Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Deteriorating Economic Outlook

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The third and final estimate (until the annual GDP revisions) of first quarter 2014 real GDP growth released June 25 by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis was a 2.9% contraction in GDP growth, a 5.5 percentage point difference from the January forecast of 2.6% growth. Apparently, the first quarter contraction was dismissed by those speculating in equities as weather related, as stock averages rose with the bad news.

Stock market participants might be in for a second quarter surprise. The result of many years of changes made to the official inflation measures is a substantially understated inflation rate. John Williams (www.shadowstats.com) provides inflation estimates based on previous official methodology when the Consumer Price Index still represented the cost of a constant standard of living. The 1.26% inflation measure used to deflate first quarter nominal GDP is unrealistic, as Americans who make purchases are aware.

A reasonable correction to the understated deflator gives a much higher first quarter contraction. The two main causes of inflation’s understatement are the substitution principle introduced during the Clinton regime and the hedonic adjustments ongoing since the 1980s that redefine price rises as quality improvements. Correcting for excessive hedonic adjustments gives a first quarter real GDP contraction of 5%. Correcting for hedonic and substitution adjustments gives a first quarter real GDP contraction of 8.5%.

Realistic economic analysis is a rarity. The financial press echoes Wall Street, and Wall Street economists are paid to help sell financial instruments. Gloomy analysis is frowned upon. Even negative quarters are given a positive spin.

Years of understatement of inflation has resulted in years of overstatement of GDP growth. Thinking about the many years of misstatement, we realized that the typical computation in nominal terms of the ratio of debt to GDP is seriously misleading.

Consider that debt is issued in nominal terms and repaid in nominal terms (except for a few Treasury bonds with inflation adjustments). However, nominal wealth or nominal GDP overstates real economic strength. The debt is growing, but both the nominal and real values of the output of goods and services are not keeping up with the rise in debt.

To understand how risky the rise of debt is, nominal debt must be compared to real GDP. Spin masters might dismiss this computation as comparing apples to oranges, but such a charge constitutes denial that the ratio of nominal debt to nominal GDP understates the wealth dilution caused by the government’s ability to issue and repay debt in nominal dollars. We know that inflation favors debtors, because debts can be repaid in inflated dollars.

The graph below shows three different debt to GDP ratios. The bottom line is nominal debt to nominal GDP, the financial press ratio. The middle line is the ratio of nominal debt to the official measure of real GDP. The top line is the ratio of nominal GDP to Shadowstats’ corrected measure of real GDP that puts back in some of the inflation that is no longer included in official measures. The basis for this corrected measure is also 2000, but as the GDP number for 2000 is lower due to correction, this graph begins with the ratio at a slightly higher point.

Graph1 [1]

The nominal debt to GDP ratio shows that as of the end of the first quarter of 2014 total US Treasury debt outstanding is 103 percent of US GDP.

The ratio of Treasury debt to official real GDP shows debt at 136% of GDP.

The ratio of debt to real GDP deflated with more a more realistic measure of inflation, one more in keeping with the experience of consumers, puts US public debt at 185% of GDP. In other words, the burden of US debt on the real economy is almost twice the burden that is normally perceived.

The Shadowstats adjustment we made to real GDP does not fully correct for what we believe has been a growing understatement of inflation since the 1980s. The adjustment we made corrects the implicit price deflator for a two-percentage point understatement of annual inflation due to hedonic distortion. Real GDP with this correction since 2000 looks like this:

Graph2 [2]

We have calculated the ratios of US public debt to nominal GDP and to two measures of real GDP. The ratios of debt to GDP would be much higher if we used total credit outstanding, or total public and private debt, and if we used the government’s unfunded liabilities. The fact seems clear that debt is a major and unappreciated issue for the US economy. The enormous debt, especially with the middle class economy largely offshored, implies substantially lower living standards for the 99 percent.

The first quarter contraction, especially our corrected number, implies a second quarter negative real GDP. In other words, the years of Quantitative Easing (money printing) by the Federal Reserve has not resulted in economic recovery from the 2008 downturn and has not prevented further contraction.

