Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Nothing Matters Any More

We've all heard the phrase, "this is going to end badly," before, and, like a failed love affair, so too the centrally-planned economies masquerading as free markets will also surely end in tears, tatters, remorse and recrimination.

Following in the footsteps (or, as the case may be, the mouthpiece) of ECB president Mario Draghi, today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande issued a joint statement after a teleconference, saying they their government would "do everything to protect" the Euro.

And, with that, the markets were once again off to the races, continuing a rally that is based upon nothing more than promises to pile more debt upon the mountainous pile of unpayable sovereign obligations already in existence, create more deteriorating fiat money, continue bailing out failed financial institutions and keeping interest rates at artificially low yields.

Nothing good has come from any of these efforts thus far, except to perpetuate the status quo of financial fraud run amok without penalties for wrongdoers and the funding of political campaigns by the very same transgressors and beneficiaries of central bank largesse.

Today, the US government announced first quarter GDP grew at a rate of 1.5%, which, in normal times, would be fairly disturbing news, but, couched in the belief that the slowing economy will encourage the Federal Reserve to engender another round of quantitative easing (QE) at its meeting next week of the FOMC, the market soared like an eagle catching a thermal updraft.

The effects of all this money printing and free flow of capital into and out of banks and into government coffers to spend freely beyond their means has been effectively maintained by ultra-low interest rates offered to the world's biggest banks, the ones that were bailed out in 2008, and continue to go to the discount window for Federal Funds at 10 to 16 basis points, invest in longer-term notes and pocket the difference, known as the carry trade. It's easy street for the TBTF banks, which continue to borrow and no loan money, except, of course, to the worst creditors of them all, governments, which haven't balanced their books in decades.

Were the banks and foreign central banks to suspend lending to the US and European entities - an occurrence which has a 100% likelihood to happen at some point - the economic calamity would be unthinkable, thus, the game continues. At certain points, casualties occur, but they are patched over by bailouts or simply shoved aside, as in cases such as Madoff, MG Global and previously, Lehman Bros., Countrywide Financial, Bear Stearns or Merrill Lynch.

The losses are socialized, or, passed onto the taxpayer as it were, though if taxes were at rates commensurate to meet all government obligations and pay off the burgeoning debt load, the average paycheck would be 80-90% taxes and 10-20% take home. It would be likely that most people would stop working for companies, go into a side business of their own and not pay taxes, while larger businesses would suffer from a lack of qualified, willing labor and the whole super-structure of the global economy would grind quickly to a complete halt.

In some sense, that is already happening, and it will continue to worsen, everywhere there are unpayable debt burdens placed upon the citizenry. In Europe, the German people are already braying at the notion of higher and higher tax rates to pay for bailing out the southern states of Greece, Portugal and soon, Spain and Italy.

While the Germans have profited and prospered from fiscal and monetary discipline, the regime of Angela Merkel is rapidly fostering a growing debt burden that will force taxes higher and eventually cripple their own economy. While most of southern Europe is already in a recession and Greece, at least, a depression, Germany, being the lender of last resort, so to speak, is nearing a political breaking point, where the populace is about ready to take a stand against the free-spending policies of their government.

Merkel is tip-toeing on a high wire (a horrifying mental image), balancing her own political future against the success or failure of the Euro. Germany benefits from the declining euro because of its huge export base, so abandoning it and returning to the Deutschemark is out of the question, as the new currency would be among the strongest in the world, making German products prohibitively expense in other countries.

France, which behind Germany is the second largest economy in Europe, seems content to tax and spend to promote their socialist agenda of government handouts to everyone, shorter working hours and large, public pensions. The French people are notorious protesters, who will take to the street at even the slightest hint that any kind of public benefit will be cut, and, as they showed former president Sarkozy the door this past Spring, they will vote against any mention of austerity, a dirty word in the Gallic nation.

In America, it's the culling of the middle class that proceeds apace. Wages have been stagnant, new job creation sparse and sporadic, but price increases in food and energy, along with threats of higher taxes have all but eliminated discretionary spending and saving for growing numbers. The middle class has become a huge class of debt slaves, content to keep paying and playing along until the pensions and social security and health care monies are exhausted.

The rest of the world has other problems, though even growth countries like China, India, Brazil (together with Russia, making up the BRICs nations) are slowing down as the speculative economies strip out all wealth to the top one percent of earners and actual productive growth falters.

There is a tipping point somewhere down the road, and it's a wonder that the whole global mess hasn't completely fallen apart by now, but it does appear that those in charge of "managing" the economy can keep the plates spinning for a while longer, maybe as much as three to five years. By then, these central planners hope that entrepreneurs will have bolstered the fragile, stagnant economy back to life and that a more normalized functioning will have emerged.

It's a pipe dream built on the faulty assumption that expanded liquidity can supplant insolvency. It never has, and it won't. The end game comes from a deflationary spiral in which too little money is chasing too many goods, even in an era of expansionary monetary supply (inflation). The problem is that the money is going into the wrong hands, to those of the bankers, who hoard their cash for liquidity and speculation, as seen repeatedly in the stock market, while the middle and lower classes go begging for credit (at usurious rates), jobs, and eventually, food.

In every instance in which a reserve currency such as the US dollar was not backed by gold, silver or both, or other tangible assets as collateral for debt creation, that currency has failed and been replaced. Every time.

And this time is not different. It's just taking longer than expected.

Dow 13,075.66, +187.73 (1.46%)
NASDAQ 2,958.09, +64.84 (2.24%)
S&P 500 1,385.97, +25.95 (1.91%)
NYSE Composite 7,912.16, +157.65 (2.03%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,085,560,250
NYSE Volume 4,290,734,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4511-1073
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 343-86
WTI crude oil: 90.13, +0.74
Gold: 1,618.00, +2.90
Silver: 27.50, +0.05

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