Guest Post

Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned On The Ground In Portugal

Portugal is a country that I’ve always enjoyed, full of warm, welcoming people, excellent wine, and great weather. I came to Porto, the country’s second largest city of some 1.5 million, to get a sense of what’s been happening since the eurocalypse...

Guest Post: Middle Class? Here's What's Destroying Your Future

In broad brush, financialization enabled the explosive rise of politically dominant cartels (crony capitalism) that reap profits from graft, legalized fraud, embezzlement, collusion, price-fixing, misrepresentation of risk, shadow systems of governance, and the use of phantom assets as collateral.  This systemic allocation of resources and the national income to serve their interests also serves the interests of the protected fiefdoms of the State that enable and protect the parasitic sectors of the economy. The productive, efficient private sectors of the economy are, in effect, subsidizing the most inefficient, unproductive parts of the economy.  Productivity has been siphoned off to financialized corporate profits, politically powerful cartels, and bloated State fiefdoms.  The current attempts to “restart growth” via the same old financialization tricks of more debt, more leverage, and more speculative excess backstopped by a captured Central State are failing.

Neofeudal financialization and unproductive State/private vested interests have bled the middle class dry.

Guest Post: Fed Has No Hammer, Uses Handsaw And Chisel To Pound Nails

The Fed is promising once again to pound nails with the only tools in its toolbox, a saw and a chisel. The "nails" the Fed is trying to pound down are unemployment and deflation. Needless to say, whacking these big nails with a handsaw and a chisel is completely useless: they can't get the job done. The Fed claims all sorts of supernatural powers to sink nails at will--"unconventional monetary policy," quantitative easing, money dropped from helicopters and so on. But all it really has are two tools which have no positive effect on unemployment or the real economy.

  1. The Fed can manipulate interest rates to near-zero
  2. The Fed can shove "free money" to the banks

That's it. That's all the tools the Fed has in its toolbox. Let's consider what these tools accomplish in the real world.

Guest Post: The End Of Swiss And Japanese Deflation

Nearly full employment in all the cited developed economies except the US shows that the deflationary environment of the recent months is only temporary. Deflation is rather an effect of the recent strong fall in commodity prices. No wonder that the Fed is still reluctant to ease conditions; they saw the opposite temporary commodity price movements last year. We do neither expect a global inflation nor a deflation scenario but a balance sheet recession in many countries but still an increase of wages and therefore a very slow global growth in both developed and developing countries and continuing disinflation (see chart of Ashraf Alaidi to the left). CPIs will look soon similar for all developed countries, with the consequence that the currencies of the most secure and effective countries (measured in terms of trade balance and current accounts) will appreciate. These are for us e.g. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore and partially Sweden and Norway. The overvalued currencies with weaker trade balances like the Kiwi and Aussie must depreciate.

Guest Post: The Deleveraging Trap

The debt-to-GDP ratio is gradually falling, yet it is still at a far higher level than the historical average, and it is still proportionately higher than industrial output. And at the same time, consumers are re-leveraging, and government debt is soaring. And industrial production is barely above where it it was a decade ago, and far below its pre-2000 trend line. We have barely started, and already this has been a slow and grinding deleveraging; rather than the quick and brutal liquidation like that seen in 1907 where the banking system was effectively forced into bailing itself out, the stimulationist policies of low rates, quantitative easing and fiscal stimulus have kept in business zombie companies and institutions carrying absurd debt loads. Like Japan who experienced a similar debt-driven bubble in the late ’80s and early ’90s, we in the West appear to have embarked on a low-growth, high-unemployment period of deleveraging; and like Japan, we appear to be simply transferring the bulk of the debt load from the private sector to the public, without making any real impact in the total debt level, or any serious reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Guest Post: The Collectivist War Against Cultural Heritage

The ideological brand of so-called progress that we call “collectivism” relies heavily on the notion that the values of the past are inadequate to the requirements of the future.  We are taught by the peddlers of collectivist propaganda that our beliefs and our principles must evolve along with the perceived growth of our species as a whole.  They see themselves as visionaries and prophets foretelling a grand reinvention of the world that we laymen are unequipped to imagine or understand.  We cling to the old ways because we are “afraid of change”, or too ignorant to fathom the beauty of their Utopian beyond… Pretentious bile?  Absolutely.  However, within the rhetoric and strategies of the collectivist agenda there are treasures to behold; reoccurring themes and indicators that can be found in nearly every modern tyranny and most ancient tyrannies that have ever existed.  Words and actions that warn us of the true intent of the elite.  The fact is, collectivists drive so hard to admonish respect for the past because every lie they tell us now has been told before a thousand times, to build a thousand gruesome empires.   

Guest Post: Why We’re Light Years Away From Solving Our Problems

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again but to expect a different result. On that basis, the western world’s economic policymakers are clearly certifiable. They cut rates. It does nothing. So they cut rates again. And again. They in debt future generations to ‘stimulate’ the economy. It does nothing. So they stimulate again. And again. Nothing that central banksters or politicians have done since the 2008 global financial crisis has fundamentally changed economic conditions. Yet they keep applying the same remedies, drawn from the same old Keynesian playbook. The false premise which guides their decisions is that we can all grow wealthy by borrowing and consuming, instead of by producing and saving. People have been sold this lie for more than a generation. It is embedded in social DNA. In the current western economic system, you are rewarded for going into debt with all sorts of tax deductions. Save money, on the other hand, and you are punished through taxation and inflation. The incentives are all wrong; it’s no wonder that people have over-borrowed and overspent given that the system is so blatantly slanted to promote such behavior.

Guest Post: As M2 Money Supply Rolls Over, The Stock Market Will Follow

As many observers have noted, you can expand the money supply but if that money ends up stashed as bank reserves, it never enters the real economy, nor does it flow into household earnings. The velocity of that "dead money" is near-zero. M2 declined in the housing bubble as the velocity of money skyrocketed: everyone was pulling money out of housing equity via HELOCs (home equity lines of credit) and spending the "free money" on cruises, furniture, big-screen TVs, boats, fine dining, etc. The recipients of that spending also borrowed and spent as if the "free money" would never end. If M2 expansion is the only thing propping up an artificial market, what happens to the stock market rally as M2 rolls over?

Guest Post: Propping Up The Gold Price?

Ultimately, the surge in demand for gold reflects one thing alone: distrust of the increasingly messy, interconnected, over-leveraged and fraudulent financial system. Whether it is China — fearful of dollar debasement — loading up on bullion, or retail investors in the United States or Europe — fearful of another MF Global (or PFG, or Lehman Brothers) — stacking Krugerrands in their basement, demand for gold reflects distrust in finance, distrust in the financial establishment, distrust in banks, distrust in regulators, distrust in government and distrust in the financial media. And it is that distrust — not (by any stretch of the imagination) central bank interventionism — that is the force moving demand for gold. There will be no bear market for physical gold until trust in the financial system and regulators is fixed, until markets trade fundamentals instead of the possibility of the NEW QE, until governments represent the interests of their people instead of the interests of tiny financial elites.

Guest Post: Peak Employment

Peak employment is the theory that due to factors such as efficiency, driven by technological innovation, and demand, developed economies may have already passed beyond the highest point of employment and that from this point onwards employment will continue to fall and unemployment inexorably rise causing increased social tension. Employment is falling, unemployment is rising but hidden behind those headlines is the fact that part time Employment is rising. Less people have full time jobs, more people have part time jobs, which means that the hours of work are being spread increasingly more thinly across the population. Some might argue that it is only because of the economic slump that all of these things are happening and that it is only temporary. But there is enough evidence to suggest that this is a long term trend that has just been disguised by the boom of the last ten years and is only now really becoming apparent. The fear is that we have already passed Peak Employment and the downward trend will continue, perhaps disguised by increasingly more part time employment.


