June 9, 2017
Americans now have the highest revolving debt in US history, collectively owing more than a trillion dollars in credit card debt. RT America’s Manila Chan has the details.
June 9, 2017
Americans now have the highest revolving debt in US history, collectively owing more than a trillion dollars in credit card debt. RT America’s Manila Chan has the details.
Charles Hugh Smith
March 28, 2017
Those benefiting from these destructive “solutions” may think the system can go on forever, but it cannot go on when every “solution” becomes a self-reinforcing problem that amplifies all the other systemic problems.
We are living in an interesting but by no means unique dynamic in which the solutions to problems such as slow growth and inequality have become the problems. This is a dynamic I have often discussed in various contexts. In essence, a solution that was optimized for an earlier era and situation is repeatedly applied to the present–but the present is unlike the past, and the old solution is no longer optimized to current conditions.
The old solution isn’t just a less-than-optimal solution; it actively makes the problem worse.
As a result, the old solution becomes a new problem that only exacerbates the current difficulties. The status quo strategy is not to question the efficacy of the old solution–it is to apply the old solution in heavier and heavier doses, on the theory that if only we increase the dose, it will finally resolve the problem.
Take borrowing from the future, i.e. debt, as a prime example of this dynamic. Back when credit was scarce and expensive, unleashing a tsunami of cheap, abundant credit supercharged growth by enabling millions of people who previously had limited access to credit to suddenly borrow and spend enormous sums of cash.
This tsunami of new spending supercharged growth such that servicing the debt was easy, as incomes and wealth both expanded far beyond the cost of the new debt.
Fast-forward to today, and adding 50% of the nation’s GDP in new federal debt ($9 trillion) and trillions more in corporate and houshold debt in the past 8 years has yielded subpar growth–roughly 2% a year.
This poor response to massive floods of credit, borrowing and spending has flummoxed conventional economists, who incorrectly assumed old solutions would always work as they had in the past.
In a similar fashion, conventional economists expected fiscal stimulus to boost growth. Fiscal stimulus–one-time tax refunds, infrastructure spending, tax cuts and various forms of “helicopter money”–central banks creating money out of thin air for the government to spend or distribute–have all failed to generate the self-sustaining virtuous cycle of boosting the output of the engines of income/wealth creation.
As I noted in Fragmentation and the De-Optimization of Centralization (January 2, 2017), The 4th Industrial Revolution has de-optimized centralization. Centralized control, power and money are now the problem, not the solution.
In the past, centralizing control of industries, credit and production increased the productivity of the whole economy. But that was then, and this is now. In the current era, centralization only breeds corruption, moral hazard, revolving doors between state agencies and private industry, opaque, rigged markets, rentier cartel parasitism and state-cartel crony capitalism, in which the central state regulates industries like Big Pharma, defense weaponry, higher education and so on to benefit entrenched interests, elites and cartels.
Regulations have also slipped from being solutions to problems. Everyone weighing the costs and benefits agrees that building and zoning codes enacted at the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century greatly reduced the health hazards posed by slums and unregulated industries. Everyone weighing the costs and benefits agrees that clean air and water regulations imposed in the early 1970s benefited the public and the nation, despite the higher costs for goods and services that industry passed down to the consumer.
Technological improvements and efficiencies offset much or all of these costs by the 1980s, and by the 1990s, technological gains were increasing the income and wealth of almost every participant in the economy.
Recently, these technological gains have become concentrated in the top 5% of wage-earners and the owners of the capital. There are several drivers for this, including proximity to cheap credit, tax evasion techniques available only to corporations and the wealthy, pay-to-play lobbying for tax breaks and regulatory barriers to competition, and so on–all the foul fruits of centralized power and the crony-capitalism it breeds.
But technology is also exacerbating the trend to a winner-take-all or winners-take-most asymmetry between the most profitable and productive and “everyone else.”
Regulations have now become burdens rather than low-cost means of improving the commons shared by all. Advocates for “tiny houses” and similar solutions to homelessness run into buzz-saws of regulations that prohibit such construction and zoning, and advocates of innovations from urban farming to crypto-currencies find regulations (often serving the interests of political donors rather than the public) are stifling innovations and efficiencies that would benefit the many rather than the few.
