Novelist weaves tale of economic doomsday in The Plectra Conspiracy
By Mike Pearson, News staff
Imagine a world where the U.S. is no longer a global superpower. Hyperinflation has pushed the price of gold to unbelievable levels. China has supplanted the U.S. as the world’s economic leader and America has collapsed under the weight of its enormous debt.
It all sounds far fetched. It’s not only possible, but probable according to Ancaster author, chartered accountant and chartered financial analyst Richard Knight.
Knight’s historical fiction The Plectra Conspiracy postulates the existence of a covert organization, known simply as The Board that systematically undoes the pillars of American world economic dominance.
“The underlying theme of the book is gold is the ultimate power. If you control gold, you control destiny,” said Knight.
While the novel is set in present day time, The Plectra Conspiracy references real historical events such as American gold leasing, the 1944 Bretton Woods agreements and the end of the U.S. gold standard in 1971.
Led by the book’s central character, Maya, the Board brings down the underpinnings of the U.S. economy while transitioning power to China. Youthful and attractive, Maya breaks all of the barriers women face in the corporate world using traits of confidence, quick decision-making and boldness.
When the Bretton Woods agreements made the U.S. dollar the world’s reserve currency, America established itself as the world’s most dominant economy.
“It gave them the power to control world events from an economic standpoint,” Knight said.
After 1971, the U.S. dollar was no longer pegged to gold. The end of the gold standard coupled with American agreements on gold leasing subsequently created an artificial value of the U.S. dollar in years to come.
“U.S currency is not supported by a hard asset; it’s only supported by faith in the U.S. government,” said Knight.
In his novel, Knight takes that reality one step further.
“What would happen if China were to liquidate its U.S. dollar reserves? What events might lead up to why they might do that?” he said.
The novel weaves in a worldwide drought that gives China a reason to liquidate its U.S. dollar reserves which increases the value of its own currency to fight food inflation.
While it could take years to transpire, Knight believes the events of the Plectra Conspiracy could occur in today’s time. And he feels he’s not alone.
“Once you start researching you really see there is a community that really believes there’s a conspiracy,” he said.
The novel weaves espionage, terrorism and backroom dealings in a fast-paced format that will keep readers guessing.
“When you have all those themes together, it’s very easy to make it entertaining,” said Knight.
Inspired by his daughter, who was five at the time, Knight wrote the novel over a four month period in 2009. Working with Don Bastian at BPS Books, Knight polished his manuscript and published the finished novel in paperback form earlier this year.
The Plectra Conspiracy examines power in all its forms, from gold to religion.
“I think it’s just a matter of time, but I do believe these events will come to fruition,” said Knight.
The Plectra Conspiracy is available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ebay and Books Express. For more information, visit www.theplectraconspiracy.com
The Great Recession brought a heavy dose of reality in a very short period of time. We must embrace and adapt to it with an eye to the future. There are many prevalent undercurrents pointing toward a pending exodus of American skilled labor. This article is designed to provide a glimpse into how these trends will affect us rather than trying to discern a definitive series of predestined events.
The unemployment rate was approximately 10% at the depths of the Great Recession and has slowly trended lower to just below 8%. Unfortunately, the underemployed rate (U6 measurement) is approximately 15%. The underemployed will make it difficult to reduce the headline unemployment rate because they will re-enter the workforce as the economy accelerates. Economists estimate a growing economy results in the creation of at least 400,000 jobs per month. Even if this level of job creation is attained (we are currently trending around 150,000), it will take years to reach employment levels considered normal from an historical perspective.
One of the few benefits we can derive from these economic times is the realization we have been excessively leveraged to dangerous levels. The media talks about this endlessly with a sense of anticipation the consumer will reengage the economy with similar exuberance as displayed in the decades leading up to the Great Recession.
