Monday, October 09, 2006

Signs of the Economic Apocalypse, 10-9-06

From Signs of the Times, 10-9-06:

Gold closed at 578.00 dollars an ounce on Friday, down 4.4% from $603.60 at the close of the previous Friday. The dollar closed at 0.7941 euros Friday, up 0.6% from 0.7890 for the week. That put the euro at 1.2594 dollars compared to 1.2674 at the previous week’s close. Gold in euros would be 458.95 euros an ounce, down 3.8% from 476.25 for the week. Oil closed at 59.91 dollars a barrel, down 5.0% from $62.91 at the end of the previous week. Oil in euros would be 47.57 euros a barrel, down 5.3% from 49.64 at the close of the previous Friday. The gold/oil ratio closed at 9.65 Friday, up 0.6% from 9.59 for the week. In the U.S. stock market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 11,850.21 Friday, up 1.5% from 11,679.07 at the close of the Friday before. The NASDAQ closed at 2,299.99, up 1.8% from 2,258.43 for the week. In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.69% up three basis points from 4.63 at the close of the week before.

Oil and gold were down sharply and stocks were up, all seemingly good news. However, once again the drop in strategic commodities like oil and gold may have been driven by underlying weakness in the economy. And as for the stock gains, they too started to slip on Friday. The release on Friday of the September jobs numbers, a scant 51,000 jobs created, provided more evidence of weakness:

September jobs below expectations
By David Lawder
Fri Oct 6, 12:41 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. employers added a scant 51,000 jobs in September, far fewer than expected, but the job count for prior months was revised up and earnings moved higher, dimming financial market hopes for interest rate cuts next year.

The Labor Department's closely watched jobs report on Friday, also showed the unemployment rate dipped unexpectedly to 4.6 percent from 4.7 percent in August, indicating labor market tightness is likely to keep the Federal Reserve on alert for inflationary pressures. The department also said it had sharply undercounted jobs growth in the year through March.

The 51,000 job gain in September was the weakest since October 2005, when only 37,000 jobs were added following an unusually severe Gulf Coast hurricane season.

However, financial markets took their cues from the payroll revisions and a gain to hourly earnings that pointed to a longer wait for Fed rate cuts.

U.S. Treasury debt prices dropped, while stocks fell and the dollar hit a six-month high against the yen as investors digested the report.

August payrolls were stronger than previously thought, as the Labor Department revised the month's job gain to 188,000 from an originally reported 128,000. It also revised July's gain to 123,000 from 121,000.

The department also said it believed it undercounted employment in the year through March by 810,000 jobs, as it offered an estimate of annual revisions it will make to the jobs data early next year. That would mark the largest such revision since the Labor Department began making them in 1991 and indicated the jobs picture for that period was significantly better than first thought.

Economists said the revisions and lower unemployment rate paint a stronger employment picture than the weak September payroll growth number would indicate.

"The slowdown hypothesis is still very much with us, but not as much as previously seemed to be the case," said Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp. in Cleveland.

"My view is that the Fed is going to continue to be biased in the direction of inflation concerns. We have more evidence that the Fed is unlikely to do anything any time soon."

After the Fed halted a two-year rate hike campaign in August, a weakening housing market had prompted financial markets to begin pricing in rate cuts for next year. But in recent speeches, Fed officials have made clear they are still more focused on stamping out inflation than on signs of slower growth.
Wall Street economists had forecast nonfarm payrolls to expand by 125,000 workers last month, according to a Reuters poll last week.

"Our conclusion is that the economy is actually stronger than these employment numbers actually suggest," said Bernard Baumohl, executive director of the Economic Outlook Group, in Princeton Junction, New Jersey.


With congressional elections a month away, Democrats and Republicans both tried to spin the data into to their favor.

President Bush said the unemployment rate drop was "good news." for the economy. "Wages are going up and energy prices are falling, which means people are going to have more money in their pockets to save, invest or spend."

However, the Democrats took a different view.

"Slower economic growth is taking its toll on job creation," said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee. "Too many American families have lost ground in the Bush economy and are working harder than ever just to keep up with rising living expenses."


