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ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘TARP

Things that make you go hmmm…

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by Grant Williams
25 October 2011
With deference to European readers, I have removed (most of) the original baseball references. Please forgive, Grant!! – Aurick

“Everyone needs the ECB to step up to the plate. The ECB has no excuse not to act. In trying to keep its monetary virginity intact, the bank threatens to destroy the Euro Zone. If that happens, nobody will be able to profit from its virginity.”
– Paul de Grauwe

“Simple Math:

The total overall cap [of the ESM] is 500 billion Euros

160 billion Euros has been spent

340 billion Euros remains

340 billion Euros + zero Euros = 940 billion Euros“

– Mike Shedlock, on the latest European ‘Masterplan’ to merge the EFSF + ESM

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine”
– Abraham Lincoln

Right now, the team comprising the ECB, EU and the various parliaments that make up that fractured and faltering alliance are sending, in baseball parlance, pitcher after pitcher to the mound (sometimes in groups of two or three) trying to combine for the perfect game that they NEED in order to escape the debt trap they have backed themselves into.

Being in a situation where you lose unless you can pull something off against odds of multiple-thousands to one and pitch a ‘perfect game’ is a ridiculous spot in which to find yourself, but as this month has rolled by, it has become ever-more apparent that that is precisely where the Brussels Eurocrats now find themselves. It appears as though, as the pressure has ratcheted up this week, we are now in the ninth inning.

Personally, my own belief (as regular readers are by now well aware) is that the very best the Eurocrats can hope for is to extend the game by an inning or two, but their arms are tired, their bullpen is empty and, at some point, we are going to see an absolute avalanche of runs scored against them as the whole thing finally topples under its own weight.

This past week has been nothing short of farcical as the tension has built towards a crescendo that seemed at first to be willfully engendered in order to generate just enough sense of impending crisis to enable a resolution to be forced through in a similar fashion to that which preceded Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke’s now-infamous closed-doors fright-fest (hyphenation alert!) that led to the passing of the TARP in late 2008.

Obviously, any and all capitulation towards outright bailouts (or ‘QEU’) must at least be seen to be against the will of the Germans and that proviso goes a long way towards explaining the raft of headlines that have flooded the Reuters and Bloomberg screens of investors all around the world this week. We have seen misdirection, scaremongering, u-turns and abject incompetence as well as the kinds of ‘leaks’ that are, frankly, laughable – the prime example being the ‘leaked’ draft copy of the Euro Summit statement which was printed, in its entirety, in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday – coincidentally at the precise moment when things were starting to come unglued as it became clear that this Sunday’s Summit would NOT produce the magic bullet required.

The statement itself is priceless. It begins with a bit of back-slapping for the passing of the EFSF (after no less than six months of wrangling and an eleventh-hour drama in Slovakia):

The strategy we have put into place encompasses determined efforts to ensure fiscal consolidation as well as growth, support to countries in difficulty, and a strengthening of euro area governance. At our 21 July meeting we took a set of major decisions. The ratification by all 17 Member States of the euro area of the measures related to the EFSF significantly strengthen our capacity to react to the crisis.

The agreement on a strong legislative package within the EU structures on better economic governance represents another major achievement. The euro continues to rest on solid fundamentals

It then moves on to more familiar ground; an agreement to display their strong determination to fix things. Nothing concrete, of course, but they sure as hell are determined:

The crisis is, however, far from over, as shown by the volatility of sovereign and corporate debt markets. Further action is needed to restore confidence. That is why today we agree on additional measures reflecting our strong determination to do whatever is required to overcome the present difficulties.

The rest of the text, should you want to read it, is here, but allow me to summarise it through a few select phrases that will save you the trouble of doing so:

“blah, blah, blah… All Member States are determined, blah, blah, blah… We want to reiterate our determination, blah, blah, blah… We reaffirm clearly our unequivocal commitment that, blah, blah, blah… All other euro area Member States solemnly reaffirm their inflexible determination, blah, blah, blah… The euro area Heads of State or Government fully support this determination, blah, blah, blah… All tools available will be used in an effective way to ensure financial stability in the euro area, blah, blah, blah… We fully support the ECB, blah, blah, blah… “

See. I told you they were determined.

But, buried deep in the draft are (amazingly enough) some specific measures that will surely help solve the crisis:

• There will be regular Euro Summit meetings bringing together the Heads of State or govern­ment (HoSG) of the euro area and the President of the Commission. These meetings will take place at least twice a year

• The President of the Euro Summit will be designated by the HoSG of the euro area at the same time the European Council elects its President

• The President of the Euro summit will keep the non euro area Member States closely informed of the preparation and outcome of the Summits

• As is presently the case, the Eurogroup will ensure ever closer coordination of the economic policies and promoting financial stability.

• The President of the Euro Summit will be consulted on the Eurogroup work plan and may invite the President of the Eurogroup to convene a meeting of the Eurogroup, notably to prepare Euro Summits or to follow up on its orientations

• Work at the preparatory level will continue to be carried out by the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG)

• The EWG will be chaired by a full-time Brussels-based President. He/she should preferably also chair the Economic and Financial Committee

…and my personal favourite:

• Clear rules and mechanisms will be set up to improve communication and ensure more con­sistent messages.

