Impure Thoughts

Impure Thoughts by James Howard Kunstler

What if the Corona virus turns out to be a genuine pandemic with legs, not some punk-ass, flash-in-the-pan bug like SARS… and infects hundreds of millions around the world…? And what if it happens to go logarithmic in the USA, as in China now…? And what if takes a few months, or half a year, to do that…? And what if Americans will not get on airplanes when that happens…? Or gather together in large numbers…? Or if government imposes quarantines …? Will the parties hold their nominating conventions? Might the November election have to be postponed?

Just sayin’… since nobody else seems to be talking about it. A few months ago, nobody was thinking about a disease that would virtually lock-down China’s economy, either… and now here we are. Speaking of which, that lock-down of China’s economy is already generating serious damage to global GDP, after only a few weeks. But nothing shows our detachment from reality like the recent surge in financial market indexes while the Chinese economy was busy shutting down. In particular, one must wonder: What supports the global daisy-chain of debt obligations while all this is going on.

After all, companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions.

Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money. This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

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James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler says he wrote The Geography of Nowhere, “Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” Home From Nowhere was a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on the remedies. A portion of it appeared as the cover story in the September 1996 Atlantic Monthly. His next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, published by Simon & Schuster / Free Press, is a look a wide-ranging look at cities here and abroad, an inquiry into what makes them great (or miserable), and in particular what America is going to do with it’s mutilated cities.