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Part 4: 2017, When The Wheels Finally Come Off

Kunstler  |  Howard Kunstler

Desperate Measures

One of the other big and dark trends of the past year has been the move of governments around the world — and among the economist / necromancers who advise them — to ban cash from the scene in order to herd all citizens into a digital banking system that will allow the authorities to track all financial transactions and suck every possible cent of taxes into national coffers. It would also be an opportunity for the bank-and government cabal to impose negative interest rates (NIRP) on bank accounts so that money herded into the digital system could be surreptitiously “taxed” by charging account holders just for being there (against their will). It’s a little hard to see how that might happen just now in a broad rising rate environment, but it would be the natural accompaniment to banning cash — and renewed aggressive QE (QE forever!) might do the trick.

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff literally wrote the book on this (The Curse of Cash; Princeton University Press, 2016), a mendacious argument that cash money merely enables drug dealers and terrorists to operate and has no useful place otherwise in a regular economy. Rogoff appeared to be angling for the Treasury slot in Hillary’s cabinet, and would have fit in perfectly with this totalitarian assault on the public’s financial liberty — but, as we know, Hillary didn’t make it.

Efforts to eliminate cash are already underway around the world. The EU officially discontinued the €500 note from circulation. Ken Rogoff’s Harvard colleague, Larry Summers, was calling for abolition of the $100 bill a year ago. Sweden is successfully herding its people out of fiat krona. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled a fast one in November by banning the 1000 and 500 rupee note (worth respectively $14 and $7), and threw India’s economy into a epileptic seizure. The idea was to discipline tax evaders who operate in a cash economy. The catch was that more than 85 percent of India’s economy operates on a cash basis among people too poor to have bank accounts and credit cards — including millions of truck drivers and ordinary laborers. Naturally, the Indian economy froze. Nobody could get paid. Food rotted in stalled trucks. ATM withdrawals were limited to a few day’s walking-around-money. Citizens could not even exchange their 1000 and 500 rupee notes at the banks without going through onerous time-consuming bureaucratic rigmarole, including fingerprinting and the submission of tax records. The process caused discouraging long queues to form at the banks, and was probably designed to discourage the exchange of the 1000 and 500 rupee notes altogether and instead just retire them from circulation — which means a lot of poor people lost the minimal cash savings they had.

It’s hard to see the US government banning cash as clumsily as India did, but they have other ways to herd the multitudes into the black box of all-digital banking. Financial author James Rickards calls this the “Ice-Nine” program, in reference to the isotope of water in Kurt Vonnegut’s sci-fi novel Cat’s Cradle that freezes the world in a horrifying chain reaction. Rickards’ Ice-Nine financial nightmare would include features like freezing bank accounts, bail-ins (confiscation of accounts), limits on ATM withdrawals, and the “gating” of investment funds. Ice-Nine would be invoked in a banking emergency — say, a derivatives “accident” that took out some Too-Big-Too-Fail giant, or really anything that triggered the extreme fault lines in the ultra-fragile system that the world’s money elites have cobbled together to keep the garbage barge of global finance from sinking. In his recent book, , Rickards reminds readers that the emergency act signed by Bush Two after 9/11 has remained in effect under Obama, so that America is “just one phone call away from martial law.”

Another method for depriving citizens of their financial liberty would be for the government to declare that retirement accounts had to contain a set percentage of US Treasury paper — once again herding people into a financial corral against their will — in order to prop up the value of bonds and tamp down interest rates. David McAlvany (his excellent podcast here) makes the interesting point that if herding the public into the digital financial corral was a key ingredient to “making America great again,” who could object? — because now you’d be opposing American greatness! Trump inherited a much bigger problem than Barack Obama did in 2009. Obama still had enough soft-soap left in the machine to blow more bubbles. Trump arrives on the scene with the machine out of bubble-blowing mojo. He’ll be overwhelmed by financial disorder in 2017 and then the nation’s focus will turn to a tumultuous political scene

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