Since last November 8th the Russell 2000 has risen by 30% and the net Federal debt has expanded by an astounding $1.0 trillion dollars. In a rational world operating with honest financial markets those two results would not be found in even remotely the same zip code; and especially not in month #102 of a tired economic expansion and at the inception of an epochal pivot by the Fed to QT (quantitative tightening) on a scale never before imagined. And we do mean exactly those words. By next April the Fed will be shrinking its balance sheet at $360 billion annual rate and by $600 billion per year as of next October. Altogether, the Fed’s balance is scheduled to contract by upwards $2 trillion by the end of 2020. And it’s apparently on a path that is so locked-in—-barring a recession—that Janet Yellen affirmed in her swan song that the Fed’s giant bond dumping program (euphemistically called “portfolio runoff”) would no longer even be mentioned in its post-meeting statements.
During more than four decades in Washington and on Wall Street it is quite possible that we never picked up any useful skills. But along the way we did unavoidably acquire what amounts to a survival tool in those fair precincts—-namely, a nose for the con job. And what a doozy we have going now as a desperate mob of Capitol Hill Republicans attempts to enact something—anything— that can be vaguely labeled tax reform/tax cut. And for a reason that lies only slightly below the surface. In a word, they are scared to death that the political train wreck in the Oval Office will put them out of business for years to come. So they are attempting to erect a shield of legislative accomplishment that can be sold in 2018 as the work of the GOP Congress, not the unhinged tweet-storm in the White House. To be sure, some element of political calculus always lies behind legislation. For instance, the Dems didn’t pass the Wagner Act in 1935, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as an exercise in pure civic virtue—-these measures targeted huge constituencies with tens of millions of votes at stake.
The stock market rejoices the House passage of the tax ‘reform’ Bill as the Dow shot up 187 points and the S&P 500 spiked up 21. The Nasdaq soared 1.3%, retracing its 3-day decline in one day. The tax bill is nothing more than a massive redirect of money flow from the Treasury Department to Corporate America and billionaires. The middle class will not receive any tax relief from the Bill but it will shoulder the burden of the several trillion dollars extra in Treasury debt that will be required to finance the tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax ‘reform’ will have, at best, no effect on GDP. It will likely be detrimental to real economic output. The Big Money Grab is ‘on’ at the highest levels of of Wall St., DC, Corporate America, the Judiciary and State/local Govt. These people are grabbing from a dying carcass as fast and greedily as possible. The elitists are operating free from any fear of the Rule of Law. That particular nuisance does not apply to ‘them’ – only to ‘us.’ They don’t even try to hide their grand scale theft anymore because the protocol in place to prevent them from doing this is now on their side. This is the section in Atlas Shrugged leading up to the big implosion. ‘When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.’ – Atlas Shrugged
One of the key changes in the House GOP tax bill was to implement a cap on home interest deductions to the first $500,000 worth of mortgage debt and eliminate interest deductions from second homes. Of course, given active opposition from some very powerful realtor and homebuilder lobbying groups, it’s unclear whether the changes will find their way into the final tax bill. But, at least according to Bloomberg, New York’s “millionaire, billionaire, private jet owning” hedge fund managers aren’t waiting around to find out and are already taking steps to game any potential tax changes. Out in the Hamptons, Wall Street’s favored beach resort on Long Island, brokers and buyers already have a workaround for a tax-plan provision under consideration in Congress that would take away the mortgage-interest deduction for second homes. A client of Brown Harris Stevens broker Jessica von Hagn who works at a hedge fund decided to turn the vacation home he’s buying into an investment property by setting up a limited liability company. That will allow him to deduct the interest and earn rental income at the height of the season from the modern home on Bridgehampton’s Lumber Lane, with four bedrooms, three baths and a swimming pool on an acre of land.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 10, 2017.
The Democratic Party’s nominal support for “identity politics” has once again been exposed as little more than hollow virtue-signaling… By now, it’s become clear that the Democratic party establishment installed Donna Brazile has the head of the DNC expecting her to be an obedient stooge who would turn a blind eye to the endemic corruption and mismanagement inside America’s oldest major political party. Unfortunately for them, Brazile had no intention of keeping quiet when she discovered that Obama’s negligence had left the party in debt, effectively allowing the Clinton to play a deciding role in doling out resources, setting strategy and myriad other issues. *** A year after Trump’s upset victory over Clinton poleaxed the Washington establishment and smug Democratic elitists who felt it was their candidate’s god-given right to effortlessly slide into office despite being one of the most unpopular major-party candidates in recent memory, Brazile is speaking out in a new book, excerpts from which have been published in Politico and the Washington Post.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 4, 2017.
