Archive for the ‘financial metldown’ Category

COVID obit

March 29, 2020

 

The whole world is talking

about that COVID we dread;

world  biz-trade is balking

so we won’t end up dead.

 

Scientists snip at the micro pathogen

to concoct an effective vaccine

while we elude the awful contagion,

keeping hands and our noses clean.

 

To assure us the required social distance,

the system skids to a dam near-stop,

though trumpian troupes make insistence

biznez as usual shall not flop.

 

Let’s just slip through this quick and easy-like

while congress cooks up a free lunch;

we’ll quarantine inconvenience; we’ll sanitize hype;

cuz elixir’s gone viral in politicized punch.

 

Hey! if you find comfort in that congressional dole

I’ve got some covid-cure I’ll sell ya!

Let’s just slip through this corona going-viral hole.

But how it happens I truly can’t tell ya.

 

Our rich uncle Mitch and his significant other,

rich uncle Sam sham of flim-flam fame—

they’ll send us a check from our long-gone mother

financed with Fed-Trez lame ponzi game.

 

Now we dance to a red-ink tune of 23 trillion

cuz we’d rather be red than dead.

But hey! not to worry cuz its video godzillion;

If the beast gets too big they’ll chop off his head!

Beast

Glass Chimera

 

The SwanSwoon of our Era

March 21, 2020

In her recent article at Social Europe,  Indian economist Jayeti Ghosh  accurately identifies a major consequence of our worldwide collective anti-COVID restrictions:

  “Supply chains are being disrupted, factories are being closed, entire regions are being locked down and a growing number of workers are struggling to secure their livelihoods. “

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-covid-19-debt-deluge

Her statement does indeed identify the crux of our economic problem right now, and the global complexity does unleash trouble on a very large, international scale.

You might say this COVID-crash is the “Crash of ’29” of our era.

Some compare this tsunami to the crash of ’08, or the blah-blah of ’87 (whatever that was.)  But it seems to me this thing is unwinding as an event historically more far-reaching than those two economic downfalls. This Covid thing can be compared to  what happened in 1929.

The Crash of ’29 exposed the vulnerability of a newly-Industrialized USA. This present Covid-crash exposes the vulnerability of a newly-Internetted World.

Ms. Ghosh is correct in her observation when she writes:

  “Today’s financial fragility far predates the Covid-19 ‘black swan’.”

The black swan represents the unlikely possibility that something like this could happen . . . . even though it did.

It seems to me the immensity of our present global Covid co-morbidity is indeed directly related to our newfound world connectivity in trade, travel and talk. The black swan in the background represents this unprecedented development in world history.

Swans

In that same technocratic network to which Ms. Ghosh contributes, Social Europe, Karin Pettersson posts her insightful analysis of our Covid conundrum, which includes this accurate assessment:

   “Already however, we know this: this type of disease cannot be efficiently fought at an individual level, but only as a society. It requires preparation, co-ordination, planning and the ability to make rapid decisions and scale up efforts. A strong state.

But nor is government enough. The situation demands personal responsibility, a sense of duty, concern for one’s neighbour. “

     https://www.socialeurope.eu/the-corona-crisis-will-define-our-era

What she writes there is so true. I agree.

Karin goes on to pose  a question that is surely the crux of the problem for millions of earth-inhabiting workers:

   “Yet what will you do if you simply cannot afford to stay at home?”

And I’m thinking . . . because of this widespread affordability problem, the response of governments and corporations in the days ahead should reflect benevolence, not authoritarian oppression. At least I hope it will.

Karin Pettersson also presents this profound thought:  

   “I wonder if young people might come to think that authoritarian China dealt with the crisis better than the US—the land of the free.”

We shall witness, in the days ahead, how this dilemma is dealt with between China, USA, and all the other nations of this planet.

Karin’s bright insight becomes dimmed, however, when she criticizes, in the same article cited above, Vice President Mike Pence’s public act of leading scientists in prayer.

She is displeased that Pence, a former Indiana governor, had cut funding for HIV-virus research and prevention, back in the day. . .

I can understand Ms. Petterssen’s emphatic let’s fix this humanism. It is quite the de rigeur among technocrat intelligencia who would like to run the world, because they could certainly do a more equitable and better job than all those corporate 1%ers whose rabid profit-taking shenanigans have now made such a mess of things.

 Yes, Virginia, the news is bad. Read ’em and weep. . . but act, benevolently. That also  goes for all you 1%ers out there who think you’re in charge of things.

But I also like to remember, and take seriously, a statement that I heard, many years ago, from a fellow who was then what I now am, an ole geezer.

  “What we need now is some damn prayer!”

So Let’s all work together harmoniously to get these problems solved. And remember that a little help from the OneWhoIs could only render our burdens a little easier to bear.

Glass half-Full

Money’s Swan Song

August 11, 2019

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Well a lot has happened since then.

Our Creator had done some amazing creating through that original sparkle, and has given us the wherewithal to jump in there and participate in the creative playing out of all things in our domain.

The power to create was not given to other species on our planet—only to us.

We humans have done some pretty amazing things with our God-given talents.

After hunting and gathering, we planted, harvested and ate the fruits of our labors.

in the course of history, we have moved far beyond just eating, drinking and homesteading.

It’s been ever onward and upward for us, since we got a hold of this divine spark thing that we call creativity.

We’ve built pyramids and great walls, temples, mosques, cathedrals, skyscrapers, great bridges and machines that move across those bridges.

