The Federal Reserve answers only to God, but Ben Bernanke’s must not have known that his boss was such a prankster. All of a sudden here is the interest rate of 10-year Treasury paper rising like an angry carbuncle on Ben’s pale tuchus just when he thought he could sit back and watch the mud wrestling contest between Larry Summers and Janet Yellen.
Poor Ben, sedulous student of the Great Depression, who didn’t notice that the country had changed from a nation of farmers and factory workers to a nation of pole dancers and waiters, now awaits his sublime moment of Hooverization. Like poor President Hoover, he gets to hang around the pilot house half a year after he runs the garbage barge of US finance aground on the shoals of wishful thinking and accounting fraud.
Everyone who has to pay attention to the order of things in the universe — meaning those not stewed on crank or drank, or waiting on line for a SNAP card, or leafing through the tattoo catalog, or waiting for a Kim Kardashian gangbang guest shot on Duck Dynasty, or lost in the alt reality of their cell phone — is suddenly very nervous about the order of things in this little corner of the universe. Sag Harbor is starting to live up to its name and down along the Hamptons the tide has gone out to feed a Tsunami of margin calls that soon will give the phrase “under water” a whole new life in the twisted mythology of capital. The immortal Bill Gross even sent out an SOS on Twitter at the end of the week. No wonder folks have got the heebie-jeebies.
The fear is that the central banks have finally lost control of a situation that they have only pretended to control since 2007, when the grotesque racket of mortgage re-bundling caused a psychotic break in the banking system. The prescribed therapy for that was half a decade of ZIRP and maxing out the national credit card. The ugly truth now emerging through this fog of psychosis is that the bond market probably can’t be saved, and without it all other paper markets are toast, including the stock markets and very possibly the entire fiat currency system.
In the background, of course, is the energy melodrama. How can anybody with half a brain suppose that the late turbo-industrial economy could “recover” with oil priced at $107 a barrel? Anyway, all the “recovery” memes floating around the collective media zeitgeist are based on a handful of doctored and massaged GDP numbers universally known to be false. In short, the USA can’t run the current setup on oil over $100 a barrel and has been trying to compensate for that basic fact by lending itself money. So has virtually every other advanced economy, and now they are all in trouble so there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide — and for us, nowhere to export our financial quandaries to.
Japan is the most interesting corpse in the pathology lab. It shot its wad twenty years ago and has been self-cannibalizing ever since. It has no oil or gas of its own, and now it has a runaway nuclear meltdown that is getting only slightly less attention than its financial meltdown. I used to think that Japan had no choice except to go medieval. Now I wonder if there will be anything there in ten years but a depopulated archipelago of steaming radioactive kelp. They can’t possibly buy more US treasury paper and must desperately need to dump their accumulated holdings, and when they do they will start a financial chain reaction that will flense the pretense of value from all the world’s sovereign debt paper. It may already be happening.
If you prepare for anything, prepare for a world without financial pretense. Credibility is caught in that riptide developing off the Hamptons. When the water goes out, all you will see is ugly things wriggling in the mud, and when the water comes rushing back in again, all you will see is a spectacle of drowning bankers. The only higher ground to go to will be your local community, if you have one, and even there it will be a struggle to make sense of what has happened to the world.
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