Although our leadership is too polite to say it out loud, they’ve embraced stagnation as the new quasi-official policy. The reason is tragi-comically obvious: any real reform would threaten the income streams gushing into untouchably powerful self-serving elites and fiefdoms.
In our pay-to-play centralized form of governance, any reform that threatens the skims, privileges and perquisites of existing elites and fiefdoms is immediately squashed, co-opted or watered down.
So the power structure of the status quo has embraced stagnation as a comfortable (except to those on the margins) and controllable descent that avoids the unpleasantness and uncertainty of crisis. We all know that humans quickly habituate to gradual changes in circumstances, and that if the changes are gradual enough, we have difficulty even noticing the erosion.
So wages/salaries stagnate, inflation eats away at the purchasing power of our net income, junk fees, tolls and taxes notch higher by increments too modest to trigger protest, fundamental civil liberties are chipped away one small piece at a time, healthcare costs rise every year like clockwork, and the gap between the bottom 95% and the top 5% widens, as does the gap between the top .1% and the bottom 99.9%, productivity stagnates, the growth rate of new businesses stagnates, but it’s all so gradual that we no longer notice except to sigh in resignation.
An economy as unbalanced as the one we presently have is bound to perish. The rich are killing their own economies by trying to get richer all the time. And they have no idea that’s what happens. It’s sort of baked into their understanding of what capitalism is. Or neo-liberalism if you want.
This has nothing to do with political views, with socialism or communism or any ism, it’s a simple empirical observation. It’s not about ‘everyone deserves their fair share’, but about if they don’t get their share, no economy will be left to hand out any shares even to the rich. If the rich want to get richer, they will need a functioning economy to get there.
In other words, someone will have to call a halt, or at least a pause, to the pace at which they’re getting richer, or their quest for riches will become self-defeating. Literally every single human being can grasp this, but hardly anyone even considers it. At their peril.
…What happens is that just as we find ourselves in a stagnating/shrinking economy, the rich get richer fast. They can do that because central banks are releasing trillions of dollars in QE, but also because the system is geared towards eviscerating the poor, and increasingly the middle class …
And this is amplified by the ultra-low rates policies central banks have been pushing over the past decade. They allow for the ever poorer to keep up appearances of wealth by plunging into debt ever deeper, but they don’t allow for their living conditions, their jobs, their savings, their pensions, to recover. They do the exact opposite.
But wait! I haven’t told you about the mega-corporate mergers, the insider trading, the infrastructure breakdowns, the petrodollar, and the doom of Generation X!
Big farms are about to get a lot bigger.
With six agricultural giants on the verge of merging into three separate companies, consumers and farmers are feeling uneasy about the global implications and how it might impact the food system.
Top executives from Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta today (Sept. 20) testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, making a case for why federal regulators should approve the mega-mergers, which stand to fundamentally reorganize global agriculture. (Executives from the sixth company involved in the consolidation, China National Chemical Corp., declined an invitation to appear at the hearing.)
Point-Counterpoint regarding the petrodollar:
The petrodollar plan worked brilliantly and the invasion never happened.
Now, 43 years later, the wheels are coming off. The world is losing confidence in the dollar again. China just announced that any oil-exporter that accepts yuan for oil can convert the oil to gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and hedge the hard currency value of the gold on the Shanghai Futures Exchange.
The deal has several parts, which together spell dollar doom. The first part is that China will buy oil from Russia and Iran in exchange for yuan.
…collapse of confidence in central bank money, which is already being seen. It’s happened three times before, in 1914, 1939 and 1971. Let us not forget that in 1977, the United States issued treasury bonds denominated in Swiss francs, because no other country wanted dollars.
The United States treasury then borrowed in Swiss francs, because people didn’t want dollars, at least at an interest rate that the treasury was willing to pay.
That’s how bad things were, and this type of crisis happens every 30 or 40 years. Again, we can look to history and see what happened in 1998. Wall Street bailed out a hedge fund to save the world. What happened in 2008? The central banks bailed out Wall Street to save the world.
What’s going to happen in 2018?
We don’t know for sure.
