Podcast

Photo credit: George Kalinsky

Senator Bill Bradley: Lack of Long-Range Planning Is Putting Our Future at Risk

A veteran Congressman discusses our economic predicament
Sunday, June 24, 2012, 11:08 AM

Former US Senator Bill Bradley believes a better tomorrow is within our grasp, despite the economic pain that the middle class is experiencing today.

He wrote his new book We Can All Do Better to address the growing despondency and resentment he sees among Americans. With the right vision, leadership, and civic participation, he believes we can work our way back to prosperity and growth.

Chris was honored and excited to speak with the former Senator, particularly to uncover what awareness there is of the Three Es among our top political leaders. Not surprising for a longtime insider, Senator Bradley looks through the lens of working within the current system -- i.e., if we can fix its shortcomings, it will solve our problems. Potential structural limits to growth, such as Peak Oil, are less bright on the radar.

There is much to learn here about what our Congressional leaders are focused on and what they are not. Listeners will undoubtly find points to agree with, and possibly others that are out-of-alignment with the concerns presented in the Crash Course. We expect an animated discussion to ensue in the Comments section below.

We take it as a good sign that widely-known veteran politicians such as Senator Bradley are increasingly standing up to admit "there is a problem" -- that's the first step towards taking corrective action. And we're very thankful for the time the Senator has given to speak to our community.

On What's Missing Most from the System Today

I think politicians generally have been viewed anywhere from humorously to angrily by citizens at various times in our history. I think right now we have a very specific problem and that is we have had a long run as the dominant country in the world, as the country where people come in order to make a better living because the economy is dynamic enough and there are far sighted investments made. I mean whether it was Lincoln doing land grant colleges and transcontinental railroad. Or Eisenhower doing the federal highway system or varieties of other examples. We have had times where we are able to think long term and we simply need to do that now. We need to do that because if we don’t we are going to have problems down the road that will potentially endanger our status as the number one economy in the world. 

On Money in Politics

The Dodd Frank Bill is an improvement, but it didn’t deal with the basic question. I mean it is pretty simple: limit leverage, increase capital, divide the investment bank function from the commercial bank function and you are back in the business. You have an economy that is growing, you have people who are able to invest over the long term. And the financial system now is really not functioning as well as it could. I think you mentioned the five public policy errors that put us into the mess in 2007/2008. If we are going to seriously address the health of our financial system we are going to need to do the things that I just mentioned. I think that the key point here is what prevents us from doing that. That is where I get the money and politics. For example, in 2009 and 2010, those two years the financial sector, financial industry contributed $318 million to people in Washington, politicians in Washington. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we got a watered down financial reform bill instead of dealing with the basic questions, as you said. We kind of hid the fact we were not dealing with the basic questions in a morass of complicated regulatory and legal verbiage. I think that what we need to do is we need to peel back and address the basic questions that you raised in terms of leverage, in terms of capital adequacy, in terms of the investment bank function versus the banking function. I think the time should be over where large mega banks that in 1990 had 10% of the financial assets in this country and now have 75% of the assets speculate with depositors money. 

I do think money is at the core of the problem. You have mentioned and we have talked about all of the changes that could have been made that weren’t made and all the mistakes that were made since the mid 90’s. Well if you go from 1990 to 2010 you have the financial industry contributed $2 billion to politicians in Washington. Because the Supreme Court says that money is speech and you can’t limit speech therefore you can’t limit money. The only way you can deal with this issue is by making a constitutional amendment that says the federal, state, and local government may limit the amount of money spent in a political campaign. It is that simple. 

On What's Needed for Economic Recovery

There is no question that we have to both cut spending and increase taxes. The key is you don’t want to do that in the next year or two because that would make our economy worse; fewer people working, the deficit is bigger. What you want to do is you want to address the structure of programs such as Social Security. If you increase the retirement age from 67 to 69 over 50 years, well that is not going to have an impact on the budget this year or next year but it is definitely going to change your numbers of what it costs the taxpayer. And I think that we have to have that kind of far range thinking. I think that we need taxes in this country that are I think that those who have more should pay more, for example. But we also need to have a tax system that taxes things more than employment.

Right now 40% of federal revenues comes from Social Security tax, Medicare and unemployment taxes. And if we simply funded those programs with a tax on things, say aluminum, paper, various other products like that and inefficient buildings and cars. If you did that you would be able to have a tremendous incentive for people to hire. You would still preserve the programs but you would liberate the private sector to do what it needs to do which is hire more people at better wages. 

Given that political discussion often brings out strong emotions on all sides, we remind everyone that we take a politically-agnostic approach here at Peak Prosperity. Please make any comments as objectively and fact-based as possible.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Senator Bill Bradley (24m:42s):

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson:  Welcome to another ChrisMartenson.com podcast. I am Chris Martenson, your host, of course. Today we have the extraordinary pleasure and privilege of talking with Senator Bill Bradley, who served in the US Senate from 1979 to 1997, representing the State of New Jersey. Then he was candidate for the Democratic Nomination for the President for the 2000 elections for the United States. And before serving in the Senate, he was an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1964, and a professional basketball player with the New York Knicks. We are just really pleased to have him here. We are here to talk about his new book We Can All Do Better. Welcome, Bill Bradley.

Bill Bradley:  Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Chris Martenson:  All right, well, I’m very interested in this book that you have got, and the title of it is We Can All Do Better. It is just out. In it you offer your state of the nation. Could you summarize those views for us? What exactly is it that we can and need to do better?

Bill Bradley:  Well, all of us can do better. The point is that last summer I was struck by the debt limit debacle and the fact that middle income people were stuck per capita income the same in 2010 as in 1996. And we were in two wars on the other side of the world. People came up to me and said, “It’s hopeless. I don’t think anything will improve.” I wrote this book to demonstrate to people that we can have hope that there are specific things that we can do to deal with the economy, the foreign policy, and with the structure of our democracy.

Chris Martenson:  Well there is a lot of, I would say, some hopelessness out there right now. People, especially in the middle and lower classes, are very much in a hard position right now, struggling. And I have an analysis that I have been working with for quite a while. I can summarize a lot of our nation’s ills in just three words: too much debt. We have been borrowing faster than our economy has been growing for a long time, and in here I note in your book that a lot of the proposals that come forward are going to require us to really come up with some brand new priorities, shift our spending. Do you think we can do that?

Bill Bradley:  Well, that’s a question for our political system. I think given the fact that money dominates our political system at this stage that it raises some doubt. But there is something we can do about money dominating the system, and that is a constitutional amendment that says the federal, state, and local government may limit the amount of money in the campaigns. The Supreme Court has essentially said they can’t. That then liberates us to address the real problems, one of which is the debt issue that you mentioned.

I think the real economic issue is, how do we get more Americans working and earning more income? To me, that is where it is, because upward mobility is what this country has been all about. For the vast majority of Americans, they have been stuck for about 20 years.

Chris Martenson:  Well, indeed they have. Many of these things, I think, can be traced to certain policies. We have had a free trade policy, which essentially has an un-level playing field across the world, as I see it. So we are now having and asking American workers and businesses to compete with companies that are not beholden under the same labor laws, environmental laws, the laws that give us a clean, safe place to live in our own country. Would you propose, then, in some way re-leveling that playing field? Are we talking tariffs and other actions like that?

Bill Bradley:  No. I do not think we are talking about that kind of action. I think where we have gotten, indeed, we have lost a lot of jobs. Some of that has been outsourcing. For example, in the last decade, 40,000 factories have closed in this country and 6 million people have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector. That is a fact of life. Part of that movement was for the reasons that you said. We also had job loss because of technology-displaced workers. You don’t need as many workers to produce the same amount of product. I think there are a number of causes to the current job stagnation.

But then a funny thing is happening. That is, take China, for example. Wages have gone up there 15-20%  year. And within a couple of years it will be cheaper and more efficient and more productive to produce a product in the United States than go to China, pay the higher wages, have to deal with the transportation cost, have to deal with the uncertainty of your supply line. So I see a manufacturing renaissance occurring in the United States over the next decade or so. Now that is not going to generate the same number of jobs that were in manufacturing in the 1970s when [only] 25% of the workforce is in manufacturing. But it will generate a lot of growth and generate, increase jobs.

I think, after that, we need to address large public issues in our country. We need a massive infrastructure program, for example. That would create 5 million jobs, if we had a trillion dollar infrastructure program over a decade. And the real question is, how do we get the private sector to hire? Right now there is $1.8 trillion, $1.8 trillion on the books of non-financial corporations in the form of cash or other liquid assets. If they spent 20% of that hiring people at the median wage, which is $49,000 a year, unemployment would be 5%. When you ask a CEO why aren’t you doing that, he says, uncertainty. I need a rainy day fund, and he is saying, demand. Well, you address the demand question with the infrastructure program. And then you address the uncertainty question by doing something about the federal deficit on a long-term structural basis, which means doing changes in the entitlements, changes in defense procurement (among other things in the defense area) and having increased taxes on some products.

Chris Martenson:  Well, this infrastructure, to burrow in on that because I completely agree with this idea, this would be investing in America. We clearly need an upgraded infrastructure. Anybody who has, say, taken a cab ride from JFK into the cities notes that there may be some improvements we can make along the way. Infrastructure gets a D- from the Association of Engineers. There is clearly a lot that can be done, and yet, somehow, we are not prioritizing that. We have some money goes into that during some stimulus bills. But there doesn’t seem to be a wholesale "let’s really burrow down and get in and do this." It seems like a politically popular thing to do; it would create jobs, give us new infrastructure. I’m trying to find the flaw in it. Why doesn’t it happen?

Bill Bradley:  I think that first of all, it requires long-range thinking. You mentioned the road in from the airport from JFK. Well, there was a man in the 1950s who basically conceived the whole highway system of New York City and saw that it was built -- Robert Moses. We need that kind of long-range thinking. So I’m proposing that we have 50 priority infrastructure projects. What kind of things? Not your local bridge, but a new air traffic control system. Right now you go to the airport, all the delays. Why is that happening? You look up in the tower; there is an air traffic controller. He or she is following a red dot going across a television screen. That is the system that existed in the 1960s. It is way antiquated. It is a massive investment. It would dramatically improve our productivity.

Take high-speed rail lines on the east coast, the west coast, across the upper midwest in the Texas Triangle, you end up there with an opportunity to dramatically improve productivity, create jobs, and then free up the airports for long-range travel and the roads for travel that would be more short-range.

So I mean, there are major things that we can do. What happens is when you talk about public priorities, 55% of the budget now goes in direct payments to people. And that means if you are a politician and you have to decide, are you going to spend the money to do an infrastructure project long-term, or are you going to increase whatever, Social Security? You will always increase Social Security because those are voters and infrastructure is not organized. That is why you need farsighted leadership. You need to lay it out there and connect the dots between the investment in infrastructure and job creation and economic growth and returning us to the virtual spiral upward in our economy where more people are working and earning more money.

Chris Martenson:  Well, that vision you are talking about, all businesses do it, it is strategy. Where are you going? How are we going to get there? The two main arms of strategy. Where are we going to go [is] the vision and how are we going to get there are the resources; you pull them together, never have enough resources, so you make your priorities and do what is right. That seems what long-range vision does seem to be lacking. Does every generation think that their politicians are short-sighted, or do you think that somehow the vision has shrunk over time?

Bill Bradley:  Well, I think politicians generally have been viewed anywhere from humorously to angrily by citizens at various times in our history. I think right now we have a very specific problem, and that is, we have had a long run as the dominant country in the world, as the country where people come in order to make a better living because the economy is dynamic enough and there are farsighted investments made. I mean, whether it was Lincoln doing land grant colleges and transcontinental railroad, or Eisenhower doing the federal highway system, or varieties of other examples, we have had times where we are able to think long term. And we simply need to do that now. We need to do that because if we don’t, we are going to have problems down the road that will potentially endanger our status as the number one economy in the world.

Chris Martenson:  Agreed. And [with] a lot of these investments, of course, infrastructure might be $1 or a $2 trillion tab, depending on who is doing the counting. Some say that the government does not really have a tax problem right now; it has a spending problem. Do we not face a future of both higher taxes and lower spending if we want to avoid ever-mounting debts that will, as surely as two plus two equals four, someday land us in a Greek bath?

Bill Bradley:  There is no question that we have to both cut spending and increase taxes. The key is, you don’t want to do that in the next year or two, because that would make our economy worse; fewer people working, the deficit bigger. What you want to do is you want to address the structure of programs such as Social Security. If you increase the retirement age from 67 to 69 over 50 years, well, that is not going to have an impact on the budget this year or next year, but it is definitely going to change your numbers of what it costs the taxpayer. And I think that we have to have that kind of far-range thinking. I think that we need taxes in this country that are, I think that those who have more should pay more, for example. But we also need to have a tax system that taxes things more than employment.

Right now 40% of federal revenues comes from Social Security tax, Medicare, and unemployment taxes. And if we simply funded those programs with a tax on things, say, aluminum, paper, various other products like that, and inefficient buildings and cars; if you did that, you would be able to have a tremendous incentive for people to hire. You would still preserve the programs, but you would liberate the private sector to do what it needs to do, which is hire more people at better wages.

Chris Martenson:  Agreed. Now if I could, I want to turn to what I think is the core of the issue right now in some respects. That is the financial mess that we find ourselves in. Not just what is happening in Europe, but here in the United States in 2007/2008, we certainly had a shot across the bow. In doing the post mortem on that, we can look back and say, well, maybe in retrospect, the 1999 repeals of certain provisions of the Glass Stiegel Act, maybe those weren’t wise. We failed to regulate derivatives even though there were experts saying we really need to have some sort of a brokerage clearing house for these things rather than having them be opaque and out of sight. We had loosening of regulations of Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, all this increase in leverage that happened. And, of course, Alan Greenspan just mumbling along how everything is fine and he loved how financial markets controlled risk so beautifully and perfectly these days. And, of course, in hindsight we look back and say we made some mistakes. As I look across the current landscape, I do not see what I am calling credible efforts to actually correct those mistakes in the current landscape. I wonder if you agree with that, or if that is true, what can we do?

Bill Bradley:  Well, the Dodd-Frank bill is an improvement, but it didn’t deal with the basic question. I mean, it is pretty simple: limit leverage, increase capital, divide the investment bank function from the commercial bank function, and you are back in the business. You have an economy that is growing; you have people who are able to invest over the long term. And the financial system now is really not functioning as well as it could. I think you mentioned the five public policy errors that put us into the mess in 2007/2008. If we are going to seriously address the health of our financial system, we are going to need to do the things that I just mentioned. I think that the key point here is what prevents us from doing that. That is where I get the money and politics. For example, in 2009 and 2010, those two years, the financial sector, financial industry, contributed $318 million to people in Washington, politicians in Washington. And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we got a watered-down financial reform bill instead of dealing with the basic questions, as you said. We kind of hid the fact we were not dealing with the basic questions in a morass of complicated regulatory and legal verbiage. I think that what we need to do is we need to peel back and address the basic questions that you raised in terms of leverage, in terms of capital adequacy, in terms of the investment bank function versus the banking function. I think the time should be over where large mega-banks, that in 1990 had 10% of the financial assets in this country and now have 75% of the assets, speculate with depositors money.

You saw what happened recently with JP Morgan. Well, that was an investment bank. And they made the trades; they live with the result. The key is, you don’t use depositors' money to do that.

Chris Martenson:  Absolutely this idea, if maybe it is the undue influence of financial contributions on the system. I have spent time on some of the emerging movements that happen to be out there right now. We have the Tea Party and Occupy movement, there is even a Back to the Land movement. There are all kinds of movements that essentially I think at the core share one common element that there is a loss of faith in how the system operates. It has led to anger in some cases; it has led to resignation in others. It has a host of emotions that have come along with it. At its core there is a sense of having lost faith in how the system operates. Is modifying our campaign finance law, is that enough? Is that sufficient, or just a necessary step?

Bill Bradley:  I think there are two you need to do for our political system. One is change the way we draw congressional district lines so that more races are competitive and there are fewer people who have to just worry about a primary because they are certain they are going to get re-elected because of districts drawn by partisan state legislatures that give the vast majority of congressmen very safe districts. I think you need to be more competitive, that is the first thing.

Second, I do think money is at the core of the problem. You have mentioned and we have talked about all of the changes that could have been made that weren’t made and all the mistakes that were made since the mid 90s. Well if you go from 1990 to 2010, you have the financial industry contributed $2 billion to politicians in Washington. Because the Supreme Court says that money is speech and you can’t limit speech therefore you can’t limit money. The only way you can deal with this issue is by making a constitutional amendment that says the federal, state, and local government may limit the amount of money spent in a political campaign. It is that simple.

Now people, you say, are frustrated, etc. Right. But the system is not somebody else. The system is us. This is a democracy. In a democracy it is not a vicarious experience. You have to take action yourself. We have been there before. I think that in the 19th century, corrupt state legislatures sent corrupt Senators to the US Senate who were on the payroll of railroads and banks and oil companies. And then the people rose up. And I think we are in a situation now where the people need to rise up. Take a look at the Tea Party movement, the Occupy movement, these are manifestations of the people trying to do something. But there is no specific program to address the major issue on people’s minds, which is how do we create more jobs at higher income. I mean, that is the challenge. And ironically, if we look at the 21st century, even in foreign policy the issues are going to be more economic than they are military. And so by doing this domestically, getting our own house in order, we will be strengthening our role in the world.

Chris Martenson:  I can fully agree with that, and there is a big difference between savings, investment and consumption and much of this I think means that it is a time to reinvest and reinvigorate our own nation. And that certainly is something I see you project as I look across the ocean and I see what China is doing. They are very clearly laying a path for the future. So we have got our challenges cut out for us. In closing, what is the hope in the story? You have the final chapter, the Path to Renewal. What is it that we can do, and how optimistic are you that we are going to get that done?

Bill Bradley:  Well, I’m optimistic. I do have hope. I know what America is. I’ve seen it up close. I think, first of all, we must never forget who we are as a people. The central chapter in the book is called Celebrating Selflessness. What I used to call when I ran for President is the goodness of the American people. Like the guy who shines shoes at the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital for 46 years, and out of every tip he puts a portion of that tip into a fund to pay for poor kids’ healthcare. He put over $100,000 into that fund. There are people like that all over America. They are the foundation for anything we do in government. And we must never forget that. People understand that they are part of a larger community. Are there selfish people? Sure. But the vast majority of Americans give their neighbor the benefit of the doubt and will help somebody if they stumble. And so I think that is the first thing.

Second, we need politicians who tell us the truth. What is the truth here? The truth is that we need to get our house in order. We need to reduce the long-term debt. We need to create more jobs. We need to create those jobs in the short term in a variety of ways, so that these corporations that have all this cash on their books will actually hire people. And so I look out there and I say the most important thing to remember as you think about the future of your country is you. What have you done recently to make this country a better place? Now, if you are the shoe-shine guy, you have done something to make your community a better place. What have we done to make the country a better place?  In the Internet age, apathy is not an answer. It is not an option. I mean, look at the Arab Spring. Look at the movements all over the world where citizens take increasing action. So that is what has to happen in this country to create a context for politicians to do the right thing. It is not pressure politics, it is not special interest wanting to have their back scratched. It is instead far-sighted decisions about the structure of our democracy and our economy that will generate higher living standards and a more responsive democracy.

Chris Martenson:  We have been talking to Senator Bill Bradley about his new book We Can All Do Better. We all heard some inspiring words. Of course, apathy is not an option. And with that I am going to thank Senator Bradley very much for your time today.

Bill Bradley:  Thank you so much, Chris. Enjoyed it.

Chris Martenson:  Best of luck with your book and with everything else you do.

Bill Bradley:  Good. And I think you know, Chris, the key thing here is, I’m trying to start a dialogue on doing better. I mean, I have a Twitter account that is basically trying to create that kind of dialogue. And that is what we need to do.

Chris Martenson:  What is that Twitter account?

Bill Bradley:  Bradley#dobetter.

Chris Martenson:  And 140 characters at a time we can -

Bill Bradley:  Have a lot of ideas.

Chris Martenson:  Have a lot of ideas.

Bill Bradley:  You know, people need to start MeetUps in their community and ask themselves the question, What can we do better? Obviously what the national policy makers do better, but what can each of us do better? Can we have healthier bodies? We are in control of that. Can we save more? We are pretty much in control of that. These are the questions we need to ask ourselves and national policy makers.

Chris Martenson:  I agree. At my website [PeakProsperity.com] we have started what we call "groups," which allow people to organize. It is around two words; we are asking people to take control of what they can to become more resilient and to become more engaged. So once your own house is in order, then how is your neighbor doing, how is your community doing? There is a lot of appetite for that right now. In some ways we are getting back to the roots of this country. There are things that made this country great; intellectual property protection, freedom, and those things in some ways have been a little bit corroded, but really it is the community roots and values. And we see a lot, personally I see a lot, of rising appetite for that. People want to have meaningful, substantive discussions.

Bill Bradley:  I agree. Thanks, Chris.

Chris Martenson:  Fantastic. Be well.

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31 Comments

RJE's picture
RJE
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2008
Posts: 1369
Love Bill Bradly and he played with Dave Debusschere...

...someone I had the pleasure of meeting and knowing a bit.

Bill Bradley is a Senator so not the Bill Bradley the basketball player who I followed and enjoyed very much. Great TEAM the Knicks.

Senators get paid $174,000 bucks

Senators on average spend over $7 million to get elected ($6,826,000 bucks are owed to someone)

Senators average wealth is $14,000,000 bucks

Senator Bradley is a good guy I'm sure, all our senators are.

Senators are money grabbers (by trade), sold their collective souls many years ago (logically deduced), are part of the elite (dah!), never, ever, have they considered segregating tax payer funded dollars for programs like Social Security, gasoline tax or any other tax that supports specific programs. These are general fund ear marks and nothing more. So, I guess I'm saying that Mr. Bradley is sadly a part of the problem, speaks eloquently the speak, and is not ever going to be part of the solution. Sadly. It's the same with his fraternity so Mr. Bradley has company.

Other than that what a charming man.

One question Chris, did Mr. Bradley call you for this interview and book promotion or does he just love our site and wanted to help spread truths? 

Note: The numbers I represented where just quick googles that were rounded up or down.

Can senators still take insider information and call their bookies, oops sorry, their stock brokers? Or is the signal  rubbing your nose with your index finger up or down on a particular bill? Think Redford and Newman.

I will NOT consider buying his book, and I read just about everybody. Why? Cookie cutter prints like all others of his ilk. Loved the basketball player though. Very transparent and honorable profession where he excelled. Unlike today's game where the fix is on based on ratings (Miami were under dogs, Really!. Who said?), and that is a whole different podcast.

Respectfully Given

Go Tigers

BOB

hucklejohn's picture
hucklejohn
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2008
Posts: 281
Senator Bradley

Senator Bradley has a few good ideas.  However, he seems woefully out of touch with the reality of America's situation -- the massive debt levels, the distorted FIRE economy, the massive financial fraud, etc.  He offers mostly big government Keynesian solutions.  If a smart guy like Senator Bradley doesn't get it, then I doubt many other "mainstream" folks will get it either.  At some point there will be a Great Default and/or a rise in interest rates and the times will not be pleasant.     

Travlin's picture
Travlin
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 15 2010
Posts: 1322
I am not impressed

I am impressed that Chris got an interview with former Senator Bradley.  I am very UN-impressed by what Bradley said.  His main prescription for recovery seems to be a Federal Government program (spend big bucks) to get business hiring again, primarily through “infrastructure” projects.  After those temporary construction jobs end we might gain a few permanent jobs because our infrastructure is better.  I’m not buying it

As Chris said at the beginning of the interview, you have to remember three little words, “too much debt”.  It is a matter of debt saturation.  Until that issue is resolved, we are stalled in stagnation at best.  Total debt in the US is $54.6 trillion.  That includes personal, business, and government – local, state, and federal.  (It doesn’t include unfunded liabilities like Social Security.).  Debt has grown much faster than GDP, which is our national income of $15.5 trillion.  The graph below shows Total Debt and GDP since 1960, both indexed to 1983.  You can see that since 1983 debt grew over 800% while GDP (the income to support that debt) grew 350%.  Making the payments on those debts is sucking the life out of the economy.

The slow process of paying down our debts is a painful prospect, but it sure beats the financial catastrophe that will result if we don’t.

Travlin

AkGrannyWGrit's picture
AkGrannyWGrit
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 6 2011
Posts: 169
Senator Bradley

Mr Bradley seemed articulate, caring and out of touch with Mr. And Mrs. Middle America. He stated that "last summer" he was struck by the debt limit debacle and grasped that many of us are struggling. (I paraphrased as I don't know how to use the boxes on an ipad yet). Many affluent people have trouble comprehending the gravity of what we in the middle class are going through. Also, when a politician or even an ex-politician starts promoting a constitutional ammendment I personally get nervous to point of feeling sick to my stomach. With the multitudes of lobbyists, special interst groups, corporations and corrupt politicians all providing input I have zero faith that an ammendment would be passed that would be to solely benefit Mr. & Mrs. Middle America. Who know what cockamamy and convoluted garbage would be in an ammendment and I for one think opening that door would be a mistake. I am still agast that the NDAA was signed. Isn't the best predictor of future behavior - past behavior.

I would like to read others opinions on the constitutional ammendment idea.

Barbara (AKGrannyWGrit)

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 2542
Hoofprints in the Butter.

After the first world war Germany was saddled with debt. Hitler used the only asset he had. His people. The Volk. Arbeit macht frei. In two years time I will witness my second doubling of the population. What was an asset becomes a liability.

If you have got people you have got trouble. You have got to get rid of the people.

Joseph Stalin.

What flumoxes me is that brilliant scientists working on a replacement for oil energy cannot get so much as a pittance from the purse. This truely has the hoofprint of Satan in the butter.

Given the choice between a conspiracy and an error of judgement go with the error of judgement. But this is just so evil that it has to be a conspiracy.

A whole talk about the future without one reference to "The Limits to Growth."  Which should have been titled "The Limits to Growth on the Planet."

jonesb.mta's picture
jonesb.mta
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 11 2008
Posts: 108
Bill Bradley

I usually listen to or read the entire transcript but I just couldn't do it this time. The only politician that "gets it" is Ron Paul, I don't even think Rand Paul "gets it" any more. I just don't see any way to fix our problems as the mainstream voter believes the government/media BS. The only problem with a Constitutional amendment is that congress will write it with plenty of loopholes for them to keep getting their graft. As long as the only entity that can prosecute a congressman for an ethics violation is the congress, we will always have a corrupt congress. And the majority of voters will keep singing that old song, "He may be a crook but he's our crook" and we'll keep going down the road to a failed police state.

RJE's picture
RJE
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Joined: Aug 31 2008
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Travlin...

Bill Bradley, US Senator from 1979 to 1997.

Debt accumulation has now come to the here and now.

Nice job.

Watch your step it's a long way down.

Way to be a forward thinker, to have managed our affairs so well that we now face financial armeggedon.

Thank you so much for managing our infrastructure all these years.

Thank you so much for stealing the savers and responsible ones hard earned cash so that the elite among us can have their senior debts secured before the peasantry. 

Thank you so much for all your service to those who managed your career.

Please, please leave us alone now. I think we'll mange quite nicely without you now.

Regards

BOB

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interesting comments

I was likewise disappointed that Mr. Bradley's solution seems to be more big government spending combined with an unrealistic view of the crisis of entitlement obligations.  I was encouraged by the comments.  I think folks on this site "get it".  There is no way to sustain our present level of spending.  Period.  Infrastructure spending is great and very needed, but to fund that we'll need to cut programs that many have come to rely on as their only source for survival.  That is tragic.  We now have a system where charity comes from an impersonal, disinterested bureaucracy whose primary objective is securing their own employment.  Good luck reducing that.  I'd love to see reductions in military spending also, but again, I'm not optimistic for that. 

Also, I'm tired of hearing that we need to "raise taxes" to increase revenue.  Yes we could use more revenue, but raising taxes isn't going to do that.  Not that they won't try, but by penalizing hard work you will get fewer citizens working hard.  Our current system has about half of the voting population paying no federal income taxes.  Meanwhile, I'm spending about half my income (pay my own and employer share of Medicaid/SS taxes, etc)  on taxes. 

It will take someone (or several someones) of uncommon courage in a position of political power to direct us through this predicament because the steps necessary will not be pleasant or popular. 

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Travlin...

I am with Travlin on this one.  Bradley is stuck in the past.  Travlin's comments at the end really drive home how difficult our situation is;

"Making the payments on those debts is sucking the life out of the economy.

The slow process of paying down our debts is a painful prospect, but it sure beats the financial catastrophe that will result if we don’t."

Realize that we can't even begin to pay down the debts until and unless we reach a point where we are living within our means (tax revenues) and actually creating a surplus.  Today we can't even make meaningful cuts to the giant 40% + deficits we create.  Seeing the situation clearly I, like Travlin and I'm sure many others here would make a huge sacrifice to put our country back on the right path...   20% one time tax on my net worth to get rid of the FED, return to open and fair markets, reinstate Glass-Steagal, get Corp. money out of politics, and allow insolvent banks to fail and crony criminals to be prosecuted?  You bet I would.  Odd isn't it how one's brightest fantasy can include a 20% haircut, eh? 

Many much larger haircuts will be taken by those unprepared for what is to come...   and that is just the financial suffering.         

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I too came away uninspired...

The Bill Bradley I was hoping would show up was the one that is now retired from politics, safely tucked into a private sector job and willing to speak up with the incisive and biting insights of a former insider.

Instead he sounded like a man with an eye on a future political position; careful, status quo, centrist view were on offer.

Worse, he confirmed for me that it is possible to spend a lot of time both on the inside and the outside and apparently not really understand the nature of the predicament.   Anybody who thinks we are going to legislatively nip and tuck our way back to robust health is just, well, on a completely different page from the facts as I understand them.

I too would sacrifice a lot to get us back on the right path but, unfortunately, I can't see that happening because I simply don't trust any of the people currently in power.  For example, if DC said "we need to impose a $2/gallon gas tax that will be used to completely overhaul our energy infrastructure" I would, on the surface, be for that idea.  However I wouldn't support it because my belief is that the monies that came in would instead be diverted to silly wars, pork projects, and otherwise diverted and wasted.

You know, exactly what happened to the receipts from the doubled SS taxes imposed back in 1988 that were, theoretically, supposed to fix that system 'forever.'  Instead the excess monies were rolled into the general obligation fund and spent, never to be seen again.

So DC has an enormous credibility (trust) issue with me that I would really hope someone like Bill Bradley could at least address.  That ultra-low congressional approval rating is there for a reason....

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Look for change to come from

Look for change to come from grassroots not government

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I always liked and respected

I always liked and respected Bill Bradley, and so was also looking forward to what insights his sharp thinking might bring to our deep sh-t converging economic, energy and environment (3E) predicament.  But like several others, I was disappointed. 

Travlin wrote:
I am impressed that Chris got an interview with former Senator Bradley.  I am very UN-impressed by what Bradley said. 

jonesb.mta wrote:
I usually listen to or read the entire transcript but I just couldn't do it this time. The only politician that "gets it" is Ron Paul,

And Hucklejohn nailed it:

Quote:

If a smart guy like Senator Bradley doesn't get it, then I doubt many other "mainstream" folks will get it either.

Senator Bradley, if you're reading our comments, please watch Chris Martenson's Crash Course!!  We could sorely use an intelligent, good person like you,  who is well-capable of understanding these concepts, and is capable of holding his own in the political arena, to wake up and speak for the people!

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A massive deficit of understanding

Unfortunately like a lot of people, and more unfortunately it appears particurlarly decision makers (even the Austrian school of economics proponents like Ron Paul and it seems many on this site) don't realize (choose to ignore, accept other more fantastical ideas like we were created and the earth is ours to rule....?) that we are biological primates existing in a very small biosphere.  As Carl Sagan put it if you shrunk the earth down to the size of a basketball all life (in the universe as far as we know at this point) exists in a layer thinner than saran wrap around the ball.

Given this fact (which you much accept or further understanding is probably impossible) the simple questions of what sustains us and allows us to florish can be addressed.  Science (lets just call it our best attempt at understanding the universe) is the only instrument that so far provides the answers.  Physically, we are quite certain what humans require (e.g., clean air, water, food, healthy shelter etc. all currently provided by this thin biosphere and web of life that we are a strand in, not seperate from, and it is currently in great peril (for example see Nature magazine), psyscholgically we know we need love, healthy relationships both familial and community (as we are social primates) and we need to avoid negative stressors (for example see Dr. Robert Sapolsky http://video.pbs.org/video/1218601681/  ) and perhaps spiritually (however you wish to define it) we have requirements as well (sacred places for introspection etc.).  All of this needs to be accomplished in an egalatarian (no, there are no utopias, but there are much better models and hopefully continuing change and improvment) society (for example see Dr. Richard Wilkinson http://video.pbs.org/video/1218601681/ ) (there are inumerable more scientific studies that support these findings which you can look up if you want real understanding... I have just listed a couple references for conveinience.  Unfortunately we do live in a world we have constructed where we are (have to be?) skeptical of any information and always wondering about the bias, the differential advantage etc.  Another aspect of our society we need to change).

These sustaining concepts must form the foundation of any proposed so called economic system.  I think it is painfully obvious that traditional concepts of economics (pretty much all schools of thought e.g., Keynes, Austrian, Chicago...) are fundamentally flawed (do not take these understandings as a priori) when it comes to understanding these "life ground concepts" (for example see John McMurtry's "Cancer stage of Capitalism").  We need a new paradigm.  We need to update our society to our current knowledge and understandings (through science and technology) of the natural world (not attempt to use our science and technolgy to defeat nature or count on it to repair or substitute for damage).  

Repairing bridges and roads and giving everyone jobs so they can shop, fiddle with the monetary system...Wow!!!!!  I would really become depressed if I thought this was the most creative we can be.  We have a deficit alright, a massive deficit of understanding.

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Everyone gets a thumbs up but boy is it silly...

I wish I could keep my cynicism out of what I write but I just can't. Bradley speaks of long range, thoughtful approaches to our problems. All of which sound grand. So, putting this logic to work, and his time spent in the senate, I would have to conclude that he, and his cronies spent a good part of their intellectual assets hell bent on destroying our country.

Chris, this thumbs up thing bothers me so I give everyone a thumbs up vote. Frankly, every one's voice here matters to me, and a zero should never be the mark of any Women or Man on our site. Small thing? Trivial? I will continue to give everyone a thumbs up and personally could care less what my mark is but I do not appreciate this gimmick. Silly really, immature are my thoughts. Love you though my brother.

Respectfully Given

BOB

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Robert...on the thumbs up

Robert.. I see the new comment rating option as a benefit... I am not at all clear on why you view it so negatively.. we must be thinking differently about it.  If it's used as a non-content specific poster popularity vote of some sort - then I would agree with you... but I am hoping that it is used as a way to highlight the best (comment-based) content, such that it can float to the top and be seen more readily on the front page.  Certainly many of my posts are really just comments... not worthy of special mention or highlight.  Would you be willing to give it a chance... observe how it is being used for a while before protesting with your thumbs?  

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Travlin

I omitted my comment to you. Here is what I wanted to say to you: Just a great chart to submit for all to see. From the point Mr. Bradley took office and until retirement, and after setting the trend, we now sit at the proverbial cliff. So why would I really care what this man says. Thank you so much for providing the real picture. A BIG thumbs up (don't like that thing), and Mr. Bradley has to own the straight up chart during his tenure. Sorry Bill, realities a biaatch. 

Regards

BOB

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RJE
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This was great Chris...

http://www.financialsense.com/node/8617

I seen it yesterday, looked for it here and didn't see it so I'll share

BOB

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I appreciate your effort

cmartenson wrote:

The Bill Bradley I was hoping would show up was the one that is now retired from politics, safely tucked into a private sector job and willing to speak up with the incisive and biting insights of a former insider.  Instead he sounded like a man with an eye on a future political position; careful, status quo, centrist view were on offer.

Chris

While we were disappointed in what Bradley said, you deserve kudos for your effort to bring us the views of an insider.  However, I expect that will always be a fruitless endeavor.  A professional politician will only show his “public face” in any public forum you can offer.  We aren’t’ insiders and therefore privy to what they really think.  Besides, I’ll bet most of them really are totally immersed within the status quo.

If I may borrow a few of your words -- I think that expecting honesty from a politician is like basing your future on hope.  It is a poor strategy.  For myself, I have written off the whole political process.  It is up to us to save ourselves, and I expect politicians and government to seriously impede our efforts.

The question that intrigues me is how much do people in positions of power, not just politicians, really understand about --

1 – The true nature of our economic predicament

2 - Peak oil

A year ago you indicated their awareness of both was pretty much non-existent.  Recently you said something to the effect that there is growing awareness everywhere except in government.  Keep in mind that the private consultations you do are a biased sample as your clients are an advanced guard.  However, between them, your other contacts, and your information research, you have a useful impression that you could share.  I’d love to see an article about this.

Travlin

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Re: Hope & Politicians

Travlin wrote:

A year ago you indicated their awareness of both was pretty much non-existent.  Recently you said something to the effect that there is growing awareness everywhere except in government.  Keep in mind that the private consultations you do are a biased sample as your clients are an advanced guard.  However, between them, your other contacts, and your information research, you have a useful impression that you could share.  I’d love to see an article about this.

Travlin

Travlin,

This past weekend I presented to a large audience of management accountants in Las Vegas.  If ever there was a more discordant location to present a reality-based view, I would be surprised.  :)

However, the point here is that this message is indeed going farther and deeper than ever, helped along by the fact that all of the old magical monetary incantations are failing to sway the economic gods.  The congregation is losing faith and seeking alternative answers.

I'll have more on that topic later on...

I do not really have any hope that politicians, current or former, will suddenly reveal a deep understanding of the predicament.  I do like to touch base with them from time to time as a means of exposing just how large the gap is between the facts and their thinking.   

In a perverse way, this is inspirational to me in the sense that I come away more convinced than ever that one's best strategy is be as prepared as possible for a disruptive future.

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Thanks

Thanks Chris.  I look forward to your further thoughts on the awareness topic.

Chris wrote:

I do not really have any hope that politicians, current or former, will suddenly reveal a deep understanding of the predicament.  I do like to touch base with them from time to time as a means of exposing just how large the gap is between the facts and their thinking.   

I appreciate that.  I’m sure it can be uncomfortable for you as the host when members react negatively to the guest.  But I think it is important that we let them know when we are not buying their message.  Otherwise they think it is still working and will continue the same.  As members we should remember to address the message and refrain from personal attacks.  It is easy to let anger get away from us.  I bite my tongue so often it seems like food to me.  laugh

Signing off now.

Travlin

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Jim, it doesn't bother me at

Jim, it doesn't bother me at all. I just think it cheesy, and said so, just an opinion. Like the tabs thing that was removed. I'm glad you like it and others feel as you do so I'm cool with that. What is true is that everyone stated their positions about Mr. Bradley and they were all valid so why keep score. The reason I gave a thumbs up vote to all is that they took the time to write, express an opinion so I didn't want them to feel less valid. Just being polite frankly. Anyways, no controversy here.

Go Tigers 

BOB

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Just some thoughts: Mr.

Just some thoughts:

Mr. Bradley's record is his public record. I do not believe any statements here were personal attacks from any poster. If you look at Travlin chart it is so apparent what Mr. Bradley and his peers did to our country. It is why they own it. Frankly, you had to do that on purpose, and to tell me a Rhodes Scholar doesn't get it is very uncomfortable to me. It isn't like Bill has a mental block on some things for crying out loud. My Mom called that "selective disgrace".

If we could get our planned Social Security, our planned retirement, our pentions as planned then I would give all the profits from Gold back., Tax it all if it helped balance the books. Helped get everyone working on the same page. That easy, take it all except what I started with. Fact is take half of my Social Security, pentions and retirement if we get things earmark for debt destruction. I'll be fine with that. Just have a plan and keep to it. 

If I were a sensitive man with regards to this thumbs up thing then I would have to determine this site a popularity contest. Why? I said essentially everything everyone else did. I said exactly what Chris implied and everyone else except for the great chart Travlin put up. Coincidentally, I posted first so if sensitive I must conclude that I am not a valued member here at Peak Prosperity. I will continue to just be myself however, and is why I could care less. Maybe it was because I spoke up to Erik Townsend while he was so disappointed with a fellow poster, who knows. I did apologize for the manner in which I said what I said but not the content. I was terribly sick, medicated, and had a rather uncomfortable surgery. I still had to do my work, research, and read everything, and well I was put off a bit by those threads. So it is what it is I suppose.  I will have to vote everyone a 'Thumbs Up', whether the content is good or not will have to be decided by the posters here as to the flight of the thread up or down as to its importance but the only zero will be me. I'm good with that. Why? Chris Martenson started out with a thought that went on to be the Crash Course, his views on Peak Oil and nothing stood in his way to voicing his opinions and thoughts. Thank goodness no one gave him a "Thumbs down" and inhibited his growth as he went through life. Maybe discouraged him from learning and achieving. How horrible that would have been. Just my thoughts. 

Regards

Go Tigers

BOB 

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Why Bother

This was a double post. Sorry.

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Why Bother

I don't mean to be glib, but it's a waste of time and energy talking to an establishment elite if one's goal is to effectively confront serious, entrenched, and long-term problems.

The train has left the station folks, and it's heading for certain disaster. It's a matter of time, which no one knows how long that might be. But ordinary folk need to decide now on the three, basic available choices, only one of which in my view offers any hope at all for posterity:

(1) remain on the train, cluelessly or selfishly absorbed in ones's own narcissistic reality;

(2) get off at the next stop, and try to join with a relatively small number of others to find ways to survive the impending disaster, a disaster that you're not only sure is bound to happen, but also one that none of us common folk can possibly do anything about it - it's just too late; or,

(3) rally, beseech, and organize around a core set of principles with as many people as possible in one's local communities, network and develop sufficient consensus with other communities around the country around these core issues and strategies, and then begin a glorious effort to collectively in great numbers commandeer the train, ultimately steering it into safer pastures so that the long task of creating sane insitutions on this planet can have a chance to reign.

And let me give you a hint: number three is the only hope for saving the most people from destitution or worse, and perhaps the planet itself. Clearly, Bill Bradley, and anyone in his stratosphere, will strongly resist option three. Ergo, it's a waste of time to comisserate with such people, because all you'll get is either inanity, propaganda, or misdirection. And by the way, these people don't need to be educated by the likes of Chris, or anybody else. In fact, what they need, we can't give them: humility, a heart, and an evolved moral conscience.

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Damnthematrix
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Top marks for this

Welome to the fray.......  and I have to say, the very best post from a first timer here, in a very long time.  As I have been saying here for several years now.....  we have to change the way we do EVERYTHING, and economics must be near the very top of the list.

Mike

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return to growth

"Return to growth."  I hear it again and again as a stated goal in emerging from our economic morass.  Senator Bradley said it early in this interview, and at that point I know that this guy does not fundamentally understand the nature of the problem. Same goes for Obama, Congress, the Fed, and virtually all world leaders.  If the goal is to fix  "structural problems"  so that we can return to a trajectory of infinity and beyond, the world is indeed faced with a real day of reckoning, something we are seeing unfold before our very eyes.

Questioning fundamental assumptions is a difficult thing for human beings to do, and I don't see our leaders making much progress...certainly not enough progress to deal with the problem of infinite growth in a finite world in any sort of an informed and proactive manner.  I am not optimistic.

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Bradley is a Marxist

Bradley's Marxist solution is Government control.  That isn't a political statement but based on what increased Government regulation means.  Its about taking from private business and individuals and replacing it with Government control.  (Does anyone truly beleive that the Government can spend you hard earned money better than you can?)  This is Keynesian economics and it has failed every single time it has ever been tried.  The extremely destructive Dodd-Frank bill touted above is a excellent example of how damaging this failed ideology has become. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/congress-should-promptly-repeal-or-fix-unwarranted-provisions-of-the-dodd-frank-act

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Just a reminder for us all

robert essian wrote:

Mr. Bradley's record is his public record. I do not believe any statements here were personal attacks from any poster.

Robert

My comment about avoiding personal attacks was not directed towards you or any other posts in this thread.  It was just a reminder to us all not to let our frustrations get away from us.  Politicians are like lightning rods that way.  Like I said, I bite my tongue often.

Travlin

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Travlin, in principle I

Travlin, in principle I believe your way IS the right way.

However, enough is enough already.

Daily we get Jamie Dimon, Libor, MF Global, cons, cons and more cons.

Not anything even remotely resembles the principles we all grew up with.

So it is my feelings that if the politicians want to stir up a hornets nest they COULD NOT devise a better plan.

Our country was founded on civil disobedience, it is a mandate when our government becomes so corrupt (it is), Martin Luther King was first to apply the NON VIOLENCE clause and then the cause went violent. Then change occurred.

What happened? Vietnam war ended, the cities of America burned and then the powers that be finally came to the table to fork over some of the cash to appease the masses. Nixon attempted to maintain the status que and was impeached.

I just don't see how biting our lips will effect anything. The truth in Mr. Bradley's case is firmly recorded in that wonderful chart you displayed. I seen others use that chart, Mish, Mr. Smith, Zero Hedge, Automatic Earth, and others. Very compelling and certainly well placed by you here. Sadly this chart also shows that the leaders of the 60's and 70's were the loudest leaders of change that America had during the love fest, change the world types in our history. These same radicals own this chart too, and I for one are very disappointed in my generation. Truly we all own this chart and I want to do my part to fix it. Where are the leaders? DEADLOCKED! 

Finally, I am NOT an angry Man (my picture shows my priorities) but I do understand that to effect change some positions must be fought for. Lord knows that the elite have the best paid for police and army to take care of their interests. My hope is that my brothers will not fire on me or our communities. History suggest, and I have witnessed that some soldiers and police are gun-ho types, and bodies are left for dead during the process. Literally.

Regards

BOB

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The 3 E's of Agenda 21

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xkguy
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Collapse planning

I have listened to several politicians speak recently. These folks were in small venues and with a very sympathetic audiences. None seem to understand that a collapse is coming, not a worsening slow down. Even Senator Hatch (R-UT), who acknowledges a $78 Trillion debt, does not see anything unusual coming. We just have to 'figure out' how to handle this thing. Those waiting for the government to admit a huge, insurmountable problem exists will have to wait until it has already happened. I believe this is because what is coming is too horrible for them to admit. I am not even sure they discuss it privately. Prepare yourself and ignore the government as they are useless at this time in the game.

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