When we back up far enough, it is clear that money and debt are there to reflect and be in service to the production of real things by real people, not the other way around. With too much debt relative to production, it is the debt that will suffer. The same is true of money. Neither are magical substances; they are merely markers for real things. When they get out of balance with reality, they lose value, and sometimes even their entire meaning.
This report lays out the case that the US is irretrievably down the rabbit hole of deficits and debt, and that, even if there were endless natural resources of increasing quality available at this point, servicing the debt loads and liabilities of the nation will require both austerity and a pretty serious fall in living standards for most people.
Of course, the age of cheap oil is over. And as Jim Puplava says, the oil price is the new Fed funds rate, meaning that it is now the price of oil that sets the pace of economic movement, not interest rates established by the Fed.
However, of all the challenges that catch my eye right now, the one most worrisome is the shredding of our national narrative to the point that it no longer makes any sense whatsoever. I’m a big believer that our actions are guided by the stories we tell ourselves. To progress as a society, having a grand vision that aligns and inspires is essential.
But when words emphasize one set of priorities and actions support another, any narrative falls apart. At a personal level, if someone touts their punctuality but chronically shows up hours late, the narrative that says “this person is reliable” begins to fall apart.
Likewise, if a company boasts about being green but its track record belies them as a major polluter, the “green” narrative fizzles.
And at the national level, if we say we are a nation of laws, but the Justice Department selectively prosecutes only the weak and relatively powerless while leaving the well-connected and moneyed entirely alone, then the narrative that says “we are a nation of blind justice and equal laws” falls apart.
I wish this was just some idle rumination, but I see more and more examples validating the importance of alignment of narrative and behavior. Because when there is a disconnect between words and actions, anxiety and fear take root.
Unfortunately, there is quite a lot to fear and be anxious about in the most recent State of the Union address and GOP response.
State of the UnionThe recent State of the Union speech by Obama, and its Republican response, are both remarkable for what they say as well as what they don’t say. The summary is this: The status quo will be preserved at all costs.
Here are a few examples of the sorts of disconnects between rhetoric and reality that are absolutely toxic to the morale of all who are paying the slightest bit of attention.
ObamaIt’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom? Is Obama aware of what Erik Holder is up to over there in the Justice Department? The robo-signing scandal alone has thousands and thousands of open and shut cases of felony forgery that can and should be applied to as many individuals as were directly involved, from top to bottom in every organization that was engaged in the practice.
Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.
Here’s the reality. Under Obama, criminal prosecution of financial fraud fell to multi-decade lows during what is and remains one of the most target-rich environments in living memory.