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Perpetual Debt, Perpetual War

Perpetual Debt, Perpetual War

It’s always useful to visit the museum in order to offset the recency bias that distorts perceptions of current realities.

In the great scheme of things, the picture below is admittedly not that ancient – from just 42 years ago. But it is nevertheless a museum piece because it pertains to a matter that has long since faded from the scene. Namely, the public debt and in this instance the day when your editor was compelled to warn the Gipper that the Federal debt was about to cross the dreaded one trillion dollar mark.

Back then, that prospect gave one and all the fiscal heebie-jeebies. Massive public debt was viewed as an immoral imposition on future generations and an economic scourge on the present. That’s because when properly financed in the bond pits it drove up interest rates, thereby crowding-out household and business borrowers and economic growth and rising prosperity on main street.

1/28/1981: President Meeting with David Stockman, Don Regan, Murray Weidenbaum, and Martin Anderson to discuss the economy in oval office

No more. Massive fiscal deficits year-after-year have become a way of life in the Imperial City, but even then CBO’s latest 10-year forecast is a shocker. It shows that even if there is no recession for the next ten years (fat chance!) and existing tax and spending policies (dashed red line) remain in place without enactment of a single new spending program or tax cut (even fatter chance!), the deficit will exceed $3 trillion per year by the end of the decade.

That would amount to a structural deficit equal to 8.4% of GDP and a ticket to fiscal perdition. In dollar terms, it would add $20.3 trillion to the public debt over the next decade, taking the total debt to $50 trillion by 2032.

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

David Stockman on Inflationary Hell That’s About to Break Loose

David Stockman on Inflationary Hell That’s About to Break Loose

Inflationary Hell

It is only a matter of time before Kiev surrenders to the Russians, with or without their clown-car president signing the armistice. But that deal will be so onerous from Washington’s perspective that it will not mark the end of the sanctions war, but will be an excuse for its actual intensification and indefinite prolongation.

When that becomes the reality, however, inflationary hell will break out all over the place. And the Fed’s decades-long experiment in egregious, inflationary money-pumping will splatter ignominiously all over the Eccles Building (Fed headquarters).

It now appears that commodities markets have been so drastically roiled by the action to date that Washington’s war on the global trading and payments system is now open-ended and can theoretically go on for years.

That’s because the Russian-loathing, Putin-demonizing Dems now in charge of policy in Washington cannot even see straight when it comes to the real issues of the conflict.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with partitioning Ukraine and Crimea, nor with Putin’s proposed new security arrangement that would have NATO move its missile bases to the pre-1999 status quo and the re-garrisoning of US and Western military forces to the old NATO territories.

But these plausible solutions are so far removed from the war fevers now raging on the Potomac that there is no chance of Washington embracing a negotiated solution to the Ukrainian war. It will actually take a historic GOP sweep in the 2024 elections to clear the decks of Putin/Russian demonization, and even that would not make a difference if the blood-thirsty neocons and military hawks retained control of the GOP.

Meanwhile, just like that, the price of oil recently hit $130 per barrel.

Here’s the thing.

Double-digit inflation is now guaranteed and it will be long-lasting.

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

David Stockman on the Coming Stock Market Crash of Biblical Proportions

David Stockman on the Coming Stock Market Crash of Biblical Proportions

Stock Market Crash

International Man: Whether we like it or not, the reality is, the Federal Reserve has an enormous influence over the dollar and the stock market.

And right now, the Fed has an urgent and fateful decision to make.

It can keep printing trillions of dollars, let inflation skyrocket or tighten monetary policy, and watch the stock market crash.

In other words, it can sacrifice the stock market or the dollar.

David, what do you think the Fed will do, and what are the implications?

David Stockman: Well, I think whether it wants to or not, the Fed will crash the stock market. The Fed has painted itself into a hellacious corner because it’s made such a fetish out of its 2% inflation target, especially since January 2012, when it officially adopted this quantitative target.

In fact, most of the massive money printing, which has occurred since 2012, when the economy was pretty much recovered from the Great Recession anyway, has been justified by an inflation shortfall, which wasn’t true, but that was the justification.

They were trying to raise inflation and therefore felt that they could keep quantitative easing at these huge rates, including $120 billion per month, until recently. And as a result, we’re now in a world in which inflation is heading towards double digits.

I think they’re going to have no choice but to throw on the brakes much harder than the market is expecting, much harder than they would like to do, or maybe even intend at the moment, but there’s no choice.

Now, when you have double-digit inflation, number one and second, you’re going into what’s going to be a nasty election season in which the Republicans will finally see hope for their salvation in a horrendous battle on the inflation front blaming the Democrats and Biden.

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

Stockman: “We’re Not Useful Idiots!”

Stockman: “We’re Not Useful Idiots!”

Honest injun. We’re not useful idiots here at Contra Corner!

Actually, we thought it up all by our lonesome! Well, we’ll grant we did have a fair amount of help from Google, which insofar as we know works for the CIA, not the Russian SVR (foreign intelligence service).

In any event, at the very center of the crisis is the Washington claim that the rule of law and the sanctity of sovereign borders are on the line in Ukraine and that, therefore, Russia must not be allowed to encroach a single inch into sacrosanct Ukrainian territory.

That is to say, it is not a matter of America’s national security interest in the precise Ukrainian geography, which happens to lie cheek-by-jowl on Russia’s border, but the very governance of the entire planet: Conform to the “rule of law” as articulated by Washington or get sanctioned, outlawed, pariah-ed, and even invaded, if worst comes to worst.

We hear this refrain repeatedly from Secy Blinkey and national security advisor Snake Sullivan. But we find ourselves doubled over with laughter each time, knowing practically by heart the list of coups, regime change plots, invasions and occupations Washington has foisted upon other sovereign nations over the last 70 years.

For want of doubt, however, we recently Googled in pursuit of the exact list and came up with a systematic study by a young scholar named Lindsey A. O’Rourke. Here’s her summary conclusion:

Between 1947 and 1989, the United States tried to change other nations’ governments 72 times; That’s a remarkable number. It includes 66 covert operations and six overt ones.

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

Reset Means Crash of Epic Proportions – David Stockman (Revised)

Reset Means Crash of Epic Proportions – David Stockman (Revised)

Reagan White House Budget Director and best-selling author David Stockman says, “This is not the time to be invested in the markets . . . . A reset is just a pleasant name or a clinical name for a crash of epic proportions, which we will have because the markets are so inflated.  There are trillions of dollars that are at risk.  To put a dimension on this thing or a way of sizing this, is we have a $60 trillion bubble on the balance sheets of 130 million people in American society, but especially in the top 5% to 10% that own a huge share of the assets. . . . I have no thought about how big the correction will be, but if it were just back to the norm . . . it would be a $60 trillion correction, and that is a pretty big hole in the bucket.  If $60 trillion disappears (out of the U.S. economy), it changes everything.  It turns the financial system and economic reality upside down.”

How did things get so perilous in the economy?  Stockman says look no further than Washington D.C. and the Fed.  Stockman explains, “When central banks start to inflate like crazy, you first inflate financial assets.  It eventually works its way into goods and services, and that’s where we are now.  You get the second stage of inflation as well.  There has never been a small group of government officials, unelected at that, who have done more damage, more wanton harm to the economy and to the lives of ordinary people than (Fed Head) Powell and his merry band of mad money printers.  This is really an outrage.  I say these people are damn near criminally incompetent given what they say about the world, which is totally wrong, given what they’re doing, this massive money printing, which is totally unjustified. . .”

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

Stop the Real Steal!

Stop the Real Steal!

