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We’ll Pay All Those Future Obligations by Impoverishing Everyone (How to Destroy Our Currency In One Easy Lesson)

The only way to pay all these future obligations is by creating new money.
I’ve been focusing on inflation, which is more properly understood as the loss of purchasing power of a currency, which when taken to extremes destroys the currency and the wealth/income of everyone forced to use that currency.
The funny thing about the loss of a currency’s purchasing power is that it wipes out every holder of that currency, rich and not-so-rich alike. There are a few basics we need to cover first to understand how soaring future obligations–pensions, healthcare, entitlements, interest on debt, etc.–lead to a feedback loop which will hasten the loss of purchasing power of our currency, the US dollar.
1. As I have explained many times, the only possible output of the way we create and distribute “money” (credit and currency) is soaring wealth/income inequality, as all the new money flows to the wealthy, who use the “cheap” money from central and private banks to lend at high rates of interest to debt-serfs, buy back corporate shares or buy up income-producing assets.
The net result is whatever actual “growth” has occurred (removing the illusory growth that accounts for much of the GDP “growth” this decade) has flowed almost exclusively to the top of the wealth-power pyramid (see chart below).
2. Much of the “growth” that’s supposed to fund public and private obligations is fictitious. Please read Michael Hudson’s brief comments for a taste of how this works: The “Next” Financial Crisis and Public Banking as the Response.
The mainstream financial media swallows the bogus “growth” story without question because that story is the linchpin of the entire status quo: if it’s revealed as inaccurate, i.e. statistical sleight of hand, the whole idea that “growth” can effortlessly fund all future obligations goes up in flames.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s Why Rip-Roaring Inflation Is Inevitable

Here’s Why Rip-Roaring Inflation Is Inevitable

The stability of America’s status quo is illusory.

One of the enduring mysteries of the past decade is why inflation has remained tame while the central bank and government have pumped trillions of dollars of newly created money into the economy. Millions of words have been written about this, and so some shortcuts will have to be taken to make sense of it in one essay.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Adding newly created money but not generating new goods and services of the same value reduces the purchasing power of existing money. To keep it simple: say the economy of a country is $20 trillion. (Hey, the US GDP is $20 trillion…) Say its money supply is $10 trillion.

So banks and/or the government create $2 trillion in new money but the value of goods and services only expands by $1 trillion. the “extra” $1 trillion of newly created money (either “printed” or borrowed into existence) reduces the value of all existing money.

In effect, the new money robs purchasing power from all existing money.Those holding existing money have lost purchasing power while the recipients of the new money receive purchasing power they didn’t have prior to receiving the new money.

We can see how this works by looking at a chart of GDP to debt. As debt has soared (and remember, debt is “new money” that was loaned into existence), GDP has risen at a much lower rate, so the ratio of debt to GDP has skyrocketed. (see chart below)

2. Where “inflation” (higher prices for the same item) shows up depends on who gets the newly created money: the wealthy few or the wage-earning many. As I have explained many times, in our system, all newly issued money goes to banks, financiers and corporations–the super-wealthy few.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

The confidence and hubris of those directing the rest of us to race off the cliff while they watch from a safe distance is off the charts.

The past decade of “recovery” and “growth” has actually been a decade of catastrophic losses for our society and nation. Here’s a short list of what we’ve lost:

1. Functioning markets. Free markets discover price and assess risk. What passes for markets now are little more than signaling devices to convince us the economy is doing spectacularly well. It is doing spectacularly well, but only for the top .1% of 1% and the class of managerial/technocrat flunkies and apologists who serve the interests of the top .1%.

2. Genuine Virtue. Parading around a slogan or online accusation, “liking” others in whatever echo-chamber tribe the virtue-signaler is seeking validation in, and other cost-free gestures–now signals virtue. Genuine virtue–sacrificing the support of one’s tribe for principles that require skin in the game–has disappeared from the public sphere and the culture.

3. Civility. As Scientific American reported in its February issue (The Tribalism of Truth), the incentive structure of largely digital “tribes” rewards the most virulent, the most outrageous, the least reasonable and the most vindictive of the tribe with “likes” while offering little to no encouragement of restraint, caution, learning rather than shouting, etc.