It’s at this point that the non-Europeans amongst you are possibly finally beginning to get the joke that anybody caught in the tractor beam of ineptitude that is ‘Europe’ (and by ‘Europe’ I mean the bureaucratic construct rather than the land mass) has understood for years.

THIS IS HOW EUROPEAN BUREAUCRACY WORKS, PEOPLE!!!!

Millions of Euros spent on days of‘talks’ to come up with solutions that fail to address any REAL problems.

Don’t believe me?

Article 47 of the Common Fisheries Policy will ensure that every fish caught by an angler is notified to Brussels so that it can be counted against that countries quota. If you go out for a day’s fishing and catch a couple of cod or mackerel you will now be required to notify the authorities or face a heavy fine.

There are EU regulations on the greenness of the person on the pedestrian crossing lights.

There are 3 separate EU directives on the loudness of lawnmowers.

Regulation (EC) 2257/94 – a great read, by the way – stated that bananas must be ‘free from malformation or abnormal curvature of the fingers’. It also contained stipulations about ‘the grade, i.e. the measurement, in millimetres, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis’ …

And then there are cucumbers:

Under regulation (EEC) No 1677/88 cucumbers are only allowed a bend of 10mm for every 10cm of length.

Do you think any of those were drawn up in ten minutes on a single piece of paper?

No. (Actually, in fairness to Europe, they don’t have a monopoly on silly legislation: there IS a law in Alaska that makes it illegal to push a moose out of a moving aircraft.)

The Brussels bureaucracy has always been something of a laughing stock amongst the people of Europe – since long before the final creation of the EU, in fact. Way back in 1955, with a European union freshly on the drawing board ten years after the end of WWII, Russell Bretherton, an English Civil Servant was dispatched to Brussels to inform European ministers what Britain thought of plans for an ambitious new European treaty. Upon arrival, he had these words of wisdom for those assembled:

“Gentlemen, you’re trying to negotiate something you will never be able to negotiate. If negotiated, it will not be ratified. And if ratified, it will not work”

Three years later, the Treaty of Rome was signed, establishing the European Economic Community and from that day to this, the degree of meddling, interference and sheer bureaucracy has increased year after year until we find ourselves here.

Europe is broken and the people charged with trying to fix it are clearly not up to the job. There are way too many vested interests, too many national peccadillos and way too many good, old-fashioned egos in play for it to come down to anything but a last-ditch solution when they are forced into it – and that solution WILL be the printing of money in some shape or form which will help to magically inflate the debt away. The other alternatives are either just too painful (default/ forgiveness) or plain unworkable (growth).

A look at a selection of newsflashes that hit screens this week shows just how ridiculous things have become as everybody involved in trying to sort out the mess that is Europe attempts to get themselves in front of a microphone in order to let the world know just how important they are. Some of these appearances, it would seem, are stage-managed for maximum effect on markets – others are simply self-important politicians who just can’t bring themselves to utter the words “no comment”:

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The Endgame: Europe is finished

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by Tyler Durden
Posted Zero Hedge on September 14, 2011

THE MOST SCATHING REPORT DESCRIBING IN EXQUISITE DETAIL the coming financial apocalypse in Europe comes not from some fringe blogger or soundbite striving politician, but from perpetual bulge bracket wannabe, Jefferies, and specifically its chief market strategist David Zervos. “The bottom line is that it looks like a Lehman like event is about to be unleashed on Europe WITHOUT an effective TARP like structure fully in place.

Now maybe, just maybe, they can do what the US did and build one on the fly – wiping out a few institutions and then using an expanded EFSF/Eurobond structure to prevent systemic collapse. But politically that is increasingly feeling like a long shot. Rather it looks like we will get 17 TARPs – one for each country. That is going to require a US style socialization of each banking system – with many WAMUs, Wachovias, AIGs and IndyMacs along the way.

The road map for Europe is still 2008 in the US, with the end game a country by country socialization of their commercial banks. The fact is that the Germans are NOT going to pay for pan European structure to recap French and Italian banks – even though it is probably a more cost effective solution for both the German banks and taxpayers….Expect a massive policy response in Europe and a move towards financial market nationlaization that will make the US experience look like a walk in the park. ” Must read for anyone who wants a glimpse of the endgame. Oh, good luck China. You’ll need it.

Full Report:

In most ways the excess borrowing by, and lending to, European sovereign nations was no different than it was to US subprime households. In both cases loans were made to folks that never had the means to pay them back. And these loans were made in the first place because regulatory arbitrage allowed stealth leverage of the lending on the balance sheets of financial institutions for many years. This levered lending generated short term spikes in both bank profits and most importantly executive compensation – however, the days of excess spread collection and big commercial bank bonuses are now long gone.

