Category Archive: 5.) The United States

Burnout Nation

A number of recent surveys reflect a widespread sense of financial stress and symptoms of poor health in America's workers, particularly the younger generations. There's no real mystery as to the cause of this economic anxiety:

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Trade Wars Have Arrived, But It’s Trade Winter That Hurts

There is truth to the trade war. That’s a big problem because it’s not the only problem. It isn’t even the main one. Given that, it’s easy to look at tariffs and see all our current ills in them. The Census Bureau reports today that the trade wars have definitely arrived. In March 2019, US imports from China plummeted by nearly 19% year-over-year.

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Unrealistically Great Expectations

Let's see if we can tie together four social dynamics: the elite college admissions scandal, the decline in social mobility, the rising sense of entitlement and the unrealistically 'great expectations' of many Americans. As many have noted, the nation's financial and status rewards are increasingly flowing to the top 5%, what many call a winner-take-all or winner-take-most economy.

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The Great Unraveling Begins: Distraction, Lies, Infighting, Betrayal

There are two basic pathways to systemic collapse: external shocks or internal decay. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course; it can be argued that the most common path is internal decay weakens the empire/state and an external shock pushes the rotted structure off the cliff.

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China’s Export Story Is Everyone’s Economic Base Case

The first time the global economy was all set to boom, officials were at least more cautious. Chastened by years of setbacks and false dawns, in early 2014 they were encouraged nonetheless. The US was on the precipice of a boom (the first time), it was said, and though Europe was struggling it was positive with a more aggressive ECB emerging.

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What’s Germany’s GDP Without Factories

It was a startling statement for the time. Mario Draghi had only been on the job as President of the European Central Bank for a few months by then, taking over for the hapless Jean Claude-Trichet who was unceremoniously retired at the end of October 2011 amidst “unexpected” chaos and turmoil. It was Trichet who contributed much to the tumult, having idiotically raised rates (twice) during 2011 even as warning signs of crisis and economic weakness...

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What Would It Take to Spark a Rural/Small-Town Revival?

There are many historical models in which the spending/investing of wealthy families drives the expansion of local economies. The increase in farm debt while farm income declines is putting unbearable financial pressure on American farmers, who must be differentiated from giant agri-business corporations. This is placing immense pressure on farmers, pressure which manifests in rising suicide rates.

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Good Riddance to a “Nothing-Burger” Trade Deal

China has expanded its domestic debt to fund its growth, much of which qualifies as malinvestment, creating financial vulnerabilities its government is anxious to mask. As I noted in Trade Deal Follies: The U.S. Has Embraced the World's Worst Negotiating Tactics (April 8, 2019), the trade deal was a Nothing-Burger for the U.S. Without any consequences for violating trade deals, China violates all trade deals, starting with the WTO.

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Income Inequality and the Decline of the Middle Class in Two Charts

These two charts of average incomes of U.S. households by quintile (bottom 20%, middle 60% (20%+20%+20%) and top 20%) have both good news and bad news. (Charts are from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office -- CBO).

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The Accelerating Decay of the Middle Class

Ironically, their ample compensation allows them to avoid the poor-quality services they've designed for everyone below them. If we define middle class by the security of household income and what that income can buy rather than by an income level, what do we conclude? 

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What Tokyo Eurodollar Redistribution Really Means For ‘Green Shoots’

Last April, monetary officials in Japan were publicly contemplating ending asset purchases under QQE. This April, they are more quietly wondering what other financial assets they might have to buy just to keep it all going a little longer. I’d suggest something like the clouds passing over the islands or the ocean water surrounding them. Nobody would notice either way and it would be equally as effective.

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The Erosion of Everyday Life

Working hard and doing what you're told is no longer yielding the promised American Dream of security, agency and liberty. Volume One of Fernand Braudel's oft-recommended (by me) trilogy Civilization & Capitalism, 15th to 18th Century is titled The Structures of Everyday Life. The book describes how life slowly became better and freer as the roots of modern capitalism and liberty spread in western Europe, slowly destabilizing and obsoleting the...

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There Are Two Little Problems with “Taxing the Rich” to Pay for “Free Everything”

No super-wealthy individual or household is going to pay billions in additional taxes when $10 to $20 million will purchase political adjustments. The 2020 election cycle has begun, and a popular campaign promise is "free everything" paid for by new taxes on the super-wealthy. Who doesn't like free stuff? Who will vote for whomever offers them free stuff? No wonder it's a popular campaign promise.

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Globally Synchronized…

The economic sickness is predictably spreading. While unexpected in most of the world which still, somehow, depends on central banking forecasts, it really has been almost inevitable. From the very start, just the utterance of the word “decoupling” was the kiss of death.

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Durably Sideways

Next month, in the durable goods series, the Census Bureau will release the results of its annual benchmark changes. In May 2019, the agency will revise the seasonal adjustments going back to January 2002. Unadjusted data will not be, well, further adjusted.

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Push Them Hard Enough and the Productive Class Will Opt Out of Servitude

People love their big paychecks, but they also value their sanity. One of the most astonishing manifestations of disconnected-from-reality hubris is public authorities' sublime confidence that employers and entrepreneurs will continue starting and operating enterprises no matter how difficult and costly it becomes to keep the doors open, much less net a profit.

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The Feedback Loop of Doom: When Mobile Creatives and Capital Abandon Unaffordable, Dysfunctional Cities

When the 4% who generate the jobs and tax revenues have had enough and leave, the effects quickly impact the 64%. At the end of any trend, everyone's a true believer: this trend is so enduring, so broad-based, so based on unchanging fundamentals that it will never ever reverse.

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If “Getting Ahead” Depends on Asset Bubbles, It’s Not “Getting Ahead,” It’s Gambling

Given that the economy is now totally and completely dependent on inflating asset bubbles, it makes no sense to invest for the long-term. Beneath the endlessly hyped expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) of the past two decades, the economy has changed dramatically. The American Dream boils down to social and economic mobility, a.k.a. getting ahead through hard work, merit and wise investments in oneself and one's family.

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How Empires Fall: Moral Decay

There is a name for this institutionalized, commoditized fraud: moral decay. Moral decay is an interesting phenomenon: we spot it easily in our partisan-politics opponents and BAU (business as usual) government/private-sector dealings (are those $3,000 Pentagon hammers now $5,000 each or $10,000 each? It's hard to keep current...), and we're suitably indignant when non-partisan corruption is discovered in supposed meritocracies such as the college...

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America’s Forced Financial Flight: Fleeing Unaffordable and Dysfunctional Cities

The forced flight from unaffordable and dysfunctional urban regions is as yet a trickle, but watch what happens when a recession causes widespread layoffs in high-wage sectors. For hundreds of years, rural poverty has driven people to urban areas: cities offer paying work and abundant opportunities to get ahead, and these financial incentives have transformed the human populace from largely rural to largely urban in the developed world.

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