The cost of gaining tribal encouragement is essentially zero, while the risk of ostracism from the tribe is high. In a society with so few positive social structures, the self-referentially toxic digital tribe may be the primary social structure for atomized “consumers” in a dysfunctional system dominated by a rigged “market” and a central state that no longer needs the consent of the governed.

Common ground, civility, the willingness to listen and learn–all lost.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s How Systems (and Nations) Fail

Here’s How Systems (and Nations) Fail

These embedded processes strip away autonomy, equating compliance with effectiveness even as the processes become increasingly counter-productive and wasteful.

Would any sane person choose America’s broken healthcare system over a cheaper, more effective alternative? Let’s see: the current system costs twice as much per person as the healthcare systems of our developed-world competitors, a medication to treat infantile spasms costs $8 per vial in Europe and $38,892 in the U.S., and by any broad measure, the health of the U.S. populace is declining.

This is how systems and nations fail: nobody chose the current broken system, but now it can’t be changed because the incentive structure locks in embedded processes that enrich self-serving insiders at the expense of the system, nation and its populace.

Nobody chose America’s insane healthcare system–it arose from a set ofinitial conditions that generated perverse incentives to do more of what’s failing and protect the processes that benefit insiders at the expense of everyone else.

In other words, the system that was intended to benefit all ends up benefitting the few at the expense of the many.

The same question can be asked of America’s broken higher education system:would any sane person choose a system that enriches insiders by indenturing students via massive student loans (i.e. forcing them to become debt serfs)?

Students and their parents certainly wouldn’t choose the current broken system, but the lenders reaping billions of dollars in profits would choose to keep it, and so would the under-assistant deans earning a cool $200K+ for “administering” some embedded process that has effectively nothing to do with actual learning.

The academic ronin a.k.a. adjuncts earning $35,000 a year (with little in the way of benefits or security) for doing much of the actual teaching wouldn’t choose the current broken system, either.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When Long-Brewing Instability Finally Reaches Crisis

When Long-Brewing Instability Finally Reaches Crisis

Keep an eye on the system’s buffers. They look fine until they suddenly collapse.
The doom-and-gloomers among us who have been predicting the unraveling of an inherently unstable financial system appear to have been disproved by the reflation of yet another credit-asset bubble. But inherently unstable / imbalanced systems can stumble onward for years or even decades, making fools of all who warn of an eventual reset.
Destabilizing systems can cling on for decades, as the inevitable crisis doesn’t necessarily resolve the instability. History shows that when systems had enough inherent wealth to draw upon, they could survive for centuries, thinning their resources, adaptability and buffers until their reservoirs were finally drained. Until then, they simply did more of what’s failed to maintain the sclerotic, self-serving elites at the top of the Imperial food chain.
If we want to trace back the systemic instabilities and imbalances that culminated in China’s revolution in 1949, we can start in 1900 with the Boxer Rebellion, which was itself a reaction to the Opium Wars of the 1840s that established Western influence and control in China.
But is this far enough back in time to understand the Communist Revolution in the 1940s? If we want a comprehensive understanding, we must go back to 1644 and the demise of the Ming Empire, and perhaps even farther back to the Mongol victory over the Song dynasties in the late 1200s.
In the same fashion, we can trace the current crisis of global-finance Capitalism back to the expansion of globalization, affordable fossil fuels and credit in the early 1900s. Affordable fossil fuels enabled rapid industrialization and the growth of transportation and communication networks. Add the expansionary effects of globalization and credit, and the consumer-finance economy took off like a rocket until the inevitable consequences of providing leverage and credit to marginal producers, buyers and speculators led to the Great Depression.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Schizophrenic Deep State is a Symptom, Not the Disease

