Taking Stock Of The 21st Century: What's Fundamentally Different

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

The constant dismissal of unprecedented extremes as "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda.

Anyone suggesting that things are unraveling in fundamental ways quickly encounters a standard reflex response: "same as it ever was."

Environmental degradation? Same as it ever was: humans have been trashing the environment for thousands of years.

The influence of money in politics? Same as it ever was: money has always been the mother's milk of politics.

The dominance of central bankers? Same as it ever was: the banks and the Federal Reserve have been colluding for decades.

Income inequality? Same as it ever was: there will always be rich and poor, etc.

The rise of the National Security State/Empire? Same as it ever was: Manifest Destiny, etc.

History lessons are all well and good, but this constant refrain of "same as it ever was" is actually a pernicious form of perception management, i.e. propaganda. The claim that "there is nothing new under the sun" (and therefore there is nothing we can do but throw up our hands in passive acceptance of the status quo) may well be true of human nature, but it purposefully masks all the fundamental changes that are not "same as it ever was."

The seas, for example: we're losing the oceans. The scale of destruction is not "same as it ever was." The Consequences of Oceanic Destruction (Foreign Affairs) Over the last several decades, human activities have so altered the basic chemistry of the seas that they are now experiencing evolution in reverse: a return to the barren primeval waters of hundreds of millions of years ago.

Or how about youth employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. It has entered a new structural decline without precedent.

How about the cost of college tuition? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about self-employment? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about small business? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about labor's share of the economy? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about household income? Is this "same as it ever was?" If real income had been declining for the past 50 years at this rate, it would be near-zero by now.

How about the ratio of full-time workers to retirees drawing Social Security benefits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no. The ratio is now two full-time workers to one beneficiary, and the Baby Boom has only started to retire. On the employment side, the "end of work" dynamics have only started their creative destruction of jobs. "Same as it ever was?" Not even close.

How about money velocity? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about the positive effects of central-state borrowing and spending, i.e. the Keynesian Multiplier? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

 

How about the structural gap between Federal spending and tax revenues? Is this "same as it ever was?" It's easy to project a fantasy-based future in which "deficits never matter" or tax revenues soar even in a stagnant economy beset by skyrocketing Federal retirement/healthcare costs. The desire to believe in fantasies may be "same as it ever was," but the fiscal reality is not.

How about the nation's monetary base? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about corporate profits? Is this "same as it ever was?" Clearly, no.

How about the correlation of the Federal Reserve balance sheet and the S&P 500? Is this "same as it ever was?"

How about the gap between nominal new highs in the stock market and the real (inflation-adjusted) stock market? Is this "same as it ever was?"

How about the number of times per week that a representative of the Federal Reserve gives a speech whose implicit message is the importance of the Federal Reserve? Is this "same as it ever was?" Did Fed-Heads fan out every week 20 or 30 years ago to deliver dozens of speeches and media appearances? The answer is no; so what are these people selling that they have to do their shuck-and-jive act so repetitively? What sort of desperation is driving this full-court press of propaganda?

The desperation is obvious, and so is the agenda: mask the reality that things are unraveling, and that it's no longer "same as it ever was."