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If “Getting Ahead” Depends on Asset Bubbles, It’s Not “Getting Ahead,” It’s Gambling

If “Getting Ahead” Depends on Asset Bubbles, It’s Not “Getting Ahead,” It’s Gambling

Given that the economy is now totally and completely dependent on inflating asset bubbles, it makes no sense to invest for the long-term.

Beneath the endlessly hyped expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) of the past two decades, the economy has changed dramatically. The American Dream boils down to social and economic mobility, a.k.a. getting ahead through hard work, merit and wise investments in oneself and one’s family.

The opportunities for this mobility in the post World War 2 era broadened as civil rights and equal rights expanded. The 1970s saw a disruption of working-class mobility as high-paying factory jobs disappeared, leaving services jobs that paid less or required more training, i.e. a college degree.

The U.S. economy took off in the 1980s for a number of reasons, including computer technologies, federal stimulus (deficit spending) and financialization (a topic I’ve covered many times). With millions more college graduates entering the workforce and the Internet creating entire new industries, the opportunities to “get ahead” increased across the social and economic spectrum.

But something changed in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble bursting.The fruits of financialization–highly leveraged debt gambled for short-term gains in markets–were extended to everyone with a job (or a willingness to lie) via liar loans, no-document loans and subprime mortgages.Just like bigshot financiers on Wall Street, J.Q. Citizen could leverage a couple thousand dollars in cash (or even better, borrow the closing costs via a 105% of value mortgage and put nothing down) and buy a McMansion worth $250,000 or even $500,000.

The only difference between bigshot financiers and J.Q. Citizen was the scale of the leverage and gamble: J.Q. Citizen could leverage a few grand into hundreds of thousands, while the financier could leverage a bit of collateral into mega-millions.

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

How Empires Fall: Moral Decay

How Empires Fall: Moral Decay

There is a name for this institutionalized, commoditized fraud: moral decay. 

Moral decay is an interesting phenomenon: we spot it easily in our partisan-politics opponents and BAU (business as usual) government/private-sector dealings (are those $3,000 Pentagon hammers now $5,000 each or $10,000 each? It’s hard to keep current…), and we’re suitably indignant when non-partisan corruption is discovered in supposed meritocracies such as the college admissions process.

But we’re less adept, it seems, at discerning systemic moral decay, which infects the very foundations of the economy and society.

Consider America’s favorite pastime, corrosive partisan politics. This distemper is often traced back to (surprise!) extreme partisans, but as the chart below shows, political partisanship has risen in near-perfect correlation with wealth-income inequality, which it itself the hallmark of deeply systemic corruption, as the system is rigged to benefit the few at the expense of the many. (Chart courtesy of Slope of Hope.)

There’s a phrase that describes a socio-economic system becoming the means for personal aggrandizement at the expense of civil society itself: moral decay.How else can we describe a system whose inputs and processes are rigged so the output is the vast majority of all income gains flow to the top 0.1%? (See chart below.)

When a socio-economic system institutionalizes the extralegal privileges of wealth and power, that is moral decay. When government only responds in ways that first serve the interests of entrenched insiders, that is moral decay. When the financial system is rigged to sluice income and wealth to the top of the wealth-power pyramid while stripmining the productive class below via inflation and taxes, that’s moral decay. (See chart below of workers’ share of the national income.)

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

The Next Financial Crisis Won’t Be Caused by Fraud: This Time Will Be Different

The Next Financial Crisis Won’t Be Caused by Fraud: This Time Will Be Different

Extreme levels of debt and overvaluation characterize the entire global economy, and are not limited to any one nation or sector.

Financial crises come in two flavors: fraud and credit-valuation over-reach.

Fraud-based financial crises may differ in particulars, but they share many traits: perverse incentives are institutionalized; the perverse incentives reward figuring out how to evade oversight via fraud, embezzlement, masking risk, etc. which are soon commoditized; regulations are gutted by insider-funded lobbying; regulators fail to do their job in hopes of getting lucrative positions in the industry they’re supposed to be regulating; reports of systemic, commoditized fraud are ignored because everyone’s getting rich, and so on.

