I read ZH most days, and usually like the commentary. Of late, though, there have been a few columns that are just GOLD. Though it will be spotty, let me jump around on a few…
- ZH: The Societal Normal is completely abnormal, and has been for some time. Some Stats?:
– The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in 1996 consisted of $422 billion, of which 91% were Treasury securities. Today it consists of $3.25 trillion, of which only 56% are Treasury securities, and the rest is toxic home mortgages, toxic commercial mortgages, and whatever other crap the Wall Street banks have dumped on their books. Their balance sheet is leveraged 57 to 1 and Bernanke has promised his Wall Street bosses he will add another $750 billion before the year is out. Is there anything normal about a central bank adding twice as much debt to its balance sheet in less than twelve months than existed on its entire balance sheet in 1996?
– The National Debt at the end of fiscal 1996 was $5.25 trillion. It increased by $250 billion that year. The GDP of the country was $7.8 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage of GDP was only 67% and our annual deficit was only 3% of GDP. At the time, the country was worried about these outrageous levels of debt. Today the National Debt stands at a towering $16.8 trillion. It has increased by a staggering $1.12 trillion in the last twelve months. The GDP of the country today is $15.7 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage GDP has soared to 107%. Our annual deficits now exceed 7% of GDP on a consistent basis. Our budgets are on automatic pilot, with the $20 trillion level to be breached by 2016. Is it a normal state of affairs when the GDP of your country rises by 100% over seventeen years, while your debt rises by 320%?
– Total government spending (Federal, State, Local) in 1996 totaled $2.7 trillion, or 35% of GDP. Today total government spending is $6.3 trillion, or 40% of GDP. In 1979, before the belief in government became a religion, total government spending was only 31.5% of GDP (27% in 1965). Are you receiving twice the service from government than you received in 1996? Are you safer from terrorists due to the massive expansion of the police state? Are your kids getting a much better education than they did in 1996? Have the undeclared wars benefitted you in any way, other than tripling the price of gas? Are the higher wage taxes, real estate taxes, school taxes, sewer fees, utility fees, phone fees, gasoline taxes, permit fees, and myriad of other government charges worth it? Is it normal for government to account for almost half of our economy?
– In 1996 personal consumption expenditures accounted for 67% of GDP, while private domestic investment accounted for 16% of GDP and we ran small trade deficits of 1% of GDP. Today, consumer spending accounts for 71% of GDP (despite the storyline about consumer retrenchment), while domestic investment has contracted to 13% of GDP and our trade deficits have surged to almost 4% of GDP. The Federal government has expanded their piece of the GDP pie by 130% since 1996, with the Department of War accounting for the bulk of the increase. Saving and capital investment is now penalized in this country. Is it normal for a country to borrow, consume and bleed itself to death?
– Consumer credit outstanding totaled $1.2 trillion in 1996, or $4,500 per every man, woman and child in the country. Today, the austere balance is now $2.8 trillion, or $8,800 per every man, woman and child inhabiting our debt saturated paradise. The more than doubling of consumer debt would be acceptable if wages were rising at a similar rate. But that hasn’t been the case, as wages have only advanced from $3.6 trillion in 1996 to $7.0 trillion today. With even the massively understated CPI showing 50% inflation since 1996 and 23% more Americans in the working age population (45 million), real wages have advanced by 30%. Using a true measure of inflation, real wages have fallen. Total credit market debt in 1996 was $19 trillion, or 243% of GDP. Today total credit market debt sits at an all-time high of $56.2 trillion, or 358% of GDP. Is it normal for credit market debt to increase at three times the rate of GDP?
– In 1996, personal income totaled $6.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 55% of the total, interest income on savings accounting for 12% and government entitlement transfers accounting for 14%. Today personal income totals $13.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 51% of the total, interest income on savings plunging to 7% due to Bernanke’s “Screw a Senior Zero Interest Policy”, and Big Brother entitlement transfers skyrocketing to 18%. In what Orwellian dystopian society is taking money from wage earners and redistributing it to non-wage earners considered personal income? Is it normal for a government to punish savers and makers in order to benefit the borrowers and takers?
– Prior to the financial collapse and during the mid-1990s prudent risk-averse savers could get a 4% to 5% return on money market accounts. Since the Wall Street created worldwide financial collapse, Ben Bernanke, at the behest of these very same Wall Street banks, has reduced short term interest rates to 0%. The result has been to transfer $400 billion per year from the pockets of savers and senior citizens into the grubby hands of bankers that have destroyed our economy. The prudent are left earning .02% on their savings, while the profligate bankers can borrow for 0% and earn billions by re-depositing those funds at the Federal Reserve. In what bizarro world this be a normal state of affairs?
