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How to Tackle the Depression Head On

How to Tackle the Depression Head On

“I want to see people get money.” – Donald J. Trump, U.S. President, September 17, 2020

“Now is not the time to worry about shrinking the deficit or shrinking the Fed balance sheet.” – Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, September 14, 2020

Money for the People

The real viral contagion that has infected the American populace is not an illness of the body.  It’s something far worse than COVID-19.  The American populace is suffering from an illness of the mind.

The general malady, as we diagnose it, is the unwavering belief that the government has an endless supply of free money, and the expectation that everyone, except the stinking rich, has claim to it.  Why pursue self-reliance and independence when a series of stimulus acts promises the more abundant life?  This viral contagion’s really ripped through the population in 2020.

For example, just a year ago, the American populace thought they could all live off the forced philanthropy of their neighbors.  That to pay Paul you had to first rob Peter.  The CARES Act proved to Boobus americanus that, without a shadow of a doubt, there’s free ‘money for the people’ in Washington.  Sí se puede!

This week the Congress did its part to further the greatest show on earth.  The people want stimulus.  Congress intends to get to them, in good time.

Of course, the need to sprinkle the Country with printing press money was already a foregone conclusion.  There was no discussion of the wisdom of not having a stimulus bill.  The debate at hand was centered on how much.

Crazy Nancy wants $3.4 trillion.  Senate Republicans want $500 billion.  Something called the House Problem Solvers Caucus wants $2 trillion.

President Trump wants Republicans to “go for the much higher numbers.”  His rationale: “it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”

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

In The Long Run We Are All Alive

In The Long Run We Are All Alive

In 1976, economist Herbert Stein, father of Ben Stein, the economics professor in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, observed that U.S. government debt was on an unsustainable trajectory.  He, thus, established Stein’s Law:

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Stein may have been right in theory.  Yet the unsustainable trend of U.S. government debt outlasted his life.  Herbert Stein died in 1999, several decades before the crackup.  Those reading this may not be so lucky.

Sometimes the end of the world comes and goes, while some of us are still here.  We believe our present episode of debt, deficits, and state sponsored economic destruction, is one of these times.

We’ll have more on this in just a moment.  But first, let’s peer back several hundred years.  There we find context, edification, and instruction.

In 1696, William Whiston, a protégé of Isaac Newton, wrote a book.  It had the grandiose title, “A New Theory of the Earth from its Original to the Consummation of all Things.”  In it he proclaimed, among other things, that the global flood of Noah had been caused by a comet.

Mr. Whiston took his book very serious.  The good people of London took it very serious too.  Perhaps it was Whiston’s conviction.  Or his great fear of comets.  But, for whatever reason, it never occurred to Londoners that he was a Category 5 quack.

Like Neil Ferguson, and his mathematical biology cohorts at Imperial College, London, Whiston’s research filled a void.  Much like today’s epidemiological models, the science was bunk.  Nonetheless, the results supplied prophecies of the apocalypse to meet a growing demand.

It was just a matter of time before Whiston’s research would cause trouble…

Judgement Day

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What You Will Find When You Follow the Money

What You Will Find When You Follow the Money

It has been a rough go for California Governor Gavin Newsom.  Late last week it was revealed that the state Department of Public Health had tickled the poodle on its COVID-19 record keeping.  Somehow the bureaucrats in Sacramento undercounted new coronavirus cases by as many as 300,000.

Perhaps this oversight prompted Newsom to imbibe in a little meditation and reflection.  At his Wednesday coronavirus news conference, shortly after quoting Voltaire, Newsom offered the following epiphany:

“Businesses can’t thrive in a world that’s failing.”

Often the simplest insights into reality are the most essential.  We’ll give Newsom that.  Yet, this is hardly an insight.  Rather, it’s readily obvious…even to a numskull.

The world that’s failing, where businesses can’t thrive, is a direct consequence of government lockdown orders.  And Newsom, more than any other public official, has his fingerprints all over the offense.  If you recall, California, under Newsom’s command, was the first state to order lockdowns.  It’s a shame he didn’t pause for meditation before committing the state to ruin.

