Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"How It Really Is"

“How many times do you have to get hit over the
 head until you figure out who's hitting you?”
- Harry S. Truman

“American Prosperity Has Become American Poverty”

“American Prosperity Has Become American Poverty”
by Bob Shanahan

"More than 40 percent of American households cannot afford rent, transportation, childcare, or a cellphone, according to a new study from the United Way Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed Project, obtained by Axios. U.S. households are still struggling despite living during the second longest “recovery” in our nation’s history.

United Way ALICE Project Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D., told Axios, “based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty.” Combining for almost 51 million American households essentially living in poverty in the land of the American Dream.

Millions of Americans have been left behind during this age of globalization and forced into poverty. Trump won the presidency because these deplorables need something different. And now it turns out these Americans Hillary Clinton dismissed and took for granted are much larger than we thought, despite the claims that the U.S. economy is on solid ground and the stock market trades at near record highs.

These households with adults who are working but not earning enough, unable to afford a middle class lifestyle but not technically living in poverty include the 66% of Americans making less than $20 an hour, or $40,000 per year if working full time.

To make matters worse for these financially strapped Americans, rent, gas, and food are rising far too fast. Monetary policy today encourages inflation while ignoring the detrimental effects it has on the cost of life’s essentials (housing, food, energy). With wages barely budging, the Fed is aiming for prices to go up at least 2% each year, ideally 2.5% per year. Inflation was 2.46% in April 2018 and ended 2017 at 2.13%. Wage growth has picked up some pace, lifting the annual increase in average annual increase to 2.7% in March of this year. Still, this matters little if almost 30% of the labor force is not working or looking for work at all. The civilian labor force participation rate has remained below 63% since the start of 2014.

The rent is too damn high. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, 40.9 million Americans, both homeowners and renters, spend more than 30% of their income on housing. This number also includes 19.8 million Americans who spend over half of their income for housing.
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 Image via St. Louis Federal Reserve / Consumer Price Index for 
All Urban Consumers: All Items from end of 2008 to Q1 2018

Piling on these depressing economic realities, the U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have like a drunken sailor on shore leave.

Goldman Sachs first warned us a few months ago that the U.S. fiscal trajectory was dire. “US fiscal policy is on an unusual course” with the budget deficit expected to keep rising over Trump’s next few years in office following his deficit-exploding policy to slash taxes and boost spending which will result in a federal debt/GDP ratio of around 85% of GDP by 2021.

The rising interest that needs to be paid on the Federal Debt is the biggest risk of all. This will send the U.S. government into “uncharted territory,” according to Goldman. Back in February, Goldman stated: “… we project that, if Congress continues to extend existing policies, including the recently enacted tax and spending legislation, federal debt will slightly exceed 100% of GDP and interest expense will rise to around 3.5% of GDP, putting the US in a worse fiscal position than the experience of the 1940s or 1990s.” Today, Goldman has doubled down on its dark assessment of America’s fiscal situation, writing that “the US fiscal outlook is not good,” also predicting that the U.S. fiscal deficit will double from $1 trillion over the next 12 months to $2 trillion by 2028, jumping to a near record 7% of GDP.

This current economic expansion that began in 2009 will come crashing down by 2020 as the Fed raises interest rates, according to forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. 59% of private-sector economists surveyed said the expansion would likely end in 2020, while 22% said 2021. Even less declared the recession would arrive next year or in 2022 or later. “The current economic expansion is getting long in the tooth by historical standards, and more late-cycle signs are emerging,” Scott Anderson said. He is the chief economist at Bank of the West and predicted a 2020 recession.

“The American Dream is Dead,” reads Georges Abi-Heila’s article on Medium.com that was reposted on ZeroHedge. He lays out the economic situation quite well, focusing on the numbers that paint a very disheartening picture of how impossible it is to move up in America’s unequal society today. The most important driver of one’s standard of living is sadly determined at birth. Who your parents are will determine your stature in life. Poor people remain poor and rich people stay rich. 15% of America’s children still live in poverty today. America’s economy is unfair and it is only getting worse. Sure, life is unfair, but it didn’t always used to be this way.