Massive money creation and huge fiscal deficits have protected the balance sheets of “banks too big to fail” but have harmed the American people. Retirees and pension funds have been deprived for years of interest income as the Federal Reserve engineered zero or negative interest rates for the sake of a handful of oversized banks.

The extraordinary creation of new dollars diluted the dollars held by peoples, companies, institutions, and central banks throughout the world, raising fears that the dollar would lose exchange value and its role as world reserve currency.

Washington’s use of financial sanctions to force other countries to bend to Washington’s will is causing countries to leave the dollar payments system. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisor has said that the dollar must be crashed as the only way to prevent US aggression. The Chinese have called for “de-americanizing the world.”

The imperialistic US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which comes into full force July 1, 2015, imposes such heavy reporting costs on foreign financial institutions that these institutions might opt out of dollar transactions. All together, the result could be a serious tumble in the value of the US dollar, more wealth contraction, higher inflation via import prices, and less US wealth available to support US debt.

In view of this reality, why is Washington pushing its puppet in Kiev toward war with Russia? Why is Washington pushing NATO to spend more money and build more bases on which to deploy more troops in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, especially when Washington’s contribution will be the largest part of the cost? Why is Washington re-entering the Middle East conflict that Washington began by inciting Sunni and Shia against one another? Why is Washington constructing new naval and air bases from the Philippines to Vietnam in order to encircle China?

If Washington is this unaware of its budget constraints and its financial predicament, it cannot be long before Americans experience economic catastrophe.

Virtual Economy’s Phantom Job Gains Are Based on Statistical Fraud

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Washington can’t stop lying. Don’t be convinced by last Thursday’s job report that it is your fault if you don’t have a job. Those 288,000 jobs and 6.1% unemployment rate are more fiction than reality.

In his analysis of the June Labor Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, John Williams (www.ShadowStats.com [1]) wrote that the 288,000 June jobs and 6.1% unemployment rate are “far removed from common experience and underlying reality.” Payrolls were overstated by “massive, hidden shifts in seasonal adjustments,” and the Birth-Death model added the usual phantom jobs.

Williams reports that “the seasonal factors are changed each and every month as part of the concurrent seasonal-adjustment process, which is tantamount to a fraud,” as the changes in the seasonal factors can inflate the jobs number. While the headline numbers always are on a new basis, the prior reporting is not revised so as to be consistent.

The monthly unemployment rates are not comparable, so one doesn’t know whether the official U.3 rate (the headline rate that the financial press reports) went up or down. Moreover, the rate does not count discouraged workers who, unable to find a job, cease looking. To be counted among the U.3 unemployed, the person must have actively looked for work during the four weeks prior to the survey. The U.3 rate automatically declines as people who have been unable to find jobs cease trying to find one and thereby cease to be counted as unemployed.

There is a second official measure of unemployment that includes people who have been discouraged for less than one year. That rate, known as U.6, is seldom reported and is double the 6.1% rate.

Since 1994 there has been no official measure than includes discouraged people who have not looked for a job for more than a year. Including all discouraged workers produces an unemployment rate that currently stands at 23.1%, almost four times the rate that the financial press reports.

What you can take away from this is the opposite of what the presstitute media would have you believe. The measured rate of unemployment can decline simply because large numbers of the unemployed become discouraged workers, cease looking for work, and cease to be counted in the U.3 and U.6 measures of the unemployment rate.

The decline in the employment-population ratio from 63% prior to the 2008 downturn to 59% today reflects the growth in discouraged workers. Indeed, the ratio has not recovered its previous level during the alleged recovery, an indication that the recovery is an illusion created by the understated measure of inflation that is used to deflate nominal GDP growth.

Another indication that there has been no recovery is that Sentier Research’s index of real median household income continued to decline for two years after the alleged recovery began in June 2009. There has been a slight upturn in real median household income since June 2011, but income remains far below the pre-recession level.

The Birth-Death model adds an average of 62,000 jobs to the reported payroll jobs numbers each month. This arbitrary boost to the payroll jobs numbers is in addition to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ underlying assumption that unreported jobs lost to business failures are matched by unreported new jobs from new business startups, an assumption that does not well fit an economy that fell into recession and is unable to recover.

John Williams concludes that in current BLS reporting, “the aggregate average overstatement of employment change easily exceeds 200,000 jobs per month.”

In other words, the economy did not gain 288,000 new jobs last month. But let’s assume the economy did gain 288,000 jobs and exam where the claimed jobs are reported to be.

Of the alleged 288,000 new jobs, 16,000, or 5.5 percent are in manufacturing, which is not very promising for engineers and blue collar workers. Growth in goods producing jobs has almost disappeared from the US economy. As explained below, to alter this problem the government is going to change definitions in order to artificially inflate manufacturing jobs.

In June private services account for 82 percent of the supposed new jobs. The jobs are found mainly in non-tradable domestic services that pay little and cannot be exported to help to close the large US trade deficit.

Wholesale and retail trade account for 55,300 jobs. Do you believe sales are this strong when retailers are closing stores and when shopping malls are closing?

Insurance (most likely the paperwork of Obamacare) contributed 8,500 jobs.

As so few can purchase homes, “real estate rental and leasing” contributed 8,500 jobs.

Professional and business services contributed 67,000 jobs, but 57% of these jobs were in employment services, temporary help services, and services to buildings and dwellings.

That old standby, education and health services, accounted for 33,700 jobs consisting mainly of ambulatory health care services jobs and social assistance jobs of which three-quarters are in child day care services.

The other old standby, waitresses and bartenders, gave us 32,800 jobs, and amusements, gambling, and recreation gave us 3,500 jobs.

Local government, principally education, gave us 22,000 jobs.

So, where are the jobs for university graduates? They are practically non-existent. Think of all the MBAs, but June had only 2,300 jobs for management of companies and enterprises.

Think of the struggle to get into law and medical schools. There’s no job payoff. June had jobs for 1,200 in legal services, which includes receptionists and para-legals. Where are all the law school graduates finding jobs?

Offices of physicians (mainly people who fill out the mandated paperwork and comply with all the regulations, which have multiplied under ObamaCare) hired 4,000 people. Outpatient care centers hired 700 people. Nursing care facilities hired 2,400 people. So where are the jobs for the medical school graduates?

Aside from all the exaggerations in the jobs numbers of which ShadowStats.com has informed us, just taking the jobs as reported, what kind of economy do these jobs indicate: a superpower whose pretensions are to exercise hegemony over the world or an economy in which opportunities are disappearing and incomes are falling?

Do you think that this jobs picture would be the same if the government in Washington cared about you instead of the mega-rich?

Some interesting numbers can be calculated from table A.9 in the BLS press release. John Williams advises that the BLS is inconsistent in the methods it uses to tabulate the data in table A.9 and that the data is also afflicted by seasonal adjustment problems. However, as the unemployment rate and payroll jobs are reported regardless of their problems, we can also report the BLS finding that in June 523,000 full-time jobs disappeared and 800,000 part time jobs appeared.



Here, perhaps, we have yet another downside of the misnamed Obama “Affordable Care Act.” Employers are terminating full-time employment and replacing the jobs with part-time employment in order to come in under the 50-person full time employment that makes employers responsible for fringe benefits such as health care.

Americans are already experiencing difficulties making ends meet, despite the alleged “recovery.” If yet another half million Americans have been forced onto part-time pay with consequent loss of health care and other benefits, consumer demand is further compressed, with the consequence, unless hidden by statistical trickery, of a 2nd quarter negative GDP and thus officially the reappearance of recession.

What will the government do if a recession cannot be hidden? If years of unprecedented money printing and Keynesian fiscal deficits have not brought recovery, what will bring recovery? How far down will US living standards fall for the 99% in order that the 1% can become ever more mega-rich while Washington wastes our diminishing substance exercising hegemony over the world?

Just as Washington lied to you about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Russian invasion of Ukraine, Waco, and any number of false flag or nonexistent attacks such as Tonkin Gulf, Washington lies to you about jobs and economic recovery. Don’t believe the spin that you are unemployed because you are shiftless and prefer government handouts to work. The government does not want you to know that you are unemployed because the corporations offshored American jobs to foreigners and because economic policy only serves the oversized banks and the one percent.

