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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘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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Gold and silver: We were right – they were wrong

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by Brandon Smith of Alt Market
Posted July 25, 2011

ONLY NOW, AFTER THREE YEARS OF ROLLER COASTER MARKETS, EPIC DEBATES, and gnashing of teeth, are mainstream financial pundits finally starting to get it. At least some of them, anyway.

Precious metals have continued to perform relentlessly since 2008, crushing all naysayer predictions and defying all the musings of so called “experts”, while at the same time maintaining and protecting the investment savings of those people smart enough to jump on the train while prices were at historic lows (historic as in ‘the past 5000 years’).

Alternative analysts have pleaded with the public to take measures to secure their hard earned wealth by apportioning at least a small amount into physical gold and silver. Some economists, though, were silly enough to overlook this obvious strategy. Who can forget, for instance, Paul Krugman’s hilarious assertion back in 2009 that gold values reflect nothing of the overall market, and that rising gold prices were caused in large part by the devious plans of Glen Beck, and not legitimate demand resulting from oncoming economic collapse.

To this day, with gold at $1600 an ounce, Krugman refuses to apologize for his nonsense. To be fair to Krugman, though, his lack of insight on precious metals markets is most likely deliberate, and not due to stupidity, being that he has long been a lapdog of central banks and a rabid supporter of the great Keynesian con. [And he a Nobel Prize winner!] Some MSM economists are simply ignorant, while others are quite aware of the battle between fiat and gold, and have chosen to support the banking elites in their endeavors to dissuade the masses from ever seeking out an alternative to their fraudulent paper. The establishment controlled Washington Post made this clear with its vapid insinuation in 2010 that Ron Paul’s support of a new gold standard is purely motivated by his desire to increase the value of his personal gold holdings, and not because of his concern over the Federal Reserve’s destructive devaluing of the dollar!

So, if a public figure owns gold and supports the adaptation of precious metals to stave off dollar implosion, he is just trying to “artificially drive up his own profits”. If he supports precious metals but doesn’t own any, then he is “afraid to put his money where his mouth is”. The argument is an erroneous trap, not to mention, completely illogical.

Numerous MSM pundits have continued to call a top for gold and silver markets only to be jolted over and over by further rapid spikes. Frankly, it’s getting a little embarrassing for them. All analysts are wrong sometimes, but these analysts are wrong ALL the time. And, Americans are starting to notice. Who beyond a thin readership of mindless yuppies actually takes Krugman seriously anymore? It’s getting harder and harder to find fans of his brand of snake oil.

Those who instead listened to the alternative media from 2007 on have now tripled the value of their investments, and are likely to double them yet again in the coming months as PM’s and other commodities continue to outperform paper securities and stocks. After enduring so much hardship, criticism, and grief over our positions on gold and silver, it’s about time for us to say “we told you so”. Not to gloat (ok, maybe a little), but to solidify the necessity of metals investment for every American today. Yes, we were right, the skeptics were wrong, and they continue to be wrong. Even now, with gold surpassing the $1600 an ounce mark, and silver edging back towards its $50 per ounce highs, there is still time for those who missed the boat to shield their nest eggs from expanding economic insanity. The fact is, precious metals values are nowhere near their peak. Here are some reasons why…

Debt ceiling debate a final warning sign

If average Americans weren’t feeling the heat at the beginning of this year in terms of the economy, they certainly are now. Not long ago, the very idea of a U.S. debt default or credit downgrade was considered by many to be absurd. Today, every financial radio and television show in the country is obsessed with the possibility. Not surprisingly, unprepared subsections of the public (even conservatives) are crying out for a debt ceiling increase, while simultaneously turning up their noses at tax increases, hoping that we can kick the can just a little further down the road of fiscal Armageddon. The delusion that we can coast through this crisis unscathed is still pervasive.

Some common phrases I’ve heard lately: “I just don’t get it! They’re crazy for not compromising! Their political games are going to ruin the country! Why not just raise the ceiling?!”

What these people are lacking is a basic understanding of the bigger picture. Ultimately, this debate is not about raising or freezing the debt ceiling. This debate is not about saving our economy or our global credit standing. This debate is about choosing our method of poison, and nothing more. That is to say, the outcome of the current “political clash” is irrelevant. Our economy was set on the final leg of total destabilization back in 2008, and no amount of spending reform, higher taxes, or austerity measures, are going to change that eventuality.

We have two paths left as far as the mainstream economy is concerned; default leading to dollar devaluation, or, dollar devaluation leading to default. That’s it folks! Smoke em’ if you got em’! This train went careening off a cliff a long time ago.

If the U.S. defaults after August 2, a couple of things will happen. First, our Treasury Bonds will immediately come into question. We may, like Greece, drag out the situation and fool some international investors into thinking the risk will lead to a considerable payout when “everything goes back to normal”. However, those who continued to hold Greek bonds up until that country’s official announcement of default know that holding the debt of a country with disintegrating credit standing is for suckers. Private creditors in Greek debt stand to lose at minimum 21% of their original holdings because of default. What some of us call a “21% haircut”.

With the pervasiveness of U.S. bonds around the globe, a similar default deal could lead to trillions of dollars in losses for holders. This threat will result in the immediate push towards an international treasury dump.

Next, austerity measures WILL be instituted, while taxes WILL be raised considerably, and quickly. The federal government is not going to shut down. They will instead bleed the American people dry of all remaining savings in order to continue functioning, whether through higher charges on licensing and other government controlled paperwork, or through confiscation of pension funds, or by cutting entitlement programs like social security completely.

Finally, the dollar’s world reserve status is most assuredly going to be placed in jeopardy. If a country is unable to sustain its own liabilities, then its currency is going to lose favor. Period. The loss of reserve status carries with it a plethora of very disturbing consequences, foremost being devaluation leading to extreme inflation.

If the debt ceiling is raised yet again, we may prolong the above mentioned problems for a short time, but, there are no guarantees. Ratings agency S&P in a recent statement warned of a U.S. credit downgrade REGARDLESS of whether the ceiling was raised or not, if America’s overall economic situation did not soon improve. The Obama Administration has resorted to harassing (or pretending to harass) S&P over its accurate assessment of the situation, rather than working to solve the dilemma. Ratings company Egan-Jones has already cut America’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.

Many countries are moving to distance themselves from the U.S. dollar. China’s bilateral trade agreement with Russia last year completely cuts out the use of the greenback, and China is also exploring a “barter deal” with Iran, completely removing the need for dollars in the purchase of Iranian oil (which also helps in bypassing U.S. sanctions).

So, even with increased spending room, we will still see effects similar to default, not to mention, even more fiat printing by the Fed, higher probability of another QE announcement, and higher inflation all around.

This period of debate over the debt ceiling is liable to be the last clear warning we will receive from government before the collapse moves towards endgame. All of the sordid conundrums listed above are triggers for skyrocketing gold and silver prices, and anyone not holding precious metals now should make changes over the course of the next month.

What has been the reaction of markets to the threat of default? Increased purchasing of precious metals! What has been the reaction of markets to greater spending and Fed inflation? Increased purchasing of precious metals! The advantages of gold and silver are clear…

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“We are on the verge of a Great, Great Depression”

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by George Washington
Posted originally June 1, 2011

THE NEWS THAT FREQUENT CNBC GUEST Peter Yastrow of Yastrow Origer (and formerly with DT Trading) told CNBC that “We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows” is going viral today. But this is not news to anyone who has been paying attention. As I pointed out Tuesday, billion dollar fund managers agree: the government never fixed the underlying economic problems, so we’ll have another crash. I provided details last month: As noted in January, the housing slump is worse than during the Great Depression.

As CNN Money points out today: Wal-Mart’s core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried, CEO Mike Duke said Wednesday. “We’re seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure,” Duke said at an event in New York. “There’s no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact.”

Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in. Lately, they’re “running out of money” at a faster clip, he said. “Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year,” Duke said. “This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern.

And – in case you still think that the 29% of Americans who think we’re in a depression are unduly pessimistic – take a look at what I wrote last December. The following experts have – at some point during the last two years – said that the economic crisis could be worse than the Great Depression:

States and Cities in Worst Shape since the Great Depression

States and cities are in dire financial straits, and many may default in 2011. California is issuing IOUs for only the second time since the Great Depression. Things haven’t been this bad for state and local governments since the 30s. Loan Loss Rate Higher than During the Great Depression

In October 2009, I reported: In May, analyst Mike Mayo predicted that the bank loan loss rate would be higher than during the Great Depression. In a new report, Moody’s has just confirmed (as summarized by Zero Hedge): The most recent rate of bank charge offs, which hit $45 billion in the past quarter, and have now reached a total of $116 billion, is at 3.4%, which is substantially higher than the 2.25% hit in 1932, before peaking at at 3.4% rate by 1934.

Here’s a chart summarizing the findings:

Indeed, top economists such as Anna Schwartz, James Galbraith, Nouriel Roubini and others have pointed out that while banks faced a liquidity crisis during the Great Depression, today they are wholly insolvent. See this, this, this and this. Insolvency is much more severe than a shortage of liquidity.

Unemployment at or near Depression Levels

USA Today reports today: So many Americans have been jobless for so long that the government is changing how it records long-term unemployment. Citing what it calls “an unprecedented rise” in long-term unemployment, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning Saturday, will raise from two years to five years the upper limit on how long someone can be listed as having been jobless.

The change is a sign that bureau officials “are afraid that a cap of two years may be ‘understating the true average duration’ — but they won’t know by how much until they raise the upper limit,” says Linda Barrington, an economist who directs the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

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Where is the recovery? I cannot seem to find it

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by Tony Pallotta of Macro Story
Originally posted June 13, 2011

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

POSSIBLY THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN HAVING a serious problem on your hands is when you clearly do not understand the problem.  You ignore the data and find an easy scapegoat for why the problem is temporary and will pass. The slowdown in the US economy is not transitory as the Fed chairman states. Hopes for 3-4% GDP growth in the second half of 2011 are simply that, hope.

The earthquake in Japan, the third largest economy, occurred two months before US economic data began slowing sharply. It is easy to say that must be the cause. It is far harder to blame failed policies for that involves being honest with oneself. Accepting failure is everyone’s Achilles’ heel.  Something few can overcome.

What is most disturbing about the failed policies of the Federal Reserve and Federal Government are the millions of Americans suffering when they do not have to. With one in seven Americans on food stamps, one in five unemployed or under employed, 28% of mortgages underwater, do leaders truly think we are this naive and that recovery is underway?

In a recent survey 48% of Americans feel we are already in a depression, forget recession. Regardless of what the NBER says or measures of real GDP, something easily manipulated through the deflator, it feels and therefore it is a depression. Food prices are rising. It costs more to fill up our gas tank. Walmart and countless other low cost stores bare witness to the modern day bread line.

If the US government reduced spending by 40% today, right this second, we still could not put a dent in a $12 trillion national debt, closer to $70 trillion when factoring in unfunded liabilities. The government nearly shut down in May as leaders tried to agree on 1% in budget cuts later found to be a pure accounting scheme. All is not well in the US economy and a recovery is not and has not begun. Trillions have been spent since 2008 and we have nothing to show for it.

Ask a child wearing a red shirt what color their shirt is. They will shout red. Ask that same question to an adult and they will hesitate, afraid to answer the most obvious question out of fear they are being set up. As adults we seem to lose the ability to see the obvious. We live in constant fear of being wrong, being judged by others for our inadequacies. Rather than focus on the task at hand we focus on the failure. The safety of going along with the group outweighs the truth we see with our own eyes.

Ask a fund manager with $5 billion in assets under management (AUM) if the economy is recovering and they will say yes. They will say this soft patch is transitory, it is a function of Japan and the revolution in MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa). They will tell you Greece is contained.  They will tell you housing is bottoming. They will tell you stocks are cheap.

Do they believe that? Aside from group think I certainly hope not but if the group says that red shirt you are wearing is in fact blue, well dammit, that shirt is blue. No one believes they are a lemming, that they are part of the herd. The word sheeple does not include them. Then why does history always show the majority to be wrong?

As the market rolls over investors are beginning to question the color of that shirt. Perhaps it is red after all. The Federal Reserve has a horrible record at economic forecasting, absolutely horrid yet with each new forecast we are expected to believe “this time it is different.”  With each passing day more data tells us they are wrong yet again. As investors we must be diligent in our work, diligent in understanding the issues. We must think for ourselves, beyond the noise, beyond the pressure to conform. Now is the time to have courage in our convictions.

When I listen to Bernanke speak what scares me most is not his forecasts of 3-4% economic growth but his complete lack of comprehension of the problems:

  • His apparent belief that this soft patch will pass.
  • That QE was successful.
  • That with more time structural changes in our economy will fix themselves.
  • That the answer to debt is more debt.
  • In the words of Helen Keller his sight makes him a very dangerous man.

Bonds forecast, equities confirm. Bonds have spoken. Equities are finally listening.

 

Our economic future – From best to worst case

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by Doug Casey of Casey Research
Posted originally June 7, 2011

THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF UNCERTAINTY ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE OF THE U.S. ECONOMY MAY LOOK LIKE – so I decided to take a stab at what’s likely to happen over the next 20 years. That’s enough time for a child to grow up and mature, and it’s long enough for major trends to develop and make themselves felt.

I’ll confine myself to areas that are, as the benighted Rumsfeld might have observed, “known unknowns.” I don’t want to deal with possibilities of the deus ex machina sort. So we’ll rule out natural events like a super-volcano eruption, an asteroid strike, a new ice age, global warming, and the like. Although all these things absolutely will occur sometime in the future, the timing is very uncertain – at least from the perspective of one human lifespan. It’s pointless dealing with geological time and astronomical probability here. And, more important, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about such things.

So let’s limit ourselves to the possibilities presented by human action. They’re plenty weird and scary, and unpredictable enough.

THE MARKET FOR PROGNOSTICATION

People are all ears for predictions, whether from psychics or from “experts,” despite the repeated experience that they’re almost always worthless, often misleading and more than rarely the exact opposite of what happens.

Most often, the predictors go afoul by underrating human ingenuity or extrapolating current trends too far. Let me give you a rundown of the state of things during the last century, at 20-year intervals. If you didn’t know it’s what actually happened, you’d find it hard to believe.

1911— The entire world is at peace. Stability, freedom and prosperity prevail almost everywhere. Almost every country in Europe is ruled by a king or queen. Western civilization has spread to nearly every corner of the world and is received with appreciation. Stunning breakthroughs are being made in science and technology. There’s no sign of a gigantic world war about to come out of nowhere to rip apart the political and cultural map of Europe and bankrupt everybody. Who imagined that a dictatorial communist regime would arise in Russia?

1931— It’s early in a disastrous worldwide depression. Attention is on economic troubles, not on the virtually unthought-of possibility that in less than 10 years a new world war would be under way against Nazism and a resurgent Germany.

1951— Except for Vietnam, all that remains of the colonies the West had established in the 19th century are quiescent. Nobody guessed almost all would either be independent, or on their way, in 10 years. China has joined Russia – and many other countries – as totally collectivist. Who imagined that Germany and Japan, although literally leveled, would be perhaps the best investments of the century? Who guessed that the U.S. was already at its peak relative to the rest of the world?

1971— Communist and overtly socialist countries all over the world seem to be in ascendance, soon to be buoyed further by a decade of rising commodity prices. The U.S. and the West are entering a deep malaise. Little significance is attached to rumblings from the Islamic world.

1991— Communism has collapsed as an ideology, the USSR has disappeared, and China has radically reformed. Islam is increasingly in the news.

2011—The world financial/economic crisis is four years old, but things are still holding together. Islamic terrorism and collapse of old regimes in the Arab world dominate the news. China is viewed as the world’s new powerhouse.

BAD AND WORSE

Regrettably, I’m not much of a linguist. But I do pick up interesting semantic trivia. In Spanish they don’t say “in the future,” as we do in English, which implies a definite outcome. Instead they say “en un futuro” – in a future – which implies many possible outcomes. It’s a better way of assessing reality, I think.
Here are three 20-year futures to consider. There are, obviously, many, many more – but I think these encompass the three most realistic broad possibilities.

