Economic Straight TalkWritten by Stephen Lendman Subject: Economy - International
by Stephen Lendman
Things aren't as good as they seem. Dire economic conditions masquerade as sound. Media scoundrels twist reality.
Big Lies proliferate. Repetition convinces most people hard times are good or not as bad as their personal situations suggest.
Wall Street manipulators transformed America into an unprecedented money making racket. Business models prioritize grand theft. Money is made by stealing it.
Government officials collude at the highest federal, state and local levels. They're well rewarded for going along. Who said crime doesn't pay?
Swindling is the national pastime. It's the American way. It's institutionalized. So are casino capitalism, market manipulation, front-running, pump and dump schemes, and other fraudulent practices.
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Bankfein calls it "doing God's work." He left unsaid which one he means.
It's hard imagining greater brazenness. It's harder knowing the Supreme Court ruled banks and other financial entities immune from securities fraud by those harmed.
Washington alone may sue for redress. It rarely happens. Criminally prosecuting top officials never follows. They're free to steal again. They take full advantage.
No one knows for sure what's coming when. The late Bob Chapman warned about impending crisis conditions. He predicted an eventual house of cards collapse. Only its timing remains uncertain. It could come any time from now to 2017, he believed.
America's economy is much weaker than reported. Europe's in crisis. Conditions have been deteriorating for years.
Bailouts at best buy time. They delay eventual day of reckoning final say. They assure greater trouble. Burdensome debt gets more onerous and harder to repay. Solving a debt crisis by adding more assures failure.
Billionaire investor George Soros warns about a potential EU breakup. He compared it to Soviet Russia's dissolution. "The European project is stalled," he said.
"And if it can't go ahead from here, it will go backwards. (T)he euro will go to pieces and the European Union, too."
Market analyst Graham Summers warns about a European house of cards collapse. Politicians aren't "famous for honesty," he said. Systemic corruption exacerbates crisis conditions.
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is Exhibit A. From 1997 - 2008, he "allegedly received roughly $34,000 per year." Perhaps he got much more. He won't say.
His country faces crisis conditions. Unemployment exceeds 25%. Youth unemployment tops 50%. Austerity is prioritized when stimulus is needed. Rajoy enriches himself while impoverishing his people.
He lied to Spanish citizens. He denies troubled conditions. He claims bankrupt Spanish banks are solvent. Public rage rejects him.
"There can be absolutely no trust in" politicians like him. Transparency doesn't exist. Nor do fairness or sound policies. "The EU crisis will (fester) until this sort of corruption, fraud," and government malpractice ends.
Things aren't improving. They're worsening. The European house of cards heads for collapse. Responsible parties include prime ministers, financial ministers, treasurers, and ECB head Mario Draghi.
They're "all implicated in corruption scandals" and other type financial malpractice.
France is deeply troubled. Wealthy people are fleeing. "(T)he economy has begun to implode."
Months earlier, Germany examined the impact of economic collapse.
"German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has asked a panel of advisers to look into reform proposals for France, concerned that weakness in the euro zone's second largest economy could come back to haunt Germany and the broader currency bloc."
Two officials spoke on condition of anonymity. They drafted a report on what France should do. So-called "wise men" said:
"The biggest problem at the moment in the euro zone is no longer Greece, Spain or Italy, instead it is France, because it has not undertaken anything in order to truly re-establish its competitiveness, and is even heading in the opposite direction."
Recent French economic data confirms fears. They've been "truly horrific."
Auto sales fell 13% year-over-year. Existing home sales outside Paris dropped 20% in the same period. New home sales plunged 25%.
Even high-end real estate markets collapsed. Paris apartments costing over two million euros plummeted 42% in 2012.
Since late 2007 crisis conditions began, France and Germany were "two key countries backstopping the implosion."
France now faces its own crisis. It bodes ill for the euro and EU. Germany also faces slowdown. Its economy was hard hit in 2012 Q IV. It dropped 0.5%. Annual growth fell 0.7%.
It shrank more than any time "in nearly three years as traditionally strong exports and investment slowed."
Europe's unravelling "at the precise time that EU banks are showing warning signs and the most important EU economies are heading sharply south."
Massive monetary intervention and promises of much more alone held Europe together so far.
Spain raided 90% of its social security fund. It did so to buy sovereign Spanish debt. It robbed ordinary people in the process.
Corruption scandals threaten to collapse its house of cards. It could happen when least expected.
Switzerland authorities informed Spain's judiciary that ruling People's Party (PP) former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, amassed a fortune. He secreted 22 million euros in Swiss accounts.
In 2009 he resigned. He faced charges alleging kickbacks and illegal payments. Other party officials were involved.
