Fourth Turning: Crisis of Trust - Part 2
In Part 1 of this article I discussed the catalyst spark which ignited this Fourth Turning and the seemingly delayed regeneracy. In Part 2 I will ponder possible Grey Champion prophet generation leaders who could arise during the regeneracy.
The nearly seven year reign of Barack Obama has resulted in furthering wealth inequality, in spite of his socialistic rhetoric. Notwithstanding his Nobel Peace Prize, military spending is at all-time highs and we are engaged in actual and proxy wars across the Middle East and in the Ukraine. Race relations have never been worse. Poverty levels have never been worse. Real median household income is lower than it was in 1989. Real hourly wages are at 50 year lows. Home ownership has plunged to 50 year lows, as middle class workers have been kicked out of their homes and young people are saddled with so much student loan debt and bleak job opportunities they will never have an opportunity to own. The ownership society pushed by Clinton and Bush, with the proliferation of Wall Street created "exotic" subprime mortgages, peddled to people incapable of paying their mortgages, blew up the world in 2008, and the fall out will last for decades.
Meanwhile, Wall Street banks have reaped $700 billion of ill-gotten profits since 2010 as the Federal Reserve has handed them trillions of interest free funds to gamble with, while rigging the financial markets, and paying their executives obscene bonuses. The hubris and arrogance of the Wall Street titans is appalling, as they buy politicians, write toothless financial regulations (Dodd Frank) for their bought off politicians to pass, report fraudulent financial results with the stamp of approval from the FASB, blatantly rig interest rate, currency, stock and commodities markets, and use deception and propaganda to distract and mislead the public through their corporate media mouthpieces - dependent upon Wall Street advertising revenue to thrive.
And still, Obama has not prosecuted one banker for the largest control fraud in world history, as he assumed the role of useful puppet to the vested financial interests. I'm sure he will be paid handsomely after he leaves office in 2017, just as Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke have been richly rewarded by their Deep State benefactors for a job well done.
Illegal immigrants are pouring over our borders with encouragement from the Obama administration. Obamacare has proven to be a giveaway to health insurance conglomerates, hospital corporations, and drug companies, as insurance costs are driven higher, care deteriorates, and deficits soar ever higher. The welfare state has grown to immense proportions, with 46 million Americans remaining on food stamps, proving the reported unemployment rate of 5.1% to be a fraud. The labor participation rate of 62.6% is at levels last seen in 1977 and far below the 67.1% rate achieved from 1997 through 2000. The politicians and corporate media applaud $600 billion deficits as an achievement, while 10,000 Boomers turning 65 per day is guaranteed to drive future deficits back over $1 trillion per year.
Laurence Kotlikoff, economics professor at Boston University, reveals the truth about our true fiscal mess. Our unfunded liabilities are too damn big and our current deficits are a lie:
"I told them the real (2014) deficit was $5 trillion, not the $500 billion or $300 billion or whatever it was announced to be this year. Almost all the liabilities of the government are being kept off the books by bogus accounting. The government is 58% underfinanced. Social Security is 33% underfinanced. So, the entire government enterprise is in worse fiscal shape than Social Security is, but they are both in terrible shape. So, how much is America on the hook for in the future? If you take all the expenditures that the government is expected to make, as projected by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), all the spending on defense, repairing the roads, paying for the Supreme Court Justices' salaries, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, everything and take all those expenditures into the future and compare that to all the taxes that are projected to come in, and the difference is $210 trillion. That's the fiscal gap. That's our true debt."
We now know for sure Barack Obama is not the Grey Champion of this Fourth Turning. He has only worsened the three core elements of this Crisis - debt, civic decay, and global disorder. Since his ascension to power, U.S. and global debt has expanded at an astounding rate never seen in world history. Class, race, political and cultural divides have grown to vast proportions. The world is exploding in violence, refugees flooding over borders, civil wars, proxy wars, riots, currency wars and economic depressions caused by U.S. military interventions and monetary policies.