Economic inequality is spiking at astronomical rates. Most of the country’s economic growth over the last few decades has gone to the top 0.1%. Inequality is approaching a level we have not seen since right before the 1929-1939 Great Depression. The top 10% of American households own 80% of the wealth. In addition, a third of the population has no wealth at all and the top 0.1% owns as many assets as the bottom 90%. Abi-Heila rephrases the statistics this way: “if the US was a village of 1000 people, there’s 1 guy that has more money than 900 other villagers combined.” The U.S. is by far the most unequal society in the developed world and it is getting worse year after year.Chances are slim that you can improve your financial situation given the current climate.
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“The probability of ending where you start has gone up, and the probability of moving up has gone down,” declared Raj Chetty, economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, U.S. social mobility fell 70+% over the last 50 years. Making more money than your parents did is far from a sure thing. In fact, in 2016, approximately half of 30-year-olds earned less than their parents at the same age.

The rich get rich while the rest struggle to get by. Since 1979, essentially all of the income gains have gone to the top 1% while wages have stagnated for everyone else. Something seemed to change in the 1970s. As wages generally tacked with rising productivity, the average worker’s pay started to not grow as the economy did. Our economy is broken and American workers are getting screwed.

From 1980 to 2014, American households making at or below the median income saw their incomes rise by 1% or less. At the very lowest rung of society, pre-tax incomes have actually fallen while government assistance spikes to keep up with Americans making less money. Meanwhile, the rich saw dramatic income growth from the 1980s to today. Incomes for highly educated, suburban home-owning, affluent Americans making in the low six-figures are not driving this rise of income growth as their incomes grew at about 1.5% per year. The real spike in income has gone to the pockets of the top 1% (those earning an average of $1.3 million+ a year), where average annual income grew from 3-6%.

This stark inequality cannot continue. The American Dream cannot die. Or we will die. Our elites continue to make out like bandits while the rest struggle to pay the bills, meet rising rents, and put food on the table. A redistributive economy and an exploding welfare state are far from adequate answers to this troubling economic dilemma.
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A majority of Americans are desperate and hopeless as the champions of globalization continue to point to the decline in poverty in America. However, the homeless population rose in this country for the first time since 2010 and 24% have chosen to live in California. People are finally waking up to the death of the American Dream as Millennials have sadly come to accept that most will likely not earn as much or more than their parents did.

“If a tiny minority has all the wealth, if income is stagnating for 9 citizens out of 10, if chances of climbing are minuscule, isn’t rebellion justified?” Abi-Heila asks. The rebellion started with the election of Donald Trump. Though he has made some positive moves in the realm of deregulation and the tax cuts putting more money into the pockets of hard-working Americans, his decision to increase spending will explode the deficit to unsustainable rates and his slow-walking in the fight against illegal immigration is making it difficult for many poor Americans to land jobs to support their families.

Something has to change if we are to survive as a nation. A rebellion is needed but a socialist utopia growing the government, giving more benefits and handouts to the poor, and the implementation of a national $15 minimum wage will accomplish nothing. We are borrowing our children’s future with inordinate amounts of debt and it will all come crashing down before we know it. A reordering of the economy and an emphasis on wage growth for Middle America must be enacted. Inequality has to be lessened or the people will revolt."

"Mark my words."

“Are Americans the ‘Bad Guys’?”

“Are Americans the ‘Bad Guys’?”
by Bill Bonner

"The press was abuzz this weekend with comments on the killings in Gaza. We do not normally take an interest in the affairs of the region. It’s none of our business…there’s nothing we can do anything about…and since Israel has been the focus of so much of the media’s attention for our entire lives, we’re tired of it. But today, exceptionally, in this Pentecost season, we turn to the Holy Land; there may be something we can learn - or at least something that will upset dear readers. Irritating thoughts, like grains of sand in an oyster, can turn into pearls of insight…or cause dear readers to leave us.

Risk of abundance: Abundance, not scarcity, is the big risk. Rich men and beautiful women have too many choices; they can treat people badly and get away with it. And nothing ruins people faster than getting too much money with too little effort. Few bank robbers, lottery winners, or sports stars can resist the temptation of extravagance, luxury, and excess. In a few years, they’re broke.