The report showed average hourly earnings rose by a lower-than-expected 0.2 percent, or 4 cents, last month, after an upwardly revised 0.2 percent gain in August. Analysts in the Reuters poll had expected a 0.3 percent rise in September.

In both September and August, average hourly earnings rose 4.0 percent from a year earlier, the highest since a 4.1 percent gain in March 2001. The August figure was revised up from a 3.9 percent year-on-year gain.

The Labor Department said the length of the average workweek was unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 33.8 hours in September. The manufacturing workweek fell 0.2 hour to 41.1 hours.

Among individual sectors, manufacturing lost 19,000 jobs in September, while retail trades lost 12,000 jobs. Construction added just 8,000 jobs, while all services put together added just 62,000 positions.

Which led to this:
Stocks slip after 3 days of gains
By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks slipped on Friday, snapping the Dow's three-day run to record highs, as employment data renewed worries about slower economic growth, while shares of automaker General Motors Corp. sank on fears a major shareholder may begin selling his stake.

GM dropped 6.3 percent, making it the biggest drag on the Dow after Kirk Kerkorian's investment firm, Tracinda Corp., said it decided not to acquire additional shares of GM and Kerkorian's representative quit GM's board.

"The job growth is tepid at best, and the equity market is coming off a big run. It is warranted to take gains off the table, especially when you haven't had a September correction," said Matthew Smith, vice president and portfolio manager at Smith Affiliated Capital in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 16.48 points, or 0.14 percent, at 11,850.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 3.64 points, or 0.27 percent, at 1,349.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 6.35 points, or 0.28 percent, at 2,299.99.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.5 percent, the S&P gained 1 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.8 percent.

On Thursday, the Dow closed at a record 11,866.69 and climbed to an all-time intraday high at 11,870.06. That marked the Dow's third day of setting highs that broke previous records set on January 14, 2000 -- two months before the Internet frenzy cooled and the stock market's tech bubble burst.

But on Friday, stocks opened lower and extended their modest decline as investors worried that an unexpectedly small rise in the number of jobs created by U.S. employers in September may signal that economic growth is stalling.

At the same time, upward revisions to job numbers in previous months triggered worries that the Federal Reserve would be unlikely to cut interest rates this year.

…"We've had a heck of a run here. We just need time to rest up a bit and gather steam to continue the rally," said David Straus, a fund manager at Johnston Lemon Inc. in Washington.

"Overall, we see this market as turning more choppy with an upward bias."

Analysts pointed to growing stocks of oil and the lack of an OPEC agreement as responsible for the drip in price:
Oil falls below $60, investors doubt OPEC

By Simon Webb

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil fell below $60 a barrel on Friday as investors doubted OPEC's resolve to carry out a planned supply cut and fuel inventories swelled in the United States, the world's top consumer.

U.S. crude settled 27 cents lower at $59.76 a barrel, off nearly $20 from its mid-July peak of $78.40. London Brent fell 17 cents to $59.83.

OPEC President Edmund Daukoru said on Friday he intended to secure a supply cut deal by Monday that would remove about 1 million barrels per day of crude from the market to slow the rapid decline in oil prices.

But investors were wary as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries group had yet to make an official statement on the planned cuts.

"It is a big surprise to the market that OPEC has not been prepared to formally announce the decision to cut," said Frederic Lasserre, head of commodity research at SG CIB Commodities.

"It looks like it may take some time for OPEC to decide how to allocate this cut -- and that is bearish, not bullish."

OPEC members have discussed but not yet decided whether to hold an emergency meeting October 18-19 in Vienna, Daukoru said.

A cut of a million bpd would remove about 3.4 percent of total OPEC supply from the market.


Investors turned their attention back to ample production and high stocks as they waited for official word from OPEC, which pumps over a third of global oil supplies.

"If OPEC is not able to get any credibility in reducing supply, then we are back to fundamentals," Lasserre said.

"And the fundamentals are that we have plenty of stocks around -- they are still building up -- which means that the market is oversupplied quite substantially."

U.S. distillate supplies, which include heating oil, rose by 200,000 barrels to their highest level since 1999 last week, according to a government report this week.

Crude oil and gasoline stocks were substantially higher than at the same time last year, the report said.

Despite the high stocks cushion, OPEC's plan to cut supply has disappointed the United States.

