Archive for the ‘Feckless spending’ Category
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
“A private central bank issuing the public currency is a greater menace to the liberty of the people than a standing army.”
“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it.”
“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”
“Paper is poverty, it is only the ghost of money, and not money itself.”
“The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it always to be kept alive.”
“The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”
“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”
“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service, and of retiring with hands clean as they are empty.”
–Thomas Jefferson, letter to Count Diodati, 1807
“No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no government ever will.”
–Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Washington, September 9, 1792
“An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.”
–Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Melish, January 13, 1813
“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched.”
–Thomas Jefferson, Resolutions, 1803
“Experience has shown that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
– Thomas Jefferson
” I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
–Thomas Jefferson, to Archibald Stuart, 1791
“No nation is permitted to live in ignorance with impunity.”
Malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem. (“I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude”)
–Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 30 January 1787.
by Peter Tchir
of TF Market Advisors,
Posted December 5, 2011
I CAN’T HELP BUT FEEL THAT WE ARE WATCHING A PERFORMANCE THIS WEEK. It feels like the actions, the meetings, and the statements are all very scripted. It seems reasonably clear which ending they are going for, but many of their actions also fit the “alternative” ending so it remains imperative to be cautious.
Roles for “bit” players have been cut
Last week, for the first time, the EU seemed to be able to muzzle the minor players and even limit the lines of the big players. The Finance minister summit was a failure. Nothing useful came out of it. EFSF was a total flop. The bank backstop plans are at a national level and revolve around the idea of getting banks to borrow even more in the short term and not extend their maturities.
In spite of the obvious failure, there were relatively few comments. Rather than getting headlines of disputes, or even headlines of bigger and better ways to leverage, they seemed to let it die a relatively calm death and move on. This was a chance for every finance minister to get their quotations in the news, but they seemed reasonably constrained. There were far fewer comments about the ECB or even from ECB members. To me, it seems that the big players (Merkozy and Draghi) have taken control of the play and are trying to get it to the ending they want.
Germany took great pains last week to distance themselves from ECB decisions. The speeches made it clear that the ECB should be “independent”. This has been taken as a sign that Germany is relenting on letting the ECB print. By affirming the ECB’s independence, Germany can, in theory, explain that it wasn’t responsible for the printing. There is also a chance that this is a way to take the blame off of Germany if the ECB decides not to print. That seems less likely, but not everyone, especially at the ECB, believes printing is a solution, so this could be a way for them to take the focus off of Germany’s “nein”.
According to the script, Merkel and Sarkozy will become the Merkozy again tonight so that they can ride into this week’s summit with a “renewed joint focus”, blah, blah, blah. There is no way that they don’t act as though they have some agreement (even if they don’t). We won’t know what is discussed, we won’t know how much time is spent working out plans for a summit failure, all we will get is another handholding moment meant to encourage the market. I suspect that more time “off screen” will be spent discussing preparations for a failed summit, but all we will see is smiling confident faces.
At this point, I will give the politicians some credit. For the first time in months they seem to be writing the script. They aren’t just taking whatever script Wall Street hands them, and trying to act that out. The Wall Street scripts haven’t worked and have been unbelievable. The politicians are finally taking control and trying to develop their own plan, and selling Wall Street on how viable it is. Since they are politicians, they are actually trained at figuring out what can get done and selling it to the people. It probably won’t work, but at least they are doing what they are good at, and it would be hard to do worse than listening to another round of self-serving Wall Street advice. On a refreshing note, at least we have agreement on something, Wall Street and politicians now both think the other group doesn’t understand anything and has no sense of timing.
The “puppets” are pushing through austerity in Italy and Greece. They can be held up as shining examples to other countries of what needs to be done. They aren’t the heroes of the story, but are there so that the Merkozy can point them out and show that i) it can be done, and ii) when it is done, the EU and IMF will come through with additional funds. The “it” they got done won’t be well defined (but this is a movie, not the real world anyways) but the reward those good countries receive will be highlighted.
