Sunday, July 21, 2019

Our Ruling Elites Have No Idea How Much We Want to See Them All in Prison Jumpsuits

Even the most distracted, fragmented tribe of the peasantry eventually notices that they're not in the top 1%, or the top 0.1%.
Let's posit that America will confront a Great Crisis in the next decade. This is the presumption of The Fourth Turning, a 4-generational cycle of 80 years that correlates rather neatly with the Great Crises of the past: 1781 (Revolutionary War, constitutional crisis); 1861 (Civil War) and 1941 (World War II, global war).
What will be the next Great Crisis? Some anticipate another great-power war, others foresee another civil war, still others reckon a military coup is likely, and some view a collapse of the economy and U.S. dollar as inevitable.
While anything's possible, I propose a novel crisis unlike any in the past, a Moral Crisis in which the people challenge the power of the nation's corrupt Ruling Elites: not just elected officials, but the technocrats of the Deep State, the vested interests pillaging the nation, the New Overlords of Big Tech, the financier New Nobility, the Corporate Media and the self-serving state/corporate technocrat Nomenklatura who do the dirty work of the Ruling Elites.
Divide-and-Conquer has been the absurdly easy strategy of the Ruling Elites to fragment and disempower the citizenry. It's child's play for the Ruling Elites to ceaselessly promote a baker's dozen of divisive issues via the corporate media, and then watch the resulting conflicts split the citizenry into fragmented camps which subdivide further with every new toxic injection.
The one issue that could unite the fragmented citizenry is moral revulsion: As the Epstein case promises to reveal, there is literally no limit on the excesses and exploitations of the privileged few in America, no limit on what our Ruling Elites can do with absolute impunity.
The Nobility of the feudal era had some reciprocal obligation to its serfs; our New Nobility has no obligation to anyone but themselves. It is painfully obvious that there are two sets of laws in America: bankers can rip off billions and never serve time, and members of the Protected Class who sexually exploit children get a wrist-slap, if that.
Here's the sad reality: everybody in the Ruling Elites looked the other way: all the self-described "patriots" in the Intelligence services, all the technocrats in the Departments of Justice, State, etc., the Pentagon, and on and on. Everybody with any power knows the whole class of Ruling Elites is completely corrupt, by definition: to secure power in the U.S., you have to sell your soul to the Devil, one way or the other.
Like all Ruling Elites, America's Elites are absolutely confident in their power:this is hubris taken to new heights.
That the citizenry could finally have enough of their corrupt, self-serving Overlords does not seem in the realm of possibility to the Protected Few.There's always a way to lawyer-up and plea-bargain for a wrist-slap, a way to bend another "patriot" (barf), a way to offer a bribe cloaked as a plum position in a philanthro-capitalist NGO (non-governmental organization), and so on.
The possibility that moral outrage could spark a revolt seems improbable in such a distracted culture, but consider the chart below: even the most distracted, fragmented tribe of the peasantry eventually notices that they're not in the top 1%, or the top 0.1%, and that the Ruling Elites have overseen an unprecedented concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few at the expense of the many:
Our Ruling Elites have no idea how many of us already want to see them all in prison jumpsuits, and they also have no idea how fast the moral revulsion with their corrupt "leadership" might spread. Scanning the distracted, consumerist rabble from the great heights of their wealth and power, they reckon the capacity for moral outrage is limited, leaving them safe from any domestic crusade.
They also trust that the citizenry can be further fragmented, further distracted, and so they will continue to be invulnerable. Or worst case scenario, a few especially venal villains will need to be sacrificed, and then all will return to the bliss of Neofeudal exploitation.
But they may have misread the American citizenry, just as they've misread history.


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.


My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

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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Friday, July 19, 2019

