Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Michael Rivero: All Wars Are Bankers’ Wars!

As long as Private Central Banks are allowed to exist, inevitably as the night follows day there will be poverty, hopelessness, and millions of deaths in endless World Wars, until the Earth itself is sacrificed in flames.

Another Bubble Pops: Biotech?

Farmers Battle the Bankers

Big Business and Big Government have America’s family farmers in their sights
By Ronald L. Ray
American family farms and the country’s food supply are in danger as never before. During the next 20 years, 400 million acres of United States farmland—nearly half of the total—will be for sale. And Wall Street is ready to snap up the opportunity like a fox in a hen house, states a new report by the Oakland Institute entitled “Down on the Farm.” In addition, corporate Big Agriculture and its government lackeys press ahead with other efforts, which endanger the continued existence of small- and medium-sized farms.
Since the 1940s, the number of farmers in this country has collapsed by 85%, although the general population has doubled, according to the advocacy group, Farm Forward. Prior to that time, 40-80 acres produced sufficient income to raise a large family. Now, thanks to predatory banking and commodities-trading practices, the cost of technology and government intrusion, it requires nearly 1,200 acres to accomplish that goal. An estimated 99% of U.S. livestock is raised on factory farms, often in cruel, unsanitary conditions, which also pollute the local environment.
Today, the majority of farmers are over 55 years of age. That is a demographic death knell. While many of the younger generation would like to enter or remain in farming, they have no access to the massive capital now required. When the older generation quits, dies or sells out, so may most family farms.
Presently, corporate farms and ranches comprise only about 1% of all agricultural operations, but Wall Street investment firms like UBS Agrivest and TIAA-CREF Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (a massive teachers’ pension fund) are greedily eyeing the 15%-25% of farmland that is considered “institutional quality.” This land speculation, more for capital gains than anything else, is driving up land and food prices.
The amount of land in tillage is dropping, meanwhile, as corporate owners convert a part to non-food uses, like wind farms and “fracking” for oil and gas, without regard for protecting fragile water resources, such as the Ogallala Aquifer. There is the additional problem of diverting increasing amounts of grain to fuel and animal feed uses rather than feeding human beings. And corporations are “absentee landlords,” whose lack of knowledge and concern for the land leads to serious labor and environmental abuses by management companies.
Big Ag firms Monsanto and DuPont are developing “prescriptive planting” technology that, in addition to the legitimate uses that help farmers, could ultimately harm them. John Deere, for example, has signed a contract to beam data relating to production directly from its tractors to Dow Chemical and DuPont, according to The Wall Street Journal. The information could be used easily by unscrupulous brokers to corner commodities markets and deprive farmers of a legitimate profit.
Elsewhere, the Department of Agriculture is poised to deregulate completely several new strains of genetically-modified corn and soybeans designed to tolerate increased application of the dangerous herbicide, 2,4-D. Australia recently banned the chemical due to its serious adverse health effects and frequent contamination with deadly dioxin. Many crops and fruits can also be killed by wind drift of the poison.
Finally, a growing number of states have passed or are considering unconstitutional “ag-gag” laws, which criminalize whistleblowing efforts to expose livestock abuse, primarily on factory farms. The latest, Idaho, follows Kansas and others by prohibiting not just clearly illegal activities, like trespassing, but even taking photographs or videos without the farm owner’s permission.
But there are small signs of hope. Advocacy groups continue to form in defense of family farming, since the Farm Bureau long ago sold its soul to Big Ag. And organizations like the Agrarian Trust work to assist young and aspiring farmers in obtaining financing to achieve their dream of a sustainable family farm, helping to feed the world—or at least a small corner of it.
Is it time to consider a new Homestead Act, one that would provide some of this newly available farmland to resident family farmers at low cost? Besides establishing a stable, “back to the land” movement, the necessary loans to individuals could be amortized over ten years and reduced by 25% for each child born on the farm or for a certain level of production. The money would be recouped by the government from the additional consumption taxes paid by the growing farm population. We think it is a great idea.

A List Of 97 Taxes Americans Pay Every Year

If you are like most Americans, paying taxes is one of your pet peeves.  The deadline to file your federal taxes is coming up, and this year Americans will spend more than 7 billion hours preparing their taxes and will hand over more than four trillion dollars to federal, state and local governments.  Americans will fork over nearly 30 percent of what they earn to pay their income taxes, but that is only a small part of the story. 

As you will see below, there are dozens of other taxes that Americans pay every year.  Of course not everyone pays all of these taxes, but without a doubt we are all being taxed into oblivion.  It is like death by a thousand paper cuts.  Our politicians have become extremely creative in finding ways to extract money from all of us, and most Americans don't even realize what is being done to them.

By the time it is all said and done, a significant portion of the population ends up paying more than half of what they earn to the government.  That is fundamentally wrong, but nothing will be done about it until people start demanding change. 

The following is a list of 97 taxes Americans pay every year...
#1 Air Transportation Taxes (just look at how much you were charged the last time you flew)
#2 Biodiesel Fuel Taxes
#3 Building Permit Taxes
#4 Business Registration Fees
#5 Capital Gains Taxes
#6 Cigarette Taxes
#7 Court Fines (indirect taxes)
#8 Disposal Fees
#9 Dog License Taxes
#10 Drivers License Fees (another form of taxation)
#11 Employer Health Insurance Mandate Tax
#12 Employer Medicare Taxes
#13 Employer Social Security Taxes
#14 Environmental Fees
#15 Estate Taxes
#16 Excise Taxes On Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans
#17 Federal Corporate Taxes
#18 Federal Income Taxes
#19 Federal Unemployment Taxes
#20 Fishing License Taxes
#21 Flush Taxes (yes, this actually exists in some areas)
#22 Food And Beverage License Fees
#23 Franchise Business Taxes
#24 Garbage Taxes
#25 Gasoline Taxes
#26 Gift Taxes
#27 Gun Ownership Permits
#28 Hazardous Material Disposal Fees
#29 Highway Access Fees
#30 Hotel Taxes (these are becoming quite large in some areas)
#31 Hunting License Taxes
#32 Import Taxes
#33 Individual Health Insurance Mandate Taxes
#34 Inheritance Taxes
#35 Insect Control Hazardous Materials Licenses
#36 Inspection Fees
#37 Insurance Premium Taxes
#38 Interstate User Diesel Fuel Taxes
#39 Inventory Taxes
#40 IRA Early Withdrawal Taxes
#41 IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
#42 IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
#43 Library Taxes
#44 License Plate Fees
#45 Liquor Taxes
#46 Local Corporate Taxes
#47 Local Income Taxes
#48 Local School Taxes
#49 Local Unemployment Taxes
#50 Luxury Taxes
#51 Marriage License Taxes
#52 Medicare Taxes
#53 Medicare Tax Surcharge On High Earning Americans Under Obamacare
#54 Obamacare Individual Mandate Excise Tax (if you don't buy "qualifying" health insurance under Obamacare you will have to pay an additional tax)
#55 Obamacare Surtax On Investment Income (a new 3.8% surtax on investment income)
#56 Parking Meters
#57 Passport Fees
#58 Professional Licenses And Fees (another form of taxation)
#59 Property Taxes
#60 Real Estate Taxes
#61 Recreational Vehicle Taxes
#62 Registration Fees For New Businesses
#63 Toll Booth Taxes
#64 Sales Taxes
#65 Self-Employment Taxes
#66 Sewer & Water Taxes
#67 School Taxes
#68 Septic Permit Taxes
#69 Service Charge Taxes
#70 Social Security Taxes
#71 Special Assessments For Road Repairs Or Construction
#72 Sports Stadium Taxes
#73 State Corporate Taxes
#74 State Income Taxes
#75 State Park Entrance Fees
#76 State Unemployment Taxes (SUTA)
#77 Tanning Taxes (a new Obamacare tax on tanning services)
#78 Telephone 911 Service Taxes
#79 Telephone Federal Excise Taxes
#80 Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Taxes
#81 Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Taxes
#82 Telephone State And Local Taxes
#83 Telephone Universal Access Taxes
#84 The Alternative Minimum Tax
#85 Tire Recycling Fees
#86 Tire Taxes
#87 Tolls (another form of taxation)
#88 Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
#89 Use Taxes (Out of state purchases, etc.)
#90 Utility Taxes
#91 Vehicle Registration Taxes
#92 Waste Management Taxes
#93 Water Rights Fees
#94 Watercraft Registration & Licensing Fees
#95 Well Permit Fees
#96 Workers Compensation Taxes
#97 Zoning Permit Fees
Yet despite all of this oppressive taxation, our local governments, our state governments and our federal government are all absolutely drowning in debt.
When the federal income tax was originally introduced a little more than 100 years ago, most Americans were taxed at a rate of only 1 percent.
But once they get their feet in the door, the social planners always want more.
Posted below is a copy of a tax return from 1948 that was recently shared on Bankers Anonymous.  As you can see, it was remarkably simple...
Tax Return 1948
The following is what the writer on Bankers Anonymous had to say about it...
The biggest change from then until now – besides the nominal level of prices – is the relative simplicity of the tax form. It looks like he filled this out in about 10 minutes.
As I look forward (with dread) to spending hours gathering tax information this coming week, only to pay thousands to my accountants, I wish doing ones taxes was not so complicated. The complication itself leads to sub-optimal outcomes.
So why can't we have such a simple system today?
Why do we have to have the most convoluted tax system in the history of the planet?
In a previous article entitled "24 Outrageous Facts About Taxes In The United States That Will Blow Your Mind", I listed a number of reasons why our federal income tax system has become a complete and utter abomination that is entirely out of control...
1 - The U.S. tax code is now 3.8 million words long.  If you took all of William Shakespeare's works and collected them together, the entire collection would only be about 900,000 words long.
2 - According to the National Taxpayers Union, U.S. taxpayers spend more than 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements.  Imagine what our society would look like if all that time was spent on more economically profitable activities.
3 - 75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long.  Today, they are 189 pages long.
4 - There have been 4,428 changes to the tax code over the last decade.  It is incredibly costly to change tax software, tax manuals and tax instruction booklets for all of those changes.
5 - According to the National Taxpayers Union, the IRS currently has 1,999 different publications, forms, and instruction sheets that you can download from the IRS website.
6 - Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result.
7 - In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.
8 - The IRS spends $2.45 for every $100 that it collects in taxes.
9 - According to The Tax Foundation, the average American has to work until April 17th just to pay federal, state, and local taxes.  Back in 1900, "Tax Freedom Day" came on January 22nd.
10 - When the U.S. government first implemented a personal income tax back in 1913, the vast majority of the population paid a rate of just 1 percent, and the highest marginal tax rate was just 7 percent.
If it was up to me, I would abolish the income tax and shut the IRS down.
But neither major political party in the United States is even willing to consider such a thing.
So the monstrous system that we have created will continue to get even bigger and even more complicated.
We are literally being taxed into oblivion, and most Americans don't even seem to care.