It’s axiomatic that when you suddenly change the election rules and modus operandi, causing 65 million mail-in ballots (out of 159 million total) to flood unprepared local elections systems, you will get beaucoup irregularities, mistakes and fraud. To that extent, the impending Trumpite challenge when the Congress meets on Wednesday to certify the 2020 election results is spot on.

But at the end of the day, the challenge being mounted by Senator Hawley (R-Missouri) and the Cruz Eleven is both futile and mischievous. That’s because, thank heavens, American government is not organized into an all-powerful, centralized, unitary state like France, Red China or countless other authoritarian regimes in-between.

To the contrary, government in America remains decentralized and federalist, even if the founders’ design, culminating in the 10th Amendment’s reservation of unexpressed powers to the states, has been relentlessly chipped away since the New Deal. Indeed, when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day governance, such as on matters of public welfare or commerce, federalism has been drained of substance and the sovereign states have, regrettably, morphed into administrative appendages and fiscal supplicants of Washington.

Yet notwithstanding that erosion, one originalist feature from the 1787 convention remains largely in tact: Namely, that the election of Federal officials – congressman, senators and presidents – is to be conducted by the states as seen fit by their sovereign legislatures.

And that’s where the Trumpite challenge comes a cropper: No state has sent dueling slates of electors to the Congress, and no state legislature has petitioned the Congress asserting that its now certified tally of the presidential votes was the product of fraudulent or nefarious maneuvers.

Q.E.D. There is nothing to contest rooted in electoral Federalism because there are no state-based disputes pending before the new Congress. That’s essentially the position of solid libertarians like Congressman Thomas Massie. He’s dead-on correct and not just owing to Scaliaian regards for the Constitution’s language and intent on the matter of Federal elections.

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

 

David Stockman on Fiscal Disaster, Social Unrest, and the Presidential Election

David Stockman on Fiscal Disaster, Social Unrest, and the Presidential Election

Fiscal Disaster

International Man: Recently, massive riots have broken out in many cities across the US.

Despite the unrest—and the economic damage from the shutdowns—the stock market continues to rally.

It seems that markets don’t reflect earnings, economic prosperity, or growth. What is going on here?

David Stockman: It’s quite simple. The Fed has unleashed the greatest torrent of liquidity ever, and it’s finding its way into a relentless, massive bid for risk assets.

Since the eve of the Lockdown Nation disaster on March 11, the Fed’s balance sheet has erupted from $4.3 trillion to nearly $7.2 trillion. That’s $32 billion per day—including weekends, Easter, and nationwide riot days.

Worse still, at their June meeting, the mad money printers domiciled in the Eccles Building promised to keep printing $120 billion per month to buy US Treasuries and other assets for an indefinite period. That should get us to a $10 trillion balance in less than two years’ time.

What this means, of course, is that honest price discovery in the canyons of Wall Street is deader than a doornail. We now have a putative capitalist economy in which the most important prices in all of capitalism—the prices of financial assets—are pegged, rigged, and manipulated by the central banking agents of the state.

The result, of course, is speculation and malinvestment on a biblical scale.

As to the former, we are now being treated to the preposterous spectacle of an IBO—or Initial Bankruptcy Offer—of the stock of bankrupt Hertz.

Hertz’s stock is worthless. It’s pinned under a pile of $20 billion of debt—senior debt securities, which are trading at 40 cents on the dollar—and a vastly overvalued fleet of vehicles.

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

David Stockman on the Real Reason Why the Government Shutdown Caused an Economic Collapse

David Stockman on the Real Reason Why the Government Shutdown Caused an Economic Collapse

Economic collapse

International Man: Is the government’s reaction to COVID-19 worse than the virus itself? What are your thoughts?

David Stockman: I think for once, Donald Trump was right when he worried out loud the other day that the cure may be far worse than the disease.

Governors—mostly Democratic governors and mayors of major areas of the country—have imposed Lockdown Nation. It’s a complete economic disaster.

It’s a wrong policy from a public health point of view and an economic point of view.

