The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally

27 09 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

The Wall Street Journal has an article about the EU entitled, “Currency Union Teetering, ‘Mr. Euro’ Was Forced to Act,” which is worth reading and reflecting on seriously.[2] It represents an excellent discussion of what has happened in the past.  However, its conclusions are sobering and ominous:

[F]our months later, the root causes of the Greek crisis remain: There is no central authority to even coordinate national tax-and-spending policies.

In the past month, financial markets have turned their sights on Ireland and Portugal. Doubts remain over the solvency of banks on Europe’s stricken fringe. That leaves them dependent on [the European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet]‘s largesse, in the form of “temporary” lending facilities introduced by the ECB when the crisis first hit.

Despite Mr. Trichet’s assurances that the bond-buying program is a stop-gap, it not only continues but has also increased in recent weeks—with no end in sight.

Put succinctly, Europe is still on the brink. It is foolish to believe otherwise. The “green shoots” that have appeared recently are an “illusion” and merely a brief respite in the midst of a maelstrom, which economic historians will describe as the “Great Depression II” (or by some similar name) 20-40 years from now.

Americans and their counterparts around the world have lost faith in their governments, and rightly so[3]; and the governments have come closer to exhausting all of their viable economic options. As this becomes increasingly clear, and as governments thrash about trying to find solutions that do not exist, and as politicians continue to lie—which after all is what they are most proficient at doing—the economic tsunami will continue to take its toll and run its course worldwide during the balance of this decade.

It will get very ugly, economically, socially and politically. Barack Obama will be swept out of office in the United States, and this process has begun already. It will accelerate with November’s elections. He is caught in the twin pincers of an economy in decline that he cannot influence except negatively, and an Afghan war that cannot be won. Republicans and Independents do not support him now; and his own Democrats are deserting him.

The slippery slope out the White House door will follow, like it did for Lyndon Johnson prior to the presidential election of 1968, when the political consequences of the Vietnam war made him unelectable.  Obama will return either to Chicago or Honolulu to lick his wounds and set up his presidential library, and assume an “elder statesman” role—similar to Bill Clinton—after only one term in office.

The efforts of Jean-Claude Trichet, or “Mr. Euro,” will prove similar to measures undertaken to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  Trichet is not “Superman,” and he will lack the necessary skills; and the policy options will have been exhausted. Panics may ensue in the financial markets; and the recent crises may seem like child’s play by comparison to what is coming. The “Band-Aids” that Trichet, America’s Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others applied will be ripped asunder as the economic tsunami continues its relentless and unforgiving advance globally.[4]

Hold on tight. It is apt to get very ugly. The euro zone will unravel, which is likely to be a relatively small but critical part of what will be happening worldwide; and financial turmoil will engulf the euro-zone nations. There will be nobody of consequence in charge economically or politically in the United States or other countries. And the human suffering and chaos will be unfathomable.[5] Throw military and national security issues into the mix, and the results may be explosive.

 

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.comand http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., http://www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2] See http://www.naegele.com/documents/CurrencyUnionTeeteringMr.EuroWasForcedtoAct.pdf; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703467004575464113605731560.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLETopStories

[3] See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/washington-is-sick-and-the-american-people-know-it/

[4] See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/are-afghanistan-iraq-and-pakistan-hopeless-and-is-the-spread-of-radical-islam-inevitable-and-is-barack-obama-finished-as-americas-president/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/will-the-eus-collapse-push-the-world-deeper-into-the-great-depression-ii/

[5] See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii/#comment-750 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii/#comment-745


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28 09 2010
naegeleblog

Ireland, Portugal Stir European Fears

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal article, which goes on to state:

Financial markets are on edge as crisis-hit euro-zone countries try to pull off a daunting task: protect their banks while slashing budget deficits against a backdrop of economic stagnation and soaring joblessness.

Some economists say it can’t be done and see it as increasingly likely that one or more of these countries will eventually have to tap a massive rescue fund set by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, stirring fresh uncertainty about the 16-nation currency bloc.

. . .

Greece is already operating under a separate EU-IMF bailout package that largely covers its funding needs into 2012. But even that rescue has failed to quell doubts in financial markets about Athens’ ability to repay its debts further down the road.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/IrelandPortugalfuelregionalwoes.pdf

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28 09 2010
Smilin' Jack

Another fair assessment of what is going on here in the U.S., and worldwide by Timothy. You said it before, and the Wall Street Gang had better stop sipping Starbucks and heed the warning you are telling us….

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5 10 2010
naegeleblog

IMF Admits The West Is Stuck In Near Depression

The IMF is conservative, and is reluctant to admit that the “Great Depression II” is upon us, for fear that panics may erode economies even more—which will happen when the economic realities are realized fully around the globe. An article on this subject in UK’s Telegraph is worth reading.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8039789/IMF-admits-that-the-West-is-stuck-in-near-depression.html

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6 10 2010
DWBrown

The situation is grim – probably grimmer than generally realized, but it’s not a foregone unavoidable end that we can’t escape. In general people will try to remove themselves from the path of a speeding train.

Europe is in some ways in better shape. While several countries went too far accumulating debt and entitlements the diversity of problems among several countries will help them. Spain and Ireland and the UK participated with the US in the global excess in housing. Germany, Italy, and others did not. Spain bought into the alternative energy hype and is learning that lesson.

I was surprised at the resurgence of discredited voodoo economic myths in the US and the readiness with which Bush initially and then Obama jumped on the Keynesian stimulus bandwagon. The lesson from the Great Depression and more recently, Japan, is that spending does not itself create sustainable economic growth.

The government here in the US is – by funding Fannie and Freddie takeover of the housing markets – stopping the market prices resetting in housing thereby ensuring no real recovery can take hold. It would be better – would have better – for the government to dismantle the ‘too big to fail’ banks selling off the parts to banks that knew better and to allow prices in the markets to reset providing generous aid to displaced families to get through until recovery got underway. The $800 + billion in stimulus had little to do with the economy and everything to do with political payoffs and payments to states structured to force permanent shift to bigger government.

In any case Europe is in for some tough times ahead. And we are in the same boat with them due to the series of Basel accords regulating banking worldwide. The situation is so difficult in part because of the original Basel accord that took effect in the early 90’s. That global banking agreement was a response, in part, to the Japanese banks rampaging worldwide using cheap money generated by their 1980’s bubble working its way through Japan and spilling out globally via its banks. Basel I was designed to level the field among global banks, but in an example of unintended consequences, it also made sure that any systemic flaws in the accord would impact all the major global banks and their home country financial systems thus laying the groundwork for a series of financial crises globally and the failure eventually of the banking systems.

There were at least two major infections injected into the global system by the original Basel I and that continue into Basel III. Both are partially responsible for the current global downturn and ensure that future crises are more likely – probably inevitable.

One is that Basel decreed that sovereign debt carries zero capital cost. Private debt all carries a higher capital cost. This embedded from the early 90’s into the global financial system a bias towards more sovereign debt ensuring there would be more of it and that it would be cheaper than the natural market rate. This has many implications – none too good – but what it ensured is that all the major global banks carry more sovereign debt on their books than they would have if the rates had to be competitive with private debt.

The European central bank and authorities had a difficult choice forced upon them by Greece. They could allow Greece to default and be forced to immediately deal with the follow-on defaults of almost all of the major banks in Europe (because of the substantial sovereign Greek debt they held), or, they could bail the Greeks out and allow their banks some time to get out of way of the train speeding toward them.

The key fact is that Basel retains the bias that caused the problem to begin with.

The second is that Basel allows major global banks to calculate their own capital requirements and in particular it has a provision that allows one major bank to buy a derivative guarantee from a sibling bank to reduce its capital cost for some particular private asset/exposure. Bank A sells a guarantee to Bank B to greatly reduce its capital cost who sells one to C for its asset who in turn helps A with another. The net effect is that the total capital in the system is woefully inadequate even as every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed as per Basel.

As far as Obama getting swept out of office, I believe his only hope for re-election is for the Republicans to retake at least the House. The good side to this is that Obama seems too inflexible to take advantage of that situation to triangulate as Clinton so successfully did to get re-election.

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6 10 2010
naegeleblog

I agree with your first paragraph. My parents lived through the Great Depression of the last century, and did not seem to be affected by it at all.

As to your second paragraph, the only country in Europe that is truly in decent shape economically is Germany, and it cannot carry the rest of Europe. Among other things, its electorate will balk politically.

I agree with your third paragraph.

I agree with your fourth paragraph, and recommend that you read the comments beneath another blog article entitled, “The Great Depression II?”

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii/

There is a real argument—which I believe is sound—that the downward fall of housing prices should not have been mitigated by foreclosure relief and other factors; and that until housing prices reach their “natural” bottom, or equilibrium, there will not be any recovery in that critical sector of our economy.

Indeed, government interference with free market forces may produce negative results, rather than helping. As you know, the Great Depression of the last century did not end until the onset of World War II, despite the massive governmental programs crafted by Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.

I agree with your comments about Basel. It may well represent a “house of cards” that comes crashing down. Once one or more panics set in, I believe there is nothing that governments will be able to do to stem them. One such “bubble” that I have believed for many years exists in the U.S. relates to mutual funds. Should panics set in and investors seek to cash out of such funds, a liquidity crisis may ensue that cannot be stemmed. The risks of panics such as this one are enormous.

Finally, I agree with your last paragraph, and do not believe Obama is adroit enough to handle the situation. Indeed, the twin pincers of a collapsing economy and a failing Afghan war may overwhelm him personally and politically. Throw in other factors that we do not know about yet (e.g., terrorist attacks), and he may fall like a rock politically. More and more, Americans may conclude that he is “out of touch” and “over his head,” which might result in him being considered “irrelevant” politically and as a leader. I believe he is a “lame duck” now, or will be after the November elections.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

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7 10 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost

There is a plethora of bad news in the media, which will only get worse.

See, e.g., http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2024065,00.html (“Encountering Anguish and Anxiety Across America”) and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-05/food-stamp-recipients-at-record-41-8-million-americans-in-july-u-s-says.html (“Food Stamp Recipients at Record 41.8 Million Americans”) and http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101007/bs_afp/forexasiajapanus_20101007100939 (“Dollar tumbles to fresh 15-year low against yen”) and http://www.gallup.com/poll/143426/Gallup-Finds-Unemployment-September.aspx (“Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment at 10.1%”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/39626759 (“US Cities Face Half a Trillion Dollars of Pension Deficits”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/39626607 (“California to Sell 24 Government Buildings”)

The American economy and other economies globally are collapsing. The “Great Depression II” is upon us, which economic historians will describe with some precision 20-40 years from now. Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time—as there were during the Great Depression of the last century, which only ended with the onset of World War II, not because of any governmental intervention.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii and http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

Even Alan Greenspan—who is responsible for, and triggered the economic calamity that global economies are facing—is forecasting gloom and doom in a Financial Times article entitled, “Fear undermines America’s recovery.” He is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters, and he is disgraced. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, perhaps said it best:

Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.

That speaks volumes. However, the human suffering and economic devastation that Greenspan’s actions (and inactions) spawned are not limited to the United States, but are truly global in scope.

See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4524339a-d17a-11df-96d1-00144feabdc0.html

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25 10 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

“Green Shoots For Housing Mowed Down”—And Become Dead Weeds

The Wall Street Journal has an article by this title about the American housing market and its effect on the U.S. economy, which states:

[T]he foreclosure debacle . . . is roiling housing just as some positive signs were emerging. . . .

. . .

The trouble won’t necessarily show up in housing reports this week. . . .

. . .

[T]hese figures will reflect conditions mostly before banks temporarily halted foreclosures due to questionable affidavits. More telling may be recent declines in the weekly mortgage-applications survey from the Mortgage Bankers of America, which showed purchasing activity off nearly 40% from a year ago.

For their part, banks are moving to restart foreclosures and reassure buyers that markets are functioning. But the legal logjam mightn’t clear quickly, given what are expected to be renewed challenges from homeowners’ lawyers and skeptical judges.

The upshot is the level of new foreclosure sales, a key driver of current housing activity, may be damped for months. Home prices may initially benefit from having fewer foreclosures in the mix. But any rise is likely to be short-lived, especially if buyers hibernate until the fiasco gets sorted out.

Moreover, once the legal problems clear, a backlog of discounted properties will flood the market. Economists at Wells Fargo Securities noted last week that there are two million homes in the process of foreclosure and another two million with mortgages 90 days past due. They expect home prices to fall an additional 5% to 8% next year.

Falling prices and legal uncertainty, meanwhile, may lead “to even more conservative appraisals and even tighter underwriting standards,” the Wells Fargo economists reckon.

That, in turn, could blunt the benefit from superlow mortgage rates, currently around 4.2% for 30-year loans. It could also prompt the Federal Reserve to try to drive borrowing rates even lower. While a housing rebound mightn’t be a must for an economic recovery, a renewed housing downturn almost certainly will undermine one.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/GreenShootsforHousingMowedDown.pdf

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25 10 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Keynes Is Dead . . .

John Maynard Keynes was a British economist who advocated the use by governments of fiscal and monetary policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic recessions and depressions. Contrariwise, Milton Friedman and other economists were pessimistic about the ability of governments to regulate the business cycle with fiscal policies.

A New York Times’ article entitled, “Europe Seen Avoiding Keynes’s Cure for Recession,” states:

[I]n much of Europe, and most acutely [in the UK], his view that deficit spending by governments is crucial to avoiding a long recession has lately been willfully ignored.

In Britain, George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered a speech on Wednesday that would have made Keynes—who himself worked in the British Treasury—blanch.

He argued forcefully that Britons, despite slowing growth and negligible bank lending, must accept a rise in the retirement age to 66 from 65 and $130 billion in spending cuts that would eliminate nearly 500,000 public sector jobs and hit pensioners, the poor, the military and the middle class because of what he insisted was the overwhelming need to reduce the country’s huge budget deficit.

In Ireland, where the economy is suffering through its third consecutive year of economic slump, Keynes is doing no better. Devastated by a historic property crash and banking bust, the Irish government is preparing another round of spending cuts and tax increases.

Combined with what Dublin has already imposed, the cuts could add up to as much as 14 percent of Ireland’s gross domestic product, an extraordinary amount for a modern industrial country. Ireland’s budget deficit reached 32 percent of total economic output this year.

Indeed, across Europe, where the threat of a double-dip recession remains palpable, governments from Germany to Greece are slashing public outlays. But even as students and workers in France clash with the police and block fuel shipments to protest a rise in the retirement age, the debate in Europe is more on how fast to cut government spending rather than whether such reductions are the right thing to do under the circumstances.

“Everything Keynes established about the primacy of maintaining demand at a steady pace is gone,” Brad DeLong, a liberal economist and blogger at the University of California, Berkeley, said mournfully.

. . .

[I]n Europe there is hardly a policy maker to be found who is making the argument that governments need to spend more, not less.

This is particularly true in Britain, where a combination of collapsing tax revenues and government spending to prop up banks and support the unemployed during the financial crisis has contributed to a budget deficit equal to 11 percent of gross domestic product, second highest in Europe after Ireland.

. . .

That contrasts sharply with the United States, where White House policy makers are urging caution in reducing deficits too quickly, fearing that ending stimulus efforts before the economy is clearly on the road to recovery risks making a mistake similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s budget cutting in the middle of the Great Depression, which extended the downturn.

. . .

For the British public, of course, the austerity now being experienced in countries like Ireland, Greece and Lithuania has yet to hit home.

In Britain, and throughout the rest of Europe, policy makers hope that by the time it does, a private sector recovery will be well under way, helping to compensate for the tighter government budgets. If not, however, they may be tempted to call upon the spirit of Keynes after all.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/world/europe/21austerity.html?_r=2&hp and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Keynes

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11 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Ireland’s Fate Tied to Doomed Banks

In a brilliant article with this title, the Wall Street Journal is reporting:

For two years, Ireland had poured money on a raging banking crisis, to no avail. Each estimate of the rising price of rescuing Ireland’s banks turned out too low. [Finance Minister Brian] Lenihan needed to halt the drip-drip of bad news that was leading his country to ruin. “I want a final figure ASAP,” he told the group.

Two weeks later, the estimate came in: Up to €50 billion—nearly $50,000 for every household [on] the Emerald Isle.

But now, investors are betting the bill could be higher still and could reignite Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis. The unpopular government is bracing for collapse, and on Tuesday, Irish government bonds continued a week-long slide to a fresh record low. The debt is judged as risky as Greece’s was this spring just before that nation begged for a European Union bailout.

Mr. Lenihan, racing to ease those fears, proposed Thursday shrinking the country’s 2011 budget by €6 billion. Proportionally, that’s as if the U.S. suddenly eliminated the Defense Department.

Ireland’s troubles are Europe’s. The 16 euro-zone countries have agreed to guarantee up to €440 billion in loans if any among them is unable to borrow from private markets.

. . .

Along the way, the government was hobbled by faulty information from outside advisers, from a trust-and-don’t-verify regulatory culture and from the troubled banks themselves.

The result has been calamitous: Bad loans at five once-sleepy banks have snowballed into an existential threat. The crisis has hammered Ireland’s economy and left taxpayers with a bill that will take a generation to pay. Irate Dubliners burned one big bank’s ex-boss in effigy and blocked the gates of parliament with a cement truck in protest. Bankers face criminal probes and a parliamentary inquiry.

. . .

For a decade, Ireland was the EU’s superstar. A skilled work force, high productivity and low corporate taxes drew foreign investment. The Irish, once the poor of Europe, became richer than everyone but the Luxemburgers. Fatefully, they put their newfound wealth in property.

As the European Central Bank held interest rates low, Ireland saw easy credit for construction loans and mortgages. Developers turned docklands into office towers and sheep pastures into subdivisions. In 2006, builders put up 93,419 homes, three times the rate a decade earlier.

. . .

The party ended in 2008, when the property bubble popped and the global economy tipped into recession. The government remained optimistic; an internal finance-department memo concluded in May that the Irish banking system was “sound and robust based on all key indicators of financial health.”

Yet by September, Irish banks were struggling to borrow quick cash for daily expenses. The government thought they faced a classic liquidity squeeze. Ireland—whose hands-off regulator had assigned just three examiners to two major banks—didn’t recognize the deeper problem: Banks had made too many bad loans, whose defaults would leave the lenders insolvent.

. . .

The total capital injected into banks by the government so far: €34 billion, with at least another €12 billion on the way. The bailouts mean Ireland will run a government deficit equal to 32% of its gross domestic product, the highest figure ever in any euro-zone country. Skeptics say a still-sinking property market will next sour residential mortgages, inflating the government tab even more.

Patrick Honohan, Ireland’s central-bank governor, says the government is fighting on two fronts. While wrestling with the banks’ bad loans, it must repair state finances badly damaged by a deep recession and a swift erosion of the tax base. The bailout bill, he says in an interview, “is not Ireland’s only problem.”

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704506404575592360334457040.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704865704575610763484082240.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection

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14 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Is Europe Collapsing?

In an excellent UK Telegraph article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard entitled, “Europe stumbles blindly towards its 1931 moment,” it is stated:

Unless the ECB takes fast and dramatic action, it risks destroying the currency it is paid to manage, and allowing a political catastrophe to unfold in Europe.

If mishandled, Ireland could all too easily become a sovereign version of Credit Anstalt—the Austrian bank that brought down the central European financial system in 1931, sent tremors through London and New York, and set off the second deeper phase of the Great Depression, the phase when politics turned ugly.

“Does the ECB understand the concept of contagion?” asked Jacques Cailloux, chief Europe economist at RBS. Three EMU countries have already been shut out of the capital markets, and footloose foreign creditors hold €2 trillion of debt securities issued by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece.

“If that is not enough to worry about financial contagion, what is? The ECB’s lack of action begs the question as to whether it is fulfilling its financial stability mandate,” he said. That is a polite way of putting it.

The eurozone’s fiscal fund (European Financial Stability Facility) is fatally flawed. Like Alpinistas roped together, an ever-reduced core of solvent states are supposed to carry the weight on an ever-widening group of insolvent states dangling beneath them. This lacks political credibility and may be tested to destruction if—as seems likely—Ireland is forced to ask for help. At which moment the chain-reaction begins in earnest, starting with Iberia.

It was a grave error for Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy to invoke the spectre of sovereign defaults and bondholder “haircuts” at this delicate juncture, ignoring warnings from ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet that such talk would set off investor flight from high-debt states.

EU leaders have since made a clumsy attempt to undo the damage, insisting that the policy shift would have “no impact whatsoever” on existing bonds. It would come into force only after mid-2013 under the new bail-out mechanism. Nobody is fooled by such a distinction.

“This is a breath-taking mixture of suicidal irresponsibility and farcical incoherence,” said Marco Annunziata from Unicredit.

“If by 2013 countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal are still in a shaky position, any new debt issued will carry exorbitant yields. The EU would then have to choose between a full-fledged, open-ended bail-out, and reneging on the promise that existing debt would not be restructured. Will German voters then accept higher taxes to save their profligate neighbours?” he said.

In May it was enough for the EU to announce a €750bn safety-net with the IMF for eurozone debtors. Bond spreads narrowed. A spike in economic output—led by Germany’s rogue growth of 9pc (annualised) in the second quarter—beguiled EU elites into believing that monetary union had survived its ordeal by fire. It had not, and this time they will have to put up real money.

Sadly for Ireland, events have snowballed out of control. Confidence has collapsed before Irish export industries—pharma, medical devices, IT, and backroom services—have had time to pull the country out of its tailspin.

Premier Brian Cowen—who presides over a budget deficit of 32pc of GDP this year—still insists that no rescue is needed. “We have adequate funding right up until July,” he said. Mr Cowan must know this is not enough. Funding for Irish banks has evaporated, and with it funding for Irish firms.

As we learn from leaks that “technical” talks are under way on the terms of any EU bail-out, it can only be a matter of weeks, or days, before Ireland has to tap EFSF—for €80bn to €85bn, says Barclays Capital.

Portugal is in worse shape than Ireland. Total debt is 330pc of GDP. The current account deficit is near 12pc of GDP (while Ireland is moving into surplus). Portuguese banks rely on foreign wholesale funding to cover 40pc of assets.

The country has been trapped in perma-slump with an over-valued currency for almost a decade. Successive waves of austerity have failed to make a lasting dent on the fiscal deficit, yet have been enough to sap the authority of the ruling socialists and revive the far-Left.

Former ministers are already talking openly of the need for an EU-IMF rescue. It is hard to see how Portugal could avoid being sucked into the vortex alongside Ireland. Europe and the IMF would then face a cumulative bail-out bill of €200bn or so. That stretches the EFSF to its credible limits.

The focus would shift instantly to Spain, where economic growth stalled to zero in the third quarter, car sales fell 38pc in October, a 5pc cut in public wages has yet to bite, and roughly [one million] unsold homes are still hanging over the property market. The problem is not the Spanish state as such: the Achilles Heel is corporate debt of 137pc of GDP, and the sums owed to foreign creditors that must be rolled over each quarter.

The risks are obvious. Unless core EMU countries raise fresh funds to boost the collateral of the rescue fund, markets will not believe that the EFSF has the firepower to stand behind Spain. Will Germany’s Bundestag vote more funds? Will the Dutch? Tweede Kamer, where right-wing populist Geert Wilders now holds the political balance, adamantly opposes such help, and might well use such a crisis to launch a bid for power.

It is far from clear what would happen if Italy was forced to provide its share of a triple bail-out for Ireland, Portugal and Spain. Italy’s public debt is already near danger point at 115pc of GDP. It is also the third-largest debt in the world after that of Japan and the US. French banks alone have $476bn of exposure to Italian debt (BIS data).

While Italy has kept a tight rein on spending, it is not in good health. Growth has stalled; industrial output fell 2.1pc in September; and the Berlusconi government is disintegrating. Four ministers are expected to resign on Monday.

It is clear by now that IMF-style austerity and debt-deflation is not a workable policy for the high-debt states of peripheral Europe, since it cannot be offset by the IMF cure of devaluation. The collapse of tax revenues has caused fiscal deficits to remain stubbornly high. The real debt burden has risen further.

The ECB is the last line of defence. It can halt the immediate Irish crisis whenever it wishes by buying Irish bonds. Yet instead of pulling out all the stops to save monetary union, the bank is winding down its emergency operations and draining liquidity. It is repeating the policy error it made by raising rates into the teeth of the crisis in July 2008.

Yes, the ECB is already propping up Ireland and Club Med by unlimited lending to local banks that then rotate into their own government debt in an internal “carry trade”. And yes, the ECB is understandably wary of crossing the fateful line from monetary to fiscal policy by funding treasury debt.

Bundesbank chief Axel Weber might fairly conclude that it is impossible at this stage to reconcile the needs of Germany and the big debtors. If the ECB prints money on the scale required to underpin the South, it would set off German inflation, destroy German faith in monetary union, and perhaps run afoul of Germany’s constitutional court. If EMU must split in two, it might as well be done on Teutonic terms.

All this is understandable, but is Chancellor Merkel really going to let subordinate officials at the ECB destroy Germany’s half-century investment in the post-war order of Europe, and risk Götterdämmerung [or a collapse marked by catastrophic violence and disorder]?

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8132689/Europe-stumbles-blindly-towards-its-1931-moment.html (emphasis added); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8135582/Contagion-hits-Portugal-as-Ireland-dithers-on-Rescue.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/nov/15/ireland-portugal-spain-european-debt-crisis and http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Euro+under+siege+Portugal+hits+panic+button/3831814/story.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/nov/15/greek-deficit-bigger-than-thought and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704584504575616033310586068.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsThird#articleTabs%3Darticle

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18 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

British Banks Have $225 billion Exposure To Ireland’s Economic Crisis

UK’s Telegraph is reporting:

The new figures—from the Bank for International Settlements—disclose that Britain faces the biggest potential losses from a meltdown in the Irish economy. This country’s banks have lent more than those from any other country to the Irish government, consumers and businesses.

RBS, the largely-nationalised bank, is thought to have the biggest exposure with more than £50 billion [or $80 billion] of outstanding loans.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ireland/8141618/British-banks-have-140-billion-exposure-to-Irelands-economic-crisis.html

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22 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Is Europe Collapsing?—Part 2—And America’s State And Local Debt Bomb

Ireland’s coalition government was thrown into turmoil, as Green Party leader John Gormley called for a general election, saying: “People feel misled and betrayed.” The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

The announcement comes after the Irish government Sunday said it had formally applied for tens of billions of euros in aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The Green’s withdrawal of support beyond January [of 2011] means a new coalition government will have to follow through on its predecessor’s promises, or seek to renegotiate. The Irish government is currently a coalition of Fianna Fail, the Green Party and independent lawmakers.

. . .

The Green Party’s decision to pull out of the government in the new year dashes hopes that news of the deal with the EU and IMF will ease investor concerns about the euro zone’s fiscal trouble spots.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704243904575630281642245978.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

The Journal added:

The statement out tonight from European finance ministers on the [cost of the] Irish bailout is like reading a real-estate ad for a lavish villa that has no price tag.

. . .

What can be said is that the total—government and banks—will likely run not far from 12 figures [or 100 billion euros].

See http://blogs.wsj.com/brussels/2010/11/21/ireland-greece-numbers/; see also http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-22/ireland-seeks-european-union-rescue-as-outsized-crisis-overwhelms-nation.html

In an article entitled, “Rescue of Ireland Would Dwarf Greece’s Bailout on Cost of Shoring Up Banks,” Bloomberg is reporting:

Ireland will seek emergency international aid totaling as much as 60 percent of the size of its economy, dwarfing the Greek bailout, to save its banks and bolster its finances.

Ireland will ask for about 95 billion euros ($130 billion) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimates. . . . The 110 billion-euro aid for Greece in May was the equivalent of 47 percent of its gross domestic product.

The cost of bailing out Ireland will be inflated by the price of shoring up its banking system, which Goldman puts at almost a third of the total request. The bursting of the real-estate bubble in 2008 pushed its banks close to collapse and plunged the country into recession.

. . .

Ireland will tap the 750 billion-euro European Financial Stability Facility set up in May as a financial lifeline for the rest of the euro region after Greece needed an emergency bailout of three-year loans from the EU and IMF.

The cost of a bailout on the Irish scale for Portugal, seen as the next weakest link among the EU’s high-deficit countries, would cost 100 billion euros, based on a package of 60 percent of GDP. For Spain, whose banks have also come under strain from the collapse of its real-estate bubble, a bailout of 60 percent of GDP would cost 632 billion euros. For Italy, the region’s second-most indebted nation after Greece, the figure would be 912 billion euros.

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-22/rescue-of-ireland-would-dwarf-greece-s-bailout-on-cost-of-shoring-up-banks.html (emphasis added)

Thus, the bailout of either Spain or Italy would wipe out the entire 750 billion-euro European Financial Stability Facility that was set up in May.

In an article entitled, “Irish EU bailout may not stop Portugal follow-up,” Reuters is reporting:

“. . . I don’t think this does anything to take Portugal and possibly Spain out of the firing line,” [Peter Chatwell, rate strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in London] said.

. . .

The origins of the debt problems of Ireland and Portugal are different—Ireland ran into problems because it had to help its banking sector, hit by the collapse of the real-estate market, while Portugal is suffering from low growth and lack of competitiveness.

But the end result was similar—a debt burden that markets see as difficult to carry.

. . .

If markets turn on Portugal, Spain may be next after that.

“If Portugal is forced to take a bailout then they’ll turn their attention to Spain and I don’t know what the government will do,” said Edro Schwartz, economist at San Pablo University in Madrid.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AK2QQ20101122

In an article entitled, “In Bailouts, Spain Will Be ‘the Biggie': Strategist,” CNBC is reporting:

The biggest bailout the European Union will have to do if it comes to it will be Spain and it is worrying that there is not a set mechanism on how to go about it, Cornelia Meyer, CEO & Chairman, MRL Corporation, told CNBC Monday.

. . .

[After Ireland,] the next in line for European Union and International Monetary Fund money may be Portugal, and then Spain, analysts said.

. . . ["H]ot on the heels of Ireland we have Portugal and then Spain, and Spain will be the biggie,” Meyer said.

. . .

“You still have Portugal; you still have the line in the sand with Spain, and also you have the emerging markets that scare me, because with all the money that’s put into the system by Bernanke, you see massive inflation in these countries,” [Philippe Gijsels, head of global markets research at BNP Paribas Fortis] said.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/40310940

In the United States, the state and local government fiscal mess is getting worse. The Journal is reporting:

In a Rasmussen poll taken before the midterm election, half of the respondents said that members of Congress who supported the 2009 federal stimulus didn’t deserve to be re-elected. Many weren’t. Yet the lame-duck Congress might extend one of the key elements of that stimulus: “Build America Bonds” (BABs). States and municipalities have used these bonds to rack up some $160 billion in new debt over the last 19 months.

Build America Bonds were created to re-energize the municipal bond market, which contracted sharply in late 2008. Investors had become wary that the credit crunch would spread to municipals, as insurers who back state and local bonds got hurt in other markets and stopped insuring public debt. Facing declining tax revenue and growing deficits, some local governments suddenly couldn’t borrow.

The Obama administration responded with a new kind of taxable bond that offered a 35% federal subsidy on the interest rate. Washington designed the subsidy to appeal to investors such as pension funds and overseas buyers who don’t buy traditional municipal bonds because they can’t take advantage of their tax-free status. The federal subsidy allowed states and cities to offer these investors an attractive return. The catch: Congress authorized the program only through 2010, to allay concerns that BABs would become a permanent bailout.

States and cities jumped deeply into this new market. California alone has issued some $21 billion in BABs, mostly as a substitute for its general obligation debt to support everything from school construction to sewer projects.

. . .

Now dozens of governments and other municipal issuers (like New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the University of California) have hired lobbyists to push Congress to extend BABs beyond this year. And in its 2011 budget, the Obama administration proposed making Build America Bonds permanent, with an interest-rate subsidy of 28%.

But the BAB program hasn’t been the unqualified success its advocates claim. While the original municipal bond crisis in late 2008 was attributed to the meltdown of other credit markets, it has since become clear that investors retreated from municipal debt as much because of the poor fiscal practices of many local governments. BABs have only contributed to the problem, increasing state and local debt even when the market has signaled that it considered some municipal borrowers overextended.

. . .

[B]ased on the cost of insurance contracts, CMA Datavision listed both [California and Illinois] in June among the 10 biggest government default risks in the world. Illinois was at greater risk of default than Iraq. Yet thanks to the BAB subsidy, Illinois was still able to borrow some $300 million in bonds by offering a 7.1% interest rate.

Meanwhile, investors are realizing that states and localities face long-term costs in addition to their muni debt, especially retirement obligations. Joshua Rauh of Northwestern University and Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester assess the 50 states’ unfunded pension bill at $3 trillion, and they say that the municipal tab for pensions could reach $500 billion. That is on top of some $2.8 trillion in outstanding state and local borrowing, according to the Federal Reserve.

. . .

The governments that have made the most use of BABs have been those with the greatest fiscal problems. The biggest issuer of BABs, California, has relied on an unprecedented number of gimmicks to balance its books in the last two years—such as temporarily increasing tax withholding rates and issuing IOUs to vendors.

. . .

The Obama administration believes the BABs’ direct federal subsidy is a more efficient way to raise money than traditional tax-free municipals. But when money that would otherwise go to private business flows into subsidized government activities, resources are misallocated.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704648604575621062239887650.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion

In an article entitled “Euphoria or the Obama Depression?” that was published and distributed by the McClatchy Newspapers and McClatchy-Tribune News Service on April 8, 2009, I wrote:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

As we witnessed in the mid-terms elections on November 2nd, the chickens are coming home to roost. The economic tsunami continues to roll worldwide—with devastating economic and political effects, and enormous human suffering—which will not subside before the end of this decade.

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24 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

A Dangerous Bubble Is Emerging In China

This is the title of a Forbes’ article, which adds:

[A] mania about China has gripped too many investors. Anything with China in its name gets hot in the way dot-com got people’s blood pulsing in the 1990s. Many of America’s biggest-gaining initial public offerings this year have been of Chinese firms. Many of those companies deserve high valuations, but not all of them.

. . .

There is undoubtedly a bubble emerging in some of the stock prices of Chinese companies, so be really cautious about where you place your bets in the coming months. Personally, I wouldn’t put money into any public company that hasn’t proven able to turn a profit.

See http://www.forbes.com/2010/11/23/china-tudou-youkou-video-bubble-leadership-managing-rein.html?partner=daily_newsletter; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii/#comment-418 (“China’s economy will slow and possibly ‘crash’ within a year as the nation’s property bubble is set to burst”) and http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/2010-08-30-chinesebanks30_ST_N.htm (China’s banking system is showing “disturbing, U.S.-style cracks,” which may entail a full-blown crash of its real estate markets and its economy)

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26 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Contagion Spreads: EU Rescue Costs Start To Threaten Germany Itself

It was just a matter of time before this happened, with much much worse yet to come.

The UK’s Telegraph is reporting—in an article that is subtitled, “The escalating debt crisis on the eurozone periphery is starting to contaminate the creditworthiness of Germany and the core states of monetary union”:

“Germany cannot keep paying for bail-outs without going bankrupt itself,” said Professor Wilhelm Hankel, of Frankfurt University. “This is frightening people. You cannot find a bank safe deposit box in Germany because every single one has already been taken and stuffed with gold and silver. It is like an underground Switzerland within our borders. People have terrible memories of 1948 and 1923 when they lost their savings.”

. . .

Reports that EU officials are hatching plans to double the size of EU’s €440bn (£373bn) rescue mechanism have inevitably caused outrage in Germany. Brussels has denied the claims, but the story has refused to die precisely because markets know the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) cannot cope with the all too possible event of a triple bail-out for Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

. . .

Whether governments will, in fact, write a fresh cheque is open to question. Chancellor Angela Merkel would risk popular fury if she had to raise fresh funds for eurozone debtors at a time of welfare cuts in Germany. She faces a string of regional elections where her Christian Democrats are struggling.

. . .

The great question is at what point Germany concludes that it cannot bear the mounting burden any longer. “I am worried that Germany’s authorities are slowly losing sight of the European common good,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, chair of Eurogroup finance ministers.

Europe’s fate may be decided soon by the German constitutional court as it rules on a clutch of cases challenging the legality of the Greek bail-out, the EFSF machinery, and ECB bond purchases.

“There has been a clear violation of the law and no judge can ignore that,” said Prof Hankel, a co-author of one of the complaints. “I am convinced the court will forbid future payments.”

If he is right—we may learn in February—the EU debt crisis will take a dramatic new turn.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/8160999/EU-rescue-costs-start-to-threaten-Germany-itself.html; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704693104575638132375883318.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

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27 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Irish Cutbacks Pile It On For “New Poor”

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal article, which adds:

A church-run soup kitchen here [in Dublin] symbolizes the human cost of Ireland’s crisis: Middle-class homeowners, squeezed by rising debt and falling incomes, line up for food parcels alongside foreign asylum-seekers and the long-term unemployed.

These are Ireland’s “new poor”—ordinary people with houses and jobs laid low by years of austerity, and now facing even tougher times as the government slashes public-sector jobs, raises taxes and cuts social welfare.

Theresa Dolan runs the Capuchin Day Center near Dublin’s law courts that caters to the swelling ranks of the city’s poor. Before 2008, around 250 people came each day for a hot dinner, she says. Now there are 520. And the visitors’ profile is changing.

“There are people who have beautiful houses and a car but no food,” she says. “All their spare cash goes on the mortgage.”

. . .

It’s all a far cry from the boom, when Ireland was named the Celtic Tiger and enjoyed years of export-led growth. Hundreds of U.S. firms set up shop here, attracted by a low corporate-tax rate and an educated, English-speaking workforce.

But with the collapse of Ireland’s property market, many of those who bought real estate in the good years are now in negative equity—with their houses worth less than the loans they took out to buy them. Many of these are unemployed.

“We call them the new poor—people who have mortgages but no income and no money for anything,” says Pat O’Donoghue, director of liturgy at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral, who runs a charity distributing unwanted Christmas gifts to the poor.

This is still just the tip of an enormous iceberg; namely, the collapse of Ireland financially between now and the end of this decade, with much much worse yet to come.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704008704575638841899271092.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories#articleTabs%3Darticle

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29 11 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Ireland Is Collapsing, And Aer Lingus Feels It Acutely

In an article entitled, “Flying Through a Storm,” the Wall Street Journal is reporting:

[T]urning round Ireland’s struggling national carrier, Aer Lingus Group PLC. . . . the carrier faces daunting obstacles. Ireland’s economy is shrinking under the weight of massive bank problems and a collapsed construction sector. Personal incomes have fallen and business spending has been slashed.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/FlyingThroughaStorm.pdf

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1 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

AMERICA TO BAILOUT EUROPE!

This is a potentially-tragic mistake, which simply underscores the fact that the “Great Depression II” continues to wreak havoc around the world, with no end in sight; and that governments are flailing about, trying to fashion solutions that do not exist. In the process, the human suffering will be historically staggering, rivaling the Great Depression of the last century, or worse.

In an article entitled, “US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official,” Reuters is reporting:

The United States would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.

“There are a lot of people talking about that. I think the European Commission has talked about that,” said the U.S. official, commenting on enlarging the 750 billion euro ($980 billion) EU/IMF European stability fund. “It is up to the Europeans. We will certainly support using the IMF in these circumstances.”

“There are obviously some severe market problems,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In May, it was Greece. This is Ireland and Portugal. If there is contagion that’s a huge problem for the global economy.”

. . .

The IMF, whose biggest single shareholder is the United States, has committed 250 billion euros to the EFSF.

While reluctant to dictate to Europe how it should address the unfolding debt crisis, the U.S. government is growing concerned about the global fallout of Europe’s predicament.

U.S. Treasurys’ prices fell and the euro strengthened against the dollar on Wednesday after the news that the United States would be prepared to support an enlarged EFSF.

Germany, whose leaders have expressed frustration at the market backlash against their plans to solve the euro zone’s debt problems, does not want to make the stability fund larger.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/40454469; see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334871/Is-U-S-set-dragged-Europes-financial-troubles-Euro-soars-amid-claims-America-support-IMF-bailout.html

Europe is collapsing. America’s financial aid would not be happening unless policy makers were panicking. However, if Germany does not want to bail out its neighbors, why should the United States do so, directly or indirectly?

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1 12 2010
Paul

When Spain goes down sometime this year Europe and the world will experience a Lehman/AIG type panic/collapse scenario that will make 08′ look like disneyland.

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1 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Paul, for your comment.

Yes, I agree with you. Greece, followed by Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and other European countries. It is apt to get very ugly, as you have pointed out.

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1 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

American Exceptionalism Endures, But . . .

In a thought-provoking article by U.S. News & World Report’s Mort Zuckerman entitled, “The Danger of a Global Double Dip Recession Is Real,” he writes:

The modern world has for centuries been dominated economically, intellectually, and physically by the civilization that arose in Western Europe in the wake of the Renaissance and Reformation and spread across the Atlantic.

Will that one day be seen as a passing phenomenon doomed to ascend ever upward and then slowly fizzle out like a firework?

. . .

Are our current plagues—the riots first in Athens and then in Paris, our global economic crisis manifest in the riots and rampant sovereign debt—merely a symptom of a deeper decay of a civilization in the autumn of its existence?

. . .

Money is surely the great corrupter of American democracy. Congressmen have to spend more of their time raising money for misleading and defamatory television commercials—and resisting briberies of one kind or another—than they spend studying our predicaments.

The global prosperity of much of the 20th century would seem to belie the pessimists, but I don’t think there is much doubt the moral authority of the West has dramatically declined in the face of the financial crisis. It has revealed deep fault lines within Western economies that have spread to the global economy.

The majority of Western governments are running fiscal deficits of 10 percent or more relative to GDP, but it is increasingly clear that there will be no quick fixes, that big government and fiscal deficits will not bring us back to the status quo ante. Indeed, the tidal wave of red ink has meant that the leverage-led or debt-led growth model is dead.

Developed countries will be forced to deal with their debt on every level, from the personal to the corporate to the sovereign. Being able to borrow may have made people feel richer, but having to repay the debt is certainly making them feel poorer, particularly since the unfunded liabilities that many governments face from aging populations will have to be paid for by a shrinking band of workers.

. . .

The present model of global growth had served excess Western consumption with inexpensive products from the East. The result is plain to see: The West has excessive debt, while China has excessive capacity and inadequate consumption, as well as high levels of savings and our debt.

The deficits we face are a dagger pointing at the heart of the American economy. They threaten that the United States will evolve into another aging welfare state, where fiscal expenditures shift from defense to social welfare, and America’s power in the world will shrink. It has clearly happened in Western Europe, which can no longer defend itself but relies on the United States.

. . .

It’s the defense readiness of the United States that makes it possible for the world to focus on economic priorities, including trade, investment, access to markets, and a better life for the people.

. . .

In the United States, gloom has spread to our policymakers on how to deal with our economic dilemmas. Monetary policy is relatively ineffective because we are in, or near, liquidity trap conditions. Our economy is so weak that lower interest rates and other monetary tools are not working. In the liquidity trap, no matter how much money is thrown into the system, people have so little confidence that they tend to hoard it. Similarly, fiscal policy is beginning to reach its limits. High debt levels can raise concerns about the creditworthiness of our government. This in turn could lead to higher long-term interest rates that would aggravate the economic contraction.

. . .

American exceptionalism endures. But we must confront our dysfunctional and profligate government. America was founded on the principle of creating a better life for our children and grandchildren. We can do it. We aren’t doing it.

See http://politics.usnews.com/opinion/mzuckerman/articles/2010/11/29/the-danger-of-a-global-double-dip-recession-is-real.html

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2 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

European Banks Took Big Slice Of Fed Aid

The Financial Times is reporting:

Foreign banks were among the biggest beneficiaries of the $3,300bn in emergency credit provided by the Federal Reserve during the crisis, according to new data on the extraordinary efforts of the US authorities to save the global financial system.

The revelation of the scale of overseas lenders’ borrowing underlines the global nature of the turmoil and the crucial role of the Fed as the lender of last resort for the world’s banking sector.

However, news that banks such as Barclays of the UK, Switzerland’s UBS and Dexia of Belgium borrowed billions of dollars at favourable terms from US authorities may further anger critics already enraged about the Fed’s rescue of Wall Street.

“We’re talking about huge sums of money going to bail out large foreign banks,” said Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont. “Has the Federal Reserve of the United States become the central bank of the world?”

See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4dd95e42-fd6d-11df-a049-00144feab49a.html#axzz16ueqE7wY; see also http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101201/ap_on_bi_ge/us_fed_crisis_lending and http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8a5e3ac4-fd89-11df-a049-00144feab49a.html#axzz16ujNXHeX and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8175432/UK-banks-borrowed-more-than-640bn-from-US-Federal-Reserve.html (“British banks represented more than a third—about $1.5 trillion—of the $3,300bn lent by the US authorities to prop up the financial sector“)

This is outrageous. Bernie Sanders is correct: the Federal Reserve has become the central bank of the world. However, most importantly, it is a precursor of the future, as the economic tsunami—or the “Great Depression II”—continues to roll worldwide, with devastating effects and unfathomable human suffering.

The worst is yet to come, and American taxpayers will be on the hook, while many are suffering greatly and unemployment and other benefits are being terminated!

See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1023

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6 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

California On The Brink

The UK’s Economist has an article entitled, “The tide begins to turn”—and subtitled, “For once, California’s prospects seem better in the long term than in the short”—which is pure poppycock. The article is worth reading to see how out of touch some people are with respect to the economic realities that are sweeping the world, and will prevail at least through the balance of this decade.

See http://www.economist.com/node/17631115?story_id=17631115

First, I live in Southern California part of the year, where I was born and raised before working nonstop in Washington, D.C. for 21 years. I love the state; however, California’s prospects have not gotten better at all, and its long-term prognosis is even more dire. The state has diversity, great weather and natural beauty, which are perhaps unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. Yet, its parks, libraries, schools and other governmental facilities may be closed; law enforcement may undergo substantial cutbacks; state prisons may have to release significant numbers of inmates, as the Economist points out; and crime may skyrocket.

Second, the Democrats have driven the state into the ground, economically; and at its most crucial moment, they are in charge once again—like putting alcoholics in charge of running the local bar (or pub). Also, they are like Salmon trying to swim upstream, against a strong tide of anti-Obama and anti-Democrat sentiment nationally that was evident in the mid-term elections last month. Independents—of which I am one, and have been for more than 20 years, after having been a Democrat and then a Republican—joined with “disenchanted” Democrats and members of the Tea Party movement nationally to reject Barack Obama and his Democrats resoundingly.

Third, because California is bankrupt, and there is no way that its Democrats—who are responsible for the state’s problems—can sober up all of a sudden, and get “newfound religion,” they will turn to the federal government in Washington to bail them out. However, having worked on and with Capitol Hill for many years, the anti-California sentiment is strong even under the most positive economic conditions, which certainly do not exist today. The country as a whole is hurting, and this will be true for the balance of this decade; and the Republicans who control the House of Representatives are not going to bail out California and its Democrats. They will be made to suffer, at the very moment when the state is hurting most. They will pay dearly for their unbridled Liberalism, which is out of step with the rest of the nation.

Fourth, Barack Obama cannot help California, because any “big-dollar” rescue plans that the state truly needs will be blocked in Congress. Also, he is trying to save his own hide, at a time when we are witnessing his end politically. He will not be reelected in 2012, but he will do everything that he can between now and then in a desperate albeit futile effort to change that result. Helping California while the rest of the nation suffers is not in his best interests, nor does such help bode well for his long-term political survival; however, he may have to try to produce such aid, to keep California’s voters and electoral votes clearly in his column. While the fact that California bucked the national trend and elected Democrats to its statewide offices may be gratifying to him, it does not help him politically with the rest of the country. California is considered to be “la la land” to many Americans and members of Congress, and a land of nonstop “wackos” and “loonies,” and the mid-term election results simply reinforced such impressions.

Fifth, California does not have time to get its economic house in order. Time is not a friend of a state that is effectively on “life support.” Also, all of the political “fairness” reforms that theoretically might be become possible or present in the future—according to the Economist—will not make a tinker’s damn to a state economy that is bankrupt now and in the foreseeable future (e.g., during the balance of this decade). Indeed, economically, they are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. With no realistic political or economic possibility of turning back the clock on the damage done to the state by the Democrats in the past, and essentially no chance that the congressional Republicans will bail out the state, the most dire predictions for the rest of this decade are likely to realized in California.

Hold on tight. It is apt to get very ugly for the state, Obama and his Democrats. The chickens are coming home to roost, which is happening in Europe too.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/

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6 12 2010
Rod R

I value your blogs…sometimes a lonely voice I am sure…so I just wanted to send an encouragement email… As we used to say in the 70’s “Keep on truckin’!”

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6 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Thanks so much for your comments, Rod. I really appreciate them. :-)

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10 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Prince Charles And His Wife Are Attacked

Prince Charles and wife are attacked

Tragically, chaos and violence are descending on the UK and elsewhere in the world, and this terrifying car attack is merely the tip of an enormous iceberg, which will become all too visible during the balance of this decade. Protesters kicked and splashed paint on a car containing Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, although the couple were unhurt.

See http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23905622-student-protest-mob-attacks-charles-and-camilla-on-fees-riot.do and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337088/TUITION-FEES-VOTE-PROTEST-Charles-Camillas-car-attacked-thousands-students-descend-Parliament.html (“Terrifying moment Charles and Camilla were surrounded by a baying mob and their car attacked in tuition fees riot. . . . In the worst royal security breach for a generation, the car carrying [Camilla] and Prince Charles was kicked, rocked and hit with paint bombs . . . , raising echoes of the 1974 kidnap attempt on Princess Anne“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1337322/Red-hot-Kylie-greets-Prince-Charles-big-smile-The-Palladium-terrifying-car-attack-way-Royal-Variety-Show.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337351/CHARLES-AND-CAMILLA-ATTACK-How-did-close.html; see also http://www.economist.com/node/17677746 (“A more divided world economy could make 2011 a year of damaging shocks“)

Prince Charles and wifes car is attacked

The UK’s Economist has an article about the riots in London and the attack on Prince Charles and Camilla, which is worth reading and states in part:

Envy of the rich alone is not a danger. But a broad sense that rich people with privileged access to the government are not playing fair at a time of public spending cuts, now that is a danger. I think that is the story that is going to keep us busier than tuition fees.

See http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2010/12/angry_britain&fsrc=nwl

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10 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

U.S. Home Values To Drop By $1.7 Trillion This Year

As the “Great Depression II” continues to take its toll during the balance of this decade, Bloomberg is reporting:

U.S. home values are poised to drop by more than $1.7 trillion this year amid rising foreclosures and the expiration of homebuyer tax credits, said Zillow Inc., a closely held provider of home price data.

This year’s estimated decline, more than the $1.05 trillion drop in 2009, brings the loss since the June 2006 home-price peak to $9 trillion, the Seattle-based company said today in a statement.

“It’s definitely going to continue into 2011,” Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television today. “The back half of 2010 looked horrible and 2011 should look like the mirror image of that.”

