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MN Gordon

MN Gordon

MN Gordon is President and Founder of Direct Expressions LLC, an independent publishing company. He’s the Editorial Director and Publisher of the Economic Prism – an E-Newsletter that brings clarity to the muddy waters of economic policy and targets investment opportunities for acquiring considerable wealth. The Economic Prism is written peering through a prism of free market principles, limited government, and individual liberty.

Articles by MN Gordon

The Attack on Workers, Phase II

2 days ago

Labors with No Fruits
It’s been a long row to hoe for most workers during the first 17 years of the new millennium.  The soil’s been hard and rocky.  The rewards for one’s toils have been bleak.
 
Ma and Pa farm worker lean against one of their recent productions to mug for the  daguerreotypist. Their happiness at a job well done is marred by misgivings about their remuneration in real terms.
Photo credit: Maple Valley Historical Society
 

For many, laboriously dragging a push plow’s dull blade across the land has hardly scratched enough of a rut in the ground to plant a pitiful row of string beans.  What’s more, any bean sprouts that broke through the stony earth were quickly strangled out by seasonal weeds.  Those ‘green shoots’ that persisted bore pods that dried out on the vine

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Warnings from Mount Vesuvius

9 days ago

When Mount Vesuvius Blew
 
“Injustice, swift, erect, and unconfin’d,
Sweeps the wide earth, and tramples o’er mankind”
– Homer, The Iliad

 
Everything was just the way it was supposed to be in Pompeii on August 24, 79 A.D.  The gods had bestowed wealth and abundance upon the inhabitants of this Roman trading town.  Things were near perfect.
 
Frescoes in the so-called “Villa of the Mysteries” in Pompeii, presumed to depict scenes from a Bacchus cult (Bacchus is the Roman version of the Greek god Dionysus, essentially a party god, responsible for alcoholic supplies, fertility and the arts). He was thought to bring divine joy and ecstasy, but also blind rage (reflective of the dual nature of what happens when people get high on wine). Bacchus and his followers could not be fettered. The

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How to Stick It to Your Banker, the Federal Reserve, and the Whole Doggone Fiat Money System

15 days ago

Bernanke Redux
Somehow, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke found time from his busy hedge fund advisory duties last week to tell his ex-employer how to do its job.  Namely, he recommended to his former cohorts at the Fed how much they should reduce the Fed’s balance sheet by.  In other words, he told them how to go about cleaning up his mess.
 
Praise the Lord! The Hero is back to tell us what to do! Why, oh why have you ever left, oh greatest central planner of all time. We are not worthy.
 

We couldn’t recall the last time we’d seen or heard from Bernanke.  But soon it all came back to us.  There he was, in the flesh, babbling on Bloomberg and Squawk Box, pushing the new paperback version of his mis-titled memoir “The Courage to Act.”  Incidentally, the last time we’d heard

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The Coming Debt Reckoning

22 days ago

Licking the Log
American workers, as a whole, are facing a disagreeable disorder.  Their debt burdens are increasing.  Their incomes are stagnating.
 
There are many reasons why.  In truth, it would take several large volumes to chronicle all of them.  But when you get down to the ‘lick log’ of it all, the disorder stems from decades of technocratic intervention that have stripped away any semblance of a free functioning, self-correcting economy.
 
Happy workers from the distant past…
 

The financial system circa 2017, and the economy that supports it, has been stretched to the breaking point.  Shortsighted fiscal and monetary policies have propagated it.  The result is a failing financial order that has become near intolerable for all but the gravy supping political class and their cronies.
Take consumer spending.  This is the primary driver of the U.S. economy.  Yet it requires vast amounts of credit.  In fact, American consumers presently hold $1 trillion in revolving credit.  At the same time, they have nowhere near the income needed to finance these debts, let alone pay them off.
Remember, the flip-side of credit is debt.  Obviously, the divergence of increasing debt and stagnating incomes is a condition that cannot go on forever.  But it can go on much longer than any sensible person would consider possible.

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Ludwig von Mises’ Century of Validation

April 28, 2017

Seeing the Light
It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  No one quite knows who first uttered this remark; it has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and has even been said to be an Ancient Chinese Proverb.  What is known is that this cliché has been repeated over and over again so often that its mere mention substantiates its own definition.
 
