In spite of the fact that 85% of Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone, I was reasonably confident that Greeks would support Syriza to a first-place finish, and elect a new government willing to play chicken with the Germans. However Greeks — predominantly the elderly — rejected change (and possible imminent Drachmatization) in favour of the fundamentally broken status quo. But although Syriza finished second, the anti-bailout parties still commanded a majority of the votes. And New Democracy may still face a lot of trouble building a coalition to try to keep Greece in the bailout, and in the Euro . There has long been a rumour that Tsipras wanted to lose, so as to (rightly) blame the coming crush on the status quo parties. What fewer of us counted on was that the status quo parties wouldn’t want to win the election either. The pro-bailout socialists Pasok have thrown a monkey wrench into coalition-building by claiming they won’t take part in any coalition that doesn’t also include Syriza. This seems rational; when the tsunami hits, all parties in government will surely take a lot of long-term political damage. Pasok have already been marginalised by the younger and fierier Syriza, and Pasok presiding over an economic collapse (for that is undoubtedly what Greece now faces) would surely have driven Pasok into an abyss. The economy is such a poisoned chalice that parties seem willing to fight to keep themselves out of power.
What's more tiresome than a hastily rehearsed soap opera that replays the same boring plots again and again? Re-Runs of that soap opera. The Eurozone "drama" is now in re-runs and I for one am switching channels. Nothing will change until some critical part of the worm-eaten, corrupt construct of artifice and denial collapses in a heap. Until then, all we have is replays of the same boring plot lines:
Put-upon Greece: We were just minding our business here in the sunny south, living happily on borrowed billions in a thoroughly corrupt Status Quo, and suddenly we're debt-serfs squeezed by rapacious Eurozone enforcers of the banking cartel. What did we do to deserve this? It's not fair.
Put-upon Germany: We were just minding the store here, racking up 40% of our GDP in exports and raking in bank profits loaning money to our Eurozone compatriots, when suddenly everyone who's lived beyond their means demands that we refinance their debts because we're rich. Excuse us, but did anyone look at how we got rich? Hard work, cuts in spending, high taxes and a tight lid on wages. What did we do to deserve this? It's not fair.
Married couple in counseling: France and Germany: It's all his/her fault. They never bothered to understand me, etc.
For Greece, this is an important election. Inside the euro, their heavily state-dependent economy will continue to suffer scathing austerity. Outside the euro, they can freely debase, and — as Nigel Farage has noted — enjoy the benefits of a cheaper currency like renewed tourism and more competitive industry. If Greeks want growth sooner rather than much later, they should choose life outside the euro (and by voting for Tsipras and trying tough negotiating tactics, they will be asking to be thrown out). But for the rest of the world, and the rest of Europe, this is all meaningless. As Ron Paul has noted, when the banking institutions need the money, central banks — whether it’s the ECB, or the Fed, or the BoE, or a new global central superbank — will print and print and print. Whether Greece is in or out, when the time comes to save the financial system the central bankers will print. That is the nature of fiat money, as much as the chickenhawks at the ECB might pretend to have hard-money credentials. Tsipras, though — as a young hard-leftist — would be a good scapegoat for throwing Greece out of the Eurozone (something that — in truth — the core seems to want).
I’m not lying awake at night worrying about imminent peak oil. There’s plenty of extractable oil, and renewable energy will eventually supplement and replace it. But will politics get in the way of energy extraction? The United States has huge hydrocarbon reserves, yet regulation is preventing drilling and shipment, leaving America dependent on foreign oil. And the oil companies themselves are largely to blame — after Deepwater Horizon, should anyone be surprised that politicians and the public want to strangle the oil industry? If there’s an imminent energy crisis, it will be man-made. It will come out of the United States’ dependency on foreign oil. Or out of an environmental catastrophe caused by mismanagement and graft (protected cartels like the energy industry always lead to mismanagement). Or out of excessive red tape. Or war.
The question is, are Barack Obama and Mitt Romney really that moderate?
Let’s account for the similarity in policy of both.
Very few know about the Federal Reserve's "other" phone number. You know, the one reserved for those in the innermost ring of power. Someone gifted me the number, and I found it offered up the most curious menu of choices:
Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others besides have fallen into the trap of bribing their electorates with promises that become ever more unsustainable. In each of these states, expectations have been created that cannot be met and that cannot now be undone. This is surely a recipe for social unrest. These will not be the only countries to succumb to failure. The national debt, the unaffordable long-term cost of social security, health care and a myriad other entitlements and the mounting evidence of the insolvent state point to the same outcome for the UK and the US. Failure is ensured; the more pressing question is, what happens next?
So the military-industrial complex — the lobbyists, the weapons makers, the media — may accept it if Obama kills 14 women and 21 children to get one suspected terrorist. More terrorism means more weapons spending. For the lucky few it’s a self-perpetuating stairway to riches. Yet for wider society it means spending time, money and effort on war, instead of on domestic prosperity. It means the constant threat of terrorism. And it means the loss of our liberty, as the security state adopts increasingly paranoid anti-terrorism measures. We should do to others as we would have done to ourselves. That means — unless we are comfortable with the idea of ourselves living under military occupation and drone strikes — getting out of the middle east, and letting that region solve its own problems — forget another costly and destructive occupation in Syria. Slash the war and occupation spending, and redirect the money to making America independent of middle eastern energy and resources.
As we witness the riotous dissolution of corrupted capitalism, we need not wait for the history books to identify the mile markers of self-destruction. If we are to rebuild capitalism, even as it is tearing itself down, then we will need to become street-smart detectives in analyzing the current economic murder-suicide in progress. Every fall has its tell-tale confirmations and corrupt capitalism is no exception. There arrive key points where a system’s own contradictions become so evident and self-damaging, where motive, means, and opportunity become so clear, that one can mount an informed, effective counter-offensive.
If we understand the difference between parasitic wealth and real value/wealth creation, we can properly align the tax structure to reality: the tax on authentic wealth creation should be low, to encourage wealth creation and the employment (broad-based wealth creation) generated by legitimate value creation. We must also understand that the Central State now protects and enables parasitic skimming as the primary function of the nation's financial system. Thus the entire financial system is parasitic on the wealth of the nation. Financial parasitic incomes should be taxed at 99%. If Mitt Romney reshuffles assets created by others and skims $100 million, 99% of that parasitic wealth should be returned to the nation via taxes. The parasite still gets to keep $1 million, more than enough to live well but not enough to buy the presidency, the Congress and the regulatory machinery of the Central State.
While a welcome development (and probably even more welcome on the other side of the Atlantic) it doesn’t make up for the fact that the explosive price increases during the boom years were never included. And it isn’t just real estate — equities was another market that massively inflated without being counted in official inflation statistics. It would have been simple at the time to calculate the effective inflation rate with these components included. A wiser economist than Greenspan might have at least paid attention to such information and tightened monetary policy to prevent the incipient bubbles from overheating. Of course, with inflation statistics calculated in the way they are (price changes to an overall basket of retail goods) there will always be a fight over what to include and what not to include. A better approach is to include everything.
In the long run, all the hullabaloo about the various global banking crises is just hot air. The old establishment banks — the ones that have been bailed out this week in Spain, and in 2008 in America — are unnecessary middlemen. This is because of the ludicrous spreads from which they profit. They borrow from central banks and from depositors at absurdly low rates of interest (that’s what ZIRP is all about) and lend at vastly higher rates. What useful function does it serve? At one time, banks generated value by being wise lenders, lending to businesses that they determined would add value. Today they prefer gamble up even bigger profits in the zero-sum derivatives casino and shadow banking whorehouse, requiring frequent bailouts when such schemes go awry. They are dinosaurs that offer no real value to their shareholders, their customers, or to society.
Incentivize debt, and you end up relying on debt as a sustitute for productivity and income. Increase debt, and there's not enough income left for productive investments that might boost income. Incentivize debt via making interest tax deductible, and you create a self-reinforcing feedback of a rising share of declining income being devoted to interest payments. With demand and borrowing both suppressed by debt-serfdom, demand for housing, goods and services declines. Borrowing more to consume simply speeds the cycle of rising interest and falling net incomes. Incentivize debt and you create multiple overlapping death spirals. We are seeing the death-spirals play out in a fractal manner, from households to nations to entire regions. High debt levels lead to high interest payments which lead to low investment and savings rates which lead to lower productivity which leads to stagnation of income, consumption and investment: in other words, a death spiral.
Lesser Of Two Evils? There’s No Such Thing…
First of all, asserting that there is such a thing as a “lesser of two evils” is an act of naivety. It relies on a very dangerous assumption; that one can somehow quantify which candidate is going to hurt the country less. I’ve even read essays by people who pretend they can mathematically delineate the “more evil” of the evils! Not surprisingly, their “logic” invariably leads them to proclaim the lesser evil to be the candidate of the party they happen to belong to. Ignorant Republicans always see the Democrat as the greater evil, while ignorant Democrats always see the Republican as the ultimate monster. Here’s some math for you: there are two candidates for President of the United States, one is a cannibalistic serial killer who plans to murder 20 more people with his own hands while in office. The other is a cannibalistic serial killer who only plans to kill 19 innocents personally. Which candidate do you support?
The correct answer is NEITHER.
Last Saturday, it is being reported that U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson was involved in two auto accidents that may have been related to a seizure he suffered during the incidents. According to CNN, Bryson is currently under investigation for a felony hit and run. It is unclear at this point if his health played a part in either accident. Police currently don’t believe drugs or alcohol were involved. Whatever the case, Bryson’s insider status will likely help him escape any significant legal trouble that could arise from the episode. That’s just how plutocracies roll. Perhaps now is a good time to analyze the oxymoronic reasoning behind a government bureaucrat in charge of regulating commerce. Those who had their vehicle plowed into by his Lexus are not the only ones who have suffered at the hands of Secretary Bryson. It is the businesses and innovations that will never see the light of day due to the endless amounts of regulatory red tape which permeate from Washington into the economy like a deadly plague.