• BEST CASE – FACTS GET FACED

Realizing what a disaster the complete destruction of their currencies would be, most governments decide to endure the pain of allowing interest rates to rise and limiting increases in the money supply. Poorly run corporations and banks are left to fail. Talk of abolishing the Federal Reserve, and using a commodity for money, becomes serious and widespread.

Shaken, the U.S. ends its profligate ways, in part because it lacks the means to continue, and in part because everyone but collectivist ideologues has actually learned something from the brutal ‘10s and ‘20s.

Amidst massive protests, the government closes much of its counterproductive apparatus, eliminates many taxes, and lets 30% of its employees go. It also, albeit reluctantly, liberalizes its regulation of the economy because it has become impossible to deny that the U.S. has been falling behind in all areas.

Although there is a resurgence of libertarian thought – reminiscent of the Reagan-Thatcher era – simple practicality is mainly responsible for forcing the government’s hand. For one thing, it can’t afford the bureaucracy needed to enforce detailed interference. For another, entrepreneurs are increasingly just doing what they please, partly from necessity and partly from a growing sense of righteousness. Interest rates go to 25%, to compensate for high levels of inflation. That’s high enough to make it worthwhile for people to save, and the capital base starts growing. The stock market has collapsed to its lowest level in living experience (in real terms), but the values available encourage people to become investors. Business is restructured on a sound, debt-free basis, with little speculation.

The U.S. radically cuts its military spending and pulls almost all troops out of their foreign bases and wars. The War on Drugs comes to an end, and the crime rate in both the U.S. and Mexico plummets.

The government solves most of its overhanging financial problems with a seriously devalued – but not hyperinflated – dollar. The Social Security deficit is eliminated by abstaining from benefit increases and by inflating away much of what had been promised before. Most Americans suffer a severe drop in their standard of living, as they’re forced into new patterns of production and consumption. A generation of college students find that their degrees in sociology, political science, economics, English lit, Black studies, gender studies and underwater basket weaving are of no real value.

When it’s all over, the tough times that started in ’07 prove to have been no more than a cyclical bump in the road, like all the other recessions since WW2, just much bigger.

A rough and memorable ride, but it ends with a return to prosperity.

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The Greek “Ultimatum”: Bailout (for the Bankers) and (loss of) Sovereignty

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by Tyler Durden
Posted May 29, 2011

SO, AFTER ONE YEAR OF BEATING AROUND THE BUSH, IT IS FINALLY MADE CLEAR THAT, as many were expecting all along, the ultimate goal of the Greek “bailouts” is nothing short of the state’s (partial for now) annexation by Europe. According to an FT breaking news article, “European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens. People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures.”

Thus Greece is faced with the banker win-win choice, of not only abandoning sovereignty, a first in modern “democratic” history, in the pursuit of “Greek” policies that are beneficial for Europe, or not get a bailout, which would only serve to prevent senior bondholder impairments. How could Greek leaders and its population possibly not accept such an attractive option which either leaves the country as another Olli Rehn protectorate, or forces it to not bailout Europe’s overleveraged banker class. In essence Europe is now convinced, just like Hank Paulson was on September 14, 2008, that the downstream effects from letting Greece implode are manageable. But the key development is that the Greek bankruptcy, which from the beginning, and as Peter Tchir’s note below demonstrates, was always simply a Greek choice, was just made that much easier.

From the FT:

People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures. Officials hope that as much as half of the €60bn-€70bn ($86bn-$100bn) in new financing needed by Athens until the end of 2013 could be accounted for without new loans. Under a plan advocated by some, much of that would be covered by the sale of state assets and the change in repayment terms for private debtholders.

Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund would then need to lend an additional €30bn-€35bn on top of the €110bn already promised as part of the bail-out programme agreed last year. Officials warned, however, that almost every element of the new package faced significant opposition from at least one of the governments and institutions involved in the current negotiations and a deal could still unravel.

In the latest setback, the Greek government failed on Friday to win cross-party agreement on the new austerity measures, which European Union lenders have insisted is a prerequisite to another bail-out. In addition, the European Central Bank remains opposed to any restructuring of Greek debt that could be considered a “credit event” – a change in terms that could technically be ruled a default. One senior European official involved in the talks, however, said ECB objections could be overcome if the rescheduling was structured properly.

