Wednesday, October 20, 2021

America Is Now a Kleptocrapocracy

I hope everyone here is hungry because the banquet of consequences is being served.

I've coined a new portmanteau word to describe America's descent: kleptocrapocracy, a union of kleptocracy (a nation ruled by kleptocrats) and crapocracy, a nation drowning in a moral sewer of rampant self-interest in which the focus is cloaking all the skims, scams, rackets and bezzles in some virtuous-sounding garb, a nation choking on low-quality junk ceaselessly hawked by robocalls, spam, phishing and Big Tech manipulation.

It's little wonder trust has collapsed in America: the only thing we can trust is whatever's being pitched is deceptively packaged to mask the self-interest and profiteering of the perps.

The stench from the decomposing carcasses of once-trusted institutions is everywhere. Insiders and the marketers they pay to cloak their grifting are banking bennies at the expense of hapless debt-serfs who fell for the scam. You need these three costly medications, and then when the side-effects kick in, you need six more to counteract the first three, and so on. But trust us; your "health" (heh) is our only concern. Uh, sure.

Why do state universities need to market themselves like a roto-rooter service? Maybe because they're both working the sewers: state universities are exploiting the student loan sewers, desperate to recruit another batch of debt-serfs who fell for the 3-card monte game in which a lifetime of debt is exchanged for a credential of dubious value.

The competition for the remaining pool of debt-serfs is heating up, so like everything else in America, the game is now all about marketing, virtue-signaling, exploiting Big Tech manipulation, and so on.

Doing something useful is now for chumps. The opportunities in America are all about getting rich by doing, well, nothing: skimming 20% "guaranteed" returns in DeFi, mining cryptos, trading stablecoins, selling volatility, etc.--getting rich and then living large on the sweat of the chumps who are still working (poor deluded fools!).

The obvious goal here is for everyone to get in on trading stablecoins, buying rentals with DeFi, churning meme stocks, etc. Why should anyone lower themselves to doing something useful anymore? Why bother?

Labor has been degraded for decades in speculative-frenzy America. Why work when the Fed has our backs and all those newly issued trillions are up for grabs? Doing something useful is for chumps.

Nobody seems to ask what happens when we're all minting fortunes off speculative churn and there's nobody filling potholes, stocking shelves or carrying bags of QuikCrete to customers' trucks.

And while we're on the subject of sewage: if America's security services and Big Tech oligarchies track everything and everyone, why are we drowning in robocalls, spam, SMS-spam (smishing), etc.? Couldn't the NSA/CIA track the spammers and robo-callers down and rendition them (warrantlessly, of course) to a hellhole camp in an unnamed country?

Of course they could. But the ruination of everyday life is of no concern to the kleptocrats (fly with me to the stars!) or our dysfunctional government, which has become nothing more than an invitation-only auction of favors that elevates the relentless pursuit of self-interest and profiteering to new kleptocratic heights.

Please don't make the mistake of expecting anything to work properly in America. The components are garbage, the parts are on back-order, the people who knew how to make the kludgy mess function just quit in disgust, and we'll have to get back to you about your request, as our service staff just left to launch an OnlyFans site.

I don't want to work, I'm minting money speculating, but gol-darn it, I want everyone else to wait on me and meet my needs for low, low quality goods and services at not-so-low prices, and if I'm not treated well enough by everyone earning chump-change, then I'll freak out, and if that doesn't pan out, I'll blame it all on my meds. Accountability is like work--only for chumps.

Trust me, everything's going great and we're all going to get wealthier and wealthier until we won't be able to take it any more, it will be so great. I hope everyone here is hungry because the banquet of consequences is being served.




If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Videos/Podcasts:

Charles Hugh Smith on the Failure of the Federal Reserve and Rising Secular Inflation (31:16) (with Richard Bonugli, FRA Roundtable)

four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party (with Gordon Long, 40 min.)

My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Monday, October 18, 2021

Software Ate the World and Now Has Indigestion

As for all those automated systems we have to navigate--do any of them work so well that those profiting from them actually use them? Of course not.

In Marc Andreessen's memorable phrase, "software is eating the world." Unfortunately, it now has indigestion. Software is running into limits that (non-engineer) promoters either deny or downplay. Meanwhile, back in the real world, software has a limited role in filling structural scarcities of physical goods and many services.

Consider all those apps which are supposed to be the epitome of automated productivity: if software is so great, then why do the apps need thousdands of ghost workers to keep the kludgy mess semi-functional? Hidden behind the shiny happy facade of automated software wonderland, thousands of poorly paid humans have to do the hard bits that software fails to do or fails to do properly.

The Ghost Workers in the Machine: Companies devalue them, and consumers rarely know they exist. But the apps and companies that millions of us depend on, like Uber and Amazon, couldn't function without the invisible, low-wage labor of "ghost workers."

Silicon Valley's Shadow: The Ghost Workers Behind Amazon, Google, and Microsoft: An invisible, on-demand workforce supports everything from Facebook to Uber and beyond with project-based tasks--and has little to show for it.

The vision of software eating the world is part and parcel of the compelling fantasy that humans will soon be free from the drudgery of work and scarcity and bask in near-infinite abundance due to techno-magic. Those most taken by this vision are never the ones trying to keep the software and robotics from failing, because those laboring to keep the whole mess from collapsing know the limits are far more real than the magical-thinking ehthusiasts understand.

The list of problems that have been "close to being solved" year after year is rather lengthy. Automated oversight of social media content by the loving care of AI (artificial intelligence)? Well, yes, sure--but then what are those tens of thousands of humans scanning millions of posts and images doing for Facebook et al? Getting paid low wages for a hellish job for no reason? No, the AI (whatever that catch-phrase actually means) can't solve the really difficult problems, despite claims to the contrary.

Self-driving cars are here! Well, almost, kind of, with a few exceptions... Other than failing in novel situations where bad weather or other common occurrances manifest, it works great. Well, sort of, but we're close, very close... and so as long as the Internet never goes down, and the sensors never fail, and the creek doesn't rise--it works great.

The vast infrastructure required to make all this function is rarely discussed. It's not just a matter of the onboard sensors and equipment never failing; the Internet, GPS, electrical grid, etc., all have to function perfectly for all the software to work. This is known as a dependency chain and software is at the very end of a long and intrinsically fragile chain.

As for all those automated systems we have to navigate--do any of them work so well that those profiting from them actually use them? Of course not. Do you think the mega-millionaires raking in the profits from stripping out costs and offshoring ghost-work actually use the wretched software systems their monopolies and cartels impose on the rest of us? Of course not; they have their PA, nanny, driver, gig workers, etc. take care of whatever they need done in real time in the real world. It's the rest of us to are forced to put up with their dysfunctional, frustratingly inept software "paradise."

So when the grid goes down for lack of real-world energy, let's all cheer how software is going to deliver us endless abundance. But we'll have to do all the cheerleading in person because the Web went down, too.




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Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Videos/Podcasts:

Charles Hugh Smith on the Failure of the Federal Reserve and Rising Secular Inflation (31:16) (with Richard Bonugli, FRA Roundtable)

four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party (with Gordon Long, 40 min.)

My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Friday, October 15, 2021

Are We Really Crazy Enough to Believe This Is Going to Work?

Unbeknownst to the giddy participants, they're not just betting on the omnipotence of the Fed Politburo, they're also making a max-leverage bet that "the madness of crowds" will never end.

Imagine an economy so dominated by its central bank that all markets hang on every word of its priesthood as life or death. You know, like the Federal Reserve and the American economy.

Now imagine this central bank issues enormous sums of new money which supercharges speculative activity such as hundreds of billions of dollars in stock buybacks, special purpose acquisition casinos, oops, I mean companies, and so on. You know, like the Federal Reserve's trillions in nearly free money for financiers.

Next, imagine that the central bank makes barely concealed promises that should any big gambler lose money in the casino, the bank will flood the financial system with even more nearly free money for financiers and bail out the loser.

Since flooding the system with nearly free money for financiers keeps the speculative frenzy going, the bank has implicitly promised that assets driven higher by speculative frenzy will never be allowed to drop. This promise naturally incentivizes even more speculative borrowing, leverage and risk, generating a titanic Everything Bubble in which risky assets skyrocket from pennies into dollars and dollars into fortunes.

Now imagine that this speculative frenzy spreads into every nook and cranny of the economy such that everyone is drawn into one casino or another, and previously sober, cautious people are seized by a quasi-religious fervor in which they become convinced that their gambling chips on NFTs, SPACs, meme-stocks, obscure alt-coins, homes, collectables and pretty much anything within the manic swirl of speculative frenzy is now a can't lose path to carefree permanent wealth because the central bank guarantees it and anyone who questions this is in league with the Devil (or worse).

Next, imagine that as a result of this vast expansion of "wealth" in the Everything Bubble, the entire economy is now dependent on this bubble never popping as speculation is driving incomes and a wealth effect without precedent as every participant feels newly empowered to borrow and spend more because their bubble-wealth just keeps rocketing higher.

The problem here is all speculative bubbles pop and so the central bank's inflation of a speculative Everything Bubble has backed the entire economy into a corner from which there is no escape: either the bubble must keep inflating to ever dizzier heights of delusion and risk or the bubble pops and lays waste to all the phantom wealth.

Lastly, imagine that the enthralled participants in the speculative orgy truly believe the central bank has the power to keep the Everything Bubble expanding forever, or at a minimum, bubbling along at a permanently high plateau that guarantees everyone's phantom wealth will be forever available for tapping and spending.

This is where we are, and it raises one question: are we really crazy enough to believe this is going to work? That the Federal Reserve can keep the Everything Bubble expanding essentially forever, or bubbling along at a permanently high plateau?

Are we really crazy enough to believe that conjuring trillions of dollars out of thin air and then leveraging this into tens of trillions of dollars and dumping all this money into assets which don't increase in utility so that their "value" rises 10-fold even as their utility remains unchanged is sustainable and a solid foundation for our economy?

Unbeknownst to the giddy participants, they're not just betting on the omnipotence of the Fed Politburo, they're also making a max-leverage bet that the madness of crowds will never end.

Are we really crazy enough to believe this is going to work? The answer appears to be a resounding "yes" because everyone knows the Fed has our backs and so permanently expanding wealth is guaranteed. (And if it isn't, no problem, I'll jump off the merry-go-round before the music stops. And of course, 99.9% of all punters succeed in doing so.)

In this blissful moment of speculative confidence in a) the music will never stop or b) I'll jump off just before the music stops, fortune fully intact, feast your eyes on these charts of guaranteed permanently high plateaus.


















If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Videos/Podcasts:

Charles Hugh Smith on the Failure of the Federal Reserve and Rising Secular Inflation (31:16) (with Richard Bonugli, FRA Roundtable)

four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party (with Gordon Long, 40 min.)

My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Everything Solid Melts into Air

That the neofeudal lords and their lackeys offer the debt-serfs "choices" of forced labor would be comic if the results weren't so tragic.

We know we're close to the moment when Everything Solid Melts into Air when extraordinary breakdowns are treated as ordinary and the "news" quickly reverts to gossip. So over 4 million American workers up and quit every month, month after month after month, and the reaction is ho-hum, labor shortage, blah, blah, blah, toy shortage for Christmas, oh, the horror, blah, blah, blah.

These are large numbers. Over 10 million job openings and 6 million hires and 6 million "separations," i.e. layoffs and the 4.3 million voluntary quits.

The happy story promoted by the corporate media is that this enormous churn is the result of shiny, happy people moving up the work food chain to better paying jobs. We know we're close to the moment when Everything Solid Melts into Air when every breakdown is instantly reworked into a happy story in which everything is getting better every day, in every way.

The reality nobody in power wants to acknowledge, much less address, is that millions of workers are opting out or burning out and they're not coming back. Another happy story promoted by the corporate media is that once all the gummit freebies ended, the lazy no-good workforce would be forced to take whatever wretched job the billionaires need done at low pay and zero benefits. (But hey, you qualify for food stamps, so it's all good!)

A substantial share of the workforce has declared "up yours" and another share has been so burned out by overwork and constant pressure that they're done: they can no longer work at this pace and for that many hours.

This enrages the lackeys, toadies, apparatchiks and apologists of the billionaires: how dare you escape from forced labor! The whole economy is based on the bleak choice of take the job we offer or starve.

The "innovation" (pay attention, neofeudal lords) from SillyCon Valley is to offer an illusion of "choice" in this forced labor system: in the gig economy, you get to "choose" between Gulag Camp One (low pay, long hours, zero benefits and zero security) and Gulag Camp Two (low pay, long hours, zero benefits and zero security).

Wow! Who knew "choice" was so life-changing? In a similar fashion, when you can no longer afford rent, utilities, etc., then you get a "choice" of living in your car, if you have one, or fashioning a crate-tent "home" or taking over the ruined camper left by the guy who made the one-way trip to the morgue.

That the neofeudal lords and their lackeys offer the debt-serfs "choices" of forced labor would be comic if the results weren't so tragic. The neofeudal status quo is so busy chasing down escapees from the forced-work Gulags that it won't notice its Wile E. Coyote moment when Everything Solid Melts into Air.








If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Videos/Podcasts:

Charles Hugh Smith on the Failure of the Federal Reserve and Rising Secular Inflation (31:16) (with Richard Bonugli, FRA Roundtable)

four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party (with Gordon Long, 40 min.)

My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

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Monday, October 11, 2021

America's Bottom 50% Have Nowhere To Go But Down

One might anticipate that the bottom 50%'s meager share of the nation's exploding wealth would have increased as smartly as the wealth of the billionaires, but alas, no.

America's economy has changed in ways few of the winners seem to notice, as they're too busy cheerleading their own brilliance and success. In the view of the winners, who just so happen to occupy all the seats at the media-punditry-Federal Reserve, etc. table--the rising tide of stock, bond and real estate bubbles are raising all boats. What's left unsaid is except for the 50% of boats with gaping holes below the waterline, i.e. stagnant wages and a fast-rising cost of living.