The dynamics of what would follow Newsom’s lockdown orders were predictable.  When government decrees froze the economy, bills were still due.  Yet many people’s incomes, in the form of paychecks, disappeared.

For businesses, outstanding accounts payable were still due.  Though accounts receivable quickly became overdue.  In short, the flow of cash, as delivered by an open economy of give and take, broke down.

Certainly, Newsom thought he was doing the right thing.  He had to keep everyone in the Golden State safe by locking them down.  Many governors followed Newsom’s lead, having the same disastrous results.

But that was just the beginning.  Soon the uplifters in Washington swung into action…

Printing Press Money

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Game Over Spending

Game Over Spending

Second quarter 2020 came and went like a California wildfire.  The economic devastation caused by the government lockdowns was swift, the destruction immense, and the damage lasting.  But, nonetheless, in Q2, the major U.S. stock market indices rallied at a record pace.

The Dow booked its best quarter in 33 years.  The S&P 500 posted its best performance since 1998.  And the NASDAQ had its biggest increase since 1999…jumping 38.85 percent in just three months.

The economy, on the other hand, was severely scorched.  Decades of debt had built up like dead wood amongst a forest understory.  Then, at the worst possible time, government lockdown orders sparked a match and set it ablaze.

The results were predictable to everyone but the experts.  Supply chain disruptions followed by retail disruptions, followed by declining sales, followed by disappearing cash flow, followed by layoffs, followed by business closures, followed by shrinking tax receipts, followed by unserviceable public and private debt, followed by mass bankruptcies, followed by riots, followed by full societal breakdown.  The economic wildfire raged through so fast most people don’t comprehend what has happened.

The interim solutions from Washington, in concert with the Federal Reserve, have been to add more fuel.  That is, the solutions have centered around mega efforts to paper over the economic depression with massive amounts of fake money.

Money Printer Go BRRR

Mass corporate bailouts were just the beginning.  Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans were made to over 650,000 small businesses, including presidential candidate Kanye West’s clothing brand, Yeezy, and Grover Norquist’s anti-tax group, Americans for Tax Reform.

On top of that, the Fed began creating money from thin air for the purpose of buying individual corporate bonds.  As of June 28, the Fed’s bought $428 million worth of corporate bonds in 86 different companies.  These companies include Berkshire Hathaway Energy, McDonald’s, Southwest Airlines, CVS, AT&T, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Exxon Mobil, Ford, Walmart, United Health Group, Philip Morris International, and many, many more.

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

Pandemic, Economic Collapse, Full Societal Breakdown

Pandemic, Economic Collapse, Full Societal Breakdown

“And the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.” – Homer

Symbiotic Disharmony

The recline and flail of western civilization beats on.  Pandemic, economic collapse, full societal breakdown.  The sequence grooves from one to the next with the symbiotic disharmony of a minor pentatonic scale.

Peaceful protests devolved to rioting, looting, and structure fires in our own lowly hamlet last Sunday.  The Long Beach police couldn’t stop the vandals.  So the National Guard was summoned to quell the ransacking.  Some Guardsmen even stuck around to help out with the cleanup effort the following day.

The refrain – pandemic, economic collapse, full societal breakdown – has been repeated in many cities across the country.  For each: The time is now.  The place is here.

The progression from government pandemic lockdown orders to government curfew orders has been as natural as day to night and back again.  The difference between the two is subtle; like the difference between ketchup and catsup.  The main variance is the local authorities, in what must be an act of public service, now spam our mobile phone each afternoon with warnings to not venture out past curfew.

The events of the last weeks and months have been well covered.  We’ll leave the ongoing documentation tasks to those better qualified.  Instead, we’ll take a step back and look around.  Our aim today is to better understand what’s going on…so we may better anticipate – and plan for – what’s next.

Where to begin?

Human Stampedes

The mass impulse of a cattle stampede can be triggered by something as innocuous as a blowing tumbleweed.  A sudden startle, or a perceived threat, is all it takes to setoff this mass uncontrolled running.  Once the herd collectively begins charging in one direction it’ll eliminate everything in its path.