It is hitting, like a ton of bricks, a highly fragile and vulnerable economy that was living hand to mouth anyway because of the kind of highly counterproductive monetary and fiscal policies and debt build-up we’ve had over the last 30 years.

If you look at the data for New York—which is the epicenter of the whole COVID-19 pandemic—it is abundantly clear that COVID is not some kind of latter-day Black Death plague that takes down the young, the old, the healthy, the sick, and everyone in between.

It is a kind of super winter flu that strikes fatally, almost entirely, the elderly population that is already afflicted with many life-threatening medical conditions—or what the technicians call comorbidities.

The shutdown, which I call the “plenary lockdown policy,” is wrong. Closing all the businesses except a tiny, arbitrary set of essential operations is courting disaster for no good reason.

Here’s what the New York data showed us recently.

New York is ground zero and the epicenter. But if you look at the breakdown of that number by age and by medical condition, it’s startling.

For those under 50 years of age in the state of New York, the death rate is slightly under 5 per 100,000.

That isn’t a disaster. That isn’t a plague or a calamity.

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

Stockman: This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Recession…

Stockman: This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Recession…

Based on the shocking 6.6 million of new unemployment claims, we’d bet they’ll be some explosive political fireworks soon in this country about Covid-containment versus keeping the main street economy alive. There have now been an unprecedented, off-the charts 9.96 million new unemployment claims in the last two weeks.

For point of reference, it took fully 28 weeks to generate the same level of cumulative new claims after the beginning of the Great Recession. During that interval, the largest weekly number was 387,000 during the week of March 29, 2008.

Even when you scroll forward (not shown) to the worst week after the Lehman Bankruptcy meltdown commenced on September 15, the peak number was only 665,000 during the week of March 28, 2009. So today’s new claims number was 10X higher!

So, yes, some politically incorrect pundit is likely to note that there are now:

  • 47 jobless workers for every confirmed coronavirus case;
  • 320 jobless for every hospitalization; and
  • 2,112 jobless for every coronavirus death.

Moreover, it virtually certain that cumulative initial claims will hit 20 million before the end of April, thereby doubling the above ratios. That is to say, do they really want 100 jobless workers for every case of a bad winter flu?

Well, yes, it seems that our establishment betters can’t get rabid enough urging on a total shutdown of the US economy.

Indeed, the thinly disguised subtext in the whole daily MSM narrative for the last couple of days has been that the benighted governors of the Red States are not doing their part to order their economies into instant cardiac arrest. But it took the perennially obnoxious liberal columnist for the New York Times, David Leonhardt, to come right out and say it.

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

Stockman Warns “The Jig Is Up!” – Covid-19 And The Defenestration Of The Central Bankers

Stockman Warns “The Jig Is Up!” – Covid-19 And The Defenestration Of The Central Bankers

Let it be said that historians will surely marvel – and at some point soon – about the grand delusion of the present era. Namely, the near universal belief that central bankers could print, peg and palaver the main street economy into unfailing expansion and ever rising prosperity and that there were essentially no macro-risks to soaring stock prices that their toolkits couldn’t contain and counteract.

That misbegotten belief had huge untoward consequences. It made economies brittle with too much leverage, financialization and speculation; and fragile with too few shock absorbers and insurance mechanism such as just-in-case inventories, second suppliers and local sources for physical production and back-up liquidity lines and balance sheet reserves for financial operations.

Then came the Black Bat of 2020 (or whatever) with its toxic economic contagion. Racing with virtually lightening speed through an infinitely complex and deeply integrated global supply chain anchored in the Red Ponzi, the breakdown of economic activity is already proving that the central banks are not omnipotent after all.

Just as they cannot print antibodies to stop the coronavirus disease, they can’t print raw materials, intermediates, components and sub-assembly to restart broken supply chains. Super-QE wouldn’t do it; double digit subzero rates wouldn’t help; and openmouth forward guidance would only call to mind King Canute shouting at the incoming sea.

