University of California
"The message for strivers is that if you want to be very, very rich, start out very rich," is the wondrous conclusion Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Peter Coy has from delving into the details of the latest data on income growth in America. The richest 0.1 percent of the American population has rebuilt its share of wealth back to where it was in the Roaring Twenties. And the richest 0.01 percent’s share has grown even more rapidly, quadrupling since the eve of the Reagan Revolution.
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!
“Do You Think That Because I’m CHAIRMAN of The Intelligence Committee That I Just Say “I Want It”, and They Give It To Me? ...Submitted by George Washington on 03/25/2014 00:46 -0400
... They Control It. All Of It. ALL of It. ALL THE TIME. I Only Get – and My Committee Only Gets – What They WANT To Give Me.”
- Putin rebuffs Obama as Ukraine crisis escalates (Reuters)
- Behind the $100 Billion Commodity Empire That Few Know (BBG)
- Initial Public Offerings Hit Pace Not Seen in Years (WSJ)
- Russian Parliament Will Back Crimea Split From Ukraine (WSJ)
- Nakamoto Named as Bitcoin Father Denies Involvement, Flees Press (BBG)
- Chaori Can’t Make Payment in China’s First Onshore Default (BBG)
- Zombies Spreading Shows Chaori Default Just Start (BBG)
- Pimco's Gross declares El-Erian is 'trying to undermine me' (Reuters)
- U.S. Fighters Circle Baltics as Putin Fans Fear of Russia (BBG)
The tyranny of models is rampant in almost every aspect of our investment lives, from every central bank in the world to every giant asset manager in the world to the largest hedge funds in the world. There are very good reasons why we live in a model-driven world, and there are very good reasons why model-driven institutions tend to dominate their non-modeling competitors. The use of models is wonderfully comforting to the human animal because it’s what we do in our own minds and our own groups and tribes all the time. We can’t help ourselves from applying simplifying models in our lives because we are evolved and trained to do just that. But models are most useful in normal times, where the inherent informational trade-off between modeling power and modeling comprehensiveness isn’t a big concern and where historical patterns don’t break. Unfortunately we are living in decidedly abnormal times, a time where simplifications can blind us to structural change and where models create a risk that cannot be resolved by more or better modeling! It’s not a matter of using a different model or improving the model that we have. It’s the risk that ALL economic models pose when a bedrock assumption about politics or society shifts.
Did you know that the drought in Brazil is so bad that some neighborhoods are only being allowed to get water once every three days? At this point, 142 Brazilian cities are rationing water and there does not appear to be much hope that this crippling drought is going to end any time soon. Unfortunately, most Americans seem to be absolutely clueless about all of this. And this horrendous drought in Brazil could potentially have a huge impact on the total global food supply. As a recent RT article detailed, Brazil is the leading exporter in the world in a number of very important food categories…
Two years into California's drought and locals are repeating (mantra-like) "we've never seen anything like it." They are right, of course, since this is the worst period of rainlessness since records began... but if Cal Berkeley professor Lynn Ingram is correct, they ain't seen nothing yet. The paleoclimatologist fears, if very long-run history repeats, California should brace itself for a mega drought, as National Geographic reports, a drought that could last for 200 years or more... since the 20th century was a 'wet anomaly'.
Did you know that the U.S. state that produces the most vegetables is going through the worst drought it has ever experienced and that the size of the total U.S. cattle herd is now the smallest that it has been since 1951? Just the other day, a CBS News article boldly declared that "food prices soar as incomes stand still", but the truth is that this is only just the beginning. If the drought that has been devastating farmers and ranchers out west continues, we are going to see prices for meat, fruits and vegetables soar into the stratosphere. Already, the federal government has declared portions of 11 states to be "disaster areas", and California farmers are going to leave half a million acres sitting idle this year because of the extremely dry conditions.
Sadly, experts are telling us that things are probably going to get worse before they get better (if they ever do).
Because Americans obviously can not be trusted with making the right, or any, decisions, without parental supervision, the CVS Caremark pharmacy chain has decided to do it for them. "CVS Caremark announced today that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers. "Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose." Well, unless all other major retail chains decide to pull the Bloomberg stunt and follow suit, that only means more money for CVS' competitors. And now we begin the countdown of how long before CVS also pulls all the other "evil", cheap high-calorie, zero nutrient junk foods that dominate its shelves and whose consumption is responsible for the bulk of cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths in the US.
The President will do his best to put a positive spin on the current economic environment and the success of his policies to date when he gives his speech tonight. However, how you define the current environment may have much to do with where you fall in current income distribution. This was a point made by Mr. Boyer: "In 2012, the richest 10 percent of Americans earned their largest share of income since 1917, said Emmanuel Saez, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. Meanwhile, Census Bureau statistics showed that real average income among the poorest 20 percent of families continued to fall each year from 2009 to 2011." As with all things - it is the lens from which you view the world that defines what you see. In the end, it will be whether we choose to "see" the issues that currently weigh on economic prosperity and take action, or continue to look the other way. History is replete with examples of the demise of empires that have done the latter.
The economist Herbert Stein once said that if something can't go on forever, it will stop. The pattern of the last few decades, in which higher education costs grew much faster than incomes, with the difference made up by borrowing, can't go on forever... There is no point in trying to preserve the old regime as "working your way through college" is now impossible. For an 18-year-old, investing such a six-figure sum in an education without a payoff makes no more sense than buying a Ferrari on credit.
"It's a very straightforward result," UCSD professors Joseph Engleberg calmly states, hospitalizations rise on days when shares fall, and "people are hospitalized disproportionately for mental conditions." Equity-market losses appeared to induce 3,700 market-related hospitalizations a year in California, which implies visits add roughly $650 million a year to U.S. health-care costs when data from the most-populous state are extrapolated nationally - another additional cost of QE? The findings, Bloomberg reports, show a one-day drop in equities of around 1.5% is followed by about a 0.26% increase in hospital admissions on average over the next two days.
Once upon a time, money - in the form of precious metals - used to be literally dug out of the earth. Limitations on the amount that could be mined, and on how much growth could be borrowed from the future (all debt is, is future consumption denied), is why eventually the world's central bankers moved from money backed by precious metals, to "money" backed by "faith and credit", in the process diluting both. It was the unprecedented explosion in credit money creation that resulted once money could be "printed" out of thin air that nearly destroyed the western financial system. Which brings us to Bitcoin, where currency "mining" takes place not in the earth's crust, or in the basement of the Federal Reserve, but inside supercomputers.
- MOAR: BOJ Said to See Significant Room for More Bond Purchases (BBG)
- Meltdown Averted, Bernanke Struggled to Stoke Growth (Hilsenrath)
- New Mortgages to Get Pricier Next Year (WSJ)
- Republicans to Seek Concessions From Obama on Debt Limit (BBG)
- Hunting for U.S. arms technology, China enlists a legion of amateurs (Reuters)
- Jury Begins Deliberating in Case of SAC Portfolio Manager (WSJ)
- BP to Write Off $1 Billion on Failed Well (WSJ)
- Rajan Unexpectedly Keeps India Rates Unchanged to Support Growth (BBG)
- Thai protesters say they will rally to hound PM from office (Reuters)
- SEC Brings Fewer Enforcement Actions, Slows Early-Stage Probes (WSJ)
While much has been said about the benefits of Bernanke's wealth effect to the asset-owning "10%", just as much has been said about the ever deteriorating plight of the remaining debt-owning 90%, who are forced to resort to labor to provide for their families, and more specifically how their living condition has deteriorated over not only the past five years, since the start of the Fed's great experiment, but over the past several decades as well. However, in the case of America's "servant" class, Al Jazeera finds that their plight is now worse than it has been at any time over the past century, going back all the way to 1910!