So the meeting will have Merkozy telling the smaller and problematic countries what a great future lies ahead for the eurozone. They will talk about the sacrifices they are making to ensure the viability of the future. There will be no criticism of the plan as only “friends and family” reports will get the inside scoop, and the “trailer” will be played over and over as part of the advertising campaign. We, the audience, will suspect that all the best parts of the play are in the “trailer” but we won’t be able to dig deep enough to argue against it.
The puppets will tell the other countries how happy they are that they have finally adopted austerity with growth to move forward and that they are excited about this opportunity to be part of the renewed commitment to the eurozone. Anyone who tries to figure out how austerity and growth work together, or where the money is coming, or any other details, will be escorted from room, and will be Clockwork Oranged into reading “fringe blogging websites” until they accept that details are bad, and only vague notions and slogans can “solve” anything.
At the end of the day, any holdouts will get invited to special meetings with the Merkozy. This is where they will be asked what they want to get in order to support the agreement, and reminded, that it is only an agreement in principle so they might as well say yes now, and they can always reject it later. These dark little meetings where the bribes are given and the futility of the agreement are discussed will only be available on the director’s cut, but will make people cringe when they realize what went on.
So in the end, according to script, everyone will get a chance for a joint communiqué and photo up where they talk about their commitment to implement these progressive changes. Every person who truly thinks about it for more than a minute, will know that it is a sham. They will see what has gone on, but it won’t matter. The “critics” will fall all over themselves to proclaim the success of the summit and that we are witnessing the birth of a new and better Euro. For a few days at least, the airwaves will be filled with the excitement that the “great leadership” exhibited by the Merkozy, and the diligence of the puppets, has led to such a monumental agreement. The future will be so bright, some might even “wear shades” when they discuss what has been accomplished. Tears wouldn’t even shock me.
Then before anyone can complain that the positive reviews were bought, or that the script is flimsy, we will see the next wave of activity. This will be like a giant publicity machine, trying to turn a horrible movie into an Oscar winner through the sheer strength of publicity and graft.
The ECB will cut rates by 50 bps. The ECB will announce further participation in the secondary markets and hint at the ability and willingness to print money. The IMF will announce some new programs. The EFSF will start participating in the primary market. Even the Fed might hint at future QE (if not actually doing anything).
Then the leaders can sit back and hope their magic works. Hope that their story has been bought and that the markets can take off and that they won’t actually have to implement much. Yes, I think this is the key here. They know that the treaty agreement changes are unlikely to be implemented. They know the ECB has limits, that the IMF is going to struggle to do what people seem to believe they can do, they just hope that this is enough to give the markets so much confidence that they don’t have to do anything. A market that can swing 6% on a 50 bp rate cut, might be manipulated into going so high that confidence is regained, long enough to buy time.
The “alternative ending”
So far, the directors have rejected the alternative ending. They don’t think that America in particular is ready for a non Hollywood ending, but they are filming some scenes just in case. Fortunately many of the scenes are exactly the same as in the preferred ending. In the alternative ending, Merkozy and the puppets can’t convince everyone to go along with the communiqué. They can’t convince them that it is really meaningless so there is no point to disagree. Somehow the summit ends without the decision to move forward.
by James Howard Kunstler
Posted November 28, 2011
IT’S REALLY SOMETHING TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T KNOW what it is doing in a world that doesn’t know where it is going in a time when anything can happen. I hope you can get comfortable with uncertainty. If there’s one vibe emanating from this shadowy zeitgeist it’s a sense of the total exhaustion of culture, in particular the way the world does business. Everything looks tired, played out, and most of all false. Governments can’t really pay for what they do. Banks have no real money. Many households surely have no money. The human construct of money itself has become a shape-shifting phantom. Will it vanish into the vortex of unpaid debt until nobody has any? Or will there be plenty of worthless money that people can spend into futility? Either way they will be broke.
The looming fear whose name political leaders dare not speak is global depression, but that is not what we’re in for. The term suggests a temporary sidetrack from the smooth operation of integrated advanced economies. We’re heading into something quite different, a permanent departure from the standard conception of economic progress, the one in which there is always sure to be more comfort and convenience for everybody, the economy of automatic goodies.
