The Smoke of ZIRP and the Mirrors of QE…
By Bill Bonner - May 31, 2013
The front pages of yesterday's newspapers were full of good news. A strong rebound in real estate prices, they said, meant a full recovery was in the bag. From Reuters:
Home prices accelerated by the most in nearly seven years in March as the spring buying season gave the sector traction, while surging consumer confidence pointed to some resilience for the economic recovery.
The data on Tuesday also suggested the two segments could act as buffers as the broader economy faces the pinch of belt-tightening in Washington.
The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas climbed 10.9% year over year, beating expectations for 10.2%. This was the biggest increase since April 2006, just before prices peaked in the summer of that year.
This, along with a record stock market, was spreading cheer from coast to coast. Again, from Reuters:
Consumer confidence strengthened in May to the highest level in more than five years, suggesting Americans' attitudes were resilient in the face of belt-tightening in Washington, a private sector report showed on Tuesday.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes jumped to 76.2 from an upwardly revised 69 in April, topping economists' expectations for 71. It was the best level since February 2008.
So you see, dear reader, everything is hunky-dory, copacetic and cool.
Good News Is Bad News
But wait! What's this? In the face of all this good news, the US stock market fell and "disaster insurance" gold rose. The Dow dropped 106 points. And the price of gold went up $12 per ounce.
Why? Because good news is bad news. Bad news is good news. Up is down and backward is forward. Nothing is what it seems… or what it ought to be.
If the economy were really doing better, the Fed would have to follow through on its promise to "normalize" monetary policy. That is, it would stop lending at zero interest rates and stop its $85 billion-per-month QE program.
But our hunch is that those hocus-pocus programs – not a genuine recovery – are what keep stock prices going up. Take them away and you also take away the boom in stocks… and real estate, too. (Housing prices now depend on the lowest mortgage rates in 50 years.)
What this means is that there is no genuine recovery. It's all the smoke of ZIRP and the mirrors of QE. When the magic show ends… so does the illusion of recovery.
40 Facts You Won't Believe
Yesterday, we promised to tell what was really going on in the US economy. As you will see, there is no sign of a real recovery. Instead, what we see is a deepening depression disguised by a Fed-driven asset bubble. Here's The Economic Collapse blog with "40 Statistics About the Fall of the U S Economy That Are Almost Too Crazy to Believe":
- Back in 1980, the US national debt was less than $1 trillion. Today, it is rapidly approaching $17 trillion.
- During Obama's first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 US presidents combined.
- The US national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
- If you started paying off just the new debt that the US has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.
- The federal government is stealing more than $100 million from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.
- Back in 1970, the total amount of debt in the United States (government debt + business debt + consumer debt, etc.) was less than $2 trillion. Today, it is over $56 trillion.
- According to the World Bank, US GDP accounted for 31.8% of all global economic activity in 2001. That number dropped to 21.6% in 2011.
- The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.
- According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988. Today, the United States is tied for only 16th place.
- Incredibly, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been permanently shut down since 2001.
- There are fewer Americans working in manufacturing that there was in 1950, even though the population of the country has more than doubled since then.
- According to The New York Times, there are now approximately 70,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.
- When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of $1.6 billion. By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of $61.6 billion.
- Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately $6 million (million with a little "m") for the entire year. In 2012, our trade deficit with China was $315 billion. That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.
- Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than $8 trillion with the rest of the world since 1975.
- According to the Economic Policy Institute, the United States is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.
- Back in 1950, more than 80% of all men in the United States had jobs. Today, less than 65% of all men in the United States have jobs.
- At this point, an astounding 53% of all American workers make less than $30,000 per year.
- Small business is rapidly dying in America. At this point about only 7% of all non-farm workers in the United States are self-employed. That is an all-time record low.
- Back in 1983, the bottom 95% of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned. By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.
- In the United States today, the wealthiest 1% of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90% combined.
- According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.
- The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.
- According to the US Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either "poor" or "low income."
- According to the US Census Bureau, 49% of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government. Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.
- Overall, the federal government runs nearly 80 different "means-tested welfare programs," and at this point, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one of them.
- Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, one out of every six Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse. It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
- As I wrote recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
- At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than $38 trillion over the next 75 years. That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.
- Right now, there are approximately 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits. By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.
- Overall, the Social Security system is facing a $134 trillion over the next 75 years.
- Today, the number of Americans on Social Security Disability now exceeds the entire population of Greece, and the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.
- According to a report recently issued by the Pew Research Center, on average, Americans over the age of 65 have 47 times as much wealth as Americans under the age of 35.
- US families that have a head of household who is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37%.
- As I mentioned recently, the homeownership rate in America is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.
- There are now 20.2 million Americans who spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46% increase from 2001.
- 45% of all children are living in poverty in Miami more than 50% of all children are living in poverty in Cleveland, and about 60% of all children are living in poverty in Detroit.
- Today, more than 1 million public school students in the United States are homeless. This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.
- When Barack Obama first entered the White House, about 32 million Americans were on food stamps. Now, more than 47 million Americans are on food stamps.
- According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.