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Brownstone Institute

Fiscal Collapse Accelerates

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Peter St OngePETER ST ONGE 

In case you thought anybody in Washington was driving this thing, they are not.

It’s official: the Department of Treasury is now issuing debt at pandemic levels. It’s worth noting the pandemic record was double the previous record, which had stood for 231 years.

In raw numbers, the latest numbers for Q4 2023 show Treasury issued $7 trillion in new debt. For the entire year, it came to $23 trillion.

This has bloated the Treasury market to $27 trillion — up 60% since the pandemic. In other words, one third of Treasuries have fresh ink on them. And it’s up roughly sixfold since the 2008 crisis.

Meaning if we hit another crash, it could be a lot bigger.

Sending US Economy to Defaults

At this point, federal debt is rising by $1 trillion every 90 days, and US government spending as a percent of GDP is at World War II levels.

Given we’re not in a World War — in theory — nor are we in a pandemic, why so much debt? Easy: it’s buying growth.

Or as Balaji Srinivasan puts it: “The economy isn’t real. It’s propped up by debt. They will fake it till they break it.”

Even the Wall Street Journal, which loves debt, is sounding the alarm, writing that rapid growth in debt often ends badly, and given the enormous size and alleged safety of the Treasury market any “instability” could be catastrophic.

Why catastrophic? Because US Treasuries are treated like cash by everything from banks to pension funds to large corporations and individual 401k’s. A Treasury is seen as cash that pays interest.

This is false, of course: A Treasury is a promise from Uncle Sam to pay you back someday, perhaps 20 or 30 years in the future.

Meaning that, unlike cash, any concerns investors might have about Uncle Sam’s ability — or willingness — to pay can crash Treasuries.

If that happens it immediately sends the entire banking system, pension system, and hundreds of corporations into default.

Trillions in Fake Debt

Indeed, it could break the payments plumbing in the entire financial system — you wouldn’t be able to get money.

If that sounds dire, recall that all of these are sustained by the gossamir thin belief that Uncle Sam will pay back every penny with interest.

This is curious given that neither voters, who in theory run the government, nor Congress — who actually does run the government — seem to think the debt is real.

You can actually try this at home: tell a voter that student loan bailouts will cost a trillion — meaning $10,000 out of their pocket. Or that another war will cost $30,000 out of pocket. Most don’t care. Because it’s not real.

So the voters don’t think it’s real. Congress doesn’t think it’s real. But literally everything depends on the illusion that every penny of federal debt will be repaid in full, with interest.

What could go wrong.

Conclusion

Every fiscal trend is in the wrong direction. We’re already at a $2 trillion deficit, it will soar by trillions when recession hits.

And it will keep churning with Social Security, Medicare, and spending on everything from illegal immigrants to fresh wars.

At this point there is nothing standing between us and fiscal collapse. The only question is when.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • Peter St Onge

    Peter is an economist, a Fellow at the Mises Institute, and a former MBA professor.

Brownstone Institute

During the Crisis, Free Speech Worked Brilliantly

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

By Jeffrey A. Tucker

The free platform proved itself capable of quick course correction alongside maximum agility in processing the floods of constant new information. Meanwhile, the venues in which “misformation” has been anathematized ended up being the major source of exactly that.

There is only one major social media platform that is relatively free of censorship. That is X, once known as Twitter, and owned by Elon Musk, who has preached free speech for years and sacrificed billions in advertising dollars in order to protect it. If we don’t have that, he says, we lose freedom itself. He also maintains that it is the best path to finding the truth.

The crisis that broke out after the attempt on Donald Trump’s life put the principle in motion. I was posting regular updates and never censored. I’m not aware of anyone who was. We were getting second-by-second updates in real time. The videos were flying along with every conceivable rumor, many false and then corrected, alongside free speech “spaces” in which everyone was sharing their views.

