Truth In Front of Ours Eyes

Recently my wife has begun writing, from a Christian perspective, about popular culture – music, books, movies, etc.  Her premise has been that the soul cries out to God even if the person doesn’t yet realize it.  We have long talked about how, if you listen carefully, you can hear the questions, the pains, the need for the Creator within the secular words and stories told as the author, performer, or director as they try to put the cries of the soul into their work.  It’s a wonderful way to speak with people about God and the longing of their hearts and souls, via questions that often can be broken down into “I wonder why…” or “I wonder how…” that open the door from concepts that are easier to speak about with nonbelievers to concepts of God that are harder to explain and even harder to understand without a baseline understanding that believers are blessed, hopefully, to have already.

Applying this to another part of life is the application of popular culture to understand current events.  With that said, the event I want to talk about is the Donald Trump phenomenon.  Donald Trump is a businessman who decided to run for President.  He’s running as a Republican and has entranced many conservatives to his bandwagon, yet the concepts he talks about and the words he uses are those of a liberal demagogue.  He identified a yearning in the American public and he is playing to it perfectly.

What yearning?

Anger.

Americans are angry at the government, at politicians, at men and women who promise the moon and then either fail to deliver, or turn around and do exactly the op opposite of what they promised in the first place.

Americans are angry at a lack of justice.

  • Justice under the law (Trump’s initial rise can be directly attributed to the hard line he took on illegal immigration and the promise to punish law breakers and “send them back” and promises of building a wall that another country will finance – never mind that we would have to declare war on Mexico in order to force them to pay for it.)  Also, the criminality of actions by politicians such as Hillary Clinton – lying about the contents of a private, unpermitted, unsecured, and unprotected email server in her home during her time as Secretary of State in order to avoid the documentation preservation rules for all Federal government appointees and employees – used to be called what they are under the color of law – espionage and fraud.  When oaths and laws mean nothing, the law-abiding grow angry.
  • Social justice (the intolerance of the tolerance movement is something I’ve written about before as there are “activists” that aren’t just happy with being permitted to do what they please, but rather want you to celebrate their behavior and their uniqueness as superior to your own – gay marriage/adoption movements, Black Lives Matter, and other such movements fall into this camp squarely.  It has even got so absurd that “All Lives Matter” has been called a racist phrase because Black Lives are apparently more equal than yours.  When you are told that you are worth less and someone else is worth more for any reason is racism whether you are black, white, yellow, red, or green.  There is no justice when ANYONE is elevated above another and the aggrieved grow angry.
  • Economic justice (When banks deemed “too big to fail” are given money via the Federal Reserve, which increases the volume of money thus decreasing the value of money and robbing everyone of stored wealth and income, there is a growing feeling of a economic aristocracy.  When businesses, with politicians beholden to them for campaign contributions and future employment as lobbyists, have laws and taxes written on their behalf to squash competition in the open market or to have the economic advantage of a decreased tax burden comparatively to others in the same market – the government is seen as picking winners and losers.  When good hard-working people lose their jobs because their businesses are regulated out of existence due to profitability problems, when good hard-working people lose their homes because banks deemed “too big to fail” and given money freely to avoid their seemingly inevitable bankruptcies won’t rewrite the terms of their mortgages and force a family into destitution how can there be anything other than a growing anger.

I’m sure you sense a theme now.  Anger is growing in this country.  It is palatable now.  There’s no sense of courtesy anymore.  No consideration of the other person.  No compassion.  What is your first reaction when someone does something unexpected on the road while you’re driving?  Cursing, yelling, honking, aggressively driving with a vendetta toward the other person?  Are these symptoms of love or anger?  I think the answer is obvious.

