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Why The Empire Never Sleeps: The Indispensable Nation Folly

Like the case of Rome before it, the Empire is bankrupting America. The true fiscal cost is upwards of $1.o trillion per year (counting $200 billion for veterans and debt service for wars), but there is no way to pay for it.

That’s because the 78-million strong Baby Boom is in the driver’s seat of American politics. It plainly will not permit the $3 trillion per year retirement and health care entitlement-driven Welfare State to be curtailed.

The Trumpite/GOP has already sealed that deal by refusing to reform Social Security and Medicare and by proving utterly incapable of laying a glove politically on Obamacare/Medicaid. At the same time, boomers keep voting for the GOP’s anti-tax allergy, thereby refusing to tax themselves to close Washington’s yawning deficits.

More importantly, the generation which marched on the Pentagon in 1968 against the insanity and  barbarism of LBJ’s Vietnam War have long since abandoned the cause of peace. So doing, boomers have acquiesced in the final ascendancy of the Warfare State, which grew like topsy once the US became the world’s sole superpower after the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history in 1991.

Yet there is a reason why the end of the 77-year world war which incepted with the “guns of August” in 1914 did not enable the world to resume the status quo ante of relative peace and prosperous global capitalism.

To wit, the hoary ideology of American exceptionalism and the Indispensable Nation was also, ironically, liberated from the shackles of cold war realism when the iron curtain came tumbling down.

Consequently, it burst into a quest for unadulterated global hegemony. In short order (under Bush the Elder and the Clintons) Washington morphed into the Imperial City, and became a beehive not only of militarism, but of an endless complex of think-tanks, NGO’s, advisories and consultancies, “law firms”, lobbies and racketeers.

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

Jerome Is The New Janet: Tie, Trousers And Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky

Jerome Is The New Janet: Tie, Trousers And Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky

The election of 2016 was supposed to be the most disruptive break with the status quo in modern history, if ever. On the single most important decision of his tenure, however, the Donald has lined-up check-by-jowl with Barry and Dubya, too.

That is to say, Trump’s new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, amounts to Janet Yellen in trousers and tie. In fact, you can make it a three-part composite by adding Bernanke with a full head of hair and Greenspan sans the mumble.

The overarching point here is that the great problems plaguing American society—scarcity of good jobs, punk GDP growth, faltering productivity, raging wealth mal-distribution, massive indebtedness, egregious speculative bubbles, fiscally incontinent government—-are overwhelmingly caused by our rogue central bank. They are the fetid fruits of massive and sustained financial repression and falsification of the most import prices in all of capitalism—–the prices of money, debt, equities and other financial assets.

Moreover, the worst of it is that the Fed is overwhelmingly the province of an unelected politburo that rules by the lights of its own Keynesian groupthink and by the hypnotic power of its Big Lie. So powerful is the latter that American democracy has meekly seconded vast, open-ended power to dominate the financial markets, and therefore the warp and woof of the nation’s $19 trillioneconomy, to a tiny priesthood possessing neither of the usual instruments of rule.

That is to say, never before in history has a people so completely and abjectly surrendered to an occupying power—even though its ostensibly democratic government already possessed all the votes and all the guns.

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

America’s State Wreck Gathers Steam: The Donald’s War Cabinet And The Fiscal Doom Loop, Part 2

America’s State Wreck Gathers Steam: The Donald’s War Cabinet And The Fiscal Doom Loop, Part 2

Last week the Donald’s incipient trade war got Wall Street’s nerves jangling, but that wasn’t the half of what’s coming.

To wit, Trump has now essentially formed a War Cabinet and signed a Horribus spending bill that is a warrant for fiscal meltdown. Indeed, the two essentially comprise a self-fueling doom loop which means Washington’s descent into fiscal catastrophe is well-nigh unstoppable; it’s all over except for the screaming in the bond pits.

That is, Trump’s new War Cabinet of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Mad Dog Mattis is arguably the most interventionist, militarist, confrontationist and bellicose national security team ever assembled by a sitting President. We cannot think of a single country that has even looked cross-eyed at Washington in recent years where one or all four of them has not threatened to drone, bomb, invade or decapitate its current ruling regime.

That means Imperial Washington’s rampant War Fever owing to the Dem-left declaration of war on Russia and Putin is now about to be drastically intensified by the complete victory of the neocon-right in the Trump Administration. The result will be sharpened confrontation, if not actual outbreak of hostilities, across the full spectrum of adversaries—Iran, Russia, China, Syria and North Korea—-and an escalating tempo of military operations and procurement to implement the policy.

