by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Oil is less than $30. a barrel. This is over three times less than what it costs just to buy the barrel itself! Iran has been accepted back into the world community and is revving up to sell its oil on the world market which will bring down the price of oil even more. Frackers and oil producers in the US have taken on a huge amount of debt under the assumption that it would pay off down the road. They hadn't counted on the price of oil plummeting. What will they do when we convert 100% to renewables?
The debt overhang in the US economy is, as The Donald would say, UUUUGE! All the Wall Street banks and hedge funds, which have bet on the US becoming oil independent and have bought derivatives up the ying yang, are on the losing end of their bets. This presages a crash similar to the mortgage based crash of 2008. Then the Big Banks will ask for another bailout. Or maybe they won't ask; they'll just tell us that we're bailing them out because, after all, they run the government.
Goldman Runs the Government While Committing Fraud
Goldman Sachs runs the government's finance department. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin (1995-99) and Hank Paulson (2006-2009) were at Goldman from 1966 to 1992 and 1974 to 2006 respectively. At Treasury, Paulson was aided by Chief of Staff Mark Patterson (Goldman lobbyist 2003-2008), Neel Kashkari (Goldman Vice President 2002-2006) , Under-Secretary Robert K Steel (Vice Chairman at Goldman, where he worked from 1976 to 2004), and advisors Kendrick Wilson (at Goldman from 1998 to 2008) and Edward C Forst (former Global Head of Goldman's Investment Management Division).
Paulson's successor, Timothy Geithner, a protege of Robert Rubin, was kept close to the Goldman fold with the usual tactic of paying him lucrative speaking fees, the same tactic they use to keep Hillary's ear. I could go on with Goldman's connections to the US government, but I don't want to bore you. For a fuller account I refer you to Michael Hudson's book, Killing the Host, How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy.
This January 2016 Goldman admitted to committing massive fraud and was fined $5 billion. The Wall Street firm had agreed with federal prosecutors and regulators to resolve claims stemming from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors. These are the people who are running your democratic (ha, ha) government. While the 99% got screwed, Wall Street got bailed out because they ARE the government.
But not to worry. This looming market crash is a problem for the big guys, the billionaires, the investor class, not the 99%. The mortgage defaults of 2008, on the other hand, brought real pain to the middle class. While the banks got bailed out, the average middle class homeowner did not. HAMP, the Home Affordable Mortgage Program which was supposed to help homeowners stay in their homes with loan modifications, was a colossal failure.
The program gave permanent mortgage modifications to 1.3 million people, but 350,000 of them defaulted again on their mortgages and were evicted from their homes. Fewer than one million homeowners remain in the HAMP program – just a quarter of its target – and $28 billion of the funding remains unspent. The HAMP program, supposed to help homeowners save their houses, may have led them deeper into a bureaucratic swamp.
401ks - the Worst Idea Perpetrated on the American People
Now that that crisis has settled down, the main worry of the middle class is that, when the stock market tanks, so will their 401k. 401ks were one of the worst travesties visited on the average American worker. Folks lucky enough to have traditional pensions don't have to worry especially if it's a government pension. On the other hand those with traditional pensions from corporations have to worry about corporate raiders and hedge fund takeover artists raiding their pension funds. Those with 401ks are taking all the risk in their individual portfolios over which they have no control really. They are at the mercy of the market and Wall Street. God help them.
There is also widening inequality which means that American consumers have less money to spend to keep the economy going. US GDP depends on consumer purchases because they are 70% of the economy. If everyone goes to ground and starts growing their own vegetables and keeping their own chickens, all those nonpurchases at the supermarket will drive the economy down. 2015 was a big year for car sales; that means that 2016 will not be because consumers are carred up.
Robert Reich thinks the economy is on the edge of recession:
Consider: The median wage is 4 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The median wage of young people, even those with college degrees, is also dropping, adjusted for inflation. That means a continued slowdown in the rate of family formation—more young people living at home and deferring marriage and children – and less demand for goods and services.
At the same time, the labor participation rate—the percentage of Americans of working age who have jobs—remains near a 40-year low.
The giant boomer generation won’t and can’t take up the slack. Boomers haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement, so they’re being forced to cut back expenditures.
Wall Street and hedge funds are running the economy. They are the central planners not the US government which is basically just a pawn in their hands. They borrow money from the Federal Reserve at extremely low rates and then buy Treasury bonds which amounts to making money off the spread or making money off their ability to finance the American government which boils down to us, the American taxpayers.