During this time, Facebook and its suite of services fell silent, consistent with the new ethos of all these platforms. The idea is to censor all speech until it is absolutely confirmed by officials and then permit only that which is consistent with the press releases.

This is the habit born of the Covid years, and it stuck. Now all the platforms avoid any news that is fast in motion, except to broadcast precisely what they are supposed to broadcast. Maybe that works in most times when people are not paying attention. Readers do not know what they are missing. The trouble was that during these post-shooting hours when nearly everyone on the planet wanted updates, there were no press releases forthcoming.

By habit, I reached for what was once called television. The networks had plenty of talking heads and newscasters with their usual eloquence. What was missing from all the broadcasts that I saw in these hours were any factual updates. They too were waiting for confirmation of this or that before putting out any information at all beyond the basics. They let their “experts” speak as long as possible just to waste time before rolling out new advertisements.

Over time, I realized something. X was driving the whole of the news, while the newscasters had to wait for permission before reading scripted lines.

Meanwhile, on X, the situation was utterly wild. Posts were flying fast and furious. New rumors would circulate (the shooter’s name and affiliations, stories about a second shooting, claims that Trump was hit in the chest, and so on). But shortly after the rumor circulated, so did the debunking. The feature called “Community Notes” kept the faulty news in check, while the truth gradually circulated to the top. This happened on topic after topic.

The wildest theories ever were permitted to appear, while others would debunk them with reasoned arguments. The readers could decide for themselves. You could see how the seeming chaos gradually organized itself into communities seeking verification. Posters grew ever more careful about posting claims that could not be verified, or at least explaining what they were.

X was single-handedly holding the whole of the corporate media to account, and reporters and editors very obviously came to depend on their X feeds to figure out what to say next. It was the same with newspapers. When NYT, CNN, WaPo, and so on would make major missteps, posters on X would call them out, the word would reach the editors, and the headline or story would change.

In the end, X became the one place where you could find the fullness of truth. All the while, the old-world media was dishing out the most ridiculous headlines one could imagine. For many hours, the New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, and other such venues refused to say it was an assassination attempt on Trump. The headline led people to believe that this was a MAGA rally with some random shooters that got carried away and so Trump had to be ushered out. This really did happen, and readers were outraged.

CNN was probably the worst offender, with the following headline: “Secret Service Rushes Trump Offstage As He Falls at Rally.”

It took many hours and repeated attempts but eventually the mainstream media finally said that the incident was “being investigated” as an assassination attempt, even though it was very obvious that it was an attempt on his life that he barely survived with the slight turn of his head.

It was the kind of flurry of nonsense that further discredited the old corporate media right there in front of an entire planet that was no longer believing anything they said.

It’s hard to know why the corporate press did this. Were they just cautious and worried about misinformation? If so, how come so many of their headlines were of the same sort, that which refused to say that someone just tried to kill Trump? Were they just in the habit of waiting for officials to tell them what to say? Was it raw TDS that was driving this? It’s hard to know but the failure was conspicuous and obvious to all.

What stood out above all else was the way free speech on X worked to ferret out the real story, while actually driving forward the mainstream press to correct its errors and get the story right. One shudders to think how it would have all taken place in absence of this one platform, which became the go-to place for everyone. The most important lesson: free speech worked. And beautifully.

All Western societies are currently struggling with the question of just how much speech to allow on the Internet. The trajectory for years now has not been a good one. Once-free platforms have become more frozen, more propagandistic, more staid, and duller, even as this one platform has created a culture of freedom combined with community-driven accountability.

This freedom accomplished exactly what it was supposed to accomplish, while the censored platforms held onto misinformation much longer than they should have been.

Which makes the point. Too often, the battle over free speech is framed as misinformation/freedom vs. facts/truth/restriction. The very opposite has proven to be the case. The free platform proved itself capable of quick course correction alongside maximum agility in processing the floods of constant new information. Meanwhile, the venues in which “misformation” has been anathematized ended up being the major source of exactly that.

