Bill Bonner

Nothing special in yesterday’s financial news. So let’s turn from farce to fraud…that is, to politics.

President Obama has to defend his policies, pretending that they have brought a real recovery. One of the pillars of his case, say the papers, is that unemployment has gone down.

The trouble with this as a re-election strategy is that the people who need to vote for Obama are the people who know it isn’t true.

Washington Blog reports:

  • There are 243 million working age Americans.
  • There are 142 million employed Americans.
  • Only 101 million of the employed Americans are working more than 35 hours per week. This means that only 41.6% of all working age Americans have a full-time job.
  • According to the government drones at the BLS, 88 million Americans have “chosen” to not be in the labor force — the highest level in US history.
  • The percentage of Americans in the workforce at 63.8% is the lowest since 1980 and down from a peak of 67.1% in 2000. The difference between these two percentages is 8 million Americans.
  • The BLS reports there are only 12.7 million unemployed Americans in the country, down from 15.3 million in 2009.
  • The BLS reports the unemployment rate has dropped from 10% in late 2009 to 8.3% today. Over this time frame the working age population grew by 5.7 million, while the number of employed Americans grew by 3.6 million. Only a government drone could interpret this data and report a dramatic decline in the unemployment rate.

Since 2000, the working age population of the US has grown by 30 million. But the actual number of people with jobs has grown only by 12 million.

And if they reported the unemployment rate today the same way they did during the Great Depression, unemployment would be at 22% — only slightly below the level of the ’30s.

So, what happens to all the people who don’t find work? They go on disability!

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Social Security’s disability trust fund will run out of money in four years — in 2016. It will be amazing if it lasts that long. Because the disability rolls are growing twice as fast as the employment rolls.

Yes, dear reader, since the recession ended, officially, in June ’09, for every new person who has found a job, two supposedly have been disabled. At least, they’ve been added to the list of people receiving SSID benefits.

Could you get on disability, dear reader? Maybe. We went to the website to see if we could qualify. You just have to show that you have a condition that will prevent you from working for at least a year. And you must show that you’ve been employed in the past. If you’re 60 years old, for example, you need to show 9-1/2 years of previous employment.

During the Nixon administration, approximately 2% of the labor force was disabled. Now, it’s over 6%.

Disability, not employment, is Obama’s real achievement. Since June 2009, he’s added 4.7 million people who are judged too crippled, too stupid, too fat, or just too lazy and depressed to find work.

Of course, you can’t blame them. The feds set up a zombie economy. It protects and rewards zombie industries — healthcare that doesn’t really make people healthier, education that doesn’t make them any smarter, defense that doesn’t make them any more secure and finance that takes the feds’ money and pockets it.

It turns both rich and poor into parasites.

Europe is turning against its elite austerity pushers. Sarkozy lost the first round to the socialist candidate. The Dutch government of Mark Rutte handed in its resignation to Queen Beatrix. The “technocrats” in Italy and Greece wonder how long they can hold on.

America, meanwhile, is settling down to a presidential election. On the one hand is a candidate who seems to have no firm convictions and no real ideas about how to move the country out of its post-crisis funk. On the other hand, is…well…the same thing.

As usual, the candidates are disappointing. But politics is a tawdry profession that invites hustlers and hollow men. No matter what kind of system you think you have, it is always the same. It is always dominated by the same fellow — grasping, status-hungry, ambitious… He is a world improver…a bully…a scold…a power-broker… He is a fixer…and a user. He uses the power of the government — that is, the power to force people to do what you want, at the point of a gun if necessary — to fix himself, his friends, and, he often believes, the entire world. At best, the politician is a conniving opportunist. At worst, he’s a madman or a mass-murderer.

In a democracy, the candidate himself is often just an empty shell…ready to be filled up by a clever scalawag or rich donor.

In a monarchy, sometimes the king is real power…often it is a dark figure peering out from behind the dolt in the purple robes.

Even in a dictatorship, the real ruler may not be the dictator himself; it could be a group of powerful men.

The more power at stake…the harder the man-on-the-make works to get it. In extreme cases, he will stop at nothing…neither at assassination nor theft nor fraud.

Yes, occasionally a decent man gets into office, usually by accident. Rarely does he last long. And when he is gone, the historians tell us was a failure he was. “He didn’t do anything,” they say.

Of course, every society has its limits…its norms…its traditions. A man whose ambition is too naked or whose methods seem too ruthless won’t get what he is after; people won’t stand for it.

But, under pressure, the limits stretch. People welcome his clumsy lies. They ignore his crimes and excuse his ham-handed techniques. Later, they get fed up with him…but often not for many, many years.