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-09/homes-in-u-s-poised-to-lose-1-7-trillion-in-value-this-year-zillow-says.html

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10 12 2010
Smilin' Jack

EGADS ! I’m pretty up on what’s happening, but these numbers are astounding ! It makes me wonder if we can survive when people like Pelosi, Harry Reid, Obama and others in that “gang” are still in office.

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11 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Fed Must Not Be The “World’s Banker”

The Wall Street Journal has an article entitled, “Germany Vows Defense of Euro,” which is worth reading, and states in part:

Germany’s [Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble] said his country is prepared to pursue bold action to preserve Europe’s common currency, including deeper economic integration with its neighbors, and issued a warning to markets not to underestimate Berlin’s resolve to protect the euro.

. . .

Many Germans, including leading members of the government, oppose further economic integration within the 16-nation euro zone over fears that Germany would be forced to pay the debts of others.

. . .

[T]he euro zone will eventually need some form of federal system to transfer money from fiscally sound to struggling countries. And as the euro zone’s richest country, Germany is critical to that effort.

. . .

Mr. Schäuble’s remarks come as Europe is still reeling from the emergency rescue of Ireland last month. The nearly €70 billion ($93 billion) bailout failed to erase worries about the creditworthiness of other indebted countries on Europe’s periphery, in particular Portugal.

That has rattled many European policy makers, forcing them to confront the possibility that the crisis could reach Spain, one of the continent’s largest economies. A rescue of Spain would largely exhaust the EU’s nearly trillion-dollar bailout fund and focus attention on the sustainability of government debt in countries at the core of the euro-zone economy, especially Italy. At that point, the cost of the bailouts would simply be too high to keep the euro zone together, some economists warn.

. . .

Economists say Germany’s political will to stick with the European project, even at a financial cost, will be essential for preventing the unraveling of the euro zone amid capital flight from indebted countries on its fringe.

Addressing fears that the debt crisis could spread from small countries such as Ireland and Portugal to major economies such as Spain and Italy, Mr. Schäuble said: “There will be no domino effect, because we will defend the common currency.”

. . .

[The] 16 countries have a single monetary policy but retain national power over their taxes and spending.

. . .

Mr. Schäuble is the last politically active associate of ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl, who drove German national unification as well as the euro’s creation. He recalled that when Europe agreed to create the common currency 20 years ago, Germany wanted a full political and economic union but others resisted.

That has left Europe with a lopsided structure, with one central bank but wildly diverging national economic policies and ineffectual rules limiting member governments’ debt.

. . .

The finance minister’s political importance to [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] is such that she dismissed repeated calls this year to replace him for health reasons. Mr. Schäuble, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a mentally ill attacker shot him in the spine in 1990, has been in and out of the hospital this year after struggling to recover from an operation.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703727804576011553442147030.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection#articleTabs%3Darticle

If Germany wants to defend the euro, and its people support the use of their resources for that purpose, then so be it. However, America should not waste its resources doing so, directly or indirectly (e.g., through contributions to the IMF). There are enough problems domestically that we should not be bailing out Europe. Indeed, it was a travesty that the Fed bailed out so many European banks. Presumably they have paid back every cent by now.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1029

Ron Paul will be chairman of the Domestic Monetary Policy Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee in the 112th Congress, and will oversee the Fed. Hopefully he and other members of the new Congress will look into these issues, and insure that the Fed does not become the “world’s banker,” thereby having the American people become guarantors of Europe or the world’s finances.

The balance of this decade will see mass upheaval globally—politically, economically, socially, militarily, and in a host of other ways. While the United States cannot become an “island,” the American people will hold their elected and appointed officials accountable and responsible to insure that their interests are protected fully at all times, period. Things may get very ugly around the world, and they will demand nothing less. The mid-term elections of 2010 were a precursor of that, with much more to come.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/

. . .

Lastly, for those who would argue that the Fed’s actions were necessary and appropriate during the recent financial crises, my response is the following:

We know that European and other banks had huge exposures to American asset-backed securities, and still do. We know too that they needed financing to sustain their positions; and that by obtaining such financing from the Fed, sharper declines in the prices of such securities were averted.

However, the questions today—and when the new Congress assembles, and its committees begin their work—include, but are not limited to whether such financing continues, and the extent of it; whether adequate collateral was obtained and still exists; what exposure the Fed had and still has (e.g., have all extensions of credit been fully repaid, and if not why not, and what entities owe the monies and how much is owed by each, and when repayment in full can be expected).; and what exposure American taxpayers have today, and will have in future crises of this nature?

Rest assured future financial and other crises will come. It is simply a function of time.

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11 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Lunacy Of The Global Warming Hoax Is In Full Swing [UPDATED]

The UK’s Telegraph has a wonderful article about the “Global Warming” hoax, which discusses the Cancun Climate Change Conference’s plans to cut carbon emissions. Among other things, it states:

To rapturous applause, they signed up to the first truly global climate change agreement under the umbrella of the United Nations, following all-night talks in Cancun.

. . .

The UN has been attempting to achieve a deal on climate change for more than 15 years but found it impossible to get all members to agree. Last year in Copenhagen the talks came close to collapse, embarrassing world leaders who had jetted in to “save the planet”.

. . .

For the first time all countries are committed to cutting carbon emissions under an official UN agreement. Rich nations also have to pay a total of £60 billion annually from 2020 into a “green fund” to help poor countries adapt to floods and droughts. The money will also help developing countries, including China and India, switch to renewable energy sources including wind and solar power.

It is not yet decided how the funds will be raised, although preferred options are a new tax on aviation or shipping, or increased carbon taxes more generally.

. . .

During the talks the UK played a key role in helping nations to resolve the contentious issue of the Kyoto Protocol. Developing nations were refusing to sign up to a deal unless the existing treaty, signed by most developed nations except the US, was honoured.

. . .

Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth International Climate Campaigner, . . . said the [new] agreement was weak. But he was relieved that the process has not collapsed as expected.

“The world needed strong and determined action to tackle climate change in Cancun—the outcome is a weak and ineffective agreement but at least it gives us a small and fragile lifeline,” he said.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/8196634/Cancun-Climate-Change-Conference-agrees-plan-to-cut-carbon-emissions.html; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsSecond (“[T]he highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls”)

One wag concluded—after noting that “the £2.9 billion the [UK] Government will save by increasing tuition fees [and sparking riots in London] matches the amount earmarked for [the] global warming project [of funding windmills in Africa]” (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8196410/Student-fee-savings-will-fund-windmills-in-Africa.html)—“There is a revolution coming.” Indeed.

Like the “Tooth Fairy” and the “Loch Ness Monster”—and any potency on the part of the hapless UN—the myth of man-made “Global Warming” ranks as one of the great myths of recorded history.

It is only fitting that the countries would gather “at a luxury resort” in Cancun, before they seek to “rape” the world economically. Surely, the battle cry emanating from that seaside resort to the peoples of the world is the one commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.”

Fortunately, for Americans, the incoming Republicans in Congress will seek to block such nonsense from ever seeing the light of day. Also, with Barack Obama’s presidency sinking into the setting sun, it is doubtful he can do much to change that result. Most importantly for him, he is trying to save his own political hide, which seems beyond redemption.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/barack-obama-america’s-second-emperor/ (see also the comments posted beneath the article)

. . .

As if they were twin omens regarding the “Global Warming” hoax, (1) Cancun was hosting the U.N. climate conference as the temperature plunged to a 100-year record low (see, e.g., http://theweek.com/article/index/210181/irony-alert-the-unusually-chilly-global-warming-summit); and (2) Barack Obama was in Copenhagen accepting a deal without any teeth to address “Global Warming,” in the midst of a blizzard that dumped snow on the Danish capital, and he was met by a blizzard in Washington, D.C. on his return from Denmark (see, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/barack-obama-america%E2%80%99s-second-emperor/).

. . .

Next, in the United States, arctic air has arrived over the eastern half of the country, and low-temperature records will be broken before it leaves.

See, e.g., http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/30/noaa-on-miami-florida-coldest-december-on-record/ (Coldest December Ever Recorded In Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Naples . . .) and http://www.weather.com/outlook/weather-news/news/articles/record-lows-southeast-florida_2010-12-13 and http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9KBLRDG0&show_article=1 (Columbia, South Carolina has first Christmas snow since records kept in 1887) and http://www.breitbart.tv/atlantas-first-white-christmas-since-1862/ (“Atlanta’s first white Christmas since the Chester Arthur administration [in 1882]“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1346399/New-York-snow-More-2-000-flights-cancelled-East-Coast.html (“Snow on the ground on 49 of the 50 states as New York shivers through its THIRD storm of the winter“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1346499/U-S-snow-storms-90-000-plane-passengers-face-delays.html (“90,000 passengers face grounded flights and hours of delays after ‘weather bomb’ hits U.S.“) and http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/44999/snowstorm-shatters-new-york-ci.asp (“Snowstorm Shatters New York City, Philadelphia Records“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1351009/New-York-snow-Obama-trapped-traffic-storm-battered-East-Coast.html (“New York suffers the snowiest January in its history“) and http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/17324885/article-Temperatures-fall-to-50-below-in-Fairbanks–small-air-carriers-cancel-flights?instance=home_news_window_left_top_1 (“Temperatures fall to 50 below in Fairbanks; small air carriers cancel flights“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093264/Forget-global-warming–Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html (“Forget global warming. . . . [N]ew figures . . . show no warming in 15 years“) and http://www.climatedepot.com/a/18726/Fmr-Thatcher-advisor-Lord-Monckton-evicted-from-UN-climate-summit-after-challenging-global-warming–Escorted-from-the-hall-and-security-officers-stripped-him-of-his-UN-credentials (The Eco-Nazis Strike Again: “Fmr. Thatcher advisor Lord Monckton evicted from UN climate summit after challenging global warming—’Escorted from the hall and security officers stripped him of his UN credentials'”) and http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/forget-global-warming-alaska-headed-ice-age (“Forget global warming, Alaska is headed for an ice age“) and http://www.mrc.org/articles/jersey-news-outlet-cries-global-warming-blizzard-approaches (“Jersey News Outlet Cries ‘Global Warming’ as Blizzard Approaches“)

Also, other parts the world are being hit hard too.

See, e.g., http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/theres-a-mini-ice-age-coming-says-man-who-beats-weather-experts-20101221-1945a.html (“There’s a mini ice age coming, says man who beats weather experts“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339149/Big-freeze-Coldest-December-100-years-brings-travel-chaos-holiday-rush-begins.html (“Coldest December since records began [in 1910] . . . across Britain“); see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1340436/Why-cold-warm-Greenland-Diverted-jet-stream-letting-icy-blast-Arctic.html (“How a freak diversion of the jet stream is paralysing the globe with freezing conditions”) and http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-12/29/c_13668400.htm (“Berlin sees most snow in December since 1900s“) and http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/view/169577/Winter-may-be-coldest-in-1000-years/ (“[UK] Winter May Be Coldest In 1000 Years“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9710681/Britain-prepares-for-ice-and-snow-in-cold-snap.html (“Britain prepares for ice and snow . . . [and is] gearing up for what could be Britain’s coldest winter in 100 years“) and http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_CHINA_COLDEST_WINTER?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-01-05-07-52-05 (“CHINA’S COLDEST WINTER IN DECADES AT NEW LOW“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9950516/Worst-March-snow-for-30-years-brings-chaos.html (Britain: “Worst March snow for 30 years brings chaos”)

. . .

The very idea that monies should be provided to help China and India switch to renewable energy sources, including wind and solar power, is among the greatest lunacies of all. Two of the real tigers of world economic development now and in the future need such “help” about as much as Barack Obama needs more help in having his narcissistic ego stroked!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-2315 (“Will Obama ‘Unravel’ Like Nixon Did?”); see also http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/feb/4/goodbye-prius-japan-carmakers-drop-electric-car-de/ (Screw the eco-Nazis: “Goodbye, Prius? Japanese carmakers drop battery electric-car development”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/globalwarming/9919121/Look-at-the-graph-to-see-the-evidence-of-global-warming.html (“[UK's] Met Office data show only a tiny change in world temperatures”—”The actual changes look relatively so small, compared with those rises and falls of several whole degrees the world survived in the past, that any idea that we are facing catastrophic warming pales into insignificance. . . . The price we are all increasingly having to pay for [our politicians'] gullibility is incalculable”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2517 (“The Great Green Con—”Global Warming” Is A Myth“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/10086694/Tim-Yeo-humans-may-not-be-to-blame-for-global-warming.html (“[H]umans may not be to blame for global warming”) and http://www.climatedepot.com/2013/09/14/earth-gains-a-record-amount-of-sea-ice-in-2013-earth-has-gained-19000-manhattans-of-sea-ice-since-this-date-last-year-the-largest-increase-on-record/ (“Earth Gains A Record Amount Of Sea Ice In 2013 — ‘Earth has gained 19,000 Manhattans of sea ice since this date last year, the largest increase on record’“) and http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100238047/global-warming-believers-are-feeling-the-heat/ (“Global warming believers are feeling the heat”—”[T]hose many alarmists whose careers depend on talking up the threat . . . [are not] winning the war to persuade the world of the case for catastrophic anthropogenic climate change [] but that the battle is all but lost”)

. . .

It is wonderful news that those who have preached “The Global Warming Hoax,” and “The Great Green Con” are and will be getting hurt. Bravo. Fraudsters deserve nothing less!

Perhaps they can shift to the “Flat Earth Society” and have better luck there.

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13 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Low Rates Fail To Rescue Indebted Britain, The Eurozone Is In Need Of An Undertaker, The Euro Has One-In-Five Chances Of Survival, Market Alarm As US Fails To Control Biggest Debt In History, And China’s Property Bubble Has Grown So Huge That 85 Percent of Chinese Living In Cities Cannot Afford A Home

These and other sobering headlines appear in articles around the world. The chickens are coming home to roost, bigtime. Hold on tight. As I have mentioned repeatedly, things will get very ugly worldwide—politically, economically, socially, militarily, and in a host of other ways—during the balance of this decade, which will see mass upheavals globally.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8197806/Low-interest-rates-failing-to-rescue-British-households-from-1.45-trillion-debts-says-Bank-of-England.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8197780/The-eurozone-is-in-bad-need-of-an-undertaker.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8197655/Euro-has-one-in-five-chance-of-survival-warns-CEBR.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/liamhalligan/8196283/Market-alarm-as-US-fails-to-control-biggest-debt-in-history.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/8195879/85pc-of-urban-Chinese-cannot-afford-to-buy-a-home-as-inflation-accelerates.html

As noted in the posting directly above, one wag has concluded: “There is a revolution coming.” This is not beyond the pale!

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14 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Europe Will Be Broken By Crises

This is a conclusion—or verdict—reached in a Wall Street Journal article by Bret Stephens entitled, “Europe Needs a Tea Party,” which is worth reading. In it, he adds:

Month after month, strikers, protestors and rioters in Athens, Paris, Dublin and London have offered their own verdict on Europe’s future. So have the bond markets. Sooner or later this combined revolt of workers, students, pensioners and financiers will be joined—albeit for very different reasons—by middle-class taxpayers, mostly German, who will not endlessly finance the profligacy of people they’re already inclined to detest.

What will happen then? Jean Monnet, the EU’s founding father, famously predicted that Europe would be “forged in crises.” In this crisis, it’s just as likely that Europe will be broken by it.

For this the fault does not lie with the euro, as is so commonly alleged. It does lie with a political class that would not abide the terms they agreed to when they adopted the currency—the limits on deficit spending, flouted from the beginning; the fiscal requirements for joining the currency, conveniently ignored to get Greece in; the prohibition against bailouts, now comprehensively junked. A currency whose ground rules have been so utterly violated is not the sinner. It is the sinned against.

. . .

So far Europe’s financial tremors have hit mainly at its fringes. The €750 billion lending facility the EU established last spring has been more than adequate to bail out Greece and Ireland to the tune of €177 billion. But that’s 23% of a fund for two countries whose combined GDP accounts for just 3.4% of the EU’s. Next up is Portugal, with Spain and Italy likely not far behind. Collectively, they comprise 22% of the EU’s GDP.

Portugal aside, those bailouts are almost certainly beyond Europe’s reach. Yet European leaders are now attempting to rewrite the rules with a permanent bailout fund. The idea is to buy time and “confidence.”

Good luck with that. Greece may already be violating the terms of its bailout. There is no long-term guarantee of a benign global economic environment that would give Europe’s weaker economies time to recover. Berlin, Europe’s proverbial paymaster, faces its own budgetary problems, and it can test German forbearance only so far. Nor is there any guarantee that a future Greek, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish government will abide by budgetary constraints imposed upon its predecessors. They will each have to make their own accommodations with their electorates. Democracies cannot be better than their own people.

There is the nub of Europe’s problem. A notable difference between populist movements in the U.S. and Europe is that the American variety typically favors smaller and less-intrusive government. That’s basically the tea party. It may be “Mad As Hell,” as pollsters Doug Schoen and Scott Rasmussen write in their book on the movement, but it cleans up after itself. It also just elected a new Congress supposedly intent on reining in spending.

By contrast, the crowds that have so far paraded (or stomped) through Europe’s capitals are an anti-tea party. They want more debt, not less, more entitlements, not fewer. Not yet demonstrating en masse, though they soon might, are nativist movements that have seized on legitimate fears about immigration. . . .

. . .

[T]he tests and trials that the EU faces are fast coming upon it. Bismarck once remarked that “Whoever speaks of ‘Europe’ is wrong. It is a geographical expression.” We may yet find out that he was right.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/Stephens-EuropeNeedsaTeaParty-WSJ.com.pdf (emphasis added)

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16 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Great Depression II

Despite the “green shoots”—or promising economic news, which seems to be present on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere in the world—one must never forget that the same thing occurred during the Great Depression of the last century too. Yet, we did not emerge from that depression until the onset of World War II.

Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics, and Steven Gjerstad wrote last year in the Wall Street Journal:

The events of the past 10 years have an eerie similarity to the period leading up to the Great Depression.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123897612802791281.html

These words were sobering then, and they are sobering now. Indeed, the predictions that I made last year have been coming true as well:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

What happened in last month’s mid-term elections in the United States is just the beginning, with much more to come.

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17 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The Ghost Towns Of China

The UK’s Daily Mail is reporting:

[A]mazing satellite images show sprawling cities built in remote parts of China that have been left completely abandoned, sometimes years after their construction.

Elaborate public buildings and open spaces are completely unused, with the exception of a few government vehicles near communist authority offices.

Some estimates put the number of empty homes at as many as 64 million, with up to 20 new cities being built every year in the country’s vast swathes of free land.

The photographs have emerged as a Chinese government think tank warns that the country’s real estate bubble is getting worse, with property prices in major cities overvalued by as much as 70 per cent.

. . .

‘If the bubble bursts, Japan’s past will be China’s present.’

But short-seller Jim Chanos has issued a more dire warning, and said he expected China’s economy to implode in a real estate bust.

He said the country was ‘on an economic treadmill to hell’ and the country’s bubble was ‘Dubai times 1,000′.

In the 1980s, Tokyo saw a massive rise in property prices and a subsequent crash. The Hong Kong property market experienced a similar phenomenon in the 1990s.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1339536/The-ghost-towns-China-Amazing-satellite-images-cities-meant-home-millions-lying-completely-deserted.html

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19 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

With The Collapse Of Its Economy, The Celtic Tiger’s Property Empire Unravels

The UK’s Telegraph is reporting:

[T]he tiger is whimpering.

. . .

[I]ndustry sources are preparing for Ireland’s London empire to start unwinding.

The collapse of the global credit markets and Ireland’s economy had a heavy impact on property investors whose growth to prominence was fuelled by a debt surge supported by the country’s hungry banks.

. . .

[N]ext year the sound from Irish investors threatens to be the Death March as they depart trophy London assets.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/8211753/Irelands-UK-property-empire-unwinds-as-it-sells-London-assets.html

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23 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

China Ready To Bail Out The EU?

In an article entitled, “Fresh humiliation for eurozone as China says it will bail out debt-ridden nations,” the UK’s Daily Mail has reported:

China has said it is willing to bail out debt-ridden countries in the euro zone using its $2.7trillion overseas investment fund.

In a fresh humiliation for Europe, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said it was one of the most important areas for China’s foreign exchange investments.

The country has already approached struggling European countries with financial aid, including offering to buy Greece’s debt in October and promising to buy $4billion of Portuguese government debt.

Today Portugal had its credit rating downgraded by the Fitch Ratings agency amid mounting concerns over the country’s ability to raise money in the markets to finance its hefty borrowings.

Fitch said it was reducing its rating on the country’s debt by one notch to A+ from AA- and warned that further downgrades may be in the offing by maintaining its negative outlook.

‘To have any discernible effect China will have to buy a lot more than 5billion euros if they expect to have any impact on the negative sentiment surrounding Europe,’ said Michael Hewson, currency analyst at CMC Markets.

China’s astonishing economic growth has put it on track to overtake America as the world’s economic powerhouse within two years, a recent report claimed.

But experts believed [it may] still be some years before America’s leadership role is really challenged—largely because Beijing has given no indication it is ready to take on the responsibility of shepherding the world’ [sic] economy.

This foray into the future of the euro could be a signal from Beijing that it is ready to change that perception.

. . .

It is still believed that it will be some years before China actually overtakes the U.S. to become the world’s largest economy.

Politicians argue that technology is still behind and much of the country still lives in poverty.

And in another economic measure, output per person, China lags way behind the US.

Last year, the International Monetary Fund calculated gross domestic product per head in the US at $46,000. The GDP breakdown in China was just $4,000 per person.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1341110/Fresh-humiliation-euro-zone-China-says-bail-debt-ridden-nations.html and http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/china-backs-spain-to-emerge-from-crisis-beijing-20110103-19dys.html (“Beijing will buy Spanish public debt“)

. . .

In an article insert, the Daily Mail added:

China could overtake America as the world’s biggest economy within two years, according to a leading financial think tank.

As growth in the U.S. slows down to a virtual standstill, China’s economy is revving up into double digits, the Conference Board said in a report published today.

In purely dollar terms, it is going to take much longer than two years for China’s $5 trillion economy to match up to the $15 trillion output in the US.

Even if the Chinese can sustain their current growth, it would take another ten years.

But in terms of purchasing power, taking into account the goods and services a country actually buys at home, China is well on its way to outstripping its fading competitor.

Looking even further ahead, the Conference Board predicts China could account for almost one quarter of the global economy in 2020, compared to 15 per cent for the US and 13 per cent for Western Europe.

The board predicted China’s economy should grow 10 per cent this year and 9.6 per cent in 2011, while America’s 2.6 per cent growth in 2010 will sink to 1.2 per cent next year.

See id.; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/#comment-1188

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25 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

2011: The World Will Be Grimmer

This is the judgment of Gideon Rachman, chief foreign-affairs commentator of the UK’s Financial Times, in an article that he has written for the UK’s Economist, which is worth reading:

Over the past two years, the world’s biggest economies have grappled with the threat of a new Great Depression. During the course of 2011, it will become clear that the global economic crisis has also soured international politics.

The political malaise is linked to the economic crisis. Twenty years of good times and global economic integration, after the end of the cold war, had profound political effects. They created a “win-win world” which ensured that all the major powers had reason to be satisfied. The United States was enjoying its “unipolar moment”; the European Union was expanding and prospering; China and India felt themselves getting richer and more powerful.

But the global economic crisis has changed the logic of international relations. Both as individuals and as a nation, Americans have begun to question whether the “new world order” that emerged after the cold war still favours the United States. The rise of China is increasingly associated with job losses for ordinary Americans and a challenge to American power. The European Union is also in a defensive mood—with protectionist and anti-immigration sentiment on the rise and tensions between the nations that have adopted the European single currency.

The result of this change in mood is that, after a long period of co-operation, competition and rivalry are returning to the international system. A win-win world is giving way to a zero-sum world.

During 2011, zero-sum logic will bedevil international relations. The three most important symptoms will be worsening relations between the United States and China, arguments within the EU and an acrimonious failure to make progress on any of the big items on the international diplomatic agenda—in particular climate change and nuclear proliferation.

Even mainstream American economists are now pointing the finger at Chinese currency policy, aimed at keeping the yuan undervalued against the dollar, as a source of persistently high unemployment in America. China is likely to make small gestures on the currency issue in 2011, but these will not be enough to buy off the American critics. As a result, the chances of protectionist legislation passing through Congress will rise sharply. Barack Obama, facing a tough re-election campaign in 2012, may well sign it. That, in turn, will help to poison the wider strategic relationship between China and America.

The main symptom of this will be an increasingly overt rivalry in the Pacific. The Chinese military build-up is continuing apace. America’s strategists will push back in 2011. They will step up military exercises with regional allies, such as Japan, India and South Korea. America and China will also rub up against each other in international forums such as the United Nations, the global negotiations on climate change and the various G20 summits.

The G20, in particular, will adopt an ambitious agenda under the hyperactive chairmanship of Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France. Mr Sarkozy is a believer in global governance, relishes the spotlight and is eager to garner some favourable headlines, ahead of a difficult re-election campaign in 2012. But he is likely to be more effective at stage-managing flashy summits than producing solid achievements.

That is because zero-sum logic—with tensions between America and China at the heart of the problem—will block progress on the biggest international issues. The two nations cannot even agree on whether there are “global economic imbalances” to do with trade and currencies—let alone what to do about them. China meanwhile remains very reluctant to tighten the international squeeze on Iran over that country’s nuclear programme, preferring to protect Chinese economic and energy interests. The stand-off between developed and developing nations which has thwarted progress towards a new international agreement on climate change will also persist in 2011, with China leading the developing world’s lobby.

International tensions will also rise between rich nations, particularly within the European Union, which has hitherto presented itself as the very exemplar of enlightened international co-operation. Once again, a weak economy will provide the backdrop and Mr Sarkozy will take centre-stage. As he attempts to revive his political fortunes at home, Mr Sarkozy is likely to take increasingly populist positions on crime and immigration—and he may also license his ministers to air his differences with Germany over austerity, budget deficits and management of the European Central Bank. This will mean that EU summits in Brussels become tense and acrimonious affairs throughout the year.

All in all, 2011 will be a year when world leaders get used to a new international political environment. The era of good feelings associated with the heyday of globalisation has gone for ever. Something grimmer, less productive and less predictable has taken its place.

See http://www.economist.com/node/17493390

What Rachman does not acknowledge is that the world is in the throes of the “Great Depression II” already, which economic historians will describe as such—or by using similar terms—20-40 years from now. Yes, there are “green shoots” of economic recovery, but those too will fade and become “dead weeds,” just as they did during the Great Depression of the last century. The very factors that Rachman describes will contribute to this process, and accelerate its progress. One must remember that the last Great Depression did not end until the onset of World War II; and no amount of government intervention changed that result.

What Rachman does not mention are other factors that possibly may be even more ominous, such as a shooting war on the Korean Peninsula (see, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-next-major-war-korea-again); a war between Israel and Iran or its surrogates; Barack Obama’s deteriorating Afghan war, and the effects it will likely have on the American psyche, which may be reminiscent of the Vietnam war and its consequences; and the list goes on and on—with respect to possible “shocks.”

What is certain is that 2011 will hold surprises that none of us can predict. Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly during the balance of this decade.

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29 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

California’s Cuts Will Be Dramatic

The Los Angeles Times has an article about incoming-Governor Jerry Brown’s budget plans for the state, which are likely to be draconian but necessary. Having advised his administration with respect to banking matters the last time he was the state’s governor, I am not surprised that austerity measures will be implemented.

There are likely to be massive cuts in governmental services that Californians have taken for granted, such as libraries, parks, education, law enforcement and prisons, with commensurate increases in crime and an overall deterioration in the quality of many lives.

The Times’ article entitled, “Jerry Brown plays hardball on state budget”—and subtitled, “His plan will confront both parties, with calls for tax extensions and deep program cuts”—is worth reading. There are few people who know more about California’s government than Jerry Brown.

See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-budget-20101229,0,6267084.story

As the economic decline continues globally, nationally and in California during the balance of this decade, Jerry Brown is correct in doing what this article indicates. There can be no “sacred cows” in terms of budget cutting.

For example, as higher education shifts more and more to the Internet, and the Middle Class is priced out of extravagant college educations for their children, changes are automatic. Bricks-and-mortar spending is a thing of the past, especially when classes can be recorded and shown again and again on YouTube; and virtual universities become the new “norm” in terms of education.

Indeed, one can walk through the lovely college campuses of today and look at dinosaurs. Like newspapers, they are relics of a bygone era. Economics alone dictates this result. Romanticism has no place in budget planning.

Once all of the fat is wrung out of state spending that is possible, the new governor’s only viable option will be to seek help from Washington. Other states and government entities will be doing the same; and the line will be long. Yes, California will be met with resistance and even hostility by the new Republican House, because of California’s Democrat base, Democrat-controlled legislature, Democrat governor, and Democrat senators, but there is no other choice.

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly.

See also http://lamesa.patch.com/articles/there-outta-be-a-law-californians-getting-725-new-ones-in-2011 (“Californians Getting 725 New [Laws] in 2011″) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1074 (“California On The Brink“)

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29 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

Obama Vacations In Hawaii While Much Of The Nation Suffers—And Has The Gall To Advocate “Global Warming” Curbs!

Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, while much of the United States is suffering from freezing temperatures and massive, unprecedented snows. Or as Michelle Obama has said, paraphrasing her: “Let them eat cake!”

See http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2010/12/president-and-family-multi-million-dollar-christmas-vacation-hawa and http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.894f9613dde7faf0e564d8d311b3922e.131&show_article=1 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1172 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1127

Indeed, Obama’s White House plans to push “Global Warming” policies, despite the fact that “Global Warming” is a fraud and a hoax.

It has been reported, from Honolulu:

After failing to get climate-change legislation through Congress, the Obama administration plans on pushing through its environmental policies through other means, and Republicans are ready to put up a fight.

On Jan. 2, new carbon emissions limits will be put forward as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares regulations that would force companies to get permits to release greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Critics say the new rules are a backdoor effort to enact the president’s agenda on global warming without the support of Congress, and would hurt the economy and put jobs in jeopardy by forcing companies to pay for expensive new equipment.

. . .

The administration says it has the power to issue the regulation under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that directed the [EPA] to make a determination on whether carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming, was a hazard to human health.

. . .

With Republicans taking control in the House, the GOP will be in a better position to take on some of these policies, and members are promising a fight if the Obama White House moves forward with any carbon crackdown. There was bipartisan support for a bill proposed this year that would have stripped the EPA of the power to set carbon emissions limits. GOP lawmakers could bring the measure back.

The White House seems prepared for a fight.

The administration recently circulated a memo from the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren to the heads of all federal departments and agencies calling for “a clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency.”

See http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/28/white-house-plans-push-global-warming-policy-gop-vows-fight/

We can all remember how much of a fight the inept Republicans put up during the 2010 lame-duck session of Congress, when Obama and his Democrats rolled them!

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31 12 2010
Timothy D. Naegele

The World At War

Foreign Policy has a piece entitled, “Next Year’s Wars”—and subtitled, “The 16 brewing conflicts to watch for in 2011″—which is worth noting. However, it does not include a possible war on the Korean Peninsula, which might prove catastrophic.

See http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/12/28/next_years_wars?page=full and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-next-major-war-korea-again/

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5 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Current Financial Crisis Is The Second Great Depression

These are the words of American political pundit Ann Coulter in an article entitled, “Investigate This!”—which is worth reading.

Coulter adds:

Goo-goo liberals with federal titles pressured banks into making absurd loans to high-risk borrowers—demanding, for example, that the banks accept unemployment benefits as collateral. Then Fannie repackaged the bad loans as “prime mortgages” and sold them to banks, thus poisoning the entire financial market with hidden bad loans.

. . .

So far, Fannie and Freddie’s default on loans that should never have been made has cost the taxpayer tens of billions of dollars. Some estimates say the final cost to the taxpayer will be more than $1 trillion. To put that number in perspective, for a trillion dollars, President Obama could pass another stupid, useless stimulus package that doesn’t create a single real job.

. . .

Over and over again, Republicans tried to rein in the politically correct policies being foisted on mortgage lenders by Fannie Mae, only to be met by a Praetorian Guard of Democrats howling that Republicans hated the poor.

In 2003, Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee wrote a bill to tighten the lending regulation of Fannie and Freddie. Every single Democrat on the committee voted against it.

In the House, Barney Frank angrily proclaimed that Fannie Mae was “just fine.”

. . .

As the titanic losses were racking up, Fannie Mae’s operators, Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick, disguised the catastrophe by orchestrating a $5 billion accounting fraud—all the while continuing to pressure banks to make absurd, politically correct loans and denouncing Republicans as enemies of the poor.

. . .

As Peter Schweizer points out in his magnificent book “Architects of Ruin,” which everyone should read, Enron’s accounting fraud was a paltry $567 million—and it didn’t bring down the entire financial system. Those involved in the Enron manipulations went to prison. Raines and Gorelick not only didn’t go to jail, they walked away with multimillion-dollar payouts, courtesy of the taxpayer.

(Here’s more fascinating Jamie Gorelick trivia: That giant wall she built between the FBI and the CIA, making 9/11 possible? It was financed with a risky loan from Fannie Mae.)

Under the Democrats’ 2010 “Financial Reform” bill (written by Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and Goldman Sachs), Raines keeps his $90 million, Jamie Gorelick keeps her $26.4 million, and Goldman keeps its $12 billion from the AIG bailout.

See http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=41005

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14 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

What Remains Of An Undergraduate Degree In Economics

As indicated above and elsewhere in my writings, I believe:

Economists are like mindless lemmings; and their reliability is less than that of weathermen (and women) on TV. They never saw the downturn coming; they have been at a loss to predict its duration; and they do not have an earthly clue about where we are going. The best of the lot might be able to describe what happened in the past, but not much more than that.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such 20-40 years from now, or by using similar descriptions. Yes, there are “green shoots,” and will be from time to time, just as there were during the Great Depression of the last century too. However, it did not end until the onset of World War II—and not because of any governmental economic programs or “tinkering.”

Hold on tight, and sit on the sidelines with cash. Things will get very ugly before this decade has run its course.

Having read this, a Wall Street Journal contributor brought words by economist Joan Robinson to my attention, which are wise and worthwhile repeating:

The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.

See, e.g., http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joan_Robinson; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Robinson

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24 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

China On “Collision Course” With USA

In an important article about China—which is subtitled, “We all learned at school how the status quo powers mismanaged the spectacular rise of Germany before World War I, a strategic revolution so like the rise of China today”—the UK Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written:

[W]e all learned how the Kaiser overplayed his hand. That much was obvious.

Yet it is difficult to pin-point exactly when the normal pattern of great power jostling began to metamorphose into something more dangerous. . . .

. . .

Is China now where Germany was in 1900? Possibly. There are certainly hints of menace from some quarters in Beijing. Defence minister Liang Guanglie said over New Year that China’s armed forces are “pushing forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction”.

Professor Huang Jing from Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew School and a former adviser to China’s Army, said Beijing is losing its grip on the colonels.

“The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system,” he said.

. . .

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Mr Hu a “dictator”. Is this a remotely apposite term for a self-effacing man of Confucian leanings, whose father was a victim of the Cultural Revolution, who fights a daily struggle against his own hotheads at home, and who will hand over power in an orderly transition next year?

. . .

Factions in Beijing appear to think that China will win a trade war if Washington ever imposes sanctions to counter Chinese mercantilism. That is a fatal misjudgement. The lesson of Smoot-Hawley and the 1930s is that surplus states suffer crippling depressions when the guillotine comes down on free trade; while deficit states can muddle through, reviving their industries behind barriers. Demand is the most precious commodity of all in a world of excess supply.

The political reality is that China’s export of manufacturing over-capacity is hollowing out the US industrial core, and a plethora of tricks to stop Western firms competing in the Chinese market rubs salt in the wound. It is preventing full recovery in the US, where half the population is falling out of the bottom of the Affluent Society. Some 43.2m people are now on food stamps. The US labour force participation rate has fallen to 64.3pc, worse than a year ago. Only the richer half is recovering.

. . .

China’s economic and military goals are in conflict. One defeats the other.

. . .

A cocky China needs to watch its step, as does a rancorous America, before resentments feed on each other in a Wilhelmine spiral.

The Chinese have no recent history of sweeping territorial expansion (except Tibet). The one-child policy has left a dearth of young men, and implies a chronic aging crisis within a decade. This is not the demographic profile of a fundamentally bellicose nation.

The correct statecraft for the West is to treat Beijing politely but firmly as a member of global club, gambling that the Confucian ethic will over time incline China to a quest for global as well as national concord.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8277143/Appeasement-is-the-proper-policy-towards-Confucian-China.html (emphasis added)

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26 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Bank of England Governor Warns: Standard Of Living To Plunge At Fastest Rate Since 1920s

As reported in the UK’s Telegraph, Bank of England chief Mervyn King warns that households face the most dramatic squeeze in living standards since the 1920s:

Families will see their disposable income eaten up as they “pay the inevitable price” for the financial crisis, Mervyn King warned.

With wages failing to keep pace with rising inflation, workers’ take-home pay will end the year worth the same as in 2005—the most prolonged fall in living standards for more than 80 years, he claimed.

. . .

Savers and “those who behaved prudently” would be among the biggest losers in the squeeze, he admitted.

Disposable household income has been hit by sharp increases in the cost of food, fuel and tax, coupled with restricted wage rises for most workers. Last year, take-home pay fell by about 12 per cent, official figures showed, and the trend was expected to continue in 2011.

The governor warned that the Bank “neither can, nor should try to, prevent the squeeze in living standards”.

. . .

The comments represented one of the governor’s starkest warnings yet. His claim that the banking crisis was behind the ongoing squeeze on living standards comes at a sensitive time, as banks prepare to announce multi-million pound bonuses for their executives.

. . .

Addressing the problems of borrowers, he added: “Households and small businesses with little housing equity may be unable to borrow at all or are able to borrow only in the unsecured market—where rates are much higher than before the crisis.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8282354/Bank-of-England-chief-Mervyn-King-standard-of-living-to-plunge-at-fastest-rate-since-1920s.html; see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1350557/This-biggest-squeeze-families-1920s-warns-Bank-England-chief.html (“Mervyn King painted a picture of the nightmare facing millions of ­workers because of the toxic combination of soaring inflation and pay freezes or paltry pay rises“)

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27 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Will Obama Dig Us Out Of The Second Great Depression? Do You Believe In The Tooth Fairy?

In another scintillating and scorching column, Ann Coulter writes:

I missed the middle section of Obama’s State of the Union address when I took a break to read “War and Peace,” but I gather he never got around to what I was hoping he’d say, which is: “What was I thinking?”

The national debt is $14 trillion, the Democrats won’t stop spending, and President Nero gave us a long gaseous speech about his Stradivarius.

. . .

Obama said the government was already “investing” in solar panels! That’s a total relief. This must be how the president who brought us “Recovery Summer” is going to dig us out of the second Great Depression.

But I do wonder why no private lender considered solar panels a wise investment, forcing solar panel manufacturers to turn to the government for loans, followed by endless tax credits just to break even.

. . .

Remember how massive government “investments” gave rise to the telephone, the light bulb, the automobile, the airplane, the personal computer … OK, none of those.

But massive government expenditures did give us Amtrak and the TSA!

The only thing Obama vowed to cut were “earmarks.” Yippee! The guy with the ears is against earmarks. Yes, the same president who quadrupled our deficit by giving money away to his UAW pals, Wall Street cronies and government workers is now lecturing us about earmarks. This is a bit like being scolded by Charlie Sheen for ordering a second wine cooler.

. . .

The big laugh line was when Nero said mockingly, “I heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about the health care law.” That’s called “60 percent of the American public.” It’s not a joke, and it’s not funny.

See http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=41419

Even more sobering than Ann Coulter’s often humorous insights is a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled, “After You, Mr. Ryan”—and subtitled, “The President says the deficit is the GOP’s problem now”—which states in pertinent part:

President Obama’s political message in Tuesday’s State of the Union address boils down to this: Republicans, it’s your budget problem now.

The deficit is awful and must be cut, entitlements are unsustainable and must be addressed, the tax code hurts growth and must be reformed, and government should be smaller and more efficient, but don’t look to Mr. Obama for ideas on how to fix any of this. Go ahead and cut spending and Medicare if you want, Republicans. The President will get back to you with his reply as time and politics allow.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703293204576106293283157786.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Having let former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats in Congress write the legislation that has put our great nation in its present financial bind, it is not surprising that Obama would once again abdicate his responsibilities and try to shift blame to others.

The Journal’s editorial continues:

As political strategy, perhaps this will turn out to be shrewd. Republicans will advance their budget and spending cuts, Democrats will attack them, the voters will sour, and Mr. Obama will ride to re-election. It happened in 1996.

. . .

At least the address had good timing, because less than 12 hours later the Congressional Budget Office released its annual budget review and exposed how deep the fiscal mess really is. Even CBO dared to call it “daunting,” which for these budget gnomes is a primal scream.

Eighteen months after the recession formally ended, the federal deficit for fiscal 2011 (through September) is expected to increase once again, this time to $1.48 trillion, or 9.8% of GDP. That’s a share of GDP topped since World War II only by the 10% reached in Mr. Obama’s first year in office, when at least the recession was an excuse. The annual deficit in the 1980s never exceeded 6% of GDP.

. . .

So this is the ugly budget reality that House Republicans are inheriting. In his Tuesday night response to Mr. Obama, House Budget Chairman [Paul Ryan] repeated a line he has often used that the U.S. may be at a budget “tipping point.” Either Congress begins to control its political appetites, or the debt financing and inevitable tax increases that are coming will erode our economic well-being. The CBO numbers bear him out.

Judging by Tuesday night, Republicans will have to start this reformation without much help from the President. Perhaps if they lead, the public will put enough pressure on Mr. Obama that he has no choice but to follow.

Again, Obama is a far-Left, anti-war, raving narcissist who has been weakening this great nation at every turn since he became the president. He must be removed from office at the earliest date possible, before he can do even greater damage.

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27 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Scent Of Jasmine Spreads

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Economist—about the protests in Tunisia that toppled its government, and in Yemen and Egypt—which is worth reading.

See http://www.economist.com/node/18010573?story_id=18010573&fsrc=nlw|hig|01-27-2011|editors_highlights; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/8289686/Egypt-protests-Americas-secret-backing-for-rebel-leaders-behind-uprising.html (“Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising”) and http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2011/01/axelrod-president-obama-has-on-several-occasions-directly-confronted-mubarak-on-human-rights-for-the.html

After Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, where will the chaos spread next, and topple governments? Jordan, other Arab countries (including Iran), Europe, Russia, North Korea, China, the UK, America and beyond? Farfetched, you say? Think again.

As I have written, the world is in the throes of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such (or by using similar terms) 20-40 years from now. Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, indicating that a recovery is underway, just as such signs appeared during the last Great Depression—which only ended with the onset of World War II.

The politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are flailing around, trying to come up with solutions, when there are none. Not only is there a yearning for democracy, but the world is facing economic problems that have not been seen since the last Great Depression. As I wrote more than a year ago:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly. The chickens are coming home to roost, in the Middle East and elsewhere. In all likelihood, cowardly anti-war President Barack Obama—who failed to come to the aid of those courageous Iranians who were tortured and killed after rising up in protest against the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following the 2009 Iranian presidential election—and other politicians will be swept out of office. And yes, “the scent of the jasmine revolution,” as the Tunisians are calling their national upheaval, is in the process of spreading worldwide.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/; see also the comments beneath both articles

The Economist has said:

Tunisia could yet provide a hopeful beacon for Arabs looking for democracy.

See http://www.economist.com/node/18010573?story_id=18010573&fsrc=nlw|hig|01-27-2011|editors_highlights

This may be true of other people too—for example, in Iran, North Korea and eventually Russia and China—or chaos might reign. Whatever the future holds, we may be living in a decade that truly changes lives as well as the world.

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30 01 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Will Barack Obama Go Down In History As The President Who Lost The Middle East?

As I have written:

[Obama's] naïveté is matched by his overarching narcissism; and he is more starry-eyed and “dangerous” than Jimmy Carter. Indeed, it is likely that his presidency will be considered a sad and tragic watershed in history; and the American people are recognizing this more and more with each day that passes. Hopefully he chooses to end his political career with dignity by not running for reelection in 2012, instead of continuing to drag this great nation down with him.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected

He is a cowardly demagogue, who failed to come to the aid of those courageous Iranians who were tortured and killed after rising up in protest against the disputed victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following the 2009 Iranian presidential election.

It was a seminal moment in Obama’s presidency up to that point in time. He flinched, and demonstrated to the world that he is not a true small-“d” democrat; and that he is weak like Jimmy Carter was. He stood with our enemy, the theocracy in Iran.

With respect to Egypt, the United States must do whatever is necessary to make sure that radical Islam does not take over the country. If it happens, and if that spreads—for example to Jordan, another ally of ours and of Israel—at the very least Obama will go down in history as the president who lost the Middle East. Also, this might determine the fate of Israel.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1344; but see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703833204576114252976824050.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop (“Egypt . . . has the opportunity to become what it always should have been—the leader of a movement toward freedom and democracy in the Arab world”)

Political pundit and former Bill Clinton adviser, Dick Morris, has warned:

Unless President Obama reverses field and strongly opposes letting the Muslim [B]rotherhood take over Egypt, he will be hit with the . . . question: Who Lost Egypt?

The Iranian government is waiting for Egypt to fall into its lap. The Muslim Brotherhood, dominated by Iranian Islamic fundamentalism, will doubtless emerge as the winner should the government of Egypt fall. The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran.

The United States has enormous leverage in Egypt—far more than it had in Iran. We provide Egypt with upwards of $2 billion a year in foreign aid under the provisos of the Camp David Accords orchestrated by Carter. The Egyptian military, in particular, receives $1.3 billion of this money. The United States, as the pay master, needs to send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists. Instead, Obama has put our military aid to Egypt “under review” to pressure Mubarak to mute his response to the demonstrators and has given top priority to “preventing the loss of human life.”

President Obama should say that Egypt has always been a friend of the United States. He should point out that it was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel. He should recall that President Sadat, who signed the peace accords, paid for doing so with his life and that President Mubarak has carried on in his footsteps. He should condemn the efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood extremists to take over the country and indicate that America stands by her longtime ally. He should address the need for reform and urge Mubarak to enact needed changes. But his emphasis should be on standing with our ally.

The return of Nobel laureate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) . . . to Egypt as the presumptive heir to Mubarak tells us where this revolution is headed. Carolyn Glick, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, explains how dangerous ElBaradei is. “As IAEA head,” she writes, “Elbaradei shielded Iran’s nuclear weapons program from the Security Council. He [has] continued to lobby against significant UN Security Council sanctions or other actions against Iran…Last week, he dismissed the threat of a nuclear armed Iran [saying] ‘there is a lot of hype in this debate’.”

As for the Muslim Brotherhood, Glick notes that “it forms the largest and best organized opposition to the Mubarak regime and [is] the progenitor of Hamas and al [Qaeda]. It seeks Egypt’s transformation into an Islamic regime that will stand at the forefront of the global jihad.”

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

Egypt, with 80 million people, is the largest country in the Middle East or North Africa. Combined with Iran’s 75 million (the second largest) they have 155 million people. By contrast the entire rest of the region—Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar combined—have only 200 million.

We must not let the two most populous and powerful nations in the region fall under the sway of Muslim extremism, the one through the weakness of Jimmy Carter and the other through the weakness of Barack Obama.

See http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/who-lost-egypt/

The United States cannot afford to lose Egypt, Jordan and other allies in the region. Among other things, Obama is pulling our forces out of Iraq; and a debacle is likely to follow in Afghanistan too, which seems to be a lost cause. All of this might determine the fate of Israel.

See, e.g., http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110201/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iraq;_ylt=Akg0dRp1i4NSyUsUi6YKt.0LewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTJkdnRuaHE2BGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwMjAxL21sX2lyYXEEcG9zAzEEc2VjA3luX3BhZ2luYXRlX3N1bW1hcnlfbGlzdARzbGsDc2VuYXRlcmVwb3J0 (“American diplomats and other mission employees may not be safe in Iraq if the U.S. military leaves the volatile country at the end of the year as planned, according to a new report released [by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee]“)

As I have written:

Obama is a [fool, a] fad and a feckless naïf, and a tragic Shakespearean figure who will be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history—unless he tragically alters the course of American history.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected (emphasis added)

Obama might tragically alter America’s history by losing the Middle East.

The Israelis are deeply and justifiably concerned. In an important article entitled, “Israel shocked by Obama’s ‘betrayal’ of Mubarak,” Reuters has reported:

If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday.

Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.

“We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”

Newspaper columnists were far more blunt.

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

. . .

Obama on Sunday called for an “orderly transition” to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on Mubarak to step down, but signaling that his days may be numbered.

“AMERICA HAS LOST IT”

Netanyahu instructed Israeli ambassadors in a dozen key capitals over the weekend to impress on host governments that Egypt’s stability is paramount, official sources said.

“Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications,” Haaretz daily quoted one official as saying.

Egypt, Israel’s most powerful neighbor, was the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state, in 1979. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty, was assassinated two years later by an Egyptian fanatic.

It took another 13 years before King Hussein of Jordan broke Arab ranks to [make] a second peace with the Israelis. That treaty was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated one year later, in 1995, by an Israeli fanatic.

There have been no peace treaties since. Lebanon and Syria are still technically at war with Israel. Conservative Gulf Arab regimes have failed to advance their peace ideas. A hostile Iran has greatly increased its influence in the Middle East conflict.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/31/us-egypt-israel-usa-idUSTRE70U53720110131; see also http://apnews.myway.com/article/20110130/D9L2Q1Q00.html (“If Egypt resumes its conflict with Israel, Israelis fear, it will put a powerful Western-armed military on the side of Israel’s enemies while also weakening pro-Western states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia”)

Also, in an article captioned, “Israel Watches ‘Regional Earthquake’ in Egypt,” the Wall Street Journal has reported:

Israeli commentators depicted the crumbling of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt as a regional earthquake, calling it the most significant Middle East event since the 1979 revolution against the Shah in Iran.

. . .

The speed at which Mr. Mubarak’s troubles escalated appeared to blindside Israeli officials, who have watched with growing alarm as protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities swelled, endangering the grip on power of their strongest ally in the region. Inspired by a popular uprising in Tunisia, Egyptian protests swelled in a matter of days late last week. By the weekend, it was clear Mr. Mubarak’s reign was in jeopardy.

“We were caught by surprise,” said Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in New York, a few hours before Mr. Mubarak’s announcement. “The Egyptian regime seemed very strong and very stable.”

Israel has a huge stake in Egypt’s stability. The historic 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, which share a long border, is the cornerstone of a regional balance. For more than 30 years, Israel has been able to count on Egypt to refrain from siding in Arab hostilities against the Jewish state.

An unfriendly government in Egypt would deprive Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his only ally in a region that has grown more hostile toward Israel over the past several years, with the growing influence of Iran, the armed takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the rise of Hezbollah as a major political force in Lebanon, and Turkey’s tilt away from Israel and toward Syria.