With this in mind, consider this quote from the great sage of film, Yoda.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

We have passed the point of fear.  The fear is there, but it is deeper, it is foundational.  The fear that our country, our way of life, is changing permanently.  That the freedoms, rights, and privileges we hold as Americans are lessening, not growing.  This is true whether you politically are left or right of center.  There is fear that our jobs are not secure.  There is fear that an economic wall is not just being built, but has been built by those in the highest tier to prevent anyone that they don’t want from joining their ranks.  There is fear that everything that has been accepted as given for so long is simply not so, and the fear is that if the givens are no longer constant, than how can we function without playing “the game.”

Fear leads to anger.

History can be our guide here because the world has seen rises to power like this in the past.  The circumstances of today closely mirror the circumstances of another time and the leaders that can spring out of times like these can restore us or drag us down into darkness.

  • Long-term bitterness makes brazen, bully-like tactics appealing as they see the candidate, in this case Trump, as their champion.
  • Ineffective government and laws give the perception of dual justice systems where certain crimes are excused for those deemed “worthy.”  Equal justice demands equal enforcement, so when selective enforcement is practiced openly faith in the government, police, legislators, and courts is eroded.
  • The usage of money by bureaucrats and politicians to enact personal policy via businesses, lobbying groups, and induced behavior (such as enforced purchases under pain of penalty – The Affordable Care Act mandates ALL people buy health insurance because they were born) reeks of corruption and tyranny.
  • The 24/7 news cycle and unmitigated lying and misleading by politicians (answering one question they want to answer instead of the question asked for instance) has lead to a soundbite culture that hinges not on ideas, but on emotions. It is not a far leap from there to attaching those negative emotions to a race of people, or a political belief, in order to ratchet up anger specifically directed.
  • The Cult of Personality around Mr. Trump is one in which his most ardent supporters don’t care what he says, does, or could do.  They support him fully, leading them to attack those that disagree verbally and, in some cases, physically.

Anger Leads to Hate

The time-period that I referenced above is the 1920s and 1930s in what was then called the Wiemar Republic.  We know it now as Pre-Nazi Germany.  The same conditions and cultural conditions were in place then as now.  I’m not claiming Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler, but the comparisons are worth considering.  At what point does he, or his bandwagon turn from expressions of anger to expressions of hate.  At what point do the long knives come out?

Hate Leads to Suffering

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Galatians 5:22-23

I don’t sense any of the these attributes in Donald Trump, or anyone I’ve met who truly believes he is the best candidate for President this year.

I don’t argue to change your vote, your preference, or anything like that, but I do ask that you, regardless of who you support this year, to examine WHY you support them.

Are you making a decision out of fear? Anger?  Hate?  Suffering?  Do decisions made in the heat of passion or despair ever work out well?

A Prayer for My Country

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.

Psalm 33:12

Why do people look for their salvation and safety with government instead of God?

The stories in the Bible have a common thread running through them…. and some of the most referenced stories often have hidden meaning and message buried beneath the surface, while others are right out in front.

Let’s talk a bit about faith this morning.  Faith is a firm belief and trust in something for which there is no proof.  When we turn to mankind, to government, for an answer to the problems of life, are we acting out of faith or fear?

When the giant Goliath taunted the Israelite army for weeks on end with no challengers, were the Israelites acting out of faith or fear?  Saul, the anointed king of the people was trained, armed, and a physical specimen, yet he cowered, and by his example all of the army did the same – none willing to challenge a single man and place his life in the Lord’s hands through faith.

It was God’s will through this lack of faith to demonstrate the power of faith.  A boy, the youngest born of a small family, a shepherd – not a soldier, was offended by the nature of the giant’s taunts and how none dared stand against him.  He did not put on the armor of man, but rather the armor of God.  He then stood in front of the evil of his time unafraid and unashamed of his faith.

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

1 Samuel 17:45-57

When did this country stop trusting God and start trusting man to provide for it?

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.

Exodus 14:13

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Could all of our past and current problems be a result of a collapse of faith in God and the prideful replacement of it by faith in man?

 

Fallout from Cyprus

And now the fallout from the Cyprus-Option (an across-the-board seizure of a portion of depositor account holdings) is popping up in New Zealand and now Italy.