We’ve built roads, rails, blazed trails, had great successes and fails. We’ve devised tools, schools, lots of rules; we’ve forged implements, arts, coins, currency, and we’ve maintained a steady errancy.

We’ve painted, sculpted, interpreted the real world as works of art. We’ve disrupted, interrupted, corrupted and upended nature itself.

Now our carbonized creation turns—in some ways—against us.

Back at the olden time, when we received the power to cultivate earth, we were instructed to subdue those elements of the natural world that seem to be active against us—like, say, lions and tigers and bears. Such critters we had to subdue, so they would not make mincemeat of us.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, tsunamis, etc.— these adverse forces we could not subdue, so we took shelter. As the ages rolled by, our sheltering instincts developed into elaborate structures.

And we have done pretty well with that. We homo sapiens have taken control of the planet—or at least we think we have. The planet may yet rise up to bite us in the ass. We shall see what happens with that.

A major sea-change that happened along the long odyssey of our progress was: we devised ways to substitute real goods into artificial representations of wealth.

Better known as making money.

MoneySwan

Land, food, livestock, clothing, shelter and such commodities that are essential for survival—all these are now exchanged by monies, currencies, paper-backed assets. And the latest thing is: electrons seem to be our new currency.

Our ancestors carved trails out of the wilderness. They gathered grains, sowed seeds, domesticated animals, and sold to neighbors or merchants all the produce thereof.

As those primary goods coalesced over the ages as markets, their value was measured and traded as money. This we called trade. Then we called it commerce, then business, and now. . . economics. We humans invented the system a long time ago because . . . well, because . . . I don’t why.

lt’s just what we do I guess.

For one thing, it made the process of manipulating wealth easier.

In economics, wealth was and is evaluated in terms of dollars or yuan or yen, or marks, francs, drachmas, denarii, zlotys, rubles, pesos, pounds sterling, etc.

Euros are the new kid on the block. They seem to have trouble making that one work.

The difficulty with retaining true value in these currencies is related to the fact that they’re—in real survival life terms—not really worth anything.

They only represent wealth. But they are not really the real thing.

I say the EU is having trouble establishing the value of their Euro. This goes way back.

The Brits, for instance, were having trouble in the 1930’s retaining the value of their pound. It seemed that their constructed currency could not maintain its value compared to gold.

Who the hell can compete with gold?

Gold goes way back.

Way back.

The second chapter of Genesis, for instance, mentions gold.

“The name of the first (river) is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.”

I suppose there’s a reason why gold goes way back in our history. Even though you can’t eat it, drink it, or keep your household warm with it, it is . . .

quite shiny.

Beautiful stuff, that gold. Precious!

Back to the Brits. As the world economy was falling apart back in the ’30’s, many savvy persons decided they would trade their British currency—pounds—for gold.

So many savvies were wanting to get back to gold, that the British government quit selling it.

What would happen after such an arrangement?

I think it was that fellow Keynes who figured out that—guess what—the economy just kept on cranking—all the goods and stuff and commodities and products and financial instruments and whatnot—just kept swirling around in international commerce.

The world didn’t stop turning. Business just kept on doing their thing. Rich get richer and poor get poorer and hey what else is new.

What else is new? Nothing. Nothing new under the sun.

Guess what. We didn’t really need gold to back currency! It was just a phase we were going through—the golden age of gold.

Back in ’73, Nixon pulled the same trick as the Brits had done in the ’30’s. He and his Bretton Woods powers-that-be decided we could no longer afford to sell gold for dollars. Too many folks wanted the gold instead of the dollars.

So we see that man-made currencies are not foolproof, and the gold bugs are always trying to make a comeback.

Money is a habit; that’s all. A very old habit.

Folks are born and bred into this modern economic world.  We are commercialized, or socialized (depending on your politics) to just keep spending those pounds and dollars and cents and euros and yuan and yen and SDRs and thusandsuch.

Nowadays we don’t really even use the money any more. Now it’s just electrons flowing around that represent debits and credits.

And that’s why—I suppose— the central banks of the world can keep cranking out their reserves, because the right to assign value is now reserved to them. It has nothing to do with gold or fiscal guarantee.

The central banks, in the fatal footsteps of every financial crisis, have reserved the right to “create money out of thin air.”

I told you we were creative!

The greatest discovery of the modern world:  we don’t even need anything to take the place of gold.

Money is just an old habit we have; we’ll never put it to rest. So somebody has to be “printing” it somewhere.  We spend so much money that all the .govs of the world are running deep debts trying to keep all the citizens fat ‘n happy.

There’s so much liquidity in the world today that the dark swan of excess has smooth sailing. Someday, some Leninish strongman will come along and dissolve all that debt into even more liquidity.

It will be a meal ticket for everybody. Yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch, doesn’t matter who’s paying for it.

It’s only money.

Glass half-Full

From Enlightenment to Onlinenment

May 4, 2019

Peering way back in human history, we find . . . generally, the battles have indeed been won by the strong, and the races are usually won by the swift of our species.

There are exceptions, for sure, but generally you know it’s true. Them who know how to throw their weight around  usually manage somehow to outweigh the rest of us.

The people who manage to work, or fight or compete, to the top of the heap—those folks pretty much stay on top of things until some group or faction that is lower on the pecking order manages to muster enough money, or strength or discontent or firepower or political power to throw the bums out and usher in a new regime of wealth, or weapons, or wherewithal to take charge of things and call the shots.