Whole nations have succumbed to abundance. Spain stole the gold and silver of the New World…and was the basket case of Europe for the next 300 years. Hairdressers in Zimbabwe walked around with billions of Zim dollars…and couldn’t buy a ham sandwich. And the US, with the wretched good luck of having the world’s reserve currency, spent money it never earned, running up nearly $20 trillion (in today’s money) worth of trade deficits, thereby exporting its jobs and wrecking its Main Street economy.

But if ‘too much’ is a problem in the money world, is ‘too much’ perhaps a problem in the political world, too?

Dark side: The questions came to us as we read the weekend reports. Israeli soldiers shot people who couldn’t shoot back. A few Jewish intellectuals, with their sense of shame still intact, thought they had gone too far: ‘We’ve gone over to the dark side,’ they said. Going over to the Dark Side seems to be what people do from time to time. They get out the thumbscrews and the waterboards. They slaughter without fear of retribution. They lie, cheat, and steal without worry because the fix is in.

Jews have the bully power in the Middle East. Worried about Iran getting weapons of mass destruction? Israel already has them up the wazoo. Worried about Russia influencing US elections? Nobody does it better than Israel. But does that mean that Israelis have become the bad guys?

In Israel itself, some think so. Recalling a more innocent era, Israeli writer Uri Avnery writes: ‘I was a member of the National Military Organization (the “Irgun”), an armed underground group labelled “terrorist”. Palestine was, at the time, under British occupation (called “mandate”). In May 1939, the British enacted a law limiting the right of Jews to acquire land. I received an order to be at a certain time at a certain spot near the sea shore of Tel Aviv in order to take part in a demonstration. I was to wait for a trumpet signal.

The trumpet sounded and we started the march down Allenby Road, then the city’s main street. Near the main synagogue, somebody climbed the stairs and delivered an inflammatory speech. Then we marched on, to the end of the street, where the offices of the British administration were located. There we sang the national anthem, “Hatikvah”, while some adult members set fire to the offices. Suddenly, several lorries carrying British soldiers screeched to a halt, and a salvo of shots rang out. The British fired over our heads, and we ran away.’

Gun in the other hand: But now, the gun is in the other hand. Palestinians demonstrate. Israeli snipers do not shoot over their heads. Reports cited more than 2,000 casualties and 63 deaths - all Palestinian. Not that we’re taking sides. We have no dog in that fight. We’re just wondering.

‘Civilization is restraint,’ said Freud. Or something like that. But it is not just self-restraint. We get along and we go along. We don’t do unto others, generally, because we’re afraid they might do unto us. It is not abstract virtue that makes us good, in other words…it is fear of jealous husbands, determined creditors, and the Huns.

But what if we knew they could do us no harm? What if you were a giant in a race of pygmies? What if you had an AK-47…and your enemies were unarmed? What would happen to your civilized restraint then?

Among the comments arising from the Gaza incident were some pointing the finger at the US. The US president’s daughter and son-in-law seemed to approve of the Israeli government. Rather than condemn the killings, the US blocked an international investigation. What gives? Have Americans become ‘bad guys’ too?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US stood alone. It was the ‘end of history’, as one public intellectual proposed.

America was #1 — the ne plus ultra of the 20th century. By comparison, the whole rest of the world was just one big ‘sh*thole’. And the US could blast any part of it back to the Stone Age. Power was unbalanced and disproportionate. It was take…with no give. It was live…but not letting the other guy live. We could invade Iraq, but the Iraqis couldn’t invade us. We could target extremists for drone assassination while we slept in peace.

And why not? Paraphrasing former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright: ‘What good was it to have so much power if we didn’t use it?’ Therein lay the fatal temptation… More to come."

Monday, May 21, 2018

Musical Interlude: Deuter, “Black Velvet Flirt”

Deuter, “Black Velvet Flirt”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Bright spiral galaxy NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling in this cosmic scene, played out some 70 million light-years away just below bright star Regulus toward the faint constellation Sextans. Its beautiful spiral arms are distorted into sweeping tidal tails as NGC 3169 (left) and neighboring NGC 3166 interact gravitationally, a common fate even for bright galaxies in the local universe. In fact, drawn out stellar arcs and plumes, indications of gravitational interactions, seem rampant in the deep and colorful galaxy group photo.
Click image for larger size.
The picture spans 20 arc minutes, or about 400,000 light-years at the group's estimated distance, and includes smaller, dimmer NGC 3165 at the right. NGC 3169 is also known to shine across the spectrum from radio to X-rays, harboring an active galactic nucleus that is likely the site of a supermassive black hole.”