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

Destruction By Definition

Destruction By Definition

Major U.S. stock market indexes yo-yoed about all week.  On Monday, panic selling from last week turned to panic buying.  Decades of Fed intervention have conditioned stock market investors to step in front of semi-trucks to scoop up nickels.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) jumped 1,290 points.  This marked its biggest-ever single day gain in terms of points.  Can the economic destruction wrought by coronavirus containment really be overcome with what former New York Fed President, Benjamin Strong, once called stock market “coup de whiskey?”  We doubt it.

But we are fairly confident Fed stimulus will have the offensive consequence of widening the gap between sky high asset prices and weak economic fundamentals.  Fed Chairman Powell certainly understands this.  Nonetheless, on Tuesday, he went forward with the dirty deed.

After an early morning teleconference with various G7 poohbahs, Powell cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points.  This took the Fed’s target range to between 1 and 1.25 percent.  As far as we can tell, Powell’s dirty deed achieved the exact opposite of its intent.

U.S. stock market indexes didn’t go up.  Rather, they went down.  In fact, they went down a lot.  The DJIA, for example, gave back 785 points.  Here’s why…

The Fed’s rate cut was an act of fear.  Investors smelled it out and circled like a pack of wild hyenas.  Powell may be able to expand the supply of money and credit.  But he can’t make up for the economic destruction of a global economy that’s grinding to a halt to stem the spread of coronavirus.  Cutting rates 50 basis points won’t cut it.

“This Sucker’s Going Down”

Bull markets, like myths and legends, die hard in America.  By Wednesday, the bulls were back at it…bidding up share prices like 17th century tulip bulbs.  The DJIA, baited by promises for fiscal stimulus, jumped 1,173 points – back above 27,000.

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

The Triumph of Madness

The Triumph of Madness

Viewing the past through the lens of history is unfair to the participants.  Missteps are too obvious.  Failures are too abundant.  Vanities are too absurd.  The benefit of hindsight often renders the participants mere imbeciles on parade.

Was George Armstrong Custer really just an arrogant Lieutenant Colonel who led his men to massacre at Little Bighorn?  Maybe.  Especially when Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and numbers estimated to be over ten times his cavalry appeared across the river.

Were George Donner and his brother Jacob naïve fools when they led their traveling party into the Sierra Nevada in late fall?  Perhaps.  Particularly when they resorted to munching on each other to survive the relentless blizzard.

Certainly, Custer and the Donner brothers were doing the best they could with the information available to them.  The decisions they made must have seemed reasoned and calculated at the time.  But what they couldn’t see – until it was too late to turn back – was that with each decision, they unwittingly took another step closer to their ultimate demise.

Still they were human just like we are human…no smarter, no dumber.  We’re not here to ridicule them; but rather, to learn from them.

A Good Man in a Bad Trade

Rudolf von Havenstein had been president of the Reichsbank – the German central bank – since 1908.  He knew the workings of central bank debt issuances better than anyone.  He was good at it.

Thus, when he was called upon by history to deliver a miracle for the Deutches Reich in the aftermath of WWI, he knew exactly what to do.  He’d deliver monetary stimulus.  In fact, he’d already been at it for several years.

On August 4, 1914, at the start of the war, the Goldmark – or gold-backed Reichmark – became the unbacked Papermark.  With gold out of the picture, the money supply could be expanded to meet the endless demands of war.

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

How Xi Jinping will Save the World from Coronavirus

How Xi Jinping will Save the World from Coronavirus

In 1349, when Black Death was ravaging Europe, many of the day’s best and brightest banded together in pursuit of a common cure.  They had little choice.  Black Death was rapidly spreading across the continent.  Nothing could stop it.

Boils were lanced with precision.  Blood was let with vigor.  But there was no escape from the plague’s instant death.  It was efficient.  It was relentless.  People would go to bed at night perfectly healthy; by morning, they’d wake up perfectly dead.