Fortunately, the US isn't dependent on Japanese or Chinese or Saudi Arabian investors to buy its bonds. Wall Street has taken over that role in a symbiotic Ponzi scheme which requires the Fed, Wall Street and the US Treasury to all play their parts. That means that now the Big Banks are really, really Too Big To Fail. They are an essential part of funding and running the US government!
Better to Put Your Money Under the Mattress
While Wall Street banks are too big to fail, the next banking crisis could trigger not a bail out but a bail in. According to Ellen Brown, the mechanics are already in place to loot depositors' bank accounts:
While the mainstream media focus on ISIS extremists, a threat that has gone virtually unreported is that your life savings could be wiped out in a massive derivatives collapse. Bank bail-ins have begun in Europe, and the infrastructure is in place in the US. Poverty also kills.
At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”
Something to think about. Maybe hiding your money under the mattress is the best solution since it's not earning any interest in the bank anyway.
“The United States is more vulnerable today than ever before including during the Great Depression and the Civil War,” says Thom Hartmann, in “The Crash of 2016.” Why? “Because the pillars of democracy that once supported a booming middle class have been corrupted, and without them, America teeters on the verge of the next Great Crash.” Thanks to an obstructionist GOP, hell-bent on destroying Obama the past six years. [Thom's] indictment hits hard, but matching something you might hear from Rush Limbaugh on the Right.
“The United States is in the midst of an economic implosion that could make the Great Depression look like child’s play,” warns Hartmann. His analysis is brutal, sees that “the facade of our once-great United States will soon disintegrate to reveal the rotting core where corporate and billionaire power and greed have replaced democratic infrastructure and governance. Our once-enlightened political and economic systems have been manipulated to ensure the success of only a fraction of the population at the expense of the rest of us.” And he wrote that before Picketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century.”
The US has a boom bust economy. Unfortunately, the busts are becoming more frequent and the booms more superficial. People get all euphoric when the stock market goes up. As someone once said, it leads to "irrational exuberance." Then when it crashes, they sell leaving their 401ks and retirement incomes in shambles. That's what happens when investing is left in the hands of amateurs. The big guys, the hedge funds will make money either way - when the stock market goes up they go long; when it goes down they're short. They are high frequency traders and act on insider information. They commit fraud.
They have billions of dollars at their disposal from low interest loans from Wall Street. That's why they can buy entire corporations, break them up, lay off the employees, raid their pension funds and sell the remaining eviscerated hulk off to the unsuspecting and naive. The hedge (vulture) funds and Wall Street make out like bandits which is what they essentially are. The banks, whose function used to be capital formation to fund industry which created jobs, now functions as a conduit to hedge funds to wreak havoc with the American economy in pursuit of short term profits.
The world is polarized between the uber wealthy and the rest of us. Just 62 people own as much wealth as the 3.6 billion poorest. That's globalization for you. Nation states are no longer important or in control. The uber wealthy, the billionaires, who can buy and sell politicians and governments at their whim are the controllers. They - not the communists or socialists - are the central planners of the economy, and their plan for the economy is to benefit them and only them. The World Bank and the IMF are their henchmen.
The New Feudalism - Billionaires Replace the Nobility
This is from a recent report from Oxfam, AN ECONOMY FOR THE 1% How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped:
The gap between rich and poor is reaching new extremes. The richest 1 percent have now accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together… Meanwhile, the wealth owned by the bottom half of humanity has fallen by a trillion dollars in the past five years.”
The wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44 percent in the five years since 2010—that’s an increase of more than half a trillion dollars ($542 billion), to $1.76 trillion,” Oxfam noted. “Meanwhile, the wealth of the bottom half fell by just over a trillion dollars in the same period—a drop of 41 percent. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.
There is really only one candidate for President who is addressing these issues - Bernie Sanders. Republicans want us to take our eyes off the ball of growing inequality and impoverishment of the 99% while the billionaires take on the role of oligarchs. They want us to focus on international terrorism and the threat that that brings to our everyday lives.
While that is surely a threat, ISIS cannot do major damage to the US. A few people can be blown up here and there and that is a tragedy. It's just not as great a tragedy as the gun violence done by Americans to other Americans on a daily basis which is orders of magnitude bigger.
If the economy takes a tumble, Hillary Clinton's ties to Wall Street will take on an even more ominous cloud over her campaign while the fact that Bernie Sanders has raised millions in small donations without the help of Wall Street or Super PACs will cast him in an even more favorable light. That might be the deciding factor. The Republicans will surely be left behind if they place all their bets on getting the American people to vote for them out of fear of ISIS.