The resolution has to 1) eliminate the perverse incentives that fueled the crisis; 2) institutionalize oversight that actually functions to limit dangerous excesses and 3) all the malinvestment / bad debt must be liquidated and the losses taken / distributed.

Correspondent David E. recently sent me this insightful outline of how the Texas Savings & Loan financial crisis arose and was slowly and painfully resolved in the 1980s:

“The S&L crisis provides an excellent example of both how to make a problem worse and how to resolve it in the end. (note: I watched this play out in Texas; some of your readers may have a different perspective).1. Prior to the mid-1970s, S&Ls lived by the 3-6-3 rule – pay depositors 3%; make home loans at 6%; and be on the golf course at 3 o’clock. This cozy little world had been in place since the 1950s.2. Inflation in the 70s wrecked this calculation. The loans (long term home mortgages) still paid 6%, but the S&L’s were having to pay the depositors more – often more than the 6% they were making on the loans. Bankruptcy loomed.

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

No Fix for Recession: Without a Financial Crisis, There’s No Central Bank Policy Fix

No Fix for Recession: Without a Financial Crisis, There’s No Central Bank Policy Fix

There are no extreme “fixes” to secular declines in sales, profits, employment, tax revenues and asset prices. 

The saying “never let a crisis go to waste” embodies several truths worth pondering as the stock market nears new highs. One truth is that extreme policies that would raise objections in typical times can be swept into law in the “we have to do something” panic of a crisis.

Thus wily insiders await (or trigger) a crisis which creates an opportunity for them to rush their self-serving “fix” into law before anyone grasps the long-term consequences.

A second truth is that crises and solutions are generally symmetric: a moderate era enables moderate solutions, crisis eras demand extreme solutions. Nobody calls for interest rates to fall to zero in eras of moderate economic growth, for example; such extreme policies may well derail the moderate growth by incentivizing risk-taking and excessive leverage.

Speculative credit bubbles inevitably deflate, and this is universally viewed as a crisis, even though the bubble was inflated by easy money, fraud, embezzlement and socializing risk and thus was entirely predictable.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks are ready for bubble-related financial crises: they have the extreme tools of zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP), negative-interest rate policy (NIRP), unlimited credit lines, unlimited liquidity, the purchase of trillions of dollars of assets, etc.

But what if the current speculative credit bubbles in junk bonds, stocks and other assets don’t crash into crisis? What if they deflate slowly, losing value steadily but with the occasional blip up to signal “the Fed has our back” and all is well?

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

Fitness without the Long, Grueling Workout

Fitness without the Long, Grueling Workout 

Pondering what Nature selected as advantageous in our long existence as hunter-gatherers helps us understand why walking and occasional short bursts of intensive exercise together yield the vast majority of the benefits of exercise/fitness.

What if there was a way to get rich by merely investing a modest amount of money weekly? Who wouldn’t want to join the program? Our health is our only real wealth, and fitness is like the modest investment that yields multiples of the investment made.

Since our culture is based on commerce and marketing, extreme sports are front and center: professional athletes, daredevils performing insanely dangerous stunts, oldsters running marathons, and so on.

The subtext of this media coverage implies that athletics and fitness are unattainable by us average people who have neither the time nor inclination to pursue extreme training.

This media glorification leaves a lot of decidedly unglorious reality out of the picture. Extreme training often leads to extreme injuries–but you won’t see any injuries except in carefully edited stories in which an extreme athlete recovers from a horrendous accident by sheer willpower and arduous training.

Left out are those who don’t recover despite their willpower and arduous training.

Scientific research is giving us a much more realistic, practical and attainable understanding of increasing and maintaining a level of fitness that yields tremendous health benefits with relatively modest effort.