Several of the ladies and gentlemen above wanted to let us know that they’re merely eccentric,  and if they want to do things all over again and again and again, we should let them…
 

Nonetheless, we repeat it again because it’s particularly fitting to today’s deliberations.  Here we begin with a look back to the past in search of edification.  For the miscalculations of the past continue to dictate the insanity of the present.
Many years ago, a bright minded and well intentioned Italian pursued a devious undertaking.  His efforts aimed to conceive a pure theory of a socialist economy.  His objective was to take the sordid teachings of Marx and pencil out the mechanics of how a centrally planned economy could bring a life of security and abundance for all.  What follows is an approximation of how the dirty deed went down.
In 1908, Italian economist Enrico Barone suffered an abstraction.

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Simple Math of Bank Horse-Puckey

April 21, 2017

The Raw Deal
We stepped out on our front stoop Wednesday morning and paused to take it all in.  The sky was at its darkest hour just before dawn.  The air was crisp.  There was a soft coastal fog.  The faint light of several stars that likely burned out millennia ago danced just above the glow of the street lights.
 
And this is what they saw watching the sky from Mt. Wilson that night…
 

After a brief moment, we locked the door behind us and got into our car.  Springtime southern California mornings are exquisitely pleasant.  The early morning drive to downtown Los Angeles, on the other hand, is exquisitely painful.
Nonetheless, we make the best of it like we make the best of a trip to the dentist – or a visit with our accountant.  If anything, it affords us the opportunity to do something most people rarely do.  In particular, it gives us time to think.  Before we knew it we’d reached our destination.  But not before uncovering half dozen unrectified incongruities.  The sorts of things that are futile to piece together.
One thing that stuck in our craw like a broken chicken bone is the raw deal main street depositors and lenders get from credit unions and commercial banks.  In short, the credit system is tilted against them.  The rules of the game favor the bankers.
 
Extreme Maltreatment
Perhaps the rules of the game have always favored the bankers.

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Hell To Pay

April 17, 2017

Behind the Curve
Economic nonsense comes a dime a dozen.  For example, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen “think(s) we have a healthy economy now.”  She even told the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy so earlier this week.  Does she know what she’s talking about?
 
Somehow, this cartoon never gets old…
 

If you go by a partial subset of the ‘official’ government statistics, perhaps, it appears she does.  The unemployment rate is at 4.5 percent, which is considered full employment.  What’s more, inflation is ‘reasonably close’ to the Fed’s 2-percent inflation target.  But what does this mean, really?
According to Fed Chair Yellen, it means that now’s the time to tighten up the nation’s monetary policy.
 
Behold this display of awesomeness, citizen. Doesn’t it prove that central planning “works” after all? Unfortunately the ointment is never entirely fly-free, especially when one is pondering statistical aggregates – click to enlarge.
 
By now you’ve likely seen this upcoming – choice – quote from Yellen.  Nonetheless, we can’t resist repeating its remarkable idiocy.  For Yellen, who was in the greater Detroit metropolitan area, was kind enough to humor us all with a nifty automotive analogy to explain how to go about normalizing monetary policy.

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Credit Contraction Episodes

April 8, 2017

Approaching a Tipping Point
Taking the path of least resistance doesn’t always lead to places worth going.  In fact, it often leads to places that are better to avoid.  Repeatedly skipping work to sleep in and living off credit cards will eventually lead to the poorhouse.
 
Sometimes the path of least resistance turns out to be problematic
 

The same holds true for monetary policy.  In particular, cheap credit policies that favor short-term expediency have the effect of layering society up with an abundance of long-term mistakes.  Artificially suppressed interest rates via central bank asset purchase schemes are not without consequences.
What’s more, once set in motion these consequences don’t stop until they’ve fully run their course.  The booms of plentiful credit must always be followed by the busts of unserviceable debt.  As more and more debt drifts into arrears the debt structure breaks down.  Yet when the actual tipping point is crossed is often unclear until after the fact.
Quantitative easing “officially” ended over two years ago.  The interim period has been relatively sanguine; asset prices have continued to inflate.  But lurking around the corner is the inevitable downside of quantitative easing.
As we’ve seen, the downside’s onset has taken years to manifest.  Nonetheless, credit markets are now signaling a breakdown.

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Failure to Launch

March 31, 2017

Identified Flying Objects
The future is here and it’s not all it was cracked up to be.  For example, one of the great disappointments of the 21st century, thus far, is the lack of flying cars.  Wasn’t this supposed to be the signature achievement of Tomorrowland?
 
