A brief perspective on the geopolitical strategic posturing and amalgamation occurring in real time. Political commentary by Chris Anthony.

 

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Back in June, President Trump used Twitter to officially announce America’s urban crisis.

He hit the ground running calling out the death and destruction in Chicago.

Trump made it clear that he was “sending in Federal help” to contain the dying city.

Since then, Trump’s focus has transitioned on to an international stage with North Korea’s ‘rocket man’ in a war of words battle.

The geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere have distracted this administration from conquering the real out of control war on city streets.

According to The Daily Caller, Baltimore‘s homicide rate is now doubled Chicago’s in 2017.

Essentially, residents in Baltimore are twice as likely to be shot than Chicagoans. As the battlefield continues to expand, President Trump has yet to mention the chaos in Baltimore just 38 miles North of the White House.

As The Daily Caller points out, the soaring violence in Baltimore is occurring in a much smaller city of 621,000, when compared to Chicago of 2,700,000.

Chicago has suffered 503 gun homicides so far in 2017. With a population of over 2.7 million, the gun homicide rate is at just over 18 people per 100,000 residents.

Baltimore, however, has suffered 275 gun homicides with a population of just over 621,000, putting the homicide rate at more than 44 per 100,000.

The city is on track to break its all-time murder record originally set in 1992, when Baltimore had 100,000 more residents.

The author made a very interesting point, both cities are “long-standing Democratic strongholds”. Not surprising, Baltimore hasn’t had a republican mayor since 1947 and or voted Republican in a presidential election since 1956. On top of failed liberal policies, de-industrialization has stripped the cities of productivity and forced an alarming inequality gap in education, jobs, health, and wealth of residents.

For example, Baltimore has a population of 621,000 and out of that 63% are African American. In highlights below, 1/3 of the African American population has a net worth of zero, which equates to 130,000 residents. Opportunity for most citizens in the city are limited giving way to violent crime and an explosion in homicides.

Ever since the increased scrutiny of police following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has led to an increased crime rate in both Baltimore and Chicago. In particular, Baltimore’s police department is under heavy scrutiny for planting drugs at crime scenes.

As the social contract between residents and police crack, this gives way to the ‘Ferguson effect’ of increased turmoil in inner cities.

Shown by The Economist, the Ferguson effect demonstrates how homicides in Baltimore have surged…

Perhaps President Trump was on to something in June when he called out Chicago’s urban war zone. Unfortunately, geopolitical tensions on the Korean Peninsula is of a much higher priority to this administration, as the real battlefield on America’s city streets goes unnoticed.

China On Pace To Dethrone The US

Posted: October 9, 2017 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

 

“Not sure whether China will be nice to self-ruled Taiwan? Wait until after the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party.

What’s in store for the hotly disputed, resource-rich South China Sea, where Beijing has taken a military and technological lead since 2010? Wait until after the Congress.

Coffee maker wouldn’t start today? Wait until after the Congress.

Wait. But you get the idea: This event, due to start Oct. 18, is monumental enough to put a lot of Asia on hold — and make it worry.”

That’s how Ralph Jennings opened his piece for Forbes on Wednesday. Humor aside, the point he’s making is the same one I made at the end of September — that China’s upcoming National Congress is a really big deal.

China sets the regional tone on nearly all matters, as Jennings points out in his article:

“Chinese foreign and economic policies shape much of Asia. China’s ever-growing efforts to build and fund infrastructure around the subcontinent through initiatives such as One Belt, One Road have obvious impact on smaller countries that might otherwise struggle to finance their own projects. Neighbors from Japan to India are watching China for foreign policy cues that affect their iffy diplomatic relations with the region’s major power.”

But China’s geopolitical influence extends far beyond Asia. The country has long been viewed as the rising global superpower on pace to dethrone the United States. Much has been written and said about

China’s willingness to embrace this role as more and more countries turn to it for guidance.

China is highly conscious of this trend. It feels the world’s eyes aimed squarely in its direction and very much wants everything at the upcoming Congress, during which President Xi Jinping is expected to be reaffirmed as leader and appoint his own trusted allies to key positions of power, to go smoothly.

This is why, as I pointed out last month, the Chinese government has implemented a system-wide crackdown – both in the streets and in cyberspace – on political dissent ahead of the Congress. It all goes back to perception and the desire to present to the world the “One China” the country’s government says exists.

