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David Galland: The System is coming unglued

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by David Galland
from Casey Research
Posted September 9, 2011

Our video host Stefan Molyneux speaks with Casey Research Managing Director David Galland about the debt situation in the US and whether the federal government can do anything about it… assuming they’d even want to.

TRANSCRIPT

Stefan: Hi everybody, it’s Stefan Molyneux, host of Conversations with Casey. I have on the line David Galland. Thank you so much, David, for taking the time to chat today.

David: Nice to be here.

Stefan: So, we are seven-tenths of the way towards fascism in the United States. I wonder if you could expand upon that. I sort of get a sense that that’s probably true, but you have a little bit more than my gut instinct – you actually have some pretty professional opinions to work with on that.

David: Well, all the elements for fascism are in place. We have a monetary system that is accountable to no one and that’s a very good start. If you think about it, the way that the monetary system is structured, the government at this point can literally spend money on anything. They talk about capping the federal deficits and all that, but they’ll get past that in no time at all. Probably by the time the viewers are watching this they will have announced a big deal, you know, that they have raised the debt cap. And you know, once you have – if you pin your money to nothing, if you have a monetary system that is based on nothing, then you can afford anything. You can afford all the wars you want, you can afford all the bureaucracy you want; and so they have. That’s a first step.

I mean, we’ve – just as an example, here in the little town in New England where Casey Research is located, they have a – they’ve just finished building a massive new Homeland Security center. This is a town of roughly 4,000 permanent residents; it’s a tourist town. It’s the kind of place where the worst crime you’ll ever see is somebody stealing skis from a ski slope, and yet we have something like 36 policemen. We’ve got this huge, brand-new Homeland Security center. Why? Well, because after 9/11 and the overreaction of 9/11 the government made this money available because it could make the money available, because there is nothing stopping it from doing that. And there’s all these local police departments, which should have an “Andy of Mayberry” type police force, took the money and they spent it, and now we’ve got a semi-militarized local operation. So this has gone on and this is multiplied right across the country… and the world.

Stefan: And of course, the decisions that people make in expanding the public sector have immediate implications in payroll, but I think what America is really facing are the long term implications of unfunded pensions that just run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s a lot of the stuff that is not really counted in the public calculation of the debt, which is more immediate obligations, but the unfunded liabilities run $75 to $100 trillion according to many estimates. That’s not something that you see, which makes the whole conversation about should we have two trillion here or there ridiculous to anybody in the know.

David: Oh, absolutely. Again, on the point about whether we’re sort of on the way to a fascist state – and I – this isn’t just the US – it’s important that, you know, people understand this is all over the world. At this point, none of these governments is operating on anything that remotely resembles sound principles. They’re operating on a number of different priorities and a number of different interests – self-interests, because politicians after all are just people. So whatever it takes to kick the can down the road, they’re going to do. You mentioned $75 trillion in unfunded liabilities, absolutely. Because at this point, this is essentially sort of a rising tide of bureaucracy over the last hundred years that is cresting at this point. And they have done this because there are no real operating principles other than buying the votes that they need to get re-elected and to stay in office for as long as they can, and then they pass the baton to the next bureaucrat and the system continues. But it’s reaching the point where, I think, within a relatively short period of time it’s got to come to an end.

Stefan: Now you’ve written an article recently which I found very interesting – I just shared it through my Facebook as well – it’s called The Greater Depression. So you have the Great Depression and now we’re looking at the Greater Depression. I wonder if you could talk about the mechanics and the future as you see it as we go into this abyss.

David: Ultimately, what we’re faced with right now and this is, I think, just some fundamental principles – because there are so many aspects of what’s going on in the economy today that it makes it for most people – for virtually all people – it makes it very hard to really understand what’s going on. So sometimes you just have to sort of step back and ask a few questions to try to get some sort of a compass, if you will. And first and foremost the crisis we’re in right now is caused by debt, too much debt. As you mentioned before $75 trillion in government obligations – everybody knows that money is never going to get paid. So we’ve been brought to this point of extreme government borrowing. Who would have thought we’d see $1.5-trillion deficits? I mean, nobody – five, six years ago if you would have asked anybody on this planet if the US government could run a $1.5-trillion deficit they would have said no way. Well, here we are. So all of the conditions of what this – you can call it a debt-induced depression, all of the conditions that sort of brought us to this place have not improved since the beginning of this crisis; they’ve only gotten worse.

