Monday, July 24, 2017

"The Economic Collapse Began Long Ago"

"The Economic Collapse Began Long Ago"
by Gerold

"My forty-year old Godson was belly-aching about the lack of jobs. He whined it’s all the Boomers’ fault. I tore a few strips off him. I asked him WTF am I wasting my time researching and writing these articles if he doesn’t read them. Since I had him cornered, I told him a few things he obviously didn’t want to hear.

We are in an economic depression. It was predicted in Strauss and Howe’s 1997 book “The Fourth Turning” [Link] that occurs every four generations as a time of great turmoil. Their Generational Theory is a framework which explains where we are, how we got here and where we’re going. For more details see ‘Notes” at end.

This is a ‘Stealth Depression.’ The government is doing its utmost to hide it with fake statistics. Their ass-media handmaidens are carrying their water telling us everything is wonderful. And, if my Godson believes the ass-media, he deserves his fate.

At the bottom of it all are fake inflation (CPI) statistics. They distort everything else because most economic data is ‘inflation adjusted.’ Consequently, when other economic data such as GDP growth is adjusted with fake inflation statistics, then those numbers are also distorted.

Note: there’s a difference between inflation (increased money supply) and Consumer Price Index (CPI), but I used the terms interchangeably to make it easier for my Godson to understand.

Anyone who buys stuff or reads John Williams Shadow Stats [Link] knows that the actual inflation rate in 2017 is roughly 5% and NOT the bullshit 2% (or less) that the government claims. I say “roughly” because I rounded the numbers to make it easier for him to understand. I wish I could have shown him the ShadowStats graph below.
Consequently, every so-called 2017 statistic that’s “inflation-adjusted” is off by 3%. (Hint: 2 – 5 = -3)

The government claims that (inflation adjusted) 2017 GDP growth is roughly 2%. Since it’s understated by 3%, it means the economy is “growing” at negative 1%. In other words, the economy is SHRINKING by 1%. And, that’s only this year.

Looking at the chart again, you’ll see that since 2001, the real inflation rate (the blue line based on non-manipulated methodology) bounced between 2% and 9%. This means the government’s bullshit inflation rate was understated between 0% and 7%. The ‘mean’ (roughly average) overstatement is roughly 3% to 5% since 2001.

The “magic of compounding interest” is often called the eighth wonder of the world. If you earn a small percentage every year and keep reinvesting your earnings, the growth rate eventually goes exponential. And the sooner you start, the more you make. I wish I could have shown him the chart below that shows the difference ten years can make.
Emily (the blue line) started investing ten years before David. Emily makes a shitload more than David. That’s the magic of compounding interest.

The trouble is; it works in reverse, too. If the economy shrinks ‘only’ a couple of percent every year before too long the economic decline also goes exponential. The economy has been shrinking roughly 3% to 5% for the last sixteen years. Because of the magic of compounding interest, the economy is less than HALF what it once was when you factor in the REAL rate of inflation. More people, less than half the pie.

Now, do you see why everything’s gone to hell? Now, do you see why so many people are out of work, or if they do have jobs, why they cannot make ends meet? Even good jobs pay half what they once did. Lousy jobs pay even less. Bullshit inflation statistics hide the real decline.

Anyone waiting for “The Collapse” can stop waiting; it began years ago and will continue for a long time. There’ll be shocks and lurches along the way. The U.S. dollar will strengthen as the Euro declines and capital flees into the dollar. Cash will be banned starting with large denomination bills; it already has been in India. Years ago, Satyajit Das admitted they can’t stop the collapse; all they can do is try to engineer a soft landing.

And, never mind the ‘nominal’ pay (dollar amount) of wages. Purchasing power is declining and the Middle Class is slowly dying. Dollars are worth less every year. Zimbabwe was a perfect, if extreme, example. They were printing trillion dollar bills that couldn’t buy a loaf of bread. Everyone was a trillionaire, yet everyone was starving.

Too Much Debt: Never in history has there been so much debt worldwide; household debt, corporate debt and government debt. The graph below is consumer (household) debt.
Click image for larger size.
The graph below is corporate debt. Notice the small box showing how little corporate debt declined during the ‘Great Financial Crisis” of ’08. Now imagine what happens when the idiots at the Fed and other central banks increase interest rates and all this debt becomes more expensive to service? More on that later.
Click image for larger size.
Money is based on nothing tangible. Money is now created with debt, and they need more debt to pay the interest on the bonds that created this debt/credit/money in the first place. We’ve reached a point where there isn’t even enough money in existence to pay the interest let alone touch the principle. Consequently, everything is slowly turning to crap.

