Category Archives: Fiscal Cliff
As new information surfaces about last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and as the National Security Agency scandal continues to swirl throughout the media, the Obama administration has come out with a worldwide warning about the possibility of serious terrorist attacks.
Please forgive my skepticism. The news media need to dig into the timing and motivation of these warnings, coming as they do against the backdrop of scandals, particularly when the administration has created what it thinks is a win-win situation. Simply put, if the attacks fail to occur, President Obama’s team can claim that they thwarted them. If the attacks do occur, the administration can say it provided fair warning. But that’s a fool’s bargain when dealing with terrorists who can simply strike another day.
In an hour-long broadcast Tuesday, “The Truth About Benghazi,” CNN reported that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground in Benghazi on Sept. 11 — something the agency has apparently tried to cover up. That’s the night Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.
Such information brings the Benghazi issue — one the administration thought had lost significant traction — back into public view. If the CIA had people on the ground, why were Stevens and the three others essentially left to die?
The Department of Justice filed a sealed indictment against a Libyan militia leader on the same day CNN broadcast its report on the Benghazi attack. Amazing coincidence? Please forgive my skepticism again.
By promoting its efficiency in picking up the chatter about possible terrorist attacks, the intelligence community may believe it can quiet critics outraged by the revelations of the NSA’s widespread domestic surveillance programs — information leaked by onetime NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.
Once again, pardon my skepticism. The NSA scandal is unlikely to die down anytime soon, despite the terrorist threat taking over the news for this week. And think about it for a moment. Do you honestly believe that the leader of al Qaeda communicates with his right-hand man in Yemen without considering how many other sets of ears may be listening? I strongly doubt it.
Now is the time for reporters to look to their confidential sources about the nature of the terrorist threats. One problem exists — one you might have missed last week. The Justice Department won a key victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals to force a reporter for The New York Times to reveal his confidential sources about information he published in a book on the Iranian nuclear program. That decision creates a significant chill among sources who might want to talk about severity of the current threat.
I spent a decade reporting about Middle East terrorism for Newsweek and ABC News. Terrorists typically have several objectives. One is to inflict death and destruction. Another is to create fear among the civilian population of a stronger adversary, such as the United States, and its allies.
By closing 22 embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and North Africa and keeping 19 of them shut for the rest of the week, the Obama administration has already given the terrorists a major public relations victory.
Remember during the campaign when Mr. Obama constantly said al Qaeda was on the run? Maybe he wanted to use intelligence information back then to get re-elected. Now maybe he and his administration want intelligence information to provide cover for a variety of scandals. The dots really don’t need to be connected; the connections are all too obvious.
• Christopher Harper is a professor at Temple University. He worked for more than 20 years at the Associated Press, Newsweek, ABC News and “20/20.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @charper51.
by Brandon Smith from Alt-Market
Recently I was asked to give a presentation on the current state of the global economy to a local group of concerned citizens here in Northwest Montana. I was happy to oblige but when composing my bullet points I realized that, in truth, there were no legitimate economic numbers to examine anymore. You see, financial analysts have traditionally used multiple indicators of employment, profit, savings, credit, supply, and demand in their efforts to divine the often obscured facts of our financial system. The problem is, nearly every index we used in the past, every measure of capital flow and industry, is absolutely useless today.
We now live in an entirely fabricated fiscal environment. Every aspect of it is filtered, muddled, molded, and manipulated before our eyes ever get to study the stats. The metaphor may be overused, but our economic system has become an absolute “matrix”. All that we see and hear has been homogenized and all truth has been sterilized away. There is nothing to investigate anymore. It is like awaking in the middle of a vast and hallucinatory live action theater production, complete with performers, props, and sound effects, all designed to confuse us and do us harm. In the end, trying to make sense of the illusion is a waste of time. All we can do is look for the exits…
There is some tangible reality out there, but it is difficult to find, and there are few if any mainstream numbers to verify. One has to remember always that the fundamental world of money and trade revolves around real people and real circumstances. No matter how corrupt our economic system is, as long as there are human beings, there will always be supply and demand that cannot be hidden. We have to look past the “official numbers” and look at the roots of trade. Where has demand fallen? Where has supply diminished? Where are the tangible goods and needs and how have they changed?
