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The 4 Pillars of Poverty

The 4 Pillars of Poverty.

Marc Faber

Posted Feb 5, 2014.

Ithink it is remarkable that, despite the growth the US has enjoyed since the 1960s, the poverty rate has barely changed. Writing for the Wall Street Journal last month under the title “How the War on Poverty Was Lost”, Robert Rector notes that: “Fifty years and $20 trillion later, LBJ’s goal to help the poor become self-supporting has failed.” He writes further:

On Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to announce an ambitious government undertaking. “This administration today, here and now,” he thundered, “declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”

Fifty years later, we’re losing that war. Fifteen percent of Americans still live in poverty, according to the official census poverty report for 2012, unchanged since the mid-1960s. Liberals argue that we aren’t spending enough money on poverty-fighting programs, but that’s not the problem. In reality, we’re losing the war on poverty because we have forgotten the original goal, as LBJ stated it half a century ago: “to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities.”

…LBJ promised that the war on poverty would be an “investment” that would “return its cost manifold to the entire economy.” But the country has invested $20.7 trillion in 2011 dollars over the past 50 years. What does America have to show for its investment? Apparently, almost nothing: The official poverty rate persists with little improvement.

My impression is that there are far more “poor” people today as a percentage of the population than there were in the 1960s, because lower middle-class and middle-class people have moved into the ranks of the poor. (Since 2007, the bottom 50% by wealth percentile lost more than 40% of their net worth and their debts are up 16%.) This may be a factor that explains the still muted consumer confidence at a time when stock investors’ sentiment is at its highest level since 1987.

In my opinion, the increase in poverty rests on four pillars: cultural and social factors, educational issues, excessive debt, and government handouts, which encourage people not to work. Other factors include: international competition, which keeps wages down; and monetary policies, which create bubbles and impoverish the majority.

As an example, social factors and government handouts led to a sharp increase in out-of-wedlock births. In the 1960s in the US, out-of-wedlock births comprised only 5.3% of total births; in 1980, 18.4%; and today, over 40%. Babies born out of wedlock are likely to have fewer educational opportunities than those raised in two-parent families.

This is one reason; educational standards have also slipped – certainly relative to the rest of the world – due to poor policies. Of course, by far the worst cause of rising poverty rates is monetary policies that have encouraged credit growth, enslaving poor people with debts and financing an increase in entitlement programs by the government.

According to Rector, “The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services to poor and low-income Americans. Government spent $916 billion on these programs in 2012 alone, and roughly 100 million Americans received aid from at least one of them, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. (That figure doesn’t include Social Security or Medicare benefits.) Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964. If converted to cash, current means tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all official poverty in the U.S.”

It is no wonder, therefore, that with these generous social programs, largely financed now by the Fed, single women have been encouraged to have babies without the “inconvenience” of having a husband.

The problem, however, as I mentioned above, is that (again according to Rector) the Heritage Foundation has found in a study that “children raised in the growing number of single-parent homes are four times more likely to be living in poverty than children reared by married parents of the same education level. Children who grow up without a father in the home are also more likely to suffer from a broad array of social and behavioral problems. The consequences continue into adulthood: Children raised by single parents are three times more likely to end up in jail and 50% more likely to be poor as adults.”

Now, I realise that it would be unfair to place the entire blame on the Fed for the failure of entitlement programs. However, the Fed and other central banks around the world have been enablers of Big Government and poor economic policies. As John Taylor (a professor of economics at Stanford University, and one of the few economists who appears to be sane) opined in the Wall Street Journal about the various secular stagnation hypotheses:

In the current era, business firms have continued to be reluctant to invest and hire, and the ratio of investment to GDP is still below normal. That is most likely explained by policy uncertainty, increased regulation, including through the Dodd Frank and Affordable Care Act, about which there is plenty of evidence, especially in comparison with the secular stagnation hypothesis.