Chet Raymo, "Six Things"

"Six Things"
by Chet Raymo

"My mother was part of the last generation of Americans who were welded into a national cohesiveness by the classroom memorization of poems by English language poets - Longfellow, Whittier, Riley, Lowell, Field, and all the rest. All her life, lines of verse were on her lips...
"All at once, and nothing first, 
 Just as bubbles do when they burst." 
 Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The One Hoss Shay"

"Each morning sees some task begin, 
Each evening sees it close;
 Something attempted, something done,
 Has earned a night's repose."
 Longfellow, "The Village Blacksmith"

"The more we listened, the more our wonder grew,
 how his small head could contain all he knew."
  Oliver Goldsmith, "The Village Schoolmaster"

"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
 But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends-
 It gives a lovely light!
 Edna St. Vincent Millay, "First Fig"

...and so on. Memorized poems provided young scholars of her generation with a common language that defined a national consciousness and expressed respectful continuity with the past. Not mere rote. It was called "learning by heart," and heart was very much at work.

Is there a common canon of scientific knowledge that global citizens of the 21st century should have at heart? Here are six bits of knowledge that might constitute minimum scientific literacy for every grade-school graduate:

1. The world is big. With our best telescopes we observe a universe of tens of billions of galaxies. Each galaxy consists of hundreds of billions of stars. Most of those stars probably have planet systems. Our Earth is a typical planet of a typical star in a typical corner of a typical galaxy.

2. The world is old. Human time is not cosmic time. If a year is represented by the thickness of a playing card, all of recorded human history would be a pile of cards about 10 feet high. The age of the universe is about 14 billion years; lay this pile of cards on its side and it would reach from New York to San Francisco.

3. The world is made of atoms. Nature's construction set is astonishingly simple: protons, neutrons, electrons. Of these, nature makes 92 kinds of atoms, and these combine into molecules. Out of simplicity comes complexity - the clear liquidity of water, the smell of bananas, the blue of the sky. A molecule called DNA determines my species, my gender, the color of my eyes.

4. The world evolves. The history of the universe is an unfolding of matter and form from a seed of pure energy. Stars, planets and life have histories, determined by law and contingency. Everything alive on the planet Earth today is related by common descent from primordial ancestors.

5. Everything is connected. Our bodies are made of stardust - atoms forged in earlier generations of stars as they lived and died. Stars, planets, plants, animals, rocks, soil, sea, and atmosphere are interrelated in a fabric of wondrous refinement and resilience. We disrupt the fabric at our peril.

6. The world is wonderful. The more we learn about the form and function of the world, the more we realize the depth of our ignorance, and the more we appreciate the creation as a source of wonder, awe, reverence, praise - or, if you prefer, as revelation of a power worthy of our wonder, awe, reverence, praise.”

"Out-sheeping The Sheep..."

“We laugh at sheep because sheep just follow the one in front. We humans have out-sheeped the sheep, because at least the sheep need a sheep dog to keep them in line. Humans keep each other in line. And they do it by ridiculing or condemning anyone who commits the crime, and that’s what it’s become, of being different.”
- David Icke

The Poet: James Broughton, "Having Come This Far"

"Having Come This Far"

"I've been through what my through was to be,
I did what I could and couldn't.
I was never sure how I would get there.

I nourished an ardor for thresholds,
for stepping stones and for ladders,
I discovered detour and ditch.

I swam in the high tides of greed,
I built sandcastles to house my dreams.
I survived the sunburns of love.

No longer do I hunt for targets.
I've climbed all the summits I need to,
and I've eaten my share of lotus.

Now I give praise and thanks
for what could not be avoided,
and for every foolhardy choice.

I cherish my wounds and their cures,
and the sweet enervations of bliss.
My book is an open life.

I wave goodbye to the absolutes,
and send my regards to infinity.
I'd rather be blithe than correct.

Until something transcendent turns up,
I splash in my poetry puddle,
and try to keep God amused."

- James Broughton

The Daily "Near You?"