Freedom works. As messy as it is, it works better than any other system. Meanwhile, governments of the world have targeted X for destruction. Advertisers continue to boycott and regulators continue to threaten.

So far, it has not worked and thank goodness. But for X, the last 24 hours would have looked very different: nothing but propaganda, apart from a few marginal places here and there. Therein lies another irony: the way X is managed is increasing trust rather than reducing it.

The lesson should be obvious. The answer to the problems of free speech is more of it.

Author

Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

The Pandemic Excuse for a Corporatist Coup

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

By Jeffrey A. Tucker

We’ve just come across a document hosted by the Department of Homeland Security, posted March 2023, but written in 2007, that amounts to a full-blown corporatist imposition on the US, abolishing anything remotely resembling the Bill of Rights and Constitutional law. It is right there in plain sight for anyone curious enough to dig.

There is nothing in it that you haven’t already experienced with lockdowns. What makes it interesting are the participants in the forging of the plan, which is pretty much the whole of corporate America as it stood in 2007. It was a George W. Bush initiative. The conclusions are startling.

“Quarantine is a legally enforceable declaration that a government body may institute over individuals potentially exposed to a disease, but who are not symptomatic. If enacted, Federal quarantine laws will be coordinated between CDC and State and local public health officials, and, if necessary, law enforcement personnel…The government may also enact travel restrictions to limit the movement of people and products between geographic areas in an effort to limit disease transmission and spread. Authorities are currently reviewing possible plans to curtail international travel upon a pandemic’s emergence overseas.

“Limiting public assembly opportunities also helps limit the spread of disease. Concert halls, movie theaters, sports arenas, shopping malls, and other large public gathering places might close indefinitely during a pandemic—whether because of voluntary closures or government-imposed closures. Similarly, officials may close schools and non-essential businesses during pandemic waves in an effort to significantly slow disease transmission rates. These strategies aim to prevent the close interaction of individuals, the primary conduit of spreading the influenza virus. Even taking steps such as limiting person-to-person interactions within a distance of three feet or avoiding instances of casual close contact, such as shaking hands, will help limit disease spread.”

There we have it: the pandemic plans. They once seemed abstract. In 2020, they became very real. Your rights were deleted. No more freedom even to have house guests. In those days, the rule was to enforce only three feet of distance rather than six feet of distance, neither of which had any basis in science. Indeed, the actual scientific literature even at that time recommended against any physical interventions designed to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. They were known not to work. The entire profession of public health accepted that.

Therefore, for many years before lockdowns wrecked economic functioning, there had been two parallel tracks in operation, one intellectual/academic and one imposed by state/corporate managers. They had nothing to do with each other. This situation persisted for the better part of 15 years. Suddenly in 2020, there was a reckoning, and the state/corporate managers won it. Seemingly out of nowhere, liberty as we have long known it was gone.

Back in 2005, I first came across a Bush administration scheme, an early draft of the above, that would have ended freedom as we know it. It was a scheme for combating the bird flu, which officials back then imagined would involve universal quarantines, business and event closures, travel restrictions, and more.

wrote: “Even if the flu does come, and taxpayers have coughed up, the government will surely have a ball imposing travel restrictions, shutting down schools and businesses, quarantining cities, and banning public gatherings…It is a serious matter when the government purports to plan to abolish all liberty and nationalize all economic life and put every business under the control of the military, especially in the name of a bug that seems largely restricted to the bird population. Perhaps we should pay more attention. Perhaps such plans for the total state ought to even ruffle our feathers a bit.”

For years I wrote about this topic, trying to get others interested. It was all there in black and white. At the drop of a hat, under the guise of a pandemic that only state managers can declare, real or drummed up, freedom itself could be abolished. These plans were never legislated, debated, or publicly discussed. They were simply posted as the result of various consultations with experts, who worked out their totalitarian fantasies as if scripting a Hollywood film.