The federal government is now 20.4 trillion dollars in debt, and most Americans don’t seem to care that the economic prosperity that we are enjoying today could be completely destroyed by our exploding national debt. Over the past decade, the national debt has been growing at a rate of more than 100 million dollars an hour, and this is a debt that all of us owe. When you break it down, each American citizen’s share of the debt is more than $60,000, and so if you have a family of five your share is more than $300,000. And when you throw in more than 6 trillion dollars of corporate debt and nearly 13 trillion dollars of consumer debt, it is not inaccurate to say that we are facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude. Debt cannot grow much faster than GDP indefinitely. At some point the bubble bursts, and when it does the pain that the middle class is going to experience is going to be off the charts. Back in 2015, the middle class in the U. S. became a minority of the population for the first time ever. Never before in our history has the middle class accounted for less than 50 percent of the population, and all over the country formerly middle class families are under a great deal of stress as they attempt to make ends meet. The following comes from an absolutely outstanding piece that was just put out by Charles Hugh Smith… If you talk to young people struggling to make ends meet and raise children, or read articles about retirees who can’t afford to retire, you can’t help but detect the fading scent of prosperity. It has steadily been lost to stagnation, under-reported inflation and soaring inequality, a substitution of illusion for reality bolstered by the systemic corruption of authentic measures of prosperity and well-being. In other words, the American-Dream idea that life should get easier and more prosperous as the natural course of progress is still embedded in our collective memory, even though the collective reality has changed. The reality that most of us are facing today is a reality where many are working two or three jobs just to make it from month to month. The reality that most of us are facing today is a reality where debts never seem to get repaid and credit card balances just continue to grow. The reality that most of us are facing today is a reality where we work day after day just to pay the bills, and yet we never seem to get anywhere financially. The truth is that most people out there are deeply struggling. The Washington Post says that the ‘middle class’ encompasses anyone that makes between $35,000 and $122,500 a year, but very few of us are near the top end of that scale…
Last week we explained how junk bond managers were buying increasing amounts of equities to ‘juice’ their portfolios and propel their funds higher in the performance rankings. While this struck us as a relatively recent development, the tried-and-trusted method of trading more risk for more yield is going gangbusters in the CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligations) market in 2017… In ‘Hunt for Yield Fuels Another Boom in Another Complex, Risky Security’, the WSJ notes: ‘The CLO boom is the latest sign of the ferocious hunt for yield permeating markets. Stellar performance over the past year has made CLOs increasingly hard to ignore for investors like insurance companies and pension funds. CLOs carve up a portfolio of bank loans to highly indebted companies into slices of securities with different levels of risk. The securities at the bottom of the CLO stack offer the highest potential source of returns, but they are also the first to absorb losses if there are defaults in the underlying loan portfolio. The more senior slices offer lower returns but are more insulated from losses. CLOs are often lumped together with other alphabet-soup acronyms of the financial crisis, such as more toxic CDOs, or collateralized debt obligations. But CLOs actually weathered the financial crisis well: Investors who bought at the top of the market in 2007 suffered paper losses, but there were no defaults at all for the highest-rated securities.’ The ‘boom’ terminology applied by the WSJ for 2017 is apt:
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 23, 2017.
This is the begging-for-the-overthrow-of-a-corrupt-status-quo economy we have thanks to the Federal Reserve giving the J. P. Morgans and Jamie Dimons of the world the means to skim and scam the bottom 95%. Dear Jamie Dimon: quick quiz: which words/phrases are associated with you and your employer, J. P. Morgan? Looting, pillage, rapacious, exploitive, only saved from collapse by massive intervention by the Federal Reserve, the source of rising wealth inequality, crony capitalism, privatized profits-socialized losses, low interest rates = gift from savers to banks, bloviating overpaid C. E. O., propaganda favoring the financial elite, tool of the top .01%, destroyer of democracy, financial fraud goes unpunished, free money for financiers, debt-serfdom, produces nothing of value to society or the bottom 99.5%. Jamie, if you answered “all of them,” you’re correct. The only reason you have a soapbox from which you can bloviate is the central bank (Federal Reserve) saved you and your neofeudal looting machine (bank) from well-deserved oblivion in 2008-09, and the unprecedented, co-ordinated campaign by global central banks to buy trillions of dollars of bonds and stocks.