As discussed in a previous blog post (The “Miracle Cure”: Walking), we’re selected/engineered to walk, and so the simple inclusion of walking in our lives yields enormous benefits in everything from mental health, lowering our risk of dementia, strenghening our immune response and so on.

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

Assange and the Unforgivable Sin of Disemboweling Official Narratives

Assange and the Unforgivable Sin of Disemboweling Official Narratives

The entire global status quo is on the cusp of the S-Curve decline phase.

There is really only one unforgivable sin in the political realm, and that’s destroying the official narrative by revealing the facts of the matter. This is why whistleblowers who make public the secret machinery of the elaborately artful lies underpinning all official narratives are hounded to the ends of the Earth.

Employees of state entities such as Ellsberg, Manning and Snowden are bound by vows of secrecy and threatened by the promise of severe punishment.Outsiders such as Assange are even further beyond the pale because they can’t be accused of being traitors, as they never took the vows of secrecy required by the Deep State. 

The single most damaging revelation to all the elaborate lies that make up official narratives is the truth revealed in official emails, documents and conversations. This is why virtually every document and correspondence is now “classified,” so anyone releasing even a mundane scrap can be sentenced to rot in federal prison.

In a recent C-SPAN interview, author Nomi Prins explained the incredible difficulty of accessing papers in presidential libraries now due to virtually everything being classified. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applications must be filed, and researchers must wait years to gain access to routine correspondence that was freely available to all a decade or so ago.

Official paranoia has a 100% correlation with the amount of damage done to official narratives by any leaks of the facts of the matter. What are they so afraid of? Here’s the dynamic in play: the more fragile the narrative, the greater the dependence on half-truths and lies, the greater the official urgency to crush all whistleblowers and maintain a Stasi-like vigilance against any murmurs of dissent or doubt.

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

The Japanification of the World

The Japanification of the World

Zombification / Japanification is not success; it is only the last desperate defense of a failing, brittle status quo by doing more of what’s failed.

A recent theme in the financial media is the Japanification of Europe.Japanification refers to a set of economic and financial conditions that have come to characterize Japan’s economy over the past 28 years: persistent stagnation and deflation, a low-growth and low-inflation economy, very loose monetary policy, a central bank that is actively monetizing debt, i.e. creating currency out of thin air to buy government debt and a government which funds “bridges to nowhere” and other stimulus spending to keep the economy from crashing into outright contraction.

The parallels with Europe are obvious, but they don’t stop there: the entire world is veering into a zombified financial, economic, social and political status quo that is the core of Japanification.

While most commentators focus on the economic characteristics of Japanification, social and political stagnation are equally consequential. If we only measure economic/financial stagnation, it appears as if Japan and Europe are holding their own, i.e.maintaining the status quo via near-zero growth and near-zero interest rates.

But if we measure social and political decay, the erosion is undeniable. Here’s one example. Few Americans have access to or watch Japanese TV, so they are unaware of the emergence of the homeless as a permanent feature of urban Japan. The central state propaganda media is focused on encouraging tourism, a rare bright spot in Japan’s moribund economy, and so you won’t find much media coverage of homelessness or other systemic signs of social breakdown.

If you watch Japanese detective / police procedural dramas, however, you’ll find constant references to homeless people and homeless encampments: detectives seek witnesses to a crime in the nearby homeless encampment; a homeless man living in an abandoned warehouse is found murdered, etc.

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

Dear Stock Market: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Dear Stock Market: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Eventually reality will intrude in this pleasant madness.

OK, let me see if I have this right: the stock market is soaring because the economy is softening, so the Federal Reserve panicked and went from raising rates to considering cutting rates.

It seems markets are now assuming a rate cut is already locked in, given the Fed’s commitment to cease trimming its balance sheet by September.

This dovish reversal means liquidity is flooding back into stocks and bonds, and so stocks are rising as once again “the Fed has our backs.”