The regulatory agencies are prone to self-serving complexity that justified their budgets and power; as the regulations become more voluminous and arcane, “experts” in reading the runes and keeping up to date justify their big salaries and departmental budget.
The Lifecycle of Bureaucracy (December 2, 2010)
As I explain in my book Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change, the state only knows how to expand; there is no mechanism, no institutional memory and no reward motivation to reduce the size of state power or revenues, or reduce the reach of the regulations and laws that empower the state to control virtually every aspect of life.
There are many other “solutions” that no longer solve their intended target problem but have become burdensome problems in themselves. One need only look at healthcare, higher education and weaponry acquisition programs to find hundreds of examples of perverse incentives and unintended consequences that are the direct result of anti-competitive, intentionally opaque, centralized regulations that are implicitly designed to benefit the few (wealthy political donors, lobbyists and entrenched interests) at the expense of the many who are shut out of the regulatory game.
Student loans are an excellent example of a “solution” becoming a problem itself, while the underlying problem–soaring costs for diminishing-return diplomas–rages on, enabled by the “solution”: force student debt-serfs to borrow another trillion dollars to fund sclerotic, self-serving bloated bureaucracies.
Borrowing and spending $9 trillion did little but indenture future taxpayers to pay for for our massive malinvestment in diminishing-returns dead-ends.
September 6, 2016
Americans, arguably, have more ‘stuff’ than any other group of people on this planet. We have plastic stuff, fluffy stuff, cute stuff, and ‘cool’ stuff. We have too many clothes, too many gadgets, and profuse knick-knacks. Yes, even other ‘stuff’ to hold our overflowing ‘stuff.’ There’s a great George Carlin quote that sums it all up – “Your house is just a place to store your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” All this stuff is wrecking havoc on our health, though. In fact, it’s messing with our heads.
To be fair, we collect things for different reasons. Maybe a rusted out old car is sitting on the front lawn because someone intended to repair it. An old sweater that we will never wear again collects dust in our closet because it is the only relic we have left of a special relationship. Even smaller items that we collect, though, add to the clutter that is starting to take over our lives, and our minds. It can be a killer pair of shoes or even an old novel that is taking up space in our abodes, but it turns out that those things are taking up precious space in our heads, too.
Arguably, there is real, physiological pain experienced by many people when we have to give u pour stuff, too. Yale researchers have identified two areas of our brain that associate letting go of our things with pain. It is the exact same type of pain we experience from getting a paper cut or drinking too-hot coffee. We seem to value our possessions so much that the loss of them causes us real, palpable discomfort.
Advertisers are well aware that we like our stuff, and use that to their advantage too. Among other techniques to get us to purchase more stuff that we might not need, like mimicking our physical gestures, or being rude so that we’ll spend more, retailers also encourage us to touch products so that we will start to ‘own’ them mentally before we’ve ever even laid out cash to pay for them. This tactic is so effective we’re willing to spend up to 40 percent more for something in its physical form that we can touch and feel, rather than a product that is just presented in pictures.
You can be a full-fledged hoarder, or ‘chronically disorganized’ as the mental health profession likes to call it, but even just a few extra things in your surroundings can cause you to be disjointed mentally, and pulled forward or back in time, making it impossible to be present and engaged with life.
Ironically, Americans are also some of the most debt-ridden people in first world nations, too. While an indigenous tribe member in Papa New Guinea isn’t collecting more than they need, Americans collectively owe more than $700 million in consumer debt. This is a drop in the bucket in comparison to our banks and government, which have now capped the debt ceiling at around $17 trillion, while it mysteriously grows larger behind a secretive cover, but we definitely pay more than we ever dreamed to own another thing that doesn’t really bring us joy or peace. When we pay exorbitant interest on all that stuff we’ve collected, it also means we’ve shelled out around three to five times what its actually worth.
Though reduced income, unemployment, divorce, and medical expenses are among the reasons we go into debt, many of us are also financing a habit of collecting more stuff.
Don’t take my word for it. OfferUp, a mobile marketplace that traffics in used goods, conducted a poll which revealed that more than 1,300 adults surveyed, revealed that many Americans consider themselves burdened with material objects they no longer want nor need. More than half of those surveyed said they though their homes were too cluttered. Unsurprisingly, 84 percent of those people said they were also facing financial challenges. One in seven said that they had rooms in their homes that were so full of junk that they didn’t even use them any more.
Clutter signals to our brains that the work is never done, and therefore we never really relax. Having too much stuff can also stop new things, people, and ideas from coming into our lives. We’ve essentially got no room for them, and so the Universe doesn’t send more of what we really need. It’s waiting for us to let go of the things we don’t need, first.
From a Feng Shui perspective, too much stuff causes low, stagnant, blocked energy that drains you and lowers the quality of your life.
There has even been an association between holding onto clutter and being overweight. A mess causes stress, there’s no getting around that fact, but there are ways to get control of the clutter, and your life.
There is no reason why you can’t eliminate massive amounts of clutter, and free up lots of energy in the process. You’ll be giving your brain a well-needed reboot, and coming home will feel like entering a sanctuary again. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing changes in your personal health, your relationships, and even your income as a result of letting go of stuff. Here are some simple steps to take to get the process started:
Read More At: TheMindUnleashed.org
F. William Engdahl
July 28, 2016
Most of the world has an image of the United States as the one country of the advanced industrial world that took consequent action in the wake of the March 2007-September 2008 financial crisis. The result, we are carefully led to believe—via the politically ever-correct mainstream media like The New York Times or the CNBC financial network or Bloomberg—is that American banks and corporations today are back on their feet, healthy, robust. We are led to believe that eight years of Obama Administration economic genius have produced near-all-time low unemployment as the US leads the way among the G-7 to healthy growth. Only one thing wrong with this picture—it’s a complete, fabricated lie, fabricated by Washington with the collusion of the Wall Street banks and the Federal Reserve. The reality is pretty scary for those living in ignorance. The cracks now emerging in an unprecedented level of US corporate debt are flashing red alert on a new economic crisis, a very, very ugly one.
Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman once made the stupid argument that “debt doesn’t matter.” Dick Cheney back during the 2002 Washington budget debates over the wisdom of making new tax cuts amid huge costs to finance the new Washington War on Terror, made the equally stupid comment, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” In the real world, where debts of private households, of governments like Greece or Portugal or Detroit City, or private corporations like Chesapeake Energy or General Motors, effect jobs, technology, entire communities or nations, debt certainly does matter.
Corporate Debt Time Bomb
Even more dangerous than the enormous rise in US National Debt since 2000, to levels today of over $19 trillion or 108% of GDP, is the alarming rise since 2007 in US debt of corporations, excluding banks. As of the second quarter of 2015 high-grade companies tracked by JPMorgan Chase paid $119 billion in interest expenses over the year, the most in debt service costs since 2000. Disturbing is that that was despite record low debt borrowing costs of 3%. US corporations took advantage of the Fed’s unprecedented near-zero interest rates to borrow up to the hilt. It made sense were the economy really improving. Now with a significant recession looming in the USA, the debt is suddenly a problem. i This is the true reason the Fed is unable to raise interest rates beyond the purely symbolic 0.25% last December. The US corporate debt pyramid would topple. Yet the zero interest rates are wreaking havoc for those investors or insurance companies invested in bonds for “security.”
Now signs are appearing that point to very serious developing corporate debt problems. Delinquencies–late debt repayments of 30 days or more–in the US corporate sector are rising significantly in recent months. In a genuine economic recovery, business debt delinquencies fall, as all ships are floated by a rising tide of recovery. Delinquencies are costly and avoided whenever possible. An early sign of a weakening economy on the other hand, is a rise in corporate debt delinquencies. Delinquencies lead to defaults lead to corporate bankruptcy of not reversed by an improving economic environment. And the real US economic environment is anything but improving.
A recent analysis by US economist Michael Synder compared business debt delinquencies in 2008 just before the Lehman Brothers collapse. Then, delinquencies were rising at a very frightening pace he notes, “and this was a very clear sign that big trouble was ahead. Unfortunately for us, in 2016 business debt delinquencies have already shot up above the level they were sitting at just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and every time debt delinquencies have ever gotten this high the US economy has always fallen into recession.”
