Monthly Archives: November 2019

We Can Only Choose One: Our National Economy or Globalization

Does our economy serve our society, or does our society serve our economy, and by extension, those few who extract most of the economic benefits? It’s a question worth asking, as beneath the political churn around the globe, the issues raised by this question are driving the frustration and anger that’s manifesting in social and political disorder.

A recent essay examines these issues in light of Brexit, which the author sees as a manifestation of dramatic but poorly understood changes in Britain’s economy over the past 60 years:

How Britain was sold: Why we need to rethink the case for a national capitalism in the age of uncertainty.

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[KR1467] Keiser Report: Downgrading the world on global dystopia

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss Moody’s issuing a world debt downgrade warning (WDDW) on rising political unrest. Despite this rising turmoil, the Fed keeps printing new millionaires as QE continues to rescue the ‘haves’ at the expense of the ‘have nots.’ In the second half, Max talks to Alasdair Macleod of Goldmoney.com about ‘plans for global dystopia,’ and why and how it is that policy planners are prepping for a post-fiat world.

Darn, This Is Inconvenient: Apple Is Destroying the Planet to Maximize Profits

How do we describe the finding that the planet’s most widely-owned super-corporation is destroying the planet to maximize its smartphone sales and profits? Shall we start with “inconvenient?” Yes, we’re talking about Apple, famous for coercing customers to upgrade their Apple phones and other gadgets if not annually then every couple years, as the most effective way to maximize profits.

Unfortunately, smartphones require stripmining the planet, as described in this report, Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected Researchers are sounding the alarm after an analysis showed that buying a new smartphone consumes as much energy as using an existing phone for an entire decade.

Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.

despite the recycling programs run by Apple and others, “based on our research and other sources, currently less than 1% of smartphones are being recycled,” Lotfi Belkhir, the study’s lead author, tells me.

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The Hollowing Out of America

America is being hollowed out, but since we don’t measure what actually matters, the decline has been deep-sixed by the government and media. As I explain in my new book Will You Be Richer or Poorer?, there are a number of reasons why what’s important –social capital, for example–doesn’t get measured.

The most obvious reason is that it’s politically inconvenient for those in power for the hollowing out of America to be quantified. To conceal the decline, institutions only measure what can be massaged to appear positive. These statistics include inflation (Consumer Price Index, CPI),the unemployment rate, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and hundreds of financial numbers: net wealth, bank loans and so on.

Everyone knows from experience that big-ticket expenses such as healthcare (see chart below), childcare, rent, college tuition, etc. have been rising at double-digit rates, while shrinkflation has reduced the quantity and quality of goods even as price has remained unchanged.

In other words, the official statistics are gamed to appear positive even as the nation is being hollowed out. People sense the disconnect but since what actually matters isn’t measured, there are few objective indicators of the decline we all experience in everyday life.

The second reason is that it’s difficult to measure intangible forms of capital such as social mobility and shared purpose. People are feeling increasingly insecure financially, but how do we measure this with any accuracy? We can track the number of people working second jobs in the gig economy, those with uncertain work schedules, etc., but even households with above-average incomes and conventional white-collar jobs are financially precarious in ways that don’t lend themselves to easy quantification.

And so while we’re constantly told the American consumer is in good shape, with manageable debt and rising incomes, in the real world auto loan defaults are soaring, 40% of those suffering from cancer are wiped out by the co-pays, and superficially middle-class households are one layoff away from default and insolvency.

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[KR1466] Keiser Report: Repo Markets & UBI

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the Fed censoring information related to which bank or banks have been receiving bailouts via repo markets. For at least two more years we are told, the Fed will keep the information confidential for the ordinary citizen, while banks will, of course, have insider knowledge. In the second half, Max talks to Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt,’ about the ongoing Fed intervention in the repo markets and what this is telling us. Ellen also discusses Universal Basic Income and why she believes it is a good policy for the Fed to implement for everyone, not just bankers.

[KR1465] Keiser Report: Punishment Bonds and Bitcoin on Mars

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the negative yielding ‘punishment bonds’ causing pain to investors in Europe as negative yields soar into less negative territory.

In the second half, Max talks Dhruv Bansal of Unchained Capital about ‘bitcoin astronomy’ and how “the desire to travel far away to start a new blockchain will turn out to be a powerful driver of human expansion throughout the future of our species.” And, if we get to Mars, can we mine bitcoin there? Or is it too far from the ‘center of hash?’

What’s Been Normalized? Nothing Good or Positive

When the initially extraordinary fades into the unremarkable background of everyday life, we say it’s been normalized. Put another way, we quickly habituate to new conditions, and rationalize our ready acceptance of what was previously unacceptable.

Technology offers many examples of extraordinary advances quickly becoming normalized as we habituate to new devices and behaviors, but my focus today is on policies and cultural norms that were radical departures from accepted norms at their introduction but which are now accepted as “normal.”

This normalization of extreme policies conceals the often equally extreme unintended consequences of the new policies and norms.

Let’s start with two examples which have unleashed unintended consequences that have completely distorted markets: allowing pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to “consumers” and allowing corporations to buy back their own shares. Each of these activities had been banned for self-evident reasons, yet were allowed in the neoliberal rush to deregulate industries without regard for the long-term consequences.

Now Big Pharma dominates advertising in late-night TV and various print publications, directing “consumers” to “ask their doctor about”…. The ads all feature a comical parody of disclosure, with a fast-talking voice talent listing all the horrific side-effects as quickly as possible in the hopes “consumers” won’t hear the real-world consequences of the oh-so-pricey med being promoted.

I’ve long mocked this Big Pharma profiteering via my parody ads for imaginary meds such as Delusionol:

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[KR1464] Keiser Report: A rivalry turned ‘financial war’

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the looming ‘financial war’ between the US and China and why it could lead China (and other nations) to develop other independent clearing systems to avoid the weaponized dollar.

In the second half, Max talks to Tyson Slocum about the curious case of a mysterious buyer for El Paso Electric and what it means in a day and age when more and more of public companies are going private. Are we in another period of robber barons? They also discuss the situation out west with PG&E in California.

Political and Social Conflict Is Accelerating: Here’s Why

That economic, social and political conflict is accelerating is self-evident. What’s open to debate are the core drivers of conflict / disorder /unraveling.

Here’s the core self-reinforcing dynamic in my view:

1. The status quo elites can no longer mask soaring costs of essentials nor soaring wealth / income inequality between the top .01% (Oligarchs), the top 9.99% who enrich the Oligarchs with their discretionary spending and technocratic/managerial labor, and the bottom 90% who are rapidly losing ground on all fronts: economic, social and political.

2. The elites’ “fixes” to the social / political conflicts unleashed by the rigged financial system and winner take most economic order are politically expedient, meaning they don’t actually address the sources of conflict, they merely paper them over with PR as a means of preserving the elites’ wealth and power.

3. The elites’ fundamental financial “fix” is to create trillions in newly issued currency and distribute it to the banks, financiers, super-wealthy families and global corporations– the top .01% Oligarchs.

4. This “fix” accelerates the asymmetric distribution of wealth by enabling the already-wealthy to buy more productive assets, fund stock buybacks, etc., while forcing the bottom 90% to borrow money from the Oligarchs to make ends meet: the rich get richer, the poor get more indebted.

5. The only possible output of these inputs (political expediency to preserve the elites’ wealth and power, the creation and distribution to the Oligarch class of trillions in new currency) is the acceleration of the very erosion that fueled social / political conflicts in the first place. In effect, the elites’ “fixes” are accelerating the conflicts that will ultimately lead to their downfall.

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If Not-QE Is QE, then is Not-a-Blowoff-Top a Blowoff Top?

