Savings And Confidence – Hmmm

Thanks to Zero Hedge

Blockchain RIP?

The blockchain technology is a partial solution to the Byzantine generals problem. A full solution to the problem has been mathematically shown to be impossible. As a result, blockchain systems are vulnerable to attack by introducing enough fraudulent voting power to improperly modify the blockchain.

Apparently this is now happening to some of the smaller networks.

The potential prizes on the larger ones are rich enough that it is probably just a matter of time until one of them is compromised for serious money. Then we’ll see what happens.

The New Gilded Age

The Gilded Age, roughly 1870-1900, was a period where abject poverty and fabulous wealth coexisted.

Unlike today’s New Gilded Age, the original was a period of rapid economic growth. Today, wealth has been concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite by the actions of the Fed, which have inflated asset prices.

I offer as evidence:

24Karat gilded chicken wings. Serving no purpose whatsoever except ostentation. (The gold is tasteless and passes unchanged through the digestive system).

Nashville Cats

Nashville voters just rejected a $5.2 billion transit spending plan.

Why on earth would you spend that kind of money on transit, which is ill-suited to an urban sprawl like Nashville, when autonomous vehicles are about to drastically change the face of urban travel?

Quite apart from the capital investment, public transit is very expensive to operate because it depends on public employees who are granted an effective monopoly over travel in the city. So they can charge what they like – and they like a lot. Just go look at the pay and benefits for BART employees.

Yes, there are situations like New York, London and other major cities where the city simply could not function without the subway. And that’s because the subway has its own right of way that adds valuable capacity. Buses don’t do a thing except clog up the roads.

Nashville voters had their reasons and I don’t know what they were, but they have dodged a bullet by avoiding investing in yesterday’s technology – that was anyway notoriously ineffective except in providing political contributions.

Voting With Their Feet

In 2017, Illinois lost a net 33,703 residents, the largest numerical population decline of any state.

“We could handle the cold, avoid the crime and pay the tax. But the government turned on us (property, income, sales, parking, red-light/speed cameras, bags, soda). Never-ending. Tired of paying for everyone else’s retirement before mine,” said one respondent.

I guess he hadn’t run into the vehicle impound program yet.
Per WSJ:

In the years to come, millions of people, thousands of businesses, and tens of billions of dollars of net income will flee high-tax blue states for low-tax red states…..

For years blue states have exported a third or more of their tax burden to residents of other states. In places like California, where the top income-tax rate exceeds 13%, that tax could be deducted on a federal return. Now that deduction for state and local taxes will be capped at $10,000 per family.

Consider what this means if you’re a high-income earner in Silicon Valley or Hollywood. The top tax rate that you actually pay just jumped from about 8.5% to 13%.

Of course, as the pain of lavish pension plans really starts to kick in, the tax burden will become greater still.

Chicago

Chicago is ground zero for the Obama/Clinton school of Democrat liberal politics. Chicago is Obama’s home town and current mayor Rahm Emanuel was his chief of staff.

So it should be a great place to live, right? Wrong.

No need to re-iterate the shootings, the disastrous finances, the corruption. It is just that, for sheer nastiness, it is hard to beat this.

Byrd had run afoul of Chicago’s aggressive vehicle impound program, which seizes cars and fines owners thousands of dollars for dozens of different offenses. The program impounds cars when the owner beats a criminal case or isn’t charged with a crime in the first place. It impounds cars even when the owner isn’t even driving, like when a child is borrowing a parent’s car.

This civil asset forfeiture idea, originally invented to strip drug dealers of their assets as part of the “War On Drugs,” is a massive abuse of the rights of innocent people. It is a good reminder of the fact that government is a parasite that sucks the blood from the rest of us. And yet people keep voting for more of it. Talk about the triumph of hope over experience.

Silver Tsunami

The title is the name that has been coined for the government pension crisis that is unfolding. I have discussed this at length for quite some time, so here is a collection of current articles.

San Francisco Chronicle

Investment Research Dynamics

New York Times

Wirepoints.com

 

Wag The Dog

As I have said many times before, I believe the biggest mistake the CFTC has ever made is the securitization of VIX. This decision has allowed VIX futures, options and ETFs, trading in any and all of which provides staggering leverage on the overall market. Here’s a piece which shows both how easy it is to manipulate VIX, and the effect of VIX manipulation on the overall market.

I’m watching this as I write, as the manipulators crush price discovery. Of course the eventual consequences of this will be catastrophic – the “Volgasm” of early February was just the fat lady clearing her throat.

Perspective

“Just a flesh wound,” said the Black Knight.

The Peeps Ponzi

The PEEPS case is a tangle of litigation between the company (“Just Born Quality Confections”), its union and the multi-employer fund that currently manages pensions for the 250 or so union workers.

The core issue is that the company wants to phase out the defined-benefit pension plan by placing new employees in a 401(k) or defined-contribution type of plan, while current workers will keep their defined-benefit plan.

If you look through the smoke, it is clear that the issue is not the new employees. Union workers seldom give a damn about new employees, yet in this case they had gone out on strike in their support. Seemed unlikely, so I took a closer look. The key is the pension fund. The new employees, who are presumably young and not likely to claim pension for a long time, are needed to provide contributions, which will fund the pensions of the older workers. In other words, the pension fund has become a Ponzi (just like Social Security) where new money is required to fund withdrawals because investment income is insufficient. Of course, the young workers are unlikely to ever see a dime of the money they put in or the company puts in on their behalf.

So, if the company gets its way, this will set a precedent which others will likely follow, bringing down this and other multi-employers funds.