The Coming Four D’s

Over the last 17 years we have witnessed an increasing loss of confidence by voters in liberal democratic governments around the world. The 17 years have truly exposed the fact that politicians have personal agendas beyond serving the needs of their electorates. As political confidence fails, economic confidence fails soon after. Despite confidence failing, the economy seems to totter on fuelled by the vast money expansion of the last 9 years, unprecedented in human history.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where voters prefer having a “hung parliament” than trusting government. Many Australians feel a sense of unease that something has gone terribly wrong with the “lucky country”. The spontaneous ordering of the Australian electoral process has delivered a series of difficult to govern parliaments reflecting the wishes of voters to minimize damage to themselves. Unfortunately, this situation is also leading to the collapse of political confidence in this country. When that happens, economic confidence fails soon after. Many indicators illustrate an underpinning weakness of the Australian economy and this is accelerating.

Emerging Events foresee a time coming (very soon now) when “The Four D’s” will come to bear in most liberal democratic countries around the world including Australia.

These Four D’s, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are:

  1. Deleveraging (reduce debt). In Australia it is not so much public debt that is the issue like the US, Japan, UK, Italy, France and others but private debt held in the form of home loans, car loans and consumer loans. Australians today are loaded with debt and at risk of a severe downturn in the economy and property prices. Remember that any debt is a claim on future labour.

2. Deregulation. Over the last 40 years we have seen a massive growth in the amount of red tape choking our ability to get up and achieve. It was Frederick Hayek, the famous Nobel Prize winning economist who said “there is no better way to enslave a people than to enmesh them in a fine set of regulations”. Disempowering career politicians is a powerful solution to ending their crony ways and getting more people into parliament with real world experience. It can be done by setting term limits for politicians. Let them “serve” the electorate for just a few terms before thanking them and sending them on their way.

Unfortunately politicians need to be seen to be doing their job and of course that job involves passing legislation. It’s actually cheaper to send all those Federal politicians on junket trips overseas than to see them pumping out more legislation. Their need to regulate your life is the Progressive agenda and Progressivism is the “strong presumption that government intervention (force) will produce a better result than voluntary society”. In other words, they know better than you how you should lead your life.

3. Deflating the economy. This really means letting prices of everything find their own level rather than being artificially propped up. Since most asset values are overpriced anyway given the quantity of paper money that has been inflated enormously over the last 40 odd years. What we are suggesting is the value of money be allowed to recalibrate at 2016 values to allow money to once again represent a store of value as property, shares, and others assets do today. In other words it should have equal status as an asset.

The best way of achieving this is by making money a store of value again, thereby stopping politicians from endless borrowing and creating endless inflation. While 1 or 2 % inflation may not seem much, it is enough to keep you like a rat on a treadmill, constantly grinding to maintain your standard of living. It doesn’t have to be this way folks. The rising perception that inequality is increasing in many liberal democratic countries stems directly from the expansion of money supply.

  1. The first three D’s will happen regardless of all the politicians and all their minions’ attempts to control the levers of the economy and society at large. The belief they have any control is delusional at best and the consequence of this belief in the long term is, inevitably, a totalitarian state. The fourth D, possibly the most important is up to us and possibly the most important in securing all the rights and privileges available to you from the liberal-democratic tradition you have inherited. The fourth D is about decentralizing or devolving power now concentrated in the hands of federal government. By that I mean we need to devolve power concentrated in the hands of federal government to state and local governments.

We need to remember the political class makes its living from centralized power and the attendant division it causes. But why should ordinary Australians accept the false choice between one brand of centralized government and another, when the obvious solution is staring us in the face? Breaking up power politically is far more practical, and far more humane.

There are two pressing questions you need to ask yourself. Is centralized governance desirable in a vast country like Australia with a population of 24 million people? More importantly is it even really possible? Are overarching political solutions workable, or does politics simply enrich Canberra politicians while feeding the rapidly deteriorating social and economic wellbeing most Australians are experiencing?

In politics, the principle that a central authority such as a federal government should have a lesser function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level is called “subsidiarity“. Subsidiarity as a peaceful approach for devolving centralized power is the first step toward making government smaller and less powerful in our lives. National and even supra-national governments are the biggest threats to human liberty and flourishing because they have a monopoly on violence and coercion: armies, police, missiles, central banks, economic sanctions, centralised taxation, healthcare and welfare. These are the elements of systemic contagion that should terrify us.

Decentralization of power requires more than just devolution of a few powers here or there, but a society-wide commitment to transferring power, authority, and responsibility back to the grass roots. From federal to state, from state to local government. A diverse society can sustain itself peacefully when its members are committed to solving problems as locally as possible, involving higher levels of government only when absolutely necessary.

Your local council may be incompetent, but at the very least it is far more accessible to you. Its damage is likely to be contained, and your ability to change local council may only require moving a few suburbs away.

Subsidiarity is the most realistic and pragmatic approach to creating more freedom in our lifetimes. Winning majority support for supposedly universalist political principles is a daunting challenge. We would do well instead to consider the Swiss federal model, which champions the subsidiarity principle where:

Powers are allocated to the Confederation, the cantons and the communes in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Note this was how the Australian constitution was originally set up.

The Confederation only undertakes tasks that cantons (equivalent of shires) are unable to perform or which require uniform regulation by the Confederation.

Under the principle of subsidiarity, nothing that can be done at a lower political level should be done at a higher level.

One of the problems the EU faces at present is that they have lost sight of the subsidiarity principle. More and more control has been handed to Brussels. This is one of the factors why many Britons decided to vote to leave the EU.

Imagine Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull campaigning on the idea in 2019: “I can’t claim to know what’s best for Maroubra, Sydney or Frankston, Victoria or Bunbury, Western Australia in every situation. I’m not omnipotent, and neither are the 150 members of the Commonwealth House of Representatives. We should leave most things up to the people who actually live in those towns. Vote for me if you agree.”

Subsidiarity is not perfect, just better. Freedom, in the political sense of the word, means the ability to live without government coercion. It does not mean the ability to live under broadly agreed-upon social norms, simply because truly universalist political norms are so elusive.

Free societies don’t attempt to impose themselves politically on electoral minorities any more than they attempt to impose themselves militarily on neighboring countries. Politically unyoking different constituencies in Australia makes far more sense than attempting to contain the hatred and division created by mass majority outcomes.

The world is moving toward decentralization, flattening itself and replacing hierarchies with networks. Subsidiary is real diversity in practice and a key solution to restoring the inequities that have arisen in our societies.

Whether we embrace these Four D’s or not, some or all of them will soon be imposed on us anyway.

The Coming Four D’s

Emerging Events examines The Coming Four D’s where Deleveraging, Deregulation, Deflation and Decentralization become the driving forces of change in liberal-democratic nations around the world.

The article focuses on Australia which exemplifies many of the problems liberal-democratic nations face today. We show how “subsidiarity” can bring a peaceful, more content and free society by devolving centralized power.