So what’s the ultimate outcome of this? Well, what’s the one thing that a heavily indebted person or an entity like the government can’t handle? And it’s rising interest rates. You can’t afford for the bank to bump your payments up to, you know, 20% because you’ve missed a payment. Well, the same thing’s true of the government and we are now – we are still – the US interest rates are still bouncing around, you know, all-time lows. It’s completely – it’s a complete aberration. And it can’t last. So why things are going to get worse is because interest rates have to go up. Even if they return to sort of a more normal five to six percent range, from a historical standpoint it would be devastating to the US economy. So the government is doing everything it can to try to get out of this trouble but there really is no way. They have very limited impact on long-term interest rates and if it wasn’t for the fact that Europe was such a basket case and that Japan was such a basket case right now, interest rates in the US would already be taking off but I don’t think we’re going to have to wait long for that and then things are going to get interesting.

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Keynesian solutions: after total failure, try, try again

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by Jim Quinn
The Burning Platform
Posted August 23, 2011

“LENIN IS SAID TO HAVE DECLARED THAT THE BEST WAY TO DESTROY THE CAPITALIST SYSTEM was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.” – John Maynard Keynes – The Economic Consequences of the Peace

While Barack Obama vacations on Martha’s Vineyard this week he’ll be thinking about his grand vision to save America – again. There is one thing you can say about Obama – he’s predictable. He promises to unveil his “new” plan for America in early September. The White House said Obama will give a speech after the September 5 Labor Day holiday to outline measures to boost hiring and find budget savings that surpass the $1.5 trillion goal of a new congressional deficit-cutting committee. It is heartening to see that Barack has turned into a cost cutter extraordinaire. He should be an inspiration to the Tea Party, except for one little problem. The plan he unveils in a few weeks will increase spending now and fret about spending cuts at some future unspecified date.

I can reveal his plan today because the White House has already leaked the major aspects of his plan. He will call for an extension of the Social Security payroll tax cut of 2% for all working Americans. This was supposed to give a dramatic boost to GDP in 2011. Maybe it will work next time. He will demand that extended unemployment benefits be renewed. Somehow providing 99 weeks of unemployment benefits is supposed to create jobs. It’s done wonders thus far. He will propose some semblance of an infrastructure bank or tax cuts to spur infrastructure spending. It will include a proposal for training and education to help unemployed people switch careers. He will attempt to steal the thunder from the SUPER COMMITTEE of twelve by coming up with $2 trillion of budget savings by insisting the Lear jet flying rich fork over an extra $500 billion.

You may have noticed that followers of Keynesian dogma like Paul Krugman, Larry Summers, Brad Delong, Richard Koo, John Galbraith, every Democrat in Congress, and every liberal pundit and columnist have been shrieking about the Tea Party terrorists and their ghastly budget cuts that are destroying our economy. They contend the stock market is tanking and the economy is heading into recession due to the brutal austerity measures being imposed by the extremists in the Republican Party. There is just one small issue with their argument. It is completely false. It is a bold faced lie. This is 2011. The economy has been in freefall since January 1. No spending cuts have occurred. Nada!!! As the CBO chart below reveals, the horrendous slashing of government will amount to $21 billion in 2012 and $42 billion in 2013. Of course, those aren’t even cuts in spending. They are reductions in the projected increases in spending. Politicians must be very secure in the knowledge that Americans are completely ignorant when it comes to anything other than the details of Kim Kardashian’s wedding and who Snooki is banging on Jersey Shore.

I’d like to remind the Harvard educated Keynesian economists that Federal government spending is currently chiming in at $3.8 trillion per year. Federal spending was $2.7 trillion in 2007 and $3.0 trillion in 2008. Keynesians believe government spending fills the gap when private companies are contracting. Obama has taken Keynesianism to a new level. Federal spending will total $10.8 trillion in Obama’s first three years, versus $8.4 trillion in the previous three years. Even a Harvard economist can figure out this is a 29% increase in Federal spending. What has it accomplished? We are back in recession, unemployment is rising, forty six million Americans are on food stamps, food and energy prices are soaring, and the middle class is being annihilated. The standard Keynesian response is we would have lost 3 million more jobs, we were saved from a 2nd Great Depression and the stimulus was too little. It would have worked if it had just been twice as large.