Marengo, Illinois, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

“Bread, Circuses and Bombs - Decline of The American Empire”, Part 1

“Bread, Circuses and Bombs - Decline of The American Empire”, Part 1
by James Quinn

"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions- everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."
 - Juvenal, “Satire” (100 A.D.)

“Roman satirist and poet Juvenal was displaying contempt for a degraded Roman citizenry that had shunned civic responsibility, shirked their duties of citizenship within a republic, and had chosen to sell their votes to feckless politicians for assurances of bread and circuses. Rather than govern according to noble principles based upon reason, striving for public policies that led to long term sustainability and benefitting the majority of citizens, politicians chose superficial displays and appeasing the masses utilizing the lowest common denominator of "free" food and bountiful spectacles, pageants, and ceremonies in order to retain power.

The Roman Empire's decline stretched across centuries as the gradual loss of civic virtue among its citizenry allowed demagogues to gain power and barbarians to eventually overrun the weakened empire. While the peasants were distracted with shallow exhibitions of palliative pleasures, those in power were debasing the currency, enriching themselves, and living pampered lives of luxury. The Roman leaders bought public approval and support, not through exemplary public service, but through diversion, distraction, and the satisfaction of base immediate needs and desires of the populace. Satisfying the crude motivations of the ignorant peasants (cheap food and entertainment) is how Roman politicians bought votes and retained power. Free wheat, circus games, and feeding Christians to lions kept the commoners from focusing on politicians pillaging and wasting the empire's wealth.

History may not repeat exactly because technology, resource discoveries, and political dynamics change the nature of society, but it does rhyme because the human foibles of greed, lust for power, arrogance, and desire for conquest do not vary across the ages. The corruption, arrogance, hubris, currency debasement, materialism, imperialism, and civic decay that led to the ultimate downfall of the Roman Empire is being repeated on an even far greater scale today as the American Empire flames out after only two centuries. The pillars of western society are crumbling under the sustained pressure of an immense mountain of debt, created by crooked bankers and utilized by corrupt politicians to sustain and expand their welfare/warfare state. Recklessness, myopia, greed, willful ignorance, and selfish disregard for unborn generations are the earmarks of decline in this modern day empire of debt, delusion and decay.

"Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence - those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are over-consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster." - Aldous Huxley, "Island"

Rome was eight and a half centuries old when Juvenal scornfully described the degenerative spiral of the Roman populace. Still, the Western Empire lasted another three centuries before finally succumbing to the Visigoths and Vandals. The far slower pace of history and lack of other equally matched competing nation states allowed Rome to exist for centuries beyond its Pax Romana period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity, which lasted for two centuries. Prior to becoming an empire, the Roman Republic was a network of towns left to rule themselves with varying degrees of independence from the Roman Senate and provinces administered by military commanders. It was ruled, not by Emperors, but by annually elected magistrates known as Roman Consuls. The Roman citizens were a proud people who had a strong sense of civic duty and made government work for the people.

During the 1st century B.C. Rome suffered a long series of internal conflicts, conspiracies and civil wars, while greatly extending their imperial power beyond Italy through military conquest. After the assassination of Julius Caesar and the ascension of Augustus to emperor in 27 BC, after a century of civil wars, Rome experienced an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. During this era, the solidity of the Empire was furthered by a degree of societal stability and economic prosperity. But it didn't last. The successors to Augustus contributed to the progressive ruination of the empire. The repugnant reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero reflected the true nature of the Roman people, who had relinquished their sovereignty to government administrators to whom they had granted absolute powers, in return for food and entertainment. It was the beginning of the end.

The American Republic began as a loose confederation of states who ruled themselves, with little or no direction from a central authority. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781 by all 13 States, limited the powers of the central government. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures. After winning the war for independence from England, the U.S. Constitution, which shifted power to a central authority, was ratified in 1789. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was passed in 1791 with the purpose of protecting individual liberties and insuring justice for all. Their function was to safeguard the citizens from an authoritarian federal government. These imperfect documents would benefit and protect the rights of the American people only if applied by moral, just, incorruptible, noble, honorable leaders and enforced by an educated, concerned, vigilant citizenry.

