The Natural Course of the US Empire

Nothing much from the markets yesterday. The Dow fell 72 points. Gold went down $5.

Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement goes on in America. And 70,000 Greeks “clash with police,” say the news headlines.

People are upset. They know something is wrong. But they don’t know what. The real explanation is too complicated. They won’t sit still for it. So, they look for scapegoats — the rich…the banks…the Chinese.

There’s a joke making its way around the Internet. Goldman Sachs has decided to try to profit from the OWS protests. They’ve set up a “Rage Fund” that will invest in companies that make police batons, pepper spray, bandages, and glass windows.

It’s a joke. But it may turn out to be a good investment strategy.

We’ve made a number of big predictions here in The Daily Reckoning. Some of what we’ve foreseen has actually come to pass — the crash of the tech bubble…the collapse of the housing market…the Great Correction. Some of what we’ve forecast has not yet happened. Some never will.

But here is our most audacious forecast yet: the US is headed for ruin and revolution. The revolution will almost certainly be put down, violently. But the ruin cannot be stopped.

Yes, dear reader, the empire is following its natural course…with the zombies in control and the debt slaves whispering treason. It can’t afford enough bread to keep the popolo minuto (the little people) happy. It will be forced to get tough on them. It is only a matter of time before the secret police round up the ringleaders and disappear them. Heck, the Obama government has already decided that it has the power to kill citizens without any due process of law. What’s to stop it from killing lots of them?

A friend of ours in Argentina explains:

“Everybody is very critical of the generals in Argentina for putting down the radicals in the ’80s. But they had to do it. These guys were kidnapping people. Robbing banks. Murdering people. I was still at school then. I remember that the father of a friend of mine was kidnapped and killed. The police came to school and took the kid away to protect him. They had to do something. The country was sinking into chaos.”

The US will have to do something too. At least, that’s the way most people will see it. It will be “at war” with its malcontents. When you declare a state of war — as demonstrated by the Bush and Obama regimes — you can get away with anything.

The US will continue its program of circuses overseas too. It would make much more sense to bring the troops home and shore up the nation’s finances. But empires don’t back up. And they always manage to find some jackass to lead them where they need to go — to their own destruction. (More below…)

Today, the revolution is a simmering cauldron of greasy misunderstandings and unappetizing conceits. But the fire beneath it is real. It is the heat given off by a system that no longer works.

The New York Times reports that whole cities are now underwater. Millions of Americans are drowning:

The United States has a confidence problem: a nation long defined by irrational exuberance has turned gloomy about tomorrow. Consumers are holding back, businesses are suffering and the economy is barely growing.

There are good reasons for gloom — incomes have declined, many people cannot find jobs, few trust the government to make things better — but as Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, noted earlier this year, those problems are not sufficient to explain the depth of the funk.

That has led a growing number of economists to argue that the collapse of housing prices, a defining feature of this downturn, is also a critical and underappreciated impediment to recovery. Americans have lost a vast amount of wealth, and they have lost faith in housing as an investment. They lack money, and they lack the confidence that they will have more money tomorrow.

…The latest data from the survey, released Friday by Thomson Reuters, shows that expectations for economic growth have fallen to the lowest level since May 1980.

In Orlando, a city that trades in upbeat fantasies, the housing crash has been particularly painful. The total value of area homes has fallen below the total mortgage debt on those homes, according to the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic. In the parlance of the real estate world, Orlando is underwater, a distinction matched by Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, the Zombie Metropolis, is doing fine. Here, we turn to Bloomberg:

Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest US metropolitan area, government data show.

The US capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.

The figures demonstrate how the nation’s political and financial classes are prospering as the economy struggles with unemployment above 9 percent and thousands of Americans protest in the streets against income disparity, said Kevin Zeese, director of Prosperity Agenda, a Baltimore-based advocacy group trying to narrow the divide between rich and poor.

“There’s a gap that’s isolating Washington from the reality of the rest of the country,” Zeese said. “They just get more and more out of touch.”

Total compensation for federal workers, including health care and other benefits, last year averaged $126,369, compared with $122,697 in 2009, according to Bloomberg News calculations of Commerce Department data. There were 170,467 federal employees in the District of Columbia as of June. The Washington area includes the District of Columbia, parts of Northern Virginia, eastern Maryland and eastern West Virginia.

In recent years Washington has attracted more lobbyists and firms with an interest in the health-care overhaul and financial regulations signed into law by President Barack Obama, according to local business leaders.

“Wall Street has moved to K Street,” said Barbara Lang, president and chief executive officer of the DC Chamber of Commerce, referring to the Washington street that’s home to prominent lobbying firms. “Those two industries clearly have grown in our city.”

Last year Washington also had the most lawyers per capita in the US compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents, according to figures from the American Bar Association and the Census Bureau. In New York State the figure was one out of every 123 residents, while in California the ratio was one in 243.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning