Charles Hugh Smith discusses the popular liberal meme of widening inequality, and comes to the conclusion that inequality is widening alright, but the beneficiaries of this inequality are actually thoroughly and completely in cahoots with the leftwing administration which, on the one hand, makes political hay using class warfare rhetoric about inequality, while, simultaneously on the other hand, managing economic and central bank policy ruthlessly in pursuit of the interests of the financier sector at the expense of the general community.
Individuals are not powerless to change their circumstance. This is the basis of the American Dream (and also the Chinese Dream, Mexican Dream, Iraqi Dream, etc.) The question then becomes: how is the system “wired,” i.e. what are the obstacles, incentives and disincentives presented to individuals who are trying to better their circumstance?
It’s important to ask this question, and to be honest in our assessment of victimhood, oppression and individual responsibility.
The widening chasm refers to both the income chasm between the financier class (1/10th of 1%) and the 99.9%, and the chasm between the real economy and the official narrative of the economy. The essence of propaganda is to substitute an officially conjured narrative for independent critical thinking.
In the American propaganda narrative, the central state and bank are admirably supporting a “recovery” that though uneven in places is soundly on the path to widespread prosperity.
The primary support of this narrative is ginned-up statistics (bogus unemployment rate, etc.) and asset bubbles inflated by easy credit to the masses and unprecedented low-cost credit to the financier class. These are the basic tools of propaganda: choose a metric that you can control or game, and make that the measure of success.
In the Vietnam War, the body-count of enemy combatants was the metric chosen by the propaganda machine to measure success. Unsurprisingly, stacks of dead civilians were duly counted to boost morale and to mask the failure of the war’s managers.
Nowadays the unemployment rate is the new body-count: a metric that can be gamed to reflect an illusory success. Just erase tens of millions of people from the workforce, count every 4-hour a week job and dead-reckon a few million jobs were created outside the statistical universe (the Birth-Death Model of small business creation) and voila, the unemployment rate magically declines even as the economy and the job market stagnate.
The other metric of choice is the stock market, which has been inflated by central bank policies and identified as the gauge of recovery by a political class anxious to deflect inquiries into its systemic corruption and monumental policy failures.
The official narrative carefully leaves the kleptocracy, crony-capitalism and cartel rentier arrangements firmly in place. As noted above, those benefitting from the cartel-state neofeudalism defend their perquisites as “natural,” i.e. the result of meritocracy. This adds another layer of propaganda persuasion to the official narrative.
An independent, critical account of the American economy would soon raise questions about the structural causes of inequality by asking cui bono, to whose benefit is the system arranged?
If we can honestly say that the system’s primary source of inequality is a dynamic economy that rewards the top 10% who are best able to deploy skills and capital, then that suggests one set of potential remediations.
If however we find the system is unequal largely as a result of its cartel-state structure, then that suggests a political and financial reset is needed to clear the deadwood of corruption, malinvestment and state/central bank manipulation of statistics, finance and credit.
Despite President Obama’s recent dinner with Republicans, it is increasingly obvious that Barack Obama has no real intention of compromising with the GOP in order to achieve the so-called “Grand Bargain” that would reduce entitlement spending, increase revenues, and begin balancing the federal budget.
Politico reports on one prominent Republican’s congressman’s encounter with the president.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the third-ranking House Republican, told us about an exchange he had with Obama at Saturday night’s white-tie Gridiron dinner. During a break in the program, McCarthy saw an empty chair next to Obama and decided to seize the chance. Surprised Obama wasn’t working the room, and thinking the president really is a loner, McCarthy walked up to the head table. He found the president was reading his BlackBerry. ...
“I’m waiting for my dinner invitation,” the Republican joshed to Obama, referring to the president’s recent evening out with Republican senators. “I listen to Paul,” Obama replied, according to McCarthy, referring to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Then, in what McCarthy took as a reference to a political charm offensive, he recalled Obama saying, “You guys give us too much credit. We’re not doing all that stuff you think we are.” As told by McCarthy, Obama then said that if Republicans are going to get entitlement reform, “You need me.” As McCarthy walked away, the congressman thought: “He’s still a law professor. He’d rather lecture you and put a red mark on your paper than talk to you.”
Rep. McCarthy’s aperçu appears to be reinforced by Obama’s subsequent interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which the President openly stated that he was not interested in balancing the federal budget “just for the sake of balance.”
