-- Watching the economic idiocy all around me, and the impending collapse of the housing bubble which has been dubbed by some as The Biggest Speculative Bubble In Freaking History, my days are now spent almost exclusively in fear and frenzied activity, mostly in angrily stockpiling gold, silver, oil, ammo, and these terrific little frozen pizzas that score a bulls-eye with those of us whose tastes run to yummy pork products.
During my spare time, I am compiling long, long lists of people to persecute mercilessly, on the way to their well-deserved and handily pre-ordained "guilty" verdicts, when I am finally crowned Omnipotent Emperor Mogambo and take over the joint, starting with the horrid Alan Greenspan. His insanely irresponsible over-creation of money and credit, while chairman of the Federal Reserve, directly or indirectly caused all of our problems, as this massive deluge of money worked its way into the prices of things, as it must, as there is nowhere else for the money to go!
So I am laboring and grunting and muttering "Inflation's gonna kill us! Inflation's gonna kill us!" under my breath when, in the midst of the aforementioned labors, I got a funny email, and, as a writer of sorts, my sense of humor was partially restored by the runner-up in the 2006 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. It read "I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"
But soon the levity evaporated, and it was solidly back to downtown Panic-ville, as the latest bunch of Consumer Price Index stuff from the Labor Department came out, and the February Consumer Price index rose 0.4%, which was "stronger-than-expected." The food index rose 0.8 percent in February, which follows a 0.7 percent increase in January. This is horrifying! This is beyond horrifying!
From the John Williams' Shadow Government Statistics site we read that even these terrible inflation numbers are far too low, as "Net of methodological gimmicks that have been used in recent decades to dampen the reporting of inflation, February's Pre-Clinton CPI annual inflation (based on 1990 methodology) was 5.7%, while the SGS Alternate Consumer Price Measure (based on 1980 methodology) was 10.0%." Yow!
Doug Noland of the Credit Bubble Bulletin at PrudentBear.com computes that "The CPI is now up 2.4% y-o-y, with Core CPI's 2.7% y-o-y increase making nine straight months above 2.5%."
Jim Willie of the Hat Trick Letter figures that "One must add over 7% added to the official CPI to enter the world of reality", and that this means that "The actual growth for the US economy is near minus 1.4%, a recession, having entered positive ground only briefly in the last six years."
Most of the increase in the inflation index (as if this makes it all okay) is that fruits and vegetables had a whopping big 4.7 percent increase, and Bloomberg.com thinks that it was "Rising fuel, food and medical costs" that "pushed U.S. inflation higher last month."
Bloomberg went on "The 0.4 percent increase in the consumer price index followed a 0.2 percent January gain. Core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose 0.2 percent and were up 2.7 percent from a year earlier."
If you want just a teeny, tiny little taste of the results of price inflation, they went on to say "The increase in prices is hurting workers' take-home pay. Hourly earnings adjusted for inflation fell 0.3 percent on average for a second month in February." Yikes! If this ain't a recession for workers, then what in the hell is it?
What nobody bothered to report is the effect of rising food and energy prices on people with fixed (or no) income, which is that they got a lot poorer and, almost certainly, more angry. I admit that my sweeping conclusion is drawn from a very small pool of data points, but the collective sentiments of family members has proved, in the past, to be highly correlated with the zeitgeist of the times. As such, I can confidently report that people are very, very, VERY angry that prices are going up so much.
The Mogambo household is, like Congress, divided into two opposing factions. On the one hand, we have the Leftist approach: "Have the government give money to the people!" On the other side of the aisle, we have The Mogambo approach: "If I kill all of you parasite trash, that will mean more for me!"
So, instead of acquiescing to their loud, pleading, angry demands for me to just, you know, give them some money, and being legally prevented from just kicking them out of the house or even being allowed to try to knock some sense into their thick heads, I am thus forced to starve them into submission as I desperately look for a way, some way, some fabulous, new way, to get some more money, so they would shut the hell up. But not using any of MY money, which I need to keep buying gold, silver and guns.
Suddenly I had an inspiration!
So, my excitement bubbling all day at the prospect of gleefully revealing my wonderful money-making discovery to a grateful family, at dinner I clear my throat to command attention, and then I casually mention "Speaking of money, how would you all like to have some money to spend? Maybe get some new shoes? Or that medicine you need?"
Naturally, they were all for the idea, wildly applauding, cheering and falling to their knees to prayerfully thank God for the "blessed deliverance from thy wicked Mogambo devil (WMD) at long last!"
