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Posts Tagged ‘hyperinflationary depression

Dear Ben, please print us more money

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by testosteronepit
Posted August 30, 2011 

DEAR BEN,
Please print us more money. We want you to prop up the stock market. Everybody knows it’s a Ponzi scheme that will collapse without your support. You don’t want us to end up like Bernie Madoff’s clients. No, Ben, we love Ponzi schemes. We get in early and get out before they collapse. That’s why we’re rich. The bad thing is that they sometimes collapse before we can get out. But you already bailed us out twice in the last couple of years through printing trillions of dollars. Why not a third time?

That will also keep the bond-market bubble inflated. We have to admit that you’ve done an excellent job there, hands down. Negative real yields all the way up the yield curve! Awesome. Now if you could just print a few trillions and buy up the sovereigns from the PIIGS. Euro crisis over. End of story. And we’d get richer because we’d sell them to you at face value though we bought them at fifty cents on the dollar.

And why not forever? Just keep printing. Because as soon as you stop, stock markets will crash again, and credit markets will seize, and then we’re back on this awful ride to hell.

Of course, it’ll cause inflation, which is good. You yourself said that. You stated many times that you want inflation. In fact, you said that one of the goals of the Fed, after propping up the markets, is to create inflation. So stick to it, Ben. Don’t slack off suddenly just because some cowboy threatened you.

Inflation, in conjunction with your near-zero yields, has all sorts of benefits. For example, it will eat up the Social Security trust fund, whose $2 trillion balance is invested in treasuries. Fixed-income investors, retirees, and everybody who has any savings will also be demolished. And homeowners. But don’t worry. They won’t figure it out. They don’t get a statement every month that shows how much inflation cost them. It’s a quiet way of stealing from them, and it’ll impoverish them over time, but it’ll make us, the recipients of the money you print, richer.

You see, Ben, we can charge higher prices for our goods and services. And even if we have to pay more for raw materials, we look good. Our inventories increase in value, and we can claim sales jumped 10% because we raised prices by 10%. Analysts dig that.

Recently, Ben, you’ve done a decent job on inflation. In July, we were running at an annual rate of 6%. Not bad. But you need to preempt any cooling off. So keep printing.

Now, we’re not talking about wage inflation. Oh no. We have to keep wages down. We need cheap labor, or else we’d have to send these jobs to China—which we’re doing anyway. And not just to assemble iPhones. Heck, our lawyers in India are doing the same work as our local lawyers for one-tenth the pay. So, if our local lawyers want to be competitive…. Just think how much more profit we could make if wages collapsed!

Real wages have been declining for ten years and fell another 1.7% since July 2010. But that’s not enough. So get with it, Ben. Print more. And don’t worry about the wusses out there who say that choking the middle class like that will put us into a permanent recession. Just get the banks to loan them lots of money so they can buy our stuff, and when the loans blow up, you buy them from the banks at face value. Full circle, Ben.

The trillions you’ve printed and handed to us, well, we put them to work, and we created jobs in China and Mexico and Germany, and we bought assets, and it inflated prices, and now we’re even richer. We’re proud of you, Ben. Think of the influence you have. And not just here. Around the world, Ben! Look at the Middle East and North Africa. See the food riots, rebellions, and civil wars it caused? Thousands of people died and entire governments were toppled…. Oh, wait. That’s a bad example.

And then there is Congress. We invested in them through campaign contributions and other mechanisms to get them to spend trillions of dollars every year on our products and services, and they even started a few wars, and it made us richer—without taxing our companies or us. It’s a wonderful system.

But the deficits have become so huge that they exceed what the Treasury can borrow. So we’re glad, Ben, that you stepped up to the plate and printed enough money to monetize the deficit. But Ben, you can’t just stop now! You’ve got to keep at it. Or else, the whole system will blow up. Well, it’ll blow up anyway, but we don’t want it to blow up now. So, Ben, you don’t have a choice. Otherwise, we’d lose a lot of money in our schemes, and nobody wants that.