Just as the jobs and inflation numbers are rigged and the financial markets are rigged, the corrupt Obama regime is now planning to rig US manufacturing and trade statistics in order to bury all evidence of offshoring’s adverse impact on our economy.

The federal governments Economic Classification Policy Committee has come up with a proposal to redefine fact as fantasy in order to hide offshoring’s contribution to the US trade deficit, artificially inflate the number of US manufacturing jobs, and redefine foreign-made manufactured products as US manufactured products. For example, Apple iPhones made in China and sold in Europe would be reported as a US export of manufactured goods. Read Ben Beachy’s important report on this blatant statistical fraud in CounterPunch’s July 4th weekend edition: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/04/we-didnt-offshore-manufacturing/



China will not agree that the Apple brand name means that the phones are not Chinese production. If the Obama regime succeeds with this fraud, the iPhones would be counted twice, once by China and once by the US, and the double-counting would exaggerate world GDP.

For years I have exposed the absurd claim that offshoring is merely the operation of free trade, and I have exposed the incompetent studies by such as Michael Porter at Harvard and Matthew Slaughter at Dartmouth that claimed to prove that the US was benefitting from offshoring its manufacturing. My book published in 2012 in Germany and in 2013 in the US, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, proves that offshoring has dismantled the ladders of upward mobility that made the US an opportunity society and is responsible for the decline in US economic growth. The lost jobs and decline in the middle class has contributed to the rise in income inequality, the destruction of tax base for cities and states, and loss of population in America’s once great manufacturing centers.

For the most part economists have turned a blind eye. Economists serve the globalists. It pays them well.

The corruption in present-day America is total. Psychologists and anthropologists serve war and torture. Economists serve globalism and US financial hegemony. Physicists and chemists serve the war industries. Physicists and computer geeks serve NSA. The media serves the government and the corporations. The political parties serve the six powerful private interest groups that rule the country.

No one serves truth and liberty.

I predict that within ten years truth and liberty will be forbidden words uttered only by “domestic extremists” who are a threat that must be exterminated without due process of law.

America has left us. We now have the tyranny of the Orwellian state that rules, not by the ballot box and Constitution, but by force and propaganda.

The 17,000 Dow Jones: Surging Towards a Financial Disaster

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The rise of Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average to an all-time high above 17,000 last week is another sign of the explosive contradictions building up within the American and global financial system.

Since hitting its low point of 6,547 on March 9, 2009 following the financial crash of September 2008, the Dow has climbed by more than 10,000 points, and is now over 250 percent what it was barely five years ago.

At the same time, following the official recession of December 2007 to June 2009, US gross domestic product has experienced its worst “recovery” of any comparable period since World War II, with output falling by almost 3 percent in the first quarter of this year. Investment in the real economy remains stagnant as corporations pile up cash rather than expand productive activity, and use the money to fund share buy-back operations, mergers and acquisitions and other, essentially parasitic, financial operations.

Internationally, the situation is no better or, in some cases, worse. Large segments of the economies of the advanced countries are either experiencing stagnation or outright recession. Output in the euro zone has yet to return to the levels of 2007.

According to calculations by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), a consortium of the world’s central banks, the output of the major economies is around 8 percent below where it would have been had pre-2008 trends continued.

In the so-called “emerging markets,” once hailed as the saviours of the world economy, there is increasing nervousness over the state of financial markets amid fears that a major withdrawal of “hot money,” highly sensitive to any interest rate increases in the advanced economies, could precipitate another global financial crash.

Even though it is still experiencing growth rates of around 7.5 percent, China is widely regarded as being highly vulnerable to the bursting of the financial bubble created by the massive expansion of credit following 2008. It is estimated that in the past six years, credit has increased by an amount equivalent to the finances of the entire US banking system.

And yet, amid this worsening situation, US and global stock markets, fuelled by the injection of ultra-cheap money from the major central banks, keep powering upwards.

This process cannot continue indefinitely. The endless accumulation of wealth, as money seemingly miraculously transforms itself into even greater amounts of money, is inherently unsustainable. The entire financial system resembles a kind of inverted pyramid in which massive financial wealth rests upon a narrowing real economic base, making the whole system extremely vulnerable to even a small disturbance.