OK, I get it. But the market is also rising because punters and pundits are assuming the soft spot in economic expansion has ended, and growth is already resuming globally. The positive data out of China is taken as proof-positive of this resumption of expansion.

Now wait a minute–the market is rising because growth is softening and also because growth has resumed? Sorry Stock Market, you can’t have it both ways. Either the global economy is stagnating, forcing central banks to flood the financial system with more liquidity, or growth is resuming, in which case raising interest rates are back on the table, especially if wage inflation kicks in.

If growth resumes, not only will the Fed have a green light to raise rates, it will also face pressure to resume trimming its bloated balance sheet.

Many observers have noted that the sharp decline in Treasury bond yields is signaling fear that the global economy is recessionary, and central bank goosing isn’t going to reverse the slowdown. Meanwhile, stocks are schizophrenic: going up because growth is slowing and Fed rate cuts are now in the bag and going up because growth has resumed. 

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

When Are We Going to Tackle the For-Profit Monopolies Which Censored RussiaGate Skeptics?

When Are We Going to Tackle the For-Profit Monopolies Which Censored RussiaGate Skeptics?

We either take down Facebook and Google and turn them into tightly regulated transparent public utilities available to all or they will destroy what little is left of American democracy.

The RussiaGate Narrative has been revealed as a Big Con (a.k.a. Nothing-Burger), but what’s dangerously real is the censorship that’s being carried out by the for-profit monopolies Facebook and Google on behalf of the status quo’s Big Con.

This site got a taste of Facebook-Google-Big-Media’s Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship back in 2016 when a shadowy fake-news site called PropOrNot aggregated every major alt-media site that had published anything remotely skeptical of the coronation of Hillary Clinton as president and labeled us all shills for Russian propaganda.

Without any investigation of the perps running the site or their fake-news methodology, The Washington Post (Jeff Bezos’ plaything) saw fit to promote the fake-news on Page One as if it were journalistically legitimate. Why would a newspaper that supposedly values the integrity of its content run with such shameless fake-news propaganda? Because it fit the Post’s own political agenda and biases.

This is the essence of Facebook-Google-Big-Media’s Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship: sacrifice accepted journalistic practice, free speech and transparency to promote an absurdly obvious political and social agenda.

If there was any real justice in America, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai should be wearing prison jumpsuits for what Facebook and Google have done to American democracy. Both of these monopolies have manipulated news feeds, search results and what individuals are shown in complete secret, with zero public oversight or transparency.

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

The Media, Mueller, the Big Con and the Democratization of Narrative

The Media, Mueller, the Big Con and the Democratization of Narrative

Falling for a con is painful. The first reaction is to deny being conned, of course. The second is to blame skeptics for being correct in their skepticism.

Here’s the fundamental “story” of the Mueller Investigation: elites don’t like “the little people” democratizing public narratives. The elites–who reckon theirright to rule is self-evident–want to set the narrative and the context, because that’s the foundation of power: once you get the citizenry to agree on your narrative and context, you secure two valuable things: 1) political legitimacy and 2) their obedience.

Elite anxiety over the “the little people” democratizing narratives is not a new phenomenon. Elites have demanded control of any media outlet that doesn’t parrot their line and have tried to declare skeptical inquiry sedition for generations, stretching back to the founding of the Republic.

The elite interest in controlling the narrative and context long predates the era of “fake news.” Please read this excerpt from the 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution about the democratization of everyday life in post-Revolutionary War America (1790 – 1830):

“The result of all these assaults on elite opinion and celebrations of common ordinary judgment was a dispersion of authority and ultimately a diffusion of truth itself to a degree the world had never seen. With every ordinary person being told his ideas and tastes, on everything from medicine to art to government, were as good as, if not better than, those of “connoisseurs” and “speculative men” who had college degrees, it is not surprising that truth and knowledge became elusive and difficult to pin down.”