Guest Post: Our Money Is Dying

A question on the minds of many people today (increasingly those who manage or invest money professionally) is this: How do I preserve wealth during a period of intense official intervention in and manipulation of money supply, price, and asset markets? As every effort to re-inflate and perpetuate the credit bubble is made, the words of Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises lurk ominously nearby: "There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner, as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later, as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." Because every effort is being made to avoid abandoning the credit expansion process -- with central banks and governments lending and borrowing furiously to make up for private shortfalls -- we are left with the growing prospect that the outcome will involve some form of "final catastrophe of the currency system"(s). This report explores what the dimensions of that risk are.

Guest Post: The Global Economy - It's All About Increasing Leverage

If we look at the global economy with unclouded eyes, we reach this conclusion: "This whole thing is about leverage." If leverage doesn't increase, the system implodes. But since collateral is disappearing from the global economy like sand castles in a rising tide, and disposable income has stagnated, there is no foundation for more leverage. As a result, the State/finance cartel has only one choice: increase leverage by whatever means are left. There are only two:

  1. Allow banks to claim phantom assets as capital/reserves
  2. Lower interest rates so stagnant income can leverage ever greater quantities of debt

The State/finance Empire and its army of academic toadies (economists) must cloak this reliance on leverage from the citizenry, lest they grasp the precariousness of the entire financial system. As the economic Establishment is discredited by reality (that their sputtering reflation policies have come at an unbearable cost is now undeniable), their attempts to discredit their critics become increasingly comic: only PhD economists in the employ of the Empire are qualified to comment on the Empire's policies, etc.

Guest Post: Election Year 2012: Two Landslides in the Making?

The stock market is precariously close to slipping into a landslide. If the economy and stock market both continue declining into late October, the presidential election could also turn into a landslide--against the incumbent. There is nothing particularly partisan about this possibility; people who vote tend to vote their pocketbooks, and a re-election campaign that boils down to "hey, it's not as bad as The Great Depression" is unlikely to inspire great loyalty in voters who are already culturally predisposed to tire quickly of presidents, wars and a tanking economy. If the economy and stock markets are both slip-sliding away, the opponent need only be "not the incumbent" to win. Presidents facing re-election in deteriorating economic conditions find their support in the critical non-partisan middle is a mile wide and an inch deep. A recessionary economy acts like a drought on that shallow lake of support, and when it dries up then the incumbent loses, and often loses big.

Guest Post: How Is Dr. Copper Feeling?

Copper is sometimes referred to as "Dr. Copper," because the metal is used in so many industrial applications and is essential for many different sectors of the economy, from infrastructure to housing to consumer electronics. That usually makes its price action a good indicator of the state of the global economy. Between China's stockpiles, slowing demand, and output of copper products expected to slow; and Europe's market 'expected to be dead' for the rest of the year, Casey Research's Louis James is bearish economically near-term and bearish on Dr. Copper - preferring instead to build a shopping list of good contrarian picks for when the economic situation doesn't look so dire.

Guest Post: The Real Fiscal Cliff

More and more Asian nations — led by China and Russia — have ditched the dollar for bilateral trade (out of fear of dollar instability). Tension rises between the United States and Asia over Syria and Iran. The Asian nations throw more and more abrasive rhetoric around — including war rhetoric. And on the other hand, both Obama and Romney — as well as Hillary Clinton — seem dead-set on ramping up the tense rhetoric. Romney seems extremely keen to brand China a currency manipulator. In truth, both sides have a mutual interest in sitting down and engaging in a frank discussion, and then coming out with a serious long-term plan of co-operation on trade and fiscal issues where both sides accept compromises — perhaps Asia could agree to reinvest some of its dollar hoard in the United States to create American jobs and rebuild American infrastructure in exchange for a long-term American deficit-reduction and technology-sharing agreement? So the future, I think, will more likely involve both sides jumping off the cliff into the uncertain seas of trade war, currency war, default-by-debasement, tariffs, proxy war and regional and global political and economic instability.