Special End of the World Issue - The Daily Reckoning
The Daily Reckoning by Bill Bonner
On This Day - 21 December 2012
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Paris, France

"Well, tomorrow is the big day," began a colleague in Paris. "At 11AM precisely. It's good to know exactly. If the world is going to end, as the Mayans, say, we ought to at least get everyone together and say goodbye.

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"And you know what else? I'm going to smoke a cigarette in the office. What the heck? Might as well get something positive out of the end of the world."

"Is that 11AM Paris time? Or Eastern Standard Time?" we wanted to know.

"Good question."

Readers are advised not to take chances. If the world ends at 11AM Paris time, it will still be 5AM EST. So, if you are reading this it probably means that either the world didn't end...or that you still have a few hours left.

Our advice is to use those hours well. Have a drink. Smoke a cigarette. Eat a rich dessert. Send a nasty letter to the IRS... Park in a handicapped space. Live a little.

If the world ends later today (it could be 11AM Pacific time for all we know) you'll be glad you used your time wisely. If it doesn't end...well, think how good you'll feel, knowing you have years left.

And look at the good side. The EOTW won't be all bad. No more mortgages to pay. No more election campaigns or drug advertising to watch on TV. And no more zombies to support!

End of the World or no...we continue our lonely Zombie Watch . First, we note that zombies have completely taken over America's most important consumer credit market. ProPublica reports:

    The Government Takes Over the Mortgage Market

    Percentage of all new mortgages backed by the U.S. government

    Note: Data for 2012 is through September. Source: Inside Mortgage Finance

    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-controlled housing giants, guaranteed 69 percent of new mortgages in the first nine months of the year, up from about 27 percent share in 2006, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Authority and the Department of Veteran's Affairs currently back another 21 percent of mortgages, up from just 2.8 percent in 2006. Altogether, 9 of every 10 new mortgages are backed by the U.S. taxpayer, up from three in 10 in 2006, when the government share hit a decade-low, according to the publication.

    After taxpayers pumped $187.5 billion into them starting in 2008, Fannie and Freddie exist today in a limbo state, under government "conservatorship." They aren't fully private, profit-seeking entities, but neither are they explicit arms of government policy. They act both as profit-seeking businesses and as public agencies.

In limbo? In conservatorship? They're in zombieland...incapable of surviving without taxpayer/Fed-financed support.

But the same could be said for most of Washington and its suburbs. It is a zombietown, transferring wealth from the rest of the nation to itself. Reuters has the story:
    In the town that launched the War on Poverty 48 years ago, the poor are getting poorer despite the government's help. And the rich are getting richer because of it.

    The top 5 percent of households in Washington, D.C., made more than $500,000 on average last year, while the bottom 20 percent earned less than $9,500 - a ratio of 54 to 1.

    That gap is up from 39 to 1 two decades ago. It's wider than in any of the 50 states and all but two major cities. This at a time when income inequality in the United States as a whole has risen to levels last seen in the years before the Great Depression.

    The federal government does redistribute wealth down to struggling Americans. But in the years since President Lyndon Johnson took aim at poverty in his first State of the Union address, there has been an increasingly strong crosscurrent: The government is redistributing wealth up, too - especially in the nation's capital.

    The beneficiaries are not the billionaire financiers and celebrities who have come to personify income inequality in the 21st century. Yet the Washington elite are just as much part of the trend, having influenced laws and decisions that alter the entire country's distribution of income.

    Two decades of record federal spending and expanding regulation have fostered a growing upper class of federal contractors, lobbyists and lawyers in the District of Columbia area. The federal government funneled $83.5 billion their way in defense and other work in 2010 - an increase of more than 300 percent since 1989, even after adjusting for inflation. Private industry poured more than $3 billion into lobbying to influence the government, nearly double what it spent a decade ago.

    The outsourcing boom has been particularly dramatic in the Washington region. Direct spending by the federal government accounts for 40 percent of the area's $425 billion-a-year economy. The government spends more on private-sector procurement here than in any other metropolitan area or state - up 300 percent since 1990.

    Roughly 15 cents of every dollar from the entire federal procurement budget stays in or around the government's hometown, said Stephen S. Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. Last year, that was about $80 billion out of $536 billion in procurement spending, he said. The 15 percent share is far greater than the region's 2 percent portion of the U.S. population.

    "We're seeing an enormous transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the Washington economy," said Fuller.
Come the end of the world...or even the collapse of the US dollar ...and that problem goes away.

Meanwhile, here in the Bonner household we are preparing for Christmas. We're assuming that this Mayan curse is over-bought. Or maybe the Mayan gods will delay Armageddon until after Christmas, as a professional courtesy between gods.

Yesterday, Elizabeth wanted to organize for the children's return. There are six of them, arriving from all over the country. It's hard to keep track of their coming and going.

"When is Jules coming," she asked us.

"I don't know. I thought you were keeping track."

"I am...but it's complicated. It might take the two of us to get it right. Do you know when Maria is getting here?"

"Monday, I think."

"Which airport? Baltimore or Dulles?"

"I don't know."

"I thought Edward was arriving on Monday."

"Yes, I thought he was. And I thought he was coming to Baltimore."

"No, I know he's coming to Dulles. Jules is coming to Baltimore."

"When's he coming?"

"I don't know; that's why I asked you."

"Well, when is Henry getting here?"

"He arrived last night."

"Oh. Did he come into Baltimore?"

"No, he came to Dulles. He had to take the shuttle to Baltimore."

"Are you sure he came last night? I thought Jules was coming last night?"

"No, it was Henry."

"Well what about Edward? He's coming on Monday, right?"

"No, he's coming on Saturday."

"To Baltimore?"

""No, Dulles. Aren't you paying attention?"

"No...I thought you were paying attention."

"Never mind."

Bill Bonner is the President & Founder of Agora Inc, an international publisher of financial and special interest books and newsletters.

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The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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2 Responses to "Special End of the World Issue"

VINAY AGARWAL

Dec 21, 2012

Daily Recokning is precise and informative, however it would be better if the flow is not broken by stories in-between

Like 

Shivakumar

Dec 21, 2012

Dear Mr Bonner

Your views are just outstanding. Your style is an impossible combination of hilariousness and deep introspection. Great going. I am happy I am one of your readers

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