The Schizophrenic Deep State is a Symptom, Not the Disease

If we understand the profound political disunity fracturing the nation and its Imperial Project, we understand the Deep State must also fracture along the same fault lines.
If we consider the state of the nation from 40,000 feet, several key indicators of profound political disunity within the elites pop out:
1. The overt politicization of the central state’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies: it is now commonplace to find former top officials of the CIA et al. accusing a sitting president of treason in the mainstream media. What was supposed to be above politics is now nothing but politics.
2. The overt politicization of the centralized (corporate) media: evidence that would stand up in a court of law is essentially non-existent but the interpretations and exaggerations that fit the chosen narrative are ceaselessly promoted–the classic definition of desperate propaganda by those who have lost the consent of the governed.
The nation’s elites are not just divided–they’re exhibiting signs of schizophrenic breakdown: disassociation and a loss of the ability to discern the difference between reality and their internal fantasies.
I’ve been writing about the divided Deep State for a number of years, for example, The Conflict within the Deep State Just Broke into Open Warfare. The topic appears to be one of widespread interest, as this essay drew over 300,000 views.
It’s impossible to understand the divided Deep State unless we situate it in the larger context of profound political disunity, a concept I learned from historian Michael Grant, whose slim but insightful volume The Fall of the Roman Empire I have been recommending since 2009.
As I noted in my 2009 book Survival+, this was a key feature of the Roman Empire in its final slide to collapse.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Our Institutions Are Failing

Our Institutions Are Failing

Our institutional failure reminds me of the phantom legions of Rome’s final days.

The mainstream media and its well-paid army of “authorities” / pundits would have us believe the decline in our collective trust in our institutions is the result of fake news, i.e. false narratives and data presented as factual.

If only we could rid ourselves of fake news, all would be well, as our institutions are working just fine.

This mainstream narrative is itself false: our institutions are failing, and the cause isn’t fake news or Russian hacking–the cause is insider plundering and collusion, aided and abetted by a decline in transparency and accountability and the institutionalization of incompetence.

In other words, the citizenry’s trust in institutions is declining because the failure of institutions is undeniably the fabric of everyday life in America.

When was the last time you heard the top management of a university system take responsibility for the unprecedented rise in the cost of tuition and textbooks? The short answer is “never.” The insiders benefiting from the higher-education cartel’s relentless exploitation of students and their families act as if the soaring costs are akin to cosmic radiation, a force of nature that they are powerless to control.

The same can be said of every other cartel plundering the nation: healthcare (i.e. sickcare, because profits swell from managing chronic illness, not from advancing health); the Big Pharma cartel; the military-industrial complex; banking; student loans; the governance-lobbying cartels; the war-on-drugs gulag, the FBI and so on in an endless profusion of insiders whose self-serving plunder and gross incompetence rarely generates consequences (such as being fired or indicted) due to an absence of accountability and transparency.

Incompetence has been institutionalized, and is now the accepted norm.Schools fail, municipal agencies fail, oversight agencies fail, state agencies fail, and the public feels powerless to effect any systemic change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The USA Is Now a 3rd World Nation

The USA Is Now a 3rd World Nation

I know it hurts, but the reality is painfully obvious: the USA is now a 3rd World nation.

Dividing the Earth’s nations into 1st, 2nd and 3rd world has fallen out of favor;apparently it offended sensibilities. It has been replaced by the politically correctdeveloped and developing nations, a terminology which suggests all developing nations are on the pathway to developed-nation status.

What’s been lost in jettisoning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd world categories is the distinction between developing (2nd world) and dysfunctional states (3rd world), states we now label “failed states.”

But 3rd World implied something quite different from “failed state”: failed staterefers to a failed government of a nation-state, i.e. a government which no longer fulfills the minimum duties of a functional state: basic security, rule of law, etc.

3rd World referred to a nation-state which was dysfunctional and parasitic for the vast majority of its residents but that worked extremely well for entrenched elites who controlled most of the wealth and political power. Unlike failed states, which by definition are unstable, 3rd World nations are stable, for the reason that they work just fine for the elites who dominate the wealth, power and machinery of governance.

Here are the core characteristics of dysfunctional but stable states that benefit the entrenched few at the expense of the many, i.e. 3rd World nations:

1. Ownership of stocks and other assets is highly concentrated in entrenched elites. The average household is disconnected from the stock market and other measures of wealth; only a thin sliver of households own enough financial/speculative wealth to make an actual difference in their lives.

2. The infrastructure of the nation used by the many is poorly maintained and costly to operate as entrenched elites plunder the funding to pad their payrolls, pensions and sweetheart/insider contracts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Are All Hostages of Corporate Profits

We Are All Hostages of Corporate Profits

We’re in the endgame of financialization and globalization, and it won’t be pretty for all the hostages of corporate profits.
Though you won’t read about it in the mainstream corporate media, the nation is now hostage to outsized corporate profits.
The economy and society at large are now totally dependent on soaring corporate profits and the speculative bubbles they fuel, and this renders us all hostages: “Make a move to limit corporate profits or speculative bubbles, and your pension fund gets a bullet in the head.”
Not just pension funds, of course; tax revenues will also be taken out and shotas most of the state and federal income taxes are paid by high-earners and those skimming capital gains from stock options and stock-based compensation packages.
Political and financial authorities have caved in to the implicit threat, lest their share of the corporate swag be tossed in the ditch. To appease public anger, various bureaucratic thickets have been created, but as you can easily see, corporate profits have not been affected.
The global downturn resulting from China’s tightening of credit in 2016 caused a remarkably under-reported panic in central banks, which pulled out all the stops to keep corporate profits high.
Subsidies, tax breaks and exclusions keep the profits flowing not just to corporate managers and owners but politicos, lobbyists and the entire food chain that serves the top of the wealth-power pyramid in America.
Notice the difference between normal and abnormal profits? The enormous speculative boom of the dot-com era doubled corporate profits in a mere decade, but those gains pale compared to the tripling in profits since the 2002 downturn:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Keynesian Economics Is an Artifact of Cheap Energy

Keynesian Economics Is an Artifact of Cheap Energy

Printing / borrowing money to generate the unsustainable illusion of “growth” sets up the collapse of the entire Keynesian edifice.
Of the many delusions of modern economics, perhaps the greatest is that the dominant Keynesian model reflects permanent dynamics of advanced economies. Economics, along with other social sciences, makes an implicit claim that its econometric claims are the equal of the “hard sciences” of physics and chemistry.
In other words, the econometrics of Keynesian economics is presented as possessing the same timeless validity of the natural sciences.
The reality is that Keynesianism arose in an era of abundant cheap energy, and it is an artifact of that brief one-off period in which industrialization, consumption and the human population were able to expand by leaps and bounds due to cheap energy and new technologies that leveraged greater value (“work,” output) from the cheap energy.
Once energy is no longer cheap or abundant, the Keynesian model of paying people to dig holes and fill them as a means of boosting “aggregate demand” falls apart. In the Keynesian model, “growth” as measured by consumption (gross domestic product) is assumed to be permanent and the highest goal of any economy.
If an economy starts contracting (i.e. recession), the one-size-fits-all solution in the Keynesian model is to boost consumption, i.e. “growth” by any means available: paying people to produce no useful output (building bridges to nowhere, etc.), distributing newly created money via “helicopter drops” into consumers’ laps via tax rebates, tax cuts, increased social welfare spending, etc.
This “solution” implicitly assumes the energy needed to fuel this unproductive labor, investment and consumption is permanently abundant and cheap. It also assumes that the quantity of energy available to fuel the economy will always expand, and as a result new currency (“money”) can be issued by central banks with few (if any) constraints.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Could Germany Fracture?

Could Germany Fracture?

All sorts of centralized organizations that appear rock-solid may well melt into air as the disintegrative dynamics gather momentum.

Rising political and social discord that is generally being attributed to “populism” may actually be the re-emergence of ancient geographic and cultural fault lines. An often-overlooked manifestation of this might be the nation-state of Germany, a possibility fleshed out by longtime correspondent Mark G.

It’s both convenient and expedient for politicos to blame “populism” for the fracturing of the status quo. Given the unsavory undertones of ethnic/religious bias of “populism,” this allows the media-savvy politico (and aren’t they all media-savvy?) to paint his/her opponents as racist via the code-word “populist.”