Let’s first start with the mainstream version of our system, looking at each aspect of the economy that no longer represents the truth of our situation…
Employment, Savings, And Debt
Much of this information is old news to those of us in the Liberty Movement, who tracked the progress of the global collapse long before the general public even knew of its existence. However, it is useful to take a step back and look at the basic picture every once in a while.
According to numbers issued by the Department of Labor, weekly unemployment reports have dropped to a five year low, and the overall employment rate is holding at 7.9%. This would seem to be a vast improvement over the dreadful bloodletting in the system only a few years ago. Has the private Federal Reserve and the Obama Administration really done it? Have they turned back the tide on the greatest fiscal crisis the U.S. has seen since the Depression?
No. They haven’t.
They have only changed how the data is disseminated to the public. In order to understand how the employment statistics con is being engineered, it is important to understand the difference between “Adjusted” and “Unadjusted” numbers.
Labor Department data is “seasonally adjusted”, using a series of statistical assumptions including something called “Trend Cycle Analysis”. Trend Cycle Analysis is, basically, a sham, but a sham put together in a very complex and confusing manner. If you ask a mainstream economist what it is, you’ll likely get a three hour long dissertation filled with financial babble and very little concrete explanation. So let me break it down as simply as I can…
Imagine that you are going to estimate how much profit you plan to make in a particular month, but you don’t just consider your current pay rate and pop it into a calculator; you also throw in the possibility of a few pay raises, an inheritance from a grandma who might kick the bucket, and, your exaggerated expectations of the entire year’s profit on top of that. You may also take into account future bad weather, a mugging, a nuclear war….whatever. All hypothetical situations not based in reality. Basically, you decide that a particular trend in your income is inevitable, then, mold your statistical analysis around that assumption.
When your real profit numbers come in (the unadjusted numbers) and they do not meet your expectations, you simply change them according to what you believe SHOULD have happened. If you insist that your profits are going to go up for the year, and they go down for a couple months instead, you change the variables you use to calculate the statistical average so that the results match your expectations, assuming that it will all balance out in the end.
Now, this sounds utterly insane for the common person out there trying to make a living. If you ran your household this way, without accepting the cold hard unadjusted numbers in front of you, you’d find yourself broke and on the street in no time. Unfortunately this is EXACTLY how our government handles most financial data; by coming to a final conclusion before hand, and then forcing the numbers to fit that conclusion.
This is why in February of 2013, “adjusted” first week unemployment rate was reported at 366,000 – a 5000 person drop from the week before. A seeming improvement in the trend. But, unadjusted numbers came in at 386,176 – a 16,000 person spike from the week before. When one examines real unemployment numbers, he finds that the divergence between the adjusted and unadjusted statistics is growing larger with each passing quarter. That is to say, the contradiction is becoming so blatant between the hard numbers and the Labor Department’s fantasy numbers that one must question whether or not the government is lying to us outright about the state of the economy (hint – they are lying).
These same methods are used by the government to calculate progress in the housing market, disposable income, etc.
The claim of “recovery” in the jobs market simply doesn’t jive with other indicators, like 2012 Christmas retail, which had the worst showing since the crash in 2008 (and these are still mainstream numbers!):
Average household savings continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel, indicating that the public is not spending or withholding cash. They are simply broke:
And the overall GDP of the U.S. contracted in the fourth quarter of 2012 for the first time in three years (again, according to official numbers, meaning the reality is much worse):
The downturn in consumption and industry also seems to be supported by the Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping and rates. The BDI has fallen to near historic lows THREE TIMES in the past year, which to my knowledge, has never happened before. In the past, the BDI has been a strong prophetic indicator of future market volatility. Usually, around a year after a severe decline in the index, a dangerous economic event takes place. The BDI made its first sharp drop to all time lows at the end of January 2012, exactly a year ago.
U.S. household debt was recently reported to have fallen to a 29 year low, but the ratio used by the Federal Reserve applies a statistic for disposable income that is derived from the Trend Cycle boondoggle method. While markets cheer, the truth is, the only reason household debt obligations have fallen at all is because bank lending and credit issuance remains frozen. Consumer debt falls when there is no money to borrow. In fact, the Federal Reserve actually pays large banks NOT to lend to the public; an activity which was exposed by Dennis Kucinich in 2009 on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. An activity that continued through 2012:
Keep in mind, one of the primary arguments the Federal Reserve used when promoting the bailout concept was that it would “free up credit markets” so that lending could pick up again and fuel a recovery, and yet, at the same time, they were paying banks to NOT lend.
Meanwhile, the supposed job recovery has produced an astonishing increase in welfare recipients in the U.S., including a record 46 million Americans on foodstamps (approximately 15% of our population):
If we are to apply any “trend” to our calculations on overall economic health, then we should include the extreme level of government handouts, and poverty levels which are now at all time highs. The facts are undeniable; the number of people who have much less than they did in 2008 has grown. How then could the U.S. be considered “in recovery”?
National Debt And The Fiat Lie
With the Dow Index hovering near highs of 14,000 our system truly looks to be on a rocket ship to pre-2008 money market bliss. In a mere five years we have returned to equity spikes that stagger the mind and the wallet. At least, that’s how it all appears…
What needs to be taken into account, though, is the amount of fiat money being created by the Federal Reserve, and how much of that printed pixie dust currency is fueling our magical flight to Neverland. Since 2008, our official national debt has increased from $10 trillion to $16.4 trillion, and some estimate $17 trillion to $18 trillion by the end of 2013 (unless, of course, a collapse occurs). Which means our national debt, which took decades to reach the $10 trillion mark, will have nearly doubled in only six years!
So, what has a doubling of our national debt in such a short span of time bought us? Well, credit markets remain frozen, property markets remain stagnant, poverty is at historic levels, welfare recipients are at epic highs, and consumer activity and GDP is back at 2008 lows. Where did all that printed money go? Where was it spent? To answer that question, we only need to find what area of the economy has seen the most positive (or fantastical) activity. What sector is seeing a massive boost while the rest tumbles?
I suggest that a large portion of QE1 through QE3 has gone to prop up the stock market, and nothing else. I suggest that American taxpayers are fronting the bill for the equities bonanza we see today. I suggest that the Dow is being used as a Red Herring to distract the populous for as long as possible while real assets are being snapped up and hoarded by international banks and foreign entities. I suggest that we are being leached dry and that the parasites are almost ready to move on…
When will it all end? Perhaps sooner than many people think. The decision by D.C. to delay talks on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” until March may not be coincidence. Extensive cuts in federal spending are absolutely necessary and cannot be dismissed forever, but, because the last vestiges of our system that still operate do so through government money, such cuts will cause immediate damage to the economy, including possible default and dollar devaluation. Refusal to make cuts will result in credit downgrades, currency inflation, and a loss of the greenback’s world reserve status. There is no “right” way out of this quandary.
When this collapse is initiated, it would certainly behoove all parties involved, including central banks, international banks, and criminal politicians, to have a scapegoat handy for the citizenry to direct their rage at.
Event Horizon Economics
An “Event Horizon” in physics is a moment or singularity in spacetime at which a gravitational pull becomes so great that there is no way to escape it. It is a point of no return. I believe America’s economy has reached its own Event Horizon. Our system is now entirely fiat driven, with very little or no true economy left. Without constant injections from the Fed, and perpetually low interest rates, the country would implode tomorrow. This is not recovery. Actually, I’m not sure what to call it.
Today, independent economic analysts cannot look to the numbers to determine future trends. Most are fake, and the rest are ugly, and I’m not sure much else can be said in their regard. Instead, we must now look to events, rather than statistics, because our country has been maneuvered into a position of utmost frailty. Like an avalanche shelf waiting for that perfectly timed disturbance to trigger its roaring collapse. All that is needed is a macro-crisis, and it is no great feat for such a thing to be created in our tension filled global environment.
War in Syria and Iran leading to a tripling of energy prices. Sanctions and strife with North Korea leading to Chinese economic retribution. Conflict between China and Japan, again leading to Chinese economic warfare and perhaps real warfare. An opportune “cyber attack” which could be used as an excuse for a market crash and even an internet shutdown. A “political impasse” between Reps and Dems which leads to a default of U.S. credit. Any one of these catastrophes could easily occur (with a little nudge from some well placed people) and feed a wider global tragedy. The important thing to remember is that while this event will be blamed for the breakdown, it was international banks, the Federal Reserve, and elements of our own government that made the domino effect possible. They put the pieces in place. The act that knocks them over is secondary.