Then, at the exact moment of maximum death and despair, flagellants came to the rescue.  Processions marched to and fro, seeking relief through forcefully whipping themselves in public displays of self-mutilation.  According to the History Channel:

“Some upper-class men joined processions of flagellants that traveled from town to town and engaged in public displays of penance and punishment: They would beat themselves and one another with heavy leather straps studded with sharp pieces of metal while the townspeople looked on. 

“For 33 1/2 days, the flagellants repeated this ritual three times a day. Then they would move on to the next town and begin the process over again.”

This may seem strange, weird, and, quite frankly, a bit nuts.  But something miraculous happened.  The Black Death epidemic soon exhausted itself.  The flagellants saved Europe from the mid-14th century onslaught of Black Death.

Or did they?

Probably Nothing, Possibly Everything

To be clear, flagellants had no influence on the eventual relenting of Black Death.  Remember, correlation does not imply causation.  Post hoc ergo propter hoc – “after this, therefore because of this” – or simply the post hoc fallacy, recognizes that just because one event happened to follow another, doesn’t mean the initial event caused the later event to occur.

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

The Impulses of Lunar Fed Policy Under Repo Madness

The Impulses of Lunar Fed Policy Under Repo Madness

This week, while you were busy working, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, took time out from rubbing elbows with fellow movers and shakers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to share his trepidations:

“The only thing I have trepidation about is negative interest rates, QE, and the diversion between stock prices and bond prices and yield and stuff like that….  I think it’s very hard for central banks to forever make up for bad policy elsewhere, that puts them in a trap.  We’re a little bit in that trap today with rates so low around the world.”

Fair enough.  Though Dimon, in what we presume was an inadvertent omission, failed to share that his firm may have recently walked the Federal Reserve into an elaborate policy trap.  Now the Fed’s stuck.  JP Morgan’s thrown away the keys.  And Dimon’s reaped a significant windfall.

If you recall, between Monday night and Tuesday morning September 16/17 the overnight repurchase agreement (repo) rate hit 10 percent.  Short-term liquidity markets essentially broke.  The Fed had to intervene in the repo market, via overnight repo operations, to push the repo rate back below 2 percent.

Since then, overnight repo operations by the Fed have become a near daily occurrence.  What’s more, these daily operations have ballooned to the order of up to $120 billion and are being maintained indefinitely.

On Tuesday, for example, the Fed created $90.8 billion out of thin air.  Of this, $58.6 billion was added to the overnight repo.  The remaining $32.2 billion was added to the 14-day repo.  Then, on Thursday, the Fed created another $74.2 billion out of thin air.  Of this, $44.15 billion was added to the overnight repo, and the remaining $30 billion was added to the 14-day repo.

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

Every Bubble Eventually Finds its Pin

Every Bubble Eventually Finds its Pin

The transfer of wealth from workers and savers to governments and big banks continued this week with Swiss-like precision.  The process is both mechanical and subtle.  Here in the USA the automated elegance of this ongoing operation receives little attention.

NFL football.  EBT card acceptance at Del Taco.  Adam Schiff’s impeachment extravaganza.  You name it.  Bread and circuses like these – and many others – offer the American populace countless opportunities for chasing the wild goose.

All the while, and with little fanfare, debts pile up like deadwood in Sequoia National Forest.  These debts, both public and private, stand little chance of ever being honestly repaid.  According to the IMF, global debt –  both public and private – has reached an all-time high of $188 trillion.  That comes to about 230 percent of world output.

Certainly, some of the private debt will be defaulted on during the next credit crisis and depression.  But when it comes to the public debt, governments do everything they can to prevent an outright default.  Central banks crank up the printing press and attempt to inflate it away.

After Nixon temporarily suspended the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971, the money supply could be expanded without technical limitations.  This includes issuing new debt to pay for government spending above and beyond tax receipts.  Hence, since 1971, government directed money supply inflation has been the standard operating procedure in the U.S. and much of the world.

Downright Disgraceful

Expanding the money supply has the effect of dissipating wealth from the currency.  The process allows governments, which are first in line to spend this newly created money, a back door into your bank account.  Without levying taxes, they get access to your wealth and future earnings and leave you with money of diminished value.

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

Suffering the Profanity of Plentiful Cheap Money

Suffering the Profanity of Plentiful Cheap Money

What if the savings in your bank account lost 55 percent of its value over the last 12 months?  Would you be somewhat peeved?  Would you transfer some of your savings to another currency?

That was the favored approach in Argentina – where the official inflation rate’s 55 percent.  But no more.  On September 2, President Mauricio Macri resorted to capital controls to preserve the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves and prop up the peso.  What gives?

Just fifteen months ago Macri secured the biggest bailout in the International Monetary Fund’s history.  Now Argentina’s delaying payment to its creditors and is rapidly approaching what will be its third sovereign default this century.  On top of that, Macri’s Peronist rival Alberto Fernández will likely take his job come election day in October.

Alas, for Macri and his countrymen, a painful lesson is being exacted.  You can’t solve a debt problem with more debt.  Eventually the currency buckles and you’re left with two poisons to pick from: inflation or default.  With Macri’s latest capital controls scheme he’s choosing to take swigs of both.

Make of Argentina’s woes what you will.  Central bankers in the United States are also guilty of programs of mass money debasement.  They may have a bigger economy to better mask their malice.  But despite what the MMT delusionals say the day of reckoning always arrives – and always at the worst possible time.

Indeed, the U.S. dollar hasn’t lost 55 percent of its value over the last 12 months.  However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ own inflation calculator, the dollar’s lost 55 percent of its value since 1988.  In other words, it takes $1 to purchase what $0.45 could buy during President Reagan’s last year in office.

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

Getting to a Special State of Ugly

Getting to a Special State of Ugly

There are certain phrases – like “trust me” or “I got this” – that should immediately provoke one’s suspicion.  When your slippery contractor tells you, “trust me, your kitchen renovation will be done before Christmas,” you should be wary.  There’s no way it’ll be done until late spring.

Or when your incompetent client says, “I won’t be needing your services at this time, I got this.”  You should expect a panicked phone call at 5pm on Friday.  “This is way more than I can handle,” your client will say, “take care of it.”

On Monday, when the sky was falling, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, the Chinese yuan weakened to above 7 per dollar for the first time in over a decade.  This prompted U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to waft out a suspicious phrase of his own.  He called China a “currency manipulator.”

Mnuchin’s logic, as far as we can tell, is that China manipulated their currency because their central bank didn’t adequately intervene in foreign exchange markets to prop up the yuan.  Conversely, direct intervention into markets, to maintain a centrally planned price that’s acceptable to Mnuchin, is not currency manipulation.  Go figure!

On Tuesday, to restore confidence in the yuan, and refute accusations of being a malevolent currency manipulator, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) announced a plan to price fix the yuan.  Specifically, the PBOC will sell 30 billion yuan ($4.2 billion) of offshore bills in Hong Kong on August 14.  This move is designed to drain liquidity offshore, thus strengthening the yuan against the dollar.

Why bother?

Cooperative Currency Debasement

The world, circa 2019, is a fabricated reality.  Debt, piled upon debt, piled upon debt, ad infinitum, has erected a financial order that’s at perilous odds with the underlying economy.  Central bankers attempt to manipulate fake money and fake foreign exchange rates to keep the debt pile from cascading down.

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

Fake Money’s Face Value Deceit

Fake Money’s Face Value Deceit

Shane Anthony Mele stumbled off the straight and narrow path many years ago.  One bad decision here.  Another there.  And he was neck deep in the smelly stuff.

These missteps compounded over the years and also magnified his natural shortcomings.  Namely, that he’s a thief and – to be polite – a moron.  Recently the confluence of these two failings came together like a sewage spill to a river draining through the center of town.

Mele made a dishonest mistake.  He failed to recognize that he’s not the only dishonest soul operating in a dishonest world.  That is, he failed to comprehend the difference between face value and real value.

So it was, with dishonest intentions, that he burgled a rare coin collection with no clue what it was that he’d taken.  To his soft and greedy mind all he saw was a hoard of coins with a face value of One Dollar.  Thus, he redeemed them for cash.  Zero Hedge offers the details:

“After stealing a rare coin collection from an elderly and disabled retiree, Shane Anthony Mele, dumped what their owner said was at least $33,000 worth of collectible coins down a Coin Star machine at a Florida supermarket and collected their face value, receiving about $30 – enough for a couple of 12 packs.”

