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Why The Turkish Government May Be The Casualty Of A $119 Billion PetroDollar “Loophole” | Zero Hedge
It was in October 2012 when we explained how Iran evades the Western blockade (ostensibly with the implicit nod of none other than the US), and when we first defined the concept of PetroGold in the context of the Turkey-Dubai-Iran crude-for-gold triangle. For those who need a quick refresher, here it is:
In recent months there has been a lot of incorrect speculation that because Iran has been shut off from the petrodollar, SWIFT-mediated regime, its economy will implode as the country has no access to the all important greenback and can thus not conduct international trade – the driving factor behind the international sanctions that seek to topple the local government as Iran dies an economic death. And while there have been bouts of substantial inflation, which so far the local government appears to have managed to put a lid on by curbing gray market speculation, Iran continues to more or less operate on its merry ways with international trade most certainly taking place, especially with China, Russia and India as main trading partners. “How is this possible” those who support the Western-led embargo of all Iranian trade will ask? Simple – gold. Because while Iran may have no access to dollars, it has ample access to gold. This in itself is not new – we have reported in the past that Iran has imported substantial amounts of gold from Turkey, despite the Turkish government’s stern denials. Today, courtesy of Reuters, we learn precisely what the 21st century equivalent of the Great Silk Road looks like, and just how effective Iran has been as a lab rat in escaping the great petrodollar experiment, from which conventional wisdom tells us there is no escape. Presenting: petrogold.
One year later, following Iran’s unperturbed ability to exist in a world without US dollars, the blockade of Iran is a thing of the past, and the west has engaged in a full-blown detente with the country, much to the fury of both Israel and Saudi Arabia, in exchange for the symbolic gesture that Iran will limit its nuclear enrichment, lowering and in many cases outright eliminating Iran sanctions, which proved completely futile.
So a happy ending for Iran, if only for now thanks to the fact that despite all the status quo‘s lies gold is and always has been money and can substitute for dollars.
However, one country that has seen better days, whose government may be on the edge of collapse due to an unprecedented corruption scandal precisely for enabling said PetroGold scheme, and which has been in the news on a daily basis recently, is Turkey. As Turkey’s Today’s Zaman explains in “Iran’s Turkish Gold Rush“, the political crisis Turkey finds itself in may be nothing but a consequence of the PetroGold scheme conceived over a year ago, and in which Turkey played a crucial role.
Here is how the Turkey-Dubai-Iran PetroGold triangle, or as the Zaman calls it, “gas for gold“, may soon result in the toppling of yet another government, simply because it showed that existence outside of the clutches of the ‘Petrodollar’ is perfectly possible…
* * *
From Iran’s Turkish Gold Rush, highlights ours:
Turkey’s Islamist government is being rocked by the most sweeping corruption scandal of its tenure. Roughly two dozen figures, including well-connected business tycoons and the sons of top government ministers, have been charged with a wide range of financial crimes. The charges ballooned into a full-blown crisis on Dec. 25 when three ministers implicated in the scandal resigned, with one making a dramatic call for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down as well. An exhausted-looking Erdogan subsequently appeared on television in the evening to announce a cabinet reshuffle that replaced a total of 10 ministers.
The drama surrounding two personalities are particularly eye-popping: Police reportedly discovered shoeboxes containing $4.5 million in the home of Süleyman Aslan, the CEO of state-owned Halkbank, and also arrested Reza Zarrab, an Iranian businessman who primarily deals in the gold trade, and who allegedly oversaw deals worth almost $10 billion last year alone.
The gold trade has long been at the center of controversial financial ties between Halkbank and Iran. Research conducted in May 2013 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Roubini Global Economics revealed the bank exploited a “golden loophole” in the US-led financial sanctions regime designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Here’s how it worked: The Turks exported some $13 billion of gold to Tehran directly, or through the UAE, between March 2012 and July 2013. In return, the Turks received Iranian natural gas and oil. But because sanctions prevented Iran from getting paid in dollars or euros, the Turks allowed Tehran to buy gold with their Turkish lira — and that gold found its way back to Iranian coffers.
This “gas-for-gold” scheme allowed the Iranians to replenish their dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which had been hit hard by the international sanctions placed on their banking system. It was puzzling that Ankara allowed this to continue: The Turks — NATO allies who have assured Washington that they oppose Iran’s military-nuclear program — brazenly conducted these massive gold transactions even after the Obama administration tightened sanctions on Iran’s precious metals trade in July 2012.
Turkey, however, chose to exploit a loophole that technically permitted the transfer of billions of dollars of gold to so-called “private” entities in Iran. Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Ali Reza Bikdeli recently praised Halkbank for its “smart management decisions in recent years [that] have played an important role in Iranian-Turkish relations.” Halkbank insists that its role in these transactions was entirely legal.
The US Congress and President Obama closed this “golden loophole” in January 2013. At the time, the Obama administration could have taken action against state-owned Halkbank, which processed these sanctions-busting transactions, using the sanctions already in place to cut the bank off from the US financial system. Instead, the administration lobbied to make sure the legislation that closed this loophole did not take effect for six months — effectively ensuring that the gold transactions continued apace until July 1. That helped Iran accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime.
In defending its decision not to enforce its own sanctions, the Obama administration insisted that Turkey only transferred gold to private Iranian citizens. The administration argued that, as a result, this wasn’t an explicit violation of its executive order.
It’s possible that the Obama administration didn’t have compelling evidence of the role of the Iranian government in the gold trade. However, the president may have also simply sought to protect his relationship with Ankara and didn’t want to get into a diplomatic spat with Erdogan, who he considers a key regional ally.
If the administration didn’t feel that the sanctions in place at the time were sufficient to take action against Halkbank, after all, it could have easily shut down the gold trade by amending its executive order. But at the time, Turkey was also playing a pivotal role in US policy in Syria, which included efforts to strengthen the more moderate opposition factions fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime.
It’s also possible, however, that the Obama administration’s decision had less to do with Turkey, and more to do with coaxing Iran into signing a nuclear deal. In the one-year period between July 2012, when the executive order was issued, and July 2013, when the “golden loophole” was closed, the Obama administration’s non-enforcement of its own sanctions reportedly provided Iran with $6 billion worth of gold. That windfall may have been an American olive branch to Iran — extended via Turkey — to persuade its leaders to continue backchannel negotiations with the United States, which reportedly began as early as July 2012. It could also have been a significant sweetener to the interim nuclear deal eventually reached at Geneva, which provided Iran with another $7 billion in sanctions relief.
Indeed, why else would the administration have allowed the Turkish gold trade to continue for an extra six months, when Congress made clear its intent to shut it down?
This brings us back to the current corruption drama in Turkey. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been claiming that it is a victim of a vast conspiracy, blaming everyone from Washington to Israel to US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for its woes. Some Turkish media have pointed a finger at David Cohen, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who happened to be in Turkey as the news began to break. Erdogan even raised the possibility of expelling the US ambassador to Ankara, Francis Ricciardone.
But if the charges stand against the panoply of well-connected figures fingered, the AKP will have only itself to blame. While the gas-for-gold scheme may have been technically legal before Congress finally shut it down in July, it appears to have exposed the Turkish political elite to a vast Iranian underworld. According to Today’s Zaman, suspicious transactions between Iran and Turkey could exceed $119 billion — nine times the total of gas-for-gold transactions reported.
Even if the Turkish-Iranian gold trade represents only a small part of the wider corruption probe, the ongoing investigation could provide a window into some nagging questions about the relationship between Ankara and Tehran. Perhaps we will finally learn why the Turkish government allowed Iran to stock up on gold while it was defiantly pursuing its illicit nuclear program — and whether the Obama administration could have done more to prevent it.
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Bottom line: dare to mess with the Petrodollar and the wrath of the US government will hunt you down… sooner or later.
Investors from multi-billion dollar hedge funds to individuals buying as few as 10 properties have acquired more than 1 million homes across the U.S. in the past three years, transforming a mom-and-pop business into one of Wall Street’s hottest investments. As we noted here, Blackstone Group LP alone has acquired more than 40,000 properties in 14 cities to become the largest single-family landlord in the country. As Bloomberg notes, the new landlords are transforming the way Americans live and accumulate wealth. But while Wall Street is becoming America’s largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties… and Detroit.
Chinese investors, the second-biggest overseas buyers of U.S. residential real estate, are building up portfolios of U.S. commercial property as they look for new avenues of diversification.
