Just In Case You Think Bubble Finance Is Working: 25 Charts That Say, No Way!

I recently wrote an piece on the comprehensive breakdown of America.  In it I laid out, from an analytical perspective, the things that are leading America to an economic collapse.  But it might be interesting to take a look at a broader view of American life today.  Policy and economic discussions are useful but in them we can lose the tangibility of what it all comes back to, which is the well being of Americans.  Whether or not the national budget is 190% of GDP and whether interest rates will rise or not are important issues but only so far as they will impact the quality of life of the people.  And so let’s have a look at the lives of the American people.  Have the policies over the past 15 to 50 years led to substantial improvements in the day to day real lives of Americans?  Let’s have a look.  And while we’ve seen a couple of these more economic charts think about them in context of the other charts or other sides of life.

real income by quintile

Median Net Worth short

Median Net Worth 10 to 13 short

The above charts inform us that the bottom 80% of income households are making less than they did in the early 1980′s, and remember the number of two income households today is far greater than it was in 1980 making this a staggering reality.  However the top 20% and especially the top 1% have seen incredible income gains since the early 1980′s.  Total net worth for the bottom 80% of Americans has also been crushed.  Since 2001 median net worth for the bottom 80% is down some 30% and this is during a period where stocks have reached all time highs.  How could this be you ask??  Well this is not happenstance or simple unexplainable market forces.  Those things do not exist in today’s world.  These results are by design.

I get frustrated hearing, even from the most intelligent of people that the Fed is doing its best and that given enough time this will work out for everyone.  And that everyone is better off today than they used to be because this is America and that’s just the way America works.  But when we let the empirical data drive our perspective rather than our blind loyalty we see a very different story.  The data tells a story of a political class that has been implementing programs and policies that are making the working class sick.  We are given all sorts of medicines in the form of social programs and infinite debt to mask the symptoms but when we look at the actual medical test results we are not getting any better.  In fact, our condition continues to worsen.  Yet so many of us continue to listen to our political and economic shaman’s.  We have such faith.  And it is that faith that people like Ayn Rand recognized would be the death of America.  So let’s continue on our journey through the life of the working class American today.

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What’s interesting here is to note that the significant increase in incarceration rates of black men began just as LB Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ program went into effect in the late 1960′s.  Do you think there is relationship between taking an entire demographic’s sense of purpose and ambition away by handing them money each month and the degradation of that demographic?  This is not conjecture, look at the chart.  Black men, specifically inner city black mean where high school drop out rates are the highest, have been decimated since the mid 1960′s.

Our leaders have failed to acknowledge let alone implement policies to improve this situation.  One needs to ask why?  When a large portion of society is so obviously spiraling out of control, why is it that our policymakers have been either absent on the issue or incapable of developing policies to improve the situation?  Behaviour is logical.  If it appears illogical one of your premises is invalid or unsound.  What I mean by that is if policymakers fail to change a policy that is leading to what we assume is an unwanted result then we must consider if it is truly unwanted.  Politicians are very quick to change things that don’t benefit them.  And so if a policy is not changing it is likely because it is seen as serving their own interests in some way.

And let’s not miss the fact that it isn’t just blacks that are being incarcerated at much higher rates.  It seems the trend is higher incarceration rates for all.  That seems to conflict with the idea of a vastly improving quality of life in the land of the free.  In fact, have a look at the following figures.

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Considering China’s population is 5x that of the US, our prison population relative to other countries is pure insanity.  How can this be??  Either our society is failing to appropriately raise it’s children or our incarceration policies are completely out of line with the world.  Interesting that the private prison industry spent $45 million on lobbying efforts last year while the Correction Corp of America (CCA), which is the correction officers union, spent an additional $14 million.  Remember they lobby for legislation that keeps vacancy rates low.  One has to wonder, do our policymakers actually intentionally skew laws to ensure higher numbers of society lose their freedom?  Why why else would $60 million be spent on lobbying??  But let’s carry on with our journey through the life of the American working class.

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With all of the technological breakthroughs and improvements in nutrition how is it that obesity and cancer have gone to full blown epidemic status in this country?  Somebody understands this problem.  Someone has the answer.

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I believe most would agree the ideal environment for a child is in a well functioning two parent home.  Not to say good kids cannot come from single parent households, they can, however, the ideal is a healthy two parent household.  As such, the above trends are disturbing.  How could such ugly longterm trends be taking place in an improving society if we know the ideal is the opposite?  This means we are moving, at an accelerating rate, away from the ideal.  This does not appear to be a relatively new phenomenon either.  Yet it continues to worsen a quickening pace.