As this possibility increases, the policies of the central banks serve not to prevent a financial disaster, but rather to fuel the very conditions that are leading inexorably to one.

The events of the past week have been highly revealing. They demonstrate the extent to which the whole world economy, and the jobs, social conditions and livelihoods of billions of working people, are subject to the dictates of a tiny financial elite.

The week began with a warning from the BIS that present monetary policies were creating the conditions for a repeat of September 2008, possibly on a bigger scale. But this was immediately countered with the assertion that any attempt to halt speculation by ending the supply of ultra-cheap cash would bring about an economic collapse. So present policies have to be continued, notwithstanding the fact that they are leading to a disaster.

Last Wednesday, in her most significant public comments since taking up the post in February, US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen insisted that the present policy of providing an endless supply of cash to financial markets would continue into the indefinite future.

She ruled out any action on monetary policy to prevent the emergence of dangerous asset bubbles and the kinds of parasitic and outright criminal policies that led to the crash of 2008, on the grounds that it would do too much damage to the economy, leading to the growth of unemployment. “Macroprudential regulation” should be used to control the financial system, she asserted.

However, any such regulations ultimately rest on enforcement procedures, above all against the biggest financial and investment firms, which, as the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report of 2011 made clear, engaged in criminal activity. However, the bringing of criminal charges was ruled out by Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2013, when he told a congressional panel that if prosecutions were launched against the largest institutions, they would “have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

In other words, both US monetary and legal authorities are completely beholden to the banks and financial corporations.

When asked about the ability of the banks to create a “parallel universe” shadow banking system outside the purview of would-be regulators, Yellen admitted she did not have a “great answer” to that problem. But this admission of bankruptcy did not stop others from endorsing her remarks.

European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi, who recently reduced interest rates set by the ECB to zero and below, backed the stand of his American counterpart. He insisted that “macroprudential” measures, not monetary policy, had to be “the first line of defence against financial stability risk.”

Others quickly chimed in. Bank of England Deputy Governor John Cunliffe said tightening monetary policies to curb asset values risked hurting the economy and should be seen as “the last line of defence.”

Sweden’s central bank, the Risbank, after a battle within the governing board, decided that actions speak louder than words and cut interest rates by 50 basis points, declaring it was for “other policy areas” to manage rising household debt and housing markets.

Bank of America strategists were clearly delighted that the wealth bonanza would continue, saying the message from the Fed, the ECB and the Risbank was that that monetary policy would stay “loose,” with “macroprudential” policies taking care of any financial stability risks.

While the promotion of financial parasitism has been enshrined as official policy, further adding to the wealth of the already super-wealthy, the offensive against the working class deepens.

Outlining the need for austerity measures, Australian treasurer Joe Hockey declared that while the world was “awash with money,” governments had no money. These phenomena are two sides of the same coin. The driving down of living standards and the imposition of mass poverty is based on the recognition that, in the final analysis, the only way of putting value into financial assets is to extract it from the working class.

The claim that “macroprudential” regulation can avert a catastrophe is a cruel hoax. Apart from the fact that financial markets develop ways of side-stepping such regulations as soon as they are developed, there is the issue of the regulators themselves.

In the US, at the very heart of the global financial system, they are drawn directly from the ranks of the banks and finance houses or from the legal firms that have acted for them in proceedings aimed at thwarting attempted controls. Such individuals view their term of “public service” merely as a means of enhancing their “market value” when they return to make millions in the world of corporate finance.

As for those who rise up through the ranks, they view their term of office as a mere stepping stone to enter the “parallel universe.” And on the off-chance that someone might emerge who actually believes in regulation, they can easily be dispensed with by means of a sex exposé or some other form of scandal.

The situation is the same elsewhere, as exemplified by the fact that the head of the ECB, Mario Draghi, is a former international vice-president of Goldman Sachs.

