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Stage 1 Comes to an End!
A Matter of National Security
A Guide to the Road Ahead 
Confirming the Flash Crash Omen
It's Either RICO Act or Control Fraud
Shifting Risk to the Innocent
Uncle Sam, You Sly Devil!
Is the US Facing a Cash Crunch?
Gaming the US Tax Payer
Manufacturing a Minsky Melt-Up
Hitting the Maturity Wall
An Accounting Driven
Market Recovery

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POSTS: Friday, 01-14-2011
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2 - EU Banking Crisis
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Conventional wisdom is that the Fed wants the U.S. dollar lower, so it must drop. But the dollar seems to be lacking proper obedience to the Fed's grand commands.

Before you shout that all fiat currencies go to zero, let's stipulate that the U.S. dollar has already proceeded 95% of the way to zero. According to the handy BLS inflation calculator, the 2010 dollar is roughly worth 4.5 cents of the 1913 dollar. Put another way, it now takes $22.10 to buy what $1 purchased in 1913.

(Interesting that the BLS inflation calculator only goes back to the birth of the Federal Reserve....)

So a 50% rise in the dollar would register as a mere blip on a 100-year chart. I mention this to put a 50% rise in perspective. It will seem like a large move in the present, but on a longer timeline it wouldn't be that big a deal.

How could the dollar rise when the Treasury and Fed are moving Heaven and Earth to drive it down? Let's turn to the Fed Flow of Funds for some perspective: what happened from 2007 (pre-recession) to the present?

Household Real Estate Assets: $22.7 trillion to $16.5 trillion: -$6.2 trillion

Corporate Equities: $9.6 trillion to $7.8 trillion: -$1.8 trillion

Mortgage debt: $10.53 trillion to $10.12 trillion: -$ .41 trillion

Household/non-profit Net Worth: $64.2 trillion to $54.9 trillion: -$9.3 trillion

And this is after a tremendous run-up in both bonds and stocks since early 2009. Add in whatever estimates of commercial real estate losses you reckon are semi-accurate and other impaired enterprise assets currently valued at "historical cost," i.e. marked to fantasy, and you get a number well north of $12 trillion even at conservative estimates.

The Fed has fought off this mass devaluation of assets by expanding its balance sheet by $2 trillion. First it sought to stem the collapse of the housing market by buying $1.2 trillion in impaired mortgage backed securities (taking garbage off the banks' balance sheets) and now it is trying to suppress interest rates by buying $1 trillion in Treasury bonds (recall that QE1 already loaded the boat with T-Bills, so QE2 is simply adding another $600 billion to an already heavy cargo.)

In both cases the Fed's campaigns are mere rear-guard actions: housing continues to slip, and the tides of higher yields and rates have started rising despite the Fed's monumental, unprecedented intervention.

The losses in bonds and stocks have yet to register. If we look at global competition for cash to fund massive sovereign debt loads (roughly $10 trillion in 2011 alone), then a rise in yields from 3% to 5% would certainly fit into historical ranges.

So what happens to the value of current bonds when rates notch up from 3% to 5%? They take a 40% haircut. All existing bonds will be repriced so they too yield 5%. That means a $100 bond which is paying 3% will drop to $60 in order to match the 5% yield on newly issued bonds. (3% of $100 = $3, 5% of $60 = $3) That's a 40% haircut for the bondholder.

What happens to the stock market when the Fed's QE2 goosing runs out? What happens to current valuations which have priced in lofty expectations of profits going to the moon if profits disappoint?

It's well within the range of possibility that both bond and stock markets will experience 25% declines as yields rise and profits fail to meet euphoric expectations. That would trigger another $5 trillion or so in losses.

Meanwhile, the vast debts denominated in dollars remain. This is a sketch of a scenario in which a mad rush for dollars ensues as assets decline in value and cash must be raised to pay down debt.

If you believe this is impossible, then take a look at a long-term chart of the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY).

Note that despite the Fed tossing spear after spear into the back of the dollar, it refuses to die. Rather than gracefully expire, the monster staggers on, gaining strength: that's an uptrend, folks: there is no other possible intepretation of this simple chart of price.

It looks like the DXY is tracing out a long-term pennant or wedge, with price moving up and bouncing repeatedly off resistance around 90. The abrupt retreats could be interpreted as the result of frenzied intervention. If this wedge pattern holds, then price will compress into an increasingly tighter range and then explode upward once 92 is decisively breached.

Once the dollar breaks through the resistance band around 90-92, then the way is clear to re-test old support/resistance around 120--a 50% run-up from current levels.

Impossible! Perhaps--but then the global financial meltdown was also "impossible," as was the eurozone debt crisis, the Chinese housing bubble and so on. This chart is not saying a 50% rise in the DXY is impossible, but it's also not predicting it will occur. We just have to open to the possibility.

