Guest Post: 2011 - Catch-22 Year In Review
Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform
2011 - Catch-22 Year In Review
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” - Mark Twain
I published my predictions for 2011 on January 3, 2011 in my article 2011 – The Year of Catch-22. Humans evidently enjoy being embarrassed by how pitiful they are at predicting the future, because we continue to do it year after year. The mainstream media pundits don’t dare look back at their predictions or the predictions of the Wall Street shills that parade on CNBC and get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, eternally predicting 10% to 15% stock market gains. The multi-millionaire Wall Street strategists like the spawn of the squid, Abbey Joseph Cohen, have used all of their Ivy League brain power to predict at least a 10% stock price gain every year since 1999. The S&P 500 stood at 1,272 on January 6, 1999. As of this writing it currently stands at 1,261. ZERO appreciation over the last twelve years.
The Wall Street mantra of stocks for the long run is beginning to get a little stale. If Abbey Joseph Cohen had been right for the last twelve years, the S&P 500 would be 4,000. For this level of accuracy, she is paid millions. Her 2011 prediction of 1,500 only missed by16%. The S&P 500 began the year at 1,258 and hasn’t budged. The lowest prediction from the Wall Street shysters at the outset of the year was 1,333, with the majority between 1,400 and 1,500.
The same Wall Street clowns are now being quoted in the mainstream media predicting a 10% to 15% increase in stock prices in 2012, despite the fact we are headed back into recession, China’s property bubble has burst, and Europe teeters on the brink of dissolution. They lie on behalf of their Too Big To Tell the Truth employers by declaring stocks undervalued, when honest analysts such as Jeremy Grantham, John Hussman and Robert Shiller truthfully report that stocks are overvalued and will provide pitiful returns over the next year and the next decade.
I will take my chances with a few predictions for 2012 after reviewing my lack of foresight regarding 2011. I declared 2011 the year of Catch-22 because no matter what happened, it would not translate into a positive result for the American people. This was my thesis:
The United States and its leaders are stuck in their own Catch 22. They need the economy to improve in order to generate jobs, but the economy can only improve if people have jobs. They need the economy to recover in order to improve our deficit situation, but if the economy really recovers long term interest rates will increase, further depressing the housing market and increasing the interest expense burden for the US, therefore increasing the deficit. A recovering economy would result in more production and consumption, which would result in more oil consumption driving the price above $100 per barrel, therefore depressing the economy. Americans must save for their retirements as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, but if the savings rate goes back to 10%, the economy will collapse due to lack of consumption. Consumer expenditures account for 71% of GDP and need to revert back to 65% for the US to have a balanced sustainable economy, but a reduction in consumer spending will push the US back into recession, reducing tax revenues and increasing deficits. You can see why Catch 22 is the theme for 2011.
My predictions for 2011 were as follows:
- The first half of 2011 is guaranteed to give the appearance of recovery. The lame-duck Congress ”compromise” will pump hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars into the economy. The continuation of unemployment benefits for 99 weeks (supposedly to help employment) and the 2% payroll tax cut will goose consumer spending. Ben Bernanke and his QE2 stimulus for poor Wall Street bankers is pumping $75 billion per month ($3 to $4 billion per day) directly into the stock market. Since Ben gave Wall Street the all clear signal in late August, the NASDAQ has soared 25%. Despite the fact that there are 362,000 less Americans employed than were employed in August 2010, the mainstream media will continue to tout the jobs recovery. The goal of all these efforts is to boost confidence and spending. Everything being done by those in power has the seeds of its own destruction built in. The Catch 22 will assert itself in the 2nd half of 2011.
The payroll tax cut, extension of unemployment benefits and Bernanke’s gift to Wall Street criminal banks did nothing to help real Americans in the real world. The government manipulated GDP has languished between 0.4% and 1.8% in the first three quarters of 2011. Using a true measure of inflation, as detailed by John Williams at www.shadowstats.com, GDP has remained at a recessionary level of -2% to -3%.
Easy Ben accomplished his goal of pumping up the stock market with his QE2 gift to Wall Street bankers during the first six months of 2011, with the S&P 500 peaking at 1,364 in late April. The market began to fall the second Ben stopped handing Jamie Dimon and his friends $4 billion per day, with the market dropping 18% in three months. The market has risen back near the breakeven level for the year based on Ben’s promise to keep interest rates at zero forever and the hope of QE3.
- A new perfect storm is brewing for housing in 2011 and will not subside until late 2012. You may have thought those bad mortgages had been all written off. You would be wrong. There will be in excess of $200 billion of adjustable rate mortgages that reset between 2011 and 2012, with in excess of $125 billion being the dreaded Alt-A mortgages. This is a recipe for millions of new foreclosures.
