This post was published at OpenMind
This post was published at OpenMind
Licking the Log
American workers, as a whole, are facing a disagreeable disorder. Their debt burdens are increasing. Their incomes are stagnating.
There are many reasons why. In truth, it would take several large volumes to chronicle all of them. But when you get down to the ‘lick log’ of it all, the disorder stems from decades of technocratic intervention that have stripped away any semblance of a free functioning, self-correcting economy.
The financial system circa 2017, and the economy that supports it, has been stretched to the breaking point. Shortsighted fiscal and monetary policies have propagated it. The result is a failing financial order that has become near intolerable for all but the gravy supping political class and their cronies.
Take consumer spending. This is the primary driver of the U. S. economy. Yet it requires vast amounts of credit. In fact, American consumers presently hold $1 trillion in revolving credit. At the same time, they have nowhere near the income needed to finance these debts, let alone pay them off.
Remember, the flip-side of credit is debt. Obviously, the divergence of increasing debt and stagnating incomes is a condition that cannot go on forever. But it can go on much longer than any sensible person would consider possible.
This post was published at Acting-Man on May 6, 2017.
Paycheck to Paycheck
GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – The Dow was down 118 points on Wednesday. It should have been down a lot more. Of course, markets know more than we do. And maybe this market knows something that makes sense of these high prices. What we see are reasons to sell, not reasons to buy.
Nearly half of all American families live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ say researchers. Without borrowing, 46% couldn’t raise $400 to cover an emergency. This is at least part of the reason why retail sales dropped for the second month in a row in March. Despite seven years of economic ‘recovery,’ millions of Americans don’t have much money.
According to Census Bureau figures, 110 million Americans receive benefits from means-tested federal programs – food stamps, disability, and the like. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 125 million Americans have full-time work (with another roughly 112 million without jobs).
That means there are only 125 million people in full-time jobs supporting the whole kit and caboodle of the U. S. economy, with a total population of 323 million. At that rate, each full-time worker supports about 2.6 people… including almost one person receiving money from the feds.
They are also supporting a government debt of $20 trillion and private debt of another $40 trillion or so. That puts the debt-to-full-time-worker ratio at $480,000. The average salary for a full-time worker is just $48,000. At a modest 5% interest, his share of the debt cost would set him back $24,000 each year.
He’d have only the remaining $24,000 to support (1) his own family… and (2) all the malingerers, cronies, and zombies who are drawing government benefits. Obviously, those numbers don’t work. But they explain much of the weakness in the U. S. economy.
The feds’ cheap credit keeps moving money (mostly in the form of asset price increases) to the wealthiest ZIP codes… while the average person’s budget gets tighter and tighter.
This post was published at Acting-Man on April 21, 2017.
When “socialist” states have to impose finance-capital extremes that even exceed the financialization of nominally capitalist economies, it gives the lie to their claims of “socialism.” OK, so our collective eyes start glazing over when we see Marx and Orwell in the subject line, but refill your beverage and stay with me on this. We’re going to explore the premise that what’s called “socialism”–yes, Scandinavian-style socialism and its variants–is really nothing more than finance-capital state-cartel elitism that has done a better job of co-opting its debt-serfs than its state-cartel “capitalist” cronies. We have to start with the question “what is socialism”? The standard definition is: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. In practice, the community as a whole is the state. Either the state owns a controlling interest in the enterprise, or it controls the surplus (profits), labor rules, etc. via taxation and regulation.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2017.
Neocolonial “capitalist paradise” or crony “socialist paradise”: the net result is the same: expropriation and impoverishment. Yesterday I noted that not all assets will make it through the inevitable financial re-set. ( Which Assets Are Most Likely to Survive the Inevitable “System Re-Set”?) Those that are easy to expropriate will be expropriated, and those assets vulnerable to soaring taxes, inflation and currency devaluation will also be hollowed out. There are two real-time examples of these dynamics we can profitably study: “capitalist” Greece and “socialist” Venezuela. Both nations have impoverished their citizenry to preserve an oligarchy and its cronies. I hope it won’t be too great a shock that crony-capitalism and crony-socialism function in much the same fashion and generate the same result: the wealth of the nation is funneled (or expropriated) into the ruling Elites, impoverishing the non-elites.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2017.