I suppose the emergence of the secular stagnation hypothesis shouldn’t be surprising. As long as there is a demand to pin the failure of bad government policies on the market system or exogenous factors, there will be a supply of theories. The danger is that this leads to more bad government policy [emphasis added]

Tax Law Measured in Pages of Law

Concerning increased regulation it is clear that “Big Business” loves increased regulation. Take, as an example, the increasingly complex tax laws (click the chart to enlarge). Large corporations can hire an army of accountants, lawyers, tax consultants, and lobbyists in order to reduce their tax burden. But, what about the small business owner?

He is at the mercy of some tax collector who can waste his time endlessly with repeated audits. The same goes for other regulatory requirements, which lead to less competition and favour large business groups.

Many of my friends who own independent small money management firms are being forced to close down their businesses, merge, or sell to larger financial institutions because of increased regulation. The more regulation there is, the more likely it becomes an inhibiting factor for innovation.

Furthermore, I am certain that the secular stagnation hypothesis is another attempt by the government to justify more interventions with fiscal and monetary policies into the free market.

The question is, of course, who are the governments? Will Durant opined in The Age of Louis XIV that the “men who can manage men manage the men who can only manage things, and the men who can manage money manage all”. In Lessons of History, he wrote:

…the bankers, watching the trends in agriculture, industry, and trade, inviting and directing the flow of capital, putting our money doubly and trebly to work, controlling loans and interest and enterprise, running great risks to make great gains, rise to the top of the economic pyramid.

From the Medici of Florence and the Fuggers of Augsburg to the Rothschilds of Paris and London and the Morgans of New York, bankers have sat in councils of governments, financing wars and popes, and occasionally sparking a revolution. Perhaps it is one secret of their power that, having studied the fluctuations of prices, they know that history is inflationary, and that money is the last thing a wise man will hoard [emphasis added].

I suppose that one solace for poor people, in view of this rather sobering fact, may be these words of Frank McKinney Hubbard:

“It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed.”


Marc Faber
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Not discounting the point Mr. Faber is trying to make with this final thought, even if wealth can’t bring you happiness, it can – at the very least – help offer a little piece of mind to those in search of happiness. And that’s why we write the Daily Reckoning – to try to help you live a wealthier, healthier, and happier life than you could ever imagine. And it doesn’t take much. The Daily Reckoning offers you regular chances to discover some of the world’s most lucrative and overlooked investment plays. And it is completely FREE. So you’ve got nothing to lose by signing up. Click here now to see what all the buzz is about.

How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org

How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org.

How Junk Economists Help The Rich Impoverish The Working Class

Paul Craig Roberts

Last week, I explained how economists and policymakers destroyed our economy for the sake of short-term corporate profits from jobs offshoring and financial deregulation.

That same week Business Week published an article, “Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It,” by Charles Kenny. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-23/manufacturing-jobs-may-not-be-cure-for-unemployment-inequality Kenny expresses the view of establishment economists, such as Brookings Institute economist Justin Wolfers who wants to know “What’s with the political fetish for manufacturing? Are factories really so awesome?”

“Not really,” Kenny says. Citing Eric Fisher of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Kenny reports that wages rise most rapidly in those states that most quickly abandon manufacturing. Kenny cites Gary Hufbauer, once an academic colleague of mine now at the Peterson Institute, who claims that the 2009 tariffs applied to Chinese tire imports cost US consumers $1 billion in higher prices and 3,731 lost retail jobs. Note the precision of the jobs loss, right down to the last 31.

In support of the argument that Americans are better off without manufacturing jobs, Kenny cites MIT and Harvard academic economists to the effect that there is no evidence that manufacturing tends to cluster, thus disputing the view that there are economies from manufacturers tending to congregate in the same areas where they benefit from an experienced work force and established supply chains.

Perhaps the MIT and Harvard economists did their study after US manufacturing centers became shells of their former selves and Detroit lost 25% of its population, Gary Indiana lost 22% of its population, Flint Michigan lost 18% of its population, Cleveland lost 17% of its population, and St Louis lost 20% of its population. If the economists’ studies were done after manufacturing had departed, they would not find manufacturing concentrated in locations where it formerly flourished. MIT and Harvard economists might find this an idea too large to comprehend.