Throughout history we talk about this and wonder about how to deal with it in ways that are fair and equitable, and maybe even civil.

In the last 300 years of pondering these issues, we’ve moved from the Age of Enlightenment, through the Age of Development, and now we’ve progressed into the Age of Onlinenment.

Three centuries ago, power was all about royalty. The royal houses pretty much ruled the world. They divided it up. Now and then they fought battles, or even wars, to re-draw the boundaries of ownership and authority and hegemony etcetera etcetera.

The printing presses had gotten in gear back in the 1400’s; over time all those mechanically copied manuscripts began to make a difference in everything that happened.  Ideas got spread around through documents and books, and people began to think more, exchange ideas and information more, think differently about themselves and the world they lived in, and . . .

People got smarter, or at least they thought they were smarter. At any rate, they had more information (more data!) to work with. Many of these smart folks figured out that they could work their way out of indentured servitude or serfdom or whatever royal arrangement had been holding them back.

So they moved off the estate, and into town; there they set up shop, doing business, making goods and services that people needed.

Capitalism was born. . . little people doing business and making it on their own.

Along with capitalism came the age of Enlightenment, a time in history when more and more folks were figuring out that hey! we can do this this thing we don’t need the bluebloods up in the castle to tell us what to do.

Although it took a century or two for these changes to really make a difference on a societal level, eventually the newly emerging middle classes had enough members and resources and smarts and clout to push the old fuddy-duddy royals out of power.

It was a long bloody process. Our American revolution busted out and changed the world forever.

Revolutions (1)

The French did an even bloodier version when they guillotined the Bourbon monarchs. As the proletarian uprisings gathered steam across Europe,  Napolean and Marx and hordes of discontented Europeans got out in the streets to rearrange the economic structure of things into a state more fitting to their demands.

Eventually, the Bolsheviks in Russia managed to run the royal Romanovs outa town. The new revolutionizing proletarians cornered those royals and put  bullets into their fair-haired Romanov heads.

Further down in Europe, the same Revolutionary zeitgeist was burning hot. 20th-century Liberation busted Western civilization out of its old royal antiquities. Along with the supposed modernizing came a bloody mess called the World War I.

Archduke4

When the guns were finally silenced in 1918 and the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the world was a different place.

Most of the royal houses had been run out of their big houses; what was left of them were cornered into ceremonial roles, and a new way of doin’ things became the order of the day.

Our yankee country country here had a lot to do with the way things turned out. After we had sent King George and his reds back to Britain with their tail between their legs, we had a whole, vast, 3000-mile continent just waitin’ to discover what the steam locomotive and the motorized tractor and the combine and the cotton gin and the blast furnace and everything from Pittsburgh to Pacific was all about.

And by the time we got to the Pacific, by crackies, the world was mechanized.

We had wrought it into a whole New World.

However, as things developed here in the 19th-century in the big wide bustin’-out USA, the ancient hierarchical tendencies of the human race had re-asserted themselves the fray, and before you know it—in spite of all the wide open spaces and new opportunities— we were back into a situation where the rich got richer and and the poor got poorer.

As the tycoons and magnates—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Bell, Edison, Morgan—got America all cranked up on oil and gas and electrical power, they formed companies.

By ’n by, them companies grew and prospered, and—long story short—those little startup corps from our late-19th, early 20th-century developments eventually morphed into giant corporate behemoths.

Even so, every now and then throughout the last century, a big economic reset button gets pushed somewhere and the forces of mankind whack the hell out of all our wealth-gathering institutions.

The biggest Depression hit back in ’29 and hung itself around our necks until the big guns showed up to blast us out of the trenches. After the Second Big War, we had a big round of wealth-spreadin’, middle-class widenin’ expansion with more folks than ever before jumpin’ on the middle and upper-class band wagons.

It went on a half-century or so, with ups and downs along the way but most everybody gett’n’ at least a little better off along the way, until ’08 when another whopper hit wall street; it dumb-struck the powers-that-be for a few weeks until they got their act together and yacked their way into a deal in which We the People baled them and ourselves out of what would have been disaster, or so the tale is told.

Anyway, here we were a century+ past those robber barons and big wheels and under-the-table deals, and the corporations are thought to be running the whole shebang.

19th-century: the Royals, kings and queens, monarchs, dukes, earls, counts, etcetera etcetera

20th-century: CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen of the Boards, etcetera etcetera

All along the way, a whole lotta regular folks have jumped onto the Corporate bandwagon and wiggled their way into some of the booty therof. Out here on the coasts and in Flyover country, a whole lot more of us consumers are in a big way dependent on this Corporatized way of doin’ things.

By the late 20th-century—and now going into the 21st—the upper-middle-class’emites who keep the electrons and the debits and the credits and the assets  hummin’ along through that vast Corporate power Web— they are pretty well fat n’ happy, like their blueblooded ancestors.

Their modern morph-up into class and privileged status was Corporate-fueled, not Royal-based like in the earlier versions.

Especially since ’08 when the whole financial world blew apart again and We the People bailed the Bankers and their kissin’-cousin Corporate mavens out.

In this round of history, the Discontents among us not using the printing press so much to drum up all this protest and pushback we see rising . This time it is more about the the Twit and the Web and the Net.

We’ve progressed past Enlightenment, past Development . . .

to Onlinenment.

