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Open the Overton Window

Open the Overton Window

You may have heard of the “Overton window.”

The concept of the Overton window caught on in professional culture, particularly those seeking to nudge public opinion, because it taps into a certain sense that we all know is there.

There are things you can say and things you cannot say, not because there are speech controls (though there are) but because holding certain views makes you anathema and dismissable. This leads to less influence and effectiveness.

The Overton window is a way of mapping sayable opinions.

The goal of advocacy is to stay within the window while moving it just ever so much. For example, if you’re writing about monetary policy, you should say that the Fed should not immediately reduce rates for fear of igniting inflation.

You can really think that the Fed should be abolished but saying that is inconsistent with the demands of polite society. That’s only one example of a million.

To notice and comply with the Overton window is not the same as merely favoring incremental change over dramatic reform. There is not and should never be an issue with marginal change.

That’s not what’s at stake.

To be aware of the Overton window, and fit within it, means to curate your own advocacy. You should do so in a way that’s designed to comply with a structure of opinion that’s pre-existing as a kind of template we’re all given.

It means to craft a strategy specifically designed to game the system, which is said to operate according to acceptable and unacceptable opinionizing.

In every area of social, economic and political life, we find a form of compliance with strategic considerations seemingly dictated by this window. There’s no sense in spouting off opinions that offend or trigger people because they’ll just dismiss you as not credible.

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

Americans Understand Inflation

Americans Understand Inflation

Everyday Americans understand inflation perfectly. But the egghead economists and policymakers who govern their lives don’t.

That may be because inflation is one of the biggest concerns of those who live in the real world, and it may lead to a political earthquake next November in the presidential and congressional elections.

Here’s the reality and here’s the political narrative: Reality is that prices have been going up at the fastest rate in 40 years and they are still going up.

Inflation (on an annualized basis) was 9.1% in June 2022, 4.9% in April 2023, 3.7% in September 2023 and 3.1% in November 2023 (the most recent data available).

It’s true that the rate of inflation is coming down, but prices are still going up. They’re going up at a slower rate but they’re still going up.

Not only that, but past price increases are locked in so new price increases are applied to a higher base. This is killing American consumers.

The average price of a pound of ground beef in the U.S. was $5.11 in September 2023. In October 2023 the price of a pound of ground beef was $5.23. That’s a 2.3% increase on a month-over-month basis, which annualizes to over 25%.

That’s the kind of inflation that real Americans confront every day.

The economists prefer measures of inflation that exclude energy and food prices, what they call “core” inflation. Some eggheads use measures that exclude food, energy and housing costs. They call that “super-core” inflation.

Those measures are academic constructs and bear no relationship to the real world. Try living without gas in your car, food on the table or a place to live.

The ignorance of politicians gets worse when we see Joe Biden come out and say, “Prices are going down,” and retailers should lower their prices and avoid “price gouging.”

Biden is purposely confusing lower rates of inflation (which are still price increases) with lower prices (which are not happening).

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Rickards’ Five 2024 Forecasts

Rickards’ Five 2024 Forecasts

I have five forecasts for 2024 to help keep you ahead of the curve in positioning your investment portfolio.

My overall forecast is that 2024 will be more tumultuous and shocking than 2023. That may seem hard to credit.

With two major wars going on, an indicted former president and a demented current president, how can 2024 be more challenging than 2023?

Rest assured; it will be. I explain why below.

An Election of Dire Consequences

It’s a cliche to write that the next presidential election will be the “most important in our lifetimes.” Yet in 2024 that cliche will actually be true.

The divide between the two parties is probably greater than at any time in U.S. political history since the Civil War. The choice could not be more stark and the stakes could not be higher.

That’s why this election is so important.

First off, I don’t think that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president.

Biden’s problem is not just his age, but the fact that he actually is mentally and physically impaired. He’s simply not fit to be president, and everyone knows it even if Democratic operatives and media sycophants don’t want to mention it. But who will replace Biden?

The most likely replacements are Gavin Newsom, J.B. Pritzker, Gretchen Whitmer and Jennifer Granholm. All four were or are state governors. They’re all about the same ideologically; take your pick. Forget Kamala Harris; she’s simply too much of a liability.

The Republican Side

On the Republican side, there’s not a lot to say. Trump will be the nominee; no one can recall a non-incumbent with such a large lead in the polls.

He’s leading the pack by 55 points or more and is now even running ahead of Joe Biden in recent polls.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

March 9, 2022

Where were you on March 9, 2022, when President Biden signed the death warrant on American freedom?

On that day, in a hushed ceremony at the White House without the approval of Congress, the states or the American people, Biden signed into law Executive Order 14067.

Buried in his order are a few paragraphs, titled Section 4. The language in Section 4 makes Order 14067 the most treacherous act by a sitting president in the history of our republic.

That’s because Section 4 sets the stage for legal government surveillance of all U.S. citizens, total control over your bank accounts and purchases and the ability to silence all dissenting voices for good.

In this new war on freedom, they aren’t coming for your guns. No, they’re thinking much bigger than that.

They’re coming for your money.

And it’s already started. These efforts are stepping up and taking on a nefarious tone that also involves surveillance and loss of our freedoms under the guise of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), or Biden Bucks as I call them.

If you had asked me about this two years ago, I would have said the U.S. is taking a rather studious approach to it. It was too important to not be involved in, but the U.S. did not seem to be in any hurry to actually implement it.

There were studies, and I would have said my estimate at the time would have been, “OK, China has it. Europe, maybe another year. The U.S. might be three or four years down the road because the dollar’s too important. They don’t want to race into it. They want to get it right. There are a lot of ways to mess it up.”

But that’s changed under Joe Biden.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

“Shut up — or Else!”

“Shut up — or Else!”

Certain establishment types consider my ideas extreme. They accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist or some kind of kook, way outside the boundaries of acceptable consensus.

That’s fine, I expect that. If you threaten powerful interests, you can expect that they’ll try to discredit you.

The fact is people are conditioned to accept whatever the authorities tell them. It’s a powerful urge that actually goes back to evolutionary biology.

If you challenge what the authorities say, you become a threat to group cohesiveness, and, therefore, a threat to group survival.

In that vein, I’ve been warning my readers for over a year about the dangers of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) that are being rolled out by central banks around the world.

In the U.S., I’ve called them “Biden Bucks.” I’ve warned that they could quite possibly lead to a total surveillance state in which the government can track your every purchase — and regulate the most minute aspects of your life.

Total Control

CBDCs are programmable. They allow central banks (or regulated commercial banks) to monitor your purchases.

In conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI), purchases and other uses of money (charitable contributions, political contributions, travel, etc.) can create a profile that identifies you as an enemy of the people as described by the government.

CBDCs can be used to freeze your account, require you to spend money at the risk of confiscation in the form of a “fiscal penalty” or to impose withholding tax on professionals and independent contractors who are not currently subject to withholding.

Your “Biden Bucks” could also be made to stop working at the gas pump once you’ve purchased a certain amount of gasoline in a week. Or you could be banned from buying a steak at the grocery store if you’ve exceeded your weekly quota of meat consumption.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Global Bankruptcy Already Baked In

Global Bankruptcy Already Baked In

Scrape away the complexity and every economic crisis and crash boils down to the precarious asymmetry between collateral and the debt secured by that collateral collapsing.

It’s really that simple.

In eras of easy credit, both creditworthy and marginal borrowers are suddenly able to borrow more. This flood of new cash seeking a return fuels red-hot demand for conventional assets considered “safe investments” (real estate, blue chip stocks and bonds), demand of which given the limited supply of “safe” assets pushes valuations of these assets to the moon.

In the euphoric atmosphere generated by easy credit and a soaring asset valuations, some of the easy credit sloshes into marginal investments (farmland that is only briefly productive if it rains enough, for example), high-risk speculative ventures based on sizzle rather than actual steak and outright frauds passed off as legitimate “sure-fire opportunities.”

The price people are willing to pay for all these assets soars as the demand created by easy credit increases. And why does credit continue increasing? The assets rising in value create more collateral, which then supports more credit.

This self-reinforcing feedback appears highly virtuous in the expansion phase: The grazing land bought to put under the plow just doubled in value, so the owners can borrow more and use the cash to expand their purchase of more grazing land.

The same mechanism is at work in every asset: homes, commercial real estate, stocks and bonds. The more the asset gains in value, the more collateral becomes available to support more credit.

The Illusion of Safety

Since there’s plenty of collateral to back up the new loans, both borrowers and lenders see the profitable expansion of credit as “safe.”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

World War III: Has It Begun?