It is too early to tell, of course, as to whether the Covid-19 is the Big Bang or if it will be soon wrestled to ground by public health authorities around the planet, thereby eventually relieving the global supply chains of quarantined workers, grounded planes, ships and trains, depleted inventories and paralyzed business decision processes.

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

David Stockman on What Triggers the Next Financial Collapse

David Stockman on What Triggers the Next Financial Collapse

financial collapse

International Man: You have sounded the alarm on a coming financial crisis of historic proportions. How do Trump’s trade policies figure into your view that a crisis is coming?

David Stockman: Trump’s trade policies only create more risk and rot down below.

They’re just kicking the can down the road. With this latest move by the Fed, they have cut the interest rates three times and short-term rates are back at 1.55%. They’re pumping their balance sheet back up—it’s up $300 billion just since September.

The Fed has reverted to all of the things that have created the underlying rot—and that means when finally things break loose, it’s going to be far worse than it would have otherwise been.

Given that they’re kicking the can down the road, they’re building the pressure in the system to really explosive levels.

The trade chaos that Trump’s creating is probably the catalyst that will bring down the whole house of cards.

At end of the day, it’s about the Red Ponzi. The world economy would be not nearly as good as it looks had the Chinese not been borrowing like there’s no tomorrow and building regardless of whether its efficient or profitable.

This has kept the global economy inching forward on a totally artificial basis. You could track it; some people call it the “China credit impulse.” Every time they get into trouble, they turn on the printing press. That causes commodity prices to rise and industrial activity and trade to pick up. It shows up in the GDP numbers, and then everybody gets all excited.

The fear of recession that we had a while back has now abated. We’re back to another global reflation meme, but none of this is sustainable.

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

David Stockman on How the Deep State Really Works

David Stockman on How the Deep State Really Works

Deep State

International Man: Last year, President Trump took the unusual step of bypassing his advisors to announce his intention to withdraw all US troops from Syria quickly. The decision rattled Washington and the mainstream media. It caused former Defense Secretary Mattis to resign. Almost a year later, the US has withdrawn only a token number of soldiers. It still has thousands of troops occupying the part of the country where oil fields are located. What is going on here?

David Stockman: Well, that’s the Deep State at work.

Donald Trump is all by his lonesome. He’s home alone in the Oval Office. Now, half of it, he can blame himself. If he hires someone, a known idiot like John Bolton, what does he expect is going to happen except that everything he wanted to do is going to be undermined.

Nevertheless, he can’t seem to find anybody who can articulate on a day-to-day basis a pathway to the more restrained America First posture that he had in mind.

He’s surrounded by people who constantly countermand his orders. You have James Jeffery, the US Ambassador and special envoy to Syria saying, “Well, Trump didn’t mean that when he said he wanted the troops out of Syria.”

We have the same thing with North Korea. Trump finally said, here we are, 66 years after the armistice and we still don’t have a peace treaty, and we’re still occupying the Korean peninsula, which is of no interest to our national security one way or the other.

You have to do what I would call “contrafactual history.” In other words, if you understand what could have happened the other way, then maybe you’re not going to be so impressed with all this threat inflation.

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

David Stockman on the Coming Financial Panic and the 2020 Election

David Stockman on the Coming Financial Panic and the 2020 Election

Coming Financial Panic

Doug Casey’s Note: David Stockman is a former congressman and director of the Office of Management and Budget under Ronald Reagan.

Now, anyone with connections to the government should elevate your suspicion level. But as you’ll see, David is a genuine opponent of government stupidity. Although his heroic fight against the Deep State during the Reagan Administration was doomed, he remains a strong advocate for free markets and a vastly smaller government.

We get together occasionally in the summer, when we’re both in Aspen. He’s great company and one of the few people in this little People’s Republic that I agree with on just about everything. Absolutely including where the US economy is heading.

