Monday, June 01, 2020

We're Living the Founding Fathers' Nightmare: America Is Corrupt to the Core

Our ruling elites, devoid of leadership, are little more than the scum of self-interested, greedy grifters who rose to the top of America's foul-smelling stew of corruption.
The Founding Fathers were wary of institutional threats to liberty and the citizenry's sovereignty, which included centralized concentrations of power (monarchy, central banks, federal agencies, etc.) and the tyranny of corruption unleashed by small-minded, self-interested, greedy grifters who saw all elected offices and positions of government influence as nothing more than a means to increase their own private wealth.
The Founders feared the dominance of self-interested, greedy grifters because they had no concept of the public good: to the greedy grifters, the government existed solely to serve their petty private interests and the interests of their fellow grifters.
The Founders understood that a republic required disinterested leadership capable of looking past petty self-interest to the common good of the people and their nation. They feared the election of self-interested, greedy grifters because once no one served the common good, the republic would fall into a fatal disunity.
We are living the Founders' nightmare, for America is corrupt to the core. While everyone gorging at the public trough bleats about the "common good," their single-minded focus is on aggrandizing as much power and private wealth as possible, and feeding their corrupt crew of insiders, lobbyists, "business interests," bankers and assorted other legalized looters.
America has plenty of law enforcement, prosecutors and prison cells for those who loot a Whole Foods, but none for those who loot the public treasury, commit stock market swindles or financial fraud on a monumental scale. Not only did no one go to prison for the rampant institutionalized fraud of the 2008 looting, a.k.a. the Global Financial Meltdown--the looters were bailed out by the Federal Reserve and Treasury.
More recently, no one was even questioned when a biotech company issued a press release about a Covid-19 vaccine trial that boosted the stock's price just long enough for insiders to dump millions of dollars of shares on a credulous public and also sell new shares in the company at a premium: a classic looting strategy known as pump and dump.
Members of Congress were caught red-handed in what amounted to insider trading, selling millions of dollars in their stock portfolios based on their secret briefings of the coming pandemic, while they reassured the public Covid-19 was no biggie. The farcical "investigation" found no wrong-doing.
Corruption in our political parties is so endemic nobody even bothers listing it except as a parlor game of pondering which party is more corrupt.
Our ruling elites, devoid of leadership, are little more than the scum of self-interested, greedy grifters who rose to the top of America's foul-smelling stew of corruption. As for the nation's infinitely greedy billionaires, if there was any justice left in America, Apple CEO Tim Cook would be rotting in a cell on Devil's Island for buying back billions of dollars of Apple stock--buybacks were illegal not that long ago.
The cells next to his would be crowded with Big Pharma CEOs who advertised their products directly to consumers--also illegal not so long ago.
America is now a pay-to-play paradise of greed and corruption. The "public good" is a PR cover for legalized looting, much of which now depends on the Federal Reserve's free money for financiers, parasites and predators.
If you think this is far too harsh on our current crop of greedy grifters and looters, please read historian Gordon Wood's epic account Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, which details the many critical debates between founders with fundamentally different views of what structures and safeguards were essential for the Republic's survival.
When we look back at the genius of Hamilton, Madison, et al., and Washington's obsession with ethics and promoting national unity, we are forced to weep for the pathetic, venal scum that passes for "leadership" in America today. The feedback loops the Founders designed to restrain the tyranny of corruption have all failed, as the biggest looters serve their interests under the guise of legality.
The Founders' weren't saints; they were flawed as are all humans, and like all humans, they were products of their era. But they did have a keen, abiding sense of the public good, and when they clashed over ideas about banking, the power of the presidency, etc., it was not for personal gain but for their vision of the common good.
If any of America's "leadership" over the past 30 years had an ounce of concern for the common good, why did they enable financialization and globalization to hollow out the nation's economy and social order? Why did they enable the frauds, skims, scams, cartels and monopolies that are the foundation of virtually every American billionaire's "we pay no taxes" empires of greed?
The tyranny of corruption thrives in an amoral cesspool of anything goes and winners take all.
In today's America, the tyranny of corruption has been so normalized that America's polarized populaces are blind to the profound corruption of their parties and institutions. As in the last days of the Western Roman Empire, the masses are made complicit with bread and circuses, mimicking their "leaders" debasement of the public good to feeding at the public trough.
These are the troubled years that came before the deluge (Jackson Browne), for as Mr. Dylan put it, a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Recent Podcasts:
Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).


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.

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, Chad W. ($5/month), for your monumentally generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.
 