Chinese entities announced more than $5.89 billion in projects in January-October, nearly six times the $996 million for all of 2011 and 2012 combined, showed data from New York-based consultancy Rhodium Group.
“There is a lot of upside,” said Thilo Hanemann, Rhodium’s research director. “We are at the beginning of a structural increase of Chinese investment in U.S. commercial real estate.”
China’s push into U.S. property is underpinned by declining investment returns at home, a growing desire by wealthy individuals and developers to diversify their holdings overseas, and property companies looking to capitalize on offshore migration.
Chinese nationals bought more than $8.1 billion worth of real estate in the year ended March 31, representing 12 percent of the estimated $68.2 billion of domestic property purchased by overseas nationals
Not everyone is convinced that Chinese investment in the U.S. property market will continue uninterrupted. Other options for expansion include Europe, Australia and Singapore, which account for about two-thirds of offshore Chinese real estate investment, according to Jones Lang Lasalle.
Zhang Xin, the chief executive of SOHO China Ltd, who paid $700 million through her family trust to buy a stake in the General Motors Building in Manhattan, said that while the U.S. regulatory and legal environment remained attractive, valuations were getting expensive.
“I would not feel as comfortable today putting in money as I did a few years ago,” Zhang said.
So reform and liberalization in China sees hot money flowing not just into Bitcoin but now commercial property in America.
While Wall Street becoming America’s largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties… and Detroit.
And so in his valedictory, Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke pulls one last dead rabbit out of his hat — it suffocated while the head-fake taper percolated in Ben’s brain lo these many months of jive talkin’. As the year turns, the central bank will supposedly monetize $10 billion less debt per month — $75 billion down from $85 billion — with $5 billion each deducted from the US Treasury stream and the rotten mortgage barrel. Was there a catch?
You could say that. For instance, what to make of the curious report out of the American Enterprise Institute by John H. Makin saying that the Fed’s actual purchase of debt paper amounted to an average $94 billion a month through the year 2013, not $85 billion? I have averred often in this space to the Fed’s ability to conduct back-door buying operations of all kinds of janky financial crapola — and in a world where claims on promises to pay hugely exceed anyone’s ability to pay or re-pay, there’s as much of it out there as there are plastic grocery bags floating in the horse latitudes of the Pacific Ocean. The Fed can hose up bad paper all the live-long day and apparently get away with mis-reporting what it is doing, and is the country any the worse for it?
At the end of that live-long day the American people are left in a matrix of lies so thick and sticky that all the de-greasing agents supposedly vested in freedom of the press will not avail to liberate them, and they are suspended like little morsels of winged prey to be sucked dry by the descending spiders of crony capital.
Bottom line: the taper so far is just $1 billion shy of being completely fake (so far as anyone knows), a magician’s mis-direction from the real action of the gag, which was removing the previous “threshold” of a 6.5 percent unemployment figure for raising interest rates — in other words, promising ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) forever! That would green light a never-ending continued carry trade (i.e. looting operation) of Too-Big-To-Fail-or-Jail primary dealer banks extracting “free” money from the Fed window for conversion, abracadabra, into, say, student loans at 5 percent, guaranteed to enslave the generation now coming into adult flower. (The catch there being that they might flower into revolutionaries eager to string up such bankers from every lamp post in the Hamptons.)
I know there is a lot of confusion “out there” about what constitutes inflation — is it a so-called “monetary phenomenon” or just shit costing more? — but that’s probably too fine a distinction for “folks” (to use the president’s favorite term) who can’t pay five bucks for a jar of peanut butter. The price of everything except the yellow junk called gold, seems to be shooting up. Pretty soon, they’ll be using that worthless gold to solder the drain pipes on bathroom fixtures out where the housing starts roam.
Which brings us to the interesting question: exactly what mysterious entities have been systematically pounding the price of the yellow stuff down in the PM markets like Tony Soprano’s crew “tuning up” some pathetic vic with thirty-inch lengths of re-bar and a fungo bat? And, per corollary, who are the anonymous agents yanking the equity indexes such as we saw on Wednesday, December 18, when a holy host of stock shorts was magically deployed in anticipation of Ben Bernanke’s taper announcement so as to inspire a short-covering mega-rally when he opened the hole in his beard? What I wonder: if we have so much fabulous surveillance technology, why doesn’t some enterprising nerd team find out who’s behind all these pushing-pullings, yanking-and-crankings? Where is the Snowden of the financial markets who will unmask these actors?
