“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” ― J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan
“The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the people versus the banks.” – Lord Acton
Who do you trust? Do you trust the President? Do you trust Congress? Do you trust the Treasury Secretary? Do you trust the Federal Reserve? Do you trust the Supreme Court? Do you trust the Military Industrial Complex? Do you trust Wall Street bankers? Do you trust the SEC? Do you trust any government agency or regulator? Do you trust the corporate mainstream media? Do you trust Washington think tanks? Do you trust Madison Avenue PR maggots? Do you trust PACs? Do you trust lobbyists? Do you trust government unions? Do you trust the National Association of Realtors? Do you trust mega-corporation CEOs? Do you trust economists? Do you trust billionaires? Do you trust some anonymous blogger? You can’t even trust your parish priest or college football coach anymore. A civilized society cannot function without trust. The downward spiral of trust enveloping the world is destroying our global economy and will lead to collapse, chaos and bloodshed. The major blame for this crisis sits squarely on the shoulders of crony capitalists that rule our country, but the willful ignorance and lack of civic accountability from the general population has contributed to this impending calamity. Those in control won’t reveal the truth and the populace don’t want to know the truth – a match made in heaven – or hell.
“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” – Aldous Huxley
The fact that 86% of American adults have never heard of Jamie Dimon should suffice as proof regarding the all-encompassing level of ignorance in this country. As the world staggers under the unbearable weight of debt built up over decades, to fund a fantasyland dream of McMansions, luxury automobiles, iGadgets, 3D HDTVs, exotic vacations, bling, government provided pensions, free healthcare that makes us sicker, welfare for the needy and the greedy, free education that makes us dumber, and endless wars of choice, the realization that this debt financed Ponzi scheme was nothing but a handful of pixie dust sprinkled by corrupt politicians and criminal bankers across the globe is beginning to set in. A law abiding society that is supposed to be based on principles of free market capitalism must function in a lawful manner, with the participants being able to trust the parties they do business with. When trust in politicians, regulators, corporate leaders and bankers dissipates, anarchy, lawlessness, unscrupulous greed, looting, pillaging and eventually crisis and panic engulf the system.
Our myopic egocentric view of the world keeps most from seeing the truth. Our entire financial system has been corrupted and captured by a small cabal of rich, powerful, and prominent men. It is as it always has been. History is filled with previous episodes of debt fueled manias, initiated by bankers and politicians that led to booms, fraud, panic, and ultimately crashes. The vast swath of Americans has no interest in history, financial matters or anything that requires critical thinking skills. They are focused on the latest tweet from Kim Kardashian about her impending nuptials to Kanye West, the latest rumors about the next American Idol judge or the Twilight cheating scandal.
Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble
Economist and historian Charles P. Kindleberger in his brilliant treatise Manias, Panics, and Crashesdetails the sordid history of unwitting delusional peasants being swindled by bankers and politicians throughout the ages. Human beings have proven time after time they do not act rationally, obliterating the economic teachings of our most prestigious business schools about rational expectations theory and efficient markets. The only thing efficient about our markets is the speed at which the sheep are butchered by the Wall Street slaughterhouse. If humanity was rational there would be no booms, no busts and no opportunity for the Corzines, Madoffs, and Dimons of the world to swindle the trusting multitudes. The collapse of a boom always reveals the frauds and swindlers. As the tide subsides, you find out who was swimming naked.
“The propensity to swindle grows parallel with the propensity to speculate during a boom… the implosion of an asset price bubble always leads to the discovery of frauds and swindles”– Charles P. Kindleberger, economic historian
The historically challenged hubristic people of America always think their present-day circumstances are novel and unique to their realm, when history is wrought with similar manias, panics, crashes and criminality. Kindleberger details 38 previous financial crises since 1618 in his book, including:
- The Dutch tulip bulb mania
- The South Sea bubble
- John Law Mississippi Company bubble
- Banking crisis of 1837
- Panic of 1857
- Panic of 1873
- Panic of 1907 – used as excuse for creation of Federal Reserve
- Great Crash of 1929
- Oil Shock of 1974-75
- Asian Crisis of 1998
Kindleberger wrote his book in 1978 and had to update it three more times to capture the latest and greatest booms and busts. His last edition was published in 2000. He died in 2003. Sadly, he missed being able to document two of the biggest manias in history – the Internet bubble that burst in 2001 and the housing/debt bubble that continues to plague the world today. Every generation egotistically considered their crisis to be the worst of all-time as seen from quotes at the time:
- 1837: “One of the most disastrous panics this nation ever experienced.”