The Planetary Insanity of Eternal Economic Growth

This is the fantasy: we can rebuild our entire global industrial society every generation or two forever.
"Earthrise" is one of the most influential photographs ever published. Taken on the Apollo 8 mission in late December 1968 by astronaut Bill Anders, it captures Earth's uniqueness, isolation and modest scale: a blue and white dot on a vast sea of lifeless darkness.
The revelation that strikes me is the insanity of pursuing eternal economic growth, not as an option but as the only possible path: there is literally no alternative to extracting ever greater quantities of the planet's resources to enable ever greater consumption by the planet's 7.7 billion humans.
Stripped to its essence, this mad drive is about profit and power. The necessity is sold as the only path to prosperity for humanity, but it's really about securing wealth and power for the few.
A recent article in Scientific American magazine highlights how the idealistic impulses of protecting the planet's diverse life from the machinery of "growth" are inevitably subsumed by the necessity for profit: The Ecologists and the Mine.
Here's what these kinds of articles never say: markets cannot price in the value of non-monetized natural assets such as diverse ecosystems. Whatever cannot be monetized right now is worthless, as markets lack any mechanism to price in what cannot be valued by market supply and demand in the moment.
There is no way to fix this fatal flaw in markets, and attempts to do so are merely excuses deployed to enable the profitable exploitation and resulting ruin.
(Recall that neoliberalism is the quasi-religious ideology of turning everything on Earth into a market, so it can be exploited and financialized by the few at the expense of the many.)
As for renewable energy: as my colleague Nate Hagens has observed, renewables are more properly called "rebuildables," as solar panels, windmills, etc. don't last forever but must be replaced every 20 years or so. Yes, dams last a long time, but solar panels, wind turbines, and all the other forms of "renewable" energy must be periodically replaced at enormous expense.
And where do the resources and energy come from to replace the immense base of "renewable" energy installations? From oil/natural gas and vast pit-mines.
As Chris Martenson noted in a recent conversation with me (paraphrasing his comment), "I'll be impressed with renewable installations when they can power the fabrication of their replacements."
This is the inconvenient reality few want to discuss publicly: none of the renewable energy sources is remotely capable of generating enough energy to smelt and mold industrial metals at scale, fabricate silicon wafers and so on.
The "eternal growth" model has dominated all political-economic ideologies for hundreds of years. When humanity first industrialized the planet, there were fewer than 1 billion humans. Now 7.7 billion humans all want the resource/energy intensive lifestyle of the developed-world middle class.
There is no way our planet has enough resources to provide all the goodies for 8 to 10 billion humans. We can't even provide clean fresh water to 8 billion people, much less Roombas, electric vehicles, refrigerated medications, frozen spring rolls, door-to-door delivery of the latest gizmo and cheap flights to every corner of the globe.
The technological fantasy is that new efficiencies will magically make eternal growth possible. But all these fantasies overlook 1) that markets cause the destruction of everything that isn't being monetized for profit in the moment; 2) that "renewable" energy all depends on cheap hydrocarbons in essentially limitless quantities and 3) that replacing everything every generation creates what my colleague Bart D. calls The Landfill Economy.
In other words, the tech "solution" to 500 million internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is to toss those 500 million vehicles in the landfill (recycling is a nice idea but not always financially practical) and then go mine the immense amounts of metals, minerals and hydrocarbons needed to built 500 million all-electric vehicles.
Then, in a generation, repeat the process, as "more efficient" vehicles are developed.
This is the fantasy: we can rebuild our entire global industrial society every generation or two forever, and fuel the entire process of replacement with hydrocarbons, essentially forever, and pay for it all with more debt.
The impossibility of this vision--a tech-enabled Landfill Economy that tells itself it's "efficient" and "sustainable" because the full costs are never calculated, indeed, cannot be calculated in a market economy--is what drives me to keep working on an alternative socio-political-economic system, CLIME: the community-labor-integrated-money economy: A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All.
One glance at Earthrise informs us that the only sustainable path is DeGrowth: squandering far fewer resources on consumerist waste, a path that will spell the end of the current Landfill Economy of profit-driven eternal growth, and the entire financialization structure built on the Landfill Model that enriches the few at the expense of the many.
"Renewables/rebuildables" are a tiny sliver of global electrical generation, just enough to power the marketing of consumerist junk headed for the landfill.
Here's the energy production of the World's Workshop, i.e. China: "renewables/rebuildables" are a tiny sliver.
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Three Ds of Doom: Debt, Default, Depression

