by James Howard Kunstler
The financial wires and pod-waves are all lit up these days like it was happy hour at the Lottery Winner’s Lounge. It appears that the American economy — capital management division — has found the long-wished-for magic alternative energy source: horseshit. It is fueling the conversation all over the Web and over the senile mainstream media megaphones. One technical analyst, celebrity Tweeter Ralph Acampora of Altaira Wealth Management, actually said this week that the USA would be “energy independent by 2016.” That’s rich. We’d only have to come up with 8.5 million new barrels of oil a day, or give up driving cars altogether.
Apparently, the Federal Reserve is not just hosing down the markets with liquidity (i.e. money for nothing), but has also turned its headquarters in lower Manhattan into the world’s biggest stationary crack pipe. Meanwhile, more than a few professional observers of the financial scene say there can’t be any bubble because that’s the only thing everybody talks about and bubbles only form when nobody notices them.
That’s just not true. Plenty of people were hollering and finger-pointing about the housing bubble years before it blew up the banking system, including yours truly in a book published in 2005 (The Long Emergency). The reason there is so much anxious chatter about the current bubble is because the bubble is there for all to see, and when it pops it is sure to leave a lot more rubble on the ground than the last time — for instance, the wreckage of trust in all paper investments, which would be quite an historic financial innovation. Since the interventions and manipulations of markets and interest rates are perfectly obvious, one would have to conclude from the current sentiment that faith in the crookedness of finance has completely solidified. The markets have now discounted their own dishonesty.
The story making the rounds these days is that the USA’s industrial economy is on the rise again; that the housing market has “recovered;” that (according to Meredith Whitney) the “central corridor” of the nation (Texas to Minnesota) is the second coming of Japan in the 1960s; that we have more oil than we know what to do with; that the nation has bred a super-race of intrepid entrepreneurial risk-takers like unto no other society in history; and finally that whatever else we are or are not, America is the cleanest shirt in the laundry basket of Mother Earth.
This is all horseshit of course, being smoked in the New York Fed’s crack pipe.
Here’s what’s actually going on. The Federal Reserve can only pretend to have any option besides force-feeding “money” into Wall Street as if it were a Strasbourg Goose with Crohn’s disease. What passes through goose is a vile toxic substance called malinvestment, which turns the energies of society into activities that produce nothing of value, like hedge fund employee bonuses, NSA operations, Tesla car promotion, Frank Gehry condo towers, drone strikes against Afghani wedding parties, Obama photo ops, inflated auction prices of oil paintings, and Barney’s new Jay-Z holiday fashion collection.
The Fed makes regular noises about ending the force-feeding program (a.k.a. “quantitative easing” or “bond purchases”) issued in the recorded minutes of its Open Market Committee (FOMC). The propaganda is called “forward guidance” to give it the appearance of seriousness and rectitude, but its actual nature is more like what goes on in a Jerry Lewis movie of the 1960s — a kind of antic mugging. Lately it’s referred to as “taper talk” in reference to the threat of tapering the Fed’s purchases of US Treasury bonds and other debt paper, which runs at around $85 billion a month. Sometime soon, the Fed may announce a tiny taper of say $10 billion a month. This head-fake taper will cause the interest rates on the ten-year-bond to shoot up north of 3 percent and threaten to bankrupt the government — which is too broke to pay interest that high on the loans it takes. The markets will have a whack attack over the tiny taper. The Fed will freak out at the odor of deflationary depression and go back to full-tilt force-feeding of the sick goose.
The outcome will be some combination of a complete loss of faith in paper currency and the “assets” denominated in it, a complete loss of trust between banks that they are solvent enough to do business with each other, and a conclusive implosion of Wall Street and all the institutions in and around it, extending to the executive branch of the federal government. The sorry little appendage to all that, US economy, will be left in the cold and dark, whimpering for its mommy.
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