Once you understand this, many things fall into place:

Factory orders fell to where they were a decade ago [Link] Inventories (especially autos) are rising. Credit spreads can’t get much lower. The U.S. dollar is on the decline, yet commodity prices are unchanged which means they’re deflating when adjusted for the REAL inflation rate. The U.S. corporate tax rate is among the highest of industrialized nations. Some production is returning to the U.S., but it’s performed by robots.

Stock markets give the illusion of recovery, but there are fewer retail investors. In addition to the Federal Reserve-Treasury Ponzi scheme, the corporate sector has been the primary buyer of their own stocks (“buy-backs”) since the Crash of ’08 as companies take advantage of ultra-low interest rates.

Demographics is Destiny: Few people appreciate the power of demographics which is the study and analysis of population dynamics over time or space. North America has a cohort of 80 million boomers, the first of who are turning 70 this year. Millions of boomers will do so every year for the next 15 years. Many will live to age 85 or longer.

The power of this demographic is seen in the two charts below. The first one shows the U.S. population aged 70+. The second shows their share of the overall population.
Click image for larger size.
The graphs above show where we are today and, most important, where we are going.

Other than government employees, few people have a defined benefit pension plan. Most boomers have less than $100,000 in retirement savings. Given today’s low interest rates, bonds don’t pay much and even Blue Chip stock dividends are only slightly higher. Consequently, aggregate growth in incomes will decelerate and pose additional deflationary pressure on the economy.

Those who can retire will have a lot of time on their hands. They’ll spend money on experiences such as travel, tourism and restaurants, but a lot less on clothing, durables and housing. Demographics is indeed destiny. [Link]

Boomers are retiring and spending less, but younger generations are not picking up the slack. Malls are empty or closing. Stores are going bankrupt at an unprecedented rate. It’s not all because of online shopping because online shopping has not increased as much as the decrease in bricks & mortar [Link] Few people have money except the 0.1%. As George Carlin used to say “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”

Oil prices are plunging not because of the over-supply governments and the ass media want us to believe, but because of lack of demand. We’re in a Stealth Depression. Fewer people have money to buy gas or jobs to drive to.

Aging Work Force: Another indicator of this Stealth Depression is the aging Amerikan work force. Look at the Labor Force Participation Rate in the chart below. The greatest increase in jobs is aged 65 and older (brown line.) The biggest decline is in the youngest cohort (blue line.)
Click image for larger size.
Many Boomers can no longer afford to retire. The last two recessions (shaded gray) and the stock market crash in ’08 devastated their retirement plans. And, many who did retire have returned to work to make ends meet. I understand my Godson’s complaint; his cohort’s employment is down since 2000. However, every age group is screwed. The oldsters want to retire, but can’t and the youngsters can’t find decent jobs. Welcome to the Stealth Depression.

Fake Jobs: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) employment numbers are as fake as the so-called inflation rate. Mish reported  “that 67 percent of non-employed younger men lived with a parent or close relative in 2015, compared to 46 percent in 2000.” He says what the statistics miss are “masses of people on welfare via fraudulent disabilities, people in school wasting money in dead-end retraining exercises, people who have simply given up looking for a job…” The unemployed who have abandoned job searching are classified as “discouraged workers” and excluded from the unemployment statistics. Fake everything masks the Stealth Depression.

Adding insult to injury, the idiots at the Fed believe the government’s fake labor statistics and are using them to justify interest rate hikes discussed below. More below.

Central Bank Idiocy: The Fed and other central banks worldwide are neo-Keynesian idiots worshiping at the altar of neoclassical economics. They completely ignore the impact of debt. Their track record for explaining, predicting and controlling economies is a series of utter failures, yet they continue singing from the same song sheet. The Overton Window [Link] explains this herd mentality. Nassim Taleb uses the term “intellectuals-yet-idiots.” The collapse of Argentina, Greece, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe are their most recent catastrophes, and they won’t be their last.

The most powerful of the central banks is the U.S. Federal Reserve (the “Fed”) which manages monetary policy through interest rate manipulation that ultimately affects the global economy. They operate on the principle that the U.S. economy booms when they lower interest rates and increase the money supply. Conversely, the economy shrinks when they raise rates and reduce the money supply.

Being idiots, they repeated their mistake reacting to the international financial crisis in 1931. More oops! And, then they failed to act as a “lender of last resort” during the subsequent banking panics. Still more oops!

President Richard Nixon “closed the gold window” in 1971. This cancellation of convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold increased inflation prompting the Fed to raise interest rates to combat the falling dollar. The result was a major recession inducing the Fed to lower rates. More see-sawing of rates caused a series of recessions from 1980 to the Great Recession of 2008. Lots more oops!