Let's see what happens at the 90-92 level before deciding what's possible and impossible.

There's a lot of talk about the debt ceiling right now, but the major worry surrounding markets is the potential for a U.S. downgrade. While Societe Generale don't think we're going to flirt with a downgrade over Republican opposition to the debt ceiling, they do think we already are anyway. It's just a matter of when, and how fast interest rates rise on our borrowing. Assuming the Bush tax cuts are extended, 200 bp hike in interest rates would push us into AA territory before the end of 2011. A 50 basis point hike would see use there by 2014.


Current European tax rates:

United Kingdom
  Income Tax:  50%    
VAT:  17.5%   TOTAL:  67.5%

  Income Tax:  41%    
VAT:  19.6%   TOTAL:  60.6%
  Income Tax:  40%    
VAT:  25%  TOTAL:  65%

  Income Tax:  45%    
   VAT:  16%  TOTAL:  61%

  Income Tax:  42%    
VAT:  20%  TOTAL:  62%

  Income Tax:  55%    
VAT:  25%  TOTAL:  80%
  Income Tax:  54.3%    
VAT:  25%  TOTAL:  79.3%

  Income Tax:  52%    
VAT:  19%  TOTAL:  71%
  Income Tax:  58%    
VAT:  25%  TOTAL:  83%
  Income Tax:  53%    
VAT:  22%  TOTAL:  75%

If you've started to wonder what the real costs of socialism are going to be, once the full program in these United States hits your wallet, take a look at the table. As you digest these mind-boggling figures, keep in mind that in spite of these astronomical tax rates, these countries are still not financing their social welfare programs exclusively from tax revenues! They are deeply mired in public debt of gargantuan proportions. Greece has reached the point where its debt is so huge it is in imminent danger of defaulting. That is the reason the European economic community has intervened to bail them out.  If you're following the financial news, you know Spain and Portugal are right behind Greece .

The United States is now heading right down the same path. The VAT (Value Added Tax) in the table is the national sales tax that Europeans pay. Stay tuned because that is exactly what you can expect to see the administration proposing after the fall elections. The initial percentage in the United States isn't going to be anywhere near the outrageous numbers you now see in Europe . But guess what?, the current outrageous numbers in Europe didn't start out as outrageous either. They started out as miniscule right around the 1% or 2% where they will start out in the United States . Magically however, they ran up over the years to where they are now. Expect the same thing here.

It is the notion that with hard work and perseverance, anybody can get ahead economically here. Do you think that can ever happen with tax rates between 60% and 80%? Think again. With the government taking that percentage of your money, your life will be exactly like life in Europe . You will be fortunate to ever be able to buy a home. You will never buy a car. You will never send your children to college. Lets not shuffle the battle cry of the socialists under the rug either. Its always the same cry. "Equalize income".  "Spread the wealth to the poor (whoever they are). Level the economic playing field. Accomplish that and everything will be rosy."

Its time to take a really hard look at reality. Greece is a perfect example. Despite the socialistic system that has ruled this country for decades, with a 65% tax rate, they are drowning in public debt, would have defaulted without hundreds of billions in bailout money, and still... 20% of their population lives in poverty. What has all that socialism money bought, besides ultimate power for the politicians running the show? Do you think these people are "free"?  They're not. They are slaves to their economic "system."

This is where we are going unless we rethink our current political milieu.......

Instead of spreading the wealth around, spread this around. It might wake some people up.

Housing prices are sinking again, even after billions in government subsidies were spent to prop it up. Fifteen months after the official end of the recession, the median duration of unemployment, a measure of how long the majority of the jobless have been out of work, remains at nearly twice the level it was at 15 months after the 1983 recession.

GDP growth under a 3% annual rate, while better than zero, is simply too slow to close the output gap created by the Housing Bust Recession before a new recession arrives to widen it yet again.

The US has suffered a credit cycle recession every ten years on average since WWII. The beginning of the Peak Cheap Oil Cycle around 2005 will make recessions more frequent, and I believe we’re due for another before the end of 2012.

We need more growth but no one seems to know how the economy can grow any faster, without a new bubble to boost growth the way the housing bubble and war spending rescued the economy in the early 2000s. With interest rates at zero the economy lacks a tail wind of falling interest rates as it had in the early 1980s.

A replay of the 1960s tax cut boom is out of the question, given the nation’s finances, as are more New Deal style programs, or an good export and housing boom like the one that pulled the economy out of a tailspin after WWII.

In fact, every trick that generated the 4% plus annual GDP growth that the US needs to reach output gap escape velocity is out of the question, save the unmentionable: an inflationary boom ala 1975 to 1980 that generated an average 5.6% annual real growth -- much to my surprise when I researched it -- while wiping out a generation’s debt.

The most worrisome, but least unexpected, development is fast rising cost-push inflation. No surprise to iTulip readers, inflation that began as fast rising oil prices in late 2009 worked its way into commodity prices in early 2010 and started to make headlines as out-of-control food costs in China and India by the end of the year. As we’ll see, inflation in excess of 5% is already showing up in the official US producer price indexes.

In 2007 I guaranteed that a deflation spiral is impossible under the structure of our monetary system, that the Fed will put a floor on price deflation with a raft of orthodox and unorthodox policy measures, including bank bailouts and quantitative easing officially and dollar depreciation unofficially. The perverse result I expected was a combination of weak demand and rising costs, forcing producers to cut the quality and quantity of goods while maintaining prices. Several members started threads to rack the trend (See Inflation Snapshots).

That phase is ending. As the labor market in select industries improves, producers and wage earners regain pricing power. One class of society will be able to afford the higher prices and those left behind in dead or dying industries put under by the recession will continue to their now 30 year long ride down the living standards curve.

If interest rates rise, albeit more slowly than inflation, figure higher money costs into prices as well, and wage inflation, too, as competition for trained labor within growing industries, especially energy and technology related businesses, drives up wage rates.

Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU) is a monetarist concept that continues to guide Fed policy. My theory is that when the time comes, once the bogus deflation risk dust settled, after the rate cuts and QE and dollar depreciation – inflationary policy, by any other name – that persistently high energy prices will shift NAIRU such that inflation will rise off a 9% unemployment rate in 2011 as it did off 4.5% unemployment in 2007.

The costs of the Fed’s pro-inflation policies are largely born by the middle class. High food and gasoline prices, often dismissed by statisticians as too volatile to include in the CPI, are included in the producer price indexes, and the trend is clearly up.

Food may only represent 16% of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) for US consumers as a whole, but 4.1% food price inflation, with 7.5% intermediate food price inflation in the pipeline, is a big deal for a family making $50,000 a year. That’s down 4% from $52,000 ten years ago.

2011 is back to the reality. Call it “the other shoe,” not a Manolo Blahnik but a Chinese knockoff Nike, stinky socks dangling out. The global financial crisis and recession left behind unpayable private and public debt and an unreformed political system. It will bite in 2011. Also the Greenspan Credit Bubble with Chinese Characteristics. Also the broken global monetary system. Also a finite global oil supply that strains under the demands imposed on it by politicians buying and selling it with a credit-based money supply constrained only by the collective skill of the Oligarch’s economists to invent new arguments to justify it more quickly than events demolish them. The deconstructed fugly era starting in 2006 looks like this:

If it feels to you like you’re making less money now than 10 years ago, that’s because you probably are. Regardless of income group, the year 2000 was the high water mark for incomes in America. According to the 2010 US Census data, the income ride has been downhill ever since.

For those in the lower quintiles, as incomes decline and food and energy prices rise, food and energy as a portion of personal consumption expenditures will grow. Will they reach the 44% level they are at today in China? We may already be there for the bottom 20% income group, as the growing food stamps program rolls attest. High energy prices mean rising costs and falling incomes for the majority of Americans. This will be the major campaign issue in the next Presidential election.

This bears upon the Fed’s policy stance on cost-push inflation.

The Fed will be able to ignore inflation as long as it remains a wage earner’s and not a bondholder’s issue. As long as the bond market buys the weak demand-pull inflation story and bond yields do not rise too quickly, the Fed can turn the other cheek. Besides, the US can continue to export its inflation problem to China, Brazil, and elsewhere, and what are they going to do about it? They can’t fight capital inflow bonanza induced inflation produced by raising interest rates. That just makes the problem worse. So they poke away at the margins, imposing half-hearted capital controls, and complain. Or maybe 2011 is the year they do more?

There is a reason why so many millions of people are turning to the alternative media for their news today.  The truth is that there are a whole lot of important things that the mainstream media will simply not talk about.  There are a whole lot of other important issues that the mainstream media will tease their viewers with but then subsequently "whitewash" with the "official story" that none of us is supposed to question.  Have you ever noticed how CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, NBC and CBS all seem to come up with the exact same version of "the truth"?  But over the past several years we have seen a great awakening take place.  Millions of Americans are sick and tired of being spoon-fed establishment propaganda like a bunch of small children and they are searching on the Internet for alternative media outlets that are asking the hard questions and that are willing to at least explore answers that are not part of "the officially sanctioned" version of the truth.

Posted below are 25 hard questions that you will not see asked on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.  Sure, they may "tease" their viewers by "touching" on some of these issues, but they will never dig deep and they will never ask the really tough questions that are not "politically correct".