Let’s cut to the chase. You heard it here: not only will the Fed eventually (i.e. soon) fail to taper in any meaningful sense; before this is over they will ramp up the purchases of worthless securities beyond $100 billion a month through every back door and trap door in the infamous Eccles Building, including perhaps Janet Yellen’s dainty fundament. The inflation — whatever that is — will sitting out there waiting behind the Hoover Dam of the Fed’s balance sheet. I wouldn’t want to be in Las Vegas when the first cracks appear on it. Merry Christmas everyone.
The rich continue to grow richer, and as David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) so eloquently explains in this brief clip, this has pushed the Fed into a corner. As the Federal Reserve gets a new chair and decides what to do next, whether to print $85 billion a month more or not, McWilliams examines the heist that is the new normal financialized economy – who gets all the loot and why today’s kidnappers wear Prada. “Wake up,” he blasts, explaining the uncomfortable reality of what happens when financial kidnappers dress up as loyal patriots and extort money in the name of the common good.
“Today’s ransom is the billions of dollars in the form of QE; today’s hostage is the US economy which the kidnappers threaten to kill by a collapse in asset prices if they don’t get more and more free money… and who is paying the ransom… it is the Federal Reserve…
The message from Wall Street – the kidnapper – is: if you don’t give us what we want, we will killl the economy.”
Despite the world of mainstream media pundits proclaiming the US is recovering nicely and that a taper is priced in (and the warning that the 5Y auction gave this morning that it’s not), markets are already reacting violently to the Fed’s decision to announce a small ‘taper’ (and more dovish forward guidance)…
- *FED TAPERS QE TO $75 BLN MONTHLY PACE, STARTING IN JANUARY
- *FED SAYS `FURTHER MEASURED STEPS’ POSSIBLE ON TAPERING
- *FED: EXCEPTIONALLY LOW RATES UNTIL JOBLESS FALLS WELL PAST 6.5%
We now leave it to Ben and his final press conference to explain his decision… and, of course, make sure everyone remembers “QE is for Main Street”, ‘tapering is not tightening’ (despite Jim Bullard telling us it is), and just how effective ‘forward guidance’ is.
Pre-FOMC: S&P Fut 1771 (spiked pre-FOMC), 5Y 1.55%, 10Y 2.875%, VIX 16.5%, Gold $1236 (which was spiking pre-FOMC), EUR 1.376
As a reminder, here are the 4 reasons why the Fed was cornered into tapering… as we have noted numerous times before; the “taper” is all about economic cover for a forced move the Fed has to make:
1. Deficits are shrinking and the Fed has less and less room for its buying
2. Under the surface, various non-mainstream technicalities are breaking in the markets due to the size of the Fed’s position (repo markets, bond specialness, and fail-to-delivers among them).
3. Sentiment is critical; if the public starts to believe (as Kyle Bass warned) that the central bank is monetizing the government’s debt (which it clearly is), then the game accelerates away from them very quickly – and we suspect they fear we are close to that tipping point
4. The rest of the world is not happy. As Canada just noted, the US monetary policy will be discussed at the G-20
Simply put, they were cornered and needed to Taper sooner rather later…
and as Jim Bullard previously noted,
“Financial market reaction to the June and September FOMC meetings provides sharp evidence that changes in the expected pace of asset purchases have conventional monetary policy effects.
Using the pace of purchases as the policy instrument is just as effective as normal monetary policy actions would be in normal times”
Or – in other words:
Tapering Is Tightening
And as BAML noted previously, forward guidance is ineffective as,
…policy makers are finding it harder to convince markets that central bankers have more insight into the future course of the economy and policy than they actually do.Meanwhile, markets are learning that it can be painful to rely too heavily on forward guidance when the risk/reward of being long fixed income is asymmetrical when close to the zero lower bound.
Full Statement redline below:
On January 29, 1845, the New York Evening Mirror published a poem that would go on to be one of the most celebrated narrative poems ever penned. It depicted a tragic romantic’s desperate descent into madness over the loss of his love; and it made its author, Edgar Allan Poe, one of the most feted poets of his time.
The poem was entitled “The Raven,” and its star was an ominous black bird that visits an unnamed narrator who is lamenting the loss of his true love…
So, with the vision firmly planted in your mind’s eye of a man completely out of touch with reality, seeking wisdom from a mysterious talking bird — knowing that there is only one response, no matter the question — Dear Reader, allow me to present to you a chart. It is one I have used before, but its importance is enormous, and it will form the foundation of this week’s discussion (alongside a few others that break it down into its constituent parts).
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (drumroll please) total outstanding credit versus GDP in the United States from 1929 to 2012:
This one chart shows exactly WHY we are where we are, folks.
From the moment Richard Nixon toppled the US dollar from its golden foundation and ushered in the era of pure fiat money (oxymoron though that may be) on August 15, 1971, there has been a ubiquitous and dangerous synonym for “growth”: credit.
The world embarked upon a multi-decade credit-fueled binge and claimed the results as growth.
Floated ever higher on a cushion of credit that has expanded exponentially, as you can see. (The expansion of true growth would have been largely linear — though one can only speculate as to the trajectory of that GDP line had so much credit NOT been extended.) The world has congratulated itself on its “outperformance,” when the truth is that bills have been run up relentlessly, with only the occasional hiccup along the way (each of which has manifested itself as a violent reaction to the over-extension of cheap money).
Folks, rates WILL have to go up again. They cannot stay at zero forever. We all know that. When they DO, because of all the additional debt that has been ladled atop the existing pile, the whole thing will come tumbling down.
All of it.
There is simply no way out, I am afraid. But that is clearly a problem for another day. Right now, everything is fine, so we can all go on pretending it will continue that way.
So now, if you’ll indulge me in a little poetic license (not to mention there being not one but four mysterious strangers in my offering), I give you, “The Maven” (abridged version):
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of financial lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — for the world had sought to borrow
From both friend and foe and neighbour — borrow, borrow, borrow more
For the cheap and easy money which the bankers forth did pour
Shall be paid back nevermore.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered words, “Some More?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the words, “Some More”
Merely this and nothing more.
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped four stately Mavens from the Central Banks of yore;
Not the least obeisance made they; not a minute stopped or stayed they;
But, with air of lord or lady, stood inside my chamber door —
Standing by a mug from Dallas just inside my chamber door —
Stood, and stared, and nothing more.
Then these tired-looking men beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance they wore,
“Though thy faces look unshaven, thou,” I said, “art sure enslaven’d,
Ghastly grim and ancient Mavens wandering from the Nightly shore —
To free money ever after lest the markets pitch and yaw.”
Quoth the Mavens, “Evermore.”
While I marvelled this ungainly bearded man explained so plainly,
Though his answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;
For he cannot help a-printing, brand new currency a-minting
Ever yet was blessed with seeing nothing wrong in doing more
Mortgage bonds upon his balance sheet he’ll place, then markets jaw
With the promise “Evermore.”
“You there” said I, “standing muted — what is there to do aboot it?”
In a heavy accent quoth he — that by God he was quite sure
That more money being printed and, new measures being hinted
At would quell all fear of meltdown and the markets all would soar
Would this mean the printing presses would forever roar?
Quoth the Maven, “Evermore.”
Lastly to the fore there strode a small and bookish man, Kuroda,
Who with glint of eye did warn that he was happy to explore
Measures once thought so outrageous as to never mark the pages
In the history of finance — but those times were days of yore
Drastic printing was required, this was tantamount to war
Quoth the Maven, “Evermore.”
And the Mavens, never blinking, only sitting, only thinking
By the Cowboys mug from Dallas just inside my chamber door;
Really do believe their action has created decent traction,
And that freshly printed money can spew forth for evermore;
But the truth about the ending shall be seen when markets, bending
Shall be lifted — nevermore!
The full must-read Grant Williams letter is below:
Much has been said about the key aspect of the Ponzi scheme behind America’s welfare state (if not enough where it matters as the three living Fed Chairmen currently joke around during the Fed’s shindig on the central bank’s 100th anniversary), namely that all those who have paid in money to entitlements, are entitled to benefit from entitlement distributions in the future. On paper this is absolutely correct, and in an efficient market, without capital allocation distortions this would work (ignoring that a Ponzi scheme, is, by definition, a Ponzi scheme and is reliant on ever greater inflows of money and participants or, as some may call them, suckers). More importantly, this is also fair. Sadly, as recent experiments within the Obama administration and elsewhere, most notably France, when the entire developed world has hit “peak debt” levels, the fairness doctrine no longer works, especially if and when it is enforced upon a destitute population.
