Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Is the Global Financial Crisis the beginning of the "brave new world" of life in America?

The books on Amazon.com are often reviewed by customers who also know quite a bit about the topic a book is about. Reading the customer reviews can be a real education in of itself. There are a lot of books appearing about the financial crisis, and what it means.

Below is a link to one book I read about recently. The first link is to the book, with the publisher's description. The two links that follow are from customers who read the book, and then gave their opinion. I thought it made a pretty interesting read:

Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown
Product Description

A practical guide to preparing for the next phase of the financial meltdown

From the authors who were the first to predict Phase I of our current economic downturn-in their landmark 2006 book, America's Bubble Economy-comes their insightful sequel discussing their predictions for the next phase of the Bubble Economy.

It may seem like the worst has come and gone, but it hasn't. With their proven track record of accurate predictions-which most financial professionals and economists missed-the authors explain how and why the next phase of the financial meltdown is about to hit. Things are not going back to how they were before. Instead, we are moving through uncharted territory, with new challenges and opportunities that few people can anticipate. Written in a straightforward and accessible style, Aftershock shows readers how to seek safety and profits in these dynamic economic conditions.

* Discusses how to protect assets, businesses, and jobs before and during the second wave of financial meltdown

* Provides clear and accurate advice on how to profit from the collapsing bubbles

* Offer focused guidance regarding real estate, which will continue to be a pressing concern for many

The authors' first book was chosen by Kiplinger's as one of the 30 Best Business Books of 2006, and its accuracy has been hailed by Paul Farrell of Dow Jones MarketWatch when he said "America's Bubble Economy's Predictions, though ignored, were accurate." Don't miss out on these time tested author's proven advice for how to mange your money during the coming financial meltdown.

Ok, so that's how it's being presented. Now here is a 5 star review from a customer:

"Don't Worry, Not a Single Penny of your Tax Dollars Will Fund the Bailouts."
"That's right. The bank and corporate bailout money is not coming from our taxes. Instead we're just borrowing it from foreign investors. We're also printing some of it...Of course, we will never, ever have to pay it all back, because even if we tried (and we won't), we never could."

That is why the U.S. Government will eventually be unable to borrow money and the nation will have to start living within it's means. That will be the beginning of the brave new world of life in America. This book is how we are speeding toward this "Bubblequake" and its "Aftershock." Although somewhat depressing (like all bad news is), this book also tells people what they can do to survive this worldwide depression and how to actually be able to make money during the painful readjustment of the world's economies. While this is a scary book because of what is happening all around us, it is also a hopeful book. The nation will survive after the country stops ignoring the basic laws of economics. The three authors are optimistic (maybe overly so) that the American people will be able to make the adjustments needed to achieve economic survival without having to become survivalists who have to grow their own food and defend their homes from roving mobs with guns. They feel that even dictators will be unable rise from the chaos because Americans will be changing its government officials as soon as it's obvious their policies don't work. There will be frequent changes in elected officials.

The nation will survive because basically the country is wealthy and will still be so after the economic bubbles have all popped and forced everyone and their government to live within their means.

These authors "are not bulls or bears or gold bugs, stock boosters or detractors, currency pushers, or doom-and-gloom crusaders," and "have no particular political ideology to endorse, and no dogmatic future to promote."

The goal of this book is "to tell you more details about the next round of bubbles to fall while there's still time to protect your assets and position yourself to survive and thrive in this dangerous, yet potentially highly profitable new environment...Although much of what we predicted in our first book that hasn't happened yet because most of the impact of the multi-bubble collapse is still to come. This is good news because it means you still have time to get prepared."

It's impossible to do justice to this book's message in a short review. The review copy I worked from is now practically destroyed by so many dog-eared pages and underline and highlighted passages. The three authors share a theory of the economy having being boosted by six economic co-linked bubbles. They are: The real estate bubble, the stock market bubble, the private debt bubble, the discretionary spending bubble, the dollar bubble and the government debt bubble. Four of those bubbles have already burst or are still in the process of collapsing. With the collapse of each bubble it puts more pressure on the remaining bubbles, and the two most important bubbles are in dire danger. The dollar bubble and government debt bubble collapses will change the face of America and the world. America will be bankrupt.

In their first book, "America's Bubble Economy" the authors accurately predicted the economic chaos of 2008 and 2009. This book picks up developments in 2010 and the following years and predicts the next economic bubbles that will pop. In the coming much worst economy, the book shows readers the best ways to protect, their jobs, businesses and assets. It explains how the housing crisis isn't "a sub prime mortgage problem whose contagion spread to other mortgages; it is a `housing price collapse.'" The number of home owners with mortgages that are underwater has risen from 14.3% in Q3 2008 to 33% in Q2 of 2009." Since 70% of the American Economy is based on consumer spending, the bubbles that have already popped or are still in the process of deflating won't be able to re-inflate. When the dollar loses it's value and the government can no longer pay its loans, and therefore won't be able to get any credit. America's golden age will be over.

