Global capitalism has consolidated its clutch. Fear and panic prevail. The State is being privatized. The tendency is towards authoritarian forms of government

There is a serious health crisis which must be duly resolved. And this is a number one priority.

But there is another important dimension which has to be addressed. 

Millions of people have lost their jobs, and their lifelong savings. In developing countries, poverty and despair prevail. 

While the lockdown is presented to public opinion as  the sole means to resolving a global public health crisis,  its devastating economic and social impacts are casually ignored.  

The unspoken truth is that the novel coronavirus provides a pretext to powerful financial interests and corrupt politicians to precipitate the entire World into a spiral of  mass unemployment, bankruptcy and extreme poverty. 

This is the true picture of what is happening.  Poverty is Worldwide. While famines are erupting in Third World countries, closer to home,  in the richest country on earth,

millions of desperate Americans wait in long crowded lines for handouts”

“Miles-long lines formed at food banks and unemployment offices across the US over the past week”   

In India:

“food is disappearing, ….  in shanty towns, too scared to go out, walking home or trapped in the street crackdowns,

In India there have been 106 coronavirus deaths as of today, to put things in perspective 3,000 Indian children starve to death each day” 

From Mumbai to New York City. It’s the “Globalization of Poverty”.

Production is at a standstill. 

Starvation in Asia and Africa. Famine in the U.S. 

All countries are now Third World countries. It’s the “Thirdworldisation” of the so-called high income “developed countries”.  

And what is happening in Italy?

People are running out of food. Reports confirm that the Mafia rather than the government “is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash”. (The Guardian)

This crisis combines fear and panic concerning the COVID-19 together with a sophisticated process of economic manipulation.

Let us first examine the impacts pertaining to the developing countries.

Developing Countries. The IMF’s “Economic Medicine” and the Globalization of Poverty

Is the coronavirus crisis part of a broader macro-economic agenda?

First some historical background.

I spent more than ten years undertaking field research on the impacts of IMF-World Bank economic reforms in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Since the early 1980s, “strong economic medicine” was imposed on indebted developing countries under what was called the “structural adjustment program” (SAP).

From 1992 to 1995, I undertook field research in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam and returned to Latin America to complete my study on Brazil. In all the countries I visited, including Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and The Philippines, I observed the same pattern of economic manipulation and political interference by the Washington-based institutions. In India, directly resulting from the IMF reforms, millions of people had been driven into starvation. In Vietnam – which constitutes among the world’s most prosperous rice producing economies – local-level famines had erupted resulting directly from the lifting of price controls and the deregulation of the grain market. (Preface to the Second Edition of the Globalization of Poverty, 2003)

 The hegemony of the dollar was imposed. With mounting dollar denominated debt, eventually in most developing countries the entire national monetary system was “dollarized”.

Massive austerity measures were conducive to the collapse in real wages. Sweeping privatization programs were imposed. These deadly economic reforms -applied on behalf the creditors- invariably triggered economic collapse, poverty and mass unemployment.

In Nigeria starting in the 1980s, the entire public health system had been dismantled. Public hospitals were driven into bankruptcy. The medical doctors with whom I spoke described the infamous structural adjustment program (SAP) with a touch of humor:

“we’ve been sapped by the SAP”, they said, our hospitals have literally been destroyed courtesy of the IMF-World Bank.

From Structural Adjustment to Global Adjustment

Today, the mechanism for triggering poverty and economic collapse is fundamentally different and increasingly sophisticated.

The ongoing 2020 Economic Crisis is tied into the logic of the COVID-19 pandemic: No need for the IMF-World Bank to negotiate a structural adjustment loan with national governments.

What has occurred under the COVID-19 crisis is a “Global Adjustment” in the structure of the World economy. In one fell swoop this Global Adjustment (GA) triggers a Worldwide process of bankruptcy, unemployment, poverty and total despair.

How is it implemented? The lockdown is presented to national governments as the sole solution to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic. It becomes a political consensus, irrespective of the devastating economic and social consequences.

No need to reflect or analyze the likely impacts. Corrupt national governments are pressured to comply.

The partial or complete closing down of a national economy is triggered through the enforcement of  so-called “WHO guidelines” pertaining to the lockdown, as well as to trade, immigration and transportation restrictions, etc.

Powerful financial institutions and lobby groups including Wall Street, Big Pharma, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were involved in shaping the actions of the WHO pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown together with the curtailment of trade and air travel had set the stage. This closing down of national economies was undertaken Worldwide starting in the month of  March,  affecting simultaneously a large of number of countries in all major regions of the World.  It is unprecedented in World history.

Why did leaders in high office let it happen? The consequences were obvious.

This closing down operation affects production and supply lines of goods and services, investment activities, exports and imports, wholesale and retail trade, consumer spending, the closing down of schools, colleges and universities, research institutions, etc.

In turn it leads almost immediately to mass unemployment, bankruptcies of small and medium sized enterprises, a collapse in purchasing power, widespread poverty and famine.

What is the underlying objective of this restructuring of the global economy?  What are the consequences? Cui Bono? 

  • A massive concentration of wealth and corporate capital,,
  • the destabilization of small and middle sized enterprises in all major areas of economic activity including the services economy, agriculture and manufacturing.
  • facilitates the subsequent corporate acquisition of bankrupt enterprises
  • It derogates the rights of workers. It destabilizes labor markets.
  • It creates mass unemployment
  • It compresses wages (and labor costs) in the so-called high income “developed countries” as well as in the impoverished developing countries.
  • It leads to an escalation of the external debt
  • It facilitates subsequent privatization

Needless to say this Global Adjustment (GA) operation is far more detrimental than the country-level IMF-WB structural adjustment program (SAP).

It is neoliberalism to the nth degree.

In one fell swoop (in the course of the last months) the COVID-19 crisis has contributed to impoverishing a large sector of the World population.

And Guess who comes to the rescue? The IMF and the World Bank:

The IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has casually acknowledged that the World economy has come to a standstill, without addressing the causes of economic collapse.

“The WHO is there to protect the Health of the People, The IMF is there to protect the health of the World economy” says Georgieva.

 How does she intend to “protect the World economy”?

At the expense of the national economy?

What’s her “magic solution”?

 “We rely on $1 trillion in overall lending capacity.” (IMF M-D Georgieva, Press Conference in early March)

At first sight this appears to be “generous”, a lot money. But ultimately it’s what we might call “fictitious money”, what it means is:

“We will lend you the money and with the money we lend you, you will pay us back”.(paraphrase).

The ultimate objective is to make the external (dollar denominated) debt go fly high.

The IMF is explicit. In one of its lending windows, the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, which applies to pandemics, generously,

“provides grants for debt relief to our poorest and most vulnerable members.”

Nonsensical statement: it is there to replenish the coffers of the creditors, the money is allocated to debt servicing.

“For low-income countries and for emerging middle-income countries we have … up to $50 billion that does not require a full-fledged IMF program.”

No conditions on how you spend the money. But this money increases the debt stock and requires reimbursement.

The countries are already in a straight-jacket. And the objective is that they comply with the demands of the creditors.

That’s the neoliberal solution applied at a global level: No real economic recovery, more poverty and unemployment Worldwide. The “solution” becomes the “cause”. It initiates a new process of indebtedness. It contributes to an escalation of the debt.

The more you lend, the more you squeeze the developing countries into political compliance. And ultimately that is the objective of the failing American Empire.

The unspoken truth is that this one trillion dollars ++ of the Bretton Woods institutions is intended to drive up the external debt.

In recent developments, the G20 Finance ministers decided to “put on hold”,  the repayment of debt servicing obligations of the World’s poorest countries.

The cancellation of debt has not been envisaged. Quite the opposite. The strategy consists in building up the debt.

It is important that the governments of developing countries take a firm stance against the IMF-World Bank “rescue operation”. 

The Global Debt Crisis in the Developed Countries

An unprecedented fiscal crisis is unfolding at all levels of government. With high levels of unemployment, incoming tax revenues in developed countries are almost at a standstill.  In the course of the last 2 months, national governments have become increasingly indebted.

In turn, Western governments as well as political parties are increasingly under the control of  the creditors, who ultimately call the shots.

All levels of governments have been precipitated into a debt stranglehold. The debt cannot be repaid. In the US, the federal deficit “has increased by 26% to $984 billion for fiscal 2019, highest in 7 years”.  And that is just the beginning.

In Western countries, a colossal expansion of the public debt has occurred. It is being used to finance the “bailouts”, the “handouts” to corporations as well as “the social safety nets” to the unemployed.

The logic of the bailouts is in some regards similar to that of the 2008 economic crisis, but on a much larger scale. Ironically, in 2008, US banks were both the creditors of the US federal government as well as the lucky recipients: the rescue operation was funded by the banks with a view to  “bailing out the banks”. Sounds contradictory?

The Privatization of the State

This crisis will  eventually precipitate the privatization of the state. Increasingly, national governments will be under the stranglehold of Big Money.

Crippled by mounting debts, what is at stake is the eventual de facto privatization of the entire state structure, in different countries, at all levels of government, under the surveillance of powerful financial interests. The fiction of  “sovereign governments” serving the interests of the electors will nonetheless be maintained.

The first level of government up for privatization will be the municipalities (many of which are already partially or fully privatized, e.g. Detroit in 2013). America’s billionaires will be enticed to buy up an entire city.

Several major cities are already on the verge of bankruptcy. (This is nothing new).

Is the city of Vancouver up for privatization?: “the mayor of Vancouver has already indicated that he feared the bankruptcy of his city.” (Le Devoir, April 15, 2020)

In America’s largest cities, people are simply unable to pay their taxes: The debt of New York City for fiscal 2019 is a staggering $91.56 billion (FY 2019) an increase of 132% since FY 2000. In turn personal debts across America have skyrocketed.

“U.S. households collectively carry about $1 trillion in credit card debt”. No measures are being taken in the US to reduce the interest rates on credit card debt.

The New World Order?

The lockdown impoverishes both the developed and developing countries and literally destroys national economies.

It destabilizes the entire economic landscape. It undermines social institutions including schools and universities. It spearheads small and medium sized enterprises into bankruptcy.

What kind of World awaits us?

The New World Order?

The lockdown impoverishes both the developed and developing countries and literally destroys national economies.

It destabilizes the entire economic landscape. It undermines social institutions including schools and universities. It spearheads small and medium sized enterprises into bankruptcy.

What kind of World awaits us?

A diabolical “New World Order” in the making as suggested by Henry Kissinger? (WSJ Opinion, April 3, 2020):

“The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order”

Recall Kissinger’s historic 1974 statement: “Depopulation should be the highest priority of US foreign policy towards the Third World.” (1974 National Security Council Memorandum)

The political implications are far-reaching.

 What kind of government will we have in the wake of the crisis?

Concluding Remarks

There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the nature of this crisis.

Several progressive intellectuals are now saying that this crisis constitutues a defeat of neoliberalism. “It opens up a new beginning”.

Some people see it as a “potential turning point”, which opens up an opportunity to “build socialism” or “restore social democracy” in the wake of the lockdown.