And, now the Fed, deluded by the government’s fake economic statistics is raising interest rates so they can lower them when the next Fed-induced recession hits. Once again, the government is the problem disguised as a solution. Economic growth is fake. Bill Bonner says, “Fake money produces fake prosperity. Take away the fake money… and the fake prosperity goes ‘poof,’ too.”

We’re in a Depression. Technically we did, but fundamentally we never recovered from the Great Recession of ’08, so raising rates will kill the zombie economy and induce another recession that will make the last one look like a walk in the park. The only question is “when?”

Being idiots, they either do the wrong thing or, if they do the right thing, they do it at the wrong time or too late or too long. The length, depth, and global consequences of the Great Depression of the 1930s were primarily caused by the Fed’s ineptitude.  Trying to minimize stock market speculation, they raised interest rates in 1928 and 1929. The stock market crashed, and the slowing U.S. economy triggered recessions worldwide. Oops!

Increased Risks Create Black Swans: Confidence is the glue holding our financial world together. Uncertainty undermines confidence and increases risk. Many Black Swans  are circling overhead ready to trigger a sh*t-storm:

 The recent failure of Republicans repealing Obamacare.
 Trump’s promised tax reforms unsupported by the Republicans.
 The Deep State’s war Trump.
 Further Fed rate hikes.
 Political theater raising the U.S. debt ceiling before the October deadline.
 Risk of a credit default cycle. We’re in the terminal phase of debt creation.
 The Tech bubble was $15 trillion. U.S. housing bubble was $30 trillion. Current bond bubble $100 trillion. Current derivative bubble $550 to $1,500 trillion. Bubbles burst. The numbers are going exponential.
 The VIX (“fear index”) at historic lows means unprecedented stock market complacency.
 The ass-media’s never-ending Trump Derangement Syndrome.
 Record number of Amerikans disapprove of both parties. [Link]
 North Korea is playing a dangerous ICBM game.
 Increased pressure on China to rein-in North Korea.
 Chinese presence on artificial islands in the South China Sea and a container ship mysteriously ramming the Amerikan destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
 The Neocons continue pushing for a war with Russia.
 Globally, we’re in the biggest financial bubble the world has ever seen.
 Interest rates will rise uncontrollably and increase borrowing costs when bond vigilantes overwhelm government monetizers.
 Rapefugees over-running and destabilizing Europe.
 Resource-rich trading partners like Canada and Australia won’t be spared from the next down-turn by Chinese demand like they were during the ’08 – ’09 recession. Their banks are being down-graded, yield-curves flattening, defaults increasing and real-estate in unprecedented bubbles.
 The Anglo-Amerikan empire’s destabilizing wars in the Middle East including Syria are now in the sixteenth year.
 Most of Amerika’s public pension systems are insolvent with Illinois at the epicenter.

We cannot rely on history for forecasting the outcome of all these risks. Right now, many of us are blinded by Normalcy Bias [Link] and see this as just Chicken Little “doom & gloom”. However, the sh*t will continue to hit the fan.

What Can You Do?
 Spend less than you make. Start by cutting non-essentials.
 stop spending money you don’t have to buy sh*t you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.
 Get out of debt.
 Stay out of debt.
 If you plan to sell your house in the future, do it NOW before the bubble bursts. It’s better to be a year too early than a month too late.
 Rent (I do.) Over-priced real estate is a bottomless money pit, a time-waster and a tax cow (property taxes only go up, never down.)You’ll have a deteriorating pressboard shack when the mortgage is finally paid. Wait for the bubble to burst if you insist on buying into the house hoax to satisfy the Missus’ misguided sense of security.
 Keep only enough money in the bank for bill payments to avoid Bail-ins.
 Keep several months’ cash on hand for expenses, but be prepared to abandon this strategy when they ban cash.
 Cryptocurrencies are a risky and volatile strategy. Again, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. They can be hacked, or banned by the government.
 By 1 oz. gold coins (not bars) from reputable dealers if you’re rich, silver if you’re not.
 Stockpile durable essentials like toilet paper, garbage bags, soap, etc., etc.
 Learn to shoot and safe gun-handling.
 Guns & ammo.
 Stop eating junk food and exercise more because you need to stay healthy.
 If you’re wealthy, apply the Jim Sinclair GOTS checklist. [Link]
 Invest in yourself and your skills.
 Start now if you haven’t already because time is getting short.

Afterward: My Godson found another job. It’s a step down from his last one which was a step down from the previous one, but at least it’s a job. The ingrate should be thankful he has a job. Any job! More than 20% of eligible workers don’t.

Welcome to the Stealth Depression of the Fourth Turning. When it ends, no one knows, but when it does I guarantee it’ll be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Remember the mantra:
We cannot borrow our way out of debt.
We cannot spend our way to prosperity.
We cannot pretend our way out of trouble.
They keep trying, but ultimately, they’ll fail."

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