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2011 - The year of Catch-22

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Headlined to H2 1/2/11

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As I began to think about what might happen in 2011, the classic Joseph Heller novel Catch 22 kept entering my mind. Am I sane for thinking such a thing, or am I so insane that asking this question proves that I'm too rational to even think such a thing? In the novel, the "Catch 22 -- is that "anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy". Hence, pilots who request a fitness evaluation are sane, and therefore must fly in combat. At the same time, if an evaluation is not requested by the pilot, he will never receive one (i.e. they can never be found "insane"), meaning he must also fly in combat. Therefore, Catch-22 ensures that no pilot can ever be grounded for being insane -" even if he were. The absurdity is captured in this passage:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed. "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed. - Catch 22 -" Joseph Heller

The United States and its leaders are stuck in their own Catch 22. They need the economy to improve in order to generate jobs, but the economy can only improve if people have jobs. They need the economy to recover in order to improve our deficit situation, but if the economy really recovers long term interest rates will increase, further depressing the housing market and increasing the interest expense burden for the US, therefore increasing the deficit. A recovering economy would result in more production and consumption, which would result in more oil consumption driving the price above $100 per barrel, therefore depressing the economy. Americans must save for their retirements as 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, but if the savings rate goes back to 10%, the economy will collapse due to lack of consumption. Consumer expenditures account for 71% of GDP and need to revert back to 65% for the US to have a balanced sustainable economy, but a reduction in consumer spending will push the US back into recession, reducing tax revenues and increasing deficits. You can see why Catch 22 is the theme for 2011.

It seems the consensus for 2011 is that the economy will grow 3% to 4%, two million new jobs will be created, corporate profits will rise, and the stock market will rise another 10% to 15%. Sounds pretty good. The problem with this storyline is that it is based on a 2010 that gave the appearance of recovery, but was a hoax propped up by trillions in borrowed funds. On January 1, 2010 the National Debt of the United States rested at $12.3 trillion. On December 31, 2010 the National Debt checked in at $13.9 trillion, an increase of $1.6 trillion.

The Federal Reserve Balance Sheet totaled $2.28 trillion on January 1, 2010. Today, it stands at $2.46 trillion, an increase of $180 billion.

Over this same time frame, the Real GDP of the U.S. has increased approximately $350 billion, and is still below the level reached in the 4th Quarter of 2007. U.S. politicians and Ben Bernanke spent almost $1.8 trillion, or 13% of GDP, in one year to create a miniscule 2.7% increase in GDP. This is reported as a recovery by the mainstream corporate media mouthpieces. On September 18, 2008 the American financial system came within hours of a total meltdown, caused by Wall Street mega-banks and their bought off political cronies in Washington DC. The National Debt on that day stood at $9.7 trillion. The US Government has borrowed $4.2 since that date, a 43% increase in the National Debt in 27 months. The Federal Reserve balance sheet totaled $963 billion in September 2008 and Bernanke has expanded it by $1.5 trillion, a 155% increase in 27 months. Most of the increase was due to the purchase of toxic mortgage backed securities from their Wall Street masters.

Real GDP in the 3rd quarter of 2008 was $13.2 trillion. Real GDP in the 3rd quarter of 2010 was $13.3 trillion.

Think about these facts for one minute. Your leaders have borrowed $5.7 trillion from future unborn generations and have increased GDP by $100 billion. The financial crisis, caused by excessive debt creation by Wall Street and ridiculously low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve, 30 years in the making, erupted in 2008. The response to a crisis caused by too much debt and interest rates manipulated too low was to create an immense amount of additional debt and reduce interest rates to zero. The patient has terminal cancer and the doctors have injected the patient with more cancer cells and a massive dose of morphine. The knowledge about how we achieved the 2010 "recovery" is essential to understanding what could happen in 2011.

Confidence Game

Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, Barack Obama, the Wall Street banks, and the corporate mainstream media are playing a giant confidence game. It is a desperate gamble. The plan has been to convince the population of the US that the economy is in full recovery mode. By convincing the masses that things are recovering, they will begin to spend and buy stocks. If they spend, companies will gain confidence and start hiring workers. More jobs will create increasing confidence, reinforcing the recovery story, and leading to the stock market soaring to new heights. As the market rises, the average Joe will be drawn into the market and it will go higher. Tax revenues will rise as corporate profits, wages and capital gains increase. This will reduce the deficit. This is the plan and it appears to be working so far. But, Catch 22 will kick in during 2011.

Retail sales are up 6.5% over 2009 as consumers have been convinced to whip out one of their 15 credit cards and buy some more iPads, Flat screen TVs, Ugg boots and Tiffany diamond pendants. Consumer non-revolving debt for autos, student loans, boats and mobile homes is at an all-time high as the government run financing arms of GMAC and Sallie Mae have issued loans to anyone that can fog a mirror with their breath. Total consumer credit card debt has been flat for 2010 as banks have written it off as fast as consumers can charge it. The savings rate has begun to fall again as Americans are being convinced to live today and not worry about tomorrow. Of course, the current savings rate of 5.9% would be 2% if the government was not dishing out billions in transfer payments. Wages have declined by $127 billion from the 3rd Quarter of 2008, while government transfer payments for unemployment and other social programs have increased by $441 billion, all borrowed.

Graph of Personal Saving Rate

Both the government and its citizens are living the old adage:

Everybody wants to get to heaven, but no one wants to practice what is required to get there.

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www.TheBurningPlatform.com

James Quinn is a senior director of strategic planning for a major university. James has held financial positions with a retailer, homebuilder and university in his 22-year career. Those positions included treasurer, controller, and head of (more...)
 
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