If a tough issue is brought up on one of these networks, it may be debated by a couple of establishment "talking heads", and we will be told that both sides are being presented so that we can "decide", but it is all a big dog and pony show.  The truth is that the big media companies will never really do anything that threatens the big money interests that own them or the big money interests that pour billions of advertising dollars into their organizations.

Some of the big news companies may be a little bit more "blue" and some of them may be a little bit more "red", but the versions of the news that all of them produce are always incredibly similar.

Wouldn't you just love it if the big media companies would tackle some of the questions posted below with some real honesty?

#1 The U.S. dollar has lost well over 95 percent of its value since the Federal Reserve was created in 1913.  The Fed has failed time and time again from preventing big financial bubbles from being created and then eventually bursting.  About the only thing the Federal Reserve seems to be good at is creating more government debt that the rest of us have to pay for.  So what possible justification is there for allowing the Federal Reserve to continue to issue our currency and run our economy?

#2 Ten years ago, the "employment rate" in the United States was about 64%.  Since then it has been constantly declining and now the "employment rate" in the United States is only about 58%.  So where did all of those jobs go?  Is this what we can expect from "globalism"?

#3 Thousands of dead birds are falling out of the sky and millions of dead fish are washing ashore all over the globe.  So does this mean that there is something seriously wrong with the planet?

#4 If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why did the number of Americans filing for bankruptcy rise another 9 percent in 2010?  Why won't our government officials be straight with us and tell us the real truth about the economy?

#5 Would a failure to raise the debt ceiling really "have catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades" or is U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner just blowing off a lot of hot air again?

#6 If 71 percent of the American people are against it, and only 18 percent of them are for it, then why in the world are our representatives in Congress overwhelmingly in favor of raising the debt ceiling again?

#7 Will a combination of extreme weather, soaring agricultural commodity prices and rising oil prices lead to a devastating global food shortage at some point in the next few years?

#8 In Algeria, hordes of young people are throwing fire bombs and are shouting slogans such as "Bring us Sugar!"  Are these the kinds of food riots that we should expect to see around the globe as food gets tight this year?

#9 Over the last couple of years, lawmakers in at least 10 U.S. states have introduced legislation that would allow state commerce to be conducted with gold and silver coins.  Could this be the beginning of a new trend?

#10 When German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that Germany will do "whatever is needed to support the euro" is that supposed to make all of us feel better about the stability of the failing European currency?  If the Euro does fail, won't that cause another financial meltdown like we saw back in 2008?

#11 Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.  How in the world could we allow that to happen?

#12 According to a recent Gallup survey, 7 out of every 10 Americans believe that religion is losing influence in the United States.  So exactly what does that say about our society?

#13 Now that the State of Illinois has passed a 66 percent increase in the state income tax, how long will it be before other states start passing draconian income tax hikes?

#14 Shouldn't we be at least a little bit concerned that China has developed a new ballistic missile that can completely destroy a U.S. aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles out to sea?  Has China become a military threat that we need to start taking very, very seriously?

#15 In 2006, no U.S. banks failed.  In 2009, 140 U.S. banks failed.  So did things get better in 2010?  No.  In 2010, 157 U.S. banks failed.  Do does that mean our financial system is getting healthier or does that mean our financial system is coming apart at the seams?

#16 On January 1st, the very first of the Baby Boomers started to reach the age of 65.  Now more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be turning 65 every single day for the next 19 years.  So where in the world are we going to get all the money we need to pay them the retirement benefits that we have promised them?  Isn't the Social Security system essentially one gigantic Ponzi scheme?

#17 According to a shocking recent survey, 40 percent of all U.S. doctors plan to bail out of the profession over the next three years.  So how in the world is our health care system going to continue to function if that happens?

#18 Why is the federal government spending approximately 6.85 million dollars per minute if our founders intended for us to have a "limited central government"?

#19 Should we be glad that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency want to lower the amount of fluoride in our drinking water, or should we be furious with them for poisoning us with super high levels of fluoride for all of these years?

#20 The U.S. trade deficit with China during the month of August alone was more than 4,600 times larger than the U.S. trade deficit with China was for the entire year of 1985.  Do you think perhaps we should all not be buying so much stuff with "made in China" stamped on it?

#21 If the federal government stopped all borrowing today and began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the U.S. national debt.  So does anyone out there actually still believe that the U.S. national debt will be paid off someday?

#22 1180 new snowfall records were set in the United States just this past week.  So does that mean that global warming isn't true after all?

#23 If the U.S. economy is getting better, then why are an all-time record 43.2 million Americans now on food stamps?  Are middle class Americans being impoverished by design?

#24 What in the world will a "security perimeter" around the United States and Canada actually look like?  Are our leaders slowly trying to turn North America into another version of the EU?

#25 How in the world can Facebook be worth 50 billion dollars?  Is Goldman Sachs trying to pull a big joke on all the rest of us?