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said he did not want OPEC to cut output and White House economic adviser Al Hubbard said President George W. Bush was not happy with oil prices near $59 a barrel.

That last statement was pretty funny! I am sure Bush is not happy with 59 dollars a barrel oil. His oil industry friends can’t make obscene profits at that price. Just risque profits.

Max Fraad Wolf reminds us the current good news contains portents of bad news to come:
Autumn Chills the Goldilocks Economy

Max Fraad Wolff
October 5, 2006

Naturally, the passage of summer into autumn entails a chilling of the air. Less natural and more pronounced this year is the cooling of the macroeconomy. Profit and GDP growth, as well as, housing numbers and durable goods reports, point to falling temperatures. Fed rate hikes on pause and cooling commodity prices offer more evidence- if that were necessary. Thus far, the stock market’s response has been to heat up to August-like temperatures. Renewed geo-political risk suggested by recent events in Shanghai, Mexico City, Budapest and Bangkok be damned, the Dow is in record breaking mode. Could this be a sign of agreement with my cautionary thesis? The Dow is populated by larger more global and defensive firms with higher credit ratings than the S&P. Thus, some of its rise may be rotation from even more dangerous positions elsewhere in the US equity orbit.

Sadly, it seems clear that most are driven by the goldilocks outlook. This “understanding” became popular in 2002. According to the goldilocks story, we will artfully and profitably dodge inflation and recession as we hop from sweet spot to sweet spot. It is a mutant form of the new economy/new era conception popularized and universalized in the heady days of the late 1990’s. The US does not have to save; we can run huge external imbalances forever; the Fed can endlessly run expansionary monetary policy; there are no equity, bond, real estate bubbles; and we can have rapid growth without inflation. Goldilocks adherents believe this is being done as we thread the needle between various risks. How well does the macroeconomic data confirm this outlook?

Early winter would seem the correct analogy here. Housing starts, permits, mortgage applications, prices and housing company stock prices are down, foreclosures are up. Durable goods orders fell 0.5% in August, widely missing consensus forecast of a 0.5% increase. Bright spots were autos and defense spending, yet neither is likely to be a source of macroeconomic strength moving forward. Excluding transports, durable goods orders declined by 2.0%. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) announced on September 22, 2006 that its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage applications declined 5% on the week despite half-year lows in listed mortgage rates. The 5% one week decline masked a more worrisome 21% year-over-year slide. Home sales declines in August were sharp in several vital and once hot markets. The California Association of Realtors (CAR) reported a 30% drop in sales for August 2006. This is the largest decline since 1982. The Florida Association of Realtors reported a 50% August decline in sales in Palm Beach County and a 6% fall in median home price there. The Massachusetts Association of Realtors revealed a 20% decline in sales and an 8% decline in median price. It is possible some of this weak performance is related to the total lack of growth and dynamism in personal income and spending growth. The September 29, 2006 Personal Incomes and Outlays release form the BEA reveals that August was a low point for wage growth and personal consumption expenditure. Only core inflation stayed strong. Earnings and spending growth were anemic while prices stayed high. This is the mirror image of goldilocks. August 2006 marks another month with a negative private savings rate (-.5%). [1] This has caused little concern, likely because consumption is a relatively unimportant 70% of US GDP.

The September 28, 2006 release of Q2 2006 GDP and national economic data has confirmed more skeptical outlooks and spurred hardened optimists to new levels of creativity. Consensus estimates from private sector economists of 2.8% GDP growth and advanced estimates of 2.9% growth were disappointed as the Commerce Department announced actual growth of 2.6%. The Fed-preferred price index for personal consumption expenditure- excluding food and energy- increased 2.9% in Q2 down from 3.0% in Q1. Thus, our present goldilocks economy most recently displayed a 3% drop in the rate of price increase and a 53% decline- quarter over quarter- in GDP growth. This must be why indexes are soaring and the soft landing, benign inflation environment expectation has become dominant!
What of corporate profits, long a bright spot in our economy?

Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) increased $22.7 billion in the second quarter, compared with an increase of $175.6 billion in the first quarter. Current-production cash flow (net cash flow with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments)--the internal funds available to corporations for investment--increased $1.1 billion in the second quarter, compared with an increase of $125.3 billion in the first.

