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Spirits in the Material World

SPIRITS IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

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There is no political solution
To our troubled evolution
Have no faith in constitution
There is no bloody revolution 

The Police – Spirits in the Material World

As I was driving home from work last week, an almost forty-year-old song began emanating from my radio. I’ve always appreciated the music of The Police, but was never a huge fan. Spirits in the Material World was a relatively minor hit from their 1981 Ghost in the Machine multi-platinum album. I’ve probably heard it hundreds of times over the last four decades, but the lyrics struck me as particularly apropos at the end of a week where lunatic left-wing politicians staged a battle royale of ineptitude, invective, and idiotic solutions, in front of a perplexed public in a Vegas casino. Sting wrote the lyrics to this song in 1981 at the outset of the Reagan presidency. It is less than 3 minutes in length, but says much about humanity and the world we inhabit.

The interpretation of Sting’s (Gordon Sumner) lyrics depends upon your position in the generational kaleidoscope of history. As a boomer, Sting came of age during the 1960s and 70s. He was thirty years old in 1981 as the Second Turning (Awakening) was winding down and Reagan’s Morning in America was about to launch the Third Turning (Unraveling) in 1984.

His passionate idealism and search for spiritual solutions to the problems of the day had not been extinguished. The raging inflation of the 1970s had led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Cold War was at its coldest. Politicians had been discredited as criminal (Nixon) or incompetent (Carter). Sting and many others of his generation had lost faith in the political system. His viewpoint fit perfectly into the Strauss and Howe assessment of our last Awakening period (1964 – 1984).

Image result for awakening strauss and howe

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

Fourth Turning Economics

Fourth Turning Economics

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe 

Image result for total global debt 2019

The quote above captures the current Fourth Turning perfectly, even though it was written more than a decade before the 2008 financial tsunami struck. With global debt now exceeding $250 trillion, up 60% since the Crisis began, and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields, it is clear to all rational thinking individuals the next financial crisis will make 2008 look like a walk in the park. We are approaching the eleventh anniversary of this crisis period, with possibly a decade to go before a resolution.

As I was thinking about what confluence of economic factors might ignite the next bloody phase of this Fourth Turning, I realized economic factors have been the underlying cause of all four Crisis periods in American history.

Debt levels in eurozone, G7, US and Germany

The specific details of each crisis change, but economic catalysts have initiated all previous Fourth Turnings and led ultimately to bloody conflict. There is nothing in the current dynamic of this Fourth Turning which argues against a similar outcome. The immense debt, stock and real estate bubbles, created by feckless central bankers, corrupt politicians, and spineless government apparatchiks, have set the stage for the greatest financial calamity in world history.

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

Record Global Debt & Chaos in 2019 – John Rubino

Record Global Debt & Chaos in 2019 – John Rubino

Financial writer John Rubino says no matter what country, the global debt has exploded to record highs, and it’s going to go even higher in the coming years. Rubino contends, “Government debt is going to soar going forward no matter what. Whether we have three more years of growth or a recession next year, we are going to see massive new deficits and massive increases in government debt all over the world. This is coming at a time when we have already hit record levels of debt and blown right through previous record levels. The last crisis, that almost ended the global financial system, was debt driven. The next one is going to be that much, much more serious because we basically doubled the amount of debt that’s out there since 2005 and 2006.”

On the political front, Rubino says, “The idea that things get more extreme from here is not that out of the ordinary and not that hard to believe. We are not just going to see gridlock here in the U.S., we are going to see chaos. That means of the things that should be gotten done, very few of them will be. . . . Political chaos is good for precious metals . . . both metals are way undervalued.”

Few would disagree, that at some point, the financial system is going to explode. Rubino says, “Let’s look at what happens when this finally blows up. The pressure is going to be on currencies when the financial system starts to spin out of control next time. In other words, people are going to see the amount of debt we are taking on, see the amount of currency we are creating to service all this debt, and will wonder what that does to the value of the currencies that are being aggressively created. They will lose faith in those currencies.

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

Debts & Deficits: A Slow Motion Train Wreck

Debts & Deficits: A Slow Motion Train Wreck

Last Friday, I discussed that without much fanfare or public discussion, Congress decided to push the U.S. into deeper fiscal irresponsibility with the passage of another Continuing Resolution (CR). To wit:

“The House on Wednesday passed an $854 billion spending bill to avert an October shutdown, funding large swaths of the government while pushing the funding deadline for others until Dec. 7.

The bill passed by 361-61, a week after the Senate passed an identical measure by a vote of 93-7.”

Without the passage of the C.R. the government was facing a “shut-down” just prior to the mid-term elections. So, rather than doing what is fiscally responsible for the long-term solvency and financial health of the country, not to mention the generations to come, they decided it was far more important to get re-elected into office.