According to another analysis by Wolf Richter, delinquencies of commercial and industrial loans at all US banks, after hitting a low point in end of 2014 of $11.7 billion, have begun to balloon. “Initially, this was due to the oil & gas fiasco, but increasingly it’s due to trouble in many other sectors, including retail. Between Q4 2014 and Q1 2016, delinquencies spiked 137% to $27.8 billion. They’re halfway toward to the all-time peak during the Financial Crisis in Q3 2009 of $53.7 billion. And they’re higher than they’d been in Q3 2008, just as Lehman Brothers had its moment.”
Richter also notes that the debt problems are spreading to US farms which today are very much a corporate business: “Slumping prices of agricultural commodities have done a job on farmers, many of whom are good-sized enterprises. Farmland is also owned by investors, including hedge funds, who’ve piled into it during the boom, powered by the meme that land prices would soar for all times because humans will always need food. Then they leased the land to growers.” But as Richter relates, “Now there are reports that farmland, in Illinois for example, goes through auctions at prices that are 20% or even 30% below where they’d been a year ago. Land prices are adjusting to lower farm incomes, which are lower because commodity prices have plunged.
Now delinquencies of farmland loans and agricultural loans are sending serious warning signals. These delinquencies don’t hit the megabanks. They hit smaller specialized farm lenders.” He notes that delinquencies of farmland loans jumped 37% from $1.19 billion in Q3 2015 to $1.64 billion in Q1 this year.
Zero rate bubble danger
Many think that the aim of the post-2008 Fed Zero Interest Rate Policy was to stimulate investment into the economy to avert a new economic depression. Far from it. Since the first onset of the US sub-prime real estate crisis in March 2007, total US corporate debt levels, according to Standard & Poor’s, has ballooned to an all-time high level of $6.6 trillion as of the beginning of this year. In the past five years since 2011 alone corporate debt, amid virtually free Fed-inspired interest rates after tax adjustments, has increased by an eye-popping $2.8 trillion, at least 40% more net and total debt than in 2007. In 2016 the rise in corporate debt, annualized, is running at an alarming $1.4 trillion annualized rate, nearly double the rate prior to the financial collapse of September 2008.
Had that rise in corporate debt been used, as was the prudent corporate norm until recently, to finance plant, new more modern equipment and other long-term productive assets, such debt would have generated an income flow that would suffice to repay the debt, usually with a nice surplus profit to boot. It would also have boosted job creation and real economic growth, not the faked US Government virtual GDP growth.
This corporate debt binge has gone to nothing so productive. Instead it’s fueling an out-of-control stock market bubble, as seen in the all-time highs on the S&P 500 stock index. Corporations are using their near-free debt to buy back their own stock shares, a dubious practice which benefits only the stock price of shareholders but adds not an ounce of net productive gain to the real economy. Or it has gone to finance corporate mergers and takeovers, which again do not add net gain to the real economy but rather the opposite—job cuts, plant closings and asset strips. Highly profitable for Wall Street and for financial operators, not for the real economy.
As a totality US corporations today have a far greater vulnerability in terms of levels of debt in relation to revenues or income than at the onset of the 2007-2008 financial tsunami.
The Federal Reserve, along with the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have reverted over the past two years to the unprecedented and ludicrous policy of zero interest rates to keep their financial Ponzi bubble inflating, not bursting. The ECB and Bank of Japan recently have actually gone to negative interest rates meaning banks pay the ECB or BOJ to place reserves in the central bank. The Fed is considering such a negative rate policy shift. Today it has been calculated that more than $13 trillion worth of government bonds globally now have negative rates. That’s more than one-third of all government bonds. That means someone buying those bonds and holding until it matures, will actually lose money. Only because major pension funds and insurance companies are required by law, originally for reasons of safe and prudent long-term investment, to buy only high-rated government bonds can the negative rate bonds find buyers.
Now, for the same reason, high-rated corporate bonds are being offered paying negative interest rates. Bloomberg Business reports that $512 billion worth of corporate bonds now have negative rates, 11 times more corporate bonds with negative yields than there were six months ago. With so much of government bonds paying negative interest, and now an exploding share of the US corporate bonds, the solvency risks of US pension funds and insurance companies is growing alarmingly in a chain-reaction follow-on effect.
The alarming warning signal of trouble in the US corporate bond market with soaring rates of debt delinquencies, and the fact that since the collapse of the US shale oil industry Wall Street and other major bank creditors have been tightening criteria for extending more debt, say to me that the US economy is on the precipice of a new debt default implosion that will make 2008 appear a financial market hiccup by comparison. Maybe this reality is behind the utterly irrational Washington hysteria against Russia and now against China. If you run out of targets from whom to rob assets peacefully through stock market and bond manipulations, try the old method of gunpoint. Only this time the intended victims are not reacting at all as victims, but as defenders of their sovereignty. Something new and unexpected by Washington and their Wall Street patrons.
Read More At: Journal-Neo.org
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”
July 18, 2016
On the economy crashing this year, investment banker and former Assistant Secretary of Housing, Catherine Austin Fitts says, “Could we turn into a bear market? I think given the commitment to equity markets and given the willingness to debase the currency, I think the chances of that are relatively small this year. Next year, depending on what happens in the election, the gloves are going to come off globally about what’s been going on in the U.S. Anything could happen. That’s the danger if you are an investment advisor or an investor. The swings here is we could be up 30%, or we could be down 50%. A black swan could happen, so if you are an investor, you need to be prepared for very, very wide swings both up and down in prices in the equity markets. Here’s the important thing to remember. . . . We now have $12 trillion sitting in negative interest rates. Where’s all that money going to go? It can’t sit there getting nothing. It will have to go into real estate. It’s going to have to go into equity. It’s going to have to go to precious metals because it can’t sit there getting no or negative yields forever. . . . The debt game is over.”
On gold and silver, Fitts says, “Interest rates coming down makes gold and silver more attractive. I think the number one thing driving precious metals is you’ve still got growth going on in Asia, and they are buyers. People are afraid, and they are looking at what is going on with the leadership, and they are getting scared. They want to hedge their bets, and gold and silver is where you go when you don’t trust the system.”
Join Greg Hunter of USAWatchdog.com as he goes One-on-One with Catherine Austin Fitts, publisher of The Solari Report at Solari.com.
All links can be found here: http://usawatchdog.com/us-clinton-bey…
Charles Hugh Smith
July 13, 2016
In effect, helicopter money turns the entire economy into a Ghost City.
The possibility that Japan might launch helicopter money stimulus sent global stock markets soaring in a paroxysm of pleasurable anticipation. But exactly what is helicopter money and what connection does it have to stock valuations, if any?
Broadly speaking, helicopter money is government deficit spending that is directed to households rather than the financial sector. Deficit means the government doesn’t have extra cash to pay for the stimulus program–it borrows it by selling government bonds.
With interest rates near-zero or even negative, it doesn’t cost governments much to borrow huge sums from future taxpayers. All bonds are borrowed from future taxpayers, because somebody will have to pay back the principal, even if there are no interest payments due.
Typically, bonds that mature (i.e. the principal must be returned to the owner of the bond) are replaced with newly issued bonds. In other words, government debt never declines, as new debt is issued to replace bonds that come due AND to fund additional spending.
The nearest household analogy is a mortgage which you “pay off” by borrowing an even larger sum every few years. The debt just keeps getting larger as time goes on.
The assumption here is that there will be more of everything in the future: more taxpayers paying more taxes, more consumers consuming more, more workers being even more productive, more corporations earning even more profits, and so on: more, more, more, more.
More of everything means it will be easier to pay the debt we borrowed from future taxpayers. The economy will be larger, tax receipts will be higher and productivity will drive profits and consumption higher.
This assumption worked for a few hundred years, but now it doesn’t. In Japan (and many other nations are soon to tread the same path), population is declining and GDP, profits, productivity and tax receipts are all stagnating.