DigitHeads

And by means of this digitized Onlinenment, folks are gettn’ all hot n’bothered again, and workin’ themselves into a tizzy about those same ole inequality-breeding patriarchal tendencies, which have forever reared their privilege-seeking heads into positions of authority.

We find ourselves once again passing Go. Roll the dice and collect $2 million. And so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What else is new?

But this time the disruption is not about throwin’ out King George or King Louie or Czar Nicholas or the Archduke of Serbia.

In this round, its about throwin’ out the Corporate mavens and their kissin’-cousin Politicians, and maybe even the Digitheads along with them, and then replacing them with . . .

um . . . with what?

Y’all Discontents be careful now. We don’t want any more Stalins or Maos, or even Chavez. Let’s talk about this.

Go easy on us who are fellow-travelers in this planetary arrangement. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t wanna throw the can-do out with the carbon.

Glass half-Full

Where to now, Homo Developus?

January 16, 2019

Everybody knows that a few years ago we had a big economic breakdown. There were many reasons to explain  what happened in 2008.

Let’s step back in time a little and consider what has taken place on Planet Earth.

During the 1800’s and 1900’s our developed nations undertook a vast, worldwide surge of industrial development, which was accompanied by a universal expansion of business and corporate prosperity. This hyper-expansive phase of human development required very large-scale extractions of natural resources, which were then transformed into mega-stocks of consumer goods.

An abundance of consumer goods brought forth an abundance of consumers.

Consuming.

Consuming the goods, consuming the planet.

The end of the 20th century brought a vast slowdown. It happened in the fall of 2008, and regardless of what the bullish analysts and stimulus-chasers declare, we are still mired in that big slowdown of ’08.

And will continue to be. This is going to morph into a vast leveling out. The industrial age is over. Our planet will not tolerate another 200-year extraction expansion.

Now we have entered into the Age of Sustainable Technology and Appropriate Industry.

And herein a question arises.

Who will run the world?

Is there a cartel of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Edison and JPMorgan-types out there who will forge a new system to transform the old Industrial Infrastructure into the new Sustainable Society?

As the next surge—the post-industrial phase— is being initiated by a new breed of Industrialist . . . the Gates, the Jobs, the Bezos and Buffets . . . the industrialized Civilization stumbles into a new Electronified Zone.

A digitized twilight zone, as it were.

In the wake of the great ’08 Slowdown, we encounter a host of questions that define the logistical problem of where to go from here.

During the Investment Segment’s breakdown of ’08, a lot of very complicated financial engineering became unwound.

One financial analyst, John M. Mason, recently offered an explanation that includes this analysis of what happened in the financial world during the decline of our industrializing phase:

But, in the developed world, the presence of lots and lots of liquidity means very little in the way of corporate capital investment. The environment of credit inflation, built up over the last fifty years of so, has created a culture of financial engineering in the business community and, consequently, corporations act differently now than they did when most of the current economic models were constructed. Government stimulus gets built into greater risk taking, greater financial leverage, and financial investment, like stock buybacks.

   (https://seekingalpha.com/article/4233178-supply-side-world-europe-well-united-states?ifp=0&app=1.)

So it seems to me that the financial guys—the wallstreet wheelers and dealers, etc—having running out of real new industrial infrastructure to invest in, turned to MBS schemes and CDO games in order to keep their game going. Instead of their oversized financial whirligig running on old Industrial Growth stimulants, they rigged it to run on the fumes thereof.

Now in a post-industrial age, we find ourselves as a species, Homo Developus, scratching our heads and wondering where do we go from here?

It just so happens that, in the wake of the Great Industrial Expansion of Planet Earth, there emerges a vast bureaucracy of Smart People—number crunchers, economic theorizers, technocrats, academics, programmers, bureaucrats, not to mention the mysterious ghosts of AI —who propose to reconstruct the detritus of the industrial age into a systemic quasi-social Union that will make sure everybody is taken care of.

And so I’m wondering, what’s the best way to administrate such a civilization?

What’s the best system for governing a federation of post-industrial nations?

What’s the the most effective strategy for managing a cushy, highly-developed Society?

What’s the most humane political structure to assure income and health for all citizens?

Should Europeans, for instance, appoint multiple layers of bureaucracy to enforce labor laws so that every person has a guaranteed income?

Should the State take control of business so that everybody gets a minimal piece of the pie?

And these philosophical, or sociological questions arise:

What motivation compels some individuals to seek opportunity and then develop that opportunity into abundance and prosperity?

What drives the go-getters to excel in economic pursuits? What motivates them to acquire work, money, property, resources, and then manipulate those assets into an overflow of wealth?

What incentive impels them to take care of themselves and their families?

On the other hand, what compels some other people to, instead,  take charge of bureaucratic agencies in order to administrate a Society that assures everyone a minimum of economic assistance?

What drives some analytical people to write laws and devise policies for systematically managing governmental bureaus to assure that everyone is taken care of?

Who is in charge here?

Who is going to run the world?

Will it be the go-getters, the pioneers, movers and shakers, developers, entrepreneurs, rule-breakers, industrialists, business mavens?

Or will it be the wonks who manage the world—the academics, the specialists, bureaucrats, rule-makers, policy-crafters, the tweakers of governmental largesse?

