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.

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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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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).



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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.




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Friday, October 08, 2021

Life's a Beach Until the Tsunami Hits: Four Waves Nobody Cares About--Yet

Four monster waves are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers.

Hey, is the water in the bay receding? Never mind, free drinks are on the Federal Reserve, so party on, life's a beach, asset bubbles will never pop, we're safe. Of course you are. The Fed is all-powerful and would never let a rogue wave turn all its precious phantom wealth into broken detritus.

The water is fast receding and a wave is visible if you care to look, but nobody cares to look. Why bother? The Fed is invincible, that's all you need to know to mint another fortune.

Just to keep life interesting, let's look anyway. Gordon Long and I discuss four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed's beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers:

1. Declining liquidity: while everyone is focused on the Fed's ceaselessly repeated reassurance that the liquidity spigot will never be closed, never ever ever, so party on, asset bubbles will never pop, never ever ever, other central banks have already started reducing global liquidity while domestically, the Treasury General Account (TGA) is soaking up liquidity to fund the federal government's monumental deficit spending.

2. Declining global growth: long before the pandemic swept ashore in 2020, global growth was faltering: the business cycle had not been abolished, despite Fed assurances that growth and asset bubbles will continue expanding until they reach Alpha Centuri and beyond (Dow one trillion, yowza baby!), growth by any conventional measure (PMI, ISM, industrial production, global trade flows, etc.) had stagnated or rolled over.

Profits had also topped out and the expansion of leveraged debt had started to wobble, hence the Fed's frantic unleashing of a repo flood in late 2019 to cover up the putrid stench of rapidly decaying debt.

3. Global supply shock: as we all know, global supply chains that everyone assumed were unbreakably robust turned out to be extremely fragile, tightly bound systems of endless dependency chains that fell to pieces once any one link snapped.

4. China credit impulse shock: while everyone in America focuses on the Fed's we walk on water claims of unlimited power to inflate asset bubbles forever, the rest of the world lives or dies on China's credit impulse which has long been a reliable leading indicator of global expansion or contraction.

For a variety of reasons, China's gargantuan credit bubble is no longer expanding, and so China is not going to save the world from recession and asset bubbles popping.

It would be easier to put one's faith in the unlimited power of the Fed to inflate asset bubbles if the humans behind the screen weren't hopelessly compromised by self-serving corruption. But alas, they are corrupt and self-serving, and their claims of unlimited power to inflate asset bubbles forever are about to be tested.

Not looking won't stop the waves from washing the beach party away.

Four Tsunami Waves About To Hit At Once (40 minutes)




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.




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Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Why Shortages Are Permanent: Global Supply Shortages Make Fantastic Financial Sense

The era of abundance was only a short-lived artifact of the initial boost phase of globalization and financialization.

Global corporations didn't go to all the effort to establish quasi-monopolies and cartels for our convenience--they did it to ensure reliably large profits from control and scarcity. Not all scarcities are artificial, i.e. the result of cartels limiting supply to keep prices high; many scarcities are real, and many of these scarcities can be traced back to the stripping out of redundancy / multiple suppliers of industrial essentials to streamline efficiency and eliminate competition.

Recall that competition and abundance are anathema to profits. Wide open competition and structural abundance are the least conducive setting for generating reliably ample profits, while quasi-monopolies and cartels that control scarce supplies are the ideal profit-generating machines.

The incentives to expand the number of suppliers, i.e. increase competition, are effectively zero. America's corporations spent $11 trillion buying back their own stocks over the past decade; that's equal to the combined GDP of Japan, Germany and Italy. If adding new suppliers to the global supply chain were profitable, some of that $11 trillion would have exploited those vast profits.

The financial reality is attempting to compete with an established cartel that has captured regulatory and political mechanisms is a foolhardy waste of capital. If firing up a new supplier of essential solvents, etc. was so captivatingly profitable, the why wouldn't Google and Apple take a slice of their billions in cash and go make some easy money?

The barriers to entry are high and the markets are limited. A great many specialty lubricants, solvents, alloys, wires, etc. are essential to the manufacture of all the consumer and industrial products that are sourced globally, but the markets are narrow: manufacturers need X amount of a specialty solvent, not 10X.

Back in the good old days before globalization and financialization conquered the world, corporations lined up three reliable suppliers for every critical component, as this redundancy alleviated supply chain chokeholds. But to keep those three suppliers in business, you need to spread the order book among all three. Nobody will keep a facility open if it's only used occasionally when the primary supplier runs into a spot of bother.

And so now we're all seated at the banquet of consequences flowing from stripping out redundancy and competition, and ceding control of supply chains to quasi-monopolies and cartels. Scarcities are their source of profits, and since it makes zero financial sense to spend a fortune building a plant to make solvents, lubricants, alloys, etc. in limited quantities in markets dominated by quasi-monopolies and cartels, shortages are a permanent feature of the 21st century global economy.

The era of abundance was only a short-lived artifact of the initial boost phase of globalization and financialization; now that the consolidation is complete, shortages make fantastic financial sense.

By all means thank Corporate America for squandering $11 trillion to further enrich the top 0.1% and insiders. Alas, there was no better use for all those trillions than further enriching the already-super-rich.




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: Fed Assuring 80% To 90% Collapse Of Bubble (1:01 hr)(with Paul Eberhart, Silver Doctors)

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.




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