But eventually a tipping point will be reached where the dollar collapse suddenly accelerates as happened to sterling in 1931.
you do NOT want to suffer a major exchange rate loss due to some random bit of market volatility. And, you want to be able to get at your cash when you want it. … And you don’t want to move the market whenever you move in or out of your reserves.
That’s why the USD is the reserve currency. … Because large companies (and central banks) went through the calculation above, and came out with the answer “USD”.
Market is large and liquid [you can move in & out w/o a big expense]
No capital controls [you can be sure you will get your money out]
Low volatility [you won’t take a big forex loss]
As Asia grows in relative importance, and – if and when they drop their capital controls – then the calculus will change.
2017 Sep 28
Travelers were left waiting in airports from Singapore to Baltimore today because of a technical problem with an airline check-in system. Some airports have reported that the issue has been resolved. Some travelers reported waits of nearly two hours, while some outages lasted for just a minute or two.
The Altea system is made by the Spanish travel services software giant Amadeus. It’s sold to airlines to allow passengers to check themselves onto their flights, drop off luggage, and for airlines to communicate flight changes to customers. Amadeus confirmed that a disruption occurred today and that it’s continuing to restore services. “During the morning, we experienced a network issue that caused disruption to some of our systems … the action is ongoing with services gradually being restored,” Amadeus said in a statement to Quartz. It said the issue was completely resolved about five hours later.
Google received more government requests for user data in the first half of this year than ever before. It also admits it’s significantly underreported the number of non-US accounts targeted by US intelligence.
Google’s latest Transparency Report covering January to June 2017 shows once again it’s the go-to firm when governments need data on people.
Due the breadth of Google’s services, this data could include your Gmail messages, documents and photos you’ve saved on Google services, and videos on YouTube
During the period, Google received 48,941 requests for data from 83,345 accounts and produced user information for 65 percent of requests. This time last year it received 44,943 requests from 76,713 accounts.
About half the requests come from the US government. Other major sources of requests include Germany, France, and the UK. Many countries in the report have made fewer than 10 requests.
The report doesn’t show US national security requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for the current period.
Here are four big ways Gen X may be financially worse off than other generations.
They’re woefully under-saved for retirement
“While Generation X continues to struggle with saving and spending, millennials – although not without their own unique financial challenges – seem better positioned for retirement than their closest predecessors. Median retirement savings for Gen X is only $35,000, the same median amount as millennials, despite Gen Xers being much closer to retirement,” according to a study of 3,000 Americans released this week by Allianz Life.
Having just $35,000 in retirement savings — especially when you’re a Gen Xer ages 37- 51 — is not even close to enough. Fidelity recommends that by age 40 you have three times your salary saved for retirement. Gen Xers may be so under-saved thanks to the competing financial demands of children — the Census Bureau estimates that will set parents back roughly $245,000 through age 18 — and caring for aging parents.
They’ve got the most credit card debt of anyone
Members of Gen X have higher levels of credit card debt — which tends to carry a higher interest rate than most other debt — than other generations. Indeed, credit card debt levels peak between the ages of 45-54 at $9,096, with the second highest levels of debt being or those who are 35-44 at $8,235. Meanwhile, the under 35 set has just $3,808. “Millennials and individuals over 74 years old held the least credit card debt. These two groups are also among the least likely to have a credit card, which can serve as a potential explanation behind the trend we are seeing here,” ValuePenguin explains of their data.
Their overall debt load is the highest of any generation
Not only is their credit card debt high, the total amount of debt they have is. Those in the 35-44 age group have “the highest debt levels of any age bracket,” SmartAsset notes, citing Federal Reserve data. Their average debt, at least among households with debt. is $152,400, compared to only about $82,000 for the under 35 set.
They’re more likely than other generations to say they can’t meet their financial goals
All of this debt and the lack of savings may explain why fewer than 1 in 3 members of Gen X says they think they can reach their long-term financial goals, according to a survey released this year by FICO. Meanwhile, 45% of millennials and 36% of boomers say they will.
Precise “chemical surgery” has been performed on human embryos to remove disease in a world first, Chinese researchers have told the BBC.
The team at Sun Yat-sen University used a technique called base editing to correct a single error out of the three billion “letters” of our genetic code.
They altered lab-made embryos to remove the disease beta-thalassemia. The embryos were not implanted.