Labeling dissenters “populists” doesn’t explain or predict anything. In terms of economic classes, it’s more insightful to distinguish between the Protected Class (insiders and favored elites) who benefits enormously from the status quo and the Unprotected Class (outsiders, marginalized workers, those without privilege or access to cheap capital).

But this doesn’t exhaust the sources of profound social discord. As historian Peter Turchin explained in his recent book Ages of Discord, historical eras are either integrative periods in which people find reasons to cooperate and join forces, or disintegrative periods in which reasons to split apart become dominant.

Clearly, the world-system of this era is entering a disintegrative phrase, and dismissing dissenters as “populists” solves nothing. For insight on how the disintegrative phase may manifest in Germany, let’s turn to Mark G.’s commentary:

Merkel faces own ‘German BREXIT’ Chancellor’s immigration crisis is ‘Threat to Europe’

The breakdown of the Bavarian CSU and German CDU center-right coalition (refounded post WWII by Konrad Adenauer) is historic. And it has definite regional implications. I think we could be watching the beginning moves not in a “German Brexit” but in the political collapse of the modern German state into multiple components. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Make Capital Cheap and Labor Costly, and Guess What Happens?

Make Capital Cheap and Labor Costly, and Guess What Happens?

Employment expands in the Protected cartel-dominated sectors, and declines in every sector exposed to globalization, domestic competition and cheap capital.

If you want to understand why the global economy is failing the many while enriching the few, start with the basics: capital, labor and resources. What happens when central banks drop interest rates to near-zero? Capital becomes dirt-cheap. It becomes ludicrously easy to borrow money to buy whatever cheap capital can buy: stock buybacks, robots, automation tools, interest-sensitive assets such as housing, competitors or potential competitors, high-yield emerging-market bonds, and so on.

What happens when cartels take control of core domestic industries such as banking, defense, higher education and healthcare? Costs soar because competition has been throttled via regulatory capture, and these domestic sectors are largely non-tradable, meaning they can’t be offshored and have little meaningful exposure to globalization.

Labor-intensive cartels such as these can pass on their rising costs for labor, resources and profiteering. Do you really think assistant deans could be pulling down $250,000 annual salaries in higher education if there was any global or domestic competition?

As for healthcare, I’ve often noted that healthcare/sickcare will bankrupt the nation all by itself. When a cartel such as healthcare / sickcare can force higher prices on employers and employees, the cost of labor throughout the economy rises.

Sickcare Will Bankrupt the Nation–And Soon (March 21, 2011)

Can Chronic Ill-Health Bring Down Great Nations? Yes It Can, Yes It Will (November 23, 2011)

You Want to Fix the Economy? Then First Fix Healthcare (September 29, 2016)

As I’ve indicated on the chart, labor-intensive cartels in non-tradable sectors–higher education, defense/national security, healthcare and banking– can pass on their rising labor costs to their captive customers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dear High School Graduates: the Status Quo “Solutions” Enrich the Few at Your Expense

Dear High School Graduates: the Status Quo “Solutions” Enrich the Few at Your Expense

You deserve a realistic account of the economy you’re joining.

Dear high school graduates: please glance at these charts before buying into the conventional life-course being promoted by the status quo.

Here’s the summary: the status quo is pressuring you to accept its “solutions”: borrow mega-bucks to attend college, then buy a decaying bungalow or hastily constructed stucco box for $800,000 in a “desirable” city, pay sky-high income and property taxes on your earnings, and when the stress of all these crushing financial burdens ruins your health, well, we’ve got meds to “help” you–lots of meds at insane price points paid for by insurance– if you have “real” insurance without high deductibles, of course.

Here’s the truth the status quo marketers don’t dare acknowledge: every one of these conventional “solutions” only makes the problem worse. Student loan debt only makes your life harder, not easier, as the claimed “value” of a college degree is based on the distant past, not the present. The economy is changing fast and the conventional “solutions” no longer match the new realities. But don’t expect anyone profiting from the predatory profiteering higher-education cartel to admit this.