When the excitement died down a little, with them hanging on my every word, I further entrance them with "And you don't have to lift a finger to get any of it! Would you like that? Huh? Would you?"
Being natural Leftists, they are ecstatic! Getting free money from an authority figure without lifting a finger? This is EXACTLY what they want! To explain how this is done, I got out my PowerPoint presentation, and I started off saying "We are sitting on a gold mine here! It turns out that we can make some cash - a lot of cash, mind you! - by selling some of the kids' internal organs to rich, sick people! I read the other day that the going rate for a fresh, young, healthy kidney is, for instance..." and the place erupted in bedlam.
As usual, it's always "Gimme something for nothing!" with those guys. So, while Terrific Mogambo Money Making Plan (TMMMP) number 54,988 goes down in flames like so, so many others, there are still ways to get more money. For example, Bloomberg.com reports "Thieves are taking playground slides and cemetery incense trays in Japan as soaring metal prices cause everyday items to be stolen and sold as scrap. Thefts of metal objects in Tokyo reached 40 percent of last year's total in the first two months of 2007."
-- And apparently it is not just me that is bummed out here lately, as Riccardo sent the Reuters report that "Commodities investment guru Jim Rogers stepped into the U.S. subprime fray on Wednesday, predicting a real estate crash that would trigger defaults and spread contagion to emerging markets", and that "It's going to be a disaster for many people who don't have a clue about what happens when a real estate bubble pops."
This is exactly akin to flunking the mid-term exam because, instead of studying, you were out all night, partying down with The Mogambo, you got stuck with the check, and now your car smells like somebody barfed in a brewery. And although your future is thus destroyed by your own laziness, ignorance and incompetence, you at least now know the value of education and the wisdom of choosing your friends more carefully.
Mr. Rogers isn't interested in any of that, and coldly predicted that "Real estate prices will go down 40-50 percent in bubble areas. There will be massive defaults" and that this time a bursting bubble will "be worse because we haven't had this kind of speculative buying in U.S. history."
And how bad will it all get when the housing bubble and the stock market bubble finally collapse? Well, he says that the example of Japan, whose real estate and stock market bubbles popped in 1990, is that "stock prices went down 85 percent despite the country's high savings rate and huge balance of payment surplus", neither of which, he ominously points out, the U.S. has with which to cushion the blow of any sanity at all returning to the stock, bond or housing markets.
Seeing the blank look on my face, Mr. Rogers realizes he was too vague, and a moron like me needs a lot less theory and a lot more precision, hopefully with numbers so small that I can count them on my fingers. So, he says "Some emerging markets will go down 80 percent, some will go down 50 percent. Some will most probably collapse." Yikes! Too much precision!
For another opinion, we turn to Paul Kasriel of The Northern Trust Company, who opines that perhaps we are just getting started in this housing bust thing, in that "In an average housing downturn, real residential investment expenditures decline by about 25% peak to trough." So, far, though, "through the fourth quarter 2006, these expenditures have fallen by only about 13%, or slightly more than half of an average housing recession." Half!
For a measure of how insane the housing bubble got, he says "In the current expansion, the dollar volume of single-family home sales rose rapidly relative to nominal GDP, hitting a record high of 16.3% in 2005. The median percentage from 1968 through 2006 is only 8.4."
And as for why this means bad news all around, he explains "It strains credulity to think that such large relative activity in the housing sector in this expansion would not have a significant negative multiplier effect on the rest of the economy now that housing has entered a recession."
A proof of economic fallout, he looked at the unemployment report and noticed that it has already started, in that "the participation rate (the labor force as a percent of civilian noninstitutional population) declined to 66.2% the second consecutive monthly decline."
And it is not just that new jobs are not being created, but that "Moreover, the percent of the unemployed who previously had jobs but were laid off, as compared with those unemployed who had either reentered the labor force or entered for the first time, increased to 50.1% from a cycle low of 46.0% (October 2006) and registered the highest reading since January 2005."
The much worse news is that mortgage equity extraction (MEW), where people borrow against the value of their equity in their houses, and thus increase their debt load so that they could spend the borrowed money on something or other, "peaked at an annualized $553 billion in third quarter 2005 and was contracting at an annualized pace of $5 billion in fourth quarter 2006. The implication of all this is that an important source of financing for consumer spending has disappeared. Thus, growth in consumer spending is set to moderate as a result."
