During 2008, traitors like Hank Paulson were able to con most of us by saying that we risked a destruction of the financial system as an excuse to give the banksters and their allies a blank check. The con wasn’t in the notion that the financial system risked implosion as I believe that statement was most likely true. The con was that since most Americans don’t have a clue how the financial system works they merely became scared and reflexively agreed in their own minds that “well of course the financial system must be saved.” I on the other hand argue that the financial system is a ponzi scheme that enriches only the three enshrined parasite classes that dominate America today. The TBTF Wall Street banks, the military industrial complex and the politicians and lobbyists in D.C. that line their pockets. Everyone else gets sucked dry. I have spent the last three years of my life writing about this so that people understand when the next major crisis happens who is to blame and more importantly I want to instill in people the courage to look outside of this immoral money system to something that can move us forward when this one gets dismantled. I do not claim to have the answers I am just trying to get people to ask the right questions and get educated on how things operate. We the People must own the debate or it will own us.
For the record, I still believe that there will not be a breach of the debt ceiling and no overt default for the US. Things will be worked out in the nick of time, like they always are. However, the media is full of articles wondering about what ‘investors’ might do in response to a US default and/or credit downgrade. What will happen to Treasury prices? Will they go down as investors dump them en masse in response to a credit downgrade forcing interest rates to climb? It’s a big question and the most likely answer is “No, not really”. Partly because these so-called investors have been well-conditioned to believe that another bailout is always around the corner, but mainly because they have nowhere to go. The big money is trapped... The Treasury market is the largest and most liquid in the world, by far. For many big money funds there really aren’t any realistic options other than the Treasury market, and this present reality will limit the market reaction to any downgrade.
Dramatic title I realize but look at the charts below and ask yourself if this is purely coincidence or something more telling. Regulars to this site have read posts comparing the current market to that of late 2007. From equities to credit markets to volatility and more the similarities across asset classes has been rather striking. The basis for these comparisons was the belief that at major inflection points markets are more about psychology than they are technicals and or macro data. Since human nature never changes patterns will repeatedly play out as discussed by Jesse Livermore (the following is from a book discussing his trading beliefs). He observed that human emotions collectively had major impacts on the movement of stock prices and Markets in general, ultimately creating patterns that kept repeating.”
The great cold lie at the heart of present-day America is that the nation will magically benefit if we each single-mindedly pursue our self-interest to the exclusion of all else. The idea has a sleek quasi-free-market sheen, as it borrows the market's "invisible hand" and applies it to social, fiscal and environmental policies. That is a magical-thinking fantasy. If I pursued only my own self-interest, I would dump the toxic effluent from my factory right into the river ( a la China's very laissez faire economy) while I lived far away in an exclusive community far from the stench and poisons. Why pay for costly remediation when the "free" river beckons? After all, it all works out wonderfully if we each pursue our own self-interest with methodical, nay maniacal, single-mindedness. (Recall that rivers in America caught fire in the 1960s, before environmental regulations limited corporate self-interest.) "The good of the nation" is now a code-phrase for "good for me, and to heck with the country at large." Every self-serving fiefdom, every self-serving cartel and every self-serving constituency (a.k.a. special interest) claims that its pathetically obvious self-serving lobbying "serves the national interest." It's all lies, blatant emotional manipulation of the vilest, crassest sort. Yet we as a nation have sunk so low that the entire notion of a national interest which doesn't benefit a powerful lobby or constituency has been lost. We are now a nation of self-interested pygmies, blind to any national interest that isn't devoted to enriching us personally.
There’s one question that I’ve been seeing over and over for the last several weeks as the price of gold has taken out its all-time highs and continued a nearly uninterrupted ascent: Should I buy gold now? It’s understandable, especially for people who don’t own precious metals yet. Nobody wants to be the sucker who buys gold at the top, only to watch it crater back to $1200 or below. But here’s some food for thought...
Complexity works beautifully as self-preservation, because it actually expands the bureaucratic power of fiefdoms and widens the moat protecting cartels. Once the fiefdom expands to manage all those new rules, only a handful of corporations can possibly afford the regulatory reporting burdens. They are thus free to exploit the populace as an informal cartel. Put another way: in the competition with the private sector for scarce capital, the State and corruption always win. That's why kleptocracies and banana republics are characterized by bloated, unaccountable State bureaucracies and systemic corruption: sweetheart deals, no-bid contracts, shadow banking, shadow governance by Elites, inefficient workforces that cannot be fired or held accountable, and so on...The single goal is preserving the revenue and reach of concentrated power centers: State fiefdoms with large constituencies and headcounts, and cartels with no competition and stupendous profits. The two are hand in glove. But complexity does have an eventual cost: collapse. Keep adding decks to the ship and eventually it capsizes and sinks. One the ship is sufficiently top-heavy, all it takes is a small wave.