Apart from geopolitical interest, Israel has economic stakes in Egyptian stability. Egyptian natural-gas supplies generate 20% to 25% of Israel’s electricity needs.

Israeli officials have said they worry that elections in Egypt could benefit Islamist groups hostile to Israel. Mr. Steinitz said Israel supports the establishment of a democracy in Egypt. But “sometimes, even democracies can lead to very negative results.” he said.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/IsraelWatchesRegionalEarthquakeinEgypt.pdf

The battle of Cairo has begun, just as battles have begun elsewhere in the Middle East. They will be ugly and brutal. When the dust settles finally, America’s “Hamlet on the Potomac”—or “Jimmy Carter-lite”—Barack Obama might have lost the region, just as Carter lost Iran to Islamic fascists. The consequences will be mind-boggling.

See also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576117801815760950.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories#articleTabs%3Dinteractive (The Wall Street Journal’s Interactive Timeline of “Regional Upheaval” in the Middle East)

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1 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

American Home Ownership Falls to Preboom Levels

The Wall Street Journal is reporting:

The meltdown of the U.S. mortgage market and rising foreclosures have wiped out more homeowners than were created in the 2000-07 housing boom, . . . the latest indication of the severity of the housing bust.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, 66.5% of Americans owned homes, down from 67.2% a year earlier and the lowest rate since the end of 1998, according the Census Bureau. During the boom, when easy credit made mortgages available with less regard for income or ability to pay, the ownership rate surged to a record 69.2% in 2004’s second and fourth quarters and stayed near that level until the recession deepened.

Some industry watchers expect the rate to slip below 65% as the housing market meltdown forces millions more Americans to give up their homes.

That “shows how big the bubble was and how catastrophic the bursting has been,” said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics. “We have pretty much reversed all of the increases in the home-owner rate generated by the housing boom.”

. . .

The first wave of trouble struck several years ago as borrowers took out so-called subprime mortgages with low interest rates that later reset, often with much higher payments that they couldn’t afford. The problem spread as the recession led to high unemployment. Now, as declining real-estate values leave many borrowers owning more than their homes are worth, more Americans are simply walking away.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704254304576116402472968150.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_us

The trends described in this Journal article are apt to continue and get much worse between now and the end of this decade, as the “Great Depression II” continues to take its toll. Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time just as there were during the Great Depression of the last century, leading some people to believe that the worst has passed. However, only “dead weeds” or disappointments and fears are likely to follow.

See also http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-cash-only-20110301,0,2765168,full.story (“Cash-only home sales rise in California”) and http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2011-05-26-foreclosure-discounts_n.htm (“Foreclosure homes are selling at a 27% discount to non-distressed properties nationwide, but discounts are far larger in some states”) and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43175612/ns/business-personal_finance/ (“Sales of homes in some stage of foreclosure . . . accounted for 28 percent of all home sales—a share nearly six times higher than what it would be in a healthy housing market. . . . ‘It’s an astronomically high number'”)

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19 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Ireland: An Age Of Recklessness

The BBC News has an article entitled, “Loss of faith in the Irish fairy tale,” which is worth reading.

See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/9401513.stm

What this article does not state—but it should—is that the worst is yet to come. While house prices have collapsed already, and there are empty houses that nobody will buy, Ireland has not even seen the half of it.

The economic tsunami is still rolling worldwide that has given rise to the “Great Depression II”—which economic historians will describe as such (or by using similar terms) 20-40 years from now—and it might not end during this decade. Irish property values will crash even more, perhaps declining another 50 percent; and the bottom is nowhere in sight.

The writer of the BBC article noted:

Nothing is so pervasive now in Ireland as the feeling of betrayal. I think we are on the verge of momentous change here.

This is simply the tip of an enormous iceberg. As I wrote almost two years ago:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

The chickens are coming home to roost, and Ireland will be hit harder than most countries.

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24 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The New Wave Of Emigration Dooms Ireland, And Even Guinness Reels

The Wall Street Journal has an important article that describes the new wave of Irish emigrants who are turning their backs on the Emerald Isle, which is mired in an economic collapse—and is likely to sink even farther during the balance of this decade. The article is worth reading, and states in pertinent part:

Nothing seems to better symbolize Ireland’s economic crisis than the re-emergence of large-scale emigration, a scourge many hoped had been slain for good.

. . .

[E]migration is on everyone’s lips. For many it encapsulates the sense of hopelessness that has descended on Ireland as the country grapples with one of the worst economic crises in its history.

“We never thought we’d see this again,” says Alan Barrett, an expert in migration at the Economic and Social Research Institute, a Dublin think tank. “It brings back a lot of bad memories.”

Forced emigration was long Ireland’s curse. A million fled in the decade after the great potato famine of the mid-19th century, which killed some 800,000 people. There was a huge exodus a hundred years later, with thousands lured away by a building boom in the U.K. Another mass migration followed in the 1980s.

. . .

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office predicts that 100,000 people will emigrate over the next two years, more than twice the number that left in 2009 and 2010. That comes to about 1,000 per week, and exceeds the last peak in emigration in 1989 when 44,000 people moved away.

The overall figure represents just over 2% of Ireland’s population of 4.47 million, which economists say by itself isn’t enough to prevent a recovery.

But there are fears that the more people leave, the greater the tax burden on those who stay and the bigger the decline in public services like education and health care.

An exodus could also reduce demand for housing, depressing already low prices and deepening the losses faced by Irish banks. Since the government is on the hook for banks’ liabilities, more losses could worsen Ireland’s fiscal crisis, leading to more austerity measures and higher unemployment. Such a “fiscal feedback loop” could increase the incentive to leave, says John McHale, an economist at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

And while demographic data on emigrants is scarce, many of those leaving are believed to be well-educated professionals—precisely the people Ireland needs to lead a recovery.

. . .

It’s not just English-speaking countries that the Irish are heading for. After the U.K., the favorite destinations for Irish people last year were new European Union member states such as Poland and the Czech Republic, with older EU countries like France and Germany coming in third, according to figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.

. . .

Carlow symbolizes Ireland’s downturn. A town of 18,000 in the country’s southeast, it was once a magnet for foreign companies. But investment has dribbled away. A big sugar factory closed in 2005, taking 350 jobs with it, and a German engineering firm shut down its car component plant in 2007. Two years later, Procter & Gamble Co.’s Braun unit, which had once employed more than 2,400 staff in the town, closed an electrical appliance factory. Carlow’s quaint high street—once nicknamed the Golden Mile—is pockmarked with boarded-up shops.

“Our economic miracles are always of such short duration,” says [Martin] Lynch. “We just can’t seem to have a sustainable economy.”

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/IrelandHasFlashbacksasThousandsEmigrateforBetterLife.pdf (“Irish Remedy for Hard Times: Leaving“); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1442 (“Ireland: An Age Of Recklessness“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1018 (“Ireland Is Collapsing, And Aer Lingus Feels It Acutely“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1011 (“Irish Cutbacks Pile It On For ‘New Poor’“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-980 (“British Banks Have $225 billion Exposure To Ireland’s Economic Crisis“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-951 (“Ireland’s Fate Tied to Doomed Banks“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-779 (“Ireland, Portugal Stir European Fears“)

. . .

Lastly, the Wall Street Journal has an article entitled, “As Ireland Staggers, Guinness Reels,” which describes Ireland’s other woes:

Economic turmoil isn’t just crippling Ireland’s banks. It also is draining sales of Guinness—the country’s famed dark-brown stout and de facto national drink.

Guinness consumption in Ireland had been falling slowly for years as Irish drinkers abandoned pubs to imbibe at home, switched to alternatives and trimmed their alcohol consumption generally. But Ireland’s latest woes, which led to a €67.5 billion ($92.8 billion) bailout for the country’s banks in December, dealt an extra blow to Guinness.

Guinness sales dropped 8% in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the six months to Dec. 31, parent Diageo PLC reported recently, while the overall Irish beer market fell 6%. Struggling with 13.4% unemployment and the prospect of government cutbacks, the Irish have closed their wallets to extra spending.

. . .

John Kennedy, Diageo’s managing director for Ireland, says the decrease in the country’s pub traffic is longstanding. “It has been accelerated, but it’s nothing new, and we know what to do to mitigate that,” he says. “But what we haven’t seen before is the collapse of consumer confidence that Ireland has had in the last two years.”

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/IrelandsWoesDealBlowtoGuinness.pdf

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25 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

An Epic Political Moment Of Singular Clarity

This is in essence how the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer has described the turmoil gripping statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and soon others. He has written another terrific column, which states in pertinent part:

The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity.

At the federal level, President Obama’s budget makes clear that Democrats are determined to do nothing about the debt crisis, while House Republicans have announced that beyond their proposed cuts in discretionary spending, their April budget will actually propose real entitlement reform. Simultaneously, in Wisconsin and other states, Republican governors are taking on unsustainable, fiscally ruinous pension and health-care obligations, while Democrats are full-throated in support of the public-employee unions crying, “Hell, no.”

A choice, not an echo: Democrats desperately defending the status quo; Republicans charging the barricades.

Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.

Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute—and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance.

The unions quickly understood that the more than 85 percent of Wisconsin not part of this privileged special-interest group would not take kindly to “public servants” resisting adjustments that still leave them paying less for benefits than private-sector workers. They immediately capitulated and claimed they were only protesting the other part of the bill, the part about collective-bargaining rights.

Indeed. Walker understands that a one-time giveback means little. The state’s financial straits—a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years—did not come out of nowhere. They came largely from a half-century-long power imbalance between the unions and the politicians with whom they collectively bargain.

In the private sector, the capitalist knows that when he negotiates with the union, if he gives away the store, he loses his shirt. In the public sector, the politicians who approve any deal have none of their own money at stake. On the contrary, the more favorably they dispose of union demands, the more likely they are to be the beneficiary of union largess in the next election. It’s the perfect cozy setup.

To redress these perverse incentives that benefit both negotiating parties at the expense of the taxpayer, Walker’s bill would restrict future government-union negotiations to wages only. Excluded from negotiations would be benefits, the more easily hidden sweeteners that come due long after the politicians who negotiated them are gone. The bill would also require that unions be recertified every year and that dues be voluntary.

Recognizing this threat to union power, the Democratic Party is pouring money and fury into the fight. Fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized. The Democrats’ strength lies in government workers, who now constitute a majority of union members and provide massive support to the party. For them, Wisconsin represents a dangerous contagion.

Hence the import of the current moment—its blinding clarity. Here stand the Democrats, avatars of reactionary liberalism, desperately trying to hang on to the gains of their glory years—from unsustainable federal entitlements for the elderly enacted when life expectancy was 62 to the massive promissory notes issued to government unions when state coffers were full and no one was looking.

Obama’s Democrats have become the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Entitlement reform? No. Tax reform? No. Breaking the corrupt and fiscally unsustainable symbiosis between public-sector unions and state governments? Hell, no.

We have heard everyone—from Obama’s own debt commission to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—call the looming debt a mortal threat to the nation. We have watched Greece self-immolate. We can see the future. The only question has been: When will the country finally rouse itself?

Amazingly, the answer is: now. Led by famously progressive Wisconsin—Scott Walker at the state level and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan at the congressional level—a new generation of Republicans has looked at the debt and is crossing the Rubicon. Recklessly principled, they are putting the question to the nation: Are we a serious people?

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/24/AR2011022406520.html

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28 02 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Bernie Madoff: The Market Is A Whole Rigged Job, And There’s No Chance That Investors Have In This Market [UPDATED]

Convicted swindler and consummate narcissist Bernard Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. He was interviewed by New York Magazine, and its terrific article states in pertinent part:

From the beginning, Madoff . . . had a chip on his shoulder, along with a certain contempt for the industry he’d chosen. “It was always a business where you had to have an edge, and the little guy never got a break. The institutions controlled everything,” he said in a voice surprisingly thick with emotion. “I realized from a very early stage that the market is a whole rigged job. There’s no chance that investors have in this market.

. . .

At first, Madoff ground out a modest but steady income on the scraps of business tossed his way by Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns, action that was too much trouble and too little profit for them. “I was perfectly happy to take the crumbs,” he said. Madoff was a market-maker, a middleman between those who wanted to buy and sell small quantities of mostly bonds—odd lots. “It was a riskless business,” he said. “You made the spread,” buying at one price and selling at a higher one, and in those days the spreads could be substantial, 50 or 75 cents or even a dollar a share. Madoff increased his profits by trading on the side.

. . .

Madoff wanted to grow his trading business, and a good way to do that was to expand his market-making business. But that meant going up against the New York Stock Exchange, the heart of the club. At the NYSE, a few firms controlled market-making, executing most large trades while getting rich on the spread. Madoff was one of the first to see that technology could match buyers and sellers more efficiently and cheaply than a human trader shouting orders amid a blizzard of paper on the floor of the exchange. By 1970, Madoff had hired his brother, Peter, who proved gifted at designing trading technology, and soon Madoff’s automated-trading systems began siphoning trading volume, and profits, from the NYSE.

. . .

[H]e became a criminal near the peak of his legitimate success. He’d always continued to trade with other people’s money, an activity that eventually fell under a separate investment-advisory business. His largest clients had invested with him for decades, records later showed. In the early days, Madoff mostly employed technical and fairly low-risk arbitrage techniques built around his market-making business. . . . By the late eighties, he had, he estimates, $3 billion to $4 billion under management.

. . .

Madoff started borrowing from his investors’ capital to pay out those solid returns. The returns, false though they were, were their own advertisement. New money started pouring in, saving him in the near term. And this was a different sort of money, the kind that came from bankers who wouldn’t have given Madoff the time of day earlier in his career. “The chairman of Banco Santander came down to see me, the chairman of Credit Suisse came down, chairman of UBS came down; I had all of these major banks. You know, [Edmond J.] Safra coming down and entertaining me and trying [to invest with Madoff]. It is a head trip.

. . .

So Madoff took the money. While he waited for the market to wake up, he parked their billions in treasuries earning 2 percent a year, while generating statements that maintained they were earning about 15 percent—fantastic money in a slow market. He couldn’t bring himself to tell them that he had failed. “I was too afraid,” he said.

But Madoff distributes the guilt. “Look,” he said, “these banks and these funds had to know there were problems.” Madoff told them absolutely nothing about how he made those returns. “I wouldn’t give them any facts, like how much volume I was doing. I was not willing to have them come up and do the due diligence that they wanted. I absolutely refused to do it. I said, ‘You don’t like it, take your money out,’ which of course they never did.”

. . .

Madoff insists that rather than the pursuer, he was usually the pursued. People begged him to take their money. Madoff says that he waved red flags, issued caveats that should have been obvious to even an unsophisticated investor. “They were all told by me, ‘Don’t invest any more money than you could afford to lose. This is the stock market. There’s always stuff that can happen. Brokerage firms can fail. I could go crazy and do something stupid. If you want a [safe thing], put your money in government bonds. So everybody understood this.

“Everyone was greedy,” he continues.

. . .

He has disdain not only for the industry but for the regulators. “The SEC,” he says, “looks terrible in this thing.” And he doesn’t see himself as the only guilty party on Wall Street. “It’s unbelievable, Goldman … no one has any criminal convictions. The whole new regulatory reform is a joke. The whole government is a Ponzi scheme.

See http://nymag.com/news/features/berniemadoff-2011-3/ (emphasis added); see also http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303722104579242703723473552 (“My Interview With Madoff”)

Madoff’s views are consistent with my own—especially about “technical traders,” and the fact that average Americans should not be in the stock market at all—which are discussed in an October 2009 interview:

Question: The stock market is up significantly since Obama took office. Would you buy stocks now?

Answer: No. I believe the stock market is a “fool’s paradise,” and I cannot explain the stock market rise—except for the old adage that what goes up comes down. I bought my first share of stock when I was about eight years old; and the Senate Banking Committee studied the stock market when I worked there. I drew two conclusions, which I believe to this day: (1) The only people who make money in the stock market and know the reasons why are (a) those who trade on inside information, which of course is illegal, and (b) those who are “technical traders” (e.g., with seats on exchanges, or who trade on “up-ticks”); and (2) average Americans should not be in the stock market at all, because it is gambling—much like going to Las Vegas or betting on the ponies at the nearest race track.

See http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-market-shadows/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-3150 (“Fed Is Creating The Mother of All Bubbles“)

As the economic tsunami continues to roll worldwide, other market fraud and vulnerabilities will be exposed, which might make Bernie Madoff’s machinations seem like child’s play.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/

. . .

Also, in a fascinating Lara Logan interview with Las Vegas sports betting legend Billy Walters, CBS’ “60 Minutes” reported:

Walters has built an empire from his gambling. And at the age of 64, he isn’t slowing down. He owns four golf courses, eight car dealerships and a ton of stock. But it was on Wall Street he says where he was taken for a ride.

I’ve been swindled out of . . . quite a bit of money on the stock market. And I bought a lot of Enron stock once. And I got swindled. I bought a lotta WorldCom stock, got swindled. I bought a lotta Tyco stock. I got swindled,” he told Logan.

His disdain for Wall Street is one of the reasons Walters decided to talk to “60 Minutes”—a chance he says to make the point that the gambling world is not as shady as most people think.

“I ran into a lotta bad guys, a lotta thieves. I mean, they’d steal the Lord’s Supper. But I can tell ya, percentage-wise, I ran into many more with suits and ties on than I have with the gamblers,” he told Logan.

“So you would say that the hustler from Vegas got hustled by Wall Street?” Logan asked.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Walters replied.

See http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/01/13/60minutes/main7243443.shtml?tag=currentVideoInfo;segmentTitle (emphasis added) and http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7253011n&tag=related;photovideo

Walters’ views are consistent with those of Bernie Madoff and my own.

Also, in a Wall Street Journal article about Walters, it is reported:

As a professional gambler, Billy Walters . . . claims he’s never had a losing year.

But when it comes to residential real estate, Mr. Walters, 64, claimed his track record has been far less lucrative. “We’ve lost money on every home we’ve bought and sold here,” he said. “It’s not what I do for a living. If it was, I’d be in trouble.”

He said that he’s likely to continue his losing streak, recently listing his Carlsbad home—one of seven he owns with his wife, Susan—for $29 million, a bit less than he spent assembling it.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703385404576259261181427714.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_realestate (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-3176 (“The Higher Home Prices Rise, The Farther They Will Fall When The Bubble Bursts“)

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2 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Preserving And Enhancing America’s Military Might During Difficult Economic Times, And Forever

Author Mark Helprin wrote a fine article in the Wall Street Journal about the need to maintain America’s Navy, and not allow it to decline. I agree with his goals completely.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheDeclineofUSNavalPower.pdf

However, there is more to this issue that must be noted.

First, those who venture close enough to the Somali coast to place themselves at risk should not expect the U.S. Navy to rescue them.

It has been suggested that a joint military effort be undertaken by all the countries whose ships have been attacked or are at risk. My understanding is that there are joint operations globally to defend critical shipping lanes. Indeed, even China has contributed military forces to those efforts.

See, e.g., http://www.economist.com/blogs/asiaview/2011/03/chinas_foreign_policy

Yes, it might be ironic if China were to unleash a crippling attack on the Somali pirates and their bases, and thereby earn the respect and admiration of people worldwide. However, the Somali pirates are like gnats: bothersome, but not really dangerous in terms of America’s global commitments.

Yes too, the recent killing of the four sailors went awry, as any hostage taking negotiations can do. I concur that the Somali thugs should be terminated.

Second, Helprin noted: “[W]e are in effect an island nation.” This is how most Americans view their country. Many have never flown on an airplane, nor ventured far from where they grew up; and it is surprising how many sophisticated, wealthy, educated Americans have never been to Europe, or out of the States, or to other parts of the world. Their views are insular, which is reflected in American policies and outlook.

I believe in our great country, and in the inherent wisdom of the American people, and my comments are not intended to disparage them one iota.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/

Third, I concur with Helprin that vital U.S. national security and economic interests demand a large blue-water fleet. He adds: “As China’s navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross.” I concur with that conclusion too. Both China and “dictator-for-life” Putin’s Russia are our enemies, now and in the future.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath both of these two articles)

Fourth, Helprin states:

Abdicating our more than half-century stabilizing role on the oceans, neglecting the military balance, and relinquishing a position we are fully capable of holding will bring tectonic realignments among nations—and ultimately more expense, bloodletting, and heartbreak than the most furious deficit hawk is capable of imagining. A technological nation with a GDP of $14 trillion can afford to build a fleet worthy of its past and sufficient to its future.

I agree; and the same thing is true of other vital military needs and expenditures. Tragically, at present, we have a naïve, anti-war, far-Left, “Hamlet on the Potomac”—or “Jimmy Carter-lite”—narcissistic president, who is a cowardly demagogue. He is determined to weaken our great nation at every turn; and he must not be reelected.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath both of these two articles)

Fifth, it has been suggested that American military expenditures are equal to many times what the next countries combined are spending. Hence, the question arises: where is the money going?

There is no question that—like it or not—the United States must maintain its absolute superiority now and in the future. No nation must be in a position to ever challenge us. Our very survival depends on it.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/

As I told a friend recently, who had commented on a Pentagon report that China may have triggered our economic crash:

[T]he Pentagon does not make claims of this magnitude idly, or without great justification. This is not the way that the Pentagon works. It is very professional and thorough, probably the most outstanding agency in our government.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/#comment-1467

I spent two years working at the Pentagon in intelligence, and then I have worked on and with Capitol Hill for most of my legal career. During this time, I have had an opportunity to see many federal government agencies and programs in action; and I can honestly say that the Pentagon is the best by far. There is no agency or program that is even remotely close.

The people who work at the Pentagon and serve our military—both in uniform and as civilians—are totally dedicated and professional; and they have inspired enormous pride in me over the years. If you read any of my articles, you will realize that I do not spare my criticism of people and institutions; and I am not naïve. Some people might assert that I am cynical; I prefer to believe that I am an idealist, who is repulsed when I encounter something that is less than just or the best.

The Pentagon and our military are not perfect, but they are truly excellent. There are reasons why the Soviet Union collapsed and we are the only superpower in the world today. It did not just happen by chance.

This enormous power must be maintained and nourished. I will repeat—because it deserves emphasis again and again—our very survival depends on it. This is not a “Mary Poppins” world in which we live. There are countries and terrorist groups around the world that want to destroy our great nation, and kill all of us. This is a fact of life, period.

What follows are the comparative numbers relating to our military expenditures vis-à-vis those of other countries. There may be more recent numbers that are available publicly, but I have not seen them.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures#Chart_by_country_or_organization

For better or worse, America protects the free world; we encourage those countries and people who yearn for democracy and freedom; we are winding down a very successful war in Iraq, which I questioned and opposed at the outset, but was impressed that George W. Bush’s “surge” worked and won that war; we are mired in the Afghan War, which Barack Obama does not seem to have the will or determination to win; and we have commitments that are essentially endless.

We have no allies that are capable of doing any “heavy lifting” today. The UK is “gutting” its military; NATO is a mere shell of what it once was; and we are it—with very heavy duties and responsibilities. After having worked in and with government for so many years, I believe government is a vast wasteland, most of which should be eliminated. The one exception would be the Pentagon and our brilliant and, yes, wonderful and awe-inspiring military forces.

. . .

Update:

The UK’s Daily Mail has reported:

The 14 alleged pirates accused of hijacking a U.S. yacht off the coast of Somalia appeared in court today looking ‘exhausted and confused’.

The men, 13 Somalis and one Yemeni, were indicted on piracy, kidnapping and firearms charges at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, near the Norfolk naval base.

Two U.S. couples were killed on board their own yacht last month after Somali pirates took them hostage off the coast of Oman.

. . .

If convicted, the men could face life in prison—and U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride has not yet ruled out filing further charges.

According to the indictment, by a grand federal jury, at least three of the men shot and killed the four U.S. sailors without provocation. It says they were armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.

. . .

U.S. special forces boarded the yacht. According to the military, all four hostages were found dead or dying.

U.S. Seals shot two bandits in the ensuing firefight and a further two were found dead on board.

Another 15 were taken into custody, but Mr MacBride today said the last suspect was not charged because he was only a child and was alleged to have had only limited involvement in the hijacking.

. . .

The four sailors who died in February are the first American hostages to have been killed by Somali pirates.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1365156/14-Somali-pirates-accused-killing-U-S-sailors-appear-Virginia-court-yacht-hijack.html (“14 Somali ‘pirates’ accused of killing four U.S. sailors appear in Virginia court over yacht hijack”)

Thus, even though the four sailors apparently placed themselves at risk by venturing into dangerous waters, and they should not have expected the U.S. Navy to rescue them, nonetheless the Navy attempted to do so and is bringing their killers to justice. It is another example of our brilliant military at work.

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10 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

World’s Biggest Bond Fund Eliminates U.S. Government-Related Debt

Bloomberg has reported:

Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., eliminated government-related debt from his flagship fund last month as the U.S. projected record budget deficits.

Pimco’s $237 billion Total Return Fund last held zero government-related debt in January 2009. Gross had cut the holdings to 12 percent of assets in January, according to the Newport Beach, California-based company’s website. The fund’s net cash-and-equivalent position surged from 5 percent to 23 percent in February, the highest since May 2008.

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-09/gross-drops-government-debt-from-pimco-s-flagship-fund-zero-hedge-reports.html (emphasis added)

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14 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Among The Many Reasons Why Obama Must Go

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article—which was written by a member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan—that essentially articulates the reasons why Barack Obama must not be reelected, and how he is leading America is the wrong direction. In it, he states in part:

On a U.S. talk-radio show recently, I was asked what I thought about the notion that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya. “Pah!” I replied. “Your president was plainly born in Brussels.”

. . .

My guess is that, if anything, Obama would verbalize his ideology using the same vocabulary that Eurocrats do. He would say he wants a fairer America, a more tolerant America, a less arrogant America, a more engaged America. When you prize away the cliché, what these phrases amount to are higher taxes, less patriotism, a bigger role for state bureaucracies, and a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.

He is not pursuing a set of random initiatives but a program of comprehensive Europeanization: European health care, European welfare, European carbon taxes, European day care, European college education, even a European foreign policy, based on engagement with supranational technocracies, nuclear disarmament and a reluctance to deploy forces overseas.

. . .

Is a European future truly so terrible?

Yes. I have been an elected member of the European Parliament for 11 years. I have seen firsthand what the European political model means.

The critical difference between the American and European unions has to do with the location of power. The U.S. was founded on what we might loosely call the Jeffersonian ideal: the notion that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect. The European Union was based on precisely the opposite ideal. Article One of its foundational treaty commits its nations to establish “an ever-closer union.”

From that distinction, much follows. The U.S. has evolved a series of unique institutions designed to limit the power of the state: recall mechanisms, ballot initiatives, balanced budget rules, open primaries, localism, states’ rights, term limits, the direct election of public officials from the sheriff to the school board. The EU places supreme power in the hands of 27 unelected Commissioners invulnerable to public opinion.

The will of the people is generally seen by Eurocrats as an obstacle to overcome, not a reason to change direction. When France, the Netherlands and Ireland voted against the European Constitution, the referendum results were swatted aside and the document adopted regardless. For, in Brussels, the ruling doctrine—that the nation-state must be transcended—is seen as more important than freedom, democracy or the rule of law.

. . .

The single worst aspect of Europeanization is its impact on the economy. Many Americans, and many Europeans, have a collective memory of how Europe managed to combine economic growth with social justice.

. . .

Human nature being what it is, few European leaders attributed their success to the fact that they were recovering from an artificial low. They convinced themselves, rather, that they were responsible for their countries’ growth rates. Their genius, they thought, lay in having hit upon a European “third way” between the excesses of American capitalism and the totalitarianism of Soviet communism.

We can now see where that road leads: to burgeoning bureaucracy, more spending, higher taxes, slower growth and rising unemployment. But an entire political class has grown up believing not just in the economic superiority of euro-corporatism but in its moral superiority. After all, if the American system were better—if people could thrive without government supervision—there would be less need for politicians. As Upton Sinclair once observed, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

Nonetheless, the economic data are pitilessly clear. For the past 40 years, Europeans have fallen further and further behind Americans in their standard of living. Europe also has become accustomed to a high level of structural unemployment. Only now, as the U.S. applies a European-style economic strategy based on fiscal stimulus, nationalization, bailouts, quantitative easing and the regulation of private-sector remuneration, has the rate of unemployment in the U.S. leaped to European levels.

Why is a European politician urging America to avoid Europeanization? As a Briton, I see the American republic as a repository of our traditional freedoms. The doctrines rooted in the common law, in the Magna Carta, and in the Bill of Rights found their fullest and most sublime expression in the old courthouse of Philadelphia. Britain, as a result of its unhappy membership in the European Union, has now surrendered a large part of its birthright. But our freedoms live on in America.

. . .

How aptly the British people might today apply the ringing phrases of the Declaration of Independence against their own rulers, who have “combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws.”

So you can imagine how I feel when I see the U.S. making the same mistakes that Britain has made: expanding its government, regulating private commerce, centralizing its jurisdiction, breaking the link between taxation and representation, abandoning its sovereignty.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703559604576176620582972608.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion#articleTabs%3Darticle

Clearly, Europe is not in great shape economically; and it will get far worse between now and the end of this decade.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

Clearly too, while Obama might want “a less arrogant America,” he personifies arrogance and narcissism.

He wants “a transfer of sovereignty to global institutions.” After all, he never set foot on the American mainland until he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles and Columbia University in New York City. When he was there, he described his presence as follows:

Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man.

His core beliefs are at odds with those of most Americans, which would have been evident if we had read his book, “Dreams from My Father,” before the 2008 election.

Also, Hannan is correct that Obama is pursuing “a program of comprehensive Europeanization,” despite his ingrained disdain for British and European cultures, which shines through in his book.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/

Next, Hannan asks and answers his own question: “Is a European future truly so terrible?” Yes, he says; and as mentioned above, economically this is likely to be true, and socially too. Also, NATO is a mere shell of its former self; and militarily, the countries of Europe are pathetically weak.

Hannan makes an interesting observation that “an entire political class has grown up [in Europe] believing not just in the economic superiority of euro-corporatism but in its moral superiority.” Lacking the core beliefs of most Americans because of his heritage, Obama feels essentially the same way and has acted on such core beliefs.

Lastly, on balance, Hannan’s observations are correct, which is why Obama and the Democrats were rejected in last year’s mid-term elections, and why the same thing is likely to happen next year as well. The American people have had their fill of the grand “Obama experiment,” and will reject him like they rejected Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Indeed, as mentioned above, it has been said:

Jimmy Carter may be heading to #2 on the [list of] all-time worst presidents in American history, thanks to “O.”

This is an understatement.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article); see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200910152041584.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion (“When the U.S. fails to lead, every nation recalibrates its interests and begins to look out for itself first”) and http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_OBAMA_CAMPAIGN_ENTHUSIASM?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-03-15-06-33-15 (“Obama’s team seeks new ways to fire up his base”)

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14 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Banks Have $2.5 Trillion Exposure To Ailing Quartet Of Portugal, Ireland, Greece And Spain

An article in the UK’s Telegraph states that the total exposure of foreign banks to Portugal, Ireland, Greece And Spain (the “PIGS”) tops $2.5 trillion once all forms of risk are included, according to the latest data from the Bank for International Settlements. Indeed, the UK Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written:

The sheer scale highlights the systemic dangers if the EU fails to stabilize the debt crisis.

Eurozone leaders agreed to boost the lending power of the EU bail-out fund on Friday, but Germany vetoed proposals for a debt buy-back scheme or an activist policy of bond purchases.

The BIS, the central bank of central banks, said in its quarterly report that Germany had $569bn of exposure to the quartet, France $380bn, and the UK $431bn.

A chunk of British exposure is on behalf of Mid-East and Asian clients banking through London. Italy has just $81bn at risk and seems uniquely insulated from the crisis all around it.

The geography of risk varies greatly. British-based banks and subsidiaries have $225bn at stake in Ireland, and $152bn in Spain, but little in Portugal or Greece. France is up to its neck in Greece with $92bn; a Benelux-led group has $180bn in Spain, and Spain itself has exposure of $109bn to Portugal.

The complex web of lending shows how hard it is to contain the problem to one country at time.

American lenders capitulated in the third quarter, slashing exposure to the four countries by 8.7pc. It is likely that US players took advantage of bond purchases by the European Central Bank to sell bonds and cut their losses.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8379302/Banks-have-1.6-trillion-exposure-to-ailing-quartet-of-Greece-Ireland-Portugal-and-Spain.html; see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PIGS_(economics) (“PIGS (economics)”)

If anything, the $2.5 trillion estimate will prove to be low, because the problems have been underestimated and will be much worse. The total exposure of foreign banks will be even more staggering, and other economies will teeter on the brink—if not go under. The ripple effects both in Europe and globally will be enormous.

See, e.g., http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703778104576286441287643636.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection (“Greece’s Budget Deficit Higher Than Expected”)

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17 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Web Is Free!

TIME magazine has a very useful short article at its blog about television by its TV critic James Poniewozik—entitled, “NY Times Ending Free Digital Lunch (Mostly). Will You Pay?”—which is worth reading.

See http://tunedin.blogs.time.com/2011/03/17/ny-times-ending-free-digital-lunch-mostly-will-you-pay/

The Internet as a news source has burgeoned because it has been free. This underlies the culture of the Web; and those who defy its basic tenet may rue the day that they did.

Obviously the world has been shocked by unfolding events in Japan, after its massive earthquake, tsunami, nuclear meltdown and the tragic human suffering. The latest, most up-to-date news is found on the Web, not on America’s TV screens any more. Even the once-vaulted CNN is “recycling” its news, which means that we must go to the Web to learn about the latest developments. Not only are print newspapers becoming “dinosaurs,” but TV news is too.

See, e.g., http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/3eef0bc4-6f73-11e1-9c57-00144feab49a.html#axzz1pOnzLHsb (“Bleak outlook for US newspapers”)

When Rupert Murdoch was in the process of taking over the Wall Street Journal, he supported the doctrine that online news should be free. However, shortly afterward, he effectively imposed a “no fly zone” over his UK flagship newspaper’s Web site, the Times of London. My guess is the number of people who read that publication online today has plummeted.

Perhaps even more importantly, the ill will that the practice of blocking Internet users from access to the site’s articles, unless they pay, may greatly outweigh the revenues gained from its subscriptions. Indeed, my guess is that lots of Web users will boycott the Times for many years to come, both online and in print format, as a matter of principle.

This is an age when news sources are abundant all over the world. No one “needs” the Times or the New York Times anymore. I have been online for approximately 20 years; and I began posting useful links at my law firm’s Web site many years ago. Today, the list is so long, and our “News Of The World” section contains so many links to “free” news, that it is impossible to access more than a few of them each day because of time constraints.

See http://www.naegele.com/links.html

Every person has sites that are his or her favorites, so my list will not be yours. The bottom line, however, is that none of us “needs” the Times or the New York Times, and both may suffer greatly from their policies. Their Internet traffic may decline dramatically—if this has not happened already in the case of the Times—and a “silent” boycott of such sites may ultimately prove fatal to once-proud publications, and they may become more and more irrelevant.

Newspapers are dinosaurs now anyway, or at the very least “endangered species,” and such practices may seal their fate forever. Indeed, if the Times of London were to become totally free online again, it might take a long time before it would attract readers; and it might never regain what it once had.

Poniewozik is correct: “[T]his could be a disincentive for blogs to link to the [New York] Times.” Lots of us will be very reluctant to link to any of that newspaper’s articles out of a concern that we may end up with “dead links,” which would aggravate the readers of our blogs.

Lastly, lots of Web users—probably a majority—will never pay for any type of subscriptions offered by either the New York Times or the Times of London as a matter of principle. Again, and perhaps most importantly, such practices fly against the “sacred” culture of the Web: it is free!

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17 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Debtors’ Prisons

The Wall Street Journal’s article entitled, “Welcome to Debtors’ Prison, 2011 Edition,” is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

Some lawmakers, judges and regulators are trying to rein in the U.S. debt-collection industry’s use of arrest warrants to recoup money owed by borrowers who are behind on credit-card payments, auto loans and other bills.

More than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed. Judges have signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties with a total population of 13.6 million people, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal of filings in those counties. Nationwide figures aren’t known because many courts don’t keep track of warrants by alleged offense. In interviews, 20 judges across the nation said the number of borrowers threatened with arrest in their courtrooms has surged since the financial crisis began.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704396504576204553811636610.html?mod=WSJ_hps_editorsPicks_1; see also http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505143_162-57577994/as-economy-flails-debtors-prisons-thrive/ (“As economy flails, debtors’ prisons thrive“)

As the American and other global economies decline during the balance of this decade, such draconian measures may be used more and more to collect debts and harass debtors.

See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors'_prison

In the United States, it is unconstitutional to incarcerate someone solely for failing to pay a debt. For example, it violates (1) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, (2) the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment (as applied to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment), and (3) the Eighth Amendment contains the Excessive Fines and Excessive Bail Clauses.

See http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv (Section 1: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) and http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights#amendmentviii (Amendment VIII: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”)

In Florida, for example, the St. Petersburg Times stated in an editorial entitled, “Debtors’ prison—again”:

In a little-noticed trend blamed on the state’s hard economic times, several courts in Florida have resurrected the de facto debtor’s prison—having thousands of Floridians jailed for failing to pay assessed court fees and fines. The shortsighted plan threatens to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. It appears to generate little additional revenue relative to the misery it causes, and it should be stopped.

. . .

Author Charles Dickens familiarized his readers with England’s system of squalid debtors’ prisons. Dickens’ father was imprisoned in Marshalsea for debts and Dickens set Little Dorrit there. But that country saw the light in the mid 19th century and outlawed jail for debtors.

In the United States, it is unconstitutional to incarcerate someone solely for failing to pay a debt. Florida officials get around this by claiming the defendants are going to jail not for their debts but for violating a court order. That is what you would call a self-serving technicality. The truth is that Florida has enthusiastically resurrected debtors’ prison. How Dickensian is that?

See, e.g., http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/article991963.ece; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America”)

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24 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Euro’s Collapse Is Not ‘Unthinkable': Warren Buffett

In an article with this title, it is reported:

Warren Buffett told CNBC Thursday that the collapse of the euro zone’s single currency is far from “unthinkable.”

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/42248019; see also http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ianmcowie/100010007/house-prices-are-falling-faster-in-britain-than-spain/ (“House prices are falling faster in Britain than Spain”)

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30 03 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

America’s Next Ticking Financial Time Bomb: The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp?

In an article by Greg Stiles entitled, “Harry & David asks to drop $27.4 million pension plan,” which appeared in Southern Oregon’s Mail Tribune, it is reported:

Harry & David Holdings plans to jettison its $27.4 million pension plan, pending approval by a Delaware bankruptcy court.

While that news likely sent a shudder through the ranks of the approximately 3,000 active, retired or former workers vested in the pension plan, they have little cause for worry, a spokesman for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday.

The federal agency, whose mission is to make good on private pension payments when the sponsoring companies become insolvent, doesn’t speak to specific cases, but its track record is reassuring.

Since the agency was formed in 1974, PBGC has paid 85 percent of pensioners. Private sector companies pay premiums to PBGC much the same as banks pay the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

. . .

When a company files for bankruptcy and convinces a bankruptcy judge it can’t successfully reorganize without shedding a pension plan, that’s when PBGC steps in, said Gary Pastorius, an agency spokesman.

“If the company doesn’t have enough money to pay everybody off,” he said, “we become trustee of the pension plan and we pay the benefits. With no cost to the taxpayers.”

Companies pay a $35 per employee premium annually. If the pension is underfunded, it pays $9 for every $1,000 it is underfunded. Some reports have suggested that PBGC does not have sufficient assets to cover employees facing the loss of their pensions, but Pastorius said the agency is on solid footing.

“On an actuarial basis we’re underfunded, but our cash flow is very sufficient to pay benefits,” Pastorius said.

Pension payout limits are based on retirement age. For those who retire at age 65, the ceiling is $54,000 annually. For those who retire at 55, the maximum would be $24,300, while those who retire at 75 would be eligible to collect up to $164,000 annually.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/HarryandDavidaskstodroppensionplan.pdf; see also http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110330/NEWS/103300340

Granted, as the article points out: “Defined benefit plans have declined throughout corporate America during the past decade, giving way to more speculative 401(k) plans.” However, as the U.S. economy sours during the balance of this decade, query whether American taxpayers will not on the hook for essentially unlimited financial payouts?

Won’t the PBGC’s cash flow be inadequate to meet such payouts, giving rise to underfunded payouts like those pertaining to Social Security and Medicare? How can it possibly be said that such payouts will occur at no cost to the taxpayers? What are the potential dimensions of this economic “iceberg”?

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1 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Foreign Banks Borrowed At Least 70 Percent Of The $110.7 Billion Borrowed From The Fed’s Discount Window!

This disclosure of the Fed’s lending during a week in October 2008 should prompt congressional reexaminations of the risks to U.S. taxpayers stemming from the Fed’s role in stabilizing global financial markets during economic crises.

In an important article entitled, “Foreign Banks Tapped Fed’s Lifeline Most as Bernanke Kept Borrowers Secret,” Bloomberg has reported:

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s two-year fight to shield crisis-squeezed banks from the stigma of revealing their public loans protected a lender to local governments in Belgium, a Japanese fishing-cooperative financier and a company part-owned by the Central Bank of Libya.

. . .

The biggest borrowers from the 97-year-old discount window as the program reached its crisis-era peak were foreign banks, accounting for at least 70 percent of the $110.7 billion borrowed during the week in October 2008 when use of the program surged to a record. The disclosures may stoke a reexamination of the risks posed to U.S. taxpayers by the central bank’s role in global financial markets.

. . .

The discount window, which began lending in 1914, is the Fed’s primary program for providing cash to banks to help them avert a liquidity squeeze. In an April 2009 speech, Bernanke said that revealing the names of discount-window borrowers “might lead market participants to infer weakness.”

. . .

“The American people are going to be outraged when they understand what has been going on,” U.S. Representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Fed, said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

“What in the world are we doing thinking we can pass out tens of billions of dollars to banks that are overseas?” said Paul, who has advocated abolishing the Fed. “We have problems here at home with people not being able to pay their mortgages, and they’re losing their homes.”

David Skidmore, a Fed spokesman, declined to comment. Fed officials have said all the discount window loans made during the worst financial crisis since the 1930s have been repaid with interest.

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-01/foreign-banks-tapped-fed-s-lifeline-most-as-bernanke-kept-borrowers-secret.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1497 (“Foreign Banks Borrowed At Least 70 Percent Of The $110.7 Billion Borrowed From The Fed’s Discount Window!”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1131 (“Low Rates Fail To Rescue Indebted Britain, The Eurozone Is In Need Of An Undertaker, The Euro Has One-In-Five Chances Of Survival, Market Alarm As US Fails To Control Biggest Debt In History, And China’s Property Bubble Has Grown So Huge That 85 Percent of Chinese Living In Cities Cannot Afford A Home”)

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5 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

While Most Of America Is Hurting Economically, The Super-Rich Are Richer Than Ever

This is the conclusion of University of California, Berkeley professor Robert Reich who is quoted by the AP as follows:

“It’s very hard to spend $20 million a year, even $10 million,” said Reich, former Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration. “The super-rich are always on the lookout for new thrills and new expensive thrills.”

High-end retailers such as Tiffany & Co. and Neiman Marcus continue to do well despite the economy, he said. And even as NASA experiences budget cuts, the extraordinary wealthy are willing to pay small fortunes to go into space or into the depths of the ocean, said the public policy professor.

“People who are selling to the super-rich basically can’t lose,” he said. “Richard Branson can dig a hole to the center of the earth and charge a million dollars a day to go through it and he’d find people to take him up on the offer.”

See http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_RICHARD_BRANSON_VENTURE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-04-05-03-26-18

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6 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

World’s Central Banks Pursue Divergent Strategies

In a fascinating and important article, the Wall Street Journal has discussed the divergent approaches being undertaken by the United States’ Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (or the “Fed”), by the European Central Bank (or “ECB”) and by central banks elsewhere in the world. Also, an interactive graphic is provided that depicts those actions.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/CentralBanksGrappleWithCompetingForces.pdf (“Central Banks Grapple With Competing Forces”) and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703712504576245031446096202.html#articleTabs%3Dinteractive (“Interactive Graphics”)

As I have written previously:

Years from now, economic historians may look back at this era and conclude that the world’s central bankers were overwhelmed and Depression-era “safety nets” did not work; and global market forces ultimately determined the depth and duration of the economic meltdown, not the politicians in Washington or anywhere else.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

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14 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Suicide Rates Climb As The Economy Declines

Bloomberg is reporting:

Suicide rates in the U.S. tend to rise during recessions and fall amid economic booms, according to study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides reached a record high of 22 people per 100,000 in 1932 during the Great Depression, CDC officials said in a report published online today in the American Journal of Public Health. That was double the rates seen in 2000, when 10 people per 100,000 took their lives as the economy prospered, the study found.

The study is the first to link business cycles and suicide rates among specific age groups, according to the Atlanta-based CDC. People in their “prime working ages” of 25 to 64 years old are the most likely to commit suicide during recessions, the study found.

“Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures as well as their relationships with family and friends,” Feijun Luo, an economist in CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention and the study’s lead author, said today in a statement. “Prevention strategies can focus on individuals, families, neighborhoods or entire communities to reduce risk factors.”

The researchers examined economic data and suicide rates for the 80 years ending in 2007. They didn’t evaluate suicide rates during the recession that ended in June 2009.

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-14/suicide-rates-rise-in-u-s-as-economy-declines-cdc-study-finds.html

First, as indicated in the article and comments above, we are in the midst of the “Great Depression II”—not a mere recession—which will not end until late in this decade, at the earliest. Yes, there will be “green shoots,” or signs that things are improving, which will give false hopes. However, the same thing was true during the Great Depression of the last century, which did not end until the onset of World War II.

Second, the results of the study are not surprising; and these statistics—and the individual human tragedies that they represent—will become even more pronounced in the United States and globally during the rest of this decade.

Third, it is unfortunate that the study does not take into account data after 2007, but at least it is a start.

Fourth, as I have written:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

The balance of this decade will be “ugly”—there is no other way to describe it. The political backlashes were evident already in last November’s American elections.

Lastly, there may be a newfound turning to God, on the part of many people globally, which will be healthy.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/what-and-where-is-god/

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16 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Government Does Not Work, And Must Be Abolished Whenever And Wherever Possible

As if government incompetence could not get any worse, it has. In an article entitled, “Oops! US post service prints THREE BILLION stamps using the wrong Statue of Liberty,” the UK’s Daily Mail has reported:

You’d think it would be pretty straightforward to choose a photo of one of the world’s most famous landmarks.

But against all the odds, the United States Postal Service managed to print the wrong Statue of Liberty on three billion stamps, accidentally picking a replica outside a Las Vegas casino instead of the true Lady in New York Harbour.

. . .

To visitors, differences seem obvious. The 14-year-old replica outside the New York-New York Casino in Vegas is only half the height of the original, and of course it’s several thousand miles away in Nevada.

But on a stamp-sized photo, it took a true expert to notice the difference. The hair is different, there’s a a rectangular patch on the replica’s center spike and the Vegas version has more sharply defined eyes.

The mistake was made even worse by an informational leaflet released this month with a sheet of 18 Lady Liberty and flag stamps. It includes a short history of the Statue of Liberty—but makes no mention of the replica.

Officials have now said they will change the brochure to explain the photo features a replica rather than the real 125-year-old statue.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377259/US-post-service-prints-3-BILLION-stamps-using-wrong-Statue-Liberty.html

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20 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Two-Speed Global Economy

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about this subject, which is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

Housing prices are rising rapidly in Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, South Africa and Sweden.

Housing prices are flat—or falling—in Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the U.S.

Welcome to the two-speed global economy.

When most observers talk about a “two-speed economy,” they are contrasting slow-growing mature or advanced economies (the U.S., Europe, Japan, etc.) with fast-growing developed or emerging-market economies (China, India, Brazil, etc.). Philip Suttle of the Institute of International Finance, a bankers’ association, calls it “a two-and-six world.” In mature economies, growth and inflation are at around 2%; in emerging markets both are around 6%. Whenever anything nudges them off that course, he says, something else nudges them back.

But there’s another way to divide the world: Some economies had a big banking crisis. Some didn’t. And the ones that didn’t are the ones where housing prices are shooting up. Slow growth in mature economies is leading them to keep interest rates low and credit conditions easy. Because they (so far) dominate world financial markets, that means global credit is easy, too easy for emerging markets where inflation—in wages, prices and asset prices—is the worry.

“In countries where the financial system was not seriously damaged during the global crisis, housing prices have risen rapidly,” says Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel. “That’s because when interest rates were cut sharply to deal with the crisis, mortgage interest rates also fell rapidly, and people responded by borrowing to buy houses—thereby driving up the price of houses.”

Low rates in the U.S. and other economies hit hard by the financial crisis aren’t having the same effect. Their banks aren’t yet eager or able to lend readily.

. . .

But elsewhere—particularly in countries flooded with money fleeing super-low interest rates in the U.S., Europe and Japan—banks are lending, people are buying and home prices are climbing. This isn’t only an emerging-market phenomenon. In Canada, for instance, commercial banks were hardly shaken by the crisis but the Bank of Canada has been holding its key rate at just 1% to foster economic growth. The consequence: Housing prices in February were up nearly 9% from year-earlier levels, the Canadian Real Estate Association says. The worry in Canada and elsewhere is that what goes up might come down, and history amply illustrates the economic harm done when housing prices plunge.

. . .

Some big countries had a housing bubble that burst, provoking the biggest financial crisis in half a century. To avoid a depression, they flooded the world with credit. And that credit threatens to create new housing bubbles in other countries. No one ever said globalization was easy.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703838004576274750183949910.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsTop; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1548 (“While Most Of America Is Hurting Economically, The Super-Rich Are Richer Than Ever”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1563 (“Suicide Rates Climb As The Economy Declines”)

Clearly, as my article above and the comments beneath it state, the worst is yet to come, both in the United States and globally. Politicians and economists will be overwhelmed during the balance of this decade, and their ranks will be decimated.

See also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1379270/Economic-Chernobyl-Dems-accuse-GOP-kamikaze-budget-politics-14-300-000-000-debt-ceiling-debate-rages-on.html and http://rove.com/articles/311 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1567

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26 04 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Times Ahead Do Not Look Pretty

This is the assessment of George C. Karlweis—”the former giant gnome of Geneva,” and “the brain behind Banque Privee, owned by the late Edmond de Rothschild”—which is set forth in an excellent article by UPI’s Editor at Large Arnaud de Borchgrave that is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

The financial crises that have been blowing up for years are speeding up, Karlweis says, due to expenditure exceeding income, “borrowing hand over fist, even for no good reason, on ever shakier fundamentals.”

“Everyone is realizing we have gone too far. . . . The coffers are depleted . . . the excessive spending of the past has created a huge overhang, and no one knows how new borrowing can be financed.”

People who live on their savings, adds Karlweis, “have been fleeced. Their investments yield nothing, chances are they have lost everything.”

“Times ahead do not look pretty,” he warns.

. . .

“No one wants to predict the reactions of voters who constantly clamor for more bread and games to forget the looming disappointments that could give rise to black swans,” adds the former giant gnome of Geneva.

Bear Stearns got a Triple A rating shortly before it went under, ditto Fannie Mae. Lehman Brothers made A2 before the shipwreck. The subprime mortgage scandal had gone global in the fall of 2008 as the new chairman of the Fed said “the worst is now behind us.” Today, America’s credit cards are all maxed out.

“Governments, public corporations, financial institutions, consumers—everyone is over their head in debt,” says Karlweis. And “a huge part of the blame for the debacle of the past three years lies squarely with the U.S. By more or less shoving free trade down everyone’s throat, America paved the way for globalization. This is what has destroyed jobs and driven down wages in the developed countries, hobbling economic growth and gouging tax revenues.”

Karlweis argues “it was a ridiculously low federal funds rate, reduced to 1 percent in the early 2000s, by former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, that opened the floodgates for subprime mortgages and the worst financial disaster ever, in 2007-08.

In 2007, the face value of securities backed by subprime mortgages was estimated at about $1 trillion. Karlweis says the total collateralized debt obligation and mortgages obligations issued “exceeded $7 trillion and the repercussions were devastating.”

“Like a disease overrunning a body’s already weakened defenses, subprime infected the entire global banking system. There were also many victims among small and medium-sized investors, even outside the United States,” Karlweis says he knows fact certain.

“Creative types even invented synthetic versions of subprime, with no underlying portfolio of mortgages, that guaranteed the same yields as the original junk,” Karlweis’s post-mortem says. “These were earmarked for money managers who wanted to position themselves against subprime debt, namely by selling short to investors who were still lapping it up as a good bet” and this then generated a double commission for the investment bankers.

. . .

The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (also triple A before disaster hit) had what Karlweis calls “awesome consequences for America in particular.” The national debt leapt by about 50 percent to more than $14 trillion (excluding the debts of other “government-sponsored enterprises”). Next to America’s net worth, estimated at $70 trillion, “that was an unsettling level,” he argues.

Karlweis laments that “after a career in finance I look aghast on what has happened since the turn of the 21st century. The conclusion I have come to is that the present financial crisis was caused by, and is one of the most blatant manifestations of, widespread moral decline in our society.”

The gnome turned sage says that “devoid of all common sense and consumed by greed, the big all-service banks led by Wall Street contrived a financial system that was nothing but a house of cards while adopting lending criteria based on equally flimsy mathematical hypotheses. Not that they cared; they unloaded their junk from their balance sheets onto duller players who snapped it up as a cash-flow booster, only to see it all go up in smoke later on.”

At a minimum, Karlweis concludes, “we will need a full reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act (repealed in 1999), which made it impossible for a single legal entity to conduct or control all types of financial business.” This means institutions that receive deposits from the public must be clearly prohibited from speculating on their own behalf with the money of their depositors.

See http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/de-Borchgrave/2011/04/26/Commentary-Big-Gnome-Cant-last/UPI-17111303816102/ (“Big Gnome: Financial situation can’t last”)

This article echoes what I have said for a long time now:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that has burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.”

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html; see also http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times”) and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (“I believe [the repeal of Glass-Steagall] was a mistake, just like I believe the entire notion of “deregulation” was a mistake, which Greenspan championed. The chickens have come home to roost already, with much more to come”)

I added:

[I]n 1999, Congress repealed the Glass–Steagall Act, which had controlled financial speculation since its enactment in 1933. Under Glass–Steagall, there had been a separation between commercial banking and “investment banking”—or gambling by Wall Street. Coupled with Greenspan’s mistakes and financial deregulation, which had been championed by him, a laissez faire attitude in Washington resulted in the massive problems of today.

. . .

With the repeal of Glass–Steagall and financial deregulation, a blurring of the lines between commercial banking and investment banking took place; and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/is-financial-reform-simply-washingtons-latest-boondoggle/ (emphasis in original; footnote omitted)

I believe former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker would not have created the problems that Greenspan did; and that he would prefer to see “a full reinstatement” of Glass-Steagall. However, this may be impossible today. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, and as the children’s nursery rhyme says: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men [c]ouldn’t put Humpty together again.” The same may be true of Glass-Steagall. Moreover, I believe the “Great Depression II” will be with us for at least the balance of this decade.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty#Lyrics

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14 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Sun Setting On British Power [UPDATED]

This is the title of an important Wall Street Journal article, which is consistent with everything that I have written above. The UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, is in the process of tragically “gutting” his country’s military power and relegating it to the position of some Third World banana republic.

In particular, the article states:

From Nelson atop his column to Wellington gracing his arch, [London] is filled with monuments to the martial glories of an island whose forces once dominated continents and ruled the waves.

Today, though, the relatively modest British intervention in Libya is fueling fresh anxiety [in London] and in Washington about the nation’s shrinking military muscle as the U.K. cuts defense spending in response to a record deficit.

When Michael Graydon, a former head of the Royal Air Force, commanded no-fly zones over Iraq in 1991, he had more than 20 British attack squadrons to rely on, he says. For the no-fly zone over Libya, he says, the RAF has around six.

The frigate used to evacuate British citizens from Libya, HMS Cumberland, is to be decommissioned in June, along with some of the Tornado fighter planes spearheading the North American Treaty Organization attacks. Two reconnaissance planes were saved from retirement to join in the mission.

The U.K. is in the midst of the most aggressive fiscal tightening since World War II—a process that U.S. defense officials are watching with concern. In October, following a strategic review, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to cut the military budget by 7.5% and the head count by 10% over five years, and to retire lots of equipment, leaving the armed forces with 40% fewer tanks and 35% less heavy artillery. The planned cuts will come on top of an 8% reduction in personnel during the 13-year tenure of the former Labour Party government.

At a hearing Wednesday before a Parliamentary defense committee, the heads of Britain’s army, navy and air force said the U.K. would no longer be a “full spectrum” military force—one capable of both low-intensity combat such as counterinsurgency and the kind of major operations required for state-on-state combat.

Air Chief Marshal Stephen Dalton, head of the air force, said simultaneous battles in Libya and Afghanistan have taxed the military. “There are times and there are phases on the operations where we have stretched the capabilities absolutely to the point where we find it very difficult to do anything else at that particular time,” he said.

The three service chiefs said that the U.K. will still be able to project power on the international stage. The government has said that the cutbacks won’t undermine the nation’s ability to support its allies in places like Afghanistan, although they will result in a smaller military that the nation will be “more selective” in using. The U.K. will still have the world’s fourth-largest military budget, Mr. Cameron has said.

The cutbacks come as broad geopolitical forces are reshaping the global military landscape. The U.S., which also is trying to curtail military spending, remains the world’s dominant military power. China is engaged in a military buildup that has alarmed many of its Asian neighbors. And other NATO members are grappling with budget constraints while keeping a wary eye on Russia and the Middle East.

The British cuts have sparked concern in the Pentagon about how much the U.K. will be able to contribute to future U.S.-led operations. In recent decades, the U.K. has been its most dependable military ally—valued, among other things, for its willingness to fight abroad (it has lost more than 360 troops in Afghanistan) and the capabilities of its vaunted special forces.

James Townsend, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, says it is critical to the U.S. for Britain to remain capable of responding to a wide range of crises, and not to pare back its forces to focus narrowly on one or two missions.

“We were hoping they would maintain a full spectrum of capabilities,” he says. “Whatever the mission might be that would face us in the future, we wanted to make sure they had the capability of being there on the first day, as the U.K. always is.”

Thomas Docherty, a member of Parliament, says that in an April meeting at the Pentagon, U.S. defense officials told a group of U.K. lawmakers and military officers: “This is the bottom of the curve. You cannot cut any further,” if you want to remain a military power.

Mr. Townsend notes that almost every other NATO member is facing similar fiscal challenges, and that the U.S. remains confident that even after the cuts Britain will continue to be nimble enough to play an important global role.

But some former British commanders say the cuts already have gone too far. “If the cuts go on, there is a threat to our position as a leader of the second-tier of military powers,” says Charles Guthrie, head of Britain’s armed forces from 1997 to 2001. “We are at a tipping point.”

Some European officials worry that cuts to the region’s most powerful armed force further tilt the global military balance away from the continent. The Libya intervention underscored how reliant the region is on U.S. power.

Maj. Gen. Peter Gilchrist, Britain’s defense attache in Washington from 2005 to 2008, says the U.K. would have difficulty replicating its 46,000-troop contribution to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The budget cuts, he says, mean that “we don’t have the same volume of equipment. The heavy artillery and armor has all been reduced.”

. . .

In Libya, the U.K. is the second largest contributor to NATO’s mission, after France. Some senior U.K. defense officials say they were reluctant to get involved, arguing that doing so would reduce the nation’s flexibility to respond to potentially more important crises. They say they worried about potential conflict in Bahrain and Oman, whose military facilities are used by the British, and in Iran, which they see as potentially more destabilizing.

. . .

Discussions about the U.K.’s diminishing military are especially painful for a nation where military prowess has been woven into the national identity. Once the world’s dominant power, the U.K. was eclipsed by the U.S. and Russia after World War II. But its status as a willing and capable combatant preserved its diplomatic clout.

. . .

The U.K.’s willingness to use military force strengthened its relationship with the U.S. and other European nations and gave it greater voice on politically charged issues such as NATO membership, says Douglas Hurd, Britain’s foreign secretary between 1989 and 1995.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. viewed the U.K. as its most capable military ally, by far. Nevertheless, British forces ran into problems in both theaters.

In Iraq, critics said, the British rarely ventured off their base outside Basra. In Afghanistan, officials such as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill bemoaned what they saw as the inability of U.K. forces to get a grip on the insurgency in Helmand province, according to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked on the WikiLeaks website.

British officers involved in both wars, as well as some politicians, say the U.K. army was hampered by poor planning, too few resources, a government that didn’t want to risk casualties and a mind-set rooted in fighting terrorists in Northern Ireland, where force was used sparingly.

A “malaise” had gripped the Ministry of Defence, says retired Col. Richard Kemp. When he was asked to lead British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, he says, he asked around for army doctrine on dealing with suicide bombers. “There was absolutely nothing. Nobody had any idea,” he says.

At first, the U.S. was frustrated with the U.K.’s lack of progress in Helmand, U.S. officials say. But a senior Pentagon official says that view shifted after the U.S. sent Marines into the province in 2009 and encountered strong resistance. The British had struggled there because they had been given too large an area to control with the number of troops they had available, U.S. defense officials say.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said about Iraq and Afghanistan: “Where mistakes were made, lessons have and will be learned.”

The defense-budget cuts come amid a sweeping government austerity program that will see police numbers fall, welfare payments cut and government services pared back. Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox has said that overspending by the Ministry of Defence and the deficit built up by the last government necessitated the military cuts, and that he “didn’t come into politics wishing to see a reduction in our defense budget.”

Completion of one of two aircraft carriers currently under construction will be delayed, and the other will be mothballed or sold. One of Britain’s two existing carriers is scheduled to be decommissioned, the other turned into a helicopter platform, which will leave the U.K. with no carrier-strike capability for almost 10 years.

Admiral Mark Stanhope, the head of the navy, said at the hearing Wednesday that he regretted the decision to retire Britain’s two carriers and said it will be a “major challenge” to regenerate that capability when new carriers are brought into service in around 10 years, given the loss of relevant skills.

The Pentagon’s Mr. Townsend said that the gap in Britain’s carrier capability would have to be managed, and the U.S. would help the U.K. “over the hump.”

Alan West, a former head of the Royal Navy and security adviser to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and other senior naval officials say the U.K. wouldn’t be able to mount the sort of naval operation that retook the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982. A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the Falklands Islands are “better protected than ever before.”

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/SunSettingonBritishPower.pdf (emphasis added); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8573849/Navy-chief-Britain-cannot-keep-up-its-role-in-Libya-air-war-due-to-cuts.html (“Navy chief: Britain cannot keep up its role in Libya air war due to cuts”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8584032/Defence-chiefs-warn-cuts-threaten-security.html (“Senior defence figures have warned that cuts to Britain’s military have endangered the nation’s security, its relationship with the United States and the future of Nato”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/falklandislands/9042422/Argentina-doesnt-have-military-power-to-seize-the-Falklands-says-defence-minister.html (“It is arguable Great Britain will no longer have an Army—we will have a defence force. That is an absolutely disgraceful situation when faced by the uncertainty we are. The RAF is cut in half, the Royal Navy is emasculated; we do not have the capability in this country to do the things we have always done”)

Like Barack Obama, Cameron should be removed from office. Indeed, Obama has been undermining America’s national security capabilities, as well as those of the UK.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1606 (“Barack Obama’s Sacking Of The Pentagon”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1383 (“WikiLeaks cables: US agrees to tell Russia Britain’s nuclear secrets”); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/8672697/UK-households-squeezed-harder-than-US-or-Europe.html (“UK households squeezed harder than US or Europe”) and http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-how-fractured-is-the-gop/2013/08/01/6fd6f816-fada-11e2-9bde-7ddaa186b751_story.html (“Today, alas, Britannia rules no waves. World order is maintained by American power and American will”)

If anything, the UK’s economy will get far worse during the balance of this decade, which will result in the further diminishment of the UK’s once-proud and mighty military prowess.

Contrariwise, Harvard economics professor and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan, Martin Feldstein, argued in an excellent article entitled, “Defense Spending Would Be Great Stimulus,” that all three American military service branches are in need of upgrade and repair.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123008280526532053.html

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23 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

California Sinks . . . Farther . . . As U.S. Supreme Court Orders Release Of Approximately 46,000 Prison Inmates

The State of California—the eighth largest economy in the world—is bankrupt; its largest city, Los Angeles, is bankrupt too; vital public services are being curtailed if not eliminated entirely, including law enforcement; and now this . . . which may result in the dramatic increase of crime in the State.

In a sharply-worded dissent from the Court’s 5-4 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia called the ruling “staggering” and “absurd,” and warned that “terrible things are sure to happen.” This is an understatement.

See http://www.latimes.com/news/local/sc-dc-0524-court-prisons-web-20110523,0,2337401.story; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304066504576345553135009870.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories (“[G]reater incarceration can explain about one-quarter or more of the crime decline”)

California is a microcosm of what is happening nationally and globally—and of what will happen even more during the balance of this decade.

See, e.g., http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-27/global-economic-rebound-weakens-on-quake-oil-price-european-debt-crisis.html (“Global Economic Rebound Weakens on Quake, Oil Price, European Debt Crisis”)

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27 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Is The Arab Spring Being Hijacked By Ultra-Conservative Islamists, Similar To What Happened In Iran?

This was predictable, and now it seems to be happening. For example, Reuters has reported the words of one Cairo lawyer who is a Christian: “We did not risk our lives to bring Mubarak down in order to have him replaced by [ultra-conservative Salafist Islamists].” Reuters adds:

Those who camped out in Tahrir Square side by side with Muslims to call for national renewal now fear their struggle is being hijacked by ultra-conservative Salafist Islamists with no one to stop them.

. . .

Sectarian tensions are not new to Egypt, where Christians make up around 10 percent of the population of 80 million. But the frequency and intensity of clashes have increased since Mubarak’s overthrow.

Many blame a broader weakening of law and order that began as the protests against Mubarak gathered pace and police deserted the streets.

. . .

Egypt’s military rulers have vowed to punish those behind sectarian clashes, banned demonstrations outside places of worship and promised to give Christians equal rights.

But Christians say no one has been tried yet for the burning of a church in Helwan, south of Cairo, in March or for violence in the Cairo suburb of Imbaba on May 7 that left 15 people dead. At least 13 died in clashes after the Helwan incident.

The army has said 190 people will face trial over the Imbaba clashes, which began when a group of Salafists demanded to look inside a church where they suspected a female convert to Islam was being held against her will.

See http://ca.news.yahoo.com/christians-worry-egypt-being-hijacked-islamists-031322380.html

Will the “Scent of Jasmine” that began in Tunisia morph into a “stench” that engulfs the region? Only time will tell.

What is clear though is that following the rigged election of 2009 in Iran, countless Iranians who spoke out, protested and advocated freedom were beaten, jailed, tortured and killed, while Barack Obama—America’s “Hamlet on the Potomac,” or “Jimmy Carter-lite”—stood by helplessly and did nothing to come to their aid.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1316 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath the article)

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30 05 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Let China Or Russia Defend The UK

The UK’s Economist has an article entitled, “Keeping government hands off their benefits,” which is barely worth reading. It begins by advocating “massive cuts in America’s defence budget,” which would leave the UK defenseless, because its Prime Minister David Cameron is decimating the UK’s defense capabilities already.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1591 (“Sun Setting On British Power”)

We in America do not need to protect the UK anymore; let China or Russia do it, although—come to think of it—Putin’s Russia is effectively a Third World country militarily, and a mere shadow of what the Soviet Union once was.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/ (“Russia’s Putin Is A Killer”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

With respect to “NATO’s confused intervention in Libya,” which the Economist asserts, few Americans really care what happens in Libya, in large part because there is reason to believe that the Arab Spring will be hijacked by ultra-conservative Islamists, similar to what happened in Iran. The “Scent of Jasmine” that began in Tunisia may morph into a “stench” that engulfs the region; and the UK’s involvement in that campaign may prove to be a waste of financial and human resources.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1604

Also, there will be no cuts to Medicare and Social Security, which the Economist advocates. They are effectively the “third rail” of American politics—too hot to touch. Those who try will be rejected by the voters. If Obama had not wasted taxpayers’ monies on his so-called “Stimulus Package” and other programs, increasing our budget deficit dramatically, no one would be focused on cutting our defense budget, and Medicare and Social Security would be dealt with many years from now, if at all.

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1 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

We’re On The Verge Of A Great, Great Depression, And The Federal Reserve Knows It

These are the words of Peter Yastrow, market strategist for Yastrow Origer, which were reported by CNBC. Yastrow added:

“We have many, many homeowners that are totally underwater here and cannot get out from under. The technology frontier is limited right now. We definitely have an innovation slowdown and the economy’s gonna suffer.”

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/43236764; see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1393237/US-economy-Were-verge-great-great-depression.html (“[T]he first quarter drop in house prices means they have fallen by more than during the Great Depression”)

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3 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Gloom And Doom, As More Americans Think Economy Will Never Recover

This is the conclusion of CNBC, in an article that states:

Americans are growing increasingly doubtful about direction of the US economy, according to the latest survey from business-advisory firm AlixPartners.

In fact, an increasing number, some 61 percent, say they don’t expect to return to their respective pre-recession lifestyles until the spring of 2014, if ever.

. . .

What’s worse, a full 10 percent said they expect they will never return to pre-recession spending.

. . .

“It’s a vicious cycle,” [Fred Crawford, CEO of AlixPartners] said. “Americans need to see a significant decrease in unemployment to feel confident in the economic recovery, but companies are waiting to see increased demand for their products and services before they begin hiring and making job-creating capital expenditures.”

In the latest survey, some 63 percent of Americans said they feel “not good” or “bad” about the state of the US economy, representing a significant increase from May 2010 when only about 49 percent of those polled felt this gloomy.

The survey also found that Americans overwhelmingly expect to delay by at least 12 months major purchases and expenditures such as spending on new cars, home repairs and vacations.

. . .

[C]onsumers are hunkering down amid the uncertainty.

The view was expressed Thursday by Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who said that traffic at Target stores slowed in the second half of the month.

“Our guests continue to shop cautiously in light of higher energy costs and inflationary pressures on their household budgets,” Steinhafel said, in the company’s monthly sales press release.

AlixPartners is by no means the first organization to recognize this growing pessimism.

Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius said the number of consumers who believe they have a chance to bring home more money one year from now is at its lowest level in 25 years, based on his analysis of the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment poll.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/43268037 (emphasis added)

What is becoming crystal clear is that the United States is not in a recession, but in the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such—or by using similar terms—20-40 years from now. Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that things are improving, but this was true during the Great Depression of the last century too, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.

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4 06 2011
Mary

Unfortunately, I am in agreement with you. Living in one of the states hardest hit by the severe economic situation does make me wonder if we will ever recover. The jobs are simply “not here”, so many have left my state, never to return, but I also wonder if they are finding employment elsewhere.

Speaking of cutting back, that is what I have done, knowing full well others have to. As an example, I used to eat out at least once a week, perhaps more when it was the week of my pay check. Now, once a month is a great treat!!! That being said, I am OK with spending less in restaurants,,,,,,,,,,,but also know that is not good for the restaurant industry.

I am not yet at the point of calling our current state of the nation to be in a Depression, but if I were to lose my job, I know I would be in a personal Depression. It is often said that attitude can make or break many accomplishments in life. Thank goodness I remain positive in this uncertain world. Living on less can be kind of fun.

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5 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Homeowners Turn The Tables By Foreclosing On The Bank Of America

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Daily Mail about a south Florida couple who got sweet revenge when they foreclosed on the Bank of America, instead of the other way around. As the article stated:

The unusual turn of events started in Collier County months ago, when the mega-bank notified Maurenn Nyergers and her husband that their comfortable, relatively new home had gone into foreclosure.

Trouble is, the Nyergers say they never owed the bank a cent, swearing instead that they had paid cash for their dwelling.

A Collier County judge agreed with the couple, and ordered Bank of America to pay their legal expenses.

But then, the Nyergers say they waited more than five months for a check.

The family’s lawyer, Todd Allen, told CBS: ‘They’ve ignored our calls, ignored our letters, legally this is the next step to get my clients compensated’.

So Mr Allen moved to seize the bank branch’s assets.

He instructed sheriff’s deputies and movers to remove desks, computers, copiers, filing cabinets and ‘any cash in the teller’s drawers’.

Bank employees were locked out for about an hour.

Mr Allen said the branch manager appeared ‘visibly shaken’ and bewildered.

He then handed the lawyer a check for the legal fees owed.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394412/Nyergers-family-homeowners-turn-tables-foreclosing-ON-Bank-America.html

Sweet revenge, indeed. Hopefully this happens again and again, across the U.S. and in other countries; and banks and other lenders are taught a lesson.

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5 06 2011
mr0btuse

I saw this story yesterday, and had the same reaction–what a great example of true justice at work. Hopefully the story goes viral and becomes a source of inspiration to those that think they can’t fight back.

Of course, it appears that it does help to have the resources to do it.

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7 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Nearly 40 Percent Who Borrowed Against Their Homes Are Underwater

In a very sobering article entitled, “Second-Mortgage Misery,” the Wall Street Journal notes:

Almost 40% of homeowners who took out second mortgages—extracting cash from their residences to cover everything from vacations to medical bills—are underwater on their loans, more than twice the rate of owners who didn’t take out such loans.

The finding . . . illustrates the consequences of easy borrowing amid the housing boom’s inflated prices. The report says 38% of borrowers who took cash out of their residences using home-equity loans are underwater, or owe more than their home is worth. By contrast, 18% of borrowers who don’t have these loans were underwater.

. . .

What is clear is that home-equity loans, which account for about 10% of the U.S. mortgage market, have been a headache for homeowners and lenders alike. Second mortgages refer to any loan taken out on a property that is subordinate to the first mortgage, and include home-equity loans or lines of credit.

. . .

The . . . report doesn’t include cash-out refinancing, a common practice during the boom, where borrowers opted to extract cash while refinancing their first mortgage.

According to Federal Reserve Board data, homeowners took out a total of $2.69 trillion from their homes at the height of the housing boom between 2004 and 2006. That tally includes cash-out refinancings.

. . .

The risks extend beyond the borrowers to banks. While the majority of first mortgages were bundled into pools and resold to investors as securities, second-lien mortgages are heavily concentrated on bank balance sheets.

. . .

More than 40% of that debt is on the books of the nation’s four largest banks: Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup Inc. Requiring big writedowns on those loans could burn through banks’ capital.

Second mortgages have made it more difficult for troubled borrowers to negotiate loan modifications with lenders. Economists say borrowers with second mortgages on homes that are underwater are far more likely to walk away from their homes.

Homeowners seeking a “short sale,” in which they sell their property for less than the value of the outstanding mortgage, have a much harder time doing so when they have a second loan, because all the lenders involved must agree to take losses on the sale, and second-lien holders take the first losses in such a situation.

. . .

[One home-equity loan borrower said,] “I’m hoping they don’t come after me for the money I owe them. That would be, for me, the end of it all.”

Nevada, which has seen homes lose half their value on average in some markets, had the highest rate of negative equity, with 63% of its mortgaged properties underwater, followed by Arizona (50%), Florida (46%) and Michigan (36%). Two-thirds of homeowners with a mortgage in Las Vegas are underwater, while 56% of homeowners in Stockton, Calif., and 55% of Phoenix mortgage-borrowers have negative equity.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304906004576369844062260756.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories#articleTabs%3Darticle (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1563 (“Suicide Rates Climb As The Economy Declines”)

This is an excellent article, which only captures the tip of an enormous iceberg.

More and more Americans will lose their homes, and the human suffering will be unfathomable, and it will last at least through the end of this decade. Second mortgages are merely one facet of the human tragedy that is unfolding.

The “bottom” of the housing market will not be reached for about five more years; and it will be brutal between now and then. Those who sit on the sidelines patiently, with cash, will be rewarded. There will be bargains galore; and today’s prices will fall at least another 50 percent.

Hold on tight, it will be very ugly—in the United States, Europe (e.g., Ireland, the UK), Asia and on a global scale.

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7 06 2011
mr0btuse

Wow, if prices drop another 50%, the bank is probably going to want their home equity loan back, and I haven’t even tapped it yet. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t follow the crowd, spend away, and worry about it later.

My dad’s family survived the last depression on a farm in North Dakota. They were frugal and self-sufficient, and did quite well. On the other hand, both my wife and I lost our corporate jobs during the downturn that started in 2000. Myself in 2004, and she, this year. As they say, it’s only a recession if your neighbor loses his job. It becomes a depression when you lose your own job.

Luckily, we didn’t overextend ourselves, so we can go a year before dipping into retirement assets. And long after, due to being savers during our working years.

But the amazing thing is…the family farm may save the day again. Seems they are about to drill for oil on our farm as it was located atop one of the richest pools of oil in North Dakota. Never been a religious man, but I’ve been giving a lot of thanks to my long-gone ancestors lately. I think they knew that land would take care of the family forever.

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7 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your additional comments.

With respect to your first paragraph, it might be most prudent not to spend the money, as you know. Hold it in reserve for a “rainy day,” but act conservatively and avoid using it.

I agree with your second paragraph; however, during the balance of this decade, such job losses will sweep the United States and other countries, and the human suffering will be staggering.

With respect to your last paragraph, congratulations! I have a lawyer-friend who inherited two farms in South Dakota, but no oil yet. He has been benefiting from high crop prices though, and is very thankful.

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9 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise

This is the title of an important CNN article, which is worth reading. It states in pertinent part:

President Barack Obama’s overall approval rating has dropped below 50 percent as a growing number of Americans worry that the U.S. is likely to slip into another Great Depression within the next 12 months, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Wednesday also indicate[s] that the economy overall remains issue number one to voters, with other economic issues—unemployment, gas prices and the federal deficit—taking three of the remaining four spots in the top five.

. . .

Forty-eight percent say that another Great Depression is likely to occur in the next year—the highest that figure has ever reached. The survey also indicates that just under half live in a household where someone has lost a job or are worried that unemployment may hit them in the near future.

. . .

“The poll reminded respondents that during the Depression in the 1930s, roughly one in four workers were unemployed, banks failed, and millions of Americans were homeless or unable to feed their families,” says [CNN Polling Director Keating Holland]. “And even with that reminder, nearly half said that another depression was likely in the next 12 months. That’s not just economic pessimism—that’s economic fatalism.”

. . .

Not surprisingly, with that much economic angst, the economy is the number one issue, the only one that more than half of the public says will be extremely important to their vote for president next year. Nearly all issues that at least four in ten say will be extremely important to their vote are domestic issues. Terrorism also makes that list, but Afghanistan is fairly low and Libya is tied for dead last out of the 15 issues tested. Abortion and gay marriage also rank very low, indicating that 2012 may be an election that is shaped more by bread-and-butter issues than social and moral concerns.

See http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/08/cnn-poll-obama-approval-rating-drops-as-fears-of-depression-rise/; see also http://cnsnews.com/news/article/after-28-months-stimulus-spending-19-mil (“1.9 Million Fewer Americans Have Jobs Today Than When Obama Signed Stimulus”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/43441924 (“Misery Index” Highest In 28 Years)

Since before this blog began in December of 2009, I have maintained that the United States and other countries worldwide are in the mist of the “Great Depression II.” If anything, the empirical data and other similar findings set forth at this blog support that conclusion. It has been stated again and again that 20-40 years from now, economic historians will describe the end of the last decade and the current decade as an economic depression, not a recession, drawing parallels between this period and the Great Depression of the last century that did not end until the outset of World War II—or perhaps at the end of it.

Also, I have maintained that “green shoots”—or signs that things are improving—may appear from time to time, similar to what happened during the Great Depression, and hopes may rise. However, in all likelihood, they will be short-lived and dashed as the green shoots turn into “dead weeds,” and the economic tsunami continues to roll worldwide, bringing enormous suffering to millions of people. With respect to the housing sector alone, I have predicted that the “bottom” will not be reached for at least another five years; and that those who sit on the sidelines and wait patiently, with cash, will find bargains galore and be rewarded handsomely.

See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess”) and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (“Greenspan’s legacy: more suffering to come”—”Interview with Timothy D. Naegele”); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/will-the-eus-collapse-push-the-world-deeper-into-the-great-depression-ii/ (“Will The EU’s Collapse Push The World Deeper Into The Great Depression II?”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/is-financial-reform-simply-washingtons-latest-boondoggle/ (“Is Financial Reform Simply Washington’s Latest Boondoggle?”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/the-great-depression-ii/ (“The Great Depression II?”)

More and more observers are agreeing with what has been stated at this blog; namely, the Great Depression II is here to stay, at least through the balance of this decade, and the human suffering is and will continue to be unfathomable. As I stated in an article entitled, “Euphoria or the Obama Depression?” that was published by the McClatchy Newspapers and McClatchy-Tribune News Service on April 8, 2009:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

I have contended that “Barack Obama Is A Lame-Duck President Who Will Not Be Reelected,” and this conclusion is becoming more and more evident to millions of Americans and others worldwide.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1617 (“Why Barack Obama May Be Heading For Electoral Disaster In 2012″) and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-22/obama-gets-30-of-americans-certain-to-support-re-election-in-economy-poll.html (“Obama Gets 30% of Americans Certain to Support Re-Election in Economy Poll”) and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304657804576401653113017130.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read (“President Barack Obama is likely to be defeated in 2012″)

. . .

In a CNBC article entitled, “US Is Nearing Even Worse Financial Crisis: Jim Rogers,” financial “guru” and international investor Jim Rogers’ sobering assessments are cited:

The U.S. is approaching a financial crisis worse than 2008, Jim Rogers, chief executive, Rogers Holdings, warned CNBC Wednesday.

“The debts that are in this country are skyrocketing,” he said. “In the last three years the government has spent staggering amounts of money and the Federal Reserve is taking on staggering amounts of debt.

“When the problems arise next time…what are they going to do? They can’t quadruple the debt again. They cannot print that much more money. It’s gonna be worse the next time around.”

. . .

He called Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a “disaster” who has “never been right about anything” since he’s been in Washington. “I hope he doesn’t come back with QE3 but that’s all he knows. The only thing he knows is to print money.”

He predicted that after the Fed ends its quantitative easing program, known as QE2, this month, it may come back under another name.

“They’re gonna bring it back because [Bernanke will] be terrified and Washington will be terrified,” he said. “There’s an election coming in November 2012. Washington’s gonna print more money.”

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/43328325; see also http://www.cnbc.com/id/43354054 (“JPMorgan Forecasts Another Drop in Home Prices”) and http://www.marketwatch.com/story/many-of-us-wont-be-able-to-retire-until-our-80s-2011-06-09 (“Many of us won’t be able to retire until our 80s”)

CNBC has reported:

It’s official: The housing crisis that began in 2006 and has recently entered a double dip is now worse than the Great Depression.

Prices have fallen some 33 percent since the market began its collapse, greater than the 31 percent fall that began in the late 1920s and culminated in the early 1930s, according to Case-Shiller data.

. . .

“The sharp fall in house prices in the first quarter provided further confirmation that this housing crash has been larger and faster than the one during the Great Depression,” Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics in Toronto, wrote in research for clients.

. . .

Prices continue to tumble despite affordability, which by most conventional metrics is near historic highs.

The rate for a 30-year conventional mortgage is around 4.5 percent, just above the historic low of 4.2 percent in October 2010.

. . .

Yet other factors are constraining the market.

After the fallout from the subprime debacle, in which millions lost their homes when they defaulted on loans they could not afford, banks changed underwriting standards.

More than four in every five mortgages now require a down payment of 20 percent, and credit history standards have tightened. At the same time, foreclosures continue at a brisk pace, pushing more supply onto the market and pressuring prices downward.

Then there is the issue of underwater homeowners—those who owe more than their house is worth—representing another 23 percent of homeowners who cannot leave or are in danger of mortgage default.

Indeed, the foreclosure problem is unlikely to get any better with 4.5 million households either three payments late or in foreclosure proceedings. The historical average is 1 million, according to Dales’ research.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/43395857 (“US Housing Crisis Is Now Worse Than Great Depression”)

In another important Wall Street Journal article entitled, “The Great Property Bubble of China May Be Popping,” it has been reported:

After years of housing prices gone wild, China’s property bubble is starting to deflate.

Residential prices are heading downward in some major cities, damping some undesired real-estate speculation but raising the prospect that the Chinese economy may slow more rapidly than anticipated with profound consequences for global growth.

Real estate is a foundation of China’s phenomenal growth record in the past two decades, and its health is crucial to China’s construction, steel and cement sectors. Real estate is also a favored investment of Chinese looking to get better returns than bank deposits pay. Local municipalities and provinces depend on rising prices for land sales as well to fund infrastructure projects.

World Bank economists warned at a Beijing press briefing on Wednesday that a real-estate bubble was among the biggest economic risks China faces.

. . .

A downturn in property and apartment prices would harm Chinese industry and investment, and crimp consumer spending. China is a “housing-led economy,” says UBS economist Jonathan Anderson, who estimates that property construction alone accounted for 13% of gross domestic product in 2010, twice the share of the 1990s.

While China’s anticipated growth is still well above that of other large economies, any reduction could have deep consequences. The global economy is now even more dependent on China for demand for anything from commodities to luxury goods, given the tepid recovery in the U.S. and Europe’s continuing sovereign-debt problems.

If the Chinese housing market slows faster than people had expected, the impact would be felt in a number of markets that export heavily to China. Many Latin American and African economies have shifted their focus toward Chinese demand for their raw materials, and many Western firms, including U.S. retailers and fast-food chains, now bank on Chinese consumers feeling wealthier to make up for stagnating sales elsewhere. Also, plans by local Chinese governments to improve infrastructure loom large for heavy-equipment makers like Caterpillar Inc.

. . .

A number of analysts think official data, which have continued to show a slight rise in prices, understate the slowdown as the government can affect the numbers by pressing developers to withhold or add high-value properties to the market depending on what it wants the data to show.

. . .

Chinese officials, facing widespread anger from ordinary citizens who can no longer afford to buy a home, have sought to slow the rise in housing prices.

. . .

Since January 2010, the Chinese government has introduced a number of measures to stem speculation, including boosting down-payment requirements on mortgages for second homes to 60% from 40%, barring state-owned enterprises outside the real-estate sector from investing in property and lifting the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve 11 times—essentially reducing funds banks can lend.

. . .

In Shanghai, apartment sales tumbled 37% in April, to 11,000 units, compared with 17,500 units in January, according to the Shanghai Real Estate Trading Center. With business so slack, Midland Realty, a unit of Hong Kong-based Midland Holdings Ltd., closed eight of its nine offices in Shanghai. “The government’s policy on purchase restrictions had a huge impact on both selling and buying, leading to transactions drying up,” said Xu Feng, senior director of Midland’s development center in Shenzhen.

see http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheGreatPropertyBubbleofChinaMayBePopping.pdf; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/ (“China Is America’s Enemy: Make No Mistake About That”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2005231/Chinas-ghost-towns-New-satellite-pictures-massive-skyscraper-cities-STILL-completely-empty.html (“China’s ghost towns: New satellite pictures show massive skyscraper cities which are STILL completely empty”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/8598998/Enter-the-dragon-to-save-the-euro.html (“Enter the dragon ‘to save the euro’”)

The economic tsunami that was unleashed several years ago continues to roll worldwide, producing tragic human suffering that will increase exponentially during the balance of this decade.

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come. Things will get very ugly between now and the end of this decade, both in the United States and globally!

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15 06 2011
Oliver Bommel

It’s not a very popular message, but indeed, all sign are red…
There is an insufficient consumer trust, due to anger for the economic future, feed by unemployment,by fall of housing prices and stocks. The public sector is absorbing more and more debts to try to boost the economy. Despite this, there a lack of real economic growth. The so called “growth figures” are bought by programs as QE2. At the end of this cyclus, hyperinflation will occur, without growth, this will lead to severe stagflation and a second worldwide depression.

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16 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Oliver, for your comments.

Yes, many people agree with you. My guess is that some stagflation will occur, but deflation will prevail. Indeed, massive deflation of housing prices and values is occurring already, with much worse yet to come.

Because the net worths of so many Americans and other nationalities depend on their equity in housing, this alone will contribute greatly to the depression.

Government tax revenues will fall, consumer spending will fall dramatically, and the downward pressures will be enormous.

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19 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

America Is Losing Its Grip

This is the grim warning of outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. His admonitions continue:

Aboard the Pentagon jet on his last foreign trip as secretary of defense, Robert Gates takes a moment to peer across the American horizon—and the view is dire: the U.S. is in danger of losing its supremacy on the global stage, he says.

“I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position,” he tells NEWSWEEK, seated in a windowless conference room aboard the Boeing E-4B. “It didn’t have to look over its shoulder because our economy was so strong. This is a different time.”

. . .

“To tell you the truth, that’s one of the many reasons it’s time for me to retire, because frankly I can’t imagine being part of a nation, part of a government … that’s being forced to dramatically scale back our engagement with the rest of the world.”

Such a statement—rather astonishing for the leader of the world’s preeminent fighting force—may open the administration to charges of not believing in American exceptionalism. . . .

He is determined to define his own legacy as Pentagon boss, and eager to push back against one of the more vocal criticisms of his tenure: the belief among many liberals and some conservative budget hawks that in a time of deep indebtedness, he hasn’t been willing to chop enough of a defense budget bloated by a decade of war.
Don’t expect him to apologize. In Gates’s mind, it’s other political leaders with less experience who are confused.

“Congress is all over the place,” Gates says at one point. “And the Republicans are a perfect example. I mean, you’ve got the budget hawks and then you’ve got the defense hawks within the same party. And so I think there is no consensus on a role in the world.”

. . .

Bridging two administrations, Gates gets credit for stabilizing Iraq, though the key decisions that led to success—a surge of troops and the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to oversee the strategy—predated his arrival.

Petraeus says Gates knew that his real contribution was to buy time in Washington for the strategy to succeed.

See http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/19/the-defense-rests.html?om_rid=NsfkQq&om_mid=_BN-f69B8bzy3X1

America’s “prince of darkness”—or its “Hamlet on the Potomac” and “Jimmy Carter-lite”—Barack Obama is doing everything in his power to destroy our military might, after having added dramatically to our nation’s budget deficit that is sapping our economic vitality and strength. He would have the United States become a UK militarily, or worse, which is why he is sending Leon Panetta to the Pentagon, to “gut” it.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1591 (“Sun Setting On British Power”)

Ronald Reagan encountered Obama’s negativism when he came to the White House in the wake of Carter’s presidency; and he turned our ship of state around, and changed the course of history. Our enemy, the once-mighty Soviet Union, collapsed and is gone today; and America has reigned supreme ever since, as the world’s only superpower.

Accordingly, Obama must be sent packing either to Chicago or Hawaii no later than January of 2013, to write his memoirs and work full time on his presidential library. He a tragic Shakespearean figure who will be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history, like Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter before him—unless he tragically alters the course of American history.

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20 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Debt Crisis May “Overwhelm” Euro Zone

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal article, which is consistent with what I have written above, albeit far too optimistic. It states in pertinent part:

The debt crisis in the euro zone’s periphery is threatening to shatter the region’s economic recovery and may cause a global financial disruption if not stopped, the International Monetary Fund warned Monday.

. . .

The IMF’s words are its strongest warning to date of the chaos that could ensue if the region’s governments don’t find common ground. They come after a damaging three-way stand-off between Greece, its partners in the euro zone, and the European Central Bank.

The euro zone’s finance ministers have agreed in principle to continue supporting Greece, but only under conditions that neither the Greek body politic nor the European Central Bank can accept.

. . .

Unless the impasse can be broken, Greece is likely to default when its current cash reserves, bolstered by an EU/IMF aid program, run out.

. . .

At the same time, the IMF said that countries that have received aid—such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal—must continue to show “a determined commitment” to their adjustment programs, which all require painful cuts in public spending.

. . .

[T]he IMF said . . . that euro-zone banks need to “fundamentally strengthen” their capital positions.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576397470527710588.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/8585704/Boris-Johnson-let-Greece-go-bankrupt-and-leave-the-euro.html (“Boris Johnson: let Greece go bankrupt and leave the euro”)

As the banks’ balance sheets are battered even more (e.g., by reason of further declines in housing prices, and ensuing defaults), it will be difficult if not impossible to shore up their capital positions.

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21 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Confidence In Housing Values Plummets

This is the conclusion reached by the Rasmussen polling organization, which is summarized as follows:

Overall confidence in housing values among homeowners has plummeted, with the number who say their home is worth more than what they owe on their mortgage lower than ever.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Adult Homeowners shows that just 45% now say their home is worth more than what they currently owe on their mortgage. That’s down six points from May and is the lowest level measured in more than two years of regular tracking. Prior to the latest survey, this finding had ranged from a low of 49% to a high of 61% since late 2008.

Thirty-six percent (36%) report their home’s value is not worth more than the amount they owe on their mortgage, showing little change over the past several months. One in five (20%) now are not sure.

Homeowners are increasingly pessimistic when talking about the value of their homes in the short and long term. Thirty-seven percent (37%) now expect their home’s value to go down over the next year, up 10 points from last month and the highest negative finding to date. Just 16% believe their home’s value will be higher in a year’s time, showing little change from the past two months.

Forty-four percent (44%) expect their home values to stay about the same over the next year, also down 10 points from a month ago.

Twenty-six percent (26%) believe their home’s value will go down in five years’ time, up 10 points over the past month and well above findings over the past two years. Thirty-five percent (35%) expect home values to go up over the next five years, down from 43% last month and the lowest finding yet measured. Twenty-nine percent (29%) expect the value to stay about the same over the next five years.

See http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/business/housing/june_2011/confidence_in_housing_values_plummets; see also http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Home-sales-fell-to-2011-low-apf-682403843.html (“Home sales fall to 2011 low; few 1st-time buyers”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1638 (“CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise”)

Homeowners are just catching up with what is happening to home prices in the marketplace, which will decline at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so. Homeowners will be wiped out, and lose their homes on an ever-increasing basis. In the interim, effectively they will be nothing more than renters, with the banks and other lenders actually owning their homes.

Homebuilders and realtors are fraudulently pushing homeownership, when in fact the opposite is true. More homebuilders and realtors will lose their jobs; and their respective industries will be decimated. Those Americans and others globally who sit patiently on the sidelines with cash will be handsomely rewarded when the “bottom” is reached finally and there are bargains galore for those who are able to “bottom feed.” Cash will be king!

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24 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

In Fleeing Afghanistan, The West Relinquishes Its Grip On The World

This is the title of an interesting and sobering article by Peter Oborne—who is the UK Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator—which is worth reading.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100093677/in-fleeing-afghanistan-the-west-relinquishes-its-grip-on-the-world/

Oborne is mistaken: Richard Nixon did not lose the Vietnam War; Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress did. As someone whom I know has written—who is a syndicated columnist and an outstanding reporter with impeccable, world-class credentials, based in Washington, D.C.:

Congress, in its infinite wisdom, cut off all further military aid to Saigon.

[The South Vietnanmese army] ARVN saw no point in continuing to fight, stabbed in the back by the US Congress.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/john-f-kennedy-the-most-despicable-president-in-american-history, fn. 10.

Among other things, Oborne wrote:

Let’s throw the clock forward to 2014, the year Obama and Cameron say combat operations must end. This much is certain: the Taliban will return to power, conceivably with Mullah Omar (still topping the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list) coming down from the mountains to resume his old position, so rudely interrupted, as Head of the Supreme Council and effective head of state.

It is unlikely that Taliban commanders will take kindly to the flourishing nightlife and lively restaurants that have sprung up under President Karzai’s rule. All this will close at once, while Kabul’s notorious Swimming Pool Hill—where blindfolded criminals and homosexuals were pushed off a high diving board to their deaths—may open again for its ghoulish business. The Taliban attitude towards female education has, to be fair, improved over the past decade. At best, Kabul will come to resemble a provincial Saudi Arabian city.

. . .

[It is likely that] . . . Afghanistan will face a civil war, just as it did after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. If so, humanitarian agencies will find it impossible to operate, and reports of hideous carnage and atrocities will seep out of the country, with Western powers unable to do more than wring their hands. Stalemate is the likely outcome: eventually, large parts of the country will be dominated by warlords, each appropriating a chunk of the Afghan National Army.

In any case, it is unlikely that Obama’s sketchy three-year plan will work. There is no serious incentive—apart from cash—for any Afghan to stay loyal to the departing Americans and British. They must look to secure their future. President Karzai—currently at the heart of a massive banking fraud—will probably quit soon and flee, taking with him the billions of pounds his family have stolen.

Meanwhile, governments such as Britain’s, with armies still operating inside Afghanistan, will be forced to answer a very troubling question: why are we sending our bravest and best young men to be maimed and killed when we are going to leave, anyway?

. . .

Those countries with a genuine long-term interest in the region will get more and more involved, and be entitled to do so—China, Iran, India, Russia and, above all, Pakistan. No force on earth will prevent the Pakistani government from backing the Afghan Taliban, and it is past time that Britain and the US woke up to this elemental fact.

So where does this latest humiliation leave the United States? There were many who predicted that defeat in Vietnam marked the end of the American century, yet they were soon proved wrong and the US went on to enjoy a period of astonishing global success. But remember this—Nixon and Kissinger played one dazzling card as Vietnam weakened. They made peace with China, recruited her as an ally against Soviet Russia, and opened this formerly closed state to international capitalism. The consequences can be assessed in the history books—the greatest advance in living standards the world has ever seen, and US hegemony reaffirmed for an extra generation. But that happy epoch is over. China feels no gratitude, and has turned almost overnight from protégé into malevolent rival, with an ever harsher appreciation of the realities of global power.

Certainly, America remains the greatest military force on earth, with three million men and women in uniform and seven formidable battle fleets, with a combined tonnage greater than the next 13 largest navies combined. Yet the sorry lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that this prodigious military muscle is practically useless for 21st-century warfare.

. . .

Back in 1974, as the US prepared to abandon Vietnam, its national deficit stood at $6.1 billion, equivalent to about $27 billion today. This year’s deficit is $1,660 billion—60 times higher. Back then, US debt stood at $475 billion (around $1.8 trillion, inflation adjusted). In the intervening period, that debt has risen sevenfold to around $14 trillion, having doubled over the last seven years alone. The withdrawal from Afghanistan is, in part, the unexpected consequence of this financial crisis.

There is a sense that yesterday’s Afghan defeat was ordained when Barack Obama, with his mandate to bring George W Bush and Tony Blair’s senseless “War on Terror” to an end, won the 2008 presidential election. Now Obama has fulfilled his promise, and the task that lies before him now is to manage that defeat. More serious than America’s military defeat in Afghanistan has been its moral defeat. Again and again, it has behaved as hideously, and with the same barbaric contempt for human rights, as the worst of its enemies. Obama needs to reunite the United States with civilised values and redefine his country’s role in the world.

The rest of the familiar post-war architecture has gone. America is no longer capable of being the policeman of the world, and may retreat to its historic isolation. Across the Channel, the debt crisis is wrecking the European dream. History is moving faster than ever, and taking us into a new and formless world.

What Oborne should have said, and did so implicitly, is that Barack Obama is responsible for what has been happening in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the region; and he will be blamed for it—by the American people and by history.

Despite the wishful thinking of many, America is not in decline—any more than it was when Henry Kissinger and Jimmy Carter articulated similar beliefs.

One thing is crystal clear though: Obama must be forced from the U.S. presidency at the earliest possible date, and no later than January of 2013. He is an unmitigated disaster—a narcissistic demagogue, and America’s “Hamlet on the Potomac” and “Jimmy Carter-lite”—and his departure cannot happen fast enough!

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/are-afghanistan-iraq-and-pakistan-hopeless-and-is-the-spread-of-radical-islam-inevitable-and-is-barack-obama-finished-as-americas-president/ (“Are Afghanistan, Iraq And Pakistan Hopeless, And Is The Spread Of Radical Islam Inevitable, And Is Barack Obama Finished As America’s President?”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/ (“America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1637 (“CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath these articles)

. . .

The people who will suffer the most in Afghanistan when we pull out will be its women. Indeed, Obama will be giving Afghan women and young girls the “gift” of horrific Taliban rule once again, which will be inhumane.

American women, and women and women’s rights organizations worldwide, must rise up and tell Obama that a pull-out is acceptable only if he is willing to send his two girls to school in Afghanistan now and after the pullout—instead of their fancy school in the Washington, D.C. area—and he actually does this.

Tragically, we know what the Taliban will do—including the brutal killing, raping and disfiguring of Afghan women—for example, by cutting off their noses and ears. We need only ask “Aisha” (or the brave “Bibi”), and look into her eyes and at her once-beautiful features that were disfigured.

There are no mysteries about what Obama’s Afghan policies will produce—which is merely one of a multitude of reasons why his presidency must end as soon as humanly possible.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1102 (“Why We Fight In Afghanistan, And Why American Women Should Demand Barack Obama’s Removal From Office By Impeachment Or Otherwise”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

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29 06 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Obama’s Drawdown Disaster

In another brilliant commentary by Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International—entitled, “Vietnam redux”—he has written:

A phased Afghan withdrawal over the next 3 1/2 years is a recipe for disaster. A date or even year certain, for ending involvement is to concede victory to Taliban.

See http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/de-Borchgrave/2011/06/29/Commentary-Vietnam-redux/UPI-65811309355176/; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303763404576416191709848746.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories (“Al Qaeda Remains Top Threat to U.S.”) and http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/afghanistan/2011-07-04-petraeus-troop-drawdown_n.htm (“Obama’s plan was not among the range of options the military provided to him”)

He adds:

“The U.S. provided better firepower to Afghan resistance fighters opposing the Soviet occupation in the 1980s than it is giving to the Afghan national army today,” [former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan (and Iraq) Zalmay Khalilzad] argues. “The ANA currently lacks adequate air transport, armor and protected mobility.”

. . .

It is increasingly obvious to the Taliban leadership that Obama shaped the troop downsizing to fit the needs of his 2012 re-election campaign, not to the needs of U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus and his commanders in Afghanistan.

The Vietnam War—for the United States—ended almost four decades ago. The last combatant flew home in March 1973. But America’s South Vietnamese allies fought on—with U.S. military assistance voted by Congress. They held their ground with their own air attack and transport support (which ANA doesn’t have).

North Vietnamese commanders, as subsequent memoirs attest, thought they had several more years of fighting before they could hope to take Saigon.

Until, that is, the U.S. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, grew tired of solemn commitments to our former South Vietnamese allies and cut off all military aid. As North Vietnam’s legendary commander Vo Nguyen Giap later admitted, he thought Saigon was still at least two years away from falling to communist forces.

Following the congressional vote, Giap quickly improvised an offensive to take Saigon—suddenly handed to him on a silver platter. Fifty-five days later, communist troops marched into Saigon’s Presidential Palace unopposed.

Similarly, in Afghanistan, when the last U.S. and allied combat troops leave Afghanistan, the U.S.-trained and -funded Afghan army will need major U.S. financial support—already more than the entire budget of the Afghan government. No one is betting that Congress will continue to underwrite an army in which almost 80 percent cannot read or write.

Next to domestic priorities, the need to sustain an ANA against a Taliban that long since jettisoned its former al-Qaida allies will pale into insignificance—especially in Congress.

In fact, there is much evidence that Taliban supremo Mullah Omar had already disowned his alliance with al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden when Obama was elected president. Yet Obama endorsed the Afghan war because “that’s where al-Qaida is.”

A series of erroneous assumptions fueled a decade-long war that has already cost half a trillion dollars, following $1 trillion strategic blunder in Iraq.

A ranking Iraqi official recently conceded privately to this reporter that today 1) “sad to say but Iran now has more influence in Iraq than the United States and 2) “hard to recognize but Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship was the best defense against the regional ambitions of Iran’s medieval mullahs.”

Pakistan, now in its noisiest anti-U.S. mood following the U.S. Navy SEALs raid that killed bin Laden, which humiliated the Pakistani army, can see an opportunity for restoring the status quo ante. With its original Taliban creation back in the saddle in Kabul, it will restore sufficient clout to make sure the United States and NATO exit from Afghanistan peacefully.

Pakistan will also return to what it perceives to be a more familiar and comfortable defense posture—Afghanistan as its defense in depth to the west in the event of an Indian frontal attack.

Between now and then, Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Service Intelligence agency will be back in the driver’s seat facilitating Taliban’s negotiations with the United States for an honorable withdrawal.

Many ignore Vietnam’s lessons as the Cold War ended in a global communist defeat that made the loss of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos seem like minor tactical setbacks. Think again.

The unfolding disaster in Afghanistan, compounded by the calamitous misadventure in Libya, add immediacy to the “Haunting Legacy” of Vietnam—a new must-read book by Marvin and daughter Deborah Kalb on how and why the Vietnam albatross continues to circle the White House.

A truly brilliant article, as only de Borchgrave could have written, because of his vast experience with the Vietnam War and the lessons learned from it, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and the Middle East in general, and the lessons to be learned from that region as well, and the tragedies that may be emerging.

Reason enough to make sure that Obama’s presidency ends no later than January of 2013, when he retreats either to Chicago or Hawaii to lick his political wounds and write his memoirs, and work full time on his presidency library!

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2 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Future Still Belongs To America

American flag

This is the title of an important Wall Street Journal article by Professor Walter Russell Mead—subtitled, “This century will throw challenges at everyone[, but the] U.S. is better positioned to adapt than China, Europe or the Arab world”—which states in pertinent part the following:

It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. Crippled by debt at home, hammered by the aftermath of a financial crisis, bloodied by long wars in the Middle East, the American Atlas can no longer hold up the sky. Like Britain before us, America is headed into an assisted-living facility for retired global powers.

This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. Trillions of dollars in national debt and uncounted trillions more in off-the-books liabilities will give anyone pause. Rising powers are also challenging the international order even as our key Cold War allies sink deeper into decline.

But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

Geopolitically, the doomsayers tell us, China will soon challenge American leadership throughout the world. Perhaps. But to focus exclusively on China is to miss how U.S. interests intersect with Asian realities in ways that cement rather than challenge the U.S. position in world affairs.

. . .

In Asia today China is rising—but so is India, another emerging nuclear superpower with a population on course to pass China’s. Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are all vibrant, growing powers that have no intention of falling under China’s sway. Japan remains a formidable presence. . . . Asia today looks like an emerging multipolar region that no single country, however large and dynamic, can hope to control.

This fits American interests precisely. The U.S. has no interest in controlling Asia or in blocking economic prosperity that will benefit the entire Pacific basin, including our part of it. U.S. policy in Asia is not fighting the tide of China’s inexorable rise. Rather, our interests harmonize with the natural course of events. Life rarely moves smoothly and it is likely that Asia will see great political disturbances. But through it all, it appears that the U.S. will be swimming with, rather than against, the tides of history.

Around the world we have no other real rivals. Even the Europeans have stopped talking about a rising EU superpower. The specter of a clash of civilizations between the West and an Islamic world united behind fanatics . . . is less likely than ever. Russia’s demographic decline and poor economic prospects (not to mention its concerns about Islamic radicalism and a rising China) make it a poor prospect as a rival superpower.

When it comes to the world of ideas, the American agenda will also be the global agenda in the 21st century.

. . .

Fascism, like Franco, is still dead. Communism lingers on life support in Pyongyang[, North Korea,] and a handful of other redoubts but shows no signs of regaining the power it has lost since 1989 and the Soviet collapse. “Islamic” fanaticism failed in Iraq, can only cling to power by torture and repression in Iran, and has been marginalized (so far) in the Arab Spring. Nowhere have the fanatics been able to demonstrate that their approach can protect the dignity and enhance the prosperity of people better than liberal capitalism.

. . .

Closer to home, Hugo Chavez and his Axis of Anklebiters are descending towards farce. The economic success of Chile and Brazil cuts the ground out from under the “Bolivarean” caudillos. They may strut and prance on the stage, appear with Fidel on TV and draw a crowd by attacking the Yanquis, but the dream of uniting South America into a great anticapitalist, anti-U.S. bloc is as dead as Che Guevara.

So the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America’s home court.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life.

. . .

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment.

. . .

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st [century] will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheFutureStillBelongstoAmerica.pdf (bold emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life (“America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life”)

The only thing on the horizon that might dampen the American future that Professor Mead has described is a nation-ending EMP Attack, which might kill all except for 30 million Americans, and end any future that we might envision.

Query whether we are totally and absolutely protected against such an attack, or whether America’s “prince of darkness”—and its consummate narcissistic demagogue, “Hamlet on the Potomac” and “Jimmy Carter-lite”—Barack Obama, is weakening our great nation’s military strength in ways that will dramatically change the course of history?

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/

. . .

In another important article entitled, “World power swings back to America”—and subtitled, “The American phoenix is slowly rising again. Within five years or so, the US will be well on its way to self-sufficiency in fuel and energy. Manufacturing will have closed the labour gap with China in a clutch of key industries. The current account might even be in surplus”—the UK Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard added:

Telegraph readers already know about the “shale gas revolution” that has turned America into the world’s number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing—breaking rocks with jets of water—will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.

“The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d),” said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.

Total US shale output is “set to expand dramatically” as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.

The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.

“The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players,” said Mr Blanch.

Meanwhile, the China-US seesaw is about to swing the other way. Offshoring is out, ‘re-inshoring’ is the new fashion.

“Made in America, Again”—a report this month by Boston Consulting Group—said Chinese wage inflation running at 16pc a year for a decade has closed much of the cost gap. China is no longer the “default location” for cheap plants supplying the US.

A “tipping point” is near in computers, electrical equipment, machinery, autos and motor parts, plastics and rubber, fabricated metals, and even furniture.

“A surprising amount of work that rushed to China over the past decade could soon start to come back,” said BCG’s Harold Sirkin.

The gap in “productivity-adjusted wages” will narrow from 22pc of US levels in 2005 to 43pc (61pc for the US South) by 2015. Add in shipping costs, reliability woes, technology piracy, and the advantage shifts back to the US.

The list of “repatriates” is growing. Farouk Systems is bringing back assembly of hair dryers to Texas after counterfeiting problems; ET Water Systems has switched its irrigation products to California; Master Lock is returning to Milwaukee, and NCR is bringing back its ATM output to Georgia. NatLabs is coming home to Florida.

Boston Consulting expects up to 800,000 manufacturing jobs to return to the US by mid-decade, with a multiplier effect creating 3.2m in total. This would take some sting out of the Long Slump.

As Philadelphia Fed chief Sandra Pianalto said last week, US manufacturing is “very competitive” at the current dollar exchange rate. Whether intended or not, the Fed’s zero rates and $2.3 trillion printing blitz have brought matters to an abrupt head for China.

Fed actions confronted Beijing with a Morton’s Fork of ugly choices: revalue the yuan, or hang onto the mercantilist dollar peg and import a US monetary policy that is far too loose for a red-hot economy at the top of the cycle. Either choice erodes China’s wage advantage. The Communist Party chose inflation.

Foreign exchange effects are subtle. They take a long to time play out as old plant slowly runs down, and fresh investment goes elsewhere. Yet you can see the damage to Europe from an over-strong euro in foreign direct investment (FDI) data.

Flows into the EU collapsed by 63p from 2007 to 2010 (UNCTAD data), and fell by 77pc in Italy. Flows into the US rose by 5pc.

Volkswagen is investing $4bn in America, led by its Chattanooga Passat plant. Korea’s Samsung has begun a $20bn US investment blitz. Meanwhile, Intel, GM, and Caterpillar and other US firms are opting to stay at home rather than invest abroad.

Europe has only itself to blame for the current “hollowing out” of its industrial base. It craved its own reserve currency, without understanding how costly this “exorbitant burden” might prove to be.

China and the rising reserve powers have rotated a large chunk of their $10 trillion stash into EMU bonds to reduce their dollar weighting. The result is a euro too strong for half of EMU.

The European Central Bank has since made matters worse (for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France) by keeping rates above those of the US, UK, and Japan. That has been a deliberate policy choice. It let real M1 deposits in Italy contract at a 7pc annual rate over the summer. May it live with the consequences.

The trade-weighted dollar has been sliding for a decade, falling 37pc since 2001. This roughly replicates the post-Plaza slide in the late 1980s, which was followed—with a lag—by 3pc of GDP shrinkage in the current account deficit. The US had a surplus by 1991.

Charles Dumas and Diana Choyleva from Lombard Street Research argue that this may happen again in their new book “The American Phoenix”.

The switch in advantage to the US is relative. It does not imply a healthy US recovery. The global depression will grind on as much of the Western world tightens fiscal policy and slowly purges debt, and as China deflates its credit bubble.

Yet America retains a pack of trump cards, and not just in sixteen of the world’s top twenty universities.

It is almost the only economic power with a fertility rate above 2.0—and therefore the ability to outgrow debt—in sharp contrast to the demographic decay awaiting Japan, China, Korea, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Europe’s EMU soap opera has shown why it matters that America is a genuine nation, forged by shared language and the ancestral chords of memory over two centuries, with institutions that ultimately work and a real central bank able to back-stop the system.

The 21st Century may be American after all, just like the last.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8844646/World-power-swings-back-to-America.html (emphasis added); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/10209822/US-shale-threatens-Saudi-funding-crisis-and-demise-of-OPEC.html (“US shale threatens Saudi funding crisis and demise of OPEC”)

It is noteworthy that Evans-Pritchard qualifies his predictions by saying that they will occur in “five years or so.” I concur that America has a very bright future ahead; however, this decade will be “dicey,” and it is difficult if not impossible to predict when there will be light at the end of the tunnel—or when the economic tsunami will have run its course and petered out. What we do know is that the Great Depression of the last century did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest; and this depression may last just as long.

Lastly, Russia will continue to be a pygmy when compared to the United States—in terms of America’s vibrant democracy, its growth, military power and economic strength, and all other indicia of global power. The same will be true, to a similar degree, with respect to China, although its future is much brighter than that of Russia.

See, e.g., http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063117/U-S-Army-tests-hypersonic-weapon-travels-times-speed-sound–ANYWHERE-earth-30mins.html (“U.S. Army tests hypersonic weapon that travels five times the speed of sound… and can hit ANY target on earth in 30mins”)

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6 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

German Bail-Out Fatigue Turns To Fury, And The Greeks Are Being Sacrificed

In an important article by the UK Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard entitled, “Germany’s judges hold the euro’s fate in their hands”—and subtitled, “Whether or not Europe’s monetary union survives in its current form, shrinks to a Carolingian core, or shatters, depends as much on abstruse legal arguments put forward . . . in Germany’s constitutional court as it does on the parallel drama unfolding on Greek streets”—it is reported:

A recent Allenbach poll found that 71 [percent] of Germans now have “little” or “no trust at all” in the euro.

Evans-Pritchard added:

For Greece, events have already moved beyond the point of no return. The country is being pushed deeper into economic and political ruin by an IMF austerity drive that lacks the usual shock absorbers. The IMF’s twin cures of devaluation and orderly default are both blocked, one by euro membership, the other by EU contagion fears.

Greece’s public debt will rise to 161pc of GDP by next year, up from 120pc when the crisis erupted. Its economy will contract by a further 3.8pc this year. The deficit remains stuck near 9pc of GDP because the slump is choking tax revenue. The strategy is self-defeating.

“Is there anybody out there who really thinks this crisis is over?” said Jacques Cailloux, Europe economist at RBS. “The policy has failed completely. It must be revamped. There needs to be a Marshall Plan, and the penal interest rate on EU loans must be cut to zero.”

None of this is happening because Europe’s creditor states have not faced up to the reality that saving monetary union requires years of subsidies—not loans—from North to South. The EU authorities are instead lost in minutiae, arguing over collateral rules, or floating plans for bond rollovers at effective rates of up to 10pc. The sole aim is to buy time for banks to offload liabilities—mostly on to EU taxpayers—and for Spain and Italy to beef up defences.

The Greeks are being sacrificed for the greater cause. Their reward is to learn from Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker that Greek sovereignty will be “massively limited”. A body overseen by EU officials and modelled on East Germany’s Treuhand will liquidate Greece’s national assets to cover debts.

Suzerainty [or overlordship] has begun in earnest.

By way of background, Evans-Pritchard stated:

If the eight judges in Karlsruhe rule that Europe’s €500bn bail-out machinery breaches of Germany’s Basic Law—or Grundgesetz—in any significant way, they risk knocking away the central prop beneath the debt edifice of Southern Europe.

The judges have distilled a plethora challenges to the Greek, Irish, and Portuguese bail-outs into three complaints. These include one by a group of professors who argue that the Greek loans subvert the Bundestag, violate the “no bail-out” clause of the Lisbon Treaty, and amount to the creation of a fiscal transfer union, by stealth, without the requisite changes in the German Grundgesetz, and “strike a blow at the constitutional foundations of our state and our society”.

. . .

The judges know the risks. They will bend a long way to find a formula that does not set off a banking collapse, or threaten Germany’s strategic investment in post-war Europe. But will they bend enough to satisfy the bond markets when they issue their verdict, probably in September?

Andreas Vosskuhle, the court’s president, noted acidly that the hearings were not about the “future of Europe or the handling of the debt crisis”. They are a matter of law.

This is the same court that stunned EU elites with its volcanic ruling on the Lisbon Treaty in June 2009, cautioning Brussels that the EU is a club of sovereign states, not a state itself; that national parliaments are the only legitimate fora of democracy; and that certain fields “must forever remain under German control”—including budgets.

The court has been the backbone of German democracy for 60 years. It is über-vigilant because it knows where pliant judges went wrong in the 1930s.

. . .

Tübingen professor Joachim Starbatty, one of the litigants, expects the court to reach a “Yes, but” ruling that allows agreed rescues to go ahead, but imposes a strict “corset” on future bail-outs.

This could have serious implications. Further doubts over how far Germany will go to backstop the EMU system risks accelerating capital flight from Spain and Italy. Neither country is safely out of the woods yet. The PMI Composite index for Spain and Italy both tumbled below 50 in June, signalling economic contraction in the third quarter. France’s index saw the sharpest drop since the series began in the late 1990s. EMU’s North-South divide is becoming wider.

At the least, the court is expected to insist that the Bundestag has a veto on rescue packages. . . .

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8619241/Germanys-judges-hold-the-euros-fate-in-their-hands.html; see also http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/05/marshall-plan-europe-hesitant-leaders (“Any new Marshall plan will founder in the minds of Europe’s hesitant leaders”)

What is increasingly clear is that there will not be another Marshall Plan because the political consensus is not there. Also, the only truly strong country in Europe is Germany, which is in the process of turning inward as the political will to bail out Europe runs headlong into German nationalism. This is likely to increase, as the eurozone fractures.

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6 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Next, Worse Financial Crisis: Ten Reasons Why We Are Doomed To Repeat 2008

This fine Wall Street Journal article by Brett Arends can only be supplemented, not disparaged. It is not “Pollyannaish,” glossing over the warning signs on the horizon, like so many commentators who “sugar-coat” what is happening.

See http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-next-worse-financial-crisis-2011-07-06

As far-fetched as it might seem at first blush, we have only seen the tip of an enormous iceberg, with much worse yet to come during the balance of this decade. Economic historians will be pouring over what has happened already, as well as what is to come, for many decades ahead, trying to determine what really happened.

As I wrote two and a half years ago in the American Banker, the daily newspaper of the banking industry:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that has burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

Arends is correct: “No one has been punished”—not Greenspan, or anyone else. A federal official with reason to know told me that between 15-20 percent of the indictees in federal courts are probably innocent. Some are seniors who have been charged with cheating the Social Security program, and they are scared to death, so they agree to plea bargains rather than fight for their innocence. Yet, those who caused the suffering of millions of people globally have not been brought to justice, with much greater suffering to come.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed, n.8.

Echoing Arends’ conclusion that “those in the know” lose little—or nothing—if things go wrong, one should take time to read Bernie Madoff’s interview in New York Magazine, which concludes that the market is a whole rigged job, and there’s no chance that investors have in this market.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1464; see also http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (“Greenspan’s legacy: more suffering to come”)

Arends is correct that the “referees” are corrupt too. I have been a lobbyist, and know how it works in spades.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/washington-is-sick-and-the-american-people-know-it (“Washington Is Sick And The American People Know It”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

Most commentators point to “green shoots,” or signs that things might be improving, but there were green shoots during the Great Depression of the last century, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest. Twenty-to-forty years from now, economic historians will describe what we are going through now as the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar terms.

Hold on tight. Housing prices will fall by at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so; more loans will be “underwater, and homeowners will default and lose their homes; and banks and other lenders will be in even deeper troubled waters as their “toxic” loans increase, and their capital diminishes or evaporates.

As I wrote more than two years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand; and Americans are apt to realize this as the elections of 2010 and 2012 approach.

. . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

Last November’s elections saw Barack Obama and his Democrats suffer significant electoral losses, but they may pale in comparison with what happens next year.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1637 (“CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it); see also http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/07/08/an_establishment_in_panic_110501.html (“An Establishment in Panic”)

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11 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Treasury Secretary Geithner Echoes What This Blog Has Been Predicting!

In an article entitled, “Geithner says hard times to continue for many,” the AP has reported:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner . . . says many Americans will face hard times for a long time to come.

He says President Barack Obama rescued the United States from a second Great Depression and will keep working to strengthen the economy. But Geithner says will be some time before many people feel like the country is recovering.

Geithner tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it’s a very tough economy. He says that for a lot of people “it’s going to feel very hard, harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come.”

See http://news.yahoo.com/geithner-says-hard-times-continue-many-150523958.html

If anyone seriously believes that “Obama rescued the United States from a second Great Depression,” there is a bridge in Brooklyn that they might wish to buy. Despite the “spin” that Obama, Geithner and others are giving to economic issues, most Americans understand fully what is happening and who is to blame, which is why Obama will not be reelected next year.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1637 (“CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath the article)

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11 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

More Government Shutdowns Are Coming

The UK’s Economist has an article about the government shutdowns in the State of Minnesota and elsewhere, which is worth reading.

See http://www.economist.com/node/18928883

What is crystal clear is that things will get worse, a whole lot worse, between now and the end of this decade. Indeed, many years from now, economic historians may refer to these times as the “lost decade” or the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar terms.

The closure of federal, State and local government facilities in the United States will become the norm. Included will be parks, more and more of which are closing now; museums and libraries; hospitals and other health care facilities; and schools and other educational facilities.

Courts will be closed, or operate on reduced schedules; and the list of “lights out” governmental entities will grow. Law enforcement will be terminated or “furloughed,” prisoners will be released, and crime will rise. Roads will go unpaved; and there will be a general breakdown and deterioration of America’s infrastructure.

See, e.g., http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-10-23/jobs-lost-economic-woes-hit-police-budgets/50885474/1?loc=interstitialskip (“Economic woes take toll on U.S. police departments”)

Government at all levels will be affected and have no choice, as tax revenues decline dramatically. Housing prices will fall by at least another 50 percent during the next five years or so, which means that property tax revenues will fall accordingly—unless government taxing entities refuse to reduce property valuations in a last-ditch attempt to maintain declining revenues. There will be “pitched battles,” in the courts and elsewhere, between the taxing authorities and the taxed; and more and more owners will have their properties seized to satisfy unpaid obligations.

Banks and other mortgage lenders are burdened today with staggering amounts of “toxic” and “underwater” loans, which are either on the lenders’ books already or the borrowers are poised to default in the days and months ahead and lose their properties. If the banks’ loan portfolios were “marked to market,” their net worths or capital might be negative now or fall precipitously. This will only get worse; and the bank regulatory agencies will be faced with the dilemma of whether to seize the “walking wounded” or allow them to operate and continue in existence, with their problems mounting each and every day.

In the United States and globally, meaningful and effective government solutions will be non-existent, and public outrage will be enormous and increasing exponentially. As I wrote more than two years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand; and Americans are apt to realize this as the elections of 2010 and 2012 approach.

. . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”)

Last November, Barack Obama and his Democrats suffered staggering electoral defeats in the United States. Next November, the consequences are likely to be even worse. Among other things, Obama might not be reelected; and if so, American economic issues may have proved to be decisive. Similar trends will be occurring in other countries.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1709 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1637 (“CNN Poll: Obama Approval Rating Drops As Fears Of Depression Rise”) (see also the articles themselves, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath them) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2021173/Americas-city-broken-dreams-50-jobless-destitute-people-set-forest-community-New-Yorks-doorstep.html#comments (“The Tent City of New Jersey: Desperate victims of the economic slump forced to live in makeshift homes in forest”)

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23 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Will The Euro Crisis Will Give Germany The Empire It Has Always Dreamed Of?

This issue is discussed in an excellent and very sobering article by Peter Oborne, the UK Telegraph’s chief political commentator, which states in pertinent part as follows:

There was one crucial message from yesterday’s shambolic and panicky eurozone summit: today’s predicament contains terrifying parallels with the situation that prevailed 80 years ago [when Wall Street embarked on a second and even more shattering period of decline, by the end of which shares were worth barely 10 per cent of their value at their peak], although the problem lies (at this stage, at least) with the debt rather than the equity markets.

After the catastrophe of 2008, many believed and argued—as others did in 1929—that it was a one-off event, which could readily be put right by the ingenuity of experts. The truth is sadly different. The aftermath of that financial debacle, like the economic downturn after 1929, falls into a special category. Most recessions are part of the normal, healthy functioning of any market economy—a good example is the downturn of the late 1980s. But in rare cases, they are far more sinister, because their underlying cause is a structural imbalance which cannot be solved by conventional means.

Such recessions, which tend to associated with catastrophic financial events, are dangerous because they herald a long period of economic dislocation and collapse. Their consequences stretch deep into the realm of politics and social life. Indeed, the 1929 crash sparked a decade of economic failure around much of the world, helping bring the Weimar Republic to its knees and easing the way for the rise of German fascism.

The faith of leading European politicians and bankers in monetary union, a system of financial government whose origins can be traced back to the set of temporary political circumstances in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and which was brought to bear without serious economic analysis, is essentially irrational. Indeed, in many ways, the euro bears comparison to the gold standard. Back in 1929, politicians and central bankers assumed that the convertibility of national currencies into gold (defined by the economist John Maynard Keynes as a “barbaric relic”) was a law of nature, like gravity. European politicians have developed the same superstitious attachment to the single currency. They are determined to persist with it, no matter what suffering it causes, or however brutal its economic and social consequences.

There is only one way of sustaining this policy, as the International Monetary Fund argued ahead of yesterday’s summit in Brussels . . . the only conceivable salvation for the eurozone is to impose greater fiscal integration among member states.

. . .

By authorising a huge expansion in the bail-out fund that is propping up the EU’s peripheral members (largely in order to stop the contagion spreading to Italy and Spain), the eurozone has taken the decisive step to becoming a fiscal union. So long as the settlement is accepted by national parliaments, yesterday will come to be seen as the witching hour after which Europe will cease to be, except vestigially, a collection of nation states. It will have one economic government, one currency, one foreign policy. This integration will be so complete that taxpayers in the more prosperous countries will be expected to pay for the welfare systems and pension plans of failing EU states.

This is the final realisation of the dream that animated the founders of the Common Market more than half a century ago—which is one reason why so many prominent Europeans have privately welcomed the eurozone catastrophe, labelling it a “beneficial crisis”. David Cameron and George Osborne have both indicated that they, too, welcome this fundamental change in the nature and purpose of the European project. The markets have rallied strongly, hailing what is being seen as the best chance of a resolution to the gruelling and drawn-out crisis.

It is conceivable that yesterday’s negotiations may indeed save the eurozone—but it is worth pausing to consider the consequences of European fiscal union. First, it will mean the economic destruction of most of the southern European countries. Indeed, this process is already far advanced. Thanks to their membership of the eurozone, peripheral countries such as Greece and Portugal—and to an increasing extent Spain and Italy—are undergoing a process of forcible deindustrialisation. Their economic sovereignty has been obliterated; they face a future as vassal states, their role reduced to the one enjoyed by the European colonies of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They will provide cheap labour, raw materials, agricultural produce and a ready market for the manufactured goods and services provided by the far more productive and efficient northern Europeans. Their political leaders will, like the hapless George Papandreou of Greece, lose all political legitimacy, becoming local representatives of distant powers who are forced to implement economic programmes from elsewhere in return for massive financial subventions.

While these nations relapse into pre-modern economic systems, Germany is busy turning into one of the most dynamic and productive economies in the world. Despite the grumbling, for the Germans, the bail-outs are worth every penny, because they guarantee a cheap outlet for their manufactured goods. Yesterday’s witching hour of the European Union means that Germany has come very close to realising Bismarck’s dream of an economic empire stretching from central Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean.

History has seen many attempts to unify Europe, from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons and Napoleon. This attempt is likely to fail, too. Indeed, a paradox is at work here. The founders of the European Union were driven by a vision of a peaceful new world after a century of war. Yet nothing could have been more calculated to create civil disorder and national resistance than yesterday’s demented move to salvage the single currency.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peteroborne/100098260/this-crisis-will-give-germany-the-empire-its-always-dreamed-of/ (emphasis added); see also http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/c087c30e-b3be-11e0-855b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1Smxa2CKN (“Athens’ ability to stay course in doubt”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8653579/Europe-steps-up-to-the-plate.html (“Europe’s economic recovery is sputtering out”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8656572/Eurozone-debt-crisis-Europes-politicians-will-be-punished-for-a-deal-dripping-with-moral-hazard.html (“At some point the Germans will realise that the package is a thinly-veiled fiscal union which makes the transfers they funnelled into East Germany look like small change, and they will revolt at the ballot boxes”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1702 (“German Bail-Out Fatigue Turns To Fury, And The Greeks Are Being Sacrificed”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8728628/Euro-bail-out-in-doubt-as-hysteria-sweeps-Germany.html (“Euro bail-out in doubt as ‘hysteria’ sweeps Germany”—”The next month will decide [German Chancellor Angela Merkel's] future, Germany’s destiny, and the fate of monetary union”)

. . .

There are those who preach the tenets of creating a global government; and they maintain that the constitution of a new world order is essential to maintain democracy. Also, they contend that the regulation of the economy by a global financial institution can be a solution to the financial crisis that began in 2007, and such an institution would be a first step towards the creation of a global government, of which the European Union is an illustration.

Barack Obama agrees with this; and it is among the many reasons why he must not be reelected next year. Indeed, he will “retreat” either to Chicago or Hawaii no later than January of 2013, to lick his political wounds and write his memoirs, and work full time on his golf scores and his presidential library.

“Global governance” is pure and utter nonsense. Indeed, lots of Americans would gladly get rid of the UN, and ship it to France or elsewhere in Europe, and let the French or other Europeans pay for it. Global governance is “Mary Poppins-esque” and/or “Alice in Wonderland-esque.”

Americans do not want Germany or France participating in the governance of anything relating to the United States, any more than Hitler’s Germany should have done it. This is among the reasons why World War II was fought by the United States. America’s history abhors “meddling” in our affairs, which is exactly what global governance entails, and much much more. A majority of Americans might be willing to give up their lives fighting to insure that this never happens.

France did not win World War II. Americans saved Frenchmen from “enslavement” by the Germans. But for the United States, the French might be speaking German today as their “native” tongue. Indeed, a German-American—Dwight David Eisenhower—destroyed Hitler and his monstrous “Thousand-Year Reich.” France did not do it. France was flat on its pathetic back.

The United States has real enemies in this world today, who want to destroy us (e.g., China’s military, Putin and his Stalinist thugs in Russia, North Korea, Islamic fascists). We cannot rely on France or Europe to defend us—militarily, economically or in any other way. Indeed, France and Germany are perhaps the last countries in the world to preach to the United States about democracy. Americans have given their lives for it. France has only “talked” about it.

Lastly, Americans are not about to trust their survival, the survival and national security of our great country, and our freedoms and democracy to France or Germany, two countries that lost World War II.

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6 08 2011
Alan Chesters

I agree with your last paragraph in its entirety, how I wish the people of the UK would adopt this principle, we are governed by at best sexual deviants of the middle of the road sort, now that in itself is not so bad however it does lead to weakness in making decisions, there is nothing clearcut about liberalism, liberalism or any sort of leftward leaning will not help us in the events about to overtake us.

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23 07 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

China’s Spectacular Real Estate Bubble Is About To Go Pop

In an article whose title is set forth above, Jeremy Warner—assistant editor of the UK’s Telegraph and one of Britain’s leading business and economics commentators—has written:

Little noticed amid the furore of the euro crisis, HSBC’S preliminary survey of China’s factories, published this week, indicated manufacturing activity in the world’s second-biggest economy actually declined in July from the month before, the first such contraction in a year. The HSBC purchasing managers index for China has been falling for months now, indicating a protracted fall off in growth as the Chinese authorities act to rein in rampant inflation.

House prices look like being a major victim of this slowdown. Up to a point, this is deliberate policy for China. With the example of the Western property bubble, which ended very badly indeed, serving as a salutary reminder of the dangers of unchecked real estate prices, the Chinese authorities have taken a number of steps to cool the country’s overheated housing market. And it is working; residential property prices have risen on average by “only” 7pc over the last year, and transaction volumes are lower.

But here’s the problem. Residential and commercial property development have been such a big component of growth in recent years that anything that damages the property market risks upsetting the entire apple cart. Nobody can forecast with any certainty when the crash will come, but come it will. You cannot cram that much development into such a short space of time without there eventually being a correction.

And when it comes, its knock on consequences are going to be extreme, possibly just as seismic as the rolling series of banking crises we’ve had here in the west. As noted in the IMF’s latest staff report on China, published this week, the property sector occupies a central position in the Chinese economy, directly making up some 12pc of GDP. It is also highly connected to the health of basic industries such as steel and cement, and to the success of downstream industries like domestic appliances and other consumer durables.

More worrying still, direct lending to real estate (developers and household mortgages) makes up around 18pc of all bank credit. Again, even by UK standards, this is extreme. And for local authorities, which account for 82pc of public spending in China, property related revenues are an important consituent of the overall revenues used as collateral to back borrowing to fund property and infrastructure development. There’s an element of ponzi scheme here.

The problem with the US and UK economies, it is often said, is that they are unbalanced—too much consumption, not enough investment and net trade. In China, the difficulty is the other way around. Consumption remains in the low 30s as a percentage of GDP, the lowest of any major economy. Again, this is deliberate. The Chinese authorities set policy to prioritise investment over consumption.

Any reading of economic history reveals that in the end this path to growth and development is as unsustainable as excessive consumption.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jeremywarner/100011023/chinas-spectacular-real-estate-bubble-is-about-to-go-pop (emphasis added); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/#comment-1639 (“The Great Property Bubble of China May Be Popping“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/8900271/China-property-raises-concerns-as-prices-continue-to-slide.html (“China property raises concerns as prices continue to slide”)

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12 08 2011
Link

I have been saying for the last few years that the dramatic rise in China’s property cannot sustain. This is from ground level observation. A 50 sq. m. apartment in a 1970-era building within the second ring of Beijing is going for roughtly $100000 (RMB 700000). That same property was sold for about RMB 15000 ~ 20000 in the early 1990s. With $100000 you can buy a bigger apartment in downtown Miami and it will be higher quality. People in the U. S. make much more money per capita, whereas the salary of a normal worker is anywhere from 1200 to 3000 Yuan per month. The wage / property ratio is out of control, like in Southern California during the housing bubble, to a different degree. Unfortunately, the psychology behind property bubbles is very similar everywhere in the world.

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8 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Stocks, Real Estate Will Collapse And Keep Falling Into 2013

This prediction by James Fitzgibbon, director of the Highlander Fund, is totally consistent with—albeit more timid and conservative than—what I said in the article above (and in my footnotes and comments beneath it) and in other articles, and in an interview that I gave in October of 2009.

See http://www.dickmorris.com/blog/the-real-economic-story/#more-3883; see also http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess”) and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”) and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (Interview with Timothy D. Naegele: “Greenspan’s legacy: more suffering to come”) and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44370462/ns/business/ (“First time since 1945 that government has reported net monthly job change of zero”)

In an article by political pundit and former Bill Clinton adviser, Dick Morris, he added:

Fitzgibbon has been impressing on me that we are not facing the normal business cycle of boom and bust, but that we are in the midst of a debt repudiation cycle which comes every fifty or sixty years as debt piles up so high that borrowers stop borrowing and lenders stop lending. With a global GDP of $60 trillion, we now have global corporate, personal and government debt equal to $160 billion [sic] (this does not include liability for pensions or social security down the road, but only current debt).

So now he says that the debt deal for deficit reduction recently passed by Congress “[i]s neither the cause nor a solution to these issues. The indebtedness is too great and has been dragging us down for too long to make any difference at all.” He notes that our debt/GDP ratio is now 135% and that “[y]ou have to add in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the US Government public sector debt to get the correct debt balance of $20 trillion vs. a GDP of $14.8 trillion.”

He says “[t]he real horror will be later in the year when the US Treasury Bond goes into a freefall. Then a depression is possible. Soaring interest rates. Collapsing asset values. Contracting economic activity. Surging unemployment. And business closures.”

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come, by far, during the balance of this decade. As I have written, we are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such—or by using similar terms—20-40 years from now.

Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that things are improving. This was true during the Great Depression of the last century as well, which did not end until the onset of World War II at the earliest.

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9 08 2011
Mary

I am wondering, is there anyone out there who isn’t on needles and pins as this economic crisis continues to unfold???? You and the articles presented here bring up many poignant economic reasons of why we are in this situation today.

I believe most people don’t understand the theories and rules of economics, nor do they wish to. What they do understand though is really quite simple and certainly applies to the US or any other country. That is when anyone spends more than he has, or takes in, debt mounts; and due to everyday events, this makes it terribly hard to “catch up” and pay back the amount owed, with that awful interest hovering above and causing much, much, much higher debt. It is daunting and each person reaches a point where they cannot go on if there is no feasible way to meet the debt and also live. So then Bankruptcy occurs. Applying this to a country or countries is the only way I understand what a terrible fix we are in.

As far as I know there remains approximately 3 trillion dollars that Americans are hanging on to. They see no reason to invest in business because of the uncertainty due to unknown taxes, unknown medical costs and regulations the government can and will tag on them as they “do business.” Now who in the world would want to stick his neck out, open a business and employ others when so much uncertainty looms? Guess it is better to hold on to the money and not just give it away to the government. Small businesses have made this country prosper. Unfortunately the opportunity for Capitalism is not presently available in the US.

I feel we never got out of the recession of 2008,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and are now headed to the big D. Your predictions may very soon be on our doorsteps. I’m just waiting to hear city after city declare hardship cases. Michigan alone lost 75 million dollars today that was federally generated to the colleges for food stamps for students……………..Can you believe that much money was appropriated to students??? Whatever happened to having a job while working one’s way through school?

Just my thoughts on this awful, sickening economic disaster we are in. I won’t even comment on the President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My nerves are already out of control.

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9 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Mary, for your thoughtful comments.

Yes, we are headed for far worse during the balance of this decade, dissimilar to anything we have witnessed in our lifetimes. Not a pretty picture, domestically or globally; and it is very unlikely that Barack Obama will be reelected.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

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11 08 2011
umkhhh

why should we be on “needles and pins” – I mean none of us mortals can control the mess so why should we get excited so much? The mess is on system level and thus affecting all. The unfairness of it is that it will provide brilliant opportunity to get rich or richer for some small minority and pain and suffering for everybody else. OC we may be mistaken but signs are all there for everybody to see. There have been for some time….

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11 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your comments. There is wisdom in what you say.

Yes, of course, there is no way that any of us can control or influence the global economic “mess.” Indeed, the politicians in the United States, Germany and elsewhere—many of whom are raving narcissists and demagogues—are apt to make things worse, a whole lot worse.

For example, Barack Obama pushed the enactment of his so-called “Stimulus Package,” which was fashioned not in the White House as such keystone legislative packages usually are, but by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues to please their constituencies. The Republicans were effectively precluded from participating in the legislative process.

The net result is that the legislative package failed to stimulate the U.S. economy at all, and instead rewarded the Democrats’ faithful and added mightily to the American debt, which is causing so many problems today. As I have written:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand. . . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

We are seeing that now; however, the rising anger in America, the UK and elsewhere is only the tip of an enormous iceberg, which will rear its ugly head between now and the end of this decade, with a vengeance.

You are correct when you add:

The unfairness of it is that it will provide brilliant opportunity to get rich or richer for some small minority and pain and suffering for everybody else.

I have noted this before.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1548 (“While Most Of America Is Hurting Economically, The Super-Rich Are Richer Than Ever”)

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14 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Serving On A Board Of Directors Can Be A Thankless And Brutal Experience

USA Today has reported about the political infighting and rifts within the board of directors at the acclaimed Betty Ford Center for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction in Rancho Mirage, California.

The former First Lady’s daughter was ousted from her leadership position with the board, and resigned entirely; financial support has stopped from some of the Center’s long-time contributors; the former First Lady’s wishes for the Center’s future are being disputed; and chaos seems to be engulfing the organization as its competitors broaden their reach geographically, and as the national economy falters. None of this bodes well for the Center’s future.

See http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-08-14-betty-ford-treatment-center-funding_n.htm and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

Having served on several boards of directors, I vowed that I would never serve on another one. The “cat-fighting” and internal politics often make the most Machiavellian politics of Washington, D.C. seem like child’s play.

Egos and factions and power grabs seem to be the norm. Indeed, often the boards members are more interested in their power and positions, and the perks of being board members, than they are in advancing the worthy goals of the organization.

Many of us have found that it is a thankless job. More importantly, for those who serve on the boards of financial institutions and other large organizations, legal liability can attach to their decisions; and this alone can be brutal unless there are Directors and Officers Liability Insurance (“D&O”) policies in place that provide adequate coverage against costly litigation.

If asked today by a client about serving on a board, my gut reaction would be “no, don’t do it,” which is sad.

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19 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Why Aren’t Homes Selling?

The answer is at least six-fold:

(1) They are bad investments;

(2) It is cheaper to rent than own;

(3) Housing prices will fall at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so, and cash will be king when the “bottom” is reached finally;

(4) Americans are sick and tired of being defrauded by homebuilders and realtors who have been pushing the value of homeownership, when in fact it is not true;

(5) The worst is yet to come, and Americans instinctively know this; and

(6) Banks and other mortgage lenders have “toxic” loans galore, which would only increase dramatically if non-performing or under-performing loans were marked-to-market, causing bank capital to fall even more.

These are also among the many reasons why Barack Obama will not be reelected. The chickens are coming home to roost; and lots more Americans will lose their homes and suffer greatly, which will be true of those abroad as well.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ (“Barack Obama Is A Lame-Duck President Who Will Not Be Reelected”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath both articles)

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25 08 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

A Series Of Anni Horribiles, Or Disastrous Years, Will Stretch Well Into This Decade

In another brilliant commentary by Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International—entitled, “New world disorder”—he has written:

From a record-breaking drought that has devastated much of the U.S. South and keeps getting worse, to the U.S. economy and what Time magazine’s cover story calls “The Decline and Fall of Europe (and maybe the West)”; civil wars in Libya and Syria; renewed terrorism in Iraq and endless fighting in Afghanistan, the good news was hard to detect.

The sudden uprising of jobless youth from poor families in what is arguably the most unequal society in Europe left London ablaze, shook the British establishment to its foundations and spotlighted the widening gap between rich and poor all over Europe.

The 27-nation European Union and its 17-nation common euro currency appear to be unraveling. Some 20 percent of European youth are jobless.

Income disparities throughout the European Union and in the United States show roughly 1 percent of the population controlling 42 percent of a nation’s wealth and taking in a quarter of the country’s income.

When the rising tide lifted all boats, the wealthiest could take credit for building bigger and better boats. But the current global receding tide has beached 14 million in the United States (excluding those who no longer qualify for compensation), while in the European Union the number, currently at 10 percent, is expected to crest at 16 million by 2013.

Worldwide, the current labor stats indicate 180 million looking for work. In Israel, normally a highly disciplined country of 6 million, 250,000 echoed the British underclass with popular anger against a government unable to deliver the goods. And in the Arab world, from Libya to Egypt to Syria, the Arab Spring is now a distant memory.

After 42 years in power in Libya, Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is history but unmentioned during NATO’s five-month bombing campaign is that the victorious rebel regime of Benghazi is heavily infiltrated by Islamist extremists.

In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood is consolidating its dominant position, albeit with the army still in charge.

. . .

It is hardly surprising that there is high anxiety on both sides of the Atlantic; that banks are shaky and some even on the edge of the precipice.

. . .

Like it or not, robotic warfare will soon assume a dominant role in warfare.

There is also the fear of robots carrying nuclear weapons to a distant enemy. Robotic “soldiers” already guard stockpiles of nuclear materials and other nuclear secrets. They can cover more ground and are radiation proof.

The transition to robotic warfare requires a high degree of bipartisanship in Congress, now sadly lacking. Obama has demonstrated that this is beyond his capability.

Meanwhile, he has lost the mantle of leader of the free world. What he says has little impact on either side of the Atlantic—or the Pacific.

See http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/de-Borchgrave/2011/08/22/Commentary-New-world-disorder/UPI-22821314015006/

I respectfully disagree with de Borchgrave that the “global receding tide” will crest by 2013. This is wishful thinking.

The Middle East will get worse, and the promises of the “Arab Spring” and the “Scent of Jasmine” will seem long forgotten. Indeed, we may wish that we had the relative stability of the past again; and even Israel may be “engulfed.”

As for a world of predator “beasts” replacing the military as we know it, perhaps the “Brave New World” is coming—and I love the notion of robotic drones, submarines and the like—however, something tells me that “ground forces” and navies (with manned ships) and piloted planes will not become obsolete.

Education is shifting to the Web, and “bricks and mortar” colleges and graduate schools may be obsolete too, sometime in the future.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/

Lastly, Obama does not have a clue, and is history. The handwriting is on the wall.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ (“Barack Obama Is A Lame-Duck President Who Will Not Be Reelected”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

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5 09 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

European Banks Face Collapse Under Debts, Warns Deutsche Bank Chief

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Telegraph, which comments on the warnings of Josef Ackermann, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank. He has warned that “numerous” European lenders would collapse if they were forced to book their losses on stricken sovereign bonds:

Mr Ackermann said that the value of billions of euros of loans has plunged to a level that could overwhelm smaller banks.

He told a conference in Frankfurt: “Numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

Mr Ackermann said market conditions were as febrile as the height of the banking crisis. “We should resign ourselves to the fact that the ‘new normality’ is characterised by volatility and uncertainty,” he said. “All this reminds one of the autumn of 2008.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8742919/European-banks-face-collapse-under-debts-warns-Deutsche-Bank-chief-Josef-Ackermann.html

Of course EU banks face the prospect of collapse, and the same thing is true of American and other banks around the world. There is no mystery about this. Only someone who has no knowledge of economics fails to understand that this is true.

In accounting principles relating to financial institutions, there is the concept of “marking assets to market”—which can become a requirement or imperative. In the case of home mortgages, this means that if the face amount of a loan is greater than the market value of the home, the loan is “underwater” and the books (or balance sheet) of the bank should reflect this fact. In the absence of doing so, the bank’s assets are overstated (and distorted), and a false sense of well-being is conveyed to depositors, investors and the public alike.

American banks hold massive amounts of “toxic loans” today—or those that are non-performing or under-performing. Housing prices are expected to fall by at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so, which means that more and more loans will go into default or foreclosure. When this happens, the amount of toxic loans will grow dramatically; and if mark-to-market accounting rules were applied, this situation would become even more dire.

Applied to countries that hold sovereign bonds or other debt, the same principles govern. Small banks will be overwhelmed in the EU, the United States and globally. What this article fails to add is that things will get worse economically between now and the end of this decade; and that governments do not have any answers, because they are part of the problem.

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come, far worse; and bank recapitalizations will be like adding small amounts of water to a pond.

See also http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/07/business/global/in-euro-zone-banking-fear-feeds-on-itself.html?_r=1 (“In Euro Zone, Banking Fear Feeds on Itself”)

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30 09 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Bottom Will Drop Out Of The American Real Estate Market

In a sobering USA Today article entitled, “Rich and famous are mere mortals in soft real estate market,” it is stated:

In a market where the housing bust has rippled through all price points, few entertainers, athletes, business tycoons or other well-heeled sellers are willing to share details about their pains or gains. But nowhere are the price cuts sharper—or more visible—than in the super and ultra-luxury markets, where prices, depending on location, range from the $15 million to $50 million-plus.

. . .

Some high-end home prices have been battered by 50% or more. As the threats of a double-dip recession and another swoon in financial markets linger, high-end homes stretching from Beverly Hills to Park Avenue languish on the market.

. . .

[F]requently even steep price cuts fail to attract interest. And many newer listings reflect the somber reality of lower values, a glut of luxury homes and an absence of deep-pocketed buyers.

. . .

Except for pockets of prosperity, the high-end market “is absolutely dead across the board. There’s a three-year supply of inventory,” says [Tony Fitzgerald of Premiere Estates Auction], a veteran Los Angeles broker. “Newer condos are down 50% from what they were selling at. There are stretches where they’re off, 60%, 70%. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/story/2011-09-29/celebrity-house-sale/50609948/1

American housing prices will fall by at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so. The only possible exceptions to this will be in markets where international investors might make a difference.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such (or by using similar terms) 20-40 years from now. Things will get far worse during the balance of this decade.

Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that things are getting better, but that was true during the Great Depression of the last century as well, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.

When housing prices finally hit “bottom,” there will be bargains galore for those who have waited patiently on the sidelines with cash. Indeed, cash will be king!

Other Americans will suffer greatly, and lose everything material.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1817 (“A Series Of Anni Horribiles, Or Disastrous Years, Will Stretch Well Into This Decade”)

Lastly, USA Today had an article some time ago about the most over-priced communities in the United States, and that honor went to Santa Barbara, California—”the nation’s most out-of-whack market.” One can expect its real estate prices to be hit disproportionately over the next five years or so, as the bottom drops out, which is virtually a certainty.

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2005-08-16-home-prices-usat_x.htm; see also http://www.bankrate.com/finance/real-estate/beach-towns-bargain-home-prices.aspx?ec_id=m1117367#slide=5 (Santa Barbara: “Foreclosures as a percentage of all sales: 46.78%”)

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1 10 2011
Mary

Interesting information. I suspect most of us reading or taking a few minutes to reply to this cannot fathom what it is like to live in a palatial dwelling, getting lost within it, and then wanting to sell it. The Celebs who own, buy and sell their properties have gotten the means from us, the middle class, who continue to support them. I’ve given up going to the movies for various reasons; and after reading this, I am so glad that I have. Yes, in our Capitalist nation, they have earned their wealth, but it seems so disconcerting the way they use it to the point of, in my opinion, squandering it. Am I jealous? I hope not. Just thinking about having the means to buy a double-wide out in sunny California and enjoying every feature of it………………..especially ownership and privacy. We learned in elementary school about “wants and needs”—so be it.

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2 10 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Economists: Consumers Won’t Save The Economy—Or Stop The Depression

While many economists are “whores,” who are far worse at predicting the future than weathermen (and women)—in terms of accuracy—USA Today notes, in an article that is essentially correct:

Consumer spending, once the driving force of the U.S. economy, is likely to remain stagnant for years as households struggle to cut debt and build up savings, economists say.

. . .

“While some progress in consumer debt reduction has been made, the heavy lifting of meaningful deleveraging still lies ahead,” says [a recent study from the BlackRock Investment Institute].

Until consumers repair their balance sheets, they are unlikely to increase spending or take on any new debt even with interest rates close to zero percent.
That could continue to hamper the recovery since consumer demand makes up more than 70% of the U.S. economy.

. . .

Homeowners, who are underwater on their mortgages, have an even harder time resolving their debt levels. Some economists see home prices falling even further.

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011-10-02/cnbc-consumers-economy/50619276/1

Consumer spending, which has been the engine of American growth in the past, will not lead the way during the next five years or so, and perhaps during the balance of this decade or longer.

The net worths of many American families have been decimated because of the decline in the values of their homes, and by the loss of such houses altogether in the case of many. Consumer spending had been fueled by a false sense of economic well-being, as housing prices soared and as more Americans borrowed heavily and spent like “drunken sailors.”

American housing prices will fall by at least another 50 percent in the next five years or so; and more Americans will lose their homes to foreclosure, or simply walk away from them, which will impact consumer spending even more dramatically. For the fortunate few who are able to sit patiently on the sidelines with cash, there will be bargains galore when the “bottom” is reached finally. Cash will be king!

For those Americans and their counterparts globally who have lost everything, it will be an economic depression and a living nightmare. Indeed, 20-40 years from now, economic historians will characterize this period as the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar terms. For these Americans, their materialistic dreams will be long gone.

Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that the economy is improving, which was true during the Great Depression of the last century as well. However, that depression did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest; and this one may last just as long.

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly between now and the end of this decade. There are no governmental solutions to these problems; and the human suffering will be staggering. Also, as I have written in the past:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand; and Americans are apt to realize this as the elections of 2010 and 2012 approach.

. . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

In last November’s elections, Barack Obama and his Democrats suffered enormous political defeats, which may pale in magnitude when compared to what is coming next November!

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1843 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all of the comments beneath it)

. . .

In another article entitled, “Protectionism beckons as leaders push world into Depression”—and subtitled, “The world savings rate has surpassed its modern-era high of 24pc. This is the killer in the global system. It is why we are at imminent risk of tipping into a second, deeper leg of intractable depression”—the UK Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard added:

[T]here is a chronic lack of consumption in the world.

. . .

The inevitable outcome of one-sided austerity polices in the Anglo-sphere and Club Med is a self-feeding downward slide for the whole global system, a variant of 1930s debt-deflation.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8802462/Protectionism-beckons-as-leaders-push-world-into-Depression.html; see also http://www.cnbc.com/id/44758520 (“Greece Falls Into ‘Death Spiral': Rising Debt, No Growth”) and http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/bernanke-economic-recovery-close-faltering-14663873 (“Bernanke Says Economic Recovery Close to Faltering”)

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6 10 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The World Is Facing The Worst Financial Crisis In History

Of course Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, is correct in reaching this conclusion. Indeed, his views echo my comments in the article above, and in all of the comments beneath it. An article in the UK’s Telegraph quotes the Governor as stating:

This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen, at least since the 1930s, if not ever.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8812260/World-facing-worst-financial-crisis-in-history-Bank-of-England-Governor-says.html

As I have stated repeatedly, there is nothing that governments in the United States, the UK or elsewhere can do to thwart the economic tsunami from rolling worldwide, with unprecedented human suffering, lasting at least until the end of this decade.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1850 (“Economists: Consumers Won’t Save The Economy—Or Stop The Depression”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all of the comments beneath it) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1848 (“The Bottom Will Drop Out Of The American Real Estate Market”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1828 (“European Banks Face Collapse Under Debts, Warns Deutsche Bank Chief”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1817 (“A Series Of Anni Horribiles, Or Disastrous Years, Will Stretch Well Into This Decade”)

. . .

In another very sobering article, the Telegraph added:

Little more than two years ago, global leaders were happily congratulating themselves on having avoided the mistakes of the 1930s, thereby averting a depression. But now it appears that the difficulties of 2008 were but a foretaste of what was to come. With the European banking system again on the verge of collapse, there is a sense that politicians and economists are out of options, that governments and central banks are powerless before events. The best of the cavalry has been sent into battle, and it has come back in tatters. The fiscal armoury has been exhausted, the support offered by the boom in emerging markets such as China and India over the past two years seems to be on its last legs, and there is but the small rifle fire of the central bank printing presses left to defend us.

If it has been obvious for some time that we are caught up in an extreme financial crisis, the extent of its severity has acquired greater clarity in being described by the Governor of the Bank of England. Never before has the global financial system been so interlinked and integrated, which means that problems in one part of the world are capable of causing severe stress almost everywhere else. We once more face a perfect storm of cascading default, contracting credit and collapsing economic activity.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/8813441/An-entire-system-of-global-trade-is-at-risk.html

This echoes my conclusions more than two years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand; and Americans are apt to realize this as the elections of 2010 and 2012 approach.

. . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

Not only are Americans realizing that their politicians do not have the answers, but their counterparts in Europe and globally are realizing this as well. Barack Obama and his Democrats will not be reelected next November; and a similar fate may befall other politicians worldwide.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ (“Barack Obama Is A Lame-Duck President Who Will Not Be Reelected”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

Anger is growing globally, which is apt to reach unprecedented levels before the end of this decade. The economic tsunami will run its course toward the end of the decade; and there are no governmental solutions to these problems.

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come, and it will be very ugly!

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11 11 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Where And Why Keynes Went Wrong

The RAND Corporation has an interesting article that discusses Keynesian economics—in the context of Barack Obama’s failed and wasteful so-called “stimulus package,” and discusses why it failed—which is worth reading.

See http://www.rand.org/commentary/2011/11/07/WS.html

First, one must appreciate fully that Obama understands little or nothing about economics and business; and in both respects, he is a fool and a feckless naïf, and a tragic Shakespearean figure who will be forgotten and consigned to the dustheap of history—unless he tragically alters the course of American history.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/ and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/ (“[I]n New York City before he moved to Chicago for the first time, he went to work as a research assistant at a consulting house to multinational corporations, where he recalled feeling like ‘a spy behind enemy lines'”)

He is America’s “Hamlet on the Potomac” and “Jimmy Carter-lite.” His naïveté is matched by his overarching narcissism; and he is more starry-eyed and “dangerous” than Jimmy Carter. When the stimulus package was be devised, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats were given the task of fashioning it, which they did to satisfy their constituents, regardless of whether the rest of America benefited or was hurt.

The RAND article notes:

It is generally recognized that the conceptual underpinnings for so-called stimulus programs lie in the theory developed by John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s. That the practical results of these programs in recent years have been negligible, if not negative, while their costs have been high, may be sufficient grounds for avoiding them in the future.

. . .

Before addressing questions about the theory, let’s briefly recap the costs and results of the stimulus so far.

Total stimulus costs have been high, but reckoning them accurately isn’t easy. They include $787 billion in federal spending that was legislated and appropriated in 2009 with the “stimulus” label attached to it. In addition, a proper accounting of the cost should include several other programs and outlays that, while not carrying the “stimulus” label, were designed to boost domestic spending or preclude reductions in spending that were otherwise expected to occur. These other programs include the following: TARP funding to relieve the impaired asset values and weakened balance sheets of financial institutions ($700 billion); bailout funds provided to support the auto industry ($17 billion); extension of unemployment benefits to support income and spending by unemployed workers ($34 billion); and temporary subsidies for the “cash for clunkers” program ($3 billion).

These other measures should be included in a full reckoning of stimulus costs because of their shared common purpose: to boost aggregate demand, or avoid its further decline. . . .

All of these outlays, amounting to more than $1.5 trillion, are properly encompassed in Keynes’s central policy prescription: namely, to use public policy aggressively to stimulate “aggregate demand.” Those who have criticized the government’s stimulus efforts for being too small may not realize how large they have actually been.

What about the results of the stimulus package? Between the end of the second quarter of 2009 . . . and the end of the second quarter of 2011, nearly all the stimulus funding was disbursed. The result was that GDP increased from $12.6 trillion (in 2005 prices) to $13.3 trillion—an increase less than half the dollar-for-dollar injection of stimulus money! In the same period, gross private consumption rose by $400 billion, and gross private (nonresidential) fixed investment rose by $155 billion. In the same period, employment decreased by 581,000.

A simple accounting of costs and benefits—costs are high, benefits much lower—warrants skepticism about further recourse to stimulus spending.

. . .

The core of the [Keynesian] theory is “aggregate demand” defined in terms of two components: consumption demand and investment demand.

. . .

Insufficient aggregate demand was Keynes’s diagnosis of the Depression-era conditions of continued unemployment and stagnant economic growth. Consumption demand had sharply contracted owing to the Great Depression’s effect on employment and income, and investment demand was depressed because profitable investment opportunities depended heavily on consumption, which had been decimated by the Depression.

Keynes’s prescription for escaping this vicious circle was to stimulate aggregate demand by aggressively increasing government spending and/or lowering taxes. Unlike many of his current disciples, Keynes acknowledged the potential of lower taxes to stimulate demand. However, the room for remedial action through tax reductions was limited in the 1930s because prevailing taxes were already low. Consequently, in Keynes’s view, increased government spending was necessary to boost aggregate demand—what was referred to in that day as “pump-priming” and these days as “stimulus.”

Moreover, whether the stimulus was to be provided by public works (“infrastructure”), by employing workers to dig holes and then fill them, or by other means didn’t matter to the theory. With ample idle resources—specifically, unemployed labor and idle plant and equipment—it was assumed that the only missing ingredient was sufficient demand to jump-start the economy. One dollar of additional government spending would wend its way through the economy as first-round recipients spent most of what they received, second-round recipients, in turn, spent most of what they received, thereby raising the income and ensuing spending of the next recipients, and so on. The total effect would thus be a multiple of the initial increase in spending. . . .

The similarities between the Depression era and the current circumstances . . . are obvious. So, where’s the flaw?

. . .

Keynes assumed that the initial deficient level of aggregate demand would remain unchanged until the stimulative (“pump-priming”) effect of additional government spending kicked in.

. . .

So how might government spending actually undermine its explicit purpose of boosting aggregate demand?

It is quite plausible that the behavior of consumers and investors might change as an unintended consequence of the increased government spending, and might do so in ways that would partly, fully, or even more than fully offset the attempted effort to raise aggregate demand.

Consider “Ricardian equivalence”—a conjecture advanced by David Ricardo a century before Keynes’s general theory and thus something Keynes was aware of, or should have been aware of. Ricardian equivalence suggested that consumers might reduce their spending to prepare for the tax increases they’d face in the future to pay for government spending financed by borrowing in the present. . . .

That prior consumption demand might actually have been reduced as a result of recent government stimulus spending is suggested by two indicators: Since mid-2009, household savings increased by 2-3 percent of GDP, and household debt decreased by 8.6 percent ($1.1 trillion).

It is also plausible that investment demand might shrink as a result of increased government spending or its anticipation. This diminution might occur if investors have recourse to other investment opportunities that seem more profitable or less risky than those that would accompany or follow the attempted government stimulus. For example, such opportunities might lie in investing abroad where tax liabilities are less onerous, rather than investing at home; or investors might choose to invest in long-term instruments (30-year U.S. government bonds) while reducing investment in fixed capital or equities. These opportunities might seem rosier because of anticipated increases in future taxes, or because of increased regulatory restrictions that might (and did) accompany the increased government spending. In fact, such alternative investment opportunities are much more numerous and accessible now than in Keynes’s era.

Failure to consider the potentially adverse effect of government spending on the preexisting level of aggregate demand was and remains a disabling flaw in Keynesian theory—then and now. If the theory’s underlying logic is flawed, it can be expected that policies and programs based on it will fail. They have in the past. . . .

Aside from the fact that the stimulus packages were politically contrived instead of being economically sound, they added to America’s debt burdens and created additional uncertainties, which produced negative effects on the U.S. economy. In short, they were wasteful, unmitigated disasters, which are among the many reasons why Obama will not be reelected next year, but will return either to Chicago or Hawaii no later than January of 2013, to lick his political wounds and write his memoirs, and work full time on his presidential library.

It cannot happen fast enough for the good of the United States and the American people!

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19 11 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

U.S. Companies Feel The Impact Of Europe’s Financial Mess

This is the title of an Associated Press article, which stated:

The tremors from Europe’s financial upheaval have reached U.S. shores, rattling consumers and companies.

The consequences have been limited so far. Yet the United States and Europe are so closely linked that any slowdown across the Atlantic is felt here. U.S. makers of cars, solar panels, drugs, clothes and computer equipment have all reported effects from Europe’s turmoil.

Worries that Europe’s crisis could worsen and spread are spooking investors and consumers just as the holiday shopping season nears. Some fear U.S. consumers could rein in spending. Europe’s sputtering growth is already dragging on some U.S. companies’ profits and could further slow the U.S. economy.

The crisis “seems to be coming to a head right at the time the U.S. economy is at its most vulnerable,” said Mark Vitner, an economist at Wells Fargo.

. . .

The European Union is the No. 1 U.S. trading partner. Nearly $475 billion in goods crossed between the regions in the first nine months of 2011. About 14% of revenue for the 500 biggest U.S. companies—roughly $1.3 trillion—comes from Europe.

The U.S. economy is especially vulnerable to the European crisis because it’s growing so weakly and facing other risks, such as weak hiring, stagnant pay, high energy costs, a wide trade deficit and potentially steep government spending cuts.

. . .

[Europe's] turmoil is affecting U.S companies and consumers in several ways:

•Stock-market gyrations unsettle consumers and make them more cautious about spending.

•U.S. companies with big European operations are suffering from lower sales, prices and profits.

•Banks worldwide are cutting lending and hoarding cash to create more cushion for potentially deep losses on their holdings of Greek, Italian and other government debt. U.S. and overseas banks are keeping about $1.57 trillion in reserves at the Federal Reserve—a jump of nearly $580 billion in the past year.

•Uncertainty about how much damage Europe could cause is making corporations reluctant to spend their piles of cash to hire and invest.

. . .

For banks, the crisis is different, and scarier. They hold debt of European governments and companies that could lose value if the crisis worsens.

The big fear is that large U.S. and European banks would become so worried about each other’s ability to cover losses that they’d stop lending to each other. The result could be diminished confidence that would freeze lending and shock the global economy.

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told soldiers and their families in Texas that Europe posed a “significant risk” to the U.S. economy.

. . .

The unease is growing right as the holiday shopping season—which accounts for up to 40% of retailers’ annual sales—is about to start.

“The retail industry is hyper-sensitive to any sort of national or international crisis that affects consumer confidence,” said Brian Dodge of the Retail Leaders Industry Association. “Consumers read the news.”

See http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011-11-19/europe-crisis-affects-us-businesses/51300498/1?loc=interstitialskip

This article is sobering but accurate. The worst is yet to come, by far, during the balance of this decade!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1859 (“The World Is Facing The Worst Financial Crisis In History”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all other comments beneath it)

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25 11 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Euro Zone Is Collapsing

Perhaps it will not happen in a instant, and maybe there will be sporadic signs of relief in the future. However, it is inevitable, and just a matter of time. The calamity will rock the world.

The UK’s Economist, in a conservative, sobering article that must be read between the lines—which is subtitled, “The crisis in the euro area is turning into a panic. . . . The risk that the currency disintegrates within weeks is alarmingly high”—has noted:

FIRST Greece; then Ireland and Portugal; then Italy and Spain. Month by month, the crisis in the euro area has crept from the vulnerable periphery of the currency zone towards its core, helped by denial, misdiagnosis and procrastination by the euro-zone’s policymakers.

. . .

Now an even bigger calamity is looking likelier. The intensifying financial pressure raises the chances of a disorderly default by a government, a run of retail deposits on banks short of cash, or a revolt against austerity that would mark the start of the break-up of the euro zone.

. . .

European banks are dumping the bonds of the least creditworthy [euro-zone sovereigns], and other assets, in an attempt to conserve capital and improve cashflow as a full-blown funding crisis looms. Governments are promising ever more severe budget cuts in the hope of pacifying bond markets. The direct result of these scrambles is a credit crunch and a squeeze on aggregate demand. . . . Add the indirect effects on the confidence of consumers and businesses, and the downturn will be deep.

. . .

Consider the three ingredients for recession: a credit crunch, tighter fiscal policy and a dearth of confidence. In aggregate, European banks’ loans exceed their deposits, so they rely on wholesale funds—short-term bills, longer-term bonds or loans from other banks—to bridge the gap. But investors are becoming warier of lending to banks that have euro-zone bonds on their books and that can no longer rely on the backing of governments with borrowing troubles of their own. Long-term bond issues have become scarce and American money-market funds, hitherto buyers of short-term bank bills, are running scared.

Banks are frantically shedding assets both to raise cash and to ration their capital in order to meet European Union minimum capital-adequacy targets by next June. The early victims of this deleveraging are borrowers in emerging markets. . . . But businesses and householders at home will also soon be hurt by scarcer credit and rising interest rates, as the banks’ higher funding costs are passed on.

. . .

Germany will be the least affected of the zone’s four biggest economies, followed by France. Spain and Italy will be hurt most.

The euro zone’s businesses and consumers will be drawn into the downward spiral of confidence. In the autumn of 2008 companies learned that credit lines could not be relied on when banks were fighting for survival. When banks are short of liquidity, firms have to watch their own cashflow closely. That implies leaner stocks and reductions in discretionary spending, such as capital projects or advertising campaigns.

. . .

A drop in demand for capital equipment, durable consumer goods and cars will strike at the euro zone’s industrial heartland, including Germany. [Laurence Boone, chief European economist at the Bank of America] reckons GDP will fall by around 0.5% in Germany next year and by the same amount in the whole zone. In September the IMF forecast that the zone’s GDP would grow by 1.1% in 2012 but estimated that if European banks were deleveraging quickly (as they are now), the economy could shrink by around 2%.

Breaking point

A downturn of such severity will hugely increase the pressures within the zone. Investors will be even less willing to finance banks, as more garden-variety loans to businesses and householders turn bad. As unemployment rises, tax receipts will go down and welfare payments up, making it harder for governments to rein in their deficits and hit the targets they have set, and causing bond markets to question their solvency more pointedly still.

In such circumstances, the chances of a policy error or broader panic increase sharply. The calculations of bond investors, bank depositors and politicians are prone to sudden change. Hopes that the fracture of the euro zone might be averted by far-sighted policymakers could give way to a belief that it is inevitable. Such beliefs, once they take hold, are likely to be self-fulfilling.

. . .

The euro zone is showing the symptoms of an internal balance-of-payments crisis, with self-fulfilling runs on countries, because at bottom that is the nature of its troubles. . . .

One of the initial attractions of euro membership for peripheral countries—access to cheap funds—no longer applies. If a messy default is forced upon a euro-zone country, it might be tempted to reinvent its own currency. Indeed, it may have little option. That way, at least, it could write down the value of its private and public debts, as well as cutting its wages and prices relative to those abroad, improving its competitiveness. The switch would be hugely costly for debtors and creditors alike. But the alternative is scarcely more appealing. Austerity, high unemployment, social unrest, high borrowing costs and banking chaos seem likely either way.

The prospect that one country might break its ties to the euro, voluntarily or not, would cause widespread bank runs in other weak economies. Depositors would rush to get their savings out of the country to pre-empt a forced conversion to a new, weaker currency. Governments would have to impose limits on bank withdrawals or close banks temporarily. Capital controls and even travel restrictions would be needed to stanch the bleeding of money from the economy. . . .

External sources of credit would dry up because foreign investors, banks and companies would fear that their money would be trapped. A government cut off from capital-market funding would need to find other ways of bridging the gap between tax receipts and public spending. It might meet part of its obligations, including public-sector wages, by issuing small-denomination IOUs that could in turn be used to buy goods and pay bills.

. . .

[T]he likeliest trigger for a disintegration of the euro is unknowable. But there are plenty of candidates. One is a failed bond auction that forces a country into default and sends a shock wave through the European banking system.

. . .

Another danger is a disagreement between Greece and its trio of rescuers (the EU, the IMF and the ECB) over the conditions of its bail-out. The risk of a mishap will be greater after the Greek elections in February if the country’s political mood sours yet further. Perhaps the spark will come from another source: the bankruptcy of a bank; fresh trouble in Portugal; or a chain of events that starts with France losing its AAA rating and ends with runs on banks across Europe. The exposure of French banks to Italy and to other countries that have been in bond traders’ sights for longer implies that contagion would quickly spread to the euro’s core. Widespread defaults in the periphery would wipe out a big chunk of Germany’s wealth and begin a chain of bank failures that could turn recession into depression.

The few left in the euro (Germany and perhaps a few other creditor countries) would be at a competitive disadvantage to the new cheaper currencies on their doorstep. As well as imposing capital controls, countries might retreat towards autarky, by raising retaliatory tariffs. The survival of the European single market and of the EU itself would then be under threat.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21540259 (“Beware of falling masonry”)

Again, as written above: “The World Is Facing The Worst Financial Crisis In History.” Things will get very ugly during the balance of this decade!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1859; see also http://www.cnbc.com/id/45435459 (“Dow, S&P Log Worst Thanksgiving Week Since 1932″) and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/business/global/banks-fear-breakup-of-the-euro-zone.html (“Banks Build Contingency for Breakup of the Euro”)

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27 11 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Fed Must Not Save Europe From Disaster

If the Fed seeks to do so, all of its governors must be investigated by Congress, removed from office, indicted and imprisoned. They would be gambling with the monies of the American people, and no less drastic measures would be required.

They are unelected and believe they are unaccountable; and they must be taught otherwise, for the good of the United States and the American people. They did this before, and they must be stopped from doing it ever again.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1544 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1126

It must never be forgotten that Alan Greenspan is directly responsible for and triggered the economic calamity that global economies are facing today, as well as what Americans are living through. As I wrote more than two and a half years ago in the American Banker, the daily newspaper of the banking industry:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that has burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

No one has been punished—not Greenspan, or anyone else. This must change, and it should start with Greenspan. In another time and country, he would have been tried, convicted and executed by now.

As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written in the UK’s Telegraph:

The Euribor/OIS spread or`fear gauge’ is flashing red warning signals. Dollar funding costs in Europe have spiked to Lehman-crisis levels, leaving lenders struggling frantically to cover their $2 trillion (£1.3 trillion) funding gap.

America’s money markets are no longer willing to lend to over-leveraged Euroland banks, or only on drastically short maturities below seven days. Exposure to French banks has been slashed by 69pc since May.

Italy faces a “sudden stop” in funding, forced to pay 6.5pc on Friday for six-month money, despite the technocrat take-over in Rome.

German Bund yields have risen to 59 basis points above Swedish bonds since Wednesday’s failed auction. German debt has been relegated suddenly against Swiss, Nordic, Japanese, and US debt. As the Telegraph reported two weeks ago, Asian central banks and sovereign wealth funds are spurning all EMU bonds because they have lost confidence in a monetary system with no lender of last resort, coherent form of government, or respect for the rule of law.

. . .

If break-up occurs in a disorderly fashion, with Club Med states and Ireland spun into oblivion one by one, the chain reaction will cause an implosion of Europe’s €31 trillion banking nexus (S&P estimate), the world’s biggest and most leveraged. This in turn risks an almighty global crash – first class passengers included.

So the question arises, should the rest of the world take over management of Europe to prevent or mitigate disaster? Specifically, should the US Federal Reserve assume leadership as a monetary superpower and impose policy on a paralyzed ECB, acting as a global lender of last resort?

. . .

What we know for certain is that Europe’s current policy settings must lead ineluctably to ruin and perhaps to fascism. Nothing can be worse.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8918784/Should-the-Fed-save-Europe-from-disaster.html (“Should the Fed save Europe from disaster?”)

As I have written, it is clear that the euro zone is collapsing. Neither the United States nor the Fed should do anything to prevent this from happening. Sooner or later an equilibrium or “bottom” will be reached, and then recovery can begin again. Until this happens, governments can do nothing except risk and waste finite and precious resources trying to prevent it—like futile attempts to plug up holes in a dam that is breaking or leaking like a sieve.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1901; see also http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/04/us-eurozone-imf-fed-idUSTRE7B30X320111204 (“Fed may give loans to IMF to help euro zone: paper”)

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30 11 2011
Gary A. Flynn, Media Dir.

fascinating and thoroughly insightful//….if not altogether shocking and frightening. This is not a period of time to employ Ostrich Management techniques. I’d better get busy streamlining/.

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3 12 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

Euro Doomed From The Start, Says Architect Of The Single Currency

In an important UK Telegraph article—which is subtitled, “The euro project was flawed from the start and the current generation of European leaders has failed to address its fundamental problems, Jacques Delors, the architect of the single currency, declares today”—it is stated:

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, claims that errors made when the euro was created had effectively doomed the single currency to the current debt crisis. He also accuses today’s leaders of doing “too little, too late,” to support the single currency.

. . . Mr Delors, who led the commission from 1985 to 1995, played a central role in the process that led to the creation of the euro in 1999. In his first British newspaper interview for almost a decade, he says that the debt crisis reflects a threat to Europe’s global role and even basic Western democratic values.

Mr Delors claims that the current crisis stems from “a fault in execution” by the political leaders who oversaw the euro in its early days. Leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the fundamental weaknesses and imbalances of member states’ economies, he says.

“The finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with,” he says.

The euro came into existence without strong central powers to stop members running up unsustainable debts, an omission that led to the current crisis. Now that the excessive borrowing of countries such as Greece and Italy has brought the eurozone to the brink of disaster, Mr Delors insists that all European countries must share the blame for the crisis. “Everyone must examine their consciences,” he says.

However, he singles out Germany for its strict insistence that the European Central Bank must not support debt-stricken members for fear of fuelling inflation. The euro’s troubles spring from “a combination of the stubbornness of the Germanic idea of monetary control and the absence of a clear vision from all the other countries”.

Famous in Britain for his public clashes with Baroness Thatcher in the 1980s over closer European integration, Mr Delors says that he shares some of the concerns that were expressed by British politicians and economists about the euro before its creation.

When “Anglo-Saxons” said that a single central bank and currency without a single state would be inherently unstable, “they had a point”, he admits.

Because Britain is not in the euro, it is not “sharing the burden”, Mr Delors says. However, he claims that the UK is “just as embarrassed as the Europeans by the financial crisis”, not least because some of the measures put in place to deal with the crisis pose a threat to British interests.

For example, he says, the creation of a common “Eurobond” underwritten by all eurozone governments and traded in Paris and Frankfurt would be a “big worry” for the City of London. “I can see [UK Prime Minister David] Cameron’s worries,” he says.

Such is the scale of the crisis, he warns, that “even Germany” will struggle to find a solution. “Markets are markets. They are now bedevilled by uncertainty.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8932647/Euro-doomed-from-start-says-Jacques-Delors.html; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8964183/Workers-of-Europe-unite-youve-only-euro-chains-to-lose.html (“The echoes of the 1930s are loud, and will become louder as combined monetary and fiscal contraction entrench depression“) and http://www.economist.com/node/21552250 (“Currency disunion: Why Europe’s leaders should think the unthinkable“)

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19 12 2011
Timothy D. Naegele

The Demise Of The Monetary Union

In an article entitled, “Britain, the IMF, and the world’s richest beggar,” the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, has written:

Euro rage is reaching new heights over Britain’s latest outrage.

Our refusal to pony up a further €31bn we cannot afford, to prop up a monetary union that was created against our wishes and better judgment, and with the malevolent purpose of accelerating the great leap forward to a European state that is inherently undemocratic.

It is being presented as treachery, Anglo-Saxon perfidy, and the naked pursuit of national self-interest.

Let me just point out:

1) The UK never agreed to such a commitment in the first place. . . .

2) The UK does not consider the rescue machinery to be remotely credible as constructed.

3) The eurozone has the means to tackle its own debt crisis, if it is willing to use them. These include fiscal pooling and the mobilisation of the ECB.

As eurozone politicians never tire of reminding us, their aggregate debt levels are lower than those of the UK, US, or Japan. They are right. So get on with it and stop begging.

. . .

It was EMU members who created this dysfunctional currency. They are now trying to shift the consequences of their error onto others rather than taking the minimum steps necessary to fix the problem at root.

If they are unwilling to save EMU by serious action—ie fiscal union—they should organize an orderly break-up.

. . .

Eurolanders want it both ways. They bask in their fiscal superiority, yet they demand an external rescue.

Excuse us benighted Little Englanders if we cannot quite see things their way.

. . .

I always feared that Britain would somehow be blamed for the demise of monetary union. My nightmare is coming true.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100013884/britain-the-imf-and-the-worlds-richest-beggar/

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2 01 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

2012 Could Be The Year Germany Lets The Euro Die

This is the title of another article by the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which states:

It will be a global downturn on all fronts. . . .

The second wave will hit with youth unemployment already at 45pc in Greece and 49pc in Spain; and with the US labour participation rate already at depression levels of 64pc.

We will hear more about Italy’s Red Brigades, Greece’s Sect of Revolutionaries, and America’s militia groups, and how democracies respond. Proto-fascism in Hungary is our warning.

China’s surgical soft-landing will slip control, like Fed tightening in 1929 and 2007, or Japan’s squeeze in 1990. Once construction has run amok, bears will have their way.

Since the purpose of New Year predictions is to stick one’s neck out, let me hazard that China will devalue the yuan in 2012. It will export yet more spare capacity into a deflationary world, until the West retaliates and starts to turn its back on globalisation. Capital outflows will accelerate. The idea that China can rescue anybody will seem quaint.

The strong yen has already pushed Japan back into deflation, and fresh recession. Public debt has reached one quadrillion yen, as noted acidly by Tokyo’s R&I rating agency when it stripped Japan of its AAA rating last month. That is $12.8 trillion, or Italy plus Spain times four.

There is a graveyard full of Gaijin commentators who wrote off Japan too soon. Will the dam break this year at last, with tax covering less than half of spending, public debt at 237pc of GDP, ever fewer workers, and a state pension fund now selling government bonds?

. . .

America will look resilient for a few months. The payroll tax deal has averted a fiscal shock, but that is all. Money growth (M3) has sputtered out, and velocity is falling.

. . .

Central banks have the means to prevent a 1930s outcome, even with rates at zero, if willing to deploy Fisher-Friedman monetary stimulus with conviction, buying assets from non-banks and targeting nominal GDP growth of 5pc. But policy defeatism is in the air, and Austro-liquidationists are winning the popular debate.

. . .

The European Central Bank has guaranteed trouble by letting M3 money contract. Fiscal tightening into the downward slide will make matters worse. A credit crunch as banks shrink loan books by €1 trillion to meet capital ratios will do the rest. All policy levers are set on deep recession, and deep recession is what Europe will get.

Monetary union is too damaged to parry these blows. . . .

The shrinking AAA core will leave Germany propping up the EFSF bail-out fund, until the weight of contingent liabilities endangers Germany itself. . . .

Lisbon’s second bail-out will come just as Greece graduates from riots to insurrection, and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi will try to snatch power again by whipping up fury against Tedeschi. Bundestag patience will snap at such disorder everywhere.

Germany will not be able to fudge EMU any longer. It must either immolate itself, accepting a debt union and internal inflation to save a currency it never wanted and doesn’t love; or opt instead to uphold fiscal sovereignty and the essence of its own democracy, and let the Project die.

The shrewd, equivocating, ice-cold Chancellor will quietly oust arch-europhile Wolfgang Schauble and let the Project die, always pretending otherwise.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/8987846/Ambrose-Evans-Pritchard-2012-could-be-the-year-Germany-lets-the-euro-die.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1907 (“Euro Doomed From The Start, Says Architect Of The Single Currency”)

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come, by far!

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7 01 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Global Economy Could Endure Disaster For a Week

This is the title of a disturbing Reuters article, which states in pertinent part:

The global economy could withstand widespread disruption from a natural disaster or attack by militants for only a week as governments and businesses are not sufficiently prepared to deal with unexpected events, a report by a respected think-tank said.

Events such as the 2010 volcanic ash cloud, which grounded flights in Europe, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami and Thailand’s floods last year, have showed that key sectors and businesses can be severely affected if disruption to production or transport goes on for more than a week.

“One week seems to be the maximum tolerance of the ‘just-in-time’ global economy,” said the report by Chatham House, the London-based policy institute for international affairs.

The current fragile state of the world’s economy leaves it particularly vulnerable to unforeseen shocks. Up to 30 percent of developed countries’ gross domestic product could be directly threatened by crises, especially in the manufacturing and tourism sectors, according to the think-tank.

It is estimated that the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Asia cost businesses $60 billion, or about 2 percent of east Asian GDP, the report said.

After the Japanese tsunami and nuclear crisis in March last year, global industrial production declined by 1.1 percent the following month, according to the World Bank.

The 2010 volcanic ash cloud cost the European Union 5-10 billion euros and pushed some airlines and travel companies to the verge of bankruptcy.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/45899109

The ultimate “disruption,” of course, would be a nation-ending EMP Attack!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/ (“EMP Attack: Only 30 Million Americans Survive”)

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31 01 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Fed Members Laughed As Housing Bubble Grew

This is the title of a CNBC article, which is worth reading.

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/46194541

It is totally consistent with an article that I wrote for the American Banker, the daily newspaper of the U.S. banking industry, which was published on October 17, 2008, and entitled, “Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess.” In it, I wrote:

The U.S. economy as well as economies around the world have been going through wrenching experiences lately, and much more is likely. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that has burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

The chickens are still coming home to roost—long after the laughter ceased at the Fed—which will be true during the balance of this decade, in the United States and globally.

See, e.g., http://www.zerohedge.com/news/record-12-million-people-fall-out-labor-force-one-month-labor-force-participation-rate-tumbles- (“Record 1.2 Million People Fall Out Of Labor Force In One Month, Labor Force Participation Rate Tumbles To Fresh 30 Year Low“)

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11 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

America’s $25 Billion Pseudo-Foreclosure-Scandal Settlement Rewards Homeowners Who Gambled And Overextended Themselves

There are three articles on this subject that are worth reading: one in the Wall Street Journal, another at Bloomberg.com, and a third in the UK’s Economist.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/ReviewandOutlook-25BillionBankJob.pdf and http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-09/foreclosure-deal-to-spur-new-wave-of-u-s-home-seizures-help-heal-market.html and http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/02/americas-mortgage-settlement

As the Journal article states:

The bankers coughed up shareholder money to settle a pseudo-foreclosure scandal, while the White House moved closer to its political goal of guaranteeing every home mortgage.

. . .

Rarely have so many politicians cashed in so blatantly on so little wrong-doing.

. . .

Think of this as one more giant political stimulus package—Congressional approval not required.

The words “a pseudo-foreclosure scandal” should be highlighted and underscored. Why should homeowners who overextended themselves be bailed out or rewarded at all? They gambled and lost. It is a scam by our government, once again.

The rosy scenario painted by this article, of how homeowners might be helped, could have been written at the Obama White House. For a much better and more accurate assessment, one should read the Bloomberg article, which states in pertinent part as follows:

The $25 billion settlement with banks over foreclosure abuses may result in a wave of home seizures, inflicting short-term pain on delinquent U.S. borrowers while making a long-term housing recovery more likely.

Lenders slowed the pace of foreclosures as they negotiated with attorneys general in all 50 states for more than a year over allegations of faulty and fraudulent paperwork used to repossess homes. With yesterday’s agreement, banks are likely to resume property seizures.

. . .

The backlog of foreclosures has trapped homeowners in properties they can no longer afford, depressed neighborhood prices by increasing the number of abandoned homes and led banks to tighten mortgage credit standards because of uncertainty about the cost of their potential obligations.

The Economist added:

Only Oklahoma stayed out of the settlement, with its attorney general Scott Pruitt releasing a scathing statement saying it rewarded homeowners who stopped paying their mortgages over families who continued to pay, thus encouraging more defaults.

. . .

Many of the key issues in the settlement remain unclear. None of the announcements even touched upon the reasoning behind a $25 billion price tag for the settlement. Who will receive the money is perhaps an even more pressing mystery. President Obama blamed the actions of banks and other related institutions for causing 4m Americans to lose their homes to foreclosures, but only a fraction will receive relief.

. . .

Among the most debated outcomes is the impact on the overall housing market and—because of the housing market’s importance—the American economy. During the settlement negotiations banks were reluctant to initiate foreclosures. This has buttressed the housing market by restricting supply, but left a huge overhang of properties that can be foreclosed.

The process will accelerate. Some families will presumably be spared losing their homes because of settlement funds, but others will not be so fortunate. The result is that many properties could be dumped on to the market. In the short-term this will cause prices to fall and genuine personal agony, but in the longer-term it will clear away a critical source of uncertainty about housing supply and demand. That certainty, ironically, will come at the price of much legal uncertainty.

Unlike the RTC that came into being during the S&L crisis of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, and then went out of business, this monstrosity may stay with us . . . like ObamaCare. Indeed, Barack Obama’s demagoguery knows no bounds when he asserts that the actions of banks and other related institutions caused 4 million Americans to lose their homes to foreclosures. The banks and other lenders did not force borrowers to go into debt beyond their means and what they could afford. This is utter nonsense, a lie, and patently absurd.

To get rid of Barack Obama no later than January of 2013—and send him packing either to Chicago or Hawaii to lick his political wounds and write his memoirs, and work full time on his presidential library—will give the next president and his administration an opportunity to end all of this.

Having represented upwards of 200 banks, financial institutions and similar entities, I would recommend that no new mortgage loans should be made, inter alia, because of economic uncertainties during the balance of this decade and falling housing prices during at least the next five years. In fact, this is exactly what many of these institutions are doing.

No wonder American voters do not trust their politicians, much less those in Washington.

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13 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Greece Is The Tip Of An Enormous Iceberg

This is essentially the conclusion of the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who has written:

Greece . . . [is] the first of several victims of a mad ideological experiment that shackled together economies with different growth rates, wage bargaining systems, productivity patterns, sensitivity to interest rates, and inflation proclivities—without fiscal transfers or sufficient labour mobility to cushion the effects—and . . . this disaster was compounded by Germany’s (beggar-thy-EMU-neighbour?) wage squeeze, and compounded yet further by sharp monetary and fiscal contraction at the wrong moment in the states most at risk[. The crisis will] . . . grind on whatever happens in Greece.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9077586/Germanys-Carthaginian-terms-for-Greece.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1956 (“2012 Could Be The Year Germany Lets The Euro Die”)

Similarly, American billionaire George Soros has warned that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies could lead to a repeat of the Great Depression:

Soros warned against addressing the crisis with spending cuts, urging the injection of funds instead.

“Otherwise we will repeat the mistakes that plunged America into the Great Depression in 1929. That’s what Angela Merkel doesn’t understand,” he said.

. . .

He said it was a mistake to offer a bailout to Greece tied to high interest rates. “That’s why the country can’t be saved today, and the same thing will happen to Italy if we put this country in the straitjacket of paying harsh interest rates,” Soros said.

A Greek default would cause an escalation of the crisis and could lead to a run on Italian and Spanish banks, and “Europe would explode,” he said.

See http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.61735980a95dfd8997479bc085148e34.81&show_article=1 (“Merkel taking Europe in wrong direction: Soros”)

Hold on tight. Europe, including Germany, will be descending into chaos. It is merely a function of time before this happens.

. . .

Indeed, Orthodox primate Hieronymos II warned in a letter to Greece’s prime minister, which is quoted in the UK’s Telegraph:

The voices of the desperate, the voices of Greeks are being provocatively ignored. Fear is giving way to rage and the risk of a social explosion can no longer be ignored by those who give orders and those who execute their lethal recipes.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9091837/Can-a-return-to-the-drachma-save-Greece-as-unemployment-soars.html (“No Greek bank has been able to issue a letter of credit accepted anywhere in the world since November” . . . “Germany may even leave the euro”)

This echoes what I wrote almost three years ago—or worse:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

The Telegraph article concluded:

“We Greeks have a European soul and a Middle Eastern soul, and there has always been a tension between the two,” said [Professor Manos Matsaganis from Athens University]. “If we are forced out of the euro, it would be a decisive blow to our anchoring in the European Project. Greece may never again be part of Europe in my lifetime or that of my children.”

Judging by the current mood in the AAA creditor core, the decision will be taken for them.

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17 02 2012
dolora

George Soros helped all this financial disaster happen by putting Obama in the white house. Let the big greedy banks fail. Stop giving them the taxpayers money. Bush was bad. Obama is worse. Bank of NY Mellon made $2.4 billion in U.S pre-tax income in 2010 and received a $670 million federal tax refund. Wow, can someone explain how this is legal??? Together Bush and Obama gave $7.77 TRILLION to the banks. There is something so wrong with this picture. Put the robber barrons in jail. Don’t give them taxpayer money.

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17 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Dolora, for your comments.

First, I am not a fan of George Soros.

Second, the separation of commercial banking and investment banking (e.g., formerly known as “stockbrokers”) took place after Congress repealed the Glass–Steagall Act. It never should have happened; and if Paul Volcker had remained as Chairman of the Fed, I do not believe it would have happened. You might wish to read my comments on this subject.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1573 (“The Times Ahead Do Not Look Pretty”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all of the other comments beneath it)

Third, I have represented upwards of 200 banks and other financial institutions, and have dealt with their CEOs and top management. They are very conservative, by and large. On the other hand, “investment bankers” are essentially gamblers, which is why commercial banking and investment banking do not (or should not) mix.

Fourth, lots of banks should have been allowed to fail, and many have already. The Government should have set up an entity like the RTC, which was used to solve the problems of the Savings and Loan industry, when lots of these institutions failed in the 1980s and early 1990s.

See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolution_Trust_Corporation

Fifth, there is plenty of blame to go around; and yes, the losses have been staggering. I do not believe GM or Chrysler should have been bailed out either, but the unions (e.g., the UAW) demanded it; and Obama gave in to them.

Lastly, I do not believe taxpayer money should be given away, or wasted. Too many people have worked too hard for that to happen, period.

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28 02 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Plan For An Economic 9/11

This is the dire warning contained in a UK Daily Mail article, from analysts who urge Americans to buy guns and gold, and who predict a market crash and street riots within a year.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2107315/Market-crash-street-riots-year-Americans-plan-economic-9-11.html

The possibility of this has been implicit in my writings and comments above, and earlier.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

For example, as I wrote almost three years ago:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

A subtitle of the Daily Mail article is: “[A]nalysts say Americans will riot when another Great Depression hits.” Yet, it has hit already, for millions of Americans. The article adds:

Trend forecaster Gerald Celente advises buying a gun to protect your family, stocking up on gold if the dollar crashes and planning a getaway, so it’s no shock he’s preparing for an ‘economic 9/11’.

Share prices and unemployment are posting their best figures in four years since the recession hit, but Mr Celente, along with authors Harry Dent and Robert Prechter, says the rebound won’t last.

All three were profiled in a USA Today feature on Monday. Mr Dent, who had The Great Crash Ahead published last September, believes stocks are simply experiencing an artificial short-term boost.

Mr Prechter, who had a new version of Conquer the Crash published in 2009, is fearful of today’s economic similarities to the Great Depression and says the brief recovery will fail like in the 1930s.

. . .

[Celente] told USA Today that a potential run on banks by savers could cause the government to invoke a national holiday and temporarily close them all, which happened during the Great Depression.

Apart from chaos and anarchy—even worse than we have been witnessing in Greece already—the real risk is not a run on the FDIC-insured U.S. banks, but a run on those uninsured mutual funds and other investment vehicles that are invested in stocks, creating a liquidity crisis of epic proportions. When they fall, the thud will be heard around the world; and the house of cards will fall like dominos.

See also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2177 (“The Risk Of Runs Is Real”)

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18 03 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Unmired At Last?

This is the conclusion of the UK Economist‘s staff who have clearly hedged their bets and wisely so, when writing about the American economy in a fine article—subtitled, “America’s recovery is neither robust nor dramatic. But it is real”—which is worth reading.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21550256

However, it misses the bigger picture.

First, one must realize that economists are like lemmings marching in lock step to the sea. They were wrong about predicting what happened in 2008, and thereafter; and they are wrong now too. Twenty-to-thirty years from now, economic historians—who at least have some credibility in describing the past—will characterize this period as the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar terms.

Like the Great Depression of the last century, this one will not end until late in this decade, or longer. Yes, there are “green shoots” or signs that things are improving, but they were present during the last depression too, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.

Second, the United States is resilient and will fare better than other parts of the world, such as Europe; however, it will be hurt badly in the process too. Large numbers of Americans are suffering now, which will only increase dramatically. Real estate prices will fall another 50 percent in the next five years or so; and more and more Americans will lose their homes and everything else. It will not be a pretty picture; and there is nothing that governments can do to prevent it.

Indeed, Narcissistic demagogic politicians on both sides of the Atlantic will pontificate, but their words will fall increasingly on deaf ears. The people do not believe them anymore, and with good reason; and this will only get far worse. Most have no training whatsoever in economics; and they simply fashion their messages based on what they believe their constituents want to hear, which does nothing to solve the underlying economic problems.

Third, when the economic tsunami was unleashed—like a pebble thrown into a pond—the ripples and ultimately the waves have spread far and wide; and they are not remotely close to running their course. Man is unable to hold back a tsunami in the oceans; and the same is true of the economic tsunami that has been wreaking havoc around the world.

Fourth, there is a vast disparity in global wealth. One simply has to view the mega-mansions being built, and the megayachts plying the waters of the world, to realize fully that the common man’s plight has no relationship to the vast wealth of many. This may give rise to security issues for the wealthy that are unprecedented, as class warfare reaches new and potentially-dangerous levels. Conspicuous consumption may become a curse rather than a goal.

Only time will tell whether it is wise to plan for an “economic 9/11,” which may be coming.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2024 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

Lastly, the reason why property tax revenues have been declining more slowly is because local governments have refused to adjust property values downward to reflect actual market conditions, which may give rise to a taxpayer revolt unto itself and/or exacerbate the loss of homes to foreclosure. Also, if Israel’s reckless Netanyahu has his way, war will Iran will begin later this year, which will make somewhat-rosy economic predictions seem like enormous fantasies.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/israels-senseless-killings-and-war-with-iran/#comment-2066 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

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7 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

The Euro’s Days Are Numbered

In an important article that is worth reading, the UK’s Economist noted:

THE Irish left the sterling zone. The Balts escaped from the rouble. The Czechs and Slovaks left each other. History is littered with currency unions that broke up. Why not the euro? Had its fathers foreseen turmoil, they might never have embarked on currency union, at least not with today’s flawed design.

The founders of the euro thought they were forging a rival to the American dollar. Instead they recreated a version of the gold standard abandoned by their predecessors long ago. Unable to devalue their currencies, struggling euro countries are trying to regain competitiveness by “internal devaluation”, ie, pushing down wages and prices. That hurts: unemployment in Greece and Spain is above 20%. And resentment is deepening among creditors. So why not release the yoke? The treaties may declare the euro “irrevocable”, but treaties can be changed. A taboo was broken last year when Germany and France threatened to eject Greece after it proposed a referendum on new bail-out terms.

One reason the euro holds together is fear of financial and economic chaos on an unprecedented scale. Another is the impulse to defend the decades-long political investment in the European project. So, despite many bitter words, Greece has a second rescue. Its departure from the euro, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, now says, would be “catastrophic”. Yet Mrs Merkel is not ready to take the action needed to stabilise the euro once and for all. Last week’s decision to boost the euro’s firewall to “€800 billion” ($1.07 trillion) is less than meets the eye; the real lending power will be €500 billion. And there is no prospect, for now, of mutualising any part of the sovereign debt.

So the euro zone remains vulnerable to new shocks. Markets still worry about the risk of sovereign defaults, and of a partial or total collapse of the euro. Common sense suggests that leaders should think about how to manage a break-up. Some may be doing so. But having described a split as bringing economic Armageddon, leaders dare not be seen planning for it.

. . .

The fate of the euro will probably be determined by politics as much as economics. A debtor state may tire of internal devaluation. A creditor may want to stop supporting others. And any one of the euro’s 17 members may balk at the loss of sovereignty involved in saving the currency. But the worst outcome of a euro split would be a chaotic breakdown. An orderly process increases the chance that it might be possible to salvage from the wreckage other gains of European integration, notably the single market.

So euro-zone governments need to think the unthinkable. No self-respecting general would refuse to plan for a predictable war, no matter how much he dislikes the idea of fighting it.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21552250 (“Currency disunion: Why Europe’s leaders should think the unthinkable“) (emphasis added)

However, the present turmoil was foreseen; and one of its architects believes the euro was doomed from the start.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1907 (“Euro Doomed From The Start, Says Architect Of The Single Currency”)

Now the issue seems to be: how to arrange a relatively-amicable “divorce,” at a very precarious time in history, globally, when this and other events might send economies around the world into an even more rapid tailspin. Indeed, the rest of this decade is fraught with dangers, and may be ugly—at the very least economically.

See also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9184373/Wolfson-gurus-see-euro-break-up-as-dangerous-but-liberating.html (“A disorderly break-up of the euro would set off a cataclysmic chain-reaction and a collapse of Europe’s banking system, pushing the world into full-blown depression“)

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9 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Obama’s Latest Scheme To Bail Out Gamblers And Distort Markets

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, should be fired—but it will not happen because he mirrors the views of Barack Obama and his totally-failed presidency.

Donovan believes the federal government has a “legal responsibility” to approve loan modifications for certain homeowners, which of course is patently absurd—unless those homeowners are Obama’s constituents whom he wants to reward (or promise to reward) before November’s elections.

The Wall Street Journal has reported:

[Donovan] said that he was increasingly worried that given the severity of the collapse in home prices and the slow pace of recovery in certain housing markets, that some homeowners who owe far more than their homes are worth would conclude “there is really no light at the end of the tunnel” and ultimately default on their mortgage.

In certain hard-hit markets, families struggling to make payments “will give up at some point. We think the data shows that.” The administration’s analysis of various housing markets makes a “compelling” case for principal write-downs, he added.

But at the same time, Mr. Donovan downplayed concerns that borrowers who are deeply underwater but able to pay their loans would similarly default in order to receive debt reduction. “The vast majority of homeowners don’t operate that way,” he said.

Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, has so far resisted principal forgiveness, arguing that other means of reducing payments are just as successful with fewer costs for taxpayers that are backing the mortgage giants.

One concern for that regulator is whether debt forgiveness would encourage more borrowers who are current on their loans to stop paying. Right now, about three in four loans backed by Fannie and Freddie that are heavily underwater are still making regular payments. “These borrowers are demonstrating a continued willingness to meet their mortgage obligations. This should be recognized and encouraged, not dampened with incentives for people to not continue paying,” said Mr. DeMarco in a speech this past week.

. . .

The Obama administration in January offered to subsidize the write-downs, undercutting the position of Mr. DeMarco, who has promised to give an answer to the administration later this month.

Mr. Donovan said that his experience with Mr. DeMarco suggested that the regulator would make an impartial decision. “What he is focused on, independent of whatever his personal views may be, is what is his legal responsibility and what does the analysis say.”

. . .

Several Democratic lawmakers and political groups have called on the Obama administration to fire Mr. DeMarco over his resistance to debt forgiveness, but Republicans say that write-downs amount to transfers of taxpayer wealth.

See http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2012/04/06/hud-secretary-makes-case-for-mortgage-write-downs/

Donovan and the morally-bankrupt Obama Administration are advocating that the laws of economics should be thrown out the window, including market discipline that rewards prudence and penalizes gambling.

Yes, “some homeowners who owe far more than their homes are worth would conclude ‘there is really no light at the end of the tunnel’ and ultimately default on their mortgage.” This is how economics works. They will become renters, which is what they should have been in the first place.

“Homeownership” is a myth and a pipe dream for many, which was oversold and became a “sacred cow.” It is not a government entitlement—or if it is, we should all get free homes.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1630 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1668 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1997

Edward DeMarco is correct in thwarting principal forgiveness, but he does not fit into the Obama Administration’s political mold of rewarding gamblers and others who deserve no rewards, or worse. They gambled and lost. This is the lesson to be learned, not more government bailouts.

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13 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Traditional Economists Are Clueless

An article appearing in the UK’s Economist discusses the differences between economists and historians, and the professional rivalry between the two groups.

See http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2012/04/duelling-academics (“Duelling academics: Historians versus economists”)

First, there are “economic historians” who bridge and “marry” the disciplines—and will become increasingly important during the next 20-40 years, as they look back and describe this decade as the “Great Depression II.”

My undergraduate major was economics; and the last course that I took at UCLA was “Economic History.” I thought at the time that it was dry and boring, but I have realized for years now that it may have been the most important course in economics. Among other things, it described depressions and other economic upheavals over hundreds of years, which has helped to put the last century and this century into perspective.

Second, economists generally are like lemmings marching in lock step to the sea. Few are courageous enough to make predictions that are at odds with their peers, for fear of being ridiculed and viewed in academic circles as “heretics.” At best, they are capable of assessing what happened in the past, but essentially clueless with respect to predicting the future.

Their track records approximate those of weathermen (and women), whom—as most of us know—are dismal-to-pathetic in predicting today’s weather, much less the weather next week. Far too often, they are wrong, and decidedly so.

Third, global economies are being tested like never before, since the Great Depression of the last century, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest. This time, there are “green shoots” too—or signs that things are improving—which will turn into “dead weeds” with the passage of time.

The euro’s days are numbered—and it has been correctly observed:

A disorderly break-up of the euro would set off a cataclysmic chain-reaction and a collapse of Europe’s banking system, pushing the world into full-blown depression.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2110

Throw in the problems with North Korea, Iran, the collapse of Afghanistan, chaos in Pakistan, the “Arab Spring” that engulfs Israel and the rest of the region, China’s imperial ambitions in Asia and elsewhere, “dictator-for-life” Putin’s brutal ambitions, terrorists’ goals, and we have the recipe for very challenging times during the balance of this decade.

The human suffering will be enormous; and economists generally have their heads in the sand, and are oblivious to the storm clouds that are gathering.

Again, 20-40 years from now, economic historians will describe this period, but pure economists are essentially clueless today.

But see http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/Shiller-Housing-home-Rebound/2012/04/24/id/436900?s=al&promo_code=EBB8-1 (“Yale’s Shiller: US Housing May Not Rebound ‘in Our Lifetimes’); see also http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/28/us-greece-election-suicide-idUSBRE83R08N20120428 (“Suicides have Greeks on edge before election“)

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25 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

If I Wanted America To Fail

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27 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Housing: The Abyss [UPDATED]

For Sale sign

Not surprisingly, it has been reported by Reuters—in an article entitled, “Falling home prices drag new buyers under water”:

More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.

That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.

It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.

As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31 percent of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity—in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home—were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.

Many borrowers, particularly since late 2010, thought they were buying at the bottom of a housing market that had already suffered steep declines, but have been caught out by a continued fall in prices in wide swaths of America.

Even for loans taken out in December—less than four months ago and the last month for which data is available—nearly 44,000 borrowers, or about 7.5 percent of the total, now find themselves under water.

“The overwhelming majority of the U.S. is still seeing home prices decline,” said CoreLogic senior economist Sam Khater. “Many borrowers continue to be quickly wiped out.

The problem is not uniform around the country. In some areas, such as Washington, D.C., Miami and parts of northern California, prices are on the rise.

. . .

Overall, CoreLogic data shows that 11.1 million, or 22.8 percent, of U.S. residential properties with a mortgage are in negative equity, unchanged from the summer of 2010.

. . .

CoreLogic says a significant factor causing recent home loans to slide under water has been the availability of government-insured mortgages that require only a small down payment.

These loans, insured by the FHA, require a down payment of as little as 3.5 percent of the purchase price, providing only a small cushion of protection against a drop in home prices that could drive a borrower into negative equity.

“This is creating a new wave of underwater borrowers,” said Gary Shilling, a veteran financial analyst and well-known housing market bear. “We have all three branches of government trying to keep people in four bedroom houses who can’t afford chicken coops.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve, in a report delivered to Congress in January, estimated that 12 million American homeowners had negative equity. Of those, the Federal Reserve said, 3 million were borrowers with FHA-insured loans.

. . .

Jason Opalka took out an FHA-backed loan on his two-bedroom property in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, in August 2010. He was helped by Certified Mortgage Planners of Orlando, who negotiated the FHA-backed loan with the lender, Freedom Mortgage, based in New Jersey.

Opalka was refinancing another FHA-backed loan he had obtained in 2008, for $196,000, then at an interest rate of over 6 percent.

Under the refinancing, he borrowed $192,278 at an interest rate of 4.5 percent. Opalka, looking at the paperwork, is still surprised at the down payment he had to make in 2010, for a property valued at the time for little more than the loan was worth and in which he had almost no equity.

His down payment was just $3,000—or about 1.5 percent of the total loan.

Less than two years later, local real estate estimates now value Opalka’s home at no more than $110,000.

“I’m at least $80,000 under water,” Opalka told Reuters. “We never expected to go under water. We never expected prices to fall like they have. We definitely didn’t see this coming. If I’d known this, we probably would have rented.

Florida has seen one of the greatest drops in house values since the housing crash of 2008, 30 percent on average since October 2010 and over 50 percent since the height of the bubble in 2006, according to Case-Shiller.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/26/us-usa-housing-negative-idUSBRE83P12E20120426 (emphasis added)

Those areas of the United States that have not been affected significantly yet, will join the other areas and be hit hard in the months and years to come. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, leading economist Gary Shilling said:

I am looking for a further 20 percent slide in housing prices.

See http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/new-economy/2012/0425/Fed-sees-more-growth-Don-t-count-on-it.-Recession-ahead (“Fed sees more growth? Don’t count on it. Recession ahead”); see also http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/shilling-housing-prices-falling/2012/04/27/id/437343 (“Shilling: Housing Prices Will Plunge 20 Percent More”) and http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/Shiller-Housing-home-Rebound/2012/04/24/id/436900 (“Yale’s Shiller: US Housing May Not Rebound ‘in Our Lifetimes’“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/recession/9233781/Double-dip-recession-to-trigger-house-price-fall.html (“Britain’s official return to [Double-dip] recession has raised the risk of a sharp fall in house prices, economists have warned”)

As I have written in comments above:

The “bottom” of the housing market will not be reached for about five more years; and it will be brutal between now and then. Those who sit on the sidelines patiently, with cash, will be rewarded. There will be bargains galore; and today’s prices will fall at least another 50 percent.

Hold on tight, it will be very ugly—in the United States, Europe (e.g., Ireland, the UK), Asia and on a global scale.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1630; see also http://www.gallup.com/poll/154124/U.S.-Homeownership-Hits-Decade-Low.aspx (Gallup: “U.S. Homeownership Hits Decade Low”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1848 (“The Bottom Will Drop Out Of The American Real Estate Market”)

Whether the plunge in housing prices is 20 or 50 percent—or greater—remains to be seen. Clearly there will be geographical differences in the United States, just as there are now. In the final analysis, however, there is no question that cash will be king. Those with cash will be able to “bottom feed.” Between now and then, even more Americans and people of other countries will suffer like never before in their lifetimes, and dreams and hope will be crushed.

“Home ownership”—which has been touted by homebuilders, realtors and politicians for decades—will be exposed as a cruel, heartless and tragic pipe dream for many.

. . .

The housing crisis is hitting other countries as well. In an important article by the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which is entitled “France faces 40pc house price slump”—and subtitled, “France faces a property slump of Anglo-Saxon proportions as the frothiest boom in French history finally tips over, threatening the country with an economic shock just as austerity hits”—it is reported:

“It is a gigantic bubble, all the more dangerous as it is spread across France,” said Pierre Sabatier, from the consultancy PrimeView.

“It reached a paroxysm in the summer of 2011. There is a mix of incredulity and denial as it starts to burst but there can be little doubt that all levers propelling the market are disappearing.”

PrimeView said prices across France have jumped 160pc since 1998, though houshold incomes are up just 35pc. Paris has overtaken New York to become the world’s third costliest city at €18,000 (£14,600) per square metre.

. . .

A housing slump would hammer the economy just as long-delayed austerity begins in earnest. Property makes up 65pc of French household wealth, compared with 57pc in Germany, 39pc in Japan and 27pc in the US.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/houseprices/9244152/France-faces-40pc-house-price-slump.html; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303822204577464533347348246.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_realestate (“Las Vegas Estate Price Slashed By Nearly 75% to $6.9 Million [And It Still Has Not Been Sold]“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2175497/Oprah-Winfrey-sells-Chicago-apartment-loss-2-75million–asking-price-HALF-figure-paid-years-ago.html (“Oprah Winfrey sells Chicago apartment at a loss for $2.75 million—under the asking price and HALF the figure she paid six years ago“) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/48240142 (“Foreclosure Crisis Hits Older Americans Hard”—”Older African-Americans and Hispanics are the hardest hit”) and http://live.wsj.com/video/prices-crash-at-luxury-golf-communities-/6C8347EB-8BFE-4C5E-B9F4-21361036480C.html (“Prices Crash at Luxury Golf Communities”) and http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/Shiller-housing-upswing-questions/2012/11/01/id/462360 (“Yale’s Shiller to CNBC: Housing Recovery Could Take 50 Years“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2230865/Sharon-Stone-finally-sells-lavish-Beverly-Hills-mansion-6-6million–takes-staggering-price-hit.html (“Sharon Stone finally sells her lavish Beverly Hills mansion for $6.6million… but takes staggering price hit”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2243564/Firesale-Hamptons-estates-owners-try-unload-multimillion-dollar-homes-years-end.html (“Firesale of Hamptons estates as owners try to unload multimillion dollar homes before year’s end”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9768067/Spains-house-prices-to-fall-another-30pc-as-glut-keeps-growing.html (“Spain’s house prices to fall another 30pc as glut keeps growing“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9809723/SandP-sees-deeper-house-price-falls-in-eurozone-as-slump-engulfs-core.html (“S&P sees deeper house price falls in eurozone as slump engulfs core”—”France’s house . . . sales collapsed by 24pc in September from a year ago, the usual precursor of price capitulation by sellers”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2307123/Home-buyers-paying-higher-percentages-income-new-house–worst-city-San-Francisco-houses-cost-seven-times-average-salary.html (“Home buyers are spending more of their incomes on houses now than they ever did before the housing bubble. . . . Real estate watchers fear that this could be creating a new housing bubble“)

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28 04 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Suicides, Growing Despair And Hopelessness May Be The Future [UPDATED]

Dorothea Lange photo of Depression-era mother

[Florence Owens Thompson was the subject of Dorothea Lange's photo Migrant Mother (1936). The Library of Congress caption reads: "Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California." See also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2290879/I-lost-hope-Startling-interview-unearthed-woman-iconic-Great-Depression-image-talking-just-years-death-1983.html ("'I never lost hope': Startling interview unearthed with woman behind iconic Great Depression image talking just five years before her death in 1983")]

. . .

During the Great Depression of the last century, there were stories about men jumping out of windows in the wake of the Crash on Wall Street, or otherwise committing suicide because they could not cope any longer. Also, there were images of poverty and despair such as Dorothea Lange’s famous photo of a mother and her children, which appears above and is forever etched into the American consciousness and psyche.

During the balance of this decade, as the “Great Depression II” continues to unfold and the economic tsunami runs its course, similar graphic reminders of human suffering will become increasingly evident. Indeed, a Reuters’ article entitled “Suicides have Greeks on edge before election” may foretell the future globally:

On Monday, a 38-year-old geology lecturer hanged himself from a lamp post in Athens and on the same day a 35-year-old priest jumped to his death off his balcony in northern Greece. On Wednesday, a 23-year-old student shot himself in the head.

In a country that has had one of the lowest suicide rates in the world, a surge in the number of suicides in the wake of an economic crisis has shocked and gripped the Mediterranean nation—and its media—before a May 6 election.

The especially grisly death of pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas, who shot himself in the head on a central Athens square because of poverty brought on by the crisis that has put millions out of work, was by far the most dramatic.

Before shooting himself during morning rush hour on April 4 on Syntagma Square across from the Greek parliament building, the 77-year-old pensioner took a moment to jot down a note.

“I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for sustenance,” wrote Christoulas, who has since become a national symbol of the austerity-induced pain that is squeezing millions.

Greek media have since reported similar suicides almost daily, worsening a sense of gloom going into next week’s election, called after Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’s interim government completed its mandate to secure a new rescue deal from foreign creditors by cutting spending further.

Some medical experts say this form of political suicide is a reflection of the growing despair and sense of helplessness many feel. . . .

“The crisis has triggered a growing sense of guilt, a loss of self-esteem and humiliation for many Greeks,” Nikos Sideris, a leading psychoanalyst and author in Athens, told Reuters.

“Greek people don’t want to be a burden to anyone and there’s this growing sense of helplessness. Some develop an attitude of self-hatred and that leads to self-destruction. That’s what’s behind the increase in suicide and attempted suicide. We’re seeing a whole new category: political suicides.”

Police said the geology lecturer, Nikos Polyvos, who hanged himself, was distraught because a teaching job offer had been blocked due to a blanket hiring freeze in the public sector.

See http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/28/us-greece-election-suicide-idUSBRE83R08N20120428; see also http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_GREECE_RISE_OF_THE_FAR_RIGHT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-04-30-07-50-00 (“Rise of far right in Greece worries mainstream”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9235091/Spains-woes-to-deepen-as-it-double-dips-into-recession.html (“Spain’s woes to deepen as it double-dips into recession”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9235620/Cameron-says-eurozone-debt-crisis-has-years-to-run.html (“[UK's] Cameron says eurozone debt crisis has years to run”) and http://www.wnd.com/2013/04/americans-snapping-by-the-millions/ (“STRESSED & DEPRESSED: AMERICANS ‘SNAPPING’ BY THE MILLIONS“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America”)

What has occurred in Greece may be a precursor of what is to come in Europe, in the United States and globally. Indeed, the human suffering may be unfathomable during the balance of this decade. Yet, the human spirit will survive and triumph ultimately.

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16 11 2012
colin powis

EXACTLY …America’s future is California, and California’s future is Greece

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16 11 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Colin, for your comment.

Indeed, you have summarized succinctly what I have said in other comments throughout this blog.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2300 (“California is the most populous U.S. state, and its gross domestic product (GDP) is larger than all but eight countries in the world. In a very real sense, it is a microcosm of America—and of things to come”)

I love California, where I was born and raised; and I love the United States too. We have a country that is second to none; and America will survive, despite tough times ahead. California will too; and its natural beauty is unsurpassed and can never be tarnished . . . or the resilience and undergirding faith of the American people.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/

Sadly, Greece, Europe as a whole, and other parts of the world may not fare nearly as well as the United States.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2306 (“Greece’s Death Spiral”)

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14 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Beware: Deflation Arrives, In China And Globally

As the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, has written in an article entitled, “World edges closer to deflationary slump as money contracts in China”:

Narrow M1 data for April is the weakest since modern records began. Real M1 deposits—a leading indicator of economic growth six months or so ahead—have contracted since November.

They are shrinking faster that at any time during the 2008-2009 crisis, and faster than in Spain right now, according to Simon Ward at Henderson Global Investors.

If China were a normal country, it would be hurtling into a brick wall. A “hard-landing” later this year would already be baked into the pie.

Whether this hybrid system of market Leninism—with banks run by Party bosses—conforms to Western monetary theory is a hotly contested point. The issue will be settled one way or the other soon.

. . .

It is flirting with real trouble.

. . .

State investment in railways has fallen 44pc, with an accelerating downward lurch over recent months.

. . .

The Yangtze shipyards tell the tale. Caixin magazine said eight of the 10 largest builders in the country have not received a single new order this year. . . . A hurricane is approaching,” said one official.

Housing sales slumped 25pc in the first quarter, testimony to the zeal of regulators. This has since fed into a drastic fall in new building.

. . .

This is hardly a sideshow. The sector employs 10pc of the Chinese work-force, and a further 20pc indirectly. Land sales provide 70pc of tax revenue to local authorities and 30pc to the central government.

. . .

[D]id the Fed not slam on the brakes in 1928 to choke an asset boom? Did the Bank of Japan not do likewise in 1990, only to find that boom-bust deflation has its own fiendish momentum? Once you let credit rise by 100pc of GDP in five years—as China has, more than in those US or Japanese episodes—you are at the mercy of powerful forces.

Something odd is now happening. The People’s Bank said new loans fell from $160bn (£99.5bn) in March to $108bn in April. Non-conventional lending seized up altogether. Trust lending fell by 96pc, bankers’ acceptance bills by 90pc. This is astonishing data.

It may not be as easy for Beijing to turn the tap back on again. Loan demand has been falling for months. Banks are offering credit. Companies are refusing to take it. This is the old Japanese story of pushing on a string, or the European story today.

“China is in deflation,” says Charles Dumas from Lombard Street Research. . . . [C]onsumption is a third of GDP.

. . .

All the BRICs [i.e., Brazil, Russia, India and China] need watching. India’s industrial output fell 3.5pc in March. The country seems caught in a 1970s stagflation vice. Brazil has softened too, with car sales down 15pc and industrial production contracting in March. The bad loans of the banks have reached 10.3pc, higher than post-Lehman.

The bubble has probably popped already. . . .

. . .

My fear has always been that the credit cycle in the Rising World would blow itself out before the Old World has safely recovered, or reached “escape velocity” to use the term in vogue.

Europe will slide further into 1930s self-destruction until it equips itself with a lender of last resort and takes all risk of EMU sovereign default off the table, though that may come too late. The US has functioning institutions at least but growth is barely above stall speed.

. . .

If we now face a global crisis on all fronts . . . it will test the mettle of world leaders. Interest rates in the G10 are mostly zero already, and budgets are frighteningly stretched.

. . .

One can only pray that helicopter drops do not become necessary in the chilly winter of 2012-2013.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9263196/World-edges-closer-to-deflationary-slump-as-money-contracts-in-China.html

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is correct. If anything, he is too conservative and “timid” in his predictions.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such 20-40 years from now. It will not run its course until the end of this decade, at the earliest. Between now and then, the human suffering will be unfathomable, and politicians will fall like dead flies.

Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that things are improving. This was true during the Great Depression of the last century as well, which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been defeated in France. Barack Obama will be defeated in the United States. And other politicians will be exiting the world’s stage as well.

As I wrote more than three years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand. . . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2134 (“Housing: The Abyss”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2135; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9263758/Backlash-in-Europe-threatens-to-derail-austerity-measures.html (“Backlash in Europe threatens to derail austerity measures”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/rogerbootle/9263156/The-final-death-throes-of-the-euro.html (“The final death throes of the euro“) and http://www.economist.com/node/21554549 (“The euro crisis”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/47428134 (“[T]wo things that will change my attitude about this market is if we see a depression in Europe and a hard-landing in China”—both may be coming) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/9268507/Greece-on-brink-of-collapse.html (“Greece on brink of collapse“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9270884/Debt-crisis-Greek-euro-exit-looms-closer-as-banks-crumble.html (“Debt crisis: Greek euro exit looms closer as banks crumble“)

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly!

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14 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

The Power Of Hope

An article in the UK’s Economist about this subject is worth reading.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21554506

Hope and faith in God are needed today, and will be required during the balance of this decade, more than at any other period in our lifetimes. People will be tested like never before.

Compare http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2160 with http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/what-and-where-is-god/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath both articles)

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20 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Education Will Change Radically

In response to my comments that online education is the future, one well-meaning but naïve commenter wrote:

NEVER be fooled by the idea that college education can be done online. Most basically, such study requires a great deal of self-discipline and independence—exactly what most college students nowadays DO NOT have. Most of a professor’s work involves keeping students from flunking themselves by adjusting teaching methods, assigning writing and reading it to make sure they did the reading and thought about it, etc. Most students can’t educate themselves without constant personalized feedback—and no online program will offer such constant personalized help without charging a lot of money for it. More important, you might be able to learn scientific and mathematical material from a book/screen, but learning anything remotely sophisticated in the humanities requires a constant question-answer interaction between teacher and students, as well as among students. Online material is a great supplement to classroom interaction—but a poor substitute by itself.

In turn, I responded:

First, economics alone is going to drive a dramatic shift to online education. More and more parents will not be able to afford a “bricks-and-mortar” college education as this decade unfolds, especially as State budgets strangle colleges and the Middle Class is decimated economically. Also, young kids are learning the Web at an ever-increasing rate. It is second nature to most of them already.

Second, a friend of mine’s wife has been teaching online for more than a decade, and doing so successfully. She is very skilled in her nursing specialty, having supervised approximately 150 nurses before she retired. Now, she is affiliated with a college in the Northeast; and there is constant interaction between her students and her. In fact, at lots of major colleges and universities, “teaching assistants” actually teach the students, not the “pampered” professors who limit their interaction with students to large lecture halls. Their work can be replaced by YouTube recordings of their lectures, to be replayed year after year.

Third, colleges and universities are not for everyone, and economics alone will dictate who attends and who does not. The truly-motivated will do so; others will drop by the wayside and not be coddled. Our education system will change dramatically and radically.

I agree with you: “[O]nline . . . study requires a great deal of self-discipline and independence—exactly what most college students nowadays DO NOT have.” They will be the losers . . . and the dropouts. Also, the “humanities” will be considered superfluous. Students will need some marketable skills, just to survive.

I served on two university boards of directors, and I will never forget being told by a PhD female biology professor that undergraduate education was not there to teach a marketable skill. This only happened in graduate schools. My response then, as it is now, was that parents cannot afford the extravagance of that lengthy educational process. This will be even more true during the rest of this decade.

We are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which economic historians will describe as such (or by using similar terms), 20-40 years from now. Like the Great Depression of the last century, which did not end until the onset of World War II at the earliest, this depression will not run its course until the end of this decade, or beyond. The effects will be devastating. Everything that many of us know and accept will be swept aside. The human suffering will be unfathomable worldwide.

Sweet “niceties” like student-teacher interaction, and the coddling of students, will become extravagances of a bygone era for most people. They will be trying to survive, and little more.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2160 (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it)

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly during the balance of this decade . . . and education will not be spared!

If anything, this may be an understatement.

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26 05 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

The Risk Of Runs Is Real

Bank run, circa 1933

[Bank run, circa 1933]

The UK’s fine Economist has an article that is worth reading and reflecting on, dealing with runs on financial institutions in Europe, and implicitly worldwide. It is entitled, “Europe’s biggest fear: A run they cannot stop,” and among other things it notes:

It’s been a week since shares in Bankia plummeted on reports, later denied, that customers were pulling deposits out of the Spanish lender. Fears of a full-scale bank run in Greece have not yet materialised. But the possibility of a deposit run in Europe’s peripheral states is still very much alive. It is also the thing that policymakers are least prepared for.

. . .

[T]here is a horrible, insoluble mismatch between the timescales to which Europe’s policymakers work and the timescale of a bank run. A run is most likely within the next few weeks. And if a run starts, Europe’s governments will have to reassure within a matter of hours. You might just about get a communiqué from Brussels in that timeframe, but could it really reassure when so many questions are unanswered?

If it does not, then the run will continue until such time as the banks close their doors to further withdrawals or the central banks have satisfied depositors’ demand for cash. The former means trapping depositors inside a system they do not trust. The latter means providing liquidity to a banking system that has been abandoned by its own citizens. It would be hard to come back from either position.

See http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2012/05/europes-biggest-fear

This article is correct, and its concerns are real. The risk of runs and “contagion,” worldwide, are enormous.

For many years, a major unspoken worry among financial policymakers in Washington has been that there would be a run on America’s mutual funds—or money market investment funds—that would create a liquidity crisis that could not be stemmed by our Fed, and that a panic might ensue.

See, e.g., http://www.smartmoney.com/invest/mutual-funds/why-mutual-fund-guardians-are-failing-1339088682278/?link=SM_hp_ls1e (“Why Mutual Fund Guardians Are Failing”)

Banks are shaky all over the world today; and perhaps the safest are those in the United States because of FDIC insurance. Indeed, the flight of capital to American banks and other investment vehicles from abroad may increase dramatically in the months and years to come, as this decade truly becomes one annus horribilis after another. People will be seeking “safe havens” for their money, and the United States may be the only one.

Twenty-to-forty years from now, economic historians will look back on this period, stretching through the end of this decade at least, and describe it as the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar terms. Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, or signs that things are improving—which was true during the Great Depression of the last century that did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly, and the human suffering will be unfathomable.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2160; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9278253/Rising-US-recession-risk-poses-the-real-threat-to-Europe.html (“[F]orecasters fear that America has already fallen back into recession, replicating the terrible double-dip of 1937″)

One other factor that is worth mentioning. While Americans are accustomed to the value of FDIC deposit insurance, the people of other nations are not. I bought a failing savings and loan (later a federal savings bank) in San Francisco for clients based in Hong Kong, which at the time was the largest minority financial institution in the United States. Many of its depositors were newly arrived from China, and they spoke no English and had no idea what FDIC insurance was.

Indeed, I was told that they had little experience with banks themselves, and literally kept their money under mattresses. Having timidly trusted our predecessor bank, we were very concerned about the effects of its collapse and our takeover of it. Most importantly, we were very concerned about a run on the bank.

We brought in experts from Hong Kong to shape our media blitz in several Chinese dialects, assuring depositors that their money would be safe after our takeover. Extrapolate this to other countries, where fear can dominate and runs can become panics overnight, and financial systems can collapse. Governments will be powerless to stop them.

. . .

An article in the UK’s Telegraph entitled, “For the eurozone, the worst is yet to come,” is worth reading and very sobering as well:

Across the single currency zone, fears are rising and, even in the most moderate nations, populations are becoming more restive. History is locked on fast-forward.

. . .

[T]he greatest disaster could yet be to come.

. . .

[W]e’ve ended up with a eurozone so replete with inherent contradictions that it threatens now to spark financial meltdown across Europe and serious civil unrest.

Global financial markets are in a trance, a paralysis of fear and confusion.

. . .

How long before the gyroscope finally topples and comes crashing down, with investors dumping the euro altogether?

. . .

As this eurozone meltdown deepens, a chronic lack of “periphery” bank capital raises the risk of acute liquidity crises.

. . .

The central problem, compounded by the eurozone’s deep flaws, is that many of the region’s banks are fundamentally insolvent. The only way to address that is to lance the boil and, while protecting depositors, let these rancid institutions go bust. How long will it be before we face up to this unavoidable truth? How bad must the riots get, how volatile the financial markets, how many jobs and lives must be destroyed, how intense the global and diplomatic fall-out?

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/liamhalligan/9292092/For-the-eurozone-the-worst-is-yet-to-come.html; see also http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2012/05/indias-economy (“A BRIC hits the wall: India’s economy lurches further down”) and http://www.economist.com/node/21556577 (“The world economy is in grave danger” . . . and there is “a rising risk of financial catastrophe”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/debt-crisis-live/9328172/Debt-crisis-live.html (“Greeks take millions from banks ahead of election”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/47793980 (“Greeks Withdraw $1 Billion a Day Ahead of Vote”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9333246/Debt-crisis-Rich-Greeks-in-London-face-tax-investigation.html (“Rich Greeks in London face tax investigation”) and http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MAPPING_GREECES_EXIT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-06-16-09-58-56 (“How shock waves will hit US if Greece drops euro”—”[T]he risk would be high for a run on banks throughout Europe. People would worry that the banks might fail and would rush to withdraw what they could. . . . [T]he crisis could get much worse: Banks could fail, the surviving banks could stop lending to each other, and a credit freeze could shut down commerce in Europe. . . . [T]he dollar would soar to trade nearly even with the euro“)

. . .

At some point, fear and contagion will prevail, and the banking systems of many countries may be overwhelmed and fail. Politicians and governments will be helpless to prevent it. Like a natural tsunami in the great oceans of this world, the economic tsunami will roll unabated through the end of this decade, at the very least.

. . .

As I wrote more than three years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand; and Americans are apt to realize this as the elections of 2010 and 2012 approach.

To use [former Fed Chairman] Paul Volcker’s words, politicians may not “remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when (so many once-promising political careers) went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world.”

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

There is zero doubt that the worst is yet to come globally, by far. The risk of runs is real, as fear and panics spread!

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11 06 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Americans’ Wealth Drops 40 Percent, With Much Worse Yet To Come

The Washington Post has reported:

The net worth of the American family has fallen to its lowest level in two decades, according to government data released Monday, driven by a more than 40 percent drop in their stakes in their homes.

The Federal Reserve’s detailed survey of consumer finances showed families’ median wealth plunged from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010—a 39 percent decline. That put them on par with median wealth in 1992.

The Fed’s data underscore the depth of the wounds . . . and how far many families remain from healing. The . . . housing market crash inflicted particularly severe damage, with the Fed showing that the median value of Americans’ equity in their homes plunged 42.3 percent between 2007 and 2010.

The survey is conducted every three years, and this report offers one of the most exhaustive looks to date at the greatest economic upheaval in a generation.

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html

To “sugar-coat” what has been happening (e.g., so Americans will not panic), both the Fed and the Post refer to it as the “Great Recession,” when in reality it is the “Great Depression II,” which is how economic historians are likely to describe it 20-40 years from now—or by using similar terms.

The Post also refers to signs that things are improving, or “green shoots,” which were present during the Great Depression of the last century as well—which did not end until the onset of World War II at the earliest.

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come . . . by far . . . during the balance of this decade, and the human suffering will be unfathomable!

While foreigners have been snapping up properties in the U.S., housing prices will fall by another 20-50 percent in the next five years or so. When the “bottom” is reached finally, there will be bargains galore for those people who have amassed cash, and waited patiently on the sidelines and then went “bottom feeding.”

See, e.g., http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303901504577460550067846454.html and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2134 (“Housing: The Abyss”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2177 (“The Risk Of Runs Is Real”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and other comments beneath it) and http://www.foxbusiness.com/government/2012/06/12/may-budget-deficit-up-from-year-earlier/ (“DEFICIT DOUBLES IN YEAR“)

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12 06 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

EU Doomsday Scenarios To Limit Bank Runs And Capital Flight

Fractured euro

The risk of runs on banks and other financial intermediaries (e.g., mutual funds, or money market investment funds) is discussed above.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2177 (“The Risk Of Runs Is Real”)

However, consideration is being given to “limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls . . . [and] the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.”

See http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0612/breaking24.html; see also http://news.yahoo.com/eu-movement-money-people-limited-144836122–finance.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CV.WNdPN10AzDzQtDMD (“[L]imits could be imposed on movement of people and money across national borders within the EU if it’s necessary to protect public order or public security”) and http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/finance-public-debt.h3c and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303768104577458301368089854.html (“How the Euro Will End”) and http://ca.news.yahoo.com/us-wont-send-checks-europe-romney-154702519.html (“US won’t send checks to Europe: Romney”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/9337283/Greece-will-have-to-leave-EMU-whoever-is-elected.html (“Europe’s depression is spreading”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9337911/Dithering-Europe-is-heading-for-the-democratic-dark-ages.html (Greece: “Every day we read of fresh horrors: of once proud bourgeois families queuing for bread, of people in agony because the government has run out of money to pay for cancer drugs. Pensions are being cut, living standards are falling, unemployment is rising, and the suicide rate is now the highest in the EU—having been one of the lowest. . . . For the sake of bubble-gumming the euro together, we are willing to slaughter democracy in the very place where it was born. What is the point of a Greek elector voting for an economic programme, if that programme is decided in Brussels or—in reality—in Germany?”) and http://www.smartmoney.com/invest/currencies/euro-on-the-brink-1341940632005/?link=SM_hp_invest (“Euro on the Brink”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9424793/Europe-is-sleepwalking-towards-imminent-disaster-warn-top-economists.html (“The euro has completely broken down as a workable system and faces collapse with ‘incalculable economic losses and human suffering’ . . . according to a group of leading economists“)

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10 07 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

China Transmits A Fresh Deflationary Impulse To A World Already Dangerously Close To Deflation

China exports deflation

These are the words of the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who has written—in an article entitled, “China exports yet more excess capacity to crippled West”:

China’s trade surplus jumped 43pc to almost $32bn in June. Imports for domestic consumption fell sharply.

. . .

It implies that China is no longer consuming enough of its own output. It is exporting excess manufacturing and industrial capacity—with an undervalued currency—into a world that is already grappling with a deep secular slump.

(China is not the worst or only offender in this respect. Germany’s current account surplus under the fixed D-Mark racket—the euro—is far higher as a share of GDP. But China is the world’s second largest economy, so it matters.)

It transmits a fresh deflationary impulse to a world already dangerously close to deflation. This is a greatly under-estimated risk.

It is an open question whether China can navigate its way calmly through this post-bubble downturn over coming months, but that is not really my point. Can a fragile world cope with the consequences?

. . .

My guess is that Chinese credit growth of almost 100pc of GDP over the five years from 2006-2011 (including off-books lending) has stored up a host of problems, and will be followed by a nastier hangover than widely supposed.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100018516/china-exports-yet-more-excess-capacity-to-crippled-west/

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12 07 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

STOCKS MIGHT BE 50 PERCENT LOWER WITHOUT FED!

This is the shocking, but not surprising conclusion of a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that is discussed in a CNBC article, which states in pertinent part:

A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that the bulk of equity returns for more than a decade are due to actions by the US central bank.

Theoretically, the S&P 500 would be more than 50 percent lower—at the 600 level—if the bullish price action preceding Fed announcements was excluded, the study showed.

Posted on the New York Fed’s web site Wednesday, the study sought out to explain why equities receive such a high premium over less risky assets such as bonds.

What they found was that the Federal Reserve has had an outsized impact on equities relative to other asset classes.

For example, the market has a tendency to rise in the 24-hour period before the release of the Fed’s statement on interest rates and the economy, presumably on expectations Chairman Ben Bernanke and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, would discuss or implement a stimulus measure to lift asset prices.

The FOMC has released eight announcements a year at 2:15 ET since 1994. The study took the gains in the S&P 500 from 2 pm the day before the announcement to 2 pm the day of the statement and subtracted that market move from the S&P 500’s total return over that time span.

Without the gains in anticipation of a positive Fed action, the S&P 500 would stand at just 600 today, rather than above 1300.

“I would conclude that correctly analyzing Fed moves is much more important than stock picking,” said Brian Kelly of Shelter Harbor Capital. “If you want to generate alpha, you should trade the stock market 24 hours before an FOMC meeting. Simply follow the trend for that 24 hours and you will outperform.”

The chart shows the effect to be significantly pronounced in the aftermath of the tech bubble when Greenspan re-inflated stock and housing prices by slashing rates. It widens even further in the period since the financial crisis of 2008 as the market became beholden to the Fed’s use of its balance sheet to add liquidity to the market.

“Blame Greenspan for this S&P 500 effect… it’s his free put,” said Robert Savage, chief executive of research site Track.com and formerly managing director of FX Macro Sales at Goldman Sachs. “Since 1994, the battle of central banks hasn’t been to fight inflation, but rather to smooth out the business cycle and credit. The convergence of global rates and inflation left the decisions of the FOMC as the key variable for S&P 500.”

See http://www.cnbc.com/id/48165921

As I have said repeatedly, the stock market is a “fool’s paradise”—or the world’s largest casino—and the fools are the American people and others abroad who believe and invest in it!

See, e.g., http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene-at-psw/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (“Interview with Timothy D. Naegele”); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1464 (“Bernie Madoff: The Market Is A Whole Rigged Job, And There’s No Chance That Investors Have In This Market“) and http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess“)

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13 07 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Commercial Banking Distinguished From Investment Banking, Or Gambling

The UK’s Economist has an interesting article about the problems with banking, which is worth reading.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21558584

However, the article proceeds from a false premise. The author tars all bankers, which is mistaken.

In the United States, the separation of commercial banking from “investment banking”—or gambling—existed until “deregulation” and the elimination of Glass-Steagall. Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan was and is the culprit; and his much-more-talented, wiser and valiant predecessor, Paul Volcker, has tried to put the “Genie” back into the bottle without much success unfortunately. The damage has been done, and we are living with it.

See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess”) and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”)

Second, commercial bankers are paid essentially what they have earned for decades, adjusted for inflation. Their “investment banking” counterparts, the true gamblers, have been compensated as they have been for decades too; namely, at exorbitant rates. The problem is that they gamble with the “house’s money” now, which can produce great rewards or nightmares—and certainly nightmares for their American banking regulators, such as the Fed and the FDIC.

Third, the article refers to “rogue employees who have ignored the corporate culture.” All of this makes sense only if one realizes that there have been two very separate and distinct cultures: the commercial bankers, who are largely conservative and have been for ages; and the “investment bankers” who are gamblers of the worst sort. The only culture to which they have paid homage is the almighty dollar, or other currencies—as the case may be.

Fourth, a fascinating study was just released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which indicates that “the S&P 500 would be more than 50 percent lower—at the 600 level—if the bullish price action preceding Fed announcements was excluded.” Thus, traders (or gamblers—also known as “investment bankers”) could make money by doing nothing more than correctly analyzing the Fed moves, which is arguably much more important than stock picking.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2222

Fifth, the article is correct to point out the doctrine that has undergirded American bank regulation for decades; namely, “too big to fail.” Unfortunately, deregulation and the elimination of Glass-Steagall allowed the foxes into the chicken coops: the “investment banker” gamblers became part of the formerly-conservative commercial banks, and the game changed forever—for the worse.

See also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2173171/London-whale-ousted-JP-Morgan-says-blunder-cost-5-8-BILLION-fired-executives-forced-BACK-pay-past-years.html (“JP Morgan admits London Whale blunder cost $5.8 billion—TRIPLE the original estimate—as fired executives are forced to give BACK pay for past two years“) and http://www.naegele.com/documents/TheCaseAgainstRestoringGlass-Steagall.pdf (“The Case Against Restoring Glass-Steagall”)

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22 07 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Greek Economy Is In Great Depression Similar To The American One In The 1930s, Prime Minister Says

According to an article in the UK’s Telegraph:

[Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras]‘s comments come two days before a team of Greece’s debt inspectors arrive in Athens to push for further austerity measures if the debt-laden country wants to qualify for further rescue payments and avoid a chaotic default.

Athens wants to soften the terms of a €130bn euro bailout agreed last March with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, to soften their impact on an economy going through its worst post-war recession.

Greek GDP is expected by the end of this to have shrunk by about a fifth in five consecutive years of recession since 2008, hammered by tax hikes, spending cuts and wage reductions required by two EU/IMF bailouts. Unemployment climbed to a record 22.6pc in the first quarter.

“You had the Great Depression in the United States,” Samaras told [former American president, Bill] Clinton, who was visiting Greece as part of a delegation of Greek-American businessmen. “This is exactly what we’re going through in Greece—it’s our version of the Great Depression.”

Athens must reduce its budget deficit below 3pc of GDP by the end of 2014, from 9.3pc of GDP in 2011—requiring almost another €12bn euros in cuts and higher taxes on top of the 17 billion successive governments have cut from the budget shortfall.

Greece wants its lenders to give it two more years to achieve the budget goal to avoid an even deeper economic slump but its lenders have opposed the idea because it would imply an even bigger financial aid to the country.

. . .

Mr Clinton criticized Greece’s lenders for focusing excessively on austerity, saying Athens will be more likely to repay its debt if its manages economic recovery first.
“(It) is self-defeating… if every day people are saying this may or may not work to give us back a 100 cents on the dollar, so give us more austerity today,” he told Mr Samaras.

“People need something to look forward to when they get up in the morning—young Greeks need something to believe in so they can stake their future out here,” Mr Clinton said.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9418656/Debt-crisis-Greek-economy-is-in-a-Great-Depression-says-Samaras.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2135 (“Suicides, Growing Despair And Hopelessness May Be The Future”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“In Greece today, parents are giving away their children because they cannot afford them. Kids are being dumped in streets or abandoned at shelters with notes attached to them, saying that one or both parents are at wits’ end“)

Clinton is correct.

Greece is not the only country in the depression. Twenty to forty years from now, economic historians will describe these times as the “Great Depression II,” which will not end until the close of this decade, at the earliest.

Yes, there will be “green shoots” from time to time, which occurred during the Great Depression of the last century as well—which did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest. However, overall things will be very ugly, and the human suffering will be unfathomable.

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12 08 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

China’s Hard Landing

The UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor in London, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, has written another article that is worth reading, this time about China:

“Severe deflation pressures are rippling across the country,” said Alistair Thornton and Xianfeng Ren from IHS Global Insight. “Deflation, not inflation, is the greatest short-term threat to the Chinese economy.”

. . .

Critics say Beijing let the property boom go too far and then hit the brakes too hard last year. Monetary tightening led to a contraction in real M1 money. The delayed effects kicked in this year just as Europe fell back into recession and the US slowed abruptly.

. . .

[R]eformers are locked in a struggle with military hawks and Mao revivalists linked to Chonqing chief Bo Xilai. They know that China’s post-Lehman credit spree in 2008 went too far but keeping growth alive has become a political imperative. Chinese exporters are now in serious difficulty. Caixin magazine reports that China’s entire solar industry is “on the verge of bankruptcy” as it struggles with debts built up during its world conquest over the past four years.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9465651/Hard-landing-for-China-as-factory-prices-fall-and-deflation-looms.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2220 and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2160 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9491069/China-bubble-in-danger-zone-warns-Bank-of-Japan.html (“China bubble in ‘danger zone’ warns Bank of Japan”) and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-market-shadows/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele (Regarding beliefs that China has bottomed out and its economy is on the mend, and now is a good time to “buy a stake” in China, it must never be forgotten that “the stock market is a ‘fool’s paradise'”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/ and http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100021244/us-to-overtake-saudi-arabia-in-oil-as-chinas-water-runs-dry/ (“US to overtake Saudi Arabia in oil as China’s water runs dry”)

Clearly, the worst is yet to come!

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4 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

IMF: Global Recovery “Will Take At Least Six More Years”

As the UK’s Telegraph has reported:

“It’s not yet a lost decade,” [the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard] said. “But it will surely take at least a decade from the beginning of the crisis for the world economy to get back to decent shape.” The global financial crisis began in September 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9585027/IMF-Global-recovery-will-take-at-least-six-more-years.html

As a public figure, Blanchard was being prudent and conservative in his statements. Yet, they are totally consistent with what I have written above; namely, we are in the midst of the “Great Depression II,” which will not run its course until the end of this decade, at the earliest.

Furthermore, governments are not the solutions; and most governmental efforts will make the problems markedly worse.

Hold on tight. The worst is yet to come, by far!

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6 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Happy Days Are Not Here Again

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal editorial, which requires emphasis. One must remember that there were “green shoots,” or signs that things were improving, during the Great Depression of the last century too, which did not end until the onset of World War II at the earliest.

The editorial states:

The jobless rate fell in September to 7.8% from 8.1%, though the economy created only 114,000 new jobs, and some of our conservative friends smell a bureaucratic rat so close to Election Day. We doubt the Labor gnomes are manipulating the numbers, and in any case chasing conspiracies detracts from the real news, which is that the job market still stinks.

. . .

The reality is that . . . 12.1 million Americans are still out of work—nearly 23 million by the broader definition that includes those who have stopped looking or can’t find full time work—and the labor participation rate is still down to 1981 levels at 63.6%.

. . .

A still abysmal 40.1% of the unemployed in America have been jobless for six months or more.

. . .

Mr. Obama claims to be a tribune of the middle class, but he’s presided over the worst economy for average workers since Jimmy Carter.

Mr. Obama is promising four more years of the same policies he’s pursued in his first term, except that this time he says he really will raise taxes immediately in 2013. Anyone who wants the same job creation should vote for him.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444223104578038623709703516.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_opinion

The “Great Depression II” continues its brutal march forward, following a path not dissimilar to the Great Depression. And Barack Obama’s political fate next month is likely to mirror that of Jimmy Carter, who was a one-term president too.

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6 10 2012
Rod R

Your words seem almost prophetic. You wave a flag of caution and I agree with it. The challenge is what should the fathers and mothers on this Thanksgiving holiday be doing? Bonds?, get out of the Market? Cash only? What is your wisdom on this…? with thanks!

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6 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Rod, for your comments.

I have been “preaching” cash only for a long time now, and the idea of sitting on the sidelines patiently, waiting for the “bottom”—which will be reached in the American housing market in about five years or so. Then, there will be bargains galore for those who are able to go “bottom feeding.”

Please read the comments above this one (and beneath my article above), and you will find that they are consistent with what I have just written.

Will others make money with bonds or stocks or other investments in the interim? Sure . . . people make money gambling all of the time, but most lose money. The surest “bet,” or so I believe, is to be conservative and wait for the bottom.

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6 10 2012
Rod R

I am embarassed that I think I NEED to be in the Market. I do appreciate you reminding me that the Market is the biggest CASINO around…why do I think I have to have my money in it?? If everybody is doing it…that is a good reason not to!

With great thanks!
Rod from Vancouver!

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6 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you again, Rod, for your comments and kind words.

You might wish to read my responses in an interview three years ago, inter alia, about the market being a “fool’s paradise.” This remains true today.

See http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-market-shadows/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

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26 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Crime Will Increase Dramatically In America

During the balance of this decade, crime will increase in the United States as economic conditions worsen and poverty increases, and as criminals are released because of overcrowding in the prisons, and as law enforcement declines because of budgetary cutbacks that cannot be avoided. One shining example is the State of California.

The UK’s Daily Mail has reported in an article entitled, “Bursting at the seams: Uncompromising pictures from inside America’s overcrowded prison system show the cramped and impersonal lives lived by more than two million inmates”:

Correctional institutions across the U.S are bursting at the seams with more than two million Americans behind bars with the worst hit state, California, housing 140,000 inmates when its 33 adult prisons are only designed to hold a maximum of 80,000.

Overall, the Bureau of Prisons Network is around 39 per cent over ‘rated capacity’ – their highest level since 2004 – with that figure expected to soar to 45 per cent above its limit by 2018.

So bad is the situation in California that the Supreme Court has slapped an order on the state ruling that 30,000 prisoners must be released by the middle of next year, labelling overcrowded conditions in its jails as ‘unconstitutional’.

The prison system has seen a stream of new offenders in the past five years and is still massively overstretched despite extra space being added.

Wardens and experts now fear that increased overcrowding and an increasing lack of privacy for inmates will see them more prone to lashing out and causing trouble.

Many prisons have had to create makeshift living quarters for detainees in public spaces such as gymnasiums, with some inmates having to sleep in bunks of three, while some cells which are only designed to house one person are home to up to three.

Inmates are being allowed less time in communal areas such as the cafeteria, TV rooms and recreation yards.

The country is streets ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the number of prisoners per 100,000 population, with Russia the second highest and South Africa in third. The European average took fourth place.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223626/Prisons-America-breaking-point-million-citizens-bars.html; see also http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/10/30/chickenpox-outbreak-puts-san-quentin-state-prison-on-lockdown/ (“Chickenpox Outbreak Locks Down San Quentin”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2238577/Maria-Santos-Gorrostieta-executed-surviving-assassination-attempts.html (“They got her in the end: Mexico’s fearless woman mayor who survived two drug gang assassination attempts is beaten to death and dumped by the roadside“)

California is the most populous U.S. state, and its gross domestic product (GDP) is larger than all but eight countries in the world. In a very real sense, it is a microcosm of America—and of things to come.

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31 10 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Greece’s Death Spiral

The UK Telegraph has two articles about Greece that are worth reading. In the first one by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of The Daily Telegraph, he writes:

Finance minister Yannis Stournaras said public debt will reach 189pc of GDP, far higher than estimates of 179pc published just weeks ago.

The new estimates exceed the worst-case scenario sketched by the International Monetary Fund and demolish any hope that Greece can claw its way back to solvency.

. . .

All losses so far from Greece’s default been concentrated on private investors. They have taken write-downs of 75pc, or nearer 85pc on current market prices. The scale of the debacle in Greece means that any future write-downs must come from taxpayers and the EU bail-out fund (EFSF).

. . .

The austerity wave comes as unemployment hits a euro-era high of 10.6pc across the eurozone, reaching 25.8pc in Spain, 25.1pc in Greece, 15.7pc in Portugal and 15.1pc in Ireland.

A study by Britain’s National Institute Economic Review said the eurozone’s austerity strategy is “fundamentally flawed” and has become self-defeating. “Even on its own terms, it is making matters worse.”

The institute said synchronized fiscal tightening by a group of countries in the middle of a slump does deep damage to the productive economy and may actually worsen the debt ratio, pushing some countries into a “death spiral”.

. . .

“We do not appear to be in normal times but in a prolonged period of depression. . . .”

. . .

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has implictly acknowledged the limits of her austerity strategy, calling for a eurozone growth fund able to command up 2pc or even 4pc of the region’s GDP to channel investment to regions trapped in slump.

The fund is not a fiscal stabilizer, and is in any case unlikely to be up and running for years. The proposal may help mitigate the next crisis, a decade or more ahead. It offers no solution to the immediate crisis.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9647098/Greek-death-spiral-raises-heat-for-German-bloc-creditors.html

In the second article, also by Evans-Pritchard, he writes:

Every detail of the Greek economy is worse than officially forecast just weeks ago.

The budget unveiled this morning estimates that public debt will reach 189pc of GDP next year (not 179pc).

The budget deficit will be 5.2pc (not 4.2pc).

The economy will shrink 4.5pc next year (not 3.8pc).

Unemployment is already 25.1pc and 55.6pc for youth.

Just for the record:

The EU-IMF Troika originally said that the economy would contract by just 2.6pc in 2010, before growing by 1.1pc in 2011, and 2.1pc in 2012.

In fact Greek GDP contracted by 4.5pc in 2010, 6.9pc in 2011, and will shrink 6.5pc this year, and now 4.5pc next year.

The cumulative error is colossal.

. . .

Greece cannot claw its way out of a 190pc of GDP debt load. The official haircut is coming sooner or later, and it will be an explosive political moment.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to account for direct losses to the Bundestag. A line will have to be written into the German budget covering the X billions of euros. Other line items may have to be cut. Welfare support for Germans, perhaps.

Having insisted for over two years that German taxpayers face no risk of loss on the Club Med rescue packages – and having indeed told them it generated a profit – she will have to explain why this has gone horribly wrong.

No doubt she will try to delay this awful moment until after the German elections late next year. But the calendar of simmering revolt in Greece is not in her hands. One of the three parties in the pro-Memorandum coalition has already refused to go along with the budget plans. The Government majority is thinning fast.

My guess is that Mrs Merkel will be forced to admit to the German nation that contingent liabilities are turning into real liabilities long before her elections.

I leave it to German readers to tell us what the likely response be in the Bundestag and the German press.

See http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100021059/the-german-bloc-will-have-to-take-its-bitter-medicine-in-greece/; see also http://www.cnbc.com/id/49606194 (“Greece Running Out of Cash; Government Under Threat”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2235 (“Greek Economy Is In Great Depression Similar To The American One In The 1930s, Prime Minister Says”) and http://www.cnbc.com/id/49757552 (“Greece Says Cash Reserves Almost Depleted”)

The chickens are coming home to roost, and the human suffering and political turmoil will be staggering—as the economic tsunami continues its relentless and unforgiving advance, globally.

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2 11 2012
mike

The euro zone will unravel, which is likely to be a relatively small but critical part of what will be happening worldwide; and financial turmoil will engulf the euro-zone nations. There will be nobody of consequence in charge economically or politically in the United States or other countries. And the human suffering and chaos will be unfathomable.

This blog is very hard to study and understand because the various posts do not have a day month and year tag.

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2 11 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Mike, for your comment.

First, I did not design the format. It is a WordPress.com Web site; and it uses a “template.”

Second, the day, month and year of all articles and the comments beneath them are indicated. For example, the quotation that you cited appears in the article of mine at the top of this page entitled, “The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally,” which was published on “27/9/2010″ or September 9, 2010. Footnote 5 refers the reader to two other articles that may be of interest.

Similarly, your comment (or post) immediately above this one was published on “2/11/2012,” or November 2, 2012, which is today; and the day, month and year are indicated to the right of your comment. The same thing is true of these comments of mine, and all other comments above yours.

Third, once the articles such as the one at the top of this page are published, I do not make any changes to them. However, my comments beneath the articles are sometimes updated.

For example, I have a comment above entitled, “Housing: The Abyss” (see http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2134), which I updated this morning to include a new article entitled, “Yale’s Shiller to CNBC: Housing Recovery Could Take 50 Years” (see http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/Shiller-housing-upswing-questions/2012/11/01/id/462360).

The date of that addition (or update) is not shown; however, the day, month and year of all articles and the comments beneath them are shown.

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13 11 2012
Martin Lee

The euro zone will unravel, which is likely to be a relatively small but critical part of what will be happening worldwide; and financial turmoil will engulf the euro-zone nations. There will be nobody of consequence in charge economically or politically in the United States or other countries. And the human suffering and chaos will be unfathomable.

This is very sobering stuff, which I very much agree with. The problem is the general public seems only to react to sensationalism, then goes back to watching “Homa Simpson” in a stupefied state. Now is the time to prepare for the coming events as they slowly, ever so slowly unfold. Your decade long timeline may be a little understated?

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13 11 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you, Martin, for your comments.

Yes, indeed, my timeline may be understated. For example, Yale University economist Robert Shiller has warned it could take 50 years for U.S. housing to return to its previous levels.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2134; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9681868/1930s-medicine-pushes-Europe-back-into-double-dip-recession.html (“[I]t is going to get worse next year. . . . Europe has imposed dusted-off policies from the 1930s and they are driving peripheral countries towards depression”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/globalbusiness/9676259/US-Conference-Board-fears-Brics-miracle-over-as-world-faces-decade-long-slump.html (“US Conference Board fears Brics miracle over as world faces decade-long slump”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9720053/French-economy-buckles-as-car-sales-collapse.html (“French economy buckles as car sales collapse”)

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9 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

The West Is Signing Its Own Death Sentence

On April 8, 2009, in an op-ed “Commentary” for the McClatchy Newspapers and McClatchy-Tribune News Service entitled “Euphoria or the Obama Depression?” I wrote:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand. . . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://www.naegele.com/whats_new.html

People are suffering in the United States, the UK, Europe and elsewhere in the world; and this will only get far worse during the balance of this decade.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America”)

Before the McClatchy piece, in an October 17, 2008 article for the American Banker—the daily newspaper of the U.S. banking industry—entitled, “Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess,” I wrote:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is the architect of the enormous economic “bubble” that has burst globally. No longer is he revered as a “potentate.” His reputation is in tatters. Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance, has said: “Greenspan was considered a master. Now we must ask ourselves whether he is not, after [Osama] bin Laden, the man who hurt America the most.” That speaks volumes.

And I added:

Years from now, economic historians may conclude that the “rescue” measures were too little, too late; the world’s central bankers were overwhelmed, and Depression-era “safety nets” did not work; and global market forces ultimately determined the depth and duration of the economic meltdown, not the politicians anywhere. One thing is certain enough: there are lots of rude awakenings yet to come, both in the U.S. and abroad. Greenspan unleashed a firestorm, and it will take years to contain it.

See http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

The chickens are coming home to roost. In an excellent and sobering article by Janet Daley in the UK’s Telegraph entitled, “The West is signing its own death sentence,” she has written:

When the Edward Gibbon of the 22nd century comes to write his History of the Decline and Fall of the West, who will feature in his monumental study of the collapse of the most successful economic experiment in human history? In this saga of the mass suicide of the richest nations on earth, there may be particular reference to those national leaders who chose to deny the reality that was, from the vantage point of our future chronicler, so obviously looming. Or maybe the leadership of our day in Washington, London and Brussels will appear to have been swept helplessly along by irresistible forces that originated before their time.

But for us, right here, right now, it matters that Barack Obama and George Osborne [the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer] are playing small-time strategic games with their toy-town enemies while the unutterable economic truth stares them in the face. (The political leadership of the EU seems to have passed through the looking glass into a world where the rules of economics do not apply, so their statements and actions are beyond analysis.) Mr Obama is locked in an eye-balling contest with a Republican Congress to see who can end up with more ignominy when the United States goes over the fiscal cliff. It is clear now that the president will be quite happy to bring about this apocalypse . . . if he could be sure that it would result in long-term electoral damage to his opponents.

. . .

Supposedly from opposite sides of the political divide, the US president and the British Chancellor come to a surprisingly similar conclusion: it is not feasible to speak the truth, let alone act on it. The truth being, as this column has often said, that present levels of public spending and government intervention in the US, Britain and Europe are unsustainable. The proportion of GDP which is now being spent by the governments of what used to be called the “free world” vastly exceeds what it is possible to raise through taxation without destroying any possibility of creating wealth, and therefore requires either an intolerable degree of national debt or the endless printing of progressively more meaningless money—or both.

How on earth did we get here? As every sane political leader knows by now, this is not just a temporary emergency created by a bizarre fit of reckless lending: the crash of 2008 simply blew the lid off the real scandal of western economic governance. Having won the Cold War and succeeded in settling the great ideological argument of the 20th century in favour of free-market economics, the nations of the West managed to bankrupt themselves by insisting that they could fund a lukewarm form of socialism with the proceeds of capitalism.

What the West took from its defeat of the East was that it must accept the model of the state as social engineer in order to avert any future threat to freedom. Capitalism would only be tolerated if government distributed its wealth evenly across society. The original concept of social security and welfare provision—that no one should be allowed to sink into destitution or real want—had to be revisited. The new ideal was that there should not be inequalities of wealth. The roaring success of the free market created such unprecedented levels of mass prosperity that absolute poverty became virtually extinct in western democracies, so it had to be replaced as a social evil by “relative poverty”. It was not enough that no one should be genuinely poor (hungry and without basic necessities): what was demanded now was that no one should be much worse (or better) off than anyone else. The job of government was to create a society in which there were no significant disparities in earnings or standards of living. So it was not just the unemployed who were given assistance: the low paid had their wages supplemented by working tax credits and in-work benefits so that their earnings could be brought up to the arbitrary level which the state had decided constituted not-poverty.

The paradoxical effect of this is that the only politically acceptable condition is to be earning just enough to maintain independent life—and not a penny more. . . . Neither rich nor unemployed, these paragons are perfect exemplars of “fairness”: surviving on an income which makes life just about bearable but remaining careful always not to allow their aspirations to propel them beyond their station and its acceptable earnings level.

This picture of the perfect society—in which disparities of wealth are eradicated and economic equality is maintained through a vastly complex and expensive system of state intervention—has been the explicit goal of the EU virtually since its inception. . . . More unexpectedly, it has now taken root in the American political culture, where Mr Obama seems determined to exploit it in his blood-curdling contest with the Republicans. Once ensconced, this concept undermines the logic of the free-market economy which funds it.

Capitalism is, by its nature, dynamic: it creates transitory disparities of wealth constantly as it reinvents itself. Fortunes are made and lost and, as old industries are replaced by new, the earnings that they create rise and fall. Punishing those who exceed some momentary average income and artificially subsidising those who fall below it—as well as providing for a universal standard of living which bears no relation to merit or even to need—has now reached the unavoidable, unaffordable end of the line.

So who will tell the truth—and then act on it? Who will say . . . [t]hat without a radical reduction in government intervention, the free and prosperous West will have been a brief historical aberration?

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/georgeosborne/9730434/The-West-is-signing-its-own-death-sentence.html; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/9733486/Europe-clings-to-scorched-earth-ideology-as-depression-deepens.html (“Europe clings to scorched-earth ideology as depression deepens“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9733547/World-risks-fresh-credit-bubble-Switzerlands-BIS-warns.html (“World risks fresh credit bubble, Switzerland’s BIS warns”) and http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-the-right-to-work-dilemma/2012/12/13/28e2ce2c-4567-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html (“The right-to-work dilemma”)

Politicians in America, Europe and elsewhere are economic naïfs at best. Most have had zero training in economics, and they have been leading the world down the primrose path to the “Great Depression II.” One must never forget that the Great Depression of the last century did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest; and this depression is not likely to run its course until the end of this decade, at the earliest.

There were “green shoots,” or signs that things were improving, in the Great Depression as well. However, 20-to-40 years from now, economic historians will look back and describe what has been happening and will continue to unfold through the end of this decade as the “Great Depression II,” or by using similar descriptions. The human suffering will be very similar in America, the UK, Europe and globally.

America is likely to fare better than the rest of the world, but it will not escape from massive human suffering, which will be unfathomable.

Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly!

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12 12 2012
JungianINTP

During the top of the housing bubble, 2005, before blinders were removed and collapse had ensued, Greenspan had signaled his crash-the-economy-on-purpose culpability by advising, during an interview with reporters, THIS QUITE INSANE – as well as being an unethical abridgement of his keep-my-mouth-shut, don’t-move-the-markets, Federal Reserve chairmanship duties! – AND VERY HARMFUL nudge to prospective home buyers: “I think they ought to use an adjustable rate mortgage.”

Why would he advise home buyers to do that, unless he was feeling giddy about helping to do the most harm to the market and mortgage holders when HIS PURPOSEFULLY PLANNED BUBBLE had popped? But for what sinister purpose?

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26 12 2012
Timothy D. Naegele

U.S. Lambasts China For Breaches Of Trade Rules

This is the title of an article in the UK’s Telegraph by its International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard—and subtitled, “Washington has issued a blistering attack on China for persistent breaches of world trade rules and abuse of industrial secrets, accusing Beijing of failing to abide by treaty obligations”—which states:

China is still flouting World Trade Organisation rules 11 years after it first joined, misusing the complaints machinery for tit-for-tat retaliation, said US Trade Repesentative Ron Kirk.

. . .

The report accused Chinese officials of running rough-shod over foreign firms, forcing them to give up trade secrets in clear violation of WTO rules.

The harsh language will infuriate Beijing at a time when tensions are already high over maritime disputes on the Pacific Rim, where the US is increasingly embroiled as the region’s guarantor. Washington’s so-called “Asian Pivot” is viewed with deep mistrust by China’s Politburo as the start of an encirclement strategy.

The trade frictions are in stark contrast with growing US support for a sweeping trans-Atlantic trade deal with Europe, aimed at eliminating tariffs. It would be the most ambitious deal of its kind ever attempted.

. . .

The US has filed fifteen cases against China at the WTO, the most recent alleging unfair duties on US vehicles and car parts. Washington won a panel dispute over steel duties in September. China in turn has a clutch of cases claiming illegal use of anti-dumping measures by the US.

The US trade report marks a switch away from griping about China’s currency—less clearly undervalued after years of wage inflation—towards a closer focus on disguised protectionism.

It targeted a wide range of alleged abuses, including subsidies, attempts to keep out foreign imports and companies, and failure to enforce intellectual property rights.

. . .

For all the complaints, China has become America’s biggest export market, worth $131bn in 2011. Its current account surplus has fallen from 10pc of GDP five years ago to 2.6pc this year.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/globalbusiness/9765348/US-lambasts-China-for-breaches-of-trade-rules.html

As an article of mine and the comments beneath it state clearly:

One must never forget that China is America’s enemy: make no mistake about that.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/

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3 01 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The GOP Saw The “Fiscal Cliff” Looming, And Drove Over It—Into A Fiscal Abyss

Fiscal Cliff

The “deal” is done, and Americans will suffer because of it.

See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/01/fiscal-cliff-deal-passed-_n_2394022.html (“Fiscal Cliff Deal Passed By Congress After Republicans Cave“); see also http://thehill.com/homenews/house/275295-boehner-tells-gop-hes-done-with-one-on-one-obama-talks (“Boehner tells GOP he’s through negotiating one-on-one with Obama”) and http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/01/02/inside-obamas-kailua-beach-vacation-homes (“Obama’s Hawaii vacation has cost taxpayers $7 million, due to the costs of flying Air Force One and an extensive security operation”)

After working on and with Capitol Hill for much of my adult life, I concluded many years ago that the Democrats are “evil” and the Republicans are “Neanderthals,” which is why I have been an Independent for approximately 25 years—having first been a Democrat, and then a Republican.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/the-rise-of-independents/

The latest madness in Washington is that the “loyal opposition,” the GOP, caved into Barack Obama to avoid the so-called “Fiscal Cliff,” and instead they drove over it and into a fiscal abyss of unknown depths. Now, the Republicans are fighting among themselves; and the only clear victors are Obama and his Democrats, who completely routed the hapless Republicans as they did in the 2010 lame duck session of Congress.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/31/the-rise-of-independents/#comment-1190 (“The Great Republican Ascendancy Of 2010 Lasted Less Than Two Months!”)

The Republicans are pathetic, which is among the many reasons why they do not control the White House today. African-Americans and Hispanics turned out in record numbers to reelect Obama, while large numbers of Republicans did not vote. Thus, they are getting what they deserve, with much worse coming, while Americans will suffer enormously because of their ineptitude, cowardice, and spinelessness.

See http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2012/president/2012/12/23/the-story-behind-mitt-romney-loss-the-presidential-campaign-president-obama/2QWkUB9pJgVIi1mAcIhQjL/story.html (“The story behind Mitt Romney’s loss in the presidential campaign to President Obama”)

. . .

As I have written in the article above, the economic tsunami continues its relentless and unforgiving advance globally, and will not run its course until the end of this decade at the earliest.

Hold on tight. Things will get much worse.

The human suffering will be unfathomable—in Europe, the United States, and globally. Governments are not part of the solution; they contribute to the problems, intensify them, and move us closer to the financial abyss.

Today, politics on both sides of the Atlantic is “fractured,” to say the least. While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand.

See, e.g., http://www.myfoxchicago.com/story/20601722/1-in-3-illinoisans-lives-in-or-near-poverty-level-report (In The Land of Lincoln—and Obama—1 in 3 Near Poverty)

. . .

There are at least three theories that are operating with respect to Germany’s future—which bears on the future of Europe: (1) the rest of the Eurozone will take down the German economy; (2) Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be able to save the other countries, and Germans will retreat economically to “fortress Germany” and abandon the euro; and (3) Germans will achieve what they did not in World War II, namely to become the “masters of Europe.”

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1732 (“Will The Euro Crisis Will Give Germany The Empire It Has Always Dreamed Of?”)

Indeed, it must be noted:

(1) “Germany’s Bundesbank is to repatriate gold reserves held abroad to tighten control and combat currency crises in the future, pulling a chunk of its holdings from New York and all its bullion from Paris.”

(2) “Many analysts say the world is moving towards a de facto gold standard again as China, Russia and other reserve powers boost their holdings to diversify out of dollars and euros.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/investing/gold/9804444/Bundesbank-to-pull-gold-from-New-York-and-Paris-in-watershed-moment.html (“Bundesbank to pull gold from New York and Paris in watershed moment“); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9789086/Brussels-fears-poverty-trap-for-half-of-Europe-as-North-South-gap-widens.html (“Brussels fears ‘poverty trap’ for half of Europe as North-South gap widens“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9809723/SandP-sees-deeper-house-price-falls-in-eurozone-as-slump-engulfs-core.html (“S&P sees deeper house price falls in eurozone as slump engulfs core”—”France’s house . . . sales collapsed by 24pc in September from a year ago, the usual precursor of price capitulation by sellers”) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9826857/Britain-is-experiencing-worse-slump-than-during-Great-Depression.html (“Britain is experiencing ‘worse slump than during Great Depression’“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9825363/Bank-of-America-issues-bond-crash-alert-on-Fed-tightening-fears.html (“Bank of America issues `bond crash’ alert on Fed tightening fears”—”The . . . question is whether the world economy really is at the start of a fresh cycle of growth, or whether the roaring asset rally of the last few months is another false dawn“) and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2269094/North-Korean-parents-eat-children-driven-mad-hunger-famine-hit-pariah-state.html (“North Korean parents ‘eating their own children’ after being driven mad by hunger in famine-hit pariah state“)

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27 01 2013
john W Halfwit

The euro zone will unravel, which is likely to be a relatively small but critical part of what will be happening worldwide; and financial turmoil will engulf the euro-zone nations. There will be nobody of consequence in charge economically or politically in the United States or other countries. And the human suffering and chaos will be unfathomable.

i stopped thinking years ago

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27 01 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Don’t give up, John.

America is likely to fare better than the rest of the world.

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20 02 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Fiscal Cliff Explained, And Sequestration

What appears below was sent to me by a lawyer-friend in Washington, D.C.; and neither of us created it, nor do we vouch for the accuracy of the numbers cited. However, I have little doubt that they are close enough.

Lesson #1:

● U.S. tax revenues: $2,170,000,000,000
● Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000
● New debt: $1,650,000,000,000
● National debt: $14,271,000,000,000
● Recent budget cuts: $38,500,000,000

Let’s now remove 8 zeros and pretend it is a household budget:

● Annual family income: $21,700
● Money the family spent: $38,200
● New debt on the credit card: $16,500
● Outstanding balance on the credit card: $142,710
● Total budget cuts so far: $38.50

Got It ??……. OK now,

Lesson #2:

Here’s another way to look at the Debt Ceiling:

Let’s say, you come home from work and find there has been a sewer backup in your neighbourhood and your home has sewage all the way up to your ceilings.

What do you think you should do?

Raise the ceilings, or remove the shit?

See also http://cnsnews.com/news/article/real-federal-spending-82290-american-2008 (Drudge: “FEDERAL SPENDING UP $822.90 PER PERSON SINCE OBAMA“) and http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-krauthammer-hail-armageddon/2013/02/28/ca8a32a6-81da-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html (“[F]or Obama, this is not about deficit reduction, which interests him not at all. The purpose is purely political: to complete his Election Day victory by breaking the Republican opposition“)

. . .

If the issue of Sequestration was not so vitally important to our national security and well being, it might be laughable, but it is deadly serious.

See http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/operations/283981-pentagon-tells-congress-it-will-furlough-800k-civilian-workforce (“Pentagon informs Congress of plans to furlough 800K civilian workers“) and http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-issues-worldwide-caution-to-its-citizens-of-terror-threats/articleshow/18589455.cms (“US issues worldwide caution to its citizens of terror threats“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-2090 (“Obama Is A Traitor“) and http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bob-woodward-obamas-sequester-deal-changer/2013/02/22/c0b65b5e-7ce1-11e2-9a75-dab0201670da_print.html (Bob Woodward: “Obama’s sequester deal-changer”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/is-obama-the-new-nixon/#comment-2494 (“Obama’s Enemies List And His Thugocracy“); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/ (“EMP Attack: Only 30 Million Americans Survive“)

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8 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

89,304,000 AMERICANS: NOT WORKING

It has been reported:

The number of Americans not in the labor force increased by 296,000 in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report. According to the report, there were a total of 89.3 million people not in the labor force, up from 89 million in January.

BLS labels people who are unemployed and no longer looking for work as “not in the labor force,” including people who have retired on schedule, taken early retirement, or simply given up looking for work.

The increase marks the second month in a row, after rising in January from 88.8 million in December.

See http://cnsnews.com/news/article/296000-americans-drop-out-labor-force-february

. . .

As Peggy Noonan noted in the Wall Street Journal:

[T]he general fear [is] that we’re on a long slide and can’t turn it around.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323628804578346680172271600.html?mod=WSJ_hps_sections_opinion

This is totally consistent with my article on the economy and the comments beneath it. The worst is yet to come, and things will get very ugly!

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-next-major-war-korea-again/#comment-2501 (“North Korea Says It Will Launch Nuclear Attack On America“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/china-is-americas-enemy-make-no-mistake-about-that/ (“China Is America’s Enemy: Make No Mistake About That”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/#comment-2301 (“Crime Will Increase Dramatically In America”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/is-obama-the-new-nixon/#comment-2494 (“Obama’s Enemies List And His Thugocracy”)

Noonan added:

[I]t’s a jobs crisis that’s the central thing. And you see it everywhere you look.

I’m in Pittsburgh, making my way to the airport hotel. The people movers are broken and we pull our bags along the dingy carpet. There’s an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken.

This is so so true. I grew up a block away from the fabled Sunset Boulevard in Westwood, a mile west of the lovely UCLA college campus, in an affluent area of Los Angeles—with the super-rich Beverly Hills to the east, Bel Air to the northeast, and Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and Malibu to the west. Leaving the UCLA campus recently, I hit a pothole in the street near the campus, which was similar to those I had hit in Washington, D.C. a number of years before. The streets that I had traveled on my bike as a kid, to watch movies at the Village and Bruin theaters in Westwood, have not been paved in all those years. Hefty tax monies paid by residents have been diverted elsewhere, and wasted.

Noonan continued:

The man who checked me in put his phones on hold when I asked for someone to accompany me upstairs. As we walked to the room I felt I should explain. I told him a trial attorney had told me a while back that there are more lawsuits involving hotels than is generally known, and more crime, so always try to have someone with you when you first go to your room. I thought the hotel clerk would pooh-pooh this. Instead he said, “That’s why we just put up mirrors at each end of the hall, so you can see if someone’s coming.” He made it sound like an amenity.

“What should we do then, scream?” I asked. He laughed and shrugged: “Yeah.”

Things are getting pretty bare-bones in America. Doormen, security, bellmen, people working the floor—that’s maybe a dozen jobs that should have been filled, at one little hotel on one day in one town. Everyone’s keeping costs down, not hiring.

What that hotel looked like is America without its muscle, its efficiency, its old confidence.

. . .

ObamaCare is being cited as a reason employers are laying people off and not hiring, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.

What a mess.

. . .

But what is the sequester about? At the end of the day it’s about fewer jobs or fewer hours. In the midst of what is already a jobs crisis.

. . .

[Obama's] whole approach is still stoke and scare—stoke resentment and scare the vulnerable into pressuring Republicans.

. . .

Mr. Obama is making the same mistake he made four years ago. We are in a jobs crisis and he does not see it. He thinks he’s in a wrestling match about taxing and spending, he thinks he’s in a game with those dread Republicans. But the real question is whether the American people will be able to have jobs.

. . .

There’s little sense he sees this. Dr. Doom talks about coming disaster when businessmen need the confidence to hire someone. He’s missing the boat on the central crisis of his second term.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2483 (“The Fiscal Cliff Explained, And Sequestration”); compare http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/342366/white-house-saving-18000-week-cancelling-tours-patrick-brennan (“White House Is Saving $18,000 a Week By Cancelling Tours”) with http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2290937/MoS-Diary-Adele-lands-biggest-gig-Michelle-Obamas-50th-birthday-party.html (“ADELE, BEYONCE TO PERFORM AT MICHELLE’S 50TH [BIRTHDAY PARTY]“); see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1172 (“Michelle Obama: ‘Let Them Eat Cake!'”) and http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-savings-financial-emergency-20130130,0,4750796.story (“Nearly half of Americans are one emergency from financial ruin“)

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10 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Eurozone Risks Japan-Style Deflation Trap As ECB Stays Tight

In an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor, it is reported:

The tough stance comes as the eurozone faces a second year of outright contraction, with the jobless rate reaching a record 11.9pc.

The [European Central Bank]’s president Mario Draghi decried the “tragedy” of mass unemployment but insisted that monetary policy cannot resolve the problem.

. . .

“Europe is heading into a deflationary scenario if they don’t do anything to boost the money supply,” said Lars Christensen from Danske Bank. “This already looks very similar to what happened in Japan in 1996 and 1997.”

The Japanese discovered that they were acutely vulnerable to an external shock once inflation had fallen below 1pc for a protracted period.In their case the East Asian crash of 1998 tipped them over the edge into a serious crisis.

Eurozone lending to companies has fallen by €100bn over the last six months, and small firms are struggling with a severe credit crunch across the Club Med bloc. Mr Draghi said there were no plans to introduce a variant of the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending to channel money where it is most needed.

Critics say the ECB has persistently under-estimated the severity of the downturn, and has failed to offset drastic budget cuts with monetary stimulus. Both levers of policy are set on contraction, with bank deleveraging compounding the effect.

. . .

The Catholic charity Caritas called for radical change in the eurozone’s whole crisis strategy, saying the current course was self-defeating and “putting the very legitimacy of the EU at risk”.

It said child poverty had reached dramatic levels in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, while deep cuts to welfare have left the most vulnerable stripped of a safety net. It said the chief victims bore no responsibility for the crisis, a breach of natural justice.

The crisis has engulfed France where a key gauge of the money supply—six-month real M1—is contracting at an annual rate of 6.6pc and flashing graver warning signs than in Italy or Spain.

Figures out today showed that French unemployment rose to a euro-era high of 10.6pc in the fourth quarter, with the total looking for work near 3.7m.

France’s BVA confidence index plunged 12 points last month. Some 75pc of households fear that the economy will deteriorate over the next year. It is the worst reading since President Francois Hollande took power in May with a pledge to kick start growth and break the back of unemployment.

The Figaro said the French jobless rate is now higher than at any time in the 1930s, when farm ties and the empire acted as a safety valve.

“France is on the brink economic implosion,” said economist Christian Saint Etienne, warning that a state sector nearing 57pc of GDP rendered the country unfit for [the] EMU.

Mr Draghi deflected questions over Italy’s political crisis, leaving it unclear whether the ECB can back-stop the bonds of a country with no functioning government and no likelihood of complying with the rescue conditions.

Some 57pc of Italians voted for an end to the EU-imposed cuts. Pier Luigi Bersani, the most likely premier, vowed on Wednesday to rip up austerity plans and push for growth.

The ECB bond purchases—known as the OMT—require activation of the eurozone bail-out fund and a vote in the German Bundestag. “The rules are what they are. The ball is entirely in the government’s hands,” he said.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9916592/Eurozone-risks-Japan-style-deflation-trap-as-ECB-stays-tight.html; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9926656/Eurozone-industry-in-the-doldrums-as-production-worse-than-expected.html (“Eurozone industry in the ‘doldrums’ as production worse than expected“) and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/9924954/UK-on-track-for-triple-dip-NIESR.html (“UK on track for triple dip“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2502 (“89,304,000 AMERICANS: NOT WORKING“) and http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-savings-financial-emergency-20130130,0,4750796.story (“Nearly half of Americans are one emergency from financial ruin“)

. . .

Perhaps most sobering and disturbing are the warnings of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, one of Europe’s most senior politicians, who contends that (1) Europe’s demons are only sleeping, (2) peace is being taken for granted on the continent, and that (3) Europe’s current troubles were chillingly similar to those in the run up to World War I.

In a UK’s Telegraph article, it is reported:

[Juncker] claimed that elections in Italy and Greece brought “national resentments to the surface, which we’d believed had gone away”.

. . .

Mr Juncker said in an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel: “Anyone who believes that the eternal question of war and peace in Europe is no longer there risks being deeply mistaken. The demons have not gone away—they’re only sleeping, as the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo showed. I am chilled by the realisation of how similar circumstances in Europe in 2013 are to those of 100 years ago.”

The way in which some political figures in Germany had “lashed out” at Greece during the financial crisis has left “deep wounds” there Mr Juncker said. He said the Italian election was “excessively hostile to Germany and therefore anti-European”.

Resentment over austerity measures advocated by Germany spilt over into public anger when Mrs Merkel visited Athens last October. Some Greek protesters burned a swastika flag while others dressed in Nazi uniforms.

During last month’s Italian elections, Silvio Berlusconi blamed “German-centric” policies for Italy’s economic problems.

Mr Juncker, who chaired the euro Group from 2005 until he stepped down in January this year, said that he saw parallels with 1913.

“In 1913 many believed that there would never again be a war in Europe. The great powers of the continent were so closely intertwined economically that the view was widespread that they could no longer afford to have military confrontations.

“There was a complete sense of complacency based on the assumption that peace had been secured forever.”

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/9922063/Jean-Claude-Juncker-Europes-demons-are-only-sleeping.html

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13 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Worldwide Approval And Image Of The United States Declines Under Obama

POLITICO has reported:

Worldwide approval of U.S. leadership dipped considerably during President Barack Obama’s fourth year in office. . . .

The median approval rating for U.S. leadership for 130 countries was 41 percent in 2012, down 8 percentage points from the 49 percent approval during Obama’s first year in office, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

Gallup asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the job performance of the leadership of the United States?”

“This shift suggests that the president and the new secretary of state may not find global audiences as receptive to the U.S. agenda as they have in the past. In fact, they may even find even once-warm audiences increasingly critical,” Gallup’s Julie Ray wrote.

. . .

In Europe, U.S. leadership dipped from 42 percent in 2011 to 36 percent for last year.

See http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/world-poll-image-of-us-declines-88816.html (“World poll: Image of U.S. declines”)

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17 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Great Green Con—”Global Warming” Is A Myth

Like the “Tooth Fairy” and the “Easter Bunny,” the notion of man-made “global warming” is a myth and fraud that has been foisted on Americans and others worldwide. It is akin to Adolf Hitler’s “master race” theory: pure poppycock.

An article in the UK’s Daily Mail discusses “the hard proof that finally shows global warming forecasts that are costing you billions were WRONG all along,” In the article—which is subtitled “No, the world ISN’T getting warmer (as you may have noticed). Now we reveal the official data that’s making scientists suddenly change their minds about climate doom. So will eco-funded [Members of Parliament] stop waging a green crusade with your money? Well… what do YOU think?”—it is reported:

The Mail on Sunday today presents irrefutable evidence that official predictions of global climate warming have been catastrophically flawed.

The graph on this page blows apart the ‘scientific basis’ for Britain reshaping its entire economy and spending billions in taxes and subsidies in order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. These moves have already added £100 a year to household energy bills.

. . .

The graph shows in incontrovertible detail how the speed of global warming has been massively overestimated. Yet those forecasts have had a ruinous impact on the bills we pay, from heating to car fuel to huge sums paid by councils to reduce carbon emissions.

The eco-debate was, in effect, hijacked by false data. The forecasts have also forced jobs abroad as manufacturers relocate to places with no emissions targets.

. . .

The graph confirms there has been no statistically significant increase in the world’s average temperature since January 1997—as this newspaper first disclosed last year.

At the end of last year the Met Office revised its ten-year forecast predicting a succession of years breaking records for warmth. It now says the pause in warming will last until at least 2017. A glance at the graph will confirm that the world will be cooler than even the coolest scenario predicted.

. . .

The graph shows a world stubbornly refusing to warm. Indeed, it shows the world is soon set to be cooler.

The awkward fact is that the earth has warmed just 0.5 degrees over the past 50 years. And Met Office records show that for the past 16 years temperatures have plateaued and, if anything, are going down.

. . .

[T]he scientists behind the [global warming] theory have a vested interest—it’s a great way to justify new taxes, get more money and guarantee themselves more work.

The reality is that man-made global warming is a myth: the global temperature is well within life’s limits and, indeed, the present day is cooler by comparison to much of Earth’s history. Perhaps this will be the moment that this fact becomes the new scientific orthodoxy.

See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294560/The-great-green-1-The-hard-proof-finally-shows-global-warming-forecasts-costing-billions-WRONG-along.html (emphasis added); see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301851/Coldest-Easter-Sunday-100-YEARS-temperatures-plummet-12C-Britain-shivering-week.html (“Coldest Easter Sunday in 100 YEARS: Temperatures plummet to -12C as Britain faces another week of bitter weather (but at least there’s some signs of spring)“) and http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/what-global-warming-2012-data-confirms-earth-cooling-trend (“What Global Warming? 2012 Data Confirms Earth In Cooling Trend“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1127 (“The Lunacy Of The Global Warming Hoax Is In Full Swing“)

All of the money being spent worldwide to address “global warming” would be better spent in pursuit of the “Loch Ness Monster” and the “Abominable Snowman”—or in chasing rainbows.

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27 03 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Dow of Tiger Woods

This is the title of a Wall Street Journal article, which is worth reading at least in part:

Tiger Woods reclaimed the top spot in the World Golf Rankings this week with his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose nearly 112 points to 14559.65, an all-time high close.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324105204578384832555959160.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_sports

Before his “accident” in Florida, Woods was under the care of a doctor who promoted performance-enhancing drugs such as HGH: Anthony Galea, who visited Woods “at least four times” at his Florida home, and was under a joint U.S.-Canadian investigation for providing athletes with such performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, as I have written:

Tiger is akin to so many other celebrities and politicians of our times, who have unbelievable feet of clay and should not be role models for anyone.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/is-redemption-possible-for-tiger-woods (see also all of the comments beneath the article)

It is unlikely that Woods will ever be considered the greatest golfer of all time, inter alia, because the truth about his doping will come out with the passage of time, which will forever tarnish his place in golf.

Indeed, I know at least one person who knows the inside, true story with respect to Woods, and will probably tell it sooner or later. The revelations will be “shattering.”

Next, there are fewer black (or African-American) players on the PGA Tour today than when Woods began. He has done nothing to change this . . . except to line his own pockets as Narcissists do. Years ago, there were Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford and Jim Dent.

Woods confessed to having 121 affairs during his five-year marriage, and this will haunt him forever as well.

See, e.g., http://www.mirror.co.uk/celebs/news/2010/04/29/woods-tells-elin-i-slept-with-121-girls-115875-22219848/ (“Tiger Woods confessed to having 121 affairs during his five-year marriage. . . . The world’s top golfer . . . is said to have told estranged wife Elin Nordegren the amazing number of women he bedded during her visit while he was in rehab”)

It is often asked how Woods was able to get away with doping and his sexual escapades. The short answer is that he is black; and to a large extent, “political correctness” has shielded or sheltered him from criticism. If cyclist Lance Armstrong was black, he might have been treated differently too. Clearly, race is a big factor that protects Woods, which cannot be underestimated.

Also, before his “accident,” Woods was golf’s “cash cow” and it was essentially a “one-player” sport. People followed golf because of him, and lots of people made plenty of money because of him. Indeed, the PGA and its disgraceful commissioner Tim Finchem—who should have been fired ages ago—never ordered an independent investigation of the doping charges against Woods, which were swept under the rug and buried. No other sport would have done this.

The media has buried the facts because of the reasons cited above, and because America has become a celebrity-driven society in which anything goes—including lying, cheating, prostitutes, bimbos and the like.

Regardless of his golf scores, Woods is a doping, utterly disgraced, porn “star”/escort/and other bimbo-seeking, Narcissistic philanderer. Like the Dow, what goes up often comes crashing down, especially in troubled times like these—which will only get far worse between now and the end of this decade.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/ (“The Economic Tsunami Continues Its Relentless And Unforgiving Advance Globally”) (see also all of the comments beneath this article)

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3 04 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Great Depression II Is Here To Stay, And It Will Last At Least Through The End Of This Decade

While many Americans and the “elite” of other countries have never had it so good financially—including Barack Obama and his family—as their yachts cruise the waters of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and elsewhere in this world, others are living in poverty and utter desperation. This will continue unabated for many years to come, with no relief in sight. As I have written, things will only get far worse; and the human suffering will be unfathomable.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/ (“Poverty In America“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2135 (“Suicides, Growing Despair And Hopelessness May Be The Future“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-2177 (“The Risk Of Runs Is Real“) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/barack-obama-is-a-lame-duck-president-who-will-not-be-reelected/#comment-1172 (“Michelle Obama: ‘Let Them Eat Cake!'”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1516 (“Debtors’ Prisons“)

Evidence of this is reflected in the latest statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau:

[N]early 50 million Americans—one in six—were living below the income line that defines poverty, according to the bureau. . . . The bureau said 20 percent of the country’s children are poor.

See http://news.yahoo.com/help-shrinks-poverty-spikes-us-122230503.html (“Help shrinks as poverty spikes in the US“); see also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2302997/U-S-sees-highest-poverty-spike-1960s-leaving-50-million-Americans-poor-government-cuts-billions-spending.html (“U.S. sees highest poverty spike since the 1960s, leaving 50 million Americans poor as government cuts billions in spending“) and http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-04-05/people-not-labor-force-soar-663000-90-million-labor-force-participation-rate-1979-le (“[T]he number of people not in the labor force . . . in March soared by a massive 663,000 to a record 90 million Americans who are no longer even looking for work“)

It is a myth and downright lie woven by our politicians and their counterparts in other countries that America and Europe are slowly climbing out of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It must never be forgotten that the depression of the last century did not end with the onset of World War II, but rather it abated only after the war’s end. During the 1930s, there were “green shoots” as there are now—or signs that things were improving economically—which did not materialize until the end of that devastating war.

As I wrote almost four years ago:

International terrorism and other very real national security concerns still loom, which might produce flashpoints at any time. We have enemies who seek to destroy us—a fact that is sometimes forgotten as 9/11 recedes in our memories. While it might be attractive . . . to take a “meat ax” to the Defense Department, it would be foolhardy to gut our military precisely when it has been performing magnificently and its continued strength is needed most. America’s economic and military strength go hand in hand. Both are indispensable ingredients of our great nation’s future strength.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/the-next-major-war-korea-again/#comment-2501 (“North Korea Says It Will Launch Nuclear Attack On America”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/ (“EMP Attack: Only 30 Million Americans Survive”) and http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-madness-of-benjamin-netanyahu (“The Madness Of Benjamin Netanyahu”)

And I added almost four years ago:

While U.S. politicians and their counterparts in other countries have been trying to convince their electorates that they have the answers, they are simply holding out false hopes that real solutions are at hand. . . .

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.

See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9985280/Big-banks-more-dangerous-than-ever-IMFs-Christine-Lagarde-says.html (“Big banks ‘more dangerous than ever’, IMF’s Christine Lagarde says“)

The chickens are coming home to roost as fewer and fewer Americans and other nationalities trust their governments, and as economic and other forms of chaos reign.

HOLD ON TIGHT. THINGS WILL GET VERY UGLY!

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6 04 2013
RayUSA

America faces so many problems that it is difficult to be optimistic at all regarding the future. I firmly agree with your assessment that “things will get very ugly!” How can they not? Aside from all the pressing economic and political troubles, we have deteriorating social problems as well. Certainly, we are not the same nation morally that we were during the first Great Depression where neighbors reached out to help others that were worse off than they were. My father often told me stories of how my Grandmother would give food to neighbors that were poorer than they were. Today, the morality is such in America that rather than “help” a neighbor, many would probably rob them, or simply ignore those that were in need. Such are the fruits of, as you state, “godless secularism” inspired by the “gods of materialism.” When the economy REALLY turns down, it will make the “crisis” of 2008 look like the proverbial picnic. I firmly believe that the crisis of 2008 was only a prelude to the real crisis. You are so right … hold on tight!

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6 04 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

Thank you for your comments, Ray. I agree with them completely.

Indeed, you have summed up the issues that the United States and Americans face, very succinctly. In all of my articles at this blog, beginning with the very first one about Barack Obama, I have tried to describe these issues and comment about them.

See http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/articles/

While not engaging in platitudes and excessive puffery, I believe the United States is the greatest country on earth, and that the American people are exceptional—all of them.

However, what is coming will test us like never before; and it will make 2008 seem like child’s play. It will rival the 1930s, or be even worse. The reason is that most Americans are not prepared for it, and may seriously consider giving up completely. This is when one’s faith in God—or a “higher power”—will be tested like never before.

Interestingly enough, other parts of the world and their peoples will be hurt much worse than we will. The UK and Europe come to mind; however, as my article above relates, the effects will be felt globally. Nations and peoples are interconnected like never before. For example, if the Internet went down—as an act of war—the effects would be unprecedented in history.

My parents were in their 20s when the Great Depression of the last century hit; and from what I was told, it did not affect them adversely at all. They had been schoolmates in Minneapolis, and had come west to California; and my father had a good job in Beverly Hills. He and my mother and their respective families rode out the depression and the war economically. However, things changed for our family when my mother became ill before I graduated from grade school.

She almost died; and my father spent a small fortune on medical care before the advent of medical insurance, involving doctors who had been trained at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. At my sixth grade graduation in the Brentwood suburb of Los Angeles, she came to it in a wheelchair, and I was so embarrassed. No other mothers were like that; and it happened years before attention was given to the disadvantaged. I was an only child, and I had no one to talk with about it; and I did not understand why it had hit our family.

Many years later—after she had survived and recovered, having had her right leg amputated to stem her illness—she went on to lead Red Cross volunteers who helped military service members and their loved ones cope with the family stresses of the Vietnam War. She had friends galore, who loved her for herself; and ultimately, she survived because of her faith in God. We as a family survived because of that too; and my parents remain my only heroes in life; and my faith continues to this day.

The United States will survive, and so will our fellow Americans; however, the challenges will be great.

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22 05 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The U.S Economy Is Poised For A Major Crash

It has been reported:

Despite the current stock market rally, legendary investor Jim Rogers say the U.S economy is poised for a major crash and is warning investors to protect themselves immediately.

In a riveting interview on Fox Business, Rogers warned Americans not to trust any of the positive economic news coming from world governments.

“I don’t trust the data from any government, including the U.S., Rogers said. “We know that governments lie to us. Everybody’s printing money, but it cannot go on. This is all artificial.”

Rogers, who for years has been an outspoken critic of the Feds policies of “Quantitative Easing” says all the money printing is creating false hope that we are in the middle of some kind of super bull market.

But in reality, he says, “we’re living in a fool’s paradise.”

“The Bank of Japan says it’s going to print unlimited amounts of money… Then Mr. Bernanke said I’ll match that… I’ll print that money too. The Europeans are catching on. You’ve got money printing going on everywhere and that has never been good for anybody,” Rogers said.

Currently, Bernanke and company at the U.S. Fed is buying $1 trillion of Treasury and housing agency bonds each year. That’s about $85 billion per month against a budget deficit that is about the same level.

The real risk right now is an all-out 1930s-style currency war that could devastate an entire class of investors who have put their faith in the current economic dogma of endless bailouts and money printing

“It cannot go on,” Rogers warns.

Rogers believes things will really get bad after the German elections this fall

How bad?

Worse than even Roger predicts, according to a new investigation.

In a newly released documentary that went viral last month, a team of influential economic experts say they have discovered a “frightening pattern” they believe points to a massive economic catastrophe unlike anything ever seen before.

“What this pattern represents is a dangerous countdown clock that’s quickly approaching zero,” said Keith Fitz-Gerald, the Chief Investment Strategist for the Money Map Press, who predicted the 2008 oil shock, the credit default swap crisis that helped bring about the recession, and the Greek and European fiscal catastrophe that is still wreaking havoc until this day.

“The resulting chaos is going to crush Americans.”

See http://moneymorning.com/ob-article/jim-rogers-major-crash-ahead.php?code=118409 (emphasis added); see also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPXnI5qRP6U (“Jim Rogers Interview with NewsMax TV 20 May 2013″)

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24 06 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

76 Percent Of Americans Are Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck!

CNNMoney has reported:

Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.

Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all.

. . .

Last week, online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency, while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.

“There really hasn’t been much relief,” said Megan Staton, director of marketing for CashNetUSA “The economy is stagnant, $100 is not enough to help you out in an emergency.”

See http://money.cnn.com/2013/06/24/pf/emergency-savings/index.html; see also http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/07/05/only-47-americans-have-full-time-job (“ONLY 47% OF ADULTS HAVE FULL-TIME JOB”)

As the U.S. and global economies get far worse between now and the end of this decade, more and more Americans and those in other countries will slide into desperate poverty.

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29 06 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The “Great Depression II” Marches Onward

In an article entitled, “Risk of 1937 relapse as Fed gives up fight against deflation,” the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writes:

It has set off an emerging market shock and risks “blowback” from a fresh spasm of the eurozone debt crisis, and it is letting all this happen at the same time, before the US economy is safely out of the woods.

It has violated its own counter-deflation strategy, tightening monetary policy even though core PCE inflation has fallen to the lowest levels in living memory and below levels deemed dangerous enough in the past to warrant a blast of emergency stimulus. It is doing so even though the revival of bank lending has faded.

The entire pivot by the Federal Open Market Committee is mystifying, almost amateurish, and risks repeating the errors made by the Bank of Japan a decade ago, and perhaps repeating a mini-1937 when the Fed lost its nerve and tipped the US economy into a second leg of the Great Depression.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10144451/Risk-of-1937-relapse-as-Fed-gives-up-fight-against-deflation.html

The worst is yet to come, and the landing will not be soft—at least for most Americans.

See, e.g., http://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/poverty-in-america/#comment-2626 (“76 Percent Of Americans Are Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck!”) (see also the article itself, as well as the other comments beneath it)

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11 07 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

The Wheels Are Coming Off The Whole Of Southern Europe

This is the title of an article by the UK Telegraph‘s International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, which is subtitled:

Europe’s debt-crisis strategy is near collapse. The long-awaited recovery has failed to take wing. Debt ratios across southern Europe are rising at an accelerating pace. Political consent for extreme austerity is breaking down in almost every EMU crisis state. And now the US Federal Reserve has inflicted a full-blown credit shock for good measure.

Evans-Pritchard goes on to state:

None of Euroland’s key actors seems willing to admit that the current strategy is untenable. They hope to paper over the cracks until the German elections in September, as if that is going to make any difference.

A leaked report from the European Commission confirms that Greece will miss its austerity targets yet again by a wide margin. It alleges that Greece lacks the “willingness and capacity” to collect taxes. In fact, Athens is missing targets because the economy is still in freefall and that is because of austerity overkill. The Greek think-tank IOBE expects GDP to fall 5pc this year. It has told journalists privately that the final figure may be -7pc. The Greek stabilisation is a mirage.

Italy’s slow crisis is again flaring up. Its debt trajectory has punched through the danger line over the past two years. The country’s €2.1 trillion (£1.8 trillion) debt—129pc of GDP—may already be beyond the point of no return for a country without its own currency.

Standard & Poor’s did not say this outright when it downgraded the country to near-junk BBB on Tuesday. But if you read between the lines, it is close to saying the game is up for Italy.

Its point is that if “nominal GDP” remains near zero, Rome will have to run a primary surplus of 5pc of GDP each year to stabilise the debt ratio. “Risks to achieving such an outturn appear to be increasing,” it said.

Indeed. The International Monetary Fund has just slashed its growth forecast for Italy this year to -1.8pc. The accumulated fall in Italian output since 2007 will reach 10pc. This is a depression. Yet how is the country supposed to get out of this trap with its currency overvalued by 20pc to 30pc within EMU?

Spain’s crisis has a new twist. The ruling Partido Popular is caught in a slush-fund scandal of such gravity that it cannot plausibly brazen out the allegations any longer, let alone rally the nation behind another year of scorched-earth cuts. El Mundo says a “pre-revolutionary” mood is taking hold.

A magistrate has obtained the original “smoking gun” alleging that Premier Mariano Rajoy accepted illegal payments as a minister. The Left is calling for his head but so are members of the Consejo General del Poder Judicial, the justice watchdog.

“Citizens cannot tolerate a situation where the prime minister has received undeclared payments,” said José Manuel Gómez, a Consejo member. Much of the ruling party appears tainted by a network of covert funding. If proved, said Mr Gomez, it poses a “very grave” threat to Spanish democracy.

Portugal is slipping away. Professor João Ferreira do Amaral’s book—Why We Should Leave The Euro—has been a bestseller for months. He accuses Brussels of serving as an enforcer for Germany and the creditor powers.

Like Greece before it, Portugal is chasing its tail in a downward spiral. Economic contraction of 3pc a year is eroding the tax base, causing Lisbon to miss deficit targets. A new working paper by the Bank of Portugal explains why it has gone wrong. The fiscal multiplier is “twice as large as normal”, or 2.0, in small open economies during crisis times.

What is new is that Vitor Gaspar, the high priest of Portugal’s shock therapy, has thrown in the towel. He blames the fainthearted for refusing to slash with greater vigour. Needless to say, he still refuses to accept that a strategy of wage cuts and deflation in a country with total debt of 370pc of GDP was always likely to fail.

If Portugal does pull off an “internal devaluation” within EMU it will shrink the economic base. Yet the debt burden remains. This is the dreaded denominator effect. Public debt has jumped from 93pc to 123pc since 2010 alone.

The Gaspar exit has closed a chapter. The junior coalition partners are demanding a change of course. I write before knowing whether President Anibal Cavaco Silva will call a snap election, opening the way for a Left-leaning anti-austerity government.

The Portuguese press is already reporting that the European Commission is working secretly on a second bail-out, an admission that the wheels are coming off the original €78bn EU-IMF troika rescue.

This is a political minefield. Any fresh rescue would require a vote in the German Bundestag, certain to demand ferocious conditions if this occurs before the elections.

Europe’s leaders have given a solemn pledge that they will never repeat the error made in Greece of forcing an EMU state into default, with haircuts for banks and pension funds. If Portugal needs debt relief, these leaders will face an ugly choice.

Do they violate this pledge, and shatter market confidence? Or do they admit for the first time that taxpayers will have to foot the bill for holding EMU together? All rescue packages have been loans so far. German, Dutch, Finnish and other creditor parliaments have never yet had to crystallize a single euro in losses.

All this is happening just as tapering talk by the Fed sends shockwaves through credit markets, pushing up borrowing costs by 70 basis points across Europe. Spanish 10-year yields are back to 4.8pc. These are higher than they look, since Spain is already in deflation once tax distortions are stripped out. Real interest rates are soaring.

By doing nothing to offset this, the ECB is allowing “passive tightening” to occur. Mario Draghi’s attempt to talk down yields with his new policy of forward guidance is spitting in the wind. The ECB needs to turn on the monetary spigot full blast—like the Bank of Japan—to head off a slide into deflation trap and enveloping disaster by next year. This is not going to happen.

Der Spiegel reports that the German-led bloc fought vehemently against a rate cut at the last ECB meeting, even though Germany itself has slowed to a crawl as China and the BRICS come off the rails.

Markets have reacted insouciantly so far to these gestating crises across Club Med. They remain entranced by the “Draghi Put”, the ECB’s slowly fraying pledge to backstop Italian and Spanish debt, forgetting that the ECB can only act under strict conditions, triggered first by a vote in the Bundestag.

These conditions can no longer be fulfilled. The politics have curdled everywhere.

Sooner or later, this immense bluff must surely be called.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10172530/The-wheels-are-coming-off-the-whole-of-southern-Europe.html (emphasis added); see also http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/10198408/If-you-think-Britain-is-on-its-way-back-to-prosperity-think-again-its-a-mirage.html (“Rather than this being a genuine recovery, we are merely entering the latest stage in an ongoing bubble that began at the start of the previous decade and which keeps being reflated, with the painful but inevitable denouement still at least another crisis away”)

The chickens are coming home to roost. Hold on tight. Things will get very ugly!

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28 07 2013
Timothy D. Naegele

4 Out Of 5 in USA Face Near-Poverty, No Work . . .

The AP has reported:

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy “poor.”

“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County, Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times, Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it doesn’t generate much income. They live mostly off government disability checks.

“If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work,” she said. Children, she said, have “nothing better to do than to get on drugs.”

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines “economic insecurity” as experiencing unemployment at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.

“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities have more optimism about the future after Obama’s election, while struggling whites do not.

“There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front,” Wilson said.

___

Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty, they’re only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don’t capture the makeup of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a person’s lifetime risk, a much higher number—4 in 10 adults—falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages 45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.

“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’,” says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. “Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”