Friday, August 14, 2009

The Future — Place Your Bets

Gadfly
by Mort Malkin

The Future — Place Your Bets

The seers of the Gadfly Revelry & Research gang (GRR) have routinely uncovered data and real information to predict coming events. Gadfly has frequently been ahead of the networks and the New York Times in addressing issues as diverse as war & peace, the economy, and health care. Our role models are IF Stone and Russell Baker. Scoop! Please peruse previous columns at thecatskillchronicle.wordpress.com.

Today, GRR will pass you some predictions (insightful guesses) as to the economic future. Place your bets.

War and Peace affect the economy. So do the manipulations of the financial community: the Fed, the SEC, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, Central Banks of industrialized nations, the investment "banks" (Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and other mob members), hedge funds, private equity funds, and Bernie Madoff.

War and the military cost big bucks. Offering little more than the cost of raw materials to produce the bullets & bombs and the salaries of those who press the triggers to make them go boom, military spending is a poor stimulus to the economy. Every other economic sector — health care, education, mass transit, civilian manufacturing — produces more jobs and makes the money circulate more times than military budgetry. But, we have to save the world for democracy (capitalism?), and so we maintain seven or eight hundred military bases around the world. If only there were more than 192 nations as represented in the UN. Our latest adventure — very quietly — is in Africa. We need a place for all the troops that are being kicked out of South America: Venezuela, Bolivia, and now Ecuador where the (expletive deleted) leftist President won’t renew a contract for the US base at Manta unless we allow an Ecuadorian base in Arizona or New Mexico, the states we stole from Mexico in the 19th century. Africa will have AfriCom (Africa Command), like it or not. The Global War on Terror will continue there under its new name, Overseas Continency Operations. We have to protect the oilfields of Nigeria and the manganese mines of Gabon (from their local populations). And titanium, chromium, vanadium, molybdenum… The trouble is we can’t convince any of the African governments to headquarter AfriCom within their borders. AfriCom is still in Germany. Premier Angela Merkel would, no doubt, like EuroCom out as well. Don’t expect change too soon.

The Chinese, our largest creditors, holding a couple of trillion dollars of US Treasuries and other US agency bonds, met in June with the other members of The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The Chinese brought Zhou X, their financial wizard in addition to Premier Hu J. President Medvedev of Russia was present as were the heads of state of other members of the SCO. They invited additional nations such as India, Pakistan, Iran, and Brazil. The US tried to crash the party but was politely told no, though offered a redacted transcript. In separate replies the Chinese and Russians said the Americans had better stop wasteful spending on war. Neither did they like Americans sailing around the world in 13 aircraft carrier groups that burn fuel in barrels-per-mile, or maintaining so many hundreds of military bases around the world. The Chinese had some snide remarks as well about US domestic deregulation. But, what can you expect from a communist nation?

Just so the US would not pout too much they let Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner come to speak at Peking University where he assured the audience that Chinese investments in the US were safe. The audience laughed.

The community of unaligned nations (unaligned with the US) are arranging a reserve currency to replace the dollar. Meanwhile, China has already made deals with Argentina, Brazil, and Malasia denominated in renminbi (Chinese for “the people’s currency”). The natives are getting restless. A Brazilian credit rating agency has downgraded US Treasury Bonds to AA. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s are threatening to do the same. Wall Street will juggle the numbers for a couple of years before doing anything drastic.

Back in North America, a few other wories have arrived.
• Unemployment is closing in on 10%. Lots of people not included in the 10% are: part time, totally discouraged, short term temps, or newly self employed. Unemployed and underemployed people don’t make things that add to (ugh) GDP. Unemployed people don’t buy things. Job confidence won’t change for a couple of years.
• Credit card spending will set a new record of less for several more months — we’re now at nine months. Auto loans and student loans will continue their shrinking ways as well. Figure at least a year.
• State and local governments, in spite of a little stimulus money for infrastructure projects, are being squeezed, not in affection. They’re spending hardly anything on unnecessaries, and they’re recategorizing necessities to un. More than three years.
• The housing market — inflated during the years of excesses in subprime mortgages, easy home equity loans, and creative derivitive packaging — will continue to fall. Two years till the bleeding slows. Then, bloody Wall Street will bubble up in Social Security or retirement funds, someplace where real money still exists.
• The stock market, now a little above 9,000 on the Dow, will not get near the previous high of 14,164 for a few years, but Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, et al will duly and diligently manipulate the numbers. The same people who blew bubbles through the first seven years of the 21st century, unencumbered by much regulation, are still in charge. These Wall Street folks made a grandiloquent amount of money during the obsenic period and need a place to park it. The closed investor funds have just started to accept new accounts, the first time in months. The same CEOs and other executives who created the mirror images of wealth called “derivitives” will find one more way to blow smoke and see through the fun house mirrors of Dow 15,000. It may take three or more years, but Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner will still be in bed with them, and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke will blow no whistles.
• Everyone’s 401K will follow the stock market, but the 008-009 recession will remain in their brains. They won’t spend money for a couple of years. A recovery based on consumtion instead of production will be slow.
• The Fed, no longer afraid of inflation, will keep interest rates low to encourage borrowing and spending. Meanwhile the Treasury will print dollar bills and Treasury Bonds. Paper — it’s not even hand-made paper — is little better than soap bubbles. Printing paper bills and striking coins of base metal have always resulted in inflation since Roman times. Inflation will start to return in about two years, but the White House will resist increasing Social Security payments to senior citizens. The revolution will be televised.
• The war in Afghanistan will continue for a few years. It is now Obama’s war. He is willing to withdraw most of our troops from the Bush-Cheney Iraq war but not from his own. More and more money will be poured into the occupation of Afghanistan, where foreign nations have always failed — the Russians, the British, and Alexander III.

The Chinese communist-capitalists have offered us a way out of our economic woes — real solutions, not illusion. They say: Stop spending, start saving. Stop military adventurism, start diplomacy. Start regulating Wall Street. With such real changes, we will gain the standing to ask the Chinese to install solar reflectors in the Gobi desert instead of building more coal-fired power plants. After we close Guantanamo and Bagram, we can lecture them on human rights.

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