It is fair to say that the corporate profit picture is defined by deceleration in Q2. This was particularly true for non-financial corporations that underwent a rather profound reversal of profit fortunes across the quarter. Reported domestic profits for non-financial corporations dropped by $32.8 billion in Q2 on the heels of a strong $94.5 billion increase in Q1. The profit picture, while still a relative strong spot in the economy, is less hot than it has been. The most recent data, like the first cold winds of autumn, are a reminder that winter is approaching. Stagnant earnings, pressured private consumption, decelerating profit growth and robust price inflation are showing up in the macro data.

So we are left to ponder a widely popular consensus on the economy that is influencing equity performance. It runs as follows: eureka! The Fed has stopped tightening and the economy is still growing well and highly profitably. Of course growth and profitability are still in respectable shape- particularly the latter. However, they have remarkably cooled of late. Much like rate increases. When rate increases slow we celebrate the end of inflation risk, despite the price change metrics reported. When GDP and profit numbers slow, we refocus on their strength in long run, global comparisons. Thus, the goldilocks consensus is sustained. The economy is not too hot, not too slow and just right!

Remember the Goldilocks story? Cool days and warm porridge lure Goldi into the bears’ house. There are two endings to the fairly tale. In the friendly version she wakes and flees in terror. In the harsher version she is eaten by the bears. Either way, advocates of the goldilocks economy may have much to learn from the fable they have invoked. Cooler data may be driving them to follow in goldilocks’ footsteps. It might be just right now, but there is trouble lurking in the near future! After all, the bears return in all the versions of the story.

The view looks a little better in Europe, however. Here is the neoliberal Economist:

Feeling fitter
The euro area's economy

Oct 5th 2006

This year the euro area's economic strength has been a source of surprise. Its longer-term prospects may be brightening too

A MONTH ago Jean-Claude Trichet gave what markets see as his standard nod and wink: the European Central Bank (ECB), said its president, would continue to exercise “vigilance” against inflationary pressures. Stand by, in other words, for another increase in interest rates at the bank's next rate-setting meeting on October 5th. ECB-watchers were therefore well prepared when rates duly rose, by a quarter of a percentage point, to 3.25%.

A slide in consumer-price inflation to 1.8% last month, greased by weaker oil prices, raised no doubts, even though this is at last “below, but close to, 2%”, the ECB's stated aim. Indeed, with real rates not much more than 1% even now, the ECB looks sure to put rates up again this year and is likely to carry on in 2007.
The euro area's economy has looked remarkably healthy this year, and keeps surprising forecasters. In The Economist's monthly poll, the average prediction for GDP growth in 2006 is now 2.5%, up by 0.2 percentage points since last month and by a full point since a year ago. Admittedly, the pace has probably slowed a little since the cracking second quarter, when GDP rose by 0.9%. But the third quarter, which has just ended, was probably more than decent—judging, for instance, by retail sales figures and purchasing managers' indices for both manufacturing and services, published this week.

The question now is whether this year, set to be the best since 2000, heralds a pick-up in the zone's long-term growth rate—limited in recent years, by most estimates, to 2% or so—or merely marks the top of the cycle. Though it is too soon to tell, there are reasons to be cheerful. For a long time, the euro area has needed two things: first, that more of its people work; second, that their productivity (ie, output per hour) rises faster. On both counts, there are signs of improvement.

Take the labour market. At 7.9%, the euro zone's unemployment rate is roughly where it was at the peak of the last cycle, in late 2000. By now, on past form, wage pressures should be starting to burst through. But although wage costs have picked up a bit this year, their growth rate is still subdued—maybe 2.3% or 2.4% in the year to the second quarter, depending on your measure. The thought that jobs may go to central and eastern Europe, or to China, is having an effect.

It seems plain that the zone's NAIRU, the unemployment rate consistent with stable inflation, has fallen. Economists at the European Commission now put it at around 8%, one percentage point less than in 1997 (though well above America's 5%). By that estimate, the jobless rate is at its limit. But it may be too conservative, given that wage growth is not exactly resurgent. The NAIRU is virtually unknowable unless wages start to take off, something that a watchful ECB is unlikely to allow.

Better still, as the commission pointed out this week in its quarterly report on the euro area, the unemployment rate has fallen even though labour supply has been increasing—by about 1% a year since the late 1990s. Perhaps most encouraging is the increase in the proportion of people aged 55 to 64—a group that many European countries have been too eager to pension off—in work or seeking it, from 37.5% in 2000 to 43.7% last year.

On productivity, there are also encouraging early signs. Eric Chaney, an economist at Morgan Stanley, reckons that output per hour in the euro area grew at an annual rate of 2.6% in the first half of this year—twice the pace of 2000-05, the first six years of the single currency's life. He has to make estimates, because not all the official numbers are out, but his reasoning squares with French data showing hourly output rising at an annual rate of 3% .

Start with GDP, which rose at an annual rate of 3.4%. For GDP per worker, deduct employment growth of 1.1%, from data for France, Germany and Spain, three of the top four economies in the club. Then adjust for hours per worker, which have been declining, largely because of the recent rise of part-time employment. Because firms are probably trying to get more hours out of the existing workforce before hiring new staff, Mr Chaney supposes a slower decline than in recent years: 0.3%, against 0.9% in 2002 and 0.5% in 2004.

For the whole year, Mr Chaney forecasts that output per hour will grow by 2.1%. Is this purely cyclical, or will some of the extra growth endure? “You can't say for sure,” he says, “but you get a feeling this is more than cyclical.” Above all, he thinks, European firms are beginning to reap the benefits from investing in information technology, something that America has exploited to far greater effect than Europe has.

Despite all this, euro-area optimists may face a testing few months. It is not hard to see demand growth being dragged down at the start of next year by a planned rise in value-added tax in Germany and budgetary tightening in Italy.

That said, some other possible sources of trouble may be less threatening than they now seem. America's slowdown, though hardly welcome, is one such: Europe's main source of pulling power these days is domestic demand. Oil prices may climb again, but the euro area weathered the recent spike fairly well and should get back a good slice of any extra it spends on energy imports. According to the commission's report, in 2000-05 oil exporters spent a bigger share of each extra dollar of export revenues on imports from the euro zone than they did in 1973-81. The euro area's exports to oil producers rose by 17% last year, adding 0.3% to GDP. The commission expects a further increase in 2006.

A healthier euro zone, of course, should be food for thought for the ECB. In the long run, theory suggests that higher growth, other things equal, should mean higher interest rates for a given rate of inflation. In the shorter term, increased capacity, especially if demand slows, may lean against higher rates—but it is hard to see the central bank relaxing its vigilance just yet.

Even though the European economy now seems much healthier than the U.S. one, the Economist will never admit that European social democracy might have anything to do with it. No, that has to be “reformed” for the economy to “regain its economic vitality,” which is a code phrase for allowing individuals to get richer at the expense of the average person:
Angela's ashes
The German chancellor needs to be bolder in pursuing reforms

Oct 5th 2006

It was never going to be easy for Angela Merkel to run a “grand coalition” government. After all, the coalition, between her centre-right Christian Democrats and the centre-left Social Democrats, came about only because she and her party did unexpectedly badly in last September's election. And, although Germany is a consensus-loving country, it does not warm to left-right coalitions at the federal level: the previous one, between 1966 and 1969, was not a particularly happy affair.

Despite this, at the start of the year Ms Merkel looked surprisingly good. Her early foreign-policy forays, especially to Washington, DC, and Brussels, were glittering successes that drew a favourable contrast with her Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schröder. The economy was at last picking up some momentum. Business confidence was high. Her party was even gaining ground with the electorate. For a brief moment, indeed, Ms Merkel was the most popular chancellor in history, scoring an 80% approval rating in the polls.

In the past few weeks, however, she has come down to earth with a bump. A fractious dispute over health-care reform, which was supposed to be a centrepiece of the government's domestic agenda, has brought home how hard it is for the two coalition partners to agree on anything. Ms Merkel seems unable even to make deals with her own party's powerful state premiers, some of whom seem more interested in replacing her than in settling policy differences. Opinion polls and recent state elections show that support for both main parties continues to ebb. One recent poll even puts the Christian Democrats behind the Social Democrats, for the first time since Ms Merkel became chancellor.