World War III: Has It Begun?

Has World War III already begun?

That’s a serious question and deserves serious consideration by investors. A wave of analysts and commentators have warned that the war in Ukraine could spin out of control and escalate into World War III.

One variation on that theme is that the war could escalate into a nuclear war with tactical nuclear weapons deployed. Most point a finger at Russia as the party that will launch a nuclear strike out of desperation at a failing campaign in Ukraine.

Actually, the opposite is true.

The Russian campaign is not failing (it has been on hold for several months awaiting the right conditions to launch a winter offensive). You just don’t hear about it in the mainstream media, which is essentially a propaganda outlet for Ukraine.

And the party most likely to use nuclear weapons first is the U.S. in order to save face and destabilize Russia once Ukraine is on the brink of collapse.

Reality Check

Many people have a hard time believing that. They’ve been told that Putin is the devil incarnate and would probably like to destroy the world. We like to think that in modern times we’re sophisticated and above falling prey to propaganda. Unfortunately, it isn’t true.

The fact is the U.S. did wage the only nuclear war in history from Aug. 6–9, 1945 and had a successful outcome. I’m not getting into the morality of it here, one way or the other. I’m just being objective.

Either way, another nuclear war could not be contained and it would be tantamount to World War III. It amounts to the same thing.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

It’s Wholesale Robbery!

It’s Wholesale Robbery!

The latest inflation news was glorious, they said. The whole media told us so!

It’s easing, improving, better than it has been and headed in the right direction. So stop your kvetching and get out there and make (and spend) money. For that matter, throw around the credit card a bit and stop trying to save money.

Inflation is all but done! It’s pretty interesting because they have been saying this for the better part of 18 months.

In reality, the consumer price index rose 7.1% from a year ago. That’s terrible. Yes, not as terrible as last month, but look at the breakdown in detail.

Food at home is up 10% while food at restaurants is up 12%. Fuel oil is up 65.7 % and transportation services are up 14.2%!

So on it goes, and each month we get a report, and the intensity shifts from one sector to another. The perception that this is cooling is based mostly on the weighting scheme that yields the final number. This is no world in which we are watching the problem gradually disappear.

Wholesale Robbery of the American People

You can see the scale of the problem by looking at the so-called sticky rate of price increases over 14 years. This reveals which part of the overall index is truly embedded and less subject to exigencies of temporary market change.

This is wholesale robbery of the American people. That the thief stole a full place setting of silver last month but this month left the dessert spoon is hardly an improvement and a case for leaving the doors unlocked.

They’ve told us for 18 months that it’s not so bad and we should all stop kvetching about it. But it keeps being bad. The inflation is embedded and clearly has a long way to go before the momentum runs out of steam.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Let Them Eat Bugs

Let Them Eat Bugs

A study earlier this year from four prestigious institutions proclaimed that you should eat bugs and spiders.

And not only that. The study — conducted by BI Norwegian Business School (BI), Chuo University, Miyagi University and Oxford University — also said that the way to convince people to do this is to have celebrities do it on YouTube videos.

Like clockwork, they are suddenly everywhere. You are welcome to look them up. I personally find them revolting. As in they make me want to revolt.

These are the same folks who pushed for lockdowns, masking, jabs and a war with Russia. Now they say we have to get used to eating bugs because all the other policies they pushed have dramatically increased world hunger. Indeed, it is reaching a crisis point.

For many people, bug eating will soon be the only answer.

One Step Before Cannibalism

I’m going to take it as a given that the evolution of society selected against bug eating. It is not something people prefer over, for example, eating chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. I would further postulate that most people, in general, would not eat bugs unless they had to.

I’m sure there are many venerable bureaucrats at the UN who would dispute the above, but I don’t care.

There is a name for bug eating: entomophagy. Sounds fancy, but ultimately it means living as if there is a famine going on. It is one step before cannibalism and finally eating tree bark.

Sometimes it happens. We call those periods of history deeply tragic. It’s not what we want. The difference this time is that entomophagy is being pushed by top Hollywood influencers.

When it arrives, the famine will be celebrated on social media.

Food Is Already Scarce

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

Welcome to 1984

I’ve been addressing the war on cash lately, and for good reason. While everyone’s attention is focused on the war in Ukraine, inflation and the Supreme Court, government plans to eliminate cash are accelerating.