A big part of the automatic economy was the idea of a “job.” In its journey to the present moment, the idea became crusted with barnacles of illusion, especially that a “job” was a sort of commodity “produced” by large corporate enterprises or governments and rationally distributed like any other commodity; that it came with a goodie bag filled with guaranteed pensions, medical care to remediate bad living habits, vacations to places of programmed entertainment, a warm, well-lighted dwelling, and a big steel machine to travel around in. Now we witness with helpless despair as these illusions dissolve.
The situation at hand is not a “depression,” though it may resemble the experience of the 1930s in the early going. It’s the permanent re-set and reorganization of everyday life amidst a desperate scramble for resources. It will go on and on until there are far fewer people competing for things while the ones who endure construct new systems for daily living based on fewer resources used differently.
In North America I believe this re-set will involve the re-establishment of an economy centered on agriculture, with a lot of other activities supporting it, all done on a fine-grained local and regional scale. It must be impossible for many of us to imagine such an outcome – hence the futility of our current politics, with its hollow promises, its laughable battles over sexual behavior, its pitiful religious boasting, its empty statistical blather, all in the service of wishing the disintegrating past back into existence.
This desperation may be why our recently-acquired traditions seem especially automatic this holiday season. Of course the “consumers” line up outside the big box stores the day after the automatic Thanksgiving exercise in gluttony. That is what they’re supposed to do this time of year. That is what has been on the cable TV news shows in recent years: see the crowds cheerfully huddled in their sleeping bags outside the Wal Mart… see them trample each other in the moment the doors open!
The biggest news story of a weekend stuporous from leftover turkey and ceremonial football was a $6.6 billion increase in “Black Friday” chain-store sales. All the attention to the numbers was a form of primitive augury to reassure superstitious economists – more than the catatonic public – that the automatic cargo cult would be operating normally at this crucial testing time. The larger objective is to get through the ordeal of Christmas.
I don’t see how Europe gets through it financially. The jig is up there. Lovely as Europe has become since the debacles of the last century – all those adorable cities with their treasures of deliberately-created beauty – the system running it all is bankrupt. Europe is on financial death-watch and when the money stops flowing between its major organs, the banks, the whole region must either go dark or combust. Nobody really knows what will happen there, except they know that something will happen – and whatever it is portends disruption and loss for the worlds largest collective economy. The historical record is not reassuring.
If Europe’s banks go down, many of America’s will, too, maybe all of them, maybe our whole money system. I’m not sure that we will see a normal election cycle here in 2012. A few bank runs, bank failures… gasoline shortages here and there… the failure of some food deliveries to supermarkets in some region… these are the kinds of things that can bring down a political system drained of once-ironclad legitimacy. All that is left now is the husk of ritual – witness the failure of the senate-house “super-committee.” The wash-out was so broadly anticipated that it was greeted with mere yawns of recognition. It would be like pointing at the sky and saying, “air there.”
This holiday season spend a little time musing on what the re-set economy will be like in your part of the country. Think of what you do in it as a “role,” or a “vocation,” or a “trade,” or a “calling,” or a “way of life,” rather than a “job.” Imagine that life will surely go on, even civilized life, though it will be organized differently. Add to this the notion that you are part of a larger group, a society, and that societies evolve emergently according to the circumstances that their time and place presents. Let that imagining be your new American Dream.
by Charles Hugh Smith
from Of Two Minds
Posted November 14, 2011
Three metaphors describe Europe: drowning in debt, circular firing squad and trying to fool the money gods with an inept game of 3-card monte.
The world’s major economies are drowning in debt – Europe, the U.S., Japan, China. We all know the U.S. has tried to save its drowning economy by bailing out the parasite which is dragging it to Davy Jones Locker–the banking/financial sector– and by borrowing and squandering $6 trillion in new Federal debt and buying toxic debt with $2 trillion whisked into existence on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.
