Friday, December 20, 2019

The Bubble And The Final Act

The Final Act

In processing the flow of information about the goings on in the US, it is impossible to get rid of a most unsettling sense of unreality—of a population trapped in a dark cave filled with little glowing screens, all displaying different images yet all broadcasting essentially the same message. That message is that everything is fine, same as ever, and can go on and on. But whatever it is that’s going on can’t go on forever, and therefore it won’t. More specifically, a certain coal mine canary has recently died, and I want to tell you about it.

It’s easy to see why that particular message is stuck on replay even as the situation changes irrevocably. As of 2019, 90% of the media in the United States is controlled by four media conglomerates: Comcast (via NBCUniversal), Disney, ViacomCBS (controlled by National Amusements), and AT&T (via WarnerMedia). Together they have formed a corporate media monoculture designed to most effectively maximize shareholder value.

As I wrote in Reinventing Collapse in 2008, “...In a consumer society, anything that puts people off their shopping is dangerously disruptive, and all consumers sense this. Any expression of the truth about our lack of prospects for continued existence as a highly developed, prosperous industrial society is disruptive to the consumerist collective unconscious. There is a herd instinct to reject it, and therefore it fails, not through any overt action, but by failing to turn a profit because it is unpopular.”

Two years earlier, in a slideshow optimistically titled “Closing the Collapse Gap” (between the USSR and the USA), I wrote: “...It seems that there is a fair chance that the US economy will collapse sometime within the foreseeable future. It also would seem that we won’t be particularly well-prepared for it. As things stand, the US economy is poised to perform something like a disappearing act.” And now, 12 years later, I believe I am finally watching what amounts to preparations for that act’s final rehearsal; the ballet troupe is doing stretching exercises and the fat lady is singing arpegios to warm up…

Clearly, this final act is yet to be performed. The media replay loop continues to play, keeping the populace convinced that the future will resemble the past (except, perhaps, it will have more wind generators, solar panels and electric cars). The populace continues to be persuaded to go out and shop for (or, more frequently now, order online) things it doesn’t need, to be paid for by money it doesn’t have.


Everybody knows that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by “deregulation” and “greed,” right?
Except that it wasn’t.
A film titled The Bubble offers a non-partisan, critical examination of the policies and events that led to the biggest crash since World War II. Produced by Jimmy Morrison and co-written by Tom Woods, the film features a who’s-who of economic and financial experts including Jim Rogers, Jim Grant, Marc Farber, Doug Casey, Gene Epstein, David Stockman, Robert Murphy and Peter Schiff.
After the New York premiere of the film, Fox Business’ Liz Claman moderated a discussion with Gene Epstein, Jim Grant, Peter Schiff, David Tice, and Tom Woods. They talk about how they knew the crisis was coming and how it applies to today.

A number of people predicted the 2008 meltdown. Morrison said he realized it was important to ask these people what they saw that others didn’t. Claman said the film was “the best encapsulation of what happened, why it happened, but more importantly, who saw it coming and who did not.”
Claman and Peter went to high school together. She describes how they got together in 2005 and Peter spent an hour explaining to her why the financial system was going to completely implode. How did Peter know?
Peter described his interaction with people in the mortgage industry in the early 00’s and explained how the seeds of the crisis were planted then. It was rooted in Greenspan’s policies after the stock market bubble popped in 2000. Peter said had he not dropped interest rates to 1%, that correction would have been a lot bigger.

I could see where it was going. I could see what was happening in the housing market, and I knew that it was distorting the economy in ways that were much greater than the dot-com bubble did, because I knew we were building an entire economy based on home equity and home equity extractions, and people were spending money they didn’t have and buying stuff they couldn’t afford. So, this whole thing was a big bubble, and I could see the way it was being financed. And you know it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing implodes.”
Woods noted that in putting the script together, he thought it was imperative to highlight the mainstream reaction to Peter’s prediction.
We had to have Peter being not just criticized, but literally laughed at. Becuase at that moment, Peter couldn’t realize how awesome that moment is with the future, because these SOBs laughed at you and you were so right. And then almost nobody apologized to you later. I mean, it tells you something about these people.”
This isn’t just a jaunt through the past. What happened during the runup to 2008 has relevance today. The central banks are engaging in the same policies. As Claman put it, “We’ve rebuilt an entire system instead of fixing the cracked foundation.”

Peter explained how the policies that led to the housing bubble are being repeated today. The housing bubble was blown up by Alan Greenspan lowering rates to 1% and leaving them there for a couple of years and then slowing raising them back up.

Now, think about what’s in store for us. Because after that bubble popped, instead of learning their lessons after having blown two bubbles, first in the stock market and then in the real estate market, instead of admitting that they lit the fires that they’re trying to put out, the Federal Reserve didn’t lower rates to 1%, they lowered them to zero. And they left them there for six, seven years. And then they took three more years to get back to two, and they’re already going back down. So, if we created such a big bubble with 1% for a couple of years that resulted in the ’08 financial crisis, what is going to result from this?”

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