Thank you, Kojo M. ($5/month), for your marvelously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Saturday, May 30, 2020

This Is How Systems Collapse

Flooding the financial system with "free money" only restores the illusion of stability
I updated my How Systems Collapse graphic from 2018 with a "we are here" line to indicate our current precarious position just before the waterfall:
For those who would argue we're nowhere near collapse, consider that over 20% of the Federal Reserve's $2 trillion spew of free money went directly into the pockets of America's billionaires: $434 billion by the latest estimates, while most of the rest went into the pockets of the top 10% who own all the assets that the Fed is goosing higher while millions of households are worried about feeding themselves: (American billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic).
In America's system, the solution to soaring, destabilizing inequality is... to goose inequality to new heights. No wonder there's no middle ground left politically, socially or financially, and social disorder is so easily ignited. There are few feedback loops left in our fragile system; the rich get richer, and rather than restore some balance, our political system further empowers the parasitic and predatory financial elites. The rich and politically powerful are one group, sharing control of public and private institutions.
One way to understand "middle ground" is that the middle ground acts as a buffer between systemic extremes. The key concepts here are stability and buffers. Though complex systems are never static, but they can be stable: that is, they ebb and flow within relatively stable states supported by buffers.
America's social, political and economic buffers have been thinned by extremes and excesses, but nobody noticed or cared: America's reigning credo is: anything goes, winners take all.
In systems, this ebb and flow of low-level volatility generates stability and adaptation. In natural systems, feedback loops between the weather, environment and plant/animal species keep the ecosystem in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Ideal weather conditions may spark a rise in an insect population, for example, which then enables an increase in insect-predator populations (fish, birds, frogs, etc.) which then increases the consumption of the insects and reduces the impact of the higher insect population.
If the river runs low, the human populace relies on wells for reserves of water. In good harvests, grain is set aside for lean harvests; the wells and grain stores are buffers which can be drawn down to restore stability to a stressed system.
Buffers are largely invisible and of little common interest in times of abundance. When water and grain are well-supplied, who cares if the stores have spoiled and the well water tastes bad?
A system with thin buffers and few feedback loops looks robust on the surface but is highly vulnerable to collapse. In our example, the first lean harvest and low water flow completely drain the reserves, and the second year of drought triggers a collapse of the system.
In our complex socio-economic system, the buffers are largely invisible. As a general rule, "money" (currency created by central banks and private banks when a loan is issued) is our all-purpose buffer: if something becomes scarce and threatens the system, we print/ borrow into existence more "money" which is distributed to buy whatever is needed.
But "money" is an illusory buffer. If the well has run dry, no amount of money will restore ground water. If the fisheries have collapsed due to overfishing, no amount of currency issued by the Federal Reserve will restore the fisheries. In other words, the natural world provides hard limits that money can only fix if buffers are available for purchase.
"Money" is itself a system, a system with financial buffers, buffers that have been consumed by the speculative excesses of the private sector and the financial repression of central banks. These buffers are largely invisible; few know what's going on in global liquidity markets, for example. Yet when liquidity dries up, for whatever reason, markets go bidless and asset prices go into freefall.
Flooding the financial system with "free money" only restores the illusion of stability. As noted in my diagram, restoring and maintaining an apparent stability thins buffers to the point of dangerous fragility.
When buffers are paper-thin, a crisis that would have been overcome with ease in the past triggers the collapse of the entire system. Everyone who based their faith in the system on its surface stability is stunned by the rapidity of the collapse, for how could such a vast, apparently robust system implode with so little warning?
The financial system's buffers have been thinning for 20 long years, but nobody seems to care. The quality of risk, debt, borrowers and speculative gambles have all declined, but faith in the "Fed put"--that the Federal Reserve can fix anything and everything by printing endless trillions-- is quasi-religious: few doubt the limitless power of the Fed's currency-printing machinery to quickly overcome any crisis.
This is how systems collapse: misplaced faith in the visible surface of abundance generates fatal complacency and confidence, and the fragility of the buffers goes unnoticed.
Just before the collapse, central bank currency is super-abundant, but systemic stability is near-zero and all the buffers are paper-thin: the Fed's trillions create an illusion of safety, as if all we need to do to restore the lost middle ground and buffers is to hand America's most parasitic and predatory clique another $434 billion in stock market wealth.
Doing more of what has destabilized the system in the belief that new extremes will somehow restore equilibrium is simply rowing faster as we speed toward the waterfall of systemic collapse.
Recent Podcasts:
Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).


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.

