Monday, January 2, 2017

Carved up Annotated Kunstler Must Read; "Mob psychology is outrunning both experience and reality"

"...President Donald Trump will be overwhelmed by a sea of financial troubles from the very get-go...

...The current narrative weaves an expectation that manufacturing industry will return to the USA complete with all the 1962-vintage societal benefits of great-paying blue collar jobs, plus an orgy of infrastructure-building.

Which the 'fiscal conservatives' in Congress would have to vote for

...New state-of-the-art factories would require an Everest of private capital investment that is simply impossible to manifest in a system that is already leveraged up to its eyeballs. ...there is no conceivable way to raise (borrow) the “money” without altogether destroying the value of our money (inflation), and the banking system with it.

Good paying manufacturing jobs are being taken by robots

If by some magic any new industrial capacity were built, much of the work in it would be performed by robotics, not brawny men in blue shirts, and certainly not at the equivalent of the old United Auto Workers $35-an-hour assembly line wage...

Similarly for “infrastructure” spending...  our problems with money and debt are so severe that the motoring paradigm is more prone to fail on the basis of car loan scarcity and unworthy borrowers before the fueling issues even kick in. Every year, fewer Americans can afford to buy any kind of car — the way they’re used to buying them, on installment loans. The industry has gone the limit to help them — seven-year loans for used cars! — but they have no more room to maneuver...

Modern car window won't roll up,
$400

...The American people have been punked by their own government and their central bank, the Federal Reserve, for years and the jig is now up. ...both will lose their authority and legitimacy, a very grave matter for the survival of this republic.

...The USA ran out of growth capacity around the turn of the millennium because we ran out of affordable energy to run our techno-industrial economy. ...By affordable energy I mean energy with a greater-than 30-to-one energy-return-on-investment, which is the ratio you need for the kind of life we lead. ...not running out of oil, but not getting enough bang for our bucks pulling the remaining oil out of the earth to maintain our standard of living.

...Everything we’ve done in finance since then has been an attempt to compensate for our fundamental problem with debt — borrowing from the future to maintain our current (unaffordable) standard of living. Our debt has grown ever larger and faster each year, and our methods for managing it have become more desperate and dishonest as that occurred.

The culprit at the center is America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, which is actually not a government agency as it seems, but a consortium of the nation’s biggest private banks, lately known as Too-Big-To-Fail...

Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Citi etc...
are the Federal Reserve

...America recovered from the financial disorder of the 1970s not because of the charms of “Reaganomics” but for the simple reason that the last giant finds of oil with greater than 30-to-one energy-return-on-investment came on line in the 1980s: Alaska’s North Slope, Britain and Norway’s North Sea fields, and Siberia.

And a lot of new debt

That allowed the USA and the West generally to extend the techno-industrial fiesta another twenty years. As that bounty tapered down around the year 2000, the system wobbled again and the viziers of the Fed ramped up their magical operations... This period of Fed spell-casting was characterized by ever more systemically complex finance, growing systemic fragility, pervasive institutionalized accounting fraud, and ever-greater bubbles and busts. Deregulation, especially the 1998 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932, sealed America’s financial fate.

If Trump actually wants to 'drain the swamp',
he will bring back some kind of Glass-Steagall,
which is doubtful, so more of the same...

Debt was the meat-and-potatoes of the Fed’s wizardry, but the “secret sauce” of Fed magic was fraud, in the form of market interventions, manipulations, regulatory negligence, and just plain systematic lying about the numbers that defined the economy. It amounted to nationalized financial racketeering. Under the consecutive Grand Vizierships of Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, control fraud (using official authority to cover up misconduct) was perfected by banking executives, eventuating in the mortgage securities fiasco of 2008, which took down the housing market and the economy...

Of course, nobody paid a criminal penalty for any of this misconduct besides the maverick Ponzi artist Bernie Madoff, and a few other small fish. The regulators looked the other way, on orders from their bosses. Unlike the earlier Savings and Loan bank crisis of the late 1980s, none of the leading bank officer perps went to jail. The damage of the 2008 crash was epic and never repaired, only papered over with more debt, more deceit, and more racketeering.

...The frauds have only been rechanneled since 2008 into college loans, car loans, corporate stock buyback monkey business, currency arbitrage shenanigans, private equity asset-stripping, and the gigantic black box of derivatives trading.