The Almighty Dollar Is In Peril As The Global ‘De-Dollarization’ Trend Accelerates

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As the Obama administration continues to alienate almost everyone else around the entire planet, an increasing number of prominent international voices are starting to question why the U.S. dollar should be so overwhelmingly dominant in global trade. In previous articles, I have discussed Russia's "de-dollarization strategy" and the fact that Gazprom is now asking their large customers to start paying in currencies other than the dollar. But this is not just a story about Russia any longer. As you will read about below, China and South Korea have just signed a major agreement to facilitate trade with one another using their own national currencies, and even prominent French officials are now talking about the need to use the dollar less and the euro more. John Williams of shadowstats.com recently said that things have never "been more negative" for the U.S. dollar, and he was right on the mark. The power of the almighty dollar has allowed all of us living in the United States to enjoy an extremely high standard of living for decades, but as that power now fades it is going to have profound implications for the U.S. economy. In future years the value of the dollar will go down substantially, all of the imported goods filling our stores will become much more expensive, and it is going to cost the federal government a lot more to borrow money. Unfortunately, with the stock market hitting all-time record highs and with the mainstream media endlessly touting an "economic recovery", most Americans are not paying any attention to these things.

French oil giant Total is one of the largest energy companies in the entire world. On Saturday, Total's CEO made an absolutely stunning statement. According to Reuters, he told reporters that there "is no reason to pay for oil in dollars"...

"Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn't be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more," he told reporters.

"There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars," he said. He said the fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel did not mean that payments actually had to be made in that currency.
If Gazprom's CEO had made such a statement, it would not have really surprised anyone. But this came from a high profile French CEO. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for him to say such a thing. Wars have been started over less. Virtually all oil and natural gas around the planet has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars since the 1970s, and this is an arrangement that the U.S. government has traditionally guarded very zealously. But now that Russia has broken the petrodollar monopoly, the fear of questioning the almighty dollar appears to be dissipating.

And at this point even French government officials are not afraid to publicly discuss moving away from the U.S. dollar. Just check out what French finance minister Michel Sapin said to the press this weekend...

French finance minister Michel Sapin says "now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro" adding, more ominously for the dollar, "we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so." Careful to avoid upsetting his 'allies' across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, "This is not a fight against dollar imperialism," except, of course - that's exactly what it is... just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.
So why are the French suddenly so upset?

Could it be the fact that we just slapped the largest bank in France with a nearly 9 billion dollar fine?...

The remarks come a week after Paris-based bank BNP Paribas (BNP) SA was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine by U.S. authorities for transactions carried out in dollars in countries facing American sanctions. The fine spurred debate in France about the right of the U.S. in extending its regulatory reach beyond its borders.
This is yet another example of how the Obama administration is alienating friends all over the globe.

In fact, there doesn't seem to be anyone that the Obama administration is afraid of crossing. Just a couple of days ago, the German press exploded in outrage when Germany arrested a U.S. spy. Why we feel the need to spy on our friends is something that I will never figure out.

And of course our relations with Russia are probably the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War at this point. And as the Russians now rapidly move away from the U.S. dollar, they seem intent on bringing the rest of "the BRICS" with them. The following is a short excerpt from a recent Voice of Russia article entitled "BRICS morphing into anti-dollar alliance"...

However, in her discussion with Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian central bank unveiled an elegant technical solution for this problem and left a clear hint regarding the members of the anti-dollar alliance that is being created by the efforts of Moscow and Beijing:

"We've done a lot of work on the ruble-yuan swap deal in order to facilitate trade financing. I have a meeting next week in Beijing," she said casually and then dropped the bomb: "We are discussing with China and our BRICS parters the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country, if needed. A part of the currency reserves can be directed to [the new system]." (source of the quote: Prime news agency)
It seems that the Kremlin chose the all-in-one approach for establishing its anti-dollar alliance. Currency swaps between the BRICS central banks will facilitate trade financing while completely bypassing the dollar. At the same time, the new system will also act as a de facto replacement of the IMF, because it will allow the members of the alliance to direct resources to finance the weaker countries. As an important bonus, derived from this "quasi-IMF" system, the BRICS will use a part (most likely the "dollar part") of their currency reserves to support it, thus drastically reducing the amount of dollar-based instruments bought by some of the biggest foreign creditors of the US.
Of course the key economic player in the BRICS alliance is China.

