It is a signal irony that, within days of the apocalyptic earthquake and tsunami that have brought Japan to her knees, archaeologists announced the possible discovery, after millenia of speculation, of the ruins of the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis, buried deep beneath the marshes of the Coto Doñana in southwestern Spain.
To the list of mega-corporations bailed out by the U.S. government, we now must add — Europe. In an announcement that rocked financial markets worldwide, the European Central Bank revealed yesterday a concerted effort in combination with four other major central banks — the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Switzerland, and yes, the U.S. Federal Reserve — to use dollars rather than euros in an attempt to paper over the European Union’s economic woes.
Credit Time magazine for identifying, however imprecisely, a very important but little understood consequence of the modern Federal Reserve-based financial system: a “brain drain” that is luring many of the best and brightest from math, science, and engineering into finance. “Wall Street,” notes Time’s Rana Foroohar, “hires more math, engineering and science graduates than the semiconductor industry, Big Pharma or the telecommunications business.” The author continues:
In yet another sign that the looming American debt crisis is close to spiraling out of control, February’s monthly federal deficit was the highest ever recorded — $229 billion, according to a report released last Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office. Even more alarmingly, five months into this fiscal year (which began October 1, 2011), the deficit has already exceeded half a trillion dollars, with the government having to borrow 42 cents of every dollar spent during that same span.
Where has all of America’s labor gone? Following the announcement that the economy added no new jobs in the month of August, President Obama’s Labor Day politicking with GM workers in Detroit was an opportunity for the President to display his grasp of basic economics. And as usual, he failed miserably, blaming America’s economic stagnation on congressional Republican obstructionism.
Since its inception almost a century ago, the Federal Reserve has enjoyed a cloak of secrecy that has grown more opaque over the years. When the economy imploded in 2008, Bernanke’s Fed swung into action behind the scenes, handing out immense sums in bailouts to a host of ailing financials, through direct loans to the very biggest banks — what Robert Litan, a former Justice Department official, called “the aristocracy of American finance.” The exact figures, however, have been a closely guarded secret, until now.
With the raising of the debt ceiling, the “official” federal debt immediately surged past a new and unwelcome benchmark: The national debt now exceeds 100 percent of the gross domestic product for the first time since the Second World War era. With the debt now at $14.58 trillion and climbing vertiginously every day even as the economy continues to stagnate, it will not be very long before the national debt reaches 200 percent and higher. In fact, with over $45 trillion owed to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients both present and future, the actual size of the national debt is already more than four times the GDP.
It is strangely apt that the stock market this week has been experiencing turbulence, in the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S credit and fears of a double-dip recession. After all, this week marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s removal of the United States from the last vestiges of the gold standard, an action that ushered in 40 years of fiat monetary instability. For four decades we’ve been in a state of almost constant financial crisis, from the stagflationary ‘70s through the savings and loan debacle and stock market crash of the ‘80s to the more recent dot-com and real estate bubbles and their messy aftermaths.
The stock market is in freefall once again, evoking specters of 2008. As one fund manager told the Wall Street Journal on Monday, “the sense of déjà vu is almost sickening.” The storied Dow lost more than 600 points Monday following huge declines late last week, appeared to get its footing yesterday, then plunged more than 500 points today. All over the world, markets are taking stock, so to speak, of the burgeoning debt crisis in the United States and Europe, and fearing the worst.
According to no less a source than Forbes magazine, a U.S. default is no longer a question of if. It’s when. In a July 23 article, Forbes’ Addison Wiggin warned readers not to get caught holding U.S. dollars when the United States government defaults — again.