“The Sequel”: How 2011 is a repeat of 2008—only bigger, longer, and uncut by bailouts

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by Gonzalo Lira
Posted  August 15, 2011

I MIGHT HAVE MISSED IT, BUT I DON’T THINK ANYONE HAS NOTICED THIS SIMPLE TRUISM:

The structural causes that led to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 are identical to the structural causes that are leading us to another systemic financial crisis in 2011. And of course, the debt hole in 2011 is bigger than in 2008—a lot bigger. The only difference is the kind of debt at the core of the looming crisis: Mortgage-backed securities in 2008, as opposed to European sovereign debt in 2011.

That’s why I am confident in predicting we are about to have another Global Financial Crisis—I’m calling it The Sequel: Same movie, same players, same story. Only this time around—like all good sequels—the financial crisis we are about to experience is going to be bigger, longer, and uncut by bailouts.

By the way, that is the key difference between 2008 and 2011: We’re not going to have a Hollywood Ending this time around. The governments of Europe and the United States, as well as their respective central banks, do not have any weapons to fight off this 2011 financial crisis, as they did in 2008, for the simple reason that they used them all up—they’re out of bullets, both monetarily and politically.

So when The Sequel hits the big screen, there won’t be a Big Daddy Government deus ex machina to come save the day in the third act twist. When The Sequel hits, we’re on our own.

Let’s discuss the structural similarities between the original and The Sequel:

In both 2008 and now 2011, you had unpayable debts at the center of a fragile financial system. In 2008, it was mortgage backed securities and collateralized debt obligations—the so-called “toxic assets”. I think we all know that story pretty well.

In 2011, we have European sovereign debt. And just like the toxic assets of 2008, the Euro-bonds might have been rated AAA, but they certainly aren’t blue-chip—they are more like brown-chip: That deep brown color peculiar to fast-sinking dog-turds.

In both 2008 and 2011, these unpayable debts—emitted over many years, accumulating silently and asymptomatically like plaque in the arteries—gave a false sense of prosperity in the years leading up to the respective crises.

In the lead up to 2008, the MBS’s and CDO’s gave the American homeowner a sense that their house was their personal private ATM sitting on their quarter-acre suburban lot. They also were a profit spigot for the financial sector, which bouyed the U.S. GDP growth, leading to a false sense of national prosperity, even as there were signs that the non-financial sector of the economy was diving.

In the lead up to 2011, on the other hand, the sovereign debt of the eurozone countries gave the European citizens a sense that they could afford to buy all the imported goods they could ever want, as well as the sense that their government could afford to pay for all the social welfare programs they were all promised—without having to pay for any of this by way of higher taxes. Hell, that was the entire Labour governments’ platform between 1997 and 2010: Blair and Brown gave the UK a welfare state and low taxes—all paid for with sovereign debt.

In both 2008 and 2011, you have banks exposed to these bad debts both directly and indirectly—and this exposure in 2011 threatens to topple the entire financial structure, just as it almost did in 2008.

In 2008, the financial institutions with direct exposure to the toxic assets—that is, the institutions that actually owned these crap bonds that would never be paid in full—were mostly American banks. Their capitalization depended on how pristine these toxic assets were. As it became increasingly clear that the toxic assets were exactly that—toxic—the banks holding this crap found themselves not only without the capitalization to pass regulatory muster, but in fact found themselves functionally insolvent—hence the suspension of FASB 157, coupled with the injection of $150 billion worth of capital by way of TARP.

In 2011, the financial institutions with direct exposure to toxic assets—in this case, the European sovereign bonds, especially from the PIIGS—are once again banks, this time around mostly European banks: UniCredit, Société Générale, Dexia.

Like 2008, these assets might be rated triple-A, but they’re dog-turds—and they threaten these banks with insolvency, if any of them default. A bankruptcy of any of the aforementioned European banks would have massive consequences for the rest of the global financial construct—it would not be a Europe-only problem, just as the bankruptcy of Lehman was most definitely not an America-only catastrophe.

And that’s just the direct exposure to the 2011 version of toxic assets.

The real danger in 2011 is the indirect exposure – that is, the liabilities that are triggered in the case of a debt default: Just like 2008.

In 2008, it was AIG and other assorted credit default swap sellers that got hit bad, when the toxic assets began to default—we all remember how the very ground we trod rocked as AIG stumbled and everybody had a collective nuclear-meltdown freak-out.

In 2011—you guessed it—it’s worse: We have Bank of America for sure has massive exposure to derivatives on European sovereign and debt, as well as . . . God knows what else.

Why do I say “God knows what else”? Because just like in 2008, the derivatives market is so opaque—not to say hermetic—that we are not going to know who’s going to go bust until it actually happens. In 2008, Hank Paulson and the Treasury Department didn’t find out about the AIG hole until the weekend before the company would go bust. Today, in 2011—even with the experience of how potentially deadly ignorance of the derivatives markets can be—there are no mechanisms in place to swiftly and accurately tally who has derivatives exposure to any particular bond or asset.

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A thousand pictures is worth one word

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by Jeff Clark, Big Gold
Posted July 15, 2011

IN SPITE OF CONSTANT HEADLINES ABOUT DEBTS AND DEFICITS, most Americans don’t really believe the U.S. dollar will collapse. From knowledgeable investors who study the markets to those seemingly too busy to worry about such things, most dismiss the idea of the dollar actually going to zero.

History has a message for us: No fiat currency has lasted forever. Eventually, they all fail.

BMG BullionBars recently published a poster featuring pictures of numerous currencies that have gone bust. Some got there quickly, while others took a century or more. Regardless of how long it took, though, the seductive temptations allowed under a fiat monetary system eventually caught up with these governments, and their currencies went poof!

As you scroll through the 23 banknotes (fiat currencies) below, you’ll see some long-ago casualties. What’s shocking, though, is how many have occurred in our lifetime. You might count how many currencies have failed since you’ve been born. You might suspect this happened only to third world countries. You’d be wrong. There was no discrimination as to the size or perceived stability of a nation’s economy; if the leaders abused their currency, the country paid the price.

So what’s the one word for the “thousand pictures” below? Worthless.

Yugoslavia – 10 billion dinar, 1993

Zaire – 5 million zaires, 1992

Venezuela – 10,000 bolívares, 2002

Ukraine – 10,000 karbovantsiv, 1995

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Welcome to hyperinflation hell: Following currency devaluation, Belarus economy implodes, sets blueprint for developed world future

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by Tyler Durden
Posted Zero Hedge, May 25, 2011

A ‘91-STYLE MELTDOWN IS ALMOST INEVITABLE.” So says Alexei Moiseev, chief economist at VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia’s second-largest lender, discussing the imminent economic catastrophe that is sure to engulf Belarus following the surprise devaluation of the country’s currency by over 50%. “Unless Belarus heeds Russia’s call for mass privatization of state assets, it is headed for “hyperinflation, massive un- and under-employment, and a shutdown of production” Moiseev concludes.

Ah: “privatization” as Greece is about to learn, the lovely word that describes a fire sale of assets to one’s creditors, courtesy of a “globalized” new world order. Ironically, this is precisely the warning that will be lobbed at each country in the developed world, as the global race to devalue currencies, first against each other on a relative basis, and ultimately against hard currencies, or on an absolute basis, as the world realizes that there simply is not enough cash flow to cover the interest payments on a debt load, in both the public and private sectors, that continues to rise at an astronomic rate, even as the world prepares to exit from the latest transitory, centrally-planned bounce in the Great Financial Crisis-cum-Depression that started in earnest in 2007 and has been progressing ever since.