This democratization deeply unsettled the elites, who were accustomed to leading by setting the “acceptable” narrative and context. Democracy, they discovered to their chagrin, isn’t a force that one can bottle up and dispense in measured doses around election time; it spreads throughout every sphere of the society.

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

Which Nations Will Crumble and Which Few Will Prosper in the Next 25 Years?

Which Nations Will Crumble and Which Few Will Prosper in the Next 25 Years?

Adaptability and flexibility will be the core survival traits going forward.

What will separate the many nations that will crumble in the next 25 years and those few that will survive and even prosper while the status quo dissolves around them? As I explain in my recent book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic, the factors that will matter are not necessarily cultural or financial; being hard-working and wealthy won’t be enough to save nations from coming apart at the seams.

Here are the factors that will matter in the next 25 years:

1. The ability to engage and survive non-linear change, which is rapid, unpredictable and systemic, as opposed to linear change which is gradual, predictable and limited in nature.

None of the current political systems are decentralized enough and adaptable enough to survive the non-linear era we’re entering. As I explained in What If Politics Can’t Fix What’s Broken?, the politics of centralized compromise and incremental, top-down adjustments are wholly inadequate to dealing with non-linear disruptions.

2. The nations that cannot jettison their parasitic elites will fall; the few that find the political will to jettison their parasitic elites will have the wherewithal to survive and possibly even prosper as the global status quo collapses around them.

The problem, as we all know, is the parasitic elites rule the centralized hierarchies of wealth and political power, and they will cling to power even as the nation they rule crumbles around them. The hubris, complacency and greed of the ruling parasitic elites is near-infinite; the idea that the political and financial structures that they dominate will not survive simply doesn’t exist in the parasitic elites, with the exception of a few outliers who are constructing remote bugout compounds with landing strips etc.

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

While the Nation Fragments Socially, the Financial Aristocracy Rules Unimpeded

While the Nation Fragments Socially, the Financial Aristocracy Rules Unimpeded

America’s aristocracy is not formalized, and that’s the secret of its success.

If there is one central irony in American history, it is this: the citizenry that broke free of the chains of British Monarchy, the citizenry that reckoned everyone was equal before the law, the citizenry that vowed never to be ruled by an aristocracy that controlled the government and finance as a means of self-enrichment, is now so distracted by social fragmentation that the citizenry is blind to their servitude to a new and formidably informal financial aristocracy.

From this juncture, ironies abound: the so-called Socialist demands for Medicare for All, “free” college for all and Universal Basic Income (UBI) are encouraged (or perhaps orchestrated) by the financial aristocracy, which rakes in tens of billions of dollars in profits from its banking, healthcare, national defense and higher education cartels: throwing more trillions down the ratholes of Medicare and higher education will only further enrich and empower the financial elites.

As for Universal Basic Income (UBI), the financial aristocracy is cheering loudly for UBI, which would enable debt-serfs to keep servicing their debts. (Is anyone so naive to think that UBI won’t have a clause which enables the deduction of debt payments from the monthly “free money”? Does anyone think the financial aristocracy is going to give $1,000 a month to debt-serfs and then let them default on their debt? Get real!)

The demands for social justice, i.e. that everyone be allowed to be treated the same before the law and enjoy the same rights as other citizens, is a core tenet of American culture. Long before the Constitution was even ratified, the calls to end slavery were becoming louder.

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

Here’s The Problem: The Pie Is Shrinking

Here’s The Problem: The Pie Is Shrinking

At that point, the only way to enable debt-serfs to service their debts is too give them free money, i.e. Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Scrape away the churn and distraction and the problem is simple: the pie of prosperity is shrinking, and the “fixes” are failing. The status quo arrangement is based on the endless expansion of “growth” and debt, which is the monetary fuel of more, more, more of everything: money, energy, resources, goods, services, jobs, wealth and income, all of which make up the elixir of prosperity.

