Summer of Tough Love

By James Howard Kunstler

The golden Colossus of Trump looms over the national scene this summer like one of Jeff Koons’s giant, shiny, balloon-puppy sculptures — a monumental expression of semiotic vacancy. At the apogee of Trumpdom, everything’s coming up covfefe. The stock market is 5000 points ahead since 1/20/17. Little Rocket Man is America’s bitch. We’re showing those gibbering Asian hordes and European café layabouts a thing or two about fair trade. Electric cars are almost here to save the day. And soon, American youth will be time-warping around the solar system in the new US Space Corps!

Enjoy it while you can. Events are converging ominously this summer in the direction of unwinding expectations and serial train wrecks of finance and politics. Mr. Trump has made hubris simple by bragging on the supposed triumphs of “his” economy. When it blows up, he’ll own that, too, and the second half of 2018 liable to be a debris-field of shattered national economies, zombie corporations, and floundering institutions.

A new supreme court justice will be the very apex of Trump triumphalism, but whoever the pick is will goad the Democratic “progressives” to new depths of antagonism, so expect more street-fighting by the black-masked Antifa forces during the senate confirmation debate. Some sort of martial law will be invoked by a governor, or perhaps even the president himself. Initially that would amount to little more than curfews, but they’ll be ignored, and then the fun will really begin. Think: national guard troops and angry clashes. The tone will be low, and sinking fast.

If Antifa acts up the way I anticipate, it will drag the Democratic Party closer to extinction. The party celebrated a week ago over the rise of Evita Peron wannabe, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her youth and glamour intersect with her socialism, a doctrine that caused more human deaths in the 20th century than all the religious wars of the previous centuries. What’s not to like about it?

The blowup of the bond and stock markets later this year will put to a gloomy rest the ludicrous notion that America has been enjoying a great economic boom. It’s actually been an engineered hallucination, thanks to the global monetary authorities applying the magic of limitless credit to a bad habit of credulous speculation. The central banks have launched a program of so-called “quantitative tightening (QT)” — an idiotic phrase meant to counterpoise the equally fatuous “quantitative easing (QE),” PhD economist-speak for grotesque interference in the bond markets — that will choke down the credit supply at exactly the moment that governments and giant corporations need new loans to pay the interest on old loans. The trajectory there is obvious.

The big question, of course — hardly ever asked in the public arena — is what that will do to currencies, i.e., money. It can really only go two ways: either make money very scarce, in which case a lot of people and enterprises go broke, or, if the monetary authorities respond to the predicament by enabling a return to bottomless credit issuance, the money will become worthless — they’ll be plenty of it, but it won’t buy much. Such a turn of events will make an already-unhinged nation fly apart.

Lurking in the background of all this are several other consequential movements, trends, and troubles. One is the fate of the European Union. The quarrel over migrants from the Middle East and Africa will not be resolved happily. Germany and France will not succeed in bullying countries like Austria, Hungary, and Poland into absorbing more of these strangers. The more the EU pushes, the more they will feed nationalist sentiment in these places. And of course all the Big Dawgs of the EU are already stuck with millions of newcomers they foolishly invited the past several years, and all the problems they brought with them.

Another plot-line deep in this summer’s story is the movement of oil markets. Recently, the trend has been for rapidly rising oil prices. As they approach the “magic” $75-a-barrel mark, you can be sure they will squash economic activity — which is already being hammered by the uncertainty unleashed by trade-and-tariff shenanigans. If the oil price heads back over $100/barrel you can just forget about maintaining the business status quo — and even at that price the shale oil companies won’t make a red cent. Of course, they’ll also have a tough time getting new loans, which is the only thing that kept their operations going for the past ten years.

Oh, yes, there is also that Hieronymus Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights known as the Mueller Investigation, with its dreary outposts in the executive suite of the FBI, and all the tangled mysteries entailed there. Mr. Mueller will come up with someone to indict on something, even if it’s ninety-seven ham sandwiches. I suspect Mr. Trump will manage to dump Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. And then the pardons will fly, like so many winged demons flapping from the mouth of Hades. Constitutional crisis may be too mild a word for what ensues.

By holiday time in early winter, much will clarified about the actual direction of the country. By then, the “Walk Away” movement may even include the obdurate shills at CNN and The New York Times, and the Intellectual-Yet-Idiots on the college campuses. And the Golden Golem of Greatness will lie upended in the swamp that he just didn’t try hard enough to drain.

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Gary

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