Kenny’s answer to the displaced manufacturing workers is–you guessed it–jobs training. He cites MIT economist David Autor who thinks the problem is the federal government only spends $1 on retraining for every $400 that it spends on supporting displaced workers.

These arguments are so absurd as to be mindless. Let’s examine them. What jobs are the displaced manufacturing workers to be trained for? Why, service jobs, of course. Kenny actually thinks that “service industries–hotels, hospitals, media, and accounting–have taken up the slack.” (I don’t know where he gets media and accounting from; scant sign of such jobs are found in the payroll jobs reports.) Moreover, service jobs have certainly not taken up the slack as the rising rate of long-term unemployment and declining labor force participation rate prove.

Nontradable service sector jobs such as hotel maids, hospital orderlies, retail clerks, waitresses and bartenders are low productivity, low value-added jobs that cannot pay incomes comparable to manufacturing jobs. The long term decline in real median family income relates to the movement offshore of manufacturing jobs and tradable professional service jobs, such as software engineering, IT, research and design.

Moreover, domestic service jobs do not produce exportable goods and services. A country without manufactures has little with which to earn foreign exchange in order to pay for its imports of its shoes, clothing, manufactured goods, high-technology products, Apple computers, and increasingly food. Therefore, that country’s trade deficit widens as each year it owes more and more to foreigners.

A country whose best known products are fraudulent and toxic financial instruments and GMO foods that no one wants cannot pay for its imports except by signing over its existing assets. The foreigners buy up US assets with their trade surpluses. Consequently, income from rents, interest, dividends, capital gains, and profits leave US pockets for foreign pockets. It is a safe bet that Hufbauer did not include any of these costs, or maybe even the loss of US tire workers’ wages and tire manufacturers’ profits, when he concluded that trying to save US tire manufacturing jobs cost more than it was worth.

Eric Fisher’s argument that the highest wage growth is found in areas where higher productivity manufacturing jobs are most rapidly replaced with lower productivity domestic service jobs is beyond absurd. (Possibly Fisher did not say this; I’m taking Kenny’s word for it.) It has always been a foundation of labor economics that workers are paid the value of their contribution to output. Manufacturing employees working with technology embodied in plant and equipment produce more value per man hour than maids changing sheets and bartenders mixing drinks.

In my book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism And Economic Dissolution Of The West (2013), I point out the obvious mistakes in “studies” by Matthew Slaughter, a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Harvard professor Michael Porter. These academic economists conclude on the basis of extraordinary errors and ignorance of empirical facts, that jobs offshoring is good for Americans. They were able to reach this conclusion despite the absence of any visibility of this good, and they hold to this absurd conclusion despite the inability of a “recovery” (or lack of one) that is 4.5 years old to get off the ground and get employment back up to where it was six years ago. They hold to their “education is the answer” solution despite the growing percentage of university graduates who cannot find employment.

Michael Hudson is certainly correct to call economists purveyors of “junk economics.” Indeed, I wonder if economists even have junk value. But they are well paid by Wall Street and the offshoring corporations.

What the Brookings Institute’s Justin Wolfers needs to ask himself is: what is the redefinition of economic development? For my lifetime the definition of a developed economy is an industrialized economy. It has always been “the industrialized countries” that occupy the status of “developed economies,” contrasted with “undeveloped countries,” “developing countries,” and “emerging economies.” How is an economy developed if it is shedding its industry and manufacturing? This is the reverse of the development process. Without realizing it, Kenny describes the unravelling of the US economy when he describes the decline of US manufacturing from 28 percent of US GDP in 1953 to 12% in 2012. The US now has the work force of a third world country, with the vast bulk of the population employed in lowly paid domestic services. The US work force no longer looks like the work force of a developed country. It looks like third world India’s work force of three decades ago.