“A POLITICO review of federal disclosures for 2015 and 2016 found that some senior aides regularly buy and sell individual stocks that present potential conflicts of interest with their work. A smaller number of staffers trade in companies that lobby Congress and the committees that employ them. In all, approximately 450 aides have bought or sold a stock of more than $1,001 in value since May 2015.
“That’s likely just the tip of the iceberg, since most congressional aides aren’t required to report their trades. Only those in positions earning more than $124,406 per year must reveal their investments. Of the 12,500 staffers working for lawmakers, committees and leadership offices, only about 1,700 make that much, according to data compiled by Legistorm and the Brookings Institution.”
Continuing, Severns writes that government watchdog groups take serious issue with this because congressional staffers “often have more of a hands-on role than the members [of Congress] themselves in crafting details of legislation that could have enormous consequences for individual companies.” Further, because “aides are rarely in the spotlight,” there’s “more potential for ethical lapses to go unnoticed.”
Members of the House and Senate, like administration officials in the executive branch, POLITICO points out, are held to far higher standards and scrutiny when it comes to stock market trading.
Essentially, while members of Congress are forbidden from trading in companies that present conflicts of interest with their roles as legislators — and most ignore the stock market altogether to avoid any whiff of scandal — aides are left largely to their own ethical compasses when it comes to buying and selling stocks.
Toss this in with the fact that, as Severns notes, staffers are “the real experts on the intricacies of policies” and do most of the work on bills that will affect these companies directly, and it isn’t difficult to see how one could be tempted.
Ethics are one thing, Indiana University law professor Donna Nagy told POLITICO, but what about when those choices begin affecting how the country operates?
“It causes the public to question whether personal stock holdings are influencing legislative activity,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, as it would a senator or member of Congress. Did personal stock holdings influence the speed or slowness with which a report is written? That’s something that would be in staffers’ control.”
Meredith McGehee, chief of policy at money and politics watchdog group Issue One, pointed out to POLITICO that aides are in no way answerable to the public, unlike senators and representatives who must be elected:
“The staff level is actually more dangerous, because they don’t get scrutiny and they’re not accountable. If a member does it, he can get defeated. A staff person can wield enormous amounts of power that isn’t seen, and there’s really no way to hold that staff accountable.”
Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen, says aides are on par with members in terms of legislative influence, adding that it’s the staff — the ones being tempted to buy and sell stock on insider tips — that the dealmakers want to see:
“The very senior staffers ought to be considered very much the same as members. These are policy-making individuals. They’re the people lobbyists want to meet with and influence. It’s their ability to affect public policy that matters, whether or not they receive votes or subject themselves to elections.”
If that sounds like a loophole or a flaw in the system, it’s one Congress is going out of its way to hide from the public. In the exhaustive review, which highlights cases of potential insider trading by staffers on both sides of the aisle, POLITICO noticed that even recent changes to rules have favored aides Again, from Severn’s article:
“In 2012, when Congress passed the Stock Act, leaders crowed that information about the investments of both lawmakers and senior staff would be available online in an easily searchable format. But a year later, Congress silently passed revisions to the bill that wiped out many of those data requirements.
“Information on lawmakers is still available online, but it cannot easily be searched or sorted by date or company traded. The requirement that aides’ disclosures be posted online was scrapped from the law, and today such information is available only in person at computer kiosks maintained by the House and Senate.
“Individuals seeking the information must log in using their name and other personal details. The documents they seek cannot be downloaded or otherwise taken out of the office in a digital format. They can be printed for 10 cents to 20 cents a page.”
Larry Noble, senior director of the Campaign Legal Center, told POLITICO there’s “little excuse for these barriers, especially in the digital age.” He also said the only logical conclusion is that Congress’ shielding of its staffers’ financial portfolios must be intentional:
“When you have to go to an agency or to Congress to have a document printed out, and you put your name down — all that is to deter people from doing it.”
As POLITICO details, the Security and Exchanges Commission seems content to look the other way, and the members themselves — the elected officials who employ these aides — have thus far failed to raise concern over the issue. Could all that be because everyone on Capitol Hill secretly understands that it’s really the staffers, as behind-the-scenes players, that get things done in Congress?