Debt Serfdom In One Chart

Debt Serfdom In One Chart

The essence of debt serfdom is debt rises to compensate for stagnant wages.

I often speak of debt serfdom; here it is, captured in a single chart. The basic dynamics are all here, if you read between the lines:

1. Financialization of the U.S. and global economies diverts income to capital and those benefitting from globalization/ “financial innovation;” income for the top 5% rises spectacularly in real terms even as wages stagnate or decline for the bottom 80%.

2. Previously middle class households (or those who perceive themselves as middle class) compensate for stagnating incomes and rising costs by borrowing money: credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc. In effect, debt is substituted for income.

3. The dot-com/Internet boom boosted incomes across the board, enabling the bottom 95% to deleverage some of the debt.

4. When the investment/speculation bubble popped, incomes again declined, and households borrowed heavily against their primary asset, the home, via home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), second mortgages, etc.

5. The incomes of the top 5% rose enough that these households could actually reduce their debt (deleverage) even before the housing bubble popped.

Here is a chart of real (inflation-adjusted) incomes, courtesy of analyst Doug Short: note that the incomes of the bottom 80% have been flatlined for decades, while the top 20% saw modest growth that vanished once the housing bubble popped. Only the top 5% experienced significant expansion of income. Notice that incomes of the top 20% and top 5% really took off in 1982, once financialization became the dominant force in the economy.

Interestingly, we can see the double-bubble (dot-com and housing) clearly in the top income brackets, as these speculative bubbles boosted capital gains and speculation-based income. Since the bottom 80% had little capital to play with, the twin bubbles barely registered in their incomes.

Bottom line: financialization and substituting debt for income have run their course. They’re not coming back, no matter how hard the Federal Reserve pushes on the string. Both of these interwined trends have traced S-curves and are now in terminal decline:

Those hoping the economy is “recovering” on the backs of financial speculation/ legerdemain and ramped up borrowing by the lower 95% will be profoundly disappointed when reality trumps fantasy.

Two Scariest Charts From Today's NFP Report, Or The Real "New Part-Time Normal" P.S. this is the last post on today's abysmal NFP report. I promise.

Back in February Zero Hedge was first to point out that while jobs may be growing (modestly) and the unemployment rate declining (rapidly, on the back of all those leaving the labor force), it was the quality of jobs that was troubling. Indeed, as today’s NFP report once again showed, the average hourly earnings barely budged at $23.38 from $23.37 last month, and in fact declined on an inflation-adjusted basis. Why? Because as we predicted both in February (and in 2010) the US is increasingly becoming a population of part-time workers, as full time jobs disappear for good, and are off-shored abroad at best. April confirmed everything we had been warning about: in the month, full time jobs dropped to 114,478 from 115,290, an epic drop of 812,000 in full time jobs which was the biggest since… March 2009!The offset? Why a surge in part-time jobs of course, which increased by 508,000 in the month of April. So while seasonally adjusted, birth/death re-casted jobs may have increased by 115,000, the real quality jobs, imploded, which unfortunately is merely a part of a longer-term secular trend as part of the new part-time normal.

Part-time jobs and sequential change (source):

And a longer-term view:

More on the Employment Number: The Addbacks: +22K From Seasonal; +206K From Birth Death

The seasonally adjusted non-farm payroll number rose by 115K in April. That’s great: it was a miss but such is life. Here is what the unadjusted data that led to this number says. The seasonal add-back in April was +22K, a rapid break from the last 3 years when April saw a negative seasonal adjustment following the traditional huge positive adjustments in the January-March period, which in turn means that the record warm winter give back has not even started! As a result, the seasonal add-backs in 2012 are now a massive 4,499,000 jobs: jobs that have not been added but are expected to materialize based on historical seasonal patterns. And just as importantly, in April the Birth-Death addition was a whopping 206K, far greater than the comparable addition in 2010 and 2011, and much bigger than expected, which brings the year total now to a +20K cumulative total. It means, that by rough estimation, the reality is that in April the unadjusted, un-birth/death number was a decline of -111,000, and likely far worse once the true weather adjustments start taking place. This number is corroborated by the Household Survey which dropped by 169,000. So much for the recovery.

Below are the seasonal add-backs to the adjusted number (vs. the non-seasonally adjusted monthly number).

 

This is how this trend looks historically:

And the birth-death adjustment:

People Not In Labor Force Soar By 522,000, Labor Force Participation Rate Lowest Since 1981

Iit is just getting sad now. In April the number of people not in the labor force rose by a whoping 522,000 from87,897,000 to 88,419,000.  This is the highest on record. The flip side, and the reason why the unemployment dropped to 8.1% is that the labor force participation rate just dipped to a new 30 year low of 64.3%.

Labor force participation Rate:

Forget The Nomination: Ron Paul’s “Revolution” Is Taking Over The Republican Party

What little commentary we’ve seen from the media on Ron Paul’s silent coup presently underway in the Republican Party has focused mostly on its implications for the 2012 Republican Primary and whether Paul can hold back Romney’s delegate count just long enough to ensure a brokered convention, which is the only feasible scenario in which Paul could emerge as the party’s nominee.

But perhaps more important and far-reaching in its implications for the future of national politics in the US, is not Ron Paul’s delegate count, but the fact that his supporters are successfully taking over the Republican Party district by district, county by county, state by state. That the fiercely independent Republican congressman from Texas might still have a tiny chance at winning his party’s nomination, while interesting, is less important than what he will most certainly have succeeded at doing: Ron Paul has built a political machine.

Judging by recent events in state and local GOP conventions across the country, it may not be at all presumptuous for Ron Paul’s supporters to call their burgeoning movement a revolution.

In Iowa, it is no exaggeration to say that Ron Paul’s people have taken over the GOP. After a stunning coup on April 21st, the new Iowa GOP state central committee now has six members who have publicly expressed support for Ron Paul’s candidacy– and that includes the new state chair of the Iowa Republican Party, A. J. Spiker, the former vice chairman for Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign! Think about that. This is major news. It signals a sea change in the Republican Party. We are now living in a world where the head of the Republican Party of Iowa is a Ron Paul supporter.

And it’s not just Iowa, though Iowa is especially significant because of its prominent role in the national primary process. Ron Paul’s supporters are taking over the Republican Party everywhere. This weekend during the April 28th district conventions, Ron Paul supporters also took over the GOP in Louisiana, with not a bare majority, but a whopping 74% of the delegates to Louisiana’s state convention in June. You can bet they’ll show up and you can bet they’ll elect their own to positions of leadership in the state GOP.

It’s the same story in Alaska, where the Ron Paul movement took over the Republican Party’s state convention on Saturday, and elected two Ron Paul supporters to the positions of state chair and co-chair, Russ Millete and Debbie Holland-Brown, respectively. Even in Mitt Romney’s own home state of Massachusetts, Ron Paul’s movement swept the state’s district conventions Saturday, and stacked the slate of delegates bound to vote for Romney on the first ballot in Tampa with activists who will vote for Ron Paul on the second ballot if there’s a brokered convention.

Looking back further to mid-April, Paul’s supporters also dominated conventions in Minnesota and made a strong showing in Colorado. Looking ahead, Paul’s supporters are poised to continue repeating their successful takeover strategy at the Nevada State GOP’s convention this weekend, and careful observers should look out for more possible surprises in the upcoming Texas and California processes, especially with the likelihood of Newt Gingrich’s withdrawal from the race, leaving Ron Paul as the only alternative to an electorate that is hardly enamored with Mitt Romney.

Again, the bigger story here is not Ron Paul’s chances at winning his party’s nomination, but his supporters’ marked success at winning control over the party apparatus itself.

Another important angle here is that what we’re seeing happen in states all over the country completely disproves the pervasive narrative that Ron Paul’s supporters are computer-bound, “armchair activists” that can win online polls but just never show up to vote in person. In fact, we can infer from their apparent tenacity that Ron Paul supporters are actually more energetic than typical Republicans, more likely to show up and vote, and more likely to get more deeply involved in the political process by becoming delegates and attending party conventions at every geographic level.

It now looks more like Paul has suffered in state-wide primaries and straw poll votes not because his supporters lack the energy and follow-through to vote, but because they are merely still outnumbered by voters more inclined to choose one of Paul’s opponents. But while Paul’s camp is outnumbered by people more likely to vote for a Romney or a Santorum on election day, the number of such voters with the energy to get as deeply involved as possible in the party process now appears lower than the number of Ron Paul supporters willing to do the same in states everywhere.

Whether media commentators consider this change a good or bad thing for the Republican Party and for the future of American politics, they have an obligation to report it to their audiences and acknowledge just how significant this change is. We are witnessing no less than a political revolution in the country and a major shift in the GOP’s internal composition. For two election cycles now, Paul’s supporters were an outside minority that had to make their case to the party establishment. It looks like in 2014 and 2016, Republican candidates will have to make their case to Ron Paul supporters in many places.

Start looking for more of Ron Paul’s platform of limited government, individual liberty, and constitutional rule-of-law in the rhetoric and on the agendas of candidates, policy-makers, and party leaders at every level of American government in the years to come.

The Grand Old Party is becoming a Grand New Party.

The Pseudoscience of Economics

The Pseudoscience of Economics

Modern economics is obsessed with modelling. An overwhelming majority of academic papers on the subject work like so: they take data, and use data to construct formal mathematical models of economic processes. Models mostly describe a situation, and describe how that situation would be changed by a given set of events; a very simple example is that as the supply of a good diminishes, its price will increase. Another is that deficit spending increases the national income. A mathematical model is a predictive tool created to demonstrate the outcome of events in a massively simplified alternate universe.

As someone who rather enjoys voyages of the imagination, the use of mathematical models in economics is intriguing. The pretension that through using formal mathematical techniques and process  we can not only accurately understand, but accurately predict the result of changes in the economy is highly seductive. After all, we can accurately predict the future, right?

