September 11th, and why Money does not Exist

9/11/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

September 11th has become a day of remembrance in what was formerly the land of the free.  The horrific spectacle of the events that unfolded in New York and Washington that infamous day will be forever etched in the memory of our generation.  While we did not realize it at the time, it was the day that the United States lost a great deal of freedoms.

The external restrictions that have been imposed on society post 9/11 are well documented.  The passage of the Patriot Act has given the government carte blanche when it comes to surveillance and disregard for due process.  While these practices have always been employed to some degree, the Patriot Act in a sense legitimized them.

Perhaps more devastating, however, has been the mental shift that 9/11 caused in the thought of US Citizens.  Pre 9/11/2001, the US was a place where truly anything was possible, it was the Land of the Free, the sky was the limit.  Humankind had just “survived” the Y2K non-catastrophic event and credit flowed freely.

More importantly, though, our minds were free.

Naturally, we can only speak of our own experience, but we would be willing to bet that many who lived these events would agree.  Pre 9/11, the United States was a completely different country.

Ironically, 9/11/2001 was the day after we had been laid off from our first job.  We had cornered ourselves in Internal Audit, which for the uninitiated, is the first department to get the axe when cost cutting measures are employed.  Really, who wants to pay people to tell them what they are doing wrong all day unless they can justify the expense?

We received the memo and our final check on the 10th.  On the 11th, we woke up to the first day of freedom that we could recall, turned on Good Morning America, and watched the events unfold.  At that point they were speculating that the first tower was some sort of small aircraft accident.  A caller from New Jersey was on and said, with a grave seriousness in his voice, that it was not a small aircraft, but a commercial airliner.   Then, on live television, the second airplane hit the second tower.  We are embedding a YouTube video of this moment for those who did not see it.  Please be advised that it is indeed disturbing and skip it if you do not want to be shocked:

It was at that point that we knew something bigger than ourselves was occurring, and God had set us there to PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WAS GOING ON!  We were new to Christianity, true Christianity, and had begun to truly commune with God over the past several months.  To those who have not had similar conversations with the creator, this will sound strange, but God does speak quite clearly to those who are paying attention.

Anyway, God said, “It’s time.”

This has set our life on a completely different course, one that you, fellow taxpayer, are now a part of.

Ah yes, we were going to explain why money does not exist, at least not in the sense that most understand it.

The Federal Reserve is set to meet in September.  There is an expectation that they will raise interest rates.  However, there is also a sense that the economy is somehow still in a funk.  What is the Fed to do?

We postulated earlier this year that the Fed would sooner raise interest rates than end its QE money printing programs.  We were wrong, QE ended before rates increased.  However, we hold out the spectre that, eventually, perhaps this month, the Fed will need to increase its target rate.  When it does, it will cause big problems for large banks.   Banks will need a buyer for the masses of Treasuries they have to hold as a result of Dodd-Frank.  The Fed will buy them at cost (not market, as their market value will be dropping), effectively reinstating their QE program.

They will raise rates on the short end and work to maintain lower than natural long rates.  Anything else would spell disaster for the economy.

Why can the Fed employ QE (electronic money printing) in the first place?  Because money does not exist.  What we use as money is really credit.  Credit and Money are opposite elements in the realm of economics.  They should cancel each other out.

Now that Money is credit, the productive activities of humankind are aligning themselves in direct conflict with the needs of the natural world.  And the chasing of non-existent money is causing humankind to strip mine the earth.

Will we learn in time?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for September 11, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.43
Oil Price per Barrel:  $44.79

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.62
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.19%
Bitcoin price in US:  $240.28
FED Target Rate:  0.14% 
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,106

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.1%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  16,330
M1 Monetary Base:  $3,132,300,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $12,088,500,000,000

Papa Francisco’s Populist Discourse and the meaning of Evo’s Gift

8/2/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

During the month of July we found ourselves south of the equator in our second home, Bolivia.  It has been two long years since we have walked the earth there and much has changed.  The following are some observations made on our journey.

First off, it is obvious that money is everywhere.  From the construction of new apartment buildings to a new style of McMansions that are being erected by those who have benefited by the DEA’s absence in this country:  The Cholet.  The same increase in economic activity that we have noted in Portland is evident here in spades.  Everywhere you look, there is a new store, restaurant, cafe, or industrial park, all with the comforts of modern architecture with inimitable South American flair.

The first part of our visit coincided with the visit of the extremely popular Pope Francisco, or “El papa Francisco” as he is known here.  We arrived in Santa Cruz on July 6th, two days before the Holy See arrived.  On the 8th, we listened, along with all of Bolivia, the radio call of his descent and landing at the airport in El Alto.  The radio call resembled the call of a soccer game here, with the announcer screaming “Llegó” with the same passion that they yell “gol” when the home team scores.

As a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, we are ambiguous to the activities of the Pope, who to us is simply another follower of the same Jesus, with a slightly larger following.  In other words, we do not recognize or attribute any special authority nor clairvoyance to the Catholic church that is not available to all believers.

That said, it is undeniable that papa Francisco is something special to the Catholic faithful, especially here in South America, as Francisco  (or Francis, as he is known in the English speaking world), an Argentinian (though you would never know it as he does not seem to swear like a sailor) is the first Pope to hail from the continent.

Having listened to his discourses over two days, it was obvious that Francisco is well schooled in the populist platitudes that the likes of Che Guevara awakened and contemporary leaders Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales have resurrected.

True to the populist playbook, Pope Francisco derides economic inequality and envisions a society where all elements of the economy, the productive sector, distributors, and retailers, all carry out their daily chores in harmony with mother earth and one another.  Where every child can enjoy a happy childhood, every worker enjoy a dignified position, and every elderly person enjoy a dignified retirement.

Evo Morales, the Bolivian President, welcomed Pope Francisco with a unique gift, a crucifix where in the place of the cross, Jesus of Nazareth is portrayed as being crucified on a hammer and scythe, a symbol synonymous with Socialism.

Regalo de Evo a papa Francisco

Was the Pope offended?  Hardly, you see, the artistic origins of the gift lie with a popular Jesuit priest who made what to some is the obvious connection between the Gospel and Socialist doctrine.  There is more to the story behind the gift, which you can read here:

http://www.ehagendaurbana.com.ar/2015/07/el-cristo-del-martillo-y-la-hoz.htm

We bring the whole matter up to state once and for all that the Gospel and Socialism have just one common thread:  The Gospel, or the Good News, is that God forgives, and expects us to do likewise.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  It is the most important spiritual and natural event that has ever occurred, in our lives and the lives of countless others, for it is forgiveness and forgiveness alone that unleashes the supernatural and eternal presence of Yahweh in the here and now.

To the extent that Socialism demands that mankind treat one another as they would like to be treated, it is in harmony with the Gospel.  However, any attempt to enforce what should be spontaneous acts of goodwill towards one another makes a mockery of the Gospel and subjects it to the rules of men.  As we have explored in our economic treatise, Why What We use as Money Matters, rules made by men are incompatible with freedom, which is the reason for the Gospel in the first place.

This Freedom extends to the right to be Socialist, but it does not extend to the right to enforce this destructive doctrine on one’s unwilling fellow man or woman.

We admire the Pope, heck, he gave mass in La Paz with one lung and drew out millions of the faithful in South America.  If he wants to use his enormous platform and the freedom afforded to him by the forgiveness of sins through Jesus of Nazareth to expound upon an idyllic worker’s paradise. more power to him.

The Pope speaks to the Socialist Movements in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia:

The danger in the Socialist doctrine is not evident in meaningless platitudes spewed by its proponents, nor is it evident in postulations about goals that are as unattainable as they are unmeasurable, such as universal dignity in work and retirement.  The danger of this poisonous doctrine is only evident in the blood spilled silently over the years in its name.  For when authoritarian regimes are allowed to define and enforce such concepts on a large scale, the previously unimagined economic burdens of such a program fall upon everyone, and the end result is invariably a society that lives and treats each other in a quite undignified manner.

A side note, and certainly fodder for further debate here at The Mint, our Mother-in-law posed a very interesting hypothesis about what may be wrong with Bolivian society, which seems hell bent on self destruction despite the gifts Mother Nature has seen fit to surround it with:  The poisonous union of the lie by two strata of society.

First the rich, or those who come into money, those whom we will call the upper strata of society.  This strata of society learns to lie as a means to maintain or improve their status both within their social circle, which in turn feeds a continuous chorus of lies as a group to the populations which they enslave and exploit.

Second, there are the lies of the exploited populations themselves, who learn to lie as a powerful tool of survival in a society where, to paraphrase President Snow of the Hunger Games, the odds are never in their favor.

The union of the accumulated lies tend to make any society impossible to navigate with any form of moral or ideological compass.  For to run the straight and narrow is to be stabbed in the back, and the lies create the sad and universally acknowledged truth that no one can be trusted.

Into such societies the seeds of Socialist ideology find fertile ground in which to grow and take root in the minds of the underprivileged.  They begin to grow and, like GMO crop production, look good until one realizes that the crops are only viable with a disproportionate quantity of productive inputs, and that they leave the soil and its inhabitants desolate once the massive inputs stop flowing.

It is then that the inevitable bloodshed begins, and no amount of platitudes or lofty goals, whether spoken by the Pope or the President, can stop it.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for August 2, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.37
Oil Price per Barrel:  $46.77

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.68
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.20%
Bitcoin price in US:  $279.31
FED Target Rate:  0.14%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,095

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.3%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.3%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,690
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,998,600,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,991,900,000,000

Greeks are about to learn the virtues of Bitcoin

6/28/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

It appears that the Greek government is once again on the brink of an inevitable default on its Euro denominated debt.  This time, however, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appears determined to take it over the edge, calling for a referendum on the whether or not the Greek people should continue to abide by its creditors’ bailout terms and extend their own misery or to give the proverbial middle finger to their oppressors in the north.

Monetary oppression

Greece, Where the Euro pays tourist prices

We use the term oppressors, for the current state of affairs has been held in place to ensure that Germany maintains a death grip on the Eurozone.  Greece stopped benefiting from being a member of the Eurozone the moment it accepted the yoke of a common currency.  Sure, it was a nice run for the entire Eurozone when times were good, but when times got tough circa 2008 the Euro handlers at the ECB cut rates too slowly, citing a tired “stable currency” bias, and generally struggled to maintain liquidity, which is pretty much “job 1” when one is running a currency regime.

Maybe the Treaty of Lisbon wasn’t such a good idea after all.

What happened next was a catastrophe that is only possible in a Central Banking/Tax Farm disconnect that the Eurozone’s half baked approach to unity has left as the norm.  You see, fellow taxpayer, in the United States of America, we have one Central Bank which runs the tax collection mechanism for the government.  This means that, with localized exceptions, the tax farm’s tactics and the Central Bank’s liquidity functions can work in an awkward harmony.  For those of us who pay Cesar annually via the IRS, this means that in a demented sense we share society’s burdens across 50 states.  To those of us in Oregon, it matters not that the State of California cannot pay its obligations (unless, of course, one is a creditor of the State of California).  It is taken as a given that the Federal Government will bail them out and the Federal Reserve will provide the cash (indirectly) to the Feds in order to do so.  Then, and this is where the magic happens, we all pay for California’s misdeeds via Federal taxes and inflation.

This same scenario was possible in Europe until January 1, 1999 (a day that lives in infamy) and had played out throughout much of modern history.

Not so today.  For today, in Europe, when the government of Greece hits hard times and cannot pay its bills, it has to beg its rich neighbors to the north for Euros, and accept whatever conditions they impose.  What is funny is that neither Greece nor its northern benefactors can actively emit currency in sufficient quantities to ensure their new contract can be paid.

What does it mean?

Which brings us back to the upcoming referendum.  While in our mind it is still even money that there will be a further modification of the Greek bailout and that the Eurozone will carry on as it has for 16 years now, there exists the strong possibility that Greece will “opt out” of the inconvenient currency part of the European Union.  What does it mean?  Beyond getting comfortable with Drachma exchange rates again, nobody knows, nobody has ever opted out of the currency after opting in (Denmark and the UK never got in).

The Greek people have decided that it means they are in big trouble, and they have been lining up at ATMs in order to get their hands on as many Euros as possible before the lights go out.  For Mr. Tsipras, this in turn means he must declare a banking holiday and capital controls, which is a time tested recipe for causing any remaining economic activity to screech to a halt as anyone with a brain and more than a few Euros to their name starts working 24/7 on ways to keep their assets off the government’s confiscation radar.

Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them

However, as in Cyprus, smart Greeks with a working data connection have a medium at their disposal that may ensure that their assets stay well away from their government: Bitcoin.

The mini-spike in Bitcoin indicates that the Cyprus scenario is playing out again.  If anyone recalls that event, it took the Bitcoin from relative obscurity to trading at around $1,100 before the mania wore off.  Will it happen again?

It is anybody’s guess, but here are some statistics that may help guide your own educated ponderings:

Population of Cyprus: 1.14M, pre banking holiday bitcoin price: $49 (March 2013), post banking holiday Bitcoin spike: $1,124 (October 2013)

Population of Greece: 10.82M, pre banking holiday bitcoin price: $249 (June 2015) , post banking holiday Bitcoin spike:  ???? (January 2016????)

We’ll let you do the math on the hypothetical situation we have planted, but the dynamics of what is occurring in Greece, from a monetary standpoint, are extremely similar to the Cyprus scenario.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for June 28, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.61
Oil Price per Barrel:  $58.74

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.85
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.48%
Bitcoin price in US:  $249.46
FED Target Rate:  0.13%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,174

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.4%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,947
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,929,400,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,970,200,000,000

Our Latest Audio Book and Why the Fed will take Baby Steps

6/6/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

Bitcoins: What they are and how to use them

Recently we have been working with some wonderful producers to make many of our volumes here at The Mint available in audio format.  The experience has been great as those with talent in the voice department, such as Robert Fox, who brought our newest audio offering, Bitcoins:  What they are and how to use them, to life.

We imagine the producers get a good chuckle as they read our prose, to which Long-suffering readers of The Mint are accustomed.  We know we do!

Why the Fed will take Baby Steps when it comes to raising rates

The US Economy added 280,000 jobs in May of 2015, which was positive no matter how you slice it.  To our readers, this should come as no surprise, every one of our key indicators indicates an economy that is roaring ahead.  Take the price of oil, which continues to hover near the $60 per barrel mark.  While to some, a lower oil price may signal weakness in demand due to a slowdown in underlying activity, we see it as incredibly positive for US consumers, as oil, which translates into gasoline prices, acts as a quasi tax for many consumers whose demand is relatively inelastic.

We also see the steady prices of copper, around $2.70 per ounce, and corn, clocking in at $3.60 per bushel, as signs that the United States economy is on extremely solid footing looking ahead.  These prices tend to tank when bad omens are on the horizon.

The only negative (depending upon who you are), as reflected in the Jobs report, is that wages have not risen at a healthy pace.  This is great for employers and the Fed, who can maintain their margins on the backs of the working class, but not so good for those employed.

We sense this will change, as the productivity gains of the past several years are not likely to replicate themselves over the next several.  The economy is transitioning to the second half of the chessboard (as Thomas Friedman would say) and it will take a ton of work to get it there.  Once it is there, we will see hyperactivity in the economy, it will be a whirlwind that people will either embrace or run direct the other way from.  To an extent, humankind will benefit, but mother nature will suffer perhaps a fatal blow.