Inflation, resorted to by the desperate government, will rack the nation bankrupting most businesses. "40 to 60%" unemployment may become the norm. There will be so many people seeking jobs that wages will tank. Everyone will be on Medicaid, not Medicare, and all the unemployed will be on welfare. The rich will have left the USA or be broke and all the government's taxes will come from the working people--the middle class. Since as much income as possible will be hidden, there will be national sales taxes and Value Added Taxes on every product or service. Family members will return home to live together with their extended families in order to control housing expenses.

After I finished this book I went home and made some of the changes suggested by this book. They include such obvious things as selling real estate if a buyer can be found and getting rid of variable rate mortgages if you can't sell the real estate. Variable rate mortgages are absolute poison. Selling off stocks is another suggestion. It doesn't have to be done all at once, it can be done over the next couple of years, but most stocks should be sold because the dollar bubble collapse will destroy stock market values. Collectables and art will be non-liquid and will drastically drop in value (90%) for the long term. Gold, and silver to a lesser extent, will retain its position as a hedge against inflation as well as a protection against the dollar bubble collapse. The authors also list the types of jobs that will be in demand during the coming perilous times. As one might expect some job categories will boom while the unnecessary ones will disappear. For example construction workers may want to start looking for jobs that repair existing structures rather than build new buildings. You'll have to read this book to get the answers to many of the questions that reading this volume will provoke.

The thing this reviewer liked the best about this book was the carefully explained logic of it's predictions. It provides a much better overview of the current economy. The readers will discover lots of new information that they've probably never heard or read before, but that the reader's gut instinct and personal experience will tell him or her is obviously true. While the authors may be wrong on some of their predictions, most of them will probably prove all too accurate. At the end of each chapter the authors list a website where more current information on that chapter's point can be gleaned before the next volume of this continuing series is published. This is a page turner, but it will be slow reading from the standpoint of having to constantly stop and make notes in the margin or pause to see how a particular point directly effects the reader's own situation. Reading this book will make you aware of economics like you've never previously been aware. Depending on your age, you may well recall your parents or grandparents advice that they'd learned during the Great Depression of 1929. The coming bubble bursts are going to be a more society-changing depression than the one 1929, although "few will suffer like they did in the Great Depression." The safety net will allow everyone to survive at a low standard of living. While the book didn't make this comparison, while reading it, I could easily visualize the United States as a colder, slightly wealthier version of Cuba. As I read it I also saw some visions of the movie "Dr. Zhivago" pop into my mind.

A "slightly wealthier version of Cuba"? Dr. Zhivago? UGH! Yet I have to wonder if there aren't some people in the current administration who would like to see exactly that. Their policies sure seem to be aiming for it.

Now for contrast, a one star review:

Interesting initial concept, but does not help investors
The book starts with the premise that there are six major "bubbles" that will combine to create great stress in the economy. OK, I'll buy that, but what I was looking for was helpful investing tactics to get through the bubble bursts ok. Written in mid 2009, the book failed miserably in providing tactical investment advice. For example:

o They suggest shorting the market with inverse ETFs. That strategy would have been a disaster in the year after March 2009 when the stock market soared.

o They write that the Euro community will be much more solid than the US dollar in the near term. Now we see the Euro in collapse with the US dollar doing fine.

Also, I find it extremely annoying that the authors constantly point to their previous book and say "We got those predictions right, so you should look carefully at what we have to say now." Such hubris usually leads to unfulfilled predictions.

Particularly with this constant pointing to their previous clairvoyance, I was really disappointed that there was nothing in this book (other than "buy gold"--surely not a new idea) that I found helpful in my investing tactics. I was disappointed in myself for wasting time reading most of the book.

The dollar may be doing better than the Euro at the moment, but I doubt that it's "doing fine". His comment about gold is no doubt true enough. I've found it a common criticism with these kinds of books, that they all say "buy gold", but don't offer much else in advice.

I'm going to end this with one more 5 star review, but THIS one goes into detail about some things he didn't like about the book:

In its field: Outstanding; Outside: Not so good
Although I don't particularly like the way this book is written and disagree with most of the irrelevant asides offered in support of the analyses: I find this to be the most complete and comprehensive analysis of America's ongoing economic problems that I have thus far encountered. In addition: the reasoned deductions which the authors draw from their analyses are far ranging and logical; and, for the most part, the conclusions which they reach are well justified and difficult to dispute. So, if you are looking for a book that will give you some valuable insight into what is happening to the U.S. economy today, and why; which explains how the ultimate collapse of that economy and the U.S. dollar will take place; and which forecasts what the United States and the world at large will be like following that calamity, then this is certainly a book which you should read.

I won't attempt to outline the book since other reviewers have probably done that already; and besides that might spoil the fun for you, the reader. But I would like to point out some of the seemingly gratuitous "asides" [not pertaining directly to the analyses] with which I disagree.