So will China actually go along with a "de-dollarization" strategy?

Well, the truth is that China has been making moves to become more independent of the dollar for a long time, and it has just been announced that China and South Korea have signed an agreement which will mean more direct trade between the two nations using their own national currencies...

China's central bank has authorized the Bank of Communications, the country's fifth largest lender, to undertake yuan clearing business in the South Korean capital, the People's Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement.

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to South Korea on Friday. China is seeking to make the yuan - also known as the renminbi - used more internationally in keeping with the country's status as the world's second biggest economy behind the United States.
Unfortunately, most Americans don't care about any of this at all.

They don't understand that more U.S. dollars are actually used outside the United States than are used inside the United States. Because most of the rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, this has created a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency. In other words, the value of the U.S. dollar is much higher than it otherwise would be, and this has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of products at ridiculously low prices. The standard of living that we enjoy today is highly dependent on this arrangement continuing.

And our ability to fund the federal government and our state and local governments is heavily dependent on the rest of the planet loaning our dollars back to us for next to nothing. If we actually had to pay realistic market rates to borrow money, the finances of the federal government would have already collapsed long ago.

So it is absolutely imperative for our own economic well-being that this "de-dollarization" trend not accelerate any further. The rest of the world could actually severely hurt us by deciding to stop using the almighty dollar, and the more that the Obama administration antagonizes both our friends and our foes around the globe the more likely that is to happen.

We live in very perilous times, and the almighty dollar is more vulnerable now than it has been in decades.

If it starts collapsing, it will take down the entire U.S. financial system with it.

Let us hope that we still have a bit more time before that happens, because once the U.S. dollar collapses it will be exceedingly painful for all of us.

The Crash of 2016 Gets Closer Every Day

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The denial of fundamental economic principles is setting the world up for another Great Crash.

Although wages have been flat or declining since the West started following Thatchernomics and Reaganomics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the stock market has risen to all-time highs. Billions – hundreds of billions – have been made by individuals on Wall Street.

Meanwhile over 60,000 factories have closed in United States just in the past 14 years, and over 50 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.

In Europe, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries who are ignoring our economic advice, the situation is very similar. Other than Germany, which is becoming a major extractor of wealth from the rest of the EU, European countries and Great Britain are following the same fallacy that has been driving US economic policy for more than 30 years.

On June 29, The Financial Times with reporting by Sam Fleming and Claire Jones, lead its front page with the warning that "Bank for International Settlements warns 'Euphoric' Markets."

The article notes that capital markets are "extraordinarily buoyant," according to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), and argues that central banks around the world "should not fall into the trap of raising rates 'too slowly and too late.'"

They correctly point out how low interest rates have caused an explosion worldwide of corporate debt.

Meanwhile, not noted in the article, for-profit corporate banks have discovered that instead of lending money to working-class people to buy homes or cars, it has become more profitable to simply borrow from central banks at very low interest rates, often less than 1 percent, and then park that money in government treasuries which pay 2 or 3 percent, in effect loaning the country's money back to the same government at a profit.

Similarly, huge transnational corporations from tech companies to pharmaceutical companies, are hoarding cash in offshore tax havens where it's not available to stimulate local economies, or they're making acquisitions based on fiscal strategies rather than how to best manufacture the best product.

Completely lost in the debate between the BIS and the IMF over simulative central-bank strategies is a simple economic fact. Economies are driven by demand, and the principal component of demand is wages.

Instead, The Financial Times noted that the Bank of International Settlements is "calling for policymakers to halt the steady rise of debt burdens around the world and embark on reforms to boost productivity."

This echoes the old Reaganomics line that increased productivity equals a growing economy. Make more things and people will buy more things.

Productivity has been rising steadily in the United States since the 1930s, but since the early 1980s it has become uncoupled from wages, which have remained flat or fallen.

Even as individual companies become more productive, producing more goods with lower costs and less labor, the economy has been stagnant because there is little demand for those goods. And that's because of the simple Econ 101 maxim, which dates back to Adam Smith, that demand is what drives economies, and that wages are the principal driver of demand.