The brainless twits on CNBC will dutifully report the number of completed foreclosure sales plunged by 24% in 2011, giving the impression to their non-critical thinking viewership that all is well on the housing front. What they will fail to point out is that the number of foreclosures in process went up in 2011 and now stands 59% ABOVE the level in 2009 at the height of our recession. The reason that completed foreclosures have fallen is twofold. The criminal Wall Street banks can’t prove they hold the mortgage notes on hundreds of thousands of homes and they have a few legal issues related to the massive robo-signing fraud they committed. Kicking old ladies and Iraq War veterans out into the street using fraudulent documentation has caused the Wall Street Too Evil To Believe Banks some public relations issues. Secondly, the Wall Street Plutocrats have these mortgage loans valued at 100% on their balance sheets due to the FASB gift of mark to fantasy accounting rules. Foreclosing actually reveals their assets to be overvalued by at least 50%. This may explain why millions of Americans are still in their homes after not making a mortgage payment for two years, as detailed by economist Tom Lawler:
Given the number of loans either seriously delinquent or in the process of foreclosure at the beginning of the year, the number of completed foreclosure sales in 2011 is almost absurdly low, reflecting the complete screw-up of the mortgage servicing industry, and the resulting dramatic slowdown in foreclosure resolutions. As of the end of October, 2011 LPS estimated that there were 1.759 million seriously delinquent loans with the average number of days delinquent at 388 (compared to 192 days in January 2008), and there were 2.210 million loans in the foreclosure process that had been on average delinquent for 631 days.
|Completed Foreclosure Sales And Short Sales/DILs (thousands, estimates)|
|Completed Foreclosure Sales||914||949||1,070||815|
|Foreclosures plus Short Sales/DILs||1,019||1,219||1,424||1,195|
|Outstanding first liens:||Jan-08||Jan-09||Jan-10||Jan-11|
|Seriously Delinquent (90+)||1,016||1,983||3,061||2,168|
|In Process of Foreclosure||860||1,386||2,110||2,203|
There are approximately 48.5 million homes with mortgages in the United States and 10.7 million of them have negative equity. Another 2.4 million have less than 5% equity. Considering it costs more than 5% in closing costs to sell a house that means 27% of home occupiers with a mortgage are trapped like rats in a cage. With 2.2 million foreclosures still in the pipeline and a looming recession, home prices will continue to fall another 10% to 20% over the next two years and one third of all home occupiers will be underwater. That sounds like a recipe for 10% to 15% stock market gains.
- Quantitative easing has benefited only Wall Street bankers and the 1% wealthiest Americans. The $1.4 trillion of toxic mortgage backed securities on The Fed’s balance sheet are worth less than $700 billion. How will they unload this toxic waste? The Treasuries they have bought drop in value as interest rates rise. Quantitative easing’s Catch 22 is that it can never be unwound without destroying the Fed and the US economy.
Bennie and his Inkjets did a bang up job in 2011. He was able to expand his balance sheet from $2.47 trillion to $2.95 trillion in twelve short months. According to Ben and his Federal Reserve friends, increasing your balance sheet by $480 billion isn’t really printing money out of thin air and handing it to their Wall Street owners for free, so they can prop up the stock market and enrich their executives. Ben is now leveraged 57 to 1. He should move to Europe, where this level of leverage is commonplace. In comparison, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns were leveraged 40 to 1 when they went belly up.
There is absolutely no way that Ben Bernanke could ever reduce the Federal Reserve balance sheet to the pre-crisis level without destroying the U.S. economy. He knows that and will never sell off those toxic mortgage assets. Not only won’t he reduce the Fed balance sheet, but by mid-2012 he will institute QE3 and buy another $600 billion of mortgage debt. His hubris knows no bounds, as his reckless illegal actions thus far have not driven interest rates sky high – YET. He has only destroyed the finances of senior citizens, savers and people who eat food and use gasoline. He will surely go down in history, but not the way he envisions.
- The rise in oil to $91 a barrel will not be a top. The Catch-22 of a declining dollar is that prices of all imported goods go up. If the dollar falls another 10%, the price of oil will rise above $120 a barrel and push the economy back into recession.
As Bernanke printed like a drunken sailor during the first six months of 2011, the USD fell by 9% and the price of oil did exactly as expected, rising to a peak above $125. The NATO “intervention” in Libya also added a few bucks to the price of a barrel of sweet crude.