As I noted last week:

“For almost a decade, Congress has failed to pass, and operate, underneath a budget. Of course, without any repercussions from voters in demanding that Congress ‘does their job,’ the path to fiscal insolvency continues to grow.

The Committee For A Responsible Federal Budget made the following statement:

“We’re pleased policymakers have likely avoided a shutdown and actually appropriated most of this year’s discretionary budget on time. But let’s not forget that Congress did so without a budget and had to grease the wheels with $153 billion to pass these bills. That isn’t function; it’s a fiscal free-for-all.”

Of course, with trillion-dollar deficits just around the corner, the negative impact from unbridled spending and debt increases will begin to reverse the positive effects from deregulation and tax reform.”

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

Government Are Just Going Broke

The events in the Senate concerning the nomination of  Brett Kavanaugh’s illustrates that career politicians are destroying our way of life because they are so intent on just beating the opposite party that nobody is paying attention to the real problems we are staring at straight in its eyes. We face a very dark future because there is nobody home in government. They are indeed like the old Pink Floyd song – Comfortably Numb! Is there anyone in there? Is anyone home?

In Canada, a report has come out and made it clear that the “wolf is truly at provinces’ doors”, which is warning that the Canadian provinces’ fiscal position, collectively, is not sustainable over the long-term. They will raise taxes further and desperately punish all of use for their mismanagement and failures. They have destroyed our future and they will NEVER prevent a crisis because they ignore everything that is common sense.

I have tried very hard over the years to address the issue and show them this is a disaster that a 4-year-old with a pocket calculator can forecast. There is NO WILL to change and the parties are at each other’s throats so there can never be any bipartisan cooperation to save our future. We just have to Crash & Burn. The political system is simply incapable of actually managing the economy with career politicians for they are more interested in defeating the opposition to retain their jobs. We come last on the list of considerations.

As interest rates continue to rise, we are facing the crisis of all time. The central banks must “normalize” interest rates for the entire pension system is going belly-up. This is pitting fiscal policy against central bank policy. Government around the global have enjoyed the lowest interest rates in 5,000 years. They never reformed but spent even more. These two policies are now going to confront each other going into 2021.

Getting Serious About Debts and Deficits

Getting Serious About Debts and Deficits

Photo Source CafeCredit.com | CC BY 2.0

With the possibility that the Democrats will retake Congress and press demands for increased spending in areas like health care, education, and child care, the deficit hawks (DH) are getting prepared to awaken from their dormant state. We can expect major news outlets to be filled with stories on how the United States is on its way to becoming the next Greece or Zimbabwe. For this reason, it is worth taking a few moments to reorient ourselves on the topic.

First, we need some basic context. The DH will inevitably point to the fact that deficits are at historically high levels for an economy that is near full employment. They will also point to a rapidly rising debt-to-GDP ratio. Both complaints are correct, the question is whether there is a reason for anyone to care.

Just to remind everyone, the classic story of deficits being bad is that they crowd out investment and net exports, which makes us poorer in the future than we would otherwise be. The reason is that less investment means less productivity growth, which means that people will have lower income five or ten years in the future than if we had smaller budget deficits. Lower net exports mean that foreigners are accumulating US assets, which will give them a claim on our future income.

Debt is bad because it means a larger portion of future income will go to people who own the debt. This means that the government has to use up a larger share of the money it raises in taxes to pay interest on the debt rather than for services like health care and education. Or, to put it in a more Keynesian context, there will be more demand coming from people who own the debt, which means the government would need higher taxesnto support the same level of spending than would otherwise be the case.

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

The Gathering Storm In The Treasury Market

The Gathering Storm In The Treasury Market

Summary

  • Our analysis provides kind of a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of what is currently taking place in global financial markets
  • The massive borrowing by the U.S. Treasury is crowding out emerging markets capital flows
  • The structural factors that have kept long-term interest rates low and term premia repressed are fading
  • We expect a measured move in the 10-year Treasury yield to 4.25 to 4.40 percent, much sooner than the market anticipates

Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” – Dick Cheney

Memo to Dick Cheney:

  • Deficits and the public debt are starting to matter. Really. 
  • It is now more strikingly true than ever given the U.S. public debt-to-GDP is more than 3.4x higher than when President Reagan took office.  

Emerging Market Debacle 

Go no further than the debacle currently taking place in the emerging markets (EM), which began in the second quarter of this year, to witness the consequences of the U.S. Treasury’s trillion-dollar-plus demand shock for global funding.