As with the Roman Empire, the quality of leadership has rapidly deteriorated over the last two centuries and now wallows at disgustingly low levels. These leaders are a reflection of a people who have abandoned their desire for knowledge, responsibility for their lives, work ethic, belief in freedom and the U.S. Constitution. The Juvenal of our times was H.L. Mencken who aptly and scornfully described the citizenry in 1920 as an ignorant mob who would eventually elect a downright moron to the presidency. He was right.

"The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre--the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." - H.L. Mencken

A Republic was formed 242 years ago, as opposed to a monarchy, by men of good intentions. They weren't perfect, but their goals for the new nation were honorable and decent. Ben Franklin had his doubts regarding whether we could keep a republic. He had good reason to doubt the long-term sustainability of this experiment. Freedom is not something bestowed on us by men of higher caste. We are born into this world free, with the liberty to live our lives as we see fit, the opportunity to educate oneself and the freedom to succeed as far as our capabilities and efforts allow. Only a self-reliant, virtuous, moral, civic minded people are capable of enjoying the fruits of freedom. Once corruption, self-interest, greed, and dependency upon government bureaucrats for sustenance become prevalent, the populace seeks masters who promise safety and security in return for sacrificing essential liberty and basic freedoms.

The country has defeated foreign invaders, withstood financial calamities, endured a bloody civil war, benefitted immensely from the discovery of oil under its soil, became an industrial power, fought on the winning side of two world wars, and since 1946 has become the greatest imperial empire since Rome fell to the barbarians. Over the course of our 242 year journey there has been a gradual relinquishment of the citizens' sovereignty and autonomy to an ever more overbearing central government. Lincoln's unprecedented expansion of Federal government authority during the Civil War marked a turning point, as state and local rights became subservient to an all-powerful central authority. Individual liberty has been surrendered and freedoms forfeited over a decades long insidious regression of a once courageous, independent, self-sufficient citizenry into a mob of cowering, willfully ignorant dependents of the deep state.

From the inception of the country there has been a constant battle between the banking interests and the common people. Bankers have used fraudulent fractional reserve banking to speculate for their own benefit, made risky loans, and created every financial crisis in the country's history. The profits from excessive risk taking are retained by the bankers. The inevitable losses are borne by taxpayers with the excuse that the financial system must be saved and preserved. The storyline never changes. The beginning of the end of the American Empire can be pinpointed to the year 1913, only 124 years after its inception. Private banking interests captured the monetary system of the empire with the secretive creation of the Federal Reserve. The power of the central state was solidified with the implementation of the personal income tax, allowing politicians to bribe their constituents with modern day "bread and circuses", paid for with money taken at gunpoint from them by the central state. We are now nothing but the hollowed out shell of a once noble Republic.

A century of central banking and heavy taxation of the people by bought off politician puppets has coincided with a century of war, depressions, currency debasement, overconsumption, obscene levels of consumer debt, trillions of excessive debt financed government spending, hundreds of trillions in unfunded entitlement liabilities, and a persistent decline in standard of living for the masses due to Federal Reserve manufactured inflation. We have failed to heed the lessons of history. We have repeated the blunders committed by the Romans.

The American Empire will not be murdered by an external force because it is too busy committing suicide. The moneyed interests, corporate oligarchs and their hand-picked politician front men see themselves as conquering heroes. Their colossal hubris and arrogance is only matched by the ignorance, gullibility, quivering fear of bogeymen, and susceptibility to propaganda of the general populace. The Wall Street bankers and feckless politicians are not gods, they are only men. Death is the great equalizer for emperors and peasants alike. The only thing that remains is your legacy and whether you positively impacted the world. It can be unequivocally stated that those in power today are leaving a legacy of despair, destruction, and debt.

Empires are born and empires die. The American Empire will not be sustained for eight centuries, as the swiftness of modern civilization, nuclear proliferation, religious zealotry, and sociopathic leadership ensures we will flame out in a blaze of glory before reaching our third century. The spirit of independence, idealism, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, knowledge seeking, advancement, and goodwill towards our fellow citizens that marked the height of our fledgling country has succumbed to a malaise of government dependency, cynicism, living on the dole, financial Ponzi schemes, willful ignorance, materialism, delusion, and myopic self-interest. The moral decline of the American populace has been reflected in the deteriorating quality of leaders we have chosen over the last century. Prosperity was taken for granted and no longer earned. We abdicated our civic responsibility to corrupt financiers and power seeking politicians. As time has passed, the ruling elite have grown ever more powerful and wealthy, at the expense of the peasantry. These sociopaths see themselves as god-like emperors, on par with the vilest of the Roman emperors.

