"Western Economy Has Rotted Away To A Tipping Point By A Generation Of Neoliberal Economic Theory"

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Mar 27, 2024 - 02:45 PM

By Michael Every of Rabobank

Lemonade or Kool-Aid?

"How Lemony Snickets!” So one might think looking at financial press headlines over the past few days. Yet there is one other common theme, which I will address at the end of this list.

  • The collapsed Francis Scott Key Baltimore bridge, besides the loss of life, underlines how damaging the absence of key infrastructure is: US and global trade will get snarled for some time as 52m tons of cargo annually, 1.3m tons of farm and construction equipment, 2.5m tons of coal, large quantities of lumber, gypsum, nearly a million cars --and everyone who lives in the Baltimore area-- face disruption. This incident looks like a power failure on the Maersk-chartered, Singapore-owned, Indian-crewed ship, on top of generational under-investment in infrastructure and the dull institutions that allow economies to work vs. the firms/consultancies which milk the profits from it. However, national security experts had already warned in future wars the US is involved in, and/or terrorist attacks, the risk is of similar sabotage episodes, especially given the prevalence of foreign crews and ships entering the US daily. The US is completely unprepared for this threat, apart from recent action on removing Chinese cranes in US ports. And Europe is arguably just as vulnerable.

  • The US and Japan just signed the biggest change to their security treaty for 60 years in the face of a threat from China and North Korea: the US may move operational control of forces in Japan from the current base in Hawaii. Such treaty changes are not undertaken lightly, or for no reason. As I’ve said recently, strategists need to look at logistics for signals, not economists.

  • The Congressional Budget Office says the US risks a Lizz Truss-style bond collapse if it doesn’t change its “unprecedented” fiscal trajectory. Yet this misses one key thing: the Bank of England, in some eyes, deliberately precipitated the Gilts market EM-style sell-off, either because of a sudden passing phase of economic orthodoxy or, possibly, because the government was talking about reforming the Bank of England. It’s unlikely the Fed is going to walk away from the US Treasury: the direction of travel, particularly after the next change of FOMC Chair, could well be the opposite, and in fact may have to – though that has its own market implications.

  • Newsweek says ‘Gen Z Is Toxic for Companies, Employers Believe’, and notes 68% of US small business owners said Gen Zers were their "least reliable" employees; 71% said they were most likely to have mental health issues; one employer spoke of "absolute delusion, complete lack of common sense, and zero critical reasoning or basic analytical skills."; less than 4% said Gen Z most aligns with their workplace culture; 62% said they were most likely to create division and toxicity in the workplace; and another noted the tendency for "expecting promotions for simply showing up every day.” This is the generation that is taking over positions in all Western corporations and institutions - if they aren’t marching in the streets instead.

  • Secret RCMP report warns Canadians may revolt once they realize how broke they are’. A heavily redacted version warns Canada “may descend into civil unrest once citizens realize the hopelessness of their economic situation”, and that the next recession “will accelerate the decline in living standards the younger generations have already witnessed,” as most Canadians under 35 “are unlikely ever to be able to buy a place to live.” Now try the rest of the West and see what it looks like. That said, elsewhere the report also warns of Canada facing “increasing pressure to cede Arctic territory.” Presumably not to Gen Z from other countries: so to whom?

  • Chinese ex-trade negotiator slams US for ‘dismantling the system’ of global trade.’ The Boao Forum heard Chinese firms are relocating the Mexico to sell to US consumers, but if the US shuts that option off too --as both Biden and Trump are proposing on EVs-- it would mean higher inflation in the US. More importantly, we heard, “It is the globalised economic and trade systems that are at stake…now the US is dismantling the system.”

  • There are more political rumbles coming from the Balkans that suggest Europe might have even more on its overloaded geopolitical plate to deal with soon. The Serbian Prime Minister just made cryptic warnings about threats to national security via social media, while Kosovo warns of a Serbian invasion.

Can you spot the theme running through all of this?

How about a Western economy rotted away to a potential tipping point by a generation of neoliberal economic theory put into practice, and now experiencing simultaneous: failing ideology; failing infrastructure; failing institutions; failing national security; failing fiscal policy; failing demographics; a failing workforce (say small business-owners); failing society (say the Mounties); and failing global architecture? None of that suggests that we are heading back to a world of ultra-low rates and ultra-low inflation.

Or maybe it’s ‘a series of unfortunate events’, inflation is transitory, and rate cuts solve all.

It’s up to you to decide, as the market drifts along today waiting for what it calls ‘a signal’, while opting to ignore all the blaring alarms going off outside of Bloomberg screens. But when life gives you Lemony Snickets, I suggest you make lemonade, by preparing and trading appropriately, rather than drinking the Kool-Aid.