Since we don’t live in a paper world, one should be able to quantify the disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots” when it comes to entitlements. This is precisely what Larry Kotlikoff did in August 2013 in “How the millennial generation will pay the price of Washington’s paralysis.” The results, charted, show what JPM’s Michael Cembalest has dubbed, accurately, “generational theft”, or the difference between how much excess some Americans will have received in government benefits (the older ones), compared to how great the funding deficit is for others – mostly young Americans, those who are about to graduated from college with record amounts of student loans (on average) and those yet unborn.
After you graduate, the US will be in the thick of the “generational theft” issue; here’s a heads-up on what this is all about. Generational accounting is an estimate of who benefits from and who pays for government programs. As shown in the first chart, the average person in the generation that turned 65 this year received $327 thousand dollars more in lifetime government benefits than they paid in Federal taxes. On the other hand, children born in the future (e.g., yours) will have a lifetime deficit on this basis of -$421 thousand dollars. If it sounds unfair, it is.
It seems that these days few things are fair. Which is perhaps why the rulers are desperate to do everything in their power to “enforce” their idea of fairness on everyone.
While much has been said about the benefits of Bernanke’s wealth effect to the asset-owning “10%”, just as much has been said about the ever deteriorating plight of the remaining debt-owning 90%, who are forced to resort to labor to provide for their families, and more specifically how their living condition has deteriorated over not only the past five years, since the start of the Fed’s great experiment, but over the past several decades as well. However, in the case of America’s “servant” class, Al Jazeera finds that their plight is now worse than it has been at any time over the past century, going back all the way to 1910!
According to Al Jazeera, “at least one class of American workers is having a much harder time today than a decade ago, than during the Great Depression and than a century ago: servants. The reason for this, surprisingly enough, is outsourcing. Let me explain. Prosperous American families have adopted the same approach to wages for servants as big successful companies, hiring freelance outside contractors for all sorts of functions from child care and handyman chores to gardening and cleaning work to reduce costs. Instead of the live-in servants, who were common in the prosperous households of America before World War II, better off families now outsource the family cook, maid and nanny. It is part of a global problem in developed countries that is getting more attention worldwide than in the U.S.”
The reality is that the modern servant is also known as the minimum-wage burger flipper, whose recent weeks have been spent in valiant, if very much futile, strikes in an attempt to increase the minimum wage their are paid. Futile, because recall that in its first “national hiring day” McDonalds hired 62,000 workers…. and turned down 938,000! Such is the sad reality of the unskilled modern day worker at the bottom the labor pyramid.
Unfortunately, we anticipate many more strikes in the future of America’s disenfranchised poorest, especially once they realize that their conditions are worse even than compared to live in servants from the turn of the century.
Al Jazeera crunches the numbers:
Consider the family cook. Many family cooks now work at family restaurants and fast food joints. This means that instead of having to meet a weekly payroll, families can hire a cook only as needed.
A household cook typically earned $10 a week in 1910, century-old books on the etiquette of hiring servants show. That is $235 per week in today’s money, while the federal minimum wage for 40 hours now comes to $290 a week.
At first blush that looks like a real raise of $55 a week, or nearly a 25-percent increase in pay. But in fact, the 2013 minimum wage cook is much worse off than the 1910 cook. Here’s why:
- The 1910 cook earned tax-free pay, while 2013 cook pays 7.65 percent of his income in Social Security taxes as well as income taxes on more than a third of his pay, assuming full-time work every week of the year. For a single person, that’s about $29 of that $55 raise deducted for taxes.
- Unless he can walk to work, today’s outsourced family cook must cover commuting costs. A monthly transit pass costs $75 in Los Angeles, $95 in Atlanta and $122 in New York City, so bus fare alone runs $17 to $25 a week, eating up a third to almost half of the seeming increase in pay, making the apparent raise pretty much vanish.
- The 1910 cook got room and board, while the 2013 cook must provide his own living space and food.
More than half of fast food workers are on some form of welfare, labor economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois reported in October after analyzing government economic statistics.
Data on domestic workers is scant because Congress excludes them from both regular data gathering by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and laws giving workers rights to rest periods and collective bargaining.
