There is nothing any of us can do at this point, except navigate the rapids as well as possible, and to stay out of the way of a dying empire, which is still very dangerous in its death throes. We are actually very privileged to be alive and witnessing this next transition, to what we do not know just yet. But what an honor to live at this time, not in ignorance but with an existential resolve to come out of it alive and much the wiser.
Legitimate revolution takes time, patience and fortitude. Unfortunately, this is a strategic concept that is lost on many Americans today who suffer from a now common ailment of attention deficit disorder and an obsession with immediate gratification. Even some who have their hearts in the right place and who work to defend and resurrect our nation’s founding ideals seem to believe that any action to defeat corrupt oligarchy must be effective immediately, otherwise, it’s not worth the attempt. History, of course, teaches us the opposite. As things stand at this moment, though, the death of the system is not something to cheer, no matter how much we might wish it to crumble under the weight of its own criminality. The collapse of the existing system will not be the end of our troubles, only the beginning. Chaos always opens doors for evil men, and they will certainly take full advantage of the chaos triggered by shutdown, default or continued inflationary debt spending. We must make ourselves ready to resist by making ourselves separate from the monster we plan to fight. Crisis waits for no one, and on the path our nation now walks, crisis is assured.
Apparently the IRS has fallen on hard times in light of all this government shutdown and sequestration nonsense. Too bad. According to a recent report from the Treasury Department, ‘enforcement revenue’ at the IRS has fallen for the second straight year. Tax enforcement is one of the only ‘money makers’ for the US government; according to the IRS, every dollar spent on tax enforcement generates six dollars in additional tax revenue. Unfortunately for the IRS, though, the agency’s head count has been thinning. They no longer have enough people, and enforcement revenue has been declining. Ordinarily the IRS supplements its ranks with legions of unpaid spies in the financial sector. Starting July 1, 2014, though, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will give the IRS a new addition in its ever-growing list of unpaid spies. You.
A farming harvesting his fields in North Dakota has come across a massive oil spill, undetected long enough to become the size of seven football fields. Local media reports cite farmer Steve Jensen as saying the crude appeared to becoming from a rupture in an underground pipeline operated by Tesoro Corp. The farmer noted that he had smelled the crude for days but it wasn’t until he began harvesting his wheat fields that he discovered the source of the smell, as his combine got caught up in crude spewing up to six inches above the ground. The spill, discovered on 29 September and since contained, is one of the largest ever in the history of North Dakota.
If we look at the foundations of retirement--Social Security, stocks, bonds and real estate--it seems we may have reached Peak Retirement.
It’s become almost cliche these days to point out how many governments are broke beyond belief. The theater playing out in the US right now is irrelevant. America’s debt challenge is not a political problem. It’s an arithmetic problem. Same in Japan and most of Europe. However, most of these ‘rich’ western nations aren’t doing anything about it. It’s business as usual, and their debts are only getting bigger. Poorer countries don’t have this luxury of kicking the can down the road and delaying the inevitable. They must face their financial reckoning now... and they are finding increasingly unique ways to encourage 'revenues'.
In the midst of a domestic crisis, it is easy to forget that the rest of the world is watching. Now that the U.S. federal government has shut down for the first time since the mid 1990s, the talk of the town is the political problems of the world’s largest economy and sole superpower. In China, most media reports about the shutdown have been merely informative, but every now and then they offer a rare insight into what the Chinese have learned about America’s shortcomings. Yet other commentators find the federal shutdown inspiring. the newspaper Nanfang Dushi Bao commended the strength of American society for being able to function without the government. Interestingly, while the American public sees the shutdown as a government failure, some Chinese are seeing it as a sign of efficiency.
