Nothing is stable, nothing is straightforward, everything is fixed, and nothing is fixed. O nation of busboys and WalMart greeters, awake and sing!
Can an empire founder on sheer credulousness? After last Friday’s jobs report, I think so. For a culture that luxuriates in statistical analysis (and the false idea that if you measure enough things, you can control them), it is rather amazing that we absolutely don’t care whether the measurements are truthful or not. Hence, an economist (sic) such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times might ask himself how it is that Zero Interest Rate Policy only trickles down to places where hamburgers are sold. PK was at it again in his Monday column, yammering about “rapid job growth,” “partying like it was 1995.” Wise men like him are pounding this country down a rat hole faster than you can say Romulus Augustulus.
Apparently the US Bureau of Labor Statistics missed the job bloodbath in the oil industry, especially over in Frackville where the latest western phenomenon is the ghost man-camp (along with ghost pole dancing parlors). It’s a veritable hemorrhagic fever of job layoff announcements: 9,000 here, 7,000, there, thousands of thousands everywhere — Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes — like an Ebola ward in the oil services sector. Not to mention the cliff-drop of capital expenditure, meaning even steeper job losses ahead, Casey Jones. But nobody notices, I guess because they’re out at Ruby Tuesdays eating things bigger than their heads. Are the portions getting smaller, or are their heads shrinking?
Finance is complicated, but not as complex as the wizards employed in it would have you believe. They would have you think it is an order of magnitude more abstruse and recondite than particle physics, when, in fact, it is often not much more than a Three Card Monte switcheroo. The whole ZIRP and QE game, for instance, can be boiled down to a basic wish to get something for nothing, that is, prosperity where nothing of value created. Now, that’s not so hard to understand, is it? Until the economics wardrobe team comes in and dresses it up in martingales and bumrolls of metaphysics and you end up in a contango of mystification.
More galling and worrisome, though, is the failure of anyone even remotely in authority to stand up and publically object to the tidal wave of lies washing over this dying polity, actually killing it softly with truthinesslessness. The code of anything goes and nothing matters is turning lethal and the more it is kept swaddled in lies, the more perverse, surprising, and destructive the damage will be. The more our leaders lie about misbehavior in banking — including especially the actions of the Federal Reserve — the worse will be the instability in currencies. The more central bankers intervene in price discovery mechanisms, the more unable to reflect reality all markets will become. The more that the US BLS lies about the employment picture in America, the worse will be the eventual wrath of citizens who can’t get paid enough to heat their houses and feed their children.
An economist (sic) named Richard Duncan last week proposed the interesting theory that Quantitative Easing can go on virtually forever in an endless chain of self-canceling debt. Government spends money it doesn’t have and cannot raise, issues bonds to “investors,” buys its own bonds and stashes them in a storage vault so deep that the sun will not shine on them until it becomes a blue dwarf — long after the cockroaches have taken charge of Earthly affairs. Duncan forgets one detail: consequences. The consequence of this behavior will not be eternal virtual prosperity, but rather a wrecked accounting system for the operations of civilized human life. We’ve stepped across the event horizon of that consequence, but we just don’t it yet. My bet is that we start feeling the effects sooner rather than later and when it is finally felt, all the Kardashian videos in this universe and a trillion universes like it will not avail to distract us from the flow of our own blood.