The 2nd Great Depression was not avoided, it was delayed. Our two decade long delusional credit boom could have been voluntarily abandoned in 2008. The banks at fault could have been liquidated in an orderly bankruptcy with stockholders and bondholders accepting the consequences of their foolishness. Unemployment would have soared to 12%, GDP would have collapsed, and the stock market would have fallen to 5,000. The bad debt would have been flushed from the system. Instead our Wall Street beholden leaders chose to save their banker friends, cover-up the bad debt, shift private debt to taxpayer debt, print trillions of new dollars in an effort to inflate away the debt, and implemented every wacky Keynesian stimulus idea Larry Summers could dream up.  These strokes of genius have failed miserably. Bernanke, Paulson, Geithner and Obama have set in motion a series of events that will ultimately lead to a catastrophic currency collapse. We have entered the second phase of the Greater Depression and there are no monetary or fiscal bullets left in the gun. Further expansion of debt will lead to a hyperinflationary collapse as the remaining confidence in the U.S. dollar is exhausted. We are one failed Treasury auction away from a currency crisis.

John Maynard Keynes argued the solution to the Great Depression was to stimulate the economy through some combination of two approaches: a reduction in interest rates and government investment in infrastructure. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth. The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment.

It sounds so good in theory, but it didn’t work in the Depression and it hasn’t worked today. It is a doctrine taught in every business school in America with no actual results to support it. Who needs facts and actual results when a good story believed and perpetuated by non-thinking pundits will do? Every Keynesian play in the playbook has been used since 2008. The American people were told by Obama and his Keynesian trained advisors that if we implemented his $862 billion shovel ready stimulus package, unemployment would peak at 7.9% and would decline to 6.5% by today. The cascade of recovery was going to be jump started by a stimulus package that equaled 27% of the previous year’s entire spending. Obama’s complete package was implemented. The outcome was an eye opener.

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It’s the unfunded wars and the financial fraud, and the unwillingness to reform

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from Jesse’s Café Américain
Posted August 7, 2011

YES, THE US HAS SOME VERY REAL LONG-TERM ISSUES WITH SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. Social Security is being strangled by the refusal to raise the income limit on the Social Security withholding tax in response to the gradual creep of inflation. If this limit was raised periodically the Social Security ‘problem’ would be resolved. 

Medicare and in particular the drug portions of the program added by the Bush II administration are driving costs much higher. And this is more of a problem because of the structural cost problems in US healthcare system. Big Pharma in the US is a powerful lobbying force, and Americans pay MUCH higher costs per benefit for their health care services.  This is inhibiting the steps that are needed to restructure the US healthcare system.

But Social Security and Medicare, without the drug program, have not substantially changed since the 1990’s, when the US was running a budget surplus, and then Fed Chairman Greenspan was reassuring the public that the Fed had a plan to deal with the lack of debt.

So what changed?

The repeal of Glass-Steagall and the growth of unregulated financial products, the co-opting of the regulatory agencies, the growth of corporate influence in Washington, and two unfunded and very costly wars of long duration, founded largely on lies and distortions following a despicable terror attack by a small group of people, coupled with tax cuts for the wealthy.

There is relatively little discussion, much less investigation, indictments and convictions, from one of the largest financial frauds in history.

And within twelve months of the crisis breaking, Wall Street bonuses were back to record levels, even as the rest of the country began its long downward spiral into debt, downgrade, and despair.

That is the long and short of it. And it bodes ill that these issues are so infrequently mentioned in the political and economic discussions circling Washington and New York today. Rational discussion and factual analysis has been overwhelmed by a well funded program of propaganda and sloganeering, and bought and paid for politicians and media which serve to direct the discussions according to the program of the monied interests.

And this is why the outlook for the US is so negative. Governance has failed, the system has been thoroughly corrupted or co-opted, and the planning and discussions cannot gain traction. Some have recently referred to Obama’s clarity gap because it is so unclear what he stands for, what principles he is willing to fight for.

The politicians of both parties, the media, and the business leadership are caught in a credibility trap in which the root causes cannot even be discussed, must less addressed, because they have all been involved in or benefited from a massive injustice in the financial frauds. They are complicit, and cannot act openly and honestly for fear of losing control of the debate, and of subsequent discovery.

“Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.” – Lord Acton

And who do we see on American television this morning, providing economic advice and promoting the Wall Street prescription for a cure through a return to more bank deregulation? The angel of economic death, Alan Greenspan, a man without shame or honor as one of the great authors of the misrepresentations and mismanagement that led US into the financial crisis which rewarded the few at the expense of the many.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry

The real issue at the end of the day is reform. The US has been led down a dark alley and strangled in what history may recognize as a financial coup d’etat, and a campaign of economic war against the common people. The Banks must be restrained, and the financial system reformed, with balance restored to the economy, before there can be any sustained recovery.

The Debt Deal con: Is it fooling anyone?

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by Brandon Smith of Alt Market
Posted August 4, 2011

ALTERNATIVE ECONOMIC ANALYSIS BRINGS WITH IT A CERTAIN NUMBER of advantages and insights, but also many uncomfortable burdens. Honest financial research is a discipline. It requires us to not only understand the fundamentals, but to question the fundamentals. It requires us to look beyond what we would LIKE to see in the economy, and accept the reality of what is actually there. With this methodology comes the difficulty of knowing the dangers ahead while the mainstream stumbles about well behind the curve. It means constantly having to qualify one’s conclusions, no matter how factual, because the skeptics and opposition base their views on an entirely different set of rules; farcical rules that no longer (or never did) apply to the true state of our country’s fiscal health.

After a while, you begin to expect that a majority of the public will buy into any number of government or Federal Reserve con games and swindles as the process of full spectrum collapse rolls onward. However, this expectation is not always accurate…

A majority of Americans were against the bailouts, TARP, quantitative easing, the “too big to fail” concept, etc. Sometimes a government action is so fraudulent that even those who aren’t educated on the specifics can smell the grift in play. The recent debt ceiling debate and resulting debt deal are fuming with the hot stench of predigested disinformation, so much so that no one seems to be happy with it, even people who a month ago were begging for it. When you have to parade around a hobbled shooting victim in order to get any applause for your legislation, then you may be in trouble…

Though their reasons and motivations vary, everyone, whether on the so called “Left”, or the so called “Right”, is asking “Was anything really accomplished here?” The question is a valid one. To discern the exact nature of the debt deal, we must first cut through the web of misconceptions that surround it. While no American is satisfied with the final plan, many are disenchanted for the wrong reasons. Let’s clear the fog (or light a match), as it were…

Where are the spending cuts?

Were any cuts actually made in this debt plan that has been painted by the MSM as a “historic landmark” in spending reform? If you think yes, then you have been hornswaggled. Only yesterday I came across perhaps the most profoundly inept New York Times Op-Ed piece I have ever seen (and that’s saying something):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/opinion/the-tea-partys-war-on-america.html?_r=1

In it, Joe Nocera, a typically impotent mainstream financial hack, proceeds to outline the debt deal snafu in grade school fashion, claiming not only that cuts in spending attributed to the bill will destroy our fragile economy, but that all the blame for this destruction rests squarely on the shoulders of Tea Party Republicans, who are apparently no better than “terrorists”. Yes, that’s right, fiscal conservatives are now terrorists hell bent on our nation’s demise. Gee…we didn’t see that one coming. While I am not particularly happy with the direction the Tea Party has taken since 2010, especially the constant attempts by Neo Conservatives (fake conservatives) to co-opt the movement, the Tea Party is hardly to blame for any destabilization of the economy, if for no other reason than they accomplished nothing in the deal. Nocera’s idiocy is made embarrassingly apparent in his outcries against spending cuts, because NO cuts were actually made.

