"The US is pushing it's luck. Markets sense that Obama is unwilling to cut spending before the 2012 election. The Fed may have to stop QE because of rising commodities prices.. and if that happens, the market will react very negatively".
I watched an interview a year or so ago with Nouriel Roubini, an economist at NYU who predicted the economic collapse in 2008 and has become somewhat famous for that prediction. In this interview, he predicted that the Republicans would win at least one of the two Houses of Congress (which they did) and that when this happens, deficits would explode because the Democrats refuse to slow spending and the Republicans refuse to allow tax hikes.. and the path of least resistance is to just keep borrowing. Alas we have arrived. Instead of blaming politicians, I'd like for all of my readers to look in the mirror. If given a choice between electing a politician who says "Sorry guys.. the economy is screwed six ways from sunday and the best option we have is to slash social security and end the foreign wars. This is gonna hurt" and another one who says "I believe there are good options and we wont have to raise taxes or slash social security" nine out of ten Americans will vote for the second guy who's simply blowing sunshine up their rears. It's you and me that send these slicksters to govern us.
This money printing is already having an effect on us.. food and gasoline prices are spiking and will keep going upwards at a dangerous level. We'll see $3.50/gal gasoline this year, and I also believe we will not see them under $3.00 for some time. Brent Crude went over $103/bbl today, the highest since 2008. In 2012, should things keep apace, $4.00 will be the norm. Food prices will continue to go upwards. But as I've said before, this inflation.. especially with food.. will hit other places on the globe especially hard. Tunisia and Egypt have recently found this out. Other governments are increasing their food subsidies to try and keep the price of food to reasonable levels so as to keep hungry masses from rising up against their governments. Many will begin defaulting on foreign debt rather than see their own people go hungry. It's not only the Islamic world that is feeling the pinch. China today released their inflation numbers.. and food inflation has risen by 4.6%.. in just ten days. Something's gotta give. I look for Venezuela to begin having problems pretty soon as well after a decade of mismanagement by Comrade Hugo.
Which brings me to point B in today's discussion.. the ongoing revolutions in the Islamic World. Today, there were violent upheavals in a number of Muslim nations.. Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran. Of these, two are of serious concern to the US.. Bahrain (home to the US 6th Fleet) and Iran. In Bahrain, a very rich country, the people were not upset so much by rising food prices as they were demanding a change in how they are governed. In Iran, where the demonstrators numbered in the tens of thousands, the police let loose volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets.. and the demonstators responded with rocks and bottles. That section of Tehran now resembles Beirut after a few Hizbullah rockets finished redecorating. My guess is that the Bahrain problems will pass without much more trouble.. fat, rich people make bad revolutionaries. But the ones in Algeria and Yemen are serious business and these governments might be in some trouble. As for Iran, we shall see.. there was a serious uprising about a year ago when the results of an "election" were announced. The Islamic regime was able to supress that one. Today's mayhem was the biggest demonstration since last year's. This friday will be a good test of wills in Teheran.. if the protesters number in the hundreds of thousands.. in combination with rising food prices.. Ahmed-need-a-jihad could be in some serious trouble. The Islamic regime itself might survive if they put a moderate guy like Rafsanjani in power and hold fair elections. But if this weekend is a dud, there's a good chance this uprising will fade much like the last one did.
In a greater context, much of what is going on in the Islamic world is about more than just food prices; it's about democracy, greater opportunity and justice. Many commentators here are worried about Islamic revolutions sweeping the Arab world, with visions of the entire region becoming rather like Iran. In truth, it's about something that we Americans take for granted.. liberty, justice and prosperity. The people at risk in all of this are the leaders of nations who do a bad job of providing these basic human desires. In Tunisia and Egypt, pro-US cleptocrats was swept from power. In Teheran, anti-US Islamist mullahs look to be in some trouble. On a grander scale, if many of these regimes are swept away, the end result might be an Islamic world that cares more about economic opportunity and justice than it does about wiping out a group of Jews hanging out in a small corner of the neighborhood. In my view, we do not need to fear these movements. In this context, Obama's early on ditching of Mubarak and his speech extolling democracy and human rights in the region looks like it was dead on.