For example, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are coming even faster than many anticipated. The digital yuan is already here; it was introduced in China last February during the Winter Olympics.

Visitors to the Olympics were required to pay for meals, hotels, transportation, etc., using QR codes on their mobile phones that linked to digital yuan accounts. Nine other countries have already launched CBDCs. Europe is not far behind and is testing the digital euro under the auspices of the European Central Bank.

The U.S. was lagging, but is catching up fast.

The Federal Reserve was studying a possible Fed CBDC at a research facility at MIT. Now the idea has moved from the research stage to preliminary development.

Fed Chair Jay Powell said, “A U.S. CBDC could… potentially help maintain the dollar’s international standing.”

But this has little to do with technology or monetary policy and everything to do with herding you into digital cattle chutes where you can be slaughtered with account freezes, seizures, etc.

NOT Crypto

First off, CBDCs are not cryptocurrencies. The CBDCs are digital in form, are recorded on a ledger (maintained by a central bank or finance ministry and the message traffic is encrypted. Still, the resemblance to cryptos ends there.

The CBDC ledgers do not use blockchain, and CBDCs definitely do not embrace the decentralized issuance model hailed by the crypto crowd. CBDCs will be highly centralized and tightly controlled by central banks.

The CBDC ledger can be maintained in encrypted form by the central bank itself without the need for bank accounts or money market funds…

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

Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide

Investors don’t need to be told about the recent stock market crashes. The Dow Jones index is down 12.5% since early January. The S&P 500 is down 16.1% in the same period. The Nasdaq Composite is down an even more spectacular 26.5% this year. It lost more ground today.

This puts the Nasdaq solidly into a bear market (down 20% or more from an interim peak) while the Dow and S&P 500 are both in correction territory (down 10% or more from an interim peak).

The Dow was up slightly today, but the S&P was down again. On current trends, the S&P 500 may break into bear market territory in a matter of days with the Dow not far behind.

This collapse coming so soon after the market crash of March 2020 may surprise some investors, although this outcome was predicted in my last book The New Great Depression, published last year.

We could get into the reasons for the recent market swoon, like the Fed’s taking away the punch bowl, but the reasons almost don’t matter at this point.

What truly is surprising is that the stock market is not alone in its recent dismal performance.

The Great Crypto Crash

U.S. Treasury bonds, foreign currencies, gold and other commodities have all declined sharply side by side with stocks. There are good reasons for this, including the prospect of a recession that could cause stocks, gold and commodities to fall in sync.

Still, the market carnage doesn’t end there. The biggest collapse among major asset classes is in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The price of Bitcoin has fallen over 55% since last November, when Bitcoin peaked at around $69,000. As I write this article, Bitcoin is trading at $29,647.

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

Globalism’s Achilles’ Heel

Globalism’s Achilles’ Heel

Supply chain disruptions have not been resolved, and it’s not clear when they will be. You’re seeing the effects of these disruptions at the store in the forms of shortages and higher prices.

Yet the supply chain is a subject that very few are familiar with beyond a superficial acquaintance.

Most people think the supply chain is just part of the global economy. That’s not entirely true. The supply chain is the global economy.

There isn’t a single good or service of any kind that does not arrive through a supply chain. Not one.

If the global supply chain is broken, then the global economy is broken. That increasingly appears to be the case.

The supply chain difficulties will grow worse. Even more troubling is the fact that the remedies will take years and sometimes decades to implement.

The reasons for this have to do with long lead times in implementing onshoring. For example, the U.S. can cut its dependence on Asian semiconductor imports by building its own semiconductor fabrication plans (fabs).

The problem is that these plants take from three–five years to build, and the scale needed is enormous.

There are impediments to supply chain recovery that are not directly related to particular supply chains that nonetheless hurt the process of adaptation and substitution.

For example, there’s already a labor shortage in America. The causes are complicated.

There’s no literal shortage of potential workers, but many workers prefer to stay home because of some combination of government benefits, child-care responsibilities or inadequate pay offered by employers (who can’t afford to pay more themselves because they’ll go out of business).

A lot of this labor shortage centers on lower-wage jobs such as waiters, store clerks, fast-food staff and office assistants. But there will be a labor shortage coming soon in more high-skilled areas such as engineers, pilots, machinists and medical personnel.

