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The Country Is Over

Monty Pelerin April 5, 2013

Data are hard to deal with when your vision is on the wrong side of it. Those wanting to claim there is a recovery underway are having just this problem. These people either have no understanding of economics or they believe falsely that they can inflate “animal spirits” with their hyped reports and that will initiate a recovery.

There will not be an economic recovery given the economic policies of this country. A recovery is not unlikely, I would argue it is closer to impossible if not impossible. The reasons for this position are not complicated. In short, the nation has become an out-of-control welfare state that is rapidly destroying the incentives to work or create jobs. Government policies appear designed toward this end. One doesn’t need a high IQ or  an advanced degree in economics to understand the problems.

There are innumerable factors responsible for the decline of the US. Only three important ones will convey why the economy is dying:

1. The rule of law and property rights are under attack.

What do you really own? The depositors in Cyprus believed they owned what was in their bank accounts. They found out otherwise. Bondholders of General Motors believed they were protected by bankruptcy laws when GM was bankrupted by the government. They found out otherwise. Do you own your pension plans and IRAs. Well you always believed you did except now there is talk about confiscating a portion or all of these funds.

How much of your income do you own? For those doing well, let’s say 60%. But that portion is under attack with the “need” for higher taxes and “fair share” gobbledegook. What about Social Security? Although the government sold it as a retirement policy and told you it is yours, the government says in fine print it is not. That is their excuse for not treating it as a liability on their balance sheet.

The fact is that the rules are being changed at will by the side who has lots of guns. The number of rules and laws that have been changed or ignored in the past several years makes one wonder what laws will remain. We are  approaching the point where there are no rules which means there can be no society. Without cooperation, markets will cease to function efficiently or perhaps at all. Millions of people will starve to death under such conditions.

2. Obamacare has raised costs

The costs associated with Obamacare are still not known or calculable. The rules are still being written. Already there are thousands of pages. Even though we passed it as Speaker Pelosi suggested as a means to find out what was in it, we still don’t know as the rules are still being made up.

For sure the program is driving up the costs of medical care and driving down the quality. That is exactly the opposite of what was promised. Business firms face great uncertainty as to what this mandate will do to their costs and operating procedures. Obamacare is rising the cost of employees. When you penalize something, you get less of it. That is a prime reason why there is no employment recovery in this country.

Employers have frozen their hiring until clarity develops. The development of clarity is no assurance that they will change their behavior. If the costs are too high (and they appear to be for many smaller businesses who create the most jobs), then hiring will not return.

The effect on hiring is only one negative. Full-time workers are being made part-time in order that they be exempted from the Obamacare mandate. These steps are not something business wants to do, it is something they must do in order to survive.

3. Government policies have made the dole more lucrative than work

As we make it easier to get unemployment benefits for longer time periods, more people take advantage of the system. So too with food stamps and disability. All programs are at or near record levels in what is supposed to be four years into an economic recovery. For many, the benefits of becoming a government dependent exceed what they can earn. One study reported that a family of four, collecting all the benefits for which they were entitled, would have to earn $65,000 per annum to have the same after-tax purchasing power.

If you are a product of the government schools and are legal to work (i.e., have skills enough that you are affordable at the minimum wage or higher), at what point do you realize that there is no need to go through the hassle of actual work. You can live pretty well by staying home and taking advantage of the entitlements available to you. That is exactly what a larger and larger percentage of the population are realizing. In many cases, it is economically irrational to work.

This behavior creates a social pathology that only worsens over time. Kids learn from their parents that work is not necessary and the many ways to game the system. In this regard, look for this problem to become worse over time unless these programs are cut back.

There Can Be No Recovery

Despite all you hear coming from the government’s media megaphone, there is no economic recovery underway, nor can there be one. The policies in place ensure that one will not happen. Economics is not a top-down science as Keynesians and politicians want you to believe. You can throw as many Fed dollars into the system or devise innumerable government stimulus programs. These are all top-down. Economics is a bottom-up process that starts with individual decisions and behavior. Individuals respond to available choices and incentives. They act in their own self-interest not in the manner in which some government planner wants them to act. Top-down programs do not affect the incentives of the individual decision-makers.

We raise the costs on those who work (higher taxes) and the businessmen who provide the jobs. One of the basic laws of human nature is that when you penalize something or make it less pleasant, people will want less of it. It is not a mystery why business is not hiring and the number of workers is declining. The return to both is declining as a result of government policies.