Ultimately, Belarus will succumb to hyperinflation, as will each and every other government seeking to devalue its currency (hint: all of them): “Unless Belarus heeds Russia’s call for mass privatization of state assets, it is headed for “hyperinflation, massive un- and under-employment, and a shutdown of production,” VTB’s Moiseev said. The ruble will slide to 10,000 per dollar, he added.” Of course, this is the primary side effect of attempting to avoid formal bankruptcy through currency devaluation. And all those who continue to believe deflation is an outcome that will be allowed by the Fed, need to look just to the former Soviet satellite to see what lies in store for everyone currently doing all in their power to devalue their currency.

First look at the Belarus Ruble chart below: this is what always happens to every country that resolutely continues to live outside its means. Always.

And here are some additional observations from Bloomberg on the country that everyone in the media continues to ignore, yet which will very soon be the model for virtually everyone else engaging in central planning warfare.

The Belarusian central bank let the managed ruble weaken by 36 percent versus the dollar on May 24 as demand for dollars and euros from importers and households threatened to derail an economy already laboring under a current-account deficit equal to 16 percent of gross domestic product. Russia and other former Soviet partners last week agreed to give Belarus a $3 billion loan and urged President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government to sell $7.5 billion of assets to replenish the state’s coffers.

Finance ministers from former Soviet nations agreed in Minsk on May 19 to give Belarus up to $3.5 billion over three years, with the first $800 million payment expected in the week after a separate meeting on June 4, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in Moscow yesterday. The Nationalnyi Bank Respubliki Belarus set its official dollar-ruble rate at 4,931 for today’s trading, from 3,155 on May 23, according to its web site. Trading of foreign currency between companies, banks and individuals needs to stay within a 2 percent range of the daily rate, the regulator said May 23, when it announced the devaluation and reintroduced restrictions lifted on the interbank market on April 19 and for households on May 11.

Devaluing the currency will only worsen the situation for Belarus, VTB’s Moiseev said.

“The main problem is that the economy produces goods which consist of little else than a combination of imported spare parts,” he said. “So devaluation only makes things worse.” Belarus’s economy effectively collapsed in 1991 as the disintegration of the Soviet Union eliminated natural markets for the country’s exports of farm machinery, textiles and agricultural products. The catalyst for the country’s imploding economy: socialism and price controls. Sound familiar?

Lukashenko reintroduced controls on prices and the currency and re-nationalized some companies and infrastructure after coming to power in July, 1994, on a platform of “market socialism.” The nation’s economy returned to growth in 1996, according to World Bank data.

At the Minsk Refrigerator Plant Co. shop in the capital today, about 20 people queued in drizzling rain to use their rubles to buy fridges. While the shop didn’t open on the day of the devaluation, most of the models in the store already had ‘Sold Out’ stickers on their doors. “I came on Saturday and it was a nightmare, the store was stormed by people who wanted to spend their rubles because of rumors about the devaluation,” said Nikolay, a 74-year-old pensioner who declined to provide his last name. His entire savings of 6 million rubles now buy one fridge compared with three before the devaluation, he said.

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Fifty things every American should know about the collapse of the Economy

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by Michael Snyder at Economic Collapse
Posted originally May 18, 2011

RIGHT NOW WE ARE WITNESSING A TRULY HISTORIC COLLAPSE OF THE ECONOMY, AND YET MOST AMERICANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND what is going on. One of the biggest reasons why the American people do not understand what is happening to the economy is because our politicians and the mainstream media are not telling the truth.

Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke keep repeating the phrase “economic recovery” over and over, and this is really confusing for most Americans because things sure don’t seem to be getting much better where they live.

There are millions upon millions of Americans that are sitting at home on their couches right now wondering why they lost their jobs and why nobody will hire them.  Millions of others are wondering why the only jobs they can get are jobs that a high school student could do.  Families all across America are wondering why it seems like their wages never go up but the price of food and the price of gas continue to skyrocket.  We are facing some very serious long-term economic problems in this country, and we need to educate the American people about why the collapse of the economy is happening.

If the American people don’t understand why they are losing their jobs, why they are losing their homes and why they are drowning in debt then they are going to keep on doing all of the same things that they have been doing.  They will also keep sending the same idiot politicians back to Washington to represent us.  There are some fundamental things about the economy that every American should know.