Although multi-billionaire hedge fund tycoon and international political pot-stirrer George Soros lost big with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the victory of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, he stands to lose further ground, politically and financially, as the winds of political change sweep across the globe.
Soros, who fancies himself as the master of placing short put options on stocks, often cleaning up to the tune of billions of dollars in the process when the stock values collapse, has been dealt a few financial body blows. Recently, the Dutch securities market regulator AFM accidentally revealed on line all of Soros’s short trades since 2012. Soros’s trades were revealed on AFM’s website and were removed after the regulator realized the error. However, the Soros data had already been captured by automatic data capturing software programs operated by intelligence agencies and brokerage firms that routinely scour the Internet looking for such mistakes.
Among the bank shares targeted by Soros was the Ing Groep NV, a major institution and important element of the Dutch economy. After campaigning against Brexit, Soros bet against the stock of Deutsche Bank AG, which he believed would fall in value after Britain voted to leave the EU. Deutsche Bank stock fell 14 percent and Soros cleaned up. But Soros’s celebration was temporary. With Trump’s election, Soros lost a whopping $1 billion in stock speculation. Surrounded by his fellow financial manipulators, Soros explained his recent losses while attending the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Soros’s mega-wealthy cronies placed their own bets against smaller Dutch firms. Those firms included Ordina, an information technology firm; Advanced Metallurgical Group; and the real estate group Wereldhave N. V.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 29, 2017.
I was about to write a detailed and favorable review of Greg Palast’s book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits when a friend sent me a request to ‘share’ Palast’s Facebook LIVE broadcast of Palast’s documentary exposing ‘exactly how Trump and his cronies attacked the voting rights of a million minority voters to steal the White House.’
Let’s see, Trump won the presidency by winning 84% of geographical America, losing only the black, hispanic, and white liberal vote; yet he stole the election by disenfranchising one million blacks. These blacks don’t live in flyover America. They live in the 500 counties that went for Hillary. 2,600 counties went for Trump.
Here is the map. It tells the story: I am disappointed with Palast, a good investigative reporter, but I understand his frustration.
Palast, despite his virtues, has the failing of so many of those on the left-of-center. They are required to hate ‘conservatives’ and anyone identified as one, whether justified or not. The only thing in Palast’s book about voter suppression with which I disagree is his gratuitous, unexplained designation of Pat Buchanan as ‘a pinhead bigot.’
This post was published at Paul Craig Roberts on January 19, 2017.
In my last post, I made light of British columnist George Monbiot’s absurd charge that today’s free market economists and libertarians are part of an establishment crony capitalist system. A “progressive” friend of mine responded by asking: “Doesn’t big business wrap itself in the mantle of free markets? If so, aren’t exponents of free markets supporting crony capitalism? Aren’t they therefore responsible for the crony capitalist practices that beset us today?
The short answer to this question is that free market economists and libertarians are no more responsible for the willful distortion and misuse of their doctrines than Jesus is responsible for the bloody wars of religion of 16th and 17th century Europe. Adam Smith pointed out two-hundred-and-fifty years ago that business owners, especially big business owners, are not generally supporters of free markets, whatever they may claim. They find its disciplines too onerous; they try to escape them through one means or another, and subverting government through crony capitalist techniques is the tried and true way to do it.
Nor is it correct to think that crony capitalism is a particular phenomenon of our own day. Yes, it has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades, thanks to ample financing provided by world central banks. But it has always been with us.
As I pointed out to my friend, crony capitalism is as old as the human race. It is the economic system embedded in tribalism and as such has been the dominant system for all of human history. Through the ages, powerful cronies latch onto political and economic philosophies and distort them in the process, but this is just window dressing.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Jan 14, 2016.
Sorry, pal, you’re evil. Self-righteous indignation counts for nothing in the strict accounting of real progressivism. Dear Self-Proclaimed “Progressive”: I love you, man, but it has become necessary to intervene in your self-destruction. Your ideological blinders and apologies for the Establishment’s Neocon-Neoliberal Empire are not just destroying your credibility, they’re destroying the nation and everywhere the Empire intervenes. While you squandered your political capital defending zero-cost causes like “safe spaces on college campuses,” the Empire was busy killing, maiming and making refugees of women and children in Syria. President Obama and his Neocon crew (former Secretary Hillary Clinton included) aren’t fools; they rely on drones and proxy armies to do their dirty work. Neoliberalism is the Establishment’s core ideology, and by supporting Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, you furthered, defended and rationalized the Empire’s neoliberal expansion and exploitation. Neoliberalism’s Big Lie is transforming everything into a market makes everyone richer. The dirty little secret of Neoliberalism is that the markets it creates are rigged in favor of Elitist cronies. If you can set aside your “progressive” blinders for a moment (Bill and Barack could do no wrong for 16 long years of neoliberal exploitation), you might learn that the Presidents and party you supported ushered in the era of neoliberal pillage as public-private partnerships, Philanthro-Capitalism, and rigged markets that enriched the elitist Establishment you defend at the expense of the bottom 95% non-elites.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on MONDAY, JANUARY 09, 2017.
I have never seen in my lifetime the deep hatred that is emerging in politics. Obama is clearly getting his CIA cronies to stir the pot claiming that Putin hacked the DNC to seek revenge of Hillary. But exposing the corruption inside the Democrats is just justification to overturn the election. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) daughter and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta are backing the effort to get electors to ignore the election and vote for Hillary. They are claiming they have now 30 people to turn and that means if neither candidate get 270, it goes to the House or Representatives. Yet we are talking about really turning up the civil unrest. The Democrats refuse to accept any loss and they are intent on trying to really force Marxism down everyone’s throats. We are talking about real bloodshed on the streets if this were to take place. It will be civil war.
This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 15, 2016.
Setting the Financial Course – Crimes and Great Fortunes BALTIMORE – ‘Behind every great fortune is a crime,’ said French novelist Honor de Balzac. Even our modest little pile owes much to a crime, though not our own. But what is behind Wilbur Ross’ billion-dollar fortune?
In this series, we are describing how crony capitalism works. The cronies don’t break the law; instead, they make the law. That is, they work with their elected representatives, government employees, regulators, and lobbyists to sculpt the field on which they do battle. Naturally and inevitably, they give themselves the high ground.
We got onto the ragged edge of that high ground by accident when we began working with Mark Hulbert in 1980 to find out which investment advisers really outperformed the market. The thinking at the time was that none could do it; the efficient market hypothesis suggested as much. We decided to find out.
That first wobbly step into the financial world set our course for the next 36 years. It also put us in debt to criminals. Mr. Wilbur Ross should be even more grateful. It was not our own genius or perspicacity that made a rising percentage of the public crave our investment advice; it was the feds’ counterfeit money.
This post was published at Acting-Man on December 14, 2016.
It’s now been almost three weeks since Donald Trump’s shocking (to mainstream propaganda media outlets) victory over Hillary Clinton and her establishment cronies in the presidential election. Despite an overwhelming electoral victory, the furious liberals and their captured media outlets have been conducting a full court press to somehow overturn the verdict of the American people through intimidation of electors, recounts funded by unknown parties, and Soros funded violent protests in liberal enclaves across the country. Meanwhile those of us who work for a living and pay the taxes, allowing the free shit army to protest at their leisure, have continued to go to work in order to make money to support our families just as we did before Trump was elected.
As I’ve detailed in dozens of previous articles about the 30 Blocks of Squalor, West Philadelphia is a product of the ‘Great Society’ welfare state and sixty years of total Democrat control of Philadelphia government. While white working middle class Americans voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump on November 8, the reality challenged voters in Philadelphia cast 82% of their votes for a corrupt establishment hack and only 15% for Trump.
The black voters on the 30 Blocks of Squalor, ignored and taken for granted by Democrat politicians since the 1950s, cast 93% of their votes for Crooked Hillary. It is baffling how these people would continue to vote for their own servitude, trapped in squalor, dependent upon the state for survival, and wallowing in ignorance produced by government indoctrination public schools.
This post was published at The Burning Platform on November 27, 2016.
After a humiliating election loss just eight days earlier, the Wall Street Democrats in the U. S. Senate laid the groundwork for another humiliating defeat in the midterms in 2018 by electing Senator Chuck Schumer to be the Senate Minority Leader.