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

Supply Chain Disruptions Will Continue

Supply Chain Disruptions Will Continue

Forty percent of all the cargo into the United States comes through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Offshore, there are thousands of containers stacked up on vessels waiting to get in. How many containers can the ports unload on a normal day?

New containers are coming in. There are daily arrivals. When will that supply chain backlog clear?

The answer is never. If there are more coming in than you can unload and you have an existing backlog that’s getting worse, it will never clear.

But let’s just say that with no new shipments coming in, it would take 30 days just to unload what’s already waiting offshore. Thirty days, by the way, puts you into December and the Christmas rush.

And getting it offloaded in California is just the beginning of the supply chain. You’ve got to put it on a train or a truck and get it to a distribution center and put it on another truck and get it to a store.

But wait, there’s also a trucking shortage. That’s a big part of the supply chain problem. If you can unload the merchandise but can’t transport it due to a trucking shortage, what good is it?

So this is not getting better. That’s probably the understatement of the year.

You may have heard about a semiconductor shortage. But you don’t need a computer, so what’s the big deal? Well, no, there are semiconductors in everything. You have semiconductors in your refrigerator, dishwasher, home entertainment system, etc.

The point is we’re highly dependent on vulnerable supply chains that are currently breaking down. Something radical is going to have to happen. We’re just going to have to stop importing goods. And China may actually oblige us, though not for these reasons…

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

Get Ready for Food Rationing

Get Ready for Food Rationing

It was a very strange moment when this week the spokesperson for the president defended inflation as a high-class problem. She explained that higher prices are merely a sign that economic activity is picking up. People are buying things and that’s good. Of course that pushes up prices, she said. Just deal with it.

At this point, the White House will say anything. Truth, facts, morality — these things matter less and less in current-day America. Your misery is an illusion. Losing your job because you don’t want the jab? Hey, that is the price you pay for noncompliance. Expect no sympathy from anyone in charge.

The Great Rationing

It must have been this flippant dismissal that caused me to go over the top. I wrote that hyperinflation could lead not only to implicit price controls, but also to rationing. Eventually, we could see the government issuing food tickets into bank accounts that allow us only a certain amount of food for the week. One chicken. One pound of hamburger heat. Five rolls of toilet paper.

I wrote that with a worry that I might be going too far here with speculation. This is America, after all, and we don’t do things this way. And yet in the old America we didn’t close churches for Easter, or skip Christmas for fear of a virus. And so on. Yet we know now that in fact we do these things, and easily.

Fear makes anything possible.

And so right on cue — things are moving very fast these days — The Washington Post has published an article by one of its regular contributors (Micheline Maynard) with one message:

GET USED TO IT!

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

Contagion!

Contagion!

There has been a litany of bad news recently, including the U.S. August humiliation in Afghanistan, China’s aggressive actions against Taiwan and increased tensions with Iran, North Korea and Russia.

It will take the U.S. years, possibly decades, to recover from the debacle of August 2021 and the collapse of American prestige. All of these geopolitical events combine to undermine confidence in U.S. power.

When that happens, a loss of confidence in the U.S. dollar is not far behind.

And, perhaps most importantly of all recent bad news, is a market meltdown and slowing growth in China.

Greatest Ponzi Ever

I’ve long advised my readers that the Chinese wealth management product (WMP) system is the greatest Ponzi in the history of the world. Retail investors are led to believe that WMPs are like bank deposits and are backed by the bank that sells them. They’re not.

They’re actually unsecured units in blind pools that can be invested in anything the pool manager wants.

Most WMP funds have been invested in the real estate sector. This has led to asset bubbles in real estate (at best) and wasted developments that cannot cover their costs (at worst). When investors wanted their money back, the sponsor would simply sell more WMPs and use the money to pay back the redeeming investors.

That’s what gave the product its Ponzi characteristic.

The total amount invested in WMPs is now in the trillions of dollars used to finance thousands of projects sponsored by hundreds of major developers. Chinese investors are all-in with WMPs.

Now the entire edifice is collapsing as I predicted it would.

The largest property developer in China, Evergrande, is quickly headed for bankruptcy. That’s a multibillion-dollar fiasco on its own. Evergrande losses will arise in WMPs, corporate debt, unpaid contractor bills, equity markets and unfinished housing projects.

…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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