And if you are as sick as I am of hearing that idiotic refrain that "Consumer spending is 70% of the economy", then this is bad news, indeed. And if you believe (like I do) that "Consumer spending is 100% of the economy", then this is the worst of news!
And I can make a good argument that consumer spending is 100% of the economy because the money that is being spent today by these non-consumers (theoretically as investment) is, in the final analysis, actually dependent on future consumer spending to pay back the money that is being spent today!
And in fact, my stupid little theory goes on, some of the money being spent today IS the consumer paying back the money that was spent in the investment past!
Mr. Rogers is completely unimpressed with my brilliant insight, as is (it turns out) everybody else on this stupid, backward planet, and rather than rudely yawning to express his boredom, he changes the subject, and says "We frequently are asked what the odds of a recession are in the next 12 months. We don't know the answer."
The sensibilities of The Mogambo were rattled, as I am not sure to whom Mr. Rogers is referring when he uses the word "we", as, while the estimable Mr. Rogers is cautious and rational, I am arrogant and reckless enough to state that I actually DO know the answer to the question!
And the answer is that there are already some people who are in a recession, and some businesses that are already in recession, and lots of people whose lives (thanks to inflation in prices that comes from the Federal Reserve creating inflation in money and credit) are in recession, too!
A year from now? It will be worse! And so the chances of a lot more people experiencing the effects of a recession in the next 12 months is, again, 100 freaking percent, just like right now!
So, what you are really asking is "When will the government's tortured statistics run out of room to be manipulated and the government has to officially admit that we are in an official recession?", which is a different question altogether.
Immediately I realize that this is my big chance! I finally have an opportunity to tell the famous Mr. Rogers to "Move over, hotshot! There's a new economics big dog in town!"
So I stand up, sticking my chest out like I'm really something, and start walking over to the microphone to deliver my stirring address, but I am stopped in mid-stride when he cleverly pre-empts me by announcing "But we do know that every recession starting with the 1970 one was immediately preceded by the combination of a negative spread between the yield on the 10-year Treasury security and the federal funds rate and the year-over-year contraction in the CPI-adjusted monetary base (bank reserves plus currency)." Just like (I note with some alarm) now.
As the crowd cheers his words, he half-turns around to look at me sideways, and the smiling sneer on his face clearly conveyed the message "Who's the big dog now, you creepy Mogambo halfwit (CMH)?"
I stick my tongue out and grab my own butt with both hands to clearly convey a message of my own, namely "You are, damn it, but that doesn't mean I like it!"
-- A lot of people-who-should-know are writing of impending asset deflation, and that this fall in prices would probably include gold.
I personally have to idea, but the historical record shows that while assets of all kinds can, and do, go down (a lot of time disappearing altogether!) at the end of bubbles and booms, gold does not necessarily do so, and if it does, it will not stay there.
I hear the catcalls and hooting that this has elicited, and haughtily reply that for proof of my audacious statement, I have to merely point to the fact that gold is selling for about $660 an ounce, and if gold went down and stayed there someplace in the last 4,000 freaking years, then how in the hell did it get back to $660 an ounce now, and with essentially the same buying power?
But aside from that, one of the big, big, BIG reasons that I think that gold will be supported (and will rise) is the fact that, as the domestic dollar goes down in value against other currencies, the price of gold in those other currencies will have to fall, too (as arbitrageurs buy gold in the U.S. and sell it in those other countries to exploit the price differential), or the price of gold priced in dollars will have to rise, or both.
So, if gold fell in dollar terms while the dollar was falling in value, then the price of gold would have to collapse, too, in the countries with strengthening currencies, to achieve parity!
But the whole idea of gold falling in price, when priced in a depreciating currency, (especially one as continuously, massively overly-abused as the dollar and used by a country that is almost universally despised as vicious, murderous, greedy American imperialists), is the kind of thing that makes me laugh nervously and slowly, imperceptively move my hand towards a concealed weapon of some kind, as I have a very, very difficult (VVD) time even conceiving of such a bizarre thing.
And while I can't think of a single historical instance of gold going down in terms of a collapsing currency, and I thus assume that it has never, ever happened before, either in real life or in the movies, I nevertheless CAN think of many real and cinematic instances where having a lot of gold and firepower came in very, very handy (VVH) when things got bizarre like this.
But now, all of a sudden, after all these hundreds and hundreds of years, and the thousands of failed fiat currencies falling victim to their respective idiotic governments and irresponsible central banks printing, creating and spending too much money, I am supposed to think that this time gold, for the first time ever, for no reason at all, will fall, too? Hahaha!
And don't get me started on silver, which is the most undervalued necessity on the face of the planet right now, and which will continue to get more and more so until the price soars from these lowly levels.
- The appearance of the U.S. Comptroller, David Walker, on 60 Minutes and telling the sad tale of the coming economic collapse, has caused quite a bit of a stir. And I am sure that he is certainly correct down to the last decimal place, as far as I am concerned.
And I also agree that it is truly alarming that there will be gigantic entitlement programs and zillions of people will be benefiting from getting government money, and how there won't be many people working to pay the taxes that are necessary to pay this crushing entitlement burden, and how taxes will have to rise to more than two-thirds of incomes to pay for all of these Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid other welfare programs, and on and on, blah blah blah.
And then I think to myself "Nah!" I mean, that kind of economic collapse is old-fashioned. And kind of quaint, in a charming kind of way.
I mean, debts mean nothing- nothing! - if you have a pure fiat currency! Ergo, it is entirely possible for the Congress to declare that they are, effective immediately, calling in all the bonds the government has issued! They can easily direct the Treasury to literally pay off the entire national debt, all $9 trillion of it, by lunchtime tomorrow, just by writing a check! And the money to honor the checks? It will be dutifully created by the Federal Reserve, because that is the kind of shameless, willing whore that it is!
So, (and here is why the government loves a fiat currency) with a fiat currency, they could simply print up nine trillion-dollar bills! Nine little pieces of paper! Or, alternatively, 9,000 billion-dollar bills! Lest you chastise me for lack of practicality, I recognize the fact that you can't spend anything bigger than a twenty at a convenience store without some flunky clerk getting all huffy and pretty soon we're screaming at each other, where I learned that they REALLY don't like it when you tell them that their ridiculous foreign accents make them sound as stupid as they look! Hahaha! Who knew, huh? Hahaha!
So in response to this growing problem with snotty cashiers in our nation's convenience stores, I suggest that they print up two trillion-dollar bills, 5,000 billion-dollar bills, and 2,000,000 million-dollar bills.
Now that I look at it, I am embarrassed to note that none of these bills, unfortunately, can be spent at a convenience store, either. Oops! So maybe we ought to print up the whole $9 trillion thing with 450 billion twenties, which is so damned much paper money that the sheer logistics of harvesting the trees, making the paper, making the ink, making the printing presses, printing the damned stuff and distributing/accounting for the cash will result in so much economic activity that it, single-handedly, would cause the economy to boom!
So why don't they do that? The only reason that they don't do that is that every time a government in all of history tried such stupidity, such an instantaneous explosion in the money supply collapsed the currency, stoked an inflationary bonfire, and the party was soon over, long before the salvation of a hoped-for miracle arrived.
Better than that, today we (oddly enough) prefer to do it like we have been doing it; spend as much as we possible can without raising a ruckus, or causing too much inflation that it causes a ruckus, or (failing that), lie and scheme like you have never lied and schemed before.
In other words, instead of being economically killed at a stroke, we are being consumed a little bit at a time, as a little inflation at a time is eating away at the dollar's buying power a little at a time, like a relentless, incurable cancer, all made necessary because the government now must borrow and spend evermore money to ameliorate the inflationary effects of the previous little inflations, a little bit at a time! Hahaha! A cancer, indeed!
This economic insanity is the ugly system that has evolved, thanks to the socialist/communist boneheads and traitors that we elected. This is the supposed genius of the democratic process? Hahaha! I snort in Caustic Mogambo Derision (CMD)!
-- Bill Bonner at DailyReckoning.com reveals the classy kind of crowd he runs with when he writes "Bad things happen to good people who do stupid things." Since this happy scene obviously has no meaning to me, let me append that to say "Bad things also happen to hateful, paranoid, alcohol-besotted, medication-gobbling, worthless human gutter trash that do stupid things", like, you know, me. And probably you, too, as we suffer from getting from the stupidities of getting married, having horrible children, abiding rancorous relations and nasty neighbors, but mostly by going so faaaAAAaaaar into debt that bankruptcy is only a matter of time, which just makes everything worse.
All in all, economic stupidity begets economic calamity no matter how smart you think your stupid central bankers and governments are.
****Mogambo sez: Your future will be golden and your clouds will all have silver linings if you can decipher what in the hell I mean by that, and then do it. Otherwise, not.
Mar 20, 2007