The dependent generation: half young European adults live with their parents

Eurofound report says it's not just people finishing education who struggle to live independently, but those in their thirties too

Italian family eating a meal
An Italian family eating their meal. In Italy, 79% of young adults were living with their parents in 2011, according to Eurofound. Photograph: Ingolf Hatz/ Ingolf Hatz/zefa/Corbis
Almost half of Europe's young adults are living with their parents, new data suggests – a record level of dependency that has sobering social and demographic implications for the continent.
One of the most comprehensive social surveys of 28 European countries reveals on Tuesday that the percentage of people aged 18-30 who were still living with their parents had risen to 48%, or 36.7 million people, by 2011, in tandem with levels of deprivation and unemployment that surged during five years of economic crisis.
The data from EU agency Eurofound, obtained by the Guardian, shows that few countries are immune and that the phenomenon is not exclusive to the debt-laden Mediterranean rim. The figures show large rises in the number of stay-at-home twenty-somethings in countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, Belgium and Austria. In Italy, nearly four-fifths (79%) of young adults were living with their parents.
However, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK saw decreases in their numbers over that period – in Britain, the figure fell from 30% to 26%.
One of the report's authors, Anna Ludwinek, said: "The situation of youth has really fundamentally changed. And it looks different from the situation of their parents and grandparents.
"It's not only the world of work that has changed but society is changing, so the transitions are becoming much more unpredictable; people are not having a job for life or live in one place for life."
She said it was a myth that living with children and parents in a multi-generational household was all "happy clappy": "Really we see that multi-generational households have very low life satisfaction and a very high level of deprivation and perceived social exclusion.
"One could argue that if you are at the age of 30 and are still living with your parents and, on top of that you have your own family, it is really difficult to start an independent life."
The data underscores the predicament of "Generation Y" – who are better educated than their forebears, but condemned nonetheless to dimmer prospects than their parents' generation.
The growing phenomenon of adults stuck living in their childhood bedrooms has, moreover, raised concerns about birthrates and demographics in an ageing continent.
The trend for parental dependency, the report's authors say, cannot be solely explained by increases in the number of people studying later into their life, as millions more 25- to 29-year-olds have also been found to be living with mum and dad.
For women aged 25-29, this figure rose by five points to 26% while the proportion for men is up three points to 34%. Even among those who have a job, the overall figure rose one point to 34%.
While young adults tend to be as trusting of institutions as their parents, faith in their national government, legal system and the press all fell among the young between 2007 and 2011.
Bobby Duffy from pollsters Ipsos Mori said he had found similar results in the UK: "Our generational analysis of attitudes in the UK has shown how much pressure the youngest generation feel under – they're the most likely to see themselves as poor even a good few years into their careers, which is historically unusual.
"This echoes the Eurofound research – it's not just those straight out of school or university who are finding it more difficult to get going with independent lives, it's people well into their 20s and 30s."
He said these results demonstrated that class and background was becoming even more of a factor in later life success.
"Those from better off or higher social class families will be much better set to deal with the pressures. The real story here isn't about generation alone; it's about how it interacts with wealth and class, leaving some younger people behind."
Peter Matjašic, president of the European Youth Forum, which represents young people across the EU, said that Europe's youth were still "in the full force of the storm" despite talk of a recovery.
He said that too many were still unemployed or, if they were in work, this was "precarious and often without the safety net of proper social security".
"This report makes worrying reading because it provides more evidence that, at the time that young people should be becoming autonomous adults making their own way in the world, they are forced to continue to live at home with their parents for much longer than before, and this is now becoming the norm in many countries where it was not common practice before."
He called on European leaders to implement concrete measures and said that young European adults should not be discriminated against on the basis in matters of social security spending.
The Eurofound report also reveals that 49% of all Europe's young adults were living in households experiencing some form of deprivation. In 2011, 27% of young adults were living in "mid level" deprivation – meaning they could not replace worn out furniture, were unable to invite friends over and could not afford to take an annual holiday.
More than a fifth (22%) were found to be experiencing "serious deprivation" and were struggling to heat their home or buy new clothes. This figure rose by six percentage points since 2007.
The rise in deprivation for young adults was worst in countries such as Greece (+15 points) Spain (+20) and the UK (+10).
Though their situation is less acute, when compared with other generations, European youth fare worst overall. "In nearly all countries young people are more likely to experience moderate levels of deprivation than the general population, but they are less likely to experience the more serious forms of deprivation," the report says. From the survey of 7,300 young adults for the European Quality of Life Survey, the report's authors point towards a growing trend of multigenerational households in which parents are increasingly having to house both their children and their grandchildren.
Correspondingly the number of working families raising a new family in their own home fell by 3 percentage points.
Family units in which three generations all live under one roof are more likely to experience serious deprivation, "suggesting that for some, such living arrangements may be involuntary and be a result of the economic crisis", says the report.

This System IS Going To CRASH — Claudio Grass

Document: JPMorgan Chase Bets $10.4 Billion on the Early Death of Workers

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 24, 2014
(Left) JPMorgan's European Headquarters at 25 Bank Street, London Where Gabriel Magee Died on January 27 or January 28, 2014 Under Suspicious Circumstances
Families of young JPMorgan Chase workers who have experienced tragic deaths over the past four months, have been kept in the dark on many details, including the fact that the bank most likely held a life insurance policy on their loved one – payable to itself. Banks in the U.S., as well as other corporations, are allowed to make multi-billion dollar wagers that their profits from life insurance policies on employees will outstrip the cost of paying premiums and other fees. Early deaths help those wagers pay off.
According to the December 31, 2013 financial filing known as the Call Report that JPMorgan made with Federal regulators, it has tied up $10.4 billion in illiquid, long term bets on the death of a large segment of its employees.
The program is known among regulators as Bank Owned Life Insurance or BOLI. Federal regulators specifically exempted BOLI in passing the final version of the Volcker Rule in December of last year which disallowed most proprietary trading or betting for the house. Regulators stated in the rule that “Rather, these accounts permit the banking entity to effectively hedge and cover costs of providing benefits to employees through insurance policies related to key employees.” We have italicized the word “key” because regulators know very well from financial filings that the country’s mega banks are not just insuring key employees but a broad-base of their employees.
Just four of the largest U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup hold over $53 billion in investments in BOLI according to 2013 year-end Call Reports. Death benefits from life insurance is purchased at a multiple to the amount of the investments, meaning that $53 billion is easily enough to buy $1 million life insurance policies on 159,000 employees, and potentially a great deal more. Industry experts estimate that the total face amount of life insurance held by all banks in the U.S. on their employees now exceeds half a trillion dollars.
When the General Accountability Office (GAO) looked into the matter for Congress in 2003 and 2004, it found the insidious practice of continuing the life insurance even after the employee had left the company – nullifying any ability to consider him or her a “key” to the business. The GAO wrote: “Unless prohibited by state law, businesses can retain ownership of these policies regardless of whether the employment relationship has ended.” The GAO found that multiple companies held life insurance policies on the same individual.
In 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act which included a section on these policies. Instead of outlawing BOLI and its corporate sibling, Corporate Owned Life Insurance (COLI), Congress grandfathered all of the millions of previously issued policies while tweaking a few tax and reporting rules.
One bedrock of insurance law dating back to the 19th Century is that a party must have an insurable interest in the life of another person in order to take out an insurance policy. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Warnock v. Davis in 1881 that “in all cases there must be a reasonable ground, founded upon the relations of the parties to each other, either pecuniary or of blood or affinity, to expect some benefit or advantage from the continuance of the life of the assured. Otherwise the contract is a mere wager, by which the party taking the policy is directly interested in the early death of the assured. Such policies have a tendency to create a desire for the event. They are, therefore, independently of any statute on the subject, condemned, as being against public policy.”
While it is highly questionable that rank and file employees are “key” to the success of a business, there is certainly no question that their contribution to the business ends when they terminate their employment. And yet, somehow, banks are allowed to collect death benefits on terminated workers right under the nose of State insurance regulators. The explanation is likely the secrecy which surrounds these policies, limiting knowledge of death payments to just the bank and the insurance company.
One reason banks are enamored with taking out policies on other people’s lives and keeping the practice as hush-hush as possible with the willing consent of regulators is that the gullible U.S. taxpayer who bailed out the banks to the tune of trillions of dollars from 2008 to 2010 and is now subsidizing too-big-to-fail through an implied permanent Federal backstop, is also subsidizing these death wagers. Both the buildup in the cash value of the policy over time and the payment of the death benefit are tax-free income to the bank; the more workers they insure, the more tax-free income they receive to help their bottom line; and the less corporations pay in their share of Federal income taxes, shifting more and more of the burden to the struggling middle class.
Banks have also exploited other tricks with the billions invested in these policies. JPMorgan is the assignee for Patent number 5,806,042 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled “System for Designing and Implementing Bank Owned Life Insurance (BOLI) With a Reinsurance Option.” Noteworthy features of this scheme include the following:
“The purposes of the consent requirements and statutory requirements for insurable interest are to insure that a bank does not take out a death benefit policy on the life of an employee which exceeds the bank’s loss. In general, a bank may take out a death benefit policy in the amount which is a multiple of 8-10 times the annual compensation of that employee…”
“Reinsuring the BOLI plan by a captive insurance subsidiary of the parent bank or holding company allows the bank to augment the cash value gains of the BOLI plan by providing cash revenue sources from fee income associated with investment and trust management. Reinsurance also minimizes the impact to the bank’s profit and loss statement by keeping the assets within the corporate structure of the bank holding company…”
“The administrative support subsystem performs periodic sweeps of social security records to identify death claims for covered employees who have terminated or retired…”
Whether JPMorgan is providing its own reinsurance through an affiliate or just suggesting this patented idea to others is unknown. What is known is that JPMorgan has multiple insurance subsidiaries in both the U.S. and the U.K. When the final Volcker Rule was published, it carried this notation in footnote 1813:  “This requirement is not intended to preclude a banking entity from purchasing a life insurance policy from an affiliated insurance company.”
It is doubtful that regulators are fully aware that BOLI assets may actually remain under the control and management of the banks, rather than the insurance companies providing the death benefits.
On March 15 of last year when Senator Carl Levin opened the hearing on the $6.2 billion in losses of depositors’ money in the exotic derivative bets by JPMorgan’s London Whale trading fiasco, he chastised the bank for failing to make loans to worthy businesses. Levin said JPMorgan had “the lowest loan-to-deposit ratio of the big banks, lending just 61 percent of its deposits out in loans.” Apparently, said Levin, “it was too busy betting on derivatives to issue the loans needed to speed economic recovery.”
Ina Drew, the head of the Chief Investment Office (CIO) at JPMorgan responsible in 2012 for overseeing the London Whale trades (who has since left the firm) revealed in her testimony to Levin’s committee that she was also overseeing the “company-owned-life-insurance portfolio…”
Drew testified:
“The CIO engaged in a wide range of asset-liability management activities. As of the first quarter of 2012, the CIO managed the Company’s $350 billion investment securities portfolio (this portfolio exceeded $500 billion during 2008 and 2009), the $17 billion foreign exchange hedging book, the $13 billion employee retirement plan, the $9 billion company-owned-life insurance portfolio, the strategically-important MSR hedging book, and a series of other books including the cash and synthetic credit portfolios.”
Banking used to be a simple business to understand. The bank took in insured deposits and then loaned out the money at a higher rate than it paid on the deposits to people needing loans to buy homes, to start new businesses or expand existing ones.  But then came the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had kept commercial banks separate from Wall Street trading houses since the Great Depression, and the partial repeal of the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 which had barred commercial banks from merging with insurance companies.
As a result of those repeals through legislation known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Wall Street’s behemoth banks are more dangerous than at any time since the 1929 crash. The banks are essentially everywhere you don’t want your insured deposits to be. Each mega bank now owns thousands of other businesses in fields like insurance, mergers and acquisitions, stock and bond underwriting, securitizations, commodities trading, structuring of exotic derivative bets, and the latest – making tens of billions of dollars in wagers on the deaths of their own employees.
Because nothing in the banks’ financial filings break out the number of lives the company has insured; how far down in rank the company insures its workers; or the total amount of life insurance it has in force, Wall Street On Parade sent two emails to two of JPMorgan’s top media relations personnel asking those questions. We gave them four days to respond. Despite pointing out that the questions go to the heart of the quality of earnings of JPMorgan Chase, an issue to which shareholders are entitled to transparency under U.S. securities laws, neither individual responded.
Because regulators have become willful enablers to some of the worst practices on Wall Street, the Wall Street worker must now look out for himself. Various state laws prohibit BOLI without the consent of the insured. New York State’s Department of Financial Service says this about BOLI policies on employees residing within New York: “Under some insurance programs, New York State insurance regulations require that employees approve the purchase of life insurance at initiation of coverage and have a notification and terminate right when they leave employment. Procedures that standardize notification and documentation should exist to ensure compliance with these insurance requirements and other applicable laws and regulations. Failure to comply could jeopardize the tax benefits associated with the insurance.”
Notice the big penalty for banks that don’t comply; they could simply lose the tax benefits.

China Is Approaching Its “Minsky Moment, Will Chinese Unload U.S Treasury Bonds To Pay For A Shadow Banking Bailout?

Everyone’s Freaked Out That China’s ‘Minsky Moment’ Has Arrived
After years of booming credit expansion, we’re now seeing slower economic growth in China and a rising number of domestic bond defaults.
This has prompted many to ask has China’s ‘Minsky moment’ arrived?
The phenomenon is named after economist Hyman Minsky who articulated that periods of speculation and credit growth inflate assets, only to end in crisis.
Morgan Stanley’s Cyril Moulle-Berteaux and Sergei Parmenov, argue that China is approaching its ‘Minsky moment’ (via Zerohedge).
“In recent weeks, a trip to the region and further research into China’s shadow banking system have convinced us that China is approaching its “Minsky Moment,” (Display 1) which increases the chances of a disorderly unwind of China’s excesses. The efficiency with which credit generates economic activity is already deteriorating, as more investments are made in non-productive projects and more debt is being used to repay old debts.”
A Chinese Shadow Bank Bailout May Mean A Crash In U.S. Treasury Bonds
China’s economy in 2014 is remarkably similar to America’s in 2008: Both were fueled by real estate speculation, both speculative bubbles a product of cheap-and-cheerful shadow-bank financing.
And just like the U.S. in 2008, China in 2014 is looking down the barrel of a Minsky Moment: The point at which servicing debt levels becomes unsustainable, and there are no reserve cushions large enough to absorb the losses.
Lots of people are pointing this out; Mish Shedlock had a piece about it this morning, and he and others are right to worry that a shadow banking collapse will be bad for China.
But it will be even worse for the U.S.: Because after all—unlike the United States in 2008—China in 2014 has the reserves to buy its way out of the hole it’s in.
In 2008, the U.S. shadow banking sector began its collapse when real-estate backed bonds turned out to be a lot dodgier than originally thought. This set off a systemic domino effect. We all know how the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 (GFC) played out.
Now, what did the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve do when the GFC hit? In other words, what did the American government do in the face of a collapsing financial sector?
Why simple: It threw money at the problem. But it was money that the U.S. government and Federal Reserve didn’t actually have . . .
Read more:
Petrodollar Alert: Putin Prepares To Announce “Holy Grail” Gas Deal With China
If it was the intent of the West to bring Russia and China together – one a natural resource (if “somewhat” corrupt) superpower and the other a fixed capital / labor output (if “somewhat” capital misallocating and credit bubbleicious) powerhouse – in the process marginalizing the dollar and encouraging Ruble and Renminbi bilateral trade, then things are surely “going according to plan.”
For now there have been no major developments as a result of the shift in the geopolitical axis that has seen global US influence, away from the Group of 7 (most insolvent nations) of course, decline precipitously in the aftermath of the bungled Syrian intervention attempt and the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea, but that will soon change. Because while the west is focused on day to day developments in Ukraine, and how to halt Russian expansion through appeasement (hardly a winning tactic as events in the 1930s demonstrated), Russia is once again thinking 3 steps ahead… and quite a few steps east.
While Europe is furiously scrambling to find alternative sources of energy should Gazprom pull the plug on natgas exports to Germany and Europe (the imminent surge in Ukraine gas prices by 40% is probably the best indication of what the outcome would be), Russia is preparing the announcement of the “Holy Grail” energy deal with none other than China, a move which would send geopolitical shockwaves around the world and bind the two nations in a commodity-backed axis. One which, as some especially on these pages, have suggested would lay the groundwork for a new joint, commodity-backed reserve currency that bypasses the dollar, something which Russia implied moments ago when its finance minister Siluanov said that Russia may refrain from foreign borrowing this year. Translated: bypass western purchases of Russian debt, funded by Chinese purchases of US Treasurys, and go straight to the source.
Read more:

5 Dick Moves Your Bank Pulls (You Won't Believe Are Legal)

Some institutions get more hate than they deserve. Most lawyers and police officers are just doing their jobs, and most businesses really are simply trying to make a profit. But banks ... well, banks make it really hard to defend them. They are the middleman in every transaction (you simply can't function in modern society keeping your cash in a coffee can buried in your yard), and goddamn do they exploit their position in the shadiest ways imaginable. Let's take a moment to examine some of the perfectly legal ways these guys screw us on a daily basis:
(And if you think banks are sleazy, wait till you see the dating website in Cracked's new Rom.Com series.)

#5. They Can Arbitrarily Manipulate Your Payments to Create Overdraft Fees

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We understand that banks aren't kindly rich uncles who can dole out money when they feel sorry for us. They have to charge some kind of fine when we try to take out more money than is actually in our accounts, otherwise it'd be a free money festival forever (or until the whole system came crashing down hours later). But where banks take it to the next level is when they carefully arrange things so that, with one mistake, they can keep stomping you with what amounts to a 1,000 percent interest rate. They can charge anywhere from $20 to $35 for every transaction you make while over the limit -- even if that transaction is itself for only a few dollars. But hey, it's all about teaching the customer not to make that mistake in the future, right?
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So they're like that other uncle then. The one with the belt.
Nope! Once the banks saw how much cash they could make from the fees, the next step was to carefully trick their customers into overdrawing their accounts more often. They do this by quietly manipulating the order in which your purchases are charged to your account to nail you with the maximum number of overdraft charges. We're talking "half of your goddamn money straight to the bank" numbers here.
Here's how it works. Let's say you have $100 in your checking account and you purchase the following items over the course of the day:
A pack of gum: $1
Two dildos (one for each ear): $15
Food: $20
Some gas: $10
The "Best Actor" Academy Award Steven Seagal won for Under Siege, bought from a street vendor named Handless Bob: $25
That still leaves you with $29. Hooray, you can manage your money!
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"Oooo, just enough to buy the actual Steven Seagal."
Ah, but you forgot to note that you had a $100 phone bill due the next day. Well, shit, that means one of those transactions will put you in the red, costing you a $35 fee. That's what you get for losing track of due dates, right?
But you're not going to pay one fee. See, the bank doesn't have to process the charges in the order they came in. What they'll do instead is start with the $100 phone bill -- even though it came in after the other purchases. Why? Because that immediately brings your account down to zero. Then they can process those previous, smaller charges so that they can nail you with a $35 overdraft charge for every fucking one of them. Even that goddamn pack of gum sets you back the price of a tank of gas. Now your account is $175 in negative territory, and until you pay all of that back, every single purchase will cost you another $35 surcharge. This is when a bunch of Nigerian princes start lining up to ask your bank how they pulled that off without you stabbing them in the face.
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"They used to stab us with our pens. That's why we added chains."
If you're thinking that it's a clear scam, the government actually agrees with you. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been all over that shit in recent years, and their actions have caused about 40 percent of banks to drop this particular practice. What actions did they take, you ask? Why, the FDIC wrote the banks a letter and asked them to stop.
Well, that's what happens when one of us gets caught scamming millions of dollars out of people, right? The government writes us a sternly worded letter and requests that we stop doing it?

#4. They Can (and Will) Seize Your Money

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If you, say, don't pay your bar tab, your local barkeep has to take several infuriating steps to try to get his money: He has to locate you, chase you down, smash your knees, and empty your wallet. Slightly more respectable bill collectors have just as many obstacles between themselves and unpaid invoices, the most severe step being to sue to have money taken directly out of your wages. But even then they can only do it in certain amounts, and by law there is some money they can't touch. For instance, they can't garnish funds out of Social Security checks. That shit is strictly earmarked government money, not to mention that taking it would be monstrous because those checks go to some of the poorest, oldest, and most disabled people in society.
Banks, however, can do whatever the hell they like, because they already have full access to our money.
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"Eh, you got cats. You can eat those."
You're keeping it in their building; they can just reach right in. They could be in the vault right now, rubbing their dicks on it. So while nobody can garnish money from a Social Security check, once it's deposited into a bank, it joins the pool of money that the bank considers free for the taking. So if you happen to owe the bank money (like those overdraft fees mentioned above), they just poke in a straw and slurp that money right out.
Think we're exaggerating in order to make banks out to be mustache-twirling villains? OK -- take the story of this Cleveland woman, who fell for a check fraud scam that left her account deep in the red. Her bank promptly notified her that they were going to take her Social Security check to cover the overdraft. "But why doesn't she close the account and go to a different bank, Cracked?" Hey, good idea! She did that, then quickly found out that banks talk to each other. She was immediately blacklisted and unable to open a checking account elsewhere.
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So she went to a store that cashes checks, and then she got mugged.
Of course, there are some cases where this practice is deemed too evil even by bank standards: Between 1993 and 2003, Bank of America gleefully seized over $280 million of Social Security funds for assorted bank fees from the accounts of their elderly and disabled customers. A California jury eventually awarded the customers damages in the ballpark of $1 billion, but we're guessing that's not a huge source of joy for the poor people who woke up to find they had far less money for food than they had counted on.
Hey, speaking of screwing the elderly ...

#3. They Sell Old People Services They Can't Use in the Hope That They Will Die

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A man visited his local Bank of America branch to do some routine financial muddlin' about. He was referred to a financial consultant and eventually force-sold an annuity that would only be beneficial if it could be maintained for a bare minimum of seven or eight years. Otherwise, it would only be beneficial to the bank.
So what's the problem? That man was 86 years old, and presumably not a Highlander.
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"I don't even use the free toaster they gave me. Who has that kind of time left?"
When his daughter learned what the bank had done, she tried to find a way out of it for him. Sadly, the only way to undo it was to pay a whopping $25,000 to the bank. Hey, just consider it extra incentive to stay alive, old timer!
There's a reason the elderly are the most frequent targets of scammers -- they have money and can be easily confused with enough doubletalk. They often have a hard time admitting that they do not understand something, or maybe they just quit giving a shit 20 years ago.
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"Bitcoin? No, thanks. I'd like the whole thing."
The banks figure that if it works for everyday con artists, why wouldn't it work for massive financial institutions? Thus, they take products that don't pay off for the customer unless they hold them for several years and specifically sell them to the elderly, rolling the dice on the customer dying before they see any benefit. Of course, the danger is that a fiscally savvy grandchild will find out what has happened and raise hell, so you make sure the contract includes terms that make it impossible to back out. At this point you picture Gordon Gekko shaking his head and saying, "Jesus Christ, how do you people sleep at night?"

MH370 Live Report: 'Tragic news' was conveyed to families wherever humanly possible, says MAS

In this Monday, March 24, 2014 photo, crew members of an RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft search for missing Malaysia …
 DAY 18:

[1.15pm]: Highlights from the press conference by Malaysia Airlines:

- Motivation last night was to deliver the ‘tragic news’ to the families before the world heard it. Message was conveyed to the families ‘wherever humanly possible’ and SMS was used as a last resort. Airline wanted to make sure the news came from them and not the media. Full story.
- MAS chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya says Australian authorities would give visas to families who wish to go to Australia only when ‘evidence has been established’. MAS will then make arrangements to fly them to the site. Read.
- MAS will continue to support nearly 1000 family members and have trained an additional 40 caregivers to attend to their needs.
- Additional payment will be made to families on top of the US$5,000 that was given in initial financial assistance.
- MAS chairman Md Nor Yusof denied claims that it had ‘isolated’ family members, saying they were given places that would allow them comfort, privacy and access to caregivers. “We do not know why, we do not know how this terrible tragedy happened but as the MAS family, we are all praying for the passengers and crew of MH370.”
- On whether MAS had sent high ranking representatives to meet with families, Md Nor said: “That has been done all the time. We just do not display our names when we go”.
- To a question on whether MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya would resign, he replied: "It is a personal decision." Read.
Full statement here.
[12pm]: Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed the Parliament called on members of the government and the Opposition not to politicise the issue of the missing plane.
" This is the time to show our solidarity with the families of those onboard. I plead to the government and the Opposition that in a crisis like this we have to show our sympathy to all parties involved. We have to show our maturity, love for the country and sensitivity to the families who are going through a difficult time. The government will do everything that we have to do with a full sense of duty."

- The announcement was made last night to dispel the perception that Malaysia was withholding information.
- Suggestions to mourn the loss of the crew and passengers include flying the national flag at half-mast, but Najib said it should be done only after wreckage is found.
- Australian PM Tony Abbot informed Najib this morning that cooperation from Australia will continue until traces of the aircraft is found. Although the conditions in the southern Indian ocean are challenging, Malaysia will continue search operations as a commitment to the families of all those onboard MH370.
[10.45am]: Bad weather and rough seas forced the suspension of the search for any wreckage of a missing Malaysian jetliner. Full story.
[8.29am]: The  United States is sending an undersea Navy drone capable of exploring waters nearly 15,000 feet deep to potentially help search for any sunken wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the Pentagon said. Story here.
Strong gale force winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour halts air and sea search for MH370, Australia Maritime Safety Authority said. Search operations will resume tomorrow. Full story here.

The why and how about MH370 ended up in the remote rough seas will only be known once investigators get to 'fish' the black box of the Malaysian jet that is registered as 9M-MRO. Read what the experts say here.
DAY 17:
French investigators today said it was too soon to consider launching undersea searches for the remains of MH370. Full story here.
Malaysia Airlines vowed that the ongoing search for the plane and an intensive investigation into its fate "will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain". Full story here.
"God loves you more daddy....God loves them more."The daughter of MH370 Chief Steward Andrew Nari tweeted the above, as the Prime Minister announced the sad news minutes ago. Full story here.

Relatives of the passengers on MH370 have been called to an emergency meeting with the company and charter flights are being arranged for Australia, Sky News reported. Full story here.
The Prime Minister, Najib Razak has confirmed that MAS flight MH370 ended in the Southern Indian Ocean, according to new data from INMARSAT and AAIB.
- Based on new analysis, INMARSAT and AAIB also concluded that MH370 flew along the Southern Corridor. The last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.
- No further details were furnished during the press conference, and another press conference will be called tomorrow with further details.
Full statement here.
Malaysia Airlines has also released a statement:
On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.
Full statement here.
This is the text alert Malaysia Airlines sent to the families of the MH370 passengers before PM Najib's official announcement today:
What we know as of Day 17, Monday, 24 March 2014:
Search operations:
1. PM Najib Razak announced that INMARSAT and AAIB confirms that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.
Two objects - one circular and another rectangular- were seen by Australian counterparts.
Chinese aircrew have spotted "suspicious objects" in the southern Indian Ocean.
The US Navy is sending a black box locator to the search area in the southern Indian Ocean.
2. Pallet and belts were spotted in the Indian Ocean.
3. Chinese satellites have spotted objects floating in the southern search area.
4. Two objects possibly related to MH370 have been spotted on Australian satellite imagery. Largest object sighted is 24 metres.
On-going investigations:
1. Transcripts of the communication between MH370 and air control is “ not accurate”.
2. Communications satellites picked up faint electronic pulses ("pings") from MH370 for hours after it went missing.
3. Police are investigating the matter from four angles: hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems, and personal problems among passengers and crew.
4. The PM said that the plane movement was consistent with "deliberate action" by someone on the plane.
5. Flight simulator:
- Data log was deleted from the pilot’s flight simulator on Feb 3, forensic work is being done to retrieve data.
- A flight simulator was taken from the home of MH370's pilot and is being examined by the police.
6. Pilots:
Police have questioned more than 100 people including families of both pilot and co-pilot.
- No red flags in pilot and co-pilot backgrounds
- Last words from cockpit - ‘Alright, good night’ believed to be said by the co-pilot at 1.19am.
- MAS: The pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together, ands flew as assigned by the roster.
- The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, with total flying hours of 18,365 hours.
- First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27, has a total flying hours of 2,763 hours.
7. Plane:
- No additional waypoint on MH370’s flight plan. Normal route to Beijing.
- Plane was carrying three to four tonnes of mangosteen and 200kg of Li-Ion batteries, packaged according to guidelines.
- The B777-200 aircraft that operated MH207 had undergone maintenance 12 days before the flight. There were no issues.
- The aircraft was carrying 7.5 hours of fuel at the time of its disappearance (2.40am, March 8).
About the passengers:
1. Malaysia Airlines has retired the missing jetliner's flight code as a sign of respect to the 239 passengers and crew.
5. MH370 Full passenger list here .
Editors's note: The public may contact +603 7884 1234. Next-of-kin may head to the Support Facility Building at KLIA's South Support Zone. For directions, call 03 8787 1269.

‘Fiscal bomb’: Around 45% of UK graduates cannot pay back student loans

Source: RT

AFP Photo / Leon Neal
AFP Photo / Leon Neal
In a dramatic reassessment of UK student finance, the government estimates around 45 percent of graduates will be unable to pay back their loans. The shortfall could cancel out the profits made by the disputed tripling of tuition fees in 2012.
British Universities Minister David Willetts has said that the amount of graduates who will fail to pay back their student loans has greatly exceeded previous estimates. Before tuition fees were increased threefold in 2012, the government predicted that only 28 percent of loans would ever be paid back. However, in light of projections for the coming years, the government has reassessed this figure and almost doubled it to 45 percent.
This increase could potentially nullify the 10 billion pounds ($16 billion) in profits made by increasing tuition fees to 9,000 pounds ($15,000) a year in 2012. If the amount of students unable to pay back their loans grows to 48.6 percent, economists predict the government will start losing more money.
When the tuition fee hikes came into effect, the Conservative government hailed them as progressive and a way of allowing universities to make the money back they had lost in state funding. Rival party Labour condemned the move as a “tragedy” for a generation of young people, while the National Union of Students called the threefold increase an “outrage.” The reform triggered widespread protest across the country.
Labour’s shadow Universities Minister Liam Byrne told the BBC that the latest figures are evidence that the new system has made no difference to students as “so few students can afford to ever pay their debts back.”
“It is clear we have built the student finance system on top of a money pit. I am afraid it can’t go on and we now need a debate about how we are going to pay for higher education and the nation’s universities in the decade ahead,” said Bryne.
Furthermore, Commons committee chairman, Adrian Bailey, described the current situation as a “fiscal timebomb” to The Guardian and said the government would have to address the issue or face the consequences.
British graduates begin to pay back their student loans when they start earning above a certain wage bracket. Under the old system, if graduates earned above 15,000 pounds ($24,000) a year they were required to start repaying their loan in monthly installments. At present graduates begin to pay off their loan once they have an annual salary that exceeds 21,000 pounds ($34,000) a year.
However, the onset of the financial crisis and an increase in the number of graduates in the UK has pushed up youth unemployment over the past year. According to government figures, unemployment currently stands at 7.2 percent, while youth unemployment is much larger – 19.8 percent. Between November 2013 and January 2014, 912,000 people aged between 16 and 25 were out of work.
As a result of the recession, living standards have fallen across the board in the UK since 2010, according to data by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

James Rickards – Fed Insolvent, Dollar Will Collapse 90% or More

http://usawatchdog.com/fed-insolvent-… James Rickards, author of the new book, “The Death of Money,” foresees big inflation because the U.S. dollar’s buying power will shrink. Rickards predicts, “Imagine gas at $20 a gallon and bread at $10. That’s what we’re talking about.” So, if big inflation is coming, what about gold? Rickards says, “When I say the price of gold is going to $7,000 or $9,000 per ounce, which I expect it will, what I am really saying is the dollar is going to collapse 80% or 90% or more.” It did in the 1970′s. None of this is unprecedented. It all happened before.”
Rickards says, “When a collapse happens it will happen quickly. You won’t see it coming. There won’t be time to run out and buy gold, and it probably will not even be available at that stage. You need to prepare now.”
Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with financial expert and Wall Street insider, James Rickards.

We Could Power All 50 States With Wind, Solar and Hydro

It’s a MYTH that We Need Fossil Fuel Or Nuclear

The big oil, gas, coal and nuclear companies claim that we need those energy sources in order to power America.
Good news: it’s a myth.
Mark Diesendorf – Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, UNSW at the University of New South Wales – notes:
The deniers and scoffers repeatedly utter the simplistic myth that renewable energy is intermittent and therefore cannot generate base-load (that is, 24-hour) power.
Detailed computer simulations, backed up with actual experience with wind power overseas, show that the scoffers are wrong. Several countries, including Australia with its huge renewable energy resources, could make the necessary transition to an electricity generation system comprising 100 per cent renewable energy over a few decades.
Feasibility has been established by computer simulations of electricity generation systems by several research groups around the world, including my own …
Diesendorf gave an update earlier this month:
Ben Elliston, Iain MacGill and I have performed thousands of computer simulations of 100% renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market(NEM), using actual hourly data on electricity demand, wind and solar power for 2010.
Our latest research, available here and reported here, finds that generating systems comprising a mix of different commercially available renewable energy technologies, located on geographically dispersed sites, do not need base load power stations to achieve the same reliability as fossil-fuelled systems.
The old myth was based on the incorrect assumption that base load demand can only be supplied by base load power stations; for example, coal in Australia and nuclear in France. However, the mix of renewable energy technologies in our computer model, which has no base load power stations, easily supplies base load demand.
Similarly, Dr. Mark Jacobson – the head of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, who has written numerous books and hundreds of scientific papers on climate and energy, and testified before Congress numerous times on those issues – has run a series of computer simulations based on actual historical energy usage data.
Jacobson found that the U.S. can meet all of its energy needs with a mix of wind, solar and hydropower.
The difference between a failed alternative energy pipe dream and a viable alternative energy strategy is in having the right mix … and that takes sophisticated computer simulations using historical data. Jacobson’s study started several years ago by matching California’s historical power demand with available wind, solar and other renewable energy sources:
Jacobson has now developed specific plans for each of the 50 states on how to do it. Click on a state to see the specific energy mix which Dr. Jacobson’s team has found would provide 100% sustainable energy.
Watch this must-see 25-minute talk by Jacobson:

Jacobson also shows that the wind-water-sun combination would actually reduce electrical consumption (because it is more efficient than fossil fuels or nuclear):And he shows that the wind-water-solar combination is superior to nuclear, “clean” coal, natural gas and biofuels. As one example, Jacobson notes that it takes at least 11 years to permit and build a nuclear plant, whereas it takes less than half that time to fire up a wind or solar farm. Between the application for a nuclear plant and flipping the switch, power is provided by conventional energy sources … currently 55-65% coal. Nuclear also puts out much more pollution (including much more CO2) than windpower, and 1.5% of all the nuclear plants built have melted down. More information herehere and here.A banker for one of the world’s biggest banks also notes that switching to alternative energy providescertainty in energy pricing … and is usually a less expensive source of energy when long-term costs are factored in.So why haven’t we switched? As David Letterman noted when interviewing Jacobson, the main hurdle to switching from fossil fuels and nuclear is simply that the big fossil fuel and nuclear companies would lose a lot of money, so they’re fighting tooth and nail to keep the status quo.Read our recent interview with Dr. Jacobson on a related topic.And note that decentralizing power supplies is arguably key to protecting against terrorism, fascism and destruction of our health, environment and economy.