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Tapering, Exiting, or Just Punting? by James Howard Kunstler

Oh, that sound you hear this morning is the distant roar of European equity markets puking after the latest round of phony bank “stress tests” — another exercise in pretend by financial authorities who understand, at least, the bottomless credulity of the news media and the complete mystification of the general public in monetary matters. I rather expect that roar to grow Niagara-like as US markets catch the urge to upchuck violently. Problem is, unlike Ebola victims, they can’t be quarantined.

The end of the “taper” is upon us like the night of the hunter, conveniently just a week before the US election. If the Federal Reserve is politicized, the indoctrination must have been conducted by the Three Stooges. America’s central bank never did explain the difference between tapering and exiting their purchases of US treasury paper. I guess that’s because it has other interventionary tricks up its sleeves. Three-card Monte with reverse repos… ventures into direct stock purchases… the setting up of new Maiden Lane type companies for scarfing up securities with that piquant dead carp aroma. Who knows what’s next? It’s amazing what you can do with money in a desperate polity with a few dozen lawyers.

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Of course, there is the solemn matter as to what happens now to the regularly issued treasury bonds and bills. Do they just sit in an accordian file on Jack Lew’s desk next to his Barack Obama bobblehead. The Russians don’t want them. The Chinese are already stuck with trillions they would like to unload for more gold. Frightened European one-percenters may want to park some cash in American paper to avoid bail-ins and other confiscations already rehearsed over there — but could that amount to more than a paltry few billion a month at the most?

What do the stock markets do without up to $85 billion a month (peak QE) sloshing around looking for dark pools to settle in? Can US companies keep the markets levitated by buying back their own shares like snakes eating their tails? Isn’t that basically over and done? And exactly how do interest rates stay suppressed when only a few French tax refugees want to buy American debt? I don’t think anybody knows the answer to these questions and the scenarios are too abstruse for the people who get paid for supposedly writing learned commentary in the sclerotic remnants of the press.

A few things are for sure, though they are sedulously kept out of the public discussion by interested gate-keepers. One is that the western economies have lost the ability to generate real new wealth of the type that their debt-based monetary systems require for ongoing operations (such as paying interest on old debt). Instead, we’ve entered a liminal era when fake wealth passes for wealth. Jive capital poses as capital. The main reason for this, of course, is the inability of world energy producers to meaningfully increase energy production in a way that does not suck more capital out of the system than the system can regenerate. But that conversation also has been outlawed from the public arena in “Saudi America.”

I suspect the subject will force itself on the national consciousness in the year ahead as one company after another in the shale oil regions craps out on a shortage of available investment capital. That’s the inflection point where fake wealth is unmasked for what it really is: crippled capital formation. The disappointment from that looming event will thunder through our society.

In the meantime, the distractions are many and powerful. Ebola may appear controlled for the moment in the USA, but the host countries in West Africa are virtually falling apart and the demographic movement out of failed economies like Liberia’s would suggest an awful dynamic for the spread of that disease into new regions. ISIS (or whatever we call them) is putting on a diversionary show on the Turkish border, but the real action awaits in Baghdad, perhaps poignantly at Christmas time, when morter rounds start falling on the US embassy in the Green Zone and the evacuations commence.

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Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist

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