The high cost of housing isn’t “solved” by buying in at the top of an unprecedented bubble. Buying into bubbles only makes the problem worse, for all bubbles eventually pop.

The “solution” to crushing levels of debt is not to borrow more just to prop up a rotten, corrupt, dysfunctional and self-serving status quo. In effect, the young generations are being groomed to be the hosts for the parasitic classes that feed on young taxpayers, student loan debt-serfs, young buyers of bubble-priced housing, unaffordable sickcare “insurance” and all the rest of the status quo “solutions.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Onward to Stock Market Nirvana… Or Not

Onward to Stock Market Nirvana… Or Not

Rising wedges tend to lead to declines, so ignore them.

At long last, we have reached the Nirvana of consensus: the stock market is heading to new all-time highs. Even the perma-Bear camp seems to have accepted the inevitability of new all-time highs ahead: The FANG stocks are hitting new highs, the Russell 2000 Small-Cap Index is hitting new highs, and the laggard S&P 500 is sure to catch up to its peers, as it climbs the ladder of higher lows. Once again we’ve reached the Nirvana of ever-higher stock valuations.

Or not. That troublesome kid watching the naked Emperor ride past in his imaginary finery keeps muttering about rising wedges. Consider the Russell Small-Cap Index (RUT):

The Raging Bull of the FANG stocks, Netflix:

The S&P 500:

And the so-called “fear index,” the VIX, reduced to the Nirvana of complacency and supreme confidence:

The Nirvana of January–super-low VIX and an ever-rising stock market– was disrupted by an unwelcome eruption of reality.

The beaten down VIX traced out a couple of blue wedges before the eruption, but let’s ignore them. What matters is order was restored to the Universe by the triumph of complacency and confidence as the VIX was ground down to sub-12 levels again.

Rising wedges tend to lead to declines, so ignore them. Never mind their ubiquity– Nirvana blasts right through resistance and rising wedges.

The faithless few might be troubled by the similarities of late January to the present, but the faithful have supreme confidence in the Fed, the tremendous bite of the FANGs and the all-powerful forces of greed and complacency–a marriage made in heaven!

Here’s a look at the real Nirvana: the income and wealth gains of the top .1%.

Debt-serfs “own” nothing but debt, the Technocrat class shouldering student loans and mortgages keeps the machine running by working themselves to exhaustion, and the speculative class skims virtually all the gains.

Stock market Nirvana feeds wealth/income inequality Nirvana.

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

The prospects for the rest of the year are awful

Après moi, le déluge

~ King Louis XV of France

A hard rain’s a-gonna fall

~ Bob Dylan (the first)

As the Federal Reserve kicked off its second round of quantitative easing in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, hedge fund manager David Tepper predicted that nearly all assets would rise tremendously in response.

“The Fed just announced: We want economic growth, and we don’t care if there’s inflation… have they ever said that before?”

He then famously uttered the line “You gotta love a put”, referring to the Fed’s declared willingness to print $trillions to backstop the economy and financial makets.

Nine years later we see that Tepper was right, likely even more so than he realized at the time.

The other world central banks followed the Fed’s lead. Mario Draghi of the ECB declared a similar “whatever it takes” policy and has printed nearly $3.5 trillion in just the past three years alone. The Bank of Japan has intervened so much that it now owns over 40% of its country’s entire bond market. And no central bank has printed more than the People’s Bank of China.

It has been an unprecedented forcefeeding of stimulus into the global system. And, contrary to what most people realize, it hasn’t diminished over the years since the Great Recession. In fact, the most recent wave from 2015-2018 has seen the highest amount of injected ‘thin-air’ money ever:

Total Assets Of Majro Central Banks

In response, equities have long since rocketed past their pre-crisis highs, bonds continued rising as interest rates stayed at historic lows, and many real estate markets are now back in bubble territory. As Tepper predicted, financial and other risk assets have shot the moon.

And everyone learned to love the ‘Fed put’ and stop worrying.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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