Deleveraging will take decades – not years
Average home prices have dropped from $240,000 to $175,000. At first glance, $65,000 seems like a reasonable amount to earn back over a lifetime. However, the loss can easily become insurmountable. It results in a 27% loss in net home equity for those who are mortgage free. The loss skyrockets to a 72% loss for those with a $150,000 mortgage. This can quickly turn into negative equity when compounded by increased interest costs and the underemployment rate note above.
This confluence of events has effectively land-locked many families unable to sell their homes and relocate in hopes of gaining employment elsewhere. Ironically, the current recession has created a skilled labor shortage in many industries. This current phenomenon provides a taste of the pending exodus of skilled labor.
Government fiscal and monetary mismanagement only serve to compound the impact of the austerity being forced upon average Americans. Media headlines focus on the national debt of $16 trillion and $1 trillion plus deficit. The Federal Reserve continually cites low inflation as justification for adding trillions to their balance sheet. Politicians pound their pulpits trying to sell the impact of their $1 trillion in proposed spending cuts.
These headlines are misleading and only serve to insulate the public from a true understanding of their economic foundation. The national debt is indeed $16 trillion. Unfortunately, it is the $121 trillion in unfunded liabilities (www.usdebtclock.org) that needs to be tackled. Investors around the world have made inflated returns due to the Fed’s 3 rounds of quantitative easing. They justify the liquidity injections as essential monetary policy in order to avoid a depression. It is somewhat surprising there is not more civil pushback as an annual $1 trillion recurring deficit on its own would have been unacceptable just a few years ago.
Analysts continually reference historical growth rates when estimating the timing of America’s return to “normal” (i.e. annual growth rates of + 4%). The massive deleveraging across all levels of government and taxpayers will take decades to absorb unless a US government default materializes in the interim. US corporations with limited exposure to foreign markets will face mounting pressures on profitability as the consumer (responsible for 70% of spending) and the government trend toward negative growth. Needless to say, it is very unlikely America will experience a sustained period of economic growth comparable to historical rebounds from severe recessions.
This weak economic foundation cuts across demographic lines. Retirees watch inflation outpace their fixed income returns derived from artificially reduced interest rates mandated by the Federal Reserve. College graduates receive diplomas and crushing debt loads as they enter an anaemic job market with little prospects of near term employment. Union workers watch the Great Recession strip their bargaining rights, reduce their earning power, and grind down their pensions. Corporations continue to ship jobs overseas and replace domestic full-term jobs with part-time workers without benefits. The fiscal cliff and pending debt ceiling debates threaten to increase taxes, reduce benefits, and downgrade the US credit rating which no longer boasts the gold standard AAA rating.
America’s economic foundation is haemorrhaging
The current trend of American’s renouncing their US citizenship will accelerate due in part to the circumstances discussed above. Renunciations have historically oscillated between 200 and 400 per year. Renunciations nearly reached 1,800 in 2011 and gained tabloid attention due to Facebook’s co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation and relocation to Singapore. Many blame America’s unique taxation system which levies taxes based on citizenship as opposed to residency as the main driver behind the affluents’ decision to renounce (Saverin’s renunciation may have saved $100 million in taxes). On a related front, affluent Americans have seen their internationally domiciled assets under attack. For example, the American government successfully forced UBS to disclose personal information pertaining to Americans holding assets outside of the United States.
The affluent will continue to renounce their citizenship in record numbers as both their domestic assets and internationally domiciled assets remain under attack. The affluent have the means to renounce and relocate. However, such is not the case for the middle class. They may not have the wealth, but many of the reasons above will give them the desire to renounce and relocate.
How can you become part of the exodus movement about to take the country by storm?
Education … Education … Education
Education is the most powerful virtual passport accessible to the American public
I acknowledge college debt is one of the reasons noted above contributing to the fragile state of the American economy. Ironically, education will be one of the few keys available to the middle class to join the coming exodus. Therefore, expect enrolment to escalate. This shift will cut across multiple demographics. Families will pool resources in the hopes of one family member achieving post-secondary success. Multi-generational housing will become more prevalent. Luxury expenditures spanning jewellery to a simple weekly dinner out will be curtailed in the name of education. One successful family member will pave the way for many to follow.