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, Daniel B. ($50), for your monumentally generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
 
Thank you, Michael G. ($5/month), for your marvelously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Friday, May 29, 2020

First the Deflationary Deluge of Assets Crashing, Then the Tsunami of Inflation

Once the pool of greater fools dries up, stocks crash regardless of what the Fed does or bleats.
The conventional view is the Federal Reserve creating trillions of dollars out of thin air will trigger inflation. Not so fast. Yes, creating trillions of dollars out of thin air will eventually devalue the purchasing power of each dollar--what we call inflation--but first all the unprecedented asset bubbles will pop and valuations will crash.
Let's call this a deflationary deluge as unsustainable asset prices are eroded by a hard rain of reality. To understand the enormity of the current bubbles, please glance at the charts below. The first chart depicts recent stock market bubbles; note the extreme height of the current bubble.
The next chart shows the S&P 500, and the extraordinary amplification of the bubble that reached its apex in February 2020. Note that each ramp higher takes less time to reach its peak. The most recent snapback rally gained about 870 points in a mere two months--a move that took roughly 5 years in the early 2000s.
Real estate and other assets have also soared in unprecedented bubbles. Old bungalows that sold for $150,000 less than 20 years ago are now supposedly worth over $1 million.
What made this possible? An equivalent bubble in debt. Every sector--household, corporate and government--has borrowed astronomical sums of money to keep the bubble economy glued together. In this rising tide of currency and capital, whatever had scarcity value--real estate, art, stocks--was purchased with the borrowed money as a store of value and / or as a source of income in a world starved of low-risk yields by central banks that dropped interest rates to near zero.
Assets don't have to rise, but the interest and principal on debt has to be paid. That's the rub with buying assets with borrowed money.
The price of assets is set on the margins. In a neighborhood of 100 houses, the price of all the houses is set by the most recent handful of sales. If each house was valued at $1 million, and three houses sell for $800,000, the value of the other 97 houses falls to $800,000 each.
All bubbles rely on a greater fool willing to pay a higher price than the previous somewhat lesser fool. The problem is the supply of greater fools quickly drops to zero when euphoria is replaced by fear and the marginal buyers are no longer willing to pay outlandish sums for houses, stocks, boats, etc.
Every greater fool who abandons a market sticks a pin in the bubble. As prices start eroding, those who bought the over-valued assets with borrowed money start realizing they have to make the interest payments even if the asset is losing value. The only rational choice is to run to the exit and sell the asset.
But since so many recent buyers bought with borrowed money, the exit is quickly jammed with desperate sellers. This triggers market crashes as marginal buyers desperate to sell will drop their price, while the delusional herd still believes the bubble valuations are not just fair but "under-valued."
This is why the majority refuses to sell until it's too late. They believed the fairy tales that "real estate never drops," Apple is a bargain at $300 (see chart below), etc., and are unwilling to suspend those beliefs even as the deflationary deluge washes away their wealth.
By the time they realize the impossibility of getting their wealth back, it's too late to do anything other than salvage what's left by selling now rather than later.
Bubbles tend to rise and drop in rough symmetry, meaning they tend to retrace the entire bubble, though the descent is often much faster than the ascent.
The greatest fairy tale of them all is the Fed has our back. The belief here is that all the dollars created out of thin air by the Fed will flow into stocks. But there is no actual causal mechanism in this belief; the Fed can create dollars out of thin air but they don't have to flow into the stock market; they can go elsewhere. They only flow into stocks because the financiers, banks and other parasites and predators are counting on greater fools to pay ever higher prices for stocks based on their erroneous faith that the Fed's new money magically goes straight into stocks.
Once the pool of greater fools dries up, stocks crash regardless of what the Fed does or bleats, up to the point that the Fed is given the legal go-ahead to buy stocks directly. That's when the inflation everyone anticipates will begin. But inflation is just as unruly a beast as an asset bubble, and control is never quite as complete as the Fed claims.
First the deflationary deluge, then the tsunami of inflation. Both destroy the wealth of believers in fairy tales.
My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


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


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.

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, Robert C. ($10/month), for your outrageously generous subscription to this site -- I am greatly honored by your steadfast support and readership.
Thank you, Terence S. ($5/month), for your marvelously generous pledge to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Social Media's Plantation of the Mind