The 2007 blueprint is more explicit than anything I’ve seen. It comes from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, which “includes executive leaders from the private sector and state/local government who advise the White House on how to reduce physical and cyber risks and improve the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors. The NIAC is administered on behalf of the President in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act under the authority of the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security.”

And who sat on this committee in 2007 that decided that governments “may close schools and non-essential businesses”? Let us see.

  • Mr. Edmund G. Archuleta, General Manager, El Paso Water Utilities
  • Mr. Alfred R. Berkeley III, Chairman and CEO, Pipeline Trading Group, LLC, and former President and Vice Chairman of NASDAQ
  • Chief Rebecca F. Denlinger, Fire Chief, Cobb County (Ga.) Fire and Emergency Services
  • Chief Gilbert G. Gallegos, Police Chief (ret.), City of Albuquerque, N.M. Police Department
  • Ms. Martha H. Marsh, President and CEO, Stanford Hospital and Clinics
  • Mr. James B. Nicholson, President and CEO, PVS Chemical, Inc.
  • Mr. Erle A. Nye, Chairman Emeritus, TXU Corp., NIAC Chairman
  • Mr. Bruce A. Rohde, Chairman and CEO Emeritus, ConAgra Foods, Inc.
  • Mr. John W. Thompson, Chairman and CEO, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Brent Baglien, ConAgra Foods, Inc.
  • Mr. David Barron, Bell South
  • Mr. Dan Bart, TIA
  • Mr. Scott Blanchette, Healthways
  • Ms. Donna Burns, Georgia Emergency Management Agency
  • Mr. Rob Clyde, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Scott Culp, Microsoft
  • Mr. Clay Detlefsen, International Dairy Foods Association
  • Mr. Dave Engaldo, The Options Clearing Corporation
  • Ms. Courtenay Enright, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Gary Gardner, American Gas Association
  • Mr. Bob Garfield, American Frozen Foods Institute
  • Ms. Joan Gehrke, PVS Chemical, Inc.
  • Ms. Sarah Gordon, Symantec
  • Mr. Mike Hickey, Verizon
  • Mr. Ron Hicks, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
  • Mr. George Hender, The Options Clearing Corporation
  • Mr. James Hunter, City of Albuquerque, NM Emergency Management
  • Mr. Stan Johnson, North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC)
  • Mr. David Jones, El Paso Corporation
  • Inspector Jay Kopstein, Operations Division, New York City Police Department (NYPD)
  • Ms. Tiffany Jones, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Bruce Larson, American Water
  • Mr. Charlie Lathram, Business Executives for National Security (BENS)/BellSouth
  • Mr. Turner Madden, Madden & Patton
  • Chief Mary Beth Michos, Prince William County (Va.) Fire and Rescue
  • Mr. Bill Muston, TXU Corp.
  • Mr. Vijay Nilekani, Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Mr. Phil Reitinger, Microsoft
  • Mr. Rob Rolfsen, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Mr. Tim Roxey, Constellation
  • Ms. Charyl Sarber, Symantec
  • Mr. Lyman Shaffer, Pacific Gas and Electric,
  • Ms. Diane VanDeHei, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA)
  • Ms. Susan Vismor, Mellon Financial Corporation
  • Mr. Ken Watson, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Mr. Greg Wells, Southwest Airlines
  • Mr. Gino Zucca, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Resources
  • Dr. Bruce Gellin, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Dr. Mary Mazanec
  • Dr. Stuart Nightingale, CDC
  • Ms. Julie Schafer
  • Dr. Ben Schwartz, CDC
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Resources
  • Mr. James Caverly, Director, Infrastructure Partnerships Division
  • Ms. Nancy Wong, NIAC Designated Federal Officer (DFO)
  • Ms. Jenny Menna, NIAC Designated Federal Officer (DFO)
  • Dr. Til Jolly
  • Mr. Jon MacLaren
  • Ms. Laverne Madison
  • Ms. Kathie McCracken
  • Mr. Bucky Owens
  • Mr. Dale Brown, Contractor
  • Mr. John Dragseth, IP attorney, Contractor
  • Mr. Jeff Green, Contractor
  • Mr. Tim McCabe, Contractor
  • Mr. William B. Anderson, ITS America
  • Mr. Michael Arceneaux, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA)
  • Mr. Chad Callaghan, Marriott Corporation
  • Mr. Ted Cromwell, American Chemistry Council (ACC)
  • Ms. Jeanne Dumas, American Trucking Association (ATA)
  • Ms. Joan Harris, US Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary
  • Mr. Greg Hull, American Public Transportation Association
  • Mr. Joe LaRocca, National Retail Federation
  • Mr. Jack McKlveen, United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Ms. Beth Montgomery, Wal-Mart
  • Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, Georgia Office of EMS/Trauma/EP
  • Mr. Roger Platt, The Real Estate Roundtable
  • Mr. Martin Rojas, American Trucking Association (ATA)
  • Mr. Timothy Sargent, Senior Chief, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Finance Canada