It has failed, of course, and the economy is once again slipping beneath the waves while Ben Bernanke and the politico lackeys join in a Keynesian-monetary cargo-cult chant: Humba-humba, bunga-bunga. Their hubris doesn’t allow them to confess their magic has failed, and rather than let their power be wrenched away, they will let the flailing U.S. economy drown.
Europe has managed to top this hubris-drenched cargo-cult policy – no mean feat. First, it has indebted itself to a breathtaking degree, on every level: sovereign, corporate and private:
Germany, the mighty engine which is supposed to pull the $16 trillion drowning European economy out of the water, is as indebted as the flailing U.S. Second, the euro’s handlers have already sunk staggering sums into hopelessly insolvent debtor nations, for example, Greece, which has 355 billion euros of outstanding sovereign debt and an economy with a GDP around 200 billion euros (though it’s contracting so rapidly nobody can even guess the actual size). According to BusinessWeek, the E.U. (European Union), the ECB (European Central Bank) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) own about $127 billion of this debt.
Since the ECB is not allowed to “print money,” the amount of cash available to buy depreciating bonds is limited. The handlers now own over 35% of the official debt (recall that doesn’t include corporate or private debt), which they grandly refuse to accept is now worth less than the purchase price. (The market price of Greek bonds has cratered by 42% just since July. Isn’t hubris a wonderful foundation for policy?)
In other words, they have not just put on concrete boots, they’ve laced them up and tied a big knot. We cannot possibly drown, they proclaim; we are too big, too heavy, too powerful. We refuse to accept that all these trillions of euros in debt are now worth a pittance of their face value.
When you’re drowning in debt, the only solution is to write off the debt and drain the pool. The problem is, of course, that all this impaired debt is somebody else’s asset, and that somebody is either rich and powerful or politically powerful, for example, a union pension fund.
Third, the euro’s handlers have set up a circular firing squad. Since the entire banking sector is insolvent, the handlers are demanding that banks raise capital. Since only the ECB is insane enough to put good money after bad, the banks cannot raise capital on the private market, so their only way to raise cash is to sell assets–such as rapidly depreciating sovereign-debt bonds.
This pushes the price of those bonds even lower, as supply (sellers) completely overwhelm demand from buyers (the unflinching ECB and its proxies).
This decline in bond prices further lowers the value of the banks’ assets, which means they need to raise more capital, which means they have to sell even more bonds.
Voila, a circular firing squad, where the “bulletproof” ECB is left as the only buyer who will hold depreciating bonds longer than a few hours, and all the participants gain by selling bonds before they fall any further. This is the classic positive feedback loop, where selling lowers the value of remaining assets and that drives further selling.
by Grant Williams
25 October 2011
With deference to European readers, I have removed (most of) the original baseball references. Please forgive, Grant!! – Aurick
“Everyone needs the ECB to step up to the plate. The ECB has no excuse not to act. In trying to keep its monetary virginity intact, the bank threatens to destroy the Euro Zone. If that happens, nobody will be able to profit from its virginity.”
– Paul de Grauwe
The total overall cap [of the ESM] is 500 billion Euros
160 billion Euros has been spent
340 billion Euros remains
340 billion Euros + zero Euros = 940 billion Euros“
– Mike Shedlock, on the latest European ‘Masterplan’ to merge the EFSF + ESM
“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine”
– Abraham Lincoln
Right now, the team comprising the ECB, EU and the various parliaments that make up that fractured and faltering alliance are sending, in baseball parlance, pitcher after pitcher to the mound (sometimes in groups of two or three) trying to combine for the perfect game that they NEED in order to escape the debt trap they have backed themselves into.
Being in a situation where you lose unless you can pull something off against odds of multiple-thousands to one and pitch a ‘perfect game’ is a ridiculous spot in which to find yourself, but as this month has rolled by, it has become ever-more apparent that that is precisely where the Brussels Eurocrats now find themselves. It appears as though, as the pressure has ratcheted up this week, we are now in the ninth inning.