 

Treasury_EM_Currencies

 

EM_Relative FX Vol to DM

In a closed financial system and a non-QE world,  price (interest rates) would adjust to move the capital and debt markets back to a more sustainable equilibrium.   The rise in interest rates would force the government to borrow less as higher interest rates crowd out other spending.  Also, the supply of loanable funds to the government would rise as savings increase.

That is not the world we now inhabit, however,  where global financial repression by central banks has resulted in a “rent control” like shortage of dollar funding.   The shortfall is now being plugged, in part, by the residual capital flows, which had been chasing yield in the emerging markets over the past several years.

That is the sucking sound you have heard since late April.

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

High Debt Levels Rant

HIGH DEBT LEVELS RANT

I am going to break from regular market commentary to step back and think about the big picture as it relates to debt and inflation. Let’s call it philosophical Friday. But don’t worry, there will be no bearded left-wing rants. This will definitely be a market-based exploration of the bigger forces that affect our economy.

One of the greatest debates within the financial community centres around debt and its effect on inflation and economic prosperity. The common narrative is that government deficits (and the ensuing debt) are bad. It steals from future generations and merely brings forward future consumption. In the long run, it creates distortions, and the quicker we return to balancing our books, the better off we will all be.

I will not bother arguing about this logic. Chances are you have your own views about how important it is to balance the books, and no matter my argument, you won’t change your opinion. I will say this though. I am no disciple of the Krugman “any stimulus is good stimulus” logic.

The broken window fallacy is real and digging ditches to fill them back in is a net drain on the economy. Full stop. You won’t hear any complaints from me there.

Yet, the obsession with balancing the government’s budget is equally damaging. In a balance sheet challenged economy the government is often the last resort for creating demand. Trying to balance a government deficit in this environment (like the Troika imposed on Greece during the recent Euro-crisis) is a disaster waiting to happen.

Have a look at these charts from the NY Times outlining the similarity of the Greece depression to the American Great Depression of the 1930s.

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

 

 

The Great Deficit Ruse

The Great Deficit Ruse

Your intuition is right: tax cuts are good and tax increases are bad.

If your profligate friend blew his budget on liquor, you might feel bad for him. But it’s unlikely that you would be willing to fork over money to cover his mistake. He needs to figure it out. And maybe, then, he will learn a lesson for the future.

This is exactly how I feel about all this whining about the federal deficit. I didn’t cause it. It’s not my problem. I should not be forced to pay for it. I don’t work every day in order to earn money to pay for other people’s problems.

It’s bad citizenship always to be willing to pay the government’s debts.

Admit that you agree. You don’t really care about the deficit. Not really. It’s an abstraction to you. More crucially, the deficit is not your fault. You are not responsible for paying for one dime of the federal debt. No portion of your justly made income should be taken to cover the fiscal irresponsibility of anyone except perhaps your children.Actually, it’s very bad parenting always to be ready to pay the kids’ debts. It’s similarly bad citizenship always to be willing to pay the government’s debts.

All this media talk–and it is incessant and ubiquitous–about how the deficit is way more important than your property rights completely disregards the realities of politics. Namely: politicians and bureaucrats desperately need an excuse to take your money. Making you pay for their past mistakes is as good an excuse as any.

Your intuition is right: tax cuts are good and tax increases are bad.

But hold on: doesn’t that just shove the burden of debt onto the next generation? My answer: not if the next generation is similarly unwilling to cough up taxes to pay for the dumb things government does.

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

Canada’s new deficit plan is trouble

Canada’s new deficit plan is trouble

Justin_Trudeau_supporting_Gerard_Kennedy_1,_rotatedYesterday Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the projected deficit for 2016-17 is now $18.4 billion. This amount does not include $10.5 billion in new spending promised by the Liberals during the election campaign.   When the budget is delivered in one month’s time it is foreseeable the total deficit could be in excess of $30 billion. During question period Prime Minister Trudeau defended the proposed financial course of action as something the Canadians want and voted for, while the Leader of the Opposition, Rona Ambrose, alleged that increased federal spending will amount to waste. (Ms. Ambrose is likely well aware of the wastefulness of government programs after having served for three years as Minister of Public Works and Government Services. In that role and other portfolios she has held she is not innocent herself of producing and perpetuating waste.)

In their book Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman exposed, among other things, the fallacy of the welfare state and the disappointing nature of all government programs. This is an unavoidable consequence of the spender spending someone else’s money on yet someone else. It is like paying for someone else’s lunch out of an expense account. The spender has little incentive either to economize or to try to get his guest the lunch that he will value most highly. Moreover, as Hayek (1945) explained in the “Use of Knowledge in Society”, spenders do not have and cannot obtain the information necessary to spend money on other peoples’ money on yet other people as effectively as when you spend your own money on yourself. This is the crux of why government spending is so wasteful. Legislators vote to spend someone else’s money. Bureaucrats who administer the spending programs do the spending someone else’s money on yet someone else.