Despite the hurdles, pressure is building to have a deal done within three weeks because of an IMF threat to withhold its portion of June’s €12bn bail-out payment unless Athens can show it can meet all its financing requirements for the next 12 months.

And the latest set of very timely observations from TF Market’s Peter Tchir:

You can lead a Trojan Horse to water but you can’t make him drink

Restructuring in one form or another seems imminent rather than years away
Well, it seems as though this week’s news flow has spurred the mainstream media into action. Everywhere you look there are stories about the Greek credit crisis. It is encouraging to see that more of them now agree with my view that a restructuring would occur sooner rather than later. Only a month ago, almost every article and every piece of official street research made it clear that a restructuring was at least a year off, if not longer. I demonstrated why I thought that opinion was wrong, and although I haven’t been proven correct yet, I am no longer in a tiny minority. Restructuring (reprofiling or default or whatever you want to call it) will not be easy, but I remain convinced that it is the best outcome for Greece and in the long run will be the best outcome for Europe even with the short term pain it will cause.

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When does “Managed Perception” become Reality?

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by Charles Hugh Smith
from Of Two Minds
Posted May 2, 2011

The Federal Reserve and the Federal government are both desperately attempting to “manage perceptions” of the bogus “recovery” and of their own legitimacy. Can “managed perceptions” replace reality?

The Federal Reserve is quite open about the ultimate purpose of all its machinations: to “manage perceptions” so the citizenry believe the “recovery” is real. The Fed reckons that belief will cause people to start a new debt-consumption orgy that will fuel a self-reinforcing cycle of expansion.

Put another way: the Fed is trying to induce a reanimation of “animal spirits,” i.e. a restored faith in future prosperity that inspires households to load up on more debt and buy, buy, buy.

The difference between blatant propaganda and “managing perceptions” is… well, there isn’t any. The Fed and Federal machinery are both engaged in a massive propaganda campaign to obscure the gargantuan risks implicit in their various trillions-dollar campaigns to mask systemic failure and risk and construct a facade of normalcy and “recovery.” Meanwhile, even the staid MSM flagbearer The Economist is noting that America’s “leadership” hasn’t fixed anything, and has no intention of doing so: What’s wrong with America’s economy? (Thank you, John R.)

The U.S. economy is “recovering” like a drunk “recovers” by chugging half a bottle of rotgut: the terror of reality is replaced by the warm glow of a new high. The terrible reality is the U.S. economy has been hollowed out by financialization and the dishonesty, fraud and corruption that are the essential components of financialization – a process that invariably leads to a concentration of wealth and power.

This concentration of capital and power then creates more incentives for fraud and corruption, which then reinforces the forces of financialization and so on in a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

The Department of Truth, a.k.a. the Ministry of Propaganda, issues a stream of massaged/manipulated data to support the mind-bending “perception” that the economy is in “a real recovery.” Does anyone outside the lapdog mainstream media take the bogus employment statistics seriously? It’s so painfully obvious that the “headline unemployment number” is manipulated via removing millions of people from the workforce, and removing the unemployed from the statistical ledger once their benefits expire. The nation’s GDP is a similar concoction of smoke and mirrors. Let’s see: the Federal government borrows $1.6 trillion a year and transfers much of it to individuals, where it is then counted as “income.”

So if I borrow $50,000 and “pay it to myself,” then my $50,000 a year income just doubles to $100,000! Who knew prosperity could be this easy? The MSM sycophants, toadies and aparatchiks on both sides of the political spectrum (basically two sides of the same Imperial piece of paper) wonder why “job growth” is so weak–could it have anything to do with the actual real economy being so weak that only $5 trillion in borrowed Federal money and another $2 trillion in Fed money has kept the economy from imploding?

What with the bogus “recovery,” a couple of hot wars and an utterly dysfunctional and corrupt political system, the Ministry of Propaganda has been quite busy of late. Housing has bottomed–once again, for the third time since 2008. And we really really really are exiting Afghanistan and Iraq–soon–please ignore those permanent bases and proxy armies.

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