Australian Housing Affordability

Housing affordability is attracting the attention of politicians as concern rises that a housing bubble has made homes too expensive. So far, none of the discussions have really addressed the problems. Several key points can be made here from a futurist perspective.

The housing problem…..

Sitting on the left wing agenda is the view that negative gearing of investment properties is a necessary step to making housing more affordable. Government is short of cash. You can see this happening in most liberal democratic countries around the world and should merely be seen as another tax grab. For this reason alone politicians will close the negative gearing window.

Cancelling negative gearing will have the long term effect of driving up rents causing a severe shortage of rental properties. That wont affect the politicians however who vote for the negative gearing “reform” as they will have disappeared into retirement.

Pre-2016 election talk suggested a grandfather clause to existing investment property holders. The time between initiating the legislation to when it goes into effect creates a window for people to grab up properties for investment purposes. The short and sharp buying frenzy in conjunction with this kind of policy or news would be typical of a major long term top for Australian property markets. This kind of event is common in financial markets when changes of trend occur at the end of a long term market. Policy or news has caught up too late. It always results in a major reversal. We might anticipate the peak of the Australian property market would last decades.

Other proposed measures include first home owners being allowed to access superannuation to form a deposit. When first home owner grants were introduced in 2000, property prices for new homes jumped by multiples of the $7000 grant. This reflected the increased purchasing power an extra $7000 had on loan to valuation ratios. If super is allowed into the equation we’ll see property prices once again jump higher as builders respond to improved loan ratios.

Part of the affordability solution……..

One issue that never gets discussed is the supply related issues created by government themselves. In many capital cities around the world, including Australia, housing affordability is often the unintended consequence of regulatory bottlenecks where zoning, building regulations and permits choke the flow of new supply and drive up the cost of housing. Clearly this needs to be addressed and would go a long way towards addressing the affordability issue.Another issue under the microscope where investors hold a property seeking only capital gains by leaving the property untenanted. If governments must be seen to be doing something, a tax on properties untenanted for longer than say 3 months would take the heat off buyers as they realize the benefits renting over buying bring in an overheated property market.

Suffice to say the long term direction of Australian property values are coming to a head in conjunction with other Australian and global social, political and economic issues. Housing affordability is just another issue along with many others whose origins lie decades in the past and whose solution cannot be answered by politicians or central planners

 

Predictions 2017 – Be Ready

It’s all going to go rather quickly from here. We list our predictions for 2017 and beyond as crisis presents both opportunity and danger.

Political confidence and will eroding in the USA and other liberal democratic countries. In the US, economic confidence will start to fail as the new Trump administration starts rolling out its agenda. That could happen as early as March 2017 but most likely will not be felt until later in 2017. When political confidence fails, economic confidence falls soon after.

2017-18 is all about the coming shocks. Building on Brexit and the US presidential elections in 2016, markets are setting up for surprises. So called ‘black swan events’ always have tell-tale warning signs before they actually happen. A combination of factors are coming together to create the so called ‘perfect storm’.  At the heart is the implosion of global markets that has started and cannot be stopped. While this may be slow at first, it will pick up speed over the next few years.

We see inflationary forces gathering in the US and the potential for this to get out of hand quickly is real. We believe inflation in the US will jump quickly above 4% and has the potential to run up as high as 10%. So in 2017 we have the bursting of this massive interest rate bubble that is the result of a decade of unfettered easy monetary policy. The immediate effects of this should quickly be felt in stock markets, commodities and real estate and in the longer term, the broader economy itself. In effect, with its own particular flavours, our current situation is identical to the ‘Roaring 20’s’. The set up for a last gasp spike in stocks exists before the plunge. If however, the weight of uncertainty continues to build, then that spike could be nipped in the bud leading to the next big downturn.

The US Federal Reserve is always playing catch up to the market. It will not be able to respond quickly enough to the sudden jump in official inflation rates. This will have a disastrous effect on US and global interest rate markets. The Fed will be unable to reign in money supply quickly enough to correct the torrent of money that has flooded the system over the last decade.

The effect is like holding a big ball underwater then letting go. The decade of artificially low interest rates will ‘normalise’; i.e., move toward market value and this has the potential to cause major eruptions in every other asset class.

And then there are the political shocks. The wave of reaction that was Brexit and Trump will continue into 2017 with French and German elections. Rising nationalism and disgust with the political elites will see Merkel gone and the right brought to government in France. The EU will continue to blunder from crisis to crisis and we can expect with certainty other nations to begin their exit process.

In the US, Trump is busy getting his agenda off the ground. Some of his ideas have merit such as deregulation (always a good thing), downsizing US federal government and lowering corporate taxes. Many of his ideas however threaten future economic viability. In particular, the threat of trade sanctions against China, Mexico and Germany risks a global collapse in trade. Bastiat, the 18th century French economist summed it up nicely by saying when ‘goods stop crossing borders, boots start marching’.

Trump and Russia is another political flash point. We anticipate that Trump will use that relationship to build trade, especially around oil while strengthening domestic oil production and weakening reliance on middle eastern oil.

Fortunately we don’t have to worry too much about major wars in the immediate future. War risk will only emerge after a prolonged economic downturn (at least 13-50 years away). The risk over the next 10-15 years in the US is civil disruption and violence. Trump’s presidency will have finished long before but the consequences will still be being played out a generation or two later.

One fact worth observing is that most liberal democratic governments are broke. Politicians have squandered the seed capital of their nations. We will see two things occurring. Firstly, the grab for cash by governments will continue to escalate. And the erasure of cash as a payment medium will accelerate. Secondly, governments will move to sell off any available assets to maintain the status quo. If the economy holds on for another year or two, watch the asset sales.

For now, the status quo will remain unchanged even though a new era of uncertainty and political chaos lies before us. Real, lasting meaningful change will not happen until after 2028 or 2032. Around then an important political 50 year cycle low will occur and then the US will emerge with a new destiny and a renewed sense of self.

In 2017 however, liberal democratic nations will see increasing segmentation of the left – right spectrum into smaller segments and more diverse viewpoints. The polarization occurring in liberal democratic countries will continue to deepen in 2017 before any easing occurs. In the US, Trump serves as the perfect focal point for this polarization and civil unrest and disturbances may very well break out this year. In the US we see the accumulation of decades of bad policy and a deteriorating social mood is threatening the very fabric of the US. For 2017 we do not see individual states seceding but civil disturbances that turn violent and later we will see risk civil war.

Since the 1930’s we have witnessed the growth of US Presidential Executive Orders. Since Ronald Regan Executive Orders have been used more extensively. Anticipate Trump to exceed that of Obama (275 orders) by heavily relying on Executive Orders over the life of his presidency. This is important as it further breaks down the separation of powers of government and moves government towards an imperial style of governance by Trump who is already isolated, like an emperor.

Along with the demise of cash as one of the last privacy barriers to fall, liberal democratic principles continue to crumble. Another aspect of liberal democratic government being eroded slowly and surely is the separation of powers of government. Politicians’ need to be seen to be doing something, namely creating legislation. The separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary has become increasingly imbalanced against the judiciary. Soon that imbalance will extend to the legislature as the role of executive order escalates.

Depth of prevailing social mood is already at cross purposes. A soaring stock market in 2017 along with a surging economy and disenfranchised people on both sides of the political spectrum is a perfect set up for the down phase of what we call the ‘Industrial Revolution Cycle’. This is part of the topping process of a cycle of human endeavour that began in 1783. That downward phase we expect to last some 38 to 62 years. At this stage our view is leaning more towards the 38 year time span. It will be steep and deep. This is based on technical considerations before the next cycle of growth gets underway. The key point is the setup has already been underway for a long time now and we are merely on the receiving end of this progression. Despite the hubris of politicians and bureaucrats who believe they control nations and economies, the cycles of endeavour continue to unfold bringing eternal change.

Ultimately there will need to be some sort of release of pressure before any normalization of political environments. Expect upsets is the modus operandi. If the violent moves predicted, starting in 2017-2018 occur in markets this would align well with our forecasts. Typical events that might bring about such political and economic shifts include Presidential declarations involving other countries (trade wars, trade treaties, embargoes), political assassinations, new alliances EU breakdown.

All of this takes place in an environment of failing political and then economic confidence. Behind that, the social mood of the people of great nations will turn dark and inwards. An end of an era is taking place. This will translate into stock market tops as they finish their last upward phases.

Here are some of the market predictions we make for 2017:

US Stock Markets

As early as March 2017 we will see the final tops in US stock markets. This completes a long term trend and cycle top that started in 1783. The roll over process has been underway fro some time now and could still however take months to years to complete. This is typical of major tops and is often accompanied by a lot of confusing cross current activity. We discuss this long term trend in our lead article The End of the Long Game 2009 – 2018 

They are rallying on expectation that Trump will lead the economy to new levels of prosperity. Supporting this idea we see forecasts of Dow Jones at 25,000, 33,000 and even 55,000 reflecting the emerging bullish mood for US economic prospects. These kind of calls only ever occur when sentiment is skewed and it never ends well.

Small cycles driving the 8 year stock market are due to make a top in March 2017 and has had an excellent history going back over the last 50 years. Cycles have their own rhythm however and they do go out of sync from time to time. Another scenario calls for several months of consolidation (Feb – May)  in US stocks before moving up in a surge not dissimilar to the 1929 stock market peak. Obviously this would extend the stock market top and evidence of inflation and Trump’s policies having a positive effect would enable this path. We rate this path with a higher probability at this time. A smart strategy might be if you saw DJIA 21000, 22000, 23000 it might be prudent to take the money off the table.

We anticipate the next 8 years starting in 2017 to be a down phase for all asset classes including shares.

US Dollar

Accompanying stock we will also see a top in the US dollar. At time of writing we estimate a 25% probability of the US$ having already peaked. There is often a ‘right fit’ to a market and one more major spike on the US$ would complete that ‘right fit’. If we get this spike then we could see EurUSD to 1.00 – 1.03, GbpUSD to 1.10 – 1.00, AudUSD to 0.50 – 0.60 and Yen move to 125 – 140. If however, then anticipate the EurUSD moving to1.60, Yen to 80, GBP to 1.60 and AUD to above 1.10 as the next major long term trend gets underway.

Gold

Gold is still completing a major consolidation phase. We see gold hovering between US$1180 – $1300 for several months before moving up to around the US$1500 – $1535. Following that comes a solid move down to below US$800. Typical targets include US$770 and $450 before the next long term uptrend begins.

Australian Stock Market

The ASX SP200 will begin its long slide to below 3000 this year. Note this could come as a divergent action to US stock markets as Australian economic risk to weighted more to Asia.

Longer Term

We will not see oil prices rise above US$140 per bbl before 2065. A new era is dawning where cheap, abundant, low polluting energy is available.

Over the next 25 years we will see people die of starvation because of crop failure caused by a cooling climate. In that same time frame we will see climate change as an issue in the minds of the public disappear.

Pendulum of Government Overreach has Peaked

The pendulum of government overreach has peaked in most liberal democratic countries around the world (for now). The major political events of 2016 have shown increasing resistance to government given the rising number of breaches in civil liberties and failure of government to identify and respond to the disenfranchised members of their societies.

Many segments of society have felt themselves becoming impoverishment. At the same time they have watched the hubris, greed and failure of politicians to deliver solutions to resolve the various politically made crises. One of the recurring questions that will emerge is the role of government in the lives of people.

By the time politicians’ hubris has completely evaporated, the nature of liberal democratic countries will have changed. We see major risk of political, economic and social upheaval occurring between now and 2028-2033 This phase may extend before social, political and economic stability becomes the norm. As always the pendulum will one day swing again towards increasing government involvement in the lives and affairs of ordinary people.

Political Prediction Results 2016

We called the US Presidential election (27/07/2016 & 29/10/2016) saying Trump would win. We called the Australian federal election and while we didn’t quite get what we thought would happen, we got second best with the Australian people being the winners (16/06/2016, 28/06/2016 & 24/07/2016).

Expect further political upsets in 2017 with elections falling due in France and Germany.

Post Australian Election Commentary

In our Australian election forecast of 28/06/16 and 16/06/2016 we forecast the risk of a ‘hung parliament’ or an outright win to the ALP. This was based on the principle of ‘Contrary Opinion’.

It took two weeks to resolve the final outcome of the national election. It left a Liberal government in power but without a majority in the Senate. The result has continued the ongoing risk element in Australian politics. Should government fail to deliver or introduces any form of controversial legislation, we may expect blocking in the Senate. Not quite the ‘hung parliament’ suggested but a second best – with a kind of severe arm lock if government steps beyond its mandate.

The voters got what they wanted. Through the mysterious spontaneous ordering process, the electoral process has communicated the deep level of cynicism Australians have towards politicians. It also reflects that no politician really has any clear solution or way forward for society and economy. And so voters have ensured that politicians can’t get away with too much. Little has been said by politicians that offers any resonance with voters.

Economic, social  and political restructuring is needed to set Australia on course for its next phase. The electorate is exhausted by the constant personality bicker of politicians and their inability to tackle the big issues. Politicians have delivered a consistent message for over a decade that political self interest is more important than the people. Accordingly, many believe the economic and social decline experienced by Australians is set to continue.

Unfortunately, without a clear vision from government and a high risk of being blocked by the Senate, Australia remains in an entropic state with a continuing risk of stagnation. This trend may start to accelerate as capital outflows intensify over late 2016/2017 into US dollars. We anticipate inflation in the USA will climb rapidly over the next 1-2 years. Capital will be sucked from the EU and periphery including Australia. This will indeed be the last gasp of the ‘end of the long game.’

Contrary Opinion and Australian Elections

As political risk increases in all liberal democratic countries we can expect to see the contrary opinion factor playing a greater role in evaluating risk in elections and other important events.

One example is of course Brexit, while a close call, consensus opinion was that the UK would remain. Similarly, the Australian election consensus has continuously been that the Liberal Party of Australia would prevail. However, as previously posted (16/06/16), the Australian electorate is deeply cynical of its politicians and none of the contenders for the 2016 federal election are offering a way forward.

Economic, social  and political reform is needed to set Australia on course for the next phase of its 100 year odd history. Its clear that the electorate is exhausted by the constant personality bicker of politicians and their inability to tackle the big issues. The consistent message for over a decade is that political self interest is more important than the people. Accordingly many believe the economic and social decline experienced by many Australians is set to continue.

Little has been said by politicians that offers any resonance with voters. So with this dissonance there is room for the Law of Contrary Opinion to operate. The law suggests “if everybody thinks one thing then bet the other way.” This law works well at times of extremity. For example, consensus thinking at elections, stock market highs and lows, etc, etc. Traders of financial markets use this tool when market sentiment is strongly biased.

Based on contrary opinion then, expect an upset on July 2nd with either a hung parliament or an outright win to the Australian Labor Party.

Australian Political Elections 2016

It seems Australian voters want another “hung parliament”. The main parties are both doing their best to lose winning government. Little they say offers any resonance with voters.

The Australian electorate is deeply cynical of its politicians and none of the contenders for the 2016 federal election are offering anything offering a way forward. Economic, social  and political reform is needed to set Australia on course for the next phase of its 100 year odd history. Its clear that the electorate is exhausted by the constant personality bicker of politicians and their inability to tackle the big issues. The consistent message for over a decade is that political self interest is more important than the Australian people. Accordingly many believe the economic and social decline experienced by many Australians is set to continue.

Confirming this, we see a lethargic economy and a growing sense of unease many Australians feel about their prospects. This reflects a deteriorating social mood. It won’t be long before this translates into a declining economy. Indeed, capital flows into and out of Australia indicate the tide is definitely running out and despite the best attempts of the RBA, we may soon see the downside of the business cycle in full flight. A good barometer highlighting this is the Australian stock market which remains stalled around the 5300 level ( ASX/SP 200) whilst US stock markets hover relatively near their all time highs.

 

The Structure of Collapse: 2016-2019

Charles Hugh Smith writing on his blog Of Two Minds:

The end-state of unsustainable systems is collapse. Though collapse may appear to be sudden and chaotic, we can discern key structures that guide the processes of collapse.

Though the subject is complex enough to justify an entire shelf of books, these six dynamics are sufficient to illuminate the inevitable collapse of the status quo.

1. Doing more of what has failed spectacularly. The leaders of the status quo inevitably keep doing more of what worked in the past, even when it no longer works. Indeed, the failure only increases the leadership’s push to new extremes of what has failed spectacularly. At some point, this single-minded pursuit of failed policies speeds the system’s collapse.

2. Emergency measures become permanent policies. The status quo’s leaders expect the system to right itself once emergency measures stabilize a crisis. But broken systems cannot right themselves, and so the leadership is forced to make temporary emergency measures (such as lowering interest rates to zero) permanent policy. This increases the fragility of the system, as any attempt to end the emergency measures triggers a system-threatening crisis.

3. Diminishing returns on status quo solutions. Back when the economic tree was loaded with low-hanging fruit, solutions such as lowering interest rates had a large multiplier effect. But as the tree is stripped of fruit, the returns on these solutions diminish to zero.

4. Declining social mobility. As the economic pie shrinks, the privileged maintain or increase their share, and the slice left to the disenfranchised shrinks. As the privileged take care of their own class, there are fewer slots open for talented outsiders. The status quo is slowly starved of talent and the ranks of those opposed to the status quo swell with those denied access to the top rungs of the social mobility ladder.

5. The social order loses cohesion and shared purpose as the social-economic classes pull apart. The top of the wealth/power pyramid no longer serves in the armed forces, and withdraws from contact with the lower classes. Lacking a unifying social purpose, each class pursues its self-interests to the detriment of the nation and society as a whole.

6. Strapped for cash as tax revenues decline, the state borrows more money and devalues its currency as a means of maintaining the illusion that it can fulfill all its promises. As the purchasing power of the currency declines, people lose faith in the state’s currency. Once faith is lost, the value of the currency declines rapidly and the state’s insolvency is revealed.

Each of these dynamics is easily visible in the global status quo.

As an example of doing more of what has failed spectacularly, consider how financialization inevitably inflates speculative bubbles, which eventually crash with devastating consequences. But since the status quo is dependent on financialization for its income, the only possible response is to increase debt and speculation—the causes of the bubble and its collapse—to inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.

This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns: each reflation of the failed system requires greater commitments of capital and debt. Financialization is pushed to new unprecedented extremes, as nothing less will generate the desired bubble.

 Rising costs narrow the maneuvering room left to system managers. The central bank’s suppression of interest rates is an example. As the economy falters, central banks lower interest rates and increase the credit available to the financial system.

This stimulus works well in the first downturn, but less well in the second and not at all in the third, for the simple reason that interest rates have been dropped to zero and credit has been increased to near-infinite.

The last desperate push to do more of what failed spectacularly is for central banks to lower interest rates to below-zero: it costs depositors money to leave their cash in the bank. This last-ditch policy is now firmly entrenched in Europe, and many expect it to spread around the world as central banks have exhausted less extreme policies.

The status quo’s primary imperative is self-preservation, and this imperative drives the falsification of data to sell the public on the idea that prosperity is still rising and the elites are doing an excellent job of managing the economy.

Since real reform would threaten those at the top of the wealth/power pyramid, fake reforms and fake economic data become the order of the day.

Leaders face a no-win dilemma: any change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.

Welcome to 2016-2019.

Source: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune16/collapse6-16.html

Why Big Banks are So Interested in the Blockchain Technolgy

It turns out that the blockchain technology (which drives Bitcoin) creates an environment that is easy for government to track transactions.

Blythe Masters, former major player at JPMorgan, left the bank to start the blockchain firm Digital Asset Holdings.

Masters during an interview with The Australian Financial Review explained bankster interest in the technology (my bold):

Our investors, some of whom are large investment and commercial banks, are making a major investment in Digital Asset to help us develop solutions that will address reducing risk, reducing cost, improving transparency and offering new sources of revenue…

Rregulators were understandably initially concerned about the potential for blockchain applications to bypass certain controls, their thinking has evolved…

They are learning that distributed-ledger technology brings many benefits and efficiencies to wholesale financial markets, including reduced cost, reduced counter-party risk, reduced latency, enhanced security, increased transparency, ease of reporting, and reduced errors.  These are all important to regulators.

This technology is offering regulators a bird’s-eye view into activity in certain markets that they never had before. As such, distributed-ledger technology is actually an enhancement to transparency, rather than a mechanism for bypassing it.

Bitcoin operates on an extremely dangerous platform for those seeking anonymity.

Source: EconomicPolicyJournal.com

The power of population

Bernard Salt, Partner with KPMG writes:

The power of population
Australia is growing three times faster than China. That’s good for the economy.
The Australian economy may well be suffering from cut-backs in mining and manufacturing activity but this nation has a secret weapon. Our building and construction sector is underpinned by close to record rates of growth in population. The rise in numbers is depicted in our latest demographics infographic. It shows growth of close to 390,000 people per annum, up from around 220,000 per annum about a decade earlier.Australia's projected population and Australia's projected households
Australia’s projected population and Australia’s projected households
Based on these rates, Australia’s population is estimated to increase by 4.2 million people over the next decade. That means we are growing even faster than India and the United States, and three times faster than China.

Bernard Salt“Australia’s elevated and internationally significant rate of population growth will drive the demand for housing.” ~ Bernard Salt Partner in Charge, Demographics

People = jobs
Australia’s elevated and internationally significant rate of population growth will drive the demand for housing, for household formation and for housing finance. That translates into more jobs.

The capital cities are particularly well placed in this regard. Melbourne, Sydney and Perth have been all experiencing rapid expansion, their growth running at close to record rates.

In the year 2012-2013, Melbourne’s population jumped up by 95,000, with Sydney close behind at 81,000. Perth also saw a dramatic increase of 67,000 – although more recent data suggests that growth rates are slowing in the West.Fastest growing large cities 2012-2013
It is not surprising then that Sydney remains this nation’s biggest city with 4.8 million residents. It is followed closely by the faster-growing Melbourne at 4.3 million then Brisbane at 2.2 million.

Looking beyond our capitals
Yet our capital cities aren’t the whole story. In fact the biggest single market on the Australian continent is what might be termed the ‘Koala Conurbation’ with 5.5 million people connecting Sydney with Newcastle and Wollongong.

Melbourne-Geelong is also a heavy weight with 4.5 million people while South East Queensland – linking Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba – packs some punch at 3.2 million. Perth tops out at barely 2 million.

The city vs suburbia
Our building and construction picture is more nuanced too. Building hotspots tell the two stories of Australia’s housing preferences: the inner city and suburbia.

Our figures show the top five spots for new residential housing unit approvals are relatively balanced between the city centres and inner city – such as the City of Melbourne and Sydney’s Mascot-Eastlakes – and the edge of suburbia in places like Perth’s Baldivis and Yanchep.

This may reflect the fact that families continue to dominate Australia’s households. While singles make up about a quarter of all households, families still lead at one in three.

Relying on our immigrants
Ultimately, Australia’s economic prospects could well depend on immigration trends however – that is, if our tremendous growth rates are indeed our secret weapon.

In 2014, the first three quarters showed almost two-thirds of the country’s population growth came from net overseas migration. This shift is particularly significant when compared to around half over the previous four decades.

As long as immigration levels remain elevated, it may be that Australia has at least one sure-fire driver of demand for jobs.

Source: http://www.kpmg.com/au/en/beyond/new-thinking/pages/demographics-australia-population.aspx

Malcolm Turnbull has plenty to smile about

Malcolm Turnbull’s personal popularity has improved over the summer parliamentary recess, according to a new poll, suggesting the prime minister’s electoral “honeymoon is not over yet.

A Seven News/ReachTel poll shows the Coalition retains a 55% to 45% lead over Labor on a two-party preferred basis, which is stable compared with the previous corresponding poll conducted in November.

Ministerial scandals, which led to Jamie Briggs resigning and Mal Brough standing aside just after Christmas, and the Liberal party’s jostling over forthcoming preselections in New South Wales do not appear to have dented the Coalition’s support.

The proportion of people nominating Turnbull as preferred prime minister rose nearly 10 points to 80.8%, while those favouring Bill Shorten declined by the same number of points to 19.2%.

 

Respondents were unimpressed with Shorten’s performance as opposition leader, with just 13.8% saying it was good or very good (down 6.8 points) and 57.4% believing it was poor or very poor (up 9.9 points).

Shorten has embarked on a three-week national tour of marginal seats to campaign against increasing the goods and services tax, cutting penalty rates and reducing pathology incentive funding.

“We will oppose a 15% GST on everything with every breath in our body,” he said in Alice Springs on Friday.

The government has accused Shorten of mounting a “scare campaign” and it is yet to settle details of the tax package it will take to voters at this year’s election.

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, rubbished speculation about an early election. “The election is at the other end of this year,” he said on Friday.

The prime minister has returned to Australia after visiting troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and travelling to the US for a meeting with Barack Obama.

In the final ReachTel before Turnbull challenged for the Liberal leadership in September, Shorten led Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, 57.9% to 42.1%.

Source: Guardian

Financial Markets Update 25/07/2015

At this stage we are set for a stock market crash in the US for the fourth quarter of 2015. As per our previous warnings our Business Cycle Analysis suggests M2 NSA quarterly average money supply growth is collapsing, undercutting the existing capital-consumption structure of the US economy. M2 NSA has fallen to 1.5% from its March 2015 peak of 8.25%. Furthermore we now have a series of lower highs and lower lows occurring since 2011 implying a long term weakening of the capital-consumption structure.

US Stock Markets
Translating that into stock market prices we at Emerging Events suggest the potential for one last high on the DJIA and S&P500 is still present. The DJIA has the potential to rally to 18351-18500 (S&P 2134-2150). A fall below DJIA 17465 (S&P 2044) would see this invalidated and a confirmation that the top is already in. Substantial falls are directly ahead. Our short term downside target once the top has been confirmed remains below DJIA 15855 (S&P 2061).

Gold
Sentiment in gold has reached extremely pessimistic levels. Whilst the potential for marginally new lows can occur the next major move will be a move to above US$1307 before the resumption of the long term downtrend from its 2011 highs. The move above US$1307 should be a very fast move.

US Interest Rates
Long interest rates appear to be completing a consolidation phase – basing before moving substantially higher. Thus the trap will be closing to trigger “The Great Sovereign Debt Crisis of the 21st Century”. In the short term however there is potential for interest rates to continue to base prior to the commencement of this upward move on rates. Expect 30 Year US Treasuries to work into the 2.75-2.85% before moving higher with the potential to spend more time basing. When the up move gets underway we see the 4.5-5.0% for 30 year Treasuries as the next interim target. Expect global interest rates to follow accordingly.

US$
The US$ has strengthened since our last financial markets update. This is in keeping with our view that money will continue to be sucked from the periphery to the centre. We anticipate the US$ to continue to strengthen sucking money from the third world, Asia and Europe with frequent rallies along the way. Expect the Euro to test its recent low around 1.04 and potentially 1.00. The $Yen will move above 125 – 130. Aus$ to test 70 cents.