Obama stressed that what matter to him was how the budget was balanced, not that it should be balanced. What he cares about is sticking to his left-wing ideological guns. Obama clearly intends to do nothing contrary to his class warfare agenda to restore economic confidence and avert fiscal disaster.
Really, though, Barack Obama is much worse than he appeared to Rep. McCarthy. His loyalty to theory obviously crosses the border dividing advocacy from action. And Barack Obama’s character is much more that of the fanatic than the contemplative intellectual. What has going on in Washington during the Obama Administration has not been a panel discussion or a colloquium. The administration has proceeded ruthlessly on every front simply to impose its will and get its way. What is most striking has been the absolute unwillingness of this President to subordinate his ideological agenda to economic reality.
Obama’s intransigence and complete indifference to consequences identify him really as a terrorist, rather than a mere theorist and professor. If Barack Obama is a professor, he is a professor resembling Peru’s Abimael Guzman, the founder of that country’s Shining Path guerilla movement. In the final analysis, President Obama has adopted a desperate modus operandi consisting essentially of holding a loaded gun aimed at the economic well-being of Americans and declaring himself perfectly willing to pull the trigger if his political opponents fail to surrender to his demands for an enormous payoff consisting of drastically increased taxes on businesses and upper income Americans.
We can only hope that Republicans recognize that nothing positive can possibly be gained by negotiating with terrorists.
Richard Fernandez likens the economic destruction being produced by the current delusional and ever over-reaching Welfare State policies of the international elite to the waste of human lives produced in WWI by the diplomatic and strategic incompetence of an earlier elite, predicting that Obama, Bloomberg, Jerry Brown, and their European equivalents are going to wind up not long down the road just as popular as Germany’s Wilhelm II and Russia’s Nicholas II were in 1918.
A whole generation is finished. Like their counterparts a hundred years ago, the European young are being sent to their professional death in millions. The carnage at both ends of the age spectrum — with the old being killed off and the young’s professional lives essentially buried — is a sign that the welfare state, the future on offer to “Julia” and Sandra Fluke, is now an empty box.
The guys who voted for Hope and Change voted for nothing. The cupboard is bare. Everything that is left in the dying system is being spent to provide a luxurious lifestyle for people like Sir David Nicholson.
It’s broke. Bust. Finished. It’s not true, as Mayor Bloomberg confidently says that government, unlike ordinary people, doesn’t have to pay their debts.
“We are spending money we don’t have,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “It’s not like your household. In your household, people are saying, ‘Oh, you can’t spend money you don’t have.’ That is true for your household because nobody is going to lend you an infinite amount of money. When it comes to the United States federal government, people do seem willing to lend us an infinite amount of money. … Our debt is so big and so many people own it that it’s preposterous to think that they would stop selling us more. It’s the old story: If you owe the bank $50,000, you got a problem. If you owe the bank $50 million, they got a problem. And that’s a problem for the lenders. They can’t stop lending us more money.”
It’s not true any more than it was true that machine gun bullets wouldn’t kill you at the Somme if you went over the top kicking a soccer ball, as some did. ...
Bloomberg can’t believe they’ll stop; because that’s the way its always been in the past? The establishment genuinely thinks the music will keep playing. And they won’t believe it will stop until it actually does.
The current elite has abused, as very few elites have abused in the past, the power of trust. They’ve taken legitimacy built by generations of competence and used it to paper over mediocrity and madness. The trust they had to squander was immense; and they squandered it.
When the crash happens the disillusionment will be tremendous. It won’t be the kind of disillusion that loses elections or topples a government. It will the kind of disgust that pulls down a civilization.
Clark Judge, at Ricochet, explains that though the federal government has been been enormously, fantastically expanding the money supply, the new electronically created dollars have not actually fueled an expansion of business credit.
A successful software entrepreneur and school friend sent me this chilling email last week:
Yesterday I was speaking to a banker in central California who related how he is being prevented from doing his job due to the compliance people (read government pressures) and could not convince the powers-to-be to make a loan despite his long history of good decisons. I hear stories daily regarding how people have seen orders evaporate as a result of the election. Multply this across the nation to understand the impact.
But how could loans be scarce when the Fed has been printing money at an unprecedented rate?
Here is Cato Institute and Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke’s explanation, from a recent EconTalk podcast:
[S]tart with Lehman’s collapse in September 2008. That’s a convenient date. Since that point in time, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has increased roughly by three and a half times. So that means they are buying a lot of these [U.S. government] bonds….
Now that means that high-powered money, or what I call state money—the amount of money produced by the state—has more or less tripled. It’s exploded…. [S]tate money has increased from about 6.5% of the total money supply, when you measure the money supply properly with a broad measure, like M3—so we went from state money being at about 6.5% at the time Lehman collapsed, until now it’s about 15% ....
[In other words] state money is peanuts. What really is important is bank money—and bank money is created by the commercial banking system and shadow banking system, and that’s what really counts.
So, in a way we have had the following scenario develop after Lehman: We’ve had ultra-loose monetary policy with regard to state money and the Federal Reserve.But with the financial regulation that was legislated with Dodd-Frank, and also with what is called the Basel capital requirements, and specifically Basel III, which is being imposed on banks—to increase the capital-asset ratios of the banks.These two things—financial regulation and Basel—have in effect imposed ultra-tight monetary policy on the banking system and bank money.
So, as a result of the two, we’ve had the total amount of the money supply actually being very anemic, not growing very much at all. And in fact, if you look at a trend line since 2009 and look at the endpoint today of the trend line as you are going left to right, that point is about 7.5% higher than the actual level of the money supply that we have.
So, you could argue that relative to trend we’ve got a deficiency of about 7.5% in broad money. And the reason why is that the dominating feature has been the reregulation of banks and the tight monetary policy imposed on bank money. Which accounts for 85% of the total amount of money in the economy.
Basel III is an international banking agreement—one of a series dating to the late 1980s—that is imposing increased reserve requirements on major money center banks globally, and is being applied in the U.S., it turns out, on regional banks, too. Thanks to it and Dodd-Frank, regulators are forcing U.S. banks to shift their portfolios toward U.S. government debt and other assets that qualify as reserves. This is, of course, very convenient at a time of World War II-scale federal borrowing needs made bigger by the president and his Congressional allies insisting on more entitlement and other domestic spending, meaning more debt, not less.
Frank J. Fleming, in the New York Post, explains the thinking of our Rand-villain democrat opponents.
The US unemployment rate has been pretty lousy for a while. Luckily, no one blames President Obama for this, as the recent election showed. And why should they? The government has done everything right: It enacted a huge stimulus, built infrastructure, passed ObamaCare to make sure employees are healthy and it supplied businesses with millions and millions of people just standing around waiting for work.
So if the government has done its part, and there still aren’t enough jobs, then who should we blame? Obviously, it’s the fault of those lazy, good-for-nothing businesses and job creators. ...
[W]e can’t let the prospect of job losses keep us from going after businesses owners where it hurts them the most: their companies.
And that’s the tough line the government needs to take with job creators: You will spit out those jobs we demand — and good ones with health-care benefits! — or we will destroy you and your businesses.
Raising their taxes by repealing the Bush tax cuts is just the start. We need even more taxes and punishing regulations. We need to treat these people like the scum they are, and if they don’t want to watch their companies burn, they’ll yield and finally expand their businesses and create more jobs — and not make any more profit or get richer when they do that, because we find that highly annoying.
We’ve had enough of your sickening greed, business owners, so give us everything we want, and give it to us now.
Friday could very well go down in history as the death knell for an 82-year-old Chicago-born American classic snack cake: The Twinkie.
Hostess Brands, Texas-based maker of Twinkies and a number of other snack foods, announced Friday that, on the heels of a nationwide worker strike, it will be going out of business, closing its production plants and laying off the vast majority of its 18,500 employees nationwide. As for the Twinkie brand? It will be going up for sale.
Three of the company’s plants—including one in St. Louis—closed earlier this week as workers went on strike in response to wage cuts and new limitations in worker participation in pension plans. Now, 1,415 workers at the company’s three Illinois bakeries—in Schiller Park, Hodgkins and Peoria—are losing their jobs, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
A six-months-pregnant woman in Mesa, Arizona chased her husband around a shopping center parking lot with her SUV, and finally ran the miscreant over leaving him in critical condition for failing to vote for Mitt Romney. The lady blamed the incumbent for her family’s economic distress.
Mark Steyn measures the depths of America’s federal debt abyss.