If proletariat wages remain low, then why has the stock market reacted negatively to what would otherwise be considered most excellent news?  We can only guess that equity traders, who at times are clairvoyant to their own detriment, look around at the plethora of good news and smell a Fed rate hike on the horizon.

They are correct, of course.  However, we believe that the Fed learned its lesson back in 2008.  The blind 0.25 per month basis hikes that were implemented to cool off the sizzling post 9/11 economy were blunt and oversized for the sheer breadth of the Fed’s economic sphere of influence.  It is doubtful we will see such blunt and misguided policy from the current Fed.

Instead, we see baby steps, increases of 0.01 basis points emitted over time so that the economy can absorb the shocks in a manageable way, rather than taking them square on the kisser as it did in 2008.

Will it work?  Only time will tell, but for the moment the US economy looks like it’s running full speed ahead, and nobody at the Fed is interested in being the next Ben Bernanke.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for June 6, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.69
Oil Price per Barrel:  $59.13

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.60
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.40%
Bitcoin price in US:  $227.55
FED Target Rate:  0.13%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,172

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.1%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,849
M1 Monetary Base:  $3,029,600,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,853,900,000,000

Obama comes to Portlandia

5/7/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

For those unaware, the Portland metro area is playing host to President Barack Obama.  While we had no idea why he is here, we have been made keenly aware of the traffic perils that await us over the next 24 hours.  Highways randomly shut in both directions, entire areas of the city impassable by car, rail, or bicycle (perish the thought).  Such is the cost of playing host to the world’s most heavily guarded human being.

Obama Ponders the lubricant of free trade that the TPP will unleash

After some careful research (roughly 40 characters typed in a google search) we now know that he has come to promote something called the “Trans-Pacific Partnership,” which we have heard described as “NAFTA on steroids.”  He has chosen the Nike campus, which is a mere 10 minute walk from where The Mint resides, to tout what would be his crowning achievement, a free trade agreement that exterminates what remains of US-based manufacturing once and for all.

His choice of Nike, who in a sense pioneered the practice of exploiting cheap overseas labor, has drawn reactions of shock and awe from socialists and unions alike.

First, the Daily Kos, where an author known as “davej” lays out the case against Nike by alluding to sweatshops and child labor, and feigns disgust at the irony that Obama would choose Nike to hold his rally there.  For good measure, the article ends with instruction on where to meet at Nike to stage a protest as the President speaks.

The AFL-CIO produced a video enlisting not only American workers but also workers from other countries throughout the Pacific Rim to denounce TPP as a job killer and an enemy of organized labor.  You can see it below:

Finally, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Socialist and current 2016 Presidential candidate, bemoans the fact that a $320 pair of LeBron XII Elite iD shoes can be sold in America but not made in America.  Comrade Sanders, we admire your zeal yet find your logic vexing.

We have no clue what the TPP will do, but generally speaking, free trade is good, and will ultimately benefit everyone.  However, circa 2015, there is a fly in the ointment that makes Free Trade act as a lubricant on the once slow-moving machinery of global warming:  Debt based currency.

Federal Reserve Notes:  A License to Strip Mine the Earth

While it is fine and well the TPP will enable American consumers to consume at theoretically better prices that those that they already enjoy thanks to pioneers like Phil Knight and Sam Walton, all of this consumption comes at a steep price, both in terms of human suffering and the environmental impact of removing barriers to trade.

While we would love to appeal to a moral high ground, such as the author at the Daily Kos and the AFL-CIO do in their opposition to the TPP, we cannot.  Instead, we appeal to our own at times infallible logic on the matter.

The TPP and the associated increase in trade along the Pacific Rim that it will enable will cause an unprecedented amount of debt based currency to come into being and begin to circulate.  While most persons have been trained to think of debt based currency as money, we offer a new definition:

Debt based currency is a license to strip mine the earth, and entirely too many of them have been issued already.

Yes, when you circulate debt based currency (and on the planet today it is nearly impossible not to) by buying and selling in it, you are sending an erroneous economic signal to the rest of humanity.  When you purchase the above mentioned Lebron James Michael Jordan wannabe shoes from Nike, you simply want the shoes to put on your feet.  However, what you are saying to Phil Knight and his minions is, “design a shoe that I and 50 of my closest friends will drool over, then drill deep into the earth and extract petroleum with which to run the machines that will make the shoe, then hire labor as cheaply as possible to run the machines and assemble the shoe, kill some cows for leather, pull latex from plants or manmade processes, create dyes to color the shoe just so, and do whatever it takes to bring together the raw materials by which to bring my dream shoe into being.”

Now the production of the shoe and all of the related activities that it spawns would be fine and well were the shoes to be paid for with real money.  However, consumers, no matter what country they are in, pay for things in debt based currency, meaning currency which comes into being on a whim, and derives its value by acting as a hot potato, causing any number of unnecessary or non-beneficial activities to be envisioned and carried out by mankind on a daily basis without a natural counterbalance to said activities.

In layman’s terms, when one is purchasing a product using debt based currency, they are by no means engaging in “fair trade,” despite what the label says, they are trading nothing for something, something that the earth and its inhabitants had to be strip-mined and enslaved to create.  For the wants and needs of mankind are limitless, and, when enabled by a limitless supply of debt based currency, cause a chain reaction of 1) increased human activity which leads to 2) increased impact on the environment without a counterbalancing activity of resource replenishment, human or natural, elsewhere in the broad swath of economic activity on the planet.

Federal Reserve notes and their foreign counterparts are nothing more than a license to strip mine the earth and its inhabitants of resources well ahead of their ability to replenish them.  Mother Nature is now in the second half of the Chessboard, will we turn in our license before it’s too late?  Or will we drive nature and ourselves off of the proverbial cliff?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Email: davidminteconomics@gmail.com

Key Indicators for May 7, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.90
Oil Price per Barrel:  $58.72

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.57
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.18%
Bitcoin price in US:  $236.53
FED Target Rate:  0.13%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,184

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):   0.2%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,924
M1 Monetary Base:  $3,100,000,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,824,300,000,000

The US Economy Turns Green in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

3/17/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

1 oz .999 Fine Silver Round Irish Green Enamel Four-Leaf Clover With Display Box

A Happy early St. Patrick’s Day to our long-suffering readers of The Mint, who know we have an affinity for the color green, specifically the tone which can be found on the coin pictured to the left.

We have been buried deep in a classic accounting “busy season” of our own design, as, along with our regular duties, we have stumbled upon a vein persons ready to move their accounting systems into the cloud along with a cadre of brilliant entrepreneurs who need solid advice in terms of accounting and systems.  This work has gone nicely with our goal of mastering the tax trade this winter and spring.  We have also managed to produce our first audio version, What is Truth?  On the Nature of Empire (check it out here).

Together, it has made little time for reflection.  Alas,  this is the life of a farmer. When the season to work comes over us, we work day and night, knowing a season of rest waits.

Due to our numbers related tarries, the last time we took a glance at the US economy for long enough to write about it was October 3rd of last year, according to our records.

At that time, when the stated Unemployment rate was 5.9%, we sensed back then that it did not matter as the FED was set on continuing its Zero Interest Rate Policy until its member banks were safely in the clear, and that the US Labor market was getting extremely tight.

In case you are wondering, ZIRP and tight labor markets, taken together, is a recipe for explosive economic growth.  Five short months later, it appears that the feast is nearly ready, and the US economy is about to eat it.

First, let’s check in on Unemployment, which stands at 5.5%. According to the March 9th jobs report, US Job Creation has never been stronger:

US Job Creation

And that momentum in the labor market is hotter than it was in 2005 – 2006:

Labor Market Momentum

And you have a labor market that has not been seen since the end of WWII.

But what about Wage Growth? It is tame, a 0.2% drop, in fact, if the BLS is to be believed. However, the NFIB Compensation Plans Indicator and the Employment cost Index are on the rise, meaning American workers are enjoying a rare (long overdue, we might add) post 1971 gain in real wages before the CPI, which clocked in at 0.7% (still well under the FED’s target), overtakes them.

Wage growth and Inflation go hand in hand

And this chart seems to indicate that the tightening rental market may be the match that starts the Wage/Price spiral in motion:

Tight Rental Market

We’re not sure about other metro areas, but rental and housing markets in Portland are ‘en fuego,’ with apologies to Dan Patrick.

What does it all mean? No one can be certain, but here are a couple of guesses:

1) The US Economy will once again become the envy of the world, despite itself. Yes, even with Obama care and other political and economic landmines strewn around it, the US economy is on pace to surpass the growth rates of developing nations, soon to be known as last decade’s darlings:

US to blow past emerging markets

2) US Workers are likely to get healthy wages from healthy companies. Unhealthy companies will be gutted in this brain drain and fail.

3) Paradoxically, corporate profit margins will continue to increase as productivity gains continue.

4) Housing premiums, in terms of rent and home sales, are about to soar.

5) Interest rates will not go up until the markets yank them up by their shirt collar and hold them up against the wall, the FED will keep short-term rates low and allow the banks to recapitalize on the backs of the US economic miracle:

No Rate Hike coming

6) There will be no “Grexit” to spoil things.  Despite European claims to clairvoyance, it was the US who established the Euro zone (and its predecessor treaties) as the vital space for a revitalized German industrial base in the wake of WWII (more on this in our upcoming review of “The Global Minotaur” which was ironically written by a Greek economist).  Circa 2014, the Euro currency zone exists for the sole benefit of Germany and to an extent France.  The rest of Europe would be better off without it, which is why Germany and the pan euro banks will hold it together with an iron fist, not matter how futile the effort, or how far they have to bend the rules.

7) The Chicago River will turn green, and a record amount of beer will be sold tomorrow in honor of St. Patrick

Be safe out there as the Luck of the Irish and the ignorance of the FED paints the US Economy green for the foreseeable future!

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for March 16, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.65
Oil Price per Barrel:  $43.68

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.79
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.10%
Bitcoin price in US: $289.87
FED Target Rate:  0.11%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,154

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.5%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.7%

Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,977
M1 Monetary Base:  $3,069,400,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,883,100,000,000

Bitcoin Panel Illuminates the World of Crypto-currencies for the Oregon AFP

2/21/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

For those who were unable to join us on Wednesday, the Bitcoin panel discussion at the Oregon AFP was a great success.  With us were six of the finest minds in Crypto-currencies in the Portland area.  These minds, together with some of the finest financial practitioners in the city, worked to bridge the gap between the Bitcoin universe and mainstream commerce.

We were pleased to find that the two are really not that far apart.

While there were a number of keen insights shared at yesterday’s meeting at the Multnomah Athletic Club, three stood out in our minds:

1) Transactions volume in Bitcoin has soared over the past two years and the USD/Bitcoin price action has settled down as a result.  Further, Venture Capital is pouring into the Bitcoin industry, proving that crypto-currencies, once on the exciting confluence of technology and money, are now entering the relatively boring yet infinitely more profitable economic mainstream.

2) Bitcoin innovators have largely solved the problem that has thus far kept most bankers at bay:  KYC, Know Your Customer.

3) Concerns about Bitcoin’s wild fluctuations in value are addressed by services that instantly exchange Bitcoins accepted in trade into national currencies. This is especially important for those who transact day-to-day business in Bitcoin, as it is technically considered property for tax purposes and could otherwise create an accounting nightmare. It also allows for a clear delineation between Bitcoin speculation and Bitcoin circulation, two completely different activities before were often unwittingly commingled by virtue of one’s use of Bitcoin in trade.

Bitcoin has come a long way since we published our 48 hour crash analysis of the emergent monetary revolution back in 2013, and our panelists did a superb job of presenting a balanced discussion of the present state of crypto-currencies.

A special thanks once again to all of our panelists, Lawrence I Lerner, Ian Pulicano, Anna Guyton, Mike Fors, George Fogg, and Rhys Faler, who was planning on spectating and found himself on the panel in the midst of an incredibly rich, informative, and relevant discussion of the merits and challenges of Bitcoin.

Ian had the difficult task of breaking the ice of ignorance and/or skepticism that is often associated with presenting the concept of Bitcoin to someone for the first time, which is never an easy task.  Beyond explaining the technical side in a concise manner, the slide near the end which highlighted the exponential growth in transactions and VC funding over the past 3 years got everyone’s attention and set the stage nicely for the discussion that followed.  Anna did a great job of stepping up as moderator and added valuable insights throughout, Lawrence did an excellent job of bridging the knowledge gap between industry and Bitcoin through helpful analogies, Mike and Rhys provided the evidence that Bitcoin can and is being used in everyday transactions, and George added insight into the inherent challenges and opportunities of Bitcoin on the regulatory and securitization side of the house.

At the end of the hour, the audience was left with one inescapable conclusion: Crypto-currencies are here, are here to stay, and will be part of one’s economic experience in the not too distant future.

For the benefit of those who were unable to join us on Wednesday, we offer the following bootleg recording of the event:

https://s15352.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Voice-008.m4a?_=1

We also offer the hope that these types of panels will be held in other venues where finance and technology intersect, and that mankind will be all the better off for it.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for February 21, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.58
Oil Price per Barrel:  $50.81

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.85
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.13%
Bitcoin price in US: $246.31
FED Target Rate:  0.09%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,204

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.7%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.3%

Dow Jones Industrial Average:  18,140
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,884,400,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,771,600,000,000

Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies, and Alternative Payment Systems: A Panel Discussion

For those who are in the Portland area, the Oregon & SW Washington Association for Financial Professionals is hosting a panel discussion on Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies, and Alternative Payment Systems on Wednesday, February 18th at 11:30am at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

As you can see, the panelists are top notch:

Lawrence I Lerner of LERNER Consulting – Change Agent in digital strategy, payments, security, change management, and retail: http://lawrenceilerner.com/

Ian Pulicano – Digital currency specialist and co-founder of Bit Consultants.  Building the new paradigm

Anna Guyton – Co-Founder of Bit Consultants, Bitcoin educator and integration specialist, encouraging individual and local self-sufficiency https://bitconsultants.org/

Mike Fors – Founder of BitcoinNW, Bitcoin evangelist, and owner of a Bitcoin Kiosk located in Pioneer Square: www.bitcoinnw.com

George K. Fogg – Partner, Perkins Coie, LLP, national co-chair of firm’s Financial Transactions and Restructuring practice and a member of the firm’s Virtual Currency Team

Your’s truly will be moderating and generally trying to stay out of the way of what promises to be an interesting, informative, and timely discussion amongst those in the Pacific Northwest who are at the forefront in this exciting and perplexing space.

You can register for the event here: http://oregonafp.camp7.org/event-1844146

First time guests to the group are free, which is a nice.  Hurry, though, as space is limited.  Hope to see you for this important topic and Stay Fresh!

An Ode to Papa Jerry

Jerry and Bettie Mitchell

Earlier this year in the class on Luke, we collectively learned that death is a form of healing. This being the case, our friend Jerry Mitchell was healed on January 28th, 2015. In terms dear to us as Samaritans, it may be said that Jerry graduated to heaven on that day.

Jerry Mitchell, or Papa Jerry, as we knew him, taught in the Beaverton School District until his retirement. He was already retired when we met him. We came to know Jerry as the cornerstone of Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM), a ministry with a call to “teach nothing but the Kingdom of God,” a call which continues to this day at GSM in Beaverton.

While Jerry’s wife, Bettie Mitchell, is recognized as the founder of the Ministry, she is always quick to recognize that Jerry, by giving permission for Bettie to leave her teaching job to pursue the Ministry full time, was the one who released the calling into action. It was he who supported and accompanied her through the years as the Ministry grew to touch lives not only in Beaverton but also in some 32 countries throughout the world.

Jerry was a veteran of World War II and a member of what Tom Brokaw famously referred to as “The Greatest Generation.” Jerry was a great fan of the Portland Trailblazers and was always quick with a smile and a joke. He was honest and approachable and loved children. It may truly be said that he never lost touch with the child within himself.

His positive impact as a soldier, teacher, and Samaritan can be seen today on four continents, and we count ourselves blessed to have had our hearts warmed by knowing Papa Jerry towards the twilight of his wonderful life. The world is a better place because Papa Jerry lived.

Rest in peace Papa Jerry, and thank you for your many sacrifices this side of heaven. We look forward to the time when we will meet again on the other side.

The Healing Miracles of Jesus Recorded in Luke

Healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century. Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-41 and Matthew 8:14-15.

The following are notes and Materials we used when teaching a class on January 7th, 2015 at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton.  The class was on the Healing Miracles of Jesus Recorded in Luke.

For setting, we set the class up with a row of seats back to back in the middle, with a perimeter of seats in the shape of a U around this row.  It gave the class a feel that they were in a doctor’s waiting room and served to drive interaction.

We began the class by recounting a recent medical incident that involved a bit of drama.  You can use a similar story of your own or borrow ours:  Narrative of Medical Incident – Intro

We then handed out the following medical questionaire to the class.  As you will see, it was a bit daunting (the attendees did come under the impression that they were attending a Bible class, after all):  In Depth Medical History Form

If you prefer, start with something lighter such as:  Medical History Form

In both cases, it is important to get the class thinking about their family as well, so a Family Medical History Questionnaire is in order:  Family Medical History Form

As the class is filling these out, move through the outline, asking questions about recent experiences at the doctor, etc.  Try to get people focused on the concept of healing.  Key questions:  What does healing look like?  What form does it take?  How do you know when you are healed or have healed someone?

Refer to the class outline “When the Silence Comes, the Healing Takes Place” for a full narrative where the facilitator plays the role of Luke for the audience, telling them about Jesus, the doctor.  This outline also contains the key questions to the class for this teaching.

About halfway through this narrative, where Luke refers to the “Last Page” of the forms, direct them to this surprisingly simple and profound “Healing Eligibility Questionnaire.

You can either have this form at the back of the other questionnaires you have handed them or pretend that you forgot to give it to them, and that it is really the only form that is required.  In the class we taught, we pretended to forget it and people were as relieved to see it as they were shocked to recieve the first, exhaustive round of forms.

Raising of Jairus’ Daughter by Paolo Veronese, 1546. Mark 5:21–43, Matthew 9:18–26, Luke 8:40–56

You then will hand out a “Frequently Asked Questions” sheet to the class which will cause them to think deeply about healing in the Biblical context.

Now that the introduction to the material has taken place, the class is prepared to hear the miracles.  We have identified the following passages in Luke as containing references to a healing miracle.  The teacher is to read them, one by one aloud and allow the Lord to guide them in their teaching one another:

Luke 4:23-27, 31-37, 38-39, 40-41

Luke 5:12-16, 17-26

Luke 6:6-11, 17-19

Luke 7:1-10, 11-17, 21-30

Luke 8:26-39, 40-56

As you ask around the room, you will be astonished at how many people have witnessed a healing miracle.  In our class, one women shared that she had seen her daughter raised from the dead in the 1980’s, and that her son, who had a severe developmental disorder, had been dead twice and both times was resuscitated.

Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, c. 1569, in the Stadtkirche Wittenberg. Luke 7:11-17

Luke 9:1-6, 10-11, 37-43

Luke 10:1-12

Luke 13:10-17, 32-33

Luke 14:1-6

Luke 17:11-19

Luke 18:35-43

Luke 19:1-10

Luke 22:50-51

It is astonishing that Jesus healed even as he was being betrayed on the Mount of Olives.

In reviewing these miracles, you can see Luke, as a physician, gave a great deal of importance to the Healings Jesus performed.

Two key insights that were gained when we gave the class on the 7th were, first, that healing can be defined as the continuity/alignment of the spirit, mind, and body.  Second, that physical death is a form of healing.

At the end of the class, return to the questions on the Healing Eligibility questionnaire.  Ask them again.

To close, we prepared a PowerPoint presentation of artist’s depictions of the Healing Miracles found in Luke.  The PowerPoint can be downloaded here: Healing Miracles of Jesus in Luke PowerPoint

You can see the PowerPoint put to music below:

Close the class in prayer.

We pray that this teaching will heal all those who teach and hear it, for it is the power of the Living God within us all to heal, if only we believe.

You can see how the teaching went on January 7th, 2015 at GSM in Beaverton in the video below.  We didn’t get to the slideshow, but somehow it did not matter.  The healing came to us.

Freed by the Fire, The Fourth Man

The Book of Daniel, Chapter 3
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits,* and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the local governors, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the local governors, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Then the herald cried aloud, “To you it is commanded, peoples, nations, and languages, that whenever you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. Whoever doesn’t fall down and worship shall be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace the same hour.”
Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and brought accusation against the Jews. They answered Nebuchadnezzar the king, “O king, live for ever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image; 11 and whoever doesn’t fall down and worship shall be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have not respected you. They don’t serve your gods, and don’t worship the golden image which you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and fury commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. Then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered them, “Is it on purpose, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready whenever you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe, and all kinds of music to fall down and worship the image which I have made, good; but if you don’t worship, you shall be cast the same hour into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. Who is that god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If it happens, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
“Simeon Solomon – Shadrach Meshach Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by Simeon Solomon, 1863

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the form of his appearance was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain mighty men who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their pants, their tunics, and their mantles, and their other clothes, and were cast into the middle of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 These three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the middle of the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste. He spoke and said to his counselors, “Didn’t we cast three men bound into the middle of the fire?”
They answered the king, “True, O king.”
25 He answered, “Look, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are unharmed. The appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace. He spoke and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!”
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the middle of the fire. 27 The local governors, the deputies, and the governors, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power on their bodies. The hair of their head wasn’t singed. Their pants weren’t changed, the smell of fire wasn’t even on them.
28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants who trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything evil against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Today our Pastor gave a profound teaching on this chapter.  There are two eternal lessons we can all take from Daniel 3:

When you are in an impossible situation, do not play along, hold true to your values.  Further, when they throw you into the fire, know that it is the fire that frees you.

When you are in the fire, don’t miss the fourth man who is there with you.  Jews believe it to be the Archangel Michael, Christians believe it to be Jesus, and in both cases it is the Living God who is with us in the trial.

La Granja Tributaria

La Granja Tributaria.  Un lugar que parece ser “casa” por el mayor parte del año, hasta que el granjero pasa a sacar la leche.

La Granja Tributaria circa 1964

Hace poco realizamos un curso para dueños de empresas pequeñas y medianas en Portland y los alrededores.  Presentamos aquí, como servicio al publico de The Mint, las materias del curso por si le puede servir a alguien en nuestra audiencia.

