Quantum Pranx

ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘unemployment

Keynesian solutions: after total failure, try, try again

leave a comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

August 2011: Anarchy in the UK

leave a comment »

An ongoing, and perhaps never-ending story… Where will this end?

Posted August 9, 2011

Gold and silver: We were right – they were wrong

leave a comment »

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

Cracks beneath the Façade

leave a comment »

by ilene
from Stock World Weekly
Posted June 26, 2011

China 

ON THURSDAY, QU XING, DIRECTOR OF THE CHINA INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, a Foreign Ministry think tank, told reporters that China doesn’t want to see debt restructuring in the Eurozone and is working with the IMF and countries involved with the debt crisis in an attempt to avoid it. Speaking at a press conference during a visit to Hungary, Premier Wen Jiabao said, “China is a long-term investor in Europe’s sovereign debt market. In recent years we have increased by a quite big margin holdings of Euro bonds. In the future, as we have done in the past, we will support Europe and the Euro.”. Sunday, on a tour of the Chinese-owned Longbridge MG Motor factory in Birmingham, Premier Wen told BBC it will lend to European countries, and also has plans to stimulate domestic demand and reduce its foreign trade surplus.

China’s stated position prompted Zero Hedge to ask, “Will the third time be the charm for the Chinese ‘white knight’ approach to Europe, where it has so far sunk about $50 billion in bad money after good?” Saturday, Zero Hedge reported that China’s European Bailout (And TBTF) Bid Hits Overdrive, As Wen Jiabao is Now in the Market for Hungarian Bonds. “It seems China has learned from the best, and either knows something others don’t (except for the SHIBOR market of course) or is actively preparing to become Too Biggest To Fail by making sure that if something bad happens to it, literally the entire world will follow it into the depths of hell.  Sunday, ZH wrote, “As expected, China is the new IMF… All this means is that China will do everything in its power to prevent the ECB from launching an outright unsterilized monetization episode, which will double the amount of importable inflation (plunging EUR) to hit the Chinese domestic economy, and destabilize the already shaky stability, so critical for the Chinese communist party.” (China Says It Will Bail Out Insolvent European Countries.)

It’s good to know that China has its problem with inflation now solidly under control.

 

Greece

Greece has a population of just over 11 million people. Compare that to the New York City metropolitan area population estimated at 18.9 million. It may seem strange that Greece’s travails might greatly affect the global economy, but the potential repercussions from a Greek default become more significant when considering leverage and derivatives. Data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that German banks are heavily leveraged, holding 32 Euros of loans for every Euro of capital they have on hand. Other banks are leveraged to the hilt as well. Belgian banks are leveraged 30-1, and French banks are leveraged 26-1. Lehman’s leverage at the time of its collapse was 31-1. U.S. Banks are paragons of sanity by comparison, with an average leverage of only 13-1. (Europe’s sickly banks) France and Germany are the countries most exposed to Greek debt through bank and private lending and government debt exposure (chart below).

Derivatives present another potential minefield. As Louise Story wrote in the NY Times,
“It’s the $616 billion question: Does the euro crisis have a hidden A.I.G.? No one seems to be sure, in large part because the world of derivatives is so murky. But the possibility that some company out there may have insured billions of dollars of European debt has added a new tension to the sovereign default debate… The looming uncertainties are whether these contracts — which insure against possibilities like a Greek default — are concentrated in the hands of a few companies, and if these companies will be able to pay out billions of dollars to cover losses during a default.” (Derivatives Cloud the Possible Fallout From a Greek Default)

Michael Hudson explored the differences between what happened to Iceland and its debt crisis, and what is currently happening in Greece:
“The fight for Europe’s future is being waged in Athens and other Greek cities to resist financial demands that are the 21st century’s version of an outright military attack. The threat of bank overlordship is not the kind of economy-killing policy that affords opportunities for heroism in armed battle, to be sure. Destructive financial policies are more like an exercise in the banality of evil – in this case, the pro-creditor assumptions of the European Central Bank (ECB), EU and IMF (egged on by the U.S. Treasury)…

“The bankers are trying to get a windfall by using the debt hammer to achieve what warfare did in times past. They are demanding privatization of public assets (on credit, with tax deductibility for interest so as to leave more cash flow to pay the bankers). This transfer of land, public utilities and interest as financial booty and tribute to creditor economies is what makes financial austerity like war in its effect…

“One would think that after fifty years of austerity programs and privatization selloffs to pay bad debts, the world had learned enough about causes and consequences. The banking profession chooses deliberately to be ignorant. ‘Good accepted practice’ is bolstered by Nobel Economics Prizes to provide a cloak of plausible deniability when markets “unexpectedly” are hollowed out and new investment slows as a result of financially bleeding economies, medieval-style, while wealth is siphoned up to the top of the economic pyramid.

“My friend David Kelley likes to cite Molly Ivins’ quip: ‘It’s hard to convince people that you are killing them for their own good.’ The EU’s attempt to do this didn’t succeed in Iceland. And like the Icelanders, the Greek protesters have had their fill of neoliberal learned ignorance that austerity, unemployment and shrinking markets are the path to prosperity, not deeper poverty. So we must ask what motivates central banks to promote tunnel-visioned managers who follow the orders and logic of a system that imposes needless suffering and waste – all to pursue the banal obsession that banks must not lose money?

“One must conclude that the EU’s new central planners (isn’t that what Hayek said was the Road to Serfdom?) are acting as class warriors by demanding that all losses are to be suffered by economies imposing debt deflation and permitting creditors to grab assets – as if this won’t make the problem worse. This ECB hard line is backed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner, evidently so that U.S. institutions not lose their bets on derivative plays they have written up…” (Michael Hudson’s Whither Greece – Without a national referendum Iceland-style, EU dictates cannot be binding for more.)

Read the rest of this entry »

“Growing your way out of debt” is a fantasy

with one comment

by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
Originally posted June 22, 2011

ADD RISING INTEREST PAYMENTS AND HIGHER TAXES to declining assets and incomes and you don’t get “growth,” you get insolvency. The Status Quo consensus is that “kicking the can down the road” a.k.a. “extend and pretend” will work because “Greece, Spain, Ireland et al. are going to “grow their way out of debt.” That is a fantasy.

Here’s why.

1. There’s a funny little feature of debt called interest. The Status Quo solution for Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain et al. is A) increase their debt load with more loans and B) roll over their old debt into new loans, without the old lenders taking any “haircut” on the principal. Both of these “solutions” add more interest costs. That means more of the national income stream must be diverted to pay the lenders their pound of flesh. That means there is less money in the national economy to buy goods and services, which means the economy must shrink to pay the higher interest costs.

This is why unemployment in Spain and Greece has skyrocketed and why 100,000 small businesses have closed in Greece in the past year.

2. A funny little feature of interest is that when people see you’re at risk of default, they start charging you more to borrow their moneyAnd it isn’t a tiny bit more interest, it’s a lot. Think subprime teaser loan at 3% shooting to 8%, or 28% if you’re trying to sell new debt on the open market. For the E.U. to “help” Greece and Ireland by rolling over their already crushing debt loads into new, higher interest loans is like “helping” a sick patient by sticking a knife into their back.

3. Governments over-promise future benefits to win elections in the here and now. This makes sense, of course, because you win the elections and power now and the problem of paying for these excessive benefits is left to future politicos and taxpayers. But when the phony “growth” (think metasticizing cancer) fueled by rapidly rising debt is finally cut off, then the government has no choice but to raise taxes, and keep raising them, to pay for the extravagant past promises made to citizens.

That means more of the national income is diverted to taxes, only part of which flow through as cash benefits to consumers. Much of the tax revenues flow to cronies, fiefdoms and of course those higher interest payments on the ballooning debt.

4. Cheap abundant credit has a funny little consequence: asset bubbles. When everybody can borrow vast sums of nearly-free money at costs much lower than the outlandish gains being reaped by real estate speculators and punters pouring cash into stocks and commodities, then of course it is a perfectly rational decision to leverage yourself to the max, borrow as much as you can and join the speculative frenzy.

So assets bubble up to frothy levels, and McMansions sprout by the thousands on Irish and Spanish soil. The “demand” is not for shelter; it was all speculative demand for something to flip and churn. So when the debt bubble pops, so too do all the asset bubbles.

5. Leverage has a funny little feature called collateral and that other peculiar feature, interest. The land and house are the collateral for a mortgage (debt). As the real estate bubble popped, then the value of the collateral plummeted. Now the collateral is worth less than the loan–the borrower is “underwater.” The lender foolishly reckoned this would never happen, and now taking the collateral when the borrower defaults is an unsavory option because the lender will have to absorb a huge loss (“haircut”) if they take the property.

So they choose to “extend and pretend,” offering the borrower new terms, lower payments, etc., anything to keep the loan value on the books at 100%.

All of this is just artifice, of course; the borrower is insolvent, and so is the lender. As long as the borrower has to pay interest and principal, then there is not enough income left to “grow” anything. As long as the lender keeps the impaired loan on the books at the bogus valuation, then the lender is treading on the thin ice of insolvency.

6. As the national income and asset valuations both decline, the government imposes “austerity” programs which further cut incomes. A funny little feature of government “austerity” is the cuts come from the citizen’s side of the expense ledger, not from the crony/fiefdom side. Here in the U.S., for example, the library hours are slashed and the parks are closed to save $22 million in a $100 billion annual budget (those are the numbers in California) while various favored fiefdoms continue to get their swag. The “pain” of austerity is anything but evenly distributed.

7. People facing financial uncertainty and duress have a funny little habit called saving. As the reality of instability becomes crystal-clear to all, then people rather naturally rally round and circle the wagons, i.e. start saving money to cushion them through the hard times. Trusting in future benefits and bubbles is obviously foolish, and the only avenue of relative safety is cash (or equivalent) in hand. As people save more of their declining income, there is even less national income left to be spent on goods and services.

8. These forces are self-reinforcing. The worse times get, the more people save. the lower the national income, the more taxes will be raised. The more visible these trends become, the more interest lenders demand as they see the positive feedback loops leading to insolvency.

Once a household or nation is burdened with stupendous debt loads and stagnating earnings, “growing your way out of debt” is impossible. The E.U. may succeed in strong-arming Greece into swallowing even more debt, more austerity and higher interest payments, but that will only speed up the self-reinforcing dynamics of insolvency, and guarantee the losses kicked down the road for a few months will be even more devastating.

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

leave a comment »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Bankruptcy of Corporate America

leave a comment »

by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds
Posted originally June 10, 2011

The bankruptcy of Corporate America has seeped into the society and those who toil in its machinery.

CORPORATE AMERICA IS PROFOUNDLY BANKRUPT. Not in a financial sense, of course; the Federal Reserve’s slow destruction of the U.S. dollar has boosted corporate profits most handsomely as the majority of their earnings and profits are obtained overseas; when stated in dollars, those outsized profits swell even higher.

No, the bankruptcy of Corporate America is not found on the bottom line; it is measured by altogether more profound metrics than mere money. Corporate America is bankrupt on levels which are difficult to describe; morally and spiritually bankrupt, not just in the pathologies that guide corporate goals and behaviors, but in the Potemkin shell of free enterprise they present to the world in ceaseless propaganda, and in the manner in which they have cut America loose from their corporate souls.

Corporate America only resides in America because it controls the machinery of governance and regulation here for pathetically modest investments in lobbying and campaign contributions. It would be impossible to replace the global Empire that protects and nurtures it, and so Corporate America maintains its headquarters in America, the better to shape policy and skim gargantuan profits from the Empire and its Central State in Washington.

The return on investment for lobbying and campaign contributions is simply unmatchable anywhere else; it is without doubt the highest return on investment on the planet. And the risk-return is immensely favorable; there is simply no risk that the Empire or the Central State will ever go against the “best interests” of its corporate partners.

Corporate America is not about free enterprise and competition; it’s about eliminating competition and forming highly profitable cartels and quasi-monopolies protected by regulations and barriers erected and vigorously maintained by the Central State.

Here are two first-hand reports on Corporate America’s pathologically exploitive soul. The first is from inside management, the other is from someone who lost their job inside The Machine and is looking at the well-dressed troops still working inside.

In my spare time I am pursuing the opportunity of being an entrepreneur. Very long, drawn out and hazardous path it is as you know. Meanwhile I am still part of the rat race and can give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on out here. I work at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and I am in management in a department that had sales of 2.3 billion last year. The manufacturing department I am in not only had record sales, we increased productivity by 40% and decreased deviation investigations by 30%. Won’t bore you with all the details but we accomplished so much that we were awarded the companies global lean six-sigma award.

Moving forward to today, for all our efforts and accomplishments, we, the management received a 2% salary adjustment and a small bonus. Also, we are now being told that we will no longer be paid overtime. This will mean a $10,000 a year pay cut for me, a $30,000 a year pay cut for some of my co-workers. In the effort to increase short-term profits quite a few other horror shows are being rolled out that we must accept or leave.

As you know “leaving” in the current economy is a very hard prospect. Although we are all grown professionals, our morale has been destroyed. Not exactly how you think a company would reward its highest performing department. Basically an overall mood of “who cares” and “what difference does it make” is now the theme of the people I work with. I am so glad I have something else I am working on and have started preparing quite a long time ago for the devolution that is coming.

As an endnote, I just sat through a grueling 1.5 hour “meeting” (job interview) with the new corporate killer they put in charge. Basically I had to genuflect to this person and assure him I am not an obstacle to his insane need for more profitability. Being phony is not my strong suit but I am survivor and I believe I may have bought myself a few more years of servitude.

I know some readers will object to this characterization by saying, “the purpose of corporations is to make a profit for its shareholders.” That is true, but the great entrepreneurs don’t restrict themselves to such an atrophied view of an enterprise’s purpose.

That fact that the “profit is the only thing that counts” value system is so widespread is just more evidence of how deep the rot has eaten into the social and moral fabric of the nation.”
Read the rest of this entry »