Historians will mark 1980 as another turning point, when the nation capitulated to the financiers and ceded control of our destiny to Wall Street bankers, the military industrial complex, and globalist billionaires. The final deformation from a productive society built upon savings, capital investment, and goods production to a borrowing, gambling, and consumption society built upon debt and profiteering by powerful corporate and banking interests had commenced. The peak of this warfare/welfare state insanity was reached in 2000 and the road to decline and decay is now littered with the figurative corpses of a gutted middle class and the literal corpses of men, women and children across the globe, killed during our never ending imperial conquests. The ruling elite sense the futility and foolishness of their folly, but their insatiable appetite for wealth, power, triumph and glory blind them to the destructive consequences of their actions upon the nation and their fellow man. Power and dominion over others is a powerful aphrodisiac for our current day emperors and self-preservation at all costs is their mantra.

While they bask in their perceived triumph and glory, achieved through rigging the financial and political systems in their favor, they should heed the faint whisper in their ear that all glory is fleeting. "For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting." - George S. Patton, Jr.

The decline of the Roman Empire can be attributed to a number of supportable hypotheses, which have been documented by historians over time. They include:

• Perpetual warfare depleted the treasury and wasted the manhood of the empire. The use of mercenary armies eventually led to the sacking of Rome by the very armies they had employed.
• Military overexpansion and spending resulted in resources being diverted from technological advancement, maintenance of the civil infrastructure, and worthwhile investments to support economic growth.
• Excessive welfare spending, oppressive taxation and currency debasement widened the gap between rich and poor, resulting in discontent, mistrust and rebellion.
• The emergence of an all-powerful centralized authoritarian government ruling by mandate, racked by corruption, and kept in power by bribing its subjects with promises of bread and circuses.
• Emperors and Senators became oligarchs and their conspicuous consumption provided proof of their corruption and decadence. The widespread corruption and incompetence of its leadership led to a waning in civic pride among the citizens.
• The decline in productive commercial and agricultural industries due to high taxes on producers, used to support the military empire, contributed to the circumstances that allowed barbarian invasions to succeed.
• The moral decay of the people was caused by the influx of slave labor from conquered territories, resulting in a decline in middle class work ethic, and the subsequent rise in the level of citizens on the dole. An economy based upon slave labor precluded a middle class with buying power.

In Part Two, linked below, of this tale of two empires, I'll document the parallels between mistakes made, eternal human foibles, military misfortunes, financial misconduct, and moral decay, that denote the decline of the Roman and American Empires.”
- http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article47454.html

"Bread, Circuses & Bombs – Decline Of The American Empire",  Part Two

"Don't Explain..."

"Investing In Collapse: From Caracas To Cuba"

"Investing In Collapse: From Caracas To Cuba"

"For years, I’ve been writing about Venezuela, describing it as the “movie” by which we can view the future of other jurisdictions that are presently in decline. The reason is that declining nations follow the same pattern, time and time again, over the centuries. This is not coincidence. The pattern exists because human nature never changes, regardless of the era or the locale. Political leaders make the same mistakes as their forebears, and the people of a nation react in kind.

For this reason, countries have a sort of “shelf life.” They rise in prominence, due to work ethic and productivity. They then go through a period of abundance, which eventually deteriorates, due to complacency and apathy. Finally, they collapse into a period of bondage.

If we recognize that this pattern has played out countless times over the millennia, we can track any given country and assess where it is at present, in the pattern. For example, Europe and North America are presently in the last stages prior to collapse, Venezuela is in the process of collapse and Cuba is in the post-collapse recovery.

But, although this may be historically interesting, of what value is it to us in terms of our own lives and the choices we make for our future? Well, we can observe Venezuela and see the effects of the present policies evident in our own country, if we happen to live in one that’s on the verge of collapse.

For example, we can see that ever-increasing largesse by a government - on the backs of productive taxpayers - is a major destructive trend. “Protective” tariffs and capital controls also lead to collapse. And excessive debt is a pathway to economic collapse. We can see from the recent history in Venezuela how these political mistakes caused their collapse, and we can now observe how that collapse plays out.

But, going back to the title of this essay, how do we invest in collapse? Well, the reader will be familiar with the investment principle of “buy low, sell high.” This means that the investor should not wait until an investment is already popular. He should invest when it’s at its leastpopular. So, let’s look at that a bit more closely.

The principle would suggest that, in the main, the US, in its final, declining stage, is a poor country for investment, but that Venezuela could be a far better possibility. But at what point should investment take place? Well, there are a few basic assumptions that might be made. First, investment is difficult at a time when there’s massive unrest. If a “boots on the ground” assessment can be made fairly safely, this can be a very advantageous time to begin studying possibilities.

Also, during a collapse, local businessmen and government officials are desperate and will cut virtually any deal with anybody, just to get a bit of money into their hands. Such deals are normally cancelled wholesale by the incoming government, after power has been transferred to them (often just for spite).

So, for any investor, the country should ideally be researched both during and following the collapse and a decision made as to what investments to focus on. Then, when the new government has largely stabilized the country (the riots are over and commerce has begun to function normally), the greatest opportunities for investment occur. The country is desperate for inward investment, and opportunities abound.

So, let’s have a look at a country that has already passed through its collapse stage and has stabilized. Cuba collapsed for much the same reasons as its neighbor, Venezuela, is now collapsing. But that was back in the 1990s. An anomaly in Cuba’s case is that the government was not overturned and the re-stabilization was left to the still-collectivist government. Being unable to admit that they’d caused the collapse, but desperately needing a recovery, the Castro government chose the obvious solution—capitalism. By this time, the once-committed communist Raul Castro advised his brother Fidel that collectivism was a failure and that they must adopt a free-market if the country was to recover.

However, being unable to admit that the problem was of their own doing (they blamed the American blockade), they set about introducing free-market principles within the existing system. Over the years since that time, it’s become increasingly possible for Cubans to open their own businesses, and to pay the government taxes on the profits.

Today, there are now so many cuentapropistas (business owners) in Cuba that the taxes generated have not only enriched many of the Cuban people, but have refloated the government. (Even a mid-level bureaucrat understands that the reason he’s been able to discard his thirty-year-old Russian Lada and now has a new Hyundai is due to the influx of tax revenue.) No one in Cuba has the cheek to call it “free-market,” but most everyone understands that the end of food shortages and the importation of such goods as appliances and stylish clothing is due to the cuentapropista revenue.

So, then, why isn’t this big news in the larger world? Well, although the free market has been taking over the Cuban economy (from the bottom, up) for over a decade, the Castro government still maintains ownership of much of the real estate, still owns many businesses, and controls the military. However, the government businesses (as they are collectivist) are highly inefficient, so the flood of tourists prefer the privately run businesses, which are thriving. And the military is now in charge of renovating Havana’s old buildings for new shops - they’ve become a sort of urban public works department.

Yet the claim internationally is that Cuba is still communist. Strictly speaking, this is so. But each year, more government businesses fold and more opportunities are given to allow restaurants, tourist accommodations, taxi services, farm cooperatives and factories to be started up privately by the Cuban people. The government not only condones the free-market development, but encourages it, as today, the butter on their own bread comes from tax receipts, not Russian subsidies.

At present, the government still holds many areas of investment for itself. An outside investor cannot legally make an investment deal with a local unless he’s a “relation.” But the government creates opportunities and joint-ventures with outside investors for tourism, mining, telecommunications, energy, biotechnology, etc., and, in fact, each day cruise ships arrive in Havana Harbour from Miami, loaded with American tourists, whose countrymen are under the impression that they cannot enter Cuba legally.

The anomaly in Cuba is that it’s a country that’s being reinvented from within, but without the customary announcements from the political leaders that the “rebirth” is underway. Raul Castro has just stepped down as president, but as I’d expected, he’ll stay on as the Secretary General of the Communist party until 2021, which would mean that he’ll continue to engineer the rebirth of Cuba from behind the scenes. After this date, the cloak of free-market secrecy may be tossed off in Cuba, and those who have invested at the bottom will watch their investments blossom.”