We raise the rewards for not working. Another basic law of human behavior is that when you increase rewards for a particular kind of behavior, you will get more of it. It is not a mystery why more people are choosing the dole than ever before. Government has encouraged them to do by providing higher rewards.

Add in the regime uncertainty associated with unstable or unpredictable laws and regulations and you have the perfect storm. There is no incentive to hire. Business hunkers down not knowing what is coming their way next. They understand they are targets of this Administration. It is unlikely that there will be any improvement on this fron while Obama remains in office. This behavior has nothing to do with politics. Even businesses headed by Democrats are behaving in this fashion. It is self-interest as in the desire to survive that motivates this behavior.

Why The Economy is Dying

As government grows the private sector shrinks. As the private sector shrinks there are fewer goods and services produced (government produces no goods and few services). I believe it was Dick Armey who described this situation with the wagon analogy: there are more people riding in the wagon and fewer pulling the wagon. As the wagon becomes heavier, the remaining pullers must work harder to move it.

The pullers must support the riders. Government does not support the riders or anyone else for that matter. Whatever government has it has taken from the pullers. Whatever it doles out it must get from taxes, borrowing or printing new money. Regardless of which means it uses, it is all coming from the pullers. They pay the borrowing back. They have less as a result of higher taxes. They are made poorer by the rising prices from the printing of money.

As the burdens increase on the pullers and the benefits increase for the riders, more pullers decide to ride. The truly creative and talented can always make enough money to continue to work rather than ride. However, when their efforts can be expended in other countries that penalize them less, at some point they no longer pull the wagon. They leave the country to climes where they are treated better.

Each increase in government spending means requires more money from the private sector. That means greater distortions in the incentive-disincentive calculus that produces fewer people pulling the wagon. Now fewer people must support more non-producers. Every time someone gets in the wagon, the burden on the productive sector increases. More must be extracted from a smaller group to serve the increasing riders.

That is what is happening in this country. If it is not reversed, the economy will stagnate and eventually implode. This conclusion is dependent upon nothing more than simple arithmetic. How bad is the imbalance today? Tyler Durden provides some information (my emboldening in red added):

The punchline: 110 million privately employed workers; 88 million welfare recipients and government workers and rising rapidly.

And since nothing has changed in the past two years, and in fact the situation has gotten progressively (pardon the pun) worse, here is our conclusion on this topic from two years ago:

We have been writing for over a year, how the very top of America’s social order steals from the middle class each and every day. Now we finally know that the very bottom of the entitlement food chain also makes out like a bandit compared to that idiot American who actually works and pays their taxes. One can only also hope that in addition to seeing their disposable income be eaten away by a kleptocratic entitlement state, that the disappearing middle class is also selling off its weaponry. Because if it isn’t, and if it finally decides it has had enough, the outcome will not be surprising at all: it will be the same old that has occurred in virtually every revolution in the history of the world to date.

But for now, just stick head in sand, and pretend all is good. Self-deception is now the only thing left for the entire insolvent entitlement-addicted world.

Is The Decline Inevitable?

Of course not. As Lawrence of Arabia stated: “Nothing is written.”

The Economic Solution

The solution to solving the problem is quite simple for an economist. Merely reverse the process. Make it attractive for people to jump out of the wagon and begin pulling. For businesses, make it attractive for them to hire. Make it unattractive to be on the dole. Reverse the growth of government and you increase the size of the private sector. More capital is made available for productive activities rather than being squandered by government. Talent stops leaving the country when they are treated more favorably here, whether this be via lower taxes or less onerous regulatory burdens. Then, get government out of the way and let markets solve the problem.

The Political Barrier

For the political class, the solution borders on the impossible. Politicians have bribed the citizenry with goodies for votes. They have sold the notion that government is responsible for all good things. The economic solution runs counter to everything that politicians have peddled. Further it reduces their power and ability to retain office, at least in a manner in which they are accustomed. It shrinks their perquisites. It shrinks their vote-buying ability. In short, it is virtually impossible for them to go along with such a solution.

What politicians thrive on is what created the current problems. Reversing this behavior is alien to them. They would not know how to behave under such conditions. Yet the economic solution is the only solution!

Do I expect politicians to change and save the country? No! Is it possible they could? Probably not, but “nothing is written.”

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How The Corrupt Establishment Is Selling Moral Bankruptcy To America

August 13, 2013 by Brandon Smith

Morality is a highly misunderstood component of human nature. Some people believe they can create moral guidelines from thin air based on their personal biases and prejudices. Some people believe that morality comes from the force of bureaucracy and government law. Still, others believe that there is no such thing; that morality is a facade created by men in order to better grease the wheels of society.

All of these world views discount the powerful scientific and psychological evidence surrounding Natural Law — the laws that human beings form internally due to inherent conscience, regardless of environmental circumstances. When a person finally grasps inborn morality, the whole of the world comes into focus. The reality is that we are not born “good” or “evil.” Rather, we are all born with the capacity for good AND evil, and this internal battle stays with us until the end of our days.

Every waking moment we are given a choice, a test of our free will, to be ruled by desire and fear, or to do what we know at our very core is right. When a man silences his inner voice, the results can be terrible for him and those around him. When an entire culture silences its inner voice, the results can be catastrophic. Such a shift in the moral compass of a society rarely takes place in a vacuum. There is always a false shepherd, a corrupt leadership that seeks to rule. Rulership, though, is difficult in the face of an awake population that respects integrity and honor. Therefore criminals must follow these specific steps in order to take power:

Pretend To Be Righteous: They must first sell the public on the idea that they hold the exact same values of natural law as everyone else. The public must at first believe that the criminal leaders are pure in their motives and have the best interests of the nation at heart, even if they secretly do not.

Pretend To Be Patriotic: Despots often proclaim an untarnished love of their homeland and the values that it was founded upon. However, what they really seek is to become a living symbol of the homeland. They insist first that they are the embodiment of the national legacy, and then they attempt to change that national legacy entirely. A corrupt government uses the ideals of a society to acquire a foothold, and when they have gained sufficient control, they dictate to that society a new set of ideals that are totally contrary to the original.

Offer To “Fix” The Economy: Tyrants do not like it when the citizens under them are self sufficient or economically independent. They will use whatever methods are at their disposal including subversive legislation, fiat currency creation, corporate monopoly and even engineered financial collapse in order to remove the public’s ability to function autonomously. They will begin this process under the guise that the current less-controlled and less-centralized system is “not safe enough,” and that they have a better way to ensure prosperity.

Offer To Lend A Hand: Once the population has been removed from its own survival imperative and is for the most part helpless, the criminal leadership moves in and offers to “help” using taxation and money creation, slowly siphoning the wealth from the middle class and raising prices through inflation. Eventually, everyone will be “equal”; equally poor that is. In the end, the whole nation will see the rulership as indispensable, for without them, the economy would no longer exist and tragedy would ensue.

Create External Fear: Once in place, the criminal leadership then conjures an enemy for the people, or multiple enemies for the people. The goal here is to create a catalyst for mass fear. When the majority of people are afraid of an external threat, they will embrace the establishment as a vital safeguard. When a society becomes convinced that it cannot take care of itself economically, little coaxing is required to convince them that they are also not competent enough to take care of their own defense. At this point, the establishment has free reign to dissolve long cherished freedoms while the masses are distracted by a mysterious threat hiding somewhere over the horizon.

Create Internal Fear: They move the threat from over the horizon, right to the public’s front door, or even within their own home. The enemy is no longer a foreigner. Now, the enemy is the average looking guy two houses over, or an outspoken friend, or even a dissenting family member. The enemy is all around them, according to the establishment. The public is sold on the idea that the sacrifice needed in order to combat such a pervasive “threat” is necessarily high.

Sell The People On The Virtues Of Moral Relativism: Now that the populace is willing to forgo certain liberties for the sake of security, they have been softened up enough for reprogramming to begin. The establishment will tell the people that the principles they used to hold so dear are actually weaknesses that make them vulnerable to the enemy. In order to defeat an enemy so monstrous, they claim, we must become monstrous ourselves. We must be willing to do ANYTHING, no matter how vile or contrary to natural law, in order to win.

Honesty must be replaced with deceit. Dissent must be replaced with silence. Peace must be replaced with violence. The independent should be treated with suspicion. The outspoken treated with contempt. Women and children are no longer people to be protected, but targets to be eliminated. The innocent dead become collateral damage. The innocent living become informants to be tortured and exploited. Good men are labeled cowards because they refuse to “do what needs to be done,” while evil men are labeled heroes for having the “strength of will” to abandon their conscience.

