Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Income Inequality Killing America, or, Is It Already Dead?

Once again, just so we all get it straight: stock markets are not necessarily reflective of the underlying economy. That point was driven home with a lead hammer today, when European and US stocks fell out of bed and into an early dive only to rally the rest of the day and finish close to unchanged (US stocks, at least).

Most European bourses were down hard in the early going, but rallied into the close. Reasons for the swan song for stocks were the ongoing crisis in Cyprus and instability in Italy, which has been operating without a government for months and appears to be ready to do so for many months more.

As for why stocks regained some of the losses throughout the various trading sessions, the acronym, BTD, would suffice, as in "Buy the Dip," which has become shorthand for day-trading insiders making money while there's still some not being confiscated in a bank reorganization.

Meanwhile, Cyprus (where the local stock market has been tanking for four years, down 96%, so we should have seen this coming) prepares for a decade or longer of depression as planes flew euros in from the continent to shore up the banks and ATMs, which will open tomorrow. The rules, however, have changed. Cheques cannot be cashed, only deposited; the limit on daily withdrawals is 300 euros, and not more than 3000 euros can leave the island on one's person. Thus has the troika enslaved and imprisoned the million of so residents of the once-beautiful Mediterranean island.

But, unless one is still convinced that what is happening in Cyprus and, to a lesser extent, along the southern periphery of Europe can't happen in the United States, there are certainly enough examples of debt-slavery, capital destruction and other assorted miseries that come with a declining economy to convince most of the "recovery" die-hards that the US is more likely mired in a recession (and has been since 2008) than experiencing a recovery.

All one has to do to verify this condition is open one's eyes to what's going on in one's own town or city, as Jim Quinn eloquently lays out in his essay titled Available. Empty strip malls, for sale and lease signs everywhere, shuttered storefronts and vacant commercial developments are just the tip of the iceberg Quinn sees heading directly toward the USS Titanic, ending in the complete blow-up of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. It's a great read.

This article by David Cay Johnston, details the extent of wealth inequality in America over the past 50 years - how it has grown, improving the lives of those in the top 10% and the top 1%, while impoverishing just about everybody else.

According to Johnston's article - published in January - the average gain in annual income since 1966 for the bottom 90% in America was an astonishingly-small $59. Read that again. FIFTY-NINE DOLLARS. Now, consider how much taxes and inflation have eroded disposable income and spending power and one begins to see clearly how America's "wealth curve" is distorted - toward the rich.

Here's an example comment that sends the point home:

I wish my father were still alive to see this. I always used to tell him that it was easier to make a good living back in his peak earning years - 1955-1975 - than mine - 1985-2005 - but he never wanted to believe that the America he fought for in WWII was any different now than then.

He stubbornly stuck to his preferred line of reasoning, all the while watching single-earner households evolve into double-earner debt traps, inflation, stagflation, recession, government regulation and bungling, even as it got harder and harder for him to make decent money in his later years.

Now I know why my general acceptance of prices has been stuck somewhere around a 1974 level, when a new car cost $3500-6000, a two bedroom apartment was $400 and a steak dinner ran about $6-8. Because my income has been stuck there thanks to inflation. Back in 1975, I was making about $350 a week and had plenty of money left over after regular expenses. Guess what? I'm making a little more than that now - about $500 - but it's a struggle to get by. Taxes went way up since then, along with gas, food, rent and just about everything else.

Now, greed and loopholes may be great for the .001%, but inflation has truly wrecked our middle class and society.

And the wreckage continues.

Now it becomes clear as to why the stock markets continue to rise to record levels as the general economy crumbles into ruins. The top 10% of Americans own 50% of the stock market. They're living in a parallel universe, one in which their profits are earned by plundering the lower, middle and even the upper-middle classes.

So-called "conservative" commentators might say statements like that spark class warfare, but that's what the upper class has been engaged in for many years. They've waged an economic war on the rest of America, thanks to short-sighted tax policies that heavily favor the rich. How can anyone find anything "conservative" about promoting distortions in income that threaten the American way of life?

Here's a must-see video on the topic.

Wealth Inequality in America (this video has gone viral over the past month)

That should be enough for today. In case you want to keep believing mainstream television media instead of what you can see with your own two eyes, then remain in your deluded non-reality of willful ignorance. The rest of us must begin to move on, outside the debt-servitude structure imposed upon us by government at all levels and into something that's more sustainable and self-reliant.

Stocks, bonds, bank deposits? Keep 'em. What the truly enlightened are now stocking up on are gold (silver), guns and grub (seeds, gardens).

Dow 14,526.16, -33.49 (0.23%)
NASDAQ 3,256.52, +4.04 (0.12%)
S&P 500 1,562.85, -0.92 (0.06%)
NYSE Compos... 9,070.44, -13.27 (0.15%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,418,889,500.00 (light)
NYSE Volume 3,180,277,250 (lighter)
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3294-3059
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 330-48
WTI crude oil: 96.58, +0.24
Gold: 1,606.20, +10.50
Silver: 28.61, -0.067

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