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"IOUSA", a documentary film following former comptroller General David Walker in his two-year "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" pointed out before the credit crisis that the the largest export from the US consists of scrap, and that the deficit (even then) was so high that eventually Uncle Sam will be unable cut checks for troops. The writing has been on the wall for a long, long time; however, stock market investors figure out how to profit on the upswing and on the downswing. It's just a question of what is perceived to be coming down the pike next, and adjusting the investment strategy accordingly. The Fed may be contributing to the serial bubble economy but the out-of-proportion financial services sector relative to the "real economy" is an inversion in its own right. That a nation expects to prosper in a top-heavy economy — not only in terms of deficits but the "investment class" — is itself unrealistic. 

The gap between the rich and the poor has never been greater since the Gilded Age. How many times over the course of history does a new generation repeat the same cycle of indifference — until reality can no longer be denied (revolutions, revolts, collapses)? In the most basic of terms, the rich are rich because poorer people contribute their labor to others' causes. Similarly, if the middle class becomes poor there are fewer and fewer customers, and with fewer and fewer customers corporations are forced to seek cheaper labor and new markets to make up for the shortfall.

The question always should have been "How do we fix the domestic economy?" Instead, it became "How do we play musical chairs?" (that is, develop, then tap out, new markets under the guise of "free trade"). Arguably, the writing was on the wall during the Carter years with globalization hatched as a side-step maneuver to stave off stagflation, and to cover for the reality that automation has steadily reduced the need for a large (or particularly skilled) labor force. 

Rather than take the approach of an earlier era — Roosevelt's "New Deal" and the WPA — the Reagan years forward have been marked by an effort to expand markets in such a way that it has essentially served to "buy time" — in the hope, too, of out-inflating the debt. While we hear about the failures in Greece, Portugal and elsewhere the Globalization Gospel has been embraced, there have been a few notable exceptions that deserve a closer look. In particular, the "Dutch miracle" illustrates an economic approach that could yet be taken in response to automation. Redefining the arbitrary designation of a 40-hour workweek — following through on what economists of the 1950s predicted — could serve to align productivity to the reality of the times and technology. Instead, we have attempted to keep the economic engines idling at the same arbitrary pace, ignoring the fact that the "new normal" will have its way with us whether we accept it as such or not. 

So-called structural unemployment will continue to have its way with much of the developed world — and hence drive a manic market dynamic — until we recognize that the search for higher economic ground has run its course. Socially, another realization must be made: Until the wealthy understand their wealth as a product of the robustness of the middle class, the middle class will continue to convert to a "working class" with has too little discretionary income to invest, let alone prop up consumer spending. This in part helps account for the phenomena in which junk subprime mortgages were converted to AAA-rated investments; were it not for the fact that so many Americans can ill afford the American Dream investors would not have been left holding junk. The subprime mortgages will not be the first nor the last questionable investment to be passed off to investors. The trend will continue as long as legitimate alternatives remain scarce as a consequence of Main Street's decline. Meanwhile, even cheap imports from Third World countries will be increasingly regarded by American and European consumers as costing a "premium" relative to discretionary income levels, in which case the likes of China will no longer have the "cash cow" of Western consumerism to prop their own middle class aspirations up. 

In society there is a strong impulse to see groups as vastly distinct from one another, both economically and socially. But as the old saying goes, the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone…. The head can hardly say to the foot, "Off with you, for you are more lowly than I". Lowly, perhaps. But inconsequential? Absolutely not. Until the respective classes hold one another in proper regard and respect — each as necessary components of the whole — nations and their economies will repeat the age-old rise and falls of empires past. Stock market bubbles and busts reflect Fed policy to be sure. But at a deeper level, higher highs contrasted by lower lows on the stock market are reflective of classical human conflicts between the good or interest of self, and the good or interest of others. Acting upon false dichotomies — be they economic, political or social — are our downfall every single time.