The complete implosion of Europe and the ensuing weakness of the Euro have given the false impression that the U.S. dollar is a safe haven. The USD has regained its losses and will end the year exactly as it started versus a Euro heavy basket of world currencies. With annual deficits equaling 10% of GDP, a national debt now exceeding 100% of GDP, and Ben Bernanke in perpetual printing mode, the USD is destined to reach its intrinsic value of zero. With Brent crude still above $108 a barrel, employment still weak, and double digit food and energy inflation slowing consumer spending, the ECRI knows a recession during 2012 is baked in the cake.
- The imminent collapse of the European Union as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are effectively bankrupt. Spain is the size of the other three countries combined and has a 20% unemployment rate. The Germans are losing patience with these spendthrift countries. Debt does matter.
It seems I was wrong about Europe. It turned out to be much worse than anyone envisioned, with Italy now the likely fuse that blows the whole thing sky high. The ECB has made Ben Bernanke look like a lightweight by increasing their balance sheet by 44% to over $3.5 trillion in a futile effort to solve a debt crisis with more debt. It seems central bankers are programmed to print until the very end (see Weimar). The European Union will not survive 2012. Too many countries, too much government debt, too many zombie banks, too many bureaucrats, too much austerity rammed down the throats of citizens, and not enough honesty or reality based solutions.
- State and local governments were able to put off hard choices for another year, as Washington DC handed out hundreds of billions in pork. California will have a $19 billion budget deficit; Illinois will have a $17 billion budget deficit; New Jersey will have a $10.5 billion budget deficit; New York will have a $9 billion budget deficit. A US Congress filled with Tea Party newcomers will refuse to bailout these spendthrift states. Substantial government employee layoffs are a lock.
State and local governments have laid off 535,000 workers since 2008. With borrowed Federal government stimulus handouts evaporating into thin air during 2011 – 2012, this total will reach 800,000 by the end of the next year. The U.S. Postal Service will do their part by cutting 28,000 jobs in 2012, even though they need to cut 100,000. States and municipalities based their budgets on the revenues produced by the fake debt driven housing boom from 2003 – 2007. The tax revenue dried up, but the union jobs added are a gift that keeps on costing taxpayers billions. States and localities can’t print, so layoffs will continue.
- There is a growing probability that China will experience a hard landing as their own quantitative easing has resulted in inflation surging to a 28 month high of 5.1%, with food inflation skyrocketing to 11.7%. Poor families spend up to half of their income on food. Rapidly rising prices severely burden poor people and can spark civil unrest if too many of them can’t afford food.
According to official government statistics China’s economy continued to boom in 2011. But, of course Chinese government reports make the BLS look honest. The fact is the Chinese stock market has fallen 28% since April as the property bubble deflates. If their economy has truly grown at an annual rate of 8% to 10% over the last five years, why is their stock market down 62% from its 2007 high?
The price inflation in food and energy prices, along with the property bubble bursting has led to breakouts of civil unrest across China. China’s two biggest markets – Europe & the United States – are in or near recession and are buying less of their crap. They can only build so many vacant cities and shopping malls to create the appearance of growth. The hard landing is about to get harder in 2012.
- The Tea Party members of Congress are likely to cause as much trouble for Republicans as Democrats. If they decide to make a stand on raising the debt ceiling early in 2011, all hell could break loose in the debt and stock markets.
It seems I got the timing wrong on this prediction, but the August showdown was a doozy. The threat of a government shutdown resulted in the stock market collapsing by 18% in a matter of weeks in August. Our beloved politicians then came up with another bullshit non-solution by creating a commission which, after months of negotiations, failed to do anything. The $1.2 trillion of automatic spending cuts will never happen. The slime that inhabit the hallowed halls of Congress will pretend to cut, while actually increasing spending. And so it goes. The stock market has risen from its October low based on Easy Ben’s assurances to keep interest rates at zero forever and the anticipation of QE3 in the new year.
- Will the consensus forecast of a growing economy, rising corporate profits, 10% to 15% stock market gains, 2 million new jobs, and a housing recovery come true in 2011? No it will not. By mid-year confidence in Ben’s master plan will wane.
Corporate profits did rise, mostly due to Ben Bernanke providing free money to the Wall Street Mega-Banks so they could generate risk free profits on the backs of senior citizens getting .15% on their savings. It also helps when the same Wall Street banks can make accounting entries declaring that future loan losses will be minimal and the toxic mortgages on their books aren’t really worthless. Who knew accountants could do so much for America? Abbey Joseph Cohen only missed her stock market projection by a smidgeon. The S&P 500 is essentially unchanged for the year, while the NASDAQ and Russell 2000 will finish in the red.