Schumer is considered the poster boy for Wall Street – as their mouthpiece for lax regulation and a reliable Senate confirmation vote for Wall Street cronies to lead regulatory agencies. Over the past five years, Schumer has raised over $25.8 million for his campaign committee and Leadership PAC with the leading donors being security and investments firms and their outside law firms, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Schumer’s top ten largest donors over his entire political career include seven major Wall Street banks: Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, UBS and the now defunct Bear Stearns. Also in the top ten are two law firms that regularly represent Wall Street firms when they are charged with fraud: Paul Weiss and Sullivan and Cromwell.
The Democrats’ head-in-the-sand vote yesterday came despite progressive activists staging a sit-in in Schumer’s office on Monday to demand that he step aside and allow the Senate Minority Leader post to go to Senator Bernie Sanders – now widely seen across America as the true leader of the Democratic Party.
This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on November 17, 2016.
President-Elect Trump, more policy tweaks, more promises of more government free money and more symbolic gestures won’t fix anything. Though I am just another powerless peon, I’d like to offer seven suggestions to President-Elect Trump and his transition team: 1. Make sure your administration is as diverse as America. No single act will give your enemies more ammo than populating your cabinet and administration with the Usual Suspects: Caucasian elites from Ivy League universities. These privileged “experts” have bankrupted the nation financially, morally and spiritually while enriching themselves and their privileged cronies. Populate your cabinet and administration with entrepreneurially minded, honest, hard working, forward-looking people who just happen to be African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, female, gay, mixed-race, etc. Having a cabinet that reflects the diversity of America (or just the diversity of New York City or Los Angeles County, for goodness sakes) will send a powerful message not just to the nation but to the world: America’s diversity is America’s strength. If you want an example of how to do this, follow in the footsteps of the U. S. military. Yes, it’s imperfect, but for a large-scale voluntary institution, it’s done a lot better than most to promote a diverse spectrum of Americans.
This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2016.
Submitted by Wayne Madsen via Strategic-Culture.org,
Whether the information originated from hacked e-mails and computer files or Freedom of Information Act requests, the revelations about the political and business activities of Hillary and Bill Clinton and their cronies hearken back to another era, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the crime spree of another unscrupulous couple: bank robbery desperados Bonnie and Clyde.
Aside from Hillary Clinton running her own lucrative off-the-books foreign policy via her private email servers and e-mail chain of associates and flunkies, it was her and her husband’s joint Clinton Foundation and Teneo Capital operations that scream out the word corruption. The servers were merely a mechanism by which the Clintons ran their own pay-to-play racketeering operation, something that would have been the envy of a contemporary of Bonnie and Clyde, Chicago crime boss Al Capone.
Teneo, which runs a hedge fund operation and a private intelligence service jam-packed with former Central Intelligence Agency operatives, is where Mrs. Clinton’s gal pal and aide Huma Abedin worked simultaneously to her government employment with the State Department. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe of 650,000 emails found on the laptop computer of disgraced former New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Abedin, is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg. While FBI agents pore through Abedin’s emails that were discovered on the laptop and looking Mrs. Clinton’s emails that were either not destroyed by her aides or which were never accounted for, the real story is the FBI’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation and Teneo.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2016.
Yesterday, former SEC Chair Arthur Levitt penned an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal, effectively telling Senator Elizabeth Warren to stop criticizing Mary Jo White in public. White is the current Chair of the SEC that Senator Warren publicly asked President Obama to fire this month for her bad leadership.
Senator Warren is a genuine champion of the investing public and understands how the SEC has become a lapdog to Wall Street under White’s inept leadership. Levitt is part of the Bill Clinton machine that de-regulated Wall Street and turned it into a massive looting racket in the 1990s through today. It’s important to take note of Levitt’s effort to muzzle Warren in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Expect to see more of this coming from a lot more of Wall Street’s cronies.
Arthur Levitt was appointed as SEC Chair by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Levitt served until 2001, making him the longest serving SEC Chair. Levitt had previously been Sandy Weill’s business partner in a Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1998, when Weill wanted to create Citigroup by merging his Travelers Group, which owned an insurance company, brokerage firm and investment bank, with Citibank, an insured depository bank – an illegal merger at the time under the Glass-Steagall Act – Levitt and his other cronies in the Bill Clinton administration eagerly got the ball rolling.