The American government will add fuel to the enrolment fire while being under pressure to increase college subsidies as emerging markets continue to churn out more qualified candidates than America. This race to educational global dominance will force many Americans to make an extremely difficult decision;
Embrace emerging market prominence or suffer American economic disintegration
I will not predict the timing or severity of such change. Rather, I think it is important to prudently plan for such eventuality. The backdrop above illustrates the difficulty associated with trying to invest / buy one’s way into a foreign country. Such option will only be available to the affluent. Therefore, the middle class would be wise to attain a post-secondary certification that is in high demand globally.
The certification will open doors into numerous countries as American post-secondary education maintains an elite status throughout the world. Traditionally, the primary purpose of such an education was to gain experience in a desired field with the added benefit of achieving a higher standard of living. Such a perspective will be challenged by the current generation as international transferability will vie for relevancy.
I do not unilaterally recommend citizens joining the pending American exodus of skilled labor. After all, there are many qualitative variables to consider; family, community, tradition, freedom, and constitutional composition. However, the practicality of the matter will persuade many to flee in search of greener pastures. My advice;
Educate, Contemplate, Initiate … don’t be left behind !!!
Sandy (click for pdf)
Sandy’s destruction produced some astounding metrics; 8.5 million people without power, 3 feet of snow in West Virginia, 15 inches of rain in Maryland, 94 mph wind gusts in New York, 40 foot waves, 12.5 foot storm surge (above normal) in New York1. To add insult to injury, it was followed by a nor’easter that dropped temperatures, snow, and hampered rescue efforts.
The water will recede. Transportation will come back on-line. Evacuees will be resettled. Life will go on and memories will be etched by two devastating realities;
Lives lost and homes destroyed
Our condolences go out to the family’s grieving for loved ones. Sadly, there is little I can write to alleviate their sorrow. However, I will offer some perspective regarding rebuilding the home.
Many rebuilding efforts will be crippled by; insufficient insurance, storm related unemployment, lack of a financial safety net, scam artists, health issues, and poor foresight. Despair must be repressed as the potential exists, given the proper resources and vision, to emerge financially stronger from Sandy’s devastation.
One’s initial reaction will be to rebuild with the goal of supporting the same family complement. For example, a family of 4 living in a detached home will likely rebuild a very similar structure designed to shelter the same 4 individuals.
Unfortunately, this family’s rebuilding efforts will be forged from a substantial reduction in net worth. This will translate to compromises involving; housing, college savings, retirement savings, medical treatment options, lifestyle, and overall quality of life. Sandy’s impact will serve to amplify an already dreary financial landscape.
Personal balance sheets have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. The unemployment rate rose to 10%2 and has been slow to trend lower. There are approximately 15 million homeowners mired in negative equity representing 31% of all mortgagees3.
The fiscal cliff is looming at year end with the potential elimination of Bush-era tax cuts and negotiated automatic spending cuts that may; reduce 2013 GDP by 4%, increase unemployment by 1% (2 million additional unemployed), and push the US into recession. This all comes just weeks before the looming political debt ceiling showdown in February 2013 that threatens to repeat the events of 2011 when Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating.
The political and economic backdrop is daunting with the ability to inflict a virtual paralysis upon families. However, a single step in the rebuilding process can lead to a path of security stretching into retirement:
Several factors existed before the Great Recession and Sandy that were already bringing the multi-generational housing trend to prominence. Student loans are approximately USD 27,000 per student totalling USD 1 trillion affecting 1 in 5 households4. Such loans are extremely difficult to discharge during a bankruptcy and the government can net amounts against future tax refunds or garnish the borrower’s wages. The loans often become a burden for the entire family as they are often co-signed by the student’s parents.