The world is becoming increasingly chaotic and the American people are seeking a leader who can bring order, make tough decisions, and capture the zeitgeist of this moment in history. They are in search of a prophet generation (Boomer) Grey Champion, whose arrival marks the moment of darkness, adversity and peril as the Fourth Turning careens towards its climax. The Grey Champion doesn't necessarily have to be a good person, but they must lead and display tremendous confidence in their cause and path. Franklin, Lincoln, and FDR have many detractors, but during their Fourth Turnings, they most certainly led, casting aside obstacles (sometimes illegally) and enduring dark days and bleak prospects for success. Is there someone of that stature ready to lead the American people now?
"Americans have always been blind to the next turning until after it fully arrives.
Most of today's adult Americans grew up in a society whose citizens dreamed of perpetually improving outcomes: better jobs, fatter wallets, stronger government, finer culture, nicer families, smarter kids, all the usual fruits of progress. Today, deep into the Third Turning, these goals feel like they are slipping away. Many of us wish we could rewind time, but we know we can't - and we fear for our children and grandchildren.
Many Americans wish that, somehow, they could bring back a saecular spring now. But seasons don't work that way. As in nature, a saecular autumn can be warm or cool, long or short, but the leaves will surely fall. The saecular winter can hurry or wait, but history warns that it will surely be upon us.
We may not wish the Grey Champion to come again - but come he must, and come he will." - The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe - 1997
When Strauss and Howe wrote these words eighteen years ago, halfway through the Unraveling, the American Dream was already turning into a nightmare. Perpetually improving outcomes have turned into a perpetually declining standard of living for most Americans. Fear for the futures of our children and grandchildren were warranted. Millennials have been lured into and enslaved by $1.3 trillion of student loan debt, left with limited job opportunities and low pay, priced out of the housing market, and handed a $200 trillion bill by their elders. Despite factual data showing that default rates on for-profit student loans were even three times as high as subprime mortgages in the early 2000s, the government took over the student loan market in 2009 and proceeded to dole out $500 billion (taxpayer money) in new debt over the next six years to anyone that could fog a mirror and scribble an X on a loan document.
The criminal enterprises known as for profit colleges such as: University of Phoenix, Corinthian, ITT Tech, Strayer, and Devry, have absconded with the money, provided dreadful education, graduated about 20% of enrollees, and left millions of suckers with billions of debt. With default rates now exceeding 50%, students are angry, demanding relief from their own stupidity. Hard working taxpayers who have struggled to put themselves and their kids through college are angry they will foot the bill for defaults that anyone with a high school diploma could see would happen. Trust in the government's decision making process and motives have been rightfully shattered.
It is clear the Obama administration purposely enslaved young people in debt to artificially lower the unemployment rate for political purposes. The issuance of colossal amounts of subprime auto loan debt (begun by Ally Financial when it was owned by the Federal government) has also been politically motivated to artificially increase GDP figures and pump up the financial results of the US automakers (GM, Chrysler) saved with taxpayer funds in 2009. There are no free markets left. Everything is manipulated for a political reason or to benefit a particular constituent. The average American pays the price, while the connected .1% are further enriched.
When young people protested against the true enemies of the people on Wall Street in 2011, they were maced, beaten, tear gassed, trampled by horses and imprisoned by the enforcers of the surveillance police state. The working middle class has seen their real wages stagnate for the last 50 years, as the dollar was unpegged from gold, politicians were free to run up the national debt with no short term consequences, and citizens were turned into consumers through media propaganda, the peddling of debt by Wall Street, and the complete and utter failure of our educational system.
While working class Americans have seen no advancement in their real wages in almost a half century, the cost of their food, energy, education, healthcare, housing, and taxes have risen astronomically. It is no coincidence the Wall Street bankers stepped in to offer prodigious levels of consumer debt in the form of credit card, mortgage and auto loans to allow Americans to pretend their standard of living hasn't fallen. Excessive levels of debt leads to excessive profits for the moneyed interests. The last 35 years have been a grand national delusion.
Trust in the economic system, financial markets, political parties, mainstream media, and generational social contract has been destroyed. Rampant irresponsible fraud, abuse, deception, and deceit by the moneyed interests, lackey politicians, their government apparatchiks, media mouthpieces, and legal system have shattered the illusion the establishment is looking out for your best interests. The revelations by Edward Snowden of illegal mass surveillance, militarization of local police forces, military exercises in US cities, attempts to roll back the 2nd Amendment, and trying to control the internet has revealed the true nature of the corporate fascist state. The disintegration of trust began slowly after 9/11 but accelerated rapidly over the last three years. Our leaders have done the exact opposite of what needed to be done after 2008. Everything they have implemented has failed. The average American is worse off than they were in 2009 at the depths of the recession.
The highly educated, white collar, sociopath masters of the universe have captured the levers of power in this country. The world is enthralled and mesmerized by a gray haired academic troll-like figure who will ascend her monetary throne and pronounce whether her and her fellow central bank lackeys will raise an obscure inconsequential interest rate from 0% to .25%. This is nothing but a meaningless diversion as her owners (Wall Street banks), their corporate brethren, captured politicians, pliable judiciary, and media mouthpieces rig the financial markets to enrich themselves while impoverishing the masses and drowning current and future generations in un-payable debt. Harry Markopolos, who uncovered Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, while the SEC and criminal co-conspirator Wall Street bankers willfully ignored the blatant easily identifiable fraud, captures the essence of why trust in our economic, financial, regulatory, political, judicial and journalistic systems has collapsed:
"Government has coddled, accepted, and ignored white collar crime for too long. It is time the nation woke up and realized that it's not the armed robbers or drug dealers who cause the most economic harm, it's the white collar criminals living in the most expensive homes who have the most impressive resumes who harm us the most. They steal our pensions, bankrupt our companies, and destroy thousands of jobs, ruining countless lives." - Harry Markopolos, Congressional Testimony
The men who retain the levers of power are the same men who were in command when the Crisis struck in 2008. They are even more powerful and rich today than prior to the financial collapse provoked by their unbridled greed and avarice. They believed they could engineer a recovery by promoting confidence in the Wall Street banks through the issuance of prodigious amounts of debt to solve a crisis caused by too much debt. Total debt outstanding in the U.S. rose from $52 trillion in 2009 to $59 trillion today, at the behest of the government and their Federal Reserve cohorts.
While rational thinking Americans have continued to pay down their mortgage debt and reduce credit card usage, the Federal government through their insolvent (if using mark to market accounting) entities Fannie and Freddie, along with their monopoly on student loan issuance, and their massive deficit spending, have accounted for more than 100% of the $7 trillion increase. Total global debt approaches $230 trillion, up approximately $70 trillion since the crisis began.
The mood change in the country is palpable as economic misery besets the middle class; race wars break out in urban ghettos across the land; push back against the police state intensifies; distrust of a rigged financial system keeps people out of the market; young people are priced out of the housing market by Wall Street price manipulation; productive good paying jobs dwindle; government bureaucrats prove themselves inept at everything they attempt; illegal immigrants pour over the southern border overwhelming the social safety net when it is already stretched thin; and faith in both political parties is close to zero. The regeneracy has been delayed, but this has allowed the anger, bitterness, and dismay with the government to grow to staggering proportions. The country is growing desperate for someone to lead. Ignoring the debt, civic decay and global disorder is no longer acceptable. It's time for someone to step forward and tell the people the truth.
"Soon after the catalyst, a national election will produce a sweeping political realignment, as one faction or coalition capitalizes on a new public demand for decisive action. Republicans, Democrats, or perhaps a new party will decisively win the long partisan tug of war. This new regime will enthrone itself for the duration of the Crisis. Regardless of its ideology, that new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation's attention. The regeneracy will be solidly under way." - The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe - 1997
The Grey Champion is likely to be elevated through an election, but it isn't a requirement. Ben Franklin and Samuel Adams were the intellectual and firebrand Grey Champions of the American Revolution. They inspired the revolutionaries through writings and oratory. Lincoln and FDR were elected Grey Champions, but Lincoln only won 40% of the popular vote in a four way race, while FDR won in a landslide with 57% of the vote over Hoover. It was clear Lincoln didn't have a mandate, as Southern states began seceding after his election. No one can argue Franklin, Adams, Lincoln or FDR united everyone in a common cause. They actually aggravated the societal pressures that had been ignored or deferred by their predecessors. Compromise was not an option for these men. They were going to lead based upon their own criteria. You were either with them or against them. And many were against them.
It is widely believed only 20% of colonial Americans were strong supporters of the American Revolution, with 20% Loyalists, and the rest sitting on the fence. Franklin's own son remained a Loyalist throughout the fight. Half the country departed the Union upon Lincoln's election and his support in the North was lukewarm at best. Lincoln captured 55% of the vote in the 1864 election, with only northern states voting. Even though FDR won landslide popular vote victories in 1932 and 1936, his detractors and enemies were many. FDR's confiscation of gold and antagonism toward big business convinced a number of wealthy businessmen to approach General Smedley Butler to lead a coup against FDR and install a fascist regime to run the country. So, it is clear Grey Champions are not universally loved or supported. They have the ability to ignore the complexity of life and focus on one simple imperative: society must prevail.
Until three months ago the 2016 presidential election was in control of the establishment. The Party was putting forth their chosen crony capitalist figureheads - Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. They are hand-picked known controllable entities who will not upset the existing corrupt system. They are equally acceptable to Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, the military industrial complex, the sickcare industry, mega-corporate America, the moneyed interests, and the never changing government apparatchiks. The one party system is designed to give the appearance of choice, while in reality there is no difference between the policies of the two heads of one party and their candidate products. But now Donald Trump has stormed onto the scene from the reality TV world to tell the establishment - You're Fired!!!
As Hillary's crimes and lies catch up to her and Jeb Bush drowns in a sea of irrelevance, low energy, and passionless rhetoric, Trump and Bernie Sanders have surged ahead in the polls. The country is tired of the Clinton and Bush dynasties. They are tired of the existing ruling authority. My initial reaction to Trump's entering the presidential race was scorn. He's a bloviating, egocentric, self-promoting, reality TV parody of himself. After seeing him in action for the last three months it has become apparent the country deserves a president like Trump.
He represents everything we've become as a nation. Sound bites, no substance, self-involved, boastful, and in constant attack mode are the qualities necessary to lead America today. Facebook twitter nation merits a president like Trump. Bill Clinton playing sax on Arsenio and Obama's weekly guest appearances on the Daily Show or Jimmy Fallon Show has already tainted and made a mockery of the office of the president.
Trump was born in 1946 putting him in the Boomer Prophet generation, so he fits the mold of Grey Champion from a generational perspective. Hillary and Jeb are also Boomers, with Sanders from the Silent generation. Trump has struck a nerve with a wide swath of middle class America with his anti-illegal immigration rhetoric, disdain for the elitist mainstream media, unflinching assessment of his second string GOP opponents, and exuberant confidence in his own abilities.
Building a wall on our southern border, going after billionaire hedge fund managers, cutting government spending, and negotiating trade deals that don't ship American jobs overseas, are resonating with fed up households across America. Some polls show Trump with significant support among blacks and Hispanics. The linear thinking supporters of the status quo are flabbergasted and outraged by Trump's popularity. The ruling classes never anticipate the mood shift of the peasants as they look down on the masses from their gated estates and penthouse suites. The country is looking for someone who can tear down the entire fetid, corrupt, rotting structure.
The moneyed interests are still betting on Hillary or Jeb, but they are getting nervous. There is still time for them to pull the old Ross Perot play by threatening Trump or his family with harm or making him an offer he can't refuse in financial terms. But, with the Middle East awash in blood, refugees flooding into Europe, China experiencing an epic meltdown, oil producing countries suffering depressions, emerging market economic systems collapsing under the weight of unpayable promises, the Federal Reserve panicked as recession approaches with interest rates at zero bound, and stock, bond and real estate bubbles approaching the inescapable pin, the stars are aligning for a 2nd crisis more perilous and catastrophic than the 2008 catalyst event. The onset of phase two of this Crisis in 2016 will produce a populace more desperate, less trusting of the establishment and likely to turn towards someone like Trump, in despair.
No matter who is elected in November 2016, there is no turning back. Winter is here and Spring is many years away. Grim times will befall the world. The potential for tragic consequences is growing by the day. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. There will certainly be famine, chaos, death, destruction, and war. Let's pray our Grey Champion can lead us through the valley of death to a new High.
"The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort - in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind's willingness to use it." - The Fourth Turning - Strauss & Howe - 1997
In Part 3 I will try to assess which channels of distress are likely to burst forth with the molten ingredients of this Fourth Turning, and lastly make some educated guesses about potential climaxes.