I first started coming regularly to Daet, in the Bicol region of the Philippines, more than 13-years ago. Wages for unskilled workers are about $4.65 per DAY. If you buy food from the local markets or vendors and prepare it yourself, you can have quite a decent meal of fresh local fish, rice, and vegetables for less than $1 per person. If you have a place to stay, even adding in a few luxuries (beer is about 50c a bottle, for example), you could live well here on $10 a day. Down the road from my wife’s small hotel is a vacant beach lot for sale. It’s priced at about $35,000, and the owners have spent a considerable amount of money improving it with access ramps and other structures leading down to the water. The land is already planted with some crops, and there are ponds suitable for fish farming. Of course, construction costs here are quite cheap by western standards, and you could build a nice three-bedroom home for around $60,000. In total, that’s less than $100,000 for a spacious beachfront home in a quiet, clean, pristinely beautiful place where living costs will only run $10/day.
Is a second recession in so short of a time in the offing? It certainly seems that way. The hope for a continued recovery has grown dim as of late as many of the economic indexes are moving towards contractionary territory. As we posted recently in "EOC Index Shows Economic Weakness" there are several concerns pressing the US economy and, in the words of David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff, “one small shock” could send us into a second recession. With the recent release of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index our proprietary economic index is just one small step away from crossing the 35 mark which has always been a pre-cursor to recession. We have discussed many times recently that with the unemployment rate remaining high, housing prices slipping into a secondary decline, consumer and business spending slowing, while gas and food prices remain high eating up more than 20% of consumers wages and salaries. Add on top of these factors the likelihood of a Greek debt default, a slowdown in the Eurozone, a weaker dollar and Washington locked in debate over the debt ceiling - well, the list of risks far outweigh the positives. However, that doesn't seem to deter Wall Street economists and main stream media which seem to all be wearing an extremely thick pair of rose colored glasses these days. However, it doesn't take an economist to figure out that any one of these factors could send us tumbling into a second recession.
Measured by the Shanghai Stock Exchange Index, the Chinese stock market advanced 12% in 10 trading days in October 2010. While investors big and small are celebrating their returns in a market where shorting stock is not allowed, a bigger topic emerges: how did it happen? Increasingly, people point their fingers to the direction of Beijing.
The decline of the Roman Empire is captured by the simple concept of bread and circuses. Rather than focusing on the issues, the leaders tried to placate the masses. The disdain in the simple phrase 'let them eat cake' so clearly brings to mind all the reasons for the French revolution. Rather than placating the masses, the aristocracy almost took pleasure in flaunting their wealth and privilege. I am not convinced America has reached it's apex and is in decline, but more and more I believe that if we have peaked history will equate our decline with two simple words - "the market".
The only real solution to the Eurozone end-game is massive debt forgiveness and the resulting destruction of "too big to fail" banks, and a return to national currencies, which will enable structural imbalances to be resolved via currency devaluations. This will of course destabilize the German export economy; but that is inevitable. "Extend and pretend" is an endgame, not a fix.
Only now, after three years of roller coaster markets, epic debates, and gnashing of teeth, are mainstream financial pundits finally starting to get it. At least some of them, anyway. Precious metals have continued to perform relentlessly since 2008, crushing all naysayer predictions and defying all the musings of so called “experts”, while at the same time maintaining and protecting the investment savings of those people smart enough to jump on the train while prices were at historic lows (historic as in ‘the past 5000 years’)....Those who instead listened to the alternative media from 2007 on have now tripled the value of their investments, and are likely to double them yet again in the coming months as PM’s and other commodities continue to outperform paper securities and stocks. After enduring so much hardship, criticism, and grief over our positions on gold and silver, it’s about time for us to say “we told you so”. Not to gloat (ok, maybe a little), but to solidify the necessity of metals investment for every American today. Yes, we were right, the skeptics were wrong, and they continue to be wrong. Even now, with gold surpassing the $1600 an ounce mark, and silver edging back towards its $50 per ounce highs, there is still time for those who missed the boat to shield their nest eggs from expanding economic insanity. The fact is, precious metals values are nowhere near their peak. Here are some reasons why…
After decades of a debt financed contest to display the gaudiest plumage, is the average American happier? Considering more than 10% of all Americans are on anti-depressant drugs, I’d say not. The rat race for status, the appearance of wealth and visible faux displays of success do not increase well-being. If most of our earnings are spent on an empty game of status, we should not expect much improvement in our quality of life. There is something perverse about having more than enough. When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. This is the attitude that drives the criminals on Wall Street and politicians in Washington DC to constantly seek more power and wealth. The more we acquire, the more elusive enough becomes. Much of the debt financed purchases of consumer trinkets, baubles and gadgets is nothing more than an expensive anesthetic to deaden the pain of empty lives. Meanwhile, millions of Americans cling to their borrowed peacock feathers as the butcher of reality bears down upon them. The end won’t be pretty. The brave conquerors of strip malls across the land can enjoy their toys, gadgets, and treasures for awhile longer, but they need to remember one thing – Glory is fleeting and death can come suddenly.
Here we go again. Another bail-out. [Sigh.]
I’ll try to make this as entertaining and easily readable as possible – but first the details of the bail-out agreed on July 21st:
- Fresh EUR 109bn EFSF/IMF loans until mid-2014
- Private sector (read: banks) participation of EUR 37bn
- EUR 12.6bn from bond repurchases at below par (100%)
- All EFSF loans extended to 15-30 years with interest rate cut to 3.5% (same relief granted for Portugal and Ireland)
- EFSF re-tooled: flexible credit lines, purchase of bonds in secondary market, recapitalizing banks
- “Marshall Plan” for Greece (increased investments by EU)