The military frolics of spring have distracted the nation’s attention from the economic and financial dynamics that pose the ultimate mortal threat to business as usual. Note the distinction between economic and financial. The first represents real activity in this Land of the Deal: people doing and making. The second, finance, used to be a minor branch — only about five percent — of all the doing in the days of America’s putative bigliest greatitude. The task of finance then was limited and straightforward: to manage the allocation of capital for more doing and making. The profit in that enabled bankers to drive Cadillacs instead of Chevrolets, but not much more.
These days, finance is closer to 40 percent of all the doing in America, and it is not about making anything, but getting more than its share of “money” — whatever that is now — and what “money” mostly is is whatever the people engaged in finance say it is, for instance, Fannie Mae bonds representing millions of sketchy loans for houses of vinyl and strand-board built in places with no future… or stock issued by the Tesla corporation… or the sovereign IOUs of the US Treasury.
The list of things that pretend to be “money” these days would be long and shocking and the sheer churn of these instruments among the banks and markets “produces” the fabled “revenue streams” beloved of The Wall Street Journal. What happens when the world discovers that these instruments (securities and their derivatives) represent falsely? Why, bigly trouble.
And this is the season we’re moving into as the dogwoods blaze: the season of the re-discovery of actual value. For those of you gloating over last week’s demonstrations of US Big Stick-ism, be warned that our military shenanigans have given China and Russia every reason to discipline this country by undermining the international standing of the dollar.
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