A Downright Disgrace

Mele, no doubt, is a thief and a moron.  He’s also a thief and a moron that got caught up in something he doesn’t understand.  He may be dishonest.  But the world he’s operating in is also dishonest.

Stealing someone else’s property and then reducing the spoils valued at $33,000 to a payout of about $30 is a remarkable achievement.  Mele’s Coin Star transaction delivered a loss of over 99.9 percent.  But he’s not alone…

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

The Big Government Show Must Go On

The Big Government Show Must Go On

Another week.  Another week of distractions.  On Tuesday, for instance, was the great State of the Union Address.  To this, many opinions and observations have been offered.  Here, we’ll contribute several of our own…

President Trump is a showman of stout ego.  How he must have relished the run-up to Tuesday’s primetime address with impatient anticipation.  What a disappointment it must have been to look out from the podium of the House of Representatives at the 116th Congress and see the greatest assemblage of political crooks, lowlifes, and losers in living memory staring back at him.

But the show must go on…disappointments and all.  For life’s full of disappointments.  The many botched opportunities.  The countless hours wasted on bids for ridiculous jobs.  Super Bowl Sunday.  Duds, dissatisfactions, and disappointments come a dime a dozen.

Words are also the source of many disappointments.  Words that shouldn’t have been said.  Words that should have been said.

So, too, words, and the absence of words, can be distractions.  And within a sequence of words there are sometimes obvious omissions.

For example, nowhere within the 82 minute State of the Union Address was there a single word of the country’s burgeoning $1 trillion budget deficit.  Nowhere was there a word of the great $22 trillion national debt default that’s bearing down upon us like a savage hurricane along the Gulf Coast.  Nowhere was there mention of the $122 trillion in unfunded liabilities, which includes the sacred cows of social security and Medicare.

What Gives?

No One Cares

The real State of the Union – the one President Trump omitted from his address – is a state of impending doom brought on by 50 years of relentless debt accumulation.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, the federal government has spent more than it takes in.  Now the debt has piled up past the point of no return; there’s no longer an expedient way to reverse course.

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

Full Faith and Credit in Counterfeit Money

Full Faith and Credit in Counterfeit Money

There are nooks and corners in every city where talk is cheap and scandal is honorable.  The Alley, in Downtown Los Angeles, is a magical place where shrewd entrepreneurs, shameless salesmen, and downright hucksters coexist in symbiotic disharmony.  Fakes, fugazis, and knock-offs galore, pack the roll-up storefronts with sparkle and shimmer.

Several weeks ago, the LAPD seized $700,000 worth of counterfeit cosmetics from 21 different Alley businesses.  Apparently, some of the bogus makeup products – which were packaged to look like trendy brands MAC, NARS, Kyle Cosmetics, and more – were found to contain human and animal excrement.

“The best price is not always the best deal!” remarked Police Captain Marc Reina via Twitter.  Did you hear that, General Electric shareholders?

Yet the Alley, for all its dubious bustle, offers a useful public service.  It provides an efficient calibration for the greater world at large; a world that’s less upright and truthful than an honest man could ever self-prepare for.  In 30-seconds or less, the Alley will impart several essential lessons:

The price you’re first quoted is the sucker’s price.  To negotiate effectively, you must appear to care far less about buying than the merchant cares about selling.  Don’t trust someone that says, “trust me.”  And, most importantly, don’t believe what you see and read…or what you hear.

Reality Bites

For everything worthwhile, there exists a counterfeit.  This modest insight extends well beyond the boundaries of flea markets and tent bazaars.  It extends outward to news, money, prescription drugs, wars, public schools, Congress, corn ethanol, medical insurance, public pensions – you name it.  There’s plenty of fraud, phony, and fake going on.

For example, in the year 2018, the most reputable news outlets have been reduced to mere purveyors of propaganda.  The stories they spread are stories of fiction.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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