Personally, my own belief (as regular readers are by now well aware) is that the very best the Eurocrats can hope for is to extend the game by an inning or two, but their arms are tired, their bullpen is empty and, at some point, we are going to see an absolute avalanche of runs scored against them as the whole thing finally topples under its own weight.
This past week has been nothing short of farcical as the tension has built towards a crescendo that seemed at first to be willfully engendered in order to generate just enough sense of impending crisis to enable a resolution to be forced through in a similar fashion to that which preceded Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke’s now-infamous closed-doors fright-fest (hyphenation alert!) that led to the passing of the TARP in late 2008.
Obviously, any and all capitulation towards outright bailouts (or ‘QEU’) must at least be seen to be against the will of the Germans and that proviso goes a long way towards explaining the raft of headlines that have flooded the Reuters and Bloomberg screens of investors all around the world this week. We have seen misdirection, scaremongering, u-turns and abject incompetence as well as the kinds of ‘leaks’ that are, frankly, laughable – the prime example being the ‘leaked’ draft copy of the Euro Summit statement which was printed, in its entirety, in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday – coincidentally at the precise moment when things were starting to come unglued as it became clear that this Sunday’s Summit would NOT produce the magic bullet required.
The statement itself is priceless. It begins with a bit of back-slapping for the passing of the EFSF (after no less than six months of wrangling and an eleventh-hour drama in Slovakia):
The strategy we have put into place encompasses determined efforts to ensure fiscal consolidation as well as growth, support to countries in difficulty, and a strengthening of euro area governance. At our 21 July meeting we took a set of major decisions. The ratification by all 17 Member States of the euro area of the measures related to the EFSF significantly strengthen our capacity to react to the crisis.
The agreement on a strong legislative package within the EU structures on better economic governance represents another major achievement. The euro continues to rest on solid fundamentals
It then moves on to more familiar ground; an agreement to display their strong determination to fix things. Nothing concrete, of course, but they sure as hell are determined:
The crisis is, however, far from over, as shown by the volatility of sovereign and corporate debt markets. Further action is needed to restore confidence. That is why today we agree on additional measures reflecting our strong determination to do whatever is required to overcome the present difficulties.
The rest of the text, should you want to read it, is here, but allow me to summarise it through a few select phrases that will save you the trouble of doing so:
“blah, blah, blah… All Member States are determined, blah, blah, blah… We want to reiterate our determination, blah, blah, blah… We reaffirm clearly our unequivocal commitment that, blah, blah, blah… All other euro area Member States solemnly reaffirm their inflexible determination, blah, blah, blah… The euro area Heads of State or Government fully support this determination, blah, blah, blah… All tools available will be used in an effective way to ensure financial stability in the euro area, blah, blah, blah… We fully support the ECB, blah, blah, blah… “
See. I told you they were determined.
But, buried deep in the draft are (amazingly enough) some specific measures that will surely help solve the crisis:
• There will be regular Euro Summit meetings bringing together the Heads of State or government (HoSG) of the euro area and the President of the Commission. These meetings will take place at least twice a year
• The President of the Euro Summit will be designated by the HoSG of the euro area at the same time the European Council elects its President
• The President of the Euro summit will keep the non euro area Member States closely informed of the preparation and outcome of the Summits
• As is presently the case, the Eurogroup will ensure ever closer coordination of the economic policies and promoting financial stability.
• The President of the Euro Summit will be consulted on the Eurogroup work plan and may invite the President of the Eurogroup to convene a meeting of the Eurogroup, notably to prepare Euro Summits or to follow up on its orientations
• Work at the preparatory level will continue to be carried out by the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG)
• The EWG will be chaired by a full-time Brussels-based President. He/she should preferably also chair the Economic and Financial Committee
…and my personal favourite:
• Clear rules and mechanisms will be set up to improve communication and ensure more consistent messages.
It’s at this point that the non-Europeans amongst you are possibly finally beginning to get the joke that anybody caught in the tractor beam of ineptitude that is ‘Europe’ (and by ‘Europe’ I mean the bureaucratic construct rather than the land mass) has understood for years.
