Archive for January 22nd, 2012
Europe is now haunted by the specter of debt. All European leaders quail before it. To exorcise the demon, they are putting their economies through the wringer.
It doesn’t seem to be helping. Their economies are still tumbling, and the debt continues to grow. The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has just downgraded the sovereign-debt ratings of nine eurozone countries, including France. The United Kingdom is likely to follow.
To anyone not blinded by folly, the explanation for this mass downgrade is obvious. If you deliberately aim to shrink your GDP, your debt-to-GDP ratio is bound to grow. The only way to cut your debt (other than by default) is to get your economy to grow.
The only way to cut the debt is to have GDP grow faster than the debt does (or, if GDP is shrinking, debt must shrink more)
Here’s the problem in a nutshell — we’ve not done that for 30 years:
Or, if you prefer this in 5-year “chunks” to average it all out…
Here’s the theoretical curve that fits that second chart quite-closely, don’t you think?
That latter one by the way is right out of the book Leverage. It illustrates what ultimately must happen when you try to run this scheme — eventually interest payments exceed the total amount of GDP available and then you must default.
Of course actual default happens long before the theoretical limits, because whether you’re a government, a company or a household there are things you have to spend money on besides interest. As such you cannot continue this charade to its mathematical conclusion.
First, governments, unlike private individuals, do not have to “repay” their debts. A government of a country with its own central bank and its own currency can simply continue to borrow by printing the money which is lent to it. This is not true of countries in the eurozone. But their governments do not have to repay their debts, either. If their (foreign) creditors put too much pressure on them, they simply default. Default is bad. But life after default goes on much as before.
This is the mother and father of all frauds and those who suggest it should be taken to town square where they are flogged, drawn and quartered with their remains used to feed feral cats. The reason is that when you emit more “money” you are increasing the denominator of currency in the system. When you increase the denominator the value of every unit of currency decreases. That is, you are directly and immediately taxing everyone in the economy that uses that currency by stealth — an intentional and malicious act of fraud.
You are stealing from each and every one of those people and when a common man does such a thing we call it what it is: Counterfeiting.
This, incidentally, under the original Coinage Act (of 1792) was punishable by death. That was a proper punishment as it was literal theft from the body politic by stealth. We should bring back such a penalty and impose it upon those who try to demand that the public be robbed through counterfeiting, which is exactly what this “policy” amounts to.
The actual problem is that governments love to make political promises they cannot find the money to pay for with current taxes. That is, they promise what they cannot deliver as they are making promises to spend more than the economy is expanding on a percentage basis. This in turn leads them to “borrow” money they have no intention of ever paying back.
Then, having committed this sin, they go looking for a Unicorn that crap out pretty colored candies so they do not have to admit that they defrauded the voters who put them in office by uttering bald-faced lies with the full knowledge and intent of screwing the citizenry down the road — after, of course, they’ve gotten rich and left office.
But Unicorns are mythical creatures and that thing you’re about to bite into is not candy.
These promises are a classic Ponzi Scheme. They’re felonious when put into practice by anyone in the private sector and invariably (and justly so) lead to long prison sentences. The law in the United States once recognized that this crime when committed by government officials was even more severe than that executed by private parties, because the “remedy” that people would propose (as Robert has done) would inherently be to screw literally everyone through debasement.
As such the penalty for such an offense was set as death.
Bring back the Coinage Act of 1792 and harness the horses.
The feral cat population is hungry.
Discussion (registration required to post)
Very few things illustrate how dramatically America has been deindustrialized than the stunning decline of the U.S. auto industry. Once upon a time, the United States literally taught the rest of the world how to make cars. We were the ones that invented the assembly line. We were the ones that showed the rest of the world what mass production could do for an economy. For decades, we produced more cars than anyone else and we sold more cars than anyone else. Detroit was known as “the Motor City” and our manufacturing prowess dominated the planet. But now all of that has changed. Japan makes far more vehicles than we do today. So does Germany. As you read this, state of the art production facilities are going up all over China. Meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry continues to rot and thousands upon thousands of good automotive jobs continue to leave our shores. The rest of the world is making cars better than we are, they are making them cheaper than we are and they really don’t care that many of our formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into rotting, stinking hellholes. The U.S. auto industry was once a symbol of American dominance, but now it is just a symbol of American decline. If we want to remain a great nation, then we need to start becoming great at making things once again.
The following are 17 facts about the decline of the U.S. auto industry that are almost too crazy to believe….
#1 The average age of an automobile in the United States has gone up more than 50% since 1990 and is now sitting at an all-time record of 10.8 years. The average length of a marriage in the United States that ends in divorce is only 8 years.
#4 Back in 2000, about 17 million new automobiles were sold in the United States. During 2011, less than 13 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.
#5 Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe? Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts with the rest of the world of $110 billion.
#6 Japan builds more cars than anyone else on the globe. Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does.
#7 In 2010, South Korea exported approximately 12 times as many automobiles to us as we exported to them.
#8 According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to new tariffs.
#9 U.S. car companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building shiny new automobile factories in China.
#11 The combined U.S. market share of the “Big Three” American car companies fell from 70% in 1998 to 53% in 2008.
#12 Detroit was once known as the “Motor City”, but in recent decades automobile production has been leaving Detroit at a staggering pace. One analysis of census figures found that 48.5% of all men living in Detroit from age 20 to age 64 did not have a job during 2008.
#13 Today, only Chrysler still operates an automobile assembly line within Detroit city limits.
#14 Since Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford, the company has reduced its North American workforce by nearly half.
#15 Today, only about 40 percent of Ford’s 178,000 workers are employed in North America, and a significant portion of those jobs are in Canada and Mexico.
#16 The average Mexican auto worker brings in less than a tenth of the total compensation that a U.S. auto worker makes.
Sadly, it is not just the auto industry in America that is falling apart. In fact, almost everywhere you look in our economy (and in our society as a whole) there is decay and decline.
For example, our infrastructure was once the envy of the entire globe. Today, U.S. infrastructure is ranked 23rd.
Recently, I wrote an article entitled “24 Statistics To Show To Anyone Who Believes That America Has A Bright Economic Future“. In that article, I discussed many of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying this nation.
Just because we have had it so good for so long does not mean that it will always be that way.
We lived off the wealth created by previous generations for a long time, but that was not enough for us. We always wanted more. Eventually we started going into massive amounts of debt so that we could keep this bubble of “false prosperity” going.
Today, when you add up all forms of debt in America, it comes to over 50 trillion dollars.
We are a great nation that is in an accelerating state of decline.
We have got to quit living off of the past accomplishments of previous generations.
We have got to quit being so lazy and decadent and spoiled.
There is absolutely no guarantee that America will always be a great nation. In fact, when great nations fall, it usually happens very quickly.
I’m still proud to be an American, but the decay and the decline that I see all across this country sickens me.
And it should sicken you too.
If you have not read this article, you need to. It is presented as a “why the middle class is squeezed” in America piece, with the premise being that we were once great enough to be the world’s manufacturing powerhouse but we no longer are and this is our fault.
Let’s start with this:
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
Ok, so why not?
Is it because the Chinese are smarter?
Is it because we lack the ability to perform the manufacturing?
Is it our tax structure?
In short, is it our fault?
In a word: NO.
This, my friends, is why:
Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
It’s easy to be “speedy” and “flexible” when you effectively own your “employees” as slaves!
How many of you caught the paragraph up there? At midnight, without warning, the factory foreman went into dormitories in which the workers were sleeping, roused them and effectively compelled them to work a 12-hour shift with nothing more than a biscuit and cup of tea.
Did you get that? These are not employees, they’re slaves.
After all, were they employees they’d be working for great wages, right? Uh, maybe not.
The facility (Foxconn) has 230,000 employees, many working six days a week, often spending up to 12 hours a day at the plant. Over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day. When one Apple executive arrived during a shift change, his car was stuck in a river of employees streaming past. “The scale is unimaginable,” he said.
The unimaginable part is that these employees are slaves. A communist nation can get away with this sort of thing. They can, and do, prevent the organization of those employees into a consolidated negotiating block, imprisoning or simply “disappearing” anyone who tries. A coordinated strike is impossible, meaning that labor has no balance of power with capital.
This power does not come from natural economic forces. It literally comes from the barrel of a gun.
Companies like Apple “say the challenge in setting up U.S. plants is finding a technical work force,” said Martin Schmidt, associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In particular, companies say they need engineers with more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Americans at that skill level are hard to find, executives contend. “They’re good jobs, but the country doesn’t have enough to feed the demand,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Are you reading this America? How do you square college costs escalating at double or more the rate of inflation and crushing levels of debt with the premise of a technically-trained workforce? You can’t.
….in the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.
Free market principles are fine right up until people start using slave labor on an effective basis, along with environmental arbitrage, as the means of “progress.” And let’s not mince words: That is exactly what has happened.
Absent intentional interference in our monetary and economic system on both sides of the Pacific what happened can’t be sustained. Americans cannot buy iPhones without money to spend on them and they cannot have those funds absent “free credit” and ponzi bubbles without good jobs.
In other words, absent the intentional distortion that is generated by massive deficit spending by state, local and federal governments what happened can’t as it immediately self-corrects. Henry Ford understood this — which is why he paid his employees enough so they could buy one of his cars! He not only drove down the cost of building a car he increased the modestly-skilled laborer’s wage so he could afford one. He took the efficiencies he found in automation and manufacturing and allocated some of it to labor so that the total economic surplus would be recycled back into the purchase of his, and others, products.
That’s what productivity improvement is, it’s what powers the natural deflation that is the ordinary state of all economies over time, and it brings common improvement in the standard of living for the majority of the people.
“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
What Apple (and other companies) want are employees that are housed in dormitories, can be roused at midnight to work a 12-hour shift on demand fueled with only a cup of tea and a ten cent biscuit, paying them $17/day.
THAT is what Apple and these other firms demand.
It is absolutely true that America cannot fill that demand, because at one dollar an hour you can’t manage to put the food on your table for a family of four, say much less pay rent, electricity or gasoline for your car to get there and back!
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
That’s absolutely true. But America remains a monstrously-large market and America has no obligation to let you bring products into this nation without tariff or impost while you exploit the existence of authoritarian governments and environmental arbitrage.
A 100% tariff on all of Apple’s foreign-produced or assembled products should make the decision easy — is this really about the availability of a workforce, in which case it would not matter to Apple, or is it really about state-sponsored enslavement and exploitation?