At the same time, the Donald’s pathetic Fake Veto maneuver on Friday cemented the special interest lobbies’ absolute control over domestic appropriations. Of course, Chuckles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi crowed loudly about the $63 billion annual domestic spending increase they got in return for the Donald’s $80 billion defense add-on, but the victory was not partisan; it belonged to the Swamp creatures who suckle the politicians of both parties and own the appropriations committees lock, stock and barrel.

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

The Everything Bubble—Waiting For The Pin

The Everything Bubble—Waiting For The Pin

Yesterday we noted that financial markets have become completely uncoupled from reality and that the recent feeble bounces between the 20-day and 50-day chart points were essentially the rigor mortis of a dead bull. As it happened, we were able to share those sentiments with what remains of CNBC’s audience of carbon-based units:

As we also noted as per the chart point mavens, the 20-day average down at 2703 (red line) on the S&P 500 was supposed to represent “support” while the  50-day average (blue line) purportedly functioned as “resistance”.Well, upon the official announcement of the Donald’s lunatic trade war, there she sat at yesterday’s close—less than one point under the 50-day moving average at 2739.8 (blue line).

But rather than “resistance”, which the raging robo-machines ripped through today like a hot knife through butter, we’d say the blue line represents the last frontier of sanity. That’s because a stock market trading at 25X earnings under today’s baleful circumstances is nothing less than a brobdingnagian bubble (i.e. a huuuge one) frantically searching for the proverbial pin.

We essay the razor sharp aspects of the pin below, but suffice it to say here that the cyclical calendar has just plain run out of time. It is way, way too late in the cycle at 105 months of age to be “pricing-in” anything except the end of the party. And this bubblicious party has embodied the most spectacular central-bank fueled mania yet—meaning that the morning after is going to bring a truly hellacious hangover.

^SPX Chart

Among the many sharp edges of the pin are these:

1) the virtual certainly of a recession within the next two years and a typical 30%-50% drop in earnings;

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

 

The Two Janet’s And The Perfect Storm Ahead

The Two Janet’s And The Perfect Storm Ahead

The Bloomberg news crawler this morning is heralding the heart of our thesis: Namely, that “flush with cash from the tax cut”, US companies are heading for a “stock buyback binge of historic proportions”.

This isn’t a “told you so” point. It’s dramatic proof that corporate America has been absolutely corrupted by the Fed’s long-running regime of Bubble Finance. Undoubtedly, the C-suites view the asinine Trump/GOP tax cut not as a green light to invest and build for the long haul, but as manna from heaven to pump their faltering share prices in the here and now.

And we do mean a gift just in the nick of time. The giant Bernanke/Yellen financial bubble is finally springing cracks everywhere, putting corporate share prices and executive stock option packages squarely in harms’ way.

So what could be more timely and efficacious than an enhanced, government debt-financed wave of stock buybacks to rejuvenate the speculative juices on Wall Street and embolden the robo-machines and punters for another round of buy-the-dip?

Indeed, corporate stock buying is now cranking at a $1 trillion annual rate or nearly double the rate of the last several years. That huge inflow of cash and encouragement to Wall Street will undoubtedly break the market’s fall in the short-run; and over the next several quarters, perhaps, enable an extended stop-and-start stepwise decline rather than a sudden sharp plunge as in the fall-winter of 2008-09.

It also underscores why the Paul Ryan school of conservative policy wonks got it so wrong on the corporate rate cut. They still dwell in a pari passu world where higher after-tax rates of return would, in fact, stimulate increased investment, growth, employment and income.

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

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 1

The Albatross Of Debt: The Stock Market’s $67 Trillion Nightmare, Part 1

This is getting pretty ridiculous. For old times sake, we recently checked on the Federal debt level during the month we arrived in the Imperial City as a 24-year old eager beaver. That was June 1970 and the Federal debt held by the public was $275 billion.

Mind you, while that number wasn’t exactly diminutive, it had taken all of 188 years to accumulate. That is to say, Uncle Sam had borrowed an average of $28,000 per week during the 9,776 weekssince George Washington was sworn in as the nation’s first president.

We are ruminating about this seeming historical obscuranta because it just so happens that the US treasury this very week will be selling $258 billion of government debt.

That’s right. Uncle Sam’s scheduled debt emission this week will nearly equal his cumulative borrowing during the nation’s first 188 years and its first 37 presidents!

And, yes, there has been some considerable inflation since June 1970. And not the least because exactly 13 months later Tricky Dick Nixon decided to pull the plug on Bretton Woods and the dollar’s anchor to a fixed weight of gold.

Needless to say, the financial discipline of gold-backed money during that interval of guns and butter excess would most certainly have triggered a recession and a heap of inconvenience for Nixon’s 1972 reelection prospects. As it happened, the American economy got a heap of inflation and destructive financialization over the next half century, instead.

Accordingly, the price level today is 5X higher as measured by the GDP deflator. So in today’s dollars of purchasing power, the 1970 debt figure would be about $1.2 trillion.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

The punk January industrial production (IP) report brought another reminder that the Fed has stimulated nothing at all on the output/employment prong of its dual mandate.

Indeed, as they celebrate a purported “mission accomplished” full employment recovery and confidently prepare to plow forward with an epochal pivot to QT (quantitative tightening), our Keynesian central bankers have remained absolutely mum on this stunning fact: To wit, there has been no recovery at all in US industrial production, and that’s as in nichts, nada and nugatory.

In fact, January 2018 output in the manufacturing sector was still 2.2% below its December 2007 level, and total industrial production has barely crept forward at a 0.19% annual rate. And if you don’t think that is close enough to zero for government work, just recall what a real historical recovery looks like on the IP front.

During the December 2000 to December 2007 cycle, for example, total IP grew at 1.4% per annum and manufacturing output rose by 1.9% per annum on a peak-to-peak basis. Prior to that during the 1990-2000 cycle, the figures were 4.0% and 4.6% per annum, respectively.

And if you want to dial way back in time to the Reagan-Bush cycle from July 1981 to July 1990, the peak-to-peak growth trend for total industrial production was 2.3% per annum and 2.8% for manufacturing output. And, by your way, that cycle also included a deep recession in 1982 that was only slightly less severe than the 2008-2009 downturn.

In short, when you don’t get anywhere on industrial production over the course of 10 full years—-the Great Recession notwithstanding—you are not succeeding. And while you are bragging, you at least ought to attempt to explain or rationalize what is otherwise a screaming aberration in the modern history of business cycles.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

The dirty secret of Keynesian central banking is that under current circumstances its interventions have almost no impact on its famous dual mandate—-stable prices and full employment on main street.

That’s because goods and services inflation is a melded consequence of global central banking. The capital, trade, financial and exchange rate movements which result from the tug-and-haul of worldwide central banking policies generate incessant shape-shifting impacts on the CPI; and the ebb and flow of these forces completely dwarfs FOMC actions in the New York money and bond markets.

In today’s world, there is no such thing as inflation in one country. In that regard, the traditional Fed tool of pegging the funds rate is especially obsolete, impotent and ritualistically mindless. After all, if the 2.00% inflation target is meant as a long haul objective, it was achieved long ago. The CPI index for January 2018 at 249.2 compared to a level of 169.3 back in January 2000, thereby representing exactly a 2.17% compound annual gain over the 18 year period.

So where’s the Eccles Building beef about missing its target from below—even if that wasn’t one of the more ludicrous notions of “failure” ever to arise from the central banking fraternity?

On the other hand, if 2.00% is meant as a short-run target, how much more evidence do we need? Since the Fed shifted to deep pegging at or near the zero bound in December 2008, there has been no inflation rate correlation with the funds rate whatsoever.

In the sections below we will resolve the inflation matter once and for all by demonstrating that the very idea of 2.00% inflation targeting (or any other target) is singularly stupid and destructive.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Last week’s twin 1,000 point plunges on the Dow were not errors. Instead, these close-coupled massacres, which wiped out $4 trillion of global market cap in two days, marked the beginning of a bear market that will be generational, not a temporary cyclical downleg.

What hit the casino wasn’t an air pocket; it was a fundamental change of direction, signaling that the three decade long central bank experiment with Bubble Finance has now run its course.

Moreover, this epochal pivot is not tentative or reversible in any near-term time frame that matters. That’s because the arrogant but clueless Keynesian academics and apparatchiks who run the Fed think they have succeeded splendidly and that the US economy is on the cusp of full-employment.

So they’re now hell-bent on positioning the central bank for the next downturn. That is, they are reloading their recession-fighting “dry powder” thru interest rate normalization and a second giant experiment—-this time in shrinking their balance sheet by huge annual amounts under a regime called quantitative tightening (QT).