I read his letter the Contra Corner every day and suggest you do likewise.

International Man: We seem to be near the top of the “everything bubble.” Almost nothing is cheap… anywhere. What are your thoughts on where people should put their money for prudence and for profit?

David Stockman: I would recommend recognizing that the “everything bubble” is the most extreme, exaggerated, severe financial bubble in world history. It will inevitably collapse, and there will be massive losses, even greater than occurred in 2008 and 2001.

So, the first thing is to stay out of the casino. By that, I mean the financial-market stocks, bonds, and everything else.

These markets are so artificial. They’re just chasing what the central banks are doing. There’s no honest price discoveries or supply and demand; nobody’s discounting the future of economic growth, productivity, and investment. You’ve got the chart monkeys, 29-year-old day traders who are in charge of the market.

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

Pain Is Inevitable; But Suffering Is Optional

Pain Is Inevitable; But Suffering Is Optional

How to avoid becoming collateral damage in the coming crash.

Sometimes you really do find enlightenment at the top of the mountain.

I spent this week hiking in Montana’s Bitterroot mountain range, as a participant in the pilot run of a new personal-growth-through-adventure-travel startup.

In our group was a famous professional cyclist, who had been a superstar on the Tour de France for many years.

He has a fascinating life story, both on and off the bike. His tales of the super-human efforts required to prevail at the most elite level of this punishing sport are mind-blowing.

The relentless and gruelling training covering thousands and thousands of kilometers. The near-starvation state cyclists exist in to maximize their power-to-weight ratio. Endless travel. Horrific crash injuries. Sponsor pressures. The money and politics driving the sport. Overbearing regulators. Cut-throat teammates. And of course, the pervasive doping.

When we asked him how he managed to persevere at the top of such a demanding sport for so long, despite the huge toll it took on his health and his marriage, he thought for a moment then said: “I suppose I’m just really good at suffering”.

It’s clear that, in addition to some truly amazing experiences, his cycling days have left him with a legacy of damage that he’s still working through.

As he shared this with us, one participant wisely advised him to remember: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Yes, he’ll still need to deal with the aftereffects of his racing years. But it’s up to him how much power he wants to give them over his happiness and life path from here.

From Mountains To Markets

I’m struck by how relevant the above advice is to investors right now.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the end of the ten-year bull market has arrived.

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

David Stockman: The Undrainable Swamp & The Inevitable Recession

David Stockman: The Undrainable Swamp & The Inevitable Recession

What the future of the post “Peak Trump” era holds.

Love it or hate it, the potency of the Trump Administration is on the wane, soon to be stuck in the mire of the Swamp it has deepend instead of drained, while the economy falls into one hell of a recession — so claims former Regan-era Cabinet member and Congressman David Stockman.

In his new book Peak Trump, Stockman notes how the wide divergence between Trump the campaigner and Trump the president appears to be proving to be his undoing.

Rather than fight to dismantle the institutions he railed against as a candidate — most notably the Deep State and the Federal Reserve — Trump has embraced them.

Now, when this latest asset bubble bursts (and Stockman believes the markets saw their peak back in Fall 2018), Trump will ‘own’ that. Having chosen to tie his administration’s success to the rising price of the S&P 500 since taking office, he won’t be able to foist the blame of a market crash on his predecessors.

Similarly, the Deep State — especially the military industrial complex — is experiencing a bonanza under the Trump administration. As a result, the Swamp is deeper than it has ever been:

I learned a long time ago as Budget Director and even before that as a member of Congress that the real deep end of the Washington swamp is on the Pentagon side of the Potomac. What Trump has done is basically taking a defense budget at $600 billion that was already swollen with waste and extending it far beyond anything you need for a homeland defense.

I have a whole section in the book about how a homeland of defense wouldn’t cost $600 billion that he inherited or now the $700 billion that we have. $720 billion actually, that after two huge Trump increases.

 …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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