Thoughts On The Last Day Of 2013

Happy New Year 2014

Things that make me go “hmmmm” as we close out 2013.

Where is the reporting on the ridiculous “flash mob” crap of late?  And more to the point, who thinks this is something that isn’t actually happening?  Jacksonville had their 600-odd people melee at a movie theater, and in NY there was a “young thug” mob in a shopping mall.  In Minnesota Mark Andrew, the runner-up mayoral candidate (and a hard-core leftist) had his iPhone stolen by a small band of thugs at The Mall of America — in broad daylight while sitting in the Starbucks attempting to enjoy a coffee.  There have been a sizable number of these incidents in Chicago too in the downtown shopping district, which Rahm (and the store owners!) are of course rather interested in you not knowing about.

Who thinks that employment is actually improving?  As I’ve repeatedly documented the actual employment:population ratio, which is the true measure of the employment market, hasn’t moved off the bottom since 2009.  That’s four years of no improvement, despite claims otherwise.  So why has the “unemployment rate” moved down?  Because the government doesn’t count you as unemployed unless you’re actively looking for work.  In other words if the job market sucks so bad that you’re wasting your time trying to find a job you’re not unemployed according to government statistics.  Yeah.

We had a ~30% move in the market — but a single-digit percentage improvement in earnings.  That makes sense, right?  Well, no it doesn’t.  And more to the point, monetary inflation .vs. income is going the wrong way again, and has been for several quarters after being in your favor for about a year and a half.  We live in a consumer economy, of course, but you wouldn’t know it from the refusal to bring those numbers forward and talk about them.  Gee, I wonder why?

Obamacare is going to monkey-hammer personal budgets in 2014 and beyond.  The first slam on this will only hit the self-employed and, unbelievably,unemployed.  And while the so-called “subsidies” will go to some people that’s of no benefit to you when it comes to deductibles, without which you get no care anyway, since you have to fork that up.  More and more medical (and dental) facilities are requiring payment up front and have been for years.  This has to a large degree been hidden for people with small or non-existent deductibles.  When yours goes from $500 or $1,000 to $5,000, however, that’s suddenly going to matter a lot.  And as 2014 winds on and the mandate comes in for employers as well as the self-employed and unemployed you can expect the economic harm to multiply — rapidly.

The performance “chase” is really getting out of hand.  It’s not just Twitter, of course — it’s damn near everywhere.  But it is particularly amusing to see a market behave like this, and all of the media pundits try to explain why “this time it’s different.”  Uh huh, just like it was in early 2000 and Cramer’s “The Winners of The New World”, remember?  That was on 2/29/2000, and this is what he said at the time: “We are buying some of every one of these this morning as I give this speech. We buy them every day, particularly if they are down, which, no surprise given what they do, is very rare. And we will keep doing so until this period is over — and it is very far from ending.”  Very far, eh?  Heh heh heh….. it was in fact less than one calendar month away from ending, and when it ended it did so very, very badly.  But…. this time it’s different, right?  Uh huh.  What’s the P/E on TWTR again?  Oh wait — it doesn’t have one, since there are no earnings.  But we’ve figured out how to divide by zero — honest!

Stupidity in so-called “virtual currencies” abounds.  Seriously folks, I mean this is just flat-out dumb.  I’ve pointed out on multiple occasions why this is just nothing more than Tulip Mania, but at least with a tulip you got a pretty flower to look at.  In this case you don’t even get that out of the deal.  The worst of it comes from the outrageous self-promotion of those who buy into one of these scams early on, or even better, are involved in creating it, as if there’s some sort of genius or actual invention involved.  Uh, no and no to both.  Just remember that whatever you think you have in “profits” they’re a warm bucket of spit until and unless you reduce it to that “hated” government-issued fiat currency or exchange for something physical that is of actual use.

Another thought on virtual currencies: Isn’t it interesting how some of the most-ardent promoters and “true believers” are also those who “hate” The Fed, Wall Street, other central banks (and commercial banks) along with the existing government issuers of fiat currencies?  Well gee, if you hate something then it must be perfectly logical that what you hate suddenly becomes good when it’s you doing it and profiting from it, right?  What’s the proper name for someone who has the audacity to pull that sort of stunt?

One final thought — are we on the brink of a social and economic disaster?  There’s a lot of people who think so.  Then again as we crept toward December 31st, 1999 23:59:59 there were plenty of people telling us that the lights would go out and we’ll all die one second later.  That didn’t happen, obviously, as I’m still here.

But this much I’m reasonably certain of — that which can’t go on forever won’t, the structural economic imbalances that Wall Street and Washington DC have been playing with (on purpose) for the last three decades do have mathematical limits and nobody is quite sure of exactly where they are.

They do, however, exist — and like most such limits you never actually reach them — rather, a balloon bursts not because it exceeds its mechanical limits on size and stretch but as it expands it almost-always manages to find a pin first.

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