Samasiam's Blog

Musings from a guy who's problem is he sees too much…


LA'ish, California,
June 01
"All change has to start with someone, somewhere, doing something differently and others observing the results and choosing to follow suit. What influence anything may ultimately have, is not predictable, but what is predictable, is that acting on the intention to do so, will always be a cause which initiates every change that will ever occur, no matter how large and immutable the existing paradigm and the attitudes which support it may appear to be. Everything is a choice."


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NOVEMBER 16, 2011 6:09PM

Numbers Don't Lie, They Just Confuse The Hell Out of People

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Moments ago the national debt passed fifteen trillion dollars.  Here, count the zeros: $ 15,000,000,000,000.  That's about forty eight thousand dollars ($ 48,000.00) for each individual currently alive in the United States. 

I won't delve into the morass of how much it represents per individual who actually pays income taxes as various factors make that a dicey question, but for the sake of the discussion, about one hundred and thirty three thousand dollars ($ 133,000.00) is being bandied about.

Just to help the poor capacity of the human mind to truly understand how much money that is...

It's enough money to build the entire interstate highway system, the most expensive public works project in history, from scratch, in 2011 dollars...

 Thirty Three times over.

It's enough money to pay the cost for all the gasoline used in the United States (at a price of $ 3.85 a gallon) for the next...

Twenty eight years, eighty seven days.

It's enough money to have rebuilt the old World Trade Towers original design from scratch...

Sixty eight hundred and eighteen times.

It's enough money to have built, for each of the estimated two thousand, two hundred and twenty nine passengers on the Titanic...

Seventeen Titanics each (37,500 Titanics).

It's enough money so that it's a fantasy that it can be paid back quid pro quo.  Or that it can be paid back without the manipulation of the money supply and just about everything you thought had a particular cost and value, not being altered in very uncomfortable ways.

Why, it's enough to make one think that somebody invoked an old Chinese curse against the population of the US: "May you live in interesting times".

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The big challenge for me in something like this is limiting the examples, which when one can understand them, boggle the mind anyway, just in a way we can relate to (a bit). Here's one for the road, so to speak: If one were to circle the equator with tight stacks of this many single dollar bills, laid on their edge and placed side to side, they could build a highway almost 21 feet wide. Happy motoring!
Now THAT boggled my boggler.....!

Got so boggled I forgot........;-)
Actually, now that I think about it sky, the issue at hand isn't so much the boggling everyone experiences trying to comprehend the size of the problem. It's the buggering they are going to experience due to the consequences...
Buggery is about to become a whole new art....
Now factor in private debt -- I've seen estimates on the order of 64 trillion. As I've said many times, the economy won't truly recover until somebody takes a multi-trillion dollar bath on debts incurred by betting multiple times on the value of an asset -- which has nothing to do with debt incurred on the asset itself.

What this illustrates, to me at least, is the old adage about a tool being just a tool, whether it's used for good or evil depends on whose using it. Thus the computer and the internet, the same tools that provides us all but infinite access to information -- and the ability to communicate instantaneously -- are the same tools that make it possible for banksters and freemarketeers to manipulate markets and money to the detriment of all us -- including, eventually, themselves.
Yes Tom, that has been the question for humanity all along, "what is your intent?". As I said in my prior blog, "Mama, Why Does That Man etc."... "Will that stick in the hand of the ape-like being before us, become a weapon, or a tool of mutual benefit?"

You refer to "debts incurred by betting multiple times on the value of an asset" as being something "which has nothing to do with debt incurred on the asset itself." I'll put forth my take, which is that as soon as people are able to divest themselves of the risk involved in the capitalization of something based on a perception of it's future intrinsic value, through the establishment of a market who's mechanisms are primarily concerned with speculating on the future speculations of others, not any reasonable intrinsic risk or value of the actual performance of the product, or benefit to society invested in, the door is wide open to an ever flimsier basis for assigning ANY value to the instruments being speculated on.

“Capitalism” which allows for speculation on instruments, rather than valuation based on actual market performance of a service or product, isn't investment any more than gambling is. And that's what we've allowed our entire capital market systems to be predicated on, because it can allow those who can generate the hype and have vast resources to control the odds in the casino. It also encourages the most irrational exuberant behavior on the part of their marks and the construction of increasingly removed from any real connection to productivity “financial instruments” to bury the bodies in.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, made this most eloquent statement at the time of the Lehman event.(Spectator, Sept 27, 2008):

“Trading the debts of others without accountability has been the motor of astronomical financial gain for many in recent years. Primitively, a loan transaction is something which enables someone to do what they might not otherwise be able to do — start a business, buy a house. Lenders identify what would count as reasonable security in the present and the future (present assets, future income) and decide accordingly.”

“But inevitably in complex and large-scale transactions, one person's debt becomes part of the security which the lender can offer to another potential customer. And a particularly significant line is crossed when the borrowing and lending are no longer to do with any kind of equipping someone to do something specific, but exclusively about enabling profit — sometimes, as with the now banned practice of short-selling, by effectively betting on the failure of a partner in the transaction.”

“This crisis exposes the element of basic unreality in the situation — the truth that almost unimaginable wealth has been generated by equally unimaginable levels of fiction, paper transactions with no concrete outcome beyond profit for traders.”
If it's not clear that any economy based on a Ponzi scheme like this is going to collapse, or that creditors can never be repaid, it will be soon enough. The world is now so interconnected that there's no place left to hide and increasingly fewer people and markets to exploit in this fashion. Unless the Aliens show up soon and they're the ones who we take with $ 24 worth of trinkets, it's pretty obvious that this "not perfect but better than anything else" system is just not better enough and will have to evolve.
Actually...... I did the math. It's obvious that you didn't. The number $48,ooo.oo per living American is wrong........ Do The Math!!
Well Sky... $ 15,000,000,000,000 (12 zeros to the trillion...) / 312,781,195 (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the resident population of the United States, projected to 01/01/12 at 05:24 UTC (EST+5) is
312,781,195) = 47956.84727785505. Now that looks awfully close to $ 48,000 to me, Sky, but if you needed more accuracy, there she blows.
I had the pop at 362 million not 312 million. I stand corrected.