THIS IS HOW EUROPEAN BUREAUCRACY WORKS, PEOPLE!!!!
Millions of Euros spent on days of‘talks’ to come up with solutions that fail to address any REAL problems.
Don’t believe me?
Article 47 of the Common Fisheries Policy will ensure that every fish caught by an angler is notified to Brussels so that it can be counted against that countries quota. If you go out for a day’s fishing and catch a couple of cod or mackerel you will now be required to notify the authorities or face a heavy fine.
There are EU regulations on the greenness of the person on the pedestrian crossing lights.
There are 3 separate EU directives on the loudness of lawnmowers.
Regulation (EC) 2257/94 – a great read, by the way – stated that bananas must be ‘free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers’. It also contained stipulations about ‘the grade, i.e. the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis’ …
And then there are cucumbers:
Under regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 cucumbers are only allowed a bend of 10mm for every 10cm of length.
Do you think any of those were drawn up in ten minutes on a single piece of paper?
No. (Actually, in fairness to Europe, they don’t have a monopoly on silly legislation: there IS a law in Alaska that makes it illegal to push a moose out of a moving aircraft.)
The Brussels bureaucracy has always been something of a laughing stock amongst the people of Europe – since long before the final creation of the EU, in fact. Way back in 1955, with a European union freshly on the drawing board ten years after the end of WWII, Russell Bretherton, an English Civil Servant was dispatched to Brussels to inform European ministers what Britain thought of plans for an ambitious new European treaty. Upon arrival, he had these words of wisdom for those assembled:
“Gentlemen, you’re trying to negotiate something you will never be able to negotiate. If negotiated, it will not be ratified. And if ratified, it will not work”
Three years later, the Treaty of Rome was signed, establishing the European Economic Community and from that day to this, the degree of meddling, interference and sheer bureaucracy has increased year after year until we find ourselves here.
Europe is broken and the people charged with trying to fix it are clearly not up to the job. There are way too many vested interests, too many national peccadillos and way too many good, old-fashioned egos in play for it to come down to anything but a last-ditch solution when they are forced into it – and that solution WILL be the printing of money in some shape or form which will help to magically inflate the debt away. The other alternatives are either just too painful (default/ forgiveness) or plain unworkable (growth).
A look at a selection of newsflashes that hit screens this week shows just how ridiculous things have become as everybody involved in trying to sort out the mess that is Europe attempts to get themselves in front of a microphone in order to let the world know just how important they are. Some of these appearances, it would seem, are stage-managed for maximum effect on markets – others are simply self-important politicians who just can’t bring themselves to utter the words “no comment”:
by Chris Martenson
Posted October 24, 2011
AROUND HERE, WE LIKE TO TRACK THINGS from the outside in, as the initial movements at the periphery tend to give us an early warning of when things might go wrong at the center. It is always the marginal country, weakest stock in a sector, or fringe population that gives us the early warning that trouble is afoot. For example, rising food stamp utilization and poverty levels in the US indicate that economic hardship is progressing from the lower socioeconomic levels up towards the center –that is, from the outside in.
That exact pattern is now playing out in Europe, although arguably the earliest trouble was detected with the severe weakness seen in the eastern European countries nearly two years ago.
Because of this tendency for trouble to begin at the periphery before spreading to the center, here at ChrisMartenson.com headquarters we spend a disproportionate amount of our time watching junk bonds instead of Treasurys, looking at weak sectors instead of strong ones, and generally spending our time at the edges trying to scout out where there are early signs of trouble that can give us a sense of what’s coming next. In this report, we explore the idea that Europe is the canary in the coal mine that tells us it is time to begin preparing for how the world might change if the contagion spreads all the way to US Treasurys (which is mathematically inevitable, in our view).
Why the US should care about Europe
At the very core of the global nuclear money reactor are US Treasurys and the dollar. If the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency wanes or even collapses, then the scope and pace of the likely disruptions will be enormous. Of course, we’ll be glad to have as much forewarning as possible.