The majority of American workers spend 100 percent or more (they go in debt) of their wages, and all but the top few percent of American workers save anything close to even 10 percent of their wages. It is their spending that creates demand.

As wages flatten or drop, and as the ability of unemployed people to continue buying things is cut by the Republican efforts to cut long-term unemployment over the past six months, demand falls.

Meanwhile, large corporations, wealthy people, and banks are all making money simply playing with money. This "financialization" of our economy is driving us to the edge of a massive crash.

Policy makers, from the Fed to the IMF to the BIS to the US Congress and the White House should all be looking back at the lessons of the 1930s – because we're about to learn them all over again.

Wages for working people, not the wealth of the rich, corporate income, or banking profits are what both drive and sustain an economy. As long as those wages remain stagnant or falling, there will not be sufficient demand to keep an economy from collapsing under the weight of its own high-end gamblers and the growing debt of its young and working-class people just trying to get by.

While inflation hawks are hysterical about the possibility of our repeating the inflation of the 1970s if central banks raise their rates or stop buying bad corporate or good government debt, they fail to remember that most of the inflation of that era was driven by oil price shocks, and that it did not, by and large, impair the ability of average people to continue to gain wealth and buy homes.

(With rare exceptions, inflation is not caused by government borrowing or "money printing," but by shortages in essential commodities. In the United States in the 1970s it was principally oil shortages that drove inflation; more recently in Zimbabwe it was food. The intentional hyperinflation of Germany in the 1920s was simply a "screw you" response to the Treaty of Versailles, which imposed punishing debt on Germany for World War I, and which John Maynard Keynes warned would provoke the next great war. He was right and the conventional wisdom among international policymakers was wrong.)

History – and the examples of Germany and Scandinavia – show us that high levels of unionization, trade and taxation policies that favor the working class over the rich, and heavy regulation of the banking and speculative industries will build a strong and healthy working and middle-class, and thus a strong and healthy economy. Instead, the United States and much of the EU still cling to Thatchernomics and Reaganomics, and the result is the continuing decline of both economies.

Until the corporate elite and our billionaire class are under control, and our working class once again can enter the middle class, we stand at the precipice of a great crash. Without vigorous governmental action to radically reduce student and working family debt, increase wages, and suppress speculation, that crash comes closer to us every day.

Fukushima has 9 days to prevent ‘unsafe’ overheating

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Fukushima operator TEPCO has been forced to switch off the cooling system at mothballed Reactor Unit 5, after it was discovered that it had been leaking water. In nine days, if the system is not repaired, temperatures will exceed dangerous levels.

Engineers have discovered that 1,300 liters of water leaked from a cooling system intended to stabilize the temperature of the spent fuel at the Reactor Unit 5, which was offline but loaded with fuel rods when the plant was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The source of the leak was a 3 mm-diameter hole near a flow valve, a statement published by the Japanese energy giant on Sunday asserts. However it is unclear from company data if the location of the opening has been discovered, or whether it was calculated with flow measurements.

At the time when the cooling system was switched off at around 12pm on Sunday, the temperature in the pool in which the rods are submerged was 23C but started increasing by 0.193 degrees per hour, TEPCO says.

If no new cold water is pumped in at such rate it will reach the dangerous threshold of 65C by the midpoint of the month in roughly 9 days.

Such temperatures, which have not been routinely seen at the plant since the failing of the cooling system in the immediate aftermath, would increase the possibility of dangerous reactions and further radiation leaks in the plant.

TEPCO however says that currently, there have been no abnormal readings anywhere in the plant.

Since TEPCO is using seawater for many of its cooling needs at the power plant, it has previously encountered heightened levels of corrosion, in sensitive equipment. The cooling system at various reactors has also been beset by calamities – from rats short circuiting the control panel and forcing a blackout, to an employee “accidentally” switching it off, though all were resolved before rod pools overheated.

At the same time, TEPCO is struggling to deal with ever-increasing volumes of contaminated water which is being stored in hundreds of tanks at the facility and frequently leaking and contaminating the soil beneath it. And the much publicized plan to stop contaminated water from leaking into the sea by building an ‘ice-wall’ and freezing soil and water around the facility is not working as well as Japanese officials had hoped.