Needless to say, both the magnitude and the automaticity of this impending monetary shock are being completely ignored by Wall Street in favor of bromides like “the market knows” QT is coming because the Fed has been transparent in its forward guidance.

So what? Knowing the steamroller is coming doesn’t stop you from getting crushed if you remain in its path. In fact, the $600 billion annualized bond dumping rate incepting in October is a fearsome number; it’s larger than the entire $500 billion Fed balance sheet as recently as the year 2000.

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

Two Elephants In The Room That The GOP Has Completely Forgotten

Two Elephants In The Room That The GOP Has Completely Forgotten

The US economy is threatened by two giant problems which cause all others to pale into insignificance. We are referring to a rogue central bank that has become an absolute enemy of capitalist prosperity and a fiscal doomsday machine that is hostage to the ceaseless budgetary demands of the Warfare State, the Welfare State and the Baby Boom’s demographic imperatives.

Needless to say, both ends of the Acela Corridor are completely oblivious to these twin menaces. Indeed, they are the proverbial elephants in the room, thereby giving rise to a considerable irony: To wit, the GOP party of the elephant, which is supposed to be the palladium of financial rectitude in American politics, has forgotten about them completely.

For instance, in his triumphalist SOTU, the Donald didn’t utter so much as a single syllable about the Fed, the budget, entitlements, the $1 trillion per year deficits looming ahead or the nation’s soaring public debt.  Yet after omitting virtually everything which counts, he went on to crow about how he is making America Great Again (MAGA) by making better trade deals and borrowing untold sums from future generations.

That is to say, when he did veer into fiscal territory it was to demand repeal of the sequester caps, which are the one thing that has slightly braked runaway spending, and to boast about his own favorite deficit financed twins: The $1.5 trillion tax cut already passed and the additional $1.5 trillion infrastructure boondoggle he proposed to lob on top.

Oh, and there was also his $33 billion Mexican Wall, 5,000 new border patrol agents (in  addition to 20,000 already) and Federalization of two purported crises—the opioid epidemic and gangs like MS-13—-which should be a matter for local government, if the latter have any purpose at all.

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

The Real Bleep-Hole Moment—–$40 Trillion And Counting

The Real Bleep-Hole Moment—–$40 Trillion And Counting

You can call it the bleep-hole moment (per the Fox “family channel”) or the shit-hole moment (per the rest of the MSM), but what you can’t call yesterday’s contretemps in the White House is evidence that sentient adults are in charge of the Imperial City.

And, no, we are not getting down on the Donald for using a swear word—nor are we trying to out race-card Don Lemon as to the obvious implications of the President’s crude phraseology.

Indeed, even prior to yesterday’s outburst it was hard to deny that Trump is a semi-literate bully and that he never got (read) the memo on racial comity and respect. But we actually happen to think that the Donald’s potty-talk eruption resulted not from some dark place in his mind and heart, but from sheer frustration as the intractability of the immigration issue closes in on him.

What we mean is that neither party has its cards face up on the matter—-which goes way beyond the potential deportation of the 800,000 dreamers, chain migration, the diversity lottery and the Wall. Underneath it all there is a brutal, raging political struggle for dominance which is almost existential in import.

To wit, the sundry Dem caucuses want more immigrants, and the browner the better, because it’s their only route to electoral dominance. By contrast, the hard core GOP immigrant-thumpers are desperately attempting to hang-on to Red State rule in the face of the forbidding demographic math of the white population—and the fact that not many Norwegians want to come to America anyway.

It would not be too far-fetched to say that the partisan battle for office is morphing into a racial-ethnic war.

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

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

Unhinged, Part 1: The GOP’s Fiscal Madness

The watchword for 2018 is: UNHINGED!

That refers to Wall Street, Washington, the Dems and the GOP, and all the far and near corners of the planet which are implicated in their collective follies.

The latter begins with the fact that Imperial Washington has become so dysfunctional that the most powerful government on earth can’t seem to keep its doors open for more than a few weeks at a time.

The next continuing resolution (CR) deadline is January 19 and the route thereto resembles nothing less than kick-the-can-alley. It’s strewn with $100 billion of unfunded disaster aid, defense and nondefense sequester caps fixing to be busted by another $100 billion, 700,000 dreamers waiting to be deported, 9 million poor children (CHAPS) facing termination of medical care and millions more ObamaCare recipients who have been promised that cost abatement subsidies to insurance companies will be funded forthwith.