If one looks at various sovereign states, it seemingly doesn't matter that their public debts continue to rise at a hefty clip. The largest ones are considered to have economies that are big and resilient enough to be able to support the growing debt load. Part of the calculus is no doubt the notion that they contain enough accumulated wealth to allow their governments to confiscate even more of their citizens property and income in order to make good on their debts. Then there are the small and mid-sized states in the EU that are getting bailed out by their larger brethren, or rather, the tax payers of their larger brethren. However, things are different when the territories or municipalities concerned are considered too small and have no such back-up. Detroit was a recent case in point, and it seems that the US territory of Puerto Rico is the next domino to fall.
There are two characteristics of a currency that make it useful in international trade: one, it is issued by a large trading nation itself, and, two, the currency holds its value vis-à-vis other commodities over time. These two factors create a demand for holding a currency in reserve. Of course, psychological factors entered the demand for dollars, too, since the US was seen as the military protector of all the Western nations against the communist countries for much of the post-war period. Today we are seeing the beginnings of a change. The Fed has been inflating the dollar massively, reducing its purchasing power in relation to other commodities, causing many of the world’s great trading nations to use other monies upon occasion. President Obama’s imminent appointment of career bureaucrat Janet Yellen as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board is evidence that the US policy of continuing to cheapen the dollar via Quantitative Easing will continue. As we noted before, nothing lasts forever... (especially in light of China's earlier comments)
Another of history’s many lessons is that governments under pressure become thieves. And today’s governments are under a lot of pressure.
The dollar is the world’s go-to currency. But for how much longer? Will the dollar’s status as the only true global currency be irreparably damaged by the battle in the US Congress over raising the federal government’s debt ceiling? Is the dollar’s “exorbitant privilege” as the world’s main reserve currency truly at risk? Sane governments do not default when they have a choice – especially not when they enjoy the “exorbitant privilege” of issuing the only true global currency. We are about to find out whether the US still has a sane government.
Only a week ago, the consensus among most mainstream economic analysts and even some alternative analysts was that a government shutdown was not going to happen. The Republicans would fold in the shadow of President Barack Obama’s overwhelming drive for socialization, spending would continue to grow unabated, and the debt ceiling would be vaulted yet again to feed the bureaucratic machine with more fiat. Today, there is no consensus, very few people continue to be so blithely self-assured and even the mainstream is beginning to wonder if a much bigger game is afoot here.
Despite nearly $17 trillion reasons, there are investors stupid enough to believe that debt issued by the world’s largest debtor country (i.e. US Treasuries) should be treated as a risk-free asset. This is even more astounding given that the possibility of formal default is only a matter of days away. Treasury bond defenders will no doubt point out that in a fiat currency world where the central bank has the freedom to print ex nihilo money to its heart’s content, the very idea of default is absurd. But that is to confuse nominal returns with real ones. The piper must, at some point, be paid. And someone must pay him. As to whom? This is the foundation of western economic policy, distilled into just four words: the unborn cannot vote. The debt mountain cannot and will not resolve itself. And this, again, is why we own gold; because we think there is a non-trivial chance of a gigantic financial system reset.
At the time of publication, the United States government is shut down. That does not mean the gears of the state have come to a thankful halt. Over three-quarters of Washington’s global hegemony remains fully functional. Tax dollars are still being redistributed. Wars continue to be waged. The public at large is going about its day unbothered by the furlough of tens of thousands of government employees. For once, apathy has paid off. The only poor souls bemoaning the shutdown are the ones sitting at home. The United States government is not going away anytime soon. The same government workers kicked out of their day-job will go crawling back once given the green light. Being called the equivalent of worthless will be of no consideration. The paycheck is paramount to their dignity. They have our sympathy, but there would be more to share if the state didn’t thrive off the fat of the rubes.
Neither American political party is worth supporting. Each has interests inconsistent with those of the American public. The claimed political differences are mostly cosmetic, designed for marketing advantage. Both parties act in their self interest which does not coincide with that of the citizens or the well-being of the country. Each party behaves like a self-serving criminal gang. The quaint concept of serving the public exists no longer. The political Ponzi scheme of tax, borrow and spend has reached its limit.