its annual report on “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes” analyzing data through 2011 on American households. The major finding of the CBO report is that the households in the top income quintile are the real “net payers” of the US economy. The highest income quintile is basically financing the entire system of transfer payments to the bottom 60% and the entire operation of the federal government. And yet don’t we hear all the time that “the rich” aren’t paying their fair share of taxes and that they need to shoulder a greater share of the federal tax burden?
The economy we have now is like a mental patient, drugged up with so many antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers that the root of his problems has become undetectable. It sounds Utopian, but economic growth really is a panacea that improves standards of living for everyone in nearly every way. But instead of pursuing economic growth, the government wastes its time with piecemeal patches, trying to plug a hole whose cause remains unabated.
Cynicism is popular. Cynicism is popular these days. It's what passes off as wisdom. But cynics didn't put a man on the moon. Cynics never won a war. Cynics didn't cure a disease, or start a business, or feed a young mind. Cynicism didn't bring about the right for women to vote, or the right for African Americans to be full citizens. Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice.
And so, as President, I'm going to keep a promise that I made when I first ran: Every day, I will keep asking the same question, and that is, how can I help you? And I'll keep treating your cares and your concerns as my own. And I will keep fighting to restore the American Dream for everybody who's willing to work for it. And I am going to need you to be right there with me. (Applause.) Do not get cynical. Hope is the better choice.
Many seem to believe that if we worked our way out of debt problems in the past, we can do the same thing again. The same assets may have new owners, but everything will work together in the long run. Businesses will continue operating, and people will continue to have jobs. We may have to adjust monetary policy, or perhaps regulation of financial institutions, but that is about all. I think this is where the story goes wrong. The situation we have now is very different, and far worse, than what happened in the past. We live in a much more tightly networked economy. This time, our problems are tied to the need for cheap, high quality energy products. The comfort we get from everything eventually working out in the past is false comfort.
The boom is unsustainable. Investment and consumption are higher than they would have been in the absence of monetary intervention. As asset bubbles inflate, yields increase, but so do inflation expectations. To dampen inflation expectations, the Fed withdraws stimulus. As soon as asset prices start to fall, yields on heavily leveraged assets are negative. As asset prices decline, increasingly more investors are underwater. Loan defaults rise as mortgage payments adjust up with rising interest rates. When asset bubbles pop, the boom becomes the bust.
The story of energy and the economy seems to be an obvious common sense one: some sources of energy are becoming scarce or overly polluting, so we need to develop new ones. The new ones may be more expensive, but the world will adapt. Prices will rise and people will learn to do more with less. Everything will work out in the end. It is only a matter of time and a little faith. In fact, the Financial Times published an article recently called “Looking Past the Death of Peak Oil” that pretty much followed this line of reasoning. However, energy common sense doesn’t work because the world is finite.