In the weeks ahead, Democrats and Republicans will reach a triumphant “bipartisan” deal to avert the fiscal cliff through some artful bookkeeping mechanism that postpones Taxmageddon for another year, or six months, or three, when they can reach yet another triumphant deal to postpone it yet again. Harry Reid has already announced that he wants to raise the debt ceiling — or, more accurately, lower the debt abyss — by $2.4 trillion before the end of the year, and no doubt we can look forward to a spectacular “bipartisan” agreement on that, too. It took the government of the United States two centuries to rack up its first trillion dollars in debt. Now Washington piles on another trillion every nine months. Forward!
If you add up the total debt — state, local, the works — every man, woman, and child in this country owes 200 grand (which is rather more than the average Greek does). Every American family owes about three-quarters of a million bucks, or about the budget deficit of Liechtenstein, which has the highest GDP per capita in the world. Which means that HRH Prince Hans-Adam II can afford it rather more easily than Bud and Cindy at 27b Elm Street. In 2009, the Democrats became the first government in the history of the planet to establish annual trillion-dollar deficits as a permanent feature of life. Before the end of Obama’s second term, the federal debt alone will hit $20 trillion. That ought to have been the central fact of this election — that Americans are the brokest brokey-broke losers who ever lived, and it’s time to do something about it.
The sound and fury will be over big fights on taxes and spending. They will look like replays of the last four years and not end up accomplishing much. The big changes to our economy will be the metastatic expansion of regulation, let by ACA, Dodd-Frank, and EPA. There will be no change on our long run problems: entitlements, deficits or fundamental reform of our chaotic tax system. 4 more years, $4 trillion more debt.
Why? I think this follows inevitably from the situation: normal (AFU). Nothing has changed. The President is a Democrat, now lame duck. The congress is Republican. The Senate is asleep. Congressional Republicans think the President is a socialist. The President thinks Congressional Republicans are neanderthals. The President cannot compromise on the centerpieces of his campaign.
Result: we certainly are not going to see big legislation. Anything new will happen by executive order or by regulation. ...
[T]he unfolding of regulation will be the big story. It is news to most Americans, but the ACA and Dodd-Frank are not regulations written in law. They are mostly authorization to write regulations. They are full of “the secretary shall write rules governing xyz” with a timetable. Most of that timetable starts today, November 7 2012. You don’t have to think the administration is a bunch of willy nilly regulators to foresee a metastatic expansion of regulation. You just have to look at the time-table of regulations already legally mandated and pending.
I fished around a little on the net. The EPA has regulations under development that by its own estimates will cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year. I’m all for clean air, but there is a question of just how clean and at how much cost. ...
It used to seem shocking that five of the ten richest counties in the United States were part of the DC Metropolitan Statistical Area, but the 2011 American Community Survey numbers released yesterday show that the DC suburbs now account for seven of the ten richest counties in America.
Loudon, Fairfax, and Arlington in Virginia lead the way followed by Hunterdon County, NJ then Howard County in Maryland; Somerset, NJ; Prince William and Fauquier in Virginia; Douglas, CO; and Montgomery County, MD.
Ross Douthat, sounding unusually conservative, noted yesterday that the comparative advantage in affluence of America’s capital these days seemed to resemble that of the capital of a particular dystopian fantasy novel recently made into a successful film, and remarked that, if relations between the provinces and the capital have not yet completely reached the point depicted in The Hunger Games, their differences in prosperity have exactly the same moral basis.
If you don’t mind congested roads and insanely competitive child rearing, all this growth is good news for those of us inside the Beltway bubble. But is it good for America? After all, like the ruthless Capital in “The Hunger Games,” the wealth of Washington is ultimately extracted from taxpayers more than it is earned. And over the last five years especially, D.C.’s gains have coincided with the country’s losses.
There aren’t tributes from Michigan and New Mexico fighting to the death in Dupont Circle just yet. But it doesn’t seem like a sign of national health that America’s political capital is suddenly richer than our capitals of manufacturing and technology and finance, or that our leaders are more insulated than ever from the trends buffeting the people they’re supposed to serve. ...
In reality, our government isn’t running trillion-dollar deficits because we’re letting the working class get away with not paying its fair share. We’re running those deficits because too many powerful interest groups have a stake in making sure the party doesn’t stop.
When you look around the richest precincts of today’s Washington, you don’t see a city running on paternalism or dependency. You see a city running on exploitation.