Wrong. The wonderful and terrible and confounding thing about our world is that it is a deeply unpredictable place, at least in the economic sphere where each number (for instance “aggregate demand” or “aggregate supply”) in an equation may loosely refer to millions of huge, complex and dynamic events. When you’re using huge simplifications to describe reality, those simplifications may miss the important details, and your projections may go askew.

Not all modelling is equal. Newton’s model of gravitation (since superseded by Einstein’s relativity) makes relatively accurate predictions about how gravitation works, and what would happen to an object dropped 500 metres above the Earth. NASA used Newton’s equations to fly to the Moon. Of course, even in physics there are occasionally divergences and oddities (which is why there are quite often unrepeatable or anomalous experimental results, for instance the recent experiment that seemed to show neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light). So economics — with its fixation on creating models of situations, and using these models to attempt to predict the future, mimics physics, chemistry and biology, where data is collected, and used to produce theories of physical processes which allow a modestly accurate representation of the future.

The key qualitative difference, though, is that mathematical economic theories don’t accurately predict the future. Ben Bernanke — the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and one of the most-cited academic economists in the world told the world that subprime housing was contained. That is the economic equivalent of Stephen Hawking telling the world that a meteorite is going to miss the Earth, when it is really going to hit. Physicists can very accurately model the trajectories of rocks in space. But economists cannot accurately model the trajectories of prices, employment and interest rates down on the rocky ground.

The thing that I believe modern economists are most useful for is pointing out the glaring flaws in everyone else’s theories. Steve Keen has made a public name for himself by publishing a book entitled debunking economics, in which he explains the glaring and various flaws in modern economic modelling (DSGE, New Classical, etc).

Economics is a complex and multi-faceted subjects. Economists must be in some measure, philosophers, historians, linguists, mathematicians, statisticians, political scientists, sociologists and psychologists, and many other things. The trouble is that at some stage in the last century the multi-faceted multi-dimensional economics (like that Xenophon) was hijacked by mathematicians who tried to turn this huge and delicate subject into an equation. Yet economics — and economic decisions, from the macro to the micro level — is a human subject. It is subtle and psychological and sporadic. A human subject requires human language, human emotion, human intuition.

The grand theoretical-mathematical approach to economics is fundamentally flawed. Trying to smudge the human reality of economics and politics into cold mathematical shackles is degenerative.

So what to do if you want to understand the economy?

Follow the data, consider the history (similarities and differences between the past and the present)and explain your conclusions simply, as you would to a child. Consider philosophical definitions: what is money? What is demand? What is supply? What is value? How does demand affect supply? What are the global patterns of trade? Why have they emerged this way and not an alternative way? Consider possibilities. Admit the limitations of your knowledge and explore the boundaries. Stop forcing the construction of absolutes, grand frameworks, grand theories. No theory will ever be robust to everything nature will throw at it, but simple microeconomic heuristics (opportunity cost, cost-benefit analysis) combined with data-focussed historical analysis may be more robust than cold, dead mathematics.

As Heraclitus noted:

No man ever steps in the same river twice

No two situations are identical. And in this universe even tiny differences can have huge effects on the outcome of a situation. This is the butterfly effect, a term coined by Edward Lorenz, and derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

The pseudo-scientific school of mathematical economics hungers and craves for a perfect world, where each river is the same, where there is no butterfly effect, where human preferences are expressed in equation form, where there is no subtlety or ambiguity or uncertainty.

It is a dreamworld constructed by and for people with Asperger’s Syndrome.

"We Are Number One!", Or Why At Least Broke Greece Is Not America

A rather curious phenomenon that has been observed in the popular press lately is that on those rare occasions when total global public debt is demonstrated correctly on a country by country basis, i.e., includingcontingent liabilities, as well as various trans-national, public-sector backed guarantees (such as EFSF backstops), and most importantly the Net Present Value of pensions and healthcare, or the cost of the welfare state expressed in current dollars, there is one country that is  systematically excluded. That would be the United States. Today we set the record straight by adding the US to the list where it rightfully belongs, and also answer the rhetorical question of why the US just so happens to be consistently omitted from such column-chart based, hair-raising classifications. Simply said, it is quite clear why the now defaulted Hellenic Republic could and should be forgiven in saying that “at least Greece is not America…”

Keep in mind this is purely a documentation of public debt in its broader definition. When one adds private financial and household debt, things get truly hilarious, as seen on the following chart also from Morgan Stanley(which unfortunately excludes such critical components of public debt as contingent and NPV of pension and healthcare) which shows why the UK, with its 950% global consolidated debt/GDP, is quite fond of infinite rehypothecation, or the iterational “fractional reserve” creation of credit money from one asset (most likely robo-signed away to someone, unclear quite who: just ask Jon Corzine how fiat money can evaporate when one tries to match it with the “asset” that spawned it), as many times as necessary to pay those record banker bonuses.


Incidentally, the reason why the US is again mysteriously underrepresented from this chart is not only due to ignoring the elephant in the room, or NPVed welfare costs, but because for a proper apples to apples comparison basis on total, consolidated cross-sector debt, one would have to also account for all the shadow banking system debt, a number and concept which modern monetary theory still refuses to acknowledge, which was the primary source of thoroughly unregulated and deposit-free credit expansion in the US in the past 20 years,  and which per Citi estimates from several years ago based on total assets held by custodial banks, would be well over double the US GDP alone!

Flashback from 1975: “The NSA's Capability … Could Enable It To Impose Total Tyranny, And There Would Be No Way To Fight Back

  

Senator Church’s Prophetic Warning

Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:

“Th[e National Security Agency’s]  capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, andno American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.  [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, andthere would be no way to fight back.

Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.

The former head of the program for the NSA recently held his thumb and forefinger close together, and said:

We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state

So Senator Church’s warning was prophetic.

Spying Began Before 9/11

While you might assume that the NSA’s spying on Americans is a response to 9/11, the government’s illegal spying on Americans actually began before 9/11.

Bloomberg reported in 2006:

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

 

“The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,” plaintiff’s lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. “This undermines that assertion.”

 

“The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that AT&T may neither confirm nor deny AT&T’s participation in the alleged NSA program because doing so would cause `exceptionally grave harm to national security’ and would violate both civil and criminal statutes,” AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said in an e-mail.

 

U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller and NSA spokesman Don Weber declined to comment.

And see this and this.

In other words, the NSA’s trashing of the constitutional rights of American citizens had nothing to do with 9/11.

NSA Heard the 9/11 Hijackers’ Plans from Their Own Mouths … But Didn’t Stop Them

Indeed, the NSA was listening in on the 9/11 hijackers’ phone calls before 9/11, but didn’t do a whole lot to stop them:

  • The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the  mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker “tomorrow is zero hour” and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her “Intwo days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of Bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.
  • And according to CBS News, at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, “the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former
    Soviet Republic of Georgia”, and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it probably did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)

As we reported in 2008, the NSA even monitored the hijackers within the United States:

We’ve previously pointed out that the U.S. government heard the 9/11 plans from the hijackers’ own mouth. Most of what we wrote about involved the NSA and other intelligence services tapping top Al Qaeda operatives’ phone calls outside the U.S.

 

However, as leading NSA expert James Bamford – the Washington  Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings for almost a decade, winner of a number of journalism awards for coverage national security issues, whose articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and the only author to write any books (he wrote 3) on the NSA – reports, the NSA was also tapping the hijackers’ phone calls insidethe U.S.

 

Specifically, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi lived in San Diego, California, for 2 years before 9/11. Numerous phone calls between al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in San Diego and a high-level Al Qaeda operations base in Yemen were made in those 2 years.

 

The NSA had been tapping and eavesdropping on all calls made from that Yemen phone for years. So NSA recorded allof these phone calls.

 

Indeed, the CIA knew as far back as 1999 that al-Mihdhar was coming to the U.S. Specifically, in 1999, CIA operatives tailing al-Mihdha in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, obtained a copy of his passport. It contained visas for both Malaysia and the U.S., so they knew it was likely he would go from Kuala Lumpur to America.

ABC News reported in 2002:

Shortly before Sept. 11, NSA intercepts detected multiple phone calls from Abu Zubaida, bin Laden’s chief of  operations, to the United States. The intercepts were never passed on.

And Raw Story wrote in 2008:

Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA … and found that it had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden’s satellite phone, starting in 1996.

 

“The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington,”  Bamford told PBS.

 

PBS also found that “the 9/11 Commission never looked closely into NSA’s role in the broad intelligence breakdown behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. If they had, they would have understood the full extent to which the agency had major pieces of the puzzle but never put them together or disclosed their entire body of knowledge to the CIA and the FBI.”

 

In a review of Bamford’s book, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerreywrote, “As the 9/11 Commission later established, U.S. intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda had held a  planning meeting in Malaysia, found out the names of two recruits who had been present — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — and suspected that one and maybe both of them had flown to Los Angeles. Bamford reveals that the NSA had been eavesdropping for months on their calls to Yemen, yet the agency ‘never made the effort’ to trace where the calls originated. ‘At any time, had the FBI been notified, they could have found Hazmi in a matter of seconds.’”

 

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told PBS, “None of this information that we’re speaking about this evening’s in the 9/11 Commission report. They simply ignored all of it.”

Spying Unrelated to Keeping Us Safe

As we’ve previously documented, the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent 

and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).

Indeed, the NSA monitoring efforts will not focus on spying on potential terrorists – or even criminal activity – but in recording every phone call, email, internet search or other communication in the country.

Not Just the NSA: Other Agencies and Shady Foreign Groups Spying on Americans As Well

It’s not just the NSA.