– Total mortgage debt outstanding in 1996, before the epic Wall Street produced housing bubble, was $4.7 billion. Today, even after the transfer of almost $1 trillion of bad debt to the balance sheet of the American taxpayer, the amount of mortgage debt is an astounding $13.1 trillion. Despite home values rising since 1996, there are 20% of all households still in a negative equity position. Total household real estate equity was 60% in 1996, plunged below 40% in 2009, and has only slightly rebounded to 47% today because Wall Street dumped the bad mortgages on the backs of the American taxpayer. Is it normal for mortgage debt to triple and home equity to plunge in a rationally functioning world? Is it normal when 25% of all existing home sales are distressed sales and another 30% are sales to Wall Street hedge funds like Blackrock?
– In 1996 there were 200 million working age Americans, with 134 million (67%) in the labor force, 127 million (63.5%) employed, and 66 million (33%) not in the labor force. Today there are 245 million working age Americans, with 155 million (63%) in the labor force, 143 million (58%) employed, and 90 million (37%) supposedly not in the labor force. The number of working age Americans has increased by 22.5%, while the number of those employed has advanced by only 12.5%. The population to employment ratio has reached a three decade low as millions have given up, been lured into college by cheap plentiful government debt, or developed a mysterious ailment that has gotten them into the SSDI program. Is it normal for millions of Americans to leave the labor force when the economy is supposedly recovering?
– In 1996 there were 25.5 million Americans on food stamps, or 9.6% of the population, costing $24 billion per year. Today there are 47.8 million Americans on food stamps, or 15% of the population, costing $75 billion per year. Historically, the number of people in this program would rise during recessions and recede when the economy recovered, just as a safety net program should function. According to our government keepers the economy has been in recovery since late 2009. The number of people entering the food stamp program has gone up by 7 million since the recession officially ended. This is not normal. Either the government is lying about the recession or they are screwing the taxpayer by encouraging constituents to enter the program in an effort to gain votes. Which is it?
– The price of oil averaged $20 per barrel in 1996 and it cost you $1.20 per gallon to fill your tank. Oil averaged $85 per barrel in 2012 and currently hovers around $90 per barrel. Most Americans are now paying between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon to fill their tanks. This result seems abnormal considering the propaganda machine is proclaiming we are on the verge of energy independence. After two Middle East wars, 6,700 dead American soldiers, 50,000 wounded American soldiers, and $1.5 trillion of national wealth wasted, this is all we get – a tripling in gas prices and creation of thousands of new terrorists?
Don’t miss this column. It is poignant and rings of dark truth.
- ZH: Keynesianism(-Krugmanism) is a cargo cult, that is, a cult with “the apparent belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (“cargo”)”:
By focusing on increasing demand and consumption by any means, the Keynesian Cultists miss the key dynamics of sustainable growth and fail utterly and completely to acknowledge the corrupt and exploitive nature of our cartel-state crony-capitalism economy.
. . .
The Krugman-Keynesian Cargo Cult is incapable of distinguishing between productive investment and profligate spending. Keynesian cultists focus on an incredibly blunt and misleading indicator of gross domestic product: GDP. Burn down a house and rebuild it, pay people to dig a hole and fill it, build bridges to nowhere, buy costly weapons systems the military doesn’t even want, purchase boatloads of particle board furniture from China that’s headed for the landfill: it’s all equally wonderful to the Keynesian apologists because it boosts GDP.
Incredible as it seems to GDP-worshippers, there is a difference between productive investment and squandering money. A productive investment generates a multiplier effect: most importantly, it increases productivity which then creates value, surplus and wealth.
There is no multiplier in building McMansions in the middle of nowhere, bridges to nowhere, particle board shelving from China or a university degree in film studies, etc. Housing is consumption, a bridge to nowhere is consumption, particle board shelving is consumption, and a $180,000 bachelor’s degree in a field of study with near-zero economic premium in the real economy is also consumption.
The Keynesian Cultists and their fellow apologists/neofeudal apparatchiks attempt to mystify this consumption by labeling it “investment.” The misdirection may fool craven politicos seeking to buy votes, but the real world is not fooled.
Value, surplus and wealth can only be created by increasing productivity. If an investment doesn’t increase productivity, it is either malinvestment, misallocation of scarce capital or consumption.
How does buying particle board shelving from China improve productivity in America? It does not. Does dumping trillions of borrowed dollars into cartels like sickcare, Big Pharma, higher education or the military-industrial complex increase productivity? No, it actively lowers it by diverting national income to the most corrupt, inefficient and least productive sectors of the economy.
The Keynesians are also blind to the dynamic of improving household income. It their magical-thinking universe, buying particle board shelving from China (yippee, aggregate demand!) is supposed to magically turn lead (wasteful consumption) into gold (higher wages). Wages can only increase as productivity increases. Any other apparent increase is simply a subsidy that shifts money from a more productive sector to a less productive sector.
This is how you end up with a healthcare system that is 50% fraud, paper-shuffling, and inefficiency. We know America’s sickcare is 50% waste, fraud and paper-shuffling because our competitors provide their citizens healthcare for half of what we spend per person.
. . .
The Keynesian Cultists are also blind to the enormous opportunity cost of funding consumption with debt. Over time, servicing debt bleeds the economy dry as productivity, wages and investment stagnate.
- ZH: The most obvious thing about the Boston Bombing is how it is being used to introduce tyranny.