Answers emerge. Including offshore private accounts. Mexico’s public debt-to-GDP of 50% may seem modest by today’s inflated standards, but when it comes to debt, everything is relative, especially if you don’t enjoy the benefits that come from having a reserve-currency-denominated printing press, and if you borrow in a foreign currency that you don’t control. As the debt load grows, more and more of the States’ financial resources must be used to service it. As El Financiero reports, the cost of servicing Mexico’s debt, despite super-low interest rates globally, has almost doubled in the last five years, and is now higher than it has been at any time since 1990. In fact, according to the Government’s own figures, more state funds will be spent this year on servicing the debt than on all public infrastructure projects put together. Yet as the government scrimps and scrapes in areas that might actually help to boost economic growth, it’s more than happy to dig deep to fill its own pockets. A joint investigation by the news website Animal Politico and the NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity has revealed that, amidst all the budget cuts, the Pea Nieto Government has been using a complex web of shell companies to make hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds, originally intended for public causes such as combating poverty or financing public education, completely vanish.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Sep 11, 2017.
It’s about time that I share with you all a little secret. The situation in the markets is much worse than you realize. While that may sound like someone who has been crying ‘wolf’ for the past several years, in all honesty, the public has no idea just how dire our present situation has become. The amount of debt, leverage, deceit, corruption, and fraud in the economic markets, financial system, and in the energy industry are off the charts. Unfortunately, the present condition is even much worse when we consider ‘INSIDER INFORMATION.’ What do I mean by insider information… I will explain that in a minute. However, I receive a lot of comments on my site and emails stating that the U. S. Dollar is A-okay and our domestic oil industry will continue pumping out cheap oil for quite some time. They say… ‘No need to worry. Business, as usual, will continue for the next 2-3 decades.’ I really wish that were true. Believe me, when I say this, I am not rooting for a collapse or breakdown of our economic and financial markets. However, the information, data, and facts that I have come across suggest that the U. S. and global economy will hit a brick wall within the next few years. How I Acquire My Information, Data & Facts To put out the original information in my articles and reports, I spend a great deal of time researching the internet on official websites, alternative media outlets, and various blogs. Some of the blogs that I read, I find more interesting information in the comment section than in the article. For example, the Peakoilbarrel.com site is visited by a lot of engineers and geologists in the oil and gas industry. Their comments provide important ‘on-hands insight’ in the energy sector not found on the Mainstream Media.
Well, that escalated quickly. Just two months after Standard & Poor’s downgraded its general obligation debt to junk status, warning that the historic Connecticut capital could soon follow other once-proud cities like Detroit into bankruptcy, Hartford city officials confirmed as much when they warned on Thursday that the city could be forced into insolvency within two months if the state doesn’t provide emergency financial relief, the WSJ reports. ‘City officials warned Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, and state lawmakers that Hartford, which has a deficit approaching $50 million, wouldn’t be able to pay all of its bills within 60 days. Hartford officials said it would file for bankruptcy at that point unless the state legislature passes a budget that gives the city more funding or otherwise provides it with more cash. ‘We face the greatest fiscal crisis in our city’s history,’ officials said in a letter signed by Mayor Luke Bronin, Treasurer Adam Cloud and Thomas Clarke II, president of the court of common council.’ Hartford has been plagued by political corruption and a disintegrating corporate tax base – most recently exemplified by health-insurance giant Aetna’s decision to move its corporate headquarters away from the city, which was once proudly called ‘the Insurance Capital of the World.’
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 8, 2017.
Why are we fighting over confederate monuments? Because people feel strongly about this issue? Because they are being removed? Because some groups are trying to exploit the situation to get attention? Or is there another reason? While we are fighting over Confederate monuments relating to events almost two centuries ago, we are not focusing on: . The worsening plight of the poor; . The destruction of the middle class ( many middle class people can no longer afford even a new car); . The crony capitalists who make their money from government handouts or connections, and who are getting richer and richer; Government employees who may have signed on for the most sincere reasons, but whose numbers have swelled, who are now making much more than they would in the private sector, who cannot be fired, and whose earnings are often diverted into campaign contributions favoring one party; A government that is unsustainably financing itself through debt and money printing.
Dr. Per Bylund’s recently published article poignantly states one of the core problems in the Chinese economy and its the state-manipulated Keynesian foundation. I do agree with his opinion. And if we dig deeper into the exact situation of Chinese economy, we will find that it’s a typical failing of the Keynesian, cronyist system. By using the perspective of Austrian business cycle theory, lets take a look at China’s real estate industry, which is suffering more and more painfully from artificial credit issued by China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBC). During the 2008 global economic crisis, China’s central government issued the famous RMB 4 Trillion Stimulus Package Plan (equaling to $586 billion). Since 2009, the Chinese real estate economy has already suffered from three small economic cycles. As it is becoming more difficult for real estate companies to live on artificial prosperity, the duration of every business cycle has become shorter than the previous one. We also see more and more ghost cities because of the economic boom in every sub-economic cycle. There were at least 12 ghost cities founded in 2013, and the number of them jumped to at least 50 in 2017! Bankruptcy is happening more frequently among Chinese real estate enterprises. Since 2016, at least three real estate companies – with a combined debt of at least RMB 763 million – have gone bankrupt. The story of bankruptcy is continuing, with one of the biggest real-estate-driven enterprises, Wanda Group, facing financing problems. If Wanda no longer has access to cheap debt, it might not be able to refinance or roll over all its debt again. If Wanda has to face bankruptcy, it could possibly accelerate an end of the the current Chinese boom. The data from the Chinese local governments is also not optimistic; their debt levels have reached almost RMB 25 trillion (US$ 4 trillion) at the end of 2014. In 2015, even the PBC admitted in one of its annual reports saying that China’s financial system is facing higher instability and uncertainty.
Wall Street appears to have a plan to get the deregulation it wants by pinning the start of the epic financial crash of 2007-2010 on (wait for it) the French, rather than its own unbridled greed, corruption and toxic manufacture of junk bonds known as subprime debt that it paid to have rated AAA by ethically-challenged and deeply conflicted rating agencies. (The same rating agencies that are getting paid by Wall Street to rate its debt issues today.) One of the men helping to peddle this narrative is Steve Hanke, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a taxpayer-subsidized nonprofit that was secretly owned by the billionaire Koch brothers for decades. Hanke’s bio at Cato lists him as a Professor of Applied Economics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and provides the following titillating background: ‘Prof. Hanke served as a State Counselor to both the Republic of Lithuania in 1994-96 and the Republic of Montenegro in 1999-2003. He was also an Advisor to the Presidents of Bulgaria in 1997-2002, Venezuela in 1995-96, and Indonesia in 1998. He played an important role in establishing new currency regimes in Argentina, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ecuador, Lithuania, and Montenegro. Prof. Hanke has also held senior appointments in the governments of many other countries, including Albania, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yugoslavia.’
David Stockman joined Boom Bust to discuss the massive storm that is building and about to slam into Wall Street. During the discussion Stockman reveals what he believes is ahead for the stocks in the market and the economy. The interview began with the Boom Bust host asking the acclaimed author about his concern surrounding a government shutdown. David Stockman began ‘we’re in the midst of the biggest political train wreck in modern history… There will be no governance in Washington. There will be no tax bill, stimulus or infrastructure.’ ‘We’re heading for an expiration of the debt ceiling and running out of cash that will create an enormous crisis by August or September. They’re not going to be able to cope with it.’
As President Trump’s “Infrastructure Week” comes to an ignominious end, NIRP Umbrella’s Alex Deluce reminds us that spending money on bridges to nowhere and cities of the future is anything but the stimulating panacea it is talked up to be… Is a Chinese credit bubble in the cards? Well, it will be interesting to see if China’s authorities can get through the unwind of US $3 trillion worth of excess credit and the distressed debt on banks’ balance sheets. From 2009 to 2016, more than 10 trillion of Chinese investment was thrown at infrastructure, ghost cities, and corruption thanks to a helping hand from the Chinese banks and foreign lenders eager to participate in the Chinese growth story. In fact, hundreds of new cities in China are essentially empty. The hope is that rural population someday move in. Roughly 40% of the 300 million Chinese expected to move into a town by 2030 will mostly be moving to smaller cities in the ‘chengzhenhua’ system. As OfTwoMinds’ Charles Hugh Smith recently explained, building bridges to nowhere isn’t just a waste of money in the present; it saddles the economy with productivity-draining costs for decades to come.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 10, 2017.
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.
Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom. If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it? The typical answer seems to be: deny it, ignore it, get distracted by carefully choreographed culture wars or shrug fatalistically and put one’s shoulder to the debt-serf grindstone. There is another response, one that very few pursue: fanatic frugality in service of financial-political independence. Debt-serfs and dependents of the state have no effective political power, as noted yesterday in It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income. There are only three ways to accumulate productive capital/assets: marry someone with money, inherit money or accumulate capital/savings and invest it in productive assets. (We’ll leave out lobbying the Federal government for a fat contract or tax break, selling derivatives designed to default and the rest of the criminal financial skims and scams used so effectively by the New Nobility financial elites.)
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.