"Borrowing our way out of debt" generates the three Ds of Doom: debt leads to default which ushers in Depression.
Let's start by defining Economic Depression: a Depression is a Recession that isn't fixed by conventional fiscal and monetary stimulus. In other words, when a recession drags on despite massive fiscal and monetary stimulus being thrown into the economy, then the stimulus-resistant stagnation is called a Depression.
Here's why we're heading into a Depression: debt exhaustion. As the charts below illustrate, the U.S. (and global) economy has only "grown" in the 21st century by expanding debt roughly four times faster than GDP or earned income.
Costs for big-ticket essentials such as housing, healthcare and government services are soaring while wages stagnate or decline in purchasing power.What's purchasing power? Rather than get caught in the endless thicket of defining inflation, ask yourself this: how much of X does one hour of labor buy now compared to 20 years ago? For example, how much healthcare does an hour of labor buy now? How many days of rent does an hour of labor buy now compared to 1999? How many hours of labor are required to pay a parking ticket now compared to 1999?
Our earnings are buying less of every big-ticket expense that's essential, and we've covered the gigantic hole in our budget with debt. The only way the status quo could continue conjuring an illusion of "prosperity" is by borrowing fantastic sums of money, all to be paid with future earnings and taxes.
At some point, the borrower is unable to borrow more. Even at 0.1% rate of interest, borrowers can't borrow more because they can't even manage the principal payment, never mind the interest. That's debt exhaustion: borrowers can't borrow more without ramping up the risk of default.
When wages are stagnant and big-ticket items are soaring in cost, that leaves less available to service more debt. We can cover expenses by borrowing more for a while, but there's an endgame to this trick: even at zero interest, servicing the debt exceeds income.
Marginal borrowers default, and the resulting losses collapse marginal lenders.Recall that every debt is somebody else's asset and income stream. When a student defaults on a student loan, that erases the asset and income stream of a mutual fund, pension fund, etc.
In other words, defaults are not cost free. They wipe out assets and income streams, never to return.
For the past 20 years, the trick to escaping recessions has been to lower interest rates and flood the financial system with new credit. If everyone would just borrow more and spend every cent of the new money, the economy will start "growing" again.
But we've reached the point where most wage earners can't borrow more, corporations shouldn't borrow more and the top tier of earners no longer want to borrow more. Governments can always borrow more, but eventually servicing the ballooning debt starts crowding out other spending, and the solution--borrowing more to cover the interest payments--spirals out of control.
Lowering interest rates and giving banks and financiers "free money" doesn't increase wages or household incomes or corporate profits. Nor do these monetary tricks magically turn marginal borrowers into creditworthy risks.
Borrowing more to fill the hole left by declining purchasing power only works in the short-term. We've burned the 20 years that this trickery can work, and now we face the endgame: borrowing more only increases defaults, which trigger losses in wealth and income that will be measured in the trillions.
Take a look at systemwide debt in the U.S. Does this look remotely sustainable? If the answer is yes, you might want to dial back your Ibogaine consumption.
Here's student loans. One trillion here and one trillion there, and pretty soon you're talking about entire generations of debt-serfs and a bunch of pension funds that are going to suffer catastrophic losses when the student borrowers default.
Meanwhile, labor's share of the economy (wages and salaries) has been in structural decline the entire 21st century. Lowering interest rates to zero doesn't mean it's free to borrow more; the principal payments loom large in every student loan, auto loan, mortgage, etc.
There's less--a lot less--available to fund more borrowing after those stagnating wages pay for rent or a mortgage/property taxes, healthcare, childcare, student loans, etc. This chart depicts healthcare costs, but rent, childcare, higher education, etc. all mirror similar increases.
"Borrowing our way out of debt" generates the three Ds of Doom: debt leads to default which ushers in Depression.


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.


My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

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, John T. ($10), for your most generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
 

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Epstein and the Explosive Crisis of the Deep State

