Monday, April 27, 2015

Kunstler: Money Worries

April 27, 2015

Kunstler: Money Worries

The cynicism among the informed classes has never been so deep. Even the pompom boys in the cheerleading clubs like CNBC and The Wall Street Journal express wonderment at the levitation of stock indexes and bond values. They chatter about a “correction” of 20 percent being a healthful tonic that would clear away some dross and quickly usher in a new episode of “growth” — or growthiness, which, like truthiness, became an acceptable approximation of the real thing. The truth, as opposed to truthiness, is they no longer believe their own bullshit about growthiness.

The suppression of interest rates and pervasive accounting fraud has thundered through the financial system, and the deformities caused by it have emerged in currency war, currency instability, trade collapse, and political crisis. Years of central bank intervention have stolen the capital of the future to construct a Potemkin economy meant to conceal the sickening gyre of diminishing returns strangling business as usual.

Until it collapses by a great deal more than the wished-for mere 20 percent, more perversities will be piled onto the already existing burden. Is it not a wonder that professionalized interest groups like AARP have not screamed bloody murder over the suppression of interest rates which deprives its members of bank account and bond interest on savings? Instead AARP, like virtually every enterprise in America, has turned to racketeering. Don’t worry, they’ll be gone from the scene soon enough.

The next shoe to drop will be various forms of bail-ins and attempts to prevent bank account and money market holders from getting access to their cash. A withdrawal above $2,000 already can trigger a report to the IRS. The next step will be to put a simple ceiling on withdrawals. Will that trigger public ire? Who knows? Nothing yet has in the USA. The meme currently circulating is the fear that government would like to abolish cash altogether and put in a regime of all-electronic money. Being allergic to conspiracy ideas, I’m skeptical about this idea, but I really can’t dismiss it.

A cashless society would conceptually allow government much more leak-proof control of all citizen money transactions. Mainly it could funnel tax revenue into the treasury much more efficiently. It raises some obvious practical concerns, such as: would such a program lead to an enhanced colossal skim of credit card company off-creaming? And what about the percentage of poorer Americans who don’t have credit cards or bank accounts now, either because they don’t understand how it all works, or they’re forced to function in the “gray” economy for one reason or another (e.g. a drug felony rap). And what kind of as-yet-unknown perverse work-arounds would this new system provoke?

I put the question to a table of college-educated people last night and their response was surprising: utter complacency. They’re already used to paying for most things with plastic, they said, and their employer already withholds a big part of their regular paycheck for taxes, so what does it matter? They couldn’t grok the possibility that a cashless money system might easily deprive them of access to whatever reserves they have. Or perhaps, more specifically, they couldn’t imagine an economic or political emergency that might provoke such a situation.

They might find out sooner than they realize. As I suggest in the lede, apprehension is growing that some kind of “corrective” event is at hand on the financial scene. Even the supposedly salubrious 20 percent S & P drop could set off a chorus of margin calls that would make the trumpets of Jericho sound like a kazoo concert. What will Americans do if they can’t get their money out of the banks? The last time this happened, 1933, we were a hard-up but polite and highly-regimented society, and the automatic rifle was a novelty restricted to a relatively tiny army and Al Capone’s crew. Behind the financial jitters of the informed minority is the greater fear of social unrest.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"How English Ruined Indian Literature"

Worth thinking about.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/how-english-ruined-indian-literature.html?_r=0

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kunstler: Change They Don't Believe In

With a Bush-Clinton matchup, people will either abstain from casting their presidential votes for the Big Two or will choose from among the third parties.--P.Z.

Kunstler: Change They Don't Believe In.

The unfortunate consequence of not allowing the process of “creative destruction” to occur in banking and Big Business is that the historic forces behind it will seek expression elsewhere in the realm of politics and governance. The desperate antics of central banks to cover up financial failure can’t help but provoke political upheaval, including war.

It’s a worldwide phenomenon and one result will be the crackup of economic relations — thought by many to be permanent — that we call “globalism.” The USA has suffered mightily from globalism, by which a bonanza of cheap “consumer” products made by Asian factory slaves has masked the degeneration of local economic vitality, family life, behavioral norms, and social cohesion. That crackup is already underway in the currency wars aptly named by Jim Rickards, [Link added by me.--P.Z.] and you can bet that soon enough it will lead to the death of the 12,000-mile supply lines from China to WalMart — eventually to the death of WalMart itself (and everything like it). Another result will be the interruption of oil export supply lines.

The USA as currently engineered (no local economies, universal suburban sprawl, big box commerce, despotic agribiz) won’t survive these disruptions and one might also wonder whether our political institutions will survive. The crop of 2016 White House aspirants shows no comprehension for the play of these forces and the field is ripe for epic disruption. The prospect of another Clinton – Bush election contest is a perfect setup for the collapse of the two parties sponsoring them, ushering in a period of wild political turmoil. Just because you don’t see it this very moment, doesn’t mean it isn’t lurking on the margins.

This same moment (in history) the American thinking classes are lost in raptures of techno-wishfulness. They can imagine the glory of watching Fast and Furious 7 on a phone in a self-driving electric car, but they can’t imagine rebuilt local economies where citizens get to play both an economic and social role in their communities. They can trumpet the bionic engineering of artificial hamburger meat, but not careful, small-scale farming in which many hands can find work and meaning.

The true genius of Hillary is that she manages to epitomize every failure of our current political life: the obsessive micro-manipulation of image, the obscene moneygrubbing, the tired cronyism, the entitlement masquerading as sexual equality. Mostly, though, she has no idea where history is taking us, in case you’re wondering at the stupefying platitudes offered up as representative of her thinking. I’m not advocating for this gentleman, but it will at least be interesting to see Martin O’Malley jump into the race and call bullshit on her, which he will do, literally, because he has nothing to lose by doing it. The eunuchs on The New York Times Op Ed page certainly won’t do it.

What happens on the world financial scene will determine the flow of events up into the 2016 election. The built-up tensions and fragilities are begging for release. The defining instant might be Greece’s unwillingness to fork over another debt payment, or the death of the shale oil “miracle,” or some act by Saudi Arabia’s enemies, or some chain of exploding booby-traps in the shadow banking netherworld. The great surprise for America especially will be the recognition that our current living arrangements have no future. That’s the only thing that will prompt a new consensus to form around some alternate, more plausible future, and the emergence of a generation willing to fight for it, even if it requires some real creative destruction of the things that are killing us anyway.

Library Book Sale

I picked up two boxes of books at the library book sale on Saturday. More later.

20 April update. Among my finds:

--Outline of Philippine Mythology by F. Landa Jocano (Manila, 1969).



Auwe.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

HB 464 Would Require Minor Party Nominees to Pay Filing Fees

A press release from the Libertarian Party on HB 464.
----
For immediate release
April 13, 2015

Texas Republican attacks Libertarian voting rights

Republican state representative Drew Springer of Muenster, Texas has filed HB 464, a bill to require minor party nominees to pay filing fees.

Libertarian National Committee executive director Wes Benedict commented, "Republican Drew Springer's bill is a poll tax on minor parties, including the Libertarian Party. It's an injustice, and it's unconstitutional."

The bill would require all minor party nominees to pay fees to be allowed to appear on the November election ballot. The fees range as high as $5,000, depending on the office.

Kurt Hildebrand, chair of the Libertarian Party of Texas, said, "This law would effectively shut down third parties in Texas, and I believe that is the intent behind it."

According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled twice that this sort of filing fee is unconstitutional.

On April 6, the Texas House Elections Committee voted 5-1 in favor of the bill. (Five Republicans voted yes, one Democrat voted no.)

Similar bills have been filed by Texas Republicans in past legislative sessions.

Benedict explained, "Republicans have claimed in the past that their bills make things 'fair' because Republicans and Democrats have to pay filing fees for their primaries. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Republicans and Democrats have to pay primary fees because their primary elections are financed by taxpayers. Political parties are private organizations, even though they are regulated by the state. Nevertheless, taxpayers are forced to hand over a lot of money to help the Republicans and Democrats pick their nominees. The filing fees pay for a tiny fraction of these costs.

"Libertarians and Greens, on the other hand, don't use primaries. We don't force the taxpayers to pay for our nomination process. So there's no reason our candidates should be forced to pay any fees.

"If Republicans and Democrats are upset about their primary filing fees, they should just get rid of them. They control 100% of the seats in the legislature, so it should be pretty easy for them.

"The purpose of Drew Springer's bill is simple: it has nothing to do with fairness, it's just an attempt to shut all minor parties out of the election process. If this bill gets passed, there will be many more unopposed Republicans and unopposed Democrats in the 2016 elections.

"Representative Drew Springer has also filed a bill to prohibit school districts from offering same-sex couples the same benefits as opposite-sex couples. That gives us an idea of what 'fair' means to him.

"I urge legislators who support democracy to oppose this poll tax, which is designed to silence minority opinions.

"This is America. The people should decide who gets to run for office, not the incumbents. Libertarians stand for freedom on every issue, and we oppose bullies who would try to stop us from participating in the election process."

Benedict added, "Texas isn't the only place that Republicans are trying to step on voting rights. In New Hampshire, the Republican National Committee is trying to get involved in a lawsuit over the state's petitioning law. The law was changed in 2013 to make it harder for small parties to get petition signatures to appear on the ballot. The Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit against the change, but the Republican National Committee is trying to intervene in support of the change."

Wes Benedict is the executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, and he served as executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas from 2004 to 2008.

Monday, April 13, 2015