As Nat Hentoff writes:

Thirty years after Church’s principled stand, the Washington Post reported that the NSA had already been  enlisting other intelligence
agencies
 to assist its surveillance of “people inside the country suspected of having terrorist connections” (“Bush Authorized Domestic Spying,” Dan Eggen, Dec. 16, 2005).

On what basis? That’s classified.

And Bamford reports that shady companies with ties to Israel are wiretapping Americans for the NSA:

One of the [National Security] agency’s biggest secrets is just how careless it is with that ocean of very private and very personal communications, much of it to and from Americans. Increasingly, obscure and questionable contractors — not government employees — install the taps, run the agency’s eavesdropping infrastructure, and do the listening and analysis.

 

And with some of the key companies building the U.S.’s surveillance infrastructure for the digital age employing unstable employees, crooked executives, and having troubling ties to foreign intelligence services, it’s not clear that Americans should trust the secretive agency ….

 

***

 

Secretive contractors with questionable histories and little oversight were also used to do the actual bugging of the entire U.S. telecommunications network.

According to a former Verizon employee briefed on the program, Verint, owned by Comverse Technology, taps the communication lines at Verizon, which I first reported in my book The Shadow Factory in 2008. Verint did not return a call seeking comment, while Verizon said it does not comment on such matters.

At AT&T the wiretapping rooms are powered by software and hardware from Narus, now owned by Boeing, a discovery made by AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein in 2004. Narus did not return a call seeking comment.

What is especially troubling is that both companies have had extensive ties to Israel, as well as links to that country’s intelligence service, a country with a long and aggressive history of spying on the U.S.

In fact, according to Binney, the advanced analytical and data mining software the NSA had developed for both its worldwide and international eavesdropping operations was secretly passed to Israel by a mid-level employee, apparently with close connections to the country. The employee, a technical director in the Operations Directorate, “who was a very strong supporter of Israel,” said Binney, “gave, unbeknownst to us, he gave the software that we had, doing these fast rates, to the Israelis.”

Because of his position, it was something Binney should have been alerted to, but wasn’t.

 

“In addition to being the technical director,” he said, “I was the chair of the TAP, it’s the Technical Advisory Panel, the foreign relations council. We’re supposed to know what all these foreign countries, technically what they’re doing…. They didn’t do this that way, it was under the table.” After discovering the secret transfer of the technology, Binney argued that the agency simply pass it to them officially, and in that way get something in return, such as access to communications terminals. “So we gave it to them for switches,” he said.

“For access.”

But Binney now suspects that Israeli intelligence in turn passed the technology on to Israeli companies who operate in countries around the world, including the U.S. In return, the companies could act as extensions of Israeli intelligence and pass critical military, economic and diplomatic information back to them. “And then five years later, four or five years later, you see a Narus device,” he said. “I think there’s a connection there, we don’t know for sure.”

Narus was formed in Israel in November 1997 by six Israelis with much of its money coming from Walden Israel, an Israeli venture capital company. Its founder and
former chairman, Ori Cohen, once told Israel’s Fortune Magazine that his partners have done technology work for Israeli intelligence. And among the five founders was Stanislav Khirman, a husky, bearded Russian who had previously worked for Elta Systems, Inc. A division of Israel Aerospace Industries, Ltd., Elta specializes in developing advanced eavesdropping systems for Israeli defense and intelligence organizations. At Narus, Khirman became the chief technology officer.

A few years ago, Narus boasted that it is “known for its ability to capture and collect data from the largest networks around the world.”

The company says its equipment is capable of “providing unparalleled monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations around the world” and that “Anything that comes through [an Internet protocol network], we can  record. We can reconstruct all of their e-mails, along with attachments, see what Web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their [Voice over Internet Protocol] calls.”

Like Narus, Verint was founded by in Israel by Israelis, including Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Some 800 employees work for Verint, including 350 who are based in Israel, primarily working in research and development and operations, according to the Jerusalem Post. Among its products is STAR-GATE, which according to the company’s sales literature, lets “service providers … access communications on virtually any type of network, retain  communication data for as long as required, and query and deliver content and data …” and was  “[d]esigned to manage vast numbers of targets, concurrent sessions, call data records, and communications.”

In a rare and candid admission to Forbes, Retired Brig. Gen. Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as other Israeli companies that dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market. “Take NICE, Comverse and Check Point for example, three of the largest high-tech companies, which were all directly influenced by 8200 technology,” said Gefen. “Check Point was founded by Unit alumni.  Comverse’s main product, the Logger, is based on the Unit’s technology.”

 

According to a former chief of Unit 8200, both the veterans of the group and much of the high-tech intelligence equipment they developed are now employed in high-tech firms around the world. “Cautious estimates indicate that in the past few years,” he told a reporter for the Israeli newspaperHa’artez  in 2000, “Unit 8200 veterans have set up some 30 to 40 high-tech companies, including 5 to 10 that were floated on Wall Street.” Referred to only as “Brigadier General B,” he added, “This correlation between serving in the intelligence Unit 8200 and starting successful high-tech companies is not coincidental: Many of the technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by Unit veterans.”

Equally troubling is the issue of corruption. Kobi Alexander, the founder and former chairman of Verint, is now a fugitive, wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering and other crimes. And two of his top associates at Comverse, Chief Financial Officer David Kreinberg and former General Counsel William F. Sorin, were also indicted in the scheme and later pleaded guilty, with both serving time in prison and paying millions of dollars in fines and penalties.

Who Is Lying: The Federal Reserve Or… The Federal Reserve? And Why Stalin "Lost"


When one thinks of the early 1950’s, things that often come to mind are fries and milkshake, muscle cars, Little Richard, and greased hair. Things that rarely come to mind are that the US and China were openly at war over a little piece of land called Korea, that the Treasury market did not exist, that short and long end rates were “fixed” by the Fed at 0.125% and 2.5% respectively, even as inflation was at the highest it has ever been in the post war period at over 20%. What absolutely never comes to mind, is that on March 3, 1951, the world as we know it changed forever, after a little noted event known as the Fed-Treasury Accord of March 3, 1951 took place, and mutated the role of the Federal Reserve, which set off on a path that would ultimately lead to the disastrous economic state the world finds itself in today.

Oh and another thing that never comes to mind, is that while the current iteration of the Fed, various recent voodoo economic theories, and assorted blogs, all claim that excess bank reserves are never an inflationary threat, it is precisely two Federal Reserve chairmen’s heretic claims that reserves will light an inflationary conflagration, that forced then president Truman to eliminate not one but two Fed Chairmen, and nearly result in the “independent” Federal Reserve being subsumed by the Treasury to do its monetization and market manipulation/intervention bidding. Which then begs the question: who is telling the truth about the linkage of reserve accumulation to inflation – the Fed of 1951, or every other Fed since, now firmly under the control of the Treasury-banker syndicate. Because they cannot both be right.

Why is March 3, 1951 such an important date? Because, more than anything, the confluence of events that led to the “Accord” signed on this day have extensive parallels to our current situation, as the attached paper by the Federal Reserve of Richmond shows in exquisite detail, yet 100% in reverse.

In a nutshell what happened in the late 1940s and early 1950s was that in the aftermath of WWII, and the outbreak of the Korean war, America found itself in a very odd situation… one never really encountered until today. The country had soaring inflation – as in real inflation, not just core inflation measured by hedonic adjustments and excluding all those thing that actually do go up in price. More importantly, it had the 1950’s version of ZIRP – only then it was called a peg, in this case of 0.375%, and subsequently 0.125% on short end Treasurys, and 2.5% on long-dated paper. In other words, the monetary situation in 1951 was one where both the short and long end of the curve were artificially boosted (think ZIRP and Twist), just so holders of Treasury paper (at that time only insurance companies as banks were not allowed to invest in TSYs) did not experience losses and get further “demoralized” in addition to the war that Truman was currently waging.

In fact, the following quote from none other than Truman is as idiotic, yet as valid today, as it was 61 years ago:

[T]he Federal Reserve Board should make it perfectly plain… to the New York Bankers that the peg is stabilized….I hope the Board will…not allow the bottom to drop from under our securities. If that happens that is exactly what Mr. Stalin wants. (FOMC Minutes, 1/31/51, p. 9)

And this:

The FOMC met with President Truman late in the afternoon of Wednes- day, January 31.17    Truman began by stating that “the present emergency is  greatest this country has ever faced, including the two World Wars and all the preceding wars.… [W]e must combat Communist influence on many fronts.… [I]f the people lose confidence in government securities all we hope to gain from our military mobilization, and war if need be, might be jeopardized.”

This is arguably the earliest recorded iteration in modern history of a “the world will come to an end unless you don’t do what I tell you” type of threat uttered by a member of the administration (ahem Hank Paulson) to a governing body. We will skip commenting on the supreme irony that according to Truman, Stalin would win if the US did not engage in the same central planning that ultimately brought the Soviet empire down. 

Yet what is so very different about this date in history, is that while it was the Treasury pushing tooth and nail for endless bond pegging by the Fed (apparently nobody had thought of QE back then yet, because it would have been all the rage), the body warning about the potential threat of runaway inflation from a surge in reserves, as well as the dangers associated with central planning was… The Federal Reserve.

Huh !!??

The same Fed that can not withhold its exuberance in encouraging ZIRP, Twist, LSAP, selling of Treasury Puts, and every other form of market intervention known to man, warning the president these very same actions would lead to ruin? And not only that but Truman being forced to get rid of not just Fed veteran Marriner Eccles (after whom the building in which centrally planned schemes are hatched every single day in yet another supreme irony), but also his successor Thomas McCabe who also refused to follow the precepts of central planning… who in turn was replaced by a Treasury muppet, or someone who will gladly monetize US debt whenever needed, at which point the scene for the final outcome was set.

That is impossible you say. Oh, not only is it impossible but it gets much better.