Nevertheless, what we do know is troubling. These days 60 percent of domestic workers spend half of their income just on housing and a fifth run out of food some time each month.
A German study found that in New York City domestic workers pay ranges broadly, from an illegal $1.43 to $40 an hour, with a quarter of workers earning less than the legal minimum wage. The U.S. median pay for domestic servants was estimated at $10 an hour.
We are falling backwards in America, back to the Gilded Age conditions a century and more ago when a few fortunate souls grew fabulously rich while a quarter of families had to take in paying boarders to make ends meet. Only back then, elites gave their servants a better deal.
Thorstein Veblen, in his classic 1899 book “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” observed that “the need of vicarious leisure, or conspicuous consumption of service, is a dominant incentive to the keeping of servants.” Nowadays, servants are just as important to elites, except that they are conspicuous in their competition to avoid paying servants decent wages.
But… but… how is that possible if the stock market is at all time highs and the wealth is US households just rose by $1.9 trillion in one short quarter. Oh wait, what they meant is “some” households.
And, of course if all else fails, America’s “free” servants, stuck in miserable lives working minimum wage jobs for corporations where the only focus in on shareholder returns and cutting overhead, can volunteer to return to a state of “semi-slavery” (while keeping the iPhones and apps of course, both paid on credit) and become live-in servants for America’s financial oligarchy and the like. We hear the numerous apartments of Wall Street’s CEOs have quite spacious servants’ quarters.
We can only imagine the upward revisions to GDP that will occur due to the largest mal-investment-driven wholesale inventory build in over 2 years. The 1.4% MoM gain is over 4x the expectation and biggest beat since Q4 2011, when – just as now – a mid-year plunge was met by a rabid over-stocking only to see the crumble back into mid 2012. As we noted previously, 56% of economic “growth” this year was inventory accumulation (cough auto channel stuffing cough) and this print merely confirms “hollow growth” continues.
So how does inventory hoarding – that most hollow of “growth” components as it relies on future purchases by a consumer who has increasingly less purchasing power – look like historically? The chart below shows the quarterly change in the revised GDP series broken down by Inventory (yellow) and all other non-Inventory components comprising GDP (blue).
But where the scramble to accumulate inventory in hopes that it will be sold, profitably, sooner or later to buyers either domestic or foreign, is seen most vividly, is in the data from the past 4 quarters, or the trailing year starting in Q3 2012 and ending with the just released revised Q3 2013 number. The result is that of the $534 billion rise in nominal GDP in the past year, a whopping 56% of this is due to nothing else but inventory hoarding.
The problem with inventory hoarding, however, is that at some point it will have to be “unhoarded.” Which is why expect many downward revisions to future GDP as this inventory overhang has to be destocked.
Kyle Bass Warns When “Everyone Is ‘Beggaring Thy Neighbor’… There Will Be Consequences” | Zero Hedge
“There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world,” Kyle Bass tells Steven Drobny in his new book, The New House of Money, adding “It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor.” The Texan remains concerned at QE’s effects on wealth inequality and worries that “at some point this is going to ignite and set cost pressures off.” While Gold-in-JPY is his recommended trade for non-clients, his hugely convex trades on Japan’s eventual collapse remain as he explains the endgame for his thesis, “won’t buy back until JPY is at 350,” and fears “the logical conclusion is war.”
Drobny: You’re on the tape saying that dollar/yen is going to 200.
Bass: If I’m right, it will go much further than that. I don’t think it will hit 500, but in crises, currencies swing too far. They can start discounting 15% or 20% rates out ad infinitum because they are in a full bond crisis. But once they flush the debt and have a reset, you’re not going to have 20% rates ad infinitum. We’ve committed more capital to the currency market, but all of the convexity is in the bond market.
Drobny: Recently we’ve seen the yen move your way and everyone is getting excited about “The Japan Trade” – is this the big move you’ve been looking for?
Bass: No, this is just the beginning. It’s not the real move. The real move happens when it runs away from the authorities and they lose control.
Drobny: At what point do you go the other way and buy Japan?
Bass: When the yen is 350 and they’ve wiped out their debts.
Drobny: Let’s play out your Japan scenario. If the yen goes to 350 and Japanese government bond yields go to 20% and they can no longer finance themselves such that it becomes a financial disaster, what are the implications for the rest of the world?
Bass: Well, policymakers have been changing the rules, which is challenging for macro hedge funds. But that’s the beauty of this situation.
Drobny: What if they decide to just knock a few zeros off the debt?
Bass: In the end, they may be forced to do so.
Drobny: What if they bought the whole debt stock at 1% yield?
Bass: That’s the St. Louis Fed’s school of thought, which contends that countries that have their own central banks can print their own currency and will never fall. For the world’s sake, I wish that were true. For the last 2000 years, it hasn’t been true, and I don’t believe it to be true. If it is true, I’ll lose 150 basis points a year and move on. Our core portfolio will be fine. Still, if it were true, then why even have fiscal policy? We don’t need a fiscal policy if that’s the case – we could just spend the money however we want. Policymakers don’t believe there are consequences to their actions, but the consequences will come. Economic gravity will actually set in.
Drobny: But you don’t suffer the consequences if you are out of office. That’s the next person’s problem.
Bass: The point is that no one will make those difficult decisions unless they’re forced to make them. The politics of all these situations tell me how this is going to play out, and that’s through massive central bank balance sheet expansion and capital controls.
The Fed recently wrote a paper that actually endorsed capital controls if done concurrently with other nations. It’s hard for me to fathom that capital controls can ever be a great idea, but this is what you’re going to see.
We are in a period that will be characterized by enormous cross-border capital flows. How will it play out? Let’s assume that I’m right about Japan. What happens then? Nominal interest rates in the US and Germany go negative. The Pavlovian response is to fly to perceived safety; this is why we’re not betting against US rates. In fact, we’re receiving rates in Europe and Australia right now because some sort of stagflation will play out first, before you start to see the real problems in Japan. If you look at history and try to understand what has created despotic rulers and wiped out populations financially in the past, and what happens next, the logical conclusion is war.
Drobny: Who is the war going to be between?
Bass: I’m not exactly sure, but it seems to me that the aggressor in Asia is China and they don’t get along with Japan.
Post-World War II, Japan has been constitutionally limited, such that they cannot declare war. But current Prime Minister Abe is talking about rewriting the constitution so that they can actually declare war again. That’s not stabilizing for the region. Nationalism is rearing its head as we speak.
A third of the population in Japan is over the age of 60, and a quarter is over the age of 65. To put this into context, in the broader developed world only about 8% of the population is over 65. At a point when these people need the money the most, they could lose 30-40% of their savings, maybe more in terms of purchasing power. The social repercussions bother us more than the financial repercussions because the social fabric of Japan will either be stretched or most likely torn, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Drobny: Besides Japan, what bothers you?
Bass: There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world. Look at currency cross rates. If all central banks are expanding at the same rate, the cross rates aren’t moving, but your purchasing power, in terms of goods and services in the country where you live, is diminishing. You’re not focused on real returns, you’re preoccupied with the cross rates.It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor.
I really worry about the true cost of goods and services, but people are preoccupied by the dollar/euro exchange rate to gauge the relative strength of the European economy. You see this preconditioned response and even macro players say things like, “Oh, buy the Nikkei at week end.” They’re picking up a dime in front of a bulldozer. Japanese industry has been hollowed out. The exchange rate may stop the decline for a certain period of time but it’s a secular decline. The people that own Japanese equities right now are tourists. But this creates opportunities in the marketplace.
Bass On inflation,
When you look at what’s going on from an inflation perspective, central banks have printed about $10 trillion dollars since the beginning of the crisis. The first $4-5 trillion went into re-equitizing heavily leveraged structures and bringing down rates. The second $4-5 trillion is making its way into the monetary base, and even though the multiplier is not working, at some point this is going to ignite and set cost pressures off. Again, it won’t be demand-pull, which is technically a good kind of inflation. Rather, it would result from too much money in the system.
Bass On QE’s effects on wealth inequality,
It will show up in food in the early stages. Global QE is filtering its way into asset prices. Those closest to the proverbial spigot are enjoying the printing the most with most in the middle and lower class not feeling the love at all. All you have to do is look at the gap between median income and mean income growing ever wider. This means the rich are getting richer while the rest stay stagnant or even decline.
Drobny: If you could do only one trade for the next ten years – non-risk-managed…
Bass: Actually, the answer to this one is easy – I would buy gold in yen.