The truth the self-satisfied winners don't include in their self-congratulatory rah-rah is there's no place for the bottom 50% of American households to go but down. All the winnings flow to those who already owned assets back when they were affordable-- the already-wealthy--whose wealth has soared as assets have shot to the moon while the the burdens of inflation and debt service hit the bottom 50% the hardest.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is whining that inflation isn't high enough yet for their refined tastes. Boo-hoo, how sad for the Fed--inflation isn't yet high enough. Oh wait--didn't they each mint millions by front-running their own policies? No wonder they're not worried about inflation.

The reality few acknowledge is that globalization and financialization have stripped the American economy of low-skilled jobs that don't demand much of the employee. The reality is that a great many people don't have what it takes to learn high-level skills and work at a demanding pace under constant pressure--the description of the average job in America.

There were once millions of low-skill, low-pay jobs for people who for whatever mix of reasons were unable to muster the wherewithal to fulfill the fantasy of working extra hard, going to night school, soaking up high-level skills, moving quickly up the ladder to higher pay, buying the starter home and then moving up the food chain to middle class security from there.

The cost of living was low enough that those working these low-skill, low-pay jobs could still have an independent life. There were still low-cost rentals, often derided by the wealthy, in nooks and crannies of even the costliest cities. (I once lived in a room stuffed with old tax records in a poolside shack in an upscale neighborhood. The room had been cleared for a single bed and a path to the decrepit bathroom. Its most important attribute was that I could afford it on my low earnings.)

Affordable housing has vanished, eliminated by the financialization of America's economy. Once landlords pay double the price for the property, rents have to double to pay their higher expenses. The apartment didn't double in size or amenities--the rent doubled without any increase in utility to the renter. You get nothing more for double the price--nice.

Yes, people could make better choices, and some do. The point here is the game is rigged against those in the lower tier of the economy who can no longer afford a house or other stake in the only winning game in town--speculative asset bubbles. Go ahead and work a second job and go to night school--you'll still be left behind the already-rich.

Globalization opened every job in America to global competition via offshoring or the influx of undocumented workers so desperate to support their families back home that no pay was too low and no working condition too wretched to refuse.

Many overindulged pundits who never worked an honest day in their lives sneer about burger flippers without realizing how hard those burger flippers have to work. I doubt the well-dressed pundits, snobbish about their university degrees and general brilliance, could manage to work a single day in a demanding fast-food job.

As the price of housing and other assets have soared, enriching the already rich, they're out of reach for the bottom 50% who struggle to pay their bills as wages have stagnated and the costs of essentials have skyrocketed.

The rising cost of parking tickets, junk fees, user fees, utilities and food don't impact the well-paid top 5% technocrat class, whose stake in the Everything Bubble keeps expanding by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. But for the bottom 50%, those incremental increases are, when added to higher rents, absolutely crushing.

As for getting high-quality healthcare that includes mental health support--those are reserved for the rich. But no worries, self-medication is always a "choice."

Getting a boost in pay from $12 an hour to $15 an hour is welcome, but that doesn't put the worker any closer to affording a house or equivalent stake in the Everything Bubble.

The new feudalism is masked by the glossy SillyCon Valley PR of a gig economy where (per the PR fantasy) bright, shiny and totally independent workers freely choose to serve the winners in the rigged sweepstakes for low pay and zero benefits.

In the SillyCon Valley PR, serfs freely choose to serve their noble masters for nothing but survival because they love the "freedom" and "choice" of kissing the nobility's plump derrieres. (After all, there were "choices" even back in the good old days of feudalism--one could join the brigands in the forest, or enlist in a poorly paid mercenary army where the odds of dying were high--you know, "choices" of "gigs.")

One might anticipate that the bottom 50%'s meager share of the nation's exploding wealth would have increased as smartly as the wealth of the billionaires, but alas, no--the bottom 50%'s share of stocks (equities) actually plummeted in the the glorious decades of Federal Reserve free money for financiers, stock buy-backs and asset bubbles.

All this suits the billionaires and those collecting the crumbs of the Everything Bubble just fine. So what if the bottom 50% have nowhere to go but down? There's plenty of room in the homeless encampment for another broken down station wagon or an old camper. There's lots of "choices."

And no consequences for the winners, of course, because The Fed has our backs.










If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

My new book is available! A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet 20% and 15% discounts (Kindle $7, print $17, audiobook now available $17.46)

Read excerpts of the book for free (PDF).

The Story Behind the Book and the Introduction.



Recent Videos/Podcasts:

Charles Hugh Smith on the Failure of the Federal Reserve and Rising Secular Inflation (31:16) (with Richard Bonugli, FRA Roundtable)

My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


My recent books:

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($5 (Kindle), $10 (print), ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).



Become a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.




NOTE: Contributions/subscriptions are acknowledged in the order received. Your name and email remain confidential and will not be given to any other individual, company or agency.

Thank you, Bengen Financial ($50), for your most excellently generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.

 

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