This raises the terrifying prospect that there won’t be more of everything in the future. If there is less of everything, sacrifices must be made to roll over the mountain of debt accumulated in the past, and it soon becomes impossible to do so.
Here’s the magic part of helicopter money: to avoid all the problems of ever-rising debt in a stagnating economy, the central bank creates money out of thin air and buys the government bonds with the newly created money.
June 22, 2016
Hillary Clinton Makes Dire Predictions for Economy if Donald Trump Wins … Clinton Skewers Trump’s Economic Policy … Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, spoke in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, criticizing Donald J. Trump’s plans for the economy. –New York Times
Every time a law is passed or a regulation is applied, it diminishes prosperity for some at the expense of others.
Voluntary competition and cooperation are building blocks of wealth.
Unfortunately, in the US today, major politicians don’t recognize any of this (with the exception perhaps of Rand and Ron Paul).
Politicians are sure that if they pass this law or change that regulation somehow things will get better.
This is why the New York Times is able to publish such an enthusiastic article about Ms. Clinton’s economic ideas.
She wants to use government to force people to do certain things. These things, she believes, will help everyone.
But they will not. It is economically illiterate to believe that if you force people to do something, that the outcome will somehow be beneficial to all or most.
Nonetheless, the New York Times seems to believe that price fixing can generate net positives. And Ms. Clinton certainly does.
In her next scheduled public appearance, on Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., Mrs. Clinton is expected to shift to a more positive message, outlining her vision for what she has labeled a “growth and fairness economy.”
Her plans include increasing the minimum wage, closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to move jobs overseas and expanding benefits for working families.
Clinton spent a good deal of time in her speech criticizing Donald Trump’s economic ideas. To the extent that Trump tries to force people to act in a certain way, he will create disincentives and reduce prosperity.
But that is Trump, not Clinton. Hillary of course has better ideas on how to manipulate the economy. And in her next speech, she will make the argument that her ideas are better because they seem to benefit more people.
But if one looks over the history of economic legislation it should be clear that even the most aggressive leveling doesn’t really help anyone.
The US is some $200 trillion in debt, all in – and most of its citizens are in debt as well. Businesses are fleeing are others are closing. 100 million people don’t work in the mainstream economy.
This is the result of the kinds of actions that politicians have taken to create the “fairness and prosperity” that Hillary hopes to impose.
Forcing people to do certain things, no matter how beneficial it sounds, only creates price-fixes that ultimate impoverish everybody.
Monopoly central banking, price controls, minimum wages, social security, progressive taxation – all these were supposed to help people and provide wealth for those who did not have it.
But you can’t create lasting prosperity by redistributing wealth by force.
Unfortunately, that is what political elections are about.
Hillary – unless she is indicted and drops out of the race – will get a respectful hearing in the major media because her price-fixing ideas will be put in the context of benefiting the majority of voters.
But even a cursory look at the US economy should convince voters that trying to provide prosperity by force doesn’t work.
It’s an elite dominant social theme. Elites love wealth distribution because they usually control who benefits.
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Ms. Clinton and others will go on talk shows and give speeches on ways to create prosperity. But what won’t ever be talked about is that such prescriptions are fundamentally warnings to wealthier people.
These warnings suggest that some people will have to give up yet more wealth so others can benefit. And they will threaten people with imprisonment and worse if they don’t obey.
Like other “progressive” politicians, Ms. Clinton sounds well-meaning but really her proposals – the proposals of almost all politicians – suggest using the power of government to steal from some to give to others.
This is not a “platform.” It is malfeasance.
There is an entire rhetoric that has sprung up around political dialogue. The fundamental force is never acknowledged. The price-fixing is never grappled with.
But this is the fundamental flaw of modern democracy. It has turned into an argument over ways to justifying stealing.
The stealing is known as “policy” but it is nothing price-fixing, and price-fixing only distorts and misaligns resources, thus impoverishing everyone.
Conclusion: At root, like all political “policies,” Clinton’s proposals will promise increased wealth but won’t deliver. They will end up making people poorer and more miserable. Her foreign policies are even worse, emphasizing force and continued US warring. The combination of elevated, domestic theft and increased, organized violence abroad is her “platform.” People won’t understand until it is too late.