9 months ago on This Time Is Not Different: Why The Market Is Heading For A Fall


@dmblum We are exporting much of the dollar devaluation/inflation — if not setting up for another Wall Street bubble-and-bust cycle — thanks to loose monetary policy. Because the dollar is the world reserve currency, commodity/food price increases have ripple effects from Mexico to the Mideast. Remember the "tortilla riots" in Mexico? And perhaps you recall a few years back when the shelves of Costco and other grocers were running short on rice because a run on rice in the Third World? And let's not forget what happened during the credit crisis — American grocery costs went up too. To maintain the illusion of price stability, manufacturers reduced the content of cereal boxes, carved out the bottom of the peanut butter jars so that they looked the same on the shelf but held less product, etc. The cost of everything everywhere has been going up whether the GAO admits it or not. 

The formula for calculating domestic inflation underwent changes in the 1980s, just in time for the ramp up to "free trade" (NAFTA/GATT). Unemployment rate calculations have also been "adjusted", making the official rate less than they would be otherwise. Mrs. Yellen of the Fed Reserve, in a recent news story, indicates the current tabulation measures are inadequate. She has proposed a change in how unemployment rates are calculated, and acknowledges that the current rate of unemployment, at just over 6 percent, is derived mostly from labor participants dropping out of the market. Of working-age adults in the US, the article stated little more than HALF — just 63 percent of Americans participate in the labor market.  

Don't make the mistake of thinking inflation has failed and will fail to materialize. For we in the US inflation may be a "slow burn" — akin to a frog boiling to death in a pot — but the results of US monetary policy have been felt around the world. Do some study into the matter, and you will find that one of the precipitating yet under-reported factors in various protests and uprisings around the world share in common not only a desire for "freedom" but more basic things such as jobs and affordable food/living costs. Likewise, the migration away from the dollar as world reserve currency seems all but inevitable for much the same reason.

For now, much of the economic pain of inflation/dollar devaluation is exported. Closer to home, much of the pain is obscured by the formulas currently used to track inflation and employment data — they're misleading to put it mildly. Energy costs — recall the sky-high gasoline prices and the sky-high propane costs this Winter across the midwest? — are just one such example. Even though none of us can avoid paying it, the cost of energy is not included in today's inflationary stats. For those who doubt the US dollar has been undermined, a visit to the website Shadow Stats will blow off the blinders. Don't rely on the mainstream media to tell you whether inflation is a reality or not; calculators are readily available online that depict just how little a dollar stretches using today's devalued dollar compared to that of years past. Or hadn't you noticed with respect to your own finances?

1 year, 1 month ago on Conversation @


Without a doubt there are historical differences between Democrats and Republicans. "Follow the money" is more reflective of the times, however. Until campaign finance is reformed and the revolving door between private-sector profiteering and legislative power is shut, the system will play both sides against the middle. (And guess who the middle are?) The dog-and-pony show that is modern politics is more act — for public consumption — than behind-the-door reality. To get elected and stay elected politicians from both sides of the isle can and do get in bed with special interests. Lobbyists, conversely, may run for office. 

Whether the subject is deregulation, blocking clear labeling of GM food products or the refusal to enforce anti-trust laws — ensuring the survival of "too big to fail" — both political parties have failed if not refused to make serious inroads on behalf of their constituents. The dictionary definition of fascism is the merger of public and private enterprise, and hence we have a self-reinforcing system of private-public partnerships. 

As I see it, the American political system would be better served by a "choose your team" approach. Rather than term limits, what if after a certain number of years in public office one were legally barred — for ethical reasons — from sitting on boards, consulting or otherwise being employed by an industry that heavily lobbied you during your years of "public service"? If you knew such laws existed going into office wouldn't that make you think twice about getting too cozy with your campaign donors vs. one's constituents? Well, a firewall of sorts would be the point!

If we were to move to public financing of campaigns, we might see less of the "pay to play" mindset. Whatever the means, if we could shut the revolving door that encourages politicians to scratch the backs of the vote buyers (campaign donors), political-hopefuls would be forced to either get in and move out of office — if they wish to return to the private sector — or stay in office with renewed focus on the public interest. The name of the game needs to be "choose your team" — not the musical chairs arrangement that currently muddies loyalties and drowns out the voice of the other 99 percent.