When is “Not-QE” QE? When Federal Reserve Chairperson Jerome Powell declares QE is not QE. We can constructively recall the story that Abraham Lincoln famously recounted in 1862: ‘If I should call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs would it have?’

‘Five.’

‘No, only four; for my calling the tail a leg would not make it so.’

Calling QE not-QE doesn’t make it different than QE, but it does communicate the Fed’s panicky desire to mask its stupendous injection of financial cocaine into the financial system. The Fed’s level of panic is noteworthy, as is the absurd transparency of its laughable attempt to conceal its panic.

In the same fashion, the financial media is loudly declaring the current blowoff top in stocks is not a blowoff top. The delicious irony here is these denials are reliable markers of blowoff tops: the louder the denials, the greater the odds that this is in fact the blowoff top that many pundits have been expecting for some time, but always in the future.

Garsh darn it, maybe the future has arrived. The financial media denied the Q4 1999 – Q1 2000 blowoff top was a blowoff top, and it repeated its denial of a blowoff top in housing in 2006-2007. The pundits of 1929 also denied the Q3 blowoff top in stocks was a blowoff top.

If you want a reliable signal that the blowoff top has peaked, listen to the screechy adamance of the deniers. The list of reasons why blowoff tops can’t be blowoff tops is practically endless: sentiment isn’t bullish enough, there’s a Wall of Worry for stocks to climb (overlooking the inconvenient reality that there is always a Wall of Worry), the consumer is still looking good, corporate earnings will rebound, the soft patch is behind us, the Internet will grow for decades to come, they’re not making any more land, capital flows favor higher asset prices, we owe it to ourselves (paging Paul Krugman–the Keynesian Cargo Cult is about to dance the humba-humba around the campfire and you’re needed…), debt doesn’t matter (it never matters until it does), price-earning ratios have plenty of room to move higher, and everyone’s favorite, don’t fight the all-powerful Fed (and we command you not to look behind the curtain while we worship false gods and wave dead chickens).

But nonetheless, blowoff tops in asset bubbles remain a feature of asset overvaluation, which by the way has once again reached historic extremes (GDP to equity valuation, etc.)

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[KR1463] Keiser Report: Trump: Easy to read

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss the former top trade negotiator for China claiming that dealing with Trump is great as he is so easy to read thanks to his non-stop tweeting. They also discuss Venezuela’s president holding up a bitcoin hard wallet just a year after the UK refused to return their gold. In the second half, Max talks to Dr. Michael Hudson of michael-hudson.com about repo markets, national debt, China, trade wars, and more.

Medicare-for-All “Socialism” Is Just Another Racket

The core problem with “socialist” proposals such as Medicare-for-All is that they don’t actually fix what’s broken–they just expand existing rackets such as the healthcare/sickcare racket, the higher education racket, and so on.

Let’s start by separating “real socialism” (state ownership of the means of production) from “faux socialism” (the state borrows trillions of dollars to fund self-serving public-private rackets).

The basic idea of classic socialism is that state ownership of the means of production enables the state to harvest the surplus production and invest it in the public good. If the state is organized as a democracy, then the public gets a say in defining “the public good” and changing course if the national surplus is being mal-invested or diverted into the hands of the few under the guise of “the public good.”

What’s being labeled “socialist” in present-day U.S.A. is nothing more than the state borrowing from future generations to fund profiteering rackets today. It’s hardly a secret that the U.S. spends twice as much per person on healthcare but trails the pack of other developed nations in actual health. (See infographic below for the facts, which I have discussed here for 14 years.)

Problem #1 is robust health isn’t profitable, while managing chronic lifestyle diseases and pushing needless/harmful medications and procedures are immensely profitable.

Problem #2 is the external costs of destructive but oh-so-profitable products are not paid by either producers or consumers at the point of purchase. The tobacco industry offers an example of this decoupling of “price discovery” and externalities that manifest years or decades later.

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