Welcome to Zombieland

Welcome to Zombieland…where the most amazing things happen…

Starring Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and a cast of millions…

The new movie – Zombieland – about a group of survivors in a world of zombies, was the biggest grossing film in America and Canada over the weekend. It must reflect the zeitgeist of the North American public…a deep feeling that we are living in a decaying world.

Maybe it comes from the growing awareness that the old bubble economy of the 2002-2007 period is dead. Now, survivors must defend themselves from the zombies.

Survivors are being attacked in the streets, in their homes, and at their workplaces. Zombie banks – kept alive by artificial stimulants provided by the feds – take their money and their houses. Living-dead companies block new competitors. And the zombies at the Fed and the Treasury department try to gnaw on their savings, encouraging inflation to eat away the purchasing power of the dollar.

As to this last point, the feds have gotten nowhere. They wear down their teeth for nothing. Prices are going down, not up. Houses are 30% cheaper than they were in 2006. Hotel rooms are 20% cheaper than last year. You want a luxury room? Just ask for an upgrade. Chances are good that no one is renting the luxury suites. Just make them an offer. Discounts are available almost everywhere. The Sony Playstation, for example, is now available – 25% off.

Stocks are cheaper too. They’ve been going up for the last seven months, but they’re still about a third less than they were in 2007.

Stocks fell again on Friday. Investors began to fret that maybe…just maybe…the authorities don’t have this zombie problem under control.

“Jobs news gets worse,”The New York Times tells us.

Since the stock market began going back up in March, the United States has lost 2.5 million jobs. It has lost jobs every month since December 2007. Now, unemployment – officially at one in ten workers – is the worst it has been in 26 years.

What kind of recovery is this? We don’t know, but if it continues much longer we’ll all be unemployed.

But not to worry, dear reader. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner says the signs of recovery are “stronger” than expected.

We wonder what signs he’s looking at. Of course, this is the same doctor who was on the scene at the New York Fed when strange things began happening. The financial industry started acting funny in the bubble years…spending money like there was no tomorrow. And then, wouldn’t you know it, there wasn’t any tomorrow. They dropped dead in the crash of ’07-’08. But with huge injections from the Fed, they’ve turned into Zombies.

Of course, Tim Geithner missed the whole thing. So maybe he’s not the best source of recovery sightings.

A survey by Business Roundtable tells us that the ranks of the unemployed are likely to swell. Only 13% of employers have plans to hire more workers. The rest are either sitting tight…or turning workers loose.

Naturally, of all those people cut off from paychecks, more than a few are looking a little peaked. Their eyes sink back in their heads. Their skin turns grey. Soon, they’re starving for raw meat.

“Personal bankruptcies soar,” says The Wall Street Journal.

And not surprisingly, when they become desperate, they tend to default on their mortgages. We know already that auto sales drove off a cliff when the summertime ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program came to an end. Now, summer’s over. Housing sales should decline too – forcing more homeowners into default and foreclosure.

The zombies are having a depressing effect everywhere. The stock market went down again on Friday…the Dow fell 21 points. The oil market didn’t do much better, with the price of the black good still below $70.

As for gold, the yellow metal continues to hold above $1,000. It fell below $1,0 00 for just a couple days. On Friday, it was back to $1,004.

The $1,000 level used to be a ceiling for the gold price. Now it seems like a floor. Are the Chinese buying below $1,000? Maybe. Do we have a Beijing put option available to us? That is, has the risk been taken out of the gold market by China’s desire to stock its vault with something other than dollars? It is an intriguing thought. We don’t know the answer.

We are holding onto our gold. It’s insurance – protection against the feds. If they do something really stupid, the price of gold will soar. If they don’t do anything really stupid, well, we’ll be surprised. After all, they’ve already turned America into Zombieland.

On our last visit to the French countryside, in Normandy, we noticed a big pile of hay beside the road, with a sign on it: “Free Milk”

Another pile of hay had another message: “Farmers On Strike.”

The story behind these signs has a depression-era, black and white, look to it. Newsreels from the Great Depression show US farmers dumping milk rather than sell it at deflated prices. Now, French farmers do the same. Prices have fallen so low that many refuse to sell it at all.

But they can’t stop milking the cows. So what do they do with the milk? They give it away. Or, in a few instances, they throw it at the government’s farm agency offices.

Meanwhile, a story in The New York Times explains one of the reasons why milk has become so cheap. New technology makes it easier and cheaper to produce good milk cows.

Technology and globalization are inherently deflationary. The former increases productivity, thus lowering the cost of output. The latter lowers prices by directing business to the world’s lowest-cost producers.

Deflation is the natural order of things. Inflation is always an artifice caused by government. Central banks ‘target’ a certain level of inflation because they think – or say they think – that a bit of inflation helps create full employment. And it does, sometimes. But it does it by treachery. Inflation hoodwinks the working class. It reduces their real wages, making them cheaper to employ. Then, the proles wise up. They realize that prices are rising. They demand more wage increases. That is when inflation begins to get out of control and presidents get out the ‘Whip Inflation Now’ buttons.

Every time government offers to solve a problem, it inevitably makes the problem worse – except, occasionally, in rare episodes when a government-organized national defense pays off.

Two interesting news items in the British press, one inspiring…one pathetic.

The first concerns how to fight terrorism…and win! Terrorists use the local population in Northwest Pakistan like the New Jersey militia used the local population of Pennsylvania when it was putting down the Whisky Rebellion. That is, they barge into houses and demand food and lodging.

One brave man said ‘no.’

The terrorists were giving him a good thrashing when his daughter took the initiative. She hit one with an axe, took is AK47, and shot him dead. The other two fled.

Once again, we see how private initiative – at negligible cost – can succeed where trillion-dollar government boondoggles fail. Why make a federal case out of it? Got a problem with a terrorist? Whack him!

The other story was front-page fodder for the Telegraph last week. It illustrated the real problem with suicidal people – they think only of themselves.

A young woman was depressed because she couldn’t have children. She decided to kill herself. She drank poison…and then called the ambulance. At the hospital, she was still conscious and told doctors that under UK legislation she had a “right to die.” The doctors were forbidden from treating her. She died.

Naturally, her parents were upset. Hadn’t the doctors taken an oath? Weren’t they morally bound to intervene, no matter what the law said? She made them all complicit in a homicide. A more considerate person would have stayed home.

Until tomorrow,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning