Fourth Turning Economics

In Part One of this article I laid out the unsustainable economic conditions which will drive the next phase of this Fourth Turnings and detailed the economic factors which drove the previous three American Fourth Turnings.

Strauss and Howe, when writing The Fourth Turning in 1997, did not know the exact circumstances and events which would propel the next Turning. But their study of economic and demographic trends along with the attitudes of generations and historical precedents in prior Fourth Turnings, led them to conclude the driving factors of this Crisis would be debt, global disorder and civic decay.

As I watch what is currently happening in this country and around the world, it is evident to me they nailed it. The volcanic eruption in 2008 unleashed a torrent of molten lava, which continues to flow along channels of distress, but is currently threatening to burst free of these channels and wreak worldwide financial and physical devastation. A multitude of possibilities described by Strauss and Howe below are already happening or will happen in the next few years. The Fourth Turning: An... Howe, Neil Best Price: $7.92 Buy New $12.04 (as of 08:30 EST - Details)

“Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:

  • Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
  • Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
  • Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
  • Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction” 

 The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

The economic, social, political, and military distress pervading the world should be terrifying the average American, but most are blissfully ignorant of the coming anguish when the best laid plans of central bankers and corrupt politicians blow up once again and plunge the world into global depression. The immense mountain of debt has been built on the backs of humanity by evil sociopaths rigging the system to benefit themselves and their billionaire benefactors.

The United States, along with virtually every “developed” country, are effectively bankrupt. The $200 trillion of unfunded Federal liabilities can never be paid. States have accumulated over $6 trillion of unfunded pension liabilities and billions more in health care related liabilities. With an economy supposedly booming, according to Trump, we are running deficits exceeding $1 trillion. When the imminent recession unfolds over the coming year, deficits will skyrocket towards $2 trillion.

This expansion of debt is unsustainable, but the Fed is trapped and pushing on a string. Ten years of easy money heroine injections into the arms of Wall Street bankers and mega-corporation executives have left the .1% enriched, while people living in the real world have been left cash poor and dependent upon their credit cards and seven-year auto loans to maintain their fake lifestyles.

Despite the bullshit propaganda unemployment rate propagated by government apparatchiks and obediently parroted by the corporate media, people in the real world know their wages haven’t kept up with the real inflation rate for the last twenty years. When 40% of the working age population doesn’t work and the propagandists report a 3.7% unemployment rate, it takes a supreme level of willful ignorance to swallow that big lie. The feeling of cognitive dissonance among the populace is creating a nation of angry, disillusioned, frustrated victims.

The fake news corporate media have successfully used their propaganda machine to convince the public a surging stock market means the economy is doing great. Despite corporate profits being flat for the last four years, corporate stock buybacks (using debt), Trump’s corporate tax cuts, and Federal Reserve easy money, have propelled the stock market to all-time highs. The Fed proved they are Wall Street’s bitch by cutting rates with the market at all-time highs and unemployment supposedly near all-time lows.

This is an acknowledgement the “great economy” is fake news. The economy is on the verge of recession. The most overvalued stock market in history has reached a tipping point. Global economies, propped up with negative interest rates, are already in recession. The global trade war is hurting all parties and is pushing those countries most impacted towards drastic measures.

The multitude of stresses impacting the nation and the world are building up along fault lines created over decades of bad decision making, deferred action, political corruption, Wall Street greed, corporate hegemony, media propaganda, and willful ignorance by a dumbed down technologically distracted populace. Once the economy falters and the stock market crashes for the third time in twenty years, an earthquake of epic proportions will devastate the minimal savings of the working class and give rise to tens of millions of angry desperate citizens.

If a deflationary wave sweeps across the globe, our debt saturated world will shatter and a global depression will create economic havoc and lead to a catastrophic outcome. This would lead countries to lash out militarily to either distract their suffering citizens or to seek retribution against countries they feel have wronged them.

The military build-up in countries across the globe in the last ten years has created a global powder-keg, with lunatic leaders lighting matches. Extreme economic distress always leads to war. And war during this Fourth Turning will include nuclear arms in the hands of many countries, rather than just one in the previous Fourth Turning. The implications are terrifying.

The social and political distress we are presently experiencing are already tearing the fabric of civil society. Politicians on the left are promising trillions more in freebies, with absolutely no plan to pay the bill. They have no intention of deterring anyone from crossing our southern border illegally. They see them as added votes in future elections. They use every mass shooting by mentally disturbed individuals as an opportunity to confiscate the guns of the law abiding “deplorables” in flyover country. They ignore the flood of mental illness created by a society promoting degeneracy, hate of traditional family values, and defamation of men. Public schools are nothing more than indoctrination centers for depravity and left-wing social policies.

The left-wing corporate media stokes the flames of societal distress by making every issue racial. Screaming racism or white supremacy at every opportunity creates anger on both sides and will lead to further violence. If a democrat wins the 2020 presidential election and tries to restrict the 2ndAmendment, all hell will break loose in this country. Trying to pry 300 million fire arms from “deplorables” will be a bridge too far. We are fifteen months from an election which will likely ignite civil chaos in this country of confrontation. It doesn’t matter who wins, the losers will not accept the result.

There is no possibility of compromise between the left and right on any issues, other than agreeing to spend more of your money. I have an overwhelming feeling of foreboding about the unrelenting forces pushing the world towards economic collapse and military confrontation. By the 12thyear of the last Fourth Turning, America was at war with foes on opposite sides of the world. Economic factors were the driving force. We are approaching the 11th anniversary of the onset of this current Crisis.

Based on history, we are likely to have five to ten more years before this Crisis is resolved and the existing social order swept away and replaced by something new. When this house of cards, built on a foundation of unpayable debt, gives way, the tragic consequences will propel the world towards a bloody climax. Strauss & Howe pondered four possible outcomes, with only one being relatively positive. The peaceful episode of this Crisis is winding down. We are exiting the eye of a category 5 hurricane. The apocalyptic chapter is about to unfold. I don’t think I’m prepared. Are you?

Strauss & Howe provide four possible outcomes to our current Crisis:

  1. This Fourth Turning could mark the end of man. It could be an omnicidal Armageddon, destroying everything, leaving nothing. If mankind ever extinguishes itself, this will probably happen when its dominant civilization triggers a Fourth Turning that ends horribly. For this Fourth Turning to put an end to all this would require an extremely unlikely blend of social disaster, human malevolence, technological perfection and bad luck.
  2. The Fourth Turning could mark the end of modernity. The Western saecular rythm – which began in the mid-fifteenth century with the Renaissance – could come to an abrupt terminus. The seventh modern saeculum would be the last. This too could come from total war, terrible but not final. There could be a complete collapse of science, culture, politics, and society. Such a dire result would probably happen only when a dominant nation (like today’s America) lets a Fourth Turning ekpyrosis engulf the planet. But this outcome is well within the reach of foreseeable technology and malevolence.
  3. The Fourth Turning could spare modernity but mark the end of our nation. It could close the book on the political constitution, popular culture, and moral standing that the word America has come to signify. The nation has endured for three saecula; Rome lasted twelve, the Soviet Union only one. Fourth Turnings are critical thresholds for national survival. Each of the last three American Crises produced moments of extreme danger: In the Revolution, the very birth of the republic hung by a thread in more than one battle. In the Civil War, the union barely survived a four-year slaughter that in its own time was regarded as the most lethal war in history. In World War II, the nation destroyed an enemy of democracy that for a time was winning; had the enemy won, America might have itself been destroyed. In all likelihood, the next Crisis will present the nation with a threat and a consequence on a similar scale.
  4. Or the Fourth Turning could simply mark the end of the Millennial Saeculum. Mankind, modernity, and America would all persevere. Afterward, there would be a new mood, a new High, and a new saeculum. America would be reborn. But, reborn, it would not be the same.

Reprinted with permission from The Burning Platform.

Fourth Turning Economics

“In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability – problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

The quote above captures the current Fourth Turning perfectly, even though it was written more than a decade before the 2008 financial tsunami struck. With global debt now exceeding $250 trillion, up 60% since the Crisis began, and $13 trillion of sovereign debt with negative yields, it is clear to all rational thinking individuals the next financial crisis will make 2008 look like a walk in the park. We are approaching the eleventh anniversary of this crisis period, with possibly a decade to go before a resolution.

As I was thinking about what confluence of economic factors might ignite the next bloody phase of this Fourth Turning, I realized economic factors have been the underlying cause of all four Crisis periods in American history.

The specific details of each crisis change, but economic catalysts have initiated all previous Fourth Turnings and led ultimately to bloody conflict. There is nothing in the current dynamic of this Fourth Turning which argues against a similar outcome. The immense debt, stock and real estate bubbles, created by feckless central bankers, corrupt politicians, and spineless government apparatchiks, have set the stage for the greatest financial calamity in world history. The Fourth Turning: An... Howe, Neil Best Price: $7.92 Buy New $12.04 (as of 08:30 EST - Details)

Rather than taking the bitter medicine of purging the system of bad debt and allowing zombie banks and corporations to die, the ruling class has chosen to ramp up the debt orgy and reward themselves and their cronies with ill-gotten riches, while impoverishing the masses. Their arrogance and hubris have grown to vast proportions and will eventually result in a bloody backlash from those they have screwed over.

The election of Donald Trump over the hand-picked candidate of the oligarchy, was a reaction to the raping and pillaging of Main Street by the greedy soulless psychopaths in suits on Wall Street and in the halls of the Eccles building in Washington D.C. The average hard-working American has seen eight years of “government of the bankers, by the bankers, for the bankers”.

Wall Street was bailed out and rewarded with the ability to borrow at 0% from their captured Federal Reserve. Zombie corporations were kept alive with low interest debt, with no adjustment for risk. The cowardly politicians drove the national debt from $11.5 trillion to over $20 trillion, while accomplishing minimal GDP growth (negative growth using a real inflation rate), and enriching mega-corporations and the top .1%. Meanwhile, risk averse senior citizens, depending upon some interest income to survive, were thrown under the bus by Bernanke, Yellen and Powell.

It was the deplorables in flyover country, the blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, and senior citizens in Florida who voted their wallets, which had been picked by establishment politicians for the previous eight years. Good paying manufacturing jobs with health benefits have been replaced with low paying retail and service jobs with minimal benefits.

Retail store closings continue to accelerate, while credit card debt hits all-time highs, surpassing the 2008 levels. A critical thinking individual might conclude millions of Americans are running up their credit card balances by paying their utility bills, property tax bills, medical bills, and other necessities on credit. Thousands of retail stores wouldn’t be closing if people were still buying shit they didn’t need on credit.

After campaigning as if he would be a fiscally responsible president, Trump has been a disappointment regarding the budget. His “best economy ever” is nothing but a government spending driven, low interest rate, stock market boosting bubble. After promising to eliminate the debt during the campaign and railing against the low interest rate driven stock market bubble, Trump and the Republicans have added $2 trillion to the national debt, thus far.

The original projection for FY19 was around an $800 billion deficit, but the economy is “booming” so much, it will now reach at least $1.1 trillion. The rate of growth in the debt is outpacing the rate of growth of GDP, therefore we are regressing fiscally. Pointing this out is considered traitorous among Trump can do no wrong acolytes.

The two parties proved they have absolutely no interest in reducing or even slowing spending. They agreed to a two-year deal that will add at least $200 billion more to the annual deficits and increased the debt ceiling so they can keep borrowing. And this is even before the mandatory spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid kick into high gear in the coming years.

The fact doubling the national debt in the last ten years has not caused a catastrophe – yet – has created an arrogant hubristic ruling oligarchy who are sure they can run the debt to infinity with no adverse consequences. They have bought off the politicians, control the media, and use their Deep State surveillance assets to insure their continued control of the system and obscene riches. Meanwhile, the average American continues to be screwed and ripped off by both parties.

“Wherever we’re headed, America is evolving in ways most of us don’t like or understand.  Individually focused yet collectively adrift, we wonder if we’re heading toward a waterfall. Are we?” – Strauss & Howe

The president and congress no longer even pretend to be fiscally responsible. They didn’t even pretend to try and pay for the increased spending. Trump’s tax cuts were sold as a way to have mega-corporations repatriate hundreds of billions from overseas and reinvigorate the economy with a surge in job creation.

With half the working public already paying little or no taxes, the tax cuts heavily favored the .1% and put $200 billion more into the coffers of the biggest corporations with the most powerful lobbyists. So, the politicians keep spending more on the military industrial complex and corporate tax revenues have plunged by two thirds, which will leave us with a $1.3 trillion deficit next year, even if we don’t fall into recession.

The three previous American Fourth Turnings were all initiated by economic issues. The American Revolution began due to a decade of increasing tax repression by Britain over the American colonies. The Navigation Acts forced all trade on British ships, making it easy for British authorities to tax and regulate trade by cutting down on smuggling. The Stamp Act of 1765 was designed to increase revenue for the British, to pay their debts from the Seven Years War. The Sugar Act was designed to closely regulate the trade of products such as rum, molasses, and sugar. The Colonists became upset at such taxation without sufficient representation in Parliament.

Rebellious patriots began to boycott British goods.  The Townsend Acts led the Sons of Liberty to dump British tea into the Boston Harbor, known forevermore as the Boston Tea Party. In retaliation, the British passed a series of acts later known as the Intolerable Acts, all designed to punish and reshape the colonial governance system to make it easier for the British to control the colonies. Ultimately, the economic warfare devolved into a shooting war that led to the existing social and political order being swept away.

The Civil War is commonly seen as a conflict only over slavery, but there was a huge economic component to the war. The industrial revolution in the North, during the first few decades of the 19th century, brought about a machine age urban economy that relied on wage laborers, not slaves. At the same time, the warmer Southern states continued to rely on slaves for their rural farming economy and cotton production. In 1805 there were just over one million slaves worth about $300 million; fifty-five years later there were four million slaves worth close to $3 billion.

In the 11 states that eventually formed the Confederacy, four out of ten people were slaves in 1860, and these people accounted for more than half the agricultural labor in those states. In the cotton regions the importance of slave labor was even greater. The value of capital invested in slaves roughly equaled the total value of all farmland and farm buildings in the South. More than two-thirds of all urban counties were in the Northeast and West; those two regions accounted for nearly 80 percent of the urban population of the country. By contrast, less than 7 percent of people in the 11 Southern states lived in urban counties.

Southerners viewed any attempt by the federal government to limit the rights of slave owners over their property as a potentially calamitous threat to their entire economic system. The South’s economic investment in slavery explains the willingness of Southerners to risk war when faced with what they viewed as a serious threat to their “peculiar institution” after the electoral victories of the Republican Party and President Abraham Lincoln the fall of 1860.

The industrial power of the North virtually insured victory, the longer the conflict extended. This may explain Lee’s aggressiveness in trying to strike a knockout blow during the early years of the war. The clear delineation of states based on their beliefs in 1860 sure resonates today when you view how the country voted in 2016. Will the drastic discrepancy in beliefs about how to govern this country lead to a similar outcome?

The last Fourth Turning, from 1929 until 1946, was most certainly propelled by economic disaster. The Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression followed five years of reckless credit expansion by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve credit expansion in 1924 was in reaction to a business downturn and to assist the Bank of England in its wish to maintain prewar exchange rates. The strong US dollar and the weak British pound were to be readjusted to prewar conditions through a policy of inflation in the United States and deflation in Great Britain.

The credit expansion led to the Roaring Twenties. The volume of farm and urban mortgages expanded from $17 billion in 1921 to $27 billion in 1929. Large increases occurred in industrial, financial, and state and local government indebtedness simultaneously. This Federal Reserve spurred expansion of money and credit led to skyrocketing real-estate and stock prices. Sound familiar? The Federal Reserve is good at one thing – creating bubbles and subsequent busts. Notice how politicians always tell you everything is great. Best economy ever!!!

“No Congress of the United States ever assembled, on surveying the state of the Union, has met with a more pleasing prospect than that which appears at the present time. In the domestic field there is tranquility and contentment…and the highest record of years of prosperity. In the foreign field there is peace, the goodwill which comes from mutual understanding.” – Calvin Coolidge December 4, 1928

The politicians in Washington exacerbated the recession and created the Great Depression by trying to reverse the economic cycle. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act raised American tariffs to unparalleled levels, virtually closing our borders to foreign goods. American exports fell from $5.5 billion in 1929 to $1.7 billion in 1932. Our main exports were agricultural. The main creditors of American farmers were rural banks. When agriculture collapsed, the rural banks closed their doors collapsed.

Some 2,000 banks, with deposit liabilities of over $1.5 billion, closed their doors between August 1931, and February 1932. The whole nation, in fact, the whole world, fell into the cataclysm of despair and depression in 1931. American unemployment jumped to more than 8 million and continued to rise. Economic conditions collapsed and unemployment in 1932 surged to over 12 million. Again, politicians spewed happy talk as the situation worsened.

“While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed through the worst — and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There has been no significant bank or industrial failure. That danger, too, is safely behind us.”– Herbert Hoover, President of the United States, May 1, 1930

Three years later a new president closed all the banks and confiscated gold from American citizens.

“All safe deposit boxes in banks or financial institutions have been sealed… and may only be opened in the presence of an agent of the I.R.S.” – President F.D. Roosevelt, 1933

The causes for World War II are many, but the underlying source for the deaths of 65 million people was economic. The Treaty of Versailles, blaming the Germans solely for the First World War and demanding crippling reparations, was the nexus of World War II.  Germany was forced to surrender colonial territories and militarily disarm, creating German resentfulness of the treaty. In 1923 the Weimer Republic delayed reparation payments, leading France and Belgium to occupy the Ruhr Valley, effectively appropriating the coal and metal production that took place there.

As much of German manufacturing was dependent on coal and metal, the loss of these industries created a negative economic shock leading to a severe contraction. This contraction, as well as the government’s continued printing of money to pay internal war debts, generated spiraling hyperinflation. This economic suffering and humiliation ultimately led to the population turning to Adolf Hitler as their savior.

The global trade contraction exacerbated the mistrust and anger building throughout the world. Tariffs and counter-tariffs made the Great Depression greater than it had to be. The protectionist policies of countries around the globe denied key raw materials to countries dependent upon imports. While the British, French, Soviets and Americans had large colonial empires to turn to for access to much needed raw materials, countries such as Germany, Italy and Japan did not.

“Have-not” nations found it increasingly necessary to use military force to annex territories with the much-needed resources. Such military force required extensive rearmament and, the case of Germany, meant a direct violation of the Versailles Treaty. This ultimately resulted in war breaking out in Europe. The American oil embargo on Japan ultimately resulted in the attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of the Pacific war.

Reprinted with permission from The Burning Platform.