EURomeHdq

Consider Esther Lynch’s observations:

The ETUC has watched the rise in precarious working conditions in Europe—platform working, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment and so on—with deep concern. Research in the UK found that young people on zero-hours contracts, for example, were far more likely to report mental and physical health problems than their counterparts in stable jobs. A study by the University of Limerick in Ireland warned that people on non-guaranteed hours could become ‘trapped in a cycle of poverty which strengthens employers’ control’, generating a fear of being penalised if they raised grievances about working conditions. In response, the Irish government has taken steps to prohibit the use of zero-hours contracts, unless the employer can show a genuine business need. Guaranteeing transparent and predictable working conditions would have wide-ranging benefits, in terms of workers’ health, work-life balance and employee retention.

  (https://www.socialeurope.eu/tackling-insecure-work-in-europe)

What does the peaceful development of Civilization require? Management by one, or the other, of these two types? Or Both/and?

Is Civilization founded upon a principle of every man/woman for hmrself?

Or will it settle into BigBrotherSister administering a vast Guarantee for All?

Or something in between.

Keep your eyes open to watch what develops.

Smoke

Feb5, 2018

February 6, 2018

Floating in New York Harbor, this message was found in a bottle:

Sorry to burst the bubble here but

What the hell happened at 3 o’clock?

DowJ*1:5:18

Somebody yell fire in crowded theater?

Thundering herd, caught up in the Smoke and mirrors!

Blindsided by  a Flash Crash?

Blame it on the ‘bots!

Gotta be them damn short-selling ghosties

in the machine

again

Oh . . . what the hey. . .

The last thing I remember, Doc

I slid into the curve.

Downward, I remember

Downward, I can tell you that.

In the winkin’ of  an eye, and suddenly it’s every man for himself—

and the thundering herd turns tail, reverse

like some slumbering bearish curse,

Stampede!

Blind-sided by the ‘bots, or so I’m told.

Or did Jerome grab  the punchbowl

Already?

Did he pull the plug?

Did he pull  the rug

out, already, from under, 

toppling now, asunder

the elephant in our room?

Watch out!

We’re coverin’ our assets here. But it’s hard to hit

a moving target.

So I’ was thinkin’

This is more dire than a bull in a China flop;

caught in a freefall only the ’bots can stop.

Or until the final bell doth drop

Hell! It’s 4 o’clock;

but I’m still in shock.

We didn’t see it coming, from near, nor far!

you know how your assets are?

What about my precious metals?

Now the dust settles:

Dust bowl

Super bowl

punch bowl, where have we landed?

America has disbanded.

Yet the Eagles have landed.

Where the Eagles gather—’tis there the body’s found.

No more Patriot tricks to score touch down.

No, nay, hardly a sound

there’s no more joy in BeanTown;

mighty Brady has struck out!

Dynasty done, without a doubt.

Who’d’ve thunk it,

equivalent to a Philly gridiron dunk it!

Oh, you couldn’t hear the clock stop

as we watched the black swans flop.

No, we ne’er did detect that long-dreaded pin prick

as it burst our bubble like an e.d.wick,

yet we caught a twit from way, way down

in the beltway, political town

struck dumb now with some eerie Nunez memo

more cryptic than a dreary Ruuskie demo.

But I remember

it was 3 o’clock and then . . .

That’s all she wrote.

Glass Chimera

Yes, Toto, we’re in a brave new swirl.

January 28, 2018

Today while perusing a post on the Seeking Alpha financial network I came across what appears to be a very sensible explanation of what we see in the world of finance and business today.

This no-nonsense analysis is occasionally echoed by other writers on the SA site, most notably Mr. David Stockman, former budget director for President Reagan.

He was a high-flyer back in the day, the pre-Greenspan days.

But here I make reference to a different contrarian analyst, Mark A. Grant,  upon whose article I stumbled upon this morning.

  https://seekingalpha.com/article/4140703-universe-edge-restaurant?sht=p3a1ld&shu=8wcf#comment-77507865

From a distance, I’ve been following the contrarian school of thought ever since the fall of ’08. I say “from a distance” because I am neither an economist, nor a significant investor. I am a mere citizen who happens to be a consumer, an American, an author and a semi-retired person, age 66.

This contrarian school of alarmist financial analysis generally demonstrates a perpetual amazement; their astonishment revolves around the credit-mongering house-of-cards built by the central bankers of our preset world (the Fed, EuroCBank, Bank of Japan, People’s Bank of Japan, etc.). It’s not that the contrarians have much respect for of the central bankers’ delicate arrangement of interlocking currencies and trade incentives; rather, their astonishment arises from the mystery of why it has not yet fallen apart and produced a new crash.

You see, this new international construct is not founded upon traditional economics, but rather (as it appears to this layman) upon that (at the time) new-kid-on-the-block upstart school founded in the 1930’s by Mr. Keynes; it’s all about governments and banks perpetually tweaking national/international money spigots to produce certain desired effects.

Our current zombified house-of-cards scenario has been at work for a decade or so now, ever since the crash of ’08, with its aftermath of Great Recession or great whatever-it-is.

Getting back to the source of this present article: This morning I was reading Mr. Grant’s take on the present situation and comparing it for the umpteenth time to the contrarian undertow that continues to make perfect sense. This bearish complaint corner has been going on for so long I’m beginning to wonder if the fiat-wielding central bankers have actually managed to change, by their manipulations, the fundamental nature of money.

Maybe we actually are now in a brave new world where the old rules of debit/credit will never again apply.