Because not only did the two veteran Fed chairmen warn against the state’s incursion into central planning, but they explicitly said something which the Fed, or at least its modern versions, have rejected over and over, especially during congressional committees: that a build of bank reserves is the surest way to spark hyperinflation.

But….but….but…. this is what fringe tin-foil hat blogs allege…. not Fed chairmen who between them have over 20 years of tenure.

Well, here are the facts:

“We have marched up the hill several times and then marched down again. This time I think we should act on the basis of our unwillingness to continue to supply reserves to the market by supporting the existing rate structure and should advise the Treasury that this is what we intend to do—not seek instructions” (FOMC Minutes, 8/18/50, p. 137).

 

[Fed member] Sproul would state the idea that a central bank controls inflation through the monetary control made possible by allowing market determination of the interest rate: “[T]he Committee did not in its operations drive securities to any price or yield….[M]arket forces had been the determining factor, and that only in resisting the creation of reserves had the committee been a party to an increase in interest rates. That…was the result of market forces, and not the action of the Committee. (FOMC Minutes, 3/1/51, pp. 125–26)”

In response to Truman’s ceaseless demands for pegging interest rates even as inflation was spiking over 20%, NY Fed president Sproul said that…

…this “would make the Federal Reserve System a bureau of the Treasury and, in light of the responsibilities placed in the System by the Congress, would be both impossible and improper” (FOMC Minutes, 1/31/51, p. 23).

In other words, pegging (i.e., ZIRP, Twist, LSAP)… is “impossible and improper”… is unconstitutional another word for it?

In retrospect perhaps we were a little too rought on Mr. Martin, who despite being a Treasury puppet, had these words to say:

In his speech accepting an appointment to the Board of Governors, Martin (1951, p. 377) said:

 

Unless inflation is controlled, it could prove to be an even more serious threat to the vitality of our country than the more spectacular aggressions of enemies outside our borders. I pledge myself to support all reasonable measures to preserve the purchasing power of the dollar.

There are those who claim the Fed has become the bankers’ puppet. It was not always so. In fact, the bankers loathed the Fed… Until the “Accord”

The banking community contributed to the Fed’s isolation by refusing to support its position. On February 2, the Board had met with the Federal Advisory Council, which represents the views of large banks. At that meeting, Eccles accused bankers of a lack of “courage and realistic leadership” (Board Minutes, 2/20/51, p. 389).

 

The Executive Committee refused to withdraw the FOMC’s letter to the President. Furthermore, it wrote a defiant letter to Senator O’Mahoney. The initial substantive paragraph began with the famous quote from John Maynard Keynes: “[T]hat the best way to destroy the Capitalist System was to debauch the currency” (FOMC Minutes, 2/14/51, p. 87).

It just gets better, as Marriner Eccles puts it into overdrive:

“We favor the lowest rate of interest on government securities that will cause true investors to buy and hold these securities. Today’s inflation. … is due to mounting civilian expenditures largely financed directly or indirectly by sale of Government securities to the Federal Reserve.… The inevitable result is more and more money and cheaper and cheaper dollars.” (FOMC Minutes, 2/7/51, p. 60)

Yet punchline #1:

[We are making] it possible for the public to convert Government securities into money to expand the money supply….We are almost solely responsible for this inflation. It is not deficit financing that is responsible because there has been surplus in the Treasury right along; the whole question of having rationing and price controls is due to the fact that we have this monetary inflation, and this committee is the only agency in existence that can curb and stop the growth of money.… [W]e should tell the Treasury, the President, and the Congress these facts, and do something about it….We have not only the power but the responsibility….If Congress does not like what we are doing, then they can change the rules. (FOMC Minutes, 2/6/51, pp. 50–51)

And #2 and final:

Governor Eccles and Representative Wright Patman, who was a populist congressman from Texarkana, Texas, went head-to-head:

 

Patman: Don’t you think there is some obligation of the Federal Reserve System to protect the public against excessive interest rates? 

 

Eccles: I think there is a greater obligation to the American public to protect them against the deterioration of the dollar. 

 

Patman: Who is master, the Federal Reserve or the Treasury? You know, the Treasury came here first. 

 

Eccles: How do you reconcile the Treasury’s position of saying they want the interest rate low, with the Federal Reserve standing ready to peg the market, and at the same time expect to stop inflation? 

 

Patman: Will the Federal Reserve System support the Secretary of the Treasury in that effort [to retain the 2 1/2 percent rate] or will it    refuse?… You    are    sabotaging    the    Treasury.    I    think    it    ought    to    be stopped. 

 

Eccles: [E]ither the Federal Reserve should be recognized as having some independent status, or it should be considered as simply an agency or a bureau of the Treasury. (U.S. Congress 1951, pp. 172–76)

And there you have it folks, clear as daylight, every aspect of the tension of the “independent” Fed brought to the surface. Because the few men who dared to stand up against Truman,  the doctrine of central planning, “pegging” Treasury prices,  and the banking cartel whose sole prerogative has always and only been cheap and easy money, all got their just deserts:

Fed president #1:

Eccles also reported in his memoirs that shortly before this event he had completed a letter of resignation to the President. He then decided to postpone his resignation. Eccles had been Chairman of the FOMC from its creation in 1935 until 1948. He did not intend to leave Washington with the Federal Reserve under the control of the Treasury. According to a Truman staff member, Truman had failed to reappoint Eccles as Board Chairman in 1948 to show him “who’s boss” (Donovan 1982, p. 331).