The country did not add 2 million new jobs. It added 1.4 to 1.5 new jobs. Too bad the working age population went up by 1.7 million people. But our friends at the BLS, when they aren’t manipulating away the inflation that real people in the real world experience every day, have the gall to declare the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.8% to 8.6% in the last twelve months. How could this be you might ask, since the working age population went up by more than the number of people who found jobs. Easy if you are a BLS government drone. Everyone knows that things are so good out in the real world that 1.8 million Americans decided to kick back and enjoy the good life by leaving the workforce. It wasn’t because they gave up looking for the jobs that were shipped to the Far East by the mega-corporations making record profits and paying record bonuses to their executives. It’s just a rumor that those long lines at food banks around the country have a few of these “lucky” non-members of the workforce in them.
The housing recovery is just around the corner. Larry Yun, chief liar for the National Association of Realtors, assures us that it’s the best time to buy. We all know that the NAR is a bastion of honesty and truth. Just because they reported 3 MILLION more home sales than actually occurred between 2007 and 2010, you can’t scorn, ignore and treat everything they say as a bald faced lie. If Larry says the housing recovery has arrived, it must be true.
When the pundits on CNBC sum up the year, they will not be touting the fact that gasoline prices went up 10% in the past year and the average price for a gallon of gas was the highest in U.S. history. They will not be proclaiming that even the government manipulated CPI shows food prices up 6% and clothing prices up 5% in the last year. I’m sure glad Ben Bernanke doesn’t see any inflation on his radar. Maybe he should ask his chauffer about his inflation. Lastly, the stocks for the long run crowd will not be yakking about the fact that gold finished up 10% for the year and has been up for TEN consecutive years. I wonder whether the numbskulls on CNBC can look at the chart below and figure out why gold is up ten years in a row. The national debt reaching $20 trillion by 2015 is a given. I wonder whether the price of gold will be higher. Maybe I’ll give Abbey Joseph Cohen a call and ask for her prediction.
Overall, my assessment of what would happen in 2011 wasn’t too far off. But, it was the things that I and virtually everyone on the planet missed that will reverberate in 2012 and for the next ten years. Our 20 year Crisis deepened, became more violent, and clearly revealed that the establishment will use all their power to put down protests and crush opposition to their corrupt crony capitalistic policies. The major developments I missed regarding 2011 included:
- The self-immolation of a young Tunisian man set off revolutions around the globe, toppling U.S. supported dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. Dictators attempted to retain power by killing citizens by the thousands. The self-immolation of a man in New Hampshire in front of a courthouse was completely ignored by the mainstream media. I wonder why.
- The Arab Spring has resulted in revolutions in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya. Depending upon how much oil was at stake, the U.S. has supported the dictator or the people whenever it suited them. This is called democratic principles.
- Young people across the U.S. were inspired by the Arab Spring and began to Occupy Wall Street and many other streets in 97 other U.S. cities this past Fall. The spirit of these protests was against Wall Street criminality, Washington corruption, and corporate malfeasance. Peaceful civil disobedience by citizens of this country was met with beatings, tear gas, mass arrests and bulldozing their encampments. Students were maced while sitting in front of a college building. Ultimately a Department of Homeland Security coordinated attack on all the protests squashed the movement. The American people were too distracted by Dancing With the Stars and the latest iGadget to notice. The corporate media did their part by spewing misinformation and propaganda about the Occupy Movement, while the Wall Street Elite giggled with delight from their NYC penthouse suites.
- Shockingly, no bankers were prosecuted despite clear unequivocal evidence of the greatest financial fraud in world history. The former head of Goldman Sachs, U.S. Senator, and NJ Governor continues to eat caviar and drink champagne in his glorious mansion after stealing $1.2 billion directly from customers’ accounts. These funds now reside in the pocket of Jamie Dimon and his upstanding JP Morgan institution.
- The Federal government methodically moved closer to a totalitarian regime by passing legislation that will enable them to imprison U.S. citizens without charges. The only remaining area that has allowed critical thinking Americans to find the truth – the Internet – is on the verge of being locked down by the Feds. Pending legislation will allow them to shut down any website that may inconvenience their agenda. We inch ever closer to Orwell’s vision of the future.
- No one in the MSM or government anticipated that the only truthful, honest, forthright politician in Washington D.C. – Ron Paul – could possibly win the Iowa caucus. His message of freedom, liberty, self reliance, and non-interventionism has struck a chord with young people and those capable of distinguishing between MSM propaganda and reality. The establishment is terrified of Ron Paul and is now on a mission to destroy him. What they don’t realize is their time is coming to an end. The existing social order will be swept away in a violent manner. The youth of this country will lead the charge. 2012 should be a real doozy.
I’ll take another shot at predicting the unpredictable with my next article: 2012 – The Year of Living Dangerously.
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