But perhaps there’s even more to it than that. It may be that once power is further solidified under Xi at the Congress, China will be ready to fully embrace the role of world leader. On Wednesday, its state-run Xinhua News Agency ran an article titled “China offers wisdom in global governance,” which opened with the following:

“With its own development and becoming increasingly closer to the center of the world stage, China has been injecting positive energy into the international community in pursuit of better global governance over recent years.”

Xinhua writes that China’s leadership ability is already well-established and that even though it’s currently undergoing a restructuring of its own, its vision for the world is one rooted in peace and innovation:

“As the world’s second largest economy and the biggest contributor of global economic growth, China’s innovative concepts on improving global governance and promoting global peace and common prosperity have gained wide recognition and support from other countries.

“Undergoing structural reforms, China is implementing its new concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, eyeing a quality growth model driven by innovation.

“Meanwhile, the country is assuming its international responsibility to promote common development with other countries in the interconnected world.”

Continuing, Xinhua points to international acceptance of One Belt, One Road as evidence of China’s ability to take the lead in adapting to the modern era:

 

“The Belt and Road Initiative, building a community of shared future for mankind and the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, all proposed by China, have been incorporated in U.N. resolutions, showing wide international consensus on the concepts.

“Equality, mutual respect and win-win cooperation feature in the Chinese plans, which also safeguard the irreversible trend of globalization.”

This “win-win cooperation” is China’s guiding principle, Hu Angang of Tsinghua University in Beijing, told Xinhua. He even dubbed the philosophy “win-winism,” as the state news organ explains:

 

“’Win-winism’ highlights an open world economy for common development of all countries and joint efforts to address global challenges such as climate change and terrorism, and exchanges of different cultures, said the researcher.”

Xinhua goes on to write that Liu Wei, president of Renmin University of China, says the country has taken the lead by “putting forward new concepts, thoughts and plans to reshape the global governance system.”

With China in the spotlight ahead of the National Congress, it shouldn’t be taken lightly that the superpower would allow such bold language by one of its state mouthpieces. Indeed, it could be that a post-Congress China will be a far more assertive player on the world stage.

 

A major international police operation to bust child predators involved police sharing child pornography with over a million unsuspecting online subscribers for a year after investigators took control of the dark web’s largest child abuse forum. Though hundreds of pedophiles were arrested after the site was shut down, the police sting involved undercover officers sharing extremely disturbing content and encouraging followers to engage in sexual acts with children. But police say it was worth it.

A new report reveals that Australian police were running the largest pedophile and child pornography forum on the internet for a year as part of a joint initiative between Australian, European, and Canadian police as well as the US Department of Homeland Security to track down the site’s administrators and child porn producers. Over the weekend the Norwegian newspaper VG published its bombshell investigation which confirmed that between October 2016 and September 2017 a special police task force based in Queensland, Australia was able to quietly hack the site “Childs Play” which had reached over a million registered accounts and had thousands of active users.

Queensland police at Taskforce Argos, including investigator Paul Griffiths (pictured). Image source: Kinsa.net

The task force was able to identify the site’s top tier administrators, leading to hundreds of international arrests and criminal investigations, but not before crossing what critics see as a significant ethical line: to expose those behind the site, police themselves posted child pornography and facilitated what was essentially a pedophile online meet-up.

The site has existed since April 2016 on the dark web, which made it next to impossible to identify users and administrators as the dark web operates based on layers of encryption which ensures complete anonymity. Not only did the forum include over one hundred active producers of child pornography who would daily post videos and images, but even more disturbingly involved a smaller inner circle who shared child torture videos.

Among this inner circle were Childs Play administrators ‘Warhead’ and ‘Crazymonk’ – later revealed to be 26-year old Canadian Benjamin Faulkner and 27-year old Tennessee native Patrick Falte, according the VG report. Both had previously worked as internet security professionals and were active technical support providers for pedophilia related internet sites – the two had initially met, for example, through a website called the the “Pedo Support Community.” The Australian child abuse task force had begun tracking the two by assembling profiles of their previous digital footprints in relation to child abuse related chat on the open web.

Source: Norway’s VG

Faulkner (Warhead) for example, had in 2012 posted the following to a chat forum under his previous online identity, CuriousVendetta:

A little about myself to establish credibility here: My name is CuriousVendetta, and I work as a JR forensics consultant and penetration tester for an IT security firm. On the side, I do what I can to cause general mischief on the internet with a few friends of mine…

At the pool is where I am free, and where I can generate my fantasies. I have more girls in my ‘fan club’ than I can even count.