In other words, big everything: food, energy, retail, computers, water, and you name it. It’s a corporatist dream team.

Consider ConAgra itself. What is that? It is Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher’s, Reddi-Wip, Slim Jim, Hunt’s Peter Pan Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Marie Callender’s, P.F. Chang’s, Ranch Style Beans, Ro*Tel, Wolf Brand Chili, Angie’s, Duke’s, Gardein, Frontera, Bertolli, among many other seemingly independent brands that are all actually one company.

Now, ask yourself: why might all these companies favor a plan for lockdowns? Why might WalMart, for example? It stands to reason. Lockdowns are a massive interference with competitive capitalism. They provide the best possible subsidy to big business while shutting down independent small businesses and putting them at a huge disadvantage once the opening up happens.

In other words, it is an industrial racket, very much akin to interwar-style fascism, a corporatist combination of big business and big government. Throw pharma into the mix and you see exactly what came to pass in 2020, which amounted to the largest transfer of wealth from small and medium-sized business plus the middle class to wealthy industrialists in the history of humanity.

The document is open even about managing information flows: “The public and private sectors should align their communications, exercises, investments, and support activities absolutely with both the plan and priorities during a pandemic influenza event. Continue data gathering, analysis, reporting, and open review.”

There is nothing in any of this that fits with any Western tradition of law and liberty. Nothing. It was never approved by any democratic means. It was never part of any political campaign. It has never been the subject of any serious media examination. No think tank has ever pushed back on such plans in any systematic way.

The last serious attempt to debunk this whole apparatus was from D.H. Henderson in 2006. His two co-authors on that paper eventually came around to going along with lockdowns of 2020. Henderson died in 2016. One of the co-authors of the original article told me that if Dr. Henderson had been around, instead of Dr. Fauci, the lockdowns would never have taken place.

Here we are four years following the deployment of this lockdown machinery, and we are witness to what it destroys. It would be nice to say that the entire apparatus and theory behind it have been fully discredited.

But that is not correct. All the plans are still in place. There have been no changes in federal law. Not one effort has been made to dismantle the corporatist/biosecurity planning state that made all this possible. Every bit of it is in place for the next go-around.

Much of the authority for this whole coup traces to the Public Health Services Act of 1944, which was passed in wartime. For the first time in US history, it gave the federal government the power to quarantine. Even when the Biden administration was looking for some basis to justify its transportation mask mandate, it fell back to this one piece of legislation.

If anyone really wants to get to the root of this problem, there are decisive steps that need to be taken. The indemnification of pharma from liability for harm needs to be repealed. The court precedent of forced shots in Jacobson needs to be overthrown. But even more fundamentally, the quarantine power itself has to go, and that means the full repeal of the Public Health Services Act of 1944. That is the root of the problem. Freedom will not be safe until it is uprooted.

As it stands right now, everything that unfolded in 2020 and 2021 can happen again. Indeed, the plans are in place for exactly that.

Author

Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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