And Fed president #2

While in the hospital, Snyder conveyed to Truman the message that he felt he could no longer work with McCabe. Without a working relationship with the Treasury, McCabe could not function as Chairman of the Board of Governors. McCabe sent in a bitter letter of resignation, but resubmitted a bland version when asked to do so by the White House. McCabe, however, conditioned his resignation on the requirement that his successor be acceptable to the Fed.

As a reminder Snyder was the Secretary of the Treasury.

And whom did Truman replace McCabe with?

On March 15, the President appointed William McChesney Martin to replace McCabe.

Martin was undersecretary of the Treasury: the same institution that wanted all objectors to central planning scrapped. His position? Quote the Fed:

Truman and Snyder were populists who believed that banks, not the market forces of supply and demand, set interest rates. Truman felt that government had a moral obligation to protect the market value of the war bonds purchased by patriotic citizens. He talked about how in World War I he had purchased Liberty Bonds, only to see their value fall after the war.

Yet by keeping bonds pegged at ridiculously low prices during the late 1940s, and early 1950s, inflation exploded.

And that is what marked the beginning of the end, as while the Fed may have gained its independence, the US presidency, acting on behalf of the banks and populism (to keep capital losses to a minimum) made it all too clear anyone who steps out of line would be fired.

Call it a Stalinist putsch.

Actually hold on, did we say Stalin lost? Perhaps we may need to revise that. And while we got closure on that, we are still confused: is the real seed of inflation in reserves?

“Forced by the rate peg issue to make a stand on the role
of a central bank in creating inflation, Eccles expressed the nature of a
central bank in a fiat money regime.
 It was not private
speculation or government deficits that caused inflation, but rather
reserves and money creation by the central bank.” [The Treasury-Fed Accord: A New Narrative Account, Richmond Fed, Robert L. Hetzel and Ralph F. Leach]

Ok, now we get it.

And should we listen to the Fed or the… Fed?

Read the full absolutely must read Rchmond Fed narrative of the 1951 accord here. We can only hope someone in Congress can ask Bernanke for his take on the allegations made by the man responsible for the name of the current Fed headquarters.

The Treasury-Fed Accord – A New Narrative Account

Presenting The US Government’s Infographic Of Its Own Insolvency

Here’s a fun way to cap off your week.

The Congressional Budget Office has just released three very telling infographics which, unintentionally, spell out a pretty dreary picture of US government finances.

The first graphic shows US federal revenue, both in raw numbers ($2.3 trillion in 2011) and expressed as a percentage of GDP (15.4%).

 

There are a lot of interesting things about this graphic. Check out the massive downward swing of payroll tax receipts starting in 2009… coinciding not only with the dismal rate of employment in the country, but also the demographic trend of having fewer and fewer baby boomers paying in to the system.

It’s also interesting to note that, by comparison, 2011 US tax revenue is roughly twice what is was 20-years prior. Yet over the same period, the federal debt has ballooned nearly five-fold.

The next graphic is mandatory spending– essentially Social Security, Medicare, federal unemployment, and federal retirement programs. Note: this doesn’t include things like defense, interest on the debt, etc.

 

At $2.0 trillion, these mandatory entitlements comprise a massive 87% of all taxes collected. Put another way, they constitute 13.6% of America’s 2011 GDP. Incredible.

The last graphic shows ‘discretionary’ spending– another $1.3 trillion. The bulk of this is defense ($699 billion), itself nearly 5% of GDP. The rest of it goes to child molesting TSA agents, government-administered education, and all the legions of three letter agencies.

 

At the very bottom corner is a most disingenuous statement that says ”Net Interest not included.”  In other words, they didn’t bother to include the $454,393,280,417.03 (nearly half a trillion dollars) that the US government spent on interest last year.

To put this number in perspective, the US paid more in interest last year than the entire GDP of Saudi Arabia, or the combined GDPs of the smallest 82 economies in the world. Not exactly a trivial number… unless you’re Tim Geithner.

A few days ago, Geithner quipped on NBC’s Meet the Press that there is ”no risk” of the US turning into Greece over the next few years due to such extraordinary fiscal imbalances.

This is the same guy who said there was no risk of the US losing its AAA credit rating, and that inflation on a global level is “not high on the list of concerns…”

Whether it’s lies, ignorance, or arrogance is irrelevant at this point. The situation is what it is. It’s not going to go away just because the political leadership denies it.

Each one of us has a choice. We can either bury our heads in the sand, just like they’re doing… or embrace reality and take control of our own financial futures.