24 July 2016

Plutocracy, Then and Now

We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed?  Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers?  Why else would we all— by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians— be participating in its destruction?

Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit?  By not being radical enough.  Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.

Wendell Berry

Under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them.

If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.

Thomas Jefferson, 16 January 1787

Special privileges and the use of the taxing power for private gain, these are the twin pillars upon which plutocracy rests. To take away these supports and to elevate the beneficiaries of special legislation to the path of honest effort is the purpose of our party.

And who can suffer injury by just taxation, impartial laws and the application of the Jeffersonian doctrine of equal rights to all and special privileges to none? Only those whose accumulations are stained with dishonesty and whose immoral methods have given them a distorted view of business, society and government.

Accumulating by conscious frauds more money than they can use upon themselves, wisely distribute or safely leave to their children, these denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw a light upon their crimes.

Plutocracy is abhorrent to a republic; it is more despotic than monarchy, more heartless than aristocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. It preys upon the nation in time of peace and conspires against it in the hour of its calamity. Conscienceless, compassionless and devoid of wisdom, it enervates its votaries while it impoverishes its victims.

It is already sapping the strength of the nation, vulgarizing social life and making a mockery of morals. The time is ripe for the overthrow of this giant wrong. In the name of the counting-rooms which it has denied; in the name of business honor which it has polluted; in the name of the home which it has despoiled; and in the name of religion, upon which it has placed the stigma of hypocrisy, let us make our appeal to the awakened conscience of the nation.

William Jennings Bryan, 30 August 1906

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases.

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Henry Wallace, 9 April 1944

It was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.

George Orwell, Animal Farm preface, 1945

Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton's administration that deregulated derivatives, deregulated telecom, and put our country's only strong banking laws in the grave. He's the one who rammed the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through congress. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton's other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious.

Mounting a campaign against plutocracy makes as much sense to the typical Washington liberal as would circulating a petition against gravity. What our modernized liberal leaders offer is not confrontation but a kind of therapy for those flattened by the free-market hurricane: they counsel us to accept the inevitability of the situation.

Thomas Frank

Our plutocracy, whether the hedge fund managers in Greenwich, Connecticut, or the Internet moguls in Palo Alto, now lives like the British did in colonial India: ruling the place but not of it.

Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

We are not left to conjecture how the moneyed power, thus organized and with such a weapon in its hands, would be likely to use it. The distress and alarm which pervaded and agitated the whole country when the Bank of the United States waged war upon the people in order to compel them to submit to its demands can not yet be forgotten.

The ruthless and unsparing temper with which whole cities and communities were oppressed, individuals impoverished and ruined, and a scene of cheerful prosperity suddenly changed into one of gloom and despondency ought to be indelibly impressed on the memory of the people of the United States. If such was its power in a time of peace, what would it not have been in a season of war, with an enemy at your doors?

No nation but the freemen of the United States could have come out victorious from such a contest; yet, if you had not conquered, the Government would have passed from the hands of the many to the hands of the few, and this organized money power from its secret conclave would have dictated the choice of your highest officers and compelled you to make peace or war, as best suited their own wishes. The forms of your Government might for a time have remained, but its living spirit would have departed from it.

Andrew Jackson

A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

Chrystia Freeland, The Rise of the New Global Elite

Plutocracy is not an American word but it's become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side.

By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly "bang the drum on plutonomy." … over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists— choose your poison— have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding.

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet.

Like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy. Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.

Democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

Bill Moyers, last episode of Bill Moyers Journal, 30 April 2010

22 July 2016

Gold Daily and Silver Weekly Charts - Grinding Slowly

"But seeking to justify himself, the scholar of the word and the law asked Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?'"

Luke 10:29

The modern gospel of personal prosperity and selective privilege, exceptionalism by whatever criteria a group may choose to exclude and oppress the other, although it has appeared throughout history many times and in many forms,  may be one of the worst and most insidious sins against the Spirit.

"But I just want to be left alone!" Truly, if you choose to live as this, you will be excluded and left alone, for all time.

August may be a big month for the metals, and we could see a taste of things to come next week with a Comex PM option expiry and an FOMC decision.

The Fed is either going to raise rates next week, or after the November elections.  They really would like to raise at least an additional 25 basis points, but may not have adequate cover from the economic results to do so.   And few expect them to raise more than one more time this year, so it would be a bit of a giveaway if they did now.

As you know, the Fed's interest rate 'policy' at this point has more to do with their own policy implementation mechanics, and much less than with the real economy, which quite frankly they have been neglecting for a the past couple of decades.   They are mesmerized and captured by 'the system.'

Obama's remarks today in his joint news conference with the Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto were a magnificent example of the credibility gap in action. President Obama waxed poetic about how great things are, and what a boon to the economy that NAFTA has been, and that the TTP will be.

The irony is that the Democrats may enable the presidency of Donald Trump by nominating one of the weakest candidates possible to run against his anti-establishment sentiment. For Hillary, whatever else she might be, is the poster child for crony capitalism.

Several have been coaxing me to give an impression of where I think gold might go over the next four weeks or so. This is a mug's game really, because even if one gets it directionally correct, the magnitude and the timing of such short term moves is almost impossible to forecast more than a few days out. And then there are the absolutely unpredictable exogenous events that can move markets dramatically.

But in general, I think gold will end the year higher than where it is today, barring unforeseen events, and possibly much higher. It really depends on if and when it can break out of its current ranging trend.

To say how it gets there is quite a task, but down, up, down, up, down, and up, up, and away are not a bad for an educated guess. The timing on this is really beyond mortal knowledge, but many will make up for it by predicting a break out every week, and count it as a score when they are finally right.

I think we will see a lot of chop and 'shenanigans' as the bullion banks and their monetary masters struggle to manage the leveraged paper against a shrinking pool of physical bullion. When the tipping point comes in this is hard to predict with any accuracy, but when it comes you will know it.

Have a pleasant weekend.

SP 500 and NDX Futures Daily Charts - Dog Days

Stocks traded in a sleepy updrift today with light volume and lower volatility, pretty much as I had expected.  I am glad I did not spend too much time watching the wiggles back and forth.

We will be getting a little more economic news action next week, along with the continuing dribble of earnings reports.

The weather here is simply baking, and is likely to be exceptionally warm this weekend.  It almost makes you wish for September.

Have a pleasant weekend.

21 July 2016

An Interesting Development in the Composition of International Readership

As you probably know, Le Café has always enjoyed a broad readership with a world-wide presence. I do not know why, but this is how it has been, with views from a little over 190 countries.

Google blogger does provide some basic stats with the package, and I look at them occasionally.

Tonight I found it interesting that over the last week or so Le Cafe has had a remarkable surge in readers from the area around Russia, as shown in the second chart below.

Бог правду видит, да не скоро скажет.

Gold Daily and Silver Weekly Charts - Comex Options Expiry and FOMC Next Week

"What was scattered gathers.
What was gathered blows away.”


And so we did a bungee jump over the past two days, a trading phenomenon colloquially known hereabouts as 'shenanigans.'

These jokers are so obvious and tiresome since the regulators have been put to bed.  At least they are not too lazy to steal.

Intraday there was a simple performance comparison of the two gold funds OUNZ and PHYS.

Next week could be a bit of a challenge for the precious metals, as we have not only a relatively important expiration on the Comex on Tuesday the 26th, but on the next day on Wednesday the 27th the FOMC will be revealing their decision on interest rates.

I am not going to speculate on which way I think the punters and wiseguys will take the markets, but it is likely to be an up and down, or a down and up, or perhaps even a down and down with the up to follow later on.   Or as I suspect we will be seeing sometime this year, just an 'up, up, and away.'

I do not wish to encourage anyone to trade any of these jiggered markets on the short term, even those who at least theoretically prefer their markets on the wild and underregulated side, with a charming trust in the natural goodness and rationality of some of the worst moral actors you will ever find.

And if you are determined to trade these markets short term, then just put your big boy pants on and have at it, as you certainly do not need any help from me.

Longer term, dull reality intrudes. even on the half-fevered monetary dreamstates of statists and thieves.

And after many a summer, dies the swan.

Have a pleasant evening.

SP 500 and NDX Futures Daily Charts - How Are the Mighty Fallen

“Empires die, like all of us dancers in the strobe lit dark.

See how the light needs shadows.”

David Mitchell

Stocks were a bit off today, as the risk on stampede cooled off a bit, as the bulls began to dwindle away for the long Summer weekend that they desire.

VIX ticked up a bit, as the buyers looked around themselves and saw how far they had come, and heard the snickers of the pros as they helped them to mount ever higher.

Tomorrow will likely be a sleepier day, with the adults gone by noon if not before.

Have a pleasant evening.