It is true that the economy is still doing quite well, and unemployment continues to fall—although only in Germany would this year's expected GDP growth of up to 2.5% be greeted with enthusiasm. But it is also true that Germany, like much of Europe, needs more substantial reforms to regain its economic vitality. The labour market is too regulated, taxes are too complex and too high, the public sector is bloated and unresponsive, the education and health systems need a shake-up. Yet because the two main parties disagree so much, the grand coalition has barely begun to tackle any of these.

This lady shouldn't be for turning

A good way forward would be for Ms Merkel herself to show some stronger leadership. She should start by exerting more discipline within her own party, as she is belatedly threatening to do by pulling her state premiers into line. But she might also have to consider other options. One is to prepare the ground for a different coalition, without the Social Democrats. The obvious one would combine the Christian Democrats, the Free Democrats and the Greens—a grouping known from the black, yellow and green party colours as a Jamaica coalition. However, even a Jamaica coalition would find it hard to agree on reforms, not least to health care. So she should also consider a second option: to plan for an early election. It is not straightforward to call one in Germany, but it might be possible to engineer an early poll in the second half of next year, after Germany's first-half presidency of the European Union and the G8 summit are both over.

Throughout her political career, Ms Merkel has always made it clear that her instincts are to make progress in small steps, not giant leaps. She is by nature cautious, not bold. The trouble is that just now there is little sign of her taking even small steps in the direction of significant reform in Germany. If she is to have a lasting political impact on her country, she must start soon.

Finally, the Mogambo Guru, referring to an Economist special report on debt, has finally explained the craziness of hedge funds in a way I can understand:
"Credit derivatives, which behave a bit like insurance contracts, allow investors to buy or sell cover against default by a borrower, and the price moves depending on perceptions about the borrower's credit worthiness", and that "the notional amount outstanding of credit derivatives rose by 52% in the first six months of the year to $26 trillion."

This is the part that kills me; they go on to write that although $26 trillion is a large number, "That number would be far smaller if banks' positions were netted out for offsetting exposures." Hahaha! I love that! What morons!

The fact is that these "offsetting exposures" did not disappear in some miraculous "netting out". In the aggregate, risk went up and the totals of the derivative bets went up because somebody else's risk exposure went up when they accepted the other side of the banks' "netting out"! And where do you get the money to finance all these new derivatives? Ultimately, by borrowing the money from another bank, or selling it to somebody who goes to the bank to get the money! And then they, in turn, contract for some derivative risk-transference to a fourth party to offset some of that risk!

And then that new guy decides to offset his increased risk by entering a fifth-party derivative contract with someone else, who in turn has to enter a sixth-party derivative contract with someone else to offset some of the risk, and then that person has to enter a seventh-party derivative contract with someone else to offset some of that risk, and then on and on and on, eighth, ninth, tenth, until I am hoarse from screaming at the idiocy of thinking that this is NOT a Ponzi scam! How can it NOT be?

I guess to add a little levity the article startlingly admits: "Such products, known as 'structured credit', encourage liquidity, partly because they can be created out of thin air." Hahahaha! Gosh! Ya think that the ability to create assets out of thin air would increase "liquidity"? Hahaha! Me, too! In fact, give me a chance to create money out of thin air and I will show you some REAL liquidity increases!

"The problem," the Economist says, "broadly identified by many regulators, is that not a lot is known about how structured-credit products behave in unusual conditions", and that "it is hard to know how they will react when hard times return."

If they had bothered to ask me, I would have told them that the answer is, unfortunately, that the whole freaking system will fall apart and the country will be plunged into utter bankruptcy, as the whole idea of eliminating risk by creating more risk, and then spreading it among a bigger group of people, financed with nothing but minimal margin and borrowing the rest, is insane! Insaaaaaaane! Absolutely insane!

And I am here as a guy who really knows this "insane" business, both by the fact that I have been tested for it so many, many times and passing it somewhat fewer times, and by the fact that I see it every freaking day of my life whenever I merely glance at the monstrous, monetary insanities of the Federal Reserve and the grotesque spending insanities of all the levels of government.

And anyone who thinks that now, for the first time in history, the umpteenth repetition of this stupidity will NOT be calamitous, is truly, truly, truly insane. Ugh.


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