First, the $2 trillion plus compromise we hear about so often is slated to take place not over the next ten months, but the next ten years! Only $917 billion in cuts are officially mandated by the bill. The final $1.5 trillion will be voted upon at a later date. Only $21 billion in cuts will be applied to discretionary spending in 2012, $42 billion in 2013, and the remaining cuts after 2014. This strategy, by itself, is wholly inadequate in making even the slightest dent in our national debt, being that our government’s spending has grown exponentially with each passing year.

In June of 2009, our national debt stood at $11.5 Trillion. Today, it climbs past $14.5 trillion. That’s an increase of $3 trillion in the span of two years. Now, I don’t know where men like Boehner, Reid, or Obama, learned simple math, but I can tell you their numbers don’t add up. Even if current spending levels stay static (which they won’t), by 2013, we will have to increase the national debt to at least $17.5 trillion, while only cutting $63 billion from the budget. Wow….sounds like progress to me.

Even worse (yes, it gets worse), the spending cuts that were finalized are based not on current spending, but on PROJECTED spending, or what is often called “the baseline”. That means, essentially, that no existing programs or subsidies are specifically facing cuts, only programs and subsidies that have yet to be created! So, Obama could ostensibly forgo an extra $2 million taxpayer subsidized vacation to Hawaii or Manila, and then claim this as a “spending cut”. Imagine it! We could save so much money as a country by not buying all the things we could have bought beyond what we already buy! Huh?

So, no official spending cuts until after elections. No specific programs identified for cutting. No cuts to current deficit spending. Debt ceiling elevated yet again. All that debate and noise, and nothing has changed…

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Ron Paul appeals to America: “Default now, or suffer a more expensive crisis later”

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by Ron Paul, op-ed first posted in Bloomberg
Posted July 22, 2011

Default now, or suffer a more expensive crisis later

DEBATE OVER THE DEBT CEILING HAS REACHED A FEVER PITCH in recent weeks, with each side trying to outdo the other in a game of political chicken. If you believe some of the things that are being written, the world will come to an end if the U.S. defaults on even the tiniest portion of its debt.

In strict terms, the default being discussed will occur if the U.S. fails to meet its debt obligations, through failure to pay either interest or principal due a bondholder. Proponents of raising the debt ceiling claim that a default on Aug. 2 is unprecedented and will result in calamity (never mind that this is simply an arbitrary date, easily changed, marking a congressional recess). My expectations of such a scenario are more sanguine.

The U.S. government defaulted at least three times on its obligations during the 20th century:

• In 1934, the government banned ownership of gold and eliminated the right to exchange gold certificates for gold coins. It then immediately revalued gold from $20.67 per troy ounce to $35, thus devaluing the dollar holdings of all Americans by 40 percent.

• From 1934 to 1968, the federal government continued to issue and redeem silver certificates, notes that circulated as legal tender that could be redeemed for silver coins or silver bars. In 1968, Congress unilaterally reneged on this obligation, too.

• From 1934 to 1971, foreign governments were permitted by the U.S. government to exchange their dollars for gold through the gold window. In 1971, President Richard Nixon severed this final link between the dollar and gold by closing the gold window, thus in effect defaulting once again on a debt obligation of the U.S. government.

Unlimited spending

No longer constrained by any sort of commodity backing, the federal government was now free to engage in almost unlimited fiscal profligacy, the only check on its spending being the market’s appetite for Treasury debt. Despite the defaults in 1934, 1968 and 1971, world markets have been only too willing to purchase Treasury debt and thereby fund the government’s deficit spending. If these major defaults didn’t result in decreased investor appetite for U.S. obligations, I see no reason why defaulting on a small amount of debt this August would cause any major changes.

The national debt now stands at just over $14 trillion, while net total liabilities are estimated at over $200 trillion. The government is insolvent, as there is no way that this massive sum of liabilities can ever be paid off. Successive Congresses and administrations have shown absolutely no restraint when it comes to the budget process, and the idea that either of the two parties is serious about getting our fiscal house in order is laughable.

Boom and bust

The Austrian School’s theory of the business cycle describes how loose central bank monetary policy causes booms and busts: It drives down interest rates below the market rate, lowering the cost of borrowing; encourages malinvestment; and causes economic miscalculation as resources are diverted from the highest value use as reflected in true consumer preferences. Loose monetary policy caused the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble, and now is causing the government debt bubble.

For far too long, the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy and quantitative easing have kept interest rates artificially low, enabling the government to drastically increase its spending by funding its profligacy through new debt whose service costs were lower than they otherwise would have been.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats sought to end this gravy train, with one party prioritizing war spending and the other prioritizing welfare spending, and with both supporting both types of spending. But now, with the end of the second round of quantitative easing, the federal funds rate at the zero bound, and the debt limit maxed out, Congress finds itself in a real quandary.

Hard decisions

It isn’t too late to return to fiscal sanity. We could start by canceling out the debt held by the Federal Reserve, which would clear $1.6 trillion under the debt ceiling. Or we could cut trillions of dollars in spending by bringing our troops home from overseas, making gradual reforms to Social Security and Medicare, and bringing the federal government back within the limits envisioned by the Constitution. Yet no one is willing to step up to the plate and make the hard decisions that are necessary. Everyone wants to kick the can down the road and believe that deficit spending can continue unabated.

Unless major changes are made today, the U.S. will default on its debt sooner or later, and it is certainly preferable that it be sooner rather than later.

If the government defaults on its debt now, the consequences undoubtedly will be painful in the short term. The loss of its AAA rating will raise the cost of issuing new debt, but this is not altogether a bad thing. Higher borrowing costs will ensure that the government cannot continue the same old spending policies. Budgets will have to be brought into balance (as the cost of servicing debt will be so expensive as to preclude future debt financing of government operations), so hopefully, in the long term, the government will return to sound financial footing.

Raising the ceiling

The alternative to defaulting now is to keep increasing the debt ceiling, keep spending like a drunken sailor, and hope that the default comes after we die. A future default won’t take the form of a missed payment, but rather will come through hyperinflation. The already incestuous relationship between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury will grow even closer as the Fed begins to purchase debt directly from the Treasury and monetizes debt on a scale that makes QE2 look like a drop in the bucket. Imagine the societal breakdown of Weimar Germany, but in a country five times as large. That is what we face if we do not come to terms with our debt problem immediately.

Default will be painful, but it is all but inevitable for a country as heavily indebted as the U.S. Just as pumping money into the system to combat a recession only ensures an unsustainable economic boom and a future recession worse than the first, so too does continuously raising the debt ceiling only forestall the day of reckoning and ensure that, when it comes, it will be cataclysmic.

We have a choice: default now and take our medicine, or put it off as long as possible, when the effects will be much worse.

Don Coxe on everything from the markets rolling over, persistent food Inflation, the coming US Sovereign debt crunch

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by Don Coxe
Posted Zero Hedge
on June 5, 2011

Don Coxe’s (BMO Capital Markets) observations on sovereign risk moving from east to west, state finances, the ongoing correction in financial stocks which portends nothing good for the equity investors, the ongoing violence in MENA, why this inflationary spike in food may last far longer than previous ones, and naturally, some very spot on thoughts on gold, which conclude with: “The only gold bubble likely to burst is the bubbling ridicule of gold.”

Sovereign Risk Moves West

THE EUROZONE’S PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE ONLY existential challenge to the Capital Asset Pricing Model: the bonds at the very base of the risk-free classification in the Model – Treasurys – have come under critical concern since it began to appear that the record-breaking US fiscal deficits won’t be seriously addressed as long as investors can be found somewhere in the world prepared to buy Treasurys. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Treasurys.

When Obama’s State of the Union speech included no budget proposals apart from the hoary pledge to control costs and waste, and when the Obama budget that followed included no provisions for dealing with entitlement programs—and included higher pay increases for government employees than some analysts had expected, bond managers globally began voicing concern—and selling the dollar.

Fortunately, there was a buyer of first and last resort—QE2, as traditional buyers were gagging. China reduced its Treasury purchases, Bill Gross announced he was not just out of Treasurys—he was short—and then S&P announced that, if Washington didn’t do something soon about its multi-trillion-dollar deficits, the US would lose its AAA rating.

In one sense, a downgrade from S&P should be no problem for the USA: what credibility can one assign to such ratings? S&P and other ratings agencies happily assigned Treasury-equivalent ratings to more than a trillion dollars in putrescent derivatives issues masquerading as desirable mortgages. That the raters remain in business at all is a demonstration of Mr. Bumble’s expostulation, “The law is a ass!” Friendly judges have dismissed lawsuits against the rating agencies—who were paid far more than their services were worth for saying that the mortgage products they were examining were worth far more than they were worth.

The judges accepted the ratings agencies’ arguments that penalizing them for exercising their opinions would unconstitutionally penalize their right to free speech. It turns out that free speech that doesn’t come for free, but for fat fees, is as worthy of Constitutional protection as—we were going to say quoting the Bible in public, but that might get an American into real legal trouble these days. As a colleague remarked, “If a doctor sent you for an MRI, and it revealed four tumors, and he didn’t tell you, you or your heirs could successfully sue him. What’s the difference?”

So, according to a series of court decisions, demonstrating, on majestic scale, something between outright sloppiness and outright venality—that was a major contributor to the worst fi financial crash since the Depression—is protected behavior. Those who relied on those fee-for-service appraisals and then lost hundreds of billions go uncompensated. The investment banks who peddled the putrid products with the AAA ratings haven’t been forced to recompense their clients, the Congressmen who used their full power of office to force banks to make loans to borrowers who couldn’t service the debts haven’t been voted out of offi ce, and now the rating agencies have been given a pass by the courts.

So nobody—not bankers, not politicians, not raters—is legally to blame for the disaster which has already added more than $2.5 trillion to the national debtIf no Americans are to blame for a financially-caused global recession that began in the US, why should overseas investors trust the US to remain the world’s best credit?

We believe it highly probable that the US’s fiscal problems will not be seriously addressed for at least two years, and that Obama will be resoundingly re-elected in a campaign demonizing Republican budget proposals. All polls show that most Americans believe the deficits can be eliminated without any cuts in Social Security or Medicare.

We would expect that, in a year or less, long Treasurys will trade at higher yields than many high-grade corporate credits. In other words, we believe the Capital Asset Pricing Model is being driven into a ditch by reckless governments on both sides of the Atlantic, and that means endogenous risk within pension funds could be much higher than trustees realize.

Some thoughts on Gold

There is a new torrent of warnings of a “gold bubble”. We have been hearing that story from concerned clients, partly in response to George Soros’s highly-publicized liquidation of his holdings of the gold ETF: GLD. Another factor has been the debate about Barrick’s move into copper, which is being partially financed by a large bond issue. Despite Peter Munk’s passionate and articulate defense of that strategy at Barrick’s annual meeting, many observers seem to wonder whether this is a warning sign from the long-standing pre-eminent gold miner that gold’s future is problematic.

The financial press has been including many sneering observations that gold is a useless speculation on infl ation that is unlikely to occur. Why own an inflation hedge that pays no income? We dissent from that tiresome scorn: those trained in Keynesian economics about the “barbarous relic” never bother to reflect that Keynes expressed almost childlike faith that central banks, acting pursuant to the Bretton Woods agreement of which he was a major architect, would always exercise restraint in monetary policies that would make gold passé.  The Seventies proved him horribly, hopelessly wrong. But the Eighties and Nineties made it look as if he would ultimately be proved right.

However, the history of major monetary policies since then—and particularly since 2007—makes the case for gold appears as cogent as it was in the Seventies. This time, there’s no chance the Fed will drive interest rates to double-digit levels to fi ght infl ation and protect the dollar. It may be that, after years of getting by on Financial Heroin, the economy lacks the energy and élan vital to survive even normal interest rates—let alone Volcker rates.

As for the most basic argument—that gold is not an investment, because it pays no income—that seeming tautology is, at root, inherently false. Gold has always been an alternative currency. It is resuming that role as central banks switch from the sell to the buy side. A unit of paper currency pays no income. It can be exchanged for bonds, deposits or stocks that pay income, but a holder of a million euros or dollars in a safe deposit box earns no income on the hoard—just as a holder of a million dollars’ worth of gold earns no interest.

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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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