The Terrafugia flying car – this one was actually said to be in development a little while ago with the maiden flight of the prototype scheduled for 2018. Is the Age of the Jetsons finally beginning? One thing is clear: once this car becomes widely available, we can finally go about abolishing the State. The question “Who will build the roads?” will once and for all be laid to rest!
Image credit: Terrafugia
 

The frustration was aptly expressed by PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel when he said, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”  Of course, the 140 character reference is in regard to Twitter and its 140 character limit per tweet.
Indeed, Twitter is a second-rate alternative to flying cars.  What’s more, it has the ill-effect of reducing people’s brains to mashed potatoes.  In place of well-reasoned and thoughtful discourse, Twitter promotes inane statements from Congressional representatives and even the President.
But all is not lost.  For the flying car will soon be a reality.

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March to Default

March 24, 2017

Style Over Substance
“May you live in interesting times,” says the ancient Chinese curse.  No doubt about it, we live in interesting times.  Hardly a day goes by that we’re not aghast and astounded by a series of grotesque caricatures of the world as at devolves towards vulgarity. Just this week, for instance, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters tweeted, “Get ready for impeachment.”
 

Well, Maxine Waters is obviously right – impeaching the president is an urgent task of the utmost importance. As everybody knows, he is best friends with Vladimir Putin, the shirtless barbarian who rules the Evil Russian Empire (they were seen drinking kompromat together in Moscow, a vile Russian liquor that reportedly tastes a bit like urine. Senator McCain has the details on that story). And as Maxine Waters has just disclosed, Putin’s armies are recently advancing into Korea! We cannot let this stand, or he’ll invade Kekistan next (note that he already controls Limpopo and Gabon). Who knows where it will end?
 

We assume this was directed at President Trump.  But what Waters meant by this was sufficiently vague.  There was no guidance as to how President Trump should be getting ready.
Should he pack his bags?  Should he double knot his shoelaces?  Should he say a prayer? Naturally, the specifics don’t matter in the darnedest.

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The Long Run Economics of Debt Based Stimulus

March 18, 2017

Onward vs. Upward
Something both unwanted and unexpected has tormented western economies in the 21st century.  Gross domestic product (GDP) has moderated onward while government debt has spiked upward.  Orthodox economists continue to be flummoxed by what has transpired.
 
What happened to the miracle? The Keynesian wet dream of an unfettered fiat debt money system has been realized, and debt has been duly expanded at every opportunity.  Although the fat lady has so far only cleared her throat (if quite audibly, in 2008) and hasn’t really sung yet, it is already clear that calling this system careening toward a catastrophic failure.
 

Here is the United States, since the turn of the new millennium (starting January 1, 2001) real GDP has increased from roughly $10.5 trillion to $18.6 trillion, or 77 percent.  Over this same time government debt has spiked nearly 250 percent from about $5.7 trillion to $19.9 trillion.  Obviously, some sort of reckoning’s in order to bring the books back into balance.
Throughout this extended episode of economic and financial discontinuity, the government’s solution to jump-starting the economy has been to borrow money and spend it.  Thus far, these efforts have succeeded in digging a massive hole that the economy will somehow have to climb out of.  We’re doubtful such a feat will ever be attained.

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Off the Beaten Path in Mesoamerica

March 10, 2017

Greeted by Rooster
There’s an endearing quality to a steadfast rooster call at the crack of dawn when overheard from a warm country farmhouse.  There’s a reassuring charm that comes with the committed gallinaceous greeting of daybreak that’s particularly suited to a rural ambiance.  The allure of a morning cock-a-doodle-doo somehow falls flat in all other settings.
 
Good morning everyone! Before meteorological forecasts were available on TV and smart phones, people had to rely on the wisdom of rugged outdoorsmen to get their weather-related updates. In this context we would like to let you in on this valuable old piece of Mexican country lore: “When from the compose pile you hear the rooster declaim, the weather will change – or it will stay the same”. OK, we actually made that up, but you cannot deny its elevated wisdom coefficient [PT].
Illustration via wakeup-world.com
 

Early this morning we suffered a rude awakening from brash, dedicated rooster crowing.  The calls, however, weren’t emanating from a barnyard hen house.  Rather, they came from rooftop chicken coops sitting atop the staggered flats of a highly urbanized Mexico City borough.
To be exact, we are presently at Calle Norte 86, in Colonia La Malinche, of the Gustavo A. Madero borough, of the Distrito Federal (Mexico City).  What it is we’re doing here is less exact.