El Archivo PowerPoint: Tax Prep Class SPANISH 1-14-2015

El PowerPoint por YouTube:

Recursos en Portland para preparar su declaración anual: Tax Preparation Guide English – Spanish

Páginas web claves:  Ayuda Tributaria en Español

El IRS en Español:  http://www.irs.gov/Spanish

La Granja Tributaria circa 2014

Un consejo, los impuestos son un asunto muy personal, y no hay ninguna situación que sea igual al suyo.  Por eso rogamos que, si tiene alguna duda, que se ponga en contacto con un profesional en su localidad.  Según la situación en la que uno se encuentre, tener sus asuntos en orden con la granja tributaria puede ser muy valioso.

Mucha suerte!  Y qué el granjero no le saque demasiado este año.

 

Digital Silver

1/11/2015 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

A belated happy new year to our fellow taxpayers. While the pages of The Mint have been quiet, The Mint himself has been pressing forward on a number of initiatives. Perhaps the most notable being our renewed interest in Tax Planning and preparation, which is a natural complement to our virtual CFO and associated services. More to come on that.

Long-suffering readers of The Mint are well aware of our views on monetary theory. Throughout the ages, true money has generally taken the form of gold and/or silver. However, for roughly 44 years now, mankind has been on an extremely dangerous experiment in which debt has come to take the place of money in everyday transactions. While it may seem a completely normal manner of transacting business today, it is lost on most that money and debt are actually polar opposites. They are meant to cancel each other out in trade and, in doing so, maintain the quantity of one another and by extension all of world trade and economic activity, in balance.

However, when money becomes debt, then debt can only be cancelled by the issuance of more debt, which means that the primary impulse of all economic activity is not a well thought out response to the laws of supply and demand, but a response to whether or not the supply of debt instruments in the world is increasing or decreasing.

The period between 2008 and 2013 has been marked by a relative stagnation in what was until then a steady wave of increasing credit post 1971. This stagnation was almost fatal to the debt based monetary system that, by definition, counts on an infinite expansion in the quantity of debt for its very existence.

The current expansion, which began in 2014 and is set to accelerate through 2015 and beyond, is already causing cosmic shifts in the economy. Old, established companies and brands are being supplanted by a phenomenon that is best exemplified by social media platforms: Hyper focused content delivery and a wholesale fragmentation of what were, just five years ago, long-established norms around consumer behavior. Large brands are losing the edge as consumers can increasingly tailor the content that passes by their eyeballs on social media and, further, consume almost any type of media on demand.

This shift is once again propelling a large wave of growth, which means that soon, consumers will begin to demand increasing amounts of credit so that they can underwrite their various individual activities necessitated by this shift.

What place does Silver have in this brave new world? At $16.57 an ounce, physical silver is taking a short breather as the world’s best investment. However, a new form of Silver is rising to take its place.

Digital Silver in the form of unsecured credit at your fingertips

Silver Money Service is a simple mobile app that filters hundreds of credit card offers to help you find unsecured credit that suits your needs. While at first this may seem an elementary concept, the utility of the Silver app, which is currently available for Android and iPhone, cannot be overstated.

As much as we are loath to admit it, most consumers will need to increase their credit footprint over the coming year in order to keep pace with inflation. What the Silver app does is simply save consumers tens if not hundreds of hours sifting through credit card offers in the mail and on the internet.  By asking a few simple questions, Silver guides the user to the current credit card offerings that are best suited to their needs.

How does it work?  As we mentioned above, the app asks the user a simple, multiple-choice question:

  1. Which type of card are you looking for?
    • Rewards
    • Cash back
    • Low Interest
    • Bad Credit

From there, it asks the user a second, again multiple choice question based on their response to the first in order to tailor its results to the user’s unique credit needs.  The app then presents a list of the relevant credit card offers alongside buttons that allow the user to contact the credit card provider directly via telephone, email, or directly at their website.


Silver’s refreshingly simple and intuitive approach to assisting consumers in expanding their credit footprint.  You can download this handy app that the Google Play store and the iPhone App Store today and get a head start on your peers.

While physical silver will always be a safe harbor, the Silver app may prove more useful over the coming years as a way to fund the next wave of credit expansion. Even if you are a gold or silver bug, you can use the Silver app to get a credit card to get ahead of the curve by ordering your next tube of rounds or silver bars from your favorite bullion dealer.

For in the blow off phase, it won’t matter how much unsecured debt one has to pay back, but what real assets one has on hand to confront the gradual disintegration of the real economy.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for January 11, 2015

Copper Price per Lb: $2.79
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $47.58

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.00
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  1.97%
Bitcoin price in US: $276.80
FED Target Rate:  0.12%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,225

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.6%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  -0.3%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,737
M1 Monetary Base:  $3,157,800,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,769,400,000,000

Thomas Friedman’s Brief Theory of Everything

12/15/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

At the closing session of the 2014 AFP National Conference, New York Times columnist and three time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman gave a great discourse related to the biggest trends in the US and indeed the world today.  For those who are unfamiliar with Friedman’s work, suffice it to say that he is one of the more influential voices on the planet via his post at the New York Times.  As his discourse will reveal, he writes on foreign affairs, globalization, and environmental issues.

Thomas Friedman By Charles Haynes (Charles Haynes’ flickr account) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Friedman is also a bestselling author, and many of his working hypotheses can be found in his 2005 International Best Seller, The World is Flat:  A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.  In the book, Friedman lays out 10 “flatteners,” or things that he points to that are enabling the trend of leveling the global playing field.

On the afternoon of November 4th in Washington, D.C., Friedman shared a number of interesting insights with our audience of Finance leaders, among them is his own recognition of the effects that the forces he describes have on his own ability to influence American and global thought.  As he puts it {with a slight paraphrase to add context}, “Thirty years ago, James Reston, my predecessor would ask himself every morning, ‘I wonder what my seven competitors are going to write today?’  Today, I sit in my office and ask myself ‘I wonder what my 70 million competitors are going to write today?”
Amazon.com Widgets
While we may not agree completely with Friedman’s ideologies at base, it cannot be denied that he is compelling to listen to.  His voice is inquisitive and familiar, and his depth of experience in the idea realm gives his opinions, whether one fully agrees with them or not, a strange authority of their own.  You can listen via the link below to one of the finest discourses we have ever had the pleasure of listening to:

https://s15352.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Voice-006-Freidman.m4a?_=2

Below are some of the most interesting points Friedman brings up, along with their corresponding time stamp on the above recording:

At 2:40:  Is the US’s OODA loop broken?  Friedman expresses concern about the US Government’s ability to Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act using a metaphor from the US Air Force.

At 4:25: – As Historians look back at our times, Friedman believes that they would identify as the most important things happening in the early 21st is that the three biggest forces on the planet, The Market, Moore’s Law, and Mother Nature, all went into hyper growth at the same time.

At 5:50: – The story of the Chessboard brought up in the book The Second Machine Age.  The Chessboard parable is cited as popular in Silicon Valley, and the morale is that, when you double something 63 times, you get 18 quintillion of whatever it is.  Friedman cites the Chessboard analogy a number of times in the discourse.  He believes that the world is in the “Second half of the Chessboard” in terms of the velocity of change with respect to The Market, Moore’s Law, and Mother Nature.

At 8:00: – The 2004 Thesis of The World Is Flat is that the convergence of four factors, the PC, the Internet, Workflow Software, and Search capabilities, that were melding together to form a platform that was allowing for large scale collaboration on a level never before experienced. {Editor’s Note: We closely observed this trend as an MBA student in Barcelona and it has continued to transform the way we live and work today, 10 years on. }

At 11:07 – In the past 10 years, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and the like, the world went from connected to hyper connected, and from interconnected to interdependent.  We are in the second half of the Chessboard with regards to globalization.

At 13:45 – Friedman begins to speak on the Environment, what happens when Mother Nature enters the second half of the Chessboard.  He cites the fact that the amount of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere is increasing 100 times faster today than it was at the end of the last ice age.  He also observes that the population of the earth has doubled in his lifetime, from 1959 to 1999, from 3 billion to 6 billion people.

At 21:00 – Friedman brings up the drought in Syria between 2006 and 2010, the most severe in modern history, as the cause of the revolution that rages there today.  One million Syrians, who had previously dedicated themselves to agriculture in the countryside, flocked to the cities, overwhelming the infrastructure.  Here, he also highlights the fact that Sao Paulo, Brazil, may become the first major city to run out of water due to a combination of a prolonged drought and the effects of deforestation of the wetlands and watersheds of its major water sources.

At 22:30 – What does it mean?  This is a great world to be a consumer, a maker (Entrepreneur), and a breaker (here Friedman cites ISIS’s use of social media as its command and control system).  It is a terrible world to be a leader (every leader is in a two way conversation).

At 30:10 – Average is over for countries as Mother Nature, The Market, and Moore’s Law enter the second half of the chessboard.  Developing countries are stressed, and weak countries are failing and entering disorder.

At 32:52 – This is perhaps Friedman’s most important insight Average is over for every worker.  Every worker must identify their unique value add.  “When I graduated from college, I had to find a job.  When you graduate from college, you will need to make your job.”  Every middle class job is being pulled up, out, and down.  The high wage, middle skill job, is over.  There are now only high wage, high skill jobs.

At 36:31 – Friedman speaks of the effects of Globalization on his own job.  Thanks to the internet, he now has 70 million competitors whereas his predecessor, James Reston, had 7.

At 39:30 – The three tiers of work, the first tier was non-routine, second tier was routine; the third tier was non-routine, local work, are being rattled to the core.  The second tier is being crushed, and the wages of the third tier non-routine depends upon the quality of the first tier non-routine.  Further, the first tier, non-routine must also be “creative” non-routine.

At 42:00 – You need more than the three R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, you need the four c’s:  Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking, and the “M”:  Self-motivation.

At 44:07 – Now that the digital divide is gone, the good news ceilings and walls are gone; the bad news is that so are the floors.  For example, as an employer, Google doesn’t care what you know because it knows everything, but what you can do with it.

At 45:30 – Friedman’s five pieces of advice for his children, 1) Think like an immigrant, be a paranoid optimist, we are all new immigrants to the hyper connected world, 2) Think like an artisan, make what you make special, give it an extra effort, carve your initials into it, 3) Always be in beta, in Silicon Valley there is only one four letter word, Finished.  Always be in beta.  Literacy today is the ability to learn and relearn, 4) pq + cq > iq.  Perseverance/passion quotient + curiousity quotient is greater than a high intelligence quotient, 5) Think like an Entrepreneur:  Friedman paraphrases this as “Think like a pancake waitress,” do your best with those things under your control, and where you can, add value.

At 51:12 – Friedman fields a few questions from the audience and shares his thoughts on what needs to occur in the realm of politics.  The comments are timely as they come on the date of the 2014 US midterm elections.

This is one of the better discourses that we have been privileged to attend.  It is clear that Friedman is a deep thinker and has learned the art of expressing himself.  He is not especially clairvoyant, but he is deeply in touch with the times.  Evidence of his hypotheses is literally surging from every corner of the globe.

What will be your value add in the brave, new, flat, hyper connected world that is fast coming upon us?

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for December 15, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $2.94
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $55.99

Corn Price per Bushel:  $4.08
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.12%
Bitcoin price in US:  $351.50
FED Target Rate:  0.12%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,197

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.8%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,218
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,966,700,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,635,400,000,000

‘Tis the Season for…Taxes? 7 Tips to Prepare for the Inevitable

It’s that time of year once again, fellow taxpayers. Time to listen to the endless drone of Christmas music, time to fret over what to give whom, time to blow fuse or two on your home’s electrical grid trying to outdo the neighbor’s light show, time to see if you will trigger the AMT this year.

Yes, the Holiday Season is upon us once again, and, as if we didn’t have enough on our plates (both literally and figuratively), the remaining 20 days of December represent the final countdown to a manmade deadline for making and executing any personal and corporate decisions which may have a direct impact upon how much tribute one wishes to voluntarily report and render to their local and federal tax farm.

What might those decisions entail? Or, more precisely, what can I do (within the confines of the income tax code, of course) to lower my 2014 income tax burden?

Is the IRS on your Christmas list?

The answers to the above questions are truly personal, as tax advice, like medical advice, depends entirely upon the individual’s history, present circumstances, and future plans. Here at The Mint, we highly recommend consulting with a qualified income tax professional that can sit down and give one a proper assessment of their situation and help them plan now in order to take the proper steps to help minimize their current and future tax burden.

Here are 7 tips to help you and your tax professional prepare your 2014 income tax return and, more importantly, estimate your tax liability while you are still in 2014 and can theoretically do something about it:

  1. Gather state and federal returns from the prior two years: This will give your tax professional a baseline, if you will, of your income tax situation and let them know, often at a glance, what steps can be taken to help minimize your liability.
  2. Think about any life changes you have had in 2014: Did you get married? Have a baby? Send a child off to college? Sell or refinance a home? Relocate for work? All of these actions, and many more, may have an impact on your tax bill.
  3. Gather documentation to support income and deductions: This may seem basic, but why not prepare for a potential IRS audit before it happens? Maintain any W-2s, 1099s, Investment account statements, and documentation related to deductions such as charitable donations, mortgage interest statements, and child care expenses and keep them in a file along with the corresponding tax returns. Viola! Should the IRS call you, you at least have something to back up your numbers.
  4. Know the basis of your stocks: If you own corporate or mutual fund shares, a very important data point in terms of tax preparation is how much was paid for it. As many people hold shares for relatively long time horizons, it is best to keep a running file that is updated with each purchase. Your broker should be able to get this information for you if you have not kept track of this to date.
  5. Measure your home office: The home office deduction is taboo in some circles as it is seen as a red flag for audits. However, if you legitimately have a home office, you could be leaving a decent amount of money on the table if you do not take it.
  6. Contribute to qualified retirement accounts: If you have extra money and sense that you may be staring a tax liability in the face, consider funding an IRA or contributing more to a 401(k) plan before year-end.
  7. Consult a trusted tax professional: As we stated before, everybody’s situation is unique when it comes to income taxes. While everyone has to file income taxes, we each have our own, unique financial fingerprint. A trusted tax professional can help you not only catch missed deductions now, they can help you to plan for future events that, if not properly planned for, could trigger large income tax liabilities.

In the midst of overeating, overspending, and generating outrageous electric bills in the name of the Holidays be sure to take a moment to consult a trusted tax professional. Who knows? Making a few of the right moves now may just pay for some of those Holiday bills come April.

The Bank of Russia Dwarfed in Oil Price War

12/3/2014 Portland, Oregon – Pop in your mints…

In case you haven’t been following our key indicators lately, the price of oil has taken a nosedive over the past three months, falling nearly 30% from late September. If you drive an SUV or run an airline, this is great news. If you are Russian or in some way invested in or employed by US based shale oil operations or work extracting oil from the Alberta Tar Sands, this is bad news.

First, let’s take a look at the effects on Russia, which have dominated the headlines. The Russian economy is heavily reliant on oil and has one of the largest petroleum industries in the world. It has the world’s eighth largest oil reserves and is the largest exporter of oil in the world in absolute numbers. Since the chart below, which highlights the rise of Russia’s productive capacity and post cold war era export capacity, was produced in by Plazak back in 2013, Russian production has continued its study rise through 2014, posting a post-Soviet record of 10.61 million barrels per day in September.

Russian Oil Production Chart By Plazak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Further, Russia produces approximately 73 barrels of oil per day per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with approximately 37 barrels of oil per day produced in the US per 1,000 people.

Oh yes, and it has been reported that the 2015-2017 budget forecast of the Russian Government was based on the assumption of oil being priced at $100 per barrel (they are now revising it to around $85, $20 some dollars ago in the real world). Unlike the most of us in the US, that is a revenue assumption for them.

Financial markets are watching this and licking their chops, Russia is a short no matter how you slice it. Their oil industry and economy live in a world that ceased to exist about the time the price of oil spiked and drove the world’s largest consumers, the US, to search for alternatives.

The Russian Central Bank has spent at least $82 Billion in its foreign exchange reserves through October of 2014 in what has proven a feeble effort to prop up the Ruble. It spent $700 million on Monday alone, and it is not working. Were the heads of the Russian Central Bank thinking a bit more clearly, they may have been wise to carefully intervene in the oil markets before their currency got lashed. Alas, the Central Bankers of the World are seldom blessed with the gift of clairvoyance.

The Bank of Russia should have bought oil

But what about the US? As the world’s largest oil producer at nearly 12 million barrels a day, won’t the United States economy fall victim to the latest drop in oil prices as well? That is the premise of Michael Snyder, writing over at The Economic Collapse blog:

Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price of Oil Crashed Like This?…

While Snyder does make some compelling points about the 1.7 million jobs that the fracking boom has produced, the US is nowhere near Russia in terms of oil price dependency for its economic health.

We have three concrete reasons that we place forward for your inspection, fellow taxpayer, as to why the impact on the US will be minimal or even positive:

1) While the US produces 12 million barrels per day, it consumes 18.8 million barrels. As such, the higher price of oil still works as a quasi tax on the US as opposed to a concrete revenue source.

2) The US economy is the most dynamic on the planet. As long as credit is available, it will create jobs.

3) The Fed is still in a mode of underpinning the economy and has maintained its unconditional guarantee of the post financial crisis stock and bond markets. They would quickly contain the oil based junk bond issue that Snyder brings up.

The US economy is eternally susceptible to one thing and one thing only, a sustained decrease in consumer credit and government debt, neither of which is likely in the near term. While the Fed has hinted at raising rates, the current crisis in Russia, if anything, gives them sway to keep their various stimuli in place or on the ready as the crisis is feeding dollar strength, so the Fed doesn’t have to.

It will not always be so, as the Fed itself will one day implode on its own merits (or lack thereof). For the moment, it is the Bank of Russia playing the jester in this play.

Stay tuned and Trust Jesus.

Stay Fresh!

David Mint

Key Indicators for December 3, 2014

Copper Price per Lb: $2.92
Oil Price per Barrel (WTI):  $67.10

Corn Price per Bushel:  $3.68
10 Yr US Treasury Bond:  2.29%
Bitcoin price in US: $377.28
FED Target Rate:  0.13%
Gold Price Per Ounce:  $1,205

MINT Perceived Target Rate*:  0.25%
Unemployment Rate:  5.8%
Inflation Rate (CPI):  0.0%
Dow Jones Industrial Average:  17,880
M1 Monetary Base:  $2,765,000,000,000

M2 Monetary Base:  $11,607,000,000,000

On Obama’s Immigration Gambit

For those who missed it this past Thursday, the American President, Barack Obama, announced that he was taking action via an Executive order to fix the US Immigration system.  Depending upon one’s feelings on the subject, Obama either an extremely bold step to do what the US Congress should have done years ago, or He made one of the most shameless power grabs by the Executive in recent history.

Whatever one’s feelings, it is reported that the action will allow some 5 million undocumented immigrants to now live and work legally in the United States.

In the following piece, Katie Couric frames up what has occurred:

For most thinking persons, the stated results should come as very good news, especially when one considers that it now gives the right for undocumented parents of children who do have legal status to stay with their family and to provide for them in a more dignified manner.  However, the GOP appears to have taken to extreme rhetoric in opposition to the President’s humanitarian actions.

Even the writers at Saturday Night Live seemed inclined to highlight the power grab element of what presumably will be Executive Order 13683 once it is recorded.

While the GOP position, that America should do more to protect its borders in conjunction with allowing those who are here without documents to receive amnesty, appears logical, it is completely devoid of morality and human decency.

We are all immigrants.  And failure to recognize this basic fact is cause for seemingly endless strife in many places on God’s green earth.  The right to reside on a certain piece of geography via a piece of paper and a  formal relationship with the tax farm is a construct of 20th Century Imperialism.  The idea of carrying a passport for the common man or woman only came into being around the time of WWI.

People Immigrate because they are looking for a better life.  It should flatter the current inhabitants of the United States of America that they believe that they can build that life here, as the ancestors of the current inhabitants, the immigrants of generations past, have been able to do.  To put unreasonable measures which rip families apart and deny those who are ambitious and courageous enough to leave everything behind to pursue the modern-day American Dream is not only wrong, it is self-defeating to any nation that desires to remain on the cutting edge of progress.

Our Time as an Undocumented Immigrant

It may come as a surprise to our readers that we have spent time as an “undocumented” immigrant in both Spain and Bolivia.  We did not sneak across the border into these lands, as one might imagine.  We arrived via normal channels through airports, as many undocumented immigrants in America have come.

Our passport was stamped and away we went, in search of pursuing our dreams.  There was one catch, the achievement of our dreams in these places was to take a good deal more than the 90 days supposedly allotted us on our visitor’s visa.  As such, we went to the immigration authorities of the respective countries and began the long and expensive road to legitimizing our status through a process that can only be described as a colossal waste of time and effort for all involved.

In Spain, we waited all morning in a cue only to arrive at the window 6 hours later to submit our application.  When we arrived, we were told to wait some more.  Amazingly, they did not even give us the dignity of a lavatory and, after the seven hour ordeal, our bladder was in rough shape.

Once our school was done, we were fortunate enough to land a job with an American company, Sara Lee, and we thought our immigration troubles were over.  However, after waiting in two similar cues over the course of seven months and still not being able to begin work as we waited on the Spanish bureaucracy to process our application, we’d had enough.  The process was ludicrous, and we parted for Bolivia with our bride to be.

In Bolivia, the process did not involve as many cues, but it did involve some nervous periods of time when our passport was sequestered for weeks on end to be “translated.”

Perhaps the most blatant example of the sham of Immigration processes was their requirement that we obtain an “International Criminal Record” from an organization next door called “Interpol.”  Once inside, the kind gentlemen at Interpol would give you two options.  Option one, which carried a cost of 10 Bolivianos (roughly $1.50) would render a “Criminal check” in about a week.  However, there was another, slightly more expensive option, running around 100 Bolivianos, which would render a “Criminal check” on the spot.

Naturally, the more expensive and necessarily less thorough 100 Boliviano International criminal check was the more popular choice.

The point of recounting our struggles with Immigration abroad is this:  There are many people living within our borders who desperately want to do the right thing and legitimize their status.  However, they do not have 5 to 10 years to put their life and ambitions on hold wait for their fate to be decided by some sort of visa lottery or bureaucratic process.  All the while living peaceful, productive lives with the constant fear that it could all be taken away on a whim.

The Immigration system is not just, it is inhumane and a great impediment to the further progress of the United States of America or any Country that puts politics and nationalism ahead of people.  If President Obama has taken steps to remedy this stain on America, then he has done a great service to 5 million human beings who can now live their lives without fear.  If he had to sidestep a political process to do this, then the true problem lies in the political process, not in the actions of one who is acting with humane intent.

 

Fresh ideas on Economics, Monetary Theory, Politics, and Less Pressing but Equally Entertaining Matters for the English and Spanish speaking worlds

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