With all these electrons flying around the planet–all these monetized digital representations of presumed wealth and bank-enabled assets–haven’t we truly ditched the old gold-backed world of currencies-dollars, pounds, francs, marks, drachmas, denarii, Euros, rubles, shekels, yen, yuan, SDRs and zlotys?

Could Bitcoin and such be nothing more than a flash-in-pan death-throes sparkle signifying the end of our great age of post-BrettonWoods expansion? 

Might this extended wave of central banks’ Quantitative Easing actually turn out to be the debt-driven tidal wave that propels us into a land that prime forgot, where all the rules and practices of days gone by are tossed aside forever in the liquidity flood and trash heap of history?

ShipWrek

We’re getting to a precarious place now where the only solution will be to tear up the score-cards, balance sheets, and start over. The central governments of the world are forever indebted to the central banks of the world. It certainly seems that way to this observer. I’ll be surprised if we ever get back to what Mr. Smith called “the wealth of nations.”

We ain’t in Kansas any more, Toto. Exactly where we have landed is unclear. And it just might be that tapping our ruby-slippered heels of old-school analysis are gone with the wind.

When this whirlwind of fiat-instruments does wind down to a dull roar and all the chips fall where they may, who/what institutional entities  will have wrangled control of the new asset-spewing beast? Whatever that entity turns out to be–it (they) will be in a position to dole out the newly-zombified assets to the world’s surviving movers and shakers. I guess most of us out here in lala land will be quakin’ in our boots.

As for us commoners, we may all of us have to settle for a mere meal-ticket while the big chips get re-assigned.

A meal-ticket  on a card or a chip, of course.

What troubles me is: what new rules or allegiances will be demanded by the powers–that-be?

What will it cost us, John Doe/Jane Smith, to even get in the game?

King of Soul

Austerity or Stimulus?

February 25, 2017

Well this is an improvement.

When I was still a gleam in my daddy’s eye, Germany fought a world-sized war against France. But now, in 2017, all the obsolete ideology that then fueled both fanaticisms–fascist v. communist–has withered down into a battle of ideas.

Fiscal ideas, like whether budgets should be balanced, or put on hold until things get better.

From a Peace vs. War standpoint, I’d say that delicate balancing act is an improvement, wouldn’t you? Budgets and Economic Plans are, theoretically, much more manageable than tanked-up military campaigns.

Now Germany and France– those two nation-state heavyweights whose fiscal priorities set the course for the rest of Europe–they are getting along just fine now. They expend financial energies trying to keep the whole of Europe humming along on all cylinders. Budget deficits that drag down Euro economies are generated mostly in the lackadaisical southern  economies–Greece, Italy and Spain.

But those two mid-continent economic heavyweights–France and Germany, function as fiscal opposites, polarizing European values and budget priorities in opposite directions. They are two very different countries; and yet Germany and France are not as opposite as they used to be. A lot has changed since they finally made peace back in 1945.

At the time of that last Great War, early 1940’s, Germany was suffering through the death-throes of a dying monarchy. What was left of the Kaiser’s authoritative legacy had been lethally manipulated into a world-class death regime by a demonic tyrant who wore an odd, obnoxious little mustache on his flat German face.

France up to that time was still stumbling through a sort of awkwardly adolescent stage, having booted their kings and queens out back in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and then replacing, in stages, the ancient monarchy with a struggling new Republic.

What the French did as the 18th-century came to a close was similar to what we Americans did, but different. We had ditched King George III in 1776. The French cut off Louis XVI in 1792. On the other side of the Rhine, the Germans kept their Wilhelm top dog hanging on a thread until the Allies ran him down in 1918.

We Americans did a whole new thing after we rejected the old wineskins of monarchic government back in 1776; we had a lot going for us–a vast, nearly-virgin continent that stretched out for 3000+ miles, with plenty of room to grow,  and to expand our new-found explorations for Life, Liberty and Pursuits of Happiness.

The Europeans–neither the French nor the Germans–did not have all that fruited-plains expansion space like we had. They were cramped up over there in the Old World.

Having wielded a fierce guillotine ruthlessness upon their king and queen, the French tried to spread the wealth all around, ensuring that everybody got a chunk of it. They had wrung a blood-stained liberte from the palaces of privilege in 1789. Over the course of the next century and a half, they generally moved leftward the whole time, toward an egalitarian idea of solidarity.

The Germans have always tended toward authoritarian leadership, which is one reason why Hitler was able to pull off the abominations that he did. But we Allies put that to an end in 1945.

Thank God.

Now in the post-WWII Europe, the Germans have turned out to be pretty good kids on the block, considering all that had happened back in the day. The last 3/4 of a century has seen a remarkable recovery. They went through some serious changes, rebuilding after  losing two wars, and then being divide into two different countries.

Since 1990, when Germany became united again into one country, those krauts have established a pretty impressive record. They now have the strongest, most stable economy in Europe.  One reason it turned out this way is: the Germans have historically been, by necessity, very disciplined, rational people and they know how to get things done.

The French are different from that. You gotta love the French. As the Germans have made the world a better place with their great music (Bach and Beethoven), the French have brightened and lightened our worldly life with their very lively, expressive and impressionistic art, coupled with their unbridled Joie de vivre. And let’s not forget the original architectural piece-de-resistance of the Western World. It was French creativity married to inventive 19th-century industrialism that brought us the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

ParisGargoyl

The French do progress with style and artistry; the Germans get it done with impressive efficiency and precision.

As an American who has geneologic roots in both cultures, this fascinates me.