On the whole, people are not very smart. They’ll believe almost anything. Washington Blog warns:

The next six months leading up to the November elections will surely provide a shining example of the degraded society we’ve become. Both parties and their propaganda machines, SuperPacs, and corporate media sponsors will treat the igadget distracted masses to hundreds of hours of lies, spin, and vitriol, designed to divert the public from the fact that both parties act on behalf of the same masters and have no intention of changing course of the U.S. Titanic to avert the iceberg dead ahead. We will be treated to storylines about race, gun control, the war on women, energy independence, global warming, the war on terror, the imminent threat of Iran and North Korea, Obamacare, Romneycare, and of course the economy, stupid.

The New York Times reports that shoppers in oil-rich Venezuela wait in long lines to buy common foodstuffs; it doesn’t seem to occur to them that their inconvenience is a by-product of Hugo Chavez’s price controls. Instead, they blame greedy businesses…and wait.

In America, more than a decade after 9/11, they wait in long lines as crippled 90-year-olds get felt up by TSA agents. “You can’t be too safe,” they say, as if their lives were put at risk by Lutheran grandmothers.

In Spain, Greece, Ireland…and practically all modern countries…they wait for government to figure out how to give them retirement incomes, healthcare, and full employment.

Of course, the politicians can’t solve economic problems for a very simple reason: they are the cause of them.

Who set up the euro? Who set interest rates and lending standards? Who caused the bubbles by lending too low for too long? Who then ‘fixed’ the crisis — by lending more, at even lower rates, to the very institutions who had just proven such bad custodians?

Who spends more than he makes…year in and year out? Who promises even more spending — even as he is facing bankruptcy? Who counterfeits money — printing trillions of dollars with nothing more behind them than the “good faith” and “full credit” of an insolvent government? Who starts ‘wars’ that cost trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives…and then, standing over the wreckage, announces victory…and slithers away?

That’s right. The feds…the fixers…the world-improvers…do all these things. But how could it be any different?

A decent man is too busy — improving his business, his home, his family — to take much interest in politics. Besides, he knows it is a flim-flam. He’s seen how hard it is to make any real improvement at home, even when you are close to the facts and on the job full time. Imagine trying to improve things far away, where you don’t really know what is going on!

An honest man knows better than to interfere in other peoples’ business. His own business is tough enough. He cares deeply about the things around him…and tries to make his world better in every way he can. But he would be embarrassed to pretend to solve other peoples’ problems. Even if he is only offering advice, he does so reluctantly…carefully…and tentatively.

If he is smart he knows that you can’t really make things better by bullying and threatening people. An economy works best by doing the one thing that the fixers can’t allow — letting people make their own deals, find their own jobs, and solve their own problems.

It’s the one thing the fixers can’t do, and the one thing every candidate regards as political suicide — just getting out of the way. Instead, the successful politician needs a plan, a program, a tax credit, a spending proposal. He needs to be in charge. He needs to be an activist, promising to reward enough voters to get elected. He can’t have no answer. He can’t have no interest. He can’t have a trace of modesty or a realistic assessment of the situation or his ability to understand it, let alone do anything about it. Instead, he must pretend to care about the sick, the lame, the blind, the fat, the shiftless, the one-armed, tongue-tied, sex-addled wonton-turning immigrant from Taiwan…and have a program, right in his back pocket, that will make that poor man’s life better.

The last thing he can be…is the very thing you most want in a politician…

…someone who doesn’t really give a damn.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily ReckoningDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

  • longnine009

    Your finest hour!

  • scott

    Wow! I think you could play chicken with a tank.

  • Sid

    I think John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged at last has a summary that is (thankfully) not 100 pages long.

  • Boris

    Reelect no one.

  • Le Petomane

    Great writing Bill, although its hope is hypothetical of course, there will always be a government.
    One thing is obvious. A government must represent its people, not its corporations or its employees.
    I believe your supreme court perverted this recently by finding a company is a person.
    There seems to be no institution in America that the powerful can’t corrupt or haven’t corrupted.

  • ken

    Pretty well sums it up. Thanks Bill. I’m sure everyone knows they ‘threw’ the election in the beginning by not giving Ron Paul his “wins” until after they figure he’s done for. And they seem pretty proud about doing it… sad…

  • Justin


  • fritz

    yeah, yeah, yeah go to zero taxes, zero regulation, let the ceo’s aim solely for profit and all will be well from the rising tide of prosperity; the shareholder, the worker, the consumer, the planet.
    now let’s all go to the mother jones site and watch their authors preach to their choir.

  • Sartorius

    What happened in 1980 that the country went so far off track ??

    Oh, yeah. Ronald Raygun.

  • mj007

    I think this is your best article yet Bill. Well said!

  • Miriam

    One of the best Bonner pieces for sure.

  • Sue

    Having just dealt with applying for SS Disability, it’s not quite as easy as you portray. Many trips to the doctor for examinations, rejection of claim followed by intervention by a lawyer, a year or so of waiting for a ruling are all part of the game..and my case was ruled on fairly quickly, I’m told. Not sure that I’m stupid, lazy, crippled or fat. Still, a 300% increase in 40 years is saying something about the state of our collective health, I guess.

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