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With the rise in GDP and total earnings over the past 50 years why is that poverty is as high as it’s been since the mid 1960′s?  In terms of number of poor, we are actually setting records every year.

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real income to financial investment wealth

Why is it that while the wealthy have gotten so filthy rich the working class has been devastated as the above charts highlight?  Should we not look to make a change in our policies? Clearly the policymakers are idiots or assholes for if both were untrue the policies would change.  So while they could be both, they cannot be neither.  One cannot argue against that proposition whilst looking at the above charts.  Yet we the people still refuse to force our political class to answer for these realities!!  The above charts lead to the following penury….

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Financial stress is a killer.  Just google “effects of financial stress” and see what you find.  It’s ugly and as the above charts so clearly depict, financial stress is rampant in our country.  That said, if you believe the folks on television, and if you’re an American you probably do, then be happy because they have assured us everything is fine and they have the US stock markets at all time highs to prove it.  These TV talking heads will even tout piss poor economic indicators as good.  But it’s like touting stage 3 cancer because it’s better than stage 4 cancer.  Yet if we hear it enough times in combination with a completely manipulated but all time high stock market we begin to believe the lies.

But what about our future?  Perhaps we’re just setting up for a big acceleration of good times ahead.  Does it look like our coming generations are going to hit it out of the park?

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Well the costs for educating our children has doubled but our kids are not any smarter.  When compared to the rest of the world we have fallen way behind.

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In fact, we just fell below Iran.  I’d love to hear the spin on that one.

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Well this is not looking great for our future generations….  What about that nation’s fiscal state though I’m sure we’re wiser to the woes of overspending right??


That does not seem to depict sound financial management.  In fact, that looks ridiculously irresponsible.  How is it that we can forecast spending more than we take in, forever?  Ah yes the magical money machine and the wonderful world of debt monetization.  At least it’s a plan eh?  Thing is, if your budgets simply forecast an ever increasing deficit meaning the plan is simply to print money going forward then, 1. why have a budget? 2. why are any of us paying taxes? 3. why are any of us working?.

You see if we can print infinite amounts of money with no expected consequence then just print a little extra and we can all spend our days at the mall.  Think about how much bigger the economy would be if we had all day to go shopping, not just on weekends.  I think we’re on to something.

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Leading cause of bankruptcies in America is healthcare you say, eh?  Can’t see why that would be.

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$1.5 trillion in student loans outstanding.  Well 60% of those are currently in arrears so very likely won’t be paid back.  That said, students’ losses are gains for someone.  So maybe we needn’t worry about this one.

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Ah yes, war.  War is one thing we do very well here in America.  Well we start wars very well.  But we seem to have a very difficult time ending wars.  Perhaps because we fight concepts.  We have wars on drugs, terrorism, obesity, etc.  And well wars on bad things just sound so good during election campaigns.   The obvious downside being fighting something that is not an animate enemy means it cannot be defeated, making it incredibly tough to end such a war.  This then results in endless amounts of money being put toward the war effort.  I wonder if these policymakers understand that such things require very large budgets that end up going to just a few companies that tend to donate very generously to both parties.  Oh and then there’s the ubiquitous fear mongering to sustain public support not that public support is required to fight wars anymore but it sure is useful in superseding the Constitution with legislation like the Patriot Act.

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I feel this kind of represents how happy and well adjusted our children are today.  Very cheery chart that one is particularly wouldn’t you say?  Incident rates having doubled since the 1980′s.

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Here’s our well adjusted healthy households.  Again this is likely a factor of day to day difficulties overwhelming any sense of peace in the home.

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The above 3 charts show just how much input the will of the American people has on American policy.  Our legislators and policymakers have absolutely no regard for the will of the people.  We are 100% irrelevant in terms of legislating.  They use our money and our young veterans to throw their weight around the world to serve their own interests while, it is becoming apparent, not serving the interests of the American people.

And so with all of this great progression and improvement in the day to day lives of the American people surely we see a trend toward embracing life, looking forward to each new day and all of the joy it will bring, no?

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The charts above are intended to ascertain whether or not things are improving in America these days.  From finances to health to education to family, the above charts attempt to present a picture of an improving nation.  A nation that is continually striving to improve the lives of its citizens.  What we find is a nation decaying with each new year.  A nation surviving on debt and government handouts with costs of imperative services rising faster each year while incomes continue to decline each year.  Health of our bodies and our families is fading while the number of wars we start accelerates.  And so it would seem that life is not improving in America.  Quite the opposite when one looks at a broad overview of American life.

But perhaps the charts are missing some intangible variable that gets lost in empirical data.  So perhaps Americans will provide us a different conclusion.  Perhaps Americans would tell us that despite all that we’ve shown above their lives actually have been getting better over the years.  I think it’s worth a shot and really it’s our last hope of making an argument that America is not sliding down the slope of its denouement but still a country on the rise.  Let’s have a look at what Americans are saying about the direction of the nation.

US satisfaction

What we find is exactly what one would expect having looked through the many charts above.  Not sure it could be any clearer than all of that above.  While the political class continue to serenade us with songs of rainbows and butterflies the real world is kicking Americans square in the ass.   Despite all of this evidence to suggest a deteriorating nation the prominent message from the political class and their media muppets is that things are great.  We’re always just a few months from Utopia but beware because, at the same time, there are evildoers out to kill us.  Our policymakers are both liars and criminals.  That’s just a fact.  They perpetually lie to us (all of us could provide and endless list of lies just over the past 10 years) and they breach the constitution every day while attempting to sell us that they have the authority to do so when we know nothing trumps the Constitution.  Yet we refuse to challenge them.

And so we must ask ourselves why.  Why is it that despite knowing our politicians lie to us as the norm and break the law as part of their daily legislating that we the people do nothing about it?  One theory I have is that people honestly do not know what to do.  In fact, I hear this a lot.  I am often asked what we can actually do to materially change the way politicians behave?   And regrettably I do not have a good answer.   But I am certain that doing nothing will result in even more grotesque behavior by this political class.

Now when the constitution was followed the majority of legislative power was at the state level and because of that people had the power of propinquity.  That is when you can get in the face of your representative you can hold him accountable.  Also, citizens used to get very involved in the primary elections because it is where most of the individual’s voting power rests.  It is in the primary round that citizens can affect the end result by affecting who makes it to the final running.   Further when media was not just a tool of government as it is today given the mass amount of campaign money that ends up on the income statement of major mainstream media, public could drive the media message rather than the media message driving the people.  You see these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the system has been slowly redesigned so as to avoid an impact by the will of the people.

The political class do not want our involvement.  There is a tremendous amount of power and money on the line.  Far too much to leave it to the will of the American people as too often our will conflicts with the objectives of our ‘representatives’ and their benefactors.  And so it is very true that it is much more difficult to affect change to the system today because it has been redesigned as such.  I don’t have a good solution but perhaps if enough people begin acknowledging the problem then American ingenuity and innovation will rise to the occasion and an equally powerful concentrating force for the will of the people will be created.  Then the American people can impose its will onto our policies that will then once again benefit we, the people rather than we, the slaves.

I say that in the technical sense, for the working class is being used to generate profits and to act as soldiers for the ruling class.  If we refuse to pay our hard earned profits we go to prison.  The vast majority of our armed forces come from very deprived socio-economic communities with essentially no other option but to sign up to soldier for a living.  While our lives continue to spiral downward, as evident in the charts above, this ruling class throws trillions of dollars around to facilitate their own interests.  Iraq, Syria and now Russia are all wars to satisfy the unrelenting thirst for power and money of this small group of horrible men.  They pay for such personal conquests by sacrificing the children of our nation’s poorest families and by suffocating our future generations in debt before they’re even out of the womb.  Yet we are told it is for our own good and despite our calls not to get involved in such things, these men do as they please.

However, so many of us still maintain that America is the greatest nation in the world.  We swear that America represents all that is good; freedom, democracy, merit based capitalism and the rights of the individual.  That is true America does represent such things.  However, I’ve made the suggestion many times that it is fraudulent to consider our current nation America.  America was a concept that promoted all that is good.  And so it would seem that the nation in which we find ourselves cannot be America.  Our nation today represents the will of the political class at all costs, period.  Their sole motivation is themselves.  Very different from America.  And so perhaps we need a renaming of our nation, at least until or if we the people decide to take it back and reintroduce the world to the concept that is America for as we discussed above you cannot destroy a concept and so there is hope to bring her back.  But until then we need a name for this geographic region and its new societal system.  I expect Neoconica is a fitting name.  But I’d certainly be interested to hear some other suggestions.

David Stockman's Contra Corner is the only place where mainstream delusions and cant about the Warfare State, the Bailout State, Bubble Finance and Beltway Banditry are ripped, refuted and rebuked. Subscribe now to receive David Stockman’s latest posts by email each day as well as his model portfolio, Lee Adler’s Daily Data Dive and David’s personally curated insights and analysis from leading contrarian thinkers.

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