Taxation is theft. There is no denying this. If I and a few brutes appeared at the door of an unsuspecting individual and demanded monetary compensation less we drag him off to jail, this would be a clear cut case of robbery. It is a common tactic used by mobs or street gangs to offer protection with the barrel of a gun. The only difference between shakedowns by private thugs and those employed by the state is the badge. The badge legalizes extortion and imprisonment. With that being said, it has been three years since the financial crisis and governments around the world are still reeling in the lesser Depression. Tax collections are down while public expenditures have skyrocketed in a vain effort to stabilize the economy. Much of this mass orgy in spending has been financed by central banks printing money and the suppression of interest rates down to artificially low levels. This is the Keynesian remedy to recession. Spend what you don’t have via the printing press. Have central bankers create paradise on Earth through counterfeiting.
So far it hasn’t worked.
Sometimes, the greatest deeds are done by those who are just doing their jobs, like Judge Katherine Forrest who last week struck down the indefinite detention provision (§1021) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It would be all too easy in this age of ever-encroaching authoritarianism in America for a judge ruling on a matter like this to just go with the government line and throw water over the plaintiffs. After all, telling truth to power has consequences. Forrest was appointed by Obama, but after this ruling one wonders whether she is about to meet a career dead-end. Power — especially narcissistic power — does not like being told uncomfortable truths. Everything about this case is shameful; it should be obvious to anyone who can read the Constitution that indefinite detention without trial (just like assassination without trial — something else that Obama and his goons have no problem practicing and defending) is hideously and cruelly unconstitutional. It defecates upon both the words and the spirit of the document.
From the BBC: "Facebook has started testing a system that lets users pay to highlight or promote posts. Facebook said the goal was to see if users were interested in paying to flag up their information." That’s their plan? That’s Zuckerberg’s big idea? Get users to pay to post premium content!? Did the well-circulated hoax that Facebook planned to get users to pay for use just turn out to be true? If they proceed with this (unlikely) it seems fairly obvious the world would say goodbye Facebook, hello free alternatives. The truth is that Facebook is a toy, a dreamworld, a figment of the imagination. Zuckerberg wanted to make the world a more connected place (and build a huge database of personal preferences), and he succeeded thanks to a huge slathering of venture capital. That’s an accomplishment, but it’s not a business. While the angel investors and college-dorm engineers will feel gratified at paper gains, it is becoming hard to ignore that there is no great profit engine under the venture. In fact, the big money coming into Facebook just seems to be money from new investors — they raised eighteen times as much in their flotation yesterday as they did in a whole year of advertising revenue. For an established company with such huge market penetration, they’re veering dangerously close to Bernie Madoff’s business model.
Bob Farrell's rule #9 is: "When all experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen." This statement encapsulates the basic tenant of being a contrarian investor. As Sam Stovall, the S&P investment strategist, puts it: "If everybody's optimistic, who is left to buy? If everybody's pessimistic, who's left to sell?" Going against the herd as Farrell repeatedly suggests can be very profitable, especially for patient buyers who raise cash from frothy markets and reinvest it when sentiment is the darkest. However, being a seller in exuberant markets or a buyer in major rout is very tough, if not impossible, for almost every investor as the emotions of "greed" and "fear" overtake logical buy and sell decision making.
I am not exaggerating.
This is Finnish writer Pentti Linkola — a man who demands that the human population reduce its size to around 500 million and abandon modern technology and the pursuit of economic growth — in his own words.
When Mr. Market ultimately becomes disenchanted with the fiscal excesses of the sovereign deadbeats, he can express his ire most energetically. When the current bond bubble here in the US ultimately bursts, as it must, it's going to be a bloodbath. Of course, there is much, much more at stake to coming to the correct answer on the recovery, or lack thereof, than that. For instance, poor economies make for poor reelection odds for political incumbents. And when it comes to maintaining a civil society, the lack of jobs inherent in poor economies often leads to a breakdown in civility. On that note, overall unemployment in Spain is now running at depression levels of almost 25%, and youth unemployment at close to 50%. How long do you think it will be before the citizens of this prominent member of the PIIGS will refuse being led to the slaughter and start taking out their anger on the swine (governmental and private) seen as bearing some responsibility for the malaise? Meanwhile, back here in the United States, the commander-in-chief is striding around the deck of the ship of state trying to look like the right man for the job in the upcoming election, despite the gaping hole of unemployment just under the economic water line. His future prospects are very much entangled with this question of recovery.
So, what's it going to be? Recovery… no recovery… or worse, maybe even a crash?
It seems so bizarre that a country once regarded as the freest, most economically enviable in the world would treat its productive citizens with such hostility. This is where Eduardo Saverin comes in. The Facebook co-founder, who finds himself a few billion dollars richer this week, recently renounced his US citizenship. And, to the intelligentsia, it’s not ‘fair’. ‘Saverin needs to pay his fair share! He owes America more,’ they whine, completely ignorant that the 30-year old is already forking over a $500+ million exit tax (which may end up in the billions). Apparently it’s not good enough that the company Saverin co-founded has created tens of thousands of jobs, spawned entire industries, and produced oodles of new millionaires. Oh yeah, it’s also made things damn easy for the CIA, NSA, and FBI. You’d think Uncle Sam would pin a medal on his chest. But no. Saverin left behind a lot of value and decided to move on to greener pastures in Singapore. Now the do-gooders in Congress are cooking up new legislation (the EX-PATRIOT Act) designed to permanently bar ‘renunciants’ like Saverin from re-entering the United States.