The American people need to be shocked out of their entertainment-induced stupor long enough to understand what is really going on and what needs to be done to solve our nightmarish economic problems. If we do not wake up enough Americans in time, the economic collapse that is coming could tear this nation to shreds.

The U.S. economy was once the greatest economic machine in modern world history. It was truly a wonder to behold. It worked so well that entire generations of Americans came to believe that America would enjoy boundless prosperity indefinitely.

But sadly, prosperity is not guaranteed for any nation. Over the past several decades, some very alarming long-term economic trends have developed that are absolutely destroying the economy. If dramatic changes are not made soon, a complete and total economic collapse will be unavoidable.

Unfortunately, the American people will never agree to fundamental changes to our economic and financial systems unless they are fully educated about what is causing our problems. We have turned our backs on the principles of our forefathers and the principles of those that founded this nation. We have rejected the ancient wisdom that was handed down to us.

It has been said that those that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. We are about to experience the consequences of decades of really bad decisions. Hopefully we can get the American people to wake up. The following are fifty things that every American should know about the collapse of the economy….

#1 Do you remember how much was made of the “Misery Index” during the presidency of Jimmy Carter?  At that time, the “Misery Index” was constantly making headlines in newspapers all across the country. Well, according to John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics, if we calculated unemployment and inflation the same way that we did back during the Carter administration, then the Misery Index today would actually be higher than at any point during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.

#2 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of about 5 million Americans were being hired every single month during 2006. Today, an average of about 3.5 million Americans are being hired every single month.

#3 According to the Wall Street Journal, there are 5.5 million Americans that are currently unemployed and yet are not receiving unemployment benefits.

#4 All over America, state and local governments are selling off buildings just to pay the bills.  Investors can now buy up government-owned power plants, prisons and municipal buildings from coast to coast.  For example, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey recently sold off 16 government buildings (including the police and fire headquarters) just to pay some bills.

#5 When Americans think of “government debt”, most of them only think of the federal government, but it is not just the federal government that has a massive debt problem.  State and local government debt has reached an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP.

#6 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

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Austerity and Critical Mass

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from Ancient America
Posted May 17, 2011

Some say that QE3 won’t happen. The U.S. is done with stimulus and force-feeding liquidity and inflation down the world’s throat. Okay, it’s austerity then. How much austerity does anyone think we’re going to have here in America? What is the critical mass and when will we reach it? How much inflation can our creditors handle before they reach their critical mass and have to allow rates to rise? Paradoxically enough, the real question has become ‘can we afford austerity’? I believe the answer is ‘not anymore’. Due to relatively recent events, austerity has become a mathematical impossibility.

QUANTITATIVE EASING IS NOT TECHNICALLY “MONEY PRINTING”. However, it did accomplish scaring everyone out of dollars and into “riskier” assets. So, while we didn’t print much, emerging economies certainly did as people ran screaming from the U.S. dollar. The result of which has been rampant inflation all over the developing world and near parabolic gains in commodities and equities. We’re left now with a dangerously deflating economy here in America while our creditors are heavily overheated. Not many people have much confidence in what QE or stimulus have accomplished. Our banks have fresh new reserves they can’t and won’t lend while our employment picture remains increasingly grotesque.

With QE2 ending, negative real interest rates and emerging markets unable to afford more inflation, how does the future look for U.S. government bonds? When rates rise, what of the outlook for equities and for the economy as a whole? If the economy stalls and people want to hold onto their precious cash, business will suffer and who will fund our local, state and federal governments? If our government programs can’t function, and people start to worry about their grandmothers, their pensions and their grandmothers pension, what will happen? Austerity? Not over our Masters of Debt’s (MOD’S) dead bodies! But when will we reach critical mass?

Why will congress and the fed absolutely intervene? When you figure it out, it seems almost comical to have ever believed otherwise. Simply put, that’s their nature. Nowadays, it’s what they are designed to do. Given current events, they truly have no choice whatsoever. Did Volcker raise rates way back when? Yes. Are they sort of attempting austerity all over the world? Well, kinda. But that’s not what’s  happening here and now. It won’t happen…not for long. Tightening might come from the emerging markets, but not from us. Just as credit card addicts rarely cut themselves off, we’d sooner end this easy money regime as collectively give up cheap oil. In severe debt situations,  the creditors usually do the tightening, not the debtors. What environment will that conflict produce? When congress and the fed stimulate, ease and shuffle around assets and liabilities in a compounding vortex of fear and arrogance, how will our creditors react when they don’t have a choice anymore?

The first point of critical mass will be when the austerity is no longer tolerable for the government. The second is when emerging markets are forced to let their currencies appreciate. The critical question is whether this can occur in an orderly fashion or not? I think not. Our economy is so over-leveraged that austerity simply isn’t an option. There was a tipping point where the cost of providing tolerable austerity became too expensive for the world to afford. That is the main concept to understand. The bizarre fact is that we couldn’t financially achieve a hard money stance if we tried. Unfortunately, this is a somewhat recent development.

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Failure: don’t despair, it’s the new Normal

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by Charles Hugh Smith
from Of Two Minds
Posted originally on May 4, 2011

As our institutions fail, they will take down many individuals with them. Don’t despair: the failure is systemic, not personal.

As the U.S. economy fails on a systemic level, it is pushing individuals into a deep sense of failure. Feelings that one has failed one’s family and oneself can feed a despair profound enough to trigger thoughts of suicide, and for many vulnerable people, thoughts lead to action. In a terrible irony, those who do take their own lives are often those with the highest sense of responsibility and highest personal standards; their sense of failure is crushing in ways that less responsible, more laissez-faire people cannot imagine. The systemic failure of the U.S. economy is pushing many to the brink of despair, as they interpret their own financial failures as personal rather than as the result of a system-wide decline stretching back decades. The need to explain this systemic failure is part of what drives me to write this blog day after day, month after month, year after year–to help people understand the roots of our national and global failings.

Despite these multiple systemic failures, I am an optimist, and I wrote Survival+ to not only illuminate the roots of our institutional failures but to lay out guidelines for bypassing those institutions as they devolve and collapse.

I have addressed this many times, for example:
The Next Golden Age, Part I (July 28, 2010)
The Next Golden Age, Part II (July 28, 2010)

The Central State (Federal government) and the Federal Reserve are both failing institutions. Their policies, assumptions and mindsets have only one end-state: devolution and collapse. After the old institutions have imploded, some new sustainable, honorable version may arise; this is possible but not guaranteed. Nobody knows the future, and life is contingent.

Institutions are like organisms: they have a life-cycle and exist in a wider ecology. Our current institutions are in the Failing Stage of their lifecycle, where simulacra “reforms” and facsimiles of “change” are presented in lieu of true systemic refomation.

This strategy is based in the institution’s politics of experience: real transformation would require their constituencies to lose some measure of income, power and perquisites, and since every fiefdom within the institution will deploy all its formidable resources to self-preservation, then real reform is rendered impossible.

I have addressed this numerous times over the past five years, for example:

What’s Different Now (July 12, 2007)

Complexity: Bureaucratic (Death Spiral) and Self-Organizing (Sustainable) (February 17, 2011)

The Lifecycle of Bureaucracy (December 2, 2010)

The basic mechanism of this expansion and fatal resistance to reform/change is “the ratchet effect“: expansions of staff, reach, power and revenues are frictionless and exciting–the cog wheel of bureaucracy advances easily. But when the institution expands beyond its carrying capacity, beyond the efficiencies reaped from advancing complexity and scale, i.e. to mission creep, bloat and sclerosis, then any reduction in staffing, reach, power and revenues are resisted with iron fortitude and the desperation of an organism fighting for its life.

I prepared this chart to illustrate the life-cycle of bureaucracy:

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