Kenny and junk economists speak of the decline of US manufacturing jobs as if they are not being offshored to countries where labor is cheap but replaced by automation. No doubt there has been automation, and more ways of replacing humans with machines will be found. But if manufacturing jobs are things of the past, why is China’s sudden and rapid rise to economic power accompanied by 100 million manufacturing jobs? Apple computers are not made in China by robots. If robots are making Apple computers, it would be just as cheap to make the computers in the US. The Chinese manufacturing workforce is almost the size of the entire US work force.

US companies employ Americans to market the products that are produced abroad for sale in the US. This is why US corporations employ Americans mainly in service jobs. Foreigners make the goods, and Americans sell them.

Economic development has always been about acquiring the capital, technology, business knowledge, and trained workforce to make valuable things that can be sold at home and abroad. US capital and technology are being located abroad, and the trained domestic workforce is disappearing from disuse and abandonment. The US is falling out of the ranks of the industrialized countries and is on the path to becoming an undeveloped economy.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Want to Reduce Income/Wealth Inequality? Abolish the Engine of Inequality, the Federal Reserve

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Want to Reduce Income/Wealth Inequality? Abolish the Engine of Inequality, the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve is the primary obstacle to reducing income/wealth inequality. Those who support the Fed are supporting a neofeudal arrangement that widens the income/wealth gap by its very existence.

The issue of income/wealth inequality is finally moving into the mainstream: which is to say, politicos of every ideological stripe now feel obliged to bleat platitudes and express cardboard “concern” for the plight of the non-millionaires with whom they personally have little contact.

I have addressed the complex causes of rising income/wealth inequality for years.Indeed, my book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It is largely about this very issue.

Here is a selection of the dozens of entries I have written about rising income/wealth inequality.

Income Inequality in the U.S. (August 22, 2008)
Made in U.S.A.: Wealth Inequality (July 15, 2011)
Let’s Pretend Financialization Hasn’t Killed the Economy (March 8, 2012)
Income Disparity and Education (September 26, 2013)
Is America’s Social Contract Broken? (July 17, 2013)
Rising Inequality and Poverty: Can They Be Fixed? (August 15, 2013)
How Cheap Credit Fuels Income/Wealth Inequality (May 30, 2013)
Why Is Debt the Source of Income Inequality and Serfdom? It’s the Interest, Baby(November 27, 2013)

While many key drivers of declining income are structural and not “fixable” with conventional policies (globalization of labor and the “end of work” replacement of human labor by robots, automation and software, to name the two most important ones), the financial policies that create wealth/income inequality are made right here in the U.S.A. by the Federal Reserve.

We should start addressing wealth/income inequality by eliminating the primary source of wealth/income inequality in the U.S.: the Federal Reserve.

The Fed generates wealth/income inequality in three basic ways:

1. Zero-interest rates (ZIRP) and limitless liquidity creates cheap credit that enables the super-wealthy to buy rentier income streams that increase their wealth.

The closer one is to this gargantuan flood of “free money for cronies,” the wealthier one can become by borrowing from the Fed for near-zero and buying assets that yield returns well above zero. If your speculative bet goes bad, the Fed will bail you out.

2. Zero-interest rates (ZIRP) and limitless liquidity feeds financialization, broadly speaking, the commoditization of debt and debt instruments. The process of commoditizing (securitizing) every loan or debt greatly increases the income and wealth of the financial sector and the state (government), which reaps higher taxes from skyrocketing financial profits, bubbles and rising asset values (love those higher property taxes, baby!).

There is no persuasive evidence that cheap credit enables legitimate wealth creation, while there is abundant evidence that cheap credit fuels speculation, credit bubbles and a variety of financier schemes and scams that create temporary phantom wealth for crony capitalists and impoverishes everyone who wasn’t in on the scam.

The housing bubble was not just a credit bubble; it was a credit bubble enabled by the securitization/financialization of the primary household asset, the home.Those closest to the Fed-enabled flow of credit reaped the gains of this financialization (or were subsequently bailed out by the Fed after the bubble burst), while the households that believed the Fed’s shuck-and-jive (“There is no bubble”) suffered losses when the bubble popped.

This chart of income inequality depicts the correlation between the Fed’s easy-money credit expansion and the extraordinary increase in income inequality.Please note the causal relation between income and wealth; though it is certainly possible to squander one’s entire income, those households with large incomes tend to acquire financial wealth. Those with access to cheap credit are able to buy income-producing assets that add to their wealth.

Financialization is most readily manifested in the FIRE sectors: finance, insurance, real estate.

You can see the results of financialization in financial profits, which soared in the era of securitization, shadow banking, asset bubbles and loosened or ignored regulation:

Here’s how cheap, abundant credit–supposedly the key engine of growth, according to the Federal Reserve–massively increases wealth inequality: the wealthy have much greater access to credit than the non-wealthy, and they use this vastly greater credit to buy productive assets that generate income streams that increase their income and wealth.

As their income and wealth increase, their debt loads decline.

The family home is supposed to be a store of wealth, but the financialization of housing and changing demographics have mooted that traditional assumption; the home may rise in yet another bubble or crash in another bubble bust. It is no longer a safe store of value, it is a debt-based gamble that is very easy to lose.

Credit has rendered even the upper-income middle class family debt-serfs, while credit has greatly increased the opportunities for the wealthy to buy rentier income streams. Credit used to purchase unproductive consumption creates debt-serfdom; credit used to buy rentier assets adds to wealth and income. Unfortunately the average household does not have access to the credit required to buy productive assets; only the wealthy possess that perquisite.

The Fed’s Solution to Income Stagnation: Make Everyone a Speculator (January 24, 2014)

As a direct result of Fed policy, the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer.

3. But that isn’t the end of the destructive consequences of Fed policy: the Federal Reserve has also created a neofeudal society in which debt enslaves the masses and enriches the financial Elites.

Put another way, not all wealth is created equally. Compare Steve Jobs, who became a billionaire by developing and selling “insanely great” mass-market technologies that people willingly buy because it enhances their lives, with a crony-capitalist who reaps billions in profits from risky carry trades funded by the Fed’s free-money-for-cronies policy or by selling phantom assets (mortgages, for example) to the Fed at a price far above market value.

Clearly, there is a distinction between those two fortunes: one created value, employment for thousands of people, and tremendous technological leverage for millions of ordinary people. The other enriched a handful of financiers. This financial wealth could not be conjured into existence and skimmed by Elites without the Federal Reserve.

This Fed-enabled financial wealth destroys democracy and free markets when it buys the machinery of governance. To the best of my knowledge, Jobs spent little of his time or wealth lobbying Big Government for favors, special laws eliminating competitors with regulatory hurdles, etc.

Compare that to the millions spent by the “too big to fail” banking industry to buy Congressional approval of their cartel’s grip on the nation’s throat: Buying Off Washington To Kill Financial “Reform”.

Much of the debate about wealth inequality focuses on whether the super-wealthy are “paying their fair share” of the nation’s taxes. If we refer to the point above, we see that as long as the super-wealthy can buy the machinery of governance, then they will never allow themselves to be taxed like regular tax donkeys.

Unfortunately, only the top 1/10th of 1% can “afford” this kind of Fed-funded “democracy.” As of 2007, the bottom 80% of American households held a mere 7% of these financial assets, while the top 1% held 42.7%, the top 5% holds 72% and the top 10% held fully 83%.

The income of the top 5% soared during Fed-enabled credit bubbles:

Since all these distortions originate from the Fed, the only solution is to abolish the Fed. Those who have absorbed the ceaseless propaganda believe that an economy needs a central bank to create money and manage interest rates.

This is simply wrong. The U.S. Treasury (a branch of government actually described by the Constitution, unlike the Fed) could print money just as it borrows money. Should a liquidity crisis squeeze rates higher, the Treasury has the means to create liquidity and make it available to the legitimate financial system.

All the Fed’s regulatory powers were power-grabbed from legitimate government agencies defined by the Constitution.

The Federal Reserve is the primary engine of income/wealth inequality in the U.S.Eliminate “free money for cronies,” bailouts of the “too big to fail” banks that own the Fed, manipulation of markets, the purchase of impaired private assets at high prices, and all the other tools of financialization the Fed wields to enforce its grip on the nation’s throat–in other words, abolish the Fed–and the neofeudal structure that feeds inequality will vanish along with the feudal lords that enforced it.

We don’t need to “fix” things as much as remove the obstacles that are blocking the way forward. The Federal Reserve is the primary obstacle to reducing income/wealth inequality. Those who support the Fed are supporting a neofeudal arrangement that widens the income/wealth gap by its very existence.

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): This Graceless Age…

Ponzi World (Over 3 Billion NOT Served): This Graceless Age….

This Graceless Age…

Leaves nothing left to believe in, beyond its demise.

The consumption-oriented lifestyle could in no way scale across 7 billion people, so this was always a zero sum game between haves and have nots.

Global policy-makers saved the globalized ponzi scheme from itself in 2008. Now having squandered all resources, the odds that they can save it again are somewhere between zero and impossible. The first melt-down to weaken the model. This next one to kill it, for good…

The New Rome
Worthless political thought dealers. Vacuous media buffoons. Country club CEOs hell bent on liquidating their own country. Wall Street greed idolators. Self-important billionaires sprinkling their Central Bank-inflated wealth on the indolent masses. Hollywood’s fake gods and goddesses saving the world one comic book remake at a time. Steroid-bloated millionaire athletes pimping factory slave made sneakers to poverty-stricken inner city youth at $150 a pair. Testosterone-depleted boy-men running around like refugees, incapable of anything beyond their own immediate self-gratification. Idiocratic masses, stewing in a lethal cauldron of junk food and junk culture – too stoned to realize how stoned they are.

Life Without SUVs: Inconceivable
Third grade math indicates that the consumption-oriented lifestyle is in no way scalable across 7 billion people. In the U.S. alone, 5% of the world’s population consume 20% of global resources. It’s a tale of moral and intellectual bankruptcy that today’s thought dealers would allow so much legacy industrial assets to be liquidated just to propagate the fundamentally unsustainable for a few years longer. Despite doubling 229 years worth of national debt in just the past 7 years, today’s dumbfucked leaders, clueless academics, and the Idiocracy at large just can’t face the idea that their overriding mission to consume this planet, is now ending.
Anyone who reads this after-the-collapse, must come to terms with the fact that they were financially bludgeoned merely because they took all of the above decadence for granted – “business as usual”. And the fact that they were incapable of third grade math or otherwise had their heads buried straight up their own ass. Even at this late stage, the vast majority are totally bought in to the status quo and its inherent exploitation-based mentality. It’s totally unquestioned. 

What to tell the grandchildren? 
“Yeah, we thought it was odd – trying to borrow our way out of a debt crisis. And we really felt bad about bankrupting your generation, but those shopping sprees were fantastic. Personally, I was skeptical trusting the same morons with the global financial system after they crashed it in 2008, but then Bernanke gave them a free bailout and a lot more gambling money, so they seemed happy. I was really taken aback when the Chinese stopped lending us their money – after all, we’d been paying them $.10 on the dollar in wages. Totally ungrateful. Overall though, I’ll be honest, I was too busy watching the Dow, the NFL and Faux News, so I really had no clue what the hell was going on in the real world…”.
Losing My Religion

And now, we just learned, 400 Priests defrocked by the Pope over a two year period, for child molestation. A thousand plus years of shameful secrets disgorged in one exhale. Do we really believe that this is all a modern problem? That this legacy of sexual abuse has not been secretly propagated for centuries? Of course not. Suffice to say, This is a bad time to be left faithless, going into what will very likely be the most deadly period in human history. 

The New Dark Ages
Christianity was conceived (literally) near the height of the Roman Empire. This nascent religion challenged the Roman ideals of the time and was violently repressed. Over hundreds of years, Christianity spread quietly and unobtrusively until it became the de facto religion of the late stage Roman Empire, by then removed to Constantinople. And when that Empire collapsed into the Dark Ages, and was eviscerated by barbarians – Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns etc., it was the Christian Church – the Holy Roman Empire that maintained order during the darkest depths of those Dark Ages. It was a time when people actually lived according to the central tenets of Christianity – quiet piety and self-less altruism – as opposed to counting their hours spent in church only to recycle their guilt for another week of Ayn Rand-worthy exploitation.
Does anyone honestly believe that today’s crippled church(es), riddled with their own corruption, will provide stability in the days to come? Will the masses turn to the dominant religions of today i.e. the ones who turned a blind eye to all of today’s iniquities and madness? Will the church have any moral authority left to play such a role? Will credit card collecting Televangelists become our new beacons of hope? With their perma-smiling sociopathic charisma which would be selling used cars if it wasn’t selling religion? Highly doubtful. As we all know, Profit Killed that Prophet a long time ago.
Barbarians At the Gate: Medieval Taliban
The Taliban have essentially rolled back their Islamic beliefs to the Middle Ages. They are ahead of the curve. No one would want to live that way, but it’s working for them. They have an ideology they can cling to and that is gathering adherents constantly. One can argue that the various radicalized Islamic factions, left to their own devices will eventually annihilate each other, and we can only hope so. However, more than likely at least a couple of these factions will arise intact and stronger than ever. Granted, predictions of this sort are no more than mere parlour games, however, it seems clear that the Taliban have been preparing for the decline of the current world order and are prepared across multiple dimensions. Back in 2001 right after 9/11, B-52s carpet bombed the Taliban in Afghanistan for over a month straight. I know, because they flew over my house every night at 1 am. It sounded like the end of the world – on their way to Diego Garcia for the hop to Tora Bora. After that, we all thought the Taliban were ancient history. Now they’re running around like they never left the place. Unbelievable.
I’ve noticed a nascent increase in references to Marxism recently. It’s not showing up in Google Trends yet, but it will, on the other side of the reset. As we see below, there was a spike in search relevance for this term during 2008 and we can expect a much larger sustained spike in interest in the days to come.
Google Trends “Marxism”

Faith In Capitalism
The words faith and capitalism should never be used in the same sentence. That said, after 2008, no surprise, faith in capitalism declined significantly, including here in the U.S. Back in 2010, only 59% of Americans felt that “free markets” were the best system for the world economy. That was down from 80% in 2002. Meanwhile, all of these types of polls show that high income earners generally evince strong faith in capitalism while low income earners evince low faith in capitalism. Go figure. In 2010 only 44% of low income Americans had faith in the system.
Put that above dichotomy in the context of Mitt Romney’s mythical 47%. Vulture capitalists laid off half of the country and then scorned people for not being able to find jobs. If that “dependency” figure is 47% now, what does that portend on the other side of the reset? Elitists call this impending scenario, the “tyranny of the masses”. i.e. wherein the majority vote for a system that is in theirbest interests for a change, rather than in the best interests of billionaires who sold their country to foreign interests. If rule by majority is “tyranny of the masses”, then surely the current system is tyranny of the jackasses.
Which gets me to my point. If, as die-hard Libertarians tell us constantly – this current system, attendant with outsized profit margins, record billionaires, and minimalistic labour protections is NOT in fact true capitalism i.e. if this is not Ayn Rand’s wet dream (even though it is). Then it seems that the burden of proof is on today’s apologists to invent a better version pronto, while there is still time and (albeit minimal) credibility left. Because on the other side of the “reset” that line above is going to spike upwards in direct inverse correlation to the Dow. And at that point in time, no one is going to give a flying fuck what today’s apologists for capitalism have to say about their model.In A Real Economy Supply Is Demand
I highly doubt that the U.S. would ever turn full blown communist – let’s face it, today’s phony Obama-socialism is nothing more than foodstamp-based riot control while billionaires complete the estate sale. Those Americans who honestly think that the U.S. is on the verge of socialism, need to take their first-ever trip outside of the U.S. and get some fucking perspective. That said, there are several well known countries where opinions are turning decidedly against capitalism, not the least of which is Japan. Suffice to say, the age of Sociopathic Corporations run by sociopathic frat boys is coming to its inevitable bad ending.

Life After Extend and Pretend
What difference can one man make in all of this madness? I’ve met enough good people in my lifetime to know that they are out there. They are just few and far between. Therefore the hope is that the impending “reset” bludgeons today’s amoral self-absorbed jackasses and their dumbfuck ideas into abject oblivion, all while keeping enough of decent humanity still intact to rebuild upon. 

I realize that’s a stretch, but it’s all I’ve got…

P.S. Scroll down. My new blog background reflects the end of a graceless age and the (eventual) promise of a new and better one. Not the end. The beginning. 

Or it might just be the stronger Prozac. Who knows?

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world | Business | theguardian.com

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world | Business | theguardian.com.

The InterContinental Davos luxury hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos

The InterContinental Davos luxury hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. Oxfam report found people in countries around the world believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS

The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called ‘global elite’ is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

Working for the Few - Oxfam reportSource: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, (2013) ‘The World Top Incomes Database’, http://topincomes.g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/ Only includes countries with data in 1980 and later than 2008. Photograph: OxfamThe wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions.

It’s a chilling reminder of the depths of wealth inequality as political leaders and top business people head to the snowy peaks of Davos for this week’s World Economic Forum. Few, if any, will be arriving on anything as common as a bus, with private jets and helicoptors pressed into service as many of the world’s most powerful people convene to discuss the state of the global economy over four hectic days of meetings, seminars and parties in the exclusive ski resort.

Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

In the report, entitled Working For The Few (summary here), Oxfam warned that the fight against poverty cannot be won until wealth inequality has been tackled.

“Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima said.

Oxfam called on attendees at this week’s World Economic Forum to take a personal pledge to tackle the problem by refraining from dodging taxes or using their wealth to seek political favours.

As well as being morally dubious, economic inequality can also exacerbate other social problems such as gender inequality, Oxfam warned. Davos itself is also struggling in this area, with the number of female delegates actually dropping from 17% in 2013 to 15% this year.

How richest use their wealth to capture opportunites

Polling for Oxfam’s report found people in countries around the world – including two-thirds of those questioned in Britain – believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.

Byanyima explained:

“In developed and developing countries alike we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

Working for the Few - Oxfam reportSource: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, (2013) ‘The World Top Incomes Database’, http://topincomes.g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/ Only includes countries with data in 1980 and later than 2008. Photograph: OxfamThe Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

This “capture of opportunities” by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has led to a situation where 70% of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and 1% of families own 46% of global wealth – almost £70tn.

Opinion polls in Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, the US, UK and Netherlands found that a majority in each country believe that wealthy people exert too much influence. Concern was strongest in Spain, followed by Brazil and India and least marked in the Netherlands.

In the UK, some 67% agreed that “the rich have too much influence over where this country is headed” – 37% saying that they agreed “strongly” with the statement – against just 10% who disagreed, 2% of them strongly.

The WEF’s own Global Risks report recently identified widening income disparities as one of the biggest threats to the world community.

Oxfam is calling on those gathered at WEF to pledge: to support progressive taxation and not dodge their own taxes; refrain from using their wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens; make public all investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners; challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection; demand a living wage in all companies they own or control; and challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.

• Research Now questioned 1,166 adults in the UK for Oxfam between October 1 and 14 2013.

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