Our economy is relatively fake

...Under Bernanke’s successor, UC-Berkeley Professor Janet Yellen, the emphasis in Fed policy has been an elaborate game of “data-dependent” foot-dragging — a lot of talk with no action — with the data itself largely fraudulent, especially the easily gamed employment and GDP numbers... In short, the racketeering continues while the authorities quail in the face of accumulated and now inescapable debt quandaries ever more certain to end in systemic collapse.

...The government’s official unemployment number at Christmas 2016 was 4.6 percent. It’s a compound lie. The 4.6 percent does not include the 95 million people out of the workforce, most of them able-bodied, who have simply run through their unemployment benefits and given up looking for work. Nor does it figure in the fact that roughly 90 percent of the new jobs created are part time jobs, many of them held by people working several jobs (because they have to, to pay the bills). Nor does it detail the quality of the jobs created (minimum wage shit jobs.)

That 4.6 unemployment figure is the main pillar of the Fed’s “data.” They interpret it as meaning the economy is roaring and has their full confidence...

...The Fed denies this, but they did not raise interest rates for eleven months in 2016 solely because they wanted to make the Democratic administration look good heading into the November vote, and they knew the economy was fragile. Once Hillary was nominated they were determined to usher her into the White House on a high tide of fake good economic news.

When she lost the election the stock markets surprised everyone by entering a super-bubblicious Trumpxuberance rally. There is a narrative for that too in the media chatter and it is simpleminded nonsense based on the sheer hope that Trumponomics will be great for business...

...The crucial ten-year treasury rate has gone up a hundred percent since the summer. Because bond values move inversely to bond rates, the price of treasuries has tanked, inducing trillions of dollars in losses to bond-holders around the world. The bond market is many times larger than the stock markets. Bonds have been in a bull market since the early 1980s and that bull rolled over in mid-2016. A bear market is now on, meaning bond-holders are dumping their bonds. China and Saudi Arabia are among the leading dumpers of US Treasuries because they need the money for one reason or another. They will dump more in 2017 because both countries are in deep economic trouble...

Bonds, of course, represent debt. Total US debt has doubled under President Obama from around ten trillion to twenty trillion dollars (as it doubled under Bush Two from five to ten trillion dollars). The reason, as stated above, is that we don’t produce enough to cover the cost of our national way of life, so we have to borrow continually at ever-greater volume. Every year, the Treasury has to pay interest on all that debt.

This year, with interest rates starting out at historically unprecedented lows (not seen ever in recorded history), the Treasury paid over a quarter-trillion dollars in interest. By the way, the government borrows money to make these interest payments too.

An interest rate rise of one percent, would drive the annual US debt higher by $190 billion.

...A lot of other basic interest costs are keyed to the ten-year bond rate, especially home mortgages, apartment rentals (landlords hold mortgages), and car payments. When the ten year bond rate goes up, so do mortgage payments. When mortgage rates go up, house prices go down, because fewer people are in a position to buy a house at higher mortgage rates, and rents go up (more competition among people who can’t buy a house). Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP), in force for ten years, has driven house prices back to stratospheric levels. They are now primed to fall, perhaps severely, leaving many homeowners “underwater,” with houses worth way less on the market than the amount of mortgage left to pay off. The re-financing market is dead. Housing starts were already down by a stunning 19 percent in November. Automobile sales are rolling over. Manufacturing and retail sales numbers are down at year end. What’s up: stocks, stocks, stocks.

...what will happen if the interest rate on the ten-year bond hits three percent? (It doesn’t have far to go). Or maybe even four percent? What happens is the stock markets go down in the first quarter of 2017...

...Reagan was able to endure a sharp recession early in his first term — and voodoo economics got him through all the rest of his tenure, with both inflation and interest “normalizing” — as mentioned earlier, he enjoyed the bonanza of the last great non-OPEC oil discoveries coming on-line during his two terms, which ramped up economic activity and growth.

Today, the US is in a box and Trump comes on the scene with nowhere to move. Too much debt can only be managed if interest rates are kept low. Everybody and his mother around the world is dumping US Treasuries. With a bear market in bonds on, the Fed as buyer of last resort will have to sop up whatever comes on the market to keep the interest rate from rising above three percent on the ten-year, and even that may not prevent it. Trump’s vaunted infrastructure stimulus plan will be impossible to carry out without the Fed monetizing the necessary debt. So stimulus implies bigger deficits, which means more bonded debt that nobody wants to buy. The result will be inflation and accordingly further upward pressure on interest rates. Higher interest rates, in turn, will negatively impact economic activity, lowering tax revenue, inducing larger fiscal imbalances and greater instability.

Trump may never even get the stimulus he seeks. The Republican controlled-congress has vowed not to increase the national debt. How can Trump fulfill his pledge to cut taxes and bring on stimulus without hugely increasing the debt? If there is war over spending between Trump and Congress, Congress is likely to win, since they control the fiscal purse strings...

...More QE (or something like it) will drive the dollar back down and gold back up. The housing market will be in the toilet and the rest of the economy will follow it down the drain. ...America will be great again, all right: we’ll be entering a depression greater than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

...One of the other big and dark trends of the past year has been the move of governments around the world — and among the economist / necromancers who advise them — to ban cash from the scene in order to herd all citizens into a digital banking system that will allow the authorities to track all financial transactions and suck every possible cent of taxes into national coffers...

...Efforts to eliminate cash are already underway around the world. The EU officially discontinued the €500 note from circulation. Ken Rogoff’s Harvard colleague, Larry Summers, was calling for abolition of the $100 bill a year ago. Sweden is successfully herding its people out of fiat krona. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled a fast one in November by banning the 1000 and 500 rupee note (worth respectively $14 and $7), and threw India’s economy into a epileptic seizure. ...more than 85 percent of India’s economy operates on a cash basis among people too poor to have bank accounts and credit cards — including millions of truck drivers and ordinary laborers. Naturally, the Indian economy froze. Nobody could get paid. Food rotted in stalled trucks. ATM withdrawals were limited to a few day’s walking-around-money. ...a lot of poor people lost the minimal cash savings they had.

...The public is just plain pissed off, and remains pissed off after the Trump Victory. Their anger has been fermenting for decades as their economic prospects dwindled and they began to understand how it all worked against them. The battered middle class might have gotten a temporary thrill from the election, but an awful lot of them are still out of work, or working at the humiliating shit-jobs that replaced their old lost jobs in the old real stuff economy. Worse is coming their way in 2017. Theirs is a true existential crisis.

Even under the most favorable circumstances, a stimulus program would not likely get out of congress until much later in 2017...

retirees plugged into pensions represent another potential trouble spot. Pension funds are going bust all over the country from the incapacity to stay solvent in a near-ZIRP environment. In 2016, fissures started to show in places like the Dallas Police and Firemen’s Pension fund, when pensioners’ redemptions were shut down. There are pension funds all over the country floundering from the same conditions, since the Fed took the “fix” out of “fixed income.” In the absence of decent “yield,” the pension funds have been herded into risky stock markets, and if those markets blow up, the pension funds are going to blow with them… and then the pensioners’ lives are going to blow up… and then maybe civil order dissolves around the country.

That may be the moment when President Trump and his militarily-weighted cabinet appointees opt for martial law. What a goddamned mess that will be. There is no civilized country on earth with as many small arms per capita than the USA, and despite the fearsome appearance of militarized police forces, you cannot overstate how much deadly mischief a small number of pissed-off people can make with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled-grenades, Semtex plastic explosive, and other fun stuff. It could morph easily to a literal war on bankers and Wall Street in particular... Bear in mind that a lot of veterans of the endless Middle East wars belong to this suffering economic class...

Their political counterparts in the Democrat / Prog coastal elite, hardcore Hillary, PC-and-unicorn crowd are moving through their post-election Kubler-Ross Transect-of-Grief from denial to anger too. So both sides are quite pissed off and primed for conflict. The Left will certainly do everything possible to oppose Trump and try to make him look bad, whether it’s in the public interest to do so or not...

...There is every sign that black and white racial conflict will grow worse in the year ahead.

So, now Left and Right are both equally pissed off. It also means you have two adversarial groups who might give themselves permission to turn violent to justify their grievances. If the financial markets tank and the economy freefalls, it is easy to imagine the potential for violent conflict between the Dem / Progs with their Black Lives matter proxies against the Trumpista lumpenproles. It would be a terrible tragic distraction from the business of repairing the common weal, the economy, and the common culture — but so was the Civil War

...We haven’t run out of oil, but we have run out of oil that is rationally economical to pull out of the ground. The so-called “shale oil miracle” extended the oil age a few years by debt-financed legerdemain. Yes, we drove US oil production way up, almost back up to the 1970 peak production level around 10 million barrels-a-day (b/d). The trouble was that the companies producing it didn’t make a red cent in the process. They just ran up a huge amount of debt to pursue the shale project...

From 2004 the price of oil skyrocketed from around $40-a-barrel until 2008, when it reached a high point of about $140-a-barrel. Then, of course, the price crashed catastrophically for a year, along with Wall Street and the economy. But, by then, the fracking industry was all ramped up in the Bakken fields of North Dakota and the Eagle Ford range of Texas. Plus the industry was learning some additional new fracking tricks to goose more oil out of the “tight” rock...

...The pattern nicely describes the dynamic advanced by Joseph Tainter in his seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies: namely that over-investments in complexity lead to diminishing returns. That is, as you keep making your systems extra-hyper-complex, you get less value back for doing it, until you get to the point where there’s no benefit whatsoever, and then the system implodes. And that is exactly what has happened with oil and the economy that was engineered to run on it, and the financial system that evolved to manage the wealth it used to produce.

...oil over $75-a-barrel destroys industrial economies; oil under $75-a-barrel destroys oil companies. That’s were things stand when the energy return on investment falls to 5-to-1, as is the case with shale oil.

...In the fall of 2016, OPEC members tried again to agree on an oil production output limit, as they have done many time before. Each time, they all managed to cheat in order to sell greater volumes of oil and make more short-term money — a classic Tragedy of the Commons story. Consequently, the price of oil went up to about $53-a-barrel by Christmas 2016. Don’t expect that to last...

...Wikileaks should get the Pulitzer Prize for revealing so much about the nefarious workings of the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic National Committee.

...Both candidates were awful, and the condition of the country is pretty awful as we turn the corner onto 2017. ...President Trump is sure to be overwhelmed by epic dislocations in markets, currencies, debt, and misguided central bank efforts to hold back the tides of a necessary re-set — a re-set which will see a lot of wealth vanish and a lot of pain inflicted on the losers of wealth...

...it’s pretty hard to keep waving the “diversity” banner, and I sense that Europe has had enough of it. One big question is whether the new European right-wing leaders will actually move as far as mass deportations. I rather think they will.

...Middle East and North Africa are melting down most conspicuously is because they are geographically among the places least well endowed for supporting the swollen populations they acquired over the past two hundred years. Iraq, Syria, the whole Arabian peninsula. Egypt, Libya, et. al. are all deserts artificially supported by the perquisites of Modernity: cheap energy, fertilizers made from that, irrigation,  money derived from it, and continuing life-support subsidies from even wealthier modern nations outside the region. ...In all these places the “youth bulge” has no prospects for earning a living or supporting a family. The young men, especially, put their energy into Jihad, revolution, and civil war because there’s nothing else to do. Making war may be thrilling, but it won’t lead to a better future because those benefits of Modernity are running out and there’s nothing to replace them.

...The situation will grow increasingly acute in Saudi Arabia, where population growth outstrips the ability of oil production to pay for it. Their old “elephant” oil fields are aging out and they know quite well that they cannot depend on oil wealth many decades ahead. The trouble is, they have no realistic replacement for it, despite noises about creating other industries. The truth is, the country was cursed by its oil. It grew its population too much too fast in one of the most inhospitable corners of the globe, and it will take only a modest decline in oil income to destabilize the place altogether.

...all these countries are heading back to the Middle Ages economically, maybe even further beyond. Their culture is still basically medieval. The main point is that Modernity inflated them and now Modernity is over and they’re either going to pop or deflate.

Finally, there’s China. I’m among those who believe China is running the most farkakta banking system on God’s green earth. We should not be surprised if it implodes in 2017, and does so pretty badly, in a way that might shake the foundations of the entire banking system...

http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/forecast-2017-wheels-finally-come-off/
Post a Comment