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

Deranged Central Bankers Blowing Up the World

DERANGED CENTRAL BANKERS BLOWING UP THE WORLD

It is now self-evident to any sentient being (excludes CNBC shills, Wall Street shyster economists, and Keynesian loving politicians) the mountainous level of unpayable global debt is about to crash down like an avalanche upon hundreds of millions of willfully ignorant citizens who trusted their politician leaders and the central bankers who created the debt out of thin air. McKinsey produced a report last year showing the world had added $57 trillion of debt between 2008 and the 2nd quarter of 2014, with global debt to GDP reaching 286%.

The global economy has only deteriorated since mid-2014, with politicians and central bankers accelerating the issuance of debt. These deranged psychopaths have added in excess of $70 trillion of debt in the last eight years, a 50% increase. With $142 trillion of global debt enough to collapse the global economy in 2008, only a lunatic would implement a “solution” that increased global debt to $212 trillion over the next seven years thinking that would solve a problem created by too much debt.

The truth is, these central bankers and captured politicians knew this massive issuance of more unpayable debt wouldn’t solve anything. Their goal was to keep the global economy afloat so their banker owners and corporate masters would not have to accept the consequences of their criminal actions and could keep their pillaging of global wealth going unabated.

The issuance of debt and easy money policies of the Fed and their foreign central banker co-conspirators functioned to drive equity prices to all-time highs in 2015, but the debt issuance and money printing needs to increase exponentially in order keep stock markets rising. Once the QE spigot was shut off markets have flattened and are now falling hard. You can sense the desperation among the financial elite. The desperation is borne out by the frantic reckless measures taken by central bankers and politicians since 2008.

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

Fourth Turning: Crisis of Trust

Fourth Turning: Crisis of Trust

“Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:

  • Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
  • Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
  • Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship
  • Technological distress, with cryptoanarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenetic chaos
  • Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases
  • Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
  • Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction” 

 The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

September 2015 marks the seventh anniversary of this Fourth Turning Crisis. The economic, social, cultural, ecological, political, and military distress propagates by the minute as the globe is besieged by economic turmoil, increased human suffering, and endemic corruption of the political and ruling classes. The Federal Reserve/Wall Street created global economic implosion was the spark which catalyzed this fourth Crisis period in U.S. history in September 2008. Neil Howe in a 2012 essay assessed the beginning of this Fourth Turning and why 9/11 was not the catalyst:

“Pending stunning new developments, I believe the catalyst occurred in 2008.  It’s a date that is looking better and better as time goes by.  The year 2008 marked the onset of the most serious U.S. economic crisis since the Great Depression.  

 

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

Catch – 22

Catch – 22

So much of education, I think, relies on reading the right book at the right time. My first attempt atCatch-22 was in high school, and I was way too young to get much out of it. But fortunately I picked it up again in my late 20’s, after a few experiences with The World As It is, and it’s stuck with me ever since. The power of the novel is first in the recognition of how often we are stymied by Catch-22’s – problems that can’t be solved because the answer violates a condition of the problem. The Army will grant your release request if you’re insane, but to ask for your release proves that you’re not insane. If X and Y, then Z. But X implies not-Y. That’s a Catch-22.

Here’s the Fed’s Catch-22. If the Fed can use extraordinary monetary policy measures to force market risk-taking (the avowed intention of both Zero Interest Rate Policy and Large Scale Asset Purchases) AND the real economy engages in productive risk-taking (small business loan demand, wage increases, business investment for growth, etc.), THEN we have a self-sustaining and robust economic recovery underway. But the Fed’s extraordinary efforts to force market risk-taking and inflate financial assets discourage productive risk-taking in the real economy, both because the Fed’s easy money is used by corporations for non-productive uses (stock buy-backs, anyone?) and because no one is willing to invest ahead of global growth when no one believes that the leading indicator of that growth – the stock market – means what it used to mean. 

If X and Y, then Z. But X denies Y. Catch-22.

There’s a Catch-22 for pretty much everyone in the Golden Age of the Central Banker. Are you a Keynesian? Your Y to go along with the Central Bank X is expansionary fiscal policy and deficit spending. Good luck getting that through your polarized Congress or Parliament or whatever if your Central Bank is carrying the anti-deflation water and providing enough accommodation to keep your economy from tanking. Are you a structural reformer? Your Y to go along with the Central Bank X is elimination of bureaucratic red tape and a shrinking of the public sector. Again, good luck with that as extraordinary monetary policy prevents the economic trauma that might give you a chance of passing those reforms through your legislative process.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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