John Maynard Keynes, Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett all said or implied that gold was a barbarous relic. But what’s the barbarous relic? The precious metal that shows prices without a veneer of manipulation, or the paper currency that smudges the true state of supply and demand through money printing, thus misleading markets and society? Charlie Munger says gold is not for civilised people, but in reality gold may be the most civilised currency of all — because it allows civilised people to purchase insurance against the risk of civilisation failing.
On Monday, May 14, something happened that hasn’t happened since Dec of 2008. Two successive near-month precious metals futures contracts were in backwardation at the same time. To oversimplify, backwardation is when the price of a futures contract is lower than the price in the spot market. It should not be possible for it to happen in gold and silver.... Because the next successive contracts are not in backwardation (in silver, all contracts from Jul 2015 on are backwardated), it is not a collapse of trust. I think that it is a lack of unencumbered metal. The markets for precious metals, silver more than gold, have become quite tight.
The dollar was a median step towards a newer and more corrupt ideal. Its time is nearly over. This is open, it is admitted, and it is being activated as you read this. The speed at which this disaster occurs is really dependent on the speed at which our government along with our central bank decides to expedite doubt. Doubt in a currency is a furious omen, costing not just investors, but an entire society. America is at the very edge of such a moment. The naysayers can scratch and bark all they like, but the financial life of a country serves no person’s emphatic hope. It burns like a fire. Left unwatched and unchecked, it grows uncontrollable and wild, until finally, there is nothing left to fuel its hunger, and it finally chokes in a haze of confusion and dread…
Thucydides was probably born about 460BC and was for a time a General on the side of democratic Athens against aristocratic Sparta in what is known as the Peloponnesian War in which most of Greece took a side. After being exiled he wrote his famous history. The passage that we’ve quoted here, in our opinion, one of the finest passages of classical antiquity, describes the breakdown of civil society and in doing so it perfectly describes every civil war and revolution that has taken place in the almost two and half thousand years since it was written. We bring it to your attention in the vain hope that those who have blindly pursued the policies which have brought Greece to the brink and risks plunging the whole of Europe into the abyss, might consider more keenly the consequences of their actions and change course before it’s too late.
At various stages in the last two years everyone from China, to Germany, to the Fed to the IMF, to Martians, to the Imperial Death Star has been fingered as the latest saviour of the status quo. And so far — in spite of a few multi-billion-dollar half-hearted efforts like the €440 billion EFSF — nobody has really shown up. Perhaps that’s because nobody thus far fancies funnelling the money down a black hole. After Greece comes Portugal, and Spain and Ireland and Italy, all of whom together have on the face of things at least €780 billion outstanding (which of course has been securitised and hypothecated up throughout the European financial system into a far larger amount of shadow liabilities, for a critical figure of at least €3 trillion) and no real viable route (other than perhaps fire sales of state property? Sell the Parthenon to Goldman Sachs?) to paying this back (austerity has just led to falling tax revenues, meaning even more money has had to be borrowed), not to mention the trillions owed by the now-jobless citizens of these countries, which is now also imperilled. What’s the incentive in throwing more time, effort, energy and resources into a solution that will likely ultimately prove as futile as the EFSF?
The trouble is that this is playing chicken with an eighteen-wheeler.
What we have is a system where the full-time worker to beneficiary is already 1-to-1 and the system pays out 10 times more per person than it collects in taxes. The Medicare system would need about 10 workers for every beneficiary to be sustainable. Right now the ratio is just above 2-to-1. That simply is not sustainable. Tweaking the payouts doesn't change the basic math: "pay as you go" entitlements are not sustainable when the number of recipients equals the number of full-time workers. Programs that pay out $400,000 per person (many of whom did not work a lifetime) and collect $40,000 per lifetime of full-time work are not sustainable.
Wishing the math were different does not make it different.
From the 2008 financial crisis to Bernie Madoff, federal regulators have consistency proven too incompetent or too in-the-pocket to actually catch big disasters before they happen. Their interests, like all government employees, are politically based. State bureaucracies seek more funding no matter performance because their success is impossible to determine without having to account for profit. There is never an objective way to determine if the public sector uses its resources effectively. The news of JP Morgan’s loss has reignited the discussion over whether the financial sector is regulated enough. The answer is that regulation and the moral hazard-ridden business environment it produces is the sole reason why a bank’s loss is a hot topic of discussion to begin with. Without the Fed, the FDIC, and the government’s nasty history of bailing out its top campaign contributors, JP Morgan would be just another bank beholden to market forces. Instead it, along with most of Wall Street, has become, to use former Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig’s label, a virtual “public utility.” Take away the implied safety net and “too big to fail” disappears. It’s as simple that.
One of the few things we know with certainty is that which is unsustainable will go away and be replaced by another more sustainable arrangement. Whether we like it or not, or are willing to accept reality or not, unsustainable public pensions will go away. What makes "defined benefit" pensions unsustainable? 1) Promised cash/benefits packages that are not aligned with the fiscal realities of what can be contributed annually to the pension funds 2) New Normal low yields on low-risk investments and 3) skyrocketing costs of healthcare benefits.
This is easily illustrated with basic math.