Their two different attitudes about generating prosperity also encompass, respectively, their approaches to solving money problems.

Or more specifically. . . solving “lack of money” problems.

A new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas, explains how these two nations, as the two polarizing States of modern Europe, each lead in their own way to set policy, together,  for solving Europe’s financial problems. Their tandem leadership is enhanced by their two very different strategies.

The simplest way to describe their treatments of European deficits is this:

The Germans are into Austerity; the French are into Stimulus.

Or to put it into a classic perspective:

The Germans want to balance the books,  thereby squeezing all governments and banks into economic stability. The French want the assets to get spread around so everybody can have a chunk of it.

How do I know anything about this?

This morning I saw Markus Brunnermeir being interviewed; he is one of the authors of the new book, Europe and the Battle of Ideas.

  https://www.socialeurope.eu/2017/02/europes-future-will-settled-battle-ideas/

In this fascinating, very informative interview, the questions are being posed by Rob Johnson, President of Institute for New Thinking, whatever that is.

Together, these two guys explore the two basic problem-solving approaches to working out Europe’s economic deficiencies. And it just so happens that the two main strategies are related to those two old nationalized culture, described above, between Germany and France.

Sounds simplistic perhaps, but this comparative analysis makes a lot of sense when you hear these two knowledgable men talk about the present condition of economic Europe.

So, rather than try to explain it to you, I’ll simply leave you with this list of characteristics, as identified by. Mr Markus Brunnermeier. The list identifies how each country’s budgetary priorities contributes to a strategy for solving Europe’s fiscal woes.  My oversimplified version of it  looks like this:

France

Germany

1.Stimulus

1.Austerity

2.Liquidity

2.Solvency

3.Solidarity

3.Liability

4.Discretion

4.Rules

5.Bail-out

5.Bail-In

Consider these two lists of national characteristics as two different strategies for solving large-scale economic problems.

Here are a few notes I made while watching Mr. Johnson interview Mr. Brunnermeier:

For French, the problem is always liquidity. Stimulus will flush money out of markets again.

Germans see problems as solvency difficulty. Fix the fundamentals. Don’t throw good money after bad.

French: If you see it as a liquidity problem, just bail them out.

German. If you see it as solvency problem,  Bail in, to avoid future hazards. Bail-in means: Bond holders who essentially gambled with a country or bank and  then reap the gains on upside– they should take losses on downside.

There was a radical shift in attitudes in Europe over the Cyprus bank crisis in spring 2013. Who pays? Who covers the losses?

. . . Bail-in or bail-out?

French fear systemic risk so they tend toward governmental bail-outs.

The Germans, on the other hand, see crisis as an opportunity to address and solve the systemic deficiencies. So penalize  the depositors/ investors; others will learn from that, and you will have bank-runs in other places. Such circumstances provide incentives for institutions and individuals to take responsibility for their own actions and investments.

Just how the Europeans get all this worked out, we shall see in the days ahead. And the working-out may provide some lessons for all of us.

Smoke

Hilary, Liz and Dodd-Frank

February 21, 2017

Violin

Oh, there was a time, when I was a young man, when I would fiddle around, and that was nice enough for a while.

Then life came and went.

Nowadays, I find myself content to merely listen while life slips by.

In ages past, a maestro such as Felix Mendelssohn could  imagine something incredible; he could then summon up in his own mind and hands– an exquisite composition, an intricate stream of vibrations–as sublime as any that could ever be coaxed from a mere box constructed of wood and wire. He could then write the composition. Then, 170 years later Hilary could set bow to instrument and, with help from the orchestra, make it all happen so perfectly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1dBg__wsuo

There’s a reason why my fiddle has been set aside all these years. Why bother? There’s somebody who can do it better. There’s somebody out there who can, in fact, do it perfectly.

Just listen. But I get to thinking. . .

Years go by. We pay attention, try to figure things out. There’s always somebody out there who can do things better than we can. Leave the complicated stuff to experts. And listen. Listen and learn. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.

Just daydreaming now; I think of Sally Field in Forrest Gump when she was playing his mother and she said life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

Think about 2008. Everybody just lollygaggin’ along. . .then whoosh! well, you remember what happened. Everybody’s shell-shocked. Uncle Hank stammering on the Tube. They had to twist Congress’ arm two or three times before they’d come up with the money to fix the mess, at least temporarily.

Then the experts get trotted out to analyze, to testify, to figure what the hell happened in stock markets that made the thing come crashin’ down–something about market manipulations of MBS’s, unforeseen incredibilities of CDO’s, the incredulous defaulting of credit default swaps blah blah blah

As the thing unwinds, along come the explanations, the excuses, the wagging fingers, the committees, the commissions, the oversight agencies get rolled out, cranked up. Republicans in shock because Obama’s in. Democrats trying to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Democrats got to fix everything, so what do they do. . .

Let’s fix everything up, they say.

Ok. Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.

Years go by. Big shock when Trump comes blasting’ into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave after those 8 years of Mr. Smooth.

Now this morning we hear Amy and Juan on the radio, and here’s Senator Liz whining about how the new Republican whirlwind wants to wind down Dodd-Frank, which was supposed to be the big fix, the big Democratic fix.  I mean, she’s a little bit crazy, like all Democrats, but there’s one thing about Liz, she can play the rhetoric like Hilary plays the violin. It’s no wonder Mitch had to cut her off last week. Anyway,  Liz is saying:

“Commercial and consumer lending is robust. Bank profits are at record levels. And our banks are blowing away their global competitors. So, why go after banking regulations? The president and the team of Goldman Sachs bankers that he has put in charge of the economy want to scrap the rules so they can go back to the good old days, when bankers could take huge risks and get huge bonuses if they got lucky, knowing that they could get taxpayer bailouts if their bets didn’t pay off. We did this kind of regulation before, and it resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We cannot afford to go down this road again.”

I mean, Liz might have a point there. If things are so ROBUST, why do we still get this feeling about the 20,000+ Dow? Is it deja vu, or deja due, or prescience, maybe too much twitter or not enough facebook, or a rerun of common sense or what? Maybe it’s all just a bunch of hot air blowin’ around and we keep wonderin’ about the whole house of cards but we can’t really put our finger on what’s wrong cuz you know the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind and life is like a box of chocolates anyway, a mere lala land where we think we got it figured out but really we don’t.

Although I do have to remind you, Liz, since I am a registered Republican: we can’t fix everything. If we could, and if we did, why, how boring would that be?

So my advice to you is we’d best leave the fiddlin’ to the experts. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face the music anyway.

Glass half-Full

A New Bretton Woods?

August 1, 2016

We were in Rome about a year and a half ago, as part of a traveling celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary.

One evening as we were lollygagging through the busy rain-slicked streets and sidewalks, we passed in front of a very special building. It was the Rome headquarters of the European Union, or “EU”.

I wanted to take a picture of the building’s entry, because that is what tourists do–take pictures of important places. Seeking a broader view, I crossed the street. While positioning myself and the phone to snap a pic, the guard across the street noticed my activity. He started waving at me frantically, indicating that what I was doing was not permitted.

Excuse me. I was taking a picture of a public building.

In America, we take pictures of .gov buildings, because we have, you know, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, which means, among other things that the people can take pictures of their headquarterses (as Golem might say.)

Is this not the way you do it in Europe? No pictures of the RomeEU headquarters?

Nevertheless, here is my smuggled pic:

EURomeHdq

If you squint at my little jpeg here, you may discern the guard’s upraised right alarm, a gesture of command intended to communicate a stop order on my touristic activity. It vaguely resembles another raised-arm signal that was in use in Europe 75 years ago, during the regime of Mussolini and that German guy who considered the Italian dictator to be his own puppet.

Or maybe I’m being too cynical about this incident. Maybe the guard was saluting me in some way, acknowledging my importance as an American tourist in the city of Rome.

Now, a year and a half later, this morning, seated comfortably in my own humble domicile, back in the USSA . . . I was pondering the idea of government–whether it is truly “of. . .by the people”, or is it something else? Is it, as many citizens insist during these times of tumultuous societal change, actually an institution through which the “1%” (or as they said back in the old days, the “rich and powerful”) project their oligarchical manipulations upon the rest of us?

I was thinking about this after reading online an article about how the worldwide financial system that has evolved.

  http://seekingalpha.com/article/3993559-back-square-one-financial-system-needs-reset?ifp=0

In this Seeking Alpha blogpost, Valentin Schmid, as “Epoch Times” examines our international monetary system. His analysis appears to be generated from  a well-informed position in the world of money, assets and power.

Mr. Schmid raises the question of whether  the current (worldwide) debt load can ever be repaid, because there isn’t enough “real money” to go around.

This got my attention, because I have been thinking for a while that there isn’t enough “real money” to go around.

Haha, as if I knew about such things. I don’t know much about money; if I did, I would have more of it.

Anyway, Mr. Schmid’s question is answered by his guest interviewee, Paul Brodsky, in this way:

   . . . “I would argue central banks lost the ability to control the credit cycle. Some relatively minor event could trigger a series of events that creates the need for a sit-down among global monetary policy makers who finally have to acknowledge publicly that their policies are no longer able to control the system, the global economy, which is based on ever increasing demand through ever increasing credit.

And what might occur is a natural drop in output. So you’ll see GDP growth begin to fall. Real GDP growth across the world maybe even be going into contraction and that would spell doom for these balance sheets. And this is not something I’m predicting or trying to time at all, but the natural outcome of that would be a sit-down like a Bretton Woods where arrangements are reconsidered.”

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bretton_Woods_Conference

So what is coming is, perhaps, this:

To compensate for a stalling of global productivity, the movers/shakers of the world may  construct a new,  top-down rearrangement of the world financial system. The purpose of this revision will be to fix the problem of not enough money to go around. Such an extensive reconstruction as this would be has not been done since the Bretton Woods agreement that was promulgated by delegates from 44 Allied nations in 1944.

In a 21st-century world inhabited by billions of inhabitants, our  accessibility to natural resources has heretofore been determined by how many holes we could drill in the ground to extract natural resources; and how many acres of crops we could plant to produce food; how many factories we could build, and so on. . . building an economy to work toward  spreading the bounty around.

In the future, however, we will be moving to a “knowledge” economy. Wealth creation will not be about how much you can dig in a day’s time, nor how much you can plant, nor what you can cobble together in your back yard or over on Main Street.

Wealth generation in the future will be determined by what you know, so start learning now.

The first three essential  things to know are these:

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic.

Well gollee, maybe it won’t be such a brave new world after all.

However this thing plays out, if enough of us can master these three skills, .gov of the people, by the people and for the people will not perish from the earth, we hope.

Glass half-Full