- 1857: “Crisis of 1857 the most severe that England or any other nations has ever encountered.”
- 1873: “In 56 years, no such protracted crisis.”
- 1929: “The greatest of speculative boom and collapse in modern times – since, in fact, the South Sea Bubble.”
Human beings have not changed over the centuries. We are a flawed species, prone to emotional outbursts, irrational behavior, alternately driven by greed and fear, with a dose of delusional thinking and always hoping for the best. These flaws will always reveal themselves because even though times change, human nature doesn’t. The cyclical nature of history is a reflection of our human foibles and flaws. The love of money, power, and status has been the driving force behind every boom and bust in history, as noted by historian Niall Ferguson.
“If the financial system has a defect, it is that it reflects and magnifies what we human beings are like. Money amplifies our tendency to overreact, to swing from exuberance when things are going well to deep depression when they go wrong. Booms and busts are products, at root, of our emotional volatility.” – Niall Ferguson
Not only are our recent booms and busts not unique, but they have a common theme with all previous busts – greedy bankers, excessive debt, non-enforcement of regulations, corrupt public officials, rampant fraud, and unwitting dupes seeking easy riches. Those in the know use their connections and influence to capture the early profits during a boom, while working the masses into frenzy and providing the excessive leverage that ultimately leads to the inevitable collapse. As the bubble grows, rationality is thrown out the window and all manner of excuses and storylines are peddled to the gullible suckers to keep them buying. Nothing so emasculates your financial acumen as the sight of your next door neighbor or moronic brother-in-law getting rich. As long as all the participants believe the big lie, the bubble can inflate. As soon as doubt and mistrust enter the picture, someone calls a loan or refuses to be the greater fool, and panic ensues. This is when the curtain is pulled back on the malfeasance, frauds, deceptions and scams committed by those who engineered the boom to their advantage. As Kindleberger notes, every boom ends in the same way.
“What matters to us is the revelation of the swindle, fraud, or defalcation. This makes known to the world that things have not been as they should have been, that it is time to stop and see how they truly are. The making known of malfeasance, whether by the arrest or surrender of the miscreant, or by one of those other forms of confession, flight or suicide, is important as a signal that the euphoria has been overdone. The stage of overtrading may well come to an end. The curtain rises on revulsion, and perhaps discredit.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
When mainstream economists examine bubbles, manias and crashes they generally concentrate on short-term bubbles that last a few years. But some bubbles go on for decades and some busts have lasted for a century. The largest bubble in world history continues to inflate at a rate of $3.8 billion per day and has now expanded to epic bubble proportions of $15.92 trillion, up from $9.65 trillion in September 2008 when this current Wall Street manufactured crisis struck. A 65% increase in the National Debt in less than four years can certainly be classified as a bubble. We are currently in the mania blow off phase of this bubble, but it began to inflate forty years ago when Nixon closed the gold window. This unleashed the two headed monster of politicians buying votes with promises of unlimited entitlements for the many, tax breaks for the connected few and pork projects funneled to cronies, all funded through the issuance of an unlimited supply of fiat currency by a secretive cabal of central bankers running a private bank for the benefit of other bankers and their politician puppets. Crony capitalism began to hit its stride after 1971.