We are only left with the long term social costs associated with this malevolent behavior. While there are obvious similarities in the two debtors, there is one VERY important difference – that is concentration. What do I mean by that? Well specifically, there are only a handful of insolvent sovereign European borrowers, while there are millions of bankrupt subprime households. This has been THE key factor in understanding how the differing policy responses to the two debt crisis have evolved.

In the case of US mortgage borrowers, there was no easy way to construct a government bailout for millions of individual households – there was too much dispersion and heterogeneity. Instead the defaults ran quickly through the system in 2008 – forcing insolvency, deleveraging and eventually a systemic shutdown of the financial system. As the regulators FINALLY woke up to the gravity of the situation in October, they reacted with a wholesale socialization of the commercial banking system – TLGP wrapped bank debt and TARP injected equity capital. From then on it has been a long hard road to recovery, and the scars from this excessive lending are still firmly entrenched in both household and banking sector balance sheets.

Even three years later, we are trying to construct some form of household debt service burden relief (ie refi.gov) in order to find a way to put the economy on a sustainable track to recovery. And of course Dodd-Frank and the FHFA are trying to make sure the money center commercial banks both pay for their past sins and are never allowed to sin this way again! More on that below, but first let’s contrast this with the European debt crisis evolution.

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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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America “makes the cut” – So what happens next?

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by Brandon Smith
Posted on Alt-Market, August 7, 2011

AROUND THE WORLD, STARTING MONDAY, ALL EYES ARE ON THE MARKETS. The tension is palpable. The uncertainty is ample. And anger is heavy in the air. As predicted, the debt ceiling deal was not only NOT enough to assuage economic fears, it actually exacerbated them, triggering a flight from the Dow, and creating a decisive opportunity for ratings agency S&P to cut the once perfect U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+.

At Alt-Market, we often talk about points of balance, and how certain moments in history become highly visible indicators of balance lost. If we pay close attention, and know what we are looking for, these moments can be recognized, allowing us time to shield ourselves from the explosion and the resulting financial shrapnel. The past two weeks have culminated into one of these defining events that tell us the tide has fully turned, and something new and dangerous is just over the horizon. The question now is; what should we expect?

The nature of the credit downgrade situation is not necessarily “unprecedented” in history, but it is surely unprecedented on the scale we see currently in the U.S. It is difficult to predict how exactly the investment world will react. Some consequences, though, are probable, if not inevitable. Let’s examine the events we are likely to see in the coming weeks as well as the coming months, as nations attempt to adjust to America’s final plunge…

1) Ratings Agencies under attack

This has already begun. Italian authorities have raided the offices of S&P and Moody’s, apparently perturbed that their credit rating is not under their control. The U.S. is accusing S&P of making “accounting mistakes” and jumping the gun on the American downgrade. The battle between insolvent governments and the ratings agencies from here on will escalate quickly. More offices will be investigated and raided. The mainstream media will try to assert that the downgrades are “not that important”, and that the U.S. will recover quite nicely without a perfect score. Eventually, as the collapse becomes more evident, ratings agencies will fill the role as the go to scapegoat / economic hitman at which all governments will point accusing fingers.

“S&P is gonna’ cut you man! S&P’s a blade-man, man!”

In my view, it’s all theater. First, let’s set aside the recent ratings cuts altogether and look at the facts. The U.S. should have been downgraded years ago, especially after the Federal Reserve decided to begin purchasing U.S. Treasury Bonds in place of dwindling foreign interest and turned to monetizing our debt to the point of rampant inflation. Italy and numerous other EU members should have been downgraded to junk status a long time ago as well. If anything, the ratings agencies over the past few years have been PROTECTING the credit reputations of many countries which in no way deserve it. The recent downgrades are long overdue…

Second, suddenly governments and MSM pundits feel it necessary to point out the large part ratings agencies played in the derivatives bubble and subsequent credit crisis? Please! They were perfectly content with S&P or Moody’s giving fraudulent top ratings for toxic garbage securities, and even defended agency actions after the bubble burst! Now, after they finally start doing their jobs by downgrading bad debt, governments want an investigation?

Third, ratings agencies were not alone in the creation of the derivatives bubble. The private Federal Reserve artificially lowered interest rates and flooded the markets with cheap fiat. International banks used this fast money to create the easy mortgage groundswell and the derivatives poison that was fed it into the system. Ratings agencies went along with the scam and graded the worthless securities as AAA. The federal government and the SEC allowed all of this to take place by purposely ignoring the crime and refusing to apply existing regulations in investigating the fraud.

The Bottom line? You CANNOT create an economic crisis like the one we face today without collusion between big business, government, regulatory bodies, and ratings agencies. The Obama Administration is well aware of this, and the attacks on S&P are nothing more than a show. S&P is not to blame for the downgrade this past weekend. They are ALL to blame.

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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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Too big to fail? Ten banks own 77% of all U.S. banking assets

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from The Economic Collapse
Posted July 18, 2011 

BACK DURING THE FINANCIAL CRISIS OF 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out. The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill. Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.

Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger. Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage. They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time. None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed. In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners. Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented. This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis. While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000. By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide. Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power. Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions. In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding. The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow. For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding and has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again. The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again. Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money. In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it. Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

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