Since the battle is for the legitimacy of the state, it must be waged at least partially in the open.
Speculations by outsiders must give Deep State insiders many opportunities to chuckle, "if only they knew." We don't know, of course, and public leaks are engineered to misdirect our attention from what's actually going on or "frame" our understanding in a positive way.
Decades later, history reveals a very ordinary mix of great successes and horrific failure in secret operations, caused by errors of judgment, faulty intelligence, poor planning and so on. In other words, life isn't tidy, either inside or outside the Deep State.
Nonetheless we can postulate a few things with some certainty. One is that the Deep State-- the unelected, permanent government which includes not just the intelligence community but a vast array of agencies and institutions as well as the top-level structures of diplomacy, finance and geopolitics--is not monolithic. There are different views and competing camps, but the disagreements and bureaucratic wars are kept out of sight.
Two, we know that at critical junctures of history one camp wins the narrative battle and establishes the over-riding direction of state policy. Put another way, one camp's understanding of the era's most pressing problems becomes the consensus, and from then on disagreements are within the broad outlines of the dominant ideology.
The end of World War II was a critical juncture. The proper role of the U.S. in the postwar era was up for grabs, and over the course of a few years, the CIA and other intelligence agencies were established and the doctrine of containment of the Soviet Union became the dominant narrative, a narrative that held with remarkable consistency for four decades until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
This collapse was another critical juncture, and debates over America's role in this "unipolar era" were finally settled in favor of the geopolitical-activist ideology of neoconservatism (Neocons).
This globalist ideology led to a variety of policy disasters and is now discredited in many circles, and has been under attack within the Deep State for some time. This is the divided Deep State I've written about for the past five years.
The failures of Neocon globalism have ushered in another critical juncture.What is America's proper role in a multi-polar world that is fracturing across multiple faultlines? This critical juncture is a manifestation of a broader profound political disunity in America and many other nations.
The corporate media has obligingly portrayed this profound political disunity as a contest between "good globalism" and "bad populism," a clear attempt to smear all those who see the dark side of globalism as a threat to the nation and indeed the world. This bias reflects the continued dominance of the Neocon-globalist camp.
But the cracks are now visible. The mainstream "influential" press has recently been publishing critiques admitting the failures of Neocon globalism and agonizing about how to "save" the globalist agenda despite its failures.
I have long held that there is a camp within the Deep State that grasps the end-game of Neocon globalism, and is busy assembling a competing nation-centric strategy. There is tremendous resistance to the abandonment of Neocon globalism, not just from those who see power slipping through their fingers but from all those firmly committed to the hubris of a magical faith in past success as the guarantor of future success.
Michael Grant described this complacent clinging to what's failed in his excellent account The Fall of the Roman Empire, a short book I have been recommending since 2009:
There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea.
This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance.
This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all.
The faction within the Deep State that no longer accepts traditional fictions is gaining ground, and now another fracture in the Deep State is coming to the fore: the traditionalists who accept the systemic corruption of self-serving elites and those who have finally awakened to the mortal danger to the nation posed by amoral self-serving elites.
The debauchery of morals undermines the legitimacy of the state and thus of the entire power structure. As I recently noted in Following in Rome's Footsteps: Moral Decay, Rising Inequality (June 29, 2019), America's current path of moral decay and soaring wealth/power inequality is tracking Rome's collapse step for step.
Enter the sordid case of Jeffrey Epstein, suddenly unearthed after a decade of corporate-media/elitist suppression. It's laughable to see the corporate media's pathetic attempts to glom onto the case now, after actively suppressing it for decades:Jeffrey Epstein Was a Sex Offender. The Powerful Welcomed Him Anyway. (New York Times) Where was the NYT a decade ago, or five years ago, or even a year ago?
Of all the questions that are arising, the signal one is simply: why now? There are many questions, now that the dead-and-buried case has been dug up: where did Epstein get his fortune? Why did he return to the U.S. from abroad, knowing he'd be arrested? Why was the Miami Herald suddenly able to publish numerous articles exposing the scandalous suppression of justice after 11 years of silence? Years later, victims recount impact of Jeffrey Epstein abuse.
Here's my outsider's take: the anti-Neocon camp within the Deep State observed the test case of Harvey Weinstein and saw an opportunity to apply what it learned. If we draw circles representing the anti-Neocon camp and the moralists who grasp the state's legitimacy is hanging by a thread after decades of amoral exploitation and self-aggrandizement by the ruling elites, we would find a large overlap.
But even die-hard Neocons are starting to awaken to the danger to their power posed by the moral collapse of the ruling elites. They are finally awakening to the lesson of history, that the fatal danger to empires arises not from external foes but from inside the center of power as elite corruption erodes the legitimacy of the state.
The upstarts in the Deep State have united to declare open war on the degenerates and their enablers, who are everywhere in the Deep State: the media, the intelligence community, and on and on.
Since the battle is for the legitimacy of the state, it must be waged at least partially in the open. This is a war for the hearts and minds of the public, whose belief in the legitimacy of the state and its ruling elites underpins the power of the Deep State.
If this wasn't a war over the legitimacy of the state, the housecleaning would have been discrete. Insiders would be shuffled off to a corporate boardroom or do-nothing/fancy title office, or they'd retire, or if necessary, they'd die of a sudden heart attack or in a tragic accident (if only they knew).
The cockroaches are scurrying, and the challenge now is to crush as many as possible before they find cover. Bullies are at heart cowards, and once the bullies who were untouchable due to powerful friends in powerful places are exposed to an accounting of their behavior, they will spill the beans on everyone in a craven attempt to lighten the consequences of their corruption and debauchery.
Power is a funny thing: when it dissipates suddenly, it dissipates completely.
All those who were confident they were untouchable might want to heed this sign: carefully fall into the cliff.
The hidden conflicts within the Deep State are emerging, and the resulting crisis will be explosive. Remember, the housecleaning must be public or the legitimacy of the state will go over the cliff. If the Deep State wants to retain its power, it must root out the corrupt degenerates before they bring down the entire rotten structure.


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.


My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

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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