Accordingly, it is my belief that if the contagion spreads from Greece to Portugal (or Italy or Spain), and then to the big banks of France and Germany in such a way that they fail, then rather than strengthening the dollar’s role (as nearly everyone expects), we should reserve some concern for the idea that the contagion will instead jump the pond and chew its way through the US financial superstructure.
While I am expecting an initial strengthening of the dollar in response to a euro decline, I believe this will only be a temporary condition.
The predicament is that the fiscal condition of the US is just as bad as anywhere, and we’d do well to ignore the idea, widely promulgated in the popular press, that the US is in relatively better shape than some other countries. ‘Relatively’ is a funny word. In this case, it’s kind of meaningless, as all the contestants in this horse race are likely destined for the glue factory, no matter how well they place.
While there are certain to be a lot of false starts and unpredictable twists and turns along the way, eventually the precarious fiscal situation of the US will reach a critical mass of recognition. Before that date, the US will be perceived as a bastion of financial safety, and afterwards everyone will wonder how anyone could have really held that view.
A good recent example of how swiftly sovereign fortunes can change: One day, everything was fine in Greece, which enjoyed paying interest rates on its national debt that were a few skinny basis points (hundredths of a percent) above Germany’s. A few short months later, Greece was paying over 150% interest on its one-year paper.
What I am asking is this: What happens when the same sweep of recognition visits the US Treasury markets? Is such a turn of events even possible or thinkable? Here’s one scenario:
How contagion will spread to the US
My belief is that someday, perhaps within a matter of months but more likely in a year or two, the US Treasury market will fall apart as certainly and as magnificently as did Greece’s. Here’s how that might happen:
by Anthony Wile
from The Daily Bell
Saturday, October 15, 2011
SLOVAKIA HAS NOW APPROVED THE EUROPEAN DEBT-CRISIS bailout fund, but the problems Europe is experiencing are similar to those faced by America in the grip of the Fed’s immense bailouts of the past two years. Increasingly, these are seen as morally repugnant by citizens throughout the West. And this has significant consequences that the mainstream press declines to report.
Dominant social themes work by omission as well as commission; in this column, I want to re-examine potential ramifications. I’ve done it before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Not enough commentators, even in the alternative media, point them out in my humble opinion.
Money continues to flood Western regimes and financial institutions with billions and billions that they don’t deserve and cannot properly apply. Perhaps there is no alternative but to “kick the can down the road.” On the other hand, perhaps the bailouts are part of a wider elite destabilization effort, one intended to generate chaos and misery that will pave the way for global governance and maybe a new world currency. This is the view of the more conspiratorially-minded among the alternative media.
For whatever reasons, the bailouts, against all logic, continue apace and are being increasingly resisted … not merely for their Draconian impacts but because people are using technology to become more informed. This bailout saga, therefore, has been unusual, not only for the incalculable wealth that’s been extended but also because it’s played out in front of millions.
The ramifications continue to be felt in my view. The push-back began in the US with TARP and then continued with revelation of US$16 trillion-plus (probably more) in short-term loans extended by the US Federal Reserve to financial institutions – not just in America but around the world.
Now US Congressman Ron Paul is conducting the Federal Reserve’s first “audit.” Ben Bernanke speaks, but his pronouncements have nowhere near the power or authority of his predecessor Alan Greenspan. Occupy Wall Street and alternative journo Alex Jones are both holding organized protests outside Fed buildings. In Southern Europe, protests and riots (Greece) rise wherever the EU and its bankers attempt to impose “austerity.”
The Internet has allowed people to see – finally – exactly what’s going on. Prior to the Internet, the controlled mainstream news would have explained in unison that the Fed “made massive adjustments to the global financial fabric to ensure that systemic collapse was mitigated …” or employed other nonsensical euphemisms. These sorts of non-explanations would have been repeated ad nauseum.
But in the era of the Internet, such gobbledygook has been effectively negated by literally millions of articles (and thousands of videos) explaining what central banking really is – monetary price fixing – and how central bankers “print money from nothing” to advantage their cronies at the expense of everyone else.
The system survived because it appeared so incomprehensible that it was beyond criticism. Not anymore. People around the world “get it” and the anger is breaching even the indolence of the political class. Eventually, if certain fundamental knowledge becomes widespread enough, the elites may have to take a “step back” as we have predicted they might. Resistance is spreading.
We can see this in Slovakia, where that Eastern European nation was the last holdout among euro-zone nations to approve the EU’s most recent sovereign bailout fund. On Tuesday, the parliament rejected the fund and brought down the government of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova. On Thursday, the parliament voted FOR it, but the point had been made.
Even parliamentary representatives, notoriously resistant to the public sentiment they are supposed to be accommodating, are now beginning to reflect the animosity of their constituents. The Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently captured this sentiment in a column entitled, “EU bailout is racket for financial elites.”
Twenty years ago, no mainstream paper in the world would have run such an article – even given today’s extreme stress and provocation. But times have changed. The financial system has come in for criticism the likes of which has not been seen (or heard) for decades. Here’s an excerpt from Evans-Pritchard’s article:
What the Slovak debate has shown us yet again – as if the political storm in Germany over the past two months has not been enough – is that escalating bailouts are nearing their political limits. The traumatic affair almost brought down the German government. It has in fact brought down the Slovak government. You can’t keep doing this. Democracies are not to be toyed with …
Slovakia’s cry of defiance has not been entirely pointless. Richard Sulik – the speaker of parliament – has caught a mood of popular disgust that goes far beyond his own country. His objections are unanswerable.
How can there be any justification for a state of affairs where a poor but rule-abiding EMU state must bail out a serial violator with twice the per capita income, and triple the level of the pensions – a country which is in any case irretrievably bankrupt? How can it be that the no-bail clause of the Lisbon Treaty has been ripped up?
But he also touched on the most neuralgic issue, reminding everybody that the EFSF is ‘mainly for saving foreign banks’. These are French, German, British, Dutch, and Belgian banks, of course … ‘I’d rather be a pariah in Brussels than have to feel ashamed before my children,’ Sulik said … Bravo.
“Bravo,” writes Evans-Pritchard, summing up the New Age’s defiance to establishment ways. We began to write about this back in August of 2009 when The Market Oracle’s Stewart Dougherty – a financial consultant – sent us a column entitled “The Metastasis of Moral Hazard and its Effect on Gold.” He wanted us to see what he’d written. Here’s an excerpt:
The colossal miscalculation made by Washington and Wall Street is that they could control the moral hazard genie once they removed it from the bottle. They believed they could use the genie to enrich themselves with trillions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer money, and then replace it in the bottle before its magic spell of immorality metastasized throughout society at large. They assumed that the people would be too stupid to see what was going on. And that even if the people did figure things out, they would willingly wear the thick, choking chains of debt being welded to their necks by the financial elite and its Washington enablers.
Instead, thanks to the Internet and the democracy of information and insight it affords, the people were instantly wise to what was happening, and it stirred them. The concept of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” harkens to the Bible. And perhaps Shylock was speaking for all of humanity when he said, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
We thought then, and believe now, that Dougherty wrote one of the decade’s most profound columns, capturing the MORAL dimension of the fraud of “bailouts” and the impact of their fundamental – even obscene – unfairness. We wrote about his column (you can see it here: Have the Immoral Actions of Central Bankers Precipitated the Decline of the West?) and commented:
Dougherty has written a REAL article of REAL observations about the end of Western civilization. Sheesh, … Spengler’s Decline of the West in three darn pages … He’s right, he has gotten the morality right. It’s not just the culture of the West, or its promotions, or even its social organization that is finished.
You CANNOT, as a society, witness a couple of guys pull a trillion out of their back pockets without feeling, well … snookered. And after feeling snookered, something else begins to percolate. “Hey,” you say, “wait a minute. I sit here with my debts and my job and my house in foreclosure and this guy – THIS GUY – throws around trillions? Wait a minute. WHEN DO I GET MINE!”
Now the rage spreads.
The Internet Reformation is a process, not an episode.