And along with those major bouncing cans are countless more articles of graft and booty cued-up on Capitol Hill looking for a legislative gravy train (i.e. CR) to hop aboard.

Likewise, the casino gamblers on Wall Street complacently attempt to tag another record at 2700 on the S&P 500. Yet that would represent a nosebleed 25X LTM earnings heading into a bond market rout that is certain to result from soaring treasury issuance and the Fed’s impending bond dump-a-thon.

Worse still, the Donald insouciantly unleashes tweet storms about the alleged Trumpian boom when the next recession is statistically just around the corner. After all, the current so-called recovery will pass the existing 118 month record, which occurred under the far more propitious circumstances of the 1990s, in April 2019.

But when it comes to Unhinged, nothing tops the GOP’s disgraceful plunge into fiscal turpitude. The once and former party of fiscal rectitude and a constitutionally required balanced budget has unleashed a torrent of red ink, which under the circumstances, makes Barack Obama’s profligacy pale by comparison.

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

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, Part 1

During the 40 months after Alan Greenspan’s infamous “irrational exuberance” speech in December 1996, the NASDAQ 100 index rose from 830 to 4585 or by 450%. But the perma-bulls said not to worry: This time is different—-it’s a new age of technology miracles that will change the laws of finance forever.

It wasn’t. The market cracked in April 2000 and did not stop plunging until the NASDAQ 100 index hit 815 in early October 2002. During those heart-stopping 30 months of free-fall, all the gains of the tech boom were wiped out in an 84% collapse of the index. Overall, the market value of household equities sank from $10.0 trillion to $4.8 trillion—-a wipeout from which millions of baby boom households have never recovered.

Likewise, the second Greenspan housing and credit boom generated a similar round trip of bubble inflation and collapse. During the 57 months after the October 2002 bottom, the Russell 2000 (RUT) climbed the proverbial wall-of-worry—-rising from 340 to 850 or by 2.5X.

And this time was also held to be different because, purportedly, the art of central banking had been perfected in what Bernanke was pleased to call the “Great Moderation”. Taking the cue, Wall Street dubbed it the Goldilocks Economy—-meaning a macroeconomic environment so stable, productive and balanced that it would never again be vulnerable to a recessionary contraction and the resulting plunge in corporate profits and stock prices.

Wrong again!

During the 20 months from the July 2007 peak to the March 2009 bottom, the RUT gave it all back. And we mean every bit of it—-as the index bottomed 60% lower at 340. This time the value of household equities plunged by $6 trillion, and still millions more baby-boomers were carried out of the casino on their shields never to return.

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

Chart Of The Day: This Is What Happens When There Is Even A Hint That The ECB Will Stop Buying Bonds

Chart Of The Day: This Is What Happens When There Is Even A Hint That The ECB Will Stop Buying Bonds

It Won’t Be Long Now—-The End Game Of Central Banking Is Nigh

It Won’t Be Long Now—-The End Game Of Central Banking Is Nigh

My new book will be published next Tuesday. Preorders for the e-Book version will be available in this space beginning later this week.

As I previously indicated, the book is an exploration of how 30 years of Bubble Finance policies at the Fed, feckless interventions abroad and mushrooming Big government and debt at home have brought America to its current ruinous condition.

In this context, it delves into the good and bad of the Trump campaign and platform, while, to use a spoiler alert, praising it with faint damn!

As Contra Corner readers recognize the only consistent way forward for America at this late stage of the game is a return to free markets, fiscal rectitude, sound money, constitutional liberty, non-intervention abroad, minimalist government at home and decentralized political rule.

Unfortunately, that is not about to happen any time soon—–even if by some miracle Donald Trump is elected President.

But what the book does claim is that the tide is turning against the failed Wall Street/Washington bipartisan consensus. I call this insurrection the “revolt of the rubes” in Flyover America.

This uprising against the rule of the financial and political elites has counterparts abroad among those who voted for Brexit in the UK, against Merkel in the recent German elections in her home state, and among the growing tide of anti-Brussels sentiment reflected in polls throughout the EC.

Needless to say, the political upheaval now underway is largely an inchoate reaction to the policy failures and arrogant pretensions of the establishment rulers. Like Donald Trump himself, it does not reflect a coherent programmatic alternative.

But my contention is that liberation from our current ruinous policy regime has to start somewhere—and that’s why the Trump candidacy is so important. He represents a raw insurgency of attack, derision, impertinence and repudiation.

…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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