Spanish corruption is pervasive. Hundreds of political figures are involved. Prime Minister Rajoy has unrevealed skeletons in his closet.
Other EU scandals threaten to erupt. Bits and pieces slip out. Doing so suggests much more to come. Expect potentially major political and financial fallout.
Corruption scandals compound crisis economic conditions. Spain's banking system faces collapse. Italian bonds are imploding.
In 2012 Q IV, the Eurozone economy declined 0.6%. France is teetering. Powerhouse Germany shows weakness. Britain's in recession. Major economies are too big to bail out. Day of reckoning time may arrive sooner than expected.
Summers expects trouble in 2013. European reality suggests collapse, he says. "It's only a matter of time." It'll be far worse than 2008 when it happens.
Markets are dismissive, he says. They're disconnected from reality. They approach all-time highs when depression conditions affect growing millions.
Reality takes time unfolding. Economic conditions have final say.
The Fed may begin gradually removing the punch bowl. Its January 3 minutes expressed concerns. Continued accommodation could do more harm than good.
Unemployment, homelessness, and hunger grow with profits. They're slowing but who cares. Anomalies abound. Something "doesn't pass the sniff test," says economist David Rosenberg.
US raw steel production is down about 6% year-over-year. Railroad traffic is negative. So are Port of Los Angeles and Seattle containers shipped.
Air carrier available seat miles are negative year-over-year. So are railroad ton miles. Truck tonnage is down. Real goods and services exports are marginally positive but heading south.
At the same time, positive investor sentiment is soaring. It's approaching dangerous levels. Major market reversals often follow.
"Investors are tripping over each other in catching the risk train," says Rosenberg. It's happening as insider selling gathers steam.
In 1995 - 1997 and 2004 - 2007, a high sell-to-buy ratio preceded market declines. Rosenberg wants positive confirmation before turning bullish. From his perspective, it's absent.
Global depressions have final say. Economic conditions reflect nothing positive. Western majorities experience extreme hardships. Class war targets them relentlessly. Wealth disparity extremes are unprecedented.
Faith-based economics failed. Ordinary people are held hostage. Debt peonage benefits an elite few. Austerity harms most others. Draconian harshness is prioritized.
Jobs, benefits, living standards, futures and economies are wrecked for profits. Institutionalized inequality is policy. It's hard imagining why people don't resist. The only solution is world revolution.
George Bernard Shaw once said "Democracy is a form of government that substitutes elections by the incompetent many for the appointment of the corrupt few." Western societies offer proof.
Obama governs to the right of George Bush. He wages war on humanity. He looted the nation's wealth. He wrecked the economy.
He sacrificed people needs and institutionalized tyranny. He presides over a bogus democracy under a repressive police state apparatus.
Trends watcher Gerald Celente says "the entire financial system is collapsing." Ponzi scheme economics alone keeps it afloat. What can't go on forever, won't. Collapse will come in the fullness of time.
On February 8, Money Morning chief investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald headlined "As Insiders Head for the Exits, Do They Know Something 'We' Don't Know."
Whenever markets look "toppy," watch out, he said. Recent insider trades reflect nine sales for every buy. They're more often right than wrong.
Aggressive selling suggests a "looming correction in the works." Markets expanded despite "seriously flawed fundamental data," money printing madness, "political disarray," and Wall Street operating unregulated.
Earnings are declining. Forward-looking forecasts dropped sharply. Insiders have firsthand knowledge. Markets react in their own way and time. Manipulation affects performance.
Forewarned is forearmed. Trouble often comes when least expected. Rosenberg said the combination of tax hikes, higher food and gas prices, and "looming government spending squeeze" portends "challenged" consumer spending.
Far more looks troubling than promising. Media scoundrels won't say. Nor do corrupt politicians and central bankers. They're waging financial war on humanity.
Neoliberal priorities let essential public needs go begging. How much more people will take before erupting remains to be seen. The longer fiscal pain continues, the closer an ultimate day of reckoning approaches. It'll arrive disruptively.
Predatory finance is a new form of warfare. It's more destructive than standing armies. It wrecks millions of lives. People don't have enough to live on. Venal politicians support policies this harmful.
Money power runs America. Washington is Wall Street occupied territory. Money, credit, debt, and markets are controlled and manipulated. It's done for private enrichment.
Change never comes top down. Bottom up only works. Society's privileged never yield it. Pressure slowly builds for change. Growing human need takes so much.
When pain levels cross a threshold of no return, all bets are off. Celente says "(w)hen people lose everything and have nothing else to lose, they lose it."
Hopefully it'll be soon enough to matter. The world can't tolerate much more.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.