The Cyprus-Option will spread like wildfire as the men and women with their hands on the reins of the fiscal machine salivate at the trillions of dollars sitting “safe and sound” in “insured” bank accounts.

Washington, I’d pay attention… carefully.  You try this here, and that years-old prediction of tanks in the street and general civil unrest will be nothing compared to the insurrection you would ignite.  The Cyprus-Option is theft, pure and simple.

Cyprus

What’s going on today in Cyprus and the EU as a whole is informative for Americans.

In a nutshell, as part of a bank bailout, the EU and IMF are demanding that the citizens of Cyprus “buy-in” to the bailout through a “one-time” tax on their bank accounts of up to 10% of total deposits.  The problem is, the Cypriot government is not the target of the bailout, their equivalent of a Federal Reserve is the target of the bailout.  So the EU and IMF, supranational bureaucracies, demanded and the President of Cyprus acquiesced to allowing an across-the-board theft of a portion of every bank account in Cyprus’ banks to bailout the banks themselves.

What makes this informative is how it plays out…. Cyprus’ legislature still has the ability to squash this deal, but if they don’t I would venture to guess that any future bailouts will use this formula.  What’s more scary for the financial sector as an whole is that I’m not alone in thinking this and citizen-confidence in the banking system is dropping like a stone.  Most people are looking at this and imagining their governments selling them out like this.

If I were an Italian, Greek, Irish, or Portuguese citizen, I would withdraw every red cent from the banks, close my accounts, and tell the system that they will need to find a way to do it without me.  They cannot tax what they cannot hold…. which explains the ongoing bank run of money OUT of Europe.

The problem is, where to put the money?  Every bank in the world is controlled, regulator, or under the authority of some government body, which may just choose to ‘tax’ those accounts to pad it’s operating funds or perhaps negate the deficit for a short period of time?

So what’ll it be – stuffing it in the mattress or hiding it in a coffee can in the backyard?  Both are probably as safe as leaving it under the bank’s control – able to be “taxed” at the whims of government in the middle of the night.

Edited to clarify: This is the first time in recorded financial history that the DEPOSITORS of a bank and not just the BONDHOLDERS (investors) have been forced to do this.  This is a major deal and echoes of MF GLOBAL and the way the DEPOSITORS had their funds seized and paid out to creditors in absolute violation of the law.  So in essence, there is NO LAW that will protect your deposited money any longer.  That FDIC insurance? Null.  Brokerage insurance? Null. 

The rule of law has been turned on it’s head.

If I lived in Cyprus, I wouldn’t bother with the banks. I’d be loading magazines.  The government and banks just declared open war.

Head in the Sand

I had a brief conversation with someone a few days ago about the unemployment report that came out on October 5, 2012.  Recall that the night before, President Obama took a drubbing at the first of the Presidential debates of the fall.  The numbers at face value seem to be great until you actually look at the statistics themselves.  This person did not want to acknowledge that the report itself was possibly inaccurate and simply touted it as good news economically.

The media and the liberal politicians nationwide did much the same and immediately began to pound conservatives by basically saying “look it IS working,” but let’s consider a few interesting points (Some courtesy of Market-Ticker).

  1. Supposedly about 114,000 jobs were created in one month.  The work force part of the population grew by 206,000 in one month.  The basic math is that when the base grows by more than the number of jobs added, then unemployment actually went up.
  2. The Not-in-Labor-Force number, which are working age adults that are unemployed and not looking for a job any longer (basically, the people that are giving up completely) grew by 386,000 while the number of people that came off unemployment by gaining employment was about 775,000.  That is 1,161,000 people that came off unemployment in one month.
  3. The Bureau of Labor’s most oft-reported number only counts what they deem the total unemployed (U-3) figure when it is seasonally adjusted.  The problem with this thinking is that you are considered employed if you get a job that pays minimum wage and you only work for part-time.  The more accurate number to gauge how the economy is doing is the U-6 figure, which is 14.7%.  This figure in and of itself is still somewhat flawed as it only counts people that have looked for a job in the 12 month period.  According to CNN, nearly one in three unemployed people nationwide have been out of work more than one year so they are not even factored into the unemployment rate calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. According to the October 2012 BLS report, there are 243,772,000 people in the workforce population nationally. One year ago, there were 240,071,000 in the workforce population.  That’s a net change of +3,701,000.  The number of employed only grew by +2,832,000 however.  So the number of jobs lagged the number of adults in the workforce by 869,000 jobs.

So the unemployment numbers went down?  If there are 869,000 more adults in the workforce than there are jobs today than one year ago AND people that have been unemployed more than one year are not counted in the unemployment figures compiled by the BLS, than how in the world can unemployment be down?  Go back to my first point – when the population grows faster than the number of jobs for the same population, unemployment rates actually go up.  I smell some intentionally bad math.

So let’s extrapolate a little here.  For the ease of math, let’s assume that the unemployment rate is actually 7.8% as that is a best case scenario.  If one in three Americans that are unemployed have been unemployed for more than a year (which means that they are not factored into the unemployment rate reported by the BLS), then the actual unemployment rate is approximately 11.7%.

Job growth is not on pace to keep up, let alone exceed workforce population growth (Breitbart).  The statistics fail to chart the long term unemployed, so the numbers “sound” better, but the overall picture is still grim.

You can bury your head in the sand and shout “7.8%!,” but if you fail to look at the whole picture, you will be mistaken.

Avalanche Warning

Who is going to pay for the United States’ and to remainder of the world’s governments unrestrained splurge of government spending?

Currently, as I write this, the U.S. national debt sits at $16,015,769,788,215.80.

The 2011 US GDP was $15,094,000,000,000.00.

This is not news.  This was entirely foreseeable as the President, together with single party rule in Congress during 2008 through 2010, failed to address a single budgetary concern or make any attempt to control the budget and our burgeoning national debt.  This election season has seen a lot of focus on the deficit which is just a single year’s shortfall in terms of expenditures against tax revenue.  What needs to be talked about though is how the national debt is a greater concern.

Just paying the interest on our national debt last year (2011) cost the United States $454,393,280,417.03.  That is approximately 3.01% of our GDP, just to service the national debt’s interest payments, and a lot of our debt is issued in terms of bonds and t-notes that come due on a revolving basis for interest payments, so that is not the whole story.

As of today, treasury yields (which is basically the future interest rate paid) are indexed at 1.59% for a 10-year term, 2.3% for a 20-year term, and 2.69% for a 30-year term.  These rates are being kept artificially low however.  The Federal Reserve Board has been purchasing these debt securities at lower yields to prevent the Department of Treasury from failing to secure buyers for the debt at manageable interest rates (WSJ).  The long term outcome of this can not be positive as it is the left hand hiding what the right hand is doing and is basically just a large scale cost-shifting.  The loser will be you and I as our purchasing power, via the value of the dollar, will decline as this continues.

Basic market economics dictate that if an investor thinks that buyer a security (a treasury bill, bond, etc) is not worth the risk, then the seller must raise it’s value by increasing it’s yield (interest paid upon the completion of the term).  In short, if the Fed suddenly finds themselves unable to keep hiding the tremendous debt problem that the US finds itself in then we will see sales of treasuries at increasingly larger interest rates as investor confidence requires greater payouts in order to entice buyers.  This will cause the costs of debt servicing to rise, and for a country already running deficits in excess of a trillion dollars, suddenly the US does not look able to pay it’s own debts in the long run.

Rock – Us – Hard place

The only way out of this is for us to immediately stop spending more on government programs and services than we can immediately pay for with current tax revenues (balanced budget).  The problem we must then face is how to pay down our debt so our own interest rates don’t kill us.

Author’s Note: For a much better understanding and explanation of this situation, I highly recommended everyone read Karl Denninger’s Market Ticker and his book Leverage.

 

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