Category Archives: Debt

Underestimating Them and Overestimating Us, by Jim Quinn

People, including SLL, have been saying a cataclysmic crisis is coming for years. It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t make them wrong, just early. From Jim Quinn at theburningplatform.com:

“Do not underestimate the ‘power of underestimation’. They can’t stop you, if they don’t see you coming.” ― Izey Victoria Odiase

Image result for bernanke, yellen, powell

During the summer of 2008 I was writing articles a few times per week predicting an economic catastrophe and a banking crisis. When the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression swept across the world, resulting in double digit unemployment, a 50% stock market crash in a matter of months, millions of home foreclosures, and the virtual insolvency of the criminal Wall Street banks, my predictions were vindicated. I was pretty smug and sure the start of this Fourth Turning would follow the path of the last Crisis, with a Greater Depression, economic disaster and war.

In the summer of 2008, the national debt stood at $9.4 trillion, which amounted to 65% of GDP. Total credit market debt peaked at $54 trillion. Consumer debt peaked at $2.7 trillion. Mortgage debt crested at $14.8 trillion. The Federal Reserve balance sheet had been static at or below $900 billion for years.

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Mauldin: Social Security Is Screwing Millennials, by John Mauldin

The older generations like to rag on millennials, but spend little time thinking about the ways it’s indubitably screwing them, even though the screwees may be their own children or grandchildren. From John Mauldin at realinvestmentadvice.com:

Social Security is a textbook illustration of how government programs go off the rails.

It had a noble goal: to help elderly and disabled Americans, who can’t work, maintain a minimal, dignified living standard.

Back then, most people either died before reaching that point or didn’t live long after it. Social Security was never intended to do what we now expect, i.e., be the primary income source for most Americans during a decade or more of retirement.

Life expectancy when Social Security began was around 56. The designers made 65 the full retirement age because it was well past normal life expectancy.

No one foresaw the various medical and technological advances that let more people reach that age and a great deal more, or the giant baby boom that would occur after World War II, or the sharp drop in birth rates in the 1960s, thanks to artificial birth control.

Those factors produced a system that simply doesn’t work.

A few modest changes back then might have avoided today’s challenge. But now, we are left with a crazy system that rewards earlier generations at the expense of later ones.

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In Memoriam: Reality, by James Howard Kunstler

More and amplified weirdness is coming. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:

The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for last night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it.

It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days. Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’re no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us.

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Will the Federal Reserve Make Trump a New Herbert Hoover? Is the US Economy Primed for a 1929-Style Shock? by F. William Engdahl

The US has so much debt that even a minor economic perturbation can cause an cataclysm. From F. William Engdahl at lewrockwell.com:

In recent months US President Trump has pointed repeatedly to his role in making the American economy the “best ever.” But behind the extreme highs of the stock market and the official government unemployment data, the US economy is primed for a 1929-style shock, a financial Tsunami that is more influenced by independent Fed actions than by anything that the White House has done since January 2017. At this point the parallels between one-time Republican President Herbert Hoover who presided over the great stock crash and economic depression that was created then by the Fed policies, and Trump in 2019 are looking ominously similar. It underscores that the real power lies with those who control our money, not elected politicians.

Despite proclamations to the contrary, the true state of the US economy is getting more precarious by the day. The Fed policies of Quantitative Easing and Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) implemented after the 2008 crash, contrary to claims, did little to directly rebuild the real US economy. Instead it funneled trillions to the very banks responsible for the 2007-8 real estate bubble. That “cheap money” in turn flowed to speculative high-return investment around the world. It created speculative bubbles in emerging market debt in countries like Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and even China. It created huge investment in high-risk debt, so called junk bonds, in the US corporate sector in areas like shale oil ventures or companies like Tesla. The Trump campaign promise of rebuilding America’s decaying infrastructure has gone nowhere and a divided Congress is not about to unite for the good of the nation at this point. The real indicator of the health of the real economy where real people struggle to make ends meet lies in the record levels of debt.

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The Road To Serfdom… Via Credit Markets, by Peter Earle

Current monetary abominations like negative interest rates can only lead to disaster. From Peter Earle at The American Institute for Economic Research via zerohedge.com:

On the morning of Monday, September 15, 2008, at 6:55 a.m., I arrived at my turret on the trading floor of a Manhattan-based hedge fund and flipped on my Bloomberg terminal. As the head of trading, I was in the habit of looking at sovereign debt markets before checking our positions from the previous trading day. But on this morning, reviewing world bond markets took on a particular urgency. Lehman Brothers was filing for bankruptcy and the entire world was in the throes of the worst financial crisis in 75 years.

What I saw was that, all over the world, short-term debt markets – “bills,” in industry parlance – showed negative yields. In virtually every industrial nation, firms and individuals were seeking the safety of the printing press, effectively handing $100 to governments for the assurance of receiving $98 in four weeks.

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We Can’t “Grow Our Way Out” of Debt, by Bill Bonner

We’re no longer getting enough economic bang from each additional buck of debt to reduce the debt pile. From Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

YOUGHAL, IRELAND – Today, we turn to something no one cares much about, even though it threatens to cause the biggest financial calamity in US history:

Debt.

Glorious Valhalla

Total U.S. debt – public and private – now approaches $74 trillion. The economy that supports this debt has grown steadily, but nowhere near fast enough to keep up with it.

As we remarked yesterday, money is time. So when you owe money, what you really owe is time. And time is not something you can fool around with. It comes and it goes… no matter what you think or what you do.

Historically, Americans have owed 1.5 days of work in the future for every day of work in the present. That is, the ratio of debt to GDP averaged about 1.5 to 1 for the first eight decades of the 20th century.

Then, debt went up, and now stands at 3.5 days of future GDP for every day of present output.

Have we arrived in some great and glorious Valhalla, where the old rules no longer apply, where debt no longer matters… or where time is no longer our master, but our servant?

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Gold’s long-term gains have even outperformed Warren Buffett… by Simon Black

Whatever its faults, gold generally holds its purchasing power. Historically, an ounce of gold has bought a man’s suit, and it still does. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Warren Buffett, despite his extraordinary investment success, has a rather famous and long-standing love/hate relationship with precious metals.

Maybe it started with his dad– Congressman Howard Buffett of Nebraska– who, as a staunch advocate for the gold standard, argued to his colleagues on Capitol Hill that “paper money systems have always wound up with collapse and economic chaos.”

Warren himself acquired a record-setting 128 million ounces of silver back in the late 1990s… which he later sold at a profit in the early 2000s.

But to listen to him talk about precious metals these days, he’s always negative.

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