Australian Stock Market
The nature of the stock market has since the 2009 lows has been a corrective recovery to date. It has failed to make new highs whilst other world stock markets have done so. This reflects the major restructuring needed in the Australian economy. We anticipate the Australian stock market to continue its down trend and look for further acceleration downwards as the rest of the world starts to catch up later this year. Significant falls lie ahead and initially we are looking for a test of the 2009 lows.

Oil & Gas
We see oil & gas continuing to consolidate its falls of early 2015. At the moment they are probing towards the lows. We see those lows holding up and eventually oil prices moving to test the US$67-68 per barrel level for crude before a resumption of the long term downtrend and our long term target of US$12 per bbl.

 

Australian Stock Market Direction

The failure of the ASX SP200 to make new all time highs at 6851.5 whilst US stocks are at all time highs is highlighting problems for the Australian economy and may even be the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for all stocks. This divergence reflects Australia’s national issues including lack of diversity in its production base. It reflects the ending of the mining boom along with the high demand for US dollars sucking cash from peripheral nations to the centre.

Currently battling resistance at 5900-6000 it would appear that any international downturn at this time will bring the ASX S&P 200 down towards our initial long term target of 2295 – 3075. We’ll reassess from there. However, for now there is a long way to get back to all time high territory. And this reveals the major weaknesses and restructuring needed in our economy. We can anticipate the ASX S&P 200 moving to the 6000 level over the next several weeks finishing the final stages of it’s upmove since 2009.

A case can be argued that the Reserve bank of Australia over extended its mandate to control inflation and unemployment during the commodity boom that came to an end in 2012-2014. By maintaining higher than needed interest rates the RBA at that time, funds were redirected to higher yielding investment opportunities in the mining sector at the expense of other, lower performing sectors such as housing. This put stress on banks, the mining industry and its supporting industrial base as oil and iron ore prices have fallen through the floor.calling into question the viability of many of the projects initiated in the last 7 years. This is the hubris of central bankers and politicians alike and what Nobel Prize winning economist FA Hayek called ‘the pretense of knowledge’.

Shortly we will see global stock markets completing their major tops. We believe our prediction for a major cyclical top spanning over 200 years is on target. We had projected this top occurring between 2015 – 2018. Indicators are now warning that this top is completing now. By late October we shall see front page headlines as financial markets capture people’s attention once again.

At $200 Trillion The World’s Debt Cup Overfloweth

by Bloomberg Business

The world economy is still built on debt.

That’s the warning today from McKinsey & Co.’s research division which estimates that since 2007, the IOUs of governments, companies, households and financial firms in 47 countries has grown by $57 trillion to $199 trillion, a rise equivalent to 17 percentage points of gross domestic product.

While not as big a gain as the 23 point surge in debt witnessed in the seven years before the financial crisis, the new data make a mockery of the hope that the turmoil and subsequent global recession would put the globe on a more sustainable path. Government debt alone has swelled by $25 trillion over the past seven years and developing economies are responsible for almost half of the overall gain.

McKinsey sees little reason to think the trajectory of rising leverage will change any time soon.

Source: McKinsey

 Here are three areas of particular concern:

1. Debt is too high for either austerity or growth to cure

Politicians will instead need to consider more unorthodox measures such as asset sales, one-off tax hikes and perhaps debt restructuring programs.

 Source: McKinsey

2. Households in some nations are still boosting debts

Eighty percent of households have a higher debt than in 2007 including some in northern Europe as well as Canada and Australia.

Source: McKinsey

 3. China’s debt is rising rapidly

Thanks to real estate and shadow banking, debt in the world’s second-largest economy has quadrupled from $7 trillion in 2007 to $28 trillion in the middle of last year. At 282 percent of GDP, the debt burden is now larger than that of the U.S. or Germany. Especially worrisome to McKinsey is that half the loans are linked to the cooling property sector.

Source: McKinsey

via A World Overflowing With Debt – Bloomberg Business.

Source: http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/at-200-trillion-the-worlds-debt-cup-overfloweth/

 

 

Era of Transparency & Accountability Beginning for Politicians

An era of transparency & accountability is beginning for politicians.

Very shortly the U.S. Congress will shortly vote to make Economic Impact Assessments (EIAs) a mandatory part of every executive rule or regulation passed with an annual economic impact of $100 million or more (REINS Act SR226 & HR 47).

Elsewhere the rise of right wing politics in the EU and UK is forcing scrutiny on politicians and bringing them to account. In many democracies it may become mandatory to attach economic impact assessment statements to each piece of legislation  If this trend reaches an extreme we will see calls to have politicians and government unable to raise any debt. given their track record however, maybe this is not such a bad thing.

The Australian state of Queensland election is also forcing the incumbent Premier Newman to adopt transparency and accountability principles. We anticipate transparency and accountability will become the new fashion for liberal democratic governments over the next 3-5 years.

The ‘political hubris bubble’ is finally beginning to burst. Social mood is swinging into action and voters are acting on their long held distrust of politicians. Firstly they exercised their democratic privilege to put several governments into ‘hung parliament’ balances (UK, USA Australia) and now they are beginning to hold them accountable. The days where politicians can promise, over-commit and overspend is coming to an end.

Stock Market Update

Most stock appear set to kick off in 2015 with some decent falls. Its too early to tell if this is the beginning of a broad secular bear market or the beginnings of a healthy correction that will last 3-9 months before stocks continue their advance.

Our broad scenario update “The End of the Long Game 2009-2018” will be released over the next three days outlining the bull and bear cases and provide context for what emerges in 2015.

Peak Babies, Not Oil

Patrick Cox writing for Tech Digest:

Much of my career has been spent refuting this or that doomsday scenario. From peak oil to overpopulation, I’ve been on the other side of the hysteria and often vilified for it. In the last few days, however, a Wall Street Journal headline told us that “Oil Prices Tumble Amid Global Supply Glut.” Also, a LiveScience story told us that “US Birth Rate Hits All-Time Low.”

Neither one of these headlines should surprise anybody. The math behind both of these stories has been clear for a very long time. Neither peak oil nor overpopulation fears were based on actual science. This, of course, raises questions about our species’ susceptibility to periodic Chicken Little hysteria. I have no explanation for this innate tendency, but it’s been evident for thousands of years.

In the modern cautionary tale, first published in the Anglosphere in the mid-1800s, it’s a chicken that cries that the sky is falling. Ancient Buddhists from India and Tibet told the same basic story, but the central character was an alarmist rabbit. That version was spread into Africa and then via the slave trade into America where the oral version was recorded by Joel Chandler Harris in his Uncle Remus books. What sets it apart from the older versions is that Brother Rabbit starts the panic but never actually falls for it himself. I’m reminded of some current global warming activists who fly in private jets and live in estates with carbon footprints bigger than small towns.

This isn’t to say, however, that we have nothing to worry about. In the immortal words of Henry Saint Clair Fredericks (stage name Taj Mahal), “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t right.”

So I’m not exactly scared, but there are things that concern me. The oil glut isn’t one of them, but historically low birthrates do have enormous implications for investors. The last available data, compiled in 2013 by the CDC, show 62.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 in the US. That’s down 10 percent from 2007, which was already below replacement rate. In 2008, the US birthrate was 2.08 births per woman, below the 2.1 level needed to replace the population. Today, we are seeing the lowest recorded American birthrate since government started keeping track in 1909. New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are even significantly lower.

In and of itself, a sub-replacement birthrate isn’t necessarily a problem. The problem is that our ruling elite seem totally unaware that it’s happening. Routinely, in fact, we hear from certain politicians that overpopulation remains a pressing problem even as populations throughout the West are shrinking. The same trends, by the way, are already obvious in Asia and Africa where populations continue to increase primarily because people are living longer. Real demographers know that the world population is on track to contracting, and perhaps quite dramatically.

Once again, I recognize that there are upsides to reduced populations. The problem, however, is that so many government policies are still based on the assumption that every generation will be larger than the last. Growing populations are great in many ways. First of all, more young people entering the work force creates demand for all kinds of goods and services. It grows GDP and therefore tax revenues. The simplest way to achieve economic growth is, in fact, to grow the population.

While this is glaringly obvious, it’s remarkable how many economists miss this elephant in the room when talking about countries such as Japan, where economic problems have mirrored the country’s falling population. Last year, the Japanese population shrank by about a quarter million people.

Japan has the highest life expectancy and oldest population in the world, and the older Japanese people expect that the promises made in the past to help support the aged will be honored. It’s not at all clear to me that those promises can be kept, at least as things now stand.

As I’ve written many times, there were about 17 workers per retired person in the United States when I was born in the middle of the last century. Today, the ratio is less than three to one, and getting worse. Already, 30 cents out of every tax dollar collected in America flows to the aged, but much of that money is being borrowed. In effect, the bill for caring for the aged is being sent to future taxpayers, despite the fact that there will be fewer young workers and more aged people to support. This arrangement is not only unsustainable, it’s unethical. In my opinion, the older, wealthier population should help the younger, less wealthy part of the population, the reverse of the current situation.

Every time I’ve written this over the last 30 years or so, I’ve been attacked by people who claim that I’m a fearmonger and that we have plenty of money to support the aged. Today, however, we’re $17 trillion in debt and still borrowing. The current administration doesn’t even acknowledge that the problem exists, so it’s getting harder and harder to make that case.

We need to face the fact that things are going to get worse before they get better. I have little doubt, however, that we will eventually adjust to the new reality. We’ll see policymakers wake up to the new demographics, as they are in Japan, sooner than most of us think. Other countries are also facing facts and are devising solutions. I particularly like the spirit that some Danes are showing in their efforts to counter the country’s low fertility rate. Japan, however, is leading the way in terms of enabling technological solutions through regulatory reform.

The Japanese government understands that the old model is doomed and is actively looking for ways to increase the national work force. There are two obvious ways to do that. One is to bring more women, who have not traditionally worked to the same extent as Japanese men, into the work force. More working women means economic growth and more funds to support an aging population. The other, more long-term solution is to increase birthrates to grow the national work force.

The problem is that the two strategies counteract one another. Japanese women who work have lower birthrates than those who do not. Therefore, the only remaining solution is to extend health spans and working careers, increasing incomes and tax revenues while reducing medical expenses.

There are several ways that the Japanese are working to do this. The most important is the recently accomplished elimination of phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials for stem cell therapies. The second is in the field of dietary supplements and nutraceuticals.

Japanese regulators exercise less direct control over the market but provide more solid, peer-reviewed information for consumers and healthcare providers. Recently, for example, the Japanese government issued a patent to Terra Biological for oxaloacetate (trade name benaGene) for use in “life extension.” Oxaloacetate is one of the NAD+ precursors that I take based on recent research. I also take the NAD+ precursor, nicotinamide riboside (trade name Niagen).

In general, Japan is leading the way in efforts to encourage new anti-aging therapies. In the next few years, I anticipate that Japan will continue to lower regulatory barriers for new biotechnologies. This is very unlike America’s FDA, which doesn’t yet recognize anti-aging or life extension as a legitimate therapeutic target.

The current regulatory environment in the US will change, however, because it has to. The only question is how soon it happens.

Fortunately, there is a growing chorus of rational voices in the US. I would recommend that everybody download and read Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective. This relatively brief presentation was written by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. On its website, the NIA states bluntly:

The world is on the brink of a demographic milestone. Since the beginning of recorded history, young children have outnumbered their elders. In about five years’ time, however, the number of people aged 65 or older will outnumber children under age 5. Driven by falling fertility rates and remarkable increases in life expectancy, population aging will continue, even accelerate. The number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050, with most of the increase in developing countries.

The interesting thing about that quote is that it was written in 2007, which means that this historic change has already come to pass. Back then, the authors warned:

Some governments have begun to plan for the long term, but most have not. The window of opportunity for reform is closing fast as the pace of population aging accelerates. While Europe currently has four people of working age for every older person, it will have only two workers per older person by 2050. In some countries the share of gross domestic product devoted to social insurance for older people is expected to more than double in upcoming years. Countries therefore have only a few years to intensify efforts before demographic effects come to bear.

More than a few years have passed since this report was written and nothing has really changed politically in the US, though the rate of demographic change and the pace of scientific progress, which is pushing out lifespans, have accelerated. Things will, therefore, get worse. The dynamics behind crippling governmental debt internationally are growing.

There are upsides to this totally predictable situation though. One is that we can anticipate many of the outcomes and devise ways of profiting from them. This is why I focus on disruptive biotechnologies that can significantly lower healthcare costs while extending health spans and careers. These biotechnologies provide the only real solution for the demographic transformation, except for the Danish solution mentioned above. I find it fascinating, by the way, that the revolution in biotechnology is happening exactly at the point in history when it’s needed.

Another significant benefit that will accrue from this convergence of forces is that many of us will be able to take advantage of these breakthrough discoveries. I’m incredibly excited about the emergence of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) vaccine which has been used widely in animals, where it seemingly rejuvenates and extends lives. Endothelial precursor therapy has similarly been shown in animals to rejuvenate cardiovascular systems. Hopefully soon, we’ll see brown adipose tissue transplantation curing obesity, diabetes and cholesterol problems. There are, however, significant benefits from recently discovered over-the-counter products.

Whenever I talk to el jefe, señor Mauldin, these days, it seems most of our conversations center on our workouts. Both of us work out and lift weights, as we have for much of our lives. Both of us, however, are making gains that we’ve never seen before. One of the Mauldin Economics executives told me recently that he’d never seen John look so good before, that his arms and shoulders are bigger than they’ve ever been.

I probably shouldn’t claim that I look good, but I can say that I’ve also put on a surprising amount of muscle in the last year. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Both John and I are in our 60s. I work out less than I did than in my 30s, but I’m suddenly lifting much more weight and have more muscle mass than ever. John’s experience is the same.

My only explanation is biotechnology. The NAD⁺ precursors that I mentioned above have been shown in animals to rejuvenate muscle tissue so I’m not surprised to see the effects in humans. I also credit anatabine citrate, though it is at least temporarily unavailable. I’m expecting word on that front soon.

Also, I’m a devoted user of the AVAcore thermogenic device. Recently, a major research organization presented evidence that it may be able to prevent the damage caused by overheating in athletes, but one of the investigating scientists mentioned, as an aside, that it also accelerates training results dramatically. Neither I nor Mauldin Economics have any interest in this privately held company, but I’m evangelical about the benefits, especially to older people. The stronger you are, the lower your risk of disease and mortality.

I realize that the current price of the device is high for many people, but I understand that the company is going to do some sort of crowd-sourcing project in the near future, probably Indiegogo, to fund a much more affordable product. I’ll let you know about the project when I have more information.

One of the reasons that I love the AVAcore device so much is that it perfectly demonstrates the unexpected and dramatic nature of emerging biotechnologies. The notion that exercise capacity and recovery could be dramatically improved by normalizing core body temperature is so unexpected, I’m still in awe over the science and the impact on my health.

It is, however, only the tip of the iceberg. As Japan is demonstrating, an aging population not only wants but demands access to the scientific breakthroughs that can significantly extend health spans. Just as Japan’s regulatory system is bending to the will of its aging population, America’s regulators will be forced to come around.

John and I talk a lot about assisting in that process, and I’ll have more information about that in the future. If you’d like to help in this effort, I suspect there are ways to do so. As it stands, our portfolio contains technologies that I believe will have dramatic impacts on some of the greatest threats to health and longer lives, including Alzheimer’s, cancers, fibrosis, diabetes, and other major diseases. A reformed regulatory system would accelerate therapies to market, which will improve and save lives. It will also allow more of us to live and invest longer.

From the TransTech Digest Research Team:

As Patrick explains above, new biotechnologies will not only extend and improve lives, they will also save the global economy from the implications of a shrinking population. Workers able to stay healthy and remain active in their careers will, quite simply, reduce overall medical spending and lead to an expansion of tax revenues over time.

Today’s transformational technologies—more than perhaps any set of advances the world has ever seen—hold the potential to increase the wealth and the health of all persons in all countries, regardless of their age. Where only a few decades ago many observers saw science fiction, breakthrough research today is working to create previously unfathomable new realities.

You can participate in this process of science fiction becoming science fact in the pages of Patrick’s Transformational Technology Alert. Each month, Patrick profiles a new publicly traded company and shows you the part it plays in the technology revolution ahead. Click here to start a risk-free trial subscription to Transformational Technology Alert today.Sincerely,
Patrick Cox
Patrick Cox
Editor, Transformational Technology Alert

Mauldin Economics

Source: http://www.mauldineconomics.com/tech/tech-digest/peak-babies-not-oil

Eating Our Seed Corn: How Much of our “Growth” Is From One-Time Cashouts?

Charles Hugh Smith of http://www.oftwominds.com/blog.html writes:

We as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.

Anecdotally, it seems a significant percentage of our recent economic “growth” is being funded by one-time cashouts of IRAs, 401Ks, sales of parents’ homes, etc. This is the equivalent of eating our seed corn. Once these pools of savings/equity/capital are gone, they aren’t coming back.

I personally know a number of people who have cashed out their retirement account 401Ks (and paid the taxes) to pay for their kids’ college expenses–in effect, cashing out their retirement to lower but not eliminate the debt burden of their offspring who bought the “going away to college” experience.

The cashed-out 401K delighted the government, which reaped huge penalties and income taxes, as the cashout pushed the annual income of the recipient into a high tax bracket. (“Hardship” withdrawals for medical care and education waive the penalties, but the income tax takes a big chunk of the withdrawal.)

The middle-aged person who cashed out their retirement will not work long enough to save an equivalent nestegg. Not only is time against such an accumulation of retirement savings, so is the stagnant economy: companies are slashing 401K contributions to offset rising healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare) expenses, and many workers young and old alike are finding jobs that pay them as self-employed contractors or part-time jobs with no benefits.

Another set of middle-aged people are withdrawing from IRAs (and paying the penalties) just to fill the gap between expenses and income. For a variety of reasons, many people are loathe to cut expenses or are unable to do so without drastic changes in their lifestyle. So they withdraw from the IRA (individual retirement account) to cover expenses that are left after income has been spent.

This “solution” is appealing to those whose incomes have declined in what they perceive as “temporary” hard times.

Another pool of equity that is being drained is the home equity in aging parents’ homes. The government will only pay for one set of medical expenses (long-term care, for example) if the elderly person has assets of less than $2,000 (as I recall). Given this cap, it makes sense for elderly homeowners to transfer ownership of their home to their offspring well before they need long-term care (which can cost $12,000 to $15,000 a month).

A variety of other medical expenses can arise that cause the home to be sold to raise cash–either expenses for the elderly parents or for their late-middle-age offspring who develop costly health issues. Family disagreements over sharing the equity can arise, leading to the sale of the house and the division of the equity among the offspring.

This cash is immediately hit with a variety of demands: a grandkid needs a car, somebody needs money to go back to graduate school (pursuing the fantasy that another degree will provide financial security), and so on–not to mention “we deserve a nice vacation, a new car, etc.“, the temptations in a consumerist culture that we all “deserve.

Once the family home is sold, the furnishings and other valuables are also sold off to raise cash. In many cases, the expense of transporting the items across the country to relatives exceeds the value of the furnishings.

One common thread in all these demands for liquidation of equity is the short-term need is pressing. A consumerist culture offers few incentives for long-term savings other than life insurance, IRAs and 401Ks, and all of these can be tapped once a pressing need arises.

Though people may want to hang on to their nestegg, they are faced with short-term needs: how else can I pay tuition, or this medical bill?

As incomes have stagnated and costs for big-ticket expenses such as college and healthcare have soared, the gap between income and expenditures has widened every year for the bottom 90%.

 

Even those in the top 10% are not protected from draw-downs in retirement funds and family equity in homes and other assets.

Retirement funds, home equity, family assets–these are the financial equivalent of seed corn. Once they’re cashed out and spent, they cannot be replaced.

In more prudent and prosperous times, these nesteggs of capital were conserved to be passed on to the next generation not for consumption but as a nestegg to be conserved for the following generation. That chain of capital preservation and inheritance is being broken by the ravenous need for cash to spend, not later but right now.

So how much of the recent “growth” in GDP results from our consumption of seed corn? It is difficult to find any data on this, something which is unsurprising as the data would reveal the entire “recovery” story as a grandiose illusion: we as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.

We face not just an impoverishment in consumption but in expectations and generational assets.

Source: http://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb14/one-time-cashout2-14.html