The evidence amply confirms that neoliberalism has not been defeated. Quite the opposite.

Global capitalism has consolidated its clutch. Fear and panic prevail. The State is being privatized. The tendency is towards authoritarian forms of government.

These are the issues which we must address.

That historical opportunity to confront the power structures of global capitalism, –including the US-NATO military apparatus– remains to be firmly established in wake of the lockdown.

The question to be asking yourself right now, and asking your family, is this: Who and what do you want to support? To whom and to what do you want to give your time and money?

The crisis has already taught us much, my friends. Primarily, it has schooled us in the power of scale — a concept every big business in the United States has mastered yet so many of us have never fully grasped until now. If you pitch your new app idea to any tech company or if you’re lucky enough to interview for Shark Tank, one of the first questions you’ll be asked is: How does your idea “scale up?” That means how do you take your idea and make it apply to all of America, all of the world? No one is ever interested in a product, service, idea (or screenplay, trust me) if the only people who love it are your friends and mother. Seeing the potential of your idea in the modern marketplace means seeing how it can be bought, used, or communicated to millions and billions of people.

With scalability comes great power. We have seen that power in action over the last month. Simply by staying in our homes, we have collectively lowered the death rate from a projected 2.2 million American deaths to 63,538 confirmed deaths as of this post. To come out of this collective trauma as better people and as a better country, we must fully understand that same power and use it against the great forces that are already manipulating us into going back to “normal.”

This lower death number is not evidence that this was “no big deal.” Quite the opposite. You and I made that lower number happen. It is confirmation of the power of scale and our own personal power to change the world. You saved millions of lives all by sitting on your couch and watching Netflix. So as the commercials and the gaslighting begin — in truth, they are already in full swing — we have a choice to make. Plainly put, we can either honor those 63,538 people by getting our collective shit together and forging ahead anew, or we can go back to clearing the shelves of Walmart, drinking every sugary Coke, and “liking” every duck-lipped Insta post of our favorite Armenian makeup moguls. The choice is ours.

Little did any of us know that we would spend the better part of 2020 roaring into the geeky details of charts, graphs, and the inner workings of an upside-down parabola. But here we are, flattening the curve, and the glaring takeaway is this: What I do and what you do affects everyone else in this world. Fuck, it’s so simple. I can only speak for myself when I say I never realized just how much I mattered. I now know that I have the power to save a life or unwittingly pass along an infectious sprinkle to my very best friends. If I wear a mask, I am less likely to spread a virus to two or three other people, who could then spread to another two or three people. For my fellow nerds in the house, the “R0” (pronounced “R-naught”) of the virus is now estimated to be 2.2 or higher. If you’ve watched Contagion on demand while homebound — and somehow managed to not be completely bugged out by the experience of living in the very world it depicts — you’re familiar with R0. It’s the rate at which the virus spreads or how many people you can give it to. It’s all simple multiplication.

Like a good old-fashioned ’90s chain-letter or my own essay that “went viral,” a virus spreads with lightning speed. The more connected we are physically or digitally, the faster it spreads. And because the 7.8 billion of us on the planet are now more connected than ever in the history of mankind, we are facing a new reality. Turns out, the future is viral. Virality is our new reality. This doesn’t have to be as terrifying as it sounds. If we can harness virality for the better, we can make life after the Great Pause truly beautiful, productive, collaborative, and humane. There is no going back. We can only go forward into this new unchartered land and create the New Normal.

Yes, maybe you’ve figured out by now that I’m a gay, yoga-loving, quinoa-eating, Prius-driving liberal. I promise you, that’s irrelevant. The power of scale is in all of our hands, both red and blue. We are all Americans. And we are all capitalists. But we have seen capitalism falter in egregious ways over the course of the last 30 years. Those are the same 30 years in which the divide between us has widened so deeply. Here’s my call: Let’s work together to become responsible capitalists. An example: My choice to use a fabric bag instead of a plastic one at the grocery store seems ridiculous to you if you have not lived in Los Angeles for the last six years. Now, there are many ridiculous things about living in Los Angeles, but California’s commitment to banning plastic grocery bags is not, in my opinion, one of them. What California understood is that when you embrace a new behavior and it’s perceived among your friends as cool, then they do it, too. Growing up in the boroughs of New York City in the ’90s, we would call those friends “biters.” The biters saw your new haircut, your new Champion sweatshirt, your new Capezio shoes, and they had to have them. The idea is still a fundamental of selling, well… anything. If you do something, your friends will, too. And if your friends do it, then so might their two or three relatives. And their kids. And their classmates. And their teachers. In the ’60s, it was a color television; in the ’90s, it was MC Hammer pants or Tupperware for Mom; in 2020, it is a fabric grocery bag or a fashionable mask.

And when a behavior — or an idea, or a product — spreads and goes viral, a market is created and the inevitable market opportunity emerges. “Market opportunity” is business-speak for the “chance to make some mo-ney!” The fabric grocery bag cannot only be sold for $2.99, but it can be tagged, labeled, branded, shipped, and gifted. You too can carry around your sliced mango in a Whole Foods-branded nonplastic bag. Do you feel cool yet? This is how capitalism can be a force for good, by marrying the art and science of marketing and branding with products, services, and behaviors that make the world a better place.

This is not a new idea, but it is high time we fully embraced it. Because of the crisis, every one of us knows — in our bones — that even though every action we personally take may seem insignificant, if you multiply it by 328 million people, it can have great or dire effects on our nation. That scale gives us far greater power as individuals than we understand, or that the great forces which currently run our economy, and arguably our lives, give us credit for. In fact, most of them don’t want you to understand your power. Why? Because if you don’t understand your true power in the process, you can remain on autopilot. And if you’re just too busy to pay attention or to complain or to rise up or to strike, well, then they can keep doing what they’re doing: getting disgustingly rich. But when we all come off autopilot, it all collapses. Within weeks. We just saw it with our own eyes. The empty streets and malls, the quiet downtown centers, the rush hour that is not — these are proof positive that without constant daily cash flow from every one of us, the American economy, along with the global economy, crumble almost overnight.

If we want and expect to lead long and fruitful lives, the slowdown and the great despair that comes with it cannot continue. We cannot, my friend, burn it all down. We must fix it. I have news for you: The fix is you. I don’t mean that in an obtuse, crazy, Jedi-master way. I mean it literally; what you and I do next matters. It matters for our ourselves, our parents, our kids, our future grandkids, and even for our living grandparents (the “high-risk” generation that so many have been so willing to let perish). Like it or not, we are in this together, you and me. We must reject the notion that somehow my getting what I want and need robs you of getting what you want and need. We must reject the idea that there are only a certain number of seats at the table, and if you get one then I lose one. And we must reject the belief, so deeply rooted in each of us and in our culture, that we cannot work together for the greater good.

So what do we do next? I can tell you to consider marching in the streets, and maybe because you are even reading this essay this far, you will consider that an option. There is a time and place for that. In my opinion, the time is November 3, and the place is every street in America. At that point, we will use the power of our voice and then the power of our votes to decide who will lead our communities, our states, our houses of Congress, and our nation.

What can be effective right now is a full-on cleaning house of your own personal economy. Every day, you give dollars, minutes, and clicks to any number of brands, celebrities, media outlets, and businesses. You think they are meaningless. They are not. They are your personal power. Because when you “scale up” those dollars, minutes, and clicks, that personal power becomes collective power and someone somewhere is getting that much richer, more famous, and more powerful — all thanks to you. The question to be asking yourself right now, and asking your family, is this: Who and what do you want to support? To whom and to what do you want to give your time and money?

Have you ever sat down and tracked your dollars, minutes, and clicks? Because I assure you that big business, big tech, and the big forces who want those dollars, minutes, and clicks most certainly have. Sit down and do it. Take one month and look closely at just how you spent your money, your time, and your energy. And then cancel every autopay, cancel every subscription, cancel every membership, cancel every commitment. Get off autopilot. And take this Great Pause to breathe. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to unsubscribe so that you can resubscribe to a life you actually want. All I wish for you through this keyboard right now is that you make a conscious decision about what you want your life, your wallet, your calendar — and, by extension, our world — to look like when we #reopen.

Right now, we are all experiencing “the dark night of the soul.” Screenwriters use this term to refer to that moment when the main character has lost everything, has not achieved his or her goal, has been beaten up and broken down, and is at her or his lowest point. You know this part of the movie. It takes place about three-quarters of the way in. The character is alone in her bedroom, his shower, her car, a forest, a cave. And they must look inward before they can move forward. That is where we are as a nation. We have ridden the “fun and games” upward arc of the consumer free-for-all of the 20th century. We thought we were invincible. And then we fell. Flat on our face. Thanks, Covid. And now, here we are, alone in our houses, surrounded by loss, many in great despair, being asked to look inward. There is no brand, no leader, no voice that can help us now. We have to help ourselves. This is the moment in the movie that the truth comes out — the truth of who we are and who we most want to be. Armed with that truth, our main character heads into the next act with a better understanding of herself or himself and a revived purpose in the world.

What is your next act? And what is the next act for America? How do we as a country look inside, find the truth, and reemerge to create a wildly fantastic new chapter — one that is fairer, more just, more dignified, and more aligned with who we are as a truly good people? I assure you that if you use this Great Pause to look inside — at yourself, your fears, your dreams… and your calendar, your checking account, your social media — and if I do the same, and we both find our truth, we can both emerge a purer version of ourselves. The actions we take as our better selves and toward our own better future will spread. The biters will follow. Our new behaviors, rhythms, and spending habits will get multiplied. It will all scale up. It will all go viral. And we will harness our new understanding of how this all works to do some good in this broken world.

Millions More US Jobless than Reported. Real U.S. Unemployment Rate at 38%…

Based on how it was calculated pre-1990s, Shadowstats economist John Williams has the real US unemployment rate at around 38%, heading higher.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “millions” of jobless US workers aren’t getting benefits because applications they filed, or were unable to because of a “buckle(d)” system, weren’t processed.

EPI: “For every 10 people who said they successfully filed for unemployment benefits during the previous four weeks:

Three to four additional people tried to apply but could not get through the system to make a claim.

Two additional people did not try to apply because it was too difficult to do so.”

This disturbing reality shows that the official US unemployment rate is way understated.

It’s also evidence that millions of US jobless workers aren’t getting entitled to benefits.

EPI estimates that up to 13.9 million Americans haven’t filed for benefits or their applications weren’t processed because of a clogged system too hard to navigate.

“(A)bout half of potential UI (unemployment insurance) applicants are actually receiving benefits,” said EPI.

According to official numbers from mid-March through April 23, over 26 million newly unemployed US workers had their UI applications processed.

If nearly another near-14 million Americans laid off or furloughed aren’t included in official numbers for the above five-week period, it means up to 41 million US workers lost jobs since mid-March.

Because of a dysfunctional US UI application system, EPI estimates that benefits for America’s newly unemployed since mid-March may only be going to from “45% to 52%” of qualified individuals so far.

EPI’s data is from “a single-question survey (of) 25,000 respondents through Google Surveys, beginning April 14.”

“The survey was about 98% complete and had 24,607 respondents as of April 24.

It asked: “Did you apply for unemployment benefits in the last 4 weeks?”

Respondents could choose from one of six answers:

“I did not apply because I did not lose a job.

I did not apply because I am not eligible.

I did not apply because it was too difficult.

I tried but my application was rejected.

I tried but I could not get through.

I applied successfully.”

The above data indicate a much more dismal US jobs market reality than official numbers explain.

Economist Nouriel Roubini explained that COVID-19 arrived when “(t)he world (was already) drifting into a perfect storm of financial, political, socioeconomic, and environmental risks, all of which are now growing even more acute,” adding:

Policy blunders by the Fed, along with mismanagement by the Obama and Trump regimes, “made another crisis inevitable.”

“(N)ow that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute.”

Even if recovery occurs this year, a “Greater Depression will follow (because of mounting public) debts…(large-scale) defaults…loss of income for many households…unsustainable private-sector debt…(weakened demand because of) mass unemployment…downward pressure on wages…de-globalization,” and other factors.

Will Washington’s imperial fist make a bad situation worse?

Will US policymakers divert attention from economic duress for ordinary Americans by waging wars against invented enemies?

Will tyranny arrive in the US full-blown on the pretext of protecting national security at a time when Washington’s only enemies are invented?

Are the worst of times ahead? Or will enough fed up Americans no longer put up with how they’re harmed by the nation’s ruling class?

When governments fail their people, the way things are in the US, they forfeit the right to rule.

Civil disobedience and other forms of resistance become essential tactics for change.

The time is now to go big for a nation safe and fit to live in — polar opposite how things are now in the US and West.

The COVID-19 “Economic Holocaust” … Bankrupting the Nation. “The Shut-In Economy”

When we take into consideration $144.6 trillion in US Unfunded Liabilities, $20.4 trillion in Social Security Liability, and $31.6 trillion in Medicare liability, the nation lingers on the precipice a total collapse.

For all the uncertainties the COVID-19 pandemic poses to the world, especially in the US, one thing seems evident.  Our neoliberal capitalist civilization has proven itself to be unprepared for unexpected crises and catastrophes. For decades, the US has been falling behind other developed nations to infuse economic resiliency in society. Not only has the American medical system and federal health agencies been shown to be naked, we are also discovering we cannot rely on epistemological statistics and computer modeling alone to account for our flawed health policies.

Aside from the pandemic’s toll on people’s lives, there is also its impact upon the national economies and the global economy at large that is barely being discussed in any depth. Rather, hopes and wishes are being directed towards life returning to normal. We are expected to believe that our addiction to unconscionable consumerism will return, employment will rise and the American dream can again be mentally photo-shopped on the horizon. In short, we are persuaded that the comfort of our illusions and denial of harsh realities will return.  However, if a past Nobel laureate of economics, Joseph Stiglitz, is correct, then “if you leave it to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell we will have a Great Depression.” Likewise, former Federal Reserve chair Jenet Yellen has also warned that the 30% GDP decline is leading us towards Depression. In fact, we may already be there.

As of today, the federal government has guaranteed $5.2 trillion dollars to keep the economy afloat as a depression worse than 1932 looms overhead. Some economists believe that this massive bailout is insufficient and upwards to $10-15 trillion may be necessary.  In 2008, with one broad stroke the Obama administration rescued Wall Street.  What was believed to be just the TARP bailout of $700 billion was in fact over $4 trillion worth of outlays, including TARP and other FED and Treasury expenditures.  The Levy Institute at Bard College calculated the outlays may have been as high as $29 trillion, a number the Sanders’ campaign had quoted.

This presentation PROOVES WITHOUT DOUBT that America is in for a major fight that will put you and your family in the firing line, literally… So make sure you watch this presentation while it’s still online…

Obama’s bailout was to assist the incompetency and corruption of Wall Street and the financial industry. Today it is a submicroscopic organism, approximately 120 nanometers (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter or about 20 oxygen atoms lined up), that threatens the financial well being of most Americans.

However before the COVID-19 reached our shores, the US was already in a horrible debt crisis.

Fiscal conservatives are angered that the US National Debt has reached $24.5 trillion while at the same time adamantly ignoring that the US Total Debt now hovers above $77 trillion. Neither party shows concern about Americans’ increasing personal debt (mortgage, credit card, auto, student loans, etc), nor the rise in corporate, state and city debts.

When we take into consideration $144.6 trillion in US Unfunded Liabilities, $20.4 trillion in Social Security Liability, and $31.6 trillion in Medicare liability, the nation lingers on the precipice a total collapse.

Before the pandemic, Trump boasted an unemployment level as low as 3.6 percent. But in the US, there are different ways to calculate unemployment figures. There is the official figure (U-3) that Wall Street and presidential administrations rely upon and then a more realistic statistic or U-6 that includes those underemployed and those only marginally attached to the work force.

Before the pandemic the “real” or U-6 employment was 6.9 percent.  Finally there is the shadow statistic, which adds the millions of Americans who have dropped out of the work force because their benefits ceased or because they are homeless or unaccounted for by the Labor Bureau.  When those adjustments are made, the shadow unemployment is likely around 23 percent.

Now, unemployment is skyrocketing.  The most recent estimate is that over 26 million people lost work during the past month and, according to Fortune magazine, the official unemployment rate may be as high 18 percent. 

Consequently a more accurate unemployment figure would be approximately 32 percent or almost a third of population. This is far worse than at the height of the Great Depression when unemployment stood at 25 percent.

The dark side of American jobs has been decades of large layoffs, workers being replaced by automation, downsizing, corporate consolidation due to equity partnerships, mergers and off shoring of manufacturing. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign professionals have received work visas and are eager to take the place of middle seniority positions in firms for lower salaries and without full benefits.  The system is so corrupt that the millions of people who work full time for less than a living wage are completely ignored. Hence most Americans are deep in debt and frequently live paycheck to paycheck. The fact of the matter is that there is no security whatsoever for millions of people who may not find work for a very long time.

Even if the lockdown were to end tomorrow, the lights would not immediately switch back on.

Throughout the financial news, we are reading headlines of companies eyeing bankruptcy as credit ratings are being rapidly downgraded.  Retail stores are being especially hit badly. According to Global Data Retail, over 190,000 retail stores have closed, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the nation’s retail square footage. Forbes has listed Dillards, JC Penny, Kohl’s, Levi Strauss, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Signet to likely go under.  Others include Pier 1 Imports, Rite Aid, J Crew that is loaded up with private equity debt, Fairway supermarkets, and niche organic grocer Lucky’s. Macy’s capital alone dropped from $6 billion to $1.5 billion since February. This trend had already been rising since Trump came to office with large chain companies increasingly closing outlets including Walgreens, Gap, GNC, H&M and Victoria’s Secret. For sure, when and if the pandemic ends, there will be far less retail stores. The New York Times predicts very few are likely to survive. And we are not even looking at the hundreds of their vendors that are also being affected.

With 60 percent of Americans eating regularly outside the home, the restaurant industry is also being hit fiercely. Restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry — approximately 60% — and employs almost 16 million people. Between 2010 and 2018, it represented the largest number of low middle class jobs ($45,000 to $75,000), 300 percent more than the overall economy. Now a restaurant apocalypse is underway, with an estimated 20 percent of restaurant operations going under. Larger chains are far better equipped. They are simply closing down dining room facilities and only offering carryout, pickup, delivery or drive-thru. Smaller independent restaurants are at the greatest risk.

Then there are the farms, the concentrated agriculture feeding organizations (CAFOs) and food chain suppliers. In the past it was very rare to enter a large grocery store and find empty shelves. Now it is a common sight because the food supply chain has been upended.

Is starting to feel like it’s every man for himself, Is possible that right now, a global crisis is upon us, Without even knowing… And the virus may not be the biggest threat, but the crisis that follows, Everyday goods that keep us alive will be gone, I’m talking, food, fresh water, medicine, clothes, fuel…

Pork and other meat suppliers such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson and Cargill are forced to close plants. Due to Trump’s draconian position on immigration of foreign workers, farm produce will not be harvested.

Niv Ellis at The Hill reports that “some $5 billion of fresh fruit and vegetables have already gone to waste.”  The pandemic, therefore, is contributing to rising food insecurity throughout the nation. Before the pandemic, Ellis notes, 37 million Americans were already food insecure.  The additional 26 million unemployed will increase that number, and it is sure to continue to climb. Finally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization expects that the frantic efforts underway by countries to import basic staple foods may launch global food inflation.

We are also facing “the quickest and deepest oil demand crash in history,” says Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. Oil prices plunged to an inconceivable negative minus $37 a barrel last week as global fossil fuel demand dropped roughly 30 percent. “The entire petroleum industry,” writes Heinberg, “is teetering.”  Natural gas producers relying on hydrofracking shale, which had already been burdened with high debt from private equity, are scrambling for bankruptcy protectionAccording to Reuters, “numerous midstream companies [in the energy sector] backed by private equity are in danger of bankruptcy.” With the collapse of hydrofracking companies, the pipeline firms have also entered troubled waters. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City predicts that 40 percent of energy producers may be insolvent “if oil prices remain around $30 a barrel” for the year. Then consider the larger picture of the impact this has on the 6.4 million people working in the energy sector.

Also we might consider the future of 15 million Americans who work in the tourism industry, including hotels, entertainment, parks, museums, etc. It is estimated that 96 percent of global tourism has vanished in the blink of an eye.

State and local city governments are also “staring at budget shortfalls that will substantially exceed what they faced during the great recession.” States are reporting significant gaps in their capacity to remain fiscally afloat. The Republican Senate led by Mitch McConnell seems determined to withhold $150 billion of emergency funds to the states in the CARES Act before Congress — less than half of the $300 billion to $1 trillion state legislators are demanding. Consequently, states are staring into a deep abyss.

Americans who will either return to a job or seek work when the pandemic slows will be further imprisoned by an economy buried in greater debt.

  • Downsizing will accelerate along with borrowed money to continue operations while the White House refuses to pass a rent holiday, forgive student loans and other debts, cease payday loans, reduce interest rates on credit nor provide free healthcare for those infected with COVID-19;
  • The average person without a steady paycheck is living off savings and credit cards. Therefore, when the economy reopens, large numbers of people will be unable to return to the marketplace to circulate dollars;
  • As corporate debt mounts, the most insidious truth are the vultures of capitalism who will profit. These are the great white sharks in the finance industry that smell blood. For the trillions of dollars Trump is dishing out to the 1 percent, these are the first to get the lion’s share of the quarry.

Nobody in the mainstream media has properly criticized the huge monetary allocations being made for the pandemic. The FED is buying corporate debt in order for companies to off load their mistakes and receive fresh, new money. But the average small business receives the left over pennies.  The virus is teaching us the harsh reality about Washington pervasive culture of corruption. On this account both parties have no empathic regard for average citizens and small business owners.  Even the money from Trump’s and Mnuchin’s stimulus package given to citizens can be confiscated by debt collectors.

Imagine if you are an average citizen, not an insider, at the conference table with executives from Facebook, Google, the major banks and mega-corporate industries. You have no income or savings and no health insurance. If you are hungry, where do you get money for food? Where do you get money if you are sick or gas for your car? The unintended consequences of Trump’s and the Congress’ irresponsible and inhumane policies are literally bankrupting the nation.

By extension the millennial and iGen generations are the victimized recipients of this debt bequeathed to them by older generations. They are further compromised with the inability to secure jobs equal to their educational level nor secure a satisfying living wage. They are burdened with high interest student loans. They also are far more aware of the impact climate change will have on their futurs. Therefore, millions of young adults are rapidly losing faith in America’s neoliberal capitalist system and our self-centered culture of predation.

Similar to waking up the day following September 11, 2001, we will be emerging into a new world after the COVID19 pandemic subsides. It is now being called the “shut-in economy.” The pandemic is not solely a health crisis; it is equally an existential crisis, an impasse in the global civilization that is forcing us to realize that our over dependence and perverse reliance upon natural resources, such as fuel, energy, food and corrupt banking and healthcare services, is fragile. We are learning that at every level there are numerous cracks in our structures of governance and our economic and social bases.  Yet the virus did not break the nation; it has been broken for a long time. Only now more people are waking up from their dream. Furthermore, few people, including the mainstream media, now believe there will ever be a return to the normalcy of life that ended after Wuhan had its first patient infected with the virus. It is time for every individual to reassess her or his priorities. A life full of well-being is more possible today if we realize the virus has also been our teacher. But it is living a life that is founded upon simplicity, insight and wisdom, and community rather than consumption and competitive power.

If you’re interested in learning more old remedies, you should read The Lost Book Of Remedies.

Lost Book of Remedies pages

The physical book has 300 pages, with 3 colored pictures for every plant and for every medicine.It was written by Claude Davis, whose grandfather was one of the greatest healers in America. Claude took his grandfather’s lifelong plant journal, which he used to treat thousands of people, and adapted it into this book.

Lost Book of Remedies cover

Learn More…

The Age of Suffering: The reason that this catastrophe is multiplying and accelerating, ripping through the economy, is that the response to it was woefully inadequate

This week, another 5 million Americans filed for unemployment. Five million. Let’s put that number in context. At the beginning of this crisis, I predicted a rate of 3% unemployment growing per week. The US labour force is 165 million people. The total now filing for unemployment is 26 million and counting. That’s 16% of the labor force which is now unemployed.

Over just five weeksWhich is a rate of almost exactly three percent per week. That’s not to toot my own horn. It’s to point out a grim but inescapable conclusion.

At that rate, in another three weeks — two months in — a full quarter of the labor force will be unemployed. In another two months, half the labor force will be unemployed. We probably won’t get quite that far, if we’re lucky — but aren’t numbers that are rising towards 25% already devastating enough?

This isn’t just a surge in unemployment — it’s a historic tsunami. We have never seen numbers this fast and this catastrophic before. Ever. Not during recent financial crises, not during wars, not even during the Great Depression. We are living through a catastrophe that’s genuinely unprecedented and without parallel.

The reason that this catastrophe is multiplying and accelerating, ripping through the economy, is that the response to it was woefully inadequate. Seeing the effects of a pandemic — lockdown, quarantine, a whole society effectively staying at home — any good economy (and there aren’t many of those around) called for a stimulus at the same scale as the catastrophe: historic, massive, unprecedented. That only makes sense: if the crisis is without parallel in history, then the response must be too.

But what the American government, under Trump, produced, was something so feeble and inadequate as to beggar belief. I don’t say that for effect. The stimulus that was passed was the equivalent of supporting both businesses and households for just one week. And yet it’s already been a month. The stimulus was like trying to stop a tsunami with a brick, or a fire with a water pistol. It was never going to work, because it was simply too small to withstand a force much, much greater.

Added to that, the stimulus was byzantine and baroque. Who knew exactly how to get their hands on what little funds were available? And who knew if you met the conditions, anyways? The result is that right about now, stories are emerging of tiny, tiny fractions of what little stimulus there was reaching people’s hands. That’s like using a water pistol to fight a megafire — and making people sign about a thousand forms just to fill up the peashooters to begin with.

The result of both those factors — a stimulus that was too small, and too complicated — was that money didn’t reach people fast enough. And that, my friends, in an unprecedented economic crisis adds disaster to catastrophe.

What is setting in now is a contractionary spiral — the doom loop of depression, which Keynes, the great mind of the Great Depression, discovered more than a century ago. That loop goes like this. Some shock sets off a great wave of unemployment — sometimes a stock market crash, in this case a pandemic. The unemployed spend less, so businesses shutter. And soon enough, people have lost confidence in the economy — they change their habits for good, pessimistic, afraid, having lost faith in their institutions to protect and safeguard them. With a permanently lower level of spending — and earning — depression sets in.

We are now entering the Coronavirus Depression. The effects of today’s inaction are locking in a long-run path of ruin: they are going to shape the next decade or so. How so? By accelerating the American economy’s death — at the hands of inequality, monopoly, low-wage work, exploitative institutions, perpetual indebtedness, the political extremism and social distrust all that causes — a trajectory that’s already been travelled over the last few decades. Let me explain precisely why and how I think that is going to be the case.

Some economists say that jobs and incomes will magically bounce back. I tend to think they are the kind of economists who, like surgeons that only operate on mannequins, don’t understand how the real-world economy actually works.

The jobs that are being destroyed right about now — some large fraction of them — are not likely to come back. Why? Take the small business owner — who’s right about now shutting his doors, or is going to in the next few weeks. How likely is she to ever try opening up a small business again? Maybe like that simply won’t. They won’t be able to — trapped in years of liquidation and bankruptcy. Scarred by that experience, they will decide it’s just not worth it. Bang! A huge number of jobs simply goes up in smoke.

What about big business, megacapital? Well, it’s learning something it’s not about to froget: that it can get by on much, much lower labour costs. If you’re the CEO of a megacorporation, you’re discovering, right about now, just how much radically less employment you really need to keep things operating, going, moving. Maybe you never really needed all those cashiers, stockroom assistants, accountants, managers. Maybe you never even needed all those stores or showrooms or warehouses at all. Instead, you can use Amazon, Instacart, Google, or any other number of hyper-efficient services. Eye-opening, because your only goal is to maximize profits. Bang! Your level of hiring is reduced…permanently. Those jobs don’t come back…period.

The net effect therefore, will be that monopoly wins — a trend already vividly evident in American economic life, only now vastly accelerated: mega-business wins at the expense of small and medium sized business. You can already see that at work. Who’s actually done well from the pandemic? Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google. Here we all are, stuck at home, checking each others’ Instagram, watching Netflix, having our stuff delivered by some poor brave underpaid soul. Megacapital, technocapital, in other words, is having a field day. But technocapital has a few big problems, at least economically speaking

The first is that mega-techno-capital employs a relatively tiny, tiny number of people. GM used to employ millions. Google employs thousands. Ford used to keep whole cities thriving. Facebook has a tiny, weird, dystopian company town. You see the problem. An economy based on technocapital as its primary source of resource allocation is also one with a permanently low level of employment. So what do people do to make ends meet then?

Well, worse, technocapital then creates something like a caste economy. It divides the economy up into owners of techocapital — Bezos and Brin — who are worth billions; then their lieutenants and managers, who are worth millions; and then…everyone else. What does everyone else do? Well, they’re in the only segment of the economy that’s really been growing: “low-wage service jobs.” They become, in plainer English, glorified servants, driving cars, delivering groceries, walking dogs, cleaning homes.

Worse still, most of those people aren’t “employees”, even though they obviously “work for” a certain company. So as we all know, Uber drivers don’t enjoy basic protections, Google employs an army of people who aren’t “real” Googlers, Facebook’s worst and most dehumanizing work, like “content moderation” is done by contractors, and so forth. That trend — the replacement of the “job” with the gig” — is true across the economy. Working at an Amazon warehouse is a far cry from the kind of work the industrial economy offered in its heyday — Jeff Bezos doesn’t give you a pension, or pay for your kids’ college education. The byword of the economy that Americans megacorporations have created is exploitation to the bone, in the name of maximizing profit to the fattest degree.

So an economy that once used to have a vibrant middle and working class become a new caste of poor, scrounging for whichever gig pays a little more this week. But that kind of economy is sick. Dying. Why? Because a class of “low-income service” workers is effectively something very much like peasants or serfs. Did you know the average American now dies in debt? That means they never own, save, or earn anything across a lifetime. That’s serfdom by any other name: you work hard your whole life long, but you never own a thing — not a home, car, assets, savings to retire on. Just like medieval peasants, today’s Americans are not owners anymore — they are becoming renters, of everything from homes to healthcare to education, all had on debt, which they will never pay off.

What happens to a society of new poor? They can’t afford to fund basic social services. They grow too poor to afford to invest in healthcare, education, income, retirement for all. That’s where the average American is now. Ask them to invest in public healthcare, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. In a sense, they’re right — they can’t make ends meet on what they do earn, so what do they have left over to invest in anyone else with? Bang! A poor society becomes a truly poor society, in the sense that it never has the expansive public of a truly rich one. It declines further, into desperation and ruin.

Americans have normalized that situation — a life in which you’re perpetually indebted, in which the only way to have the basics of a good life, from education to healthcare to retirement, is to go into debt — but it’s not remotely normal. Everyday people should be able to afford such things, on average incomes. They should be that rich. Otherwise what is “rich” country, anyways? Otherwise what is an economy for? It’s just a vehicle to make the rich richer, but exploiting and impoverishing everyone else. But that is where America is — and has been.

America’s economy has been dying, for about two decades or so — which is how long the trends above — falling living standards, the evisceration of work, inequality, the implosion of the middle and working classes into the new poor, the growth of megamonopoly — have been rising. Coronavirus, though, is something like the executioner’s axe. It makes a return to any semblance of “normal” — which means something like Canada or Spain any other rich country, that enjoys high and rising living standards really — almost impossible. It is like a food pushing down the pedal of acceleration.

This economy dies — and a new one rises in its place. What does it look like? Like the stuff of dystopian fiction — think the Dark Ages meets Brave New World, by way of Charles Dickens. It’s made of three classes. A caste society of ultra rich; then their minions, the merely rich; and the new poor, which exists to serve the rich, doing whatever gig they can right at this moment — today selling on Amazon, tomorrow, driving an Uber, tonight, delivering groceries — just to make ends meet. Making ends meet just means paying off unpayable debt — the idea of owning much of anything outright is a distant fantasy. And the idea of a functioning society, with healthcare and education and retirement for all — that’s now become impossible.

What happens, in the end, to such a society? Usually — after a few decades of failure — it falls to authoritarian-fascism of some variant, soft or hard. The textbook example, of course, is Weimar Germany. But there are many others. Putinist Russia. Brexit Britain. Most of Eastern Europe. Islamic fascism. The masses cheer on the demonization of the hated other, as the source of all their problems — in Britain, Europeans, in India, Muslims, in Russia, gays and foreigners, and so forth. The true cause of the people’s economic woes, though, isn’t the powerless other — it’s simply a lack of money flowing to the average person, and piling up in the hands of elites, who use institutions as siphons to extract wealth in unimaginable amounts. America’s now joining that club of which membership is a dishonour: of genuinely failed states. The net effect of Coronavirus is going to be to accelerate the already ruinous authoritarian trajectory America is currently on — through even more poverty, inequality, and despair.

Coronavirus — or the lack of adequate response to it — is therefore going to radically accelerate seven already catastrophic existing trends. One, the stunning fall in living standards over the decade or two — whether longevity, happiness, meaning, incomes, savings, or trust. Two, as what was left of the old industrial jobs base is finally killed off, people becoming “low-wage service workers”, which those of us who speak plain English simply call…servants. Three, a caste society of those servants, those new poor, versus a tiny number of ultra rich — as, four, inequality spirals further. Five, the average person growing even more indebted, and becoming a true neoserf, never owning any major asset outright in their lifetime. Six, an economy monopolized by mega-scale institutions, which exploit and abuse their power, as small business is replaced by mega-biz. Seven, authoritarianism, as a result of all the despair that produces.

Let me translate that into plainer English. Those jobs aren’t coming back. The ones that do are going to be replaced with “low-income service work” — and even that will be subcontracted and outsourced so that people see a fraction of what income they might have once earned. Mega-business will learn it can get by on much, much less employment — while small business will shutter in a great paroxysm of death.

Inequality will spiral as a result. What was already emerging — a caste society of service workers, otherwise known more simply as servants, people doing menial work, forever seeking gigs, will accelerate. Such people, though, can’t fund a working social contract: they are too poor. They can only have a society to the level of say a Dickensian England — one with no real functioning systems or social contract. Perhaps, a cynic might even say, that has been the plan all along. Living standards, already falling, will continue falling. Ultimately, unless they’re reformed for the common good, such failing societies turn authoritarian — like America was already doing.

Bang! Economic implosion produces social ruin generates political ruin. That’s the path America’s on now. It’s not so different from yesterday, the path America was on. What the stunningly inadequate response to Coronavirus really does is three things. One, it locks that path in. Two, it accelerates the journey into the abyss. And three, it makes coming back nearly impossible.

The future is going up in flames every day, minute, second now — as the shockwave of this catastrophe accelerates, disaster added to it by incompetent leaders, failed ideologies, feeble politicians, and sociopathic demagogues. There’s a lesson in that. Maybe not for Americans, for whom I think it’s now too late. But for the world. It’s a simple one.

CHINA WILL BE TESTING OUT A NEW DIGITAL CURRENCY AND THEY’LL BE USING AMERICAN COMPANIES STARBUCKS, MCDONALD’S AND SUBWAY TO HELP THEM DO IT

Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway chains in China were named on the People’s Bank of China’s list of firms that will test the national digital currency in the near future. A digital currency is a generic term that may or may not be a cryptocurrency. Cryptos are decentralized by design, and also used for their privacy — something that is anathema to the Chinese government. This particular currency, once referred to as a digital yuan, will also be given a test at Chinese hotels, convenience stores, a bakery, a bookstore and a gym in the Xiong’an New Area, a city being built south of Beijing.

China, the country that banned initial coin offerings and made it tough for Bitcoin to operate has been tossing around the idea to build its own digital currency, and U.S. fast food giants Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway are willing to help roll it out, the South China Morning Post reported today.

Last week we told you how Microsoft Technologies, Inc., had filed patent #060606 on a human implantable cryptocurrency system using body activity data, something amazingly similar to the Mark of the Beast sans the Beast. The dust on that story has barely had time to settle when today’s story hit our end times radar about how China is rolling out a new digital currency, and will be using Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway to test it. Seems to me it is just as much a test for the American companies to see how they like it as it will be for the Chinese Communist government.

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:16,17 (KJB)

This presentation PROOVES WITHOUT DOUBT that America is in for a major fight that will put you and your family in the firing line, literally… So make sure you watch this presentation while it’s still online…

Don’t think of the whole COVID-19 hysteria as a pandemic, or crisis, or anything else, think of it as what it actually is – a global reset. During this time, the world we left barely a month ago is gone, and it’s not ever coming back. In its place will be a virtual everything, including digital currency that will replace nasty old paper and coins that trap and catch deadly germs. To paraphrase Ross Perot, that giant ‘sucking sound‘ you hear is the entire world being pulled into events that will start with the Pretribulation Rapture of the Church, and end with King Jesus and us returning on white horses to pick up the Jewish remnant at Selah Petra at the Battle of Armageddon. What’s in between those bookends of prophecy, the time of Jacob’s trouble, is where this old unsaved world is now headed. Sooner rather than later.

China’s Digital Currency To Be Given A Test Drive By U.S. Companies Like Starbucks

FROM FORBES: Starbucks, McDonald’s and Subway chains in China were named on the People’s Bank of China’s list of firms that will test the national digital currency in the near future.

A digital currency is a generic term that may or may not be a cryptocurrency. Cryptos are decentralized by design, and also used for their privacy — something that is anathema to the Chinese government. This particular currency, once referred to as a digital yuan, will also be given a test at Chinese hotels, convenience stores, a bakery, a bookstore and a gym in the Xiong’an New Area, a city being built south of Beijing. No date for the release has been set.

China has been talking about this for at least a year now and it is unclear how those three U.S. brands were chosen, but it was a local decision to include those local franchises. This is not for McDonald’s nationwide in the mainland. The PBoC said last August that their digital yuan was ready to be ruled out. China consumers are accustomed to using digital payments. Tech giant Alibaba BABA’s AliPay (owned by Alibaba’s Ant Financial) is more ubiquitous in China than Visa and Mastercard. QR code transactions are common place in China.

On April 20, the WSJ reported that the digital currency rollout would happen outside of the Xiong’an New Area, and also be test driven in Shenzhen and Chengdu.

CHINA’S ESTIMATED 890 MILLION UNIQUE MOBILE PAYMENT USERS MADE TRANSACTIONS TOTALING AROUND $20 TRILLION IN 2019. THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE MAKING MOBILE MERCHANT PAYMENTS IS EXPECTED RISE FROM AROUND 577 MILLION LAST YEAR TO AN ESTIMATED 700 MILLION IN 2022.

China’s government move into digital payments would potentially be a competitor to AliPay, which is privately owned, though for now the government does not seem to have any plans to roll out a payments platform or a blockchain for those transactions.

Worth noting, over the last 20 years, from the onset of China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization, the country went from a poor, cash-based society, to a highly innovative economy with a global, urban middle class in some key cities that are all plugged into the internet. 

The New World Order?

The lockdown impoverishes both the developed and developing countries and literally destroys national economies.

It destabilizes the entire economic landscape. It undermines social institutions including schools and universities. It spearheads small and medium sized enterprises into bankruptcy.

What kind of World awaits us?

A diabolical “New World Order” in the making as suggested by Henry Kissinger? (WSJ Opinion, April 3, 2020):

“The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order”

Recall Kissinger’s historic 1974 statement: “Depopulation should be the highest priority of US foreign policy towards the Third World.” (1974 National Security Council Memorandum)

The political implications are far-reaching.

 What kind of government will we have in the wake of the crisis?

Now The End Begins is your front line defense against the rising tide of darkness in the last days before the Rapture of the Church

Is starting to feel like it’s every man for himself, Is possible that right now, a global crisis is upon us, Without even knowing… And the virus may not be the biggest threat, but the crisis that follows, Everyday goods that keep us alive will be gone, I’m talking, food, fresh water, medicine, clothes, fuel…

Americans Are Paying a Tragic Price for Allowing Five Banks to Control the U.S. Economy

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as of yesterday there were 5,117 federally-insured banks and savings associations in the United States. But in terms of risk to the U.S. economy and financial system, according to the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Financial Research, only five of those banks matter. And as you can see from the chart above, those five banks are tanking.

On February 14 of this year, Citigroup’s share price closed at $78.79. Yesterday, it closed at $40.52, a decline of 48.5 percent in two months. This is the same bank that was resuscitated by its regulators during the 2007-2010 financial crash when its share price went to 99 cents. Citigroup received the largest bailout in global banking history, including $2.5 trillion in secret, cumulative revolving loans from the Federal Reserve.

On February 14, the common stock of JPMorgan Chase – the bank that has perpetually bragged for years about its “fortress balance sheet” — closed at 137.46. Yesterday JPMorgan Chase closed at $87.33, a decline of 36 percent in two months.

As the chart above indicates, the stock prices of the Wall Street mega banks are performing far worse than the broader market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (green line). That’s very bad news for the U.S. economy because it’s the industrial and energy and pharmaceutical and technology companies in the Dow that need to borrow from these banks in order to continue paying salaries to millions of workers and avoid severe layoffs. The financial condition of these banks essentially means the difference between the life and death of the U.S. economy. It’s not looking good so far.

This presentation PROOVES WITHOUT DOUBT that America is in for a major fight that will put you and your family in the firing line, literally… So make sure you watch this presentation while it’s still online…

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell joined the Federal Reserve’s Board as a member on May 25, 2012. Over that time Powell should certainly have become aware of the repeated warnings of the Office of Financial Research (OFR) that America was at dangerous risk from ignoring the concentration and leverage of its banking sector. But instead of reining in these concentrated risks, the Federal Reserve has allowed them to mushroom.

In a February 2015 report the OFR wrote this:

“The larger the bank, the greater the potential spillover if it defaults; the higher its leverage, the more prone it is to default under stress; and the greater its connectivity index, the greater is the share of the default that cascades onto the banking system. The product of these three factors provides an overall measure of the contagion risk that the bank poses for the financial system. Five of the U.S. banks had particularly high contagion index values — Citigroup, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs.”

According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the bank holding companies of those same five banks as of December 31, 2019 were sitting on astronomical levels of highly combustible derivatives: in notional (face amount) of derivatives, JPMorgan Chase held $46.4 trillion; Citigroup held $40.8 trillion; Goldman Sachs Group had $39.6 trillion; Morgan Stanley sat on $32.5 trillion while Bank of America held $30.4 trillion. These five banks represented 83 percent of all derivatives held by the more than 5,000 Federally-insured banks in the U.S.

In what dystopian banking system from hell would that make any sense – especially given the fact that it was derivatives that blew up the Wall Street banks in 2008 and required a $29 trillion secret feeding tube from the Federal Reserve that lasted from December 2007 to July 2010. Instead of reforming the structure of the U.S. banking sector, the Federal Reserve has simply gone on a decade-long road show telling the world that our banks are “highly capitalized.” Congress has been equally missing in action.

Yesterday, Neel Kashkari, the President of one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks known as the Minneapolis Fed, wrote an OpEd for the Financial Times. In the piece he seemed to acknowledge that time is running out for these Wall Street mega banks. Kashkari wrote this:

“Large banks are eager to be part of the solution to the coronavirus crisis. The most patriotic thing they could do today would be to stop paying dividends and raise equity capital, to ensure that they can endure a deep economic downturn. Unlike the rest of us, banks have the ability to essentially vaccinate themselves against this crisis. They should do so now. When financial strains emerged in 2007, US officials urged large bank chief executives to raise equity to make sure they had the wherewithal to survive a crisis. The most common answer was: ‘We’re fine. We don’t need it. Our balance sheet is rock solid.’ They only realized that they had serious problems after the deep losses were obvious to everyone, especially financial markets.”

There are two giant fallacies in what Kashkari writes and he knows it because he oversaw the government’s Wall Street bailout program known as TARP in 2008-2009. The first fallacy is that the mega banks are eager to jump in and help the economy. One or more of these banks triggered the repo loan crisis in September 2019 by backing away from making loans, thus forcing the Fed to begin an unprecedented $9 trillion revolving loan facility that continues to this day. Just yesterday JPMorgan Chase announced it won’t be making any further home equity loans after two days prior announcing that it is raising its borrowing standards for new home mortgages by requiring a credit score of 700 or higher and a 20 percent down payment. So let that sink in for a minute. JPMorgan is currently paying dividends of 90 cents per share per quarter on just over 3 billion shares for an annual payout of $10.98 billion to its shareholders but it can’t find the cash to make home equity loans to the 22 million Americans who have lost their jobs over the past month.

The second preposterous assertion by Kashkari is that these Wall Street banks only “realized that they had serious problems after the deep losses were obvious to everyone, especially financial markets.” Many of these banks knew in advance that the system was going to blow up because whistleblowers inside their own bank told top management that they were securitizing liar loans on subprime mortgages that were in direct violation of the bank’s loan standards. Management overruled the whistleblowers, sent them packing, and actually shorted (bet on price declines) in the very instruments they had brought to market and sold to other investors as a quality investment. (See here and here.)

Americans need to use this time at home to call their Senators and Reps in Congress and demand the separation of federally-insured, deposit-taking banks from the casinos on Wall Street. We’re talking about nothing less than the survival of this country and how the next generation is going to view the character and courage of our generation.

Is starting to feel like it’s every man for himself, Is possible that right now, a global crisis is upon us, Without even knowing… And the virus may not be the biggest threat, but the crisis that follows, Everyday goods that keep us alive will be gone, I’m talking, food, fresh water, medicine, clothes, fuel…

The Great Inflection – Why We’re Going From an Age of Stability to an Age of Catastrophe

Does it feel like the world’s started to fall apart over the last twelve months or so — or even the last three? That tiny voice in you shouting “yes!!” Isn’t wrong. It’s right. You’re not an alarmist or a maniac. Right about now, understanding that things are falling apart is the sanest thought of all to have.

Every now and then, there’s what’s come to be called an annus horribilis — a particularly terrible year. Take, for example, well..this one. 2020. Consider, for a moment, the last three months or so. In January, megafires. In February, megafloods. In March, a pandemic. Can you imagine another year like this one? Could any of our societies even take it?

Now consider the last twelve months or so. Before the megafloods and megafires and pandemic. Concentration camps in America and China. Whole ethnicities and religions banned from citizenship in India. The Brits breaking up with their old friends in Europe…while neo-Nazis stalked the Bundestag. The rise of a wave of demagogues, shredding democracy and peace and sanity gleefully — to the roaring approval of Facebook-addled masses. Not just in some remote other poor nations — but in the heart of the West, in Westminster and Washington DC and Bruseels.

So. Can you imagine another decade like the last twelve months? Another two or three? We’re already on our knees as a civilization. Another year like this one? Another decade of such years? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

I have some bad news, and I have some worse news. And then maybe a tiny bit of good news — but that part’s going to be up to you.

The bad news is this.

I’ve come to think we’re living through a Great Inflection. A turning point in the historic fortunes of a civilization. A point of no return, at which great megatrends reverse, macrosystems and macroinstitutions fail, and societies begin to break. See the chart above? We’re at the yellow point in the center — where a grand upwards line becomes a sudden fall from the heavens. The next few decades are going to be like the last twelve months — only worse, at an accelerating pace. See that chart above? Here’s what it means.

Two lines. One glides neatly upwards. One falls downwards in a half-parabola, like a stone thrown off a cliff’s edge. The point at which they intersect is the moment in which we live. A Great Inflection.

The upwards line is what you might call progress or civilization or prosperity. For most of our lives, our parent’s lives, our grandparent’s lives, that line crept slowly upward. So we’re used to living in a certain kind of world. One, a placid world, where there’s little if any real change. Two, a world of progress, where, magically, things like life expectancy and happiness seem to improve, for no real reason we understand or even care about. And three, a world where if we just do our jobs, and don’t ask too many questions, things tend to work out alright.

As you’ve probably already experienced, that world began to die in the last decade or so. The line of civilization and progress isn’t gently gliding upwards anymore. If you just do your job, you don’t get rewarded — mostly, you get brutally punished, betrayed, and abandoned, by broken systems and elites who could care less.

As a civilization, we’re at the yellow point in the center of my chart: the infection point. This is the moment at which everything changes — this decade, these years, right now. The great megatrends which have defined history over the last few decades and centuries are all now reversing — the steady expansion of democracy, progress, and prosperity. Everything we know is being disrupted, transformed, altered, sundered. Ruptured. And living through times like that — where great megatrends suddenly rupture — is baffling and bewildering and surreal. That’s what I mean by living through an inflection point. Historical inflection points might feel relatively slow to us — things change in a decade — but to history, that’s massive, radical, sudden change.

The red line — the downwards curve, the stone thrown from a cliff edge — what’s that? It’s all the catastrophes that have been slowly building in the background of a dying civilization, ignored, neglected, looming, gathering force and pace and strength.

Today, there’s a perfect storm of catastrophes converging upon us. From one side, what you might call natural ones: climate change, ecological collapse, mass extinction, and of course, pandemic. From the other, socio-politio-economic ones. The economic ruin that follows all the above. The political upheaval already being produced by decades of stagnation and inequality. And the sense that societies are slowly but surely losing the plot — incapable of really cohering together anymore, taking collective action, like America, or the UK, instead at each others’ throats. All that is what the “line of catastrophe” in the little chart above means.

2020 may have been an annus horribilis so far — but it’s not some kind of anomaly. It is the future. It’s the thunderous beginning of a new chapter in human history — the age of catastrophe. Hence, us at the yellow point. The upwards blue line is turning, downwards, red — catastrophes are now coming harder and faster and will do so for our lifetimes, most likely. Things aren’t going to go back to “normal” — not tomorrow, not the day after, not ever. The next few decades will be like the last year or two — only worse.

2020 was the year we began to finally witness the full fury of all the catastrophes we’ve been living in blissful denial of — whether pandemic, depression, climate change, or fascism. Think of a volcano suddenly exploding. Bang! All that pent up heat and pressure and lava suddenly goes ballistic, hurtling through the air, scorching everything in sight. That’s what we’ve done — only with much larger catastrophes than a mere volcano.

Think of climate change. It’s been gathering force and fury for decades now. Scientists, every month or so, publish yet more alarming data. The skies are polluted by this much, the oceans warming and rising by that much, the temperature rising, rising. As a race, as a species, we’ve mostly..ignored it. Sure, we’ve made half-hearted efforts — like teenagers who, when asked to clean their rooms, throw dirty socks under the bed, and maybe muss the sheets.

Or think of mass extinction. If you think we’ve barely begun to fight climate change (you’re right), the truth is that we haven’t even begun to think about how to fight mass extinction. So life on planet earth as we know it is dying off at astonishing rates. 40% of that species is gone, 60% of that one, 80% of this one — and the rates are accelerating. Mourn the little ones — but worry for yourself and your loved ones too. Because the fish clean the rivers and streams. The insects turn the topsoil. The animals nurture the forests and reefs. Killing life as we know it is a sure recipe to collapse our megasystems — our food chains, supply chains, resource chains, the things of which we critically depend. When all that happens — in another 15–20 years — that wave of catastrophe will make this one look toothless by comparison.

Then there’s the economic ruin that’s sure to follow all these. Did you see how a pandemic — a relatively mild one, by historical standards — brought economy after economy to its knees? But the economic effects of climate change and mass extinction and ecological collapse are going to be order of magnitude worse. Right now, you can’t leave home. Tomorrow, you might not have one. Right now, maybe you’re worried for your job, or you’ve lost it. Tomorrow, as regions burn and flood, and entire mega systems fail — massive swathes of jobs will simply disappear, permanently.

Did you see, by the way, the way that authoritarians are already making hay from the pandemic? How they’re using it to expand powers of surveillance and claim more..authority…and misdirect from their own failures and so on? During times of unprecedented crisis, people turn naturally to strongmen and demagogues. Pulling together is largely a myth, meant to make us feel good. How is it that an impeached Trump is more dangerous and destructive than…ever?

So my “line of catastrophe” represents a kind of process, a dynamic, a causal chain. Catastrophes produce depressions. And depressions produces waves of extremism. Waves of extremism reshape society, along authoritarian fascist lines. When the climate refugees flood America — how do you think tomorrow’s Trumpists will react then? More or less violently? When tomorrow’s Trumpists will never have jobs again, thanks to eco-depressions that effectively render places uninhabitable — how much angrier do you think they’ll be, and how much more ready to scapegoat some poor Mexican baby? But what happens when societies elect demagogues? They grow poorer, fast, and live vastly worse lives.

Hence, the future of natural catastrophe isn’t just that. It’s a future of dominoes falling. Of economies crashing, of depressions rising, of extremism’s riptides surging, of societies drowning in hate, violence, rage, and poverty — much like modern-day America.

Now, you might have already objected to my term “natural.” You’re right. Here’s the thing about this age of catastrophe. All of the catastrophes that are arriving now — this civilization-wrecking perfect storm of them — are self-made. All of them. They’re all “anthropogenic” — aka “man-made”, but I don’t like that term, because it doesn’t really get to the root of the problem.

What unifies all the catastrophe converging in this age, from climate change to mass extinction to economic depression to extremism? They are all byproducts. They’re what economist call “externalities”, hidden, unintended costs.

Climate change is an externality made of carbon emissions. Mass extinction is an externality made of rendering whole ecosystems toxic and unlivable. Depressions are an externality of too little money in the average person’s hands. Extremism is an externality made of distrust, anger, rage, resentment, and the hate it ultimately becomes.

But what are all these things externalities of? If they’re all forms of hidden costs — then what’s having the costs in the first place?

The answer to that question’s as simple as it is troubling. All the catastrophes we face now are byproducts of a feeble, decrepit industrial-capitalist economy. It’s logic of exploitation polllutants, which crowd the skies and kill off the animals. It’s exploitative logic says, too, that people must never be given money they haven’t “earned”, much less support, working social contracts, so the result is that depressions erupt after catastrophes, just like in America, right now. The morality it teaches people is that the strong have the right — the obligation, in fact — to exploit the weak, and the masses lap it up, resulting in waves of extremism, which crest predictably enough in all the places which became part of the global capitalist-industrial machine: America, India, China, Britain, all societies where people have learned to punch down on the helpless, instead of lift one another up.

The age of catastrophe we are entering now isn’t just “anthropogenic.” You and I didn’t really make it. We have probably tried resisting it as best we could. What has made an age of catastrophe is capitalism. Now, by capitalism, I don’t mean your butcher and baker and brewer. I mean McKinsey running concentration camps. I mean Goldman Sachs and hedge funds getting free money from governments, forever. Americans sometimes call all that “corporatism” (which is fine by me.) I mean the idea, so visible in American culture, especially when set in relief against the togetherness of a pandemic, that our only relationship with each other in a society is as adversaries and enemies, competing to the death for healthcare, retirement, jobs, incomes, employment. All that is what capitalism really is — exploitation of you, me, the planet, life on it, democracy, and the future, by organizations wealthier than countries, with legal superpowers, whose only goal is to maximize profit, at any cost. Your local small business might well be a form of resistance against it — many of mine are, the bookshop, the bakery, the little pottery.

The infection point we’re at is this. We have hit the limits of industrial-capitalism, as a way to organize our world economy, to shape our societies, to inform our lives, to structure our organizations, and frame our ethics, too. The simple way to say it is that its costs — pandemics, climate change, mass extinction, stagnation, extremism, depression, demagogues — are beginning to swamp its benefits. Sure, the rich get mega richer. But the rest of us? We’re sinking along with the ship.

My little chart predicts a grim future. If we’re at the inflection point that I think we are, then the future is just like that stone’s throw off a cliff edge that the line of catastrophe represents. It’s a swift plummet into an abyss. It’s a decade or three of every catastrophe beginning to hit us more and more severely, every single year, until the fundamental ideas of civilization itself simply wink out, as people are trapped in bitter, brutal contests of self-preservation. Think of how a pandemic has brought us to our knees — and now imagine a few decades like the last few months. Maybe you’re beginning to see what I mean.

I don’t want you to take my chart literally, in a kind of grad-school way. Any good model is only a metaphor, and this isn’t even that much. It’s just a little lens, a toy model, two lines and the point at which they meet. So don’t run away and shout: “Umair’s saying living standards will fall to the level of the 1800s tomorrow!! LOL!!” I’m not. But I am saying that, for example, America’s already a place where living standards are cratering, and every catastrophe makes that trend worse. Expand that across the world, and you begin to see my point, perhaps. We’re at an inflection point — some will arrive sooner, some later, and some lucky ones might just skirt it altogether.

No, I don’t mean that there’s going to be a pandemic every year, by the way. But I do mean that the last three or six months or year are a good window for seeing the future. This month, megafire, next month, megaflood, next month, political upheaval, next month, depression. There’s always something — some catastrophe, that’s pulling at us, making us fearful, tugging at our optimism and confidence — and the trend is always getting worse. As a result, whole societies are trapped in resource-depletion. They’re always trying to rebuild what just burned down, shut down, flooded — instead of ever really growing much again.

What my little chart above really says is this. One paradigm, one model of growth, one way to organize a civilization, one idea for managing a whole world — that’s now at an end. A dead end. And the real problem is that we have no real new ones, yet, going forward. What are we to do as a world, as societies, as families, as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers? How are we to cohere, prosper, survive, endure — grow?You can see that elites and leaders have no real idea for an agenda for the future — except the old one demagogues do: hate the ones who aren’t like you, and take what’s theirs. We need a vision for a new economy, new world, new civilization.

Now for the good news — the tiny bit of it. What might that be like? I think it’s eminently straightforward. It’s modeled on the most successful societies we know of in human history, which are social democracies. Every human being deserves dignity, resources, freedom — which are enshrined in rights to healthcare, education, income, and so on. Every life of any kind does — and so the animals and ecosystems need to earn a living too, which can be spent on protecting and nourishing them. To do that, we need global institutions, new banks and funds and agencies and so forth — like a Global Ecosystem Bank, or a World Healthcare Organization which actually coordinate a world’s healthcare, or a World Bank that can actually invest in you and me, where everyone can have an account, which receives a basic income. Think of how many good jobs all the above would create, too.

You can think of that at the national level. Why don’t you have an account at the central bank? Why aren’t oceans and reefs people, too — if corporations are? How come Amazon, Inc is “worth” a trillion dollars, but the Amazon river’s worth…nothing? Why is it that every single person doesn’t get a nest egg at birth, that can mature into investment in a business, college, or both? How come we don’t have institutions to do any of that — but we do have a dozen new WhatsApp clones every other day?

I don’t think any of that’s complicated, really — except to two groups of people. Americans, and elites. Elites like to imagine that what I’m envisioning is impossible — but that’s mostly because they don’t want to admit that their world failed, and failed badly. Americans, on the other hand, are used to being powerful and selfish, and that’s made them arrogant, so they tend to think of change in incremental terms.

My friends, cautious incrementalism isn’t going to cut it. That is the single most urgent lesson of the Great Inflection. Does it feel like the world has started to fall apart this last year? Let me say it again. That feeling’s not wrong. It has. It is. The way to fight it is to get radical, to get visionary, to get serious about building a new world. One in which these fundamental, beautiful ideas of civilization — equality, freedom, justice, truth, beauty, goodness — have razor-sharp meaning again. In which they aren’t mere intellectualizations and theory, but concrete ways of life, we are all enacting.

Otherwise, I think, the future is very simple. It’s the brutal, swift, bleak regress of a Great Inflection, through all the tragedies of history, from fascism to authoritarianism to depression, right back to a dark age, faster and harder than we yet know. And if you think I’m kidding — isn’t all that what the last few days, weeks, months, and years have already been?

Unemployment in America isn’t like other countries. As people lose whatever jobs they had, they’re going to lose their healthcare, retirement, childcare, and so forth

See that chart above?

It says that another 5 million or so people filed for unemployment last week. That’s 22 million in one month. How much is that, in real terms? The US labour force is 165 million people or so. That’s 13.3% of the labour force unemployed in one month. That’s more than a rate of about 3% a week, as I predicted at the beginning of all this. At that rate, by the end of next month, more than a quarter of the US economy will be unemployed.

We are watching an economy die. There’s simply no other way to put it. As I and most other good economists cautioned, Coronavirus is a shock like we’ve never seen before — ever. Not even a war produces a massive shockwave like this, which is one reason war metaphors are inadequate. But it’s a shock like we’ll again and again in the near future, as climate change and mass extinction and ecological collapse bite — so this is a chance to get our house in order, to make preparations for an age of such shocks.

The first thing you need to understand about watching the economy die like America’s is is that it’s needless: it never needed to happen. The second thing you need to understand about this particular event — a gigantic shockwave of unemployment — is that it’s like the plume of a volcano, or the crest of a tsunami: just a front, which carries a massive wave of destruction right behind it. That damage is yet to come, but it is now on the way, inevitable. So: this massive shock front of unemployment is just the beginning. The nightmarish consequences it will have — depression and what that produces, which I’ll get into shortly — never needed to happen at all, and yet those effects, now that the shockfront is exploding before our very eyes, are going to last, and have dramatic, ruinous consequences of their own. A cascade, a chain reaction of ruin has now been set off.

How and why?

As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the stimulus was woefully inadequate. It provided businesses and households the equivalent of just one week of support…amidst an historic crisis that was going to last months. If the ante wasn’t upped, and fast, the results were going to be catastrophic. Well, here are the results — and they are catastrophic. Of course there’s a massive wave of unemployment, when the government’s only supporting the economy for one week…but it’s already been several.

What’s happening is simple, on one level: businesses are closing their doors, as people stay home. But on a deeper level, as Keynes, the great economist of depressions explained a century ago now, what’s happening is this: a massive loss of confidence. Anticipating no real support, businesses are laying people off. Anticipating no real help, people are cutting back dramatically. The result is the shock front of unemployment mounting at the surreal rate of 3% a week — or about six million people. If that keeps growing — as it’s likely to — what’s going to happen?

Unemployment in America isn’t like other countries. Because of America’s ruinous, obsolete social contract, most forms of social insurance and benefits are tied to “jobs.” As people lose whatever jobs they had, the effects are therefore going to be catastrophic. They’re not just going to lose their incomes. They’re going to lose their healthcare, retirement, childcare, and so forth.

But people will still have to pay for those things — at the astronomical rates individuals must pay in America, without “jobs” to subsidize what should be basic public goods (like healthcare.)

The consequence of that will be a massive rise in the poverty rate. That’s doubly bad news. You see, America has already — and this is before the pandemic — been home to a gruesome phenomenon which its elites overlook, and its pundits politely ignore: the middle class has been imploding over the last decade, and becoming a class of new poor. The working class has been eroded right down to becoming a class of now entrenched poor.

What happens when an imploding middle class and a declining working class collide with the sudden, explosive poverty of a depression? Bang! Poverty skyrockets. As poverty skyrockets, the effects on America’s socioeconomy will be hard to overstate.

One of the key effects will be a lasting decline in entrepreneurship. Think of the small or medium sized business owner, owner of a microbrewery, trying to do something creative and interesting — trapped in this maelstrom. He has to lay off employees he wants to take care of — because he has no option: he has no confidence left in government support or stimulus. Soon enough, he declares bankruptcy: his customer base is gone. But he’s saddled now with months or maybe years of liquidation and debt servicing.

How likely is he to try and put his heart into that microbrewery again? Who wants to risk it — in an age where risk is multiplying out of control, but governments and their institutions don’t seem interested in managing it at all, merely shifting onto those who can bear it least, like the small business owner?

Wham! The decline of entepreneurship is likely to be accompanied by a parallel: many of the jobs being destroyed now aren’t likely to magically, suddenly pop back into existence the moment the economy’s “reopened.” What economists call “hysteresis” is setting in, meaning that many of those jobs have been permanently destroyed, as the small and medium sized businesses offering them shutter their doors for good.

What does the owner of our now-closed microbrewery do, for example? Well, the truth is that during the pandemic, most of the remaining “good” jobs were stripped away from the economy. Why? The big winners were existing mega-monopolies. Like Amazon, which has profited immensely — or Google, Facebook, and so forth. What’s on offer in the ruins of the economy left behind by the pandemic, then, is an explosion in “gig” work. The kind that’s been growing for a decade or so. But the problem with gig work is that it’s not really a “job.” You don’t have any real benefits. You don’t even have a reliable schedule. It’s certainly not a career, with a path to any kind of ownership. You’re scavenging atop the rubble of a destroyed economy for whatever morsels of work you can find this moment, really.

So our once-proud owner of a microbrewery now tries to make ends meet by driving an Uber today, Instacarting deliveries tomorrow, maybe selling stuff on Amazon the day after. What’s his life like? It’s a grim, bitter struggle. He never has enough to pay the bills — which always seem to rise. He’s always desperately looking for another side hustle. And yet even that in itself somehow seems more palatable than what happened to his business once — he never wants to go through that hell of bankruptcy and liquidation and debt service and financial ruin, ever again.

Let me distill the moral of my little story.

The pandemic is going to accelerate three ruinous trends in American economic life. One, the implosion of the middle and working classes — which means skyrocketing inequality. Two, the erosion of good jobs and decent work and entrepreneurship — which means non-exploitative labour, work with purpose, innovation, creativity, meaning. Three, growing poverty — which means declining living standards. What’s the knock-on consequence of all that: a dying economy?