On page 170, the authors praise Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) for freeing the U.S. from the requirement to back its currency with gold, instead backing in by "the full faith and credit of the United States government." In my view, no praise is warranted, since FDR's actions helped set the U.S. on the path toward to its own economic destruction. Also on page 170, the authors state that in 1973 the United States went off the International Gold Standard [stopped redeeming foreign-held U.S. dollars for gold in accordance with the Bretton Woods Agreement signed in 1944] because that was the only way we could continue to buy foreign goods. In reality, the U.S. was forced to stop redeeming foreign-held dollars for gold because by 1973 we had inflated our currency to such an extent that France and Great Britain began to question the safety of our currency and there was a run on our gold reserves. On page 188, the authors once again praise FDR for crossing over political boundaries to push through his New Deal policies. It is fairly common knowledge nowadays, however, that FDR's policies helped propel what is thought to have been a probable recession into a thirteen year depression ended only by America's entry into World War II.

On page 195, the authors use the example of an independent physicist who, following the Challenger Accident in 1986, performed a simple experiment to show NASA why the accident occurred. In reality, Thiokol engineers pleaded with NASA not to launch STS-51L because the O-rings were colder than 53 degrees Fahrenheit. The decision to launch was made for political reasons not out of ignorance. On page 196, the authors praise the book "Silent Spring." That book, of course, misrepresented the science concerning DDT leading to its being banned and resulting in several million deaths worldwide due to malaria and other diseases. On page 200-201, the authors contend that gold is not a good store of value since its price fluctuates. In reality, the price of gold doesn't fluctuate. The price of various nation's currencies fluctuate relative to gold. To illustrate: The oil cartel members (OPEC) routinely adjust the price of oil, in terms of U.S. dollars, such that their return remains fairly constant in terms of gold. (Are they smarter than us, or what?) And, last but not least, on page 217, the authors praise Barack Obama for trying "to contain the growing blaze" [of uncontrolled government spending]. As we all know: Nothing could be farther from the truth.

But, one last thing: On page 187, the authors theorize that, at some far distant future date, some international assemblage will devise an international monetary system, independent of gold or any other metal, that "will be inflation-free because the system that controls the supply of IMUs [International Monetary Units] will be set up to avoid it." In all of man's history, gold is the only standard which has ever met that requirement! And human nature being what it is: How naïve can you get?

Regardless of all this: I can't help but offer my thanks and praise to the authors of this book for their in-depth assessment of America's troubles, particularly at this unique point in America's and the world's history. One can only hope that their work and this book will help bring more Americans to their senses and encourage them to take whatever steps they can to protect themselves and their families. Bottom line: This is a truly outstanding book in the field of economics, but outside that field, as demonstrated by the above noted "asides," it leaves much to be desired.

The interesting thing about customer reviews on Amazon.com, is that people can also leave comments on the reviews. Here is one comment on this last review:

Excellent review of this book. Glad to see someone else take issue with the authors' obsession with FDR, and their general economic illiteracy (even if their specific predictions concerning the economy are spot on). Also happy to see someone point out the obvious flaws in an international monetary system - after all, the whole point of an international monetary system is to increase the control a privileged elite have over spending power (the same function the Federal Reserve serves today). To assume that international currency would prevent economic depressions is naive indeed.

What I would like to add is that the authors mistakenly attribute the cause of the coming "aftershock" to Reagan's presidency in the 1980's. They attempt to paint the origin of our debt problem in his presidency, when in fact it stretches back to the president they so admire: FDR. Between FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society we are left with the real reasons for decreasing productivity growth: government healthcare, welfare programs and social security. By artificially limiting the number of people who need to work, and how long they need to work, the government has decreased the rate of productivity growth. Culturally other problems are also present (declining birth rates being one of them). So, instead of saying that the problem is merely the deficit, the authors should have focused on how government incentivized laziness through its welfare and social security programs.

Excellent! And the author of the review also gives an excellent reply to this comment. But I can't be printing it all here, so if you find it interesting, check it out. There are lots more reviews and comments.

As for the false premise that Reagan's presidency is the cause of the financial crisis, anyone believing that needs to disabuse themselves of that notion, with some facts:

Busting the Bank Deregulation Myth

If you want to look for root causes of our financial crisis, look to FDR, LBJ, and the “Reinvestment Acts" of three Democrat Presidents.

Some Republicans did their best to stop the damage before it reached critical mass, but they were stopped by Democrats:

Our Democrat-Created Crisis: They blocked a Reform bill co-sponsored by John McCain

The Republican's aren't without blame. We had 8 years of George W. Bush, and his spending like a Democrat, and keeping war debts off the national budget figures. I can make no excuses for it, because it is inexcusable. But two wrongs don't make a right, and now we have a Democrat Administration that seems intent on pushing us over the edge of the cliff, instead of guiding us away from it.

Where Republicans have erred, is in going along with the Democrats financial policies. And unfortunately, the Democrat's understanding of economics tends to be very poor. We are seeing the proof of that now.

But the voters choose the politicians, and the blame ultimately rests there. The electorate needs to make better choices. If these problems can be fixed, the voters may have their last chance to do so this November.


Also see:

Has US Currency already "collapsed"?

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

What happens when Tax Cuts Expire in 2011?

# Our true national debt: $130,000,000,000,000.

Argentina's Example: Are we heading there?

     

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