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A Mess 30 Years in the Making

March 4, 2017

Promises of Slop
 
“We have assembled a best-in-class team of policy advisors to drive President Trump’s bold plan for job creation and economic growth.”
– Gary Cohn, Chief Economic Advisor to President Trump

 
The art and science of spending other people’s money is not an occupation suited to just anyone.  Rather, it’s a skill reserved for the professional world-improver.  To be successful, one must act with a zealous devotion to uplifting the down and out, no matter the cost.
 
Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn – as some observers have noted, he represents one of the factions in the wider circle of economic advisors (there are many advisors who are not members of an official body such as the Council of Economic Advisors, but reportedly have the president’s ear). This is considered problematic, or rather confusing, on the grounds that in some cases the views of these advisors appear to be diametrically opposed. The question is whose views will eventually prevail.
Photo credit: Kena Betancur / AFP / APA
 

Lawyers, bankers, economists, and government philosophers with fancy resumes, who attended fancy schools.  These are the devoted fellows who comprise President Trump’s team of economic policy advisors.  Moreover, these are the chosen associates who are charged with bringing Trump’s economic vision to fruition.  Are they up to the task?
Only time will tell.

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The Dow Speaks: “In Trump We Trust”

February 24, 2017

The Worst Job in the World
The rewards of being the President, these days, are few and far between.  Just ask President Trump.  The work hours are terrible, the pay is far less than that of a corporate CEO, and you’re endlessly surrounded by shabby politicians.  What’s more, the  hand towels  aboard Air Force One have the shoddy over washed roughness of those at a turnpike Motel 6.  But that’s not the worst of it.
 
While we’re at it, let us introduce you to the runner-up, i.e., the second-worst job in the world. We are not sure what job title this poor man actually has (elephant rectum administrator? Pachyderm intestinal inspection officer?), but we sure hope he’s at least getting paid well.
Photo via Top Media Trends
 

Any and all efforts to remake foreign policy to address the threats of the 21st century – not the 20th century – are undermined by the intelligence community with vehement efficiency.  Before you can say Jack Robinson, the leaky conduit to the mainstream media boils up the latest brouhaha to simmering pot.
For example, last week Trump had to fire his national security adviser for engaging in statesmanship with the Russians.  Then, after that, John McCain – a Class A ignoramus – went and kvetched about Trump’s efforts from Europe.  Good grief!
 
Trump critic John McCain, a.k.a.

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The Art and Pseudoscience of Monetary Policy

February 17, 2017

Definitely Maybe
Everyone’s got a plan for sale these days.  In fact, there are so many plans out there we cannot keep up with them all.  Eat celery sticks and lose weight.  Think and grow rich.  Stocks for the long run.  Naturally, plans like these run a dime a dozen.
 
All social engineers who get to impose their harebrained schemes on the rest of the world through the coercive powers of the State, as well as all armchair planners regaling us with their allegedly “better plans”, should have this highly perceptive quote by Robert Burns tattooed on their foreheads. In case you’re wondering, “gang aft a-gley” is slightly old English for “usually turn out to be total crap”. The second part that points out that as a rule, we get nothing but grief and pain instead of promised joy, is applicable to interventionism in general; the so-called “unintended consequences” of interventions almost always turn out to be their main feature and defining characteristic.
 

Good plans, however, are scarcer than hen’s teeth.  You can’t possibly see them no matter how closely you look.  They simply don’t exist. This was the case on Capitol Hill this week, where money and politics collided at the biannual monetary policy gala.
Despite all the hubbub, no good plans were offered.  What’s more, on first glance, no bad plans were offered too.