The Company Store is open, buy whatever you want on easy credit, and don't forget to take an approved narrative with you.
I've been discussing the neocolonial-plantation structure of the U.S. economy since 2008, and now this model has reached perfection in social media's Plantation of the Mind. Once you're firmly enmeshed in this social media Plantation, you lose sight of the fact that there's a larger world outside the plantation: social media platforms aren't exploitive plantations in the World Wide Web/Internet, they are the Internet as far as their users are concerned.
Since I spent some of my youth in a classic Plantation town (and worked on the plantation as a laborer in summer), the concept of a Plantation Economy is not an abstraction to me, but a living analogy of the way our economy works.
In the classic Plantation, everything is managed by those in charge to benefit the owners. Workers are forced to buy their necessities at The Company Store, and since the entire town and plantation is owned by the corporation, there's no private ownership of land or housing; everyone is a serf, beholden to the owners, and since costs are artificially high at The Company Store (due to the lack of competition), the serfs have to go into debt to survive: they become debt-serfs.
In the Plantation Economy, the Company suppresses any innovation that threatens its monopoly and the state enforces whatever means the Corporation deploys: buying up patents and small companies, predatory pricing to bankrupt competitors, etc.
The Plantation Economy is a mono-culture of large corporations and their partner in rentier skimming, the state. Our economy is a state-cartel finance-debt system; it's only capitalist on the margins, that is, in the fringes that aren't profitable enough for corporations to control.
The core feature of this Plantation Economy is the privileges of accumulating capital are all in the hands of the state-cartel elites. The foundation of classical capitalism is the accumulation of capital, which in our era is not just cash, factories, mines, etc.--financial and industrial capital-- but knowledge capital: intellectual property, knowledge of processes, creation and control of content, research and development, control of information streams (that is, maintaining information asymmetry) and so on.
One of the key concepts in the Survival+ critique is the politics of experience. This is an elusive concept because what we take for granted is invisible to us, and we have to go back in time, so to speak, to rediscover a history in which the experience of daily life was quite different from the present.
Today, we accept it as "normal" that marketing worms into every once-private area of our lives. Not that long ago, adverts and marketing were limited to print media (newspapers and magazines) and TV--fundamentally passive media that you could opt out of by setting the paper aside or turning off the TV.
The key concept in all marketing now is supremely pernicious: any advert or campaign which reaches deep into the last refuges of privacy is considered highly valuable. This is of course the raison d'etre of social media: to weave highly profitable marketing into every process we consider essential.
To perfect this colonization of the mind, social media has persuaded users that they no longer need unfettered access to the entire World Wide Web/Internet: we'll give you everything you want right here on our Plantation of the Mind.
Including, of course, what you should think, feel and buy. Since Google dominates "search," and since Google has complete control over what is "found" in searches and what is buried and rendered invisible, i.e. whatever is "not found," then our access to the entire Web is limited in ways we cannot see or understand, because the process and filters are invisible to us.
Once you control the politics of experience, the user isn't even aware that what they now consider "obvious" has been molded by the plantation owners to maximize their private profits. In social media's Plantation of the Mind, users are assured they have complete access to everything that is "fact" and "safe," when in reality everything they see has been filtered to the benefit of the Plantation owners and their political allies in the state hierarchy.
In a democracy, voters must be trusted to make assessments and judgments on their own, i.e. as adults. They must be trusted to realize that marketers are everywhere, attempting to sell something or other, not just goods and services but narratives, which benefit those in power or threaten those in power.
They must be trusted to understand the difference between their own private stake in political decisions and the broader public good.
Alas, the voters are no longer trusted by the elites. They are chattel on the plantation, and have to be managed and coerced for their own good. Enter the perfect tool to do so, social media's Plantation of the Mind.
The entire purpose of social media's Plantation of the Mind is to maximize profits by limiting user's experience and awareness to what is unthreatening to the corporate-state elites. Rather than the old model in which the Web was a free-for-all which included all sorts of content which required users to sort the wheat from the chaff, social media's Plantation of the Mind seeks to sanitize all that chaos into "approved content" which users aren't even aware has been carefully selected for their consumption by hidden processes and filters.
The intent of those filters are also hidden, as is the selection process of those filters.
Who gets to decide what's filtered out "for our own good"? Who gets to decide what is "our own good"?
Welcome to social media's Plantation of the Mind. The Company Store is open, buy whatever you want on easy credit, and don't forget to take an approved narrative with you. Don't worry, we've planted that in your mind without you even realizing it--for your own good, of course.
My COVID-19 Pandemic Posts


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


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.

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, Marcie M.-F. ($25), for your splendidly generous contribution to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.
Thank you, Robert S. ($5/month), for your marvelously generous subscription to this site -- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

Read more...

Terms of Service

All content on this blog is provided by Trewe LLC for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. These terms and conditions of use are subject to change at anytime and without notice.

Our Privacy Policy:

Correspondents' email is strictly confidential. This site does not collect digital data from visitors or distribute cookies. Advertisements served by third-party advertising networks such as Adsense and Investing Channel may use cookies or collect information from visitors for the purpose of Interest-Based Advertising; if you wish to opt out of Interest-Based Advertising, please go to Opt out of interest-based advertising (The Network Advertising Initiative)
If you have other privacy concerns relating to advertisements, please contact advertisers directly. Websites and blog links on the site's blog roll are posted at my discretion.

Our Commission Policy:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I also earn a commission on purchases of precious metals via BullionVault. I receive no fees or compensation for any other non-advertising links or content posted
on my site.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP