Have you noticed how people seem to use the words really and honestly a lot? As when one person says, “Honestly, I didn’t like that movie.” And the listener responds, “Really?” But why? I hope people are honest about everything they say and the listeners don’t have to keep questioning the veracity of the speaker. I am half joking, but this made me wonder if it is because people realize, maybe subconsciously, that there is so much fakeness around us. I have ranted about fake food before, but the more I thought about what’s around us, the more I saw the presence of deception and duplicity. Based on the altered title of a funny movie, this is a not-so-funny series on some of the major fake institutions and concepts that have been foisted on us. In this article, we start with Fake Economy and Fake Capitalism.
I have already written an article (Zombie Economy – Living Bubble) that shows how the middle class is crumbling and Americans are becoming poorer in spite of the booming stock market and real estate that are bound to come down soon. To summarize, the Federal Reserve Bank has created a massive bubble by printing/creating trillions of dollars, buying mortgages, and keeping the interest rates close to zero. Thus, the S&P 500 stock index has tripled since 2009, not because the corporate revenues or profits have tripled, but simply because corporations have borrowed trillions of dollars to buy back their own shares. However, the corporate media claps and cheers this amazing fake performance of the stock market when the fact is that the net worth of the average American household has gone down 36% since 2003. How can the stock market be a reflection of the health of the economy when the top 1% gets 75% of the capital gains from stocks?
But if you read the mainstream media, their favorite word is Recovery, and they tout all kinds of numbers to show what an amazing comeback we are experiencing.
The truth is that almost every statistics you hear about the health of a corporation or our economy is either partially or outright fake. To give an analogy, imagine this conversation between you and a friend who is trying to lose weight:
You: So you weigh 200 lbs. and you are trying to lose 30 lbs., right?
Friend: Well, I should really start with W1 which is my weight without any clothes. So I weigh 194 lbs. However, W2 is even better since it doesn’t take into account temporary one-time weight gains like what happens around Christmas time. Or around Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day. So my W2 is 180 lbs. But W3 is the forward-looking weight and the most relevant. Thus, based on my gym schedule for the next year and the strict diet I plan to follow, my W3 is 160 lbs. Wow, that’s actually 10 lbs. less than my desired goal. Let’s go get some cheesecakes!
Corporations use the same tactics under pompous jargons such as non-GAAP, EBITDA, one-time charges, forward P/E etc.
Our government also masks the truth using various similar shenanigans. For example, the unemployment number is conveniently small because they drop those people who gave up looking for jobs. If you are not looking for a job, the government assumes you won the lottery! Similarly, the jobs number is faked every month when nobody cares about the difference between full-time and part-time jobs. Thus if 100 full-time jobs are replaced by 150 part-time/temp jobs, everyone pops open a champagne bottle to celebrate the creation of 50 net new jobs. Never mind that 100 people just lost all kinds of benefits like health insurance, sick days, vacation and 401-K; and 150 people just got pushed into the ranks of working poor.
The reality is that the labor participation rate is at 36-year low, and 20% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 – the prime working age group – are unemployed. The fake unemployment number? About 6%.
The inflation number has been fudged since the early 1980s. The wizards in Washington D.C. got rid of many items from the calculations of inflation. That’s why Janet Yellen can now go before the Congress and say, without failing the lie detector test, that the inflation rate is 2%. Yeah, it’s 2% if you don’t have to buy food or gas; pay rent, utilities, health insurance premiums, medical bills or college tuition. Otherwise, in the non-billionaire world, the inflation rate is close to 10%. Inflation really matters since it’s a hideous, hidden tax. Every year, the dollar is worth less and less. For example, even based on the official, fake numbers, a dollar in 1988 is worth only 50 cents today. The fake inflation rate also helps corporations keep the wages down since they can give you a 3% raise and tell you that you should be happy since it’s more than the inflation.
GDP is another fake number that’s thrown around to show that countries are prospering under the able guidance of central banks and politicians. First of all, GDP is an average number, so it doesn’t take into account any inequality or the creation of money out of thin air. So the 99% can get poorer every year, and yet the GDP can be glowingly positive.
Moreover, the GDP does not take into account what’s good for the society. Thus, you can spend $50 billion manufacturing deadly missiles, bomb a country, and then spend another $50 billion rebuilding what you just destroyed, and guess what, the GDP will go up by $100 billion. If people get sick from eating GMOs and spend billions on treatments for diabetes and cancer, guess what, the GDP growth will be commendable. In Europe – which has been wrecked by the same banksters who run America – they are now going to add the economic contributions of prostitution and drugs to boost the GDP number.
It’s also clear that the financial gurus who are running the country have no clue about what’s happening. They have an uncontrollable tendency to make rosy predictions so that we all feel confident in their policies. For example, the official forecast for the U.S. GDP growth for Q1 of 2014 was about 3%. Then at the end of Q1, we were told that there was no growth at all – basically 0%. And when we were wondering how they could be so wrong, the number was revised to -2.9% in June. From +3% to -2.9%!
So the financial elites in charge of our nation don’t know what will happen or what is happening or even what just happened.
Unfortunately, the fake it till you make it strategy hasn’t worked and we are just being led to the economic slaughterhouse.
Capitalism is a wonderful concept that has morphed into three different fake variations: Crony Capitalism, Casino Capitalism, and Cruel Capitalism.
Crony Capitalism is a fabulous version that is unfortunately available to only the top 0.1% of Americans. It’s a little bit like Calvinball where the gifted few get to write their own rules and change them whenever they want. Oligarchs, plutocrats, Wall Street bankers, large corporations, and powerful lobbying groups are some of the chosen ones who get to play this game. They control both parties so that they always win.
Wall Street/banking cartel is the king of crony capitalism since they get to print money and make up jargons that nobody understands: derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and so on. When Wall Street shysters caused the Great Depression in the 1930s, banking was prohibited from speculative conduct, and the stock market was made more transparent. However, the barriers were slowly brought down one brick at a time, and by the 1990s, the go-go days of deregulations were back.
Now, the top four U.S. banks hold more than $200 trillion of unregulated, opaque derivatives. Consider how crazy that is when the total GDP of the entire world is $70 trillion. In the wild wild west of banking, everything is rigged – gold prices,LIBOR (the interest rate that affects the prices of just about everything), oil priceand the entire stock market. There is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to various ways in which stock prices are manipulated, if you are curious.
The big banks often do get caught, but they don’t get shut down, and nor does anyone go to jail. The banks merely get slapped on the wrist with a settlement – a nice, innocuous word – that represents a few days worth of that bank’s profit.
Above all, the banks enjoy socialism – when they cheat and fail, the public bails them out. Yes, the same public that has to live by do-or-die capitalism.
Then you have hedge funds who are the John Waynes of the banking cabal. People like Steve Cohen make billions through insider trading. They have also changed the laws through the puppet politicians so that hedge fund billionaires could slash their own taxes by 50%.
For more sophisticated swindling, you have High frequency Trading (“HFT”) companies that cheat on a regular basis just because they have computers physically right next to the trading systems. They see what orders are coming in, and buy/sell accordingly. How advantageous is this system, you ask? An HFT firm called Virtu lost money on only one day in more than 1200 days of trading! Of course, the SEC and other ethical guardians of our financial system saw nothing wrong with this until someone wrote a book, spelling out the fraud. Then it was like that scene from Casablanca when the captain says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
But don’t hold your breath over anything changing on Wall Street.
At the top of the food chain of banking cartel are the central banks of various nations which are all in turn controlled by the Bank of International Settlements. In the U.S., the central bank is called the “Federal Reserve Bank” and is as Federal as the package-delivering FedEx. Just like Monsanto uses GMA or other non-profits as the front group, the bankers use the Fed to increase their own wealth and power.
Regardless of the superficial appearances of Presidential appointments, it’s the Fed that is the ultimate ruler of America. As Rothschild once said, “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes it’s laws.”
The Fed creates money out of thin air and sets the interest rates – both actions that are expected in a highly centralized, socialist/communist economy. They also create a society of financial apartheid where money is cheap and abundantly available for the uber-rich but not for the rest. Billionaires, banksters and their friends get to borrow money at close to 0% while the average credit card for Joe Schmoe charges him 18% or more.
People like Carl Icahn, Paul Singer and Daniel Loeb are great examples of how easy it is multiply your money when you have access to a few billions. It can be simple as A-B-C. Identify a company with a lot of cash, buy enough shares of that company to get a seat at the board of directors, and demand increased payout in dividends. It’s an easy way to make hundreds of millions of dollars in a couple of months. These crony capitalists are called activists – an Orwellian distortion of language.
Just like the ultimate interests of a credit card company is in getting people into debt, the ultimate interests of central banks is to get sovereign nations into debt. That’s why the first two central banks were abolished twenty years after they were founded (1791-1811 and 1816-1836). The third time was the charm when the current Fed was founded in 1913. There was no federal income tax at that time and the national debt was $1 billion. Fast forward 100 years, the middle class is crushed by taxes and our national debt has ballooned 17,000 times.
Wall Street and the banking cartel accumulate wealth by constantly skimming wealth off others. They are like the tapeworms which sit in the intestines of humans and simply eat some of the food that passes by. A successful parasite never kills the host, but the current banking system has gotten so greedy and arrogant that they threaten the entire American and the global economy.
Just below the banksters are the big corporations that enjoy crony capitalism through tax credits, refunds, subsidies and loopholes. The word lawmakers has no meaning anymore since most of the laws are actually written by big corporations. At the state level, front group ALEC – run by the infamous Koch brothers – holds enormous power, writes bills and hands them over to the politicians who sign on the dotted line.
The revolving door between politics and the corporate world also means that government officials are guaranteed a life of luxury in the future if they cater to corporate interests. Federal officials and politicians jump on Monsanto’s payroll, Julie Gerberding becomes the president of Merck’s vaccine division afterpromoting Merck’s HPV vaccine as the Director of CDC, former chief of NSA – Keith Alexander – is becoming filthy rich consulting banks on cybersecurity, Dick Cheney became the CEO of Halliburton – an impressive feat since it was his very first job in the corporate world, and on and on. Half of all retiring senators and congressmen – it used to be 3% in 1974 – become lobbyists to earn millions of dollars per year (link). Corporations also pay huge bounty bonuses to their executives who are willing to be placed into politics to manipulate the system (link). Politicians getting cushy jobs in boards of directors is also very common and mutually beneficial (link).
Another feature of crony capitalism is the consolidation of corporations which result in destruction of competition and a true free market. In the world of financial engineering and access to limitless money for the insiders, corporations don’t have to invent or be creative. They can just simply buy any potential competitor.
Facebook, for example, is really a one-time wonder that has had nothing but failures in all the big features and products they have tried to launch (link). Thankfully, CEO Zuckerberg and CFO Sandberg have deep connections in Wall Street. First, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion. Instagram was a simple photo-sharing application developed by fewer than ten people. From a programming point of view, Instagram was no rocket science. But if that was bad, earlier in 2014, Facebook decided to buy WhatsApp – with just 55 employees – for a whopping, mind-numbing $19 billion. Oh yeah, WhatsApp does something that nobody had ever thought of before – sending text and SMS messages on your smartphone.
The easy way of buying out competitors is seen in all industries – banking, airlines, media, telecom, pharmaceutical, food, you-name-it.
Thus, thanks to crony capitalism, we have an uncompetitive economy with fewer jobs, shrinking wages, growing inequality, enormous concentration of power and wealth, and a declining economy. However, the corporate media will tell you how free market is making your life wonderful every day.
Casino Capitalism is for the middle class and the upper middle class who see just enough probability that they would make it big some day. It’s like Las Vegas where there are just enough urban legends of rags-to-riches to make the smart, hardworking people put their noses to the grindstone. However, in the end, the house always wins.
Many work so hard that they don’t have the time or the desire to learn the truth. Some are just high on hopium – maybe the 401-K will do well, maybe the house will appreciate in value and maybe their small business – or startup, for the techie crowd – will take off. And others are just buried in debt – student loans, car loans, credit card debt and mortgages – and too scared to challenge the status quo.
Over the last 30 years, the truly middle class bought into the promises of the elites hook, line and sinker. They were told that 401-K retirement plans were much better than corporate-sponsored pension plans; they were told that labor unions were bad; they were told that free trade agreements will bring in new jobs; they were told that tax cuts for the rich will benefit everybody when the billions trickled down; they were told that deregulation meant more prosperity. The ironic fact is that every fake capitalist idea was sold on socialistic ideals – “it’s good for everybody.”
Cruel Capitalism is the fate that awaits those in the bottom of the food chain of fake capitalism. These men, women and children are indispensable to the functioning of the modern world, yet they are the least rewarded and the most abused. They are the farmers in Central America who work 10-12 hours a day in banana farms, factory workers in China who assemble $600 iPhones, girls and women in Bangladesh who make clothes, handbags and shoes that will be sold in Neiman Marcus, or men in Africa who work in dangerous gold and diamond mines. These are the people who live the “hunger games” of capitalism.
There is nothing wrong with inequality per se, but the system is broken when 1) hundreds of millions of people work their entire lives and die broke, leaving their kids to start from square one, and 2) a few elites benefit enormously from the work of these powerless people, and horde enough wealth to last hundreds of generations.
Thus, when the CEO of Nike comes on CNBC and talks about how great capitalism is, he is merely bragging about the crony capitalism for him while conveniently ignoring the cruel capitalism for the sweatshop employees of Nike.
The division between these two extreme versions of capitalism is reflected in the fact that 85 super-rich people have the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion people.
Cruel capitalism is slowly creeping into the American social fabric as well. The millions of people stuck in minimum wage jobs are the first-world version of sweatshop workers. The median income of the bottom 20% of Americans is about $15,000 and their median wealth is -$6,000. Yeah, they don’t have any wealth, just debt. There are also tens of millions of people on food stamps, housing subsidies, disability benefits and other welfare programs that are growing with no end in sight.
The elites don’t care about this for many reasons: 1) It’s the middle class that is subsidizing the welfare programs 2) Poverty also ensures that there will always be enough people to work for low wages at big corporations such as Walmart, Starbucks etc., and 3) An America that looks superficially wealthy allows the elites to sell their economic snake oil to the rest of the world.
They don’t have much time, since America will soon hit the debt ceiling when the rest of the world starts to balk at subsidizing the Ponzi scheme of limitless debt. At that point, the welfare system will be cut sharply, taxes will be raised steeply and the failure of the system will be revealed.
Perhaps that’s why American corporations have changed the laws so they couldmove their headquarters elsewhere – Burger King, is an example of this tax scam – and have amassed $2 trillion in offshore accounts. The uber-rich individuals also have hoarded more than $32 trillion in exotic islands, safely avoiding U.S. taxes.
The combination of Crony Capitalism, Casino Capitalism and Cruel Capitalism gives us Crapitalism. Crapitalism is a modern version of Feudalism that is based on exploitation, fake prosperity, and real damage to the entire humanity. It’s based on an addiction to endless growth which is impossible in the real world; it’s based on shallow consumerism redefined as prosperity; it’s based on an inherent, built-in 1%-99% divide; it’s based on hyper-centralized power and control, with a handful of entities trying to rule the world; it’s based on fake, fiat money that is backed only by drones and missiles; it’s based on utter disregard to environment, health, spirituality, consciousness and life itself; and finally, it’s based on extensive propaganda that has taken George Orwell’s warnings as the building blocks of a New World Order.
In Part II of this series, we will explore Fake Politics, Fake Media and Fake Healthcare.
Until then, here are a couple of videos with perspectives that challenge some mainstream paradigms: