Leo’s Guest Post…
A certain phenomenon has been ongoing for close to eight years now and it’s called ZIRP (zero interest rate policy). The propaganda reason for the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates to a nano-particle away from zero was so that the big banks could borrow from the F.R. for basically no cost and then be able to lend that money into the business world on the cheap to kick start and support the economy. Sounds like a plan, at least right up to the point where that’s not what happened! In actuality, the main results of the policy have been to benefit the large banks, to generate bubbles in asset markets, and to allow the government to take on copious amounts of new debt (as well as refinance expiring debt bonds) at insanely cheap rates!!!
If you will look directly below, you will see a visual translation of ZIRP for the average citizen in this country.
As ex-banker James Turk says in the fourth linked article below,
“As I have been saying for years, the federal government cannot afford to pay a fair rate of interest because its debt load is so high. Higher interest rates would worsen the federal budget deficits. So the Fed will keep interest rates low to lessen the federal government’s debt burden.”
Since we now know who ZIRP benefited, I’m going to give everyone three guesses on who is getting “clipped” under this program. If I heard someone whisper “the general public?”, then a big gold star is all yours. Yes, you, I, and the rest of the general public are supporting banking profits, bubbles in the asset markets, and Uncle Sam’s unquenchable thirst for more debt, because all the money we would have earned on our bank accts., CD’s, and bonds (as well as all of the earnings our retirement funds and institutions would have earned on those same types of instruments as well) is being used to subsidize the ZIRP.
This is like a MASSIVE new form of taxation. Thank you Mr. Obama and the Federal Reserve. So whenever you read about ZIRP, you can just think “a new cleverly installed tax” on all of us for the benefit of wealthy investors, the banks, and our insanely out of control government!!!
Before I close I wish to credit this email’s subject title as having come from the fourth linked article below.
Hope you all have a good weekend and that you get a chance to take advantage of some of the articles I’ve included.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nChuPn3dcuI This is an excellent interview of David Morgan (The Morgan Report) by Greg Hunter (USA Watchdog).
http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/the-case-for-a-super-glass-steagall/ This is a little bit long, but David Stockman is a genius at explaining the BIG BANK mess that we have today.
http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune16/collapse6-16.html An excellent article titled The Structure of Collapse: 2016-2019 by Charles Hugh Smith as he describes the procedural failures our country’s leadership is systematically walking us through.
http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune16/Bernanke-blew-it6-16.html Another fine article by Charles Hugh Smith titled Bernanke Blew It Big-Time: He Should Have Raised Rates Three Years Ago.
Thanks Obamacare: Texas Health Insurance Costs Are Set To Soar By 60%
When last week we showed how much the average health insurance premium proposal would rise in a 14 select states…
… but one state was missing: Texas, which is the health-care law’s third-largest market behind Florida and California. We now may have found the reason why.
According to the Houston Chronicle which cites federal regulator filings, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas – the state’s largest insurer – has asked for rate hikes of nearly 60% for next year in three popular HMO plans. According to filings listed on , Blue Cross and Blue Shield seeks increases between 57.33 percent and 59.35 percent for two of its Blue Advantage Plus plans. A Blue Advantage Health Maintenance Organization Plan is asking for a 58.6 percent hike.
The company, which is the only carrier to offer health coverage in all of Texas’ 254 counties, would not specify Wednesday what would happen if does not get the rate increase it says it needs. “No final decisions have been made regarding our 2017 Texas offerings,” spokesman Gustavo Bujanda said in a statement emailed to the Houston Chronicle.
“The rates we have submitted for review and approval are supported by strong actuarial principles, science and data,” the statement continued.
The company said in its request that the hike could affect nearly 603,000 Texans buying individual policies through the federal exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act. It is not known what increases will be requested for employer-sponsored group policies. “The anticipated health risk of the people in any given market is the largest component of determining rate changes,” the company statement said.
Judging by the soaring premium, the “health risk” is likewise going through the roof: risk which it appears nobody had anticipated five years ago when the ACA tax was passed.
BlueCross is not alone: insurers across the nation have complained vigorously that they are losing money in the federal exchanges as some customers have proven more costly to cover than anticipated. Under the health-care law, an insurer can no longer deny coverage to someone based on her or his health status or pre-existing condition.
Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Ben Gonzalez confirmed his agency had received requests for rate hikes, but he said that because the insurer had marked them “confidential” he was unable to comment on the amounts. He said the department is “going to go back to ask more questions.”
To be sure, the Texas administrator is stumped by this soaring premium request: in Texas a rate request, especially one so large, must be deemed “not excessive, unfairly discriminatory and premiums must be reasonable in relations to the benefits provided,” Gonzalez said. In other words, he said, the agency will ask, “Is it justified, does the company need this?”
Something tells us that the answer is yes, and that this is only the start of even greater rate increases in coming years as the full impact of Obamacare on insurer top and bottom line is unveiled.
Even if Texas balks at the rate increase demand, it likely can do nothing about it. Stacey Pogue, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said Texas typically lacks the teeth in its insurance regulations to block a rate increase. “There’s not a process in Texas for it to be denied,” she said.
Ironically, the rate request may esclate all the way to the Federal level since Texas is one of five states that does not determine its own rate reviews for the federal exchange. Instead, any rate hike request is checked by the Insurance Department to make sure it complies with state law and is considered “actuarially justified.” The request then moves to the federal level, for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to conduct the rate review for exchange plans. While HHS can ask for an adjustment, in practice the final rate increase is typically left up to the insurance company, Pogue said.
“Even if they find it unreasonable they can’t stop it,” she said.
* * *
Going back to the reason for the rate hike request, it is simple: the insruance company is spending far more than it is bringing in. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, for example, has said it lost $321 million last year in the individual market, both on and off the exchange, and that it spent $1.26 for every $1 it took in. The loss was also less than the $400 million loss it reported in 2014. It was due to those losses that the insurer said it was necessary to drop all preferred provider organization plans, typically favored by those with greater medical needs, across the state. Many of those who lost PPO coverage, including 88,000 in Houston, were shifted to HMO plans.
Other insurers won’t even bother asking for rate hikes. Instead companies such as America’s largest insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has said it plans to leave the exchanges in 2017 in Texas and most other states, has predicted it will lose about $650 million in the Affordable Care Act marketplace this year. Humana warned earlier this month it plans “a number of changes … to address the significant risk selection issues we have and continue to face.” The company reported a 46 percent loss in the first quarter of 2016, but analysts have said some that is due to expenses involved in a takeover bid by Aetna. Cigna has called its participation in the exchanges “contingent upon future market conditions and approval of our regulatory filings,” according to a previous email to the Chronicle.
To be sure, this won’t be Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s first rate hike request. Last year Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, a division of the same parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, asked for a 51 percent rate increase for its exchange plans. When New Mexico insurance officials refused, the company withdrew all individual plans from the state.
Withdrawing from Texas, which is the health-care law’s third-largest market behind Florida and California, may be more problematic for all involved..
Meanwhile, the government, realizing it has made a big mistake, is putting the onus on “the people” to push back:
Yes, the people – many of whom can not afford a 60% surge in their insurance costs – will push back, and it will be the only way they can: with their wallet. Which means either billions in disposable income will be removed from other sector of the economy (leaving economists stumped why retail spending is plunging) or will be forced spend much more on Obamacare. The silver lining: healthcare spending is on pace to surpass housing as the single biggest contributor to GDP. A few more quarters of Obamacare and it will be there.
Hidden in Full View
|June 2, 2016 – 10:27am
After studying the silver market closely for more than three decades, I find it nearly unbelievable that its single most important price factor is widely unknown. Admittedly, the vast majority of the investment world has little interest in silver and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. But underappreciation has its merits in the investment world. After all, silver does have a history of climbing in price higher and faster than just about any other asset and a multitude of factors now point to another massive price move higher ahead.
The factors favoring a big move higher revolve around the incredibly small amount of physical silver available for investment as a result of most of the silver produced over the centuries having been used up in industrial applications. That, in combination with the fact that more investment buying power exists today than ever in the history brings to mind the words of the famous silver speculator, Bunker Hunt, “silver is an accident waiting to happen.” Granted, silver also has a history of plunging more than other commodities, but since prices have already declined by 70% from the peak of five years ago, the next big move will, undoubtedly, be up.
Still, even among those who follow silver closely, remarkably little is mentioned about the one factor that just about guarantees much higher silver prices ahead. That factor is that the US’s biggest and most important bank, JPMorgan Chase, has accumulated the largest privately owned stockpile of physical silver in world history over the past five years – 500 million ounces. Only the US Government owned more silver than JPMorgan, but that was nearly a century ago and came when silver was used in common coinage. The US Government once owned several billion ounces of silver, but today holds no silver, having completely eliminated its holdings.
Further, the US Government never held silver with the intent of seeking a profit. In contrast, the only reason JPMorgan has acquired half a billion ounces of actual silver is for the express purpose of making as much of a profit as possible. By simple logic, JPMorgan will make the largest possible profit on its silver holdings only if the price of silver climbs to the highest levels possible. Simple reasoning also dictates that those holding silver, along with JPMorgan, will profit immensely when the bank does what it can to insure the highest possible price for silver. I’ll get into what JPMorgan must do to insure the highest possible price for silver in a moment, but first let me establish that the bank has acquired 500 million ounces of metal.
Most people think of banks as being involved in mortgages and checking accounts and are surprised at first at the thought that JPMorgan even deals in commodities, like silver. But the truth is that for many years, JPMorgan has been the largest US bank dealing in Over the Counter (OTC) commodity derivatives contracts in gold and silver. Even though JPMorgan always dealt big in commodities, its path to accumulating half a billion ounces of actual silver took a very specific and traceable route.
In addition to being the largest dealer in OTC precious metals derivatives contracts, JPMorgan was suddenly thrust into the role of being the largest dealer in gold and silver on the COMEX, as a result of being asked (by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve) to take over the failing investment banking firm Bear Stearns in March 2008. Few knew at the time that Bear Stearns was the largest short seller in COMEX gold and silver and its takeover by JPMorgan resulted in JPM being thrust into the role of it being the biggest short seller.
While it would appear that JPMorgan came to acquire Bear Stearns by government request, data from a different government agency, the CFTC, clearly indicate that JPMorgan came to dominate and manipulate silver pricing by means of maintaining and adjusting the largest concentrated short position in COMEX silver futures. (For the record, I complained to the regulators that what JPMorgan was doing was manipulative to silver prices and succeeded in generating a CFTC investigation into the matter. Still, the manipulation continued).
As a result of being able to sell short virtually unlimited quantities of COMEX silver futures contracts as prices rose and then buying back those contracts as it then caused prices to fall, JPMorgan made many hundreds of millions of dollars in the years immediately following its takeover of Bear Stearns in early 2008. But because the continued manipulation resulted in silver being priced too low for too long, by late 2010, signs of a physical shortage began to appear, in accordance with the immutable law of supply and demand, and silver prices surged to nearly $50 by April 2011, from as low as under $9 in late 2008. This caught JPMorgan flat-footed in holding COMEX short positions and necessitated it teaming up with the CME Group (owner of the COMEX) to rig the steepest selloff in modern commodity history, which pulled JPM’s short bacon from the fire.
Having looked into the abyss with its big short position as silver soared into the April 2011 price highs, it suddenly dawned on JPMorgan how little actual silver existed in the world and at that time it decided that the right side to be on in silver was the long side, not the short side. I fully admit to considering JPMorgan, at least as far as its dealings in silver are concerned, to being a criminal enterprise; but I also consider them to be the smartest crooks around. My definition of smart would include learning from one’s mistakes and being on the wrong side in the run up in silver prices in 2011 is what convinced JPMorgan to buy as much silver as it could.
But deciding to buy as much silver as it could and actually buying the metal are two very different things, even if you happen to be JPMorgan, with virtually unlimited buying power and market capability unmatched. One doesn’t just blink one’s eyes and place a market order to buy half a billion ounces of silver and call it a day – takes time, patience and cunning. Particularly considered how little available investable silver exists in the world. No matter how rich or powerful JPMorgan may be, buying 500 million physical ounces of silver, given the realities of actual available supply, would take years – as has turned out to be the case.
JPMorgan knew and knows that the amount of real world silver available for sale is limited by a few indisputable facts, namely, there isn’t much to begin with (say 1.3 billion oz in the form of 1000 oz bars) in the whole world and of that amount only a small percentage is ever available for sale at current prices – no more than a few percent. Compounding the small amount of truly available supply from existing holders is the bedrock certainty that most of the silver newly mined and produced is spoken for and consumed by a variety of industrial and other fabrication demands – investment demand must compete with those other demands, a circumstance highly unique to silver. For the past few years, less than 100 million silver ounces were available annually for investment after other silver demands were met.
There has been no large amount of silver sold by those holding it over the past five years, but also there has been no big buying by these or other investors – call it a wash. In essence, because those in the investment world were neither buying nor selling physical silver over the past five years, JPMorgan could only buy the “leftover” silver – the amount of newly produced silver not consumed in other fabrication demands. It’s taken five years for JPMorgan to acquire 500 million oz for good reason – that was all it could buy without driving prices higher.
JPMorgan has used a variety of methods in accumulating its massive silver hoard, as I have previously detailed. As the leading dealer and largest warehouse on the COMEX, as well as the official custodian and leading authorized participant of the world’s largest silver ETF, SLV, JPMorgan was in a privileged and special position to have acquired, effectively, all the newly available silver in the world for the past five years. Despite a compelling desire to shield its silver accumulation from public scrutiny, some important visible clues have emerged pointing to JPMorgan’s actions since April 2011.
Among them are the opening of the JPMorgan COMEX silver warehouse in April 2011, as well as the commencement of an unprecedented physical turnover of only silver in the COMEX inventories, which continues to this day. Due to the large weekly “churn,” JPMorgan was able to skim off hundreds of millions of silver ounces, which were brought into its COMEX warehouse and other non-public warehouses. From zero ounces five years ago, the JPMorgan COMEX silver warehouse has grown to the largest COMEX warehouse, holding nearly half (70 million oz) of the total COMEX inventories. In 2012, JPMorgan cleared out and transferred 100 million oz it held on behalf of holders in SLV out of its own London warehouse to make room for silver to be held in its own name. JPMorgan started to take delivery on futures contracts (despite being a big paper short) and over the past year or so has taken 45 million oz in total deliveries, taking close to or the full amount allowed monthly. It’s not far from the truth to say that JPMorgan has been nearly the exclusive acceptor of COMEX silver deliveries.
Perhaps the cleverest method JPMorgan has employed to acquire physical silver has been as the leading purchaser of newly produced Silver Eagles from the US Mint and Silver Maple Leafs from the Royal Canadian Mint over the past five years. All told, JPMorgan has acquired over 100 million Silver Eagles and 50 million Silver Maple Leafs during this time, and maybe a lot more. As I have also previously explained, I believe JPMorgan has melted down these coins into 1000 oz bars to best prepare for sale eventually.
The most remarkable aspect to JPMorgan’s massive physical silver accumulation is that it was able to do so on steadily declining prices, because, as you know, silver prices have declined from near the $50-mark over the past five years. How the heck did JPMorgan pull off buying 500 million ounces of silver on falling, not rising prices? Because the entire time JPM was buying silver, it was still managing the price lower on the COMEX by maintaining and managing its manipulative paper short position. This is truly the perfect crime – buying a corner on the physical silver market cheaply, by maintaining a short corner on the paper COMEX market. And I can’t imagine who would be more capable of pulling this off over than JPMorgan, the best-connected and most powerful US bank.
Having accumulated the largest hoard of physical silver in history and being in position to reap the biggest profit in history should silver prices soar – what can JPMorgan do to bring that about? More amazing than anything else, the one thing JPMorgan can do to cash in like no one has ever done in silver is, well, nothing. That’s not a misprint. All JPMorgan has to do to guarantee that silver prices will soar to the heavens and beyond is nothing; specifically, not sell additional contracts of COMEX silver short on the next big rally. You see, it has been JPMorgan who has put a cap on all silver rallies over the past five years in order to contain prices so that it could add to its massive physical holdings at cheap prices. The corollary to that equation is that when JPMorgan decides it has enough silver, as I believe it is close to now, the price will soar if it does nothing and refrains from adding new shorts on the COMEX.
The best part about this amazing story, in addition to being almost universally unknown and destined to be discovered, is that it offers the investment opportunity of a lifetime. All one has to do is what JPMorgan has done – buy as much silver as one is capable of buying – and then wait for JPMorgan to help itself. No complicated trading formulas, no risky leveraged schemes – just buy real silver for full cash payment and sit and wait. After all, that’s exactly what JPMorgan has done and after five years, it wouldn’t appear the wait will be very much longer.
June 2, 2016