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The Fourth Turning & War of the Worlds

THE FOURTH TURNING & WAR OF THE WORLDS

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“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

The paragraph above captures everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen during this Fourth Turning. It was written over two decades ago, but no one can deny its accuracy regarding our present situation. The spark was a financial crash. The response to the financial crash by the financial and governmental entities, along with their Deep State co-conspirators who created the financial collapse due to their greed and malfeasance, led to the incomprehensible election of Donald Trump, as the deplorables in flyover country evoked revenge upon the corrupt establishment.

The chain reaction of unyielding responses by the left and the right accelerates at a breakneck pace, with absolutely no possibility of compromise. A new emergency or winner take all battle seems to be occurring on a weekly basis, with the mid-term elections as the likely trigger for the next phase of this Fourth Turning.

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

Will Your Retirement Efforts Achieve Escape Velocity?

Will Your Retirement Efforts Achieve Escape Velocity?

Sadly, most of us will outlive our savings

The concept of ‘retirement’, of enjoying decades of work-free leisure in your golden years, is a relatively new construct. It’s only been around for a few generations.

In fact, the current version of the relaxed, golfing/RV-touring/country club retirement lifestyle only came into being in the post-WW2 boom era — as Social Security, corporate & government pensions, cheap and plentiful energy, and extended lifespans made it possible for the masses.

But increasingly, it looks like the dream of retiring is fast falling out of reach for many of today’s Baby Boomers. Most will outlive their savings (if they have any at all).

And the retirement prospects look even worse for Generations X, the Millennials, and Gen Z.

A Bad Squeeze

While the US enjoyed a wave of unprecedented prosperity throughout the 20th century, the data clearly shows that halcyon era is ending.

Real wages (i.e., nominal $ earned divided by the inflation rate) for the average American worker have hardly budged since the mid-1960s:

Yet the cost of living has changed dramatically over the same time period. Note how the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) started accelerating in the late ’60s and never looked back:

Squeezed between stagnant wages and a rising living costs, perhaps it should be little surprise that so many Americans are having difficulty finding anything left over to save for retirement.

We’ve written about this extensively in our past reports, such as Let’s Stop Fooling Ourselves: Americans Can’t Afford The Future and The Great Retirement Con. But as a way of driving the point home, here are some quick sobering stats from the National Institute On Retirement Security:

  • The median retirement account balance among all working US adults is $0. This is true even for the cohort closest to retirement age, those 55-64 years old.

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

That 70s Show – Episode 2

That 70s Show – Episode 2

NonSup wages vs prod

In Episode 1 we showed how the US labour market changed dramatically from the 1970s on back of excess money printing which allowed Americans to buy tradable goods on the international market, hollowing out its own manufacturing base, and essentially creating an unsustainable consumer driven economy where the broad masses get their employment within service sector.

We will now take that a step further and look at what this has meant for the US worker. As our first chart shows, non-supervisory real wages stagnated in the early 1970s and has essentially remained flat ever since.

Measured labour productivity on the other hand continued upward, but its rate of growth shifted down. More on this in our next blog post.NonSup wages vs prod

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Bawerk.net

The American middle class, i.e. the non-supervisory workers, managed to grow their consumption in the midst of stagnating wages through

  • moving to two income households (women constitute almost 50 per cent of the labour force today)Share women

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Bawerk.net

  • by increasing debtHousehold Debt

Source: Federal Reserve – Flow of funds Z.1, Bawerk.net

It should be clear that when the share of women in the labour force has reached 50 per cent and further leverage of a shrinking household income has become counterproductive the end-game has started. The only way to increase living standards from here will be the old fashioned way; consume less than you produce and productively invest the surplus.

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

 

Brain-Drained

Brain-Drained

Venezuela: Real Wages Collapse amid Continuing Crack-Up Boom

While the crack-up boom in Venezuela continues, real wages in the country have have utterly collapsed. The bolivar is still trading close to 700 to the US dollar on the black market, and the Caracas stock index keeps making new all time highs in nominal terms almost every day. Ironically, Venezuela’s currency is called the “bolivar fuerte” (VEF), i.e. “the strong bolivar” ever since it has been “reverse split” 1 for 1,000 in January 2008.

 

brain-drainImage via designlimbo.com

 

As an aside, the stock market has likewise been subject to a reverse split of 1 for 1,000 about a year ago – pre-split the index would now be trading at a cool 15.5 million points.

BolivarThe black market rate of the “strong” bolivar (VEF) – 1 USD now buys nearly 700 VEF – click to enlarge.

 

Meanwhile, Venezuela has the highest sovereign CDS spreads in the world. Below is a chart of Venezuela’s annual default probabilities based on 5 yr. CDS spreads at a 40% recovery assumption:

 

VENZ default probability-AVenezuela: annual sovereign default probability from 5 year CDS spreads at an assumed recovery rate of 40% (which may prove to be a generous assumption) – click to enlarge.

 

Venezuela’s Economy Loses its Best People

The great successes of socialism in Venezuela aren’t confined to increasing shortages of basic goods, a collapsing currency and extremely high sovereign CDS spreads.

Businesses are confronted with a mixture of sharply rising input costs and price controls and as a result are unable to pay their employees wages that can even remotely balance the sharp losses in the bolivar’s purchasing power. As Reuters reports, skilled workers have been hit the worst:

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

 

 

Is the slowdown in productivity growth a result of energy costs?

Is the slowdown in productivity growth a result of energy costs?

Slowing productivity growth in the United States has been in the news in recent months. It has become a concern to policymakers because they believe it is one of the primary contributors to a middle-class economic squeeze according to the annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Simply put, productivity growth refers to the growth in economic output per worker or more precisely, per hour of work. When this growth slows, the potential for real wage increases diminishes since the growth in wages typically reflects the ability of workers to create more output per unit of time.

To the obstensibly naive observer the following idea may seem a plausible explanation: Higher-cost energy inputs into the production of goods and services reduce productivity growth because the economic output per dollar of energy consumed declines. And, though energy inputs aren’t the only thing to consider, they are important. The high energy prices of the last decade or so may be, in part, responsible for low productivity growth. (Conversely, low energy costs would imply more output per dollar of energy consumed.)

But strangely, almost all economic models for productivity consider only so-called “tangible” factors, that is, labor and capital. In the bizarro world of modern economics, energy and materials are not considered “tangible.”

Now, the way in which that productivity growth which is attributable to “technological advances” is typically calculated is to add up contributions to productivity growth from labor and capital (machines, buildings, vehicles, tools of any kind) and then subtract this sum from the known amount of total productivity growth. What is left is the so-called “residual” which is presumed to result from “technological advances” caused by increases in human knowledge. These advances and the increases in capital per worker are assumed to be the drivers of productivity growth.

…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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