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When Trumponomics Meets Abenomics

February 11, 2017

Thirty Year Retread
What will President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talk about when they meet later today? Will they gab about what fishing holes the big belly bass are biting at? Will they share insider secrets on what watering holes are serving up the stiffest drinks? [ed. note: when we edited this article for Acting Man, the meeting was already underway]
 

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, a dyed-in-the-wool Keynesian and militarist, meets America’s new CiC in the somewhat ostentatiously appointed Trump Tower. They look happy.
Photo credit: Reuters
 

Indeed, these topics are unlikely. Rather, what they’ll be discussing is cooperative trade, growth, and employment policies between their respective national economies. They’ll also talk about currency debasement opportunities.
Soon enough, perhaps by the time you read this, you’ll be able to peruse the headlines and garner soundbites of their discussions. Maybe a new partnership will be announced. Anything’s possible.
Regardless, what follows is a brief review – a thirty year retread – that’s intended to put the meeting within its proper context. This is the back story you won’t hear anywhere else…
To begin, it was precisely the wrong thing to do at precisely the wrong time. But that didn’t stop the best and the brightest from attempting to improve upon the natural order of things.

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Don’t Blame Trump When the World Ends

February 4, 2017

Alien Economics
There was, indeed, a time when clear thinking and lucid communication via the written word were held in high regard. As far as we can tell, this wonderful epoch concluded in 1936. Everything since has been tortured with varying degrees of gobbledygook.
 
One should probably not be overly surprised that the abominable statist rag Time Magazine is fulsomely praising Keynes’ nigh unreadable tome. We too suspect that this book has actually lowered the planet-wide IQ – in fact, similar to Marx’ Das Kapital, it has done permanent damage. We have to admit that we have read it ourselves (and what a slog it was!) – contrary to Keynes himself, who once published a scathing critique of Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit without reading even one word of it, we prefer to actually read what those we criticize have published. In the first German edition of the book, Keynes freely admitted that his policy recommendations were probably more useful for a totalitarian State than a free society (i.e., it would be easier to implement them, because of their coercive nature). The biggest problem is though that most of the book is a rehash of hoary inflationist ideas that were already long refuted by the time of its publication. The handful of original ideas Keynes contributed didn’t constitute good economic theory either.

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Adventures in Currency Debasement

January 30, 2017

Rekindling the Dollar Debasement Strategy
The U.S. dollar, as measured by the dollar index, has generally gone up since mid-2014. The dollar index goes up when the U.S. dollar gains strength (value) against a basket of currencies, including the euro, yen, pound, and several others. Conversely, the dollar index goes down when the U.S. dollar loses value.
 
The US dollar has been quite strong since retesting its previous lows in 2011 (note that it has been even stronger against many currencies not included in DXY). Politicians and central bankers never seem to be content with a strong currency. This is quite bizarre, as a strong currency greatly benefits consumers, i.e., everyone. Politicians seem to believe it is better to create currency-related benefits for what is really only a small sector of the economy – which proves how deeply ingrained mercantilist fallacies are. Ironically, even these beneficiaries only ever see a temporary bump in their income and as a rule tend to suffer great harm in the long term. Just ponder US car companies in this context. Over many decades, no other sector has been whining more persistently about the allegedly unfair weakening of the yen by Japan’s government. The reality is this: in 1965, the yen stood at nearly 360 to the dollar.

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The Right Stuff

January 20, 2017
The Right Stuff

Pledges for Trump
 
“You boys know what makes this bird go up?  Funding makes this bird go up.  That’s right.  No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”
– Gordon Cooper and Gus Grissom, The Right Stuff (film)

 
Things are looking up for the United States economy in 2017.  You can just feel it.  Something great is about to happen.
 
Sam Sheppard in “The Right Stuff” –  a 1983 docudrama about the Mercury 7 program and “the seats-of-the-pants approach of the people involved in the space program” (according to IMDB).
Photo credit: Ladd Company
 

Earlier this week, for example, after meeting with the incoming President, Bayer and Monsanto announced they will spend at least half of their agriculture research and development budget – approximately $8 billion – in the U.S. over the next six years.  It’s estimated the combined efforts of these two companies will add 3,000 new U.S. high-tech jobs.
Wal-Mart and General Motors also made job and investment pledges for Trump.  Wal-Mart said they’ll add 10,000 jobs this year.  General Motors announced $1 billion in investment, which would generate 1,500 U.S. jobs. Following these pledges, Trump tweeted:
 
“Thank you to General Motors and Walmart for starting the big jobs push back into the U.S.!”
 
In a separate tweet, Trump added:
 
“With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S.

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Trump’s Plan to Close the Trade Deficit with China

January 14, 2017
Trump’s Plan to Close the Trade Deficit with China

Rags to Riches

Jack Ma is an amiable fellow.  Back in 1994, while visiting the United States he decided to give that newfangled internet thing a whirl.  At a moment of peak inspiration, he executed his first search engine request by typing in the word beer.
 
Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce firm. Once he was a school teacher, but it turned out that he had enormous entrepreneurial talent and that the world of wheelers, dealers, movers and shakers was more his speed. Today he is one of the world’s small number of genuine self-made multi-billionaires.
Photo credit: DFIC
 

The search results had such a profound impact on Ma that he returned home to China and immediately started his first internet business.  After several tries he hit it big with Alibaba.  So much so that he’s accumulated a net worth of $27.1 billion USD – over 7.3 times more than President-elect Trump.  Not a bad rags to riches story for a poor Chinese school teacher.
Indeed, Ma takes a shrewd, yet casual, approach to business.  Back in 2014, he got a little sozzled up and bought China’s most popular soccer team from fellow Chinese billionaire Hui Ka Yan.  All in all, the soccer team purchase only cost Ma $192 million. As Yan recounted  of how the deal with Ma went down:
 
“By accident I got him drunk.

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The Great El Monte Public Pension Swindle

January 7, 2017
The Great El Monte Public Pension Swindle

Nowhere City California
There are places in Southern California where, although the sun always shines, they haven’t seen a ray of light for over 50-years.  There’s a no man’s land of urban blight along Interstate 10, from East Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley, where cities you’ve never heard of and would never go to, are jumbled together like shipping containers on Terminal Island.  El Monte, California, is one of those places.
 
Advice dispensed on Interstate 10. We agree with it. Better don’t.
Photo credit: Rob Hann
 

How El Monte came to be is a story shared with many of its adjoining San Gabriel Valley cities.  Boom, bust, and rapid transformation from an agricultural area to working class artery of a burgeoning megalopolis, vomited out a multitude of enduring mistakes.  Many of them will never be rectified.
When El Monte was incorporated as a municipality in 1912, the prospects for the place must have seemed limitless.  Here was open and fertile land, ideally situated in a low valley between the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers.  Equally important, it was ideally situated just several miles from the budding City of Los Angeles.
Residents of early El Monte claimed anything could be grown there.  With a little hard work and persistence, money would flow to the rural municipality in exchange for feeding Los Angeles’ growing appetite.

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Global Recession and Other Visions for 2017

December 31, 2016
Global Recession and Other Visions for 2017

Conjuring Up Visions
Today’s a day for considering new hopes, new dreams, and new hallucinations.  The New Year is here, after all.  Now is the time to turn over a new leaf and start afresh. Naturally, 2017 will be the year you get exactly what’s coming to you. Both good and bad.  But what else will happen?
 
Image of a recently discarded vision…
Image by Michael Del Mundo
 

Here we begin by closing our eyes and slowing our breath.  We let our mind role back into the gray matter of our brain.  We wait patiently for new neurological connections to open up.  Then, ever so subtly, visions of the year ahead come into focus.
Will stocks go up or down?  What about gold and Treasury bonds?  Will the economy expand or contract?  Are we fated for World War III?  Who will win the Super Bowl? These are the questions – and more – we intend to answer.
Obviously, conjuring up visions is more art than science.  But so is Fed monetary policy. Nonetheless, before we get to it we must first lean upon ancient Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu for a full disclaimer:
 
“Those who have knowledge, don’t predict.  Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”
 
Hence, what follows comes from a place of zero knowledge.  We know nothing.  Still we sharpen our pencils and face our limitations.

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Wreck the Halls

December 24, 2016
Wreck the Halls

Arrested Development
Despite the best efforts of the bulls to make history happen, they’ve been unable to ‘git-r-done.’  At the time of this writing, the Dow is facing another bout of arrested development; it has yet to notch 20,000 for the very first time.
 
The venerable Industrial Average has finally bubbled its way close to 20,000. No-one know as yet from whence the transition from comedy & farce to total horror-show will occur, but the eventual denouement of the post-GFC echo bubble promises to be quite a riveting experience as well – perhaps even more so than last time – click to enlarge.
 