I have spent the past seven years writing about “potential” threats to our overall system, but these dangers were always just beyond our sight. Just around the corner. Today, it is as if the journey is over, and all those threats have materialized right before my eyes as real, and imminent. I am watching that which I warned of come to fruition, and this is certainly not a pleasant thing. What is valuable, though, is what we have all done in the Liberty Movement with the time that we had. From when I began writing for the movement until now, I have seen an overwhelming increase in public awareness. It may not be obvious to newer activists, but it is there all the same. While we still face disparaging odds, and millions upon millions of oblivious bystanders, there is, amidst these darker moments, a steadfast community of free men and women forming. I have full faith in the future. Much more so than I ever did before. Our economy may be detached from reality, but our endeavors as individuals will not be. Our resolve will be the great game changer. Not fiscal calamity.
- ECONOMIC COLLAPSE: The U.S. Economy Is Now Dangerously Detached From Reality (secretsofthefed.com)
- The U.S. Economy Is Now Dangerously Detached From Reality (thedailysheeple.com)
- John Williams: How To Survive The Illusion Of Recovery (etfdailynews.com)
- Obama: Jobs Destroyer (veteranstoday.com)
- Shocking numbers show media lying to you about unemployment (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
by Raúl Ilargi Meijer
On January 25, Timothy Geithner will step down as US Treasury Secretary. A lot of people will say and write a lot of things about him at that point, and it sounds like a good idea to be ahead of the game and provide some perspective.
There are voices claiming (there will be many more, promise) that Geithner pulled us out of the recession and the crisis, and saved the economy. That seems presumptuous. It may just as well be true that Geithner has fooled us into thinking that. Just because the stock markets are pulling through so far doesn’t mean, let alone prove, that the economy has recovered or been saved. You would need something better, more substantial than that. While acknowledging that relatively strong stock market numbers are at least in potential a great way indeed to fool people about the economy.
And going forward we can wax nostalgically about everything Tim has done, and about where the economy is now compared to 4 years ago, but when all else is said and done, there is still just one question that counts: what happened to the debt? What has Geithner done when it comes to debt? As long as you don’t know what happened to the debt, you won’t know the true state of the economy.
Well, Americans still have higher personal debt levels than they ever had before (in fact, the best anti-gun law would be to ban paying for them with credit) and government debt has grown exponentially. Those things at least we know to an extent; when it comes to bank debt, we don’t know much of anything. Tim has made sure of that. He’s handed trillions of dollars in our money to Wall Street and we haven’t received anything in return. Well, yes, we have the semblance of a somewhat stable stock market, but is that worth all that extra debt? Moreover, we still don’t know what happened to the debt that caused the crisis in the first place, because Tim made sure it has been kept hidden from view. And how’s that a good thing again?
Look, you can save banks that are in deep debt trouble, and perhaps that’s not necessarily such a bad thing, since letting them fail outright would have been a risky proposition. But you can’t make the choice to save banks and not at the same time restructure those debts and expose and prosecute the bankers who put their firms into a situation that necessitated saving them in the first place, and were paid big bonuses for doing it. That is not alright by any stretch of the imagination, either ethically or economically. Because the money used to save them comes from outside of the financial system; it comes from the taxes that everybody pays. And that means it has to be accounted for. But it never was.
The only reason the policy – if you can call it that – of handing banks trillions in cheap credit appears to work is because its consequences cannot be felt immediately, but are pushed forward into the future. That doesn’t absolve us from having to ask what happened to the debt, though, but we still have no answer to that question, and Tim Geithner carries a substantial part of the blame for that.
If you’re interested only in yourself, and you’re just looking to make a quick buck, sure, things may look good. And if you think you can best achieve your goals by things staying the same, by keeping the system going as it is, yeah, you’re likely to think that Tim Geithner has done a swell job, because from that point of view he has saved you.
But if you care about anything that goes beyond just today, and beyond the few square miles that make up your world, if you care about your family, your friends, your kids and their future, Tim Geithner is not your man. He set up the system so it would continue to provide fast money for the horses with blinders, but he’s done it with money that everyone else is on the hook for. Just not today, not right away.
And that plays perfectly to our proverbial human short – term – attention span: Hey, look at the markets, they’re doing fine. We’re in recovery. We left the crisis behind. We made it.
But what’s that bulge under the carpet there in the corner? Is that perhaps what happened to the debt? We tell ourselves we love our children. That what we need to do is put aside money for their education. That what they need for their futures is money. And that’s it. It’s not about the world we leave for them. It’s not about the debt we leave for them. But it should be. The education we buy for our kids today will mean very little if and when they will be forced to pay back all our debts. We should face up to the responsibility for it ourselves. We don’t. We prefer the cloud cuckoo land illusion that Tim Geithner has spun before our eyes. We prefer to let our kids deal with reality.
The main problem from a purely technical point of view with the way Geithner has gone about business is that it’s to a large extent zombie money that drives markets today, money that would not have existed if debts had been properly restructured. If anytime in the future, either driven by markets or governments, banks are forced to restructure their debt after all, this poses a gargantuan risk to both the financial system and the overall economy. And we’ll have Geithner to thank for that. Not only him, there’s Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, Hank Paulson and many more. Still, Geithner has had the option and the power to do the right thing, for four long years, and declined.
Obama said this about Tim Geithner recently: “When the history books are written, Tim Geithner is going to go down as one of our finest Secretaries of the Treasury…” And that the “unofficial” saying at the Treasury is “no peacocks, no jerks, no whiners” and “Few embody that ideal better than Tim Geithner.”.
That says much more about Obama than it does about Geithner. The reality is that Obama will go down as one of the worst American presidents in history. Because four more years of the above will sink the US economy to levels not even imagined today, and Obama will be seen as an accomplice if not the main perpetrator of a whole series of – financial – crimes against the people. The president that brought the country to its knees.
That is inevitable precisely because Geithner and Obama have done nothing at all for four years to restructure bank debt. All they’ve done in that time is keep the existing financial system, which was then and is now as bankrupt as any industry has ever been, standing upright. Or more correctly: appear to be standing upright. What the president and his Treasurer have done is feed zombies. With – future – human flesh. With the future prospects of our children. Obama has said that what Wall Street did was unethical but not illegal, but that is up to the courts to decide, not the president, and not Congress.
If you leave the decision making in a time of crisis to those who stand to profit most from keeping things as they are, it would perhaps be foolish to expect them to not try and do just that. Thing is, they can do so only by throwing others under the bus. And since this crisis is the biggest, the most widespread and the worst we’ve ever seen, it means just about everyone else will end up under that bus. Even the majority of those who think they would be better off keeping the system going: be careful what you wish for.
Timothy Geithner is a Robert Rubin protégé. Under Bill Clinton, then Treasury Secretary and Citigroup made man Rubin, assisted by Greenspan and Larry Summers, set the terms for US government (non) policy for derivatives that stands to this day.
Geithner certainly never touched it after he and Summers took over the Obama finance team. And now he will be succeeded by Jack Lew, who was director of the White House Office of Management and Budget when Rubin and Summers were there. Lew isn’t just a revolving door man, he does you one better: he went from K Street lobbyist to Citigroup director to the White House, rinse and repeat, pocketing a million dollar bonus from Citi three months after it received billions in taxpayer bailouts.
Once again, if we let them, it would perhaps be foolish to expect them to not try and do these things. Jack Lew’s nomination tells us all we need to know about Barack Obama’s intentions. Which are to let the bankers and their shareholders continue to hide their debts, and continue to use the zombie money they thus seem to have to make leveraged wagers whose profits they can pocket and whose losses they can pass on to you.
And you can continue to play the game as well as long as it lasts. So you can, if you’re lucky, hold on to your job and your home and use your money to pay for your children’s education. If you do, it might be a good idea to take a look at what it is they learn. Make sure they’re never tempted to look under the carpet. Or they may turn against you.
- Geithner Says Debt Limit Steps May Run Out by Mid-February – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Geithner warns clock is ticking on debt (upi.com)
- Geithner leaving Treasury post: Trouble for Obama? (capitolhillblue.com)
- Geithner gives Congress notice: Four to six weeks until default (dailykos.com)
Freedom was illegal in the Colonies in 1776 and Freedom is still illegal in America today. Those that signed the Declaration of Independence knew that a tyrannical government would never relinquish its power without resistance.
Governments are supposed to protect the rights of the people, but if they are not held in check, they will begin to abuse the people that they were created to protect. Rather than protecting the people, governments tend to protect the ruling class and enslave everyone else. This scheme will work as long as the people cling to the illusion that they are free.
Goethe, a well known German philosopher, once stated “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”.
It has been the job of the media and government schools to indoctrinate the people into believing that they are free. Slaves are much more productive and easy to control than individuals that know that the financial elite are calling the shots.