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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Simplicity in financial complexity

People--  they trust authority too much; put too much value upon it.

Trust that those in positions of power are 'experts' who are on top of things.. Trust that they are making the best decisions both for the present and the future.

Sometimes the trust is due to a belief that authority, i.e. those in power are smarter or better than the rest of us.  Must be, right?  They went to Harvard.. or Princeton.. or Yale..  It had to be merit-- not due to Daddy.   And they certainly wouldn't have gotten their positions of prominence through backroom deals, bribes or mutual back scratching.

That'd be un-American.

Other times the trust is really a by-product of laziness.  No different than wanting to know a word definition or other factoid, and rather than go on the computer to research the answer yourself,  dependence is placed upon another who gives a filtered interpretation.

Don't feel you're alone in this.. Congress does this too.

They are too lazy (or busy or 'important') to read bills before they vote on passage or understand something as simple as small-f 'finance', so instead of doing the research themselves, they call people to congressional meetings to explain everything to them.  Based on party affiliation, those 'experts' and their interpretations will either be questioned or treated as gospel.
And yes, finance is simple to understand.  The education system and the profession of capital-F 'Finance' make it appear incredibly confusing, dry-as-toast boring and fingers-to-chalkboard irritating to keep most people from delving into seeking to understand on their own.

So briefly, what is small f 'finance'?

Its basically how each of us runs our daily lives; how we earn, spend and save money.  Think of yourself as an independent nation- the Republic of Jill or Jane or John. The way you conduct your personal finances is no different than a government.

We all generate income (government collects taxes; we collect salary or Social Security,etc),  We all have expenditures (government spends on healthcare, education, transportation, etc..;we also spend on those things).  And we all have our little luxuries (government enjoys invading other nations; you and I may enjoy buying a DVD)

If at the end of every month, you take in more $ every month than you spend, you create a personal surplus; a savings.  If you spend more than you take in, you create a deficit.   And if you borrow from others at interest to make up that deficit (credit cards, bank loans), you created a debt.

The biggest difference between yourself and government is that if you went on your computer and printed up a million $100 bills to purchase things with, you're called a counterfeiter and thrown in prison.  When the government does it, its called "economic stimulus".
So anyways, that's finance.  No matter how intentionally complex the powers that be try to make it with large multi-syllable words and quirky phrases, at its core, finance is simple. You do not need an Ivy League education to understand it either on a personal or governmental level.

So back to Congress--  Today the criminal brothers-in-arms, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed Chair Ben 'The Bastard' Bernanke will appear before Congress to testify to discuss lessons learned from Europe's sovereign debt crisis in a hearing entitled “Europe’s Sovereign Debt Crisis: Causes, Consequences for the United States and Lessons Learned,” .  Both financial chiefs will share their personal experiences.

What will they say?

They will say without saying it directly that they saved the world once again.  That thanks to US indirect intervention in the European financial system such as half a trillion in currency swaps with the euro (giving $500 billion to Europe's ECB in exchange for 500 billion is euros that aren't worth as much so that ECB could re-capitalize over 60 European banks).  And I'm sure somewhere along the way Fed stimulus spending (QE) will be touted as the main reason the US isn't in a crisis today.

The Congress people will sit there, surrounded by their lackeys staffers, and be dumbfounded at how "brilliant" these two men are, then ask five minutes of questions to their guests bluffing that they understand what speakers are talking about and hoping their constituents don't pick up on the ruse.
~ "I Think Chairman Bernanke is so Brilliant, I want to just Kiss him..."

So what are the real lessons learned?

1)  You can not attempt to learn any lesson on anything until it has reached a completion point.  The European sovereign debt crisis is Far from over.  Everyone assumed because Greece did not head into chaotic default by this week, that the world is saved.  It's not.

What the powers-that-be did to Greece is no different than in the game of Monopoly, where your opponent has $7 and lands on Boardwalk, but you're not ready to see the game end yet so you 'lend' the opponent money to re-pay you, then get another couple turns to sadistically build more houses before you do let your opponent crash.  

Then there's Ireland.. And Portugal.. And Italy.. And Spain..

2)  Most people elected to public offices are ignorant when it comes to economic matters.  The vast majority of Congresspeople and Senators who serve, have degrees not in Economics-related fields but in Law.  And the only small-f 'finance' they're concerned about is expanding their own bank accounts through insider trading, bribes and campaign contributions.
~ "Can't wait for another sophomoric question to be posed to me"

3) The policies of the Fed in particular have been disastrous for this nation-- trillions upon trillions of dollars spent to prop up the banking and financial elites while the criminals who caused the chaos still sit in their cushy CEO chairs.

This is money that will be paid back in some point-- in higher taxes, dramatic cuts in basic services and programs.. who knows, perhaps the US government will start needing to privatize its infrastructure (selling railroads, airports, turnpikes,etc..) to foreign creditors like the Greeks were forced to.

4) Don't trust your leaders in any way, shape or form.

This is not conspiracy talk.  Its fact.  Policy-makers do not take your interests at heart in their decisions.  Who are you to them?  One person.. a speck.   When they speak calmly, and gloss over something negative, its not to inform or allay fears-- its to keep people calm and docile.

Trust in yourself-- trust in your ability to seek out the answers to your questions on your own rather than have them spoon-fed.  And trust that every complex concept starts with a simple core principle--

Understand that, and you can understand anything