Let me pause to reiterate — all this is needless. It doesn’t have to happen. But to draw out the lesson, let me continue with my little tale of my average guy.

Once, he had a middle class life. His microbrewery did well enough for him to put money away for retirement, to pay for his kids’ college, to pay for good healthcare — and all that not just for himself, but for the dozen people he employed at first, and the then the hundred people he employed right as the pandemic struck.

Today, though, he employs nobody. How can he? Every month, he barely gets by. As a result, he saves nothing for retirement — which is now a luxury he’ll never have. Putting the kids through college? Why else do you think he sweats away at three different gig platforms every single day of the week? And yet that’s still a distant dream. Healthcare? Forget it — he’s so busy, a good man, trying to provide for his family…he barely takes care of himself at all.

His family once enjoyed a relatively stable middle class life. His microbrewery — all that hard work, entrepreneurship, vision, had steadily raised their living standards. He’d been the son of a working class family, fathers and uncles all auto workers — and now here he was, owner of a business. His family enjoyed nice clothes and cars and a vacation once a year. They bought a new house, every five years or so. It was a good life.

Now they live — the five of them — in a two bedroom apartment. They’d moved there from a three bedroom house — which itself was a major downgrade from the modern five bed they’d lived in at the peak of their success. They’d eaten good food, shopping at trendy organic bakeries and butchers, fresh and nutritious. Now, that kind of diet alone would cost more than he makes in a month, driving cars and delivering groceries.

He looks at the groceries he’s delivering — they’re the kind his family once used to eat. Expensive, good for you, not the artificial junk they’ve been reduced to living on now. He shakes his head? What is he, anyways, now?

Inequality has skyrocketed and surged. The pandemic produced a class of winners, too. Bezos made billions — and his lieutenants, millions. So too did Zuck, Sergey, and the managers of their Google and Facebooks and so on.

The economy has been divided into a kind of caste system. At the very top are the owners of technocapital — Bloombergs and Bezoses and whatnot: they’re a tiny class of mega-billionaires. They have more than they can ever spend — and a single one could have bought all the ventilators America needed. Just beneath them is a larger, but still very, very small class of their seconds and thirds and fourths in command. “Product Manager” here? “CFO” there? “Fund manager” here? You’re doing very well: you’ve probably got at least a mil or several in the bank, or in home equity, and you’re pulling down multiple hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a year.

Beneath them, though, isn’t the broad, expansive middle class of the 1950s American Dream. There’s just a vast, vast pool of the new poor. They can be divided up into the downwardly mobile former middle, and the abandoned working class — but that’s splitting hairs, really. Life in this class is about technological neoserfdom. The app, the platform, the algorithm is your boss. It tells you what kind of work to do, how much it’s worth, when to do it, and even monitors you to make sure you’re doing it fast enough, and with a smile on your face.

This class is the vast, vast majority of people — about 80%. It’s a class that already exists — the 80% of Americans who can’t make ends meet, live paycheck to paycheck, can’t raise a tiny amount for an emergency, and struggle to pay basic bills like healthcare and housing. The pandemic, though, made all that much, much worse — and it destroyed any hope that people beginning to be trapped in this class of neosurfs had of ever escaping it.

After all, there were only three paths, really. One, entrepreneurship — but after the pandemic, that became a cruel joke. Two, education — but even before the pandemic, getting a PhD was becoming a liability, unless it was in math, and you wanted to rip people off with derivatives for a living. And three was turning into Walter White, maybe just in a lightweight way: after all, what boomed in a declining economy was vice. Porn, legalized drugs, camshows — maybe you could find a way out of the class of new poor in all those. But that was it. Play by the old rules — work hard for a living? LOL. I’ll see you on the breadlines, brother.

America’s long been becoming the world’s first poor rich country — and the stunning, epic, shocking mismanagement of the pandemic is going to accelerate it, viciously.

What happens when economies hit the magical point of about 25% or so unemployment? They tend to destabilize, hard and fast. America’s already been destabilized — if you understood all the above, that poverty was setting in, that opportunity was declining, that mobility had withered…you could have easily predicted Trumpism years out. I did, and that’s not to toot my own horn — it’s just to say that these relationships are the closest thing the economic world has to ironclad laws. Chief among them is the relationship between poverty and authoritarianism.

The first great wave of new American poverty — the decline of America’s middle and working class, the former from about 2000 on, and the latter from about 1990 on — produced Trumpism. An atavistic return to old forms of order, as a lunatic demagogue scapegoated every minority in sight for the economic woes of “real” Americans. But the problems of stagnant income and lost mobility had nothing to do — for Pete’s sake — with little Mexican kids, or even Chinese factory workers. They simply had to do with a society in which all the gains were taken by the mega-rich.

Never mind — even the opposition failed to really explain that, or fight against it, and so, quite predictably, Trumpism took over American politics wholesale. To the point where the mad king now dictates a shattering lack of response to a global pandemic, cuts funding for the WHO, and only offers people and businesses one week of support.

The second great wave of American poverty — the one that’s going to be unleashed by the Coronavirus depression — is going to have one of two similarly destabilizing effects. In the good scenario, Americans realize the folly of their choices, and instead become a social democracy. But I think that scenario’s a remote one. More often, in declining societies, where fresh poverty’s set in, the result is a swift, hard, lasting turn to the right. Why?

Think of our poor guy again. Once he was proud, capable of providing a good life for not just his whole family — but many families he employed. Today, as a technoserf, he does gig work that doesn’t even provide for his own. He’s fighting for self-preservation, in other words. What happens when people have to do that?

They don’t have anything left to invest in their neighbours. If you ask him to pay higher taxes — so that he himself can have better retirement and healthcare — he’ll laugh at you incredulously, and then look at you scornfully. Higher taxes? With what? The pittance he earns from the algorithm that already exploits him to the bone as a glorified servant to the neo-rich? Give him a break, dummy. He can’t put bread on the table as it is.

So the second great wave of American poverty is going to have a final, catastrophic consequence. It’s going to empty what little public purse there is in America. Poor people can barely afford to support themselves — what do they have left over to pay for public healthcare, retirement, education, childcare, and so on, with?

That’s the vicious cycle sets of self-preservation. Tax bases are going to dry up. Local, municipal, state, regional, federal. As they do, what tiny public goods Americans enjoy will shrink and erode even further, to vanishing point. Their chances of ever really having decent healthcare, education, retirement, and so on, will disappear.

America probably won’t ever be able to make the transition to becoming what the rest of the rich world is — a social democracy, in which every citizen enjoys expansive public goods, never has to worry about paying astronomical medical or educational or retirement bills. Instead, America is likely to turn even harder to the right. Say hello to Presidents Eric, Donald Jr, and Ivanka. Meet your new authoritarian dynasties.

This botched response to Coronavirus is going to produce a Greater Depression. That depression is going to kick of a bitter, vicious spiral of self-preservation. As people’s hostility and aggression and bitter struggle to make ends meet grow ever more intense, they are likely to be even easier prey for the next wave of demagogues. As tax bases dry up, the possibility of better public goods — and a functioning social contract made of them — will vanish.

As a result, America’s likely never to be able to modernize, and join the rest of the rich world, in being a functioning, civilized society, where people aren’t charged $50K for childbirth or $150 for an operation or $300K to educate a child. America’s future is the world’s first poor rich country — only poorer, harder, faster.

That’s why I say we’re watching an economy die. I don’t just mean: businesses are going to go bankrupt and people will be unemployed. That’s now, not then. I mean that as a consequence of this failure, which adds disaster to catastrophe, America’s path, trajectory, as a socioeconomy is likely to be forever changed. It’s now trapped by the already explosive shockwave of depression its failed leaders have produced. Poverty produces brutality, and brutality produces poverty, and that way, many societies — whole civilizations, even — have fallen. In that vicious cycle, the one thing that must be done, to stop it, and kickstart a virtuous one, never happens: cooperation and investment, at a massive scale, even more expansive and deep and lasting than the crisis which has caused a standstill. That is the only thing that can stanch the bleeding of a dying economy. Where is it? Nowhere to be found. While America’s leaders bicker and squabble, the patient is bleeding out, hemorrhaging — and every ounce of blood lost is now doing permanent, lasting, terrible damage.

I don’t say all that to be cruel, or mean, but out of a kind of horror, pity, and sadness. Remember: all this was needless. Let history, perhaps, learn that lesson.

How the myths surrounding bat soup came to represent our collective fear and confusion over COVID-19

Object Lessons of a Pandemic: One of the latent dangers of COVID-19 is that we’ll come out on the other side of this crisis more frightened of other countries

At the very end of the movie Contagion, a flash-back to “day zero” reveals the origin of the deadly disease that becomes a catastrophic global pandemic: An infected bat inadvertently shared its food with a pig, which is slaughtered and served at a casino in Macau, whose head chef shakes hands with Gwyneth Paltrow. For a long time, in the early days of its inception and spread, it seemed that the novel coronavirus had emerged under similar circumstances.

We heard about live animals in “wet markets” in Wuhan. We heard about Chinese food safety standards and market conditions that bred disease. And we heard about “bat soup,” a delicacy apparently responsible for causing COVID-19.

The myth that bat soup caused the coronavirus was debunked quickly. In January, when the virus still largely seemed to be a Chinese problem, Foreign Policy ran an article under the title “Bat Soup Didn’t Cause the Wuhan Virus.” The story criticized a fake viral video showing a Chinese woman eating a bat whole with chopsticks in Wuhan, and which pointed out that, although bats may have had something to do with COVID-19, there’s no reason to believe that “chowing down on the creatures of the night was involved” in its creation or spread at all.

The earliest victims had no contact with the Wuhan market previously assumed to be the epicentre of the disease. Bat doesn’t even tend to be eaten in Wuhan; the viral video was actually set in Palau. As Dr. Syra Madad told Business Insider, the idea that COVID came from bat soup “is absolutely not correct.”

And yet, the “bat soup” misconception proved strangely tenacious, and as late as the end of March, references to Chinese culinary habits were still rampant in the news and among public figures, including Republican senator John Cornyn, of Texas, who said in a press conference that “China is to blame” for the coronavirus pandemic because of “the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that.” The American president, meanwhile, continues to refer to COVID as “the Chinese virus,” obstinately refusing to ditch the rhetoric despite exhortations from the World Health Organization and others. WHO advises against referring to diseases by nationality, in an effort “to minimize unnecessary negative effects” on a country and its people. In a recent address, Donald Trump maintained to reporters that, simply, “it’s not racist at all.”

In many ways, the bat soup myth represents the collective fear, confusion and panic that have surrounded the coronavirus pandemic since it first emerged late last year. The outbreak of the disease was shrouded in mystery and disinformation from the beginning, making it difficult to appreciate the scale of the threat and all too easy to look elsewhere to assign blame.

One of the latent dangers of COVID-19 is that we’ll come out on the other side of this crisis more frightened of and hostile toward other countries, and that “foreign disease” will become the watchword for a new populist movement built around isolationism. When all of this is over, will we remember that bat soup was nothing more than a myth without truth? Or will the lie become a symbol that infects the popular imagination?