Faulkner was working as a youth swimming instructor in the small Canadian city of North Bay in Ontario and though it appears some parents had become suspicious of his proclivities, no police reports were ever filed. Patrick Falte had lived all his life with his parents a half an hour outside of Nashville and was the more advanced technical expert of the two. Both Warhead and Crazymonk as administrators of the Childs Play dark web forum had promised subscribers increased security measures. For example users knew that should

Warhead, the site’s leader, ever miss one of his routine postings to the community which involved a message stamped with a pornographic image, it would be a signal that the community had been infiltrated by police.

But police did infiltrate the community and took it over, partly due to mistakes made by the administrators. The forum transacted in Bitcoin – common for the dark web – but Crazymonk had his bitcoin wallet linked to his personal email address, making it easy for the US Department of Homeland Security to locate him. Other mistakes which helped police included both site leaders posting identifying information in various on the open web which helped investigators build profiles for the two. From there police not only began monitoring the pair – even installing tracking devices on their vehicles – but were also able to observe all communications and postings on the site through a backdoor. It was soon understood that the two would occasionally drive for over 10 hours to meet multiple times a year. After months of monitoring, the two met in person at a usual spot

in Manassas, Virginia, where one of Childs Play’s users had regularly offered the men his 4-year old daughter to rape while being video taped.

It was in Manassas that US federal agents finally made the arrest, but only after the 4-year old had already been raped in a Virginia home. Authorities told VG that they had no way of knowing of the rape beforehand, citing online messaging as not indicative of that information. The video tape would later be used to convict Faulkner and Falte, who were given life sentences for both the rape and running the site. After the arrests, the Australian task force, known as Argos, then moved in to assume the identities of the arrested site administrators. Investigators studied the pair’s online language styles and characteristics, eventually posting an admin message so that users wouldn’t get suspicious, which of course required the child pornography image stamp.

The site’s server was located in Australia, which was important to the international investigation as Australian law gives police broad leeway to commit crimes in

pursuit of investigations, especially in relation to catching child pornographers. Task force Argo’s officers not only uploaded the image, thereby convincing subscribers that nothing was wrong, but according to VG issued the following message to the community:

“I hope that some of you were able to give a special present to the little ones in your lives, and spend some time with them. It’s a great time of year to snuggle up near a fire, and make some memories.”

Police, while running the site, also continued to share images and videos while undergoing their year-long investigation which identified numerous video producers as well as consumers of the content. For example the task force posted a video of an eight-year-old girl being raped only two weeks after taking over the forum, which was viewed 770,617 times, according to the report. Such extreme police tactics, which authorities argue was necessary to rescue victims and put predators behind bars, have outraged some of the victims’ families.

VG reporters were able to speak to a mother of one the victims whose video was used by police as part of the operation: “My daughter

should not be used as a bait… It is not right for the police to promote these images,” she said. But police investigators told VG in response to criticism that, “There is definitely a balance between what we want to achieve and how we go about it.” And added, “Eventually we get to the point where it isn’t worth running the forum any more. But as long as we’re identifying victims, producers and abusers, we will keep running it.”

A similar investigation by the FBI in 2015 of a site significantly smaller than Child’s Play’s size made 870 arrests and rescued 259 children after agents kept it online for just two weeks. The FBI came under fire for actively sharing, promoting and facilitating the transfer of thousands of images and videos. But the Australian task force ran a site which was over five times the size and content volume for close to a year.

 

The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically.

The impact of the Arab Spring, the retraction of the U.S. military, and diminishing economic influence on the Arab world – as displayed during the Obama Administration – are facts.

The emergence of a Russian-Iranian-Turkish triangle is the new reality. The Western hegemony in the MENA region has ended, and not in a shy way, but with a long list of military conflicts and destabilization.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia shows the growing power of Russia in the Middle East. It also shows that not only Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also Egypt and Libya, are more likely to consider Moscow as a strategic ally.

King Salman’s visit to Moscow could herald not only several multibillion business deals, but could be the first real step towards a new regional geopolitical and military alliance between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This cooperation will not only have severe consequences for Western interests but also could partly undermine or reshape the position of OPEC at the same time.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is currently hosting a large Saudi delegation, led by King Salman and supported by Saudi minister of energy Khalid Al Falih.

Moscow’s open attitude to Saudi Arabia—a lifetime Washington ally and strong opponent of the growing Iran power projections in the Arab world—show that Putin understands the current pivotal changes in the Middle East.

U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even the UAE, have shown an increased eagerness to develop military and economic relations with Moscow, even if this means dealing with a global power currently supporting their archenemy Iran. Analysts wonder where the current visit of King Salman will really lead to, but all signs are on green for a straightforward Arab-Saudi support for a bigger Russian role in the region, and more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas markets.

In stark contrast to the difficult relationship of the West with the Arab world, Moscow seems to be playing the regional power game at a higher level. It can become an ally or friend to regional adversaries, such as Iran, Turkey, Egypt and now Saudi Arabia. Arab regimes are also willing to discuss cooperation with Russia, even though the country is supporting adversaries in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts and continues to supply arms to the Shi’a regime in Iran.

Investors can expect Russia and Saudi Arabia to sign a multitude of business deals, some of which have already been presented. Moscow and Riyadh will also discuss the still fledgling oil and gas markets, as both nations still heavily depend on hydrocarbon revenues. Arab analysts expect both sides to choose a bilateral strategy to keep oil prices from falling lower. Riyadh and Moscow have the same end goal: a stable oil and gas market, in which demand and supply keep each other in check to push price levels up, but without leaving enough breathing space for new market entrants such as U.S. shale.

Putin and Salman will also discuss the security situation in the Middle East, especially the ongoing Syrian civil war, Iran’s emerging power, and the Libya situation. Until now, the two have supported opposite sides, but Riyadh has realized that its ultimate goal, the removal of Syrian president Assad, is out of reach. To prevent a full-scale Shi’a triangle (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon), other options are now being sought to quell Tehran’s power surge. Moscow is key in this.

Putin’s unconditional support of the Iranian military onslaught in Iraq and Syria, combined with its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon or Houthis in Yemen, will be discussed and maybe tweaked to give Riyadh room to maneuver into the Russian influence sphere. The verdict on this isn’t yet out, but Riyadh’s move must be seen

in light of ongoing Moscow discussions with Egypt, Libya, Jordan and the UAE.

A growing positive Putin vibe in the Arab world is now clear. The strong leadership of Russia’s new Tsar has become a main point of interest for the (former pro-Western) Arab regimes. The U.S. and its European allies have only shown a diffuse political-military approach to the threats in the MENA region, while even destabilizing historically pro-Western Arab royalties and presidents. Putin’s friendship, however, is being presented as unconditional and long lasting.

Even though geopolitics and military operations in the Middle East now are making up most headlines, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement will also have economic consequences. Riyadh’s leadership of OPEC is still undisputed, as it has shown over the last several years. Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to counter the free-fall of oil prices has been successful, but a much bigger effort is required to bring prices back to a level of between $60-75 per barrel. Russia’s role—as the largest of non-OPEC producers—has been substantial, bringing in not only several emerging producers, but also by putting pressure on its allies Iran, Venezuela and Algeria.

The historically important Moscow-Riyadh cooperation in oil and gas is unprecedented. Without Russia’s support, overall compliance to the OPEC production cut agreement would have been very low, leading to even lower oil prices.

The Saudi-Russian rapprochement could, however, be seen as a threat by the West and OPEC itself. Western influence in the region has waned since the end of the 1990s, not only due to the peace dividend of NATO, but especially because OECD countries are moving away from oil. Saudi Arabia had to find new markets, which happened with China and India. The Saudi future is no longer based on Western customers or support, but lies in Asia and other emerging regions. The FSU region has also popped up on Saudi screens. Investment opportunities, combined with geopolitical support and military interests, are readily available in Russia and its satellite states.

For OPEC, the Moscow-Riyadh love affair could also mean a threat. Throughout OPEC’s history, Riyadh has been the main power broker in the oil cartel, pushing forward price and production strategies; most of the time this was done in close cooperation with all the other members, most of them Arab allies. This changed dramatically after Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to cooperate in global oil markets. Through the emergence of this OPEC/ non-OPEC cooperation, Moscow and Riyadh have grown closer than expected. The two countries now decide the future of global oil markets before they discuss it with some of the other main players like UAE, Iran, Algeria and Nigeria. King Salman’s visit is seen as another step toward a more in-depth cooperation in oil and gas related issues.

Besides global oil market cooperation, Saudi Arabia is and will become more interested to invest in natural gas development, not only to have an interest in Russia’s gas future but also to bring in Russian technology, investment and LNG to the Kingdom.

At the same time, media sources are stating that Saudi Arabia is NOT asking Russia to take part in the long-awaited Aramco IPO in 2018. Russian individual investors and financial institutions, however, are expected to take an interest.

Putin understands not only Russian chess tactics but also the Arab “Tawila” approach. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman already will prepare his Tawila strategy, putting enough stones on the table to ensure his successful end game. MBS, currently de-facto ruler of the Kingdom, is targeting a full house—Russian cooperation in energy, defense and investments—while softening Moscow’s 100% percent support of the Shi’a archenemy Iran.

For both sides, Moscow and Riyadh, the current constellation presents a win-win situation. Moscow can reach its ultimate goal in the Middle East: to become the main power broker and knock the US from the pedestal. For Riyadh, the option to counter the Iranian threat, while also bolstering its own economy and hydrocarbon future, is now within reach.

King Salman’s trip could go down in history as the point of no return for the West. Pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman of Saudi Arabia could replace historic pictures of King Saud and U.S. President Roosevelt (Bitter Lake, 1945). In a few years, King-to-be Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman might tell his children that this was one of the pillars that changed not only the Middle East but also supported his Vision 2030 plan of becoming a bridge between the old (West) and the new (Russia-Asia).

 

In the 1970’s we heard the earth was going to get so crowded we’d be falling off. Now the panickers have flipped to population decline. They were wrong in the 70’s, so are they wrong again? Is a declining population catastrophic?

Countries from Germany to Japan are investing in mass immigration or pro-birth policies on the assumption that they must import enough warm bodies to stave off economic collapse. I think this is mistaken.

Falling population on a country level is certainly no catastrophe and, indeed, may be positive. I’ll outline some reasons here…

Historically, the first question is why population declined. If it’s the Mongols invading again then, yes, the economy will suffer. Not because of the death alone, but because wholesale slaughter tends to destroy productive capital as well.

On the other hand, if the population is declining from non-war, we have a well-studied natural experiment in the Black Plague. Which is generally credited with the “take-off” of the West. Because if the population declines by a third while capital including arable land stays the same, you get a surplus. Same resources divided by fewer people.

Think of zombie movies where dude’s running around with unlimited resources at his disposal — free cars, riverfront penthouses. That, in diluted form, is what a declining population gives us — more land, more highways or buildings, more resources per person.

Now, if the population’s declining not because of a terrible disaster like the Plague, rather because people simply want fewer children, then you don’t even get the massive hit from losing productive people. A worker dying at 40 takes a lot of productivity with him, while a child unborn isn’t actually destroying anything but hopes and dreams.

So if the Plague was a per capita economic bonanza to Europe, having fewer children should be an even larger per capita bonanza.

Take Germany; before recent rises in immigration, Germans averaged 1.25 children per woman. This translates into a 1/3 decline in population per cycle (i.e every 75 years if people are living 75 years). So without immigration, Germany might expect a 1/3 decline by 2100. Is this good or bad?

The question breaks into 2 parts: absolute number of people, and changes in age composition. On numbers alone, it’s great for Germans; same physical capital, same amount of land and air and water. True there are fewer taxpayers to amortize shared costs like defense, but these costs are small and, empirically, often scale to the population anyway. For example Holland’s military budget and population are both about 1/5 of Germany’s.

So on numbers it’s great — more stuff for fewer people.

Now the second question is age profile. The key here is that a declining population means fewer working-adults to pay out pensions, but it also means even fewer kids. Who are very expensive. The number that captures both is “dependency ratio,” which is the ratio of workers to children-plus-elderly.

To take a real-world example, the UN expects Germany in 2100 to have 68 million people, compared to today’s 82 million — about a 20% decline. The age profile shifts so they expect a third more over-65’s — from 17 to 23 million. Meanwhile, children 14 and under fall from 11m to 9m. So total dependents goes from 28 million today to 32 million in 2100. Meanwhile, population age 15 to 64 goes from 54 million today to 36 million in 2100. Upshot is today a single working-age person supports half a dependent — 54 million carrying 28 million. But in 2100 that worker will support a single dependent — 36 million carrying 32 million. So far so bad, right?

Well, there are 2 big caveats here, both based on long-lasting trends.

First, for over a century now people are not only living longer, but living healthy longer. This is called “health expectancy” and, sticking with Germany, is rising by about 1.4 years per decade.

This implies that 65 year-olds in 2100 will be as healthy as 53 year-olds today. While today’s 65-year-olds are as healthy as 2100’s 78-year-olds. This alone would bring the elderly numbers back down to today’s, but the lower number of children means worker burdens actually decline.

Of course, this would require raising retirement ages in line with health expectancy – 1.4 years per decade – which politicians are obviously deeply reluctant to do.

Second caveat is another long-term trend, economic growth. The irony here is that, from a population growth viewpoint, economic growth is actually the worst-case scenario. Because if the economy crashes instead, then historically the population actually soars — kids become your safety net if the welfare state goes bankrupt. So if we fail to grow, the demographic problem actually solves itself anyway. Either we grow, or population decline was a false alarm anyway.

Quantifying this growth, over the past 50 years Germany has grown 1.65% per year, real per capita. That trends puts a 2100 German worker making 4 times what they do today. Keep in mind this is likely underestimating the benefit, because any outperformance makes Germans richer yet, while any catastrophe probably makes them have more kids.

So, summing up, rising health expectancy implies there will actually be fewer dependents in 2100 Germany, while economic growth implies German workers will be 4 times richer, just on growth alone. The demographic burden plunges by 80% or more.

By the way, if you’re freaked out at the prospect of working an extra 1.4 years per decade, that economic growth alone suggests a 50% decline in worker burdens – twice the dependents on four times the income. So even if politicians are spineless, the welfare burden declines even with more dependents.

Bottom line, whether we look at total numbers or demographically, population decline coming from simply choosing to have fewer kids is nothing remotely catastrophic.

Now, a final point: in a worldwide context, more people does tend to increase investment, therefore innovation and economic growth. This is obvious in the aggregate – there wouldn’t be any factories if there weren’t any humans – but people forget. So, on a world-wide level, we should have a bias towards more humans, while recognizing that, on a country level, a shrinking population is certainly no catastrophe.

While it’s not the first time we have observed the BLS manipulate data (the last time was in “This Is What Happens When The Bureau Of Labor Statistics Is Caught In A Lie”), never before had we actually caught the Bureau Of Labor Statistics openly fabricating data. Until now.

As reported earlier today, in one of the most closely watched statistics in today’s payrolls report, the BLS reported that the annual increase in Average Weekly Earnings was a whopping 2.9%, above the 2.5% expected, and above the 2.5% reported last month. On the surface this was a great number, as the 2.9% annual increase – whether distorted by hurricanes or not – was the highest since the financial crisis.

However, a problem emerges when one looks just one month prior, at the revised August data.

What one sees here, as Andrew Zatlin of South Bay Research first noted, is that while the Total Private Average Weekly Earnings line posted another solid increase of 0.2% month over month, an upward revision from the previous month’s 0.1%, when one looks at the components, it become clear that the BLS fabricated the numbers, and may simply hard-coded its spreadsheet with the intention of goalseeking a specific number.

Presenting Exhibit 1: Table B-3 in today’s jobs report. What it shows is that whereas there was a sequential decline in the Average Weekly Earnings for Goods Producing and Private Service-producing industries which are the only two sub-components of the Total Private Line (and are circled in red on the table below) of -0.8% and -0.1% respectively, the BLS also reported that somehow, the total of these two declines was a 0.2% increase!

Another way of showing the July to August data:
◦Goods-Producing Weekly Earnings declined -0.8% from $1,118.68 to $1,109.92
◦Private Service-Providing Weekly Earnings declined -0.1% from $868.80 to $868.18
◦And yet, Total Private Hourly Earnings rose 0.2% from $907.82 to %909.19

What the above shows is, in a word, impossible: one can not have the two subcomponents of a sum-total decline, while the total increases. The math does not work.

This, as Zatlin notes, undermines not only the labor inflation narrative, but it puts into question the rest of the overall labor data, and whether there are other politically-motivated, goalseeked “spreadsheet” errors.

We have sent an email to the BLS seeking an explanation for the above data fabrication, meanwhile here is what likely happened: a big, juicy fat-finger error, whether on purpose or otherwise because if one looks at the finalized July weekly earnings of $907.82, it’s precisely the same as what the August preliminary wage number was as released last month, also $907.82. For the excel fans out there, it means that the August totals were simply hard coded when the BLS shifted cells in the spreadsheet, becoming July.

Of course, if the BLS confirms that this was a transposition fat finger error, it would also imply that the August number is in fact, the September data, a rather massive mistake which today has had a impact on trillions dollars worth of assets.