What a feat it will be when this remarkable, but trivial, event comes to pass.  After a near eight year run, the Dow will likely eclipse this exquisitely round numeric threshold in the very near future.  Shouldn’t such an achievement – and the associated wealth effect – have made us all rich?
Apparently not.  For on the other side of the ledger a distinct, yet somehow related milestone is imminently approaching.  The U.S. National Debt is at $19.9 trillion.  Soon it will surpass a round and rotund $20 trillion.
The reality, however, is that the national debt exceeded $20 trillion a long time ago.  In fact, it’s really over 600 percent higher.  Remember, unfunded liabilities, including Social Security and Medicare, currently total over $104.5 trillion.

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Has the Fed Turned “Hawkish?”

December 17, 2016
Has the Fed Turned “Hawkish?”

Juiced
Stimulus, in a general sense, is something that causes an action or response.  A ringing alarm clock may prompt someone to exit their slumber.  Or a fist to the gut may force someone to gasp for breath.
 
A classic case of gut-punch stimulus application. Now, all you have to do is imagine that the big person being stimulated is the economy. What should be your next question? Right! Will it achieve escape velocity?
 

Stimulus can come in many forms and varieties.  It can come in the form of a stick; do this and you won’t get whacked over the head.  So, too, it can come in the form of a carrot; do that and you’ll get a reward.
Other forms of stimulus can produce a short, burst like, reaction.  The caffeine in a cup of coffee, for instance, will temporarily reduce drowsiness.  Yet once the caffeine wears off, more coffee is needed to sustain the effect.
Former professional baseball player, and all around dirt bag, Jose Canseco knows a thing or two about stimulus.  Not from what someone has taught him.  But from what he learned through real world experience.  He literally wrote the book on it.
His 2006 memoir, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, tells the story of how he and other athletes experimented with performance enhancing drugs to stimulate their baseball careers.

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Smart Programs of Capital Destruction

December 10, 2016
Smart Programs of Capital Destruction

Too Smart to Think
These days everything must be smart.  There are smart cities, smart grids, smart policies, smart TVs, smart cars, smart phones, smart watches, smart shoes, and smart glasses.  There’s even something called smart underwear.
 
Modern-day wedgie-proof thinking drawers. How was life even possible before them? An area of the body not usually known for its thinking prowess is suddenly smarting up!
 

Before long everything around us will be so smart we’ll no longer have to do one critically important thing.  We’ll no longer have to think; smart algorithms will think for us.  What’s more, the possibilities for not thinking are seemingly limitless.
Just this week, for instance, in an effort to sound smart, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans indirectly advised President elect Donald Trump that fiscal policy must be “smart.”  Presumably, what Evans means by this is that fiscal policy must not be “stoopid.”
Fortunately, New York Fed President William Dudley clarified how smart fiscal policy would work.  According to Dudley, smart fiscal policy would include spending programs that are automatically triggered by a recession.  Specifically, Dudley said
 
“Extensions of unemployment compensation and cuts in payroll taxes could be triggered by a downturn.”
 
The beauty in all this, you see, is that smart fiscal policy would be automatic.  Congress wouldn’t have to think.

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Attaining Self-Destruct Velocity

December 2, 2016
Attaining Self-Destruct Velocity

Bad Monday
Some Monday mornings are better than others.  Others are worse than some.  For one Amazon employee, this past Monday morning was particularly bad.
No doubt, the poor fellow would have been better off he’d called in sick to work.  Such a simple decision would have saved him from extreme agony.  But, unfortunately, he showed up at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and put on a public and painful display of madness.
 
Good-bye cruel world! On this our planet, ignoring air friction, wind and other buoyancy-enhancing obstacles for the sake of this example, someone jumping off a building that is high enough will eventually attain a terminal velocity of 122 miles per hour. The acceleration is 32.2 feet per second², which is why one has to start from an appropriate height (a skydiver in a spread-eagle position will typically reach terminal velocity after about 12 seconds, traversing a distance of 1,483 feet). Jumping without a parachute may provide an especially pronounced adrenaline high, but is generally not advisable; more often than not it will be a one-off experience.
 

From what we gather, upon arrival, he blasted out an email to hundreds of coworkers, including Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, outlining several reservations he had with the terms of his “Performance Improvement Plan”.

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Sinners and Saints

November 24, 2016
Sinners and Saints

Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell
Ordinary ideals of Americana range as far and wide as the North American continent.  The valued conviction of one American vastly differs from that of another.  Joe from Santa Fe may have little connection with Joe in South Bend or Joe in South Boston.
 
Heaven and Hell
Illustration credit: Black Sabbath
 

One may celebrate adventures in mysticism.  Another may find inspiration sitting in a college football grandstand.  While a third struggles to free himself of the orthodox hobgoblins that suffocate his soul.
Until Donald Trump came along, the story of the national struggle, as outlined by the discredited mainstream media, had been told with delicate regularity.  The news was professed from the locus of the two party political system… any diverging views were carefully sifted out.  What was reported was only what the story editors allowed to pass through their single micron particulate filters.
We were told a never ending Marxian tale of the evil rich exploiting the noble poor.  Even worse, we were told that Hillary Clinton was as upright as Saint Andrew.  Plus we were told over and over again that Bill – the former President – would be looking out for our best interest.
The election of Donald Trump has been too disruptive to the status quo for the major networks to stay on their carefully scripted plots.

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Putting an End to the Regulatory Industry

November 18, 2016
Putting an End to the Regulatory Industry

Gross Regulatory Overburden
Corporate life in America these days is fraught with tedium.  First the MBAs imposed their silly six sigma processes and reduced workers to mere widgets. Then the regulators went through and squashed out any fun that remained.
Gone are the days when shrewd eccentrics could get rich using techno-babble to hawk the Turbo Encabulator.  Alas, there are rules and regulations stymieing all creativity.  In fact, as a matter of law, such restrictions are shoved in the workers’ face each morning as they fill up their morning cup of coffee.
 

Bud Haggert presents the ground-breaking Turbo Encabulator! This thing has practically everything. Unilateral phase detractors! Automatically synchronized cardinal grammeters! Need farescent skor motion? No problem! Now you can finally do it in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm to reduce soinasodial repleneration!
 

By our rough calculation the break room metric currently indicates an economy that’s grossly overburdened by regulation.  The break room metric, if you’ve never heard of it, is the ratio of wall space in office break rooms that is utilized by mandatory federal and state regulatory postings.  Anything above 10 percent utilization represents gross regulatory overburden.
No doubt, office break rooms across America are nearly out of wall space.  Mandatory OSHA postings fill the voids.

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The One Thing that Will Change Everything

November 5, 2016

Ticking Time Bomb
 
“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 
The American populace counts down to Election Day with impatient intent.  Will their party man occupy the White House come January 21, 2017?  Or will their party woman occupy a federal prison cell?
 
Don “Groper” Trump and Hillary “Private Position” Lincoln.
 

These are questions that only the good wisdom of time can answer.  Here at the Economic Prism we watch with indifferent curiosity.  We don’t think either candidate’s worthy of high office.  But we’re eager to know the election outcome, nevertheless.
The real noteworthy thing taking place today, that will have a real impact on your life, has nothing to do with who will be the next President.  That’s merely a diversion.  Rather, the real noteworthy thing taking place today – at this very moment – has everything to do with the ticking time bomb beneath the U.S. and world economy.
Indeed, we are talking about interest rates.  If you haven’t noticed, they have been going up as of late.  In fact, they have been going up quite a bit.
On Tuesday, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note notched 1.88 percent.  No doubt, from a historical perspective, this is extraordinarily low.  However, back in early July the 10-Year Treasury note bottomed out at just 1.34 percent.

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Prepare for the Unthinkable

October 22, 2016

Red Ink
Growth and profits mask a variety of problems.  They hide business inefficiencies and the money suck of corporate adminis-trivia.  They also conceal unproductive staff.
 
The final career leap
 

But most of all growth and profits obscure the extreme value subtracting forces of bloated management teams.  During good times it is unclear what these smug fellows do.  During bad times it is lucidly clear that most of them ain’t worth a darn.
When the profits inevitably recede, the senior executives, with their silly 24 point project reviews and cumbersome project execution requirements, appear lost.  They’re left exposed, with their pants down, and without a clue in the world as to what business it is they’re actually in.  What the heck have they been doing all this time?
Where does the money come from?  How is it spent?  Over time, and in the absence of a watchful eye, the rising tide of growth gradually submerses the answers to these questions.
Then, when the answers are needed most, it is too late.  While management was busy developing mindless risk management protocols and clumsy 9 step work flow approval processes the answers had drowned.  But instead of drowning under the rising tide of growth, they’d sunk below a hemorrhaging sea of red ink.
 
If all else fails, there’s always magic…
 
Rotund and Heavy
Unquestionably, nothing fails like success.

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