Prosperity is shorthand for a positive return on investment (ROI), a.k.a. primary surplus. Prosperity is the result of there being a surplus which can be distributed after capital, resources and labor are put to work.

The higher the return on investment, the more surplus there is to distribute.When the surplus is bountiful, there’s enough to go around for everyone to feel that life is getting better.

But all systems eventually track an S-Curve of rapid growth, maturation and depletion/decline, and surpluses diminish: the pie stops expanding and starts shrinking. There’s less to go around, and suddenly the political squabbling intensifies as every elite and every constituency seeks to preserve their slice of the pie at the expense of others.

This means shifting the losses of purchasing power and prosperity onto others without appearing to do so. Openly ripping a slice from the grasping hands of another elite or constituency will launch a protracted political battle, as every group will fight to the death to keep its share untouched.

By far the best ways to shift the losses to others are 1) inflation (reducing the purchasing power of their income) and 2) creating phantom wealth that can be used to buy up all the income-producing assets. Unsurprisingly, this is precisely what we see happening globally.

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

What If Politics Can’t Fix What’s Broken?

What If Politics Can’t Fix What’s Broken?

This is the politics of decline and collapse.The unspoken assumption of the modern era is that politics can fix whatever is broken: whatever is broken in society or the economy can be fixed by some political policy or political process– becoming more inclusionary, seeking non-partisan middle ground, etc.

What if this assumption is flat-out wrong? What is politics is incapable of fixing what’s broken? What if politics merely fosters an illusion of solutions, a paper-thin veneer of faux progress? What if politics isn’t a tool that’s capable of fixing what’s broken? What if all politics is able to do is generate delusions of grandeur and unresolvable conflicts? What if politics is ultimately little more than a fatal distraction?

This is of course heresy of the highest order, for a belief in the supremacy of politics is the secular religion of our era. The orthodoxy is: there is no problem that can’t be solved with a political policy: a tax cut, a new tax, a new incentive, a broader definition of criminality, and so on.

What if the status quo is failing for reasons that are beyond the reach of politics? Politics assumes that tweaking incentives and disincentives via rewards and punishments, centralizing control of assets and income streams and manipulating the issuance of currency and interest rates can fix any and every problem.

The limits of politics are the limits of government. In the present era, all government seeks to further centralize power and capital because the era’s quasi-religious belief is that centralization is the solution to everything.

This is of course false.

Centralization works until it becomes the problem, at which point further centralization of power and capital only speeds system-wide failure.

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

The Doomsday Scenario for the Stock and Housing Bubbles

The Doomsday Scenario for the Stock and Housing Bubbles

It was always folly to believe that inflating asset bubbles could solve the structural problems of a post-industrial economy.

The Doomsday Scenario for the stock and housing bubbles is simple: the Fed’s magic fails. When dropping interest rates to zero and flooding the financial sector with loose money fail to ignite the economy and reflate the deflating bubbles, punters will realize the Fed’s magic only worked the first three times: three bubbles and the game is over.

So what happens when punters realize there won’t be a fourth bubble? They sell. Bids disappear because who’s dumb enough to bet (with Japan and Europe as lessons) that more liquidity and negative interest rates will magically work when zero interest rates didn’t move the needle?Who’s foolish enough to catch the falling knife (i.e. buying plummeting assets on the way down) on the unsupported assumption that the next dose of Fed magic will reverse a bidless market?

And should the Fed start buying stocks, mortgages, housing and bonds to prop up those bidless markets, what’s the message it will be sending? Desperation.If the only buyer is the money-printing central bank, that’s pretty good evidence that your economy and markets are in free-fall.

The loss of faith in central bank magic will be gradual at first, as magical thinking dies hard. It’s oh so comforting to believe the central bank will rescue every overleveraged mal-investment and bail out every high-risk speculation, but the funny thing about the Fed’s magic is it only works in liquidity crises–in every other condition, it only makes matters worse.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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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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