The apologists for the status quo, which include the corporate mainstream media, intellectually dishonest economist clowns like Krugman, Kudlow, Leisman, and Yun, ideologically dishonest think tanks funded by billionaires, and corrupt politicians of both stripes, peddle the storyline that a national debt of 102% of GDP, up from 57% in 2000, is not a threat to our future prosperity, unborn generations or the very continuance of our economic system. They use the current historically low interest rates as proof this Himalayan Mountain of debt is not a problem. Of course it is a matter of trust and faith in the ability of a few ultra-wealthy, sociopathic, Ivy League educated egomaniacs that their brilliance and deep understanding of economics that will see us through this little rough patch. The wisdom and brilliance of Ben Bernanke is unquestioned. Just because he missed a three standard deviation bubble in housing and didn’t even foresee a recession during 2008, doesn’t mean his zero interest rate/screw grandma policy won’t work this time. It’s done wonders for Wall Street bonus payouts.
The growth of this debt bubble is unsustainable, as it is on track to breach $20 trillion in 2015. The only thing keeping interest rates low is coordinated manipulation by Ben and his fellow sociopathic central bankers, the insolvent too big to fail banks using derivative weapons of mass destruction, and politicians desperately attempting to keep the worldwide debt Ponzi scheme from imploding on their watch. Their “solution” is to kick the can down the road. But there is a slight problem. The road eventually ends.
At some point a grain of sand will descend upon a finger of instability in the sand pile and cause a collapse. No one knows which grain of sand will trigger the crisis of confidence and loss of trust. But with a system run by thieves, miscreants, and scoundrels, one of these villains will do something dastardly and the collapse will ensue. Ponzi schemes can only be sustained as long as there are enough new victims to keep it going. As soon as uncertainty, suspicion, fear and rational thinking enter the equation, the gig is up. Kindleberger lays out the standard scenario, as it has happened numerous times throughout history.
“Causa remota of the crisis is speculation and extended credit; causa proxima is some incident that snaps the confidence of the system, makes people think of the dangers of failure, and leads them to move from commodities, stocks, real estate, bills of exchange, promissory notes, foreign exchange – whatever it may be – back into cash. In itself, causa proxima may be trivial: a bankruptcy, suicide, a flight, a revelation, a refusal of credit to some borrower, some change of view that leads a significant actor to unload. Prices fall. Expectations are reversed. The movement picks up speed. To the extent that speculators are leveraged with borrowed money, the decline in prices leads to further calls on them for margin or cash and to further liquidation. As prices fall further, bank loans turn sour, and one or more mercantile houses, banks, discount houses, or brokerages fail. The credit system itself appears shaky, and the race for liquidity is on.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
Despite centuries of proof that human nature will never change, there are always people (usually highly educated) who think they are smart enough to fix the markets when they breakdown and create institutions, regulations and mechanisms that will prevent manias, panics and crashes. These people inevitably end up in government, central banks and regulatory agencies. Their huge egos and desire to be seen as saviors lead to ideas that exacerbate the booms, create the panic and prolong the crashes. They refuse to believe the world is too complex, interconnected and unpredictable for their imagined ideas of controlling the levers of economic markets to have a chance of success. The reality is that an accident may precipitate a crisis, but so may action designed to prevent a crisis or action by these masters of the universe taken in pursuit of other objectives. Examining the historical record of booms and busts yields some basic truths. The boom and bust business cycle is the inevitable consequence of excessive growth in bank credit, exacerbated by inherently damaging and ineffective central bank policies, which cause interest rates to remain too low for too long, resulting in excessive credit creation, speculative economic bubbles and lowered savings.
Low interest rates tend to stimulate borrowing from the banking system. This expansion of credit causes an expansion of the supply of money through the money creation process in our fractional reserve banking system. This leads to an unsustainable credit-sourced boom during which the artificially stimulated borrowing seeks out diminishing investment opportunities. The easy credit issued to non-credit worthy borrowers results in widespread mal-investments and fraud. A credit crunch leading to a bust occurs when exponential credit creation cannot be sustained. Then the money supply suddenly and sharply contracts as fear and loathing of debt replace greed and worship of debt. In theory, markets should clear through liquidation of bad debts, bankruptcy of over-indebted companies and the failure of banks that made bad loans. Sanity is restored to the marketplace through failure, allowing resources to be reallocated back towards more efficient uses. The housing boom and bust from 2000 through today perfectly illustrates this process. Of course, Bernanke declared housing to be on solid footing in 2007.
The housing market has not been allowed to clear, as Bernanke has artificially kept interest rates low, government programs have created false demand, and bankers have shifted their bad loans onto the backs of the American taxpayer while using fraudulent accounting to pretend they are solvent. Our owners are frantically attempting to re-inflate the bubble, just as they did in 2003. Our deepest thinkers, like Greenspan, Krugman, Bush, Dodd, and Frank knew we needed a new bubble after the Internet bubble blew up in their faces and did everything in their considerable power to create the first housing bubble. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Human nature hasn’t changed in centuries. We have faith that humanity has progressed, but the facts prove otherwise. We are a species susceptible to the passions of power, greed, delusion, and an inflated sense of our own intellectual superiority. And we still like to kill each other in the name of country and honor. There is nothing progressive about crashing the worldwide economic system and invading countries for “our” oil.
History has taught that there will forever be manias, bubbles and the subsequent busts, but how those in power deal with these episodes has been and will be the determining factor in the future of our economic system and country.
Humanity is deeply flawed; the average human life is around 80 years; men of stature, wealth, over-confidence in their superior intellect, and egotistical desire to leave their mark on history, always rise to power in government and the business world; this is why history follows a cyclical path and the myth of human progress is just a fallacy.
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that History has to teach” – Aldous Huxley
In Part 2 of this three part series I will examine the one hundred year experiment of trusting a small cabal of non-elected bankers to manage and guide our economic system for the benefit of the American people.
This is Part 2 of my three part series on trust. Part 1 addressed the history of bubbles and busts and the role trust plays in these episodes. In the end, truth is what matters.
“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” – Santosh Kalwar
Hundred Year Bust
“Debasement was limited at first to one’s own territory. It was then found that one could do better by taking bad coins across the border of neighboring municipalities and exchanging them for good with ignorant common people, bringing back the good coins and debasing them again. More and more mints were established. Debasement accelerated in hyper-fashion until a halt was called after the subsidiary coins became practically worthless, and children played with them in the street, much as recounted in Leo Tolstoy’s short story, Ivan the Fool.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
The Holy Roman Empire debased their currency in the early 1600s the old fashioned way, by replacing good coins with bad coins. Any similarities with the U.S. issuing pennies that cost 2.4 cents to produce and nickels that cost 11 cents to produce is purely coincidental. I wonder what the ancient Greeks would think of our Olympic gold medals that contain 1.34% gold. The authorities have become much more sophisticated in the last one hundred years. Digital dollars are so much easier to debase. The hundred year central banker scientifically manufactured bust relentlessly plods towards its ultimate conclusion – the dollar reaching its intrinsic value of zero.
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” – Henry Ford
Henry Ford made this statement decades before the debasement of our currency entered overdrive. The facts reflected in the chart above should have provoked a revolution, but the ruling class has done a magnificent job of ensuring the mathematical ignorance of the masses through government education, mass media propaganda, and statistical manipulation of inflation data to obscure the truth. Mainstream economists have successfully convinced the average American that inflation is good for their lives and deflation is dangerous to their wellbeing. There are economists like Kindleberger, Shiller and Roubini who have brilliantly documented and predicted various bubbles, despite being scorned a ridiculed by the captured mouthpieces for the oligarchs. But even these fine men have a flaw in their thinking. They can see speculative manias spurred by irrational beliefs and delusional thinking, but are blind to the evil manipulations of bankers, politicians, and corporate titans. They believe that humans with Ivy League educations can outsmart markets and through the fine tuning of interest rates, manipulation of the money supply and provision of liquidity through a lender of last resort, can control the financial system and avoid panics.
Kindleberger understood the dangers, but still concluded that the Federal Reserve lender of last resort was a desirable entity which would be a benefit to the smooth functioning of the economic system and people of the United States.
“I contend that markets work well on the whole, and can normally be relied upon to decide the allocation of resources and, within limits, the distribution of income, but that occasionally markets will be overwhelmed and need help. The dilemma, of course, is that if markets know in advance that help is forthcoming under generous dispensations, they break down more frequently and function less effectively.
The dominant argument against the a priori view that panics can be cured by being left alone is that they almost never are left alone. The authorities feel compelled to intervene. In panic after panic, crash after crash, crisis after crisis, the authorities or some “responsible citizens” try to bring the panic to a halt by one device or another. The learning has taken the form of discovering the desirability and even the wisdom of a lender of last resort, rather than relying exclusively on the competitive forces of the market.” -– Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
Kindleberger’s reasoning seems to be that since egomaniac busy bodies in power always interfere in markets in order to convince voters they care; it is desirable to institutionalize this intervention. Book smart academics always think they can outsmart the markets and correct the errors caused by the flaws endemic across all humanity. Well-meaning brainy economists like Kindleberger, Shiller, and Stiglitz easily identify the irrationality of human nature in creating havoc with our economic system, but somehow conclude that human constructs like the Federal Reserve, tinkering with interest rates, controlling money supply, and applying fiscal stimulus can be managed to the benefit of the American people. This is a foolish notion and has been proven to be disastrous for the majority of the American people.
Why wouldn’t the same human flaws that lead to booms and busts manifest themselves in the actions of bankers and politicians selected to manage and control our economic system? Therein lays the problem and the need for a true free market method of dealing with our human frailties. The false storyline of Democratic socialism versus Republican free market capitalism is nothing more than propaganda talking points designed to keep the non-critical thinking public distracted from the looting and pillaging of the nation’s wealth by our owners – the wealthy powerful elite who have captured our political, economic and financial system. The “solution” to create a private central bank has created more crises than it has prevented.
When examining Kindleberger’s list of manias, panics and crashes, you will note that prior to 1913 almost all of these crashes occurred over the course of two years or less. The creation of the Federal Reserve was supposedly in response to the 1907 panic, created by J.P. Morgan, who then nobly came to the rescue of the banking system. He then secretly led the effort to create a central bank that would function as the lender of last resort during future panics. Forbes magazine founder B.C. Forbes later described the meeting that hatched the malevolent plan for the creation of a banker controlled Federal Reserve:
“Picture a party of the nation’s greatest bankers stealing out of New York on a private railroad car under cover of darkness, stealthily riding hundreds of miles South, embarking on a mysterious launch, sneaking onto an island deserted by all but a few servants, living there a full week under such rigid secrecy that the names of not one of them was once mentioned, lest the servants learn the identity and disclose to the world this strangest, most secret expedition in the history of American finance. I am not romancing; I am giving to the world, for the first time, the real story of how the famous Aldrich currency report, the foundation of our new currency system, was written.”
The American people should have been alarmed that a small group of powerful bankers designed the Federal Reserve and it was passed into law in the dead of night on December 23, 1913 with 27 Senators not even in Washington D.C. to vote on the bill. Something done this secretively never leads to a positive outcome. It is beyond question the creation of a private lender of last resort has not ended the boom and bust cycles of our economic system, but it has intensified and protracted them.
The Great Depression, which was precipitated by Federal Reserve easy money policies during the 1920s, Federal Reserve missteps in the early 1930s, and FDR driven government intervention in the markets, began in 1929 and did not truly end until 1946. The easy money Federal Reserve policies during the 1970s, along with Nixon’s closing the gold window, and commencement of our welfare/warfare state, led to a prolonged crisis from 1973 through 1982. The Federal Reserve easy money policies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, along with the repeal of Glass Steagall, belief that bankers could be trusted to regulate themselves, and capture of regulators, rating agencies, and politicians by Wall Street, has led to two prolonged epic busts between 1999 and 2009, with the biggest bust still coming down the track. Putting our trust in a secretive society of bankers has worked out exactly as expected, with bankers and their cronies becoming obscenely wealthy, while the average person has seen 96% of their purchasing power inflated away since the Federal Reserve’s inception.
The illusion of prosperity through debt and inflation does not change the fact that the inflation adjusted wages of blue collar manufacturing workers are lower today than they were 40 years ago. Luckily for your owners, 98% of Americans don’t know or care what the term “inflation adjusted” means. As long as they can keep buying stuff with one of their 15 credit cards, life is good. Ignorance is bliss.
The debate regarding whether markets should be allowed to correct themselves or be saved by the authorities has transcended the centuries. Kindleberger poses the dilemma succinctly:
“There is of course much truth in these contentions, and some danger in coming to the rescue of the market to halt a panic too soon, too frequently, too predictably, or even on occasion at all. The opposing view concedes that it is desirable to purge the system of bubbles and manic investment but that a deflationary panic runs the risk of spreading and wiping out sound investments that may not be able to obtain the loans necessary to ensure survival.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
The lack of historical understanding and politically correct education doled out in public schools perpetuates the myth that Herbert Hoover was a do nothing non-interventionist that allowed the Great Depression to worsen because he refused to intervene. The truth is that FDR just continued and expanded upon the massive intervention begun by Hoover. It was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who commenced the policy of piling up huge deficits to support massive public-works projects. After declining or holding steady through most of the 1920s, federal spending soared between 1929 and 1932, increasing by more than 50%, the biggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime. Public projects undertaken by Hoover included the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Hoover Dam. His description of the advice of his Treasury Secretary has been passed down to the ignorant masses as his actual policy. But it’s another false storyline propagated by the mainstream media.
“The leave-it-alone liquidationists headed by Secretary of Treasury Mellon felt that government must keep its hands off and let the slump liquidate itself. Mr. Mellon had only one formula: ‘Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.’ He insisted that, when the people get an inflationary brainstorm, the only way to get it out of their blood is to let it collapse. He held that even panic was not altogether a bad thing. He said: ‘It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people.” –Herbert Hoover
In retrospect, Andrew Mellon’s advice, if followed, would have resulted in a short violent collapse, with a true recovery within a year or two (aka Iceland). This exact scenario had played out over the prior three centuries, as detailed by Kindleberger. The monetary intervention, tariffs, mal-investments, price controls, intimidation of businesses, and overall interference in the markets kept a true recovery from happening. Unemployment was still 19% in 1938, after years of stimulus. It wasn’t until 1946 that the U.S. economy started a real recovery, and that was due in part to the rest of the world being left in a smoldering ruin.
Based on the catastrophic results over the last hundred years, you would think the non-interventionist view on markets would be gaining traction. But, the interventionists gain even more power as they propose and implement more resolutions to the disasters they created with their previous solutions. The belief in the wisdom and ability of a few men to control the levers of a $70 trillion world economy for the good of the many is staggering in its naivety and basis in delusion. “Experts” can barely predict tomorrow’s weather, this month’s unemployment rate, the value of Facebook stock, or the next $5 billion snafu from the Prince of Wall Street – Jamie Dimon. But, we trust that Ben Bernanke, his fellow central bankers, and bunch of political hacks like Geithner know how to micro-manage the world economy.
Kindleberger understood exactly the risks in having an institutionalized lender of last resort:
“One objection to helping either the borrowing banks and industry or lending to capitalists abroad was that it made both less prudent. In the insurance area this effect is called “moral hazard.” It is a strong argument for letting a financial crisis recover by itself, provided one is willing to take a long term view and worry equally, or almost equally, about a future financial crisis, as opposed to the present one. It requires a low rate of interest for trouble.” – Charles P. Kindleberger – Manias, Panics, and Crashes
And there is the rub. It is a rare case when faced with an immediate crisis that a leader will step back and assess the long-term implications of the short-term solutions which will avert or delay the crisis at hand. The present-day economic situation around the world is a result of no one ever worrying about a future financial crisis, because it was never a good time to bite the bullet and accept the consequences of our mistakes and failures. The solution for the last thirty years has been to kick the can down the road. This is how you end up with $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities, with the bill being passed on to future unborn generations.
When you combine this lack of leadership, courage and forethought with the fact that Federal Reserve governors are appointed by partisan political hacks, you produce a deadly potion for the trusting American populace. You end up with spineless weasels like Arthur Burns, who was bullied into easy money policies by Trick Dick Nixon, with the result being out of control inflation and a stagnating economy for ten years. You end up with a once staunch proponent of a currency backed by gold – Greenspan – turning into a tool for the Wall Street elite and rescuing them from their folly and extreme risk taking with other people’s money. You get a former Bush White House toady like Bernanke whose only solution to every problem is to fire up the helicopter and drop gobs of cash into the clutches of his Wall Street puppeteers. Whenever human nature is allowed to interfere with and tinker with the free market economic process, miscalculation, error, over-confidence, desire to please, self-interest, greed, and hubris lead to disaster.
Those who scorn the notion of a currency backed by gold are believers in the false premise that highly educated arrogant men are smarter than the markets and are capable of making the right decisions that will benefit the most people. These are the same people who prefer the actual results since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 to be obscured, miss-represented and ignored. In 1971 total credit market debt outstanding was $1.7 trillion. Today it stands at $54.6 trillion, a 3,200% increase in the 40 years since there were no longer immediate consequences for politicians over-promising, Wall Street over-lending, consumers over-borrowing and central bankers over-printing.
The GDP of the U.S. was $1.1 trillion in 1971, with consumer spending only accounting for 62% and capital investment accounting for 16%. Today, GDP is $15.6 trillion with consumer spending accounting for 71% and capital investment only 12%. Trade surpluses of the early 1970s are now $600 billion annual deficits. Total debt to GDP has surged from 155% in 1971 to 350% today. The illusion of prosperity has been built on a mountain of debt with an avalanche imminent.
The truth is that human beings cannot be trusted to do the right thing. We are weak and susceptible to irrational and short-term thinking that now imperil our entire economic system. Did the gold standard prevent booms and busts prior to 1913? No. Since we are human, booms and busts cannot be prevented. Did the gold standard prevent politicians and bankers from making foolish self-serving short-term decisions that would have long-term negative consequences? Yes. A currency backed by nothing but the hollow promises of liars, swindlers and racketeers is destined to fail. Gold functioned as an alarm bell that revealed the machinations and frauds of politicians and bankers. It can be trusted because it has no ulterior motives, no ego, no desire to be loved, and no plans to run for re-election. It is an inconvenient check on do-gooders, warmongers, inflationists, and Keynesians. That is why it will never be embraced by either party or any central banker. It’s too truthful.
Kindleberger’s fears regarding the moral hazard of rescuing those who have taken excessive risk have been fully realized ten times over. The maestro – Alan Greenspan – should have his picture next to the term moral hazard in the dictionary. His entire reign as savior of American crony capitalism was marked by his intervention in markets to protect his bosses on Wall Street. His solution to every crisis was to lower interest rates and print mo money: 1987 Crash, Savings & Loan crisis, Gulf war, Mexican crisis, Asian crisis, LTCM, Y2K, bursting of internet bubble, 9/11. The Greenspan Put guaranteed the Federal Reserve would always come to the rescue with unlimited liquidity to prop up stock prices. Investors increasingly believed that in a crisis or downturn, the Fed would step in and inject liquidity until the problem got better. Invariably, the Fed did so each time, and the perception became firmly embedded in asset pricing in the form of higher valuations, narrower credit spreads, and excess risk taking. The privatizing of profits and socialization of losses continued and accelerated under Bernanke. These helicopter twins talked a good game, but their game plan only had one play – print money. Those Ivy League educations have proven to be invaluable.
The Federal Reserve’s last shred of credibility and illusion of independence has been obliterated by their increasingly blatant backstopping of recklessly criminal Wall Street banks and secretive machinations with Washington politicians and foreign central bankers. Bernanke has lied to the American public, encouraged accounting fraud by Wall Street banks, overstepped his legal authority in purchasing toxic assets from Wall Street banks, been involved in the manipulation of LIBOR, screwed senior citizens and all savers with his zero interest rate policy, and used quantitative easing as a method enrich Wall Street at the expense of the general public that bear the heaviest burden of higher food and energy prices. The Bernanke Put is the only thing keeping a clearly overvalued stock market from crashing today. But delaying the inevitable through easy money policies will only exacerbate the pain of the ultimate crash. Bernanke is caught in a liquidity trap and his one weapon of choice is shooting blanks. Bernanke along with his banker and politician cronies have crossed the line of lawlessness in their futile efforts to retain their power and wealth. Jesse eloquently describes how a few evil men have captured our economic and political system:
“The Fed is now engaged in a control fraud, and what appears to be racketeering in conjunction with a few big investment banks. They may have entered into it with good intentions, but they seem to have been turned towards deceit and corruption. This is not an historical event, but an ongoing theft in conjunction with a number of Wall Street banks, and politicians whom they have paid off through a corrupt system of campaign financing and influence peddling. This is nothing new in history if one reads the un-sanitized version. But people never think it can happen today, that somehow yesterday things were different, as if one is looking at some distant, foreign land. This is a facet of the illusion of general progress.
We are now in the cover-up stage of a scandal, similar to Watergate when the White House was stone-walling. The difference is that the corruption and capture of the government is much more pervasive now, and includes a significant portion of the mainstream media, so meaningful reform is difficult. Most of what has transpired so far has been designed to distract and placate the people in their righteous anger. The Fed deceives the Congress and the public, turns a blind eye to glaring conflicts of interest, and is essentially debasing the currency while transferring the wealth of the nation to their cronies. And still the regulators do not enforce the laws they have, and Washington drags its feet while accepting buckets of cash from the perpetrators.” – Jesse
Putting our trust and faith in a few unelected bureaucrats and bankers, who use their obscene wealth to buy off politicians in writing the laws and regulations to favor them has proven to be a death knell for our country. The captured main stream media proclaims these men to be heroes and saviors of the world, when they are truly the villains in this episode. These are the men who unleashed the frenzy of Wall Street greed and pillaging by repealing Glass Steagall, blocking Brooksley Born’s efforts to regulate derivatives, encouraging mortgage fraud, not enforcing existing regulations, and creating speculative bubbles through excessively low interest rates and making it known they would bailout recklessness. They have created an overly complex tangled financial system so they could peddle propaganda to the math challenged American public without fear of being caught in their web of lies. Big government, big banks and big legislation like Dodd/Frank and Obamacare are designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. The system has been captured by a plutocracy of self-serving men. They don’t care about you or your children. We are only given 80 years, or so, on this earth and our purpose should be to sustain our economic and political system in a balanced way, so our children and their children have a chance at a decent life. Do you trust that is the purpose of those in power today? Should we trust the jackals and grifters who got us into this mess, to get us out?
“This story is the ultimate example of American’s biggest political problem. We no longer have the attention span to deal with any twenty-first century crisis. We live in an economy that is immensely complex and we are completely at the mercy of the small group of people who understand it – who incidentally often happen to be the same people who built these wildly complex economic systems. We have to trust these people to do the right thing, but we can’t, because, well, they’re scum. Which is kind of a big problem, when you think about it.” – Matt Taibbi – Griftopia
Thus concludes Part 2 of my three part series on trust. Part 1 addressed our bubble based economic system and Part 3 will document a multitude of reasons to not trust bankers, politicians, government bureaucrats, corporate chieftains, or the mainstream media, while pondering the unavoidable bursting of our debt bubble and potential consequences.