1 year, 1 month ago on Conversation @


Look closely on the close-up; the red shoe would appear to be plastic (the "grain" is too uniform)! If you own a pair that you presume to be leather, try to find a composition label on the inside of the shoe. If it doesn't say what it is made out of, like most interior labels do, that is because some of the shoes are going to be leather, some vinyl and some a mix. If you happen to order online and get a box that hasn't been sitting on a retail shelf, the tale-tale indicator will be a small sticker with a bar code and an even tinier print that says "manmade upper".


I have no idea why Reebok is doing this but recently I found their classic leather shoe lines in local stores that were all over the map in terms of materials. One shoebox of Classic "Leather" Princess Aerobic shoes even had a plastic shoe that was paired alongside the leather! Genuine "garment leather" dimples, crinkles and smells like a leather "skin" whereas the simulated variety has a strong odor of plastic. On similar styles as the Princess or "Ice Pack" pictured above, the "leather" shoes that are supposed to have soft toe-boxes tend to look slightly irregular or imperfect due to the natural leather characteristics (you may also see some crinkling or wavy appearance on the side). The vinyl versions, by contrast, always look 100 percent smooth and lay flat. You can scratch or tap on the toe of the shoe and the leather will also sound different than the plastic. It's not that Reebok can't make a plastic shoe but they have a legal obligation (Federal Trade Commission) "disclosure of composition" that they're not meeting when they substitute out materials at random without changing the style ID number, the web descriptions or the price to reflect those design changes. Buyer beware!

2 years, 8 months ago on Reebok Classics ‘Ice Pack’


This voter is sick of the same old Republican and Democrat made-for-TV presidential picks. When voted into office, such candidates perpetuate similar economic policies and foreign policy actions. They uniformly encroach on our liberties because technology has made it too easy to resist.

If you aren't in favor of Ron Paul the next most principled candidate we've seen in recent years is Ralph Nader. Such candidates have been derided for splitting the ticket. And yet, this isn't high school. We shouldn't be lining our votes up according to a prom king/queen "pretty face" criteria. Californians elected a governor with no relevant experience because we were enamored with celebrity. Result? Voters got exactly what we paid for --- a dearth of satisfactory results. Similarly, we’ve taken the nation’s most difficult job --- the presidency --- and offered it to relative neophytes. Have we learned our lesson yet?

If you have the wherewithal to recognize a public figure who won't flip flop his/her way through office, VOTE FOR THAT CANDIDATE!

The nation elected President Obama for "change" but we didn't get much to speak of. Standing for what you believe is incredibly difficult in the beltway. There are simply too many special interests who will court you and your vote for a campaign donation.

Until we reform the way campaigns are financed we will continue to obtain more of the same.

If you feel that Nader or Paul were too radical, think about the cost of hiring, again, some lesser-principled individual to sit in the Oval Office. With the check-and-balance that is the Congress, Senate and Judiciary, I believe that anyone who occupies the Oval Office faces an uphill battle to generate even modest change. That's why we need to start off by electing someone who is known for being more consistent in their views and votes to begin with! What may strike voters as a "radical over-correction" is not what it seems: We need someone who really has rock-solid principles in order to keep some semblance of those campaign promises upon entering office. If we don't start off with a candidate who offers real change, we will achieve none whatsoever. Brace yourself for more joblessness, more wars, more of the same deficit spending!

Voting for the media's most oft-repeated name has brought us to where we are today. When voters don't set their own agenda, the media sets the front-runners by proxy depending on the level of press coverage. The solution: 1) don't hire the same type of president and expect different results [the definition of insanity], 2) stop allowing the media to dictate your perception of who can win.

Liberal and conservative voters need to internalize the same message: THINK FOR YOURSELF.

Take back your power. Take back your vote. Take back our country.

3 years, 6 months ago on Ron Paul the Radical?