Thus, the criminal leadership makes once honorable citizens accomplices in the crime. The more disgusting the crime, the more apt the people will be to defend it and the system in general, simply because they have been inducted into the dark ceremony of moral ambiguity.

The actions of the state become the actions of all society. A single minded collectivist culture is born, one in which every person is a small piece of the greater machine. And, that which the machine is guilty of, every man is guilty of. Therefore, it becomes the ultimate and absurd purpose of each person within the system to DENY the crime, deny the guilt, and make certain that the machine continues to function for generations to come.

Though we have already passed though most of the above stages, Americans are still not yet quite indoctrinated into the realm of moral relativism. This is, though, swiftly changing.

The Current Sales Pitch

Just take a look at the attitude of the Barack Obama Administration and the mainstream media towards Edward Snowden and his recent asylum approved by Russia.

The White House, rather than admitting wrongdoing in its support for the NSA’s mass surveillance of American citizens without warrant, or even attempting to deny the existence of the PRISM program, is now instead trying to promote NSA spying as essential to our well being, and wag a shaming finger at Snowden and the Russian government for damaging their domestic spy network. Obama lamented on Russia’s stance, stating that their thinking is “backwards.”

Did I miss something here? I’m no fan of the Russian oligarchy, but shouldn’t Obama and most of the NSA (let alone every other Federal alphabet agency) be sitting in a dark hole somewhere awaiting trial for violating the Constitution on almost every level? Yet, we are instead supposed to despise Snowden for exposing the crime they committed and distrust any country that happens to give him shelter?

Due to public outcry, Obama has attempted to pacify critics by announcing plans to make NSA mass surveillance “more transparent”. First, I would like to point out that he did not offer to end NSA spying on Americans without warrant, which is what a President with any ounce of integrity would have done. Second, Obama’s calls for more transparency have come at the exact same time as the NSA announces its plans to remove 90 percent of its systems administrators to make sure another “Snowden incident” does not occur.

Does this sound like an agency that plans on becoming “more transparent”?

Second, would Obama have called for ANY transparency over the NSA whatsoever if Snowden had never come forward? Of course not! The exposure of the crime has led to lies and empty placation, nothing more.

In the meantime, numerous other political miscreants have hit the media trail, campaigning for the NSA as well as other surveillance methods, bellowing to the rafters over the absolute necessity of domestic spy programs. Fifteen years ago, the government would have tried to sweep all of this under the rug. Today, they want to acclimate us to the inevitability of the crime, stating that we had better get used to it.

Their position? That Snowden’s whistleblowing put America at risk. My questions is, how? How did Snowden’s exposure of an unConstitutional and at bottom illegal surveillance program used against hundreds of millions of innocent Americans do our country harm? Is it the position of the White House that the truth is dangerous, and deceit is safety?

I suspect this is the case considering the recent treatment of military whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been accused by some to have “aided Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts” through his actions.

How did Manning do this? By releasing information, including battlefield videos, that were hidden from the public containing proof of U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps I’m just a traditionalist and not hip to modern diplomatic strategy, but I would think that if you don’t want to be blamed for war crimes, then you probably shouldn’t commit war crimes. And, if you don’t want the enemy to gain new recruits, you should probably avoid killing innocent civilians and pissing off their families. Just a thought.

So, just to keep track, U.S. government commits war crimes, but is the good guy. Bradley Manning exposes war crimes, and is the bad guy. Moral relativism at its finest. Moving on…

The shift towards moral bankruptcy is being implemented in the financial world as well. Investors, hedge funds, and major banks now surge into the stock market every time the private Federal Reserve hints that it may continue fiat stimulus. When bad news hits the mainstream feeds, people playing the Dow casino actually cheer with glee, exactly because bad economic news means more QE from the Fed. They know that the Fed is artificially propping up the markets. The Fed openly admits that it does this. And they know that our fiscal system is hanging by a thin thread. And you know what, very few of them care.

The Fed created the collapse with easy money and manipulated interest rates, and now, some people cheer them as the heroes of the U.S. financial structure.

The American narrative is quickly changing. There has long been criminality and degeneracy within our government and the corporate cartels surrounding it, but I believe what we are witnessing today is the final step in the metamorphosis that is totalitarianism. The last stage accelerates when the average citizen is not just complicit in the deeds of devils, but when he becomes a devil himself. When Americans froth and stomp in excitement for the carnival of death, and treat the truth as poison, then the transformation will be complete.

-Brandon Smith

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Cartoon of the Day

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