This post was published at Wall Street On Parade By Pam Martens and Russ Marte.
What happens in the petrocracy formerly known as the State of North Dakota to the tiny minority of reporters who actually expose the misconduct of the petrocrats? Fracking has perverted many organs of the government in North Dakota into petro-cronies. They act to protect their petrocrat patrons from criticism from this minority of reporters. A county North Dakota prosecutor decided to use what is becoming the petrocrats’ favorite strategy to censor Amy Goodman by imprisoning her.
In North Dakota, the petrocrats hired a force of goons with attack dogs to intimidate and attack Native American protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Amy Goodman, an award-winning journalist most famous forDemocracy Now, was the only journalist to cover the attack on the protesters. The petrocrats were enraged when her video of the private goons and their dogs’ attacks on the protesters attained wide publicity.
This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on October 19, 2016.
Once upon a time, contact lens manufacturer Johnson & Johnson was on top of the world in terms of its market dominance. Today, it still produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s contact lenses, but this is nothing compared to the company’s heyday, when it enjoyed numerous government-granted monopoly powers over the contact-lens market.
Unfortunately for the nation’s 41 million contact lens users, the good old days of exploiting contact lens customers via government regulations might be coming back if the new Contact Lens Consumer Health Protection Act is passed into law. This legislation will strip consumers of their right to choose in an effort to further the financial interests of the billion-dollar medical lobby.
Conservatives Open the Contact Lens Market Before 2003, eye doctors had a virtual monopoly over the sale of contacts. They were not obligated to give patients a copy of their prescriptions, so they could more or less control where consumers purchased their lenses. This normally meant consumers could obtain contacts only directly from eye doctors at higher prices. It was a win-win for the medical lobby. Manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson made more money off the lenses, while doctors’ offices profited greatly from the inflated retail costs.
This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on October 11, 2016.
In my last article, The Deplorables ‘ Who We Are And What We Want, I examined the basic philosophies that define what I call the liberty movement; the same group of Americans that Hillary Clinton admonishes as part of her basket of deplorables.
It is important to recognize that only foolish progressives actually take Clintons claims at face value. Clinton seeks to characterize a large subset of conservatives as narrow minded when she mentions the deplorables. But, it is how she defines narrow minded that is the crux of the thing.
When people like her talk about racists, they are referring to conservatives who want a secure southern border. When they talk about Islamaphobes, they are referring to people who want to stop Islamic refugees from being bused into the country without being vetted or philosophically and morally acclimated to our way of life. When they talk about sexists, they are usually referring to all males in general, because remember, social justice warriors (SJWs) claim that we are subconsciously sexist, even if we think we are fair to women. When they talk about homophobes, they are referring to Christian bakers who do not want to participate in services for gay weddings despite the fact that they should be perfectly free to refuse association with anyone at any time for any reason.
What Clinton and social justice lunatics are really referring to when they use these attacks are those people who want to be free to think and do as they see fit as long as they are not violating the constitutional rights of others. No one in Hillarys basket is actually narrow minded, but she and her cronies pigeonhole them as narrow minded anyway.
This post was published at Alt-Market on Wednesday, 28 September 2016.
What do you do when you’re the dictatorial leader of an oppressive government regime looking to maintain power while simultaneously preserving the facade of free and open elections? Well, if you’re the Obama administration then you look for avenues to nationalize state-run election infrastructure.
But you can’t just seize control of infrastructure that has been successfully run at the state level for a couple hundred years…that kind of stuff only happens in Venezuela and we’re better than that. No, you need a catalyst for this kind of blatant power grab. “Coincidentally”, a catalyst just like the FBI’s warning a couple of days ago about “foreign hackers [read Putin] penetrating state election systems.” Then, once you’ve defined the super villain, all you need is a couple of political cronies to go on a fear mongering tour to whip the electorate into a frenzy. And wouldn’t you know it…Harry Reid recently did just that by sending a letter to the FBI voicing his “concerns” that the “Russian government” may be looking to tamper with the upcoming presidential election. Per the New York Times, Harry Reid’s letter to the FBI included the following:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 31, 2016.