Those without the opportunity of a college education have some very challenging statistics to overcome when achieving financial independence. Their average family median household income is USD 36,835, for those with a high school education5. The income level decreases dramatically for those without a high school education. It has become increasingly more difficult to break above these averages for many reasons including a shift away from organized labor. Union membership has sunk to 11.4% from a peak of over 30% in the fifties6. Excess government debt will continue to erode public employees’; salaries and wages, cost of living maintenance, defined pensions, all overshadowed by reduced bargaining rights.
We need to drop our misconceptions about multi-generational housing and focus on its pliability to our plight as these economic trends intensify. This concept is not the exclusive property of the poor, disadvantaged, religious sects, or the third world. It is a very practical solution that extends beyond mere financial analysis.
Financially, the savings are substantial. Obvious costs become shared; rental fees, property taxes, maintenance, insurance, furnishings, and utilities. Grand-parents can avoid costly monthly assisted living arrangements. Automobile costs can be consolidated and reduced. Groceries can be bought in bulk. The savings materialize from virtually every area.
The social costs will definitely test even the most affable individual. A home with between 8-12 varied characters brings a complexity to each unique situation; assisted living for the elderly, baby centered routine, single parent, students studying, disabilities, unemployed, the configurations are endless. These social costs should be viewed as opportunities to build relationships across generations.
Sandy has put many in a precarious position. The decisions made in the next days and weeks will reverberate into the next generation. Multi-generational housing is viable alternative and worthy of our consideration. I implore you to research this alternative and liaise with highly regarded home builders to learn more about your options.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2012/recession/pdf/recession_bls_spotlight.pdf
Bernanke’s Credit Card Declined (click for PDF)
Mr. Bernanke is the steward of the most powerful monetary system to ever exist. The U.S. government (whether Republican or Democrat) spent the majority of the 20th century laying the foreign policy1 groundwork now culminating in the orchestration of the most aggressive unchecked monetary expansion in American history.
So what does it mean, and why does it matter?
It means your financial dynamic is more a function of government intervention than education, hard work, and loyalty. It matters because the civilized world’s way of life is feeling the warning tremors of a seismic shift in our perception of economic reality.
At the risk of opening Pandora’s Box, I will reveal the key to unleashing Monetary Armageddon (hint: you possess the key), but first we must explore the market anomalies we are forced to contend with.
Mr. Bernanke has a dual mandate to promote maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates2. To accomplish this he is equipped with the most sophisticated and proprietary economic statistics and models ever developed. The tools available to the Federal Reserve include; open market operations, the discount rate, and setting reserve requirements3.
The manner in which these tools are implemented directly impact on the velocity of money. Velocity is one of the most important monetary measurements for the U.S. and the industrialized world. Mr. Bernanke tracks it components with compulsive interest; however, this statistic is rarely referenced in mainstream media. The actual measurement of velocity is not nearly as important as understanding its underlying variables. Let’s review the formula while avoiding its technicalities.
Velocity = Gross National Product / Money Supply
The above can be expanded as follows;
P = (M*V)/Q
P = Measurement of inflation
M = Monetary Supply
V = Velocity
Q = Gross National Product
The above formula is fascinating. You read that correctly … fascinating.
First, the measurement of inflation is not the same as the CPI reported by the mainstream media. This leads to an interesting observation. The U.S. government changed the manner in which CPI is measured in 1980 and again in 1990. Both revisions systematically understated the inflation rate by up to 4% per year4.This revelation makes intuitive sense as many individuals relying on pensions indexed to CPI continue to experience a decrease in their standard of living.
Second, the measurement of the monetary supply is not an exact science and has several classifications (M, M1, M2, M3, etc.)5. The larger the money supply, the increased likelihood of inflationary pressure. Traditionally, M3 was used to calculate the velocity of money as it represented the broadest measurement available. However, the U.S. government stopped calculating M3 in 2006 while citing logistics, cost, and relevancy5. A prudent investor and citizen must question the motives behind such an abrupt and seemingly irrational decision. When considering the well documented inefficient utilization of government resources, it seems trivial to eliminate the relatively inexpensive tracking of M3 considering its profound ramifications with respect to identifying potential systemic risks.
The following graph illustrates the growth of M2. It is interesting to note the growth rate accelerates after 1970 which aligns with President Nixon’s unilateral decision on August 15, 1971 to abandon U.S. dollar convertibility into gold1. Many consider this period the beginning of America’s reliance of the currency printing press. The growth acceleration is most pronounced in the aftermath of the bursting of the U.S. technology bubble, followed by the Iraq War, and the Great Recession. Momentum is further spurred by the continued aging of the baby boomers and their ever increasing demands of the healthcare system and government support.
The following graphs contrast the relative sizes of M2 and M3. As illustrated in the equation above, inflationary pressures increase with a corresponding increase in the money supply. The dramatic increase in size of M3 (as measured by Shadow Stats from 2006 onward due to U.S. government lack of disclosure) versus M2 would paint a much more dire expectation of inflation had the government not ceased to report M3. Coincidentally, the elimination of M3 and resulting reliance on M2 reduces inflationary expectations and supports the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate.
M3 has increased to approximately USD 15 trillion exceeding M2 by nearly 50%. These figures clearly illustrate the systemic risk posed by the Federal Reserve’s aggressive monetary policy and why they no longer report M3. Such begs the question though;
Where is the inflation? … Excellent question.
As referenced above, the CPI reported by the mainstream media is grossly understated by up to 4% per year. The impact of such manipulated reporting has a crippling impact once its compounded nature is considered over a multi-decade period. Individuals can attest to such; however, they cannot quantify it due to poor statistics available.
At present, the Great Recession has caused market participants to become very reluctant to utilize the vast monetary supply at their disposal. Interbank lending has contracted as have mortgage lending and small business loans. Corporations have the strongest balance sheets in decades, however, merger and acquisition activity remains subdued and large capital investments continue to be deferred.
Mr. Bernanke has gambled that the large increase in the monetary supply will spur economic activity and increase the employment rate. My do not believe he has not succeeded in achieving his primary objectives. Unfortunately, he cannot control the velocity of money.
As per the formula above, such monetary policy increases the risk of inflation. If market activity accelerates, inflationary pressures will permeate the mainstream media. Mr. Bernanke will be forced to respond with the tools available at his disposal. Current interest rates are negative when considering inflation. Therefore, he has the ability to increase rates in tandem with rising inflation. However, the American public is not prepared to accept a return to interest rates of 21.5% as experienced in 19826.
The forces above are powerful, difficult to comprehend, and best left to the academics.
As promised, it is time to reveal the key to Pandora’s Box;
Every decision made by Mr. Bernanke is predicated upon the assumption the general public and central banks around the world will maintain confidence in the Federal Reserve. Your confidence provides the foundation to all monetary policy. Unfortunately, in times of economic distress, confidence changes quickly and cannot be effectively anticipated by the Federal Reserve.
A loss of confidence results in the insatiable demand to convert currency into hard assets at any cost. Such has occurred in several countries throughout the 20th century and is presently unfolding in Greece and Spain to name a few. Deposit holders withdraw their funds from the banking system and convert them into anything other than the local currency (e.g. gold, capital equipment, shares of overseas companies).
Nobody wants to hold the currency as it depreciates at an exponential rate while held. The velocity of money can reach astronomical rates sending inflation to heights similar to that experienced by Germany during its bout of hyperinflation in 19237.
The velocity of money is one of the most important statistics in existence. It should be reported and explained by the mainstream media. It is clear the U.S. government has modified or eliminated several key economic measurements. The motive for such changes is subject to one’s perspective. Regardless of perspective, it is evident that substantial inflationary pressures are lurking beneath the surface. At the end of the day, you hold the key to Pandora’s Box.
The American people’s confidence will waiver and revoke Mr. Bernanke’s no limit credit card.
Main Street will usurp Wall Street’s power.
The Plectra Conspiracy (www.theplectraconspiracy.com)
1 U.S. Superpower … In the Beginning http://wp.me/p2xZYw-5V
U.S. Superpower … Part II … Gold Convertibility R.I.P. http://wp.me/p2xZYw-61
U.S. Superpower … Part III … Rise of the Petrodollar http://wp.me/p2xZYw-64
U.S. Superpower … Part IV … Gold Leasing http://wp.me/p2xZYw-69
2 Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago http://www.chicagofed.org/webpages/publications/speeches/our_dual_mandate.cfm
3 Federal Reserve http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomc.htm
4 Shadow Government Statistics http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts
5 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_supply
The U.S. government has demonstrated a near limitless capacity to orchestrate worldwide events while fuelling their rise to status of sole economic superpower. Prior posts chronicled; the establishment of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency (1944), President Nixon’s unilateral decision to abandon dollar convertibility into gold (1971), and the rise of the petrodollar (1973).
These events continue to artificially support the dollar’s value. We will now explore one of America’s last grasps at prolonging the inevitable dollar devaluation:
The Gold Carry Trade
The U.S. Central Bank has systematically leased out its (i.e. American taxpayers’) gold bullion reserves. They can defend this action on the premise gold became a dead asset in 1971 as noted above. The U.S. government leases gold bullion to bullion banks at a nominal interest rate (e.g. 1-2%). The bullion banks then sell the taxpayers’ gold bullion on the open market and invest the proceeds in U.S. Treasuries.
The Central Bank earns a nominal return on an otherwise non-yielding asset. The bullion banks earn a spread from the difference between the treasury yield received and the lease rate paid. The value of the dollar is artificially inflated during the lease period.
This allows U.S. consumers to purchase excessive amounts of foreign goods while effectively exporting American inflation to the rest of the world. Foreign countries then recycle their U.S. dollars via the purchase of oil and such petrodollars are reinvested in U.S. Treasuries providing further support to the dollar’s value1.
This is a milestone in American monetary policy. The government continually denies the existence of such policies while refusing to provide audited proof their gold reserves; exist, are legally owned, and have not been leased to third parties. Some argue the existence of such policies is impossible, therefore, their contemplation and debate is irrelevant.
Make no mistake: gold leasing is quite possible and it falls within the domain of U.S. government policy parameters. Such is evidenced by President Roosevelt’s gold confiscation Executive Order issued on April 5, 19332.
It is interesting to note the 1999 Washington Agreement on Gold was signed by 15 nations with the intention of capping gold sales and restricting gold leasing activities3. It was extended in 2004 and 2009; however, the United States never signed it nor did the International Monetary Fund (of which the United States is the largest financial contributor). Therefore, the U.S. is not bound by its terms.
A gold leasing transaction concludes upon the physical delivery of gold from the bullion bank to the central bank. The strategy provides mutually beneficial results for its architects, provided the price of gold does not increase.
However, gold’s inflation adjusted price increased from less than USD 500 / oz. in the late 1990s to approximately USD 1,600 / oz. in 2012. America’s gold reserves totalled approximately 8,966 tons in 20104. This equates to a conservative bullion bank exposure of USD 315.6 billion. These pending losses dwarf the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse5 and threaten the existence of the bullion banks and the viability of the global banking system.
The investments banks involved have resorted to drastic market interventions in order to mitigate these risks by shorting the gold market. Such actions can be singularly substantial and disruptive as they suppress the price of gold.
Many of the above concepts are well articulated and researched by Martket Skeptics6 and extend beyond the scope of this article. I encourage readers to incorporate such research into their perspective.
This marks the end in the U.S. Superpower series. I trust the well documented historical events provide a foundation to seek out the realities behind government actions so quickly dismissed by the general public. The path is unsustainable and begs the question:
Hyperinflation – Is America Ready?
1 U.S. Superpower … Part III … Rise of the Petrodollar http://wp.me/p2xZYw-64
4 India – Gold – Power http://wp.me/p2xZYw-5y
5 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lehman_Brothers